my manager over-uses “like,” is lunch included in an eight-hour day, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My manager over-uses “like”

My manager frequently uses the verbal filler “like” during meetings with clients. I’m strongly against policing people’s use of language, but I’m afraid he could be making my team look unprofessional. We’re government contractors, so while our team generally skews young and is used to being casual with one another, our clients are typically more reserved and expect a higher degree of formality. And even if they weren’t government officials, they are our clients and (I would assume) expect us to bring our A game when we speak with them. Everyone uses verbal fillers, but when we are on a large call, there is a noticeable difference in how often he uses them versus everyone else, and (to me) it makes him sound like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s not taking the meeting seriously.

Even if he were my direct report I would be hesitant to talk to him about this, but given that he is my manager I have no idea how (or even if) I should bring it up. Is there any way I can approach this that’s not super condescending and inappropriate? Or should I just leave it alone?

Leave it alone. This is something for his own manager to give him feedback on if it concerns her. As his employee, you don’t have the standing to say, “Hey, you don’t sound sufficiently professional.”

2. Is lunch included in the eight hours for a typical corporate job?

When I started my working life (in Houston, mid-90s, oil and gas, if it helps), everyone worked from 8:30 to 5:30, or from 8:00 to 5:00, etc., with an hour off for lunch (which everyone seemed to take). Years later, now working in finance, most people don’t take a lunch, and when we don’t stay late, we usually work something like 8:00 to 4:30 or 5:00.

But then letters like this one, plus of course the famous song, mention working 9 to 5, and I sometimes run into people who think that’s normal too (that is, working eight hours INCLUDING lunch). I know what the law is for people who are paid hourly, but what’s the general practice for exempt employees? Have I been cheated out of my hour or half hour all this time, is it regional, or what?

It totally depends! Lots of offices do a standard eight-hour day with half an hour or an hour in the middle for lunch (although half an hour seems increasingly common). And lots do a nine-hour day with an hour for lunch in the middle. And lots of offices have official hours of 9-5 or 8-5 or something similar and leave it to exempt staff to figure out how to handle lunch on their own. There’s no one general practice.

3. My boss spent a lot more on one team member’s holiday gift

I work in an admin team of five and we agreed on a mutual holiday gift exchange. I usually spend about $25 on each person, and that’s usually what managers give out to their direct reports in our industry, maybe a little more or less.

A few weeks ago during a break, a couple of us were talking about what we got everyone else on the team. Our team’s supervisor mentioned how much Elsa’s gift cost — $100. I was pretty shocked because that’s a lot to spend and I wasn’t quite sure why she was telling us. Flash forward to the gift exchange and I figured out that Elsa’s gifts (she got three) totaled about $175! The rest of the team got gifts that cost around $40 (which is not small, objectively).

Elsa is very close with our supervisor — Elsa was previously her assistant, they celebrated each others’ birthdays outside of work (like small day trips), and I know they often text outside of work (not required for our industry). Elsa and I have gotten closer outside of work as well, which is why I know a bit more.

It seems inappropriate in general to favor one person, but even worse when it’s obvious to the rest of the team. Elsa was also approved to book a conference hotel room for just herself, while the administrative assistant and I were asked to share (even after I was originally approved for single occupancy). I don’t mind sharing if it means someone else gets to go, but the pattern of bias has unsettled me.

I’m honestly wondering if this is even the team for me. I’m struggling with feeling hurt because we all work very hard and I’m not understanding this imbalance. Am I making a big deal out of something small, or is there something substantial here?

Yeah, it’s inappropriate for a manager to get one person on their team $175 worth of gifts while giving everyone else gifts that cost a small fraction of that (assuming there’s not an obvious reason for it, like that the person went way above and beyond to be helpful that year, is celebrating a milestone work anniversary, or so forth). It’s also really weird that she told the rest of the team she’d done that!

If it were just that and nothing else, I’d say to brush it off as a wrong-footed move but not a huge deal. But combined with all the rest — the socializing outside of work and the hotel room special treatment — it sounds like you’ve got a pretty significant case of favoritism going on, to the point that you might even consider flagging the whole situation for someone above her. (Although if you do, you could mention the gifts as one example, but don’t make them your focus. It’s important to make it clear that it goes beyond that.)

4. Am I going to lose my job?

I recently received a decent raise (yay!). However, I was also “asked” to give up most of my responsibilities. When I was hired, my role was A and over the years, I acquired other roles: E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y. Now, I’ve been told to focus on A because E, I, O, U will be done by one other person. (Y hasn’t been addressed.)

I’m left thinking that I’m going to be fired, but my spouse thinks I have nothing to worry about and is advising me to not speak with my boss about it. Management doesn’t typically give feedback unless you mess up, and I was under the impression that I was doing fine because I haven’t heard otherwise.

My husband says that they would not give me a raise if I were going to be fired. I think they want me to train the other person and the raise is just a carrot. I’ve started looking for another job, but is there any reason not to ask if they are planning to fire me?

Did you get positive feedback on your performance along with the raise? If you did, I’d be more inclined to think something else is going on — but either way it’s worrisome and you can ask more about what’s happening.

I probably wouldn’t just ask if they’re planning to fire you, though, since if they are there’s a good chance they won’t tell you that. Instead, ask this: “Can you tell me more about what these changes will mean for my role? We’re removing about X% of my workload. The projects that remain with me typically take up about Y hours per week. Do you want me to expand them in some way or take on new areas? Or what are you envisioning this meaning for me?”

If you get an answer that’s vague, evasive, or doesn’t make sense, assume there’s something they’re not telling you.

5. Asking about a fired coworker’s job

At my workplace, a coworker in a different team (and reporting to a different direct supervisor) was recently let go. At my workplace, firing is rare (to my knowledge) so this was kind of a big deal. My question is not about the department or team climate – to my understanding, there were valid reasons the person was let go – but rather, how I might diplomatically express interest in the job that the fired employee held.

I am temporary at my workplace, so my colleagues know I will be job searching eventually, and about a quarter of the way through my time here. Although our workplace has its faults, I generally like it, my colleagues, and the work itself. Moreover, I think I would get a lot out of working for the supervisor whose employee was let go. How might I approach that supervisor about the possibility of working for them in a way that doesn’t seem opportunistic? I don’t want to treat my former colleague’s loss as my gain, but I also know I shouldn’t just sit back and hope I get asked to apply.

“I’m not sure what your plans are for Jane’s position, but if you’ll be hiring a replacement, I’d be really interested in being considered for it.”

That’s it! Dealing with the vacancy is going to be very much on the manager’s mind, and it’s not going to seem vulture-ish if you approach it this way.

{ 301 comments… read them below }

  1. Sal*

    I worked at a nonprofit law job in NYC where official hours were 9-5 including lunch. Now work for city gov’t in smaller East Coast city where official hours are 8:30-5 with 30 min paid lunch and 30 min unpaid (and it irks me every single day, even though I frequently stay til 7).

    1. Nikara*

      Another City government employee. I’m in California. My lunches have always been unpaid (in this govt job and a previous one). We get 15 minute breaks in the morning and afternoon that are paid. No one is particularly strict about the timing, but these are definitely the official rules in our contract. We are allowed to choose if we want a 30 minute or 1 hour lunch, but are expected to adjust starting/ending time appropriately.

    2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

      I wondered about that. Working in NYC my 9-5 also included lunch. Moving to Atlanta, it was 8-4 with no included lunch hour. Same industry, different company. I was left wondering if it was a regional thing.

      1. mythopoeia*

        I’ve worked office jobs both in and outside NYC, and my experience is that in NYC, you’re expected to be at your desk from 9 to 5 minus lunch (so, a 35-hour or 37.5-hour work week). Everywhere else has expected 37.5-40 hours exclusive of lunch. That said, those are at-desk hours, not necessarily the length of the actual work week.

    3. Sharkie*

      I work from 7:30- 4:30 every day with a 1 hour lunch, however no one really takes it (if they do have lunch they work while they eat)

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Hey me too! Except I eat lunch at my desk then use my lunch hour to run or lift weights. Sometimes it feels weird to leave the office when most of my coworkers eat lunch at their desks unless they need to run errands, but I’m not going to sit and pretend I have work to do when I’m able to manage my workload in our allotted 38 hours.

        1. Sharkie*

          Yeah, I feel weird going to work out during lunch. I don’t understand why We can’t leave an hour early since we work through lunch every day and start so early

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            You know, this may be one of those situations where you want to clarify culture with your supervisor. Something like “I’ve noticed most people work straight through lunch. Is there any particular reason for that?” I think Alison has some better scripts on here, I just don’t know what posts they’re in.

            Personally I find I work much more effectively when I have that break to be physically active. On the rare occasions when something pops up and I have to work through lunch, I start to get sluggish around 3 PM and it never improves. My boss supports this so I don’t know why more people don’t leave every day.

        2. Crivens!*

          I’m EXTREMELY lucky in that our gym is right in my building. As in, my office is literally in the gym’s back offices (it’s academia, they just put me where they found room even though I don’t work for the rec center). So I don’t even have to leave the office to work out, and my boss doesn’t mind that I eat lunch working at my desk and take that hour to work out every day.

          It also means I never have an excuse not to work out, though, sometimes much to my chagrin.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            My gym is a 5 minute drive away, but there is also a walking trail around the building next door. If the weather cooperates sometimes I will do my run there so I can get more miles in. It’s glorious. Although I always seem to get snarky comments when I do a lunchtime 5k there…guess I look really weird in my full running gear when most people just throw on sneakers and take a stroll in their business casual clothes.

        3. Chocoholic*

          I would totally do this, but I don’t have a place to shower. How do you deal with being sweaty from a workout? I could conceivably do something like yoga where I don’t get too sweaty. I suppose you might not get too sweaty doing weight lifting, but I definitely would from running.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Oh I totally get sweaty from weightlifting, especially when I go up a size on the dumbbells. I have a packet of oversize wipes in my gym bag along with extra deodorant and dry shampoo. I also completely change clothes down to the undies to work out.

    4. WellRed*

      When I was hourly, it was always something like 8:30 to 5, half hour unpaid lunch. Now I am 9 to 5, hour (or more or less depending on my day, but typically an hour), paid lunch. It’s much more humane. Can’t much of anything with only 30 minutes.

      1. Not a Dr*

        My work allows us to choose either a 30 min or 1 hour lunch. If you rake 30 you can leave at 4:30 which I much prefer. I can run errands after work! Or in the summer I often bank all my extra 30 minutes and leave 2.5 hours early on Friday.
        So for me I would much rather the 30 minute lunch if I can take that time elsewhere rather than stuck at work playing games on my phone or walking around aimlessly in the neighborhood. On the occassions I do need to run a lunchtime errand I just take the 1 hour instead.

    5. Picard*

      My hours are 7:30 to 4 in theory (but I usually work 7-4:30) I take about 30 minutes for lunch most days (and no, we are not allowed to eat at our desks generally) I know my manager works longer hours but regularly goes out for 1 hour plus lunches. I rather eat more quickly and get home sooner.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I have the same hours. A half-hour break is standard here, but we’re allowed to extend it occasionally. For a while, I was doing Toastmasters at noon until I wound up switching to an evening club because it worked better with my daily schedule.

      2. Automated*

        My companies hours are 8-4:30 with an unpaid lunch but the finance department is 8-5 with an unpaid hour AND you get side-eye if you take a lunch.

        Its a finance thing where long hours are expected even if the workload is light.

    6. CityGov*

      Also in city government – we can choose 8-4 or 9-5 or some variation, with an hour paid lunch. All of our positions are officially 35 hours per week (though sadly through staffing cuts many in my department are usually working more than that).

    7. Working for yarn*

      I work in the government, not in the U.S. but in the equivalent of an “exempt” job. On our paystubs, it shows that we are paid for 7.5 hours per day, with 0.5 hour paid lunch. I usually work 8:30-4:30, so I take an hour lunch, 1/2 of which is unpaid.

    8. JLB*

      I’ve worked for both private sector and public sector at the professional level in the US where a 40 hour week is sort of the traditional standard.

      While there may be a lot of flexibility in arrival & departure or flex schedules depending on the company culture, the work day for myself and most friends doing typical office type jobs has always been based on a 8 hours of WORK. So 8:30-4:30 with 30 minute lunch, 9-6 or 8-5 with one hour lunch, etc. Again – could be lots of flexibility in a personal schedule and that certainly doesn’t mean there weren’t expectations to work MORE. (And friends on an official 4×10 were looking at a 10.5 or 11 hour window when lunch included.)

      I understand completely that this may vary by company, position. Just saying that in my experience, the vast majority of traditional office-related jobs were crafted around a framework of 8 work hours, not including lunch.

