open thread – January 17-18, 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.

{ 1,816 comments… read them below }

  1. DreamTheImpossibleDream*

    The nonprofit I work for just finished an aggressive strategic planning session the first full week of January. We were all given tasks and action items with VERY hard, set deadlines, which is fine! I’ve been tasked with painting 12 teapots a year, one a month, plus an addition 6 teacups a year and 6 tea saucers a year.

    The first teapot is due at the end of January (I didn’t set this deadline and felt that I had no way to push back when it was set during the planning session) and despite my best efforts, I don’t think I’m going to get it done. I’m relying on others to design the teapot, produce the teapot, and then send it to me before I can even begin to mix the paint and start painting it. I’ve reached out to 8 people so far in January and gotten nowhere. I mentioned it to my boss this week and was told flat out I had to meet January’s goal. I pointed out that I wasn’t in the office the first week of January (the strategic planning and a work trip) and am gone on another work trip most of next week and showed her my reach outs for tea pots. Her comment was that I couldn’t miss that deadline.

    I’m so frustrated by this because I well exceeded all goals last year, hit new highs, and these teapots seem like a very old school way of doing things but there seems to be no wiggle room. I do have other goals that I’ll hit, but these teapots, teacups, and saucers are the big ones.

    I’ve been losing sleep all week because of this and feel sick and hopeless. I feel like I need to start looking for a new job now because I don’t see anything good coming out of missing my goal in January and have little hope that things will improve. February might be OK but March is a travel nightmare with me being in the office only 5 scattered days the entire month and my travel days are already booked solid and having no room for this new teapot painting, on top of the rest of my job, except for those 5 days. In comparison, in January, I’m in the office 10 days but it’s 2 solid weeks.

    I honestly don’t know what to do … start looking, try to talk about the deadlines again, slap myself around and find some way to pull tea pots out of thin air … ??? The only line I’ve drawn is out and out lying. I’m pretty much open to everything else at this point.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      I’m sure you’ve thought of this, but is there no way to technically meet the goal on paper despite limitations? So like, you’re waiting for someone else to design the teapot but you paint a demo teapot and present that as your first one finished. Or you use last year’s teapot and refresh it for #1.

      People who play games with stupid quota systems get what they deserve.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      I’m assuming the people are the ones you are waiting on. If it were me, I’d start getting more aggressive in getting what you need out of them. So if needed, call a meeting, set the deadlines for the things you need and then set follow ups to keep the momentum. Then once you get past the January deadline, then move right into the February requirements.

      If nothing else it will help your case if you miss the deadline.

      1. valentine*

        You’ve told your boss the issue. The missing piece is what you want her to do about it. (Apparently, she needs to be led and won’t make the connections to how it affects her until it does, at which point she’ll blame you again.)

        set the deadlines for the things you need
        Write up a schedule of when you would need each piece by, including cushion for snafus and FUBARs. Pretend it’s doable, even if it was only doable in the past. Meet with your boss and tell her that, for you to do meet the deadline, you need her to X in week 1, Y in week 2, and Z in week 3 of each month. Can your colleagues double up so you can do February and March in February? Get creative, even though it won’t happen. The point is to be plain about what everyone else has to do and when for you to do your part in the time allotted.

        If you haven’t already, cc her on your requests. Also, send the schedule to your colleagues.

    3. Me*

      Meet with her again. Explain where you are and ask for explicit guidance on how she wants you to proceed. Perhaps she wants you to forgo the work trip. Perhaps she can light a fire under the other departments. Perhaps she expects overtime. That will give you more information about whether this place is turning into a toxic dump heap.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        +1

        Ask the second part of the question. “This can’t be done.”, “You just have to do it.”, “OK, can we make some time to game plan out how that can happen or what other goals can take a backseat so I can focus on this?”

        If your boss won’t do the last part with you, then you may need to start looking because not only is she unreasonable, but she also isn’t managing.

    4. PX*

      I would say this is an extension of the post this week about how to meet impossible deadlines with impossible bosses. You can try and explain in very clear concrete terms that these are impossible, ask your boss to help you prioritise, but if your boss doesnt listen…let them slip? Do what you can that is in your control, document all else, and accept that some teapots just wont get painted.

      Depending on what you think the consequence of this may be, you may then focus your remaining free time on job hunting or wait and see whether not hitting the goals will actually have the impact you think it will, or if halfway through the year everyone else will also say these were unacheiveable and shift the goalposts.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        I would not wait and see. I’d start putting out feelers, looking at job postings (however your industry does it) about jobs. Because if things suddenly go south, you want to be a step or two on the way. Also, doing some of this searching will give you a concrete way to feel that you are taking care of *yourself*.

        Looking isn’t leaving. But if you need to leave, looking now will be helpful.

    5. Miss Ames*

      I feel for you – that sounds like a very difficult spot to be in. You obviously care about your job and are making every effort to meet your obligations. The only thing I can think to suggest is having a meeting with your boss and making it (crystal) clear the effort you have put in (the reaching out you have done so far) and explain (if she doesn’t understand the “on the ground” situation completely) definitively that you cannot meet the January teapot painting deadline if you don’t have a teapot to paint. I’m not sure what to say about the travel – assuming it is work related travel, it seems reasonable to bring that up also because it is going to impact your time the rest of January.
      The situation sounds unreasonable on the part of management and also the fact that you weren’t part of the decision-making (or even asked if the plan sounded reasonable) doesn’t sound as functional as it could be.

    6. Colette*

      How much time in a month do you need to be in the office to paint one teapot and one teacup or saucer?

      Go back to your boss and say “I’m trying to figure out how I can meet my goal of 1 teapot and one saucer. I have tried X, Y, and Z this month, but I still need A, B, and C from person Q and R. Do you have any suggestions on how to get X, Y, and Z before the 22nd (or whatever date you need it)? Can you help?”

      And, when it comes to March, I’d say “My travel in March will make it impossible for me to get my teapot painting done. Which trips can we reschedule?”

      1. Bananatiel*

        Doing and presenting the math HAS worked before for me and a friend of mine so I highly recommend this as a next step. My friend was starting a new job where basically her whole job was making very well-designed PowerPoint presentations. On the first day, they told her the targets she’d need to meet for the year and I got a call from her that night panicked because she knew it wasn’t possible. I ran the math while she was talking and it worked out to like one slide every five minutes assuming she had absolutely no meetings, lunch breaks, vacation time, or holidays. The best part is that she has a design background so they expected additional custom illustrations, and even animations, on nearly half of the slides that would add extra time.

        The happy news here is that she immediately went back to her boss, explained that she had some concerns and explained all the math she did and they scaled way back on the targets. Like the workload dropped to a fraction of what they asked and they even brought on a contractor. Not surprisingly it turned out there were other structural issues at play so she’s now job searching. But in the meantime, she’s at least managing a sane workload now.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      I find it very freeing to say to myself, ‘X is unrealistic’. It helps let go of the stress. Questions to ask yourself:

      – What happens when you don’t make the goal? ($ bonus lost? fired?, etc) Is the impact something you can live with? (If no, start looking elsewhere)
      – What are you comfortable letting slide?
      – Is there anything you can do before the teapots arrive (eg, mixing paints?)
      – Is it possible to schedule teapot arrival so that you can clear time in your calendar for painting?
      – Is it possible to paint 1.5 teapots in Feb?

      To ask your manager:
      – Here’s the tasks that block my goal. Which ones are we going to drop? (ie, are all those travel days in March critical? Could some be moved to Feb or Apr?)
      – Here’s the people I am waiting on to design / produce the teapot. Can you help me push them for an expedited teapot?

      For the Jan ones, send her an update 3 – 4 times / week, so that you have a paper trail. Document your efforts, and look at what works and what doesn’t?

      Good luck, you are totally reasonable to be frustrated by unreasonable goals.

      1. foolofgrace*

        Since you’re sure you’re not going to meet the January goal, I would tell the boss “I am not going to be meeting this goal. This is what’s standing in my way. I just wanted you to be prepared for when I don’t have the required item.”

        Don’t pussyfoot around it, tell her in no uncertain terms that you’re not going to meet it, so she can come up with a Plan B. As far as job hunting, yeah, maybe. But it doesn’t sound like you can salvage January.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        Good advice, but I suggest using the term “not feasible” instead of “unrealistic”. I could see some oversensitive managers getting defensive and seeing it as a dig against them.

    8. Kiwiii*

      … are you the only person in your role? can you see if other people in your role are waiting on teapots to paint as well?

    9. pearanoia*

      Also…are other people on your team facing similar unattainable goals for finishing these teapots? I’m guessing after 1 or 2 months of no one hitting teapot goals, your management team will start to understand a little better what errors their strategy has.

    10. WellRed*

      When a boss calls you silly for no reason, you’ve got a bigger problem then being invited to attend meetings.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Start job hunting.

      But know that you cannot be the only person who is not able to meet the deadlines.

      Worst case scenario is what? You get fired? So this means you have a job until Feb 1. I can’t picture this one because it sounds like everyone will get fired some where along the line. But sometimes workplaces can become so miserable that it’s actually preferable to be fired. Sometimes I fear the misery more than I fear the firing. At least with firing you go home and it’s over then you can focus on job hunting.

      To gain some clarity here and really see this for what it is, suppose you actually hit the Jan. deadline? Now what. Let’s see, you get to fight this battle eleven more times this year. Just to get good reviews? Is it worth it? (I am not including the paycheck here because that will get spent on headache/stomach medicine and sleep aids.)

      You have at the base of this an ethical problem here. It’s really unethical to bank someone’s performance off of other people’s ability to produce. If the people before you cannot meet deadlines you don’t stand a snowball’s chance here. You are set to fail. Try, try, try to remember you are not the only person upset here, others are upset also. Perhaps you can find a peer who will join forces with you, minimally provide personal support or go larger and talk to the boss with you again.

      I worked for one company where BS like this was normal. I was able to bank off of other reliable people and find ways to cope. Management would eventually back down. But not before all of us had taken a thousand dollars worth of OTCs to cope with the incredible stress. The thing that is good to know here, that you get through 12 months of this and then next year it’s another BS thing that no one can do.

    12. Holy Moley*

      Im assuming that since its January and you work at a non-profit that the aggressive tea pot making is a result of a crappy December where expectations were not met for year end. I worked at a non-profit that had this happen and there were layoffs in Feb. My advise is to start job searching as it sounds like they are trying to find reasons to let people go.

    13. Aquawoman*

      Do the people giving you the inputs have “hard deadlines” also? If not, I’d suggest that you address with your boss that you can’t be expected to meet deadlines when the inputs you need DON’T have deadlines. If they do have deadlines–are those people meeting their deadlines? Also, I think you should ask which is the priority, the travel or the painting, since you can’t do both. If this teapot REALLY needs to be painted by 1/31, then they should cancel the travel. If there are never going to be deadlines for the inputs, but you have a month-end deadline, that means the last X days of the month have to be reserved for teapot painting, so you won’t be able to travel or do other assignments then.

      1. TechWorker*

        The phrase ‘day on day slip’ can be useful here, as in ‘I was expecting the teapot design by 18th January latest, as I’ve still not received them it’ll be a day on day slip to the final deadline’

          1. Indy Dem*

            I believe it to be – if my materials are a day late, my finished product will be a day late, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

          2. Sharkey*

            I’ve never heard it before either, but I’m guessing that if the design is delivered by 1/18 the 1/31 deadline can be met. For every day the design slips, the final deadline slips too. So if the design is delivered 1/20, it won’t be complete until 2/2.

            1. TechWorker*

              Yeah, basically the idea is to push the responsibility for meeting the deadline back on the deliverables, so that everyone is aware you really cannot even start your work until you’ve received the preceding bit of work. It’s used commonly in my company but possibly niche elsewhere!

            2. The New Wanderer*

              Oh, that seems incredibly useful. If you know it takes X hours or days to paint the teapot after it is delivered to you, then use this in your defense of not meeting a deadline that is subject to effects of delays from others.

    14. i_am_eating_cheetos*

      If only you could say, “Since I cannot meet this goal due to its dependence on others who will not deliver the necessary teapots to me in the appropriate time frame, would it be preferable for me to resign now in disgrace?”

    15. CRM*

      Sorry your boss is being so unreasonable, that stinks.

      Are the people you are waiting on input from in the same location as you? If so, I would pay a visit to them directly and explain the situation (put a brief meeting on their calendars if you have to). Being able to talk to them in person will have a much better response than an email, and you can express how much you know its sucks but it has to be done. I would also make sure they know about your goals for the year (one teapot every month) and tell them to prepare for this request once a month. That way, if you don’t meet this month’s deadline, you can assure your boss that you are on track for the rest of the year.

      I also strongly agree with Nonprofit Nancy’s advice, if doing that is at all possible.

    16. CM*

      Ugh. FWIW, whoever was in charge of setting these goals did a bad job if they created a timeline without factoring in a) when people in key positions would be away, and b) how long it actually takes people to do their work at each stage of the process.

      It’s tempting to blame the people further up the line, but they might have unrealistic targets, too.

      I think the first thing is to understand the timeline better. Go and talk to the team before you and find out when they reasonably expect to have the teapot done, and how long it takes them to do their part of the project in general, and be sympathetic to the fact that they might be getting screwed, too. If you need to, investigate with whoever’s before them in the project plan, too. Just get a really clear picture of when you can typically expect the teapots to arrive.

      Second step is to figure out whether the turnaround time is reasonable for you in a typical month (in which case the issue is just that you have vacation on certain months) or if it’s always going to be a case where teapot production takes longer than the plan allows. So, determine how long it takes you to do your part, and put that together with when you can expect to receive their part.

      If the issue is that the timeline is too tight overall, talk to whoever came up with it and/or set the goal. If it’s super inappropriate to do that for some reason (e.g., the CEO came up with it and it’s not normal to talk to the CEO without going through your manager), go back to your manager instead. Reveal what you’ve discovered about how long it takes to paint the teapots vs when you can expect to receive them and say that you don’t understand how it would be possible to finish one each calendar month. Then wait for an explanation of how it would be possible and go from there. (If you’re told you have to figure out how to make it possible, just say you thought about it and you can’t).

      If the issue is that the timeline would be okay if no one ever went on vacation, this is still a planning error, because people go on vacation. Do the same thing as in the paragraph above, but explain that the timeline is so tight and allows so little slack that it won’t work when you take vacation. If it WOULD work should you only take vacation at certain points in the month (like if you were always in the office the last week of the month or something) you could offer to book future vacation with that in mind, but point out that your current vacation was booked before these goals were set.

      But, either way, know that it’s a huge planning fail for someone to just say a deadline without taking into account how long the work will take or who’s available to do it.

    17. Mrs. C*

      I’m seeing a lot of great advice from everyone else on this already. I think the main thing I have to add is looking at it from a simplified/high-level perspective. From everything you’ve said:

      1. There’s no way you can hit that goal. Make sure you don’t beat yourself up when you inevitably fail. There was nothing you could have done.

      2. Your boss isn’t going to listen to reason. You’ve already brought clear evidence and made your points well, and your boss ignored all that and shot you down. I’d expect the same type of reaction from the boss moving forward, no matter how well you justify yourself.

      With those two points in mind, I’d be mainly thinking how to cover my behind when February 1st comes around. It sounds like you’re already doing a good job of documenting the steps you’re taking to advance toward teapot painting. Keep that up! It stinks that you’re in this situation, and hopefully realizing that you’ve done everything possible to succeed can help alleviate some of the (completely justified) hopelessness you’re feeling. It’s especially tough to do this in the nonprofit world, where you want so badly to advance the organization’s mission, but you’re human and you can only do so much. Forgive yourself for that.

    18. Former Govt Contractor*

      I agree with everyone else about it your boss and the deadline being unreasonable.

      However, I regularly have to depend on others to provide information I need to complete my projects by set deadlines. I always tell them my deadline and I follow up regularly if I don’t get a response. I’ll be a pest if I have to – the Court set the deadlines, not me. It’s not my fault. Reach out to their bosses if necessary; I’ve phrased it like, “Fergus isn’t responding on X project, is he out of the office?” That usually works.

      1. Mama Bear*

        Same. Let them know you have a deadline and need x thing in y timeframe because you have ABC due on 2/1 and this list of required work travel to accommodate. CC anyone who needs it, like your boss. Follow up every few days as necessary. Ask if there’s another POC (even if there isn’t) to show that you are working other angles. When it fails, because it probably will, you have documentation of the bottleneck, and evidence for a need for more staff if you need to travel and do this teapot thing at this speed. They can request miracles but not all water becomes wine.

    19. CM*

      What happens if you miss the deadline?

      Your boss says you can’t. You say it’s a hard deadline. But what is the actual consequence?

      Can your nonprofit afford to lose you? Because if you’re a valued employee, there’s a chance that you could repeatedly miss deadlines, and be criticized for it, and yet face no actual consequences beyond disapproval. If this is the case, you’re fine as long as you can manage your own emotions and anxiety about your boss being annoyed.

      Over time, if either you’re missing deadlines and they find they still need you, or others are also missing deadlines, the policy may change.

    20. Existentialista*

      As long as you’re not being asked to break laws of physics to make your deadline (e.g. teapot paint needs 14 days to set and you only have 10, planes take 14 hours to fly from Sydney to Los Angeles but you only have 5 hours), it’s in principle possible, but your boss will need to authorize you to go over budget.

      In projects, if the timeline is fixed, the only flex you have is in either Resources or Quality. If quality is also fixed, then you will need to look at adding resources – outsourcing more of the tasks to colleagues or contractors, dual-path-ing with another supplier, paying overtime and rush fees, buying a finished teapot at full price, etc.

      1. TechWorker*

        I would like to point out that whilst I think this is good advice in general, even without breaking the laws of physics this is not always necessarily true – eg if outsourcing the work would require training there isn’t time to give. This especially holds if you’re talking about a deadline in 2 weeks vs a deadline in 6 months.

    21. Jdc*

      I know you’ve mentioned reaching out to the others you need to complete your part but I’m curious how hard you’ve been on them, your ability to do that, etc. Sometimes something like this is best met with the “oh we are all so crunched I know but..”. And of course not just emails. Calls, face to face.

  2. Pretty Fly for a WiFi*

    TL;DR: I’m angry and demoralized because I’m excluded from leadership and board meetings that affect my job, then I hear about initiatives that they want me to implement second-hand or not at all.

    A little background: I’m the only HR person in a company of about 80 people. My title is HR Generalist, but I was hired to take over for the Director of HR when she left almost 3 years ago. The only thing “making” her a director was the fact that she supervised administrative assistants who had nothing to do with HR, and according to those people, she did it badly. Her background was not as a director at her previous position either – she’d been the same as me, a generalist. When I started, the HR department was in major disarray and didn’t have any systems in place to address very important parts of HR. So I cleaned everything up and set up new standards. I finished several things that had been on the director’s plate, single-handedly writing a compliant employee handbook, a safety handbook, an affirmative action plan (we’re government contractors), and a bunch of other labor-intensive initiatives. On top of that, when one of the VP’s retired, I inherited much of her work as well. In other words, other than managing people, I do the work of two very-high-up individual employees while making $20,000 less than my predecessor.

    The thing that has me angry and demoralized is that my boss, the CEO, has pushed for me to become a strategic partner, even approving seminars and classes so that I can develop that knowledge. But, whereas the old director of HR was invited to attend leadership and board meetings within a year of starting at the company, I have yet to be invited to any of those. When I pointed this out to my boss, she said it would be boring for me. Then she said I sometimes acted silly, but couldn’t give me any examples so that I could tone down whatever silliness she (or, I suspect, others) saw. I’m not one to interrupt meetings. Usually, I sit quietly (I’m an introvert) and wait until it’s my turn or someone asks me a question. I try to be professional in all my dealings with the leadership and board members. My boss has acknowledged that I’m the subject-matter expert in labor, benefits, payroll, recruiting, and on and on… including a very complicated retirement plan that the company has – my company is employee-owned and I have extensive prior experience with this.

    In seeing the board members assembled today, every single one of them is white. The old director of HR was also white. I’m Hispanic, which shouldn’t matter in my company as we have a large Hispanic workforce, albeit in lower-level jobs working outside (say, like construction crews). That’s one of the reasons I was hired: I’m completely fluent in Spanish and can interpret/translate and communicate with ALL our workforce. The old director wasn’t bilingual. I’m also one of two POC in “high” positions. The only other POC in a higher position works outside (say, like a superintendent in construction).

    I really enjoy my work and the people I work with. Even my boss is a very nice person – she’s not a great manager, but I’ve had worse. Before I go nuclear and call the EEOC, what can I say so that my supervisor includes me in these meetings that affect my job? I know that bringing up the issue of race/ethnicity might put my boss on the defensive, but I’m at a loss in trying to explain the huge problem I see with the way I’m being excluded.

    1. bleh*

      Can you use an example of you needing to implement something they decided and how your being at the table could have helped them decide something better and more efficient to implement?

      The $20,000 salary differential is a big problem too. Did they just “promote” you without a raise? And then add more to your plate still with no raise. Maybe you need to be searching or meeting with them about this as well. You need to write up all of these accomplishments (that the previous person could not accomplish) and get them to see the light – and or just find a company who will pay you better and treat you like an equal.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      “I know you think these meetings would be boring, but I believe that I can contribute by [example]. I also think that it would benefit my job because [example]. What can I do to demonstrate that I would be a key asset to these meetings?”

    3. Working Mom*

      I know you said you’re an introvert, so this may be hard – but don’t wait to be invited! Invite yourself! You noted that senior leadership wants you to be more of a strategic partner. Well, you can’t do that if you’re involved in these types of meetings! Why you’re not being invited… who the heck knows. But let’s get you into those meetings!!

      So – do you know when they are scheduled or do you find out after the fact that they’ve occurred?

      1. Shadowbelle*

        I must respectfully disagree — I don’t recommend attending a meeting, especially a leadership meeting, to which one has not been invited. It will be perceived as rude and pushy, and will not serve you well. *Never* go to a meeting without an invitation unless you are brought along by someone who has been invited (e.g. “I brought Julia with me because she’s an expert in this area.”).

        1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

          Hard agree. If someone invites themselves to *ANY* meeting in my company it is very odd and we kick them out. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small meeting between two people in marketing or a big one with leadership. If you weren’t on the list, don’t go.

          1. Working Mom*

            Yes – absolutely – I meant “Invite yourself” as an encouraging, go get ’em – let’s get you invited; but was dialing into a call and trying to be brief! Ha. Definitely don’t just show up – but advocate for yourself to get into that meeting!

        2. Shhhh*

          I agree as well–I was in a situation at a past job that shared some elements with OP’s situation, and it would have been a huge mistake to invite myself to the meetings I wasn’t invited to (which was part of the problem). I know this because I asked my boss’s boss at my boss’s suggestion and got a firm no accompanied by an explanation that was reasonable even though I disagreed with it. The situation was ultimately a factor in my decision to leave that job, but asking instead of just going let me maintain a good reputation until I did.

          For me, asking my grandboss instead of just resigning myself to the way things were without trying to see if there was room for change was the part where I broke from my more introverted tendencies. At least then I knew it wasn’t going to change and could act accordingly. So I think that’s probably OP’s best course of action – have another professional conversation about it. I think something like Daisy-dog’s script is a good way to approach it.

          1. Working Mom*

            Sorry – I didn’t mean *literally* invite yourself. Trying to be quick and muddled my meaning there. Where I was going with that is to advocate for yourself – find out when the next meeting is, and the go to you direct leader and say something along the lines of “as part of my goal to become a strategic partner, I’d like to attend this meeting to be a part of new initiatives and include the HR perspective in them, for successful execution.”

      2. Pretty Fly for a WiFi*

        I can look at the leadership’s calendars (my boss’ or someone else’s) to see when the meetings are scheduled. There’s also a standing meeting every week that I think I should attend, but without an invitation… :-/

        1. AccountantAnon*

          You have to know your culture – you can’t sit around and wait to be invited to meetings that you’re clearly being deliberately excluded from, but how much of a violation of office norms it would be is dependent on your workplace. I definately agree you need to push to attend – the method of that varies.

          “These meetings will be boring.” Reply: “I’m not here to be entertained, I’m here to work and I need to attend as part of my job for X, Y, Z reasons.”
          “This is only for senior leadership.” Reply: “I’m confused – my promotion explicitly said I was to be a strategic partner. Why, exactly, am I not counted as ‘Senior Leadership’ when I am the most senior person in HR?”

          And so forth… my grandpa used to say “Never tie your shoe in a watermelon patch.” It means the appearance of impropriety can be as damning as actual impropriety. The same goes for racism / discrimination. I’m glad you’re considering the EEOC. Good luck!

        2. Working Mom*

          Have you directly expressed desire to participate in those meetings and you’re still not being invited? I’d aim for a direct (but still respectful) approach. Clearly express that you wish to be included in those meetings for specific reasons – that you want to be a part of new initiatives, to ensure their success. If after you’ve directly requested to join the meetings and you’re not invited… that’s a different scenario. The leadership team may not have even thought about it – and sitting and waiting to get invited isn’t going to make any progress!

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Oh my god, that would be career suicide in many, if not most, companies. If someone did that at my company they would be marginalized and never promoted.

    4. Shadowbelle*

      If you are the only HR person, then it would be good for you to be in those meetings so that you can be aware of decisions/trends that affect the work you were hired to do. Can you go back to your boss and push again to be included? If she says, “You’d be bored,” again, tell her that you know that there are boring parts to everyone’s job and you don’t think being protected from boredom is helpful either to your development or your ability to do your job. If she says again “sometimes you act silly” (WTF?), suggest that you be invited to the meetings, and if you act silly in any of them, she will tell you about it (after the meeting!) and you will not attend future meetings until you have gone six months without being silly. Also ask her to point out any silliness as soon as possible after it occurs so that you can be aware of it and correct it.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        My experience is that someone who says, “Sometimes you act silly,” is repeatedly referencing one specific episode over and over again. Like, “PrettyFly spilled her bag and didn’t notice a banana fell into an accordion file until she went to onboard someone later and pulled out the banana from the file and started laughing hysterically!”

        Even though a situation like that might be a totally extenuating circumstance, it’s cemented in her brain as Who You Are As A Person, and she will not be convinced otherwise. It’s time to job search, IMHO.

        1. Nita*

          If you want to stay, it’s possible to change that perception, but it won’t change by itself. It’s hard work and you have to be kind of aggressive about pointing out what you do and how much you mean to the company. If you’re of the mindset that your work speaks for itself, this is not a good time for that mindset. You need to either insist you need to be taken seriously or, yes, start job searching.

        2. Mama Bear*

          I would go back to my boss and cite an example where it was difficult for you (and by extension the rest of the company b/c you handle so many things for so many people) and where it would have been better for you to be included. At my company, anyone manager or higher + other key leads are in a standard weekly meeting. I don’t speak much, but what I hear there often sets my priorities for the week so I asked to be included.

          If the boss continues to cite something as undefined as “silly” press for what they mean by that. “You keep citing that as a reason, but haven’t given me specifics. I cannot change what I do not know. What I do know is that the previous person in my role had a seat a the table, and not being at these meetings is impacting my job. I want the opportunity to mitigate this or to move on from this reason.”

          I might also reach out to someone else, like the organizer and ask how people are selected to be at the meeting and if you, as the sole HR person, could be included in the future.

    5. Meh*

      I’d explicitly ask to be included in these meetings, citing the work reasons you mentioned and that you need to have that information to do your job. And if your boss tries to tell you no for those wishy washy reasons, ask her for exactly what needs to change so that you can attend since you need to be present to do your work. I’d keep the race issues in your back pocket in case they keep giving you the runaround, but there’s just a little too much plausible deniability before going nuclear on them (since your predecessor was “technically” a director who did “manage” people, which could justify the inclusion of the meetings and higher pay). Though honestly, it’s ridiculous that you’re in this scenario, so I’d probably also be looking for somewhere better that treats you with the respect (and pay) that you deserve.

    6. NW Mossy*

      There’s a lot of stuff tangled together here, but it all seems to trace back to one thing: your boss doesn’t have a clear vision for what your role is. What you’re seeing in her behavior are symptoms of that, and while I can’t rule out that discrimination is the root, I wouldn’t rule that this is due to below-average management skills on her part.

      Instead of blowing up the whole thing (which I think you rightly recognize is maybe too much), try this: “Can we talk more about what you’re picturing when you say you’d like me to be a strategic partner? I want to continue to move in that direction too – I’ve accomplished a lot and I’m ready to tackle this challenge. I know you mentioned that I’d find board meetings boring, but those seem like a great opportunity to do more of the strategic work you’d like from me. The next one is [date], and I’d like to attend.”

      From there, really listen hard to what she says in response. A lot of your frustration is (quite reasonably) stemming from the disconnect between what she says and what she actually does, and this gives you a way to provoke that conversation in a way that doesn’t assume any particular motive on her part. That helps a lot to forestall any defensiveness and get a more truthful response.

      1. Lana Kane*

        I agree – ask these questions and really listen, because it will inform what you do next.

        You have a great skillset, so don’t discount starting to look for something else where they will be more utilized and valued.

    7. WellRed*

      When your boss calls you silly for no reason, you’ve got a bigger problem then not being invited to attend meetings. I also imagine it doesn’t help that your title is HR generalist and wanting to attend leadership meetings. Any chance you can also work on that piece of it? (with a raise).

      1. voyager1*

        The silly thing is serious. I had that used against me. Never could overcome it nor could I get an example of what the boss meant by it. Finally I concluded it was because I am extroverted and friendly to everyone.

        When I finally called this boss out about it, right before I left that job she said this:

        “The problem is you know your right and you are, but the problem is you know it.”

        This was in regards to knowledge and skills for a promotion and my skill set. In short I knew all the things, she just was threatened by a man who is confident and friendly. In short she zeroed in on friendly and twisted it into silly.

        I ended up leaving that job for a better paying job with more opportunity.

      2. Aquawoman*

        I think that BOTH parts of those objections are insulting. Saying someone would be bored is like calling them frivolous. My guess on “silly” is that someone at the C-level thinks that the idea of treating human beings as such is absurd and believes people should work without hard hats and doesn’t understand all of this “diversity” nonsense.

    8. Llellayena*

      “The person previously holding this position attended these meetings. I think that is critical to this position because of X. Can we arrange for me to attend the next meeting?” If the answer is “You’ll be bored” your response should be “Then I’ll be bored, but I need to hear the information from that meeting as it’s happening or I will be unable to implement the results of the meeting effectively.” If she says sometimes you’re silly you can say “If you give me specific examples I’ll work on that, but in the mean time I’ll make a concerted effort not to be silly in the meeting.” If you’re still stuck, the big guns you have are the affirmative action plan (which you wrote!) and the indication from the CEO that he wants you to become a strategic partner (do you have that in writing?). If you talk with the CEO, mention to him that you want to be in the meetings as part of that training. It’s a way around your immediate boss without specifically stepping on her toes since you’re asking him because of a different reason that you’re asking her….maybe.

    9. Mop.*

      Leave the company if at all possible. You have likely developed great skill sets, but without more exposure to broader business contributions beyond HR compliance stuff, your growth will be impeded. In general company leaders place less value on policy, payroll, etc. and more value on driving business initiatives.

      You are bright, bilingual and have an understanding of AA planning and recruiting. You deserve more than what this company may have to offer. Go somewhere that will include you in strategic decision-making so you can further grow your career. I’ve led various HR functions for many years at large employers and sometimes when I hear how my staff were treated at some (not all, of course) small employers, I cringe. They’d be told to be “strategic” but then relegated to just admin stuff and party planning.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh, you’re such a valuable asset and they’re taking so much advantage of you.

      They gave you that generalist title so they could try to make an excuse to pay you 20k less, they also are under the impression the difference in title, but not difference in duties should shield them from equal pay laws, which as an expert you know isn’t how that works. I can see through these transparent bigots all the way from here.

      I don’t have advice because when dealing with bigots, my advice is always “Leave and sue them until they run headfirst into bankruptcy.”

      But you’ve got my internet stranger support who knows what your skillset is worth, coupled with your hard work and enjoyment of your job [HR sucks, I hate it on my best days but I know how fulfilling doing it well can be, so I get it on that level]. You would be making so much more money somewhere else without this nonsense.

      “Silly” without exact reference points, hissssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss, that’s classic swerving in action. In accounting I want detailed receipts, I want it in HR too because details keep your ass out of the fire. It’s basic business sense. Hissssssssssssss, racists, hissssssssssssssssssss.

      1. Massive Dynamic*

        “Silly” makes me think that you’re also much younger than your predecessor (and most/all of upper management?) as well as female. I agree, you’re better off starting a job search to move to a company that’ll support your growth, pay you fairly, and not discriminate against you. Best of luck to you!

      2. CM*

        Yeah. There’s a theme here where the OP was hired into the HR Director’s job in every way that matters, but isn’t being treated as an HR Director. Part of what’s frustrating is that we can’t ever know for sure why, but my instinct is that the OP is probably right that race is involved.

        FWIW, it’s also really condescending to tell someone they can’t come to a meeting because it would bore them.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Right. How many jokes are there about meetings that should have been an email? Most meetings are IMO not very exciting. If that was the criteria, no one would attend anything.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Also Massive Dynamic makes a good comment about possible age issues too.

          Meetings are always boring, I’ve never had an exciting one in my life.

          I’m drug into every meeting on a leadership level and I literally had my eyes blur awhile back because of how painful it was, LOL. We’re buying new furniture and the sales rep was so…so long winded and I’m like “Just show me some desksssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss zzzzzzzzzzzzz.”

    11. lemon*

      I wonder if when your boss says “strategic partner,” she means, “we want you to look out for the best interests of the business instead of the employees,” and *not* “we want you to have a seat at the table.” :(

      This sounds like such a frustrating situation. I definitely relate, as I’ve often been the only Latinx employee in an org/team who isn’t support or maintenance staff. I wish I had advice to offer, but at least wanted to send empathetic internet vibes your way.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Her concern about you being bored is touching./snark.
      Let’s see I bet that very complicated retirement plan was so very interesting to read through. /more snark. I see more examples in what you say here.

      Go back and ask her what her real reason is for not allowing you to attend meetings. Tell her that it is not possible for the meeting to be more boring than the reading material for the retirement plan. Tell her you are compensated to find ways to work with boredom, that is part of your job.
      You say she is basically a nice boss. You may want to consider saying something like, “I have always thought of you as a nice boss, this does not fit with everything else I know about you. What’s up.” And don’t say, “What’s up” as if it is a question, no uptick in voice inflection. Say it like you know there is something she’d like to talk about but she isn’t talking about. You can press the point by saying that she supported you in taking seminars/classes in effort to become a strategic partner. Yet another reason why not allowing you at meetings does not fit with other things she is saying.

      1. Poppy the Flower*

        I really like this approach and I would try it before (not necessarily instead of!) going to the CEO to ask about a raise as suggested below. I had to do similar when I kept getting vague feedback at my last job. I was similarly direct and did mention how I’d tried specific strategies, but that didn’t seem to be working so I was there for specific suggestions/directions. Basically calling the person out on being too vague/constantly moving the goalposts. It worked and they seemed to really like me after that.

      2. AnonAcademic*

        Yes, I learned this from a department chair who was great at getting students to fess up about plagiarism. You go in with a tone of “I know SOMETHING is going on, and I need an explanation.” I had good luck with laying it out simply like, “You had me take xyz trainings so I could take on more of a leadership role. However you expressed concerns about me attending the meetings that would help me pursue that goal. Can you help me reconcile what’s going on?”

        I also like leading but non accusatory phrasing re: the diversity component, e.g. “It’s hard for me to understand the disparity in my pay and lack of integration into leadership here, particularly given that I am the only nonwhite person in such a position. Can you help me understand?” Be prepared with examples, like “Joe WhiteGuy attends all the meetings and makes XYZ, so does Suzie Caucasian in accounting and Bob Greyhair in operations. Without more context the pattern seems to be they are white and I am not. Can you help me understand?” Key is to sound mostly puzzled and mildly disappointed but not angry or anything implying “I have a lawyer on speed dial.”

    13. Former Govt Contractor*

      I think this calls for a big picture meeting with your boss. You deserve a raise, and you should make a case for one to your boss. You convinced me! As part of that discussion, you can stress again how important it is that you attend these meetings, and address the other discrepancies between your job and that of your predecessor. If you get nowhere, you might consider looking around. You sound like a valuable asset.

      1. CM*

        Yes, this!

        I would request a one-on-one meeting with the CEO to discuss your job responsibilities.

        At the meeting, make the case that you should get a director title, a raise to at least equal your predecessor’s salary, and treatment as a true strategic partner which includes being invited to leadership meetings. Refer to your own performance, abilities, duties, and track record; your company’s past practices; people in similar positions at your company; and norms in your industry.

        I’m a lawyer so I tend to be comfortable with being a little adversarial, but I would also say, “Given that I have VP-level responsibilities but am not treated as a member of the leadership team, and the large disparities in compensation, I have to wonder if being Latina is a factor. I’m sure nobody at this company would intentionally treat me differently, but I’m struggling to find explanations for why I make $20,000 less than my predecessor while having significantly higher-level responsibilities.”

        1. Triple Threat Diversity Hire*

          TBH I would be a little surprised if race wasn’t a factor in the “silly” comment. There is a big part of the stereotype people have of Latin@s that centers around being loud/chatty/frivolous (for femme types)/violent (for masc types), and it seems like often when a person in power just somehow can’t come up with any examples of a behavior they’re accusing us of, it’s a behavior that lines up with the stereotype… I understand why Pretty Fly might not want to come out swinging with that immediately, but they should probably prepare themselves to have to bring it up if they’re really looking for a resolution.

