open thread – April 10-11, 2020

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

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

{ 1,285 comments… read them below }

  1. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I work in public health. Five years ago, I was bullied off a major promotion/project and forced to leave due to false allegations and sabotage. Really ugly stuff. Up until COVID-19, I hadn’t had anything to do with the two perpetrators. I avoided them in conversation politely and left the room when they were around. I blocked them everywhere except work email as that’s the only way I wanted them to contact me. They never did. Due to COVID-19, I’m a new, highly elevated and respected position because of my background. I’m in the public eye almost all the time. My two perpetrators? Oh they’re my best friends now. They’re going above and beyond to be super nice to me. Nothing ever happened between us apparently. They love me, and they make sure to tell TPTB that. Etc. My approach has been to continue what I was doing before by avoiding them, politely leaving conversation with an excuse, etc. No one outside of these two people know anything went awry. No has noticed that I’ve cut them out of my life, but they’re making a point of telling people they used to work with me…conveniently leaving out why they don’t anymore. My position certainly doesn’t require me to interact with them, but they want their “access.” Being in their presence is extremely upsetting. I don’t need or want an apology. I want them to go away. What bothers me is how utterly transparent these two are being. They’re manipulating me into forgiving them and being nice. How do I respond to their very insincere gestures of kindness and the compliments they give to other people about me? I was so traumatized from it all, I’m not interested in any contact with them or any relationship beyond the bare minimum. How can I get through this? I never forgave them, but I did emotionally move on from it…until now.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Well, regarding the compliments they give others about you, if you’re not around when they do it and you get word that they’re doing it secondhand, just say something like, “That’s very kind” and change the topic of conversation. Even if you do end up around them and you hear them gushing about you, you can still politely smile and say, “That’s very kind,” and change the topic and/or excuse yourself from the conversation.

      You know they’re liars, but third parties don’t, so you can’t call them out for being frauds. The next best thing is to pretend as if the compliments are genuine, keep your reply short and sweet, and then change topics or leave the situation as you have been doing. You don’t need to forgive these people, nor do you have to continue to be around them if you don’t want to.

      1. Claire*

        Seconded! A bland smile and vague pleasantry is your friend. You probably shouldn’t trash talk them to people you don’t know well…but you also don’t have to say anything nice, and are totally allowed to convey disinterest whenever their names come up.

      2. cmcinnyc*

        Sounds like they’re trying to ride your coattails. I think your professionalism and coolness is your best bet. They want reflected glory and best-case scenario, good references. You don’t have to provide that. You’re not being manipulated into forgiveness. You’re being manipulated into being a professional validator. Maybe come up with some just-in-case scripts you can use if they, or someone else, asks you to vouch for them?

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          So far, I’ve been saying I don’t know them well. If the person knows about my time on that project, I say I didn’t really work with them that much. If pressed, I say, “Oh I did a thing here and there, but it wasn’t much.”

          It’s pretty much the truth anyway.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            That’s actually a great way to respond – it not only gives you distance, it also subtly highlights that they’re lying.

            You have to stay cool but professional. The most you can do is distance – a pause before answering or talking about them, like you’re trying to remember who they are, a ‘who? oh yes, them! I don’t know them well’ – these are effective but quiet and still professional.

            You are stone around them. It’s hard, but it gets easier.

          2. Knitter*

            Yes. When I first read this, I thought their purpose was to ride your success. In order to comply with workplace norms, we often have to say things more tactfully than we might otherwise. I think not returning the compliment is basically work speak for “yeah, it wasn’t as great as they are saying”

          3. Annie Porter*

            Yeah, it’s sad, but trashing them, even honestly (and it sounds like they deserve a good, solid trashing) will make you look bad. Cool politeness actually conveys a lot. If I said to you “Wow, Fergus and Jane had glowing things to say about your recent interview/article/segment/whatever!” and you said a polite “Oh, that’s nice of them to say,” without a follow up “I didn’t know you knew Fergus! Isn’t he great?” I’m gonna read between the lines pretty quickly and you look no worse for the wear. A deliberately cordial tone also does wonders. I hope I’m making sense! In any event, it sounds like you came out of the situation smelling like roses, so good for you! :)

          4. Autumnheart*

            I think that’s a fine response, and I also like the suggestion above of “That’s very kind”. Polite, non-commital, doesn’t say more than you need to say.

            We see examples of prominent figures trash-talking colleagues on the record every day, and I think everyone can agree that, whether the trashing is earned or not, it definitely looks really petty and undermines confidence in the speaker’s ability to keep things professional. I would definitely avoid engaging in similar behavior, if only to make YOU look good, even if it means those jerks also accidentally look good by omission.

            1. Caroline Bowman*

              even better is ”that’s very kind *of you to say*”. It very faintly implies ”you insincere lying liar pants lying, bullying piece of shoe crud”, but is super-nice and very deniable.

      3. CodeAndCoffee*

        Nothing wrong with a non-committal ” Oh? John and Linda? Yes…..I’ve had some…experiences with them. They are certainly….people.” followed by a look of disgust, and then a changed topic.

        1. Starbuck*

          As satisfying as that is to imagine delivering, it’s probably too much and a bit too obvious, unfortunately. A neutral outsider who doesn’t have context could easily read that as you being high strung, and it kinda begs follow-up questions that would be even more difficult to respond to tactfully.

          1. Caroline Bowman*

            it very much hangs on who you’re talking to I think. It must be very sparingly used. Something like ”John and Linda (small laugh), yes in a different role I did come to know them. Anyway, how are YOU? I hear you are doing amazing things with teapot design?”

      4. Artemesia*

        Be cool and carry this grudge silently. There may be a day when you can see that they don’t get a new job or promotion or award or whatever. You need to be cool, pleasant, polite, gracious but you don’t need to forget. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

    2. Buttons*

      That is awful. If you aren’t their manager or boss, then continue what you are doing. If you are ever alone with them and they start being all buddy buddy I would said “We both know what you did to me, and while I have moved on, our professional relationship will never be what it could have been becuase of the broken trust.”

        1. It's All Elementary My Dear*

          I like this one too. Keeps the interaction short and the point gets across.

        2. Mad Harry Crewe*

          Or, “Hmm. That’s not how I remember it. In any case, I’ve got work to do. Excuse me.”

          1. not me*

            This one — very professional — still says everything you need. This is for in private. In public, continue to take the high road!

            1. closely, closely to the floor*

              +1 for “take the high road”. It might take years, but you’ll be happy that you did.

              If it helps, it’s a good bet that these two are spending their private moments wailing and gnashing their teeth. You aren’t a bad person if you find yourself enjoying this.

              Also: don’t do them any favors. I like the fact that you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want revenge – you just want them to go away. But you are definitely not obligated to forgive them, especially when they aren’t honestly regretful of what they did.

              (Once upon a time I, too, ‘lapped’ some backstabbing ex-coworkers).

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        Just a long look and ”my memory is perfect. It’s one of my many strengths”.

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      I feel like the the term, “Bless Your Heart” whenever they give you a compliment seems extremely appropriate given this situation.

      1. tiasp*

        It probably counts as trash talking them, but I’d be tempted to say “I wish I could return the compliment.”

    4. Holy Moley*

      I will say forgiveness doesn’t mean acceptance. But that being said, I think the best you can do is continue to ignore them. I would give them bland looks when they try to manipulate you. Give them answers that won’t let them go down the rabbit hole “I cant talk about that right now, Im busy” etc. They sounds like horrible people but just remember you dont need to respond to anything. When this is over, they will go back to being horrible. The best thing you can do is to continue to protect yourself and keep them at arms length. You don’t owe anyone any explanations.

    5. epi*

      In addition to continuing to ignore them, I would tell the history to at least one person you work with closely who would be in a position to be a buffer, back you up when you excuse yourself, and not really respond to or reward their insincere gushing.

      Having to be around people who harassed you is stressful and can even be traumatic at the best of times. A common response to that is to feel ashamed, blame yourself, or tell yourself you’re overreacting and hide the situation. It will be better for your mental health not to do it alone. You don’t need to give a boss or coworker the whole story or a ton of emotional vulnerability– it will benefit you just to know that someone else knows these people treated you badly in the past and make you uncomfortable now.

      I hope it never matters, but it will also protect you in case these people ever choose to harass you or try to harm you again. Speaking from experience, anyone seeing these interactions without the background will assume they are normal and welcome. Someone really can’t back you up as a witness to your interactions if they never knew there was a problem.

      1. Gatomon*

        +1 If there’s a trusted person somewhere you can tell, I would do so too. It’s possible this big visible campaign of “love” they are waging is a precursor to them starting rumors about how “mean” you are to them and they’ve “done nothing wrong,” etc. I’ve seen it before, unfortunately, and by the time it becomes a thing if you try to explain the backhistory you’ll be someone who holds grudges. You don’t have to start a smear campaign against them, but explaining shortly and as neutrally as possible what happened before to an ally could help protect you.

        1. Knitter*

          I came here to say this.

          I was in a similar position last year with extreme bullying, etc. Luckily the bosses stepped in, put a stop to it, and recognized that I was blameless but I still have to work with the perpetrator. And she has been coming to me for “advice” since I’m more of an expert in a particular area. (I think it is a CYA move because she generally sucks at her job but is at making powerful connections).
          This year a colleague joined the team from another department and was basically like “what the hell” when evil colleague tried to pull the same stunts. She has the tenure to push back, which I didn’t the prior year. It was so reassuring to have another person who can see through evil colleague. It made me wish I had opened up to others sooner.

          Also, I did a lot of things from a place of fear. Having a colleague who knows the dynamics helps me check myself when I’m letting my anxiety about seeing evil colleague take over and making me avoid doing something I want/need to do.

    6. Sara without an H*

      I agree, this is tough, but if you can disengage from it emotionally, can you convince yourself that it’s also entertaining? When you have no choice but to deal with them, try remarks like “Oh, yes, I remember our time working together on The Bandersnatch Project…perfectly.” Follow with direct look and a frosty smile. (Per Miss Manners, a frosty smile is one in which the ends of the mouth curl up, but no warmth reaches the eyes.)

      A couple of commenters have suggested briefing some of your current colleagues about your past history with these jerks. I don’t know how open you’ve been about this in the past, but it might be worthwhile at this point to cautiously brief a few select people. Anybody you confide in should be someone you know to be trustworthy and reliable, and you should make every effort to keep your presentation of the facts as unemotional as possible. It’s very important not to appear vindictive, even when vindictiveness would be perfectly justified and appropriate.

      1. Amaranth*

        It sounds like their original accusations haven’t traveled very far, so my one caution is that exhibiting an underlying antipathy rather than just a sort of vague indifference might create a sense of Mystery and Drama and people might try to find out the why, which could be a distraction from what you do now. The contrast between the duo talking OP up to try and bask in a supposed connection and OP having a vague air of ‘who? oh…right, we worked on the same project briefly I think’ just underlines their name-dropping.

    7. pancakes*

      Why not continue treating them the same? Polite distance seems to work well. They can try to manipulate you into pretending there’s no history of terrible behavior on their part but they can’t make you believe it.

    8. Ronda*

      I had a coworker treat me horribly. I moved to a different group to get away from her. later we were put back in the same group and she always acted so nice to me, but i never trusted her.

      And I did tell some people about it. Not really specifically what she did, but that she had treated me horribly and I did not trust her. I set-up some out of work stuff with some people we both worked with and they asked if she should be invited…. I told them no way I was doing that!

      I dont really think you should keep it secret that they treated your horribly. It just gives abusers power.
      You do need to balance that you don’t go on a campaign against them, but doesnt sound like you are in danger of that.

    9. BadWolf*

      They’re manipulating me into forgiving them and being nice.

      Honestly, they may not even particularly “remember” the past lies and sabotage. Either they don’t care enough to remember, they’re too self centered to remember, or they didn’t view their actions as bad, they believed their own lies.

      I say this because right now, it might not be manipulation in the way you are thinking. Their empty and mean heads may only be at “Oh, we used to work with Snarkus Aurelius, that should get us extra favor because we’lre old buddies.” If pressed, they might be all, “Oh we joked around, there was a bunch of bureaucracy that forced Snarkus to leave.” Infuriatingly oblivious.

      I can’t imagine they’ll apologize because I would bet money they don’t think anything bad happened (or certainly not that they caused).

      This is definitely a “best revenge is a life well lived” sort of scenario. Which is waaaay easier said than done. Think of these two like the pathetic wannabe bad guy sidekicks, trying to butter up whoever they think is the best bet. “You’re a sad strange little man and you have my pity.”

      1. not me*

        this is true — often people who hurt other people are amazingly good at rationalizing it all away — in their brains, everything they did was fine, and they may even tell themselves that they helped you.

      2. Trek*

        I think it’s also likely they don’t think they did anything wrong. They could remember it happening but see it as a power move for their career and justify their actions. Some bullies don’t perceive themselves as bullies.

    10. Fikly*

      “They’re manipulating me into forgiving them and being nice.”

      It doesn’t sound like they are. It sounds like they are trying, but it’s extremely obvious to you, and it’s not working.

      They are who they are. They clearly are not going to change. Be the professional you are, and if other people tell you they’ve said something about you, all you have to say is “that’s nice.” If they compliment you directly, you can say “ok,” or “thanks.” Then just leave it there. You don’t need to give them any benefits from your new role if their current job responsibilities don’t bring it to them. They don’t have the power – you do.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      You won, period , you won. They caved. Remember that, with this type of personality the only way you know you have one is when you see them schmoozing you. You have the luxury of taking the high road and just watching them fall all over themselves. The more they schmooze the more they are telegraphing to you that they know they made a major FUp when they messed with you.

      They forgot the golden rule, be careful how you treat others on your way up, they are the same people you will meet on your way down.

      My boss and I have had a few very interesting discussions about a couple people. These people are difficult with me at best. When they see my boss they melt into the most accommodating, personable people you could ever want to meet. It’s a show. I make sure my boss knows how these people are acting when she is not around.

      You are not the only person who knows what these people really are. If the day comes where you are formally asked by a person with authority over them, you can respond or not. Whatever you chose. Please hold on to the fact that you are not the only one who knows who these people really are.

      Other things you can do include building more and more positive relationships around you. It will take dozens of them to muffle the negative people, so go ahead and keep working on that. This is human nature, it takes a lot to drown out the negative.

      Keep working on rockin’ the job. Real success can also help muffle the voices of Past Bullies. But there is also a hidden factor here. It’s the quiet confidence of knowing that you KNOW your job. You are no longer that newbie that needed approval of others. You have plenty of approval AND recognition. Their positive reinforcement is no longer necessary NOR DESIRED.

      Last. On a quiet night at home, sit down and have a good cry. Behind anger often times is tears. Push the tears out. What they did freakin’ hurt and there is no denying that. Tears help our brains to process. Tell yourself, “Yes, that happened. But it is over now.”

      Perhaps your preference is a punching bag, then go ahead install one in your house and use it. Work it out of you, so that your logic is in charge of your choices here and not your emotions. Emotions are not wrong, what we feel is real. It’s how we use those emotions that makes the difference.

      You don’t have to forgive. And you definitely do not have to forget. We are supposed to remember so we can protect ourselves from further harm. It’s okay to remember. And the forgiving stuff? I’d argue that our lack of forgiveness can be a part of their learning experience and we don’t even realize how much so. It is up to them to work that through.

    12. Caroline Bowman*

      If people mention that they used to work with you and have been talking that up, leave a noticeable pause and say ”yes… it was not something I would want to go back to” and change the subject firmly.

      If they compliment you to your face and you are not overheard, just say ”I would prefer you not to speak to me unless strictly required, thank you.” and leave it at that.

      Do not allow these people traction in your life. No need to be horrible, but also no need to pretend everything is peachy either. Just be studiously neutral and don’t gossip.

  2. Furlough Worries*

    I keep hearing about the companies that are laying off their staff during this crisis and it’s making me nervous. My company furloughed me and a lot of other staff. They didn’t say anything about layoffs, just that they would ‘check in’ in the status of those who are furloughed in a month. I like my job and don’t want to leave but I’m terrified the furlough will turn into a layoff. Should I get a jumpstart job searching, though I can’t imagine anyone will be hiring right now? I have savings to keep me going for several months so I’m not desperate for funds but I’m worried about being laid off and then joining a huge job hunting crowd of those that were also laid off.

    Also for my resume, if I’m furloughed in March and laid off in May, would my end date be the start of the furlough in March or when the actual layoff comes through in May?

    1. (Former) HR Expat*

      I’d put your end date in May. Also, if it’s a complete furlough, I’d recommend applying for unemployment (if you haven’t already). While it may not completely replace your salary, it will help you not eat into your savings so much. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

      1. WellRed*

        Can I ask what you mean by complete furlough? I”ve been furloughed for three weeks, and the weeks can’t be taken consecutively, so in theory, a week furlough each. month for the nxt three. I assumed I can apply for unemployment, but am unclear (I’m assuming it will be a hassle).

        1. Moose on skates*

          Absolutely apply. It is a bit of a hassle but worth it to get some cash flow versus none for the weeks you don’t work.

        2. Natalie*

          I wouldn’t assume applying to UI will be a hassle, usually it’s a couple of screens of an online application. I’d go ahead and just do it, there’s literally no reason not to. If they decide you don’t qualify they’ll just tell you so, you don’t get in trouble or anything.

          1. Frank Doyle*

            It is right now, everyone’s systems are overloaded. It’s hard even to get websites to load.

            1. Natalie*

              Eh, try again the next day, then, or at a different time. Unless you have something else pressing you’re doing with your time, that still doesn’t sound like a reason not to.

              1. CL Cox*

                Nobody said not to apply, but it is nice to give someone a heads-up that it’s going to be a more difficult process right now. And since each state is different, some are more cumbersome than others. The main issue I’ve heard people having is the amount of time it takes – some states don’t accept online applications, so people have to wait in long lines for hours. And even once the application is in, it’s taking a lot longer for the unemployment offices to process them. It’s almost always worth it, but it is a bit of a hassle right now.

                1. Natalie*

                  I was responding to someone who is unsure if they qualify and hasn’t replied seemingly because of the hassle. The most definitive way to find out if you qualify for unemployment is to flipping apply to unemployment. And I guess I don’t really consider waiting for a web page to load to be a hassle, but YMMV.

                  (Somehow this comes up routinely here with unemployment, people who aren’t sure if they can get it or heard from someone they can’t and then don’t bother to try, as though the online application is going to yell at them or something. It’s weird.)

            2. WellRed*

              This! I hope once I do the first filing, it’s easier the second and third time, despited the lags in between. I’m more worried about how long the check might take but maybe by the time I need to start filing, they will be operating more smoothly.

              1. Natalie*

                You may be able to just not submit a claim for the weeks that you work, or report earnings that week, rather than applying each time. It will depend on exactly how your state’s claims process works.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Yes! This! All this.

            If you’re not working, I’m not sure how it’s a hassle either because you’re taking the time to do these steps, even if you fight a broken website for a few hours to get your claim in…out of what? You’re presumably in quarantine, you shouldn’t be out doing much else with your time if you’re not working.

            Please everyone, just go through the hoops and get the benefits you deserve and are owed in this situation. It’s there for this exact reason.

        3. (Former) HR Expat*

          Sorry- I meant that they haven’t been working at all and haven’t been able to use PTO to cover the time off.

        4. MissDisplaced*

          YES you can apply! Many states are waiving the waiting week.
          My company is enacting non-consecutive furloughs and we can apply for unemployment. It will be the same claim, but some weeks you may work, and keep the claim open.

      2. Lucette Kensack*

        You should be eligible for unemployment even if it’s not a “complete furlough” (i.e. if your hours or pay have been reduced).

    2. Bostonian*

      As for your second question, your end date would be the layoff date, if it came to that. Usually furlough means you’re still employed by that company, just not doing work or getting paid, so I would count that time.

    3. Artemesia*

      I would be absolutely searching for a job now — or at least getting all your materials ready and thinking long and hard about strategies and possible directions for the search. There will be many companies that don’t bounce back. My adult kids are both facing this. One has so far escaped a layoff but hundreds of others have been and he may well be; the other has her job but clients are not able to continue or pay for projects and so the CEO/owner of the small company is working hard to keep people on the payroll but there will be limits to how long she can make it happen. Anyone who is furloughed should assume that the job may well disappear and be planning their next steps and perfecting resume now so they can hit the ground running. When I went through a catastrophic merger that resulted in about a third of the employees losing their jobs (whole departments were cut that overlapped with the predator company) the handwriting had been on the wall for awhile. Those who read it right and made their move early, were the ones who got good jobs. Those who waited missed out on the limited opportunities in the area.

      1. Knitter*

        Yes, agreed. When I was laid off from a nonprofit, I knew things were financially rocky. But I was really committed to the work so I took the risk. Just when it looked like things were turning around and I had just been promoted, I was laid off.
        Things are always more clear in hindsight, but there were signs I was ignoring that I should have jumped ship earlier. I’d say being furloughed is one of those signs.

        1. Artemesia*

          LOL. Yeah I got promoted just a week before the merger that ended up with a third of the company laid off. You can’t count on anything in times like these.

      2. Fikly*

        Entirely agree.

        Even if you end up still employeed at the end of this, what’s the worst result? You have an updated resume and a better idea of what opportunities are out there, and you spent some time.

      3. Fikly*

        Entirely agree.

        Even if you end up still employeed at the end of this, what’s the worst result? You have an updated resume and a better idea of what opportunities are out there, and you spent some time.

      4. Viette*

        I agree completely. Furloughing staff is a big deal; it says a lot about the company’s finances and their workload. They don’t have *any* work for the OP to do, and it’s not their budget to pay the OP for the next month. And their reassurances have been wimpy at best — being told that the company will “‘check in’ on the status of those who are furloughed in a month” is saying clearly that they don’t expect to have any work or any money for the OP for at least a month and they’re leaving the door open for it to be longer than that.

        At some point the company having neither work nor money for their employees becomes the company laying those people off, and if the company is estimating a month before a check in? Yeah, I would start acting like this job is going to disappear permanently.

    4. AnnieMouse*

      Look for another job, even though there isn’t much out there. Reach out to folks on LinkedIn, hell write a post about being furloughed, people may reach out to you!
      The company I work for laid off or furloughed 75% of our staff. We furloughed the low wage employees so they would remain on our health insurance as long as possible without having to go through COBRA. We’d like to bring people back, but I don’t have confidence in the market. Obviously there’s no way to say you are in the same boat, but be as proactive as you can manage.

    5. SunnySideUp*

      There are a bunch of recent articles out there about what to do if furloughed. I’d suggest Google and then drill down for your state’s specific laws.

  3. Grits McGee*

    Does anyone have some good recommendations for beginner-level electronic records management resources? I’m an archivist who is trying to learn more about digital archiving, but I’m getting held up because I’m not familiar with a lot of the vocab/acronyms and the basic processes. (As an example- I’m familiar with most of the common file format names- PDF, TIFF, DOC, etc- but I’m getting hung up on XML and PST and having to constantly google in the middle of trainings.) I don’t need to know how to program, but I do need to understand what programmers are saying.

    1. Alex*

      I don’t know about digital archiving, but I highly recommend w3schools for a basic XML tutorial (they also have great tutorials in other topics, not sure about PST). It’s super basic but is a great start to learning how things work.

    2. brightstar*

      Online sources include ARMA International and AIIM. ARMA is the primary organization for records and information governance with a lot of good resources, though they charge for most of them.

      If you’re getting hung up on the more technical aspects, like PST is the file format for archiving emails, you might want to look into reading the CDIA+ Certification Study guide, which may still be available at Amazon. That is for digital imaging, but the certification was retired a few years ago.

      I’ll post some links as a separate comment for you.

    3. KimmyBear*

      I work tangentially with our records management department and I know there are several records management associations. Have you checked out their websites for resources?

      1. Grits McGee*

        Yeah, I’m involved with some working groups and taken trainings; my biggest issue is that I haven’t been able to find anything that is basic enough and broad enough to really get 100% of what I need to understand from the resources I’ve been able to find. Something like, “Baby’s First Guide to Archival File Formats and Transfer + Legacy Email”. :)

    4. MissBliss*

      This is not specific to your request, but Wikipedia has a very long article with file format names. Would it be possible to keep it open while you’re in trainings, to refer to when needed?

    5. Throwaway123*

      You can read some white papers from the preservica website or look into the SAA DAS certification. I got certified. If you have some specific questions you can ask me.

  4. Insert Witty Name Here*

    My friend “Karen” was “permanently laid off” due to the virus. (Others in her department were furloughed.)
    She went to work Monday and was in the building. The next day, while working from home, she was told via video conference that she was permanently laid off. They were going to ship her belongings to her and she was to send back anything that belonged to the company.

    I feel awful for her because she had been with the company for almost 10 years and the fact that she couldn’t even say goodbye to coworkers must be horrible.

    I’ve been checking on her to see if she is alright, but feel so bad for her. Is there anything that I can do to help her through this?

    1. TimeCat*

      I think it just sucks. I have been using my local indie bookstore (which is now online only) to send care packages. You might look into sending something she likes using a local store to both support a business and help her out.

