open thread – January 24-25, 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.

{ 1,734 comments… read them below }

  1. Pam Beesly*

    I have an informal meeting today to learn about an open internal position in another department. I’m currently an admin assistant: I love the pay and flexibility of my current job but it’s very tedious and boring; I also have no opportunity for growth in my department (I’ve asked my boss). The open position is an admin-like role that has more responsibilities than being an assistant and is a track for further promotion in that department.

    I want to learn about the day-to-day responsibilities, schedule, and pay. Any suggestions for what else I should ask?

    1. I Question Things A Lot*

      I love asking questions so I’ll try not to bombard you with ideas, lol! At the very least, depending on what you already know about the role, I would ask what kind of person exceeds expectations in the position and what challenges the person in the position would face. I personally love those questions because it gives me an insight into what kind of person/traits the hiring manager is looking for and what I need to be prepared for.

      1. Rayray*

        I submitted some applications/resumes online last week. I haven’t heard back from any of the 4-5 I sent out. Should I call to follow up? I heard that advice all the time, but also hear that some hiring managers don’t like it. If I should follow up, what’s a good time frame for that?

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Find out about the longer term/bigger projects this person will work with (and by extension the people). Any particular growth/training/professional development courses or expectations in the role?

    3. Hazelthyme*

      -Tell me about a typical day or week in this position
      -What kind of skills/actions distinguish someone not just good at the job, but really great?

      I wouldn’t ask about schedule or pay at this stage, though you might be able to get a sense of the latter from your company’s HR/compensation website if that exists (e.g., level A = this range, level B = another range, etc.)

      1. nep*

        I always ask some variation of that second question–I like to know what traits/skills would make someone really shine in a given role?

        1. Ra94*

          Same! And I’ve seen interviewers faces light up after being asked that. In one case, one interviewer nudged the other and said, “Now that’s a great question!” I felt a bit undeserving of the credit, since I’d just read that it was a good question to ask online…but it still made an impact.

          1. Junger*

            That’s what you call “Taking initiative to train yourself for handling a difficult situation.”

            The results impressed the client, thus improving my reputation and raised my chance of creating a long term business relationship with the client.

    4. MustLikeDogs*

      Feeling manipulated by a coworker who gave me a different story about dealing with mental illness so she could justify working from home, but turns out she just wanted to get a dog.

      I was hesitant to even discuss WFH with her when she first approached me because she’s notoriously late, is inaccurate in her work, and basically does what she wants. I brainstormed with her and asked if maybe WFH part-time might work better. Well, she went to her manager with that suggestion and said it was my idea and that I recommended it!

      Since her manager thought I was vouching for her, he agreed, but let her WFH full time temporarily so the dog could get acclimated. Now she’s asking to stay WFH full-time, which I’m totally against for a few reasons.

      She’s become dismissive and argumentative (I’ve had a hard conversation with her about her behavior, but it hasn’t changed much). when her manager came to me wanting input about should he allow her to WFH full time, I let him know of my concerns and that her mistakes cause others to shoulder her work as well as make more work for me (I oversee her and other contractors work).

      She’s also 20 minutes from the office and there are other contractors who have 1.5 hour commutes each way who are more deserving of WFH, so I’m worried about the team being resentful.

      Not to mention I’m resentful that I feel like she used my good standing and reputation to get what she wanted.

      How do I let this go? I need to continue to work with her and need to have a better relationship, but right now I’m irrational.

      1. Ra94*

        I’m confused as to whether she’s your peer, or your subordinate. If she went to her manager and the manager approved it, surely that’s on him- and you’ve already let him know your concerns. She sounds like a frustrating coworker for sure, but if you’re not her manager, she’s not your responsibility.

        1. MustLikeDogs*

          She’s not my peer, but I don’t manage her. I’m a project manager, so I manage and take responsibility for the projects she works on. I’m also senior/lead on the team, but she reports to her manager.

          1. Ra94*

            In that case, I think I’d try focusing on “I’m not being paid to manage her, so I’m not being paid to worry about her work arrangements.” It’s annoying that she DOES affect your work because you manage her projects, but I’d focus on her actual work output and not her WFH. If she’s late, flag it to her manager. If she turns in shoddy work, flag it to her manager. Whether she’s doing poor work at home or in the office, make it his issue, since it doesn’t seem like he’s managing her much.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Yes, this. Manager was OK with it–let it unfold. Either she improves or not.

    5. I Love Llamas*

      Since this is preliminary, I would suggest not asking about pay. Let them get a feel for who you are also, so perhaps have 1-2 success/accomplishments you can mention. I know it’s not an actual interview, but you only get one chance at this first impression. Good luck!!!

      1. Pam Beesly*

        Thank you! I understand why I shouldn’t ask about pay, but if it’s drastically different from what I’m paid now, I won’t apply for the position. I don’t want to apply without knowing what the pay is, as my current boss would need to be looped in for the formal application process, and I don’t want her to know I’m looking.

        1. Madame X*

          I agree. An informational interview is a good time to ask about the pay range and schedule. This is essentially a fact finding mission about a position that interests you before spending a considerable amount of time, effort and political capital. There is no point in wasting all of that if the pay or schedule is a deal-breaker for you.

        2. Engineer Woman*

          Is there a way to get this information without directly asking about pay. Since it’s an internal position, ask what level the position is at and you may be able to determine how senior this position is compared to your current one.

    6. Red5*

      Alison just recently re-posted a column where she shares the best interviewee-asked questions she’s heard. That would be a good place to look for ideas; there were some great questions in the post.

    7. Pam Beesly*

      Thank you, everyone, for your advice! I met with the hiring manager and the position doesn’t sound like a good fit for me. I’ll keep looking and will use your advice in the future.

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      You could ask how the position came to be open, if you don’t already know. Is it a new role? Did the person who was in it get promoted (good sign)?

      You could ask, “what are the biggest challenges someone in this role is likely to face?” If it turns out you’re going to be chasing after people for information all day who are notoriously unresponsive, for example, you might decide it’s not for you.

  2. Animal House*

    I’m feeling frustrated at work. I have to work with “Wakeen”. Wakeen is manager of Teapot Inventory. He likes to socialize and joke around a lot, but when it comes to actual work, he sort of picks and choses what he wants to do or not do and whom he wants to help. He also likes to mess with me. He’ll give me the wrong information or send me to go speak with the wrong person, just for laughs.

    When he needs something, I always help him and turn my work in on time, but I don’t receive the same courtesy in return.

    I work in the type of place where joking is common, so I don’t know if I have high standards or am being too uptight, but it upsets me when it interferes with my work.

    He doesn’t act like this around the boss. It’s sort of a “kiss up, kick down” environment, which adds to the matter. The boss and him are friends, so boss won’t do anything about it.

    Is there a way to work with this type of personality? Is there something that I should be doing differently or some secret that I don’t know about? Is this normal in the workplace?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Can you stop helping him? I mean, is helping him mandated by your bosses, or are you doing it to be nice? Because if it’s the latter . . . you don’t need to be that nice. You can be too busy to help. You’re not going to get the same in return from him because he’s a jerk, so unless you’ve been told to do this by your manager, don’t do his work for him. That won’t change his behavior but at least you won’t be wasting as much time on him, either.

    2. Threeve*

      No, that’s not normal. God, what an ass. How old is he?

      Can you try directly calling him on it, and laying on a little guilt? Next time y0u suspect he’s lying to you, straight up ask: “Are you actually being helpful? Or are you being ‘hilarious’ at my expense? Because…I’m having a really hard week.”

      You have my sympathy. Working with jerks sucks, but jerks who are friends with the boss are a special kind of misery.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree with asking him directly to stop, but I don’t think I’d say it’s because I’m having a hard week. Tell him, you don’t think it’s funny or ask him to “explain the joke.”

        1. Leisel*

          Exactly. Don’t put it in a way that seems like you need sympathy or empathy from him. He’s being an jerk at your expense, so you don’t owe him any fuel.

          Be blunt! “In the past you’ve sent me on wild errands or in the wrong direction. You seem to think that’s funny, but I don’t share that sense of humor. From now on, unless your manager agrees that you need help and I’m the best one to help you, I’m going to stay out of it.”

          You owe it to yourself to stand up for you. Good luck!

        2. HerGirlFriday*

          “…..Because I don’t think it’s very funny.”
          It’s not funny. Call it what it is.

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, I’d say something in the moment like ‘Listen, I enjoy a joke as much as the next person, but that’s really not helpful if you actually want me to finish off the teapot reports like you asked me to. Can you give me the actual information?’

        And I’d definitely try to stop helping him if it’s not actually part of your job.

        1. Buttons*

          ^^ this
          That guy is an ass. I have no tolerance for people who behave like that. I usually make a face and say “that isn’t funny. Can you just give me what I need?”

          You could also say “because of the joking around and not giving me what I asked for, I am going to need an extra day to finish this.”

    3. Aquawoman*

      I think it is human nature to normalize this kid of stuff, but when you said he’d give you the wrong info or send you to the wrong person, my jaw literally dropped. I’m stunned. And I’m someone who will joke around at work. Interfering with your work is not a joke, it’s sabotage.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        I’m guessing Wakeem may be a white man and Animal House may a woman and/or POC. That sounds like deliberate sabotage to get Animal House in trouble.

    4. JustMyImagination*

      Can you passively make his jokes public by treating them like they are serious? For example, if he sends you to Susie for ABC and that’s wrong follow up with an email to Wakeen and CC boss saying “hey wakeen, I went to Susie for ABC like you suggested and she actually only covers XYZ. Joe is in charge of ABC and you should contact him if you need that information.”

      1. Observer*

        Yep. CC both your boss and his.

        His boss won’t do anything but you want to deny him plausible deniability. And your boss needs to know about this stuff. Because I don’t think he’s going to care about Wakeen being a jerk, but he MIGHT care about the fact that it’s keeping you from getting your job done. Also, see “plausible deniability”.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Plus, this is mildly disruptive for him so it means that every time he does it to you, you bog him down just a little bit in unnecessary email.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        And I’d also make sure I prefaced requests to other people with “Wakeen told me you were the person who can help me with this.” Make sure EVERY member of staff is aware than when you go to them with a question that’s not in their wheelhouse, it’s Wakeen’s fault. With any luck, you could end up weaponizing peer pressure in your favor by getting your coworkers to push back against Wakeen’s “jokes.”

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And every time you go to someone, the FIRST words out of your mouth should be “Hi, Susan, Wakeen sent me to you for X. Did he get that right?”
        That way, people annoyed by an unnecessary interruption will know who triggered it.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          ^^Exactly. Because it’s entirely possible that Animal House isn’t the only person he’s doing that to.

      5. Parenthetically*

        This is exactly what I was thinking. Make a paper trail, and let his bosses know he’s deliberately giving you wrong information. What’s he going to do, reply-all and say, “It was just a joke for me to send you to Susie instead of Joe, lighten up” to his bosses?

    5. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

      Wow, giving you wrong information “just for fun” is a very big deal! It could create serious problems if you act on it! I would try to have everything in writing, so that if something goes wrong you can prove it was because of the wrong information he gave you.
      And, let’s say it clear: it’s not your fault, you’re not responsible for him and in a sane workplace this “personality type” would not be tolerated. But since your workplace doesn’t seem excessively sane, the best way to “work with this kind on personality” is probably just covering yourself.

      1. Animal House*

        I don’t know if he wanted someone else to get my position or if he hates me, but tough cookies- we have to work together.
        He likes to pit people against each other, so it isn’t personal. (Even though it feels like it.) I just don’t understand this type of behavior at work.

        1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          Your workplace sounds pretty toxic and I’m sorry you have to deal with this.
          I totally see why you don’t understand his behaviour, it’s not how adults are supposed to do! My point was that, unfortunately, I’m not sure you can fix him: he’s doing everything on purpose. I would focus on protecting yourself, especially if it’s really true that he doesn’t want you in your position. Take care!

          1. Animal House*

            I just envy people who seem to be able to work with anyone or those who are not affected by stuff like this.

            1. WellRed*

              Please understand, most of us don’t work in places where stuff like this happens. It’s just bizarre. Are you the same person who posted last week about being sent to the third floor (when there isn’t one)? If not, you’ve got company.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        Right. Send Wakeen an email: Hey, Wakeen, thanks so much for your help with Llama Teapot report! Here’s what we covered — could you check it over to make sure I haven’t left anything out?
        Appreciate it!
        OP

    6. CL Cox*

      Submit every request for information in writing, via email. Ask him to email you the answer, “since there seems to be some miscommunication lately.” If he continues to send you misinformation through email, call him on it. “I asked you for the December EOM figures, what you sent me was for September. Please send the correct information ASAP so I can finish my report.” Don’t ask why, simply point out his error. If he continues to give you wrong information, you can escalate to your boss and have a paper trail to show them.

      If he tries to answer you verbally rather than by return email, write it down and verify WITH HIM that you wrote what he said, then send an email when it’s incorrect, “I asked you who was the contact for gold teapot numbers and you said Jane. She says she’s not the correct person, James is. Please verify that it’s James I need to talk to.” When he comes back and denies that he told you Jane, you can point out that he verified it was Jane when you wrote it down.

      He’s either going to realize that he can’t sabotage you any more and stop with the deliberate misinformation, or you will have to escalate and will have a good amount of proof that will overcome any ass-kissing goodwill he’s obtained.

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        I kind of love this, if only for the paper trail of mistakes – he says they’re jokes, but written down factually it just looks like he has NO clue what he’s doing.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      And he’s friends with the boss *hard sigh*

      I would just never trust the guy and not ask him for help. Or preface everything with “Wakeen told me to come to talk to you about X” and then they can go “Uh no, it’s actually Nancy who does that.” or whatever. Just don’t expect him to change and write him off as someone who refuses to evolve.

    8. MonteCristo85*

      Ugh, being messed with. I hate it. I usually behave like it is dead serious, and respond in kind. Make it NOT FUN to mess with you, because you take everything deadly serious. If he sends you to the wrong person, go back to him and tell him its the wrong person, and you wanted to let him know so he didn’t ask them next time he needs information. Go back to him when you find out the information is wrong. Loop in bosses if you have too. It’s not funny, it’s not cute, and you don’t have the play the game. IMO, if you have made it perfectly clear you don’t like the messing with (and to be fair, some people actually like this kind of interaction) and if he continues to do it, he’s bullying, and it needs to stop.

      It’s normal in my work place (the messing, not providing wrong information, that seems like a real work issue that bosses need to deal with) but that doesn’t mean you have to participate.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Not professional for sure, but as far as normal, it’s not unusual to find workplace jerks of all stripes.

      Do you have an immediate boss or do you both answer to the same boss? If your direct boss is different then loop your own boss in regarding how many times you have to ask for information before you get the correct info. Be sure to tell your boss how much extra time you are spending doing this nonsense.

      Perhaps you work in a smaller place so you and Wakeen answer to the same boss.
      You could try, “Wakeen, I am going to start looping the boss in on our emails because often times I am getting answers that I cannot use, such as the wrong information or the wrong person. I am looping in Boss to see what can be done here to improve this situation so we can work efficiently. ”

      Going in a different direction you could just say to him, “Wakeen, this is the third time this week I have asked you a question and the answer you gave was not useful. Now, what is the correct answer for my current question?”
      Here the idea is to show that you are counting the number of times this is happening. Sometimes when I start counting people get nervous and stop their crap.

      BTW, I hope you are developing workarounds so that you can ask this guy less and less questions. For example, once you find out Sally handles all X’s, you could just go to Sally and skip Wakeen.

      Or, if it’s in keeping with your personality, you could just decide that his first answer is not the truth and you will not believe him. And you can state it out loud, “Wakeen, we all know that your first answer is a joke. So let’s hear your second answer to this question.”

      Last. You could try, “Wakeen, you are the only one here that I have to ask my questions a second time. Everyone else gives a straight answer on the first request. You are the only person here that does this.”
      Here the idea is to drag a behavior out into the light of day and LOOK at the behavior. Some people just stop the behavior once it’s identified like this. Remember he KNOWS this is wrong or else he would do it in front of the boss also. It’s pretty safe to assume the boss has no idea that he is doing this.

      I assume you are a woman because this sounds like stuff I went through with some men. If this is the case, you could ask him if he ever sends the men on wild goose chases for laughs. When he says no, ask him why.

      1. Llellayena*

        Oh this is a good angle. Who else does he do this joking with? Does the joking that involves misinformation and misdirection only get aimed at you or is it directed at the women in the office or another protected class? If so, you can bring it to HR as discrimination and get it dealt with without going to the manager-friend. Documentation is key for that though, so track the “jokes” with email and notes first.

    10. Spero*

      Can you ask him to send you an email with the information so that if it’s incorrect, you have a paper trail to reply “I asked Linda about this and she stated she is not the correct person and has never been. Is there a reason you sent me to her?” and he can’t deny he gave you wrong info? If he says ‘Oh I’ll just tell you don’t bother with email” you can say that in the past, information has sometimes been missed and you’d prefer to have things in writing from him for now on. He’s given you incorrect info verbally. Being requested to share it in another format is a natural consequence to his action. Being confronted over incorrect info is a natural consequence of giving it it. None of this is you being unreasonable. Right now he’s insulated from the natural consequences by his friendships and your helpfulness. You have no need to continue insulating him.
      He should be well aware of what he’s done and if having to give it in writing doesn’t make him straighten up then you forwarding his time-wasting ‘jokes’ on should.

    11. Hedgehug*

      You know the context better than me since you’re the one there, but he sounds like a bully who is trying to assert authority over you with his “jokes”. Especially since you also stated in the comments that he enjoy pitting people against each other??
      Have you ever pushed back and said “Why would you find that funny?” or, “you sending me to the wrong people makes me think you’re an idiot, are you sure you know what people do here?” (obviously you can’t say that, but…yeah). What do your other co-workers think of his behaviour? Is this one of those situations where you can all push as a group?
      And is he actually friends with the boss, or does HE think he’s friends with the boss?

    12. George*

      My oi agree about making it no fun. If something comes up in person, I’d go back to my desk and email right away, “Just confirming, you said the report is due on the 6th, right?” Or, “Did you say Beth was the person who can help with this?”. I would try to sound like I was confirming because I was unclear without actually saying that.

      I agree with comments about prefacing that Wakeen sent you, and about looping back with email every time he gets it wrong.

      I would keep a file on every incident for a month and then take it to my supervisor saying, “I thought I was imagining howuch this was impacting me, but it turns out it was a lot more than o thought.”. A few incidents would be easy to overlook, but not a stack of them.

    13. hamsterpants*

      I dealt with a co-worker like by dispensing with all niceties.
      With a normal colleague, you’d joke, be accommodating if something slips if it’s a one-off, let people handle issues offline rather than involving their boss.
      With someone like this, be 100% business all the time. Be a broken record about what you need. Give him a hard (but realistic) deadline, and when he misses it, don’t immediately “tattle” to your boss but also don’t cover for him — in other words, let your work that depends on him simply halt. Be very boring and to-the-point with your boss, when he asks, about why the work isn’t being done.

  3. Stephen!*

    I need some outside perspective on an interaction I had with my coworker yesterday.

    We had worked together that morning and were headed back to the office. I was driving my work truck and we went over some bumpy road and the truck made some squeaky noises. Coworker said “Is that what your bed sounds like?” I completely froze, but part of my mind was thinking, “Okay, eewwww, but we’re almost back to the office, maybe he doesn’t realize that sounded gross, just let it go.” And into the silence he says, “You know, bedsprings? Squeaky bedsprings?”

    In case you couldn’t guess, why yes, I am a woman.

    And after we got the office, where I let him out with the bare minimum of required conversation, I realized that the previous time we worked together, he drew my attention to the decor in a restaurant we were in (a giant plaster animal head, painted in bright colors) and said something to the effect of “I bet you have something like that hanging over your bed.” I said no, and then he asked what I did have over my bed.

    This is creepy, right? It’s not overtly sexual, but… yuck?

    I have to work with him again next week. I’m going to practice the phrase, “that is inappropriate” with the hopes that I don’t freeze again if (when) he says something gross, but should I mention this to my supervisor?

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      You’re right, super creepy. I would have frozen as well though simply because I wouldn’t have been expecting it. I fully support you saying firmly “that isn’t appropriate”, and please make sure you’re not in a car with him alone again if at all possible.

      1. Annony*

        You can even expand it “I’ve noticed you ask me about my bedroom a lot. Please stop. It is not appropriate.”

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        It *is* overtly sexual. Squeaky bedsprings is *totally* a reference to sex. He sexually harassed you. The comment in the restaurant was testing the boundary, the comment in the truck was harassment. Being in the truck makes it really creepy and dangerous – no witnesses.

        Tell his supervisor in writing (email), but keep practicing that phrase.

        You might even ask to meet with him in the office to say, “The comments you made last week about my bed are completely inappropriate. You need to stop making sexual comments to or about me.” Make sure it’s in the office, where there’s witnesses nearby. *Sometimes* harassers will stop when they realize they’ve been pegged. But this needs to be in addition to telling his supervisor, not instead of.

    2. cactus lady*

      Yes that’s creepy. If I were you, I would loop in my supervisor since it sounds like you and he go offsite together.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        THIS. No way in the world would I be going anywhere else alone with that man. Ew.

        The bed springs comment on its own could have been interpreted to mean he was asking because he thinks you’re heavy – but that would also be way over the line to insinuate to anyone. Adding in his comment asking you what you have over your bed? Yeah, he’s officially veered over into harassment territory.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          Except that I don’t think he would have asked a heavy man if his bed springs were squeaky.

        2. Fuzzy Pickles*

          Could’ve been truck bed squeaking but that interpretation was lost when he said bedsprings and the other comment. Creepy jerk.

          1. Jihbeach*

            The first comment could have been interpreted as a bad attempt at a joke. But, he not only doubled down, but tripled down with his additional comments. He was making it very clear that he was talking about her having sex. Combined with his previous comments, he’s sexually harassing her.

            The first inappropriate comment was bad but I’m sure it caught her off guard. I would probably laugh nervously and say I had nothing over my bed instead of telling him it was none of his business.

            Her first response told him he could make her feel uncomfortable safely. It’s no coincidence that he waited until they were completely alone and she was vulnerable, to make his comments. He knew she wouldn’t say anything out of fear, so he wins by controlling her.

            She should start a log of every comment and go directly to her boss and HR. she’s should never have to travel with her again and he needs to keep his distance and communicate exclusively by email unless absolutely necessary. Then, always have someone with her if she needs to see him in person.

            If it continues without any consequences, she should contact a lawyer.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          No, squeaky bedsprings is a sexual reference. See: “Marvin Gay and Chardonnay” by Big Sean and “Bad” by Wale.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I don’t listen to that music, so I won’t be seeing that, and my comment was how I interpreted what was written when I first read the bedsprings section – I thought it was a fat joke until I got to the second part of the question where he asked what was over her bed. Regardless, I already said this is sexual harassment, no two ways about it, and she needs to let their manager know she won’t be traveling anywhere with this guy by herself going forward. This could turn dangerous quick.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Definitely. It’s absolutely worth telling your supervisor what he’s already said and what you plan to respond with if he brings the topic up again. I’d also say “If he responds badly or keeps making comments after I tell him I want him to stop, I’ll need to file an official report.”

    3. nep*

      Over the top creepy. Awful. He needs to stop.
      Good on you for getting comfortable with stating firmly that this is wholly inappropriate. Wish you didn’t have to be in that position at all.
      I definitely would mention to your supervisor. Or his? Someone. Perhaps ask your supervisor for guidance.

    4. DataGirl*

      Super, super creepy. He’s definitely being inappropriate. Do you work with many other women? Could you discreetly ask if he subjects others to similar comments? I think I might mention it to my supervisor, because of the travel you have to do.

      1. Observer*

        If others have had the same thing, there is power in numbers. But even if no one else has experienced that, please DO report this. It’s creepy and definitely getting into harassment territory. Two incidents are not “win a lawsuit” territory, but if you have to deal with this guy and he does this every time you have to interact with him without witnesses, that’s a huge deal.

    5. LessNosy*

      I REALLY like when Alison suggests questioning people as to why they’re asking inappropriate questions. “What a weird question! Why do you ask?” or “That’s an odd thing to say, why do you want to know?” Put the impetus on him to explain his creepy behavior… maybe it will make him see that it’s Not Okay. Of course, saying “that is inappropriate” is good as well!

      The one time I have had to deal with a creep at work, it was a client, and my supervisor was really helpful. He actually had me swap clients with another account manager and instructed the client that he was never to contact me again. Personally, if your supervisor is a helpful person, I would say, “If this happens again, I have plans on how to handle it in the moment and push back, but I just wanted to flag this for you in case it becomes a larger issue.”

      1. Threeve*

        I think making him acknowledge what he’s doing is a good idea. It makes it obvious that you find what he’s doing inappropriate, and you have something to go to the boss with no matter what.

        “Are you…talking about a coworker’s bed?”

        Because even if his defense is that he’s just genuinely interested (nothing sexual, OMG why would you think that) or that’s he’s Just Joking…you have something concrete to tell your boss.

        “Coworker has asked me a few times about the contents of my bedroom, and told me that it’s sincere interest, but it’s obviously making me uncomfortable” or “Coworker has been making comments about my bed, and has told me that he’s ‘joking,’ but obviously that is really inappropriate.”

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yeah, my first thought was to pull a grossed-out face and say, “What the hell, man, why are you asking my all these weird questions about my bed? Pretty sure you wouldn’t ask *insert name of largest/oldest male colleague* if his bedsprings squeaked or if he had a plant hanging over his bed. Knock it off, you’re being SUPER weird.”

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        For once, I don’t think this is the right approach. Stephen! was alone in the truck with Coworker; asking “Why would you say that” has at least a 50% chance of leading to a direct request for a sexual relationship. Getting to a safe place was the right response.

        Safe to use in the restaurant, but risky in the truck.

        1. Hummus*

          I agree, from a comfort perspective. I wouldn’t want to say that while in the truck, but mostly because I would be afraid that it would turn physical.

          But if Stephen! felt up to it and felt safe that no physical altercation would occur or safe that she could take him in a fight, it’s a fair avenue to take.

          I also think this should be brought to a supervisor or HR no matter what. This guy is creepy. He knows he’s creepy, and he thinks he’s being clever enough to skirt the line. But this isn’t the 80s, so I think he’s already crossed the line where any decent HR person wouldn’t respond with, “Well, did you tell him you didn’t like him mentioning your bed so much? Maybe he doesn’t know.” If he doesn’t know, your workplace isn’t doing their job.

          1. Marie*

            Yes. The question back. I make my voice really loud. “Did you just say__(repeat their words back)?” …. “Did you just ask me ____(repeat their words back)?”
            I advise this strategy for public places such as the restaurant. It is not safe to say in an enclosed vehicle or in a secluded place. In the instance of the truck it is still not too late: in the public space of the office you can still say out loud “When we were driving did you really say that you bet the squeaky sounds of my truck sounded like my bed?!” in a questioning neutrally incredulous voice.

    6. Jedi Squirrel*

      It’s creepy AND it’s overtly sexual. Unless you were talking about buying a new mattress, why on earth would somebody make comments about your bed?

      Loop your supervisor into this. ASAP. Every time this guy says something like this and gets away with it, he thinks he has more and more leeway to be even more creepy.

      1. Sue*

        Yes, I agree. Unless you were discussing home decor, there is no way this isn’t sexual. He may think it’s some kind of harmless flirty banter, but it’s really inappropriate in any work setting. In a vehicle with only the two of you, it’s ramped up NOT OK.

        1. MoopySwarpet*

          This. It may not be overtly malicious, but it is sexual and there is no way he doesn’t know that. He might think it’s banter or it might be predatory. Two comments don’t make me automatically think it’s predatory, but it seems potentially “groomy” to me.

      2. MistOrMister*

        I agree with all of this. My first thought to the “it’s not overtly sexual” was, say what, it’s not??? Because it definitely is! There is no way anyone could take either of his comments than that they were sexual inuendo. If it wasn’t sexual he wouldn”t have mentioned the bed in regards to the animal heads. That’s just weird!! If he said something about animal heads and your family/living room, trophy room, whatever, it might just be weird/creepy depending in how he says it. But the bedroom?? Definitely sexual. And the mattress thing…wow.

    7. Celeste*

      Definitely tell him it’s inappropriate, and document what is happening. This latest event made you remember something else, so write that down to the best of your ability for date, time, location, etc.

      You do have to give him a chance to adjust his behavior, but in case he keeps going, you will want to have documentation of him behaving like this. He’s creating a hostile workplace for you.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        I agree that the documentation is extremely important. I do, however, disagree, that she owes him the opportunity to adjust his behavior. The company may be under obligation to do so, but she is under no such obligation to my mind. Her obligation is to herself and her own health and safety. OP, I don’t think you have to take it upon yourself to think about if you’ve given him enough “chances” or not. You just keep raising the alarm to the extent that it is safe for you. Let HR worry about his chances.

      2. Secret Identity*

        I dunno…I mean, do you really have to give him a chance to adjust his behavior? Because, to me, any grown ass, normal person should understand that that type of questioning is inappropriate.
        Way back in the day I worked in a warehouse for a company that manufactured and sold underwear. So my job was to pick the orders and pack the boxes of underwear for shipping. In my first week, there was a guy in the same row as me, also picking orders. I had just picked up a package containing some thongs and this guy sidles up to me and asks in what I assume he thought was a low, sexy voice, if that was the type of underwear I wore. I was so young and naive and, in the moment, I froze and didn’t know what to say, so I kind of laughed nervously and said no, then went back to my order picking. Looking back, I would say he didn’t deserve a chance to adjust his behavior – I should have stopped what I was doing right then and went straight to HR, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. That was so inappropriate he absolutely knew it was wrong.
        So, I don’t think this guy necessarily needs an opportunity to adjust his behavior. Just my 2 cents worth.

        1. Hummus*

          Yeah, it’s up to HR to give him the headsup that he can’t continue that behavior. If they talk to him and he stops, they won’t then fire him. But if they may have information that this dude has done this to every woman in the office, they’ve talked to him already, and now they need to take the next step.

        2. Kat in VA*

          No. It’s not on her to teach him how not to be a creep and how not to sexually harass.

          I promise you, he knows what he’s doing. The plant comment was weird enough, and when the reaction wasn’t an immediate WTF YOU ASKING ME ABOUT THAT FOR, he then doubled down the squeaky bed comment.

          This is putting the onus on the victim to correct the behavior of the offender and that’s why crap like this slides.

      3. roll-bringer*

        he doesn’t need a chance to adjust his behavior. a decent & reasonable person wouldn’t be making these comments and I hope he gets fired with negative references.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Exactly this. Sexual harassment is zero-tolerance in a lot of places. You just don’t want those kinds of people around.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Respectfully and firmly disagreeing.

        Go report this to your boss now, OP. This is bull. And request that you not have to be alone with him for any task. I don’t think he is going to hurt you, I think that you should request not to be alone with him so that he sees what he did was totally, totally UNACCEPTABLE. There is no how, no way, this is acceptable workplace behavior.

      5. Sunflower Sea Star*

        Joining in on the chorus of no, she does not “have to give him a chance to adjust his behavior”
        He’s being creepy and sexual with a coworker. She needs to keep herself safe. Predators – or even potential predators – do not get or deserve second chances.
        Giving creeps a chance just gives them an opening to escalate.
        Please stop telling women they have to be nice to creeps.

      6. WantonSeedStitch*

        Disagree. The COMPANY may decide it wants to give him a chance to adjust his behavior (or not), but Stephen! is under no obligation to try to resolve this with him one-on-one before appealing to a manager or HR for help if she does not feel safe or comfortable doing so.

      7. Fikly*

        No. This dude gets to face consequences for his behavior.

        Once he faces those consequences, he can have his chance to adjust he behavior, but he does not get to escape the consequences.

    8. Golden*

      Definitely creepy and not appropriate. I kind of like Captain Awkward’s “return awkwardness to sender” approach. Maybe next time coworker says something like that, you could reply with “what do you mean by that?” … “I don’t understand, what does that mean?”, “What are you referring to?” etc. until he either has to succumb to his own awkwardness and quit, or say what he really means out loud, at which case you will have a pretty good case to take to your supervisor/HR.

      Like others have commented, I would also let your supervisor know what’s been happening.

    9. HONK*

      Oh wow that is creepy. Even more so because he had to specify about the bedsprings when he realized that you were staring in dumbstruck silence instead of laughing. Like… that’s a dude who thinks their jokes are so hilarious that if someone doesn’t laugh, it has to be because they didn’t understand it.

      I personally love the “What a weird thing to say!” responses, but a good ol’ “That’s inappropriate” would definetely be warranted.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          omg this took me a second, and I have a cutout Goose on the Loose in my house (we don’t do Elf on the Shelf). ROFLMAO.

    10. Camellia*

      “This is creepy, right? It’s not overtly sexual, but… yuck?”

      Creepy, right. But you are wrong on the second – it IS overtly sexual.

      First I would use the “What a weird question. Why would you ask me that?” Note that’s ‘…ask me that’ instead of just ‘…ask that.’ It points out how really personal the question is.

      After a round or two of that, if he still doesn’t get it or, more probably, will start insisting it’s a joke, that is the place for “That is inappropriate.” Sometimes I have even added “Don’t do that again.”

      And above all, do NOT soften your language with ‘please’ or ‘sorry’ or anything else like that.

      You got this. Practice like you are doing and then handle it.

    11. KR*

      You could also try, “That’s a really gross comment. Don’t talk to me like that again.”
      “You know that’s the third time you’ve mentioned my bed and it’s coming across really creepy. I know you wouldn’t want to make me feel uncomfortable at work so you need to cut it out.”
      I think you should tell your supervisor if you trust them to handle it well. Something like “Fergus has made these two comments to me (describe comments and situation). Next time he says something inappropriate I’m planning on saying X, but I wanted to make you aware that its a problem I’ve been dealing with and it’s making me feel really uncomfortable.”
      So sorry. This is sexual harassment. What a gross guy.

    12. Artemesia*

      Twice? Yeah. I’d tell your manager you would prefer not to go out on calls with Creepster because he constantly makes reference to your bedroom, squeaky bed springs and other sexually inappropriate comments. You are feeling sexually harassed by him. (and you are) Once is bad taste, twice is intentional.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. This.
        Neither remark is accidental.

        It happens sometimes that people accidentally say things with a double meaning, typically their faces turn red and/or they start stuttering, you will see some type of thing that indicates embarrassment and regret.
        No. This guy meant what he said.

        I worked with a male boss that had wording down to a science, I never once saw him say anything that was the LEAST bit ambiguous. This guy thought about every sentence he said before he said it. His effort in the regard showed and I told him I noticed and appreciated.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Oh yeah, this was not accidental. The comment in the restaurant was the first test, to see how Stephen! would react. The comment in the truck was escalation. This is a common pattern with harassers, he’s textbook.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Plus he used the awkward silence to *double down*.
            Never be alone with this guy again. The way he’s escalating, next step will be physical contact.

        2. Kat in VA*

          For people who are conscious of double entendres, the reaction is exactly as you described.

          I was covering the head execs for the other EA one day, and the GM said, “Hey, I’m going to head home for a few and let the dogs out.” (He lives local to the office.)

          Me: OK.

          I hear him walk away, the security door open and close…and then a few seconds later, the security door opened, and he popped around the corner.

          Him: I mean, I REALLY AM going home to let the dogs out, I didn’t mean like I was-, I mean-, I didn’t mean anything other than-, OK, I’m going to go now.

          Me /mystified/: OK?

          After I heard the door close again, I started laughing. THAT is what people do when they think they’ve said something that could be construed as “naughty” or inappropriate. Not make another, more pointed comment in the same vein.

          1. Kat in VA*

            The funny thing is, the ONLY thing I could think of was that song, “Who Let The Dogs Out?”

            I have no idea what he thought I was thinking.

