I got my dream offer right after starting a new job, coworker is a jerk, and more

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

1. I just started a new job — and then got a PhD offer from my dream school

I started a new job six weeks ago. It’s at my alma mater and it’s an incredible place to work. The culture is awesome and I love my colleagues. Yesterday, I received an offer from my first choice, and the best school in my field, to enter a PhD program in the Fall. I’m ecstatic and plan on accepting the offer. This is life-changing and career-changing.

Here’s what I’m bugging out about: I am still in my six-month introductory period and I don’t want to lose my job if I tell them now. I need the money, especially before I have to move and take a substantial pay cut. In any other circumstances I would just hang in and give notice maybe a month before I need to move in August or September. But this is a community I belong to and it’s important to me to do right by the students, faculty, and staff.

I will need to ask for time off to handle a number of things: (1) Pulling permits, meeting and hiring contractors, and everything else that needs doing to prep my house to rent it out while we’re gone for the next several years. There are a ton of headaches there due to shoddy and non-permitted work by the folks who flipped the house when we bought it. (2) Taking time to visit campus before I accept the offer so that my partner has some idea of what our new city will be like.

However, I already missed six days of work due to the flu (had documentation from MD). I am about to miss another three days for a pre-planned vacation. I don’t feel like I can ask for more time off without some explanation, but I’m hesitant to say anything that might F me over.

Oooooh. Yeah, even if they’re willing to keep you on knowing you’re leaving later this year, they almost definitely won’t be happy about doing that and giving you a bunch of time off to facilitate that earlier-than-anticipated departure. Is there a way your partner can do the brunt of the house prep? I realize that’s not ideal (especially when they’re already moving for you), but if they have flexibility in their schedule in a way you don’t with a brand new job, that might be the safest path. Alternately, you can probably be straightforward about the work on the house, without explaining you’re doing it because you plan to rent it out later this year. With the campus trip, can you confine it to a weekend so you’re not missing work (or even have your partner take the trip alone if that’s feasible)?

“I’ve been here six weeks and I’m leaving this summer” isn’t great, but a lot of employers will work with you on it (especially when you’re working at your alma mater and leaving for a PhD). But “I’ve been here six weeks, I’m leaving this summer, and I want lots of time off meanwhile” is a much harder sell.

The trickier question is how transparent to be. I hear you on wanting to do right by your community there. Is there a middle ground where you don’t announce your move now, but give more than the month’s notice you mentioned — like telling them in May or June? Often with resignations, there’s not a lot they can do with seven months that they can’t do just as well in three months.

Plus, if you wait, you’ll be earning your keep at that point in way you aren’t right now (because six weeks in, you’re still learning the job) and there’s less of a chance their disappointment will be of the “let’s end this right now” variety. Also, by then you’ll have a better sense of how likely they are to push you out earlier than you want to leave, and can factor that in when May or June rolls around.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Coworker keeps making hostile comments about me being temporary

I started a job with a temporary contract for six months, which has been extended once for a further three months. When I joined, I was told there was a good chance I’d keep getting extensions or be made a permanent member of the team. Last time I got renewed, I didn’t find out until the last day on the old contract. Right now, I have three weeks left and it’s been incredibly stressful trying to job hunt just in case and prepare for possible unemployment.

I have one coworker, Bob, who keeps making comments to me about how I’m only a temporary employee. He’s been that way since I started, and I’ve mostly ignored him. Think, sending out emails to the team, including me, but with a note at the bottom that I should disregard because it’s only for real employees. Or asking me about why I’m not using a certain benefit only to say, “That’s right, that’s not for you” and giggling. A few days ago, he said something to me that I can’t get out of my head. We were walking to the parking lot, and I came to my spot and said I hoped he had a nice night. He cocked his head to the side and said, “In just three more weeks, I think I’ll ask for this spot. You won’t need it, you’ll be gone.” I’ve been obsessing over it ever since.

My boss is out of town at a conference so I can’t talk to him about it, but even if I did he’d just say that he won’t tell me anything. Is Bob trying to tell me I’m getting fired? Why would Bob, who is decidedly not my manager, know this before I do? I’m paranoid that everyone on the team knows I’m getting fired and they’re all laughing behind my back. I can’t focus and I keep almost crying at work. I’ve stepped up my job hunt, but I can’t think of anything else to do.

Bob is a horrible person who takes pleasure in being deliberately cruel to a colleague. Something is very wrong with Bob.

But this isn’t new! He’s been horrible to you since you started, and there’s no reason to think his behavior now indicates he has new information. He’s trying to rattle you because that’s what he does.

Keep in mind he hasn’t told you anything you didn’t already know, which is that this company may or may not keep you and likes to keep you in the dark until the absolute last minute.

If you do get another extension, it’s worth saying to your boss, “Can you shed any light on why Bob is so hostile about me being on a temporary contract? He keeps making truly nasty comments about it and I’m at a loss about how to take that.”

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Bathroom breaks during video calls

I work remotely on a distributed team. Sometimes I have video meetings with other team members, either one-on-one or with several people at once. I’m wondering what to do if I am on a long call with coworkers and/or a supervisor and I need to take a quick bathroom break.

This hasn’t come up yet, but I have a medical condition that requires me to drink a lot of extra fluids, so I expect it will at some point. (I have no desire to disclose this to my employer. But it may help to explain why I feel the need to be prepared.)

If I need to step away for a minute to use the bathroom, and I can’t wait until the end of the call, what should I say? Do different rules apply if I’m on a call with several people? Will my coworkers think I’m rude? This all seems much more awkward in a remote setting.

“Excuse me, I need to step away for a moment.” Or if it’s been a very long call, “I could use a bio break — could we break for two minutes?” (I don’t generally love that term, but it’s helpful here — gets the point across without announcing I HAVE TO PEE NOW.)

If it happens a few times or if you feel self-conscious about it, you can discreetly mention to your manager, “You probably noticed I’ve needed to briefly step away on a few long calls recently. So you have the context, I have a medical condition that sometimes requires a quick bathroom break.”

It should be fine!

4. Reapplying after blowing an interview because of illness

Back in October, I applied for a job with an organization where I would really like to work. This job or a similar one was my five-year goal because of the way my field is structured, so I was thrilled when they got back to me immediately and enthusiastically. I made it to the final round of interviews in December, and I prepared for weeks.

Alison, I completely blew it. I had a nasty cold and was nervous about rescheduling because it had been hard to schedule around their holiday vacations, so I didn’t ask to have it moved (almost all their employees are remote and it was a video interview, no germ concerns here). I thought I would be fine, but between being doped to the gills on cold medicine and the general stress of my first video interview, I am confident I didn’t represent myself well.

They didn’t hire me, and after that interview, I wouldn’t have hired me either! The rejection was pretty standard “many impressive applicants” and “will keep you in mind” fare. I still really want to work there, and the same hiring manager is now actively recruiting for a different but similar job. This one is a slightly better fit than the first job.

Part of me thinks I expressed my interest recently enough that if I had a shot at this position they would have reached out directly, but I don’t hire and don’t know how realistic that is. I’d like to email her and ask if it makes sense for me to apply to this new position and maybe apologize for my Dayquil-fuzzy thinking in the last interview, but I have no idea how or if I can say that. Is it worth applying for this other position? And is there a professional way I can/should explain my thinking to the hiring manager?

Apply! They might think your last interview was prohibitive, but they might not — and you have nothing to lose either way. You can also send an email to the hiring manager letting her know you’re applying and saying something like, “I want to acknowledge I was not at my best when we last spoke in December. I’d been sick that week and could tell it impacted my performance. If you think this new role could be a match, I’d love to have another chance to talk, this time without the congestion and fuzzy head.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 420 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    OP 3, I’m in a similar situation to you. I followed Alison’s script and, after a few times, I noticed other people doing the same. Now, any meetings over an hour have a built in “bio break” about half way through.

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      Maybe OP3 will be the person who breaks the ‘break taboo’ at their workplace. Perhaps their colleagues will be secretly thanking them. I would be, more break acceptance means I can up my tea intake!

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        Yes, because sometimes the comfort is provided by simply getting up and stretching legs by a few steps around the room.
        I have a coworker who uses comfort breaks because he was in a nasty car accident 11 years ago and has to get up and move every 40 minutes or so or he’s in pain from his knees/hip.

        (Also don’t forget the English stereotype of tea-drinking! Comfort breaks are also sometimes used to put the kettle on for a brew!)

        1. MsSolo*

          Yeah, any video call that’s planned to go for two hours or more, you’ll usually find someone proposing a tea break around the halfway point here!

      2. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

        I was coming here to suggest comfort break! Bio break just seems a bit obviously “bathroom related” to me, where comfort break allows the illusion that you just need to stretch your legs etc.

        1. MI Dawn*

          OK, can I just say I love your name? I’m a HUGE Dorothy Sayers fan. And the Dowager Duchess is one of my favorite characters.

        2. Inky*

          Yeah, bio break sounds way grosser to me than mentioning peeing directly. “I need the bathroom,” is fine; “I need the restroom/a restroom break,” is enough of a euphemism already, for me. “I have a biological need,” brings up much more graphic fluids and substances. Comfort break would be way too euphemistic for me, but also fine.

          “Bio break” sounds like “bio hazard” and it has me picturing people hermetically sealed in white suits with masks or helmets, thick blue gloves, and shoe covers dealing with some kind of explosion of bodily matter or excreta. Is this Fortitude? Say “I really have to pee,” and you will gross me out a lot less, by which I mean, not at all, because that’s a normal thing normal people acknowledge exists. But comfort or restroom are fine, too.

          1. starsaphire*

            It’s actually a much gentler euphemism, because it could pertain to any biological need — low blood sugar, leg cramps, thirstiness — but it’s true that some people fixate on “bio = bathroom” and think “ew gross!”

            We had a huge blowup on a message board I was on a few years back (when “afk bio” was entering the lexicon due to MMORPG players) about whether it was rude/disgusting/gross or normal/a really useful euphemism/at least better than some dudes typing “I gotta take a ****”/etc.

            To each their own, I guess, but I honestly think it’s nicer and less graphic.

            1. PeanutButter*

              In my work in healthcare we tended to say, “Let’s take a quick break, I have to get rid of a cup of coffee,” which is a lot worse than bio break, I think! XD

          2. anonymouslee*

            I don’t get why it needs a term at all. Just say, “I could use/need to take a short break” and most people will infer.

      3. Tuppence*

        I was coming here to suggest the same! I’ve never heard “bio break”, but it sounds a bit, well, biological! Comfort break is sufficiently general that it can just mean a leg stretch or a drink – and doesn’t immediately conjure images of bodily fluids!

        1. Dragon_dreamer*

          It’s a term that was popularized in online gaming, actually. “BRB, bio” let people know you were leaving for a legitimate reason, and not just abandoning the group. (Some people let the rest of the group do all the fighting and soak up the xp, or disappear during player vs player when they’re losing. Bad form, especially the latter.)

          1. Phony Genius*

            I wish video game terminology would not bleed into the professional world. That train may have left the station, but I will chase it on a handcar, and pump as hard as possible.

            1. Amy Sly*

              I’ll give up my videogame vocabulary as soon as we get rid of the “slam dunks,” “home runs,” “touchdowns,” etc.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                This! Video game (or gaming terminology in general) gets people turning their noses up – but sports terminology is just fine – that really irritates me.

                I’ve actually used the term “rules lawyer” at work…and explained it to my boss. Who thought it was both apt and hilarious. Sometimes expressions from other contexts just fit, and language (English in particular) is a fluid and ever-changing thing.

                1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                  These terms are likely to be mysterious to an international audience – especially baseball and American football terminology are quite alien outside the US, so they have no place in an international business context unless you want to aleniate colleagues from a different background. Same as we in my team deliberately cut down on soccer-based metaphors now we have a coworker from India where soccer is not the dominant sport.

        2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          We use “bio break” in my organization – stretching, walking or getting a drink are all biological needs.

          We have a strong belief in movement to keep people energized, or at least not remaining seated.

        3. Mockingjay*

          Bio break is not unknown in my job. But most people just say – “hey, let’s take 10” (minutes) or “hey, let’s take a break. Reconvene in 10.”

          1. Mr. Shark*

            Yes, I don’t know why it needs to be bio- or comfort-break. Just say, I need a quick break, or let’s take a quick break, or let’s take 5 for a break. Whatever.
            No need to get into specifics. Bio break sounds much more related to food or bathroom rather than just needing a break for whatever.

        4. Giant Squid*

          I’ve always interpreted “bio break” as meaning time to go through maintenance of the meatbags we all inhabit–including drinking water, grabbing a snack, stretching (as others have mentioned). I like it because it’s all-encompassing. It does sound like the “bathroom” meaning is popular, but I can’t see how it’s worse than “bathroom break”–that removes all pretense and sounds like something you ask kids if they need.

      4. The Minutae*

        Comfort break is good! We say “health break” on my team. These options get the message across while being just vague enough. Could be a water break, or a “need to stretch my legs for a minute” break.

    2. Retail not Retail*

      My work partner came up with “1203” which is a code everyone in our department knows and can be said over the radio or shouted across a space without being like “i gotta PEE”

      I usually hate to use anything he came up with but it’s so convenient. It has a completely juvenile meaning but it is easy.

      We work outside and sometimes separate from each other while on the same task so we need to inform each other of our whereabouts especially if the boss comes around.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Say it out loud – one-two-oh-three. I’ve never heard that before, but I really like it!

            1. Matilda Jefferies*

              One-two-oh-three / I have to pee!

              The rhyme, plus the same rhythm, makes it easy to remember. Sounds like Retail not Retail works in an area with a public address system, so you might want to convey the urgency of the situation without yelling into the radio “Hey Fergus, can you cover for me for a minute? I have to pee really bad!”

              1. Retail not Retail*

                Aw no, y’all are ascribing way too much maturity to us.

                Go number one or number two… or even the dreaded number three. So we say twelve oh three

              1. Phony Genius*

                Not to my ears, nor my neighbor’s. Saying it out loud a couple of times, I was just asked if I was trying to remember my PIN code.

                1. Cece*

                  But that’s kinda the point.
                  It doesn’t need to be understandable to everybody (and it’s probably more beneficial that it isn’t) , just to Retail not Retail’s work environment.

                2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

                  It’s a sort of modern Cockney take on things – “let’s get down to the facts” -> “let’s get down to brass tacks”. “Want to go pee” -> “One too oh three”. The meaning is derived from the words taking a similar phonetic shape, rather than an etymological connection

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        What about “code yellow? Sounds kinda boss – “I’ve got a code yellow situation!!”

    3. Alexis Rose*

      I also sometimes use “health break” which could also imply everything from standing up to stretch the legs and let your spine be in a neutral position for a little while to getting a glass of water to heading to the bathroom.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Using euphemisms as an adult seems so odd to me. When I am in this situation (which is pretty frequent), I just say, “Hey all, I need to go to the bathroom, can we take 5?”. Maybe I am uncouth?

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        If you’re uncouth, so am I – I just tell people have to go to the restroom and call it a day. We all do it (use the restroom that is), so there should be no shame in saying so.

      2. Willis*

        I’m with you. I like the poster down thread who said on video calls she just puts up a sign that says Be Right Back. That way you don’t even have to interrupt the meeting. But if you do need to say something aloud, I think just saying you need a quick break or will be right back is fine without looking for a special euphemism. People can fill in the blank. Also, bio break sounds to me like you’re going to pause to give us a personal history.

        1. ampersand*

          Ha! I don’t like the sound of bio break either, but I hadn’t thought of the personal history aspect. That’s amusing. To me it sounds kind of science-y, like biological warfare.

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        My office seems to have settled on “run down the hall”, as in “Sure, I have time to talk about the llama reports now, but I need to run down the hall first and I’ll come to your office in a couple of minutes.” We all know that means walk down the hall to the bathroom.

        It looks kind of weird to me now, written down, but it works in context.

          1. Leslie Knope*

            Our office is planned around a long, L-shaped hallway that wraps around the conference room, which is at the front. The largest office is the one in the corner of the L and belongs to my boss. Since the entry door and the bathrooms are both at the front by the conference room, you have to walk past his office to use the bathroom or leave for errands. Inevitably, he’ll think of something he needs as you’re walking past…and sometimes it ends being really bad timing! We come in and out throughout the day, so in his defense, we could easily be on our way out the door. It’s inconvenient if I have my coat on and I’m about to walk out, but it’s even more inconvenient if I’ve realized I have to use the facilities!

            I think the OP is fine if they say, “I need to hop up for a minute, be right back.” They don’t need to elaborate, they’re coworkers will get it. Willis’s idea above to have the sign is a good one since they wouldn’t have to interrupt anyone else mid-sentence.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          A pretentious colleague at my last job was bragging about the “water feature” she was installing in her garden and was very offended when I asked her, deadpan, “oh, are you putting in a toilet?” Ever since then my friends and I have joked about “visiting the water feature.” At the job before that, my favorite co-worker and I referred to the “situation room,” because that’s where we’d go to vent or debrief each other on various workplace issues. It was a two-seater with a little foyer-like room, so we could use the sound of the first door opening as a warning to switch topics before anyone else came in.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree. Plus people will generally understand why the need for a bathroom break is fairly urgent, as opposed to a “comfort break” if you want to imply you could just be putting on tea or stretching your legs I’d probably be wondering why you couldn’t just wait a bit.

        With my friends I usually just flat out say I have to pee. At work I will either say I’m just going to run to the bathroom or else I’d just say I’ll be right back and assume they all know why.

      5. Yorick*

        That’s sort of why I don’t like “bio break.” It’s a euphemism, but it’s very obvious, so why bother?

      6. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        “Bathroom” is itself a euphemism in works spaces. There is rarely a bath in those rooms.

      7. Double A*

        And really, isn’t “going to the bathroom” already a euphemism? You’re not just wandering in there and then wandering out! (“Restroom” is even more vague about the purpose of the room). We just all know exactly what it’s euphemistic fo.

      8. ...*

        Yeah I’m confused too. When I lead long trainings I usually just say lets take X amount of time. Or Maybe “coffee & restroom” break. Idk. I think we all know that we pee on breaks.

      9. SimplyTheBest*

        Literally every way to say “I need to go to bathroom” (including the word bathroom) is a euphemism unless you want to actually say “I need to urinate/defecate.”

    5. LCS*

      90% of the time when I’ve got an audio conference call we’ve got Skype on the screen also and there is a chat panel to the side. I typically just type something like “Need to step out for 5, be back shortly” and go. That way it’s visible so people know not to call on me but it doesn’t need to interrupt the flow of conversation or shut down the call. It’s pretty common where I work.

      1. Katertot*

        ^^ Yes I was just about to second this- Use the chat function to say something along those lines- our team uses that consistently on video and conference calls and it works really well for everyone.

    6. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*


      If it’s a long call, say two hours or more, I’d say a five- (or maybe even ten-) minute break is appropriate, with the proviso of everyone really coming back on time. “We’ve been on for quite a while; I need a bio break and other may too – can we break for ten minutes? If so, it’s 11:25 now – let’s all be back on the line at 11:35.”