    14. Never Been There, Never Done That*

      “I have to attend those meetings if you want me to get the work done correctly. There really isn’t anyway around this, boring or not. If I can’t attend please give me the reason. ”
      That’s how I would push back for getting into the meetings. That said, I really think you should start looking at finding another job. You know you’re being hosed, they know they are hosing you. You have great skills and you should be compensated fairly for it. For crying out loud you aren’t asking for the moon! Start looking around for other jobs and I am sure you will find something better. Honestly, these people don’t deserve a great employee like you. They really don’t.

    15. Leap Year Conspiracy*

      I went through something like this in my own career (in HR). Here are my suggestions in addition to others suggested:
      – Start by asking to go to one or two meeting as a guest. Not all the meetings – just one or two with very relevant topics to your area or suggest a strategic topic you present and use the strategic partner requirement as a reason; your supervisor can say no but asking to go to one meeting to move the strategic partner request forward will make HER look silly.
      – Get yourself in front of the other leaders of the organization if you haven’t already, through the meetings but also through other ways like strategic projects (succession planning for example – if they don’t have a plan or haven’t updated it, use that to go out and talk directly to those leaders).
      – Start job searching casually. This will boost your confidence that you can find something else even if you want to stay where you are at ultimately.
      – Note how critical you are to them to gear up to the conversation with your boss about raising you up in title. I was key in a line of business my company was creating at the time – they were literally relying on my skills and replacing me would have been a huge pain for them. I was ready to walk if I needed to with a cushion so I felt like I had the power in the negotiation (which ultimately was with my boss’s boss – I had the longevity and connection to go over his head and knew his bark would be worse than his bite on it).

    16. CatMintCat*

      I’m completely stuck on the use of the word “silly”. I might perhaps use it with the 6 year olds I teach, but cannot imagine using it with any seriousness with another adult. If she’s using a juvenile word and can’t back it up with any sort of actual example, she’s the “silly” one. And a really bad manager. I’m not sure if this is salvageable, given her mindset about you.

    17. Tiffany Hashish*

      For the record, I’d like to plan a meeting with you, and we can only invite silly peeps who know their shit.

      You have plenty of great advice here for advocating for yourself within your company. I only add – if you end up looking for a new job, I think you’d rock in a small HR-centric business with all your niche knowledge.

      Trying to play those white dudes at their own game sounds exhausting. Go where you can make an awesome impact with folks who are aching to have you at their tables.

    18. Fey*

      Wow, this was me at my last job. The cleaning up of everything and setting up new processes, the having the lowest title (Office Manager) but doing everything my manager (also called the Director) should have done while she got all the credit…even the race thing (cept I’m Asian).

      You can try talking to the relevant parties as others have suggested. But FWIW when I did try talking, I was told I had “volunteered” to do HR tasks (like recruiting) apart from the usual OM duties (which were never clearly outlined) and was “not forced”. Based on that I had no right to ask for a raise or a change in job title because it wasn’t like she’d been praising me for all the good work I was doing and how much money I was saving the company for taking on things they used to outsource, etc.

      I resigned right away, without a new job lined up, because I was SO MAD. I don’t recommend that. I recommend developing a proper strategy. Talk to someone, but prepare to be told some bs, and start looking. Good luck.

    19. K8*

      Just commenting to say that I’m seeing the same thing at my company as well. My manager is the head of marketing at the company and she is excluded from all leadership meetings. She gets the same weak excuses as you do; it’s boring, it won’t change anything, etc. Demographically these meetings are also overwhelmingly male. It’s part of a wider toxic culture in the company where both my boss and me – the only marketers in the company – are not taken seriously as subject-matter experts and as colleagues who can make a strategic contribution. In spite of the fact that we are extremely diplomatic and have managed to make a strong contribution to the company (wherever we could) over the last 2.5 years. Needless to say I don’t see myself staying here for much longer and it’s the financial stability that’s keeping me around for the time being.

  3. Help*

    Any scripts for getting a difficult jerky coworker to work with me? Right now it’s like pulling teeth. The environment is toxic and he is the favorite among staff and the boss.

    We are supposed to work on projects together, but he will ditch me and then play it off as a joke, which really upsets me. He then tells the boss about the work that “we” did, when it was me and not him!

    He only attends meetings if the boss is going, otherwise he doesn’t show up.

    I don’t understand it because my coworkers seem to think it’s funny and enjoy the drama. (He tells them because I’ve heard them making comments about it.) Boss is conflict-avoidant, so nothing will happen to them.

    Is there anything to do or say?

    1. Clawfoot*

      Start documenting everything. Take minutes at every meeting, noting attendance specifically. Even if it just winds up being a meeting with just yourself (when he doesn’t show up). Note it. Document all the work you do on your own, and document all the work you and this guy do together (if any).

      Document, document, document.

      1. Colette*

        People often suggest this, but I don’t understand why. What’s she supposed to do with the documentation? The boss doesn’t need it, and there’s no fairness police who will review it and make him stop being a jerk.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          See the comments from Me and Shadowbelle below. This is step one of gradually putting the screws on jerky coworker.

            1. Me*

              They do though. One of the common questions when elevating to various levels of supervisors or HR is what have you done to work this out?

            2. Senor Montoya*

              Yes, you do. Otherwise, it’s just OP said vs. Jerk-Favorite said.

              You’re going to want it also if you are job searching — gives you great details for resume, cover letter, interviews. Not the fact that Jerk-Favorite didn’t do his bit. But all the stuff you ARE doing.

              Paper trail, baby. The most important How to Be a Successful Adult advice my dad gave me.
              ===============
              BTW, when Jerk-Favorite misses a meeting, I’d send an email (read-receipt it, this is an appropriate use of read-receipt plus also it’s gonna annoy him) summarizing the meeting. [this is part of your paper trail, and he’s a recipient, so it’s not “just you.”] Start with a bland statement like, “So sorry you weren’t able to attend our project planning meeting! Here’s what was covered:” Even if you were the only one at the meeting — use that time to work on whatever was the meeting agenda.

              If the meeting needed him to take action, then include that in your summary. I like to have a Summary section and then an Action Items section, with the action, who’s supposed to do it, deadlines, resources.

              Give your boss a weekly status report on your work, too.

        2. Another Millenial*

          Worst case scenario, if bosses try to blame OP for not getting work done, they now have proof that they at least tried and what kind of road blocks kept them from completing their tasks. The boss SHOULD need that.

        3. Alternative Person*

          It creates a trail of what you did. It might not be use to a manager, but HR might find it interesting if you can show you have a records of the work you did do but the other guy didn’t. And if not HR, it might be of interest to the Employment Board or whatever arbiter there is in your area.

          Also, for me at least, its a sanity check. I can look at my checklists, my e-mail chains, my records of meetings and remind myself, I’m not making a mountain out of a molehill, that there is a problem that needs to be solved and it is the co-worker.

          And one time, my notes got a shitty employer to pay out the wages they owed me, without having to go to tribunal. I had a diary of times worked (they didn’t), I had a signed note from them about unpaid wages, I had copies of the doctor’s notes, I had notes from a very contentious discussion, bullying text messages, the works. They lied about some stuff, but they couldn’t produce concrete evidence to support their side. It didn’t change the mind of the employer, but it made my case much stronger in the eyes of the Employment Board.

          1. Colette*

            I’m not sure what an Employment Board is, but I can’t imagine they’d care that the coworker is skipping meetings or taking credit for work he’s not doing. The person who should care is the boss – but if she doesn’t care, I doubt any amount of documentation is going to help.

            1. Alternative Person*

              Where I am, the Employment Board is basically a gov service for resolving work issues. If a workplace fires someone unfairly, or withholds wages (as in my case), then any documentation the worker can provide can potentially help them prove they were fired unfairly/owed money/set unreasonable targets. Certainly, they issue of the coworker skipping is likely not their concern, but the person can use their documentation to show they got screwed over and access their unemployment benefits/rest of their wages/get proper severance/agree wording on references to name a few potential issues.

              It’s not about winning the battle with the co-worker, or getting the boss to act, its about protecting yourself.

            2. Jedi Squirrel*

              Yeah, but bosses can come and go. If jerky coworker tries to pretend like he’s a star with new boss, Help can say, “yeah, actually he’s not; he shirks work, and here’s the proof.”

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

          Even if THIS boss isn’t going to do anything about John, there are almost always other authority channels to try. The OP doesn’t even have to be subtle about it either; John and the boss will probably catch on to being called out and tracked and may either change their behavior, because they realize they might lose their jobs, or stop “joking” about it and become overtly hostile — which will then make it easier for OP to make a case.

          If there is ever a chance to show to the grand boss, great-grand boss, the next boss after this one leaves, HR, unemployment office (if this lack of cooperation leads to constructive dismissal), or even a lawyer if this is a pattern John does specifically to coworkers of a certain race, gender, nationality, religion… the OP will need more than just their word about what occurred — keep and create anything in writing that shows who what where when… send emails specifically calling out behaviors like ditched meetings, rude comments, or non-response to calls/chats/emails.

      2. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. Then send them to your coworker and cc the boss as “progress reports.” This might also be a case for something like Trello or JIRA to track tasks and assignments.

    2. Me*

      When he takes credit for things you worked on alone, a great response is ” John, you didn’t show up to any meetings or respond to emails on this project. I’m really confused why you would say you worked on this?” In a friendly yet puzzled tone.

      1. ReformedControlFreak*

        That sounds pretty passive aggressive but if the other person is a jerk and it’s the only way, maybe

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

        Right! If it’s such a joke, lean into the “joking” and fire back with your own. “John, are you actually taking credit for my work? You didn’t even show up?!” ha ha ha, “John, while you were taking a nap, I went ahead and did XYZ.” ha ha ha. “John, in the meeting you missed, we decided you would take on X” even if the “we” is you, and X is the drudgery of the project.

        But mostly, try to stop showing that you are upset…because that’s what makes this funny for him (and the others). If you starve them of the laugh they get out yanking your chain, they MIGHT stop.

        1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

          Oh, I very much disagree that this approach will help at all! It encourages the toxic “joking” culture, when it seems like what Help wants is for there to be less passive-aggressive joking, not more. Also, if John enjoys the joking (if only to get a rise out of Help), but Help is only pretending to enjoy the joking but is actually mad, that will come through and people may come to the conclusion that Help is the source of the problem rather than responding to a problem.
          The way to approach this is to have a serious, calm, specific conversation with a higher up about what is happening and how it is affecting your work, Help.

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            I don’t know I’d dismiss Curtain’s approach. Help seems to indicate that there won’t be any support from above, and if the workplace culture already has toxicity ingrained into it there’s not much one person alone can do to change that.

            Help, you haven’t said it explicitly and I may be projecting here so please correct me if I’m wrong: it sounds like you are female and there potentially some gender dynamics coming into play? If so, returning the serve in the moment can sometimes be the most efficient way to shut that kind of immaturity down – as crap as that is. From my personal experience, showing frustration, or trying to remain uber-professional just ups the stakes for them and draws the whole thing out.

            Also, yes, document everything! Better to have it and not need it than vice versa.

              1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

                What does your gut tell you is at the heart of his behaviour..? (Not probing for a response on that FYI!) Just that your intuition can be a valuable guide on the context and what to do when there’s gendered undertones.

        2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          “Your insights from the Penske file were invaluable John!” ;-P

    3. Colette*

      Is a new job a possibility?
      If you have to stay, your choices are to accept the way he is or find someone else to work with if you can.

    4. Shadowbelle*

      Provide weekly status reports to your boss about the work you have done on the project (bullet points, not detailed scenarios). Include comments like “Waiting for Joker to provide teapot diagrams.” Next week, the comment would be “Teapot diagrams completed (Joker unfortunately had to work on other priorities, so I did the diagrams).”

      1. valentine*

        “Teapot diagrams completed (Joker unfortunately had to work on other priorities, so I did the diagrams).”
        I would make this “Completed teapot diagrams” and plainly state when Joker did sweet FA on the project.

        1. Shadowbelle*

          My reason for saying “Joker had to work on other priorities” is that it makes the OP sound like a good, professional team player, and does not alienate Boss, since Boss and Joker are BFFs. It gives Boss the opportunity to ask Joker, “What were your other priorities?” and lets Boss play manager and be important.

          Strategic manipulation is a key part of corporate success. You look good, Joker looks bad, Boss looks managerial, and (hopefully) you haven’t gotten on Boss’s bad side.

    5. Alternative Person*

      There’s not a lot you can do when someone doesn’t want to work with you.

      For meetings, create an e-mail chain, things like

      -Hey Ass, Meeting at 3 in room 7 0n Friday 12th of Jan.
      -Hey Ass, just reminding you about meeting at three today etc.
      When he doesn’t show up, CC in your boss.

      Start sending your boss updates and make use of lots of ‘I’ language. Be clear about what you are doing (attachments are also helpful for in-progress documents)
      -I prepared the llamas for treatment.
      -I wrangled the sugar plum fairies
      Make it clear you are doing all the tasks.

      Be matter of fact in interactions. Resist the urge to snark or roll your eyes to his face. Take all the air out of his drama fire.
      -Oh, no, I did that.
      – You didn’t come to the agreed meeting. I followed up and looped in the boss.
      -Please do X task. (repeat, blandly, bored. He probably won’t do it, but he won’t get any drama from it).
      State what you want and walk away. Remove all drama (till you get to your cubicle or bathroom, the roll your eyes enough to create a new source of renewable energy)

      Given the way you describe it, there might not be any way to fix this situation, as if the boss likes this guy, there’s not necessarily much you can do. Might want to start looking at your options.

    6. ursula*

      Can you start letting his balls just drop, and letting things become a problem for Boss? And just being extremely, flatly, unexcitingly matter-of-fact about what work you have done and what you were waiting for or depending on Jerkface to do? (This tactic is a bad idea in some workplaces, like where you provide life-or-death services to clients, but I have found this sometimes will get a conflict-avoidant boss to do Something, Anything)
      Also I’m sorry, that really sucks and it’s super disrespectful of him. If it helps, he will not do well in most other workplaces.

  4. Frustrated*

    Is there a secret or way to get someone to give you the lowdown when you start a new job?

    I’ve never had that. I’ve seen other people bond and discuss that info, but I’ve never been lucky enough and had to figure things out for myself.

    To clarify, I don’t mean gossip or anything, just someone who can give you info on things and other stuff that people need to know.

    1. Antilles*

      I’ve never seen that kind of lowdown either.
      Instead, it seems to be far more common to get specific training on specific items- the HR person sits down to explain how our timesheet software works, the office manager says how to request PTO, etc…but not like a generalized sit-down with one person that goes through all the nuances. And if you’re trying to get these sorts of focused rundowns, the only real way to do that is to figure out a good person to ask and grab them with a “hey, since I’m new here, can you show me ___”.

    2. Oranges*

      I’ve done the “Hey, what’s up with [insert name here] they seem kinda [insert tactful descriptor here].” But I’ve never gotten a full scoop. Mainly it’s because as a newbie people don’t know if you’ll keep your mouth shut about what they’ll tell you.

    3. Bluebell*

      I think this can sometimes be accomplished by informal coffees or lunches when you are just starting a new job. You don’t have to explicitly ask people to tell you that sort of thing, but you can bring up the topic of “so what should I know around here“ over coffee or lunch. I actually had a colleague sit down with me right after she started, and asked me point blank “so what can you tell me that you couldn’t tell me during the interview?” We actually became friends and are still friends today even though we’ve both left that place.

    4. PX*

      Network and or just ask.

      Networking is trickier and depends on your personality type, but spend a couple of weeks observing office dynamics and then finding the right person who seems to know how things ‘really’ work can be useful.

      Alternatively asking friendly colleagues openly can be a way to do this. Something along the lines of ‘So what are the office/people dynamics like here?’

      Shameless eavesdropping on office conversations is also a thing…

    5. Adlib*

      I’d say it’s not the norm, but at my current position, an existing employee is assigned to new hires (not always in the same department even) to show them the ropes in general and answer any informal questions that they may not feel comfortable asking HR or their new boss just yet. (We call them “sherpas” which, I get it, but it’s goofy.) For example, I asked just how strict the dress code is when I started because I saw variations, and we are typically business casual or nicer as an industry. It was pretty helpful, and it’s something I’d like to see replicated elsewhere.

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

      Support roles that work across departments like admins and IT pretty much know all the dirt.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I think the trouble is that if they’re good, they won’t necessarily trust a brand-new person with that dirt. The only times I’ve ever been given a “lowdown” by a seemingly friendly insider, I’ve realized within months that the person sharing the stories was a problem herself.

        The only insider info I’ve ever given was stuff like, “This entrance is easier to get to from your train stop. Don’t be fooled by the hamburgers in the cafeteria, they’re terrible. We have a regular standing meeting at noon on Monday, eat a snack before you go.”

        1. Selmarie*

          This! I make a practice now of being professionally friendly to everyone with a bit of a skeptical eye about overly-friendly, chatty coworkers, as I, too, have found that they often have their own issues in their employment. It doesn’t pay to become too friendly until you’ve had time to observe and get the lay of the land, and often employees with issues are looking for support; understandable, but it won’t help you. I think it’s wise to keep your own counsel and observe. It usually doesn’t take long to figure things out.

          1. Krabby*

            I completely agree with this. If someone is giving you the ‘lowdown’ on other employees and you haven’t been there for more than a month, that person is the problem.

            We had a very gossipy, negative admin assistant in my last job who would always get friendly with some of the new hires and take them out to lunch and “take them under her wing”. You could always tell who was going to be a problem by who didn’t shut down or minimize the friendship after that first lunch with her.

            Luckily we were able to terminate her employment before her little posse of toxicity spread too far. Most of her group quit or mellowed out after she left.

            1. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

              Experienced this firsthand in my current job: One co-worker wanted to tell me about drama from almost day one, and for a while, seemed to want me to “find” my own drama. When I expressed zero interest in bad-mouthing others, and when I consistently demonstrated ease in navigating work relationships, she “gave up” on me.

            2. Jeffrey Deutsch*

              Yes, people (other than your boss and similar folk) who want to take you under their wing right away commonly (1) are on the outs and trying to shore up their position by ensnaring newbies before said newbies can find out they’d be backing the wrong horse and/or (2) have a bad attitude about management in general or specific others in particular, and want to get the first word in with the newbies.

          2. Lily in NYC*

            Huh, I am friendly and chatty and often help new hires figure out the lay of the land. The “lowdown” doesn’t have to mean it’s baseless gossip – it is things like, “if you fill out your timesheet this way you will accrue leave faster (weird loophole we have), or letting them know not to take it personally if the CEO’s assistant is rude to them because that’s just the way she is. Or that we are really easygoing about vacation time. But thanks for assuming the worst about those of us who try to be helpful! It’s great to know there are people like you who would look askance at a sincere effort to welcome them and would assume that I have work issues and can’t be trusted. Nice.

            1. June First*

              Lily, I am like this, too! Especially when I am training someone because it can be a culture shock to learn our org does things in a Very Specific (and sometimes counterintuitive) Way.

            2. Krabby*

              I think there’s a difference between telling someone “don’t worry about Alice, she’s like that with everyone,” and “Alice is in love with her boss and thinks she’s in competition with us all for his heart, so she can be pretty nasty.”

              One of those helps avoid drama, the other perpetuates it. I think that’s the distinction AvonLady and Selmarie are making.

              The type of help you give sounds like the positive version :)

    7. Daisy-dog*

      I’m awful at asking questions, so I get what you’ve gone through. Sometimes it’s just based on the personality type of the people that you work with. I’ve worked with people who love to talk and some that don’t. I learned more about my job from a talkative long-time employee once than from my actual supervisor.

    8. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I’m one of the people who will occasionally give that inside scoop.

      -First, I have to feel like putting in the effort. I simply don’t always have the time/energy/interest.
      -Second, I have to feel like it’s safe talking to you. This isn’t quantifiable, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It’s probably not even based in reality. Tied up with this is do I like you enough/feel bad enough that you don’t know the backstory to make the effort.
      -Third, there needs to be backstory important enough to bother. Sometimes it’s just not critical. If you’re going to walk into a firing line without some warning, I’m more likely to try to warn you. If you’re just going to look silly for a bit, eh, you’ll live.

    9. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I have given the low down, but it was in a situation where we already knew each other and the boss was a toxic, hot mess, but the work was super cool and unique so worth doing. I had recommended she apply, but felt I owed it to her to give her a heads up.

    10. Undercover Bagel*

      Probably not the answer you want to hear, but I think it mostly depends on luck or just having a disposition where people feel comfortable telling you things. I definitely have that, and often receive company lowdowns or gossip without going out of my way to try and learn anything. (Not saying that I enjoy it, I actually really hate talking about people when they’re not around.)

      I will say over the years I’ve noticed that people who are willing to share “secrets” with you are often the same people who contribute dysfunction to a workplace.

    11. Holy Moley*

      At my new job I asked a few people like this “Is there anything about the office culture here I should know about so I don’t step on anyone’s toes?”

      Worked for me!

    12. Skeptical Squirrel*

      My company raised the rates of insurance this year so now I am making less per paycheck than last year. Yay for a negative raise!

      The insurance itself is really terrible with high deductibles to be met before anything is covered.

      I will be very surprised if we get any increases at all this year. Last year was 3% unless you were promoted within the year. The year before was 1%. This year doesn’t look very promising.

    13. Getting the Info*

      Some of it is putting yourself out there and some of it is being the type of person that others feel comfortable telling you about things.

      I find the easiest way is to start with harmless/no stakes questions. This is very much position dependent, of course, but I sometimes just start with “Hey! Any tips on dealing with X?”

      If you’re in a role that deals with repeat clients/people and someone is acting different than others you’ve dealt with, depending on your comfort level, I’ve done the “Hey! I was dealing with X on Y and I noticed [something neutral but just off]. What’s been your experience with X?” If they’ve had positive experiences, then follow it up with asking for tips. If it’s been negative, they’ll tell you and you can both laugh about it.

      I ask a lot of questions. You have to take the initiative. If you make people feel like they’re an expert, they’ll want to share information with you.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      Ask people. Try to be deliberate, such as don’t ask a random person for help on a problem with the shared printer. Ask the person you noticed is the one who lifts the covers off and pokes around inside. There is at least one such person in a group or building.

      Another example, but this is kind of stupid, if you see Tim cleaning his desk and you would like to clean your desk ask Tim where and how he got the cleaning supplies. The general idea is when you see people doing something you want to do, ask them the how’s and where’s. “Gee, I’d like my AC installed, too. How do I go about that?”

      Different scenario: You do all X’s and then pass them to Sally. You start realizing that you could streamline the X’s and do them quicker/more organized/whatever. Go ask Sally if that would be helpful on her end. You can also ask her for her ideas.

      Follow ups are great. If you ask for advice and it works, go back and say “It worked, thanks!” Or if someone comes to you and asks you for something that is a bit involved, after you get it for them, check to see if they have what they need. (Not all the time, just randomly check back with people where it makes sense.) Follow ups can leave the door open for more information exchanges.

      Let’s say you find out Sally used to do X’s but she has moved on. Ask her if you can come to her with a question or problem if the need arises. I do mean ONE question or problem, not ten. If she says no, just say you understand, it’s not a problem. Ask permission to ask random questions from appropriate sources.

      I am not sure how much this would be useful for your setting. Some jobs I have had, I could not do this because I had constraints I had to adhere to. But if you have the wiggle room, tell people that you are happy to help them any time. In other words, show your availability/willingness. There are a staggering number of people who do NOT help their cohorts. Showing willingness to help will open doors as the recipient will be more willing to help you also.

      It takes time to build this. What appears to be add water and stir instant friendships or bonding at work probably isn’t or the relationship fades shortly. This is good to keep in mind. If we want to convince ourselves we are on the outside looking in, we probably will. It’s not hard. The part that is hard is going ahead and building working relationships anyway. I have worked with people that I consider a privilege to work with. Sadly, we were not friends outside of work, I would have enjoyed that, too. They were just quality people. But there are many people out there who, just like you, want a work friend who is consistent and thoughtful and reliable. Be that person and you will attract those people.

    15. AMT*

      Is there a Facebook group or other online group in your city for people working in your field? I’m a member of my grad school’s alumni Facebook group and it’s great for these things. There’s always a “does anyone know what it’s like to work at X clinic?”-type thread going at any given time.

      Some workplaces will let you chat with potential coworkers, too. Just yesterday, I sat down with a group of coworkers and answered questions about my work environment/boss/clients/etc. from someone applying for a position on my team. I wish more organizations did this. You could ask the hiring manager if it’d be possible to talk to someone in the role you’re applying for and/or on the team you’ll be working with. If they say yes — good sign!

      1. AMT*

        Read your question again and it occurs to me that you meant as a new employee on the job, not someone applying for a job. Sorry!

    16. Squidhead*

      You might be able to frame (some) questions as “At my oldjob the process for X was A-B-C. Is it the same here or is there something special I need to know?” Obviously some of those things should be covered in your training, but tasks you don’t do frequently might be missed.

      Here’s an example from my hospital workplace: To give a patient a blood transfusion, I need an order for the transfusion, an order for the blood, a current blood sample (they expire every 3 days), and the patient’s consent. Then I need to fax the order to the blood bank for them to match a unit. Then (after the tell me it’s ready), I need to fax them a different form. Then they’ll send the blood by pneumatic tube with a form that has to be returned primptly! Tips a new person wouldn’t know include: call them to make sure they received the fax if you’re in a rush, don’t fax the 2nd form until the blood is ready, and make sure someone is listening for the tube system to deliver it or you won’t know it’s here.

      So, having a friendly person walk you through that process will definitely make your life easier. And framing it as “I’m generally familiar with X, what do I need to know to do X here?” might help you establish credibility and get helpful info. This probably applies to some interpersonal “lowdowns” as well but I read your question as feeling uncertain in general.

        1. Squidhead*

          Yep, as long as the patient is in the new wing! The tubes have some sort of tracer on them…losing a unit of blood due to a stuck tube is Not Okay. In the old wing we walk to the blood bank to get it.

      1. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        That’s really good phrasing! In my experience, hospitals are rife with non-intuitive workflow that everyone assumes is intuitive because its always been that way. It was particularly difficult as a medical student rotating at different hospitals, because I would know how to order x at one institution that used y system, but that was no guarantee that I would know how to order x somewhere else!

    17. NicoleK*

      I’ve given tips and relevant info beyond the very basic training to new employees before. It just depends on if I click with the new person. We just hired my replacement. And I had been planning to share key tricks and tips with this new person, things that would make her tasks easier or efficient, but she was giving me attitude her third day on the job. Sure as hell not going to share tips that I’ve learned in my 3 years with her now.

    18. Ruby*

      Honestly, handover from the current person in the role.
      I’m starting at a new workplace, and I’ve got a week with the person who is leaving. They have been great with telling me where the problems are buried. The issues that they’ve flagged I think would have taken me a loooong time to figure out by asking the current employees, who as everyone else has mentioned may have more hesitations and self-interested reasons to not share with me.
      I’ve had to move heaven and earth to get our schedules to match up but it has been invaluable and I would recommend it where possible.

  5. Salary Woes*

    Super frustrated with this year’s “increase” which yet again does not meet inflation. Company is crying poor/bad economy, despite being in the midst of a multimillion-dollar acquisition. I finally got up the nerve to specifically ask my boss if the annual “increase” (which is always worded specifically that way) is in fact a COL adjustment, or if they are considered raises. I got a three-minute song and dance about the way the company structures “increases” per department, and how distributing those funds is up to the director of each department, but no actual straightforward answer.

    I’m tired of this company stonewalling me on market rate…they refuse to acknowledge the data I present (both BLS and Professional Society for my field) and instead insist that they only use salary data they purchase from some rando number-crunching firm.

    Does anyone have experience with these places that package and sell salary data? What’s the scoop?

    1. ThatGirl*

      I don’t know if it matters whether they consider it a raise or a COLA, the fact is, that’s what they’re giving you. I personally have only seen my raises labeled “merit increase” even if they were a piddly 0.9%.

      If your company is refusing to consider any additional increases, your data doesn’t matter — they’re telling you you’re not getting anything additional. If you want better pay, it seems like it’s time to look elsewhere.

    2. Rebecca*

      Commiserating – my employer says “we pay well above market rates”, based on job posting websites here, BUT…being a customer service rep at a dollar store (running cash register or stocking shelves) is very much different than being a full on teapot account manager, which is what we do, under a customer service title. I rec’d an hourly increase of less than 50 cents an hour this year, and it’s not COL, they don’t do that here, and my insurance premiums went up. I’ll be lucky to have the same take home pay as last year. The insurance is awesome, it would be considered a cadillac plan, and that’s the only reason I’m still working here.

    3. Antilles*

      Clarification: Do they actually show you the “salary data from rando number-cruncher”? Because I’m skeptical whether this data shows what they claim it does or even exists at all.
      That said, I’m only asking for my own edification, because it actually doesn’t matter to the outcome for you. Whether or not they truly have such data is irrelevant; they’re not going to change their mind either way. Any company that’s pushing back on your (fairly thorough, it sounds) data and citing their own structure…that’s a company who’s unlikely to be flexible.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes, exactly my question.
        IS there a local employer’s association that your company belongs to? That may be the source of the salary data.

        Here in San Diego, there’s SDEA (San Diego Employer’s Assoc). They compile salary data via a survey of all of their members. This is touted as the “going rate” for San Diego. And yeah, it’s well shy of professional organization’s salary data and BLS too.
        It’s also skewed. It represents a small fraction of all employers in San Diego.

    4. Natalyst*

      Payscale has salary reports that some orgs pay for. The reports I’ve seen have a range and are based on general location.

    5. CAA*

      You will never get an answer as to whether your increase is a “COL adjustment” or a “raise”. That terminology typicallly doesn’t mean anything unless you’re in a union and have a negotiated contract. At most companies budgets just have one number for “labor”. It’s not broken out into “base”, “inflation increase”, “merit increase” even though that’s how employees sometimes think of it, so the answer your supervisor gave is very likely the only one there is, however unsatisfactory that may be.

      Salary data is usually purchased from one of a few companies that do this type of data collection. It’s pretty accurate as long as your job fits in one of their categories. The problems I’ve seen mostly have to do with the person’s real job covering parts of several of the rated job descriptions. Sometimes that lowers the overall value of the role because the person only does a few of the higher value activities, but sometimes it raises the value because the person uses a broader range of skills and accomplishes more tasks than one person would normally be expected to do. Another issue with the data is that it only accounts for metro areas. If you’re in a more remote area where people with your skills are vary hard to find, then it might undervalue you; or if you’re in a more remote area where cost of living is lower than in the nearest city, it might overvalue you. The data is a starting point, but the person evaluating it has to apply their own judgment and experience as well.

      The bottom line is that your true market value is whatever another company is willing to pay for your services. It sounds like it might be time to put yourself out on the market and see what kind of offers you get.

    6. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Companies that won’t pay in line with market then deserve to lose the employees they have. Look around.

    7. Tarable*

      You have my sympathy. My own firm has given the staffers the same flat dollar amount raise every year, which when you work out the percentage means our raise decreases every single year. My last raise equated to about 1.9%, and I’m considered a stellar employee. My advice is to look out for yourself. Evaluate the pay, the benefits, commute, and any other perks and decide if it’s worth it to stay. Keep your eyes open for better opportunities in the meantime.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Eh. If they won’t identify it as a COLA or a real raise then go ahead and name it yourself.

      To my way of thinking if it doesn’t even match inflation, I would it call it an Attempted COLA. In other words they are not even successfully giving out COLAs.

    9. Ms. Anne Thrope*

      Soul Sista! I’ve gotten a grand total of maybe 5% over 7+ years. Whoopee.

      There’s nothing for it but to leave, though. Executives always think they need another bonus but the actual workers don’t need to keep up with rising rents and medical costs.

    10. Desk Luncher*

      I’m in the compensation side of HR and there are salary surveys that exist that have legitimate, strong data. It depends on the quality of survey company and the data they collect – they can get quite expensive but you get what you pay for. Unfortunately if that is what your company’s philosophy is for establishing pay (to use whatever company they seem to like), it will be hard to change their mind about using other data.

  6. irene adler*

    I encountered an HR person recently who limits phone screen interview appointments to 8:30 am to 11 am daily. No afternoons. No exceptions.

    Seems a little too inflexible to me. Many applicants work days. Stepping away from one’s desk for 30 minutes in the morning might not go over well with one’s employer. Only way to accommodate this interviewer would be to use the doctor’s appointment excuse. Fair enough.

    I should add: This limited availability was not indicated up front. Initially, I was instructed to submit my availability for a phone interview, which I did (any afternoon after 2 pm). She immediately rejected this- appointments must be before 11 am. I then asked for a very early morning appointment as I start work at 4:30 am (3:30 am). She said that she is only available during the “core hours after 8:30 am”. Next, I told her I’d take a half day off on Friday (today) for a 10:30 am or 11 am appointment.

    It’s been a few days and there’s been no response to my Friday appointment request. So, I guess I’m out.

    This position is at a big employer with multiple divisions. I’ve been phone screened for other positions at this company, albeit by a different HR person each time. Probably even a different HR department too. For these interviews, there has been no issue with an afternoon appointment. I wonder if the inflexibility is inherent throughout this specific division, or just with this particular HR person. Course, I’ll never find out.

    Maybe a blessing in disguise not to get this job. Is such inflexibility with scheduling HR phone interviews normal?

    1. Faith*

      I wouldn’t say this inflexibility is normal, but did I understand correctly that you had suggested a 3:30 am interview time to her? Are those hours typical/normal in your field? And more importantly, would the interviewer have those same hours (it didn’t seem like it from her response). Otherwise it comes across very weird.

      1. irene adler*

        Regarding the early hour, it’s hard to say. Biotech has multiple shifts and strange start times and folks working all sorts of odd hours. Thought perhaps while not a normal interview time, that if she’s already up early, then why not? Or she’d be amenable to say, 5:30 or 6 am. I would then have a late start that day.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Being rigid about 8:30 to 11 a.m. interviewing is not normal; sticking to, say, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. IS normal. While you may be alert at 4 a.m., I can’t really imagine that’s true for most HR departments. Especially if you’re in the same time zone.

      2. fposte*

        Yes, I wasn’t clear on that either. That would be unlikely in most fields.

        I definitely think this interviewer was particularly inflexible, though; it’s just that for some jobs inflexibility doesn’t hurt the hiring result, so they can keep it even if it hurts some applicants.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        If it can’t be after 11am, I’d assume it was a time zone issue (eg I’m in the UK and deal with someone in Sydney, so 11am my time is a hard cutoff for him for anything) and therefore 3.30am might be possible.

    2. bumbletea*

      This is definitely not normal. Many candidates are unable to talk during that time, and for it to not even include what could feasibly be someone’s lunch break shows that the HR person isn’t prioritizing the candidates at all.

    3. Researchalator Lady*

      It’s definitely not typical, but I think you probably took yourself out of the running by suggesting 3:30 am (that would be considered the middle of the night relative to a typical 8:30 – 4:30 shift) and then suggesting 11:00 am when she said appointments must be during core house before before 11 am. I would have suggested a time on the hour – 10:00 – rather than a half hour, but you do well to assume it’s their loss.

    4. Threeve*

      They’re being unusually rigid and formal about it, but being offered set blocks of time for phone screens (“a half-hour phone call between 11a-2p on Tuesday, or 2p-5p Friday”) is pretty normal. Some interviewers will be happy to look at other options, some will say they’re happy to but they’ll end up prioritizing the candidates they speak to first, and some will be strict about it.

      People don’t generally view a half-hour away from your desk as something you have schedule time off for, although I realize that’s not the case for everybody. I work in a low-walled cube farm where people absolute notice if I’m away from my desk for a while, but I’ve always just casually told people something like “I have to make a call about an insurance thing, I shouldn’t be too long.”

    5. Aquawoman*

      I think that if someone will only do phone interviews during 2.5 hours of an 8-hour workday, that should be disclosed up front rather than doing the “guess!” “Nope, guess again!” method.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        This seems to me to just be part of good “trying to schedule a meeting/appointment of any kind” practices. If you know which specific chunks of time you’re scheduling something during, giving people that information up front and asking them to suggest 3-ish times within it that would work best for them seems like the standard way to try to schedule something like this by email to minimize how much back-and-forth you need with each person.

    6. CRM*

      I would agree that she’s being a bit rigid, but I think for a 30 minute conversation (it sounds like this would be an initial phone screen, which may even take less time than that) it’s worth trying to accommodate their schedule if you truly want or need a new job. . If you can’t step away from your desk for 30 minutes, you could have chosen the 10:30 slot and say you have to leave work early for a doctor’s appointment or something. For me, doing stuff like that is par for the course during a job hunt.

    7. Mama Bear*

      What I would find annoying is that she only said “before 11” and did not specify the “after 8:30” part. While 3:30 AM would make me pause, if the person asked for the interview before their workday and I knew that, I wouldn’t hold it against them. If you really want the job, ask if you are on the schedule before you take a half day off work.

      1. Beatrice*

        Yeah, if she listed 11 am as the latest, and the field has a lot of swing shift/weird hours, I might assume she started super early and 11 am was the end of her day.