    13. CupcakeCounter*

      Another optional replies:
      that is something that you will never know
      I’m not sure how that it any of your business
      or you can go nuclear and respond with
      Would you like to continue this conversation with boss and HR? Because if it isn’t something you feel comfortable asking about in front of them, its a sign you should keep the thought to yourself.

      I would also let your boss know that, if possible, you would like to not be put on assignment with this guy. If they ask why, you can just say he has asked some personal questions that make you very uncomfortable. Or flat out say that he’s asked inappropriate questions that seem to focus on your bedroom.

    14. Red5*

      Yup. Creepy and inappropriate, but not outright sexual so he can maintain plausible deniability. Rather than responding with “That’s inappropriate” (because he can argue that he didn’t mean it that way and it’s YOUR mind in the gutter), I’d suggest responding with a very bland, “Why do you ask?” Or, for things that are statements instead of questions, “Why do you say that?”

      “Is that what your bed sounds like?”
      “Why do you ask?”

      “What do you have hanging over your bed?”
      “Why do you ask?”

      “I bet you have something like that hanging over your bed.”
      “Why do you say that?”

      That way he either has to get more explicit, where you can then call him out for being inappropriate, or he can drop it. Either way, you win.

      1. Observer*

        He can argue anything he likes. But if he claims that it was not inappropriate because he “didn’t mean it THAT way” the response is “That doesn’t make it OK. This is inappropriate.”

        1. Forrest Rhodes*

          I like this response. Or maybe, “In what flamin” universe [or term of your choice] do you think I’d answer a question like that?” Could also end with “from you,” just to make it clear.
          I guess that’s a bit more polite than “What—have you lost your tiny mind, asking me something like that and actually thinking I’d ANSWER it??”

      2. kt*

        Nah. No “Why do you ask?” Because some of these guys will dig in. Just respond with, “Whoah, you are one creepy fuck.” Name it. Call it out.

      3. Doc in a Box*

        This is a good strategy, but it only works if there are other people around who have social or professional power over the creep. I would absolutely not use it solo, because there is a possibility that the creep would use that as an excuse to get even more sexual (and then use the fact that you “asked for it” as a twisted defense.)

    15. NJBi*

      Definitely creepy, definitely inappropriate, definitely sexual. This is not a normal thing that you just have to put up with! I would mention it to a supervisor. “The last two times I worked with Coworker offsite, he made sexually suggestive comments that made me very uncomfortable. The first time I wasn’t sure if it was just a fluke, but now that it’s happened twice, it’s becoming a pattern, and I wanted to let you know.” That way if it happens again next week, the supervisor is already aware of the issue–or maybe the supervisor will be able to have Coworker knock it off before that.

      Also, I wouldn’t say you need to correct his comments with a “That’s inappropriate,” etc. if you feel uncomfortable doing so! He knows it’s inappropriate, and it’s not your responsibility to tell him. Maybe it would make the comments stop, maybe it would start an argument (“I’m just joking around! Jeez, can’t you take a joke?”)–you know the situation better than me to predict how he might react, but in a burgeoning sexual harassment situation, I don’t think it’s your responsibility to give him a mini-HR training, and you definitely aren’t responsible for telling him to knock it off before going to your supervisor and asking that person for an intervention/backup.

    16. MonteCristo85*

      This goes beyond mere creepy in my opinion. This isn’t just vague sexual nature comments, these are direct at you specifically. I’d make one attempt to directly tell him to knock it off, and then report it. This is NOT COOL, and made worse by the fact you have to be alone with him offsite.

    17. Buttons*

      Trust your instincts. We are so conditioned to “be nice” that we often don’t trust our own instincts. This guy is a creep.

    18. Not So NewReader*

      OP, my vote is to shut this conversation down FAST. Report it to the boss, pronto. I base what I am saying on years of experience, do not put up with this crap. You don’t deserve this.

    19. Jean*

      Sounds like you have a habitual line-stepper on your hands here. If you have to go somewhere again where it will just be you and him, let your manager know about your concerns ahead of time, so it starts a “paper trail” so to speak. That way, when you tell him to stop, if he doesn’t, you have backup so formal disciplinary action can be taken. I bet this guy has been “just joking around” like this to women for a very long time and thinking he’s slick. Best of luck and I hope this gets solved asap.

    20. Senor Montoya*

      It is overtly sexual. It is creepy. It is COMPLETELY inappropriate. Right now, write down exactly what happened, when, where, the exact words as well as you can remember them, for the incidents that have already happened.

      Yes, you need to talk about it with your supervisor. Ask for a meeting. Bring a copy of the record you’ve made (not the original! Keep that at home!) Say to the supervisor, at the time, I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say. If it happens again, I will say, “Joe, that is inappropriate and potentially harassment. I need you to not say anything like that ever again.”

      If it happens again, say your script, make a record, go to your supervisor. Lather, rinse, repeat. If boss does not follow up and/or Joe continues, go to HR and/or your EEO officer, whoever is the correct person at your employer. Or both.

    21. Nesprin*

      You did the right thing, which was get out of a situation that was making you uncomfortable. Freezing when (in a car!) someone acts creepy is an easy thing to pick on, but very instinctive and hard to fight. Now that you’re not in that bad situation, go tell your boss about this interaction and figure out how not to be stuck alone with this guy again.

    22. Senor Montoya*

      Just to add — I would not respond to this behavior with jokes. I would not accept anything from Joe except, “Gee, I’m sorry” followed by it never happens again. I would document the hell out of this, and I would escalate to my boss (and beyond, if it doesn’t get solved) every time Joe does this. Every freakin time. Joe needs to stop. Joe needs to feel the consequences of this.

      It’s ok if you didn’t know what to say, and it’s ok to feel icky or worried or embarrassed about escalating it to your supervisor, but from my own experience and that of colleagues: Joe is not going to stop and Joe is possibly going to get worse. It takes real courage to speak up, and I hope you will, so that it will stop. I’m so sorry that you have to speak up, it sucks that the victim has to take that responsibility. Big hugs to you!

    23. PollyQ*

      Note that he’s doing this while you’re away from the office, where there are no handy witnesses and you can’t easily leave him. This is not a coincidence, and it is absolutely sexual harrassment. I vote bringing it to your boss.

    24. Lab Rat*

      Wow, so in the pause when he thought maybe you didn’t get it, he decided to clarify that his comment was intended as sexual harassment. Unbelievable. I would absolutely go to the supervisor and advocate for never having to be alone with this guy again.

    25. Leela*

      These are always the worst because it’s not like “hey I want to have sex with you” which is so overt no one could object to you bringing it up. Good managers will take this seriously though! Some won’t, but I’d definitely start documenting everything like this because when and if you come forward they’ll ask for it, and the more you have the stronger that case would be.

      I see Alison with a lot of advice like “Oh weird, why would you bring up X?” and I think that might be a good way to go here. “Why are you talking about my bed?”
      “It’s just a joke”
      “sorry what’s the joke?”
      Etc.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        No. This is not a case to use that script. Make it clear right from the start that it’s inappropriate and unwelcome (use those very words, they are on point), that it’s potentially harassment, and that it must stop immediately.

        Do not have a conversation about this with Joe. Statements, clear and seriously made.

        Do not engage further if he wants to converse, says it’s a joke, whatever. Only response is to repeat the same thing you said the first time, and then say, I am not discussing this further OR This is not up for further discussion. And then do not respond further.

    26. FormerFirstTimer*

      If you can’t bring yourself to actually say, “that’s inappropriate”, say something like, “It’s weird you keep asking me about my bedroom, is there a reason you’re doing it?”. That way you register the fact that you realize what he’s doing (implying its creepy as well perhaps) and force him to come up with an excuse on the spot, which will be fun to watch.

    27. purrpelle*

      “what do i have over my bed? the mummified corpse of the last man who spoke like that to me. Now, where are those TPS reports?”

    28. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Another suggestion: “Fergus, that’s one of those ‘appearance of impropriety ‘ things. I’m sure you’re trying to a joke, but jokes like get people into trouble.”

    29. Hedgehug*

      “It’s not overtly sexual”?? What? Um…YES IT IS.
      This is blatant sexual harassment and needs to go to HR immediately if you have one. This guy has now more than once harassed you and cornered you to know about your sex life. THIS IS NOT OK. At all. I am sitting at my desk scream squealing over this.

      1. Hedgehug*

        Also please never, ever get into a vehicle alone with him ever again. Ever. He has no boundaries and I can’t even imagine what he will do next that he thinks is acceptable behaviour. I’m so upset for you over this. Super triggered.

    30. Not All*

      If you’re hesitating about whether to document & report this (as others said, it IS sexual harassment & it IS overt)…think about the odds that you are the only woman he’s ever tried/will try this on. Even if you call him out directly on it but don’t report it, the odds are high he’ll try it on a different target. If that target happens to be someone who is in a tenuous enough position to not be able to stand up to him, who knows what he’ll escalate to. Since clearly he travels on work business, does your company want the liability of him sexually harassing clients? Service workers? Any other female he has contact with while representing the company?

      (Not that you have to say anything if you think your company culture means it will come back to bite you…I think every woman at some point has been in a situation where we knew we’d be the one getting punished, not the offender. *waves at previous NPS office*)

    31. Sleve McDichael*

      I haven’t read all the comments but a lot of people are saying to push back and say something along the lines of ‘Why would you say something like that?’ That’s fine in a workplace situation regarding a coworker commenting on your lunch, say, but if you’re being sexually harassed he may take that as “being coy” or alternatively get angry and dangerous. If you feel safer bringing it up to HR first, you should definitely do that. It’s not an overreaction. Also be on the lookout for Occam’s Big Paisley Tie when you bring it up if your HR dept are lazy and prone to looking for excuses to avoid work. Im sorry you’re dealing with this.

    32. RagingADHD*

      I’d be leery of trying to “return awkwardness to sender” with this guy by asking him what he means.

      He sounds like the type who would gladly tell you in detail exactly what he means.

      “Ewwww” is a perfectly appropriate response.

      So is, “Enough with the bedroom jokes, Kevin. I don’t want to hear that kind of crap from you, ever again. It’s gross and totally inappropriate. Knock it off.”

  4. Steve*

    How often do background checks usually take and if one is being conducted, should I expect a job offer? I interviewed with a company last Thursday and HR said they would be reaching out to my references. I took that as a good sign.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      When you say “background check,” you mean checking references and not a criminal background check, right?

      Honestly, it depends on a combination of how efficient HR is and how responsive your references are. Sometimes, HR will leave messages with people, and those references won’t get back to HR for days or even ever. Sometimes HR itself is slow to call references.

      I’ve had some employers finish contacting all my references in one day, though. It all depends.

      1. Steve*

        I am somewhat confused about the process because the application I signed never asked for an SS# to run a credit check but I did check a box saying they had a right to access public records and data bases and that I would be provided a copy should they do that. One of my references is going to be a bit tough to reach as he was at a trade show and headed off to another. Thanks for the reply!

    2. Eba*

      It’s a good sign, but not failsafe. We often check references for the final two or three people we’re considering.

      1. Steve*

        The interview went well but they mentioned they still had people to interview so maybe I got pushed to the back burner.

    3. KR*

      In the US it entirely depends on what states you have lived and worked in. I lived and worked in a state without a centralized background check system so when I had to get an initial background check for my current role it took over a month. When I had to get a second background check at the same company a year later, it took less than 2 weeks. Some states have centralized criminal records and can turn out background checks pretty quickly and some don’t. In my experience companies don’t want to pay for background checks if they aren’t seriously interested in you as a candidate, but your results may vary. Good luck!

      1. Steve*

        I did go through another background check that went fairly quickly as I’ve only lived in two states. The process has me confused as the application didn’t ask for my SS#. It did say they may search public records and data bases. I am starting to think I misunderstood this as I was a shoe in for the job and now it looks like I just made it to the second round.

        1. Steve*

          “I did go through another background check that went fairly quickly as I’ve only lived in two states.”

          I realize I didn’t answer this very clearly. That first sentence was for a previous job, not the one I am applying for now…

    4. Chaordic One*

      When I worked in H.R. the reference check was usually done by the department head that was hiring for the opening. It might take anywhere from 1 day or 2 to 3 to 4 weeks, depending on how easy it was to reach the reference. We did not actually run the criminal background check until after the applicant was offered the job (because the background check was kind of expensive). Usually the new employee wouldn’t start until the background check was completed, but sometimes the person might be on the job for a short while before it was.

      (There were questions on the applications about criminal convictions and I suspect that anyone who answered honestly and who had been convicted of a serious crime was probably weeded out early in the process.)

      We used an online service that checked for court and arrest records in the cities, counties and states (and in some cases the countries) where the job applicants previously lived. In most cases it took 2 to 3 days from the time I entered in the request, but sometimes it took a week or more if the applicant lived in more than 4 or 5 states and even up to 3 to 6 weeks if they lived in other countries (outside of the U.S. or Canada) and in some countries they really didn’t have any kind of centralized service so if there were records they were probably not found.

      Very rarely, like probably less than 1 or 2 percent of the time, something that the applicant didn’t report would pop up. It was usually an arrest for a petty crime along the lines of illegal drug possession, driving while intoxicated, or public drunkenness. There were a couple of male employees who were arrested for getting into brawls and a couple of cases where people had been arrested for shoplifting. Sometimes the people had petitioned courts to have their arrest records expunged, but they still showed up anyway.

      In every case the employee was called in to meet with a senior H.R. person and in most of the instances that I witnessed they were cleared to work. There were a couple of people who were let go because their specific job required them to drive and their drunk driving arrest meant that we couldn’t get them insured to drive company cars.

    5. Someone Stole My Sweetroll*

      I work doing background checks with a third-party company, including reference calls. It really depends on how responsive the reference is, but usually we can get ’em by 3 days. Hold up usually is when the reference has no idea they’ve been listed and to expect a call. They don’t know the number, don’t answer, or think we’re spam/sales and keep hanging up on us :( Voicemail usually takes care of that, but a bunch of the cell phone numbers we’re given will just ring and ring or their vm isn’t set up. Funniest is when they have a spam service that trolls us. I’ve only fallen for it twice >.>

      We don’t deal with the hiring decision, so I can’t help there. Sorry! I have browsed our client surveys, and courts seem to take the longest and get the most complaints for long turnarounds. I only do employments, educations, and reference calls. Soo I don’t feel so bad lol

  5. Unsolicited*

    I’m actively looking for PR/Marketing/Advertising jobs in a tight metro job market. Since becoming unemployed in December (agency had serious money issues), I have ramped up my job hunt strategy and now searching companies’ websites to see if they have either a career page or a contact us page (that includes job seekers) so that I can reach out.

    My first question is: Are there any special tips for creating a compelling cover letter for positions on the website that aren’t advertised on job boards or professional associations or may not be posted (company writes just contact us for job opportunities)?

    My second question is: To keep my resume fresh, should I include some of my ongoing professional development and volunteering on my resume? For example, I am currently studying to earn a Google Analytics Certificate as well as taking Lynda.com and other courses. Should these instead be added to the cover letter or addressed, as appropriate, during a job interview?

    My third question is: When the company’s career page asks for writing samples to be sent along with a cover letter and resume, how many and what variety should be included? Because I often do not have direct experience with the product, I’ve been trying for a variety such as a press release, advertorial and a news style piece. Should I be including more or being more focused?

    Thanks, AAM Community!

    1. Tiny Magnolia*

      I’d just honestly put an end date on your resume that says “December 2019.” That’s it! It’s only January and if anyone asks, be upfront. I think volunteer work with dates “December 2019 — Present” would look like you’re already looking to jump ship. I’d see the dates and company name before I’d catch on to the job title of “Llama Volunteer.”

      If you’re in PR (I am, too) I would send three writing samples from your agency work. I’d be sure to include something for digital as that’s a different writing style, and select different clients you worked with.

      1. Unsolicited*

        Umm. . .I am a bit confused by my reference to the end date of the position.

        I have included the end date as being in December since I updated my resume after Christmas. It was never a question, so I don’t understand what you’re getting at. I apologize if something in my post led you to believe that I still had it listed as present employment. Can you explain?

        Your comment about having volunteering listed as looking as though I’m jumping ship puzzles me. All of the PR/Marketing websites I’ve looked at have some ties to volunteering (cancer, kids, 5K races, hunger prevention, etc.). With this in mind, I would think that having ongoing volunteer engagements that represent my personal brand would be a good idea.

        Could you expound a bit on what you believe happens if a volunteer opportunity coincides with a job ending? Wouldn’t having something to fill your days and help your community be read as a good thing by interviewers, particularly those who tout their staffs’ volunteer activities?

        Lastly, I completely agree with having a variety of writing samples. The note of digital is a very good one that I admittedly overlooked. Thanks for reminding me!

        1. Mimi*

          I think Magnolia meant that someone might initially read the volunteering position as a new job that you had just taken, and think you were already looking for a new role.

          Personally, I don’t see that as as big of a risk, but I do agree that your last position ending in December and it’s only January now isn’t a big enough gap to worry about significantly. If you’re still looking come March, there’s probably more value in adding a volunteer position to your resume to show that you’ve been active in the interim (but even then I’d be thoughtful about what you’re moving to the next page/cutting entirely, and if the volunteer position is strong enough/applicable enough to your field to be worth it).

          1. Unsolicited*

            Ahh, that makes more sense!

            For more context, I have been volunteering with various nonprofits for a decade, so my volunteer listings go back for years.

            Although I haven’t been unemployed long, I want to be able to answer interviewers when they ask how I fill my time. I want to be able to state that I’m active in the community, involved with professional associations, doing professional development, etc.

    2. Operation Glowing Symphony*

      “To keep my resume fresh, should I include some of my ongoing professional development and volunteering on my resume?” Yes! I’m on a break and I have (4) projects on-going and they’re on my LinkedIn as well.

      If you’re not volunteering in your area of practice/profession check out CatchAFire or Taproot – many non-profits are looking for pro bono consultants for short-term projects in your field of knowledge. Easy to apply, find projects and get started. What’s nice is that the projects are also valued ($150/hour) so you can add that as a savings you’re providing to the non-profits.

      1. Unsolicited*

        Taproot is something I’ve seen online but haven’t yet engaged.

        The valuing of the knowledge and skills is a great addition. I will certainly check it out!

        Thanks!

    3. A*

      Hi – I’m in PR so I can speak to that industry. For the cover letters, I would see if any big client wins have been reported in the industry trades which should give you a sense of what they’re busy with as well as ask around. I find the industry to be very small and gossipy so someone will know if XYZ firm has been doing a lot of PE comms, shareholder activism, crisis, corporate, etc.

      For the writing samples – I would do internal, external, and strategy. I would choose a letter from a CEO from client X, press release from client Y, and a media/communications strategy from client Z.

      I would also recommend you talk to one of the many comms recruiters if you’re not already.

      Good luck!

      1. Unsolicited*

        Great idea about the comms recruiters! I have been in touch with a local creative placement agency but haven’t done anything with recruiters directly. Thanks for the suggestion!

        I like the idea of researching big clients to see what the company has been doing. I’ve mostly been skimming the company website, social media and the Google news section. I obviously need to use more specific PR resources for the client info. Much appreciation.

        As you’re in PR, please humor me with an additional question: Do a lot of PR firms use personality tests during their hiring process? Also, in your experience, is it concerning when a position lists skilled writing as a requirement, but none of the interviewers ask to see writing samples? This happened to me last week, and I’m still thrown by it.

        Thanks again for all your helpful suggestions!

        1. A*

          I’ve never been given a personality test as part of the interview process, but I’ve done them at my firm. We all had to do them to help our managers better manage us.

          I actually think it’s more common to not ask for writing samples in PR jobs even though it’s listed as a required skill. I’ve never had to submit one for any job in PR. At my firm and its peers, you are given a writing assignment after the first interview. They’re trying to avoid getting writing samples that have been worked on by a lot of people. Agency work is so collaborative so writing assignments are a better gauge of work than samples.

          1. Unsolicited*

            Wow, I hadn’t really considered that interviewers were looking for writing samples without collaboration.

            In my previous jobs, the completed sample (press release, social media post, etc.) was expected to be shown. The understanding is that editors and TPTB had their respective says, but the candidate edited while remaining true to themselves.

            Do you mind if I ask what you’ve seen as writing assignments?

            Thanks!

            1. A*

              Our writing assignments are strategy-focused so they’re testing your strategic/organizational/writing skills in one test. Our junior level writing assignments are research-based, while the mid- to senior-level ones are crisis/communications strategies for a company in the news. It’s been a while since I’ve done one, but my last one took about half a day but was very straightforward.

              1. Unsolicited*

                Thanks for sharing your experience!

                For the three PR interviews I’ve participated in, only one asked to see a portfolio, while another asked for a one-page summary of why I was qualified for the position and what I could bring to the role (handwritten on own paper in 10 minutes), while the third noted writing wasn’t an important part of the role.

                Would you consider the one-page writing assignment standard for a junior position? For more information, it was for a PR specialist role at a small family owned ad agency.

                Again, I appreciate your help!

                1. A*

                  Those interviews are outside the norm for the niche part of PR I’m in, but I’d be curious to see if others in the industry have different experiences.

                  What types of PR positions are you applying/interviewing for?

                2. Unsolicited*

                  I’m applying for a range of public relations specialist, marketing specialist, media specialist and account coordinator positions I find posted on PRSA, LinkedIn and occasionally on indeed.com and ziprecruiter.com.

                  For the position with the one-page writing sample, the interviewers were focused on personality and asked me only three questions out of four interviews (two phone, two in-person, plus a list of six email questions and the DISC assessment). The process took about two weeks and cost me about seven hours total (application, interview prep, interviews, interview follow-up, planning for in-person interview (research, printing docs, getting ready, driving over, etc.), and following up with two detailed thank-you notes.

                  The other PR positions for which I’ve interviewed followed the standard phone screening and in-person interview format. In fact, I have an in-person interview with a small fitness marketing company Monday morning.

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            Yeah, the writing intensive positions I’ve interviewed for didn’t ask for writing samples because, like you said, they give you their own writing assessment.

    4. You can call me flower, if you want to*

      Are you a member of your local PRSA chapter? Our local chapter has a pretty good job board and lots of learning and networking opportunities. I know I’ve offered the names other PRSA members when I’ve heard about open positions that might be a good fit. That community can be helpful depending on where you live.

      1. Unsolicited*

        Yes, I am an active member of the local PRSA and have used its job boards. That’s actually how I found the position that gave me the one-page writing assignment as well as a DISC personality test.

        Additionally, I am volunteering on two boards (communications and PRism Awards) and taking several live and on-demand webinars, along with completing other online trainings.

        Thanks for the suggestion! PRSA really is worth the investment.

        1. A*

          I can’t reply to your previous post, but since they’re not agency roles I feel like that’s not out of the norm. My only experience is with NYC agency life. Good luck to you!

    5. 867-5309*

      Professional development and volunteering should go in their own section. It’s always good to add these but they don’t wholly replace professional experience.

      Also, the Lydia.com courses in PR and marketing are just not that compelling to list. It’s not a certificate from a reputable university. Do list the Google Analytics Certificate BUT, and this is a significant caveat, people hiring SEO and Paid Search roles will look for a person who has consistently managed Google search programs. The certificate doesn’t mean much in an experienced marketing department because, as an example, last year Google made more than 3,000 changes to search. Only someone with daily experience almost exclusively focused on search will know what those are.

      I’ve offered this before in AAM open thread: I’d be happy to look over your resume and LinkedIn, if you’d like. I’ve worked in marketing for almost 20 years across global agencies, some of the largest companies in the world (think: General Motors) and startups. If that might be helpful, I can share my LinkedIn URL.

      Good luck!

      1. 867-5309*

        One comment about PRSA… How far into your career are you?

        I found the society invaluable for the first decade or so of my career but now it’s lost its relevancy. Most public relations folks aren’t in PRSA so over-reliance on that will limit your opportunities. The senior folks who I “grew up” with in the society, many of them with APRs, have since opted to network with other organizations as they’ve become executives. I spoke at the International Conference in San Diego (2019) and was dismayed at the quality of content. I’m not sure it’s setting young professionals up for success in the working world.

        Example: They just released a 2020 trends and talked about “personalization.” We’ve been talking about personalization, marketing in particular, for half a decade. The society is antiquated and continues to in-fight instead of lead the profession forward.

        **steps down from soapbox.**

        :)

        1. Unsolicited*

          Thanks for your in-depth comment!

          Given that I only have a year of PR agency experience, I find the webinars, Facebook group, and other learning tools from PRSA invaluable. I also want to network with members at different career levels to help determine the best path forward for me.

          With very limited working knowledge, I cannot judge if the PRSA content is outdated. I don’t know if you find the American Marketing Association more useful.

          Last thing, I have seen in three separate job postings a prefrence for Google Analytics certificate. These were PR specialist and account coordinator roles at very small agencies. It likely differs at larger employers where specialization is the norm.

          Thanks again!

          1. 867-5309*

            I think that’s the difference between “PR” and “Marketing” as it relates to search. It’s not that the Google certifications don’t have value, just that those alone don’t prepare someone properly for roles dedicated to search. It’s a benefit for PR roles, especially as you note when the agency is on the smaller side.

            I think AMA is okay. You’ll find a significant amount of value in PRSA the first few years out of school. It just loses its value the farther you are in your career. (And, only if you REALLY REALLY want it, the APR is generally meaningless except among PRSA die hards so don’t get sucked into that. It’s even just a small fraction of society membership that bothers. Repeatedly amendments are proposed to do away with it for leadership roles because so few people have it.)

  6. GG*

    I commented on yesterday’s post about references, but I didn’t see it until this morning, and belatedly realized most people have already moved on from that post. So I’ve decided to post again here to hopefully be able to get some dialogue going.

    I’m about to start a new job search, and I’m concerned about references. I can provide two. The first is current boss, who I’m pretty sure will give a great reference. The other is supervisor from 3 jobs ago, who I’m sure won’t have anything bad to say about me, but I’m not sure how much he’ll actually be able to speak to my qualifications as I don’t think he really ever understood what I do (I’m a bookkeeper).

    Putting aside not having the expected/required third reference, I’m worried about what will happen if a hiring manager decides to be proactive and contact my other two former jobs. Well, not so much one of them. I’m sure if anyone was even able to get in touch with that boss he’d give a horrible reference. But given that he’d probably yell at the hiring manager, and even the most cursory google search for the company makes it very clear why I left, I would hope the hiring manager would realize anything he says is completely unreliable.

    It’s the other job that has me worried. That company is still going strong, the boss is easily reachable, and I fear he would have not good things to say about me. I did make some mistakes in that job. But I’m not just rationalizing/self-justifying when I say that the mistakes were brought on by me being horribly overworked. That boss just seemed to expect me to have a time turner, as he kept giving me more to do than I had time for, wouldn’t authorize any overtime, and just expected me to somehow “get it done”. So it’s no wonder that in my rush to get it done, I sometimes got it done wrong.

    Anyway, I can’t figure how/when to work around this. When they ask for my references, should I proactively explain why I’m not giving them for the 2 middle jobs of the 4 on my resume? Should I wait for them to ask? Either way, how do I explain without falling into the trap of “badmouthing” former bosses?

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Can you find someone else besides the boss who worked with you at the 2 middle jobs? They might be able to speak to your skills/work ethic. That won’t stop an employer from proactively reaching out to someone NOT on your reference list, but you can’t help that in any case.

      1. GG*

        The only other employees at the yelling boss company are his children, and they’re just as bad. For time turner boss, I did scour through linked in to see if I could find any of the other employees who I thought might make okay references, and I can’t find any of them. (Doesn’t help that they left before I did, for similar unreasonable boss reasons.)

    2. irene adler*

      Can you ask a friend to do a reference check on you? Have friend pose as a recruiter interested in hiring you and then call the one you are iffy about and have them ask the usual questions. Maybe even call all of your former bosses to get a reading on what they will actually say or do. Better to know than to speculate on what they’d do.

      Just be sure to prep friend with a good understanding of what your skill set is about.

      ” If an opportunity came up would you hire GG again? ”

      (be sure to treat friend to a great meal -or other lovely treat- after they’ve done this for you!)

      1. GG*

        Oh, I like this idea. With any luck (crosses fingers), they’ll do the “we can only confirm dates of employment” thing, and then I can tell hiring managers that I’m aware that’s their policy and thus why I didn’t bother to list a reference.

        Of course, if they do give answers, and they’re bad…. Ugh. While good to know in advance, I’ll still have to figure out how to talk around it.

        1. WellRed*

          If the answers they give are objectively untruthful, it’s probably worth your while to have an attorney send them a cease and desist letter. Also, not all employers to be will check all your references, nor is three a magic number. I’d probably give them the two solid references and briefly explain the situation with the crazy one.

          1. GG*

            I don’t think they’d actually say anything untruthful. (Though of course, if I did discover they were doing so, I would totally pay a lawyer for an hour of their time to nip that in the bud. Thanks for the suggestion.) My fear is more that they’ll describe the mistakes I actually did make due to being overworked. But I’m really liking Oh No She Di’int’s idea of proactively using that as an example of a challenge or learning experience in the interview. And yeah, crossing fingers that they aren’t thorough about digging for more references than I give.

    3. Oh No She Di'int*

      Depending on the industry and the company, it’s not common to research references until a job offer is pretty close, i.e., it’s far along into the process in most cases. (My understanding is that academia is a major exception to this rule.) That means it won’t be incumbent upon you to address the issue at all until you’ve likely had at least a second interview somewhere. That means they’re already inclined to view you favorably.

      If it were me, I’d proactively address the situation in an interview. You’re likely to get some sort of question about previous “challenges” or some such. I would address the objective, observable challenges of the job (overwork, etc.) without laying blame on a person. For example, instead of saying that your boss was an idiot for not authorizing overtime, I would explain that X amount of work was required in X minus Y amount of time. Obviously that is not possible without overtime, which was generally not approved. Then emphasized what you learned from the situation and how you dealt with it.

      If they do find said boss, and if–big if–he blatantly gives a bad reference, they will already have heard your side of the story. That doesn’t mean they will disregard what he has to say, but they will at least have a fuller picture and can make up their own minds.

      I’ve done lots of hiring and have received the occasional lukewarm or bad reference. They go down much easier if they seem to correspond to something the applicant has already told me. Then I’m able to draw my own conclusions. The worst would be if I hear some completely surprising complaint that seems to come out of the blue. That would strike me as the applicant trying to hide something.

      Best of luck to you!

      1. GG*

        My experience so far has been that all the companies I’ve worked for haven’t done second interviews. I think second interviews are more common with larger companies that have a larger applicant pool, and I’ve always worked for small businesses, in small-ish towns. Or, it could just be bad/inexperienced hiring practices as you’d kinda expect at smaller businesses. Still, you have a very good point about them not checking references until they’re pretty sure they’re interested in me. And I love your idea of using this as an opportunity to use this as an answer to the “challenge” question. That even kills two birds with one stone for me because I always have trouble coming up with an answer to that one.

    4. ST*

      Could you provide a second reference from your current job? I’ve never thought it was important to include references from every job, but I could be wrong.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        Agreed. I’d find it more helpful to hear about a recent project you worked on at your current job with another manager/senior colleague/etc. vs. a reference that’s years old. FWIW, I’m usually ready to hire after chatting with 2 of 3 references (barring any red flags) and I treat the 3rd reference as backup for scheduling issues. So providing 2 references from the same job wouldn’t bother me, but, that’s just me.

        1. GG*

          My work doesn’t ever include projects like what you’re thinking of. But it’s good to know your thoughts on the 2/3 references. Thanks.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      Hopefully this helps:
      I just started a new job and couldn’t provide any previous managers as my most recent were still with the company and did not know I was looking and my manager at the job prior had retired and dropped off the face of the professional planet.
      I had 2 current coworkers (one a peer and one at a slightly lower level who I helped a lot) and a former coworker who was senior to me that I did some project work for. My new job also let me provide a recent performance review in lieu of a manager reference.
      So dig into your coworkers! Ideally it would be someone you work closely with who has a good idea what you actually do.

    6. T. Boone Pickens*

      From the job where you’re anticipating getting a not so good reference, how long did you work at said company and how long ago was it from present day? Also, was that job responsible for the bulk of your professional work history? If the job was for 1 year, 6 years ago, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If however, it was say, 2 years ago and you were there for 5 years and it was the majority of your work experience? I’d want to get in front of that.

      Lastly, how similar was your job at potential not so good reference to the one you’re in the process of interviewing for? Do you have another job that could offset the potentially negative reference doing similar work?

      1. GG*

        I’m not interviewing yet, as I won’t be leaving current job for a few more months, and then there will be a move to a different state. But all my jobs are the same/similar and I expect anything I’ll be applying to will be the same – bookkeeping and basic HR (mostly just new hire/termination paperwork) at the small business level. And I like the way you’re thinking of giving the different references a sort of weighted impact. I’ve got good news there.
        Current Boss – 6 years – great reference
        Yelling Boss – 2 years – reference irrelevant due to unreliable source
        Time Turner Boss – 2 years – possibly bad reference
        Bookkeeping Unsavvy Boss – 13 years – okay reference

        And now that I think about it, having the two references I’ll provide being from the two longest term jobs kinda makes sense. So now I’m less nervous about it looking like I deliberately/suspiciously skipped the two middle jobs.

        1. T. Boone Pickens*

          Thanks for clarifying! I’d be much more relaxed about an ok reference in that case due to the 13 years you spent there. If I got a so so reference from an employer on a candidate that was them for 13 years I’d wonder, “Well shoot, you kept them on for 13 years so what does that say about you as a manager/owner?”

          In a similar vein, if the reference told me that you were great for 11 years but fell off in the last 2, I’d ask the reference what happened and see if it matched up with what you told me. As long as it’s relatively close and I can verify the dates, that would satisfy me as a reference-checker.

          Good luck with your job search and move!

    7. AnotherLibrarian*

      Do you have a colleague or someone else who could speak to your professional skills? I’ve used Colleagues in the past when I didn’t want to let my current boss know I was job hunting. That might help.

  7. Pineapple*

    Why am I SO BAD at this?

    I work for a company. I’ve been here for a little over 5 years. Twice I’ve referred people.

    First one–I was a seasonal rep at an office, and I had a friend who had just graduated college and needed a job. My company was in dire need of people at that time. I referred her for an admin/customer service position. For this job, admins are required to work the same extended hours as the staff (they get OT). This job is typically a stepping stone to move in to that field (alongside meeting other requirements) or a placeholder until you find something else. I had told her these things prior to her applying. She was hired right away, was smart and had a great personality and everyone loved her. She left after a year and for 2 years after that complained in our friend group about how awful the job was, it was a waste of time, didn’t learn anything etc.

    Second one–a friend of a former employee was looking for a job. The former employee was great, and I kept in touch with him. He vouched for this guy, and I passed his resume along and he was hired for the admin/cs position.. Again, work requirements and trajectory were made clear before applied. 3 months in to the job, he told me he didn’t feel like he was learning anything and wanted to move to my team. I’m in a different role, and there’s not as much room for movement as there would be in his current dept where he’d be exposed to a variety of things and there’s way more room for movement and learning opportunities.

    Amongst other things is that he barely does any work–people complain that he sits on his phone all day long promoting his business, came to work super sick and didn’t want to take a paid sick day because he wanted to save it for a vacation, and was petitioning to have the company close the entire week of Christmas instead of the 3 days we were given.

    I feel like for both of them, I made a really bad decision in referring them. After the first one, I decided to never refer anyone again. But then this one came along and I took a chance. My job/career isn’t in recruiting but I do hire for my team occasionally. I have hired 5 remote workers and they have worked out really well, but sometimes these 2 experiences make me doubt my self.

    1. Ptarmigan*

      It’s really hard. I referred someone for a job here whom I’ve known since the early 90s, a brilliant guy, and he ended up hating the job and being fired. I was later subjected to a 45-minute rant from my boss about how awful he was, while I almost literally begged him to stop talking to me about it. Ugh. I had no idea before then how stressful it could be to recommend someone for a job.