    7. Ophelia*

      Also, OP3, YMMV, but our video conferencing software also has a chat feature – when I’m stuck on a long call and need to step away, I just send a message out to the group, so there’s an explanation for my break, but it’s not disrupting the flow of the conversation. Basically the video equivalent of just quietly stepping out of the room.

      1. Lizzo*

        LOL, a friend of mine worked in a small office at a racetrack and never wanted to use the bathroom in the tiny office where all noises from within were audible to the rest of the team, so she would take the long walk to the bathroom at the track facility. Her words on the way out the door: “I’ve gotta go see a guy about a horse.”

    8. tink*

      A 5-10 minute stretch/bathroom/refill break at the halfway point for 2-3 hour long meetings is really nice.

    9. TardyTardis*

      Amen! (still remember the power point presentation that lasted for four hours with no such break. Not a fond memory).

  2. BeeBoo*

    OP3- I similarly have to use the restroom more often than the average person. When I’m video calls, I have a piece of paper that says Be Right Back (which is what I would mouth to people at an in person meeting if the need arose) and simply put it in front of my camera if I need to take a quick pee break. It works well and doesn’t interrupt the flow of conversation.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      It’s a shame you guys have to use the video feature during your calls. I work remotely, as does a large portion of my company’s 3500 employees, but our company culture is to leave the cameras off and just use audio for our meetings (due to time zone differences mainly – some people end up taking calls at night in their homes, and no one wants to see their coworkers in their pajamas). I have bladder control issues from time to time, and most of the meetings I’m involved in run over the allotted time, so I just send a message over the meeting chat saying “brb” and step away – pretty much everyone does this, and it’s not a problem. It also cuts down on verbal disruptions when you can just IM a quick message about needing to run to the restroom or step away. With video enabled, I can see how that would be awkward though.

      1. C*

        I can imagine that having the video enabled can be awkward, but I wouldn’t want to have meetings with multiple people without video. People always end up talking over each other without it, at least in my experience. But maybe that gets better if you do it more often.

        1. valentine*

          I have a piece of paper that says Be Right Back […] and simply put it in front of my camera
          Asking the manager to establish this protocol might help OP3 avoid disclosure.

          1. Matilda Jefferies*

            I think you could just start doing it, without asking the manager or establishing a formal procedure. It sounds like it’s a common enough practice in other offices – even if it’s not (yet) in OP’s office, I think people would understand.

          2. Observer*

            I agree with @Matilda Jefferies. Just do it, in a matter of fact way. Having a conversation with a manager and creating a formal protocol makes this a THING and is almost certainly going to lead to questions that the OP doesn’t necessarily want to answer. If the OP has that paper on their desk and just propr it up for all to see when they need to step away, it just is a thing that the OP did, no big deal. And maybe it starts becoming a thing that a lot of people do on long meetings.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          People talk over each other during video calls in my experience (we had a few at my last company). Basically anytime you deal with a large group, that possibility increases.

          What I’ve seen more often at my company isn’t people talking over one another but folks putting themselves on mute and then forgetting to unmute before they attempt to speak, so then they have to unmute and start over, which can sometimes result in seriously awkward lags in the conversation and meetings running a bit over.

      2. Maladyvaccine*

        We don’t use video on calls in my company which is great – usually theres at least one or two windbags going on and on in every call so you can just hop on mute and pop to the loo without being noticed.

        I actually have one colleague who talks so much and so endlessly that I once put him on mute on a 121 call, went down and answered the door to the postman, fed the cat and went back upstairs and he was still droning on and hadn’t noticed I was gone.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yeah, I had a team member ask me if I had “a couple minutes” to get my input on something. I knew better, so I called into the conference line on my cell phone/headset. Twenty minutes into her couple minutes, my grocery delivery showed up so I muted my phone, took the delivery and put it all away while they were still talking away. They finally got to a part that actually required a response from me 40 minutes in. (And then, as it turned out, ignored my input anyway.)

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          LOL! This reminds me of the time I was on a group call where someone was droning on and the meeting organizer ended up putting that person on mute because they also had a lot of background noise when they weren’t talking – meeting organizer totally forgot he did this, so we later found out the person was trying speak over people again and realized no one was listening because the mic was muted, lol.

        3. LPUK*

          I was on an audio call once and had to perch on the stairs at home where the signal was strongest. While on a dull call that I had no input into, I noticed my venetian blinds were dusty, went downstairs to get a duster and then set about cleaning them, forgetting to mute my phone. Someone asked what the strange noise was and, incurably honest, I told them it was just me dusting – wish I’d had the presence of mind to jus say – “I don’t know, its weird isn’t it?’

      3. Sally*

        We use video for larger team meetings, and at one point I noticed that one team member just wasn’t at her desk. I assumed she needed to go do something quick, and next time I looked, she was back. At the time I thought it took guts to just walk away from the computer, but it really wasn’t a big deal. And if we had needed her input, it was clear that she wasn’t there at the moment, just as if she had stepped out of an in-person meeting. I can see why the OP wouldn’t want to just disappear, but I think it doesn’t need to be a big worry (of course YMMV depending on your company/team culture).

    2. Well Then*

      I’m remote so all my meetings are via video, and I turn off my video when I need to step away (so I’m audio-only, and I have headphones plugged in to my computer). If it’s needed, I’ll also send a chat to the meeting to say “Stepping away for a minute, be right back!” but really, people assume if you turn off video momentarily that you’re in the bathroom, answering the door, blowing your nose, getting a drink, etc. and it’s not an issue.

  3. Maxie's Person*

    #2 Your lucky it’s only one person. I had an entire workplace treat me like that –no staff meetings , access to intranet,etc- because I was a contract worker. After the lunch potluck form which I was excluded, I nearly lost it when a well-meaning person told me I was welcomed to the leftovers in the kitchen.

    1. Sally*

      I’m sorry that’s happening to you! I was a contractor at my last company for a long time, and there were some things I could not participate in, like using the on site gym, but there were plenty of other things that got approved, like participating in the student mentoring program. I don’t understand how you can do your job without going to staff meetings and having access to the intranet. And leaving you out of the pot luck lunch was just plain unnecessary and not nice.

      1. Dragoning*

        Ah, well, sometimes staff meetings are unnecessary. I’m a perma-temp-contractor at my company, and I wish they would exclude me from the meetings about benefit changes and development goals, because I cannot and do not participate in any of that, so it’s a long explanation I just have to waste time listening to.

    2. Massmatt*

      I would not want to work somewhere with such a hostile atmosphere.

      As you say, Bob here is just 1 person but I would factor having to interact with him into whether I’d continue there, whether with a renewal or being offered a permanent position. Bob is a nasty piece of work, and his attitude is unlikely to change no matter what your employment status. What a jerk. And what a weird thing to harp on!

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

        I’d be thinking about that too. If OP were offered a permanent position, I’d bet that Bob would find another way to channel his cruelty.

        There’s something especially sick and just… off about what he’s doing and how he’s doing it that sets my interweb spidey-sense into high alert mode. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

        1. valentine*

          There’s something especially sick and just… off about what he’s doing and how he’s doing it
          He sounds like a Stephen King bully. I hope Bob isn’t trying to get a leg over.

          I’m surprised no one said anything about the email dig.

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

            Yeah, there is a rather predatory vibe to it all, isn’t there? I wonder what more there is to the story, because I’d bet this is bigger than just comments about OP’s job security.
            The public email taunt is interesting compared to the others, which sound in-person and delivered privately. Why is that? So he has a Jerk Lite cover story for Jerk Pro behaviour..?
            I have so many questions and so much NOPE about this whole situation. I’ve got my fingers crossed for you for your job hunt OP!

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I’m probably ready way too much into it but my first thought was honestly whether Bob had a thing for OP. I just can’t think of any other reason that someone would spend this much time thinking about another person and their employment status. What an awful dude.

              1. Aquawoman*

                I think the reason he’s doing it is that he’s a bully who enjoys power trips. I’ve encountered a couple of guys like this in my lifetime.

                1. Leisel*

                  In my office, I’m the youngest one who works here. For a while the office manager, who was in her 60s, was very much like that towards me. She was basically the glorified receptionist who also had the company credit card and “managed” our office supplies. I was the only one she felt she could have power over, even though technically I had more responsibility than her. She would try to boss me around by telling me which office supplies I was “allowed” to have. It was very strange.

                  I think some people just see an opportunity with someone they consider lower than them and they pounce. Bob is a real jerk, and that should be brought to the manager’s attention. There’s no reason for such hostility and nastiness. If it’s not the OP it will just be someone else.

                2. Autumnheart*

                  Yeah. In fact, I move that we strike the “They abuse you because they *like* you” trope from our understanding of social behavior. I don’t think I’ve personally ever seen an instance where it was true, and perpetuating that idea just conditions people to accept abuse.

                3. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  +1 on bringing it to the manager’s attention. Don’t assume managers or supervisors have noticed he’s doing this. It’s amazing what they can miss.

                  Also, the idea that someone treats people he’s attracted to that way – I have seen this, and it indicates the man is an abusive jerk. Whether he likes you or not, he is a person to avoid. He needs plenty of therapy to learn how to manage his feelings and show them in appropriate ways, but he’s not likely to go to therapy.

                4. Gazebo Slayer*

                  I think there are some (not that many) people out there who bully others because they like them – but as Tidewater said, they are jerks. Their motive does not make their bullying OK, and it does not mean you aren’t hurt by it or are not allowed to be upset about it or should behave any differently toward them than toward any other bully.

                5. valentine*

                  I move that we strike the “They abuse you because they *like* you” trope from our understanding of social behavior. I don’t think I’ve personally ever seen an instance where it was true, and perpetuating that idea just conditions people to accept abuse.
                  Wanting to bang OP doesn’t have to equal liking them, negging is a real strategy, and no one’s saying OP should accept it. It may impact how they want to approach this and, if OP goes perm, Bob may change the script without reducing, or possibly increasing, the frequency or intensity.

          2. Rebecca*

            I caught that too. Where are Bob’s coworkers? And why didn’t one of them tell Bob to knock it off, or show their manager? That is just totally out of line. If I were the OP, I’d wonder if I really want to work someplace that allows employees to treat other members of the staff like this.

            1. Mockingjay*

              Probably they have their own battles with Bob, who’s probably an ass to everyone. I could see where they focus on managing their own interactions with him. A temp worker is – temporary, so the mindset might be, OP is probably leaving soon, so that situation will cease; in the meantime, I’ve got to wheedle the monthly teapot handle production numbers from Bob, which he withholds just because he can, making my report late AGAIN.

              I think this points to a larger picture which others here have mentioned; management doesn’t appear to be very effective, at least not in this department.

              1. Massmatt*

                He is probably nice to his bosses or people who would tell him to get lost, it’s significant that he’s doing this to a temp. He is probably the type who is rude to a receptionist and all smiles to the receptionist’s boss. Typical bully behavior.

                The way he harps on this issue repeatedly makes me think there is something very wrong with Bob. I’d recommend avoiding contact where possible, and definitely avoid time alone with him (I.e. walking to your car).

                1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  The most obvious explanation is he feels threatened by OP. Maybe he thinks OP will take his job if she’s hired?
                  Whatever the reason is, if he can intimidate OP into leaving, the threat goes away.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            Bob the Bully.

            A wise manager would tell Bob to knock it off, “We need these contract workers. Your bullying drives them off. Since you are doing things to defeat company endeavors you can either stop doing these things or you can be relieved of your position. Your choice.”

            1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

              And OP, if Bob acts like that with you, he’s a dick to everyone or an obvious ass kisser. If you have no problems with your manager, then your manager is not the type of person who would give Bob inside info. Bob has gone rogue.

        2. JSPA*

          aggressively belittling “playfulness” is an intentional, core part of negging. So whether or not there’s a sexually demeaning and controlling intent here, the letter elicits the same “ick” response. On top of the intrinsic “ick” of, “you work with a demeaning jerk.”

          I’m not saying he has sexual intent! And in fact a more likely scenario to my mind is that he over – reached and promised some friend or relative (or “piece of ass” friend) that he could get them the job. If he can get OP to quit out of stress, he’s better positioned to slot someone in. Or at least, HE thinks so.

        3. Glitsy Gus*

          Yes. This feels very focused and almost perverse. OP, do the other snide comments, like the benefits one, happen around other colleagues, or does he wait until it’s just the two of you?

          Is there someone on your team that you do have good rapport with? Have you ever asked them, “Really, Marsha, what the hell is Bob’s damage? He is the nastiest person I’ve encountered in quite a while.”

          I do think Allison is right that you should ask your manager about it, especially because they should be aware that one of their reports is almost waging psychological warfare on another team member, but sometimes talking to someone else on the same level will get you better intel on to why a person is acting they way they are when the Boss can’t see. Since, except for the email line, it sounds like a lot of these things happen in person out of the Boss’s hearing they may not be as aware of how big a jerkwad he is.

      2. Nita*

        Yes. OP, I hope you find another job and leave this place. Bob or no Bob, it doesn’t sound like a good company. Although obviously, Bob makes it so much worse.

    3. Fikly*

      I get where this is coming from, but there’s something problematic about “You’re lucky only one person is treating you terribly.” It’s not ok or lucky to be treated terribly by anyone.

      1. Tate Can't Wait*

        “I’m lucky I’ve only had one flat tire in 40 years of driving a truck for a living.”
        “You’re not lucky to have had a flat tire though.”

        The “luck” isn’t having the bad thing happen – it’s that the situation isn’t worse when in many cases it could be.

        1. Fikly*

          Except to say that to someone who is experiencing a bad thing is super invalidating to their experience. Pain/bad things are not a competition.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at three o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were LUCKY!

          1. Amy Sly*

            Well we had it tough. We used to have to get up out of the shoebox at twelve o’clock at night, and LICK the road clean with our tongues. We had half a handful of freezing cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at the mill for fourpence every six years, and when we got home, our Dad would slice us in two with a bread knife.

      2. epi*

        I totally agree.

        Also, as others in the thread have said, there may only be one Bob but no one here is treating OP well. They’re being strung along on short term contracts that get renewed the day of, and apparently no one has anything to say about Bob’s creepy, cruel, and frankly shocking behavior. These people sound like they deserve this company, and one another.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, the last contract job that a) dropped from three month renewals to one month and b) didn’t renew until the last week remaining, I got out of. They had moved us into an open plan, gaslighted us, and then started jerking me around. I looked for and found another job. My manager looked like he was poleaxed when I gave him two weeks. Apparently he thought I should just suck up the abuse. The contracting company was also like “WTF? Why?” and didn’t get it when I told them. Apparently they expected me to be extremely grateful for any crumbs they threw me because I was “female” and over 30 (I’m enby, and over 50.) Needless to say, I’m not there anymore

    4. Life is good*

      Wow, what a bunch of insensitive jerks! I’ve been in a few toxic offices, but never one where contract workers were treated any differently than any other worker – socially, at least. What is wrong with people?

    5. BTDT*

      Wow. I’m a temporary employee and I was upset about being unintentionally excluded. This is just batshitcrazy, whether it’s 1 jerk or many. OP2 I would absolutely say something. If I were on the other side I’d for sure want to know this was happening so that I could fire him. God knows what else he’s up to that you haven’t seen yet.

      1. Ophelia*

        SERIOUSLY! I can definitely see unintentional exclusion happening if people are using standard email lists for things like a potluck, but in my company the reaction to that would be an immediate apology and confirmation that the person was welcome to join whatever was going on. We all do have our own friendships and such, but particularly for company-affiliated events, acting exclusionary or being a bully would be a fast way to get yourself in hot water.

    6. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

      I had the same experience. I worked for one of the top credit card processors in the US. I started a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and could not participate in the Thanksgiving lunch they threw for the employees nor any of the other “perks.” My first supervisor brought me back a plate of food (she was super nice). Then we got a new supervisor and she was baaaaaad. I got hired on permanent and she would tell me I had to clock out for things that no one else in my department had to clock out for.

      One time, we had the mobile mammogram bus come by (I call it the mammobus) and before telling my supervisor, I checked with the HR rep who scheduled the mammobus as to whether or not I had to clock out. I was told that, under no circumstances, should I *ever* have to clock out for something sponsored on site by the company. So I went and got my mammogram and my supervisor then jumped on my s&it for not clocking out. Dragged me into HR (which was called….The People Office…WTH?) and tried to write me up for not clocking out. Fortunately, I had it in writing that I didn’t have to clock out. She used to pull all that crap with me. “Destroyer, you have to clock out to go enjoy the Field Day….” and when the time came, I chose not to go. Everyone else in my department went and not a single one clocked out.

      When I was hired on as a employee, it was on a two person team. The other person (she was a real piece of work) refused to train me because I wasn’t the applicant she wanted to hire (her input was neither requested nor required in the hiring process). So, for six weeks, she refused to train me. This was when we had the new supervisor and she didn’t do a thing about it. She’d say, “Train Destroyer today” and my team mate would say “No.” Just “no” and walk away. I sat there for six weeks trying to look busy, but that’s difficult for 8 hours a day.

      I hated that place. I flip it off every single time I drive by, double middle finger salute.

        1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

          It IS refreshing isn’t it??? My company went by three letters (think something like ABC) and I made up a very unflattering substitution for what those three letters stand for. (Think along the lines of Absolutely Bats&it Crazy for ABC and you’ve got a good one for the company I worked for.)

          1. starsaphire*

            *psychic twin fist bump*

            Yep, same here, awful toxic ex-job, double finger salute, snarky (but accurate) nickname. Don’t live in that town any more, is the only reason I no longer flip it off daily.

            1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

              Yeah, I don’t work on that side of town any longer so it’s only when I head over in that direction for the truly super awesome Mexican restaurant over there that I get to flip them off now.

              Even three years later, it is quite satisfying.

      1. Skeptical Squirrel*

        WOW! That is beyond the pale tbh.

        I worked at a large service center for a large bank and it’s the only place I have worked that treated employees as equally bad as customers. To be fair, they weren’t Wells Fargo but they are barely better. I was given the side-eyes because I did not open an account there but kept using my local bank that I had been with since high school.

        So grateful when I was able to put in my notice. It’s been years since I have worked there but sometimes when I drive by I also use a rude gesture.

        1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

          I’ve seen a lot of weird sh….stuff….both as a temp and as an actual employee. That place was the worst because they just made no bones about it. I mean, I get they can’t give contractors/temps access to certain activities/perks due to job classification. I get that. But this was always my supervisor being a raging beeeeyotch.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        One job I left, I stopped at the property line, took off my shoes, clapped them together, then put them back on and left. If I go by there I flip them the bird.

    7. Heffalump*

      My experience with getting employers to put the Bobs in their place hasn’t been good, and I was a direct hire. If OP2 escalates this to a manager, I hope their experience is better than mine.