      2. Mia 52*

        Hmm. Isn’t it implied that it wouldn’t start before say 7:30 or 8 at the earliest? If someone says “in the morning” before 11am, I would not assume that 3:30am is included in that. 3:30 am is the middle of the night to most people.

    8. Oh No She Di'int*

      Both sides seem a bit dodgy here to me. She certainly should have told you the time window up front. That would have saved a lot of back-and-forth and is just good recruitment etiquette. However, once you were told about the 11:00 cutoff time, it does seem slightly peevish to then suggest a 3:30 am interview time. I suppose it depends on the industry, but it would seem a safe assumption that a typical HR department would start business at 8 or 9 o’clock.

      So while the time rigidity may be unusual, I don’t think the response here was necessarily the best possible one either.

    9. june june hannah*

      Maybe this person is on a part-time schedule and that is why only a few hours per day are available for interviews. I agree with others that I’d be taken aback if a candidate asked me to interview them at 3:30 in the morning.

      1. Mia 52*

        I think I would assume they were sending me a snarky joke email if they asked to be interviewed at 3:30am. Honestly, my guess is they thought that you suggesting 3:30am was you taking yourself out of the running, as I don’t know anyone who would think that was anything aside from a joke or a snarky retort.

  7. Rayray*

    I’m planning to quit my job soon. I got the job back in April and I am frankly miserable with it. It’s an admin assistant job which I didn’t want long term anyway but I desperately needed an out from a dead end job at a toxic office. It’s a very small company, only three of us full time. My boss micromanages me and treats me like a child. It’s absolutely insane. I really wonder if she gave up babysitting me if she’d then have time to just do my tasks anyway. She’ll spend more time making me do checklists, email her what I’m working on, making me go through her to contact people instead of doing it directly myself, CCing her on everything, listening to me while I talk on the phone, and so much more. I tell people stories about things she does and everyone tells me to quit. It’s unlike anything I’ve dealt with before.

    Anyway, any advice on what to say when I give my two weeks notice? As much as I hate the job and she drives me crazy, I feel a little bad quitting so soon. I don’t have a new offer yet and I am not going to quit till I do, but I did send out a few resumes and contacted a temp agency. I’ve never quit a job after so little time, and where there’s so few people that I know it will really rock things for my boss which may trigger a bad response. I’d almost be more relieved if she fired me on the spot because I bet she’ll make me miserable for a two week notice period.

    Here’s a fun story from yesterday: I updated a spreadsheet, and had been asked to add a note about one thing that gets automatically billed each year. I typed in “Automatically bills each year”. I then emailed it to her as I have to do with everything even as minor as that. The response? “Please change automatically bills to automatically billed”.

    Oh. My. Hell.  Even if the semantics mattered that much, it definitely took more time and effort to email me that than to just make the change herself. She could have even made the change and just emailed back to say so and I wouldn’t have even been phased at all. She’s just ridiculous that way. I have more stories but this comment is already way too long.

    1. Birch*

      I don’t have a ton of usable advice but just to commiserate–I have a boss who pulls similar obnoxious micromanaging. I’ve been advised to “grey rock” it–i.e. give her exactly what she needs, no more, no less, and act aloofly confused if she reacts negatively or tries to make your work life difficult. And be happy that your time is limited!

      1. Rayray*

        I like that. I already really try to be a step ahead and give what she wants ut she can be unpredictable. I like the idea of trying to act more aloof when she tries to be difficult. It may tke it down a peg.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          This is a bit crass, but I read this in a Robert A. Heinlein book– one of the characters, a writer, was talking about editors. “After they pee in it, they like the flavor better.” This passage always comes into my head when I’m dealing with a micromanager. Once you realize this is what they’re doing, and that it is absolutely no reflection on you but only on them, it makes it easier to get through the absurd, ridiculous day. Just smile blandly and make the changes, thinking that you will be out of there soon.

          When you give your notice, just say “Another opportunity has come up that was too good to pass up. Thank you for all you’ve done for me, and I wish you and the company all the best.”

    2. fposte*

      Quitting announcements in that kind of situation are strictly template. “I wanted to let you know that I’ll be leaving Teapots, Inc., and my last day here will be March 15. I’ll put together transition documents for you in the remaining two weeks.”

      1. Another Millenial*

        Yes, you aren’t obligated to give a reason. If pressed, and you really feel like it’s going to affect your reference, just say “I got a great offer.” Doesn’t have to be true.

      2. SuperAnon*

        Agree. And stop feeling bad for quitting this job. Your boss made it untenable; it’s nothing to do with your dedication.

        1. Rayray*

          So true. Thanks for the help. I’m a worrier, and I know it will be okay. What a great day it will be to quit this place.

          There’s a sort of sister company, owned by someone in the family we work for. All those people are a delight and it’s what made this just a little bearable.

          1. WoodswomanWrites*

            Also, she might fire you on the spot and it would be good to be prepared, both mentally and financially. It could happen. Do you have any vacation time she’ll have to pay out, etc.? If you can afford it, leaving as soon as you give notice could be a blessing. Good luck getting out of there soon!

    3. Calathea*

      That sounds SO exhausting. I worked for a boss who also loved to micromanage – I had to print out drafts of emails to bring to him, which he would then mark up with pen and make trivial edits to before I got permission to send them. I’d love to hear more of your stories!

      1. Rayray*

        – I don’t get my own email address. Usually it’s “yourname@company.com” but I’m stuck with “blahblahsassistant@company.com”

        – When I need receipts for a credit card used by someone off site, I Email her the scanned statement and she emails him and then forwards it to me, rather than just having me email him myself.

        – I know she occasionally rifles through my desk, to make sure I’m doing things.

        -I know she has gone through the recycle bin to make sure what I’m rrfying vs shredding. I’m most certain she dug stuff out of the shred cabinet once too.

        – told me I wasn’t allowed to delete old emails from the last unfortunate soul with this job, even though they were years old.

        – Sets tasks for me on outlook.

        Many more but there’s a few!

        1. EinJungerLudendorff*

          Some of those things sound more like a stalker than a manager. I’m glad you’re getting out of that situation.

      2. ReformedControlFreak*

        That is INSANE. The new CEO at my last job, nonprofit of ~13 people, required that we all emailed her a daily list of the tasks we did that day. Since there was no context and she did not know the programs we worked on, their contingencies, etc, you can’t even chalk it up to situational awareness, just baddddd management.

        1. Rayray*

          Hahahaha.

          So a new thing now is that I have to email her at the end of each day what I’m working on and what I have for the next day.

          Fortunately she comes in an hour later and I do my lunch and then she does hers, so I get some time away from hear each day.

    4. Stornry*

      as for what to say, I’d just go with “I’m sorry, but this position just doesn’t seem to be the right fit for me.”

      1. CM*

        Great suggestion — keep repeating “just not the right fit” until she gives up, as if you’ve never thought beyond that and have nothing else to say. If she keeps asking, every third or fourth time respond with something equally bland like, “I’m sure you’ll find a great replacement,” or “I appreciate the opportunity.”

    5. !*

      When you have your next job in place, and know you are leaving, why not start to push back and see what happens? Even if she fires you, so what? It really sounds like you are working for someone incredibly unreasonable so deserves what they get.

      I’m curious, were there any red flags when you interviewed for this position?

      As others have said, you have no need to tell her any reason why you are leaving, just that you are leaving, period.

      Good luck!

      1. rayray*

        Not too much. She did ask personal questions in the interview, but I thought it was maybe more ignorance of how an interview should be handled, and I thought she was trying to be friendly. The job sounded better in the offer, and I was in a job that I’d had for years and wanted out of. I did feel a little iffy, but I just took it. I thought it would be a little more chilled out and would take away stress I had at my old job. I wanted to take time to sharpen some skills or consider grad school. I had no idea it would be this nightmarish.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      Do you think the wording was the real issue, or is it that she feels the need to edit? In other words, had you initially put in “billed” would she have changed it to “bills”? If so, there is an old trick of drafting documents with something obvious to “correct.” You can even save a version with the “correction” made ahead of time, so you don’t have to go back to it later.

      1. Alli525*

        I have had a manager that felt she needed to justify her job by making useless tiny edits. Changing something from “bills” to “billed” indicates to me that Rayray’s manager is probably the same way.

    7. KX*

      I don’t know if she is micromanaging or not, and I am not responding to so much as the situation! It is truly annoying and grating. But!

      1. Semantics matter! I broke my own automation because I used the word “Complete” instead of “Completed” and I didn’t catch it until the next morning, and had to go back and reenter a bunch of stuff manually.

      2. People who can change mistakes faster and want to fix things personally instead of telling someone else to fix it are hiding flaws in processes, and it is better to expose the flaws in a process so you can fix them.

      (With only three people full time that is likely not the case here.)

      This manager may not be an example of either of those two things. All the other things: UGH Commiseration granted. And a job like that you’ve been at the better part of a year? I suspect they are used to high turnover. Just go!

    8. Super B*

      I’m a career admin, currently an EA at an awesome job with great bosses , but about 4 years ago I quit a job with a very similar manager than the one you’re describing. She was a super control freak micromanaging beatch who made my days hell and the day I gave my notice was the most liberating, empowering day of my life. But looking back I realize how much I learned from her, and became a better assistant, more attentive to details and to avoiding mistakes the first time around, willing to go the extra mile to show good work, more organized in general and allowing myself no slacking, even though my now-bosses could care less what I do for most of the day as long as I get my job done. You may be learning some valuable lessons there that you will only realize once you have wonderful bosses that trust your work and your judgement. I hope you are able to get out of that situation with good self esteem and remember she’s the problem, not you!

    9. Escapee*

      Oh gosh this sounds just like my last job: nightmare micromanager boss; three core staff; everyone telling me I needed to leave. I got the job last January, started applying for jobs in June and left in July. Was just about ready to leave without anything to fall back on, and then got an offer for a dream job (six months on and it is still the dream!).

      My boss was out-of-state the day I needed to put in my notice, and I couldn’t delay because a) I needed to get out asap!, and b) the date dream job ideally wanted me to start. So I sent a very brief form email saying I had a job offer, my last day would be X as per the notice period in my contract, I was on track to be able to deliver Y by the time I left, and I would create a handover document to outline all of my duties and where I was up to on everything. Kind regards, me.

      I spent the notice period hating it and also wishing I had just been fired! But it was fine, I made it out alive, and now I’m not living it I have some truly excellent bad boss stories.

  8. Implications for walking down FT employment?*

    I am planning to leave my FT job to freelance (please no advice about that – just trust that I have lots of savings, clients beating down my door, etc). However, I recognize that this is very poor timing for my organization because another coworker just quit. Since I don’t have a deadline to leave, I’d like to offer my current job a step-down departure, if they choose to go that route. I’m just not sure how to handle this offer. I might be willing to spend a month or two as a part-time employee while they work to hire two replacements. But it depends on what what that would do to my benefits and taxes. Are there other implications of switching from FT to PT that I might be missing?

    Ideally I’d love to offer them a contract like my other clients (X deliverables at Y rate, or Z hours a week at Y per hour) maybe even transition them as a future client, but I doubt they’d go for that: paying my new hourly rate (more than double what they pay me now) probably won’t appeal to them, and I’m guess what they really want is someone to keep a hand on the wheel, not pop in and out delivering specific components like my new jobs.

    Of course, I understand that they may just ask me to wrap up my leave period and they’ll hire some temps. I’m just afraid as soon as I open the door I’ll be in negotiation mode with my boss.

    Help me think through this, AAM community!!

    1. CAA*

      One thing to watch out for is non-compete agreements you may have signed. Taking clients from your current employer to start your own business is one of the times when these agreements can be enforced. It depends entirely on the specifics of your situation, which I don’t have, so this may not apply and I’m just throwing it out as something to think about.

      You could give a long notice period of a month or so if you think they’d use it effectively. If they seem really sorry to lose you, you could say that you’d be willing to stay on part time for a while if you can agree on a reasonable hourly rate that would cover any benefits you’d be losing. Once they express interest, then it’s perfectly fine to ask to meet with HR or the benefits specialist to find out how you’d be affected before you propose a new rate to them. Also, don’t be so sure they won’t pay your freelance rate for contract work. When they hire a freelancer, they’re not paying for payroll tax, benefits, breaks, any of the times when you weren’t that busy and spent a half-hour surfing the web, overtime when you are busy, etc, so even at double your hourly employee rate it can still be a deal for them.

      1. valentine*

        Do what’s best for you. Don’t put the ball in their court because they can not hire and blame you for any shortfall.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      I think it’s important to define the expectations and terms up front. Something like “My last day as a full time employee will be X. I can work as a part time employee 20 hours per week, remotely, until March 15. After which, we would need to discuss a new contract with new rates through my consulting firm.” And then be upfront and strict about how much work you can actually do in 20 hours. They will probably try to get 40 hours of work out of you anyway and you need to be the one to push back.

      Honestly, I would go straight for the contracting and skip the part time work, unless you want to do it for yourself (so you still have some regular income coming in). It’s too much of a hassle to keep boundaries and not get overworked.

      Also, I’m not sure about specific tax rules in your country, but employers pay much more for you than what you get. The difference between your contracting fee and what they pay for you now might not be as big as you think. In my country, employers pay 30% tax on top of gross salary.

    3. CRM*

      I’m always a little wary about offering lots of notice. I tried to do that at a job once, it was a really good company and I wanted to leave on good terms. They didn’t know what to do with it, so they basically just pretended that I wasn’t leaving until the final two weeks, where we then had to cram in all of the transition/documentation stuff. I would just provide the standard two weeks notice. If they really need you for longer than that, they can contract your services.

    4. Triumphant Fox*

      I agree with switching straight to freelance. You can offer them your new rates and let them know that you’d be happy to keep them as a client in the future – it’s been great but you need more flexibility, less commute, whatever makes sense.

      You may be surprised that they are willing to pay your rates. I charged my last employer 3x my salary hourly wage to finish work for them while starting my new job. Frankly, I still don’t think it was worth it to me – it was exhausting, but if I had been going freelance, it would have been perfect. They also had no one who could do what I did, were very understaffed (which is why I left – so overworked).

      1. Implications for walking down FT employment?**

        You sound like me haha. Well hopefully my story ends as well as yours. I fear they’re just going to be PISSED that I’m leaving them “in the lurch.”

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          I would maybe not give them your rates as you quit, just say that you are striking out on your own and would love to keep working with them in the future if that fits into their business strategy (or whatever). I had another friend from my last job give up a ton of PTO (she’d been with them a long time) for the ability to go freelance (graphic design for her). They kept working with her, partly because they are used to working with contractors. In the long run, she ended up getting other clients who had steadier work, so she ended up being too busy for them, but in the short term they weren’t down an artist – things just shifted around.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If I understand this right, you want to start contracting for the company where you are currently an employee. If I got that right, check your company’s rules about converting employees to contractor. My company and others have a one-year mandatory waiting period.

  9. Me*

    OMG. We have a new employee. There’s a lot of issues but today…well today he shows up to work in a t-shirt that says a curse word. Like there’s no person on earth who would think it’s appropriate for an office. Maybe a high school kid. Maybe. But this guy is 30 and former military so I know he knows it’s not kosher.

    I’m afraid the standard issue not addressing problems and then their off probation and now we’re stuck is going to happen. (government trust me it’s close to impossible to get rid of people)

    1. Imaginary Number*

      Former military doesn’t necessarily mean anything (and I get to say that because I’m a vet.)

      You will have people who go in at 18. They are told what to wear and where to be every day. They do the bare minimum to get by. They may even get promoted several times, if they’re fortunate to be surrounded by other leaders who can hand-hold them along the way. Trust me. There are 30 yo Soldiers out there with ten years experience who can barely function in terms of life skills but they’re a decent mechanic/admin/whatever so they get their job done well enough to get promoted and stay in for a decent amount of time. But common sense decisions make you scratch your head. Like the 35 yo who couldn’t understand why marrying the woman he met two weeks about on R&R is a bad idea or the 40 yo NCO who bought a $120,000 car with a high-interest loan and monthly payments he could never afford long term.

      Sometimes you actually do have to treat that vet who just transitioned out of the Army like a high school grad (not saying this is the average, but it’s not uncommon.)

      1. Me*

        He’s not Army nor has he just transitioned.

        By BIL is ex army so I’ve hear lots of fun stories :)

        But I do operate under the impression that wearing a shirt that says “straight outta f&cks” (and yes the curse word is spelled out) in an official capacity is something that most military members would know is an absolutely not ok. Perhaps I’m wrong.

        Regardless, most adults do know that’s not remotely acceptable.

        1. Wild Blue Yonder*

          Accurate. I’m a Veteran and I’ve seen my Airmen wearing these as civvies but no, we don’t hold hands such that he’d think that type of shirt is acceptable. We’re not mind blown automatons people – we’re humans.

          And let’s not apply Veteran or military to this because now we’re perpetuating unfounded stereotypes.

          1. Me*

            Agreed. There’s plenty of people not military who make the dumb types of decisions referenced.

            I do however notice there’s often issues adjusting to work culture as I stated below, but that’s the difference between work cultures, which while is in this instance military vs our office, but there’s also other work environments that someone would come from and also have trouble adjusting right away and vice versus. I’m certain that if I went from working here all my career to a financial industry job I’d struggle hard core with the work culture.

            1. Wild Blue Yonder*

              Thank you for your response. I would have a challenge moving to a for-profit work environment from non-profit. But, I would also know that this shirt wouldn’t work anywhere and probably not even a start-up staffed with 20-year-olds (at least not until I saw what they were wearing first).

              This is just bad judgment and perhaps – some weird entitlement – all around. I say that because your other posts include the person being passive-aggressive and has been given bad guidance.

              1. Me*

                Absolutely. My inclusion of is military status was less about military and more about look the dude has had a job where he 100% knows it’s not cool and has not been living under a rock. Certainly not intended to create any kind of stereotype about military. Some of these responses have shown me I need to be more cognizant of peoples perceptions. In hind sight I would have simply stated he has previous experience in a working environment that would have given him an understanding of appropriate work wear.

            2. Junior Assistant Peon*

              I made some mistakes along these lines when I was adjusting to the culture of a former job. My previous work experience had been at big companies with traditional norms of professionalism. In my first week at a smaller company, I took a work trip where I shared a car with my grandboss and HR manager. The jokes they told in the car were wildly inappropriate by big-company standards, and I got the impression that these people are out of their minds and the usual workplace rules don’t apply here. It took me a while to figure out that you couldn’t do this openly at the new workplace, only in private among certain individuals. I definitely got myself in some trouble when I thought I could do whatever I wanted at that company!

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

        I am not a vet, but I can see this. In the service you will be told “you can only wear x; any deviation is not allowed” so sometimes you do have to spell out what is not okay.

          1. Me*

            I can’t tell him anything because I’m not his supervisor. If there weren’t other issues, I’d give him a friendly heads up as a coworker. As it stands I’m not touching it with a ten foot pole.

            1. valentine*

              sometimes you do have to spell out what is not okay.
              Or you can not coddle grown people. He knows it’s not a benign or neutral garment and that, apart from anything else, it’s a rotten attitude. He knows full well not to wear it to most places of worship and that businesses may ask him to cover it or to leave. He is a grown man.

              I hate people who want to be confronted.

              1. Zona the Great*

                Man do I love that you said this. So many times I want to answer that I prefer not to correct grown adults and would rather react accordingly. Inappropriate shirt like that, I assume you’re unprofessional and will act accordingly.

            2. Arts Akimbo*

              You can complain about the shirt to his supervisor, though, and/or HR. It’s completely inappropriate for the workplace and potentially offensive.

        1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

          One fine day, I met a US Army sergeant major*, who told me that a first sergeant** had once issued an order to wear only GI (government issue) belts and boot laces.

          The sergeant major felt it necessary to suggest the first sergeant clarify the announcement, lest one or more troops wear nothing at all except the GI belts and boot laces.

          * Top sergeant and senior enlisted adviser to the commander of a battalion, regiment, brigade or even larger unit.

          ** The “topkick,” the top sergeant and senior enlisted adviser to a company commander. (Several companies go into one battalion.) Has a good deal of hands-on contact with the soldiers, and may run the company at least as much as the official commander.

      3. Not All*

        Gotta agree with this. I’ve been a fed since the late 90s & have reached the point where I absolutely DREAD hearing the new hire is a fed & it’s their first civilian job. 100% odds that our high school/college interns have better concept of appropriate office (& interpersonal for that matter) norms & behaviors. 50/50 if the individual is male whether we’ll get a sexual harassment complaint against them in the first 6 months.

        Ugh.

        Good luck!

        1. Me*

          We’ve had issues before but it’s usually like not understanding how offices functions, struggling with a looser hierarchy, expecting everything to be rigid and not grasping gray areas and maybes.

          This guy….whole nother level. Actually were pretty sure the shirt is intentional because he’s gotten guidance from individuals he believes he doesn’t have to listen to (both due to job title and gender). He’s been pretty passive aggressive.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Well, he sounds…special. I hope you don’t end up having to interact with him very often.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            He sounds like one of those people who likes to poke the bear with something rude and then yell “FREE SPEECH!” when it pokes back. Completely not getting that 1A only applies to government interference with speech, not a private employer.

            1. EinJungerLudendorff*

              Or that they’re acting like a twatwaffle either way, and will be judged accordingly.

        2. Wild Blue Yonder*

          “I absolutely DREAD hearing the new hire is a fed (updated to Vet) & it’s their first civilian job.”

          – hard eye roll – We’re sorry that we cause such disruption. Maybe we should be resettled into the basement for convenience. We appreciate being grouped together as if we have no individuality and being stereotyped.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            That is how it is with Millennials, and Boomers in the workplace. Welcome to the club of stereotypes.

            1. Wild Blue Yonder*

              I haven’t experienced the Boomer vs everyone else drama. I’m 45 and am totally in love with the younger generations. They’ve kept me on my toes, learning and trying to keep up with current non-profit approaches, if not new life approaches. I’m a Veteran and have no preconceived notions about how people should act because of my service or that I’ve been in my non-profit career for two decades. We all failed in the bias training class and yet we still try to improve.

              1. LunaLena*

                “I’m a Veteran and have no preconceived notions”

                That’s great, but that doesn’t mean other workplaces and people don’t struggle with this issue. I work at a university where a relatively high percentage of students are former or active military, and they are absolutely different from the traditional students. Frankly, both sides look down on or misunderstand the other, but in different ways. I’ve heard this firsthand not only from students from both groups, but also from my husband, who is both former military and currently a student at my workplace.

              2. EinJungerLudendorff*

                I honestly doubt that working in the military didn’t leave any sort of impact on you, or your opinion of how people should and shouldnt behave.
                Because humans form and those opinions constantly. Especially in regulated environments like the military. Even if that opinion is very broad and inclusive, it has (and should have) it’s limits on what you consider acceptable. And I think it’s better to find out what that bias is then the comfortable pretense that we don’t have them.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              It’s sort of funny from the sidelines because obviously us in Gen X are so perfect it makes invisible.

                1. Arts Akimbo*

                  I like Gen Z so far! :)

                  *Gen X and Gen Z hold hands and skip off into the sunset together while listening to Bruno Mars or something*

        3. pony tailed wonder*

          We had a guy who was former military and they will usually get preference over others (state university). I think it is a law (?). Most work out fine and we are happy to have them work with us but this guy said he would sue us if he was not hired before other students for a student assistant job. So the person in charge hired him. And then there were problems. Lots of problems. He told a lot of females in my department that he was their boss (it was the other way around). There were sexual harassment incidents. There was a “I know better than you” attitude to people ho had been working here for decades when he was the new hire. We finally had to have him work by himself in a warehouse until the powers that be could figure out how to get rid of him. Looking back, I bet the military had problems with him too. So it isn’t their background, it is them; but it does add to the story.

      4. Steve*

        The military aspect might be relevant, yet I agree that it’s mostly because he might not be familiar with having to choose clothing to wear to work. The military is also more used to swearing, so he may have worn the t-shirt on a ‘dress down day’ and it was acceptable within his military unit.

        Every workplace has good and bad, including the military. It sounds like the t-shirt is one of many problems, which is unfortunate.

    2. Welling*

      Does your office do casual Friday? Some people have a very loose interpretation of casual office wear.

      1. ReformedControlFreak*

        For us it basically means, hey you can wear jeans and sneakers today! We’re business casual usually (very flexible). Most of us wear whatever we’re comfortable in unless we have meetings w/ externals that day. So you see a range on a regular basis.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          There’s always the guy who comes in wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and flip flops. Idiot. But I’m old enough to remember when casual Friday meant business casual, as contrasted with suits the rest of the time.

    3. Maya Elena*

      I feel like by itself this wouldn’t be so annoying if there weren’t other issues. As it is though, I was at a company where a fairly high level guy used to be that analyst who bought such an expensive lunch for interviewees they had to officially cap the amount going forward …. I’m guessing they reprimanded him once and it wasn’t an issue. One explanation might be enough.

      1. Me*

        That is the entire story of this guy. There’s A LOT of things. Each of them individually are eyebrow raisers but not omg fire now. All together though, I’m wondering why he’s still here.

        There’s some information required for non-provisional hire still pending and there’s issues there so I’m not certain we will continue to have issues if you know what I mean.

    4. Mia 52*

      I misread that as “showed up to work in a T shirt” AND “said a curse word” and I was like c’mon you can overcome saying a single curse word and maybe it was laundry day? But yeah showing up with the curse word on the T shirt…That’s just a No Go

      1. CM*

        Yeah, me too. I was picturing some dude in a plain t-shirt walking out of the elevator and going, “Damn.”

        I kinda want to know which curse word it is.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah. I’ve worked in warehouse and fieldwork environments where everyone wore jeans and a t-shirt. However, while innuendo *sometimes* was fine (usually bar shirts), a straight up NSFW or seven dirty words shirt was straight out. You could say “Fuck”, etc., if you weren’t in front of a client, but you couldn’t wear it.

        If I had to put it in words, it would be “Printed tees may not have obscene, racist, sexist or bigoted words, sayings or images on them.” This is basic in a diverse workplace, even if you’re out climbing on client roofs.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah. I’ve worked in warehouse and fieldwork environments where everyone wore jeans and a t-shirt. However, while innuendo *sometimes* was fine (usually bar shirts), a straight up NSFW or seven dirty words shirt was straight out. You could say “F*ck”, etc., if you weren’t in front of a client, but you couldn’t wear it.

        If I had to put it in words, it would be “Printed tees may not have obscene, racist, sexist or bigoted words, sayings or images on them.” This is basic in a diverse workplace, even if you’re out climbing on client roofs.

    5. LKW*

      Oy vey. A friend of mine had a report show up in a dress shirt, with t-shirt, as expected. However through the dress shirt, you could read “One tequila, Two tequila, three tequila, floor” very clearly. My friend made him go back to the hotel to change and put in that time to the end of his day.

      Another time I saw a client wearing a tshirt of the cracker jack logo but it said Crack Whore Jack. I assume some people have blindfolds on when they dress.

      1. SuperAnon*

        I was at an agency (pretty loose atmosphere) where a young fellow showed up in a t=shirt that said, “CUNNING LINGUIST.”

        It was just too cringey.

      2. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        My friend made him go back to the hotel to change and put in that time to the end of his day.

        I’m a little bit confused. What does “put in that time to the end of his day” mean in this context?

        Thank you!

    6. Chronic Overthinker*

      Is there an employee manual? Does it include the dress code? Is this shirt in violation of the dress code? If so, forward him the appropriate information and for today have him wear the shirt inside out or send him home to change.

      1. Me*

        Nope. I mean there is a personnel handbook, but not to that detail. We work in an environment where it is not expected that everything must be written down or “policy” to be pertinent. Agencies are allowed to set their own standards and tend to be unwritten until it becomes a problem. Its the whole if it’s not written down I can do whatever vs if it is written down I can do only this. We *try* to treat people like the adults they are. Some people are determined not to be adults it seems :)

        1. Chronic Overthinker*

          Ah, then that is a trickier situation. I suppose it may be a situation of pulling said employee aside and saying hey, not appropriate work wear and giving him a short list of what is appropriate. Granted, I work in a highly visible position where I have to be business casual (emphasis on business) all day every day. I can’t even wear short sleeves due to visible tattoos! Otherwise this might just be the impetus needed to create a generic “dress code” so that everyone is aware of what is and isn’t appropriate work attire.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Maybe print out some choice quotes from this discussion and leave them on his desk? I know subtle may not be his strong suit, but that’s a bit too far.

        2. Jeffrey Deutsch*

          It’s kind of tricky because while some things are out and out unacceptable by common consensus, other things the boss might simply disagree with but the employee legitimately thought could be OK.

          For example, one could think business casual (eg, dress shirts, pants that aren’t jeans, dress socks and dress shoes) is too obvious to spell out, but some folks feel it’s OK to wear T-shirts and/or sneakers to the office at least if they’re not seeing clients (or other visitors) that day. By all means the boss has every right to lay down the law, but let’s not accuse the employee of irresponsibility or disrespect just yet — at least not as long as the employee goes forth and sins no more.

          And I’m not just referring to dress.

          1. Me*

            It’s a government office job. We have the potential at any given moment to have meetings with very important people.

            Wearing a shirt with the F-bomb on it is not really in the same thought process of wearing a t shirt on casual Friday when the boss means a polo.

            There is zero reason a grown adult who has been employed in the past and does not live under a rock doesn’t know it’s inappropriate.

    7. LGC*

      As someone who once had to tell a literal dad he couldn’t wear a shirt that had slang for a female-associated body part written in gold foil script on it: I sympathize, but also he might actually be that oblivious. Life is a rich tapestry.

      (Part of it is background, too. One thing I’ve learned at my job is that I’m EXTREMELY privileged because I learned a lot of professional social norms early on. With one of my employees, I find it’s a triumph if he wears pants that stay up.)

      I’m more impressed he broke out that shirt in his first few days on the job, though. Like, I have a couple of randy shirts myself, but I save those for people I know and I’m comfortable with. And that I don’t work with.

      It also sounds like he’s still on probation now – did you bring this to your manager’s attention? This is definitely something I’d mention. It’s not something that he should be fired for on its own, but it seems like there’s a lot of other problems. (And if you didn’t say anything it’s not too late – you can just tell your boss Tuesday.)

      1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        One thing I’ve learned at my job is that I’m EXTREMELY privileged because I learned a lot of professional social norms early on.

        Big-time privilege. And a majorly underappreciated one.

    8. Me*

      Just want to thank everyone who commented, commiserated and made me think/challenge how I say things which is always appreciated.

      Also a bit more info/update for those who are interested – a coworker did say something along the lines of dude what are you wearing. His boss wasn’t there (we have problemo’s with him too), but the highest ranking supervisor (H.S.) came in and was informed. H.S. went to address it with him, but offensive shirt guy was no where to be found. Presumably “at lunch” for well over an hour that didn’t appear on his time sheet. And no we don’t get paid lunch. He also left early. Did I mention there are multiple issues?

      The grandboss (mine) found out and to say displeased would be a gross understatement. I eagerly await the fallout/drama that is sure to ensue. I’m sure somehow it will be all my fault (running theme with this guy and his boss – no worries grandboss knows they’re full of poo), but I’m used to that by now.

  10. merp*

    I cannot think straight today. Trying to get work done but expecting important phone calls from the vet and I can’t have my phone on me when I’m at the reference desk. Tell me about your best work things that happened this week to distract me?

    1. Liesl and Fritz*

      I finally received needed feedback from a non-profit group I’m helping with a survey. Finished the survey. And they liked it and put it into play this week!

      (also know you’re plight. I had to rush to the vet last week with our doxie in massive storms/tornado warnings. everything’s good now)

    2. AppleStan*

      Started a thing at our team meeting where everyone has to bring up one interesting work thing that they’ve experienced since the last team meeting. Then we vote on the winner. That person gets a gift from me. Just started it this month, but the gifts are just silly stupid things from a 75% off clearance rack (like a card game shaped like the poop emoji, and it’s called “Who Did It”) or a DVD from the $5 bin at Walmart or a Beanie Baby or some such.

      It went over so much better than I thought it would. Everyone knows each month will be a different “gift” and they are already looking forward to the next team meeting.

      Just something to make having a “meeting” not so bad, you know?

      Anyway, that’s my contribution.

    3. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I swung a really tough case (bad facts, unfriendly client, unfamiliar court/judge) this week and got exactly what I asked for in settlement. Also I got a nice reimbursement check in the mail and applied for a professional growth class!

    4. Laura H.*

      Don’t work, but I volunteer with my church’s middle school age group. (I know it’s not a job but I’ve been doing it for seven years and it’s the constant in the midst of my job stints/ joblessness and it helps me not feel like a failure.) We had our social kick off for the semester, and all the participants had fun.

      But the director lost their challenge with a participant and as per the rules had to take odds as to whether 3 eggs were raw or boiled- all 3 were raw and, again as per the rules, were gently smushed on the director’s head.

      The director, all the adult and high school helpers, and middle schoolers were all really good sports about it. I kinda think that social is definitely a keeper.

      (There were 6 raw and 6 boiled eggs, and the volunteers all lost their mini games with the participants (coincidentally) and all but 1 of the chosen eggs were raw- was 1 egg per round and the last round used 3 eggs cause it was either the last one or cause when its the director of the program, the stakes could have been increased. Dunno which but it was fun. And I’m pretty sure we would have gladly figured out an alternative if a participant (middle schooler) didn’t want to be egged- the volunteers knew and we could abstain from putting our name in our drawing jar).

    5. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      I am finally wrapping up a project that I’ve been working on since May, that was wildly disorganized before I took over and has been kinda trash the whole time! I’m literally just unifying variable names and labels in some data now and finishing up a few loose ends.

    6. A tester, not a developer*

      My company celebrated our rebranding by having an amazingly good ‘foods of Canada’ brunch. Crab cakes, poutine, Canadian bacon, etc.

        1. A tester, not a developer*

          They told us it was to represent our offices in Atlantic Canada. I suppose it was a better option than bottles of screech. :)

        2. Jeffrey Deutsch*

          If their company ever has a ‘foods of Maryland (USA)’ brunch, they can just re-order the crab cakes.

          PS: I lived in Maryland for over five years.

    7. Chronic Overthinker*

      After working six months and complaining (to myself) that I wasn’t getting extra assignments I finally got my first official assignment. It was a simple task of drafting a letter, but I did it from start to finish, sent it to be edited, and got it back with no edits needed. Wahoo!! I feel accomplished!!

    8. Moi*

      I reduced the frequency of a meeting from weekly to quarterly, and had a director tell me they love me.

      Honestly made my day, I could not have been happier.

    9. JustaTech*

      I found a really important document that is going to make my life 1000 times easier on a really complicated and difficult project.

    10. Lalaith*

      We’re switching a client over from an old system to our new one, and I thought it was going to be really complicated but the solution I came up with just… worked. I’m kinda still waiting for the other shoe to drop ;-P

      (I also had to wait for vet news this week. My news was good and I hope yours is too <3)

      1. merp*

        A new system working immediately? That’s almost unbelievable, good job! And thanks, appreciate the good thoughts :)

    11. Funny Cide*

      This morning we got an office-wide email saying “Fire alarm testing for 2020 will commence at 4:00PM today” nearly immediately followed by another office-wide email saying “The Teapot Foundation will be closing at 3:3PM today in celebration of the holiday weekend.” I have a sneaky feeling we are closing for reasons other than the holiday weekend but ain’t mad about it!

    12. LunaLena*

      An owl was saved at my workplace this week! A staff member noticed an owl hanging around on the campus of the university I work at. He checked on it periodically (from a distance) for most of the day and noted that it was moving around a little, but staying on the ground. Eventually he called the Department of Wildlife, and they came and picked it up. He said the owl was very docile and didn’t panic at all when he put a towel around it and put it in the carrier.

    13. OtterB*

      I finished the first stage of a small project for a committee of our board members, and two of the members emailed the committee (which includes my boss) praising my work. Such a good feeling.

    14. Maseca*

      I got an unexpected bonus! It’s extra sweet because I have a slightly odd/special role that means I get to skip the day-to-day grind and just work on the big, fun, high-profile campaigns — but that also sometimes means I’ve got nothing to do for days at a time when everyone else around me is swamped. And when it’s this slow for me (a couple weeks go by with about 2-3 days’ worth of work spread across them), I get conscious of whether I’m really pulling my weight and if the bosses might have second thoughts about my favored status. (I’ve been through some layoffs, does it show?) I also had a family emergency that resulted in a lot of time off this fall, so I felt like I was involved in even less work than usual toward the end of the year. But apparently my status is still intact, and the boss repeated how much I’m appreciated by all of management and that they want to make sure I know that. A nice feeling after a tough few months and a lot of stress that was probably feeding my job anxiety.

    15. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I learned that the company’s now providing free coffee again, after a gap of many many years.
      It’s been a rough week, but I had to give you something. :)

      1. Kat in VA*

        It’s amazing, isn’t it – how those little perks can make you slightly happier in the long run?

        To me, though, coffee/tea/water (whether bottled or a filter station) are not perks, they’re something you get at work including pens, post-its, and pads of paper to jot things on.

  11. Oranges*

    I’m having a medical issue which has severely limited my life, started last fall. One of the fun ways it has manifested is I can only do around 20 hours worth of work a week. I’ve been using FMLA but it’s now running out. I still can’t work 40 hour weeks. I keep on hoping we can figure out what’s wrong but it’s been 6 months.

