open thread – December 6-7, 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.

{ 1,471 comments… read them below }

  1. ZSD*

    I forgot to ask about this when you first called for update requests, but could we please get an update on the person who gets severe colds every winter but only had three sick days per year? Did they manage to negotiate for more sick days? And did they learn, as some of us suspected, that what they thought were colds were really sinus infections?

  2. you look like my next mistake*

    Hi all, looking for outside perspective on online course providers for continuing adult education that can be done part-time and scheduled around work commitments. Specifically, how legit do HarvardX and Harvard Extension School come across?

    My impression is that HarvardX wouldn’t come off as legit, since as far as I can tell it’s a MOOC and I don’t know how well-received those are as credentials. I’m less sure about Harvard Extension School, since that seems to be much more intertwined with Harvard itself than HarvardX is.

    However, like a MOOC, Harvard Extension School has no admission guidelines. Unlike a MOOC, it costs money (several months rent). If there’s a difference, I’d be looking for a graduate certificate from them rather than a masters degree from them.

    I don’t want to make it seem like I’d be trying to pass off not-rigorous or some kind of artificial academic credentials by hiding behind Harvard’s name to make it seem legitimate. But I’m honestly not clear on how well-regarded these programs are. If I get a graduate certificate from Harvard Extension School and plop it down on my resume, would that time — over a year of work — and money count for anything? Or would it look like I just got taken for a ride by people trading on the Harvard name?

    There’s also MIT MicroMasters but I also can’t tell if that’s just a MOOC, since it’s through the same platform as HarvardX, and you can’t transfer the classes for this field of study into an actual degree program at MIT.

    Help? I don’t wanna be a statistic for higher-education-traps, since there seem to be so many of them out there. Are there any online-only options that are actually legitimate, but also aren’t a degree program taking 5 years and costing more than two brand new cars?

    1. snuggly doob*

      Not sure what you’re looking at specifically through HarvardX but I did their CopyrightX course a few years ago and there was an admissions process.

    2. Lyudie*

      Check programs at “regular” universities, a lot offer online programs. My husband and I are both doing fully online master’s programs (he has to go on campus for exams but I haven’t had to do anything in-person in my program).

    3. 867-5309*

      I know, for example, the Georgetown certificate in change management is highly regarded. It depends on the school and the program.

      As others have asked, can you share more about the area of study? That would help. (I can offer insight into marketing and communications, but not other fields.)

    4. Wearing Many Hats*

      I live in the Boston area and have a Master’s from the Harvard Extension school. You do have to apply to get the degree, but in my department it seemed like everyone got in. People in the career path don’t seem to look down on the Harvard Extension degree perse, but in this area, it is common and does not have any cache. In the program I graduated from, you do actual academic and professional work, but the department is not geared towards job placement. I work in another field now and only keep the degree on my resume to explain the weird collection of part-time jobs I took to complete my degree (at the time we were required to have an internship, so I had to quit my full time job. This is no longer a part of the program). Do your research without rose colored glasses to see if it is worth the time and money. While I learned a lot about myself and did pursue a ‘dream’ career, it just wasn’t within my financial ability to make the career switch. Unfortunately I only figured this out when I was almost done with the degree and I finished it, mainly out of stubbornness.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d agree with “people don’t look down on it but it doesn’t give you any special cache (like Harvard itself would).” So I’d say if part of the appeal is the name, don’t factor that into your thinking.

    5. Alex*

      Harvard X and MITx are MOOCs, although you can pay to get a “verified” certificate. However, I don’t think they are taken seriously as a credential should a job require one. They are more for people looking for specific skills and knowledge that don’t need to really *prove* they have them–either for personal interest, or to gain knowledge they need for jobs they have already, or to get familiar with a topic in order to further their education elsewhere. Meaning, MOOCs are great, but definitely don’t confuse them with degree-granting programs.

      Harvard Extension school is very legit. They have both online and in person courses. Of course, it is not the same as going to Harvard, but you can definitely get a legit degree there.

      1. Alex*

        Oh, but I’ll add that with the legit degree from Harvard Extension, comes the legit degree price tag. You probably aren’t going to get a degree there for less than the price of two new cars.

      2. Heidi*

        Agree with all this. Admission to the Harvard Extension School isn’t competitive, like its law school, medical school, etc. The devil on my shoulder will tell you that it doesn’t matter because a lot of people will not know to make that distinction. The angel on the other shoulder would point out that a number of professors teach at both at the Extension School and on campus and are well-respected in their fields and it’s worth learning from them.

        1. pancakes*

          Whether people know to make that distinction or not is heavily dependent on context. In my city and my industry, people know.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        I took an MITx verified certificate course earlier this year and found it extremely useful for work (it was also paid for by work). I don’t think the certificate on its own would turn a future employer’s head, but I can talk about the subject knowledgeably now and that is helpful to me now and would be helpful in a job search. Ditto a certificate (with capstone) from Johns Hopkins U in data science.

      4. blackcat*

        Yeah, I’ve done some MITx courses in fields adjacent to those I teach in (mostly engineering fields), which has been super helpful to me, but it’s not… very legit.

    6. JimBob*

      Several schools have online-only versions of their regular programs; Mississippi State is one I’m familiar with. I ended up finishing a masters online, and the curriculum and requirements were identical to the on-campus students’. The downside of that is it costs as much as out-of-state tuition.

    7. Una*

      Another thing to consider: I don’t know if this is true of doing a Harvard extension school *degree,* but if you just take classes through the extension school, you’re not granted the same institutional access (eg libraries, online journal articles) that Harvard student are, despite the hefty price tag. That isn’t true of other continuing ed/extension programs in Boston, eg MIT, Tufts, BU, UMass, etc.

      1. Wearing Many Hats*

        Once students are accepted into the program, you do get institutional access. I miss JSTOR since I graduated!! No lie, I do still use my student ID (no expiration date!) to get student discounts! Luckily there are lots of grad students in this town because I am well past looking like an undergrad…

        1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

          Oh yes! I really miss having acces to JSTOR since graduating a couple of years ago. Only benefit I have, since I am an Alumni, I can get access to it (among other databases) at the University Library… but it is soo not the same :/ [/first-world-problem-nagging]

    8. DidYouSeeThatPlay?*

      In tech, in general, these seem to be the newest version of the University of Phoenix, with about the same amount of legitimacy. I see them more frequently in resumes that I get for manager-level roles, and discard them completely. They don’t hurt, but they don’t help. If you want to take one of these things because you are interested, that’s great, but I can’t imagine this could really help you in your career. They aren’t even real “graduate certificates”. Those are typically 4-6 class (12-18 graduate credit hours) of real, master’s level courses. THOSE I do take seriously. These HarvardX things don’t seem any more valuable than “I watched some YouTube videos on this topic.”

      1. anon121*

        Just to clarify, are you discounting individual courses or full degrees from Harvard Extension School?

        As someone said above, while individual HarvardX courses are MOOCs, the ALM graduate degrees through Harvard Extension School are legitimate, full-length, accredited degree programs generally requiring twelve or more 4-credit master’s level courses (and many also have a capstone or thesis project). They also have graduate certificates that require something like four to six 4 credit master’s level courses in a set topic. I wouldn’t discount either the degree nor the certificate.

      2. Retired and Happy Now*

        When laid of from a permanent job during the recession, I took what was supposed to be a short term contract job in corporate HR with a for-profit university (on the NASDQ) operating mainly in the mid-Atlantic and South that has both physical locations and on line courses including a virtual MBA program named for a well-known mega CEO. The school advertises heavily and often hires a paid spokesperson to tout the value of their education. The contract job ended up lasting 15 months while I was desperately searching for something else. The supposed “admission counselors” were nothing more than high-pressure sales people, campus “deans” were often persons with no other credentials than the school’s own poorly-regarded degrees, and faculty seemed to be largely part-time adjuncts, the majority of whom appeared to have credentials from outside the US . Instructors were told what to teach and how to teach it. Students were provided all materials needed to pass, including videos. Independent thought did not appear to be part of the curriculum. The school markets heavily to veterans in order to get hold of the GI Bill money. Corporate employees appear to be compensated neat the top of the market but those in direct contact with students are paid poverty wages. This place exists mostly to take students’ money while delivering below-par educations.

    9. Hello*

      HarvardX changed to Harvard Business School Online ( for the business courses). It lists it as such on the certificate. I took Negotiation Mastery and was impressed that they were able to implement their case study structure so well in an online format. Also, it was really informative being able to do live negotiations with people from around the globe.

    10. AnotherAlison*

      I have applied to, been accepted, and then declined a handful of online grad programs, enrolled in and dropped many MOOCs, and actually completed a few online grad courses (plus I do actually have a pre-online grad degree, lest I look like someone who can’t finish anything). I found I couldn’t stomach the expense of the grad programs ($50-100k, even at no-names), but the MOOCs were hard to stay motivated to complete because of the uncertain value (for me). These things would just be professional icing-on-the-cake for me. Nothing would change the direction of my career because I earn too much, am too far along, and am already doing things I would want to do. (As an example, I’m in engineering. I could have got a PM grad certificate, but instead I got a PMP credential by exam for ~$400.)

      As others have said, I think the value is highly variable depending on what you are doing and why. Do you want a credential, to learn a skill, or name recognition?

      I also think the market is constantly evolving, so what you pay a lot for and is valued might be cheap and worthless 5 years from now. I think Georgia Tech has online CS Masters programs for $10,000 total. ASU started a free MBA several years ago–not sure if that still exists. I spoke with an engineering dean who said 5 years ago, it was too expensive to launch new online programs; now, it’s cheaper but the market is saturated. I think there is a lot to shake out and some programs and certificates won’t exist long-term. So, we should use our money wisely.

    11. Jules the 3rd*

      On the bigger picture, of whether there are ‘any online-only options that are actually legitimate’: a lot of public schools are offering on-line only, fully legitimate degrees. A friend of mine is getting his BSN online right now.

      If you’re looking for specific certifications for your industry, your company may actually have recommendations – that’s how my friend found his program. You may also want to look at local community colleges, which seem to be doing about half their classes on-line.

      If you’re looking for more general degrees, check with local public universities and see if they have on-line versions, and ask them if it’s the same degree, or if there’s mixed options. The program where I got my MBA now has some classes that can be remote (1st year basics), but encourages students to do a mix of remote / on campus, especially for any specialty classes.

      Focusing on public schools will help with both the cost and legitimacy questions.

      1. CL Cox*

        And, from what I’ve heard in my industry and from friends all over the country, community colleges are starting to realize that the continuing ed/adult ed market is vast and almost as profitable as the bridge between HS and college or technical skills market. They are rapidly expanding their online offerings because (1) they don’t usually have a lot of extra space for physical night and weekend classes and (2) online is more convenient for both students and professors (who are often experts in their fields and holding down full-time jobs, rather than the retired folks that used to be the norm). For a lot of these classes, students are wanting someone who is currently working to give them real-life, up to date information and skills.

        For example, an adjunct teaching a course on counter-terrorism who retired even 10 years ago and has not kept up with evolving trends will not be able to address current issues like recruitment through social media, law enforcement efforts, or even more sophisticated detection methods.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        I just wanted to comment on this part:

        “You may also want to look at local community colleges, which seem to be doing about half their classes on-line.”

        Definitely worth checking, but this depends a lot on the community college. My local one has very few online class offerings, and most of their in-person classes are scheduled right in the middle of a standard work day.

    12. Ace in the Hole*

      There are plenty of online programs from accredited universities that would look exactly like a traditional in-person program on a resume. For example, I’m currently studying at Oregon State University’s online program. It has the same accreditation and academic standards as their degrees offered at their main campus, and my transcripts/diploma/etc. will all be identical to a traditional student’s.

    13. J.B.*

      I second someone upthread about community colleges. The programs can be variable but not super $. One in my area offered a business analytics program that was pretty good – probably not enough on its own to switch fields, but a legit program with some good skills training.

    14. AnotherSarah*

      HarvardX programs’ certificates are for completion, if I recall correctly–and “completion” means watching the videos and whatever else they ask for. It’s not the same as a graduate certificate. Depending on what type of program you’re looking for, it’s best to do an online version of an in-person masters.

  3. Sunflower*

    Is anyone else here just not detail oriented or organized?

    I can do it (pretty well) but it drains my energy like no other. I plan events and recently realized that this just isn’t the job for me! I hate making checklists, timelines, taking notes, keeping people on track and executing the small details. I’ve always worked in role and orgs where this is a huge focus so I’ve been quite hesitant to admit this until recently. I can’t help but feel a little like I just don’t like work? I’m looking to move into a sales or recruiting role where this is less of a focus and connections and relationships with people is a larger one.

    If you also aren’t detail oriented- what is your job, how much energy/time do you exert to doing this and do you like your job?

    1. LQ*

      I can be, but it does drain my energy. I’ve been doing nothing but checklists and timelines and notes for quite a while and it’s getting me down.

      Don’t ever go into project management! I suspect you knew that already. But finding jobs where you are routinely paired with a project manager can be an ok one. This is going to sound a bit odd but jobs that are sort of like SMEs within a business, or people who DO the work are places where I’ve been able to let someone else manage the project and I make the thing. For me this has been some slightly technical stuff (building elearnings, building out sharepoint sites, building out business processes). For others this is getting into the deep deep technical stuff of a business area. If you are the go-to of knowing all about something (a product kind of thing) then someone else is often doing the pm stuff.

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

      In college, I was organized – everything was color coded, my planner was always up to date, my notes were pristine, my desk at my internship was always clean. I always felt I was a “big picture” kind of person rather than detail oriented, but I could turn on the details when I needed to and was praised by my first bosses for it.

      Now that I have more responsibilities, organization and attention to detail have both declined. Unfortunately in my job (design engineer), both are still important. I sit down frequently with my discipline leads since I’m the overall team lead to know what their teams are doing, what they need me to do, and if there’s roadblocks in the way of their work that I can help clear. That helps me to switch my brain from my desired big-picture and break that down into smaller tasks to get done and out of the way to help support it. Overall I do like my job, don’t love the bureaucracy but we’re so heavily regulated that there’s no way around that.

      Another thing that has helped me is Microsoft OneNote. It’s basically a digital notebook where I can make my lists of lists, star any actions I need to take, share notes directly to my email, AND I no longer have 500 paper lists and sticky notes on my desk making me look crazy!

    3. cold brew*

      Yes, I’m a data analyst and being detail-orientated and organized is a very important part of the job. I’m naturally very big picture and not organized so I compensate by excessively using Trello and planning my day via Google Calendar. I also have a big book of notes I take through the day and I usually skim through it before work to see if there are any important details.

    4. Rayray*

      So, I would consider myself to be organized and detail oriented, but when I’m micromanaged like I am at my current job, I really struggle. I have my own methods of keeping track of things, but when I have to use a spreadsheet someone else made, or take care of super nitpixly details, I don’t do well. If I’m given some direction and instruction, but allowed to just carry out the project, I can usually do well.

      Certain jobs really aren’t for everyone. I’m in an admin role now and I hate it. I just wanted out of a toxic job, so I took it because I had done a similar role during college. Funny thing is, I was treated more like an adult and like part of the team than I am now at 30 years old.

      1. Sunflower*

        You hit the nail on the head of the way I feel! If I have complete ownership of a project, I can do it really well and be super detailed. It’s when people start dictating how and when to say and do things that I start to lose my mind.

        Sorry you’re feeling the same way I am :(

        1. Tinker*

          I get to thinking the experience of finding it inefficient to be “micromanaged” is fairly universal, but also that there’s a degree of individual variation which in some cases may be a matter of neurotype. I’m autistic and most likely also ADHD (that latter is pending further investigation), and from what I’ve seen I tend to struggle with that sort of thing more than other people tend to.

          This has a way of getting attributed to things like a desire to defy the person who is “micromanaging”, but I’m not sure that this is actually the case — emotionally I can often be very frustrated with the situation, but many times I have a lot of sympathy with the person and have a desire to give them what they want and to successfully complete our mutual task. The problem is that in a thought-structure way I feel as if I am wearing someone else’s pants — that it is the wrong shape, that it makes no sense, and that trying to move within the wrong shape is awkward and restricted.

          For me it’s tricky navigating dialogue around this sort of thing, because in some sense it’s a disability conversation — there’s something different about me that makes this disproportionately difficult, and it would be better if it were structured otherwise — but it’s not a particularly concrete, fixed, or easily measurable difference so it’s hard to get to the point of mutual understanding. Particularly so because when this sort of thing comes up, we’re probably already talking from the point of some degree of incompatibility in personal styles.

    5. LilyP*

      Oh me! I’m a software engineer so most of the time I’m focused on 1 or 2 Big Things at a time, but the few times I’ve had to veer closer to project management (e.g. working closely with a PM for a client with a lot of technical customizations) and had to keep track of deadlines/plans/problems/communications/requirements I haaaaaated it. Just like you said, I could do it decently well but it took a ton of mental energy, not to mention time (and for me was additionally frustrating because it was a distraction from my core responsibilities). I think it’s good that you’ve recognized this is draining for you — there are definitely jobs out there where keeping two dozen balls in the air at once isn’t the focus. Good luck!

      1. Tau*

        Fellow software engineer and agreed. I have executive function issues thanks to Asperger’s and project management is… not my strength. At all. It’s ironic bc you’d think software development also involves detail work and it does, but it’s so much easier for me to handle? I think it might be the way all the bits and pieces are part of an interconnected whole, or that you really do only have to focus on one thing at a time mostly.

    6. 867-5309*

      I think some of it is the sheer VOLUME of ways to track things – apps, bullet journal, etc., to say nothing of how smartphones hurt our attention span.

      That’s not the case for everyone, of course, but I’ve found myself getting worse as technology gets more “helpful.”

      1. 10 Years and Counting*

        I consider myself a fairly organized person, but I started losing details left and right when I found myself using too many apps and task managers. I went back to a physical weekly planner for work and it’s really tightened things up for me.

        1. Anonya*

          I thought it was just me, but yeah, I’ve found that digital task lists are kind of a disaster for me. I don’t mind keeping track of the big picture using digital tools, but the minute, task-oriented stuff? Gotta go with paper.

      2. Lilysparrow*

        Agreed – paper is best for most things, though I do find Google Tasks helpful for setting up recurring reminders for things that need to be done on an arbitrary schedule, rather than as a logical step in a process.

    7. LilySparrow*

      I can hyperfocus on details, and enjoy pulling off live events, but it is exhausting and I crash afterwards. And even with 100 percent effort, my ADHD creates blind spots where I will miss something. Of course, that little bit of chaos and having to compensate on the fly keeps it exciting enough to maintain my energy…but is therefore all the more exhausting.

      I spent about 20 years working as a performer and theater producer, with “day jobs” as an admin or EA in between. I didn’t really enjoy the admin work, but in the context of a larger org there was a safety net to catch any details I missed, and my soft skills made me valuable enough for it to be a good trade-off for my bosses.

      I enjoy making checklists and get a lot of satisfaction out of checking them off! They are an important tool for keeping me on track. I always start a project with extensive planning and organization – because those tools are compensating for the “holes” in my brain. As the project goes on, it soon becomes clear that the binder is the only thing keeping the wheels on at all.

      Now I’m a writer – fiction, nonfiction ghostwriting, and some PR copy and social media management to fill the gaps. It works because again, I have a safety net of editors and proofreaders.

      I would not enjoy sales because I’m an introvert by temperament. I like people and am not shy, but too much people-ing wears me out. Now that I have a family, I’m happier working alone and saving my people-energy for my favorite folks.

    8. Ted Mosby*

      I’m an architect- absolutely not detail-oriented and it’s exhausting for me to try to keep up. A sync’d up calendar with notifications is my lifesaver as well as just constant communication with other, more organized people who keep me in check

    9. Filosofickle*

      I’m pretty good at it but i hate it! It’s not so bad when I’m managing me and my work. But if I have to wrangle other people? Yuck.

    10. Mockingjay*

      I am detailed oriented and good at organizing. But it only works when the rest of the team buys into the process.

      Having everyone use the same, simple checklist can be a lifesaver and takes that piece off the load for you. While you remain in your role, maybe look at one or two critical areas that need the most tracking and figure out whether you should manage those or if they can be handed off to trusted team members. Develop a playbook for all to use: checklist, procedure, list of POCs/vendors, etc. Have your team help you: Bob can compile the list of vendors, Sue writes up the steps of how to process invoices, and then stuff everything into a binder.

      Procedures don’t have to be elaborate. I worked on a project once with really short turnaround. We typed up a quick list of steps and taped the instructions to each person’s monitor for quick reference. Worked beautifully.

    11. yala*

      I am detail oriented…sometimes. When I hyper-focus, I can be (planned a fantastic Disney trip last year. Planned a mess of a NYC trip this year). But mostly I’m not.

      Part of it is ADHD, so a big step for me has been trying to find a medication that helps me focus. I’m on a new one that hasn’t kicked in yet, so I’m not in the best place.

      I’m not the best person for advice, since this is something I struggle with a lot too, but checklists really are the way to go for me. I have an ipad pro I use as a notebook so instead of writing notes on scraps of paper or in various notepads, they’re all in one place. I try to double and triple check my work before I send it on, and I go through coding line-by-line, checking each line off. Twice.

      Sometimes…yeah, that’s exhausting (especially lately with the whole “whups the meds stopped working” thing).

      If your boss is amenable (my old one was), see if they’re ok with you taking frequent short breaks (no more than 5-minutes) like the Pomodoro method. It’s a good way to get a bit of a recharge.

    12. Engineer Girl*

      My advice is a little different. Just keep doing it or find other tools that do it for you.

      It gets easier the more you practice it – like a habit. This is from the kid that would leave their homework on the dining room table.

      I had(have) terrible executive function. It’s only through lists, calendar pop ups, etc that I can stay organized. Use checklists (and update them when they miss things). Electronic tools have been a godsend for me.

      Do it enough and it starts to become automatic.

      Also reward yourself when you complete things. The sense of accomplishment is a huge driver for me.

      Also – every evening I go over tasks for the next day. Every morning I go over the same tasks just to get my brain in the groove.

      1. J.B.*

        Little rewards are absolutely key! I am really good with details when I am busy, not so much when there isn’t so much focus. So I start scheduling myself for the backlog type stuff and appreciate what I finish when I do it.

        I also find that my executive function can get exhausted when staying organized for long stretches. So downtime is also key.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Yes! Downtime to prevent burnout. Whatever that looks like. But ad hoc unscheduled activities are great for a sense of freedom

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Totally agree. I think that any job comes with draining details and there is no escape from that. I also think the longer we are at a job the draining details become more automatic, like remembering to breathe.

        My current job is loaded with detail. Killer levels of detail, to the point where my boss and I wildly need each other to catch everything that is in the air. And more detail is added daily, with inputs coming from more than one direction. I think that this is the world we have, if it’s not codes we are worried about, then it’s laws, or company policy or customer request or idiosyncrasies of the computer programs and even the weather impacts things that we need to pay attention to.

        I am not sure why one would think they would NOT be tired? I tend to keep home the opposite of work, if I have a physical job, when I get home I allot time to read or nap. If I have a sitting job, I use my at home time to find physical things to do. I have had two jobs in my life that were a physical and mental drain, the only answer was to go to bed earlier.

        Like EG is saying, the action that benefited me the most was to write my list each night of what I would do the next day. I have started doing that at home also. Invariably I find many more things to do at home, but I make sure the list gets done first before I take on these tasks that have distracted me.

        My second favorite thing to do is set things in my own way if I absolutely have to be sure to remember them TODAY. I use my place mat on the kitchen table for smaller at home stuff and I have a designated area to put stuff at work that MUST be dealt with very soon.

        I think many people would say that their jobs take up too much space in their heads and suck up most of their energy.

    13. Time to go?*

      Community organizing could be a role that focuses more on the relationship building and public speaking sides – as long as you have a good details person elsewhere in the organization to do the logistics of convenings and organizing listserves, etc

    14. CastIrony*

      Dear gosh! This is me! Even the hating work part!

      I work two part-time jobs, but in one of them, I asked my supervisor for help in what tasks I should be delegating as a student manager/server at a cafeteria (I stink at delegating, too!), and she came up with a checklist for every shift, so now I know what line to not cross. So as a student manager, it takes a lot of social energy and some caffeine to focus on what to delegate fairly and what task I should be doing that moment (prioritization).

      My other job is a cashier that I am not so good at because the details of giving change back many times can get blurred for me, and I risk giving out the wrong change sometimes. My manager also told me that I don’t restock cases fast enough, so I’m trying to see what systems work for me.

      tl;dr: I am a worker who is always learning to work more efficiently and focus better on the big picture a bit more. It takes a lot of energy because I am always feeling inadequate in reaching the perfect balance. My empathies, Sunflower!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        When I did a lot of retail, I often got blurring counting change. I was taught to count it twice, once to myself and again to the customer. I am amazed now that most stores just shove money into the customer’s hand. I have no idea how their drawers are correct at the end of their shifts. I do that thing that old, annoying people do, I count the change out right in front of the clerk and tie up the line. It’s unbelievable how many times it’s WRONG.

        I just noticed a sign at my credit union drive through today. It says, “Count your money before driving away.” I think that is just a good habit. My friend was given $100 too much, he said the teller hugged him and kissed him when he returned it. I understand the sentiment behind the gesture at any rate.

    15. Lives in a Shoe*

      I’m bedeviled by undiagnosed ADHD that has me running in circles. My kids have it, hello little apples of my tree, and medication doesn’t work. My job is boring and only intermittently demanding, so my habits have just imploded. What has amazingly helped is a mindfulness for work app my job has promoted through wellness classes, called HelloMindful (there’s a 21 day habit challenge that uses it). I have high hopes for it, and for using the principles in a more challenging position soon.

  4. Very anon today*

    I represent my company in a local organization and will begin serving as chair in January. I had lunch last week with the upcoming chair-elect (who will begin her term in January as well and is chosen by the board as a whole, not me). She is not a friend, but an acquaintance I work with often and thoroughly enjoy. She’d probably be a friend if we both weren’t so busy. I’ll call her Lulu. I could immediately tell she’d been crying. Lulu is a fairly new mom, and I offered to listen, thinking it was new mom stuff. Oh boy. She just let it all out and it isn’t the baby. Her husband has been having an on again off again affair with his married female boss for nearly four years. Lulu said she and her husband had been in marriage counseling off and on for several years over this, but he won’t stop or not for long. The married boss’ husband is also aware of the affair. He left his wife at one point but they reconciled. There was a lot more she said about the family life, and, just wow.

    But here is where it gets real weird. She’s starting to sabotage him at work a little (a lot?).

    *Lulu is showing up at his office at random times.

    *If she can’t find him on a find my phone app, she calls and has him paged over an internal intercom system.

    *Lulu has emailed HR anonymously to report the relationship and inquire about the employee/boss fraternization policy.

    *She has called the affair partner’s husband multiple times, but says he finally told her he didn’t care anymore.

    *Lulu has ACCESSED HER HUSBAND’S COMPANY COMPUTER SYSTEMS. I stopped her there and told her that everything she was doing was not okay! No idea how she got his computer info, if it was given or stolen, but she told me she could listen to his work calls and even see video conferences. I don’t even think that’s legal!

    So, I’m not getting involved in her issues, except, she’s the chair-elect for our organization! Do I say anything to any other trusted board members about the sabotage or to our Exec Director? How do I handle this. Help.

    Also, this is the second time this year people I know have been involved in affair situations. I know it’s not that uncommon, but both times it was just so unexpected and ugly. I’m shook.

    1. Zephy*

      Ooh, big yikes. I think the most you could do is talk to…somebody? HR? the ED? and just mention that you’re aware of some unethical behavior in Lulu’s private life that makes you concerned about her ability to serve honorably on the board, maybe. I think it’d be hard to do that without having to air all of Lulu’s dirty laundry, though.

    2. The Doctor is In*

      Wow. I think if I were involved in an organization I would want to know about unethical and probably illegal behavior by a chair elect!

    3. AnonEMoose*

      Before I say anything else: I Am NOT a Lawyer; I do have experience volunteering for a non-profit.

      Does your organization have a code of conduct or ethics for board members? If it does, you may have an obligation to report the accessing of the husband’s work information, if nothing else.

      The rest is questionable but seems largely personal…some of it might be bordering on harassment. But if the chair-elect is doing something illegal, and you know about it and don’t report it, there’s potential for you to be caught up in the blow-up…and there’s a pretty strong likelihood of a blow-up if this continues.

      Everyone on the board has a responsibility to act ethically, specifically in the context of the organization…but not engaging in illegal activity seems like a pretty basic requirement. Is there anyone who is specifically responsible for dealing with ethical issues/complaints? If so, maybe start with that person. Or if there’s a board member you have a particularly good rapport with, maybe start with them…but I think you do need to say something, at least about the stuff that’s possibly illegal.

    4. 867-5309*

      This sounds like a woman who is at her breaking point, with a new baby to boot (possible undiagnosed post-partum issues?), which could explain her erratic behavior.

      I’m of the opinion that if you don’t see anyway that she’s sabotaging the organization or behaving unethically within it, and she’s the outgoing person, just keep a close eye for now and say nothing.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        The way I read this, Lulu is not the outgoing person, she is the chair-elect, which would mean she’s the incoming.

        1. Super Anon Today*

          I’m the current chair-elect and will take over as chair on Jan 1. She will be the chair elect on Jan 1. I’m going to have to something. We are a business organization. Her husband’s company isn’t a member, but this could go really bad. We have one more executive committee meeting before she starts attending them. I think I’ll talk to the current chair (who is happily counting down his last three weeks) and our exec director before the meeting.

      2. Observer*

        The problem here is that this has the potential to really harm the organization.

        This has the potential to blow up in a big way. And when it does, there is a VERY high chance that the organization will get dragged through the mud.

        I understand what you are saying about her being at a breaking point, but the risk to the organization is real. Also, this speaks to her judgement. Whatever the reason, it’s fair to say that she’s in a headspace that totally justifies some fairly bad and self destructive behavior. I think that there is a real possibility of doing something that more directly affects the organization as long as she is in this state of mind.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          +1. A board member…particularly a chair or chair-elect, has to put the welfare of the organization first. Sometimes that sucks…a lot, but it’s the job they signed up for.

          I really do feel for Lulu; she does sound like she’s at a breaking point and could really use some help. But OP has to balance that with the welfare of the organization.

    5. emmelemm*

      I know this isn’t your question, and this ain’t Dear Prudence, but good grief – the affair’s been going on for a few years, but she has a *new* baby? As in, she decided to have a(nother) child with this dude while this was going on? I can’t even…

      1. Audiophile*

        I’m sure this is more common than many people realize. People want to save a marriage and think children are the solution.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The only take away is to understand that this situation is complex FOR THEM. It’s not complex for you. You know of wrong-doing and now you just have to line up your next action steps.

          I think there’s a part of most of us that would say, “Oh there’s a child (children) involved here, OH MY!”
          Try to remember that keep the status quo in place is NOT necessarily better for the child.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        Unplanned pregnancy/birth control failure is also a possibility. Also possible that they decided to have the kid during a time he’s stopped the affair or said he had (I’m basing that on OP’s comment that he refused to stop the affair for “very long,” which implies that he may have stopped it for brief periods). That’s all speculation, though.

    6. Super Anon Today*

      Thanks all. I’m going to have to something. We are a business organization. Her husband’s company isn’t a member, but this could go really bad. We have one more executive committee meeting before she will start attending them In January. I think I’ll talk to the current chair (who is happily counting down his last three weeks) and our exec director before the meeting.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I’m glad you’re doing to do this, OP. Maybe the best possible outcome is that Lulu can be kindly, discreetly, and firmly convinced to step away and deal with her personal situation, possibly with a recommendation of resources to help her. But she can’t engage in the behaviors the OP described and be a high-level representative of the organization.

    7. cmcinnyc*

      Wow this is tough. I have to say… the fact that she told you all of this, not just that she’s struggling in her personal life but these very specific and very shady actions she is taking, makes me think she’s coming unglued. I’m thinking of some of my lowest points in life and that’s when boundaries break, inappropriate stuff is said (and done), unprofessional decisions are made, just plan BAD decision making, muddy thinking… yup. Been there, done that (though never did anything illegal, which is crossing another bridge here!). It is hard to feel your breaking a confidence, but if she told *you*, a person who she’s not really close to, it’s probably spilling out all over the place to all kinds of people. I second suggestions to bring this to your Exec Director/board as kindly and discreetly as you can, but yeah: this lady needs to put her own oxygen mask on first and can’t be considered for a major position until she deals with herself.

        1. The Original K.*

          Agreed. I feel bad for Lulu but she simply cannot listen to her husband’s professional calls (!).

    8. Aphrodite*

      As someone else mentioned, I think this affair is likely to blow up sooner rather than later. While affair has, as you said been on again off again, there are new things such as Lulu’s showing up, calling and paging her husband, emailing HR and the other’s partner, and accessing professional information to which she has no right. In other words, feelings and actions are being escalated. This IS going to blow, and blow big. And it will affect the organization. I’d recommend thinking of it that way. Do you care if it does? You do given that you are going to be part of it. Look at it in hard ways and make your decision based on that and not on your (understandably) tender feelings for Lulu. You may have two courses of action here, one professional, one personal and each one may require a different decision.

    9. Super Anon Today*

      She is normally one of the most put together people I know, so this is incredibly out of character (or at least the public character I have known and observed). I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get her to step away before January. I’ve already quietly called a meeting with the two other people I need to involve in the decision making, and then hopefully I can visit with her again privately.

      1. Amy Sly*

        I wonder if there’s a way to approach her with a version of “You’re clearly under a lot of strain right now. Why don’t you approach the board about delaying being on the board for six or twelve months so you’re not adding stress?” Yes, you definitely don’t want this ticking bomb associated with your company, but phrasing the problem as “I’m trying to help you reduce your problems” instead of “I think you’re going to make us look terrible” might be the better tack. If the bomb explodes in that interval (as is quite likely!) and the fallout is too embarrassing (also quite likely!), it will be easier to say “based on your prior behavior we don’t want you on the board” instead of basically saying “we expect you to embarrass us.”

    10. only acting normal*

      Oof. Accessing the computer system she has no right or permission to access would definitely be illegal in the UK (under the computer misuse act 1990: just the access, even if she has no malicious intent or caused no damage, it’s a year in prison).
      With the greatest sympathy for her horrible situation, if she stops none of the other things (which are mainly nuisance stuff) she has to stop that shit yesterday. And you should definitely talk to a board member you trust to be understanding and proportionate in their response.

  5. Pants on Fire*

    Is lying bad – an UPDATE! (original comment here:

    I met with my leadership and our HR team to discuss again the recent examples of dishonesty or lack of integrity. While they still support me in how I am managing Jim, HR did say two things that surprised me.
    1. Using the word lying is unprofessional and I should not use it. I haven’t used it with Jim, I have used words like dishonest, deceptive, lack of integrity. 
    2. If I want to purse action with Jim, I need to make a case for how the dishonesty is impacting his job. So while it seems that I and the rest of AAM believe that dishonesty like I experience with Jim should be strongly addressed, my HR has a different bar. I’m disappointed. 

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Are you sure that HR gets to overrule you on this? In many cases you can push back and/or get your higher-ups to overrule HR’s take on something like this (particularly since in this case it’s patently ridiculous). But if you do need to make a case for how lying is affecting his job it’s “I need to be able to rely on Jim’s word when he reports to me and because I cannot I need to spend significant extra time checking and verifying what he tells me.”

      1. Pants on Fire*

        We are a government entity so any actions we take could be appealed by Jim at a state governing board. Because of that, HR consults with legal to make sure we are doing everything as we should. HR indicated that this is something the governing board would look at if Jim appealed… did we identify the impact that his dishonesty has on processes and customers? So yes, I think my best case is to speak not about how it impacts Jim’s processes, but it does impact mine since I am taking more time to fact-check him.