      1. TimeCat*

        I realize it’s not job advice but I honestly can’t think of any in job advice, as you aren’t a coworker.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        That’s actually a really sweet idea. If I were dealing with this, I’d like to receive something like that.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m sending “quarantine gifts” from Etsy to some folks to cheer them up as well.

    2. Nita*

      Following. One person in my department was laid off this week. I don’t know the specifics, but they’ve been a really good coworker and I feel horrible for them. I want to reach out but just… don’t know what support I can offer other than saying “I’m sorry, how awful.” Maybe I could offer to be a reference, but who’s hiring now in our industry? Probably no one.

      1. Venus*

        I think that reaching out with a comment about how much you enjoyed having them as a coworker, as well as offering to be a reference, is probably more valuable than any physical gift. Losing a job, even when laid off, is demoralizing and therefore the morale boost of hearing “I’m really going to miss your good work and good company” is hopefully going to help them. Even if they never need you as a reference, it’s still a big thing to offer as it shows that you are willing to vouch for them and their work.

        1. Knitter*

          I’d also add something like “keep me posted on your job search. I’ll let you know if I hear of anything that might interest you.” Then follow up periodically.

          I was laid off in the slow period of my industry so I was out of work a looong time. I would reach out to contacts to let them know I was still looking. It was super nerve wracking and I felt really embarrassed (which I didn’t need to be) that I was still looking. It would have been a relief if someone had been proactive about checking in about my job search.
          (Not to say you need to, but it is one way to help)

    3. Artemesia*

      A great time to send a gift to lift spirits. How about a gift card to a local restaurant that does deliveries right now. We are getting take out once a week from our favorite little restaurant in the neighborhood in hopes that if enough people do that, they will able to make rent and skate through before things open up again. Being able to order a good meal helps her and a business.

      And while she is apparently not one of the stronger workers in her company, she has the advantage of knowing she is out of a job and so can plan her job search and get it underway. Her peers who are furloughed may end up not having jobs either and she is able to get out there before they are in competition with her.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        PLEASE don’t assume anything about the strength of people laid off now! She may simply have been working on a project that lost all funding.
        Layoffs are financial decisions.

        1. BadWolf*

          Yes — I work on a team of 4, if they were going to reduce headcount, I assume they would cut me. They would probably keep my team leader and then I’m the next most senior. So it would save them more to cut me and keep the two more junior members who are still pretty good.

          1. Artemesia*

            Perhaps. When most are furloughed but one is laid off it does suggest they are not someone the business wants to keep but perhaps not — could be a project that crashed. So good point.

      2. CL Cox*

        I wouldn’t assume that she was laid off because she wasn’t a good worker. It’s far more likely that it was because she was the highest paid, due to longevity.

    4. Colette*

      How does she feel about it? Because this is all about you, not her.

      I’m concerned that you’re trying to help but actually making it harder for her – for one thing, checking in about how she’s doing makes it her job to manage your feelings. If you want to check in, I’d make it more about things you can do. “I’m going to the grocery store, can I pick anything up for you?”, “hey, want to play this online game/watch this online movie together?”

      Keep the lines of communication open, but don’t ask her constantly how she’s doing or how the job search is going.

      1. atgo*

        I think offers to help are great, but I don’t agree with stopping asking how she’s doing. When I’ve been going through hard times, I’ve really appreciated the people who made it a point to ask me how I was doing regularly. It reminded me that they cared and were invested in my wellbeing. Everybody’s different, and it sounds like maybe you wouldn’t like that kind of check in, but that’s exactly what is supportive to me when I’m hurting.

        Insert Witty Name Here, maybe it’s worth asking your friend what kind of support would be most helpful, and giving some options? That way she could tell you if you checking in is burdensome, as Collette would find it, or helpful.

        1. Fikly*

          Everyone is different – that’s why the best thing to do is to ask someone if they would like to talk about how they are doing, for example, rather than directly ask them how they are doing. It’s much less pressure and correctly focuses on what they need, rather than what you want.

      2. Eukomos*

        I don’t follow how asking someone how they’re doing requires them to manage your emotions? If you react to their response in an emotional way then sure, but you don’t have to do that. The question is an invitation to them to vent if they want to, and presumably if you’re offering you expect to be able to pull off a supportive and non-taxing response if they do decide they want to talk to you about it.

        1. Colette*

          Asking once is ok … asking every day can become a burden-especially if it’s from someone you wouldn’t otherwise talk to that often.

        2. Fikly*

          It’s less of an invitation and more of a demand, especially because we are so socially programmed that the only acceptable answer to “how are you doing” is a positive one.

          1. Audiophile*

            I think people forget this a lot. From an early age, most people are told that the appropriate response to “How are you?” is “I’m fine.” In fact, I often notice when people deviate from that answer because it can be so jarring.

            I don’t think anyone is suggesting don’t check in on your friend, just to be mindful of the questions you’re asking.

    5. Chaordic One*

      Usually, you would spend some time with her and let her grieve. You’d spend some time distracting her from the pain of the moment and some time building her back up and supporting her as she works on her resume, conducts a job search and goes on interviews. And that’s a lot harder to do when you can’t actually spend time with her.

      I would advise her to wait until she gets her personal property back before she returns the employer’s equipment. (Earlier there was letter from someone who was saying that they weren’t going to return their employer’s equipment because it isn’t safe to go to the post office, and it’s true.)

      Make sure she applies for unemployment. Continue to call her and let her vent for a while. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks we might be through peak virus and you’ll be able to spend some time with her in person. It might take several weeks before things settle down enough to begin a job search in earnest so encourage her to do what she can so that she’ll be ready when the time comes. Get her house in order and those kinds of things that people are doing anyway when they are under lockdown.

    6. CheddarHoltEsq.*

      Simply staying in touch is probably the most important thing you can do. Also, her self esteem has probably taken a huge hit, so take any opportunity to send her a compliment or ask her advice or help (without requiring a lot effort from her) with something she excels at that’s not related to her career. If she’s dealing with financial insecurity, think of practical gifts like grocery or meal kit deliveries, a streaming service membership, or a subscription beauty box, depending on her interest or needs obviously. You seem like a very caring friend and I’m sure she’ll appreciate whatever efforts you make.

  5. Mouse*

    My company is planning to move us to a 4-day work week, with a corresponding 20% reduction in pay in a few weeks after this pay cycle. I am salaried exempt at just over the exempt threshold. Is this legal? I thought the point of being exempt was that it doesn’t matter how many hours you work, which is why I’m not paid for overtime. I understand that times are super hard right now, and I don’t blame my employer, but I can’t make my rent with this new salary when I already wasn’t making much. I also need to know if this will make me non-exempt. Is the exempt salary threshold based on “40 hours”, or does it not matter?

    1. doreen*

      It would be legal for them to impose a pay reduction going forward, even without reducing your hours so I can’t imagine why a pay reduction with reduced hours would be illegal. What usually isn’t legal is for them to reduce your salary for a particular week based on the number of hours/days worked in a that week, as in you are paid $X for a week in which you work 5 days and $X-20% for a week in which you work 4 days.

      1. Natalie*

        Generally speaking you can reduce someone’s salary for most full day absences – personal reasons that aren’t related to a sickness or disability, sickness/disability absences when there is a bona fide sick pay plan, suspensions, etc. But yes, you can’t deduct salary based on total hours alone.

        1. Huff*

          That’s not true for salaried exempt employees in the US. If you work any part of the week, you have to be paid for the full week, unless it’s your first or last week on the job.

          1. Natalie*

            It absolutely is true for the US:

            Deductions from pay are allowed:

            When an employee is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons other than sickness or disability;
            For absences of one or more full days due to sickness or disability if the deduction is made in accordance with a bona fide plan, policy or practice of providing compensation for salary lost due to illness;

            To offset amounts employees receive as jury or witness fees, or for temporary military duty pay;
            For penalties imposed in good faith for infractions of safety rules of major significance;
            For unpaid disciplinary suspensions of one or more full days imposed in good faith for workplace conduct rule infractions;
            In the employee’s initial or terminal week of employment if the employee does not work the full week, or
            For unpaid leave taken by the employee under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

            (bolding mine, source link in reply)

            1. Dancing Otter*

              Unless there’s something you didn’t include in your excerpt, all of those are *personal* reasons or disciplinary. Letter writer isn’t choosing to take a day off every week, and she isn’t being disciplined for a safety violation or conduct rule violation.
              They are treating her as non-exempt, and it will come back to bite them later when they return to full-time and don’t want to pay overtime.

            2. Huff*

              Thanks for posting the source. I had always read “As a general rule, if the exempt employee performs any work during the workweek, he or she must be paid the full salary amount.” I guess I assumed the rule is much more general than it actually is.

    2. Claire*

      I would think that if your new pay brings you to below the exempt threshold, you’d probably have to be reclassified as non-exempt…but also if you’re going to a 4 day workweek, you probably won’t be going over 40 hours per week very often, so you wouldn’t be getting overtime pay anyway, unless you’re in one of those states where overtime is calculated daily rather than weekly (I think California is one of those, not sure if there are any others). I’m sorry, that sucks a lot.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Given that your pay is going to decrease – check if you’d quality for unemployment under the new law. Can’t hurt to investigate.

      1. LQ*

        20% decrease won’t be eligible even now. Not to tell companies how to cheat, but they are better off doing a week on week off rotation for people.

        *Yes Unemployment varies by state, and states will tell you to apply. But this is a no go in all the states I know of.

        1. PollyQ*

          As you say, it varies, but in many states, having your hours & pay cut does qualify you for partial unemployment, so it’s definitely worth it to check.

          1. LQ*

            Definately worth a check. I just don’t want to get people’s hopes up too much. I know a lot of employers have been cutting hours and a lot of employers a politicians have been telling people they will qualify for unemployment. Except that’s not the case all the time and a lot of people are angry about it.

            You’re nearly always better off with an on/off schedule.

            OR make your employer sign up for Shared Work. Which WILL qualify you for benefits even if you have a cut that wouldn’t normally make it worth it. (Sorry I forgot about Shared Work last night. Tell your employer to apply for Shared Work. It’s super slow to process right now in most places, but it’s a good deal.)

    4. fposte*

      Agreeing with Claire that it sounds like you will become non-exempt; there is no pro-rated exemption threshold for employees working under 40 hours per week. And sorry, yes, this is likely legal since it’s going forward.

    5. WellRed*

      The company gets to decide what constitutes a workweek. I’m salaried and don’t work 40 hours.

    6. CAA*

      If your new weekly earnings will be less than $684, then you can no longer be classified as an exempt employee. It doesn’t matter how many hours per week you’re scheduled to work, it’s the same minimum whether you work one day or five. You can still do the same job, but your employer must follow all the state and federal labor laws for non-exempt employees regarding breaks, minimum wage, paying for all time worked, overtime, etc.

      Have a conversation with your manager and explain that “when our salaries are reduced by 20%, that will put me at $xxx per week which is below the minimum of $684 for exempt employees. Is there any way to keep me at that minimum? If not, how do you want to handle timecards and overtime? If there won’t be any possibility of being paid for more than 32 hrs per week, then I want to make sure we’re on the same page and you know that as a non-exempt employee I won’t be allowed to answer work email or texts outside of my regularly scheduled hours.”

    7. ynotlot*

      You can file for partial unemployment for the 20% of hours that have been cut. Do it soon and expect it to take some time (they’re really overloaded) but you should be approved.

    8. Wisteria*

      Yup, it’s legal. I was in just such a situation during the early 00s recession. It totally sucks, but it’s better than being laid off.

  6. Teapot Translator*

    Student in the time of a pandemic thread?
    How has pandemic changed your studies? Have classes been cancelled or moved online?

    1. Teapot Translator*

      The university where I study has switched all classes online. So all I do now is work and study. Other measures taken by the university: they’ve extended the deadline to drop out (I figure that for some students, studying from home doesn’t work or they’re busy trying to survive financially and mentally); they’ve changed the grade system (instead of a letter, we can choose passed/failed), etc. They’ve already announced that the spring semester will be online (I don’t even want to think about what that means for the length of time the social distancing measures will be in place). As I can do nothing with my life but work, feed myself and study, I’ve signed up for the spring semester. From what I understand, I already have the books required for that class so I might as well do it now. It’s not like I’m going anywhere.

      1. Artemesia*

        From the other side. I have a friend who is in his last semester of college teaching and who has avoided learning on line instruction for years now because he absolutely did not want to teach that way — so now in literally his last semester of his career he is hustling to learn how as he will be finishing the semester on line. He is very conscientious and wants this to be a strong learning experience for his students and so he is working very very long hours to learn the technology of instruction (both computer and instructional technology) and to make sure it works well for students.

        1. Teapot Translator*

          That is very generous of him!
          It must be quite an adaptation for a lot of teachers who have never had to teach online before. It’s definitely not the same.

        2. CL Cox*

          To be perfectly honest, learning the online teaching process is a good skill for him. A lot of colleges were already offering some classes as online only or partially online. I suspect that when this pandemic is all over, a lot of colleges will be looking at how successful their online learning was and whether it makes more sense for them to pivot toward that for some classes. Being willing to teach that format will make him more desirable. You might want to gently point out to him that being open to learning new technologies and teaching methods is important; otherwise, he could find himself being frozen out of jobs in the future. One of our oldest teachers (she’s retiring this year) is one of the first to learn new methods and technology and is helping mentor others as our district has moved toward distance learning.

          1. Filosofickle*

            My BF is in grad school to become a therapist. He’s frustrated by the switch to online for many reasons but of course one of them is how much harder it is for him to engage in their therapy practice sessions via video/voice. I’m encouraging him to embrace it because even though he chose an in-person program and expects to do in-person therapy, mastering this modality can only be helpful to his career. This may be one more way he can serve people.

    2. Mimmy*

      My Masters program has always been online, so no change there, but my school has had to switch in-person classes to online. I was worried that it would bog down the system, but so far I haven’t seen any significant slow downs.

      What HAS been impacted is that, since everything started, one of my professors has been almost entirely MIA. Professor did mention some disruption to the household in one announcement and told a couple of students who emailed directly about being sick. I have a feeling that Professor is extremely overwhelmed and probably doesn’t want to admit it. But it’s really impacted some of us because the instructions for projects and due dates and other course aspects have been unclear and we feel like we’re on our own for the most part with little direction. I get that asynchronous online classes are essentially self-study, but when the instructor is of little use, it’s really disheartening. I and another classmate have reported this to the school.

      This is my first semester in the program, and I’m praying that this is just an outlier. I think Professor would’ve been less than helpful even without the pandemic based on our experiences before the pandemic hit.

    3. Teacher Lady*

      I actually just signed up for a graduate-level class, which I realize is maybe a weird choice since I am also adjusting to working from home (a truly wild situation for me since I teach elementary school) and also looking for a new job. The flexibility that I have in terms of when I work and the “bonus” time I now have in my day thanks to not having to commute to work (plus the commuting I won’t have to do to the university that offers this class, since it’s online) makes it a little bit easier, though. The university I’m taking the course at (along with all others in the area) have moved fully online, so even if I do go back to work in-person at any point before the end of the academic year, I’ll still be studying online.

      I’ve done a handful of other online courses, and I do generally prefer in-person to online, but this is the first course I’ve taken while working full time so I think the benefits of distance learning will outweigh the drawbacks. Studied the syllabus and ordered my books yesterday, first class is next Thursday.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        I forgot to mention the commuting! That definitely factored into my decision to sign up for the spring semester. The class is in the evening, twice a week. Not having to go physically to the university means I’ll go to bed at a reasonable hour. If life was still normal, I would not have signed up.

        1. Teacher Lady*

          Yup. This particular course was scheduled for a weekday evening from 6:00-9:30 PM or something like that – I live 30 minutes from the university, so that means I’d hopefully get home at 10:00 PM after being up at 5:00 AM and before having to get up at the same time the next morning. If I decide to enroll for the full degree program, I noticed that the next course it would make sense for me to take is intentionally scheduled to be online.

    4. Middle School Teacher*

      All of my classes are online and the last two sessions of my winter term were cancelled. I used the crisis as inspiration for my final paper. My spring class starts in May and it’ll definitely be online, just not sure when or how.

    5. Stephanie*

      My kids are both college students. My daughter is a senior, and my son is a freshman, and they go to the same school. Their school is in a hotspot, and we live in a suburb about 20 minutes away. Their spring break was extended for a week, and then all classes were moved to online learning. My son was living in a dorm on campus. The college did not completely close on campus housing, but allowed students to stay if they had no better options. We officially moved him out early on, and he’s back with us. My daughter was living in an off-campus apartment with a roommate, but is also back living with us. Her roommate is also back home with her parents.
      My daughter has adjusted pretty well to online learning, but my son does not like it, at all. It’s been a bit of a struggle for him not having face-to-face interactions. Their school has said that all students have the option to have letter grades for this semester or just pass/fail. For one class, up to all of them. And they can decide which option right up to graduation. Which is really the best way to address it, I think.

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

      We’re all online. However, most our teachers are technology adverse (ironically, being this an Engineering only university), so what most of them do is… “Go read this chapter for this week”, which is everything but teaching. Also, since I’m working around ten hours per day, I’m having serious difficulties to concentrate. At this point I think it would be better if they cancel thr entire academic year for good.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I work in a College of Engineering and so many of the faculty are averse to technology and hate online education (I work with online programs anyway). And it’s ironically the younger faculty I’m talking about here.

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

        I just remembered that several important courses (Introduction to Programming, Syntax and Semantics and Operating Systems, for instance) rely heavily on… Yahoo Groups. * facepalm *

      3. CL Cox*

        Ah, but then they’d have to refund tuition. Most colleges are going to anything they can to prevent that.

    7. Liane*

      My daughter, as some of you may recall, had started at a fashion college, and had just about finished her second course. Classes are online now. (Previously, only the Intro was.) College still follows their 5 hours once/week, and they meet via video. Has to be video since this is mostly practical. Last week they were learning how to draft patterns. I listened to a little while I, quietly went about my day and like the way School Founder teaches.

    8. KoiFeeder*

      All online classes. It’s fine for me, because I have all the equipment I need at home base, but it’s definitely been a struggle for my peers who can’t necessarily afford all the needed equipment.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Also, the response of my first-choice school has been eye-opening in a very unpleasant way. I’m frankly grateful that they rejected me, seeing what’s gone on.

        1. Thorisa*

          Bingo! Staff at my university have heard a lot of concerns from students planning to go to graduate or medical schools. They’re worried that they’ll be seen as weaker candidates if they choose a P/F grading basis for this semester. I just want to tell them that if any school raises an eyebrow, they absolutely DO NOT want to be a student there!

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Absolutely, especially for a medical school. If a medical school doesn’t think an actual pandemic is worth choosing a P/F grading basis, I don’t want to see the type of medical personnel that school churns out!

          2. Clisby*

            I’m an auditing student and take one course a semester for fun, but several students in my architectural history course said recently that they’ve been told graduate schools take a dim view of a Pass grade rather than a letter grade, so they’re worried about using that option.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Honestly, just reassure them that any school that cares more about the type of grade than the fact that there was a pandemic going on is a school that cares more about the money the students are bringing in for them than about whether or not the students are learning anything. It’s kinda like those teachers that brag about having a 30% pass rate in their class- they’re not rigorous, they’re not even teaching, they’re just making people waste money.

    9. Zephy*

      Not me, but Partner is a student right now, and all of his classes converted to online-only by the third week of March. I’ve been working from home, too, so we’re both going to school and work in the living room, sitting at our respective computers. He hates online classes, he much prefers the structure and change of scenery that comes with needing to be in a place at a time for in-person classes, but to his credit, he is knuckling down and getting through them.

    10. Belgian*

      Classes all moved online, usually just with the professor recording a video of themselves lecturing. I had to report one professor to the school because he went MIA for a couple of weeks. He posted 4 weeks of classes in 1 week so now I have to play catch-up (hard to do combined with a full-time job). We will get a new exam schedule by the end of April. Exams can run one week longer and can, as a last resort, be scheduled on Sundays to ensure there are enough available rooms to sit far enough apart. Oral exams will be taken through video chat (though I have none of those).

    11. Pam*

      I’m an advisor, not a student. All of our classes are virtual/online, as is advising. We are working to help our students through, hrlp them find e=resources, and be supportive.

    12. Copenhagen*

      My country is in national lockdown so naturally my university is closed and the classes have moved online. My professor has handled this by e-mailing us once a week or so, and the upper management has decided that exams will go on as planned, even though all libraries and archives are closed (and will stay closed for at least another month, probably longer). So I’m stuck at home with zero of the materials I need and all I get is a weekly e-mail from a professor who thinks that this will all blow over and then we can get back to whatever she had planned for the semester. Right now she has us making Power Point presentations on our projects (that we can’t work on due to the lack of access to materials) so we can do presentations “when we meet back up again”.

      I feel like i’m stuck in a parallel universe where people expect me to perform magic to keep up with what they want from me.

    13. Misty*

      My classes are going poorly. They are all online, it’s been very hard to get ahold of professors. Before this I was getting all As in my four college classes, now I have no idea how I’m doing in three of the classes. Three of my classes aren’t teaching at all and are just telling us to turn in the rest of the papers on the due dates for the rest of the semester. So basically they cut out the teaching part of college and it’s all just online homework.

    14. Worked in IT forever*

      Part-time mature student here, in Canada. I have been taking evening classes at a local university. These are “continuing studies” classes–not classes that are part of a degree, but classes you take just out of interest or to help with a career.

      The university shut down for in-class courses at the end of the winter session and is converting as much as possible to online for the spring. I’m scheduled for two spring courses, one of which is now going to be online and one of which is in limbo. I would not be surprised if both courses are cancelled due to lack of enrollment. Even if the instructor is willing to teach online, I’ll bet that some people won’t want to pay the normal tuition for a course that’s now online and is not a job requirement, especially if they are now out of work or worried about their job. Some people might postpone learning for a time when the course is available in a real classroom.

    15. Tomacco*

      My science theory classes have moved online, but the hands-on, practical classes have all been paused. It’s been a mixed bag: the school simply doubled up all of our science classes (anatomy, physiology etc.) so that we’re given twice the amount of lectures (3 hours at a time, twice a day) in a week with little time to actually learn or study the material. It has been incredibly stressful, to be honest.

      I hate learning online, I being dragged down by the constant studying, and I’m losing my focus and enthusiasm for the program. I really hate being a student and not having any down-time. It was stressful before quarantine but at least I had good physical outlets and a good handle on how to handle anxiety and stress etc. With the pandemic all that is thrown to the wind, and I’m having a lot of doubts about the future job market. I’m starting to wish I hadn’t quit my well-paying job with excellent benefits back in the fall. Going back to school later in life was a gamble, and with everything that’s happening and with the future so uncertain I’m feeling like I made a grave mistake.

    16. Tessera Member 042*

      A little different from most here, but I am a PhD student gearing up to defend my dissertation, which will now be done through a Zoom video conference. Now I have to figure out how to be productive when living in a constant low-level state of anxiety and an inability to focus on writing for more than an hour at a time. Also navigating the disruption of all my routines (going to the public library to write, informing my husband of conference calls, etc). All this for a very anticlimactic experience — won’t even get to enjoy a drink with my committee after I (hopefully) pass.

      The one saving grace is that I was already teaching online community college classes, so the delivery hasn’t changed for my students. But of course there’s all the accompanying problems of computer access at home, child or elder care, navigating working from home and study, not to mention those who have lost jobs. One of my students also just lost her coworker to the virus, and my heart goes out to her. I’m extending all flexibility possible in deadlines and trying to be more present in discussions and responding to emails promptly, but I just feel like I’m not doing well enough at either teaching or my dissertation. Struggling for balance is real.

    17. allathian*

      I’m doing a one-year course for a professional certificate I need to advance in my job. The last seminar and final exam have been postponed until August/September. We had one seminar as a webinar in late March. So I could say yes to both your questions.

  7. abundance of caution*

    Want to help me brainstorm ways to best support direct reports who are now working remotely? Things that seem to be working with my department:
    1. Offering- but not requiring- lots of Zoom check-ins (most are participating daily)
    2. Being transparent as possible with what I know about the larger organization’s plans and decision making
    3. Providing flexibility in hours/days
    4. Encouraging people to focus on their health
    5. Explicitly and consistently saying productivity will look different now- and my expectations are very flexible
    6. Reminding people of EAP and other benefits they can take
    What’s working for you and your coworkers?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Those all sound good. I’d just say that for #5, you may also want to say exactly what you want productivity to look like and give clear measures of your expectations.

    2. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Being explicit that it’s okay if kids show up on video/audio, or if people need to take a break to take care of a childcare thing. Asking them how you can help them prioritize work so they can make decisions about what to spend their time on.

    3. JustMyImagination*

      My management made it clear this week that there are only certain hours we can schedule meetings during the day. This allows people to take breaks and also parents to plan around their kids and spouses schedules.

      1. Artemesia*

        This seems really smart. My daughter does a lot of conference calling with co-workers and clients; being able to organize for her older child to babysit the toddler around stable times makes it a lot easier. Since small kids nap, making one of those times early afternoon probably makes it easier for many parents with pre-school age kids. With older kids, just knowing the times for meetings makes it easier to have the kid doing screen time or school time or whatever during the times scheduled meetings times.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      These all sound good! I’ve also reminded my reports (direct and indirect) that just because they’re working from home, it doesn’t mean that they can’t take vacation time if they feel the need for it.