      1. Quickbeam*

        I stopped recommending anyone for jobs, even if it came with an internal finder bonus. It just never seems to work out and I’m the bad guy.

    2. Faith*

      Honestly, it sounds like the first one wasn’t bad–just maybe not a good fit for her, ultimately. That’s not something you could’ve known, and it’s kind of crappy of her to complain when she needed a job and you helped her. But as long as she did her job fine, that’s NOT a bad referral. The second one was for someone you hadn’t actually worked with, so it’s less of a surprise you didn’t realize this guy wasn’t going to be great at the job, and that’s the referral I would worry about, since it’s the one that reflects poorly on you.

      I think the lesson you should learn from these referrals is, stick to referring people you’ve actually worked with/actually know, and recognize that it’s also on them to decide if they’ll be happy working in the role you’re referring them for.

      1. Annony*

        I think it depends on whether she is complaining about the OP recommending her or just complaining about the job. You can hate the job while also being thankful someone helped you get the job when you needed it.

      2. LKW*

        This. You didn’t actually work with either of them. You gave them information about a job but either they didn’t listen or they assumed that what you do is common for all departments. Those are good questions to ask in an interview, not complain about a year later.

    3. Dragoning*

      I’m not sure what is so wrong with the first case. Yes, the trajectory of the job was made clear to her, and if she needed a job, and especially one right out of college, might not understand that, or necessarily put it up high on the list of priorities.

      She was great at her job, and everyone loved her. She didn’t derive personal satisfaction from it, but…a lot of jobs are like that, and she was complaining to her friends not her coworkers (complaining in the friend group, especially after she left, seems normal to me, and may not even have been to you directly).

      The new guy sounds like an issue.

      But I also think you’re worrying way too much about whether or not people like the job, and that doesn’t always matter so much.

      1. Pineapple*

        Hmmm, you’re right liking the job doesn’t matter so much as long as you do it well, and I didn’t think of it that way. I think maybe the first one is more personal because she just complained about it all the time–I didn’t say anything b/c as a friend I want to give someone the room to vent and be themselves….but it stung a little bit. Lots of time has passed so it doesn’t sting now.

    4. Annony*

      The first one didn’t do a bad job and it sounds like that job has high turnover anyway. I don’t really see anything wrong with that recommendation. The second time it was someone you didn’t actually know. I think a policy of not referring anyone you don’t know personally is very reasonable. If they really push, you can pass on the resume and give the caveat that you can’t vouch for their work since you don’t know them personally.

    5. Havarti*

      I just want to point out that referring people and hiring are kinda two different things even though both involve taking risks. For hiring, you’re looking at resumes and skills as objectively as possible to determine if the person will be a good fit. With referrals, there’s the added baggage of relationships that can blind you to their faults or lack of skills or make them treat the favor you are doing for them as some god-given right you owe them and then they complain about it anyway afterwards.

      An old friend recently reached out with an invite to dinner. Turned out he was looking for office work. I was like, “The jobs are posted on the company website. You can apply through there.” I like him well enough as a friend but no way am I vouching for him. He doesn’t have the skills and he has a massive chip on his shoulder. Best to stick to the “no referrals” policy.

    6. Artemesia*

      I would only refer people you had worked with and thus had a better idea of as employees. If it is a personal friend as in the first case, you could tell the friend about an opening if they ask but tell them that since you have never worked with them, you aren’t able to be a reference.

    7. Mockingjay*

      I stopped doing referrals when I realized that I had to do the same level of due diligence that I would for any other applicant. When it comes to a friend of a friend, or friend of former coworker, there’s social pressure to immediately forward their resume without much consideration (do they really fit the job?). But if said resume was submitted via regular application means, you’d evaluate it against formal criteria, the same as the other applicants.

      Nowadays I gently suggest: “Oh, the best way to apply is via our applicant system. I’m not involved in the hiring for this position. Good luck to your friend.”

    8. Anne Elliot*

      I think I would want more clarity as to what a “referral” looks like to your company. If you have the ability to refer while saying, essentially, “Hey, this guy is a friend of a friend, I don’t really know him but he looks good on paper, here you go,” I would be happy to continue referring so long as my company knew I was nothing more than a conduit or “pass along.” If instead, the referral implicitly included you vouching for the person, then I would not continue to refer people. You’re not a guarantor of anyone’s work performance, and if you think your company might see you in that role for people you refer, then stop referring anyone. For the examples you give, a younger Anne probably would have referred a personal friend and then similarly felt “burned” when he or she ended up to be a bit of dud. A younger Anne would not have referred a friend of an ex-employee, someone I did not personally know.

      The Anne who is writing this no longer refers anybody, because although they would deny it, my company does sort of act like if you referred someone, you must be vouching for them. I’m not interested in being involved in the politics or responsibility of someone else’s job performance, so I don’t do referrals.

      1. Pineapple*

        [I] If you have the ability to refer while saying, essentially, “Hey, this guy is a friend of a friend, I don’t really know him but he looks good on paper, here you go,” I would be happy to continue referring so long as my company knew I was nothing more than a conduit or “pass along.” [/I]

        That’s exactly how it is. A lot of people refer their friends & family for positions, esp internships or admin/cs positions. I guess I was just thinking about it a lot lately, there’s someone here who’s referred his sibling, in law, and friends and they all seem to be great hires.

        For the second one, even the guy’s manager doesn’t’ fault me for it, he understands that’s just how it is. I think I’m taking this way more seriously than it is.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      The common thread in your two examples is the particular position. My guess would be the particular job sucks. Hopefully TPTB will reconfigure the job so that people would be more likely to stay.

      I am not sure why getting two wrong makes you doubt yourself. It really shouldn’t. I think all that went wrong here is that it’s a mind-dulling job and you picked people who want to grow their careers. That’s not a mix that will work well, if ever. I think if you stop trying to find people for this job your batting average will go up again.

      1. Pineapple*

        ehhh, it’s administrative/CS…. I think the nature of the job is like that… it’s the easiest* to get but the hardest–long hours, angry clients.

        A lot of changes have taken place over hte last 5 years, and now the company tries their best with giving good benefits and a decent salary and majority of coworkers are fun and nice to talk to. For some it’s a stepping stone to something better or a good way to get experience. It’s turnover but they either move up or move out.

        Note I’m not saying it’s an easy job–but given that our company and from what I’ve seen in my job searching days, most companies do, the admin/cs is the lowest “rung” of the ladder. It’s typically the lowest paid but truly, it takes a very specific skillset and disposition to be successful and enjoy it IMO.

    10. Mrs_helm*

      What jumped out at me was:
      1) you described the job as “This job is typically a stepping stone to move in to that field”
      2) both complained they didn’t learn anything

      I would stop describing it that way. It sounds to me like they were hoping for a much more interesting job than they got. But on the flip side, 1-2 yrs isnot very long to go from an admin position to something else, so I also think they were a little unrealistic in their expectations.

      I think you are actually good at this, since 2 recs got hired.

      1. Pineapple*

        The first one didn’t want to go in our field, she just needed a job that wasn’t food service or retail and had just finished college. so I guess I can understand she didn’t like it.

        The second one–he does want to be in this field. Even his manager said “he’d learn something if he looked up from his phone.” Majority of people in the same position have been promoted after meeting requirements.

    11. Jean*

      So, this all sounds like stuff that wasn’t within your control. Shit happens, you could not have been expected to know or prevent any of this.

      But your never-refer-anyone policy is probably a good idea. I have the same policy. There’s just too much potential for things to go extremely wrong, and it can reflect back on you in a negative way. Not worth it. I also never ask anyone to refer me, for the same reason. Not because I would do a bad job, but I could just turn out to be a bad fit for whatever reason, and I don’t want that coming back on the person who referred me.

    12. Dave*

      I admit that I’ve become old and grouchy (perhaps even cantankerous). I’ve developed a policy, I don’t recommend anything or anyone to anybody at anytime. I’m tired of being the bad guy, even if t’s not my fault. Use the internet and research yourself. If you make a mistake, it’s your mistake, not mine.

    13. Senor Montoya*

      Oh yeah, we have people on staff now that I referred and some of them are objectively sucky people, although they are reasonably competent. I had worked with them on cross-department projects, which was the basis of my referral. I always tell the person asking why I’m recommending them. It’s up to the search committee and hiring manager to do their due diligence.

      Plus at least one of them has gotten bad over the years — couldn’t have predicted that.

      It’s not like you hired them, you just referred them. In future, I’d say to make sure you include why you are referring/recommending and make it clear the SCOPE of your knowledge about them.

      And even if you were the person hiring them, it’s never a guarantee that people will work out.

    14. Chaordic One*

      You do have to be kind of picky in whom you might refer for a job with your employer. I wouldn’t refer just anyone. I’d really want to limit myself to referring only people I had actually worked with and knew to do good quality work.

      That said, if you honestly felt the person would do a good job, and it turned out they didn’t, then forgive yourself and move on. (You might not have much credibility in making referrals going forward, but that’s a comparatively minor problem in the overall scheme of things.) If the referral ends up losing the job, so be it.

    15. LlamaGoose*

      To echo what DustBunny said (and to put this in perspective), I have recommended three people for jobs throughout my career. None of them ended up getting the job. Likewise, a friend from college did me a favor and referred me for a job in his company last year, but I didn’t make it past the second round of interviews.

      It’s up to the hiring manager to figure out which applicant will be the best fit for the job based on their interviews, resumes, and references.

      While I don’t know about your workplace specifically, IME hiring managers at most workplaces get recommendations from multiple employees every single time there’s an opening. Everybody has an out-of-work friend or a family member stuck in a job she hates. Everybody mostly wants to be decent and try to give someone they care about a leg up.

      You didn’t do anything wrong in either case. Probably the hiring manager blames himself for not vetting thoroughly enough, not you for recommending. If he does blame you, he’s being really unfair. Placing the blame that way seems unlikely in my experience, though.

    16. ArtK*

      You’re being far too hard on yourself. This is like blaming someone’s divorce on the person who introduced the couple.

      You introduced these people to an employer. They went through the whole process of resume/interview/acceptance. You didn’t force them to take the job. They chose to take the job of their own free will and all of the responsibility falls on their shoulders. If they developed buyer’s remorse, then they need to do a better job at searching.

      The same goes for the employer in the 2nd situation. If they simply took your referral as anything more than “here’s someone you might look at,” then they failed at their due diligence. The 2nd person doesn’t do their work? You have zero control over that and zero responsibility for them being in that situation.

  8. AnonToday*

    Reposting from last week, since I got there too late to get more than 1 response & still have the same issue:

    Any tips for getting over a distracting & inappropriate work crush, when you can’t avoid interacting with them or working late together?

    BG: I have a big crush on my team lead. The nature of our jobs requires frequent business travel, during which 12+ hour days are common. The whole team carpools together and stays in the same place, so there’s really no getting away outside your own hotel room. Sometimes just the 2 of us need to work late, and that’s especially challenging.

    This is 100% not going anywhere. Even if it were reciprocated and we weren’t both in committed LTRs, I wouldn’t be trolling for dates at work. Normally, I’d just keep it to myself, enjoy the little extra sparkle in my workday, and wait for it to pass. Here, though, I’m worried that it’s coloring my interactions with them — I try really hard to keep it under wraps, but questions and conversations with them seem much more charged than with other colleagues, and I don’t want to a) have anyone at work guess what’s going through my head, or b) get in the way of the professional goals I’m working towards.

    Thoughts?

    1. Dragoning*

      If you’re in a LTR, focus on that. Make sure that is as satisfying and fulfilling and possible. It sounds like you work and are away from home a lot which might be negatively impacting it. But fantasizing about alternatives tends to fade a lot when you’re fully satisfied with what you have.

      1. Havarti*

        I think it is worth examining how happy you are with your LTR and just make sure there’s nothing subconscious that’s bugging you there. Someone recently wrote in for help elsewhere who was like “I’m been happily married for years but I spent all last year traveling away from home while my wife stayed with our young kids which she said was very stressful. Now I find out she has a crush on some guy from the play date group!” Most people were like “Maybe you should ask your wife if she’s also been happily married all these years with her partner gone for months and wrangling the kids by herself.” But if everything is solid there, than that’s one less thing to worry about.

        Some people just have that extra bit of charisma that makes you fall for them. Had an old boss I loved but not in a sexual way. He was married with kids. But he had a big booming laugh and a sly sense of humor. I adored him. I was very young so I just blurted out one day “Hey, I just want you to know I’m not hitting on you or anything! I just really like talking to you.” He was very gracious about it thankfully.

    2. Moth*

      I don’t know if this is the best technique, but it’s worked for me when I’ve been in similar situations. Try to find something that could potentially annoy you about them. This could be as simple as the way they laugh or their handwriting or their crooked smile. Even better if they have a true personality trait that could be considered annoying. Then focus on how much you dislike that thing about them. Every time you’re with them, notice that thing and think about how annoying it is and thus how annoying they are. Over time, I’ve found that it can be helpful to insulate your mind from thoughts of how much you like that person and instead keeps your focus on a negative thing. Just be careful to notice when your attraction has started to ebb and make sure to lighten up in your head after that. You don’t want to push yourself all the way to actively disliking them, since you do have to work together!

      And yes, I realize how petty and terrible all of the things I pointed out to focus on are. I would never recommend doing this to someone, even in your mind, unless it was a situation like this where you are actively trying not to have a crush.

      1. BoredRecruiter*

        That’s what I do, be super petty and focus on everything negative about them. Flipped my opinion real quick.

      2. hamburke*

        This is what Carolyn Hax always recommends – find stuff that’s “normal” about them or slightly even annoying. It’s good advice!

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      Basically check out various mental tricks for extinguishing any other kind of crush. Imagine them at home having the worst kind of annoying habits that grate on your every last nerve. If your mind swerves to something sexy, throw in a mental image of them doing something annoying and/or gross. They’re interesting because you don’t know their day-to-day, behind closed doors, mundane and annoying stuff that they do when their guard is down.

      An in-close discussion isn’t going to feel nearly as intriguing if you’ve been imagining them as the type of person who leaves their shoes in the middle of the hall, dirty clothes all over the place, who belches loudly after each meal at home, etc.

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        My go-to for this is to envision your crush chomping and chewing their food with their mouth open. YMMV.

    4. ten-four*

      Been there! The main thing I’d suggest is to be ruthless in your efforts to continually de-charge conversations and “moments.” In my experience there are loads of little tiny choices around pursuing personal topics, loitering in the hallways on your way back to hotel rooms, choosing an impersonal and upbeat attitude of bland good cheer vs. a more open, confiding approach. If you can direct your energy to always choosing the de-escalating approach that’s the best thing you can do to keep your boundaries in place.

      Finding the continual motivation can be tricky. For me it was pride: I didn’t want to be obvious or come across as silly. For you it might be professional goals: you’re gonna get X out of this job come hell or high water, and you don’t want to derail that. Whatever it is, finding that engine will be helpful!

      I got pretty good at this, but I still remember some times I chose the more engaging option and am sort of embarrassed about it all these years later! Nothing ever happened and I don’t think I was obvious at any point (but real talk: I might have been).

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Excellent advice. We can’t help feeling attracted to people, but we have a choice as to how we interact with them.

    5. The Ginger Ginger*

      I always recommend the hotel revolving door thought process. Basically any time a crush related thought spins through the door into your brain lobby, you spin it right back out. It doesn’t get to hang out in the bar, you don’t rent it a room. You don’t have to flagellate yourself for a thought popping up (that happens to us all), but don’t give it space in your head any more. If you spend any time at all feeding the crush with fantasies, or enjoying little “what if” day dreams, stop now. Those things are enjoyable parts of crushes when they’re “appropriate” or wanted, but in this situation, they’re very counter productive, and you need to stop entertaining them. Only allow brain space to thoughts related to this person that are 100% professional.

      1. Artemesia*

        Great advice coupled with one above about resolutely monitoring your behavior. No little chats after the meeting — ALL business. No excuses to seek him out — if you need something do it by email if possible. Allow no social dalliance but only interact in a cordial impersonal very professional way. Cut small talk to the minimum to be professional.

      2. Amy Sly*

        Part of the revolving door can also be a mental target replacement. “Oh, he has such beautiful lips; I’d love to kiss him!” pops up? Turn it into “Can’t wait to get home and kiss my hubby.” (Replace wonderful quality, pronouns, and terms of endearment as needed.)

    6. MistOrMister*

      Focusing on the fact that the crush is in one too could be helpful. Thinking about how you would react if they ever made a move on you might help squash things. I am always disgusted whenever someone who is in a monogamous relationship hits on me. My feeling is, if they’re willing to cheat on their SO with me, I have to assume they would do it to me if we were together. I find it hard to have a crush on someone I know I couldn’t trust at all. I have a tendency to check for wedding rings when I meet people and I find it helps keep my mind from being tempted to go the crush route if I see a ring. Granted that doesn’t help with the ones who don’t wear a ring or aren’t married, but it’s a first line of defense.

      Good luck finding something that works for you. Unwanted crushes are such a PITA.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      You’ve gotten some really impressive advice here, OP. I think it will help.

      My thought is to look at your life goals. Write them down, if need be. Write down the steps to achieving those goals. Then think about what are you going to do today to move toward one of those goals.

      The brain only has space for so much stuff. If you fill your brain up with life goals, you will have less space for Crush.
      I’d also suggest that you could make it a rule to never, ever make any relationship decisions while being tired. So with these long days, you gotta be beat tired. If your go-to rule is no relationship decisions while tired, that frees you up to just go back to your room for a hot soak, a cup of tea and a good night’s rest.

    8. Hazy days*

      A wise poster here told me that a crush is often actually a sign that something else in your life is lacking – not necessarily relationship wise, but perhaps in terms of not feeling valued, or feeling you’re stuck in a rut, or that you don’t get time to be yourself, etc.
      I wonder if some of that is true for you?

    9. AnonToday*

      OP here. Y’all are hilarious, and I’m sure to have several cases of the giggles next week as I think about Team Lead biting their toenails and belching really loudly at home!

  9. nep*

    Returned Peace Corps volunteers and/or hiring managers–Is it weird to put my PC volunteer experience in the ‘Education’ section of my resume? I don’t have a ‘Volunteer Experience’ section…and it certainly was an education more than anything else.
    I want to include this part of my background in this particular application I’m working on, as some of the high-up staff have been involved in Peace Corps, and it aligns with the organisation’s work. I tried to fit it into cover letter, but didn’t find a way to make that flow.
    Thoughts?
    Thanks

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Yeah, it’s weird. “Education” really should be about formal education/training. And to be honest, I would expect that every job or volunteer experience you’ve had would be a bit of an education. I would definitely include a “Volunteer Experience” section and add your PC experience there. This is more in line with how a hiring manager is going to look at your resume.

      Since this aligns so strongly with your prospective org’s mission and experience of the staff, I would list it second, just after your employment history.

    2. Kimmybear*

      Put it under work experience. My org hires lots of RPCV and it would seem odd to have it under education. If it’s a while ago and doesn’t fit well in your work experience section, I might create an “Other Experience” section.

      1. Teacher Lady*

        I agree with this. I know we’re called Peace Corps Volunteers, but I think it properly belongs under Work Experience, not Volunteer Experience. That’s how I have it on my resume.

    3. Liddy*

      I’m an RPCV. I keep my Peace Corps experience in the “Professional Experience” section of my resume along with my jobs and my internships. I’ve seem other RPCVs do the same thing. Even though Peace Corps is a volunteer program, its full time and long term which I think justifies treating it like a job on your resume. I would find it a little odd if I saw it in the education section of a resume since you don’t earn a degree or certificate from it.

      1. Mid*

        That was my thought as well. I know several RPCV and AmeriCorps people, and they all place it under Work Experience. You’re semi-paid for the position, and it’s definitely a full-time job. Also, you likely didn’t have another role during the ~2 years you were in PC, so you’d have a rather large hole in your resume otherwise.

        1. Eponymous*

          Plus, now the Peace Corps is really pushing the angle that they’re sending professionals out into the world for the benefit of the communities that they serve, and trying to minimize the soul-searching college student stereotype.

    4. Ms. Pessimistic*

      We get a lot of applicants with Americorps experience, so slightly different but they always include it in the work history which I think is appropriate.

    5. Aquawoman*

      It seems to me like Peace Corps would fit into the “job” category, assuming you’re talking about the you-spent-a-year-or-two-in-Ghana type of Peace Corps position. It was full time work, just unpaid.

      1. Eponymous*

        Peace Corps volunteers do receive a small monthly stipend; it’s enough to cover rent, some food, some travel (from your town to the regional or national capital), and other basic living expenses. It’s not a luxurious amount of money (as you’re meant to live at about the same level as your community), but you aren’t meant to be penniless, either.

        But full-time, definitely. Evenings, nights, and weekends, too!

    6. Eponymous*

      I wouldn’t list Peace Corps in an ‘Education’ section because it wasn’t an academic setting and it wasn’t meant to be an academic experience. I think you’d be fine listing it under an ‘Employment’ section if you don’t want to make a ‘Volunteer Experience’ section.

      I’m at work and presently don’t have my resume on-hand, but I can check to see where I put mine, although I may be in a different boat than you as I did a Peace Corps Masters International program with my university.

    7. Mimi*

      I’ve done two long-term programs like this (not Peace Corps, but similar) and list both in my work experience. Yes, I got an education, but it was also a lot of work. My volunteer experience tends to be much lighter touch — a few hours a week, at most.

      Interviewers always like them, too.

    8. NJBi*

      Echoing others, definitely list Peace Corps under “Experience” or “Work Experience.” In my mind, it’s much more similar to a two-year internship (which can be taken for educational credit, but would be listed as a work experience) than an education/classroom setting. I would say the same for AmeriCorps and similar programs.

    9. Artemesia*

      Peace corps work is work experience not ‘volunteer experience’ and belongs in the work column.

    10. LKW*

      Why can’t it go into your work experience? I mean, isn’t your assignment with PC full time? Or just create a extra activities section.

    11. A Poster Has No Name*

      I put it as part of my employment history. It was a long time ago now, so it’s not detailed at this point, but I definitely treated it as employment for the first part of my post-PCV career.

  10. Peaches*

    I’ve had THE busiest week at work (we’re an ice melt supplier and the demand has been crazy with this winter weather!)

    Anyway, I’m leaving for Hawaii for a week with my husband in 5 hours! I sure need this vacation, haha. Can’t wait to leave the office behind for a little while.

    1. Leisel*

      Take me with you! I was on vacation last week to go on a cruise with my family. Because of bad weather, the cruise was severely shortened and we didn’t get to port in Mexico. No beach for me :( And since weather was a factor, lounging on the deck wasn’t a great idea, either. I feel like I need a redo! Luckily with the holiday on Monday I didn’t have to take off much time.

      Anyway, enough of my complaining. Have a good time! I hope your vacation is relaxing and carefree!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Oh they’ll see ice melt all right, but it’ll be in a glass in their hand!
        (Aaaand now I am not content with a 50° day…. maybe I’ll go reread “Hawaii Heat”.)

    2. Tris Prior*

      I’m going in a few weeks and am counting down the days! Can’t wait to escape the great frozen white north – I hate cold weather and this is the first time in my life that I’m traveling someplace warm during winter! Which island? Have a great time!

      1. OccassionallyEngineer*

        My fiancee and I just got back from Kaua’i about a week ago. It was GLORIOUS, just a wee bit wet and very muddy. Fantastic vacation, amazing coffee, superb food (Honestly best fish taco’s I have ever had in my life), and amazing hiking. Have an amazing time and just enjoy the islands and all the fresh papaya you can eat.

  11. Miss M*

    Thank you for those sending good vibes and thoughts for my interview that I was stupid nervous about!! Unfortunately, I don’t think it went super well. We both knew I didn’t have the exact experience for the job, and the position was the exact one I feared, so I don’t think it will work out. I did my best though!! And after talking to the boss, I don’t know if it would be a good fit for me working there. I gave the reason I was really passionate about the job (working with underrepresented women) and she didn’t really think that was important. The whole team had also turned over/been fired so it would be an interesting workplace. So, maybe in the end I dodged a little bullet! I’ll keep working hard on looking for other jobs.

    Hope the others who had commented with interviews coming up as well did amazing!

    1. LessNosy*

      Your outlook is spot-on. Good for you for getting in there, doing your best and representing yourself well. I always tell myself every interview, outcome positive or negative, is one step closer to where I want to be regardless if it’s with that company. :)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. It sounds like you’d be getting into way more than you bargained for here. You’ve got a great outlook and I am sure something will come up for you very soon.

    2. Sarah*

      Thanks for filling us in. I’ve been thinking about you.

      My interview went relatively well, but of course, I kept thinking up better answers on the drive home. Ugh! I likely won’t hear for two weeks though.

      I am SUPER thankful to AAM though because they asked for my current supervisor as a reference, and I had some language to use around that, plus they really like the question on what’s the difference between someone good and great (and it gave me some good info that I want to reference in my thank you letter).

      1. Sarah*

        I realized I just talked about myself only. I’m glad the interview was enlightening and hopefully saved you from a place you’d be miserable at.

      2. Miss M*

        That’s awesome! I’m glad it went well and I’m crossing my fingers for ya. Yes lots of thanks to AAM because the good vs great often impresses people (or stumps them lol.)

  12. DataGirl*

    Data Scientists and people with related jobs, tell me about it? What do you do, what do you like/hate, what’s the job market like? I’ve been a DBA in title for 10 years but I actually don’t do much of anything that a DBA does, and I’m thinking of going back to school to switch to Data Science. Is it worth it? Thanks!

      1. DataGirl*

        LOL! That’s what made me ask! Some of the comments made it sound like it’s not the best field to go into, anymore.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m a data analyst and got my masters in Data Science just because I needed a technical degree. Personally, I don’t like data science. It is really tedious and it is really more of an art than a science. The process of building predictive algorithms is straightforward on paper, but in reality you have to have a lot of experience to make something usable. At the same time, the market is starting to think that algorithms can solve all their problems. “We can just build an algorithm to tell our CSMs the words that will make customers buy our products,” …that kind on nonsense.
      It’s really still a budding concept. There were early adapters and a few places where this tech fits in, but even healthcare orgs are still struggling with finding the right place for it.
      So I’m happy with basic analytics, data modeling, and data visualization. But predictive analytics may be your cup of tea, and if that’s the case, I’d just recommend that you understand that it takes a lot of shadowing and real world experience to really be a master. And in the meantime, you will prob end up doing a lot of work that doesn’t get used until your org figures it out or you move to a company that is on the ball. Good luck!

      1. Grapey*

        +10000, and really, unless you have a product or business model that never changes, predictive analytics is super overhyped. Analytics/data modeling/warehousing is where it’s at to even get a business knowing where it is CURRENTLY, forget about the future.

        Someone commented on that other thread that data science is like a mix of business knowhow and computer engineering and I thought that was great.

        Being in comp sci alone isn’t enough to understand a business model and ask appropriate questions of your (often huge) data pool, and having an MBA alone doesn’t let you actually build that big data pool.

        A real life project example (for OP): I get a ticket with a request like “how many widgets get moved through our factory per day/month/user defined timescale?” I have to know the business logic of what a widget is and what it means to “move”. The line workers consider “movement” = widget on machine, widget off machine, but ops leads consider “movement” = work order placed to work order completed. I have to go have conversations with lots of people (another skill), at which point the result is usually “just show both definitions”. Okay.

        So then I have to figure out how to actually get timestamps of 1)when is the work order placed 2) when is the widget put on the machine 3) when is the widget taken off 4)when is the work order completed. 1 and 4 require knowledge of digging into our work order database which requires SQL knowledge. 2 and 3 require knowing computer science to parse machine logs/output, which in my industry is either CSV, XML or JSON, and then writing that into a database.

        Once I get my datapoints accessible, I then use my knowledge of building useful visualizations. Bar chart per product (since of course we run more than one flavor of widget) or line graph? etc. We could potentially use predictive modeling to answer certain questions, but we change products so often to the point our predictive models probably wouldn’t have much to work with.

        I’ve been at my job for 13+ years so I know all of the little systems and workarounds (some which I’ve built). Moving someplace every 1-2 years IMO makes one not as valuable since you lose a lot of domain knowledge.

    2. DBI*

      Not a data scientist exactly, more of a data developer, technically my title is Director of Business Intelligence and I LOVE my job. I have SQL databases and build things in various reporting platforms for others to use – so I don’t do the analyzing myself like a data scientist might. However, it does require getting really in-depth understanding of what you are reporting on and the people using your reports, so I get a good mix of technical, design, and personal/industry work.

      I don’t have a degree yet but I am going back to school part time right now because: I love it, and it can be hard to get the kind of job I do without a degree. I’m working on a computer science degree because I love the development side of what I do. I don’t think I want to be a developer per se, I just want to get even better at what I already do.

      I am actually a brand new director in a department created for me, hiring one analyst, and while I definitely don’t/won’t require a degree, it might sway a hiring decision, partly because I want to hire someone that knows things I don’t.

      I would recommend finding an intro to computer science course at a community college and taking that online/at night. It’s relatively cheap to do one class and it will give you a good sense of if you actually like the work.

      1. Hello It's Me*

        What kinds of projects would one have to complete in a portfolio to get a job as a data scientist?

    3. FellowDataGirl*

      I started off working as an analyst, then went back to school for my Masters (with a focus in behavioral economics, not data science, but there was a lot of overlap in tools). Then I started working in marketing analytics, specifically related to customer segmentation. Now I’m working as a data strategist, which involves thinking about how data can actually help a company achieve business goals. I love my job, I get to play with data and think about how its use fits into overall strategy.

      Honestly, if you have a strong background in statistics and econometric methods you can learn a lot of the tools fairly easily online (I have used R, now mostly use Python and SQL). It’s more important that you know what’s going on inside the black box, I’m fairly tool agnostic.

      But if you aren’t feeling confident in math then it may be worth going back to school. I’d also recommend building up some data science projects and adding them to your GitHub repository because some employers will look there–and if they don’t, you can direct them there to see examples of your work. I’d also recommend at least thinking about what industry you’d like to work in, so employers in that industry can see how your projects would benefit them (i.e., if you’re interested in finance, a bunch of projects on baseball statistics won’t help as much).

      1. Hello It's Me*

        What is the pay like for a data scientist, if I may ask? Is it as high as a web developer?

        1. Lygeia*

          You should take a look at Burtch Works Executive Recruiting. They have a free to download salary study focusing specifically on data science. Good place to get an idea about salary.

        2. FellowDataGirl*

          I’m at about $86,000, not including bonuses which range from about $5,000 to $10,000 a year. I’m pretty in line with the median for individual contributors with my level of experience (5 years), at least in my area. YMMV, depending on your market.

          1. FellowDataGirl*

            For context, the average web developer salary for people with 5 years experience in my area is about $55,000. So definitely below the national average. LCOL though!

        3. Product Person*

          I’m a real data scientist–in the meaning I do the work as defined by the companies that popularized the term, like Google.

          It’s way different than, say, a business intelligence analyst working with data from a warehouse, or a SQL analyst, or a Tableau expert.

          You are typically working with big data, unstructured data, possibly images or text, for batch or online inference. To give an example, in my last job I had to use Spark (a framework that makes it faster to aggregate Terabytes of data) to calculated statistics for data streaming from millions of mobile phones.

          A friend of mine, also data scientist, uses machine learning to optimize the order of search result in a job board, so that job seekers can see the best matches first. In my current job I use machine learning to predict which patients are at risk of being readmitted to the hospital due to avoidable side effects of their medications, so nurses can schedule care calls they can’t make to all patients but are able to place for those at higher risk to help them avoid the bad outcome.

          As you can see, the field of data science is vast, but it requires different skills than a traditional data analyst used to work with structured data that has a fixed data schema. For one thing it requires more creativity to deal with unruly data, sparse data, and categorical data that needs to be encoded before being fed into a machine learning model (just to list a some of the differences).

          As to salary, 130K was my starting salary when I had no experience and was changing careers. It’s significantly higher now that I have a track record of developing high performance models.

          The market is hot but it doesn’t mean most companies will hire anyone. In my last job, they interviewed for two years and rejected a large number of candidates (most with PhDs, some data analysts) before hiring me (I have a master’s degree).

  13. Jedi Squirrel*

    We’re a small organization and about 30% of our people have been out this week due to the flu. Anyone else going through this? Any strategies/tips for managing when such a big chunk of your work force is out?

      1. Remember Neopets?*

        Our office is also in the midst of sickness and I saw something on Instagram this morning that really helped me. It was meant to apply more to work-life balance, but I’m applying it in my office.
        Each task is another ball to juggle. Some balls are plastic and some are glass. Your challenge is knowing which balls you can drop where it won’t be the end of the world.
        So figure out which work tasks are plastic and which are glass and drop the plastic ones.

        Also, clorox wipes. Wipe down filing cabinets and doorknobs. And wash your hands as soon as you get home!

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I saw a discussion of the glass/plastic ball analogy on Twitter today! I was really taken with the idea of juggling many many small balls labelled “take child to tennis”, “get hair cut” and “clear out llama enclosure” etc rather than the traditional analogy of “work” “family” “self-care” as a very few big beach balls. You can drop a plastic family ball in favour of a glass work ball without favouring work over family overall.

          It was like a lightbulb went on in my head!

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            I like both of these outlooks! These are very helpful ways to frame it.

            Now to adapt them to a business context…

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Not to be flippant, but plan to hold an office flu shot clinic next year. If your organization is too small to call in a healthcare professional to administer shots, then perhaps go in with another office. Or see if there’s a professional organization in your field offering a clinic. Or talk to your office building’s management to see if they won’t hold something for their tenants. Maybe incentivize people with a coffee gift card or something. Otherwise, look into planning how to cover a good number of simultaneous absences again next year.

      Other thoughts that come to mind going forward: Are people cross-trained over a couple-few job positions, so that one empty desk won’t result in a complete loss of forward progress on that person’s work? Can you add a budget line for hiring some temps next year?

      1. Lily in NYC*

        We have free flu shots at work and we still have a ton of sick people. It’s just one of those years.

        1. Artemesia*

          The shot is not a good match for the flu this year alas; from what I have read it is really hammering kids. Although the elderly are always at risk apparently this one is not quite as vicious to them as to kids this time out; perhaps the strains are things many older people have been exposed to before.

          And yeah, free shots in the workplace are a great idea and many years will keep the flu at bay.

        2. PollyQ*

          There’s something nasty going around that isn’t the flu, too. My sister was down for a solid 10 days after New Year’s, but she didn’t test positive for flu.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            My state is reeling from a 2-3 week cold that made me almost wish I HAD tested positive for the flu so they’d have prescribed Tamiflu.
            But it’s nothing like what China is looking at with its “uncommon cold” that’s killed people.

          2. Gatomon*

            There definitely are some nasty cold strains this year! There are two different colds rampaging through my office so almost everyone is suffering from back-to-back illnesses. I rarely catch colds, but I fell victim to both this year.

    2. Mimi*

      The past three weeks have been brutal. Mostly it’s been a non-flu plague, but we’ve had similar staffing challenges recently.

      I just focus on the fact that there aren’t as many of us available (and the ones who are maybe aren’t at 100%), so we won’t be able to get as much work done, and then try to prioritize the work that would be the biggest problem if it got dropped.

    3. JustMyImagination*

      Triage what tasks must be done- payroll, government deadlines, major client deadlines- and just let the rest wait. It will still be there on Monday!

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      The year that H1N1 swept through, the management where I worked had a full day meeting where they worked out a whole system of contingency plans. They made lists upon lists of all our daily activities and how long we could function if there wasn’t anyone there to do them, and what staff could potentially be reassigned to other duties if everyone in one department was out sick. Then they decided that if we fell below a set minimum staffing level, the office would have to be closed. I feel like that’s a worthwhile conversation for organizational leadership to have, because there’s always the potential that someone could get sick and infect the rest of your staff, whether it’s a bad flu season or not.