    9. Elenna*

      The only job I ever had which clearly defined rules for lunch time was in the (Canadian) government, where we had 8 hours including a half-hour paid lunch and two 15-min paid breaks, which most people combined into an hour paid lunch. (IDK about anyone else, but half an hour is honestly not quite long enough for me to go to the first floor cafeteria, heat up/buy lunch, eat it, and come back to my desk, unless I really hurry.)

      My current job is basically “arrive before 10, leave after 4, eat lunch somewhere in there and make sure you get all your work done”. Yay flexibility!

    10. merp*

      It is blowing my mind that paid lunches exist tbh. I had this same question when I first started working (why would 9 to 5 be such a common expression otherwise!) but have never had a job where lunch was included paid in that time. Would love an extra hour every day…

    11. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Back office finance in NYC. I work 9 to whenever, usually 6-6:30 and lunches are whatever you want them to be. Meet a friend for 90 minutes, grab something from the cafe for 5, work through lunch, don’t work through lunch, whatever. I’m exempt, so it really doesn’t matter. Very few people bring their lunch here so most people usually step out for as long as necessary to pick something up and then eat it at their desks.

      I haven’t put much thought into lunch since I worked an hourly job in grad school. Since starting in salaried jobs, the mindset at all the companies I’ve worked for has largely been “do what you need to do, don’t abuse it.”

    12. RainyDay*

      All three office jobs I’ve had in my industry (in a major East coast city) over 10+ years have been 9-5 with lunch included. I’m exempt, so I think the assumption is I get my work done as I need to. I’ve definitely worked through lunch but have also run errands, gone to appointments, etc. So long as my work gets done when it needs to, my lunch break doesn’t get much scrutiny.

    13. fhqwhgads*

      Everywhere I’ve ever worked the handbook stated the standard office hours, and included language about X minute paid/unpaid lunch. Obviously, if someone is exempt, the whole bit about the paid/unpaid lunch is sort of moot since you’re getting the work done or not, but the point of it was to establish the expectations OP1 is asking about.
      So if the handbook stated 9-5:30 including half hour unpaid lunch, that’s the general expectation for when people will be in. No one would balk at someone exempt taking an hour lunch sometimes (and all the other normal slight schedule shifting that comes with reasonable treatment of exempt employees), but if, for example, someone decided “well I’m exempt so I’m coming in at 9 on the dot and leaving at 5 on the dot” and then did that, it’d probably raise questions because that’s not the spirit of the stated norm. (I am ignoring for the moment staff who explicitly have flex schedules since that’s a whole different sitch)

    14. Elizabeth West*

      At Exjob, my hours were 8-5 with an hour unpaid lunch and two paid 15-minute breaks. But they were very flexible and our state has no real break requirements, so my boss let me work from 8:30-4:30 and not take a lunch so I could beat rush hour traffic in the morning and at night as it was stressing me out. It was never a problem, since our team almost never had anything urgent in the morning, and if they needed me to stay late and cut a little time off the next day, I was fine with it.

      I did my stair climbs on my breaks and ate lunch at my desk and I didn’t mind it at all. It was worth it to come in and leave without the traffic mess. I’ve never had a paid lunch, since I’ve always been hourly. But I prefer an hour; 30 minutes is barely enough time to eat and not enough to relax a little bit and as for going out to lunch, forget it.

    15. Rust1783*

      I just recently found out that the nonprofit I work for has “officially” declared the workweek to be 35 hours, and we are only expected to be here 9-5 with the option to take an hour for lunch. I’m not sure if anyone is formally working 9-4 or what, but I thought it was interesting that this has been formalized. Regardless, I’m not hourly so it doesn’t really impact me directly but it’s nice to know what our approach to the question is.

    16. RB*

      Work at a medium size construction company – my hours are 7:30am-4pm with 30 min unpaid lunch.

      Most people work quite early (6 or 7am starting time), but you’re allowed to set your hours as long as it totals 8, not counting whatever time you want for lunch. No one here takes more than an hour for lunch.

      Of course, our construction team functions differently, but that’s how the exempt employees do it. My previous hourly job at a tech start up was similar except that I was allowed to start my day whenever I wanted as long as I made it to meetings.

  2. LGC*

    LW1: I feel like this is less “you don’t have standing” (although yeah, Alison is right, it is not your job to tell your boss he sounds like the worst stereotype of a Valley Girl circa 1993) than “you might not even have a problem.” You’re not his primary audience here – it’s your customers. If the customers aren’t bothered by it, then…it’s not something that really needs to be fixed. It’d be ideal if he didn’t use “like” and “umm” every five words, but if he’s communicating effectively enough and the customer seems to be happy with dealing with him, then it’s just not that big of a deal.

    It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn for myself – sometimes, someone will communicate with a customer in a way that I wouldn’t (and sometimes this is my boss), but just because it’s not as “polished” as I would like doesn’t mean it’s bad.

    1. Avasarala*

      Yes–OP, pretend it’s a lisp or a stutter, or some other vocal quirk (I’m thinking of a video where the narrator paused, at unnatural places. It made you think, the sentence was over, when actually key info was in the next phrase.) You’ll eventually get used to it and tune it out.

      It’s really hard to change the way we speak too! I tried to stop saying “like” in high school because my dad said it was unprofessional and I’d never get a job. I couldn’t do it, I focused so much on what I was saying I could never get content out. Jokes on him because I ended up getting a job not speaking English anyway.

      1. M*

        Avasarala, hard same. I’m a millennial, and I’ve been in the professional world for about 10 years–and during this time, I’ve learned that my code switching skills leave something to be desired. After years of obsessing over sounding “professional,” I became much more confident speaking up in the workplace once I started letting myself talk like…myself. My millennial self. Who sometimes uses the word “like” as a filler. So far, this does not appear to be holding me back.

        1. Avasarala*

          We’re certainly better off than some of my friends who use “f-ckin” as a filler!
          (I still sometimes say it, as in, “Can you, like, find a place that sells, f-ckin, what are they called, cupcake liners??”)

          Unlike my namesake who rocks a smoker’s voice, an accent, and a no-longer-on-cable-TV filter, and kicks galactic butt while doing it. Sometimes having a memorable voice and style can help you stand out!

          1. Project Manager*

            I share this in the spirit of “learning new words is fun” – assuming you meant that your screen name is drawn from the character, it’s your eponym. I was so pleased to learn there’s a word for that!

          2. Donkey Hotey*

            Small interjection to add: While some people want Morgan Freeman, I want her to narrate my life, four-letter commentary and all.

          3. Kat in VA*

            Oooh, and don’t forget her absolutely stunning collection of statement necklaces! *swoons*

        2. Chili*

          I read somewhere that people who use a lot of filler words tend to do so because they are being *more* conscious of what they are saying, so telling someone to stop using fillers is especially challenging for someone who is already spending a lot of time trying to find the right words. I also found that the effectiveness of my communication (and my likability) improved when I stopped trying to be perfectly polished 100% of the time.

      2. DataGirl*

        If there are large pauses in the middle of my sentences it’s because I am trying to think of a non-cuss/ work appropriate word and can’t.

    2. MK*

      I also think the OP might be exaggerate the harm this quirk of their boss could do to the team’s reputation. If he is otherwise professional and competent, it’s unlikely their clients will judge them solely on it.

      1. Mookie*

        Yes. We’ve seen recently other advice-seekers project their pet dislikes onto hypothetical guests or clients in order to force a colleague to make what are possibly unnecessary and, to a lesser or greater extent, highly personal changes to suit the LW’s preferences.

        LW has no standing here, but if she did, she should have some substantive, documented incidents where use of this single word caused havoc or confusion. Sounds like there are no reactions the LW can describe beyond her own.

        1. LGC*

          I can definitely see some instances where his speaking tic would be harmful! (Like, LW1’s boss is young and this does make him get taken less seriously.) But yeah, that’s key to me – at least in the letter, LW1 didn’t point to anything concrete that happened, which is my personal bar for bringing this up.

    3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      Once in a while someone releases video of the place fillers used by people who are usually considered well-spoken. All the other words taken out–so Barack Obama’s video is just um um um. I can’t remember the others but there’s been one for each US president since at least Ronald Reagan. And many other people.
      These words are often removed to make the video shorter for news broadcasts, so we only hear their real speech in live speeches, and then the person is “on”, and has practiced, so they do it less.
      Not that these people sound like George VI* on a bad day, this is just how English speakers talk, to varying degrees.
      *Who knows how many authority figures had speaking problems before him. He was just caught up because somebody went and invented radio!

      1. SlenderFluid*

        Not a speaking problem (though it might have been if a recording of her had been used to rally the troops in 1914-18), but Queen Victoria is often supposed to have had a German accent. She had a German mother and governess, didn’t speak any English at all as a young child and always spoke German with her husband Albert. Unfortunately there are no recordings extant of her so we can’t know for certain.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I think that when someone’s talking we tend to tune out the fillers unless they’re extraordinary, such as excessively repetitive words or unexpectedly naughty ones. And in movies, TV shows and books, you don’t notice the lack of fillers because you’re usually focused on obtaining information from it. You can’t write dialogue for those the way people actually talk unless “like” or “um” is a character tag.

    4. Lynca*

      I’ve found that it’s less how you sound and more about what you are saying if you are not in a public speaking position. I work with people that should never do presentations but in meetings/group settings their verbal quirks aren’t a big deal.

    5. WellRed*

      I sympathize. my boss does either like or umm a lot and while it’s not distracting in a general conversation (if she even does it then), it can be distracting when she’s speaking to someone outside the company. It’s annoying to listen to, but unless you are giving feedback for a speech or something…

      1. NW Mossy*

        I think you’ve hit on something there with the context element. I find I notice someone’s verbal filler more when I’m already familiar with the substance of what they’re saying, and listening to someone from your company give an external presentation tends to play like that. When the content’s unfamiliar, though, your brain has to spend more energy on understanding that and will filter out the unimportant filler.

        1. Leisel*

          My boss says “mmmkay” like the horrible boss from Office Space, but he only does it when he’s speaking in a meeting to clients. When I speak to him on a regular basis I don’t recall him saying it to me or other people in our company. I think part of it is trying to find the right words to convey an idea, and his brain is thinking and speaking and not necessarily doing it as eloquently as he’d like. It usually happens when a client asks a question and he’s having to formulate the answer.

          Personally, I have the opposite problem from what you’re talking about. I can get over his “mmmkay-ing,” but I tend to lose focus if someone is using a lot of filler words with unfamiliar content. I was listening to a very interesting podcast one day where a musician was being interviewed. It was fascinating subject matter, but I could NOT get over them using “like” five times in one sentence. Agh! I turned it off about 20 minutes in.

    6. Amethystmoon*

      I agree, crutch words are something people should decide on their own to fix. There are ways to help fix them (hello, Toastmasters), but otherwise, it’s something personal. I’ve sat through many a company quarterly results meeting and tried to count the number of ahs and ums to stay awake. I lost track over 50, and that was from our CEO and CFO. I work for a fairly large corporation, so it’s quite common.

    7. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn for myself – sometimes, someone will communicate with a customer in a way that I wouldn’t (and sometimes this is my boss), but just because it’s not as “polished” as I would like doesn’t mean it’s bad.’

      This is me, and I sometimes have to remind myself I’m not listening for style, but for substance.

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I also think OP needs to realize that if some clients look down on it, it’s making your manager look bad, not your team. You may have an occasional client who judges the abilities of an entire team on the way their manager speaks, but I think it’s rare enough to fall into the “not something to worry about” bucket.

    9. Autumnheart*

      I just don’t think “like” matters in the context of professionalism in a lot of places. It’s a word that’s been in common parlance since, like, the 70s, and we’ve got 3 generations of people saying it, the older of which is now in middle- to upper management. I work for Household Name and plenty of people use “like” as a filler, as do our counterparts at Other Household Names who work with us.

      If visible tattoos, green hair, facial piercings, and jeans at work have not decimated the working world and its ability to do business, then I daresay “like” won’t either.

      1. twig*

        I was thinking this same thing. Those who started using “like” as a filler are now in their 50’s (maybe older?) — it doesn’t necessarily connote youth and ignorance anymore.

        Like, Nicolas cage was in Valley Girl — how old is he now? (Let alone Moon Unit Zappa the Original valley girl from Frank Zappa’s song :))

    10. Don’t Think About a Cat*

      As an otherwise articulate “like” user, I would like to point out that the word isn’t just necessarily filler. “Like” is a word that is still evolving, linguistically, and while it can be used to signal hesitation or delay, in a confident speaker it can carry other meanings. I know I use it when speaking quickly to connote “something close to” or “this is a guess”: “There were like 20 cats in that room!” meaning that for the purposes of this story you can imagine a mass of cats that, if time were taken to count, would be close to 20. “It was like 10 days ago,” same thing. This is very effective if the mass of cats/amount of time matters, but not in an exact fashion. I’m a veterinarian, and if someone tells me the cat had her last dose of medicine “like, a week ago” they are giving me a good enough answer and further signifying the number isn’t precise. It’s quite effective, really.

