open thread – May 22-23, 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.

{ 1,130 comments… read them below }

  1. Beancat*

    I’m currently furloughed, though I was job searching before this. Last night I happened to wander over a job that sounded great for me and had a deadline of today, so I remembered all the great advice about cover letters from AAM and cast my hat in the ring. I’m putting it out of my mind now that I’ve applied, but wish me luck! :)

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Good luck!
      And maybe your employer will soon be in a position to bring you back. That’s what a furlough is supposed to mean, right?

      1. Beancat*

        Thank you!

        On paper they’d like to bring me back, but I was searching already because there’s a lot of things about the job that make me unhappy. Even if I go back, I’ll be continuing my search.

  2. Betrayed Librarian*

    How do you coordinate a collective action when you don’t have a union?

    Some background:

    I’m a librarian in a red state where the stay-at-home order was lifted a week ago. A few days ago, less than a week into the state’s reopening, our library director sent out the date when we’ll be allowing customers into the buildings again. That date is way too soon for a lot of staff to feel comfortable with, and the announcement came with no information about any protective measures that will be put in place to protect staff.

    One branch has asked for plexiglass shields and was told no. Another branch asked if customers will be required to wear masks and was told no. Other people have asked if we’ll be able to increase our purchases of sanitizing materials and there’s been no answer. We feel like we’re being sent out on the front lines to risk our lives and our administration isn’t doing anything to protect us.

    I’m scared. And angry, and betrayed. And I’m ready to go full Newsies on this situation, but I don’t know how.

    Where should I start?

    1. Penny Parker*

      This might help; it is from an NPR report.
      “Erik Eisenmann is a partner at the Milwaukee law firm Husch Blackwell where he heads the firm’s labor and employment practice. He said there are a couple of circumstances where an employee does have the right to not go back to work. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires a safe work place.

      “The employee would have to have a good-faith belief that an imminent danger exists, and a reasonable person, in that employee’s shoes, would also have to believe that there is a reasonable danger,” Eisenmann said.,

      In the context of COVID-19, that could mean the workplace does not have proper social distancing in place or personal protective equipment, Eisenmann said.”

      https://www.wpr.org/what-if-youre-not-ready-go-back-work-during-coronavirus-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR2S8ucjOXBb37yS8GlM1MgzZXuZxWNr9qBrEUoKKr0V4rq_PduY6CBMD-w

    2. Penny Parker*

      I sent a link but it is held up in moderation Check the NPR under headline of What If You’re Not Ready To Go Back To Work During The Coronavirus Pandemic? and you will find information from an attorney about this:
      “Erik Eisenmann is a partner at the Milwaukee law firm Husch Blackwell where he heads the firm’s labor and employment practice. He said there are a couple of circumstances where an employee does have the right to not go back to work. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires a safe work place.

      “The employee would have to have a good-faith belief that an imminent danger exists, and a reasonable person, in that employee’s shoes, would also have to believe that there is a reasonable danger,” Eisenmann said.,

      In the context of COVID-19, that could mean the workplace does not have proper social distancing in place or personal protective equipment, Eisenmann said.”

    3. PlatypusOo*

      You might want to contact your local American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), or Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Also, I’d be curious what the ALA might have to say about your situation.

    4. Academic Librarian*

      I can’t speak to collective organizing unfortunately but have you looked at the ALA PLA Planning for Reopening resources? They might give you something concrete to point to and say “see, this is what the field says we should be doing.” they might also include more state-specific resources for you to contact and ask more.

    5. DefinitelyWorking*

      Perhaps start email chains with the others you know are on your side, preferable not on your work email. Reach out to library union leaders on twitter or other social media for help and suggestions. This is totally not okay, and a really great time to start acting. Libraries and museums (my area) can set a great example for others.

      What you do today will be tomorrow’s news! In solidarity!!

      1. merp*

        I was in a very similar situation and this is where we started – a facebook thread of coworkers who were also scared and angry, and eventually we made a google doc and had a non-work-associated zoom call to write to our administration with a) our concerns, b) our suggestions of what we recommend instead, and c) how our suggestions mapped to the governor’s orders. I don’t have a happy ending to share – our admin didn’t give much ground, but I hope for a better ending for you. And regardless, it did help with the emotional and mental health side of things to know that my coworkers had my back.

    6. Princess of Pure Reason*

      I’m afraid I have no advice, just a solidarity virtual fistbump of frustration and a huge thank you for that Newsies reference. I will be singing King of New York for the rest of the day (though I suspect you’ll want The World Will Know for your anthem).

    7. Mockingjay*

      I responded a couple of months ago to a similar question in the open thread (I’ll try to find the link). To recap my suggestion: Create your own plan and present it to management.

      – Masking tape on the floor to mark 6 ft distance for checkout.
      – Suggest limiting number of patrons as a percentage of building occupancy. Orders issued by governor or locality may have percentages to follow.
      – Disinfection schedule: common areas, bathrooms, overall building – what is doable for you and staff. Public areas need to be cleaned several times a day. Staff areas – if everyone is cautious, at end of day. What about custodial staff? Will they do a deep clean or provide standard service?
      – Sanitation materials: don’t ask to buy, tell them what you need. “We will need a case of wipes, 10 bottles disinfecting spray, and disposable daily masks for x staff each week. We plan to have two bottles of hand sanitizer on the checkout counter and one on the reference desk for patron use.”
      – And so on.

      It sucks, but this is a case where you and your coworkers have to step up to protect yourselves. Good luck.

      1. Artemesia*

        And if you go to work, wear both a face shield and a mask — if you have to buy them yourself, buy them and wear them. Shame on states who force ‘open business’ without requiring customers to wear masks. Cowards.

        And keep requesting plastic shielding at the check out desk and PPE for staff.

      2. Mama Bear*

        Another library somewhere in Georgia is doing distance pick ups. The patron puts a hold on various materials and when the items are gathered, they can select a pick up time. They need to wait in their car until they are called. The librarian, in PPE, puts the bag of items on a table by the door. The patron is not to retrieve the bag until the librarian is back inside. All returned materials are held in the drop box for 3 days.

        I do agree that rather than ask, either find someone who can make a decision for your library or start doing things you know are prudent, like the tape, increased requests, etc. Tell them what you need vs asking. If there’s no regulation NOT to wear a mask, get every employee at least a cloth mask.

        1. Clisby*

          This is what my county library is doing, starting June 8 (I think). No customers can go into the library; everything has to be put on hold; and pickup at curbside. (I don’t know about holding drop box items but it makes sense.) This seems like a much more sensible initial reopening strategy.

        2. SD*

          Unfortunately, you wearing a mask protects the patron from you, but not you from them. It’s so sad that the issue of masks got totally politicized because, honestly, it’s your only real defense. Both parties need to wear them. The latest from the CDC says that the likelihood of catching the virus from touching something is fairly small (you should still wipe surfaces though) while the main transmission is people breathing, talking/yelling/singing, and coughing. Hand washing is a given.

          One thing that may help is making masks for yourself with non-woven interfacing between the cloth layers. Non-woven material is what they make the N95 masks out of. Make sure it has a nose wire and fits snugly on your face. Make several and change them out during the day. Wash them in the machine or by hand. Soap and water is a wonder. I would smack your bosses for you if I could.

    8. Dream Jobbed*

      You do have some Federal legal rights – staying home with children out of school/no day care, not having to come in if you are a high risk group, so some may be protected under that.

      Not having plexiglass is short sighted, but I’m guessing it all comes down to “we don’t have any money.” Not requiring masks is horrible, but they don’t want the screaming from the entitled masses who feel like a mask is akin to slavery. (Which should be okay, because these groups also often argue that slavery’s not that bad. WTF?)

      By admin do you mean your board? If not, has a group of employees approached them to make a reasonable case for some safety measures? Also, is any of the admin making these decisions working the front lines? If not, go newsies and let their hypocrisy shine through. Have you offered to do curbside delivery/pickup of materials? It’s a compromise that reasonable people would take.

      But start by having all the high risk people under the CDC guidelines, or those with children that fit under the Fed guidelines, just say no. That might be enough to get them to reconsider. Then approach powerful groups/people (is the mayor red?), as well as pool some money to get legal advice on what you can do if you DO get sick because they are doing nothing to protect you. Learn the full extent of the law if you are sick, or considered exposed.

      I am so sorry you are going through this. Please keep us updated. Your administration are jerks.

      1. Fikly*

        If it’s a red state, presumably the libary is funded by the red state, so I’m guessing it’s less “we don’t have any money” and a lot more “we don’t want to pay for it.”

      2. Betrayed Librarian*

        By “administration” I’m referring to the library director, deputy director, and the person who serves as the direct supervisor of our branch managers. Our board is public ally elected, and given our location, most are On the conservative end.

        We’re offering curbside pickup, expanded ebook offerings, online programming and telephone and video chat reference services. Literally the only service we’re not offering is letting customers inside.

        1. Loves Libraries*

          That should be enough service. The danger comes from being with other people, especially for prolonged periods. So glad our library has resumed curbside service.

        1. kittymommy*

          Hmm, okay. so I work for local government in a red state. The whole area I am in is red. We have lots of departments , including libraries. Some of the purchasing push back may be regulations that does not allow them to purchase materials like these except for specific departments. If your officials (elected or otherwise/governing bodies) have not modified or rescinded some of these regulations, your finance department may not be allowed to pay these invoices. You should (hopefully) be able to check into this via meetings or any public documents on the government website.

          I’ll be honest, if your area/state is anything like mine, you are probably not going to get the plexiglass or mask requirements. Right or wrong, it probably won’t happen. However maintaining the state level of social distancing (marks on the ground, signs with the reminders) might work. After that you may not realistically have a lot of recourse. Long term, someone reaching out to any local unions that handle more white collar (as opposed to just blue collar) could be something to look into to help with more leverage in the future. Unfortunately in a red, at -will state, unions are at a disadvantage with government.

          1. HiringMgr2*

            Plexiglass shields should be a thing that go up in a lot of places, and wouldn’t be a bad a idea if they were permanent. Think about it – CDC just announced the virus is not likely to transmit from person to person through contaminated surfaces – its most contagious through droplets. Plexiglass shields will protect staff from all patrons at the counter.

            Our grocery stores have these, and I kind of just think they’re a great idea all the time. For flu, colds, and COVID, it just makes sense.

    9. MuseumChick*

      I have no helpful advice but wanted to say I am so sorry you are going through this! I work in a museum and a red state and our ED and Assistant ED are being *amazing* like buying masks and hand sanitizer for the whole staff, actively seeking feedback on what will make us feel safe, etc. I hope that everything works out for you!

    10. SaffyTaffy*

      God bless you, fellow Librarian. I agree with the advice to talk to the ALA, look at their Planning for Reopening advice. Push back as a group, like Alison says. Look into unionizing options, because even if you never call it a union, just reading about the structure and the possibilities will be inspiring.

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Have you spoken to your fellow staff? To unionize will take a group effort. People have given great places and ideas on organizations to reach out to.

      But it’s crucial you get coworkers on board. One person can’t do much and in a red state with what smells like a union busting management from here, they can’t fire you for the unionization efforts but they still do it all the time.

      I’d get a lawyer to help to protect you if it’s feasible.

      Is your state a right to work state? That’ll be difficult if other staff is like minded as the managers and have bad feelings towards unions.

      1. Betrayed Librarian*

        I’m working on that part now. I’ve got a text chain with staff in some of our other branches and we’re all talking to people in our workgroups.

    12. kz*

      I don’t have a ton of specific advice or experience, but you might consider collaborating with other stakeholders who (unfortunately) your management might take seriously. When the pandemic started, the university I work at announced that the libraries would be staying open, and of course the library staff had some major concerns. The grad students and faculty at the university are not currently unionized, but have ongoing campaigns to do so, and they helped to put some pressure on the administration to close the libraries. I don’t know if there’s an equivalent group if you work for a public library, but getting people other than the staff to put pressure on might help.

    13. pancakes*

      Contact your closest DSA chapter — they’ll be more than happy to connect you with resources about organizing.

    14. What’s with Today, today?*

      I’m not sure there is much you can do. I’m in a designated FEMA hot spot in a red state. Everything is opening back up. My husband had to go back to work (I’m essential and was in the office the whole time), and our little one had to go back to day care on Monday. Our elected officials pretty much said the world is opening up, if you are scared go hide in your room. I don’t agree with it at all, but can’t change it.

    15. Darianas*

      I’m a member of a union (separate from work), so I can give you some (very abbreviated) tips. Generally speaking, though, you can reach out to a union branch like the IWW in your area and they can give you some ideas and support.

      If you want to push back as a group: 1) figure out who’d be supportive and get their contact information. You want to make sure you can communicate outside of work emails or Slack, or whatever you use; 2) meet up and make a plan for what you want (I’d suggest something easier to get initially), when you want it by, what you’ll do if that doesn’t happen, and who will be talking (go in a group, but have one person speak). It’s good to have people assigned to roles so everyone’s clear on what’s going on. 3) Be prepared for them to respond in a lots of different ways – it may work the first time, they may cry, they may get angry – just try and keep control of the situation (which includes leaving the conversation altogether if need be) and make sure no one gets singled out.

      The group may decide after step one you want to do something entirely different, which is totally fine! Whatever you do, the biggest thing I could suggest is to do it as a group and support each other. It’s really difficult being in this situation at the best of times, so having each other’s back is important.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Echoing, do not use company equipment or company platforms to communicate about unionizing. A friend got fired this way. Thirty years at that employer and Bye-Bye. Yes, it’s illegal, but happened just the same.

        I think your best bet would be to bring in some government authority to tell TPTB “BAD! No-no-no!”

        It might be interesting to call the company who provides insurance also. Policy holders have the responsibility to “mitigate risk”. Let’s say you have insurance through Big Insurance Co. (BIC). Let’s say that you refuse to drive your car at less than 90 mph, no matter what. You like to drive at 90 mph and you use the traffic tickets for wall paper in your living room. BIC can refuse to insure you because you are refusing to do your end of the deal. You are refusing to lower your risky driving behavior. Your employer’s insurance company might be interested in knowing that your employer is not interested in reducing risks for employees. Just something to think about.

    16. pancakes*

      I have another recommendation: I’ve just noticed that this week’s Belabored podcast is about this question. Haven’t listened yet, but it’s hosted by two labor journalists I like & trust. Will drop a link in a separate reply. It’s Belabored Podcast #198: Not Safe to Work.

    17. Quest*

      This is not an answer to your question, but rather, unsolicited love for librarians during the pandemic. And if it isn’t too late (maybe this is better for the open thread?)- how can I show my thanks to my local librarians, who are absolutely killing it?

      FWIW we are in MA (Republican but blue and a hot zone) and libraries will (best case) open early summer for curbside pickup only.

      1. Anon-mama*

        Public library worker in a slow blue state with actual laws about giving us shields, requiring masks. I’m so sorry, OP. You’ve gotten good advice.

        As for support, like and share all social media posts, participate in virtual events. That counts toward statistics. Download books and audiobooks. Place holds. There’s some concern that if libraries aren’t open to the public in some areas, they may furlough staff. We’re still useful, just by phone or email.

  3. Penny Parker*

    Hello, I could really use some help. I need to find someone who can help with my son’s resume (he asked me to help, using Alison’s suggestions, and I really am not up to the task). I have been self-employed almost all my life so I have never had to do a resume. His is over ten years old and looks like an old fashioned one (list of jobs with generic descriptions).

    How do I go about finding and hiring someone to help with this? We expect to pay but I am honestly at a loss of how to even get the contact to help this happen. Thank you.

    1. Fiona*

      Hm, I don’t think you necessarily need to pay someone, but you can scour this site and others to get an idea of what a modern resume should look like. Then, if it were me, I would send the resume draft to a few peers in similar fields who your son respects and ask them for their thoughts. I think the basic idea that I’ve learned from this site is that your resume should outline your accomplishments, not just your job description. So instead of “I was responsible for selling Widgets” you would say “Sold 800 widgets, increased sales by X%, secured accounts with X number of new clients.” Your son may have to revamp his resume to reflect this.

      1. charo*

        Son needs to show initiative here too, btw.

        I found that even a free community job center was helpful. The counselor was positive and they’d help with resume, etc. Just having someone on your side can focus you. And they had job listings.

        Groups weren’t as helpful but counseling can still go on remotely, maybe, in the future, so it may be an option.

    2. 867-5309*

      I know the woman at Brooklyn Resume Studio and she does a nice job.

      What is your son’s field? I’m in marketing so if it’s related, I’d be happy to “red line” with edits at no charge.

      1. Penny Parker*

        He has a degree as an Administrative Assistant, and works in a reservation call center at a local hotel. He is on the spectrum, and does a fantastic job where he is at (has won awards and is in the top commission bracket) but does not present well face-to-face, and is not good at pulling this type of thing together, which is why he asked me. And, I do not feel up to the task although I know it is needed.

        I do not even know how to really get this started, which is why I wrote here.

        1. Emma*

          Does the university he went to have a careers service? Here in the UK, you can approach your uni careers service for help with your resume for years after you graduate. I contacted mine and they helped me with mock interviews and a CV refresh

        2. Fikly*

          Hi, so I’m on the spectrum. Obviously, everyone is different, but what helped me when I was trying to figure out resumes was to look at lots of examples to sort of learn the “rules” and then try to make mine follow those rules.

          Do you think a strategy like that would be something that might work for him? Happy to talk more about how I did it if you do, but don’t want to just blather on about it if it’s not the right approach.

          Also, it sounds like he is trying to get out of call center work, but what type of work is he looking to get into?

        3. charo*

          This is a case where mentioning he’s on the Spectrum, and even looking for special programs that might help w/employment and placing, might be worth searching for.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      Genuine question, has he read all of Alison’s (awesome) advice here and tried to implement it himself? It sounds like he just asked you to do it, I think him doing some research and taking a crack at it himself is a good first step.

      1. Penny Parker*

        No; just to explain. He didn’t just “ask me to do it.” He didn’t even know it was needed. He lives with me because he needs extra help, but he is good at his job. I wrote the letter for the doctor (using help from an attorney) to work towards getting his ADA, due to previous hospitalizations for blood clotting issues (two hospitalizations in less than the past three years). He really cannot go back to a call center. He is like an ostrich with anything which has any stress with it, such as this. He will probably end up on ADA unemployment and we need to know where to go from there.

        I realize this appears helicopterish as it is coming from the “mom”, but it is not that. He is disabled; he spent a year in a mental hospital as a child. He sincerely needs my help. I have followed all of Alison’s guidelines (for which I am very grateful) of staying in the background with his doctor and his job, explaining to him what he needs, writing the letter for him, and then backing off.

        But I really do not know where to go from here. I need to know how to contact someone to help get this together and it will be a job. It is sometimes like pulling teeth to get him to communicate what he has done, and his needs. But all of it definitely effects me in the long run due to the needs he has from my life.

        1. Kimmybear*

          Sending lots of love because parenting is hard for everyone, especially now. Parenting a kid/adult on the spectrum is just different. Do reach out to career centers of past schools and see if your local support services for persons with disabilities (local or state services or nonprofit org) has any resources for resume writing/job searching. A quick Google turned up lots of things to read but that may be too much to take on for either of you. Good luck.

          1. charo*

            Yes, good luck! Sorry about my “initiative” crack — didn’t realize his situation. There has to be help out there for you both, best of luck getting it!

    4. irene adler*

      Might seek out the advice of folks employed in the industry in which your son works.
      Search for professional organizations in said industry. Locate a local chapter. Then ask them for advice. There may be some willing to review the resume and make suggestions- at no cost to you! They may also know folks who are professional resume writers who are familiar with the industry. You don’t want just anyone to update the resume (although these folks would do a find job of proofing the resume). You want someone who knows what employers in the industry look for in a resume. That way you’ll know what skills/experience/accomplishments to highlight.

    5. Anon Anon*

      I highly suggest you don’t find someone else. Your son’s resume will be much better if he uses resources like AAM and he revises and develops it. Obviously, asking another person to review it for grammar and typos is absolutely necessary, but I don’t think the actual writing and development of his resume should be something that someone else writes or helps develop.

      Because too often resume writers and/or those types of services do a poor job and/or make everyone’s resume look the same. Additionally, if you son has spent time crafting his own resume, it will be easier for him when he has to write individual cover letters.

    6. Anon for this*

      I take it your son is not a high school student?

      If it were my son, I would have him *work on it himself* using AAM; he can also look at the career center for many colleges and universities, which often have quite good resources. I can recommend my employer, NC State University. The website navigation is not very good, but the info is.

      I would encourage him to do a brain dump (on paper or in a word doc or some such) of what he did, just everything— what did he do, how well did he do it, specific accomplishments, skills, aptitudes, everything, regardless of whether it is big or little, just don’t censor himself, first thing is to getting everything out. I suggest doing that, putting it aside for a day or two, then adding to it without deleting anything he already wrote. Do that a couple of times.

      He can then look through it for patterns and for thing that stand out. This can help him in sorting out what goes into the resume. But tell him not to throw anything away, because stuff that doesn’t go into the resume might be useful for a cover letter or interview.

      If he went to college, he can probably use the resources at his school’s career center — He should email or call them and see if they’ll set up an appointment to help him.

      I would not spend any money on this until he has done this substantial work on it himself.

      I have a 20 year old son and this has been the deal I have with him for anything professional, career, or scholarship related since middle school. He has to do the work and then I’ll assist him.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And I mean download it and give it to him to read & work his way through.

    7. Much anon*

      Not sure if there is something like this in your area, but in my state there is a vocational rehabilitation service designed to help people overcome barriers to employment, including matching them to jobs that suit their abilities and things like resume help. Maybe searching for something like that would be useful.

      1. Generalist*

        If you are in the US, every state has a vocational rehabilitation agency with counselors whose professional expertise is helping people with various kinds of disabilities to find employment. Start by googling “[state name] vocational rehab services.”

    8. Steve*

      I think some (many?) of the comments are ignoring your situation about having a son who doesn’t have the skills to read through all of Alison’s advice. I can appreciate that it might be too difficult for your family to write up a good resume right now, without help.

      My impression is there have been enough comments on this website to suggest that there are not a lot of reliably good resume writers for hire. You might instead try researching employment support services for PWD (people with disabilities). Unfortunately I can’t easily find any for you, as they will vary based on location. I don’t know if this is something that occupational therapists help with, or what type of PWD support services help with resume writing, but I think that that would be a much better approach as they will hopefully have the specialty that you need.

      Best of luck.

      1. Anon Anon*

        I think a lot of the advice is probably dependent on what types of jobs that her son is applying for. If he’s not going to be applying for jobs that are going to expect a cover letter and/or it will hurt him by not submitting one, then I’d just say find a resume writing company and go with that person. If he is going to need a cover letter then it’s going to be even more critical that he develops his own resume. Because he’s not going to be able to hire someone to write a cover letter every time he applies for

      2. TechWorker*

        +1 saying ‘really he needs to do it himself’ sort of ignores the fact that for many jobs writing or even this sort of reading/research is not remotely part of the job itself, but is part of *getting* the job.

      3. Anon for this*

        I think comments were posted before OP posted their further info. I certainly did.

        1. Steve*

          I was thinking that, and I also think many people don’t read through comments and responses which makes it harder if the OP has missed something critical. It’s not meant to be critical of the responses, just point out that the OP might get some advice that might not apply for their situation. In hindsight I probably should have said that responses may have missed the situation OP is in, rather than ignored. Sorry for the confusion.

    9. justforthis1*

      I’m not promising anything, but I am pretty good at formatting resumes and have certainly edited plenty of resumes for friends. I’m happy to take a look.

      If you think that would be helpful, I can create a burner email and you can send it to me.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I never cease to be amazed with what I see happening here on AAM.
        I hope OP contacts you.

    10. Wheee!*

      I’ve actually had good luck with a resume writer in the past. A recruiter had contacted me about a job, but I was moving in a few months, so wasn’t looking. I asked him if he knew anyone who could help me and he referred me to a woman who did a great job. She basically interviewed me and I gave her the last few years of my performance reviews (self assessments and also manager comments, with confidential details anonymized) and she wrote something up for me. Some of it was a little too over the top, but I did some cleanup and it was great.

      Since your son is in Admin, maybe he or you could reach out to some recruiters or temp agencies in his specific area and see if they can recommend any.

  4. Just Keep Swimming*

    I have been at my current job for a little over year and am the Executive Assistant to the CEO at a mid-sized nonprofit. I want to talk to my boss to gauge if there is any path or possibility for me to eventually grow into a Chief of Staff role at our org. My annual evaluation is happening today and I was thinking of broaching the topic then, but I don’t know if it is appropriate to do so. We haven’t really spoken about career development since I have been here. Is this something I should bring up today, or should I ask to schedule a separate meeting?

    FWIW, about a year ago my boss promoted all of our Directors to VP’s. I know she wants all of her direct reports to succeed and do well. Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever had a conversation like this during my career so I am a little anxious! Thanks in advance for any help or advice.

    1. 867-5309*

      This is the perfect time to ask. I think you can be up front: You’ve been thinking about your career path and wondered if there would be an opportunity to grow into a Chief of Staff role in time.

      Come prepared with precisely what that would entail – example job description or bullet points on how the job would evolve. Good luck!

      1. Holey Moley*

        +1 for this. Especially if you are doing a lot of duties currently outside that admin capacity.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Your annual evaluation sounds like a perfect time to talk about career development and goals. Maybe add the caveat that you are willing to set up a separate time to talk about this in case your company is really rigid in its performance review meetings. But typically part of annual reviews talk about setting goals for the next year, and how those goals play into the bigger picture, so career growth is a perfect topic for this.

    3. CM*

      Absolutely bring it up today! I don’t think you even need the extra details that 867-5309 suggests — just use their script or say exactly what you said in your question, “I’m wondering whether there is any path or possibility for me to eventually grow into a Chief of Staff role here.”

    4. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      I would bring it up in your performance review! Maybe couch it with, ‘I would like to talk about my future here at *organization*. I enjoy working here and would like to do so for the long term. I would like to eventually transition into a Chief of Staff role. What do you think I need to work on in order to be considered ready for this role?’ or a variation of that question. I think as long as you don’t make it out to be that you expect her to put you in that role today and that you are asking about how you can develop into that role, it should be fine, especially if she wants her direct reports to succeed. I would think that type of boss would be glad to hear that there is something that you are working towards and while she may not give you the role today, she can start giving you tasks that are comparable/training opportunities in the next review year that can help you show that you are the right choice. Don’t be nervous, based on how you describe your boss, she sounds like she would be totally fine with the discussion, she just might not know that is what you want, so she hasn’t brought it up. You got this! Good luck! :)

    5. SomebodyElse*

      This is a great time to talk about the future. I usually spend 2/3rds of my employee’s evals talking about the previous year and 1/3rd talking about about the future.

      A couple of things;

      I’m assuming you will have a great eval, but if you don’t for some reason, then you may want to hold off. Talking about advancement when there are performance issues on the table is not good.

      After the meat of the eval, jump into it. You can transition with something like “Thank you for the feedback on last year, is this a good time to talk about the future or would you rather we saved that discussion for another meeting?”
      -Most likely your boss will want to get your thoughts right then.
      -If for some reason they want to defer to another time, ask to set up a meeting for the following week.

      It will feel a little weird, but my advice is to just toss out your idea or question about the advanced role. Think of it this way, you want a leadership position. You will be in a position to advocate for others, you need to be able to do the same for yourself.

      Have a couple of points in the back of your mind on what you think the role needs and why you would be a good fit and tell her this. If there are things you think you need to be able to fill the role, then outline them… “I know I’m not strong on budgets yet, so I’d like to spend some time with you to learn more when you are in the budget cycle”

      Ask her what she thinks you need to make the next step and then work on a plan with her to get there.

      Good Luck!

    6. kittymommy*

      Another Executive Assistant to senior level and bring it up today, this is what performance reviews are made for!! Good luck to you.

    7. thirsty macaroon*

      Do you have management experience or can you get it? Where I work, Chief of Staff is a very senior job that requires senior level management roles first (director level) and that would be the path you would have to take. Might be different in your office!

  5. hmmmm*

    Hi everyone….I was late to posting last week and this got buried. I thought I would try again for advice this week.

    I’m helping a friend out who is starting a business. My friend is offering a service that is needed in the normal course of business but would be considered the last item on a checklist on a project; some might say it is a luxury but highly recommended. Prior to COVID19 Friend had made a large number of great contacts at a convention, many of who wanted to get in touch over the summer. Some of these new contacts also passed Friend’s information onto other companies resulting in Friend having to have to (more or less) make cold calls. Given that our area probably won’t open until June-Julyish at earliest and most companies will just be reinventing themselves, when would be a good time to reach out. Summer? Fall? Wait until 2021? We don’t want to bombard companies that are still struggling but we would like to say we’re still here, keep us in mind. Any suggestions?

    1. AVP*

      Start now! But be aware that there are a lot of cold emails happening right now, moreso than usual. I think you’d be surprised how many people are hiring for various services right now even in this climate – people are finding surprising needs and filling requests they might not ordinarily get so you might be well timed.

    2. 867-5309*

      I also think you can acknowledge the current climate but don’t go overboard. Also, avoid phrases about “this challenging time.” It’s being overused is sales and most top sales executives are counseling their people to stop using it.

      Remind them how she got their information and then say something like, “I know xyx might not be in your priorities right now but when it is, I wanted to let you know we’ll be here.”

      1. Annony*

        I like this. I don’t think there is anything wrong with contacting companies now. Just don’t keep contacting them if they don’t reply. Put them on a list to contact in a month or two instead.

      2. designbot*

        Agree with this generally but want to add that if she can develop any resources (doesn’t have to be a huge deal—even a checklist or a single template can be useful) that can help those folks get their stuff together, or just help them think through one aspect of getting their business back online, then reaching out early is particularly great. The ideal position to be in would be as an advisor helping them through.

    1. 867-5309*

      I think you meant to nest this under the poster asking about how to push back on their library’s reopening plans.

          1. PollyQ*

            My mom had surgery last summer, and the patients are all assigned a number so families can check their status in the waiting area without giving away anybody’s names. My mom’s number was 867539, so easy as pie to remember!

  6. soup*

    What are your strategies for giving critical feedback? My boss gives very direct feedback. For ex: “These slides do not make your point at all, you need to re-think and re-frame with XYZ in mind.” I think her feedback is always good and fair, and I appreciate it. But I know that my coworkers sometimes find her feedback very upsetting. This came to mind because I gave (solicited) feedback to a relative on some application materials in a similar way, and my relative started feeling very attacked and got upset. And I felt that I was just trying to help.

    1. beanie gee*

      I think giving feedback to people who report to you at work vs relatives is a big difference. Your boss’s goal is to make their team’s work the best it can be and help their staff improve. With a relative, even if it was solicited, you don’t have that kind of responsibility, so the relationship is just different. I think you can still offer feedback, but it’s probably best to soften how critical it sounds. I’d also tie any of your suggestions to a reason so they understand why you’re suggesting it.

      Good luck!

      1. soup*

        That’s a good point! With my relative, I thought that maybe I was doing them a favor by not pulling punches that others might, since we have a good relationship otherwise. I was definitely surprised but I will think more about how to approach this in the future.

    2. MissBliss*

      In my experience, people accept “I” statements better. “I’m not sure slides 7 and 8 are making the same point we discussed over the phone. I think you could say this stronger and more clearly if you re-framed with XYZ in mind” says the same thing as the example you gave, but isn’t so “you’ve objectively done something bad.”

      1. soup*

        Yeah, I think that’s a great idea. I think I do this sometimes, but not all the time. For example, my conversation with my relative went a little like this:
        Me: I think they want you to focus on your work accomplishments, and not on the difficult people you worked with.
        Relative: But the biggest challenge I faced at work *was* my harassing creepy boss!
        Me: But that makes you sound whiny.
        Relative: *gets upset*

        To be clear I’m totally 100% in my relative’s corner on their creepy boss but I just thought it was the wrong thing to put in an application. I see now that maybe if I take the time to formulate an “I” statement it might go over better. Thanks.

        1. BadWolf*

          In a case like that, I think adding in some validation — “Your boss was totally a creeper, no doubt. We just don’t want to put that on your resume as that is what interviewers will remember. You had a creeper boss, instead of all the ways in which you are awesome.”

        2. buffty*

          I could see a “they” statement working on some of this as well. “I understand that, but they might think it sounds whiny, since they don’t have as much context as I do.” So then it’s not even about how *you’re* perceiving it, as much as it’s about how the recipient could perceive it.

          1. Indy Dem*

            OT, but whenever someone mentions a “they” statement, I always think of South Park – OMG! They’ve killed Kenny. You Bastards!

        3. Jay*

          Oh, yeah. That would have ticked me off. It sounds like you’re dismissing the harassment – I know that wasn’t your intent but that’s how it would have landed on me. I would validate the emotion (“That sounds awful/anyone would be upset/ That totally sucked”) and say “it also sucks that you can’t really explain that, but business conventions….”

        4. Not So NewReader*

          “So a resume is to show off your skills. If they don’t have any creeper bosses there, they might decide that they won’t be needing you.”
          OR
          “Let’s assume that this is normal, health workplace and there are no creeper bosses. What is your second biggest accomplishment?”

    3. Alianora*

      I’m similar to you in that I appreciate direct, straightforward feedback, but softening language can go a long way towards making the criticism more palatable. It can also help to take a collaborative attitude, where instead of telling people what to do, you try to work with them to find a solution.

      In the example, I would change it to, “These slides don’t seem to get your point across. Can you think of a way to re-frame this with XYZ in mind?”

      1. Jay*

        I would only say “can you think of a way” in a relationship that was explicitly educational – either someone I’m officially teaching or mentoring. For anyone else – a peer, a relative, anyone – I’d say “I’m not really grasping your point on those slides” and either make a specific suggestion if I understand what they’re getting at or ask them to explain if I don’t, and then make a specific suggestion. In any context other than a teaching/mentoring relationship, I’ve found that elicits exactly the response the OP is talking about.

        1. Alianora*

          I mostly did have a training/managing relationship in mind – was just trying to give an example for how the OP’s manager could have rephrased their feedback without changing the meaning.

          However, I disagree that saying “can you think of a way” is always inappropriate in other contexts, such as when peers have solicited feedback. I’m sure it depends on your tone and inflection, but I use similar phrasing with coworkers who are asking me for feedback, and my coworkers have used this phrasing with me. If anyone was offended, it didn’t show.

          I do agree that giving specific suggestions is good. In the example, if I were talking to a peer, I might say, “Is there a way to reframe this with XYZ in mind? Maybe you could have a slide at the beginning that explains ABC.” However, since it’s their project, they’re the ones best suited to assess these ideas and come up with their own. I don’t really see how acknowledging that would be considered overstepping.

        2. Information Central*

          “I wonder” can work well for this. “I wonder if there’s a way to focus more on…” “I wonder if there’s a different way to get across…”

    4. DefinitelyWorking*

      I also prefer direct feedback. But relatives and loved ones are trickier. I usually do a test criticism, to see how they respond. Sometimes people just want some approval, but sometimes they really do want you to give lots of feedback. So you can start with one or two lite comments, see how they respond, and then follow their leads.

      1. soup*

        Agree on loved ones being tricky! This is a younger relative who asks me for advice periodically, and I feel a little responsibility to push a little if I think it will help them even if they don’t necessarily love hearing it. I do think there’s a fine line and I wonder if I overstepped, but maybe if I can find better ways to say things it will help them better.

        1. Not a cat*

          Most of my family knows how direct I am. However, I always start by asking, “do you want professional me feedback or cousin (or whatever relationship is) me feedback?”

          A significant other once asked me to look at a deck for a big sales meeting in Mexico. I told him I wouldn’t make corrections for him, but I’d provide comments. After the fourth slide, he closed his laptop. So, he actually wanted praise, not feedback.