      I’ve also emphasized the need to err on the side of over-communication about work matters, for the sake of clarity. My direct reports each manage a team of several people, and I’ve encouraged them to be abundantly clear when giving directions to their teams, and to remind their teams to be very clear in things like acknowledging receipt of information or assignments.

      1. Artemesia*

        It is a great time for managers to learn better managing and also for everyone to be clearer about productivity. One of the major reasons for poor management is lack of clarity about the metrics of success; this may force mediocre managers to think about measurements of productivity and success.

    5. fposte*

      Can I add that if your workplace is covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to make sure employees have the relevant information? Ours is covered and the info is unhelpfully buried (to be fair, it’s partially because there was so much early messaging about handling coronavirus leave).

    6. YetAnotherGenXDevManager*

      Model the behavior you want to see – so don’t work excessive hours, don’t send late night emails or slack messages, focus on your own health, if you’re taking advantage of the EAP or something else, being open about that can also help.

      My director has a weekly standing therapist appointment and is open about it, so it made it easier for me to be able to tell my team “I’m not available during this hour on Fridays due to a therapy appointment”.

    7. TiffIf*

      This could be lumped under #6 but I’d explicitly remind people to take PTO/vacation, just like they normally would to avoid burnout.

      People may be reluctant to take PTO/vacation because there are travel restrictions in many places/tourist attractions closed so it is just more staying at home–but you still need the break from work.

    8. Anon-a-souras*

      Suggest things they might need to do their work and then help them get them. Keyboards, mice, decent headsets, monitors, etc. we have a ‘graveyard’ room where Non-data containing electronics go before they’re recycled. We can have anything for home use if there’s something suitable there first, since ordering new can take a while.

    9. scamper12*

      Props on “not requiring” in #1. My department has increased the frequency of (zoom) team activities during our isolation so that we can stay connected. For some reason we don’t just do a happy hour though, we always have to include some kind of silly game. My director, who otherwise is one of my favorite people in the world, 100% thinks she’s doing a nice thing because she enjoys these activities so much. And most of my co-workers do, too. I’m glad for them! But for me these games are kinda draining, and I don’t have a lot to give right now. Making them optional would be so helpful.

      1. SunnySideUp*

        It sounds like your relationship with your director is solid — why not tell her what you’ve said to us?

    10. Coverage Associate*

      Make available information about 401k’s, etc. and the new exceptions for withdrawals, loans, etc. Just because your workers are being paid doesn’t mean their partners are.

    11. CL Cox*

      It would also be helpful, I think, to let them know/remind them of the ettiquette around virtual meetings. A lot fo people seem to be forgetting that not only are they visible, but so is everything behind them. And computer micriphones pick up a lot more background noise than phones do, so they need to mute thei microphones when they’re not actually talking.

      Offer quick tips for any new programs (like Zoom or Teams or the like) or any new compnents of existing programs. If you do have an important upcoming meeting, offer a trial run for anyone who is unsure how to connect.

      Have a designated person on your team who will handle specific topics (IT, HR, benefits) and share their email/contact info. This will help prevent everyone calling about the same problem and make it easier for IT or HR or whoever to get through all the requests.

    12. MissDisplaced*

      I personally hate daily check-ins and prefer more like 2x per week. But the amount may depend on the type of work you do and how much your team needs to communicate, and how actively.
      But I hate it if it’s really just about presentism. They should be useful to people not a burden.

      1. abundance of caution*

        Agreed. I’m on a lot of different “teams” for my organization; most meet just 1x or 2x week. My department is really close knit and asked for daily check ins. Each week I ask what type of schedule they want for the coming week, too, in case needs change.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        I agree. My boss suggested possible daily check-ins, and I bristled at the idea, and actually pushed back “Why would we need a daily check-in?”. We meet once a week as a smaller team and then also once as a bigger team, but we are all on the same meetings on various projects almost daily. I don’t see why I need an additional check-in. We also have Slack so are in touch already.
        Adding another check-in just would get on my nerves. I don’t need to be babysat. We all work pretty independently and drive our own tasks for the majority of the time.

    13. Fikly*

      This came from my company’s head of HR and the CEO, not my manager, but it would have worked from my manager.

      They talked about how this is a marathon, not a sprint. Burning out is not going to help anyone. We all need to remember to speak up if we need help, and even if we can’t go anywhere, take PTO, even if that means just watching Netflix on the couch or playing video games all day

      What has helped from my manager – because priorities at work have been changing rapidly because I work in telemedicine – has been frequent check-ins where we basically go over things that are currently on my desk and literally put them on a list in order of most important (plus explicit deadlines for those tasks that have them) to least important. Or sometimes I’ll just slack her and ask something like, I have time left today to do x or y, which needs to happen? I’m comfortable and used to prioritizing my tasks during a typical day, but my days have not been typical lately.

    14. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I would add: Being transparent (to the extent that you can be, I realize some things are private) about your own schedule and meetings etc.

      Whilst in the office there’s often a sort of a visibility where the boss says something that they are “off to the weekly The TTM Meeting” or whatever, then walks off to the meeting. Now that’s much less visible and if you have “worriers” in your team (of which I admit to being one) they may be speculating about every time you say you are “busy until 11.00” or whatever.

    15. Skeeder Jones*

      Make sure they have multiple ways to reach you. Our VPN is overly taxed right now with a sudden, and massive influx of remote employees (some teams, including mine, were already remote but our division has moved 90% of our 6000 employees to remote work). Networks (both employee and manager) can be unstable so if they only know how to reach you through an online avenue or your work phone number (that is now ringing at your empty desk), they might not know how to get in touch with you. It’s also good to have a clear protocol of when they need to let you know if they are away from their “desk”. Is it just for large blocks of time, do you want to know when they go to lunch, etc?

    16. Emma*

      The check-ins are a good shout. If you have anyone furloughed, then I’d also suggest thinking about ways to keep them in the loop socially. I’m wfh but most of my colleagues are furloughed, and management have now set up a WhatsApp group with all staff (we’re a small company), and it’s been really great to hear from and chat with my furloughed colleagues. Especially since this all happened so fast and in some cases I went from seeing someone in person and saying “see you next week” to then finding out I won’t see them at all for months, probably.

  8. FMLA issue*

    Not sure if there’s anything I can do about this, and not sure where else to ask.  

    I was furloughed/laid off a few weeks ago. I’m halfway through my pregnancy and due this summer. I was able to keep my health insurance and I asked about my maternity leave. HR said they’d look in to it. 

    They finally responded 2 weeks later and said I can’t collect unemployment and FMLA simultaneously – I said FMLA is my only option so what do I need to do? She comes back and says “oh I forgot to mention – the policy says it’s based on 8 weeks prior since you wont’ be working, you’re better off collecting UI.” At that point we got on the phone and she explained that their policy says the payout is based on the previous 8 weeks of work before going on leave. Since I won’t be working there, 55% of $0 wages is 0 payout. So basically my maternity leave is 0. which I truly wasn’t expecting so this has been a blow. 

    1. TimeCat*

      That’s confusing. So you normally would have 8 weeks at 55% but because you ate currently furloughed your only option is FMLA (which is unpaid)?. Sounds like you should go with UI as something is better than nothing. The advantage to FMLA is protecting your job, but as you’re already furloughed/laid off there seems to be no benefit there.

      1. FMLA issue*

        The way HR explained it to me was that it’s 55% for 10 weeks after going on leave (so, 10 weeks after my delivery). The payout amount is determined on the 8 weeks prior to going on leave. So If I’m going on leave starting 8/1, the payout would be based on my salary in June & July (which since i am furloughed, it’s 0).

        I am pretty sure I cannot claim unemployment during maternity because the question they ask is – are you ready and able and willing to work? I don’t think I will be in a position to work while delivering a baby and recovering.

          1. FMLA issue*

            Yes, filed for UI the day I was laid off on the company’s encouragement. It’s been about 3 weeks now. My state is really messed up right now, many are unable to get through or complete their claim. I am reading about people who are waiting 1+ month for their funds, when everyone was promised “you’ll get $600+ immediately!”

            (sorry if I sound a little heated, I’ve been watching the news about UI in my state and it’s awful what people are going through–it just shows that the “safety net” that we were promised is not at all equipped to handle something of this sort).

        1. blepkitty*

          IIRC they’ve expanded unemployment to cover parents who don’t have other childcare options due to COVID19, so I think you can probably get it (they’ve also got you covered if you’re temporarily laid off because of covid). You’re probably not going to be able to find a daycare right now.

          That said, can you push back at all? HR shouldn’t be quoting standard policies at you when you’re in the middle of an unprecedented situation. It’s possible that there’s nothing they can do, but a “we won’t bother to consider changes to our policy that wasn’t created with this really weird situation in mind” would be a big sign to me to move on when practical.

          1. FMLA issue*

            I’m not sure how I could push back. The HR person (well she’s also the head of HR, it’s a 1 person dept) did promise that she’d look into it more, but she said that’s how the insurance policy is. I feel like I got to keep my health insurance at least, so I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.

            1. blepkitty*

              I see.

              Just to be sure you know, health insurance is nice, but at zero income in a lot of states, Medicaid is an option! They’re not as restrictive about job hunting as UI. I’ve been on it in two states, including when I voluntarily suspended a job hunt to care for my parents, and while it’s tougher to find a doctor than it is on nicer insurance, the care was almost always free or extremely low cost (e.g. $1 premiums for meds).

              1. FMLA issue*

                It is but I’m trying very hard to avoid being on any state assistance aside from UI.
                IT’s a high risk pregnancy and he doesn’t accept Medicaid and I don’t want to suddenly change providers in my 3rd trimester.
                Sigh.

            2. Natalie*

              Ah, it sounds like their “maternity leave” is actually just a short term disability policy. If that’s the case, it’s extremely unlikely the employer can make any changes to how it works.

          2. blepkitty*

            I rescind my first paragraph because I just thought about it more and got extremely confused.

            Second paragraph stands, though. They might not have the money, but they should still put some thought into this.

        2. TimeCat*

          Also don’t assume you can’t collect UI for the entirety of the period you were originally planning on taking for maternity leave. Obviously you’re not able to work, say, the first couple weeks. But after 8 weeks, even though you were originally planning on taking ten? You’d also have to start job searching at least a few weeks before you’d be able to come back. I’d do some searching on your state’s website. I did some googling and found some resources for different states specifically on unemployment and pregnancy.

        3. MissBliss*

          Many states are changing their unemployment requirements to not require job searches, etc, because of COVID-19. You may very well be able to claim unemployment during maternity because of it, particularly because you were laid off. If you are able to get on unemployment now, that may be even more true.

          1. FMLA issue*

            My leave was going to be in September-November so hopefully things are better by then. Right now things change on an hourly/daily basis, so it’s hard to predict anything – just trying to keep my sh*t together.

        4. Fulana del Tal*

          File for UI. I’m confused why would expect FMLA when you’ve been laid off. Right now NY UI knows most people can’t search right now. Again file right now and if you lose your health insurance pregnant women can get medicaid.

        5. Mad Harry Crewe*

          If you are furloughed, you’re still employed, just not collecting wages or doing any work. My understanding is that furloughed employees don’t need to complete the job hunting/available for work requirements of UI, they just need to wait for the position to be reactivated. A quick google search suggests that new mothers do qualify for unemployment – can you do some research on your state’s UI policy?

          To me, it makes sense that if you are furloughed and collecting UI the day before you give birth, you don’t need to stop collecting UI for the next 8 weeks.

          1. Disco Janet*

            I’m assuming from past Friday posts that furloughed isn’t really accurate here – that she’s been laid off, unfortunately. I don’t think she needs to stop collecting UI either though – nearly every state has changed the requirements for filing for UI during this time. Though really, who knows what this will all look like by August.

            1. FMLA issue*

              Yes, my understanding is that it’s furlough since I get to keep my insurance, as my technical status is “Leave of Absence” and not terminated and someone laid off doesn’t keep it.

              I did ask HR in the initial call, and she said it’s semantics. The termination letter states that due to teh pandemic, they had to downsize the staff. Some rumors are swirling that this si temporary and people could come back, but I suppose the job searching is a separate thing that I shouldn’t conflate with this situation.

    2. Generic Name*

      What the eff? I hope HR at least delivered this bad news with some semblance of compassion. Can you talk to your boss? What about talking to someone higher up in HR? These are not normal times, and good companies understand that and are being flexible. If they rigidly point to a pre-corona policy book and tell you this is the way it is, no exceptions, I’d think long and hard about whether or not this is a company I’d want to work for. You may in fact be better off collecting unemployment and then looking for another job at a different company.

      1. FMLA issue*

        I mean yeah they were very compassionate about it, very apologetic. The person I spoke to is the head of HR. I spoke to my former boss as well, but while he was really apologetic, he can’t do anything either.

        She said it’s the insurance policy that pays out FMLA that put this rule in to place, not the company policy so I’m not sure how much leeway there is there.

        1. doreen*

          I’m going to take a guess that your HR person isn’t actually talking about FMLA and is instead talking about a short-term disability insurance policy either from an insurance company or through the state agency that handles workers’ compensation. I don’t know if you work in NY- but in NY , you apply through the Workers’ Compensation Board and although payments are based on the average wages for the last eight weeks of employment, if you have filed for unemployment it looks like those eight weeks might be the last eight weeks you actually worked. There’s actually a separate application form for those who become sick or disabled more than 4 weeks after becoming unemployed. You should contact whichever entity would be paying the benefits because while it’s true that your company won’t have much leeway (since it’s not their rule) it’s also true that HR might not fully understand the details ( since it’s not their rule)

          1. FMLA issue*

            STD was a separate benefit offered by the company that would’ve afforded me another 12 weeks of partially paid leave, but I never opted into it and by the time I was pregnant, I couldn’t enroll in that benefit. I am in NY. I can look into that – i didn’t know much about this. Thank you.

            1. doreen*

              NY actually mandates that most employers provide this disability benefit ( and often charge employees 60 cents a week ) , although employers often offer an additional voluntary policy. Knowing now that you work in NY, I realize that the HR person was probably talking about NYS mandated paid family leave- which is different from short-term disability. I am posting separately with links

            2. lurker :)*

              Is there any chance that they’ll consider “de-furloughing” you? So that you’ll be eligible for the short term-disability? It seems like they are compassionate and that the end of your pregnancy is far enough out that it might be possible?

          2. SomebodyElse*

            I agree, the OP conflating two separate things

            FMLA- Protects your job during recognized events for employees that meet certain criteria
            Short Term Disability- Pays you for certain recognized events

            They are two separate things and you would not be eligible for FMLA because you are not an employee and don’t have a job to protect.

            Short term disability may be able to be used based on the the rules of the insurance policy but it sounds like in this case it’s not going to be an option.

            1. FMLA issue*

              I know they are 2 separate things. I didn’t mention STD in my initial post because my company offered it as a benefit (in addition to the standard health, dental, vision etc) but I didn’t enroll in to that one. When I found out I was expecting HR said I wouldn’t e able to enroll because it’s a “preexisting condition” and insurance would not cover it.

              1. BB*

                Are you still an employee, ie furloughed? Or were you laid off and no longer an employee? Maybe it’s different in NY?

        2. Generic Name*

          Okay, maybe ask if you can speak to the insurance company that handles it then? See if HR is willing to help you by advocating for you? A long time ago, Oprah had a show with a woman who basically acted as a professional advocate for others, and her number one rule was never accept a “no” from someone who isn’t empowered to give you a “yes”. So if the first person you talk to says no, ask them if there is someone else who can maybe help you, maybe their boss? (I find it too aggressive to simply ask to speak to someone’s boss).

    3. FMLA issue*

      It’s such an awesome system/s. 6 years I was there, 4.5 as a permanent employee, months of 60-70 hour workweeks, but it’s the final 8 weeks that wipes it all out. I know millions are in the same position, but given what I’ve experienced, it’s hard not to feel like this was personal decision made against me since everyone who was laid off was contractor/seasonal/intern/admin and not entitled to the benefits. The VP who decided to let me go has had some immense dislike for me since I started. I put up with her abuse for years. When it was finally my time to collect on a benefit I was entitled to from working there, she was the one who decided to take it away. So, yeah, I’m a little bitter and it’s hard to “look on the bright side!” and “be positive!” for right now.

      1. Mouse*

        I don’t want to be that person who leaps to conclusions, but since you said everyone else who was laid off was a different type of worker and not entitled to these benefits….is it possible there was some pregnancy discrimination in your layoff, and could you speak to HR from that angle?

        1. FMLA issue*

          Oh, 100% it was related to that. I just have no proof of it and trying to put it out of my mind for my own mental health.

          1. Stella*

            You should definitely find out your options. And collect any evidence you can think of. Ideally talk to a lawyer. Just to find out about your options.

          2. Mouse*

            The proof, I would think, is that you’re the only one. It’s not someone saying “you were laid off because you’re pregnant”, but I’d think that, combined with their resistance to working something out with your maternity leave, would be enough.

            1. BB*

              I don’t think we can use HR not bring as helpful about leave from 5 months from now during a pandemic as any proof. OP’s HR is dealing with everyone being laid off right now, not just OP. HR probably has never been in this situation before regarding maternity leave. That’s unfair to HR.

    4. DCGirl*

      FMLA is, by definition, 12 weeks of unpaid leave during which your job is protected. It’s not something that you “collect”. There are a number of ways you can get paid during these 12 weeks: employer-paid maternity leave, a short- or long-term disability policy, or the use of forms of accrued paid leave (sick leave, vacation). It sounds like you are asking about your firm’s disability policy. If so, please know that you have the right under ERISA to see the plan documents, so that you can review what it says/doesn’t say for yourself. Is your company covered by COBRA (20 or more employees)? You might be able to continue to make payments on the disability plan through COBRA.

      1. Fulana del Tal*

        Does FMLA apply if someone has been laid off? I’m confused by the terms being used

        1. Disco Janet*

          No. I’m confused too – furloughed and laid off are quite different. Many of the comments here are only useful advice if she’s actually furloughed, but I don’t think that’s the case. Could you clarify, OP? Not trying to be snarky, just want you to get the most useful advice.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Right. It sounds like a furlough, since the OP is still on the company’s insurance plan. And furloughed workers are eligible for UI, I believe.

          2. FMLA issue*

            Sorry for the confusion everyone, I guess I am confused too as the HR rep has not used specific terms.

            My understanding is that a furloughed employee still gets to keep their benefits (insurance etc) while terminated/laid off does not. However, I could be wrong.

            My company did not state specifically if this was a layoff or furlough. On the phone, they told me due to the pandemic, they had to downsize and that day was my last day. The letter says “Due to the pandemic, company has to downsize and we’ve revoked our at-will employment rights immediately.” Some people have said that it’s temporary and they plan to bring back staff which makes me think this is a furlough.

            1. BB*

              Ok, you need to know this and you need to get clarity from HR, if you do not. As you said, this has a drastic impact on your benefits and your future with the company.

              Often in layoffs, you are allowed to keep benefits such as health insurance for a certain time period. But you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of other benefits, like maternity leave.

              Please talk to HR ASAP about your employment status.

            2. Natalie*

              Unfortunately the insurance doesn’t necessarily clarify anything – companies can chose to continue providing insurance for laid off employees, as a form of severance. You might want to try and get them to clarify what they’re intending here.

              1. Fulana del Tal*

                The letter reads exactly like: laid off but allowed to keep insurance. She needs to find out how long she’s going to have insurance and if the child will be covered once born. I know she stated she wants to avoid Medicaid but she needs to have all her options open.

                1. FMLA issue*

                  I did ask how long I could use the insurance, they said as long as I pay the monthly employee cost, I will have it. However, no specific date was given as they have never done this for anyone.

                  At any point I think they can give me COBRA as an option (which is 102% of the cost and would be a strain for me). Worst comes to worst, I could go on medicaid but I would rather try to be prepared as much as possible beforehand than find myself caught off guard.

            3. Andy*

              It sounds like you were laid off. I think you are reading too much into these comments from “some people”. Unless you were told that by your manager as part of the orocess of terminating your employment, you almost certainly were not furloughed. You would have been told that. Absent any specific reference to being furloughed, you should proceed as if you were laid off.

              1. FMLA issue*

                Oh I just mentioned that as an aside – I’m not expecting to go back nor am I looking towards a future there.

    5. Next Steps*

      There are lots of comments above saying you need to clarify whether you’ve been furloughed or laid off. You also seem anxious to know. I’m not sure that pinning HR down on a technical term will be helpful, and I think that over-focusing on what the whole thing is called is distracting from a clear assessment of the situation. The bottom line is that your employer has stated that it is not in need of your services right now, you have stopped performing work for them, and they are not paying you (though they *are* permitting you to stay on their group insurance policy and covering a portion of the premium for that policy). Treat it like a layoff (with insurance paid for some period of time as essentially severance).

      Your first step, I think, is to find out how long this insurance situation lasts.

      Next (simultaneously, really), you file for unemployment.

      Then, research what happens when a person who is on unemployment in NY State has a baby while collecting unemployment benefits–I’m confident this is not a novel situation. I suspect you’ll need to deal with an actual person at some point in the unemployment filing or collection process; that person can probably tell you what happens with respect to the baby. That person will probably also be able to tell you what (if anything) you need to do to maintain eligibility to collect unemployment benefits. Mad Harry Crewe suggests below that if you’re furloughed your state may not require job hunting, etc. as you’re waiting to be reactivated. I suspect that in that case, the state department of labor will have a definition of furlough that you (and whoever you’re working with) can use to determine whether it applies to you–I don’t think the word your company chooses to use will be dispositive.

      With respect to maternity leave from your company, I don’t think it makes sense to expect that–it doesn’t really track for me that they would lay you off in the spring, not pay you for several (maybe close to 6?) months, and then suddenly pay you again when you have the baby. You’re not going on leave if you’re already not working. I think it’s more likely that unemployment would offer you a “maternity leave” (I’m sure they don’t call it this–I mean to make an analogy) from meeting the ready willing and able standard while still paying you your unemployment benefits.

      1. FMLA issue*

        That makes a lot of sense and clears up a lot, thank you so much.

        Yes, I think at the end of the day it’s pretty simple. I have accepted I have no future with this company (nor am I desperate to go back), I’ applied for UI a few weeks ago and looking for a job simultaneously. I just received my last paycheck today. I just want to maintain good relations with everyone there and not burn a bridge (as satisfying as a giant rant to them would be it’s in my best interest as I can come across any of these people at future positions).

        I think my biggest concern was that if I’m recovering from birth/caring for a new born, I cannot realistically claim benefits as I wouldn’t be able to work – to do so would be fraud, that’s what I was frightened of. At this point calling in is impossible, but hopefully things calm down inJuly/August I can ask at that time.

        There’s 4 months left, it seems like nothing but given how things are going rigth now, where things are changing daily/hourly, I should..relax.

  9. Vikki*

    Anybody else have to put up with “forced cheerfulness” on team calls??

    On our Friday call we are all asked one by one to share what we are looking forward to over the weekend. On Monday we have to say what we liked best over the weekend.

    It’s driving me insane.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Sounds like someone is really scraping the bottom of the barrel for ways to stay connected and help people maintain a good mood. If you have the standing for it, maybe suggest to whoever leads the meetings that rather than make this an “everybody share” thing so people feel obligated, maybe they could just share their own highlights and ask “did anyone else do anything fun?” so people can share if they want to, without feeling forced.

      1. Vikki*

        That would be so much better, but unfortunately this leader doesn’t take suggestions from the team.

          1. Vikki*

            Thank you. Maybe I could handle it if we were a close, connected team. But we rarely worked together before this happened, and so it feels extra weird to force sharing on us.

        1. StellaBella*

          Had to do this for a manager once, each Friday’s marketing meeting. If we were anything less than super pumped, we were a problem. Ugh.

    2. Generic Name*

      People at my company have been asking if folks are “happy” and doing okay, and I normally respond with an exaggerated groan or say “blergh” or “meh” or something. Or I’ll say in a humorous tone, “Well, let’s just say there is a reason I didn’t become a middle-school teacher!” The reality is I’m really struggling with productivity and sometimes I just cry for no reason. My son needs a lot more emotional comfort, and the reality is I can’t work full time, help him with schoolwork, help support him emotionally, and maintain my own sanity.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      Friday: I’m looking forward to not having to fake cheerfulness in order to answer this question.
      Monday: the thing i liked best was not having to answer the questions that force me to fake being cheerful.

      But really, focusing on gratitude is supposed to help. I hate being forced to do it but reframing it as a good thing might help.
      Alternatively, take the AAM approach of detached watching, get out the imaginary popcorn and enjoy the ahow of other people’s answers.

    4. Crazy Chicken Lady*

      Oh hell no.

      I’m not overly cheerful as a rule. Many not a rule, but at least that’s just my genetic makeup.

      I just couldn’t. Could.not. I would end up in sarcasm-land and it would not be good. I tend towards dark. Friday: I look forward to not dying this weekend. Monday: I’m glad I didn’t die this weekend.