      Website of the Workplace Bullying Institute:


    8. Phony Genius*

      Having witnessed, but not participated in, this type of behavior, I will say that there is often a lot of resentment when management hires a contract worker as opposed to a “real employee.” They feel that the contract worker is helping management “cut corners” instead of promoting from within, or just hiring another full-time employee. It’s similar to how union workers see their replacements as “scabs.” If it’s only one person saying these things, you can knock it down. If the whole office behaves this way, it’s unlikely to stop.

      1. boo bot*

        This surprises me a little, because crossing a picket line to replace union members on strike is extremely different from being hired as a contract worker.

        In the first instance, the union is using its leverage to demand better working conditions, and people who go to work for the company in their place are undermining the union’s power to negotiate.

        In the second, there is no union power to undermine. The full-time employees aren’t wrong that hiring contractors in positions that could go to full-time workers is a bad sign, but that’s not the contractor’s fault, it’s the company’s.

        1. boo bot*

          Phony Genius, I didn’t mean to direct this to you personally, I know you’re reporting on the mindset of others. I was just struck by the idea that people would blame a perma temp for their perma temp status, as if they could have chosen to be full-time and turned it down or something.

          1. Phony Genius*

            By the way, I have worked in unionized government offices where this happened. So maybe that would a hybrid of the two scenarios. It was done for a short-term bases when there was a need for more employees (public safety-related), but a hiring freeze mandated by law.

    9. Stanley Cupcakes*

      I’ve worked with Bob. Boberta and I shared an office at my dream job (like, the thing I’d been working my whole life towards) during a yearlong contract.

      She’d speak for me (right in front of me!) when others asked about how long I’d be staying– “Oh, her contract ends in August.”
      “Actually, no, it’s for twelve months, so I’ll be here until February.”

      On the internal directory, I’d initially been listed as “Teapot Coordinator and Assistant to Marketing and PR”, but several months later Boberta updated it to just “Temporary Coordinator.” When I asked why, indignant, she said, “It’s just an internal file. You need to have a thicker skin.”

      She moved my desk without asking, saying, “Oh, you’re leaving soon [four months] so it doesn’t really matter to you.”

      She bullied me in every way and made me feel more alone in my new city and more disappointed in a job I’d been ecstatic to have. Luckily, my boss confided in me that everyone saw what she was doing, and everyone was on my side. (Offhandedly, Boberta mentioned how someone from high school had written her an email twelve years after graduation to tell her how she’d made that person’s time a living nightmare. I have dreams of doing the same.)

      1. Massmatt*

        It sounds like your boss and everyone saw what Boberta was doing, yet did nothing to intervene in any way. Sounds like Boberta is the missing stair in that office and she has everyone trained to accept her nasty behavior.

        Writing letters many years later about someone’s awful behavior is no substitute for getting it addressed at the time. I get that you were new and new in town but your coworker’s and especially your boss should have done something.

      2. RVA Cat*

        Boberta seems awfully proud of herself for still acting like a high school kid when she’s at least 30….

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Wow, what a *itch! I’d probably stone face her, and request a different seat, since that is high school level bullying.

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      Well, but really it’s NOT only one person because it doesn’t sound like anyone’s told Bob to STFU when he makes these sorts of comments to OP. Were Bob my peer, I’d have pulled him into an office and had a chit-chat with him and, were he not receptive, let his boss know. He’s not just being insensitive; he’s being cruel and going out of his way to do this.

      And, really, I don’t understand treating your temps/contractors poorly. Clearly they are needed to do a job, just like everyone else on the team. I have two contractors on one team, and HR has been very inclusive of them in all-company events (they decline a lot because they have other clients/work and aren’t here for it, but they’re invited), even mailing them certain items handed out in person in the office. We had temps in for a two-month project over staff appreciation week, and they were included in the events of thew week. It obviously doesn’t make sense to include them in benefits fairs or events that aren’t relevant, but excluding them from a potluck as someone said upthread? That’s classless.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    LW3, I work remotely and spend a lot of time on conference calls. If I need a potty break, I will just say that I’m stepping away for a couple minutes and I’ll be right back. Or, if it’s a call where I’m not one of the main participants, I’ll IM someone else on the call and tell them I’ll be back in a minute. Everyone is fine with this.

    LW4, people are usually pretty understanding about stuff like this. I interviewed for a job once when I was on the tail end of a cold. I thought I’d be fine, but then I got there and could NOT stop coughing. I realized later I hadn’t talked much all day, which was why I hadn’t been coughing too much. But then I had to talk quite a bit, which made it flare up.

    It was soooooo embarrassing. I apologized profusely to the interviewer and said I would have rescheduled if I’d known it was going to be so bad. She was extremely kind and understanding about it. It was the middle of winter, and there was a pretty nasty funk going around. She even gave me a couple of throat lozenges.

    When I sent my thank you email, I apologized again, and said she must have felt like Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, when she referred to her assistant as “an incubus of viral plague.”

    I ended up getting a second interview, and also a job offer.

  5. Three Flowers*

    OP 1 – I realize this may sound a bit drastic, but have you considered asking your PhD program if you could defer matriculation for a year? Some programs will do that (although you’d have to check about whether you could defer any funding you might have been offered). That would give you time to deal with your house, make the transition easier for your partner, save money, and maintain your relationship with your present employer (since you’re headed for academia, it’s your alma mater, and you’re not selling your house, I’m guessing you might have dreams of returning there someday on good terms).

    I hope this move works out well for you! But as someone who will defend my PhD dissertation this spring, but will not be pursuing a professor-type job (humanities degree, terrible market, etc), my unsolicited advice is look before you leap. If deferring to work another year in your present job would give you a substantially more robust resume for non-teaching, non-research work, that may be something to consider as well.

    1. Cece*

      I strongly second the advice to seek a deferral, and have a good long think about the PhD offer. OP, it may be that you’ll sail through the program, your stipend is sufficient income, and that you’ve got a lock on a job post-graduation. I’m sure you’ve done all the reading about grad student mental health and the crushing realities of academia, and you’re making this choice with eyes open. Heck, you may come from an academic family and have a fair sense already of what the life is like. (e.g. Not great, from the experience of my cohort, none of whom have found stable jobs more than six years after finishing.)

      Another year will give you the time to breathe, sort out the house, visit the city, and save up your current salary so you can make this jump from the best possible ground. Before I did my PhD I might have agreed you should rush around and make it happen immediately. But now from the other side, I believe caution will be your friend.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I’d actually be rather wary of trying to get a deferral in this situation. The OP has six months to prepare for the move, which is a pretty significant amount of time – certainly more than you’d get for even most international job moves. The OP also applied for the program knowing that she had just started a new job and would have to leave if she got accepted, so the current situation isn’t a complete surprise. Asking for an extra year to work and plan for the move could easily come across as very naive and unrealistic.

        I think it might make a difference what sort of program it is – if it’s for a large program that admits a lot of students and doesn’t provide funding, or is for a terminal or professional masters, a deferral has less of an impact on the department. If the OP has been admitted to a small PhD program that funds its students, deferral is less likely. If they’ve been accepted by a particular professor for a particular project, that opportunity will likely go to another student.

        In my experience, though, (small STEM field that provides funding) students who start out the PhD program very uncertain about whether it is something they want to do almost never finish – this is not something that gets easier partway through!. So asking to defer for a year to think about things could have a definite impact on how prospective supervisors view the OP, particularly in a prestigious program.

        1. Paulina*

          Seconded. As it’s the best program in the OP’s field, the PhD positions are likely to be very competitive to get. Deferral might give the OP a spot in next year’s intake, but it may instead just put her in the pool for next year, competing against next year’s applicants. Meanwhile the prospective supervisor found someone else to take on. Funding allocation is also usually done for a specific intake year, and grad program administrators tend to look quite dimly on people who try to reserve their spot and funds for future years; it can look as though the funds and space are being tied up as a backup plan.

      2. PhD Regrets*

        I’m not sure that a deferral is the way to go (depending on the PhD program, admissions are often directly tied to individual faculty advisors who may be willing to take on a new student one year but not the next, or tied to the department’s budget), but OP, I encourage you to follow Cece’s advice and do some hard thinking about whether or not to do the program. While I doubt anything could have discouraged me from starting my PhD at the time, I (and many of my colleagues) have a lot of frustrations and regrets now. Make sure you can handle the loss of a real income/savings for several years, make sure that your partner is truly on board with moving and the fact that the PhD program will consume your life, and (if you haven’t) do some real digging into the realities of the post-PhD job market. You may get very lucky, or you may struggle to find a job in your field, and then also struggle to find ANY job in ANY field because employers assume that you are overqualified and not really interested in working a job that doesn’t require a PhD. If you haven’t checked out the website The Professor Is In, please do. I don’t want to be a wet blanket and realize this is not the advice you asked for, but it’s advice I wish I’d been given (and had followed) a decade ago.

        1. Undercover Bagel*

          As the partner of a current PhD student I can’t agree with this more. Really put some time and research on this decision; people go into doctoral programs full of dreams and get hit HARD with reality a few months in. I’ve seen more students master out in the past 5 years than I’ve seen finish (think about 10:1). Say goodbye to healthy routines because some weeks you’ll have nothing to do and others you’ll be working 20 hour days. One of my partners lab mates was hospitalized a week before defending due to stress. My own partner has a meltdown at least once a month. Academic advisors often encourage this with their own terrible behavior and don’t really get disciplined because, academia.

          I will support my partner through thick and thin, but I will be the first to acknowledge that it’s hard and it sucks. I’ve also seen a lot of good, healthy relationships fall apart from a partner going to get their PhD. I don’t mean to scare the OP when I say all of this, but I’d rather they hash out the realities of this decision instead of finding out when they’re in the thick of it. Good luck OP.

        2. Forever Annon*

          As someone who is married to a person with a PhD in Biochemistry but didn’t have a lab for research or funding but was a staff scientist supporting the department, they were chopped when there was a budget cut at the university. Since I have a decent job and other factors, spouse is staying home for now and looking to see what options may open in the area, and is also doing volunteer work that may pan out to a job in a completely separate field.

          The amount of temporary post-doc positions are numerous and few actual FTE seem to be available. Those that are tend to be in super high cost of living areas with not stellar pay. I am not sure what field your PhD will be in, but please look into this with your eyes wide open.

    2. Beth*

      I don’t personally agree with this one! A deferral is one thing when it’s to build relevant experience in the field (e.g. in my field, which involves heavy work in what is for most Americans a foreign language, it’s not all that unusual for people to defer for a year to do an intensive language program). But just for the sake of putting it off a little longer? That doesn’t seem like a good move to me.

      There are a lot of good reasons for OP to move forward. They’re really excited about this. It sounds like it’s a career change, so while they should by all means try to maintain a good relationship with their alma mater, it doesn’t sound like it would help OP to get another year of experience there (and if it’s not really helpful to OP, it’s a big ask just to avoid burning a bridge that can probably survive without much charring anyways). The program they were accepted to is one of the best in their field, so they’re relatively well-positioned to have it pay off (not a guarantee, of course, but I think all of us in academia know that some programs are better at getting their graduates placed than others). They already went through the application process, which is time consuming and often expensive and inherently requires some reflection on your goals and how the program(s) you’re applying to will get you there; presumably they’ve considered whether it’s worth the time and opportunity cost. (Not to mention, it might be in a much more profitable field than the humanities! I feel you on the terrifying state of our mutual branch of academia, but we don’t know what OP’s field is or what they plan to do post-degree; these warnings may well have nothing to do with them.) And the program doesn’t start until fall, so they have 6 or 7 months to prepare; it’s not a rush move by any means, they’ve got plenty of time to handle all the logistics.

      And on the flip side, asking for a deferral without an arguably program-related reason may raise flags with their new department. It may not–cultures differ–but it would in my department, if the reason given was something like “I’m not ready to quit my job” or “I need more than 6 months to plan a move”. It would lead to questions like ‘Why are we funding this person when we had to reject dozens of others who wanted to come?’ and ‘Why did they apply this year if they weren’t ready to attend?’ and ‘Are they actually serious about this?’. I’m not saying it would lead to immediate consequences, but is that really a vibe you would want to risk potentially starting a program you’re excited about with?

      1. Sleepless*

        I deferred starting a doctoral program for a year. It was a notoriously competitive program and I applied a year before I was ready to actually go. I was surprised, then panicked, when I got in. I had to sit down with the dean and plead my case, but they deferred me, and I never heard another word about it.

    3. Sarabeth*

      Would not recommend a deferral unless this job is important for your future career prospects (whether this is plausible depends on field). As a faculty member, I’m sympathetic to something like, ‘I just moved into this university job, which will provide me with experience that will help getting a tenure-track job after I graduate.’ You didn’t have the job yet when you applied, and we understand how hard it is to make different opportunities line up given the lengthy cycles of academic hiring and admissions. Not sympathetic, however, to ‘I need more time to deal with moving.’ As a tenure-track faculty member, I’ve moved on significantly less notice twice in the last ten years. One of those times involved selling a house with a newborn infant. It’s a standard part of life in the academic world.

      If you do ask for a deferral, be prepared not to get it. The funding structure of our program makes it impossible to grant deferrals. We tell students they can re-apply next year, and we certainly won’t hold it against them, but we don’t guarantee they’ll be accepted again. It all depends on what the competition is like the following year. This holds true even for students with much more sympathetic reasons for deferrals, like a sudden family illness. We just can’t do it.

      Since you are working at a university, they know how these things work. I would say that you can probably wait a few months to break the news without any repercussions. In my field, April 15 is the standard deadline to accept a Ph.D. offer. Waiting until after that would raise eyebrows – they’ll know that you had this info and were deciding not to tell them. Anytime before then would be normal; you might have gotten off the waitlist on April 10, after all. Much after that could raise eyebrows. Depending on your circumstances, that might be worth it–if you are in an entry-level admissions job, and hoping to go into research science, it is very unlikely that your current bosses will have any say in whether you get hired at the university for a postdoc or tenure-track job in the future. If you are a lab manager in a lab in your field, then the cost of burning that bridge is going to be higher, and may be worth taking seriously. Although, if you are looking at a tenure-track career, keep in mind that the odds of getting to return to your alma mater eventually are close to nonexistent anyway, unless you are in one of the very small number of fields with a decent job market (economics? accounting? some engineering fields?). You still probably don’t want to alienate major people in your field, though. And if you want to end up in higher-education administration, then your calculations will be different.

      Also, it is totally possible to rent or sell a house without taking time off work for it, even if you have to do renovations. That’s what evenings and weekends are for. If your job is the kind that can be done from home, you might try to arrange to do that one day/week, which would certainly make things easier. Same deal with shifting hours, working four tens, etc. if those are standard at your job. If you ask around discretely, you may find that there’s flexibility for that kind of thing over the summer even if it’s not possible during the school year, since many university jobs slow down when most of the students leave campus. If you have enough PTO, you should be able to use it without an issue (although it sounds like you might not, given how much time you’ve already had to take off)–that’s one of the perks of academic life, we expect you to be able to actually use your PTO. But taking extra time off to prep your house to rent? No. Unlikely to happen, and if it does, will not make you look good at all. If necessary, get a property manager who can help you coordinate that stuff. Or just sell – a seller’s agent will also be able to coordinate it. Again, if you are looking for a tenure-track job, you should not count on being able to move back to your current city, ever.

      Visiting the other city can also be done over a weekend (yes, even if it’s across the country). Your partner can stay an extra day or two if they want to see more. If they offer it, consider renting housing directly from your Ph.D. university for the first year, which will remove the burden of finding an appropriate apartment long-distance. Or ask to be put in touch with current grad students; you can often take over the lease of someone who is graduating or moving.

    4. Kate R*

      I don’t agree that OP should defer just based on, “I’m ecstatic and plan on accepting the offer. I say this as someone who had a really rough time in a PhD program, so I don’t exactly go around suggesting grad school to people. But I also know a lot of people that had really positive grad experiences. Obviously, people should think about what the program will entail and what their job prospects might be once they’ve graduated so they understand what they are in for, but we have no reason to assume the OP hasn’t already done that. OP is excited about the program and is asking how to not burn a bridge while preparing for it. In addition to the logistical reasons a deferral might be tricky (that people mentioned up thread), suggesting a deferral seems like asking her to put her future on hold for a year just so she can spread out her days off. It’s not ideal that OP has worked at her current job for so little time and needs so many days off, but six months should be plenty of time to prepare for a move. Working in academia could end up benefiting her as they seem to be more understanding about people continuing their education. I’d still probably wait a bit before telling people so that I could build my reputation with them, but since she’s continuing her education and not just hopping to another job, they may turn out to be fairly supportive.

    5. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I’m going to go a step further and say: If you are someone who, by your circumstances in life, needs to work for a living, then don’t go to grad school. It is a financially devastating mistake that you will never recover from. Yes, even if you have a multi-year fellowship. Yes, even if you’re going into a professional and not an academic discipline. Yes, even if you are amazingly smart, talented, and hardworking.

      Don’t do it.

      Remember the scene in the Sopranos where Carmella sees the therapist who refuses to take blood money and tells her to leave her husband? That’s what I’m doing for you here, OP. “One thing you can never say. That you haven’t been told.”

      1. Anon Univ Advisor*

        In general I agree with you – even multi-year packages aren’t comparable to salaries even at the entry level, and there are a gazillion articles a year about grad students struggling with low pay (and the other issues that can arise from that insecurity, like impacts on mental and physical health). But sometimes having the grad degree does enable job and financial mobility, even with the initial financial outlay and even setting aside those jobs that use it as a gatekeeper credential and not indicative of advanced experience. The salary gap that exists between arts/humanities majors and STEM/business majors at graduation narrows as time since graduation increases, but that gap narrows more quickly (and salaries are generally higher) for individuals with graduate degrees regardless of their field/u’grad major. Georgetown’s Center for Education and the Workforce has good data on this point. Chances of getting rich from having a grad degree alone might not be high, but the degree can be the deciding factor between a stable job with a liveable salary and working two jobs to stay solvent.

      2. Gumby*

        If you are someone who, by your circumstances in life, needs to work for a living, then don’t go to grad school. It is a financially devastating mistake that you will never recover from.

        This is overstating things. Certainly, be careful and consider your options. But it not true that no PhD program is worth it for any non-independently rich person at any time for any reason. [OTOH, most of the people I know who completed their PhDs happily, if sleep-deprivedly, were in STEM programs so took on no additional student debt. Also, they started directly after finishing undergrad – they found the topic they loved and pursued it right away while they were still in a poor-college-student mind set. It’s much harder once you start seeing going out for pizza as an attainable semi-regular treat rather than a ridiculous waste of money.]

  6. Jdc*

    Not to sound rude but if you’re moving no Matter what the campus trip for your partner isn’t that necessary. They will see it when you get there. I’d mix that. Of course it’s the kind thing to do for your partner to visit but it doesn’t really seem feasible. Also if you are needing to save money for reduced work when you do your PhD I wouldn’t waste it on that.

    1. Jdc*

      Oh and i hate when people say not to be rude because they intend to be. I meant not to be rude in considering your partners feelings with a big move.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      This. Or could the partner do the trip alone? Obviously going together would be preferable but at this point I think this trip is the least necessary.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        It might be better if the partner went alone, even if the OP could go. That way they could form their own impressions and not be influenced by the OP’s excitement or opinion. Enthusiasm can be contagious, especially when coming from someone you love and want to make happy.