    5. Jay*

      When people ask me for feedback, I try to get very specific info about what they want. I don’t want to copy-edit an essay if my daughter is really asking for feedback on structure for a very rough draft, for example. For someone I haven’t worked with or provided feedback to before, I start very cautiously and try to have at least two or three genuinely positive things for every constructive comment. This isn’t the same as the feedback sandwich (say something nice, be critical, say something nice). Also make sure the constructive comments are really constructive and not purely critical. “I think that slide would be stronger if there were fewer words” rather than “That slide is way too crowded.”

      And I try to set clear expectations. I’m most often asked to proofread writing or presentations, and if I’m really proofreading, I will find a lot of things that need to be changed (which probably guarantees a typo in this post). Before I agree to do it, I say something like “There’s a copy editor who lives in my head and she can be very annoying! Are you sure you want her involved?” It’s a humorous way of warning people what’s coming.

    6. CM*

      Most people get defensive when criticized, even if they ask for the criticism!
      I-statements help to frame criticism as your own perception rather than objective truth, and it also helps to have constructive suggestions rather than just saying something doesn’t work: “When I read this, I got the impression that you’re looking for more of an admin job, because you have these details here. But you want more of an executive position, right? So my suggestion would be to change X and Y.”

      You could also try to have more of a dialogue where you ask the person what their goals are or what they found challenging, and use that to guide your feedback.

    7. Tuckerman*

      A lot of it is understanding what content might sting to have critiqued. If I’m writing step by step directions and someone says it’s confusing, I’m going to take that a lot less personally than someone saying my cover letter isn’t effective. I focus on the person’s objectives (“It sounds like really want to highlight how efficient the department’s become since the new process was implemented. I think quantifying your results, like sharing the increased number of projects completed, would strengthen your argument.”)

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        This! For example, I was just having a conversation with a friend on giving feedback, and she was commenting that giving feedback to an artist (or any creative person who’s not working on a corporate commission) on their art is a really sensitive subject, and you have to be careful how you word it. She said something like, “always give compliments to the artist, and criticize the piece!” And yes, I think focusing on trying to help the person accomplish their objectives is really important regardless of what or who you’re critiquing.

    8. Fikly*

      I think there’s a key bit of information missing from the example you gave of your boss’s feedback. Your boss didn’t explain (at least in what you mentioned) why the slides didn’t make the point.

      I find that is often the most important part of feedback, in terms of long term learning. If that’s left out, all I know is that I was wrong, and I have to do x to fix it. But that only tells me how to fix that exact problem. But if I learn why the slides aren’t getting my point across, I can apply it to other sets of slides.

      Also, unless there’s a big time crunch, I would not just directly tell the person how to solve the problem – I’d ask them how, given this is why the slides aren’t making their point, they would alter them.

    9. WantonSeedStitch*

      It’s definitely hard to give feedback to relatives! I tend to be direct with feedback in the office, though not *mean,* but I think I might take a different approach with relatives. For example, if you had to give the feedback you describe about slides to your relative, I might approach it as more of a conversation: “So, as I understand it, you’re trying to make X point here. Is that right?” Get their response. “If that’s the case, I think it might be helpful to look at these slides from a point of view of XYZ. I think you’d be able to make your point more strongly if you did some reworking with XYZ in mind, because as they are now, I’m not sure it’s as strong as it could be.” So less, “you did this wrong,” and “if you’re trying to do this, here’s something you could try that I think might do it better.”

    10. Nesprin*

      Giving and receiving feedback requires trust, that the advice will be appreciated and responded to on the giver’s side, and that the feedback is an opportunity to improve and not endangering the receiver’s livelihood on the receiver’s side. I respond very very differently to same feedback from my boss who I respect and trust vs. from my grandboss, who I neither respect nor trust, from my husband, who I love, but often lacks context.

      So giving feedback requires understanding the relationship that this feedback arises in. Your relative and you do not have the same relationship as you have with your boss, nor do your coworkers and your boss.

      And giving feedback requires trust- I’ve found that the easiest way to build trust is to give feedback frequently and in low stakes settings and give balanced, specific, timely feedback (i.e. you did x well, y needs work).

    11. Annony*

      Giving feedback by asking questions can sometimes work better. “Are you trying to say X or Y? Because the way the slides are organized it seems like you are making point Y but I think you are actually trying to say X. Maybe you should re-frame with XYZ in mind.” I think you can be direct but less attacking by avoiding statements like “at all” and engaging in a discussion rather than directing them.

    12. Policy Wonk*

      With a relative, you need to confirm whether they really want feedback, or if they are looking for praise. This happened to me when a relative asked me to look at his resume. It was a mess, so I gave him some feedback, rewrote a section for him. His mother threw a fit about how I destroyed his confidence, and how dare I? (Though the relative himself seemed to appreciate my input, saw this as valuable.) Apparently the mom thought I would follow family practice and praise this guy to the skies whether he deserved it or not.

    13. Vatch*

      I find that constructive criticism is received better when I include positive comments. For instance, telling someone that I like a and b, but c doesn’t have the impact I think they were aiming for and could be improved by x and y. D and e are also very good, but f could be improved.

    14. TL -*

      My two go-tos 1) Value neutral, specific, and I-statements. Very matter of fact – with softening framing depending on the person.

      For instance, “I found this difficult to understand. I couldn’t tell if the pronoun referred to Jean or Rogue and that made it really hard to interpret the sentence. I think it would be easier to understand if you tried something like [suggestion.]”

      2) ask what their goals are with that decision and then first validate their feelings, second reflect on how you see that specific decision in relation to their goals.
      Example: “What is the goal of doing it this way?” or an even softer, “Can I ask what your goal is with putting ‘managing difficult personalities on your resume? Are you looking for a job where that’s a requirement?” [answer]. “Okay – I know it was a big part of your job and you did handle a incredibly frustrating situation really well, but I worry that if you place it on your resume, others will think you’re looking for a position where you can use that specific skill on a daily basis.”

    15. RemoteHealthWorker*

      In general try to match feedback to the results. Was the presentation 90% positive? Then make sure your feedback is 90% positive.

  7. straws*

    Are there any US-based guides out there for moving a company from office-based to remote that actually includes guidelines on compliance with state laws? Everything I see is focused on how to manage employees and communicate well, which is important and great, but I need to have a good idea of when nexus is triggered, how to register in states that employees currently commute from that we aren’t registered in, how to deal with out of state applicants in states we’re not registered in (can we restrict candidates by home state? is that even legal?), and other things like that. My google searching skills are coming up short, so please share if you know of anything good out there!

    1. higheredrefugee*

      This is likely a mix of tax, safety, and employment regulations (and possibly environmental) and many employee benefit consulting firms advise their clients in these matters, particularly in times of mergers and divestitures. I don’t know of any free resources (in part because some state jurisdictions would require multiple local analyses as well, Chicago and Cook County comes to mind), but a call to a law school librarian may yield some suggested ways to look for resources. I have a feeling there are books that may tell you what the questions you need to be asking are,, but not with each state’s requirements as that info can change as soon as it is printed. Depending on how many states your employees will be in, it may be worth getting a quote from such a firm on what that kind of analysis would cost your employer. Good luck!

    2. 867-5309*

      This is a case where I’d consult with a business attorney.

      Also, yes, you can restrict applicants to those within states where you have operating licenses.

      1. higheredrefugee*

        In my experience, hiring an attorney will cost a business far, far more than a consulting firm, and will not include ancillary benefits like updates to state and local regulations for a term after the initial information and advice is provided. I’m a lawyer and we’re notoriously bad at overcharging for this sort of thing, though the national employment law firms are getting better at it.

        1. pancakes*

          National and multinational firms put out white papers about regulatory changes all the time. Small firms and solo practitioners tend to not have the resources or the inclination.

    3. Lifelong student*

      This is a moving target item- I have seen notifications of states changing regulations with regard to employees working from home under the current situation. Generally- if an employer has an employee in another state it will probably give rise to nexus- but it is a facts and circumstances issue. I can’t remember what state recently announced a change because of the virus – but there have been changes.

    4. Emmie*

      It sounds like you’re trying to operate a nationwide remote workforce. I recommend you change your approach to one that’s more manageable, and what fits your needs.

      – Determine where your employees live. Performing work from those cities and states triggers employment law considerations. You’ll likely need to obtain a local attorney who can keep you apprised of laws in each jurisdiction.
      – Evaluate whether you’d like to allow remote employees in that state. California is one example of a state which has incredibly difficult employee regulations.
      – Become licensed in those states if required. Obtain Workers Compensation, register your business if it’s required, figure out the tax implications including payroll in conjunction with your business attorney.
      – Create a work location policy. What states are employees required to work in? Allowing an employee to work remotely from another country, a US Territory, another state, or another city / country triggers employment law considerations. Allowing someone to work in the EU triggers GDPR requirements. You want to limit the amount of time a person can work in another state so you do not trigger those laws.
      – Look at your hard to recruit positions. Where is the talent for that role? Where can you obtain talent at a better price point? You may wish to expand your permissible work locations to that area, or outsource it.

      Instead of looking broadly at how to operate nationwide, take a look at what it takes to operate today where your employees are. You’ll have a more manageable task.

      1. straws*

        Thankfully we’re not currently nationwide, but we’re near the border of a couple of states, so we do have a couple to look at with our current staff. We’re also a very small (20 employees) company. But, we’ve been doing very well remotely and the idea of making the switch is brought up in positive terms by our leaders. The focus is always on productivity, possibly finding better candidates in other states, etc. So I need to get some facts in place to ground the discussion back to reality instead of this utopia of remote workers across the country just being productive and having fun without office expenses. We may still do it, but I want to go in with a full understanding of additional cost and administrative burden. These are some great questions/areas for me to look at, and I can include the cost of a consultant if we do decide to move forward, per higheredrefugee’s suggestion above.

        Thank you all!

  8. Ratio of leprechauns to unicorns*

    Woke up early AF (ok 9 AM which isnt’ early but is early in my new normal) because a recruiter wanted to touch base and a client had more questions about my background. I’m paraphrasing here: 

    “Yeah so why did they lay off so many people? What was the driving force behind that?” 

    “Well the company laid off about 50% of the staff at that time, including myself due to the impact of COVID” 

    “Yeah but why?”

    “Because the company couldn’t afford to keep so many people on payroll.”

    “Yeah but why?” 

    I said something about lots of lost revenue due to COVID since our core clients were directly affected and could no longer afford to keep us.  

    Maybe it was valid line of questioning but something about it didn’t set well with me and I’m a bit baffled by it.

    I…..didnt’ realize that getting laid off during COVID meant I had to share every behind the scenes decision? Only upper management knows what was really going on. There were discussions and rumors but I consider that gossip which doesn’t belong in the job search imo.

    I mean, the remaining employees are now working 50% more hours from home and there’s still a lot of client work to be done, even one of my former reports reached out and said the work is so overwhelming now. More and more clients are being added…..but none of that is relevant to my job search….is it? 

    1. hmmmm*

      It sounds like the recruiter was either following a script or looking for another networking avenue. In my opinion they were very unprofessional.

      1. WellRed*

        Agreed. Some people with scripts simply can’t not follow them, no matter how ridiculous. I suspect this recruiter is also lacking in other ways.

      2. Ratio of leprechauns to unicorns*

        I may have taken liberties with the paraphrasing there. It wasnt’ a script but indeed it did feel like he was digging into WHY my company laid so many people off.

    2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      That sounds to me like a circuitous way of asking “So what was wrong with YOU that YOU were one of the 50%?” They know that’s a wrong question, so they’re trying to sidle up on it. I’ve been through multiple layoffs and I found that interviewers had a tendency to blame the layoff-ee, like they think it’s just covering up for what was really a firing. Especially during Times Of Uncertainty (post-9/11, then again when the market crashed, and now), employers can afford to be super duper picky and will often not look at you twice if you have even a whiff of imperfection.

        1. Ratio of leprechauns to unicorns*

          That’s exactly what it felt like, and honestly it hits on an insecurity of mine. I knew instantly that it was a personal decision but my boss assured me that layoffs weren’t performance related.

          I’ve posted about this before but I am in accounting. I was the only manager let go. Everyone else let go was either admin, customer service or tax preparer or bookkeeper. I am 100% sure that my grandboss decided to include me in the lay me off because of a personal dislike and was able to use COVID as an excuse. I have no way of proving it of course so just sticking to the facts which is, revenue went down and payroll had to be reduced due to COVID.

          I had come to terms with it but now I am worried that this will follow me into my job search, that employers will know something was wrong with me that I was part of a mass layoff. This is exactly what I was worried about.

          1. layoff*

            For what it’s worth, one jackass recruiter is not worth it. Nearly everyone else will look at your resume and understand COVID is where the conversation starts and ends. In my opinion, talking to people with a more professional approach should help your confidence.

            1. Ratio of leprechauns to unicorns*

              I hope so — the first few interviews I had after getting laid off seemed to be interested in why there was a lay off. Both employers and recruiters. I’ve been sticking to my script but I’m nervous now that more will still want to dig deep.

          2. Nita*

            No. Most recruiters will understand that mass layoffs mean mass layoffs. And sometimes mass layoffs do mean one or two people in each department lose their jobs, rather than one entire department getting slashed by 50%. So don’t think too much of this call. Good luck with your job search!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        employers can afford to be super duper picky and will often not look at you twice if you have even a whiff of imperfection

        In my experience, this high horse contains a lot of less-than-perfect people.

        1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          I have lingering trauma from the period after 9/11 — I was laid off from my first “job with legs” (something taht could potentially have turned into a career path) in November of that year, and proceeded onto a hamster wheel that lasted 5 full years and encompassed 11 jobs during that period. I was in a small city, so the actual job market was constricted anyway; add in the actual unemployment rate, and it was a recipe. Employers just churned through people, if you weren’t perfect right away they cut you loose, and even if you were perfect, the minute you weren’t, you were gone. One place I worked at I lasted 4 months, and two years later I ran into the woman who used to do our transcriptions and she told me I had the longest tenure of anybody since then.

          The problem of course becomes that if you get tossed out repeatedly like that, employers pick that up as a sign that there is *definitely* something Wrong With You, and it’s a horrible cycle, so you end up working for terrible employers, and of course you can’t ever build up any kind of cushion so you’re always desperate.

          It’s been nearly 20 years and I am only JUST NOW starting to be able to not clench when my manager asks to see me.

          1. Ratio of leprechauns to unicorns*

            Wow, I’m sorry you had such a rough go. I finished school in 2009 and went through that cycle of low paying, dead end jobs with high competition. It wasn’t until 2014 I was finally able to get into a company and hired permanently so I worked hard and kept getting promoted over my 5+ years there. But it wasn’t without a lot of toxicity in those years and more often than not Ive always felt there’s something wrong with me. I remember reading this maybe here many years ago….that choices made in desperation will always have a bad or shaky foundation.

            1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

              Yeah, I’ve now been through two (well, 3 with the Covid now) of those cycles. If this happens again in ten years when I’m getting ready to start retiring, Tables Will Be Flipped.

    3. juliebulie*

      It sounds like the recruiter was hoping to gain some inside info on your former employer in order to suss out potential opportunities. Understandable, but not the most subtle approach!

      1. Fikly*

        If this was someone actually interested in hiring someone, surely someone willing to give out private information about your current/former employer would be exactly what you don’t want in a potential hire.

        1. juliebulie*

          Well yeah, I think the recruiter is hoping to be able to place candidates at Ratio’s ex employer, and is trying to sniff out what is going on there. That kind of recruiter may or may not also have a job for Ratio, and probably isn’t the type to care whether Ratio is discreet or not.

          1. Fikly*

            All of which is indicative of the recruiter being up to no good/bad ethics. I wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole, because you know they are 100% fine with throwing me under the bus.

      2. Ratio of leprechauns to unicorns*

        If that’s the case, that’s…unfortunate. If I were to get the job I’d gladly refer my former coworkers to him

        Otherwise I’ve had about 4 conversations with the recruiter and they all seemed promising. Maybe because this one hit an insecurity but it was baffling.

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

      I don’t think that was a recruiter, more like a not so subtle investigator. I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t hear back from them.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Investigating WHAT? I’m honestly asking, because I can’t figure out what you mean.

        1. Reba*

          Maybe they are suggesting an unemployment insurance fraud investigator, sometimes called benefit accuracy? they contact a random sample of people receiving benefits.

          Anyway it is a bizarre line of questioning, just as you say.

          1. Ratio of leprechauns to unicorns*

            I’ve spoken to this person a few times and their information is on their online profile, so I have reason to believe it’s a recruiter.

            I do think if someone from DOL was investigating, they would disclose it.

    5. Chaordic One*

      While I haven’t had much experience with recruiters, it’s always surprising to me how seemingly obtuse interviewers can be and how they don’t seem to see the obvious.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      Anyone who says “but why?” like that three times in a row sounds like a five year old. They’re being weird, not you.

      1. Darren*

        Or they’ve heard about the five whys and are applying it in a very unusual context.

        See my thoughts would be that it was just baffling to them that this specific company needed to lay off 50% of their staff. Maybe they know there is still a lot of work in that sector (i.e. lots of other companies in that field are growing and hiring more) and so they are trying to work out if maybe they over laid-off or are actively struggling.

        It probably has very little to do with your application though recruiters are always curious, in part because they are always looking for experienced people they can convince to move on.

  9. Not So Super-visor*

    TLDR: employee who feels ostracized due to beliefs now wants WFH permanently
    So I have an employee (April) with work that entails very little interaction with other members of the team, but she is a higher performer and professional with them when they need something and they with her. Prior to WFH due to COVID19, she came in, got her work done, and left. She was one of the biggest pushers from WFH and had a major meltdown on me when I explained that the VP was not approving it (we’re deemed essential) even though her work can be done 100% from home. Eventually, I was able to convince the VP to move the entire team to WFH, but he was adament that no one would WFH permanently. We have just finished our 2nd month of WFH and will continue to WFH for at least another month while our state is still on shelter in place. Today, I came in to an email from April stating that she feels that she needs to WFH permanently for her mental health. She feels that the office has been cold and ostracizing to her, and that’s had a really negative impact on her, but that she’s felt much better WFH. I’m fairly certain that the VP will not go for this. I understand what she’s saying about being ostracized. Here is the drama:
    otherwise, and got married a few months after I started managing her. I wasn’t invited, but that’s fine because she barely knew me. My director at the time (now retired) was invited. Apparently, there was a big to-do at the wedding because April had not invited her sister to the wedding because her sister was a lesbian, and April didn’t approve. Former director, Tom, was a bit of a pot-stirrer, and he gossiped about this in the office. This upset some members of our team – mostly Ann (an out and vocal lesbian) and Donna (who has a gay son). Both Ann and Donna are very much quee bee types and hold a lot of sway with their coworkers Many heated things were said about not wanting to work with April. April had always been quiet, never expressed these things at work, and mostly kept to herself, so we told all parties involved that they needed to find a way to work together professionally. April never socialized with any of the group before, and they all seemed to keep things professional if not slightly more distant. Fast forward 5 years, and now April is saying that this is a huge strain on her mental health. Aside from from the VP’s likely disapproval of permanent WFH, I’m not sure how to address this. Normally if an employee were to tell me that a work issue was having an impact on their mental health, I’d be helping them look for ways to manage the problem. In this case, I’m not sure how to handle. I acknowledge that I can’t tell people how to think about controversial issues like this, but personally, I feel like I can’t blame other employees for not liking her beliefs either.

      1. RemoteHealthWorker*

        As someone who was bullied at work, let me tell you why this sudden realization is not surprising.

        I never realized how oppressive being in the same physical space as my bullies was until I was out of it.

        In my case I was promoted. And I had to walk over to that space a few months later. The feeling of being hated and unwelcome was entirely felt in the air. It was palpable. Im not sure how else to describe it.

        1. Amethyst*

          Yes, I had a very similar experience happen 2.5 years after I had to become estranged from my mother, due to unforeseen circumstances. She happened to arrive at the place before I did. When I walked into the room, the amount of…volcanic rage she had toward me was shocking. I knew she hated me and saw me as [insert a bunch of things I’m not but she needs me to be in order to justify herself toward me], but it wasn’t until that day that I understood just how deeply her anger ran. My sisters even remarked on it afterwards (they tend toward obliviousness), as did their friends who were present. She was civil but we never spoke besides social niceties but that rage toward me was felt by everyone present.

    1. Penny Parker*

      “Both Ann and Donna are very much quee bee types and hold a lot of sway with their coworkers Many heated things were said about not wanting to work with April. April had always been quiet, never expressed these things at work, and mostly kept to herself, so we told all parties involved that they needed to find a way to work together professionally.”

      It seems to me that you have a bullying problem from Ann and Donna. April is allowed her beliefs and has not brought them to the office. According to your post the same cannot be said about Ann and Donna.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        It sounds like they’ve been professional for 5 years. Being a lesbian and asserting that you are a human being and worthy person is not a “belief.”

        1. Penny Parker*

          I’ve worked as an activist in the lesbian community since the 1970s (I am bi and have been in a couple of years-long serious lesbian relationships). One thing I have learned over all of that time is that people will indeed believe the way that April does and the response varies with the circumstances. Allowing someone to treat her less than professionally at work — and a whisper campaign of bullying is less than professional — only comes with a backlash, and the backlash is now being felt by Not So Super-visor.

          1. Blueberry*

            The phrasing of “Ann and Donna … haven’t kept their beliefs out of work” is exactly the kind of phrasing homophobes use to describe us existing in public, so that was quite confusing.

            I don’t know. How can a supervisor thread the needle between “you can’t bully a coworker” and “you can’t make a coworker feel uncomfortable by existing in a way they disapprove of”? I don’t see how Not So Super-visor can reprimand Ann and Donna without tacitly agreeing that April is right.

            1. not always right*

              Removed. There is no “gay lifestyle” and there’s nothing to agree or disagree with about gayness. People love who they love, and your feelings about it don’t enter into it. Do not post things like this here. – Alison

            2. Nip It In the Bud*

              The issue isn’t that Ann and Donna are gay/allies, the issue is that they bullied, and continue to bully, a coworker for something that (a) happened outside work, (b) didn’t involve them, and (c) we don’t even know is true. Maybe April’s sister is a lesbian and also she and April have a terrible relationship and that’s why April didn’t want her at the wedding. Or maybe April’s sister is a drama llama and April didn’t want that at her wedding. You can be LGBT and also be a terrible person. But even if April’s sister is entirely innocent, it still doesn’t involve her coworkers and they aren’t allowed to bully her for it.

              OP is feeling the consequences of not nipping bullying in the bud 5 years ago. That’s the issue here.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                But we have no evidence of continued bullying. We have only ‘behaved professionally if a little more distantly.’

                Everyone jumping to ‘Ann / Donna are still bullying’ are going way beyond the evidence posted.

              2. Temperance*

                … what? Did we read the same post?

                You don’t need to do backflips to defend April the Homophobe here. April’s sister was excluded from the wedding, and this was apparently a Thing, because she’s gay. Donna and Ann were understandably not okay with this.

              3. Not So Super-visor*

                To be clear, there’s no evidence of ongoing bullying. I used “feels ostracized” because April used that language in her request to me. A lot of could be in April’s head — she is incredibly anti-social. She comes in, plugs into her headphones, slumps down in her chair so that no one can see her over the cubicle wall, and doesn’t talk to or make eye contact with anyone. She works on analytic spreadsheets for our customers all day, so its understandable that she needs to concentrate, but if I didn’t make an effort to check in with her, I would probably never talk to her unless she or I needed something from the other. Before I started managing this department, I didn’t even know she existed.
                There is one incident about 4.5 years ago that was suspicious — April was not invited to the department potluck and was understandably upset. She felt that Jerry, who organized the potluck, had deliberately not invited her because he was friends with Donna. When I looked into it with Jerry, he admitted that he had not used the department distribution list but had typed in everyone’s email and had forgotten about her. It hasn’t happened again.

                1. LGC*

                  …I’d find it weird if it was all in her head from years ago, although that’s the only stuff you can think of.

                  I guess the first step is to ask her what’s making her feel like that (and…be less judgy than I’d be).

      2. Blueberry*

        So Ann and Donna are supposed to pretend to be straight while they’re at work? Being out is “bringing their beliefs to the office”?

        Suppose you knew a coworker deeply believed you were subhuman. They had never mentioned it at work but they were publicly a member of the People Named Penny Aren’t Actually Human Beings organization on Facebook, etc. When their sibling married someone named Penny they cut the sibling out of their life. Wouldn’t that make you less friendly towards them even if they had not brought up their anti-Penny beliefs at work?

    2. Temperance*

      Are they refusing to work with her, or are they just being polite but distant/professional with her?

      Frankly, this is a case of “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”. She is a homophobe. If I was a lesbian, or the parent of a member of the LGBT+ community, or an ally, I wouldn’t trust her. I’d be as polite as I had to be, but we wouldn’t be going to happy hour, either.

      1. Not So Super-visor*

        They’re not refusing to work with her. There was some original hub-bub and behind doors meetings with me and the director with Ann and Donna. They both made a big commotion about not wanting to work with a homophobe. We told them that unless April expressed these opinions at work that they needed to find a way to work professionally with here.. I would say that the relationship is polite and professional but definitely chilly with all parties. April is not social with anyone else either, so that’s pretty much her attitude with everyone. It feels like she’s trying to use drama from 5 years ago to try to make a case for permanent WFH now.

        1. Temperance*

          Honestly, that was my gut feeling reading your post – that April (maybe we should call her Tammy #1 instead, lol) wants to work from home and trying to make a case for it, even though it’s objectively fine, if not warm.

        2. Gatomon*

          I tend to agree. I would try to gather more information from April and the other parties to ensure there hasn’t been anything going on you’re unaware of, but as it is now she made it work for 5 years so she should be able to go back into the office fine, in my opinion. If she really is uncomfortable in the office then perhaps it’s time she looks for a job with a better culture fit for her.

          I also feel like this is a bit of a warning on inviting coworkers to your wedding when there’s a high likelihood of family drama to be witnessed.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          Or both could be true: Ann / Donna are behaving professionally AND April feels stress because she knows her beliefs are not shared by her coworkers.

          I think Ann / Donna is a red herring. You have:
          VP who refuses permanent WFH
          April who wants permanent WFH

          Can you make a business case to VP about WFH? Retention, reduced rent, documenting that WFH hasn’t harmed productivity? If VP won’t budge, well, they’re higher in the chain than April, and *she* has to make the choice about whether it’s livable, or not.

          It sounds like Ann / Donna are being professional, but April has a culture clash. As long as you are *certain* that Ann / Donna are not actively doing anything against April, you need to focus on VP and April, and let the history stay history.

          1. Temperance*

            Why should April get special privileges, though? It’s her choice to hold these beliefs, if they aren’t shared by others, so be it.

          2. Gruntilda*

            I agree.

            April has ostracized herself, both by her homophobic beliefs and her lack of interaction with her coworkers. She has no right to expect people to act warmly to her if they think she disapproves of them and their families.

            If the 5 years ago drama was not there, would you push for April to be able to work from home? Does her work allow it? Would others like it?

      2. Artemesia*

        I am not sure being a homophobe is a good reason to insist on a need to WFH. I’d be asking the VP to allow WFH by choice where people have demonstrated productivity in that mode; but I wouldn’t go out of my way to make a special case for her.

        1. allathian*

          Agreed. And tbh April sounds like an ideal candidate for permanent WFH. Her work doesn’t require frequent collaboration with others and she has demonstrated that she can deliver when she’s WFH.
          I’d start by asking how your other reports are feeling about returning to the office again. If more than just April would be happy to WFH in the longer term, you could advocate for that. Or at the very least, advocate for occasional WFH for everyone. It is entirely possible that WFH has made April see how well she’s suited to working that way.
          I wonder what’s missing from the original post, as April’s homophobia would probably not have come out at work if she hadn’t invited the director to her wedding! If she was close enough to the director to do that, she can’t have been completely anti-social all the time.
          There’s a reason why religion and politics have traditionally been off the table for discussions at work.
          All that said, the best thing for April would probably be to find another job. Sadly, there are plenty of homophobes out there, so no doubt she could find another job where her opinions would be more acceptable.

    3. beep boop*

      if the other employees are being polite and professional towards her, just not social or overly friendly, i don’t see an issue. there *should* be appropriate social consequences for being homophobic, etc. and this is one of them. (by appropriate i mean not everyone wants to be your friend, not public shaming or something.) if april can’t articulate her complaints beyond “not being friendly enough” then i wouldn’t take action.

      1. Annony*

        This is where I fall. If they are actively freezing her out (like everyone leaves the break room when she enters, won’t say hello or respond to a simple “how are you today?”) then they need to cut it out. But if they are polite and professional that is really all you can expect.

      2. Out in the Wilderness*

        Exactly. If I knew someone was seriously homophobic, I’m not sure exactly how I would socialize with them at all. What would we talk about? I expect to be able to talk about my family, you know, like *a normal person*. When you’re homophobia means that you are “uncomfortable” with the *existence of my family* — well, how the hell do you expect us to socialize in a friendly manner? I’m not going to sit there listening to this person talk about *her* family while knowing that mine is somehow off-limits and scandalous. It is NOT scandalous.

        I’m just done with double-standards. If it is OK for straight people to talk about their significant others/spouses, then it is OK for me. End of story.

        I’d be professional, I’d work with the person to the degree I need to (probably not going to go above and beyond to help this person out), but we aren’t going to be friends. We’ve got nothing to talk about.

        1. blackcat*

          I was once given the task of “managing” my profoundly racist and homophobic sister in law and keeping her away from my parents in law (she’s my husband’s brother’s wife). Various things about my every day life offend her sensibilities.
          I asked her approximately one million questions about her dog over the two hours I was there. It. was. exhausting. But I couldn’t let conversation veer into my life at all because that would have been…. bad.

          But we ended up blowing everything up when my husband and I told his brother that if his wife couldn’t treat the POC and queer folks at our wedding with respect, then she wasn’t welcome. After many ugly words were had, we have not spoken to them in the 8 years since the wedding.
          Which… is good, because she apparently keeps a loaded handgun in her purse at all times, and we have a toddler….

    4. Temperance*

      I also think that you can’t go to bat for her to get her WFH on a permanent basis. Because that looks like she’s getting rewarded for being a homophobe.

    5. WellRed*

      April didn’t invite her own sister to her wedding because sister is a lesbian. I think April reaps what she sows. I also think your VP’s stance on WFH sucks, but that’s not something you likely have the power to change.

    6. Holey Moley*

      The company doesnt allow permanent WFH. But what about maybe a flexible version of it where she only comes in two days a week? Im sure the position did not state that it was telework eligible when she applied so I dont think she has any cause to ask for it permanently.

      I dont think her beliefs should have anything to do with whether or not she can WFH. People have to be professional despite their differences.

    7. Fikly*

      So she’s being ostracized for being a bigot, basically. And a stupid enough one to make her bigotry public in the office.

      You’re doing it a disservice by calling it controversial. Would you call it the same thing if she refused to invite a relative who was of a different ethnic group? It’s just plain bigotry.

      If her coworkers are still working with her, but simply not socializing with her, I wouldn’t intervene. No one is obliged to socialize with their coworkers. If they are refusing to interact with her to the point where she is having trouble carrying out her job duties, then you need to talk to whoever is doing that about being professional.

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

      You won’t like everybody. You won’t be liked by everybody. Which means you have to be professional, and be able to work setting aside your differences. Talk with both parties and find out whether this is proper bullying or employees being distant. Not being friends with someone is not bullying, refusing to work with or ignoring someone because you were offended is.

    9. Anonymous Educator*

      You say April “feels ostracized.” Are people acting professionally toward April? Or are they actively bullying her?

      You also say they all seemed to keep things professional if not slightly more distant. Could there be some bullying you’re not seeing? If things are genuinely professional, the only problem I see here is your VP being inflexible about WFH (not for April specifically, just in general), but there isn’t a reason to make a special case for April.

      I used to be a homophobe (Evangelical upbringing), and there’s still a difference between “I think being gay is a sin” (barf) and “If you’re gay, you can’t come to my wedding, even if you’re my sister” (major levels of WTF barf). That second level of homophobe is extremely offensive… frankly, to the point that I would actually worry less about her mental health and more about that of her coworkers.

      Not that these are exactly equivalent situations, but I’m in a racial minority group, and if I found out a “high performing” co-worker didn’t invite a relative to her wedding because that relative was of my race, I wouldn’t want to work with her no matter how “professional” she seemed to be at work. Work life and personal life should be separate to a degree, but if someone hates who you are (not what you believe—who you actually are), it can be difficult to feel safe around that person.

      1. Blueberry*

        ” if someone hates who you are (not what you believe—who you actually are), it can be difficult to feel safe around that person.”

        Yeah, this.

        1. allathian*

          This, absolutely. And everybody should be able to feel safe at work.
          Racism is horrible, but I don’t think even the most bigoted racist would expect someone to be able to change the way they look. The insidious thing about homophobia is that so many homophobes think sexuality is a matter of choice (all that talk about disagreeing with the “gay lifestyle”) rather than a quality you’re born with.

          1. tetris replay*

            I’ve seen this come up a couple of times, that people would never allow themselves to be casually racist at work in the same way that they might be casually homophobic at work.

            It’s not true. Don’t fall into this trap.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Work life and personal life should be separate to a degree, but if someone hates who you are (not what you believe—who you actually are), it can be difficult to feel safe around that person.

        This.

        There’s a guy where I work that I was a bit leery of because he is blatantly Christian – always wears a big, high contrast cross, etc. Being LGBTQ+, I was cautious, but I wasn’t going to be nasty or distant just because he was Christian. So I kept things professional and friendly.

        He’s been there over a year now, and I work with him on a lot of things. If he is anti-gay, I have never seen it (I’m quietly out at work, because my wife is my wife.) He never proselytizes, and he’s actually an SF&F fan. I’m glad I held off on my judgment.

        April, though? With evidence that she’s anti-homosexual? I’d be professional but distant. I get uncomfortable around people who make it obvious that they think I shouldn’t be allowed to exist. IMO, you do stupid things, you win stupid prizes. Bigotry should never be rewarded in the workplace.

    10. CircleBack*

      I think I would take the approach of basically saying “April, if people are being unprofessionally cold to you or leaving you out of professional opportunities, then that’s something we need to address separately from the question of working from home. Let’s talk about that.”
      That opens up the discussion to whether there’s something else under the surface, or if she just feels like she doesn’t fit in socially. If it’s the latter, that’s not a business case for working from home. (Especially since it will make it more difficult for her to fit in).
      You could address with April that business cases include 1) she’s able to complete her work and 2) if she really is more productive. And maybe there’s a compromise to be made in # of days a week that she works from home, with her still periodically coming into the office. But I would start by framing it as two separate issues to address with her.

      1. Margali*

        >>“April, if people are being unprofessionally cold to you or leaving you out of professional opportunities, then that’s something we need to address separately from the question of working from home. Let’s talk about that.”

        I think that is really well-phrased and a good starting point.

    11. LGC*

      Disclaimer: I’m gay, so I’m a bit biased.

      I’ll admit, I’m kind of team Ann and Donna here. April openly discriminated against her own sister because…her sister loves other women! It wasn’t that much of a secret if people were talking about it around Tom! Maybe Ann and Donna weren’t that professional about it, but also – April acted in a way that directly discriminated against people like Donna’s son and Ann herself. That’s a huge ask to say, “Hey Ann/Donna, you need to make April comfortable even though you know she hates people like you/your son.”

      (Okay, maybe she doesn’t hate them, but I feel like that’s the best word to use.)

      I’d still go and figure out ways to ask her to help manage the problem. Because to me, it feels like April messed up but doesn’t want to admit it. Like, yeah, Tom started some drama, and maybe Ann and Donna are imposing. But from what you said, both Ann and Donna are acting professionally here, and Tom wasn’t the one that didn’t invite April’s sister to her wedding for the grand sin of being a lesbian. (Like, I’ll give it to you 100: I don’t think my sexuality is something anyone gets to “approve” of and I certainly don’t think it should be a “controversy.”) And I might be focusing a lot on the drama, but that’s because I feel like it’s key to the response – April is feeling stress because of her hurtful actions and views.

