open thread – January 10-11, 2020

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 1,777 comments… read them below }

  1. Unfashionista*

    TL;DR – what is the best way to tell my boss that I want to stop doing about 80% of my current role and pivot to something else within our (bigger) team?

    Backstory: I’m basically the only subject matter expert on llama styling in our very big company. Customers expect and require there to be someone who knows about llama styling. But I’ve been doing this for the last 3 years and been 100% sick of it for the last 1 year, so I am very ready to move on. There are sufficient opportunities I would be happy to take in other parts of our team and/or bigger company.

    Unfortunately, as there is no one else who really knows about llama styling (and internal efforts to try and cross-train other team members on it have gone…not great), I’m still stuck with it. Requests for llama styling are cyclical, so it doesnt take up my entire year (hence why I can do other fun, unrelated projects on occasion) – but I am very much done with it.

    As I am literally one of only about 2 people in a 50,000+ employee company who can do this and knows exactly how to style the llamas as per the latest trends, I know for a fact they would rather keep me and have me available for questions than lose me entirely. But I dont know how to make it clear (without sounding like I’m threatening to quit – even if I am looking elsewhere) that I really need to be done with what are currently a lot of my day to day responsibilities at the end of this years cycle. I’d be fine with a ratio of 90% non llama styling, 10% llama styling (aka being available for emergencies/complex cases), but nothing more than that.

    Much like a bad manager, I’ve gently hinted to my boss that I would really like a new challenge, but I’m pretty sure they have no idea just how much I want to do something (literally anything) else.

    So the challenge, how to very clearly and unambiguously state that I would like to do something else (and soon!)?

    If it helps, there are other projects within our team that I could take on easily, the real problem is getting rid of my existing duties.

    1. Adlib*

      Do you have regular discussions with your boss about professional goals or development even if it’s just around annual review time? I don’t have any scripts, but if you don’t regularly discuss your future plans, maybe this could be a way to start the conversation?

      1. Potsie*

        Yep. I think the only way to drastically reduce Llama Styling job duties is to completely change jobs so that they hires someone else to fill your current position. You can say that you are willing to still help out occasionally or provide coverage if someone is out but you really need it to not be one of your primary job responsibilities.

        1. Federal Blue Collar*

          I had virtually this exact situation a year ago, not least because for health reasons I needed to get off the shift (graveyard) that my very specific, seasonal, I’m-the-only-expert job allegedly required. For about a year after I told my boss was going to apply for an internal, lateral job change, they put my job onto the 2nd shift, but then the supervisor undermined those conditions and nobody informed the clientele that llama styling’s hours had changed and I could tell that when busy season began they would be requiring me to move my hours.

          So I jumped full into another section on the 2nd shift with totally new responsibilities and management over the old job simply had to train someone else. They come to me with questions now and again, but it happens less and less often.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Honestly, the best way to say “I don’t want to do this job any more” is to apply for another job when there’s an opening doing what you like. Or to stop gently hinting and say to your boss “if there’s ever an opportunity, I’d love to move into llama herding and out of llama styling.”

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yep, hinting won’t get you anywhere. I’d just come out and say that I’ve been looking at internal transfers because I’ve grown out of my role and want a new opportunity.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Agree with your advice to stop gently hinting and just come out with it.

        You don’t want to do this anymore – okay. Your boss isn’t a mind reader, and a lot of people don’t pick up on subtle hints. Be direct and explain what you do like and how you want to grow, but also be prepared to be told no. Believe me, I’ve been there and it sucks (being the only person to do a very important thing), so also consider exactly what you’ll do if you don’t in fact get a resolution from this that’s acceptable to you. Good luck!

      3. kittymommy*

        That’s what I was thinking as well, especially since it is such a large part of the job. Just start applying to other internal positions and let the boss know. I’d be surprised if most places would remove 90% of a someone’s duties without a formal job change (and all that entails).

    3. ThatGirl*

      Can you train someone else to style llamas? I would have a clear discussion with your manager about how much you dislike it and whether you can work on a clear, defined plan to offload those responsibilities. If you don’t feel like you can do that, then looking for an internal transfer is another option.

      1. Chronic Overthinker*

        I was thinking this too. Could you provide a mentorship or assist with cross-training? Otherwise, a meeting with your boss about applying for a different internal position might be just the “hint” they need that you are looking to move on.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        BTDT. Took me three years to divest myself of llama styling. I was quite upfront about it after a year. I did not feel I could move to another job as I had family obligations that my boss accommodated — the kind of flexibility you get from being very valuable and having a lot of personal capital, unlikely as the newby. And I’ve covered llama styling several times since, when the llama stylist goes on leave or leaves.
        So, be upfront but also look for other opportunities.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      You may want to start a job hunt to boost your confidence (and who knows, you might get offered something awesome!).

      It gets a lot easier to say to your boss “I need my role to change in order for me to continue working here” if you know that you’d be sought after in an open market. If, say, you get far down the road with another company, even if you don’t want to accept the offer, you will feel far more comfortable walking into your boss’s office and asking for a change…

      …because you do, of course, need to be prepared to actually leave if they say no or say yes but don’t follow through.

    5. Katniss Evergreen*

      Kind of looks like you and the commenter below should chat – maybe the process for how The Tin Man got the promotion/new job prospect that they’re building could help you!

      It sounds to me like you need to push for redundancy in the llama styling aspect of your job before you can step away, if it really is that important. It depends on what your organization needs and what kind of relationship you have with leadership – if you’re only guessing that they’d do what they can to keep you within the company, I’d get that straight quick by feeling out if any contacts exist who’ve done something similar. If you want to cut your core duties down to 10% of your time, your leadership have to either be on board or be told that you’re leaving the role for your intended jump to a new role to work (and if you did leave your role for another within your company, you should make sure your boss does not have power to stop you – some LWs in the past have said their internal moves have been blocked by intended ex-boss jockeying with intended new-boss or something to that effect.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’ve experienced the whole manager blocking a move thing, so I agree that this is something OP needs to find out ASAP. I worked at a law firm where I was the main contact for my department with a specific bank that was known for being overly demanding and ridiculous, and I put in two transfer requests because I was over dealing with these people and getting no relief from my boss – boss swore up and down she’d have people cross-trained so I wouldn’t be the sole person dealing with these people, but even after I spent weeks training people on what I did, she still refused to hand off the work and let me do the other stuff on our team that I actually liked and was also really good at.

        Anyway, after the second time, my boss allowed me to move over to a different team in our department that I was already helping when they got behind in their work – but I still wanted out of that dumpster fire of a department altogether. So the next time I pie in a transfer request, I also scheduled a meeting between us and HR to let everyone know I was externally job searching and the minute I found something else, I was gone. A couple months after that discussion, HR brought me up to their office to let me know I was getting a title bump (but no pay increase when I was grossly underpaid, smh) and a transfer to a different department. I still ended up leaving the firm seven months after my transfer, even though my new department was great, because I was officially done with how they dicked me around for two years – the trust and respect was gone.

    6. Aquawoman*

      While I’m not sure why past training efforts have gone badly, my initial thought is for you to suggest that you cross-train multiple people on llama styling, and you and/or the other llama stylist can be the review person(s) for those folks. It’s more sustainable for the company not to have to rely on 2 people (especially when they are in danger of losing 1 because they don’t want to do so much of it). That then transitions you out of llama styling as the others become more adept, and limits your role in the meantime.

      1. Lonely Monster*

        I’m a little confused when potential employers ask for a “statement of purpose” or some type of essay asking to be included in the cover letter regarding a candidate’s worthiness (?) To work for them.

        Most of the time I’m not sure what they are looking for or how long of an essay it show be.

        Any clues? Thanks

    7. Artemesia*

      I would apply for a job you really want within the company and then have a frank meeting with your boss in which you make clear –no hinting– that you are ‘done’ with being a llama stylist and to ask how best to create a transition so you can get someone else up to speed. The act of applying creates a clear occasion for this conversation and also makes clear that you are serious about it — now, not by and by. ‘If I transfer within the company of course I will be available for emergencies during the transition but my goal is to move away from this role completely.’ This makes clear that there is a potential that you would find a job outside the company and they would lose your skills entirely without you having to say it.

    8. Jules the 3rd*

      Similar problem. I finally said to my boss during our last 1 – 1, ‘I’m thinking it’s about time to do something new. What is the process for that?’ His response was ‘we need to build a succession plan’. I made a couple of suggestions on skill sets we need, and we’ll be building it this year.

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

      Have you had any direct conversations with your manager about the company’s long-term plans for llama styling? It will probably lead to less immediate changes, but I might approach this with my manager (given our track record of having professional-development and goal-setting type conversations) like this:

      I am really enjoying developing my skills in areas x and y, like when I did [specific fun projects I want to do more of]. Given the opportunity, I would like to continue those skills and see my role expand to take on more projects like these. Right now, I think that the way Company handles llama styling might limit that sort of growth for me. Do you think Company is committed to continuing to handle llama styling this way for the foreseeable future?

      I think depending on the sort of reception you get, you’ll know whether you should be applying to more attractive internal (or external) positions or helping to come up with the solution for how else the llama styling gets done.

      If they are open to change, would you be willing to supervise llama styling, but be able to train and delegate tasks to a group of people with shared responsibility? There might be a way to pitch that so that it sounds less like “I am over llama styling, one of my significant job responsibilities” and more like “I want to develop my leadership skills and take on some supervisory responsibility, while also ensuring that the company will always have a pool of llama styling talent.”

    10. lala*

      “Hi boss. I know we’ve talked about this briefly in the past and had some unsuccessful attempts at cross-training, but I need to be clear that I am getting burnt out on llama styling. It is at the point where I am looking for other opportunities. Can we discuss a plan to train X and Y so they can take over the llama styling? I would be more than happy to help with their training and even be available for questions, but it is not sustainable for me to continue doing this work. I love 1, 2, 3 aspects of this job and I am interested in doing more 4 and 5, but in order for me to stay here and on this team, I need llama styling to be taken off my plate.”

  2. The Tin Man*

    The Good: I’m pushing for a promotion at work and boss, grandboss, HR, and even great-grandboss and are all enthusiastically on board!

    The Question: Any advice on how to approach essentially picking a new job title for myself?

    The Background: Boss and HR keep asking what I want my title to be and what work I want to do. Whatever I would be doing doesn’t currently exist in our structure – they would be creating the role for me. I have a great opportunity for job crafting here but my feeling is that yes, choosing the work I want to do is important, but also what work in my skill set does the company need done?

    I have probably three ideas for directions my career can take in this next step but I don’t really know how my company’s job titles align with those directions. I also want to make sure that (1) my new title is a salary band up from where I am now and (2) the title leads to the next job I would want to be doing after that. My boss made sure to stress point (2).

    I’ve given HR a few job titles and they gave me the job descriptions for me to highlight the work I already do/want to do but it’s frankly a little annoying that they aren’t coming up with ideas – it is all on me to find out titles and ask them for the job descriptions. I guess this is really where the problem is coming from – we have one regional HR person for 600+ employees.

    As I write this I am thinking the next step could be setting up a meeting with boss, grandboss (who is very active in this), and maybe HR where I lay out the three paths and we talk about where the need really is. Then ask HR for job titles that match that. Thoughts?

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Get with your boss and grandboss and ask them exactly what they’d like to see you do. What skills do you bring to the table and how do they see those skills turning into something that would greatly benefit your team and the company as a whole? Basically, what’s their business need? Once you guys get a handle on that, then go to HR with the title that best fits the role you all have agreed to.

    2. Lynx*

      I actually found myself basically in this exact scenario this year. I had been working for a year to essentially design & start doing my own job, and everyone was on board for making it official. For a while they kept me at my almost-entry-level title despite essentially running the show in my department (they gave me the raise right away though haha). I finally got the guts to ask for a title change, and they essentially told me I could pick it.

      I think what helped me the most was sitting down with my boss and telling him where I envisioned my career going and what would be included in my job description to help me get there. Do you have a finalized job description? If not, I would settle on that before picking a title to go along with it. Are there standards for your field? I wound up researching job listings that matched the description elements we talked about and picking out a title from there. It was a little nerve-wracking to basically design my own promotion, & I worried about coming off as presumptuous when I gave them my input, but they gave me the management-level title I asked for!

      1. The Tin Man*

        Thank you for the reply! There is not a finalized job description so I know that is really the first step. The part where I get hung up a little is that this is a large, multinational company so official job descriptions are standardized. Of course on the local level there is discretion about what someone actually does – I only do about 2/3 of what is in my “official” job description.

        There aren’t really standards in the field I am aware of but that’s a good idea to look into. Without going into too much detail I’m kind of a performance/process/business analyst person in a very blue collar company. I’m at the point of contact between the Corporate and Operations side, which I like a lot. I do a lot of translating and distilling of corporate-speak to my boss and coworkers.

        I too am worried about being presumptuous and worried I’ve talked too much on the fact that I want a higher salary band in discussions so far but know that I should be honest that that is a decent part of what I’m looking for. My job duties are now at a markedly higher level than this position was really intended.

        1. A tester, not a developer*

          I have a very similar role, and my company just did a big initiative to align our job titles with industry standards. (We were missing too many good candidates because of miscommunication about what a job really was about).
          I’m a ‘Process and Initiatives Analyst’.

        2. KTM*

          I’ve been in a very similar situation and I’ve found that it’s best to work it up the chain and do as much of the groundwork as you can before it goes to HR, similar to the great advice given above. I wrote my own job description to the best of my ability using other example job descriptions that already existed within the company. I then met with my boss and grandboss to review and made changes based on their suggestions. We together came up with 3 titles options that we felt made sense that covered both what I do and where I want to go. We also discussed salary expectations. The entire package was then ‘pitched’ to HR by my bosses and I think HR was just happy that we did all the work so they just approved everything and said any of the titles were fine.

        3. Juniper*

          We have “Process Optimization Analysts” and Managers up through Director; perhaps that could work as a series of titles for you too? Ours are relatively new positions as well, and seem to keep evolving.

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      Yeah with one HR person for 600(!!) employees you’re going to need to do the legwork with your bosses and go to HR with what you’ve decided especially if this is a new position.

    4. Anonish*

      So I didn’t choose my own title, but I did create a new role and move into it within the past year. I wrote my own job description, and my boss re-named it based on what I wanted to actually do every day. Your idea to clarify the need the new job will fill sounds like a good start. It sounds like when you ask them to help you with a title, you might really be asking them to specify what will be expected when you’re promoted, and HR just wants to know which box you want to check, but you don’t know that yet until that conversation happens.

      I work in a field (higher ed) where titles are simultaneously super important to positioning yourself for your next move and also completely random and vague. Reverse engineering how Boss may have gotten to this title, I think two factors probably came into play: clarifying what I’m actually in charge of and establishing where I fall in the hierarchy of that thing. My old title, Coordinator of Various Things, suggested that I was mostly a point person for the Things, which was true. My new title, Director of Broad Topic, identifies that I am in charge of making Various Things happen in the service of Broad Topic. It’s less specific, but encompasses my authority over the Things, not just my connection to them. There’s also a generally understood dotted line between Coordinator and Director within higher ed, at least in my region; similar titles at two different institutions may have vastly different duties, but you can generally assume that a Director has more authority than a Coordinator.

      TL;DR: Choose a title that will tell people what you’re in charge of and how in charge of it you are, based on the conventions of your industry. Hope that helps (either you or for someone else if I’m completely off about what you’re looking for here).

    5. RC Rascal*

      Here is how I would approach this: go to the major job boards and look for similar positions in your market & surrounding regional markets. ( For example, if you are In Minneapolis I would check Chicago, Detroit, Omaha, Milwaukee & Kansas City). Look at the titles for those jobs & pick something you like. This approach will help you stay relevant the market for your next search and align your resume with the titles the ATS systems are seeking. My two cents.

    6. ten-four*

      In my experience it is very common for people with a vision to be asked to define the initiative/task/role that they are driving. It’s also a huge opportunity! The odds are close to zero that an HR person (particularly one who manages a 600 person organization in a field completely outside what you want to do) would be able to create a job description/title that is meaningful. It’s much more likely that they’d create something pretty dreadful that you’d be stuck with!

      Seize this opportunity to put real thought into what you want to do, lay out a vision and the steps, and build buy-in! I think the next step you identified (laying out the three paths and identify what the need really is with your boss, grandboss, and maybe HR) is an incredibly smart move. You’ll get clarity from the people who’s buy-in you actually need, and you’ll be building alignment and agreement on a career path that meets your needs and theirs.

    7. SaffieGirl*

      I have been in a similar situation a couple of times and had the same experience that it was on me to figure most of it out. Initially, it was very frustrating but in the end it turned into a big positive. First, focus more on what you want and how you want to develop, then figure out how to work that into the business. This is one of those times to self advocate and if the company wanted something specific, they will tell you. As for title, I suggest looking at standard titles that will be good stepping stones on your career path. This is when the internet was invaluable, as well as LinkedIn (find people with the job you want someday and see how they got there). It’s a great opportunity and is worth the leg work to get the job you want. Good luck!

    8. Existentialista*

      I’ve had to create several titles this year, not for myself but for positions that will report to me. I found the job site Indeed to be a gold mine of both titles and descriptions of responsibilities. I found that there’s already an accepted name in the industry for a thing we need doing that I’d never heard of, and I also got a great start on the job descriptions by cutting and pasting and “stealing with pride” from the job advertisements.

      I’ve worked in an emerging discipline throughout my career and titles have always been tricky, so I was especially glad to see some standardization starting to form.

    9. anon attorney*

      I’m not clear on whether you have the opportunity to create an entirely new job, or whether you are expected to identify a role or category that already exists within the organisation and align your tasks and activities to that? I think you are exactly right to be trying to bring together what you want to do with what the organisation needs, and to think about how this links to the next step in promotion. But if you have the opportunity to literally write your own job description, I’m not sure why you would want to outsource that to HR at all? If I were in your position, depending on the organisation’s procedures, I would create a couple of job descriptions (since you have a few options) and find out (a) whether your own senior management will endorse one of them and discuss how this impacts your career trajectory and (b) what the process is for having the role formally signed off and assigned a grade/title/salary. To me, part (b) is where HR comes in but part (a) is not only something that is your responsibility, but is a fantastic opportunity for you, no?

  3. 1234*

    Yesterday, I (and others on my team) received an email from Liza, who is our grand boss. The email started with “I don’t know if Mary (our manager) reached out to you regarding [PROJECT] but it is happening during [upcoming time frame]. We need some of you to volunteer for this upcoming opportunity.”

    I asked Mary about PROJECT last week; I had worked on the same project/client with Jane (manager before Mary whom I loved and miss but that’s another story) and expressed interest to Mary about being assigned this project. Mary goes “Great, you’re assigned! Will send details at a later date.” This was all done via text which is normal for our industry; we work remotely and don’t often see our bosses except at trainings etc.

    I found it odd that Liza was emailing the team as most of our communication comes from Mary. I reached out to another colleague/friend, Brenda. Brenda told me that Mary was laid off mid-December and Mary called Brenda sobbing when this happened. I had no knowledge of this and even kept checking spreadsheets Mary created to see if there were any updates to projects. I found it crazy that (1) Mary no longer worked for the company when I texted her AND she wrote back that I would be assigned a project she no longer had the authority to assign! (2) Only select team members (whoever Mary told) knew of her lay off and (3) Liza did not bother to announce Mary’s departure at any time and Mary managed many remote employees.

    1. Minocho*

      Yikes! Confusing and concerning! Can you reach out to Liza and ask about Mary and your current reporting structure?

      1. 1234*

        I wish it was that simple. This company can be known for more “hush-hush” when people are no longer with the company.

        Years ago, on another team with the same company, Janet left the company and we were only told that Janet was no longer employed there. Allie was hired as the manager to replace Janet and was introduced to all of us as our new manager via email from Big Boss Kate (who is higher up than Liza). We were sent one email from Allie asking about general administrative things.

        Then suddenly, weeks later, a new manager, Regina, introduced HERSELF as our new manager without any introduction from Big Boss Kate or explanation of what happened to Allie. [And no, this is not like the letter earlier this week where a coworker suddenly decided they wanted to manage colleagues without permission]

        1. Minocho*

          This structure (or lack thereof) sounds unworkable in the long term. In the short term, if it has value for you and/or your career, great, enjoy. But this does not sound like a place I would be willing to get comfortable with – I need to understand the structure so I know who I report to, who I should take assignments from, and who I need to listen to in order to keep getting my paychecks.

          Having worked in messy and toxic places myself, I would urge that an attempt be made to avoid adopting too many of these practices and attitudes as normal behavior – this does not sound like anything near normal in the workplace.

          This sounds like something that would be unworkable for me, personally.

          1. 1234*

            I enjoy the work that we do and the clients that we serve. The pay is on par with/a little higher than industry standards. I’m ok with not having structure, but I would’ve liked a heads up that someone in charge of me…is no longer in charge of me. I’d like to think that Liza doesn’t realize that Mary never told us that she was leaving and therefore didn’t think to mention it.

            I have been with this company for a number of years. In that time, the following people managed us on Team N:
            – Jane [Was manager for close to 4 years and brought me onto her team. ]

            – Macie [Temporary manager because Jane was leaving due to a new job. Jane willingly gave notice. We were not told that Macie was a temporary manager until they found another manager, who turned out to be Mary. However, Macie did announce that going further, communication about things should be directed to Mary]

            – Mary [Who managed a different team in a nearby area and they “tacked on” our team to her workload.]

            On the “nearby team” that Mary had managed, the following managers were in charge from the time I had been brought on. Let’s call them Team W:
            – Pedro [Let go, workload was in over his head. Had a heard time managing the team and the client. Team members would consistently lie and say that they completed tasks they never did.]

            – Lara [Did not have experience in this particular industry but had management experience in a related industry. While I attempted to get along with her, this woman was CRAZY. She would consistently ask us to do things and be vague about the location, such as “in NYC” and not be specific as to where even if she had that information. She thought we were combative for asking. Also created shifts/schedules that were impossible to actually execute the way she had it, due to geography/traffic in the area. When that was brought to her attention, she would simply respond “ok, do the best you can.”]

            – Mary [See current issue. Mary had managed a THIRD team [Team V] for this company and they tacked on this location to her workload too. Mary was manager of all three teams in this area by the time this all ended.]

        2. Yorick*

          Maybe don’t ask about Mary expecting to hear any news, but tell Liza that you had spoken to Mary about working on this project and are happy to continue working on it now.

          1. valentine*

            tell Liza that you had spoken to Mary about working on this project and are happy to continue working on it now.
            Yes. “Mary assigned this to me.” Hopefully, she won’t ask when, or “Last year” will suffice.

    2. Mid*

      Was it an immediate layoff? Or was she notified in mid-Dec and was still working for the company when you texted her?

      Also, I’m very concerned that your company didn’t tell you this. It’s also strange that Mary didn’t tell you, but why is your company letting people who aren’t currently employed by them manage people?

      1. 1234*

        Based on what Brenda told me, it seems as if Mary was laid off back in December. Brenda said someone else at Company reached out to Brenda about something that Brenda was missing, and this was in late December. Normally, Mary would have been the one to reach out if things were missing.

        I feel that the company didn’t “let” Mary manage people even though she was no longer employed there, but because I asked about PROJECT directly, Mary for some reason just said “Sure, you are working on it” which I found insanely odd.

        1. Mid*

          Yeah, that’s very very odd. Also a hush-hush policy with a remote workforce seems like a TERRIBLE idea, for exactly this reason. I don’t really have any other advice, but it is very strange.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          This is a Liza&above problem, not a Mary problem. All of Mary’s reports should have been told immediately who they now report to. Mary should no longer be getting texts about her former role at what must be her personal cell phone.
          Give her the benefit of the doubt—assume she’s been forwarding and replying politely but increasingly more strongly for almost a month. And obviously the word hasn’t gotten out universally. It must be beyond frustrating and I could easily see replying in a way to force management to do something.
          One reason I sympathize with Mary: When I was in college, our home phone# was posted on a local restaurant’s shiny new website and takeout menus. I called to tell them. The manager suggested WE change OUR number, and wasn’t nice about it. Mom managed to track down and speak with the owner in person before her teenager (ie me) started taking reservations & takeout orders. He was mortified and sent us gift certificate apology.

        3. Diahann Carroll*

          She was trying to save face. Maybe she was also trying to appeal her removal, thought she had a good chance to plead her case, and would be welcomed back – if she thought that, she wouldn’t want to tell you she’d been let go, especially if her appeal had worked. That’s the only halfway logical explanation I could think of for why she’d do this.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Did Liza email Mary when she emailed the group?
      Can you ping Mary to see if she is still around? (First hand information and all that.)

      If you can’t get Mary, can you email Liza privately and just say you are confused, as Mary told you last week that you were assigned to it?
      Is it possible that Liza is working on getting someone else to work with you and already knows you are assigned?

      Ugh. Too many questions. Sorry. I would just step through finding the answers. If you really want the project then I would speak up very soon if it were me.

      1. snoopythedog*

        This.
        I would email Liza privately and say you are confused as Mary confirmed on X date that you would be assigned to the project. Reiterate what you told Mary initially (you are excited for it, know the clients) to Liza.

        If Liza is a good grandboss, this question should be enough to prompt her to let you know Mary is gone (if she is) or you can always follow up with “Should I direct questions about this project/management/project procurement to you or Mary in the future?”

      2. 1234*

        Mary was not CCed on the email but another name I had never seen before, Anna, was copied on the emails. I have no idea who Anna could possibly be.

        I ended up responding to Liza and letting her know that I had expressed interest in the project to Mary and had worked with Jane on the same project in previous years. Liza said she would put me on and this morning, I was added to the project in our task management system.

        But I am still in shock that Mary would pretend that she had the authority to assign the project to me…

        1. hbc*

          I feel like you’re focusing a lot on Mary, but her weirdness here is pretty small and only possible with the extraordinary disfunction at this company. There are all kinds of reasons why Mary might have responded the way she did: she never liked you, she wanted to mess with the company, she thought you knew she was gone and you were mocking her, she thought you’d already been assigned, she was confused about which project it was, Brenda is lying and she’s still at the company, she was given layoff notice but is still working in some capacity, etc..

          But analyzing these is beside the point, because any functional workplace does not have you guessing at who your boss is. This is not normal.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Yeah, my first thought was she was messing with you. And if I were getting texts from people at the company that laid me off, especially if it’s questions that I’d be expected to answer IF I STILL WORKED THERE, I’d probably do the same thing.

            “Sure, you’re assigned to that project.” “Absolutely, go ahead and order those new monitors.” “Of course you can take the week off to groom your parrot, next time don’t bother asking, parrots are important!”

            Maybe next time they lay someone off they’ll know to mention it to that person’s coworkers.

    4. Elenna*

      yiiiiiikes

      I find it weird that Mary tried to assign you the thing, but I find it weirder that Liza started her email with “I don’t know if Mary told you about this” which really sounds like she knows Mary is assigning things?? maybe Mid is right and it wasn’t an immediate layoff???

        1. 1234*

          Not sure, Liza rarely communicates with us unless it’s via email. But I commented to someone else above. I don’t put it past anyone at this company for them to have people just “no longer be our managers”

          Also, I believe this was Mary’s first job out of college and while that is no excuse, maybe she didn’t know how to handle her departure?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Or maybe she was not allowed to handle her departure? Is this a company where people just vanish?

            Where I go to in all this, if Mary has been fair with you right along and this situation does not fit with what you know about Mary, then it is OK to trust that there is more to the story and you are not privy to it.

            For myself, I would saying, “That’s ONE.” Yes, I would start counting MIAs.

            1. 1234*

              It really depends. Jane told us she was leaving. Lara was also laid off and I was told by another colleague but not Lara herself. It was only announced at an in-person meeting when someone asked about Lara.

              While nothing was announced about Pedro, we all knew the issues and someone above Pedro took over managing us, until they hired Lara.

    5. I'm that person*

      It could be that Mary is angry and bitter about not only being fired but that her reports weren’t even made aware of it and pretending that she was still there was her way of getting back at the company.

      1. 1234*

        But that doesn’t hurt the company. That only hurts any direct reports she may have “assigned” projects to.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Oh it certainly stirs the pot. That forces management to do something they should have done previously. Companies really do have to tell their employees when a person leaves — at the very least any employee who takes instruction from the person who has left!
          Look through the archives — Alison’s had letters about things like this before.

        2. Sacred Ground*

          If you end up spending time on something that’s assigned to someone else, the duplicated effort and wasted time costs the company and makes the managers look incompetent to their reports.

    6. designbot*

      Given what you’ve said, I might respond to Liza as if you know no more than you’re meant to know. Like, “oh yes, Mary and I talked about it last week and she said she’d assign me the work since (past experience, interest, etc.)”
      Let Liza sit with the discomfort that her terrible communication decisions have created a situation where an employee is still getting instruction from a boss who’s been fired, because that employee *hasn’t been told their boss is no longer with the company*.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        THIS. It’s 100% professional on your part in case Brenda’s wrong, and returns any awkward right back where it belongs if Liza did lay off Mary without telling Mary’s reports.

      2. 1234*

        I wish I had thought to do this. I just said “Mary and I discussed this previously and I had expressed interest in PROJECT. I am still interested/available.” and Liza put me on the project.

        I see others who are also assigned to PROJECT in our system but it’s about half the amount of people that is needed. I am actually surprised that more haven’t volunteered. In years past when Jane was in charge, it appeared that many people on the team wanted to work on PROJECT because the work was enjoyable. Jane even had to decline some help because so many of us volunteered.

    7. Armchair Analyst*

      RED FLAG. Start job searching.

      Ask me how I know.

      “How do you know?” Because at Previous Job, the process changed when people were… let go/fired/quit/gone: At first there was a one-line email with the fact. But then it changed to NOTHING. NO email, no telling, NOTH. ING. AND one of my tasks was giving an orientation to New Hires. So, literally, on a Monday morning, I am telling 5 (5!) new hires about how to report safety issues to their manager Donald…. and they tell me that JUST heard from HR that they should actually be reporting to Mike, that Donald was ‘no longer there’.

      Not only that…. but Donald was managing one of my projects. And NO ONE EVER TOLD ME THAT HE WAS GONE. There was a new semi-manager of the project, but that was it.

      I never said anything. Why bring attention to myself when I hated the job and the tasks and yes, the way of communicating. So yes, I did start searching for new jobs. Shortly after that, I was let go… but it has all worked out since then. My point is: Companies be crazy. Save yourself.

    8. Joie*

      I’d pick up the phone and say “Liza, I spoke to Mary about this last week and she said I was already assigned, any updates on what you want me to do?” and let her explain it to you.

      This is honestly such a weird situation I’m wondering if Brenda was mistaken on the timeline for Mary’s departure. If not, let Liza have the privileged of experiencing the sheer awkwardness first hand of why you shouldn’t withhold layoff information from relevant people…

    9. Buttons*

      OMG that is crazy!!! I cannot believe Liza didn’t tell the entire team! I am sure Mary was annoyed at getting a text, and was messing with you– although it totally isn’t your fault you didn’t know.

    10. 1234*

      Another update: I/We just received an email from Liza stating that either herself of Anna (the other person Liza copied and I still have NO IDEA what she does or who she is) will have more details about PROJECT either later today or early next week. It does not address Mary’s departure nor who Anna is/what her role is.

      I also have a feeling that at this company, managers are supposed to let their own staff know that they are no longer with the company but some managers don’t. Usually, someone will ask at the next in-person meeting “What happened to so and so?” and whomever in charge at the time will usually briefly explain it like “laid off” or “no longer with the company.”

      I know some of you mentioned to make it awkward for Liza regarding Mary’s departure but there is a chance (small chance, but still a chance) that by doing that, Liza will take me off PROJECT. Yes, people really are that vindictive.

        1. 1234*

          I think it’s more ingrained into our culture; we are on a need-to-know basis. The only thing we need to know right now is information that pertains to PROJECT. It does not matter who is providing that information and asking questions can be seen as an “annoyance” to people who are already very busy, such as Liza.

          1. Avasarala*

            Your company culture is super weird and giving off all sorts of weird vibes. Who your coworkers are and what their role is is not a need-to-know classified thing. Asking questions like “who is this person and what is their role in PROJECT” should not be an annoyance and you shouldn’t be punished for it. People should be informed when their bosses are let go and told who their new boss is… this is basic stuff man!

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Wait, isn’t there an online company directory where you can look up Anna?

          I mean, I get that they might not have it updated with Mary’s departure, but usually there’s some guide on where the new person has worked before…

          1. 1234*

            We don’t have that information, unfortunately. Anna also just emailed us but there was no signature/contact info.

            1. learnedthehardway*

              Maybe try looking her up on LinkedIn to figure out who she is, or contact your company’s switchboard to get her title?

              Heck, maybe give Anna a call to introduce yourself, because she probably has no idea who you are, either.

              1. Rebecca1*

                Something similar happened to me at a former job. I eventually quit. It apparently got worse after that.

    11. Tris Prior*

      It’s super weird that Mary assigned you work when she doesn’t even work there.

      But, as far as being notified of the layoff – that sort of thing happens at my company sometimes. We had a big layoff recently. Some upper management was laid off sooner than everyone else, but they weren’t allowed to tell anyone or else they wouldn’t receive their (often very large) severance pay. It’s common for managers to have remote reports here, and to not be super communicative – so many people were running around with no direct supervisor for a couple weeks *and had no idea.*

      So maybe Mary wasn’t allowed to say “sorry, I’ve been laid off, can’t help you.” But then…. why not just answer? I dunno, that bit’s weird

    12. Donna*

      my jaw is on the floor, how do you not tell people when you fire their boss. When did they plan to tell you, if ever?

      And why did mary not say anything when you messaged her, WTF????? How was she like “okay, you got the job”, but she no longer has the job to assign stuff!?!?!?

      This is crazy, the lack of communication worries me. But if you really want to work on the project, i would just say ” Mary said i could do the project, and never got around to sending the details”. Because technically that is true, just don’t tell anybody when she said it, lol.

    13. SomebodyElse*

      Here’s what I think happened. Mary and Liza agreed at some point you were going to be assigned to PROJECT before Mary was laid off.

      Mary assumed you had been told that she was no longer your boss and thought it was weird when you texted her after her last day. She knew from before her last day you were on deck so just passed on that msg from her prior knowledge.

      1. 1234*

        I only asked about PROJECT at the beginning of the year. Before I asked, I can almost guarantee you that nobody was thinking about PROJECT, much less staff assignments.

        Based on what Brenda said (someone else asking Brenda about unfinished work when Mary should be the one doing that, calling Brenda crying about being laid off, Mary telling Brenda that Mary had things to “wrap up”), it didn’t seem likely that Mary still had the authority to assign anything at the beginning of the year.

        1. Martin*

          Just a thought, but are you absolutely sure that the emails supposedly from Mary actually came from her?
          Maybe they were from someone else at the company who took over her email when she left and was trying for a while to maintain the pretence that she was still employed there.

          1. 1234*

            That would be all kinds of messed up if that were true. While Liza may be a bad communicator, I don’t believe that she would do that with Mary’s email and “pretend” to be Mary. I actually haven’t heard from Mary for most of December (not uncommon) and the last assignment I had from Mary was from the first week of December. I communicate with Mary mostly through texting and I’ve only had one phone number for her, and it’s her personal cell phone number. (My Company is also very focused on cost cutting so I highly doubt they’re providing company phones) After my projects wrapped up the first week, I hadn’t heard much from Mary.