      They will take my “like” when they can pry it out of my feverishly clenched teeth.

      Here’s an article on the word’s evolution from the Atlantic, posted like 4 years ago:

    11. Chili*

      Taking linguistics classes in college was one of the best things I ever did. The more I learned about language– how it’s used, how it’s evolved– the better communicator I have become. A lot of K-12 language classes focus on the “rules” and the “right way” to say or write something, but there isn’t really one right way! Language is regional, generational, socio-economically-linked, creative, and constantly evolving. A lot of people’s pet peeves about language are linked to “the rules” they were taught in these limited contexts. Everyone has pet peeves, so it’s not wrong for people to be annoyed by certain things, but often the desire to “fix” things is misguided because nothing is really broken.

    12. Richard Hershberger*

      To expand on the “not even a problem” bit, peoples’ pet linguistic peeves are random and irrational.

      This is true even of the common ones. A generation or two back the use of “hopefully” as a sentence adverb (e.g. “Hopefully it won’t rain tomorrow.”) was a common peeve, and commonly cited as evidence of the decline of the English language. It turns out that it has been part of the language for centuries. It jumped in popularity in the 1960s, but so what? But once people, of the sort prone to such complaints, finally noticed it, performative gnashing of teeth became a standard ritual. This has mostly died down, but look it up in a usage manual and you will find an injunction to avoid it. These things often linger on for decades, or even centuries. See also: split infinitives, ending a sentence with a preposition, and the passive voice.

      In the case of verbal fillers, this is particularly silly. As the OP notes, everyone uses verbal fillers. A classic way for a reporter to make someone look like an idiot is to virtuously quote their speech verbatim, including the fillers. How can the victim complain? He was quoted accurately, after all! In regular life, we all know to delete this, often unconsciously, when we hear someone doing it. But the “random and irrational” aspect of peeves can kick in. If a particular verbal filler becomes associated with a particular demographic, latching onto it becomes an indirect way to complain about that demographic.

      Some people will react poorly to this use of “like.” Most won’t care, with many not even noticing. Sadly, there is no winning this. You can’t predict what random and irrational peeve someone is going to have. While there are some common ones, many others are idiosyncratic, and sometimes directly contradictory to someone else’s idiosyncratic peeve.

      Speaking of contradictory peeves, consider the Oxford comma. Some people will go into a howling rage at it, while others will howl at its absence. Life is too short to worry about this.

      That being said, if a specific individual in a position of authority over you has a linguistic peeve, discretion might call for humoring him. But in the general case? Find better things to worry about.

  3. Zip Silver*

    #3 – “while the administrative assistant and I were asked to share”

    You don’t specify in your letter what level Elsa is at. It may very well be that she’s at the point where giving her her own room is an accepted sort of thing, and giving her a larger gift is warranted (after all, the admin assistant didn’t get it, and we don’t know what your level in the structure is)

    1. Autistic Farm Girl*

      OP did say that she works in an admin team of 5, so i’m assuming all 5 of them (including Elsa) are admin assistants and therefore the same level.

    2. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      When I read that, I thought she was “asked” because Elsa said no, so I thought OP could say no also. And the admin asst could say no too.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      The gift is a little problematic, but I agree – we don’t have enough context to know if the room choice is problematic.

      And these are the only two concrete examples of favoritism given. That’s really flimsy. Unless you can see / document other examples of favoritism, I disagree with Alison, this is not solid enough to take to anyone. There’s a good chance it would make you look bad to do so.

      Keep your eyes open, sure, even document – but take six months to write everything down, then go back and look at the whole list. Last time I documented something, I realized it had stopped after two months and I didn’t need to take action.

    4. Numero3*

      Elsa and I are actually at the same level in terms of grade, only she manages departments while I manage higher-level projects & training. There is a manager at a higher level than me & Elsa, and the 4 of us all report directly to my supervisor.

  4. Zip Silver*

    #2 – ask your boss. I don’t eat lunch, because reasons (great way to maintain your weight if you only eat light breakfast/heavy dinner), and I normally put in about 7 hours. I’m the office manager though, so I make sure all my paperwork is done, all my tasks are done, and then cut out when I’m ready to. No lunch break, but it’s a personal choice. Also salaried exempt.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I agree. There are so many factors that a hard and fast rule doesn’t apply here. You could have a micromanaging, clock watching supervisor/CEO/insert higher up here and need to put in your 8 hours and add your lunch break on top of that. Or you could have a manager that actually trusts that you get your work done and treats you as an adult and doesn’t really care. Don’t make assumptions based on what others do, just go to your manager and discuss expectations.

      1. Leisel*

        For me it’s a desire to get out of the office for a bit. I’ll take a “lunch” but don’t necessarily go somewhere to eat…I might take a walk instead. My office has no windows, though. I need to go outside to see if the sun is still shining! My boss encourages everyone to get out for a bit, even if it’s 3pm. He understands all too well how these window-less offices are draining!

        I’ve had bosses before who felt like they needed to know where you were at all times…so you’re right – expectations are very different from office to office.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’ll depend on exempt vs non exempt along with state laws.

      We legally couldn’t allow non exempt skip lunch in some states. Whereas others allow waivers.

      Exempt employees aren’t required to get breaks like nonexempt. So that’s the difference.

      But asking is always best!

    3. rayray*

      I think all workplaces will be different, even with state laws considered.

      I worked where I was paid hourly. In the beginning, we just had to work 8 hours a day and got 1/2 hour break time. You didn’t have to clock out, and you could either split it into two 15 minute breaks or take it all together. I’d usually split it so I could take two walks during the day and then eat lunch at my desk. The firm grew, and then because we had more than 50 full time employees, our state law required that we have a half hour lunch break in addition to the two fifteen minute breaks but that lunch break didn’t need to be paid, so the firm made us clock out for that half hour. They did not allow us to combine the break time for a full hour, which was ridiculous but I didn’t bother fighting it too much.

      My job now is at a very small company. I work 9-5 and I get a full hour break in the middle. I work in a fun area, right downtown in my city. Sometimes I walk around the mall that’s here, just walk around aimlessly, or sometimes I play tourist and pop into the little museums and tourist sites around.

  5. Zip Silver*

    #1 – don’t worry about it. It’s a millennial phrase that’s sort of ingrained, and the Feds will be buying whatever weapons or planes your selling based on their specs, not how verbose your manager is.

    1. Gaia*

      Can we not with “it’s a millennial phase?”

      It isn’t a generational thing, it is something people of all ages do.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah. My grandboss is certainly not a millennial (Gen Xer), but he is from California, and “like” and “dude” are staples of his vocabulary (the latter admittedly more-so than the former).

        1. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

          Yep, another much-older-than-a-millennial Californian here, and I too use “like” pretty often.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          This can be a coastal thing, too. I’m an East Coast Xer, and my husband used to say getting me and my siblings together was one big “dude!”-fest. I don’t use “dude” at work much, but it’s, like, totally a staple of my casual vocab.

        1. Eukomos*

          “Can we not” could be argued to be primarily popular among millenials (though I’d argue Gen Z also uses it), but “like” is much much older.

      2. Yvette*

        It isn’t even a new(ish) thing. I graduated high school in the late 70’s and as early as middle school we were cautioned against over using “like” and other fillers such as “umm”, “ah”, “well”, “you know” etc. when speaking or presenting.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          I graduated in the late 60s and it was definitely a thing then. It’s so annoying when people don’t know any recent history yet speak with such authority.

          1. Avasarala*

            Seriously, I remember “like” as in “like zoinks, Scoob!” from original Scooby Doo cartoons and that was 1969.

            1. Clisby*

              And about every third word from Maynard G. Krebs on the Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

              “I’m like lost – doomed!”

        2. PhyllisB*

          Yep. Finished in 1970 myself; and my teachers were telling us the same thing. When I got to college, my public speaking instructor was merciless on that.
          Well, he did say a well planned pause could help you get your thoughts together, but mostly don’t use a lot of fillers.

          1. Yvette*

            Exactly, there is a difference between a moment of silence and saying “um, well, like…”

        3. SomebodyElse*

          I’m just giggling at the “Valley Girl in the 1990’s” reference above.

          ” Umm… like Valley was totally ’80s. Ya know, like gag me with a spoon”

          1. Rainbow Roses*

            All of a sudden the girls at my Midwestern high school started talking like valley girls I the 80’s. I’m surprised the teachers didn’t strangle them. I’m sure they wanted to!
            I look back and thank heavens that I was too nerdy to attempt to be cool and risk being laughed at, but even I overused “like.” Can’t stand it now as an adult.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Valley Girl talk was huge when I was in middle school. “Grody to the max” and “gag me with a spoon” were common. This was pre-’80s (I’m dating myself). I would not say these at work, however; not even then!

        4. nnn*

          That’s what I was thinking – the early adopters of “like” are by now in their 40s or even 50s, so the majority of the workforce has come up with “like” as part of their active vocabulary.

          1. Doc in a Box*

            Much older than that. It’s been common filler since the late 60s. Those early adopters are collecting Social Security.

      1. CaVanaMana*

        Like when millennials do it, we are being like literally ironic. Also, we are like nearing our 40s so irrelevant and old can we name start talking about gen z already? It’s 2020!

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yes, we’re killing the filler word industry. Next we’ll come for the avocado travel industry! Muwahahahaha.

    2. Beatrice*

      I have absolutely seen poor verbal presentation factor into a sunk deal. And not every Fed contract is weapons and planes – the US government needs an extremely wide array of commodities and services. OP doesn’t need to worry about it, but their grandboss might.

      1. MK*

        Are you certain it was a factor and not just about ”the deal is sunk, let’s list every single thing we didn’t like about the other party”? When a relationship of any kind goes off, people tend to start complaining about things that genuinely didn’t bother them before.

        1. Beatrice*

          Yes. It was a small factor, but it was an early one. Our companies had a 15 year relationship with them as our exclusive provider for a service, they assigned an account manager to us whose speech was kind of juvenile, and he had the habit of questioning things out loud that should not have been questions. (Drawing attention to things he didn’t know when a brief “I’ll get back to you on that” would have worked.) We lost confidence in them, conducted a thorough contract review that includes RFPs from their competitors, and wound up switching. There were other more pressing factors, but the account manager’s way of presenting himself kind of started the ball rolling.

          1. Government Employee*

            You’re confusing two entirely different things! Based on your description, your company lost the contract in part due to the manager’s “questioning things out loud that should not have been questions”, which is entirely different than if he used filler words.

            As someone who works for the federal government and has both hired and supervised contractors, I wouldn’t care if a contractor used “um” or “like” frequently in our conversations, but I would care if the contractor started asking questions about things he should already know.

          2. Observer*

            That’s very, very different from what the OP is describing, though. Verbal filler may be annoying and a bit sloppy. But it doesn’t say “I have no idea”, which is apparently what your rep was telegraphing.

      2. Jedi Squirrel*

        And not every Fed contract is weapons and planes – the US government needs an extremely wide array of commodities and services.

        Absolutely. All those workers drink coffee and wipe their butts. A lot of procurement is for very mundane things, like ink pens.

      3. JLB*

        Agreed that presentation quirks can be a factor because it influences the perception of confidence and trust in the presenter. I sat in on a recent pitch where the outside company brought a team of 5 well-established professionals. THREE chewed gum throughout the entire presentation, including the owner – a successful, mature woman who did 90 percent of the talking!

        That came up in the review. While gum chewing was not the reason they didn’t get the contract, it definitely would have added a negative slant because it eroded their professionalism.

        Moreover, I’ve know that company owner for years. Frankly, I was shocked because it’s just such a basic speaking No No. I seriously wondered if I should mention this to her later (lots later when I find myself with her in an informal settings), but like the person above – not my role.

      4. Observer*

        To a large extent, though, @Zip Silver is correct. Specs and price are generally going to be the most important, or even only, factors that come into play.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I can, like, totally assure you that it was, like, a thing then. For sure.

          It’s also regional. My town here in the UK is well known for its liberal use of like and man, and has been for centuries.

          1. Quill*

            If you sound like Buffy you don’t sound like someone born in the 90’s when the show aired, you sound like someone born in the late 70’s (given that most teens on tv are played by 20-somethings and written by people older than that.)

            People were like, mocking whatever teenage girls did five years ago, since before I was born in 92.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Look up Frank Zappa’s Valley Girl.
          He was Babyboom, he was talking about Babybust (ie GenX).