      2. Lizzy May*

        Or could the partner go a day or two alone before you join them for the weekend? (or long weekend if you can make that timing work) That way the partner gets to see what the area is like for them and you get to see what it’s like as a couple?

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think this seems like the best way to go but I can’t say for sure without knowing what the area they’re moving to is like and how far it is from where they currently live.

    3. Impska*

      The whole concern seems a little precious to me. These aren’t freshmen getting excited about a campus visit. What’s the point of going early just to visit, and then (presumably) going again to find a place to live? It’s clearly a waste of money and time.

      Why not hire a general contractor to fix the house issues and hand them a key? The OP doesn’t have to be there supervising. Do interviews and bids in a single afternoon.

      1. Clisby*

        Seconding this. Of course, I don’t know what needs to be done, but it sounds like it’s multiple unrelated things (e.g., fix the roof, replace an HVAC unit, repaint, do some electrical/plumbing work). Hire a general contractor and let her do all the organizing – that’s part of the job. I’m also not clear on why the OP would need to take time off to pull permits, but maybe that varies by jurisdiction. Every time I’ve had permitted work done, the contractor pulled the permit(s).

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          I wondering if they are going to try to do a large amount of the work themselves in an effort to save money.

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

          I don’t like the idea of handing the contractor the keys and leaving it all to them. Yes, it’s their job and you should be able to trust them with your home, but with any work being done to an existing home there will be questions and unforeseen conditions. The owner needs to be available, and honestly needs to be around at least some of the time to oversee the work and have a full understanding of what’s going on. That’s going to cut into their day, whether it’s phone conversations or having to run back to the house.

          Hopefully the partner can take on more of that responsibility if they’re flexible enough.

          1. Joielle*

            Anecdata here, but – I’m in the middle of a major renovation and “hand the contractor the keys” is pretty much exactly what we did. We hired someone we trust and are paying them to handle it, full stop. I had to leave work early one time at the beginning of the project for a walkthrough with all the staff and subcontractors, but after that… anything I need to know can be handled with an email or text if urgent.

            I think OP needs to start delegating, and delegating a renovation to a general contractor – aka renovation expert – is something I 100% recommend, if OP can afford to do it.

      2. CL Cox*

        I suspect the partner needs to get a job and will be the primary source of income (given graduate stipends), so it’s probably pretty vital that they go and get a lay of the land so they can figure out where they want to apply.

        1. Dragoning*

          I don’t know if that would be helped by a campus visit, though. You can do a lot (probably most) research into companies online. If they have an idea of where they’ll live, they can even google commute times.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Nothing is a waste of time or money if it’s how you want to spend your time and money. Just because the decision is final doesn’t meant their partner is thrilled about it and going to look around might help them get comfortable and maybe even excited for the move, I can see the value in that.

        But I don’t think it’s something that should require a lot of time off work, assuming this isn’t like a major international move. Especially if they can plan the trip around a long weekend like memorial day or the 4th of July, and maybe have their partner go a little early or stay a couple days longer which could be helpful since they’ll presumably have to find ways to entertain themselves in the new city when OP is swamped with schoolwork.

      4. Yorick*

        Yeah, a trip to the city makes sense, but a campus visit really doesn’t. Go during a holiday weekend, look around campus if it’s possible, and let your partner see the places you might live.

        I’ve moved across country without visiting the city 3 times (technically 4, but I lived on campus the first time). You can figure out which neighborhood you want to live in and find a specific apartment online, with the understanding that you might not be super happy there and might need to move when the lease is up.

        1. Sparrow*

          Both times I moved across the country, I had been to the city once before (for interview/other things) and went back for one weekend to find a place to live and scope the city out as a future home, rather than as a more casual visitor. The second time, I was fairly confident I wouldn’t like living in the neighborhood where I decided to rent, but it was an easy 10 minute walk to my office. I figured I’d probably move after a year but in the meantime I’d get to know the city while enjoying a super convenient commute. That’s exactly how it worked out and I’ve had no regrets.

      5. Lynn Whitehat*

        Maybe this varies by location? My husband and I buy distressed properties and fix them up. Holy carp, no way in the world would we hire a GC, hand them a key, and let them have at it. Around here, the ones who are at all competent and do not have crippling substance abuse problems work on big, cool, new builds, not renovating individual houses. The best case scenario is you find someone with basic common sense (but no special knowledge or skills) and only a little substance abuse problem that isn’t at the crippling stage yet. They will try to drag out the project as long as they think you’re not broke yet. Then they will break something so that you *have* to find the money to at least put it back like it was.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I’m with you. Contractors are in incredibly high demand where I am and I could barely get return calls, much less be able to set up multiple meetings and bids in a day then hand it off. Even when you find one, they don’t consistently show up. There is so much work and so few guys, they disappear for days or weeks at a time. I ended up with a very good contractor (considering our budget, project, and the market) but it still took a fair amount of oversight. There is no walking away.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Even if it’s final, if the partner has no idea what the city is like, it’s useful for them to get a lay of the land and figure out where to live. “Close to campus” would be the first answer, but they might prefer a different neighborhood or lifestyle. When my partner got accepted to his PhD program, we went down over two weekends– first to check out the city, second to find a place to live. I wanted an idea of where I was going to spend the next five years of my life– he wasn’t the only one affected by our move. So I get that part. I don’t think it’s a more-than-a-weekend thing, though.

        1. Ophelia*

          The only thing I could think is if this is a place that is so far that it requires a really long flight (like, are they currently in Arizona and moving to Boston or something?) that would mean taking off at least a day adjacent to the weekend or something.

    4. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I agree. I moved with my now-husband to a new city sight unseen when he started med school and ran the same risk in the residency match. I was familiar with some of the cities on his list (Chicago) and went with him on the interview trip to NYC (kind of need to know if you like it there before committing to living there for 4+ years) but others I had never visited and didn’t plan to visit. If we had ended up in St. Louis or the other 5 cities on his list, I would have been moving there without a prior visit, too. I don’t see the big deal; the city isn’t going anywhere and they’re going regardless.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Each time I’ve moved with my partner it’s been the same.

        I’m not not-coming for any reason. I wasn’t a fan of a couple places and I simply dealt with it. But I’ve got a nomadic spirit and a home is where you make it.

        1. Midwest Writer*

          I’m with you. My husband once moved across the country sight unseen and I followed later. Then, we moved the family halfway back across the country, sight unseen. It can be rough, but it’s certainly not impossible. But when I tell people we did that, the vast majority look at us like we’ve grown a second head. I heard “you guys are so brave” a lot when we made the last move. It didn’t feel brave … it just felt like grownups following a job.

      2. Viette*

        Agreed, I’ve definitely done the same! All of this stuff that the OP wants time off for — the city visit, the house repairs — are things that it would be perfectly reasonable to take time off for, if she had the time to take. The naivety/unrealistic vibe coming off the letter is from her stating it like 1. she *has* to take time off to do those things, and 2. she has the time to take. She really doesn’t.

        If she says, hey I’m quitting in the fall, and then goes and takes all that time off to prepare to quit, her job will very likely move her out early so they can get someone who’s actually present and not leaving anyway. And if she takes all that time off without saying she’s quitting and then quits, it puts her reputation at serious risk. Looking at it like she is, that the time must be taken and that she has it to take without serious consequences, reads as naive (or at least just very checked out of her job and mentally moved on to grad school).

      3. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        Is this a situation where the partner moving right away isn’t assured? I could see a situation where one partner is unsure if they want to move right away, and a visit could help with that feeling.

        But when I matched for residency, my husband already knew that he had signed up to move wherever the magic computer sent me, so we just took a long weekend to pick a neighborhood and sign a lease. He didn’t need a “just to see the campus” kind of trips as he’d already committed to idea of moving.

    5. Daisy-dog*

      It sounds like a thing my husband and I would do. We’d go to the new city to check out how good the walking trails are for Pokemon Go, find the best pizza place on Yelp, test out the local breweries, etc. However, it probably could be a weekend trip even if flights are involved. It’s the kinda thing that I would want in order to picture myself living there.

      1. Paulina*

        Ideally, yes. This situation seems like it requires some compromise, though. “I need even more time off because I have to ensure we feel comfortable with the details” isn’t a good look, especially since the current employers will eventually figure out what was going on with the extra leeway they were giving their quite new employee. If the trip is essential to the OP accepting the offer, they should try to go as soon as they can, in case the end result is negative. Otherwise… there are many ways to find out information about a new place that don’t involve going there.

  7. Sally*

    Regarding #4: Thank you once again, Alison, for these scripts of what to say or write! It’s so incredibly helpful!

  8. Raine Wynd*

    #2: The problem with a person like Bob is that unless you as the temp say something to your boss about his behavior, Bob isn’t going to stop, even if you ask him to. He’s a workplace bully who likes lording over the fact he’s a “real” employee and you’re not in his eyes. I worked for five years as a temp. People like Bob want to see your reaction so they can gloat. I snapped at one of them and said, “Look, we’re not in Montana; we’re in a right-to-work state, so your status as a ‘real’ employee means nothing when they can still fire you or let you go for any reason.” That got them to back off, but yeah – I’d report this dude’s creepy harassment to someone higher-up in the chain.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      *At will state, not right to work.

      Right to work means you cannot be forced to join a union.

    2. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

      I would document every time Bob makes these comments to you. If your contract is extended again, have the conversation with your boss that Alison suggested. And if your contract isn’t extended, give your documentation either to your boss or HR on your last day right before you leave, “just as an FYI in case he is doing this to anyone else.” At least Bob might be asked about his behavior or they will see a pattern if he treats the next contract employee that way.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      I’ve been focused on bullying at work for some time and I’d recommend the book, the Asshole Survival guide.

      I’d also recommend humor in addition to the direct comment about at will state that others suggested. I cannot believe I am suggesting humor bc I find it hard to see the humor, but I would love to see his face if you said, “too late, Sally has already claimed this spot!”

      1. pope suburban*

        What worked for my Bob was Supernanny, of all things. Bob liked to upset people by being rude or yelling. His whole goal was to get an emotional reaction and cause chaos, because he got some kind of numbskull thrill out of it, and because it would inevitably distract from the fact that he hadn’t done his work/had made a huge glaring mistake. He’d conditioned the rest of the office to play the game (It was a lot of people’s first and only professional job after school, so Bob had an easy time creating insane expectations and convincing people that this was normal/inevitable). Unfortunately for Bob, I loathed him enough that I didn’t ever want to give him a single thing that he wanted/that would give him joy, so I pretended he was four years old every time I had to respond to him. I legit sat down and watched episodes of Supernanny to see how they handled children acting out, and did that. Bob hated it, and within maybe two months he stopped trying that stupidity with me. He was still a royal pain, but much less of one, and honestly I did savor the fact that I’d made him feel bad (It was not a healthy workplace and I sincerely hope I never encounter anyone from there ever again, in any context). Non-reacting to Bob’s threats might be a good way to pull his fangs, in combination with documenting his creepy behavior and reporting it to higher-ups. I do kind of hate to put this responsibility on the LW, but Bob has something terribly wrong inside and is not interested in fixing it, so about all one can do to mitigate his malignant influence is find a way to make him buzz off.

        1. JKP*

          This is so true. My first job in a real office was after my previous job as a nanny. The first week on the job, I got pulled into a meeting with a couple other ladies about a document we had all worked on together for the top sales guy. He proceeded to yell at all of us for a solid thirty minutes until the other women were crying. I was completely un-phased and handled it exactly like I did when the 2 year old had a tantrum because I cut their crusts the wrong way. That’s how I handled the guy the entire time I worked there and his tantrums slowly disappeared.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It sounds as if OP hasn’t confronted Bob about his comments, so we don’t know if he’d back off if they did. I feel like OP feels they CAN’T confront Bob because they’re a temp, and that’s just not true. Sometimes when bullies are called on their behavior they DO stop, and if he doesn’t then you escalate it. Make him think about his rude comments. “Why do you feel the need to mention that I’m a contractor on a consistent basis?” “It’s rude and it needs to stop.” There’s no need to put up with this kind of behavior regardless of your position in the company.

      1. Kes*

        It may be worth trying to say something, but you have to be careful because as described here, Bob sounds pretty deliberate in being awful to OP and probably likes getting reactions from people.

        I do think OP should talk to their manager about Bob’s behaviour and ask if they can make him stop

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I agree, but think OP needs to start with Bob directly. Asking the question without being overly emotional about it & more matter of fact isn’t really providing him with a reaction. I realize this is easier said than done, and I really hate confrontation, but unless you feel threatened or unsafe, it’s always best to start with the person doing the crappy thing before you escalate to a manager.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            I think there’s a risk here that Bob will escalate and try to get OP in trouble.
            Before trying this, OP should let her supervisor know what’s going on and what she plans to do and make sure supervisor will back her up.
            And whether she does this or not document each time he’s mean, especially the incident in the parking lot.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            I am normally all about handling conflicts directly, but Bob has outed himself as a complete ass, and complete asses are not people that can be reasoned with. Sure, give it a couple surprised, “Wow, what an odd thing to say.” or “I’m not sure what you mean by that.” or “That’s a pretty unkind thing to say.”, but OP is most concerned about whether Bob’s jackassery is some sort of indication that her contract will not be renewed. That’s a boss-level issue.

            OP can go to the boss and ask about the renewal and mention that Bob’s comments X, Y, and Z had led her to wonder if there were issue with her work or if she was not expecting to be renewed.

  9. Massmatt*

    #1 I generally don’t come down on the “you owe your employer” side of the fence very often but really you are giving them (your alma mater) the short end of the stick here.

    1. Dan*

      I wouldn’t go that far. Life happens, and we all know it. It would be one thing if OP is getting additional paid leave to take care of business and then quitting afterwards, but I doubt that’s the case. It’s more likely that OP would be getting unpaid leave, and if OP is willing to take the leave unpaid, then them’s the shakes. (Either the leave accrues, and at six weeks, OP hasn’t accrued much, if any, or the leave drops in “banks” or increments, in which case, the OP presumably has it available and shouldn’t face much of an issue using it.)

      1. Colette*

        Unpaid leave isn’t really cost-free to the employer, though – they still need someone doing that job, and if the OP is taking a lot of time off, that will affect everyone else’s workload.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to make choices. LW1 wants to have her cake and eat it, too, and sometimes you just don’t get both.

        1. Leslie Knope*

          I see why the the LW wants to handle it kindly with her current job, but also not shoot herself in the foot. If they’re keeping their house in the current city and plan on moving back, it won’t help them to burn any bridges at the current company. It might even benefit the company later to have them come back with their PHD. The timing is unfortunate, but they can still delicately make the best of the situation.

      3. Yorick*

        “Life happens” isn’t really the way to characterize “I knew about this life change for over 6 months.”

        1. Massmatt*

          Right, I think that’s what bothers me about this situation, this was not something like having a spouse get cancer or something, this took months of applications etc. Great situation for the LW but her employer, who she says she loves, is taking a huge hit here.

      4. EventPlannerGal*

        Life happens, but a PhD application doesn’t just happen. I’m extremely team ‘you don’t owe employers your loyalty’, but I think taking this job while actively applying for programmes was strategically a poor move for OP if they want to preserve their relationship with their alma mater. All of these issues, barring the illness using up their PTO, seem very foreseeable.

    2. Avasarala*

      Yeah I agree. (Abbreviated rant about universal basic income and the right to not work) but “Hey I just got here and I’m quitting, also can I take a lot of time off before I leave” is not going to go down well, and could damage your professional reputation with them.

      1. Annony*

        I agree that the time off could be a problem. Life happens and leaving a job at a university to pursue a degree is probably something that they will understand and support even if the timing is bad, but to ask for time off to facilitate the move is really asking a lot.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        Yes, and OP may need to come back — Don’t know the field, but even “one of the best in the field” still means grim odds of getting a t-t faculty position in many fields. Ethical graduate programs work hard to give their PhD students a track towards non-academic and academic-not-faculty jobs. Jobs like the one the OP has right now.

        1. Sarabeth*

          Yeah, this is a good point and one that I should have thought through more in my advice above. Just because the OP *wants* a tenure-track job (if she does) doesn’t mean that one will be available. And if that doesn’t work out, this job and set of connections could be very helpful in transitioning to the alt-ac path. So, that also weighs in favor of asking for a deferral. Put in those terms, my grad program would be sympathetic to the request; we’re in a humanities field, and trying very hard to set our grad students up to maximize their post-Ph.D. options. We still wouldn’t actually be able to grant a deferral, due to our funding structure, but our reaction would ‘we really wish we could help you with that’ rather than ‘man, that’s a cheeky request.’

          To be clear – even for requests that raise our eyebrows, we wouldn’t rescind our offer or anything like that. Personally, I try hard not to hold that thing against students, especially before they’ve actually started the program. It’s hard for new students to know the norms of the field before they enter it, and thus they can’t really judge whether they are violating those norms. But, eyebrows still do get raised.

      3. Jenny*

        I find it really interesting that this is being framed as a lot of time off. At my workplace, over 6 months I would get 17 days of paid leave. Some of that would be specific days (Good Friday, Easter Monday, May bank holidays, etc) but the rest I could use as I wanted. If I didn’t use it all, a few months before the end of the year, my manager would send an email asking when I planned to use it. The sickness would be dealt with completely separately and would not impact on leave requests. I don’t have to wait until I’ve earned leave to take it – my whole year’s leave becomes available to book on April 1st each year. Three days holiday plus a few days here and there would have my boss saying ‘cool, but make sure you take the rest of your leave too’…

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      At the same time, if an employer needs to let an employee go for whatever reason, even if they weren’t there long, they will. Asking for a bunch of time off to facilitate an earlier than expected departure can be a lot to ask, though.

    4. Hi there*

      re #1 I think being in an academic setting makes a bit of difference here. Hiring often takes longer, and the notice period is considered to be at least a month for administrators who are exempt, at least at my place. I am hiring for a position now and would not be happy if someone left in less than a year. Hiring tends to go faster for administrators when you post in late spring for a summer start. Letting the office know sometime this spring that you’ll be leaving would be considerate.

      1. Sparrow*

        I’m in higher ed admin and was also thinking about the hiring timeline. It may depend on OP’s specific role, but summer is usually the ideal time to onboard new staff. Considering how slowly university hiring tends to move, they’d probably want to start the search process this semester, if possible. Where I’ve worked, a month notice isn’t really expected, but longer notice periods are common simply because a lot of people will try to time leaving around the academic calendar.

        People leave. It might be annoying, but it happens, especially in more entry-level positions in a relatively low-paying field. I think OP’s at far greater risk of souring the relationship if she waits so late to tell them that they miss the opportunity to look for a replacement who can start at a convenient time. We obviously don’t have any data about the reasonableness of OP’s boss or the nature of their work, both of which would seriously impact my personal plan of action, but assuming the commitment deadline for the PhD program is March 15ish, I’d probably tell them around then.