      Okay, all of that out the way: I’d still ask, because I don’t think it can hurt. But I wouldn’t push that hard for it. April sounds like a good worker, but…maybe she’s not the right employee for your team. I don’t think you should fire her for discriminatory actions five years ago out of work (that horse has well left the barn), but if there’s a slot open on another team, that might be the best solution. Failing that, she should probably get over herself, just like Ann and Donna have had to for the past few years.

      1. LGC*

        Okay, so…this might have been a bit harsh and a bit presumptuous – if it’s really connected to her wedding, I stand by what I said, but there’s the chance that it might not be. You’d know better, though!

    12. Ashley*

      I think there a lot of soft skills at play here. She might be ok with the core job duties but it sounds like the soft skills cause an issue. Working in an office requires a certain amount of playing well with others. At the end of the day if you lost April as an employee how much would it matter? From there I would make the decision about how much to fight for the WFH.

    13. What the What*

      Assuming April is just as productive at home as she is in the office (and assuming I were the decision maker), the smart move seems to be to move her to WFH permanently. Everyone is happier in that situation – herself, and the people who dislike her, and you, because the office environment becomes more pleasant.

      But you’re not the decision maker, the VP is. So what choice do you have? You present her request to the VP, noting that she is indicating it’s a mental health issue and possible religious discrimination issue, and you convey the answer to April.

      I will note, that there seems to be an implied threat to April’s request. She has brought up both mental health and religious discrimination, and that wasn’t an accident. She has done that on purpose to make you think she might sue if you deny her. It may be an empty threat, and quite possibly one that has no basis whatsoever, but she’s certainly given some thought to this and chose her language intentionally. With that in mind, if your company has in house counsel, they should be looped in. April should be asked to make her request in writing, if she hasn’t already, so that you can bring her exact wording to the VP, and eliminate the possibility that she could later say “I informed Not so Super-visor of XYZ when I made my request.” Nope. Make her write it down.

      1. allathian*

        This. Although if she’s claiming religious discrimination because she’s homophobic, she’s on shaky ground.

      2. Black Horse Dancing*

        Why should April profit from her bigotry? She’s being treated professionally. If no one can WFH, neither can she.

    14. kittymommy*

      Other than Pot-stirrer Tom do you know that April actually has these beliefs? You state she’s never expresses these things at work and doesn’t really socialize with anyone, so how do we know that Tom didn’t hear (or extrapolated) some rumor at the wedding? Maybe sis is gay and maybe she’s also a b**ch that nobody wants around them. Maybe April really is a homophobe? I guess I’m not getting why people believe this is true if it is seemingly only coming from drama guy who no longer works there.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        It’s been five years. If a completely unfounded rumor was the sole cause of her feeling ostracized, don’t you think April would have at least tried to debunk it? “I don’t really want to bring my personal life into work, but it seems it’s already here, so I just want to set the record straight…”

        Five years is a long time in this context.

    15. Lorine*

      So, I’m sorry if this seems like an incredibly obvious question, but have you verified with April that she excluded her sister from her wedding because she’s a lesbian? If this is all based on pot-stirrer Tom’s word and no one has addressed it directly with April, I would want to suss that out.

      1. LavaLamp*

        Yeah, I’d have to agree. Verify that this is actually a thing and that people aren’t truly being misled. It’s entirely possible that April doesn’t know about this being said at her wedding and suddenly came back to have everyone decide they highly disliked her with 0 context. A lot of times people assume that someone should just know why people suddenly hate them. That’s not always the case.

      2. blackcat*

        Yeah, I’m wondering if there’s some kernel of truth that’s gotten really twisted. Like maybe April’s sister’s wife likes to kick puppies, and April’s “I will not have puppy kickers at my wedding” got twisted into “April’s sister isn’t here because she’s married to a woman.” (Stupid example, but you get my drift)

        This seems entirely possible to me–that there’s some other reason why April’s sister was excluded, April’s sister is gay, but the cause and effect isn’t what the pot stirrer thinks.

      3. Temperance*

        Okay so, OP shouldn’t do this without talking to her office’s employment attorney and her boss. Because, to me, it sounds like April is trying to get material for a discrimination suit based on her religious beliefs, and Not So Supervisor shouldn’t give her more potential ammunition.

    16. Intermittent Introvert*

      I’m concerned about the “apparently at the wedding” comment. It seems assumptions about her are being made based on second hand gossip. Maybe it was her parents’ choice. Maybe she had a bad relationship with her sister unrelated to being gay and people assumed. Maybe she’s changed and is now an active ally. Whatever. You are trying to make a decision using the gossip. Old gossip. Make your decision based on the facts you have in front of you.

    17. Not So NewReader*

      I think April left this job 5 years ago, but her body keeps showing up for work.

      Tom really mishandled this to the point that I’d say Tom was not cut out for management.

      Folks here have mentioned a potential law suit. With this in mind, I think I would loop in my boss with what is going on. I might say something like, “I am not sure if we want to check with legal here or not because I am not sure where this is going.” Ask the boss how he would like you to proceed.

      At the same time, to her, I would echo what the big boss is saying. “April, I can ask if you can WFH, but I am not optimistic about the answer.” Perhaps she will start in talking about her mental health concerns. You might get information you do not have now. This is something to watch for so you are not blind-sided later by something that got by you.

      I am picking up on something in your writing that kind of telegraphs to me you want to help April in some way, even though this sounds like a mess. For your own peace of mind, please remember that not every employee is salvageable. I go back to my former boss’ statement, “Part of what we are being compensated for is our willingness to get along with others.” Additionally, we cannot help those who are not helping themselves. Please keep these two thoughts in mind. April is not willing to get along with others and she is not willing to help herself get to a better spot. The evidence for this is all the drama has been going on for five years. (April had 5 years to find a new job and get a fresh start, she chose not to do this.)

      For many reasons, this is bigger than you. It started before you. There are legal implications. And you may indeed have office bullies but we can’t tell yet. Bring other people into the story here- your boss, HR and maybe you boss may want to talk to an attorney. Don’t try to get through this alone.

      Insisting on facts every inch of the way is THE card I would use to help myself through this. Many of my sentences would start with, “Okay, let’s look at the facts here….”. Keep your eyes and ears open for what else might be going on here. The Toms (weak managers) of the world don’t operate in a vacuum.

  10. Bunny Girl*

    So I received a verbal job offer last week, contingent on a background check and drug test. I took the verbal offer because at the time it was the only offer in a really long job search and I’m starting to get a little desperate. But then unexpectedly, another opportunity fell into my lap. It would be a much better fit for me all around, and it’s in my field. I’m supposed to hear from them early next week. I’m really hoping it comes through for me because it’s my dream job, but it got me thinking about the original offer, and now I’m not sure I want to even take it even if the job is offered to me after the check and test. Blegh. This is all so frustrating. I’m really, really hoping job offer B comes through, because it will just kind of solve all my problems.

    1. Invisible Fish*

      Almost identical situation right here- my partner keeps telling me it’s ok to be selfish and take the job that is best for me. I still feel like I need a tranquilizer to deal with things!

      1. Bunny Girl*

        I feel you! Hopefully the holiday weekend gives you so more time to think about it. I feel a little better than the job offer isn’t “final” because they are still doing the background check and I’m not doing my drug test until next week. If I do get job offer B, I am definitely going to take it. I think it’s fine to be selfish!

        1. Katniss Evergreen*

          It really is! You don’t have to feel at all guilty about this. Thing is, what “flags” show up in a background check vary by company, and how they choose to dig – if they found something unsuitable to them, they wouldn’t feel guilty about pulling your offer, they’d just do it. You haven’t signed anything and they haven’t started moving mountains to bring you in – you do you, and I hope it all works out for the best :)

  11. EggEgg*

    I had been looking at maybe moving into remote work before all this happened, but was nervous because I didn’t know if I would like it. Turns out, it’s a great fit! Even in this disaster time, I’m more productive and have higher job satisfaction. I was casually looking for other roles before, but am ramping up a little now that we’re starting to have conversations about pulling me back into the office (I’m part of a vulnerable population, fwiw).

    This has made me realize I have a question about looking job-hoppy. I just graduated with my BA, so it’s a reasonable time for me to be looking, but I’ve only been in this position for about a year and a half. I have been at the same smallish non-profit for over three years (three different roles). For hiring managers, does my tenure with the organization balance out the short time in this particular role or do I need to address it?

    1. MissBliss*

      Congrats on your BA! I would think that having been with one organization for three years, even if it’s been three different roles, would balance out the time you’ve spent in your role. For what it’s worth, in my experience with nonprofits, a year and a half wouldn’t look all that job-hoppy– maybe a little bit, but it’s also something that comes with the territory, IMO.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      You’ve been at the same company for three years, you definitely won’t look job-hoppy. I guess unless the roles are incredibly different? Like if you were an accountant, then in sales, then in maintenance, all within three years at the same company, I might wonder what was going on. But if it was just moving between teams or getting a promotion, or growing into a new role, that’s just career growth and doesn’t warrant addressing.

    3. WellRed*

      You’re fine. It’s not job hopping if it’s within the same company. I also expect newer to the workforce people to have shorter stints as they find their footing and their fit and grow.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Three years at one company with two promotions and a new degree? That’s ambitious not job-hoppy.
      In an ideal world you’d be able to finagle an internal promotion at your current company — but I understand that sometimes the company paying the bills during college isn’t related to your new career. It’s at least worth asking about, in my book.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, that would look very good to me if I were looking at candidates and saw your résumé.

    5. Katniss Evergreen*

      Contributing to the echo-chamber that this isn’t job-hopping. Allison’s standard advice always refers to your tenure with a company, even when punctuated by different roles. If you haven’t already, I’d look at DailyRemote for advice on your search as well as lots of job ads. Good luck with your search!

  12. Kramerica Industries*

    What’s a reasonable accommodation that I can request when I’m burning out because my job is a bad fit? It’s been a year since I came into this job as a Teapot Designer. Previously, I was a Teapot Developer so I was excited to learn about design. However, the “design” elements of this job haven’t allowed me to learn many new things. Instead, I’m essentially just doing monotonous work of using design templates instead of learning how to design. Also, my manager leans heavily on my for any element of Teapot Development, which I have come to resent. Instead of trying to train other team members how to do this, she falls back on my previous experience. I’ve expressed before that I left my old job because I didn’t like TeaPot Development and wanted to learn new skills in Design, but the work allocation continued.

    Now, I noticed that I get anxiety episodes when tasked with anything related to Development. It’s also started affecting the easy design tasks that I am given though. I’m looking for a new job because I know that’s the root of the issue, but should I bring up to my manager that certain tasks/the lack of meaningful work is triggering my anxiety? I don’t want to use anxiety as an excuse for being less productive than normal, but I think it’s where I am.

    Also, because I’m WFH, is it reasonable to request that this conversation be held over Skype messenger? I’m in a small condo with my family and do not want them to overhear that I’m struggling.

    1. Fikly*

      Well, the ADA doesn’t apply if you cannot do the core job functions. Given that the core job functions are what is causing you the problem, I’m not sure what accommodations you could have that wouldn’t be you not doing the core job functions.

      Good luck on the job search.

    2. Combinatorialist*

      I wouldn’t ask for Skype messenger but could you have a phone call from your car?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      ” I’ve expressed before that I left my old job because I didn’t like TeaPot Development and wanted to learn new skills in Design, but the work allocation continued.”

      It sounds like you made a statement rather than asking a question. Why not ask what the time line is for you to start doing designer work rather than development work. If you are being paid a higher rate for doing design work, I’d see some hope here. Ask questions as opposed to making statements.

      What I like about this is that it side steps the whole discussion of anxiety. Road blocks are anxiety inducing for many people. You are being blocked from getting over to design work which was your goal. Find out when you will transition to doing design work. If the answer is a bunch of stumbling or hemming and hawing then you know you can start to look for a job that is actually in design work. Don’t make yourself stay if the job is not what was promised. You promised yourself a design job, you thought you had one but now you find out that may not be true. Commit, again, to finding that design job.

      Remember you can say, “I was hired to do design work. When will that start?”

      The fact that no one else is trained, is NOT your problem.
      Boss: Well no one else is trained.
      You: Okay so who can we get trained so I can move to design?

  13. not my usual name*

    I’m not sure who needs to hear this, but I feel like it needs to be said: it’s 100% possible to simultaneously be thankful you’re still employed, and also be unhappy with how your job is right now. Like, maybe don’t complain in front of people who are laid off or furloughed, because they don’t need to hear it. But even for people with relative job security, many people have seen their job changed dramatically or were trying to leave a bad job before COVID and now feel stuck. Being thankful to have a job doesn’t mean you have to just accept it how it is. It’s okay to recognize that things may be bad at work, and try to find ways to make it better.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Yeah this hits hard. I am working at a very abusive and miserable job right now while I’m going to school and a lot of people have told me that “at least I have a job.” I know that’s one aspect of it, and I’m grateful I have steady money coming in. But people are leaving my department and all their work is being dumped on me. The company is quietly laying people off by the droves. I do feel really stuck, even though I’ve been applying like crazy before and during COVID. A lot of things are awful but you know misery isn’t a contest.

    2. Rebecca*

      Thank you. I’m currently only happy about being able to work from home. The additional work, covering for furloughed people, is not making me happy, nor am I happy about not being able to take a day off because again, thin coverage. I was looking at state government jobs, seeing what civil service tests I’d need to take, etc. and then COVID hit, and put a stop to it. The only thing I can see to make this better is to allow WFH moving forward so at least I don’t have to make the commute and listen to all the crap that goes on in the office day after day.

    3. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I hear you. I was let go from my job and while I miss aspects of it….I know it’s equally stressful for the people remaining because honestly that place was toxic for so many reasons.

      I’m such a big proponent of “it’s not the pain olympics” so I try to follow that as well so as not to be a hypocrite.

    4. Fikly*

      You also are never under an obligation to be thankful/grateful you have a job right now.

      You have a job because you have skills and are providing something of value to your employer. They are not employing you as charity.

    5. Not my name either*

      Yes. I was polishing my resume and starting to contact recruiters. Right now I’m afraid to jump ship because giving up seniority is scary. But upper management’s response to the pandemic has made it ever more clear that they’re hypocrites who care about publicity more than treating their employees fairly. To paraphrase, “my c-suite is full of jerks and they aren’t going to change.” (My actual is pretty good, but one person is not a shield against jerks in upper management.)

    6. EnfysNest*

      For sure! Thank you for this. I haven’t even been able to talk much about my frustrations because usually I would discuss it with my mom when I call her, but now that my dad is working from home, every call to either of them goes on speaker phone and it’s a call with both of them instead of chatting separately (usually I would call my mom on my drive home from work and my dad would call me during his drive home, since he gets off later than I do). My dad and I can talk about a lot of things, but as soon as I express any frustration with work, he’s immediately focused on “you have a job with the government and all the benefits and protections right now are more important than anything” and he thinks I should stay here no matter what. So now work discussion of any kind is really out with my parents and I don’t want to bore anyone else with it, so I’m just kind of stewing in it. Yes, I’m glad I’m still getting paid, but I was wanting out before all this and the issues I had before are just getting worse and worse now. Ugh.

    7. Justme, the OG*

      Yes. I posted a question lower down about something like this, how to make WFH suck less. I am so happy to have a job and when things are normal I love it. But right now it’s not the best for me.

    8. buffty*

      I generally like my job pretty well, but the effects of COVID are making it a lot more difficult than normal, as it is directly affecting the operations teams that we support. I see social media posts about being bored or not knowing what day it is, and it can be pretty disheartening when I am working 10 hour days. I do feel very fortunate to have a job, but that does not keep me from being exhausted!

    9. Donkey Hotey*

      I hear you. I had been job searching for about six months before the COVID hit the fan. My company (which has up until now been remarkably short-sighted) sent the entire company home for six weeks with full pay and benefits. My jaw bounced a couple times on the floor, let me tell you.
      For now, I have decreased the intensity of my job search, in part because of how they stepped up and in part because I feel I’m now in competition with about 35 million people who -need- a job, not just want a new job. But I’m still looking.

    10. Dave*

      Yes! I almost get the feeling that my co-workers are personally blaming me for the WFH rules. I know there are portions of the job that can suck working from home, but it is amazing to realize how much I have baby-sat my co-workers over the years. Their inability to read and comprehend a two line e-mail is astounding.

    11. Happy Lurker*

      Thank you so much! I am feeling this so hard this week. It’s a week of personal obligations and work BS. Greatful I can earn money, buy food, etc.
      Thoroughly dissapointed that vendors have either let go or critical staff is not in, resulting in my increasing mulitple requests for basic things. Seriously, do small business owners not realize their admins make or break them?
      Also, agreeing with Dave – a 2 line email is such a simple thing, can we please just take care of it, so I do not have to keep pestering you, please?
      And Potatoes gonna Potate – LOVE the pain olympics!
      I really wanted to post something this week, but it all seemed like whining and it still does, but Thank You usual name.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Human beings are complex. We can have two opposing emotions running at the same time and sincerely mean each of those emotions. This is like, we can grieve a loss but at the same time be glad the person is not suffering anymore.

      It’s okay to have these dual emotions because life just is not straightforward. It has layers.

      Large crisis seems to really bring out the dual thinking. I think in part because crisis starts people to thinking about the meaning of life and what is important and what’s not important.

      I hope everybody here gets to a place more in line with what they want.

  14. MissBliss*

    In about January, my husband and I made a plan for the next four years. And then… everything happened. We’re actually going to achieve 4/5 if not all 5 of our goals for this year, so that’s great, but it’s really made us (particularly him) re-think career goals. He’s been thinking about starting his own business for a while and being at home for 2 months has been the thing to finally push him to get started.

    We re-did the plan and he’s going to start taking business courses at the community college this month, have a business plan by December, and get things up and running hopefully by next June. My salary will cover all our essential expenses, and healthcare is through my employment, so as long as I have a job we should be fine for him to take this risk (and I’m not particularly worried about layoffs at the moment).

    That said, it’s definitely still going a big adjustment. He’s going to be a one-man-shop for a while, working from our home producing items for recreational boating. Is there anyone here whose spouse or partner has started their own business? Do you have any advice for being supportive and also staying sane, knowing that you are the breadwinner? Any advice from small business folks for things my husband and I should keep in mind as we get things going? Thanks in advance!

    1. Artemesia*

      no useful advice – but kudos for being able to be proactive and plan in these ‘challenging times’ to use the cliche. There is a meme going around right now that nails it “Turns out everybody got this interview question wrong in 2015 : ‘How do you see yourself in 5 years?’.

      That you have been able to continue to think and plan and execute? Impressive.
      Good luck with it.

      1. MissBliss*

        Thank you! It’s just our way of trying to take something positive from this situation. My number one takeaway from the pandemic so far has been “don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.” There’s no saying what tomorrow will bring– and given how much time our work lives take up, we want to try and get into a place where we can be in control of how much “work” is in the work/life balance. For him, that means taking on the responsibilities of running a business.

    2. R*

      I will definitely sound like a negative nelly for saying this. But have an exit plan. What are the success criteria for the business? At what point will you pull the plug if it’s not working according to that criteria? A lot of small businesses fail, and that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, or try again if this one does. But you won’t be able to try again if you have lost everything in chasing this one. My spouse started a side gig that dove tailed with his main gig. We agreed on investing $20k from our savings in it. When we realized it wasn’t working, we pulled the plug and made a net loss of $10k. Annoying, but survivable. Without an exit plan we would have lost more. Don’t get pulled into the sunk cost fallacy.

      1. MissBliss*

        That’s a great reminder! I am definitely not one for the sunk cost fallacy but my husband may need a reminder. I’ll suggest he put that into the business plan!

      2. Katniss Evergreen*

        This is such useful advice – being optimistic doesn’t mean you can’t have a plan in place for *if* everything goes to crap. Sometimes you can do everything right on your end and the world (exhibit A – thanks ‘rona..) just says no.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        A good business plan should include an exit plan. It could include a succession plan where the business is taken over by someone else.
        Definitely get a handle on how long he will be in operation before he should start to see a profit.
        How will he know to decide that it’s not working?

        On the flip side of the coin, many small businesses fail because they did not anticipate the strong positive response. A friend made a bench. (Am changing details here but the idea is there.) A family member posted it on the internet. All of the sudden Friend has orders for benches, dozens and dozens of benches. (I guess Friend forgot they could say “No, I can’t take any more orders.”) The benches are all over and they have to be delivered. Some orders are 50-100 miles away. The vehicle can only hold a couple of benches at a time. And there’s more orders.

        Know what the business capacity is. If the demand is higher than expected then raise the capacity FIRST (more workers, more materials) before taking more work on. As the working supporting spouse, know your limits. If you can’t help run for materials after work, or if you can’t help deliver things, etc., say so up front. This way there are less surprises for the both of you.

        Have a second plan for the personal side, plan as a couple how you will handle things at home. How will household chores and bills be divided up? Set up periodic discussions of how things are going, what is working and what isn’t.

        There are no perfect plans, the idea is to have a strong starting point.

    3. Katefish*

      Hey fellow steady job spouse! My husband started a new business in October 2018 that made its first deal 11 months later and then became cash flow positive the next month. That gap period requires a lot of faith and positivity (realistic, not pie in the sky) for both spouses. I realize that’s not practical advice… My spouse is self directed and hustled to make it work… But I hope it’s helpful.
      Another thought… There are tons of free training materials for literally anything on YouTube. I’m not discounting school at all–I have a couple grad degrees–but business planning can probably be learned online, either free or paid. If community college helps as a confidence boost though then it makes sense…we paid up front for an investment course that helped us get started. Whatever you do, good luck!

      1. MissBliss*

        Hi Katefish, thank you for the encouragement! It’s helpful to hear a timeframe from someone else in a similar boat– and honestly, one year doesn’t sound that bad! I am a firm believer that I can do anything for a year… It’s the fact that there’s no defined timeline that makes me nervous. On the community college note, I work for the school, so my husband can take courses there at no cost– the business program is also highly regarded and has a specific entrepreneurship track, which I do think will help with his confidence in knowing what he’s doing, particularly because he’ll have access to people who have already done it. Thank you!

    4. SweetestCin*

      Waving!

      We’re three (::ticks fingers to check, yup, three::) years into this adventure of ours in which my husband ventured out on his own, business-wise. I’m the bread-winner (that’s a new one), the insurance carrier (that’s mostly not new), and the primary parental type unit (that’s old).

      My top three:
      1. Its like having a baby, if you have kids, or have spent any time around kids as an adult-ish person. The business is going to go through stages that are ridiculously close to those of human development for about the first five years – newborn, toddlerhood, threenagerdom, preschool. (I cannot claim credit for this; a friend who owns his own contracting business gave me this advice when he heard my husband was going out on his own.)
      2. The business is probably going to take about 20-25% longer than what you’re guesstimating for anything. Example? Even as simple as “amount of hours away from home per week”. We’re at threenagerdom, and just starting to get family-weekends back.
      3. Communication is incredibly important. Incredibly. Do not wait til anything hits the Mt. Vesuvius level of angst prior to saying anything.

      The most important thing to do in order to remain sane and supportive? Mileage will vary here greatly – I have kept myself sane simply because though I’m an equal in the holding company, I don’t have day to day knowledge of the DBA’s doings…and that’s on purpose. I have X mental bandwidth, and having to include that in my bandwidth while not be able to do a danged thing about it during business hours? I do not have the spare bandwidth. At all. So I simply…don’t.

      I’d also argue it important to maintain a “family unit” calendar, and try your darndest to hold true to it. I’d say this even if there are no kids in the unit! Things happen, and I can compartmentalize pretty well….but when every single thing on the calendar is seemingly missed…its difficult to maintain sanity!

      Definitely stay in touch with the markets and marketing groups in your area – I know we have decent sized ones locally, at county and general trade levels. These events are where I actually do get involved – I’m not SweetestCin-in-her-day-job at these events, I’m SweetestCin-personal-networker-for-company.

      Best of luck to you both!!!!

    5. Petey McPetey*

      Make sure you have enough cash to pay for business expenses. Don’t use credit cards. Put money back into the business. I wish you and your husband great success! You guys can do it!

    6. SB Owner*

      Meet with an accountant or 2 or 3, preferably one that can help you get your TID for the business. We ran DBA for a couple years, but when we finally moved us to a seperate business entitiy it was better. A good accountant can help you figure out which way to go for now.
      We didn’t really need the accountant all that much in the beginning. We knew we didn’t gel with the bookkeeper assigned to us, but they were fine for once a year. Then one day we needed some help and and they could not provide what we needed. It was simple stuff for them, but beyond me at the time. We ended up leaving the entire practice for a new one that provided much better service.

    7. Curmudgeon in California*

      My wife had not been able to get gig that she fit into – they all looked at her and decided she was too old to handle computers (she was actually an early adopter.) They kept trying to had her receptionist gigs, and in our area those are unskilled “anyone with a pulse & a voice” jobs. The recruiters were too lazy to place her because she is older and multiskilled (they couldn’t pigeonhole her, so they labeled her “unskilled”.)

      So she decided to do consulting. She has had a very difficult time bringing in new work, because advertising costs money. But she keeps plugging away at it. She doesn’t have a formal business plan, but since she doesn’t deal in physical goods, that doesn’t cause too much problem. She does have some trouble identifying potential target markets. I get dragged in for advice on that, which is kinda hilarious.

      I have a small side gig making stuff. Most years I don’t make a profit, so it’s really a hobby that mostly pays for itself. In corona time, it is nearly dead in the water, because I don’t have an online storefront.

      A good business plan, a definition of what success means, and laying out a ramp to profitability will help.

    8. Another business librarian*

      Business & entrepreneurship librarian here- your husband can get free/low cost support from your area’s Small Business Development Center. And check with the librarian at your community college & local public libraries to see what access to business information (market research data, etc) they can help with. (Navigating Census data is a headache, and I do it every day.) Entrepreneur magazine (entrepreuner dot com) is one of my favorite free resources.

    9. tab*

      I started my consulting business in 2010, and meeting with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) was a huge help. And, there is no charge for their services. Good luck! My business is going great.

    10. New Senior Manager*

      I haven’t scrolled down to see if this suggestion has already been offered. But do create a supportive network of close family, friends, online support groups, etc. for YOU during the time. Sounds like you may be providing a tremendous amount of emotional and other support during this time so don’t forget about excellent self care during this time. I wish you both the best. Very exciting!

  15. lisette*

    Hello everyone! I would really appreciate some input on industries or types of work I should pursue. The company I’m with is fairly dysfunctional, and I just can’t do it anymore. I would be interested in a new industry, but I don’t know where to look.

    I got a PhD in a social science/humanities field in 2009 with the goal of becoming a professor. I taught college for two years and then left the field after failing to get a tenure track position. As a PhD student/professor, I of course developed research/writing/course development skills. More specifically, I did scientific research on human subjects, which involved getting IRB approval, writing grant proposals (and winning grants!), statistical analysis and exploratory data analysis, etc. Basically, I think I developed a skill set that is applicable to a lot of fields, but my degree is in a field that is generally not considered relevant.

    Since 2012, I have worked for a family-owned business that does staffing contracts with the federal government. I wear many hats – write proposals and other formal correspondence/policies, pricing analysis, market research, HR functions, compliance tracking. Again, I feel these are valuable skills, but I’m just not sure what to do with them.

    Any suggestions for the type of work I should be looking into?

    1. SaffyTaffy*

      lisette, it sounds like your credentials could make you a strong informationist or research librarian. Those positions don’t always require a Master’s Library Science degree, especially if you bring real-life research experience to the table. All hospitals have libraries, sometimes LARGE ones, and the library staff gets brought into research projects by the medical staff. Would that interest you?

      1. lisette*

        Oooh, I never thought about hospital libraries! I’m actually in medical staffing right now, so that sounds very interesting to me. Thank you!

        1. Oxford Comma*

          By all means look into hospital librarianship, but that’s not the most stable area right now. A lot of hospitals have let go of their librarians and just subscribe to databases and clinical point of care tools now.

          1. SaffyTaffy*

            Yeah, but meanwhile, I can name 4 hospital libraries in my area of the US that are actively hiring.

            1. Oxford Comma*

              When I started, medical librarians were pretty much 50/50: half academic and half hospital/clinical. That percentage has significantly shifted with most being academic. A lot of my hospital librarian friends have had to shift to other fields.

      2. CatLibrarian*

        Just be aware that many positions with librarian in their title will often require a master in library science. There are of course many paraprofessional jobs in libraries that dont require a masters but probably won’t pay as much.

    2. AbaxSC*

      Grant Administration. Check out the NCURA website for info/learning opportunities. You understand the lingo and processes, so you’re halfway there.

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        I was about to suggest university research administration! I have a similar background (no PhD, though) and that is my career. My department is currently hiring for an entry-level research administrator even with a state hiring freeze in place.

    3. OtterB*

      I don’t know where you’re located, but I work for a nonprofit association in DC for higher education in a specific discipline doing what I shorthand as “social science research” (mostly surveys). I have colleagues who do similar work in other disciplines or higher ed organizations. Much of your skills and experience would be relevant to these organizations. I’d look for jobs with titles like Research Analyst, Research Associate, Program Associate, etc.

      Of course, it’s not at all clear what will happen to these organizations in the fallout from the pandemic. Mine expects to be okay but not all of them will be.

      Another area that would use those skills, maybe with some additional specific training, would be program evaluation.

      1. lisette*

        Thank you! There is one company in my area that I know of that does this type of thing. I applied with them once and was really turned off by their application process, but this is good reminder to keep looking in this area.

    4. Fikly*

      Not a type of work, but a resource. The MLA has a bunch of resources focused on careers outside of teaching/academia for humanities and social sciences PhDs. I’d take a look there.

    5. Legally a Vacuum*

      At my company I could see you working in Marketing analytics. We manufacture consumer goods.

    6. Grey Coder*

      Clinical trial manager or similar? This would depend on being near a relevant research facility of course.

    7. Nesprin*

      Clinical trial coordinator! They need good people who are able to write, keep track on human subjects and understand statistics.

    8. Policy Wonk*

      The government can always use good analysts across all fields. Check out USA Jobs.

    9. Katniss Evergreen*

      Offering up Technology Transfer as a field! I don’t work in this function, but I know the office that does within my gov’t group (hint, we have loved Fauci since forever). Our tech transfer specialists coordinate the particulars in legal agreements for collaborative research and materials transfer, licensing and patent management for inventions and devices, among other things. They work as liaisons between our scientists and other institutions around the world in formalizing research relationships to make expectations (and legal standards) clear. They cooperate with science, and need a lot of detail-orientation as well as the other skills that seem right in your wheelhouse based on the duties you’ve described in your past/present jobs, if you’re looking for a blend of those things. In the shop I’m most familiar with, most staff have a Ph.D. or a deep scientific background of some other kind, or are lawyers.

      I wish you luck in figuring this out! Fwiw, you have a lot of skills that employers would find useful if you enjoy doing any/all of the things you’ve included.

  16. Book Pony*

    What’s the best way to phrase asking to continue working from home?

    My team has two bosses, Clayton and Cruella. Clayton sent an email earlier this week saying how we should receiving news soon on returning back to our office, and how excited he is by that prospect. (He’s also been working back in the building since it reopened…despite the office having been closed a few times due to positive COVID cases…)

    I’m high-risk and quite honestly more efficient working at home away from the distractions of our office (cube farm and my coworkers are very loud, among other problems.)

    My boss is Cruella, and I’m not sure how to push back against going back to the office, since this is one of those “we’re all family and we miss each other and eating after each other” (I am not kidding about that last bit.) I do know that our office said (before we all started working from home) that if you needed to work from home to talk to your supervisor and they’d see what they could do.

    Also: super friendly hello to all enbys again! (I like hearing from y’all.)

    1. SaffyTaffy*

      It sounds like you already kind of know what you want to say! “Working from home has been a great opportunity for me because of X. Also, because I’m high-risk/immunocompromised, it’s a safer option for me. I’d like to talk about continuing to work from home. The benefits would be Y, Z. Could we schedule some time to talk?”

      1. Book Pony*

        I suppose I do, for the most part.

        Most of concern stems from the fact that Cruella manages us all through constant observation (she’s a serious micromanager). Thankfully (and I know this is terrible), she’s been distracted due to some personal issues, but I do not miss the daily group Skype chats. Last time we talked, she *said* I “seemed to be doing well, working from home” and I agreed that I was. I’m just honestly not sure if I have the capital to ask, since there have been some issues while working here (which I think I’ve corrected, but who knows with Cruella. For the tarot folks, I’m a Queen of Swords trapped in an office of reversed Wands people ugh)

    2. agree*

      I’m feeling you and your uneasiness.

      A higher-up has continued to say “I miss in person meetings and can’t wait to get back to seeing everyone in person” which makes me nervous.

      I’ve looked at CDC guidance for re-opening offices and have asked specific questions pertaining to that: such as how often is everything being wiped down, what about high touch areas (banisters, doors). I’m in an open floor plan as well. My other issue is that it’s a shared co-working office space, think WeWork on a scaled-down size of a small business – that is housing other small businesses.

      1. Artemesia*

        It isn’t the cleaning of surface — it is the being in enclosed spaces breathing each other’s breath and the germs hanging in the air. This is an airborne contagion and so you aren’t safe even if they are wiping things down hourly if you have to share space with others. More so if masks are not continuously and properly worn but basically it is the being in the space that is dangerous not how ‘clean’ the space is. Push back with this approach.

        1. Healthcare worker*

          Actually, the best guess of every public health authority and research scientist of which I am aware is that this virus is spread by droplets, not airborne transmission. That’s why droplet and contact precautions, not airborne precautions, are recommended for healthcare providers except in the setting of aerosol-generating procedures. With droplet transmission, fomite transmission – droplets that land on and contaminate surfaces – are indeed a concern, which is why environmental cleaning has been a major part of every IPAC plan regarding the novel coronavirus.

      2. Book Pony*

        Oh they’ve (meaning my job/office) been good about sanitizing everything, but the problem is literally that a: no one wears a mask but me and b: my team is so gross. Like, so gross. Example: licking their fingers and then touching food to hand to someone else. The most of I’ve seen of them cleaning up their act (heh) is using more hand sanitizer. But they still cram themselves into the small cubes to talk to each other soooo

    3. Third or Nothing!*

      Our upper management reached out to me about how I felt about coming back to the office on June 1, when they originally planned to have everyone come back to the office. I straight up told him “Our entire family is high risk and I am not comfortable putting our daughter in daycare due to the increased risk of exposure. I’d like to continue working from home as long as possible.” He’s also aware of how much more productive I am when working from home without the usual office distractions, although that’s obviously not the case right now with a feisty toddler running around, haha.

    4. CM*

      I’d say to Cruella, “It’s exciting that the office is opening up again and everyone will get to see each other, but since I’m high-risk, going back into the office will endanger my health. Even though I’d love to see people in person, for health reasons I need to continue working from home. Can we arrange that?” (If possible, throwing in a “my doctor advised me” would also be good.)

      1. Artemesia*

        And request FMLA paperwork if there is any pushback. Using ‘my doctor advised me’ is good because it alerts to potential ADA issues.

      2. Book Pony*

        My only concern with saying “my doctor advised me” is that they’d then ask for proof. Which, I know ordinarily getting a doctor’s letter in this sitch is hard/impossible, but this is also government so lol.

        That is definitely a good script though! (And thanks to everyone else who posted suggestions)

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “EATING AFTER each other”?
      Am I right that that’s a typo (swipo?) for “eating together and looking after each other”?

      1. Book Pony*

        Unfortunately, it is not a typo.

        This team eats off the same spoon, double dips, licks fingers and then touches food for someone else, drinks after each other, etc.

        It’s a nightmare lol

        1. Dream Jobbed*

          I just threw up a little in my mouth. Yuck! I’m not a germaphobe, but no way am I sharing a spoon with anyone but an intimate partner, even before this all hit!