        I guess my boss as the hiring manager could overrule HR and move forward, but she wouldn’t do that.

        There are benefits to being a state employee (benefits!) but a rigid structure for disciplinary action is not one of them (unless you are Jim).

          1. Pants on Fire*

            “Oh, you’re government, yeah, you’re stuck with this silliness.”

            That statement should make me incensed. But I actually just feel SO SEEN. Thank you :)

          2. Fed. Govie*

            This will out me so I’m using a different i.d., but my Federal Government co-worker brought a bat to work AND threatened to use it on “the people who piss me off.” No action was taken, big process for anyone to agree that the bat should go home. The irony? It stayed in the office until my co-worker drove himself—he usually takes public transit and bats aren’t allowed on buses because……. THEY ARE WEAPONS.

          3. PotatoJoy*

            Gov worker here too: Although I was lucky enough to end up in an area where 95% of my coworkers worked their asses off, yeah there was always that ‘one guy’ at any office/dept who had done or said something to a woman *so inappropriate* that she had ended up getting moved to ‘solve‘ the issue. Personal fav was when our highly inexperienced (male) manager told a temp female employee that being told by this guy that he’d ‘love to see what she look liked when she’d just been fucked’ was both a cultural misunderstanding and her fault for mentioning she’d just had a mini break with her new fiancé.

            I wish that was my only story about that office…

            1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

              Wait… Whut!
              Her fault for mentioning she’d just had a mini break with her fiancé?!!

              But hey, #metoo was an exaggeration ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. AppleStan*

          I too work for a government agency, and the amount of hoops you have to go through to get someone fired who simply can’t do the job is utterly insane. I now understand why some of the previous bosses documented every single thing (one even documented when someone printed 3 pieces of paper – not because of what was contained on it, but just that we weren’t supposed to be printing, and this person printed 3 pieces of paper).

          A fellow manager has experienced, just in the last week, two subordinates blatantly lying or appearing apathetic about their duties. One was told, in no uncertain terms, that he had to accomplish certain tasks before leaving for the weekend…swore he would do it, was reminded several times…then shoved the work in the back of a drawer so he could leave. Probably wouldn’t have been discovered except he called in sick on Monday, so when the manager went to look for a particular file, he had to go through the employee’s desk. The other subordinate has repeatedly been told to keep her desk clean, to put away completed files instead of stacking them on her desk, etc. A very important file went missing, and when she “found” it the next day, she stated she found it sitting on her co-worker’s desk…which couldn’t possibly be accurate because both the manager and a third employee went through that desk with a fine tooth comb. The manager then emailed her to let her know she needed to come to his office that afternoon. She saw the email but refused to open it (this is what she told him directly).

          The amount of follow-up this manager has to do behind several of his employees is insane, and yet, he’s constantly told he has to do EVERYTHING he possibly can to help them “succeed.”

          Of course we have a bigger top down issue. You’ve heard me complain about my boss, Jamie, before. I sat in a meeting with fellow manager, Jamie, and Jamie’s boss (along with a few other people). Jamie’s boss says “If Director needs teapots designed a certain way, tell your team that’s the way they should design the teapots.” Jamie replies, “Well, what if they refuse to do it?” I’m looking at my fellow manager, and we are both looking at Jamie’s boss and Jamie, and I’m thinking…why aren’t the next words out of Jamie’s boss’ mouth “Then FIRE them!” – but of course…that’s not the next words out of his mouth. And Jamie would never do that because he’s not going to force his employees, the teapot designers, to, you know, design the teapots the way the director has instructed.

          Sorry…went off on a tangent.

          Just wanted to say…yes, when you work for the government, it is always so hard to fire someone for lack of integrity.

          1. Leslie Knope*

            My brother and his wife are both civilian employees of the military. The stories they tell are astounding! It would be entertaining if it weren’t so serious. So much bureaucracy and hoops upon hoops to jump through. Yikes! I feel for you!

            1. Annon Contractor*

              I was a contractor for the military for a few years…I now know why a hammer costs $150. The stories are nuts.

              1. PotatoJoy*

                We were told we had to wait for the ‘correct’ $20 masking tape to come in the mail to fix signage rather than go next door to the dollar store. It’s better to not have washroom signs than break protocol apparently?

            2. Sled dog mama*

              Yeah! I used to be a contractor in a VA hospital and heard a story about a person in a patient care role (not a nurse but similar) who was caught doing drugs in the stairwell between patients and heard it took more than two years to get rid of her, and she actually left of her own accord at that point.

          2. E*

            I think this is one reason why the government (at least U.S. Federal) employs so many contractors. Much easier to get rid of than actual fed employees.

          3. Pants on Fire*

            THIS! THIS! THIS! : The amount of follow-up this manager has to do behind several of his employees is insane, and yet, he’s constantly told he has to do EVERYTHING he possibly can to help them “succeed.”

            I am supposed be to aggressive in my documentation but still want them to stay and succeed and just stop lying and we are just one big happy work unit. How many years of them not being deceitful would I need to feel comfortable again when the eight I have been here have been filled with this bologna? For me the answer is there aren’t enough years and so I feel at odds with what HR says my goal is.

            1. LQ*

              I was told that with a long term employee who has gotten (unjustifiable) positive performance reviews in the past, you should expect it will be about 20 hours a week for 3 years to get rid of someone because you have to hold their hand so intensely and document so much and then make sure that no one else has ever gotten away with that thing you just let that person get away with.

              It makes me better understand why managers and supervisors choose to stick those folks in a corner where they can’t hurt anyone. And why contractors whenever possible.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Yet don’t buy coffee for the office or anything else the public might deem wasteful. It’s okay to waste taxpayer money on this crap. The double standard here slays me.

                I know of several people who were just plain mean to the public. I tried to explain to one person that being nice was the route to go. She said, “Well if I don’t feel good, then it’s too much effort to be nice.” Meanwhile, she had a Jekyll/Hyde thing going on because no one else knew how she was feeling at the moment.

              2. Arts Akimbo*

                When I interned with my state government our division was mostly by itself on its floor, except for this one employee from another department who sat at a receptionist desk. I say “sat at” because no one ever saw her doing any actual work. In fact, no one ever saw her do anything, ever, except sit at that desk and read the newspaper. She was extremely unpleasant to anyone who tried to speak to her, so she mostly passed her days in silence.

                I have no idea even what department her paycheck came from. But I figured they really, really, really wanted to get rid of her and settled on remote exile as their last, best hope.

    2. Jellyfish*

      Huh. That’s unexpected and disappointing. LYING is unprofessional, and dancing around that doesn’t help anybody. Seems like HR has some odd priorities here.

      1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

        I think some of the pushback comes with the rigidity of grievance procedures for discipline and termination in government organizations. Can you PROVE that he lied? What’s the impact of the lie? In navigating similar situations, I’ve advised basing a termination on the clear performance impact rather than the fact of the lie (You aren’t in the place where you need to be, and didn’t take steps to let anyone know, so the client missed their appointment; The work isn’t getting completed as directed and that puts clients at risk vs. You lied about where you were; or you told me you completed work that you hadn’t). This kind of framing keeps the focus of a subsequent grievance on the performance and conduct (and their impact) rather than on whether a specific action constitutes a lie.

        1. Observer*

          The other advantage of this is that it keeps people from side tracking the conversation by nit picking language. How do you know he LYING? Maybe he made an honest mistake? blah, blah, blah.

          On the other hand “On x, y, a, b and c days in the last month alone, Joe was not where he said he would be.” Is a fact. It’s a pattern and it doesn’t really matter WHY once it gets to a certain point. Same for “when Jow is not where he says he is going to be we need spend extra time looking for him, people get pulled away from their jobs to cove. etc.” Again, this is much harder to derail than “No one trusts him”.

        2. Susan Windrunner*

          I have actually complained about a worker of a state government department that helps disabled people who literally was not there when I was supposed to meet with her, And didn’t tell anyone else working that she wasn’t there until they checked her office. She also had a habit of last minute meeting cancellations. Tried to work with her for several months but after half of our meetings getting canceled and the above incident, I complained to the supervisor and he just kept brushing it off for some reason. So it probably depends on the management too.

    3. Been there, done that*

      I don’t get it but my hr person wouldn’t let me use the words lie or lying either in the PIP. prevaricate and untruths were used.

  6. Small Business, Big Problem*

    Could anyone please offer advice/scripts for alerting a staff member of a business co-owner who is resisting using our staffer’s gender neutral pronouns? One of our awesome team members let me know this week that they are now using they/them/their pronouns. I cannot believe I’m having to fight my business partner over accommodating this – it’s such a basic, simple, easy way to respect someone’s identity. That said, my questions are: What, if anything, should I tell our staff member about this? If I should let them know that Partner is resistant, how do I frame this conversation?

    I feel terrible for our staffer and am horrified to find myself withholding important information from them and protecting someone who is being a jerk. But, I also don’t want to dump this problem into the lap of a person who made a totally reasonable request and already has enough on their plate in dealing with the entire rest of the world. If you were the staffer, would you want a conversation about this?

    For background, Partner and I have other LGBTQIA+ staff and have excellent relationships with them. I’m fairly sure this wouldn’t be an issue at all if our staff member had asked us to switch to using a different-but-still-binary set of pronouns. In most other ways, Partner is a thoughtful, kind person. We have already spent several hours discussing this, both in person and over text. I’m completely dismayed but continuing the conversation in hopes that Partner will come around, and compiling a set of online resources for Partner to check out (I’ve got more than a dozen already but would still welcome recommendations for your favorite “gender neutral pronouns for dummies who are also maybe a-holes” resources to include). Also, yes, I know how bad this is both ethically and legally, and I’m actively looking at backing out of the partnership altogether if Partner doesn’t come around very soon.

    Thank you so much in advance for any help, all!

    1. Zephy*

      I wouldn’t put it back on your NB staffer – it isn’t their problem to solve. I think we had an open thread/ask the readers a little while back about experiences with people changing pronouns, maybe there’s a strategy in there you could implement? Since you’ve already had a number of conversations with Partner about this, presumably Partner hasn’t been able to articulate why this is such a hard thing to do.

      1. Small Business, Big Problem*

        Thanks so much for your reply! The array of excuses Partner has deployed is overwhelming. There doesn’t actually seem to be a single reason, good or otherwise, for this resistance. I have already reread both the changing pronouns thread and a ton of other comments and posts on AAM and elsewhere in trying to convince Partner, and obviously haven’t yet succeeded. I just feel like at some point I ought to admit to our staff member that I was wrong when I thanked them for letting me know and assured them I’d get everyone on board with the change. But maybe I’m wrong?

        1. Hell in a Teacup*

          Your staff member will at least appreciate that you tried. You can’t control other people. But you are doing the best you can and they will notice.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      How much contact do your partner and this staffer have? And specifically, how much contact do they have that doesn’t also involve you? If you’re involved pretty much all the time when it comes to them, I’d focus more on intervening with Partner in the moment, correcting them when need be, and continuing to work on Partner’s reluctance one-on-one.

      When it comes to a separate talk with your staffer, I would say something like this:

      “I’ve passed along your pronoun change to Partner, but they’re giving me some pushback about it. I want to let you know that you have my full support, and I’m going to take point on dealing with this issue with Partner. Are you comfortable with me speaking up to correct them in front of others?” Focus on your support for them, rather than Partner’s bigotry, and about their comfort with public corrections to Partner and anyone else who misgenders them. Some people would prefer you make noise about it, some would rather just let it pass quietly instead of being made a center of attention.

      It sounds like you are already putting a good bit of effort into bringing Partner around, and please keep doing that — for your staffer, pushing back on their boss’s misgendering is a pretty risky step, and you’ve got a whole ton more leverage than they do.

      1. Small Business, Big Problem*

        Oh my goodness, this script is SO HELPFUL. Thank you! I guarantee I will keep pushing back and not let this drop.

        My damage control this far has actually been to keep Partner as far away from all of our staff as possible this week. So far they have not had a single interaction that I’m aware of, as I’ve been going way out of my way to make sure they’re never in the same place at the same time. I can’t control it if they text each other separately but fortunately that’s unlikely to happen.

        How long do you think I can work on this from my end before I deliver this awful message?

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I would have the talk with your staffer pretty upfront. It’s not going to be a surprise to them that there’s pushback — even if you promised that you were going to get everyone onboard, trans and NB folks are very familiar with resistance coming from all sorts of corners.

          How have the rest of your staff responded? If the overall company atmosphere is supportive and Partner is the odd one out, the social pressure may do a lot to rein in the misgendering.

          Thank you for being so supportive of your employee.

          1. Small Business, Big Problem*

            The rest of the staff will doubtless make mistakes occasionally but I’m sure everyone will truly do their best. Also, the nature of our work is such that our staff don’t actually see much of each other so they’ll almost certainly hear me using correct NB pronouns for quite a while before they run into each other.

            I’ll plan to have the unhappy conversation on Monday if I can’t get a real commitment from Partner over the weekend. Thank you so much for your advice here!

        2. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

          You could have the conversation about correcting people in the moment right now – that’s not specific to Partner. I’d say wait until Partner and awesome staff member have an interaction where partner mis genders them. Then approach staff member and let them know that they continue to have your support and you know partner is a problem.

    3. INeedANap*

      Is it possible for you to be present when Partner and the staff member interact for the next little bit? If they don’t interact that often, you could make a point of being there when they do, and immediately correcting Partner in the moment. “Oh, sorry to interrupt, Partner, but [Staff] member has asked us to use ‘they’ not [incorrect pronoun] and we’re all working to respect that.”

      If Partner is usually a kind, thoughtful person I suspect they will find it EXTREMELY hard to refuse to use Staffer’s preferred pronoun right in front of Staffer. Partner must understand how rude it is and hopefully will balk at being overtly rude. This will also demonstrate immediate support in front of Staffer, making it clear it isn’t Staffer’s problem to solve.

      Also, being proactive on calling out Partner for misgendering Staffer in email and in writing will be useful too. If Partner uses the wrong pronouns in email, do the same thing and address it in writing.

      1. Small Business, Big Problem*

        You are right on your first guess that Partner has actually already conceded the point on using correct pronouns in front of both the stead member and me. Of course, that’s going to be completely impossible to do successfully if they’re still using the wrong pronouns everywhere else, but it’s a start.

        I can keep the everyone-in-separate-places thing going for maybe a couple of weeks but it also feels terribly dishonest to withhold this info.

        1. INeedANap*

          Can you talk more about why it feels dishonest? The workplace often has a lot of things going on behind-the-scenes that staffers or colleagues don’t know about and what you’re doing to work with Partner isn’t really info the Staffer needs to know. It’s going to be obvious if and when Partner misgenders them, and if you can successfully corral Partner and prevent them from misgendering them, now there may be unnecessary tension between Partner and Staffer.

          Note, there’s nothing wrong with giving Staffer a head’s up! I just don’t see it as dishonest to just continue doing what you’re doing either.

          1. Small Business, Big Problem*

            That’s very reassuring, thank you! I suppose it feels dishonest because I promised to get everyone on board never imagining I’d get this reaction from Partner, and because it seems worse to me that Partner might intentionally misgender them (rather than slipping up accidentally, which happens to everyone).

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I have had my promises bite me, too. And it sucks. It did make me more careful on my word choices, such as I was careful to say, “I promise TO TRY my best…. I can’t MAKE other people do x…..”. For me it became a two part problem. 1) Other people refused to honor my commitment, which I thought was straightforward at the time. 2) I promised and failed to carry thought because I have no control over what happens next.

              We can lead a horse to water but we cannot make the horse drink the water. Promising that other people will do something is almost impossible to fulfill.

              I’d like to point out that while you are correct Partner will not always use “they” in front of you and the employee, this can go the opposite way also. Partner will find themselves saying “they” in talking with others. It will take time but Partner will eventually wonder why he is putting so much energy into this.
              Annnnd, when surrounded by a group of people using words in a certain way, it is almost impossible not to eventually pick up their speaking patterns. Time will wear down Partner.

    4. JokeyJules*

      Any time it’s come up I always revert to,
      “If this is what they want to be called, what is the problem with just doing that? Takes one second and improves your relationship with them. I assure you, it might seem like something little and unimportant to you, but it’s a big deal to them. Why not do something simple, like refer to them how they prefer, to make them feel much more comfortable and accepted at their place of work?”

      As for the employee, continue to be supportive. It isn’t their job to make everyone around them comfortable with who they are.

    5. LilySparrow*

      I assume from your terms “pushback” and “resistance” that this isn’t an issue of having a hard time changing habits, but actual refusal.

      In which case, I’d say just stop trying to convince Partner and flat-out tell them to quit being a jerk about it.

      Calling people “out of their name” is just shockingly rude. And when there is a power differential, it smacks of an archaic master-servant relationship, where the employer (or in some cases, slaveowner) would arbitrarily assign a name to a worker.

      If your staffer says they are “they,” then Partner doesnt get to overrule that because of personal opinions about the nature of grammar or gender.

      Partner doesn’t need to understand or agree, or feel emotionally or philosophically supportive, or any of that. It’s irrelevant. Partner just needs to have some basic damn manners.

      You want binary? There’s your freaking binary – Partner can chose to be respectful, or choose to deliberately be an asshole to an employee.

      1. Small Business, Big Problem*

        I appreciate your frankness here. Tbh, I disagree that Partner doesn’t need to get on board philosophically; this is a person with whom I’ve tied up my professional life but I’m unwilling to run a business where we can’t respect people’s basic rights.

        For other staff, yes, they could disagree in the privacy of their own heads if they wished, though happily they do not.

        1. Natalie*

          I do think it’s worth considering that them getting on board philosophically might happen *after* them getting on board behaviorally.

          1. Small Business, Big Problem*

            That is true. It’s hard to remain calm and think logically about this right now since I’m so appalled at the situation (and, truthfully, freaking out about the future of the business and the partnership). Primary concern for today is of course the staffer, though.

            1. Natalie*

              I hear you. I think if I was in your situation I’d probably

              a) have the “get your shit together and do it now” talk with your partner about the pronoun issue

              b) give your staffer an update just so they aren’t blindsided, and ask them how they would prefer you handle misgendering. (Just assume that will happen by someone.) You said elsewhere that you feel bad because you promised you’d get everyone on board, and I think it’s fine to apologize for that but I don’t think you need to beat yourself up over it. Being overly optimistic is not the worst sin in the world.

              c) observe and see what happens. You don’t need to make decisions about this partnership right now when everything is fresh and emotions are running high. It’s okay for this to affect your feelings, but those feelings don’t need to be immediately translated to actions.

              1. Small Business, Big Problem*

                Oh, thank you so much for that! You’re definitely right that it’s wiser to hold off on the partnership worries. I just added an appointment into my private calendar for time to freak out at the end of next week, so hopefully I can set it aside in the meantime. Your suggestions are an excellent plan for how to proceed in the meantime. THANK YOU!

                1. Natalie*

                  Ha, calendared freak out time seems like a great idea.

                  Good luck, I hope everything works out for the best!

            2. pancakes*

              I’d think it would be more helpful in terms of remaining calm, lucid, and taking practical steps to resolve this conflict to think about it in smaller pieces rather than big and unwieldy generalizations. I mean, you don’t have to think of or characterize your business partner as someone who is “thoughtful and kind” and then try to wrap your mind around pointedly self-regarding and unkind behavior on their part. Those pieces don’t fit together, and they don’t need to fit together in order for the problem to be resolved. You don’t have to uphold that characterization in order to proceed with trying to get your partner not to needle your employee about their pronouns.

      2. LilySparrow*

        Wait – I just saw an updated reply from you that Partner is not refusing to use “they” but is just- what? Not consistent? Not putting forth enough effort, in your mind?

        Okay, that’s a different issue entirely. Why would you feel the need to report that to the staffer?

        It just happened *this week*, and Partner, by your description, has very little direct contact with any of the staff.

        Partner has screwed up the verbal change when referring to Staffer incorrectly in the third person, but has expressed the intention to address them correctly in person.

        You need to back off. Staffer absolutely does not need a catalogue of every time someone uses the wrong pronoun behind their back. Why would you throw that in their face? That’s just mean.

        It’s been less than a week. Give Staffer the space to focus on their real-life, in-person relationships without worrying about the content of other people’s brains.

        And give Partner a chance to actually practice this new habit as part of normal business, instead of barraging them with more assigned reading that has no practical purpose.

        You can’t conduct relationships in theory or in the abstract. They are behavioral. And Partner has stated they intend to behave appropriately. So take a step back and let them do so.

        1. Small Business, Big Problem*

          After hours (seriously hours) of conversation and texting I received a text from Partner that reads, “Using her/she in my communications is not me being inconsiderate of [Staffer]. I am better able to do that for [Staffer], when communicating directly to [Staffer]. Not sure it matters when I am referring to [Staffer] in contexts outside/ away from you or [Staffer].”

          My apologies if the earlier reply made it unclear. At the moment, all I’ve accomplished is getting Partner to agree not to misgender Staffer in their presence or mine. They’ve explicitly said misgendering will still occur whenever I’m not monitoring (with many misgenderings liberally sprinkled throughout the rest of our text chains just to make things even worse).

          1. Lilysparrow*

            I’m not saying you’re wrong to be concerned. I’m saying you need to stop flogging this because it’s not going to help. The more you make this a conflict between you and Partner, the more Partner will dig in their heels. Hours of texts and thousands of web links aren’t going to accomplish anything at this point. You aren’t helping anymore. You’re escalating.

            You said Partner is normally a kind thoughtful person. You said Staffer is valuable and therefore (I assume) Partner likes them and wants them to stay and feel respected.

            This will solve itself better if you get out of the way and let the two of them walk it out IRL. Staffer is a grown up person and so is Partner. You did the right thing by taking point on delivering the message, and impressing on Partner why it matters. Unless Staffer is totally unreasonable and prone to some kind of very immature magical thinking, they can’t possibly expect you to be responsible for Partner’s behavior. And there is absolutely no reason why they need to know about it or be upset about it.

            You want to protect Staffer? Then keep this story to yourself so they don’t have to deal with this nonsense. It is nothing but hurtful, doesn’t help them in any way.

            You have done everything you can, and anything else from this point on will only make it worse. So stop. Let Partner’s normal kindness, and the real-life interaction with Staffer, guide them into the right way of doing things.

            1. Monokeros de Astris*

              No. If one of my bosses had been misgendering me to other people, I would have been devastated. If another boss knew and kept it from me, there would be no salvaging my relationship with any of them or the business as a whole. OP is absolutely correct not to let this lie and you are wrong.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            “not sure it matters”

            He will find out how much it matters when people start saying, “which ‘she’ did you mean when you said ‘she’?”
            He will find that people are confused by his pronoun choice to the point that it hinders the thought or work process as he has to stop each time and say, “I meant Lee.”

            OP, you are good and sincere person. It’s not up to you to fix other people’s unnecessary and self-created problems.

            This is one of the many times my husband and I would go back to, “People have problems with understanding the relationship between cause and effect.” You, OP, can clearly see that his double standard is going to cause him more issues than it resolves. We have to let people go through their own learning curves and yes, this can be painful to watch. Other people will correct him and, I’d say, OP, LET other people do that. You have done a lot of lifting here, let him experience the burden of the unnecessarily encumbered process he has chosen for himself. You have gone as far as you can go here.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You’ve got good stuff so far but my advice is how to talk to your partner about this more. You cannot let it drop and stop fighting the battle to get them to do better.

      You say you’ve got other LGBTQ+ and that’s a factor that you can lean harder on. By denying one of them the respect and decency, you are still hurting them all in the end. You see even that slight dint in the armor and see that they don’t respect “that” part of the community and you start questioning them deeper.

      It takes time and perhaps they need some in dept diversity training as well. I would encourage them to seek that development out and even give them options of where to seek it out.

      This is something that happens in partnerships. It’s up to you to continue to fight for the rights of your staff and not just “agree to disagree” when it comes to basic human rights of being called by your name and spoken to as the person you identify as, not what others want to identify you as.

      I would start pushing towards “we have to cease any discriminatory behavior, this puts us both at risk.” if you have to. It’s true, you may not be in a place where there’s any laws regarding gender identity as a protected class but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be aware that it’s something that’s steadily being worked towards to get into that classification. It’s always better to be ahead of that kind of legal ball instead of behind it, so there’s no hot buttons when the legislation changes at some point. You don’t want to be that company that only protects selected few.

      1. Small Business, Big Problem*

        This is a great reminder, thank you! I’ll lean into the legal ramifications some more in our conversation. I’ve been so wrapped up agonizing over how ethically wrong it is that I may have more room to emphasize the legal risks.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I’ve had to wrangle small business owners my entire life. When I find pleading to their sense of ethics/morals which usually works since I work for 99% decent humans [otherwise I wouldn’t be there, I’m picky], that going in with a legal and business minded idea helps shake that last stubborn one loose. “Oh you don’t care that morally you should be doing it that way? FINE what about what happens if this hurts you in the pocketbook?” Legal wise or just the turnover wise, as small business owners you know how hard it is to find good workers that you want to retain. You retain them by being good humans!

  7. K.H. Wolf*

    I was wondering, for any self-identified rock-stars or future rock-stars, what does that look like in your role and for you? If applicable, what sort of struggles have you gone through that might have made an outsider say, “There’s no way that person could become a rock-star employee?”

    Alison often mentions that employees should strive to be rock-stars, and I think that’s great. However, I think that often people rule themselves out as potential rock-stars because they have too narrow a view of what that means and how contextual it can be. There are many different types of success, even in the same role, and having different types of rock-star can be really valuable to an organization.

    I’ve been thinking about this ever since I read a comment on the post “How do I tell an employee he doesn’t have what it takes to do the job he wants?” The commenter was convinced that they could never be good enough to advance, but that wasn’t really addressed by most of the replies because it became clear the commenter was undergoing some really self-destructive thinking patterns and that took priority (link in reply in case anyone is interested). Ever since, though, I’ve been thinking: what does being a rock-star look in all types of different roles, or for different people in the same role?

    I’ll go first (not quite a rock-star yet, but getting there): I’m an accountant, and I only have a Bachelor’s with no certifications, in a state that requires a Master’s to get a CPA designation. I’m in my first job out of college. By harnessing a mostly-unexplored hobby of programming (I’m still pretty terrible, but learning every day) and a fierce desire to be as lazy as possible while still getting work done, I’ve already become the go-to person in my office for solving any tedious report work. The other day my boss said, “Hey, K.H., I have two reports that need to be one report and calculate an additional column. Can you do your magic?” This is a typical request 8 months into my first role, and I couldn’t be happier. In 5 years I’ll be on track for an alternative career path that mixes accounting with programming, and I’ll have an amazing resume/cover letter combo to go with it because of the accomplishments I’m starting to make right now.

    But I really struggled through college. I spent 8 years on a 4-year degree. I struggled with undiagnosed situational depression that manifested in extreme procrastination and an inability to become motivated. I started with an Associate’s from a medium-sized community college (took me 3.5 years). I then had to transfer twice during the remaining 4.5 years in order to find a program that worked for me after I managed to (mostly) break out of my depression. The college I eventually graduated from was the online affiliate of a state school. I will never go back to school; I found learning with no meaningful production to be terrible for my mental health. (Working part-time did not help me with this issue.)

    It got better. I found work that I was good at and I didn’t hate. The dabbling I did in various hobbies throughout college in a desparate attempt to find anything that was fulfilling enough that I could stand another month of schooling prepared me to be flexible and gave me the programming groundwork to be able to learn rapidly once I started. The same laziness that manifested as procrastination when I was depressed gave me the incentive to program my own software tools to help me in my job, which has become the most fulfilling part of my job and has impressed my boss and my coworkers. I have an excellent manager who places an emphasis on personal development. And now I consider myself a future rock-star, because of who I am and my problems instead of in spite of them.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I kind of bristle at the term rock star when it comes to describing employees. Same thing with ninja. Too many associations I have in my head with ping pong, beer, and a tech-frat atmosphere.

      1. ArtK*

        Me too. I especially bristle at the “self-identified” in the above. I’m sure that K.H.Wolf means that they want to be an outstanding employee, but self-bestowed titles don’t sit well with me. I think it reflects an attitude that will cause problems in the future. To me, it focuses on recognition not accomplishment.

          1. K.H. Wolf*

            My apologies for assuming that the normally thoughtful, discerning commenters on this site could handle a bit of levity and could be trusted to self-identify their own good performance using cues provided by coworkers and managers.

            I was hoping for some personal anecdotes about what different types of success looked like, and maybe even how people got there, because I have a bunch of anxious friends who believe they can’t succeed and I wanted to share some stories with them.

            I got nit-picking over a word, in a fairly unkind and unconstructive way. I don’t think I’ll post again.

            1. pancakes*

              People suffering from anxiety don’t seem to lack information about why their anxieties are maybe misplaced so much as have trouble getting their mind & body to cooperate in settling down even when they have information / a broader perspective. I mean, people who are afraid of flying generally don’t get over their fear just by reading that statistically they’re more likely to be injured in a car. It depends on the person, of course, but I’m skeptical that anxiety can be self-treated this way.

            2. Diahann Carroll*

              Yeah, you got some weird, mildly antagonistic responses here. I don’t have any examples myself to share, but I appreciate that you brought up the topic and I enjoyed hearing about your journey with depression – that I can relate to strongly (and almost dropped out of college over it myself a couple of times).

        1. K.H. Wolf*

          Since this seems to be causing a lot of strong reactions, let me clarify that I only used the term because Alison herself has used it in many, many answers to questions and I assumed it was common site parlance. I also think that perhaps so many comments devoted to a single word (which has been used by Alison herself in this context!) is a bit against the spirit of the site rule on nitpicking language.

          1. Hellow Sweetie!*

            To me, I think the term “rock star” is a term that is used by other people to describe someone, not a term that you expect to self identify as. So a manager might describe one of their direct reports as a rock star, but if someone were to tell their manager, “As your rock start employee…” then the manager would likely look askance at that employee.

            I think the question really comes down to “What are some general things you do (or should do or could try doing) that are good successful habits.”

            Alternatively, another question could be phrased to managers as “If you have managed an employee who was a rock-star (outstanding in their position, really rose above their peers), did you notice any general trends in habits that seemed to really support their growth.”

          2. AnonAcademic*

            Alison has not really used”rock star” and most of her advice has been on how to convince employers not to use such terms, e.g.:

            It comes across as self-aggrandizing as a self descriptor, just like if you referred to yourself as a “standout employee.” I’m sorry that one term is overshadowing your larger question but I did cringe ever time I read it and found it distracting. I think your efforts to diversify your skills sound great and you are hungry for success, as you should be at your career stage, but I might suggest framing your goals using language that more closely reflects dominant professional norms.

      2. LilyP*

        Yeah, sorry, “rock star” just makes me think “overly enthusiastic tech recruiter from the early 2010s” and then cringe. It also makes high performance sound like an inherent quality or a personality trait. I think lots of people can succeed in some roles where they’re a good fit and struggle in other roles that aren’t right for them. The question you should be asking is how do people find or create a role that is the perfect fit for them to excel at.

      3. Marny*

        Especially when, traditionally, rock stars were people who drank too much, trashed hotel rooms, and acted like egotistical jerks. It’s so strange how that has somehow become a description for a desirable employee.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      However, I think that often people rule themselves out as potential rock-stars because they have too narrow a view of what that means and how contextual it can be. There are many different types of success, even in the same role, and having different types of rock-star can be really valuable to an organization.

      So, yeah, basically this—another reason I’d ditch the term rock star and focus more on “How can you be successful in your role, and what will that look like?

    3. your favorite person*

      I don’t know if I still consider myself a ‘rock star’ but it was something I heard myself described as by higher ups (bosses, grandbosses, board members etc.) for quite a while. I think what helped me was the position I went into had basically no expectations. Or, if it didn’t work out, it was ok. I was hired to do some work engaging young members which this small (35 employees) organization had seriously struggled with for years. I created a program and BOOM it worked. My bosses later told me they didn’t think it would at all and were very surprised I was able to implement it in about 20% of our chapters. Because of that, they wanted my thoughts on new programs. I helped set up guidelines for new programs that were outside of my wheelhouse. Then they wanted a new logo, which I convinced them really they need not just a new logo but a whole branding initiative. Because of my passion and organizational skills, I ended up overseeing that project, too. Cue me overseeing a website redesign and marketing push. So within 4 years I created two new projects, oversaw three big revitalization projects, and being asked to speak on panels at trade symposiums. I was promoted, restructured another very large program (which might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, due to the negative feedback I received- bosses agree it was the right thing to do, members HATE CHANGE) and decided that after 6 years of BIG projects EVERY YEAR I was going to just try to maintain for a year. I then got pregnant and decided to hold back a bit on anymore projects until I got back from leave. I got back 6 weeks ago so I’m starting to look for the next big project.

    4. ContemporaryIssued*

      I also bristle at rock star but in my understanding, it’s successful in your role to the extent that people not only trust you to do your job exceptionally well, but also that you have the capabilities to think outside the box or problem-solve if something unusual crops up.

      For my role, I have my own tasks but I also offer a lot of support to other offices in our company when it comes to answering phones, invoicing or other tasks they may fall behind on. I got a surprising amount of praise at the recent holiday party for being a reliable problem-solver for situations where another office is a hand short or people in our company aren’t sure who to go to when it comes to X problem.

      Of course, some roles might have situations where if something unusual crops up, you can’t go outside the protocol due to law or have to defer to your boss for instructions and it’s not that you’re incapable of solving it, you just aren’t allowed, because it goes over your head officially. So that part may not apply to every role out there, but in my role it definitely applies.

    5. Ashley*

      What I have found has made me successful is doing the stuff my boss didn’t want to do but needed done. He isn’t organized. I keep him organized. He isn’t great about reading long documents. I read and give him notes so he can spend time on the parts that matter. There are things as my boss he has to do but if I can make the process and painless as possible the more success I have.
      As we expand our team I would settle for someone doing what is asked and what they said they would do when they do it. I would keep that employee on my team for a long time.

      1. Live & Learn*

        I would never call myself a rockstar, I don’t even think I’m all that great realistically but my current manager fought a wicked battle to get me hired to his team, with our chief counsel backing him because they had seen my work and believed I would be a huge asset to the team. They tell me all the time how thrilled they are with my work. For me that looks like being diplomatic, intellectually curious, a team player willing to help others, solution oriented and having a proven track record of doing the hard jobs that others couldn’t or wouldn’t do well.
        But I got fired from my first post-college job for bizarre interpersonal reasons not even related to me (family business, I was not family), got laid off the next job and I walked out of the next job (after 4+ years) after being repeatedly verbally abused, all while dealing with untreated/poorly treated depression and bipolar disorder.
        So I would have said my career until 4 years ago was a mess and I was no rockstar, but people like working with me, I try really hard and I learn fast. Now people are trying to recruit me to work for them elsewhere.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m from a poor family, from the middle of nowhere podunk USA. Where my teachers literally told me as a kid I was basically on track to be worthless…

      I bootstrapped from being an accounting/admin assistant at some rinky dink dying company. And by 22 I was on my way to running a business for someone who was declining in health. I have went from carrying stacks off the fax to enter them into payables to whatever I am now. I had to get machines fixed when his abilities were no longer enough to keep them going [he did all the maintenance himself and only called the millwrights when something went down hard.] We operated with things that we didn’t need to buy more than once in a decade. We had machines that were probably 37908 years old if you did the math. Lots of discontinued items, lots of finding things on ebay or other auction sites.

      So really, it’s all about that out of the box thinking and being able to roll with the punches. I lost a treasure box of important details when my bosses mind shut down. I had to dig into old piles that were buried under years of dust and also simply had to reverse engineer a lot of things in the end. I had to teach myself where to find credible resources.

      Every CPA that’s dealt with our books are floored by how well I do. They’re constantly giving owners praise on their records and how we’re their easiest clients because we’re so proactive and I clearly care, etc.