    I want to go part time while keeping full time benefits. Since we’re in the middle of coding a huge project that I have institutional knowledge on and also would be impossible to replace at this time, I kinda figure I’m safe asking for this.

    My question: when you go half time I assume I’d get half pay but my friend told me to ask for 3/4ths? What is the accepted practice?

    1. fposte*

      I’ve never heard of the 3/4ths for 50% time and it wouldn’t fly in my state job, but who knows in the private sector? Are you currently exempt, though, and would reduced salary take you down below the exemption threshold of $35,568? Is that close enough that you’d want to argue for hitting the threshold so you can stay exempt (yes, you can be part-time exempt)? Or would that raise the problem of being technically part time but being asked to work the equivalent of full time?

      1. Oranges*

        I am currently exempt. I would go below the threshold. And my work is beyond excellent about my capacity. I mean I’d give it five stars.

        1. fposte*

          I brought that up because that might be a little bit of a wiggle possibility for the money since you think your work will be respectful about your part-time even if you’re exempt. I’d say if your part-time pay would be within $5k of the threshold it could be worth proposing the threshold as your part-time salary for the simplicity of keeping you exempt.

          (And how nice to hear about a workplace that’s coming through for its employee.)

    2. Professor Moriarty*

      I’m in the UK but everyone I know who has gone part time has had the pay cut by 20% for every day they’ll not work anymore (but with income tax rates it can make less of an impact on total pay but IDK if that applies where you are)

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      In the UK you get pay prorated for hours, usually quoted as a decimal FTE so eg four days is 0.8FTE. Someone working five six-hour days would be doing 0.75FTE of a 40-hour week.

      But we have strict laws about prorating benefits so you’d also get 0.8 of the usual PTO entitlement, and equal access to things like pension contributions, private healthcare, childcare contributions, free lunch Fridays, or whatever.

      Anyway my suggestion in your case would be that you request pay with an equal hourly equivalent, but full benefits. You’d need to pay attention to the national/local tax implications, of course. And you could formally waive certain benefits you don’t use if that affects your tax burden

    4. a*

      I think it depends on the benefits. If you can keep your full-time benefits, 1/2 pay would be reasonable. But if you do not get to keep your full-time benefits, you could ask for 3/4 pay, both because it’s costing the company less to employ you and because you will need that to pay for your insurance.

      (When I was on leave from my employer, I worked part-time, but they stopped deducting my benefits. I had to pay those out-of-pocket, due to their arcane rules. So, while my pay rate was the same, my take-home was larger than expected…but then I had to pay out my insurance costs.)

    5. OperaArt*

      Your FMLA is running out anyway so this info won’t be of immediate use. For future reference, if you drop to too few hours in a rolling 12-month period, you will no longer be eligible for FMLA. Important to note—PTO is not counted toward the required hour total. I work part-time by choice, 26 hours a week, and do not qualify for FMLA. It would take me several months at full-time to regain my eligibility.

      1. Natalie*

        Although check your state laws as well, they may have broader eligibility. FMLA in my state kicks in for people who have worked at least half time over the past 12 months, so you would still qualify. (It also kicks in at a smaller employer size than the federal law.)

    6. Alternative Person*

      It really depends on your job.

      In my area part timers often have a slighter better rate than FT because they’re often working odd schedules and and don’t have regular office hours, or benefits so their pay reflects that. You’d have to research industry norms.

    7. Pommette!*

      Do you anticipate a change in the makeup of your work tasks? For instance, is there a chance that you’ll keep doing higher level aspects of your job while someone else takes over some of the more mundane/generic ones? If so, that could be a good argument for getting more than 50% of your full-time salary.

    8. ReformedControlFreak*

      As someone who has struggled with medical issues for nearly 2 years now, I can relate. I’ve had 2 mis-diagnoses in the last year, including wrong medication that caused entirely new issues. Thankfully I think we’re on the right track now! Hopefully there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for you too. Don’t be afraid to “fire” your doctor if you aren’t getting results, either. WRT work now, I don’t know what your situation is but are your only options PT -or- FT? Are there other options, like for me during the worst of it I worked every other day remote, which helped me out a tonnnn with managing symptoms. My in-office days I knew I would have a reprieve the next day, which enabled me to get through it (psychologically) much better. I don’t know what “accepted” practice is, and it might vary by industry anyway. But you might have more creative options than you’ve engaged thus far. Good luck, internet friend!

      1. Oranges*

        Sadly I can’t think of any. My work is excellent about WFH so I do that whenever I can’t go to the office. Sadly it is physical capacity so WFH only makes it a bit better.

    9. Gumby*

      Be prepared to get less than half pay if you want full benefits. If you go to half time, I assume most companies would halve your full compensation, not just the salary part of your compensation. They *might* be willing to give you full benefits if the cost-to-the-company of half of the benefits comes out of the salary portion.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        I think a lot of places require 30 hours for benefits – maybe that’s just where I’ve worked.

        1. Hound Fan*

          No, you are correct. The ACA set the threshold of “full-time” employment/benefits eligibility at 30 hours. Employers are not allowed to require more. Most companies moved to the 30 hours. Some companies will go down to 24 or 20 but most companies do not offer benefits for part-timers and they cannot legally offer them to a single part-timer.

    10. Vanellope*

      I hope your Dr is able to figure things out and get you feeling better.

      A quick comment about benefits: it might not be up to your company to decide if they want to keep providing you benefits – they have to adhere to their stated eligibility requirements so as not to show favoritism and to keep things fair to all employees. I would check your employee handbook and try to structure your part time plan around that – for example at my company you have to work 30 hours per week to be eligible for insurance, but for 401k you just have to be 21 and have been employed for 90 days. Good luck working things out!

      1. Oranges*

        Thanks! I didn’t even think about that. I really wanna keep my benefits because medical issue.

        1. DeeEm*

          Yep, I was going to say the same thing. At my company, if an employee is NOT eligible for benefits, we cannot give them benefits because of the contracted eligibility requirements.

    11. Curmudgeon in California*

      Can you get partial disability (short term or long term) then drop to half time? This is what disability is for. Just don’t go above 28 hours/week or the disability insurance carrier might cut you off. (I had a stroke and short term disability was great for me returning to work, but when I went above 30 hours they said “Oh, you’re full time now” and cut me off, stuck at 3/4 pay.)

  12. Beancat*

    I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life and boy it’s frustrating. I went to school for education, which ended up being a horrible fit for me. I’ve been working administration since then but….I don’t know what to do with myself from here. I don’t know if I want to stay in administration, but I have no idea how to figure out what’s a good fit for me.

    How did you figure out what career you wanted to do? Any advice would be really appreciated. Thank you in advance :)

    1. Jellyfish*

      What worked for me was looking at job ads. I was in a similar place – working in admin & realizing it was a poor long term fit, a degree I wasn’t using, and no idea how to move forward.
      I started reading ads for open jobs in my area without any limiters. I looked at jobs I’d never be qualified for, jobs I’ve never considered at all, jobs that would require a completely different education. The titles and companies didn’t matter so much as the job descriptions themselves.

      Eventually, I started to notice a pattern: I was drawn to a field I’d previously rejected as being uninteresting. It took a few years, another degree, some resume-building volunteer work, and a lower paying job to get my foot in the door. I did it though, and I absolutely love what I do now. My previous work and educational background turned out to be useful in unexpected ways too. Transferable skills are everywhere; sometimes they just need a good spin. :)

      1. CoffeeLover*

        This is fantastic advice. They should use this as a high school exercise to help kids figure out what they want to do. The only problem is you sometimes need to look through the BS when it comes to job descriptions (at least in my field).

    2. Nessun*

      Honestly, my short answer is – I fell into it. Not useful, I know. But for context, I took an entry level job as an admin assistant on order to get benefits and regular hours (and I lucked out – they were desperate so my lack or experience didn’t phase them). I spent some short time learning the job and then started asking other people if I could help them with anything. I usually got the things they hated, or repetitive tasks, but it did give me a chance to explore pieces of their jobs. Through that I learned what I enjoyed doing, and what I was good at (in my case, highly organized work, lists, excel, etc) and then I looked for things that applied those skills. I kept putting my hand up too – so I gained a rep as helpful, willing to learn, and dependable. Eventually I parlayed all that into my current role in project management.

      Which is all to say – keep an eye put for the parts of any job that you enjoy and/or excel at, and build on those. In the meantime, be open minded about your future, and try not to say no to anything new – opportunities and experiences all help, even if only to teach you what you don’t want.

        1. Nessun*

          No, actually it’s from the Puccini Opera Turandot, the aria Nessun Dorma. But thank you for leading me to a new author – I’m going to look that series up!!

    3. anony*

      I was working as an admin assistant also and am in the process of making a career shift! What helped me was some really good leadership giving me an honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. I contrasted that with what elements of my role I really liked, and reached out to my network to ask more about their jobs. Now I’m retraining! Is there any fields you want to know more about that you could attend a seminar or free intro course in? I found that really helped me explore without committing any money or much time.

    4. Sherm*

      My path has taken some meandering turns, and what has always helped was to sit back and reflect on what am I actually good at. When did I feel in my element? When were other people turning to me for help? Odds are that, whatever you are good at, you do enjoy it, too. If you can’t think of anything, consider gaining additional experience through classes, volunteering, interning, etc.

    5. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I work in FP&A (financial planning and analysis – it’s a back office finance roll that primarily handles financial analysis and reporting for executive use) but my undergrad is in English.

      Honestly, I took some time to think about what I’m good at. I like numbers, I like order, I like structure, and I like when things are clean and organized. That eventually led to enrolling in a master of accounting program. I thought I was going to end up in tax, but I fell into a corporate finance internship that led me here. I like what I do. It’s a good blend of raw numbers and analytical thinking and written commentary so it fits me well.

      Find out what your strengths are and what you want to be doing on a day to day basis and work backwards from there.

    6. RabbitRabbit*

      For me it was noticing my reactions towards different areas of work ‘focus’ – not so much the task type but the actual area – and following after that. So say I started in llama breeding research, and at one point my boss (who really had no idea of my actual work) told me that if felt I was overworked, I should stop being on the corporate farm’s livestock breeding research regulations oversight committee. I had a strong negative reaction to that, stronger than dealing with other problems with that boss. Not only did the committee need representatives, it also helped us with networking. And I realized I liked it a lot.

      So I got a different job working instead in the same department as the regulations oversight committee, and then when I had a similar (but positive) reaction when talking with a manager about education around that kind of oversight, I knew what I wanted to do. So I got a job working directly with the committee, and have been shifting some of my job goals to producing more documentation and educational materials around what we do and what people need to know.

    7. Mid*

      I feel like I say this too much, but temping was super helpful for me. I worked with an agency, and got a good variety of work, and it helped me figure out what kind of work I liked and hated, and what kind of working environment worked best for me. But, that comes at the cost of a regular salary, etc.

      You could see if your university career center has resources. Try local networking events and see if people’s jobs sound interesting. You could try volunteering for places that seem interested.

      I’d start by making a list of things you like, dislike, need, and want in a working environment. See what things come up from the list. Do you need a lot of social interaction? Quiet? Lots of small projects or bigger long term things? Lots of data or more abstract work? What jobs have you been happiest in? Least happy? What did you like about the jobs you hated? Are there any trends here? Try to focus on the work more than the people.

      Once you get those kinds of things, you can start looking for careers that sound like they’d meet your needs.

      But also, I feel like most people don’t particularly love their careers/jobs. Not that everyone is miserable, but most people don’t have a huge amount of passion for their jobs. And it seems like a lot of people fall into their careers. My parents both had massive career changes later in life (education to banking, sales/logistics to investing) also, and both have said that they wouldn’t have been happy in their current fields earlier in life. So your needs and goals will likely change over time too.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Yup, I think temping is a good thing in that regard. You get experience (even if it’s just admin) in a lot of different types of companies, and maybe you see something that you find interesting. Sometimes those places if you excel will look to add you permanently, or even if they don’t, you have knowledge of the company and some people, so you can apply separately for a different job if one is available (depending on the temp company rules).

    8. bdg*

      Oh boy. Teaching was my backup plan, only my plan A fell through and then I taught a year and hated it. I worked another job I also did not like before I just went back to school. My dad (an engineer) said, “if you just get an engineering degree, just scrape by to graduate, you can be a project manager and never do math.”

      So I got an engineering degree (did indeed scrape by lol) and ended up in a job that’s baaaaasically the engineer equivalent of my plan A. I love my job so much! And I still don’t do math! It did take a little moving around to get the exact right position (I don’t enjoy super detailed work, so editing long, technical documents was frustrating for me) but once I found it I knew.

      What convinced me to do engineering was this:

      – I wanted a job that changed — I worked in a church, and church stuff doesn’t change. Christmas comes every year and it’s always going to have candles. It was so boring.

      – I’m motivated by money and titles. I wanted a ladder to climb, so any sort of job where you start and just… keep doing the same thing wasn’t going to work for me.

      – I wanted a job where I’d learn things a lot, not just keep using the same skills. I looked for jobs that talked about problem-solving and applying rules to different cases, that sort of thing.

      – I’m not great with money or planning for being poor, so I needed a stable job. This cut out manufacturing. Guess what the world will never quit using? Electricity. Bam. My industry.

      Basically, I was the frustrated honors kid — I wanted a job where I couldn’t coast, I’d have to keep learning, and I’d get a gold star when I did good.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I suppose engineering in power is more stable than manufacturing. I’ve been lucky to be gainfully employed for 20 years, but I’ve survived too many layoffs and wholesale shifts in what we’re doing at my consulting companies to have the warm, fuzzy feeling of stability about power that you do. The market for what I was doing from 2014-2018 is about 10% of what it was then. Do you work for a utility? It’s interesting to hear different perspectives.

    9. Richard Hershberger*

      I was in my thirties before I figured out what I wanted to do. I was always working, but in jobs I knew weren’t it. I figured it out eventually, and have been doing what I do for about twenty years now.

    10. lemon*

      What helped me get started is coming across that Venn diagram that’s always making its way around the internet: circle 1 is things you love doing; circle 2 is things you’re good at; and circle 3 is things you can make money from. The idea is that the things that land in the very center (the things that meet all 3 criteria) are how you’re supposed to find a career you love.

      I also second the suggestion to read job postings. That was just good for me to get a sense of what kinds of careers exist out there. I’ve also spend a good chunk of time reading lots of different entries in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

      After getting a sense of what my interests and skills are, I just had to go out there and start trying stuff. I knew I liked reading and writing, so I tried writing. That failed on the 3rd Venn diagram circle (making money), and I also didn’t love it as much as I thought I did (writing for money and writing for fun are very different things). So then I tried pivoting to an academic research career, which I had plenty love for, but again, ran into the problem of there being no money and no jobs. So, then, I kind of explored technology, because, obviously, it’s a high-paying field, and I’ve always had an interest in tech. So, I got a job as a writer on a tech team, and did a coding bootcamp. I found that while coding was interesting, I missed those other things: research, creativity, writing. By hanging out with tech people, I learned about this discipline called human-computer interaction, and it sounded like it was perfect for me– it’s interdisciplinary and involves research, writing, design, technology, and it’s a growing, well-paid field. Finally, I found something that checked all my boxes.

      I’m doing a master’s program in it now and I love it. I finally feel like I’ve found the thing that’s going to make me happy, career-wise, long-term.

      Sometimes I feel flakey for having taken a long time get here, and for having tried so many other things. But, I learned valuable info each time about what I did and didn’t like. And with each job I took, I learned more about what kind of work environments make me happy (and which don’t). I don’t think I would have been able to find a career I like without doing all those other things.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I have to laugh at this, because my current career is one I never would have put in the “can make money from” circle! It’s why I waited so long to pursue it. I find that people are generally unwise to the breadth and variety of jobs and opportunities out there, until they do as you did– start hanging out with people in an industry they think is cool.

        1. lemon*

          Well, “can make money from” is relative and open to interpretation. :) My interpretation is: at the most basic level, it means that somewhere out there, someone is willing to pay you money to do this thing (so you can eliminate things like, “sit on the couch and drink beer all day” from your Venn diagram, lol). But beyond that, “make money” really just means being able to make whatever amount you deem necessary for your happiness and survival, not necessarily raking in a ginormous piles of cash and living the high life (unless you’re into that).

      2. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        Good luck with your human-computer interaction career.

        Circle 3 is essential. Circle 2 really helps and is probably also necessary long-term.

        Circle 1 is nice but strictly optional. Speaking as one who’s in all 3 circles himself, I daresay Circle 1 is a luxury. I suspect a large majority of U.S. workers are nowhere near Circle 1.

        As career consultant Marty Nemko has pointed out time and time again, mundane careers often generate the most happiness. He says that the best career for you will offer you things like moderately challenging work, growth and learning opportunities, a kind and competent boss and co-workers, good pay and benefits and a short commute.

        For that matter, most humans love mastery. If you get good at something (and it’s not soul-crushing or evil), it will make you happy.

        Keep in mind that glamorous (including “social cause” and many public service) careers often feature low pay, mistreatment and other rottenness…because you’ve got so much competition the employers can afford to screw you over. You’re basically buying a really expensive lottery ticket.

        1. Avasarala*

          I agree, I think Circle 1 is the most negotiable.
          Plus most people like lots of things, and you may be able to find something you like about a job even if you don’t love all of it. For instance, you like solving puzzles so you don’t mind troubleshooting tech issues, or you like planning and organizing so you become a project manager, or you like creative writing so you do tourism writing. It’s kind of adjacent.

    11. WantonSeedStitch*

      I fell into mine by mistake. After going to school for journalism and being unable to get a job in that field that would pay enough for me to live in the city where I wanted to live, I ended up taking on an admin job. It was a terrible job (terrible company), and I quit without a new job lined up after three years. I ended up temping for a while, which was nice because it gave me a few different kinds of experience in a few different companies. I had previously temped during vacations as college, mostly doing entry-level HR work (lots of employee data entry, some HR help desk stuff), and thought I might want to get into that field, especially after a longish temp position doing HR after quitting ToxicJob, since it was the bulk of my experience. But then that position ended, and I ended up in a new temp role as an admin in the fundraising office of a university. I really enjoyed it. After a few months, I asked about going permanent, but my boss said she was going to be leaving to go to another school. She offered to give me a good reference for a job in the fundraising research office. I applied for that, and got the job. It was good because it was an admin role with some data entry and research duties involved, so I got a nice start in the industry of prospect research. When an actual researcher position opened up, I applied for and got that. Now, more than ten years later, I head up the research team here, and absolutely love my career.

      Starting in an admin role at a company where you like the kind of work they do, and where there’s a culture of promotion from within, is a great way of getting out of admin work and into a new field. My sister did the same thing by starting as an admin at a pharmaceutical company, and now she works in their compliance department.

    12. ten-four*

      I did a fair bit of noodling around trying to figure out what to do with myself too. One thing I did was look around at industries I thought were interesting and that looked to be on a good growth path, then start poking around in job ads in different companies in that industry. I was able to parlay my skills into a project management job (although man – steep learning curve!), and have done really well in the field. Tech as a field continues to boom and has a lot of good opportunities, even for people like me who don’t code.

      If you’re an admin now you might look to project coordinator jobs with a company working in the education vertical. From there you might get a sense of what else might be interesting. If you like to write content strategy is a thing to explore, as is UX writing.

      Another thing to consider: look for fields where you don’t have to go get a bunch more education to break in. I didn’t do any schooling or certificates in tech (not that I’m knocking it; just that there are lots of opportunities that don’t require extensive credentialing). The last thing you want is to re-train and then find that your new field still isn’t a good match!

      I think the main thing for me in my job noodling was really looking for a field that had a lot of different types of jobs and that was pretty stable, and then figuring out how to break in.

    13. Bug*

      I kind of fell into my career as well. Post college I did one thing- really didn’t like – took the total opposite as another job, didn’t like that either. Found next job- closer to what I wanted but not quite the right fit. Then I got another job… and after about 3 years I knew *this* is it. It takes a few years – don’t be afraid to keep looking, but balance with giving a job enough time. I usually suggest staying somewhere for at least a year – unless it’s a toxic environment or something. It’s like dating – you don’t really know what you want in a partner until you know what you don’t want. And you only find that by trying different jobs!

    14. public facing librarian*

      I worked in many jobs until I decided to be a librarian at 32. I was a bad fit for most jobs. Almost fired from one. Fired from another. (with good cause- was such a bad fit) Endured unreasonable supervisors, unpredictable hours, years of retail, children’s museums, bookstores, editorial, marketing, theater admin, sales, direct mail, call centers, a short stint in food service, and was the world worst executive assistant. I did all of the exercises in What Color is Your Parachute. Figured out that I liked non-profits, working with kids, education, anything that is the opposite of predictable and rote, project management, people management, coaching, supportive environment, life-long learning, professional development, books. Took a step back in pay and prestige and started at the bottom as a librarian trainee.

    15. Windchime*

      I stumbled across my career. When I returned to work after having kids, I got a job at a medical institution because a relative worked there. I did some medical coding (it was a lot simpler in those days) as well as some data entry. Years later, I kind of wanted to work with computers so I went to my local community college to take classes in network administration. My first college teacher was a young programmer dude who actually started working at our clinic a few weeks after I met him. I had to take a programming class for my certificate, and knew immediately that I loved it so I changed tracks and studied programming. An opportunity opened up at work, and the young programmer dude/co-worker encouraged me to apply. The rest, as they say, is history.

    16. Lizzo*

      The book “What Color is Your Parachute?” might be a good place to start exploring what your interests and skills are. Lots of exercises to help you get ideas down on paper.

      Also, keep in mind that careers nowadays are rarely linear. If you prioritize 1) finding something you enjoy, 2) being a role where you feel challenged just enough to keep growing, and 3) working for an employer who treats you well and compensates you fairly, you can’t go wrong. Good luck!

    17. Ana Gram*

      I wasn’t super satisfied being a paramedic and I thought long and hard and what I liked and what I didn’t like.

      Liked:
      – not being surrounded by people (mostly, I dealt with my partner and my patient and that was cool)
      – constant change
      – a weird shift schedule
      – autonomy
      – being the person who made everyone breathe a sigh of relief
      – wearing a uniform! Sounds silly but I’m not into fashion and makeup and it’s sooo easy to wear a uniform.

      Didn’t like:

      – not many options for a long term career- you’re a medic or a medic instructor and that’s kind of it
      – money and benefits weren’t great
      – stress! Y’all it is HARD to have people’s lives depend on you.
      – the somewhat repetitive nature of it. Sometimes I felt like Newman in Seinfeld- the sick people just keep coming!

      So, I thought about what careers could tick most of my likes and few of my dislikes and…I’m a cop. I’m 5 years from retirement and I’m largely very satisfied with my career. I’ve done a few different things and it’s been good. I’m highly motivated to contribute to society and public safety is a good field for me. Maybe a list like that would help you, too. Good luck!

  13. Miss M*

    I have an interview in a few hours today and I am SO SO SO nervous! More nervous than usual because this would be a part of my field I have not much experience in, but have been super interested in. I made that clear in the cover letter and somehow am interviewing. Imposter syndrome is really kicking in. Any good vibes or thoughts appreciated! Have a great Friday~

        1. Sarah*

          Thanks. I hope you rocked it! I’m wondering if it’s positive visualization if I keep hoping that I don’t have to do any of the things I’m working on at this time next year.

    1. KJ*

      Something that helps me is to think of it as a two-way street – they are interviewing me, but I am also interviewing them. Best of luck today!

    2. Nita*

      Good luck! I had a similar interview last week, and am supposed to get some feedback at the end of today. Totally on pins and needles over here! I was very up-front about not having all of the right experience, but that the thing they’re hiring for is my real passion and I’d put a lot of effort into learning it.

    3. From The High Tower on Capitol Hill*

      Good luck! If it helps, I always listen to Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen right before I get to an interview. For some reason that song just really amps me up.

  14. Potato Girl*

    The comments earlier this week about never using a work laptop for personal things made me wonder — do most folks actually carry two laptops when they go on vacation? In tech jobs, you usually have to take your work laptop with you just in case, and I’ve never carried my personal laptop as well. That’s just too much stuff to drag through airports, not to mention the snide comments in the security line (“Well that’s a lot of gadgets,” the woman behind me said when I pulled out my work phone, personal phone, work laptop, and Nintendo 3DS… she was quite disapproving about it, very embarrassing). So, tech folks – do you carry two laptops when you go on vacation?

    1. ThatGirl*

      I’ve never even carried a single laptop on vacation, but to be fair, I don’t personally own one, though my husband has a personal chromebook. We did take two iPads, two phones and a Switch on our Christmas travels.

    2. Oranges*

      Heck no! The only thing I don’t use my work computer for is porn. That’s my iPhone’s job. But seriously, having two computers one for work and one for personal use is just…. no. I know that my friends have been surprised when I tell them this so I do think it’s field specific.

      1. TechWorker*

        +1, I don’t even own a laptop any more as my phone suffices for most things and my company is totally fine with using work laptops for limited personal use (like I happen to need to write a word doc or use a website that doesn’t load well on a phone).

        I’ve managed to avoid taking my laptop abroad in general but take it home most weekends ‘incase’. Having to go back to the office in the very rare case something does come up is worse!

    3. KAG*

      I used to. A large part of the reason I got TSA PreCheck was so I didn’t have to remove all the electronics from my carry-on (travel tip: if you are carrying two laptops AND a bunch of books / papers, remove the papers before putting the laptop through- the combo almost always triggers a search).

      1. Ama*

        Yes, that was always my worry when I’d travel with my husband before we got pre-check. One time he had half a dozen devices in his carry on and I was terrified I would miss one when I was trying to grab his luggage (he also has knee replacements and thus always has to be patted down so picking up his luggage off the conveyor belt is usually my job while I wait for him).

      2. hamsterpants*

        Same here, down to the detail of getting TSA pre-check to avoid the hassle. Individually taking out two laptops, two phones, my kindle, plus toiletries, coat, shoes = too much, man!

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Books look funny on the X-ray. I had an extra duffle full of books and tea tins that got me pulled out of line at Heathrow. The guy was nice about it, though. He said they couldn’t tell what was in there so he had to check.

        Also, once at OldExjob, someone had to fly with a wood sample. I usually taped them up in white foam to keep the corners from getting crunched, but this time I used a rubber band because I figured security might want to unwrap it and see what the hell it was.

    4. Attack007*

      I only bring both if I am driving somewhere and I am going to be home for close to 2 weeks. If I am flying I got an iPad that I carry with me. I can do basically everything I do on my computer, but it is much smaller and easier to carry with my work computer. I am going away for the weekend today and I have my iPad in my backpack and I don’t notice a difference. I have done the two laptops through security it will get you looks and have also gotten me pulled aside for extra screening, but in the end it wasn’t that big of a deal, it’s just heavy and a hassle.

    5. Millennial Lizard Person*

      I bring work phone, personal phone, and personal ipad. Who care what one snide person in the airport security line says? You’re bringing what you need. Also, reconsider if you truly need your work laptop on vacation. Unless you’re on-call, you’re on vacation!!

    6. Admin of Sys*

      I try really hard to never have to bring the work laptop with me. My personal laptop has decent security and we’re permitted to connect over vpn to our network with it. So if I’m vacationing with a computer, I bring my personal one along – and if something critical catches on fire, I’ll vpn and then remote into a work machine. But I don’t really do anything on my home computer I would be forbidden from doing on the work computer, other than ‘waste time’, so ymmv.

    7. Welling*

      I try not to carry any laptops when I go on vacation, but I frequently do business trips where I have to take my work laptop and if the trip lasts more than a week, I’ll bring my personal laptop too because there are things that I just don’t want to do with my work laptop. I’ve never run into disapproval from airport security. You probably just had a run-in with a particularly grumpy TSA agent. I do try to prepare for security while I’m in line by taking out both laptops and having them ready to place in the bin. That makes the process faster and easier.

    8. Dragoning*

      Well, I get paid hourly and don’t currently get PTO. I don’t bring my work laptop on vacations. I’m not going to work.

      That said, I do occasionally bring my personal laptop to work for my lunch breaks (an hour is a long time to kill, and I have games/other software on my personal laptop that I can’t install on my work laptop). A lot of my department at work seems to think it’s beyond the pale that I…have a personal laptop at all. They seem confused why I don’t just use my work laptop for everything.

      What? Is that normal some places? It seems crazy to me, but maybe they just use tablets or something…?

      1. GothicBee*

        I’m hourly too and I don’t even ever bring my work laptop home unless there’s the possibility of inclement weather or some other issue that might mean I have to work from home (I’m not allowed to WFH for stuff like sick days).

        Personally I’d hate using my work laptop for everything. Mine is a pretty basic model and I prefer Mac, so that’s what I use for my personal laptop. If I ever had to bring a work laptop on vacation, I’d definitely bring my personal one too (or just my ipad depending on my plans).

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I used to do that at OldExjob, since my computer at work was a desktop and I couldn’t exactly pick it up and take it to the lunchroom to write on my break. At Exjob, I just used a flash drive.

    9. SomebodyElse*

      I have a work laptop and a person iPad that I travel with. I don’t bring my laptop on vacation, but have bitten the bullet and added work apps to my iPad. That’s more for my personal convenience than my employers.

      To be honest I’m not all that uptight about blurring the work/personal lines as far as technology goes. I am fully aware of the implications and find them an acceptable risk.

    10. KoiFeeder*

      I once brought a backpack full of stuffed animals through TSA. Now, I’m merely a grad student, but I am technically an adult, and the sooner you stop caring about what random people think, the more fun you have with your army of plushies.

      1. Golden*

        I’ve kind of adopted this mindset too. Those people have seen it all, and no matter how strange you think your luggage contents are they’ve probably seen something weirder before and will see something even weirder tomorrow.

        I’ve brought a backpack filled with several loaves of bread before, and I know someone who was shocked when they got to the scanner and was told they couldn’t bring fireworks on the plane. I’ve read about people sneaking pet fish through those too. A plushie army sounds fun!

        1. KoiFeeder*

          You are living deliciously. Now I want bread…

          (Although, to be a touch of a killjoy, fish don’t enjoy flying. Unless you’re transporting them via Salmon Tube, they’d probably prefer to stay home. Then again, my fish are all about 2-3 feet of carp, and the plural of anecdote isn’t data…)

          1. Golden*

            Oh no, I wasn’t suggesting that people bring fish on planes. Please leave them home or make another plan for them! That was an anecdote I read about of someone sneaking their fish through TSA (and the accompanying comments section of other stories). Someone’s college roommate who was supposed to feed it bailed on them at the last minute and they either had to smuggle it on or leave it to starve over semester break (or something. I can think of other alternatives but the person apparently didn’t explore those).

            Your fish are huge! Koi are so beautiful – here’s to hoping they never have to be smuggled through the TSA!

        2. Campfire Raccoon*

          I have (on many occasions) brought a wooden duck decoy. His name is Maynard and he takes pictures at exotic locations.

          I have also brought 2 still-steaming deep dish pizzas freshly purchased in downtown Chicago in my carry on. I was searched (of course) and sent through by some amicably jealous TSA agents.

        3. emmelemm*

          Many moons ago (pre-TSA), I had a pet garter snake (they’re pretty small). Moving across country. Called airline, they said you can’t take him on the plane. Put a small plastic travel box with airholes, empty, in my carry-on. Brought snake to airport in box. At airport, took snake out, put him in my zipped coat pocket, put carry-on through x-ray machine. I didn’t want them to see him wiggling on the x-ray! After the x-ray, took him back out of my pocket, put him in his box, went on plane. Fin.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Okay, I’m glad he was safe and happy throughout that, and garter snakes are incredibly personable and charming dudes, but there was a very important reason you weren’t supposed have a garter snake on the plane, and that is because they’re native to most states and as such aren’t permissible pets in most of America.

        4. GS*

          I brought some homemade prosciutto through once and the person asked me what was in my bag purely out of curiosity, he didn’t ask me to open it or anything. Apparently semi-dried meat is very dense.

        5. Witty Nickname*

          Last time I traveled for work, I brought my own coffee with me (I’m particular and the coffee at the hotel we stay at when we go to that location does not work for me). On the way home, I discovered that a bag of ground coffee can look like something else entirely on the TSA scanners, and they have to pull it out and swab it. And sometimes it triggers the alarms when they do that, so they have to unpack ALL of your luggage, swab everything, and you get a pat down too. That was fun.

          The agent that was searching my stuff was surprised and unsure about it all, but his boss had definitely seen it before because he was all “this happens sometimes.”

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        A few years ago, I had a KitchenAid stand mixer in a duffel bag, padded with towels, as my carry-on. And these days, a lot of my travel is to and from Orlando, and those guys probably see a hundred droids and two hundred light sabers a day these days :)

        1. KoiFeeder*

          The last time I visited my cousin in Orlando, our plane had to wait on the runway while they chased a three-foot alligator (assuming the mop they used on him was approximately three feet, I had an excellent view of the show) off the tarmac. I love Florida.

      3. Librarian1*

        I agree about not caring what people say, but at least with stuffed animals, you don’t have to take them out to go through security. It just seems like too much hassle to bring two laptops if you’re flying because they both have to come out and placed into their own containers and get screened separately, etc.

    11. Person from the Resume*

      In the past, I carried two laptops when I am travelling for work. There are things I could never do on government furnished equipment much tamer that what that LW’s employee was doing to cause her to want to resign.

      But why carry two laptops now? Your personal phone can do what you used to need a laptop for.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Spouse used to take an additional Chromebook with him when travelling for work so he could binge Netflix on a screen larger than 5″.

        We have a stupid number of devices in the house – 2 work laptops, 2 chromebooks, four active mobile phones, two active tablets, and three smart TVs, between five of us.

    12. Jules the 3rd*

      Yes, I often take two (manufacturing procurement, Fortune 500 tech co). At Christmas, driving to spend 6 days away from home, we packed 5 computers for 3 people; my husband had one he wanted to change hardware config on. We also took 3 phones, 4 board games, a tablet, a handheld game, and my e-reader (200 books in one).

      I did actually have to log on to my work computer a couple of times to deal with EOY emergencies. If I’m flying, I probably would not take both computers, but I’d have to have my e-reader. I do not do anything recreational from my work computer except maybe skim a few Pocket articles.

    13. Aerin*

      I mean, I carry two laptops to work every day, although my personal device is a Chromebook. But I’m first-level helpdesk and don’t have to worry about on-call stuff, so the only time I’ve traveled with the work laptop has been when I’m going to be working remotely from my destination (like, dialing in from the hotel for a full shift).

      Four devices would be a bit much for day-to-day, but that’s nothing for a trip. That lady was just a jerk, that’s a her problem, not you. My inclination would be to say something like, “Yeah, welcome to the 21st century” and return awkward to sender.

    14. WellRed*

      The only laptop I have is my work one. I use it for personal stuff, but within reason. IN only travel with a laptop on work trips. If I’m going on vacation somewhere fun, why would I want to lug a laptop?

    15. Anonymous Educator*

      The comments earlier this week about never using a work laptop for personal things made me wonder — do most folks actually carry two laptops when they go on vacation?

      Do people actually never do personal things on their work laptop? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who does that. Everyone I know does personal things on their work laptop. I definitely do. But there are smart ways you can compartmentalize:
      1. Don’t use your work email for personal stuff (banking, online shopping for yourself, etc.).
      2. If you have logins for stuff and websites you visit for personal things, keep them in a separate browser from your work stuff (e.g., work on Firefox, personal on Chrome).
      3. Never do any personal stuff on your work laptop that could be professionally embarrassing if discovered.

      In answer to your other question, when I’m on vacation, I’m on vacation, so I don’t actually take my work laptop with me. In fact, on a lot of vacations, I don’t even take my personal laptop. My smartphone usually handles all of my computing needs.

      In tech jobs, you usually have to take your work laptop with you just in case, and I’ve never carried my personal laptop as well.

      Depends on the tech job? I work at a tech company doing technical things (not a software engineer, though). It’s the kind of stuff that affects employees’ laptops and software, so my department’s not actively encouraged to do a lot of stuff off the clock.

      That’s just too much stuff to drag through airports, not to mention the snide comments in the security line (“Well that’s a lot of gadgets,” the woman behind me said when I pulled out my work phone, personal phone, work laptop, and Nintendo 3DS… she was quite disapproving about it, very embarrassing).

      Yeah, those comments are super uncalled for, and I hate them. People often travel for work, and even though I don’t carry around two laptops, I can see why some do (some may even carry two work laptops).

      So, tech folks – do you carry two laptops when you go on vacation?

      No.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        All that said, I do carry around two smartphones! My workplace has very strict management they put on smartphones that use company email (e.g., screen timeouts after mere seconds), so that is just way too annoying to have on my everyday personal device. My main phone is my personal phone, and then I have an older phone (with terrible battery life) that I use as my work phone.

      2. emmelemm*

        I definitely do the two browsers thing. Not that I would ever look at porn on a work laptop, but it just keeps all my bookmarks, etc. out of the way, if you know what I mean.

    16. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      So, I don’t actually have a work laptop (yet – that’s supposed to change in the near future). But I don’t even take my personal laptop if I’m going on vacation – my iPad is easier to carry and it’s what I usually use at home when I’m goofing off anyway. (If I were driving, and going to be gone more than a long weekend, I might bring my personal laptop. But not on a plane – it’s more than I want to carry through the airport.)