    6. Holey Moley*

      High risk person here. I got a letter from my specialist (rheumatologist) stating that Im high risk and should be allowed to telework as much as possible. He did add the caveat that if I must go to work then everyone must wera masks at all times and stay six feet away from me (haha, hard to do in cube farms). I suggest getting a letter from your doctor before you have the conversation. When I spoke with my boss I emphasized that when numbers go down and things in the area move beyond phase 1 of reopening I would be willing to revist me going in.

      1. Book Pony*

        If I had a doctor locally, I’d definitely do that. But I haven’t seen my general practitioner in a while and we parted on bad terms. Plus it’s been years and I don’t think they have my chart on hand. (Been meaning to find doctors locally, but money.)

        Thanks for the suggestion though.

  17. EnfysNest*

    I’m brainstorming ideas for a new job / career field, because my current one is turning out not to be a good match for me and I need something – anything – I’m better suited to.

    I’m looking for something with plenty of structure / defined tasks, rather than big nebulous projects that stretch on for years. I want to be able to look back at my week and see something measurable that I accomplished. I have a Bachelors of Science (in architectural engineering, but like I said, I want to change fields) and 7 years of experience working with construction contracts for a medical facility (again, I want to get away from that). Minimal travel because I’m the only caretaker for my cat. I’m looking for a minimum of $55k, which would be a big cut, but I’m willing and able to take it for a fresh start.

    If you’ve had a job that would fit those elements, could you please tell me what type of position and maybe a quick blurb about it? I’m really up for considering anything at this point. I especially enjoy math and data, but I also really like working with my hands, creative work, any kind of problem solving, etc. and I’m willing to consider pretty much anything other than contract management. I’ll be looking in central Florida, but I’m flexible with the exact location, so I want to cast as wide a net as possible to find something. I just need to get out and I’m looking for any ideas. Thanks!

    1. 867-5309*

      What about an office operations manager? It has structure, some numbers and data, usually a bit of creativity (especially if you’re the office manager of a smaller company)…

    2. rageismycaffeine*

      I work in advancement services (fundraising support). You might like a data analyst/database administrator hybrid type job in a fundraising office. Our database manager has lots of clearly defined tasks: running exports, for people who need to do mailings, reports for leadership to understand our metrics, importing new data, general database management. We have a handful of projects that drag on, but only because we don’t have the time to knock them out right away.

      Granted nonprofits of all stripes are badly hurting right now, but a good database administrator type is really invaluable.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        I’m in the same field, and I agree! Larger nonprofits like colleges and hospitals may in some cases be more financially stable right now than smaller ones, and more likely to have in-house data analytics services. Some of them may have hiring freezes on, though (like mine, which otherwise would have just such an opening right now).

      2. MissBliss*

        Agreed– or maybe even a development writing position within a school of engineering. It has the creative piece, but it also has structured timelines, metrics for success, and requires someone who can pull and piece together data to make a persuasive argument. You might even find a position where it’s a bit of Column A and a bit of Column B, but I feel like that’s less likely with a larger institution that has specific officers for different schools/departments within the campus.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Technical writing?
      Honestly project management in a field other than construction would be a simple tangent to explain to a recruiter or hiring manager.

      1. 867-5309*

        Project management is a great one and while it does involve long-term planning, it’s anything but nebulous for this role.

    4. Free Meerkats*

      Have you considered out of office type jobs?

      A few to think about: Water treatment plant operator, Wastewater treatment plant operator, Surface water technician, Pretreatment inspector.

      Those all involve more math than most people would think, data analysis, working with your hands, and problem solving. And except for training, they are zero travel and when your day is over, it’s over, you don’t take work home with you. Plus, they are all secure jobs, people need water and sewage treatment, no matter what the economy is doing.

      1. Skeeder Jones*

        interestingly enough, I was thinking they might be a good fit in the water industry too. I worked in water conservation for a few years and the focus on data science is really growing

    5. Wehaf*

      Data science could be a good fit for you. It’s all computer work, but very problem-solving focused, obviously heavy on the data and math, and projects tend to have measurable, well-defined short-term goals but with plenty of scope for creativity and defining the best way to tackle the big picture aim.

    6. AnotherAlison*

      I feel like I’ve answered this question before, so if you’ve asked, I’ve answered, and you wish I would just shut up, I apologize!

      – If you don’t hate engineering, what about an AE job with a different industry? I work in EPC power, and while a lot of the projects do go on for a few years, the architecture scope doesn’t require the AE to be involved for that long. You might just write some specs for MBS on jobs, or sometimes there is a small CMU building to design. No multi-year hospital complexes.
      – Estimating?
      – Proposal writing?

      Estimators and proposal writers don’t travel as much, either. The trick is if you stay in the field or even in the tangential positions, you probably don’t advance if you can’t travel. Of course, that’s my company. YMMV elsewhere.

      If you don’t want to stay in the field, I hear you. I tried to escape a couple times, but 20 years later here I am. I actually feel like there is some 7-12 year hump to overcome, because I really am happy with my career now.

    7. The Rural Juror*

      I have a friend whose background is in electrical engineering. He got a job with a company that does forensics engineering, which sounds fascinating to me. Basically, anytime there’s a event such as a fire, flood, collapse, etc, their company goes in to figure out what went wrong. They’re either hired by lawyers or insurance companies, it varies. He’s the one who travels to the site, but he works with a lot of people that analyze the findings.

      Good luck with your search!

      1. EnfysNest*

        Hmm. I was fascinated by all the forensic engineering case studies we did when I was in school and I still watch every documentary I can find about those kinds of disasters. I feel like that would be very travel-heavy, though, so I don’t know that I could commit to that.

        1. Melon*

          If you’re interested in this topic check out Building Science Fight Club on Instagram!

  18. Berry*

    A question about severance packages:

    The publication The Atlantic had layoffs this week and a statement including their severance package was publicly shared. I don’t have much experience with this (knock on wood) but is this what a normal severance package looks like or is this an above average severance package? It contains a lot of job searching support, plus COBRA coverage through the end of the year amongst other things.

    Here is the link: https://twitter.com/kerrymflynn/status/1263464202993381376

    1. ThatGirl*

      I have only ever seen one severance package, the one I got from my last job when I was laid off, but mine seemed fairly standard to slightly above average — it was 2 weeks of pay per year of service, plus job search/outplacement firm support.

      By that metric, The Atlantic’s package looks pretty generous – 16 weeks pay minimum, plus add’l for length of service, plus health insurance through the end of the year, job search support and a laptop. Of course, we are in extraordinary times here, but I’d still say it’s fairly generous.

        1. ThatGirl*

          That’s interesting, but may or may not be relevant — there’s no indication she’s personally bankrolling these severance packages.

              1. pancakes*

                It’s been reported that she took on great control over management of the magazine in 2019, and—I’m quoting a Politico article here—“Jobs’s presence at The Atlantic has been felt by an influx of resources since she arrived, with the company adding more than 100 employees — of which 50 are in the newsroom — launching a paywall, and unveiling a new redesign.” How are the financial resources a publication has not relevant to questions about the sort of severance packages it offers?

    2. 867-5309*

      COBRA through the end of the year, minimum 16 weeks salary and keeping your technology are generous.

      Most places offer 1-2 weeks per year you’ve been with a company, COBRA for that period of time and I’ve never seen them let people keep the computer/phone.

      1. Artemesia*

        Getting COBRA paid which is crzy expensive is unusual is great. Most places will not offer anything like that. I think it speaks to Atlantic’s genuine good will towards employees. But of course they are in a field with almost no demand and opportunity so those people will need the time to re-configure their careers.

        1. Natalie*

          COBRA seems crazy expensive to the employee, but to the employer it’s just the cost they’ve been paying for premiums this whole time.

      2. AVP*

        I think the logistics of collecting tech right now probably outweigh the benefits of being able to turn it over to new colleagues…

        1. PollyQ*

          And if they’re planning to keep the lower level of staffing, they may not have any immediate need for used laptops.

    3. Natalie*

      It seems generous from my experience as well. I’ve been through two rounds of layoffs, one at a large national company (hundreds of employees) and one at a small local firm (<50 employees). Both offered 1-2 weeks salary per year of service and PTO payout (which wasn’t required by law for everyone). No health coverage past termination and no laptop.

    4. Lyudie*

      A friend of my husband just got laid off after 45 years at the company and got two months’ severance, so this seems pretty generous to me.

    5. Beth Jacobs*

      I think it’s very generous and am glad they are treating their employees as well as they can. That being said, I don’t think I’d personally benefit from the job searching support offered. Does anyone have experience with such services and found them useful?
      I don’t so I may be off base, but I think outplacement services only make sense in some limited circumstances (like a factory shutting down). I’m not sure whether career counsellors really have much to teach Atlantic writers about how to write a compelling cover letter.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I got outplacement services after my 2017 layoff, and it was … somewhat useful. I found the resume services most useful; the rest seemed more like a support group for white collar boomers/execs who had no idea how to function post-layoff because they’d spent their careers at one big company.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I highly recommend at least trying career coach services if they are offered. I was dubious when I was laid off, but it came with the package so I went. It helped me navigate a career change and set myself up better for the interview then if I were practicing with a mirror.

    6. Tiffany In Houston*

      This is one of the most generous packages I’ve seen, and might surpass the one that AirBnb did last week. I am particularly impressed that they get to keep their laptops (which could have been an large expense for a job seeker who had to purchase one) and that they are getting HR support from within the organization. Losing your job really sucks, but this would definitely leave me feeling some good will toward the company that laid me off.

  19. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

    I need some assistance finding motivation. I’m currently in a grant funded position that runs out in a few months. Of all the people I work with, I’m the only one who will be affected (due to location; everyone else is on-site and I work remotely FT and am hours away) by the grant ending. I also have a lot to do–meaningful work for which I will get recognition, but it’s hard to square my desire to do top notch work with knowing that it won’t matter–there’s no “proving my worth”–along with my growing anxiety about what I’ll do for income once the grant runs out. Anyone have any tips for how to keep up excellent work when all that may come out of it is leaving with a good impression?

    1. WellRed*

      But the work you are doing DOES matter. It’s no less meaningful because you are termed out after it’s done. use that meaningful work and any associated accomplishments to propel the new job search (which should start now). I know none of this is easy in the best of times, let alone in the current state of affairs. Hang in there!

    2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      For motivation to keep doing well, just remember that a good impression is important, especially in work communities. I work as a government contractor, and trust me, in the contracting world, you are only as good as your reputation. Once your resume comes across another organization’s desk, they are already talking to people they know from the office you used to support and anyone in the company that knew you from your old role. It is crazy, because you think we are a large community, but we really aren’t. People always seem to know who the standouts are, and who the slackers are. I would think something similar is at play in your work network, so while it may not seem to matter for this role, keep in mind that it may affect your next one. Also, if the current organization your supporting has been friendly/helpful, see if they can recommend other roles or recommend you to people in their network. They know the grant is expiring soon, so they should be willing to help connect you with others.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My first job out of college was a fixed-term grant-funded position, and I’d been expected to apply for the next project on the schedule. Unfortunately the 1989 earthquake had other plans — the facility had enough damage that all grant projects were halted, and I was on the job market. I had no concerns being asked why I left my last position because I’d completed & delivered ProjectA and everyone in the area understood earthquake-related cancellation of ProjectB. I too lost focus on the project because of the crisis (I was working in borrowed space). But I was working with someone finishing up a master’s thesis. She pointed out that maybe my next job won’t be interested in the content of ProjectA — they will be interested in quality & deadlines despite roadblocks. She was right — I got questions about that in interviews, and being prepared for it helped.
      Here’s hoping I’ve paid that favor forward and helped you.

  20. 10 Years and Not Counting Anymore*

    I need some help with my titles on my resume.

    Background: I worked for a franchise location from 2009 – April 2020. The local office was small (under 10 people) but the corporate HQ has a list of allowed titles (that becomes important later).

    In 2009 I started as the admin. Starting in 2012, I took on all operations work, including payroll, A/R and A/P, training, metrics/KPI reporting and process improvement. BUT, my title was still admin, and I was still doing all the day-to-day admin work, too. (Remember: very small location).

    Flash forward to 2016. My workload is too much, and we hire an admin to take on day-to-day, I keep the higher level stuff, and (hurrah!) my title is officially changed to Ops Manager. At this point I’m doing even higher level work, like strategizing on sales processes, managing our new admin and our new customer support person. I had asked for Director of Operations title (to have parity with our Director of Sales) but it wasn’t an approved title from HQ.

    Dec 2019 – Suddenly Director of Operations appears on the approved title list, and I get my title changed. BUT, I’m doing the same work I’ve been doing since 2016, and really a lot of it I’ve been doing since 2012.

    How can I reflect this on my resume when my title wasn’t changed when my work did? I have high level accomplishments bulleted, but just glancing at titles it looks l was an admin for 7 years, manager for 4, and Director for 5 months.

    1. CM*

      I would just put Director of Operations, since that’s your most recent title. In your bullet points, you could say something about advancing from admin to Director of Operations and the additional responsibilities you took on.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. List the Director of Operations at Company X. (dates) and then qualify with the advanced from Admin through Ops Manager to Director of Operations line underneath.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I would list the most recent title, then discuss applicable skills and experience for the role you are seeking. If asked, you can explain that your title reflects a recent promotion received due to your accomplishments in the Ops Manager role, or that the company updated its title list. Whatever makes sense/is true.

      No need to bring up your title as an admin from a decade ago, unless you are seeking an administrative position.

      Job Titles are weird and often bear no resemblance to the work you actually perform.

    3. Rick Tq*

      Unless you are applying to another location in the corporation I doubt anyone outside cares what their rules are/were about titles.

      I’d match your resume titles to the work involved when the work started. If you were effectively the Operations manager in 2012 and Director of Operations in 2016 I’d use those titles..

    4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I disagree with the others on this, since verification of employment checks will show “admin for 7 years, manager for 4, and Director for 5 months.”

      I would group them all and then just have the bullets underneath them to show what you accomplished. Titles matter less than what you accomplish, in my opinion, since titles are nebulous.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        To clarify, what I mean by group them all is:

        Otter Cuddling Consultants
        Director (Jan 2020 – present)
        Manager (Jan 2016 – Jan 2020)
        Admin (Jan 2009 – Jan 2016)
        *Accomplishment
        *Accomplishment
        *Accomplishment
        … … …

  21. Third or Nothing!*

    I’ve been working from home ever since mid-March. My company is very against WFH but allowed us all to do it after the schools and daycares closed and we got shelter-in-place orders. The temporary WFH policy was supposed to expire on June 1, but I just had a conversation with one of the VPs and he said if I want to go back I can but I’m not required to. My entire family is high risk so we’re not even considering putting our daughter back in daycare until it’s safer.

    My company has some issues but they’ve been really great about this whole situation. I have no idea when I’ll be back in the office. Honestly I have little desire to go back and deal with the catty clique that sits next to me. Maybe if I ask REAL nice, I can become WFH permanently. Oh man, that would be heaven.

    1. WellRed*

      Start drafting your spiel to ask for this. Focus on accomplishments and productivity gained by working from home.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Given that a widely distributed vaccine is probably going to be at least five years out (not 18 months), you may be able to make a good case for WFH at least semi-permanently. For more details on that, listen to the Reset podcast’s “Until a vaccine arrives” episode.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Oh good Lord, I can’t socially isolate for 5 years. I’ve already had several breakdowns after only 2 months! It breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces every time my daughter begs to visit her grandparents or see her BFF. She’s only 3 (well, she will be in a few weeks anyway) so it’s difficult to reason with her – all she knows is that she can’t see the people she loves and she’s sad about it.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I have a dear friend with severe asthma. She & her daughter’s family went into strict quarantine for 2.5 weeks and merged their households when they came through healthy. Admittedly that was before anyone knew how common it was to be asymptomatic — but it’s an idea that’s taking hold in Canada too. Look for the “double bubble” concept. Two homes that isolate in a slightly larger circle, sharing grocery runs & childcare.
          (I so wish I could do this, but my family’s complicated by in-person medical care requirements that mean my daughter’s grandparents’ bubbles are already huge.)

  22. SaffyTaffy*

    Well, boredom and frustration have finally set in. I need to take some time off. And my wonderful, bright, decent boss is starting chemotherapy in 10 days. I feel like a jerk “leaving her alone” for the days I’m off. Although of course, she gave me permission in the first place. And she’s competent and will be fine. AND our workload has been almost too light recently. But still, this guilt. I’m a bad socialist, feeling guilty for taking time off. I hope I outgrow that.

    1. irene adler*

      Can you reframe this? I’d look at taking time off as recharging oneself.
      Might be smart to do this recharging now. Some chemo takes awhile to manifest side effects. And, the workload might increase in a few months. So by recharging now, you’ll be better able to support boss when/if any of this happens, down the road.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          I don’t get on here all that much, but I wholeheartedly agree. Irene Adler does have excellent points.

        2. irene adler*

          Thank you for the kind words. I am touched.
          I sure hope things work out well for your boss regarding the chemo.

  23. Spessartine*

    I’ve just been asked by my former employer (I left for a different state and we parted on good terms) if I’d be interested in doing some remote teapot design work for them. This is something I had raised briefly as a possibility before I left, and I’m really excited at the prospect—it was one of my favorite parts of the job, and it’s not something I do at my new place yet. But I’m not thrilled about what they’re offering–$50 per design, whether it’s for a single teapot or a matched pair of teapots. For reference, I currently make $28.85/hr and a single teapot takes 1-2 hours to design. A pair of teapots takes 2-3 hours. (Not accounting for potential lag since I’ll be remoting in to their computer, and my laptop is not exactly a beast.)

    So even for a single teapot, I’d probably be making less per hour than at my current job, and that’s not even taking taxes as a contractor into account. I also know that my former employer typically does more teapot pairs than single teapots. Now, I *can* work faster, but the quality will take a least a little bit of a hit, and I loathe producing work that’s not the best I’m capable of. However, I’m hesitant to ask for much more, because Teapot Design Inc., a large design company, charges a little less than $50 per teapot pair. I’m also preeetty sure my teapot designs are of higher quality than theirs.

    Any suggestions for how to navigate this? I’m a horrendous negotiator, but I just don’t think it’s worth it at the rate they’re suggesting. I’m considering agreeing for the first design and seeing how it goes, with the caveat that I will likely want to renegotiate.

    1. Hi there*

      I am not an ace negotiator but think you should negotiate in this case. You could either try to raise the base rate or negotiate to have it be $75 or whatever for a teapot pair. The latter sounds to me like it might be your preference. You don’t have to accept a low rate of pay just because you like them and the work. You get to value your work too highly for that!

      1. Spessartine*

        Thank you! I decided to agree to $50 for a single teapot and asked for $75 for a pair. The former co-worker I was talking to said she’d have to ask the boss but thinks he’ll agree. I thought over the design process and I’m pretty sure I can trim some time off the process in one area where, to be honest, I usually got caught up and over-designed details that weren’t going to come out well in the manufacturing process anyway. If it turns out that I can’t after all, and it just isn’t worth it, nothing says I have to keep designing for them.

    2. Artemesia*

      when you know you would not want to do it at the level they offer, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by negotiating. You let them know you understand they may not be able to offer X but that you cannot do it for less than X.

      1. Spessartine*

        Thank you for pointing this out. I have a hard time pushing back on even small things, but it’s very freeing to think about the matter this way.

    3. Natalie*

      I think you’re overthinking things a little bit! Figure out what rate you think would actually be fair, first of all. That could be different rates for singles/doubles also, just because they proposed one rate doesn’t mean you have to stick with that. You can just ask for the amount you want and let them take it or leave it. Or, you could ask for more with the assumption that you’ll go back and forth a bit and land close to where you want. Which strategy you chose kind of depends on how much energy you want to spend on negotiating.

      Definitely don’t agree to the rate for one and then hope to renegotiate immediately – that never goes over well so you’re likely to just end up with both parties resenting each other. If you feel like you want to give them the first one or two cheaper for whatever reason, negotiate your true rate, and then offer a discount for the first whatever number you think it fair.

      1. Spessartine*

        Thank you for the advice, especially on not counting on renegotiating. I ended up just telling them what I wanted and if they come back with a “no”, I’m okay with that, or if they accept but I realize later I still didn’t ask for enough, I’m fine with just not doing any more designs for them.

    4. Flyleaf*

      One commonly used rule of thumb is to double your hourly rate when going from employee to freelancer. So, for a single teapot your price would be 2 x 28.95 x 1.5 (assume 1.5 hours) = $86.85. For a double teapot your price would be 2 x 38.95 x 2.5 = $144.75. Regardless of what you end up doing, you might want to have separate prices for singles and doubles.

      Their offer is quite a bit lower than these prices, so you would need to negotiate hard. If you are looking for ideas, I’d suggest reading the book “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. Voss was a former FBI hostage negotiator, and he has some great ideas for improving your negotiation skills He’s much more helpful and practical than things like the Harvard Program in Negotiation, which is more academic and less real world. Voss knows what he is talking about.

      1. Spessartine*

        Thanks for the book recommendation, I’ll definitely give it a read (as soon as I can get it from the library–it must be pretty good, because I’m #41 in line). I am possibly the least persuasive negotiator on the planet, so it sounds like exactly like the kind of help I need.

    5. Anon for this one*

      If they do “design teapots” at your new company, even if you personally haven’t been involved with that yet, I’d think carefully about whether you are falling foul of any moonlighting or ‘setting yourself up in competition’ policies.

      1. Spessartine*

        Definitely a good thing to be cautious of! Fortunately it’s not an issue for my specific situation. Mainly because we actually don’t do digital teapot design at my new company at all, though it’s a definite possibility in the future. There are other reasons as well (like no legal or design copyright issues due to the nature of the industry) but in the unlikely event that we started doing digital teapots and my boss wants me to stop designing for my former employer, I’m fine with that.

  24. musician*

    Question about cover letters in relation to jobs with strong military ties (where those reading the letters are likely to be former military, e.g. the VA system or organizations serving veterans): is the personalized cover letter that Alison advocates for still the best option? I assumed so, but a colleague told me that very basic/straightforward letters are better with that demographic. Anyone have experience or insight with this?

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      I’d aim for a sweet spot in between Alison’s suggestions but with a slightly more military ‘voice.’ And remember: just because there is a high correlation between that job and the military doesn’t mean that everyone is prior-service.

    2. Veterans Charity Manager*

      I got my job as a manager at a military/veterans charity specifically because I have not served. They wanted someone to being a different perspective. There is a good chance the HR person won’t have military ties and anyone else reading applications might not either.

      Personally I find the military style of writing a nightmare to read (when stuff comes in I ask one of my team who have served to translate it into standard English for me). If you don’t have that training, trying to write in the style could come across as false. Your best bet is to write in a way that is true to you, if that is the right fit for the job whomever is reading it will see that.

  25. Wing Leader*

    I’m just here to rant about silly people on the phone. I’m working as the receptionist this week because our regular receptionist is out of town. I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve gotten like this:

    Caller: Hi, I’m returning a phone call. I got a call from this number.
    Me: Okay, do you know who called you so I can transfer you to the right person?
    Caller: No.

    Arrggghhh! Well, if you don’t know I don’t know. Also, I refuse to believe that they NEVER have a clue when everyone here leaves a voicemail if they make a phone call.

    I’ve also gotten calls like this:

    Caller: Hi, I’m returning a phone call I got from Smithy Smitherson.
    Me: Okay, just give me one moment and I’ll transfer you.
    Caller: Wait! Did they call me from their office phone or their cellphone? I may need to call their cellphone.
    Me: I…have no way of knowing which phone they called you from.

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      Nothing to add but I can fully understand where you are coming from. I am receptionist and I have been there and done that.

      Caller: I got an email from your school saying …. and I have a question about it.
      Me: Who exactly sent the email?
      Caller: I don’t know. Let me check. I can’t find it.

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      Somehow my work number ended up in some database as a person with decision making authority. I get calls ALL THE TIME from salespeople pitching stuff. One call in particular was pretty memorable. It was a dude calling about…I can’t remember what…but he was super pushy about emailing me some materials. I finally said fine, sure, email me the stuff, thinking I’d just give him a dummy email because if I didn’t he’d just keep calling about it. Except, he never asked for an email address. He said he’d send his stuff right over and hung up. Never did get his email. ;)

    3. many bells down*

      I feel you; my voice mail is the one people get if they don’t select an extension, so I get weird incomprehensible voice mails. “I got a call from you guys. This is Dave. *CLICK*” Uh, okay, I’ll search the member database for your phone number so I can find out who called you, I guess?

    4. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      “Also, I refuse to believe that they NEVER have a clue when everyone here leaves a voicemail if they make a phone call.”

      A LOT of people don’t actually check voicemails. They just see the missed call and call back. There have been multiple open-thread rants over the years here about “Whyyy do people call me back and waste my time asking what it is I wanted when I TOLD them what I wanted in the voicemail???” It’s a thing.

      One of my regular temp gigs for a long time was holiday coverage for this one switchboard. “Hi, I got a call from this number” was easily 20% of the calls I answered.

      1. TechWorker*

        I think some people are used to the number that the call appears from being a direct dial. If most of the people you get missed calls from are friends/family/businesses small enough to have a single phone line then calling straight back isn’t that crazy.

    5. KR*

      I’m wondering if they’re calling back so soon that they’re calling back WHILE the other person is leaving a voice mail, so they haven’t gotten the notification yet. It could be connection issues or an issue with their phone that they can’t hear who is calling – sometimes people say their name so fast I can’t catch it. I totally get why you’re frustrated but I’ve also been that person where I know I need to call the person back but can’t track down a name for them.

    6. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      Even a voice mail doesn’t help sometimes. I got a call from the post office (about mail I’d reported missing) and the person who left the voice mail spoke so rapidly I couldn’t catch his name even after I listened to the voice mail three times. So when I called back, they asked who I was trying to reach, and I said, “I’m not sure, they talked so fast I couldn’t catch the name.” The person said, “Oh, that’s probably Jimothy, he always talks fast. Let me transfer you.” Sure enough, Jimothy was the person I needed to speak to.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        That happened to me recently at work. Someone left me 3 voicemails over 3 days saying we had an overdue bill, but I could not understand their soft, quiet voice, and they didn’t leave a number. Finally on the 4th day they caught me at my desk, but it turns out it was a mistake in billing and we weren’t even the correct customer. 3 days worth of wondering and worrying over what turned out to be nothing.

    7. Fikly*

      Can I make a small related rant?

      Back in the day, I worked admin in a doctors office. We closed for an hour for lunch, and the phones went to voicemail.

      The sheer number of people who either did not leave their full name or phone number. (No, we did not have caller ID.) What is wrong with these people? I cannot call you back if I do not know who you are! And that’s not even getting into the mumblers, or the people who think it’s a race to see who can spit out their phone number the fastest.

      1. Zephy*

        My policy whenever answering the phone has been a job duty (most of them) has been, if you don’t leave a voicemail, I don’t call you back. If you won’t do me the courtesy of telling me at least who you are and/or what you want when we gave you the opportunity to leave a message, I’ll assume you either dialed the wrong number, or had your question answered by the recorded greeting. Save us both some time, leave me a message with your question (and your number!), and I’ll research it and call you with the answer.

        Now that most of the people I interact with over the phone are college students, if they even have a voicemail box set up on their phone and it isn’t full, they never bother to listen to the message I leave for them. I’m lucky to ever get a call back at all, never mind immediately, which would be a reasonable excuse for not listening to the voicemail.

      2. tangerineRose*

        I’ve had to replay an entire (not short) message over 2-3 times to catch the entire phone number. As a result, when I leave a message, I try to say the phone number reasonably slowly and will then repeat it.

    8. Jedi Squirrel*

      There was a wonderful thread on Reddit this week about all the stupid things people have been doing lately. It was astounding.

    9. toots*

      It may also be that your phone number is being used by spammers and they didn’t actually get a voicemail. Spoofing is a big problem right now…

    10. Elizabeth West*

      Welcome to my (former) world, lol.

      I had a running gag of a fictional XYZ Company on my old Clerical Chick blog with a themed presentation by Sally Gladhand, Receptionist, about all the things callers do that made her crazy.

  26. Pepperwood*

    Had the “here are all the projects our team is currently handling, and the deadlines associated with each one. Since we’re not hiring someone else to help us, and there is more on this list than we can reasonably handle or devote proper time/attention to, which can we afford to delay?” conversation only to be told to calm down, take a deep breath, and not look at the big picture or else I’ll be completely overwhelmed. In other words, “everything needs to get done, so figure it out.”

    So, super helpful. I’m working 10-12 hour days, plus weekends, with no end in sight (and this was pre-COVID too) and know I can’t take any PTO til at least July or August based on all the deadlines in the next coming weeks.

    Then our Director sent out an email this week thanking us for all our hard work and continuing to crank out deliverables without interruptions during these wild times, only to end on a note that they were doing away with summer Fridays (closing down at 3) since we’re all working from home anyway and “you can manage your own time.” LOL.

    I haven’t even been here a year yet and these are certainly not the first red flags I’ve seen but…man what a way to prompt some resume updates and job searches. Just feeling defeated and nervous about the bleak job market too. Feels like everything is awful for everyone.

    1. Kathenus*

      So I obviously can’t speak to your specific situation and comfort level doing this, but I think your initial conversation was perfect. But you are now interpreting their response of “everything needs to get done, so figure it out” differently than I would. I would take that as permission to decide on the priorities for the tasks, or level of attention/time to give to each, and to not put the onus on myself to still do it all on the same timeline. The old saying is you get things done quickly, done well, or done cheaply – and you never get more than two of the three. So either do everything with less detail/attention/time, of prioritize certain tasks at high detail and the deadlines on others get pushed back. To me, you have a lot of wiggle room in their phrasing, so I’d take that power, set your priorities, and then tell you manager – thanks for the feedback, here’s what I’ve figured out – I’m doing XY by the end of this week, ABC next week but only to the level of 1 versus 2, or whatever.

      Even if you think that they meant do it all to the highest level of detail even if that means working round the clock, choose to interpret it in a rational way instead and don’t let their vague instructions cause you to work yourself to death. Maybe their response is that you need to do it all, then you have to either choose to do so at the impact to your life or look for a job elsewhere, but make them say the words. And if they come back that you need to do it all make sure to write back to them, I understand you are saying to do X, that will require me working Z hours, just making sure that this is what you are requesting. Good luck!

      1. Pepperwood*

        Thanks so much, this is a really helpful response :)

        We’ve been working remotely since mid-March and it’s definitely been a rollercoaster ride of late nights and overlapping deadlines. I know the crazy workload is a systemic issue in the organization based on my manager’s very full plate as well, and the WFH (while I don’t mind it, actually feel more productive at home) forced me to have a faster wake up call that I can’t keep doing this for my health and wellbeing. You bring up a great point that I should approach some of those tasks differently – a lot of them still require attention to detail but there’s definitely a way to cool it w/ my perfectionist tendencies just for the sake of crossing some of the smaller things off the list.

  27. Don't Blame Me, Man!*

    So, a very awkward encounter at work this week that I’m not entirely certain how to navigate.

    As some background, I work in an area of my field where career advancement is gated with a series of professional licenses. To get these licenses, you have to be sponsored by your employer and pass rigorous exams, and each round of licensing is quite competitive. I was lucky enough to get sponsored by my last boss while I was in my old position, and I’m currently about 75% of the way through this set of licenses.

    I recently moved to a new team, and I’m part of the skeleton crew still working in the office (with precautions). During a chat with another team member, I mentioned offhandedly that I’m working on X license — we were joking around about weekend plans when there’s nothing to do, and I said that I’d be cooped up inside regardless to study my butt off.

    Apparently this was the wrong thing to say; this coworker immediately began interrogating me on how I’d gotten accepted for licensing, whether it was my old boss or my new boss that had nominated me to be selected for it, what preliminaries I’d gone through, etc. I answered him, trying to stay mostly neutral and uninformative, but he went on to spill out to me bitterly that he’d been asking and asking to be nominated and hadn’t gotten it and he felt that the company was not supporting him and he had no future here and was stuck in his role… on and on and on. It was very uncomfortable, and wound up consuming most of my break time as I couldn’t get a word in edgewise and didn’t want to alienate him further by simply walking away while he talked.

    Since then, he’s been cooler toward me. I’m new to the team, and he’s one of the most experienced team members who handles tricky and delicate work. I really do not want to have a difficult working relationship with him, but I’m concerned whether bringing up the issue again is likely to only make the situation worse rather than offering a chance to smooth things over.

    What is the best route forward here? Should I simply say nothing further and hope the discussion can fade into the background? I don’t really feel I did anything wrong by mentioning the exam — usually people here are encouraging toward each other during licensing, as the exams are challenging. But he seemed to take my spot in licensing very personally.

    1. PX*

      Ooooh. This is hard. I would lean towards not saying anything and hoping it fades.

      Given his reaction, I would guess that perhaps one reason he’s not been nominated is…that kind of reaction.

      If it ever comes up again, deflect deflect deflect, and tell him to work with his manager to understand what he needs to do to be nominated.

      1. juliebulie*

        I agree with all of this. You didn’t do anything wrong, and don’t need to do anything now. Your colleague doesn’t have to be supportive if he doesn’t want to, but whining does not make him look like the better choice for nominee.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        +100

        Coworker probably should start looking a bit more introspectively rather than attempting to blame someone totally unrelated for it.

        If he keeps bringing it up like this, personally I would go to my manager and flag it, because it’s belligerently disruptive.

    2. Blueberry*

      Oh OW, it’s so hard when you stumble into a pitfall you had no reason to know was there. I really hope he calms down and returns to treating you normally. I can’t think of anything for you to say that would help, and in your palce I wouldn’t say anything.

    3. Data Bear*

      Another vote for leaving it alone and giving his angst time to fade. I wouldn’t assume that you’re getting a sense of coolness because he’s now got some antipathy towards you; it could well be that he’s giving you space because he knows he’ll get agitated and is trying not to get his distress on you.

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

      > he went on to spill out [all his resentments about not being accepted to the licensing program] … It was very uncomfortable, and wound up consuming most of my break time as I couldn’t get a word in edgewise
      > Since then, he’s been cooler toward me.

      I wonder if he is being “cooler” due to resenting you about being selected for the licensing program, or because of embarrassment / feeling self conscious about having “offloaded” those sentiments to you and now feels vulnerable or something like that. Do you have any sense of which it might be, as that will guide how to respond.

      I’m curious whether the process of being able to be sponsored for this program is “politically” driven, or if there are objective criteria you have to meet and things like that?

      There will be a reason he hasn’t been selected and it sounds like it isn’t personal to you as such, but either he gives this outpouring to everyone or for some reason you as the “new but selected person” are currently the focus of what he’s angry about.

      I wouldn’t bring it up again proactively and would just try to work harmoniously as much as you can, but if he brings up this subject with you again I might be inclined to suggest looking for other opportunities (outside the company) where they may be more “open to supporting career development” with these certifications…

      I feel like they could be the actuarial qualifications, but could be wrong about that.

      1. Don't Blame Me, Man!*

        Late coming back to this, but yes, it’s very political — on a number of levels. Our department (my new department) just got a new manager shortly before I was promoted, and so my colleague would have been seeking nomination from his previous manager, whom I know nothing about. My previous manager, who was the one who nominated me, is a rising star in our company, very popular and charismatic, and thinks the world of me, which I think has a whole lot to do with how I got selected to take the exams. So whether it’s that my coworker himself has not been nominated by his old boss, or whether he was nominated but not ultimately selected… that I’m not sure of, and the politics are not very transparent.

        They aren’t actuarial, but you’ve got the right general idea.

        But, update, my coworker has relaxed around me today and gone back to more his usual self. So it’s probably right that his coolness was a matter of temporarily handling his feelings, rather than a grudge. Or all my imagination!

  28. PX*

    I have a few weeks left at my current position and finding the balance between still being productive and contributing to things that are relevant vs not bothering because *wooo I’m leaving and dont have to care about this anymore!!!* is…hard. Mainly because my desire is to do the latter in all cases. My brain is well and truly out of here.

    *counting down the days*

    That is all.