    5. D3*

      I’d be tempted to reply with over the top fake responses:
      “I’m jetting off to Paris with George Clooney where we will be having a private dinner on the upper level of the Eiffel Tower.
      Just kidding, I’ll be Netflixing in my PJs”

      “I am getting married at first sight in Bora Bora to a man from Belarus. Just kidding, I’ll be disinfecting every surface in my home….again.”

      “Spending the weekend working at my side job at an archaeological dig outside Cairo. Just kidding, I’ll be fighting with my husband and kids.”

      “I’m climbing the Matterhorn with my German boyfriend Hans. Just kidding, I’m tackling my laundry pile.”

    6. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’m in this boat too.

      Our meeting agenda starts with Good News, and everyone gets a minute to share their professional or personal good news. Prior to the pandemic, it never bothered me and it was actually nice to start the meeting with all the positivity! But right now, it’s sometimes difficult to come up with something positive. And it’s also depressing to repeatedly hear, “I don’t have coronavirus yet.”

    7. noahwynn*

      My boss keeps asking what our weekend plans are. Part of me feels like screaming, “staying home, same thing as the last 3 weekends because we can’t go anywhere.” She’s awesome in most scenarios though and always thinking of us, so I’ve been letting it slide. I know she’s trying to keep us connected with daily Team calls and the usual office banter. So I’m just assuming good intent.

      1. SD*

        I texted my brother this week with,”OK?” and he responded, “Just Groundhog Day. Again. You?”

        I actually told someone this week that Tues. was a big day because I vacuumed our 2 rugs in 3 directions each. You could use that one for the weekend plans question.

    8. OOOFSTER*

      Yes and I hate it. I have a husband in essential service, so what I look forward to is not catching Covid hopefully and what I like best over the weekend is that he doesn’t have to get exposed for two days. My un-enthusiasm is met with “so lucky to still be working” :(

    9. CL Cox*

      My boss always asks at the end of our virtual staff meetings for people to share anything they’re grateful for. It’s entirely voluntary, but it can be very hard sometimes. I don’t think “I’m grateful that the migraine I’ve got right now hasn’t made me throw up yet” is exactly what she’s going for.

    10. anonanonanon*

      Wow. I’m so glad I don’t have to do this. Since we’re all stuck inside, all I look forward to over the weekend is reading and writing erotic fanfiction.

      So everyone would probably get descriptions of the food I was planning to cook. Then, come Monday, a description of whatever I ate instead of that food (store-bought cake or some kind of delivery).

    11. tangerineRose*

      What about saying “Not much” or “sleeping in” or “catching up on chores”? A non-cheerful answer might eventually get the leader to decide to stop doing this.

    12. Lauren*

      Yeah, our EVP has our team on 3x a week team meetings. The assumption that we are all healthy and just bored is infuriating. I told him someone I know died and he shut up pretty quickly, but not enough to quit the ‘positive BS’ on every call.

    13. Fikly*

      Ugh. I got into a thing with someone the other day who was insisting that her job’s mandatory DAILY meeting where every employee had to say what they were grateful for that day was a wonderful thing and made everyone happier and more productive.

      Some people never get past that stage of human development that you see in toddlers where when they see someone who is sad, they go and offer whatever makes them happy, because if it makes them happy, it must make the other person happy, too. Cute with toddlers, really not cute with adults.

        1. Fikly*

          No, she started calling me names and telling me what a sad terrible life I must have. Which was extra hilarious because people like this always defend their behavior by claiming that they’re doing it because they care so much about other people.

          But you know, that’s the kind of thing those people do when their world view is threatened.

    14. WorkLifeBalanceTryYouWill*

      Yes AND no I DO not have a silver lining! My workload is bigger, my stress is higher because my clients are making end-of-life plans that I am responsible for.

    15. allathian*

      Urgh, I’m so sorry. But I also think that you may be overthinking this a bit.
      Be bland. Say something like “I’m looking forward to being in my PJs all day.” And on Monday, you can say “I loved being in PJs all day.” Even if you got up and dressed to the nines and partied at home all by yourself. You are under no obligation to either feel cheerful, pretend to feel cheerful, or to tell the truth. Just say the same inane stuff week after week.

    16. MonteCristo85*

      Usually if you are truthful, things like this sort of evaporate. IE “I’m sitting at home trying not to fret about my mom who is exhibiting symptoms of the virus and can’t get tested because they are limiting it to over 60 or having underlying issues” will usually shut down that kind of cheerfulness pretty quick. But I’m that kind of oversharer anyway, so it comes naturally from me.

  10. blepkitty*

    Not asking for advice as much as venting: why do people at work think the fact that we’re using Skype means we should have our cameras on? Most of the people who’ve expected it are fellow women, and I cannot fathom why they all want me to put on a bra for a quick chat!

    Not that I want my coworkers thinking about my boobs, but come on. Bra is NOT HAPPENING if I’m working at home.

    1. Trying to be grateful*

      I’m totally with you. Video chatting is awful! I try to move really close to the camera – I’d rather display my pores than my bralessness.

      1. blepkitty*

        Hahahahaha another reason for my distaste for webcams is my stress breakouts. :) I can’t wear a full face of makeup daily, and I don’t like people seeing me with a face full of zits. Not normally a problem because I have pretty good skin.

        Oh, and the puffy eyes from the lack of sleep because staying home all day gives me mad insomnia. I don’t like people seeing those, either.

    2. Proofin' Amy*

      I live alone, so working from home means I have very little in-person contact these days. I like people to turn the video on so that I can see people and have a stronger interaction. That’s my motivation. But most people at my company keep the camera off, so I respect that too, I suppose. We all have to cope in the way that works for us.

      1. blepkitty*

        I also live alone, but for me interaction doesn’t have to mean seeing people. And cats mean I can’t wear my office clothes at home anyway, lest I have to replace my entire office wardrobe when I go back to the office.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          I live alone as well, and I’m not getting all ready everyday. I have no desire to see people from work on video, no thanks. I know I’m not getting really any face-to-face interaction with people, but people at work isn’t going to make a real difference anyway.

        2. Starbuck*

          I live alone as well, but without even the company of cats. If it weren’t for work video calls, many days I would not get to interact with another living creature at all. I guess I could talk to my plants?

          1. blepkitty*

            Really? You can’t video call your family or friends when you’re done with work? I know it’s miserable (I went crazy in that situation during a snowstorm), but many people are in the same boat right now, surely you can find someone to talk to without making your social life your coworkers’ responsibility. You can even put together a party on Zoom!

            I’m serious, someone I know did that. It was fun.

          2. blepkitty*

            And by “interaction doesn’t have to mean seeing people,” I meant I’m fine with voice calls. Video isn’t necessary. Not that my cats are somehow sufficient interaction. They are not. Humans need humans.

            But also, humans need humans they can talk to with their guard down. That’s not my coworkers, for me.

      2. Admin of sys*

        Same here, I’m very pro camera, since my plants are giving me a lot of human interaction. That said, I haven’t bothered to wear a bra since all this started. (we’re a pretty casual office)

    3. Claire*

      I’ve been braless on video chats, but my office culture is also informal enough that I can wear an oversized T shirt, which doesn’t make my situation obvious when I’m viewed from a webcam. I wouldn’t wear an oversized T shirt in to work, but we’re all dressing one or two steps down the formality ladder on video calls, so it feels safe for me. Sorry for your underwire cage, though!

      1. Claire*

        If your culture is more formal than mine, maybe you could throw a blazer on to your braless comfy clothes and cosplay as a well-dressed professional?

        1. SweetestCin*

          I’ve done this.

          Blazer and done-hair on top.
          Turquoise blue snuggy-tail on the bottom over pajama shorts.

          I’d be lying if I said I didn’t giggle about it.

        2. Kt*

          A voluminous and stylish scarf. Mike a blanket scarf or a pashmina or something big.

          Also, I was just on a call at work with a bunch of women. Three with no video, four with video. It’s fine. I didn’t really notice until you mentioned it.

    4. Alianora*

      Another vote in favor of video chats. I just think facial expressions are an important part of communication, and it feels a lot friendlier than talking to a black screen with your name.

      (Also, I don’t always put a bra on for those – the camera only shows me from the neck up, and if I need to get up I’ll turn the video off.)

      1. Nita*

        Yeah, I am not a fan of video chats but they seem to work better than phone calls. I hate trying to figure out who’s talking on a conference call, especially when there are 40-ish people on and I don’t know everyone well enough to recognize their voice. And if people start introducing themselves every time they speak, the calls will take twice as long.

        1. Viette*

          This is why video chatting is important for me. I don’t automatically know who’s talking, and if the meeting carries on quickly then I can miss who it was. Zoom at least has a little popup at the bottom that says who’s got the mic at any given moment, but for many folks, seeing faces of people in a meeting helps with organization a lot.

      2. NACSACJACK*

        A former coworker refused to be on the camera at all which was against directive of the company and the guidelines of Agile. She and I had a very bad working relationship. I spent many years working for a location other than headquarters without video chat and it definitely negatively affected my career.

      3. NW Mossy*

        I’m the same – I want people to be able to see my face, because I use my expressions to communicate as much as I do tone or word choice.

        That said, I’ve absolutely been in a lot of meetings where I’m the only one on video. I put the offer out there for others to do the same, but I don’t expect others to do it if they’re not up for it.

      4. blepkitty*

        As much as I appreciate facial expressions from others, my own are perpetually misread (some people in my life think I’m on the autism spectrum, but at the very least my face seems to blast negative emotions I’m not actually feeling at people). So for me that’s not a particularly compelling argument, as I’m actually relieved to not have to try to keep track of my face while I’m also trying to answer complicated questions.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, there are some meetings where having the camera on is helpful, but I’d definitely say having to worry about being out of frame or people just staring at your face isn’t something you usually have to concern yourself with during an in-person meeting. It’s an unreasonable expectation to have all meetings be that way.

    6. Washi*

      Honestly, this angle would not have occurred to me! I guess I’ve only worked pretty informal places, but people are tuning in with random stuff in the background/not dressed super formally/no makeup etc. I truly would not have considered that some people would feel like they had to make a lot of effort to be presentable for video, because it’s pretty low-effort for me. Like if you have to appear in button downs with a blazer, that’s annoying, but I don’t know anyone who is taking it that far.

      (I’m not a manager so I am not in a position to tell people to turn on video, but I definitely don’t mind being told to do so)

    7. Generic Name*

      Because seeing human faces is nice sometimes? I mean, don’t turn on your camera if you don’t want to, but a lot of people find value in it. It’s honestly nice, in my opinion. I was on a call with project team members from another company and the project manager’s young son could be seen in the background, and then he climbed up on dad’s lap and fell asleep. It was really sweet to see.

    8. tink*

      I don’t have a camera on my personal PC (which is what I’m using to wfh, since I’m not doing anything that requires VPN access), and I’m not draining my phone battery for a crappy video feed that makes the already awful audio feed even worse. My coworkers want to see faces because they miss each other/miss humans that aren’t their families, but they can look at the picture of my cat that I uploaded instead of my face. :)

    9. Anononon*

      Echoing the other comments that I like the video chats. It may make a difference, though, that it’s only been for internal meetings so far and my company is already pretty casual. T-shirts are perfectly fine.

    10. Silicon Valley Girl*

      Eh, ppl are trying to keep connected. Often, for mtgs, we’ll go on video for the first few minutes & then go off video (esp. because we’ll be sharing projects).

      Also, I have my camera positioned so that it only shows me from the neck up & I’m a floating head. That + a sweater/hoodie & no bra needed ;)

    11. Actual Vampire*

      Personally I just leave my camera off when I don’t feel like being seen. If you need to provide an excuse, say your internet is slow.

      I’m a woman but my leisure clothes and my work clothes are basically the same (no makeup, usually a button-down, hair always done, always a bra!)… so I often forget that other people might not feel camera-ready when they’re working from home.

    12. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Possibly because your coworkers aren’t thinking about your boobs or what you might feel you have to do with them to do a video call? If I ask to chat with a coworker, whether she might be braless at home and feel the need to change that first is not even remotely on my mental list of considerations. Maybe that’s just because I’ve never been on the anti-bra squad? Or maybe it’s because what my coworkers do with their boobs is not anywhere in my radar.

    13. Coverage Associate*

      I am ok with scheduled video chats. People like to see faces, etc. But not random ones. I turned my camera off when I realized our system defaulted to video for intra office calls.

      1. blepkitty*

        This is what I meant! I’m fine with it for meetings, but I’m using Skype in place of a phone (no work cell). It’s getting on an unplanned call and having someone say “why can’t I see you?” or otherwise assume that face on is the default that’s frustrating.

    14. VI Guy*

      I can’t see well, and having video of others is mostly useless to me. So I don’t use the video option, because if I can’t see them then I prefer that they not see me. I have a similar principle at conferences when I meet loads of new people, where I don’t wear my nametag because I want people to introduce themselves rather than just assuming that they already know something about me. It isn’t that I am trying to be difficult, rather I am trying to balance things so that I’m not always at a disadvantage. For example with the nametag, if I wear one and they come over and mention my name then I have no opportunity to get their name without it being awkward (I have occasionally leaned over to read someone’s name if they are being difficult, to make a point about how imbalanced things are, but its really awkward for both of us if I’m only a few inches from a nametag). Thankfully most of my online meetings are with people I know, so we don’t need the visual part as much.

      The video parts of Zoom and other software is a big point of discussion within the VI community these days, as it is a hard adjustment for some people.

      1. allathian*

        I really appreciate the nametags because I really can’t remember names. I’m hopeless and I’ve tried every trick in the book, but for me to have any chance of remembering someone’s name I need to see it written down. To be really sure, I need to write it down myself, with pen and paper. The act of writing it down makes it stick in my mind.
        It’s a minor but real disability and it forced a career change when I realized that being able to remember people’s names was essential in marketing and sales. For the same reason, I’m hopeless at networking.

    15. Jules the First*

      We have a simple rule: pre-booked meeting that you would have done in person in normal times, webcams on; impromptu meeting, webcams optional; anything you would have done by phone, no webcams.

      At the end of a long day of virtual meetings, I will often leave my webcam on when the other person is audio only because I am running out of energy to manage my tone and I need you to see my face and be able to talk with my hands so that you know I sound like a worn out robot because I’m tired, not because I don’t care.

    16. MissDisplaced*

      Well, I mean you’re not obligated to use the video. I have lots of calls and about half use video and half don’t (but have a photo instead–which I think helps you picture who they are).
      Interestingly, after a few weeks, more people seem to want to use video, as I guess they’re missing the f-2-f connections. But nobody’s come right out and said video is a must.

      My hair is starting to look crappy now that I can’t get it cut/colored. I am NOT using video. LOL!

    17. ...*

      I think its probably just norms at different workplaces. Not having your camera on would not be an option where I work. Same for my fiancé if he is meeting with his team and not an all company call or something. It would just be like oh hey your cameras off BTW and then of course you would turn it on. Its not weird to me at all to always have it on, I feel like its so hard to work with people without seeing their face or seeing who is about to talk. I usually just wear a thick sweater since its still cold where I am so I am braless and on video!

    18. Fikly*

      Hah. I had an optional video meeting, with an important client, and when I found out it was mandatory video on (not typical of my company, this was almost certainly the client requiring it) I was like, hell no, that means I have to brush my hair and put on a nice shirt, I’ll just watch the recording later.

    19. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’m on enforced WFH (as I infer that you are) and I dress in the same way that I would at the office, though admittedly our office has a ‘casual’ dress code.
      As such – the benefits of video chat (that I won’t repeat as they have been enumerated already .. e.g. facial expressions and so on) are many.
      Up to you if you want to put a bra on, and actually my webcam (I’ve had more than 20 video calls this week) is positioned in such a way that you couldn’t see if I had a bra on or not.

    20. Another worker bee*

      Angle the camera so it only shows your face? I’ve worked remotely for awhile and there are studies that show a clear uptick in engagement from cameras on vs just sound. I have to communicate a lot of highly technical material to varying audiences and people will NOT tell you when they don’t understand…I have to be able to see their faces to figure that out.

      And as a fellow woman….we don’t all hate bras uniformly. I have one on all day even if I am not leaving the house. Now, there’s a non-zero chance that I’m wearing PJ pants while working at home, particularly if I worked out at some point in the afternoon. But the camera can’t see that.

      1. No bra here*

        I angle my laptop so that you can’t see below my neck but not close enough to see my pores

      2. The Rat-Catcher*

        I am physically uncomfortable without a bra on. I only sleep without one a couple times a month and I never have it off during the day. But I also am for sure wearing yoga pants to all calls.

        1. allathian*

          I don’t wear a bra in bed, but certainly during the day. But then, I wear mostly underwire bras because I find they give the best support without constricting my breathing (I’ve yet to find a comfortable sports bra) and those would be uncomfortable to sleep on.
          I don’t like having the video on, mainly because I always look bored in meetings, even when I’m listening attentively. AFAIK I’m not on the spectrum, but I find that if I have to focus too much on looking alert, I’ll miss most of what’s going on. In our weekly team meetings, if I’m neither speaking nor looking at a presentation, I need something to occupy my hands. So I’m usually playing on my cellphone, because it helps me focus. That’s not a good look, though. In in-person meetings I’m usually doodling something on a pad. It looks like I’m taking notes and it helps me focus if the group is larger than about six people.

  11. furlough question*

    If you’re on furlough can you look for a new job? I still have my health insurance which I’ll be paying for out of pocket. I’m kind of worried that if my employer gets wind that I’m looking, they’ll terminate me which will end my health insurance. I don’t want to ask HR for fear of triggering anything. 

    1. how i wish i was in sherbrooke now*

      You can always look for a new job, furlough doesn’t mean you promised to not look for a job that will pay you.

    2. TimeCat*

      You could be laid off at any time anyway, so I’d probably look, but be quiet about it. If you do get laid off, you could look into COBRA, which isn’t perfect but does provide some continuity on insurance.

      1. Natalie*

        You could also purchase marketplace coverage, which would likely be more affordable than COBRA – losing other coverage is a qualifying event for the special enrollment period.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I mean, if you weren’t furloughed, and you were still working, it’d still be okay to look for a new job.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Exactly what I was thinking.

        Didn’t we just have a letter about someone in academia who would fire anyone they found out was looking for a job. As I recall, the general consensus was that such behavior was just beyond ridiculous (and also incredibly rare). I think most employers take into account the fact that some employees are going to leave at any time just to manage that risk; the fact that there is a lot of instability right now should make them think that even more.

    4. Fikly*

      Well, you can look for a new job while currently employeed and working, so why not now?

      If your employer is so awful that they’ll fire you just for looking at other opportunities, chances are they are so awful you should be looking for other opportunities.

    5. BB*

      What does your paperwork say regarding the insurance?

      If your paperwork doesn’t say anything, they can’t terminate your insurance because you are looking for a new job.

      Assuming you are in the US, you can look for a new job at any time, whether you still a full time paid employee or are furloughed. There’s nothing stopping you from switching jobs in the US. Sometimes there are some benefits (like tuition reimbursement) that you’ll have to pay back, but your paperwork will say that.

      Honestly, HR is expecting you to be searching.

  12. how i wish i was in sherbrooke now*

    Can someone elaborate on federal hiring process to me?

    My impression of what happens when there’s an interview is that I get scored on my responses to questions, as does all the other candidates. These scores are then handed over to HR, who calculates it up and adds in any other extra points, such as veterans preference. The person with the highest score is the one HR contacts (or the hiring manager contacts?) to say they got the job and they start the onboarding process. If that person declines, they go to the next person on the list. Is this right?

    Also, say I’m a 12-04 and got that 12 after being an 11-03. This job is GS 11. Do I come in at 1) 11-01, 2), 11-04, or 4) whatever step in 11 would correspond best to my current 12-04 salary?

    Also also, this is not directly relevant to what I interviewed for, but can someone explain to me what Direct Hire is? I keep seeing it show up on USAJOBS.

    1. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Direct Hire, at least as of a 2014 fact sheet I found, allows agencies to:
       Waive the rating and ranking system (including examinations, if required);
       Suspend veterans’ preferences;
       Eliminate the “Rule of Three” – where hiring managers are presented the top three candidates.

      Will link the fact sheet in a reply

    2. Reba*

      First you get scored on your *application* in USAJobs. Preference points added at that stage. Then your application may be “referred” to the hiring agency person and you may get called for an interview.

      There are some dedicated online forums like govloop, federalsoup, and a couple of subreddits where you can probably get lots of details on these questions!

      good luck!

      1. how i wish i was in sherbrooke now*

        So the points are only there for who gets interviewed, not for who gets the job?

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      If you’re not my husband, you seem eerily like him, with that username and those concerns…

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          LOL! That certainly settles it. Didn’t sound like his writing style either, but he’s an Age of Sail and sea shanty fanatic, and is planning on applying for federal jobs when he’s done with grad school.

      1. fposte*

        That’d be funny also because I’ve enjoyed your username and I could definitely see them fitting in the same family.

    4. Grits McGee*

      So, at my agency, how it works is that HR scores and ranks candidates based on 1) hiring preferences (veteran, current fed, disability, Peace Corps, etc) and 2) their answers to the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities questions (KSAs) in the application. Then a certain number of candidates are forwarded on for phone screens and then interviews. After the list of candidates is forwarded to the hiring committee, HR is out of the picture until the committee is ready to make an offer. I think they do provide names of alternates to HR in case the first person declines.

      If you are coming into a GS 11 position as a GS-12-04, they are supposed to give you the GS 11 step position that is closest to what you are making as a 12-04 (even if that works out to be less pay).

      1. how i wish i was in sherbrooke now*

        Thank you! The impression I got from the hiring manager was that after interviews were over, they were going to send it all to HR and then I’d hear after that, so I got the impression that HR picks, not the hiring manager.

        As you can tell, I’ve been in the federal government for years and years, but only got hired twice. ;)

        1. Grits McGee*

          I’ve interviewed for 4 jobs in the 5 years I’ve been at my agency, so unfortunately I am intimately familiar with USAjobs. ;) My agency hires internally as much as possible, so we’ve gotten a lot of training about hiring procedures.

        2. Not All*

          It’s not that HR chooses, it’s that only HR can do the actual official offer paperwork. The hiring official will make an unofficial offer, then it usually takes a week or so (Usual disclaimers about this not being normal times) for HR to send the official one.

      2. Holy Moley*

        +1 The GS-11 step will be what is equal to your current pay. I suppose you could try to negotiate once you get the tentative offer. I tried for my last promotion (a grade up) but wasn’t successful.

    5. AnonAcademic*

      I just completed a direct hire. It’s essentially an internal hire or one where you have ID’d an external candidate and write the position description for them. I hired a former student intern for a paid role this way. The job was not posted externally, Vet’s preference is waived, and I didn’t need any approval other than the PD and HR verifying her qualifications (Degree status etc).

    6. ADB_BWG*

      I am currently hiring a federal position. I received several certification lists (general, veterans, disability, etc). I set up a panel of interviewers, we independently reviewed all resumes, rated themselves according to KSNs, and selected a finalist list, drafted interview questions, and set up interviews. During the interviews we will independently score answers to questions, then jointly decide on a candidate to refer to HR. HR will contact the candidate and start the hiring process paperwork.

      My agency / office has the ability to Direct Hire in to positions classified as Job Series ABCD – say Llama groomer. If I have an open Llama Groomer position I can post on USA jobs or I can hire a specific person who meets all of the education and experience requirements to be a Llama Groomer.

      Good luck in your search!

  13. It is your birthday.*

    Not sure if this is appropriate since it’s a TV show but….anyone want to talk about the office? I just started watching it for the first time at the start of the quarantine. Using the work thread because it’s a show about work. Thought it would be a lighthearted thing to talk about in the work topic.

    1. CheeryO*

      I’ve been re-watching along with the Office Ladies podcast. It’s such a welcome bit of silliness right now! I’m also finding it a lot funnier now that I work in an office, compared to the first time around when I was in high school and college.

    2. juliebulie*

      With the novelty of WFM fast wearing off, watching The Office is the next best thing to being in the actual office. Oddly, I like the James Spader episodes best.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Confession time: I loathe The Office. Watched it with my boyfriend at the time, and eventually asked to watch something else. At the time, my boss was similar to Michael Scott — incompetant, lacking any tact or management skills, occasionally outright offensive, mercurial. It was too much. Plus, I don’t think a lot of the early-2000s humor has aged well (Michael kissing Oscar to show he’s “ok with gay people”? so cringe). It wasn’t funny to me to watch the struggles I was going through at work, all over again.

      1. Claire*

        I enjoyed the office, but yes, so much cringe. I’ve also come to realize that I would hate hate HATE working with Jim, so that’s made it age badly for me.

      2. annakarina1*

        I never found it funny. The “normal” characters (especially Jim and Pam) come off as so bland and dull to me, and the “weird” characters come off as creeps, and nobody else is remarkable. I just couldn’t relate to it or find it funny or connect with it at all.

      3. Generic Name*

        Same. My husband at the time loved it, so I watched it when he watched it, but I just couldn’t find it funny.

      4. It is your birthday.*

        It took me like 3 tries to get in to it, season 1 and 2 were so difficult to watch. I would joke with my boss that he’s like Michael Scott in some ways. But it is nice to finally understand most of the memes and gifs. I was cringing SO HARD at the Oscar scene.