            Brad, another manager, also has work to go around and him and Mary share some of the same direct reports. So, Brad was keeping everyone busy from what I understand.

  4. Friday*

    Recently, I found out that a co-worker and I are being paid the same (she told me herself). We are on the same level in the company, but she has 2-3 years of experience and started a year ago in the company, while I have 7 years of experience and started 3 years ago.

    It’s…not a nice feeling, to put it mildly. But I know it’s my fault because I likely low-balled myself at the beginning and have also never asked for a raise. Taking inflation into account, I’m making the same as I was on my first day at the company. And it’s not like I accomplished nothing during my time here – quite the opposite, actually. I’ve consistently received very positive feedback from my manager.

    I have my performance review next week and want to ask for a raise. But I’m not sure how to approach this. A year ago, I played a key role in a large, highly visible project and received praise for my contributions. Flash forward to today, however, and I think my performance has gone down a bit as I fight feelings of bitterness and apathy. The timing is definitely not ideal, but I still want to ask for a raise.

    Anyway, advice on how to approach this would be so appreciated. I’ll talk about my contributions, but should I focus on that alone? Should I mention that I’m essentially making the same as I was on my first day? The intel about my co-worker and I being paid the same – should I somehow bring that into the conversation or leave it out?

    (Bonus question: Personality-wise, I’m very quiet and introverted. How can someone—especially a woman—be less “quiet” in the corporate world?)

    1. kittymommy*

      (Bonus question: Personality-wise, I’m very quiet and introverted. How can someone—especially a woman—be less “quiet” in the corporate world?)

      -Eagerly waiting for suggestions! I am not good at this and also tend to be a “sticker” i.e I will stay put in a job longer than I probably should due to a lot of reasons, mainly I hate change in my work life and fear.

      1. Auntie Social*

        You’re not “quiet and introverted.” You’re self-sufficient, strong, dignified, and never give anyone a lick of trouble. You wouldn’t complain if you were on fire.

        1. Sam Buca*

          My former employee was a bit of a quiet/introverted working conflict avoidance person (personality wise he would talk to people). This was something I challenged him to change because it was affecting his work efficiency. Rather than “giving someone a lick of trouble” he would grin and bear it vs. confront the person/team who was making his work take hours when it should have been 30 minutes. As I would learn about issues, I would step in and ask the team/manager to work on the problems. Being quiet and not troublesome was a ding he had against him because it was affecting his work output.

          The people who I respect most (women and men) are not afraid to ask questions/lead the conversation in directions that will help them.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Not every manager is willing the step in. And not every employee has that kind of support. You sound like a good boss.

            Speaking up for myself on my current job only got me grief from my previous manager. She played favorites, was new to management when I started, and I guess you’d call her conflict avoidant. Her favorites would “go off on her” (ex-boss’s term) if she told them to do something they didn’t want to do, or they’d just ignore her. I’ve often thought she came down on me so much because I was about the only one who took her seriously.

      2. hope this helps!*

        This might actually work to your advantage. Ask for what you want then stop talking.
        Some of my more extroverted friends find this a lot harder since they want to fill the silence with justifications/apologies/small talk.

        Idk, I’m pretty quiet too and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I make points and suggestions in meetings. For the most part, people pay attention since when I do speak it’s intentional and I know exactly what I’m talking about and get my work done well.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Do you have any sense of how compensation at your company works in general? It is really just whatever you ask for? Are there certain “levels” or tiers of pay on a scale based on certain discrete criteria? While it may feel unfair to you, some workplaces do not necessarily automatically (or even if you ask for it) give people a higher salary based on years of experience. If you’re both at the same level, they may just think it makes sense you get the same pay.

      That said, if you think you’re underpaid, you should talk to your manager about what steps you can take to get a raise (or a higher level) in the near future. Don’t bring up your co-worker’s pay. Learning about that may help you get a perspective, but that shouldn’t be your case for getting a raise.

    3. Mid*

      Alison has several posts on this! The gist is focus on your specific accomplishments (not your coworkers pay, not your personal expenses), have a number in mind (so don’t say “I want a raise” but know what exactly you want, either a percentage or a specific amount), and know the norms for your company (though if you haven’t gotten a raise in 7 years, and company norm is no more than 5%, you might be able to negotiate higher than that 5%).

    4. ThatGirl*

      I don’t know if it’s really that weird for you to be paid the same – especially if your coworker advocated for herself and you haven’t. I mean, I get feeling hurt, for sure. It doesn’t feel amazing. But I would use this as an opportunity to do that advocacy for yourself. I would focus on your accomplishments from the past year and have a number in mind.

    5. Toss a coin to your Witcher*

      I did this a few months ago! Found out I was being paid 20k less than my male counterpart (same job function), who was not as successful as me (nice guy, just super into doing the bare minimum), and who had less experience in the company.

      I normally would have set up a meeting with my direct manager, but she had recently left the company, so I ended up meeting with the department VP and our HR contact. I stuck to the facts: the pay disparity, my glowing performance reviews, and basically phrased it like, “This is a disparity, and I want it to be corrected.” No emotions, no “I don’t feel valued”; just “here’s my work; here’s my counterpart’s work. There should not be a disparity in pay and I would like this corrected, please and thank you.”

      It turned out great – though not what I had hoped for. They were like, “yes, we see this, we want to retain you, and here is a 20k bonus check, and while we can’t raise your salary right now in the midst of a merger, this will be top of mind for performance reviews in 4 months.”

      I walked out thinking I had fought the man and won. Then the government took 50% of my bonus check (because it was a bonus, *not* a salary increase) in taxes. HR held firm on not being able to raise my salary in the midst of a merger. I get it!

      So I smiled, agreed…worked hard…and applied elsewhere with the knowledge that I deserved 20k more than I was making…and it turns out it was super easy to find jobs in my area that offered that salary. (I also used Alison’s book, How to get a job, for tips on interviewing and negotiating.

      I hope you get your raise at your company, and if not, please take your new knowledge of your worth gift with you on your job search :)

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        Great success story! I do have one nitpick…

        It’s a little disingenuous to say the government took 50% of your bonus check. While it’s true bonuses are taxed at a higher threshold, you should’ve been able to recoup that money on your tax return unless you have other variable comp to take into consideration.

        1. Toss a coin to your Witcher*

          what is this tax magic you speak of? I need to know.
          I’m married (file jointly), no dependents, and don’t have any exemptions. Last year I got $1k back, which I was happy with (never got any $$$ back before – thanks, Trump??? ugh). Anticipating the same amount this year, and not sure how I could recoup 9k in bonus $$$.

          1. ThatGirl*

            It’s not really magic – the withholding is higher, but it’s treated as ordinary income, which means you’ll probably get a slightly higher refund to make up for the higher withholding.

        2. Spreadsheets and Books*

          Yes! Bonuses are taxed at a higher rate upon payout but are treated as ordinary income on your tax return. So unless your average tax rate is higher than the withholding rate for bonuses or you have untaxed income (like self-employment income) to factor in, you should see some of that come back to you at tax time.

            1. Spreadsheets and Books*

              Or at a flat rate. Bonuses are often taxed at a flat “supplemental” rate of 25%.

      2. Enginear*

        This is one of the reasons why I like and dislike bonuses. At first you’re super excited at the number cause it’s nice and big and then when you get your check you see half of it is gone :( Glad everything worked out in the end!

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          If your job is bonused, you can also check into whether you’re allowed to defer any of it into your 401k and defer taxes until you withdraw it at retirement, when it’ll be taxed as ordinary income.

      3. Artemesia*

        You don’t pay higher taxes on a bonus instead of salary — the timing may be different but it is all income from the company.

    6. S-Mart*

      The info about your coworker making the same is only relevant if you’re doing substantially more and/or more challenging work – which you don’t mention but is reasonable if your more experienced. Either way, I would focus on the contributions/accomplishments, which should have been increasing over time if a raise is justified.

      Frankly, if your performance has gone down recently – especially if it’s enough to be noticeable to your boss – selling the case for a raise is going to be really hard.

      As for being less quiet, what’s worked for me is (1) being really good at what I do, to the point that I’ve become the logical person for people to come to with questions, (2) writing my comments on concerns in emails (I’m terrible at holding my own in a large conversation, but in email threads I have time to craft my words and nobody is talking over me), and (3) keeping a running list of things I want to talk about my manager with, and bringing it with me to each 1:1 (I’d never remember to come up with all of them ‘on the spot’ so to speak, but referring to a list is easier).

      1. 867-5309*

        I think you raise a good point in your first sentence. Having more experience than someone doesn’t in and of itself justify a higher salary, especially for the same role.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      I’d leave the co-worker’s salary out of it. It doesn’t sound like your company has set salaries for years of experience so this is not “unfair” under your company’s salary system.

      Since you haven’t gotten a salary increase since you started, you can leverage everything you’ve done for them so far and how far you’ve come in 3 years to advocate for a pay raise. Include that key role in a large, highly visible project.

      1. Marthooh*

        “Taking inflation into account, I’m making the same as I was on my first day at the company.” Say exactly that to your manager, and mention all your accomplishments and the value you’ve brought to the company. Go in with a generous dollar amount or percentage increase to start the negotiation. Don’t talk about your coworker or your feelings of bitterness and apathy.

    8. Disgruntled and Anon*

      Isn’t it weird how that feels? I just found out that a former coworker (both female) makes about the same that I did when I was there ( just left last month). We had different jobs/titles and while on paper they could be considered on par the reality is that my role was much more senior. We have the same degree but I have about a decade more experience than her.
      While I don’t begrudge her the good salary I am also suddenly resentful! Making it even weirder…I never felt underpaid while I was there (several title promotions and good salary bumps) but now feel undervalued since my position was much more critical and was viewed as a “step up” for her. I also know she didn’t negotiate at the start of her position since it was internal and those are capped.
      Its an icky feeling since I am happy she makes a good wage but also feel resentful of it. I also know my resentment should be towards the company not her but my first thought when I read that text was “guess I won’t be buying her lunch tomorrow like I’d planned”. Currently slightly disgusted with myself (and yes I did buy lunch).

    9. Mkt*

      Wow, I empathize so much- had to double check that I didn’t post this in my sleep earlier myself.

      I’ve become disappointed in the company for not being more proactive in not ‘rewarding’ hard work and contributions in a meaningful way that basically means longer term employees end up making less and less than any new hire to the same team with substantially less experience/expertise.

      Focus on yourself and your contributions, and then take that knowledge and hope to find a company that is aligned on your worth and can pay salary you believe is fair.

    10. Althea*

      The approach I am taking in a similar position is to research outside comparables and consider what I’d name as a range if I was being hired for the job as an external candidate. I’m in finance, so I can also compare to internal salaries, but I used that only as a reality check and don’t plan to talk about it all that much unless pushed. I do have a similar situation myself. Coworker, same position, several years less experience, has less projects, and I basically mentor her through things, but we’re making almost the same. In my case, they are about to differentiate our positions by giving me a direct report. For you, perhaps you could also argue that your positions are different (your key project that coworker was not a part of) and should be further differentiated?

      I’m not sure what other folks are talking about when they say experience doesn’t play into the salary. I’ve never heard anyone in HR say this, in fact, I’ve quite often heard that a person hired to similar roles gets a higher salary because they come in with more experience. However, when talking about it with your manager, I’d probably talk about the ways your experience makes you valuable and improves your performance, rather than counting on it as a guarantee.

      1. S-Mart*

        Not in HR but am a manager. More experience may help justify a higher starting salary, because it’s a shortcut that helps me have confidence I can give you harder projects, or you’ll work faster, or need less oversight, etc. Once you’ve worked for me for six months or so, I’m much more focused on what I know you can do. If somebody with eight years of experience and somebody with two years of experience are doing the same work to the same quality at the same rate, etc then they are equally valuable to me, and are compensated as such.

    11. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Regarding being on the quiet, introverted side, I think it’s best to just be yourself. If you try to be vivacious when you aren’t, you’ll just be uncomfortable and it will show. You have a lot to offer and are valuable the way you are.

      When I was new at ex-job, My first week consisted of a week-long team summit. As the new person, I was pretty quiet, but still friendly and pleasant, and made conversation as appropriate. Most new people are pretty quiet at first until they become more comfortable in their new job. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. But then our self-appointed hall monitor type decided to make it a Thing and asked me “are you okaaaaay? You’re SO quiiiiiiet!” She wouldn’t let it go. (Was I expected to dance on the tables?) That made me feel really uncomfortable and judged even though I hadn’t done anything wrong- extra stress I didn’t need my first week at a new job. I’m glad that I now work with people who accept me for who I am and don’t have to put up with her anymore.

    12. HiItsHaley*

      Bonus question answer: There’s a podcast called Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace:
      https://www.npr.org/podcasts/615851215/battle-tactics-for-your-sexist-workplace.

      The title sounds a lot more intense than the nature of the podcast actually is. Each week has different struggles (usually women) face in the workplace and then ways to improve those situations (tactics) for you to take into your workplace. It goes well with Ask A Manager on how to handle tricky workplace situations or how to speak up.

  5. Katniss Evergreen*

    I’m finally feeling more motivated at work after spending quite a while struggling with a lack of definition to the knowledge management benchmarking project I was doing with my org’s shared drive and knowledge sharing resources. Now that I know where everything lives and have started working with people to archive what is definitely old or irrelevant and delete what’s useless, I feel so much better and have started working faster toward my subsequent goals with this project.

    What’s your favorite thing that happened at work this week?

    1. merp*

      This is really mundane but it’s a big deal to me: I actually spent all week at work getting caught up after/during a complicated personal crisis at home. I finally asked for help with home stuff (oof, it’s hard, y’all) and it freed me up to a) consistently make it to work and b) not spend all day thinking about what disasters might be happening at home.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      That’s awesome! I had the opportunity to assist a different company with a technology transition that I did last year. I really want to get into training & development and this was really cool for me to do!

    3. Adlib*

      This week I got to learn more about SQL while troubleshooting an issue with an ERP system I was configuring. Today I made the marketing manager’s month (probably) by getting a sweet set of Power BI reports configured the way she wanted it AND setting up a new feature in our CRM done for her team before she rolls it out next week! Otherwise, it’s been horribly slow, but it’s Friday, and I’m going to see Knives Out again tonight!

    4. Zephy*

      Isn’t it nice to get your feet under you?

      For me, steps are being taken to massively simplify and streamline a process that I’m part of. There’s a document that I process that needs to be signed by 4 people, and we’re finally dragging ourselves into the 21st century and setting up DocuSign for it. I’m cautiously optimistic, because someone asked a higher-up about it and now he feels like he needs to be involved and could potentially seriously derail it for no good reason, but if that goes smoothly then it’ll be great for me. Fingers crossed!

      1. Katniss Evergreen*

        So with you on dragging ourselves into the 21st century – in my case I’m struggling with getting people to the very beginning of the 21st century (e.g. I’m writing an email to senior staff in my office with the words “if you’re not currently using the shared drive for most of your documents, now’s the time to start!”).

        Good luck!!

    5. Lynx*

      I am getting used to fully being in my new role! This is the first week I’ve had where I haven’t had to do any tasks for my old role. We have someone in one of the seats for the old role, but as it’s technically enough work for 2 people (the job heavily varies in work load from week to week), I’m expected to jump in & help with the old role as needed.

      It’s been blissfully quiet on that front, so I’ve had a lot of time to catch up with my new set of tasks & really get my 2020 plan off to a good start.

    6. OhGee*

      My grandboss got a new assistant who many of us are really excited about, after months without an assistant.

    7. Mkt*

      I had 1-on-1 with my grandboss to talk about my (now retired) manager’s role. It was a difficult conversation that I left feeling angry and disappointed with, but in hindsight was very necessary to put into perspective things I’ve been on the fence about for months.

      I feel like a load has been lifted, and can begin to move forward guilt free now.

    8. Boba Feta*

      Had a joint meeting with the department lead in which all the ideas that my colleague and I have worked so hard to develop over the last term were not only accepted but done so without pushback or compromises we weren’t already willing to concede.

      But as a matter of fact, I think the amount of surprise at this outcome is directly proportional to how much we had built up or assumed there would be problems, so I’m taking that meeting as a sign we need to adjust some of our assumptions about the kinds of things our lead is trying to accomplish or manage, what with being between a rock (upper management) and a hard place (the subject-matter experts for each sub-program, e.g. us).

      1. Katniss Evergreen*

        Yay! Fingers crossed that keeps going well for you guys and you can shift your perspective to something a little more optimistic, if that occurs!

    9. Jean*

      Happy that things are going better for you! It makes such a huge difference in the day-to-day as well as the overall goal picture.

      This week I got a great shout-out from my boss about the quality improvement that’s taken place since I took over a major key account back in Sept. The quality incident rate has gone down 84%, which means a lot less annoying corrective work for everyone on both sides. Feels pretty good to be recognized for my attention to detail. I’ve gotten a lot of flak for my “nitpickery” over the years, but I guess it does come in handy sometimes. LOL

    10. The Rat-Catcher*

      I’ve written about the massive reorg of my department that has been dragging out for months. Well, we had an, ahem, extremely sudden change of leadership and I had assumed this would put the conversation off even more. But yesterday I met our new director and he assured me (without any prompting from me) that my department’s future was the very first thing on his agenda – he literally has meetings scheduled today to start getting decisions made. This is such a relief after months of indecision.

    11. Clever Name*

      Best work-related thing this week was my 3-year-old asking, “How was your day at work, Mom? Was it a little bit stupid?”

    12. Retail not Retail*

      I was able to start the backpack blower on my own like four times – usually i need a guy for the pull cord (that upper body strength!). We got pizza on tuesday enough for lunch leftovers on Wednesday.

      I pet a goat.

        1. Retail not Retail*

          I can pet the goats almost every work day if i’m not lazy but it’s always easier when we work by them to get a few scratches in. I didn’t know until this winter that some goats get winter coats! So they are so fluffy and soft. The donkeys are too but they snub me most of the time.

    13. Chronic Overthinker*

      Best thing that happened this week was a formerly frosty co-worker has changed their attitude and they’re actually bordering on nice with all of our interactions. It’s really helped my morale knowing that they’re treating me like part of the team instead of the “new person.” I know it’s mundane, but it feels really good.

    14. MuchNope*

      I finally realized that working with the same people, in academia, for over a decade is like a forced group marriage on a desert island. The work has its ups & downs, but having to manage so many relationships that have no direct relationship to my work is enough reason to want out.

    15. Thorisa*

      Congrats! We’re working (slowly) on a similar project at my office.

      My biggest thing was being asked to replace a former coworker at a national conference later this year! I’ll get to do sort of a mini-presentation while I’m there. Super excited, as it’s my first conference, and my office only sends folks who are presenting. It’s an awesome opportunity!

    16. So I says to Mabel*

      For years, my department has talked about implementing something which is done by other parts of the organization but the process they use is very complicated and we have not had the time/resources to properly understand it (and find out whether there is a simpler way).
      This week, I have been working on understanding it and doing a skeleton version of it by looking through guides and yesterday, I succeeded in doing it. It might be a small thing but I find that it is a really good start.

  6. Teapot Translator*

    Mature student thread?
    Has the new semester started for you? How are you anticipating the whole work/study/life balance?

    1. Teapot Translator*

      The winter semester started this week. We have so much reading to do and I already feel like I’m behind schedule. I need to do better with sleep because it feels like I’ll soon be playing catch up on that front as well.
      What’s your preferred format for note taking? I prefer handwritten, but it is more time consuming and I don’t know if it’s worth it (i.e. if my brain retains more information when I write by hand).

      1. Elenna*

        (Caveat, I’m a 23-year-old who just graduated from undergrad, not a mature student)

        IMO “more time consuming” isn’t necessarily a bad thing? It depends how exactly you do it, but if you need to summarize the prof’s notes or what they’re saying in order to write it down fast enough, the act of thinking about it to summarize should help retain information.

        That being said, I typed all my notes because my handwriting is awful and if I hand-wrote them my hand would have hurt every day and I wouldn’t be able to read them again a week later. (I was also in math, so I got very familiar with Word’s equation mode. Probably should have learned LaTeX but I never got around to it and Word was plenty fast enough for me. Almost too fast, I had a bad habit of writing notes, surfing the net for a few minutes, and then catching back up on notes based on what was written on the board.)

        1. TurkeyLurkey*

          If it helps, I find LaTeX super useful for writing papers, project writeups with equations, etc., but find it too be too fussy for note taking during lectures and reading.

        2. Teapot Translator*

          Ah ha ha, I had to revise documents in LaTeX in a previous job. I hated it! I liked the colleagues, hated the format.
          I take handwritten notes in class because I went to university first time 20 years ago. But I have to take notes from the compulsory reading. That’s where I’m ambivalent.

        3. Dr. Doll*

          Get the best of both worlds: Take your notes in class or on initial readings by keyboarding, as detailed as you please, then go back and make yourself a highlights summary or a metacognitive summary in handwriting.

        4. Feline Fine*

          My class starts on Monday, but I just got notice from the ethics review board that they have questions about my application. So I will be spending my weekend updating that. It needs to be approved before I can do my research this term.

          This term doesn’t seem to have as much required reading as last term. I’ve been doing this part time while working full time. I’m so looking forward to being done in June!

      2. KR*

        I love handwritten notes but pre-arthritis has made it a slow process for years. I have recently accepted that I can’t afford the time to hand write all my notes and must type them.

        1. Teapot Translator*

          There’s that, too. My hands start to hurt when I write too long. But it’s always been that way. Maybe I hold my pens too tight?

          1. KR*

            I always thought it was something I was doing to cause the hand pain and it turns out it was the beginnings of arthritis. Makes me feel old at 25. Hope your hands are ok.

      3. twig*

        I find that I retain better when I take notes by hand. The physical act of forming the words somehow embeds it in my brain better than just typing.

        I try to take notes in class/training by hand, then type them up into a OneNote notebook that evening/afternoon to cement the ideas and record them in a manner that is more easily readable — and I’m not stuck trying to remember what my abbreviations mean months down the road when It’s time to study.

        you can also scan your written notes with your phone (I use office lens — it’s an MS product and integrates well with word, OneNote etc) to save in your One Note as well.

        1. Teapot Translator*

          I take handwritten notes in class. My hesitation is more for the reading notes. But! All this discussion reminds that this would be a great opportunity to buy colour pencils and have fun! I could then scan the notes to have a backup.

      4. DrR*

        I’m an English professor and believe that taking notes by hand will improve retention significantly. I’ve read about the way the brain has to filter and prioritize because taking notes by hand is slower and also that more of the brain is involved when writing by hand. They said, in some circumstances: courses / meetings, typing notes makes sense. Side note: I love my mature students. Good luck this semester.

        1. Teapot Translator*

          Thanks.!
          Ah literature. My first degree was in literature (not English). I miss it now that I’m doing a certificate in law.

        2. Chrome*

          I agree, for most people taking notes by hand leads to better retention. I’m not an exception to that, but I still choose to take notes by computer. I have atrocious handwriting to the point I can’t read it myself without context cues, so I sacrifice a small amount of retention in favor of not having to completely redo my notes come exam time, haha.

      5. Platypus Enthusiast*

        I graduated last May, but I’m still taking one class per semester because my job has a tuition benefit (its about a class/semester, except for fees associated with the class), and my experience was that I learnt more when I handwrote things, except I had trouble catching all the important concepts because the professor would move on. When I typed, I captured more, but retained less (and was also easily distracted because the internet was too easily accessible), and I ended to overestimate how much I retained. If your professor uses powerpoints for lectures, I would print them out- if you use Microsoft Powerpoint to print out 3 slides/page, there’s handy little lines for notetaking to the right of each slide. I found that was ideal in terms of retention/notetaking.

      6. CastIrony*

        My sister used to use erasable colored pencils and pencils to highlight and write on printed articles and textbooks to accompany notes she wrote in class.

      7. Berrin*

        Get an iPad with an Apple Pencil and a keyboard. You can take handwritten notes using the GoodNotes app. I like that I can hand write notes (I do for sure retain it more handwriting), but also type if needed, plus it doesn’t really make my hand hurt. I have a wrist injury so normal writing gets quite painful and I get cramps.

        I also like using digital textbooks (they have an eversion of most books), so I don’t have to Schlepp anything to work and can still read and do homework on my lunch break or on my way home.

        Of course it’s more expensive than a regular notebook, but I was pleasantly surprised at the total cost. I just got the regular iPad, not pro – I don’t think that’s necessary for note taking and watching lecture videos.

      8. Horseshoe*

        I bought myself a Remarkable tablet in anticipation of going back to college this semester.

        You can handwrite notes and it OCRs to text. I haven’t used the OCR much, but as a note-taking kind of person, it’s super nice having dozen notebooks contained in one device.

        There is definitely research to show you retain more if you write by hand vs type because of the slower speed. I heard that if you learn to write really fast (i.e. in shorthand), you lose the memory benefits, since it is the going slower that seems to help, more than the physical act of handwriting.

    2. ceiswyn*

      Aaaaaaaaargh.

      I entirely failed to catch up over Christmas like I meant to do, I have zero energy (‘I have just made an appointment with my doctor to discuss this’ levels of zero energy), and the studying I did on Wednesday night seems to have gone in one eye and out the other. I anticipate a lot of last-minute panic and submitting work that doesn’t meet my perfectionist standards…

      1. Teapot Translator*

        No panic. I won’t panic if you don’t panic? And we can tell our perfectionists to take a hike?

    3. Middle School Teacher*

      Mine also started this week. My class includes a lot of phd students, but it’s a Masters level class, so that’s intimidating. I also feel very behind on the reading (the prof seems to be assigning 70-100 pages per week, along with “extra FYI reading” which I know the phds will be reading). There are only 5-6 of us out of 16 who work full-time; everyone else is taking classes full time. So I don’t know how this is going to go :/

      1. DrN*

        The PhD students will be demonstrating that they’re doing the reading because knowing how to do that is crucial for them.
        They’re probably speed readers with good strategies for efficiency. Look into speed reading, take strategic notes, make sure to have alert comments and volunteer them so as to give the impression it high preparation and engagement. Hashtag I have a PhD.

      2. Teapot Translator*

        That’s the amount of reading I have to do, but it’s for an undergraduate certificate. It’s a mandatory class, so the class is full. I don’t feel the pressure to contribute. I’m a newbie and I plan on acting like a newbie.
        The teacher also put some extra reading. Hah, not doing that. I shall leave that to the eager students with lots of energy.

      3. Dr. KMnO4*

        If the reading is journal articles then read the abstract, skim the introduction, and read the results & discussion. If it’s chapters in a book, skim as much as you can. Once you figure out what the professor is going to be looking for/what you are going to be assessed on you can make more informed decisions on how much reading you actually need to do in full. That’s how I approached reading-heavy courses in my PhD program and it worked well for me.

      4. Platypus Enthusiast*

        In my masters classes, we usually had a handful of PhD students, but there was one where the majority were PhD students and honestly, I was really, really intimidated, so I totally understand. But all the professors who I’ve spoken with have different expectations for masters students than PhD students, so try not to compare yourself with them. Good luck! :)

    4. Mimmy*

      I was just accepted and admitted into a Masters program (my second Masters, my third graduate-level program…yup, I’m nuts lol). It is completely online and our classes start on the 27th. I’m taking two courses.

      Work / study balance – Although I did very well in my last online program (2014-2016), I struggled with coming up with efficient study strategies. I’m hoping to work on that this time around. I currently work 3 days a week, which I think will be somewhat helpful with time management. (I am looking for a new job, hopefully another part-time one and preferably related to the degree I’m pursuing.).

      1. Teapot Translator*

        Wow. I tried to do a Master years ago. Bad idea. Now I have a mental block. Even if a master was useful in my field, I’m not sure I’d do one.
        Good luck with the new program!

    5. Justin*

      Starts later this month. I will somehow be working (maybe at a new job in march), studying, and being a dad. Yikes.

      My only hope is to take very good care of myself so I have the energy to do everything.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        ^Same balance; all online classes for me and much of it stuff that is very “check the box” for me, so I expect that to be helpful. I spend three hours total daily commuting – on public transportation – so really my plan is to put a whole bunch of it there, and do more “we are all in here working on homework together” hangs with the kids. At this point I’m just anxious for Jan 27th to get here!

        1. Teapot Translator*

          Yeah, there’s a stress in waiting to know what the semester will look like required reading, evaluation method used).

          1. Ginger Baker*

            ^This! It’s hard to allocate time to projects/papers when I don’t know yet for sure what they will be. Especially as I am still considering signing up for another class (because this semester in particular is all classes very simple for me with one exception).

      2. Teapot Translator*

        Wow! Lots on your plate. I think it’s important to prioritize and accept that not everything will get done.

    6. KR*

      New semester this week. It’s already going bad. I’m just so busy at work that the last thing I want to do when I get home is look at a computer. And I have so much work right now that I need to do some of it at home on the weekends but I also have to do school. I just want to get my degree so bad. My company offers amazing tuition benefits, enough that I don’t have to pay anything as long as I get Cs or better. I just have to fit it around my work which is nonstop.

    7. Bunny Girl*

      Our quarter just started. It’s going okay. Luckily I have a lot of downtime at work and my boss is totally fine with me doing school work during the work day so it helps A LOT. My only complaint is I just finished a required class last quarter that was just really un-inspiring. Totally reading focused and one of those classes that no one really needs but is a requirement to graduate with my degree anyway. I was happy to get it done, only to start my classes and find out I have ANOTHER one just like it. I’ll be happy when this part of my degree is over and I can move more into my specialization. We started out taking a bunch of those “personality” quizzes. I’m happy it’s on online class so my professor can’t see my eyes rolling into the back of my head.

    8. twig*

      First: You’ve got this!

      When I was an undergrad, traditional student (ie straigh out of high school to college) my favorite people in my classes were the non-traditional students– you have more experience, different insight than those who go straight to college from high school. Your contributions to class discussions are unique and valuable

    9. Lady Jay*

      New semester started this week! It’s my last semester of coursework (unless I take a summer course, kinda tempted TBH) before comprehensives this fall. Yikes.

      Definitely need to block out more time on weekends for personal rest. I’ve been back in school for 18 mos or so now, and while I really like the research/teaching that comes with my program, I’ve noticed that my energy for various tasks is trickling away, along with the ability to commit to things (the more anxious I am, the more trouble I have making decisions or moving forward in a meaningful way). Haven’t figured out *how* I will do this yet, but it’s one of my goals for the spring semester.

    10. Eshrai*

      I am starting some IT classes next week. I’m a bit nervous…have to have a babysitter to go. I am hoping I haven’t taken on too much. Only taking 1-2 classes, but I also work full time and am a troop leader for my daughters daisy troop. On the bright side daisys dont do as much as the older girls…but going into cookie season lol. Good luck with your classes!

    11. QueenoftheCats*

      I wasn’t a mature student but I did work part-time while in grad school and before that as an academic advisor.

      -Keep a planner, Google calendar, etc
      -Don’t be afraid to break up work. Have 75pgs to read before the next class? You can break up the work by pgs/day or read 10pgs, switch to another task, and then read 10 more.
      -As soon as you get your essay topic, schedule an appointment with the writing center before the due date. In this way, you’ll have leeway and a second pair of eyes. (In my case, I pulled my all-nighters a few days before the due date, as opposed to the night of. Lol)
      -You’re not going to hit all you’re academic tasks for the day/week/month. That’s okay. Take a breather. Look at your schedule and rework it.
      -At least for me, my social life took a nosedive in grad school. I realized that maintaining a social life can be just as time consuming as work and study life AND just as important

      Good luck with the semester!

      1. Teapot Translator*

        Your last point, that’s what I’m struggling with. I want to have the time to see friends and exercise! *sigh*

        1. QueenoftheCats*

          Tabata and HIIT exercises (usually 7-20 minutes) have become integral in my life because of school. Also, I did a lot of reading on the stationary bikes.

          Having a social life is super important, ESPECIALLY when you are super stressed. In fact, don’t look at it as a competition to working and studying but rather a compliment to these other facets of your life. I’ve always felt better after skyping friends, calling my parents, and going out. It gave me an opportunity to stop running in circles, refocus my energy into something more productive (hanging out with friends was far more productive than repeating “OMG OMG” and pacing around the place), and come back with a fresh mind. Now, there were times where I was like “I can’t even with humans now,” which is totally fine. You need time for yourself, too, away from everything else.

          So, I hope I’m encouraging you. I think you’re in a far better position than you’re giving yourself credit for because you’re asking all the right questions. The first week or two of the semester is always busy because you’re adjusting to a new schedule.

        2. Amy Sly*

          During law school, sometimes I found that the best thing I could do for my productivity was wander down to the gym and take a long shower. Sometimes I’d even swim a few laps first, but the important thing was to just not be at my desk.

    12. The Rat-Catcher*

      My semester starts Jan 21st. I am five semesters in so I already have an idea how this will go. Last semester was utterly horrendous, but that was due to lots of things going on personally. Most of those situations have been resolved, and I’m hoping for a busy but manageable semester.

    13. wenhaver*

      My semester starts in a week, and I just got the “welcome to the class” emails yesterday. One of which was very snotty about how because this is a BUSINESS PROGRAM we need to use BUSINESS STANDARD operating systems and software, and that work done on a Mac is therefore not acceptable because it is not a BUSINESS operating system.

      Guess who has two thumbs, access to *6* Macs, and not a single PC? I’m guessing it’s going to matter because advanced Excel work is important for this class. But I’ve also been a business professional for over 20 years, and have not used a PC for work in over a decade – I’ve turned down jobs where they won’t let me use a Mac. I’m just so out of the PC world that I don’t comfortable or efficient. So now I get to spend at least $140 on VM/Windows licenses, or buy a bottom of the barrel laptop solely for this 3 credit class that’s required for my program. I am sorely tempted to just work away on my Mac anyway unless and until I get stuck where a PC is actually required for a functional reason, not just a personal preference on the part of the instructor. The software required for the class (ebook, Excel) all work on Mac, unless there’s additional undisclosed software that I have yet to be informed about.

      Needless to say, I am quite a bit salty about the tone of that email, the idea that one computer can be “business” while another cannot ever be, and that I have to lay out even more money straight after the holidays because this requirement wasn’t disclosed ahead of time. I can pay the extra expenses, or I can possibly borrow an old laptop from someone, but I don’t feel I should have to based on this incredibly specious reasoning.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        Wow. Just wow.
        Is there a computer lab at the school? They probably have PCs. Might be another option.

      2. CastIrony*

        On Amazon, my best friend bought a desktop PC that was about 200 USD plus 70 USD for a cheap monitor. It lasted her a couple of years.

    14. Ace in the Hole*

      Winter term started this week. I’m in a distance (undergrad) program, which has pros and cons. One of the good parts is that a very high proportion of students are older, working full time, parents, in the military, etc. So instructors are somewhat better prepared for the kind of routine schedule conflicts that happen when your whole life doesn’t revolve around school.

      It’s still hard. I upped my units this term in the hopes of finishing a degree sometime this decade. Applied for a few research programs (but haven’t heard back yet). Hoping the term goes smoothly!

    15. Close Bracket*

      New semester starts next week. I’m about half committed to taking a class. I’m only half committed bc frankly, work life balance will not be a thing for me if I take a class. I’m 49. I want a freaking life, or at least not to work all the time. I’m probably going to take it, though.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Well, you’re talking about A, as in ONE, class. It would be a commitment, but not a life sentence, and you’re taking it for your own benefit. They do end eventually. What kind of class?

    16. CastIrony*

      I am thinking of starting my career in art after years of getting my art degree, but don’t know where to start! Any ideas?