  10. Nee Attitude*

    #3, This is one of those situations where you’re just gonna have to take matters into your own hands. Like others have been saying, plan a 5 to 10 minute break in the middle of your talk to go use the bathroom. I have attended many talks and people often take a few mini-breaks during just to get a drink of water when they do a lot of talking. I would just build it right into the agenda for future talks (and you don’t have to call it a bathroom break).

    I remember a recent conference where I was expected to speak on two different topics for nearly an hour each. It wasn’t until the day of the conference that I learned that there were no planned breaks in between. I really don’t understand how someone can plan for a continuous speech for two hours and not consider a bathroom break. I had the moderators switch the order of one of my talks so that I could have a break, but that should be pretty unnecessary.

    In summary, don’t wait and hope that you have an opportunity for breaks. Build them into the structure of the agenda or talk, and plan to include breaks for every gathering that exceeds a certain length. If someone else is in charge, ask them to adjust the schedule to include small breaks if possible. No need to mention your medical condition.

    1. EPLawyer*

      What we do in court is very simple, we simply say “Your honor can we take a break now?” Everyone knows what it means. It’s fun when its the judge. They will scrutinize the clock then say “we’ve been at this for X hours, how about we take a break?” We know the judge has to hit the bathroom. Which is fine because the lawyers and the parties probably do too.

      I think you have this built up in your mind as “a thing” when it’s not. Just say you need a break. Dollars to donuts sommeone else on the call has to pee or even just stretch their legs or relax their mind. Long conference calls need breaks. The human mind can handle only so much at a time. Same with the human body.

      1. Phony Genius*

        How do you handle this at depositions? I’ve heard some horror stories from witnesses. There’s a lawyer in the room representing the plaintiff and another for the defendant, but nobody standing up for the witness’s interests.

        1. EPLawyer*

          A good attorney taking the deposition will mention it in their opening. Along with saying “I need you to say yes or no, not uh-huh so the court reporter can take it down accurately” you add “And if you need to take a break for any reason, please let me know. I need you to finish answering the question I’ve asked but then we can take a break.”

          Again, if it goes on long enough, chances are the attorney will call for a break because they need time to rest their brain and/or go to the bathroom too.

  11. OP 4*

    This is fantastic, thank you so much. I thought I needed to email her first before even applying, but I’m way more comfortable with applying and just giving her this heads up. I got a lot of conflicting advice on whether to tell her that my cold influenced how sharp I was that day, so it’s incredibly helpful to have a script for how to do that professionally.

    Also–thank you so, so much for answering my question! Your blog has taught me so much about professionalism and just generally made me a better employee.

    1. Fikly*

      If something like this happens in the future, I suggest disclosing at the start of the interview that you’re sick!

      I had the last interview for my current job while I had the flu. Like you, I didn’t want to defer because I was anxious they wanted to finish the hiring process and was worried that putting off the interview would mean I didn’t get the job. So I let them know in advance (and turned down their offer to defer the interview, but accepted their offer to do it over video so I didn’t spread my germs) and then at the start, said “just so you know, I’ve unfortunately got the flu, so if I seem a litle low energy, that’s why.”

      It’s not an excuse, but it gives them context that they don’t have otherwise if you don’t look sick.

      1. OP 4*

        You’re definitely right. I mentioned briefly to the first person who joined the call that I’d been under the weather, but pretty severely understated how much it was still affecting me! If it happens again (heaven forbid), I’m borrowing your phrasing :)

        1. Fikly*

          You might not have realized how much it affected you until afterwards! I’m sick right now and told someone earlier I would speak with them at “noon fifteen,” which is not a time.

          I hope you have better luck with this new posting!

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I’ve actually used “noon-fifteen” and “midnight-thirty” and similar pretty much all my life, because it took me until a few years ago to reliably stick in my head whether noon was 12am or 12pm. While the context should be obvious in most situations, and especially in a work setting, specifying noon vs midnight makes it super clear and is generally pretty well understood. :)

          2. NeonFireworks*

            Haha, I would have just assumed that this was a dialect difference, like using ‘of’ to mean ‘before’ (‘ ten of six’).

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            If you mean 12:15 in the afternoon I’m pretty sure that is actually a very normal way to say that! I’ve definitely heard it before.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        AGreed. In fact, best to ask about the rescheduling. They may be able to do it. If they’re not, go ahead with the interview. But you don’t know if you don’t ask.

      3. Umiel*

        Also, no matter how well you did in an interview or how much interest you expressed, always submit a new application if you don’t get the job but another position gets posted. I don’t think you should assume that employers don’t want you just because they haven’t directly approached you about applying. In the organization where I work, we can only interview people who apply, and we rarely directly ask someone to apply.

        1. OP 4*

          That’s helpful. I was leaning towards that, but because I don’t have the experience to back it up I was worried I might just be believing what I want to believe.

    2. Smithy*

      I definitely don’t think you need to trip over yourself in explaining the sick piece.

      A few years ago, I was going through an interview process with a lot of good candidates. Where I am there is a multiple stage interview and one candidate did well in a number of initial interviews. She then was not as impressive in the panel interview as other candidates. She didn’t get the position, and while that was noted as a weakness – it was also not a complete red flag. About six months later, a similar position was posted. She applied and was ultimately hired.

      She may have been sick during that initial panel interview. It may have simply been the nature of a panel interview that threw her off. But again, there was also a body of good interviewing that giving her another opportunity seemed completely logical.

      1. OP 4*

        I can live with “noted as a weakness.” I’ve internalized a lot of Alison’s interviewing advice, and at all the other steps I was really intentional about presenting myself well but accurately–if it wasn’t going to be a good fit, I wanted them to be able to determine that ahead of time! Hopefully all that counts as good interviewing, I did make it almost to the end :)

    3. Cee*

      Totally agree with Alison that what may have seemed like a prohibitively bad interview to you, may not have made the same impression on your interviewers.

      Just out of college I gave what was truly the worst interview of my life. No other interview could possibly reach the heights of how bad it was — I messed up the name of the company I was applying for, then remembered five minutes later and went on a whole apology spiel about it, then was so shaken that I started thinking twice about all of my answers and ended up interrupting myself to say “— oh wait, no, that’s a stupid answer. Sorry, I’ll restart.” AGH! Thinking about it sends shivers down my spine to this day.

      Anyways, after I exited the interview I was positive I could never come within a 100 mile radius of this company ever again. But a few months later, after I had accepted an offer with a different company, my interviewer ended up contacting me again saying that they were interested in talking further with me about a different position. So even though in my head I will always think of it as The Disaster, it clearly wasn’t bad enough to bar me from the company forever.

      1. Smithy*

        An earlier job in my career was with a small human rights organization. Given the nature of the organization’s work and how divisive it could be in that community, every one interviewed was asked a few “human rights” scenario questions connected to the work of the organization.

        I was offered the job, but about a year into the job my boss chuckled that I had answered all of the questions wrong – but the way I answered them incorrectly and my attitude convinced her I could still do the job. For more junior roles, I do think that a degree of nerves, of fuzziness, of over eagerness is to be expected. And sometimes even if the words don’t come out well – that there’s room to rebound depending on your attitude.

      2. OP 4*

        Ugh, I did that “— oh wait, no, that’s a stupid answer. Sorry, I’ll restart.” type of thing in this interview!

        At one point I was talking about proposing a new process, and I flipped two steps in a way that made me sound like I didn’t understand the QI cycle AT ALL. I did loop back to change that answer, but correcting it was almost as bad as the mistake was in the first place!

        1. Rexasaurus Tea*

          Correcting it is waaaay better than leaving it lying there, so don’t beat yourself up too badly over that! As someone who’s interviewed a LOT of people over my career, I get a much better impression of someone who goes back to change a previous answer rather than just moving on. It tells me that 1) you’re able to recognize mistakes in an idea that you’ve proposed, and 2) you’re not afraid to admit that you’re wrong sometimes.

          I’m in software and there have been times when a candidate has been partway through writing up an algorithm, paused, and said “you know what? this first part should have been done more efficiently because XYZ.” If time allows, they can go back and change it; if not, I’m still happy to see that they did catch the problem.

          Obviously you don’t want to be doing that throughout the entire interview, but a misstep in an under-pressure, time-limited situation is not necessarily a deal breaker for me.

    4. snoopythedog*

      I suggest disclosing briefly at the start if you ever get a second interview. In the future, make a mention of it at the start.

      Also, as someone who has sat in on the hiring process a few times, I wouldn’t stop considering you for future positions after a bad interview. I would; however, be super impressed but a much-improved interview the second time around. That would erase all my concerns/lingering thoughts about the first botched interview.

      Some people remember that people are…well…people…and sometimes they flub interviews for a myriad of reasons and that doesn’t make them any less of a good future candidate.

  12. Dan*


    A couple of things here. It’s not clear that you can have your cake and eat it too, so some things have to give. A trip to New City with Partner seems totally unnecessary at this point. Besides, if you’re scouting out a place to live, a weekend isn’t going to be enough time to make a wonderful decision.

    Second, I really hate long notice periods (like more than a month.) There will always be the sense that “Oh, John is leaving, so we can’t give him that project. We have to find some mickey mouse thing that he can either finish before he leaves, or not finish and we don’t care.” Then, if the org needs to hire someone to replace you, they either hire someone sooner and keep two headcount on the books, which they probably can’t afford to do. (I’m guessing this is even more true in academia where department budgets are notoriously tight.) And given that you’ve been in your role for a mere six weeks, how much knowledge have you actually accumulated, and how long would it take you to transfer it to someone else?

    If I were managing an employee who had been with the org for six weeks and announced they were leaving in the fall, we’d be having a conversation about accelerating said new employee’s departure so I can get on with properly running my department. It probably takes six months to get a new hire up to speed, and in my line of works, that’s only if we’re really lucky.

    And six months from now, when said employee turns in their notice a month before they intend to leave, I will thank them for their service and wish them the best of luck with grad school and their future plans. I would definitely not think, “What, they knew they were leaving back in May and didn’t tell me the entire time? The nerve!”

    1. Gingerblue*

      “A trip to New City with Partner seems totally unnecessary at this point. Besides, if you’re scouting out a place to live, a weekend isn’t going to be enough time to make a wonderful decision.”

      This depends wildly on where OP’s grad program is. Many college towns have weird rental markets thanks to the prevalence of people on academic schedules, and looking for housing earlier than you would elsewhere may be a very good idea. In a smaller community, a weekend may well be enough to scope out limited rental options. OP, you might want to get in touch with your new program to ask about the rhythms of finding housing–should you look now? May? August? Who knows what the local norms are.

      1. Lady Jay*

        Also, if needed, you can rent without seeing the place. I moved for a PhD a couple years back, and wasn’t able to visit my new city. So I popped online, paid a lot of attention to apartment review sites and found a place. I’ve already renewed once before—it’s worked out great.

        1. Ophelia*

          And worst case scenario, you can find a crappy short-term rental, and just use the month or whatever to find a more permanent space. I’ve done it, it wasn’t great, but it worked.

        2. Spreadsheets and Books*

          I did this too. We were moving for my husband’s schooling so he reached out to current students and found out where most of them lived, read review sites, etc. We had zero issues renting remotely and actually lived in that apartment for the entire four years of med school.

      2. Doc in a Box*

        I’ve moved to three different cities in 5 years for training programs, and each time I’ve had no more than a weekend to find a place to live. Once I only had a 24-hr period. You can and should do a lot of prep work online beforehand, including looking at commute times, neighborhood or apartment complex amenities, etc.

        Buying my house, in yet another new city, took 3 weekends. The first, my parents (who lived driving distance away and were retired so more flexible) scoped out several open houses with me on a Whatsapp video call, so I didn’t have to travel for that one. The second, I flew down, met them there, and we looked at several properties, mostly Redfin, but a couple traditionally listed properties and two apartment complexes as backup. Made an offer and did negotiations via phone/email with the Realtor. The third weekend, I flew down for the closing.

        This only worked because I had done a LOT of prep, knew exactly where I preferred to live relative to work and hobbies, and so was able to limit my search geographically. OP, I encourage you and your partner to do the same.

      3. Pretzelgirl*

        I agree with the limited rental options. I remember having to sign leases very far in advance in college. Like we had to find a place in the beginning of the year, for the next year.

      4. Senor Montoya*

        Sure, but OP doesn’t have to do it. This is one of those times when you need to trust your partner to make a good decision. Rental properties are probably online anyway, partner can take pictures and send them, text/call… Really, although I am sure OP would *like* to be there, this is not the thing on which to burn PTO and good will.

        1. Joielle*

          That’s the thing with all of this – like, yeah, ideally it would be nice to take some time off and visit the new city together, have a leisurely apartment search, scope out restaurants, and imagine your new life, but this isn’t an ideal situation and they probably can’t do that. There’s no reason OP *needs* to take time off to go to the new city. Or even to deal with the house, if they hire a general contractor they trust. This is the time to start delegating!

    2. Washi*

      I agree with waiting quite a bit longer to tell Alma Mater, and since programs do admissions varies quite widely, if I were the manager I certainly wouldn’t assume you knew in February that you would definitely be leaving. Depending where you are in the moving process, you could probably pretty easily make up a white lie of “I was waiting to decide for certain until we found a new apartment we liked/found tenants for our old house/my partner found a new job.”

    3. Colette*

      I’m actually wondering if the 3 day vacation can be combined with some of the other stuff (visiting the new place, or getting the renos underway). Maybe it can’t, but if the vacation is not for an event out of the OP’s control, that might be an option.

    4. Quill*

      They might need to hunt an apartment together… I certainly wouldn’t, if I could avoid it, sign a year lease on an apartment I hadn’t physically seen!

  13. Junior Dev*

    “Bob is a horrible person who takes pleasure in being deliberately cruel to a colleague. Something is very wrong with Bob.”

    This is a truly great paragraph. I think it’s easy when being treated this way to blame yourself and seeing it spelled out like this does a lot to ground someone like the OP in reality when they’re being treated horribly.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      What are the next steps once you’ve accepted that about Bob and reported his more egregious behavior?

      All I’ve gotten is “ignore him”, “work around him” and “have you considered moving departments?”

      We don’t have contractor contractors – we have a work release crew. He is mean and petty with them and they have no recourse. He loves working with them since they can’t say no. On paper, everyone says they’ll be believed but they’re criminals and addicts and scum who just want to get out of work.

      Can all the bobs work together on a deserted island?

      1. another Hero*

        Unless I’m misreading – calling your work release crew scum is kind of a lot, especially right after saying someone else was mean to/about them

      2. Observer*

        Well, this is a case where someone else needs to advocate for them. At MINIMUM reporting this up the chain.

        I understand people who won’t be social even at a surface level with people who have committed certain crimes. But, going out of your way to be cruel is a different level. Also, folks who are on work release crews are generally not the people who have committed those kinds of crimes. So really, just be polite!

      3. Blueberry*

        That is so cruel of him to take advantage of their situation to treat them terribly. The very definition of punching down. I wish I had any advice but I send you and the work release crew strength, and I hope they can hear from someon that they are much more than their worst mistakes.

        1. Retail not Retail*

          Everybody else treats them with respect and we toe the letter of rules to get them food. “Oh darn turns out this thing of cookies is just too much for me! Guess I’ll leave it in the employee breakroom where coincidentally y’all have lunch!” Or they’re not supposed to “dawdle” but we had a temp guy and we work at a cool place and it’s like “oh if you were to duck on this trail just saaaayin you’d see something.”

          We especially disobey the conversation rules – only talk about work! Only the task at hand! – and one day one of them was teasing my coworker like oh i am my worst moment, oh i’m just irredeemable and she said no no no you are changing! You’re here!

          I stuck up for them at a mandatory meeting about workplace respect because they may not be employees but they work here. Other departments came up later and thanked them and then they thanked me!

          It’s not hard to be respectful and human with anyone you work with (vendor, intern, kid volunteer, repair person, anybody!) but my Bob just goes out of his way to be rude!

    2. Military Prof*

      Bob seems to be living in an episode (or season) of The Office, playing the role of Dwight Schrute, and terrorizing Ryan the Temp. I often wonder if these people understand how much their reality is matching art?

  14. February Goshawk*

    I work for a company that’s mostly distributed, and we do a lot of video calls. It’s perfectly normal to type “brb” or “be right back” in the chat, turn off your camera, and step away for a few minutes as necessary.

    We do also build breaks in to longer meetings, which also works well.

  15. Yvette*

    “What, they knew they were leaving back in May and didn’t tell me the entire time? The nerve!” But if the normal timeline for PhD programs is to extend the offer early in the year for fall, the current employer may know that they have known for quite some time.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      The final deadline for accepting the offer is probably April 15 — many programs in many fields have settled on that as a standard. So the LW has some plausible deniability (“oh, back in February I was still trying to decide whether to stay or go!”) until then.

  16. alienor*

    Something about Bob’s “I think I’ll ask for this spot in three weeks. You won’t need it, you’ll be gone” comment is extremely disturbing to me. Everything else he’s saying and doing is bad too, but that one really pings some sort of not-right-in-the-head radar. I would stay as far away from him as possible, and *definitely* say something to the boss if your contract gets extended. Or is there a different, not-hostile team member you can ask? Not about the possibility of an extension, since they probably don’t know and couldn’t say even if they did, but just “hey, what’s up with Bob and his comments?” It wouldn’t stop the behavior to know that Bob has always been Weird Bob or that he does this with every contract employee, but it might make it feel a little less personal and extra-creepy.

    1. CM*

      I like the idea of checking in with non-hostile coworkers to find out what Bob’s deal is. I agree that that particular comment seems kind of creepy for reasons I can’t put my finger on.

      1. Myrin*

        I can tell you why it’s creepy – because it’s something which, in a TV show or movie, Bob would say to OP shortly before having her disappear mysteriously, whatever that might mean in detail. For the record, I don’t think that’s a case here! But quotes like these are a bit of a staple for the stereotypical “psychopath villain” in popular culture and I think that’s what people are subconsciously reacting to.

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

          Perhaps. But also to note about that particular instance:
          – OP is stressed about her job to the point of tears, so presumably her emotional vulnerability is obvious to others;
          – OP made a pleasant parting comment, and instead of responding with an expected “thanks/you too/see you tomorrow/yeah whatever, bye” Bob decides to taunt her in a very deliberate, very specific way that he knows will upset her;
          – It’s just OP and Bob. In a carpark. Alone.
          There are legitimately creepy aspects to this for people to subconsciously react to. And those psychopathic villain stereotypes came from somewhere!

          1. DerJungerLudendorff*

            This too. OP is vulnerable, alone, and Bob is a nasty and vicious predator who wants to hurt OP in any way he can.
            It just screams DANGER for OP.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            “ And those psychopathic villain stereotypes came from somewhere!”

            Exactly what I was going to say. I think it wouldn’t be the worst thing for OP to avoid being alone with the guy…ever.

            Sure, *probably* nothing, but why not be cautious, just in case. He opened the door.