    1. Juneybug*

      I know you are not asking for advice but wanted to share something –
      Legacy. That is the word I keep using over in my head to motivate myself when I leave a job. Cause you are so right, it’s hard to care. But I wanted everyone to remember me in the best light so that was my motto to keep doing things when all I really wanted to do was surf and read AAM all day. :)
      Congs on the new job!!

  29. Exhausted Frontline Worker*

    Essential worker check-in: how are you all doing, especially now that many parts of the country are starting to reopen?

    Some things have gotten better for me since I last posted, but I found out this week that my job which I thought was previously secure may not be. I work for a non-profit, but my position is entirely funded by a government contract, which is not uncommon in social services. Our local government is negotiating its budget for the next fiscal year, and there were funding cuts to our programs. Most years they do this song and dance with us where we don’t get all of the funding we need in the first draft of the budget, but end up fully funded or close enought to make it work so many people I work with feel confident it will be fine. But this is not a normal year! I have a secure job at least through the end of the fiscal year which is a few more months, but I was not really prepared to start a just-in-case job search.

    1. KR*

      Business as usual here, but I’m starting to see the impacts of the slowdown on our business. Other teams have been told to start cost cutting. Not our team but it’s coming.

    2. Sunset Maple*

      I believe a lot of my company’s frantic cost-cutting is going to be rolled back. It was done in a panic without much thought put into it, and things like agency testing have been slashed. We can’t sell our products without agency approval.

    3. BeadsNotBees*

      I’ve mentioned it before, but I oversee several childcare centers in our metropolitan area and have been working at one of our individual locations for the duration of coronavirus (we were deemed essential both by the state and our county- the local Health Department actually BEGGED us to stay open to allow other frontline employees to continue working).

      Since we are caregivers of young children, things look much different for us. There’s obviously a lot of conversations on here about what employers should be doing for employees as they return to work, but most of these aren’t practical for our field (and we have been given exceptions to a lot of guidelines as well). For example, you literally cannot social distance from an infant or a toddler (nor should you). We have to hold these children, comfort them, feed them, put them to sleep, etc. We can require masks for adults in the building and have our staff take other precautions, but even our licensing agency has acknowledged that at the end of the day, we can’t eliminate much risk since we interact with/ physically touch the children of the mask-wearing parents for 8-12 hours a day (parents who are working in grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, etc.)

      We are fortunately in an area that locked down early and has had declining cases for a few weeks, so things are looking up. But we are all exhausted – we’re also obviously a coverage-based industry so we’ve all been here every day. This 3-day holiday weekend is a saving grace.

    4. Retail not Retail*

      A guest today asked if we were glad to be back. Ma’am if you knew you were open you saw the 2 months of social media posts about how we were still working.

      We’re not seeing the numbers we’re allowed to have so that means it is very hard to enforce rules – a crowd makes following a path logical, makes the importance of a mask more clear.

      We have to wear our masks most of the day now. My department doesn’t work with people or the fragile things so we’ve been randomly doing it.

      We’re also back to normal work procedures like no vehicles in the park and don’t swear around the children and don’t wear headphones.

      We’re not fully staffed so we’re still doing emergency work rather than the special projects my boss wishes we’d do.

  30. Wheee!*

    I think my team (and me too) have hit our limit this week. Half our team was laid off last month, but our workload seems like it went up.

    My teammates keep snarking at each other (or at least about each other). Mostly assuming people aren’t doing their jobs, or putting thought into their decisions. It’s exhausting. Everyone is so stretched right now, and I feel like I barely get a minute to think about stuff before I have to move on to something else. Not really looking for advice, I’m just exhausted. Anyone else there?

      1. Wheee!*

        We have Monday off and I can’t wait. The company actually gave us a random day off a few weeks ago, and in some ways it was more stressful. At that point, I had a huge list of things that I needed to do, and having one less day in the week actually made me freak out a little. The Friday before I was REALLY stressed. But by the Monday off, I had forgotten what was on my to do list and was able to relax.

        Luckily, the list of urgent things to do is starting to get shorter (at least for me) so I’m feeling a little calmer. Still exhausted, but that’s mostly from dealing with a couple of co-workers.

    1. DefinitelyWorking*

      I’m not even in the same boat re: layoffs, but I’ve been noticing more snarkiness, mostly directed at members of another team. It seems like every meeting is mostly just complaining about other people, and it’s exhausting. Sometimes I just tune it out and scroll IG while others are complaining.

      1. Wheee!*

        Right? We’ve at least had less of it in meetings, but man, the number of people assuming that people are doing things AT them is driving me a little nuts.

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

      I’m exhausted too; I had a “week off” last week actually but ended up working on 3 of the 5 days (not for the full 8 hours, but something like 2-3 hours per day worked) and as such it wasn’t the complete break from work that I hadn’t had for 3 years already, was looking forward to when I booked in January and then still didn’t get to take.

      I’ve found that in a lot of stressful situations, not necessarily coronavirus as that’s new to all of us of course, but anything significant that challenges and disrupts the previous way of working. Maybe it’s natural phenomena (snowmageddon in an area that doesn’t “routinely” have to deal with that) or maybe something like a significantly moved up client deadline coupled with budget cuts, or whatever it is. In any of those situations it’s often 3-4-5 weeks of surfacely doing “business as usual” but with something going on underneath in that this isn’t really sustainable…

      In the IT world we have the concept of “technical debt” which is (apols to IT people) essentially writing some code that solves the immediate problem but introduces future hypothetical problems or adds difficulty in maintaining that code in the future, or similar. And I think emotionally there is something akin to “technical debt” going on with these type of situations, and the key is in the word “debt”.

      Ever had a debt to the bank (you almost certainly have)? Or a “sleep debt” where you went without sleep for several days and then ultimately had to sleep for a while…?

      Debt has to be repaid, and you can consciously repay it or you can wait for the bailiffs to come knocking.

  31. Lucy P*

    For those of you still working in office buildings, what is being done to keep everything sanitized and keep people apart as much as possible?
    We have a very large space and very few people. Everyone has their own office. I’m trying to setup email and messaging for everyone, which was not something we had before.
    What do you do for common areas? Half eat lunch in the office, the other half have the luxury of going home for lunch. Coffee pots, I understand, are a concern. However, CDC is now saying don’t be too concerned about contaminated surfaces. Before we were furloughed, we made it known that no one could use ice or water dispensers without first thoroughly cleaning their cups.
    If I’m going back, I’d rather go back to do actual work and not be the police of everyone, but I’ve got honest concerns about everyone complying nicely.

    1. Rebecca*

      My biggest concern about going back to the office is my coworkers hiding illness. Just days before our state was shut down, a coworker came to work with masked cold symptoms because she felt compelled to get her work done and not use a sick day. She said it was OK because it was just a cold, nothing more, but there was no way she could have known that. This was after we were all told NOT to come to work if we felt sick or had a cold! I can totally see this happening again.

      1. Artemesia*

        A friend has a friend who is a hair stylist and the first day they opened up a client came in while ill and being tested for COVID and phoned in the next day that she had tested positive -meaning that the business had to shut down for a day for deep cleaning and the stylist who worked on her is furloughed for two weeks for quarantine. There have been many reports of people taking tylenol to pass temperature screenings because they needed to fly somewhere.

        I think we can assume that half the population are sociopaths who care nothing for other people and will in fact do this. so businesses in addition to making it easy to take the time if necessary also need to have mask, social distancing and cleaning protocols in place. Assume that people will cheat on this because some will.

      2. CircleBack*

        This is my concern from the other end – I get allergies every year, and I’m one of those people who catches every minor cold. So if I just have a stuffy nose and some light sneezing (my typical, regular allergy symptoms), or a raspy throat as I get over a cold, I’ll go into work so I don’t look like a Chicken Little who has to take off a week every two weeks for the slightest whiff of a cold. (And also because with mild symptoms, I’m perfectly capable of a regular day’s work).
        So as we transition back into going into the office, I want to be extra careful to stay home if I’m less than well, but don’t want to end up on HR/management’s radar as a total hypochondriac. And I feel like there’s no winning either way.

        1. ...*

          I have bad allergies too and I think just explaining yourself helps. Like I am having my usual symptoms but I want to be extra respectful so can I WFH today while I sneeze. If you have year round allergies (like I do) you literally would never leave your house if you cant go out while sneezing. But for now I get it. I actually like masks because of this. People dont want to be sneezed on and I dont have to worry about having a slightly running nose under my mask I just deal with it when I get home and take it off.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            My poor friend who recently moved here was getting hit with allergies pretty hard in March when everything started happening and tensions were high. She could hardly be around coworkers because every sniffle got looks and odd comments and a lot of “Oh no! You got the Rona!” *eye roll* She was actually glad to have to WFH because she could mute her Zoom and hide her sniffles. She was finally able to go to an allergist when they opened back up and it turns out she’s slightly allergic to EVERYTHING in our area. That’s rough! She’s been apprehensive about going back to the office and dealing with it again considering she’s still tuning in the allergy medication, and she’s still sniffly :(

          2. allathian*

            Of course, your mask will hide your runny nose, but it won’t prevent virus spreading if it’s damp. Here they’re saying that cloth masks need to be changed every hour on the hour to do any good.

    2. Gatomon*

      Interior doors are propped open to reduce touching. The bathrooms have been turned single occupancy- I don’t see this working well as more people return! There’s sanitizing products in break rooms and meeting rooms. Most break areas are closed except to get food and drink and meeting rooms are limited to the larger spaces, occupancy limits and mandatory sanitizing before and after. (It’s easier to just hop on a conference call!) Social distancing is a total fail in a cube farm with blind corners, and masks aren’t required, no one I’ve seen is wearing one, but compliance in our area has never been higher than maybe 40%. I haven’t heard of concern.

      I think most of us will be doing more work from home though, which is on the table but not 100% according to the powers that be. I find I’m equally productive because the extra distraction equals the amount of interruptions and chatting that occurs in office but it does have stress-reducing benefits.

    3. Anon Here*

      I work in a pretty decent sized office building (previously probably ~800 employees on site). Most everyone is WFH now, besides those who cannot carry out their role without equipment on site. Everyone entering the building must go through a single entrance, where we get a temperature check and have to answer a couple of basic questions about if we or our household are experiencing COVID symptoms. Then you’re required to wear a mask if you’re anywhere in the building except alone in your private office. They have signs around reminding people of social distancing guidelines and have asked that people avoid meeting in conference rooms if possible. In the break rooms they have put up plexiglass dividers on all of the tables and limit to two people per table. For shift workers, they’ve staggered break times so that there are never too many people in the break room at once. I’ve also noticed that a fair amount of staff chose to go eat in their cars, just because I think it’s a little more relaxing than eating behind a plexiglass partition. Managers of people who aren’t working shifts have been asked to still set up staggered times for people to go to lunch. For areas where people might congregate (like at the one entrance), they have marked lines 6 feet apart. And for indoor areas where multiple staff have to be working at once, they have trained them on keeping that far apart. They’ve also hired additional staff to go around and sanitize all high-touch surfaces all day long (e.g., door handles, light switches, breakroom tables, etc). And they installed several hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the building. We do still have ice machines and water dispensers available, though. I try to always sanitize or wash my hands before and after using them. All in all, I feel like they’ve done a pretty good job about trying to take the precautions they can. It’s not perfect, but they’ve done most of what I would consider to be feasible. However, as more and more people start going back to the office, it will be interesting to see if they follow the rules or start flouting them.

      1. Lucy P*

        We’ve talked about temperature checks, but then someone has to be designated as the checker. Usually that type of things falls to me.

        I would love someone to sanitize, but I couldn’t even convince my boss to have the office cleaned before we go back. (It had been cleaned, we were there one day, and then we closed for 8 weeks. Still the owner and a select few others have been spending time in the building.)

        The boss suggested that I could drive into town (we live and work in the burbs) to get cleaning supplies from someone who had advertised on the radio as having supplies. Still, I’m furloughed until Monday. Thus, I would be doing this on my own time.

        I’m also concerned about water fountains. Local authorities have said something about treating water fountains so that they don’t spread legionnaires diseases, but I don’t understand what has to be done.

    4. acmx*

      Break rooms: extra chairs removed, placards on tables (6′ reminder), hand sanitizer, placard asking to wipe surfaces after use (oddly, no wipes so not sure why the sign. Personally, I’ve always used a paper towel or I wash or sanitize hands).
      Restrooms: placards for washing hands and distancing
      Office: masks when not at your desk, need to talk to someone and can’t maintain 6′; non fire doors are propped open. Smaller conference rooms were sanitized and closed in the beginning.
      Coming in to work: temperature checks and staggered start times (non office workers), finger print clock in has been turned off.

      Most of the office workers are still WFH and will be for a few more months. Although, if you want to come in you can.

    5. OtterB*

      My office is not yet coming off work from home, but our office admin has been forwarding emails from the building management. The most recent one said that one one person should ride in the elevator at a time. This does not seem sustainable if any reasonable proportion of the businesses in the building return to working in the office. My office is on the 8th floor and I’m not taking the stairs.

      More usefully, they’re also doing additional disinfecting of surfaces like elevator buttons and railings, and closing off every other toilet stall and sink (5 stalls and 4 sinks in the women’s room on my floor, assume others are similar).

      I don’t know what we’re going to do about the kitchen space, coffeemaker, etc., for our office.

  32. LifeBeforeCorona*

    How does your physical working space layout affect your work? My office is located near the kitchen and washroom, co-workers will step into my office to make calls while waiting on their lunch or the washroom. I’ve returned to my office to find it occupied for “just a minute”. I thought of the earlier LW who had a window that allowed people to stop by and peek in at her. What do you do when your workspace layout is badly designed or is inadequate for your work? For example, you need a quiet space to concentrate but are stuck in an open office with noisy co-workers? At an OldJob my desk was next to the copier which meant constantly being asked to fix it or worse having copying dropped on my desk and please bring it to them when it was finished. How do you make the unworkable work?

    1. PX*

      Oooh. Tough. I am a big fan of just owning your space, so if someone is in your office making calls, kick them out! Or if you cant, simply go about your business like they arent there, and once they finish their phone call – remind them that its your office and would appreciate it if they respected that.

    2. Senor Montoya*

      Close and lock your door when you step out. My office has a lock button I can pop to leave it open or to automatically lock when I pull it shut.

      Also, your colleagues are astoundingly rude. I’d love for you to tell them so, but that’s not the best thing to do. Just make it impossible for them to get into your office.

    3. KR*

      I’m in a big open space with my coworkers (when I’m actually in an office). There is no better way to design the space. There are literally no better suited office leases available in the town we are located in. The AC works horribly, the heat doesn’t work so we have to use space heaters. My sympathies.

    4. WellRed*

      You speak up. It’s that simple. If you’re afraid to do that, is there a way to make it less convenient to step into your office? Is there a door you can close? Would a strategically placed large floor plant help?

      1. Artemesia*

        With COVID it is also a matter of not having someone breathing in your space. Those viruses hang in the air. ‘Please don’t take calls in my office’ — If there is anyway to lock the space, block the space (I like the floor plant idea) etc, also do that. approach it as zero tolerance. i.e. every time, request that they ‘not take calls in your office’

    5. Taura*

      Do you have a door, and if yes can you shut it when you’re not there? Otherwise I might just say “hi, were you looking for me?” to the people in your office while they’re on the phone (depending on who they are ofc) because there’s really no reason to use someone else’s office as a phone booth. Either it’s a call that can be handled in the hall or the kitchen or it’s not, and if it’s not it’s on them to take care of it later or step outside.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Yes, this! They’re being beyond rude. If there’s a door, I would shut off the light and close it. If not, and you come back to find someone there, make it seem soooooo weird that they would do that. Stand in front of them looking dramatically confused, or use the line you suggested. Make it awkward!

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I do the “Can I help you?” line. I’m interested in how people with poorly designed workspaces manage to maintain their space integrity.

    6. A Frayed Knot*

      I’m thinking of using a baby gate/pet gate at my door to keep people out while I am in the office. The door is always closed and locked when I’m not there. Again, a luxury you may not have. They certainly CANNOT breathe on my phone these days.

  33. Academic Librarian Too*

    So this week we have had clarification from HR. There will be furloughs. Oh sorry. If you are exempt. It won’t be a furlough it will be a salary reduction. How much and for how long we don’t know yet.
    Today I am having “lunch” with my peers.
    Will see what their perspective is on this.
    Grateful for the job and that they are being humane. No one is required to go back to campus. The first phase will be all volunteer.

    1. WellRed*

      I’d ask how much my workload/hours was being reduced as a result. But I realize not everyone wants to rock the boat.

  34. What did you do during COVID?*

    I was thinking about this since the post on Monday; I wasnt’ able to read all the comments or participate but it was a great topic.

    I “drafted” my response if I ever come across an interviewer who asks this for whenever I go on interviews. 

    “I got laid off end of March and I was pregnant so the timing lined up.” (Now….there are about 4 months in between getting laid off and having the baby, so if an interviewer presses, I can say I WAS looking for jobs in those 4 months but…COVID). 

    Normally I wouldn’t bring up a pregnancy or kids in an interview but at this point I’ve put the search for a FT position on hold and by the time I’ll be ready to go back FT, there will likely be a 1+ year gap. I do freelance but I mean….are new moms still expected to be doing career-oriented stuff while “taking a break” from work? I wouldn’t worry so much if it was just a standard 6/12-week maternity leave from work, but this is an extended gap I think.

    On another note, I’m looking forward to when this’ll be a past tense question and not a present tense issue. Given the experience I’ve had lately, I’m skeptical that “COVID” will be something that interviewers will automatically understand — I feel like as more time goes on, they will press more and more to see if you were really productive or not.

    It’ll be interesting seeing hte questions and discussions taking place in the later part of the year/early next year. 

    1. CM*

      If I were you, I’d phrase it a little differently: “COVID coincided with when I would have been on maternity leave.”

      Some people go on maternity leave before the baby is born, so I don’t think that’s misleading, and it’s already clear that COVID protection measures will continue all summer.

      I think you can continue referring to a two-year or less gap as “maternity leave,” during which you should not be expected to do resume-building activities. About six months before you plan to go back to work, I’d suggest starting to do some work-related stuff so you’ll have something concrete that shows you’re refreshing your skills and are ready to get back to work.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        It’s me. Thank you, that sounds much better. Just something for future reference. Most likely, I will be doing freelance work here and there but at this point it’s not a resume item as it’s so sparse. It can change.

        1. Heather*

          Just so you know, there’s a site rule about using consistent names on posts. It’s much easier to follow the discussion if everyone sticks to one name :)

          1. some are more equal than others*

            That rule doesn’t apply to this poster, even though others get banned for doing the same. Also just a heads up that individuals do what you did and call out this particular poster often get banned.

            1. Obfonteri*

              Wait, what? Is that true? Is this poster a mod? That seems like an unfair use of power if that’s the case.

              1. no apples today*

                I remember several threads over the years where Alison said she didn’t want to have mods or admins on the site, so unless that’s changed, I doubt it.

                1. Obfonteri*

                  Oh, I thought this was a case of a mod breaking the rules because they could! I don’t mean to be jumpy! I’ve come from other sites where commenting sections have many rogue moderators applying their own rules and I don’t want to be part of that again (I have such bonkers stories… lol!) This place seemed nice, I was worried. :)

                  To clarify, it IS against the rules to post under multiple names, right? I don’t want to forget my username and do it by accident!

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No. I have explained repeatedly (usually in regard to people making this same complaint about this same commenter) that what’s prohibited here is sock puppetry, when someone changes their user name to make it appear that multiple people support their point of view, when in fact it’s all them. That’s not what this person is doing. It’s always been okay to use a different commenter name because you’re putting the topic of your question in bold (as she did here) or because you want to be more anonymous for a particular questions.

              But yes, people have indeed been banned for harassing other commenters.

              1. Anom-a-lom-a-ding-dong*

                I’m totally against harassing people, and I don’t think what “Potatoes gonna potate” is doing is sock-puppeting. That said, it is super confusing to comment on a post here and then have someone with a completely different name reply to you saying/implying that they were/are the OP. Is there a way to make that clearer/less confusing?

                I feel like changing your commenter name and then replying with a different name opens up a lot of really weird possibilities. If people can change names at random, how are we as commenters supposed to know the difference between the OP and someone pretending to be the OP? I’m assuming and hoping that it’s not a common scenario, but given how easy it is to switch usernames here, it’s certainly possible.

          2. Drive By*

            “What did you do during COVID?” has already posted as 3 different user names. By the end of the weekend, it’ll be around 5. They’ve explained in the past that they change their name to fit the topic of the thread or post and that sometimes different devices have different names. I guess that’s as good an explanation as any, really. But it does get confusing as often the posts refer to back to one another or build upon another.

            1. Also Drive By*

              Well, and also sometimes they reply to the thread using their “regular” user name and sometimes they deny ever having made the post in question and/or scold someone who recognizes them despite including extremely identifiable details. It’s really a very weird dynamic.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That’s perfectly fine and there is no rule against it. The rule is against sock puppetry only. (Although if she is indeed scolding people for recognizing her posts, that’s odd and I will ask for that to stop, unless it’s an obvious attempt to destroy her anonymity.)

              1. Potatoes gonna potate*

                Goodness, I wasn’t trying to be anonymous or upset anyone in this post, sometimes I will put a summary of what I am asking in the subject line and respond with my usual name.

                1. Obfonteri*

                  I will admit it’s a bit confusing for those of us who are just getting started here! Keeping the same username would be so much better so I could keep track of who I’m giving advice to. :) I have an idea though! The summary is a good idea so people know what your topic is, so why not add your username to it? For example, “What did you do during COVID? (Potatoes)” That way we’ll always know it’s you with no problem!

                  I love your username (‘potatoes’ makes me giggle!) I would smile to see it in all your subject lines!

                2. EllaX*

                  “Ratio of leprechauns to unicorns” is a great summary of a conversation with a recruiter. Very informative.

                  But seriously, I don’t think people are trying to pick on you. But for people that are regular readers they can see the similarities in the voice and the details of what you post and it comes off as a bit confusing and disingenuous when you do it multiple times in a thread. Twice is this one and then a third in the open thread in general.

              2. Potatoes gonna potate*

                @Obfonteri –

                Sorry for confusing you. Welcome! This is a great community with lots of valuable discussions here

                1. Obfonteri*

                  Thank you so much for the warm welcome! :) What did you think of my idea? I think that should solve the issue and take care of any confusion!

              3. Potatoes gonna potate*

                @Ella X

                Yes that was me, I wasn’t trying to lie or keep that quiet. Didn’t think it was such a big deal? It was a line in a tv show that I thought was funny that’s all.

                so, my bad, I didn’t think a few people here would get so offended (not you but 1-2 in particular) and it would lead to all this.

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Sometimes I add the topic in the initial username so as to flag it so people can skip the question if it doesn’t apply to them.

        Or if I’m on a different device, I occasionally forget to change the name when replying back.

        And sometimes I just feel like changing up my name and stupidly forget to change it when replying back lol

        What I dont’ do? I
        -don’t harass people
        -sock puppet
        -scold anyone
        -post inflammatory comments for the purpose of upsetting people

        1. Also Drive By*

          At least once someone responded with concern about something you posted based on information in your other posts and you were upset with them that your anonymity was violated. It’s not really fair to expect people to know when you’re being anonymous and when you’re not when there’s clear identifiable details.

          1. Disco Janet*

            I have to agree with this. As someone who regularly reads the weekend threads, there are some regular posters who you can identify without their name, and you’re one of them. And sometimes when you post questions about your pregnancy, health issues, problems with your mom, etc., to me it seems to relate to some of the mental health stuff you’ve told us about yourself before. But I never want to point that out, even when it seems like an important point for you to consider, because I’ve seen you get very upset with others (and yes, scold them) for that.

            1. Also Drive By*

              Yeah I think this is a good way to put it. It truly isn’t about being mean or wishing the poster ill. Quite the opposite. But it’s a weird situation to be in when you’re asked for advice on sensitive matters and also asked to ignore the context that drastically changes that advice.

              I expect that when you’re in the middle of it, it is hard to see that all these situations are related. But that’s what it looks like to someone reading through the open thread every week.

              1. another driver*

                It’s also a fact that Potates repeatedly posts asking for advice/venting about the same few topics, time after time after time. Advice is offered, then either rejected, or ‘i wasn’t looking for advice’. I get that this is a comment column, but posting about the same issues week in week out, while refusing suggestions, is kind of pointless.

        1. Annie Nymous*

          I will respectfully guess that the advice suggesting cold-emailing is coming from someone significantly older than yourself? It’s a form of the “gumption” school of job searching that was in style around the time Reagan was president and stopped working shortly thereafter. I’m sure a quick search in AAM for gumption will bring up all sort of horror stories about that advice and similar. These days, it does nothing but annoy the person answering corporate emails.
          You have a better chance of success if you know someone at the office, or know someone who knows someone and is willing to make an introduction.
          Good luck!

        2. Annie Nymous*

          To quote a previous article on this subject: “By cold emailing them you are more likely to come off as someone who 1) Doesn’t read instructions/follow directions 2) Doesn’t understand professional work norms.”

        3. no apples today*

          Because it’s likely that whoever you plan to cold email isn’t someone who can help you get a job and someone who probably doesn’t care. If they’re not hiring, they’re not going to appreciate an email asking about jobs. It’s naive and out of touch with normal business practices.

      1. Winter Sailor*

        At best, it’s a complete waste of time. At worst, it makes you look unprofessional, naive and lacking in judgement. What it doesn’t do is help you get a job there.

        Anywhere I’ve worked, such emails got an eyeroll at best. My current manager refers to them as the “autorejects” and keeps a running tally of them on his whiteboard wall (we work somewhere many young people consider a “dream company” and get a lot of these).

        1. Annie Nymous*

          Sideline: I wonder if he keeps data long term? I mean, it’s fascinating in its own way…. Like doing a chart review of the insta-care clinics on The Strip in Las Vegas.

        2. MPH grad*

          That seems like an unnecessarily harsh and smug practice? These people have genuine interest.

          1. Obfonteri*

            That does seem a bit harsh. Where I work, we have such strict rules about applications that it would be legally impossible for someone to apply outside of an open competition, but I don’t think anyone would keep a tally of “autorejects”. We wouldn’t consider these folks for a job, but I don’t even think we’d give them a second thought beyond “no, sorry”.

            In any case, I agree– best to keep an eye out for open job posters and competitions.

          2. Anom-a-lom-a-ding-dong*

            It is harsh, but unfortunately sometimes people are jerks.
            I haven’t personally worked at a company where anyone did a “auto-reject” list like Winter Sailor mentioned, but I will say that an email to a company asking for a job when there are no job openings to fill will likely just get ignored/deleted/forgotten about in most cases.

    1. ...*

      There’s no point. It absolutely won’t get you hired or them interested in you but its also unlikely it would hurt you if they’re actually hiring later because they won’t remember. The person seeing it will say oh thats nice and not care. Just telling you from someone who has done hiring and also received tons of cold emails to customer service addresses and marketing addresses. They’re considered spam essentially.

    2. Gumby*

      Some companies have emails on their web sites for “don’t see anything listed, send your resume and we’ll keep it on file” – so if that is the case: use the means they have given.

      If not, keep your eye on them and wait until they *are* hiring. In the meantime, do not make a nuisance of yourself; you do not want to be know as “the annoying one that won’t stop bugging us” before you even legitimately apply to an available position.

    3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Depends on the company you’re emailing and the context. Writing a good letter that explains what you can offer with a resume to back it up can sometimes lead to good things, especially in a smaller company that might not necessarily have a set process for hiring.

      My husband got his job before his current one by cold emailing the manager of the department he was interested in. In his context he was a specialist in a particular piece of software and had found out that the company had recently decided to change to it. I don’t recall if he learned this through a professional contact or if he just researched the company online; I think it was the latter because at the time he didn’t know anyone in this city at the time. The company ended up creating a new role just for him because they wanted his expertise.

      It’s very common in my field to cold email companies with your resume and a cover letter explaining what your availability is, because projects often pop up with short notice and the company may need to hire additional temporary staff quickly. Most of us in the field have very similar experience and skills, so often the key to getting a job is being one of the first to apply. If they know who you are, they might just call you rather than putting out an official ad.

      I wouldn’t bother if it’s a large company or the kind of place that only hires for specific roles, but if you have skills that could be useful in a particular way to that place, it might not be a waste of time. But research how you might fit in and who you might contact. Sending a letter about how much you admire the company and want to work there to the general HR email won’t help, but if you happen to be a pink llama hair specialist and you have learned through reading on the company website that they are starting a pink llama project, emailing the llama manager might be worthwhile.

  35. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

    I am struggling to find work pants that don’t cost an arm and a leg. I’m willing to splurge a little for good quality, but for me splurging is around $40-50 and not the $80-130 that I’m finding.
    I’m looking specifically for high-rise (super high, as high as they come), skinny jean style in pant material. The trouble with the pants I have in this style is that they all stretch out so quickly, that I end up looking and feeling very saggy bottom frumpy by the end of the day.
    Any leads y’all can point me in?

    1. many bells down*

      I’m going to assume you’ve tried Old Navy’s side-zip pants since you mention the saggy bottom issue (not the issue I’ve had with them but I know other people have). Target has some like those, in a better material, but fewer colors.

      1. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

        I actually haven’t tried Old Navy’s. I haven’t shopped there probably since high school? I remember deciding at one point that their pants aren’t made for my body type so I just gave up. But that was back in the super super low rise era, and those pants aren’t made for ANY body type. Maybe I’ll check that out when things open up and I can see what the material is like! Thanks!

        1. CircleBack*

          I love Old Navy for their tall sizes but their pants definitely stretch out throughout the day – so I recommend sizing down if you can. Mine always feel perfect straight out of the dryer then saggy by 2pm.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          I’m in that boat with you. Old Navy’s pants just aren’t meant for my body. I’ve found a lot of good stuff over the years at Gap Factory, Banana Republic Factory, and JCrew Factory. They typically use fabric that’s meant to last a little longer, so the fabric weave and mixture of materials is better and may not stretch as much. They run sales all the time, so it’s easy to find stuff there for a good price.

          I prefer material than can be put in the dryer, for everything not just pants. I hate line-drying and dry clean only. I’ve got this micro-fiber towel that you get wet, wring out the excess water, then pop into the dryer with your clothes to create steam and get the wrinkles out. It’s a great refresher! I pop it in with jeans sometimes in between washes, it helps put them back in their shape.

    2. musician*

      I have no idea if they have the specific style you’re looking for, or if it would be in that exact price range, but I’ve had pretty good luck with New York & Co for dressier pants. In my experience the cost and quality has been reasonable.

    3. juliebulie*

      Duluth is expensive, but sometimes they have great items in discontinued colors for a LOT less than the original cost. This includes jeans, where a discontinued shade of blue looks an awful lot like a “current” shade of blue.

    4. RosenGilMom*

      Talbots, but you need to wait for their sales. Regular prices are a little steep but sales are tremendous. Also, they carry a variety of sizes

    5. Kathenus*

      I love Eddie Bauer Guide Pro pants. They are expensive, but if you get on their mailing list there are frequent 40-50% off sales which would put them in your price range. I have a lower body that has made it horribly stressful and demotivating to find pants, when I found these it was so amazing for me because they fit me like a glove – I have the shorts, pants, and capris in almost every color – it’s taken a few years to assemble a full collection. So obviously everyone’s different, but check them out, there’s a big sale going on for Memorial Day right now.

    6. WellRed*

      Make sure the fabric includes a healthy percent of stretchy fabric like lycra. I always look at the labels first. 98% cotton or rayon is always gonna sag.

    7. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      New York and Company. Sale right now for Whitney High-Waisted Pants. They normally have sales, so don’t buy anything there full price, just wait for a few days and there will be another sale if they’re trying to sell it at regular price.

      1. MissBliss*

        That is a phenomenal sale– 70%! Might have to get me a pair of these pants to test out. Thanks for the tip!

    8. NixNax*

      Poshmark is a great choice since stuff is still closed a lot of places and thrifting is harder. I often buy very high end branded stuff for less than 20$.

    9. VelociraptorAttack*

      I’ve gotten some work pants from Banana Republic (and Banana Republic Factory) on sale recently. They’re constantly running sales so it’s easy to just keep an eye on things and jump when the price hits what you’re comfortable with.

    10. Ranon*

      Poshmark- it’s a great place to upgrade a notch or three for the same price as you would spend on new, especially if you know your measurements or the measurements of pants that fit you well.

    11. Whiskey on the rocks*

      American eagle. Would never have expected to shop there myself but my work pants all come from there now. High waisted is in so there are some options. Most I think are a lycra blend; that’s what will help with the sagging. I prefer the Artist or Kickboot styles to skinnys because of the shoes I have to wear.

    12. WoodswomanWrites*

      I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, but in case it is, L.L. Bean has been my go to for work pants for many years. Personally, I like their affordable Bayside pants that come in a bunch of cuts. Go to their site and do a search for Bayside and you’ll see the various styles they come in, including a high waist. They’re also wrinkle-resistant and don’t need ironing. A great thing about L.L. Bean is that you can return anything you don’t like for up to a full year, even if you’re worn it. Their customer service is fantastic.

    13. Disco Janet*

      I had the hardest time finding pants like this, and finally had some luck at JC Penney! I now own the same pair of pants in every color, haha. Worthington Pull On Skinny Pant. They’re regularly $44, but are regularly on sale – right now they’re at $22.49.

  36. many bells down*

    One of my coworkers used to do my job several years ago. She was promoted, and shortly after they hired me she went on parental leave. Now she’s back and seems to think that I didn’t get any training in the 3 months she was gone. I get texts like “here’s how we hang up the llama harnesses” but I’ve been putting llama harnesses away for months now. It’s not that she’s more tech-savvy than I am, either – she didn’t realize that “cleaning up her computer” by deleting files out of SharePoint would delete them for EVERYONE. I had to spend half an hour restoring files I was using because she deleted them.

    Anyway no real advice I guess. I just needed to get that off my chest because I find it unreasonably annoying. My job isn’t difficult to start with so it feels really condescending.

      1. many bells down*

        I honestly think she thinks she’s helpful so I really don’t want to push back hard. She’s just been promoted again (she’s not my boss but I am in a support role for all the positions at her level) so hopefully she won’t have time to “help”.

      1. many bells down*

        I understand if she wanted to delete old forms and whatnot she made a few years ago when she was in my position, but how did she even think “Llama Mail Merge May 2020” created two days ago GOT on her computer in the first place?

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

      Is it possible that she’s short on work (or uncomfortable with the higher-level work she is doing) and searching around for anything to positively contribute?
      She “used to do your job several years ago” so presumably you didn’t replace her as such.
      It’s unclear what happened between her doing your job several years ago and the current situation.

  37. Vox Experientia*

    so many of the posts on AAM mention the poster works for a non profit. I know there are a lot of nonprofits out there, but it still feels like it’s a disproportionate number of people. any theories as to why?
    my theory is that without profit motive to worry about, nobody really cares or monitors productivity for non profit workers, so they spend more time goofing around on the internet not working.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      Alison’s background is in nonprofits and her management book is specifically about managing nonprofits, so a large portion of her audience is from that world.
      I think a lot of non-profit workers are overworked and underpaid. The stories we see again and again is of nonprofit people being expected to give everything they have because of the cause and not keep normal business boundaries. It’s easy to rationalize spending unpaid hours at work “for the children” or whatever the cause is, when a normal business wouldn’t push people’s emotional buttons.
      Also, it feels like you’re just trying to get a rise out of this audience by saying they are goofing off during a pandemic.

      1. many bells down*

        Or, like, your nonprofit is a museum and it’s CLOSED so you don’t exactly have a lot of work to do right now.

      2. New Senior Manager*

        Yes to that emotional button. Working for free or below market is sometimes expected (usually unspoken) in the nonprofit world, for the cause of course.