      5. EnfysNest*

        I agree. My friends tried to get me to watch through it with them so I’d get all their jokes about it, but I just felt awful for everyone who wasn’t Michael. And when I mentioned the only two characters who I felt seemed decent, my friends laughed and said that those two became some of the worst characters later in the show. I had to stop watching. The things Michael did were often so cruel and had so many similarities to the things people write in to this site about that I just couldn’t find any humor in it.

        **spoilers for later seasons below**

        And knowing that the show eventually wanted us to actually sympathize with Michael in later seasons was the final straw for me. He was awful and cruel and his actions were often wildly illegal – if I had known that he might later on finally get called out on it and get in trouble for it all, maybe I could have tolerated it, but knowing that they were actually just going to make his victims into terrible people later and that Michael was being converted into the victim/sympathetic character? No, I couldn’t handle that.

        I also just couldn’t root for Jim and Pam being a couple while she was cheating on her fiance at the start. She would have been justified in breaking things off with him if she had so chosen right from the start of the show from what they showed, but if she wasn’t going to do that, so I was really uncomfortable with her flirty/romantic interactions with Jim.

          1. Jessen*

            Not everyone enjoys or is comfortable with watching bad behavior on TV shows, especially if it seems like we’re supposed to sympathize with the badly behaving character or overlook their actions. I know I’m definitely in that category – I know it’s fiction but it’s still not enjoyable. And that goes harder for me for more realistic setting type shows.

          2. It is your birthday.*

            I agree with you – I mean are there any TV shows where all the characters are perfect and behave well?

            But there are some shows/characters that I loathe because they would be awful humans IRL (in this one – Angela).

          3. Fikly*

            You realize not all people are entertained by watching people behave abusively and get away with it?

          4. Kt*

            Listen, I used to love love love murder mysteries, and then I had a kid and couldn’t read murder mysteries because I felt bad for the dead person and couldn’t stop thinking about them. I know they’re books. So? Now I read romances, because I always get a happy ending.

            Tastes change. I used to hate tomatoes too.

          5. Avasarala*

            I think a lot of people miss the fact that everyone is supposed to suck on the Office. Jim and Pam are supposed to be cringey from a coworker’s perspective. Michael is supposed to be awful and awkward and sad. No one is good here.

            You can see the evolution of cringey awkward being filed down to well-meaning quirks from The Office to Parks & Rec to Brooklyn 99. Same premise: a group of weirdos who are way too invested in their workplace and coworkers.

            1. EnfysNest*

              Yeah, that’s part of my problem for sure. If everyone recognized that Michael is awful and Jim and Pam are cringey, then I might be less opposed to the show. But the majority opinion of my friends and of nearly everyone I see discuss the show online, they see Michael as a sweet, caring guy who just wants to create a family and sometimes goofs up and goes about things the wrong way. They excuse his behaviors and they relate to him rather than the victims of his abuse. Because of the way the show apparently made him more sympathetic over time and made his victims into villains (I’m thinking of Jan, especially, who Michael harassed and undermined at every turn early on, but then apparently became this hateful, vindictive person later on – again, I didn’t watch that far, but that’s what my friends told me when I said Jan was one of the only characters I felt I could sympathize with when I first started watching). the morals of the show get skewed and the idea that “you’re supposed to think everyone is awful” gets muddied and lost along the way.

      6. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah… I never found it terribly funny either. Though I ADORE ‘Office Space’ the film.
        The Office TV show seemed so cringe, which I guess is why some people find it funny and relatable. There are a few chuckles in it for me, but mostly cringe, so it was never one of my favorite shows.

        1. Syfygeek*

          Office Space is awesome. I had a boss like that- I could tell him I just landed a million dollar account, and he’d say that’s nice, but about that report cover? And 4 other people would also remind me about the report cover. Even though it was now a digital form and didn’t need a cover! And typing this made me realize I’m just a tad bitter still.

          The head of IT and his assistant (that was the whole department) did take a bunch of obsolete equipment and bust it up in the parking lot.

    4. annakarina1*

      I just finished watching Better Off Ted, I hadn’t seen it before. I didn’t know what to expect, and really liked it as a sharply satirical sitcom about a science/tech corporation that was corrupt with a smile. I especially liked the jokes about products/animals they created which were monstrosities or murdered people, and that the show never shows them, it’s always a quick aside as a reference. Portia de Rossi was so great and chilling as a sociopathic boss, and I liked the nerdy scientist duo who kept accidentally making murderous products.

      I just brought it up because it’s a workplace office sitcom, and I’m sorry I missed it when it aired in 2009 (it lasted two seasons).

      1. It is your birthday.*

        I can check that out after this! I”m on Season 5 now, so will need something to last the rest of quarantine lol

      2. The New Wanderer*

        Seconded. I loved this show and only caught it when it was on Netflix, not airing.

    5. Analyst Editor*

      I’d say the trajectory of quality is up/stable through season 4, then dip through season 8, and then what I think is a very good season 9 and finale.
      I really like Jim’s pranks on he people that richly deserve it, hehe. :p I’m not a big fan of the Michael Scott/George Castanza/It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-type humor, i.e. when terrible people make terrible decisions and face the resulting bad consequences. BUT there are parts to The Office which are very human, and they soften a lot of the characters over the years.
      I think you’ll enjoy it.
      If you want something more “relevant” to work today, check out the movie “Office Space”.

      Or, for a fun work-related exercise, pick up an old copy of “The Dilbert Principle”. I still have one. A lot of it is wayyyyy out of date and references 90s terms and issues, but a subset of the comics are still hilarious (like the ones about working from home.)

      1. It is your birthday.*

        I did find some of Jim’s pranks funny but the scene where he started listing everything he does to Dwight was sobering. I did like when Charles Miner comes in and he realizes that he can’t sway him with his charm.

        I never understood the hate against Toby. The only character I don’t like at all is Angela.

        I gotta be honest, some of the scenes that people find funny, I actually cry. Like when Kevin dropped his chilli or when they’re watching a video of Michael on the kids’ show and they ask him what he wants to be when he grows up – he says “I want to have 100 kids so I can have 100 friends.” Like at the end of the day he’s just lonely and wants love and companionship. That makes me cry lol.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Well, even Jim recognizes that all the pranks on Dwight were too much. That’s sort of the point.
          And the point of Michael, which you don’t get unless you keep watching (because yes, he was totally unlikeable the first season) was like you said–he wanted to be liked, and he did a lot of that stuff to be liked, or to try and take pressure off of the staff.
          I think many people here criticizing the show maybe didn’t get past the first season or are just missing the point. It’s supposed to be cringy, but ultimately (yes, except maybe Angela) these are not bad people. I’m not sure who up-thread they said there were actually bad people. I don’t think that’s really true of anyone.
          It does make fun of a lot of real office politics, which is one of the things that’s so entertaining about it, even if sometimes it take it too far.

          1. It is your birthday.*

            I agree – but I’ve read that in many forums where all characters are considered abusive, unlikeable etc.

            I just got to Jim & Pam’s wedding (I love htem together!)…Michael grew on me in season 5 when he was with Holly.

        2. Analyst Editor*

          That’s kind of why I like season 9. They soften up Dwight and make him less terrible, and the pranks are more good- natured.

      2. It’s*

        Holy cow! I just realized that Jim is the character I like the least! (Coronavirus Revelation: no one cares)

    6. Thankful for AAM*

      I just watched the first couple of episodes for the first time.
      I did not like it at all. Too much bullying. I mean, it was funny, I get the jokes, but more than a few episodes was too Mich for me.

      1. Entry-level Marcus*

        Michael Scott’s character is much more cruel in the first season compared to later seasons.

    7. ‘The Office’ Fangirl*

      I organized a ‘The Office’ trivia quiz bowl at a local mom and pop restaurant. We meet once per month. Well, until COVID that is. It was the highlight of my month.

    8. Atchafalaya*

      It’s on Netflix at our house on a mostly daily basis. I love the characters and the silly crap they do.

  14. Jaid*

    I’ve been at home for more than three weeks and my manager finally calls about having me telework. But, I’d have to come into the office for training AND my bestie who already teleworks emailed me about an employee testing positive for C-19 after last being at work on 3/31 and one floor of the building being closed off. I politely declined and he’s fine with it.

    Yeah, until they start making me use my own leave or otherwise mandatory, I’m going to have to pass. For what it’s worth they also want us coming in on a 50/50 basis, but since we’d still have to use the facilities…

    1. Claire*

      Ugh, that’s tough. Given that the infection was from 3/31, you’d probably be safe to go in to the office with precautions, but it absolutely makes sense for you not to be willing to risk it. Glad your boss is being understanding, though! Is there any chance you could talk to him about training for telework from home, or is that really not possible for your job?

      1. Jaid*

        My normal job involves paperwork with taxpayer identification on it, so it can’t be taken home and normally it’s time sensitive, so it’s usually not scanned into our computer system to work online. The telework available to me is basically scutwork trying to deal with old unresolved cases that are now online due to their age (hard to explain this, sorry!). Anyway, I’d have to send letters to people and then my work depends on if they respond or not (which eventually results in…paperwork, which again I can’t work on at home).

        As for going in for training…well I work for the Fed. I’d have to be trained on how to set up my computer, etc. Of course, I’d need to train before I can get a laptop assigned to me, I can’t take one home and take the training then.

        Meh. It is what it is.

        I wish folks on the board well.

  15. Trying to be grateful*

    First of all, I feel bad even complaining about this because I have a job that can be done remotely with zero issues in a steady business that has been minimally impacted by the current crisis. That’s not to say it won’t be, but I am aware that I’m in an enviable position in comparison to so many people.

    While I am grateful, I am also feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and angsty. My amazing manager left the company last week and she was my advocate, went to bat for me all the time, and was a complete work horse. Now that she’s gone, people are coming to me for everything they would have gone to her for. So in addition to absorbing most of her work on top of my own, I don’t really even feel like I know what I’m doing. But somehow people think I’m the go-to. We have an interim person who has taken on my former boss’s official role, but he’s so senior that he hasn’t had the time or focus to get involved in the way we need him.

    I’m overwhelmed and feel like they’re just going to continue working me like a dog. I’m owed a promotion that I’m assured is coming but I feel like I’ve been doing the job I’m going to be getting plus more for well over a year, and now I’m taking on levels and levels above as well. So I’m angry and bitter that everyone else who has my official title is able to coast by and somehow I’m the go-to for everything, working crazy hours and feeling just.. taken advantage of. It feels like people know I’m reliable and they hone in on that.

    I know that this MAY resolve itself when someone permanent is identified for my former boss’s role, but in the interim I am left nauseated and unmotivated for most of the day. Does anyone have any ideas for how to set boundaries and push back in “survival mode?” Or do I just shut up and hope for the best and job search if it doesn’t improve a few months from now?

    1. WellRed*

      Redirect them to whoever is most appropriated. Do it professionally and kindly but firmly. There’s too many people on these threads drowning in trying to do everything. Don’t be one of them.

    2. Trixie*

      I’ve been in a similar position and I redirected inquiries I received to the interim boss. If nothing else, I wanted it documented for the purpose of seeing what I was asked to take on. At the end of the day, you can only do what you can do and that was true before COVID. If the interim boss pushes back to you, I would work with them to identify the priorities. It’s his responsibility to make time to focus, not yours to manage for him. Sadly, putting in the extra hours to be available to everyone will not guarantee the already overdue promotion. Your company might be better than what I’ve experienced and I hope is is. Twice I’ve been in a place where this happened and it just became the new normal minus promotion.

      Unless your current role requires being available after hours, I wouldn’t respond to emails outside of 9-5 if possible. Folks learn and adjust accordingly. Some use a bounce back email to this effect, updating others that they will respond during business hours or something similar. Also, sometimes emails after hours don’t necessarily assume you will respond. That’s just their habit or schedule. If this is the case, then just become comfortable with leaving emails until the morning.

      Meanwhile, this is a good time to update the resume and keep an eye out. My boss left last August and it’s never been the same. The new boss is good in her own right but after all this, a fresh start will be best.

    3. MissBookworm*

      You sound exactly like me right now. My amazing manager’s last day was Friday and now I’m the unfortunate point person for everything (they aren’t replacing her at all which is a whole different issue)—even the parts of her job that I had absolutely zilch to do with it.

      Push back. Delegate—“Mary is actually the better person to ask that” or “You can find those files in that database”—and don’t be afraid to say you can’t answer their question. Above all else: work your normal hours! Don’t kill yourself by being overworked.

      Talk to your interim boss and his boss. Go in prepared with a list of your job duties (everything you think of right down to the most insignificant) and a list of what your manager did for you; what did she help you with? What did you go to her for (tasks, moral support, delegation?). Find out what the company’s plan is, make demands “I need help with this, this, and this because if I don’t get help then that, that, and that are not going to get done”.

      I have had to do all of this in the last week and it’s been horrendous, but necessary. My boss is currently in the middle of restructuring the department because my manager left and my lists have helped him.

    4. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

      Wow, that’s a lot, at any time! Perhaps you could start with a list of all the things you are currently responsible for, then add the things you have taken on now that Boss is gone. Decide what you can reasonably handle and which items are highest priority. Then request a meeting with Interim Boss to sort out division of work. You can’t possibly do the job of two people but you can point out what you are doing and the level at which you have been performing at. If you are taking on responsibilities that are above you pay grade you should highlight that. If there is no clear resolution, can you start pushing back on tasks by saying I’m swamped with WXYZ and this is a next level responsibility, please ask someone else.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Prioritize (which items are must-do’s versus do-laters)
      Redirect (if there is someone filling the role your boss had interm)
      Delegate (who else within the company can help with lower-level or easier items or tasks?)
      Don’t feel you have to answer every email immediately.

      In some sense, this always happens when your manager leaves suddenly. Unfortunately, right now there is also a huge crisis going on within most companies due to COVID.

    6. Ronda*

      my sister has been in a similar situation for a while. she was the jr person in a dept of 4 and now it is just her. She tells her manager there is too much work for just her, and she is focusing on these parts, do you want something else prioritized instead.
      her management seems to be understanding about this, she is after all only one person and was new to this area when it all went to crap. (she is a little shocked that the vp of her group seems to really like her and tells her that they are trying to get her help– it has been taking a long time)

      So come up with your high level priority plan (make it reasonable on yourself, it is the companies problem they are understaffed, not yours), talk to your interim boss about it and get the feedback. Then work your plan.

      communicate, dont shut up, or complain.

    7. Fikly*

      Pain is not a competition. You are allowed to feel whatever you feel about your current situation, and to talk about it.

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I wonder why she left?

      Do you want you old boss’s role (between you and the interim)? If s0 –

      Have the conversation with your “big boss” now about potentially being promoted into your former boss’s role. You could explicitly state your knowledge, interest, etc.

      You are overwhelmed by workload, rather than “level of responsbility” it sounds like. This could be most easily resolved by putting you in the ‘head of’ position and having people report to you – I would advocate for that.

  16. CheeryO*

    My boyfriend was asked to fly out to provide two weeks’ worth of in-person support for a project that has been deemed essential, even though it doesn’t really pass the sniff test (it’s related to medical devices, but isn’t particularly time-sensitive or related to the epidemic in any way). This is unreasonable, right? Are people really still flying for anything less than critical reasons?

    He wants to push back and offer to provide support remotely, which he thinks will be just as effective as actually being there physically. He’s grateful to still have a job and would prefer to keep it if possible, but he’s also very nervous about getting sick since he has asthma and ended up with pneumonia after getting swine flu.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          this this this. Yes, he needs to say, ‘I can not travel right now, and I don’t want to get into the medical details around that decision. I can offer remote support through x, y.’

    1. samecoin*

      does he have a regular doctor? I am an asthmatic an i work in HC. My PCP said without exception i should not be onsite at my job for any reason until an antibody test is available and we can prove i have been exposed and am immune ( at least temporarily who knows how long it will last) or not yet exposed and prolong my isolation.

    2. CheeryO*

      Thank you all! This is very helpful and validating. Samecoin, thanks for the heads up on that. He does have a regular PCP who’s offering telehealth visits, so that’s definitely something to look into.

  17. I'm now a fundraiser (yikes)*

    Hello all; it’s my first time commenting!

    Less gregarious professionals: how did you learn to hold engaging conversations? I havent yet read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” but it’s the sort of resource I’m looking for, especially now that in person practices thin on the ground.

    1. I'm now a fundraiser (yikes)*

      My main trouble is struggling to come up with good follow up questions that move the conversation along. I tend to just let whatever statements other people make just hang in the air, because I’m not at all bothered when people do the same to me. Which is obviously less than ideal in my new role. (When I took the job I thought it was just grant writing, but needs are shifting due to COVID-19 and I need to step it up.)

      1. Trying to be grateful*

        I have the exact same issue. I’m a natural question-asker, but I know it’s a fine line between making conversation and making someone feel like they’re being interviewed by an inexperienced local news reporter.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          I have the exact *opposite* issue! I’ll happily answer questions from others, in order to be friendly and cooperative, but asking questions back usually makes me feel really weird.

      2. Prairie*

        I’m glad you clarified this because my answer to the original question would have been Be a good listener. I was a fundraiser for six years and learned by just diving it and practicing. I am a careful listener and not a natural talker. (I’m in student affairs now so the relationship-building skills are still essential.) Some tips:
        You can always have some nonspecific questions in your mind that can be repurposed for most conversations “How did you get involved in *thing you are talking about*?” “How does *thing your talking about* fit in the rest of your job/hobbies/family?” “I’ve always had the impression ___ was really about ___, but from what you’re saying it sounds like____.”
        Bring up any commonalities/shared experiences. If they were just visiting a city you’ve been to or your in-laws live in, tell them. Swap anecdotes.
        I almost always have a pen in my hand so if I think of a question while someone’s in the middle of a story I write a word down and then at the end I look at my note and ask the question.

      3. Annaramadanna*

        I moved from careers sitting behind computer screens and crunching numbers, to a very people-oriented career that is all about cultivating strong relationships within communities and with other groups. (I too am comfortable with silence and pauses in conversations.)

        The book “Great Connections” by Anne Baber and Lynne Wayman was invaluable to me. It is all about small talk and keeping conversations going, in the business world. It came out in the early ’90s and some of the incidentals are a bit dated but human nature hasn’t changed much. This book is concise, well-organized, and the general principles are timeless.

        1. I'm now a fundraiser (yikes)*

          That sounds perfect! Thanks so much for the recommendation. Your position in cultivating community relationships sounds fascinating! It’s the kind of thing that I would *like* to do, but currently don’t have the skill set for. It’s good to know that you were able to make the transition- it gives me faith that I may do it too some day. :)

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      Are you a member of any professional organizations like AFP? If so, it might be worth reaching out to them to ask for their recommendations.

      1. I'm now a fundraiser (yikes)*

        Great idea! I’m not, but my boss is. I’m a little nervous about asking through my boss though, or even just asking her for resources directly. I’ve told her about some of my other short comings and she’s been extremely helpful, but right now this is an absolutely necessary part of my job. I feel like it would be like a window cleaner admitting that they have a fear of heights.

        1. Prairie*

          Can your boss connect you with a mentor? Then you don’t have to necessarily share your “short comings” with her directly.

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          You don’t have to phrase it as “I have problems with X,” or “I know I’m not good at Y,” so it doesn’t need to sound like a shortcoming! You could say, “I’m looking for some good resources to help me brush up on X and Y skills. Can you think of anything you’d recommend?” As a manager, if I hear that, I think, “oh good, my employee is looking to improve their skills! Good initiative!”

    3. Jedi Squirrel*

      There are some good resources out there if you google “networking for introverts”. (Also, some lousy resources. Such is life.)

    4. Actual Vampire*

      “First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You” by Ann Demarais and Valerie White is a GREAT book about making conversation. I found it much more helpful (and much more up-to-date!) than Dale Carnegie’s stuff.

      Main takeaway from the book: making a good impression on someone isn’t about how you make them feel about you, it’s about how you make them feel about themselves.
      Another lesson I liked is: conversation is like strip poker. It’s fun if everyone is revealing stuff at the same rate. It’s awkward if you’re pouring your heart out when the other person isn’t revealing much about themselves – or vice versa.

      1. I'm now a fundraiser (yikes)*

        Awesome, I will check that out. I’ve heard that before (about connection is all about how others feel about themselves) and it’s always rung true to me. It’s just the mechanics of making those good feelings happen that I struggle with. Thank you for the recommendation, it sounds very helpful!

    5. Generic Name*

      Honestly, most people love talking about themselves. You don’t have to be the star of the show and tell interesting anecdotes. Ask people about their lives. What school did they go to? See if you have common interests or hobbies. Do they like sports and you do as well? Maybe they play DnD and you are a DM coming up with a way to hold a virtual game. Try not to grill people interview-style, but asking questions about people personally (but not too personally- like don’t ask women why they haven’t gotten pregnant yet or whatever- that’s waaaaay too personal) is a good way to keep a conversation going.

      1. Claire*

        While you’re on the subject of personal but not too personal—do you have any pets? If so, try to sprinkle that information in organically. If not, try to ask then if they have pets. Most people will enjoy showing you pictures of their puppy and looking at pictures of your hedgehog, and will end up coming away thinking that you’re friendly and that they’ve made a connection, even though little of substance was actually exchanged.

        1. Generic Name*

          Yes! Asking about pets is perfect. I wouldn’t ask about children, because that can be a painful topic for some, but you can certainly talk about kids if the other person brings it up first and says they have kids. Honestly, having a child myself gives me an automatic topic of conversation with people I might otherwise have zero in common with.

    6. circuit*

      I ask a ton of questions. People love talking about themselves, and letting them talk a lot both makes them like you more & fills the air and makes you worry less about what you should be saying next. Find something you find interesting– genuinely interesting (keep an open mind!)– about the person and ask away! Think about other follow up questions you can ask based on their answers. Tell relevant stories when they come up, but I like keeping my focus more on the other person. It did really feel like an interrogation when I first started, but it feels natural now and people tell me I’m easy to talk to.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      Listen to what they talk about and be prepared to build on *that*, not on prepared questions. Ask questions like, ‘how did you learn that skill?’ and ‘how did you meet that person?’ or ‘what is it you like most about that?’.

      1. I'm now a fundraiser (yikes)*

        Yes, this my exact challenge. Follow up questions just do not jump to mind. Someone will share something with me (where they work, that they have a dog, whatever) and my natural response is to just acknowledge it (“Oh really? How interesting!”) and then either just let the conversation drop or pivot to something immediate (“Oh look, they added more cheese to the buffet.”).

        I am socially anxious and generally fearful of prying, even when I know that the topic at hand is definitely neutral territory. I’m working on it! I just need to practice building that bridge to asking follow up questions and engaging with someone.

        1. Dee-Nice*

          I can be bad at small talk myself. It seems to take me longer than other people to process what others are saying, plus (and maybe this is awful to admit) I am very rarely actually interested in what others are saying. I have found, though, that it works well to couple the advice given above (ask people questions about themselves) with simply repeating the last thing they said, as a sort of question.

          Example:
          Jayquellen: So I hear you’re really interested in historical fiction!

          Ay-Ay-Ron: That’s true. I love historical fiction, but particularly fiction focused on the Tudors.

          Jayquellen: Fiction focused on the Tudors?

          Ay-Ay-Ron: Yes, the late Tudors, like Henry VIII? I just love that era of history, plus there are so many great tv spin-offs now.

          Jayquellen: Ohhh tv spin-offs?

          Ay-Ay-Ron: Well, have you seen the show “The Tudors”?

          Aaaand you just bought a few extra minutes of conversation without having to do much, and you’ve learned more about the person, potentially giving yourself the opportunity to give a little extra at some point so you’re not just parroting them the whole time (No, haven’t seen the Tudors, but love Natalie Dormer; Yes, have seen The Tudors, loved it, etc.)

          1. curly sue*

            If someone did that to me (repeating my last words back to me without any other elaboration) I would assume they were making fun of me, and shut right down.

            1. I'm now a fundraiser (yikes)*

              That’s really interesting, Curly-Sue, because I thought Dee-Nice’s example was brilliant. But, I also really relate to their feelings about conversing in general, so I value your differing perspective.

              My gut still says that you could echo someone’s statements in a non-mocking way, even if it was just a sincere, “Oh really?” vs. a verbatim quote.

              But maybe the strategy appeals to me because it’s a baby step between my current non-responses and the advice given in other comments here about coming up with questions spur of the moment (which is tough for me). I’ll keep your point about feeling made fun of in mind!

              1. Dee-Nice*

                Yeah, I definitely see where Curly Sue is coming from, but EVERYTHING social depends on execution, right? So per my example, you can’t just flatly repeat. You have to make it a question, the implication being, “Tell me more, I am interested,” and also at some point use the info they’re giving you to pivot to a different mode of give and take.

                1. curly sue*

                  I think it’s partly due to experiences with childhood bullying that had a similar structure, and partly because I’m from an area/culture where enthusiasm for a conversation is demonstrated through engagement and talking over someone – the whole east-coast Jewish thing. (The official name for it is “high-involvement cooperative overlapping.”)

                  Someone just repeating back the last thing I said without adding their own opinions or thoughts would read to me as a combo of ‘I can’t wait to get out of here’ and ‘collecting material to mock later.’