      But I’m also not in a role where I’m likely to be the only one who can do something, and that something can’t wait until I get back. However, one of my coworkers did take their work laptop on a cruise last summer, and was able to expense the internet package on the ship since the company was requiring them to check in on certain systems a couple of times a day.

    17. Lemon Zinger*

      I don’t work on vacation, so I don’t take my work phone or laptop with me. I work from home and on the weekends and at 5 PM, the cell phone and laptop are powered off.

    18. Two Dog Night*

      I do. I try not to use the work laptop if I’m on vacation, but I bring it, just in case. And my personal laptop flips around like a tablet, so it’s better for watching movies etc… plus I don’t use my work laptop for anything that requires a personal login. Probably paranoid, yeah, but I feel better.

    19. Sarah Simpson*

      I have a personal laptop and a work laptop – when I travel, I just take one. I used to take my personal one as it is lighter and faster and has a longer battery, but now I need the VPN sometimes, so I’m lugging the work one along. I use it for normal personal stuff – web surfing, Facebook, personal email. I just make sure I don’t save anything that is personal to me to the hard drive, but since everything is in the Cloud these days, that rarely comes up.

    20. Mid*

      I’m not important enough to be needed while on vacation, but my workplace uses a cloud system, so I would bring one computer and remotely work on our system.

    21. ElizabethJane*

      I work in tech and I straight up refuse to bring my computer on vacation. They aren’t paying me enough for that.

      I also realize that hard line in the sand of “If I’m off work I’m unavailable” is not something a lot of people are willing to do and I’m rare in that regard. I do have 2 phones though. And I have two computers (work computer is a mac, I prefer pcs)

    22. fhqwhgads*

      I do not bring my work laptop on vacation. I am in tech, but I had some bad jobs in the past where “just in case” turned into “we can always contact you no matter what even if it’s not actually urgent but because it’s more convenient for us to interrupt your vacation.” I don’t work there anymore, and consider myself a bad cultural fit for any job that would require me to bring work with me on vacation “just in case” when I was not officially on call.

      If I am traveling for work (or if I have a vacation tacked on to a work trip and thus would have it with me anyway), it’s acceptable within my company we might use work laptops for occasional reasonable personal use – checking personal email (I don’t but they wouldn’t mind if I did), ordering food delivery, etc. Although so much of that can be done on a phone at this point there’s almost no need. But I still wouldn’t really use the laptop for anything truly personal. I’d just not do laptop-related things during the trip. I do bring my personal tablet with me when I’m traveling with my work laptop and that would be my gadget of choice for personal stuff not suited to smartphone.
      Don’t let anyone shame your 3DS though! I’m going to a conference for work soon and have been debating bringing mine.

    23. Qwerty*

      Tech person (software engineer) – No, I have never taken my work laptop on vacation and I actively tell my reports not to check their email while on vacation. I’ve handled a few phone calls while on vacation when I was in a high pressure environment, but the conversations was always “Super sorry to bother you, we’re having a production issue, do you have time to answer a few questions?” and the calls never lasted more than 15min.

    24. HBJ*

      I don’t take a laptop on vacation. Anything I need can be done on my phone in a pinch, even if it would be more convenient to have a full keyboard and screen.

      1. HBJ*

        Oh, and for the record, I never had a work laptop, but I did have a work iPad. I never logged into personal social media, personal email, or browsed the web. The only personal thing I did on it was log into prime video, so I could download shows to watch at home while at work. I never took it or my personal computer on vacation.

    25. Elizabeth West*

      I only did once, when I worked while traveling. It was a company-provided laptop that I could use to hack into the one on my desk through the VPN. I couldn’t use my personal laptop for work and I was also doing a blog challenge at the same time, so I needed both of them. In hindsight, I could have used a flash drive for the other, but I’m more comfortable on my own machine.

      Next time I go on holiday, I am NOT also working, at least not the day job kind of work.

    26. Windchime*

      I don’t have a work laptop; just a personal one. We wouldn’t be allowed to have any work material on a laptop at any rate; everyone who works remotely is required to log in via VPN and then all the work is done on your workstation in the office.

      My workplace is pretty much against working on vacation; that’s for relaxing and recharging. I take my personal laptop on vacation for personal stuff; I suppose that, if they absolutely needed me that they would call and I could log in. But it’s definitely not the norm.

    27. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I don’t think you had any reason to be embarrassed for carrying lots of devices with you. That person in the security line was rude for making that comment. My response to a comment like that is to smile and say “Yes.” And then just cheerfully carry on with what I’m doing. Some people have more devices than others. So what?

    28. Kat in VA*

      Oof, I have a Dell and a Macbook for work, my personal Macbook, a work phone, and my personal phone.

      And yeah, all four of them go on vacation with me. It is what it is.

  15. Pessimistic Marketer Needs Your Help!*

    I’m tasked with coming up with a marketing strategy for a new service. While this is a type of work I usually enjoy and thrive in, I’m struggling big time. I could really use some advice. There are a couple of things going on:

    1) Fundamentally, and this is the hardest part for me: I don’t believe that the service provides great value to customers. The idea is great, the technology is almost there, but truth be told, it’s still not a fully-fledged product and it’s not ready to be sold (in my opinion, at least).

    2) I’m not convinced that it can be successful commercially, either. There are some flashy competitors, and they’ve gotten press coverage along with hefty investments, so everyone thinks there’s a huge opportunity in the space in general, as well as for us specifically. Me? I doubt these competitors are breaking even and suspect that it just means there’s excess investment money sloshing around. :(

    3) There are a few other major things in my professional life that I’ve been having a hard time dealing with emotionally in the last 3 months or so–new execs coming in; nonsensical decisions made way above my head and handed down in shitty ways; growing sense that something is going on and nobody is telling each other anything. Some of these changes have been exciting and seems positive, but they are changes nonetheless (i.e., stressful). My partner is also going through some challenges professionally. So, I’m not entirely sure how much of my pessimism for this particular new service is coming from this dreary headspace I’m in, but I know I’m majorly stressed out, as in I’ve never been *this* stressed.

    I’m sort of the leader in the team, and I need to be upbeat and forward-looking when we are developing a marketing strategy, so this is a big problem for me and the team. I’m really struggling to match the rest of the team’s enthusiasm and feel like I can’t see the service with clear eye to find a way to make it work.

    Has anyone in marketing of similar fields dealt with a similar situation, where their emotional/mental state is interfering with the forward-looking work they have to do? How did you cope? How do you approach a project like this when, deep down, you don’t believe in the value of what you’re tasked to get out there?

    1. Wonderer*

      It can definitely be hard to motivate yourself when your personal life is a mess. I think for this kind of situation, it can help to imagine what they *want* the service/product to be. Try to imagine what the service will eventually be, once it is ready, and then base the marketing strategy around that.
      Definitely don’t ignore the flashy competitors. You need a marketing strategy that differentiates you from them. Are they really the same thing? Find a way to highlight an important difference.
      If there’s lots of money sloshing around, you can either try to chase investors that just want to be generally in that space, or you can define a specific market segment that you will target. With several splashy competitors, I think they will attract the money from general investors and so it’s better to define your own ‘slice’ of the market and claim you are the best for it.
      As an example, the same basic electronic product with a simple function might be used in retail, military, medical, or whatever. But, paint it white and claim it’s the best one for medical and you might be the one to attract all the investors in the health care space.

      1. Wonderer*

        On trying to motivate yourself to care, maybe try thinking of it as a more theoretical training exercise? How do you think you would approach it if you *did* believe in the product? Maybe you can learn a lot from forcing yourself through the process instead of just going on enthusiasm.

        1. Pessimistic Marketer Needs Your Help!*

          I really like the idea of approaching it as a theoretical exercise. That might help me get over the “I don’t believe in it” issue. I’ll try this. Thank you!

        2. Triumphant Fox*

          Totally. Think of this as a portfolio piece, not a genuine expression of the product in the real world. When I started thinking of what I want to be able to put on my resume, instead of what is best for our general brand (when there is no vision, no metrics, absolutely no goals – just a void where I can do literally anything), I got a lot more focused. I want to leave this brand with a strong public presence I can point to and say “Look what I did.” What strategy can you do defend? What do you think will be convincing and memorable two years from now, when your in an interview and someone asks what impact you made at your company?

          1. Pessimistic Marketer Needs Your Help!*

            I love this reframing, too. What strategy can I defend? What will be convincing and memorable two years from now? What impact can I say I made in the company? Those are all really good questions, and I like how this framing makes the work meaningful to me on a different level than what I’ve been focused on. Thank you!

    2. jj*

      I’m absolutely on the same page. I work in marketing for a regional restaurant chain, and I know the company is going to go under because of poor leadership. I’ve only been here for a year, but they’ve been shutting down locations and really letting their standards slip. Every single person on my team is gone now. My boss quit, and everyone else was fired. It’s been a nightmare. To really top it off, a family member is likely going to pass away soon from cancer. There’s nobody to pick up my slack when that happens, and they won’t even consider hiring anybody else. I don’t care about this company, so I decided that, until I go back to school next year to follow what I figured out is my actual passion (clinical psych), I’m going to lean into the ridiculousness. They’re so desperate that they’ll let me try almost anything right now. Advertising steamed vegetable specials in Candy Crush, anyone?

      1. Pessimistic Marketer Needs Your Help!*

        So sorry to hear about your family member. It does sound like a crazy situation at your workplace, but it’s good you have your next step figured out. That’s something I should work harder on.

    3. Solving real problems or wasting time*

      Who at the company is doing research? You say you “don’t believe that the service provides great value to customers.” Are there numbers to back that up, or show that it is valuable to customers? Can you sit in on some usability studies or customer interviews, and hear firsthand how your audience feels about or uses the product (even if it’s just a test version)?

      If the answer is no one at the company is doing any research, then yikes. I recommend reading “Just Enough Research” by Erika Hall to learn how a little data from the target audience can go a long way in understanding the value of a product. Then get others to read it, or bits of it, and work cross-departmentally to get a clear picture of the value of the product or how it needs to change to be valuable to customers. You may have to do this guerrilla-style if the new execs can’t understand why research is important (and double yikes if that’s the case).

      1. Pessimistic Marketer Needs Your Help!*

        Good question, and we fall on the “yikes” side of things–it’s a small company with leaders with Strong Opinions. Just ordered the book. Thank you for this suggestion! Sounds like an awesome resource for my own future.

    4. Mrs. C*

      Is there someone else at your company you can informally interview to spark inspiration? E.g. if you’re marketing llama grooming services, go talk to a llama groomer. Ask that person: what do they think makes the service special, what kind of person’s in the market for those services, how does this product solve a potential customer’s problems or fulfill their needs, etc. You’d approach the conversation with a tone of wanting to learn more about what this person does & wanting to be an awesome representative of their work.

      Once you have those responses from a colleague, then channel that person; use their responses as a basis, and combine it with your talent for honing a message and knowing what channels to use for that message.

    5. theguvnah*

      I hear that you’re struggling. I don’t have advice – i think it is fundamentally immoral to try to sell people a product that is Not Good and that they Don’t Need. Is this something you generally need to do in your job? Am I misunderstanding the general summary of the situation?

  16. Lena*

    I know and have read posts about finding a diplomatic way to explain leaving a job in an interview, but how open can I be about a really bad situation? I’ve been at my small nonprofit for 2 years, in my current position for almost 1. I’m actively applying for many reasons, but it’s become more urgent recently as the org is in extreme financial stress, we recently lost our ED with no immediate plans to replace them, and in general I feel insecure at a place that was already toxic for a bunch of reasons. There are also believable things I could be looking for in a new position/at a new org, but should I stick to those in interview situations (“I’ve found I really am interested in pursuing x and this offers that more than my current role”) or can I calmly say, e.g., there’s no ED and the lack of structure has been difficult?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ideally you talk about why you’re interested in the new job, but in some cases where you need more than that (like if you haven’t been at your current job for long), then all you need to say is the part about the money problems (“we’re having some financial troubles and I’m looking for more stability”) — that on its own is enough of an explanation, and you can skip the rest.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        This is a perfect response. Employment is totally transactional. I give my employer so many hours of labor, and they give me so much money and benefits. If I can’t hold up my end of the deal, my employer can replace me. But a lot of us forget that if our employer can’t hold up their end of the agreement, we can also replace them. This is a completely reasonable expectation, but a lot of workers don’t see this aspect of employment.

        As someone who once had a payroll check bounce, if I were interviewing someone who said they were looking for more stability on the part of their employer, I would completely understand where they are coming from.

    2. Operation Glowing Symphony*

      “but how open can I be about a really bad situation?” Not open at all.

      I left a bad non-profit 4 months ago and I have conversations with myself all the time about this. I asked a similar question a few Fridays ago and it’s suggested that you say, “Looking for stability and focus” Non-profits know one another and they might already know the plight of your org and why you’re leaving. And it’s no good giving up the goods because they do know one another, and sometimes each others Board members.

      Good! “I’ve found I really am interested in pursuing x and this JOB/ROLE offers that more than my current role”

      I’m right with you and trying to fashion a positive statement can be challenging but we have to big the bigger person especially when the circumstances were beyond our control.

    3. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

      I was laid off from my last dumpster fire job, and I always gave pretty bland responses in interviews, or focused on looking for new opportunities/growth/etc. I figure the drama/issues are something I can share (light on the details, obviously) IF anyone asks me about it after I’ve gotten the job (which my new colleagues already have, as my old company’s drama is the worst kept secret in town).

      In interviews where people alluded to the problems, I mostly just did the chuckle and “Yeah, it’s a time of change at the organization. I was proud of the work I accomplished there, but I’m excited for a new opportunity!”

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I know the conventional wisdom is not to badmouth current or former employers, but I haven’t really found that to work against me in a job search, provided that…
      1) I also speak highly of other former employers
      2) I speak about it an even-handed and professional way and don’t come across as gossiping or bitter

      People are human and generally understanding that bad situations come up. If you’ve had four employers, and you speak well of three of them and badly about one, that isn’t some mark against you.

      Yes, of course, emphasize the appeal of the new position instead of the badness you’re leaving behind, but it’s okay to mention the badness, if it comes up.

    5. ReformedControlFreak*

      This is so similar to my situation when I left a NP I worked for. I mostly just focused on why I was “pivoting” and hoping to grow. Intelligent interviewers should pick up on hints, like “I’m looking for a place with stronger leadership”

      I got very open with my boss after a few months of building a relationship, and seeing how strongly he feels about good management and leadership. Some people in your professional life you should never open up to, it really depends on the person, situation, and dynamic.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Oooh thanks…. ‘consistent leadership ‘… you may just have found the positive spin on what I’m looking for.

    6. Chronic Overthinker*

      When I was “forced to resign” from Ex Job, I spun it as positively as I could. I said “I found the training to be unstructured and lacked focus and had training been a bit more structured/focused I would most likely still be there. I do wish them well and hope they find the right person for the job. However, I did learn some valuable skills like; .” Be diplomatic but spin it positive!

  17. Oogie*

    Why do upper management types always deny real issues and pretend everything is puppies and rainbows when in reality it’s a huge dumpster fire? My job has been hard the last several months and it’s affecting everyone and everything at work. Because of the problems I am tired and struggling every day at work. Then we get these messages that everything is soooooo great and that adds insult to injury. What is the mentality behind pretending there are no issues?

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      Ugh, I feel this so hard. Management MUST be aware that everyone is miserable and there’s huge morale issues – people are quitting right and left with nothing lined up – but they refuse to have a real come-to-jesus conversation about it, and just treat each departure as an outlier while blithely continuing on an ambitious new strategic plan that none of us have a clue how they think we’re going to add all this shiny new stuff.

    2. Birch*

      My theory is that sometimes it’s just inertia. Doing something requires taking action and committing to that action, which is more difficult than continuing to skip that missing stair.

      If it makes you feel better, our management keeps rolling out “wellness strategies” including things like
      1. yoga over lunchtime (as everyone knows, the BEST time to do yoga is right before or after eating! even better if it’s in a dead silent room, led by someone who is not a yoga instructor, and involves downward dogging in front of your boss! /s)
      2. “nature walks” including the one where they specifically invited an expert and then proceeded to completely ignore and talk over the expert the whole time
      3. daily coffee socials (who has time for this?)
      4. various infographics and email reminders that there are mental health services available…. services which, I know from personal experience, involve several layers of “signposting” which dead-end at a 9 week wait for therapy with the NHS

        1. Birch*

          I work at a university.. all of the things I listed are volunteer led, not hired professionals. Except the coffee, which we pay for ourselves. Well, I don’t, because you have to pay a different person for the coffee than for the milk, and that’s ridiculous, so i bring my own.

    3. designbot*

      In my experience, it’s because they see negative talk as contributing to or escalating the problem. They either don’t think they can improve the fundamentals of why people are unhappy, or have plans forming/in motion that will take time to gel, and have confused acknowledgement of the situation with spreading it. They think if they say “we’re aware of the dumpster fire, crews are on the scene and have it 50% contained, and furthermore are in talks to replace the dumpsters to make sure this isn’t a regular occurrence.” that everyone will just go “FIRE!!!” and flee the building.
      I happen to agree with you that acknowledging the situation is necessary to demonstrate that you are taking it seriously and are not blind. But I’ve come to accept that I am in the minority at my office at least.

      1. Oogie*

        I must be too. I prefer to be honest (admittedly sometimes to a fault) and address things head on.

    4. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      Toxic positivity. The people who get promoted are people who are positive, optimistic, and fun to be around, which makes them suck at acknowledging real problems or conflict. Check out Brightsided.

    5. CoffeeLover*

      If you admit there’s a problem, then you need to fix it. Fixing giant dumpster fires is a lot of work and it’s easier to pretend they’re not there.

      I think it’s a rare person who’s willing to take on major organizational issues. Once you open that can of worms, there’s no closing it. And you’re the one who gets fired if you can’t fix it… even if you werent the one who caused the problem to begin with. And of course, solving these kind of problems involves major changes including things like firing management. Good luck pulling that off especially if you don’t have buy-in from every other leader in the org.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      One big boss said that angry people work harder. Angry was okay with him.

      One big boss said less people do more work and he could not figure out why. (Because they were trying to protect each other from being fired.)

      Yet another boss said that developing thicker skin was part of working anywhere.

      This all to me is on the par with a doc who says, “It’s all in your mind” and his workload suddenly gets lighter for him.

      I do think that some people believe that “you have to pay your dues”, the problem with this is that it assumes everyone will get promoted and rise above their current setting. We KNOW that’s not true. If these bosses knew that the rest of their work lives would be the same toxic setting would their answer change?

    7. Jean*

      I have seen a lot of “fake it til you make it” mentality applied in these types of situations over the years. Some leadership seems to think that if they act like everything is great, they can convince everyone that it really is? IDK. True story: I once worked for a pretty dysfunctional department under an incompetent wack-job of a director. One morning in our stand-up check-in meeting (we did these on Mondays and Wednesdays) he made a big speech about how much morale had improved and how pleased he was that all his new policies had done so much to make things better for everyone. (None of this was true, we all hated him and he was actively making things worse for everyone.) He got so much pushback after this that in our next stand-up meeting 2 days later, he actually issued a RETRACTION AND APOLOGY for being so off-base. It was kinda hysterical in retrospect, but I have to admit, I did respect his honesty in the moment. He was generally not known for being honest. He ended up getting fired about 6 months after that. I don’t miss that job.

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      As far as they’re concerned, there are no issues; everything really is puppies and rainbows (in their eyes).

      They’re too detached from what goes on at the coal-face to know that individual people are tired, struggling every day, and so on. There are layers of management (I assume) between you and these upper management types… each just reporting what their boss wants to hear, with the hope of shoring up their own short-term position. The upper managers collect their salary, maybe cross through a couple of positions in the org chart if they need to “course correct”, no idea of who any of those people are anyway and no sense of them as a human, just a “line item” on a budget spreadsheet somewhere.

      I feel you and have been in similar situations (in a company with about 100 people and a company with over 8000 people!)

      The part I don’t understand though is that these people (with some exceptions) didn’t just be born in the world, get some education and then become upper management of a big company. They must have had their own time at the ‘coal-face’ so the part I’m struggling with is at what point that empathy and sense of the bigger picture evaporates.

      It’s ironic as presumably the higher the level of management the more the “big picture” thinking is needed. But I find it’s the opposite quite often.

  18. CC issues*

    Anyone have advice for working opposite someone who will not CC the appropriate people on emails despite being asked several times? I’m an attorney, and the paralegal on the opposite side of this transaction will send things only to me even though we have asked her multiple times over the past week to include my two colleagues (one of whom is our paralegal) and our client’s representative. I understand not wanting to spam people, but 1) it’s adding just three people who have affirmatively asked to be included and 2) we keep missing things because she will only send them to one person and therefore no one on our team is on the same page. Short of straight-out asking her why she won’t do this, is this just a grin-and-bear-it situation? And if so, any advice for my team to reduce confusion? We’re getting close to closing, and I’d hate for us to miss a settlement statement draft because the one person she sent it to missed it.

    1. merp*

      Nothing super helpful here, I’m afraid, just sympathy. When this has happened for me (not at work so much as coordinating house things), I just reply back copying the person I need to include and say something like “thanks – in the future please include x because reasons,” which it sounds like you’ve been doing. But for some people, it just takes doing that every single time. :(

    2. Alice*

      If you’re only dealing with this paralegal on one transaction, can you set up an email filter that automatically forwards everything from her to your two colleagues?
      I mean, it would be better for her just to do what you’ve asked….

        1. Clever username goes here*

          Yep, this. I have one of those colleagues, and I just auto-forward anything from them that does NOT include certain people to those who need to see it. If you use Outlook or similar, the rule engine is pretty good. In my previous job we had transitioned to gmail, not sure if it’s that flexible (good riddance, seriously).

      1. Flyleaf*

        Whenever this happens to me, I usually do a reply-all immediately, adding the people who should have been included. The message I add is “+Sally,Bob” which indicates that I am adding Sally and Bob to the email thread. It’s a bit of a pain, but it does two things. First, it explicitly adds Sally and Bob to the email thread. Second, once it happens a few times the other sender usually gets the message.

    3. KayDeeAye*

      I think this sounds like a legitimate performance issue – as in, this is part of her job. So if she’s not doing her job, I think you have the standing to tell her employer.

      1. CC issues*

        Well, for the bulk of this transaction, everyone we’ve worked with has seemed pretty unorganized (it took them a month to give us the name and information of one of the companies that’s party to the transaction, they’ve asked me to send them their own client’s organizational documents that they drafted, etc.) so I’m guessing that it’s an office culture that’s totally fine with her performance.

    4. Ginger Baker*

      Can you start ccing the attorney on the other side and, if that doesn’t work, escalate with them directly? Since it sounds like this is almost wrapped up, you may not want to do much on that front, but please know it’s completely reasonable to expect the mailing list to include…all the members of the team you’ve requested to be on it.

      In the meantime, just to get you through this closing, you can set a rule in Outlook to auto-forward ALL emails from [paralegal] to the folks on your team/client contact. It might mean a few duplicative emails (when the paralegal actually DOES include them) but it’s a better-safe-than-sorry solution and will get your through the woods for now.

    5. JimmyJab*

      I don’t know how this would go over, or if you have already tried, but can you reply to her every time and say please resend and CC x and y? Maybe the annoying repetitiveness will help it click? She really should obviously just do what she is asked but for some reason isn’t which is weird . . .

    6. Swingbattabatta*

      I’m an attorney, and have dealt with this exact issue with a paralegal at a client. We couldn’t escalate it, because she worked for the client and was notorious there for her BS, and they just let it slide. In my case, the paralegal was 100% aware of what she was doing and it was a super passive aggressive power move.

      The way I dealt with it was (1) always always always checking who received an email; (2) replying to her emails, adding my CCs (and sometimes her supervisor), and stating “please CC so-and-so on all future emails”, (3) calling her and asking her outright to do it, waiting for a verbal acknowledgment of my request, and (4) every now and then when I thought I could get away with it, going directly to her supervisor about the blatant lack of cooperation. If things were missed or dropped because of her non-compliance, I would also let people know “due to so-and-so being excluded from this email, this happened. In the future, PLEASE include so-and-so to avoid a similar issue.”

      She also used to REMOVE my CCs before replying, which drove me batty. I did actually ask her outright why she did that a few times. Good luck. People are so frustrating sometimes

    7. LKW*

      I just reply to everyone, add the people who should be added and in the message type

      “++ Person A, Person B” and then may add a note.

      That way everyone has the list. If you forward, there is a chance that the email branches and each branch runs in separate directions.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      [snicker] Sent all your communication just to her boss./ Do not actually do this but fun to think about.

    9. Katiekaboom*

      I have the opposite problem. I LOATHE CC’s and Reply All. And since I work at a non-profit, everyone wants to look superior by tooting their own horn and sending out “look at this great thing we’re doing!” emails, when in reality it’s just an excuse to be like “look at this great thing I’M doing”. And then of course everyone feels obligated to reply all so everyone else can see their “support” and “encouragement”

      1. CC Issues*

        Agreed, I hate useless reply-all’s, but that’s not the issue here. She’s not including people who have asked to be included multiple times and who need to see the information she is sending.

  19. Brennanite*

    Is there anything I can do about this situation?I work in accounting, and recently discovered my manager routinely lies to the higher up about our profitability (he admitted to me that he just makes up numbers to give) he claimed he’s too busy to devote the time to be accurate. These numbers are for internal use so I don’t think it’s illegal but could I get in trouble for knowing about it? If I tell his boss he’ll know it was me, I don’t think my job would be protected from him firing me.
    I’m extremely low level and relatively new.

    1. Frankie*

      Wow. Because it’s finances that impact the viability of the business, and because it’s that egregious, you might have to tell someone.

      The logic for me is that the business could literally go under due to these pretty insane lies. So your job would be at stake in that case, anyway.

      I’m sorry, this is a terrible spot to be in.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Something that’s really weird to me about this: profitability numbers that are only for internal use? Do you mean numbers for just your group, inside a larger org? Is there some allocation that’s going on?

      We don’t know the context, and can’t assess whether this is a Big Problem! or just a problem (ie, if this is a group that does .05% of the company’s revenue, no one cares) Unfortunately, only your boss / their bosses can tell.

      Might be worth asking someone else in your dept if they can give you context on how the reported numbers are used. If anyone says ‘Sarbanes Oxley’, then it is a Big Problem!, other than that you’re going to have to use your judgement.

      If it is a Big Problem, it is *highly* likely that your boss told you as a loyalty test, and yes, going to someone else about it will probably cost you your job. But as others said, so might not talking, when the company goes down.

      1. Brennanite*

        Yeah, so he sends grandboss how much each of our projects for the week made, ex. the teapot consultants generated X amount in revenue this week. But he isn’t generating any financial statements it’s just for the weekly meetings

        1. CoffeeLover*

          Is it possible that the numbers generally don’t vary much from week to week? Like sometimes it’s 21k and sometimes it’s 20k. I think his bosses would still be really pissed that he’s not doing something they explicitly asked him to do and that he’s lying, but I can see how this could happen in that situation.

          Honestly, if you have a template set up then doing this kind of weekly analysis should take no time at all. I guess it’s not a time thing and it’s more of a skill thing – your boss isn’t good at tech and/or analysis. Why not ask your boss if this is a task you can take off his hands? Set up a template and do the analysis. I bet he would be really grateful you helped him out of this situation.

          You can argue the ethics of doing it this way, but career-wise I think it’s the smarter move. No one likes the bearer of bad news and being a whistle blower rarely has a positive impact on your career (unfortunately). Plus, there’s no way they could ever know you knew that he was fudging the numbers even if they catch it later on.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I like this solution…

            It *should* be that the mgmt team is getting real financial info from somewhere, and if it was wildly different from what your boss is reporting, then someone in mgmt would have noticed by now, so your boss is at least in the ballpark.

    3. WellRed*

      I’d be worried he’s stealing from the company. You need to tell someone, if only to cover your ass.

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      Tell his boss ASAP and say you are worried about retaliation. Hopefully his boss can protect you. You really do need to tell someone.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Um, that’s fraud. Doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not (sometimes the law is curiously silent), it’s fraud. Several options I can think of. First, start job searching, you need to protect yourself. Remember Enron? WorldCom? that kind of fraud (high level, details are obviously different).

      If there’s a hotline, call it. If you have an HR, legal, or compliance department (or all 3), see if you can report it to them. Either openly or anonymously. If possible, get a copy of whatever report your mgr gave to the higher ups, then get a copy of the REAL numbers. This can be packaged and sent anonymously to whomever. Get your 2nd cousin 5 times removed to mail it to the CEO type stuff, or just put it on someone’s desk.

      People you might consider reporting to: legal, compliance, HR, the higher ups themselves. Your manager’s manager. If there are any external regulators, them. External auditor. Internal audit (if you have an internal audit function, they are likely to be an excellent place to go to).

      But job search, just in case.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        I don’t think we have enough information to come to such a strong conclusion. Giving ballpark figures on internal presentations is not fraud. It’s not a good idea, but its not fraud. It depends on if he’s actively trying to deceive or not… for all we know the numbers are “close enough”.

        It does make you question his integrity though especially if he works in accounting.

    6. Clever username goes here*

      Is the manager in question a project manager? It sounds like they might be – if they are, and are PMP certified (by the Project Management Institute), there is a code of ethics and conduct they have to uphold. Might be worth pursuing, if they belong to PMI or a similar accreditation body with professional practice guidelines.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      For your own clarification, look at this a bit longer.

      If he tells the boss that the company made 30k last week and they actually made 35k, I am almost okay with this. I am not really worried.

      If he tells the boss that the company made 50k last week and they actually made the 35k, I am worried.

      And how is the boss using those numbers? Is the boss making huge, critical decisions or just inquiring over the health of the finances this week?

      Does the big boss expect accurate numbers each time?

      In casual conversation I might say to my boss we made $x,000 this week. But if we are talking about the money for the week as part of a conversation then I would get a more accurate number such as $x990.40.
      Generally my numbers for casual conversation are low ball numbers. We have an amount slightly higher than what I am saying.

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        Same. I’ve been at jobs that wanted weekly reports on job costing- which was silly because most places billed out monthly, and our customers were all government/gaming organizations anyway. Big, ancient, lumbering billing and payment processes. Week to week the jobs could be 100% profit or 100% loss – and would vary wildly – but in the end they all had XX%

        No one had time to hunt down missing vendor invoices before the Friday Sitrep. Big bosses were only concerned with outliers. Jobs where something went WAY wrong. (Like when a riverboat casino caught on fire and sank, and our project manager had wade out of his room and swim to safety in his chonies in the middle of the night.)

    8. Jean*

      If you know about this, you could be implicated if sh*t hits the fan down the line (legally or otherwise). If I were you, I would tell this person’s direct manager what they told you, if only for due diligence and to cover your own ass.

      Talk face-to-face and then send a follow-up email referencing your conversation to document it. If the person you tell doesn’t care, they don’t care, but at least you know you did what was right. That’s all you can do in a situation like this. Good luck and please update!

    9. WantonSeedStitch*

      How hard is it/how much time does it take to pull those numbers, for you, or for someone else working there? It’s possible that your manager is committing some kind of embezzlement as mentioned in another comment. It’s also possible that he is trying to hide his ignorance of how to use the tools he has to actually find those numbers. If it’s something you could do, maybe with someone else, on a weekly basis, maybe you could send him an e-mail and say “I know you said coming up with the profitability figures every week is a real time sink. Would it be helpful if I provided them to you by EOD on the day before your weekly meeting?” If he says no…I would be very concerned, and I would try to find someone higher up to bring it to. Someone who can protect you from retaliation. I might be less concerned in another field, but in an accountancy field, the idea of fudging financial figures for ANY reason seems really fishy to me (to be alliterative).

    10. Coffee Owlccountant*

      Yikes. Like Jules said, we don’t have enough information to know if this is a “definitely not ideal” situation or a “MASSIVE COMPLIANCE ISSUE” situation or, most likely, somewhere in between, so I recommend doing some evaluations:

      – First, is it even possible to BE accurate for the report requested in the timeframe required? If it’s an internal revenue review that management is aware is always going to fall victim to timeliness over accuracy, management might be okay with Boss’s good-faith ballpark estimates.
      – Second, if you’re in a position where you have access to the source data, try to get an idea of just how far off Boss’s numbers are. If he’s off by 3%, the materiality factor in play is probably not enough to worry about it. If he’s off by 100% and telling management that you are making money when you are in fact losing it, that becomes a much bigger concern.
      – Third, sniff around if you can to see if any of the questionable numbers in play are or possibly could be reaching outside the organization, even as forecasts, and especially to any kind of external auditor. This is where the possibility of MASSIVE COMPLIANCE ISSUE is most likely to rear its ugly head and this would definitely be the situation where you would have a duty to report. Again as Jules said, if the words “Sarbanes-Oxley” (oh god and especially if you’re in an industry that could hear the words “Dodd-Frank”) are ever uttered in connection with this report, that is a Big Problem! and you need to think seriously about who you should be talking to and how quickly you can get on their schedule.

      You said you are new and low level, so think about your current relationship with Grandboss. Do you trust her enough to take the information straight to her? If you’re not sure yet, consider a conversation with HR, especially if any of the above evaluations give you a gut feeling that the situation is not altogether kosher and you believe you should report.

    11. Automated*

      I think you have practically no grounds to whistle blow here.

      He admits to making up numbers? What does that mean?

      I’ve been an analyst for 10 years. Often you can come up with a variety of answers to the same question. And often accurate = weeks of time. So if they need “quick” numbers then ballpark numbers, lowballed are very normal to provide. Its not a problem, like some above have suggested, to have an “accurate enough” bar even in finance.

      I know I and a lot of analysts jokingly refer to subbing reasonably assumed constants into finance models for 11th hour requests as making up numbers. Its as fraudulant as using 3.14 in place of 3.14159.

      Seriously spend some time on the numbers before going to anyone. I also highly recommend your read about the mormon whistleblower twins to get an idea of how even years of research can be handwaved as not a problem.

  20. MOAS*

    One of the managers in my department (she’s the same level as me so I am not coaching her) told us that she talks to clients directly and stays late all the time to fix her teams work.

    I asked her why is she talking to them, she said because her team member doesn’t know the right questions to ask. 

    *facepalm*

    It doesn’t affect me or my team, but. I — 

    1. NW Mossy*

      I swear, every management team has at least one of these! It makes me cringe every time, because you just want to shake them by the shoulders and remind them that THEIR job is hire and develop people to do the work, not do the work of an individual contributor at higher cost.

      1. MOAS*

        She got promoted because she has an excellent work ethic (always staying late and doing whatever she can to get the job done), and knows her work subject very well. I have nothing against her, she was great as an individual contributor.

        1. valentine*

          She’s either hurting the team (because there’s other stuff she should be doing, including telling them how to do their jobs) or she’s not needed as a manager.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        Er…sometimes. A lot of middle managers are individual contributors as well as managers. I certainly am. That said, a manager who does individual contributor work because she doesn’t trust her reports to do their work correctly isn’t managing well. Or at all.

        1. NW Mossy*

          That’s a good clarification! I was thinking of the context where it’s a manager that doesn’t specifically have individual contributor/production work as part of their overall duties, but you’re certainly right that roles like that exist and would be handled differently.

          That said, those sorts of hybrid roles are really difficult for people like MOAS’s colleague who have a tendency to tilt too far to one side. Strong skills in both individual contributor/SME work and people management can co-exist in the same person, but it also requires the ability to recognize what hat to wear when and perpetually fine-tune the balance between them. It’s no easy feat, and I have a ton of respect for people who can pull it off well.

        2. MOAS*

          I think it’s a cultural issue too. Half of us are of the “you’re all working adults and it’s your responsibility to get your work done and speak up if you need help” (but still communicate effectively) camp while the other half are “hold their hand and hover over them until they acknowledge item.” My direct boss is like the former, coaching when needed but not micromanaging.

        3. MOAS*

          So in our case, our job is to review our work product for clients for accuracy. If it’s incorrect, we talk to the person who did the task, coach them through it if necessary, and teach them how to do it correctly. She told us she gets tired of going back and forth with the worker, and just ends up contacting the client herself to complete it.

          OH–so, me, personally, I’m taking on a few tasks until I get a staff member in place. I had someone who we thought was fantastic, but she ended up ghosting us this week, so I’m pitching in to pick up the slack, but I don’t consider myself an individual contributor, but a manager who is pitching in. Is this different, or am I being a hypocrite?

    2. Automated*

      I am not surprised to hear they were promoted for working long hours. These types are usually inefficient work hoarders. I feel sorry for her direct reports.

  21. Meeting Insanity!*

    TL/DR: I’m a longtime mid-level manager who will be involved in a multi-departmental initiative that will last an entire year, with monthly check-in meetings. The person chosen to lead the initiative is a relatively new employee, and–under the influence of a high-level department in our organization–has come up with an insane agenda for the first meeting that is mostly fluff and little substance. What should I do — or, how do I survive?

    The organization I work for is launching a year-long initiative and I have been named the ambassador–think faculty advisor–to the team working on it. I have 10 years of experience within the organization and expertise in the subject area, but I am not the team lead for this project. The team lead is someone who works in a different department of the organization and has 1 year of experience. I’m generally enthusiastic about this initiative, but…

    The team lead sent out the agenda for the first meeting, and it’s totally out of control. It’s three and a half hours long, and includes ALL of the following:

    1. Welcome and introduction
    2. A large-group icebreaker where we name our “work superpower” (what?)
    3. “Collective agreements” (setting the working rules for the group, I think)
    4. Review of timeline and logistics
    5. A small-group icebreaker
    6. Setting a communication plan
    7. A “clapping circle” (!!)
    8. A brainstorming exercise
    9. A research exercise
    10. Setting the agenda for the next meeting
    11. Lunch from a caterer that is almost universally hated by everyone for having rubbery and almost inedible wraps, and cheesy, vinegary salads that positively reek.