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        That depends…. what kind of art is your focus? You’ll have very different options if your background is in, for example, sculpture vs graphic design vs painting.

    17. June*

      Here is what my instructor taught us on how to read and survive grad school –
      1. Read the table of content.
      This will give you an idea of what the book is about (concept, theme, style, etc.).
      2. Skim the notes in the back of the book.
      Does the author use a brochure from a conference (true story), cite scientific journal, or quote their previous book (again, true story)? This can give you an info about the author’s expertise, theme of the book (more scientific journals, more of a focus on science), ego level (I joke, maybe), etc.
      3. Read the first and last chapter.
      This will help you understand the author ‘s theory and their conclusion.
      4. Go back to the table of contents and look for chapters that either interest you or you need to learn more.
      Read those chapters.
      5. Schedule dedicated time for reading and most importantly, time to process/think about the book.
      Try not do either of these the night before the reading is due. :)
      6. Make reading as comfortable as possible.
      Find a comfortable place to read with good lighting (academia reading doesn’t have to happen at a desk). Have your favorite cup of tea. Snuggle with a blanket. Maybe go to your favorite coffee shop to read (but leave the blanket at home).
      7. Write words/sentences that speak to you as you read in a notebook.
      These notes don’t have to be an outline of the book. You would be surprised how often your random notes will start showing a theme or your feelings/concept about the book.
      8. Discuss the book with people other than your classmate.
      Talking about a book will often bring clarity that your mind alone might not have discovered. But warning, use this technique gently with family and friends. You are not trying to educate them, just spark a conservation. :)
      Good luck!!

    18. Pam*

      Good luck to all of you. I was a mature student who became an academic advisor and now look out for my tribe.

    19. WorkingOnMyMasters*

      I have exams to close out the first semester starting next Friday (the system works differently here in Belgium).
      After 3 years I think I have the work/study balance figured out, but life can throw curve balls that make everything more stressful.

      Good luck to everyone starting their second semester. You can do this!

    20. A Cataloger*

      Not a student (and knowing it’s probably too late for anyone to read this), but as a librarian, I highly recommend getting to know your subject librarian. I work with a department that has a lot of mature students and I’m always happy to meet with them when and how it works with their schedule. I’ve come in on Saturday mornings, I’ve stayed late on weeknights, I’ve also meet with students online, etc. Every meeting I’ve had has been great because we are able to delve deeper into their subject and needs.

  7. Daisy-dog*

    I need Googlin’ tips! A part of my role involves doing research on potential customers which can be quite small companies located all over the world. I’m essentially trying to confirm that this is a real company (not a front for anything illegal). I’ve been told to confirm their website, find information about them on other websites that looks legit, and look at Google Maps satellite images to confirm that the location doesn’t look suspicious. Except these companies are so small or have really generic names, I often can’t find them. And Google doesn’t do a good job with showing me the address in foreign countries. Any advice?

    1. Wannabe Citizen DS*

      Can you define key words and have them translated professionally to local languages? While Google Translate can be helpful, it’s often inaccurate, and small businesses are more often talked about on local forums, which brings me to my second point.
      Can you look up business forums, local versions of reddit or whatever’s relevant for your industry/the businesses you’re looking at? Even a Facebook group for llama enthusiast in the local language. Maybe job boards?

    2. Alice*

      Check out the website Bellingcat — it has lots of posts about “open source intelligence,” but you will be able to apply their techniques to any kind of online research, not just war crimes.

    3. Toodie*

      I can’t speak for the current edition, but many many years ago Googling was a big part of my job, and I found the O’Reilly book “Google Hacks” to be very helpful. Again, I can’t speak for the current edition but that one was terrific.

      1. June*

        This book is older but it might be helpful – “How to Find Out Anything: From Extreme Google Searches to Scouring Government Documents, a Guide to Uncovering Anything About Everyone and Everything”
        by Don MacLeod.

    4. kittymommy*

      depending on where they are located at (I’m more familiar with US based companies and not international) you may try to see if they are registered with any state agencies or any regulatory authorities, if applicable. You can also try to search in local government databases for any paperwork filed with a clerk or property registry (I do this by address or parcel numbers if I don’t have any names or owners or registered agents). Also see if you can find a tax id # on them, that might open up some avenues as well.

      Good luck.

      1. BRR*

        This was going to be my suggestion. For US companies, they register with each state’s secretary of state. I usually search “STATE secretary of state business search.”

    5. pigeon*

      It’s driving me crazy that I can’t find it off-hand, but a while ago I read this fascinating blog series from an (ex?) lawyer who went to great lengths to track down a company that tried to scam him. He explained all the methods he used to investigate their different companies, determine legitimacy, red flags that popped up, etc. It could be a good resource for you; I’ll keep looking and link if I find it.

    6. Aquawoman*

      Add whatever other information you have about them? Locale (city vs country), name of someone who would normally be listed on a website (C-level or something like that), nature of the business. Sometimes if you have a name, you can find them on Linked in and they’ll be linked to their company’s website.

    7. Jedi Squirrel*

      Are there any professional associations they might belong to that you can verify?

      Do they hold any quality certifications (such as ISO)?

      What happens when you Google their telephone number? (I do this in the States; not sure how it would work overseas.)

      Can you reach out to them to ask for banking/business references?

      Who designed their website? Sometimes there is a link at the bottom; sometimes you have to look at source code.) Can you reach out to them to see how that process was carried out? (You’re gonna have to come up with a story here, most likely.)

    8. A business librarian*

      I’m assuming you are in the U.S.– maybe a good strategy is using government records to check and see if these companies are registered for business in their locale. For example, in the U.S., every state’s secretary of state website has a search function that you can use to get company records for businesses incorporated/registered there. Google “new york secretary of state business search” for an example.
      Other countries will have similar publicly-available information. The U.K., for example: https://www DOT gov DOT uk/get-information-about-a-company.

      Certainly the availability/quality/currency of the records depends on what you’re looking for and where. And, it may or may not be helpful.
      For finding other information, search for news stories or social media profiles?
      Also, consider contacting your local business librarian (either at a public library, or your nearest state university library) for further research suggestions. In the end, it’s really hard to find information about small (private?) companies.

    9. HM MM*

      Do you get any other info about the companies? A phone number, email address, etc?

      Not exactly the same, but I used to have do expense reports for employees who took a lot of biz trips in Asia. Half the time the employees just handed me a bag full of receipts with no info (I was an EA, so it was my job). A lot of the receipts were in characters that I was not at all familiar with, but sometimes I’d find a string of numbers. I’d google the numbers and sometimes I’d get a business website or listing that I could pull up and use Google translate.

    10. i forget the name I usually use*

      I would say DNBi and checking the Secretary of State business search to find business registration, registered addresses, etc. They may be incorporated in a different state than they’re located (e.g. lots of companies use Delaware and have an agent as their address there). Searching the US trademark database may also be helpful, as those are thing they have to maintain and have an address for.

    11. fluffy*

      In the US, local libraries provide extensive databases with reputable information on businesses, and can be used remotely if you enter your library card info. I would search the company’s local newspaper and a big newspaper (New York Times, say). If the library has provided a database for a long time, the library believes the it provides reasonably fair resources. ABI/Inform has helped me a lot in the past.

    12. anonish*

      I did this type of research on companies for several years. If you’re still reading, here are some basic free or lost cost options:
      -opencorporates (dot) com is a good resource. It’s free and has pretty decent coverage for basic information on US and international companies
      -Second suggestions for U.S. companies to search state Secretary of State records. Most states allow you to search for free in order to get basic information about when a company was incorporated, its registered address, registered agent, etc. Also search d/b/a records (if available online) – these are “does business as” or “assumed business name” records – typically available at the state level. Sometimes a company will be incorporated as one thing, e.g. LottaLlamas, LLC but operate under an assumed name e.g. I Love Llamas
      -In a pinch if you’re dealing with offshore companies search ICIJ’s offshore leaks database. This will at least confirm the company exists as an offshore entity
      -Some countries outside the U.S. have company registrar information available online – for example, in the UK you can search UK Companies House for basic corporate information.
      -Third suggestions to work with a librarian. They may have access to commercial research databases such as Dun & Bradstreet/Hoover’s, LexisNexis, Westlaw and other public records aggregators containing additional information about companies. Or, if your company has the budget, consider subscribing directly to some of these databases.

  8. Hamster*

    Thanks to everyone who responded in my last post about maternity leave.

    I plan to talk to my HR after my ultrasound if everything goes well (please, I need the good wishes yall!) to get more info about FMLA/maternity leave etc.

    The only one I’ve actually told is my boss, I don’t really plan to announce to anyone else except my team mate who will take over my duties while I’m gone. If everything goes well, my due date is in August.

    How does a conversation like that go? what exactly should I ask, and what would I say in the follow up? Our HR person is a mother of tweens and seems to be reasonable and nice, but I want to be cautious and make sure I do this right. Do I need to involve my boss on this conversation?

    1. Daisy-dog*

      “I’m pregnant and due in August!” That’s about it. Up to you if you want your boss involved. The HR person will ask how much time you hope to take off and advise on wage replacement options. Depending on your company or your state, you may get some paid time for maternity leave specifically or they may offer short-term disability. Otherwise, save your PTO!! With FMLA, you get 12 weeks total of job protection, but that can be taken anytime after 1 year of the birth, so if you just want to take 8 weeks initially, then save 4 weeks for a childcare issue, you can. Questions to ask vary based on your role, your company’s benefits, etc.

      (I did not see your previous post, so sorry if I am missing more context.)

    2. Tableau Wizard*

      If you’ve already told your boss, you could ask for his/her advice on that conversation – ask if they want to be involved, etc.

      If that doesn’t feel right to you, I’d probably err on the side of speaking with the HR person solo. Most of those policies are already spelled out and it’s really just them explaining to you what is offered – and you figuring out how much time you want to take. I think it’s good to know how much time off you want, but leave flexibility in there if you can. It’s a lot easier to come back early than to stay out longer, so err on the side of asking for more than you think you want now.

    3. theelephantintheroom*

      It’s a pretty easy-going conversation, so don’t stress too much! I recommend emailing your HR rep with a quick, “Hey, I’m pregnant and here’s my due date. Can we schedule a time to go over the protocol for initiating maternity leave?” Then you’ll do just that! Take a lot of notes during the meeting. I’m currently in my third trimester and my HR department is great. We exchanged personal emails and phone numbers (namely so they can keep me informed without me getting sucked into work emails, but also because they’re all suckers for baby pictures and have light-heartedly demanded All The Photos). They also remind me of important things I need to do.

      Be sure to let them know you’ve told your boss. I’m not sure if it’s a legal thing or company policy, but my HR department said they couldn’t discuss anything regarding my leave (including finding someone to fill in for me) until I spoke with her myself first.

      The only big thing I had to do myself was call the company we use for STD/FMLA (which is Cigna) and open an account. They contact my doctor for me and all that stuff. The nice thing about places that have legit maternity leave is that they make it pretty easy.

      Congrats and good luck!!

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Yes, I also recommend ensuring that HR has your personal contact info. I had to scramble to find out someone’s info when he was out for a medical leave because open enrollment was happening during that time. An employee came back from maternity leave this week and I was texting her a little when she was out – asking what she needed in her pump room, telling her how to update her dependents on insurance, etc.

    4. Ann Perkins*

      Benefits wise, make sure you understand if anything might change while you’re on leave. Some employers require you to pay your portion of any insurance premiums if you’re on an unpaid leave.

      Job wise, if there’s any substantial duties that might require cross training that isn’t currently in place, you and your boss will need to sort out how to accomplish that appropriate training as you get closer to August (plan to have that fully done by the time you’re 32 weeks, if not sooner).

      Congratulations!

      1. June First*

        Yes, all great advice.
        Also make sure you clarify what’s paid time off and what’s not. I had short term disability for my youngest child, but while I had six weeks off as recommended by the doctor, they would only pay for five. I had to use PTO for the gap week. When I tried to get six weeks paid by short term disability (seven weeks total) they said no. Six weeks total, not six weeks paid by STD. Luckily I had PTO to cover the gap week. This is not a huge issue, but be prepared before you need it!

    5. Becca*

      Congrats on your pregnancy! People already gave you good advice, so I just wanted to add – don’t worry, you have so much time! You do not have to tell anyone at work or discuss with HR until you are ready, please don’t feel rushed or pressured. I did not tell a single person at work until I was 24+ weeks along and everything was completely fine. I know that feeling of wanting to get everything figured out, so do what’s right for you – but people get sick or have emergencies or quit all the time and business goes on so don’t feel bad about focusing on yourself!

    6. i forget the name I usually use*

      Congrats! I was you a few months ago. Likely, I’ll you’ll have to do is tell them, and they’ll guide the conversation from there to let you know what standard practices at your company are. It might be really short though, if they need some time to get their ducks in a row before having an in-depth conversation about what they can offer you. I wouldn’t agree to anything, just ask for as much information as they can give you. You’ll want to take time to review it, I’ve spent a long time considering my options.

      If they are a sensitive person, they will probably also ask who else knows and how you would like to tell the rest of your team/company. I think they are ultra aware of this sort of disclosure being in your court, but if not I think you could make it clear that you’d like to handle sharing the news on your own.

  9. Automated*

    Has anyone elses company gone live with MyAnalytics from microsoft?

    There are things I like about it but man it skeeves me out!

    It clearly tracks and analyzes everything you say in chat or email. It analyzes your read and response times for emails (for example manager from x department only reads 40% of my emails). Tracks how often you disconnect on nights and weekends. And the flyer I read states your company may have purchased website tracking and analysis software. They claim it’s not meant to be used as an automatic productivity tracker but frankly Skype was not meant to be used as an engaged indicator either but plenty of managers reacted to “away” statuses.

    My company just went live with it with no warning or announcement which felt like an attempt to trick people into not noticing it. I have no way of knowing if the website tracker is on (I google stackoverflow a lot for work).

    I’ve been engaging with the software and sending feedback to MS because some metrics like focus and disconnect time are just wrong.

    Anyone else seen companies not abuse tool who can calm my anxiety about this watch you work bot?

    1. Alice*

      I can’t calm your anxiety, but I will note that it’s probably measuring read/unread based on whether someone opened the email. That is, if they only read it in the preview pane — which is the case for many emails I suspect — it will count as unread. So, the quality of this data is not high.

      1. Automated*

        Reading in preview counts as a read but if you go in and mark it unread it doesn’t count as read. Overall that metric is fairly accurate. This manager is notorious for not engaging and them being the loudest complainer that their departments needs were not considered.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          In Outlook if you leave the new email line highlighted it changes over in 5 seconds to “read” status, but this is a setting you can change. I don’t know whether you have to have it in preview mode or not.

          I suspect there are multiple workarounds to affect data of this kind and that a lot of it will not be truly representative of workflow timings and such.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        This. Mine isn’t exactly accurate either for th is reason (and it’s been in place since I started with this company back in May). I’m not worried about potential website tracking because my work output is good, so even if I spend a half hour here or there looking at a news story or ordering something off Amazon, I really don’t think my boss or grandboss will care.

    2. pugsnbourbon*

      Fascinating. I started getting emails from MyAnalytics out of the blue back in October. I didn’t really pay it any mind. Looking more closely now, there’s a little icon in the top corner that says “for your eyes only” which takes me to a privacy information page. The page is, as could be expected, a little vague. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out at my workplace.

      1. Automated*

        My thinking is I should engage to know what it os saying about me vs if management is secretely using it and being blindsided.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I’m still wondering how the heck this functionality got past all the watchdogs. Specifically, Legal, Audit, Compliance type functions. Yes, it’s turned on at my workplace. Thus far, I have completely ignored it.

    4. JustaTech*

      Oh is that what that thing does? Mine only gives me things like “you had bla % uninterrupted working time” and things like that – utterly meaningless because just because I’m not in a meeting doesn’t mean people aren’t talking to me. But I haven’t seen anything about anyone else, just me.

      I know when it started (about a month or so ago) several people asked IT if it was some new kind of phishing, and It was “no, it’s just a Microsoft thing” and everyone shrugged and went on their way.

      I *highly* doubt my company paid for it, or is using it as a productivity tool since half the workforce is only productive when they’re *not* at their computers. (Manufacturing)

      1. Nom de Plume*

        I had this exact same thought! I don’t have a ton of scheduled meetings, but I’m a subject matter expert, so folks come to me with questions fairly frequently. Or sometimes I’ll have an impromptu collaboration session with a colleague that isn’t a meeting, but doesn’t mean that time was free for writing.

    5. Pilcrow*

      I’m pretty sure MyAnalytics is something that comes default with the Office/Outlook package; therefore probably not something your company is actually using for tracking.*

      My emails have been popping up weekly for about a year now and there is no indication my employer is using it for anything (other than further confirming Corporate has drunk the Microsoft kool-aid :p ). I ignore and delete.

      * I say ‘probably’ because I’m sure there is some company somewhere that uses this data, but I am equally sure that such a company would be an outlier.

    6. NGL*

      I just got it this weekend and opted out of that ASAP (we also didn’t have any kind of notification it was coming). While I’m definitely curious about tracking my own productivity, it just felt weird to have my company tracking it. (Also I feel like the stats could be very misleading in my case. I spend a lot of time browsing the internet/on social media…because I’m a marketer who directly deals with social media!)

      1. Auto Generated Anon*

        We were talking about it at work the other day since it appeared for us too. My opinion, until Microsoft can fix that stupid color initial circle I’m not going to buy that they can create a decent AI product.

        (Microsoft added a circle with your, or coworkers a while ago. It kind of looks like it’s trying to be an avatar. But it uses some crap algorithm to choose what to use and is useless and confusing. It changes my initials all the time, sometimes including letters from the company’s two names.

    7. Mimmy*

      Is that part of Office 365? My email at work will be transitioning to that on Monday (the entire agency, not just my specific worksite).

    8. Nikki T*

      This prompted me to go turn mine off. It’s not all that useful anyway.

      I see it is listed on the page where they announced changeover to Office 365, but it was just a “here is this thing” link. But I didn’t really read the webpage, just the emails that were sent to let us know if the changeover broke something.

      I mean, they can watch me regardless of this thing. But the report is completely useless to me…

    9. Damn it, Hardison!*

      My company turned it off, as we determined it raised some sticky privacy issues, particularly with our European affiliates.

    10. Another name*

      It’s been announced on the Microsoft Roadmap but I get so many of those notices I didn’t even notice this was coming before I got the notification it was turned on – and I work in IT! I immediately went into my settings and turned it off for my account.

      We aren’t using it to track our employees – it is marketed to help employees track how they are using their time – but anytime data is collected, it can potentially be compromised. It seems unhelpful to me and I’d rather opt out.

    11. NW Mossy*

      My company has it and I manage people. Can confirm that I see absolutely zero reporting about my directs (or anyone else) related to it, and even if I did, I’m dubious about how well passive AI data-hoovering really does in giving me meaningful insights into their productivity.

  10. Green Snickers*

    Anyone have advice for surviving in a job that requires a lot of strategy planning and thinking when you’ve got one foot out the door?

    I’m starting to job search and am beyond over my current job. It’s really hard for me to come in and care about work. Ideally, I’d like to keep my head down and just get through my tasks and emails but my job is requiring a lot of strategy and future planning- presentations and process creation. It’s really hard to find the energy to try but unfortunately, I can’t not try unless I want to throw up red flags to my bosses that I’m looking (FWIW the job isn’t a culture fit and I don’t mesh well with my team so there’s no chance my boss could fix anything to make me stay)

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      Are you looking for jobs roughly within the same industry or same/similar role as what you have now? If so, and it were me, I’d approach any work I’m doing now as essentially research/portfolio/practice activities toward the new job. I would think the more you can show having accomplished and the more recently, the more likely you look like a good job candidate. Put the emphasis on creating detailed and beautiful documents, showing your process, your research, and the anticipated results of your plan.

      If you can walk into an interview and say, “I just completed a strategic plan for automating all teapot manufacturing and here’s the lovely illustrated documentation of how I accomplished that,” it could give you a leg up. Obviously, you need to do this within limits of confidentiality, but some form of portfolio is generally allowed in most industries.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Similar to @Oh No She Di’int*, think of these as exercises to boost your future job searches. “I was able to design and setup the successful strategy” is a much better accomplishment than “I checked out.”

      Also, can you trick your brain into seeing yourself as an external consultant? That way, you don’t need to be personally invested in the future, but you’re professional reputation/integrity is on the line.

  11. Cherry*

    At the risk of sounding like a total A-hole……

    How much can a manager/HR push someone to take a sick days? Everyone has sick days outside of PTO, and management encourages everyone to take them when they’re really sick. They don’t ask invasive questions or force people to come in and no one has to go through ridiculous hoops. 

    There’s one person, not my staff member, who seems to have been very sick the last few days. Very loudly blowing their nose, phleghmy coughing. I’m a few feet away and it’s. so. loud. Our busy season is starting and no one wants to get sick and fall behind/lose out on OT because of a cold going around. HR did end up talking to him, and he refused to go home and recuperate.

    I’m trying to be sympathetic–I know it’s no fun being sick, and I understand motivations in other work places and situations where you could lose pay or it’s out of one pot or managers are unreasonable. But not in this case. 

    1. CatCat*

      I would think if their presence is causing a work problem or likely to cause a work problem, the manager could direct them to leave for the day.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Absolutely, the manager can send you home. If there isn’t a financial aspect (they can’t afford to miss an hour of pay/ need to save PTO for big surgery) then their manager should sit down and have a big picture discussion about work/health balance. They may be thinking that coming in sick and refusing to go home is making them look like a stellar employee, when it is doing the opposite.

        1. Cherry*

          Ironically he’s not that great of an employee. People complain that he’s on his phone all day long, doesn’t do much, and that he thinks he’s too good for this job (Latter I’ve seen firsthand). I’m not his manager so I can’t/won’t overstep. The sick days are fully paid And everyone in the company is allowed them.

    2. Mbarr*

      I get that it’s super annoying. But maybe he’s saving his sick leave for something else? E.g. A chronic condition that flares up randomly?

      That being said, I’m firmly on the WFH policy if you’re sick… But I also struggle with the optics of WFH when I “only” have a cold.

      1. China Beech*

        I don’t think the only issue is that it’s “annoying;” If the person is truly sick and contagious then it’s public health issue too.

    3. Alice*

      HR can’t make him go home, but can’t they make him go somewhere else? He can go and be sick in a coffee shop if he really wants to not be at home. It sounds like he’s got a great environment and I would also be peevish about it.

    4. Antilles*

      That is 100% not sounding like an AH. It’s a tricky balance. On one hand, yes, you need to trust employees to manage their health…but on the other hand, having the entire department sick because someone coming in while sick ends up being bad for everybody (themselves, colleagues, and even your clients).
      As a manager, my general path is to first go the polite conversation route – hey, you look a little under the weather, are you okay? please don’t feel like you have to stay here if you’re sick, this report will still be here in a couple days, it’s always okay to take care of yourself first, etc. Often enough, this conversation ends with the person thanking me for the concern, admitting they’re feeling a little shaky, then they just wrap up a couple things before going home a couple minutes later.
      If that doesn’t resolve things or they firmly push back that “I’m fine, I’m fine”, then the next step is to go ahead and send them home. I phrase this as a mix of concern that the issue might get worse if you try to push through rather than resting up today and keeping everyone else healthy because it’s flu season y’know, but at the end of the conversation, it’s a clear dismissal to go home.

    5. Potsie*

      One thing to keep in mind is that he may not be as sick as he sounds. The problem with colds is that the most noticeable symptoms tend to appear after the worst of it is over and can linger for weeks. Do you have the option of sending him home early without charging him PTO or allowing him to work from home?

      1. INeedANap*

        This definitely happened to me; I had a nasty cold and the cough/congestion just lingered forever. I stayed home one day, worked from home the next, and then went back to work. I sounded like I was hacking up a lung for almost two weeks despite cough drops but I actually felt fine (aside from being slightly winded).

        1. JustaTech*

          I had a coworker come back from having a terrible lung infection who sounded like death warmed over. He insisted he was much, much better and I should have heard him a month before. I get that *he* felt that he was much better, but he still sounded awful. He wouldn’t/couldn’t go home so I finally asked him to mostly keep his door closed (he was a boss so had an office with a door).

          It was very hard on his direct report, how has an immune deficiency. We were told that coughing guy wasn’t contagious, but it’s very hard to have a meeting with your boss when you’re worried he’s going to put you in the hospital. (Partly out of respect to that coworker I try to WFH when I’m audibly sick, even if it’s probably not contagious, just so they’re not stressing out.)

          1. Leisel*

            I had a co-worker undergoing treatment for cancer a while back. I was feeling a little under the weather one day and had a low fever. Went to the doctor that morning and they couldn’t detect anything. I still stayed home for 2 days, even though I could have gone to work. I didn’t want my coworker to feel uncomfortable! I know she was worried about illness at the time because we were right in the middle of flu season. It wasn’t much fun catching up when I went back, but in a small office where your coworkers are unavoidable I didn’t wan to take a risk for her or anyone else.

            1. Cherry*

              That’s so awesome and considerate of you.

              I think the guy in my office was being selfish and inconsiderate.

              I just don’t see the point of coming to work when you’re dozing off all day long. I know coughing can linger and is the last thing to go but it’s usually the first 1-3 days that it’s contagious.

          2. INeedANap*

            To me it depends on contagion; in my case, my doctor’s office said I wasn’t contagious and my view is that annoying noises are part of office life to a certain extent. I’m sure my coughing was annoying, but I did my due diligence in checking with a doctor that I wasn’t contagious, and so I see no reason to stay out of work in those circumstances.

            1. Poppy the Flower*

              Yeah, coughing especially can last awhile. I had a cough for a month after having pneumonia even though I could tell the antibiotics were working within a day or so (and you’re typically not contagious after that time period if so). I was diagnosed on a Friday and called off Monday so I got kind of lucky it was a weekend. But there’s no way I could have stayed home the entire time I had a cough! I’ve had some pretty bad allergy flare ups too that look like colds, but aren’t. I generally err on the side of trusting someone but I’m also more willing to share a little more detail to be reassuring if it’s me! (EVERYONE knew I had pneumonia not because I wanted attention, but because I wanted them to know I was treated for my cough haha!)

      2. Laura H.*

        I have mountain cedar allergies and sound far worse than I feel. But I have the cough, phlegm, and drainage that original commenter describes! And while an antihistamine doesn’t completely solve my problem, it makes me functional enough to do what I need to. (I’m not working right now but I do volunteer and do self-care ish things that require going out)

      3. Sunflower*

        I think his boss needs to tell him to WFH. I don’t know the guy but TBH, most people I know who have trouble taking time off aren’t necessarily worried about optics and they have managers who are supportive- they are worried about falling behind. Considering the OP himself said busy season if ramping up and people are worried about falling behind, that’s probably what this guy is worried about too.

        I get terribly long lingering colds- I can’t do anything about that and I can’t and won’t take 4 weeks off or them- it’s ridiculous when I feel fine. I also can’t WFH for 4 weeks straight.

        1. Cherry*

          Well right now it’s slow so not a lot going on—it’s actually the perfect time to take off. And he also doesn’t do much when he is at work (from what I’ve been told).

    6. Lora*

      It depends on the job, in my experience, but you can definitely send someone home. I’ve done it. But in my case, my employees are working with hazards or risk contaminating sterile products, so I send them home on those grounds. We also tell people up front during onboarding that they can be sent home for those reasons and the company nurse makes the determination with the supervisor, they shouldn’t be surprised.

    7. Tinker Angel*

      My boss once made an off hand comment about me being sick and I took some time off and have been better about it since, but I don’t get sick often. Maybe the employee just needs to be tacitly given permission to take some time off.

    8. Chompers*

      I’m so pissed about something like this – a lady at my office comes in sick ALL THE TIME and has gotten me sick multiple times but, just this week, gave me strep that she was trying to power through herself without having to go to the doctor. I get that it might be hard for some people to miss out on work but now you’re making other people miss out on work (as well as working closely with a pregnant woman who can’t get sick) and it feels very selfish to me.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        Many people have very poor experiences with doctors, therefore won’t willingly go see them because a lot of MDs simply suck, to be frank. I know many people who power through illnesses for this reason plus the cost.

  12. ThatGirl*

    Food for thought. I’ve been at this company 2 1/2 years. My starting pay was in line with what I asked for; my first raise (6 mos in) was only 1% but my raise last year was 4% (higher than company average) and I got an additional raise when I made a lateral move so last year my pay went up about 10%. It’s not mind-blowing, but I’m satisfied with it. My new coworkers have complained about tiny raises and being low-balled when they were hired. It makes me wonder if my expectations are low or whether I just got lucky. Presumably my raise when I switched roles – which I didn’t ask for, mind you – was from my new manager, right? So either I’m just that good or … something.

    1. Adlib*

      I’ve had this happen before. My old boss was highly interested in keeping me around so he made sure to advocate for extra % in annual raises and pushed for discretionary bonuses a couple times. It varies by company, but that could be one reason. I never told anyone about them either because they definitely weren’t across the board. If you’re in the discussions where people are complaining, encourage them to ask and advocate for a raise for themselves. Some people won’t as they just like to complain, but that’s what I’ve done before.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, part of me is curious what my co-workers are making (especially the one who’s at roughly the same age and experience level as me) but I also don’t want to go around saying “well, I got a raise when I moved up here and also I have a week more vacation than you do.” I was also by all accounts the strongest applicant for my new position so my manager may have considered that and been trying to keep me happy.

    2. LKW*

      Or they have unrealistic expectations. a 4% increase is pretty much COLA and not what I’d call a merit raise. If people are expecting 10% every year -that’s not normal.

      The lateral move with a 10% pay raise means that either that move was NOT lateral and can be seen as a promotion or you were low-balled in your prior role. Lateral means the level is equal and generally the pay would be equal.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I may not have been clear — the normal raises here are around 2-3% from what I can gather. I got 4% last year because my previous manager thought I was amazing and advocated for it. They’re considered “merit increases,” not cost of living adjustments. But anyway.

        I also didn’t get a 10% raise to my new position; I got the 4% raise in Feb from my annual review and an additional ~6% when I moved to the new role over the summer. It totaled about 10% for the year. When I applied I inquired with HR about the pay band (to make sure it wouldn’t be a pay cut) and she told me it was considered lateral but “maybe a small increase” — they’re both individual contributor roles in different departments.

        1. LKW*

          OK – but in that scenario 6% would be an exceptional raise, so I’d say it’s still not a lateral move (and good for you!). But if 2-3% is normal – then perhaps my first statement is valid – your coworkers have unrealistic expectations.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Heh. My employer, at least in my department, gives 2.5% or 3% “merit” raises once a year, pretty much across the board, and no COLAs. They absolutely insist it’s “merit”, but it barely keeps pace with national inflation, and doesn’t keep pace with local inflation. Then they wonder why the employee survey’s have “affordability” as the top concern. (I live in a high cost area.)

    3. Donkey Hotey*

      Wait… you consider a 10% raise to /not/ be mind-blowing?
      For perspective, I’ve received two 10% raises in the last 20 years.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I don’t consider my overall pay mind-blowing! I may not have been as clear as I intended – I got a 4% raise in Feb. and then another 6% or so when I switched jobs. I was definitely happy with it, and I would be thrilled to get a 10% raise during the course of a normal review.

    4. designbot*

      Everyone’s situations are so different… first of all, due to the silence around money in a lot of fields, it’s really difficult to know whether your expectations going in are in line with the market or not. Then, people’s immediate past situations are so influential. Like, at my last job I knew I was getting really sorely underpaid, so just being brought more in line with current economic conditions feels like this fantastic relief to me. Or one of my employees was perma-lance at her last role, so she’s like “omg, if it comes with healthcare I’ll take it!” But a coworker came from doing our role in an adjacent industry that had a higher pay rate across the board, and she’s always been a little bitter about the paycut she had to take even as she appreciates other aspects of the job. I have no reason to think we’re getting paid very differently—if anything I suspect that seeing what salary they had to offer her prompted them to give me a raise—but our expectations are set so differently. I’d be inclined to read your coworkers’ griping as a signal that you might have differing expectations.

      1. Automated*

        As a finance person who can see everyones salaries, my experience is disparity is the norm not the exception.

        1. designbot*

          I guess what I mean is, salaries may be all over the place, but so are expectations. Sometimes the people griping about their salaries have a point, and sometimes they’re actually being tone deaf because they have it pretty good. Like I’ve heard someone gripe about their salary to a room full of people who were almost certainly making less than him (because we were all below him in organizational hierarchy). People are often not thinking about their audience for such complaints.

          1. ThatGirl*

            There are certainly things at this company that I don’t blame my coworkers for being frustrated with. And it can be very frustrating to feel like you’re not valued as an employee or given opportunities for growth. But yes, I agree that expectations are all over the place – for instance $50k a year can feel amazing or insulting, depending on who you are, the field you’re in, the area you live in, level of education, job and salary history, etc.

  13. On that Academic Job Market Grind*

    Hi fellow AAM Readers! I am a Humanities PhD in the US and on the academic job market for the first time this year and it’s somehow even worse than I expected! (Though I can’t complain because I personally am doing better than many). I was wondering if anyone would be interested in having a little Academic Job Market commiseration and/or brag thread below, since at least in my case, I am “competing” with a lot of my closest work friends so we really don’t/can’t rely on each other to vent/discuss?

    Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

    1. Reba*

      Congrats / sorry!! Good luck out there. I’m no longer in that particular rat race but would be happy to read about your exploits and cheer you on.

      When I was finishing up I heard (from someone I really admire) that it was “an amazing year in our field” — there were FOUR university positions, two of which were temporary, and a couple museum jobs.

      1. On that Academic Job Market Grind*

        yikessss. I’m in a better position than that, but my discipline has a lot of generalist positions that aren’t necessarily field-specific. so, more applications out, but way more folks to compete with. I do have my very first campus visit coming up though!

        1. From the academy*

          Good luck to all in their pursuit. Best advice that I received for the campus visit. The job talk is not a paper presentation. Memorize it, practice. Nail the time. Be prepared for questions. Remember every moment is part of the interview.

    2. kz*

      I’m also a Humanities PhD in the US. Not on the job market yet, but will be in the next couple years. Most of my academic friends are on the market now and my husband just accepted a full-time job at a community college after being on the market this fall. It honestly sounds awful, and watching other people go through it has definitely changed how I plan to approach it…mostly in terms of waiting a little longer than I was originally planning to because I’m seeing how hard it is to finish the diss and apply for jobs at the same time. I’m lucky to be in the financial situation to take my time, and some other personal life events have also sort of pushed the issue.

      Good luck to you On that Academic Job Market Grind! I know it’s rough out there.

      1. On that Academic Job Market Grind*

        It’s so hard to write and job hunt at the same time; it’s smart and good that you can take your time! Also congrats to your husband!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’ve talked about this a bunch before, but my partner was on the job market last year. It SUCKED. And he’s in a STEM field! The government shutdown happened right before the conference where everyone did their initial interviews, and that just screwed everything up for a lot of people in his field.

      At this stage in the game, he had had five interviews and only one fly-out, one of his friends was whining every day because she kept screwing up her interviews (she reported certain things to us and my mind was boggled), and another friend couldn’t share ANY information because he was involved in a weird investigation where it appeared someone was out to get him (that was intense).

      Anyway. The job market is a weird, stressful place. Have you had interviews yet?