    2. SaffyTaffy*

      My theory is that without a profit motive to worry about, managers can actually devote bandwidth to doing their jobs correctly and therefore they write in for advice. But I don’t worship capitalism, so I’m biased.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not especially disproportionate. It’s because no one says “I work for a for-profit” but nonprofit workers tend to announce it so those stick in your head, not all the people who didn’t.

      Also, your comment about nonprofits goofing around is bizarre; particularly right now, many are providing essential services to people. And of course nonprofits monitor people’s productivity; they have limited funds they need to allocate smartly, metrics they need to meet, and funders they need to report to.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Amused to think of “I work for a non-profit” as the corporate equivalent of “I’m a vegan” or “I go to Burning Man” or “I do cross-fit.”

    4. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      Yeah, this is unnecessary. It’s not like every worker at a for-profit company is typing furiously at their computer all day. Someone in my book club who works in the private sector said that her and her coworkers sometimes scheduled 4-hour meetings where they partially work but also partially watch 90-day Fiance for 4 hours straight. I’m not saying this to say all for-profit employees suck, but I think just like anything there is a spectrum.

      Have you considered that non-profits are often understaffed because of limited funding, and therefore there aren’t always things like comprehensive policies, competent managers, or enough staff to complete all the work all the time? As another commenter mentioned, there’s also generally an expectation that nonprofit employees will go above and beyond because of the mission-based focus of the work, which not all nonprofit employees are on board with. So things can truly be a lot harder in the nonprofit environment where expectations aren’t clear, managers can suck, and the pay isn’t necessarily good enough for the employees to feel like it’s worth dealing with.

      1. Skeeder Jones*

        Oh sweet memories, you just reminded me of something my co-workers (at a for profit) used to do sometimes. We would put a fake meeting on our calendar in a room that didn’t exist and then we would go for coffee or the movies or whatever. We had jobs that frequently took us to meetings or away from our desks so it didn’t seem weird that we weren’t at our desks.

        I have a much better work ethic now. Glad I grew out of that. Also, I work for a not-for-profit now,which is different than a non-profit. It’s in healthcare and we definitely generate revenue but “profits” are used to improve the communities we serve instead of the CEO’s quality of living (which isn’t to say he makes Peanuts either, we do have requirements to match salaries to the wage in the open market for that position in general.

    5. Natalie*

      my theory is that without profit motive to worry about, nobody really cares or monitors productivity for non profit workers

      Do you think non-profits are just regular businesses with no profit motive? Because that’s the only way this theory makes sense.

      What a non profit actually does is ask people to fund them “for nothing”. That is, the funding sources aren’t getting any kind of product or service in exchange for their money. So they’re usually *more* invested in whether or not their money is being used efficiently. Sometimes legally so, in the case of grant or government funding. I work for a well funded NFP currently and we have more problems with staying fully staffed than any of the for-profit businesses I’ve worked for, since even as a fairly rich org we don’t pay as much for the same positions.

    6. Lena Clare*

      Wow no. I work at a non-profit, and my colleagues and I are productive and hard working, with very heavy workloads. We don’t have time to “goof around on the internet”. Seriously, I’ve never seen anyone on Facebook in the office, other than on their phones at lunchtime. Our charity has very strict policies around how it uses its money, and so we must be accountable for that.

      1. many bells down*

        With absolutely no experience in doing it, our staff of 10 turned a regular in-person event with more than 100 attendees into a live Zoom event. In a week. Zero interruption in service. Most of use worked 7 days straight, from home, when we’ve never worked from home before, to make it happen. We regularly host dozens of one-off events in a week and we transitioned them ALL.

        Add to that the fact that everything takes longer when you can’t just pop your head into Fergus’ office with a quick question because now you have to email or message on Teams and wait for a reply.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          Wow! As another works at a nonprofit, I’m giving you a standing ovation!

    7. afiendishthingy*

      Oh yeah you’re right everyone at non-profits is lazy and never works, that’s definitely how they get funded /s

    8. Cedrus Libani*

      I don’t think that’s it. Rather, large corporations just don’t provide the conditions for the truly bananacrackers stuff to happen. There are managers, and they’re actually trained to manage. There is functioning HR. There is a chain of command that is both able and willing to lay down the hammer at the first sign of a brewing lawsuit and/or bad PR. Not that corporate doesn’t have its frustrations, but they’re usually very boring frustrations.

      I’ve worked in big corporate, startups, non-profit, pseudo-non-profit (hospitals), and academia. In all cases, the ones with a corporate-like chain of command and strong HR were positively tame, while the ones where the bosses were allowed to run their own private fiefdoms were…not tame.

      1. cold toes*

        “There are managers, and they’re actually trained to manage. There is functioning HR. There is a chain of command that is both able and willing to lay down the hammer at the first sign of a brewing lawsuit and/or bad PR. ”

        Ha ha ha, no! Not at my for-profit business. Not one of the managers has been trained or had previous management experience. Some managers are excellent, some are absolute shite. We have one HR person, who spends most of her time on matters not related to HR. This blanket statement about for-profit corporations is as silly as the original about non-profit employees not working.

    9. MissGirl*

      Are you projecting because you’re on this site “goofing around on the internet and not working”?

    10. MissBliss*

      Something like 10% of the American workforce are employed by nonprofits. I don’t feel like 1 out of every 10 letters to AAM refers to working at a nonprofit, but even if they do, that would be right on track with the population in this country– can’t speak to any others, but the US does have a special cultural affinity for nonprofits that isn’t the same in other parts of the world.

      1. allathian*

        Certainly in Scandinavia, much of the US non-profit sector is handled by the public sector at a national or regional level. Many non-profits are public corporations. They aren’t expected to make a profit for shareholders (there aren’t any), but they are expected to manage their funds efficiently. This is because our public sector is vastly larger than in the US and our tax rates are correspondingly higher.

  38. Aggretsuko*

    I had it officially confirmed that our office isn’t allowed to hire anyone. We’re not allowed to renew our temps’ contracts. We are not allowed to hire new temps. (Apparently the entire temp agency is being …. discontinued? Literally no one is being allowed to hire any any more.) Supposedly we got permission to hire ONE person (out of the six we need to hire) but since HR has killed that multiple times BEFORE this, I have zero hopes that this will happen.

    I am just so angry and so drowning and I cried throughout most of yesterday. I can’t handle this workload alone and there is literally nothing that can be done to help me or anyone else. I seriously want to know what my office will do when, not if, I have a nervous breakdown and have to go out on stress leave and there is literally nobody left to do all the work.

    1. PX*

      Welp. Time to look after yourself.

      There is a great post on Captain Awkward from a few years ago from someone in a similar situation, and literally the only thing you can do is start to draw boundaries at work and take time for yourself and your (mental) health.

      And in an ideal world you can also use the time you carve for yourself to start to think about job hunting because this doesnt sound like a place you want to be at for very much longer.

    2. Cedrus Libani*

      Your office has decided that it wants one person doing your job. So give them one person.

      I get it. You care about your job. I have also tried to be the hero that saves the higher-ups from the consequences of their bad decisions. You can’t. You can only destroy yourself by trying.

      One, to the extent that you succeed – the higher-ups never see the consequences, so they think they’ve made a great decision. We didn’t need six people; one could do the job just fine. Think of all the savings! Somebody’s going to get a bonus for their wise financial decisions. (That somebody won’t be you.)

      Two, you will fail. The cracks will show. You will start to burn out. You will snap at people. You will be worse at your job, because you’ll be functioning in triage mode all the time. You will make mistakes.

      When you’re finally forced to move on, what will your reference say? They won’t say you’re a hero, because that’s not what they saw. You were unreliable, difficult to work with, and finally had to be fired due to mistake XYZ.

      Do. Not. Do. It.

      Keep track of your time. It helps to have a whiteboard or some other planning document with your current tasks. If a new priority needs to be added, something else goes back in the “someday” pile. Make your boss make that decision – it’s their job to set your priorities. Keep records. If your management is truly unreasonable, you might be doomed. But in most cases they’re just oblivious, and they will respond once THEY have a problem. They do have a problem; hand it back to them.

    3. Avasarala*

      I seriously want to know what my office will do when, not if, I have a nervous breakdown and have to go out on stress leave and there is literally nobody left to do all the work.

      Why don’t you take some stress leave and find out? I think it would do you good.

  39. SaffyTaffy*

    Oh! For any of you in libraries, what are you doing to make sure small items can circulate once the physical library space is open?
    We’re already moving furniture. We might rope off the books and make them accessible only by staff. We’re probably going to do a bleach-water spray at least 2x a day on nonporous surfaces.We’ll put out bleach wipes and signs directing their use. We might put handled materials in a separate room for 72 hours after they come back to us. We will hopefully still let patrons use office supplies that can be disinfected, like staplers and the printers. For things like headphones, we might stop circulating them or might do the 72-hour rest. We may take down our puzzle center and coloring pages- I’d like to keep these up, but am not sure of a safe way to do that.

    Any other ideas?

    1. WellRed*

      As a library patron, I ask of you, please don’t rope off the books. It kind of defeats the purpose.

      1. SaffyTaffy*

        Hi WellRed, there are already a bunch of libraries doing “e-browse only” and I agree, it’s no fun.

        1. WellRed*

          Oh ugh. Our libraries aren’t open yet. I will consider myself forewarned this may be a thing.

      2. Alice*

        So you’re really excited about browsing physical items that other people have been touching recently?

        1. Ranon*

          Hand washing works pretty well, if I let the books sit a few days at home first it doesn’t seem like a big risk.

    2. Artemesia*

      The most important thing is to require masks on everyone in the space — the risk from unmasked people breathing on you, even if you wear a mask, is far greater than any risk from materials.

      1. SaffyTaffy*

        Oh yeah, Artemesia, that goes without saying. Nobody is going to be allowed on campus without a mask, even outside.

    3. Donkey on the Edge*

      We are taking a lot of steps — our Chromebooks and hotspots will be wiped/sanitized so they can circulate again quickly, but all other materials are being quarantined for 72 hours before we check them in. We are not allowing access to our shelves (sorry — but this helps us because won’t have to follow people around and try to sanitize everything they may have touched). We aren’t circulating toys/flip kits with multiple parts. Also, right now, people will not be able to use the copiers — we can print things for them that they send through our mobile print, but the copiers, themselves, will only be able to be used by staff. So, no worries about disinfecting small things like staplers.
      I know people will be disappointed that they cannot come into the whole building and pick out materials, but right now, this is our way to stay safe. We are putting items on browsing tables and creating themed bundles of items, and we’re also helping people place what they want on hold so they can get it via curbside/walkup (or by coming in and getting those items on hold). This is part of our phased re-opening, so we’ll see how things go and then add in services/access as we’re able to. We’re located in an urban environment, so trying to keep things as simple as possible will help us keep everyone as safe as possible.

    4. Please make it stop*

      Not at all helpful for the current situation, but ‘rope off the books’ reminds me of stories from the old days of our small local library. Originally the library was a private library and then when public libraries came to be a thing, they sort of merged. There are now separate boards, although the private board mostly takes care of the building, and in good years (they’re funded by farm ground), they give ‘gifts’ to the public part for whatever is currently most needed.

      However, back in the day, the head librarian was from the family that owned the private library. The stacks were blocked off and she would get the books requested by the patrons. And…if you requested something inappropriate, it was likely your family would hear about it. She also used to use a razor blade to cut out the ‘naughty’ words. This makes her sound awful, but she was actually hilarious, sweet, and gave waaaay more to the community than anyone ever would have guessed.

      1. Academic Librarian Too*

        Holy crap! And that is why young people, nowadays we have professional public librarians who went to graduate school and understand collection development, patron rights to privacy, community service, and intellectual freedom.

        1. Lepidoptera*

          Even then there are still people who “forgot” the ethics and intellectual freedom parts of the classes.
          Plus, we shouldn’t pretend that our budgets and our own biases prevent us from buying the entire spectrum of published literature which would be the most equitable wouldn’t be the most prudent. I would also point out how ethnocentric the ACRL framework for information literacy is, but then critical librarianship is a lot.

      2. SaffyTaffy*

        Please make it stop, That’s not that unusual a personality mix for a librarian, honestly. Fabulous story, thank you! <3

  40. Trixie*

    In addition to starting a new job next week, I’m also tackling two summer school classes. One of them is Spanish, and friends, it’s been years. I took two semesters when I first started college but need a third semester apparently. I like the idea of picking it up again but at this point, I just need to pass a very intense five-week course. I will say the online study tools, recordings, and videos are really helping.
    Once Spanish wraps, I move into my third summer class which is also five-week intensive. Literature and if I an squeeze in all the reading, am really looking forward to it.
    So, yeah. New job plus three summer school classes. Let’s see what happens.

    1. Obfonteri*

      Not much advice but I wanted to wish you good luck! That sounds very stressful but I’m sure you will do great :)

  41. Triumphant Fox*

    I don’t know how to handle interactions with everyone at work/clients/vendors now that no one thinks COVID is a big deal anymore and I am the only one wearing a mask, or everyone else wears one but then takes it off to speak/moves it down to breathe through their nose.
    I feel like I come off as the hysterical female/crazy anti-business liberal when I ask people to wear masks. I am so used to being the person who masks social situations run smoothly/eases tensions that it is so out of character to add tension and demand people wear masks properly. I’m probably being cowardly, but I really think people’s respect for me will decline if I insist (as mine has for them for treating this like a big joke).

    1. Fikly*

      You may not have their respect, but you will be alive.

      Reality has never required mass belief to exist.

    2. WellRed*

      You can’t demand others wear masks if your office isn’t requiring it. You can only wear your own and limit contact with the others, including asking them to step back or not come into your office space (whatever is appropriate).

    3. sequined histories*

      “I need to be extra careful about my health right now. Please help me out by wearing a mask.”
      If there are follow-up questions: “I’ve had to put so much time and energy into dealing with this situation in last few months, I’ve decided—for my own well-being—not to go into any details at work. We could all use a break from this topic, right?”

      That’s it. Don’t explain, justify, or argue.
      Just make your perfectly reasonable request.
      Over and over again—in a calm, cheerful tone—if necessary.

      1. Reba*

        I think these are great scripts! It’s not asking people to change their mind or agree with you.

    4. Kettricken Farseer*

      You are absolutely not being a coward. The people you come into contact with are being pretty cavalier about the whole thing, and I think that sucks. If their respect for you declines because you’re asking them to follow guidelines, then they’re the a**holes. You are not crazy.

    5. Nesprin*

      Think about how many of them are taking off their masks because everyone else is and they’re not brave enough to be the one standout mask-insister. You’re doing the right thing, and you wearing a mask can normalize mask wearing for the next person who’s in this situation.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        That’s very true. I have noticed that people wear masks around me more, or remember to do it – but they still take it off to talk/pull it below their nose. I’ve been trying to just keep my distance and I do WFH most of the time. It’s just hard when it’s the CEO. I’ve written here before about how we kept our July event on the books for so long and he really didn’t want to cancel. My instinct to hold my tongue and just inform my boss about my thoughts on holding an event of that size did pay off. We canceled when a major player in our space did. Now in larger groups he is making jokes about coronovirus, insisting the worst is over, joking about having to put social distance between people once we are in the new building. I took him at face value on that last one and was so thrown off that he was kidding about taking any measures to protect people. This whole thing has made me see him and leadership in such a different light.

  42. LGC*

    Okay, so…heading back to work after two months of WFH. I’m a bit uncomfortable with this!

    My employees tend to approach me to ask questions, file PTO (I’m trying to push them to use online, but they’re resisting), so on and so forth. They don’t have email or IM, so we do have to talk face-to-face (I’m trying to minimize this). I’m not sure how to manage this going forward.

    (Basically, it’s a production environment.)

    1. WellRed*

      If they want PTO, for example, they are going to have to use the online system. No resisting. New normal. repeat as necessary.

      1. LGC*

        That’s the problem – my boss won’t let me set that as a rule. Which I get since a lot of people have iffy internet coverage.

        I’m not sure of our mask policy (so far it’s been optional), either. (I’m less concerned about them not having masks because we’re required to wear them in stores here by law.)

        1. WellRed*

          Is there an option to get a computer in the production facility that employees can use for things like PTO? This may not be practical…

    2. Emilitron*

      Do you have an office that they come talk to you in? Consider a masking-tape line on the floor at 6ft from your desk, with a sign “Safe Conversational Distance (please do not cross this line)”

      1. LGC*

        I wish I did!

        Basically, the setup now is that we have an office with several workstations (right now, 8; normally it’s 15) hooked up to our company’s intranet. I have my own desk in a corner of this floor (I’m the supervisor, although I handle several management tasks). So they do have to talk directly to me because they can’t email, which makes it a bit more awkward.

    3. acmx*

      Keep your mask on even when it’s not in place so you’re able to pull it up when someone approaches you.
      If you have an office, can you place an inbox outside the door? You could also put a streamer across the doorway so people do not come in.
      Mark the floor indicating 6′ apart?

    4. Anono-me*

      Put a simple PTO form together and have a drop box for it. Check it every day or few hours (depending on how short term PTO works in your situation. )

      If you find you’re answering the same few questions over and over again, maybe you can put together a FAQ answer handout and put it on the company website and post it prominently in several places.

  43. Sigh.*

    I had the horrifying moment yesterday of being on a national Zoom call and not realizing I was unmuted :( I was baby talking my dog. I AM SO MORTIFIED. By the time I realized it was too late and of course, this is my new job and OF COURSE I HAD MY WHOLE NAME ON THERE UGH

    1. Blue Anne*

      Oh man. I’m sorry, that sounds so cringey but also made me grin. If I were your new coworker it would make me like you more!

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, you may find it embarrassing, but I bet others on the call just found it amusing.

    3. afiendishthingy*

      At least you weren’t trash talking others on the call or dirty talking to your SO or on the toilet. I wouldn’t worry, this is just funny.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        So TRUE. Seriously. Talking to pets/children/spouses in a sweet way (even if baby talk feels cringey in a work context) is 1000x better than screaming matches/nasty comments/bathroom times/disgusting sounds/nakedness of self or others we have heard about during zoom calls. I think the bar for this has lowered so. much.

    4. Donkey Hotey*

      More than likely, it was amusing in the moment and forgotten.
      If it continues, you could include “(pet’s name)’s mom” in one of your casual tags.
      But yeah, far better doggo talk than trash talking the presenter.

    5. Formica Dinette*

      Maybe it’ll be a good conversation starter/way to connect with your new coworkers?

      Not quite the same, but a few weeks ago I was making a Very Serious Point during a Zoom meeting with people much higher up than me and my cats were putting on such a show in the background that one of the higher ups commented on it. Said higher up was kind and laughing, and I truly think the situation worked out to my benefit.

      1. Reba*

        I’m definitely mentally awarding extra points to coworkers whose pets are visible.

    6. Reba*

      I’m so sorry this happened, and I sincerely thank you for coming here to post about it. :D

      I hope Alison will do a Zoom-embarrassment roundup at some point.

    7. New Senior Manager*

      So much worse has been seen on zoom in the past few months. You’re good. Trust me.

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

      Everyone knows people “baby talk” their dogs so I expect they will understand! And if it was a national call, probably your contribution was buried in other people talking.

      .. The day before yesterday I was actively talking in a department video call about “strategy with regard to the TTP project”; co-worker had just said something I didn’t agree wholly with and I was just thinking about how to respond with my response to disagree rationally with their proposal and then A CAT WHO IS NOT ONE OF MY 3 CATS just casually wandered into my workspace (how did he get in to my house?!) and I shouted out “hey you Get outta here! Shoo!” because I thought I was on mute! … I was not on mute.

    9. CatMintCat*

      We were on a zoom call with work and my cat, who does not tolerate strangers in his space well, finally worked out where the voices were coming from. He got up to the computer screen and, before I could grab him, spat hard at our entire staff, ferocious face, teeth bared and all. We’ve all met each other’s kids and pets through this, but my Leopold gave it that little something extra.

      It has been talked about, but in a “that was a funny thing that happened” way.

  44. Career Switcher*

    Hey everyone, I’m looking to switch careers and I wanted some advice on how to get started.

    Right now I’m working on a Communications degree while working in IT full-time. I don’t like my job, or other IT jobs I’ve had; while I am capable of doing the work, it’s stressful and I’m fundamentally uninterested in it. Right now, I am looking for a job that pays the bills that I can leave at work at the end of the day. In my area, these mostly seem to be admin assistant jobs. (Jobs are pretty thin on the ground where I live.)

    So…I guess what I’m struggling with is how to represent myself on my resume/cover letter. I have nearly five years’ experience in IT and I suspect it will look weird to apply for lower-paying jobs that don’t require my skill set. At the same time, I don’t think saying “I want this job because it will be less stressful while going to school” will look great in a cover letter. And this question applies for non-admin assistant jobs too; those are just the ones I see most often.

    Does anyone have any suggestions/advice for how to frame this?

    1. CM*

      Since you’re already in school, I’d say that while your work so far has been in IT, which has enabled you to build relevant skills in [dealing with frustrated people, juggling lots of urgent tasks, whatever], you’re interested in moving into a non-IT area which will use skills more relevant to your Communications degree, like [working with people at different levels of the company, whatever you can think of that applies to both the job and your eventual career goals or school work].

  45. Just a PM*

    I posted a couple of weeks ago asking for advice on how people used their intranets and what kind of content they’d like to see. (brief background – I’ve been tasked to redesign and overhaul my agency’s intranet and literally sky is the limit. No restrictions made it hard to figure out where to start.) All the advice everyone gave was super useful and super helpful especially since it validated my intentions as the right way forward. I was able to come up with a newer, more streamlined concept and my boss is very excited by the changes I proposed! Next step is meeting with the front office execs for their input. Thank you all so much for the advice!

  46. Tabby cat*

    Hi, I’m in a difficulty spot. I work in a team with Claire (not her real name) who is senior to me, but I don’t report to her. We share the same first name and have similar surnames so it’s easy to pick the wrong Claire from contacts and I fairly frequently get emails for her, which usually I just forward on. Overnight, I received an email from a client who mainly works with her, but I have recently been helping with his account, so it’s not unreasonable that he could have intended to email me and the subject was very nonspecific. But having opened the message, it was obvious that this was intended for the other Claire (he uses her nickname, so absolutely no possibility this was meant for me) and that it was very personal (we’re working remotely and the message is along the lines of how much he misses seeing her, how talking with her is getting him through this etc, but it’s a long way beyond “I value your professional input”). I’m really not sure what to do about this. My first instinct was just to delete it, but if the client doesn’t realize his mistake (which is likely since it was sent in the early hours of the morning probably after a few drinks) and thinks she is ignoring his message, it could get awkward. I could reply to the client letting him know this didn’t reach the intended recipient, but if I’d sent this and knew someone else had read it I’d be mortified. If I forward this to Claire, I also doubt she’d be delighted I’d seen it especially as we are definitely no more than work acquaintances. This is a really important client and our firm has strict rules about romantic relationships. I’ve always thought they got on well but Claire is quite formal with him and I’d be surprised if they were involved but I don’t know for sure and I don’t want Claire to think this is something I’m going to try to hold over her. Any ideas how I can get out of this with the minimum embarrassment on all sides?

    1. PX*

      Ooooh. Awkward.

      I would forward it to Claire simply saying “Think this was meant for you” and then never mention it again. If she tries to bring it up, I’d be very much on team neutral bland: either downplay reading it (can you say that once you saw the nickname you knew it was meant for her?) or simply say its none of your business and then hard topic change.

      1. CM*

        I really like the idea of implying you stopped as soon as you saw the nickname. Even if Claire suspects you read the whole thing, that will signal to her that you’re at least pretending you didn’t.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Forward it just like all the others.

      If she ever asks if you read it, then you can say “I was going to skim it, but I saw your nickname and didn’t read any further”

      Yaaa…. that he used the nickname.

    3. LGC*

      …delete it, unless you’re ethically bound to report fraternization (in which case…you kind of have to and I am so sorry). You’re not responsible for either of their feelings.

      Also, he called her “Schmoopy-bear” in her work email?! (I don’t know what the nickname he used was, but I want to think he called her “schmoopy-bear.”) Clearly he has never heard of the adage, “Dance like no one is watching, email like it might one day end up in a deposition.”

      1. Zephy*

        I read “used her nickname” as “used an inappropriately-familiar diminutive form of her name” – Claire was maybe a bad fake name to use as an example since it doesn’t really have any common nicknames, but if they were both, say, Amanda and the guy called her Mandy or something…

      1. Blueberry*

        Yeah. AMng other reasons, his intimate phrasing may not at all have been invited by Claire in any way, in which case she can use the documentation and can choose whether or not to ignore his message or to reply with “don’t ever write me like this again”.

        1. Tabby cat*

          Thanks for all the advice. This has kind of resolved itself, as this afternoon I got a very apologetic follow up from the client asking me to please never tell other Claire about it. I get the concern about potential harassment, but I don’t think it’s likely here and I know he’s under stress (plus while he’s not my favorite client, I feel a bit sorry for him as I think we can all agree work crushes can be miserable) so I’m going to delete the message and assume this is one-time bad judgement rather than anything more sinister

          1. Mouse*

            I wouldn’t delete the message. I’m not going to focus on whether to share it with other-Claire or not (though personally I would), but in the event that anything else happens in the future, it may be good to have that email to establish a pattern.

            1. valentine*

              I would’ve replied, “I think you meant this for Claire Surname,” cc’ing Clarita and my manager for a complete CYA:

              ~Clarita should know he did this
              ~I’ve kicked it upstairs; my plate and conscience are clear
              ~if it’s not his first offense, I won’t form part of a massive chain of “second” chances or faux surprise that he would do anything untoward
              ~I’m not keeping an inappropriate secret (1) from my colleagues, much less (2) with a client

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

      I would reply to the person sending, with something like “hi, this reached me as Claire “Jones” but I think it may have been intended for Claire “Jonash” (or whatever) instead. In case you don’t have it […!] her email address is actually Claire.Jonash@example.com (or whatever)”

      > if the client doesn’t realize his mistake (which is likely since it was sent in the early hours of the morning probably after a few drinks)

      I wouldn’t just delete it, just because as you perceive (rightly imo) that the person sending it was drunk at the time.

      I would not mention anything to the “other Claire” going forward though unless she asked you about it!

  47. Anongineer*

    Currently waiting for the federal hiring/moving freeze to end so I can start my new (international, yay!) job, and counting down the days until I can turn in my notice. Does anyone have any advice for a) switching to working as a civilian for the military and b) working abroad?

    1. PX*

      Read up as much as you can about new country culture. Work culture, social culture, support from your new company in terms of relocation etc. And then be prepared for culture shock to hit you at unexpected times.

      Otherwise enjoy! Im a fan of living/working abroad, so much to see, learn and most importantly – eat!

      1. Fikly*

        And the local healthcare system, if you’re not going to be covered via the military (both in cost/insurance and facilities/doctors).

    2. Ariadne Oliver*

      Be prepared for inprocessing to take forever. Depending on what country you’re going to that can get a bit frustrating. Also, if they haven’t already done it ask to have a sponsor assigned to you to help you with that. You should have also received a Welcoming Package with relevant information about the area and other information. Familiarize yourself with the benefits, and all the forms you need to file for reimbursement of PCS costs. DFAS has a lot of the information on their website. Not sure if you’re tracking that you will get taxed on the cost of the move. If your move costs $20,000 the taxes will be around $6,000 (~30%). Most of it you will get back the following year through filing a RITA claim. It’s usually pretty quick to get a driver’s license but you do have to pass a test. I would recommend you get an International drivers license to tide you over if you’re planning on driving immediately. Otherwise you will not be able to legally drive. I’m currently in the process of returning to the U.S. after spending several years in Germany and South Korea. Enjoy. Lots of opportunity to travel.

  48. Blue Anne*

    Can I get some general advice and thoughts on this? I’m trying to decide whether to go to grad school full time. For those who’ve gone back to school, how did you decide how to handle it?

    I’ve been working in accounting for almost 10 years now, have a great resume, have no problem getting solid jobs. I had to move back to America from Scotland a couple years ago, and unfortunately my Scottish qualifications hold zero weight over here, which is definitely holding me back from higher paid roles. (This is EXTREMELY frustrating. I’m more knowledgeable than most CPAs I’ve worked with.) I just started a very good Master’s in Accounting program part time so that I can eventually get my CPA.

    Now that I’ve started the coursework… man I just really want to go full time on the master’s. I’m really enjoying studying, and I’d kind of like the opportunity to branch out a bit and take additional law classes while I’m at it. The idea of doing part time classes for another 4 damn years, when I know I could pass the CPA exams right now if they’d just let me take them, is crushing. On a personal level, the last decade has been extremely difficult (that international move was forced by exiting an abusive marriage) and I would really like to be able to take my foot off the gas for a while in a way that would still look fine on my resume. I’m also in the process of hopefully having a kid with my wonderful partner, and would love extra flexibility in that super early stage of kiddo’s life. Job, master’s, and baby at the same time seems ambitious even for me.

    But… I started at the job I have right now 6 months ago, it’s fantastic (great pay for my city and qualifications, working for great people, very solid benefits, amazing work-life balance for this industry), and I know they hired me planning for me to be there long term. Not only do I not want to let them down, but quitting such a great job during a pandemic and looming terrible recession seems foolhardy even if I am very employable. And, we’re queer, so baby-having is an expensive process which would really be helped by me keeping my good salary and good health insurance. But… ugh.

    Don’t know what to do.

    1. Me*

      Because of your last sentence alone – if that is something you are considering at all in the near future, I wouldn’t walk away from a good job to do something a little faster. A good salary and even better good insurance is something not to take leaving behind lightly unless you have alternatives to those two things. And of course whatever you decide you have a partner, so your decisions aren’t made in a bubble. What do they think?

      Answered as someone doing their MS right now part-time who would love to quit the job that pays the bills : )

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah. I’ve never worked at a place with such good health insurance. I shouldn’t take that lightly. We have other income streams and I could start building up my own practice a little while I’m still in school. So we could pay the bills even with an expensive baby incoming. Health insurance though… hm.

        My partner is an artist, and currently working about 50% of the time on managing my rental properties, 50% of the time on his art, with the plan that he’ll be the main caregiver when we have a kiddo. (A plan I’m very enthusiastic about.) He’s fine with me doing the Master’s full time but would feel obligated to get a paycheck job while I did that. But his artistic work is really taking off, I don’t want to see that derail, and I think we’d be okay for a couple years without him picking up a paycheck, but… I understand why he’d want to.

        Blah. There are a ton of reasons why staying in the job is the right and responsible choice, but just enough reasons not to that it’s hard to resign myself to it, you know?

    2. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Would your job at some point allow you an (unpaid, maybe you pay to stay on their insurance or they pay) sabbatical for a semester? You seem to enjoy the schoolwork, so you could take a heavy load and make a big chunk of progress. Especially good if they would benefit from you gaining your CPA and continuing to work for them. Or would they let you go part-time for a year to speed up the process? Think of some different scenarios to present to them after you’ve been there a year and show them how they would benefit in the long run.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Ooooh. They might. Thank you for mentioning this. There might be some scenario we could work out.

    3. button*

      Honestly, if the issue is you’ve got too much going on and you want to pare down, I would consider putting the Master’s program on pause. I know you really don’t want to, but especially if you’re going to be having a child in the near future, income and health insurance (and time!) in the short term is so important. I might say differently if the economic outlook wasn’t so bleak right now, but why graduate into a recession with a family to support if you don’t have to?

    4. Hillary*

      If you’re comfortable with the coursework and you think it might work for your life & relationship, you can also pick up the pace on part time. I did a part-time MBA in two years plus a semester, and while I don’t normally recommend it (I had no social life), I don’t regret it. More practically, if they have any intensive classes, take them. I spent two weeks on a program in China, had a great learning experience, and got four credit hours for almost the same price as taking them over a semester.

      Personally, I’d find a way to stay since it sounds like you have a really good job. The sabbatical is a good ask, you might also be able to go down to 80% or something to get more hours in the day for school. Your qualifications will benefit them too.

    5. Dancing Otter*

      Speaking as a CPA for mumble mumble decades, the certification is only required in two circumstances.

      1. Do you want to do attest (audit) work? Employees within an audit firm aren’t strictly required to be CPAs, but it helps with hiring and promotion. Certification and licensing are required for independent practice.

      2. Do you want to do taxes? With a CPA license (not just passing the test), you can practice before the IRS, get a PTIN and be listed in their directory of paid tax preparers. You could do the same thing by passing the IRS’ own Enrolled Agent exam, though.

      If you have visions of opening your own accounting office someday, the license will definitely help attract clients. Many small businesses think having a CPA do their bookkeeping is better, though it isn’t legally required for doing write-up work.

  49. Chocolate Fondue*

    I have a bit of a dilemma in what I should say when asked why I’m looking for a new position. The head of our department, who is my boss, was laid off about a month ago. Since then, I’ve been asked to take on most of his responsibilities. However, I’m increasingly seeing signs that our team may be outsourced. Nothing has been communicated formally but a lot of signs point there. How much of that should I communicate during an interview process? I don’t want to be negative towards the company and want to come across positive and excited overall.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      In the interview process, keep it brief and professional. Something like,

      “My company is going through some layoffs and it made me realize how much I value stability. And I’m also drawn to NewCompany because of XYZ.”

  50. Amber Rose*

    I’m getting weird survivor’s guilt these days. Working in B2B sales, I’ve had close contacts with a lot of purchasers who are out of jobs and contacting me to see if I can help them at all. And I can’t. We’ve laid people off too, and obviously there’s a hiring freeze. But I still have a job and reasonable job security so I’m feeling like… guilt.

    Anyways.

    I know I’m dropping the ball a lot lately at work and I’m trying really hard but my head’s all messed up and it’s hard. I didn’t think it would be this hard. I don’t even know how or when I’m making all these mistakes but they keep happening.

    1. Zephy*

      If you’re in the US and in a position to do so, you might assuage your survivor’s guilt by donating your stimulus check (if you haven’t gotten yours yet, apparently you can look up the status of your check on the IRS website).

      If you’re not in a position to donate those funds, that is absolutely OK and 100% your business and nobody else’s. But if you are in the privileged position of not really “needing” an extra $1200, now or in the foreseeable future (such as it is), find a reputable charity serving a cause you care about and give that money to them. GreatNonprofits dot org is one good way to find reputable non-profit organizations.

  51. Why Make it So Hard?*

    Just a vent:

    We have an internal plaque in our office that was named after a coworker, and awarded each month to the “winner” of the monthly team-building event (no the irony of an individual winner of a team-building was not lost on anyone). Due to regular turnover in our office, many coworkers have come and gone (including him and his wife).

    A couple of weeks ago, the coworker committed suicide. At the request of Jane, another former coworker, my direct report, John, took a picture of the plaque and forwarded it to her. She in turn forwarded it to the coworker’s widow, who posted it in his “In Memoriam” Facebook Group.

    All of this is fine, except for the fact that the lower right corner of the picture includes documents that contain confidential information. We have a social media policy that strictly prohibits posting confidential information. It’s pretty obvious from looking at the documents that these are legal documents. They are fuzzy enough that you can’t make out the names on the documents, but it’s clear what it is.

    I know John was affected by the suicide, so I tried to handle this discreetly. I reached out to John to ask if he had sent a picture to the widow, and he told me no, he had sent it to Jane, who apparently forwarded it to the widow (and who knows who else). I told him that the documents should have been cropped out, and he had a belligerent reaction — “It’s not that big of a deal,” “I wasn’t thinking about that, I was just trying to get the picture to Jane,” “You can’t really see anything.” I told him not up for debate, just crop the picture.

    Two days later the picture is still up…I go to him again and ask if he reached out to Jane about getting the picture cropped … “I didn’t know I was supposed to.” I told him others had noticed the picture and what was in it, and it needed to either be taken down or cropped. He said he would reach out to Jane.

    Of course, that evening, I get a facebook message from the widow…she doesn’t want to take the picture down, she shouldn’t be subject to our policy, she can’t see any personal identifying information, etc. Of course, there’s a reason I didn’t reach out to her in the first place — it wasn’t her problem, she didn’t cause the problem, and more importantly, her husband just died 10 days ago! Eventually she said she would “get around” to cropping the picture, and then blocked me from commenting or posting in the memorial group. Picture is still up.