                2. allathian*

                  Reply to curly sue:
                  That’s really interesting, because my culture is just about diametrically opposite. In polite conversation you don’t interrupt people at all, it’s considered very rude. We show interest by nodding and interjecting with “uh-huh” and by letting the person finish. An important skill is handing the convo over to the other person. There are exceptions, of course, but interruptions are usually a last resort if the other person won’t let you speak. Our parliamentary debates are interesting, because the only person who interrupts is the speaker, who’ll bang the gavel if someone’s speaking for too long.

  18. Redacted 33*

    So, despite reading this site for years and absolutely knowing better, I followed up on a job application (yes, application, no interview yet) about 3 weeks after submitting my app (yes, during a pandemic, I KNOW). Normally I would never, I’m just in a situation where I need to commit to a different role that would really complicate my availability for the new position.The HM seemed friendly/enthusiastic in our initial communications and I thought it might be ok to touch base, honestly I didn’t expect a reply. I was very brief and apologetic in checking in about a general timeline. I did receive a quick reply but tone indicates that my question was not well received. How major of an infraction was this? I don’t have the energy to dwell on it but I was referred by a former colleague and I don’t want to reflect badly on her. 

    1. TimeCat*

      It depends on the time if your letter.

      Not a great move but it’s done and doing any more would make it worse. If you’re tempted to try to email to apologize or similar, do NOT do it. Seriously. Just let it go.

      1. TimeCat*

        Sorry “tone” not “time”. If it was a short “hey following up” that was better than a longer email.

        Still just don’t touch it anymore. It’s like a scab, if you pick at it, it’ll be worse.

        1. Redacted 33*

          I know this. I knew this last night. I still sent a quick one line “thanks/sorry” response bc it felt better to tank my own chances than to be that guy. Oof. Oh well.

    2. Artemesia*

      It’s done. You only inquired once. Don’t worry about it. Job searching makes everyone crazy and during a pandemic — extra crazy. So we obsess about tiny things that are probably not noticed by the hiring manager who is not thinking about you but worrying about their own job. You only inquired once — just let it go and continue to think about ways to advance your search beyond this company because everything is a long shot especially now.

    3. ynotlot*

      That you received a reply is a great sign, and the ‘not well received’ might just be the general stress of the situation coming through. I agree with Alison that checking in on applications is not necessary, but checking in once isn’t a big deal – you won’t be the only one who has done it, and the person you emailed most likely was not surprised/not offended. They probably just don’t really have any info to give.

      1. Prairie*

        +1 and I would add that one brief check in email is not going to reflect badly on your former colleague.

        1. Joielle*

          Agreed! Assuming you didn’t use your one email to, like, cuss anyone out or accuse them of throwing away your application or something, it’s not THAT big of a deal. Ideal? Maybe not. But one polite follow-up email is a minor annoyance at worst, not something egregious.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      3 weeks, and just a request on their general timeline? Totally reasonable. No one’s going to think you’re unprofessional for that. You have to stop now, but you’re fine so far.

  19. Unsolicited*

    How to stay motivated to complete certifications and such during self-isolation?

    I’ve committed to completing several online certifications from Google, Hubspot and other sources during the pandemic. Nearly every day, I’ve committed to at least two hours of watching videos, reading blogs, taking notes and completing assessments.

    However, the one-sided nature of the learning experience is beginning to weigh on me. I have no one in my immediate vicinity with whom to discuss the knowledge I’m gaining, and I’m finding my interest and commitment beginning to wane.

    I would appreciate any tips and/or tricks you care to share on how I can keep on track. My goal is to complete eight to 10 certifications that I can selectively add to my resume, depending on the specific job.

    Thanks for your time!

    1. Entry-Level Marcus*

      I’d be interested in responses to this, too. I had almost zero work this week, so I decided to try to do some optional online classes, but I’ve had similar problems following-through.

    2. ten-four*

      I think that’s a really cool goal! My best rec is to try to hunt up a study buddy or group. It seems like there are likely other folks doing the same thing, or who would be interested to try! Possibly the certification platforms can hook you up, or failing that maybe try social media channels.

      Failing that, I might try:
      + Pomodoro method
      + Documenting my progress/learnings in a blog or a series of social tweets/posts. This last one has the advantage of giving a lightweight channel for at least friends/family to cheer you on.
      + Hunting up topical slacks for the certification. This is not an avenue I use, but I have a Digital Strategist friend who found some active Content Strategy and Google Analytics slack communities.

      Good luck!

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      There are online forums for almost everything. Go read some, figure out who’s friendly to newbies and who’s jerks, start posting in the friendly ones. Try to build a project and invite discussion.

    4. Juneybug*

      I heard of folks creating e-books on the subject as passive income. Maybe create a study guide? While I haven’t done this, I imagine drafting a study guide with the intent of making money would keep me motivated. :)

    5. Nervous Nellie*

      If you are taking any classes through Coursera, each course has its own discussion forum that you can visit to troubleshoot homework but also to get to know classmates a bit. In the past I have connected with other classmates there, and moved our conversations to email so we could be study buddies. I did that in two courses and it really helped. I have recently been struggling myself to stay motivated. Thank you for the reminder!

    6. Federal Middle Manager*

      Talk to yourself. Seriously. Or borrow a stuffed animal or put googly eyes on an (empty) vodka bottle. Pause the video every 5-10 minutes and explain to your “pupil” what you learned and how could be relevant to your real job. Our brains process information differently when we have to say things out loud and you’ll quickly find that you didn’t understand something as well as you thought when you get tongue-tied talking to an inanimate object.

      Personally, I don’t find forums to be as helpful because there’s a lot of blind-leading-the-blind happening.

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      > Nearly every day, I’ve committed to at least two hours

      .. so about 12% of your waking day, assuming you aren’t still working?

      I struggle with motivation myself, but mostly on top of a work day of 8hrs or so, or at the weekend, having just 2 days to fit in “leisure” and still needing to do the learning-things!

      I have succeeded with these courses by verbally (out loud, but then I’m an extrovert.. if you aren’t you could voice this internally) engaging with the content throughout like “but why?” “how did they come up with that result?” etc (Often it’s answered in the course, but if not, there are external resources with that info).

      Is there any way to interact with the other students in your ‘cohort’ of the course? Or even something like an online forum (reddit or similar) to discuss it?

      For me keeping on track if I have to maintain a somewhat rigid schedule/list looks like a to-do list ultimately with some system I’ve come up with by myself.

      For example in this lockdown period in the house I’ve come up with a system where we have to complete 2 “easy”/low effort tasks per work day, and 3 more intestive tasks over the weekend, between me and my partner. (He (INTJ) hates it when I come up with yet another system, but I’m sure this one will work!)

  20. Claire*

    Not really looking for advice here, but I just did a virtual interview yesterday for a job in a field I really, really want to break into—wish me luck! I think it went well, but I had some technical difficulties, and the organization has been badly affected by the pandemic, and of course you never know. I’m cautiously optimistic, though, which is nice!

    1. Blue Eagle*

      Sending positive energy and good luck thoughts your way (and to your hiring manager that your interview was looked on positively!). JOY!

    2. how i wish i was in sherbrooke now*

      Good luck! Don’t worry about the technical difficulties, everyone’s having them these days, these systems weren’t built for the load, and the interviewing team probably understands since they’re probably also having them.

  21. LGC*

    So, one of my friends is…having problems at their job. They’ve been having on and off performance issues, from the sound of it, but they got told a couple of weeks ago that this was their final chance. So they’re job searching.

    I tried to suggest they work on keeping the job they have now, but…they’re kind of resigned to the fact that they’re going to be terminated. And I know that I’m not the one that’s facing losing their job in this environment (and also, friend is an adult themselves), but it’s been a bit frustrating to feel like they’re blowing off my advice. I’m not sure whether I’m really looking for advice on things myself, but it feels like they’re sabotaging themselves now.

    (Also possibly important drop: This friend had a fairly recent period before this current job – which they’ve had for a little under two years, I think – where they were jobhopping and LOUDLY unhappy with their job situation.)

    1. juliebulie*

      Your friend can and should do BOTH. Try to improve their performance in order to keep the job, and hedging their bets by keeping some irons in the fire because they probably are going to be terminated because “final chance” means “we’ve had it with you.”

      Friend may have a bigger issue with the jobhopping and complaining. Maybe the complaints are justified and maybe not, but in general it sounds like they might be too slow to commit to a job and too quick to throw in the towel.

      1. LGC*

        Yeah, I pretty much gave in and said to do both (because you’re absolutely right and I did kind of overreact in the opposite direction). They’ve been “good” recently, in that they seemed to be happy with this position finally…it was just, “whoops my boss told me I was doing a bad job again time to jobsearch” and I’m like “not this again.”

        I actually think they might be the type to be too fast! The cycle used to be “HEY I HAVE THE BEST JOB EVER” and then three months later it was like, “THIS SUCKS I NEED A NEW JOB.”

    2. fposte*

      It’s not uncommon for people we care for to do what they want to do instead of the thing that would actually help them, and we have to accept that our input isn’t enough to change that. The upshot may just be that this is not a friend with whom you can share job talk; “Jane, you know what I think; let’s talk about something else” is fine to say if she spends a lot of time complaining.

      1. Sue*

        This is so true. I have a close friend with a long-standing issue with family. I have listened and offered advice (within my expertise) for several years. It was not followed and finally, I gave up and just starting nodding and changing the subject. It was a relief to separate myself from the issue even though it was hard. The situation was/is not good and NEEDS attention but I just had to disengage. And, honestly, I don’t think friend has even noticed.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I’ve been there about this: At this point, there probably isn’t any way to save the friend’s job even if they hustled.

      1. Annony*

        Yep. If they had just started having problems it would be different. When someone is on their last chance it is very difficult to improve enough to save it. I think focusing on job searching is realistic.

    4. pancakes*

      It’s possible that your friend has been having more or longer-standing problems than they let on, thus has a more concrete sense they’ll be terminated than what they conveyed to you.

    5. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Honestly, if your friend has had multiple chances and hasn’t been able or willing (could be either!) to pull it together, they are probably going to be fired.

      Some people just aren’t right for some jobs. Other people maybe could make it work, but they’ve lost interest, or don’t respect their management team, or don’t feel respected or supported – whatever the reason, they don’t have the emotional connection to the job that would let them dig in and turn it around.

      I hear you wanting your friend’s situation to be different, but this is not something you can control.

      1. Kiwi with laser beams*

        “this is not something you can control”

        THIS THIS THIS. LGC, I think I remember that you’re American, so here’s some food for thought. You know how other Westerners keep saying “Why can’t the US just do blahblah thing that our country is doing?” If my own thought processes are representative of other non-American Westerners, we do it because we don’t like seeing people suffering and we want to feel like we have control over the situation. But when we do that, we’re prioritising our own feelings over the needs of the Americans in question. And while it’s usually easier for someone to change their own situation than their whole country’s situation, I think the same kind of bystander thought process is at play here. It doesn’t feel good to acknowledge to yourself that you can’t control this person’s suffering, but remember how exhausting it is when you’re the one dealing with bystanders who keep bugging you about your problems so that they can feel like they have control.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Well, you don’t know the entire situation perhaps?
      Sometimes, you just KNOW that staying at a company isn’t the best move and it’s better to cut your losses and leave. Your friend should definitely be job searching, COVID or no COVID.

      “it feels like they’re sabotaging themselves now”
      So, maybe they know there will be cuts and layoffs and they see the writing on the wall. And maybe they want that right now? It’s probably better to say you got laid off due to COVID situation than for lackluster performance. Plus, the unemployment has been extended. If you’re cut, you’re in the boat with many others.

      Anyway, your friend is an adult, and this really isn’t your concern what she does or doesn’t do about her job.

    7. Fikly*

      It sounds like you’re making their problems about you.

      You’re saying that you’re frustrated that they’re blowing off your advice. But are they? Or have they thought about your advice and decided it’s not the correct course of action? Odds are extremely high they know their situation better than you, given it’s their situation.

      Also, did they ask for advice at all? Or were they venting and you jumped in with advice?

    8. Not So NewReader*

      My wise friend had a suggestion for situations like this. Go into it with them.

      So here this means talking about job hunting, writing resumes, etc.

      It’s super important to ditch the idea they are blowing off our advice. From their perspective, “You don’t understand!” or “You aren’t hearing me!” . This ship has sailed, go with what they are saying they are or will be doing.

      There are several options for outcomes here:

      By actually talking about what it would take to get a new job, they might reverse their thinking and work to keep the job they have. This is doubtful, but there is a long shot. And sometimes agreeing with them is the quickest way to get them to agree with us, in an odd turnaround.

      Or it could be that by talking about a new job, you could actually help them get to a job they will stay with. I had this happen with one friend. She had a brutal job, I really was not keen on seeing her stay there. So it was easy to talk about other employment. She changed fields and she has been in this new field for over 20 years. And it was something she chose out of our conversations. She is much happier in the new arena.

      The last possible outcome is that they don’t follow your advice (or develop their own ideas) about finding a new job either. This is good information. We can’t help people who don’t want help. It’s better to know up front that we care more about their situation than they do. Here you can just say, “When you are ready to deal with things let me know, I can be an ear for you.”

      I will say this: I had a car that was probably an okay car. It needed several hundred dollars worth of repair on drive-ability issues. And it had several annoyances, such as the back wiper did not work and so on. I was fed up. I mean fed right the f up. My friend started down the conversational road of, “This can be fixed.” I did. not. care. I had bought that car twice. (Once for real and the second time with all the repairs.) I was DONE. He could see that I was getting a new car with or without his inputs. He dropped the idea of repairs and started suggesting where to go for a good deal and how to get rid of current car. Wise move. I went where he suggested and I got such a good (reliable) vehicle for the money and I have been super happy with it.
      Your friend may be at the stage where they are fed up with the situation at the job. They may be quietly vowing not to make those mistakes at a new job. You’d have no idea that all this is going on. Sometimes if we can just roll with stuff people can surprise us.
      You also have every right to say, “I can’t help you with this.” That’s an option you never lose.

  22. Book Recs*

    My boss has so generously offered to allow us to volunteer to violate our shelter in place order to come work extremely limited part time shifts for a very much not essential business. I’m absolutely not going. I hope my coworkers are financially able to say no as well (I’m on UI – I’m not sure if the others filed.) … although I know some of them will jump at the chance to go in anyways, because they think the virus is a myth and they’ve drank my bosses Kool-Aid. :(

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Good for you! Stay home, avoid the Coolaid, and maybe report your company.

      Where my brother lives, people who think it is all a hoax try to come close to him, and others wearing masks, while he is grocery shopping.

      Stay strong!

      1. Book Recs*

        I would LOVE to report them, and I did consider it, but it would very much be obvious that I was the one who did it. Even if I didn’t, and someone did, I’d get the blame, and I can’t afford to poke the bear just yet.

    2. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

      STAY AWAY! Being around people who engage in high risk behaviour is a terrible idea. And kool aid sucks. Why would people even want it? Not to mention, isn’t volunteering to do your job while on UI illegal? I hope you next job has much better drink choices.

      1. Book Recs*

        I’m not sure it would be illegal since it’s still paid and reportable, and I think they’d just prorate your benefit for that work week? At least in my state, you’re also UI eligible if the hours are just reduced, and you get that partial benefit.

        But UI approved or not, showing up is very much a terrible idea. I have a job I could do from home if my boss had let me, and that’s the only way I would even consider returning right now, but only at full time.

    3. Fikly*

      Your boss has offered to let you violate local public health/safety orders? Report that dude.

  23. OperaArt*

    Contemplating how my boundaries with my work colleagues have changed because of the current situation. I am over 60 and have an underlying medical condition that puts me in the higher risk category. I am reluctant to go into grocery stores. However, here in the San Francisco Bay area, curbside grocery pickup or home deliveries are extremely hard to book, and if you magically find an opening it’s for almost 2 weeks in the future. However one colleague and one supervisor have each offered to shop for me in those gap weeks, and I gratefully accepted. So they now know my food routine and some of my obscure favorites (Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Pancakes!), and what my house looks like from the outside. And I’m OK with all of that. It’s just not something I ever thought I would be sharing in my work environment.
    By the way, we are all working remotely because of COVID19, but these colleagues live within 3-4 miles of me.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      It’s awesome that your colleagues are being so helpful! My husband is quarantined with a (thankfully very mild) case of COVID-19 in a hotel suite in a distant state, where he went to work with the Army. Fortunately, he has found someone who’s a member of the same fraternal organization who has agreed to go grocery shopping for him so he can have food to cook in the suite kitchen, but doesn’t have to put other people at risk. We all have to help each other out here! I’m just glad that where I am, services like Instacart aren’t too bad as far as timelines go. I’m generally able to get an order delivered within a few days of placing it.

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      It’s lovely that your colleagues are helping out in this way.

      This is the good side of having more relaxed boundaries with your colleagues and workplace. These folks are a part of our community, and when communities are at their best we care for each other.

    3. Joielle*

      I looked at grocery delivery this morning out of curiosity and it just said “Grocery delivery is sold out.” Couldn’t even book weeks out if I had wanted to. It’s awful for people with risk factors! I’ve been shopping for our elderly neighbors. It is an odd kind of pseudo-intimacy, but I sort of feel like this is a whole new world, and we’re all going to be relying on each other going forward in ways that seem foreign now. The social contract is changing.

      My boss sent a really nice email to the whole team a couple weeks after we’d started working from home, to tell us that it’s ok if we need help, we don’t have to pretend everything’s fine if it’s not, and to please let her know if there’s anything she could do to help, either inside or outside of work. We’re normally a pretty private bunch, and it was a little odd to read, but I did appreciate it.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have been helping a cohort. And I offered to help another cohort.

      At this point it’s more important that people ask for help than anything else.

      I see people are using their phones to take pictures of products with their cells, so the go-fer person can find the item quicker/easier. Good use of technology I think. I am getting a boost/lift by seeing how clever people can get about the changes we need to make.

      Going the other way a friend came over and helped me with two problems that were out of my league and had to be handled immediately. This freed me up to continue on with my day and allowed me to go help others. Please remember that someone is helping your helpers. It’s a long chain of people helping each other through. No one is an island, reality is that we never were islands in the past, either.

  24. Exhausted Frontline OP*

    I’m the OP from yesterday’s ask the readers question. I responded super late since I was working into the evening and I’m not usually in front of a computer at work, so just wanted to say thanks again to Alison for posting and thanks to everyone who shared their stories–I skimmed all your comments and will read more closely and respond over the weekend.

    It was really helpful to read about how everyone on the frontlines is coping and muddling through. I see you and I’m rooting for all of you!

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      So glad you requested that. I am wth but learned so much and found it really helpful and eye opening.

    2. CoffeeforLife*

      Thanks to you and to all of the essential workforce. Thank you to all the shelf-stockers, instacart peeps, janitorial staff, servers, cooks, delivery drivers, postal service, amazon, those in public works, zoos, animal shelters, essential daycares/schools. Just thank you to everyone who is helping keep the world going.

      If there was ever a time to recognize that our minimum wage work force and rally behind increasing their pay it’s now. I drive past a restaurant that had cars wrapped around the store in 3 lines. A score of employees taking orders/payment/delivering food etc. They put themselves at risk (probably because not working isn’t feasible) so others can have waffle fries and lemonade. It’s always those who make so little who have to risk so much. Thank you.

      1. Exhausted Frontline OP*

        Yes, absolutely! I don’t make a lot of money/am definitely underpaid, but my employer fully funds my health insurance, I have generous PTO plus emergency COVID leave, and my workplace is making accommodations for people in high risk groups or live with someone high risk to find things to work on from home, even though our regular operations aren’t set up for that. My job is very secure. I’m extremely fortunate compared to most frontline workers.

        But a lot of people who are still going to work aren’t guaranteed these things, and hardly make enough to live on as it is. We need better pay, but also sick leave, health insurance and job security for people in these positions. More than thank yous and post-pandemic parades, I want any people at home who have the capacity to advocate for better labor laws and protections. It’s always been unacceptable, but I think this pandemic has really brought to light for many people how poorly low-wage workers are treated.

  25. MissBliss*

    I had a sudden realization this week (week 2 of remote work) about why I am having so much trouble with working from home: it’s because the little things that annoy me, that I would either ordinarily be able to pop over and ask my supervisor about instead of sitting here frustratedly going “What do you mean?”, or vent to one of my colleagues about, I now sit with and stew on. I don’t really want to put annoyances in writing, so instead I write them in a note, and delete them. Then it’s out of my system. It’s not quite as good as talking to another person, but if I can focus all my stewing in 5 minutes of writing, I’m not thinking “and another thing!” for the next two hours.

    (Also, yes, I ask my supervisor to clarify when I really need clarification. But a lot of the things that are confusing are the result of my supervisor just not reading emails. It’s helpful to be able to talk in person and remind her about that, instead of constantly telling my superior to refer back to an email I sent. Especially since we’re working apart from each other, I’m cognizant about tone. If I’m getting annoyed, I’m sure she is, too.)

    1. Alianora*

      Do you have a chat system or do phone/video calls at all? Recently I’ve found myself saying, “let’s get on a quick Slack call” or messaging someone instead of sending an email. Feels friendlier/more casual.

      1. MissBliss*

        One colleague has been calling me, I have at least 2-3 video calls a week, but I haven’t proposed doing any. I also often get emails that I find frustrating while my boss is in a meeting with the other powers that be, so I couldn’t hop on a call with her. But I think mostly it’s just frustrating to me because, while our office isn’t open-concept, we are all constantly talking to one another and in each others’ offices. Going from talking all day to 2-3 video chats and 1-2 phone calls a week is very, very different.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I frequently receive confusing emails from people in meetings… well before this all hit the fan. My standard is to shoot an IM saying “about your email…can you call me after your meeting? That would probably be faster for you than if I email questions.”
          Key: faster FOR THEM. I ask my questions quickly, and anytime their answer eliminates followup questions I tell them. When their answer generates a follow-up question, I say I’m really glad you were on the phone with me that saved us another round of emails. It’s helping me get my answers faster.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Also helpful, I say how long the call might take. I keep myself to that time, and if we’re off faster I say something about how efficient it was.

    2. Claire*

      Yeah, writing an email or even an instant message feels so much more formal than saying something, so I’ve been swallowing a bunch of little annoyances lately. I think your strategy of getting it out and deleting it is a good one—if it’s something genuinely important, you can go ahead and send an email, but if it’s small, just venting about it is an okay solution.

  26. Lalaith*

    My company is using chat software to keep connected while we’re all working from home, and my boss has asked that we all install it on our (personal) phones so that we’ll see messages he sends during off-hours and can respond to them. He already has our phone numbers so he can call or text if something urgent comes up, but since “we’re all set up at home” and “don’t have a commute to worry about”, it sounds like he wants us to be able to address things that could probably wait until the next day, but he’d rather not. I don’t like this. I know we’re all at home and technically available, but I still want to maintain business hours and not have work intrude on my free time (unless it’s truly urgent, of course). How can I push back?

    1. JustMyImagination*

      Oh man, sounds like your phone is pretty old and doesn’t have enough available memory to install a new app :)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Just because your phone is new and used to have extra space doesn’t mean you have the space now. Maybe you installed Duolingo, or Google Classroom, or PowerSchool, or Zoom. Or just three different grocery store shopping apps to see if you could get delivery service!

        2. Liane*

          But does Boss know that old phone died, you got a new one & transferred your number? And that, oh, gee, New Phone doesn’t play nicely with App?

    2. juliebulie*

      “Oh sorry, missed your message. Phone was turned off because family time.” (Even if your only family are dust bunnies)

      1. Lalaith*

        Yeah, I do think he’s not going to get the quick responses (from me) that he’s hoping for :) Oh sorry… didn’t have my phone with me! Left it in another room!

        1. Meh*

          I’d keep all notifications off, and only if he complained I was not responding promptly after hours, say, “Sorry, I don’t have the habit of keeping my phone next to me in the evenings; it’s left charging in the kitchen, so I didn’t see your message until this morning!”

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      How can I push back?

      Push back with others. If it’s just you pushing back, it’ll be easy for him to frame it as you being difficult. If you all push back together, it’ll be hard for him to frame it that way.

      1. Lalaith*

        What if it is just me who’s being “difficult”? The one other person in my position is far more willing to say yes to whatever my boss comes up with, or crazy requests our clients make which boss won’t say no to… in other words, yeah, I already feel like I’m the difficult one and trying to establish boundaries that no one else is.

        My current thought is I’ll probably have to go along with it for a bit and if he is taking advantage, use that as a reason to stop.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          If it’s just you, it’s still okay to push back, but it just means you may be harder to make that case.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            It may be harder, not you may be harder, even though what you’re asking for is perfectly reasonable to the outside world.

            1. valentine*

              I’ll probably have to go along with it for a bit and if he is taking advantage, use that as a reason to stop.
              If you can’t say no now, won’t you feel less able to? You’re not going to tell him it’s because he’s taking advantage, right? Which he’s already doing. He is infuriatingly entitled, thinking all your work-related time, like your commute, is now his!

              Is this a software you’re familiar with? Are you sure it’s not spyware and that he can’t remote-wipe your phone? Don’t do it. You might ask for the TOC up-front, not via your phone, though, and look for keywords.