      1. On that Academic Job Market Grind*

        I’ve had 4 Skype interviews (they’re trying to move away from the big conference interviews which I appreciate). So for one post-interview rejection and one campus visit invite. 2 more still unknown. So it’s not too terrible. I did try on a suit today and burst into tears because I have gained so much weight in grad school I feel like I look terrible in everything. But I do think that’s mostly the anxiety coming through.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Congrats on the campus visit!!! And I hear you SO HARD on the suit. I wasn’t in grad school but I gained his grad school weight.

        2. JobHunter*

          It’s just the anxiety talking! You have had so many interviews, you must be on top of your game!

    4. JobHunter*

      I just received an offer for a post doc after a lengthy search, will pay a bit more than I make now and it’s exactly what I want to do!

      But

      They want me there in person in three weeks to do onboarding in person (I did not give a start date in the interview), and it’s cross country in a higher COL place. I have a house, employed partner, and a good-enough-to-get-by job that is helping us gain a little traction.

      I have family in the region that live a few hours away that can help with scouting housing. I think we can carry a two-household household for a little while. But I am feeling pressured, making me cautious, with a week to make a decision. Does anyone think I can talk them into pushing my start back a few weeks?

      1. On that Academic Job Market Grind*

        Oh wow this is really tricky! Is there anyone from your committee that might be able to help you navigate the politics of asking for more time? If you’ve got the offer it shouldn’t hurt to ask but I totally get why you’d be hesitant.

        1. JobHunter*

          My advisor said that short deadlines are a pain in the neck. I spoke with a few other people after I posted this. A professor’s wife told me that they moved two weeks after her husband received his first offer, fortunately they sold their house quickly in a good market. The next job held the offer (TT) for a year before he came. Her advice was to jump on mine. My family are adamant I take it. My partner says take it. The only thing stopping me from pulling the trigger is anxiety.

          1. On that Academic Job Market Grind*

            I feel you. But congratulations! I really hope you can figure out a way to make it work!

      2. GingerSheep*

        What type of onboarding is it? I held for a few months a postdoc position in a danish university last year (quit after 4 months because I was hired in a tenure track position, yay!), and they wanted me to do the institutional onboarding at a specific date, because the university held only a few sessions a year. However, that was an international move for me, which I wasn’t able to make before the session. So I just flew over for a week, did the onboarding, returned home and officially started my postdoc six weeks later. Could something like that be considered? (My contract stated the later date as start date, but as I had already signed it before the onboarding, I was allowed to do it prematurely.)(The onboarding days were unpaid, but they reimbursed my flights and accomodations.)

    5. GingerSheep*

      Ah, the academic job market. I have so much to unpack here… I was very lucky in getting hired in a tenure track position only two years out of my PhD, and was therefore on the market only twice.
      My situation was relatively confortable (though I am a single mother with a small child to support) : I had secured a two-year, half-time teaching position at my PhD institution that started two months after my defense, and could complement that salary by contract work. I went on the market lightly that first year, and had no bites whatsoever : no interviews, all funding requests denied. That sucked, but I knew I hadn’t gone all out.
      The second year (2018-2019), I really gave it all I had. It was BRUTAL. I’m not entirely sure I have yet recovered. And I only applied to six positions. (I know that doesn’t seem a lot, but it definitely is when you consider I was submitting between 10 and 50 pages of specifically written material for each – two positions asked for both a 20-page report on previous research and a 25-page research project for the next 10 years! Plus of course the standard CV, cover letter, etc. One of my applications was 69 pages long.) I spent the whole year completely stressed out and frantically scrambling to meet deadlines. My job search was actually wildly successful, as I reached finalist status for five positions, and was offered a tenure-track position at a highly regarded institution in my own city and two post-docs. But it definitely did not feel successful during the process. It felt awful. Cornelian choices – should I accept this less than ideal postdoc, or hope that one of my applications for a permanent position pans out? (I accepted it, and quit when I got hired in the TT . It went way better than expected.) Brutal interviews – one interviewer viciously tore down both my research and my person during a campus interview. (And I actually got hired? Whereas I didn’t get the position at the institution I felt I had excelled at my research presentation and job talk…) Contentious hiring – my hire was apparently very controversial and was decided against the hiring committee president’s opinion, so I was received quite coldly. And then a another finalist started a lawsuit against the university (and my hire) saying that he was the victim of age discrimination. Sigh.
      So whereas I should have be overjoyed, I was just stressed out all of the time. And I can’t say it gets better once you’re in the job : the first semester of classes is HARD. But I am also fully aware that my second semester is way lighter on teaching, and that next year will be much easier.
      I and really, really enjoyed being off the market this year!
      So yeah, I fully empathize with you and wish you the best of luck!

      1. On that Academic Job Market Grind*

        Thank you for sharing this it’s wild! I’m glad you landed on your feet— I hope the institution warms up to you soon!

  14. Tableau Wizard*

    how do you handle trying to recruit someone into a workplace that you are desperately trying to leave?

    I’m really frustrated with my current team, boss and employer in general. The current budget plan says that we will be hiring for a position this spring. If i’m not gone by then, how do i participate in the hiring process in good faith when I really just want to tell people to run away, run far away???

    1. Katniss Evergreen*

      Alison has some old posts on this – in some cases if you really feel that your company/office misleads people during the hiring process, it may be appropriate to ask them for an after-hours off-the-record coffee or let them know you’re available for any other questions by email or phone.

      Good luck. I totally understand the position you’re in.

    2. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Can you put a review on Glassdoor without identifying yourself? I’ve been job hunting for a while and I usually at least take a glance at those. And if you are part of the interviewing and have to do it with other people present, can you ask “tell me about a time when you dealt with X type of personality”? I just had an interview and was asked something like that. And when I was taken around to meet and chat with the staff briefly, I knew exactly who they were talking about. It was definitely helpful. I was also asked about how I felt about routine tasks which I can see if a big part of the job.
      So if you can, figure out a few specific things that most frustrate you and maybe try to come up with a “warning” type question about the candidate’s experience with X task or Y (annoying) process.

      1. Tableau Wizard*

        This is tricky because in general, I’d wholeheartedly endorse my employer for certain types of roles, but my role is so specific and the contribution we can provide isn’t valued. So if you are a llama groomer, come work here – it’s amazing. But if you’re a fellow Tableau Wizard who has to report to Gandalf, run away, run far away. I don’t want to discourage the Llama groomers on glassdoor, because the mission of our organization is something that I do believe in. Does that make sense?

        1. M*

          You could probably just say some version of literally this on glassdoor. Assuming there’s more than a couple of people in those undervalued roles and even a standard rate of turnover, there are ways to say that that aren’t particularly identifiable. “Pros: this is a great place to work for llama groomers and the core company mission is very important; Cons: if you’re in a more niche role, like [list of teams the company doesn’t value as much], your mileage may vary, the company’s not great at valuing non-llama-grooming contributions”

    3. DCGirl*

      I would also remind myself, if appropriate, that while the company may not be the right place for me, it could be a good place for someone else.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This. Just because it sucks for you, doesn’t mean someone else will hate it. From TW’s post above, her role itself doesn’t appear to be valued in the organization – that would demoralize me and also make me want to leave. However, there may be a job candidate out there that’s coming from a high-stress environment who wantsto work somewhere they can literally turn their brain off and do basic work and collect a check in peace. So I agree with the advice above to go into these interviews asking questions that are geared towards figuring out if the candidate would be okay accepting what you find unacceptable in your current position.

      2. Erin*

        I want to second what DCGirl said. I think that as long as you don’t lie to or mislead candidates, you can participate in the hiring process in good conscience. There are a lot of reasons why the position might still be a good choice for someone, and the responsibility of deciding that for them doesn’t rest on you!

    4. JustaTech*

      When we were hiring while also getting ready for a bankruptcy (that was fun) and my team’s main project was circling the drain, we were just really honest without being bitter, mean, or overly-negative.
      “Here’s where the company is, here’s where our main project is, but also here are the cool people who work here and the interesting overall product.”
      I was amazed we hired someone, but they’d just been laid off from a similar company, and their thinking (they later told me) was “better another layoff in 6 months than nothing”.

      So, honesty with out bitterness, if you can.

    5. Hmmm*

      I used to give truthful statements that should raise red flags to most people looking for a job. Statements like, “Having been here 2 years I am one of the older employees,” “Flexibility is important in this role as priorities shift often and rapidly,” “Due to turnover, we often have to cover more than one role,” etc. I said everything as a statement with little emotion. Good luck!

  15. Help*

    Any scripts or advice for dealing with lots of interpersonal drama and gossip in the work place? Coworker is radiating a lot of drama my way, but I just want to keep my head down and work. Boss is their best friend, so nothing will happen. Plus, they cry to her and make it seem like I’m the one at fault. Other times, they think I’m mad or upset, when I’m just quiet and keep to myself. (I’m still polite and greet everyone, I just am not as exuberant as them.)

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      First, you can’t manage other people’s feelings (especially if they’re a drama llama) and it’s not your responsibility to do so. Just in case no one has reminded you of that lately.

      Some script ideas:

      Drama Llama (in your hearing): “Coworker is mad at me! Wah wah wah…”
      You, in a warm tone: “Hi Drama Llama, sorry, I overheard you thought I was mad. I’m just focused on my work. What made you think I was mad? That’s so silly :D”

      Boundary-Crossing Boss: “I heard [drama drama drama] and that’s making me concerned.”
      You, in a confused tone: “Oh, that’s really surprising to me! I didn’t realize that was a problem to ask Coworker to [do one of their job responsibilities]. Has something shifted in our roles and responsibilities?”

        1. JustaTech*

          Drama requires three things: the primary person (the drama llama), the person of conflict (you, another coworker), and an audience (boss, everyone in the office). If you refuse to be the villain to their hero then they’re stuck giving another monologue rather than having great dialog.

          If you think about something like Hamlet, there’s a reason that the whole play isn’t just Hamlet talking to himself – other people is where the conflict and the drama come from. So by staying quiet and not rising to the drama llama’s bait, you’re really limiting how much drama they can make with you. So it’s exactly the right approach, even if it’s really hard to bit your tongue that much.

          Good luck!

        2. LKW*

          You can always say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand your comment, can you clarify?” as if drama llama was saying something as work-relevant as “The copier is busted again.” It’s not dramatic but it does subtly call out dramatic behavior.

        3. Jean*

          In my view, it’s always OK to ignore drama type things that are not within the scope of your actual work. If you’re really worried about possible repercussions against you due to the relationship between crybaby and Boss, then there’s nothing wrong with informally documenting your interactions so you have something to refer back to if sh*t goes sideways.

    2. Joie*

      Just keep doing what you’re doing around the drama – if you don’t engage often it will fade out, drama is no fun for anyone when it’s one sided (and even the boss will notice it’s one sided). I also am fond of passively being obnoxiously nice to them all the time, but I enjoy watching people squirm when they’re trying to start something and I’m refusing to engage.

      I’m also fairly quiet and keep to myself but on occasion reaching out to someone about something not work related goes a really long way on the perception scale. At least once a week make a point to join in on non-work chatter.
      Sometimes I talk about the commute in, or just something weird that’s happening / join in on an existing conversation about something I like or know. A few sentences here and there with a smile and all of a sudden its “Joie’s just quiet” instead of “Joie is quiet which obviously means she’s upset”

    3. Help*

      I just feel embarrassed because it’s like they all know and talk about it. I feel like the joke’s on me, but I dont know what to do about it.

  16. Qwertyuiop*

    At a meeting, there was something mentioned about some interns at my company refusing with one another. I work with the interns, but hadn’t heard the news, so I asked my coworker about it. She was telling me about it and our boss was there and sort of looked at us. My coworker then told her what we were talking about- she seemed apologetic about it. (It wasn’t a secret- we were openly discussing it just 5 minutes prior!)

    Another time, a coworker and I were making small talk in the morning. My boss walked in and my coworker stops mid-sentence and starts apologizing profusely to my boss and starts talking to her and walked away from our conversation.

    I’m new in my position, so I’m still trying to figure out the place, but are they not supposed to be talking to me or something? It seems like they mostly talk to me when the boss is not around, so I don’t know if the boss doesn’t like people talking? But she’ll make comments that it’s “too quiet”, so I don’t think we’d get in trouble for talking. I’m very confused.

    Any advice or insight?

    1. Sunflower*

      This seems odd and may be a weird thing that your coworker has instead of a weird thing about the boss. Next time it happens, can you ask your coworker?

    2. Lana Kane*

      If this were just one person doing it, I’d think that it’s just a hangup they have about being seen chatting. But since it’s more than one, I’d definitely ask someone I trusted. There are definitely managers who say one thing (it’s too quiet), but then contradict themselves (Jane, I see you chatting around the office and that’s a problem).

      Also, is your boss newer? Maybe a previous manager was a stickler for no chatting?

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “refusing”?
      Is this an autocorrect I can’t parse out, or new slang usage I need to learn from the family teen?

    4. Emilitron*

      One sounds like a conversation that’s borderline gossip, maybe colleague thought this is something the interns should be handling without getting the boss involved, or at the least wanted to phrase things differently for the different audience.

      The other sounds like maybe they had a check-in scheduled and got distracted talking to you when they were due elsewhere.

      I wouldn’t read too much into it, except that your coworker seems to respect your boss’s opinion and time. I don’t think my office is abnormal in that when the manager walks into the room we immediately (or quickly at least) focus on why they’re there and what they need from us, and that often means pausing or redirecting casual conversations.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Sounds to me that your coworker got a talking to from your boss about gossiping in the workplace, and then proceeded to gossip again – hence the profuse apologies when your boss walked in on the second incident.

      So – not anything you did wrong, but perhaps be aware that your boss does not want the staff gossiping. Perhaps the idea is that the interns have been spoken with about how to behave professionally, and your boss wants everyone else to let the issue alone.

  17. MissBookworm*

    Some updates on prior posts I’ve made a new issue I need help with.

    Currently in the midst of year end audit hell—wondering whose bright idea it was to schedule the audit before we even finished our month-end reporting and reconciliations for December (our owners scheduled it too early this time; usually it’s starting about the 20th). Boss isn’t back from medical leave until the 21st, so he’s missing the audit completely, and we’re having to answer all the questions he usually handles. I feel like this isn’t going to end well.

    I am finished for now with planning this retirement party. Two weeks to go! I have the headcount set, the menu set, and the retirement gift ordered. All that’s left is wrapping the gift when it comes in, getting everyone to sign the card, and decorating the venue (thankfully a coworker is getting the decorations and will help me with decorating).

    So, the new issue. This is mostly for people who handle AP. I wear many hats in my company’s accounting department (AP, AR, financial analyst, etc. mostly for our clients which are large companies outsourcing specific lines of business). I have multiple check runs that I have to process every month for these clients, in one month I could process anywhere from 30-500 checks and up to 60 ACH’s (most of our payees still prefer check). Our deadline for check registers from other departments is 10am on Tuesday and Thursday, so that we have time to get approvals, get the funds transferred to the correct accounts to make those payments, get the checks printed, signed, and backup printed as well or to process those ACHs. Based on the number of check registers, the number of checks/ACHs, the time I have to work on it, and the availability of signers, we may be able to get checks mailed the same day or it may take up to three days (the 500 checks are going to take a longer time to process than 30).

    Anyway, one of my coworker’s in another department got really mad at me this morning. I had printed checks at 3pm yesterday (remember we have our year end financial audit going on so I was too busy to print them any earlier) and they should hopefully be going out today or Monday depending on when the check signers get them back to me. Coworker told payee the checks had gone out yesterday. I responded just to my coworker that the checks hadn’t gone out yet and probably wouldn’t until Monday at the latest—a 3 business day turnaround. She was not impressed and went to her manager who went to my manager and complained that 3 days is unacceptable and none of our check runs should take that long to process fully.

    Check runs aren’t always a priority—there are times when I have projects with important deadlines and I just can’t get those checks done for a day or two.

    I guess my question is what is the turnaround at your company? I’ve dealt with numerous vendors who have much longer turnaround times and some who have turnarounds similar to ours where it could take three or four days.

    1. WellRed*

      Shouldn’t paying employees promptly be a top priority always? It’s not clear from this if they are getting paid on time (per federal law). What day is payday and when do they actually get the checks?

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I may have been reading it wrong, but I don’t think this employee payroll, but vendor paychecks.

          1. MissBookworm*

            Diahann is correct. These aren’t payroll (that’s next week). These are vendor payments that we calculate and process on behalf of our clients.

            Payroll definitely does not wait and never would; it’s also not handled by me (thankfully as I have absolutely no time for it).

      2. Generalist*

        This isn’t about paychecks, the post is referring to payments to vendors. Three to four day turnaround isn’t bad, but I can’t quite tell if that’s the time from when the invoice was received or how you’re counting it, OP. Many places have a particular day of the week when checks are cut. So depending when you submit a request the longest you’d have to wait might be eight or nine days. But I think the issue is less the actual turnaround time and more about expectations. You may want to get boss to set and communicate a policy when he gets back.

        1. MissBookworm*

          My counts are from when I receive the requests. Our actual turnarounds vary depending on agreements we have with our clients and that covers both the other department and what they do with the invoices and our portion of it in the accounting department. They are anywhere from five to twenty days, but our clients do approve reasonable extensions if we absolutely need it (especially the client with the five day turnaround).

          I think I am going to get my boss involved when he’s back. He’s one of the designated signers so maybe he’ll actually be able to get through to them.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      **shrugs** Coworker shouldn’t have made promises to the vendor.

      Accountants like everything perfect, but the reality is – there are people involved. You spent a whole essay explaining the chaos that is a normal business, and sometimes businesses don’t run as efficiently (or as cleanly) as we would like.

      When I’m a signer at small companies, I only do check runs when I have time to complete them all the way through. So- same day.

      At larger companies? 3- 7 days. But they usually have more than one signer. (I had one large homebuilder CEO who refused to let anyone else sign, and he was a control freak and would want to “research” all the big checks. Some checks would sit foooorrrever – In retrospect he was probably hiding cash-flow issues.)

      In the end it doesn’t matter. You can’t control the mail, anywhoo.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I experience a similar situation to both Campfire Racoon and OP. I try very hard to get vendor payments processed and mailed same day, but it’s not a guarantee.
        For reference I can have anywhere from 30-60 in an average week. One man department. If I get busy or boss comes in to ask for a to reprioritization of my day then the whole process of double checking against both systems, selecting, printing, transfering funds, signing, compiling, stuffing and mailing takes longer. But it doesn’t always happen. Your coworker doesn’t realize how much is involved in getting checks in the mail!
        Bookworm, don’t beat your self up. My boss did the same thing this week. They told someone a check went out when it is still in my pile to sign and then got short with me. It has been a very busy first week back after the holidays and I am still looking at my Wednesday work hoping I can complete it today.
        I agree that year end stinks! I spent most of last week wishing I could have taken more time off.

        1. MissBookworm*

          She really doesn’t understand it and seems to forget that I don’t just handle AP. I still have receivables to process and reports to work on every day plus meetings—those don’t come to a stop just because I have a check run to process. Sometimes my other duties are my priority and I can’t stop what I’m doing to process a check run (especially this week with the audit—I was in a conference room with the auditors for nearly three hours on Thursday). There’s maybe one week every couple of months where I can get it done in a day. She only ever remembers those weeks and not the ones where it takes a couple days.

    3. vlookup*

      I work in the finance department at a midsized nonprofit and we typically print checks once a week. I try not to make exceptions to this unless someone has arranged it with us in advance. We send a confirmation to the requester so they know when the check has been mailed.

      Expectation setting is really important IMO. If possible, I would recommend messaging a turnaround time with some padding built in.

      We used to be a lot more lenient about processing off-cycle checks, because most of the time it’s NBD, but it led to lots of situations like what you’re dealing with (people getting frustrated when we couldn’t accommodate a last-minute request that was clearly not a true emergency). Things have improved since we set a more consistent schedule and enforced it.

      1. MissBookworm*

        We used to not have deadlines for requests (or even set days), then about a year ago we had a lot of issues with people giving us check requests on Monday with 1 check, and a check request on Tuesday with 3, Wednesday with 1 more, etc. so we switched to two days a week because that’s just ridiculous. That happening once or twice a month I could understand, but every day?

        Many emails have gone out since the switch, so I think I’m going to have my boss step in when he returns.

    4. Bubbles*

      I’m in K-12 Education so it is a bit different here, but we are required to submit all invoices for payment with appropriate backup by noon on Tuesday, checks cut Thursday morning, then signed by 2 of approved signers. While we make it a point to make sure there are 2 signers available, one may be available Thursday and one may be available Friday morning. Our checks are not guaranteed until Friday. That’s at our site. At the District level, check runs are Thursdays only and you typically have to request that your Tuesday submission is included in Thursday’s run or it will be processed the next week.

      1. MissBookworm*

        We have the same situation with our signers. We only have three designated in our office and need two for every check, so it can get really complicated at times. For example, if one is out on leave or a business trip and another calls out. We’ve even had no signers in the office when a priority comes through (I had to overnight a check once to two of our signers who were at a conference)—thankfully this happens rarely.

    5. Narvo Flieboppen*

      Yeah, people be crazy about the timing of checks. We have only 1 check run a week, anywhere from 60 – 180 checks. Check signing happens anywhere from next day to 3 business days later depending on a number of factors – check signer availability, any questions they may have, and larger checks need 2+ signers depending on the total amount. If I have to take a check to the CEO for signature, it’s definitely going to take extra time.

      Nonetheless, I have people in other departments who tell their vendors checks are mailed the same day they are cut, which is patently not true and I always give them the correct time frame. I’ve now reached the point where I make sure to clearly communicate the time frames by email. If someone else gives out the wrong info, I just forward the original email to them and ask them to follow up. Only once have I had to go to someone’s manager and ask them to direct their employee to stop misleading vendors (in other words tell your idjit direct report to stop lying to people!)

      And I’ve had a few vendors blow up about. Certain staff in the past were pretty well known for promising any payment terms a vendor asked for, even when it was beyond our ability to meet them. Pray tell, when it takes 5 days in your receiving process and 5 days in my payment cycle (minimum), can we possibly pay net 3 day terms? Oh, you didn’t think about it when you promised the vendor and now it’s my fault? Hmm. Nope, I won’t take responsibility for that.

      I’ve gotten off track here, so let me sum this up:

      Save an email template for yourself with the typical processing times for checks – which day(s) they are cut and how many business days for mailing. Very clearly state any communication to payees should be ‘checks will be mailed within X business days of when they are cut’. Once you’ve sent that out in writing, keep the template for re-use later. Anyone who then goes out on their own telling people untruths about the check mailing can be referred back to the written reality. Caveat: Be very sure your upper management has your back and is on board with this, obviously, you want their support when politely telling people to stop rejecting reality.

      Once you’ve told people… This will still happen. Human beings are nothing if not reliable for screwing things up and some truly determined to make things more difficult than necessary. Once you’ve put the information out there and saturated the environment as much as possible, most of the grumbling should subside. And if someone truly doesn’t like it, that is their problem and you shouldn’t feel bad for failing to warp the fabric of the universe to meet their expectations.

      1. MissBookworm*

        Thanks for the advice! We have done emails many times before (with the same people over and over), so I think it’s time to have my boss handle it when he returns.

        I wish I could just brush it off, but I am definitely that person who second guess everything in these situations even when I know I did the right thing.

    6. Maddy*

      Vendor cheques are according to terms. Ie 30 days or on receipt. On receipt invoices go into the next cheque run which are done on Thursdays. So if I get an invoice today and IF I get it back from who needs to approve it in a timely manner it goes into the cheque run on Thursday. If it has a PO it can be processed right away with no one having to approve it.

      30 days invoices get processed the week they arrive and go into the cheque run on the week that will allow processing and still get to the vendor in time by mail to make it under the 30 day mark (so roughly 2-3 weeks from now depending on where the vendor is)
      Then the cheque run has to get signed which is out of my control. That can take up to half a day or up to a week (clearly issues there that I can’t resolve).
      2-3 days turnaround on vendor cheques is INCREDIBLY fast. Especially for that volume!
      I spent approximately 90% of my time on payables and I don’t turn around cheques that fast. I do about 100 -150 cheques and about 300-400 invoices per week. I enter the invoices and do the cheque run and take care of getting invoices approved. I also separate the cheques and attach to the back up and I am scrambling to get it done by end of day Thursday.

      I always tell people I don’t care what you told someone; this gets done when it gets done. There is so much that is out of my control (especially the signing!) that I can’t promise how fast it will get done. Plus if I have a lot of volume it takes time! When a vendor calls I just say it’s in the next cheque run (or wherever it is- usually the next one if a vendor is calling) and when it’s done it will go out right away. I never promise anything. It’s not my fault if someone promised someone something without asking me first. They can explain that they over promised.

      1. MissBookworm*

        Ours are based on the agreements with have with our clients. On the short end we have 5 days and on the long end it’s 20. The rest fall somewhere in between.

        I generally spend about 15% of my week on payables, some weeks like this one are more like 30%. We have one client that we only do once a month (and is my biggest check request) that takes me almost six hours from start to finish without interruptions. There are always interruptions though so it takes me more like two or three days (sometimes four at the most), especially when you add in my usual weekly check requests. Guess which week it is?

        Waiting for the signers to sign the checks is the worst part of it. We need two signers on every check and only have three designated signers in the office. For two of our clients if it’s over a certain amount the second signature has to be from their office, so that also increases the turnaround time.

    7. Maddy*

      The other thing is you can’t control the mail. I have had SO MANY inquiries about when the cheque was mailed and when it’s going to arrive. It will get there when it gets there! I can tell you when it was mailed but I don’t control the postal service. If you want to pay for courier then it will get there faster! So annoying.

      1. MissBookworm*

        Tell me about it! We have some people who receive the checks in two days and others where it takes a week or more (according to them). If it absolutely needs to be received ASAP we’ll overnight or second day it, but the client has to cover the cost so it’s rarely done.

    8. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      We have it in our contracts that we have 30 days to pay vendors.

  18. Sharkie*

    Moving as a company is not fun. The amount of stuff I have to go through cause no one has gone through it is 25 years is alarming.

    1. On the Move*

      Just went through this at my company this summer. It was terrible but it was a relief when we were done and moved into our nice new building!

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      I can empathize. We recently re-org’d our department and there was stuff that hadn’t been touched in that long. I was out sick for two days hacking it all up out of my lungs.

      1. Michelle*

        Anything I am in charge of “checking” that has an inch of dust and hasn’t been opened in years go straight to the dumpster. If you haven’t needed it in 25 years, you don’t need it now.

    3. JustaTech*

      Oh, I feel your pain. I had to clean out several labs where everyone had been laid off (and therefore had neither time nor inclination to clean up before they left). Oh, and scientists are the biggest hoarders I’ve ever seen. Like, librarians don’t even come close.

      And because they’re not just hoarding paperwork every box, bottle, cabinet and drawer had to be opened, the contents carefully evaluated by someone who knows what all that stuff is, and properly disposed of (sink, chemical waste, biohazard waste, recycle, trash, give to other departments, give to schools, etc etc).

      And then there’s all the paperwork that you have to check for 1) intellectual property, 2) privileged medical information, 3) legal stuff, 4) regulatory stuff, 5) stuff that’s still in the “required to keep” time window.

      Good luck!

    4. Leisel*

      I recently had to clean a lot of stuff out of the storage room when our grandboss retired and left the company. The office admin decided to retire at the same time. I found –

      – Sweet & Low, Sugar, Creamer and various coffee supplies from 2008
      – A set of cassette tapes with business advice labeled for 1996
      – An old Nokia phone – I wish I could fire it up and play Snake!
      – A manual for a Mac computer from 2002
      – Catalogs and catalogs and catalogs and catalogs for various vendors – all of which are online now…why were we keeping these??? They took up an entire 3-drawer filing cabinet!

      I single-handedly filled up 3 recycling bins at our office complex. Sorry, neighbors, it had to be done!

      1. hermit crab*

        Once when we moved offices – from a space we’d only inhabited for a few years! – I found a pair of beige high heels in a filing cabinet. They looked like they were straight out of the 1980s. Nobody claimed them. Nobody even admitted to recognizing them. The last time I was in that office suite (to do a post-move sweep of my own workspace; someone else was coming later to clear out the trash) they were still sitting there, forlorn.

    5. Third or Nothing!*

      We are all getting thrown out of the building so the main tenant can take the whole building over and make it their admin HQ. Gonna be going through something similar soon. We’ve been here about 6 years now so there will be less to sort through, but I am not looking forward to cleaning out my desk.

      Amusing aside: the building management, an arm of the main tenant, is basically terrible. We’re constantly running out of soap, toilet paper, paper towels, and not getting a real cleaning from the cleaning crew. One tenant used to have the entire 4th floor to themselves. They left several years ago even though their lease wasn’t up yet. They locked all access to the floor and have been paying out their lease this whole time just so the terrible main tenant can’t access it until it’s up. That is some deeply satisfying revenge and a level of petty I enjoy viewing but can never pull off myself.

      1. Marthooh*

        Prediction: It turns out the 4th floor tenant stole all the soap and toilet paper to create giant “F*** YOU!” murals on every available wall space just before they left, as a time-delayed surprise for the building management when they finally get in there.

    6. Jules the First*

      Oh I have such *fond* memories of spending my Christmas vacation packing and unpacking other people’s crap…and then crawling around under the desks to try and figure out which telephone extension mapped where after our IT contractor decided to get artistic when hooking up all the network cables. Fun times…

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Kindred spirit, heeeeey!

      In that boat with you. I’ve destroyed so much stuff that’s been rotting all these years. And there’s more to go! While doing a job on top of it all of course lol

    8. Jemima Bond*

      Oh I feel your pain. When I moved to a new team once and adopted a new pedestal and desk, the large bottom drawer of the said pedestal was full of old papers that really had to be shredded not just chucked, because government. I went to the admin team to ask for a confidential waste bag (which I would seal and would then be taken away and incinerated) and you’d have thought I’d asked for the moon on a stick. I gave up and spent half an hour feeding it all manually into the shredder.

      That said there could be positives. My team took over a bit more of a shared open plan office including some cupboards. Pleas to previous incumbents to clear out remaining stuff fell on deaf ears. So it was declared fair game and I came out of it with a hot brush heat hair styler thingy (working order, good brand) and four sealed mini perfumes, you know from one of those sets of five you get for gifts or at airports.

  19. Ms Freeze*

    Problem Employee is driving me crazy this week. Despite being told multiple times that he needs to pull more support tickets and that he cannot just pull the junk mail that comes into the support ticket box, he continues to pull a low # (compared to others in the dept), and tries to supplement this with junk emails and even pulling emails from his own inbox into the support ticket box so that he can flag them as support work. He claims that he is too busy with phone support to help, but his call times are awful mostly because he refuses to escalate calls to the correct teams and instead fix everything himself and get involved in things that he shouldn’t. He’s insufferably arrogant, has mansplained my job to me on more than one occassion, and eavesdrops on my phone calls so that he can give me his opinion on escalated issues.
    Why not put him on PIP or fire? We are in the middle of a huge hiring freeze. Those aren’t our of the ordinary for this business at this time of the year, but the freeze was kicked off by a massive layoff. My department lost 20% of our employees. We are massively understaffed and drowning in work. I’ve already been notified that if I fire anyone or anyone quits that we will have to carry on without replacing them. There is not a light at the end of the tunnel on this yet. Big boss does not want me to put anyone on PIP for fear that they will quit or that I’ll be forced to fire them if they don’t improve. He does want me to continue to hold employees accountable for performance issues but just talk to them. I’m so sick of talking to Problem Employee about this that I might lose my mind.
    Help!

      1. Ms Freeze*

        Barely. Big Boss (newer to the org) received the notification while I was on vacation, made the decisions based solely on seniority, and gave the names to HR while I was out. I came back the day that the cuts were being made and couldn’t change the cuts. Problem Employee was in the training group ahead of the group that got cut.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yup. I don’t understand higher ups who make these kinds of decisions without getting input from the front line managers who actually work with the staff and would have a better idea who’s an asset to the company and who isn’t. I worked at a law firm where HR was the one who made the lay-off decisions, and I was let go four weeks after starting in one of their twice yearly purges (they let go of about a hundred temps from the same agency I worked for) – my supervisor and manager weren’t consulted at all and both were pissed. Three weeks later, I was brought back by HR with an apology that they were having financial issues and had to make staff cuts, but in four weeks, I had already proven myself to be such an asset they had to bring me back (I should have never been cut to begin with, then, lol).

            After that, HR started getting direct manager approvals and lists of employees they were happy to see go from then on for their cuts.

        1. Allison*

          Oh man, if I was a diligent, hard-working member of the team I would’ve been so mad if I’d been laid off but heard this guy got to stay, or if other people I liked were laid off but not him. Not that managers typically have to deal with anger or resentment from former employees, but it could still cause some morale issues within the remaining team.

    1. BlindChina*

      Are there other consequences you can give him? Work no one else likes? Also are you being REALLY blunt when you talk to him? It really sucks you can’t put him on a PIP as that would be best. Good luck!

      1. Ms Freeze*

        oh so blunt.
        I’ve pulled him in with Big Boss twice to demonstrate this issue.
        First time:
        Me: PE, it’s 4PM and 5 hours into your shift, and when I look at the support tickets, I see that you have completed zero. What’s going on?
        PE: I’ve just had so many complicated calls that I couldn’t do any support tickets.
        Me: I pulled the 45 minute call that you were on this morning. That should have been escalated to the Teapot Spout Team. That wasn’t something that you could resolve. Why did you work on it for 43 minutes before escalating it?
        PE: Well, I thought I could help.
        Me: We’ve talked about this before. When a customer has a Spout issue, those need to be escalated to the Spout team. You shouldn’t keep trying to fix it.
        Big Boss: But we know that your heart is in the right place and that you just want to make sure that the customer is supported.
        Me: (continuing) In the future, those calls need to be escalated sooner, and we need to see you completing X# of tickets per hour.

        Next time:
        Me: PE, we talked before about needing to complete X# of support tickets per hour.
        PE: Right, and I’ve been a lot better about it.
        Me: When I look at the total number of tickets that you process, the numbers are working out, but when I filter out all of the junk emails, it looks like you only did 2 tickets all day. What happened?
        PE: What? I did way more than that.
        Me: No, you only have 2. These junk mails should be put into the junk folder to be auto-deleted at the end of the week.
        PE: Well, I didn’t know those were junk and had to read them thoroughly.
        Me: Ok, well this format will always be a junk email. You can tell by this subject line. Also, we can tell by the time stamps that you’re not pulling the support tickets in the order that they arrive. Make sure that you’re not spending time going through the box looking for specific tickets to pull. Pull the next one chronologically
        (In other words, he was scrolling through the support box to look for junk mails and pull them before someone else could move them to the correct folder).

        1. Dragoning*

          I already feel like I’m beating my head against the wall. I can’t imagine what this is like for you.

          Can you take him off the phones entirely?

        2. bunniferous*

          What if you told him as soon as the hiring freeze is over his butt is gone? (more tactfully obviously.)

        3. Diahann Carroll*

          You have two problems: Big Boss is undermining you and your authority and PE is lazy. I completely understand why you’re frustrated – that sucks you can’t just fire PE right now. He’s literally not adding anything of value to your team.

          You know what? You should go ahead and fire PE anyway, freeze and all. As I was typing that sentence out, I realized the truth of that statement: PE isn’t actually working. Therefore, he’s not actually helping you guys get through the massive amount of work that needs to be done in your department and he’s actually causing more work because you have to keep spending time correcting him. He’s a time and resource suck – he’s literally being paid to do nothing all day every day. I’d talk to Big Boss and tell him you need to begin the separation process then come up with a plan for how to carry on with one less body indefinitely if necessary.