      Now I do take a few courses/classes here and there through finally having a position with professional development. And each time it’s been that wind of “Wow, I did figure that out right, woah.”

      A lot of it has to do with how you absorb information and retain it. And how you execute. It’s also just a lot of confidence in yourself and the process.

      I also bristle at the fluffiness and “hm” factor of words like “rockstar” but it’s just like any other weird buzz word in the end. I get why they exist and I buck the system enough that I wouldn’t use it personally but I think that’s the kind of story that you’re looking for?

      I also don’t say I’m a rockstar because I’m still growing, I’m still moving and I’m not “peaked”, rockstart to me says “I’m going on my 7th retirement tour, y’all, get your tickets!” and I’m nowhere near my first retirement tour even.

    7. kt*

      I have to say, I find the majority of the replies to this question pretty off-putting. Sure, you can not like the word rock-star — but can you contribute any actual useful answers to this question? Not a lot of substance in the replies, even though several seem to understand the question.

      OP, your description of yourself reminds me of an acquaintance who people hire to just “get it done”, whatever it may be — she just figures out how to do stuff, in a very logical way. Need a wedding planned for an alpinist who wants to do it on a rock face? Sure. Need to figure out where and how to move your office, when you’re in the orchid business and you need appropriate environmental conditions? Sure. Planning a conference for a start-up in a niche business field? Sure. She just asks good questions & digs into answers. It’s really interesting.

      Another thing you remind me of, OP, is a lot of friends who ended up in tech or data science. Just ride that combo of willingness to learn programming & desire to be ‘lazy’!! It’s pretty potent! I’m a mathematician turned data scientist, and one of my favorite teachers preached in class about “The way of maximum laziness”. The tao of maximum laziness can lead to mathematical and programming enlightenment, and since data science, etc are newer fields, you don’t need a CPA or other certificate if you can just get stuff done.

      Other people mention doing things the boss needs but may not think of — I’m trying to figure out if that would be useful for me, but the problems facing my boss are not the ones I really want to tackle. I would be interested in other folks’ thoughts on that, because I can see a ton of problems facing my industry in the next 5 years and would like to be in a position to attack some of those problems proactively — but I’m new to the industry, just coming off a career change, and need to identify how I can do that. (Climate change seems to not be a thing in my company even though it’s in a very polluting industry and I can see regulations with significant impact coming down the pike.)

      So, other commenters, what can one do to be amazing and create a role for oneself, independent of former academic performance or certificates?

    8. LQ*

      I have to say that I get why the rock-star language makes people uncomfortable, but I think it’s an interesting question. I do not want to say that I am a rock star or even all that great, but I’m up for (and really likely to get) my second promotion of the year, this one to a director leading a team of nearly 50 people internally, projects in the 20-50 million range, and an application that processes over a billion dollars a year. (Excuse me while I have a tiny little panic.) I know that nearly everyone I work with, both my team and the contractors (another 25 people now, soon to be over 50 there as well) would say I’m at least pretty darn good. None are trying to oust me, and even the high ego folks will say I’m pretty good. Ok credentials established while eschewing the rock-star label.

      I think struggle is …valuable… thing for people who want to be exceptional. (the right kind, in the right doses) If you don’t know how to struggle and get through something hard, hard for a long time not hard for a few minutes, you’re likely going to have your career stall out earlier. You’ll be less likely to take on hard things that you might fail at. If you have …sort of the right amount of struggle (too much and you’ll get destroyed by the struggles) you’ll get better at struggling and getting to the other side. One of the big things that I’d say is if someone offers you a challenge, take it. If you have the capacity in your personal life, or close to the capacity, take it. Take on, and ask for, the stretch work, the harder things. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Reach out, find them, make them (which it sounds like is what you’re doing, and what I’ve done a lot of). I’m looking to bring someone onto a big project right now and she’s been a little hesitant, that concerns me. I do think she can do the work. I wouldn’t push her to do it if I thought she’d fail. I won’t let her break everything. But I want her to embrace the challenge.

      Another thing that I think you need if you want to be exceptional is grow a damn stomach for “politics”. Sorry, but you’re going to have to compromise, you’re going to have to understand the nature of the situation that feels less than great. You’re going to have to build relationships, a lot of them. I know it’s hard. I KNOW it’s hard. It’s brutal. I’m crushingly introverted, I’ve got Aspergers, I’ve got a huge amount of anxiety. It’s ok to say you don’t want to do politics, but you’re saying that you’ll never do work bigger than you then. Which is fine, you can do work that’s pretty big if you’re amazing. But you need to do politics, you need relationships, you need to know how to be pleasant to even the shitty coworkers if you want to be exceptional. Suck it up, learn it, I know it’s hard. But you want to be a rock star? You have to be able to work with humans. It is just a skill that can be learned. It’s harder to learn that it is for the magic people. But you can learn it.

      I’d also say that you always need to know why you’re at work. Having a core that you can hold to and that shows through, people will see that and it will get you through the struggles and the compromises. (The Simon Sinek stuff could be useful here, but it’s the why you get out of bed and go to work stuff.)

    9. Not So NewReader*

      This is just a general over view and not specific to any particular job I have had.
      I think one thing that helps me be a good employee is that I don’t identify as a good employee (aka superstar). I look every day to see how I can make a strong contribution today. Each day is a clean slate, start over, do something meaningful today. I usually get good or great feedback from most bosses. I believe on a daily basis we earn the privilege to keep our jobs. This has been very helpful for me.

      I think Alison’s advice to strive to do your absolute best every day is right on the money. We are able to get ourselves noticed by our efforts and the thinking behind our efforts.

      When I first started working, I quickly noticed that the employees who did not SHOW that they wanted their jobs were the first employees to go. And I noticed that if I didn’t show I wanted my job, someone else would be happy so show that THEY wanted MY job.

      On doing your best: Good employers know that people have bad days or just days where work is sluggish because of reasons. What they look at is the over all course of things as the employee works along.
      I had a family member who used to get so ticked, “If my husband can’t see that I did something today then he thinks I sat and watched QVC all day.”
      You know. There IS some merit to this point that carries over to work places.

      Combining those two thoughts, it’s not lost on me that some of the simplest and quickest tasks I have done are the ones that get the most praise. The tasks that take days and involve being near tears got silence. I chose to balance things, I would weave noticeable stuff in between the real grunge work I had to do.

      I prioritize what the boss is asking about above all other things. The boss will worry about X until she sees X. Might as well get X done and satisfy her concern. It’s good to remember that if people think someone is a great employee that is their OPINION. It is good to give the boss and cohorts things that help to boost their opinion of us. And happily we get parts of our jobs completed in the process.

      My last rule of thumb that I have reused a lot, is the employees who excel are the employees that work through something difficult or even a crisis, with willingness and helpfulness. A wonderful thing that I have found is that I don’t HAVE to know the answers, I just have to be willing to work through and help find answers.
      And no one wants to do some of this stuff: work with a difficult person; find a way to do something after x machine broke down and there appears to be no work-a-round; fix a situation that we ourselves did not create but someone has to clean it up; and anticipate a problem and make preparations to either prevent the problem entirely OR lessen the fallout from the problem. I always joke, it’s what a person does when they don’t wanna do anything that can make or break a person’s job/career/reputation/etc.

      There is a burn with any new job especially in a new-to-us arena. Kind of like learning to ice skate, we can expect to fall down a lot and that hurts. It’s good to know that this is temporary. If we stay with something long enough, we can push through this period and eventually master major parts of the job. This temporary period can be shorter or longer depending on the job/arena. I have a job now that I will never master. My wonderful and brilliant boss still wants to keep me. And the reason she gives is that I am very good at knowing when to ask questions. I catch stuff instead of pushing it onward and having disastrous results. (I stay at the job and I tolerate being less than masterful, because my boss is wonderful and smart.) And yes, it is in my mistakes that I have done the most learning, not only is this ironic but it’s also annoying in the moment. Let mistakes teach you.

    10. Pam*

      Sounds like you have found your niche. I returned to school in 1996 to.learn computers. Along the way, I discovered that it was easy for me to help others find their way through school. I’m now a senior academic advisor with 20 years of experience. I’ve turned down multiple opportunities for promotion, because I prefer the hands on advising that I do. What I am is an expert- I’ve learned a lot, and am seen as an expert- someone who can deal with tricky student situations. I love my position and don’t see making a change. It sounds like you are finding yourself in a similar place.

    11. The Other Dawn*

      For me, “rock star” means someone who goes above and beyond, anticipates others’ needs/questions, looks beyond just the surface, and is proactive. They do their job well and are looking for ways to improve the company/department/themselves without being asked or poked and prodded into it.

    12. Thankful for AAM*

      I think pancakes came closest to an answer to the question about examples of people overcoming impressions of them that they are less than stellar in order to help others who got the message they will never be successful/rockstars.

      People suffering from imposter syndrome or anxiety or similar need more than examples or stories.

      My son has overcome depression and possibly other as yet undiagnosed issues (still in counseling to figure it out) as well as having no college (does not see the value, does not want any) to get a good job in IT and then got the boss’s job. His friends from his IT training days say they would never be brave enough to accept the boss job at such a young age. The literal example of their friend doing it was not enough.

      And I think overall, Alison’s advice tells us what a rock star employee looks like:
      Does the work well
      Professional even with coworkers they don’t like
      Does not take things personally
      Focuses on the mission of the organization
      Clear communications
      When in doubt, ask, I hear her in my head, “just ask!”
      Focused on their own work, not the work of others
      Focus on the impact of problems on your work when talking to a supervisor, not on things you just don’t like/personality

      There are many more but those stick in my head.

    13. Soupmonger*

      Ugh. I hate the ‘rock star’ phrase a lot. It’s so arrogant. You’re interpreting what your employer wants from you, then multiplying that by some intensification process and hoping you end up being truly indispensable. Plus you’re applying the phrase to yourself and thinking of yourself in a really odd, hyped-up way.

      Just try to be good at your job, thoughtful, kind, and don’t get obsessed by this. Live your life for you, don’t focus entirely on your work and obsess about being seen as perfect.

  8. Anon please and thanks*

    For Performance Improvements Plans,

    Is it pee-eye-pee or pip (like Gladys Night)? I like pee-eye-pee but keep hearing pip.

    1. Anon please and thanks*

      Something about pee-eye-pee makes it sound more respectful, at least for me.

      Maybe it’s because pip sounds like something small and insignificant.

    2. MsSolo*

      We have Pips and Peps, (one for individuals, one for member organisations), both of which are pronounced as the words.

    3. Allypopx*

      I hear both, I think I actually hear pip more often but I really don’t like how it sounds (personal preference).

    4. Jabs*

      Just wanted you to know that I was skimming the comments and had to read pee-eye-pee twice before I figured out what you were talking about but by then it was already too late…

      (I say “pip” and so does my partner’s organization)

    5. A Simple Narwhal*

      I’ve only heard it as “pip”, but I don’t see anything wrong with p.i.p. other than it takes extra time to say.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I am strong on the “If it’s an acronym, you say the letters not make it into a word” wagon.

      I get all irrationally angry when my mother calls U.P.S “ups” so it’s just one of those “peeves” lol.

      So it’s pee-eye-pee on this ship!

        1. limevodka*

          Actualy they are by definition – acronyms form new words while initialisms do not. Like, NASA (acronym) vs DNA (initialism).

          This is not actually massively relevant and I do understand what you are saying – I just think it’s an interesting distinction that may come in useful at table quizzes!

      1. TiffIf*

        I agree–though sometimes an acronym will come into wide enough usage or recognizability that pronouncing it as a word becomes the norm (such as with HIPAA) and then there’s the case of scuba which most people now probably don’t realize is an acronym, similar with laser.

        If somebody were talking about a performance improvement plan and called it “pip” instead of “pea-eye-pea” I would have no idea what they are talking about.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Same here. Pronounced “pip” and occasionally used as an action word, as in, “He was PIPped out.”

  9. Sharkie*

    On Wednesday I spilled my soup and my told me I had to get on my hands and knees and scrub the carpet so it doesn’t stain or pay to have the carpets cleaned. Thank god it’s Friday

    1. Zona the Great*

      That’s really shitty. I can see cleaning up the physical mess but being told to scrub a stain or pay? My gawd. Do you guys have to clean your own facility?

      1. Sharkie*

        Oh yeah, I cleaned the mess but that wasn’t good enough. We also have a cleaning crew come in. To add to the ickiness I am a woman in my 20’s and he is in his 60’s…..

        1. Observer*

          Oh, that explains a LOT.

          Is your boss the owner? Is there HR?

          Because if there is no (competent) HR or your boss is the owner, I would seriously start looking at an exit plan. This guy sounds like a sexist Jerk who is NOT going to treat you well, or even reasonably.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            I can understand where the boss (?) is coming from by asking her to do this – doesn’t sound like there is necessarily a gender/age component actually. A large soup stain isn’t just “wear and tear” that normally happens with walking through carpets etc – it is actual damage (and in places I’ve worked, the cleaning crew did things like vacuuming and emptying bins but wouldn’t do something like a deep clean on a carpet). By comparison if you were renting an apartment and damaged the carpet with a soup stain you would be expected to pay wouldn’t you?

            1. Observer*

              You seriously expect non-cleaning crew to get on their hands and knees to scrub a carpet when something spills?

              To be honest, I hope you don’t have any authority over anyone.

              1. Jdc*

                I expect anyone who spills something to get on their hands and knees and attempt to minimize the damage. Anywhere. A movie theater, my home, office. That’s what people do when they spill.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I have dumped bits of food on the rug and I have cleaned it up. The alternative is that I roll my chair through it over and over and spread it around. The cleaner comes once a week and he only does the larger areas. I am not sitting in smelly, decaying food all week. nope.

                  But just in my personal life, if I drop something on the ground in public I pick it up. If I knock something off the shelf in the grocery store I pick it up or let someone know there is a spill (which ever is appropriate). And so on.

                  HOWEVER. What the boss said was wrong, wrong, wrong. You should not have to pay to clean up the entire carpet. That is BS. A little pet spray (enzyme cleaner) will clear up any food stain in my experience. And that is what I have done, brought in my pet spray cleaner and given the spot a couple shots, then it’s done and over. I usually work in smaller places and this is more the norm for these places. Larger places sometimes have rules about this stuff, so you may not be able to do that. OTH, you may not WANT to do that for [Reasons]. My point is some soup on a rug is really not that big a deal and the boss’ meltdown seems way out of proportion. It says to me that he knows nothing about how to fix this situation.

                  I volunteer for a place. The group went into meltdown when people were allowed to bring coffee in. What about the rug?!! I just shook my head and bought them some pet stain spray.

            2. Thankful for AAM*

              Sorry but cleaning up the surface part of a spill yes, you do that. But scrubbing is not required for an employee (who is not maintenance) or when you are at a theater or other public place.

              I used to work in a non profit shelter and scrubbing the carpet was part of my job. But it is not part of my job in an office.

    2. Rayray*

      That’s absolutely ridiculous. Spills are going to happen. I get it if you tried cleaning on your own accord though.

      It’s even more ridiculous for them to act that way over a simple stain, considering the carpet is probably filthy anyway from people walking around with their shoes on.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        My boss chews tobacco (pretty gross in my opinion) and knocked over a spit cup one day. 0_0 He tried to clean it up but could only do so much. I’m actually glad it happened because it prompted him to have ALL the carpets cleaned. Carpet is just gross by nature.

        Sharkie, I’m sorry your boss is an ass.

  10. MissBookworm*

    This is just a really strange holiday season at work so far. So many issues. Anyone have any advice on retirement party planning and how to not go crazy by the end of January, let alone December?

    Short story:

    I got saddled with planning the Christmas party (easy rehash of 2018) as well as a retirement party taking place during our very busy year-end audit that I’m also involved with.

    The long story:

    Normally we decorate the Monday after Thanksgiving, but that hasn’t happened yet. I just overheard one employee getting annoyed at a higher up because she (the higher up) is going shopping this weekend for Christmas decor and my coworker is not happy about what higher up wants to buy.

    My boss is still out dealing with medical issues so we haven’t done our usual “prepare for year-end” meetings (where we inevitably spend half the time talking about our plans for the holidays) and he hasn’t been involved with planning our annual Christmas party. I’m usually kept out of the party planning discussion but because he’s not involved I was volunteered to help out. That’s not really a huge issue time-wise because we decided to pretty much do exactly what we did last year, but my anxiety is rearing it’s ugly head because of it and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because our new owners and half of their senior level staff plus a dozen clients are going to be there? So, basically they will be outnumbering the actual employees from our small company that are able to attend.

    One of our long time employees just announced her retirement, so we also have a retirement party to plan for January—which also coincides with our year-end audit which will likely take the entire month both in time spent preparing and time actually spent with the auditors. It’s a new auditing firm too, which means we have no idea what to expect from them. I have to deal with both the audit and the retirement party planning because I did such a good job on the Christmas party planning… which everyone seems to forget is just a rehash from last years (same location, same food, same setup, etc.) and took me like two hours overall to confirm everything with the venue and get all the approvals. Retirement party is a different beast entirely because the last one we did was apparently ten years ago.

    We also normally get a ton of gifts from clients which start trickling in around Thanksgiving and we haven’t gotten anything yet. People (not me) are grumbling about not getting the cookies and chocolates—which is amusing. Someone put a note in the kitchen that was all “Be grateful we got gifts in the past; the clients don’t have to send us anything!” which some people were not impressed with. And because my cube is nearest to the kitchen guess who they all complain to?

    I swear my anxiety is off the charts because of all of this. And I’m still training the new guy plus training a new admin who started last week all while doing my regular duties. My brain can’t take anymore of this.

    1. Ama*

      My anxiety gets triggered by event planning, too (and it is unfortunately a regular part of my job right now ). I think those of us anxiety sufferers who also really invest a lot in doing well at our jobs tend to get a little too caught up with being able to please *everyone* and accounting for every possible problem when that’s generally not possible.

      Can you go to anyone and point out that the retirement party work is happening right when you need to be handling the audit and ask someone else to take over? I know no one at my work would dare ask the finance team to take on any responsibilities during the month of our annual audit.

      1. MissBookworm*

        My office is so small that my department handles all event planning—usually it’s our corporate accountant who does it all with our boss, but with him out our corporate accountant is doing both of their jobs. I’ll have to ask our President if he can assign someone on his team to help—it’s his admin who’s retiring!

    2. Eng*

      I’m starting to job search for the first time since college. Been almost 5 years and it’s unsurprisingly much more stressful to job hunt when you have a job. Also software engineering interviews are weird because a lot of people ask tricky programming questions that don’t have any relation to the actual day to day of an average engineer, which means I probably have to “study” for that as well.

      Also rough because I like my team and the day to day at my job is good, but for various long term reasons I’ve decided I can’t stay. It feels like I’m lying to my nice coworkers every time future plans come up, which is a lot this time of year. Ugh.

      1. et*

        I definitely know that feeling! I only left my first programming job because it pushed me to the breaking point, and the feeling that I was lying by participating in long-term planning while fully intending to leave as soon as I could get another job led me to tell my employer that I was planning to leave before I actually had any other jobs lined up, which was… nonideal, but worked out okay in the end.

        I left that job for the job that I left for this job, and I only managed to leave my last job without warning anyone because (a) I never expected I would actually get hired here, (b) I wasn’t actively job searching, I just saw a posting for an amazing job and had to at least try, (c) I had also been pushed close to the breaking point by that job, and (d) I think I finally started subconsciously listening to everyone who has told me “you don’t owe a job your loyalty and it is normal and fine for people to leave jobs and lying is unfortunately just part of the job searching process.”

        No advice, really, just sympathy. I’ve been there twice in the last four years and it just plain feels uncomfortable.

    3. CheeryO*

      Ugh, is there anyone who you can tag-team the retirement party planning with? At my office, it’s traditional that the person’s direct report(s) help with the planning. It’s a lot to put on one person, assuming you’re doing an outside venue, food, gifts, cards, etc.

      1. MissBookworm*

        The person retiring is our company President’s admin, so unfortunately she doesn’t have any direct reports. I’m going to ask him if he can assign someone from his team (upper management) to help.

  11. merp*

    I know there’s a lot of librarians around here – do any of you have library-specific resources you recommend for learning Spanish or ASL in a basic sense, like to greet patrons and such? I’ve found a couple options but wondering if anyone has one that they’ve used and liked?

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      Not library specific – but have you used Duolingo the app? Its pretty handy for learning the basics of a foreign language (I may be misunderstanding, but it sounded like you want general, basic conversational skills – not needing specific librarian related words, right?)

      1. Bluesboy*

        Seconding the Duolingo recommendation. I’ve been using it for French for more than a year, and it seems that the exercises are so simple it can’t possibly be helpful, but…I have really improved

    2. NB*

      I am a librarian in a special library that serves teachers, social workers, and parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. Three of my favorite ASL sites that I recommend often are (I especially recommend following Meredith on Instagram), Bill Vicars’s YouTube channel, and Rob Nielsen’s YouTube channel. these are free resources. If you don’t mind spending a little money, you might consider putting ASL Dictionary on your phone. At our library, we circulate LOTS of instructional books, games, flashcards, and DVDs as well. Some of these might be available at public libraries, but since public libraries must necessarily focus on popular works that will circulate a lot, you might not find much. There are some colleges that offer robust ASL programs, and you might find more materials at one of those. You can check around in your area.

    3. NB*

      Sorry to dominate this thread, but you just happened to hit on a topic I actually know something about! Your public library might also have some online resource for language learning. Go to your library’s website and look for something like “online resources” or “research” or similar. Then look for language learning resources such as Mango or Gale Courses. If you can’t find it on your own, call the Adult Services librarian and ask what’s available. I took a Spanish class via Gale Courses.

        1. Majnoona*

          The language people at my university recommended Mango. I learned quite a bit of Italian using it when I had to teach in Rome. I also used it to improve my rusty German when I had to go there for a work trip. Local libraries often have it (it’s all online) but even the free version takes you pretty far.

      1. Koala dreams*

        That was my first thought when reading the question. Public libraries often have resources for learning basic phrases in popular languages, either through online resources or phrase books.

    4. Librarian of Many Hats*

      A year or two ago the American Library Association offered an “ASL for Librarians” course. Unfortunately I was WAAAAY too busy at the time to be able to take it and sadly I don’t think it’s been offered since. But it’s worth keeping an eye out for. FYI though, there’s probably a fee if you aren’t a member of the ALA or your state Library Association.

    5. shortlibrarian*

      The database Transparent Language offers a course called “Survival Spanish for Librarians” that looks useful. It includes library-specific terms such as “check out,” “application” and “renew.” Another option is from Webjunction which is a free course called “Infopeople’s Survival Spanish for Library Staff” that looks really useful too.

    6. Vermonter*

      I’d recommend Duolingo for Spanish, and Memrise for Spanish and ASL vocabulary. (I don’t recall seeing any ASL grammar on Memrise, but that might have changed.)

  12. Rayray*

    What are some weird things your boss does?

    My boss has on multiple occasions printrd a hard copy of something, or will ask me to do it, and then asks me to scan that to her email. *facepalm* I have explained so many times that you can choose to select “Print to Pdf” /”Save as PDF”, but still.

    1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      Ha, my boss hasn’t done that, but I have a colleague who wanted me to see an email she received, and instead of forwarding it, she printed a copy of it and put it on my chair while I was at lunch.

    2. Snubble*

      My new boss doesn’t understand that you can forward emails, so she’ll ask you to print them out so she can scan them in and attach them to new emails for the department head to see.

    3. Nessun*

      One of my coworkers has a boss who will take a photo of his expense receipts with his phone, email them to her, and then give her the physical receipts. She inputs his expense report for his review, and has to send in the physical copies with the report in order for him to receive reimbursement, and our standard process is to scan the entire package for our records before sending it in. The photo process was his idea – we still can’t fathom what it accomplishes.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        He’s hoping to save her a few scans. For a few years, my employer required electronic images for the electronic submission, then we had to send in physical copies too. Around the time my home office’s all-in-one printer / copier / scanner died, they dropped the physical copy requirement, and I found it was easier to snap a pic / email than to scan.

        Plus it gives him a record if he ever needs to check travel history. It could be useful when someone tries to frame him for stealing the Pelican Brief or the like…

      2. Koala dreams*

        Haha, yesterday I heard my co-worker tell a client to take photos of the invoices they were paying. If you are prone to losing your receipts and invoices, it’s a good idea to take photos so that you at least have something to go on. It’s actually a common advice!

    4. Leslie Knope*

      Not my boss, but my coworkers (who are within a few years of my age). I made the effort one day to set up digital signatures for my two coworkers who are out in the field quite a bit on their laptops. They need to be able to sign proposals so vendors can keep working, and some of it is time-sensitive. What do they do? They still wait until they’re in the office, print out the proposal, sign it, scan it, email it back to the vendor.

      One day when they were both here I explained to them why they’re both wasting time and supplies, and ultimately money for the company, but doing if the antiquated way. I was met with blank stares.

      This has actually been a long-running problem I’ve discussed with my boss. Neither of those guys make an effort to learn new processes or more efficient ways of working – even if it means making their job easier! I just don’t understand their apprehension. It drives me bonkers!

    5. LilySparrow*

      I had a boss do that with the PDFs, and it turned out that he didn’t want the recipient to be able to copy-paste from the text. I don’t remember why we couldn’t protect the file to prevent that. Maybe he just didn’t trust the file conversion to be sufficiently protected?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It depends on your reader version. We use a free version so we cannot lock PDFs or change that kind of formatting!

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        We have this problem when submitting documents to an official website – if you do a straight “print to pdf” then it carries the text and formatting separately in some way, so although it looks fine at our end it gets mangled by the upload process and turns into WingDings by the time the official body receives it.

        BUT if you open that pdf in Acrobat Reader and print that to pdf, it strips out all the cleverness and just creates effectively an image file. That file uploads absolutely fine and is perfectly legible when it arrives.

        This is a known problem with the system but as the workaround is so trivial we do not expect them to fix it.


        Anyway, printing the pdf to pdf might help your (now ex?) boss, or others with similar concerns.

    6. From The High Tower on Capitol Hill*

      My boss will send me a long-winded email asking me to send an outlook calendar item to him. To be clear, I am not his assistant or anything remotely close to that. He spends more time writing the emails then he would putting it on his calendar.

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

      Not my boss, but more people than should in the year 2019 still print out my PDF’s, mark their changes in pen, scan it back into their computer, and email it to me. I have created a quick tutorial with screen shots to show them that they can mark changes in the PDF, save and send it back. I don’t actually want them changing the text in the doc though, since that doesn’t change the original InDesign file, and now I have to go through it with a fine tooth comb to find the changes.

      1. Live & Learn*

        My grandboss does this! With every file type ( Word, Powerpoint, PDF, Excel) She has her assistant print them, she marks them up in her completely unintelligible handwriting, has her assistant scan them and email them back to me. So I can then print them, walk back to her office and ask her assistant or her directly to translate her gibberish handwriting.

      2. Jdc*

        Honestly, sometimes it is easier for me to do this just if there are a lot of edits. Staring at the screen I miss things. I do then go in and do it on the computer though afterward.

      1. Rayray*

        Ughh I hate that kind of thing! Emailing or calling to ask questions, when that time and energy could have been used to find the answer very easily on your own.

    8. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      Here’s my favorite weird boss thing! My boss and I and several other co-workers all have names that begin with “E” – my co-workers (2 other admin staff) and I had all previously signed our emails with just E, but of course we were all doing it, so we assigned numbers based on seniority. I was E2, there was also an E1 and E3.

      One day I accidentally sign an email to my boss (also an E name) as E2. He writes back, “It’s too much pressure to be E1, can I be E2 and you be E1?” I explained to him the hierachy. He writes, “Whew! Can I be E3?” I told him sorry, that was also taken, he had to be E4. This guy is the director of our program and a very big deal, he’s nationally and even internationally known in his field. He still signs emails to me with E4.

    9. Hierarchy of Keys*

      Our key storage system is ridiculous and my boss hates it, but she won’t change it.

      During my first week, I realized the stapler at my desk was empty and asked where I could find more staples. Office supplies are kept in a locked cupboard in the storage room. The key to the supply cupboard is in a locked key box mounted to the wall. The key to the key box is in the safe. Four people at our location have the safe combination. So to get staples, I had to find one of the people with safe access, and that person needed to jump through all the hoops to get into the cupboard and find a box of staples.

      When I made a joke about all the steps involved, my boss (who is the top person in charge at our location) laughed and said she knows it’s complicated and she doesn’t understand why it’s set up that way. I’ve been working for this same company for almost 8 years, and this is my third location. None of the other locations are set up with this particular key process, so it’s not as if this is something required by Corporate. Every time someone needs a key for something, she makes a comment about how silly the whole process is and says she doesn’t like it or understand why it’s that way. But it has apparently never crossed her mind that she is the person in charge of the system and could change it if she decided to.

      1. Not a cat*

        I worked for someone with a predilection for such nonsense. She played the “I don’t know why..blah blah” game. After I left she told me she liked making people ‘work’ for such things as supplies as a cost-saving measure. She thought if she made it difficult, people would bring in their own supplies, snacks, etc. She’d save budget $$$ and look good to corporate. Cost-cutting was one of her KPIs so she was using the whole terrible workflow to achieve her yearly bonus.

    10. alacrity*

      This isn’t exactly a “weird boss” comment but more in general–6 years out into the workforce after graduate school and I’m finding that the whole “well I don’t know how to use [x tech tool]” excuse to be worn completely through, because we’ve had this tool for longer than I’ve been with the company and you’ve had plenty of opportunity and time to learn. It’s even worse when it’s the head of the department who is set in their ways so that there is no push from the top to get lower level members to adopt a new tool (or use the existing ones).

    11. CastIrony*

      I just found the nicest manager I have worked for in YEARS. He used to offer to buy me a pop (they were a dollar) when he was buying something. It always caught me off guard, but I appreciate it whether I’ve accepted or declined.

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      In my 20s I temped at a hospital. The acting department chair regularly dropped her stapler off on her secretary’s desk with a note that it was broken.
      Every time, it had jammed because it ran out of staples.

      1. Bring Hawkeye to the Details*

        I had a senior-to-me employee freak out every time she downloaded a file from an email she’s just sent to a client. Apparently she felt the need to download post sending to check that she’d done it correctly. When her Download Folder popped up automatically, she’d freak at all the files in there, thinking she had sent them all, panicking loudly across the open office “Why is Winner Teapots’ file connected with Wakeen’s Teapots invoice??? Oh my god, I just sent a competitor their info!!”

        I’d explained it to her many times. I gave up. This was the same senior level employee that caused 4 people in a 7-person office to quit. (I was #2).

    13. Jdc*

      Instead of simply looking for an email, even if it was received yesterday, asks you to “resend it so it’s at the top of his inbox”. He does this with customers too. It drives me bonkers.

    14. Just Another Manic Millie*

      This has nothing to do with computers, but it definitely is a weird thing my ex-boss did.

      It was a company ranging from six to nine employees during the four plus years that I worked there, including my ex-boss (the owner) and myself. He had brochures printed up that claimed that we had branch offices in every major city in Europe and every city in South America that you could think of. In reality, we had a relationship with a company in London, but that was it. I knew that this would make trouble some day.

      One day, as I returned from the ladies room, the office manager was extremely panicked. She said that there was a man on the phone who wanted to speak to the owner, and when she told him that the owner was on another line, he said, “Well, you can help me. I’m going to Sao Paulo next week, and I want to visit your branch office there. What’s their address and phone number, and whom should I ask for?” She said that she told him that she would have the owner call him back, but he said, “Why can’t YOU tell me? Don’t you know their address and phone number?”

      She was so upset that it didn’t occur to her to give me the receiver and shout, “YOU take care of this!” which was what I was expecting her to do. So I said, “Just say to him ‘The owner is the best person to help you. I’ll have him call you back.’ And no matter what he says, just keep repeating it like a broken record.” So that’s what she did, and eventually the caller gave up and agreed to wait for the owner to call him back.

      When the owner got off the phone, the office manager told him about the call. The owner then told me to start calling everyone we knew in Sao Paulo. If the person I was calling wasn’t available, I shouldn’t leave a message. Instead, I should immediately hang up and call someone else, because time was of the essence! Finally I got someone on the phone and gave the call to the owner. I was able to overhear the owner ask him if he would pretend that his company was our branch office, and from what I overheard, I deduced that the answer was yes. I wondered if the man in Sao Paulo would tell his employee that if anyone asked if they were our branch office, they should say yes, but I doubted it, because the owner of my company never mentioned it. And I decided that I just didn’t care, because that was the very worst company that I worked for, and to this day, I’m sorry that I stayed there for as long as I did.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          I would have loved to have been there, too, but I assumed that everything went well, since I never heard anything to the contrary.

          Another weird thing the owner did was harass employees while they were on vacation. One time, Fergus took off the week before Labor Day. He told everyone he and his wife were going to Long Island. (Our company was in New York City.) But on Friday, the owner asked everyone where Fergus was – why wasn’t he here? We all told him that Fergus had taken the entire week off, but the owner insisted that Fergus had said that he would be in on Friday. Despite our protests, the owner called Fergus and screamed and screamed at him for not being in the office.

          Another time, Wakeen arranged to take a week off during the summer and said that he was going to Puerto Rico. Shortly before he left, the owner announced that the Friday that Wakeen planned to be away would be very busy, and Wakeen would have to return early from his vacation so that he could be in the office on Friday. This was a huge surprise, because Fridays during the summer were nothing-days. But Wakeen arranged to fly back to NY on Thursday night so that he could be in the office on Friday. He also arranged to fly back to Puerto Rico on Friday night. So he was in the office on Friday, and it was a typical nothing-day, and we all sat around and did hardly anything. What a power play!

    15. MissDisplaced*

      Like, it’s just a normal article?

      I can see asking you to scan it if they’ve added handwritten notes or something on it. And I know some legal contracts do still require the actual hand signature to be faxed. But aside from special circumstances this is weird.

    16. Thankful for AAM*

      One of our supervisors did not know how to fill the self inking, ink pad properly. It has a little drawer that pops out to add more ink. She awkwardly half pressed it open and tried to drip the refill ink onto the pad that way. She got ink all over it.

      When I saw it, I said oh, one of the new people must not know how to fill this. She fessed up that she had made the mess, I showed her how to fill it, and she took it to clean it up. She was very embarassed. But that was not the best part (I don’t think not knowing how to fill it was essential knowledge but just sayin, I figured it out on my own).

      The best part was later in the week there were signs all over the building, “WHOEVER TOOK OUR ADDESS STAMP, PLEASE RETURN IT IMMEDIATELY!!!!” with her name on it. She forgot that it was still on her desk, wrapped in damp paper towels, and now with more ink smeared all over it from her attempts to wash it.

      She also makes her direct reports save print copies in a binder of the weekly schedule of who is working, the schedule of who is covering the desk, and a 3rd paper schedule that are all on the shared drive. We only print them so they are easy to see without logging o to a computer as other departments need to see it and our own part time staff dont have assigned computers.

  13. yala*

    So yesterday I found out that the Horrible Smell in the office fridge that I assumed had been because something had spilled and we were just waiting until the annual “clean out the whole fridge thoroughly with bleach” time to really get to whatever nooks and crannies it had soaked into…is actually someone’s lunch. That he brings every day.

    It seriously smells like…old used sanitary items. It is a Bad Smell, and it smacks you in the face every time you open the fridge.

    I don’t understand how. All of the things in his lunch are Good Things that don’t smell like that. I don’t know how they smell like that put together.

    Maybe the person who told me that was wrong and she’s perceiving broccoli and garlic as the offensive smell and somehow missing the other.

    …guess we’ll find out after the Big Cleaning.