              If there aren’t real emergencies, stop the after-hours communication as well.

        2. Admin of sys*

          Do you have a family? You could try the ‘in our household we have an agreement that phones get put away for family time after 6p except for critical emergency calls’. (note: this concept /should/ work for a single people as well, but it often doesn’t, because the boss has the ability to argue with you if you’re the only member of your household. )
          That said, if office culture is everyone else is fine with it, it’s likely you’ll lose some credit with folks if you’re not involved in after-hours communication. Which is entirely unfair, but will likely still happen.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Also look back in AAM a week or two, I think Aliso had a full letter on the topic.

    4. College Career Counselor*

      You’re phone is too dumb to install chat software? Off-hours means that you don’t have to respond to his messages until you’re “on-hours” again? As Alison would say, try to push back on this as a group. I personally think it’s important to be able to separate work from home life (because I have been sitting in this damn chair in my home office for what seems like forEVER) in order to keep from being burned out. Gently tell the boss that you disengage from work when it’s over for the day so you can be renewed and productive when you pick it back up later.

      One of the things that my boss did was send a video message to faculty and staff telling them explicitly that productivity is different, that our desires to be professional and rise to the challenges AND that we absolutely needed to take time for ourselves, our families, and our own needs. Academic culture (like any other professional culture, I’m sure) can be all-consuming, and the temptation is often to respond to that email that comes in at midnight because you can.

      I have to say that in the last three weeks, unless I’m running a particular meeting/event/activity for work after hours (and there are a couple), I’ve been much better about pulling the plug and not dipping into work email and getting caught up in responding/dealing with something that really doesn’t need my input at 10pm the same day.

    5. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

      That is annoying! I would install it and see how it goes. It may be that your boss has to work outside normal hours to accommodate others in his household and being able to get quick responses from the team will truly help him he get work done. As long as they are small asks, actually relevant, and really can’t wait. If it’s too much then yeah, your phone may be in the next room or the battery died.

      1. WellRed*

        Nah, people have the right to not be on call all the time. The boss can find another way to manage.

    6. Natalie*

      I still want to maintain business hours and not have work intrude on my free time

      I mean, is there some reason you can’t say a version of this? Especially when you’re not used to WFH, it’s really important for a lot of people to draw lines between work & nonwork, otherwise it all blurs together horribly. You could even add something about not wanting your free time to intrude on work time, either.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      Matter of factly: “Oh, I’m not going to be available evenings, in general. If it’s an emergency, you can call of course, but otherwise I’ll pick it up from the computer’s Slack in the morning.”

      Of *course* he doesn’t really want you working evenings, right? Right!

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        This. Or, “Oh, I’m making a very concerted effort to not look at my devices outside of work hours. I really need the time to unwind.”

    8. Anono-me*

      Are you hourly or exempt? If you’re hourly (or anyone on your team is actually), you can point out that this will actually be documented proof that he / company is having people work off-the-clock or over time. And of course you’re worried that ‘ someone else’ would try to get him / company in trouble over it.

    9. Fikly*

      I’d ask if there’s a need (a legit one!) for you to be more in contact right now than before.

      Because where you work from doesn’t change your availability. It’s like the manager who thinks because people are WFH, their productivity should go up. Um, no, that’s not how it works. You weren’t working during your commute, and you weren’t being paid during your commute. You own the commute time, not your employer.

    10. Mx*

      I know I come late for this post, but maybe you will see it.
      I accidentally dropped my smartphone in the toilet. I replaced it with an old fashioned Nokia phone because I find smartphones invasive and time consuming. In my case it’s a true story but if you don’t mind a little white lie….And with non essential shops closed, you can’t get a new phone quickly as you have to order it online and the delivery is long.

    11. OhBehave*

      Please don’t listen to the suggestions to lie! The truth will bite you in the end.

      Search the page for “after hours”. AAM has addressed this quite often. I pasted one reply below. “It’s important to me to have time to recharge outside of work. I will of course put in extra time when something is an emergency, but otherwise I prefer to use my evenings and weekends to recharge so that I’m refreshed when I’m back at work. Assuming I continue to perform at a high level, can we try that and see how it goes? If it causes problems, we could revisit it at that point.”

      It sounds like boss is freaking out about not having you all within sight. Perhaps you address all of his messages first thing in the morning.

  27. Lady Jay*

    Missed it last week, but grad student check in!

    How are you doing? What’s going well, what’s not going well, what do you want to vent about? Drop it here. (I’ll start in the comments.)

    1. Lady Jay*

      I successfully got everybody on my exam committees to sign off on an extra three weeks to finish my supplemental reading lists for Comps in September – hurrah! Covid, along with other logistical challenges, may change either how I approach my dissertation, or what I do my dissertation on, and the extra weeks gives me a chance to change my readings in response to that.

      I’m hanging in there as far as online teaching. I love online teaching generally, but this is something else – I’m losing track of days and accidentally scheduled two things due during my uni’s Easter Break, one *on Easter Sunday* and didn’t realize until, like, two days ago (facepalm). Rescheduled the Easter Sunday one and moving forward.

    2. Almost Academic*

      Going well: Defended my Master’s thesis this week, so that was nice to get out of the way. Not so nice is sitting here procrastinating on final edits, and panicking that my committee members won’t finish signing their forms in time for the upcoming graduation clearance deadline (I have two committee members that are notoriously difficult to track down for signatures, and not being able to get the signatures in person at the defense is really adding onto the stress).

      Vent: I’m in a really negative mindset with my PI. They’re not warm and fuzzy to begin with, and I knew that going in, but with COVID my frustrations are compounding. Since they now have all of the writing time and less meetings and mentoring obligations, they’re now asking for project pieces that they’ve been sitting on for literally 6 months with crazy turn around times. Barely checking in on how we’re doing. Meanwhile, all of my coursework and other caring responsibilities have ramped up as well, so I’m stuck working 14+ hour days 6-7 days a week to meet their expectations. I’m just tired of feeling like an annoyance to them, instead of someone who they genuinely care about, and the social disconnect of never seeing them in lab has heightened that a lot in the past week. I’m trying to make peace with it, and build better boundaries, but it’s rough.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Don’t know if this counts because I’m a non-thesis master’s, but— our class finally moved from theoretical stuff to engineering applications. FINALLY.

    4. T minus two weeks*

      Two weeks left in the semester and still not sure if I’m actually graduating. We took our comps before this all hit, but they haven’t been graded yet. All classes are online- mostly consisting of notes, with some “practice” problems thrown in.
      My switch to teaching online has gone ok. I lost a few students, but they were students that weren’t doing well before the switch.

    5. Tessera Member 042*

      Reposted from the above student question! I am a PhD student gearing up to defend my dissertation, which will now be done through a Zoom video conference. Now I have to figure out how to be productive when living in a constant low-level state of anxiety and an inability to focus on writing for more than an hour at a time. Also navigating the disruption of all my routines (going to the public library to write, informing my husband of conference calls, etc). All this for a very anticlimactic experience — won’t even get to enjoy a drink with my committee after I (hopefully) pass.

      The one saving grace is that I was already teaching online community college classes, so the delivery hasn’t changed for my students. But of course there’s all the accompanying problems of computer access at home, child or elder care, navigating working from home and study, not to mention those who have lost jobs. One of my students also just lost her coworker to the virus, and my heart goes out to her. I’m extending all flexibility possible in deadlines and trying to be more present in discussions and responding to emails promptly, but I just feel like I’m not doing well enough at either teaching or my dissertation. Struggling for balance is real.

  28. Alianora*

    Looking for advice on communication!

    I had my performance review recently, and it went well, but one piece of feedback I received was that when I’m participating in discussions at work, I sometimes say things in a way that makes my coworkers feel like there’s no room to disagree with me. I think it’s a combination of my tone of voice (pretty neutral and kind of flat) and phrasing things in a definitive manner (“I think we should do X.”)

    I definitely want my coworkers to feel like they can disagree with me! My communication style is more Ask than Guess, so I’m perfectly willing to speak up when I have a different perspective than my coworkers, and I guess I assumed they would do the same. When people do disagree with me, I’ll discuss things with them and I may change my mind or say, “yes, that’s a good point,” based on what they say.

    The advice my manager gave me was to imitate one of my other coworker’s communication styles. She tends to meander a lot more in her speech and give a lot of caveats. To be honest, I find it a little bit confusing to listen to my coworker sometimes because I’m not always sure what point she’s trying to make. But she is very good at her job and good at building relationships, so I think I definitely could benefit from being more like her.

    I want to learn from her style, but when I turn it over in my mind it’s hard for me to figure out how to do this without reverting to a lot of habits that I’ve worked to eliminate. I’ve been taught not to uptalk, not to undermine my own point, and to own what I’m saying. Is there any advice for how I can reconcile these seemingly conflicting things?

    Some additional context: I’m the youngest in my office by 10 years. Most of us, including me, are female.

    1. Reba*

      Sounds like you could benefit from incorporating some introductory language or even like catch phrases, sort of, that invite your coworkers into conversation with you. Ask vs. Guess is a good insight.

      Examples: “What do you all think about this? I think we should do X.”

      “I had an idea for X and want to hear what others’ experiences have been.”

    2. CTT*

      I don’t think your manager means that by imitating your coworker’s communication style you should imitate her exact way of speaking – I think the advice is to look at how she approaches things, and it sounds like she’s very big on discussing things in-depth. Since she gives a lot of caveats, could you try bouncing off of those?

    3. Crazy Broke Asian*

      phrasing things in a definitive manner (“I think we should do X.”)

      Can you add a slight disclaimer? Something like, “I think we should do X, but maybe you have other suggestions?”

      I was going to suggest other phrasing, but then I realised that they give the impression of undermining your own point, so I’m not sure.

      1. Alianora*

        Thanks! I think that’s a really useful idea, explicitly asking for other people’s feedback. I’d like to hear your other suggestions even if they might give that impression. In this workplace, maybe undermining my own point isn’t the death knell I was taught in high school :)

        1. Crazy Broke Asian*

          I can relate! As a woman I realise the importance of not undermining my own point/competence/authority. But at the same time, I know very well that I can be an annoying know-it-all at times. It’s a tricky balance to strike.

          I’m still pretty low on the pecking order, so I try to remind myself that it’s possible I don’t have enough context. So I’ll say, “I think we should do X because ABC, but maybe there’s a context I’m missing?” Or, “. . . , but it’s possible I missed some angles/haven’t considered it from such and such.”

          I think it’s good to try changing the framing in your mind. You’re not undermining yourself, you’re giving people the chance to speak up, and that depending on the situation, it’s possible that others have different knowledge that you don’t have.

          I hope that helps!

          1. Alianora*

            Not exactly, but I took a class for IB called Theory of Knowledge that involved a lot of debate techniques. My English teachers also emphasized this, especially for girls.

      2. Quinalla*

        This was going to be my suggestion too, solicit feedback explicitly AND really listen and respond to it positively even if you disagree. Sounds like you are doing that now when people offer opinions, so that’s great.

        Also, you could try something like “I think we should do X because of Y and Z.” Something like that can also be an opening for folks to more easily disagree.

        I can be pretty direct at times too, but I also invite feedback explicitly whenever I can. Also, when something isn’t a directive, I make sure to phrase it that way. If something must go out tomorrow I’ll say:
        “I need X done tomorrow.” if I just want it done then, but it could wait I might say:
        “I’d like to send X out tomorrow, but the client hasn’t give a firm date. Does tomorrow work for you or do you need more time?” very much inviting people to speak up if they are too busy.

        And being confident is good when you are confident (or at least 90%+) but if you aren’t confident, it is ok to share that and soften your message a bit like “Doing X makes sense to me because of Y, but there may be something I’m not considering.”

        Not sure if any of that helps. The other way I soften my delivery, but still remain confident is to use jokes and warmth. Don’t let your only interactions with people be declaring confidently what you think, be warm and interested in them and joke around when appropriate. As a woman, I find I have to make sure I make a point of adding warmth especially in emails or I come off as harsh/cold/whatever where as a man can get away with just making his point with no “Thanks!’ or “Have a great weekend!” or other things I add. And it isn’t that I don’t mean them, I do, but it is one more thing I have to do.

    4. juliebulie*

      I prefer the blunt delivery of a direct communication style, so I don’t like your boss’s advice.

      I know that doesn’t help you, but honestly the criticism seems gendered.

      1. Alianora*

        My boss is actually also a really direct person (MUCH blunter than me, actually). She struggles with the same thing, which I think is why she brought it up.

        It did cross my mind that the criticism is gendered, but at the same time I can see that my coworkers’ not feeling comfortable speaking up is a problem. I was really surprised to hear that because I’m younger than everyone, and I’m pretty quiet in general.

      2. LJay*

        Yeah. Honestly “I think we should do X” is softer than my input, which is usually, “We should do X.” If anyone is afraid to disagree with me that is their problem, not mine.

        “I think” seems like more than enough softening language to me.

        But then I am the absolute wrong person to be answering this question since I know that in other industries my communication patterns have been a problem so…

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      I don’t know if this is something that you do, but it’s generally a good idea that if you have a negative opinion, you should be careful about how you phrase it to avoid coming across as dismissive or overly negative in your general outlook. “X is a terrible idea and won’t work?” Bad. “I am concerned that if we do X, it will increase our workload significantly without increasing our actual productivity?” Good. If it’s specifically negative opinions that seem to be creating this situation where people feel like they can’t disagree with you, you might want to keep that kind of thing in mind. Alison has written some good posts about how to express negative opinions in helpful ways.

      As others have said, I think that being clear and definite about your own opinions and ideas is definitely better than lots of qualifiers and meandering, but that being explicit about inviting other people’s ideas is a nice way of being open and not coming across as shutting down discussion. “I think we should solve this problem by doing X, because of A, B, and C. What do the rest of you think?” Or, “can anyone foresee any issues with that approach?” You can also solicit input from others in making decisions and plans: “Juanita, the boss has tasked me with planning a rollout of this new procedure. I know you’re one of the people whose work will be affected by that. Can you let me know what your concerns and ideas are, so I can take those into account in my plans?” That way, when you come out at a meeting with “My plan is to do it this way,” you can address those concerns and ideas and talk about how you have dealt with them, so people know that you’re listening to them.

      1. Alianora*

        I try not to use judgmental language like that when I’m talking about other people’s ideas, but I’ll definitely be mindful of that in the future. My manager did say that I’m never rude – it’s more that my way of talking can be intimidating.

    6. Crazy Chicken Lady*

      One way that I see to approach this is…

      I agree that may be a good way to approach this problem but what about…

      …but that’s just my opinion/view and I’d love to hear other people’s point of view on this.

      (These are owning what you say while allowing and even asking for input from others)

    7. kw10*

      I think you can do this while still being blunt! The key is:

      1) Give context to explain your thinking. That way someone can disagree with your reasoning or bring up additional considerations, without having to feel like they’re attacking you personally.
      2) Explicitly invite discussion. It seems like you’re thinking “But they know everything is open to discussion! I don’t need to repeat it every time.” I think you need to reframe it as “This is a social convention that may be redundant, but I need to do it anyway to be polite.”

      In practice this might look like:
      “I think X would make sense because Y and Z.” (give context) “How does that sound? or What do you all think? or Does that make sense to you?” (invite discussion)

      This makes it easier for someone to jump in with “Well, Y and Z are true, but have you considered A and B? I’m concerned that…” As opposed to if you just say “I think we should do X,” without the context it’s hard to see where you’re coming from and any disagreement feels more personal.

      Does that make sense? (haha see what I’m doing here?)

      1. lurker :)*

        I am very direct (originally a litigator, now in business setting) and female. So I have had to work on this too! typically use a variation of, “I am thinking of taking this approach, but would appreciate everyone’s input or ideas if you think their might be another way to attack this problem”. It shows you’ve done the work of thinking through the solution, but are open to suggestion. :)

        1. The New Wanderer*

          This is what I do at work too. I’m female in a generally male-dominated industry and at this point in my career (senior level) I have some strong science-backed opinions, especially about my areas of expertise. But, I also know that I need other people’s inputs to make sure that my own information is complete. So what I tend to do is state my position but also state explicitly that I’m open to discussion, disagreement, feedback, suggestions, whatever is appropriate because I want to make sure that we as a team decide on the right position.

    8. Another worker bee*

      I’m going to be honest with you – the way you communicate doesn’t sound that bad to me. I work in a male-dominated field and if I was any less direct than you I would never get a say in anything. (And I’m usually either getting positive feedback on my communication style, which is described as “great at cutting through the BS and getting to the point” OR told to be even more assertive).

      Granted, all workplaces are different, AND people are not great at judging their own behavior, but I’m not convinced that imitating your coworker who meanders around with her speech and adds a lot of caveats to everything she says is the best way to be. I’m of the opinion that saying “I think” or “my best guess” should be enough of a qualifier that any reasonable person who disagrees with you can just disagree…

      This feels like gendered feedback and an office where people might be (and I hesitate to say this, because it also sounds gendered, but screw it) too sensitive. Disagreeing with someone at work is not an attack on them and adults should be able to handle that without being babied. My advice to you would be to do the thinks you are already doing, like prefacing with “I think” and telling people “good point” which is effectively giving positive feedback to someone who is disagreeing with you.

      I’d go back and ask for specific examples of when you have done this, and what negative consequences have come out of the discussion. Were you wrong and people didn’t speak up? etc.

    9. Boomerang Girl*

      Why not just ask them what they think should be done…without offering your own idea? At first you could just listen to others’ ideas. Later in the conversation you can introduce your idea—unless someone else already brought it up.

    10. Restless Rover*

      I’m not sure that I agree with your boss’ advice. I’m also someone who is very straight and to the point and find that pushback towards that communications style is 100% from my female colleagues. I work in a male dominated environment and have a tough enough time being heard because men apparently are only able to comprehend what’s being said when it comes out of another man’s mouth. If I employed a less direct style I would have no chance to be taken seriously. But I do pay a price for that in regards to my female colleagues. Though funny enough, several have approached me privately stating that they admire my directness. Bottomline, stay true to yourself. You can’t please everyone.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      ” I’ve been taught not to uptalk, not to undermine my own point, and to own what I’m saying. Is there any advice for how I can reconcile these seemingly conflicting things?”

      Uptalk, I won’t even go there.

      Don’t undermine my own point: Definitely don’t contradict yourself. And if someone comes at you in a harsh manner, put your foot down about the harshness.
      But try not to act preemptively defensive. Don’t protect something that doesn’t need protecting. Wait and see how others react first before deciding that you need to build a stronghold and hunker down. Even dousing people with piles of facts in a neutral voice can come across as overbearing. Some where along the lines I got a little too used to having my ideas shot down. I found myself launching a good offense (read:Defense) before determining if it was even necessary. Remember, some good ideas stand up on their own and, they do not need our assistance in standing well.

      Own what you are saying. It’s fine to have reasons for saying/believing what we say/think. This is actually a good thing. But there is something in the concept of “owning what we are saying” that seems to infer we need to defend ourselves from others. This sounds a bit more formal that what your group needs/requires. Try to replace “owning it” with explanations, bring others a long with you. Step them through some of your thought process. Encourage them to speak if you have missed a talking point.

      Other suggestions:
      Don’t let the only time you speak be the times you are talking about your ideas. Be sure to be seen showing enthusiasm for other people’s GOOD ideas.
      One tool I have used (only when TRUE) is to say, “Sue’s idea is actually better than mine, I think we should go with what Sue said.” Show a willingness to set aside your idea in favor of an idea that is actually better.
      Think in terms of conversation as opposed to presentation. This will help to dial back formality and also serve as a reminder to interact more.
      Let your humanness show from time to time. Don’t fake things and don’t make things up to appear to be more human, but just share in life experiences. Yeah it is annoying when we lose our house keys. Yeah, the dog always has to go out right when I get on the phone. Etc. Letting these small things slide out of our mouths every so often help people to be more comfortable with us. This is a sleeper it takes time for it to kick in. It does help to round out some gaps we may accidentally create while talking in a meeting.

  29. Crazy Broke Asian*

    The job board I use requires both jobseekers and companies to state their desired/budgeted salary. The problem is that you can’t enter a range, just a fixed number. As a jobseeker, should my number be the lowest end of my range (thus indicating I won’t take any lower), or should it be middle of the range (thus indicating that there’s room for negotiation)?

    I’m afraid if it’s the former, I might lowball myself. But if it’s the latter, I’m afraid of getting bypassed for asking too high.

    I can put zero, but that’ll make it a bit of hassle to filter the ads, and I’m not sure it’s a good idea.

      1. Crazy Broke Asian*

        Can you tell me what’s the reasoning? I’m still on entry level, and the fields I’m looking into are not high paying ones.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          You’re stating what you desire. Since they won’t let you give a range, you have one number to give. Might as well go with the high part of your range. If you think the high part of your range is unreasonably high, adjust your range. But there isn’t any reason to lowball yourself if you have only one number to give.

    1. Admin of sys*

      Do not put the lowest number. I’d stick to middle of the range or closer to the 3/4 mark. If it’s a job you really really like the sound of, maybe go for the lower middle, but you don’t want to be barely what works for you unless you have no other choice.

      1. Crazy Broke Asian*

        Thanks! I forgot to say that the number is used for all applications automatically. So it’s set in the profile section, you don’t manually enter the number each time you apply. Which is tricky because depending on the job it the field, my number can be either too high or too low.

      1. Crazy Broke Asian*

        I use LinkedIn and a couple others, but honestly, there’s a reason why this board is the most popular. I find it very helpful to know the salary offered up front, unlike on LinkedIn, where I have yet to see a company discloses its salary range. The jobs are also more diverse, with plenty of blue collar jobs and entry to mid-level positions. I found my current job here, and so far my experience with the board has been positive, with the exception of that issue above.

  30. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    *long long overly-detailed rant deleted*

    Our HR team sucks like a Dyson. :P

    1. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

      That’s a pretty good brand. Your HR must be extra special. And full of….dust dirt and other things?

    2. allathian*

      That’s funny!
      This is ancient history, but still occasionally makes me giggle. When Swedish home appliance manufacturer Electrolux first started selling their vacuum cleaners in the US, their slogan was “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”…

  31. Dobermom*

    I’ve been working from home since 3/18 due to the pandemic. Yesterday, my supervisor sent my team an invite to join a random Zoom meeting. On the Zoom, we were told that we’d be having 2-3 impromptu Zoom check ins per week. It was done under the guise of “maintaining face-to-face communication.” My department’s VP (2 levels above my boss) has still been going into the office (I think he’s the only one going in…) and he notoriously has trust issues. I have a feeling that these impromptu Zooms are because our VP doesn’t trust that the team is working. I’ve heard from all of the other teams in my department that they all received a similar sort of invitation today. My supervisor told my team that he knows we’re doing our work and that we’re doing a great job, but that they just want to randomly check in – no agenda – to see how we’re doing. He said the meetings could last 5 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever. He even said that we won’t necessarily be talking about work!

    I feel like this is all very demoralizing. I am accepting this because it’s what I have to do, but I was fairly candid with my boss that the optics of this feel very micro-managey. If this is coming down from my VP (or possibly higher), I know that there’s not much I can do to push back on it. But am I way off base in thinking that this is kind of silly?

    1. WellRed*

      So, it’s like a surprise meeting? Yes, they are micromanaging and not trusting their employees. Feel free to remember this when things subside.

      1. Dobermom*

        Yeah, 2-3 surprise meetings per week. I thought this was overkill, but I wanted a gut check on it to be sure.

    2. noahwynn*

      My manager is doing this as well. I just assume she truly wants to check in like we always did at the office a few times per week. It isn’t a total surprise, she will generally send a same-day meeting invite for an hour or two later when we’re both free to chat for 15 minutes or so.

      What they’re asking doesn’t sound abnormal to me, but obviously you have the background knowledge on the VP and your manager that I don’t. I’m totally viewing through the lens of where I work and my own manager.

    3. Oxford Comma*

      What about trying to push back to your supervisor with something along the lines of having a structured day is helping you be more productive and that while you are of course happy to check in daily, the randomness is having an impact with productivity?

    4. MissDisplaced*

      We have these too… but they are scheduled, usually one is at 4:30 and the other at 9am and you can join either.
      If your team can push back, I’d suggest to the manager that these be at more regular set times and placed on the shared calendar.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        LOL. My husband nipped his version of this one. The boss’ habit was to call the first customer of the day to make sure his employee was on site. My hubby’s solution was to call the boss right from the customer’s phone. He usually had a question to ask or some other pretext for calling, but I am sure the boss got the message loud and clear. And my husband’s call prevented the boss from calling others. I am sure the boss wondered what he would do if everyone called at the same time. This nonsense was short lived.

  32. Dr Useless*

    I had a job interview (with about 24h notice, everyone is very disorganised at the moment) a few days ago and I’m fairly sure I don’t want the job – but I’m still finding it hard to get myself to tell them to take me out of the running. The tasks and responsibilities sound good, but it just sounds like a too high workload and too stressful environment for me to be happy in.

    1. juliebulie*

      Don’t tell them. It could take them a while to make up their minds (or they may end up cancelling the req), during which time your own situation and needs and priorities might change radically.