      In the moment, though, I’d recommend making it clear to staff that you don’t expect them to martyr themselves in an effort to cover for their sick coworkers. Tell them you know that each person can only handle so much, and you don’t expect 10 people to manage the work that usually requires 15 people to get it done. And be really clear on which tasks are priority and which ones can wait until you’re back up to full staff.

    5. ES*

      We are in a similar spot, what’s worse is that we are a child care center so we have to maintain ratios regardless of illness. It makes it so hard!

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      Take a look at your priorities, and see if there’s anything that can be put on the back burner until the workforce has recovered, and reassign people to work on the higher priorities who were working on those things. Also, if your workplace allows it and the work you do permits it, encourage more remote work: if people aren’t coming into the office, that’s one less place where they’re likely to contract or spread flu germs.

    7. Introvert girl*

      Idea for next year: our office got us free vaccines, a doctor and a nurse came to the office and if you wanted, you could get vaccinated during your workday. Haven’t been sick so far.

  14. MsApril*

    How do you get over a petty manager? I have the opportunity to do something that would make my job easier but my manager doesn’t want it because “she’s been her longer” and just got it herself but the business just changed it there is room for both of us to do this when before it wasn’t possible for anyone. There is no business reason to block it. I’m considering leaving because I‘be lost complete respect for her and the pettiness.

    For the record she’s been here a year longer than I have.

    1. Aquawoman*

      That’s completely ridiculous. Is she generally petty? Can you treat this as a freakish one-off for god knows what reason?

      1. MsApril*

        She’s only been the manager a couple of weeks but she was a bit before but not for work related things.

    2. Leisel*

      Maybe have a sit down with her and say something like, “I worry that we’re slowing down progress if we don’t allow ourselves to take advantage of new developments. Can you explain to me why we shouldn’t implement this new development? I’m having a hard time understanding.”

      If she can’t give you a logical answer and still blocks you for no good reason, is there a way to take it over her head? Seems like a manager above you would want to be aware that she’s hesitant to let you make your job easier (!!!). Good luck!

      1. Mid*

        I’d say also document everything you can while doing this. You might not need it, but also someone acting this petty might lash out later on.

      2. MsApril*

        I could go to the owner but I’m not sure I want to waste capital on this. I worry about looking like I’m the one being petty.

        1. Mimi*

          If you think it’s worth pushing back, I think asking for an explanation of why your idea won’t work could be good. But if that doesn’t go anywhere and you’re not sure it’s worth spending capital, I’d be very wary of going over my boss’s head about something she’s being weirdly resistant about that ultimately isn’t that important.

        2. RecoveringSWO*

          Yeah, it sounds like something I wouldn’t waste capital on either. I would document it and put together some sort of a canned summary of the situation that you can use in the future. If boss is petty over this, she’s likely got other deficiencies and if the owner ever has a skip meeting with you as a result of her performance, you could recall this as an example of her questionable judgment. Or, if you build up some more political capital at work and want to fight it, you could express this as an example of your initiative (despite being turned down) at a performance meeting if your owner attends those.

    3. Anne Elliot*

      If the thing is now available to more than one user, I would suggest respectfully renewing your request, in writing, with an explanation of how it will positively impact your job if you have it but negatively impact your job if you don’t. “Hi, Manager: I know we talked about allowing me to access the International Llama Registry, but you decided that with only one user license, it was best for you to have that access. I understand the ILR has offered additional user licenses at little to no cost. Under those circumstances, I wanted to renew my request for an ILR user license. An ILR user license would allow me to easily confirm that llamas we consider purchasing are registered. As you know, currently I have to call for registration data on each individual llama sale because I do not have access to the database. I estimate it would cut in half the time it takes me to handle llama registration confirmation in half, if I could streamline that task by using the ILR. With that extra time, I could direct more attention to the llama sales newsletter, which you and I had agreed it would be great to see expanded. Let me know your thoughts, and thanks!”

      Then if it doesn’t happen, you have documented that you asked. It will be up to your manager to justify why the answer was “no.”

    4. ThatMarketingChick*

      Agree with previous posters that suggest just asking for an explanation. There are some things your manager is privy to that you’re not – and asking her to explain things may sort that out. Just because you don’t see a business reason to block it, doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason.

      It seems as though you don’t particularly like or respect your manager. Which is fine, because some managers don’t do a very good job. I strongly discourage you from going over your manager’s head without first attempting to find out from her why this opportunity isn’t available. If I were your grandboss, and you came to me with this, I’d turn you back around and tell you to try and resolve it with your manager first. It’s not an easy conversation, but if you can keep your wits about you and discuss it calmly, you can at least confirm you handled things properly.

  15. Anon and on*

    Is gender discrimination female to female a thing? Having an issue with a person in our office who is female who insists admins (all female) should not wear jeans to work ever. However, the consultants (all male) can wear them every day ehether they are in the office or not. Also, her assistant (female, non admin) wears jeans to the office. Am I crazy to think we are being discriminated against?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yes, it’s definitely a thing. Sometimes it’s internalized sexism. Sometimes it’s feeling that, because of sexism against women, only one or two token women can be at the top, so pushing other women down would supposedly give them an edge in what they perceive to be a zero-sum game.

      I’ve worked in many schools that enforce dress codes in a sexist way against female students, and it can often be the female teachers who are the worst about policing.

    2. Another Millenial*

      Absolutely. Many women suffer from internalized misogyny. However, if this rule applies to admins only, and the admins just happen to be all female, I’m not sure if a complaint would hold up. You might have to prove that if there were a male admin, would he be able to wear jeans? I’m curious as to why only females hold the admin role, but it could just be coincidence. Hard to tell.

      1. BoredRecruiter*

        I was going to say this. I have a friend who requires her direct report to dress more professionally than everyone else, but that’s because she’s customer facing, and the men in the back and warehouse don’t talk to customers in person directly (or are out on a job, where jeans and workbooks are appropriate).

    3. blackcat*

      As long as there’s not a difference in interacting with the public vs not in the job roles, I would just keep saying “Huh, I don’t see why these roles would have different dress codes.” and then wear what I want to wear.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        I would respectfully disagree. Obviously different workplaces have different practices and cultures, but my sense is that in general being a lone obstructionist rarely leads to productive results. I’d for sure lobby for a change in policy if that’s your goal–backed up by whatever data or logic at your disposal. But I wouldn’t recommend simply going rogue; it tends to lower morale and produce negative results for all involved.

      2. Fikly*

        And then you would be fired? You disagreeing with a policy does not mean you do not have to follow it.

    4. Ruth (UK)*

      I think if she’s ok with her female non-admin assistant wearing jeans (so the acceptability of wearing jeans is related to position, not gender) then in this particular case, it doesn’t sound like gender-discrimination to me (even if all the admins happen to be women and the consultants happen to be male – if, presumably, the rule would apply to a male admin or a female consultant).

      However, I do think more broadly it is very possible for women to discriminate against other women based on gender and it does happen.

      ps. It might also be worth the company looking into why/how they’ve only hired female admins and only male consultants but I’m guessing that’s not something you’re in a position to be looking at yourself.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        pps. I also don’t necessarily agree with a rule that says consultants can wear jeans but admins can’t – I just don’t think this particular case necessarily sounds like discrimination is based on gender from the little information I have (that could change with further info).

    5. Hazelthyme*

      Yes, it’s discrimination if your dress code treats men and women differently regardless of who’s making the call. I can see it getting muddy for items that the larger society still treats differently on men and women (skirts/dresses, long hair), but not for jeans. The only legit rules I’ve seen about jeans are that they need to be clean, no rips, no underwear visible, and so on.

      1. Hazelthyme*

        Amending to say I didn’t notice it was admins (who all happen to be female) vs. non-admins. You’re probably on better ground there if it’s a distinction between public/client-facing and not, but I still wonder …

    6. pieces_of_flair*

      Does this person actually have authority over you, i.e., do you have to pay attention to her wardrobe preferences? Is there a written company dress code?

      It sounds like she is saying “no jeans for anyone in an admin position” rather than “no jeans for women” (and, in fact, non-admin women can wear jeans), so that doesn’t sound like gender discrimination.

    7. Zona the Great*

      I’ve experienced gender discrimination from women more than I have from men, sadly. I believe it is a societal thing that we don’t realize we bought into. I have worked for a woman who’d write the women up for not wearing panty hose under slacks while men could wear appropriate socks. I’ve had female bank customers refuse to believe policies until a man told them it was policy. I’ve had women stop me to fax their shit, sign for packages, change the toner all while the male receptionist sat by idly. Women are the ones who stop at my office to ask me to join the party committee or help set up the conference room for a big meeting when I’m a big-dog myself. Women are the ones who give me side eye for not staying and cleaning up after lunch meetings.

      It’s very frustrating.

      1. Secret Identity*

        Out of curiosity, how would anyone know what anyone else was wearing underneath slacks? There are trouser socks that look similar to pantyhose on the foot, so how could they possibly know it was trouser socks vs. pantyhose?

        1. Zona the Great*

          She would make a point of checking. She would literally ask you to raise your pant leg. She would check your pants to see if there were rivets or outside pockets. She was wildly unreasonable.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        Ugh, it’s maddening! I generally get along well with everyone but I had one job at a law firm where the women were mostly middle-aged Mean Girls. One of them reported me to HR for wearing flip-flops and I got called in to be written up. I showed the HR director my shoes, which were NOT flip-flops, nor were they thong sandals – they were those black slides that everyone wore in the early 2000s. The HR director was wearing almost the same exact shoes. I was so done with that job at that point that I mouthed off and told the director to tell “Jenny” (I knew exactly who turned me in even though they didn’t tell me) to mind her own damn business and to make sure she’s actually correct the next time she tries to get me in trouble for no reason. A few weeks later “jenny” got a paper cut in her eye (freak accident and pretty horrifying) and I told her it was karma. I quit a week after that and left Jenny a nice pile of unfinished work to complete. Good times.

        1. Another Millenial*

          I think there’s some sort of ingrained competitiveness leftover from when very few women could be allowed to hold successful roles, so we still try to claw over each other on our way to the top.

    8. Coffee Cup*

      It for sure is! What you are describing is ridiculously sexist, whether it comes from a woman or a man.

    9. Nicki Name*

      In addition to what Anonymous Educator said, sometimes it’s anxiety that anything one woman does will make all the women including the discriminator look bad.

    10. Muriel Heslop*

      I am in education and I see internalized sexism all the time. Overall, it’s better than when I started 20+ years ago but it’s still evident. And don’t even get me started on how sexualized our dress codes can be!

      It sounds like this woman is applying her standards unevenly as well. How come her admin can wear jeans but no other admins? That’s very unfair unless there is something I missed?

      1. CatMintCat*

        I’m a primary school (K-6) teacher and sexism is rampant. Male teachers are thin on the ground but, when you find one, my lord, are they favourited. The ticket to a promotion is to have a penis, not to be a good teacher. Then they’re promoted above their ability to function, as they don’t have the classroom experience needed, and it’s the fault of the woman on the next step down. Always.

    11. Middle School Teacher*

      Definitely. I actually wrote a paper on female gate keeping against women for my masters. It’s real, pervasive, and really unfortunate.

    12. NJBi*

      Frankly, I’m concerned about the fact that all of the admins are female and all the consultants are male! I could see someone making the case that the admins need to be dressed more professionally if they’re in a more public-facing role, or if these are the only people for whom this coworker gets to set the dress code (like, she’s adamantly anti-jeans herself but knows she can’t outlaw them for her peers). But the fact that this dress-code division creates a gender division… that’s not a good look.

      And in answer to the question, a woman can definitely perpetuate sexism and gender discrimination in a workplace (e.g., a female exec says that she will only hire men to be managers because she believes they’re more qualified than women).

    13. Person from the Resume*

      Yes to your question that women can and do discriminate against other women, but your example of it does not demonstrate it since her female assistant wears jeans presumably without repercussions from her.

    14. MonteCristo85*

      To be honest, in my experience it is more of a thing than male to female discrimination.

      IDK if this lives up to a title of discrimination, but I think you would be well within your rights to go and ask why it is ok for the men to wear jeans and not the women. See what the answer is. Decide from there what should be your next step. It might be more of an issues with the consultants vs admins than the male/female thing, but then you are down the rabbit hole of why all the consultants are men and the admins are all female.

      1. MonteCristo85*

        Is it one boss over all? Because sometimes different bosses have different rules, and they don’t have to be the same from department to department.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      You folks have NO idea how HAPPY I am to see all the comments here.
      It’s long been my belief that women do as much if not MORE than men do to hold other women back.

      For some women it is so ingrained that they do not even realize how much society has changed and how others are aware of their poor choices/narrow thinking.

      I worked in a nursery in the 80s. I had a female customer tell me that because I am a woman it is biologically impossible for me to learn about plants. Just in case this was not clear enough for me, she expanded to say that as a woman I was missing parts of my brain that would allow me to understand plants.
      I said, “You’re right” and I walked away, knowing full well there were no male coworkers on the clock at the moment, all of us were women. I assumed she left without purchasing anything.
      When the male employees were around they were great. “Oh you’ll have to go ask NSNR [or other women] she knows more about it than I do.” It was fun to watch people’s faces.

      The customers were the most biased at that job, my coworkers were pretty good. And the number of biased female customers was at least the same if not greater than the male customers.

    16. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yes, I had a boss who routinely treated high-performing females like garbage and would hire and promote unqualified men over them. It was a huge dumpster fire.

  16. WearingManyHats*

    Long story short, after a prolonged action plan, several months ago we termed an individual contributor who was desperate for a promotion (there are 40 people in our company) but unable to handle the new hire training and other leadership tasks he requested and was awarded. The employee’s manager agreed to be a reference, but this employee is applying for, and getting interviews for manager or director level positions! He doesn’t not have experience managing others and we don’t know what he’s putting on his resume, but his ex-manager is telling the truth as politely as possible! We are a small town so mis-telling the truth will get around. I am slack-jawed at the gall (and obliviousness).

    1. DCAnalyst2020*

      Maybe the ex-manager can request a copy of the former employee’s resume. It’s not uncommon for me to send my resume to my references so they know which parts of my experience I’ve chosen to highlight with the potential employer, so I don’t think it an unreasonable request for a reference to make. That way he will know how the employee is presenting himself and can opt out of being involved if he feels he’s misrepresenting his work history.

    2. HM MM*

      I would recommend that the manage keep telling the truth (politely) about their experience with the employee, but do keep in mind there’s so much that goes into an individuals success at certain types of roles. This person might not have been able to handle the managerial/leadership responsibilities at your company, but within a different organization (with a different manager, different structures, different approaches) maybe he could. You just never know.

      An example from own experience: I had a manager who put me on a PIP for lacking critical thinking skills necessary for the job and wanted me to get remedial training in a certain area. I did not foresee myself completing that PIP successful so I went into job searching mode overdrive. Found an exact lateral role doing the exact same things. Within a month at new job my boss handed over the area that old boss wanted me to get remedial training on for me to manage completely autonomously and within a year I had been promoted to a level above old boss.

      I’m sure that old boss thought somewhat similarly – she’s clearly failing at this work how can she possibly think its appropriate to take a lateral role. She should be looking for a step down. The thing is – even though the actual responsibilities were the same the structure and cultures of the orgs (and not to mention management styles) were completely different. I was an extremely poor fit for the one and thrived within the other.

      Again, of course I recommend telling the truth about your (general) experience with the person, but beyond that I’d let it go. Maybe this person could be an effective manager within a different organization. Or maybe (hopefully) he’ll show his unsuitability within the interview processes. Worst case scenario he bluffs his way into a manager role and does poorly, but that’s really not your concern.

      1. WearingManyHats*

        The thought is this person is talented, but needs more structure than we can provide. We’re getting questions about how they managed others (they didn’t). One of our VPs actually had breakfast with them today to suggest some larger companies they could made introductions at. We really do wish them the best, but have had some awkward reference calls…

    3. CM*

      I think it’s good to tell the truth when people call for references, but you guys don’t need to judge whether or not this person is qualified for the jobs he’s interviewing for. That’s what the interviewers on the other side are doing — and they might decide that he’s a really a good fit for management roles at their company even if he wasn’t at yours.

      1. WearingManyHats*

        True true, but it gets awkward when they ask questions about how many people this person managed and their management style when they were an individual contributor.

        1. ArtK*

          The truth is the right thing here. “Fergus was an individual contributor and had no management responsibility, authority or experience.”

  17. Vanessa*

    Can anyone share tips on making the LinkedIn job feature useful? I am looking for new opportunities and it constantly shows me irrelevant things, either because they are the wrong experience level or the wrong industry/field. I don’t seem to have luck searching by keywords either because it provides partial word matches. I’ve adjusted my profile and career interests and said “this is not for me” for listings that miss the mark. Is there anything more I can do or is this just as good as it gets?

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I have the same problems (e.g. nursing and custodian jobs frequently show up for my keyword search of “sustainability”) so it might just be as good as it gets.

      I’d be interested to hear if others have suggestions.

    2. HRforYou*

      LinkedIn Jobs honestly isn’t set-up to work nearly as smoothly as other job search sites. You’re always going to have to weed out the results more than you normally would and most of them are also posted on sites like Workable, Indeed, Zip Recruiter, etc.

      But assuming you’ve already adjusted all of the filters you can (without leaving too little for LIn to work with) focus on the words you’re giving it to search with and make them specific to the job you’re looking for but not too long. You can also use quotes to focus the search on a particular word just like in Google: e.g. [“accountant” accounts receivable] if you want general accounting jobs, or [accountant accounts “receivable”] if the kind of accounting job is more important.

      Those are the basics I always start with, perhaps someone knows something I don’t to help further.
      Good luck on the job search!

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      I agree with HRforYou, really focus on your keywords and to set your expectations low(-ish) in terms of how good of a job search engine it’s going to be.

      I’ve also found it helpful to think of LinkedIn as just one more search tool, as opposed to the be-all end-all to job hunting. Any job(/or company really) that looks interesting, don’t apply through LinkedIn, just go right to the website and apply there.

      That’s my quick $0.02, good luck with the hunt!

      1. 867-5309*

        Ditto A Simply Narwhal.

        However, our company runs our applications through LinkedIn so if there is an “Apply Now” button, they usually mean it. Just remember to include your resume. I’m floored at how many people don’t, even though we expressly mentioned it in the job ad. Almost as bad, people who uploaded a resume to LinkedIn two years ago and that’s the one that gets sent.

        1. 1st in Corporate*

          Exactly. Plus LinkedIn just launched an Applicant Tracking System so many more companies will be using LinkedIn as their only job site.

  18. Anon for this*

    A job has come up at the university in the field I decided not to pursue two years ago. I meet every person requirement, including every nice-to-have. The job itself looks interesting and doesn’t have several of the aspects that led me to get out, but I don’t think there would be anywhere I’d want to go in that field after that role. Still, part of me is tempted.

    Has anyone else been in a similar situation?

    1. Pam Beesly*

      Is it worth applying just to learn more about the role and whether you think it’d be a good fit?

      1. Anon for this*

        I think what I’m actually concerned about is if I will paint myself into a corner when I’m ready to move on. The role is in a very specific subsection of the arts and matches both my university degree and an organisation I currently volunteer for. Most of my former roles were specifically for arts organisations, and it took a long time to get my current role outside of the arts (and the paid sick leave is so worth it).

        1. Friyay*

          Why not apply and see what happens? To be blunt, it sounds like you’re getting ahead of yourself. Maybe you don’t get an interview, so it’s a moot point. Maybe you don’t get the offer, also a moot point. You can decide not to accept the offer. You might learn more during the process that influences you one way or another. No harm done by applying except taking some time to update your materials.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            This – Anon is putting the cart before the horse. Apply and see if you get invited to interview. If you get one, go and determine whether your concerns are valid.

  19. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I find myself procrastinating and staring off into space instead of doing my job. I’m about to transition to a new role and need to tighten it up. What are your favorite tricks to get yourself going?

    1. LessNosy*

      I like to treat my tasks like a game – how many things on my to-do list can I get done in a day? I don’t keep a “high score” but maybe I should :)

    2. Ptarmigan*

      Write a list on paper of a few things you hope to accomplish today. If you’re having trouble, “write this list” can totally be the first one. Draw a small box next to each one so you can check it off once you’ve done it.

    3. HONK*

      Remind myself that procrastination is fueled by the illusion that a task will hurt less if you do it later, because right now it sounds soooo unpleasant

      But in reality it usually hurts more later. Yknow what, maybe I need to keep a journal of all the times I do procrastinate and it does end up hurting more, to help jog me into action when necessary.

        1. EJane*

          I can attest to this. I’ll put off making phone calls or answer the phone and then it’ll be 30-120 seconds of painless talking.

          Or I get stuck on the phone with a very nice but VERY chatty older client for 40 minutes at the end of the day, as happened yesterday. oh well.

    4. Nonprofit Nancy*

      My only advice is that I have a “go time” music selection and when I put my headphones in and queue it up, that is my signal to myself that I really mean it this time. They say a routine helps you transition to work mode.

    5. Phantom*

      When I first get into the office, I make my self a cup of tea and make myself a to do list for the day while I enjoy it. Then, I check stuff off throughout the day as I get it done.

      I also have a quick check in meeting every morning that I use a private conference room to attend remotely. After it wraps up, I hang out for 5-10 minutes doing some yoga, nothing strenuous, just some movement and stretching to get the blood flowing.

      I don’t think it matters too much what new routines you start, just that you replace the old patterns that got you started staring into space with something that gets you going instead. Find something simple that brings you enjoyment and use that as the first step.

    6. Mid*

      I have ADHD, so I am very often struggling to stay focused. VERY often.

      Timers help me (I can look at AAM for 10 minutes, my silent alarm goes off (I have a watch that can vibrate, so I don’t disturb anyone), and then I have to start the next task)

      Mini-breaks just to walk around and move my body (drop off mail in one trip, refill my water in another, so they’re productive but also not wholly necessary at the time I’m doing them),

      Routine (half my tasks are pretty fixed, half are always changing, so I put the fixed tasks at certain times in my day, every day, to help me feel like I’m accomplishing things, and to help keep me on schedule.) If you’re struggling because everything is boring or monotonous, you could try the opposite–change things up every day or few days so it’s more interesting.

      Also to-do lists always. Always. I spend 5 minutes at the end of each day filling out my list for the next day.

      If I see that I’ve put off a task for more than 2 days, I put it at the top of my list, and force myself to do it immediately in the morning.

      My to-do list is always in an order.
      1. Any tasks I’ve been avoiding (usually only one or two–if there’s more, that’s usually a sign I’m struggling to keep up and might need to ask for help)
      2. Recurring tasks (easy to check off!)
      3. Other tasks in priority of importance and deadlines

      I also try to break down into smaller chunks when possible (so instead of saying “do Document” I have “research Document, draft Document, format Document, proofread Document, distribute Document” which makes me feel more productive.)

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        +1 on breaking down tasks into smaller chunks! This also helps me with time management. When I need to work on other projects besides document x, checking off portions of that task (ex. research doc x) gives me a good stopping point to answer emails, get another priority done, etc. I still feel productive because I checked off one portion and I also have less to review when I start back up on doc x, because I stopped at an ideal point.

    7. Artemesia*

      I have always had this problem writing and when I do — like on a big task like a book, I will just jump in and do my favorite part or the easy parts while I dither about the rest. And pretty soon it is mostly done, just not in chronological order.

      For a ton of tasks. I list them and always include some really easy things. It is very reinforcing to cross off things done and lists like this also make it easier to identify tasks that can be done easily but need to be done. Often those little tasks if you procrastinate make the completion of everything else a misery. Lots of people include things on their to do list that are already done. Big project with 18 things — you have done 3 already. List them all and then cross off those 3 and start in on the next one you have bandwidth to tackle.

    8. BoredRecruiter*

      Thanks for posting. My job has reduced down to about 90% of my time being cold emails to potential candidates (I’m an internal recruiter in a niche field), so there are no to-do items to mark off a list. I’ll try seeing if I can break records, but I’m not motivated by that sort of thing (nor do I find it particularly helpful since I try to customize/individualize my emails as much as possible, and trying for a higher volume means less customization time).

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Could you track different types of customization and their success rates? When including X in subject line Y responded positively Z responded negatively K no response.

        Other results tracking or metric creation that might have some marginal value but still give you something to measure may be helpful. Also might help you determine if some of the customization is really just a way for you to draw out your process/keep from being as board when a more boiler plate option may actually be more effective.

    9. RecoveringSWO*

      1) Prioritizing tasks based on your most productive time of day. I’m most productive in the morning (I joke that my procrastinating tendencies don’t wake up until later) so I save tasks that are more important or require more concentration for first thing in the morning. For me that usually means I’m researching or doing template c/p style writing in the late afternoon (with some distraction) and writing actual product or preparing presentations in the mornings.

      2) I put my cell phone away and don’t let myself check e-mails until I’ve finished a task (or am at a good stopping point). For me, the Pomodoro method doesn’t work because the timer stops my productivity and then I’m not motivated to restart working on time. I recognize that my working style works better with periods of more intense focus then relaxed work, instead of consistent focus all day. So I let myself go down the “rabbit hole” on prioritized tasks and adjust accordingly. YMMV, I’m not often interrupted by phone calls and my boss doesn’t require instant email replies.

      3) I have one trick that’s worked for tasks I hate (particularly larger projects with far out due dates). Set a timer for 5-10min and convince yourself to work on that project with the only requirement being that you work until the timer goes off. It’s less of a hurdle to start the project, because I know I can do 5 minutes no matter how much I hate it. However, 8/10 times I don’t stop after 5-10min because I’ve built some momentum on the project. It’s also not as distracting to me as the Pomodoro timer, because the start of the project is fresh in my mind. A professor introduced me to this strategy and it was really helpful for essays and outlining.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        The making myself do 5 to 10 minutes might help on scheduling these visits which I haven’t done for months.

    10. Sheffy4*

      I totally feel you – I go through phases of this, and here are a few things that I try, and usually one or a combination of them work to get me going again:
      – Change of environment – I take my work into a meeting room, or even the break room for an hour or so. This works particularly well when I have to read and concentrate, because then I’m away from my computer and distracting emails/internet.

      – Pretending I am leaving early and have to get all my critical work done before lunch (sort of make it a game/race to get things done, another commenter suggested making it a game too)

      – Scheduling out all my daily tasks by the minute, so I know I only have to work on X until 9:30, and then I get to shift gears and work on Y until 10:15. I challenge myself to stick to the schedule and get things done within the allotted time – if it’s not done I move on anyway and make time to come back to it later (unless of course it’s truly critical)

      – Schedule 30 minutes before or after lunch to read motivating professional development books. Sort of refreshes me and gets me into the zone.

      – Going for short walks once or twice a day (outside!). It’s a nice break while transitioning between tasks, and prevents me from reflexively reaching for my phone as my “break”, which can often turn into extended scrolling / spacing out time.

      – Imagining some character that I feel would be more productive then me, and making a fun game of asking, “What would they do?” For instance, I’m a Parks and Rec fan, so sometimes I’ll think, “What would Leslie Knope get this done?” or “How would Chris Traeger handle this?” Or for a fun alternative, Dwayne Johnson, or the badass character Dalton from the movie Roadhouse.

      1. Collette*

        This is a really great insight. I figured this out recently myself. When that happens, I take some time to figure out what I need to know that I don’t already know and then I go looking for that information.

        When I am procrastinating because I feel unsure about a piece of work I will also break it down into all of its parts and determine what part will help me feel more comfortable about the project if I do it first.

    11. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I just realized that a whole month has gone by and I’ve done next to nothing. I was going to quit so I put everything off. .

  20. Finally Finished*

    resume question: After a 15 year break, I finally went and finished my college education. As this should have an impact on applying for future positions, I’ve got a few questions on how to correctly add this to my resume.
    1. Dates: do I use the the first chunk of dates that I attended with a completed year separated. Example: attended 2000 – 2004; completed 2019
    2. During my break, the school that I attended changed from a college to a university. My diploma states Teapot University. Do I need to mention that when I started it was Teapot College now Teapot University?
    3. When I returned, my major was no longer available. I needed only about 11 credits to complete a degree, so my advisor suggested not declaring a new major. Do I just list my major as General Studies? My diploma just states Bachelor of Arts.

    1. Ptarmigan*

      I have a similar situation, except over several colleges, and I just put the one I graduated for and the year I graduated, e.g.,

      Spectral College of the Desert, B.S. Teapot Science, 2010

    2. Tiny Magnolia*

      I’d do this:

      :::EDUCATION:::
      Teapot University
      Bachelor of Arts, 2019

      You’re a grown person and you don’t need to list your major, just a degree.

      1. Middle Manager*

        For some jobs it might not matter, but there are jobs in my organization that require a particular major and you have to document that you took one of the required majors, so I wouldn’t universally take it off.

        1. irene adler*

          Won’t the job description indicate this?

          Or, will the HR folks inquire?

          Or would this be an automatic ‘no’ without listing the major?

          1. Middle Manager*

            The job description would note it. If it wasn’t on your resume/app, you wouldn’t make it past the initial HR screening for any hiring manager ever making it ask the question. It might be a niche situation. Just saying, I don’t think it’s universally true that you shouldn’t list your major on your resume.

            I’m in state government for reference. It’s all very rigid in the hiring process.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Interesting. What’s the benefit of not listing your major?

        I can see the benefit of not listing the year, which isn’t really relevant and could be used in age discrimination.

        1. Sunflower Sea Star*

          You would list what your degree was in, but not necessarily other majors you may have had along the way.

        2. Fabulous*

          If you’re working in a field where it would draw more questions than strengthen your profile; e.g. if it’s irrelevant to whatever job industry you’re in. For example, if you were a drama major working in sales, or a philosophy major working in IT.

      3. Automated*

        Disagree. Leaving this off sounds like you are trying to hide your degree. Its not your major anymore – its your degree when you complete the requirements.

        B.S. Biology 2019 is the way to list.

    3. Ali G*

      Congratulations on the accomplishment!
      I’m no expert, but this is what i think:
      1. Just use the date you completed – that’s the only thing that matters in terms of verifying you have a degree
      2. Nope! You have a degree from Teapots University, doesn’t matter what it was 10 years ago
      3. Unless I am mistaken, General Studies sounds a lot like a non-specific Bachelor of Arts and since that is what is on your diploma, put that. You can add “Focus: General Studies” if you want. I do this because I have a Bachelor of Arts in Biology, but most of the classes I took were in environmental science, ecology and natural sciences. So I put “Focus: Environmental Science”

    4. periwinkle*

      I finished my bachelor’s after a 22-year break! The only date I list is the graduation year, and the field is Liberal Arts because I didn’t have a major.

      “Teapot University, BA in General Studies, 2019” is fine.

    5. irene adler*

      My take:
      #1 Depending on how old you are, there is a reality known as age discrimination. Employers are keen to figure out your age in any way they can. A useful figure is college graduation year. So stack the odds in your favor and simply list the date of graduation(2019). Let them figure out- later on- that you ain’t 22.

      So what if there’s been a gap between start and finish of your degree. Don’t muddy things up. As an employer, I want to know what skills you possess, or what you can do for me. The gap doesn’t help me there.
      During the interview, you can talk about your experience and educational journey – if they ask.

      #2- no. Why muddy things up-even more- by adding the College V. University thing? How does that help present you in your best light? Remember, the resume is “your best foot forward”. So stay with “University”-it’s on the diploma-yes?

      #3- might ask the university what to put- or why they didn’t indicate a major on your diploma.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        I wholeheartedly agree with this comment. Mr. Glomarization finished his undergraduate degree after a multi-decade delay. The Education line on the resume says: “B.A., UniversityName.” Period, end of. The employers and other people looking at his credentials are looking for a completed degree, not so interested in the year or even the discipline.

      2. Anonymous for this, colleagues read here*

        The problem with leaving off the date is that sometimes we need to know it. For the search I am currently running, minimum requirement is 3 years past the master’s experience in central function of the job. If you don’t put a date, I can’t see how many years it’s been since you earned your degree = I can’t tell if your work experience is before, during, or after your graduate education = I cannot advance your application because I can’t tell if you meet the minimum requirement.

        I’d say to read the position description carefully. If it is clear we need to know in order to even consider you, include it.

        1. irene adler*

          How about if the resume indicates “6 years at position X” or “15+ years at current position” ?

    6. Not This Again*

      This is an interesting post to me personally, so following!

      I just put the year I graduated from university, not the years of attendance (going part-time while working full-time slowed me down, and I also took my time).

      I was able to do two minors, instead of a major, to graduate. I just list what my diploma says, something like Bachelor of General Studies or whatever.

      Also, I list what my diploma says for who awarded the diploma, which is the university, although when I started there, I entered through their college that had a part-time focus and they evolved over the decade I was there (yes, decade!).

      I don’t want to mislead anyone, but I did the work, graduated (with honors), and I’m happy to explain any further if it seems to matter. From my age and graduation date, it’s obvious I didn’t do the four-year-degree-right-out-of-high-school path.

      Interested to see what others think/do.

    7. Artemesia*

      You don’t want to list ‘general studies’ as at many places that is a degree for people who don’t meet some major requirements and it is low status. The fact of the degree is enough to include. There is a case for just listing graduation year or for doing it the way you suggested — think about how it plays out in your own history.

    8. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      Congratulations!
      I took a five-year hiatus myself between the time I started college and the time I graduated. On my resume, I just list it like others have mentioned: Major State University, BA, Teapot Painting. (It’s coming up on long enough ago that I stopped putting the year on my resume.)

      Where I DO have a problem is with online applications that require me to list the start and end dates of my college attendance. The accurate answer would be something like 1991-1995; 2001, but of course the applications don’t allow for that. So it looks like I went straight through for 10 years, which…doesn’t look impressive, and if the company verified the attendance dates with my school, they would quickly find out that I wasn’t there for all 10 of those years, so they’d think I was lying on the application. I actually have abandoned applications because of this – there’s really no way for me to be accurate.

    9. Symplicite*

      You don’t need to put your year on your resume for your education, regardless of the time lapse between start and finish.

      My resume has the following :

      Education and Professional Development:

      • Masters of TeaPot Studies – University of BigCity
      • Honours B.A. Teapot Construction – UniversityName University
      • Courses sponsored by TeaPot Manufacturing institution:
      o TeaPot Design and Management (spout methodology)

      If you have taken any courses in professional development that will assist you in your job search, put them on your resume.

  21. New Screen Name*

    I feel so self-conscious about posting this so high in the thread! It’s legit just a rant…

    I attended a professional industry-specific event last week. Overall, it was great.

    There were speakers/presenters, networking, booths, etc.

    One of the booths out of the many, many good ones, was for some seen-on-tv crap product. Literally, I didn’t know why there were there. My industry has NOTHING to do that. Like, AT ALL.

    So anyway I ask, “What does this have to do with teapots?” and they’re like, “Nothing, it’s a wart remover” (obviously paraphrasing).

    And then the other person in the booth freaking CAT-CALLS ME! AT A PROFESSIONAL EVENT! INSIDE! WHAT THE $*&$!?!?

    So I just give him a dirty look and walk away but it honestly really affected me! You go to those events and spend a bunch of money and expect a certain experience and then someone who is not just an attendee (all of whom were perfectly respectful) but a vendor goes and pulls that?!

    I ended up writing an anonymous email to the people who put on the event because I just felt like… they really shouldn’t have been there anyway. Maybe they felt like they could act however they wanted because it wasn’t their industry so they had no reputation to uphold. I don’t know.

    1. WellRed*

      At our big industry tradeshow they had a couple of “stretch” exhibitors (to fill space quota, I assume), but they’ve pulled back on that, I think due to attendee comments (no catcalling though).