    1. Yvette*

      If the lunch is being brought in a re-usable insulated fabric bag, the bag itself may be the issue. Something may have spilled, soaked the fabric and turned rancid. Milk and yogurt come to mind, or perhaps some sort of fish liquid (tuna etc.)?

      1. yala*

        I think his is the glass container and I don’t think he eats meat/animal products often.

        I’m really hoping it’s something else making the smell.

      2. Jdc*

        Indian food, or perhaps more specifically curry does this. I once bought a used table that made my whole house smell like curry. A good scrubbing solved it but I can see how it could really stay in fabrics.

    2. OperaArt*

      Does he use the same lunch bag or container everyday? If so, could that be the source of the smell?

      1. yala*

        I don’t think so. I think his is the stuff in the glass container, so the container shouldn’t carry the smell.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Sometimes broccoli smells pretty strong. My office asked me to stop bringing it in for my lunches.

    4. Happy Lurker*

      We had takeout broccoli alfredo with linguine in the home fridge for 3 days. I thought something crawled inside and died in there. It was very, very bad. Something about the cheese mixture that made the old broccoli smell worse.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Yes, crucifers plus dairy over time equals deathsmell!! The only thing that smells worse to me is rotten beans.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Oooh – a previous boss claimed he’d never met a fruit he didn’t like, and I made the mistake of bringing a durian into the building. I took it right back out, but it was too late.

  14. Lost in Marketing Land*

    For marketing professionals, what makes a good manager/director?

    In short: I am underperforming in the more manager side of my role (strategy, big picture thinking, taking ownership of the department, etc) but I have never worked under a competent marketing manager or director and don’t know what this looks like. Our CEO doesn’t know what she wants either and can’t offer any guidance, but I am not doing ‘it’ right by her standards, whatever it is.

    It’s a 7 person company so while I am the marketing manager in title, I am the complete marketing department and am supposed to excel at everything from strategy to content creation to actually executing all the tiniest of tasks. I am stronger at execution and creative tasks.

    Basically I have been told they can’t afford to pay me my current salary at the rate I have increased our revenue–our MOM/YOY sales are consistently up but not to their ideal goals. I have the choice of quitting, going part time, or staying full time and taking a $10k/year salary cut.

    Hoping to get some guidance/mentorship from experienced industry professionals!

    1. Allypopx*

      That’s a really hard position to be in and I’m sorry. In my experience a successful marketing team needs to be at least two people, for the exact reason you’re describing. Even if you’re good at both coming up with concepts and executing them, both take a LOT of emotional and mental energy in very different ways and it’s really hard to do both well without any support. Especially if you aren’t getting any guidance. “Make us more money” is not…helpful.

      Can you ask for an assistant? Even if you could get an intern…updating social media posts or scheduling email blasts is not a good use of your time at your level and workload.

      Actual advice: Definitely try to be as organized as possible. Time management is your best friend. Have a communications plan, have a communications calendar. Schedule blocks of time for big picture thinking, block those times out on your calendar so you aren’t interrupted. Try to create the most efficient task flows you can.

      This is really stressful I’m sorry.

      1. Lost in Marketing Land*

        Thank you for the reply! I feel like I’m doing my last few job roles all at the same time plus trying to be the department head. We’re in an area with a lot of college students so I should push more for an intern. We’ve had a few but they weren’t studying marketing so they did a lot of random tasks and didn’t actually reduce my workload.

    2. 867-5309*

      OP, I’ve been in one-person departments several times in my career and am currently CMO of a tech startup.

      First, your boss is ridiculous. Unless you are sales, your job shouldn’t be tied to revenue in that way. I’m responsible for sales lead volume and even when I miss, there is no reflection in my pay. If you boss wants your salary to be that way, then it should be commission on top of base. This alone would be a reason to leave.

      How long have you been in your career?

      It might be useful to go to a larger organization where you can work within a department of peers, leaders and possibly people junior to you. This will also let you focus on individual contributor roles for now.

      Running a single person department can be difficult. I have nearly 20 years experience, spanning almost every area of marketing (branding, corp comms, paid digital) so I can wear all those hats.

      If you decide to stay… It sounds like your boss wants you to be doing work that generates new clients. Are you clear how to do that? HubSpot has a great blog that can provide some guidance on both inbound and outbound sales marketing.

      If you would like someone with whom go have a short chat, I can also provide my LinkedIn information and we can connect from there. It might helpful to talk through it and I’d be happy to give you some more pointed ideas once I know more.

      1. Lost in Marketing Land*

        I would love to connect over LinkedIn! It’s ecommerce consumer goods so no clients. I have no formal background in marketing but have been working in the field for almost 5 years, always at small businesses since I’m not in a city area.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          If you are e-commerce consumer goods at lot of your metrics will be around creating demand: website traffic, online sales, click through rates, etc., but ultimately online sales.

          In a way, these are far easier in that they’re easily tracked measurable things. I work in B2B marketing where it’s much more difficult to determine how your strategy is working because customers don’t “buy” immediate things.

          It sounds like you may want to consider working with a good digital agency that specializes in e-commerce. Because e-commerce is a VOLUME game. They often have greater ‘buying power’ for SEO and ads that can help boost your traffic much more quickly than you could do alone. Plus, they can take the everyday mechanics off your plate, to allow you to plan future strategy and initiatives.

          I don’t know if the agency is a possibility given your company as this requires some investment (and e-commerce requires some investment in marketing and advertising! ). You can learn to do all this, and I’m sure you’ll find a lot of advice on how to boost online sales on Hubspot and other places, but still, there will need to be some investment to enact the plan.

          And yes, your boss is being ridiculous if they’re giving you ambiguous or unrealistic goals! Like, you can’t expect to make $5M in online revenue with a $2,000 marketing budget. But sadly many small businesses do think this way.

      2. Triumphant Fox*

        The advice to work in a position with people above and below you is really sound. You learn so much about how to run a department from being in one and there is a lot to be said for learning processes and best practices rather than having to just figure it out.

    3. Triumphant Fox*

      Being the sole marketer is an incredibly tough position to be in. I agree with Allypopx that you need to have some separation between evaluation/strategy and execution. I would actually recommend getting some contractors to work with – mainly a graphic designer, writer and maybe a social media person. Then you’re not paying for a full-time position, but just for a handful of work. Get people to write email copy, layout email templates, lay out social media ads, etc. Sure, you can do it, but you can’t afford to anymore.
      A few questions:
      How long have you been working there? Seeing a revenue increase to the degree they need in the time you’ve been there may not be realistic.
      Do you have KPIs? Are you being given clear metrics for performance? Revenue is not a metric. Look at each stage of the sales funnel and see where you need people to move the most. Spend time figuring out strategies to meet those numbers/goals and have a budget for what it will take. You won’t be able to do everything yourself.

      1. Lost in Marketing Land*

        I’ve been here for a year. Comparing revenue to months in the previous year we’re consistently at a 90-200% increase. It’s a start up environment but going into the business’ 7th year. 2019 YTD is up 121% compared to 2018 revenue.

        KPIs are just to hit a certain revenue goal each month—base needs to cover costs plus what the CEO thinks is possible based on past years and our growth pattern this year. It’s hard to come up with a formula because we’ve had years of 100-200% increase (small company blowing up), but I am concerned we are going to reach a ceiling soon and that type of growth is no longer reasonable. (Niche market plus luxury prices.)

        Sales funnel is slow—new customers need to visit us at least 5 times before they convert. Some are at 20-30 visits over several months before they convert. We have very loyal repeat customers who can impulse buy from us but for new customer acquisition, it’s a slow burn and lots of education due to price point.

        1. Allypopx*

          While I still think you need an assistant, your CEO’s expectations are just not reasonable. Ceilings exist for every single company. Can you explain any of this, will they be receptive? Explain the issues with customer acquisition, the product life cycle, how they’re going to see slowing of momentum because…that’s how it works?

          It sounds like you’re doing a great job with the resources you have, for what it’s worth.

  15. Rey*

    Christmas success!! Our office culture has always been that everyone brings in a Christmas gift for everyone else, which was fine when I started with 10 people, but has exploded this year to 25. I mentioned the time/money pressure to my boss and he emailed everyone to invite them to bring a food treat throughout the month instead of individual gifts. This totally works with our group, and I’m so glad that he addressed it directly. Yay!

    1. Chaordic One*

      And doing it throughout the month is a good idea. This way you have the opportunity to enjoy each treat. When everyone brings everything all at once it is just a bit overwhelming and you end up with that distracting sugar high.

    2. Rayray*

      I like this kind of idea better too. It can be difficult and stressful trying to figure out individual gifts. You could always do the mugs + hot cocoa or lotions or whatever, but is is really worth all the expense for a gift that will mostikely just collect dust? Bringing treats or snacks is much more affordable for people and definitely less stressful.

    3. OhBehave*

      Good for you in telling your boss. Doubly good for your boss to do something quickly. That’s a lot of money to spend on coworkers! If you miss the gift giving, propose a secret Santa exchange.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, at 25 people you’d need to move to a secret santa name/number draw for gifts, or skip the presents altogether for treats as you did.

  16. DC*

    I’m building my website for freelance work, and had a question for folks out there:
    If I’m shifting to freelance work from salaried jobs, when listing “clients I’ve worked with,” can I use the ones that I was employed by? Or should I list it was “I’ve worked on: (insertorgshere)?”


    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I would say more that you’ve worked on it. It doesn’t make you sound less qualified, and it’s not misleading.

    2. LilySparrow*

      It’s totally fine to list employers on a freelance-focused resume. Many if not most freelancers build experience in fulltime jobs before going out on your own. And if the employer is well-known and respected in the industry, it is a plus rather than a minus to have had a job there.

      Many clients prefer to see a solid work history in the industry, rather than an entire career of freelance gigs. It conveys that you earned your “chops” and can deliver reliably on a long-term basis.

      1. 867-5309*

        OP is talking about a website, which is different than a website where it will look misleading, unless she’s clear she was an employee and what her role was at that employee.

    3. 867-5309*

      I would not suggest this. Many employers get upset when someone positions their work with them in this way – I know half a dozen people who did this and got emails from their former employer, myself included.

      It’s fine to include them in a bio about your experience but I would not put their logos or otherwise reference them.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        Typically on a website like this, you would need their permission to list them as a client so that you can advertise that you worked with them. Otherwise, I would list the industries – “Worked with Fortune 500 companies in X, Y and Z industries” is also a compelling line, citing specifics when you’re allowed. Be careful showing their work as examples too – some are public, but some may be proprietary internal documents you’re not allowed to share. This has been discussed elsewhere on AAM, but having a portfolio you send out upon request is a good option.

  17. ThatGirl*

    I sent this to Alison a couple months ago, but I think we’re past the time limit for answering (and that’s fine!) – so I wanted to see what y’all might think.

    I work for a CPG company in the marketing department. We have a distribution center in another town about 30 minutes from our corporate offices. Back in September the warehouse was trying desperately to finish shipping things for Christmas (a key season for the products we sell) and was short-staffed. So basically the whole corporate office was asked to “chip in” and volunteer to spend a day working at the DC. And when my coworkers and I ignored the first email, our VP sent out a second one trying to guilt people into going. Despite it being a potentially hazardous environment we didn’t have training for, and outside of our job responsibilities, and not offering *any* sort of incentive (extra day off, buying us lunch, reimbursing for gas, etc). We eventually politely declined and no more was said about this, but he whole thing seemed very sketchy to me.

    To top it off, we later found out the biggest reason the DC was short-staffed is because a new warehouse opened nearby paying $2/hr more, and our company decided they would not be paying workers there any more, so a bunch of people defected and we were having trouble attracting new workers. Instead they tried to shift the burden onto the office folks.

    1. Zephy*

      Did you have a specific question, or just want outside confirmation that the situation is a shitshow? Because it def is.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Well, my original question was “how should I handle this?” but it’s been handled and is over with now – so I am curious how others would have handled it, but mostly the outside confirmation :)

    2. JJackz*

      I’m sorry, I don’t have any help to offer you in this area. I just had to comment to say that this is the exact plot of an episode of The Office (S8 E3)! Though, in their case, they lost their DC staff because a bunch of them won the lottery together. So the fact that your workplace directly contributed to the problem by not raising DC staff pay means that they handled it worse than Dunder Mifflin. I honestly didn’t think that was possible. My condolences.

    3. Observer*

      If they couldn’t even get temp staff, the I suspect that it’s not JUST the pay. Not to sneeze at that, because it is significant. Given how the PTB responded, it’s a pretty good bet that there are significant management issues.

    4. 867-5309*

      This is quite common. I worked for an auto manufacturer within a plant and there was a time when salaried employees from the office were asked to lend a hand. We weren’t offered additional compensation and just did that for the day, instead of our normal tasks. I don’t think it’s a big deal that the company asked people to assist, especially not when you would be picking and packing and shipping, which is relatively low risk.

      1. ThatGirl*

        We’re not a manufacturer, though. We’re a distributor. And this is the first time in 2 1/2 years anything like this has ever come up. Plus, it sounds like in your case the office was part of the plant; in our case the DC is a totally separate facility that’s 20 miles away. They actually have their own office staff, and it would be totally different for them to get asked to help, I think.

        1. 867-5309*

          It happened also when I worked for a major retailer, managing internal comms for their warehouse division. Not everyone was on the same campus. It’s not an uncommon request for this kind of business to make occasionally. I’d consider it more out of the norm if it was a frequent, several times a year request, but it’s only been once during the busy season.

      2. Observer*

        Actually, picking packing and shipping is surprisingly risky if you don’t know what you are doing. Just ask OSHA.

        I was just listening to some reports about what goes on in Amazon warehouses – they have a ridiculous injury rate and they OFFICIALLY train people how to do this stuff safely. The problem in their case seems to primarily be that the speed at which they need to work makes it difficult for people to actually do things the way they were trained to do.

    5. Tinker*

      If safety training is required to do a thing, you should get the safety training before doing the thing. I would say that usually this would mean more that the outcome would be “the company does what it takes to get you the safety training” rather than “you don’t do it” or “mumble mumble do it anyway”, but not every company operates like that despite that it is unambiguously correct to do so. At the very least, I would voice that as a consideration — “if the expectation is that sometimes office workers are needed to help run the people muncher, we need to get office workers trained in people muncher operation in advance of the need”.

    6. Pretty Fly for a WiFi*

      I look at this a little differently than you, and I’m with 867-5309 that it’s common for office staff to sometimes lend a hand doing manual work whenever it’s needed in this kind of environment. I’m HR and I’ve done my share of deliveries, equipment inventory, packing, shipping, and on and on. Even if your company had ramped-up its recruiting efforts, it still takes time to get the extra $2/hour budgeted, approved, where’s the money coming from? Who/what is getting short-changed if we do this? Etc. So, asking office staff to help this one time would make sense to me, rather than hire a bunch of temps who have no stake in the outcome and would cost much more.

      All that to say that it seems the lack of response from the staff is a symptom of a much larger problem at your organization. In my office, we all chip in when needed, even if it’s not strictly our job, because we know we’ll be offering valuable help and our superiors will be right there helping along with us, and grateful they could count on all of us. So… what’s going on at your job that’s making all of you so (for lack of a better word) cynical? I mean, do you stick to the letter of your job description AND NOTHING ELSE when you perform your duties? I certainly don’t. Sometimes I find myself fixing the copier because I’m closest. Or picking up a piece of garbage off the floor. None of those things are in my job description, but I still do them… The point being that you said working in the DC is outside your job responsibilities… so?

      FWIW, if you had driven your vehicles to a different place of business for the day, the company should have reimbursed you for mileage – they don’t have to, but it IS a deductible expense, either by the company or by you in your taxes.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I mean, 54.5 cents per mile for a ~40 mile round trip drive for one day is barely worth deducting, it’s more the principle.

        I have many reasons to be cynical about how the company treats us, but first and foremost for the DC ask is that there was seemingly no recognition of what they were asking us — it’s not as if all office work stopped for those days, either. It’s one thing for me to refill the copier paper or help the receptionist with some boxes and quite another to go so far out of my way and normal job duties.

        Also, the DC has been chronically short-staffed, we’re owned by a huge multinational corporation, they absolutely could find money to increase pay and do better at retaining workers.

      2. pancakes*

        Temps do have a stake in the outcome in the sense that they need to do a decent job if they want to remain employed. And if a company’s budgeting process is so slow or out of touch as to have lost many employees to a competitor that offers better pay, that’s a very good reason for the company to prioritize assessing whether it’s paying market rate. This scenario isn’t comparable to picking up a piece of trash from the floor, taking care of a jam in the copier, or staying late one night to meet a deadline—because of the pay issue, it’s more analogous to expecting the office workers to act as scabs.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          “Scabs” was exactly my thought! The company can’t be bothered to pay the warehouse workers fair market value, and they’re trying to keep their payroll low by making the office employees pick up the slack in jobs they never agreed to do and aren’t trained for. Get thee behind me, Late Stage Capitalism!

  18. Anonymous Educator*

    Has anyone had an experience at work, where it seemed that your department was responsible for a problem, but it was really someone else’s department, but you weren’t in a position to say “Hey, it was actually them” without looking petty or trying to avoid blame?

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Constantly, and there’s usually nothing much you can do about it. Maybe you might be in a position to point out that it’s someone else’s issue to fix, but in general, no….you will get in trouble regardless, not them.

    2. INeedANap*

      Depending on the problem, sometimes relaying the ideal chain of events can help? Like, let’s say your department got blamed for paying an invoice late. You might say something like:

      “Just for future reference, invoices should be sent to Admin Assistant first. Admin will verify that all the items were received and checked in to inventory, then send the invoice along to Accounts Payable. In this case, inventory wasn’t updated, so Accounts couldn’t send the check out.”

      I personally don’t think there is really much wrong with trying to avoid blame? But it depends a lot on the company culture. It’s a professional relationship, not a social one, so I’m pretty comfortable with avoiding blame on my department that it doesn’t deserve. As long as it’s done in a factual way, not a personal way, I think it’s actually kind of important to do to identify problems.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        ^^^Agreed. You’re not doing anyone any favors if you take the blame for someone else’s goof. It’s not vindictive, it’s wanting to do better and avoid future mistakes. That said, it’s not always WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. I think you make a good point by saying not to make any of it personal. Some people may take it personally anyway, but you really can’t control that.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      I’ve found that approaching it with a “here’s a detailed breakdown of everything we did and when, what can we/I do next time to ensure this doesn’t happen again” is really helpful. Because you’re not denying anything, you’re not pointing fingers, you’re trying to come to a solution about prevent it in the future. But it has the benefit of often highlighting that you did everything correct and there was an error somewhere else in the process.

    4. Hush42*

      At least once a week. At my company it seems to be generally accepted that I know everything (definitely not true- but I can often figure it out) and that if someone doesn’t know where to go with something or who is responsible for certain tasks they just assume that it’s my departments responsibility. Then when those tasks go undone, because they aren’t actually my teams responsibility, I get asked why. It’s really annoying.

      Also lately I’ve had people try to add responsibilities to my team and when I pushed back and pointed out that that responsibility makes more sense for another team to do the person I was talking to actually said “Well yes I agree but I don’t trust them to do it right so I’d prefer your team do it.”
      AND lately there’s been a certain thing that one employee, who isn’t on my team, is doing that she’s been doing very wrong and it’s causing issues for a lot of other people. My boss and I were talking about it and he said “I’ve told her like 10 times that she needs to pay more attention and do it right but she doesn’t understand. I don’t know what else to do- we could just layer that part of her job onto your team too…”. Also what she’s doing wrong is entirely unrelated to my team and doesn’t affect them at all but somehow it’s still my problem to fix.
      I feel weird complaining about it because in way it’s a compliment but right now I just find it really annoying because we have enough work that actually belongs to us to do.

      Sorry for the rant TL;DR version- Yes, all the time.

      1. Creed Bratton*

        Careful – soon they’ll start calling you “rockstar” and giving you all the responsibilities for all the incompetent coworkers for no additional pay!

        I hate being compensated in compliments :P

      2. A Non E. Mouse*

        Also lately I’ve had people try to add responsibilities to my team and when I pushed back and pointed out that that responsibility makes more sense for another team to do the person I was talking to actually said “Well yes I agree but I don’t trust them to do it right so I’d prefer your team do it.”

        Are you me?

        This is just the worst. We’ve had two examples of it *today* and got tremendous pushback on our pushing back, like we were the unreasonable ones.

        1. Hell in a Teacup*

          “I am honored that you believe in my team to take on this task but we are currently up to our ears in teapot design right now. We cannot take on more work”

      3. Adlib*

        Is she good at other parts of her job? Because it sounds like boss needs to tell her to shape up or ship out instead of just failing her way out of a task.

      4. Bring Hawkeye to the Details*

        Are you my boss? Blink twice if my user name sounds like the employee who sits right by your office, lol

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Formerly few I was a project manager. The term you’re looking for is ‘scope creep’—that means the scope incrementally expands in a way that any one addition might be something you would ignore, but over time it throws off schedules and costs.
      There is a LOT of advice written on how to prevent it , so it’s well worth hitting Google and/or the library.

    6. NW Mossy*

      This false-attribution problem crops up in my world a lot because my team handles setting up systems. When those systems then fail to behave as someone outside our group expects, they often assume that the root cause is an error in the setup. This is occasionally true, but it’s much more common that the issue is either the result of a lack of understanding on the finger-pointer’s part or that the cause is entirely unrelated to the setup.

      A big part of how I’ve defused this over time is to be really transparent about how the process functions – where we get our inputs, how we check our outputs, and what the expected outcomes are. I finally shut down a multi-year battle with another area (long predating my tenure) using this strategy. They were convinced that my team was a dysfunctional dumpster fire, but rapidly changed their view when I showed them the abysmal quality of our inputs. They have a similar garbage-in-garbage-out problem in their world, so the lightbulb went off right away.

      Basically, stepping back and really looking at how the work moves around is often really illuminating, and it comes with the advantage of not being personal – you’re just looking at the river, not any individual swimming in it.

    7. Alternative Person*

      Yes! Not as a department, but as a tutor. I sometimes get students who have been with another tutor for a while, then they get moved to me for whatever reason (often because I have skills other tutors don’t). I try to tackle the gaps/work on the reason they were moved to me, the student (or parent) doesn’t like that I don’t do things the original tutor did (or didn’t do), and I get entirely blamed for upsetting them. The managers, students and parents involved never want to hear what/why I’m doing certain things to fix the issue they wanted fixed in the first place, caused by the original tutor.

  19. Orange Crushed*

    Are the norms and attitudes different in an office environment? I’m new to this world, and find it baffling. In certain environments, are you supposed to act tough and like nothing bothers you, otherwise others use it against you?

    For example, my boss asked if I was the one who highlighted a certain area on a chart and I replied no, that I didn’t. I added that the yellow highlighter hurts my eyes. Now every time there is something to highlight, they always bring up, “Don’t use yellow! Orange will get upset!”

    Another time they were talking about something. I rolled my eyes and now they start talking about it just to annoy me.

    If I talk with my coworker about something, my boss will say, “Is everything okay?”
    I don’t know why it’s bad- we’re just talking.

    I feel like I’m in a fishbowl! I’m quiet and introverted, so maybe they just observe me more and make comments? I don’t know, but it’s annoying.

    Has this ever happened to anyone? What did you do?

    1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      I mean, saying the yellow highlighter hurt your eyes was irrelevant when all they needed was a yes/no answer and probably came off as oversharing, and rolling your eyes is generally considered rude no matter where you are. I empathize with you, because I am prone to oversharing and can be easily annoyed, but in order to advance professionally, yes, you have to be mindful of how you present yourself at work. It’s not so much acting “tough” as it is reading the room and developing interpersonal communication skills. For some people this comes naturally, for others it has to be a learned skill. Is there someone close to you that you trust to give you honest feedback about this?

      1. Orange Crushed*

        It’s a fairly laid back office. They cuss regularly and one coworker always comments on how “prim and proper” I am. I understand what you’re saying though. I just feel out of place.

        1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

          This particular office probably isn’t the right cultural fit for you, and that doesn’t say anything bad about you as a person or a worker! If you’re interested in looking for a job that’s a better fit at some point, I know Alison has posted about assessing a workplace’s culture during the interview process. Also, not sure what field you’re in, but some fields are known for having certain cultures.

    2. Jamie*

      The highlighter thing is just people being people and thinking they are amusing.

      Eye rolling…really not okay at work and is something that’s rememebered. I’m an eyeroller by nature and it’s a habit I had to train myself out of. Save it for the bathroom or when you’re on the way home.

      Hard to tell from here but sometimes the “is everything okay?” is a polite way of saying they notice you chatting and to please get back to work.

    3. ArtK*

      Eye rolling isn’t a great thing and, as Crazy Diamond said, bringing up yellow highliter wasn’t essential. But… you work with bullies. That’s all very minor stuff and for them to bring it up again and again is bad behavior. They’re putting you — the new, young person — in your place. No advice on dealing with this, but a more sane office wouldn’t be doing it.

      1. Heidi*

        I’m inclined to agree. The highlighter thing is unusual, to be sure. However, there’s nothing inherently wrong with mentioning it. Now, using this information to make fun of someone who was being serious is immature and unkind. I’d be inclined to politely ignore. Now, you can’t politely ignore your boss. You could say, “Everything’s great; we’re just talking about the XYZ,” as long as XYZ is work-related. Depending on how your relationship with you boss is, you could mention that he asks if you’re okay a lot – is there a reason he doesn’t think things are okay? Then he gets the chance to clarify.

      2. Holly*

        I just have to disagree with this. If someone in my office said yellow highlighter hurts their eyes, they might be perceived as a bit “touchy” especially when paired with eye rolling etc.

        1. ArtK*

          You disagree that the boss’ and other employees behaviors are bad? Yes, I said that the OP was a tad off in what they said and did, but the responses are flat-out bullying. If someone is a bit “touchy,” you don’t keep harping on it, making things worse.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            The boss is only mentioned in the ‘Is everything ok?’ comment, which is not bullying. It’s so neutral that we don’t have enough context to assess the boss’s intent, which could be anything from ‘get back to work’ to ‘I’m bored and want to interact – they are interacting, I will join!’

            The rest could be bullying, or it could be intended as friendly (eg, ‘I won the meaningless prize’ coworker was *crushed* when she found out that OP didn’t like it).

            The key is: Orange, when you say, ‘hey, could we let that go?’ re: the highlighter (quietly, 1 on 1 to the person who does it most), how do they respond? If you speak directly to them, do they double down (bullying) or do they stop?

            And yeah, you need not to roll your eyes. That is a signal of disdain, and is disrespectful to your coworkers. If you don’t like a topic, walk away, or come up with a way to change it.

            Working in an office is a fine line between being yourself, and getting along. I’d start with being on your most prim and proper behavior, until you have more experience with what’s a good way / place to let loose. But no matter how you let loose, you have to act respectful of your co-workers, even if you don’t feel that respect.

            1. Holly*

              Second this response – I didn’t perceive anything as bad behavior or bullying without more information! And the eye rolling is not good.

      3. Tiny Scot*

        I’m inclined to agree with @ArtK in that the yellow highlighter comment was a little odd, eye rolling is a little rude – but both of those things would be accepted and dismissed from someone who was accepted in the workplace. Things may get better, often these things will happen when you’re new and either peter out or become more normal for you/something you can join in with as this seems to be their sort of humour. Or it might not. I have so much sympathy for you, I’ve been in very similar situations down to the prim and proper comments and it sucks, and it’s so lonely. I was able to move on to better workplaces and I hope you can too if things continue to be bad for you there.
        If it helps at all to hear it, your coworkers are behaving very badly, particularly to someone new. This isn’t your fault.

    4. LilySparrow*

      I think tone is important. Offices are just groups of people who spend a lot of time working together, so they have the dame kinds of dynamics as any other group.

      The highlighter comment and the topic that annoyed you could be attempts at lighthearted teasing or playfulness. So if that’s the tone, they are trying to include you in the group and make friends by creating an “in-joke.” Do you hear a lot of references that could be similar in-jokes?

      Asking if everything is okay could be a lot of things. If your demeanor was very serious, maybe the manager sincerely thought something was wrong. Or it could be as someone else suggested, a hint that there’s too much chitchat and the two of you need to get back to work. Or your manager might be a chatty type who wanted to be included in the conversation.

      It sounds like maybe they are having as much trouble reading you, as you are having reading them. Give it some time and start with the assumption that they are being friendly.

      And if they are being bullies, that’s still the best approach. Because nothing thwarts/frustrates a passive-aggressive bully better than acting as if they are being nice.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I don’t think it is passive-aggressive bullying in this case, but just wanted to add that I agree with your comment LilySparrow that a very effective way of dealing with p-a people, and the one I use a lot (any kind of p-a behavior, sulking, the silent treatment, “I suppose I’m going to have to fix all this myself!”, etc) is to treat the p-a comment/behavior exactly at face value (like acting as if they are being nice by not using the yellow highlighter). (And when people go into a sulk I just back off until they are ready to act normally again, rather than trying to appease them.)

      2. Gumby*

        So if that’s the tone, they are trying to include you in the group and make friends by creating an “in-joke.”

        That is what I thought as a best-interpretation of that. Similar could be said for the eye-rolling even. My sister will make grammatical errors that she knows are particularly vexing to me. On purpose. All the time. Grrrr.

        My other sister just had to explain to one of her kids that the older boys on his sports team giving him a nickname was a sign that they were accepting him as part of the group and not that they were mocking him.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Exactly! My boss (!) has a particular phrase that he hates, so I will incorporate it into the conversation as part of the in-joke.

    5. CastIrony*

      I have used “Is everything okay?” when two people are talking, but it’s because as a student manager, I want to know if I need to step in or something.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      The highlighter thing and mentioning something you rolled your eyes about are typical office banter in a lot of places, including most of my workplaces! The easiest response imo is just to go along with the joke (assuming it’s something quite innocuous that you rolled your eyes over and not e.g. something sexist or racist).

      Not sure what to make of talking with your co-worker and the boss asking if everything is ok, but it’s possible the boss overheard you venting about something and wanted to check in – especially if you are new.

      In general many offices can be a fishbowl-like environment or echo chamber, sorry! I think developing a thicker skin may be called for… in my experince the introverts don’t really get “observed” more, but this may vary. I’d suggest observing for a bit longer and take note of any banter/comments directed at other, more extrovert or outgoing people.

    7. CM*

      “In certain environments, are you supposed to act tough and like nothing bothers you, otherwise others use it against you?”

      Yes, prison is the main one and my family of origin is another. Sounds like your office might be a third.

      My advice — assuming you want to stay there — is mostly to use comedy, so it depends on your personality a little.

      For the highlighter thing, if they say the yellow highlighter makes you “upset,” playfully double-down turn it into a joke that you’re all in on instead of a joke they play on you. So, say something like, “It hurts my eyeballs! Does it not hurt your eyeballs?! That’s the brightest neon yellow highlighter I’ve ever seen! It should be illegal!” The playfulness lets them know you’re being friendly, but doubling-down lets them know you don’t feel ashamed of what you said.

      For the thing they keep talking about, it depends what it is, but you could use a similar strategy. Tell them (playfully, again) to start a club about whatever the topic is. Or point out that they really LOVE that subject. You’ve never met someone who loves that subject more. They should start a PODCAST about that subject.

      When your boss asks if everything’s okay, just say, “Yep, why wouldn’t it be?” in a cheerful tone of voice and see what the answer is. Or else, “As far as I know…” Don’t act like you need to explain why you’re having a conversation or why everything’s okay — just act like you’re confused by the question but open to hearing what’s not okay.

  20. She's One Crazy Diamond*

    Does anyone have any insight into why people treat customer service staff so badly? Not just members of the public, but even non-customer service staff treating their colleagues with customer service roles with rudeness and condescension.

    I experienced it as an admin, and when covering for the front desk while we were short-staffed, and was actually treated worse by my colleagues than the public. I thought this was because the more technical staff look down at support staff, assuming we’re stupid or our work isn’t important. But I talked to a few colleagues in the payroll/accounting department and they said they experience it too, and so does IT.

    What gives? Why are people the nastiest to those whose literal job it is to help you? Is it a power trip? Are they that clueless? I’ve spoken to my boss about it who has talked to managers of specific people when applicable, but it seems to be more of a cultural thing than anything else.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Because it’s socially okay to abuse anyone who’s lower than you, who’s trying to help you, and who, by virtue of their job, literally can’t stand up to you or stop you or else they will be fired. Because it makes them feel good and high and mighty to be able to abuse someone else. Yes, it is a power trip.

      1. mizunasloane*

        As someone who has 10+ years of working in a front-facing customer service role doing executive/admin assistant work, this is exactly it. There’s really nothing deeper to it. People devalue the work that people in these customer service positions provide and think about us like they would the janitor or the maintenance person, though I think we can all agree that those positions are absolutely necessary and we notice when they’re done poorly or not at all. We’re background noise to the symphony they consider their life and work. The fact that all of these service positions don’t have a socially recognized super important degree or skill(tm) and are considered easy compared to other positions in the corporate hierarchy (even though as someone who’s done that work for a decade I can definitively say that’s not true) people get on a power trip and treat us like sh*t merely because they can. As a secretary what can you say to the marketing director who disparages you for a minor mistake when you literally spend all day correcting their mistakes and make them look competent? It’s a weird primal desire that a lot of people don’t address because they’re not self-aware and they’ve never had to be in the position of being a person who models servant leadership through their work, so they don’t value it and they think they’re entitled to a certain amount of deference because of their professional position. People don’t value customer service workers and they underestimate the difficulty and value of the work that we do, so they think they can treat us like crap or their personal assistants and they have a power trip over it. It’s really not more than that.

    2. Jamie*

      I’ve never noticed this from the office side of things (but definitely from customers.) I love our customer service team who do an amazing job communicating with customers and soothing them so I don’t have to. That is a very important job and not easy to do well, so Idk why people would treat them poorly.

      1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

        That’s the thing – I totally get why external customers are difficult to receptionists. I mean, it sucks, but pretty much everyone who signs on for that job expects it. It’s the fact that other staff think it’s okay to treat their colleagues like they’re beneath them that’s so aggravating and demoralizing to me. The person who does everyone’s paychecks, I’ll call her Alice, says that she’s been screamed at by people because she nicely asked them to correct their time sheet so they can be paid on time, and I just don’t get why you would want to piss off the person who deals with your money? It doesn’t help that we have a powerful union so it’s very hard to get fired once you’ve been here a few months.

        1. Leslie Knope*

          I think in some cases the angry person is projecting something onto the innocent party. I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of this recently, and then felt REALLY bad about it after. I wasn’t mad at the question that was asked, I was moody because I had just sat in wall-to-wall traffic for 45 minutes.

          I think some people just aren’t good at compartmentalizing anger/annoyance/disappointment. I’ve been an offender, but I try to be more self-aware of it. My bad mood shouldn’t be an excuse to ruin someone else’s day.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          This is what I was going to ask, in response – how much of it is people taking out their frustration at the messenger?

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      I’m a teacher and have also spent *many* years in hospitality/retail/service roles (two jobs, natch.) In my experience, you can tell how people feel about themselves by how they treat others. People who are content, peaceful, happy souls treat other people with kindness. People who are unhappy, insecure, emotionally unsettled treat people unkindly. Also, people can be super self-involved and don’t think about other people. Is that cultural? Maybe a culture that values self over community.

      Good luck! May you encounter much good will today!

      1. Belle of the Midwest*

        This right here. If you posted this to Twitter I would totally retweet it. I absolutely agree with you that our American culture has gotten so busy and preoccupied and self-involved that we completely depersonalize our interactions with others. It takes a whole lot of mindfulness not to fall into that pattern of behavior. And yes, I think there are a lot of people who never learned their manners. Personally, I try never to be ugly to anyone who’s handling my food or my hair or my money.