          3. Shad*

            Also, Bob knows those psychopathic villain stereotypes as well as we do! He deliberately chose to escalate to that level.

          4. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yep! The last few years I’ve come to roll my eyes every time someone says “ohh this villain is too cartoonishly evil, that’s unrealistic.” Sadly, there are real-life cartoonishly evil people, some of them in positions of power and authority, and denying their existence only serves their ends.

        2. Observer*

          You are right that this is a staple in for the stereotypical villain. It’s a staple for a reason. Because it’s a totally dismissive and somewhat threatening thing to say. And I’d be willing to bet that that Bob is using this line because he knows how it’s used in popular culture, so he figures it’s really going to rattle the OP,while giving him plausible deniability.

          “Oh, I didn’t mean anything! I just assumed that OP is not going to be extended. That’s what I was givn to understand.”

          Yeah, no. We know you weren’t planning to murder the OP, but you WERE trying to rattle them!

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s creepy because he’s so specific.

        I’m creeped out by naming her extract length of time left. Who tracks their temp colleague’s contract expirations?

        “I’ll ask for your spot when you’re gone!” Rude AF but not very creepy.

        “Oooooh when you’re gone in 15 days, 2 hours and 25 minutes, I think I’ll ask for this spot!” Sounds like a vulture circling counting minutes until their next meal gets hit by a car.

        1. Leslie Knope*

          I wonder if Bob keeps a countdown calendar…like, instead of a countdown to Christmas it’s a countdown to OP’s impending doom/departure.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      This kind of comments would ring the alarm in my head, as in, “this person is planning to kill me”. I have a senior coworker who is a petulant asshat who likes to rub in your face his lifestyle, and if he ever attempted to do a Bob I would go to my boss, my grandboss and HR at the speed of light.

      1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        Yeah @Fake Old Converse Shoes….this has definite murder/danger vibes. As in, were I the OP, I would make sure another colleague could walk me to my car at night. This beyond asshole territory, it’s really disturbing to read from the outside. Stay safe, OP!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s sort of the flip side of “if your idea sounds like the villain in a Reese Witherspoon movie, don’t do it.”
      So Bob’s the villain…don’t be the hapless Harry Potter who decides to go it alone, leaving the audience to groan “oh just go tell McGonagall and Dumbledore!”

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        TBH, when he told Dumbledore his concern about Malfoy his answer was… meh? His distrust of adults is well justified *cough*the Dursleys *cough*

        1. Quill*

          McGonagall: “why is it always you three?’
          Harry: Growing up in an abusive household has made me unable to trust adults.
          Hermione: Being precocious I know that both schools and governments put their security ahead of the rights of individuals. Also this place is knee deep in racists, some of whom are professors.
          Ron: Professor, you’ve met my mom, recklessly helping people is in my DNA.

      2. NotMyRealName*

        He tried to tell McGonagall in the first book and she blew him off. He tried to tell Dumbledore about being mistreated at home and he blew him off. He tried to get Lockhart to help him and almost got obliviated. I can see why Harry gave up on adults.

    4. Observer*

      It’s going to be extra creepy regardless of whether it’s “personal” or not.

      But, if this is an ongoing problem that people know about, that’s an important piece of information for the OP. And I would say that this should be a very loud signal for the OP to REALLY kick up their job search. Because it’s a sign that this is a company with a sick culture.

    1. The answer is (probably) 42*

      I also only see four, so it’s not just you. And I don’t see any replies directed at any OP5 so I’m assuming there isn’t a 5th. Maybe it was a title error?

    2. Myrin*

      Alison does that sometimes (mostly on Fridays), featuring only four questions instead of five. So most probably, it’s just that she forgot to change the introductory sentence.

  17. Kiki*

    Bob needs a wiiiiiiide berth. I wouldn’t talk to him unless I absolutely had to, and even then I’d keep it brief.

    I realize this is a small snapshot of a person I don’t know and likely will never meet, but I’m chilled just by the quotes. Like I’d be tempted to warn Bob’s family that he says stuff like this, and I’d definitely tell the boss. The sociopath vibes are strong.

    1. Kes*

      Yeah, beyond reporting Bob to her boss, it’s probably worth avoiding him where possible. He’s the kind of person I would delay leaving a few minutes not to have to walk out to the parking lot with

  18. Myrin*

    Oh JFC, what in the ever-loving hell is wrong with Bob?! It’s nine in the morning here and I’ve already had enough disturbance to last me all day just from reading this letter. Good lord.

    OP – it sounds like you have an unfortunate amount of interaction with Bob so do you have any insight into whether he behaves this nastily towards your other coworkers, too? I’m asking because I’m curious but also because it might help you a little with your peace of mind. I’m having a hard time imagining that someone who says the truly incredible things Bob says only has a evil queen bee in his bonnet regarding temp workers in particular – I’m willing to bet that he finds something to be hostile about with every other person he interacts with. And if that’s the case, you can at least rest assured that there’s nothing about you in particular which makes him make these… sadistic comments.

    But even if not, I concur completely with Alison – I don’t see why you need to suddenly put a ton of stock in what this clown says just because it seems to confirm something you’ve feared for some time. His comment about the parking spots isn’t in any way different from all the other comments he’s madeso far so I don’t think you need to obsess about it in any way. You’re already feeling enough stress because of your job insecurity, you really don’t need him to take up space in your brain, too.

    And please, when your boss gets back from out of town, talk to him about this. Not about your fear of not being renewed, but about Bob’s disturbing behaviour. I can assure you that I as a boss would immediately like to know if I had someone who appeared that… well, honestly, evil on my staff.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      As an aside I laughed out loud at your first line because it was so close to my reaction.
      Bob’s a bully and OP’s manager needs to know. Bullies rarely have only one target,
      and bullies can escalate. And if OP happens to be female and/or a different race or religion from Bob, well, in the US he’s creating a hostile workplace. That DOES apply to contractors and temps, and Bob is opening the company up to liability.

    2. EPLawyer*

      ” I don’t see why you need to suddenly put a ton of stock in what this clown says just because it seems to confirm something you’ve feared for some time.” As my wise old father says “Consider the source.”

      OP, right now you are all worked up and worried about whether your contract will be extended. You have all these concerns about how you are going to pay the bills and eat next month. Your company is crappy that they play these power trip games with you “will we keep you or won’t we? Hahahahahaha stay tuned to find out.” So your mind is already messed up. Then Bob comes along with all his little digs. You then blew this up in your mind to belief he has info you don’t have. But he doesn’t. He is just preying on your vulnerability.

      What to do? Honestly, I would keep job searching. Because it’s not just Bob. it’s a crappy set up that leads to this kind of anxiety. For your own mental health, go somewhere where power trips by the company or individuals are not happening.

      1. Colette*

        It’s highly unlikely the company is playing a power-trip game. Behind the scenes, there are probably discussions about workload and budgets and getting the right signatures to get the OP extended. And maybe the OP won’t be extended – but it won’t be because the company is playing games with her, it’ll be because for whatever reason, they couldn’t keep her on.

        1. Observer*

          It’s still a garbage set up. And it’s clearly one they use a fair bit. So, it’s something they need to work on.

          1. Colette*

            Sure. How could they handle it better?

            Not hire temp workers and let their other employees pick up the slack?

            Decide a month before the end of a temp worker’s contract that if they can’t commit to extending them, they’re going to let them know they won’t be extended (even if they get it all figured out before the end of the contract?)

            1. Observer*

              Start actually figuring out what their staffing needs are and hire for those needs? Don’t try to get so “lean” that you change staffing from week (or month) to month? Streamline hiring / contract processes?

              I don’t know the answer. But this IS absolutely a broken process. And if the only way they can stop or at least reduce the amount of last minute renewals they do is to increase churn then they are terribly managed.

    3. epi*

      I don’t think it’s really that informative whether Bob does this to anyone else. He sounds like someone who enjoys being cruel; he is most likely picking on the OP because he has more power than them, not because he believes he has some legitimate gripe with temp workers.

      The OP is already anxious about their job security, convinced they need to be in their best behavior to such a degree that they should somehow rise above harassment, and unsure whether they have any recourse. All of Bob’s comments are not only cruel, they emphasize that the OP is not a permanent employee and that maybe they don’t even have access to the same protections. It’s common for people in the OP’s situation to be confused about that, and worried that their boss will decide to solve the problem by just not renewing their contract. Bob’s behavior is not only fun for him, it has worked so far to keep the OP quiet and worried that they are the real problem.

      1. Myrin*

        I mean, it might not be informative, but it might help OP’s peace of mind.
        I actually asked about this because the assistant manager at my one job is a real piece of work and when I started there, she came at me with such nasty criticisms and complaints that I thought I was gonna lose my mind because I didn’t feel like I actually made a lot of mistakes but she totally made it sound like that. But after I talked to my direct supervisor and gradually other coworkers, I found out that she’s like that to literally everyone except her own boss. And that knowledge actually helped me greatly in that I didn’t need to wrack my brain and worry anymore because I knew there was nothing specifically about me which made her be so nasty but instead, she’s just an unpleasant person in general.
        OP might view this completely differently, of course, but I thought I’d bring it up because of my own experience.

  19. ItalianBunny*

    You’ve got all of my sympathy.
    As a veteran of numerous temp jobs, i know how hard it is mentally and physically trying to holding it together in fear that even the tiny bits of security gets pulled away with close to zero notice.
    As per Bob, i really think you should talk to your boss when he’s back from his travel and i think this shall be a different conversation not tied to your actual renewal.
    Bob’s being a jerk.
    Bob’s making your working environment hostile (idk in US but i’m pretty sure here would count as such.)
    I do think you have all the rights to speak it up with your boss.
    I’ve been made the same comments in a couple of places i’ve been a temp in, and i know how hurtful they are…and still, after years, i cannot wrap my head on why someone believe temps aren’t even full human beings, let alone true employees.

  20. Harper the Other One*

    OP2, I second the advice from those above who say talk to your boss about Bob’s behaviour. You have the advantage that he has put quite a bit of it in emails (which, again, WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM) so that will back up the things he has said in person.

    I cannot imagine how stressful it is to be in your position and hear these kinds of comments, but if you can, try to turn this around in your head. How pathetic is Bob? He needs to make you feel awful in order to feel secure, and the ONLY way he has found to do it is by focusing on you being a temp, not on your job skills.

    It might also help to have a comeback ready next time he makes a temp comment. Is there a task you do that would fall to him if they don’t renew your contract? If so, maybe that reply could be a laugh and “you’d better hope they keep me, or X will be all yours!”

  21. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    OP2: Bob’s comment about the parking spot makes me think that he is perhaps junior to you? Or that you just happen to have a better parking spot or other perks/things that might be better than what he is getting? So what if you do, it doesn’t excuse his awful behavior. But maybe he is one of those miserable people that can’t handle it when anyone has something they don’t. Or if he is junior to you, maybe his comments that your job is temporary are a way to make himself feel more important. Still no excuse, though.

    1. Nea*

      I’ve been wondering that myself – if Bob is deliberately undermining OP in the hopes of getting something OP has as well as being a bully. For instance, Bob has stated he covets OP’s parking space.

      Except… if Bob has to “ask” for the space, then it’s one given to a specific person, which implies that if OP does move on, it will go to the next temp person and Bob won’t get it anyway. OP, would it help at all to think of things this way – that there’s nothing you have that Bob can take no matter what he says? He’s not your manager, he’s not allocating parking, he’s not deciding if you stay or go – he’s just being a jerk.

    2. Just Another Manic Millie*

      For some reason, I don’t think that Bob really wants the OP’s parking space. I think he just jumped on the opportunity to be mean to the OP.

      It appears to me that the OP has been with the company for three weeks short of nine months. I can’t tell if Bob was working there before OP started, but I have a feeling that he was. So I believe that that parking space was briefly available (between the time that the last person using it was working there and when OP started) while Bob was working there, and it doesn’t appear to me that he asked for it at the time. I do not believe that TPTB would have said to an employee, “No, you cannot have that parking space, even though it is better than yours, because it is reserved for a contractor.”

      I see three possible outcomes:

      1) The company is planning to let OP go in three weeks, and somehow the information was leaked to Bob.

      2) The company is planning to let OP go in three weeks, but Bob really has no idea that this is the case.

      3) The company will wind up extending OP’s contract, possibly on the last day of the current extension.

      My suggestion is that when OP’s boss returns, OP should say, “I understand that my contract is not going to be renewed when it expires. I want to thank you for the opportunity of working with you.” And then the boss will say, “Huh? What are you talking about?” And then OP will say, “Bob has told me numerous times that I’ll be gone effective such-and-such a date. He has even said that he’s going to ask for my parking space when I’m gone. And look at these emails.” And then OP shows the boss the damning emails. And then the shit hits the fan. Because maybe the company was planning on letting OP go, and the boss is furious at Bob for being a blabbermouth. Or maybe the decision hasn’t been made yet, which is all the more reason for the boss to be furious at Bob.

  22. mourning mammoths*

    #3 I just got out of a video conference that I was organizing, wherein I left for 2 minutes without any explanation and without turning off my video. This is something I do regularly and consider it a self-care ‘of course I can go to the bathroom when I need to’ issue. I start by assuming anyone on the call will think that if I’m leaving unannounced it’s probably for a very good reason. As for timing, I try to time it so I am gone while someone else on my team is presenting, so I pretty much know the content of the intervention. Also, colleagues have noticed how much water I drink and the number of breaks I take as a result, so they are neither surprised nor offended.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Nope, that’s pretty standard. But it might be a “know your culture” thing? My company has tons of remote employees and it’s SOP that A) meetings shouldn’t be long enough to require a built in break. If it’s that long it should probably be two separate meetings and B) if someone needs to step away, they just do. If their camera were on, they turn it off and then on again when they’re back. If they weren’t using video to begin with, they put in the chat that they’re stepping away, and say back when back. Nobody blinks at either. It’s all normal. Unless you’re the primary speaker and suddenly need to leave, it’s not a big deal at all. We all know sometimes people have to go and may not be able to control the moment that happens. Heck, sometimes people just have brief connection issues. It’s fine. Nobody holds it against anyone. It’s all normal.

      2. mourning mammoths*

        I was the organiser, and I am often a key participant, so it’s relevant to show that I’m not there to respond – much in the same was as if we were in the same room together. My meeting participants often aren’t savy enough to follow along with a chat that is happening at the same time as a meeting.

  23. Beth*

    OP1: Congrats!!! You sound really excited about this, I hope it works out to be everything you’re hoping for. Regarding logistics, Alison is right that you probably can’t ask for a lot of time off, given both your very new status there and the amount of time off you’ve already had to take. I’d say it’s time to seriously consider where you really need to be gone and where you can maybe make it work without time off.

    For example, maybe you can plan a trip to campus around Memorial Day, so you can go for a few days without needing much or any time off? Or you can send your partner out to explore the city mid-week and then join them over the weekend (or go with them over the weekend and leave them to explore a few more days)? And regarding contractors and such…maybe your partner has more leeway on time off and can handle more of the meetings, maybe you can find people willing to meet on evenings and weekends, maybe you can do some of the meetings/phone calls on your lunch break. Taking a day or two off to handle the unavoidable things will be a lot easier than taking a bunch of days off, if you can find ways to fit most things into your existing schedule.

  24. Isabelle*

    OP2, Bob is a horrible person and if I was his boss, I would absolutely want to know about this.

    This situation with the last minute contract renewal sucks. Sometimes these renewals are held up by some internal company process and your boss may not be able to do anything to speed it up.

  25. Amy*

    Letter 1 – It sounds to me like you’re already a bit out of the headspace of work. This reads like you’re viewing it as interfering with the things you really need to get accomplished. While I understand the feeling (I’m currently doing a reno with a busy job and young kids while my spouse is interviewing left and right) it’s worth deciding if you can do the job right now. If you can, many of the tasks you listed are doable outside of regular work hours. For example, contractors are often willing to meet at 7am or 7pm or on Saturday. Otherwise you may find it’s not possible and leaving the job in a few months may work better for your family. Good luck.

    1. BethDH*

      Yes to this! I think it’s fine to leave this fall (life happens!) and not to give them notice until later, but you have to figure out a way to remain fully committed to your job while you’re there. I think you’d burn a lot more bridges by being a bad employee while you’re there than a good employee who leaves earlier than expected.

      1. Annony*

        Exactly this. As someone who is new, you haven’t yet built up a reputation for reliability. You really want to avoid leaving the impression that you were flaky and not committed to the job because that will hurt your reputation in ways leaving early will not.

    2. Dragoning*

      This is what was bothering me about that letter! It was a very long list of tasks that would “require” time of work that didn’t seem to need time off, necessary, OP just wanted to take off.

    3. Shan*

      This is exactly the sense I got while reading the letter. It’s understandable, and I’ve definitely been there! But you need to be honest with yourself about your willingness to commit to your job in the short term.

  26. A Nonny Mouse*

    OP1, from someone at the other end of the PhD, you will face this same juggling of a seemingly impossible number of priorities for your whole PhD program. When you are finishing up – you’ll be on the job market, writing up your dissertation, possibly teaching or doing someone else’s research, preparing a move. Sometimes you just need to dig in and get stuff done. I agree on the weekend trip to New City, and have your partner pitch in on overseeing the house upgrades, or if you are doing them yourselves, limiting work to weekends and evenings. Good luck!

    1. BethDH*

      This is so true! Not in a “you can’t do this” way, but the hardest thing for me about my PhD was balancing personal life with multiple professional responsibilities.

  27. 8DaysAWeek*

    OP4: APPLY!!! Especially if you made it that far in the last round of interviews.
    We often have postings in my department and have had candidates that were good but didn’t get selected. When we post another job we can’t reach out to them, they have to re-apply and go through the formal channels all over again. Even if they are internal candidates. Their hands may be tied and they are hoping you reapply.
    Good luck!!!

    1. OP 4*

      Knowing some processes are like that is encouraging. I’m going to type up my application and send it in after work today. Thank you so much!

  28. agnes*

    LW #1 A lot of people manage to get things like this done without having to take lots of time off from work. Maybe you can do some remote work or be creative in how you organize this effort to minimize the impact on your job. If you need the money that badly, then it would seem that you can’t afford to miss that much time . If you’ve only been there a few weeks, I expect you don’t have much leave accrued, so the time you take would be unpaid.

  29. Spencer Hastings*

    Alison’s response to #2 reminds me of that meme with the guy in the hat:

    Bob is a horrible person who takes pleasure in being deliberately cruel to a colleague.

    Bob is not cool.

    Don’t be like Bob.

  30. Not So NewReader*

    OP#2. The Bobs of the world test us to see what we let them get away with. Ignoring the Bobs does not improve the situation, no more so than it did in grammar school. Bob needs to be told STFU. The problem comes in when we try to think of a way to say that and remain professional sounding.

    “Bob, the company made the decision to hire contractors. I had no part in that decision. But I do see that it bothers you. Let’s schedule a meeting with the boss and the three of us can talk this through to a resolution.”