    2. Notthemomma*

      I’ve been to events where everyone is focused on llama halters and then BAM! In the middle is a booth for say, furnace filters. They either didn’t know the type of event they signed up for or thought by being different it would generate sales. The fault, I believe lies with the organizers for allowing a ‘off-topic’ vendor in. I would say you are 1000% correct in sending an email.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, if they’d been professional maybe you let it go (although if I knew someone with the organizing company I might politely ask “hey, why was [company] here, their product didn’t seem very relevant”) but being horrible to attendees is something that should always be reported.

        It’s also possible that they exaggerated their relevance to the event in order to get approved (we’ve had vendors try to do that for our events, but we’re such a niche area that it is easy to check), in which case flagging them to the organizers is a good idea.

      2. Amy Sly*

        At the comic and pop culture conventions I’ve attended, you can always tell the companies who just put up a booth at anything and everything without the least bit of thought. Seriously booth dude, I’m sorry your company is paying you to try to sell gutter protectors or newspaper subscriptions to stormtroopers and Klingons …

    3. Pam*

      I would send an actual email, not an anonymous one, and cc your boss or whoever sent you to the meeting. Even if the vendor wasn’t an issue, the behavior was.

    4. CM*

      If you remember what company was running the booth, I would actually contact them. It’s usually not free for them to exhibit, and they probably invested in this in hopes of connecting with people who hadn’t heard of them before. Tell them it was neat to see them there but unfortunately your first impression of the company was this guy cat-calling you.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      Honestly, every event I’ve attended has those booths – the ones selling jewelry or magic cream or whatever. I didn’t realize there were events that *didn’t* have them.

    6. pcake*

      Why just give him a dirty look? I would have said something coldly but courteously as well as asking his name and the name of his supervisor.

  22. I shall return anon*

    Up front: I’m a manager of a small department with an employer of fewer than 100 people in an at-will state in a non-unionized position. My employer recently sent out a new employee handbook filled with some significant changes like increasing the work week from 35 to 37.5 hours (meaning shorter lunches), reducing sick days, and so on.
    When a couple of us expressed concern about the policy changes, we were told not to worry about it, we’re taking the policy too literally. No one tracks our lunches, so go ahead and take an hour, don’t worry about sick days, just take a vacation day if you’re sick. Other departments make up their own rules, so your department should too.
    The staff in my department have interpreted this as “we should write our own handbook, superseding the organization’s handbook” with policies that are looser than the organization’s, such as creating an additional number of days that people can stay home.
    Two questions: 1) who’s involved in the setting of a departmental policy like this? Just managers? Staff and managers? 2) It’s one thing for a manager to off-the-cuff say, “Go ahead and work at home today” or “take another day off, no need to count it as a vacation day, your aunt just died” and another for a manager to set a policy that explicitly grants more time off. Couldn’t setting a departmental policy like this put me in a tricky situation?

    1. WellRed*

      The answer is, it’s dependent on your company. We have an official handbook, but are definitely managed by the managers on things like, “Let’s cut out early today, it’s Friday)” or whatever.
      I’d be a little more concerned about the change in hours. Will that send anyone below minimum wage or have any other repercussions? Have you asked what the reasoning is behind the new handbook?
      And no, your staff should not write their own handbook. That’s kind of a childish reaction.

      1. I shall return anon*

        Right, the in-the-moment decisions like cutting out early make sense within my authority. I’ve always done that and feel comfortable and making those decisions.

        No one is going to get a direct pay cut from this – we’re all exempt. It’s only a pay cut in the “in theory, my expected work week is now 37.5 hours instead of 35” sense, though the half-hour lunch is something I probably wasn’t going to enforce anyway. We all tailor our days to the tasks that need to be done: sometimes I eat at my desk with an ear open for questions, sometimes I take an actual lunch and leave the building, and my staff do the same.

        I’m feeling like my employer’s HR department has just passed the buck of being an HR manager down to me with the idea of writing a joint departmental handbook.

    2. Aquawoman*

      Yeah, wow, shut that down.

      Also, I’m a lawyer, so “taking the policy too literally” leaves a keyboard print in my forehead.

      1. Middle Manager*

        I work in a policy office. I also face plant at this.

        Don’t make a policy then. Maybe suggested guidance to managers would be more appropriate if they don’t intend people to follow it literally?

        1. I shall return anon*

          I’m also concerned that if anyone within the hierarchy from the head of the organization to the HR director to me were to leave, the next person could come in and say, “What’s this nonsense? We have a staff handbook. Those are the rules to follow.” If there’s something written down and, in theory, approved by HR, then they’d have something to point to. The whole thing is just nutty.

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      My experience at work, is that those “We have a policy on the books, but generally don’t enforce it” is often the grounds they use to get rid of people for cause.

      Oh, Joe is 55 and costing our health insurance too much, so we’ll can him for taking more than 30 minutes for lunch which is theft-of-time. Or Suzie has small kids and used up all her sick days, we’re tired of her lack of availability and dependents on the insurance, let’s write her up and fire her next time she calls out sick.

      1. I shall return anon*

        Exactly, That Girl From Quinn’s House. I don’t think my employer is quite that bad yet, but the whole point of following the handbook is to protect both sides, I would think.

      2. CM*

        Yeah, to me it reads as a way for an executive to build a trap door to use in case of emergency. The policy isn’t really X — the policy is that Jerry can change his mind about what the policy is at any given moment, depending how he feels, and point to evidence that you were warned. This policy sounds like “Continue leaving at your usual time, but Jerry reserves the right to punish you for it if you fall out of favour.”

    4. Orange You Glad*

      As others have said, it depends on your organization.
      Generally company-wide policies are written loosely so individual department heads can set their own more strict guidelines (example: company policy is 15 days PTO; department has more rigid policy that you need to request off a week in advance or can’t take off more than x days in a row without manager approval, etc).
      I think it’s fair for you to give your team some extra perks (like longer lunches or an extra sick day off the books) but I don’t think they are telling you to write a new policy that supersedes company policy. If your staff is high performing, I would just continue as usual.

      1. I shall return anon*

        Right – the idea is that a department might have a more rigid policy, not a generally more lenient one. In some ways, if I set any kind of policy that “My department will get x more sick days a year and just not record them” then I’m pretty much cheating my employer out of time that is supposed to be worked. Now, when it’s a one-off or occasional thing, no biggie. But this feels much more dangerous to me.

    5. Pretty Fly for a WiFi*

      So here’s the problem… Once you start letting the rules slide for one, you’ll have to let them slide for all, or risk being accused of favoritism (not that bad) or discrimination (B-A-D). Therefore, yes, it’s tricky and incredibly risky to deviate from the policies that were implemented by (probably) HR, or an HR-like person. Another problem I see is that if one of your employees doesn’t like the way you’re being rigid with the policies, they can transfer to another less-rigid department, OR talk to your boss and “tell on you” for not being lenient, and then your boss goes and undermines your authority. All-in-all, not good. What I think must have happened (if not now, then at some point in the past) is that whoever wrote the policies told managers that they had *some* leeway in how to interpret or enforce *some* of the policies, so that if Jane’s mom had just died and she needed just one more bereavement day to put the affairs in order, then the manager would be able to grant a vacation day and Jane wouldn’t have to use a sick day (or whatever makes sense in your office). From the “managers can use their judgment on certain matters” talk, things went all loosey-goosey and you now have the mess that you’re describing.

    6. CM*

      It’s generally not fair to create a policy and then tap your nose to let people know it’s not real and they don’t have to follow it. You staff have the right idea in that they don’t seem to feel protected by a soft promise that this isn’t a real REAL policy change, and they want to see something written down.

      In a healthy, functional company, the higher-ups would make a policy that makes sense and that they believe in and expect everyone to follow. If you disagreed with the policy, you could have a discussion with them about it, in which they might be persuaded to change it. They would not say, “LOL ignore it if you want to; it only applies when I feel like it does!” And you wouldn’t make your own department policy that contradicts theirs. You would follow their policy, or try to persuade them to change it, and then maybe come up with some of your own rules just for your department that work within the existing policy.

      If I were you, I would be VERY VERY suspicious of the higher-ups right now. And, if you think this is a bad policy, I’d push back on it instead of trusting that it won’t really apply.

      1. I shall return anon*

        So the staff (and I) did push back for a real change to the policy. But the actual HR manager is saying, “eh, it doesn’t really apply, you guys are so uptight,” which has turned into the staff saying essentially, “well then, we’re free to make our own rules.”

        Obviously, I need to go back to HR and fix this. I just needed to be sure I wasn’t coming at this completely wrong.

  23. Lil*

    Has anyone had issues sleeping come with being unemployed?

    I just finished a program for web development and am now job searching. Since I became unemployed, I have had the hardest time falling asleep. I’ve even tried waking up early (5am) and working out for 30 minutes a day, but yet i still feel restless at night. I’m in a good position financially, so this unemployment is not weighing on me emotionally. I have close to no anxiety about it, so I know it can’t be that.

    The only thing I can think of that has changed, is that I’m no longer commuting or dealing with coworkers in an office all day (2 things that were definitely draining to me). In general, I’m much more sedentary. And I am still working on projects, so I’m still using mental energy, but of course not to the extent that I would be in a job.

    Has anyone else dealt with this? I’m at my wits’ end with only getting 5 hours of sleep a night, yet still not being tired enough to go to sleep at a reasonable time.

    1. Peacemaker*

      I find that a similar thing happens to me on days when I don’t work out in the morning, or when I’m on vacation and not keeping a normal rigorous schedule. I’ve come to believe that, on days like those, I’m just not as physically tired in the evening as I would normally be. Seems like my body thinks I still have some energy and shouldn’t be sleeping! Possibly something similar is happening with you? Maybe a solution is to get out and get some exercise, go for a long walk, or find opportunities to volunteer.

    2. Blueberry*

      I did both times I was unemployed, and it definitely had to do with being sedentary, and also anxiety because of no cashflow. I tried to make myself take a walk every day and to do more physical tasks around the house, but I have to admit it remained a struggle (not least since I was bad about the walks when the weather wasn’t good). I wish you luck and sweet dreams!

    3. HONK*

      It could totally be that you have too much energy to burn right now, and maybe getting out more (like, fake-commuting to a coffee shop, or a library, or a nice picnic) would help tire you out. Time will probably help out too, if you can stick to a routine while you job-hunt. Personally, I’m such a creature of habit that even the slightest change in my life can throw my sleeping patterns out of whack and cause issues sleeping until I adapt. A sudden lack of structure in my life would definitely do that!

      In the meantime, I do recommend lavender herbal tea. Your mileage may vary but it really helps me.

    4. Nicki Name*

      Get some daily physical exercise. It doesn’t have to be Real Exercise with a machine or anything, just walk to the local park and back if you want. 3-6 hours before bedtime is supposedly the ideal time to help you with your sleep cycle.

      And, as others have said, keeping to a routine is likely to help a lot.

    5. JustMyImagination*

      Are you tired in the morning? It’s possible with less activity your body just doesn’t need as much recovery time at night.

    6. RestlessSeeker*

      This is my story as well! I’m fortunate enough to not worry about paying for necessities while searching but I am feeling a general sort of anxiety at not being employed. After doing a lot of reading and ted talk watching, I think it’s due to how much of my self identity I get from my job. Also, if you’re in the States we are more job centric than some countries so maybe there is an underlying sense of missing that anchor thats weighing on your subconscious? My only advice is try creating a routine, and actually scheduling everything in a calendar so that it feels like a ‘productive’ day at the end of it. Sweet Dreams!!

    7. anony*

      Have you considered that you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to maintain a “regular” schedule and that might be leading to difficulty sleeping?

    8. SciProf*

      Not unemployment specific, but I definitely notice a difference in how much sleep I need depending on what I’m doing. If I’m doing lots of mentally intensive work, I need 30-60 more minutes of sleep a night than my normal. If I’m on vacation and not doing much mentally, I need less than my normal. I’d totally believe that kind of change could be just that you’re not doing as much draining tasks.

    9. lemon*

      I’ve noticed that any time I’m away from work (vacation, between jobs, or when I was a full-time student), my sleep schedule is impacted. It’s similar to what you describe– I get restless at night, and don’t fall asleep until 4 or 5 in the morning, and don’t really feel tired around normal bedtime (10-11pm-ish). I always thought that it was because I wasn’t being disciplined enough about my schedule, or just bad sleep habits.

      But apparently delayed sleep phase syndrome is a thing (that I just learned about). Basically, your circadian rhythms are off, so you don’t feel tired at socially-acceptable times. That could mean getting sleepy late at night, or earlier in the day. People tend to notice it when they don’t have to stick to a regular 9-5 schedule. Might be what’s going on?

      1. HamburgerHelper*

        You could also try light therapy. It definitely helps me feel more energized in the am and fall asleep in the evening.

  24. KitCat*

    How do I become perceived as more professional at work? I’m a recent college grad looking to move up soon into a higher paying and more public-facing position at a university. I feel I am perceived as young and a bit emotional

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I think we need more information here. What’s the context? Why do you think you’re perceived as young and a bit emotional?

      1. KitCat*

        I think some of the other commenters got to my concerns about maturity more than youth. I worry that if I like chilling in cubicle with my shoes off and feet curled up, that I don’t have a lot of money for a great wardrobe — it looks like I can’t take on more than my admin assistant role in the office.

        On the emotional side, I did struggle early on with feedback and definitely cried on a few occasions. I feel that I have done a lot to have a better hold on my emotions, but worry that my past behavior may lead the selection committee (who are my current coworkers) to doubt my ability to stay level headed in the next job with a lot of face to face with external partners.

        And part of the reason I had so much trouble with my initial transition into my current role is related to being autistic. I still struggle with emotional regulation and boundaries with coworkers, so anything I can learn about the dos/do nots of how to look professional help -a lot- because it’s not something that comes to me naturally.

        1. Sheffy4*

          In response to your comment about sitting with your feet curled up with shoes off, yeah I think that could be perceived as a lack of professionalism. I had a colleague who would wrap herself in a blanket at her desk, and decorated her desk with all these cozy things that you would have in your living room, and I found it to be a little unprofessional. You don’t really look engaged or ready to take on a project if it looks like you’re “too comfortable” if that makes sense.

          Wardrobe – as long as what you wear is clean and pressed, in good condition (no damage, holes, stains), and matches the general “uniform” of what others at your level are wearing, then it should not matter what brand or how much it was. I really recommend ironing or steaming all the wrinkles out of your professional clothes before each wear. So many people skip ironing and think the hot dryer does good enough at getting most of the wrinkles out, but in my experience I feel like my clothes look 100% better when I take the time to iron them. Also, check the care instructions on your clothes, because sometimes air dry is a lot better and will make your clothes last longer.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Re: blanket
            If your office temps drop to ridiculously cold (hello 64° in a corporate building in AUGUST), a blanket is a better solution than breaking the rule against space heaters.

            1. KitCat*

              Our office actually allows space heaters on the downlow haha. So that’s not a bit concern. But I do have to wrestle with the too comfy look — in my current job I do a lot of work with data so I like to be nice and cozy to try to enjoy, but I get that I’m also in a cubicle and am visible.

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            I really recommend ironing or steaming all the wrinkles out of your professional clothes before each wear.

            This. Visible wrinkles kill an entire look – they make the wearer look sloppy and careless. You don’t want people to have that perception of you in the workplace, especially as a fresh grad with little professional experience to fall back on.

        2. Aspie AF*

          From one autistic person to another, “professionalism” can be super vague, and it’s often super arbitrary. I find that the places I’ve worked that had the hardest time with me being “professional” were also the worse in terms of accommodation – stuck on the status quo, really bad at providing feedback, letting others get away with things I was chastized for, etc. I took a job that I was well-qualified for a couple of years ago, but they were inflexible to the point that they didn’t even understand that my request to wear headphones wasn’t something they could deny out of hand. I cried during many one-on-one meetings with my supervisor, and while you and I both know that’s not going to make us look good, the circumstances that lead to that were not my fault and not in my control. I’m much happier having left that company for one that offered me more flexibility.

          Sometimes there are things we can change – keep your shoes on and don’t put your feet up, for instance, but sometimes it’s the environment. I would suggest a couple of things, based on what you’ve told us…

          1. Look for ways to manage your anxiety and sensory needs. I find that the higher my baseline anxiety level is, the harder emotional regulation is. If you don’t already have a sensory diet, do some research on it to see what would help you.
          2. Look for accommodations. The Job Accommodation Network website is a great source for possible accommodations, even if you’re not American – I would suggest looking there for autism and any comorbidities (e.g. anxiety, ADHD, OCD, PTSD). Sometimes suggested things are available for everyone – like being able to work from home – but sometimes they’re not reasonable for your role (flexible start times might not be an option if you have public hours).

          I am in a Facebook group called Autistic Women and would recommend it for specific questions – it can be really hard for neurotypical people to understand our circumstances.

    2. ThatGirl*

      You are young; what you want to project is maturity. You can’t change your age.

      What do you mean by “a bit emotional”? If you feel you get flustered or angry easily, that’s something to work on – but you simply having emotions isn’t a problem. A lot of these skills come with time, but I would focus on knowing the right questions to ask, taking feedback graciously and improving communication skills.

    3. Leigh*

      I had this issue my first 1-1.5 years at work. One of the biggest pieces of advice I got, was to dress like I’m 30, not 22. I’m petite and look young so high heels are a non-negotiable. Between that, slowly building an adult work wardrobe and rent the runway unlimited – it worked. I even had someone comment in my performance review about how professional, polished, and client-ready I dress. I don’t know the specifics of your job or university roles, but if you want to be public facing, wardrobe and general presentation make a huge different.

      I still struggle at controlling my emotions sometimes, but it’s gotten better with age. Things that would have driven me to tears at 22 don’t phase me now that I’m closer to 30 than 20.

    4. HONK*

      Being perceived as young is totally ok, unless people are discriminating against you based on age alone. Like ThatGirl said, you can’t change that: I’m actually a couple years into my career and I’m still, by far, the youngest person in my department and one of the youngest in the whole org, and people know it. You can tell by my face!

      I do good work and am well-liked by my colleagues however, so it’s usually not negative. It can even be helpful – people take the time to explain me stuff about the history of the institution and office politics that I couldn’t possibly know yet.

      The emotional bit is what you can work on. Projecting professionalism is indeed a lot about keeping your display of emotion within a certain range (and wardrobe, but that you’ll pick up through observation). Yeah, it’s a little arbitrary, and it can be tiring, but it’s necessary because people are at work to work, and having to perform a lot of emotional labor around their coworkers distracts from that. There are many posts on this side on the subject, but basically it’s all about staying reasonably pleasant with your coworkers even when you’re annoyed or angry at them, not openly moping when you’re sad, and taking criticism gracefully.

      For me professionalism is all about focusing on the work itself . The work needs to be good; if what I do is subpar, I need to be told so that I can make it better.

    5. LKW*

      Things that will potentially make you seem less experienced and less professional:

      1. Look at the “uniform” of those around you – are you dressed a lot more fashion forward or trendy? I’m not saying you need to go to Brooks Brothers or Chicos but if most of your coworkers wear button downs and chinos – showing up in a metallic pleather mini skirt and a crop top will stand out.
      2. Do you uptalk? Or talk with vocal fry? If so – practice stopping that – at least in the office.
      3. Do you show a lot of emotion at work and is it appropriate for the circumstance? Do you roll your eyes when you hear something you don’t like? Or frown visibly when getting a critique (or cry or act defensively)?
      4. Have you ever used the term “It’s not fair” at work? Exception is when you’re bitching about something that everyone believes is not fair.
      5. Do you use a lot of vocal pauses like “You know” or “Right” or “Like” or even a very frequent “um”? This is not limited to young people – but it can be really distracting and make you look like you don’t know how to gather your thoughts or speak confidently about a topic.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Others to add in the list of possible unprofessional behaviors — how’s your posture? There’s a wonderful book called “How to Say It For Women” with a whole chapter on body language commonly used by women that makes them look weak and subordinate vs. less common “power body language.” These were things like sitting up straight and looking your conversation partner levelly in the eye (which says “I’m your peer”) instead of slouching and looking up (which says “I’m your inferior”). You belong at your job! Don’t let your body language say “I’m so not worthy to be here that I’m going to shrink myself down so you don’t even notice me.”
        How’s the fit of your clothes? Not only should your clothing be of a style and quality comparable to those around you, but it also needs to fit correctly. This is a royal pain in the butt and may require lots of “it’s just a number on a label” self-talk at times. Go to a real bra shop (hint: if the store doesn’t have bigger than DD, odds are good the salespeople won’t really know what they’re doing) and get properly fitted. (Prepare for a $60+ price tag) Waists shouldn’t cause you belly to muffin top over the sides. Shoulder seams should be at your shoulders. Buttons should never gape. Shoes should never hurt, whether from blisters or high heels.

      2. Respectful Counterpoint*

        I’d like to respectfully comment that, KitCat, if this list of suggestions rings true to you and you find it helpful, that’s great. But, I would also like to point out that, aside from adjustments re: youthful clothing or emotion regulation, older people do all those other things all the time. Bill Clinton talks almost exclusively in vocal fry, for instance. It’s totally fine to speak up if something isn’t fair — e.g., “I don’t think it would be fair to Jane to ask her to work that day,” etc. You don’t have to police your speech for filler works like ums, uhs, likes, etc. — if you have someone you trust at work who’s a little older than you, you could ask about speech habits if that’s a concern for you, but don’t feel like you have to censor your speech uncomfortably.

    6. Stornry*

      People will always have their preconceptions, the only thing you can do is challenge them. First, take the dress code and bump it up just a notch — not so much that you don’t fit in, but just enough that it says “work/professional” and not “student”. Next, keep the interactions business-like — it’s good to make friends and be friendly but keep those professional boundaries like Allison talks about. Third, be realistic about what you can do, what you do know, and what you still need to learn — too many “kids” think they know more than they actually do while “grown-ups” know they need to keep learning.

      The way to be seen as mature is to demonstrate it. If you find yourself getting emotional over something (it does happen to all of us) ask to be excused for a moment and endeavor to pull it back together. You can do it – have faith in yourself. Good Luck!

    7. Library Land*

      Being a recent grad working at a university you will often be confused for a student. Don’t worry too much about that – it will go away as you age. I would lightheartedly say, nope, I’m not a student any more! and give a little laugh. Sometimes I would just let it go completely because it didn’t make a difference if they knew I was staff, not a student.

      In public facing jobs in academia you will always have persons who think less of you because you are younger (or because you’re not a tenured professor or because your socks are blue), will give you a hard time, or think you don’t know anything. Try to let it roll off your back. Donors and professors bring a lot of money to a university and will almost always trump you (unless they’re harassing you – report that asap) no matter how wrong or off base they actually are. After it happens a couple of times it will become pretty funny.

      And ultimately remember that academia is just weird. There’s great advice on this blog that simply won’t work in academia. The larger the university the more so this applies. Good luck!

    8. Chaordic One*

      I hope you don’t interpret the remarks from LKW as being too personal, but she’s on target with her advice about behavior. The recommendations about wardrobe are generally on target, too. I work in a “business casual” environment which is kind of a slippery slope wardrobe-wise.

      If you wear jeans make sure they fit comfortably, but that they’re not too baggy either, and that they are not faded or worn-out. The ripped-jean look isn’t usually considered very professional so I would avoid it.

      Pay attention to footwear. I don’t think you need to necessarily wear “high heels.” Petite women wearing shoes with heels so high that they are difficult to walk in do not project a professional image and come off as being overly self-consci0us about their height. A dressy leather shoe or boot looks more professional than sneakers or sandals and there are plenty of nice low- and medium-heeled shoes to consider.

      Finally, I really do think that a nice blazer over top of anything adds a bit of professionalism and authority to one’s appearance.

  25. Diahann Carroll*

    Awkward moments at work this week:

    * Coworker and my only other direct colleague (it’s just me, her, and our boss on this little team inside of a longer team) told me yesterday that she’s saving her vacation time because she only gets 10 days accrued a year and she used up all of the prorated time off she received last year on personal matters (we both started a month apart in the middle of the year). I have 15 days a year, our unused time rolls over, so I’m sitting on a week of vacation. She’s been in this job field for 13 years – I can’t believe she didn’t negotiate for more time off. Well, okay, maybe I can a bit – I didn’t negotiate time off at my last company either and ended up with only 10 days and no rollover. I just totally blanked on that part as I was too busy negotiating my salary up out of the basement.

    * Great Boss confirmed sometime next year he’ll be leaving us to go work in another department. I’m bummed not only because he and I work wonderfully together, but also because my coworker mentioned above may be slotted into his role – I will not work for that woman. She’s hella negative all the time about everything, and I can’t deal with that, not even remotely (I work from home full-time). So now I have to tell boss that in the event he’s already doing succession planning with her in mind.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I hear you on the PTO, I had 18 at my last company so I negotiated 15 at this job (we also have separate sick time so it works out) and when I hear my coworkers complain about their 10 days I both feel a little guilty and wonder why nobody negotiated that.

      1. Sheffy4*

        I had no idea that negotiating for time off was a thing you could do. The places I’ve worked gave everyone the same based on the policy, and your allocated days would increase the more years you worked.

        1. Andytron*

          It depends. When I interviewed at Big Corp they were firm that they couldn’t adjust the vacation time offered. When I accepted a job at Startup Co I was able to get an extra week. In my case I had gotten so used to the amount of vacation I accumulated at Old Job that I was far more interested in negotiating PTO than salary.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I didn’t before I started reading AAM, but I actually barely did any negotiating. The HR rep asked how much I’d had before and said vacation time was one of the easiest things to increase.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        I felt soooo guilty. I just sat there and nodded without offering any input because I couldn’t lie and say I agreed with her about the time off policy (she was saying how it was crap and that the company should switch to a combined PTO bucket because we have 10 separate sick days that she’ll never use – with a combines bucket, she’d have 20 days each year to do whatever she wanted with them) – I was able to take almost two weeks off around the Christmas and New Years holidays and I still have a week left as of this month. I don’t have an issue with anything benefit-wise at this company. (We also get two paid personal days in addition to our vacation and sick days.)

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      A lot of us don’t negotiate time off, because we’ve only worked at places where time off isn’t negotiable. They tell us the policy for sick, vacation, when you get more, whether it rolls over, and it’s part of a take it or leave it. So why would she know to negotiate?

      And that’s why it’s so unfair – people lose out because they don’t know what they don’t know, and compensation can be based on that. That, and when the ONLY time you use negotiation skills is when getting a new job, and you lose out because you’re not good at that non-practiced skill.

      So yeah, I can believe it easily, and it’s on your boss to make things more fair, not on the person coming in from the outside, who doesn’t know that the compensation plan actually isn’t written in stone.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        To your last point – I have to admit I was surprised grandboss hadn’t automatically given her 15 days since he so easily got HR to approve my vacation time increase (I started a month before her). She also said she took a massive pay cut to take this position, so I don’t know what the heck was happening here since I got a massive increase accepting my position (I was also hideously underpaid in prior roles for what I was doing).

    3. NACSACJACK*

      Last time I changed jobs, I went from 5 days vacation to 15 days PTO + 3 floating holidays + 10 days sick leave and $5K raise. I didnt want to negotiate. I was already getting more vacation and pay than I had ever seen before.

    4. CM*

      It’s an awkward situation bc your company’s ripping off your coworker, not bc your coworker did something wrong.

  26. De Minimis*

    Have a great opportunity next week that I’ve been working toward for years…an interview for a position at my previous federal organization in a city where I’ve always wanted to live. I’ve applied numerous times but this is the first time they’ve contacted me for an interview. I feel my chances are good, except for one thing.

    They want a presentation at the beginning about who I am, why I’m interested in the job and how my previous experiences have prepared me for it, what I look forward to about the position, what I see as the challenges of it, and how it fits with my professional goals. They don’t specify a format, only saying that I should use “whatever format you’re comfortable with.” This will be in addition to the regular interview questions which will follow the presentation, which is supposed to last 10-12 minutes. They specified that they don’t intend for this to be any kind of technical presentation.

    I was unsure how to proceed about this, my wife says I should create a PowerPoint and I will probably defer to her because I think she may be right [also she is very good at creating presentations so she will be able to help.] I was going to originally just use it as an extended version of “tell me about yourself” and just talk about that for 10-12 minutes but I think my instinct is wrong about what they want. They said if I could not join by Skype that I should e-mail them the presentation, which leads me to think they are expecting something and it would be weird to just have me talking for 10-12 minutes with no visuals.

    Making things more complicated, since the interview is over Skype I will have to figure out how to do a presentation on that platform. But there’s plenty of time to figure it out since the interview is later next week. I have what I feel is a good story to tell in the presentation, but I’m not sure how to translate it to a PowerPoint format.

    Anyone else ever have to deal with this? I did see some questions in the archives where it was mentioned. This is a job where I could probably stay very happily until retirement, and I’d be so excited about the interview if not for this weird presentation thing.

    1. WellRed*

      I agree with your wife about doing PP, if only because I feel like people use that for everything but esp in gvt or similar. Since they’ve given you a few specifics to address in the presentation that also tie into (what they could have just asked about) a typical job interview, I’d focus on those. For exampled, on how your previous experience would help in new role: If the new role includes increasing employee participation in the hoedown, and you increased the number of volunteers participating the annual pie throwing contest, maybe a data graph showing the percentage increase (complete with “fun” photo from the pie throwing contest).

    2. ten-four*

      Okay, so good news: there’s a screen share option on Skype, so all you have to do is share your screen and walk through your slides. Send’em over ahead of time too. That part is easy!

      I think your instinct is right to use this a structured “tell me about yourself” answer – it’s basically your pitch, and they gave you the exact points they want you to cover: who you are, why you’re interested, how your experiences have prepared you for it, etc.

      Think about this as your chance to demonstrate competence and preparedness. Write your outline first, and frame your answers by centering the information they need from this, rather than getting stuck on describing yourself perfectly.

      Think of this piece of it as your practicum – you know how some jobs have you do an exercise to show how you’d do the work? This is that. Keep it tight and crisp, and practice a few times.

      And seriously, don’t be like the person I interviewed a week or two ago who told me they wanted the Director position I was interviewing for because they are planning on starting their own company in 3-5 years and want to learn all aspects of the business :P

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Skype allows you to upload a file/presentation and display it as a presentation.

        It is so much better than sharing your screen because it only shows the slides. So many people share their screens or a PP window but they have the powerpoint in normal/edit mode and not presentation mode which is what you want for a presentation.

        You can get to it from the same place where you would share select the share your screen option. Look for one to share a powerpoint file instead.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      You can still use it as an extended answer to “tell me about yourself,” while having a presentation with visuals. You’ve got the list of questions they want answered in this presentation, so make a slide for each question with two or three bullet points listed. If you’ve got pictures of some of the experiences you plan to mention, add them. If not, look for relevant stock photos to make the presentation more visually appealing.

      But don’t fall into the trap of “The PowerPoint is my script, and I will now read it aloud to the audience.” Your bullet points are the basics, but your spoken presentation will expand on that in some small way.

      Good luck!

      1. De Minimis*

        Thanks everyone!
        We worked on a presentation this weekend and I’ve put together notes that will help me expand upon [rather than read] the points on the slides. I haven’t had to use PowerPoint in a long time, but that method used to work pretty well for me.

        I’m not sure of all the capabilities of whatever version of Skype I have on my home PC, but will be testing it out tonight.

  27. Quill*

    I know I promised it last week (and immediately got a project dropped on me after) but Fish Fry Kidnapping story will go here before the end of the day!

    1. Three owls in a trench coat*

      The title alone has grabbed my attention. Who was kidnapped? A person? A fish? Both??? We need answers!

    2. Quill*

      INTRODUCTION

      The thing you have to understand about charter schools is that while public education is wild, a publically funded charter or magnet school is wilder. Some of them are probably functional, but the ones that aren’t? They’re like black holes of zero boundaries, administrators whose ignorance and malice have bled together into a slurry of despair, despondency, and weird loopholes.

      My friend’s charter school was one of those: a hellmouth of incompetence, insidious backstabbing, and squirrels in the ventilation ducts.

      DRAMATIS PERSONAE:

      Agatha: Principal of the hellmouth, professional destroyer of boundaries, has made a crossroads deal to treat this 200 student school as her personal kingdom for at least twenty years.

      Jenny: Intrepid custodian, defeater of duct squirrels, my friend, the protagonist of this tale.

      Matilda: Jenny’s adult daughter, who used to attend this school and has stared too long into its abyss.

      Duct squirrels: squirrels trapped within the building’s many ancient ducts, begging for the sweet release of death.

      PRESENTING: THE FISH FRY KIDNAPPING, A NONFICTION TALE, WITH APOLOGIES TO ROALD DAHL AND THE DUCT SQUIRRELS

      Jenny, the head custodian of Hellmouth School, finished a long day in April in [year redacted], the end of a very long week involving the boiler, duct squirrels, 1 hour all hands staff meetings called by Agatha, and the usual amount of child puke, only to discover that her car would not start.

      By this time there were no other cars in the parking lot to jump her, so she called a tow truck, then her daughter Matilda, to notify her that she’d need a ride home from the nearest mechanic, and settled in to wait.

      The tow truck arrived, with the tow truck driver, and all was going well until approximately five seconds before Jenny was about to climb into the passenger seat for a ride to the mechanic, when Agatha came clacking out from the school building, disguised as a concerned boss.

      “Jenny, just what do you think you’re doing!!??”

      Jenny tells me she entertained a brief fantasy of jumping directly into the cab and telling the tow truck driver to gun it, but she didn’t.

      “My car won’t start, Agatha, we’ll have it out of the lot in no time.”

      Agatha proceeded to pitch a fit. “Don’t you know it’s dangerous to get in cars with strange men? Here, I’ll drive you.”

      “I’m sure it will be fine.”

      “I absolutely insist, Jenny! I am your boss! I will not allow you to get in this vehicle!”

      The only thing worse than a ride from Agatha would have been arguing in the parking lot with Agatha forever, so Jenny, sending the tow truck driver some serious ‘save me’ eyebrows, agreed.

      She wedged herself into Agatha’s trunchbull-mobile and they headed off, only to stop at a local grocery store.

      “I won’t be more than ten minutes,” said Agatha, “I just need to pick up a few things and it’s on the way.”

      Jenny waited thirty minutes for Agatha to finish picking out a cantaloupe and debated walking out into the damp and windy night. Then fifteen more because Agatha just *had* to talk to the owner. Then ten more as Agatha dug out expired coupons and tried three different cards.

      “I’ll just call Matilda, I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you,” Jenny lied through her teeth.

      “Oh nonsense! I said I’d take you to the mechanic, I’m taking you to the mechanic. You make it so hard for your friends to help you, Jenny.”

      Agatha, Jenny, and an overripe cantaloupe got back into the car.

      “Well,” said Agatha as the child locks engaged, “You know what sounds good? A fish fry. Just like old times! Now wouldn’t that be fun?”

      Now, Jenny had worked for Agatha for at least ten years at this point, long past the point where she remembered her former friendship with Agatha with any fondness, and while she’d long since accepted that Agatha’s brain was fifty percent self important arrogance, and fifty percent duct squirrels, somehow the next turn managed to surprise her.

      “The mechanic is west of here, Agatha, I think you missed our turn -”

      “Don’t be silly, we’re going to the fish fry! If we don’t make it there by five it won’t be fresh anymore. It will be my treat.”

      Jenny technically could have hopped out into traffic. She says she considered it, but ultimately they were doing forty five in a thirty five zone and she, unfortunately, had to go in to work on monday, where her ability to pay the bills depended on Agatha not firing her, and getting hit by a rusty coupe on the way to a fish fry sounded slightly less awful than being technically kidnapped in Agatha’s quest to pretend that they were still friends.

      Agatha dragged Jenny along to cut in line at the fish fry and Jenny got to listen to her chatter on about how childish and ungrateful certain school employees were, how Jenny ought to do something about her hair, and how Agatha’s friend was going on a cruise in June and Agatha was hoping to be invited along with her.