          1. Jean*

            RIGHT? This guy is adding no value either way. Besides, even if he’s being coddled there’s nothing stopping him from just up and quitting anyway, or getting hit by a garbage truck or something, so it’s hard to understand why big boss seems so desperate to keep him on. So frustrating.

            1. valentine*

              You should go ahead and fire PE anyway, freeze and all. As I was typing that sentence out, I realized the truth of that statement: PE isn’t actually working. Therefore, he’s not actually helping you guys get through the massive amount of work that needs to be done in your department and he’s actually causing more work because you have to keep spending time correcting him.
              Here’s the bottom line.

              Fire him. BB can’t fire you because freeze! Win/win! And your team will probably ramp up due to the morale boost.

              But what you have here is a BB problem. If BB would shut PE down when he complains you need his permission to task him(sexist!) and help you cut the dead weight, you wouldn’t have needed a massive layoff. Literally the last person hired would’ve been a better keep than this guy, and if the laid-off group knows, it must be cold comfort that the company is a bullet dodged. BB has you spinning your wheels. He has made you Sisyphus and PE is your rock. Or Prometheus/eagle.

              Can you not set the junk email to auto-archive or somehow prevent him from moving it? Instead of asking him why he did what he did wrong (since you know and it doesn’t matter a bit!), ask him how he’s going to change his process so he does what he’s meant to do. This is a “failing to plan is planning to fail.” And, since you’re spending so much time on this, what if you sit with him and tell him which emails to pull? Any chance he’d get sick of it and do it right? Or would BB chastise you for hurting his manfeels?

          2. NW Mossy*

            Been there, done that. Can confirm that firing an underperformer during a freeze was nothing but upside for me and the team, even without a replacement. The only feedback I got from the team afterwards was “wow, I have a lot more time in my day now that I’m not cleaning up their messes all day.” No regrets!

        4. kittymommy*

          Honestly, how much work is he really doing to justify staying there in a hiring freeze? It already sounds like he isn’t doing any real work (or any significant amount) so you may need to compare the amount of increased work you and your tam will get from him not being there to how much this may end up being an employee morale issue with the others. I know you don’t get too much into it but I cannot imagine that his lack of work and lack of any real consequences isn’t sitting well with the other team members.

        5. I'llcallyouSpeak*

          Can you assign him work rather than letting him choose the tickets to pull? I know it sounds like this is the standard process, but if it is allowing him to wriggle out of his responsibilities, it may be worth being more hands on with what gets assigned to whom.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        This! Colleagues and employees aren’t a value of zero or one to productivity, they can be a negative value (i.e. a drag) on productivity as well.

      2. Ms Freeze*

        If it weren’t for the phones : yes. Our hold time right now is over 40 minutes, so we are getting screamed at left, right, and down. BB feels that some phone calls/support tickets answered is better than none.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          But if PE is answering phones and then sitting on them for 45 minutes, that’s not really a great idea either. If I’m the caller from your example you gave and PE kept me on the phone that long only to tell me he was going to transfer me to another team, the exact team I should have gone to in the first place, I would be pissed! Nobody has time to be sitting on the phone like that (well, besides PE). So he’s not really helping the general reputation you all have in that company, trust me.

          Your boss is not thinking clearly.

        2. Dragoning*

          Is it? If I had to spend 43 minutes on the phone with someone who wasn’t helping me, I would be furious. I’d rather sit on hold.

        3. Jennifer Thneed*

          I think that BB should maybe be helping on the phones? Maybe just for one day, and have him sit next to Problem Employee to directly observe.

    2. WellRed*

      If you are not going to deal with this guy and hold him accountable for fear of losing him (?!? is he that great of a loss if he isn’t actually producing?), then prepare to lose other employees who see this going on (and trust me, they do and will resent him and you for it), so you’ll be even more understaffed. Extra so, because you will lost employees who actually produce.

      Sorry your boss won’t let you manage.

    3. Holy Moley*

      Can you directly send him support tickets? “Bob, work on the following tickets. I expect you to have them done by (time frame).”

      Does he know about the hiring freeze? Might be why he is skating by.

      1. Ms Freeze*

        This is actually what I’ve been doing for the last week, but I just had to have a conversation with BB this morning (hence my frustrated post) because PE felt that it was disrespectful for me to assign him work without asking him first.

        1. AL (the other one)*

          Aaaaghh! That must be so frustrating!

          It’s easy to sit at a keyboard and comment. And I know from what you said that you won’t be able to backfill the position.

          But I think you need to PIP him, starting Monday if possible. Otherwise you may end up with other people leaving, or starting to slack off.
          If you are already assigning tickets then tie that into the PIP, if you can? E. G. For at least one week, you manage and control the tickets he works on, and he only works on what you give him, with no phone calls. Sounds super draconian but might be the way to shake him up.

        2. Althea*

          “It’s far more disrespectful to continually ignore the direct and specific instructions I have been giving you. If you will ignore my direction like a toddler, I will assign you work like a toddler.”

          Not really, I suppose…! But if you can find a way to continue to tie his crap level of work to your increased involvement, that’s probably good. Maybe he’ll start doing at least enough to get you to stop….

        3. Red Fraggle*

          He what the what?! No wonder you’re frustrated. This entire situation is ridiculous, but I think that takes the cake.

        4. WellRed*

          “PE felt that it was disrespectful for me to assign him work without asking him first.”

          I am screaming in my cube reading this this.

          1. NW Mossy*

            I had someone else’s direct pull this one on me a couple of weeks ago. To which: “[Your grandboss] signed off on this before I gave it to you, so I assumed he’d discussed it with you.” After that, crickets.

            That’ll be a fun one to share with my colleague when she gets back from vacation. She’s going to find it about as funny as I did.

        5. Close Bracket*

          Is PE your direct report or BB’s direct report? If he’s your direct report, your response is that he can feel however he wants, but assigning work is part of being a manager and having work assigned is part of being a direct report so he should get used to it. If you mutually report to BB, then you would tailor that to how BB delegated the assigning part to you. Naturally, you should choose your wording more carefully than I did. The message definitely needs to be that managers assign work to direct reports, period.

        6. Lana Kane*

          “PE felt that it was disrespectful for me to assign him work without asking him first.”

          What did you tell him when he said that? The firmer your response is in asserting the fact that your job is to assign the work and his is to do it, the less he will feel like he can do stuff like this.

          I know, because I had a direct report like this. I got pretty blunt with her about what her job was vs mine. She eventually moved on to another team and I can’t say she is a sterling employee, but that kind of attitude has waned.

          If he doesn’t improve because the hiring freeze makes him feel safe – remember that hiring freezes don’t last forever. Document everything for when you *can* act on it.

        7. Jules the 3rd*

          What happens if you confront your boss on the lack of backup? ie, you say, ‘BB, I am assigning these to PE because he hasn’t changed despite our prior discussions, and I’m trying different things to see if there is something short of firing that we can do to get him to be effective. Can you support me in managing him? When he complains to you, can you tell him that my decisions have your full support, and he needs to follow them?”

          I get the issue with needing him on the phone, but: could you pick up calls if you weren’t sitting over his shoulder? Could you take, say, 30 minutes of calls 2x/day – let your team know when they are, and what the team contingency is during those times?

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            In the end you have a BB problem – if he backs you up, you’ll be more effective with PE. But thinking about a way to fire PE and not extend your call wait times would be the easiest solution. I mean, 30min/day OT for you (or even for a couple of team mates) is probably cheaper than 8hrs of PE .

        8. Donna*

          Your employee felt it was disrespectful that you, his manager, did your job as a manager and assigned him work?!?!?!?
          Put him on a PIP first thing Monday! He doesnt seem to respect you as his manager, so he needs to go. Your manager can’t possibly expect you to manage someone who bucks at being managed.
          Also, your manager sucks here too. He isn’t letting you manage properly and he is undermining you in front of your employees. It might be time to get away from both BB and PE.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      So he does one or two tickets a day. Given how much time you put into this guy’s work, you could probably do his one or two tickets per day PLUS your other work IF he was no longer there.

      He’s gotta be pulling morale down as others see he is not pulling his weight.

      Tell your BB this, ” I personally will do his one or two tickets per day once he is gone. And I will still have time left over to do my own work. We will never notice he is gone.”
      I have even gone with the sentence, “It’s not a loss.” You can’t miss help was never there to begin with.

    5. !*

      After going reading your initial post, the comments, and your comments to the comments, especially the one where he feels you are disrespecting him by assigning him tickets (?!) I can only surmise that PE is either related to or has something over the BB. My other thought is both are complete and utter misogynists so no matter what you say or do, you will always be wrong. I have this same issue where a certain group of consultants (all male, I am female) are always going over my head because I need them to comply with specific processes and they don’t want to deal.with.me at all. Thankfully, when they go over my head, they go to someone who not only agrees with me, but will tell them to follow what I say. Pull the numbers, if you fire PE what is the true workload that would need to be shifted, especially if he is only handling two tickets a day? In the meantime, is there any way you can better filter out the junk emails so he wastes less time going through them?

      1. pony tailed wonder*

        I like that last idea. Have another employee (or two so you can catch the ones that just some in) be responsible for going through the e-mails and purging the junk e-mails. Also, have twice daily check ins with him if it is possible.
        Another thing, when you go in to your big boss, have a chart that shows all of your employees work output. Make is a bar graph so it is very obvious that problem employee is standing out in a very bad way. The big boss might not realize how far away that the problem employee is compared to others.

    6. OhBehave!*

      This guy sounds like a huge jerk in addition to being useless.
      So if his productivity is nonexistent, would it really be a huge burden to take on his work?

    7. Information Central*

      Since there are commonalities in the junk subject lines, can you screen some of them out by email rule? And/or have someone more trustworthy do a junk sweep every so often to reduce the opportunity for malingering? For the phone calls, are there tools available to flag/monitor long calls when they’re happening?

      My other thought would be to stop caring so much. Boss thinks malingering with the occasional talking-to is acceptable, ok, that’s the standard you work to. Your goal isn’t to get Problem Child to keep up with everyone else, it’s to get >0 work out of him and get back to focusing on your own work. Keep Boss up to date, and let him decide if he wants things to change.

  20. Augusta Sugarbean*

    I’d like to apply for an admin support job at in a municipal government that runs a community service. One of the duties is:
    “Coordinate on-line systems for XYZ program.”
    and one of the supplemental questions is:
    “What is your experience managing on-line systems as part of an office environment?”
    I’m trying to figure out if I can compare any of my experience. Can anyone speculate what that means? I *think* it’s managing a volunteer database and maybe scheduling but since they don’t say that directly, I’m not sure. Thanks!

    1. Katniss Evergreen*

      It may help if you copy in some of your experience to see if there’s a way to tweak it, but what you’re assuming makes sense here – calendar organizing/compiling for an office, database management/maintenance, general maintenance of confidentiality is what comes to mind for me.

    2. DataDiva*

      ‘Managing on-line systems’ makes me think of website management. Not even getting into coding, just like using WordPress. But I agree that a volunteer database or scheduling tool or even just like the ability to navigate Google Drive could also be the answer.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Ugh. I guess I would talk about times I have either organized work for a group online or times I have participated in group work that had an online part. Have you worked with shared files online or on a local server?

    4. kittymommy*

      I’m trying to figure out what my org (municipal government) would mean by this… definitely nothing to involved, no coding, etc. We let our IT department handle that (or outside support), certainly not an admin. No offense (I’m an admin) but with security, spoofs, and people trying to hijack government websites, that level if IT/website handling will be done by individuals hired specifically for that.

      I suspect it’s probably basic website updating, fishing through and handling concerns/questions submitted from an online email or comment system. For example, low-income housing: update listing for providers with pertinent data, requirements, etc.; process any inquires that people send form on-line forms either by handling yourself or sending them to the appropriate areas; volunteer database and scheduling, especially if it’s done by a internal or security access only site makes sense as well.

    5. Not a cat*

      I used to work for a software vendor whose main client was SLG. They could be referring to the content management system, the website, the ERP system, the records management system, SharePoint……

    6. Augusta Sugarbean*

      I reread the job description with all your suggestions in mind. I think it is my original idea which is volunteer coordination and not IT stuff. Thank you all!

  21. Anon Applicant*

    Is reverse-discrimination a thing? As in, can a company decide they are not going to hire people in a majority race/religion/gender, etc. for a specific role because they want more diversity? Totally understand if it’s not a thing and this is perfectly ok – diversity is obviously important! – but it still feels weird to me?

    1. CatCat*

      That’s just flat out discrimination. If a company is not hiring someone because of [race/religion/gender/other protected characteristic], that is a serious problem.

      It doesn’t matter if their protected characteristics are shared with a majority of the population.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You cannot legally consider race/sex/religion/etc. in hiring decisions. You can undertake efforts to recruit more diverse candidate pools, but you cannot hire someone or reject them because they are Race X, regardless of what that race is.

      1. WellRed*

        Our local newspaper once offered an internship (only one slot or two slots, total, not one or two out of a bunch), for students of color. It was frustrating to hear about, but I don’t consider it reverse discrimination.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          That was done because people of color are barely working in that industry – it’s a huge problem leading to biased reporting.

    3. dorothyparker*

      Not really. Discrimination is linked to an institutional bias that’s more broad than just a company. I think that the other thing to think about is all of the implicit biases that come up during the hiring process that eliminate candidates based on perceived race rather than their resume and job history/quality of candidacy. I don’t know for sure but I’m willing to bet that some over-correction in hiring more inclusively (and it’s really important to note this is most critical across all levels including senior leadership!), might actually be righting the biases that lead to white-washed hiring practices as they currently exist in most places.

    4. knitter*

      It looks weird to you because when a privilege is being taken away, it feels like a punishment.
      Maybe think about all the qualified, non majority group candidates who have been screened out because of a weird name or “not being a culture fit”. Focusing on increasing hiring of minority groups is simply removing the privilege that went to majority groups.
      As a white person working in a field that needs to diversify (urban education), I had zero problems when a person of color was hired into a role that I had applied to. I wasn’t as qualified. And part of being qualified for that position was having experiences that could connect with our students.

      1. Anon Applicant*

        Right, I’m very conscientious of this. The company I applied to hasn’t explicitly said anything, but they’ve made it implicitly clear through their application process that they’re looking to hire someone more diverse than the sort of people currently on their team. I applaud their self-awareness and the step they’re taking towards diversity, but I’m like the others on the team. I’m definitely not saying I’m the best applicant they have (though I’m in their top 3!), but I do think my candidacy would be more appealing to them if I weren’t what I am. And all this was discovered after having invested a decent amount of time into their application process (had to go through a phone interview, answer a questionnaire, then complete a timed project all before getting an in person interview).

        1. WellRed*

          Uh, that’s an awful lot of hoops just to get an interview. Is this normal for your industry? If not, possible bullet dodged.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          How do you know where you rank with them in terms of your qualifications? Have you seen the other candidate’s resumes? Were you in their interviews? I find it interesting that you automatically assume that if you weren’t white that you’d be more appealing to the hiring team when it could just be that you are not as qualified for this particular role as you think you are regardless of race.

          1. Anon Applicant*

            Nope! Not at all assuming I am the best candidate regardless of race! I have no idea who else they are interviewing!

            I’m not ranking myself against other candidates. I’m ranking myself against what they told me they’re looking for with this position. If they tell me they are looking to hire diverse candidates, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume my candidacy would be more appealing if I were more diverse?

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              My point is, you know nothing about who they’re interviewing (do you even know the people who work there in that particular group?), and by your own admission, they haven’t explicitly said, “We’re only hiring non-whites for this role.” Diverse could mean people from other industries and other backgrounds (e.g., if their team is made up of mostly business majors, but now they’re looking for humanities folks to add some creativity to the group) – it’s not all about race. Diversity of thought and experience is a thing.

              1. Anon Applicant*

                I thought my prior comments on this were clear, but I see now that they’re probably not! The hiring manager explicitly told me their team is made up of people from mostly X background, so that’s how I know that. Then, as I said above, made it implicitly clear that they’re looking to hire someone more diverse than the sort of people currently on their team. (I don’t want to go into the specifics of the ways the company implied this, and am conscious that everything is through my own lens and maybe they’re not trying to make any sort of implications at all, but like regular OPs writing to AAM, let’s assume this is the case.)

                Whoa there! I haven’t said anything about race! White vs. non-white happens to actually not be the sort of diversity I’m/the company is talking about!

                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  No, your comments weren’t clear and when people were posting mentioning race and you skipped right over those, the impression you gave was that you thought this was a racial thing based on the responses in this thread. I’m glad it’s not a racial thing, but you still need to understand that diverse hiring can mean many things and just because, on paper, you seem like the most obvious hire, doesn’t mean you are the best (which I’m glad your comments are starting to show you’re getting around to understanding that).

            2. Marthooh*

              It’s kind of weird that you don’t know who else is in the running but you know you’re in their top three – or was that a joke? Anyway, Alison gets lots of letters that say “I’m the perfect fit for this job, but I didn’t get hired!” (look at the “rejections” category in the menu.) There are lots of reasons you may not get a job you want. As for having to go through a long application process, well, so did everyone else who made it as far as you did!

              1. Anon Applicant*

                Not a joke. They told me during the interview it was down to me and two other candidates. I don’t think that’s atypical information for them to tell me?

                Again, not saying I’m the best for the job. (And, on the flip side of it, not sure it’s even the right move for me!) Nor am I complaining about not getting hired – I don’t know if I will be hired yet! They haven’t finished interviewing the other two candidates.

        3. Jennifer Thneed*

          Can we stop using the word “diverse” for a single person? Groups can be diverse: each individual is just themselves.

          If we MEAN “non-white” or “non-majority” or “non-christian” or “non-frat-jock-beer-guy”, let’s just say that instead of papering it over. (And when I say “we”, I do mean the white majority, of which I am one. People of color are WAY less squiggly about using specific, appropriate, terms.)

          1. Avasarala*

            Agreed. Let’s stop using “diverse” to mean “non-white.” If I see one more “[person] is more diverse than [person]”…

      2. Muriel Heslop*

        As a white woman in (semi)urban education, I feel the same way. I’ve worked hard to diversify our department and if a POC (heck, even a white male) applies, I definitely look for a way to hire them if all else is equal. Conversely, I won’t overlook a stellar white woman if she’s amazing because my kids deserve all the incredible support they can get.

      3. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        “I had zero problems when a person of color was hired into a role that I had applied to. I wasn’t as qualified.”

        How would you have felt if a) you were as qualified – equally qualified, let’s say – and b) everything else being equal, the only reason the person of color wound up being hired over you was because they were a person of color?

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I’d be fine with that tie breaker, though bummed about not getting the job.
          1) Something has to be a tie-breaker.
          2) I will have more opportunities because I am white. I will be more likely to get interviewed / hired because I have an ethnically ‘white’ name.

          There is a *lot* of class privilege in my attitude. I’m educated enough that I can be philosophical about a job hunt – I’m going to find something that my family can live on, even if I have to take a step down so that I’m competing against less-qualified candidates.

        2. JamieS*

          This is often a hypothetical that’s proposed but I’m curious how anyone would even know that was the reason they were/weren’t hired. If someone clearly less qualified was hired over another without there being a reasonable explanation, such as the more qualified person applied to a lower level position, a case for discrimination can be more clearly made. However if the person they hired is just as qualified as another applicant it’s a stretch for the applicant who wasn’t selected to say “I wasn’t hired because I’m a member of X group and/or not a member of Y group”.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      Has it ever happened ever? Sure. Is it a thing? No. If anything, what I’ve seen, despite “affirmative action” and “diversity efforts,” it still seems to me that historically overrepresented groups still get a leg up.

      1. Ramona Q*

        Yup – the group that benefits most from affirmative action policies is actually cis white women. We aren’t a group who needs that help because of our structural privilege.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          I’m genuinely curious why you think women of any color don’t need help/have privilege. Women who are white may get a pass on thing a black man may be dinged on but as a woman, she’ll be dinged for what the black male gets a pass on due to male privilege.

    6. Free Meercats*

      Hiring/not hiring someone based on their race/religion/gender is illegal. Period.

      Unfortunately, it happens. At PreviousJob we were in expansion mode – hiring 6 people into a 6 person work group, so doubling. HR told us point blank, “At least two of your hires will be women and one a POC.”

      1. Autumnheart*

        But if the existing 6 people are all white males despite having received applications from women/POC, that is also a problem. Short of firing those 6 people and starting over, the only way to improve diversity on the team is to hire people who aren’t already represented.

        A team with 12 people on it should be at least half women in order to fairly represent the population.

        1. Free Meercats*

          I agree with the “should.” Unfortunately, I’m in a field where there are few women who apply; for some reason, men are more willing to work in manholes with sewage than women.

        2. JamieS*

          Were the white males more qualified candidates than the women/POC? If so then no it isn’t a problem they were hired over the women/POC. Were the white males less qualified? If so, that is a problem.

          The issue with saying “you must hire a woman” or “you must hire a POC” is that the focus isn’t on hiring the most qualified person. It will also lead to the assumption the person that’s hired isn’t qualified which does them no favors. This is different from choosing the woman/POC over a white man when all else is essentially equal. At that point something has to be a tie-breaker and having a tie-breaker that benefits the company (diversity) isn’t something that can really be argued against.

    7. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      It’s illegal, but a lot of people in privileged groups don’t always understand the impact of lived experience or that when they look the same as an underprivileged person on paper, the underprivileged person has gone through impressive hurdles to get there. For example, I was on an interview panel for an office position. Everyone we interviewed was very qualified on paper. But the one I advocated for was a Chinese immigrant who got her bachelor’s degree later in life taking classes in English while also juggling being a parent to a small child. That’s a lot harder than someone who got to go to college when they were young and had their parents pay for everything and have no dependents and get to take classes in their native language. But privileged people don’t usually even think about that.

      1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

        I guess considering family status is illegal so there is an argument that you can’t hire a parent over someone with no kids (though it’s overwhelmingly usually the other way around especially when the parent candidate is a woman). But it’s not illegal to be more impressed by someone who had to be financially responsible for themselves and could get a degree in a foreign language they learned as an adult.

        1. Cat*

          I would say it’s the other way around ONLY when the other candidate is a woman. Men actually benefit in their career from having children statistically.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Curious — is that benefit from being married/partnered, and having children is a proxy? Or do the children give them benefit beyond that?

            1. Natalie*

              IIRC married men with children are statistically likely to benefit in their career more than married men without children. I’m not sure if the same holds true for unmarried or divorced men with children, it’s been awhile since I came across the study.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              Googled ‘fatherhood bonus career’ (contrast to motherhood penalty) and fatherhood seems to be taken as an indicator of ‘grit’. They mostly seem to refer to the same study from Cornell that found a line about being a PTA member got more call-backs and higher pay offers for men.

              How being a father affects your success – Business Insider
              and
              First-time moms see a 30% drop in pay. For dads, there’s a bump up from cnbc

        2. Natalie*

          Family status is only protected for housing, not employment. However, a lot of discrimination by family status ends up being de facto discrimination by sex, so it’s best avoided anyway.

      2. JamieS*

        Did you quiz all the “privileged” candidates to ensure they didn’t also have impressive hurdles to go through?

      3. Avasarala*

        It kinda sounds like you hired her based on her lack of privilege though? Did her experience bring something different to your team, did she express her story particularly well, did she have values you admire? Because it kinda sounds like you hired her based on pity the way you spun that story.

    8. Spork*

      Okay: We want more candidates who are X and Y because they tend to be filtered out of hiring processes before we get to an interview stage. We are still going to hire the best candidate for the position anyway.

      Not okay: We will only hire candidates of a specific race or gender.

      Make sure you’re not misinterpreting “We value diversity, and encourage women and racial minorities to apply” as “We will only hire a woman or a racial minority.”

      1. Venus*

        I used to know a white man who complained frequently about not being employable because his field was only hiring for diversity, and he therefore had no chance.

        I couldn’t be bothered arguing with him, because I knew he wouldn’t listen, but it was pretty obvious that the field was full of young white men. So there may have been efforts to hire more POC and women, yet they were still in a minority.

        This man was unhappy because he wasn’t being hired, yet he blamed it on ‘diversity targets’. Which, may be valid, in that he wasn’t very good but a decade prior to that situation he probably would have had a much better chance at a good job. Someone once said that the competent white men are more likely to welcome diversity. It is the incompetent ones who lose out to competent women and POC who get more upset about diversity targets.

    9. Jedi Squirrel*

      Totally depends on wording.

      “We are not hiring white people for this role” = illegal

      “Our preferred candidate has experience with X community” = legal, but it also doesn’t refer to the race/religion/ethnicity of the candidate. It just increases the chances that someone of color will be more likely to apply.

      It’s important to keep this in mind, since in this forum, we tend to get very limited snapshots of what’s actually happening, and it is entirely based upon OP’s interpretation. (Unless, of course, they quote the posting word for word in its entirety.)

      (Also, and not to digress, but the “reverse” wording is highly problematic, because there are societal and structural power imbalances at play here.)

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        (Also, and not to digress, but the “reverse” wording is highly problematic, because there are societal and structural power imbalances at play here.)

        I peeped this as well, and the follow-up comment I responded to was problematic as well.

      2. Anon Applicant*

        Ah, thank you for pointing that out! What’s the appropriate wording I should have used?

        This is, of course, all based on my interpretation of the situation. In this case, not of the posting itself, but of the rest of the process. Nothing outright on it’s own (for example, the questionnaire had a question that was like, “We love diversity! Tell us how your diverse background would help contribute to our department.”), but coupled with some remarks from the hiring manager in person, I got the overall impression that they’d like to hire a diverse candidate.

        1. ThatGirl*

          “Diverse” can mean SO MANY things – not just people of color or religious minorities, but also veterans, the disabled, people over 50, people who are from outside the geographic area, people who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds or have unusual career paths – I’m a white lady from the midwest but I think I could find a way to talk about what in my life has set me apart. It may or may not be the kind of diversity they’re looking for, but you can still answer the question.

          I don’t know if there is a way to word “reverse” discrimination – it’s just not a thing. What you’re basically saying is that you feel uneasy about not having a leg up by being white (I’m guessing).

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I don’t know if there is a way to word “reverse” discrimination – it’s just not a thing. What you’re basically saying is that you feel uneasy about not having a leg up by being white (I’m guessing).

            Bingo.

        2. Marny*

          It sounds like you’re conflating “diverse” with “minority race or culture”. A person can have a “diverse” background and diverse experiences without being a member of a specific minority group. They’re likely looking for candidates who haven’t kept themselves sheltered in situations where they’re surrounded by people just like them and in environments where everyone has similar backgrounds/experiences.

          1. Red Sunglasses*

            Exactly. My company traditionally only recruits from top tier schools and now they’re expanding recruiting to non toptier schools because they realize that top tier schools are only available to a very limited number of people and want to make sure they are giving people who don’t have the connections and privilege of attending them a look. It’s well known in my industry that the university on your degree is key to getting a job and if you aren’t top tier, it’s extremely hard to get into.

            The company has made it clear the requirements to be hired have not changed. As you can imagine, there are a number of people who aren’t cool with this and feel like we’re lessening our standards. What they really mean is they’re uncomfortable with having to acknowledge that they didn’t get here based on their smarts alone.

        3. Brrrrrr*

          My company uses questions like this in hiring! I think it’s quite common in non-profit and public service organizations. We use that question not because we are necessarily looking for someone who fits a protected class, but because we want to give candidates an opportunity to highlight how their lived experiences might bring a unique and valuable perspective to the team. “Diverse” in that context doesn’t necessarily mean racial/religious/ethnic minority.
          Answers that have been seen as positive in my industry in the past include “I grew up in the neighborhood where the office is located, and therefore understand the challenges faced by residents” or “I speak a language that will allow me to communicate directly and connect personally with our client base” or “I was once a client of an organization like yours and so I understand how clients may feel” or “I worked for a funder and so understand how best to apply for grants.”
          If you do not have any lived experiences that would add a particular value to the organization, perhaps you are not the best candidate. That is not necessarily because of your race/religion/origin, but because you have not developed the experiences that bring something new to the table in terms of your perspective.

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            We use that question not because we are necessarily looking for someone who fits a protected class, but because we want to give candidates an opportunity to highlight how their lived experiences might bring a unique and valuable perspective to the team.

            Bingo!

            A lot of people who don’t fit the white middle class college educated ideal might think that they are in no way qualified, when in fact, they have qualifications based on their lived experiences. This is a wonderful framing!

        4. LemonLyman*

          I agree with ThatGirl’s comment to this post as well as the things Diahnna has posted. One comment Diahnna made is that “diversity” means many things. It doesn’t sound like this application defines this org’s interest in diversity as just being racial diversity.

          To answer your original question, “reverse discrimination” is not something that exists. It’s my experience that “whiteness” has become neutral or the norm in our American society and people of color have had to learn how to fit into that norm. It’s not possible to “discriminate” against the norm that sets up power structures. What’s sad is that otherwise well meaning white people don’t realize this. My white friends and spouse don’t notice their white privileged until it is pointed out to them.

          It sounds like you’re open to learning more and I’d gladly point you in the direction of Peggy McIntosh’s piece on White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Giggle it. It’s a great way to bring awareness to your own white privilege and how people of color have to fit into a society where “whiteness” is seen as the norm. I’m not white but I benefit from white privileged because I’m married to a white man.

    10. Maya Elena*

      Legalities aside, it totally happens; I don’t think to the point of excluding, but definitely preferring. I’ve definitely been preferred – and told as much – for some internship opportunities in a male-dominated field because of being female. A lot of organizations these days are either under pressure or their leadership really does want to see better demographic diversity on their staffs, but don’t have enough qualified applicants of the requisite groups; so when they get them, they try to attract them; which of course comes at the expense of the majority-group applicants.

  22. dorothyparker*

    So my manager just came back from a training on how to use HR’s new review system. They were specifically told to not discuss raises or paths to promotion with their employees. This is mounting on my recent look at our 990 (we’re a nonprofit) that showed our CEO makes over $500,000 and little old me, four levels down the hierarchy, but working 50-hour weeks is making 60k (in our busy season, I’m working 6-7 days a week and more like 60 hours). I’m in the most expensive city in the country.
    Lately I’ve been trying to lowkey get people around my level to share their salaries with each other. I really really want to find a productive way to fight back against the income inequity within our company (I have a really really hard time understanding why our VPs make $200,000+ but just three levels down, I’m a middle manager at $60k. I’m working tons of hours in a client-facing role (so I take a ton of shit face to face)). Seeking a smidge of validation but also advice on ways to push back on this and demand greater equity in pay. Free snacks at staff meetings isn’t the same as squeezing out rent and mental healthcare not covered by our insurance!

    1. Pear*

      This is very, very normal. Salaries increase with hierarchy, sometimes by a lot. Trying to push back on that is going to make you look out of touch with the norms of the professional world.

      If you think your pay and benefits are low for your position based on what your peers in the industry make, or your salary isn’t increasing with COL, or you feel the hours you’re required to work are unreasonable, then those are things you can potentially discuss with your manager–and discuss, not demand. The salaries of your CEO and VP should absolutely not be part of the conversation.

      1. MissBliss*

        I’m not sure it will make you look out of touch with the norms of the professional world in the nonprofit context… Feelings of being underpaid (often grossly, and particularly in comparison to executives) is not uncommon. And in mission-based orgs, inequity often cuts to the very core of what the organization is working to solve. My last job literally had programs around poverty alleviation and creating jobs with “family sustaining” wages but the front-line workers (who, frequently, put up with significant abuse) had salaries that could barely support them. So comparing your salary to what your peers in the industry make isn’t necessarily going to help you at all– lots of people in the nonprofit world are underpaid. The only way that will change is if people push back at the inequity.

        1. dorothyparker*

          This is very much the reality of what happens where I am! My team gets the angry calls and emails and those get filtered up to leadership. Sure there is board-reporting that happens but that doesn’t negate the hours that I work and the abuse that myself and my team have faced. Obviously some of this is a larger conversation of the standards our organization sets with clients and that people can just be jerks. BUT, I do think that we should totally question the inequity of pay. Hard to stomach a CEO who has a share of a private plane and staff who have to commute far or live super cheaply to make ends meet–especially at a non-profit. From a market perspective, our CEO should be making closer to $300k based on other non profits of our size in our area. My salary is relatively close to market rate.

      2. CM*

        It’s normal, but it’s also super wrong. There should be a limit on how high the ratio between the highest and lowest paid position in a given company can be — otherwise the people at the top will just vote to reward themselves with higher and higher salaries (which is what we see happening).

    2. Enginear*

      Upper management make six figures because their job needs them to make tough decisions, say the politically correct thing at all times, and be able to steer the company in the right direction, and report directly to the big boys when questions are asked. Me personally, I wouldn’t want all that responsibility. That’s why they make the big bucks.

      1. Creed Bratton*

        See – this angers me. In so many cases (not all) the top level is paid a completely disproportionate salary with absolutely no technical knowledge. A school superintendent should have spent at least a year in the classroom. A hospital CEO should have at least a year of direct patient contact. SOME knowledge of the field you’re serving is critical, but many times a “leader” is brought in (like you said, to make scary decisions and focus on the $$ of it all). And they make all those budgetary decisions that aren’t based on the reality of what an EMT/teacher/front line cashier worker/whatever is dealing with and don’t solve their actual problems.

        1. Operation Glowing Symphony*

          THIS! “In so many cases (not all) the top level is paid a completely disproportionate salary with absolutely no technical knowledge.”

          The most recent ED I had made 6-figures and a travel allowance but had never been an ED. Her experience was 15-yrs of non-profit marketing. Our Dev Director had no fundraising or non-profit experience but made $85k… None of them had even ‘swept’ a non-profit floor and worked with clients or done anything that would be basic non-profit work.

          This new ED said, “Well I worry about the chaos and changes, too. Believe me, you’re not the only one who does.” to which I say, “You’ve created the chaos and changes! You get paid six-figures to enjoy this.” and then I turned to the Dev Director and said the same thing. They were shocked. Then I quit on the spot. They had no cognizance of their actions on the organization AND had the audacity to have asked for employees to give to the organization!

      2. J.B.*

        Yes, but that is quite a difference, especially since dorothyparker describes herself as being in middle management. I would normally expect the difference between her salary and the VPs – in a nonprofit no less – to be quite a bit smaller, especially with a very high cost of living.

      3. Operation Glowing Symphony*

        “Upper management makes six figures because their job needs them to make tough decisions” Yes, I agree that non-profits CEOs should be making commensurate salaries as those who run similar sized for-profit businesses with scope and breadth of responsibilities. I don’t begrudge Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, Feeding America, Heifer International and similar sized global/national non-profits pay their CEO’s like a for-profit CEO. That’s A LOT of responsibility. But more often than not there non-profits/affiliates engage in the misalignment of pay: responsibilities because they don’t realize how it ‘looks’ inside and outside, as well as it pushes back on what they’re trying to do with their own clients.

        My two experiences:

        I’ve been an Ex. Director of a non-profit with 4-full time thrift store staff, a $500k thrift store, 75 and growing permanent clients with $750k in appreciable assets (i.e. Habitat for Humanity). I was responsible for home construction, client management, volunteer recruitment/retention, Board/committees, finances, fundraising, staff, and everything in-between as I couldn’t get an admin staff. $40k/year (and that was negotiated up and I really wanted the experience to be an ED). The locale was a small military town, but I was still underpaid for the responsibility.