    4. Asenath*

      I used to do customer service. I came to the conclusion that different people act badly for different reasons, but power differentials are often a part of it. Some people just seem to like being nasty to people who can’t answer back. Others are having a bad day – like the old story of the husband who was mean to the wife, who was so upset she was mean to the child who was so upset he kicked the cat. Like the cat, the customer service person can be the target of anger or hurt that the person can’t deal with any other way, including returning it to the person who deserves it. Some people lose control of their manners for other reasons – they’re the type is very easily upset (I swear there’s a genetic component to that, but I’ve forgotten the term for the fact that some people responds more easily to stimuli than others do) and lose control easily. If I get overtired and stressed, I can almost hear my irritation growing in my voice as I feel worse and worse, and it’s a big effort to remember my manners. Some people respond in a similar way to physical pain. And there are those whose self-concept seems to be tied up in the idea that of course rules about polite behaviour don’t apply to them because they’re so obviously right, or have been wrongly put down, so now they’re going to get back at the world, or good manners are psychologically unhealthy – of course, you have to express your anger! You’ll get psychological problems or ulcers or something if you don’t tell that poor clerk exactly what you think of their employers’ policy, in as strong a language as possible! There’s lots and lots of reasons for people to behave badly towards other people, and the less likely the target is to retaliate, the easier it is to let one’s control slip.

      It’s been a very, very long time since I did customer service for the general public. Most of them were fine – but the rest, well, I won’t be doing customer service again.

    5. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      Hi everyone, I appreciate the feedback, but I am specifically asking more about interoffice dynamics (how the analyst treats the receptionist) and not so much about the dynamic between customers and customer service staff. Thanks!

      1. Asenath*

        There I can’t help you. I have to say that senior co-workers in my job are generally polite to the lower echelons of the admin staff. Either it’s part of the culture of the place, or most of said admins have been here long enough to know how to get things done, so no one wants to annoy them.

        1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

          The only people who are exempt here are managers, everyone else is non-exempt, and it’s not the managers doing it.

      2. NopeNopeLeNope*

        Oh this was the dynamic in OldJob. The Off-site Self Important Llama Wranglers were simply horrific to HQ-based Teapot Inspectors – in fact, one Llama Wrangler screamed on a conference call that “these people” meaning the Teapot Inspectors were there to “say yes” to the requests of the Llama Wranglers. And if the Teapot Inspectors were women? Well, they were expected to serve the lunches at strategy meetings while the men participated.

        It’s a messed up culture and I’ve never experienced anything like that before or since. The kicker? It’s a faith based NGO dedicated to serving the poor around the world.

        You can’t fix it, Diamond, so run away! That’s what I did and I’m off blood pressure meds and much happier in my current job.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        Same difference to me. Jerks are gonna jerk, regardless. If the analyst has high and mighty status compared to the receptionist, then they can do that and get away with it.

      4. NW Mossy*

        Interestingly, in my company, it’s very much the opposite! Our customer-facing staff are generally perceived to be higher status than those in internal-only roles, and we’ve struggled over the years with a cultural problem around service staff throwing that weight around in inappropriate ways. The basic logic is that they’re the customer’s voice in our organization, so the organization should treat them as if they’re customers.

        This also seems to be a major cause of the poor behavior service staff sometimes exhibit towards their internal partners. It’s hard for people not to mirror the emotions of those they’re dealing with, so when a customer’s unhappy, service staff mirror it and reflect it onto their peers. It’s a terrible dynamic because it leads to things being so much more escalated than they need to be, but I understand where it comes from.

        1. CM*

          I think the issue we’re zeroing in on is that people in high-status positions (whatever that position is in a specific organization) can often get away with being rude to people in low-status positions, because the people in low-status positions have a harder time pushing back. When you create a power dynamic like that in an organization and don’t explicitly provide ways for the lower-status roles to push back, you’re setting up a situation that facilitates abusive behavior from people who are inclined toward it.

      5. Boomerang Girl*

        My experience is that some people feel like customer service reps don’t do a good job dealing with customer issues, so they get sent to the developers/product managers/SMEs to deal with at a higher frequency than the developers/ product managers/ SMEs expect. This causes disdain for the CSRs . Not saying this is right or fair, but I think this is why it happens

    6. ContemporaryIssued*

      Your company may kind of suck on this. While I have issues on how our customer service staff are treated in terms of pay and workload, I think most people in the organization recognize their skill and value and treat them well.

      If people also get snappy or treat IT or payroll poorly then it is probably a very unprofessional culture in your office.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yeah, it sounds like a culture problem in that company. In thinking about this question I had to go pretty far back in my experience to get examples, because I’ve only seen it happen once at my current employer, and that person got fired for it. I deliver bad news regularly, and get only, ‘that is frustrating, but thank you for working on it.’

    7. Pretzelgirl*

      I am not sure, and I would love to read study or watch (like a documentary or something) on the science behind this. I worked customer service and loved most of it. I like helping others solve problems, and seeing the look of relief or happiness that comes when you solve a problem or help them find a product that suits their needs. But I will likely never go back because of how I was treated. I was threatened, had objects thrown at me, yelled at, called a liar, everything. It was awful.

      Now I am overly nice to retail, customer service andrestaurant workers everywhere. I rarely get upset and if I am upset I know its the company’s problem not the person helping me.

    8. Art3mis*

      I think it’s because in some scenarios the support person or department has messed something up. Or the nasty person/department thinks they have. So there’s the perception of “Why can’t they do anything right?” And if you start considering that person/department to be incompetent, you treat them appropriately. Deserved or not.

    9. CheeryO*

      I think it’s cluelessness and just general rudeness/self-centeredness. Reasonable people understand that people in those roles have a lot on their plate, they don’t get paid enough to completely understand what the technical staff does, and that people occasionally make mistakes. Unreasonable people just see someone screwing up their “easy” job or needing assistance to do it right and get pissy about it.

    10. Quinalla*

      It is definitely a thing with some people. The culprits I run into the most are pretty obsessed with their “place” in the hierarchy, I think they just feel they can treat anyone like crap they consider lower than them, because typically they are not equal opportunity assholes and actually often the worst boss suck-ups ever. I’m don’t understand why they want to treat someone else like crap, I just don’t get that mentality, but seems to run similar to why bullies bully people – because they can and they want to, but again, why they want to I don’t really get. Some say because it makes them feel better (but really, only in that brief moment, you are gong to feel worse later, I hope anyway!), because they were/are bullied, to fit in by making someone else the other their group can pick on, something like that, I feel like we’re still figuring this out in some ways!

    11. !*

      Same occurs here, and I don’t stand for it. If someone needs something, then ask nicely, or I just might not be available to do it for you. I make sure to treat everyone in my company the same way, with respect, and only want that in return. I guess part if it is that it’s a company with that “we’re a family” attitude, which I kind of hate because that means people can yell at each other, and expect instant results from people regardless whether they are working on something important or not.

    12. Mazzy*

      I think we think that people escalate feedback to those who can act on it, and also, most voice menus are abysmal and don’t have options for basic questions or misunderstand pronouncing words loudly and with a standard accent, which gets customers upset before the rep gets them

    13. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I think every office has a specific culture in this regard – I have worked support positions where I was treated as the lowest of the low by the higher ups, and also in some where TPTB were almost painfully deferential in their attempt to appear egalitarian. It’s pretty irritating in either extreme – both ways highlight that the culture is to perceive those in support roles as “other” (and of lesser importance). I wonder whether office culture sometimes overrides people’s natural tendencies – I totally agree that happy/well adjusted people mostly treat support staff with kindness, but we are beings with such a horror of being perceived as the out group…

      On the flip side, in my current role, it really grates on me to be wildly over-thanked for doing something very simple, where the miracles I do perform pass unnoticed. But a lot of that is just that some of the things I’m thanked for are immediately visible, while the miracles tend not to be.

    14. Meepmeep*

      Because their parents / guardians did not teach them any manners at the age at which manners need to be taught.

    15. Anon Here*

      I have encountered the idea that everyone is where they are because of their own choices and how hard they worked and that, as a result, it is ok to mistreat the people who “made bad choices” and “didn’t work as hard.” That, “Well, they should have gone to school if they wanted to be treated with respect.”

      Unfortunately, reality lies in STARK contrast to that. People end up where they are for all kinds of reasons, some within their control and some less so or not at all.

      I say this calls for a documentary! Or many! Let’s shed light on how people are treated and interview those on both ends about how they ended up where they are. Education could help.

    16. fhqwhgads*

      In my experience, it’s because some people love to feel like they have a butler – and so they treat CSRs as though that’s what they are.

  21. EPLawyer*

    Been waiting all week for this one.

    I am the VP of my local philanthropic club. There are only 3 female board members, me, the secretary and one other. The president was going to miss the latest board meeting, so I was in charge. The secretary had to miss. Last time she missed a meeting, the other female board member did the minutes. Not wanting that to happen again if she didn’t want to, I pre-emptively sent out an email saying Lucinda won’t be there so we need to someone to take the minutes. Drucilla did it last time so does someone else want to step up? This left room that if Drucilla WANTED to do it she could. But it let her know it wasn’t required.

    Now these are good gentleman. Really they are. They just don’t think through the implications sometimes. Even when I was the only female on the board (for years) I was not the de facto secretary if the secretary missed a meeting. Within an hour someone stepped up.

    The best part? Drucilla emailed me thanking me for getting coverage. She did not want to be considered the automatic back up.

    I learned it here at AAM.

    1. Quinalla*

      This is great! I’m going to make sure to do this in any meetings going forward as yup, run into that same dynamic with the thankless tasks (set up/tear down, ordering food, minutes, etc.)

  22. Lunch Philosopher*

    So, the other day i was in my office’s lunch room using one of the two microwaves. The other microwave was in use, and the person dropped their lunch whilst taking it out. Since I witnessed the ordeal, I helped them clean it up and offered them some oatmeal I had in my desk.

    They then remark to me that their father has Parkinson’s, and that they’ve been dropping things a lot recently, and are scared they are getting it too. I said I was sorry his family was dealing with that and that I didn’t know much about how to figure out the genetic tracker for Parkinson’s. For background, I don’t really talk to many people in this office and do not know this person or their name. This was my first interaction with this person.

    In y’all’s opinion, how should I have responded to this statement? Obviously I feel horrible for the guy and want to proceed with sympathy however I can.

    1. That'll happen*

      I think what you said was fine – your coworker is the one who mentioned Parkinson’s in the first place and you responded in a kind manner. Next time you see them, I’d make sure to say hi and get their name. I know some people on AAM really rail against small talk, but it’s nice to acknowledge your coworkers, especially if they seem receptive to a little bit of chit-chat.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I think you did fine.

      That stuff runs in my family, so I really hope he doesn’t have anything wrong with him in the end.

    3. blink14*

      I think your response your totally fine. It’s possible he’s been secretly thinking about it and it just spilled out. Maybe the fact that you were nice to him allowed him to be vulnerable, which can be awkward but is also a compliment to your respect for him as a fellow human being.

      I would continue on as usual, and if you run into him alone again, maybe inquire generally on how things are going.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      Your response was kind, and I think that’s all that anyone could expect. I think you did great, especially with someone you hardly know who shared personal information with you. Plus, you helped clean! Gold star for that!

    5. LilySparrow*

      You did exactly right.

      Don’t proceed with anything. Just be normally civil if you encounter them again. Don’t bring it up.

      Sometimes people say things to strangers they wouldn’t say to a close co-worker, precisely because it’s a “throwaway username” scenario. Let them take the lead if they want to talk about it again, or let them throw it away.

  23. Existential criss*

    I have had a week, so maybe I will feel better later. Or maybe not as this has been a recurring feeling a lot this year. I am just wondering if it is possible for me to find a job I will enjoy without being stressed all the time. I have had a hard time getting to the field that I want to be in (human resource development) and find myself stuck in stressful, thankless jobs. I’m to a point where I want to just find an easy, bill-paying position and get my life’s value from my hobbies and my family. I am only 30, so I’m not really prepared to give up on my career growth, but also I am just so tired.

    1. cpa in the trees*

      I don’t have any answers for you .. . I am curious to see hear the suggestions of others. Hang in there and H
      Happy Friday :)

    2. ThatGirl*

      I think that HR, by its nature, is always going to involve a certain amount of stress. But I definitely believe that companies can make it easier or harder for their staffs — and there are a lot of factors, including how well you get along with your coworkers, how supportive or helpful they are, pay, work-life balance, etc.

      On a more personal note I would suggest looking into how you deal with stress — do you have other things going on in your life that are contributing? Would meditation, exercise, more time off, better pay, more support at home, or anything else help? I know in my mid-20s I was not used to dealing with all of the stress I had from work and personal issues and I didn’t deal with it well — if I could go back, I’d consider a few sessions with a therapist and getting regular exercise, among other things.

      1. Existential crisis*

        The thought had always been that once I reach the level where I can specialize in development side only, the job would be less stressful as it is not putting out fires or dealing with tedium anymore. It’s more of a concern as to whether I want to even get to that point. Will it be worth the time it takes to get there?

        I do have a lot of financial stress currently. So that’s part of what makes my current role feel thankless. I did some therapy a few years ago for anxiety & stress management that was very helpful, but I moved away from that therapist. I haven’t been able to find a new therapist that will work for me yet. The last one I went to told me I should quit my job :/

    3. mizunasloane*

      As someone who’s also 30, I think this is a generational issue. For many of us, we grew up with the pressure of finding that perfect job that will make us feel emotionally fulfilled and perfectly content – it just doesn’t exist. I went to a 4-year college institution for 4 years and had to drop out because of finances. I ended up going to a community college (which I LOVED btw) and being a full-time online student so I could get an associate’s degree, just to get my foot in the door for entry-level positions. I had to work a lot of truly sh*tty jobs just to make ends meet and I feel like I’m in a place where I’m doing work that I actually like, but it’s taken a LONG time for me to get here and I’m STILL trying to get my Bachelor’s degree because there have been soooo many obstacles in my path to making that happen. While I’m doing work I love now, I’ve found that I’m really burned out and that the job I love to do doesn’t align with my current personal and professional goals, which is hard to deal with and very disappointing. You can be doing what you love to do and still be stressed and not want to go into work, that’s what I’ve found out. You can love your job and still be tired of it. I think that’s just the nature of working. I think in order to get jobs that aren’t just about getting you from paycheck to paycheck, you have to take a step back and ask yourself where it is that you want to be and what it’s going to take to get there. For me, I absolutely need to make something that’s more than a living wage so I can feel secure just to feel content in a position, which is the issue I’m facing now where I love my work but I’m having to cash out change from the change jar just to pay the rent. It hurts my morale and makes my job more stressful because I need to know that I am baseline secure, and I also want to be able to meet personal financial goals for myself that are a priority in my life but I can’t achieve right now. It’s forced me to reassess what’s important to me, and that means I’ve started to look for other opportunities elsewhere. Since being able to provide for myself and my partner is a priority (I got those student loans to PAY hunny) – I realize I need more education and professional certification. That’s literally the only thing that’s going to get me to that place where I have a bit more flexibility, where I’m earning what I’m owed for my work and can also make some decisions about how/where I spend my time. Maybe that’s where you need to spend your time right now, getting that professional development/educational component to get into the kind of space you want to see yourself in. I would also suggest buying the How to Get a Job interview book from Ask A Manager, which I recently got, because hopefully during the interview process you would be able to ask enough questions to see if the workplace is a good fit for what you want, where you want to see yourself, and what the work culture is like. But also remember, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with just finding an easy 9-5 job that you don’t feel particularly passionate about but pays your bills and allows for you to direct your energy to more worthwhile, emotionally fulfilling projects outside of work. That’s also ok! And maybe if you focus on that it will give you more space and time to assess what it is you want/need from your professional life and move forward towards working on those goals from there. Rest assured though that any job is stressful, it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s going to come down to how much stress you’re willing to take on for the job that you do and how much you’re paid to do it. If those things aren’t lining up, maybe it’s time to start looking for something different. I really wish you the best in this, because this is going to be an ongoing conversation you have with yourself and I think generationally it’s something we’re all dealing with. <3

      1. Existential crisis*

        Thanks for sharing! Glad to know it’s not just me. I definitely appreciate your feedback. Good luck to you with your continued growth & education!!

      2. NeonDreams*

        As some who’s 31, I couldn’t agree more. Beautifully written! Growing up, we were fed the line: “All you need to do is go to college to get a good job and you’ll be happy!” (stares at screen like the Office) Yeah, right. I’m struggling with burnout and wanting to change where I’m at, but the job opportunities are limited where I live.

    4. Fikly*

      Found that job, completely unexpectedly, at 34. It’s possible!

      I honestly went to sleep yesterday thinking about how excited I was to start a project on today’s shift.

        1. Fikly*

          It’s essentially customer support (text based) in providing health care, for a company that actually wants to, and is, helping people. They are lovely to work for, and it’s amazing to be in a position to be able to help people.

          Sorry to be so vague! If you know the industry, it’s a pretty identifiable company, because there’s not a lot of them yet.

          But I keep saying, I was looking for a paycheck and health insurance, and I found something I am excited to wake up and do every shift.

  24. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

    I saw an article that really ticked me off today. It was about a trans student at another school throwing a fit and contacting the media because their deadname was on their diploma. (One of my new work nightmares now, lemme tell ya.) The article then proceeds to point out that the university spokesperson said that the policy is that only legal names can be printed on diplomas and technically, the university did nothing wrong here. Then the article continues to complain about how upset the student is and how awful and traumatizing it was, etc.

    Diplomas are legal documents. If your legal name isn’t on your diploma or if it differs in any way from any other name listing you have, it can cause huge problems with jobs and grad schools, especially anything international. I’ve been forced to write letters to foreign governments affirming that Jane Smith and Jane Doe Smith are the same person even though she put her middle name on some papers and not on others. I’ve had to get diplomas reprinted because Chinese students put down “Jr” as their suffix when they got here and then proceeded never to change that in their entire time here and literally only notice once they get the diploma. I have to email tons of students a year who want to change their names to what they want to be called the rest of the time, telling them I can only do that if they submit legal documentation with the new name on it, and almost everyone doesn’t do that. This isn’t a case of “this policy is discriminatory and you need to change it,” it’s a case of “The university has to comply with the legal standards of others,” they’re not just being dicks here. I do not enjoy having these arguments with people about their name, but there’s good reason for a policy like this. It’s to make your life and mine less awful when you decide you want an overseas opportunity.

    What bugs me about the article is, at no point does anyone ask the student, did you legally change your name? Because clearly if you had, we wouldn’t have this problem. This applies to everyone who wants to change their name regardless of situation. If what you’re legally called isn’t what you want to be for the rest of your life, please start doing the legal work to change it! Preferably start doing it your senior year because legal name changes aren’t fast!

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I did not know that a diploma was a legal document. We have students who go by nicknames/alternate names but they are minors and almost never have a name change (maybe adoption). This was really informative. Thanks!

      1. valentine*

        Having seen I added a name to my legal/registration name, unprompted, my university asked me what name I wanted on my diploma. I chose the expanded one. I got it. No muss, no fuss.

        There are so many ways to resolve this issue, but people here chose to be needlessly cruel and I don’t know why you’re so het up about someone literally fighting for their lives wanting to be treated with the most basic decency. The student deserved far better than this. Everyone failed them.

    2. Mae*

      I’ve had this discussion with people who aren’t transgender. You may go by “Bill” but your legal documents are going to be referencing “William” because that’s your legal name. If need or want to change your legal name, please do so and I’ll be glad to address you or write your documents with your preferred name.

    3. blink14*

      So I just dealt with something kind of similar. I work at a university, mostly with faculty, and my office runs an internal program. The program uses a separate registration system than our HR list, meaning that each person participating has to manually register for this program by typing in their information.

      I receive an email recently from someone who is still active in the program, and then their team member in the program, saying that their name was misprinted in a recent email link and in another program related site. Both emails were worded in a way that was really not appreciated, and borderline accusatory. Apparently in between the time this person registered and now, they have begun identifying differently and have changed their name – but the name change is more of a nickname of their original name, so I’m not sure if it’s a legal thing yet.

      I would have no way of knowing this unless they contacted me specifically to explain, as our system doesn’t run of off the HR records. I think there’s often an expectation out that there these types of changes will trickle down to the right people, but that’s simply not the case.

    4. Transman*

      As someone who did a legal name change while in law school, I can tell you they are not cheap. It would have been cheaper if I had done it myself, but I wanted to make sure I got it right, so hired an attorney. The total cost was a little less than my monthly rent, and more than I pay for groceries for a month.

      Getting my legal name change meant a lot to me, so I was willing to pay for it. But it was still a chunk of change for a couple living off student loans, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and my now-wife’s small income. I wouldn’t be surprised if this student didn’t have the money to pay for it while a student.

      1. Imtheone*

        I helped my son change his name when he was 18. It was easy and cheap to do in our state. We had given him a hyphenated surname, which annoyed him since it was quite long. I checked into how to do it, and found that changing the name as a legal adult was easier than for a minor child. We just went to the county clerk’s office and he filed a name change petition. When that was approved, we took the paper to the Social Security office and received a new SS card in the mail. Then we applied for an amended birth certificate. He had no trouble with subsequent driver’s licenses or passports. Doing it earlier might have been better, but at 18, he had not yet applied for any loans, bought a car, etc. It also came through before he needed to register to vote.
        I don’t know how things proceed if there is also the need to change the gender on the birth certificate, which some states make easier to do than other states.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          It does vary heavily based on state, and some states are still not willing to change gender on birth certs or DLs at all.

          When I changed my name legally, the process cost me two days of taking some PTO in order to get to the county courthouse during business hours, and about $160. One state away, a friend’s name change cost them well over $300 in court fees, plus publication costs on top of that.

      2. LilySparrow*

        This really varies by location.

        I had to do a legal name change when I returned to my home state in order to transfer my driver’s license. I had had my first license issued in-state, then married and gotten new ID out of state in my married name. Even though my Social Security number and everything had the new name, they needed a court order because the old DMV records didn’t match.

        I just walked into the courthouse, filled out a form, paid something like $15, and then took it to a different office to be stamped and get certified copies. The whole thing cost about $30 and took less than an hour.

        Getting my married name put onto my SS#, passport, and retirement accounts took *way* more time and energy than getting that court order. Different states, different hassle.

      3. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

        Could be. Unfortunately I don’t have control over the cost and time factors of that and we’re all stuck dealing with the legal name issue until someone legally does it.

        I think in my state it takes around 4-6 months, from what I’ve seen on paperwork. I don’t know on cost though.

        1. Allypopx*

          I changed my name when I got married, which is much cheaper because it’s expected and yadda ya stupid things, and I think it took a full year for me to finally get all my documents updated. It’s such a cumbersome process.

          1. Arjay*

            And that varies by state too. When I got married in Florida, I took my maiden name as my middle name, no problem. My friend who was married as a NY resident, could easily change her last name to her husband’s, but any other change would have required going through the courts.

    5. Zephy*

      I don’t know how that trans student’s university does things, but if I recall correctly from my graduation, we had multiple opportunities to confirm the name that would be read aloud and the name that would appear on the diploma, to the point of getting the opportunity to phonetically spell out said name on the little card that the announcer read, if you thought they might have trouble with it. It’d be different if the student had been led to believe that their diploma would bear their chosen name, but I have real trouble believing that the registrar’s office would say “Yup, the diploma will say Tatiana Warbleworth instead of Jeremy Warbleworth, thanks for stopping by,” without making it very clear that they’d need documentation of that name change.

      I occasionally need to get documentation of name changes for students or their parents, for financial aid purposes; if your parent has a different last name than you, for instance, I need your birth certificate. And if that parent’s last name was yet a third different name when you were born (Jane Doe gave birth to Tangerina Smith, then later married Wakeen Jones), then I need something to document that change, too.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Yes, I actually remember having to go into my student portal to input and verify how I wanted my name to appear on my diploma.

      2. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

        Yes, our school does the same. The name they are graduating with is pointed out multiple times, they are emailed if they wanted to change it but can’t, etc. It’s on the website that we have to use legal names. This should not be a 100% surprise to them.

    6. CurlyRose*

      Did you ever consider that this student may not have had the resources, time, or support to go about a legal name change? You acknowledge that it’s a long process so I really think there’s room for empathy here. Besides, what is so “legal” about a diploma? It’s a piece of paper, not a passport or government identifier.

      Grappling with gender identity and wanting to be seen for who you truly are is a complex thing. Frankly I find your insistence of going by the book to be outdated, insensitive, and borderline racist.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        My niece is in high school. Her friend Willow, was originally Willam. (Names are not the real ones).

        Every document has William on them. The official transcripts. Registration. Willow’s student ID has William on it, because it’s considered legal ID in my state. The high school’s hands are tied on this. If Willow graduated this year, William would be on the diploma, but Willow would be announced during the ceremony.

        There was a debate about allowing Willow on the diploma, but the rule is, what is on your birth certificate is what is on your diploma.

        The yearbook has Willow Jones, and all Willow’s teachers get a huge heads up that the preferred name is Willow Jone with she/her pronouns.

        People did a fundraiser to help raise money for an official name change, so this coming year, Willow will officially be Willow.

        When you need official documents to register to do something, it’s nightmare fuel to change it. My cousin is Sally Smith. Smith is her step dad’s name, but he never formally adopted her. She has went by Smith for 58 odd years. Guess who is going through hell with getting a Real ID driver’s license.

        The set up is unfair for a ton of people. The minions handling the paperwork don’t want to get written up or lose their jobs because they were compassionate letting a name change go through that wasn’t “legal”.

        1. ...*

          Its a little unfair to refer to them as “minions who don’t care”. They are just workers following the current law/guidelines and likely don’t want to get punished and/or lose their job for breaking the rules. I’m not saying the rules are perfect or right or whatever. But it dismisses people who are just working and trying to get by as we all are to just call them minions.

        2. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

          You’d probably get fired if you did that. Also, see other comments about legality with other agencies/governments.

          1. MatKnifeNinja*

            I was a minion, and my sister still is.

            People think we don’t care. I get why get people really angry why Willam can’t have Williow on her school ID. What’s the big deal? Who cares? Does it matter?

            Yeah, it does matter. I would have lost my job if I just bucked the rules/legal issues.

            I’m the minion’s side more than you think.

        3. Allypopx*

          “Legal” can be a very big deal, particularly for something that is as crucial (in many fields) as a diploma or a certification.

      2. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

        It’s not my insistence, it’s university policy AND the insistence of many international governments. I am unfortunately aware that name changes are long and not cheap. But if you can’t afford to change your name before you graduate, this is going to happen and we can’t help you with just putting down whatever name you want if it’s not legal. It will cause everyone problems later on.

        Again: not my rule. It is a common rule at colleges. I don’t get to say “be who you wanna be!” on legal documents.

        1. pancakes*

          What is the drama, though? You seem to be upset that the article didn’t give the registrar’s office a chance to comment, but it’s very, very rare for reporting to give everyone involved in a particular incident a chance to voice their opinion on it. Either way, it’s understandable the student was upset. You could try writing a letter to the editor to clarify the school’s position, but it would be churlish to take this same tone about it. You’re speaking as if you’ve somehow been hurt simply by doing your job, and I don’t see how you have been.

          I legally changed my name shortly after I graduated from college, and it was pretty straightforward for me, but 1) my gender identity wasn’t involved and 2) this was pre-9/11 and lots of places were more flexible about ID. When I asked my bank about changing my name on my account they assumed I was an actress and asked for my SAG card. I didn’t have one and didn’t have my legal paperwork yet either, but they did it for me anyhow. Many people don’t know how the process works unless and until they have occasion to change their own name.

      3. DCGirl*

        A diploma is a legal document, at least in the US, because states and other entities regulate degree-granting institutions. Among other things, they set a minimum number of hours for associate and bachelor’s degree programs. The diploma certifies that both the student and the institution have met all the state and state accreditation agency requirements for that degree.

    7. MsSolo*

      I think it’s possible the policy is discriminatory, because the legal standard is discriminatory, both against trans people, and against the other examples you give: if you’re translating a name it won’t necessarily appear the same way every time, and it’s got to be a headache for people who change their names when they marry too. It’s a legal standard that assumes graduates are cis men from the same country you’re in, who will never change their names. The problem with treating everyone the same is that can be in itself discriminatory, but when you’re bound by law to do so it’s easy to get frustrated with the people calling it out rather than those in a position to actually change the law.

      Changing name and gender if you’re trans is complicated (in the UK at least) because you need to change your name to prove you’re living in your new identity to get your gender recognition certificate, but you need the gender recognition certificate if you want to change your name and gender on any documents that show both, many of which are the same ones you’d use to evidence the name change to get the GRC… You see the problem! How many passports or driving licenses should one person have to pay for just because the current process means updating each field separately?

      You have to show you’ve been living in your correct gender for a certain period (I think two years) which means if you come out at university you may not be in a position to make the legal changes before graduation. Making the legal change afterwards means all of your documentation will be different to your diploma, and employers will be constantly chasing you for proof the diploma belongs to the person who has no ID that matches it (and has been forced to out themself to the employer in the process).

      Ultimately, the solutions are: make it much easier for trans people to change their legal name, and/or make it much easier for universities to issue diplomas with the person’s correct name on.

        1. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

          It is possible to reissue diplomas with new names, happens all the time. But again, legal ID has to be shown for that to happen.

      1. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

        Universities have to deal with the legalities of other governments and agencies, and god help you if you don’t comply with them. I have plenty of stories. Even if we made it easy and just wrote down whatever you wanted, it would be a nightmare if you wanted to leave the country for anything. Other countries make it all incredibly bloody difficult. But other than the legal ID proof thing, we can change it in like, a minute, but it’s just having to deal with policy and procedure.

        I’m in the US so I have no idea how it’s done in the UK, but yikes. That policy sounds like it needs fixing worse.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Govts usually streamline the process for marriages, since changing your name at that time is so common. In my state, either gender has a 90 day window from the marriage to get basically a fast pass on name change, and you need less documentation iirc – like maybe only the marriage license in that 90 days, where at any other time you’d need birth certificate + more. I didn’t change my name so I only glanced at the rules in passing, but I remember thinking it was cool that we could both change our names pretty easily.

      1. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

        I don’t know if I can say if it does. If someone decides to put themselves down as “All Records Confidental” we can’t admit that the student has a record here when asked, but otherwise I think we’d just have to say what name we have on file if they weren’t marked confidential. FERPA doesn’t really factor in on diplomas, it’s more of a “what we’re allowed to disclose if someone who isn’t the student asks” sort of thing, and unless someone’s confidential, it’s considered reasonable to disclose that someone graduated in X with a degree in Y, it’s public information. We just don’t disclose grades, addresses, personal details like that. A diploma is public, generally speaking.

        I’m not sure how preferred name is handled with regards to FERPA though, since I don’t answer the phone calls.

    8. Chaordic One*

      Name changes! ARGH!

      While I’ve never had this problem with a trans person, in my work I’ve had to deal with people’s name changes and it really is annoying that people are so cavalier about it.

      The biggest problem I run into is with women who’ve neglected to inform us that they’ve changed their name because they’ve become married and adopted their husband’s last name or they’ve become divorced and gone back to using their maiden name. And of course they didn’t keep any paperwork documenting the change and they’ve never bothered to inform the Social Security Administration or get it changed on their state-issued driver’s licenses or on their passport. Not all such women, of course, but enough that it is really annoying and it becomes a bad stereotype.

      On the other had, whenever I’ve had a gay or lesbian couple where one or both of the people have changed their name, (one member adopting the surname of the other or one or both adopting a hyphenated name) they’ve always had the paperwork on hand and it was easy to take care of.

      And whenever I’ve encountered someone who legally changed their name other reasons they’ve also had the paperwork on hand. (There was a case where the person’s last name was commonly used as a term of disparagement and I can understand the person not wanting to use it. Another time a person changed their name to something with a metaphysical connotation [which I thought to myself was a bit weird, but I certainly wasn’t going to comment on it], however the paperwork was there and it was easy to do.)

      Part of my work involves me filling a CSR role and I am required to ask people for their “full legal name” and when I get a lame or incomplete answer, I repeat the question. If I get another lame answer I then come right out and ask them if they have a middle name or a middle initial. (I suspect that when the caller doesn’t know their own middle name, that they might be someone else trying to impersonate the person they say they are.)

      I’ve also had problems with male callers who have “Junior,” “Senior, or “III” as part of their legal name and they listed their name like this when they first signed up for their account, but they don’t tell it to me. I will ask them if there is anything that comes after the name they’ve told me. And they’ll tell me, “no.”

      I’ll have to tell these people that based on the information they’ve provided, I was unable to locate their account information” and it was because they didn’t tell me their middle name or initial or that the full legal name they provided when they first signed up for their account included “Junior” or “Senior” or “III”. The calls are all recorded and randomly checked for quality assurance purposes and I could get reprimanded or even fired if I gave out info without a full verification.

    9. Aphrodite*

      I legally changed my full name (first, middle and last) back in 1989. I live in California and used the court petition method rather than the usage method. Both are legal here but for several reasons, including the birth certificate one, I wanted to use the former. With the court petition method you can amend but not replace or alter your birth certificate so you essentially have both. (With the usage method you cannot even amend it.)

    10. Mazzy*

      That’s the media. The older I get the more I realize that they don’t ask important questions if it’s going to challenge their story

    11. Tim K*

      I’m curious what locations the US people who found it expensive/difficult to change names live in, because my experience was that it took less than 2 months start to finish and cost about $150. I know a couple people who’ve also changed their names for non-marriage reasons in other states (first name, last name or both) and it seemed similar, and it always makes me scratch my head when people DON’T change their names when they go by a different one and clearly aren’t happy with their legal one. But now I’m wondering if maybe it’s randomly like a $3000/2-year process in Maryland or something.

      1. Orange You Glad*

        I legally changed my first & last name in Utah County, Utah.

        It cost $354, I had to be resident of that court district for at least 12 months with proof of residency, I needed a signed letter from the state Sex Offender Registry showing I’m not a registered sex offender, I filled out two pages of court documents, got it notarized, submitted it to the court…and then waited six weeks…a judge signed it and I had my paperwork to get all my IDs changed.

        Social Security card first, then Drivers License, then banking, phone company, etc.

        It was a HUGE hassle with lots of hoops that had to be jumped in the right order!

        But I’m SO happy with my name now and it was worth all the headaches. I think I carried my court documents around for almost a year afterwards because random places would struggle to change my name in their systems so I needed the proof to make the change (looking at you gym membership!)

        1. Orange You Glad*

          It surprised me how many places claimed “we can only change your last name in our system”.


          AT&T, my gym, the first banker I spoke with (I asked her to please confirm with her manager & *surprise* they could change both because I had legal paperwork signed by a judge telling them to!).

          My car registration was the worst because my car loan company said they can’t update the name on the paperwork without refinancing my loan…so now three years after everything in my life matches my new name, my car loan still has my old name.

          Which means the state system for who owns my car says it’s not me so when I had to register my car in a new county, I needed my court documents plus my old drivers license to show what happened. It’s so stupid but someday I’ll pay off this car and can update the title to my actual legal name.

    12. mizunasloane*

      I can understand why you find this so frustrating, but as an LGTBQ person myself, I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that a trans person feeling upset about deadnamed (regardless of policy and procedure) is “throwing a fit.” I think that undermines the real institutional obstacles that are in the way of people getting these kinds of things sorted out. If anything, I think the appropriate response by the university in question needs to be educating their student body as to the process of making sure that their name appears as they want it to on the diploma and then offering up a list of places/resources that can help and assist with that specific process. As someone mentioned below, this is also an issue for non-trans individuals – like women who get divorced or married or just change their names. Obviously the issue is that the process isn’t made known to students who assume their name will reflect their life changes and then that process isn’t explained clearly in a way that allows them to understand it is their responsibility to make that fix – as well as providing a short list of local places/organizations where they can find assistance with that process. I think you’re looking at this issue from the wrong side and instead of labeling trans people as throwing fits, you need to ask yourself what universities can do to make this process easier and more clear to the people who want to do it.