      All the while, Maltilda was texting her with approximately the following conversation.

      “Oh, wasn’t that so good? I couldn’t eat another bite! You see, I told you this would be fun!”

      “Can we please,” said Jenny as the old church ladies Agatha had shoved to get through to second helpings glared at them, “Please, please, go get my car?”

      “Well of course! You’re so impatient, Jenny.”

      At the cash-only register, Agatha performed a second whole-purse excavation, only to find that she had spent the last of her cash on the cantaloupe waiting patiently in her backseat.

      “What do you mean you don’t take card? It’s the twenty first century!” Agatha huffed at the unimpressed old man behind the register. “You know I run a school and -”

      “It’s okay, Agatha,” said Jenny, visibly fuming but unwilling to listen to whatever squirrel crap was going to come out of Agatha’s mouth about the school, her students or anything unrelated to getting the duck out of this fish fry and figuring out what was wrong with her car, “You can pay me back later, the line’s getting backed up behind us.”

      They emerged into the sudden dusk.

      “I’ll just drop you at home,” said Agatha, rooting through her deconstructed purse for her keys, “That mechanic’s on the north side and that’s not safe after dark -”

      At this point, Matilda drove up to save the day.

      “Hi, Mrs. Trunchbull!” she chirped as Jenny nearly teleported into the passenger seat, “I’ve gotta get my mom home right away, minor emergency, thanks so much!”

      She peeled out with the seatbelt alarm still dinging.

      1. Teacher Lady*

        I would be zero percent surprised if this was the charter school up the street from my old house.

      2. Mockingbird*

        Wow. Just … wow. Thanks for sharing! (she says, counting her blessings that she’s never had a boss like that.)

      3. Leslie Knope*

        I came back today so I could read the story! How frustrating!

        Not to the same level, but a similar situation happened to me and a friend once. My friend’s coworker was invited along on an outing, which was perfectly fine. We met at one person’s house who was on the way to the event and planned to carpool from there. The resident of that house offered to drive from there, but the coworker insisted she drive all 4 of us in her car.

        The event ran long and by the time we were leaving she announced she needed to go pick up her son from paintball. So she drives us 20 minutes out of the way to go get her 15-year-old son, only to offer his friend a ride home as well. There were already 3 passengers in the car plus her, so these two teenage boys had to squeeze into the backseat of a smallish sedan with 2 women (me and my friend) they didn’t know. They were sweaty and stinky from being outside playing paintball in 90 degree heat…they smelled pretty ripe.

        It was another 10 minutes to the extra kid’s house, another 20 minutes back to her house where she wanted to drop off her son before taking us back to our cars. By the time we got back to our cars we had been in her car for almost an extra HOUR.

        It was the most uncomfortable situation and the three of us felt like we had been kidnapped. We were furious to be put in that situation – the sweaty close quarters, the illegal aspect of having too many people in the car, the extra time added to the trip – plus the coworker’s constant chatter like everything happening was just SO FUN! I wanted to scream!

      4. Michelle*

        Oh. My. Goodness. I would have pretended to have a medical episode and asked for an ambulance. That sounds just awful.

  28. 1234*

    A few weeks ago, I posted about PROJECT and not knowing that my supervisor was laid off without my/our team’s knowledge.

    PROJECT concluded earlier this week and went well overall. However:

    – I didn’t know that the report for PROJECT was assigned to me until the very last minute when I got an email from the task management portal.
    – While a group of us were assigned this PROJECT, nobody was assigned specific roles and we all luckily wanted different roles.
    – We were not given adequate breaks during a 6-hour day because we had just enough people and needed constant coverage. Usually, Jane (old manager) would come and relieve each individual when they took breaks but no manager was on site, only the client.

    1. Mid*

      I’m glad that things worked out semi-well, though I’m still concerned about the communication at your company–or the lack of it. Do you have someone you can talk to about this? Who is managing you now?

      1. 1234*

        We have NO idea. We were given some information about PROJECT from Anna but she wasn’t formally introduced as our manager, and she didn’t have an email signature to determine who she is in the company. For some reason, both times that she emailed us, Liza’s signature was at the bottom even though the email clearly came from Anna’s email address?

        It would not be grandboss Liza because this would be a step below her pay grade.

        What I left out in the update was that other team members that I worked with also hadn’t received much communication from anyone at our company. I sensed that they didn’t know Mary no longer worked at the company.

  29. HailRobonia*

    I’ve got a phone interview today! I am super excited, and I just want to thank Alison and the Ask a Manager community for all the helpful advice I’ve gleaned!

    1. HailRobonia*

      Update: Just finished the phone interview, it went great and they are going to have me come in for an in-person interview next week!

  30. Rayray*

    I submitted some applications/resumes online last week. I haven’t heard back from any of the 4-5 I sent out. Should I call to follow up? I heard that advice all the time, but also hear that some hiring managers don’t like it. If I should follow up, what’s a good time frame for that?

    1. Hello It's Me*

      That’s a very very very very low number of applications. You should expect to hear back from 1-10%. Apply to more jobs. They will call you if they’re interested.

      1. rayray*

        Oh, I know that. I’m just getting started. I have a full time job already, and I’m still polishing my resume. Just getting started on the job hunt. I intend to apply for more, but there’s also a low number of jobs I am qualified for and interested in. I’m being a little picky too.

    2. TheSockMonkey*

      No. A week is too soon and also, it’s bad advice generally. Search the archives. I think Alison wrote about that one.

    3. ElizabethJane*

      No. Assuming you sent it through the correct way (applying on the company’s website, for example) they got it. There’s nothing to follow up on. They either are early in the process or they decided not to go with you, but following up won’t change anything.

      And if you didn’t apply through their standard process just do that.

      The only time I follow up is if I’m further along in the process and I’m several days outside of the mentioned timeline. As in, I’ve been in for an in person interview and we’re 14 days out when the hiring manager suggested I’d hear something in 3-4 days. Otherwise I just wait.

    4. Bruce*

      No, don’t follow up. They have your information, they will contact you if they are interested. A week is a very short amount of time- very well may not hear anything for several weeks, or perhaps never, as many businesses don’t respond at all unless they want to move you forward. Just keep moving forward with your job search at other places and hope for the best.

    5. londonedit*

      I know other people have said the same thing, but don’t follow up. You’ve already expressed your interest in the job by applying, and it’s very common for companies not to follow up with people unless they’re inviting them for an interview (which sucks, but it seems to be the way of the world now – most job adverts in my industry actually have a line at the end saying ‘Due to the large number of applications we receive, we regret that we are only able to contact successful applicants’). I always work on the assumption that I won’t hear back from job applications, and keep applying to anything that piques my interest.

      1. rayray*

        thanks everybody! I just hear both ways so often, but in all honesty, I do think I hear the “Call and follow up” advice from an older generation, and things have changed. I just thought I’d ask since this site always has more realistic advice.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      Honestly, you should never follow up unless you’ve already been communicating with them (meaning, they said they’d call you next week to set up a 2nd round interview – I’d think it’s ok to follow up after a couple of weeks if you haven’t heard anything).

    7. Person from the Resume*

      Don’t follow up on an application that got no response. Do not call and annoy people. The online application process is there so HM don’t have to stop in the middle of their workday to take phone calls and walk-ins. You have demonstrated your interest by applying. If they are interested you, they will contact you.

      If you were to follow up to an application that got no response a week would be WAY too early. But don’t do it. I just mean that it’s probably sitting a queue that no one has looked at yet and even if it was looked at they haven’t made decisions about who to interview. Your timeline expectation is way too short. The best advice is to submit and forget about it unless they contact you.

    8. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Every company and manager handles things their own way, but in general I think it’s probably best to assume you’re not going to be contacted until after the closing date for applications. So if the job notice says applications close on 1/31, assume that the hiring manager and/or HR will be sorting through those applications AFTER 1/31 and not before. Not having heard back the week after you applied is super normal. Just keep on applying to stuff and you’ll start getting calls eventually.

  31. Hello It's Me*

    I took a couple of courses on the Python language, and I feel like I understand it pretty well. I haven’t built anything yet though. I already have an advanced math background so I know all about logic and algorithms, so I feel like have a leg up. The advice I was given previously was that you have to learn front-end web development to get a Python job because you have to have a functioning website to show you know how to use the back-end.

    I don’t know if this is true though…

    What specific kinds of projects do I need to do to get a job in Python?

    1. blackcat*

      Python can be used for all sorts of stuff. What do you want to do? If you don’t want to do web development, I don’t see a reason to build your own website. You can post code to GitHub to show that you do, in fact, know how to code in Python. I have a GitHub with my teaching widgets that I wrote in python that go along with problem sets I’ve written (generally they’re minimally functioning code that students have to edit/expand). But that’s obviously because I’m a teacher.

    2. OperaArt*

      I’ve been programming in Python for years, and have never once used it for website development. The language is used in many different ways. We use it as a front end and support structure for scientific modeling codes. We also use it for pre- and post-processing.
      What kind of job do you want to have? That may give you ideas on how to prove your skills. Can you do some collaborative work on an open source project on GitHub?

      1. Hello It's Me*

        I just really enjoy creating and building systems. I enjoyed the math classes I took that are related to a lot of computer programming. I don’t care about the end goal as much as the work, which I think is why I’m struggling to figure out what projects I will need to make. I don’t know what jobs to get in Python and when I ask people for advice I feel like… people just get annoyed at me for being so ignorant. I don’t know what job I want to have. I don’t know what I need to know to get that job! I just think I would enjoy working in it.

        Is there anywhere I can go that just lists “OK to get a job in python, make these things”?

        1. blackcat*

          The thing is, there’s no such real thing as “get a job in python.” That’s not the way CS jobs work.
          There’s “Get a job in data processing in X field”
          There’s “Get a job making user interfaces for Y”
          There’s “Get a job maintaining a database where the data comes in through a python interface.”

          My husband has a job where, broadly, he does data analysis. Sometimes he uses python, but often he uses Java (WHY?!), C++, and occasionally FORTRAN (DOUBLE WHY!?). The theme of his job isn’t the particular language, it’s the type of work. He learns additional languages as needed.

          I use Python, MatLab, and Mathematica to teach students about physical and biological systems. I use those because they are provided by my institution or free and I know enough about them to make programs that run. Which one I use has to do with my particular student populations (when I’m teaching engineers, I skew to MatLab, because they are almost all taking a course where they use MatLab concurrently. Otherwise, I use Mathematica UNLESS there’s actually a lot of computation, then I switch to Python or a blend (Mathematica can script for Python)). So I have a job where I use Python, but it’s a small part of what I do. I think that can happen in other fields too.

          I think that might be the frustration that you’re sensing from people. There’s just no such thing as “A job in Python.”

          1. Hello It's Me*

            OK so… what kind of jobs would I be developing systems that don’t involve front-end web development?

            And I KNOW I am ignorant which is why I am asking for help.

            Who can I even ask to find out what kind of job is what I’m looking for?

            1. OperaArt*

              To learn what types of jobs are available, try going to some job boards and enter “python” in the search field. You‘ll see jobs in education, finance, science, engineering, auditing, front ends, back ends, and so on. They’re with start ups, the federal government, science labs, giant corporations, small non-profits, local government, universities, two-person shops.
              See if any of those look interesting. We might be able to answer your question better then. Your question is too broad right now for us to give good answers. Python is simply a tool, just as math is.

        2. silverpie*

          This is not necessarily about getting a job, but Project Euler (google/bing/duck it) has some good Math problems to write Simple programs for.

    3. Mrs_helm*

      As a programmer (in several languages other than Python) I feel safe to say:
      If you haven’t actually built anything with it, you don’t know it that well. Most languages have little ins/outs, quirks, or standardized ways of doing things. You learn those by building something that doesn’t work, googling the error, and finding the real way of doing it.

      1. Hello It's Me*

        Precisely that is what I’m saying!!!!!!! I am asking for help on projects to get started!

        1. GreyNerdShark*

          Do you have a hobby? For example if you collect widgets then consider a widget data base. Use SQLite and write code to create the database, populate it, query it, remove things from it, update things.
          Design the code so it is modular and re-uses routines you put in a library.

          Then consider how a user will use it. How do you sanitise your input. What will you do if there is an error
          in the input? Are different errors managed differently and what are your reasons for that? What searching will they want to do and how do you manage that? What if they want another database field, how easy is it to expand your code to fit? Will your search work if your database is 30,000 objects rather than 30? What things do you have to think about for that?

          Who should be able to change the information? If you wanted some kind of authentication and authorization how will you do it? There are libraries which do you choose and why?

          Supposing someone wants to call your database programatically. What API do you have? These days “RESTful” is the buzzword, can you do that? How do you sanitise those inputs? What errors should it produce to make the other programmer’s life easier? How do you securely managed the authentication and authorization?

          Now you make the code that uses your own API to do something. Doesn’t have to be web based, can be local GUI based or even command line. But it should query and produce something. It should manage authorization, it should be able to update and display information. (eg use Jinja2 templates to create a document)
          Use clear variable and function names. Format your code cleanly. Use comment lines to divide sections. Comment code as to what your function expects and returns.

          Create a github account. Put your code there. Add documentation for end users “this is how you query the database, this is what my document writing code will give you when you run it” and for API users “these are my API calls, this is my error code format”. Also add cdocumentation talking about your choices. I used this authentication library because it did this, I thought about this one but decided against it for these reasons. I tried this method of writing my REST code but I had this problem so I change to this other way”

          basically this is your portfolio. It is marketing your skills because you have no ‘experience’. This is the only thing you can point to demonstrating your level of clue. It is especially important to people who hire coders that the coders think about their choices and don’t just cargo cult stuff. That they understand about input sanitising and error messages. That they think about edge cases. About scaling and performance (hard to do in this mickey mouse app but mention you thought about it in the doco), about security, about modularity and maintainability.

          What the market is for beginners is really location dependent. You are likely to have more success in a company that is doing things you already know about so that you have more than your thin portfolio.

          You might also find an open source project that needs help. most of them need documentation writers and someone who can write clear doco is gold! If you have been a fanfic or general fic writer or artist then consider dreamwidth.org who have a culture of nurturing developers on their codebase. Some work there is good on a resume and people might know of other projects. I think DW is perl but they are similar in feel (although hashes vis dict/tuple will trip you)

          Right now you have nothing. You need code on github in your name, and you need some kind of external experience to show you can work on and understand real world things.

    4. Junger*

      Apologies in advace for the ramble.

      TLDR: ask not what you can do with Python. Ask yourself what sort of work you actually want to [i]do[/i], and ask what things are made that involve doing work like that.
      If you don’t know, try some training projects for making different things and see what you like.
      Also try to learn stuff like Git and Docker and project management before you go professional. Just knowing the basics helps a lot

      As a recently graduated programmer, your predicament sounds a lot like what I went through at the start of my college career: I knew I liked doing this stuff, but how do you turn that into an actual job?

      First, I’d recommend shifting your focus a bit to what you actually care about. You’re asking about Python, but it sounds like you mostly want to design and build systems. You can do work like that with many tools, and Python is used for a lot of different work besides that.
      Maybe ask what kind of job would have the type of work you enjoy instead of what jobs use this language.

      Which brings me to my second point: you seem to have a disconnect with the people you asked about this, and I suspect it’s because they have a different perspective on this than you.
      For example, you say you care about the process of making a program in Python and not the result. And that you (reasonably) asked what jobs involved working with Python.
      In practice, this is putting the cart before the horse. Python is not important, and the end result is [i]everything[/i].

      Projects are started and paid for by people who want their computers to Do A Thing.
      Programmers are paid to write instruction manuals that tell the computer how to Do The Thing. They pick their tools and approach based on what let’s them tell the computer to Do The Thing.

      Both programming languages and programmer jobs are designed around the idea to make computers Do Things. The languages and tools they use to accomplish this is entirely secondary.

      So when you ask for projects or jobs that use Python, that’s going to throw people for a loop. You’re asking them to reverse-engineer the entire process.
      What sort of jobs use Python? Every job where someone will pay you to make A Thing, and where people decided to use Python to make that Thing. And you can use Python to make a lot of different Things.

      PS: if you want to become a programmer, I’d recommend learning to use code management applications somewhere along the line. Stuff like Version Control or Deployment Management is kinda boring and tangential, but is pretty much required for anything bigger than a student project.

  32. TheSockMonkey*

    Question: when writing a cover letter is it acceptable to include a sentence or two saying you are looking for a job because of layoffs? Haven’t been at my job that long (a bit longer than a year) and they just laid a bunch of people off.

    1. WellRed*

      I’d save that for during the interview when they ask why you are looking to leave your current job, but more diplomatically worded. “There have been some changes(restructuring/downsizing) at the company and i”m looking for a bit more stability. I’m excited about this opportunity at new company because X”

    2. RC Rascal*

      I would not include that in a cover letter to an employer for a job.

      I might include it in a cover letter to a headhunter in your industry, if you have a good track record and the layoff was either very public or is very hot gossip in the industry. (Company buyout, production relocated, etc).

      I would definitely include it if you are networking with former employees of your company. Companies that tend to lay off, lay off, and the ones who have been laid off before you and gone on with their lives are likely to be sympathetic to your search.

    3. TCO*

      I’ve been laid off twice and had another term-limited job end, so I’ve been in the position three times of job-searching when I had only been at my current/most recent job for 12-16 months. Each time, I mentioned the circumstances because I wanted to be clear about why I was looking for a new job so quickly.

      It’s not clear from your question whether you’re actually being laid off, or whether you just worry about that because others are being laid off. That might make a difference.

      I’ve included a sentence near the end of my letter (after talking about my qualifications, experience, and interest) with something like, “As much as I’ve enjoyed my current role, funding changes mean that my job will be ending in the near future. I’m excited about the possibility to bring my skills in X, Y, and Z, to an organization like A.”

      That’s not the exact wording, but the point is that I offer a very brief explanation of why I’m looking but then refocus my attention back to the role I’m applying for. I’ve always had great success in getting interviews and I’ve gotten compliments on my cover letter over the years, so I don’t think my language is causing problems for the majority of hiring managers. I work in nonprofits, so funding shifts are understood in my field (though I’ve had unusually bad luck to have been laid off twice in 5-6 years!).

    4. PollyQ*

      I think you’d do better by focusing on why you want, and think you’d be a good choice, for the particular job you’re applying for.

  33. Kuirky*

    How do I deal with a bossy co-worker? We both work the front desk at a govt agency. I just got back from a week off yesterday, and we had an all staff meeting yesterday morning. Because we’re at the front, only one of us can go to the meeting. Our manager told us to decide who went to the meeting, and my coworker told me that she would be going because I just got back from a week off and just walked off. For context, she had gone to the last meeting, and when she went to that one she told me she was going because I had gone to the last two (which I don’t even remember because the meetings are so infrequent). She’s also bossy in the sense that she asks me to do things that she could easily do, like go get faxes and get more forms. I’ve been here longer than her, and helped train her. I have been pushing back against those requests. But in her previous job she held some supervisor roles, so I think she’s just used to being in charge. I’m very much the type of person to not say anything if it makes things awkward, but I’m starting to get really irritated because she’s not my manager, she’s my colleague. Any suggestions?

    1. Threeve*

      Can you say “can we plan from now on to alternate meetings like that, so that we don’t need last-minute decisions?” Put that in place now, so you don’t need to deal with calling her calling dibs like that. And then do keep track.

      Definitely don’t fax or fetch for her. But even if its just her wanting to boss you around, treat her asking you to do menial tasks like she actually does need help. Give an absent sort of “oh, the forms are on the second shelf from the bottom if you’re not sure where to look.” Or “I’m working on this thing right now, but the fax instructions are in the binder if you need a refresher.”

      1. Kuirky*

        Good suggestions, thanks! I have now started to keep track of meetings; they’re so infrequent, I really don’t remember who went to the last one and I don’t want a scenario where she claims all the meetings and I can’t say anything because I haven’t been tracking it lol.

    2. Leslie Knope*

      I work for a small company where there is no hierarchy – except for the owner, everyone is on the same rung of the ladder. We’re all pretty helpful to each other and lend a hand when someone is swamped, even though most of our tasks are pretty independent. Sometimes, though, my coworkers get bossy.

      One particular coworker drove me up the wall until she retired. She was the office manager and sat at the front of the office where she could intercept deliveries, clients, solicitors, you name it. My job was 60-70% in the office and the rest off site, so I had much more flexibility than she did. If I was in the office and she was going out to lunch, I was happy to keep an eye on things out of courtesy until she got back. However, she got into the habit of marching into my office, announcing she was going to lunch and telling me to keep an eye on the front door. She also started getting very strict with what office supplies she would order for me, even though the boss had given me permission to get whatever I needed. She would question whether I REALLY needed something, even though she had no idea how my tools/supplies affected my productivity.

      I figured she was unhappy in her position and her lack of seniority over anyone. She had been a manager at a previous job, and I think she felt she was now the lowest on the totem pole, even though that wasn’t true. I seemed to be the one person she could have power over since I was the youngest employee. She had a very abrasive personality and I didn’t feel like I could discuss it with her without her getting riled up, so I went to the owner and told him. I didn’t like tattling, but she was making me miserable. He sat down to talk with her about it, and in the end she confessed she hated the job and just wanted to retire. She left the company soon after that.

      I wanted to let you know I feel your pain. If you feel like you can talk to your manager, it might be worth a conversation with them to get their advice. You might frame it as, “I want to approach coworker about these dynamics that are making my job less enjoyable, but I wanted to come to you first and let you know it’s an issue.”

      Good luck.

      1. Kuirky*

        Thanks, I like your suggestion for how to approach it with my manager. My coworker likes her job, I think it’s just her past supervisor roles, and the fact that she’s 20 years older than me that contributes to her bossing me around.

    3. WellRed*

      This is really simple: Alternate weeks, full stop. In this one case, it probably made sense for your coworker to attend since you’d been out. Your manager also sucks for abdicating management responsibilities.

      1. Kuirky*

        The thing that irks me is that it seemed that’s what my coworker wanted to do (i.e alternate weeks) when she mentioned me going to two meetings in a row. But with the meeting yesterday it meant that she had two meetings in a row as well, but somehow it’s ok. I don’t know, it just seemed hypocritical to me that she would make a big deal about the meetings I went to, and then turn around and do the same thing. And my manager is very nice, she just doesn’t like conflict.

      2. Kuirky*

        Also it just bothered me that she didn’t even give me the option of going, she just decided for me.

        1. valentine*

          she just decided for me.
          It only becomes her decision when you cede the ground. Don’t back down if she insists on going when you’re meant to go to a meeting. Be sure to say pleasantly, “Oh, you went last time. It’s on the calendar, remember?” in front of everyone. Keep that high ground. Look reasonable, but not malleable. You should probably go to meetings more often than she’d like just for the face time.

          It sounds like she considers any break from the desk a positive and she’s keeping score like a sibling in an unfair family:
          You: Meeting/no desk.
          You: Meeting/no desk.
          Her: No fair! Meeting/no desk.
          You: Out for two weeks/no desk.
          Her: No fair! Meeting/no desk.

          Sounds exhausting because deciding casually in the moment would be good for people who don’t grip this stuff like a life preserver. You can keep a color-coded meeting calendar at the desk, but I’m thinking she’s also a goalpost mover and a bottomless well of dissatisfaction, so, as soon as you start keeping track of going to meetings, she’ll decide that is somehow unfair or pick at something else.

  34. LP*

    I’m in a slightly toxic work situation (bad boss allowed to do whatever she wants) in a notoriously hard to break into field (museums). I’m looking for other jobs in the industry and have had a few interviews, no offers yet, despite my resume and cover letter overhaul based on Alison’s excellent advice. To that end, I’ve been shamelessly milking connections with every application to try and stand out. My dilemma: a few months ago I interviewed for a job I was overqualified for and wasn’t super excited about, at my dream institution in my dream city. I had a nice video interview with the actual manager, not an HR person, but didn’t get the job. Now my absolute dream job at this place has opened, and I’m wondering if it’s appropriate to try and network with that manager, given that she interviewed me. It’s not in her department at all but I’m positive she knows the dream job hiring manager. Do I shoot her an email, or will that blacklist me for being a pushy SOB? What would I even say??

    1. Bruce*

      No, do not contact her. Follow the procedures outlined for applying for the job. If the new department is interested, they will contact you. Just make sure your cover letter and resume stand out. You sort of answered your own question when you asked “what would I even say?” Exactly, there is nothing to say to someone who only knows you through an interview- plus, you have no idea what she might say, perhaps there was something that caused her not to hire you that you don’t want passed to the new person.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Agreed. This isn’t actually a networking thing. Other people interviewed, too, but you haven’t interacted with her at events outside of, well, an unsuccessful job interview. Apply according to the institution’s guidelines.

    2. fposte*

      I wouldn’t unless she specifically offered continued networking/contact. If she only knows you from assessing your application, she doesn’t have information beyond what the new hiring manager will receive, so she can’t really recommend you.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      What I would do in this situation is apply to the role as usual and reach out to the person you interviewed with. Let them know you’re really excited about the company and that you saw x role open up and that you applied and ask if they may be able to refer you. Many companies have referral programs and getting that referral bonus is always a good thing. I’ve seen people referred for much less. If your interactions weren’t pleasant with this HM, I wouldn’t recommend doing this.

      I don’t advocate for doing this with every role, but if it’s a job you’re excited about, go for it. Sometimes you have to take the shot and worst case you don’t hear anything or you get rejected. I’m thinking about doing the same for a job that looked like a really good fit but I haven’t heard anything from. You can have the platonic ideal of the perfect cover letter and resume for this role but if no one is seeing it, how good is it? Every once in awhile you need to shake the tree.

      1. Annony*

        Given that the HM didn’t reach out after the interview to indicate that they really liked the OP but this wasn’t a fit and encourage them to apply for other roles…I don’t think it would be a great idea to try to treat the failed interview as a networking opportunity. The worst that could happen is that the OP gets a reputation at that institution for being overly pushy and not respecting normal hiring procedures.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          +1

          Referrals should be from people who worked with you and know the quality of your work.

          Don’t reach out, it’s boundary pushing.

    4. Alice*

      I don’t think it would be a bad idea to write to her and say, “We met back in November when you were hiring for the curator job. I enjoyed learning about X in our conversation. I want to let you know that I’m applying for position Y at your institution. Perhaps we’ll meet again in this hiring process.”
      I don’t think there is anything you can realistically ask her to do. But I think you could share the information that you are applying again at her institution.

      There are some people whom I met during interview processes who weren’t hired, but if we had the chance to hire them for a different role, I’d tell the hiring manager that I thought they were great. (But that’s not everyone who’s ever interviewed of course!)

      1. Alice*

        Quick follow up — personally I wouldn’t even ask for the referral. Just tell her you’re applying. If she wants to refer you, she can.

    5. RC Rascal*

      I’ve done this successfully. It depends on how good of a connection you made with her when you were interviewing. If it as just an interview, you probably won’t have much luck. But if there were multiple interviews, or she engaged with you after you did your follow up (replied to email, etc). you might have some luck.

      Alice has good advice on this.

    6. Frankie*

      Ooo, I would definitely not do this personally. This is not really a connection. If she had reached out after the hiring process to talk about how strong you were, please stay in touch, that’d be different.

    7. LP*

      Thank you all so much for the good advice! Deep down I knew contacting this person was a bad idea- we had one interview with no feedback, just “we went with someone else”- but I needed to hear it. I mentioned this to a colleague and good friend, and she actually has a close connection in that department that she’ll put me in touch with! In the meantime I’ll do as Allison says and focus on other opportunities instead of obsessing over one. I’ll keep y’all posted!

  35. Lipton*

    Freelancer here. I have a client of over 8 years. I’ve known her for over 15. We have good professional boundaries, but we are friendly. She’s a bit on the older side, over 70. Lately, I’ve noticed that she is forgetful and asks me the same questions again, in just a few days. I seriously think she is demonstrating signs of dementia, or Alzheimer’s. Her son is a contact through her business, he handles some of her bookkeeping, so I’ve worked with him before. I’m wondering if I should say something to him, confidentially. I ‘m really worried about my client. I am seeing a big decline in her memory in just the last six months. I’m also afraid it could backfire. We have a good relationship, and I’ve never had a conflict with her even when I’ve made small mistakes. Stay out of it or not?

    1. Picard*

      No definitely do not stay out of it. If you have any connection with the son, thats where I would start. She obviously has a good (enough) relationship with him if he’s doing her bookkeeping. Please give him a call and talk to him. he may already be aware, but he may not (denial is not just a river)

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        Agree. It’s also possible that he’s semi-aware. That is, it’s possible he’s not sure if he’s really seeing what he thinks he might be seeing, in which case you bringing it up with him might give the confirmation he needs to do something more proactive about it.

    2. deesse877*

      Keep in mind also that, while many kinds of dementia are irreversible declines, some are not, including very common ones (medication interactions, bladder infections, etc). You are not necessarily saying “your mom is incompetent,” but rather “I have seen concerning behaviors X, Y, Z and really recommend that you get your mom checked out.”

      1. Elaine Benes*

        I do think since you know her son, you could gently mention you’ve noticed some changes lately and wanted to check in. Like everyone mentioned above it’s possible he may not be aware that her changes are real in a way he needs to take action on. However, just wanted to note that you don’t need to go crazy if the son is unreceptive or whatever- my father has Alzheimer’s and there is almost nothing they can do for it. There are medications that sort of slow it down but not in a significant way. She won’t be missing out on any game-changing treatments by not getting diagnosed early.

      2. SMH RN*

        Seniors mental health nurse here, just want to clarify. Dementia isn’t reversible, a delirium could be depending on cause and treatment but people still don’t always return to previous levels of functioning. I don’t mean to nitpick but I deal with a lot family members who hear dementia and have unrealistic expectations for recovery based on this misconception.

        I think that since her son is a business contact it would be reasonable to reach out to him and mention that you’ve noticed some changes that concern you.

  36. Definitely Anonymous Today*

    How much of a heads-up (if any) do you give new employees that the workplace they’re entering is a toxic one?

    I heard through the grapevine that my office might be getting a new employee soon. I feel bad for them because while they’re excited and eager to be starting a new job, they’ll quickly see for themselves just what our office is really like.

    Without going into too much detail, some of the issues plaguing my office are a lack of work/things to do, an unprofessional boss who is well aware of issues with their staff but refuses to address them, and an employee who complains loudly about everything and everything on an almost daily basis. Many of the employees clearly do not enjoy their jobs and are just hanging on until they can retire and get their pension.

    Of course these issues will become apparent to anyone with half a brain within the first few weeks of working here, but as someone who’s been trying to get out of this environment for the past several years the empathetic part of me wants to give the new employee a fair warning.

    1. Skeptical Squirrel*

      Why would they hire someone if there is not enough work to go around for the existing employees?

      1. Definitely Anonymous Today*

        I wish I had an answer to this question.

        I think the long-term plan is to get New Hire trained and comfortable with some different job duties so they can can take over one of the Hanging On For Pension’s work when one of them retires in the couple of years.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Because some employers are delusional about the workload. My last company didn’t have nearly enough work to go around in my department; however, they were still hiring people to be on our team in the hopes that they would get new work soon. I can’t imagine they did – they kept saying “soon” the entire 17 months I was there.

    2. Alan*

      I would argue that you should probably not say anything. If it’s that bad they will see for themselves and I can’t imagine that telling them will achieve an awful lot other than you getting a reputation as someone who bad mouths their job.

      I get the instinct to warn the new employee but I think it would be best just to keep quiet.

  37. frustrated*

    I got a promotion at work (yay) but then the job changed really dramatically. Like, as if I had been hired for a sales position and now I’m managing college interns that work on marketing events. I wasn’t asked, just given the job, and it’s not something I would never have chosen myself for. I realize I should have said something as soon as it happened, but I thought maybe it wouldn’t be that bad and I wanted to be a team player. It IS that bad, and it’s taken over my whole job to the point that my managers are taking away the things that I actually enjoy to make more room for the interns. Oh, and the “sales” part of my job that I was hired for has been totally removed.

    I’m not sure what to do or how to address it. I realize I’m probably stuck with it until the end of the college semester. But my managers are talking about how I can “make the program my own” – but all I want is the original job I applied for. What would you all do? I’m not sure how to bring it up at all. I’m also worried I’ll just get fired for expressing frustration. And I doubt I can get a different job in my small town with the same pay/benefits.

    1. Annony*

      If you are worried about getting fired and this isn’t something you would quit over, I think you can gently bring it up by asking for some of the other duties back. “I realize that managing the interns is important, but what I am really the most passionate about is sales. Is there any way that we can redistribute the work so that I can continue doing sales at least some of the time?”

    2. Junger*

      How reasonable are your managers?

      Assuming normal managers, I think you can just be politely honest about what happened:
      – you were promoted to sales (which you like doing)
      – management later told/asked you to take on radically different tasks. This wouldn’t have been your preferred choice, but you decided to try and make it work.
      – you found out you really don’t like the new tasks because of X, Y and Z. Meanwhile the new tasks are rapidly becoming your entire workload.
      – you decided these new tasks aren’t working out, and would to move back to your old job.

  38. Roscoe*

    This question is in regards to references.

    Basically, I was laid off from a job right before Christmas. I want to leave an honest review of the company on Glassdoor. There are some good things about it, but also some bad things, including how the CEO treats people at times. I would be very honest in giving the good and the bad, but I definitely wouldn’t have all glowing things to say.

    Based on the time I would’ve worked there and my department, it wouldn’t be hard to figure out it was me. At worst, you could narrow it down to me and maybe 2 others. Nothing I would say would be bad toward MY manager who I’d use for a reference, but it wouldn’t be great toward the company as a whole.

    Is this something that managers would let affect their references in the future?

    1. Mediamaven*

      It absolutely would. Think about it – you expect a positive reference but you leave a negative one? I really would not go there. It’s not a benefit to you and that is what you should be concerned with.

      1. Roscoe*

        I’d expect a positive reference about my performance from my manager, yes. I wouldn’t be giving a negative statement about my manager or even about my department. But, being realistic about things, IMO, shouldn’t be considered a negative. I feel like it would be petty of a manager to hold a true statement against me. I mean, the stuff I’d say in the review, my manager would probably agree that are problems.

        That said people ARE petty, so you are probably right that it isn’t worth it. I just don’t think my being honest should be held against me. If I would’ve gotten a positive reference before, a glassdoor review shouldn’t change it, unless I’m blatantly lying about things

    2. A Person*

      Personally I’d also want to leave a review, but would probably wait until I have my next job. Many managers don’t bother looking at Glassdoor, but I’d be worried about short term risk. Longer term (A) it will be more difficult to tell it’s you specifically and (B) that one reference won’t matter as much.

  39. Belle*

    My friend’s boss demanded that my friend drop everything and go run a mile as “punishment” for work errors made that day. His job was threatened unless he sent back a screenshot showing proof of the run. This happened after business hours while my friend was at home – the boss has his cell number. My friend complied simply out of pure shock, but realizes just how crazy and abusive the whole situation was. Obviously, he’s looking for another job now, but is “abusive” too strong a word here?

    If it’s relevant – the boss knows (and is not just assuming) my friend is physically capable of running a mile – and this is a “white-collar” professional position requiring a college education.

    1. Picard*

      I would have noped out of there so fast….

      thats just….

      wow.

      I got nothing but a jaw to pick up off the floor…

    2. Threeve*

      That’s outrageous. If he has an HR department, or a grandboss who is even remotely sane, they absolutely need to know that his has happened.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        YES. If there is anybody higher than this boss in the organizational hierarchy, that person needs to be informed about this incident RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

    3. CatCat*

      Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhuuuuuuuut. Abusive is not to strong a word.

      It might it be a blessing to refuse the next “punishment,” get fired from this job (if that even happens), collect unemployment, and have the time to job search full time.

    4. Third or Nothing!*

      Abusive is very much the appropriate word.