    Out of all of those things, I think only 1, 4, 8 and 10 are necessary, and the meeting could easily be 90 minutes. But there is a long-standing culture of long, inefficient meetings in our organization. Also, this initiative is being spearheaded by our “strategy” department — which answers directly to the CEO and is lavishly funded at the expense of everyone else — and believes staunchly in things like work superpowers and clapping circles. (I asked someone in the strategy department what a “clapping circle” was, and was told, matter-of-factly, “a fun exercise that involves clapping.”)

    I’ve met the team lead and found them to be friendly and level-headed, but they’re very inexperienced and clearly eager to please the strategy department — and there will be a high-ranking person from that department in attendance at the meetings. I overall have very little clout in the organization, but as a veteran employee assigned to provide guidance to the team, I wonder if I should let them run the show and see what happens in the first meeting, or try to rein them in and risk making them look bad with higher-ups who can impact their future. As a veteran employee, I’ve been on a number of unproductive committees during my tenure here (but never with an agenda *quite* like this!), and I know that this first meeting, as it’s planned now, is going to be a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

    How would you navigate this situation if you were me? Alternatively, since my gut feeling is that this organization is totally bananas and the meeting is going to end up being run with all the icebreakers and clapping circles and whatnot no matter what I suggest… does anyone have any tips for *surviving* a meeting like this?

    1. lcsa99*

      Work Superpowers? Oh boy. Not really sure there is much you can do, so I would suggest just try to have fun with it since it sounds like you’re stuck. Try thinking of the most absurd work superpowers you can: able to file documents faster than a speeding bullet! Keeper of the invisible lunch – you put it in the fridge every day and within hours it disappears! Able to clear out a busy restroom in a hot second! Okay, so that last one wouldn’t be fun for anyone involved but it could be useful. I don’t know that I would share any of those, but it can make it easier if this is an absurd game and not something you’re taking seriously.

      To keep yourself from falling asleep (this definitely sounds like the kind of meeting that would put me to sleep) you can also make up your own superpowers for everyone there while they prattle on: he can use his fingernails as a hole punch! She can defend any position in stiletto heels! Whatever. Just do whatever you can to survive it.
      Good luck!

      1. Meeting Insanity!*

        This is genius. Thank you. The work superpowers you came up with were a lot more charitable than the initial ones I could think of.

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

      I think you’re within your rights to offer constructive feedback on the agenda. I do agendas all of the time and senior people ask me to make changes.

      1. Meeting Insanity!*

        I tested the waters by providing some minor feedback to the team lead — that having two icebreakers was excessive when one would be ample — and got polite but definite pushback. I don’t think that bodes well for saying what I really think.

      2. Gidget*

        I agree with this. Provide constructive feedback. Multiple icebreakers are not necessary. Clapping circle definitely not necessary. To me this sounds like a first day of school lesson plan. I think you could subtly hint to the organizer that this is not the best use of time and they should highlight 3-4 main items for the agenda because people are busy.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Oh dear…. well at the very least please take good notes and observations of the “Clapping Circle” for your report back to us.

      Other than that, I agree with you, not much you can do to alter this train wreck in the making. As for surviving it, I’m sure that it will provide ample entertainment for you. My suggestion is to reframe it in your head that it’s their circus and you are just one of the monkeys. It doesn’t reflect on you and you’ll most likely have a lot of good stories to tell after.

      1. Meeting Insanity!*

        I have a feeling that for all the bells and whistles, this is going to end up being a very humdrum meeting where nothing much of value happens. If I’m wrong, I’ll definitely update!

        1. WellRed*

          Nothing of value will have time to happen because the whole meeting is padded with fluff and fillers.

    4. Llama Wrangler*

      My strategy in situations like this is to support the facilitators thinking through what the goals of the meeting are and what they can do that will most effectively accomplish this. For example, I could imagine that they feel like there are needs to build relationships and set norms for the group, and that’s where some of the activities are coming from. But maybe they don’t need all those activities to achieve those goals. Asking probing clarifying questions about their goals and plan to achieve them can help them articulate their thinking, without being overly negative.

      In terms of surviving, to be honest, I dissociate (sing silently in my head) during quiet activities and take lots of strategically timed water/bathroom breaks.

      1. Meeting Insanity!*

        Huh, I didn’t think of using my overactive bladder to my advantage. I will be drinking lots and lots of water that morning. Too bad I’m not a coffee drinker; that would work even better.

    5. LKW*

      Three and a half hours – you’re not getting any of that done. Especially if you are having lunch and all of the ice breakers.

      Can I suggest that as part of the introductory part you have a meeting objective and outcomes slide? Yeah ground rules are important but so is knowing why you are there and what you’re supposed to walk out of at the end of the meeting. That way you can gently nudge and say “Well, if the outcome is getting this work done, we’re behind schedule and maybe we can skip the next ice breaker” but if the outcome is “getting to know one another and have stinky salad – sit back and enjoy the ride.

      1. Meeting Insanity!*

        The objective and outcomes slide is an excellent idea. I think I may have a broader question here of how to change the meeting culture at a very large institution that is generally resistant to change. We never do things like that, but always have things like ground rules (not necessary – we are adults, not schoolchildren) and inane icebreakers.

        1. LKW*

          You can’t, but you can make it clear to your team what a good meeting looks like and what you expect they bring to the table every time. I try to use the following

          Meeting Objective
          talk talk talk – redirect to objectives if the cats stray from the pen
          Meeting objective met/not met
          Summary of Action Items to confirm I didn’t miss any

          Sometimes when people can see an effective meeting, they are more likely to request others follow that lead.

    6. Ginger Baker*

      If this meeting organizer is super invested in a big “everyone hugs and we all sing a song and clap together!” vibe (terrible though this sounds to me for work, but I digress) maybe one area you CAN successfully push back on is the catering! Could you say something like “Hey, I noticed you plan to order from WeHateFood…I know folks have gotten a bit tired of that since it gets ordered so often [or whatever white lie or ego-stroking inducement you want to throw in here], I think you might get a lot of engagement if you order from ShinyNewPlace…you know how folks get about food at meetings!” and maybe that would at least get you some better food along with your kindergarten introduction day?

      1. Meeting Insanity!*

        I actually already have pushed back on the food! This is our longstanding caterer and while everyone hates them, going to any other caterer is Not Spoken Of here. I should also add that I work for a government-funded agency and while I can’t prove it, I suspect that the caterer and most of the members of the strategy department are all patronage favors to the CEO.

    7. Nicki Name*

      Can you suggest that they have a way to provide feedback anonymously after the meeting? Like through SurveyMonkey or something similar?

      1. Meeting Insanity!*

        That’s an excellent idea. Thank you. I assume that the team lead and I will have a debriefing session shortly after the first meeting (if not, I’ll push for one) and I’ll suggest this.

    8. Achoo!*

      Imagine you’re narrating a nature documentary in your head? “Here we see the congress of wild strategists assembling for their morning icebreaker. Normally solitary creatures, they’re known for coming together to form elaborate clapping circles. Scientists theorize that it is some sort of ‘make it rain’ dance.”

    9. Not So NewReader*

      If you know or can estimate the hourly rates of everyone in attendance you can write an estimate of how much all this huggy stuff will cost the company. Then ask if it is cost effective to do this. Be sure to add your hours in as you said you have to be there also.

      1. Meeting Insanity!*

        Unfortunately for me, this company is not a private industry and that’s not an argument that would hold any water here. (That’s on me; I intentionally worded everything to be vague.) The cost of people’s time is never a factor — hence meetings like this.

        1. lcsa99*

          I would actually think being a public industry (I would assume a non-profit?) would make for a stronger argument. If public money is being wasted, people would likely object.

          1. LKW*

            Yeah – if I knew my tax dollars were funding clapping sessions I’d be less than pleased. Unless it’s a Head Start class, then we’re cool.

    10. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      What are the chances of finding a willing coworker to learn a few schuhplattler moves with? When the clapping circle convenes you can jump in the middle and bust out.

    11. theguvnah*

      I actually think you are wrong about what this meeting needs though. You clearly don’t value team building and relationship-building in this work context, but for a company-wide initiative there are real values to this kind of approach. I think this agenda looks good and in line with other initiatives I have been part of.

      1. Avasarala*

        Dear lord. I hope that your coworkers don’t require multiple icebreakers and a “clapping circle” over 3 hours to kick off a project.

  22. FutureLawStudent*

    I am looking to switch careers and go to law school. How frowned upon is it to demonstrate you want to work in a higher ed institution to obtain the employee benefit of tuition reimbursement? The university I am looking at I know pays 80% of the law degree after a probationary year.

    1. Frankie*

      Do you mean if you interview for a higher ed position? You would probably want to lead with other things about the job that appeal to you, but lots of people are in higher ed partly due to the benefits offered, so it’s probably fine to mention it…especially presuming the job would need flexibility for you to attend classes, etc., so you’d essentially have to bring up your plans for law school.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Don’t bring it up. In my experience (5 years in higher ed), most institutions want you to value the work they do, the students, the alumni, the core values, etc. When they ask why you want the job, it truly needs to be about why you want THAT job. They have hundreds of applicants for any given role who are passionate about higher education. While their benefits may be what’s attracting you, you need to come up with reasons for wanting the job beyond that. I would say this is probably true of most companies generally. You wouldn’t go into an interview and say “I want this job because you offer paid vacations” (or at least I hope you wouldn’t) and the same thing applies here.

      1. ellydee*

        ^^ 100% agree! After 10 years in higher ed, you need to convince me that you want THIS particular job at THIS particular college, preferable in your cover letter to start with. It is a given that the salary/insurance/tuition benefits are also attractive to you.

    3. Admin of Sys*

      It’s totally okay to say that one of the reasons you want to work somewhere is a benefits package – but it shouldn’t be your only reason unless the job you’re going for is related to the degree you are pursuing. If you’re trying to get hired as, say, a project manager and you state that you want the job because of the law degree, the hiring team is going to (rightly) assume that a) your focus is going to be partially distracted by your coursework and b) once you achieve your jd / pass the bar, you’re going to leave the project management position.
      On the other hand, if you’re looking for work at the university counsel, pursuing a law degree that you might very well leverage for the university may work in your favor.

    4. Tuckerman*

      Did you explicitly ask whether the tuition benefit covers the law degree? Law is often excluded from tuition benefits.
      I would frame it more that you know they support learning and professional growth, both of which are lifelong endeavors for you.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        Yes, this! I know my institution’s reimbursement program doesn’t cover any doctorate-level degrees (which includes the JD).

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      I work in higher ed and you should NOT bring this up. Almost everyone considers benefits when taking a job. The tuition benefit is often a factor in higher ed. To use tuition benefits, you almost always need the approval of your supervisor AND the time to take the classes.

      In my previous role, my supervisor was pretty unhappy when I told her I wanted to get a master’s degree, and she was not supportive during those two years. On days when I had to leave 30 minutes early for class, I lost 30 minutes of my lunch (not a big deal, we didn’t always get lunch). I had to use PTO several times for school stuff, including graduation. I was taxed on my tuition benefit as well.

      Basically what I’m saying is that it can be a lot harder than people think. And definitely do not bring it up in a job interview. You need to want the job because you want the job. There’s no tuition benefit without the job.

      1. Tuckerman*

        Yes, the tuition benefit tax really surprised me! Non-job related courses were taxed at something like 37% (after a certain amount) and that money was taken directly from my paycheck.

        1. Flyleaf*

          They might have taxes deducted at a 37% rate, but the actual taxes owed on April 15th would be at the tax rate you are paying on your total income, most likely less than 37% (unless you are making over $622,050 in 2020 and filing jointly).

    6. FutureLawStudent*

      I haven’t started interviewing, but I’d definitely say that I want the job for reasons unrelated to the benefits package, but the three universities I’ve looked into DO cover the law degree. I guess I was wondering, how usual is it that someone takes a higher ed job, uses the benefits package to pay for a degree then uses that degree to move into a different career? I mean, if I am working in the admissions office, use the benefits package to get a law degree, wouldn’t it be obvious I plan on moving on eventually? I’d want to know how supportive an institution would be for you to use your tuition benefits.

      1. lemon*

        I think it really depends on the culture.

        At the university I work at, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for growth, so it seems tacitly understood that people are working here as a stepping stone to something else later on down the line. So, there are admin assistants using their tuition benefits to attend coding classes, for example, and everyone seems fine with it. I’ve also noticed, though, that a lot of people get that career-change degree but then just… stay. I don’t know if it’s because they decide they love it here, or because they can’t find a job elsewhere, or what.

        It might be worth looking into the tuition benefits policy to see if the university even *needs* to be supportive/know you’re taking law classes. We have two tuition benefits here: one that can be used at our university, and one that can be used elsewhere. The portable benefit (for other universities) has to be approved by your supervisor to ensure that the degree is relevant to your position. But to take classes at our institution doesn’t require any supervisor approval at all. So, it’s entirely possible to take classes after work and your supervisor never has to know.

        However, it’s also policy that we can’t use tuition benefits for classes taken during work hours, so that’s something to keep in mind. If the universities you’re applying to have a policy like that, it’d be worth making sure there are enough evening law classes offered to be able to actually complete the degree.

      2. Not So Little My*

        I was an administrative staff member at a university a few decades ago when I was in the middle of a career transition and hadn’t figured out my next move. A few years into my job, I did begin a graduate degree in Library and Information Science. Based on my work towards that degree, I was able to get a new job outside of the university and move into a new career field (not librarianship). However, I did not go to work at the university specifically in order to do this, it just worked out that way.

      3. Not a Real Giraffe*

        I think you can ask about this in a later stage interview. Like, as part of getting a feel for the culture of the institution and that department (they can be different!), you can ask if people often make use of this part of their benefits package, if their schoolwork typically corresponds directly with their professional work, and how the office supports this type of professional development.

    7. Mid*

      Don’t mention it while interviewing. Like probably don’t even ask questions about it. Sometimes there’s a weird stigma around openly taking a job for the benefits and compensation. Even though academia tends to have good benefits to make up for lower than average pay. (Obviously broad generalizations here.)

      Also, be aware there might be hoops to jump through that aren’t readily apparent. You might need approval to take classes. You might be capped at a certain number of courses over a certain time frame (e.g. 4 classes per year, or 20 classes total). JD might be excluded from the tuition benefit. The tuition benefit might mean that you aren’t eligible for any other scholarships or financial aid. If there are job cuts, it’s usually by seniority, so you’d be the first one cut.

      Further: Is this a part-time JD program? Does the tuition benefit apply to part time employees? Because full time JD program plus full time work is realllyyyyyyyyyyyyy difficult. Most programs strongly recommend that 1Ls don’t work at all. Are you mostly sure you can get into the law school at the institution you’ll be working at? What if the school you work at isn’t a good law school for you? (Eg in my state there are two law schools, comparably ranked, but with very different focuses, one is much better for environmental law, one is well known for business and taxation law.)

      I was a work study student for my college Dean, and I was often time put in situations where I knew things that students shouldn’t/didn’t know, and it was complicated at times. There can be conflicts of interest that come up that you wouldn’t expect. For example, I knew about changes to financial aid structure before it was released to the student body. This might not be an issue, but it is something else to consider. It was also super helpful, because I was on a first name basis with the dean, and when I (and many other students) had a conflict with a professor, I had more credibility that I otherwise would have had, because the dean knew me and my work ethic.

    8. JelloStapler*

      I work in higher ed, and have been on many search committees. So long as you do not lead with it, and do not make it sounds like the rest of the job is “meh” to you, it should not hurt you. Don’t lead with it, only apply if you are genuinely also interested in the position 9we can tell if you aren’t) and dovetail it with your enrollment in law school and looking for a way to work during your tenure. I will say though, there may be concern that you will then leave immediately after you graduate. So if the position is looking for a long-term candidate, it may hurt your chances.

    9. Lizzo*

      I wouldn’t ask about it during the interview process, but before going down this road, I’d also make sure that you’re clear on the financial implications (for your personal finances) if you leave, get laid off/fired, or for some other reason are no longer employed at the institution before you finish the program. It would suck to suddenly be in a position where you have to cover 100% of the costs in order to finish the degree.

      Good luck to you with your next step, whatever it may be!

    1. Teapot Translator*

      I’m doing okay. I bought myself some new pens and I made colour-coded notes for myself. If I run out of time further along the semester, I can always switch to computer notes.
      The class is interesting, but it’s a lot of information and I’m still not sure yet how to prioritize the information.

      1. Me*

        I’m not currently but I wrapped up a BS last year.

        I found those accordion folders 1 per class helped me a lot better than binders or anything. I’m a notebook user for notes.

        I didn’t learn this trick until after but my college freshman is using it and she says it works super well….do the reading BEFORE class. Then you have a frame of reference for what the professor is covering. Then you can go back and easily focus on the stuff that they talked about.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I got extra credit in my intro to legal studies class for referencing the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in a discussion about laws and societal standards and the ways they impact each other.

      1. E*

        Yay for extra credit. And here’s a fun fact for you. The Triangle Shirtwaist building is now owned by NYU. They used to teach chemistry there, who knows what is housed there now.

    3. anon24*

      My semester starts Monday. I am not looking forward to it at all. I’m only taking 2 classes, but I work 40-55 hours a week and have a lot of work/personal stress right now. I’ve been having a lot of anxiety about adding school on top of all this but I did ok managing it all last semester so I know I’ll be ok this semester!

    4. Middle School Teacher*

      Better this week. The weather here is horrendous, which means half my class stayed home on Tuesday. Good news for the newbies like me who actually got a word in edgewise during discussions? Reading load still heavy though.

    5. Mimmy*

      10 more days till my classes start (yippee!!), but I’m getting nervous about managing my time. When I did an online program a few years ago, I was not working and was only taking one class at a time. This time, I’m working (3 full days a week) and am taking two classes. Plus, I’m part of a volunteer county-level advisory council that sometimes keeps me busy (usually around early fall).

      1. anon24*

        Last semester was my first semester taking classes and working full time. I found that for me the best way to manage my time between work/school/personal was to sit down at the beginning of the semester and “schedule” it out. I programmed reminders into my phone calendar for all deadlines, papers due, quizzes due, test days, etc, giving me reminders several days before the due date and on the due date itself. I scheduled blocks of time every week for when I needed to be working on school. I did not schedule anything else over these blocks of time, I considered them as unmovable as work time. Oh, sorry, can’t do anything that day, I have another appointment, even though my “appointment” is really just spending 5 hours writing that midterm. As the semester went on I got pretty good at realizing how many hours a week I truly needed to dedicate to school and I was able to schedule it out pretty accurately. On weeks where things were particularly crazy I made sure to schedule in some relaxation time. I also scheduled “clean my apartment time” so that I knew my household chores were still getting taken care of. I’m not normally much of a scheduler at all but this really helped me keep my sanity. I also kept 2 running “to do” lists on my phone, one with household tasks and one with school tasks that needed completed. Every morning when I woke up I would pull up my calendar and then pull up my to-do lists so I could mentally prioritize and plan my day.

        It sounds complicated but I am really scatter-brained, and honestly am probably undiagnosed ADHD or ADD. Using this method I was able to work my 40+ hours a week, get complimented by my boss for staying on top of my work tasks so well, and get As in both my classes, so it did work for me.

        1. Lyudie*

          Seconding all of this. I’ve used Todoist (app/website for to-do lists) and a paper planner at various times. I have actually written out what readings were due for each week/module, scheduled them for specific evenings, etc. In heavier-workload courses I will try to spend an hour (or more, as needed) every night on school. I sometime squeeze in a reading or forums on my lunch break too. My professors have always had really good class schedules available from the start of the semester with specific due dates and expectations (but I am in an instructional design program, so one hopes my professors would be very good about that sort of thing lol). If you don’t get that from the professor, try to plan out something like that for yourself to keep on track.

    6. Gidget*

      Just started an accelrated career switcher program for teaching. It’s time consuming. Especially given that I have 2+ hours of commuting everyday. My big takeaway at this point is that thankfully I don’t find the assignments particularly challenging more nitpicky It’s very much a “I don’t have time for that foolishness” situation.

      How are your studies going Teapot Translator?

    7. Lyudie*

      I took my first quiz for this semester…thank goodness we have two attempts because I only got 60 the first time. Interestingly she has the quiz set up to have the same questions for each attempt so I was able to get 100 on second try (though I still am salty about one of the questions I missed the first time).

      I’ve also come to the conclusion that research journals need to hire a dang copyeditor/require spell check, no one should be misspelling “spreadsheet” in a scholarly article for heaven’s sake O.O

      My prof seems nice but the first assignment description is kind of vague so I’ve asked for additional guidance/samples from other semesters/what are you even asking for here. Maybe I’m just salty in general, oops.

      1. Elenna*

        Yeah I had a few online courses that had that kind of “take the same quiz twice” sort of thing, from my understanding the intention is more to help/force people to learn the material by giving them that free 100% if they check what they did wrong the first time. I imagine it won’t be a significant amount of your final grade?

        1. Lyudie*

          Yeah that’s definitely a thing but all my other online classes had a pool of questions, so it surprised me a bit. The highest score is counted so I got the 100% even if I’m cranky that at least one question is wrong lol

    8. Havarti*

      Survived my first semester this past fall, starting spring classes in 2 weeks. Hoping I learned enough from my mistakes on the first go-round to do better this time and have fewer panic attacks. :P

      Good luck to everyone!

    9. Over40Learner*

      I am in my second full week. Taking 4 classes this semester as well as working 40+ hours. I know am a massachist! Nothing too hard yet. One of my classes uses an online textbook and it was down for 3-4 days and I couldn’t read the chapter so I didn’t do so well on my first quiz.

    10. CB*

      It’s been a rough week! I started the final course of my program on Monday, and my boss started his new grad program on Tuesday. The third coworker on our team had cookies and a sweet note sent to our office, which was a nice gesture. :)

  23. Here we go yet again*

    I’ve been in my job for 5 months and I’m really struggling. I have someone who is aggressively trying to ice me out (ie: not inviting me to meetings, not going to meetings if I’m there, refusing to give me the info I need, refusing to talk to me unless boss tells them to talk to me, dragging heels when the boss would say I needed materials, talking to literally everyone around me EXCEPT me, stop talking and glaring at me when I walk by, tattling to the boss, etc).

    I even had one coworker say to me, “I had to suffer this way, so you should too.”

    They’re all older than me and when they’re having a general conversation, will ask me, “Do you even know what X is? Do you know what Y is?”

    (I think they’re just asking for entertainment purposes, not to see if I actually know or not.)

    On the actual work side of things, there is no training. Boss loaded me up with projects – but there is no guidance. Boss has high expectations and it’s basically sink or swim. There is six-month to a year backlog of work that needs to be completed as well leftover from the previous person in the position. I am intuitively supposed to know everything- who to go to for X, when to do Y without ever having been trained. They expect you to “just do it” and get mad if you make mistakes.

    When I ask for help from the boss, he just yells, “Get it done! I don’t give a f-!” Boss yells obscenities every time he receives an email from someone he despises, which is basically everyone.

    His admin will randomly refuse to answer questions and make comments under his breath about having to train me. Most days, he’ll flat out ignore me.

    Apparently I’m a magnet for toxic jobs as this is my third one. Either that or my expectations of the workplace are way too high.

    Any advice or tips on hanging in there until I get a new job and get out?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Is becoming friendly with the gating coworker an option? Kinda drafting them into a mentor position? I’m thinking about asking them out to lunch, your treat, and trying stuff, depending on what you think might work with this person:
      Appeal to practicality:
      ‘yeah, I get the feeling you don’t like me, but I’m not going away, and if I did, someone else would just take over what I’m doing. We’ll both be better off if we work together.’
      Flattery:
      “You know so much! I’ve been struggling with X, do you know how to do that? I would love to learn from you!”

      It’s important to get them away from their audience when you try this. The food bit is also useful, we are socialized to like people we eat with.

      If you think they’d refuse a lunch, watch what / when they eat for a few days and show up at their desk with the kind of lunch they like a little bit before they usually go to lunch and offer it. Or even just bring them a drink they like – it’s not as effective as food, but it has some of the same social impact.

      Also, ask your coworkers if there’s any documentation around at all. And ask your boss if you can have the emails of the person before you. A big chunk of me passing my job along will be ‘Here’s 10 years of emails about what we buy. Search by part number if you have questions, and see what we did last time.’

    2. Another Millenial*

      The first paragraph seems awfully personal. Have you tried talking to them 1:1 and asking if you unintentionally stepped on their toes by trying to be helpful (or something along those lines)? I had to do this recently, I just apologized if there was any misunderstanding.

      When they ask you if you know something, say “Of course I do, do you need help with it?” This kind of turns it back on them (especially if it’s something they SHOULD know).

    3. LQ*

      I’m pretty far to the “Eh, it’s fine, sometimes work sucks” side of the thing. I’m unlikely to say every job is a toxic job. And this is pretty bad even to my eyes. UNLESS! You’re hired as a very high level role, like at least director or svp in a large organization. In which case, yeah, they would expect you to know everything without any training and there’s no training and a huge backlog that you’re just supposed to intuit the answer to (and the giant paycheck to go with all that confusion and bs).

      You can consider this training for your svp role in the future as one way to hang in there. A sort of variant on the pretend you are a researcher observing the wild beasts of office suite 200. Think about how you’d say, “Well, the reason I’m going to be incredible at this senior-level role is I’ve been able to navigate complex office situations for years including situations when I had to get the work done despite a, quite frankly in hindsight hilarious, attempt to exclude me by never talking to me. Like in a sitcom.” Imagine how you could spin this as a positive in 10 years. It’ll be hard right away, so trying to make it funny today can be hard, but imagine long term future you looking at this and telling a really funny story about it.

      Workplace bingo has also been discussed if you can do something nice for yourself every time you fill a card that’s a good thing.

    4. Meeting Insanity!*

      Not providing adequate training is unfortunately normal for many fields. Everything else you mention is not. Rest assured that your expectations of workplace norms are not too high.

    5. JelloStapler*

      That’s not high expectations, but I would wonder if you need to learn to ask pointed questions or have the chance to ask potential colleagues about the culture before you accept a position. Or, it has become a vicious cycle of running to a new job to escape the old, so you are not taking that care. This is not said in judgment, as I completely understand just wanting to get OUT of a job, I just wonder if that is causing you to rush into another one without vetting it.

    6. Chronic Overthinker*

      My goddess! Sounds like my exjob to a T! If you cannot find a mentor/get additional training or guidance, I would get out while you can before you actually get “canned.” (sorry) And you might want to revamp job searches for the future to avoid another future toxic job.

    7. RagingADHD*

      I’m always so curious when I hear about jobs like this, as to what the interview process was like. I’ve taken a few toxic/semi-shady jobs out of desperation before, but it was very clear going in that it was a bad situation, and I viewed it as a stopgap.

      Was there a concerted effort to give candidates a false impression, or was the hiring process handled entirely by a third-party recruiter, or what?

      1. Here we go yet again*

        The typical red flags were not there. They were extremely formal and almost “too perfect”. When I asked my boss to describe the environment, he did pause and ask me for clarification. He still answered the question though. Again, they were all on their best behavior, so I couldn’t spot anything. They were vague on why the person before me left, but I really didn’t find anything out until I started.

  24. Berry*

    I’m a few years out of college and this is my first job in media (an industry I want to stay in). Is it normal for you to “do first, ask for permission later” in terms of work projects/new initiatives, or is it a media thing, or is it just my company?

    I can tell that I’ve been more the ‘check in with people before doing big leaps’ type than my coworkers are and I’m worried it’s been hurting me and I’m not sure if this is something I just have to unlearn or it’s just the environment I’m in.

    1. Former Non Profit*

      Enh, don’t sweat it. I’m guessing you’re still new-ish (nine months or less)? And people know that you’re building up experience and you’ll get more comfortable. I doubt it’s hurting you, unless you’re asking about routine things repeatedly.

      1. Berry*

        I’m relatively tenured (1.5 years at a company that’s only been around for a few years). I’m not asking about routine things, that’s for sure! It’s the big leap projects that feel like most people just do things and I scramble to do my work around them. I’ve been told that I should be doing more of the same thing, and just seeing if this is normal.

    2. Purt's Peas*

      It depends–I’m in tech where that kind of thing is relatively admired–not releasing some product on your own, but going ahead and doing a bulk of work and then showing it to your boss, coworkers, etc.

      For your stuff, it sounds like it’s kosher and expected to spend a little bit of time doing “ask later” work. I’m not entirely sure what it’d entail, but certainly at first you’d want to make sure that it’s nothing permanent and it’s not public.

      That said, it’s also super reasonable to spend a little more time getting experience before you dive into that kind of thing :)

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I think it really depends on the org/company you’re in. I came from a very “better to ask forgiveness than permission” place, and I’m now in a much more “you’d better go through proper channels” place. It’s been an adjustment, definitely.

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      It really depends on the work environment. Has someone actually alluded to your asking for permission to be a problem? Have you asked your boss what they would prefer, and what is generally appropriate in your office?

    5. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

      In media, unspent budget can have huge negative consequences….for an agency, that’s lost commissions and for a brand, it’s a dip in impressions that your team may be expected to grow. Most people I know would err on the side of bad targeting vs. not spending.

  25. a nosy commuter*

    I have a light question for everyone: What do you carry to and from work every day?

    I bring my laptop and lunch bag, plus miscellaneous small things, in a backpack, but I see people on the metro schlepping actual luggage! I really don’t get it, but I’m sure there are…things? Papers? Files? Gym clothes? Jelly beans? Puppies?

    1. DataGirl*

      way too much stuff. Laptop is in a rolling case with other work supplies and change of shoes in winter, since I’m wearing snow boots. Water bottle, lunch, any food I am giving away that day (I cook too much) are in another bag or two, and purse.

    2. Niniel*

      I’m tempted to bring luggage some days! I have 3 to 4 things every day:

      1)Purse, fairly large. Has my wallet, bullet journal, lotion, lipsticks, etc. Fairly heavy.
      2)My lunch box. It varies in weight depending on what I am bringing for lunch that day
      3)Laptop bag. My laptop is fairly heavy
      4)Water bottle
      5)Contigo coffee mug unless I am lazy and then I use my k-cups at work

    3. ThatGirl*

      Purse, coffee in travel mug, lunch bag. That’s pretty much it. I occasionally bring in boxes of kleenex or snacks to stash in my desk or extra shoes if I’m wearing snow boots, but not every day.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I will say, at my last job I WFH two days a week plus occasional evenings so I was frequently transporting a laptop back and forth, and had an additional bag for that.

    4. Potato Girl*

      A laptop bag, a little tote bag to carry my gym clothes and food for the day, and a messenger bag with everything else I need.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I’ve got a briefcase with gadgets (music player, power bank, headphones, tablet, bluetooth keyboard) and a writing pad in it, and then my lunch.

    6. merp*

      oh my gosh I wish I could bring puppies to work. while I’m dreaming, a case full of lunch ingredients instead of whatever’s easy to fit in a tupperware, and maybe a fancy dessert?

      in my current job, I became a tote bag person – I was never someone who had a big bag before, but I was tired of carrying lunch/tea thermos/purse/etc as all different things. so I bought a clutch/wallet that mostly lives in the work bag, and add lunch/tea/random necessary paperwork/headache meds/etc. seems like the more space I have to carry things, the more I find to carry, which I wish wasn’t true.

    7. Threeve*

      Yes, many people have to bring books and files to work. People might have their gym clothes, and many women change shoes when they get to the office. And the weight of a laptop alone is more than many people are able to carry on their shoulders for an extended period of time.

    8. Nope, not today*

      I dont need a laptop or other ‘work’ items, but I always have my regular purse plus another bag that usually contains my lunch, a book or two, my hat/scarf/gloves in winter if its cold out so I can take a walk on my lunch break (I drive to work), and sometimes a pair of shoes if I am wearing snowboots because the weather is bad. And then random things I bring in for my own office as needed – tea, boxes of kleenex, cans of soup for the days I forget to bring an actual lunch… it isnt much but some days it feels like rolling luggage would be easier! I’ve pared down my daily haul by leaving a pair of walking sneakers under my desk, I used to carry those to and from work every single day.

    9. Sighhh*

      1) Work laptop
      2) Umbrella
      3) Wallet and keys
      4) Makeup case
      5) Lunch tupperware
      6) Corksicle with coffee
      7) Heels/impractical shoes to change into

      I fit this all into one of my three “commute” bags I feel okay taking on the train, which is either a Herschel backpack, a Madewell Transport Tote, or a Doc Martens vegan backpack. They’re not huge. I always assume people carrying more either have gym stuff or are heading to some sort of event they have to overnight to.

    10. StellaBella*

      Laptop in its case, purse (huge), badges, change of shoes in winter, lunch, thermos, sometimes books, sometimes extra gear if needed for events (camera gear).

    11. LionelRichiesClayHead*

      I carry a large tote that holds my laptop, small clutch type purse for my wallet and cell phone, a toiletries case, and an electronics case. Plus keys and badge. Sometimes I will also shove my lunch in there too if it’s small or bring a separate lunch bag.

    12. knitter*

      Probably a teacher bringing endless grading or reports or planning materials home. I’m up to three bags and a box to and from home pretty much every day. I can’t just finish after school because I have to pick up my kids (well and the fact that it is endless…).

    13. K*

      I work on a college campus. I bring a backpack that normally has my laptop, notebook, wallet, pens, and water bottle. Then I also have a tote bag that carries my lunch and an extra pair of shoes along with whatever else I need to bring that day. Some days I bring crafting stuff to do on my lunch, and others I bring a book.

    14. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

      I have a canvas tote bag to carry my lunch and heels, if I’m wearing them that day (I walk a lot at work, so I usually wear a pair of stylish sneakers or flats on my commute), plus my small purse and coffee tumbler. I try to travel pretty light. When I worked at an office with a gym, I often brought my gym clothes and yoga mat, too, and felt like I was moving in to the office every day. Right now, since I’m new in my job and still setting up my cube, I’ve also been bringing in a reusable grocery bag with a few of my decorative items each day.

    15. Aerin*

      I’ve seen a lot of people in my office with rolling bags, and it’s always seemed a bit excessive to me… though since I’ve been schlepping around the hard copy of my manuscript as I work on rewrites during breaks/downtime, I’ve started to see the appeal. Sucker’s heavy.

    16. Admin of Sys*

      Very dependent on office and transport options. In my last job, I was on public transport, so I carried a backpack that had the laptop and cables, my purse (which held wallet, phone, and a collection of edc things), my lunch, a waterbottle, and a change of shoes. (+/- umbrella , scarf, gloves, etc). Now that I have nearby parking and a spare laptop, I’m down to the purse and a small lunch bag.
      But when I was both on public transport and didn’t have much of a dedicated workspace, I carried the public transport list above, plus a change of clothes and a lot more ‘just in case’ things, like a mending kit and some first aid options, and a small toolkit, etc. Because I didn’t have a desk drawer to stash those items in, I had to drag them around with me.

    17. littlelizard*

      My purse (phone, keys, wallet, eye drops, maybe a lipstick?) and lunch if I’m bringing lunch. But I drive to work, and there’s usually a gym bag or an overnight bag in my car if I have plans later.

    18. SomebodyElse*

      My laptop bag looks like luggage (it’s a roller), but it is a laptop bag. I use a big one mainly because it’s more convenient for work trips.

      If I’m in my home office, generally I just have my iPad shoved in my normal (but on the large size) purse and my Yeti cup.

      If I’m traveling; laptop, bag with cords & mouse, bag with ear buds/iPhone/iPad charging cords/charging blocks, nightstand bag (glasses, drugs, lipstuff, etc), small knitting project, snacks.

      I gave up on packing light a long time ago… schlepping a bunch of stuff is much easier and less stressful than not having what I need or want.

    19. Anonymous Educator*

      I used to bring a lunch, when I worked at a place that didn’t provide lunch. In the past, I’ve also tried bringing a change of clothes for running home after work.

      Now I bring a water bottle full of water, hand sanitizer, headphones, tissue packets and random other stuff in a backpack.

      I see people on the metro schlepping actual luggage!

      Honestly, you never know what people need for work. Or sometimes people take the metro to go to the airport (I have in the past). I took a training once, and my trainer flew in from another state with a giant suitcase full of laptops and iPads.

    20. Llama Wrangler*

      I have a medium size backpack and I carry:
      (1) My breakfast and lunch
      (2) A kindle or book
      (3) An umbrella, and in rainy seasons a lightweight raincoat
      (4) A small pouch with medication, portable charger, liptsick, etc
      (5) A smaller pouch with hand lotion and bandaids (this one lives in my work backpack, #4 moves bags with me)
      (6) My glasses case
      (7) Assorted small items (a tube of sunscreen, sometimes some teabags, a business card holder)
      (8) A tote bag so I can run errands on my way home

      If I’m moving between sites, I’ll carry my notebook (a 9″x12″ hardcover), but unless I have that and something for after work, my bag is generally pretty empty.