        The last org I left ED pay: 5 staff in programs and development, no appreciable assets, $150k fund for scholarships and the big decisions are developing the politically correct relationships to keep programs in K-12 schools and corporate volunteers.
        – ED: $125k, travel pay and car allowance, 5-staff. 15 years of non-profit marketing, no ED experience
        – Dev Director: $85k, travel pay for a $500k fundraising requirement, 2 staff. No fundraising or non-profit experience
        – Program Director: $55k, 1 staff, 15 schools, and 20 companies for volunteers. Extensive prior brand experience.

        Discrepancies? Always in non-profit. We don’t go into it for pay, but we shouldn’t be living hand to mouth at the expense of our CEO being paid the ‘appropriate’ level of pay to deal with politics. And it’s worse when your boss doesn’t recognize the discrepancy and shares all their trips and extra-curricular while one of her employees struggles to make ends meet.

      4. MissDisplaced*

        I think, saying that about a for-profit public traded company is mostly true. The executives make tough decisions, work long hours (usually), travel a lot internationally, and must keep stock prices up and the company competitive and profitable.

        But OP is frustrated because this is a mission based organization with programs designed to help the poor segments of the population. There really should be a limit on wage ratios in these these types of orgs, because the donated money ought to serve the mission of the org, not the executives running it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am more alarmed by not being able to discuss raises or promotions with employees. So in other words this is a dead end job.

      I worked for a place like this. Get out. Seriously. The real issue here is not that you make 10% of what the CEO makes, the real issue is that a career path or raises can no longer be discussed at this company. Why on this green earth would anyone stay there. What a trap.

      1. CM*

        I second the advice to get out.

        FWIW, the shady nonprofit/scam I used to work for had a habit of promoting people into “management” as a way to separate them from the staff and low-key stop them from trying to unionize, but didn’t always give them actual management responsibilities. I don’t know what your situation is, but maybe double-triple-check whether you’re actually considered a manager for legal purposes.

  23. ProdMgr*

    So you probably need to be really clear with your boss that you don’t want to do this work anymore. Being clear on what you want to do instead and why it’ll be valuable to the company will help – basically, write the pitch that your manager will have to take to their manager to sell the idea.

    Secondly, even if you wanted to keep doing llama styling, they’ve got a big risk right now. If you became unavailable suddenly, they’d be stuck. They should be looking at how to either train people internally, hire people who can already do the work, or find external resources they can use. If training hasn’t worked in the past, it’s important to understand why (were they the wrong people? did they not get enough time?) and then come up with a better plan. You continuing to be available forever is not a good bet for them. Part of making this pitch is being able to show how llama styling impacts the business – how big are the accounts that need this? what would happen if it wasn’t available? Ultimately, if you can make a business case for building up this competency, it’ll be easier to make it happen.

  24. Running With Scissors*

    I’ve been waiting for this.

    So, I have a coworker who is on the same team. They’ve been here the longest and they come off as bossy.

    Yesterday, they budded in to a conversation and using tone told me about how everything I said was wrong and “you need to use your judgment more”. Another team member heard what they said and confronted them on it and they believed they were right and if I didn’t like it they wouldn’t say anything again. I asked a manager for guidance and got a very different answer from bossy coworker.

    This is not the first time they have done this, and I find it to be off putting. I am not inclined to approach them when I have questions.

    I’m thinking of saying this at my next 1:1 with my manager: “I appreciate the feedback and understand they are trying to help, but I don’t appreciate the comments and tone that is used. If there is something that I need to be doing differently, please let me know”

    1. BlindChina*

      Any Chance you could say this to bossy co-worker first? Some times people really don’t realize how bossy they come off, and just asking them to stop fixes the issue. But if they are nasty as well as bossy don’t try this lol. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, I’m sure it is very annoying.

      1. valentine*

        and if I didn’t like it they wouldn’t say anything again.
        They gave you an opening! “You said you wouldn’t say anything again and I’m accepting that offer.”

    2. Indy Dem*

      I would have just replied with a flat toned “Thank you for the input”. Before going to your manager, are you able to have a conversation with your co-worker about this? That you appreciate the feedback, but that you felt it could have been more constructive in nature (I wouldn’t mention tone with them). If this doesn’t work, then bring it up in the 1:1, mentioning that you attempted to work it out with said co-worker first.

      1. China Beech*

        Yes, sometimes you have to pt your adult pants on and talk to the coworker first. If you go straight to the boss, you appear like a back-biting viper, and trust that that will NOT get the reaction from your coworker that you want. It will make the situation worse. And maybe ask yourself if maybe YOU are contributing by trying to take on too much already or sounding like a know it all.

        1. Mellow*

          I don’t understand why you’re contemplating the OP as a possible know-it-all. What in the OP’s comment indicates that possibility?

    3. designbot*

      God I’d be tempted to say “You mentioned me needing to use my judgement more, but I’m curious what judgement you were making when you decided to tell a colleague that everything they were saying is wrong and offered an assessment of my judgement. Because I’m having a hard time seeing how that could be coming from a positive, collaborative place.”

  25. Construction Safety*

    So, apparently our projects don’t write formal purchase orders or keep a PO log (or sumsuch). They just give the vendor the project number & sort it all out in the end.

    I guess a vendor just submitted an invoice for $15k for stuff that was delivered 8 months ago. To a T&M project. Which has closed the books & “final billed” the client months ago.

    But, that’s the way we’ve always done it so it obviously that’s the best way to do it and doesn’t need to be done any differently.

    1. JustaTech*

      OMG. So who’s going to eat that $15k? Is anyone going to learn from that?

      I mean, I try to stay as far away from all the purchasing stuff as physically possible (I’ve watched it drive my coworkers to tears), but, like, it’s there for a reason.

    2. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

      Aggghh! That is very frustrating and I’m sorry you have to deal with it.

      I work for a small residential construction company and we’ve had this happen a couple of times. Once with an HVAC contractor who billed several months after we closed the project. I think it was somewhere in the $10k range for a change order, so it wasn’t a part of the original proposal. We had even sent out notices for an open invoices weeks prior to closing those bank accounts, but they still missed it! I don’t know who the heck was doing their bookkeeping, but they sure screwed up.

      They argued and argued with us, told us how much it was going to affect their small business to not get the money, all that. I felt for them, but we can’t retroactively bill the client! We mostly do Cost Plus projects, so all the money goes through individual bank accounts specific to the project. We don’t fund those bank accounts, the client/homeowner does. The only way to recoup the money is for us to pay the invoice and then go back to the client for reimbursement. We would take a big risk and potentially have to eat the cost!

      I do material purchasing and logistics for our company (among other things). I don’t have a formal purchase order system per se, but I do have a system for keeping track of materials ordered, shipped, received, checked, and then billed. So far the only invoices that have slipped through were for turnkey materials and labor, which the site supervisors are responsible for. Statistically something is bound to slip through at some point :/

  26. Mary Dempster*

    This isn’t really a question, but wanted to thank Allison and all the comments here – I read and re-read them yesterday re: salary negotiation (something I’ve literally never done, or had the opportunity to do), was offered a promotion, said “Any chance you can do $+$10k?” and in less than an hour they met me in the middle at an additional $5k, giving me a 45% raise. 45%!!!

    Thanks to Allison and everyone for the confidence.

    1. Operation Glowing Symphony*

      WOO HOOO! Have a great weekend reveling in your awesomeness! So great to hear that your company wants to keep you, too!

  27. Elenna*

    Is my reporting structure super weird?

    Basically my official manager on my contract, company files, etc is Fergus, but Wakeen manages me day-to-day, assigns tasks, etc. I haven’t done a performance review at this company yet but I assume it would be a collaborative effort between them. If they gave me conflicting tasks I’d probably just ask one or both of them which one I should prioritize.

    I didn’t think it was that weird, since I’ve had a similar reporting structure before. That was a co-op job and this is full-time (entry level), but they were both actuarial analyst jobs in large insurance companies. (Basically we’re the people who figure out how much insurance should cost, how much to invest, etc.) Maybe it’s an insurance thing? IDK. But a lot of comments on yesterday’s letter (the one about a coworker trying to manage) seemed to suggest that being managed by someone who’s not your official manager is pretty unusual. (For the record, I was clearly told who to report to when I started, and LW’s coworker in yesterday’s letter is indeed bananas.)

    Anyone else have similar experiences?

    1. Amber Rose*

      I report to like five different people depending on what aspect of my job we’re talking about. As long as everyone’s clear, I don’t think it’s that weird.

      1. Indy Dem*

        Lol, Amber Rose, your response made me think of the movie Office Space.

        One of our departments has first level employees, team leads, and managers. The team leads have 1:1s, discuss and support case loads and tasks, and are the first stop on bringing up issues to management (it sounds like more of a sounding board), but the managers are the ones doing reviews (with lead input) and other management functions. I don’t think your situation is that weird. But it can’t hurt to have a conversation with either of them about the review process, since you are new.

    2. OperaArt*

      Very common where I work. But it’s different from yesterday’s letter because the chains of command are clearly stated. I have one person who is my boss for the admin side (raises, performance reviews, etc.), and one boss for each project I’m working on. There have been times when I’ve had 5 bosses at once, but I always knew who was responsible for what.

    3. WellRed*

      I don’t think this sounds weird at all. My associate editor and I (one step up) both report to the editor, but I assign associate editor things (so does editor, but me more so). But when it’s time for reviews and what not, the AE would sit down with the editor, not me.

    4. Diahann Carroll*

      The comments on that letter weren’t suggesting dotted line management is unusual (which is what you’re reporting structure is) – what we were all saying was unusual was the coworker’s idea that she could start managing the letter writer and discussing the letter writer’s career goals without a) clearing this with OP’s actual manager or b) communicating with the OP that this directive came from OP’s boss.

      Dotted line management is very common across many industries, especially in project-based work. It’s not just an insurance thing (and for the record, I was an insurance adjuster for four years and never had a dotted line management reporting structure, so yours may just be related to your job function).

    5. designbot*

      It’s fairly normal in my field (design) to have one formal manager, and a day to day experience that is a bit separated from them. Sometimes that is formalized with things like project managers (who aren’t officially managing you as people, they’re managing projects, which necessitates the management of people…) or senior designers vs junior designers, and sometimes it’s just understood.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Dotted line reporting structures: Yes they’re common, yes they can cause problems, and yes you’ll develop some usable project management skills by learning to navigate them efficiently.

    7. Chronic Overthinker*

      Technically speaking everyone in the office is my superior. Only one of them is my direct report. 90 percent of my work is with support staff/everyone else in the office and not my direct report. Things get a little confusing at times, especially feedback, but I feel like I get things done in a timely manner and am enthusiastic about taking on anything anyone gives me.

  28. Amber Rose*

    I feel weird about how my coworker’s impending mat leave is being handled, but also I have never worked anywhere where someone took mat leave, so I’m not sure if this is normal. Reality check please?

    So basically, her (call her Jane) job covers three main categories. I’ll be taking over one, and the other two will be given to two other coworkers who are doing similar work. Unlike those two, I have no background or experience in the work I’m taking on, so I’ll need more training and stuff. Anyways, as we had a mini-meeting about this with Jane’s supervisor but without Jane, my boss basically said that since Jane is leaving in March or so, she intends for all the work to start being given to us now. With the plan being that Jane will steadily have less to do until, for the last two or three weeks, she’ll be doing basically nothing at all except answering questions.

    That feels like a long time to leave someone with zero work. And when Jane’s supervisor kind of gently pushed back about that my boss just said, “there’s stuff to do if she looks for it.”

    I dunno, it feels like they’re trying to make Jane redundant, and since literally nobody has told Jane any of this, I’m worried about backlash next week when that third of her work starts getting funneled to me to learn.

    1. Hmmm*

      As a person who went on mat leave in 2019, I didn’t think any of this was too weird until you said that Jane doesn’t know about this. It’s not uncommon for a person to go into labor 2-3 weeks early, so it’s good that they have a plan for everything to be covered by that point… but it’s hard for me to imagine a situation where that whole conversation didn’t involve the person who will be out.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Identical thoughts. It actually sounds pretty smart, but… Jane doesn’t know about it? That’s BONKERS.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Honestly, it doesn’t sound crazy to me. Early transition is prudent in case of later medical difficulties or early delivery. March will be here before we know it.

      Also, Jane is still an experienced member of staff, and an adult. If she’s too quiet one day, she can pick something else up.

        1. cmcinnyc*

          OK that means something else is going on, and it’s probably something you are not going to be told about. Unless your company has *very* generous leave a March exit for a June delivery is weird.

          1. Amber Rose*

            It’s got nothing to do with my company. By law, we get either 12 or 18 months and we can take it whenever in the process as long as we give notice. It’s pretty normal for people to decide they want some time to themselves before the baby shows.

        2. serenity*

          This is so odd and not how I’ve ever witnessed mat leave be handled.

          Almost a full six months before she’s due, her work is being siphoned off to other people? And she’s unaware of this? And her mat leave starts a full 3 months before she’s due? None of this makes sense to me.

    3. Globo Gym Purple Cobra*

      I had never covered someone’s mat leave until my last non-profit job. I assumed a special fundraising event that I had never done before so my coworker and I, along with our boss, worked closely together to make sure I knew what was going on. There was an established last date for my coworker to leave, but it was pushed up due to her stress level and by that time she had already moved everything to me and was on a glide path of easier tasks.

      So I kinda feel it’s weird that Jane isn’t part of the conversations and process to move responsibilities to you all. Are Jane’s supervisor and your boss on the same level or is one subordinate to the other? I can’t tell from the “And when Jane’s supervisor kind of gently pushed back about that my boss just said, ” statement.

      Maybe your boss has been pregnant and understands the need to earlier, rather than later, move tasks over to you all because babies work on their own timeline. What if Jane goes into early labor or bed rest and you’re all still ‘weaning’ her off her tasks?

      You shouldn’t be worried about a backlash as you didn’t make these plans. You’re following your boss and her boss. If Jane doesn’t like how this is going, despite being kept in the dark about this (and she needs to maange that with her boss), you aren’t responsible for her response. Take it up with your boss and see how things could be managed better. It’s too bad they don’t include her because they’re setting everyone up for an annoying time.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Jane’s supervisor reports to my boss. I suppose I now also report to Jane’s supervisor, but since my role is eclectic, I report to many people for a variety of things. My boss is sort of my main reporting line for most day to day stuff.

    4. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      Seems pretty normal to me. The 2-3 week taper is in line with the 37-40-week window at which the majority of people have their babies (due dates are calculated to the 40th week). The big boss is trying to get the coverage in place before your coworker hits the 37-week mark. And she’s trying to ramp up to it at a reasonable pace (i.e. starting now) so that you’ll have time to adjust, ask questions, etc. It’s how I’d hope my employer would handle it. Might be worth reframing a bit to yourself? Instead of “now I have more work to do” how about “now I’m adding a skillset and possibly a line for my resume”?

      1. Amber Rose*

        I should have added. She won’t hit that mark until June though. She’s just going on mat leave really early so she has some time off.

        I don’t care about my work load. I’m down for whatever. I just worry that Jane won’t react well.

        1. Bex*

          I could be reaching here, but I’m wondering if Jane has a higher-risk pregnancy and your boss thinks there might be a chance that she’s out even earlier than expected. She might be trying to quietly cover all the bases without adding extra stress/pressure on Jane.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      What’s more likely happening is a plan to make sure Jane’s replacements are fully up and running before she leaves. Full term on a healthy pregnancy is 38 weeks. Late is 42 weeks. Due date is 40 weeks–splitting the difference. So if Jane’s due date is March 1, the company is smart to be ready to lose her on February 15. She’ll also lose time to last doc appointments and sonograms, which generally happen during business hours. It’s not like a vacation where you know exactly when you’re leaving.

        1. WellRed*

          With this information, I suspect the company is either not invested in her seriously as an employee any longer and/or they suspect she won’t be back by choice.

            1. Safetykats*

              The thing is, if Jane is taking early leave for a high risk situation, or has expressed some doubts about whether she will return after her leave, it’s legally none of your business, and would be hugely inappropriate for your supervisor to share that with you. It’s also inappropriate for you to be fishing for information – whether from Jane directly or from others – and could land you in a tough situation, especially if there is some kind of confidential health issue.

              You could certainly ask what’s “ normal” for maternity leave, but my experience is that it varies a lot. FYI – it’s also my experience as a manager that even when an emplouee’s job is protected, it’s not uncommon for management and HR to assess the likelihood of an employee returning from leave. It’s usually possible to figure out who is almost certainly going to return and who is almost certainly not going to do so – the same way it’s usually possible to figure out when someone is looking for other employment. And if you strongly suspect someone won’t return, that can affect how you backfill their position. (Although I think if your management strongly suspected Jane wasn’t returning, they would be looking at a temp or even a new hire – who would be understood to be moving on to something different on Jane’s return – rather than transferring duties to existing personnel.)

    6. Indy Dem*

      The plan sounds normal. Jane not being aware of yet when everyone else involved it is? No, that’s not normal. If it was me, I’d drop a hint to her about the plan. As non nonchalantly as possible I’d say – do you have any particular request as to when I check with you during these 2-3 weeks.

    7. LKW*

      This actually sounds like a really good approach. Schedule time with her every 1-2 days to review what you’ve done that you weren’t sure about and ask her questions on the stuff you got stuck on. Since you need more training – this is a great way for you to really learn before she’s out. Shadowing someone only gets you so far.

    8. Sheffy4*

      I think generally that’s a pretty smart plan to have everything 100% handed off at least 2 weeks before the planned leave. In my experience it can be common for maternity leave to start early than expected (baby comes early, or medical issues or extreme discomfort in the last few weeks that prompts early leave). I’ve taken maternity leave twice, and I made sure that people taking over my tasks were pretty much doing those tasks comfortably by themselves several weeks before my leave was scheduled to begin. But that didn’t mean I had “nothing to do,” there was still daily requests and daily maintenance of processes that I worked on until my leave started.

    9. Jennifer Thneed*

      Can you tell us how you know that Jane doesn’t know about this plan? (and if that’s true, do you feel comfortable cluing her in?)

      1. Amber Rose*

        It came up during the meeting. Supervisor asked Boss if she’d told Jane about this plan yet, and she said no, that would be his job. Then when she asked him yesterday if he’d said anything, he hadn’t yet. So neither of them has said anything.

        I did quietly let her know that the plan was for me to help out with that set of tasks and that she’d be seeing me in meetings and stuff. But I don’t think anyone has told her the exact timeline and plan for how things are gonna be yet.

    10. Joie*

      As someone who has covered many a mat leave, this is so so normal. You won’t be taking it on 100% starting now, but the reality is 3 months isn’t a lot of time to learn a whole new function completely independently including all the “what if’s” that come up. It gives you time to adjust your workload to manage this without feeling overwhelmed, and training often makes the tasks take 2 – 3 times longer then when you know how to do it.

      The last 2-3 weeks of ‘available for questions’ is often because babies come when babies come. Your due date is two weeks either way, there’s always a chance of baby coming much earlier and complications that come along with pregnancy. I have no kids, but I’ve covered a lot of mat leaves and worked with a lot people who went on mat leave – of the 30 people I’d say about 25% made it to their set leave date. The rest were out anywhere from months to days earlier then anticipated as baby came early/something happened that required them to be on bed rest, or they felt comfortable with the level of knowledge their replacement had and were happy to take a week or two to get some rest before baby.

      It’s just better to prepare for Jane to leave early and have her stay to March rather to bank on March and baby makes an appearance in February.

      (I am in Canada where you get a year maternity leave, this may be not relevant if the leave isn’t as long)

      1. Joie*

        should have refreshed in the middle but seeing Jane is actually due two months past her leave date makes me think she either has a high risk pregnancy or has indicated there’s a chance she’s not going to want to return and your boss is just covering the bases.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve had times where I covered A, B, and C — but D & E were put on the back burner. There may be backlog that you don’t know about.
      Another thought is that boss is trying to find out if you & the other co-workers are able to keep up with A, B, and C without having to put your own jobs on the back burner : if you three are all swamped, boss may go further up the food chain to get authorization for a temp to cover leave.

    12. Massive Dynamic*

      That’s actually a really good plan – Jane can work more and more on long-term projects instead, so by the time she’s in labor, there’s no hard impact on your daily/weekly work.

      But also, march mat leave for a june due date is not common, and there could be some medical stuff that you’re not privy too that’ll come into play for Jane + baby in the spring.

      1. Not in US*

        When I was pregnant with twins, my boss and her husband apparently had a bet on when I would be ordered off – I think I made it to 27 weeks. So it could be that there are medical things going on as some other have said. Also, given the workplace protections in Canada (Canadian here) they probably aren’t trying to push her out of the job but I do get feeling weird about her not being involved in the meeting and with the plan. That could be a really bad thing – or there could be circumstances that make this ok to Jane, it’s hard to know for sure but it is unusual. I think the fact that you’ve told Jane you’ll be taking over a task is good. That at least starts the conversation.

  29. Lygeia*

    Anyone have advice on dealing with a boss that is driving you crazy? I’m actively job hunting, but that process takes time. I’m currently struggling with not losing my cool. My boss has a “I am always right” mentality and often will give conflicting instructions. For example, she will tell me that I need to get approval for large expenses (part of my job is things like ordering equipment for the company, updating our technology, etc.) but then when I go to her the next week to get something approved, she will get annoyed that I’m “bothering” her with something that is my responsibility. There are several other issues like this, and I just am having trouble not snapping. So far I’ve swallowed any emotional responses, but if I try to ask for clarification on things like this (no matter how calm my tone), she gets even more annoyed. The only response that doesn’t draw her wrath is to just say “ok” and do whatever she said in the moment this time and hope she doesn’t change her mind tomorrow and get mad at me for it.

    1. Kramerica Industries*

      Ugh, yes. My only advice is that after you talk to her, send an email after when possible to limit the conflicting instructions. I only do this for major things though (like approvals), otherwise I do feel like it’s fanning the flames to be “bothering” my manager.

      1. StellaBella*

        Ding ding ding, this ^^^. Getting conflicting or otherwise different information in two different conversations requires an email follow-up for sure. Something like, “when we spoke on Thursday you mentioned that I needed to do XYZ for this task. I therefore followed up with you on this task today, as we discussed, and now you are saying I should be doing ABC instead/differently. In order to streamline this, can you please clarify in email how you wish for me to handle this? This way moving forward things can be more efficient.”

    2. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

      When I have worked with bosses or coworkers like this, I give a short explanation in my email about why I am “bothering them”.

      “Dear Boss, Since the total is over $10k, can you approve The February teapot spout order?”

      “Dear Grandboss, Since Boss is on a flight and the client wants this by 11AM, can you please sign the attached contract?”

    3. san junipero*

      Ugh, I have no advice, just commiseration. My boss is awesome, but Grandboss has been stressing me out so much that I literally cried after an email on Monday (in which he contradicted himself/gave me new instructions for the 34872394739428th time, while also passive-aggressively hinting that he’s sick of me asking questions about the totally unrealistic and possibly impossible project I’m working on).

      Actually, one piece of advice: I finally broke down after that and went to my boss for help, and she gave me some guidance but also offered to have a chat with him. Is there anyone you can go to, if only to say, “Boss often gives me conflicting instructions and I’m having trouble knowing which one to follow?”

    4. Emilitron*

      So frustrating, sorry to hear it! Can also try emails of “Boss, just to confirm – is this (see attached) the type of purchase that you said you’d like me to get approval for? If so, please sign.”

    5. CM*

      Accept that she’s going to be mad at you no matter what you do, and understand that her being mad doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Once you’ve done that, focus on what you need to get out of the interaction, and then try to get it in the fastest least-hassle way possible (for your benefit, not hers).

      Once you start to expect that she’s going to get mad for dumb reasons, and it doesn’t surprise you anymore, it becomes a little bit less frustrating and hurtful. Your brain just kicks on and says, “Oh, she’s doing the thing I knew she would do. Five points to me.”

  30. Internal position*

    My husband has been in his current job for about a year and is absolutely miserable. He is currently looking for a new job, and as part of that search applied for a position at his current company but in a completely different division. He’s been told that he’ll have to notify his current manager that he’s applied for the position, if the hiring manager decides to proceed with him as a candidate. The thing is, part of the reason he is so miserable is that his manager is not very good, can be defensive and is not particular supportive of him. He’s never tried doing an internal transfer before in any of his other jobs, so is not quite sure how to best approach this conversation. It doesn’t help that he’s really not sure how she is going to react. Any advice?

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Hm…it sounds like BadBoss would respond well to some ego-stroking (e.g. “I’ve really valued all the experience/mentoring/whatever I’ve had here and I’d like to take that into this new role within the company”). Make the transfer about BadBoss, in a positive way.

      Maybe not though.

    2. Holy Moley*

      So I got turned down for an internal position because I hated my current manager and didn’t tell her I had applied. So he does need to tell him. I would just phrase it in a way that makes it sound like its solely for professional development. Who knows, manager might want him gone away and could be very supportive.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I would just phrase it in a way that makes it sound like its solely for professional development.

        This is the approach he needs to take. He shouldn’t make this about the boss at all (and the comment above saying he should probably throw in some praise for boss during the discussion – even if it’s not true – will probably help soothe boss’s ego).

  31. Lalalala*

    How does one quit and work out their last few weeks in the most graceful possible way? My company is not right for me and I have reason to expect I’ll get an offer elsewhere in the next few weeks, but I adore my boss and really am terrified at the prospect of letting her down. My leaving will basically double her already-immense workload and I really want to be as helpful as humanly possible before I leave, if only to thank her for being a wonderful boss.

    Already planning to organize and document everything, and will try to offer 3 weeks notice instead of 2. Will also write a thank you note. Anything else?

    1. Lalalala*

      I’ve only been here 16 months, so I feel especially bad about potentially cutting out at this stage.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      If you actually double her workload, that’s not your fault, but senior management’s. If she’s a good manager/coworker, she won’t blame you even inside her head.

      Fingers crossed you will soon be able to give that notice.

    3. Minocho*

      I had a coworker leave recently for a new job. His leaving has greatly increased my workload and the pressure on me, but the only “negative” emotion I felt was sadness that I wouldn’t be working with him anymore. I understood why he made the decision he made, and was happy he found something that worked better for him and his family. It sounds like your boss is good people – which means they may be sorry to see you leave, but they will happy to see you go someplace you’re eager to go.

      Good luck!

    4. Diahann Carroll*

      Nope – what you’re planning is good enough. As the comment above me said, this is business, it’s not personal.

    5. Marthooh*

      Good documentation + 2 weeks notice is the professional way to do it. When you do give notice, ask your boss if there’s a way to make the transition easier – she’ll know better than we do.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Only thing I’ll add is to organize your files when you do the documentation –both computer and hardcopy filed where they’re expected, with the boss’s preferred naming convention followed.
        you’ve been there 16 months, it’s all good.

  32. Anax*

    We’re still in the “hurry” part of my “hurry up and wait” job, and ugh, I’m beat – not working overtime, so I’m lucky, but managing this many tasks at once has my brain a little scrambled.

    I really wish we got project requirements with enough lead time to work on them in a more leisurely manner!

  33. Beyond Burn Out*

    I am beyond the point of burnout at my current job and don’t know what to do.

    I’ve worked 2.5 days since taking 2 weeks off for the holidays and have cried at least 4 times.

    I’m pretty isolated at my current job. Essentially have four bosses (and because I’m grant funded I do have to report to all of them- though some don’t even work at my institution), and despite discussing my burnout with them for the past several months, my workload hasn’t lightened- it’s just increased. I’ve had a rough couple of months (involving two major injuries that most people would have taken a week off for and a major death in my family, and I took .5 days off, excluding my because of deadlines). Despite talking will all bosses at least 3 times using things I’ve read on AAM. I’m still getting about 100 hours of work assigned to me weekly.
    I’ve tried delegating- but the people I’ve delegated to have done maybe 2% of what I’ve delegated. They all work externally so I don’t really have any power to make them do what I’m asking. I’ve told people “No”, but they go to my grand bosses who end up vetoing my “no.” So I’m just stuck missing deadlines and drowning.

    I’ve been interviewing elsewhere and had a somewhat promising interview this week, but I’m even exhausted from looking for a new job. If this doesn’t pan out I don’t know what I’ll do.

    Any suggestions for how to handle this really tough period without sobbing every single day?

      1. Beyond Burn Out*

        Thank you Alison!

        I did try that, but I may not be pushing hard enough on the stick with it period. I tried it back in September, and then in December on a different project. It’s worked for about a week and then I get and email telling me to stop doing Y immediately and do Z because that’s the new priority. I try to explain that if I switch to Z even though Y is 20% done, that means that Y may have to be re-done later, or that Y may not get done ever, but they switch my priorities to Z. The next week they’re back on Y and I repeat the process.

        Maybe I’ll work on language to address the specific pattern of changing the already set priorities constantly, as writing this out seems to have identified that as another problem source.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The key is to be really vigilant about “ok, that means I will stop work on Y for the foreseeable future” and generally just be super firm about announcing what you can/cannot do in 40 hours a week (or whatever) and sticking to it.

          That’s going to make your work in some ways less satisfying — it will get you some time back and lower your stress, but it sucks a lot of joy out of work to be constantly switching from one thing to another and never finishing things or giving them the attention they deserve. But having the rest of your hours/life back will be much more bearable than what’s happening now!

          But you’ve got to really stick to it. Otherwise you’re enabling this terrible set-up by giving in and working too many hours/taking on too much stress, because you’re conscientious. If you give in and get everything done (or try to), you’re taking on all the suffering yourself — and your company doesn’t *feel* the problem. Only you do. You’re metaphorically shouting, “Look at this! It’s a terrible problem!” — but then you keep accommodating it. Because you’re conscientious (believe me, I know what this is like). So from their (misguided) perspective, it doesn’t feel like a particularly pressing problem because stuff is still getting done. It’s working fine (or fine enough) for them!

          So you’ve got to be vigilant about moving that burden off yourself and just working a reasonable number of hours. How you spend those hours is up to them — but you get to have boundaries about how many hours there will be. But to do that requires some emotional disconnection from the work — I suspect right now you’re deeply invested in keeping everything functioning smoothly, and to pull this off, you’ve got to feel less invested. It helps to realize that it doesn’t make sense for you to be more invested than they are. You’re just the person they hired to help — not the person they hired to take on 100% emotional responsibility for everything (if you were that person, you’d own the company and be getting paid a lot more).

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Also, this totally seems like it could be its own post because so many people struggle with this (which would be great because I have to write Monday’s posts today anyway…). Any objection to me turning our exchange here into one?

            1. Creed Bratton*

              PLEASE do so. As a burned out HS teacher I often read the comment section with a tiny bit of jealousy, cause that’s just not the way it works here. But I’ve seen a shift (maybe more of an awareness?) lately in education/social work that these fields will be collapsing in on themselves unless we start to push back on the more ridiculous demands. But that emotional disconnect is hard!

            2. Beyond Burn Out*

              This is so incredibly helpful!

              Yes, you absolutely have my permission to turn our exchange here into a post!

            3. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I’d also like to read this. As I mention in a comment earlier, my group is currently without a supervisor and due to a re-org are now without a manager who can take an active role. Priorities supporting multiple departments & divisions could get ugly.

        2. Althea*

          I had a job with an “everything’s a priority” manager AND a “priority shift every 2 minutes” manager. The pay was not good, but I liked the mission and a solid portion of the work. I ended up doing some of the crazy demands when it seemed important to the managers, but a large portion of the time I just did what I thought was the real priority and satisficed on other things (or gambled that they would change their mind by the time they needed something, and never did it at all). It was risky, but I had resolved that I didn’t care if they fired me – if they were going to be bad at their jobs and affect the mission so badly, I’d do what I could to salvage the most important things.

          It worked pretty well for me, to be honest. “Everything is a priority” manager was often impressed that I’d kept the (actually) important things going, and when the newfangled ideas inevitably failed for lack of investment, I actually looked quite good. The priority-shifting manager often forgot about or never needed the new-fangled thing anyway. Sometimes I would misjudge and they would demand something I hadn’t worked on, and I’d just fall back to describing that with X, Y, Z on my plate, I couldn’t get to it. With a manager that tells me she wants it all done and refuses to pick, it’s sort of hard for her to come back and tell me that I chose wrong!

          You’d have to evaluate the risk for yourself, but it’s a strategy you could try. Sounds like you are tapped out anyway, so perhaps the risk is worth it.

          1. Beyond Burn Out*

            Hmm, interesting- that’s a good strategy and at this point I’m so exhausted that it may be the risk I take. Thank you for your input!

    1. Lana Kane*

      It helps me a lot to lay out a plan. You’re already interviewing, which I know is another tiring, sometimes demoralizing thing, but at least you are moving in the right direction.

      Take a look at your finances and see if you can afford to quit. If not now, can you make a budget and aim for quitting when you reach the amount of savings you think will be enough?

      Having an exit plan helps me quite a bit. I feel like there’s hope, and that I’m actively working on the problem.

      Also, have you tried talking to your bosses (or the most senior one, if there is one) and explaining what you can and can’t accomplish? And asking for their help in delegating? With 4 bosses it’s incredibly likely that each one only knows about part of what you’re doing. My guess is that they likely don’t communicate much about the projects they are individually assigning you.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        That was going to be my advice as well – figure out what you need to have banked in order to quit without having another position lined up. As you said, having that plan or “light at the end of the tunnel” can make all the difference in the world.

        The other thing I would say it that you need to emotionally check out as WWP says below – you are paid for 40 hours and that is what you will work. No more. The only thing they can do is fire you at which point you apply for unemployment. Document the workload and your attempts to get it adjusted to a normal level if they try to fight it as well as the emails you mentioned above about changing projects week to week.

      2. Beyond Burn Out*

        I’m not at the point I can afford to quit (recent injuries led to some medical bills that depleted my savings), but I haven’t actually though about what I would need to survive without this, and that’s an incredible idea!

    2. Working with professionals*

      I’m so sorry for what you are going through! I had a similar experience at my work and using scripts I saw here, I was able to get things sorted. First thing I did is stop letting the inability to meet all these insane deadlines make me feel like a failure. Objectively, no human being can do all the things they are asking you to do, so let go of those feelings, that will take a load off your back. If possible, set a meeting with your four bosses and the grandboss, point out clearly and in writing all the to do items and deadlines you have. If possible, have a suggested triage plan – you expect to be able to complete XYZ by their deadlines, but ABCDEFGH and the new “emergency” Q will need to be delayed. Remember to use a neutral tone of voice and the “of course you all agree that my working six days a week, 70 hours each week is not sustainable” attitude. Then double check that your priorities are in line with grandboss. Also take time to rest, to grieve, to recharge without guilt. Return pain to sender is many times the only way to get them to realize the workload is large enough for more than one person and, hopefully, push them to get an additional position approved. Go home on time, unplug the phone, when you get told by grandboss you have to do some project there is no time for, explicitly, and in writing, ask which of your current projects he wants you to drop while you do that. Make it clear that the time pie has limited pieces. Good luck!

      1. Beyond Burn Out*

        Thank you for these strategies! As other people have mentioned I am incredibly emotionally invested in this work and take every missed deadline as a sign of a personal failing. I need to do some clear personal boundary setting for myself, and you’ve given me some great ideas on how to do that.