    3. Quoth the Raven*

      In my case, English is not my native language and I’ve never been to California, and I still use like when I’m speaking informally, and sometimes formally (“dude” and “man” are also part of my regular speech, though I can fortunately reign them in when I’m not around English speaking friends). I picked it up from media and from other people!

      1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

        We live in countries where English is the second or third language. It used to amaze us how frequently people used the words you listed when speaking English, until we found out that people were learning/polishing English by watching movies, TV, or playing games online. They talk what they hear. They tell us that their languages also have these “place-holders”. When they named some of them, they were words we just thought belonged in the sentence. ;)

        1. Quill*

          If you want to pass as more fluent in spanish than you actually are, use ‘pues’ (literally ‘well…’) every time you have to pause to figure out words or phrasing.

          Source: How I passed my final spanish oral exam for my minor.

          1. Lexin*

            I remember when I did German (the noughties, not when I was in school) being taught the German pause words like “schon” and “doch”. At least, that’s what I remember, I could be wrong.

            1. anonymous 5*

              According to one of my German teachers, even the Goethe-Institut was encouraged to teach such words in order to prevent the students from “sounding like robots.” This was within the past 3 years, so I’m inclined to trust your memory!

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          I’ve never had a good enough basic foundation in any non-English language I’ve learned to be able to absorb colloquialisms via media, but one of my grad school roommates was from Nanjing and had polished her English by watching Real Housewives of Wherever and Prison Break. It made for some really hilarious (and informative, for both of us!) conversations.

    4. Doc in a Box*

      Any time someone says millennial, just replace it with “adults under 40.” See how ridiculous it is?

  6. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

    LW2 I’m in Australia, but at my job our business hours are 9am-5pm with roughly a half hour lunch break. Our salary is based on a working week of 37.5 hours rather than 40, so the break is already factored in. In my experience it would be odd for a 40-hour work week to require you to work 8am-5pm, that’s not 40 hours!

    1. Sorrel*

      Yes! I’m the UK And all jobs once had have been 37 or 37.5 hours a week – so usually 7.5 hours Monday-Thursday. Then either the same Friday, or 7 hours on a Friday. (Usually with the option to work longer hours earlier in the week so you can leave ad midday Friday.

      1. MisDirected(UK)*

        I’m in the UK too and all offices I’ve worked at or encountered have a standard 37.5 hour a week contract. Most places now have a flexible approach to that – for example our office is open from 6:30 am to 7:30pm and everyone fits their 7.5 hours (plus whatever breaks they require) into that. I usually do 8 til 4:30 with an hour lunch then longer on a Friday to make up for the longer lunches, because that fits with my childcare availability.

    2. Perfectly Particular*

      I’ve only worked at 2 companies, but they have both been minimum 8-5 with an hour for lunch, and if you care to advance in the company, you really need to be adding an additional 30-60 minutes/day (salaried, exempt obviously). The 1st one considered us to work 37.5 hour weeks, and my current company calls this 40 hours. I don’t think this is uncommon in technical and project/team based work.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        My current company in theory has a 37.5 hour work week (and pays us based on that), but in reality most of us are exempt and work at least 40 hours. I work 9-5:30 every day and rarely take an actual lunch.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      I am at work, for my city govt in the US, for 42.5 hours a week with a 30 minute lunch break. I work 40 hours a week.

      And if they make a mistake on the schedule and I work 39.5 hours, I have to use comp time to make my hours come out to 40.

      No idea why but we must work 40 hours.

    4. Lynca*

      If it’s considering 8-5 to be 40 hours, it’s my experience (in the US) they aren’t factoring lunch or cumulative breaks in. Where I work gives you a lot of start/stop time options and options for how long you want lunch to be. I worked 8-5 for years with it being 40 hours, because the 1 hour lunch wasn’t counted as working hours.

    5. Asenath*

      I’m in Canada, and even within my former employer, hours vary by classification and department. I was given the option of starting work at 8 or 9, and finishing at 4 or 4:30, including an hour lunch and 15 minutes coffee break. Our office was very flexible – I often started early or finished late or changed my lunch hour, but in other departments, the schedule was more rigid, usually if they dealt with people outside the institution. However, we aren’t paid for lunch – we worked a 35 hour week. It’s never thought of as an unpaid lunch, though, possibly because it was pretty flexible if you weren’t in one of those where you had to take lunch at 1-2. The coffee break (which we generally never bothered with) was paid. You could tell the difference when you applied for leave – 1 day was 7 hours (all leave was calculated in hours).

    6. snowglobe*

      My hours are 8-5 with an hour (unpaid) lunch. That’s 40 working hours per week. I’ve never had a job where the lunch hour (where people actually leave the office at lunch) is paid or where it is considered part of the 8 hour work day.

      1. Jean*

        Same. It’s heavily dependent on what industry you’re in. I work in inside sales for a company that manufactures industrial components. We’re coverage-focused, because people need to be here and available when our customers are working. But management also wants us taking that unpaid midday break where we can be completely checked out of work, since the work is pretty fast paced and can be mentally draining. I like the unpaid 1 hour lunch. It’s nice to have my own time in the middle of the day to eat, nap, run errands, or whatever. And since it’s unpaid I never feel obligated to stay at my desk or keep my phone on.

    7. Okay*

      This is hilarious (in a completely sarcastic way) because a couple years ago I asked a related question and the response was “What are you talking about? I’ve never heard of places with a 37.5 hour working week.”

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I used to work at a job that was hourly and it was a 37.5 hr work week (8:30 to 5 with 1 hour unpaid lunch) the reason was that somewhat regularly but not everyday people would need to stay past 5 to get certain work done. This allowed people to stay late a few days a week without having to ask for overtime permission. .

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s super common so I’m surprised (and I would have thought I’d jump in unless it was an open thread or I otherwise missed it — but in those days I was pretty good about seeing most comments)! Do you have the link, by chance?

      3. TurquoiseCow*

        My current job and my previous job (which I started in 2008) both operate on 37.5 hour work weeks. The old job’s hours were 8:30-4:45 with a 45 minute lunch break and this one is 8:30-5 with an hour lunch break (although not everyone takes a full lunch break and obviously people often work later than the end hours or come in earlier).

        Since both places have had both exempt and non-exempt workers, I figured the 37.5 hours was so that people could work a few extra hours and not hit overtime pay.

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Except that working 8-5 and taking an hour lunch break IS 40 hours. The bottom line is that every company is different and the OP just needs to speak to their manager about what is expected.

    9. Ptarmigan*

      OP here. It was explicitly spelled out as 8-5 or 8:30-5:30 (etc., usually the employee’s choice) early in my career. It’s not the kind of thing I need or want to ask my boss about at this point. I’m just curious when I see people making the opposite assumption, sometimes within the same company.

    10. ThatGirl*

      I’ve been in a variety of offices/roles, and even here at my current company it seems to vary – it seemed like lunch was considered “paid” in customer service (meaning part of the 8-hr work day) and “unpaid” in marketing (so I take a half hour lunch and am at work for 8 1/2 hours). At my last job it was considered unpaid so I didn’t really take a lunch, just a short break to heat it up/go to the cafeteria so that I could leave earlier.

      But there are plenty of companies/workplaces in the US where the week is technically 37.5 hours, as you say.

  7. Diahann Carroll*

    OP # 4

    Your boss may be planning to expand your team and that’s why he took the other responsibilities away from you. You said that you were initially hired to do A, but over time you saw scope creep in your role to include those other responsibilities – it’s possible your manager has now gotten approval for the headcount he probably should have had from the beginning and wants you to focus back on what he actually hired you to do, especially if it’s your strength. Which isn’t to say you’re bad at the other tasks you absorbed – I don’t know enough about you or your work to say that for certain. However, many people get handed job responsibilities that don’t necessarily play to their strengths as employees, but at the time, they’re the most sensible employee to give those tasks to. Your boss may prefer you to be really great at A and hire someone else who can be really great at the other stuff so that he’s getting exceptional work on all of the tasks and not just great work on A and so-so work on the other stuff.

    Or it’s possible that you’re knocking everything out of the park, but your manager knows that more of those other tasks or responsibility A will be coming down the pike, and this is more about capacity/bandwidth concerns than anything. It’s always better to increase headcount before someone gets too overloaded with work and burns out. Alison’s script is good because you don’t want to sound paranoid and your boss will (hopefully) be willing to discuss his thought process here (and, ideally, he should have done that when he told you he was shifting everything that wasn’t task A to someone else).

    Good luck, and I hope everything works out for you.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      LW, I relate to your question because of a parallel experience.

      I had lost time from work because of an accident. Previous to the accident I was doing X, which was a key project in our place.

      When I returned to work I was taken off X and moved to Y, where Y was a mixed pile of less desirable projects. I felt I had to accept any work they gave me because of my unpaid leave.

      My husband said to me, “What do they pay you to do X?” I named a figure. Then he said, “And what do they pay you to do Y?” Well, it’s the same figure, same pay. He said, “Then don’t worry about it. Just do your best.” (At this point, it dawned on me that Y was A LOT less hard work, than X. Project X was a very demanding project.)

      I did my darnest every. single. day. at this less desirable project. In odd turn around, the good project X, turned out to be one of the biggest workplace nightmares I have ever seen. Seriously BAD. The company finally extracted itself from this ordeal, er, uh, project. All that was left was more of Y project, the less desirable work. Everyone ended up doing parts of Y with me. By then, I was really good at Y. I was great at trouble shooting and I was great at meeting deadlines. So I ended up in a good spot.

      Sometimes those closest to us can get a read on a situation and nail it down long before we see what is happening. My gut here says that your husband has listened to stuff about your workplace and probably has made a reasonable assessment on your situation. From my own experience, I’d add do your absolute best every day. I beefed up my efforts on Y, I came up with streamlining ideas, cost savings, increases in accuracy and so on. Management watched how I handled things. Later, I was given a wide variety of interesting projects because of transferable skills/knowledge from doing oh-so-much of undesirable Y. Ride it out, OP. It sounds like you will be okay here.

    2. Adlib*

      I hope it works out for OP. In my experience, the writing was on the wall at a job I got fired from by them reducing my workload under the guise of sharing it with another person who had transitioned off of a major project so needed stuff to do. Alison’s advice is great because it is definitely worth asking about. If they like their job, hopefully they get to stay!

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah I think a really important factor is *why* OP absorbed those other roles. Is it because that was something they expressed interest in? Or was it offered as a growth opportunity? Or did they lose people and needed these activities covered. If it’s the latter then hopefully this is a case of finally getting the coverage they were meant to have this whole time.

    4. Artemesia*

      Never ask if you are going to be fired as that normalizes it. They may WANT to fire you but feel they can’t (lots of places let people get sidelined and coast for years) Once you float it as a possibility it becomes a more real possibility.

      I would be nervous and would want to explore how they see the role evolving — are they expecting more of the kinds of work you do or do they need you to take on something else. Why have they changed the role? You do this in the spirit of planning and also finding out if you need to be doing anything specific to get ready for a new direction. IF they then vague around and don’t make eye contact or are jovial and ‘we just thought you had too much on your plate’ then get that resume ready. You don’t have to take a new job just because you start a job search, but it is handy to have it underway if it becomes clear you are going to need to make a move.

      Good luck.

    5. Glen*

      If you’re in an ‘at-will’ employment situation that level of paranoia is normal. It sounds like you’ve also had situations where a job that felt secure dropped out from under you unexpectedly. Over the past few decades I’ve just gotten in the habit of planning for any job to suddenly go bad, 6+ months of living expenses in liquid assets and a plan in place to trim sails and reduce expenses. When I get raises I always put anything that goes beyond may living expense increase into savings.

      But I have an almost supernatural gift for choosing employers that will go bankrupt or get bought out. That may be what’s happening in your case. Your company or group may be undergoing ‘structural changes’ and they may have given you a raise because they like you, and know they have to let you go without warning. Maybe because they’re trying to keep a buyout secret, and your job is going to be rendered redundant.

      Or maybe you’re just paranoid, but if you’ve been in the job a long while and everything feels strange and awkward and weird with your employers yeah, it never hurts to pour money into paying off credit card debt and build up some emergency savings.

  8. Diahann Carroll*

    OP #3

    It’s extremely tacky that your boss told everyone what your gifts costs in a group setting when she knew she spent way more on one person that everyone else (who does this?). Poor judgment all around with that one it seems.

    1. Mookie*

      (Love your ‘nym)

      I never understand how or why a supervisor even needs to let these things happen AT work and AROUND colleagues and peers. Setting aside the inadvisable relationship, why not just share these gifts privately with Elsa on one of their many outings? Or at lunch, between the two of them alone? Why bring that weird dynamic into a gift exchange—practically bragging about the disparate treatment—when you could just be discreet about your unprofessionalism? Is Elsa so insecure and/or obsequious that the boss performs these public displays to the rest of the team to make sure Elsa and everyone else know she’s first in the boss’s heart and esteem?