    John could have kept this so simple. “Oops, Jane, I should have cropped the photo, I’m sending another one, can you destroy the one you have and use this one instead?” Simple, discreet, quiet, no fuss, no muss. Instead, I’m pretty sure the convo was “My manager is making a humoungous deal about this and how horrible and blah blah blah.” — otherwise, how would the widow know to reach out to ME about the situation? So of course, now, I’m the bitch. (Rolling Eye Emoji)

    So now it’s been up for a week, and now it’s write-ups and some other potential disciplinary action (people have been fired for less, and the only thing that might save him is that actual personal identifying information is not easily legible).

    Why, WHY, do people just make lives hard for themselves??? Why, John???? Why???

    1. WellRed*

      Or you could just let this go without all the write-ups (what are these even meant to do?) and discipline. I don’t disagree that he could have just handled it better, but is it really identifiable to anyone who doesn’t know what it is? And, how confidential is it really if it’s pinned to the wall?

      1. Blueberry*

        The plaque isn’t confidential — it’s that confidential paperwork can be seen in the same photo.

        When I worked in the hospital my coworker took a photo of me at the front desk, which clearly showed the Patient Board behind me (deeply confidential information). Before I did anything else with the photo I carefully redacted every bit of the Patient Board which could be seen, as well as cropping out any computer displays, Just In Case. Depending on the information (OP says it’s legal ppwk) I can see the disciplinary case for someone explicitly refusing to do even this level of photo editing.

        1. Littorally*

          Absolutely. I work in finance, and we’re not allowed to take any pictures in the office (aside from company photos that are carefully set up) for exactly this reason — if you catch someone’s screen with non-public information on it, that’s a Big Deal.

      2. Why Make it So Hard?*

        I’d love to just let it go, and would have kept it as just a verbal warning if my instructions had been followed. At this point, in this public Facebook group, several people have commented to me “Why is there temporary restraining order paperwork in the picture?” because they are aware of how bad that is.

    2. Blueberry*

      Oh my goodness, I am so sorry. I know we’re allstressed, but John, WMISH is trying to *help* you!

  52. What’s with Today, today?*

    Just a vent.

    My husband is a defense/falily law attorney. We live in a small town. A client of his with a terrible drug problem, a guy we’ve both known for 15 years, drove to our house yesterday morning and started ringing our doorbell at 6:30 a.m.! My husband was livid.

    Then, another person contacted me yesterday on messenger to find out if my husband does child custody cases. I responded that he does and to just call him. The man then goes on to message me every detail of this custody case. And I respond to just call my husband. Then a few hours later, the same person messaged me again and sent a live video of his adult daughter selling MLM jewelry.

    WTF?

    1. Blue Anne*

      People suck.

      I have rental properties and am an accountant. I get so many people contacting me, and my partner, about my work through personal communication venues like facebook and it drives me nuts. And, yes, a couple times just showing up at our home! Why the hell do people think it’s okay to just show up and ring my doorbell and ask to see a rental at all, much less in the middle of breakfast? It’s completely, totally inappropriate, but for certain professions people seem to think it’s fine. It drives me insane.

    2. Temperance*

      I’m so, so sorry – it must be awful to deal with those types of law in a very small town where everyone knows you and where you live. I get annoyed with unsolicited messages asking for legal help, too, and it’s never anything as egregious as showing up at my home, uninvited, at that time of the morning.

      With the weirdo who decided to send you all of his information, just don’t respond after you give the number for your husband’s office. You’re not a lawyer, and if he’s too lazy to make a simple phone call, your husband probably doesn’t want to represent him.

    3. CircleBack*

      I wonder what would happen if you pointed out to this people that lawyer-client confidentiality doesn’t apply when they tell you details of their case lol

  53. Environmental Compliance*

    Does anyone here work primarily in environmental policy as a nonlawyer?

    I have been gravitating more and more of making policy work my end career goal, as it’s the part of my job that I enjoy the most. Potentially moving up into more EHS director roles in a few years, would a stronger background in policy/regulations be more beneficial? I don’t want to end up a technical specialist, and I don’t want to end up in primarily industrial hygiene.

    I’ve seen a few online MS degrees that sound very fascinating (MELP through Vermont). Do I really need another MS degree? Probably not. Do I really want it? Yup. I don’t want to be a lawyer, but I do want to get more into regulations, policy, law, etc. rather than coordinating consultants for the rest of my career.

    I’m pretty happy where I’m at right now, but trying to think 5 years ahead.

    1. Me*

      Check out ACCO – association for climate change officers. I’m sure there’s other certification type programs that aren’t MS.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Most likely there are! I’m working on my QEP right now. Exam got delayed to who knows when due to COVID.

        Looks like the ACCO CCP requires work on climate change prior to certification, which is a bummer. Unless I can count working on sustainability initiatives within my facilities, which I am, but it’s by no means an extensive part of my job. I’ll have to dig more and see if that counts enough.

        My job right now has a pretty hefty tuition reimbursement program that I’m hoping to take advantage of between credentialing and other programs.

        1. Me*

          It counts you just might have to explain it. They should have a stepping stone program. think associate or something, for those who don’t meet the full 3 year requirement. At least they were working on one.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            it looks like they have a Candidate program – and were working on an Officer program, but looks like that hasn’t been updated yet.

            If they would count that, and I think I could make an argument, I’d have over 3 years. It’ll be a little disjointed, I did a lot more with that topic in jobs right after college, but technically it exists, lol. But I’ve never had a title of “sustainability manager” or anything like that, it’s just been a side note in jobs rather than purely focused.

            I’m going to add it to the list as part of my tuition reimbursement request!

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      And in other news, New Job had us working at 80% pay/hours, which ends at the end of the month…. but then we have to take 6 weeks total unpaid during the rest of the year, front loaded in June/July. Because I do have a side hustle, I don’t think I qualify for unemployment by the skin of my teeth. So that’s great. Trying now to drum up a couple extra clients to make up for the loss. Stressing about having to take 4 weeks off during semiannual reporting season, but it is what it is.

      Hubs is still unemployed as well. Moving here for this job we have in essence taken a 60% household pay cut. I really, really hope things start hiring again so Hubs can replace his salary and stop Macgyvering random stuff around the apartment, which is starting to drive me a little nuts.

    3. PX*

      Whoops. Misplaced my comment below.

      Oooh. Cant comment on the MS aspect, but one thing I managed to do in my field was get involved with an industry body that allowed me to participate in some policy making session that were happening due to changing regulations. It was a good insight into how the process all works, and also gave me useful contacts in fields that are related but tangential to my day to day work.

      So perhaps look into something similar for your field? For what its worth, I think the split at those sessions was maybe 50-50 in terms of people with a legal background, so its not a requirement. For us you basically had people from government, NGOs, service providers and customers/end users represented at these sessions, so quite a spread. But maybe some business areas for you to consider?

      You definitely need to be prepared to spend what feels like hours discussing the minutiae of words/terminology/phrasing!

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I have a strange enjoyment of arguing phrasing. Probably what I enjoyed being a permit writer for the most, if I’m honest! Many, many conversations with my boss at that stage over the intent of the regulation vs the phrasing within the permit.

        I am relatively involved in LEPCs, and am picking up some memberships once Finance opens back up at work (AWMA, FET, NAEP).

    4. Lluviata*

      Environmental Compliance,

      Off topic, I wanted to mention that I enjoy seeing your posts. I’m also in the field, working for a chemical manufacturer, but with less experience, and I love to see something that I recognize!

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        *high five* hello fellow EHS person!

        For realsies, I’m always excited when someone else is in the same relative field! I’ve always been the sole Enviro person wherever I work, so I miss having a team of like minds. Where I’m at right now there’s 8 people in the EHS department, but I’m still the sole E. It does tend to be a bit lonely, especially when we’re stuck into a role where 75% of the job is saying no, no, you can’t do that, that’s not really legal and I’m not writing the compliance report for that stupid idea.

  54. Cendol*

    Has anyone dealt with long-term underemployment or unemployment? Do you feel like sharing your story? I feel layoffs looming, and I definitely don’t have enough of a cushion saved up yet. I know there are (hopefully) intermediate steps between losing my job and total financial disaster, but it’s all kind of a vast unknown right now, and I would really like to hear how AAM readers have navigated this. Moving back in with my parents wouldn’t be an option for me. Thank you!

    1. Sled dog mama*

      Does 2 years count?
      I picked up short term contracts (a big thing in my field) that would be 3-4 days at a time during the 2 years. This helped keep my skills fresh and made me feel like less of a liar for putting contractor for Teapots Ltd from X-Y on my resume. I tried to pickup a contract at least once a month. I focused heavily on studying for my certification exams. I applied for every job I could.
      I claimed unemployment. I cut expenses as much as I could (not practical sometimes but I had a few places I could cut), and I got as familiar as I could with free resources.(ex I cut my internet and used the public library’s to do all my job applications).
      When I wasn’t doing contract work I worked at a local farm (mostly weeding and harvesting) they paid me in fresh veggies which made my grocery budget go so much further.
      Eventually I found a position through a contracting contact, but that didn’t happen until I literally told the company I wanted to work for them even if the position wasn’t exactly what I had gone to school for and I would have to work hard at learning it on the job.
      I had that job for 4 years before moving on to another and it made me hugely successful at what I do because I have a pretty unique background.

      1. Cendol*

        Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It sounds like you were very resourceful and proactive during a stressful time. How did you find out about the short-term contracts and farm work? Were these opportunities posted on job boards?

        1. Sled dog mama*

          Most of the short term work in my field comes through recruiters, after the first assignment with a company they will often reach out directly. I’ve seen a few on job boards so it’s worth looking there, and it may be different in your field.

          The farm I actually kind of blundered into. It’s owned by a college classmate and she was complaining on Facebook that she couldn’t find good part time help because she needed help but onl hi y for a few things and not consistently so I messaged her and said hey I’m out of work what needs doing? If you know of a local farm that does Community supported agriculture or has a small farm stand they would be good choices to ask if they need someone sort of on call for low skill tasks.

          1. Sled dog mama*

            Also lest you think all I did was be proactive and resourceful. There were periods of sitting on the couch thinking I was never going to find something in my field and maybe I should just take anything that would hire me.

            1. Cendol*

              Aw, haha, yeah. I am often paralyzed by anxiety and/or despair. I feel that there are probably a number of couch days ahead of me.

    2. Formica Dinette*

      I dealt with it by collecting unemployment and taking on part-time, temporary and freelance work. My background includes writing, editing, graphic design and admin assistance, and I have pretty good tech skills. I combed job boards and gig sites, let friends know I was available and connected with temp agencies. Eventually, I got a full-time job in my field through a one-month temp gig that was only somewhat related to the job I ended up in. Basically, I performed well enough they kept finding things for me to do until a permanent job I wanted opened up.

      Good luck to you!

      1. Cendol*

        Thank you for sharing! I have a similar background. Perhaps temp agencies are the way to go!

  55. 867-5309*

    Our company is in the fortunately position to be hiring… Yesterday I interviewed a candidate and when asking if they had questions, they said, “I didn’t have time to look at your software or company website before the interview, is it okay if I email you questions later.”

    They received an email on Monday to schedule the interview and selected Thursday as the interview date. I also include a link to the job description in those emails AND in the interview invite because I know people often apply to dozens of places and might lose track.

    I was dumbfounded in the moment and said sure, though obviously we’re not moving forward with the candidate. (There was also a slightly obtuse comment about working with people from India.) Has anyone ever, at the end of an interview, actually said, “Thank you for your time but we will not be moving forward”? This is the first time I’ve been tempted to do so but was not interested in the potential for debate. If you have, what language did you use?

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      Yikes. I wouldn’t conclude the interview with “we will not be moving forward” but the time between the end of the interview and the sending of that email could be measured in minutes.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Thinking of a thread about job rejections from last week or two weeks ago, I think that it’s generally best to just wait a day or two to send the email rejection.

      The most you could do is end an interview early with a “Thank you for your time, I think we have all of the information we need at this point.” I know AAM has a good article on ending interviews early, too.

  56. Paquita*

    This is more of a vent than anything else. I am in A/R. We process checks and electronic payments. If you have any control over A/P please:
    Provide remittance for your payment. Including amounts and invoices. Also a total.
    Don’t send in post-it notes, tiny little cut up pieces of paper, or paper folded like an origami creation. Also don’t use SO MANY STAPLES!
    We have to scan these things into our system.
    Please provide the name the payment is coming from, not not the DBA, old name, whatever other name. We need to be able to match the (electronic) payments without playing Sherlock Holmes.
    Don’t tell us that we sent these bills, we should know what you want to pay. We process a few hundred to a few thousand payments daily. Your company may have in the thousands of open invoices and we have several hundred thousand customers.
    Sorry for the novel. :( I don’t usually get to post this early on Friday. (Thanks half day vacation). :)

  57. Sled dog mama*

    Last fall hubby and I started planning a two week vacation to Yellowstone National park for this summer. In December I changed jobs but was an to negotiate taking the planned vacation off (I will be 8 hours short of the needed PTO, and company policy doesn’t allow a negative balance or unpaid time except for medical reasons). Because of new job we’re moving but due to corona our house didn’t sell as quickly as expected, historically houses in my neighborhood have gone under contract in 7 days ours took 45 and the buyers asked for a long period before closing which lands the closing date/moving my family in the middle of the planned vacation. Hubby and I decided to postpone the vacation a year (due to all the things) but now O have to go back to my employer and say that extra time I negotiated and the accommodations you made, I’m not taking it, I’d like to change it to take the time differently. But I don’t yet know how I want to take the time, how to split between packing before the move and unpacking after. I’m probably overthinking but I’m worried that my boss is going to be upset about this. The last 6 weeks have been super work stressful and my anxiety is in overdrive which just makes it harder for me to see this situation objectively.

    1. CM*

      I’m sure your boss will understand that circumstances have changed so dramatically. I think you’re right that your anxiety is making you worry about this more than you should.

      I’d go back and say, “I really appreciate you accommodating me about my summer vacation plans. Clearly the world has changed since we last talked about this, and I won’t be able to take the vacation as planned. We’re hoping to go next year instead”

      But I do think you need to figure out your plans, at least tentative plans, before talking to your boss. Then you could continue, “Instead, I’d like to still take a week off in July and a week in August,” or whatever, and ask if that’s okay.

  58. Kimmy Schmidt*

    I can’t shake this feeling that I’ve failed my new colleague. Colleague was hired before The Plague, but didn’t start with us until we were all working from home. This person was hired to take on some of the work that I had been doing, so I could focus on a smaller but more time-consuming set of responsibilities. I feel like I should be onboarding them or training them or providing some sort of documentation, but I’m terrified of coming across as “this is the only right way”, when in fact there’s a lot of room for creativity in this position. So I have analysis paralysis and have sent them nothing.

    To complicate this, we don’t really have a boss currently. I’m so worried that this new person (who has been wonderful so far) won’t learn everything they need to in these first few months and it will be my fault.

    1. juliebulie*

      Can you ask how they’re holding up and tell them you’re there to offer any guidance they might need? I think just reaching out would be a helpful gesture.

    2. CM*

      Maybe set up an initial check-in meeting with them where you don’t prepare anything, just talk about how things have been going so far, what they’ve enjoyed and found challenging, what kind of support they need? That might help you switch to a mindset of wanting to help them in ways that they have requested, rather than feeling like you have to train them on everything in ways that they might not appreciate.

    3. BadWolf*

      Maybe send them something like what you sent us?

      Hey New Coworker,

      We don’t have a boss currently and I’m worried about who is responsible for onboarding and training for you. Since you are taking on some of the tasks I was doing, I do have some documentation/tips/suggestions for the way I was doing it. Since this is a creative position, my way isn’t the only way, of course. If you are feeling like you need a jumping off point, we could meet/chat/whatever.

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      These are great suggestions, thank you all. I think the biggest theme is communicate and ask them (which duh, but I’ve been terrified of this because I’m not colleague’s manager and have no formal say in any of their work).

      1. BadWolf*

        Look at it like you are a peer offering cross training. At the very least, it’s nice to have a friendly coworker to ask about any work questions. And the more the merrier so you don’t have to ask the same person all the time (unless you’ve been assigned such a person).

      2. Chaordic One*

        I think you could certainly say that this is how you’ve done it in the past and that your new colleague might find other ways of doing it in the future. In the mean time, some phone calls or skype calls or documents that explain how things are done would most likely be welcome.

    5. Cassidy*

      Not sure I understand your angst.

      Are you specifically tasked with onboarding this person? If not, your concern should be from afar. It’s nice to care – really – but why panic about something over which you have no control? Doesn’t make sense.

  59. Too Old*

    I have been working last ten years very much part-time in education, now that my kids are old enough I’d like to try and get a job in IT. I obviously need to learn a lot of new stuff, but I’m not even sure what should I start with.
    There are some ads for remote interns for summer that would suit me well, but they are for students only. I suppose they would be totally put off if a 40something would apply?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think they’d be put off. I just don’t think you’ll get those internships. Do they say in the internship description that you have to be a current college student or recent college grad? Sometimes they’re explicit about. If they’re not explicit about that, you’re welcome to try, but I still think you won’t get a fair shot there.

      Can you try doing some projects on GitHub? I’m in IT and started off in education (teaching). If you don’t have a computer-related degree (could be helpful) or any certifications (which are usually completely useless except to look good on your résumé), there has to be something hiring managers can judge your skills on. A blog with how-tos? A GitHub project that shows you can write some scripts to solve computer problems?

      1. Too Old*

        I have degree in (theoretical) mathematics with side lectures being mostly IT. Not too much related after 20 years, I’m afraid.

        1. Too Old*

          Also, I did think to go back to college and get a degree in IT, but considering that as late as last fall I was TA for a professor for IT stundets, that would be really weird…

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            I don’t think you have to go back to college. As I mentioned earlier, do something now that shows you know what’s up with current IT. Write some blog tutorials, get involved in an existing GitHub project or start your own. Show what you can do.

        2. A Non E. Mouse*

          What kind of job in IT? It’s….vast.

          With a math degree and technical aptitude, you might do well with data analytics, and there are 6-month courses offered for working professionals by some universities, as well as some accelerated “boot camp” type courses for those that are available from 8am to 5pm to do the intense work.

          If you are wanting actual hands-in-the-server type work, you can likely find a program local to you that’s 4 to 6 months long, with assistance finding a job after that.

          Assuming you are are woman, your best place to start is a “women in tech” group in your local area, or the nearest closest big city. They should be able to steer you towards resources, networking opportunities, and also give you an idea of what good (as opposed to just available) training opportunities are available to you.

          I’m in IT, and I do NOT have an IT degree. Most of the people I know in IT do not have an IT degree. You could take a low-level help desk job to get your foot in the door, but it’s usually shift work and quite frankly, soul-sucking. I’d think through what your strengths are – what you inherently grok – and then focus on finding opportunities there.

          Good luck!

    2. SemiAnon*

      The first step is to have some idea what sort of IT you are interested, beyond “something with computers” – the field is vast, and there’s a wide range of entry requirements, some more daunting than others. Then, once you’ve got an idea, you can look at the skills you have, the skills you’d need to get a job, and how to go about getting them (open learning courses, traditional courses, boot camps, etc.), and how to demonstrate that you have those skills to employers (certificates, portfolios, etc).

      1. Too Old*

        Thanks! I do have an idea what I’d like best, but that’s why I was thinking I’d really like to have a couple of months of internship to try it out to make sure.

  60. HR Parks Here*

    Been looking for a job since November and just had a great opportunity where I was almost made an offer and the company decided not to fill the role :( I feel like I am never going to find a job. Complicating matters, I am looking for a job in the state I moved from when I took my current position so I feel like it will be even harder to make it throughthe interview process when I will be seen as more risk than a local candidate in terms of Covid. Fortunately I can drive back to my home state and not having to fly makes it easier to only exit my car at gas stations and not have to interact with many people. I also still own a home in home state can definitely keep to myself. here is hoping.

    1. A Frayed Knot*

      Aren’t most people doing video/conference calls for interviews right now? So you’re not at a disadvantage there.
      Maybe spin your current location as “I’m riding out the shelter-in-place in current location, but as soon as it is feasible I will be back at home in City.” There are lots of people isolating themselves in locations that are not their permanent residence.

  61. Chris*

    I had a job interview this week. I used a lot of the interview advice from this site and How to Get a Job and the preparation definitely helped. Even though this was one of those interviews with a fixed list of questions and no follow-up questions (sadly common in interviews for government jobs like this) rehearsing answers to common questions ahead of time like Alison advises helped me hit all the parts of my experience I wanted to emphasize. I also sent a follow-up/thank-you note that I was able to use to smooth over one area that was a little rough in the interview. Thanks Alison!

  62. PersistentCat*

    Does anyone have any advice on looking for remote or freelance Quality Assurance/Regulatory Affairs work for pharma/med devices/dietary supplements? All my googling has turned up scams or software QA work. Unfortunately, I don’t know Agile & I’m in no way qualified to do software QA…
    I’m not sure if it’s just that my internet search terms are irrelevant, or if I’m not in an industry that does a lot of remote work…Any help would be appreciated!

    1. 7310*

      ASQ may have some resources.
      Several of the QA auditors (for BSI and mock FDA audits) have been contractors or consultants with their own businesses

  63. Princess Deviant*

    Any other autistics and NDs additionally struggling (more than usual) with the lack of routine during this period of uncertainty?

    What are you doing to keep yourself healthy and well and, if possible, less anxious?

    1. Fikly*

      On the spectrum.

      Well, the pandemic isn’t making my job less routine, but I’m currently easing back into work after medical leave, so my normal work routine is all messed up because there are some tasks I can’t do yet, and also, I’m not at full time yet, so I just don’t have time for all my regular tasks.

      What has helped is making really detailed to-do lists. I have one for long-term projects, one for things I should check if need to be done each shift, and then one I write up with everything that needs to be done for a given shift. Then as I do tasks, I check them off. It’s really made a difference.

    2. Taura*

      I’m not sure if I’m ND or not, but if you take my routine away I collapse. So feel free to disregard!

      Mostly what I’ve found to be helpful is to use a combination of the pomodoro method and to do lists. So I’ll work for 20 min on item A, then take a break for 10, then work again on item A, then start item B if I have time, then another 10 min break, etc. This probably isn’t the most efficient way of doing it, and it gets knocked off track regularly by urgent requests, but at least it gives me something to go back to.

    3. Anon for this*

      My son is on the autism spectrum. The biggest thing for him is a schedule. If he has a schedule, even if there are only a couple of things on it, it helps. It is particularly important to include a block of time for something he likes, such as watching a movie. And while his weight is occasionally a concern, comfort food helps, particularly if he makes it /orders it. One night each week he makes spaghetti for dinner, one day each week he orders Five Guys for lunch. Routine and a schedule are key.

  64. PX*

    Oooh. Cant comment on the MS aspect, but one thing I managed to do in my field was get involved with an industry body that allowed me to participate in some policy making session that were happening due to changing regulations. It was a good insight into how the process all works, and also gave me useful contacts in fields that are related but tangential to my day to day work.

    So perhaps look into something similar for your field? For what its worth, I think the split at those sessions was maybe 50-50 in terms of people with a legal background, so its not a requirement. For us you basically had people from government, NGOs, service providers and customers/end users represented at these sessions, so quite a spread. But maybe some business areas for you to consider?

    You definitely need to be prepared to spend what feels like hours discussing the minutiae of words/terminology/phrasing!

  65. Reluctantly Hermione*

    I’m taking the privacy certification exam tomorrow (now offered remotely apparently).

    Whether I pass or fail, I kind of really want to reward myself with a nice (not crazy pricey) piece of jewelry. Or something. And enjoy the weekend. And all that.

    I’m trying to remind myself that this isn’t the bar exam (I had to take multiple times till I passed) and it’s only 2.5 hours of my life……………………

  66. Tired Non Furloughed Worker*

    Question about furloughed non exempt employees and accruing vacation time. If employees are non exempt, and accrue paid time off based on hours worked, up to X hours per year, what happens when they’re furloughed? So far furlough has been 2 months for people at my office, and those of us who didn’t get furloughed haven’t been able to take time off due to workload and no one to cover when we’re out of the office. Thankfully the company is going to make a decision on their “use it or lose it” policy, but those of us still working are concerned about being able to take our time, too. It was mentioned that they might cash out some of the time at the end of the year, but time off to decompress, relax, visit family members, etc can’t be replaced by money. Does anyone know how this might work?

      1. WellRed*

        Sorry, I read your question backwards. Even with a (for me, slightly increased workload), we’d still be able to use time off, but I realize some companies suck. I do wonder what they will do if they increase furloughs etc (our furloughs are intermittment an limited).

        1. Tired Non Furloughed Worker*

          Our staff was very lean before, and now 1/3 are furloughed in my department, and up to half other places, and it’s hard to keep up. We might not be handling as many teapots and dollars, but the work involved to move 100 teapots is the same as 10000 teapots. I think the company is looking at money coming in and going out, which is expected, but we’ve been told not to ask for a week off or more than an afternoon here or there because there is simply no coverage. Honestly, I’m mentally tired and selfishly want my time off!

  67. QuaranTina*

    My company doesn’t have direct deposit. We’ve been receiving our paychecks in the mail since we all started lockdown. The only time we got our paychecks on payday was on the first pay week… since then we’ve received our paychecks about 2 – 6 days *after* payday. This is starting to cause issues with our personal automatic billing, rent, you name it… I’ve brought this issue up with Director of Finance and my supervisor and it’s falling on deaf ears. They blame USPS or shrug it off. On one pay period the envelopes were postmarked after pay day.

    Is there anything else I can do to make sure we get our paychecks on time? I’m in NJ if this helps.

    1. beanie gee*

      I don’t have any advice. Just baffled that ANY company in 2020 doesn’t have direct deposit. I wonder if you could help them look into it! If my husband’s dysfunctional 4-person company can do it, surely any company can?! (I actually have no idea how hard it might be, just surprised!)

      1. Darren*

        So in NJ they aren’t required to offer direct deposit for wages, although they are allowed to.

        However NJ does seem to be quite strict on payment they have to pay on regularly scheduled dates agreed when you started and notified in advance if they need to change.

        As long as they cut the checks on the correct date however such that if you were in the office you’d have gotten them on the right day the acts don’t contain any information about delays caused by mail that I can find.

  68. Overeducated*

    Rejected for a job in a city I’d really been hoping to move to in favor of someone who’s done the exact same job before. Sigh. Hard to get experience when you have to have it, even mid-career.

    The job itself wouldn’t necessarily have been better than my current one, since I get paid more here and have a good boss, but the location would have been so much better. It’s just barely commutable, but the commute is awful. Since my lease is up soon I’ve asked my supervisor if I could telework 3 days a week (after mandatory full time telework ends) so I can move. Supervisor doesn’t want to “set a precedent” and is checking with the next two levels of management about department-wide limits (even though we already have an organization policy limiting telework at 4 days a week). Great. Hope my asking doesn’t ruin it for everyone. I’m actually more anxious to hear back about this than I was about the other job.

    So glad it’s a long weekend.

  69. PR*

    The Case of Disappearing References!

    Hi! Ok, so I was laid off a job in 2018 and my manager there was great! We stayed in touch periodically afterwards, meeting for coffee a few times a year and I’d give them Xmas cards.

    I last saw them for coffee in August of 2019. When I went to drop off an Xmas card in December of 2019, I found out they were laid off too in September of 2019.

    We had a great working relationship, and they mentioned they’d be happy to be a reference prior to my lay-off in 2018. I used their cell number to keep in touch as well as their work email. After the layoff, the work email was deactivated. I have tried texting too, but just found out today that their cell number was reassigned to someone else. I have tried reaching out to former co-workers, but that route has not been helpful.

    My reference list is already very meager, as I have had 2 managers retire and are often out of the country, so if I need references quickly, I am in a bind.

    Any help is appreciated? Should I double down on the former co-workers to get my old manager’s contact info?

      1. WellRed*

        Search LinkedIn, search Facebook, etc and reach out to them via private message. It’s too late for this go round, but always make sure you have the personal email of people that might serve as a reference down the road.

        1. PR*

          Nope, he is not on any social media, he made it a point to not have those accounts, insert sad face.

          And yeah, I will make it a point to specifically ask for personal emails when leaving a job for reference purposes!

          1. WellRed*

            Hmm, this is a long shot these days. Have you tried the phone book or anywho.com?

  70. Sleepy*

    Minor issue here–we have an intern who is finishing up an internship and she’s been strong overall. I would like to give her some kind of feedback at the end. My only criticism would be that she works very slowly compared to how long I think things should take her. However, she’s usually careful and thorough, and I’d rather have someone who’s slow but does it right the first time, compared to some of the fast but sloppy interns we’ve have in the past.

    Should I give her this feedback? If so, is there a kind / constructive way to phrase this? I’m not sure if it’s something she can change so I might just not mention it.

    1. PersistentCat*

      Sleepy, did you communicate those time expectations? And I wonder how much of her slowness was due to the task being new to her?
      Basically, if you choose to give her that feedback, I would put it in terms like, “For tasks XYZ, I would typically expect them to take AA minutes. You typically took BB minutes. I really appreciated your accuracy and attention to detail on the task, however, so this isn’t a ding against your performance. I just want you to know what the expectation would be when you’re in the industry full-time.”

      1. Sleepy*

        Thanks for your reply. Upon reflection, I’m not sure if my time expectations were realistic since we’ve never had an intern in this specific area before. But this is a helpful way to phrase it.

        1. Santa's Super Sleigh*

          Or maybe frame it as an additional area for growth. Like, “You did excellent, thorough work with the ABC document process and I appreciated your attention to detail. As you continue to build your skills, the next step would be to work on increasing your speed and efficiency while maintaining your attention to detail. Some strategies that might be helpful are ___________.”

    2. Animal worker*

      Agree with the feedback from PersistantCat. One additional bit of feedback might be more general, that she’ll always have to balance time and level of detail in her work throughout her career. And that as her experience grows, this may be come easier and more natural. But a recommendation for her would be to be proactive with her managers in the future on asking for their expected timetable on things, and about their preferred balance of detail versus time.

      I still remember early in my career working with a supervisor on a cleaning-related project. Of course he was my supervisor, so I was trying to be meticulous and not miss a spot. He finally told me to stop trying to clean every spot of sea lion snot off the walls (yes, I mean this literally), that if we tried to do that we’d never finish anything. Taught me some of this lesson that day, and I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve also used it to help me when I’m training people to give them some expectations for level of cleanliness or other details so they aren’t guessing at it themselves.

  71. Hello Kitty*

    Accidentally posted this under another comment, so I’m reposting it

    Hi everyone, hope you’re all safe! I’m looking for a new job (luckily I am still employed, but I don’t know how long that’ll be for). I haven’t had much luck yet, and something I see a lot on LinkedIn/other blogs is the importance of networking and getting a referral from someone working at the company. This one post stood out to me: it claimed that if you don’t have a referral, it’s really unlikely you’ll even be interviewed because they’ll first speak with the people who have been referred and probably hire one of them. In your experience, has this been the case? The firms I am applying to have official referral portals and give out bonuses for them. (If it matters, I’m not in the US, but I’d love all perspectives on this.) I feel so awkward about asking for referrals from people who don’t know me and can’t speak to my work, but I have read a lot of advice saying this is exactly what we should do.

    Another question: how do you connect with recruiters on LinkedIn? I’d like to know how to find them, and is it worth sending a message to an internal recruiter and asking them to consider me for the role? I feel like they would just ask me to apply on the job site. Or is it different if you’re getting in touch with a recruiter and not the hiring manager? Am I just reading really bad advice?

    Thank you for this blog, the resume writing and cover letter articles are invaluable. I know it’s a bad time to be looking and that could be one of the reasons I haven’t heard back yet. I would really appreciate any advice you have on networking (when you haven’t done it prior to applying for the job). Thank you all in advance!

    1. 867-5309*

      I have never worked for a company that only speaks to referrals or gives them priority if there are better candidates. The exception is if the referral comes from someone especially senior in the organization or an important client. Also, if someone does not know, they are unlikely to refer you and it would definitely be strange to ask.

      It’s unlikely the recruiter or hiring manager will do anything but direct you to apply through the formal process. I used to find it effective to reach out to these folks but not it’s become such standard advice that most people get several inquiries through LinkedIn or email for each posting. They just can’t get to them all.

      That said, recruiters are a little more open to connecting on LinkedIn in general, so you could just connect with them and overtime they’ll see what you share and post (and vice versa – you can engage with their content), which could lead to a stronger connection.

    2. Darren*

      Yeah my company has referrals and offers bonuses for them but we don’t talk only to people that are referred we want the best candidate regardless of where they come from (and run everyone through the same process regardless) the only difference with a referral is how we got their application materials usually.

  72. Misty*

    I’m thinking of transferring colleges.

    I went into my current college this past semester as a social work major, however quickly realized that social work wasn’t for me. I posted on here a bunch of times for advice about changing my major. I changed my major to geography. Now I’m realizing that my current college is really not a strong school at all.

    It’s pros is that it’s one of the only schools commuting distance from where I currently life (it’s about an hour away) and it’s very cheap cost wise. Basically I can pay as I go because in state tuition and the pell grant.

    But it’s just not a really great school resource wise and I hate to say it but professor wise. I went to a school in NY before this back in 2012 when I lived there so I think that’s why I’m realizing it’s not that great. Basically my old school was 100x better. I’m also not impressed with how my current school dealt with the virus. The geography department is very small, there is only 2 professors and for 15 credits you have to “make up your own courses” basically it’s an independent study on the topic you want to do. So you email one of the two professors and they approve the class.

    Idk, anyone have any thoughts? I just feel really confused because life feels so up in the air. I’m so grateful to be back in college (I honestly never thought I would return to school) but now that I’m back, I really want to go to a better school for my major. Is that a bad idea because my current school is so inexpensive? Does anyone have any thoughts of the kinds of things I should think through? Any advice?

    1. Misty*

      I guess one of the big things is I’m really not looking forward to doing 15 credits worth of independent studies, that’s about five classes. I can think of one or two good topics for independent studies but not five. I’m also a little concerned that so many independent studies is basically fillers for the major. If that makes sense?

    2. Rosalita*

      I went to college where only females were allowed. The children of staff members were allowed to atten. One staff member has 2 sons and both of ber sons took classes at this school they then “transferred” for their last year and thereby they only ended up paying for their last year. Could you do something similar?

    3. Fikly*

      Does your current school have a super bad reputation in this field, to the point where it will cause you problems in getting a job?

      If not, I wouldn’t move. What degree programs teach you, sadly, almost always has very little to do with what you need to know to work in the field. While another school might be more rigorous, it’s unlikely to give you skills that make you better able to do the related job after graduating. And if your current school won’t hold you back from getting a job, it doesn’t really matter where you get your degree – employers just care that you have the degree.

      1. Misty*

        I’m actually not sure, that’s a good question. I know they have a rep of not being a great school in general but I have no idea. Do you have any ideas of how to figure out something like that? I live in the middle of nowhere so I don’t actually have any contacts who currently work in geography or GIS (which is what I was hoping to work with in the future)

        1. Fikly*

          I might see if there’s a professional organization you could reach out to.

          I don’t know much about geography or GIS to know which to direct you towards, sorry.

      2. Cassidy*

        “What degree programs teach you, sadly, almost always has very little to do with what you need to know to work in the field.”

        Generalizable, verifiable data for that claim?

        @Misty – geography. Awesome! One thing you can do is take a look at other collegegeography programs, and especially those with published syllabi. That might help you identify and clarify your own interests. Within that, you could start by looking at your college’s peer institutions, information that is usually publicly available. Also, do you have an advisor you can talk with? Meanwhile, what about looking at accrediting bodies for geography programs? That could help, too. Good luck!