    “Bob, the company made the decision to hire contractors. I had no part in that decision. But since I see it bothers you, I have gone ahead and scheduled a time for the three of us to meet with the boss and we can resolve your upset here.”

    Personally, I like the latter choice myself. It’s more in keeping with my personality. And I know this Bob-type-person will only respond to sledge hammering.

    Generally speaking bullies will just keep bullying- my opinion and based on what I have seen. So the best thing I have ever thought of is to drag third parties into the conversation as quickly as possible and as often as possible. Bullies hate day light, OP. It makes them shrivel right up. If they don’t shrivel right up and the third party witnesses the undesirable behavior then other things can start in to motion.

    I hope I can encourage you, OP, that if you do become jobless, you can get a job. Bob cannot go out and get a soul. We either have a soul or we don’t. With this in mind, go ahead and talk to your boss. I mentioned up thread that this sort of thing deters people from renewing their contracts which can be detrimental to the company. Bob may be costing the company money and effort unnecessarily. Bob is doing things that defeat the company endeavors and the boss needs to know this.

    You can frame it as, “I don’t know what the company plans as far as renewing my contract. I am putting that to one side for a minute because I do think that you should know what is going on here because this could be damaging to company endeavors over the long term.”
    Then start with the parking space example and work back. Use the other examples you show here and be sure to mention your earliest recollection of when these behaviors started.

    For yourself, please think about all that is going on here. I am not impressed that they wait so long to tell you if you have been renewed or not. The fact that a Bob even exists at your place kind of sends up a yellow flag that other things might be going on also. Only you know the big picture here, it’s really not possible to cram all the details into one letter. It could be after looking at the big picture you decide NOW is the time to make the jump to another company. Or it could be that you decide, you don’t know what Current Company will do but, dang, you’d hate to think of anyone else going through what you have been through with Bob. Or you could decide that you want to see if your boss will tell you if you are going to get your contract renewed or not. You can go different ways with this one. In short, decide what you want out of this situation. The map out some steps to see if you can get to those goals.

    1. Mbarr*

      I agree with most of what was said here. Based on how bad Bob sounds, I would avoid telling him that you’re setting up a meeting with the boss.

      Meet with the boss first. Be prepared with a written list of all your examples of Bob’s bad behaviour. Focus on that for now.

      If you were a permanent employee, or were comfortable with your boss, I’d recommend also tackling the general workplace problems too. (But make sure you don’t intertwine the Bob problems and the workplace problems – I’d worry that your messaging would get mixed up and the boss would hear it as a jumbled mess rather than two separate issues.) But it sounds right now that you’re not in a space where you can do that.

    2. Observer*

      You are putting WAAAY too much work on the OP. You are also imputing motives to Bob that are not in evidence. Lastly, the meeting set up frames it as type of situation where there is something to “work out” or mediate. This is not true.

      I agree that bullies will continue to bully as long as they are allowed to. And that the OP should talk to their boss. But it doesn’t mean that they need to have any conversation with their bully first, much less hand him excuses that tend to mitigate his behavior. And it does not mean that they need a three way meeting.

      The OP has enough stuff to bring to their boss without trying to provoke him into continuing that behavior in front of the boss.

    3. Ain't Miss Behavin'*

      I think NSNR’s advice is solid. If OP goes and tells the boss, and the boss hauls Bob in, chances are good that Bob will find ways to harass and bully the OP in an even less-obvious way. If OP calls him out directly, chances are good that Bob will realize OP isn’t going to take any more of his shit and may back down. Bob would be hard-pressed to say, yes I DO have problems with the contract positions and let’s definitely go talk to the boss about is…he’s more likely to say, ‘never mind’ and go find someone else to push around.

      OP should definitely do whatever they are most comfortable with, of course.

  31. Jules Jones*

    OP#3, ‘I have a medical condition/am taking medication which requires me to drink lots of water’ gets the point across without making anyone wonder about other emergency reasons to visit the bathroom frequently. It’s what I’d rather hear, to be honest, because it doesn’t make me go ‘eww, TMI‘.
    OP#2, don’t walk to your car with Bob. Avoid him as much as possible and start calling out his comments if you feel able to. It’s totally normal to be stressed and upset in your situation, and it’s ok to show it a bit, strategically in front of other coworkers, as he’s the one who should be embarrassed.

  32. LGC*

    Like, I’m not saying that Bob should be thrown in the trash, but…Bob should be thrown in the trash.

    So, like, take LWs at their word and all, but…LW2, seriously, I’m not saying this just because 100 other people on the internet are dunking on Bob, but Bob looks like the unreasonable one here! He’s CCing you on emails and then openly saying “LOL LW2 DISREGARD BECAUSE YOU’RE A FAKE EMPLOYEE.” Imagine if you were a permanent hire and you got messages like that – would you think that the person who got CCed wasn’t a real employee? Or, like most rational people, would you think that Bob is off his rocker?

    I think the bigger issue isn’t Bob – it’s your own security. I’ve had temps and aside from employee benefits (which I don’t crow about), I’ve made every effort to treat them as equal members of my team. Because honestly, that’s what you should be – even though they’re not paying you directly. If you don’t feel like you can go to your boss about being bullied by a coworker (because that’s what’s happening right now), that’s a serious problem. And if it seems like your boss condones Bob’s bullying…honestly, it’d be better if you did get let go. At least you’d be out of that snake pit.

    (What’s really concerning is that you don’t say that people have spoken to Bob about the emails. Someone really should have! I’m not sure if you would be party to that discussion but I’ve been reprimanded for howlers that were a tenth as bad. And yeah, I’m focusing on the emails because that’s the one thing I know others have seen.)

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I think OP2 should point to the emails and then tell her manager about the vaguely menacing stuff Bob said in the parking lot (yikes).

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Hit send too soon. I should add that the documented comments in email should make the parking lot incident entirely believable.

        1. Nita*

          The emails may not be useful. We don’t know what exactly Bob said. Context matters, and OP has plenty of context, but if Bob has been careful to keep his bullying of OP hidden from others the emails may look relatively innocent to them. Something like: “We’re having a department meeting on 1/15. This only pertains to full-time employees, so Lisa, please disregard” or “This new rule kicks in in late 2020. Team, please read (Lisa, feel free to disregard).” But even without the emails to back her up, OP should escalate.

          1. Observer*

            The emails that the OP are describing are not what you are claiming “they might be”. Also, if you are sending out an email that genuinely does not apply to someone, then don’t include that person on the email and then say “Other Person, please ignore.” In the BET CASE, it’s passive aggressive. When you say “OP ignore because this is only for real employees” it moves from passive aggressive to aggressive. Full stop, no modifiers.

            1. Marthooh*

              This is a strangely hostile reply. Nobody’s saying Bob’s not mean, just that the wording of the emails may not prove much. Yes, Bob is being nasty, but will it look nasty to the manager or HR? You can make all the “full stop” declarations you like, but but OP’s employer may not agree.

              1. Observer*

                If their manager doesn’t agree, then the OP will know that management there stinks. Because there is no other reasonable way to read an email that “You should ignore the email I sent you because it’s only for real employees and you are a fake.”

                Also, the post I responded to ignored what the OP wrote to try to make the emails look better. That’s really not right.

                1. Nita*

                  You’re assuming Bob is flat-out saying “you are a fake”. Considering OP doesn’t mention anyone speaking up for her after seeing that… I suspect it’s more subtle. You know how some kids are good at pinching their victim quietly, and then looking completely innocent when the teacher turns around? That’s how I’m picturing Bob.

                  Or, if it’s obvious to everyone that he’s belittling OP, the whole department is rotten and I’m keeping my fingers crossed OP gets out of there fast. Which, sadly, isn’t always easy… remember Hellmouth?

                2. Observer*

                  Or, if it’s obvious to everyone that he’s belittling OP, the whole department is rotten and I’m keeping my fingers crossed OP gets out of there fast.

                  Unfortunately, I think that ‘s a real possibility. And, yes, easier said than done.

                  But Hellmouth DID escape, so there is hope.

          2. LGC*

            Good point – I was imagining him signing off all of his emails with, “And none for Gretchen Wieners LW2, bye!” Which is…in effect what he’s doing but he might be more subtle than that.

  33. TimeTravelR*

    If the video conferencing system allows it, I would also turn off my camera for those few minutes while taking a quick wee.

  34. Gazebo Slayer*

    As someone who temped for eight years, I really deeply sympathize with you and hate Bob.

    Unfortunately, he’s not the only bully here. Your employer is stringing you along, playing with your security and source of income, and keeping you in a state of fear. They literally waited until the *last possible day* to renew your contract.

    Their clear disregard for you is encouraging Bob.

    I’m not sure how to deal with Bob, but I might say to him “It’s interesting how you feel threatened by a temp” or, as suggested upthread, “You know, we’re in an at-will state, so you could be fired at any time too.” Say the latter with a big, toothy, malicious smile.

    1. Risha*

      As a former contractor who has at least never worked with a Bob, I spent a six month contract at a company that OP’s company definitely reminds me of. I already had projects slated through July (and therefore wasn’t actively looking for work) when they hit a budget shortfall in December and let me go with less than a week’s notice.

      When they came knocking again the following year, I was fortunately already working at the job that eventually hired me full time (and who, when I asked, immediately told me that they had already asked to keep me permanently but were forbidden to by their contract with my contracting company for another few months). I’m not sure I would have willingly worked for that company again even if I had been unemployed at the time, and I’ve been pretty damn desperate for work during some of those contracting years.

    2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      This was my exact thought re: temp vs. full-time employee. If OP is in the US, odds are Bob is an at-will employee so it’s pretty silly to tout job security in that situation. Everyone without a c-suite level contract is disposable same-day without a package.

  35. Not So Super-visor*

    OP 2: We use a lot of temp to hire here, and we have a lot of full-time employees who act the same way. The funny thing is that most of these people are employees who started as temps. Since our temp population has a larger churn ratio than our hired-in employees, a lot of employees are hesitant to get attached to a temporary employee until we hire them in.
    Bob sounds awful. I would encourage you to make sure that you don’t have a “just a temp” mentality though. I see this a lot with our own temps. As in, the SOP says to process this Teapot Disposal Form a certain way, but I don’t need to do that because I’m just a temp. OR: The dress code says no sneakers, but I can ignore that because I’m just a temp.
    This kind of mentality happens a lot with the temps that we bring in, and it does cause some friction with the hired-in employees.

    1. Observer*

      Have you thought that you are reversing the chicken and egg? Maybe you’re getting a high churn rate and disengaged attitude because you are treating your temps like disposable trash? Because if you are allowing “a lot of full time employees” who act like Bob, then you ARE treating them like trash.

      And excusing that kind of behavior because of the churn rate? That’s part of the problem. It’s one thing to not get close. It’s another to be rude and flat out mean to people.

      1. Not So Super-visor*

        I do not allow other employees to treat temps like trash, and I absolutely address all issues the same way whether the person is a temp employee or hired-in. When I’m talking churn rate, it is typically because the temp is an absolute disaster or unwilling to work. I am talking about temps who call-in on their first or second day. Temps who have to be terminated after being told multiple times that they can’t do social media Lives while working or play video games on their phones instead of working. Temps who make fake phone calls (empty line) or call their work lines from their cell phones and pretend to talk to someone about business related issues. Temps who disappear in a closet for 30 minutes on multiple occasions until I have to hide-and-seek them out. Temps who smoke illegal substances in the basement bathroom. None of the issues that I’m talking about when I consider churn have anything to do with how someone else is treating them.

        1. Observer*

          If you don’t let anyone be nasty to temps, why do you still have (and I quote) “a lot of full-time employees who act the same way” >as the creep Boblike Bob<" is not a good place to send people and smart agencies realize they could lose their good people if they get a reputation for sending people into bad environments.

    2. Never*

      So… is your firm actually bringing this information to the temps breaking the rules? “You may be a temp but please follow the rules, get proper work shoes and please don’t come to work in sneakers again”?

      Or are they going “its just a temp, not worth the time to correct them”?

      1. Not So Super-visor*

        It is always addressed. Whether it’s an SOP issue or a dress code violation, its addressed a few times as “hey, you’re new here, but we need X.” Then eventually that turns to “Hey, last Tuesday, we talked about X, but you are still doing X.” And then it’s a call to terminate them with the temp agency with an explanation that X was a problem and it was addressed multiple times, but the person didn’t correct it. The one exception would be the guy smoking in the bathroom. That was an immediate “you’re done.”

    3. Torgo*

      OP has had her contract extended previously, so none of this “just a temp” mentality is an issue for her. The issue is Bob and his nasty behavior. Instead of dealing with bullying in the office, would you just tell someone to wear different shoes? Your comment is puzzling.

  36. HalloweenCat*

    OP 2- What Bob is doing is so strange. One thing you could do is call him out on the email chain when he includes you in a group, only to make a note in the email that you are decidedly not included. Something simple like, “Hi Bob, Is there something I’m misunderstanding? You’ve included me on this email but then given me direction that it doesn’t apply to me.” That lets you push back against his weirdness while also putting a spotlight on it for your coworkers so they might pay attention to how bizarre he’s being.

  37. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    OP#1, I’m confused. Interview and hire a contractor after hours/on weekends. Also, usually they pull the permits–that’s their job. Find one you can trust, hand them a key, and let them work. (If you have pets/kids, make sure the contractor has the plan (“Rooms A and B will be locked while you work. Do not let Fluffykins or Hairball out.”) Write it in your contract. You may need to check in with them but you live there–have them text questions to you or your SO/wait to you get home, etc.

  38. Jean*

    OP2, if it were me getting these sorts of comments from “Bob,” (especially the “you’ll be gone” one, WTF), I would 100% report to my supervisor that he is making me feel uncomfortable and unsafe with his comments. Document if you can and mention that you have “several documented instances” of his treatment of you.

    If your supervisor is worth a crap and has half a brain, they will shut this down immediately.

  39. Shramps*

    OP2, when I was a contractor (for the first time), there was a mischievous permanent employee who teased me about it occasionally. He was an all around creep masking as a good ol farm boy (from Kansas!) and I didn’t recognize it until far too late. Once, when all the permanent employees had a company wide meeting and I was left in the office by myself, he came back and asked if I had taken any messages for him!

    I was totally offended and quietly said no, but inside I was so embarrassed to be the implied secretary instead of valued team member (no shame to secretaries but that was not what I wanted to be seen as). I never said anything, but that guy ended up being fired for incompetence. Later I was invited to an employees bridal shower with all the ladies from that job (a head trip in itself- I have a lot of stories from this contracting experience lol) and they spilled the metaphorical tea on what a creep and jerk he was! Three were so many instances I actually had no idea about. A few months later as my contract was coming to a close I told our mutual boss what he had said to me and she really wish I would have said something sooner. At the time the micro-aggression just felt like a micro aggression, I didn’t realize it had fit into a huge pattern of this guy being a jerk.

    If you trust your boss, say something.

    1. Tidewater 4-1009*

      It’s not just a masquerade, it’s a whole cultural thing.
      Men from certain areas – Kansas is one – are given entitlement by the good ole boy culture to treat people who aren’t them (including all women) in hurtful ways. When they’re raised in this culture they’re not aware of their entitlement and how their behavior affects others, and when they’re corrected they get all hurt and put upon. It’s a whole thing.

  40. anon_anon*

    I’m so glad LW3 asked this question! I don’t have a medical condition, but regardless it’s hard to sit on back-to-back video calls for 2-3 hours at a time and not go to the bathroom once. If I’m not a main participant / actively talking, I’ll just text a coworker or the group chat “be right back” and then turn off my video, mute my audio, and leave the room. Then I turn everything back on when I return. Minimal disruption.

    If it’s a smaller call where my absence would be more noticed, I’ll just wait until we get to a not-critical point in the conversation and then say I’ll be right back. No one has ever batted an eye at that.

  41. Lisa*

    #2 -This sounds like bullying to me and I imagine it violates your company’s anti-harassment or bullying policy, or goes against their code of conduct. I think that your manager, another higher up, or HR would take this very seriously and shut Bob down. Of course, this is if you are at a company who takes these things seriously. Good luck with everything. I hope Bob shuts up and leaves you along. He sucks.

    1. Michelle*

      It’d be great if OP could find another job and say to Bob on her last day (on the way out) I’m so glad I don’t have to work with you anymore. Oh, by the way, you can have my spot.

  42. Jennifer*

    Bob is five years old. He keeps making jokes like this because he can tell it bothers you. Next time he does it, say something like, “Wow, that was funny the first 500 times you said it but it’s getting old. Are you out of material?”

    1. Massmatt*

      This doesn’t fit the situation though, Bob is not disguising his nasty and creepy comments as “jokes”.

    2. RVA Cat*

      That’s an insult to five year olds. I’d say this is more middle school because that is peak childhood cruelty.

  43. Inky*

    As someone who came from academia (sort of like in a horror movie, “It came from the other siiiiide!”) I have to disagree completely with the advice for OP#1.

    People know that offers for top PhD programs go out in February. And they will respect that you are leaving for one. True, some people get the call in March, if they are on the waitlist, haven’t committed, and a first choice says no late in the game. Still, you can’t wait that long here. And they will be glad for you!

    If you work in some capacity on a campus then you know people who themselves know tons of others on that campus who every year need competent backup staff for a semester or more. Not for jobs that require lots of training, but for jobs that need bodies, and aren’t slated for students. Dollars to doughnuts, if you resign in good faith and say you want help finding temporary on-campus work, you will have it. Or negotiate another role there.

    A truly top program is once in a lifetime thing and people will mostly understand leaving for that. If you have the references to get one of these, you also have departmental contacts who can set you up with tutoring, proofreading, assistant work, lots of things.

    If you tell them in May, THEY WILL KNOW that you have known since February, and that you took the training anyway. And honestly, if it’s your home department, it may come through the grapevine as someone from the new school calls up someone from the old school to talk about “their student,” or someone else wants to know who they accepted instead of *their student.* Faculty are connected to each other across institutions and people talk. So what happens when they find out before you tell them?

    1. Military Prof*

      Not to pile on, but keeping your acceptance to a top-flight school for a PhD can be a very difficult proposition. You have an almost unlimited number of ways that your employer can find out–somebody congratulates you while you’re in the office, or someone at your alma mater is connected to that school in ways you don’t know about, or the top-flight program publishes a list of incoming graduate students on their website, or a whole host of other ways. So, as Inky mentions above, not only will they know in May that you’ve held that secret back for three months, it’s entirely likely that they will know you’ve been accepted well before that time (and it’s entirely plausible that they know now.) One other thing to keep in mind is that many top-flight schools do reference checks much deeper than just reading letters supplied by the candidates–which means they might have contacted faculty at your alma mater (and current employer) that would clarify you were at the very least applying for the program.
      I’ve seen faculty members at every school I’ve worked for who have been hired, come to work, and were already applying for their next job. That’s perfectly fine if they’re in a post-doc role, but usually, they’ve been in a tenure-track position, but had essentially decided they could still do better. Some were right, some were wrong, but they all had one thing in common: everybody knew they were looking to leave. It’s just not something you can keep under wraps indefinitely–and the longer they tried to hide things, the more irritated the employer was likely to be.