      1. Lexin*

        This is a good point, my managers always give me and the Admin Manager (I’m the PA) nice presents, but because they don’t give presents to all the staff, they give us ours in private. And we don’t talk about them.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        I think you may have nailed it about why the boss did this, which adds a whole other layer of weirdness and unprofessionalism to this situation.

      3. MK*

        True. I gave the clerk who supports me at work (admin person who does support work for about 100 people) a small holifay gift and I did it almost furtively, when my colleagues and the rest of the staff weren’t there. I wouldn’t want to do it front of other clercks (we are talking hundreds of people in total), because, even though it makes sense that I only gave a gift for the person who directly supports me, it would feel awkward to me. I also wouldn’t want a colleague of mine to feel that they should have done something similar, when they might not have thought to or possibly couldn’t afford it.

  9. Michael*

    Honestly, the whole lunch thing kind of baffles me – I’ve never worked at a job where anyone was policing things like that, and now that I’m managing a bunch of teams I can’t imagine taking the time out of my day to try to figure out how long people’s lunches are (or, for that matter, if they’re in the office at 9 or 9:15 or 8:45 or whatever). If the work is getting done and your co-workers can find you when they need you, isn’t that all that counts?

    1. Michael*

      To expand, this might sound dramatic, but honestly if I ever walked in to a new firm and was told that the company was going to track how long I took to eat lunch or whether I showed up exactly at 9 AM, I’d probably be pretty seriously put off from the job. That’s just not treating people like professionals (or adults), IMO.

      1. Not Australian*

        Some managers just start out with the expectation that their staff intend to screw them over and take advantage of their good nature, so they police the little stuff and ignore – for example – the quality of their work and their attitude to it.

      2. Rainbow Roses*

        Depends on the job and if you’re hourly or salary. At my job, we are hourly and they need to keep track of when you actually work so they will pay you for the time you actually work. They also need to make sure you’re actually taking a break per law and not working off the clock.

        1. Sunflower*

          Just because you’re hourly doesn’t mean they need to keep track of everything- when I was hourly at my company, we filled out time sheets and didn’t have time clocks. The company trusted us to accurately report the data.

    2. Tau*

      I understand where you’re coming from, but honestly, whether or not lunch is included in my work time makes a fairly big difference (2.5.5hrs per week; whether on average I ought to be leaving at 4pm or 5pm). Even if my manager doesn’t notice I want to know, so I know how I should be planning my day and whether or not I’m fulfilling my contracted hours with my current schedule.

      1. Herding Butterflies*

        +1. I’m exempt and I don’t take lunch as I’ve found that I can’t get re-motivated if I take a half-hour or hour break at mid-day. It takes me almost another hour to get re-engaged.

        I’m a lot more effective if I take 15 minutes to eat and then keep going. Plus I then leave an hour earlier.

        My manager and teammates know this and don’t care. I’m also not the only one who does this. But unfortunately our accounting team and c-suite are a different matter as they expect everyone to be in for 9 hours and take an hour for lunch. So this is something we have to tiptoe around.

        1. Michael*

          Definitely a cultural divide – the idea of a weekly hour quota set by contract is alien to me. I don’t feel like I hire people to do X hours of work, I hire people to get Y job done, and if that takes 42 hours one week or 35 hours the next week, that’s totally fine. My totally knee-jerk reaction to that idea is that it sounds like it would lead to a lot of people sitting around playing Solitaire during slow periods and then things not getting done during busy periods (like the lead-up to signing a major new client), but obviously I’ve never managed in that setting so I have no idea if that’s the case.

          Frankly, on just a gut level though, I just kinda hate it. Something about the idea of being hired for a set number of weekly hours feels mechanical and bureaucratic, like I’m in interchangeable cog in a machine and not a skilled professional making decisions about my priorities and use of time. Obviously the other extreme sucks too, and it’s good to be protected from being pressured into working unsustainable hours, but to me (and I’m really just saying to me) the idea sounds deeply unappealing.

          If nothing else, if my work is done, I want to go home!

          1. Tau*

            So to be clear, there’s at least two potential contexts here:

            1) the one where you need to work exactly X hours a week, no more no less, for instance if your company is billing your work to a client. I’ve been in this situation before, and although I didn’t find it that bad it is indeed fairly unpleasant at times. (I actually struggled the most with the opposite angle – when it’s 4pm and everything is on fire, it does not feel great to say “sorry, my time is up, see you Monday” and head out the door.)

            2) the one where you have a work contract that says you ought to work X hours per week on average. My last job had this and I could totally work 42 hours one week and 35 hours the next and nobody was counting. But, y’know… I still want to know what a “normal” week should look like for me, and whether I can justifiedly go “hey, boss, now that the X project is over, mind if I leave early Friday?” or if the hours I was pulling were expected.

            Of note is that my job usually involves a near-infinite backlog of “nice-to-have”s and “we need to get to this at some point but it’s not super urgent right now”, so although we might have weekly targets “done” doesn’t really exist. But even without that, I’d expect a boss to have some idea of what normal hours should look like for a given role and adjust the workload (or the part-time/full-time status) accordingly if someone comes too far over or under. Which means there’s likely an $n per week they expect people to average out to – and 5 hours is big enough to make a noticeable difference there.

            1. Marie*

              I’ve never worked on a contract in the USA nor has any other professional I’ve known. I understand contracts are pretty standard in the UK (my Scottish bestie has a job similar to mine and we compare notes). I would prefer a contract to be honest. As it is, I get no protections and my employers have to treat me decently or I can walk.

        2. Anonnnnn*

          I think it’s not just cultural, but also related to location. Not taking a lunch means I can avoid the worst of traffic–which was not really an issue when I worked in a small town.

      2. Michael*

        Tau – to be clear, though, I’m pushing back on the entire idea of ‘work time,’ not just the part about whether lunch should be included in it. Obviously if you’re being held to a set number of hours, it’s important what does and doesn’t count towards that – but (at least in my cultural context) I’ve never seen a good manager that cares deeply about their direct-reports working precisely the ‘right’ amount of time each week, as opposed to 1) is everyone getting their work done, 2) can people’s co-workers find them as needed, and 3) on the other end, are everyone’s hours sane and healthy. If the answer to all three is yes, does it really matter if it’s 35 or 37.5 or 40?

        1. BigGlasses*

          It completely depends on the kind of work being done. I’ve worked in roles where the vast majority of my work that needed to get done was directly billable to clients by the hour. (Assuming that there is sufficient work to keep me occupied) if I do 35 hours instead of 37.5, I haven’t gotten my work done from the company perspective regardless of how productive I was/how much I accomplished, because (to completely oversimplify it) it’s the *client* who cares about results, the *company* cares that I did X amount of billable hours. The service I’m providing to the company is fairly literally my time spent against their projects.

          This pretty much applies to any job — although less directly — in which there’s a backlog of could-be-done-any-time work instead of time-bound tasks to be done this week/month/quarter. “Did I get my work done?” becomes a fairly meaningless question if your job is to keep working on a pipeline of stuff for the duration of your required hours and there’s no point at which you are ‘done’.

          FTR, I *hated* the parts of my job that were required because of this setup and don’t work in an environment like that any more, but management definitely had their reasons for caring specifically about time given what they were selling.

    3. Zip Silver*

      I have, hilariously (to me), had team leaders report to me when members of their teams weren’t talking exactly handbook-specified lunch breaks and wanting me to alter their time cards. The look on these faces of these two when I told them that I do not care at all about 15 minutes was priceless. They ended up calling corporate HR about my inaction, and basically got told to buzz off and not worry about it.

      Apparently the prior office manager watched everybody’s time clocks like Rainman and would dick anybody who wasn’t exact, and trained her team leaders to do the same.

      They were oh so surprised when I told them that I only care about overall labor budget, and I’m not going to waste my $40/hour watching everybody’s time punches when they buy soda.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Thanks that was the laugh I needed to get myself moving this morning. (The followup was perfect.)

    4. TechWorker*

      We don’t track how long people take for lunch* but we’re on a 37.5 hr contract, not including lunch, so it *is* useful to discuss expected hours because lots of people do exactly their hours most days (eg 9 to 5.30 with an hour lunch). Others take more than an hour to go running/cycling etc and that’s totally fine as long as work gets done (and average hours are enough).

      *disclaimer – if I see someone on my team who I know is on deadline take multiple long lunch breaks and leave at the same time I might * consider* saying something but that would be about whether the work was getting done.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, exactly. This might be a US/UK difference, because here in the UK we have employment contracts (which are open-ended, and often more like a letter that you sign agreeing to the terms of your employment – I mention this because I’ve seen US commenters here assuming that a UK employment contract is fixed-term) but my employment terms are set out as 37.5 hours a week with an hour’s unpaid lunch every day. No one polices what time I take my lunch, although if I started taking an hour and a half every day, someone would definitely have a word with me about it, and the bosses do generally like to know if someone has a regular working pattern that differs from the norm (such as someone wanting to always take lunch from 12-1pm, whereas most people take 1-2pm), simply because it’s useful to know people’s schedules so you’re not wondering where they are at 12.15. Like you, because we have contracted hours and we’re not paid overtime, most of the time people work their contracted hours and no more, but people do often take shorter lunch breaks in order to leave work early, or longer ones if they have some sort of commitment like a gym class, so they’d adjust their hours to leave work later, and as long as their boss is happy with that, it’s fine.

        1. MsSolo*

          mm, this is where I’m coming at it too, also from the UK. The contract is to work (in my case) 37.25 hours a week, and I can take as long or a short an unpaid lunch as I like as long as I work those hours, with limitations on how long the office is open for (so I need to be gone by 7 if I don’t want to be locked in).

        2. Lexin*

          I’m from the UK, too, and that’s what it’s like where I work. I work for central government, so I suspect the same rules apply across the sector.

          We work flexi-time (which is brilliant) and our normal hours are 37 per week, worked over a ‘core time’ of 10:00 to 16:00, taking at least 20 minutes for lunch, which is unpaid. You are not allowed to take no lunch at all, but as long as it’s at least 20 minutes it can be any time between 12:00 and 14:00. You can start your day any time after 07:00 and finish any time up to 19:00. If you want to work outside those hours, you can probably do so, but need managerial agreement.

          Overtime is only by managerial agreement, and special rules apply.

          1. londonedit*

            We have flexible hours but slightly less flexible than that – official office hours are 9-5.30, and core hours are 10-4. The earliest you’re allowed to start is 7.30am (leaving at 4pm) and the latest you’re allowed to stay is 6.30pm (starting at 10am), and you also have to agree a set working pattern with your manager. So you can’t decide on a whim to come in at 10am and work until 6.30 one day, and then do 8-4.30 another day; it’s more that you agree with your manager that your regular working hours will be 10am to 6.30pm, but of course there is flexibility and no one is going to mind if you say to your boss ‘Hey, I need to leave at 5.30 tomorrow so I’ll be in at 9’. People have also negotiated a 30-minute (unpaid) lunch break, so they’ll work something like 9-5 or 10-6 as a regular pattern, depending on their schedule.

          2. Tau*

            Things I miss from the UK: flexitime and <40 hour work weeks. German standard seems to be 40 with an unpaid lunch break (often in the 1 hour range), and although in principle the whole "we won't track your hours and trust you to manage your time and workload" thing sounds great, in practice I'm overly conscientious at times and suspect the time balance ends up in my employer's favour more often than not.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Depends on your field. Mine is strictly scheduled so we all take a set break and lunch together, but I suppose that is partly down to safety reasons (it’s not really safe to be digging holes alone).

    6. Thankful for AAM*

      At my job for a city, policing lunch IS a big part of the manager’s job.
      Everyone is hourly and every minute has to be accounted for. We cannot work for 39 hours and 59 minutes, it must equal 40 hours and managers have to review each week and report us for punching 1 minute early or late and we have to use comp time to bring our hours to 40 even if we were scheduled for 39.5 (we should have caught the error).

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I worked an hourly job at a law firm many moons ago, and this was true for us as well. HR would send nastygrams to our supervisors if they saw people clocking in after taking more than an hour for lunch – it just wasn’t done. People got written up for repeated time card issues.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Hourly, corporate, and the company has interpreted a common state law that 30 minutes unpaid lunch break must be provided to mean that 30 minutes unpaid lunch break must be taken. In my state, that interpretation hasn’t held up in court, but this Corporation works across many states. (And I’m just glad they aren’t making my state follow California’s OT rules! That would be the desth knell for the way we do flextime.)

      3. Sunflower*

        Are you guys subject to the rule where your time is either rolled up or down if you punch out X minutes after 15 minute intervals?