      1. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

        I apologize. Also I am just tired of people throwing fits in my direction for things not under my control these days and it pushed my buttons.

        However, I would be extremely surprised if nobody at any point in time notified the student that they weren’t going to be able to put a non-legal name on a diploma and the requirements of it. I don’t know how they got to that point without having ANY IDEA this would happen unless they were just ignoring all the emails, etc. Sigh.

        I looked at the school’s website and yes, it is spelled out there explicitly about the policy.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          You might be surprised. I went through college using a name other than my legal name for everything, and it was never brought up to me that the diploma was going to be an issue. I can easily see how this student would have expected that institutional recognition of their preferred name would translate to recognition on the diploma.

          Just because it’s obvious to you dealing on the back end — and I sympathize, that describes my everyday life in my current job — doesn’t mean it’s obvious to the folks you’re dealing with. And especially when it comes to college kids, who are just starting to navigate the adult world, I think a certain amount of empathy is called for.

    13. MeganTea*

      Diplomas are not legal documents, they are decorative. At least in the U.S., the transcript, which shows the critical degree conferral information, is the document of record.

      1. Anonymous Diploma Drama*

        Legally, they are both. Unfortunately in my experience, many foreign countries won’t accept a transcript or anything BUT diploma as proof of graduation. Ridiculous, but there it is.

    14. No fan of Chaos*

      Just a suggestion: If you are divorcing and want to return to another name, put it in your divorce decree. When I divorced the second time and returned to the first name to match the children, I just presented my decree that had a state seal. Even the DMV accepted it.

      1. Cabbage for a Head*

        In some states, the petition for name change and the petition for divorce are separate. When I divorced my first husband, I had to file for both to return to my maiden name. It was more complicated than changing my name in the first place.

    15. Bubbles*

      I work at a high school and deal with this issue as I am the one who handles student ID cards. I have to put the student’s legal name on the ID card. This ID card is distributed on the authority of the State’s Department of Education and can be used as legal photo identification for minors traveling. Starting January 1st, my state (California) allows amended birth certificates for gender. We’ve had half a dozen kids come to change their gender in our system, and each and every one of them must have legal documentation (revised birth certificate) that their gender has changed before I can take a new photo and print a new ID card with the revised name. Until our system reflects the legal changes, I can’t give them a different ID. But this isn’t about gender even. It’s also with students who have an ethnic name but use a Western name daily. If their Western name isn’t on their birth certificate, it cannot be on their ID card or really even their homework. There are some cultures that following a different naming pattern and are impacted by this. For instance, Jorge Rios Martinez may go by Jorge Martinez, but legally, his last name is Rios Martinez. He cannot leave off the Rios on documents. Tshwmmeej Xiong may go by Charlie, but that’s not his legal name. Sarah Colbert may not have a good relationship with her dad and want to change her last name to her mother’s last name Smith, but until her dad signs the legal forms necessary or until she is 18 and can change it without his permission, our system, including her ID card and diploma, will show her as Colbert. (That just happened last year and the girl’s 18th birthday was the day after graduation and it sucked so bad that we couldn’t help her ahead of time.)

      As I said, this isn’t just a transgender issue. It is an issue of people simply not knowing how the system works. We have to maintain compliance with legal documents because we are a legal document. Yes, it sucks that there are extra steps. And I am very sympathetic to people who are new to our country and don’t have names that follow our conventions, but I’ll also admit that like Anonymous Diploma Drama, I get frustrated by the ones who simply ignore the opportunities to work within the system. We tell students and parents all the time what the legal name is. They get the opportunity to verify their student’s name, but they don’t. We help guide them on how to legally change the name, but they don’t. We call in students to verify the spelling and name on the diploma, they approve it, then they get mad that the diploma says that. At some point those students and those parents need to recognize that they have failed to do their own due diligence and they should accept responsibility for themselves. Sure, the system isn’t ideal but this is what we have to work with and we need to follow these processes right now while we work on fixing the problem.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        And the other thing to realize is that there are a lot of unsavory reasons for people to want to get documents issued in other names (like escaping debts or legal obligations), which is why you have to go through a legal process to change your name, and why you can’t get a passport issued for names other than your legal name.

        In my case, I had to produce my diploma for my work visa for my job. If it didn’t match my passport, I’d need legal documentation for the name change, and probably have to get that notarized at the embassy. I’m also in the position of having two legal names. There’s my birth name, but I also have a name in my country of residence, which uses a non-Roman script. The two are linked via my visa/immigration documents, but for things like health insurance that are internal to the country, I have to use my non-English name.

    16. Anon Here*

      It sounds like the obvious middle ground was abandoned for the sake of sensationalism.

      It should have gone like this:

      1) It is understandable for the student to be upset.

      2) Did they legally change their name?

      3) Why did this happen and how can it be prevented? (For example, students should make sure their legal name changes have gone through. And universities should check for legal name changes before printing documents.)

      4) Has a resolution been reached between the student and the university?

    17. blackcat*

      I find this entire thing sort of baffling. I don’t remember how it worked at my under grad institution, but the school that I got my MS and PhD from made sure you input/confirmed a “Diploma Name.” There were disclaimers like “This is a legal document and you should ensure it has your legal name… etc” But they definitely didn’t check on my friend who MISSPELLED HIS OWN NAME. They simply foisted the responsibility for the name onto the student, and the language implies strongly that if you mess this up, it’s on you.
      In my friend’s case, he had to pay something like $200 to get his diploma reissued…

    18. CM*

      What bugs me about this comment is, at no point do you mention feeling empathy for this student in what’s clearly a very difficult time in their life or express understanding for why someone would want their real name, even if it’s not their legal name, on a diploma.

      (Also, FWIW, I have three degrees and no one ever talked to me about them except to say “Come pick them up.”)

      1. Fikly*


        Also, as soon as I saw “throwing a fit” I dismissed everything else in the comment. Because that demonstrated such clear misunderstanding of the actual issues at hand that I am unable to trust anything else as reliable, or unbiased.

        If you want people to listen to you, I would suggest removing such offensive phrasing.

    19. Fact*

      I work in your industry, and I think we have an obligation to respond with kindness and empathy when a student is struggling. We may have to share information that the student will not like, but we can do so as educators, not adversaries.

      Also, reading this thread—deadnaming is in a completely different category than challenges associated with other types of name changes. Calling a student by a name that dismisses their gender identity is cruel and feeds into the huge amount of discrimination transgender people face.

      Does the school in question have an anti-discrimination policy? Every school should. If so, the person in charge of enforcing it might be able to help identify solutions.

  25. MissGirl*

    For people who have given up on pursuing your passion as your profession, how did you come to terms with it? How do you know you made the right call? How do you not feel like you failed or gave up too soon?

    I changed careers two years ago and thought I was over it. But I just changed jobs and I share a building with what would’ve been my passion company. I found myself walking out with some of their employees and thinking, “I make more money than you.” Not a thought I’m proud of.

    When I examined my feelings, I realized I was internally very defensive to them. Like they get to live the dream and I don’t. Like they’re better than me. I know intellectually I made the right decision for me. But my gut still wonders if maybe I had tried harder, longer, I could’ve gotten the dream and the paycheck. I could’ve found a way but I sold out.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      For me, it’s more about quality of life outside the office. Sure, I feel pretty meh about most of what I do, but this job has good benefits and that’s what is most important to me right now. I’m home every day without fail by 5:00, my boss doesn’t give me grief about needing to take care of doctor appointments or run to daycare to pick up a sick baby, work stays firmly at work so nights and weekends are all family time, insurance is free, I get 3 weeks vacation and 2 weeks of PTO, and the pay is average. I am still living the dream, the dream just changed.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        +10000 to “…the dream just changed”

        And remember, I bet there are people working at the passion job that wish they could have what you have. They might be living your dream but they aren’t living theirs.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          Quickly adding that “people would kill for what you have” is not a useful sentiment on its own, that it should be just part of your internal conversation. It’s ok to wonder what might have been, but it’s also good to remember that you’re doing good too, and that you can and do deserve to be happy with the choices you’ve made.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      My passion was journalism. I look at everyone else in journalism having a hard time and I’m grateful I got laid off when I did so I could still go into another profession. There are many people who fail or quit their passion professions and there’s usually very good, practical reasons to do so.

      Also, the passion company may not be nearly as awesome as it looks from the outside.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I am in roughly the same boat — all through high school and college journalism was my Thing, I worked at two different papers as a copy editor/page designer, and then I got fired. And while it was a big blow to my ego and identity at the time, I’m glad in retrospect — I have found a new career path that’s better paid with normal working hours. It’s sad to watch journalism crumble and newspapers die, but it’s worked out better for me in the long run.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          My coworkers from that time, as far as I’ve found out, have either moved on to working in the field I’m in now or are still struggling to stay in the business and only are getting paid part time at best. Which bums me out.

      2. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

        “Also, the passion company may not be nearly as awesome as it looks from the outside.”

        As a veteran of the publishing industry, can confirm 100%

    3. LilyP*

      I always feel like getting concrete reasons for a choice helps me feel more grounded in it. In this case, could you do some research into that other company and try to imagine what your day-to-day real life would be like if you worked there? Would “living the dream” be worth it if it meant moving to a worse apartment/working nights and weekends/uncertainty around health insurance or retirement/not having disposable income to treat yourself or buy presents for friends and family/a cutthroat work environment/whatever? If you can remind yourself of the deep, non-petty reasons this is the right choice for you it might help dismiss the jealousy.

      1. MissGirl*

        I know what it would be for the majority. That’s why I opted out of the industry. I just keep feeling like maybe I could’ve been the minority who actually made it work. Like I said I know intellectually I made the right call, I just wonder emotionally. I guess I’m still resentful I couldn’t make it work.

        1. mizunasloane*

          Maybe you not being able to make it work isn’t on you though? Maybe you’re putting a lot of responsibility on yourself that was never yours to begin with and is something that was always out of your control. As someone who originally went into music and opted to do something different, I completely understand your feelings and where you’re coming from – which is why I’m thinking maybe you’re being too hard on yourself and your feelings of resentment are blinding you to the realities you were living at the time that made it impossible for you to continue on that path and live the kind of life you needed to live for your own wellbeing and success. Much like anyone who wasn’t able to continue on their initial dream path, the issue probably wasn’t you or your ability to persist, it was the industry itself that makes it hard for anyone to succeed or makes them compromise safety and security for filling emotionally fulfilled, which is a sh*tty thing to have to choose between. It’s not a choice any of us should have to make, but the fact that we do have to make it isn’t a reflection of our competency or worth, it’s on that industry itself for creating that environment that shouldn’t exist at all. You did good, you made the right choice, and it’s not your fault.

            1. mizunasloane*

              The older I get the more I realize that most people who are successful at “living their dreams” have had some sort of support or connection that the rest of us don’t have. Not all, but most. It really does come down to luck and privilege for most people. Even though I had to stop my studies in music because of finances, I also didn’t feel so bad about it because I had realized by that time that I was working so hard for no guarantee while the most successful were there because they had a connection of some kind I was never going to have. I decided my efforts were best expended elsewhere on something that gave me more security and I’ve never regretted that, especially now as an official adult that sees many of those same people who “went for it” struggle to find work or the kind of work we all want. At the end of the day, most of those things that “make it work” are totally out of our control and the most successful individuals are where they’re at because they had a step-up from the very beginning that most of us don’t.

        2. Pommette!*

          I feel you!

          I also left my dream field after realizing that I was exceedingly unlikely to ever make my way into one of the (increasingly) few professional positions that would allow me to sustainably support myself.

          If I had stayed, I would probably be working 70-hour weeks, and living in poverty and without benefits or security. I left because I saw too many extremely talented and dedicated people get trapped in that precarious hamster wheel, and because I saw a few age (or ail) out of what is an inherently unsustainable lifestyle, and into hardcore poverty.

          But there was a slim chance that I could have made it into one of those roles. And the possibility nags at me in ways that make it hard for me to fully move on, emotionally. It’s a weird bitterness that sometimes wells up; I try to acknowledge it and move on, but yeah. It’s there, in a way that it wouldn’t be if I knew, for sure, that it would never have happened.

    4. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      For a long time I really wanted to work in the psychiatric field, because I’m very passionate about science and mental health. I feel like I’d even be pretty qualified since I studied chemistry and I have mental health issues of my own that according to my therapist and loved ones, I manage pretty well. But I also have dealt with a lot of trauma in my life, and I realized that I wouldn’t just be treating the victims, I’d be treating abusers who were court-ordered, and I wouldn’t be able to provide a rapist or the perpetrator of a hate crime with the level of care they needed.

      So I work in environmental science instead, and while it’s definitely not lower stakes by any means, it is easier for me to feel like I’m doing important work while also not being subjected to my traumas being triggered by my work.

    5. Jabs*

      The first step for me when I feel this kind of thing is to realize that it’s ok to feel that way. I feel like its healthier really acknowledge it than to force yourself to feel differently. Life will be both wonderful and disappointing in a million ways, even when you know you made a good choice.

      I don’t know if its helpful, but I actually find this thought really comforting when this happens to me: Theres no alternative universe out there where you made different choices; that version of you that you’re jealous/resentful of doesn’t exist, but if they did they would have their own struggles. Its easy to put that imaginary person on a pedestal. What materially, socially, mentally, etc do you feel like you don’t have that a person doing Passion Job does? What is it that you feel like you’re missing that you hoped to get from Passion Job, and is Passion Job really the only way to satisfy those needs? Are there aspects of that career that you can incorporate into your life, or already have been?

      For me, I thought all the way through the end of college that being a doctor was what I was supposed to do (despite knowing it didn’t jive with the life I ultimately wanted). Now I’m in a medicine-related-but-not-medicine field and I really enjoy my career, but every once in a while I have to interact with doctors and I think “I could have been you” or “I bet you think you’re better than me.” But I’m grateful for what I do have because I didnt pursue medicine, and thats enough to keep me going most of the time.

      1. MissGirl*

        This is good. I totally get the “I bet you think you’re better than me.” I still moonlight part time, and I always hear people say, I could never work inside at a computer all day.”

    6. Woman of a Certain Age*

      I pursued a career in the arts up until I was in my 40s.

      It seems to me that there are a handful of people who are extremely talented and for whom the work c0mes easily and quickly without their having to work at it and they are recognized for it. There are some people who are only mediocre, but who are extremely physically attractive and/or charming (including some talented bull shit artists). There are some people who have a foot in the door because they have family members involved in the field. There are people from wealthy families who are free to pursue their dreams without having to worry about paying their rent or buying groceries. There are people who are able to find a supportive spouse (someone like Lee Krasner) who allows them to pursue their dreams. There are some people who just got lucky.

      I’m not one of those people. My art is good, but not great. In retrospect I don’t think I had the time or support to take it up to the level of greatness. And even if I had that time or support I might not have been able do so. Maybe I didn’t and don’t have the talent. I just don’t know for sure. I take comfort in knowing that I gave it a shot and that I had a few brief moments (not even 15 minutes) in the spotlight. I still dabble, but my interest in the arts has become more of a hobby.

      On the other had, I’m still reasonably healthy and find that I am still able to experience, appreciate and enjoy the arts around me, even if I’m not making the art. While I don’t work in the arts, I have a job that is important and where I am helping people and I find value in that. If I live long enough to retire and if my health holds out I’m hopeful that I can return to pursuing my interest in the arts full-time.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Honestly? It kills me that I can’t be in the arts for a living. But I can’t stay alive and eat and have a home if I do that, and I’m not that talented or attractive and I’m old. ‘Nuff said there. You have to settle.

    7. LilySparrow*

      At first I made peace because the new track enabled something that was far more important to me than the dream career – having children and taking good care of them. I was not willing to put it off any longer, certainly not for an indefinite period until I’d “made it.”

      Now my perspective has shifted, and I realize that the dream career – the whole industry – is inherently predatory and exploitive. The entire economic structure of the industry is predicated on desperate people willing to sacrifice themselves on the altar of that dream.

      That is why people who want to be fairly compensated for their time and skill are vilified as having “sold out.” The brainwashing is part of what makes the machine work, by guaranteeing an ever-fresh crop of up and coming talent who think planning for the future, eating real food and living in a decent home are crass, unworthy concerns.

      It doesn’t have to be. There are a few pockets here and there that aren’t. But “making it” in that job as it exists now means being exploited until you have enough leverage to exploit others.

      I’m glad to be out.

      1. mizunasloane*

        Ughhh yessss good point. So much of this “dream career” mentality is about grooming people to accept whatever scraps they’re given and to be ok with work situations/ cultures/ environments that are exploitative to the worker themselves. Then they gaslight us into thinking it’s our fault and it’s only our lack of tenacity that ruined our chances. Thank you for articulating this, it’s so true.

    8. Out of Retail*


      It’s been over a decade since college and I never actually got into my “passion” career, and instead fell into things to pay the bills. My self image took a hit and that’s what I’ve really found therapy helps with, for me at least. It’s really useful to have resources to help reconcile how I am living with who I think I am/ who I want to be.

      That being said- you’re not alone, I struggle with this every day. I think it’s just something you have to keep working on.

      1. Reba*

        This resonated with me — the idea of myself as a person who does X. It was hard to give that up, or more accurately, to shift it to a more nuanced picture of myself.

    9. Reba*

      I mean, one thing is just accepting that your feelings about it are mixed and probably always will be. You can feel great about your career decision and still feel nostalgia or regret or pain around the path not taken. Life is complex!
      Signed, a former art major

      p.s. Selling out is a bullshit concept, do try to get that one out of your head.

  26. shay*

    My husband just started a new job at the beginning of October, and yesterday they told him that business has been slower than they forecasted and to justify keeping him they’d need to significantly switch his schedule. He’s fine with that for now, but we’re both concerned that the implication is that if business doesn’t pick up in the near feature, they may eliminate his position entirely. So just to be safe, he’s going to be on the lookout for potential new jobs, which is a huge bummer because the new job has been perfect for him.

    My question is: should he leave this new job off his resume entirely? He was in his old office for 2 and a half years and got promoted several times, so a part of me thinks having that be the top item of his resume looks better than a job he’s only had for 3 months so far, even if his cover letter explains why he’s looking. But this new job was a career change for him and his old position is in a different industry entirely — one he’s not that eager to return to. It took him months to find a job in this industry that felt like a good fit, so neither one of us is sure what the right move is now that he might have to look all over again this soon.

    1. Zephy*

      Oof. I have been in a similar situation as your husband, and it sucks. Is hubs trying to stay in the same industry as the new job? If so, I’d include it; he has a good few months of experience under his belt, and while it ain’t much, it also ain’t nothing. He’s got a good enough reason to be looking – the firm’s insolvency isn’t his fault, and it’d be foolish to just ride out however much longer they can afford to keep him without looking for somewhere to land.

      1. shay*

        Thanks for the advice! I’m sorry you had to deal with that too, though it’s good to know he’s not alone!

        He does want to stay close to the same industry as the new job so it makes sense to put it there — just wasn’t sure how big of a red flag it might be to employers that he’s on the job hunt after only a few months. But the reasoning is justifiable, so hopefully hiring managers will understand :)

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      I think it’s ok to leave it on for now, since it’s always more attractive to be currently employed when job hunting. He has a good reason to be looking, he’s been warned that his position might be eliminated, and no company is going to hold that against him.

      My thought is that if he finds something quick he can then remove it, since how much could resume-worthy things could he have achieved in a 3-5 month job?

      Best of luck, this is a lame position to be put in.

    3. MissGirl*

      One quick thought. When you list the job on the resume, put year not month and year. In a few weeks, it’ll look less like he’s been there three months and more like a year.

      I agree you should have it as long as he’s working there to not show a gap.

    4. LookingAgain*

      He should absolutely include the new job on his resume, for a few reasons. Mostly because it’s easier to find a job when you’re already employed, so why would he want to look unemployed? And also because it’ll include the additional industry and experience on his resume that will be helpful for ATS / resume scanning.

      Once he’s called for interviews, he can explain that he had every intention of making this next job a long term one, but that they have begun to slow his schedule due to budget cuts so he’s looking for new opportunities to be on the safe side.

      I just went on an interview after only being in my job since September, so not that different, and no one has (yet) batted an eye. And for me it’s more of a culture fit thing, so even harder to explain.

  27. Kisses*

    I’ve gotten some clarification before, but I am honestly damn confused and not sure where to start. It is about overtime exemption, which Alison has explained over and over but I cannot figure if my husband meets the requirements.
    Live in Florida, husband makes $600 a week before taxes, salary. He is a pest control/shrub specialist, and I think the position alone doesn’t meet the requirements. He goes into work by 6:30, he is there at minimum 2:30/3, but most days until 4:30/5 and has no time to take breaks because he does like 22 stops a day (he did have to get a special certification so he can handle the chemicals properly).
    He is salary, but a lot of Saturday’s he is required to work because some of the stops didn’t get done (they’re not good at coverage). So I’d say he averages 50hrs/wk.
    why doesn’t he get overtime? He also gets his wages withheld for any sick time (no vacation days, 2 sick days after working there for 5 years (!!!!)) and inclement weather has caused his paycheck to be short. I’m not sure I understand- and if there is something fishy here, how does he approach his boss about making it right?
    One more thing, he’s been promised a raise since August. Let’s assume they bump him up to what the new overtime salary will be in Jan (which his boss claims to not be worried about, even though we’re talking like 10k an employee)- I guess I’m saying that I don’t think it would be right to give him his merit raise when the law is going to require you to pay more anyway. He should get both at a decent employer? Argh. I really don’t like his boss. He’s looking for an out, but without a diploma he is LIMITED. And this is the most he’s ever made by over $200 a week.

    1. Kisses*

      OH and his boss doesn’t believe him when he finishes his routes by 3. He thinks he doesn’t do the job hired to do, but he’s actually pretty efficient at it, and if he was hourly, I’d guarantee it would be the opposite situation where he takes “too long”.

      So basically the boss expects all his technicians to be there from 6:30 until 5, and get paid less than $15 an hour to work with dangerous nerve agents.

      One more thing real quick- he was also bitten by a dog at one of the stops that the owners failed to contain after he called ahead. The workman’s comp doctor released him, but he still has pain and nerve damage. He doesn’t want surgery, because he’s worried he won’t get paid for the recovery time. What do we do?

      1. ...*

        I would definitely consult with a workers comp lawyer about the bite. They will typically consult for free. That is really scary! I have family that does this type of work and bites happen more than you’d think. Also when you say diploma do you mean college or HS? Maybe there is another pest company that treats its workers better?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      1. He’s non-exempt because they’re docking his wages when he doesn’t work. That alone makes him non-exempt, and none of the rest matters.

      2. Even aside from that, it sounds like he’d be non-exempt based on job duties. But he doesn’t need to debate that because of #1.

      3. On January 1, the new overtime law is going into effect, which means he’d be non-exempt then anyway. Starting January 1, he’d need to earn $684 per week ($35,568 per year) for the exemption. But again, it doesn’t matter because of #1 — even if they bump his pay, he’ll still be non-exempt because they’ve been docking his pay when he’s out.

      So yes, he is non-exempt. They need to pay him overtime, and they owe him back wages for unpaid overtime.

      1. Kisses*

        Thank you so much Alison. I needed it explained to me like a kindergartener because I just wasn’t grasping it.

    3. CAA*

      As Alison said, he’s owed back wages and overtime. Unfortunately, you live in Florida, which is completely backwards when it comes to enforcing labor law, so you have to rely on the Federal Government for help.

      Whether to do anything at all really depends on your husband and how he wants to proceed. He has to be fully on board with working to get what he’s owed, and you both have to understand that he could lose this job, even though retaliation is illegal. If he gets fired over this, he’ll probably have a 100% airtight case and he will win in court, but it will take years, during which you will be without his income. I’m very sorry, and it sucks horribly that you are caught in this trap, but better to know it up front than find out when it’s too late.

      If you want to proceed, here’s what you can do:

      Step 1: collect documentation for the actual hours he has worked in the past. If he has texts or emails telling him he has to work Saturday, or if he has any past schedules or logs or timecards or anything like that, get it together and put it somewhere safe and private (i.e. do not keep it on a company computer or in an online company gmail account or anything like that).

      Step 2: going forward, he needs to start keeping a log of his hours in a notebook. He should write down the time when he arrives at work, and then the time when he arrives and leaves each location that he treats. Just 3 columns, address, arrival time, departure time. He needs to keep this notebook with him. Do not leave it in a company vehicle or locker.

      Step 3: take your documentation to an employment lawyer who offers free consulations. Google “florida employment attorney free consultation” and get someone there. They will probably tell you to file a wage claim with the Federal Department of Labor, but I still think it’s worth talking with an attorney in Florida first, just to confirm that you have enough information to make your case and get a local perspective.

      For your questions:
      – “how does he approach his boss about making it right?” I really don’t think he can. The best approach is through a lawyer. There are some situations where it makes sense to talk to the boss directly and calmly and inform him of the law, but from your description, I don’t think this is one of those.
      – “I’m saying that I don’t think it would be right to give him his merit raise when the law is going to require you to pay more anyway. He should get both at a decent employer?” Well, yes, but you already know this is not a decent employer. Expecting him to suddenly realize the error of his ways and become a decent person is not realistic.
      – “He doesn’t want surgery, because he’s worried he won’t get paid for the recovery time. What do we do?” He can ask for a second opinion on the Workman’s Comp, but if this is not covered, then he’s not going to get paid. You might be able to sue the dog owner, but definitely discuss that with a local attorney.

      “without a diploma he is LIMITED” This is very true. I’m assuming you mean he doesn’t have a high school diploma, so is there any way he can take some night classed and get a GED?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, this is wonderfully laid out.

        Also, Donna Ballman, the employment lawyer I often consult there, practices in Florida so could be someone to contact if you want legal help with it.

  28. Third or Nothing!*

    Update: I now have 3 published blog posts on the company website! There is an ever increasing chance that I will get to take this whole thing over. Yay!!

    I really wish I could link to them, but they would 100% out me. I’m so proud of them though.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I JUST MIGHT! My boss has a call scheduled with the company that usually writes the blog posts and does SEO stuff for us. I asked if he wanted me to sit in on it and he said I don’t need to as he’s just firing them. WHO IS HE REPLACING THEM WITH? IS IT ME?! I sure hope so! Oh man I would have so much fun mucking about with website data too.

  29. FormerExpat*

    What is something about your industry that everyone gets wrong? Could be a general misconception or just a random fact. For example, you are in home insurance and everyone things that x will make their house burn down, but really most fires are caused by y.

    1. HealthAnon*

      I’m in healthcare and people think we’re money grubbing profiteers. Most health systems operate under 5 percent profit margin if they make a profit at all. I can’t tell you all the procedures we’re losing money on.

      1. Out of Retail*

        Sincere curiosity: what is it about the procedures that costs so much money? Do you know if it’s mostly from improved tech, or supplies required, or safety requirements?

        1. HealthAnon*

          It’s a lot of things. So much goes into one procedure one from the doctors and nurses to the overhead for the building to the drugs to the parts. It’s an extremely complicated job to even cost out the procedure. Then if we charged what would make a decent margin, no one would be able to pay it out.

    2. ThatGirl*

      People think my company is huge just because it’s well-known and has been around for about 90 years, when it’s actually fairly small. (For instance there are 3 people in consumer-facing customer service, not a whole giant call center.) People think if they complain enough we’ll bring back old products, or that if they, personally, love a product therefore we should never discontinue it. That’s not how it work s.

    3. R*

      I’m an actuary, and everyone always thinks we have ALL the answers or NONE of them. The reality is somewhere in the middle.

    4. Kisses*

      I worked in resale for a while. People and prices kill me. It’s literally like pawn stars. “I can offer you $12 for this walker” “but I paid $50.”
      Right, but as soon as it left the box we price it 40-50% of retail. Then the seller gets around 30% of that, so yeah. You are getting $12.
      No one wants to accept that their stuff didn’t go up in value! Especially kids clothes and toys.

      I do have a great story of malicious compliance, though. We had a frequent shopper punch card that was good for 15% off the total, but it couldn’t be combined. Said it right on the card. I had a very boisterous woman shop one night and bought maybe $100 in clothing (a big sale for us!) and tried to give the cashier 3 cards that were all full. She got irate with the cashier, so I stepped in as the keyholder to deal with her. I explained just like the cashier did about not being able to combine them, but she could keep 2 for later visits. She was not having it. She yelled. She got her kids to come yell at me. Started throwing things. Then decided since she couldn’t use it on ONE purchase, she would split it up into THREE purchases. Oh that genius, she got us. So I smiled, took all 3 of the cards, applied 15% off to each purchase, KEPT HER CARDS (had to staple them to a copy of the receipt for verification), and thanked her. She had that giant ‘I win’ smile. She was like “that wasn’t so hard was it??” And put her nose up to walk out. A stock person was coming in from helping a customer load their car, and overheard this woman tell her teenage kids “I thought I’d save a lot more with 45% off”.


      1. JJackz*

        Oh my god, I love this so much. SO MUCH. She could have had three separate rounds of purchases with 15% off, but instead she shot herself in the foot by getting the exact same result as if she had just used one card! The irony of this is delicious. Thank you for sharing.

        1. Kisses*

          It honestly felt so good inside. I’ll go out of my way for customers all the time. But as soon as they’re rude to the cashiers I’m working with? All bets are off.

          I’m glad you enjoyed the story :)

    5. OperaArt*

      That any scientist/engineer/software-pro/technician who works for a science research organization wears a lab coat at work (regardless of what Hollywood shows).
      Lab coats are worn in labs by people who want to keep their clothes and themselves clean and safe. They’re like really big aprons. Most of us go nowhere near a lab, and those who do don’t wear their lab coats outside the labs.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I really wanted to get a lab coat when I was conducting some research a few years ago, just to look more sciency for the participants. I didn’t because it’s not the kind of research that requires lab coats, but I was very tempted to fit the scientist profile.

    6. Hope*

      That librarians get to sit around reading books all day. If I had a dollar for every person who told me they wish they had my job because they’d get to spend all their time reading, I could’ve retired at the age of 30.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, when I worked in public libraries. Now that I work in academics, I don’t get that comment as much.

    7. Third or Nothing!*

      Fun fact: if you live in the US in a deregulated area, part of the price of electricity is negotiated by you, and part is set by the government. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about the government portion of the bill when they were way overpaying on their negotiated portion. (And when I say negotiated, I am using it as shorthand for shopping around for electricity prices. Just can’t figure out a better way to say it.)

      ALSO! Don’t fall for gimmicks like free nights and weekends. Trust me, the provider is making up the difference in the price they’re charging you.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Deregulated energy markets! There are places in the US where you can choose your electric provider. The lines are still owned and operated by the state, but you go through a retailer to get the electricity and theoretically they compete for customers based on price or customer service. Examples of big retailers: TXU, Reliant, Green Mountain Energy, Direct Energy.

          The Texas market in particular is an interesting beast. We have our own grid, except in certain parts of the state, so we kind of just do whatever we want. If you’re curious, the ERCOT website has some great info.

          Once again I very much wish I could link to the blog posts I wrote for my company website, but alas it would out me and my cover would be blown.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I live near Chicago, so I’ll use ours as an example – ComEd is our electricity deliverer, for lack of a better word, but you can shop around for suppliers that have varying rates. The problem I have with them is that mostly they knock on the door after dinner and ask misleading questions to try to trick you into signing up. Also, the suburb I live in does negotiation on a village-wide level to find the best rates for everyone. You can still opt out, but either way ComEd controls the lines.

    8. T. Boone Pickens*

      That recruiting is easy, we’re all scumbags and we’re able to get anyone a job if we actually cared about people.

    9. MOAS*

      That accountants are boring people.

      Never been bored at work.

      Also, mine and my coworker’s desk currently has 4 plush toys, 3 rubber duckies, a frenchie saltshaker and a regal painting of a corgi.

      1. Liz*

        I have to agree with you on this! I just started seeing someone, who is an accountant. he’s the LEAST boring person I know.

    10. Glomarization, Esq.*

      The past couple of weeks? The fact that the impeachment-related hearings are hearings, not a criminal trial, and that therefore the Federal Rules of Evidence and of Criminal Procedure do not apply.

    11. Art3mis*

      I work in health insurance. People assume that if their claim isn’t paid at 100% with no cost to them, that we’ve denied the claim. Which is not the case at all. You still have your deductible, coinsurance, and copay. People also assume we’re the reason why your insurance doesn’t pay for much. Nope, that was your employer’s decision when they picked the plan, go be mad at them.

      1. Adlib*

        Yep. People in general need more education about insurance and how it works, especially in the area of health insurance.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        Tell me about it, Adlib!

        My mom and I have the same general health insurer (think BCBS, a big one with a jillion plans insuring a jillion companies and state agencies). She is on a sweet, sweet plan for state employees, the kind of plan people dream of, and because that’s all she knows, she considers that the baseline standard insurance that clearly everybody has! Then she gets flabbergasted and outraged that I pay more out of pocket for procedures, tests, and drugs.

        I… can’t do anything about what plan my spouse’s company chose, Mom!

    12. Drew*

      I work in publishing and we have both printed and electronic books. People grouse that our e-books are not significantly cheaper (like around 75% off) than the physical ones “because we don’t have to pay to print them.” Printing and shipping the physical books is a SMALL fraction of the total cost; paying the writer and editor and layout person accounts for a lot more, and those are just three of the people involved in creating a book regardless of the format.

    13. Llellayena*

      “Why do I need an architect? I know how to build a house!”

      Yes, and when you build with the range hood exhausting into the ceiling instead of to the outside or put the toilet in an inaccessible corner where you bump your knees when you sit, come back to me and I’ll be happy to charge you twice my fee to fix it….

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Yeah, our house was built by a landscaper (we bought it directly from his family, actually). The result wasn’t “my entire house was grounded to the natural gas line” bad, but, uh. It looked like a steal at the time, and we’ve probably spent 10x the price we bought it at fixing things.

        At least this one has neutral wires. And no secret water tank for one specific shower that has been colonized by a self-sustaining empire of cockroaches.

    14. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

      I’m in psychiatry residency, and its very interesting working in a field where everyone has a reaction to hearing your job!

      Mostly people assume that I’m going to secretly analyze them, when honestly I’m just trying to have a normal conversation. Just last night, an uber driver really wanted me to tell him what I could analyze about him, until I told him I was ‘off the clock’.

      I have a monogrammed jacket from my program (emblazed with Cats, MD, PSYCHIATRY) and that sparks a lot of comments. Yes, its very nice that you cured your PTSD with meditation, random supermarket man, but I’m just trying to buy sugar?

      1. mizunasloane*

        Omg the amount of people that will tell you their cure-alls for mental illness that don’t involve medication or therapy is wild. “UM, have you ever heard of crystals?” Girl, I have and no I’m not interested. lol. Good on you for taking it all in stride though!

        1. Cabbage for a Head*

          Testify! The next person who tells me essential oils cure bipolar disorder is gonna get it!

    15. Middle School Teacher*

      That teachers only work 8-3, get two full months off, are essentially babysitters, and are overpaid.

      1. mizunasloane*

        I work with youth and OOOOF yes. So many parents just want me to take their kids regardless of their kids’ interest in my programming because they just want someone to watch their kids all day. Like…I’m great at my job and they’re gonna have a blast but I don’t like the assumption that that’s all I’m here to do.

    16. Quinalla*

      I’m a mechanical engineer and everything thinks we either do something with cars or trains. Some MEs do, but most are working on a huge range of different things :)

      I do HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and plumbing design and my favorite HVAC misconception is that when you open the door of your house/apartment on a warm summer day you are letting the air conditioning out. NO! You are letting the heat in :) I definitely get why no one who isn’t an engineer/nerd cares about the distinction, but heat transfer is always from hot to cold.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Because heat is energy and cold is lack thereof.
        And nature wants to equalize the two.