      I mean, I love running. I’m a runner. I could pound out a mile in 15 minutes. But it would be ridiculously inappropriate for my boss to DEMAND I DO IT AS PUNISHMENT as if I’m a kid in a PE class. I’m pretty sure there are a whole lot of other issues with this boss cause that kind of nonsense doesn’t come out of nowhere.

    5. Kathenus*

      Report it, definitely. And if he’s hourly submit the work hours for OT along with an explanation of the activity – 30 minutes overtime for mandatory punishment run required by boss at 6:30 p.m. on xx date.

      1. Kathenus*

        And document, save the screenshot he was required to send in and if there are any texts/voicemails/emails about this.

    6. Belle (OP)*

      Edit to Add: Boss is sole owner of business – it has less than ten employees and no HR – so there is no one to report him to or serve as an advocate. Yes, there are other deeper issues with both boss’s behavior and how the company is run generally.

      1. Kathenus*

        In this case it sounds like a situation where ‘his boss sucks and isn’t going to change’ and he needs to decide how to proceed based on that. Best of luck.

    7. Mark Brendanaquitz*

      I worked at a chain bookstore in grad school. During a saturday rush, I allowed someone to pay with like 10 gift cards which was a warning that I had forgotten about. I told my manager when I realized what happened. They checked the card numbers & they were all legit. But instead of just reminding me that I should pay closer attention to warnings like that from the managers, she made me dust the ENTIRE store. Every. Single. Shelf. Bosses are crazy and its just a sign to begin earnestly searching elsewhere while trying to keep as low a profile as possible.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        That one I can at least understand! A lot of my friends who worked in retail have similar stories about having to do extreme restocks and organizing as “punishment” so this doesn’t seem as out of scope as calling an employee after hours and making them run a mile. Dusting the shelves at least pertains to your job (and I’m assuming you got paid for your time).

        1. Amy Sly*

          Hell, there were plenty of days where I loved restocking and organizing and not going out on the sales floor to deal with PITA customers … Punish me again, boss!

    8. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Abusive is exactly the correct word for this behavior.

      Good bosses do not “punish” employees for making mistakes. A good boss may decide that a certain level or quantity of mistakes is cause to increase the level of oversight an employee receives, or to change procedures to make mistakes less likely to happen, but neither of those things is punishment. Mistakes do have consequences, but there is absolutely no situation in which an employee making a mistake in their work merits a physical punishment.

      Nothing about this is okay. It doesn’t matter that the boss knew your friend was physically capable of running a mile. What matters is that his boss called him at home outside of work hours and demanded he do something not related to his job duties to atone for something he had done incorrectly, under the threat of being fired. You and your friend are entirely justified in calling this abuse, because that’s what it is.

    9. Sleve McDichael*

      No way I could run a mile without strapping my ankles and wearing the right shoes without damaging myself but I would have been sorely tempted to walk out of there and just keep going and not come back.

    10. RagingADHD*

      This is why everybody’s first financial priority should be an “FU” fund. No job is worth that kind of nonsense, because you know it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

      I’d rather live on ramen and go back to scrubbing toilets than put up with a two-bit dictator like that. Ridiculous.

  40. nep*

    Dates on resume.
    For my employment, the format I’m using is month/year to month year: 08/04 to 12/07.

    For one of the items the dates are March 1997 to June 2000.
    03/97 to 06/2000?
    03/97 to 06/00?

    Or should I change format of these dates altogether?
    Thanks for any suggestions.

    1. nep*

      Now I am rethinking putting those dates, as it’s so long ago. It’s about including my Peace Corps volunteer experience on resume.
      What would be more ‘jarring’–to see these dates, or to see a listing in my Experience with no dates, while I’ve got dates for all the others?
      Overthinking? Why, yes.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      I spell them out on my CV, as March 1997 – June 2000. If you want to do all numbers I’d go with 3/1997 – 6/2000 or 03/1997 – 06/2000.

    3. Nicki Name*

      If you’re in the US, I believe it’s more customary to spell out the month rather than use numbers. If you really want to use numbers, I think it would at least help to keep all the years the same length, so:

      03/97 to 06/00
      or
      03/1997 to 06/2000

      1. nep*

        Thank you.
        I’m now seeing that it’s more readable with the four-digit year, indeed. Otherwise can throw one off, looking like a month/day or something.
        Appreciate all feedback.

    4. PollyQ*

      Two thoughts:

      1) Unless you have a bunch of jobs that were less than a year, you could drop the months altogether, e.g., 1997-2000. In the example you gave, the difference between working 33 months and 39 months probably isn’t that relevant.

      2) Even if you have 1 or 2 jobs that were less than a year, I think you could still use the general form of just years, and make an exception for the short jobs without it making your resume look weird.

      1. Meep meep*

        I always feel like when people leave off months they are hiding something. If you list 2018 – 2019 it could be January 2018 – December 2019 (2 years) or December 2018 – January 2019 (1 month), or any length of time in between.

        I’d recommend spelling out the month and putting the 4 digit year.

  41. Amber Rose*

    I’m furious.

    Everything I did through all the end of December and the first two weeks of January had to be re-entered because of the system change. In addition, more work came flooding in and I was drowning last week and this week. So my invoice filing didn’t get done, because it was the least important item on my to-do list. There were four week projects due immediately I hadn’t processed yet and customers harassing us for paperwork. Filing was at the bottom of my list of priorities, and I told everyone that multiple times and that if anyone needed anything to ask because I had them sorted neatly, just not filed.

    On top of that, I didn’t have a desk or a computer for 3/4 of the day on Wednesday because they decided to disassemble the cubicles and rebuild them slightly different. I couldn’t do any work, the entire office was a disaster zone of busted bits of desk and cubicle wall and people hammering/drilling.

    So yesterday morning. I was doing work frantically and my coworker came looking for an invoice, saw the pile, got all upset and went straight to my boss to say that I was “hiding” invoices and I had been told I should just immediately give him everything so it didn’t disappear on my desk. Jerk. I actually caught up on my backlog a bit later and ended up taking back all the filing and doing it myself anyway, because I would have been DONE on WEDNESDAY if I’d had my effing DESK. So he threw me straight under the speeding bus for no reason because two hours later I’d plowed through the whole thing finally anyway, but now I look like an incompetent jerk to my boss.

    On top of THAT, I managed to sink an exacto blade straight into the pad of my thumb and it still hurts. A knife going straight into skin feels really unsettling.

    Basically, I hate everyone, I’m in pain, and I am half a hair away from just walking out of here with both my middle fingers in the air because eff all y’all, you ALL SUCK this is ALL BS.

    1. Alice*

      :( Sounds rough. I had a bad week too but not as bad as that! I hope you have a good weekend and your finger heals quickly.

    2. Spero*

      Can you say something along the lines of “wow, I’m surprised coworker came to you about that. He may have felt the amount of work on my desk was high, but I was able to tackle within 2 hours. I assume he is just unfamiliar with my work pace? I also wanted you to know that the main reason there was a bit of a backlog was Wednesday’s office construction. Can we make any accommodations/get any notice for similar in future? It kept me from working for about 6 hours. Even though I was able to catch up, it required some juggling that led to coworker’s misunderstanding of my workload.”

      1. Amber Rose*

        There’s no point. She never came and talked to me about it, I just know what coworkers said to her because I sit right next to her desk.

        Also the backlog lasted the last two weeks because the last month of work all had to be re-done. It’s just I would have been through it a day earlier except for my desk, which was a last minute decision on the part of management. They always do these things so impulsively. :/

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          “They always do these things so impulsively. :/”

          Red flag, red flag! As is the ‘lost 4 weeks of data’ – the IT team should have had a plan in place for putting info into the old system, taking snapshots to load into the new system for testing, and then transitioning the up-to-date data to the new system over a day or two, not a month.

          1. Amber Rose*

            We don’t have an IT team. The people who provide the new system said they couldn’t port the numbers over. We knew ahead of time that we’d have to re-enter it all, it just got really busy at the same time and some things were still broken so it was kind of a nightmare.

  42. Beancat*

    Thank you to everyone who gave me advice about figuring out my career! I’ve taken a lot of time this week to really think. I’m in a position where I can bide my time and really be sure what I want before jumping ship, so I appreciate all the thoughtful answers :)

    In cruddy news, my next paycheck will be greatly cut. I had to take days off for illness and because of how our PTO system works had none to take. Ughhhh. :(

  43. Lorraine #1*

    I have a small situation that’s marginally annoying and I want to see if there’s something I’m missing that can be done to help. Both the person I supervise and I have the same relatively unusual name (it’s lovely but most would consider it a bit old-fashioned — think like Lorraine or Beverly) and we have to deal with folks a lot through email. We’re the entirely of our department, and neither of us prefers any of the nicknames that might go with this name. Currently we have our email display names set up as “LastName, First” and have our full names and different titles in fairly large print in our signatures.

    Nonetheless, we are constantly mixed up and people are always directing information to me that should go to her, and vice versa. A lot of the time we get comments like “I didn’t know you changed your name, did you get married?” and the like, and many people seem to think we’re the same person. What else can we be doing to differentiate ourselves, or should we just continue to cheerfully and briskly correct folks?

    1. Mid*

      It’s small consolation, but at least you’re in the same department and already interact regularly, so there’s less risk of information being lost, or sensitive information being sent to the wrong department.

      IF you can do this, and it might not be possible, you could try responding to emails that aren’t for you with “I believe you emailed the wrong Lorraine. Please send this to her at realemail@company.org” so people have to go through the effort of sending it to the correct person. This largely depends on your level in the company, and the office culture and politics. But I’ve found that making people fix their mistake a few times usually decreases the number of times it happens.

    2. Bree*

      If neither of you wants to use a nickname, I’m not sure what else you could do! Ideally, if you keep correcting people they’ll catch on?

      If it’s mostly internal folks and depending on the culture, maybe there’s a way to include a quick, friendly reminder to double-check you’re sending things to the correct Lorraine in a staff newsletter, HR update, on the intranet, or even during an all-staff meeting?

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        This. I have the same in my department, with a division manager having the same first (and common) name as one of her direct reports. They just keep reinforcing their roles/duties to people.

    3. Marny*

      All I can think to suggest if nicknames aren’t an option is to use your first and last names together as much as possible– sign everything using full names, put nameplates at your desks, etc. After a while people will start using your full names to refer to each of you so that they’ll say, “You need to ask Beverly Smith, not Beverly Jones.”

    4. Meg Murry*

      Maybe this isn’t helpful, but have you considered lean into it instead of trying to fight it? One of our vendors apparently has a department that is 3 guys named Robert/Bob/Rob etc – and they actually have an email address that is “TheBobs @ company . com” in addition to each having their own email address – and anything that can be addressed by any of them is sent to and from that email address. Or if you don’t want to be so generic, create & encourage people to use “purchasing @ company .com ” instead ?

      Alternately, maybe this is one of the few places where a photo in the signature block might be a good idea?(assuming you don’t also both fall under the same description of women of X-age with brown hair, etc)

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Why didn’t I think of this… I was in the same situation with a coworker… worse was I backed her up for her leave and then we were both managers in the same group.

        We were finally referred to as “The Sara(h)s” as we had slightly different spellings.

        Honestly you just get used to it.

    5. Bird Person*

      I’m not usually a fan of them, but have you considered adding headshots to your email signatures? If it’s mostly internal, adding a headshot to your Microsoft profile may be a solution as well. Putting a face to the name, especially if these are people you only deal with over email, may be what they need.

    6. nm*

      Would you be comfortable being addressed mainly by your last name? Like, “Hi, I’m Lorraine Smith but I just go by Smith, and this is my coworker Lorraine Johnson.”

      1. Lorraine #1*

        I would LOVE this option but most people struggle to spell or pronounce my last name. Often this means I’m getting “Lorraine….confused mumble” and she’s “Lorraine Smith.” I tried to go with a breezy Ms N [as in, lastname-firstinitial] but it didn’t stick.

        The headshots idea is a decent one but we’re both middle-aged white ladies, and a lot of the struggle is coming externally, with people who only interact with us infrequently enough that I think we’d blur together. Also I don’t want to stare at my own face, haha.

        I like the idea of having a joint email that goes to our department generally, that might help quite a bit.

        Thanks all!

        1. valentine*

          I wouldn’t do a combo email because it just reinforces the Highlander rule.

          When you redirect people to her email, attach an intro note (with pictures, if you have different hair coloring or styling):

          While many people believe the Parallelogram Department consists of a single dynamo, we are two Lorraines.

          *pic*
          Lorraine N. is figuring out how much raw material is required to provide you the extra guac that puts the extra bounce in your space steps.

          *pic*
          Lorraine S. ensures your gear is ready for spacewalks.

      2. NW Mossy*

        I did a variation of this when I reported to someone with the same first name as me. My grandboss referred to me as First Initial-Last Name, which ended up sticking (and was OK with me).

        I have a super-common first name so I’ve run into this issue a lot. While I certainly prefer to be called by my first name, I’ve found over the years that being willing to concede a bit on what people call me has enough benefits for others that I’m willing to take the hit.

    7. CupcakeCounter*

      When I started at OldJob, there were 5 guys named Jeff in the department. No one ever used their first name in the office since there were so many and they all went by last names. Couldn’t do Jeff C or Jeff D because 3 of the Jeff’s had the same first letter of their last name.
      I have a very old fashioned name and often when I meet people face to face the first time after emailing for a while I get a “Oh! You are a lot younger than I thought!”

    8. EnfysNest*

      I don’t know if this would actually help at all, but since you do a lot of email communication, one thing that came to mind for me is maybe trying for one of you to change your email font to blue, and the other sticks with black. And then you could also have your name plates with blue vs black backgrounds and possibly even lanyards if you wear ID badges or something like that to add a bit of an added visual cue? That'[s probably too subtle to make much of a difference, though…

    9. Orange You Glad*

      In a similar situation I’ve seen a smaller font “*There are two Lorraine’s at X Company: myself & also Lorraine Smith, Finance Assistant.” as part of an email signature in smaller font with an asterisk like a “p.s.” without saying p.s.

      So it says at the bottom of your emails:

      Lorraine Owlschewki
      Finance Manager
      X Company

      *There are two Lorraine’s at X Company: myself & Lorraine Smith, Finance Assistant.

  44. Mid*

    I have a coworker who openly admits to taking pain pills that aren’t prescribed to her. She’s been too heavily medicated to work in the past, despite still coming it to work. It was clear to everyone who interacted with her that she was high. I just watched her take two pills in the kitchen (she told me what they were and that they were prescribed to her). In the past, this coworker hasn’t been the best judge of her own facilities (see: everyone in our office knew she was high), and my manager isn’t aware that she’s back on pills. This is a very small office (12 people total, three in my group including me, coworker, and our manager.) We work in the legal field, though we aren’t lawyers, but we file with the court and do other things that are semi-high stakes, where mistakes really matter.

    My question is: should I let my manager know what I saw? I don’t want to “tattle” but I also doubt my manager knows my coworker is taking pills again. I know it’s a legitimate medical issue my coworker is dealing with (she overshares A LOT, but that’s a tale for a different thread) but I’m still very uncomfortable with the situation, knowing her past lack of judgement.

    1. Mid*

      To clarify, I said my first sentence to explain partially why I’m uncomfortable with my coworker’s self-medicating, but also to highlight her lack of judgement in these situations.

      Also, if it’s revelant, my coworker is in her late 60s. This isn’t a “youthful” lack of judgement.

      1. Rainy*

        She’s…not self-medicating, though? It’s her prescribed medication which she’s presumably taking as directed.

    2. Rainy*

      Obviously it does to some extent depend on what they are, but if they are her, prescribed, legal pills I think you’re going to come off as tattling unless it’s something where she shouldn’t be operating machinery if she has to take these meds, and she’s about to operate machinery or something.

    3. fposte*

      Unless you skipped a word, what you saw is somebody taking pills that are prescribed to her. That in itself isn’t a reportable event. If her behavior is concerning–if she’s overmedicated at work again–then that would be reportable, and what you saw her taking may or may not be relevant. But having had problems with medication in the past doesn’t mean she’s never allowed to take her own prescribed pills at work again, unless that was more explicitly part of a deal with her.

      1. Annony*

        It depends on the job though. I can’t come into work on narcotics even if I have a prescription. It is too dangerous due to my job duties. Does your job have a policy about this?

    4. Wandering_beagle*

      I think that since this time, the pills are prescribed, you wouldn’t really have a basis for a complaint to your manager. You saw her taking medicine that was prescribed to her — nothing wrong there! I think a manager might view you more negatively for getting involved in someone’s personal health issues, and it would reflect poorly on you.

      That said, if she takes too many pills again (that you know aren’t hers) and is clearly high, then I think you can bring it up to your manager.

      1. Mid*

        I’m not too worried about my manager thinking poorly of me for this, because my coworker drags everyone into her health issues. Constantly. I know more about this woman’s health issues than anyone else’s, including my grandmother and my partner. I’ve been told about every pill, x-ray, exam, ache, and pain, along with her entire life history, her husbands, her previous marriages, the lineages of her various pets, etc. Serious oversharing and boundary issues.

        But, I’ll wait until there’s an actual issue, rather than a preemptive warning.

    5. E*

      Maybe report any unusual behavior but leave the mention of her meds out of it? Prescribed or not, if her behavior impairs her work then that is the issue.

  45. Shiny*

    I have a new role in which I interact with counterparts on projects all over the world. I was brought in as a technical expert, and I’m finding that I’m often in the position of realizing that errors were made years back that affect what we can do going forward. This is obviously pretty sensitive, as it’s hard for people to be questioned about things they did in good faith with the best information they had at the time–the organization is investing in a higher level of technical review, which was a large part of the reason for hiring me.

    I’m happy to answer any clarifying questions, but I’m really eager for any advice on how best to manage these relationships. I don’t have any supervisory authority and we’re all working to having the highest level of quality possible, but it’s inherently difficult, especially when you add in cross-cultural communication and different norms about admitting when you don’t know something or aren’t an expert.

    1. Mid*

      I’d embrace the “turd sandwich” method–praise, bad news, praise. Also, you can emphasize that nothing was wrong when they did their work, just there are new rules now, and so things have to change. You can also use a “higher authority”–e.g “I didn’t make the rules, you didn’t either, the Big Boss did, and us poor people on the bottom have to fix it” kind of thing. Those can all allow people to save face. Of course they were right with their original work, of course they know everything!

    2. Annony*

      I think part of it depends on I f they actually did something wrong or if what they did was fine at the time but not ideal now. If it is the later then you can start by saying that you are not critiquing their work but simply gathering information to create a cohesive plan and guidelines moving forward so that everything is done to the highest level of quality possible.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Be very factual and neutral. Maybe leave out pronouns like “you” or “the team” in how you frame things.

      Pronouns, kind of implies blame: “Ah, it looks like you set the Llama Grooming system to use the size 4 trimmers. The protocol is to use size 6, so unfortunately that means the team has to recalculate the blow dryer results.”

      Neutral: “Ah, it looks like the Llama Grooming system was programmed to use the size 4 trimmers. The protocol is to use size 6, so let’s recalculate the blow dryer results now.”

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        +1

        Also, clearly define and focus on the possible solutions for each problems. Make the conversation about “Which solution do we want going forward” or “The solution is X, here are some implementation options”, not about ‘this is the problem’. People will notice this, in a good way.

      2. Amy Sly*

        Yes, the passive voice is your friend here. “Based on what was known at the time, the decision was made to X. We now know Y, and this means Z.” Unless it really matters who made the wrong decision*, keep the focus on the results of the decision and the ensuing consequences. They know they have problems; they wouldn’t have you dig through the problems if they didn’t think they existed.

        *Probably not, but it may be worth keeping personal notes to see if someone still with the organization had such a bad track record it should be brought to someone’s attention to keep them from further decision making.

  46. Beanie Baby*

    My boss is passive-aggressive. She’ll be super friendly with me, joke around with me, make comments to get reactions from me for her entertainment, inquire about my family and unfortunately, has a talent for getting me to open up more about my personal life than I would to another boss. But she’ll never tell me directly how to improve my performance at the time in which I can correct it. She always waits until our annual performance review, where she reviews her notes she has secretly kept all year long to tell me where I need improvement and she doesn’t have specific examples to illustrate where exactly I need improvement.

    Lately, she’s just stopped doing a task that we shared and left it to me to do all of it, which I don’t mind, because I’m learning more, and I’m getting kudos for completing it timely, as half of the department waits on it to finish their work. My plan is to show I’m taking on more responsibility of tasks that require more judgment than the others, and ask for a promotion and a raise.

    This morning she dumped an unpleasant task on me, saying, “I’ll let you take care of this.” It is not a treat to do this. It’s tedious, confusing, unfamiliar to most of us, and I believe she’s dumping it on me because she doesn’t want to deal with it. I answered in a half-joke tone, “How about no?” She replied, “Not a good response,” so, crap, I may have just shot myself in the foot in asking for a promotion. DAMN IT. I can already envision her jotting this little incident down in her notebook for my annual review in June.

    Two other people (of which I know) have already worked to get away from her by redefining their jobs or flat taking other jobs in other departments. I’m wondering whether it is time for me to do the same. :|

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I don’t know if you’ve shot yourself in the foot completely, but I would definitely avoid that kind of response in the future. I mean, with a friendly, joking boss, you can sometimes say things like a sarcastic, “Oh, fun!”, but you can’t imply that you won’t do a task, especially one she doesn’t want to do. She’s your boss, she’s allowed to make that call– in fact, the more experienced you are, the more of that stuff she’ll feel comfortable giving to you.

      As far as the waiting for your performance review, have you approached her and asked her for more frequent check-ins?

      1. Beanie Baby*

        Yeah, you’re right. I’m going to make-over my attitude and tackle it cheerfully, and hope she forgets.

        But overall, I can foresee in my future that if she doesn’t move on to another company, I will try to move on to another role to get out from underneath her, because I love most everything else about my job and the company.

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      This sounds like a messy relationship lacking appropriate professional boundaries.

      1. I recommend that you first get clear in your own mind that this is a professional relationship, not a personal one, which should be treated as such. Obviously she is allowed to ask you about your family, but you do not have to disclose more than is professionally appropriate. “They’re all doing just fine. Thanks for asking!” is usually plenty. Don’t joke around with her anymore. Don’t talk about your personal life. Be a professional employee and that’s all. When she notices your change in behavior and asks you if something’s wrong, tell her truthfully, “Nope. Everything’s fine. I’m very focused on being successful here at XYZ Corp and just want to make sure I stay on task. Thanks for asking!”

      2. A fallout effect of this is that she will be less likely to see you as a jokey pseudo-friend and more like what you actually are: a professional employee. She’ll be hurt over this. Let her be hurt. She’ll get over it.

      3. If you haven’t already done so, explicitly ask for more frequent feedback on your performance. Say, “I know my review is coming up in June. But it’s hard to integrate your feedback at that point because it’s so far removed from the precipitating events. I need to know closer to when problems actually arise that there is a problem.” She may be constitutionally unable to provide this feedback to you, but you won’t know unless you ask for it.

      Side note: I’m not aware of too many work places in which a subordinate can discriminate over what tasks they will and won’t take. Generally if your manager assigns you something, it’s yours to do, with the obvious caveat that it’s within your job area and not humiliating, dangerous, or illegal. Sometimes that includes tasks that are confusing and tedious. That you felt that this was negotiable strikes me as further evidence that there are some significant lack-of-boundary problems here.

      I think this is salvageable. Best of luck with your situation!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Side note: I’m not aware of too many work places in which a subordinate can discriminate over what tasks they will and won’t take. Generally if your manager assigns you something, it’s yours to do, with the obvious caveat that it’s within your job area and not humiliating, dangerous, or illegal.

        Eh. If you’re senior enough or considered a “rockstar” employee, you can definitely (respectfully) push back on tasks you don’t have an interest in. I’ve done it several times throughout my career and haven’t had any major issue doing so.

      2. Beanie Baby*

        Admittedly, it was a knee jerk reaction to the assignment and a slip in judgment to say no out loud. Truthfully, everyone in the department gets to do the unpleasant task for their respective clients; I just happen to be assigned to do her one client too. Turns out that she’s doing the bulk of the work for all of us, and we just take her numbers to complete the reports for filing, so it’s not as unpleasant as I expected. I’m going to be as positive about the one extra report I was assigned and knock it out of the ballpark first thing when the numbers are ready.

        And yes, the boundaries in our working relationship have been blurred from the very beginning. I’m not the only one with whom she is pseudo-buddies; she does it to everyone she likes in the department, but doesn’t push it outside of work. The fact that she likes me has worked in my favor, because she gives me extra assignments that require good judgment. I also feel I’ve earned them, but there’s another rockstar to whom she could give the extras.

        The crux of it all is her passive-aggressiveness. I can dial back the sharing of personal information with her, but if her feelings are hurt, I don’t think she’ll get over it. I believe she’d take out her vengeance in my performance reviews, rake me over the coals for minor errors, and otherwise set me up to fail. Really, it falls to me to guard against her charm and not overshare.

        Thank you for nailing the overall problem on the head.

    3. Moop*

      So from a manager’s perspective, giving negative feedback can be emotionally draining. So sometimes it’s easier and less time consuming to note it down and address it in one lot. I get this isn’t helpful for you particularly when so much time has passed that she’s forgotten about specific examples to coach you. This is something you can absolutely bring up: “I appreciate you giving me feedback on areas of improvement, but it can be confusing to receive it once a year when the situation has passed long ago. I’d be keen to get some more regular coaching – if you spot something feel free to tell me straight away so I can work on it.” For a boss like this it’s for your own benefit to not react defensively when she does give you feedback; so giving you regular feedback doesn’t become a draining chore.

      As for leaving you with an unpleasant task…well, that’s kind of what bosses get to do: delegate tedious work to more junior staff so they can use their time doing something else that’s more significant. If it’s confusing and unfamiliar, it’s best to ask for specific directions rather than a blank “How about no?” Just as you want her to communicate openly to you, you need to communicate with her too. A joking “how about no” is also passive aggressive; it doesn’t provide your boss with any context as to why you can’t/won’t do the task.

      A promotion is based on a lot of factors. Saying one wrong thing shouldn’t – for a reasonable boss – shouldn’t take you off consideration unless what you said was especially egregious (which it wasn’t!)

      As for over sharing – you’re completely in charge of the information you share with her. It sounds like when she’s being friendly she can be charming and adept at eliciting information. You know this about her; so keep it in mind when discussing personal events. Unless she’s asking you inappropriate questions about your childhood or how you spend your money, she’s not doing anything wrong by engaging in personal chatter with you and making you feel so comfortable you talk to her about your relationship with your mother in law.

      Just as there’s no perfect employee, there is no such thing as a perfect boss. Every relationship needs fine tuning to understand each other and function well together. If you go to another boss it’s no guarantee they’ll be better – in fact, they could be much, much worse. See if you can invest some effort into working effectively with your boss before you decide to throw in the towel.

  47. merp*

    As a manager, would it seem ridiculous for an employee to take off a decent amount of time over the course of a couple months for an ongoing pet health problem?

    I’ve posted here and there before but my cat has needed a lot of at-home care for a few weeks, and continues to need more, and will need to go back to the vet again before all this is over (the vet being a specialty vet hospital 2 hours away) and I just feel like it seems absurd at this point to ask for more time off. For reference, I’ve probably taken 4 days off for this since mid-December. I’ve had to call in last minute once, thinking it really might be her last day. Thankfully, it wasn’t, but I am so worried about my manager deciding that all this cat drama has gone on long enough. I can at least ask off in advance for this next visit, but it might be 2 days depending on how this vet visit needs to work. And there’s no guarantee that there won’t be an emergency before then (although, oh my god, I hope there isn’t, we’ve been through so many.) And I’m the only person who can do all this for her.

    1. Faith*

      I think if you have the leave time available, it should be okay; 4 days over a a month isn’t that bad (especially given lots of people take off during December anyway). And when you’re not using leave, do the best you can to keep on top of your work so if there is an emergency, it’s not going to mess you up at work.

      I’m sorry about your cat.

    2. Operation Glowing Symphony*

      Talk to your manager and explain it all. The more you can draw them in, empathy wise, the better the communication you’ll have about this. Maybe your manager has had the same experience or at least has a pet they have to take care of as well? Considering that your pet is very much your family and solely relies on you, it’s important to share that part of your life – you’d do the same thing for a human family member right?

      When you know you’ll need to take time off, work with your manager on how you can do your work from home or beef up your work to compensate for when you might be gone.

      I have 2 dogs – I feel your concerns. Best of luck to your sweet cat.

      1. cat socks*

        Agree about talking to your manager and seeing if there is any way to work remotely.

        I understand what you’re going through! I had a couple of cats with health issues that required specialists at a vet hospital that was about an hour drive. It can definitely be tough to manage with work. Best wishes to your kitty and I hope she is okay.

        1. merp*

          Yeah, I wish remote work were possible but I work a reference desk, so that’s not really an option. I appreciate the advice and well wishes from both of you though!

    3. Picard*

      Are you taking vacation, sick or is it all one bucket?

      In any scenario, I think, if you need to take time and have it available to take, do so without going into details cause yeah, you might get some side eye/eye roll if you’re spending a lot of time on pet care.

      1. merp*

        I had some comp time and when I used that up, I’ve been using vacation. I didn’t know if it was right to use sick time for pet care and didn’t want to risk eye rolls if I asked. I do have lots of vacation stored up, so I guess you’re right – I doubt she would interrogate me about why I was using it assuming it was far enough in advance.

      1. merp*

        I mean, it just came up. I’m not interested in lying a bunch at work, but when the emergency first occurred, I called out in the morning with no notice to take her to the vet. And it’s been ongoing now for over a month, and coworkers have asked about how she’s doing and things like that. That doesn’t mean I have to tell them about the upcoming days off, I’m realizing now, but it was never a big secret.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          I’d simply take it as sick leave an tell them you have a doctor’s appointment. It’s true.

    4. Not All*

      I really think this is a “know your manager” thing. My last two offices no one would think anything of it. I have solid evidence of that since one of my dogs developed a serious health issue that meant I took a TON of time off…the only thing that happened was my grandboss encouraging me to take an extra day off when I did eventually end up having to put him down and a sweet card from the office. This office it seems like there’s been a run of people needing time off for pet issues but it isn’t viewed any differently than people having kid health issues. But 3 managers back…ugh…yeah…I’d have lied about why I was taking leave. He was a jerk in general and one of those “pets are disposable” people.

      I hope things improve for your kitty!

    5. S-Mart*

      Some managers may see this as ridiculous. I wouldn’t care. When my team takes time off, I only want to know enough of the reason to put the time in the right bucket. I do not care why they need time, as long as they have time available.

  48. Rainy*

    I started to write a huge book about a thing that’s pissing me off, but it turns out the details don’t matter, and the core of the thing is this: why is it so often the case that in an office where “volunteers” are requested for various things (presentations, in this case), there’s so much bait and switch, where they get you to say yes to a reasonable request and then trickle-truth you the unpalatable details?!

    This is not good for my morale! I volunteered for an evening presentation because no one else could do it, and only then did I find out it was off-site, someone in the office who isn’t even doing the presentation promised them something that is IMPOSSIBLE, and I had to clean up the mess, set boundaries, and make it clear that the request for extra crap was not going to happen.

    Luckily it doesn’t happen super often to me, but it happens to everyone sometimes, and it’s annoying. Just tell me what I’m agreeing to, dammit!

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “why is it so often the case that in an office where “volunteers” are requested for various things (presentations, in this case), there’s so much bait and switch, where they get you to say yes to a reasonable request and then trickle-truth you the unpalatable details?!”

      Because they know that if they told you the truth about it, you wouldn’t agree to do it.

      1. Rainy*

        That’s the thing, though! Most of us still would, we’d just be *prepared* for the shittier bits when we took it on.

  49. Pancakes*

    A bit of an existential question today:
    Do all (or most?) workplaces turn out to be disappointing when you’ve been in them for a while?

    I’ve only worked in a few different workplaces. The first was objectively terrible, and I felt so great about my current workplace for about the first year. But I’m now in my third year here and I see things that are really disheartening. None of them are dealbreakers on their own, but they add up and give a general feeling that upper management does not care at all about morale or keeping workloads reasonable. There are also great things about working here – my direct manager and coworkers are all great and the day-to-day is pretty good, but when I think about the overall picture I’m disappointed and the morale of my wonderful colleagues is similarly low (so I imagine they’ll be leaving eventually).
    I’ve started looking for another job, but I’m worried that this will just happen everywhere once you go a little deeper than the surface.
    Thoughts? Advice?

    1. Ptarmigan*

      Normal, in my experience. All organizations have problems and dysfunction. When you start a job, it all seems great, and people don’t tell you which other people they hate or how the company is a mess. Eventually you learn all of the warts and get disillusioned. Welcome to humanity.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Mine isn’t. I’ve been here 15 years. We’ve had ups and downs but the last executive director they hired has been terrific, after a bad one, who replaced a good but maybe not remarkable one. But my coworkers are generally great and we’re treated well.

      It sounds like your workplace is a not that hot, but you might revisit your expectations re: How happy is work supposed to make you? just in case. I love my job, seriously, but it’s still work and the reality of my particular job is that it’s often tedious, and pretty much anywhere you work is going to have things that have to be done even though nobody likes doing them.

      1. Pancakes*

        Thanks for your insight!

        I’m not asking about day-to-day work, tasks, etc., which I’m pretty happy with! I mostly mean the decisions of higher ups and workplace dynamics in general. Things like policy shifts that take away small perks, managements response when we try and push back on something as a group, the way work is shifted when someone leaves the organization, and the way people are treated in salary/raise negotiations. Not all of it (or even most of it) impacts me directly, but I hear about and see it, and it makes the whole vibe of this place feel bad (and also makes me think that is how I would be treated if I were in a similar position in the future)

        1. Dust Bunny*

          So it still sounds like maybe your place isn’t great about this stuff. Mine took away some perks a few years ago *but* it was made known that this was only done after it became clear that enough people were abusing them that the whole policy wasn’t workable (we’re relatively small, about 40 people, so a few bad apples can cause outsized problems). And we’re not generous with salary negotiations because right now there isn’t the money to spend on them, after our preceding bad ED, although things are improving. So . . . there can be Reasons. But sometimes the reasons are understandable and sometimes they’re just arbitrary BS and bad management.

          1. Pancakes*

            Yeah, I think that I would feel much better if I knew about reasons, even if I didn’t love decisions. We are an even smaller staff than you, so our upper management sees and talks to us every day, and the fact that they respond by taking offense when we explain our reasoning for pushing back on something feels disheartening.

    3. Frankie*

      Yeah, Year 2 & 3 I have personally found to be the years I start to see more of how the sausage is made and it’s disheartening, as you say. I try to focus on the things I really love, which are unique and hard to find, and I try to detach from the areas of dysfunction, to the extent I can. Fortunately I don’t have any big dreams to be in upper management, so as someone in the lower ranks it’s definitely possible to shut out some of the politics and weirdness and focus on “work.”

    4. anon attorney*

      No, I don’t think it is inevitable that a workplace will start to suck over time. I’ve worked in my firm for 12 years and on the whole it’s still a pretty good environment. The culture has evolved but the basic values haven’t changed.

      Another factor to bear in mind is that we change, too. If you’ve outgrown your role, for example, management decision making can become harder to swallow or more frustrating. But it’s not necessarily that the company is showing its true colors, or whatever – it’s that the fit has changed, because fit is about the interaction between individual and culture.

      I think if culture feels ok at the start you’re not doomed to disillusionment, but there’s no way to rule out change, either.

    5. Fikly*

      Late reply.

      I’ve been at my job for just about a year.

      It’s the best workplace I’ve ever been in. It’s better than I thought it would be. It’s better than I thought was possible. I say this not to brag, but to say it is possible, and they do exist! I’m sure they are rare, but not impossible to find.