      4. kittymommy*

        In our county organization it depends on the type of job. I’m exempt and get an hour (which if you are full time everyone gets regardless of exempt/non-exempt) but because I don’t cover anyone or need coverage it’s pretty loose. However some offices do need coverage as being government we must have availability to citizens during advertised hours, so yeah, they get monitored (if they don’t have a punch clock).

    7. Sunflower*

      I totally agree. I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere where my boss would have time to do that. Sure if I disappeared for over an hour everyday, she’d probably have some questions but generally, everyone expects that some time between the hours of 12-2pm, people are at lunch and may not be reachable.

      When I was non-exempt at a law firm, I worked 9-5 with an hour for lunch(so I worked 35 hours a week). We didn’t clock in or out- sometimes people worked through lunch and didn’t put it in their time sheets, sometimes we took longer than an hour lunch- no one was policing our coming and going.

      I don’t think I’d be cool working somewhere that required me to do a 8-5 or 9-6 day with an hour lunch. I don’t like the whole required break thing, especially for adults who are working in jobs that don’t require constant coverage. A lot of people work through lunch and that just feels like a way to get free labor.

    8. Not a Dr*

      My manager does not track this, but I track my own hours! I want to know when I have worked my 37.5 and am good to go. Some weeks I may stay longer, some less. But it brings me peace of mind.

      1. Lexin*

        We’ve always had to hand in flexi-sheets (tracking hours worked and how much flexi-time you’ve accumulated as you can take an excess as leave) and just recently have changed to online flexi-tracking. The main difference is that it’s a web-based system, but you still forward it to your boss every four weeks.

        Online flexi-tracking seems to be a bit hit or miss – you would expect a computer to be able to calculate it correctly, but it appears not to be so.

    9. Lucy P*

      We’re 8:30 – 5:00 with half an hour unpaid lunch. The company is very rigid in its time schedule. It feels that that due to the nature of the work we do, people have to all be in the office at the same time for collaborative measures.

      New people often try to skip lunch and then leave at 4:30, which is against policy. I was given the police role. Therefore I’m the one who has to explain to each person that they have to take a lunch, even if they’re just sitting and their desk and not working (eating is not a company requirement).

      1. Michael*

        This sounds absurd to me. First of all, the fact that it’s unpaid – huh? So your firm requires you to be in a specific place, doing a specific thing, but it’s somehow it’s not work time for which you need to be compensated? Mind boggling.

        Moreover, I’m, deeply skeptical about this idea that an incredibly strict timekeeping regime promotes collaboration. I work in an intensely collaborative industry and I think giving people flexibility and autonomy is way more conducive to a collaborative environment than rigid adherence to procedure (also, literally everyone is always reachable by e-mail and cell).

        1. Lucy P*

          Didn’t say I agreed, just that it’s the policy. Also, it’s not specifically what people should be doing for half an hour, but more specifically what they shouldn’t be doing–working.

          There is some flexibility there though, if someone was leaving early for the day (say 2:00), then they could skip lunch and keep working.

        2. Tau*

          Mandatory lunch break laws are fairly common in Europe (also California, I think?) Nobody is saying that you must eat, or that you must stay on company premises, just that you need to step away from the work and do something else for a while.

    10. Salsa Your Face*

      Agreed. For a long time I worked at a place where we ran multi-day corporate workshops (kind of–it’s not worth getting into here.) If there were clients in the office, we worked the hours of the workshop, no matter what they were, and we had lunch (and sometimes dinner) breaks built into the schedule. The rest of the time we were allowed to do what we wanted. Want to come in at 10? Want to work from home? Want to take a 3 hour lunch? That’s fine, just get your work done.

      Now I’m at a new job with a more typical schedule, but it’s still very lax. Officially the office runs from 9 to 5, but people are allowed to do whatever they want for lunch. If that means taking an hour to go eat at the nearby mall, that’s fine–again, as long as your stuff gets done. The work is distributed evenly so if Bob has time for long lunches and you don’t, then it’s on you to up your productivity.

      I can’t imagine working at a place that micromanaged everyone’s time to make sure we were all staring into screens for the exact same number of minutes per day. It sounds like a demoralizing hell.

    11. ThatGirl*

      I’ve never seen anyone here micromanage lunches or worry about a few minutes, but when I was in customer service we needed phone coverage, so it did matter in that lunches were staggered and person B couldn’t go eat until person A came back. That’s less of a concern when coverage isn’t an issue, of course.

    12. Mia*

      I’m guessing you don’t manage teams of non-exempt employees or roles that require specific coverage. In a lot of states, lunch breaks of a certain length are mandatory for the former; and for the latter, taking an unexpectedly long break can inadvertently screw over someone else. I definitely don’t think bosses should be micromanaging their employees’ time or anything, but sometimes specific guidelines are necessary.

      1. Michael*

        Definitely the case – I manage about half a dozen teams of consultants, who are salaried/exempt and working on projects for their clients (timescale is usually several months to a year).

        I totally get that for roles that require coverage (front desk, customer service, etc.) there needs to be a system to deal with that, but leaving those specific jobs aside, it really does seem like all that should matter is the work getting done. For me (and I really mean just for me, obviously different people care about different things) the whole idea of being told when I can or can’t go grab a coffee or leave 30 min early to meet up with my wife or whatever just feels… demeaning, honestly.

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        I agree with Mia on this one. There seems to be a conflation in this thread between “micromanaging” and setting up guidelines and policies that people are expected to adhere to. Those aren’t the same thing. And it absolutely does depend on the industry, the workplace, etc.

        I work in a production environment with lots of hand-offs and cooperative work. “Getting your work done” often requires 2 or 3 other people being there because you’ve got to hand something off 2 or 3 times in a day, or coordinate specs on something, etc. Nobody wants to sit around for half an hour in the morning wondering whether Jane is going to show up at 9:45 or 10:00 or whenever she jolly well feels like it.

        1. Michael*

          Totally agree that setting policies and micromanaging aren’t the same thing. I probably should have been more clear that I’m talking about the types of places the OP mentioned in her letter, i.e. office-professional jobs where everyone is exempt and salaried. Obviously in some contexts, like at a call center, or if people are being paid hourly, things are really different. And it makes sense that in your context, that’d be true as well.

          That said, I think there are a *huge* swathe of office jobs that *do* care about timekeeping way more than they should.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Right, but that’s not addressing the middle ground – there are a lot of jobs where you may not be strictly bound by hourly coverage requirements (eg front desk) but it’s still really unhelpful if your colleagues can’t easily or quickly find you. If you need information or a sign-off from other people and have to spend half the day wandering around going “has anyone seen my team?”, to find that Jane has left early to go to yoga, Fergus is on a three-hour lunch and Mike’s meeting his wife for coffee… in a lot of jobs that’s going to get old really fast.

            (I’m not saying no flexibility ever, I would love more flexibility in my own job! But I often feel like I’m going crazy on this site when people act like there can be no possible reasons why a professional salaried job might still want people to generally be in approximately the same place at the same kind of time each day.)

  10. Diamond*

    I work in Government where the official hours are 8am to 4.21pm, with an hour for lunch.

    Yes, 4.21pm. All of state Government. No, no one really knows why but everyone accepts it. It doesn’t make the week add up to anything in particular. It’s just a weird thing that you forget is weird until you tell someone from elsewhere (anyone else who lives where I do will know where this is!)

    1. Dash*

      Oh my goodness, I’m there too!
      The explanation I got was that it’s 36.75 hours working plus a 1 hour lunch break every day, which is the federal award.

      What’s funny is that everywhere else went from 8:30-4:51, but ours was shifted forwards because weather/daylight.

      1. Diamond*

        Hello! That’s the award is it? I wonder why they didn’t just made it 37 hours, or 38 which is standard full time hours!

    2. So Not The Boss Of Me*

      Oh please, please tell us it’s so your work day doesn’t end at 4:20. Haha. I don’t know where you are, but guessing it’s not CO.

    3. Musereader*

      My day starts at 9:06 and ends at 17:00 because 37 hours per week/5 days is 7hr 24 minutes work per day with unpaid 1/2 hour lunch.

      In reality I can show up within 1/2 hour of my start and end times, or take an hour lunch and extend the day as long as I do an average of 7:24 per day, sometimes I get stuck on something at the end of the day and record a eg 7:40 but then I can knock the extra off the next day.

    4. Pretzelgirl*

      That reminds me of my high school start and end times. I cant remember the exact start time, but it was somewhere along the lines of 7:39 and our end time was 3:08 (I can remember end time, lol). I am sure it had to do with state guidelines at the time.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Bus schedules.

        The length of time is state guidelines, but the actual start times is 90% bus schedules and having to share busses with other schools.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, the offset is always bus schedules, and once you get a district large enough school start and end times at one end of the bus route vs. the other get a little bizzare.

          Currently the elementary school my neighborhood belongs to starts at 7AM and the high school lets out at 4:45 PM

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      My husband works for the federal government and I’m often baffled by their “rules” that make no logical sense.

    6. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      My inlaws had (UK) government jobs with a similar weird timetable.

      It turned out that over the year those odd minutes added up to the three working days between Christmas and New Year. So the whole place was closed, and everyone had already worked the hours so didn’t have to work or lose pay. You don’t notice a few minutes per day but you definitely notice eight consecutive days out of the office!

      1. Risha*

        That is both bizarre and brilliant, kudos to the out of the box thinker that put that scheme into place.

  11. Tau*

    OP1 – another reason to stay out of it is that there may be more going on with your boss than you realise. I sometimes overuse filler words because I have a speech disorder and they’re useful for avoiding long weird pauses in the conversation as I try to get past difficult words. I’m OK having this conversation and what, if anything, can be done about it with my boss, but would be… fairly unhappy to have a coworker, let alone direct subordinate, criticise my speech.

    1. Mookie*

      Correct. I’m acquainted with someone for who uses “like” when they’re about to word-switch and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it used to covertly fend off a stammer.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Good point that we don’t know what other people have on their plate. And it could be that the big boss has already spoken to your boss then the use of “like” got WORSE after the big boss said something.

      This is one of the times where my go-to is simply role modeling the desired change. The best you can do here, OP, is avoid verbal crutches yourself.

      I am cringing here. I type much better than I talk. ha! We all have some verbal crutch that we use. I tend to mix mine so it takes an additional minute to see “oh, yeah, right, another verbal tick, gosh she has a variety.”

    3. Important Moi*

      Whether or not the speaker has a disorder is Irrelevant. The letter writer has no standing to correct anyone speech.

      1. JSPA*

        Considering the possibility may give OP a greater sense of peace and grace. Saying nothing happily vs saying nothing while dying to do so / looking down at the boss is internally different, far less stressful, and makes it less likely that an unkind expression will flit across OP’s face. All valuable.

      2. Tau*

        Basically what JSPA said.

        I did think twice about whether to post this because I didn’t want to slide into armchair diagnosing/”you shouldn’t say anything because what if they have X”. But given that OP should already be doing nothing, this may help them reframe their thinking around this since they’ll still have to deal with their boss. (I personally find coming up with sympathetic explanations very useful for tolerating annoying behaviour I cannot do anything about.) Or, if OP didn’t find Alison’s advice convincing, this may give a little more weight to it.

  12. Batgirl*

    OP1, you might just find it more personally grating than other people do. I remember when my school’s principle told us she was banning us from saying ‘guys’, she pulled no punches about saying it was simply because she hated the phrasing. She referred to the sexism objection as secondary.
    She had the standing to do that and teaching is a presentational profession. However much we agreed with her, (“Oh yeah, now you mention it, it is a bit trendy vicar”) we would never have noticed it as much as she noticed her pet peeve.

    1. MK*

      Eh, unless the principle was the owner of a private school, I disagree that she had the standing to demand changes to the teacher’s speaking patterns based solely on her personal preferences.

        1. MK*

          Ah, yes. In my country we have either public schools that belong to the Ministry of Education and the teachers are goverment workers or private schools that are for-profit bussinesses. A principal in a public school does have discretion to run it as they see fit within the parameters set by the Minister of Education, but they are limits.

  13. M*

    #4: I agree with your husband that it seems unlikely they would have given you a good raise if they were about to fire you. Alison’s script is still perfect for this situation, though.

  14. SleepyKitten*

    OP #1, I ave a similar peeve about the way people in my office use “sort of” as a space-filler. It definitely makes people sound less authoritative! But since I have no standing to correct it, I just make a game of keeping a tally of how many times it’s said, which makes it more fun and less annoying

  15. CM*

    #1 — If it really bugs you and you can’t hold the bugs inside, my advice would be to find an article or video online somewhere that offers LOTS of different professional speaking tips (not just the one targeted at your boss) and share it with your whole team, with a note about how you loved the article/video and want to use it to improve your own speech, so you thought you’d share in case anyone else was interested. This will work even better if what you’re saying is true, and you actually did learn something.