        The same goes for light. You don’t let the dark out – you let the light in.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I just explained this morning to my 6 yr old that you can’t have a light that shines black, because black is the absence of all light.

    17. RMC*

      Random nit picky fact: concrete and cement are not the same. Cement is the powder that makes the other ingredients in concrete stick together. Cement is to flour as concrete is to bread.

    18. Majnoona*

      I’m a professor. People think our job is mostly teaching and we get summers off and sabbaticals to relax. No, we get raises based almost solely on publications. We’re on 9 month salaries but do most of our writing during our unpaid summers

    19. ThursdaysGeek*

      That people who work with computers are some kind of extra smart beings with limited social skills. Nope, some geeks have social skills, and we have our share of …um…not smart developers. Some of those computer people you can’t understand? It’s because they aren’t understandable, not because they are smart.

    20. IndyDem*

      I work in the pharmaceutical industry. I entered it because I love helping people (worked many years at healthcare non-profits) and I help people with the diseases we treat on a daily basis. However, we are lumped together with ALL pharmas, and are we are not all alike.

    21. ..Kat..*

      I am a nurse.

      The number of people who distainfully call me a bedpan jockey or a code brown specialist are legion. Yes, this is part of my job. But, providing a patient with toileting assistance (or doing it all for them) in a respectful, kind, humane manner is important for my patients. And I do this. Please don’t demean my patients and myself about this.

      The number of people who think that I am a nurse because I “am not smart enough to be a doctor” is amazing. I am smart enough to be a nurse, a doctor, or many other professions (not a rocket scientist – I earned an A in Physics, but it was really hard for me!). I am a nurse because I want to provide excellent, hands on care to my patients and their families.

      Most people just don’t understand what nurses do. Maybe they base their ideas on what they see on TV?

      People are so weird!

  30. Anananon*

    I don’t have a lot of work experience and I need a reality check. Was this as ridiculously out of line as I think, or am I overreacting?

    One of the clients of the company I work for asked me to do something which is normally his job to do. He emailed a list of items to complete (a, b, c, d) and I scheduled a meeting to ask if there was anything else. He said no. I did a, b, c, d, and realized he missed e, so I told him, we signed an agreement that I would do abcde. I did the work and he said everything looked ok.

    A few days later he emailed again: “it looks like you missed f. Could you do that?” I told him I could but it would need to be a separate invoice, he said it was part of the agreement, and my boss said to let it go and do it as an act of goodwill. I was miffed at him, but did f anyway.

    THEN, a few days after that, he emails again:

    “You only did the easy part of the job. You missed item g, and it is not my job to explain these things to you”.

    My boss agreed with me that he was out of line and told him it was our “shared responsibility” to make sure no items were missed, but her boss (having seen the email trail and the written agreement) told her she should have admitted that it was 100% my fault and apologized. What do you think?

    1. MissGirl*

      Working with clients is really difficult. The hardest lesson I learned in my first few years was that it didn’t matter who was “right”. If we wanted to keep the client, it was my job to keep them happy. Also as a junior employee, it wasn’t my decision whether or not the client was worth the extra work.

      The best thing to when it comes to extras is to keep your boss in the loop so they approve any added labor. Apologize but try to come up with a better way with the client and your boss to find a better way to lessen the surprises next time.

      And come here to vent all you want. You have sympathetic ears.

    2. Filosofickle*

      Oooh, that would really upset me. I’m really generous with clients. I throw in extras, don’t throw blame back at them, focus on being helpful more than being right, keep the peace. But there’s a limit!

      There was a written agreement that specified X tasks and you are being held responsible for not doing something that wasn’t part of that agreement. Personally, I would not take full responsibility for that and would be upset if I was asked to. Not that you really have a choice — one does what the boss requires. This is why I work for myself.

      I would, however, expect to have a conversation that acknowledges something important was overlooked and what we could do differently (as a team, internal an external) to avoid this kind of problem in the future.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Were F and G things that should reasonably have been expected/anticipated as part of that ‘ABCD+E’ project or were they totally separate additional requests / scope creep? In very vague terms what sort of things are A-G (e.g. “design assets we are creating for the client”)?

      Interesting that your boss (who presumably has more experience than you in this situation) agreed with your assessment, but then was effectively overruled by her own boss.

      If they are ‘scope creep’ requests I would have probably taken the same approach as your boss and done F as an act of goodwill assuming it wasn’t too time consuming and it was a one-off incident, but drawn the line there (possibly with another “is there anything else?”)

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Forgot to add – on the surface of it, just from what was written, it sounds like in the client’s eyes he asked for A-D and you stepped up with additional stage E that he hadn’t thought of. Now he is trying to get F and G in under the radar on the same basis. But that’s just my suspicious mind at work and up to you to think whether it applies in this case :)

    4. Anananon*

      Thanks all, I needed some outside perspective- I will try to be more patient with clients!!

      Captain: It was reasonable to think of G while doing F, but not to think of F while doing abcd and e. Think I’m a technical writer, the task was writing a manual, abcde were chapters, f was designing the cover and g was designing the back.

      However, it was more the tone of the email that bothered me, and I found it very rude that he said “it’s not my job to explain these things to you”.

      I try to create good relationships with these people and I don’t normally penny pinch (I’m salaried anyway). Even when it came to F, I only wanted to invoice him because of the way he spoke to me.

      Also, I think I didn’t say this: my boss initially wanted to charge extra for F, and said to let it go /after/ the guy insisted.

      Anyway, thanks a lot for your help!! You’ve helped me calm down from a terrible mood.

      1. Gumby*

        If you are the client and requesting the work that you want done, then YES, it IS your job to explain that. Also, normally that stuff ends up *in the contract* so anything that is not there is not included! Otherwise, what is to stop the person you are hiring from just… doing whatever. “Oh, they must have wanted this manual in [different language], I’ll just translate it all (and not give them the [original language] version).”

        I would have been extremely tempted to reply along the lines of “Oh, I’m sorry, mind-reading was not included in your purchase. If you’d like mind-reading services included, that will double the price.”

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        WOAH, nooooo! Cover design is a huge ask. I say this as a book cover artist who, sorry clients, charges extra always at all times if they also want cover design. I put it in the agreement that cover design has to be requested and negotiated separately (though I do have a flat fee for it– I just want them to notice up front that cover design is not the same as cover illustration, rather than notice at the last second when their painting doesn’t have type on it).

        Anyway, I empathize. :(

    5. fhqwhgads*

      This is scope creep and you should bill them for every extra item, and if your company doesn’t back that, their processes are broken. You need more than just an email saying “abcd(e)”. You need an SOW saying we will do:
      Anything not explicitly listed above will require a separate work order and may incur additional charges, and have them sign that before you do anything, and then when they bitch at you about f and g you send it back as you point out f and g are not in there and it IS their job to explain that to you because if ain’t there, you’re not responsible for it.

    6. Anananon*

      Again, thanks all. As I said I’m relatively new to the workplace and I don’t want to become a pushover or a harda**. Thanks for helping me “calibrate “!

  31. Amber Rose*

    This audit is the worst.


    They changed all the darn questions and somehow they’re even dumber than they were before. I’m the auditor and I don’t even understand what they’re asking in some of them. Or why supervisors would be expected to know about what upper management is doing. The “auditor guidelines” are completely useless also and explain nothing. There used to be a fairly in-depth guide as to what they were looking for and now there’s nothing.

    I’m so frustrated right now by this whole thing. Like, I actually spent time crying in the bathroom about it because I don’t understand all these new requirements and they didn’t give us enough time to implement them anyway. You can’t ask for 12 months of data when you give us 6 months notice of the changes.

    We’re gonna fail and I’m going to get fired. My stomach hurts.

    1. Kisses*

      They’ll really fire you over a lack of available information? I really hope not, especially if you do fine in other aspects of your job.
      But I get the tummy thing and the anxiety. Heppens to me all the time so I comiserate and I hope you feel better.
      Good luck! And any job that gives you anxiety you physically feel should be a job in your past. Are you looking for anything different at all?

      1. Amber Rose*

        No, but if we fail the audit we lose our certification and like 80% of our customers, and my job is literally maintaining our certification. So probably would be fired for dramatically failing my job. :(

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s pretty rare to completely fail an audit for certifications unless it’s insanely out of wack. They want you to have that certification, they want that annual money!

          I’m not saying this isn’t important or that you won’t get ‘dinged’ on things specifically but I would be shocked if you absolutely fail so hard that you’re not certified.

          They’ll just tell you what you can “buy” from them to come up to “code” or whatever the wording is here.

          Even the IRS audits aren’t “We will shut you down” level unless you are egregious because they want you to give them that money it’s not in either of your interests to demolish a businesses ability to exist as a whole.

          1. Amber Rose*

            It’s a scoring system. If we don’t hit the score, we probably go into limited scope, get 90 days to fix it, and I have to redo the entire effing audit. I think. It’s hard to say, this is the first year it’s even possible to fail a maintenance audit. I don’t know if they even give you a second chance to pass.

            There’s nothing to buy. We need processes in place that we just don’t have. I can fix some of the little documentation things, but I can’t change operations and draft policy that quickly.

    2. The Ginger Ginger*

      Do you have a boss/supervisor? I would escalate this immediately. As in – here are the new requirements, here’s what I’ve done to understand and meet them, here’s where I’m having trouble, for these reasons. These are the risks I see, and here’s what I’m trying to do to mitigate it.

      The situation sucks, and yeah, it’s bad. But it’s going to be so much worse if it’s hitting your org as a surprise when you’ve already failed. It’s critical enough for the org that you might be able to get additional resources or support if you raise the alarm now. Just be calm and clear about why this audit is so different and how the lack of reference documents is impacting your ability to succeed at what they’re asking. I don’t know if there are industry blogs or google searches or a hotline that can provide assistance to you, but if there are, start down that list so you can show that you’re working the problem as you ask for help/alert your org.

      1. Amber Rose*

        If we fail we go into limited scope and have 90 days to fix it.
        But the audit has to be completed by the end of next week now that it’s started. I can’t pause it, fix stuff, and then go back.

    3. ArtK*

      Did the standard change, like going from GAMP 4 to GAMP 5? It seems as if the auditing requirements changed and nobody changed the data collection, then there was an upper management failure.

      1. Amber Rose*

        The standard kinda changed, and I was updated on those changes by my certifying agency in May. I’ve been doing my best, but when I went in for the update class thing, they sort of made it seem like the changes weren’t that big of a deal.

        Some of them really are. They require us to have whole processes in place that we don’t have.

        1. The Ginger Ginger*

          Does your certifying agency have any resources that could help? I’d also give feedback on that class now that you know it was basically junk.

    4. Jules 'audit every two years, it gets better' the 3rd*

      Keep in mind that many audits have ‘findings’ without failing, and that the *auditors* will be considered not doing their job if they have no findings. Work through the process as best you can, challenge any findings that are really not justified (ie, 12mo data after only 6mo change), and start drafting solutions to the findings that are legit. Your boss will appreciate your grasp of the processes and your solution-oriented response.

  32. Employee #24601*

    Saw this story on a list of “bad interview” stories and it made me cringe so hard I had to share it here….

    “This one didn’t end up costing me the job offer as such, but it would’ve cost me the job offer from the person who was interviewing me:

    Interviewer: ‘Can you tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills?’
    Me: ‘Do you really want me to? Because I can do that if you like and give you some story and blah blah blah, but it seems like you’re kinda just asking that because you think that’s what you’re supposed to ask in an interview, rather than because you actually care?So we could talk about more interesting stuff if you’d rather do that.

    This was from one of the many interviews I went through during my internship at Lehman Brothers.I said it partly because I was absolutely sick to death of answering stupid interview questions from people who didn’t care what my answers were and partly because I genuinely wanted to know what the other person was actually thinking and partly because I wanted to see what happened.

    I wasn’t intending it to sound aggressive or non-cooperative, though obviously I was aware that was a risk. My hope was that we’d actually be able to have a proper constructive conversation as a result. As an interviewer, I’d love to have someone respond that way, though I wouldn’t ask that question because frankly I’d rather smack my head against the desk for 15 minutes than sit through an interviewee giving me canned answers they’d rehearsed over and over again.

    It didn’t go down well.”

    1. Forkeater*

      That is super cringy – though in some ways I get the point. At the interview for my last job, one interviewer asked me “where do you see yourself in five years” and I actually laughed in his face, because it’s such a cliched question. However I recovered and got the job.

    2. CAA*

      “As an interviewer, I’d love to have someone respond that way”

      I’m finding this part pretty hard to believe! If an interviewer thinks it’s awesome when the intern they’re interviewing takes control of the conversation and just refuses to answer questions about their actual qualifications, that’s one lousy interviewer.

    3. J.B.*

      So I wound up in a (university hiring) GROUP interview + individual assignment. Blech. Anyway in the individual assignment they said you were the grad student intern assigned to review stuff and what would you do. And they basically wanted answers about changing corporate policy. I don’t know in what universe a grad student intern would do that. Do they teach that kind of thing in B school now???

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Ah the old Holden Caulfield interview answer approach.

      If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

  33. CatCat*

    Almost everyone where my spouse works has gotten sick. People are coming in though because the paid sick leave offered is so paltry (the bare legal minimum in our state) and I am sure taking unpaid time is untenable for most. Probably just a matter of time before he comes down with something. Fortunately, we can afford for him to take unpaid time if it comes to that.

    I know he is eager to leave. He’s got a line on a possibility that would let him get into the field he’s been trying to get into. He had a great chat on the phone with the owner of a small local company the other day. No current openings, but some possibly in 2020 and the owner wants to meet “informally” (?) in the next couple weeks. Hoping this matures into a good job opportunity for the spouse! Cross your fingers for him!

    1. Kisses*

      Got em crossed! I hope it works out well.

      But I didn’t realize your state had a bare legal minimum? In Florida there is no requirement and I thought the rest of the US functioned that way too. Be nice for my husband to get sick time. It would be nice for both our husbands! :)

      1. CatCat*

        Yes, a small minority of states do require paid sick leave! A little is definitely better than nothing. But it’s not going to last if you get something nasty or if your young kids get sick.

  34. kwagner*

    I’ve been applying to a lot of public library jobs as of late (will graduate in a week, they have high starting wages for part timers in my city and I’m interested in the industry). I had one interview that I felt went well and applied to a few more jobs just in case over the last few weeks. Been about a month and a half of applying overall. Haven’t heard back from any of them as of yet, including the interview one, but many of the jobs are still posted on various sites. Could the holidays be a factor in not getting back to me or should I consider those a bust and keep trying?

    1. Hope*

      Just keep trying. Sometimes they’ll wait until the posting deadline is over before you hear anything, sometimes the holidays get in the way of calling people in, and any number of other things. A month and a half is not much time AT ALL.

      There’s also the fact that there are lot more people who want to be librarians than there are positions for those people. So I would settle in for a longish process if you don’t have library experience to go with the degree (and I’m assuming your degree is in library science?).

      1. kwagner*

        No, I’m finishing undergrad with a double major in english and communication. I talked to some advisors after I realized this was an option and they said try a part time position that doesn’t require a library or information science degree to see if I enjoy the field before jumping into another pile of debt for a masters degree.

    2. Wearing Many Hats*

      The holidays are definitely a factor (I’ve been in an interviewing process for 2 months because of everything!), but keep on trying anyway! You may find that a lot of new jobs are posted in January anyway.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, the holidays mess up hiring. I’d also looked around in January. There’s usually a burst in hiring in the first few months of year as people formalize intentions to retire and then leave. Also check in July, when budgets get finalized for the New Year.

    3. Kisses*

      Absolutely the holidays. And they’re public libraries, so I would assume they kinda drop the ball like a lot of govt places during December and some of Jan.

      But I’m jealous! Being a librarian would be an amazingly cool job. They don’t get enough credit! There’s a lot of school involved, right?

    4. MatKnifeNinja*


      My city of 15K people, public library librarian, part time (3 days a week) job in the Children section.

      No benefits.

      Over 300 applications. Everyone and their dog applied. Librarians looking for a change of pace. School librarians. People just graduating librarians (least chance of all), teachers, people hired with in the city services, and wanted a transfer, people from out of state.

      Anyone with a “reasonable” resume had to be interviewed.

      The job wasn’t filled for 4 months. It went to a just retired, fairly well known school librarian. Lots of hoopla, lots of happy parents because they could “still see Ms CatsAndBirds”.

      Depending on who applies, and how desperate people are, not hearing immediate back is expected.

      A librarian job has a high application rate where I live, even if it’s a part time floater job.

      1. kwagner*

        That’s what I’ve overall heard. I’m lucky I live in a place with a lot of libraries, a lot of schools, and a lot of suburbs around me so I can cast a rather wide net when I’m looking to actually be a librarian. During my interview, they said that probably 9/10 librarianships are offered to people already in the system, so I figured my best bed would be to get in on the ground floor as an entry level clerk.

    5. Jennifleurs*

      Keep trying, the worst that can happen is you have to pull out of few applications if you get an offer!

  35. It's mce*

    Also a decade ago, I was laid off from a job where I’ve overheard two of my colleagues (as in my boss and co-worker) joke twice about whether or not I had a job at the end of the year. I didn’t. I’ve found other work since then and have cleared up my LinkedIn and other social media accounts by removing previous contacts from OJ. My boss has sent me a LinkedIn connect invite. Do I tell him how I felt? Block him altogether?

    1. Kisses*

      Man block that jerk. I wouldn’t waste the energy on him at all.
      He probably isn’t doing very well for himself and is trying to get you as a stepstool or a reference.
      Don’t trust the motives of a person who talks behind your back.

    2. StellaBella*

      Wow that is painful. I am sorry.

      I think if you feel up to it, you could reply and tell them the story, and ask them if they would like to reflect on how painful it might have been if it had been their boss joking about their livelihood in such a callous manner. This only works tho if you are absolutely sure they were speaking and joking about you and not others who also may have lost their jobs. This is also not timely in terms of feedback as this happened a while ago so I am not sure this would work.

      I have blocked 2 of my bosses on Linked In because they were the definitions of narcissists and I did not wish to have anything to do with them ever again.

      Alternately, you could also just ignore the request or decline it too. Depends how you feel. Good luck.

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      Seeing as this was a decade ago I’d just block, forget and move on.

      Let’s look at the other route which is you accept the connection and then let your old boss know how you felt. What are you looking to accomplish? Are you looking for an apology from old boss? Acknowledgment of their past behavior? Or are you just looking to vent at them? What happens after you let loose on your old boss and then you hear nothing back? Will you be satisfied?

      1. StellaBella*

        All very good points that I was trying to think about, too – but did not articulate. Agree that there needs to be analysis of motives here. Possibly just blocking is the best.

      2. It's mce*

        It’s just plain mean. I was debating about blocking the colleague, but she sent me a note of sympathy shortly after I was gone.

    4. CAA*

      Are you still in the same industry or in the same city? The world is small, and you may cross paths with that old boss again some day in some unexpected way that you aren’t even aware of.

      Imagine that for your next job you apply to a company and you don’t realize he’s recently been hired there (because you’ve blocked him on LinkedIn). The person screening resumes notices the overlap and asks him about you. If you leave things alone, he’ll remember you as the person who they unfortunately had to lay off when they were running out of money. Or you can bring this up to him now and be remembered forevermore as the person who eavesdrops and then holds a grudge for 10 years over something he doesn’t even remember saying.

      I’ve been on both ends of these types of conversations at least a hundred times, so don’t think they don’t happen. A negative comment from a former colleague can definitely keep you from getting an interview and you’ll never even know it. It’s always better to take the high road. You’re allowed to gloat to yourself over being the better person though.

      1. It's mce*

        Thank you. They actually posted my job as an opening the day after I was let go. They told me my skills weren’t needed anymore.

    1. Stephanie*

      Do you have to get an actual gift or can you just give a gift card to Target (or a similar mass merchandiser or grocery store)? If you don’t have to give a gift (or it’s not the tradition in your office), I would just do the latter.

    2. Kisses*

      Executives shouldn’t participate in the gift exchange!
      Or do a white elephant.

      If you have to get something, maybe a succulent or nice throw blanket. Or just some lunch gift cards?

      1. MuseumChick*

        Apparently a few years ago a handful of employees brought very inappropriate items for white elephant a few years in a row so the higher-ups don’t want to do it again. He’s honestly an awesome guy to work for so I don’t mind him participating though in general I completely agree with you.

    3. Third or Nothing!*

      A mug with a selection of some really nice coffee or tea would probably go over well. I have tea recommendations if you want them.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’d do a houseplant that they can choose to put on their desk or put out in a bigger office area for everybody to enjoy.

    5. CAA*

      If you don’t know her very well, have a quick chat with her assistant or your boss. Ask if she’s mentioned a love for cookies or wine, or if she’s known around the office for only drinking tea and never coffee. That should give you some ideas.

    6. Aphrodite*

      We are having a holiday party and being asked to bring a gift to share with a $15 limit. I was puzzling over it–wine and chocolate is so overdone–and realized that a perfect gift, especially in southern California with occasional blackouts, is a rechargeable flashlight or lantern. (I have two right now and am planning to buy more because I fear blackouts.) The one I am giving is this one:

      The lantern, which I LOVE is this one (but at this price for me alone):

      Others in your price range could include these:

    7. Quinalla*

      Yikes, I would be worried too. Though honestly, there are so many generic gifts to give. I like tea or coffee if they drink either of those or something edible, even EDs need to eat and drink, right?!

    8. Hi there*

      I agree with the coffee, tea, chocolate recommendations. How about some nice Fair Trade chocolate? Or a nice pen? I like the Retro 1951 pens, which are basically ballpoint. I have a purple one and a leopard one. I am sure your ED has to sign things!

  36. Stephanie*

    Any tips for how to process info from lots of meetings? I’m in a project management role, which means tons of meetings. Basically, I support production rollout for a new line of teapots, but don’t handle the nitty gritty of each teapot component. But a lot of times, I’ll get invited to meetings about the components because I’m the Blue Teapot project engineer and need to be “kept in the loop.” At times, it’s hard to figure out what to process when I’m in multiple meetings for “informational purposes.”


    1. CheeryO*

      I can sort of relate as an engineer in a regulatory role who goes to a lot of project meetings just to show face or be kept in the loop. For me it just boils down to having a really organized filing system and taking a lot of notes. I always take a minute the next day to go over my notes to highlight the important stuff and make sure there’s nothing that I have to follow up on.

      The hardest part for me is parsing what bits are important during the meeting, even just as background information, and what parts you can sort of let in one ear and out the other. That’s gotten easier for me with experience – these days, I come away with like one page of notes instead of five pages of insane scribbles, ha. You can always follow up on the nitty-gritty stuff if you need to – no one will judge you for not remembering that kind of thing, since that’s not really your job – so I always try to focus on the big picture stuff (timing/schedule, major roadblocks and decision points, etc.).

      1. Stephanie*

        Oh man, I relate so hard to the five pages of inane scribbles. I’ll review those like “…what do I take away from this?”

    2. Lucky black cat*

      DO you need to be kept in the loop or could you start declining these meetings / ask to be kept updated by email or via a standing catch-up or etc instead?

      What you’re looking for is action points (things for you to do or to have others do) and reference points (things you need to know). If you’re not getting those you don’t need to be there….

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I asked my boss because it was getting to the point where I could be in meetings from 7a – 5p (if I attended every meeting). It’s getting a little better once I figured out which meetings I actually had to be in.

    3. Anon Here*

      I’ve been reading and commenting for a long time, so I remember some of your past posts. This is a new-ish role, right? And you completed a degree just before it started?

      If that’s the case, there might also be a “general education of newer employees” side to this – they want you to hear all the terminology and get a sense of how things work, including what’s outside the scope of your current role. And if so, it could be a sign that you’re doing well and they see you as someone they might promote. Or they might do this for everyone.

      I say this because I’ve been in similar situations. I wasn’t expected to remember everything. It was more of a, “Be there and eventually you’ll get all of this,” sort of thing. As time went on, I learned a lot and it all became second nature. And the knowledge became more relevant and valuable over time.

      So, if that sounds like what you’re doing, I say just relax, get what you can out of it, and trust that it will seem like less of an information overload as time goes on.

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

      Any chance you can ask that they just send the meeting minutes afterward to keep you in the loop? As long as the minutes are well done you’ll get the gist, without all the fluff.

  37. Rewards?*

    Does anyone have experience with recognition programs for business units?

    My company wants to start a program where departments are scored by other departments on several items, such as responsiveness, cooperation, consistency, etc. Kind of like those satisfaction surveys people get when they buy something or use a merchant, but for departments. There will be rewards for those departments that score at least X or higher for a certain time frame. The idea is help departments do better at serving other departments.

    I agree with this, but I think it needs to go beyond responsiveness and friendliness–it seems like just a baseline and we should all be friendly and responsive as part of our job and not have to be motivated by rewards to do so. The company is entering a phase they expect change to happen and to be supported, which is something badly needed here. I’d like to see a component that rewards peoples’ attitude towards change, facilitating change, being more forward-thinking, and creating efficiencies.

    Does anyone have experience with a rewards/score card program like this? What worked and what didn’t? Also, what types of rewards do you offer? (I know PTO is a big one, but a whole day off is not likely to fly, though a few hours might.)

    1. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

      I have some concerns about using a survey like this to determine rewards/recognition. Especially if the survey is done in a way that anyone in the company will have access to individual’s answers. I don’t think this will incentivize honest answers – and any change derived from it will only be in search of receiving a reward, rather than actually improving the level of internal service.

      We’ve done a survey geared toward measuring the service provided internally – our data was compiled and reported by a third party completely confidentially. We saw every word written, but had zero information about who wrote it except whether they were an IC or Manager. This did encourage some brutally honest answers – but that is genuinely what we want. It’s a huge undertaking. It’s a lot of data. And once you do it, you’ve set the expectation with your employees that things will be DONE with that data. So you better deliver.

      1. Rewards?*

        It seems like the goal is to work better with other departments and improve service; however, I haven’t seen any indication that there are real and widespread issues. There have been a few comments about X department taking too long to turn around a decision, or Y department not answering their phones because they all took lunch at the same time, but no real patterns. They seems to be one-offs. I don’t really see much of a need for this, but it’s something a higher-up wants to do.

    2. pancakes*

      I haven’t had direct experience with it, but a company I did some work adjacent to had a star system whereby people could award co-workers with a star in their internal chat platform, and say a little something about how the person had been especially helpful on a certain project, etc. I don’t think there were any tangible rewards with it, just recognition, but I’m sure people would like being recognized even more if there was a little something that came with it!

      1. Rewards?*

        We already have something like that and it works well. I feel like that program should be expanded, rather than creating a new one, since it’s basically the same thing. The only difference is the service standards, which could easily be added to.

  38. aebhel*

    Has anyone here had to deal with a former employer trying to enforce a non-compete agreement? My spouse signed one 11+ years ago at his former job. He recently quit, and his ex-boss has been calling his new boss threatening legal action if they don’t fire him. I’m almost completely sure that it’s not enforceable under NYS law (he’s an IT tech and it would prevent him from working in that field or any related field anywhere in the US for five years after he left the company), but I don’t really know what our options are if ex-boss actually ends up pursuing this and/or convinces his new job that it’s easier to just let him go than deal with the headache.

    1. Notasecurityguard*

      IANAL but this sounds like tortious (I’m sure I spelled that wrong) interference. It might be worth checking the noncompete with an employment lawyer and see if they’ll draft a quick “knock this shit the fuck off” letter

    2. Not Me*

      Talk to a lawyer. Quick.

      For one thing, the non-compete your husband signed is an contract between him and his former employer. It has *nothing* to do with his current employer and former employer threatening them is highly unprofessional. There is plenty of case law to support this.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Most non-competes are over-reaching and therefore unenforceable. But you really need to talk to a lawyer. Hopefully they can solve this with a few letters back and forth, because lawsuits (even if you’re in the right) are expensive.

    4. Holly*

      You’re going to need to speak with an employment lawyer, I can’t stress this enough. This is something that will require specific expertise and a review of the contract. Hopefully it won’t come to litigation and a sternly worded letter from an attorney may suffice, so don’t get scared. The New York State or NYC Bar Associations can help refer if you don’t know who to contact/where to start.

    5. Picard*

      Agree with talk to a lawyer but generally speaking a non-compete for FIVE years and covering the ENTIRE U.S. would be considered unenforceable. (from a non lawyer hr person)

    6. MissDisplaced*

      This former employer is being ridiculous unless the new company is a direct competitor. Even then, 1-2 years would be more normal a timeframe.

      But to try and prevent an IT tech from pursuing other IT work for 5 years in even related industries is pretty much so insane as to be unenforceable. That’s not protecting your IP, it’s trying to prevent someone from seeking gainful employment in their chosen profession.

    7. Observer*

      I’m going to agree with the others. Lawyer NOW. This is almost certainly unenforceable but a good lawyer will help you get the best outcome. What that is will depend on his current employer and how obnixious the former employer wants to be.

  39. Natalie*

    In this case I’m the client, but this seems more appropriate to here than the weekend thread.

    Any music teachers out there? Or similar professions, I suppose. And if so, do you get Christmas gifts/tips from clients? I really like my piano teacher (I’m an adult student) and was thinking about giving her some kind of small acknowledgement – maybe food as she teaches at a school and could easily pass it along to the other teachers if she didn’t want it / couldn’t eat it. But I was curious if this was a done thing.

    1. Hope*

      Gift cards are always appreciated by teachers. Starbucks/etc. cards are also easily regifted if it’s something they don’t use.

      1. Natalie*

        I know those are popular for classroom teachers, but this is someone I take one-on-one lessons with. I’m more curious if any kind of gift giving is a norm in that scenario.

        1. Kisses*

          I would have given my sons tutor a gift, so I think you’re good giving them something. Food and coffee giftcards really can’t go wrong.

    2. Uhtceare*

      Absolutely done, though there’s generally no obligation. Gifts are more normal than tips, though: food, cocoa/tea, nice pencils, pencil cases, anything like that.

    3. FormerExpat*

      Treats you can eat, gift cards for coffee, a small houseplant. I once got leggings as a gift, they were super ugly bug g*ddamn if they werent the most comfortable leggings I’ve ever worn

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      When I took private music lessons long ago, we always got the instructor a holiday gift. Usually something small like chocolates, hot cocoa, cookies, an accessory with music notes on them (necklace, scarf, pin), pens, mugs, stuff like that.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Lots of friends in these trades. It’s pretty common to give gifts/extra “holiday” tips to one on one service providers like a teacher, a hairdresser, a manicurist, housekeeper, personal mechanic etc.

      It’s not required by any means but it’s something that’s been done for a long time and hasn’t been phased out.

      And it’s always best when you’re in doubt, to do something small and meaningful like the tray of goodies you are thinking about.

      I used to take my old local tire repair guys cookies every year…I get a lot of flats and they also do my oil changes. So they know me by name/face. Therefore cookies for you.

    6. Quandong*

      I’m a music teacher and I receive gifts from students at this time of year (not in a country where tipping is customary).

      I advise against gifts of food, scented body products, or scented candles. These are the things I most often receive and I can’t use them because of various sensitivities, and it’s not something I like to draw attention to with my students.

      I do really appreciate receiving cards with messages from students!

      Gifts that have been really useful for me are stationery, fancy and cute sticky notes, a very nice ballpoint pen (I write a lot), pencil cases, and a thermos for tea.

  40. NonnieConnie*

    Nonprofit peeps, has anyone out there ever had a successful experience conveying to a board that they’re about to make a terrible decision? If so, what kind of language/tactics did you use? If not…well, that’s helpful data, too.

    1. Allypopx*

      In my experience you make a stink about it once and it goes badly, they’re more apt to listen to you next time, especially if you remind them (I am not above I-told-you-so’s in a professional setting). So there’s that, at least.

      My strategy is usually degrees of escalation. Make your case calmly, rationally. Provide data. Step two reiterate your case a bit more firmly, more data, really highlight the negative consequences you’re foreseeing. Step three, if possible get backup for your case, buy-in from colleagues, find some really compelling anecdote from someone with high ethos if you can. Step four, say you want to be firmly on the record that you think this is a bad idea and that while you won’t actively block any progress the organization wants to make and will do your job, you do not stand behind the decision. And then let it go.

      As for specific tactics, appeal to the mission, the public perceptions, the internal perceptions, institutional values…whatever makes sense for your particular org. Boards are the worst, good luck.

      1. NonnieConnie*

        I think we’re at step four, unfortunately, but it’s good to know my instincts are on track there.

    2. Mrs. C*

      My experience has been that it’s all about the personality types of the 2-3 board members with the most authority over the decision in question. Are they logical, reasonable people? If so, they’ll listen if you calmly make your case and present solid evidence. Are the board members the type of people who think they’re the smartest person in any room they enter? If that’s the case, nothing you say or do will sway them.

  41. Mrs. C*

    I had a phone screen that went really well. Was enthusiastically told during the call and in response to my thank you note that they’d be reaching out about next steps. It’s been over a month now with no word whatsoever. I checked in two days ago (using a great script I found on this site as a template!), and haven’t gotten any response back.

    Just hoping to air my frustration, and commiserate with anyone in similar situations, as I work to mentally move on from what was looking like a great opportunity.

    1. BeeGee*

      It’s poopy, but you have to mentally start to put it out of your mind. I’ve gotten ghosted a few times over the last 7 months of job hunting, and it sucks ass! One was particularly bad, it was a final round, in-person interview in September where I was never even given a rejection letter!

      Ugh I’m sorry, the best way is to apply to some more positions and hopefully get another interview process going.

    2. Ghosting Should Be Illegal*

      The EXACT same thing just happened to me. It’s absolutely unacceptable and unfortunately the norm now. I’ve made it all the way to final rounds…meeting with the CFO and owner of the company and when they decided to go with another candidate, I was never told. Just didn’t hear from them until a few weeks later when I followed up and the recruiter finally told me.

      Not really a helpful reply, sorry. It’s so emotionally taxing, I get it! I hope you have some success in your search soon!

    3. Academia Escapee*

      Similar situation last year. Went in for an interview in mid-December, everything is great, we’ll call you after the first of the year when the VP is back from the holidays to have you meet with him but it’s really more of a formality. Even gave me a gift bag on the way out. By mid-January, I’d heard nothing. No response to my email or voicemail. At the end of January I finally got an email stating they’d gone with an internal candidate. Ugh.

    4. Public policy anon*

      Ugh, I’m sorry. I’m in the middle of a job search and have had this happen to me many times.

      At this point I try to assume I won’t get any particular position until I have an offer. Though that’s easier said than done, especially after a (seemingly) good interview.

      1. Public policy anon*

        I even had one in-person interview where they told me they’d make a decision and inform me one way or another within a week of the interview.

        I haven’t heard from them in 2 months…

        1. PseudoMona*

          After my 3rd interview (2 phone screens and a half day onsite interview) with a company, the HR rep told me that they would be in touch with their decision within 48 hours.

          That was in February. They never contacted me again.

    5. Zephy*

      The last six-ish weeks of the year are communication black holes for a lot of industries – overlapping leave, granite-octopus bureaucracy around hiring, medical emergency, any number of things could be holding up the works on their end and you’d have no way of knowing from the outside.

  42. Notasecurityguard*

    Reading all these stories makes me wish I could take a side gig as a bartender at company Christmas parties. Especially ones with open bar. The stories alone would be worth it

    1. Stephanie*

      I play the cello. Perhaps I should monetize this to play background music at a holiday party to get the stories.

  43. SheWhoMustNotBeNamed*

    Did I handle this right??