    21. LKW*

      I travel a lot so I’m always carrying two emergency kits:

      Tech kit. Spare hot spot, wires, mouse, backup power stick, etc.
      Personal: spare lipstick, cortisone cream, antacid tablets, bandaids, pens, tampons, tylenol, nail file, cuticle clipper, hand cream, capsacin rub, hair tie, safety pins, tissues, alcohol wipes, hand sanitizing wipes, etc. This is on top of whatever other normal things are in my purse.

    22. Nita*

      Usually just a medium-size purse, but sometimes a very large backpack (I guess it looks like luggage?) that holds instruments, a hard hat and equipment. I don’t have to carry the equipment around every day, and I don’t drive to my office if I can help it, so I’d rather just haul the stuff around on my back now and then.

    23. Goldfinch*

      If I’m going to be at the office all day, just a laptop bag and a gigantic tote bag that serves as a purse.

      If I’m going out on the field, then add a variety of shoes (including steel toes), hardhat/vest/other PPE, weatherproof notebook, digital camera/tripod/accessories, one or more meals and a ton of water, and possibly TP (depending on what stage of completion the job site is in).

    24. Donkey Hotey*

      Note: I drive to work. That said, every day out the door I carry:
      Bag 1: gym clothes, trainers, padlock
      Bag 2: lunch, journal, pen case, book, charging cables, headphones.
      (phone, keys, wallet on my person)

    25. Laura H.*

      1 bag which rotates between a walker bag that attaches to my walker, a backpack that I hook on to said walker with large stroller carabiner style clips or a tote bag that I hang on one of my walker’s handles. Sometimes add a laptop bag that can hold a standard size folder in addition to holding a laptop.

      Contents of the three bag options vary but usually include phone, keys, and wallet. But that’s also not just my commute bag- it’s kind of an everyday thing.

    26. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      This is fascinating. I usually just bring myself and my backpack, which contains: my morning coffee, all water I need for the day because water comes out kind of yellowish and stinkyish at work (???), lunch, kindle, computer glasses, IDs, wallet, sunglasses, phone battery charger, and other backpack detritus. I keep extra sets of flats at work that I can change into if I need to, but usually I just wear my snow boots all day anyways. During the summer I wore Chackos to and from work every day! I’m considering bringing a gym bag now that my gym is on the way home from work, but I don’t want to add more to my already full load. My gym’s rented lockers are not large enough to accommodate my backpack, either, which is an odd conundrum.

    27. LadyByTheLake*

      A small purse that has wallet, lipstick/lip balm, cell phone, keys, glasses and sunglasses. Lunch.

      I leave my work shoes at work (don’t schlep them back and forth), the water bottle and coffee mug also live at work.

    28. Ama*

      A smallish purse (it’s not as small as my last purse but it basically holds my wallet, a little makeup bag , keys, phone and a few other essential items).
      A medium sized tote bag that has my coffee mug and umbrella in it — it’s big and sturdy enough to hold groceries or other purchases if I need to stop for something on the way home, and I can also fit my work laptop in there if I need to (usually just before/after work trips or if we’re expecting an office closure due to weather).
      I also usually have a knitting project in the tote in another small bag (usually socks or a hat).

    29. Nicki Name*

      Backpack containing laptop, lunch, something to read, umbrella in the rainy season, sandals & T-shirt if it’s hot.

    30. Retail not Retail*

      I have to drive and we park right by our office and shop so if I need a certain tool (they’re ours while we work here and then we turn them in. Locking it in my trunk is easiest!) or my ID or a warmer layer, I can walk right over.

      I try to remember headphones and a book and sunglasses and my meds. Having a car has made me far lazier than when I biked/bussed/walked.

    31. so many resumes, so little time*

      1) backpack, which contains laptop (sometimes two), lunch, extra throat drops, sometimes a container of tea, newspaper or book

      2) purse: wallet, eyeglasses and case, tissues, business cards, analgesics, earphones, pen, stamps, flash drive, phone charger, MetroCard, lip balm

      If I’m planning on running an errand, I’ll stick a cloth tote bag into my backpack, so sometimes I carry one more bag at the end of the day than I do at the beginning. If what I purchase isn’t large, though, it goes into the backpack.

      If it’s going to rain, I’ll stick an umbrella into my backpack, and sometimes an extra pair of socks in case my feet get wet. If I’m wearing snowboots, I carry a pair of shoes to change into at the office.

      A few years ago I had shingles and couldn’t wear my backpack for weeks; had to switch to a tote bag. The experience taught me I was carrying too much stuff every day, so I purged almost all the “extra” things that somehow had taken up residence in my backpack. I don’t even remember what it all was, now.

      (Phone and house keys go into pockets unless what I’m wearing doesn’t have pockets. Then they go into my purse.)

    32. BelleMorte*

      Just my Micheal Kors tote which is pretty big, fits my ipad and laptop, lunch and water bottle.

      I also bring a puppy daily (service dog), but she doesn’t fit in my bag as she’s a 11 year old lab.

    33. BC Lower Mainlander*

      Knapsack with:
      1 – 1L pouch with miscellaneous medical supplies; suture scissors, large bandages, alcohol wipes, nitrile gloves, gauze packs, epi-pen, clear plastic bags, acetaminophen, ibuprofen…
      2 – water bottle, paring knife
      3 – lunch and at least 3 snacks
      4 – reusable shopping bags
      5 – umbrella
      6 – pens, usb stick, usb cables (always sucks to go searching for one!)
      7 – spare shoes (only cuz of the snow boots right now)
      I want a lighter bag, but I feel naked without all of my “stuff”

    34. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I have:

      * a backpack, which has “office stuff” in it: work laptop, assorted tech things (mouse/cables/10 key pad/whatever), my paper stuff (binder and notebooks) for both work and usually for my evening/weekend volunteer work (since it’s easier than changing it back and forth depending on whether I’ll need it that day, general “office supplies” (pens, tape, correcting tape, highlighters, scissors, index cards, post-its, etc.) mostly because I also do a fair amount of remote work from various non-home places in addition to the office.

      * a purse, which has miscellaneous “personal stuff” it: money/credit cards/ID, personal calendar, camera, book, reusable grocery bag, flashlight, comb, some tools, pens/Sharpies/dry erase pens, Lara bars, basically anything that comes in handy often enough to justify the weight and space. (I keep debating removing the camera, but it comes in handy just often enough because I don’t have a smartphone. It’s a cheap, small waterproof one.)

      * a “wine bottle caddy” reusable bag (the kind you can get at the grocery store to take home 4 or 6 bottles of wine), which I use to carry a combination of Contigo coffee mugs and water bottles to work in, plus anything else I need that fits that shape profile. (I have one that has 4 slots, so usually 2 coffee mugs, a water bottle, and an empty space that might be filled by a snack in a canning jar or something.)

      I live the life of a D&D character whose DM doesn’t calculate encumbrance regularly. I hate not having stuff more than I hate carrying stuff around, I guess. (I’ve been this way since at least high school. I try to pare it down every now and then, but it’s just so convenient to actually have stuff when I’m out places trying to do work.)

    35. Roja*

      This is for part-time work, so I don’t usually bring a full lunch (otherwise there’d be a lunch bag): laptop, teaching notebook, keys/wallet, phone, ipod for commute, sunglasses case, any footwear I need for teaching, water bottle, snack. Sometimes teaching tools or body care tools like tennis balls, theraband. It all fits into my laptop bag 99% of the time.

    36. RobotWithHumanHair*

      My small Fossil backpack (love that thing) which contains a book, my Kindle, assorted medications (Aleve, inhaler, etc.), assorted charging cables and a notepad. Then I also bring my gym bag which has my running shoes and a change of clothes and toiletries for my regular lunchtime run.

    37. a nosy commuter*

      omg, thanks everyone for indulging my snoopiness! It’s fascinating to hear about all the different things everyone takes in that I didn’t even consider :)

    38. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

      I started working full-time in 2006, and I forgot my phone and keys one day. I made a little chant to remind me what to bring each day:
      Money, Mobile, Music, Keys, Cigs, Pass

      (Pass = work pass)

      In the 14 years since then, the Mobile and Music have merged into an iPhone, I stopped smoking, started making my own lunch, started wearing make up, and now need glasses!

      So each day I always say as I stand by the front door:
      Money, Mobile, Makeup, Munchies, Keys, Glasses, Passes.

      That’s what’s in my bag :) plus an umbrella, and a canvas shopping bag that folds up small for my groceries on the way home.

    39. CB*

      I do a combination of biking to/form work and taking public transit. The haul depends on the day. Most days, I carry:

      1) Backpack, with standard backpack things like supplies, plus my full set of work clothes and toiletries post-7am workout.
      2) A large lunchbox with a strap. I am working hard to gain weight and fill that sucker up to the brim.
      3) A bicycle helmet

      On Mondays, I also have my laptop in my backpack (evening grad school course). On Wednesdays and Fridays, I have an additional pair of workout-specific shoes I have to carry, which results in a grocery tote in the morning but nothing extra in the afternoon.

    40. Cap. Marvel*

      I carry a backpack with two books to read on the metro, a change of clothes, my bike helmet, lunch bag, and shoes. Sometimes I bring my laptop.
      I metro in but I bike back so that’s why I have a bike helmet when I am on the metro.

    41. A Non E. Mouse*

      I have a backpack for my laptop, tablet, and random files/food/cables/pens/sometimes silverware depending on what I’m eating for lunch.

      I also carry a purse.

      But! The luggage you are seeing might be because of health issues – we have several people that work for us with bad backs that need to bring equipment in and out, and they literally use a rolling hard sided suitcase for the purpose. Saves their backs, protects the equipment.

    42. Buffy*

      I travel pretty light really. I have a Dooney & Burke tote size bag that holds my laptop (with mouse and power cord) in a padded sleeve, small wallet with ID and cash, computer glasses, a book to read, a small baggie with Tylenol (regular and sinus pain) and Advil plus eye drops and my work ID badge. If I’m bringing my lunch, it’ll squeeze into that same bag. Occasionally I might have a couple extra things like right now I’m building out a new laptop and it’s giving me problems so I can’t fully convert from old to new. So I’m carrying the extra one in a sleeve.

    43. Elizabeth West*

      I’m the person who takes everything everywhere just in case. I usually have my purse inside a tote bag with other items. Then I keep stuff at my desk too. Basically, if I had to camp out at work, I could.

      I have a go-bag in the trunk of my car, but I’m considering keeping either a small one in the tote or one at my desk, since weather events are getting worse.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I have a small go bag with a change of clothes, water and a 72 hour food bar in my locker at work. I have water and blankets in my car. Need to replace my kit that got swiped when my car was broken into.

    44. Jaid*

      My insulated bag is big enough for one liter of seltzer, wallet, cell phone, newspaper, portable fan, breakfast, lunch and snacks (my shift starts at 6 am, so I eat both at work).

    45. Curmudgeon in California*

      I WFH two days a week. On the other three, I drive myself.
      I carry a medium sized laptop bag, employer provided
      Here’s the load:
      1) Folded up raincoat
      2) Laptop charger
      3) Lunch & soda
      3) Gadgets: plug in USB charger, USB cables with misc ends, USB battery, earbuds
      4) Writing supplies – pen, mechanical pencil, sharpie, white board marker, highlighter, yellow stickies, half size notebook
      5) Food supplies: eating utensils, metal straw, silicone straw, napkins, reusable cup or water bottle
      6) Misc supplies: first aid kit, hand sanitizer, sewing kit, flashlights, metal nail file, tissues, cough drops, feminine supplies, foldable shopping bag(s)
      7) Sometimes the work laptop
      When I have everything loaded in it it can be quite heavy.

    46. Jemima Bond*

      I carry a large handbag (purse) containing:
      Purse (wallet?)
      Work mobile, personal mobile (if you don’t want to catch me on my mobile, don’t call me on my mobile)
      Keys
      Work building pass on lanyard with pedestal key
      Work badge wallet (because am ninja assassin)
      Travel card (stored with great care as possibly single most expensive thing I own including my car)
      Small pouch with things like hand mirror, ibuprofen, tweezers, private lady item, lip balm, plasters etc.
      Headphones (wireless in charging case, get me with the cool tech)
      Charging cord for each phone, usb plug, sometimes one of those power pack thingies
      Hair brush
      Travel size hand cream and alcohol hand gel
      Book to read
      Notebook for Ideas
      All of the biros in the Greater London area plus half the Home Counties.
      Umbrella
      Cotton shopping bag in case I need something from the supermarket on the way home.
      Sometimes a collapsible silicone coffee cup
      A teaspoon.

    47. Jemima Bond*

      FWIW every barrister I’ve ever met carries their court bundles (big thick piles of paper) and other files in one of those wheely suitcases. So they always look like they are about to go away for the weekend. Occurs to me it probs contains their gown and wig as well sometimes.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I was just about to say that I’m a lawyer and if I’m in court I will use a rolling suitcase for the files I need – paper is heavy!

    48. Book Lover*

      Tea in a thermos and a lunch bag. A coat or umbrella a few days a year. And iPad and phone and handbag. But I just have to walk from the car to the entrance and elevator. Not a big deal.

      1. Book Lover*

        I have my own office though so I have my computer, hairbrush, etc etc etc that I don’t need to bring back and forth.

    49. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I have a biggish backpack that always has an assortment of personal items (nail clippers, ibuprofen, feminine supplies, wet wipes, tissues) in a separate small bag. I also usually have a shopping bag, umbrella, emergency phone charger, raincoat, a hat and gloves, lunch, and a coffee mug. If it’s Monday I will have all my work clothes that I washed over the weekend, and if it’s the last day of a project I’ll be coming home with safety boots, hard hat, site coat and other PPE, and a bag of tools.

  26. DataGirl*

    Resume help needed: What do you do when your job title does not match your actual duties? I am not doing any of the tasks associated with what someone with my title would normally do, and it’s making finding a job hard, because people who are looking to fill that type of position see me having none of the skills- but I’m afraid if I put a different job title and they check with my employer they will think I’m lying when the title comes back different. Suggestions?

    FWIW- my description of my tasks is accurate to what I do, but I think at least initially a lot of resume reviewers are just glancing at the titles.

    1. Jimming*

      You could format it like this:
      Descriptive Title (Official Title)

      Alison has a lot of advice about this topic if you look through the archives.

    2. DataGirl*

      Thanks Jimming. Related question: Cover Letters- do they really help? Since I’m IT I’ve always felt like anything an interviewer needs to know is in my resume and that cover letters are stupid. So I don’t apply to jobs that require them, and in tech there are a lot of job listings that don’t. But reading this site, I’m wondering if I am doing myself a disservice by filtering out positions just because I don’t want to write a cover letter.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        I don’t know about your particular job, but in most jobs, cover letters definitely help. (In my case, they help a LOT.) They aren’t supposed to restate everything that’s in your resume. What they are supposed to do is convey ideas that a resume can’t, e.g., why you want this particular job at this particular company and to highlight how your experience might help you in this particular job.

      2. Aerin*

        Yeah, read all the stuff this site has on cover letters and then write one. A cover letter is for all the stuff that isn’t on your resume that creates a broader picture of you as a person: how your personality would mesh with the position, little accomplishments that wouldn’t merit resume space, what appeals to you about this particular company, etc. And it can help provide some context if you’re changing gears or stretching for something.

      3. Mop.*

        Yes. Do a cover letter. They’re usually neutral, sometimes they help; I’ve never seen one that hurt the applicant, but I guess it’s possible.

      4. Fikly*

        You are doing yourself a disservice because you are filtering out positions, full stop, for any reason other than you do not think they would work for you to actually work in.

    3. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

      This has been my challenge for my most recent job AND my current job. When I was job hunting, I relied on my cover letter to tell the story of my experience, and my tasks on my resume. I also sort of amended my title (it was something like Associate “Department” Manager and I changed it to Associate “Department” Manager, My Specialization/Sub-Department name) and used relevant key words in my resume task descriptions, so they popped out.

    4. ellydee*

      It may be worth a conversation with your supervisor about updating your job title. You could say that it would clarify your role to multiple parties (customers, clients, co-workers, networking), especially since it’s presumably included in your email signature. As a supervisor, it would be very helpful to have this clarified for when I need to post the job opening again (not that you want to tip your hand about that).

      1. DataGirl*

        I will think about that. Performance review season is coming up and a job description review is usually part of it. In general I’m reluctant to discuss this with my manager who is a very challenging person, but if we just talk about title it might be safe.

  27. Exhausted Trope*

    How hard is it to be pleasant? In my workplace, very few people acknowledge my presence. My desk is near the elevator so it is impossible not to see me as you pass. Very few people will greet me or even look my way. Most times, we make eye contact and no one says anything. Even later in the day when presumably people are more alert, some will pass me in the hall and not say a word or even look at me. I’ve gone out of my way to be pleasant-always have a smile on- but I’m still ignored. I’ve had people come to my desk, hand me a stack of papers, and not say one word even when I’ve greeted them. I have to stop them and ask, “What are these?” to get any kind of response at all. Is this odd behavior or is it something that I am doing wrong? Do I just work in an office full of people who lack basic professional skills?
    For context, I work in a medical clinic in the HR office upstairs. We get lots of people in and out. At first I thought it was because a lot of people hate HR, but that can’t be it. I work with four other people (all women as am I) and they don’t receive the same treatment.
    Then I thought it was because I used to be a temp but got hired on full time but there are two others with far shorter tenures here who are treated well. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I think it might stem from this and because one of my co-workers, who is very comfortable with bringing her personal life and her family drama into the workplace, has expected me to participate in the daily soap opera she creates along with the constant gossip about peers and managers. It’s ridiculous and exceptionally unprofessional. I can’t say anything as I’m not her supervisor and she’s been here far longer than me. For the record, I leave the area when the gossip begins so maybe she’s upset that I won’t join in.
    Fortunately, I am relocating next month, so I won’t have to deal with this much longer.
    But how do I avoid going bonkers until then?

    1. Sighhh*

      This would be odd and rude in our office. We have an executive assistant desk the first thing off of our elevators, and nearly everyone greets her and asks her how she is as they get off. It’s common courtesy, and she’s also the best so we love seeing her first thing.

    2. KayDeeAye*

      I agree that it’s odd and rude. Not greeting when they pass by might not be such a big deal – particularly if they have to pass you several times a day or if greeting you would interrupt your work (or a work conversation they’re having). But not greeting you when they hand you something? That’s just…bad.

      If it were me, I’d amuse myself by considering the non-greeters “robots” and keeping track of how many there are in this company. Or I’d go out of my way to give them effusive greetings just to freak them out. I might even insist on shaking hands in a salesperson-y sort of way. But I have a weird sense of humor.

    3. Cimmaron*

      My desk is near the elevator so it is impossible not to see me as you pass. Very few people will greet me or even look my way. Most times, we make eye contact and no one says anything. Even later in the day when presumably people are more alert, some will pass me in the hall and not say a word or even look at me.

      This, in my opinion, is fine. It is what I would prefer from these interactions, both as a passer-by (I don’t want to feel obligated to give a cheerful greeting every time I pass by the elevators) and a desk-sitter (giving and receiving cheerful greetings would be distracting for me). It seems like a reserved/brusque office culture that doesn’t value casual chat; if your desk is isolated from others, that likely exacerbates the situation. It may not be to your preference, but it isn’t wrong.

      I’ve had people come to my desk, hand me a stack of papers, and not say one word even when I’ve greeted them. I have to stop them and ask, “What are these?” to get any kind of response at all.

      This, on the other hand, is rude. It is one thing to limit social interactions or put a higher premium on work (my sense of the situation from the first passages I quoted); it’s another to treat you like you should read their minds & hop to doing whatever task they want without communicating. To be clear, it’s the ignoring you that’s the problem, which comes off as treating you less like a coworker and more like a tool – if there were exchanges like the following, I would not consider it a problem even if they were cooler/less pleasant than you would prefer.

      ex.) You: Hi Cersei! How’s it going?
      Cersei: Ah, Trope. I have the teapot documentation for Big Projects #1-3 here. I need [tasks] done by [date].

      1. Exhausted Trope*

        Yes, “hop to doing whatever task they want without communicating” is the exact vibe I get. It is very demeaning and not the way to handle it when they need something. I am not anyone’s assistant yet I’m treated as though they believe that I am.

    4. ellydee*

      I’ve heard of some people who keep a candy dish on their desk for the sole reason of inviting people to partake in some sugar with a side of chit-chat. However, since greener pastures are on your horizon, it’s probably exacerbating every little annoyance of your current circumstance. Best wishes with your relocation!

    5. Doctor Annongong.*

      Please share where you work OP as it appears you have found the dream company for at least 50% of AAM.

    6. Lana Kane*

      Since you’re leaving, when someone dumps papers on your desk, feel free to tell them “Hey, in the future, please let me know why you are giving me things instead of just leaving them.. Thanks!”

      You may not be able to change them, but your remaining time might be less stressful if you feel like you;re standuing up for yourself.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        It would be sooooooo tempting for me to just sweep them onto the floor if they were just dumped without a word, but I’m snarky that way. You could just give the pile the fisheye like it was a fungus that suddenly sprouted on your desk…

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          I like how you think, Curmudgeon!
          And thanks to all commentators for your input.
          I think chocolate and meditation are warranted for my situation.

  28. Unladen European Swallow*

    I review several hundreds of resumes annually in my work and this year, I’ve noticed a large uptick in resumes that have a “skills” section where people will use a dot scale system to presumably indicate mastery of a particular skill. As in, out of 5 dots, anywhere from 1-5 are bolded/filled in. I’ve seen this type of scale used on a resume for concrete skills such as coding languages and Microsoft application software, as well as soft skills such as “communication” and “leadership.”

    Are other people seeing this as well? How the hell am I supposed to interpret these types of self-ratings? What exactly does a scale of 1/5 dots vs 3/5 dots vs 5/5 dots mean? Where are people getting this type of advise to include in their resumes? Is it part of a trend to have people create more “infographic” heavy resumes? Thoughts? I personally really dislike them. It takes up a lot of real estate and reveals little to no useful information.

    1. Anongineer*

      I actually saw this recently when my friend sent me her resume! It was to apply to graduate school for design, and she got the template from another friend who was currently in grad school for some type of marketing design (not sure exactly what). It was in California so maybe it’s making the rounds there?

      (We both went to a more technical college and that format definitely did not exist there!)

    2. Jimming*

      Yes, and I hate it. I think there are a few “auto generated” resume services that have this feature and then I have to explain to my clients why they should remove it since it’s meaningless.

      1. Dragoning*

        Oddly, however, I have been asked more than once in job interviews, where I would put myself on a scale of 1-10 in knowing, say, various Office programs.

    3. irene adler*

      I encountered an ATS system that asked me to rate my skills – in a 1 through 5 fashion-when I applied for a position. Maybe folks are seeing this and thinking they need to conform to this sort of rating system?

    4. Rey*

      Yes, this is now included on some Word templates for resumes, which I assume are made by graphic designers, not hiring managers. I’m fine with a bulleted list on the resume, but the self-ratings also seem totally random to me. Our interview questions ask specific questions about the software experience we’re looking for so that we have more information to base our decision on.

    5. Boba Feta*

      Gah!! I saw this on my student’s resume this week! From across the desk and upside-down I didn’t even read any of it before announcing firmly whilst pointing at it: “No.”

      She looked horror-stricken, which I suspect was due in no small part to the fact that she admitted having paid for a resume template. (!) As soon as I asked her to consider this information from the employer side, and ask by what criteria she can write herself to be “Excellent” in any of those categories or skills, I think she saw the light.

      And then I sent her straight to this blog.

      1. irene adler*

        There should be a requirement- a law even- that a big sign must be posted right by the career center in every institution of higher learning. Said sign should read “consult AAM for all your career advice”

    6. Aerin*

      I saw this on a lot of resume templates when I was helping my husband revamp his. They do look visually appealing, but… no. Just no.

    7. Mia 52*

      HATE them. It gives you no indication of what they have actually done. Also it will say “leadership 4/5 dots” and then they have no leadership experience whatsoever listed on their resume. If the content of the resume lined up with the dots, which is usually doesn’t, I think I could get on board. I think its silliness.

    8. Jules the 3rd*

      ***** MP / Holy Grail familiarity. (Go on, ask me my favorite color!)

      At my employer, over the last 4 – 5 years, we have to assess our skills on 1 – 5 scale, and it’s got specific definitions (ie, beginner / user / composer / mentor / architect). Mostly ‘hard’ skills, and they’re better if you have the badges to back them up. I use that to *list* my top skills and assess gaps, but I’ve not seen the recommendation to add the assessment itself to the resume. Yet.

      My guess is yes, this is a direction some orgs are trying to go. I *think* that when I apply to new jobs within my company, the hiring manager would have access to my assessments.

    9. Donkey Hotey*

      I’ve never seen it on a resume and wouldn’t use it myself.
      What I -have- seen is a skills section that includes the logos of the software described as well as its name.

    10. voluptuousfire*

      Agreed. I see this on a log of younger software engineer resumes and that of product designers. It’s really not useful.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        Yup, came here to say this. I see it with lots of younger IT and marketing professionals.

    11. designbot*

      I haven’t used a dot scale, but I do keep two categories: proficient in, and some experience with. Basically if it’s been a while or it’s not my core expertise it goes in ‘some experience with’ and if it’s a thing I use daily/weekly it goes in ‘proficient in.’
      I think this is people’s way of trying to tell the most expansive version of their story without feeling like they’re inflating.

      1. Sequoit*

        I’ve used the scale system on my resume for the reason you mentioned of not wanting to inflate. I don’t want to imply mastery of something I’m only proficient in, especially because in my field there’s a lot of different software/platforms involved and I want to paint an accurate picture of my strengths.

        Probably the effectiveness of the scale system depends on the industry, because I’ve gotten good feedback in interviews about it.

    12. Chronic Overthinker*

      Just wanted to comment that I love your username!

      Also, yeah, that is pretty strange. Must be a new “tip from the pros” to get your resume noticed. I mean I suppose it’s nicer than saying “intermediate or proficient” with a certain skill, but I’d much rather have a demonstrable line on how that skill was used in your experience to really accurately gauge the skill level.

    13. Charlotte Collins*

      I just read a bunch of resumes for my job (not usual – non-HR people are tapped for resume screening at my agency) and noticed this, too. I found it distracting and useless. It’s government employment, and we really only care about what’s in the job description and anything more that can support that. Lists of skills are just a waste of words for us.

    14. Arts Akimbo*

      A dot scale. Like a character sheet for job seekers. Wow. Someone/some company probably got paid a lot of money to think that up, too.

    15. EinJungerLudendorff*

      I did that for a while, because I was a recent grad trying to explain my technical proficiency with twelve different toolsets in a quarter of an A4 page.

      It’s not very helpful, but I have no idea how else I could have done it and still be coherent.

  29. There's no good time to quit?*

    Is there any good time to quit? I’m just fantasizing here about getting a job offer and leaving my toxic job, and I believe my boss suspects that I am trying to leave, because…she knows how bad it is. And two people just quit from our team. She’s started scheduling me (and our team) for tons of travel, conferences, etc., and she joked “Well, it would be awful for anyone to quit after we booked all these!” Oh god. I’m so nervous. I do have interviews coming up, and the conferences that are booked start in March and are scattered from there until August. One plane ticket was booked. I know in my contract and HR, there’s no requirement for paying back these bookings, but I am afraid this is going to burn bridges by quitting when she’s booked conferences. I guess the best time would be to quit in August? But if I get a job offer, I don’t think I would want to stay this long. I thought about offering a month notice, but that won’t change the bookings. Any advice?

    1. But There is a Me in Team!*

      Practice your quitting speech in advance, in the mirror if you need to, when the time comes, be kind but firm and don’t over explain (I am terrible at this). Remember as AAM herself and others will often point out here, if they needed to let you go, they would in a hot second. It’s not an arranged marriage, it’s one of many jobs you’ll have and you need to look out for yourself. Good luck!

    2. Rey*

      She’s the boss, right? So if she is afraid of losing employees, she should come up with a plan to retain them, right? Instead, she decided to book you for conferences and make passive-aggressive jokes in the hope of guilt-tripping you into staying longer? If she truly cared about retaining employees then she should honestly examine what would increase retention. If she felt like there was nothing she could do to improve how bad it is then she would understand that its in your best interest to look for another job. When you put in your two weeks notice, you can include canceling or transferring the bookings as part of the tasks you’ll take care of, but that is all that you owe this company. If they cared more about keeping you, it should be part of their long-term strategy, not a (badly implemented) last-ditch effort.

    3. irene adler*

      A job offer comes when it comes. Very little you can do to control this (except not to apply for jobs).

      Don’t make the mistake of turning down a job because it came at a bad time for your employer. That’s not the way to manage your professional life. Instead, when the job offer comes, try to give as much notice as you can, and set things up as best you can for the transition to the person who takes over your job.

      It is your employer’s responsibility to make sure the “sky won’t fall” should any employee leave.

    4. Ama*

      There are better times than others to quit, certainly but there is never a “good” time for most office jobs because you’ll always be giving notice when projects are already in process and/or plans have already been made. It’s also not really your responsibility to put your current employer’s needs over your opportunity for advancement (and that would be true even if you weren’t in a toxic job — but I tend to feel like toxic jobs deserve even less consideration, since they haven’t given you any).

      I like my current job but I’m doing a very casual job search because I’m feeling a little bored (I’ve been here seven years and though I’ve been promoted, I’m still basically working on the same projects I had at the beginning just from a different role). There is literally no time I could leave that would be “good” — 75% of what I do is not done by anyone else in my office, so even if I were to leave at a relatively quiet time (which is virtually never these days) there would be a lot of nerves and concern about it. If it comes to it I’ll probably try to avoid leaving within a month of my most important project, because I like this employer and they’ve treated me well so I don’t want to leave them in the absolute worst case scenario but everything else is pretty much fair game.

    5. Arts Akimbo*

      This is a horribly manipulative tactic your boss is using to pressure you into staying. Recognize it for what it is and leave when you get an offer. Offer standard notice. Someone else can take your place at the conferences.

    6. Fikly*

      So the actual thing for your boss to do to prevent you from quitting that is valid would be to fix the things that are toxic. Instead she is demonstrating just how toxic it is, by engaging in toxic behavior to try and prevent you from quitting.

      Quit.

  30. BT*

    Wow, #2 couldn’t have come at a more perfect time—I’m starting a new job in a week and have been wondering the same thing! Just want to be prepared.

    I probably will try to adjust my routing over the coming week because I admittedly have trouble getting up early etc. I also am feeling anxious about knowing what I’m doing, already suffering from imposter syndrome. Gah!

    1. BT*

      Whoops—meant #3 on this morning’s post. Thought I was commenting on that. I swear I know how to Internet. *facepalm*

  31. Too Relaxed*

    I’ve run into a bit of a conundrum with my job, and I’m hoping y’all can give me some advice.

    I’m currently working a temp-to-hire job for a technical role. It’s a year-long contract, which is the standard way to get hired at this company. As of now, I am supposed to work a strict 40 hours a week. I discovered yesterday that people in permanent positions here are expected to be on 24/7 on-call in case of emergency. Thing is, I can’t do that. I take a muscle relaxant at night that would make me incapable of working for about 6-8 hours after I take it. So I would effectively be out of commission from 10pm-6am every night.

    I am wondering how and when to bring this up to my boss (I’ve only been here two weeks, so I figure I’ll wait until I’ve proved myself). I was thinking that if I offered to cover another duty in place of the on-call, or in addition to on-call except for those hours I’ll be unable to work, it might be okay, but I don’t know what that additional duty might be. I’ll probably come up with one as I’m here longer and see what needs to be done, though.

    But I am wondering – managers, what would your reaction be if your temp-to-hire report came to you with this issue? Is my solution (of taking on an additional duty) something you would find acceptable? Non-managers, have you run into this before and how did you handle it?

    Thanks all.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I feel like it’s waaaay too early to bring that up. I would wait until your actual hiring is being discussed. You never know, things could change in a year.

      1. Too Relaxed*

        Oh, I know it’s way too early to bring up! I’m more wondering what to say when I do have to bring it up. (I like to over-prepare.) I will be on the muscle relaxants for life so that won’t change.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I definitely sympathize with the over-preparation, but even then, I think it’s way too early. Try to put it out of your mind for 6 months and just learn more about how the job and company works, how frequent these emergencies truly are, and other ways you may be able to compensate for not being able to be on call.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          *After* you have an offer: “I have a medical condition that will make me unavailable from x to y. What do you think would be an appropriate way to handle that?”

          I’d probably offer to be ‘on call’ for times that are adjacent to your normal work day but might be hard to get people for – ie, if the normal shift is 9am to 9am, offer to be on call 6am – 9pm. A lot of tech people do not like early mornings, and for parents they can be hectic.

    2. DataGirl*

      I agree with ThatGirl, I wouldn’t bring it up until a permanent position is being discussed. If there is a rotation schedule, maybe you could offer to take the weekend rotations more frequently to make up for the other people covering the night calls. But if it’s just- we expect everyone to be available all the time- well that’s not an awesome place to be in (been there, done that, lasted 6 months).

      1. Too Relaxed*

        It’s not really a rotation – it’s more like “if this software goes down, we expect you to be there to fix it.” This happens very rarely, according to them – as in once a year. And there are four other people who are as familiar with the software as I am. So that’s why I’m hoping that taking on another commitment might balance out my inability to go on late-night calls.

        I would really like to stick at this company because it pays twice as much as equivalent roles in my city and has great benefits.

    3. Natalie*

      My husband pursued an almost identical accommodation at a previous job and it wasn’t especially different from any other ADA issue. In his case his sleep disorder is significant enough that is “substantially impairs” that major life activity, not sure if you are in the same situation.

      If this is a situation where the ADA applies, you enter an interactive process with your employer to figure out what accommodation you need and how the employer will make that happen. Offering to take on some additional duty during the day is great, assuming there is one. However, from what you describe, this on-call duty is not an “essential job function”, and exempting you from it doesn’t pose an undue burden (as defined by the law), so you are entitled to the accommodation regardless. It’s also irrelevant that you know about this potential need ahead of time, that doesn’t change their obligations to provide reasonable accommodation.

      And if the ADA *does not* apply here, if/when you are offered the permanent job I would just say something like “I take nightly medication that means I can’t drive [or whatever], so how should we handle those occasional emergencies?” It might turn out to not be a big deal at all, you won’t know unless you ask.

      1. Too Relaxed*

        Thank you so much for the detailed reply! The condition is definitely ADA-applicable, so it’s good to know that this will probably not create an undue burden. I will do what all of you suggest and just chill out about it until I get an offer.

        1. Natalie*

          I’ve heard good things about the Job Accommodation Network for resources if you are looking for more about the accommodation process, your rights, etc.

          I know we can sometimes think of disabilities in really black and white terms, like people are either “obviously very disabled” (blind, wheelchair user) or “not at all disabled”, but the ADA is very specifically not written that way. So if you are anything like my husband and have never really thought of yourself as having a disability, you might not have experience in this area and boning up on your rights can be helpful, if/when you need it!

    4. Fikly*

      I would bring this up (much later) as an ADA accommodation, but not knowing more about the position, I cannot say if it is a reasonable accommodation or not for you to have hours when you are not on call.

  32. bug-faced baby-eating o'brien*

    What do you do when you’re burned out and feeling like you suck at your job? Whether or not it’s true, how do you stop dwelling on mistakes, learn how to do better, and keep it from overwhelming you? It sounds so simple (“stop dwelling, do better”) and maybe it is simple but it’s not easy. Thoughts? Tips/tricks? Commiseration?

    1. Jenn*

      When this happened to me in 2018, I had to take a break. I ended up seeing a therapist who coached me through breathing and meditation exercises and focusing on what I did well. I needed two weeks of leave to recharge my batteries.

    2. Nonprofit Nancy*

      I so feel this. I’m completely overwhelmed at work right now and feel so hopeless. I’m really just dreaming of quitting. Even though I know that if I could push through the feeling of being overwhelmed I’d at least be able to take some steps towards progress. Everything just seems impossible.

    3. merp*

      you’re so right, it’s not easy. what I’ve done in the past is narrow down my field of focus at work – I have a to-do list of 5 things, so I do my best those 5 things. I cross them off and try to internalize that I had those things to do and now they are done – that’s progress, some sort of tangible accomplishment. that’s 5 things that weren’t done before! it sort of felt like separating my anxiety/fatigue from the rest of myself and trying to understand where it’s coming from but reward it when I get things done anyway – something that came from my therapist when I was struggling with this.

    4. Potato Girl*

      No advice, only commiseration. I’ve been burned out for five years, even though I switched jobs one year ago. They say switching jobs helps, but it only worked for about six months. I just keep telling myself, “don’t be lazy; stop making excuses; what others can do, you can also do.” My brain is so mush at the end of the day that I can barely engage in hobbies, and weekends are for doing chores and errands and meal prep…. I’m totally fried. The other night while getting ready for bed, my partner had to keep saying, “keep going,” because kept I spacing out staring vacantly into space while doing things like putting the phone on the charger, applying hand cream, etc etc. I’m strongly considering asking my doctor for antidepressants, but my therapist doesn’t think I’m depressed. I have a healthy diet (cooking all but one meal per week at home), do cardio 5-6 days a week, get at least 6.5 hours in bed per night, and my ADHD is being treated with the right medication. I just…. have a smaller gas tank than I need. I’m an easily overwhelmed person. I just get a lower quality of life than many others do.