    3. LKW*

      Since you have four bosses – are they aware of all that you are doing? When I was in a similar situation I’d respond to everyone with a note that essentially said

      You’ve requested task A be prioritized. However, Person B has requested their task be prioritized. Additionally, I have tasks from Person C and D that must be complete by date. Inserting Task A will impact delivery of Person C and D’s tasks. Please coordinate and determine the priority of your tasks and communicate to me by end of day today. In the meantime, as I’ve started task B, this will be my focus unless I hear from the four of you.

      1. Beyond Burn Out*

        We’ve had one or two times when I’ve had them all on the phone to explain and they’ve tried to work together to create a plan, but again, the sticking to it was not something that worked out well.

        This got me thinking of starting a shared one drive document that contains each task, the time I estimate it will take me to complete it, which boss asked for it, and where it is on my priority list- maybe the visual of it that could help them get a grasp of what’s going on.

        1. LKW*

          What I also found that was that people were more willing to let the actual priorities go first. So a compliance issue was prioritized over an employee dispute (this was corporate legal stuff). Unless two or more people have large egos, most times people will work together. At best the group will self police. At worst – you demand they figure it out and until they do, you keep with a first come first serve approach.

    4. Marthooh*

      In addition to the other good advice here, take a little time to document who assigns what tasks to you. Especially since you have too many bosses! Use email like : “Per our discussion on Thursday, I will be focusing next week on Z rather than X & Y tasks.”

  34. Not Sticking It Out?*

    I’m in a situation where I received a sign on bonus that needs to be paid back if you leave in under a year. I never in a million years thought I’d consider not sticking out the year but….something might be falling into my lap just a few months shy of it.

    I have no doubt they will remember and come for it, but does anyone know if it’s really frowned upon/burning a bridge if you pay it back? Has anyone else made the decision? Interested in other s’mores experiences with this scenario.

    1. Minocho*

      If you pay it back, it will only be a problem for places that aren’t very professional. If it’s a small company and the owner is going personally resent you leaving on your own terms, that might last beyond paying the money back – but if they’re at all professional it shouldn’t be an issue.

      It’s worth being up front with the new opportunity people as well. “Accepting this offer is going to have X cost me on Y timeline”. Maybe a delay in hiring or a bonus to cover your costs is possible.

      The only thing I will say is DO NOT make this decision with the assumption that the payback will be forgiven or forgotten. It’s fine to push for / hope for that, but assume you will owe the money – that way you’re not placing yourself in a bad situation. I know someone who did that, and still resents the company for holding them to their agreement. Don’t be that person.

    2. Indy Dem*

      I’ve wondered about this – does the responsibility for collecting this fall on the company. They would be the ones to have to say “you need to pay X back of signing bonus by Y date”, correct? Because if I left, I would be hesitant to bring in up, hoping that they would over look that little bit of data.

    3. Combinatorialist*

      I have heard stories of successful negotiations that your new company would cover the sign on bonus repayment as part of the offer. So if you would be interested in that, it probably doesn’t hurt to ask

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      1. If you can without putting yourself in a pickle, find out if you’d have to pay back the total amount, or a pro-rated amount based on where you are in that year.

      2. Absolutely let the new company know about this financial obligation and ask them if they’d rather delay your start date or give you a bonus (with no strings attached!) that covers the amount you’d owe.

      2a. This last is totally common. A friend just had a situation where his employer was shutting down the local office and asked him in like September to stay to end-of-year to help with the transition. So he job-hunted and secured his new job back in early November, with a plan to start in January. Last Monday, in fact. And with a better commute besides.

    5. T. Boone Pickens*

      I’m confused as to what you’re asking. The company will probably be annoyed you’re leaving in under one year but they certainly won’t frown upon you paying back your signing bonus. They will however get annoyed if you balk at or otherwise drag your feet in paying it back. As for the burning the bridge part, it’s hard to say without knowing your industry and skillset but generally if you leave a company inside a year and they were willing to give you a sign on bonus I would not expect to be able to secure a job at said company again under normal circumstances.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I always wondered about tax implications. At least in the US, sign-on bonuses are taxed, right? What happens at tax time if you refund the bonus? DO you lose the taxed portion or does the gov’t refund that because it didn’t stay yours?

      1. Safetykats*

        If you pay back the bonus the same tax year, it works out pretty easily – you pay back the bonus you received, and the company files to recoup the taxes withheld. If the payback is in a subsequent year, you end up reflecting the payback as a deduction on your return, and if the amount is over some threshold I think you also file an amended return for the year in which you paid the taxes. At any rate, it’s compicated. TurboTax has some specific instructions on it, and there is an IRS publication dedicated to the subject.

    7. A Simple Narwhal*

      Echoing the others above who said to try and negotiate either a delayed start date or sign on bonus (to cover the repaid one) with your new employers. Depending on how much the bonus was or how close you are to the cut-off date it may be nothing to the company to cover the fee or wait a little while for you start.

  35. Golden*

    Anyone in the regulatory affairs space able to weigh in on how far out I should start applying for jobs? Any difference between applying for jobs in industry vs an academic setting?

    Ideally I will complete my PhD (in a biomedical science field) in September, so quite a few months out. My PhD is complete when a committee says it is (its not like undergrad where you pay the money, pass the classes and graduate on a schedule). I’ve been given the advice that you can essentially force their hand to allow you to graduate by having a job lined up, so I’m wondering when I should start applying in earnest. Thanks

    1. Lora*

      Oof. OK. In my experience there is nothing you can really do to force anyone’s hand, because academia sucks that way. I’m going to be ABD the whole rest of my life. And this is why some advisors are awesome and others are nightmare fuel, why some departments are excellent and others are not just clown cars but a whole circus. First grad school I went to, there were people who had been there 7 years with several publications and dissertation all written up, teaching requirements long-fulfilled several times over, and there was still just…no end in sight.

      In my field (pharma) PhD level jobs usually take 3-5 months from application to your first day in onboarding. Just, it moves sloooooowwww because there’s so many people who need to get their $0.02 in and then they get busy with other things and then there’s a re-org so they have to wait and repost the job, and and and. And assume that you’ll be applying to several openings and it’ll take a while to even get an interview unless you know someone; how long “a while” is depends on so many things outside of your control (economy, their pipeline, tech transfers to or from CMOs they may be doing, ongoing mergers and acquisitions, FDA backlog, all kinds of stuff) that it’s really hard to say. I would assume that your job search will take anywhere from 6-12 months though, so it’s not unreasonable to start looking now. Should a company want you to start ABD they may tell you that you’ll be given X support to finish up your first year with them, or have some similar arrangement, and they might change the job title to Fellow or some such in that regard. I would start looking now though.

      1. Golden*

        The clown car/circus thing made me lol. We definitely have a few PIs that hold students forever. I’m my PIs first so we’ll see but it looks promising to get out this year.

        Thanks for your detailed response – I’ll poke around at jobs and maybe ramp up in March-April.

    2. LKW*

      Pharma moves slooooow. I agree 3-5 months is pretty typical in industry. No one is going to give you a pass if you didn’t do the work. But having a job improves their stats so they want your success as much as you want it.

    3. FungirlAndFunguy*

      I agree with Lora that it is worth starting to apply now. You can include your expected graduation date as September 2020 in your resume and cover letter. At a minimum it can help you get a good feel for the types of jobs available, organizations you are interested in, and any skills that might be worth working on now before you graduate. In my field (synthetic biology), hiring seems to take 2-4 months from application to first day, but the hunt itself can take longer.

      Whether getting a job will force your committee’s hand or not depends on your department. In my department, there was a professor who was notorious for refusing to graduate his students and keeping them significantly longer than they wanted to stay. At least one student did get a job offer, and when the professor refused to graduate him in time for his start date, the student got the department head and I believe the graduate dean involved. This did end up the forcing his hand, and the student was able to graduate and begin his job on time. So even if the job offer doesn’t sway your committee, you can still use it to leverage help and support from your school that will sway your committee.

      1. Golden*

        I have a friend that may be in that situation with their PI. Ugh, academia…thanks for the advice though!

    4. Policy Wonk*

      You don’t mention government, but if you are looking at the regulatory space in government it can take a long time, so start now. Good luck!

      1. Golden*

        Do you happen to know if all those jobs are in DC? Partner and I have an area we’d ideally end up in chosen, but not locked in. Thanks!

        1. Lora*

          FDA, EMA, TGA, lots of government has field offices galore, and if you can travel so much the better. Various other languages help a LOT, especially Mandarin and Hindi.

    5. Cassandra*

      Start applying now. The places that hire PhDs will often hire people graduating or coming off a post-doc which are all tied to academic calendars. And actually to your point about “forcing your committee’s hand” I have actually seen that happen in my department (social sciences), but it was a situation where a colleague had a job lined up and was able to defend before meeting the number of participants she proposed based on her power analysis. BUT this probably only works in places where there is a precedent for letting people continue data collection after defending or something similar. On the other hand, I’ve heard of colleagues in the Chemistry department FAILING their defense because their results didn’t come out like they had hypothesized. so I would ask your advisor and others about what having a job opportunity would do for your defense.

      1. Golden*

        My “forcing of the hand” advice was anecdotal too, but that’s smart advice to talk to the advisor. Thanks!

        I can’t imagine failing the defense over ‘negative data’ if you will , that poor student :(

    6. Gidget*

      I would consider looking for a Postdoc. Those can be pretty flexible with start dates and hiring requirement, depending on the position, and they are generally used to a little uncertainity when it comes to defense dates. If the PI really wants you they are often willing to wait. Also, if your committee are very academic snobby they might respond more favorably to a postdoc because it means you are still on the path to continue in academia. If you do go the postdoc route, especially in biomedical, you can easily go into industry (my evidence is the many postdocs at my workplace that have done it)

      I would say it is not uncommon to start looking for a postdoc anytime during your expected last year of a Phd. (*Note: I Mastered out, but have many successful PhD friends who went this route)

      1. Golden*

        Thank you for your reply! Those are some strong points, but for a few reasons (ex: mental health, 2 body problem) I think I can very much rule a traditional postdoc out. I’m not even sure I like research or science anymore. I was considering doing a very very short postdoc with a committee member while I wait for my partner to finish, so your advice may be solid.

        My committee definitely prefers academia, but I’ve helped each of them directly in a more administrative role when no other students typically step up, so they know my non-bench skillset is very strong.

        FWIW taking a masters is a really brave step and I admire you greatly for it. I think that would have been the more logical route for me to go too a few years ago.

        1. Safetykats*

          I do t know that you can force your committee to give you a pass if you haven’t done the work. It is really common in science and engineering to start a job and return to defend; not common at all to be given a pass just because you have a start date. Of course, ifsuccessfu, completion of the degree is a requirement for the job, you may not be able to start until you have he diploma in hand. A lot of government jobs are like that, but the postings should make that clear. Many won’t actually issue an offer until you can prove your degree, and many will make the offer contingent upon completion. So just read carefully, and understand that the job posting will mean what it says regarding completion.

  36. Boss is MIA*

    I’m feeling frustrated with my boss and how little she is in the office or available. She is only in the office/working about 20-25 hours a week, and it’s making it really difficult for me to get my job done.

    Yesterday, she “worked from home” but in reality only spent about 30 minutes answering e-mails. I have a long list of items I need to go over with her this morning, and she texted me to tell me she will be in at 11:30AM after she goes to yoga. She has meetings starting right at 11:30AM all up until 2:00PM, and I expect when the last meeting is done she will go home (because it’s Friday afternoon and she is never here after 3:00 on Fridays).

    I’m all about self care, but I suspect she may be checking out. She is the CEO of the organization so she doesn’t really have a boss (the Board I guess, but they don’t really care).

    I also feel she is a little hypocritical because she gets upset or offended if staff try ask for more flexibility with their schedule. Outside of the CEO, senior leadership and myself, there is very little flexibility and staff are expected to be here from 9AM – 5PM. A coworker recently requested to move her hours from 8AM – 4PM so she could pick up her daughter from daycare. Her boss approved it and told the CEO, who was pissed because allowing that is against our policies. I can’t help but think that my boss is never here after 4PM, and I know staff have noticed it and some are starting to grumble about her lack of presence.

    It would be different if she was out at meetings all the time, or really working from home. However, that’s not the case and in reality I expect she only works about 30 hours (at the most) a week. I know it’s none of my business, and I haven’t spoken to anyone about this aside from writing this right now. I guess I am just not used to this; my previous bosses worked very hard and were often the first ones in/the last ones to leave the office.

    I know I just need to get over it and move on. The truth is that this is bothering me to the point of looking for another job, but I haven’t found anything yet. Thanks for reading if you made it this far.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Firstly, regarding her being a roadblock for you, I would suggest reframing each decision as follows:

      “We need to finalise the Jones account teapots. Options are straight or twisted handles. If I don’t hear from you before Monday 12pm I’ll assume we’ll go with straight handles like last time, and send instructions to the potters on Monday afternoon.”

      So she’s still the final decision maker, but you’ve stated your reasoned case and set a reasonable cutoff to get things moving.

      Regarding her hypocrisy, unfortunately when you’re the CEO you will get away with “do as I say, not as I do”. Sometimes we just have to suck it up*.

      *even when it’s totally unfair and stupid

      1. Boss is MIA*

        Thanks! I haven’t tried framing it like this before. We check in once a week and I usually keep a running list of things that need to get done and haven’t gotten done. She will acknowledge these items but often times they get put on the backburner. Sometimes she will end up delegating to other senior team member, which helps. They are all pretty good about getting things done.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          It’s the only way I can get an answer out of a c-suite I report to. Usually the reply is just “ok” or similar!

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          One name for this technique is “presumptive close”. And it’s really quite helpful — it’s much easier for most people to evaluate an existing option than to make a decision from scratch. So you lay out the issue, name 2 or 3 reasonable options, say you need to give someone else a decision by (deadline), so if you don’t hear differently from them, you’ll pick (the best one).

          (It’s similar to how it’s often easier to change someone else’s draft than to create your own. I saw this in action with a boss very early in my career: she had me draft an email to one of her peers, and then I sat next to her while she amended it. In the end, very few of my actual words were still there but all the important ideas were in place.)

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      I am curious about people’s thoughts on this one. I think the critical piece here is that it’s hard for you to get your job done. Any conversation with her should be focused solely on that aspect.

      I feel like you may have some generalized resentment that she is not working hard enough, but I’d be cautious about coming across as policing her work schedule. I can think of about 100 different circumstances that could explain what you’re observing. What matters is that you want to get your job done and have a difficult time doing that. Can she make certain hours to be available to you and the rest of the staff? Can you work out some alternative communication methods where she can respond to you more flexibly? I’d stay away from intimating that somehow you feel it’s up to you to judge her work schedule.

      1. Boss is MIA*

        Thanks for your feedback! Yes, I realize I need to be careful about policing her hours. I also realize I may not know what all is going on behind the scenes. I haven’t talked to her about this at all because I do worry how it may come across and I don’t want her to think I am being judgmental (although in reality that may be the case).

        I guess I frequently get text messages from her that say things like “I’m getting my nails done, I’ll be in at 11:30 today,” or “I need to leave by 3:00 to make it to yoga on time.” This kind of thing is why I referenced self care being important. While I understand the importance of it, it’s starting to get in the way of her being accessible or the both of us getting our work done in a timely manner.

        She works very hard when she is here and in the office. She will try to take work home with her and say she will take care of it overnight or over the weekend. However, she’ll come back the next day with nothing done and she will be rushing to meet deadlines, which is stressful to both her and me.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          Yeah, there might be circumstances you’re unaware of or it might also just be that she’s a lazy slob who can’t be bothered to do her job. I mean who knows? But I think any discussion needs to be focused around ways for you to get your job done effectively. That’s where the rubber meets t he road.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          From a past letter, I am wondering — would it even be visible to you if she’s meeting with clients outside the 9-5 time frame? I could easily imagine reasons for a CEO to have meetings outside regular working hours — all it takes is investors, customers, or manufacturing vendors in vastly different time zones.

          1. Boss is MIA*

            Yes, I have full access to her schedule and actually schedule all her outside/after hours appointments. :)

    3. RC Rascal*

      I have worked for this boss. You need to look for another job.

      Bosses like this are usually using their positional authority to subvert normal employer expectations of employees. Not at all surprising to hear she doesn’t grant subordinates flexibility. Mine did the same.

      With the lack of boss face time comes a lack of knowledge regarding what is going on in the office. They compensate by lying and blaming you.

      Wish I had better things to say about this situation.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Possibly not the best answer, but I do find better answers if I have at least something to start with. Perhaps you can think of this as a starting point.

      Take Alison’s advice about “how does this impact your work?” To this I add the word “today” so the question looks like, “How does my boss’ absence impact my work TODAY?”

      The make a list of the most concerning things today. In the past I have prioritized by deadlines or angry people. If the task has a close deadline or an angry person behind the task, those tasks get done first. I don’t have time/patience/bandwidth for dealing with drama. Then send her an email (or call) that says, “I will have these things completed today and I need your inputs to complete them.” Yeah, frame it in a way that makes sense in your setting and for your relationship with your boss- my word choice here might not work with some bosses, but you see the general idea.

      For your own sanity, re-evaluate what you are doing. As you go through your day ask yourself, “Am I doing this because I need to or because I think I should?” Each day look for ways to eliminate unnecessary steps or unnecessary tasks. The reason this is important is because you need to find ways to lower your resentment. For myself, I would just assume that my resentment will build if I do not do something to help ME. Definitely do not do tasks that unappreciated UNLESS the task is an absolute necessity.

  37. Retail not Retail*

    My workplace nemesis has gotten worse but he’s not bothering me one-on-one as much, we’ve been doing whole group work instead of partnered.

    But he is SO RUDE to our work crew and they have no recourse (sentenced) and he never says anything explicit but overly complimenting someone or ordering them about when we’re supposed to do that… sounds like nothing on paper.

    My question is when does someone’s bullying of someone else require you the non-object of bullying to stand up? I went to HR about sexist comments directed at me so he stopped doing it to me – but moved on to others! does each victim have to say something?

    1. C in the Hood*

      It’s my understanding that if you are hearing something that offends you–even if it’s not directed at you–that it’s reportable as harrassment.

    2. WellRed*

      Go back to HR and say it’s still happening, though not directed at you, and that you find it offensive.

      1. Retail not Retail*

        The HR person I met with quibbled with my complaints – maybe “white trash” IS his favorite word and is an older man yelling “young lady” really sexist?

        I also strongly fear their reaction to homophobic statements as the policy is one of “mutual respect” and the comments are not directed at the two out lesbians (me!) but rather annoying straight men.

        1. valentine*

          Not that you should say this, but: White trash is racist because why the need to specify? It’s classist, so, I guess HR is okay with that? Check if your policy covers place of origin. And even if no protected class applies, “favorite word” isn’t a protected class, either, so your HR is willfully obtuse.

          Yes, “young lady” is sexist. I am old and I despite older men calling me young for any reason.

          It is still homophobic to make homophobic statements to people who aren’t gay.

          Appeal to HR on the basis that it’s conduct unbecoming an employee and what they’re really doing is hurting the company because who wants to associate with a place that allows this behavior?

    3. LKW*

      Check your policies. In my company if you’re aware that someone is being disrespectful to a co-worker, you are expected to address it in one or more of a number of ways, depending on your relationship to the people involved and your seniority with the company. If the behavior is being rude or curt, then it may be hard for the company to take action. But if the behavior is insulting or demeaning and lowers a person’s standing within the company, then HR may take the situation more seriously.

      1. Retail not Retail*

        One of my big complaints were issues with my name. He stopped and didn’t have problems with the next 2 employees’ names.

        But the next new employee? He not only butchers her name he calls her a nickname based on the butchery! Then turns around and lectures the work crew for not calling him the proper name. And he mangles their names too.

        The coworker has said she doesn’t mind so everyone says drop it, it’s up to her if it bothers her she’ll tell him. She’s also not bothered by his “teasing” about her appearance.

  38. Anonydoglover*

    Nepotism girl got fired and I got promoted!!! Woohoo! It comes with a pay raise and much more commission (I’m in sales). I’m so excited. But I need help with the one of the two pieces of contructive criticisms I received- how do I stay to myself and not gossip and or vent to everyone? I know it comes with age (I’m the youngest by a long shot in the office) and my boss told me to be careful about who I talk to. It’s hard When I get riled up. I love talking to people- but I know it’s something to work on. Any advice is great!

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      I have found that when I NEED TO GET IT OUT but don’t have anyone that I can appropriately share it with, that it helps to write those things down. Especially the vents. Find a way to safely/securely write down those emotions – i have a “Journal” google doc file that’s just a running document (30+ pages at this point) where I write down whatever I need to get out.

      Bonus: it’s a good way to workthrough your thoughts!

      1. Marthooh*

        As long as nobody else ever sees it! Text it to yourself on your own phone or write it in a notebook you keep with you at all times. Don’t forget the many, many letters and comments about people who thought they had privacy at work but then found they didn’t!

      2. corporate engineering layoff woo*

        DON’T use any corporate resources for this! If you use your work laptop, work Cloud Storage account, or otherwise expose yourself to their record-keeping, this could be discovered by snooping/legal discovery/going through your files after you leave. Between other AAM posts and the end-of-week Boeing fiasco, be careful what and where you write.

    2. Bostonian*

      Oooh that’s tough. My husband is in sales, and I’ve heard about the gossip, cliques, baiting, and snide remarks/”jokes” that are all part of the culture. Do you have a trusted mentor you can vent to on occasion? Particularly if it’s framed as looking for guidance in a tough situation, I can’t see that being used against you.

      Another tactic could be to just be more selective about who you talk to. You probably know who the biggest offenders are when it comes to stirring the pot, so you can usually just avoid telling them anything too juicy to spread around.

      Hubby also vents to me when he gets home. I usually let him get one rant out and then steer the conversation towards something more mutually relevant. :-)

    3. Mrs_helm*

      (1)Find someone completely outside your company who doesn’t know anyone you work with, go out for coffee, dump there. (2)Imagine discussing x with (distinguished person you respect)…would they think venting about x was petty or warranted? What would change about how you discussed it? (3) Work more, talk less. I read somewhere that ‘venting’ can actually heighten the emotion of an event, not release it. It’s certainly obvious that the more you talk about a thing, the more time spent on it, and the more you’ll remember it. (4) Don’t vent uphill.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Huge yes to (3). Discussing a problem with the goal of finding a solution, figuring out a path forward, etc. = good, fine, helpful, productive. “Venting” with no goal except to express frustration = often counterproductive because it just entrenches and legitimizes those feelings of frustration.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      Congratulations!

      I am a bit of the same way, and it can be hard to keep it to myself (especially since much of my work is confidential.) I do two things: I have a very animated conversation with myself so that I get a chance to say it all out loud and talk about it – with no one! Also, writing/journaling. Or, I will write a lengthy email to myself on work email, send it to my work email (again, confidential) then delete both the sent and received copies. Or I go for a long run and then I’m so tired that I am over it.

      Good luck!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Muriel, I’d suggest not using work email even if you delete it, because IT spins off archive copies. Many companies send email through a filter and check for spam + NSFW.
        I’m the first one to admit I get lazy and my work email for family chores, but I never vent on it.

    5. Bex*

      Never forget that work is work. Relationships are super important, and you should absolutely be friendly, but “work friends” are coworkers before they are friends. Be warm, be thoughtful, ask people how they are doing, but keep your shit to yourself. Never say something that you wouldn’t say in front of your boss, because there is always a chance that it will get back to them. Keep your venting to you social circle, keep it completely out of the workplace.

    6. Indy Dem*

      I can suggest 2 possibilities. Identify one or two trusted co-workers to talk about these things (and others! not just vent buddies), but make sure that any venting is done outside of work (lunch break is okay, but only when eating away from work). The other possibility is using this open thread to vent. Seriously, the group here can give some good feedback, generally wishes people well, and you can hear a variety of opinions.
      A possible third option would be to engage a therapist as a work/life coach to discuss issues and work on changing your behavior – wouldn’t be long term, but might help starting you down a good path.

    7. Approval is optional*

      I had a friend who was a ‘venter’, and she had a two part strategy to stop doing it at work.
      First was to mentally keep a list of ‘things to vent about later’. So if Fergus microwaved fish, she’d tell herself (internally) ‘going to have to put that on the vent list’.
      Second part was to go through the list as she commuted. She drove to/from work, so if another driver did something irritating, she’s add something from her vent list to the ‘sin’. So if, for example, someone cut her off she’d say, out loud, something like, ‘damn [or other profanity, depending on her level of annoyance] Fergus, first you microwave fish, then you cut me off .’
      She found that she didn’t need to release all the vents: knowing she could was enough. And often she wasn’t still irked about the fish by the time she was commuting. She wasn’t so much into gossip (as in who took too long a lunch, or what the rumour mill was saying about Fergus etc) , but the system could have been tweaked for that if needed of course.
      Worked for her, and made commuting with her very entertaining (though possibly it would have been less entertaining if one commuted with her everyday).

    8. Anonydoglover*

      Thank you everyone for the kind words. You all gave me some really good tips, now I just need to work on it. I will be saving this as a reminder.

  39. Kramerica Industries*

    Management has agreed to take on a project in January that mathematically is not possible to complete without overtime. While the project itself will require overtime every other day just to make it, we’re still expected to complete our normal day-to-day functions. A part of me wants to let whatever falls through the cracks happen since management did not properly prepare or resource for this workload. On the other hand, I know it’s just temporary. In the event that daily work plus the project pile up too much, how much overtime is too much and can I push back? I don’t usually mind overtime, but I already feel stressed and a little slighted that my team is now bearing the brunt of poor management decisions.

    1. CheeryO*

      Unfortunately, I think this probably depends a lot on your company culture and how much you feel like you can get away with in your role. My boyfriend’s company constantly agrees to wildly unrealistic timelines, and while he doesn’t mind doing some OT, he does push back to an extent. If you asked him, he’d say that there’s only so much quality work you can do in a single day or week, and if you kill yourself to meet an impossible deadline, you’re only teaching management that it’s okay to do it again, and that they don’t need to bring on more staff. However, he does have some weight to throw around, so to speak. He has some seniority, has half a foot out the door, and the company is hurting for qualified people in his role.

      1. CheeryO*

        To add to that, definitely don’t be shy about asking for help with prioritizing your work. Sometimes you have to remind people that X, Y, and Z routine tasks can’t just magically get done while you’re furiously working on Big Project.

    2. san junipero*

      I can’t say for certain what you’ll *get*, but I do think you should try to estimate how much overtime it will genuinely take. Don’t pad, but don’t tell them you need 5 hours of overtime if you really need 20.

  40. ManagerWannabe*

    I’ve decided that I would like to become a manager, and specifically I would like my boss’ job. My boss has said he will be retiring in a couple years, and he said he thinks I’d be a great manager, and would help me succeed in that career path if I choose to do it (so I’m not just mercilessly out for his job!). I’d like to manage my current team, because we have a great dynamic, I know the responsibilities really well, and I think I would be a good candidate for bridging the gap between the work we offer (database management) and our client community at large (big state university). I have decent technical skills, but I’m never going to be as good as my more technical coworkers – and I think my skills and personality are just better suited for leading a team than being a high-level technical contributer.

    Obviously I would still need a lot of training/coaching on all aspects of management, but I’m excited about giving it a try. However I’m also terrified, because being responsible for other people is scary, and it seems like failure would be distastrous. Also…if I determine that management is not for me, how do I go back?

    I would appreciate any advice/lessons learned from people who stepped into a management role (especially in IT), what they did for a “back up plan” (if you had one), and how you approached talking about all this with your bosses. I don’t want to lose my job if I’m bad at this, or decide it’s not for me. I’m also worried about giving up time I could be using to develop my technical skills, and if I discoverer management is not for me, I’d be rusty and non-competitive for jobs that I’d need. It seems like a great step, but also a terrifying one!

    1. Wandering_beagle*

      It’s great that you have identified that being a manager is a path you want to try pursuing and that there are people who want to support you to move you in that direction. It’s also great that you are going to have a couple years to work on that.

      This is tangential to what you are asking, but I have a lesson learned from being in a similar situation and have to caution you: there’s no guarantee your boss will retire in a couple years, and there’s no guarantee that you will get the role if he does retire. As long as you remember to not have that expectation that this is a done deal (and be willing to seek a position elsewhere if this plan doesn’t work out), I think you’ll be fine. If you work on developing your manager side over the next couple years while continuing to do your technical work, you can see where you are at then and decide if you want to try for a manager role or keep doing technical work.

      My situation was that I was in a two-person department for a few years with a director who was constantly talking about how she was going to retire, and how I could have her job if I wanted when she left. She was eager to show me the ropes and spent a lot of time with me helping develop my skills. It seemed like it was really going to happen! The date that she said she was going to retire came and went *many* times. After much disappointment, I was like, ‘This is never going to happen.’ I left, got a higher-paying job elsewhere and never looked back. I would occasionally check in to see if my old director had retired and it was like, 5 years after I left that she finally did. By that time, I had already left that industry and city. It was a really good lesson in checking my expectations.

      1. ManagerWannabe*

        Thanks for replying! I am definitely aware that this could happen. My boss retiring –> pretty sure that’s a done deal, but me getting his job? Not a certainty at all. Even if he did his best to put me in that position, my division gets reorganized so much, there’s just no telling what they’re going to do with it. I could get the job exactly as I want it, and it be great for six months…and then they reorg again.

        And I think that plays into this “what am I giving up to pursue this” fear. I would like to stay at my organization long term, but if they hire someone external/reorg under a different boss/etc, would I be capable/skilled enough to find a job elsewhere? Especially if I’m doing management training, but still didn’t have management experience?

        1. Safetykats*

          I don’t think it’s an either/or situation, unless you make it one. In most companies you can definitely work on whatever management training program they have while still doing technical work. You can also apply for a management job, not get it, and keep doing technical work in the same group, unless you’re going to take not getting the job so personally that you can’t stay.

          It’s good that you realize your current boss can’t guarantee you their job after they leave – if only because they won’t actually be the hiring manager. (That would be their boss, of course.) However, if they think you’re a good candidate, that’s usually worth something. So I would take advantage of the situation, and good luck!

  41. Gaslit*

    Any advice for dealing with gaslighting at work? I think it’s going on at my job and it’s really messing me up.

    1. Mid*

      Without more details, I’d just try to get everything possible in writing, and keep copies for yourself.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      It’s not really happening. I KID! I KID! Seriously though, start documenting. Save copies of files, print hard copies, follow-up conversations with emails, take pictures if you have to.

      Even if you don’t have immediate recourse or someone to take your evidence to, you’ll have this for your own piece of mind. Then you can decide whether or not this workplace is for you.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      Document everything. Trust yourself. Gaslighting is the worst.

      Is it one person or a group of people? If it’s one person, try not to be alone with them if it’s avoidable. In my experience (20 years of working with teenagers), gaslighters are less likely to act in front of witnesses.

      Good luck! I am so sorry this is happening to you.

        1. Muriel Heslop*

          That’s awful. I am so sorry that is happening to you. But it sounds like you have identified what sounds like at best, a behavior that has a negative effect on you. I’d avoid being alone with those two people whenever you can and if that’s not possible, just take everything they say and do with several grains of salt.

          Document everything, and if it’s relevant, reiterate things that they have said in email back to them. Create a record.

          Good luck! I hope this behavior comes to a stop.

    4. Not a cat*

      I worked w/ a passive-aggressive strain of that species for years. Like the good folks here said, document everything. I was so happy when he quit, I bought a very fancy and expensive “going away” cake when he gave notice.

    5. Mrs. K*

      I have been a union rep for many years, and have had to assist others in dealing with this. Document document document. As the others stated, it will help your sanity as well as to create a record. You should keep a notebook or a file on your personal device stating dates, times, who was present, what was said etc. For conversations that directly impact your work, send a follow up email restating your understanding of what was discussed. That can help a lot if they try to stir up trouble with the boss.

  42. WearingManyHats*

    Just a shout out to all the Department of One HR/Finance/IT/Admin folks out there. I’m trying to complete a state tax audit with my HR background and it’s tough going, as my predecessors didn’t keep much of anything. What’s the wildest think you’ve had to deal with?

    1. Auntie Social*

      Oh, well I had a boss who kept lousy/imaginary records, so one day the state auditor told us to stand up and step away from our desks, and escorted us all into the conference room. The boss and the office manager were asked questions, and we were allowed to go home after about two hours. When they asked if anyone had any questions people wanted to know if they were in trouble—I just wanted to know if he had actually been paying into our withholding (smile from auditor).

    2. AlsoManyHats*

      Shortly after I became a Department of One, I realized that both our health insurance and our workers comp coverage only covered employees at our main office, and not our handful of employees based in other states. Also, our broker had gone AWOL and not bothered to renew our liability insurance or our directors & officers insurance.

      By some miracle it happened to be open enrollment so we were able to immediately add an additional health insurance plan for new remote employees who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to coverage, and as for the rest of it, we were just really lucky that nothing bad happened before I was able to straighten it out.

      This was the first time I’d ever touched anything related to insurance, so I was literally just googling terms on paperwork that had come in the mail to figure out what coverage we needed.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve come in immediately after the owners have found embezzlement situations… the books and timecard records were essentially a wasteland.

    4. Krabby*

      I had the fun experience of realizing that our old Sales Director had been paying out quarterly bonuses to Sales Support based on nothing but “feelings.” It was written in all of their contracts that the bonuses were X% of total sales divvied up between all of them based on a specific metric. That was not what was happening. Instead, he was just taking that amount and splitting it up based on who he liked the most.

      I found out when he quit without notice and we were scrambling to figure out how he pulled the metric from our sales system.

  43. Anon this time*

    Inspired by the post earlier this week about resigning when it’s a bad time, and the (good) advice Alison gave that a good boss shouldn’t take it personally because you can’t always control when an offer is going to come…

    Would love to hear experiences from AAMers who have resigned when they *did* have control over when it happened, and chose to resign at a “bad time” anyway. I am 80% sure I want to quit my full-time job and become a contractor, so that I can work fewer hours in my “pays-the-bills” job and spend more time developing my work on a passion project that makes money, but not a lot of it.

    I’d like to quit fairly immediately after bonuses are awarded at my current company, because why leave that chunk of money on the table? (I do not work in finance, so it’s not a giant percentage of my salary, but it’s non-negligible and I worked my tail off last year so I want that cash!) Most likely this will leave my boss in a bind, as I have a lot on my plate and will for the foreseeable future.

    I do need to maintain a good relationship with my boss and other colleagues, since when I switch over to contracting I’ll want to be able to work for them again at some point, just not in a full-time capacity.

    Should I stick with my plan to quit after bonuses? Wait some “decorous” amount of time so my boss (who is a believer in loyalty) doesn’t hold my being mercenary against me? Something else I haven’t thought of? (I do NOT want to wait until it’s a “good” time, because that could be months or YEARS.)

    1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      I quit a past restaurant job during the busiest time of the year when they were already understaffed, specifically because I started developing health issues and tried to switch to part time and the manager wouldn’t let me because he “needed me” despite being condescending and rude every single time we talked, so I figured if I couldn’t reduce my hours, I would just quit and get a desk job that was easier on my body. Everyone there was furious with me even though I gave notice, but it was such a toxic and backstabbing work environment that I didn’t care.

      1. Dragoning*

        My last day at a retail job was December 23rd (although this was because I got a new job offer, so not chosen timing, although the new job didn’t start until mid-January…and management was furious with me, a cashier/stock person, for leaving because I knew the store better than they did.

        Those kinds of jobs are just terrible.