    I am a 35 y.o. woman working in engineering; I do look much younger (ugh). I work in a group of about 15 people, which was formed a year ago but I’ve been with the company for 10 years.
    A colleague who is probably around 60 years old has talked about bringing a pork butt for a holiday celebration and the rest of us can bring sides. Sounds great. Except he kept hinting that I should send out a roster for the side dishes. I’ve never done this so there’s no precedent. There are several men both younger and older who would be capable, or he could do it himself, so it seemed gender-based. I’m busy, so I just ignored it.
    Later he came to my desk and outright asked me to book a conference room and send out the roster. I kind of laughed and said, “oh I bet you can do it Earl! Just copy the one from our last potluck!” He laughed and shook his head and walked away.

    Was this the right thing to say?? I don’t want to come off as “not a team player” but I’m here for the engineering, not the party planning. Is there something better to say if it comes up again?

    1. aebhel*

      Nah, I think you handled that fine. It sounds like the whole thing is his idea, he’s a bit out of line to just assume that you should do the party planning, and it sounds like you were pleasant about it.

    2. MsM*

      You did great. If he keeps pushing it, though, it might not be a bad idea to try and get him to name what he’s doing: “Earl, is there some reason you feel this should be my responsibility?”

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I like your response. I’ve used something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m not the person you want doing that. My husband does all that for me at home. I’m terrible with party stuff.” (Because it is all true for me! I also don’t care about food and would be happy if we all collectively just ate a box of Oreos and bag of chips.)

      I also like MsM’s response, but agree to go there only if he keeps pushing.

      1. Drew*

        I had a friend who went to a store and got one of every time of weirdass Oreo they had (including some store-brand knockoffs in SUPER weird flavors). We had a tasting party and it was mostly awesome! … although I don’t know how some of those flavors made it into the world.

    4. CheeryO*

      Ugh, no, you did fine, but I’m always doubtful that those types ever really get the message. I’d be mentally prepared to be more assertive if he asks again.

    5. Engineer Girl*


      I would have been (inappropriately) aggressive on that myself. “Oh, you probably want the admin to do that. I’m he engineer.”

      Because weirdly, people don’t see you as the engineer even when you are doing engineering work.

    6. Venus*

      I would be tempted to say something ‘helpful’ (i.e. in a tone that suggests “Hey, I have a great plan for you!”) like “I’m really busy right now. Steve is the new guy on the team, and it would be a great chance for him to better know his new colleagues. I suggest that you ask him.”

      I’m guessing this older man is not known for being particularly supportive of gender-neutrality, otherwise you would have given him the benefit of the doubt. Go with your gut. Also, I suspect that age doesn’t matter, as he would probably be doing this to you if you were 45 and looked 50.

      You could also call him on it – “There are plenty of people in the group who could help you out. For example Steve seems to have more time in his schedule. Is there a reason that you keep asking me?” – but I would only do this if I thought the guy meant well and was clueless.

  44. Binky*

    If you get a message from an HR person wanting to set up a time to talk, and you respond with date/times. How soon do you follow up when those date/times pass with no response?

    I got a request to set up a call on Wednesday and I replied with times for today. I haven’t heard back at all. I’m paranoid that my response never got through on Wednesday night (no actual basis for this). Do I email back this afternoon with additional times for next week? Should I wait until Monday? Any advice on how to couch such an email?

    1. Zona the Great*

      No. The ball is in their court now. Next week, re-send same email saying, “circling back. Still need to talk? I hadn’t heard back so please let me know”.

      1. Binky*

        I guess I’ll circle back Monday. This is for a job interview – I guess a phone screen – so I need to be much less aggressive than I would if this was someone I worked with.

    2. Nancy*

      How annoying! I think if you haven’t heard from them by the day you proposed you’re fine to follow up that day. I would assume that your email had been lost in a sea of other messages, or they’ve been swamped with something else.

      I actually prefer to phone for this sort of thing – it’s quicker to figure out convenient times that way. I’d just ring up and say something like, ‘Not sure if you saw my email, but are you free today, or would you prefer next week? I could do X, Y or Z.’

      But if phoning isn’t appropriate in your situation, I’d probably continue the email chain in which you suggested today, and give a few more options next week. Something like ‘I’m following up on our plans for a meeting. If today doesn’t work for you, how about Tuesday afternoon any time after 1pm, or I could do any time Wednesday.’ I try to give fairly broad options where I can, because I find these emails back and forth trying to set up a time so annoying.

      1. Binky*

        It’s mostly annoying because this is the first nibble I’ve had in my lengthy, ongoing job search.

        1. Nancy*

          Oh sorry! I completely misread and imagined that HR in your company were trying to set up an appointment with you! I wouldn’t phone in that case, but I think it’s reasonable to email again at some point soon. And after that I guess it’s on them … Good luck with the job search!

    3. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

      For phone interviews – I would recommend always giving as much availability range as possible, not ONLY times for the next day. Doubly so if you’re responding after business hours. Also look very closely for what exactly the recruiter is actually asking you for – if I had a quarter for every candidate who responded to “what is your availability next week” with “I’m available tomorrow at (insert only one time slot).” and nothing else…. I would have a lot of quarters.

      Remember that it is very likely that this HR person is recruiting for multiple openings, and is already booked up for the next day (or even next couple of days).

  45. Okumura Haru*

    I’d like to rant for a second, if I may.

    I work in a high school library. The overwhelming majority of my patrons are good kids.

    However, a kid try to steal one of our books yesterday.

    He shoved it under his shirt and tried to walk out the door! I caught him before he could walk off, and had security escort him from the building.

    We’re a library! If he wanted to read it, all he needed to do was ask, and he could have it for two weeks (or longer, if he renewed it.)

    It’s super frustrating. Stuff like this happens in libraries. But still!

    1. rayray*

      Probably just a bratty child, thinks he’s above the rules.

      Maybe you could try scheduling time to go in to some of the English classes and do a short (5 min <) presentation encouraging kids to use their library card and to come into the library. I don't think this would deter the bad kids trying to steal, but it could be a good thing to encourage more kids to come in and use their cards.

      1. Okumura Haru*

        I do that at the beginning of the year, with the freshman classes. In general, the kids are good about that.

    2. ShysterB*

      What was the book? Was it the sort of thing a kid might be embarrassed about wanting to read? For instance, something about sexuality, or mental health, or the like?

      1. Okumura Haru*

        It was a volume of Sailor Moon, a graphic novel series. It’s aimed at girls, so I could see him being embarrassed, but still. It’s not like I’m going to judge him for it.

          1. Okumura Haru*

            Fair enough!

            There are other options – he could have read it in library when he was here, or he could have asked a friend (or heck, even a teacher) to check it out for him so it wouldn’t be on his account.

            1. Jules 'audit every two years, it gets better' the 3rd*

              Might not have wanted friends / teachers to know either. It can be hard to be interested in things that society says are Not For You.

              1. ...*

                I mean he was probably just a troublemaker though its nice to know there are people out there that give such a generous take on situations

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          I think this is actually a pretty important factor here. This boy may fear teasing or resentment from his classmates and friends, but he may also be unsure about the policies about who can see what he’s checked out. If he has any abusive parental figures that have access to his school records, this may have been self-preservation so they wouldn’t know what he checked out. You probably don’t tell guardians what a student checks out, but he may not realize that.

          Or he may just be a teenager being a teenager and pulling this just because he can. I’d try to be as empathetic as you can, but at some point you may have to just roll your eyes, sigh, and move on.

          1. Okumura Haru*

            Good points. Thank you.

            I try to be empathetic to our kids. You’re right that I don’t know about his situation outside of the 30 minutes that he’s in the library. Usually when odd stuff happens, I just roll with it.

            After calming down yesterday, I’m in a much better place to roll with it. And really, as long as the book wasn’t actually stollen, all’s well.

        2. CatCat*

          Not sure how private their accounts are/who can access that info, but might be worth addressing. Maybe like a sign or something with bullets on account privacy and that all the info is here for checkout without judgment. Is a self-checkout kiosk a possibility?

          Not that embarrassment would excuse theft, but I could definitely see an embarrassed teenager making a dumb choice like “if I just take it, no one will know I read this [scandalous for whatever reason the teen thinks it is] book.”

          1. CatCat*

            Just thinking back as my own time as a teen, there was a “nerdy” series books that I loved to read that I wouldn’t have dared check out at school for fear of being teased. I used to save up my allowance to buy them at the bookstore.

            1. Okumura Haru*

              I totally get that, although most of the student body doesn’t see manga as something shameful or super nerdy – we have several series that do gangbusters.

              Self check-outs aren’t really a possibility right now – funding isn’t the best, and I’d rather have new books/working computers/decent furniture.

    3. Anonymous75*

      Perhaps he has no books at home and wanted to own one of his own. I’d suggest you think about it that way, or that you have such great books in your library they are inspiring theft. Or maybe he would have been bullied for what he checked out and needed to hide it from his peers or family. Are there any weeded books he could take home and own?

      1. Okumura Haru*

        I put out a cart of weeded books on occasion. If he wanted books for his home, then that would have been the opportune time to grab some.

        I like your way of framing things, though. It’s good to adjust the thought process.

    4. Kisses*

      A lot of libraries require ID to setup an account.
      for those of us who are really poor, sometimes an ID card is something we lack (my purse was taken over the summer. I can’t afford the $60 to replace the license, so I don’t have one right now. Even saving like $5 a week is impossible, and anytime I get up to about $20 there is a need for something greater)
      So it’s possible that he couldn’t get an account. It’s possible that alone was embarrassing for him. And then you escorted him out? Wasn’t there a way to make this a better learning experience than introducing him early to “big bad security”?

      I’m not criticizing and I could be so far off its ridiculous. He might just feel entitled. He might have intrusive thoughts or tendencies. But always keep in mind how badly children suffer when the home can’t afford basic necessities. That includes stimulus for the child.

      1. Okumura Haru*

        Those are good points. Thank you.

        The rules TECHNICALLY require students to have their ID card to check out books, but as long as they can tell me their ID number, I’ll let them check stuff out. I’ve only had one patron who didn’t have his number memorized – and he just transferred here, so everything was new. So that wasn’t it.

        There also aren’t any fees related to using the library – as long as they’re students here, they have an account.

        1. Kisses*

          That’s great! The libraries here are very strict about the ID rule- it’s almost like going to the DMV what with proof of address and utility bills and such. But we’re in a very touristy area. Maybe thefts are higher here?

          Thanks for letting me know!

    5. DivineMissL*

      Not a library worker here, just a regular patron.
      This sounds odd, I wonder what else was going on. Was the book one that a teenage boy might consider “embarrassing” to check out (about sex, or a Harlequin romance)? Did he perhaps need the book for a school project but owed late fees on other books he couldn’t pay? Did he not have a library card and didn’t have ID in order to get one/didn’t want to bother with the application for some reason?

      That being said, my teenage boy does things that seem idiotic to me, but apparently make sense to him in the moment. But I can understand your frustration!

    6. Morning Glory*

      Does your library have a rule that overdue fines must be paid before someone can check out a new book?

      Not saying it was right for him to do, just that he may not have had the option of checking it out.

      1. Okumura Haru*

        Yep, although he didn’t have any fines, and we have ways of adjusting if he really wanted to check it out.

    7. Another Academic Librarian*

      I work in a university library (so a different population–although one that is, in some cases, only a couple of years older than yours), but unless something else happened, having him escorted out by security seems like an overreaction. Especially if your library is a part of the school. Especially if he happened to be a child of color.

      I don’t mean to sound like I’m criticizing you, as I’ve had all sorts of interactions with patrons and sometimes you just have to be there to understand. But you might feel better about the whole thing if you look for an opportunity to ask him why he felt like he had to take the book. He could have been shy about approaching you, not sure how the checkout process worked, embarrassed about the particular book, etc. He may be afraid his friends will judge him, whether because it’s manga, because it’s for girls, because it has LGBT characters…

      Or maybe he just wanted to steal something. If that’s the case, it’s probably better it happened at the library rather than somewhere he was more likely to get himself arrested.

      1. Okumura Haru*

        Very good points. Thank you.

        Our school is a bit different than the usual – it’s a campus rather than one big building, and he was already out the door and security happened to be right there when I caught him. So it wasn’t so much

        If I have the opportunity, I would like to ask him the questions that you lined out.

        Agreed on the last point!

        1. Another Academic Librarian*

          I think I was picturing something more formal with security, so that’s good to hear, and I apologize for making assumptions! In my library, we struggle a lot with when to involve security or the police (and sometimes the police and the library disagree on where to draw that line).

          But I don’t blame you for being frustrated. I like to tell myself that in situations like this being frustrated/upset just means you care about your patrons. :) After all, you want your students to do well and to use the library the way they’re supposed to!

          1. Okumura Haru*

            That’s a good way of thinking about things. Thank you! I’ll try and keep that in mind.

            It’s all good. I’m fortunate that I haven’t really need to call security on students. I only invoke them in order to get kids that are flagrantly skipping back to class – i.e. “Do we need to talk to security about this?” – which usually gets them on their way.

      1. Jules 'audit every two years, it gets better' the 3rd*

        It’s a teenage boy and Sailor Moon graphic novel – my money is on ‘didn’t want anyone else to know he’s interested.’

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Same here. My parents straight up refused to buy me stuff that they felt was aimed at the opposite gender, and teenage boys are often under even greater pressure to gender-conform (lest they seem *GASP* gay. Teh horrors.)

          It makes me sad for the kid, honestly.

  46. Nobyl*

    I have been dealing with an issue that has meet stressed out at work.

    The secretary at my job is infamous for being moody. One will never know what kind of mood she’s in. She’s gotten in trouble quite a bit over the years, but it’s always just a slap on the wrist. Never anything more. She’s will be in one of her moods, treat people terribly, then she’ll get told to knock it off, she’ll sulk and act passive aggressive for a few days then put on an overly sweet act to whomever she was awful to. She does it because she CAN get away with it.

    I’ve been her latest victim and she’s been terrible to me. She forgot to order a certain type of file folder for me and a colleague to finish up a project. She ordered it, but it wouldn’t be in until later in the week. We needed it done that day. So, we borrowed the correct type of file folder from another department and will replenish what we took when our order came in. No big deal– our boss thought we took initiative and helping other departments out like that is common and accepted in our workplace. She went off and accused me of doing her job for her. This is one of many similar things she’s gone off to me about. It got even worse a few days ago… A colleague was asking me how my classes were coming along. I work full-time and attend university part-time. I was telling her about an issue with my final project. Out of the corner of my eye I see the secretary making faces at me mimicking me. This is a 70 year old lady. Doing something THIS childish. This was my breaking point. I told my colleague who saw this all go down I was going on break. I honestly found a quiet spot outside and cried.

    I dread coming into work because I never know what kind of mood she will be in. It’s tiring. My direct supervisor agrees that she has gotten just slaps on the wrist too many times without any actual discussion of “this needs to stop or else” and she’s escalating on her treatment of others. And this time– she’s gone way too far. This has turned into a hostile environment. No one is happy with her right now. My supervisor contacted my boss who is currently out of the office. And I am just hoping that they fix the situation. I’m at my desk right now and I can hear the secretary throw things around her desk being all grumpy. I love my job. I have been here for about year and everything except her I love. I feel like I have found my niche and career path within this job. And the money and benefits are too amazing to step away from. I have more security now than I ever have before.

    What do you think my next steps are? How far should I push for things to be rectified? If they just do a slap on a wrist, should I escalate this to HR stating a hostile work environment? Or something else?

    1. Allypopx*

      What you’re describing doesn’t sound like it rises to the legal definition of a hostile work environment, so no don’t use that phrase with HR. However if she comes at you directly again, then you can go to HR and address the pattern of behavior. Otherwise I’d let your boss handle it.

      This sounds really miserable to be around, I’m sorry.

      1. valentine*

        The refusal to crack down on her doesn’t bode well, but it sounds like she’s a tax on your job, the wasps’ nest under your porch (but they probably do their jobs properly). The thing to do is to take away her power. She’s mad because you showed that professional behavior can win the day and she’s not as powerful as she’d like to think. Keep that up. If she’s not disrupting you, let her be. If the noise is distracting, consider saying something. But I would focus on big things that most everyone would agree on, like the folders, because you got her goat without extra effort. It makes it about your work and how you want to be seen, and less about reacting to her. She doesn’t like you. Okay. She’s possibly jealous. When you feel bad, remember your good qualities. So she doesn’t just dislike Nobyl who [something negative you think of yourself], but Nobyl who’s thoughtful or kind or generous or funny. And that doesn’t make sense, so why give it another thought?

    2. Asenath*

      Making faces at you?? I think I’d have been hard put to avoid looking straight at her, laughing, and, if I thought of it fast enough, saying something like “Watch out – if the wind changes your face will freeze like that!”. I realize from what you’ve written that she’s really worn you down, but if you could give her less importance in your mind, it’ll make it easier for you to wait until she leaves – and if people are as exasperated as you say, that might not be long.

      1. WellRed*

        This. Why not just confront her in the moment? Make it awkward. Make her a weirdo. What’s she gonna do? Not be nice to you? Already there. Take back your power.

    3. MsM*

      If nothing comes of what your supervisor is doing, I think you and as many people as you can convince to stand with you on this go to HR as a group with documented incidents in hand and make it clear this can’t continue. Why exactly does this woman have so much power anyway?

      1. mizunasloane*

        Honestly, I bet it’s because she knows the job so well and management thinks it’s easier to keep her on than to find someone to replace her because she’s been in that specific position for so long (it’s not). I don’t agree with that practice, but in my experience, that’s mostly what it comes down to – plain ol laziness.

    4. CatCat*

      Can you practice at home in a mirror or with a trusted person, just putting your hand up and saying calmly, “You’re being really inappropriate right now and I am going to walk away.”? And then do that. No arguing. Just calmly shut it down then walk away, turn away, put on headphones, get on the phone, anything that signals the conversation is over.

      Like if she wants to go off like a loose cannon, fine. You can’t control that and your employer isn’t willing to control it. But you can control your reaction. You do NOT have to engage with her (she THRIVES on pushing buttons and getting a reaction it sounds like).

      1. Garland Not Andrews*

        I love this! I’m old enough and crass enough to use “Oh hell no!” and walk away.

    5. mizunasloane*

      As someone who has 10+ years of working in an executive/administrative assistant capacity, I would expect that if I ever acted like this to clients, staff, and faculty that I would get fired. I will absolutely be the first to say that working with older individuals who have been in these positions for too long is a nightmare and that this is something that HR should’ve taken care of a LONG time ago. People like this have to have their behavior addressed ASAP or let go when it escalates because otherwise it will turn into this situation. Not that it would make one feel any better, but I promise that if she’s doing this to you that she’s doing it to everybody, especially clientele and as a manager that would be a huge concern to me. People in these positions who act like they’re burdened by being asked to do their job need to not be doing those jobs anymore. I will tell you again that if I ever treated someone like this I would expect to be fired. You don’t have to take this kind of treatment from her, you shouldn’t, and it needs to be escalated. She’s going to continue to bring down office morale until she leaves. Unfortunately, I see this kind of behavior from older workers in these kinds of positions all the time and they often get away with it but I really, really don’t know why. There’s nothing they do that can’t be re-learned by someone else and honestly, it gets to the point where it is NOT easier to keep them on just because of how much they know. Everyone is replaceable and no job is so precious management can’t find someone else to do it.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I made a comment in another thread (OP of that thread wrote in a little earlier than yours, but it was sort of similar) about dealing with passive-aggressive people. I said essentially that the most effective way (that I’ve found) to dealing with p-a people is treating the comment or behavior on its “surface meaning” or “at face value” — no matter how ridiculous that is! It is disarmingly effective.

      If she throws things around her desk — so what?! That basically has no impact at all.

      But if she’s making faces or mimicking you etc — ignore it. (or accept it as “there’s this person in the corner making silly faces in response to what I say, when I am talking about actual issues with my project that have a real impact. How bizarre!” Most other reasonable people who have to interact with her will be doing the same.)

      You did the right thing in the circs by borrowing the files from another team and promising to put them back when you receive them (but why isn’t there a centralized ordering process? is is symptomatic of individual “fiefdoms” in your company? maybe a subject for another day.)

      Don’t cry about what she does, or even give it any more thought! She seems to be a sad, passive-aggressive individual who has too much influence over others…

      It won’t be a popular comment, but I suspect many people there are tolerating and waiting for her to retire.

    7. Observer*

      The first thing you need to do is step away from the term “hostile environment”, unless you have reason to believe that the issue is based on gender, race, religion or other protected class. Yes, she’s making you (and others) miserable, but LEGALLY the term refers to a situation where you are dealing with hostility and / or mistreatment due to one of these protected classes.

      That’s not to say that her behavior is OK. Just because something is legal does not make it ok. Nor does it mean that the company cannot or should not stop it. They can and SHOULD. But you just need to make sure that what you say matched the categories they have.

  47. Having friends is bad*

    Looking for some outside perspective here. I have been in my current role as an administrator for 5 years and I am very ready to move up or on to new challenges. Twice in the past 6 months I have applied for internal positions that would be sort of lateral promotions. The positions still work within the same loose administration team; we report to individual site managers, but perform the same work for each location and we have a dotted-line boss who is over all of us. These positions report directly to the dotted-line boss and support the entire organization. They work with the people who are our current supervisors, managers and their supervisors and managers. I thought both interviews went really well, considering the circumstances. And that’s where I wanted some outside perspective.

    For both roles, the hiring manager, who is the dotted-line boss, made a point of announcing the positions on our weekly team calls, encouraging us all to apply, and generally talking up the new opportunities for growth in our current roles. All of the larger organization’s marketing materials, internal and external, promote a culture of promoting from within, encouraging personal growth, etc. In both cases, an external person was hired.

    I was told in my feedback call for the first position that the reason they went with an outside hire was primarily because they were worried about confidentially. I, and other internal candidates, were told that they were worried about our ability to keep information confidential, desire to continue working from the site rather than working from home, and that these were the primary reasons they chose the candidates they chose. In my case specifically, working from home is simply not possible, we don’t have the room, I have a young child who demands attention in such a way that getting any work done while they are home and awake would be impossible, even with my partner home to run interference, and even if all of that were not true, I would still prefer to leave the house every day and go to work in a work designated building.

    Is this normal? Should I just stop applying for positions where the listing presents the *option* of working remotely and just assume that they don’t want someone who works from a location with other employees present? Is there language I can use to better present the case of “No really, I prefer to work from the office and it won’t pose a threat to confidentiality because I know how to keep my mouth shut”? And, does this seem like the kind of pattern the ethics department might want to be made aware of?

    1. ArtK*

      Jobs that require you to work from home should say so and not claim that it’s an option. If it’s listed as an option, then you can assume that’s what it is. Your current employer is being an idiot about this.

      I would address the confidentiality issue, though. I would ask them for specific information about why they think you couldn’t maintain confidentiality. My guess is that they think that you (and others) would gossip. If they have that impression of you you may want to try to change it, but it’s likely that you are tainted at this company and should look elsewhere.

      1. Jules 'audit every two years, it gets better' the 3rd*

        I am reading the wfh issue as ‘Bosses think internal hires are only doing it so that they can wfh some days, and new hires will be happier working from office than internal hires.’

        I would keep applying, and address that specifically in an interview, with the ‘I would not like to wfh regularly, I really enjoy getting out of the house.’

        The confidentiality – yeah, dig into that directly with the boss in a non-confrontational way. Ask if there’s any behavior that makes them think this, and if there’s anything you can do to address the concern.

        1. Having friends is bad*

          It’s actually the opposite. They are hiring external hires who live so far away from an existing location as to make WFH not an option at all, with the thinly veiled excuse that they are worried about confidentiality (both gossip and the chance to overhear things by accident that just can’t be avoided in a cubicle farm) and also want people willing to be essentially on call 24/7. I definitely get the impression that they are seeing the want/need to work not from home as problematic on many levels, which is frustrating.

      2. Having friends is bad*

        It’s not a requirement, though. Maybe I should have been more clear. The official company policy is that if you are salaried, and if you have an office location within 60 miles, you have to show up to that location for your 40 hours a week. Limited WFH is allowed, but there are rules like you can’t be the sole caretaker for a child/ren under 12 during the time and it can’t be regularly scheduled or more than a certain percentage of your time (I think it’s 20%). If there is no site within the 60 miles, then you have to have an approved home office setup and can be 100% remote. This manager is going out of her way to only hire people who fall into the second category, after paying lip service to interviewing and promoting from within. Most of the people who have interviewed would be moving from roles that are hourly and require on-site presence to these salaried, WFH possible roles. I don’t think they are allowed to outright require WFH because of the 60 mile rule, and they can’t exclude either internal or external candidates from the process.

        As for the confidentiality thing, I’m not sure I have done anything specific to give anyone that impression, especially given that multiple people have been given the same feedback and it’s the hiring manager’s answer to the “Do you have any concerns about the role or my qualifications?” question. Both times she has said that she thinks I would excel, but that she is worried because the role would be privy to information that needs to be kept confidential until it’s ready to be rolled out to the greater population. I think it’s 100% stemming from the fact that she was an external hire and has always been 100% remote and she has no idea what it’s actually like to work on-site and she finds that to be ideal.

  48. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

    Does anyone remember the LW who was afraid to moonlight as DJ because of working in a conservative industry during the day, and their company having a policy about any side jobs? There is an article on CNBC’s site today about the CEO of Goldman Sachs moonlighting as a DJ! Apparently a lot of these high level finance guys do this now (it’s a trend). If the OP from that post is reading, I think we have a definitive verdict that it’s a-okay.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Well, the issue with that OP was they’d been turned down for permission for outside work, not just that they were scared of it. Clearing it with compliance is the important step!

  49. Wearing Many Hats*

    I planned a warm clothing/accessory drive for a local homeless shelter and everyone was on board! Doing good for the community, yay! Except only me and one department of 4 people have donated anything, despite a month of me sending reminders, having posters, and a giant mostly empty box in the kitchen. It’s depressing. I’m supposed to drop the collected items on Monday and it’s embarrassing.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      They will be grateful for anything you can give! Almost every organization that I have been in has struggled to get donations for things. Some people get severe work-amnesia the moment they walk outside the office. The most successful attempts are payroll deductions for charities.

      1. Kathenus*

        Agreed. Plus people may have or may be donating these items through another method. Someone at my work recently put out a request for this and I planned to bring in a bunch of winter clothes to donate. Before that, on my Nextdoor app, there was a post about someone my approximate size who lost everything in a fire, so I donated it all to her instead versus bringing it in to work.

    2. E*

      Our org is having trouble getting donations for our various drives this year. One of the admins suggested it might just be donation fatigue. It may be that people want to donate but they keep forgetting their items at home or its just not feasible right now. I am sure whatever you contribute will be appreciated.

      1. Chaordic One*

        Donation fatigue is real. How are other things going in your office? Often times, if people are coping with high work loads or are stressed-out they just don’t have the band-width to deal with other things. Also, I’ve worked in many offices where the people being asked for donations should probably be receiving them instead, especially the lower-paid workers such as admins and receptionists.

    3. Anonya*

      I’m sorry, that stinks. For another perspective, it is really easy to get tapped out during the holidays. There are so many things happening and requests for various donations, that it is simply not possible for one person to do it all. And, my take is that anything that sounded good in November becomes a massive undertaking/mental drain in December when the energy and obligation is ratcheted up to 1,000.

  50. The Dude*

    So I’ve been at my new job about 10 weeks, and my work laptop is missing, probably stolen.

    Emotionally I’m a mess. I’m touched by my employer’s unbelievably gracious and supportive response, but I also feel a ton of anger / guilt / whatever at myself. (It was probably taken from my car outside of my home the night in question, so I do merit some criticism here. Neighbors all seem to have a story about something being taken even though the car is locked, so it sounds like I just live in an area where that’s a constant risk.)

    I’ve already reached out to my supervisor and her boss acknowledging that this may raise concerns on their end about my conscientiousness and care with company property, and they seemed grateful for that acknowledgement. And I’ve been proactive about following instructions from the IT security people, etc. But, I’d welcome any advice on how to minimize any damage to my professional reputation at a new place. It’s such a good place to work, I’d have a hard time forgiving myself if I spoiled it.

    1. Kisses*

      It sounds like you already handled it! Their response sounded ok from what you put here. If you have a police report its a good idea to give them that.
      It sounds like you’re on your way to a great career. Good luck to you!

      1. valentine*

        Your car and its contents should be safe. Sure, you should take precautions, but you’re not partly to blame here. I’m sure even people handcuffed to briefcases have managed to leave them somewhere vulnerable. I think your response will not just cancel out any negativity, but you’ll come out ahead because you’ve handled it so well while being so new. Be kind to yourself. It’s replaceable. You’re not.

    2. Okumura Haru*

      Please don’t beat yourself up about this.
      You’ve done everything right, and sometimes bad stuff happens.

      I highly doubt that you’ve hurt your career at all.

    3. CheeryO*

      I think you’re being way too hard on yourself! You apologized, and I’m sure you won’t keep the next one in your car. No other action necessary, I promise. If it makes you feel better, I know several people who have had this happen. (My father had a work tablet stolen out of his (unlocked!) car AND dropped a work phone in a creek and bricked it within a week of getting it. He wasn’t fired or even disciplined, and he worked for a small, cash-strapped business.)

      Obviously it’s a pain to replace and it would be better to not lose it, but it’s just a cost of doing business. No need to worry as long as it doesn’t become part of a larger pattern.

    4. si1verdrake*

      I think you’ve done exactly the right thing so far, and honestly, there’s really not much more to do on your end. Just make a point of keeping the laptop somewhere secure if you’re bringing it home going forward.

      I had basically the exact same thing happen at my current job; it may have been closer to 6 months in, but it was pretty early in my time at the company. I had my backpack in the back of my car, and someone broke the window and stole it. I made sure to let security and IT know right away, and followed policy for anything relating to it (in my case, providing police report number, and not much else since nothing ever came of that). I’m still at the same job 5 years later, having gotten a promotion and several raises since. I don’t think anyone at all remembered after like a month; it certainly never came up again with management or IT.

      As long as it doesn’t happen again, you’re almost certainly not going to have any lasting career impact. You really don’t have to feel guilty or angry about it (although both are entirely understandable responses!), these things happen and are not actually catastrophes, however much it feels like it when you’re new and feel vulnerable.

    5. Antilles*

      From a work perspective, I think you’re fine. Someone stealing your laptop from your locked car isn’t your fault, it could happen to anyone, and I’m 100% confident in saying you are not the first employee of the company (nor will you be the last) who will have something get stolen. You weren’t negligent. And it seems like you’re far more upset it about it far more than they are…which is a good sign for your integrity but also a good sign that your company is being reasonable the whole thing. So stop beating yourself up about it.
      That said, since you live in an area where it’s apparently an issue, I’d immediately stop leaving anything visible in your car. Not just the laptop (obviously), but also bags and other stuff. Sure, you know the duffel bag left on the backseat only contains your gym clothes, but the random thief walking down the street glancing in windows doesn’t…and he very well might decide it’s worth the 20 seconds to break your window and nab your bag under the chance that it might have something valuable.

    6. Jules the 3rd*

      You’ve done the main first steps to minimizing damage, by
      1) Working with IT / security asap
      2) Telling your bosses that you see this as important

      The way to minimize ongoing damage is:
      1) Don’t talk about it to any co-workers. Do not feed the water cooler talk.
      2) Have a shut-down plan if co-workers bring it up, like ‘yeah, it’s embarrassing, but I’m working with boss & security on it. How about [topic change]. Be boring, but make sure you signal that you do not want to talk about it. It will fade, quickly, if you don’t feed it with additional drama.
      3) Never leave your laptop alone again. You’ll get a little bit of a pass first time, new employee. Second time will be a problem. I’m draconian – I take the laptop/backpack to dinners and into stores when running errands or run the errands after dropping the laptop off at home.

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Did you just move here for this job? (prompted by: “Neighbors all seem to have a story about something being taken even though the car is locked, so it sounds like I just live in an area where that’s a constant risk.”)

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      And if your financial situation allows it, offer to pay for the laptop. (Probably they won’t take you up on it, but they could!) Especially if you were leaving it in your car overnight every day.

  51. CA PM*

    Has anyone had any experience with bait and switch jobs? I started a job a few months ago. My title was a business analyst, in the interview we discussed my analytical and project management skills. Once I began working the skills were more of administrative assistant skills, I was also told to support the team. I spoke to my manager about the lack of actual work assigned to me and the tasks I was being given by the team and was told that was the job. Recently I was informed that my title will be changed in a few weeks to project support. I am very unhappy with this job. Had I know that the actual job was a more clerical/admin assistant role I would have never applied since that isn’t the direction I want to go. I’ve been applying to other jobs and leaving this off of my resume. Should I include this job on my resume and explain in cover letters why I want to leave a job after a few months? What would be less confusing to potential employers?

    1. Kisses*

      When my husband was looking he took a job working for what told him was Safelite Windshields. Specifically that he’d be scheduling the appointments with customers that called in. So the same thing he did for Internet dispatch.
      He got there his first day and had to go to a sales pitch. They wanted him to go stand outside of SAMs Club and harass shoppers into buying a $100 car wash package. WTF on so many levels.
      I had no problem with him coming home and never going back. That kind of thing shouldn’t be allowed.

    2. Colette*

      Leave it off your resume. This isn’t a great thing to discuss in a cover letter; you can explain in the interview if they ask.

    3. Mazzy*

      Yes. I quit with no job lined up. Don’t do that but give precedence to your job hunt! In my case, they bait and switch was more about the job level. I can be humble and do lower level work, but at a certain point, it was like pretending to struggle walking a mile when you’re secretly a marathon runner. And I was much more experienced than my boss which made for awkward interactions. It was painful and. I needed to get out, but I wish I didn’t take the blame for it and put the onus on me to fire me with some severance

    4. Mill Miker*

      My current job was supposed to be the lower-paid, smaller-scoped version of the role. That’s the title I applied for, the interview, everything. I don’t really like the better-paid version of the job, and took the pay cut as a reasonable cost of avoiding the parts of the job I don’t like.

      It took about half a day for the company to realize they actually needed the wider-scoped role filled, and bumped me there but without the title change or pay increase. I’ve been job-hunting ever since, but very carefully because this is the 5th job in a row (of the 5 “real” jobs I’ve worked) where this has happened.

    5. Just Another Manic Millie*

      I’ve had several bait and switch jobs.

      1) I was hired for a Monday through Friday job, only to find out on my first day that they wanted me to work from 9:00 AM to midnight Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday, and 9:00 AM to noon on Sunday.
      I gave notice the following day. Two days later, I was told not to return. That job did not go on my resume.

      2) I was hired to work for a stockbroker. I was told by the employment agency guy, the branch manager, the office manager, the stockbroker, and the sales assistant that experience working for a stockbroker wasn’t necessary. But after I was hired, no one trained me. I found out that they had really wanted someone with experience, but they couldn’t find anyone with experience who was willing to work for the salary they offered, so they decided to say that experience wasn’t necessary. I gave notice after I was there for four months. They were angry that they had to pay the full commission to the employment agency because I had worked there for over three months. I listed the job on my resume.

      3) I was hired to be an admin and back-up receptionist. On my first day, I was told that the receptionist had quit, so until they were able to hire a new one, I would have to be the receptionist (without there being someone to back me up). They never hired a receptionist. I stayed at the job for over four years (much too long). I listed it on my resume.

      4) I was hired to be an admin. On my first day, I was told to fill in for the receptionist, who was on vacation. A couple of days later, I was told that since I was doing such a great job, I would be the permanent receptionist, and that when the receptionist returned from vacation, she would be given another job. I soon found out that there wasn’t any receptionist out on vacation. The employee who was supposed to be the back-up receptionist was extremely passive-aggressive and was very reluctant to cover for me to go to lunch or the ladies room. I gave two weeks notice after three weeks. I did not list the job on my resume.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Quit as soon as you can.

      It sucks, but yes you’ve been the victim of a bait and switch. It’s especially bad in your case because I’m guessing the level and duties for a business analyst are much more advanced than admin duties. And its a real asshole move to tell you “it’s your job to support t