  44. CCLibrarian*

    OP1: Is this Ph.D program worth potentially burning a bridge for? The availability of jobs and funding will have a pretty significant impact on your decision. I’m not sure if you’re planning to stay in academia or go into industry, but if it’s academia (especially the humanities), tenure-track and full-time instructor positions are few and far between. I would also consider the type of funding this program offers (is it going to be enough for you and your SO to live on?)

    1. MissBliss*

      It does not sound like OP1 needs advice on making that decision, though. They’ve said they are pretty ecstatic about the offer and accepting. Now they’re just trying to figure out how to not be a jerk to their current employer/alma mater, while also not shooting themselves and their partner in the foot right before they take a serious pay cut.

      I’m new to the academic side of things (institutional development) but from what I’ve seen, hiring can take forever. I think Alison’s advice of giving them notice 3-4 months out, instead of 7 months out, is good. However… since the current employer is also an academic institution, they’ll probably know that you’ve known for a while. But that’s okay! As long as you don’t leave them in the lurch, while they’ll probably be annoyed, people leave all the time for all sorts of reasons.

      Also, as someone who has been managing home improvement projects for about the past nine months: 1) your contractors should pull permits, 2) you can take these phone calls during the day, 3) sometimes they’ll come out on weekends, 4) you could have someone (a close friend, family member, or even if you have a trusty dog walker) to be around while contractors are working if you need someone there and neither you nor your partner are available. Also, contractors also often work really early mornings, so you might be able to do some of those meetings in the wee dawn hours and just go into work late, instead of taking a half or whole day off.

      1. Alt-Ac*

        OP1: If you are returning to the area, and work for an institute of higher ed… do you expect to return to your current institution after completing the PhD? Are there other opportunities for work (another college/university, alt-ac?) outside of your current employer?

        If you’re coming back and hoping to work there again, you’re going to need to play it differently.

      2. CCLibrarian*

        Despite being ecstatic, the OP could still consider whether it makes financial sense in the long term to switch from a job to a Ph.D program, especially since the OP was worried about how their employer might react to them leaving. Otherwise, they could just do what everyone else does and give an appropriate amount of notice. It’s not difficult and people do leave all the time for various reasons.

    2. Nonprofit Nancy*

      I did wonder if it would be possible to defer by a year so that you can do right by the job you’ve taken on (and then you can give yourself the time you need to wrap these other things up without the crunch). However, obviously life doesn’t always let us do this, and I don’t know if PhD programs honor deferments the way my old MS program did.

  45. Heat's Kitchen*

    OP3, I also work remotely. I make sure I’m double mutued – my Zoom application is on mute and my head set is on mute, and put in the chat ‘brb’ and go off camera. I have wireless headphones that reach to my bathroom so I can still listen in. This obviously doesn’t work if you need to be facilitating the call. In that case, I’d just try to go right before your call and wait as long as possible before calling for a 5 minute break.

  46. Bunny Girl*

    Op 2 – Definitely say something to your boss/manager/HR/whoever because Bob is a huge bully and I am willing to bet you’re not the only one he is awful to.

    I recently started seeing a therapist because of how much my job stresses me out. A lot of it is the people. A lot of them are just like Bob, really awful human beings. And it completely bummed me out because you know, I don’t treat people like that and I just can’t imagine what sort of person does. The advice I got was basically this – There are a lot of really horrible people in the world. They’re miserable and just take it out on others. Pity them, and realize that you cannot change them. The only thing you can change is how you react to them.

  47. Jaybeetee*

    LW2: I sympathize, I temped for a few years, and at least one workplace did the renew-at-the-last-moment thing (in fact, in one case they delayed too long and my contract actually “ended” on Friday afternoon. The agency called Monday to tell me everything was finally in place to continue – I went back on Tuesday). It’s a stressful way to live. On top of that, those contracts tended to pay minimum wage, while permanent employees doing identical work on the same team were paid at least twice that. Great for morale!

    So, Bob is a weak little man who thinks he has power over you, because he’s permanent and you’re not. But based on your letter, he has nothing to do with whether or not you get renewed, and he’s not in your “chain of command.” He’s just a dude at your job.

    You do need to report his behaviour. But in the moment, I find the best way to react to bullies and abusers is to keep front of mind that they’re *not* powerful, and do not have power over me. If you can internalize Bob as a mosquito, or an annoying toddler, or a scratching tag in your shirt, that will go a long way in how much his comments get under your skin. Bob is an irritant. Bob is nothing.

    By no means is this to say or imply that you “caused” any of this. What I mean to say though, is once you drop your end of the dynamic, it’ll probably be a lot less fun for Bob. Even if he continues, the “problem” will be solved in that it won’t hurt you anymore.

  48. M*

    #2 I worked with a Bob. He was exceptionally creepy and had a mullet, and delighted in making disparaging comments to creep people out. For example if someone said they were going on vacation in Utah, he would say, oh I heard that’s where a lot of convicts and people running from the law hide out. He actually sexually harassed someone by email and it turned into a lawsuit, I mean how stupid can you be. This job had very bad management and somehow he wasn’t let go. He would make weird comments about killings squirrels, just the most bizarre things. Every time there was a job opening he would apply, but no one would even think about promoting him due to his overall weirdness. My point is if Bob has enough issues that he thinks his behavior towards you is ok, he probably has offended/weirded out a whole lot of other people. I would make a complaint so there’s a record of it, because chances are this is a pattern of behavior and people need to know it’s not a one off incident. Sorry you have to deal with this.

  49. 2 Cents*

    OP#2–were you hired by the company with an in-house recruiter (works for the company) or did they use an external company/recruiter? Either way, and if so, it’s be worth it to bring it up to your recruiter that there’s this weirdly nasty person who has it in for contract employees. I’m currently a contractor and if anyone treated me this way, my work boss AND the recruiting company would both know ASAP. (After I told Bob to stuff it.)

  50. Ann*

    To me “bio break” sounds more TMI than just saying ‘I need to run to the restroom, I’ll be right back’

    1. epi*

      I agree. We already have polite euphemisms for this!

      I work in public health so people will get really detailed about encouraging meeting attendees to get up and do whatever they want. “Bathroom’s around the corner, help yourself to more of the healthy snacks we got for this meeting, water is at the back, does anyone need to get up and stretch…”

      We are probably the only ones who really need a shorter way to say it!

      1. Ann*

        Ehhh, I hear “bio break” I think you’re using a euphemism for using the toilet.

        If you need a water/stretching/bathroom break why not just say “Hey I could use a 5 min break” ? Why do you need to explain that it’s for “bio” purposes?

        1. Observer*

          Because you are basically using short hand for “this is not me just being precious, but this is something that human beings tend to need.”

          1. Ann*

            I don’t think people should have to explain why they need a 5 min break, especially not with terms like “bio break”. No reasonable person is going to think you are “being precious” if you say you need a quick break.

    2. Amethystmoon*

      It’s used commonly in online gaming to mean a bathroom break, but can also mean getting up to grab a glass of water/snacks.

    3. Bananatiel*

      Yeah, for the life of me I don’t understand why we can’t just say “Let’s take a five minute break” during long meetings anymore. It’s obviously important that everyone has the space and time to tend to their physical needs, but realistically people will start to lose focus mentally as well the longer they have to sit without a break.

      1. Massmatt*

        I agree, why not just say “let’s take a break” or “excuse me, I’ll be right back”. No one needs to know the details of whether you are going to go to the bathroom, to me that’s on a par with telling whether you’re going #1 or #2, what possible reason does anyone have to know that? TMI, I try to mind my own business.

        Voluminous studies have shown that retention, interest, productivity, etc drops significantly at about the hour mark and plummets after 90 minutes, yet SO many meetings and classes go on and on.

        At old job there was one manager that was notorious for this, held some 3 and 4 hour meetings, and would often “power through” the breaks on the agenda. After a couple hours the group would be bored, stiff, and listless, and he would remark on how tired everyone looked. Well no wonder, we’ve been sitting here looking at Powerpoint slides for 3 hours!

    4. JSPA*

      “Bathroom” and “restroom” and water closet (WC) are all, already, euphemisms / polite misnomers / intentional vagueness.

      Bathing, resting, “using water in a closet”… we slide right by the literal meaning and react as if someone had said “the loo, the toilet, the crapper.”

      There is no term that anyone can create, which if it becomes standard, will escape this psychologically – driven linguistic process. There’s nothing vague than “rest” or “gone to use some water” or needing to “freshen up.”

      Hydration is healthy. Peeing is a good thing. “Back in a moment” is fine, whether it’s for a sneezing / coughing fit or a pee break. But a “bathroom break” is also fine. And it’s fine if “bio break” elicits thoughts of using a toilet. You’re not seraphim or the undead; peeing isn’t some strange personal quirk.

    5. LJay*

      And way more TMI than “I need to step out for a minute.”

      Maybe I’m lucky in that I work somewhere where if I say I need to step out for a minute I’m trusted that I’m actually doing something necessary and urgent like using the restroom or handling an urgent call or something so I don’t need to go into any specifics about what?

  51. Another JD*

    OP 1: I’m not sure what it’s like where you live, but check with your local licensing division for what you need to have done to approve your rental. The fee is generally low (~$100), they come do the inspection, then give you a written list of things that need to be corrected to get your rental license approved. That will give you a good starting point for what you have to fix before you can move.

  52. ACDC*

    RE #2: I have been a contractor at the same organization for nearly 18 months now, and every time my contract is extended at the last minute. When I first started here, there were a few Bobs but they eventually gave up when I continue to be extended and didn’t engage (however, your Bob is WAY worse than my Bobs so please don’t think I’m saying ignoring him will make this be OK). I would definitely speak to your manager about this! If the manager refuses to do anything, I would really think about if this is somewhere you want to continue to work.

  53. From That Guy*

    O.P. #2 Sorry to hear about this very cruel coworker. I worked with an individual years ago who was gunning for my job and made many snide comments. I finally confronted him: “I know what you are doing and I have had enough of it.” Then we kind of glared at each other and he did stop after that. I suggest the same, if not stronger language. The guy you are dealing with is no doubt a bully and sometimes confronting them head on takes care of it. If that does not work I concur with Allison and talk to your manager. Good luck.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      I think it works. Covers the bathroom, getting a beverage, or going outside for some fresh air if there’s enough time.

  54. HereInTheWest*

    #2 – Been there, except the situation was reversed. I was a permanent employee. The temp I worked with would throw me under the bus at every chance he got and I knew why: he wanted to get me fired in hopes that he can take my position and be converted himself. He would CC our boss any time a “mistake” was made. He badmouthed me to the CFO. He deliberated punched my computer monitor when I wasn’t around. He made petty unprofessional remarks to my boss about how I was the worst employee to work with. He even stooped so low and falsely accused me to a couple other employees about how I dipped my fingers in the peanut butter in the company fridge even though I did not; he was trying to taint my image and convince others to turn against me in hopes that I would quit.

    Now, my boss could see right through him, so my boss sided with me. But over the 4 months since he started his temp assignment, the workplace environment went downhill because of him. To be clear, he only did it to me because he thought I was an easy target; I am very reserved and quiet and don’t like conflict. Unfortunately, it got so bad that I ended up quitting. It still makes me mad knowing I let him win, but I was relieved to be out of there. And no, I was not unemployed for long. A month later, I found another job – a permanent one. I am still here, and none of my coworkers have given me any issues since I started. Everyone here is super nice.

    The point is, it is bad enough to be a temp and have a permanent employee make such snide remarks, and the reverse situation, the one I have been in, is just as bad. And having been a temp myself in the past, I know how stressful it is given the uncertainty. Having a coworker make such remarks just makes the situation worse. You can choose to ignore it or try to set boundaries, but you can’t change that person. There is only so much one can take. Eventually, you will reach your limit. That is what happened to me. I can only hope that it doesn’t happen to OP.

    1. Seven If you Count Bad John*

      He PUNCHED your computer monitor? …I…I am confused what is that supposed to accomplish???

      And your boss sucks for letting you leave instead of firing him.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Maybe to make people think HereInTheWest had done it?

        +1 about your boss, Here. A boss with any kind of backbone and consideration would have gotten rid of that temp. It only takes one phone call.
        It’s so stupid it makes me wonder what was going on behind the scenes. Was the temp related to the CEO? Or blackmailing someone?

  55. boop the first*

    2. Oh, if it wasn’t for the comments about bully bob, I would have assumed he cluelessly thought he was just being “hilarious”, and that you were the first temp worker he’d ever seen in his whole life. I’ve had a lot of unbridled, dry, sarcastic coworkers, so I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that his weird commentary was sincere. I would have just assumed he was a dingus and that exchanging jerky comments was actually a bonding exercise. I would have thought it was a “thing” we do now. I’m quite a product of my parental upbringing, aren’t I…

    1. Jennifer*

      I actually think he is a dingus and thinks he’s being funny. It’s just that his actions are hurting someone. The OP has to stand up for themselves. You can’t change anyone’s behavior but you can change how you react to it.

  56. Amethystmoon*

    #2 Ugh. I had a coworker who literally did not understand that people could get laid off from jobs, and also that just because a temp job said temp to perm, did not mean that everyone who was in it was going to go permanent. But he also didn’t have a lot of working experience. I tried to explain that stuff to him once but he kept insisting that if you didn’t get hired being a temp, that it must be *your fault* and no other circumstances were ever possible. You know, like companies not wanting to pay benefits, the temp employee deciding they don’t like the company, and also not having enough money in the budget to hire the temp permanently.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      What a jerk. I’m sorry you had to work with him.

      Nice padded little bubble he’s got there.

      I took a contract job and the agency said flat-out I was not going to be hired on permanently. It had to do with how the C-Level over the department chose to manage the budget. My boss tried to get them to change their mind, but it was always the same story.

    2. Massmatt*

      …or business needs change! Lots of companies use temps for the flexibility. Maybe this increased need for llama groomers is permanent, maybe it isn’t, let’s add a few as temps and we’ll see how it goes.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        Company policy was typically if there was a consultant in a position for two years then they should be converted to permanent. The C-Level I mentioned would start the two-year count on each new consultant’s first day instead of the first day the consultant’s position existed.

        The we got a new CEO and the new CEO’s pet program manager decided to take every llama groomer in every department and put them into one llama grooming office. I had already been interviewing under the previous management. I took the job because I couldn’t afford to be unemployed, but failed at it.

        Happy to be away from the toxic culture there. I found a new position the same month I was fired and it’s a whole new world here.

  57. Some Lady*

    #4 – Quick plug for Afrin – it’s not good to use all the time but it is what I will take if I am dealing with a cold and have Something Important. It clears congestion which immediately makes me feel better and sharper. (Said with recognition that others may respond differently/have different considerations that would make this less of a good option).

    1. OP 4*

      Ooh. This probably would have helped, actually. I have a hard time finding cold medicine that works well for me, I metabolize medication kind of oddly so I usually have to use a larger dose to get to the same level of “functional.” Thank you so much!

  58. jahjahjahaha*

    No one is monitoring how frequently you use the restroom. And if they are, it’s creepy. Excuse yourself quietly and and step away. It doesn’t need to be a big deal.

  59. Jane2*

    2. Remind yourself that others are seeing Bob’s bad behavior too. He’s a jerk and telling everyone around him that he’s a jerk.

  60. JessicaTate*

    OP3 — Try to think of it like, “What would I do if we were meeting in the same room?” and create an analogous response.

    Like others have said, if it’s a group meeting, find a moment that’s not as pertinent to you (if you can), and then sneak away without disrupting or announcing. A lot of videoconference systems have a connected chat window; I use that, “Need to step away for a sec. Be right back.” I think of it like slipping a note or whispering to the guy sitting next to me before I leave so that someone knows, but I’m not disrupting the meeting. Then make sure you are muted. You can turn off video if you want – or leave it on. That’s preference/culture/context dependent.

    If it’s a one-on-one or smaller group where you’re very involved, you need to be direct like you would if you were in that person’s office. Alison’s scripts and others’ are perfect. You don’t have to explain it unless it’s really frequent.

  61. Yum Yum Sauce*

    LW 1:

    I recently had to ask for Valentine’s Day off from my primary job because my secondary job scheduled me WAY in advance. Instead of saying “I need this from you” I came to my supervisor and said “Hey, I’m in a pickle and I need your help finding a solution. What can we do to make this work?” Asking for help definitely softened the blow, and gave my supervisor the choice to do something nice for me, instead of me demanding something. I think that might be the way to go here. Good luck in your PhD program, and your home renovations!

  62. Stormy Weather*

    LW#2, I ‘m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I don’t think your whole team knows your contract isn’t continuing, but I get how it might feel that way. Waiting until the last minute to tell you about the extension is thoughtless and inconsiderate.

    I also like to idea of sounding like you’re bored with Bob. “Yes, Bob, I am a contractor. Everyone knows I’m a contractor. You’ve reminded me/us. Multiple times. At great length.” And then walk away. Get coffee. Go to the rest room.

    I would definitely sit down with your manager, especially if Bob is making snarky notes on emails. That’s proof he’s a jerk and gives the manager something to act on.

  63. Elizabeth West*

    OP #4, apply anyway! That’s how I got Exjob, minus the cold — I interviewed for a role, my presentation was meh, and I didn’t get hired. Then a job that was a much better fit popped up and I nailed the interview and got it. I’m hoping it will happen again; the company I talked to previously in Fancy Downtown Office had concerns about me being overqualified, I think. But they posted something higher level and closer to my skills and I applied on Tuesday (with one of my better cover letters, if I do say so myself). The HR person called me on Wednesday, and I have another interview next week. #fingerscrossed

    You got a form rejection, but that’s okay. You have nothing to lose by applying again. In your cover letter, I would say something like, “Recently, I interviewed with Bob Tiddlywink and Fergus McBoatface for the llama wool shipping position. Although I wasn’t chosen, my interest in your company remains strong, and I think my skills could be a good fit for the wool carding role. I’d love to discuss it with you.”

    If you get called back in, prep like crazy and do your best. Anyone can have an off-day, and you were sick. That’s not an indication of how good (or poor) a worker you’d be. They’ve already interviewed you; you’re a known quantity, and if this job really is a better fit, they have nothing to lose by talking to you again.

  64. Enginear*

    #1 Would pursuing your PhD put you in a deep hole financially? If it will, I’d definitely weigh out the pros and cons. If getting your PhD will give you a great ROI then I say go for it. If it’s going to put you neck deep in student loans and take you 5-10 years to pay it off, I think I may just stick to working and forget about the PhD. Not sure what field you’re in but gaining work experience may offer you promotions and lead to the same or if not a higher salary than with a PhD.

  65. Former Employee*

    Re: Bob the Bully. I would point out that in the US we are all “at will” employees and, as such, all of us can be thought of as temps because our employer can fire us or lay us off with no notice. At least someone who is a contract worker has some idea as to when their job may end.

    He sounds very insecure. A comment like this could spook him enough to silence him. (He might get the impression that the OP knows something he doesn’t.)

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