      So if they never make you an offer, you don’t need to worry. If they do, then you can decide based on your needs at that time.

    2. Teacher Lady*

      Consider what their entire process looks like. Is this interview the only contact you’ll have with them before they offer (or don’t offer) the job? Or will there be subsequent interviews/tasks/etc. that might allow you to learn more about the work environment? (Any chance you know anyone on the inside who would be willing to chat with you?)

        1. Dr Useless*

          I think you meant to respond on another thread (we’re using similar names to be fair…)

  33. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

    I’m going to be picking up some extra work doing delivery, either with one of the app based freelance things like instacart, or for UPS or another package delivery place.

    1. Anybody know which apps are the best to be working for?
    2. How much do you actually make with the apps currently? Package delivery companies look like they are paying ~$20/hr in my city currently. And I’d be putting miles on their vehicles. On the other hand, the flexibility of the app ones really appeals if they pay about the same.
    3. Any general advice about delivery in a time of pandemic.

    1. Crazy Chicken Lady*

      No advice but I noticed yesterday that Instacart has some funky tipping system that allows a customer to remove a tip several days after delivery. Apparently some jerks are using a big tip to lure in shoppers and then removing the tip after the fact.

      1. Tufty the Traffic Safety Squirrel*

        UGH, that made me so mad. I’ve been tipping 20% and putting up little signs on my porch door to say thank you to the shopper, because I’m so damn grateful they’re enabling me to avoid going to stores while pregnant. People suck.

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      Before doing Instacart or Door Dash or similar, be sure to check with your auto insurance company. Most will not cover any incidents while you are working, and require a separate rider for such. My auto insurance (which is already high‒thank you, Michigan) would have almost doubled.

      Also, 3 Shipt workers in Meijer stores in my state have tested positive for Covid-19. You come into contact with a lot of people in these positions. (My skin is crawling as I type this.)

      1. SweetestCin*

        Great. Also in Michigan, and have been using Shipt to get groceries to a family member who needs to STHH.

      2. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        Yeah, I need to call my insurance and see what it would cost.

        I’m not too worried about getting sick, since I’m young, have good lungs, and live alone. If I fall ill, I’ll probably just get better. I do take appropriate precautions, of course, but I’m one of the people least at risk and thereby a logical person to risk the grocery stores.

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            Right, but somebody has to go to the grocery store or work in the warehouse packing food. It’s a kindness for those of us at least risk to do so.

            Also, if Elspeth needs the income, she needs the income.

        1. StarHunter*

          I believe Amazon covers insurance for their delivery drivers except in NY (which is of course where I am).

    3. WellRed*

      Guess it also depends wehre you are. I was reading an article where someone went from making $500 or $600 a week doing one of the food apps, to less than half (example: waiting an hour or two and only getting a McDonalds order).

    4. ACDC*

      I honestly would do both options if possible. I have done Door Dash in the past and the amount of money you make is really a crap shoot. Sometimes you get a lot of orders with people who actually tip, other times you sit for an hour with no orders. If you did the package delivery, you would be getting more guaranteed money, then you could supplement with delivery apps on your own time if needed.

    5. noahwynn*

      I only do Instacart. I started a long time ago and rarely worked, but have picked up more right now to save some additional cash just in case. I like it because you don’t have set hours or anything, you just sign in right when you want to work and grab any available batches. Right now they’re paying $20-50 per batch, which includes the tip added by the customer. A batch includes shopping for and delivering all items to one or more customers. Looks like most right now are 20-35 individual items and from 3-10 miles of driving. You can view all avaialble batches in your area, the store you’re picking each one up from, the number of items in the order, and the drop off location on a map but not the actual dropoff address before you accept.

      Customers have, in general, been tipping better recently. I’ve had a few that have changed the tip after the face. Now I just don’t bother picking up batches with larger tips on the front end. If you think a shopper did a good job, you can always change the tip later to increase the amount.

      Most want contactless delivery, so you leave items on their doorstep and text or call them to let them know it is there. Also, keep in mind that things are taking longer than normal because so many stores are limiting the number of people that can be inside at once and forcing one-way traffic inside the store. This makes it more difficult when you don’t know where the item you’re looking for is located and are forced to backtrack.

    6. MechanicalPencil*

      Honestly, I hate Amazon, but I’ve picked up a job at one of their centers for a bit just for the extra cash. Like everyone else, I’m worried about being laid off/furloughed, so anything helps. I looked there and at some local grocery stores as a stock (I need overnight hours to not conflict with my other job), and unfortunately Amazon was…easier.

  34. Competent Commenter*

    I am so discouraged today. I worked solo in my current job for four years with a three-person workload, and was thrilled when we hired a second person and they turned out to be great. We had two years of getting through the backlog and while not able to completely cover everything, made some real progress and reduced the daily stress to manageable. Two weeks ago they told me they’d gotten another, much better job at our organization. Today is their last day.

    I am so happy for them—it’s a great career move and has much better job security, which is obviously so important right now. But the prospect of going back to working solo is so depressing. Some of the work I’ll be taking back is work I can do well, it’s just that it adds an impossibly increased workload. But there are other job responsibilities that I assigned to my employee because they weren’t areas of strength for me, and now I’m responsible for them again, and a lot of that work is very public. I am dreading it. It’s unclear if the position will be filled. I’m advocating very assertively on a number of fronts, including reducing services I provide, but that takes its own energy and it’s so sad to shut down things after finally being able to provide them.

    I am so grateful to have been reading AAM for several years now, because it’s really helped me keep my behavior with my employee respectful, professional, supportive, etc., even while inside my emotions want me to lash out at them or be cold or otherwise childish for “abandoning me,” especially as there’s a big public project in only a few days that I’ll be on my own for. I’m sure I would have managed this even before absorbing all of Alison’s advice, but I feel like the guardrails are so solid and with everything else going on right now, I sure need them. I’m in tears every day. We’re in a pandemic. Today is the anniversary of my spouse announcing they don’t know if they still want to be married, and now we’re around each other 24/7. Our two children both have some issues that add stress even in normal times. I’m already exhausted every day at 5 pm—I thought the pandemic would actually reduce my workload but instead it’s ramped it up. But I have done a great job at treating my employee well, as they absolutely deserve.

    1. LD Sr. Mgr*

      Sending you warm and positive thoughts to take care of yourself one day at a time. (hugs)

    2. blaise zamboni*

      My heart goes out to you for the professional and personal challenges you’re facing. That sounds so difficult even without the added stress of ~the world~ right now.

      I hope you’re able to find some pride in your work and professionalism (bravo, seriously), and in your efforts to set boundaries. And I hope you find some gentleness from yourself, your children, and maybe from your spouse if that’s something you still want. Lean on your other support networks now if you can. Best wishes to you that life is lighter and easier from this point forward!

  35. Green Goose*

    We just announced salary cuts yesterday and I was not notified ahead of time. I’m a first-time manager and I have one employee. He seemed pretty shaken on the video when the announcement was made. Likely a lot of people were, I had a spidey sense it was coming but had not officially been told. He is FTE but on a contract and we were both working hard to get him a FTE perm position but this makes me think it’s not possible. I tried to get some answers about his role from the higher-ups directly after the meeting but they were flustered and could not answer me just said they’d get back to me.

    I want to check in on him but I know I won’t have a lot of answers to his questions, should I hold off until I know more or reach out and ask how he’s doing even though he’ll likely want reassurances that I can’t currently give him? He is entry-level so his salary was already low and I hate that the company is reducing salaries of people in his salary-range. This is new territory for me and I want to do the right thing.

    1. Penguin*

      Reach out to him and let him know that you’re more than willing to take his questions and get answers for him (it sounds like you are) and that you’ve already asked for more information regarding his role. You can be up-front about not having answers yet, but the simple fact of reaching out (especially when you can honestly say you’re trying to get the information he likely wants/needs) will probably help him some.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Agreed. He needs answers, but he also needs to know that you’ve got his back, or at least as much of it as you possible can.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      I think people appreciate transparency, even if you don’t have definitive information for your employee. You could say that you have tried to get answers about his status from your supervisors, but they haven’t gotten back to you. You can acknowledge that this is difficult for him and that you’re going to do your best to get him information as soon as possible.

      TL;DR: you don’t have to have all the answers to practice transparency.

      1. Lyudie*

        All of this. I’ve really appreciated it when my managers have talked about things like this and said “I don’t know all the answers, but I’ll give you as much info and support as I can”.

        1. Green Goose*

          Yeah me too, when I was the employee and getting tough information. I will do this today and see where his head is/what he wants to know and let him know I’ll support him.

  36. OperaArt*

    Not serious, but I’m fantasizing about finding my COBOL programming textbook from 1982 and setting myself up as an extremely expensive consultant for some of those states that find they have a sudden, powerful need for COBOL expertise. Most COBOL experts have long since retired.
    COBOL – the wordiest programming language in the history of programming languages.

    1. Crazy Chicken Lady*

      Why the need for COBOL? I only saw a passing mention of it on another website but didn’t pay any attention to the details.

      1. OperaArt*

        A small number of US states are still using 40-year-old systems to process unemployment claims. These systems, usually written in COBOL and running on ancient mainframes, were never intended to handle the vast number of unemployment claims now being filed. These states need help keeping the systems running while they try to get themselves over that 40-year technology gap.

      2. Brownie*

        A lot of state unemployment software was written in COBOL back many many years ago and quite a few states have never had the IT budget to rewrite all the software into something newer, only to migrate it onto newer servers. Add in the fact that it was never written to handle this load of people/processing and it’s all failing under load right now. New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Connecticut are the ones off the top of my head that I’ve seen in the news in the last few days begging for COBOL programmers.

      3. Box of Kittens*

        I believe a lot of states’ online unemployment programs were written in COBOL. My husband is a programmer (not COBOL though) and was telling me about this yesterday. Crazy.

      4. GoryDetails*

        There’s a recent article on CNN about this – several states still use COBOL software on really old mainframes, and it seems they do need some programming expertise to support them. (I remember going through this way back at Y2K time; that was 20 years ago and people were panicking about elderly COBOL systems even then, so I’m rather surprised that so many of them STILL have not been replaced!)

        1. tangerineRose*

          COBOL had no problem with Y2K, and it uses binary coded decimal, which seems to avoid the irritating issues where floating point mathematics will sometimes leave you with an invalid non-zero digit that’s way to the right of the decimal.

      5. Nicki Name*

        A lot of the lowest layers of the banking system are written in COBOL too. It’s such a high-stakes deal to change it, companies just keep choosing to put new wrappers around it rather than rewrite it in a more modern language.

        1. Clisby*

          Yeah, COBOL isn’t just for unemployment systems. When my daughter and I went to a college orientation session about 6 years ago, we were sitting at the same table as the head of computer science department (her major). He was astonished to find out that I did a lot of my work in IBM assembly language programming on a mainframe … and then it turned that the college still taught COBOL, because so many banks in the state still used it. Go figure.

          1. I'm A Little Teapot*

            Not just banks. Many of the old mainframes were on COBOL, and there’s more of them still in use than you think. Governments, insurance companies, banks, etc. Every company I’ve worked at had stuff on COBOL, and as old as it is, that stuff is generally pretty stable.

      6. CAA*

        Apparently many states never modernized their unemployment insurance systems (because if you’re a legislator, it’s hard to spend money fixing something that still works, even if it’s held together with bandaids) and they don’t have any way to scale them up to handle the new influx of applicants.

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

        I was almost sure SABRE was written in COBOL, but I checked and (praise the Engineers) it isn’t. Every now and then I get an email from a recruiter who believes throwing money at my face is enough to tempt me, but at this point such a jump will be career suicide.

      8. closely, closely to the floor*

        I’m sure there’s a lot of legacy COBOL still in use. But from what I’ve seen, if you really want to be ‘popular’, learn SQL really, really, really good. As long as there are computers, database programmers will never go hungry.

      9. Chaordic One*

        I think the computer system used by the I.R.S. uses COBOL. Their computers are supposedly really old but, I would imagine, probably a bit more difficult to hack since so comparatively few people know COBOL now-a-days.

    2. Enough*

      My husband mentioned this to me last night. We don’t know Cobol but are of the generation that would have used it.

    3. Atlantian*

      My disabled husband was looking into that yesterday because, before the disability, his degree was in Programming in the late 90s, so COBOL was one of his things, only to find out that, at least in one state, it’s a volunteer gig.

      1. LQ*

        THAT is totally BS. States just got a bunch of money from the feds to help with this problem. It’s not enough to get through forever, but it’s absolutely enough to hire some COBOL programmers to help. And the feds explicitly said you don’t have to do all the normal hiring song and dance, just get the help you need.

      2. OperaArt*

        I’ve heard of some specialty COBOL consulting firms starting up. Maybe he could connect with one of those.

      3. AndersonDarling*

        Ick. That’s like asking for a volunteer heart surgeon. Some things you should pay for.
        And wouldn’t some crafty people volunteer just so that they could get first hand knowledge of the system and then hack it later?

    4. RadManCF*

      One of the best programming languages in my opinion. It’s so high level that the code is pretty much self explanatory, without comments. It’s a shame it’s fallen by the wayside.

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

        The learning curve is too high for today’s standards. Also, most of the skills are the exact opposites of OOP and Agile.

        1. RadManCF*

          Really? It seems pretty intuitive, easier than BASIC even. But then again, I’ve never actually written anything in COBOL. It certainly looks more pleasant to use than any other language I’ve used, at least until you start doing any math beyond accounting. Also, didn’t the most recent specification for COBOL include support for OOP?

      2. tangerineRose*

        I like how it deals with numbers (although it should be expanded to be able to handle bigger numbers), but I wish it had local parameters and the ability to pass parameters. Also, I think the string and unstring commands have issues with large strings.

    5. StarHunter*

      Totally wordy. I could program the same the same thing in Basic in about 10 lines of code that took 10 pages in COBOL. For some reason though I did great at COBOL. It was right before Y2K. Probably could have made a fortune. And in a later data warehousing class found out NYS basically built all their new computer systems around the old COBOL language.

  37. Seifer*

    So it finally happened. I got laid off yesterday, but the HR lady called it not only a lay-off, but an elimination of position, and a furlough. Like she didn’t know. They say they’ll prioritize rehiring, but how concerned should I be that a) the termination paperwork does not mention covid-19, and b) there is a clause in the severance that I waive rights to be reinstated?

    1. Blue Eagle*

      If you waive rights to be reinstated, then you probably will not be reinstated. The severance probably means that you are hereby severed from the company and don’t expect to come back.

    2. Colette*

      Assume you won’t be returning and proceed with that in mind.

      It sounds like they’re pretty disorganized, but you don’t have a job there at the moment, so you should be looking elsewhere.

    3. ThatGirl*

      When I got laid off in 2017, it included a no rehiring clause. That’s a lay-off. It’s not a furlough. I’d push back with the HR rep and clarify. They may be using paperwork that never got updated without thinking about it. Or she may have been very confused.

      1. Seifer*

        I pushed back with her and she said that absolutely I am eligible for rehire but obviously they would have to have a need for my skillset.

        Obviously.

        Because I was the only person doing what I do. I’ve been keeping touch with my boss and she is freaking out over everything that I got done.

        1. PollyQ*

          “Eligible for rehire” just means they’d be willing to consider you for some potential job somewhere down the road if you applied for it. It doesn’t mean that they’re planning to bring you back.

      1. Seifer*

        That’s what I’m sayinggggg. We, the peons, never liked her much to begin with, but now I’m just like. Are you serious, lady. This is not the time for this.

    4. RC Rascal*

      Have an empl0yment attorney review paperwork prior to signing. They can help interpret it for you; also you may be able to negotiate some of the language.

  38. littlelizard*

    I have been stressing a lot lately, and my work is definitely slipping. I feel paralyzed by stress and depression a lot of the time. My manager has noticed not enough completed work in my department (it’s a very small department) and emailed us for more updates. How do I get it together and get things done…

    1. Generic Name*

      I think it’s okay to speak up to your manager and say you are struggling. Maybe ask for more time to get things completed, or ask for a list of priorities so you know what HAS to get done and what can wait. Hang in there; this is hard on everyone, regardless of their situation.

    2. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Everybody is struggling. I would speak up with your manager (as a group if possible) and ask for help – clear priorities, or to shelve less-important projects completely, or even just understanding that you are all doing the very best you can under very poor circumstances.

  39. Grateful healthcare worker*

    Essential worker in healthcare. Just wanted to express thanks to everyone who is going out of their way to do nice things for healthcare workers. I heard a radio story yesterday about a woman who is walking her neighbor’s dog and leaving the neighbor cooked meals (neighbor is a nurse working 14 hour days).
    My work place (cancer clinic) has had lunch sent in from local restaurants by local group several times and it’s been so nice to wake up and think “I don’t have to worry about lunch for today.” And I know it helps the restaurant to be getting that order too.
    This has really made all of us feel super appreciated right now.

    1. SophieChotek*

      What can people do? I don’t actually know any healthcare workers (and all my immediate neighbors are retired/furloughed/laid off non-essential) and don’t have a budget to say, order food in for staff at nearby clinic/hospital.

      Beyond Staying at Home/Sheltering, is there anything I can do to show appreciation in a tangible way?

      1. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

        Just want to reinforce that staying home is tangible, even if it doesn’t feel like it. It’s kinda like when you are driving and you hear a siren so you pull over. Clearing the way is helping!

      2. Grateful Healthcare worker*

        Yes, staying home is the most important thing.
        Also get educated! Read up on the proper way to wear a mask when you do have to go out, the proper way to wear gloves, how to sanitize things, the proper way to wipe down items etc. I can’t tell you how many people I see doing these things incorrectly and it’s frustrating. An example, did you know that for a lot of sanitizer wipes there is a contact time (amount of time the surface must stay wet) for the sanitizer to work? One swipe with the wipe does some good but not as much as you think (also they are intended for use on non porous surfaces ie shopping cart handles not the paper board boxes that your waffles come in).

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      THIS is what we need to be doing for healthcare workers. Not organizing a big public clapping session!

  40. MissBookworm*

    I might very well go insane by the time this pandemic is over.

    Anyone dealing with worse-than-usual meetings? How are you dealing with them or working out the issues? I need ideas!

    What’s going on with me:
    Our clients have no concept of asking for availability before scheduling calls. I have had four meetings this week alone where I was just sent an invite without them even asking if I could attend at that time. Two of them I was able to parry back at them and say I wasn’t available (thanks to other meetings!), but the other two I couldn’t without it making a mess (difficult, demanding client).

    The calls are also just on a completely different level—so much arguing, people talking over each other, and no one knows where the “mute your phone” button is for when they aren’t talking.

    And they just all automatically assume that we all have working audio on our computers and can use Skype or Zoom easily without having to call in. My company doesn’t allow us to use that feature (I have no idea why!). We have to use a conference call line.

    I feel like I’m also on a lot of pointless, why am I even involved, type of meetings where all I say is “hello”. Many of my meetings this week have been of that type. I have no idea whether I can push back prior to the meeting to determine if I really need to be there or whether I should suck it up and sit through it. And if I could push back, what should I even say?

    1. Mazzy*

      Interesting. The “problem” I’m dealing with is kind of the opposite. I feel like my coworkers are all getting very chill and are starting the view the economy and customers and our company as something other, something out there, something you don’t get yourself too worked up or stressed over. I feel like that when we were in the office, people had more a sense of urgency and saw everyday that what we did was a real thing. Now, it’s just emails and a few pretty computer programs and some spreadsheets and word documents I understand why people are starting to zone out.

      1. MissBookworm*

        I think a lot of it is mental. Like when you’re in the office you have to work because it’s the office setting, but home is home. Unless you’re someone who normally works from home or has done so before it’s difficult to get used to. It’s absolutely difficult for me—I don’t have a dedicated office space and can’t use my kitchen table (because of others also at home with me it’s not an option) so I’m setup with my laptop in my bedroom.

        I end every day by making a To Do List for the next day. Normally—in the office—I’m able to get 90% of it done, but now I’m only hitting 75%. I’m not taking more breaks than usual, and I’m spending less time talking to coworkers so why can’t I hit or exceed the same numbers? One answer is that at work I have dual monitors, at home I only have my 13in macbook; calculations are taking me much longer to accomplish because I have to flip back and forth between multiple reports and software. And all those meetings.

        1. Mazzy*

          Oh I get that. I remember a while back I complained about my wrist hurting and someone mentioned a second screen, and I thought that was only something scientists or engineers use more for style than substance. Then I got one, and boy, it decreased the amount of clicking I needed to do and helped my developing carpal tunnel subside

    2. SweetestCin*

      I have a client who has a similar trait – no concept of asking availability, and they often don’t bother to provide more than 5 minutes notice now that we’re all WFH (and they were the first to complain about our entire campus being WFH but that got shut down quickly by the owner of our company).

      I was annoyed at first. And I’ve since realized that this behavior on their part is just further amplified because we are WFH. They did this when we were all working from office, its just it was very easy to push back with “HEY! You need to give me more than 5 minutes notice for a meeting in your office that IS THIRTY MINUTES away by car!”. Now its less easy to push back, and at first, nobody was. Granted, three weeks later, there are a LOT of meetings that have been moved multiple times, which tells me that someone in the chain is saying “Nope.”

      If I had a dollar for every call in staff meeting I had to attend in a previous job, where all I said was “hello”…

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Not using Zoom is because the software package has many security vulnerabilities on many levels. For all platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, even Linux. My husband’s an IT security guy who was taking flak because he won’t let it be used on our devices…yesterday he popped up to say the US Senate agrees with him. ArsTechnica link to follow.

        1. MissBookworm*

          I get that! Though, I was told it was just the free version that was having issues. The clients who use it own a license or whatever. Not a technical person, so not sure how all that works.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            As far as I know, even the enhanced-privacy versions for health & legal companies are only as secure as the other/client end of the call.

    4. Mad Harry Crewe*

      I think you can still very much push back on short-notice meetings. “I’m sorry, I’m in the middle of something and can’t join. I have availability today at X, or tomorrow I can do Y or Z. Let me know which of those times is best for you.” The ‘decline’ button is there for a reason.

      Can you start asking for an agenda? That would help you determine if the meeting is just going to be a bunch of shouting, or if your contribution is actually needed.

      And for any meeting that you’re running or high-level involved with, it’s super reasonable to open with “Could everyone please make sure to keep your sound muted when you’re not talking? It really helps reduce background noise. If you aren’t sure how, there’s a little microphone icon on your screen, lower left. Thanks!”

      1. allathian*

        I don’t know about Zoom or Teams, but at least on Skype for business there’s an option in settings where you can mute everyone, just don’t mute the chair.

  41. Junior Dev*

    I think I’ve been extra cranky and prone to conflict at work since we got the work from home order. Part of it is that it’s easy for stuff to escalate and for me to not read social cues over text or video. Nothing huge yet but it’s been a pattern I think and I don’t like it. I usually care a lot about being empathetic and kind, but between worrying about (and sometimes directly helping) friends who are more directly impacted by the pandemic, and my own mental health being really challenged by this, and the extra difficulty of reading emotions and tone over video, it’s just not happening anymore. (I’m also more likely to have conflict when I haven’t slept or am especially burned out on something.)

    I don’t know if anyone has advice on this. (No lectures please, I get that this is not a good thing to be doing.) I’m especially interested in hearing from people who have gone through something similar. How do you stay polite enough for work when you feel overwhelmed emotionally? How do you advocate for yourself and your needs at work without being a jerk when you’re all tapped out? I imagine people going through something similar in the past due to grief or pain; I know when my chronic pain has been bad it kind of turns me into a jerk. And I don’t need to be a saint but I do need to not actively offend people during the work day. What are strategies that help?

    1. Remote worker for ages*

      I’ve been a remote worker for 6 years. One of my biggest, initial problems when I started was that its hard to know when I was upset at something legitimate. Am I reading their text as annoyed because I simply cant see them? Am I misinterpreting how much this effected them because all I got was a zoom meeting, and they werent later joking with us in the kitchen to diffuse things?

      When I feel myself getting upset at work, I go through this process:

      – Stand up
      – Drink Water
      – Have a light snack
      – Follow along with a breathing exercise

      Sometimes just doing this will take a situation down a couple pegs, and help me separate my emotions and physical discomforts from work. If work is just legitimately stressful, or life is really in the way of me clearing my head, I’ll escalate through these steps:

      – Take a 10-15min break outside, either walking or on the apt balcony these days.
      – Take a shower. I read hot showers can release the same endorphins as hugs. I donno if its true, but I do process my emotions in a shower and come out a little better.
      – Strike up a casual conversation with a coworker. This is a little particular, but some of my coworkers are actually friends, and so just taking a break to shoot the shit and talk about a video game helps reset.

      More extreme situations, I’ll:
      – Email my therapist and let her know I’m having trouble, so we can talk about it in a session.
      – Plan out PTO. Maybe I cant take it right away, but give myself a long weekend to look forward to soon can make me steel up in the moment for whatever happening.

      I’m lucky to have those options available and I try not to use my PTO purely for stress management, but if the alternative is being an unstable, hard to talk to coworker, I think of it as my responsibility to manage. Sometimes I just need a long weekend to play games and sleep in, and if one isn’t on the horizon, its better to take it than expect my coworkers to deal with it.