  50. The Green Lawintern*

    Hi all. I was hoping to get some opinions on how to work with a supervisor you don’t respect. Objectively, a lot of the critique I get from my boss is nonsense, but some does have merit. The problem is that I can feel myself starting to automatically push back on all the feedback I get from her, rather than taking it piece by piece and evaluating each comment fairly. How do you keep a calm, non-BEC mindset in this situation?

    1. Middle Manager*

      That’s a tough one. I’ve been there and honestly, if that boss hadn’t moved on, I would have needed to. I can agree to disagree with a boss on some things here and there, but if I can’t fundamentally respect them as a professional, then I just can’t do it long term.

      One suggestion, is there anyone else at your job you could seek out feedback from to get a better opinion? A peer a little further along in their career, another manager, etc? Maybe that would help you sort out what is valid criticism and what is unfair?

      1. The Green Lawintern*

        Thanks for the feedback! I do go fairly often to a senior coworker for perspective, and our grandboss is fairly accessible as well, but they’re both slammed and it doesn’t feel fair to keep running to them every single time.

        I don’t want to move on from this job for a number of reasons, but yeah…I don’t know how sustainable this is long term for me.

    2. Blueberry*

      I wrote a sticky note with a quotation on it and put it on my work notebook. Unforutnately I forget what the quotation was, but it was there to remind me to consider what I was told as separately as I could from the person telling it to me, even though she was [insert rant here]. Every day I looked at it when taking out my notebook and I did my best to remember that necessary separation.

      Good luck! Remember, you’re there to do the best job you can for the business, for whomever you serve, for your own pride in yourself, despite obstacles such as this supervisor. Correcting the reasons they earned your disrespect isn’t part of your job, so you don’t have to engage with those. (Or so I kept telling myself. :)

      1. The Green Lawintern*

        Thank you for the suggestion! I do keep reminding myself that I owe it to myself and our clients to put out quality work regardless of the challenges I face.

    3. Kathenus*

      You could implement a new habit where you never respond to feedback in the moment, but instead reply with something like – thanks for the information, let me process it a bit and get back with you on my thoughts for addressing it. This way you can try to be more objective and parse out the merit from the nonsense, and figure out a constructive and professional way to respond versus trying to react in the moment.

      1. The Green Lawintern*

        Oh trust me, I already have a 24 waiting period between when I receive edits on a report and when I actually go in and change things. I just end up stewing over every comment I get!

  51. F*

    I supervise but do not formally manage two members of junior staff at my firm. We work in client services so the hours can be long and unpredictable. We tell people during the interview process and we compensate them with solid bonuses. One of the junior staffers lives in the suburbs and commutes, while the other lives in the city. We provide a car service to take you home if you’re working late but the staffer that lives in the suburbs is very unwilling to work late or come in early causing the staffer in the city to pick up the slack. I am starting to see signs of resentment from the staffer picking up the work. Any way I can address this? It’s a bit sensitive because I suspect the staffer in the burbs would like to move to the city but does not have the money. This staffer has mentioned student loans and I understand not everyone is in a financial position to move to the city at 22, but it’s causing an issue for the rest of the team. I also worry the suburban staffer won’t succeed in the long term because they don’t raise their hand for things that require them to stay late. Do I address this or leave it alone?

    1. Fed*

      Of course the staffer who always has to work late and come in early is getting resentful! I would to. You need to equally divide up the extra work time. Where a staffer chooses to live there own choice, it shouldn’t be a factor in how much someone contributes.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I think you have to leave out the staffer’s personal financial and logistical factors and look at it as a job performance issue. Is it part of everyone’s job to take on some of this work? Was this expectation clearly laid out during the hiring process? If so, and the suburb staffer isn’t pulling his/her weight, then it becomes a performance issue that needs to be addressed as any other issue would.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This. It’s unfortunate that the suburban employee lives far out from the office, but it’s completely unfair to dump all the extra work on the city employee. She needs to start pulling her own weight.

    3. merp*

      If the job requires sometimes staying late or coming in early, and they were told in advance… well, then it doesn’t sound like something that one of them can just refuse to do without consequences. Sounds to me like they just aren’t doing a part of their job they’re expected to. Absolutely worth addressing, and if I were the person picking up the slack, I’d be really frustrated that no one had already.

    4. Kathenus*

      Agreeing with all the other commenters, clearly re-iterate the conditions needed to succeed in the position – which includes early/late work – and let them succeed or not. If they can’t fulfill them, then they need to be moved out. Their personal situation can’t be a factor when their performance negatively affects others in the team and the completion of the work. You can be sympathetic, but need to be clear and hold them to the job requirements.

    5. Leslie Knope*

      Hopefully you have a way of showing appreciation to the staffer who does pick up the slack. My boss does that for me – I have a coworker who just isn’t the type to go above and beyond. Not that he’s doing anything “wrong.” Honestly I’m not even sure he’s aware of the better treatment I get because he’s probably not paying attention. I’ll stay late sometimes because I’m the one who will ask what else I can do to help. Then I’ll get to leave several hours early on Friday. Or my boss will ask if I’m going out for lunch, ask me to grab him something from wherever I like and put both our meals on the company card. Little things like that add up.

      I agree with others have said, though. It shouldn’t be at all about finances or anything outside of the company. Address what affects the company and productivity and leave everything else alone.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Hire another staffer to take on the excess work that can’t be covered by 2 people working reasonable full-time hours.

      Pay the longer-worker staffer more.

      Consider explaining the work culture of your industry to the suburban staffer, but also consider that maybe they’re also digging the work-life balance they have.

    7. RabbitRabbit*

      I’m someone with a daily commute of about 2.5 hours, due to living in the suburbs. I shifted my daily work schedule to coming in early in the morning, so if I do have to stay later I’m still generally getting home at a reasonable hour.

      Basically, it’s unfortunate that this suburbanite wants to but can’t afford to live closer to work, but they were warned strongly about this and are given bonuses to make up for that kind of schedule. It’s time for some gentle reminders that they signed on for this and need to help carry the workload.

      1. Samwise*

        I wouldn’t make those reminders gentle. I’d be clear with the slacker (yes, slacker — they’re not doing work that they were told was required, and that they get compensated for too with bonuses) that this is required work and let them know that starting right now, they are expected to stay late/come in early.

        And you provide transportation!

        Possibly you need more staff so that’s worth considering. In the meantime however, this person needs to get with the program.

    8. Notinstafamous*

      Are you set up for suburbanite to work from home? We have a similar hours / late night requirement at my firm but the folks with kids or who live far away often go home and the log back in. That seems pretty consistent from a big law/big 4 perspective. If she won’t work more than regular hours regardless than most of the time at the firms I’ve been at that results in a combination of no bonus followed by up-or-out being “out” in a year or two.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        That isn’t right–WFH should be available to all–not based on whether you have kids, live far away, etc. The person living next door should be able to do it too.

    9. PollyQ*

      Make it clear to the suburban worker that long, unpredictable hours are a required part of the job, and that she can’t just opt out of them, any more than she could any other unpleasant task.

      If needed, switch to a model where you’re assigning work evenly, rather than waiting for someone to volunteer to pick it up.

    10. Username required*

      Personally – I’d say the commute is irrelevant. The employee took the job knowing the requirements – for them to now decide they won’t work the hours required shouldn’t be allowed. The coworker who is having to work earlier/later because of slacker coworker didn’t sign up for this workload. I’m going through something similar with slacker coworker who went on vacation for the second time in 6 months leaving his work unfinished and I had to pick up the slack again because I did the job a couple of years ago.
      When I complained to my supervisor that this couldn’t keep happening I was told I didn’t understand because I’m single/childless and he has to take vacation at a certain time because of school holidays. After my head finished spinning I told my boss that was a red herring. The problem is not that he went on vacation or why – it is that he left without finishing his workload or telling anyone that time sensitive work wasn’t done. Needless to say I’m job searching as I feel completely unsupported.

  52. SpookySzn*

    I have a rather low stakes question that I hope you all can help me with! I’ve been at my current job for around 7 months. It’s my first job out of undergrad and is an entry level position. My employer is a consulting company. The office is business casual, but leans more towards the casual side of business casual. They have a clearly defined dress code which doesn’t specify anything about hair color. I’m thinking of dying my hair silver. Is dying my hair an unnatural color an ill-advised plan?

    1. wingmaster*

      I had a similar work place like yours. I had seen a few people dye their hair burgundy or red but not a color like silver or blue (which is what my hair is now). I asked my grand boss just to be safe, and it was fine! Silver is such a pretty color, and you could make it more “natural” looking going to balayage route.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      . . . is there somebody you trust that you could ask?

      This wouldn’t be a problem at my job, but it might at others if the general culture is more conservative. If yours is as casual as it sounds, it probably won’t be an issue, but if you work with clients they might have an opinion about it.

    3. Disco Janet*

      If you have good report with someone who has been there a long time, I would ask them. Otherwise, if you don’t deal face-to-face with clients… eh it’s probably fine.

    4. Bree*

      Yeah, I would ask someone you trust for their honest opinion about whether or not this would negatively affect how you are perceived. Ideally your supervisor. Personally, I say go for it, but every office is different.

    5. Threeve*

      I would say you just don’t want to be the only person with unnatural-colored hair, at least until you’ve built a solid work history. My office has a fully casual dress code–jeans and t-shirts–and we have a single entry-level staff person who always has wild colors. It’s not against our dress code, and quite possibly she cleared it with her boss. But while we have lots of entry-level staff around the same age, she’s the only one people really think of as “young,” and they tend to treat her accordingly.

    6. CupcakeCounter*

      What is your natural color? If you are already have lighter color hair, I don’t think it would be such a “shocking” change and not a problem. If your hair is pretty dark and this would be a drastic change, I would probably ask around and/or ease into the change (start out with some highlights and get a bit lighter each salon visit.
      Also if there are other people there with “unnatural” hair colors, proceed with the silvery tresses!

    7. LKW*

      I think it entirely depends on the client group you support. If you are working with Department of Defense or a global bank, they may take umbrage. If you are working with a consumer goods company like Revlon or retail like Sephora it would probably be well received.

  53. JustaTech*

    Business travel tips needed!
    I’ve got two (separate) business trips to Europe coming up in the next two months, to Germany and Italy. Is there anything I should know about business travel in Europe? (I’ve been to both countries about two years ago as a tourist, and don’t speak either language.)
    I know people in Europe tend to dress better than most Americans, is my business casual wardrobe going to be embarrassing? I’m going to be doing tours of manufacturing plants, so many hours on my feet, thus I’m not planning on wearing heels.
    Are there important business rituals I need to watch out for? Are business cards super important? Is it OK to write on the cards people give me?

    Also, any tips on traveling with my occasionally-grumpy-traveler boss?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Faith*

      My best tip is this: stay awake the first day you’re there (until at least 6pm local time) so you can get over the jet lag quickly. It’ll be a pain in the ass to stay up that long, but it makes it so much easier going forward.

      Also, a lot of Europeans have a smaller personal space bubble than Americans, so don’t be weirded out by that. I can’t think of any weirdness with business cards.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      The one thing on clothes that I can say is that Italians and Germans tend to wear less bright colors. I like bright colors, but if I were trying to fit in in Germany and Italy, I would leave them at home.

      1. Maureen*

        Germans can be very formal and really like to shake hands with everyone at the start and end of meetings. Even if its a big group of people. If you receive a business card, say thanks and look at the card for a second or two. Don’t just stuff it in your pocket/ handbag.

        1. JustaTech*

          Good to know! Is it worth trying to learn a couple of polite phrases in German or Italian? Or would it be counterproductive to mangle basic greetings? (I’m not great at languages and for some reason I default to Russian for “yes”, which is weird given I’ve never even tried to learn Russian.)

          1. AL (the other one)*

            Taxi drivers may not speak English in either Germany or Italy, so print out the addresses you’ll need so that you can show them.

            If you try to learn one or two phrases it will go down well.

            I only know “yes, no, please, thank you, two beers please” in German but I get by :)

            In Italian, try “Mi dispiace, non parlo Italiano”. Italians will usually appreciate someone making the effort.

            Italian coffee rules.
            Cappuccinos only in the morning, up to 11am max – then only espresso or macchiato afterwards. The servings will be really small. That’s the norm, no need to stick to it but just FYI.
            Depending where in Italy you are, there will be different types of regional food. Spaghetti bolognese does not exist. Breakfast will be very light in most hotels.

            Germans are secretly more hierarchical (power distance hierarchy) than they might appear at first. I work for an American company with a ‘call everyone by their first name’ policy and the German team really struggled with this, and with finding a way to refer to senior managers formally and politely in German and still use the first name.

    3. Leisel*

      I would say make time away from your boss important. Not EVERY meal has to be together, etc. Have some time to decompress if he’s being a Grumpy McGrumperson.

      Also, I think you can find a balance between business casual and comfortable. Find some shoes that have memory foam insoles or something like that, but look nice. Luckily there are more options now that look stylish and comfortable, but aren’t sneakers. Check out Dr. Scholls! I think you can pair a button down shirt and blazer with comfortable shoes and still look very nice. Plus, it’s important to have closed-toe shoes if you’re around machinery.

      Have good trips!

    4. Nessun*

      Definitely agree with the jet-lag advice! If it’s possible to arrive earlier (as in, a day earlier) to get used to the time difference, I’d take advantage of that option. My last trip, I arrived early and worked from the hotel the first day, so I could work at my own pace (and in comfier clothing), and adjust to the time.

      I suggest checking websites for any info about cultural norms, just so you’re not completely startled by anything (recent example: my boss wanted a dinner for our group, and meeting in Madrid meant that dinner started at 9 pm instead of his suggested 6 pm…because no restaurant would be open for a 6 pm dinner in Spain!!).

      I’d err on the more business side of business casual when choosing your outfits, and I’d also suggest being careful about the materials and how you pack – not all hotels have the same equipment for cleaning/pressing clothes, and looking your best improves mood and confidence.

      Enjoy your international travels!

      1. JustaTech*

        I’m hoping we can get an extra day on both ends of the trip. For us both flights to Europe have to be red-eyes (shape of the planet, nothing to be done about it), with transfers, so it’s unlikely we could actually get to the sites same-day.

        I guess now’s a good time to order another pair of Betabrand pants (the yoga dress pants), since last time I went to Europe I wore those lovely zip off at the knee pants, and while they’re quite functional, the only place they’re work wear is if you’re hiking an Alp!

    5. LKW*

      Don’t worry too much about your clothing – Americans stick out like sore thumbs. We wear our clothes a lot looser than our EU counterparts. Italians love a pretty shoe, Germans like a sensible shoe. Many years ago when I worked in Belgium it was perfectly fine to wear the same outfit two days in a row. Don’t be surprised if this happens, pack just in case they stopped that.

      In Germany don’t cross the street against the light (you might be fine in Berlin). I don’t think anyone cares in Italy.

      If you’re travelling continually for two weeks bring a small medicine kit. Medicine isn’t sold in a CVS and if you need cough syrup on a Sunday, you may have to ask the concierge for directions to the only open pharmacy in the neighborhood (most close, one will stay open, they rotate). Tylenol, band aids, neosporin, cortisone cream are always in my bag, just in case.

      1. Belgian*

        Am Belgian, can confirm we still wear the same outfit 2 days in a row. I cannot imagine how much laundry you would have otherwise!

        For outfits I think you would be fine with wearing a dark wash jean, button down shirt and classy sneakers (check out the sneakers by Veja, they’re very popular right now).

    6. Existentialista*

      Me too! I’m leaving Sunday for a two-week trip to Germany and Sweden.

      Some specific things I noticed last time I was in Germany – you will encounter people who do not speak English, which you don’t in Sweden. Some taxis only take cash, so have some Euros on you. They have a proper hot meal at midday, not sandwiches or salads like Americans.

      +1 to take along cold medicine and other over-the-counter medications, just in case, because they are hard to get there.

      My favorite pro-tip regarding international flights, which I figured out myself – if you sit in an aisle seat (and you should always sit in an aisle seat), wear light-colored socks, so that when you’re sleeping, the flight attendants can see your feet and don’t run into them with the cart as they’re coming past.

    7. Ginger Sheep*

      Regarding shoes, no need to wear heels either in Italy or in Germany, but (unless things have changed in the last decade) sneakers would definitely stick out. Any type of « sensible » leather shoes would be fine if you are on your feet all day.

  54. Helena*

    For managers/employers: Do you know, or do you have an estimate, of how many of your employees/direct reports receive public benefits? Additionally, does your company actively collect this information from its employees?

    For the purpose of “public benefits,” this includes but is not limited to things like Medicaid, SNAP, public housing, child care subsidies, and help with utilities.

    I’m curious about this because I work in the public benefits space and we’re often surprised to learn that employers seem to have no idea (or claim to have no idea) that many of their employees subsidize their employment with public benefits. So wondering how people here think about this.

    DISCLAIMER: I am NOT asking this question to start a political discussion on the validity of public benefits, too many people on them, not enough people having access to them, whatever. Thus, I politely request contributions only from those who have an actual to my actual question being posed. I am curious only about KNOWLEDGE OF employee benefit use, NOT your opinion of that benefit use :) Thank you!

    1. Picard*

      Wow. I’ve never even thought about that. The lowest salary at our place is well above minimum wage though so I would hope that NONE of our employees need public benefits. How do you even ask that question?

      1. Angelinha*

        Income limits for some benefits, especially food stamps, are pretty high. I worked at a nonprofit where entry level staff made $38K in their first year, which I realize isn’t a ton, but many of them were on benefits, particularly those who had kids and/or didn’t have a second income in the home. Same with many of the managers ($55-60K).

        I knew that some of my staff/coworkers were on benefits because they would mention it in conversation – likely more common since we worked all day with helping people access benefits.

    2. fposte*

      I mean, on the one hand there’s the McDonald’s situation, so I get the inquiry. But from a management standpoint the notion that I’d be requiring employees to self-report on their public aid use fills me with horror and, IMHO, risks being discriminatory due to disparate impact. And if I were an employee asked about that, whether (ostensibly) anonymously or not, I’d be really skeeved out.

      Can you think of a way to get that information that circumvents those problems?

      1. Helena*

        I’m not asking from the perspective of, “I expect them to ask.” Nor that they should. Just curious about knowledge levels of it.

        Employees do sometimes bring it in conversation themselves.

        1. fposte*

          You asked if the employer actively collects that information, and I responded as to why I wouldn’t.

    3. Mojo021*

      I am in a human resources position (15+ years) and have never tracked or requested that information. The only time we would be aware of this would be if an employment/wage verification was requested.

    4. Mia 52*

      No I have no information on that, aside from one employee who shared openly that she applied for Medicaid between jobs once, but ultimately did not use it as she ended getting hired by us. So I don’t have much of an idea. We only hire full time workers and have good insurance in my opinion, so I think most people use that benefit. Also our lowest paying salary wouldn’t qualify you for anything unless you lived in NYC/SF and had several dependents. So I guess I just deduced that no one really uses them.

    5. Coverage Associate*

      I know I have never been formally asked. I know it has come up casually in very small pre-career businesses. The closest it has come in my professional career is a benefits representative suggesting I look into Obamacare for my dependent, because adding him to the employer’s plan was so expensive.

    6. When I Worked in H.R.*

      We never tracked this, but it was a thing. During the new employee orientation I made a point of mentioning the state’s “Children’s Health Insurance Plan,” (CHIP) to parents of children who worked for my employer because the earning limits were fairly high and for many people it was a better deal than the employer-subsidized insurance plan we offered.

    7. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      I know the state and local government where I work require proof of marriage (marriage certificate copy) when hired as well as childrens’ birth certificates, etc. as well as proof of insurance if not taking the insurance offered–example: new hire declines insurance, must show proof they have insurance. That may be Medicaid, etc. and that will be placed in the employee file. In that way, the company nows.

  55. Emmie*

    What alternative phrases do you have for me?

    People at work ask me why my engagement ended many years ago. I share too much information. Can you give me some bland work appropriate responses?

    Thank you!

    1. Amber Rose*

      “It just didn’t work out, you know how it goes” + subject change is what I usually default to. People will fill in the blanks themselves.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      These ^^. My mother was dumped by her first fiance because she objected to his over-attachment to his mom and his family’s general contempt of her.

      But she’ll tell you it just didn’t work out. Which is true.

    3. MissGirl*

      How do they know your engagement from years ago ended? Are you bringing it up? If so, I would start there with oversharing. It’s not wrong to communicate that but it’s a personal detail that coworkers don’t need to know.

      1. NJBi*

        ^This, yeah. You can refer to this person as just “my ex” or “a former partner” when they come up in anecdotes. No need to get into the whole engagement thing. But if it does come up, I like the dispassionate “It ended up not working out.” If the coworker asks a follow-up, use one of the classic advice columnist stonewalls, like Carolyn Hax’s “Wow” or Captain Awkward’s return-awkwardness-to-sender blank, slightly confused expression; they’re being rude, and you do not need to share more.

      2. Emmie*

        You’re right. I am part of the problem. It’s because we (coworkers) talk about things we’ve previously done. So, should I just refer to him as my friend? My friend and I went to the Bahamas. My friends and I ate dinner there. Or just say I?

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          If it’s been multiple years, you can safely drop the person out of your vocabulary.
          “I did this.”

    4. Workerbee*

      “Why do you ask?” is what I’d be tempted to fire back, or “Oh, I don’t know; just lucky, I guess,” but neither of these may always be helpful. :)

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I think the bland suggestions you’ve already been given are great, but I’m still boggling that people asked you that in the first place. One of my former coworkers would mention her ex husband from time to time, but it would never even occur to me to ask why they got divorced!

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Yup. I worked closely with someone for 7 years and even made her gender reveal cake. No idea why she and her first husband divorced.

    6. Tuckerman*

      When I don’t want to get into details or speculate on the details of someone else’s life, I say, “You know, Life happens.”

    7. LKW*

      Or you can just be absurd “Oh, it’s the same old story: Boy meets girl. Boy & girl fall love. Boy turns out to be a alien from another planet. That old yarn”

      or

      “Well my grandmother always said ‘When you see a moose running through the corn field, you know the rabbits aren’t sleeping’.”

  56. Quiznakit*

    This is just to vent; I know the way to approach this issue is to use my words as necessary. No advice needed, but commiseration is welcome.

    Right, then. I’m on work travel this pay period with half of my office. We’re in a city a long way from home and of course there are lots of things to do and see! However, we’re also working long days in one another’s company and commuting back and forth from our hotel together and eating meals together at the hotel’s free meal buffets, etc. I’m very much an introvert and while I really like my coworkers (they’re my kind of people!) I also seriously need down time away from them all.

    You can see where this is going, I’m sure. A couple of my fellow travelers are very very interested in going to do and see all the things, and a couple of them are extremely not interested in being alone, and a couple of them are super invested in having a cards night. (There are five of us, btw, so this is a weird Venn diagram.) And of course the card games they want to play are the kind that require four players, and one of our group (not me) is on the other side of town because of hotel shenanigans.

    Ugh. I’ll suck it up at some point this weekend and learn how to play euchre in the spirit of collegiality, but I am super looking forward to spending most of the rest of it either at the local cat cafe or ensconced in my hotel room in glorious solitude.

    At least my coworker whose internal monologue is fully externalized isn’t on this trip. Heh.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      OH GOSH I feel you so much. That happens to me once a year when we take our annual trip to visit a vendor. The vendor plans out a whole entire day full of activities (most of which are fun!) so I end up having to People for like 12-13 hours when you take into account the plane ride to get there and checking in to the hotel and all. Then the next morning we visit their office and have a meeting to discuss any issues, learn any new software, or whatever. The only downtime you get on these trips is if you sacrifice sleep. It’s exhausting.

    2. Cap. Marvel*

      You are much more accommodating than I would be. I would cheerfully say I’m done for the day and go lie down.
      Hang in there!

    3. MissGirl*

      I totally get you. I try to compromise when I travel out of town on the social part of it. Traveling tends to shut my social brain down because of SO MUCH CHANGE!! I plead off going out the first night as that’s the worst night mentally for me. It gives me time to check into my Air BNB, run to the grocery store, and do a workout. That helps me prep for the rest of the days. Then I make an effort to go out the second night and have dinner with my team. It’s important to me to build those relationships, and I don’t want to be the odd man out.

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      If they don’t see the need for alone time, it’s okay to tell them you don’t feel well. It’s not lying. When I get people’d out, I’m really not feeling like myself, in a way that’s not dissimilar to having a headache or an upset stomach.

    5. Samwise*

      They don’t have to play euchre. Canasta is a very fun three handed game. They can play poker. They can play other card games that do not require pairs or fours.

      Beg off. If you all like each other and know each other, just say, I’m really sorry, but I need my introvert recharging time! Or, You know I become a bear if I don’t get my alone time! Or, I’m completely exhausted, I need to just vegetate back in my room, see ya bright and early tomorrow.

    6. Cartographical*

      As a person who needs hours alone every day, literally, or I won’t sleep, I feel this in my soul. It’s hard bc I actually love being around people and hanging out — but not so much, I can’t do it, I get exhausted and I can’t sleep at the same time when I’m over-socialized.

      That said, I love euchre. It’s a traditional family-at-cottage game in my area, also commonly played at lunch by high school students. If your coworkers can shift their euchre game to lunch or right after work, maybe that could maximize your quiet time. Personally, I’d rather play over lunch hour every day than slog through a single card night. I also don’t drink AND I can’t eat out (food allergies) so I’m “no fun” in general and it sucks, honestly; if I could be fun, I would.

  57. Malory Archer*

    Oh man, I am so glad this is here today. I started a new job last month, and we are all headed to Vegas for a company offsite next week. Apparently my department head is planning to take us out to a nightclub one of the nights…

    What on earth does one wear to a “company Vegas nightclub outing”?? *facepalm*

    1. merp*

      Tbh I would have a convenient headache that night, but I’m not much a club-goer so maybe that’s just me.

    2. Blueberry*

      I would say something both fun and reasonably modest. I’d consider how the outfit feels physically, the sensations of the cloth, etc — if the outfit makes you feel fun it’ll help you have fun. But it’s still with coworkers so I’d rule out the mesh shirt for this trip.

    3. RC Rascal*

      I had to do this one time at a Florida nightclub. I was only a couple of years out of college. It was embarrassing watching my bosses get drunk.

      I recommend wearing shorts, cute but not too sexy. Also, plan to leave early. Some of these corporate types are real party animals outside of the office.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        It’s Vegas in January, night time temps in the 40s and 50s. Not shorts, for me.

        I like the ‘business casual with a little extra bling’. You could maybe even (gasp) show shoulders, once you leave your coat at the coat check. But not spaghetti straps.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Pajamas, if I can suddenly develop “indigestion” after the end of my job commitments for the day but before everybody leaves for the nightclub.

      If it’s a better idea to actually attend with the rest of the team, then I’d go with business (jeans allowed) casual. There will be tourists at the club wearing all kinds of super-casual gear or skimpy clubwear. However, you’ll still be with co-workers. I like my co-workers to see me only in office-appropriate attire.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      This is the exact situation where a LBD saves the day. If you don’t already have one that you would feel comfortable wearing around your boss and coworkers, I recommend a boat neck, fit and flare style that hits right around the knee. The cut is almost universally flattering and can be dressed up for Vegas with some flashy costume jewelry and fun shoes (while also being appropriate for a wedding, job interview, or a funeral depending on styling).

      1. Malory Archer*

        Ooo, I like this idea a lot. I’ll be sure to pack one.

        An interesting update – it was my immediate supervisor who told us all over Slack that this outing was rumored, and when a couple of us brought it up in our team meeting our department head was like ??????

        …so, it might not be real. But I’ll be prepared anything, thanks to your excellent guidance, all!

    6. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      “Well it’s been fun but the loud music and flashing lights are giving me a killer headache, I’m going to go lie down now,” at the start of Hour 2 of the clubbing excursion.

    7. Diahann Carroll*

      Wear nice jeans and a cute top with sensible, but attractive shoes for walking and dancing. Bring a jacket (vegan, faux leather) to keep you warm for when you leave.

  58. Betty*

    I did a job as a job share with another independent contractor at the end of last year. It was a big deal and a bit of a stretch job for both of us, as well as being a pilot project for the client that they were doing partly as a learning experience to inform the direction of their future business. We messed up in some elements of the delivery. Not catastrophically, but I think we basically tried to stretch the budget too thin and ended up skimping out on materials that weren’t durable enough for the run of the project. Also, a third party we hired as a subcontractor (who has worked with my co-contractor before but not me, but I know a bit about and was happy to use) messed up a bit too. However, the overall customer feedback from the project has been hugely positive and I know the client got a lot out of working with us as external contractors who could bring a lot of expertise to help them be more ambitious with this kind of project than they otherwise would have done.

    We’re supposed to be meeting with the client for a feedback meeting/debrief next week now it’s all over. My attitude is that mistakes were made on all sides (the install was very difficult in part because of the client’s failure to communicate some really important site restrictions beforehand, and to provide all the in-house staff they said they were going to) and we should use it as a genuine opportunity to be professional and move forward together. (It helps that I’m about to go off on maternity leave for a year so won’t be available for the next round of this potentially annual project anyway, whereas my co-contractor will.) I still don’t understand why some things didn’t work out, or how the subcontractor’s bit didn’t work out as everything he said he was doing seemed perfectly sensible to me. But we can’t deny that stuff went wrong that we were responsible for, and I think we will look foolish and irresponsible if we do.

    My co-contractor’s attitude is that we need to go in with all guns blazing prepared to defend ourselves and our professional reputations. She wants to have a pre-meeting with me to “prepare”, which I am sure will turn into her trying to create a “party line” for us to stick to, involving having followed standard procedures and so on.

    I’m planning to say what I was going to say anyway, but I am concerned that she is going to both embarrass me and be upset with me for admitting any mistakes. To be honest, I don’t want to work with her again. Our professional priorities are too different. But I don’t want to sit there and openly contradict her or tell her off for being unprofessional in front of a big client that I know she wants to be “in” with. I don’t know if there’s anything helpful I can say in our pre-meeting to persuade her to just… be human. And that it’s better to admit obvious mistakes than to be weirdly defensive about them. Or scripts I can use in the actual feedback meeting to basically say, “Come on, pull yourself together, you know we messed that bit up.”

    1. Betty*

      Also, she can be a bit histrionic and over-emotional generally, so there’s a real risk she might do something awful like cry if she gets really stressed. She cried at one point during the install and just sat there crying (didn’t take herself off to have a moment or anything) and I was so embarrassed *I* left the room.

      AND everyone has kindly agreed to hold the meeting at my actual house because I’m so pregnant I can barely walk, so I can’t just leave if it gets awkward!

      1. Betty*

        Oh goodness, and the cherry on the top of the cake is that she used to date the subcontractor, “Fergus” (I knew this, I still thought he was professionally suitable for the role, still stand by our decision to use him based on what we knew of him and the project, the subcontractor himself is EXTREMELY professional and it was in no way awkward) and is REALLY emotionally invested in “defending” him. She suggested inviting Fergus to the meeting. The client declined as one of the things they want to discuss is “the suitability of third party contractors”.

        I don’t think they should use him next year as he is more experienced in X and it became clear they need someone who is more experienced in Y, even though both X and Y will be required. She has told me privately (in an emotional message) that if they won’t use Fergus next year then she doesn’t want to be involved with manufacture and install at all! *tosses hair flouncily* I think she’s being an idiot and will talk herself out of the job over it because the client clearly REALLY doesn’t want to use him again, and the whole thing is incredibly teenage. “If my friend can’t come to your party then I don’t want to come either!” “Er…OK, then neither of you come.” “Wait, WHAT?!” I’m sure Fergus will be fine with it because he’s a big boy with a decade’s professional experience and this stuff happens.

        Urgh, sorry, this is really tl;dr but it’s been a while since our delivery was finished and it’s just all coming flooding back as I type!

    2. Stornry*

      In the pre-meeting she wants, you could try this: “Look, we both know some things did not work as well as we’d planned. We’ll sound a lot more professional if we acknowledge them and decide on how we make sure similar issues don’t come up again.” And then work that out between you. Identify all the shortcomings and how to address them so that next time, you’re prepared. Vendor didn’t provide information? Figure out what you’ll need and ask for it before you need it; check site restrictions yourself, find out who’ll you’ll need to contact, etc. If she is not prepared to do that, have those answers ready yourself — if the client mentions it and you’re partner blazes, you can be the calm one and say, “Yes, I see what you mean. My/our thoughts on addressing that in future is to…”

    3. Aly_b*

      You’re the one in it so obviously I can’t judge, but it sounds like you might both be coming in more adversarially than needed. At least in my corner of the industry, a debrief is for lessons learned and usually has a tone more of figuring out how to work together in the future rather than allocating blame. I would try to use framing more like how you’ve described the issue with the subcontractor having more experience in x, and them really needing more y. That’s useful because they can take away that you get what they’re looking for and they can make that focus clearer next time. No one did something wrong by you not guessing that’s what they needed, but knowing what you know now, here’s where you’d see potential process improvements. No idea how to get your partner on board with that approach though. Worst case scenario all you can really do is be very calm and collected and be as collaborative as you can manage. You’ll look good doing that even if she doesn’t get on board, particularly if you’re not that worried about souring that relationship.

    4. Dr. Anonymous*

      Have some tea or something available in the kitchens I you can invite her to go get Herself some if she loses it during the meeting. That way she has someplace to go and be unglued and a reason to leave the room besides the obvious fact that she’s crying.

  59. Jaid*

    Any weird things you do at work?

    I fist bump my cubicle fitting when I exit, because I build up static electricity like, whoa. You can actually hear the discharge…

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I bring my own soap to the bathroom because I’m allergic to sulfates and all the bathroom soap has SLS. So I have this tiny travel bottle of Dr Bronner’s living on my desk.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I started doing that since regular soap dries out my hands during the winter and I get cracked cuticles. I’m a Dr. Bronners fangirl at this point.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          It’s good stuff, right? I use it as body wash and dish soap too. And I grate up the bars to make my own laundry soap.

          Side note: avoiding SLS is annoying as all get out.

    2. Cap. Marvel*

      I talk to the printer or other electronics when they don’t work.
      Printer jam? “Buddy, you and I are going to have words if you don’t have my agendas ready in time for this meeting.”
      Computer freeze? “There’s no reason to be so cold, you punk.”
      Phone ringing too loudly? “Quiet, no one wants to hear you.”

      1. Stornry*

        I do that too! When our new copier was installed, I joked that the perfect Halloween costume for it was to add a plunger off to one side and a skirt with large circles and it could go as a Dalek. I think it heard me and has been a bit cranky for just me ever since.

        1. Cap. Marvel*

          I’m glad I’m not the only one! Although one of my SVPs caught me talking to the printer yesterday; I’ve learned to talk to it more quietly.
          Maybe feed the copier some paper and it will stop being cranky.

      2. Sunflower Sea Star*

        Same! Boss once overheard me talking to the copier:
        “Oh, come on! We’ve talked about this before! You know you can’t keep doing this to me whenever I’m on a time crunch!”
        Could have been very embarrassing but he just said “You’re nicer than me. I just kick the *&*&% thing!”

    3. magnusarchivist*

      When I worked in a library that had a large portrait of the founder hanging just inside the front door, I’d say goodnight to him when I shut the place down every evening.

      1. Chaordic One*

        In a similar vein, about one-third of the office building where I work is a repurposed and remodeled furniture warehouse turned into office space and rumored to be haunted. (The remaining two-thirds is a new building built in the last ten years.) There are employees on the swing shift who are afraid to go to the basement offices in the old part of the building. Anyway, I talk to the ghosts and say things like, “Goodnight, boys,” when I’m leaving.

    4. we're basically gods*

      We’re supposed to lock our computers when we leave, which is good practice, but I constantly forget, so every time I get up to use the bathroom, I get to the door, then have to turn around and lock my computer.

    5. Square Root of Minus One*