  16. just wondering*

    I once had a co-worker who had a very odd habit of using the phrase “yo” where most other people would have used “um” or “uh.” Has anyone else ever heard of this? Is it a cultural or ethnic background thing? (It didn’t seem to be, with her… she seemed pretty WASP-y)

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Friend just told me about a former employee who used, “budum,” as a filler word. She was saying “but um,” but it came out like the the sou d you make as a drum sound at the end of a joke in vaudeville, Budum bum.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is a plot point on an episode of How I Met Your Mother. Ted’s students make a drinking game of watching Robin’s broadcasts and drinking every time she says “but, um”.

    2. Yorick*

      I took a class with a girl who used “kind of.” It sometimes sounded better than “like” or “um,” but because it’s not actually filler (it has a real meaning!) it was sometimes way worse. Such as when she would say, for example, “this article was very, kind of, interesting.”

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Isn’t that a fairly common term in some areas of the US NE? ‘Yo, Adrian’ is pretty iconic, and I know I’ve heard some Philly acquaintances use it.

      1. Risha*

        ‘Yo’ is definitely a thing I use both ironically and not (and, yes, I’m originally from the Philly area), but it’s almost exclusively said at the beginning of sentences or by itself as a greeting. I’ve never heard it as a fill word.

      2. Clisby*

        I think it’s reasonably common when it’s a substitute for “Hey!” I’ve never heard it used as a filler word, though.

      3. LaSalleUGirl*

        We use “yo” a lot here, but not as a filler word. It’s a greeting or an attention-getter/exclamation.

    4. annakarina1*

      As a kid in Long Island, I did go through a phase when I said “yo” a lot, mostly whenever calling out to my brother or sister. I stopped when I felt internally embarrassed about it. I’ve never used it as a filler word, just to call out to someone.

  17. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    My jobs for years was 7.5work day/37.5 hours per week with an unpaid hour lunch. Then I landed a job with a 35 hour work week and that was considered a novelty.

    I’m now in a unicorn job with a 30-hour work week, and I work nine to four with an hour lunch, that is protected by the collective agreement. I’m still floored by this arrangement, and I’ve been here four years. With such a short work week, I point out there’s still a fair amount of stress leave among the staff.

  18. Ms. Cellophane*

    LW2, I work in a law firm as a staffer and we work a 7 hour work day, 9 to 5 with an hour lunch. The attorneys work more hours because they have billing requirements and are exempt. Our schedule is not touted as a perk but it definitely is one and also a big reason staffers have stayed with the firm a long time. Well, that and the generous PTO. That said, it’s not always easy work and we are expected to stay late if duty calls.

  19. MeTwoToo*

    OP#1, this was a recent blow up at my work actually. We’re all higher end managers/directors in a medical facility on salary. The past 10+ years the expectation was that we worked 8 hours, got lunch where we could and if it was a little more/less it would all even out. The new HR person presented a new policy to the group stating managers were now expected to work 8.5 hours daily with no exceptions. If you work more, too bad; less, it’s a write up. There’s currently a lot of disgruntlement because we are expected to be reachable 24/7 by phone if needed and several of use regularly work extra hours or at home on nights and weekend.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yeah, I’d definitely be job searching over something like that. I have no problem with putting in hours to get the job done, but it’s ridiculous to have to sit around until the 8.5 hour mark hits if the work is done in 7.5 or 8 hours.

    1. WellRed*

      It’s also a good way to encourage people to not work a minute more than the allotted hours. I’d at least ask if I was supposed to be tracking the time spent on weekends and how I should account for it. When the company takes away flexibility, they should lose flexibility from the employees. (I realize medical facilities are different in terms of staffing needs).

  20. gawaine42*

    #2 – All of my work has either been in consulting or in project-costed overhead, where despite being salaried, we have to bill out and account for our hours. So 6 companies/~25 years, it’s been work at least 40 hours a week (or an equivalent per pay period), lunch doesn’t count towards your hours. Don’t disappear for long enough at lunch that they have to find you.

  21. Seeking Second Childhood*

    LW1, The one thing I could suggest is to find a Toastmasters branch convenient to your office. Join. Invite your manager and co-workers. If he comes along, Toastmasters will point that out.

  22. MicroManagered*

    LW1 if you are strongly against policing people’s use of language, then don’t police his language. It’s that simple. His supervisor or clients can worry about how often he says “like” vs. the quality of his work.

  23. WellRed*

    No 3. It’s an imbalance because they are friends (inappropriately so!), it has nothing to do with how well you do or don’t do your job. Being “hurt” feels kind of like you are taking this too personally. Try to channel that into motivation to either bring this to someone’s attention or find a better job (and one where you aren’t dropping $25 each on your coworkers). I can’t help but wonder if there’ some other mild boundary issues in the office.

    1. Numero3*

      I’ve seen hints of my supervisor showing favoritism before, even to other managers, so it just may not be the best environment for me. Feeling hurt just made me second-guess my judgment on if it’s something that needs to be addressed or if it can be ignored.

  24. WellRed*

    No. 4, companies don’t typically give raises to someone if they are going to fire them (and if they did, it’s not much of a carrot, is it?). Ask what’s up. Also, what does this mean for your workload? Was it too heavy and they are righting it?

  25. CheeseGirl*

    I’ve always worked an office job, exempt, based on a 40 hour work week. My hours have been something like 7:30 to 4 or 8 to 4:30. Technically that leaves a half an hour for lunch everyday, but my colleagues were always taking hour lunches, so I did as well, but always felt like I was cheating the system somehow. After 10 years in the industry, I just started my fourth job in the industry this summer, and realized that it had made sense the whole time – in all states I’ve worked, you get a half hour unpaid lunch and two paid 15 minute breaks. Because we are all office workers, there is really no need for 15 minute breaks throughout the day, and I realized that all this time, the employees were just combining the half hour paid with the half hour unpaid! lol

    1. WellRed*

      “Because we are all office workers, there is really no need for 15 minute breaks throughout the day,”

      Why not? surely office workers benefit from a quick walk around the office to stretch or whatever?

      1. CheeseGirl*

        Definitely! In my experience, though, walks to the bathroom or kitchen, or quick chats with coworkers, aren’t usually clocked as officially timed breaks. I was thinking more compared to salesmen, retail workers, or labor intensive jobs where you have to leave the floor in order to be able to take a break.

      2. De Minimis*

        I still take breaks even as an exempt office worker. I don’t feel like I should have to work any longer than the hourly employees.

  26. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I have decided over the years that I kinda hate the 8-5 or 9-6 schedule, lunch or no lunch. I’ve been exempt for a long time, and while I almost always take time for lunch, I rarely take an hour unless I have an appointment. And besides that, I was once at a company where my hours were 930-530 and I got just as much done as I do in my current 830-530 position. At the former job, I made fewer midday appointments, too, though that might have been a location thing– it was easier to get things done before or after work.

    This has been on my mind lately because I’m job searching and facing potentially long commutes (and I work from home at the moment). 9-5? Sure. 9-6 or 8-5? No thanks.

    1. WellRed*

      I agree, I saw a job posting that was 9 to 5:30 and had to be in the office, no WFH. that alone turned me off (plus the yoga and snacks they touted as benefits, it all screamed “we will underpay youand abuse you).

  27. Finally Friday*

    RE: #4

    “I think they want me to train the other person and the raise is just a carrot. I’ve started looking for another job,…”

    This is exactly what a former direct report of mine did. I replaced the previous manager and was charged with making big changes to move the department forward: changes in policy, procedures, etc., but not personnel changes. She knew this–the whole department did, as did the company–and we talked about it many times openly. I also have a lot of the same technical knowledge she did. Since I have the same knowledge and was making a lot of changes, she convinced herself that I was going to eliminate her job because she wasn’t needed. She spent months convinced of this. But rather than coming to me to express her concerns, she only said something when she went running to HR for something unrelated. The HR person asked her (I was there, too), “Did Manager tell you this, or did you surmise this on your own?” She admitted she surmised it on her own, that she “put two and two together and realized [her] job was being eliminated.”

    I have to say, I felt a bit insulted that she hadn’t ever come to me to express her concerns. I mean, I get that some people don’t like to do something like that and it’s maybe uncomfortable, but this is your career/job/livelihood. Why would you not want to talk to your boss about it? She could have saved herself so much worrying and angst had she just come to me, or even HR if she wasn’t comfortable with me, but she didn’t. It seems like the route she took was much more exhausting mentally than just asking.

    OP, just talk to your boss and express your concerns using Alison’s script. I would add that, depending on your boss’s nature and the company culture overall, it may be fine to eventually come out and mention that you’re concerned about keeping your job. I wouldn’t lead with that, though. Start with the script and see how the conversation goes.

      1. Finally Friday*

        It did. Although, she had many other personal and work-related issues so it was just one more thing to add to the list that ultimately made the relationship not salvageable. Had it been just this one thing and there were no other issues, it wouldn’t have been a big impact, but rather something for me to keep in mind. (The issues she had were really things within herself only she could fix, things that really skewed her whole thought process and outlook on everything.) Everyone–HR, me, my boss–was completely open and direct with her and everyone else in the department about the changes going on. There were never any secrets, and there was never any talk about eliminating jobs–we have way too much work for that to be a consideration. As far as any other issues that came up with her, I was always direct with her about it.

        1. Close Bracket*

          You should not have let this particular thing impact the relationship. You chose to be insulted that she didn’t come to you, but you could have chosen instead to realize that her motivations were internally driven and tried to build trust in a way that she understood. It’s like love languages. The idea is not that you drive other people to change so that they speak your language. The idea is that you recognize that others speak a different language, and you change yourself to speak theirs. You talk about how there were never any secrets and that you were always direct about issues with the implication that she should have known she could come to you with her concerns. Instead of focusing on the “should,” you should have focused on the actuality and asked yourself and her what you can do differently. Really, I think you are very naive if you believe that because you never spoke about eliminating jobs that meant she should know that her job would not be eliminated. Layoffs aren’t always announced beforehand. The next time you have a problem with an employee who you feel should have known she could talk to you without repercussion, I hope you will respond to the situation differently. You were a new manager, an unknown, and trust takes time to build. Being insulted is really taking this entirely too personally.

          1. Frankie*

            It sounds like it wasn’t this thing that impacted the relationship, but this plus a host of other things that never got resolved.

            I sort of identify in this scenario with Finally Friday’s direct report in this one–in times of change I often fear I’m on the chopping block. It’s never been the case–sometimes it’s been a more reasonable conclusion to draw, sometimes less so.

            But some of that is on me, not my workplace or manager. My manager needs to work to establish and keep trust with me, but although the burden is more on them as the more powerful one, I need to do that, too, as an employee. And part of my job as an employee is using judgment and bringing big issues to my manager if they’re getting in the way of my work or morale…within reason, of course.

        2. Blueberry*

          Well, you penalized her for not asking you. Maybe she was worried you’d penalize her for asking — a lot of bosses do. Fortunately, we have Allison’s wise advice.

  28. Pretzelgirl*

    I have worked places where it was common to take a lunch (away from your desk) and places it wasn’t. It depends on the culture. I have also noticed it depends on the building and space. I worked somewhere with a cafeteria (that had great food) and nearly everyone took a break.

    Right now I don’t really take a lunch and I work 8-4. Occasionally I pop out for a quick run to the drugstore down the street. I eat at my desk. I would much rather leave at 4, then 5 for traffic reasons.

    1. Allypopx*

      That’s my schedule too. I think my boss would prefer I take a lunch (she’s very conscious about work stress and stuff) but I’d really rather leave at 4 and snack at my desk.

  29. blink14*

    I currently work in academia and my old job was in property management. Both jobs had 8:30 am – 4:30 pm hours, with a one hour lunch break. At my old job, you were required to take your lunch break – this was more to prevent people from working through lunch and then leaving early. I would occasionally arrange to take a a shorter lunch if I needed to leave early for an appointment or come in late, but generally speaking that was frowned upon.

    At my current job, taking your lunch break is not required and a lot of people do work through lunch. I cannot work this way on a day to day basis, I need the break for my mental and physical health. I will occasionally take a short lunch break if I need to come in late or leave early, or I’m attending an event or workshop, but I make a point to take my full lunch break on a normal day.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Oh goodness yes, I’ve noticed on the occasions where things pop up around the lunch hour and I am putting out fires until past the point where I can reasonably take a break outside the office, I’m so much less motivated to work the rest of the day. I really need my lunchtime run.