      1. merp*

        hey, totally understand if you don’t want to hear this from an internet stranger, but just speaking from personal experience — I had the same impulse with the “don’t be lazy/don’t make excuses” messaging but it often made me feel worse and did not do anything motivate me. more felt like kicking myself when I was already down. what helped was trying to be kinder to myself, and trying to understand where I was experiencing limits, and not putting on extra guilt about that. it was really tough. but you deserve to be kinder to yourself as well. and as far as depression goes, it can take many forms, and all things like that are a spectrum. your health is your decision and if you decide you want to try medication, that is your right to ask for.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Maybe ‘Can I do that Next Step’ instead of ‘Don’t be lazy’?

          You deserve to be kind to yourself. Good luck to you all.

      2. ReformedControlFreak*

        I began reading this and thought it sounded like ADD/ADHD and then lo and behold there it was at the bottom! I am in a similar situation, coming into it from the other side (was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, only recently to suspect ADHD plays a role). I feel easily overwhelmed too, but oddly I think objectively you could call me a high performer. I truly, truly, relate to your description here. I would say I have more bad days than good ones, but there are some things that markedly help:
        1) kind self-talk. Instead of focusing on what i didn’t do, or where i’m deficient, i try to redirect to what i did do. compare down instead of up, essentially.
        2) mindfulness. there’s a podcast i really like called “practicing human” and i definitely have better days when i listen to that in the morning
        3) ADHD commiseration. there’s another podcast i like by tracy otsuka, something like ADHD for Badass Women (i’m so bad with details!) it’s like a little pep talk to have another woman with ADHD reminding me “hey you don’t suck! you have a non-neurotypical brain and that’s okay!” i especially like the episode describing ADHDers as “hunters” while neurotypical folk are “farmers” and we are living in an agrarian society.

      3. CheeryO*

        I’m sorry; I relate to this so hard. I apologize for the unsolicited advice since I’m sure you’ve thought of this, but your sleep might be a big factor in your lack of energy/brain fog. I’m also a “small gas tank” person who exercises 5-6 days/week, and I can only function on 7.5+ hours of sleep (and preferably more like 8.5).

        1. Potato Girl*

          I’ve definitely thought of that, and tried it as well. My quality of life is equally diminished by having only 30 minutes of non-laboring timeper day.

          1. Potato Girl*

            Well, I guess that’s not quite correct. Things like laying out items for the next day, brush/floss/rinse, wash face, stability exercises prescribed my my physio to counteract the core atrophy from being deskbound all day, brief meditation practice, those things that take at least an hour all together don’t count as labor. Even though half of them I need to do because of work. But eVeRyOnE hAs ThE sAmE tWeNtY-fOuR hOuRs In A dAy!

      4. Arts Akimbo*

        Sorry, your therapist doesn’t think you’re depressed? Because you sound depressed. Time for a new therapist, maybe? Definitely ask your doctor about it.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          I don’t mean for that to sound flippant– I just have been in the situation where I feel unheard and dismissed by my therapist, and it didn’t get better until I found a different therapist who took my concerns more seriously.

    5. Chronic Overthinker*

      For me I like to create SOP (standard operating procedures) for all of my regular tasks. It’s nice having a “checklist” of sorts to know that if I follow these steps that I should end up completing my task. I do it for everything from the mundane to the complicated. That way if I follow the steps, I know I did it right! And when I make a mistake, I know where in the checklist I get lost and can start over or revamp the instructions so I know I get it right the next time. Works for me, but that’s how I like to do things.

  33. Jenn*

    It is 100% amazing what leaving a toxic work place can do for someone. I’m two weeks in to a new position that is mostly virtual with a strong, supportive manager and one other team member. We roll into a larger team under a Sr. Director. Even though we are virtual, we have skype meetings daily to catch up on work and keep each other informed of what’s going on. I never had that at my brick and mortar company and I had to beg to work from home when I needed to.

    In these past two weeks, I’ve been sleeping better, have been less anxious and a lot happier about work. Why do companies insist on demonizing work from home and keeping micro managers in place when their work force is currently miserable?

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m really glad you’ve found such a healthy and supportive workplace! I hope you thrive there.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      To answer your question… because they can.

      I left a similar workplace several months ago and a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. It’s wonderful. My new workplace is so awesome (working from home full time!) and I feel supported and respected.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        How to you get full time WFH jobs?

        I’m in an field (marketing & digital marketing) and you’d think this would be more prevalent, but it isn’t! I’ve only found a few 100% remote ones that meet my salary requirements. I’ve also applied for a few jobs that were a little too far away, but doable if remote w/occasional train like 1x per month. I’m always turned down.

    3. Impska*

      From the perspective of someone who is efficient when working from home, it seems obvious that all workplaces should allow work from home if at all reasonable. From the perspective of someone trying to manage a workforce, work from home can be a nightmare.

      First, understand that only about 25% of workers are able to work from home efficiently. For the rest, their productivity plummets to maybe half of their normal in-office productivity. Kids, spouses, television, pets, household chores, and simple accountability all collude to make working from home difficult for most people. Meanwhile, it’s much harder for a manager to offer input, guidance, or supervision to a workforce that is at home.

      If an owner can design a remote company from the ground up with working from home in mind, they can implement the systems and supervision to make it work. They will always be challenged to find the 25% of employees who will actually work efficiently, and find the rare management team that can manage people remotely, but at least they can apply it equally and find employees to fit. Trying to force work from home into a company that is not designed for it, and apply it equally to employees who may or may not be suited for it turns into a mess very quickly. It’s far easier to simply disallow it.

      Workplaces don’t demonize work from home because they can, or because they get off on the power trip. They demonize it because it hasn’t worked out for them in the past. And even if they feel that you, personally, would be a good for it, they can’t make exceptions, because then everyone will want to work from home.

  34. Marguerite*

    I think I’m the target for being made fun of by coworkers. I’ve experienced this before in the workplace where it’s a younger guy and older woman who are friends and they like to be snarky, play mind games, cause trouble with me.

    I wouldn’t care and would just ignore it, except I have to work with the guy and he just wants to create rivalries and drama. He is also the boss’s favorite, so going to the boss is not an option.

    Any advice?

    1. Sighhh*

      How exactly is this manifesting? Are they teasing you to your face, or making sarcastic comments, what kind of mind games? How they’re acting can inform how to play it.

      I have become a big fan of Alison’s suggestions to repeat back what they’re saying and ask for clarification, so they have to explain themselves. Even if you know exactly what they mean, it calls into stark attention how rude they’re being when they have to explain exactly what part of an insulting comment they found funny.

      1. Marguerite*

        It varies… Some of it is goofy like “Go to the third floor” and there is only 1 floor in the building. Other stuff is more like an inside joke/nudge nudge wink wink type of thing that is harder to call out. Other times they say stuff out loud, but I just ignore it.

        1. WellRed*

          Keep ignoring it. God, that’s irritating. They think this is what passes for funny? Perfect your eye roll or come up with a flat, very droll response to this crap. (Sorry, I’m coming up blank for suggestions).

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I think your ‘Keep ignoring it’ is the right response, not trying to be flat / droll. Focus on your job, watch the drama like it’s television, and don’t give them any handles to pull you into it. Blandly pleasant, nothing more.

          2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            I agree, keep ignoring them outside of what you need for your job and basic pleasantries (e.g. “Good morning, Butthead” as you walk by). Giving them a reaction will just make them want to do more.

            If they escalate, just give them a confused, neutral look (don’t try to smile or act like you get the joke), then turn back to your work or restate your question. “Right. So, where is the Office Of Necessary Professional Work Stuff?”

    2. LKW*

      When he tells you to go to the third floor – just go find an out of the way place. Disappear on “the third floor” – when they say they couldn’t reach you – just say “well I went to the third floor like you told me, not sure why you thought you could reach me there.” Wink wink.

    3. Marguerite*

      He seems to have a problem working with women in general. He’ll comment on their tone or expression. I’m taking it personally, when I think he would do it to anyone. He treats men differently and wouldn’t talk to them in this way.

  35. The Emperor's New Job*

    Does anyone have any suggestions for dealing with “impostor syndrome?”

    I am about 7 months deep in a job that that was both a career change and internal promotion from my previous administrative background. I’ve relished the opportunity–the fast past environment, constant skill-learning, new challenges, and general development have been fulfilling and exciting. My manager is excellent, and places a lot of importance on my growth and development into the role. Senior leadership is supportive and always remarking that they’re excited and lucky to have me. Our company as a whole has hired many people on our head office team out from the field, and believes that development and investment in your people makes for best practices.

    The trouble is, despite the welcoming, downright friendly atmosphere and great feedback, I can’t help but constantly feel somewhat out of place, like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Without giving too much away, I started in this company “in the field” in a very basic, no-experience-required job that is usually populated by college students and retirees. I have trouble focusing on the positives, which are that my work ethic and ideas have made me hirable and worthy of this position, and instead worry they’re going to realize that the emperor really isn’t wearing any clothes (the clothes, of course, being my great track record and recommendations). I’m at the point in this job where I’m starting to lead in my area rather than follow constant direction from my boss, and I’m terrified that I’ll not have what it takes to succeed and I’ll be unceremoniously thrust back where I started. Has anyone ever dealt with this before?

    1. Iris Eyes*

      Maybe there wasn’t where you really belonged maybe here is. Perhaps your skills and capabilities made you an imposter trying to be less than yourself when you were in that entry level position. Given what has happend that is just as likely.

      We have a C level employee right now who started off in an entry level manual labor position. He has grown and developed a lot over the intervening years but where you start is irrelevant to where you are going.

      When a queen works as a bar maid, it doesn’t make her an imposter at being a queen but rather an imposter when she was a bar maid.

    2. ReformedControlFreak*

      I have a question (mental exercise). What would it ACTUALLY take to be “unceremoniously thrust” whence you came? Like, realistically, a person with credentials and abilities identical to yours, what would they have to do to wind up back at the bottom? Is that even truly possible, considering the skills/experience they have built since they were last there?

      I have experienced hardcore imposter syndrome. I’ve been interviewed – on TV! – as an “expert” in my field and still managed to convince myself I’m a moron. It helps to separate facts from fears here. Make a T chart: one column is facts. Fact: you have been promoted. Fact: You know how to do XYZ. Fact: You are NO LONGER the person you were when you began.

      Your old identity was accurate once, but it’s gone out of style. You need to re-align your self identity with the facts of your situation.

  36. TheAdmin*

    Today in office food drama…

    I’m an executive assistant. There is a small fridge near my workspace that it used for beverages/snacks for visitors. Occasionally my boss or another one of the c-level people will put their lunch/snack in there.

    When I got my position and inherited the fridge, it was kept unlocked, but had the hardware to make it capable of being locked (the lock itself was kept in my desk). When I recently came back from a few days of vacation to discover that almost half of the beverages had disappeared, I decided to put the lock back on the fridge. It’s the kind of lock with a code, not a key, so I emailed all of the executives to inform them of why the lock was going back on there, and gave them the code. They were all understanding about it. (Since I know what they all like to drink, I’m confident that none of them took the beverages, plus it would have been fine if they had, so they would have told me).

    One coworker came to me the day after the lock went on to ask me to open the fridge because “for years” she has always kept a bottle of salad dressing in there. I didn’t know this; I had assumed it belonged to one of the executives. She doesn’t want to put it in one of the large shared fridges in the break room because it might get stolen/used (and it probably will!). However, she isn’t c-level. I explained that the fridge was really for visitors, and obviously if one of the c-level people wanted to keep something in there they could (which I thought was a big enough hint that she didn’t qualify to keep something in there). I also explained how it’s totally impractical that someone would have to open the fridge anytime she wanted the dressing, since I wasn’t going to share the code. Of course she ignored the first part and jumped on the 2nd, saying that she eats lunch with someone who DOES have the fridge code, so they could just get the dressing for her. I explained again that the fridge is really only intended for visitors, but I could also see where this was going…the dressing was going to all of a sudden belong to the friend with the code so that it could be “allowed” to be in there. I told her point blank that if she was going to play it that way, it “wasn’t the hill I want to die on.” So of course the dressing is still in there. I was a pushover because she was going to work around me anyway, so whatever. I (naively) figured it was over.

    Cut to a few days since, and I’ve overheard her telling several people how I “kicked her out” of the fridge (perhaps she’s doing it on purpose so that I hear, but I’m not sure). She even asked her boss (c-level) if their department could get their own mini fridge, and he kind of brushed it off, but it was clear that her argument was that they had to get their own fridge because I was being completely unreasonable, and that’s where I’m getting annoyed.

    I know I said this wasn’t the hill I want to die on, but I also don’t want to be bad-mouthed. Do I tell her I don’t like what I’ve been (over)hearing? Do I just change the lock on the fridge and give no one the code? Do I talk to my own boss? She’s super understanding, but this seems like the stupidest “issue” to bring to her.

    1. londonedit*

      If you’re within striking distance next time you hear her complaining about being ‘kicked out’, could you maybe jump into the conversation and say ‘We’ve had some unfortunate incidences of the drinks we supply for visitors being taken by members of staff, which is why we’re now locking the fridge. It’s for visitors and C-suite only’? Just be matter-of-fact but shut down the gossip. And I’d definitely bring it up to your boss – there’s no harm in saying ‘Look, I realise this isn’t the most pressing issue we all have to deal with, but Jane has really been making a fuss about this whole fridge thing, and she’s been saying I’ve “kicked her out” and generally badmouthing me to other people. I’ve explained why we’re locking the fridge now, but is there any chance you could have a word with her about it?’

      1. DataGirl*

        Ah, fridge /food drama. I’m sorry you are having to deal with it. I like londonedit’s suggestions, a brief convo with your boss, assuming they are the type to be open to that, would be good.

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

        I agree with this strategy. Considering what a big deal she’s making about salad dressing, I’m inclined to wonder if she wasn’t helping herself to the drinks.

      3. cmcinnyc*

        You know what? It’s GOOD to have the rep that you will kick someone out of the fridge. If you are an admin at the C level, you don’t need people to like you, you need people to respect you professionally. People will snark that “Amanda is such a b! She kicked me and my salad dressing out of the fridge!” But down the line it will be, “No you can’t stash your lunch in that fridge. Amanda runs it for the c-suite and she is impossible.” Which becomes, “You can ask Amanda for a favor like twice a year. Make it count. Does the salad dressing rise to that level?” This is *not bad.* This will make your job so much easier.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I think this is a great perspective to consider (although I think it isn’t the whole story).

    2. blink14*

      I personally would just ignore this and continue to operate with the rule that the fridge is really only for visitor and c-level use. Stick to that, and just keep repeating it. She will either badger her boss into buying a mini fridge or she’ll move it to one of the other fridges available. If it does blow up into a bigger problem that starts to interfere with your day – she’s asking you every day for the dressing, she’s continually talking to you about it, etc – then bring it up to your boss.

    3. Alice*

      I don’t even keep my salad dressing in the fridge at home. It’s just oil and vinegar…. I mean, maybe she likes a creamy salad dressing even those aren’t, say, mayo. Are they?

      1. Dragoning*

        A lot of salad dressings say “keep refrigerated after opening”

        And ranch is basically mayo with extra stuff in it.

    4. Dragoning*

      How I would have initially handled this was to go “Oh, of course!” and retrieved the salad dressing, locked the fridge, and refused to let her put it back in. “Oh, I’m sorry, we can’t do that,” ad infinitum.

        1. valentine*

          go “Oh, of course!” and retrieved the salad dressing, locked the fridge, and refused to let her put it back in. “Oh, I’m sorry, we can’t do that,” ad infinitum.
          This is great!

          I love that you didn’t have to lift a finger to kick her out and her friend stopped helping her and possibly refuses to be an accessory because she knew or realizes she stole the sodas.

          I told her point blank that if she was going to play it that way, it “wasn’t the hill I want to die on.”
          I misread this as you telling her it wasn’t the hill she wanted to die on. One option was to leave them to it and, if she used the code when the friend was out (and sodas were missing), then the friend violated protocol (and you’d know who the thief was). It sounds like the C-suite trusted your judgment, but you ceded ground to this person. You don’t have to do that. Enjoy your newfound power. I might smile when I hear her complain and I’d have to suppress a double snap/finger guns.

      1. TheAdmin*

        The problem is that I wasn’t the one to retrieve it! Like I said, she’s friends with someone who has the code, so she made them get it for her. I caught the friend putting it back in the fridge and played confused, saying “Oh! I didn’t realize she was going to put it back in there! I thought she understood this fridge is only for visitors! Huh! Don’t you think it would be weird for her to be the only person not in the c-suite keeping personal items in there?” Then when the friend brought the dressing back to her, she came to me and complained (and then got her friend to put it back in the fridge).

        1. TheAdmin*

          Update: I stand corrected, the dressing has recently been removed! I guess I must have been more authoritative than I realized. No wonder she’s telling anyone who will listen that I kicked her out, because she did actually remove it!

          I still have the issue of her now complaining about me to people, including to her c-level boss… but I’m going to take the perspective of another commenter, that it’s a GOOD problem to have a tough reputation!

          1. ee lemmings*

            some people like to make their own problems, so they can rail and cry and scream about them. it has nothing to do with reality, it is just an opportunity for them to complain about how unfair they are treated, how difficult they have things and the burden of being them.

          2. Threeve*

            If someone started complaining to me about another coworker who slightly inconvenienced their salad dressing, I would think, “okay, you’re obviously a bit of a thin-skinned dingbat, and you don’t have enough going on in your life. TheAdmin is probably a sane person with a backbone, good for her.”

            1. emmelemm*

              Right? She has another fridge she can keep the dressing in, it’s just not as convenient/secure/whatever as this fridge. Get Over It.

    5. Rey*

      Deliver the dressing to her desk today and lock the fridge. If you see it in there again and you absolutely know it’s hers, continue delivering it to her desk. Everyone else in the entire company has figured out where to put their lunch and how to deal with fridge thefts like an adult, and she can too. That part is not your problem to solve. I wouldn’t worry about changing the lock though, since you’ve already told the c-suite the code and I wouldn’t want to repeatedly send emails about the new fridge code.

      If you hear discussion about this, the aim is for a really bland and bored response, like “Oh, we’re still talking about this?” or “It must be slow if we’re still talking about this” followed by a change in topic.

      I would mention it to your boss, but again go for the most boring version, “Sansa has been obsessing about the fridge since I added the lock, so I wanted to flag it for you in case you hear about it.”

    6. Sondra Uppenhowzer*

      Hey Admin
      FWIW, having worked in multiple offices over many decades, I can tell you that as long as you are dispassionate about the fridge, and keep the clear message, “This fridge is for visitor refreshments and upper management”, the people in your office are not listening to Hiddenvalleyranch and thinking “Admin is being a jerk.” they are more likely thinking “HVR is entitled and pushy” – especially considering there is a communal fridge she has access to, and its the same one everyone she complains to is using.

      I would ignore HVR completely, as the only reputation she is hurting is her own.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        From now on, anyone kvetching excessively about the office fridge becomes Hiddenvalleyranch in my mind. Thank you for the much-needed laugh!

      2. It's business time*

        Totally agree, this looks bad on the salad dresser not on you. If I had someone whining about not being able to keep their salad dressing in the other fridge, I would be like – is that your biggest issue to complain about? If I was their boss, I would not be impressed that they are wasting my time complaining about it.

        This will be a reflection on her not on you. Don’t worry about it and just keep on doing what you are doing.

        I have been the exec assistant which has had to keep people from helping themselves to items by locking them away and I just told my boss what I did and how much $$ I was saving by being more conscientious

  37. CatCat*

    Kind of down this week. I have a relatively new-to-me supervisor who I don’t feel I have a productive relationship with. This person is fairly negative, but was downright cruel to me a couple of months ago. They did apologize for that, but ever since I am constantly anxious and on guard when talking to them. It didn’t help that they laughed when I admitted I was anxious about it happening again. I had a very collaborative relationship with the prior supervisor, but not with this one because I say “the wrong thing,” which means I stifle my ideas I would have shared in the past. I get so mentally wound up before I have to talk to them that I am exhausted (and frustratingly, teary, thank god I can close my office door) afterwards even if the interaction is neutral or positive-ish.

    I’m feeling down because this had previously been a really great job. I have tried neutralizing my thoughts/feelings about interacting with this person without success. This is negatively impacting me an probably my work. It is untenable for the long-term so I will dust off the resume and start low-key job searching. Just has me feeling low and I appreciate having a space to express this.

    1. But There is a Me in Team!*

      Sorry CatCat. I think what makes these situations particularly hard is that you’re holding up your end of the bargain and the rug gets pulled out from under you. It sounds like a job search and resume update will give you some control back. Also, can you limit your interactions to email? I have to do that with my office mean girl. She caught me off guard once and now takes too much pleasure in making me nervous. (I’m terrible at playing it cool, so she’s gotten me flat footed a couple other times.)

      1. CatCat*

        I limit all interactions as much as I possibly can. This person also fairly unresponsive to things I need so, unfortunately, emails tend to be ignored.

    2. Avasarala*

      Late but I feel you, CatCat. I also had a supervisor who wasn’t exactly cruel but was stricter than I was able to mentally handle at the time, and I became always anxious and on guard around them. It snowballed to the point that I avoided talking to them at all costs, even if it impeded my work. It’s not a tenable situation to be in and I really recommend you change jobs. It was a world of difference for me. I also recommend reflection and therapy so that you’re able to bounce back from negative situations more easily, even if the person you’re dealing with is cruel.

  38. Hamster*

    Thanks everyone for the advice in my last thread about how a conversation with HR goes and the one before that about maternity leave!

    My appointment went great! But I am still holding off on talking to HR. Sometimes I get a little anxious with no reason to be.

    Today’s flavor of the week is that “will my pregnancy affect my raise?” I’m at the highest level right now so I can’t get further promoted. Evaluations are done in August, and my edd is 8/6. I know losing my job would be illegal on FMLA but a raise/compensation…i’m not sure. 

    I have a supervisor on my team who will take over the months that I am away. He is great, but I am a little worried he will get overwhelmed.

    Some days can be pretty calm but other days are total sh*shows. I haven’t told him yet but he will be the second person I tell. Any advice on transitioning him? (I am not privy to whether his $$ or title will change).  

    Its funny, I was in his boat this time last year, my boss was going to go on paternity leave and I told him he has to train me on everything so I can make sure things run smoothly while he’s out. But I got promoted to a diff team and he made a lateral move so that never happened. 

  39. Lives in a Shoe*

    Property management questions here – specifically small university or university adjacent housing managers.

    Are you using property management software for move-outs? Any recommendations? What’s your threshold for “normal wear and tear”? Honestly, how much glitter, paint and glue is too much? LOL

    Can anyone recommend resources other than AFLV? If you live onsite, how do you find work life balance and a semblance of normalcy? I love my job but I’m 6 years in and starting to feel the strain and isolation. Any recommendations will be greatly appreciated!

  40. Anax*

    Anyone have experience with companies FIXING long-term technical debt?

    My company (a bank) has let things slide for at least a decade, so a lot of systems and assets are ancient and disorganized.

    (Apparently, one of my team members is using a laptop from 2009 or earlier… and no one was aware of this, despite the fact that using a 32-bit OS in this day and age causes lots of problems. Where is the asset management? Why is tech support incredibly slow and frankly incompetent? Argh!)

    The company has promised to work on the technical debt and make it a priority, but… how hopeful should I be? I’m in an IT-adjacent area, but technically part of HR, so I’m not able to see all the inner workings.

    (We do the systems which control commission and bonuses, so my mini-team is basically SQL developers, but we’re within a larger HR team.)

    1. Antilles*

      Do you have a sense of how bought-in the company actually is?
      If you’re a decade out of date on computer equipment (!), you’re effectively starting from scratch. Some data will prove impossible to transfer, there’s going to be a huge upfront investment to get current equipment, a big learning curve for personnel, some stuff is going to be finicky, and everybody is going to have to be extremely patient.
      If the company management has truly and firmly decided that “yeah, this is not working, we need to get our butt in gear”…then it’s entirely possible.
      But if it’s more of a “sure, this is a good thing to improve”, then I’d be a lot more skeptical. Not that they’ll entirely abandon the upgrade project, but it’ll be half-effort and starts/stops and etc.

      1. Anax*

        From the rhetoric, it’s one of the executives’ top three priorities for the next few years. Everyone knows it’s a huge problem.

        Not everything is a decade out of date, but a lot of things are. It’s a really disorganized mishmash, which I suspect is because some teams prioritize technical debt and some don’t. There’s going to be some investment in the equipment and probably specialist personnel, but likely not enough – company’s trying to save on costs, and that sticker shock is going to hurt.

        Worse, a lot of the IT department itself is poorly trained and incompetent, and the rest are overworked and have insufficient resources. It took four phone calls and 3.5 months to get a basic driver installed directly off Microsoft.com. The four phone calls were because the tech couldn’t figure out how to install a driver, and had to repeatedly get help. The help desk is widely known as the “unhelpful desk” and similar epithets.

        Some things are set up sensibly, but since there’s no overall structure, a lot of things conflict – like, it’s sane for non-IT folks to not have local admin, but when the help desk is incompetent and incredibly slow, AND I can’t do driver installs myself… I literally just rebuilt an Access database in another system, because it was faster than waiting for tech support to do a driver install – it’s been a month, and we’re still waiting on that.

        In theory, in 2020, all servers will be upgraded from SQL Server 2008 to SQL Server 2016, all computers will be upgraded to Windows 10, the point-of-sale-ish systems are going to be upgraded, and some other major projects are going to happen. We’ll see how that all shakes out – I’m not sure it’ll all get done.

        I’m trying to hammer things into this century on my end as much as I can, but… limited power, especially from outside the IT department.

        1. Working with professionals*

          Maybe suggest they bring outside experts to review current tech and network levels and make the upgrades needed. A company like MindShift does this sort of work and there are others as well. (I used to work for the parent company of this group but am no longer affiliated). A professional group from outside can usually manage the entire process more smoothly and provide training to all impacted teams, including the IT dept. when there may be more push back if only internal resources are used. Good luck!

          1. Anax*

            Unfortunately, it’s a big company, and I’m WAY too far down the totem pole to make that suggestion! There’s about five degrees of hierarchy between me and the folks making those decisions.

            Hopefully they do something of the sort, though.

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve got no experience with this on an infrastructure side, which is what it sounds like most of your references are to. I’ve got quite a bit of experience from the code standpoint (tl;dr – the devs decided to do it ourselves), and a little bit from a data management standpoint, which sounds more relevant to you.

      When I started working here, our database could have been a textbook example of 3rd-Normal-Form, except it was much, much bigger than any textbook example. We’ve been slowly refactoring the data structures and then migrating the data (in our case, this also involves changes to the code that reads and writes the data in question). But before we did that, we had to consider a) what data we had, b) what data we needed, c) how we used that data, and d) how that data was stored. Once we knew that, we could start making changes so the way we used the data was a lot closer to how the data was stored. (You do get more duplicated data this way, and you may get more tables, but the goal is for the data structure to match the business requirements, not some abstract concept of ‘no duplicated data, anywhere’.) Making small proof of concept models can help with this as well (to test if your ideas make sense, to show them to other people, and sometimes to show performance improvements (although those are often hard to tell until you’re at a larger scale)).

      1. Anax*

        Yeah, IT’s code is probably problematic, but it’s also not something I have direct access to outside our team.

        (The code and databases on our team are… being upgraded. There’s stuff that was done by contractors ten years ago which is a mess, but it’s about 90% replaced.

        We’re required to use a program which sits on top of SQL Server for compliance/regulatory reasons, which basically guarantees that we can’t edit old data – no editing payroll after the fact – but which has some arbitrary and obnoxious restrictions that make the code fairly messy. It doesn’t have booleans or string concatenation, ffs. Unfortunately, that means everything runs more slowly than it should; we’re trying to make the models sane, but we have limited control over them.

        Otherwise, we’re working on yearly changes to bonuses and commission, building better user-facing reports, pulling data from new IT systems, and decommissioning old ancillary messes like Access databases.)

        There’s definitely a lot of sense in reorganizing data to match how it’s used, and that’s been a priority on my team, though obviously it’s a long-term initiative! Slowly making things better; the nightly data pull and calculations are down under an hour, which isn’t too awful.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          Oh, yes, reorganizing data is a very long term thing. It’s easiest when you need entirely new data, because you can build (or have it built) to your current business needs. When you’ve got old data, across multiple sources (be that multiple tables in one database, or multiple databases) or used in multiple places, it gets much, much harder, because you have to make sure that data remains properly accessible everywhere it’s used for the entire time. We’ve got some stuff we’re only just now trying to untangle, and only a very tiny piece of it (data that gets written once, and is read only after that – think a timestamp and a source IP address).

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      No advice, but SQL developers trying to work with a 2009 machine on today’s databases and pipes? My deepest sympathies to that person. DEEPEST.

      1. Anax*

        Thankfully, that person’s not a developer – which is why we didn’t find out until last month. :P

        My team is half analysts / customer service, half developers. It’s kind of a weird mishmash – someone has to answer questions, do data entry (I know, it’s awful), etc., and someone needs to code it up so everyone is paid correctly.

        It’s still causing major problems, of course, since almost no one uses a 32-bit OS anymore, which means this person probably hasn’t been getting application updates for years…

    4. ReformedControlFreak*

      A bank with terrible IT?! How is this accounted for in your business continuity plan? This definitely introduces an enormous amount of risk, which is not only an inconvenience but has measurable impact on the bottom line. Especially as a bank, or anybody in financial services, you’d think that IT infrastructure needs to be a priority.

      1. Anax*

        Believe me, I know. It’s terrible. There’s barely a computer use policy, everyone is using Office macros, and no one seems to be using source control. I’m still figuring out how deep the rabbit hole goes.

        I don’t know, but I imagine the auditors are… very interested in technical upgrades, which may be part of the reason for this initiative. It also may be that some critical areas are better handled, like network security. I do hope so. :\

    5. A Non E. Mouse*

      The company has promised to work on the technical debt and make it a priority, but… how hopeful should I be? I’m in an IT-adjacent area, but technically part of HR, so I’m not able to see all the inner workings

      How much money are they throwing at it, and how many people in IT are assigned to the task?

      The answers should be 1) A LOT and 2) ALL OF THEM.

      If those aren’t the answers, have no hope.

      Tech costs money, and time to implement. Without both being squared away, the project is doomed.

      As an aside, the worst part of technical debt is all the inter-dependencies ancient stuff has with other ancient stuff. So some of this will take a lot of time to untangle; and a decent portion of the front end should be a risk assessment that gives the company a list of “quick hits” they can implement.

      What those might look like to the end user:
      1) New requirements for passwords, and hopefully multi-factor authentication.
      2) Mentions of a new firewall, or new firewall parameters.
      3) Certain browsers being disallowed.
      4) So many Windows updates!
      5) Tightening of access privileges – you could lose access to stuff you didn’t even know you had access to
      6) Lots of “system maintenance” messages being sent about overnight and weekend maintenance windows. These will most likely be server updates, but could also be firewall upgrades.

      If you hear they are spending a lot of money, that there are a bunch of people working on it, and see some or all of those signs, they are at least *trying* to make it better.

      If you don’t see any of that, they are flapping their arms around and won’t actually accomplish anything.

    6. Qwerty*

      Yes. It is difficult, takes a lot of effort, and often involves putting any new development on hold for a while in order to focus on resolving the debt.

      That last point is often why companies let it fester, because they would rather fix bugs or chase new features/opportunities in order to grow revenue. So they way to fix debt without redirecting your current tech department is to bring in outside contractors to help. There are many firms that offer this service (I currently work at one of them and am helping clients get into all of the latest technologies and best practices).

      One of the best ways to help push management to fix the problem is to get a price tag attached to *not* fixing it. So document issues that you are having, like how it takes a month to get a driver installed and what the cost associated with that delay is. Since you are part of HR, this might also include documenting if people are leaving because of the technical difficulties or if you are losing out on good candidates.

      With how out of date everything is, it is also possible that this is a factor in your slow IT department. A huge part of IT or helpdesk work is “Google the problem” and the solution for a problem on a very old piece of hardware may be to replace it. I’ve worked with good IT people who get completely stuck when dealing with really out of date systems. On the flip side, having really out of date systems will not attract top IT candidates and often demotivates the good people on that team. Bad systems encourage people to not care.

      The goals that you described sound like they may be ambitious and would require a lot of pain to go from something that old to the new versions. People often underestimate the amount of time it takes to upgrade the systems, and the amount of fallout that will happen. If they start upgrading, be patient and be prepared for lots of things to break. It is just inevitable in these situations. The older your system, the more hidden issues that will appear once someone pokes the bear. It will probably feel like it is moving at a glacial pace, but with fragile systems with super important data (like finance!) require extra caution.

  41. Amber Rose*

    So, due to the switch in our accounting and inventory managing system not going remotely smoothly, we’ve been doing all our work since early December in a test environment. We finally got into the live yesterday. Which means everything for the last month has to be re-entered, since the test environment was wiped. Also the new system isn’t totally compatible with the old so I have to stop at every other step to get new inventory created or adjustments made or whatever.

    I have four piles on my desk right now of work. I worked through them all day yesterday and barely made a dent. I want to cry.

    Sometimes looking at the big picture just makes you want to change your name and start a new life in another country.

    1. DataGirl*

      That’s awful, I’m so sorry! Why didn’t they transfer the data from test to live? I would be so frustrated.

      1. Amber Rose*

        They couldn’t, because the test environment wasn’t using the inventory numbers from the count we did after Christmas, so the accounts wouldn’t match up. All inventory had random amounts assigned, and nothing was linked to POs. Plus, it being a test environment, a lot of things were done wrong just to see what would happen without the actual consequences.

    2. Dancing Otter*

      Try to convince them to get some temps to work through the backlog. (Transition costs are generally capitalizable, if that makes a difference with the budget.) Six weeks of duplicate entries is an unreasonable burden on regular personnel. Trying to cheap out never saves money in the long run.

      Is your company on a calendar year reporting schedule? How are you managing the annual report and audit, if you were operating in a test environment at year-end which has been erased? How can the company support their year-end inventory balances? This sounds like a textbook example of audit exceptions, either a qualified or an adverse opinion.

  42. curly sue*

    I just need reassurance here. Academic job opening, competition closes Monday the 20th. I put in my application and dossier this morning, and sometime between when I checked the address for the millionth time this morning around 8 am, and when a reference went to look at the posting to work on my reference letter around 11 am today, the posting was deleted off the site. (I had a copy to send to my reference, so no drama there.)

    This is probably just a timer or automated removal on University Affairs’ job listings, right? Not a sign that they actually closed the posting early?

    1. Jellyfish*

      Unfortunately not reassuring, but they might have closed it? The budget for new jobs can fall through at the last minute – spring enrollment is down, another department made a stronger case, internal politics led to the opening being delayed, etc.

      Hopefully just an error or a timer though! Best of luck

      1. curly sue*

        The posting is still up on the actual Uni website, so fingers crossed that it was just a job board deletion. I hate this time of year.

        1. Jellyfish*

          Ah, I read it as the school itself pulled their whole posting down. You’re probably good to go then.

        2. Ama*

          It is entirely possible (I say this as someone who helped admin a bunch of faculty position job postings when I worked at a university) that the job board charges a fee for posting the job for a certain length of time and it expired.

          If you are in the U.S., it could also be possible that because the 20th is a holiday, either someone at the university or someone at the job board canceled the posting today so it wouldn’t be up after the deadline.

        3. blackcat*

          Was it a paid listing site? If so, I’d assume that they paid for the add to run for X days rather than X+30 when the deadline was going to be X+3. Or just an error.
          But also… sometimes academic jobs just vanish. Funding goes poof. New dean decides to cancel a search. It sucks, but it happens.

    2. bassclefchick*

      Well, if you’re in the U.S., Monday is a Federal Holiday. My University is closed on Monday. That may have something to do with it?

  43. Anongineer*

    Just wanted to say a huge thank you to Alison and this community! I’ve posted before about my most recent job that turned out to be nothing like what was promised, and once I got my PE started applying to all the jobs that I thought would be reaches. Using the cover letter and interview help, I’ve gotten hits on all of my applications, and it’s looking likely that I’ll be moving to Japan soon for a new Project Manager job!! It would be a huge step up, and a definite change in responsibilities (and of course all the nerves that come with moving to a new country and taking on a ton of new challenges) but it’s what I’ve been working towards in my career and I’m so excited!

    TL;DR moving to Japan for a new challenging job yay!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Moving to Japan would scare the crap out of me, and I work for a Japanese company!

      But it does sound exciting for you and congratulations!

  44. Lore*

    A friend is getting a total runaround from an HR rep over a phone interview for a job she really wants (and I think would be great at; I saw her application materials). HR emailed 1/7 asking to set up a phone interview ASAP; friend responded with available times on 1/8-1/10 and noted she was flexible but late afternoon was preferable. (Recruiter is on West Coast so that would keep it out of conflict with current job.) HR didn’t respond till evening of 1/10, then offered a midafternoon slot on 1/14. Super inconvenient, but friend accepted because the back-and-forth was already stressing her out. HR didn’t call or pick up when friend called her 10 minutes past the agreed-on time. HR reached out again Tuesday evening but then flaked again at the next appointment. My friend would really love to be considered for this job, but is there anything she can do? HR is the only point of contact she has.

    1. Dragoning*

      I don’t know that your friend can do anything, but I would encourage her to think about what it would be like to work at a company with HR like this. It might at least soothe the sting a bit.

      1. CupcakeCounter* </