    2. The Rain In Spain*

      It’s pretty common to quit after bonuses/vesting/etc. In this case if you want to be extra nice about it, you can give a longer notice period to help transition the projects to others, and then it’s up to your boss if s/he wants to take advantage of that or if they want a shorter transition. Good luck!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup – I always wait until I get my bonuses deposited into my account and then I quit, lol. I left one company after receiving my bonus money and in the middle of hurricane season when we were drowning under Harvey/Irma/Maria claims, and I put in my resignation at my last employer the day my bonus cleared my bank account, lol. They all survived.

    3. Mr. Shark*

      I quit my job after receiving my bonus, but I gave a month notice (waiting a week or two after bonus before giving notice). No time is going to be a good time, as many people have said on AAM. I knew there was a busy time coming up, but I had planned to move.
      It ended up that we hired someone to fill my spot, but they were pretty horrible, so even though I moved, I came back for just over a month during the busy season to help out, and we hired someone else, and they were fantastic for the job. So it all worked out. Since you might come back as a contractor, you can do the same thing. Give sufficient notice, and then come back as a contractor in the busy season if necessary.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      No time will ever be a good time. So give your notice after the bonus (make sure there are no strings attached first). If you’re not urgent to leave you can always give more than 2 weeks notice time which should help smooth things.

    5. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

      I did exactly this a week ago. I’m being very thorough in my transition documents and even interviewed and helped my bosses choose my replacement. Unfortunately for them, the worst time of year to resign was when a great opportunity came my way. I always was a hardworking employee and that is all I believe I owe them.

  44. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I resigned from my job Weds and today they say they are ” restructuring” and that I can have a different job with less driving and more set hours

    1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      Are you otherwise happy there? I do feel like if they only care about making changes to keep you when you actually hand in your resignation that it’s usually better to move on though, and I believe Alison has said the same in the past.

    2. Tableau Wizard*

      were the problems that they’re offering to fix the ones that actually made you want to leave?

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I mostly just felt I wasn’t doing well at the job. My deadlines are always missed, my children hate counseling, and I wasn’t doing half of the things I needed to do. When I lost all motivation to work I wanted to leave

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I’d still leave then, especially if you thought you weren’t doing well and were missing deadlines. That kind of thinking, whether it’s true or not, could lead you to seriously underperforming, which could then land you in a position to be let go down the road.

  45. She's One Crazy Diamond*

    Constantly stuck covering for a coworker who is always calling in sick. She works reception, my regular job has no customer service though I’m extremely experienced in it, so whenever she calls my boss asks me to drop my entire schedule and go do her job all day. I was annoyed but I’ve been working with her for a while and she doesn’t normally call in this much so I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Then, while she was complaining about the other receptionist, she admitted she was so sick of working with her that she’s been calling in sick for her “mental health”. I have actual severe mental health conditions I’m on heavy medication and intermittent FMLA for, and am super pissed and resentful since dealing with basically everyone except my husband and a few close friends is stressful for me, literally the reason I don’t do customer service full time anymore. She acts like the other receptionist is this monster but when I cover with her, though I do find her personality a little annoying and don’t find her particularly intelligent, she does her job well enough to meet the demands of our organization, and she’s clearly doing her best. Am I the a-hole for reporting my coworker faking being sick to our boss?

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Tell your boss, but I wouldn’t phrase it like you’re outing her for being sick. I would focus on you and how this is affecting you and your ability to do the job you were hired for. Lay it out as matter of factly as you can.

      1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

        I already did. I just feel super guilty for doing it. She does make significantly less than me so that’s part of why I feel bad.

        1. Working with professionals*

          Remember that this is her pattern of behavior and not something you are doing to her. Sounds as if she’s more than halfway out the door already.

            1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

              I have ADHD and they wouldn’t do that. Anyway, it’s not the phones that’s hard for me, it’s the complete disruption of the work I need to do and my schedule (have to reschedule meetings, get home an hour later, etc).

        2. Just Another Manic Millie*

          How did you get your boss to believe you? I mean, if I were in your position, I would worry that the receptionist would lie and claim that she never said any such thing to you, and the boss wouldn’t know whom to believe, and would probably give the receptionist the benefit of the doubt.

          1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

            Why wouldn’t they believe me? I’m very senior to her and a higher performer. They’ve received complaints about the front desk drama from other staff. And…when you call in sick on both a Monday and a Friday in the same week that pretty much speaks for itself.

            1. Just Another Manic Millie*

              I wondered if they would believe you because at a previous job, the receptionist would call in sick because she didn’t feel like going to work. I knew this because she specifically told me so. No, I did not ask her about it. But I knew that if I told the office manager this, the receptionist would deny it, and I couldn’t count on the office manager believing me, even though, just like you, SOC Diamond, I was senior to her and a higher performer. And other people had complained about her.

              As a matter of fact, the receptionist had confided in me that she had never worked before, that it had been her mother’s idea that she should pretend to have worked at her mother’s company (without saying that her mother worked there, of course), and she should use her mother as a reference (with the mother using a phony name and pretending that she wasn’t her mother, of course). The mother gave her such a glowing reference that the office manager told me, before the receptionist started at the company, that the receptionist was a real jewel and something special and I should make it a point to be extra nice to her. From the beginning, the receptionist was nasty and lazy, because she hated working and wanted to be fired, but the office manager wouldn’t fire her, because she had gone on and on about how great this receptionist was, and firing her would be admitting that she had made a mistake, and she hated admitting that she had made a mistake.

              If I had told the office manager that the receptionist’s reference was bogus and was given by her mother, I don’t think the receptionist would have been fired. Because then the office manager would be admitting that she had made a mistake. But I was afraid that the receptionist might say to the office manager, “I never worked before. My mother made up my reference, and you were stupid enough to believe it. I told this to Millie, and we just laughed and laughed at you.”

              Then the office manager would most likely get angry at me, and I would have to tell her that yes, I did know that the receptionist’s reference was bogus, but no way did I laugh at her, and I don’t know what she would have thought. Fortunately, after a couple of years, the office manager told me that she came to an agreement with the receptionist, that she should leave the company and file for unemployment, and the company would not fight it. I was glad, because that eliminated the chance that the receptionist would tell the office manager that I knew all along that her reference had been bogus.

                1. Just Another Manic Millie*

                  Oh, that’s okay! The receptionist was really stupid. Her last name was a homophone of the last name of a baseball player on our local team. As people walked by the front desk, she would say, “Did you know that that baseball player and I are married?” People would just keep walking by. Maybe they said “Huh,” but nothing more. Eventually, she complained to me that no one seemed to believe her. I said that it was probably because they wondered why she spelled her last name differently than the way he spelled his last name. He also was well-known at the time for being a bachelor.

    2. Fikly*

      This is incredibly frustrating!

      But just like you can’t diagnose someone, you can’t not diagnose someone, which is to say, you can’t know that she doesn’t have mental health conditions that are the reason she’s calling out.

      So leave that out of the conversation with your boss. Focus on the practicalities of how the situation affects you.

    3. Pieska Boryska*

      Yeah, it really does. You just said she’s calling out for mental health reasons and somehow that equals faking? Just because she prioritizes her well-being more than you do doesn’t mean she’s doing anything wrong! The ethical way to handle this would have been telling your boss you can’t continue to cover for her for your own health reasons.

  46. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I have reasons to believe the hellmouth spun off a corporate subsidiary that was acquired by my company.
    We’ve had an open position since 2018. Corporate filled that with someone in another country who didn’t actually report to us and was outside our software licensing area. Before licensing was resolved, she was assigned projects for her local manager. When my boss & grandboss objected, she was abruptly transferred to the other division. Apparently that lost us the headcount because the job hasn’t been reposted.
    Our supervisor left in August because she was expected to cover the extra without giving up tasks, missing deadlines, or spending OT. That was unsustainable and no one upstairs listened. Her job was posted — but at least two excellent candidates identified by my grandboss haven’t been hired.

    My grandboss’s position was eliminated, so now we’re on the org chart reporting to an extremely senior person at HQ who didn’t even reply when my co-worker gave notice two weeks ago.
    Today is my co-worker’s last day. We now have too few people to be primary on all the categories we cover – let alone backup for vacations & illness. HR claims that her position and my supervisor’s will be replaced, but they said nothing about the opening from 2018.
    I’ve been calling some of the senior people in various departments, explaining the situation and asking them to keep an ear open for projects & information that affects my group, and asking them to speak up: “Has anyone contacted $GROUP about this since they don’t have anyone in this meeting?”
    In the middle of all that, we’ve had mice and anthills show up in carpeted areas of our very corporate building.
    Mostly this is a vent — but suggestions are welcome.

      1. JustaTech*

        Fire ants? Sugar ants? Carpenter ants?

        I mean, any ants in an office building are a major problem, but if it’s fire ants … those can be really dangerous.

        I don’t have any suggestions for the rest – that really sucks.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Sugar ants thank goodness. And no structural stability to worry about. It’s a slab foundation in an area with sandy soil and the anthills (2 I know of) appeared about where the 25+year old addition starts, so it’a probably a trivial crack… but it was pretty staggering to see in carpet tile.

      2. Red Fraggle*

        *horrified face* Yeah, now I’m worried about the structural stability of your building in addition to the feasibility of your workload.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The floor will be fine, that’s one good thing about slab foundations.
          (The ceiling though…remember that year of endless blizzards? They had to call in emergency crews to shovel the roof so I want out before another bad snowfall year!)

          1. Fikly*

            We had to shovel 4 feet of snow off our deck (house is on a hill, deck overhangs a hill) one year because we were afraid it would fall off the house.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I fear it transmitted through AAM from last year’s commenter. It’s like that Charles De Lint story where pixies got into the Internet and got OUT at the main character’s store. (Does a reversible vest count as turning your sweater inside out for protection?)

    1. Sondra Uppenhowzer*

      You need to look for work in a different department or company. Your division has had an opening from 2018 that has yet to be filled, and the office is literally falling apart (mice and anthills) — and these are just the visible signs. Who knows what sort of managerial dry rot is hidden? You might love your job, but you need to do it somewhere else. Chances are you are probably underpaid, because managers like this tend to be lax on yearly reviews/raises and promotions.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m working on the resume and purging my files already. We’re badly neglected. I believe we’re seen as unnecessary overhead. It could get ugly if TPTB try to eliminate our little piece of the product, only to be reminded that it’s a regulatory requirement. And uglier trying to rebuild it if they’ve eliminated institutional history.
        Thanks for reinforcing my decision.

  47. Aggretsuko*

    I’m (a) losing my favorite aspect of my job that I’ve been doing forever, basically to get me 100% away from my old evil team that it’s been handed to, (b) being transferred back to my old team, which I love, but none of us is looking forward to having to take on ALL of the other’s workload so we have “backup,” and (c) they’re taking me out of my nice private office after a few months of having it.

    I am sad. I know I don’t rate an office and never will and they said it was temporary, but I didn’t think it’d be like 4 months level of temporary.

  48. Jane too*

    For IRS purposes, I am considered self-employed although I work in a small international organisation with no HR. US tax payers are reimbursed for taxes to keep employment fair with non US employees who are not liable from US taxes. Salaries are paid net of taxes. The organisation’s ‘policy’ is to make the reimbursed tax payment to us ‘within 14 days of the quarterly due date’. This policy seems illogical as payment is due to the IRS on January 15 and according to the policy, the organisations reimbursement check to me can be provided anytime within the 14 days prior to and including January 15.

    Any suggestions for language to discuss this with the boss to alleviate the tension of waiting for the checks before making my payments?

    1. Mid*

      I’d see if you can get a group of people together and explain that having to front $xxx is difficult to impossible for many people, and so they cannot pay taxes before getting that check, so it would be beneficial to the company and employees to get checks at least X days before the 15th.

  49. August*

    Three months ago, I made the transition from my multiple low-paying jobs in the nonprofit world to a much better-paying single job in government. I love the money. At the age of 24, it’s more than double what I’ve made at my previous jobs. I do not love the job itself. It’s boring, there’s no potential for advancement, and I worry a lot about how I’m going to list my mundane administrative duties on my resume. I dread every Monday in a way that I never have with my previous jobs.

    Subsequently, I’ve been covertly job searching, and recently got offered an interview for a really exciting legislative position– it’s not my dream job, but it’s the kind of job that could easily set me up on my ideal career path. The salary would be a 16% decrease for me; it’s not so low that I would have to move back in with my parents, but I would be living paycheck to paycheck— nothing after I’ve paid my monthly fixed expenses. I’m torn. There are tons of young professionals who take low-paying jobs so they can break into their field! This could be an amazing opportunity for me! I thought I was the kind of ambitious person who would go to certain lengths for my career, but I am so, so reluctant to give up my current salary. I can’t help but feel greedy and entitled for wanting an interesting job AND the ability to buy a latte once a week.

    Is this normal? How do people make these kinds of calculations? I’m especially uncertain because I thought my current job would be a huge step forward career-wise, and I’m feeling a bit burned now that I’ve realized it’s a dead end.

    1. Mid*

      Why do you think there is no career advancement in this current role? Also, if you’ve only been at this role for 3 months, how will that impact your resume if you’re fairly early on in your career? (Though in legislative world, it’s pretty common to have a lot of short stints, in my experience, so there probably isn’t much of an issue.)

      Assuming you’re interested in political-ish jobs, have you considered working on campaigns as a part time gig while keeping your current, well paid job? I used to have a side gig writing white papers for a few members of my State Senate. There are ways to build your career outside of this one job. It might be less direct, but it’s very possible.

      Also, it’s very normal to struggle with this and want to be comfortable but also want to have the career you dreamed of. I’m currently in a job that isn’t glamorous and does have a lot of boring admin work, but does pay me enough to finally be comfortable, to pay my rent without worry, and to save money every month. It’s an amazing feeling to not be living paycheck to paycheck.

      I was also recently offered an opportunity to do something I’m a lot more passionate about, but for $15k less than I’m currently making, which would put me right back in 3 roommates, 2 side gigs, zero latte territory. I turned it down. I’ve been at my current role for less than 6 months, and I’ve found the lack of stress from worrying about money has allowed me to have so much more energy to volunteer and get involved with things I care about, while also being able to breathe.

      Ultimately, no one can make this choice for you. When you’re relatively young and have less financial obligations (no mortgage or kids or whatever else), it’s easier to take a pay cut. Is the risk worth the potential reward? That’s up to you.

      Personally, I chose financial security. I’ve spent the last 6 years balancing 5 jobs and constantly counting pennies and having every single crises go on my credit cards, and it wore me down in ways I didn’t expect or understand until I was out of that situation.

      But, I wouldn’t think less of anyone who chose the other path. Best of luck, whatever you choose.

      1. August*

        I wouldn’t say there’s absolutely no opportunities for advancement, but a very common joke around the office is what a dead end my department is. The last person in this joke quit at 3 months, the one before that transferred out, etc. The only people who have stayed are near retirement and in it for the benefits.

        I didn’t think about a side gig like that! Can I ask how you got into that position? Is it a posted role, or more of an informal “I heard you’re good at X” sort of thing?

        Thanks for the advice, this is all good for me to think about!

        1. CheeryO*

          Well, you could always transfer too! I can’t tell you how many people I have worked with at my state agency who put in a year or two in either a terribly boring or terribly paid position in order to springboard into something better, either in another department or another state agency.

        2. Mid*

          It was more informal. I had interviewed to be a Legislative Aide, but they transitioned the role to year-round instead of a summer role, and it didn’t pay enough for me to be willing to pause my schooling for it. But, I interviewed well enough that they asked if I’d be willing to write some white papers, and it grew from there. (My application required a sample white paper.) I’m not doing it this session, but I’m thinking about getting back into it next session to keep my writing sharp while I’m in my current non-political job.

          You’ll see postings for research assistant sometimes, or even legislative aide, but as part time work, and those usually involve a lot of white paper writing, or sometimes even press statement drafting. They usually say they want someone who is available during working hours, but I’ve found it isn’t much of an issue if your resume is strong and you’re a good writer.

          I’d see if you can network and get to know people who are doing that currently, and when they complain about being overloaded with work, offer to pick some of it up as a contractor! So so much of the politics world is about who you know more than anything else. And honestly, working for local government can open a lot more doors than you’d initially think, even in a role that seems far from politics. I know a few people who went from a DMV-esque position to very political positions, because they met the right people and learned the ropes and nuances of the government.

          1. August*

            Ah, the position I’ve been offered is a research position, actually! A big thing that’s had me hesitating is that I don’t see a way to break into the policy research realm without starting at the bottom (ie the position I’ve been offered). They don’t seem to do external hires for, I don’t know, Senior Policy Director, they just promote everyone from within.

            But thank you! This is really insightful.

    2. Forgot my username*

      Is it possible to take the new job and move in with your parents? That way you’d have the best of both worlds – a job that seems more likely to lead to a career you like and more financial security (you’d want to be saving money for “rainy days” and to give yourself an emergency cushion in anticipation of the time in the future when you can move out again).

      That said, I am torn by your scenario. On the one hand, many “entry level” jobs are not very intellectually stimulating and can feel like they don’t seem to have room for advancement. I remember being surprised by how much more I got to use my brain in college vs. my first 1 or 2 jobs after college. On the other hand, although I’ve never worked in government, it certainly does have a reputation for people kind of stagnating through many years of employment without being very motivated and without being able to advance their own skills.

      Good luck to you!

      1. August*

        Moving back in with my parents would be a deal breaker for me, unfortunately — it’d mean an hour commute each way, vs my current 10-minute walk.

        And yup, our thought processes are the same on this one! I’m willing to put in my time to move up in a boring office job, but there definitely are quite a few folks stagnating here. When I took this job, I initially thought I could use all of my new free time to start hobbies and do professional development stuff, but it’s so mind numbing that I just go home and lie around.

        1. Red Fraggle*

          Oh no, the numbing has begun?! Crap. Um, can you make yourself exercise immediately after work? That shakes it off for some people and lets them have productive evenings. But don’t feel bad if you only do “other” stuff on the weekends.

    3. Red Fraggle*

      You’re not greedy. I know our society normalizes (and romanticizes) sacrificing to break into your field, but the mental toll of scraping by that Mid mentioned is REAL. Think long and hard about what you’d do and how you’d feel if you got stuck for years at this better-fit-but-lower-paying job. What happens if the rent in your area goes way up? Or if your car breaks (assuming you have one)? Or if you get sick? If you did have to move back in with your parents, how long could you stand it? I’m not going to say “don’t do it!” because nothing in life is risk-free, but there’s something to be said for a financial cushion.

      (Personal horror story: As a recent grad I took a foot-in-the-door job with credible promises of advancement…6 months before the recession hit. I’ll spare you the details, but my 20s were hell and my now-spouse doesn’t quite understand why I still agonize over money.)

      1. August*

        Oh man, I’m sorry you had to deal with that. The articles predicting a recession in our near future have me lying awake at 3am sometimes. I have a decent safety net, but I can’t get over the possibility of giving up a stable, well-paying, incredibly boring job for this exciting, low-paying, occasionally high turnover job. I want it, but aaaahhhhhh the risks are so high!

        1. Red Fraggle*

          And I want to tell you eff it, go take that job! You can’t predict the economy, and playing it “safe” forever will only make you bitter, so do what you want.

          If the neat job is “occasionally high turnover” on a fairly predictable timeframe, can you give yourself a deadline to GTFO of the current job and save up in the meantime? Or will staying just rot your brain?

          1. August*

            That’s a good point! And it’s so hard to tell — I’d like to think that I could stay level headed and calmly keep an eye out for the next time the position opens up in a year, but the reality is that I might spend the entire time losing sleep like “what if the position NEVER opens up, what if you process financial statements with your 70-year-old coworkers FOREVER.”

    4. anonanna*

      I’d go for the job you’re passionate about! As a fellow broke recent college grad I know money is a huge deal, but it sounds like you can swing this change financially. Look at it as a long-term investment for your career path. I just left my state’s legislative branch for government affairs and it’s definitely an exciting/interesting realm of work, so I’d personally recommend the switch as well :)

      1. anonanna*

        also wanted to add as advice/encouragement (after the other comments loaded!):
        This line of work is highly connection based. I knew RAs and LAs who started out as interns or in completely random roles in the branch and were able to move up to legislative/research assistant roles. In my state, if you’re the assistant to a member on committees, you get additional financial compensation for each committee they’re on. I had a nonpartisan role in my state’s branch and left it for a job that pays a little more and will help me develop advocacy skills in the private sector, but I definitely credit that first job for helping me get the second. Good luck!

        1. August*

          Thank you so much, it’s actually a huge relief to hear that from someone who’s worked in that field! If I can ask: was money the primary factor in your switch to the private sector? I love the essential job duties of this offered position, but some of the things the hiring manager mentioned (the frequent turnover, the heavy workload, etc.) make me wonder if I’d be able to hack it long term. My past nonprofit jobs had heavy workloads, but were very forgiving, casual, and flexible.

          1. anonanna*

            Hi, August! Sorry it took me a bit to reply. Money didn’t hurt but it was definitely not the big factor. My position was only busy about half the year and was incredibly slow and mind-numbing the other half- sounds like I switched for similar reasons as you! I also realized I’m much more focused on policy/issues rather than partisan politics- i.e. I’d rather advocate for a cause than work for a specific party or official. My long-term goal is to shift into social work so I was also hoping to find something that would offer potential sponsorship for me to get my MSW. I hope this helps! If this is helpful, you can view that potential job as a “foot in the door” to long-term political or advocacy jobs. I work in government affairs and many of my coworkers/lobbyists I know started out as political staffers.

    5. anongineer*

      From a former fed that quit after three months, if you currently have a civil service position and you are in your one year probationary period, I STRONGLY urge you to get that one year under your belt so that you qualify for reinstatement/rehire for a period of time (I think it’s three years) after leaving federal service. IF the new opportunity doesn’t work out or there’s a recession, it’ll be much easier for you to get hired into another fed job. I did not realize what I had given up until it was too late. I totally get the dread and the desire to jump ship, but if you stick it out the safety net will be there for breaking out to try more risky paths. Also, if you stick it out for 9 more months you can grow and even bigger safety net.

    6. Jessi*

      Is this job worth it to you enough to take on a part time job to cover lattes? I’m thinking a Saturday shift at Starbucks, bar shift Friday night, babysitting ect ? That would probably be what I would do personally. Or save every single penny you can tuck away now to use as a bit of a safety net once your income goes down

  50. Mid*

    A rather light hearted question, but still work related: Can you wear dresses and skirts without tights/hose if you don’t shave your legs (and your leg hair is fairly dark and obvious)?

    FWIW, my office is business casual-ish. More on the formal side of business casual for my area (so dark jeans are okay with a blazer and a blouse/button down, work dresses are fine, not full suits unless we’re meeting with clients.)

    (Also I wouldn’t say this is a gendered thing, since I never see my male colleagues leg hair, because they always wear pants.)

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      I think this comes down to your own personal preference, but I know that my dark leg hair stops me from doing this unless it’s a maxi length skirt/dress.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Same (except that I don’t have dark leg hair and I still don’t personally enjoy having it visible).

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I’m currently in a knee length pencil skirt without tights, and I haven’t shaved my legs in several years. No one has ever said anything negative, and I dress otherwise professionally.

      But I also work at an academic library, and academia is usually pretty lenient with stuff like this. You might test it out on a day where you know you won’t meet with any clients and see what happens, but I don’t think anyone will notice or care.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Okay, but if you do this, don’t assume no one notices/cares just because they don’t say anything. People can find this unprofessional but never mention it. And as She’s One Crazy Diamond said, it would be nice if it didn’t matter, but at many offices, it will.

      2. Mid*

        Well, I ended up testing it today because I ripped my tights beyond repair.

        I don’t really think anyone in my office will notice. I think I’m just self conscious more than anything. Even though I’m fine wearing shorts with my unshaven legs outside of the office. I think it’s just years of being taught that it’s Just Not Done Like That.

      3. Aardvark Anonymous*

        I know several women at my academic library who will sometimes wear skirts with bare, unshaven legs. I occasionally join them too! but my leg hair is pretty light. My library is somewhat casual even compared to other academic libraries in this area… my standard work uniform is jeans, t shirt and a flannel. So at my workplace, I would say it’s a non-issue.

        I would be more hesitant at any place where blazers and button downs are more common, unfortunately. :(

        1. What's with Today, today?*

          Nesting fail. That should have gone under the OP’s question. It’s just a full-stop no for me. I wouldn’t say anything to you, but I would notice and never be able to forget.

          1. INeedANap*

            Genuine question – how come? Is it so wildly out of place in your workplace culture that it would leave a significant impression on you?

            I’m coming from a pretty liberal, academic environment where unshaven legs would be unremarkable, so just trying to understand this perspective.

            1. valentine*

              Is it so wildly out of place in your workplace culture that it would leave a significant impression on you?
              The risk is that people will judge (silently or not) and silently hurt Mid’s career because of it. There’s no hair-based equality with men, just like they don’t have to wear bras even if they jiggle. If you weren’t here for the pantyhose debacle, you may want to dip a tow into that post. I’m sure there are still people who think women should wear a slip with every skirt/dress.

            2. Avasarala*

              In my (more conservative) workplace experience, it would be very remarkable. I would not say anything, and once I did see someone in an adjacent job in a skirt suit and unshaven legs. It’s like coming to work with sopping wet hair or an unkempt beard–it’s like you missed a step of your grooming process. If it’s a more casual office I guess anything goes though.

    3. Catsaber*

      I’ve done that many times – though the shortest skirt I wear hits just under my knees, but I also do it with ankle pants. Most days I just can’t be arsed to shave). My leg hair is dark, and darkest on my ankles. I’m not sure anyone even noticed. I never caught anyone looking at my legs. I have had people compliment my shoes, but nothing was ever said about the leg hair, or lingering glances on them. And I had some extremely hairy legs during my third trimester a couple summers ago, because my giant baby belly prevented me from even reaching my legs…but I was not about to wear hose or heavy pants, because I was pregnant in a Texas summer. This would probably be a non-issue with my clients because I always wear full-length pants as part of a suit or more formal look. So I’d say…whatever is your preference.

    4. Washi*

      I think it really depends on the office. I worked somewhere once with a pretty liberal hippie vibe, and it would have been totally fine there. My past office was more traditional and most of my coworkers were in their 50s-60s, and after I heard them whispering about a young woman wearing a knee-length skirt and boots with bare legs, I definitely made sure I was on the conservative end of dress.

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I used to solve this problem by wearing knee-high socks with my skirts and dresses. I bought a bunch of stripey socks at a Renaissance Faire and coordinated them with my tops, and also bought some black soccer socks for a more subdued look (I found a brand that had the logo on the foot rather than the leg). Soccer socks in general are a pretty good way to get roomy-in-the-calf socks that go up to your knees in a variety of colors and that hold up well.

      I wouldn’t be upset if someone else had bare legs and didn’t shave, but every time I try I hear all of the lectures from my mother growing up in my head and decide not to. (In recent years, I’ve given up wearing skirts and dresses pretty much entirely for unrelated reasons.)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Gold Toe would fit the bill. (I’m wearing a pair of them in crew height right now.)

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Umbro. I found them by just going to a sporting goods store with a large soccer section and checking all the different brands until I found one that was plain on the legs.

      1. Margali*

        > Soccer socks in general are a pretty good way to get roomy-in-the-calf socks that go up to your knees in a variety of colors and that hold up well.
        THANK YOU for this! I’ve never been able to find knee socks that fit, and I never thought of looking at soccer socks!

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          You’re welcome! I have “medium” feet in athletic/hiking socks, which means that socks that only come in “men’s” and “women’s” sizes usually don’t fit me very well. (Heel on men’s is up too high, heel on women’s is down too low, and I have fairly large calves for women’s socks as well.) Once I realized that hiking and athletic socks come in 3 or 4 “adult” sizes instead of just 2 I started buying pretty much all of my socks from either REI or sporting goods stores.

    6. Orange You Glad*

      I’m so glad you asked this question because I stopped shaving my legs a few months ago and I’m trying to determine my upcoming summer work wardrobe and wondered the exact same thing!

      Side note: I’m still weirded out a bit that my lower leg hair is SO dark compared to my upper leg hair? I’ve been shaving my full legs for the past 20 years and this growing them out experience has been full of surprises!

    7. LKW*

      While I would love to say “You do you” – some industries, especially on the corporate side, will not be as gracious. Do the women in your office typically wear heels, makeup, stockings, etc? Is there someone you think would try to find whether pantyhose or tights are required?

      Personally – I don’t care. If someone wants to wear a skirt, as long as it’s not so short your bare cheeks are on the desk chair, I say go for it.

    8. Policy Wonk*

      My Department is very conservative, so it would not be acceptable. No one would say anything, but it would be a mark against you.

    9. Jennifer Thneed*

      It’s gendered. Men are physically capable of wearing skirts but the culture frowns on it — because they are MEN. You know this is true because when men DO wear skirts, they have special names: kilts. Utili-kilts. Etc.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          That is, in fact, exactly my point. Men can wear a specific type of skirt, but they can’t wear “skirts” as a general category.

    10. Llama Wrangler*

      I do this; I think my work is probably about the same level of casual-ness as yours. No one has ever said anything, and I know I’m considered a high performer so I don’t think it is majorly impacting my performance at my job, but I am sure people notice, and probably some of them are weirded out by it. (My partner has noticed people noticing, and once someone sitting next to me on an airplane was visibly disgusted).

      For me, this is a small way to manifest my queer identity is a relatively mainstream office space (not that the only reason you’d not shave your legs and wear dresses is to be queer).

      However, I will say I am much more mindful of this when I’m going on interviews — more likely to wear pants or dark color tights — because I do think it could impact people’s perception of me in the hiring process (just like I wear slightly more makeup than my usual minimal makeup). And I feel okay with “closeting” this part of myself when I interview.

    11. Fikly*

      Well, I do. But that’s because I think the standard that women should not have body hair is stupid, and I am lucky enough to work in a place where that doesn’t count against me. Also, my company is a) quite liberal and b) 85% women.

      So know your workplace.

    12. Retail not Retail*

      I’d admire you but I’m a hairy legged woman in an outdoor job in the south.

      My mom was like oh people might say something and I said if they do it’s harassment. No one has said anything – execs, my boss, coworkers, guests.

      If you don’t make a big deal they won’t.

  51. This Guy*

    How long is long enough after an interview to “follow” the company on LinkedIn? I’m probably overthinking this, and the interview team probably wouldn’t even notice. I had an in-person interview around Thanksgiving. I haven’t heard back from them, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the position. (OK, since I’m at a job I really enjoy now, and this was a unique opportunity I just had to find out more about.) But the company does interesting work, so I’d like to keep tabs on them.

    I guess I just wanted a gut check that following the company on LinkedIn didn’t make me look creepy.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      It doesn’t look creepy. The person getting the notification (if anyone even does) probably wasn’t a part of the team you talked to. Just go follow them!

    2. Lynx*

      Company pages can’t see who the individual followers are! They can just see the follower numbers go up and down for the page.

      Unless you have your settings on private, individual people may be able to see if you’ve looked at their LinkedIn, but I’d probably consider that a positive, as it shows you’re doing research on the company.

  52. Watry*

    We have had an empty position for five months now, and we were already minimally staffed (local government). There are excellent reasons for the delay over the usual three month time, so there’s not a whole lot we can do.

    Any suggestions for mental tricks to help deal with the increased workload? Leaving is NOT an option, and my coworkers and I have expressed our concerns, but again, there are really good reasons for the delay.

    1. Cleopatra*

      Daily to-do lists!

      Well, you can also spend less time on the less important stuff.

      And ask for a raise!

      1. Watry*

        We just got our first raise in over four years (3 or 4%, and not everyone got it), so that’s not happening. :( Boss and Grandboss are fighting for us to be reclassified, though, which would come with a title bump and raise.

        And all of our stuff has legally-mandated turnaround times, so we’ve dropped what we can, and we’re cross-training the Official Llama Wranglers in our Llama Grooming Compliance procedures for walk-ins, so we don’t have to handle 100% of the customer service anymore (for some reason we’re customer service/reception/listed phone number for the entire Llama Department, including phones).

        The to-do lists are helping, though! They are the best. Sounds like I may just have to push through.

    2. Holy Moley*

      I personally feel that morale plays a big role in how I approach things when work is bonkers. Good music (reggae Fridays are a thing lol), snacks to share with the team, making sure everyone gets out of the office for lunch/breaks to get some fresh air. Make a bingo card for stupid things people say in your area or funny things that always happen.

    3. Combinatorialist*

      Are there any small changes to your work/work environment that you can ask for? Like lowering the dress code or leaving an hour early on Fridays or anything? I think it would be reasonable to say

      “Since I know there are good reasons for the delay and we can’t be rewarded with XYZ for the increased workload, can we have ABC” where ABC is some pretty small thing that is irritating.

      And if you get a no, I think you can say something like “We are all happy to buckle down and power through the increase, but it is tricky because of BLAH, is there some way that can be acknowledged”

      1. Watry*

        Any changes to uniform, hours, or stuff that’s covered by departmental policy has to be approved by my Greatx3 Grandboss. It’s taken six months to get new uniform shirt colors approved, and it still hasn’t happened yet.

        We’re kind of stuck between our legal requirements and the hierarchical nature of our job/department, so I’m trying to focus on my own mental state for now. The last thing I want is burnout over a job that is not worth burning out over.

  53. NotAPirate*

    Planner question! Do you still use a paper/physical calendar? I got some weird looks pulling one out in a meeting. But I feel weirder pulling out my phone mid conversation (especially because then I have all my emails and notifications distracting me). I use the digital calendar at work for meetings but like having a hard copy of my life. Also, then I can fill in things while talking on my phone.

    1. Cleopatra*

      I used to use a physical agenda (last year), and noone thought it was strange !

      I do not find physical calendars weird. On the contrary, it’s quite endearing :)

    2. Montresaur*

      I love using pen and paper whenever possible. I use Stickies and a phone calendar to keep track of meeting times and hard deadlines, but I always take notes by hand. I find it fixes important details in my mind, and I actually end up referring to the handwritten notes less often because I remember more of what was said. I agree that pulling out the phone can be distracting.

      I also keep a daily / weekly handwritten log of tasks I’ve accomplished for work, and am thinking of switching to a physical calendar this year.

    3. Mid*

      I use one! I custom make my pages as I have to track billable hours along with other tasks, and I use a ring binder system. No one has ever thought it was strange, only cool and efficient.

    4. AppleStan*

      I am admittedly a planner addict, so you have to take this with a grain of salt.

      I have a “large” planner that has monthly and weekly pages in it that stays at home…that is where all of my true ‘planning’ of my life happens.

      I have a “small” planner that is a daily planner…only covers about 90 days. However, each day covers 2 pages (one side is your actual schedule, the other side is for notes), and I whip that puppy out A LOT during the day. It’s a lot more portable than the large planner.

      Once a week, everything that has changed in my planners goes into my computer so that it syncs with my phone. Without actual audible alerts, I won’t ever remember that I had an appointment.

      So the sum is I use a combination of both, but have no issues whipping out my physical calendar in public. If anyone wants to give you weird looks, tell them they are more than welcome to pay for an assistant to follow you around and keep your calendar, LOL.

    5. CTT*

      I did while in law school but don’t now; my sister always gives me one of those Shutterfly calendars for Christmas, so that + my electronic work calendar that syncs with my phone give me enough coverage. I considered getting a paper planner this year, but that felt like overload.

    6. Constance Lloyd