      1. blink14*

        Fortunately at this point in my current job, most people who I work with regularly know not to schedule anything around the time I take lunch! That is the other thing that really works well – taking your break at the same time every day. That way, people automatically know you’re likely at lunch during that time period, and they can catch up with you after. I did the same thing at my old job as well.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          I usually eat at 11 and take a “lunch” break from 1-2 PM after the food has had time to settle. About to go gear up for a run right now actually. Has anyone else left for lunch yet? Nope. Do I care? Also nope.

  30. hbc*

    OP4: There are all kinds of reasons to split duties like this. I personally am in the middle of taking I, O, and U from someone because it’s not good for the business for only one person to know all the vowels. He’s been out sick this week, and it’s hampering us tremendously, plus A and E are his strengths and need more attention than he can give.

    However, I also did a split like this before when I wasn’t sure if the employee was struggling because it was too much load or he just wasn’t very good. We brought in someone who was stronger at I, O, and U, and we learned that it was two people’s worth of work…*and* that the guy couldn’t pull his weight on A and E either. But in that case, I was hoping he’d be able to step it up and I told him that I thought there was enough work for two. I wasn’t doing some sneaky preliminary step to firing him, even if that’s where we ended up.

    So. I don’t think it hurts to look, but it very well may hurt you if you decide you’re on the chopping block and don’t go forward as if your manager wants you to stay. Keep doing A well, ask about Y, train the new person on the other vowels, and ask your manager what the long term plan is for your position.

    1. Mike S*

      I’ve been in that situation. My boss and I met with his boss, and I was asked what my workload was. After I listed everything that I was in charge of, they decided to hire some people and cut my workload in half. I was a lot happier afterwards, which helped.

    2. Allypopx*

      Yeah I’m currently doing A, E, I and O, but I and O we’re looking to hire someone to hand off – I am MUCH better at A and E and excited to focus on them exclusively. It also gives one of us room to take on U, which has been indefinitely on the back burner. There can be a lot of good reasons to restructure.

      If you’re getting a raise and a chance to specialize in what you were hired to do, I wouldn’t start job hunting yet or shoot yourself in the foot by being paranoid. Remain cautious and ask questions, but it sounds like this should have happened a long time ago.

  31. Jennifer*

    #3 The Office was a documentary. I don’t know why some people still think it was too outrageous.

    1. Lexin*

      I can’t watch it on that basis; I’ve worked in offices and with people that were worse than that. Same with “Yes, Minister”.

      1. Torgo*

        I thought I could watch it now that I’ve been away from an office environment for a few years. I still can’t take it.

    2. I was never given a name*

      That was my immediate thought: Michael giving Ryan a Video iPod (then the height of portable music extravagance) when the gift exchange limit was $25!

  32. former favorite*

    Long time reader, infrequent commenter weighing in on Letter #3. Early in my career I was an assistant at a nonprofit working for a former digital media exec who came up during the dotcom boom. She had a strong kind of second-wavey feminist ethos and coached me a lot on the kinds of issues Alison gets letters about all the time – interpersonal issues, workload management, etc. She was also aware, basically, that I was so stunned to receive a job offer and so naive about the job market (and was also entering immediately post-recession — after graduating in 2011 it took me 18 months of internships and temp gigs to get this FT offer) that I didn’t negotiate at all and ended up being wildly underpaid. She did everything she could to get my pay up to where she thought it should be and I was really fortunate to have her as a mentor and an advocate. She was also very personally generous with me around the holidays. All of this is to say — bosses may be using gifts to make a gesture at rectifying a pay discrepancy that they can’t actually resolve in the short term to retain employees because of broader organizational dysfunction.

    1. Numero3*

      That’s quite possible! I would understand the reasoning, I just wish at the very least that the “extras” had been given outside of the mutual exchange.

  33. De Minimis*

    I work from 7:00-3:30. Lunch is supposed to be a half hour. I usually eat at my desk and try to do at least one work related thing while eating, then go out for walk for about 30-40 minutes. I’m exempt so I feel like it’s okay if I fudge a little on lunch. I see other people goofing off and wandering around all the time. No one has ever said anything to me about it.

    Much prefer an hour lunch, but I’ve only had that a couple of times in my career.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Yep. For some companies it’s not so much how long are you there, but whether you are getting everything done during the time you are actually there. Productivity, not hours.

  34. KMC12191219*

    I respectfully (for a change) disagree with the response to OP#1. If she’s not comfortable approaching her manager, then perhaps provide feedback to the grandboss. I know this sounds as if I’m saying “go tell on her” but there is a way to frame it as true constructive criticism and not angsty b***hing. I think saying nothing is a disservice to the manager. I would want to know about verbal tics or habits that were distracting from my presentations or appearance in front of clients.

    Also, my sympathy on having to listen to the “likes”. I had a coworker who used the word “um” every third word, no joke. It got so annoying that the only way I got through meetings without stopping her was to start tracking the number of “um’s” she dropped and calculating her per minute um rate. Thankfully…she (um) has moved on (um) to better (um) pastures.

    1. Socrates Johnson*

      We had a high level executive always say “if you will” during his presentations. Everyone always joked about it.

    2. Leisel*

      I had a boss once get onto me for “rolling my eyes when speaking to clients.” I was a salesperson for a showroom that had a TON of different products so sometimes I would have to think for a minute to remember differences, details, features, etc. I could not figure out what he was talking about, then realized that in order to keep from using “umm” when I was trying to recall information I would look a the ceiling while I was thinking. From a distance he would see me and think I was rolling my eyes at clients! I had to re-train my brain to say things like, “well…let me think for a moment…this one is going to cost less for the base price, but will require more shipping costs…”

      I had no idea I was doing it until he said something, then he felt bad for perceiving it the wrong way. Still, he was my boss (and the owner of the company) so he had the standing to say something.

  35. Socrates Johnson*

    #@: We technically have a 37.5 hr work week. So for example, someone may work 8:30-5, but that includes an hour for lunch. So I guess we are technically getting a half hour for lunch “free”.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m lost in the arithmetic.

      8.30-5 is 8.5 hours physically present.
      37.5h/w is 7.5 h/day.
      7.5 hours worked plus 1 hour lunch makes 8.5 hours.

      Where’s the free half hour?

  36. Jessica Ganschen*

    Re: #2, my only “professional” job so far has been when I was in the Air Force, and even there lunch hour standards varied wildly. Office workers almost always had 8 hour days with lunch included, whereas maintainers (i.e., personnel doing repairs on aircraft, etc) generally got half an hour and often had to work longer shifts. I was a maintainer, but I was pretty lucky; with the way my shop was structured, we always had a flat 8 hour shift, one hour lunch, and often PT time on the clock. Right now I’m back in college and doing a work study job, and that’s a lot more casual.

  37. Waiting to be Future Endeavored*

    #2 – Salaried exempt in the US. Official hours are 8:30-5 but an hour break is factored in, so we’re paid for 7.5 hours a day. If you take a vacation or sick day, you count that as 7.5 hours and not 8.5 hours. Depending on your role and manager, the hours can be more or less flexible.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      That’s exactly the same as I’ve had in the two offices I’ve worked in. I think it had to do with being less likely to need overtime pay. Although it was frustrating–if I only took half an hour, I couldn’t leave early.

  38. b*

    Op#4- oh dear, this is what happened to a close friend of mine. He was a middle level financial analyst in a large company; suddenly a few of his work group were given raises and small promotions. Then as their projects were coming to completion there seemed to be no new projects or work assigned. He kept asking his manager for direction and was told things were in the works to just be patient. After asking around his group he found out that about half were in the same situation and half were moving on to other groups. Coincidentally the promoted workers were the ones with the empty schedules. Two months later he and the “promoted” were laid off. A deeper investigation into the situation revealed that most of the laid off were older ,55+, longer term employees. Also quite a few had recently been on lengthy FMLA leaves. My friend went to a lawyer about this whole thing and was told that the company had made moves to cover their ass by promoting the laid off workers so no accusations of age discrimination would be substantiated.

    1. Observer*

      That doesn’t sound right – the numbers are compelling. AND an argument could be made that the raise proves that these were actually good and valuable staff.

      1. Close Bracket*

        You just made the employment lawyer’s point for them. “The numbers are compelling! They got raises! No discrimination here!”

  39. I coulda been a lawyer*

    I’ve worked in 7 cities over 2 states and in almost every non-scientific industry you can think of, and the only time I’ve had a paid lunch was in security. Why, you ask? Because I wasn’t allowed to leave the facility (or sometimes even the spot I stood in) so if I found 10 mins to gobble a sandwich it’s great. But be ready to drop it and run if you have to evacuate the building or perform CPR, or put out a small fire, or …. But I was never guaranteed a break.

    At other jobs (mostly desk jobs) the border between 30 and 60 minutes seemed to be location. When I was in a city with lots of food options, or a small town where everyone went home for lunch, it was 60 minutes. If there was nowhere to go and everyone packed a lunch and ate in the break room it was 30. I actually miss running home to do a load of laundry at lunch lol. Those were the days!

  40. LW5*

    Thanks for your response Alison. I have an ongoing dialogue with “Jane’s” supervisor and will be mentioning this to them – your phrasing sounds so much kinder and less vulturey than anything I had been thinking.

    1. Close Bracket*

      I once wanted the duties of someone with my same job description who had been laid off–say we were all teapot engineers, and we all had different patterns of teapots we were responsible for. I phrased it as, “I don’t know whether it’s appropriate to ask this, but I’m interested in picking up the mid-century modern teapots that Former Coworker was handling.” I did feel a little bit like I was climbing to success using a ladder made from the bones of my former coworker, but I pushed through that feeling and made the ask. I’m not claiming my phrasing was the best, but my boss was surprised and pleased that I asked.

  41. Senor Montoya*

    OP 1, lots of people have some sort of verbal tic (nervousness, habit, placeholder while they think of the word they’re reaching for, many other reasons) — this is your boss’s. You probably have one yourself, but don’t even notice it. Ask your colleagues.

    I’ve cycled through a number of these — for awhile it was “actually,” which I didn’t notice until I started writing it…and then I heard it coming out of my mouth over and over and over…

  42. fhqwhgads*

    When I was in late elementary school/middle school (1990s) my mother used to frequently harp on my use of “like”. She wanted me to cut it out. I briefly maybe kinda sorta tried to do it less around her, but it was subconscious. You talk like the people around you and my peers did this so it would’ve taken significant effort not to. Language evolves. This usage has become so so so so so much more prevalent than it was when I was a child. Sometime in her 60s, my mother started doing it too. I don’t know if she realized she’d picked it up. But she did. Maybe she uses it less frequently than people my age do, but she definitely does it enough it notice. This is ubiquitous, and while I’d say there is certainly a threshold at which it becomes a distraction, and too much filler will sound unprofessional, the simple fact of using “like” as a filler does not inherently make one sound unprofessional. Definitely not this decade, although possibly moreso 25+ years ago. When the use of “like” or “um” or “uh” becomes excessive, then that’s potentially a problem, but doing it in general is going to read as fairly natural speech at this point to most people. I’m plenty guilty of pedantry, but this one is not a hill to die on. It’s too late.

  43. RB*

    It has always been astounding to me how much it can differ from one workplace to the next. It can amount to a $10,000 difference in pay over the course of a year (not literally, but if you convert that extra hour a day into a high-five figures wage).
    When I work the 9-5 and still take a lunch, I never know whether to feel bad for the people who are working 8-5 and taking a lunch. Even within a workplace there can be different norms, depending whose team you’re on. It seems to be a function of whether your boss is a stickler for these sorts of things or not.

  44. MissDisplaced*

    I hate lunch!
    The policy at our office is that it’s 8-5 with your hour lunch unpaid.

    We’re not supposed to forego lunch to leave earlier, even if we don’t have to be there until 5 for client reasons. But I hate taking lunch, and don’t want or need an hour. I find it disruptive to my day. Then they get my overtime for free.
    My state does not require any lunch for salaried workers, so honestly I leave at 4:30. Oh well.

  45. Fabulous*

    It’s situations like #1 where I am thankful my dad cut that colloquialism out of my language early on. I was resentful at the time (who wants to be yelled at every time they said the word, “like”?!) but dang if it didn’t make me realize just HOW MUCH I said the stinking word. The 90’s were rough, LOL.

  46. Oaktree*

    I work 8 to 4 at a conservative corporate law firm (though I myself am not legal staff) and it’s standard to take an hour for lunch every day. If I’m extremely busy, I’ll take a half hour (and a few times have worked through lunch entirely). But it’s relatively rare that I can’t take my full lunch hour. I’m on salary and my manager is very much not the “butts in seats” type; one of my colleagues is 15 minutes late almost every day, but because her work is exemplary and she’s very reliable (like, we all know Amanda is always going to arrive at 10:15 instead of 10 am, and that she’s never going to leave anyone in the lurch), it really doesn’t matter.

    I think it’s highly dependent on the organization in question, and on your manager as an individual.

Comments are closed.