    4. 867-5309*

      For what it’s worth, I entered university to become a math teacher and eventually switched to a different major that wasn’t as strong at my school (there were also only two professors in the program). I took advantage of every opportunity, networked as much as possible locally and regionally with professionals in the field, joined a professional society (there was a division for students) and made the most out of it. I’ve had a great career and my university mattered little.

      There are exceptions to this, of course, but unless you’re moving to a school that is #1 for your particular program, not just “better” but “the best,” then I’m not sure it will matter. You can take steps to supplement your program and being able to finish school without debt is significant. I’m not sure what opportunities exist for geography majors but it’s not a STEM or other high-demand field, so being saddled with debt is not wise where you can avoid it.

      I also did independent study for an entire semester and learned more than many of my classmates because of it. I was able to look at the trends in my industry and build areas of study around that vs. relying on what was taught from text books.

      1. Misty*

        Oh okay, well that’s good to know! Thank you very much for the perspective, I appreciate it. I could be having my current experience colored a lot by how badly the school handled the switch to online (but I heard that happened to a lot of schools due to lack of notice and obviously it’s not completely the schools fault since they didn’t have notice about the virus).

        I guess I’m just really not looking forward to so many independent studies but I should look at it more in a positive light than a negative if possible. I was just worried that so many independent studies may not help me that much in the future if I wanted to go to grad school or something else, but I’m not sure, I could be overthinking it or not really understand how they work (I haven’t done one yet).

        1. Reba*

          Actually, so many independent studies could *help* you in the future because you will demonstrate that you can handle long-term projects on your own. It’s kind of ideal preparation for graduate school.

          You should also be in discussion with the professors about designing those independent studies so that they fulfill the kinds of training you’d need for grad school and work. If you don’t trust that they can guide you in that way, or you don’t think you would be happy working with only those two people extensively, then that would be a problem.

          Finally, the less costly option for school is very very appealing. I agree with the phone number up there that it doesn’t matter that much!

          1. Reba*

            Oh, I saw your comments below that the faculty are not very responsive. Hm.

            Anyway, my mom famously changed her college major four times, just as a data point.

          2. 867-5309*

            Reba – that is a famous phone number. :) It’s from a song and if someone knows the song, then they know my first name.

          3. Misty*

            Okay that makes sense. So maybe doing five independent studies would be fine if I could figure out what independent studies would boost my resume in the future.

            Do you have any advice of how to figure out what are the best projects/independent studies when you can’t seem to get any advice from the two professors in your major? The only people who answer my emails is my english professor and his only advice has been to switch my major to english and work with him lol (I think he’s low key joking but am not sure).

            1. 867-5309*

              I researched trends in my industry through professional publications and associations, and then built my program accordingly with a grid:
              Topic
              Overarching purpose statement
              Specific objectives
              Timeline for activities and outputs

              I did an online search for “How to Create an Independent Study” and there are several items that you could reference.

              1. Misty*

                Oh okay, that makes sense. I guess the thing is I really wanted to learn more GIS which is why I’ve been emailing my advisor asking if there would be a way to do that through independent study but he hasn’t answered my emails in the last two months. I may just have to go in another direction independent study wise and research something, or just transfer schools.

                There’s another school in my state that is a lot bigger, basically the same price and it’s further away but I have to move in order to commute there (I don’t think I could do a further commute at this point) but I have to move apartments likely by the end of the year anyways which is why I was trying to figure out if I should transfer and move to near the other school, or not transfer and move to closer near my current school. I don’t have to completely decide now, so I’ll prob try to wait until fall to decide. (Hard to long term decide anything in the current environment).

                Thank you for the advice of how you found topics for your independent studies. I appreciate it. I don’t think doing five of them is for me. But I think one or two would be fine.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      I would think through what you actually want to do post-degree and how people go about getting those jobs. Are you going to get the career skills you need at your university, or can you get them if you build out your independent study correctly? Some fields, like mine, have a fairly wide open door for people with specific degrees. Others are all who you know, and sometimes professors are important contacts for internships and full-time jobs.

      1. Misty*

        I’m not sure how to build the independent studies, thats one of the reasons I got frustrated with my school. I emailed the professor an idea and he said it was fine and I just needed to teach myself/come up with ideas of how to learn it, but I couldn’t imagine having to do more than one of that (basically I would have to do five three-credit ones or four-four credit ones) but I just couldn’t even figure out how to do one so I dropped it for now and figured it could be future me’s problem (not a great idea I know but with everything going on, I felt like I couldn’t figure it out from home at the moment and hope that I can figure it out when things are back in person).

        I guess I just wish my advisor would answer my emails or give me some actual advice which is half of my frustration. I reached out to my english professor and he said I should just change my major to english because the english department there is more on top of things than the other departments (this is what he said but is actually true from my experience, when I was majoring in sw the professors kept telling me they didn’t know things and to ask the head of the department, and my current department just doesn’t answer emails, where as the english professor and the head of the english department answers emails about english and other school related things if you ask them.)

        1. Tessera Member 042*

          Misty, if the English professor is more responsive, you might want to consider seeing if they could help mentor an independent study where you apply GIS principles to exploring literature. This is one common methodology used in the field of Digital Humanities, so your English prof might be able to connect you with mentors in that field, and you can find a ton of syllabi online to help you build your course if you search.

      2. Misty*

        Basically, I’m not sure how much this school is preparing me for anything due to having to take so many independent studies which is basically a whole semester’s worth, but I’m also not sure if it’s just me. Like maybe I need to figure out how to be a stronger student and use the chances in front of me for the future? I get good grades but other than that I have no idea what I’m doing and don’t know who to ask for advice. Hence why I ask AAM.

    6. Grits McGee*

      So this a grad school experience and not undergrad, but I think it will still apply- unless you go to a very bad, scandal ridden-school or an extremely prestigious school, where your degree came from will not matter after you get that first job after graduation. (And even for the first job, it probably won’t matter that much either.) What will matter, from that first job to the next several years, is what experience and expertise you developed (and can document in a resume) while you were in school. Your independent study credits are actually a fantastic opportunity for doing projects that boost your skills and fill in knowledge gaps from your other classes.
      My graduate degree was from a middling, unknown university that was constantly on the brink of bankruptcy, but I leveraged every opportunity to do projects that I could add to my resume. When I got hired after graduating. my boss specifically told me it was because I had “done everything” in our field.
      What will hold you back is debt- when you owe money, it restricts your ability to move for a job, to do low-paid post-grad educational opportunities, and limits the salary range you can live off of. A degree that’s paid for is 1000x more valuable than a slightly more prestigious one that you have to 4-5 figures in debt to pay for.

      1. Misty*

        This makes sense. Thank you.

        Do you have any advice of how to figure out what kinds of projects or how to figure out what kinds of projects would be best to pursue when it’s hard to get advice from the two professors? Like how did you figure out what to pursue in your independent studies? If you have any advice on that front, I would appreciate it! If not, I totally understand. I guess the whole independent study thing makes me feel lost. (But this could in theory not be as big of a deal if classes are back in person in Sept when I could just go to office hours or find my professors in person rather than wait weeks for them to not reply to my emails.)

      2. Misty*

        Also I didn’t post this in my main posting (I thought I did but must have forgot) but I am considering a more lateral move to a school that is better than this school but still in state tuition/longer commute because I need to move apartments by the end of the year anyways. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been trying to figure out if I should transfer or not because I need my new place to be closer to whatever school I decided to be at either in Sept or in Jan (I’m taking next semester off if its online because my current school is doing online instruction horribly even for the summer courses.)

        1. 867-5309*

          FWIW, I don’t know any school doing spring or summer online learning well, and I have about half a dozen friends who are professors at well-known, well-regarded universities. Many kinks should be worked out by the fall, as they have months to plan.

          1. Misty*

            Well that’s good news! Thank you for sharing, I appreciate the hope for the fall. :)

        2. Chicago Anon*

          Look at the course catalogs for geography departments in strong schools, preferably not just the 2-line official descriptions but more detailed ones from department handbooks or syllabuses. These should give you an idea of the structure of the major at places known for their programs, and also of courses you should do as independent studies if you stay where you are.

          1. Misty*

            Yes I have done this :) This is what made me realize that my college didn’t offer even half as much as the college I’m likely going to transfer to.

            Thank you for the advice, much appreciated. It’s nice that all these schools have so much information online.

    7. My Brain Is Exploding*

      How many transfer credits can you get? You mentioned later that there is a big school in your state; could you take some online classes from them and have them transferred? Go there for a semester? Also look at classes other schools offer in your major, then design an independent study that looks like that. I don’t know what you want to do with your degree, but if you do, you could look for internships for credit (or create one! I did in a health care field!). Can you start to network with people who do what you want to do and get their input?

      1. Misty*

        Thanks for all the advice! I’m def going to do an internship for credit, at my school you already have to do one for at least 3 credits in order to graduate.

        I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to network. I think I would have to ask my professors for advice on that once we’re back in person and I can actually get ahold of them. I live an hour away and don’t know anyone near here who does what I want to do. I think I need to put more brain power behind it though and I can prob come up with something w some creativity.

    8. Imtheone*

      Is the other school doing distance classes? Can you try one and transfer credits? Also make sure you can transfer your current school’s credits to the other one.

      Since you could transfer and keep the low tuition costs, I would start investigating it seriously. Good luck!

  73. Sunset Maple*

    My company is tightening the budget to an extreme due to…well, obvious reasons. Several of the development goals I was given for the year depend on the budget–paying for certification classes, etc. I’ve been trying to find out if I’m still going to be held to these goals, or if the year will basically be scratched since they won’t want to spend the money. I can’t get a straight answer.

    I know everything is chaos and that’s not a business priority, but I could have really used the quarantine time to buckle down on studying. Now it’s almost over (my company expects everyone back on 06/04) and I don’t know if I wasted this time, or not. I’m second-guessing myself for not laying out the money and trying to get reimbursed, but it would have been a major risk.

  74. Dr. KMnO4*

    Background
    I work for a college that has a high-deductible health plan, but if employees do 4 health things then we get 95% of the deductible put into an HSA for us by the college. They periodically send out reminders to do our 4 things, and hold a health fair every year that can count for 3 of the 4 things we need to do.

    Twice now there has been what I believe is a serious issue with the communication from the college regarding the health things. In the lead-up to the health fair we were asked to sign up for appointment slots for the biometric screening. To sign up we filled out a Google Form with our name, address, phone number, and whether or not we wanted a flu shot. I was uncomfortable with the security (or lack thereof) of said Google Form but I’m still fairly new and didn’t want to make waves. Then one of the HR employees (I’ll call her Amy) sent out confirmation of our appointment slots…by emailing a link to the Google Sheet containing all of our identifying information to EVERY EMPLOYEE. I could see my coworkers’ info and they could see mine. That made me even more uncomfortable so I mentioned it to a more senior employee who must have talked to someone because the sheet disappeared after that.

    Earlier this week Amy sent out an email reminding us to make sure we completed our 4 health things. In what I assume was an attempt to be helpful, she attached a spreadsheet with the names of people who still needed to complete the health things, and what things they specifically needed to complete. Again, this went out to EVERY EMPLOYEE. I don’t think it’s any of my business what my coworkers have or have not done regarding the health things, but now I know. (I checked the spreadsheet to make sure that my stuff was taken care of, because Amy doesn’t always send confirmation that she has received important documents.)

    I know that in both cases it would have been more work to email everyone separately, but we aren’t a large college. There can’t have been more than 50 people with appointments at the health fair, and there were maybe 30 people (at most) on the reminder spreadsheet.

    Questions
    How much should I push back on this trend of emailing personal and health-related information to everyone? Is this a matter to bring to the head of HR? If it is, should I bring it up myself, or have one of my senior colleagues bring it up?

    1. Kathenus*

      Agree to bring it up, but bring up the entire concept of inappropriate sharing of personal information (with the examples you mention), don’t just bring up the recent one or you might just see another one off response versus a systemic change for the future.

    2. username required*

      I’d be annoyed and push back on this – HR shouldn’t be sending out this kind of blanket email to everyone. If there are a few of you in your dept can you all discuss it with your manager and ask them to raise it with HR manager?

    3. KR*

      The last thing is exactly what BCC is for. She can email just the people who need to complete tasks something like, “If you are receiving this email it is because you still need to complete x, y, and z. Please do so by x date and email me if you have questions.” I’d definitely go to HR. She seems to have little regard for people’s privacy and there are easy technological solutions to prevent what’s happening here.

  75. Sleepy*

    Second post of the day, totally separate issue–

    Anyone have luck pushing back on the way meetings/trainings are facilitated? My org has embarked on a series of social justice trainings and the facilitation has pretty meandering and unfocused so far. We spent an entire 90-minute session just setting norms for future meetings. I want to push back on this, without seeming like I’m against social justice discussions. I’d like to engage in productive, focused discussions about how our work can be more equitable. The trainer is internal to our organization so it’s a bit sensitive to criticize her style.

    1. Reba*

      I don’t know if this will help, but “giving feedback” seems like the mindset rather than “pushing back.” Since they spent 90 minutes on meta communication, it is likely that they will want to improve as they go. (I would hope so, anyway.)

      Maybe you can start a conversation with the trainer and express that you want to see the trainings turn into sessions that are useful to the org in practical and focused ways.

  76. AnotherAlison*

    I mentioned this in passing in a comment this week, but I found out my director is moving to another division. I can’t quite put my finger on the emotion I have now, but I will miss working with him. I have moved around the reporting structure some, but I mostly worked directly for him for the past 6 years. He was a very strong advocate for me. Plus we just see eye to eye on so much and he is someone I can be completely honest with about my work opinions-no politics.

    I also don’t like the timing because I would like to have his job. I am managing a high profile project that goes through the end of next year, so I am not in a great position to advocate for getting the role. My grand boss said they are looking at 3 options for backfilling this now. I don’t know what that means. I have been shut out of a similar promotion a few times, with the last one being that they rolled another director’s job in with my manager’s, but that was due to a decline in the market more than not wanting to give it to me. Ugh. I hate change right now.

  77. Longtime Lurker*

    So, my boss brought a beer to one of our zoom meetings this week. This is not done in our world – we’re federal government and he’s an SES. When I called him on it afterwards, he denied doing it; I insisted. He said it was “OK, because it was after 5”; it was at 4. Then he said it was “OK, because it’s just managers”; I named multiple non-managers who were there. At which point he made a show of writing himself a post-it “No drinking in meetings. When Lurker is there, ha-ha”. The position above him is currently vacant and the one above that is one I’m not comfortable raising the issue with. Is there anything I should be doing at this point? TIA

    1. Fikly*

      Well, it’s government, so presumably it’s impossible to fire him, and thus impossible to discipline him. So I’m not sure what could be done even if someone above him cared.

      1. Spearmint*

        This is a common myth, but it’s simply not true that government workers can’t be disciplined or fired. It’s harder than in the private sector, but far from impossible.

    2. Admitted Zoom Drinker*

      Why would you argue with your boss about this? I mean his post-it writing is super juvenile, but it sounds like you had interrogated him multiple times about something that frankly does not affect you or your work, unless there is some way in which you could be penalized for your supervisor drinking a beer? I am in a pretty straight-laced profession but my office switched our weekly morning Zoom checkin to a 4pm “happy hour” and some people do have a drink during the meeting. In any case, I think you’ve made your position known and I don’t see any benefit to kicking this up the chain of command.

      1. beer*

        Yeah, I’m not sure calling out the boss, beyond possibly a friendly joke (if you have that kind of relationship) is a good idea right now. I’m just not sure what the endgame could be. If OP wants Boss to stop drinking in their presence, well, that’s been accomplished… but now OP is flagged as willing to be a nuisance over a behavior that presumably doesn’t affect them directly.

    3. Kathenus*

      My question is what’s your goal? You called him out on it, including a back and forth on his ‘disclaimers’. He obviously now knows that it was noticed and that you object. If it’s a one off and your bringing it up stops it in the future, is that achieving your goal? Are you thinking he needs discipline for having done it at all?

      If it’s me, I think continuing to bring up that one past issue now only has purpose if the goal is some type of discipline. Otherwise, unless it’s an issue in the future, I’d leave it be.

      And I used to be a fed, and at that time at least people were allowed two drinks at lunch, which I thought was nuts, but I saw a bunch of folks who I wouldn’t have expected to do so (based on the field they were in) take advantage of this.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, I don’t understand what you hope to accomplish by pushing this, I also get that it’s not really appropriate but it’s also not that big of a deal? Drop this.

      2. Longtime Lurker*

        Well, he has also been “joking” about no one knowing what may or may not be in his coffee. My main goal, I guess, is to have him keep a more professional approach to it. Like, put whatever he wants in the coffee, but stop drawing attention to it – especially in front of the staff….

        1. Gumby*

          But… why? His professional conduct is his responsibility.

          If *you* were *his* manager, you would have some standing to discuss it. But since he is your boss, the consequences, if any, fall on him.

          If he starts having issues that d affect your work in concrete ways, then you can raise the ways your work is being affected. “I’m annoyed he is breaking the rules” does not count – though I get it. I am an inveterate rule-follower.

          1. Smh RN*

            I make frequent jokes about what’s in my coffee…the answer is always milk but my workmates think it’s funny. You clearly don’t but he isn’t hurting you. And just not meeting your professional standard isn’t something many higher ups will care about if he’s getting his work don well enough

    4. Anonymom*

      How strict is your organization’s policy? I know at my company, drinking during working time is strictly forbidden and is grounds for immediate dismissal, so this would be a pretty serious violation. If I were in your shoes, I would be somewhat concerned not flagging it for someone could lead to issues for me. But I know most companies are not that strict, so in other places it would be fine. I think this is really specific to where you work and what the policies are.

    5. nymitz*

      does your agency have an ethics hotline / other way to raise issues like this?

      What about a lateral peer you could raise it with – that is, not your boss, but one of his peers, who could raise it above the vacant seat to their grand-boss (your great-grand) in your place?

      Or, if the above position is vacant, who is filling that role in an acting capacity, even if they are wearing three hats and not really focusing on it?

      What about someone on the staff of the great-grand, if not them? Do you know one of the executive assistants, schedulers, or other staffers? They might be someone you could approach on more of a peer level, and they would have the comfortable relationship to raise it with the great-grand.

      If an SES at my agency did this, it would be a Big Deal because of the position of public trust. Especially SES. The great-grand wouldn’t deal with it themselves unless they were the acting, but they would be willing to hear, and would delegate to the appropriate person.

  78. animaniactoo*

    I just want to give an anonymous shout-out to my company. Cuz I was just informed that despite the fact that none of us are going anywhere, the company is still “closing” at the usual time of 3pm today for the holiday weekend. And when several of us are showing significant signs of burn-out on today’s team call which is a daily call that consists of my team and the one we work very closely with, the manager of the other team, who is a member of the family that owns the company, reminded us that we do still have PTO available and can use it. He straight up told us to take mental health days if we need them and don’t be afraid to take the days just because we all know that none of us are going anywhere.

    Between how they handled my needs around the end of my mom’s life when she was really sick and the time that I needed after she died, and their response to the pandemic, this year they are really reminding me why I work for them.

    1. Lyudie*

      Aww that’s really awesome <3 My company sent out an email earlier this week and one thing they mentioned was to take PTO time, even if we can't go anywhere right now, because it's still important to recharge. It's nice when management encourages that sort of thing.

  79. Jessen*

    Question mostly for my own entertainment and the entertainment of the AAM commentariat section:

    I’ve been experimenting with wigs during quarantine. Should I or should I not show up back at the office on the first day with waist length black hair? (For reference, I typically have a buzz cut, so even for quarantine hair growth this would be obviously impossible!) For bonus points I could pretend to have no idea what anyone’s talking about with the new hairstyle.

    1. Fikly*

      As someone who had hair past their butt for all of high school, and showed up the first day back after prom with hair just below my ears, I strongly encourage this, especially the part where you pretend to have no idea what anyone is talking about.

      1. Littorally*

        I did the same thing, and had quite a lot of people think I was an entirely new student. In hindsight, I really wish I’d rolled with that assumption and pretended to have just moved there.

    2. Lyudie*

      I wouldn’t have the nerve, personally, but you should totally do this and report back!

      1. Jessen*

        Hee! I think I will. I’ve actually been thinking of doing more regular wig wearing anyway. I love the look of long hair but I am not a morning person and don’t want to have to deal with the stuff every day. My ideal workplace look would be a wig that could be braided and pinned up. Get up in the morning, get dressed, grab a cap and wig, and go.

    3. fposte*

      I love it for the style. I’d factor in mask-wearing and taking off and on, though; will that be more of a pain with long hair and are you at risk of pulling a wig askew? (And do you care?) Granted, I’m pretty klutzy, but I’ve had some impressive hair yanks when dealing with my mask.

      1. Jessen*

        I hadn’t thought about that too much, honestly. But going from my mask experience so far, I think the hair will be less of an issue than earrings. Getting mask elastic caught on earrings is an extremely painful lesson!

        I suspect I won’t be brought back into the office for a while yet though. There’s nothing about my job that can’t be done equally well from home, and since I work for the NIH they don’t appear to be in a hurry to bring back people who don’t actually need to be in the building. I’m IT support, I barely ever did anything involving anyone on the same site as I was anyway

    4. A Frayed Knot*

      I love this idea! One bad thing about long hair is when it blows around in a breeze, it can get in your face. That will be my big problem when going back to work – touching my face to move my hair. Make sure you can pull it back when you’re walking outside.

  80. I'm A Little Teapot*

    My department is implementing new software. I am not involved in this process, and objectively, it’s a bad idea not to include me due to my skills and experience. I don’t actually want to be involved, so works out for me. However, because of my experience, I’m pretty sure this implementation is going to be a disaster.

    We’re trying to squish a disorganized, poorly documented, inconsistent, highly variable process with no templates (that should be standard, consistent, and have decent documentation) into a software product that assumes that you have a standard, consistent process with templates and decent documentation. It’s going to be ugly. I just want to scream at the people that it’s not about the software, it’s the process, and the process isn’t ready for this type of structure. It wouldn’t do any good, so I won’t. But I am not going to be surprised when everything falls apart.

    1. Mazzy*

      Preach! This type of thinking is part of my job, but fortunately, people listen to me.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        The reason why they don’t listen to me is also the reason why it’s going to go so badly. I’m slowly searching for a new job. Unless and until the CFO and the CAE are replaced, it’s not going to get better.

  81. afiendishthingy*

    Applying for a job with the health department as a contact tracer today, and feeling good. I’m a school behavior specialist, which has been difficult to say the least since schools have closed. I’ve also struggled to find my way with this career path even though ive been working in this field for 10 years and got my masters and an in-demand professional certification 6 years ago. When this hit I was a part-time contracted employee so I’ve been working a few hours here and there but feeling very lost. I work in a hard-hit state and it’s unlikely we’ll open in the fall.

    I can do this job on-site at the health department or remotely. I HATE working remotely and feel like with precautions working at the health department would be ok. I’m bilingual in Spanish and they’re desperate for Spanish speakers. When I toy with the idea of changing careers I have thought about data analysis because I do a lot with data in my current career and I’m a huge nerd for a data set. This job would probably be a significant hourly pay cut but at least it would be full time again, and it could be a foot in the door to a data analysis career. Plus I think it would be lower stress than my current career (unrealistically high caseloads and insufficient resources are common in my field). Anyway, wish me luck this works out, but it’s nice to feel optimistic about work again.

    1. Save the bees*

      Sounds like this new path has many elements that would bring satisfaction.
      I worked in public education for over two decades. Somehow my niche became working with behavior challenges. The mission gave me so much satisfaction but the needs versus resources is a huge drawback. I only realized just what toll it took on my health once I had left.
      I too found another path and am happier and healthier than ever.
      Remember, if you choose a new career path and it isn’t what you want, you can always go back to your behavior specialty. Those skills will always be in demand.
      Good luck!

  82. Anna*

    How’s everyone coping with potentially working from home for the long term? My work just sent round an email saying the earliest we are going to be let back in the office is September 1st (I’m in the UK) and while I’m glad that they are taking things seriously, my heart sank at another 3+ months working from home. I’ve already done two months and honestly, I hate it – this isn’t how I work well, my home isn’t set up for it at all but most of all I’m really struggling with letting work stress seep in to my everyday life. I’d love it if any of you have tips about how you’re managing to keep home and work life separate, even when they’re already so merged! These are some things I already do:
    – I put my laptop/keyboard/notebook – all work stuff – in a box in the evening when I’m done, this box gets tucked away, out of sight until it’s time to begin work again. – Try not to work more than my hours – tricky, with so many people furloughed but I do my best- Try not to check emails OOO – again, tricky again as my work requires me to be on-call sometimes- Go for a run at the end of my working day to physically separate the day

    What are yours? Also, if you don’t have tips but are just struggling – I want to know! I feel like I’ve read so many opinions from people who love the WFH life and while this is totally valid, I just … bleugh

    1. afiendishthingy*

      I hate working from home. I’m terrible at it. and I work in schools.
      I’m applying today for a contact tracing job that I can do on-site at the health department. I’m excited to think about not having to figure out how to work for a school system this next year. (they’re hiring short term 6-12 months, but I feel like if I wanted to I could figure out how to parlay this into a career change which I’ve been idly contemplating for awhile.)

    2. DefinitelyWorking*

      I’m also terrible at it but doing better! I realized I don’t have to work in the same way I do in the office (I am very good at hyperfocusing, and leaving when I leave.) At home, I start at 8:30, take maybe 15 minutes of lunch, and end around 6, but I also let myself take longer breaks in the middle of the day. So maybe worse for mental health, but I like my job and found I can be more creative this way.

    3. Sherm*

      I wasn’t doing great at first, but I’m adjusting. One change that has made a big difference was that I used to be hunched over my desk, but now I lay down on the couch and work while enjoying the nice view outside. It made things so much better. I still dislike remote meetings. The technical issues. People talking over each other. We also got the “not returning until at least September” message, and meetings may very well remain remote after that, which is a hard pill to swallow.

      I totally get the feeling of work and home all blending into one thing and never ending. It sounds like you have some solid strategies. With the checking emails OOO thing — maybe give yourself a concrete plan like “At 8pm each day, I will check my email.” That way, you have one planned interruption from enjoying home and hopefully besides that can leave work behind.

    4. sequined histories*

      I’m a teacher and honestly it’s devastating. How are we going to forge relationships next year with students we may never meet in person? Won’t we have to give up learning activities during which kids circulate around the room—really effective activities they really enjoy—even if we can go back?
      I’m trying to focus on what I can control—like teaching myself how to make awesome Google Slides presentations—and telling myself this will allow me—eventually—to have an amazing collection of go-online-and-do-this-if-you-missed-class backup materials in place when a kid misses class 5 years from now.
      We went from Zoom to WebEx for security reasons and honestly WebEx is inferior in every other respect. I’m going to try to do what I can this summer on my own to upgrade my personal device and home setup so that maybe there will less lagging and glitching in video conferences next year. (No way does my district have the money to help with that—we need to be upgrading student devices and internet capacity, if anything.)
      I live alone so I’m very isolated. Even for an introvert, it can be stressful.
      I know I am so so so lucky to have a job right now and a stable income. I know this.
      But a lot of people go into—or are least stay in—teaching because interacting in person with students and colleagues is something we really enjoy.

    5. Ranon*

      Can you change your lighting? Cooler overhead for work time and warmer table height for off time, maybe?

      Opening your blinds/drapes every day helps too, if it’s glarey for part of the day you can even give yourself a calendar reminder or something.

      Light can really impact your environment and environment can really impact mood. I’d also consider a fan.

      These aren’t working from home fixes but if part of the issue is being in one place all the time these might help.

      Rearranging furniture for the hell of it, hanging up new art (even if it’s a goofy collage you made yourself or something), getting a new plant might help too

    6. Damn it, Hardison!*

      You have my sympathy. My company also announced this week that we are not going back until at least Sept. 1, but possibly not until Jan. I’m not feeling great about it. I wish I had some advice, but I’m still figuring it out. One thing for me is to stop thinking of it as short term, and start making changes that will improve my routine, workspace, etc. One thing I’ve started is doing is logging out at the same time every day and then doing something I like to do, like drink a cocktail and do a face mask, or watch a couple episodes of a sitcom. Just something to signal the work day is done and I’m “home.”

    7. A Frayed Knot*

      Don’t beat yourself up over this. My husband has ALWAYS wanted to work from home full time. He was able to do it 1-2 days a week prior to “the change,” but wanted more. We’ve been working from home for 10 weeks now, and even he is ready to go back to the office…once or twice a week.

  83. Networking novice*

    I have only been approached by a recruiter once in the 10 years since I graduated. All the jobs I have had, have been through answering an add and successfully getting the position. Never have I gotten a job through contacts.

    I realise I am doing something very wrong, although I have been well-liked and have good references.

    Some colleagues were furloughed and had interviews lined up within weeks through contacts.

    HOW do they do that? How do you get people to open up positions for you? I don’t even know where to begin.

    1. Darren*

      It’s basically it’s a matter of people move on from companies all the time. If those people know your work is solid, and that you are good to work with they are often happen to refer you at their company or even make a role reporting to them (if they are high-level enough to do so) because you are a known quantity which will save them a significant amount of effort.

      For some people this just happens usually because their work is highly visible and it’s very obvious how good they are at what they do. For others it involves effort to ensure that people have sufficient visibility of what they do, and how good they are at it, which can involve just working closer with some people so they can more easily see it, or larger efforts to build your brand at your own company.

      As an introvert I’m lucky that my work has put me in that first category because I’m not sure I could do all the socialising that is involved in handling this if you are in the second category. The first category is really just becoming a subject matter expert for one (or more) areas, this gives all the visibility you would ever need just from the work you do.

      Meanwhile if you are in the second category you are looking to build relationships with senior people who aren’t just going to be happy with your work but are going to spread that information across the company at their level (and from which it will trickle down). So the steps are:
      * Who is influential at your company?
      * Do they have projects you can help them on that demonstrate your abilities?
      * Work out how to pitch yourself to help out on those projects (to your manager, and to the influential people owning them).
      * Make the pitch
      * Do the work to an exceptional level

      Apart from the extra steps at the start the work itself doesn’t have to be harder than what you’ve previously worked on, it’s just more targeted for visibility and to build your brand.

  84. Union Alexander*

    I’m applying to some co-ops and internships for the fall/winter, because my school has not been handling the transition to online well and I don’t want to spend my senior year being a guinea pig and receiving a subpar education. I’m actually really excited about some of the places I’m applying!
    For my cover letters, I’ve been using this sentence to explain why I’m taking a gap year of sorts: “I’m interested in taking a year to work before the final year of my degree, and I’m excited to explore the possibility of spending some of that year with [the company or agency].”
    Does that get across that I’m taking a year off? Also, I don’t need to explain why I want to in the cover letter, do I? Because it’ll take some thinking to come up with wording that doesn’t make me seem like I’m pissed off at my school. I am, but companies don’t need to now that.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      I would be even more explicit – something like “I’m taking a year away from college to work before completing the final year of my degree”. And I wouldn’t worry too much about them judging you for it. We all know that the current setup is not working well for many students and staff of schools/universities.

    2. Ina Lummick*

      I think this sort of set up would work really well – in the UK this can be something built into a 3 year degree called a sandwich course. 1st & 2nd year of degree, year in industry (these are paid placements too btw), 3rd year of degree. You can get sandwich courses for all sorts of degrees here, not just STEM.

      From friends who did a sandwich course, they said the year placement was really beneficial to them once they graduated and were looking for a job!

    3. A Frayed Knot*

      My University encourages internships to put the academic learning into practice. Have you asked your advisor if you can receive academic credit for this? Two birds, one stone.

  85. AnotherAlison*

    Received an email that is an interesting follow-on to yesterday’s post on the university admin. My alma mater is my state’s flagship university and an AAU member. The department chair who sent the email said the chancellor reported yesterday that they project an operating budget reduction of $120M (26%) best case, and said he expects some programs and departments will be permanently eliminated. Yikes. I would be interested to see if the impact is more, less, or about the same for small universities. My son is finishing his final 2 summer courses online at his 2,000 person private university and I imagine a change like that could shut them down completely, but at the same time, they are not losing any D1 sports revenue and don’t have major research programs.

    1. Pam*

      In the last recession, my state university lost/contracted several degree programs, and we also lost our tennis team- we are a DII school.

  86. Justme, the OG*

    Any advice for people for whom working from home is awful? It’s not just because I’m educating my kid (who’s done with school after today, so it will be more difficult) but that working from home is not good for my mental or physical health. I’m doing this for at least the next 12 weeks and I don’t know how I’m going to do it and be okay on the other side.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Oh I hate it.
      I mean under normal circumstances (not covid-19) I like it now and then. It’s fairly quiet and I can get a lot done. But now? Oh no way. My routine is pit of the window. I’m a fraction of productive as I was before. And I live on my own.

      I’m just trying to practise self-com passion.
      What’d you say to a friend going through this? Try to be that kind to yourself.
      Just take a day at a time and don’t think 12 weeks ahead. Do what you need to to get through the day – regular breaks, finishing early, starting later. Accept you won’t be able to do what you used to before this situation.

      Know that others are feeling the same, you’re not alone. You’re going to be ok. You’ll get through it.

    2. routine*

      Setting up routines. Business hours. Daily schedules. Days of weeks where you do certain work tasks if you’re self-managed. Anything to feel more in control and to mimic what you would normally be doing.

    3. Kettricken Farseer*

      Find a routine that works for you and gives you delineation between ‘home’ and ‘work’. For example, when I’m done working for the day, I shut down my laptop and close it. I don’t log back on until I’m ready to work. I found this was an important thing, because I was working way more hours when I could see the screen.

      It’s also helpful if you keep some of your ‘work’ routine, like wearing work clothes or wearing makeup or whatever it is that you’d normally do if you were going into the office. This also means sticking to the same hours at home that you did at the office.

      I really feel for you – I’m in my 3rd month at home as well.

  87. Anon for this*

    There was a news article yesterday detailing the furloughs a public university in town is going to take. They are doing a certain amount of days based on salary. My teammate’s husband works for the university. I want to check in with her but don’t want to put her in a position where her answer would share that her husband makes under $X amount, because if under $X you are exempt from the furlough.
    Does anyone have any good phrasing? Or do I leave this alone?

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I would just say that you saw news reports about furloughs and you thought of her and her husband. You hope they’re doing ok, that situation is rough.

      Even if they’re not impacted monetarily, he could be impacted in other ways.

      1. furloughs*

        I like this phrasing. You want to express concern without the discomfort of salary getting in the way.

  88. Bossy Coworkers*

    How do you deal with bossy coworkers? I know you could just use a script like “I do not believe you are my supervisor” but in reality it’s antagonistic to push back in the way many scripts suggest.

    Is there a way to deal with bossy coworkers that doesn’t involve blowing up the relationship? Even if the answer is tips on how to cope with just letting them doing it but maintain your own sanity.

    Has anyone else worked at a place where people fall into a default where there is a change of fake supervisors based on who was hired first? Like if you’re the new person the other 7 workers believe they are your boss, in order of hierarchy of their own tenure? This has happened to me at more than one place.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      I’ve had this happen with a really toxic coworker who most people hated but tiptoed around. There was no way to do it that didn’t involve blowing up the relatinoship but the relationship was trash already because she sucked. I clarified privately with my boss that she didn’t have any authority over me, and let them know they may need to step in because she was acting l ike she did. Then I would say shit like “I’ve got it Jane, thanks!” when she tried to interfere. It all came to a head when I had to call her out on emailing a bunch of people behind my back giving them directions on how to work with MY client. She lied to my face about what the email said – i didn’t mention that I had read the email after one of the people involved had shown me, just that i’d been told what was in it. She lied constantly about verifiable things, she was a mess. Anyway she never actually admitted it, kept claiming the email said something different and i just stuck to “If it’s a discussion about my client, you need to copy me on the email, because my client is my responsibility”. After that she switched from targeting me to targeting another coworker. don’t worry, I documented fucking everything and took it all to the supervisor. She quit right before she was scheduled to have a meeting with the boss.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I deal with this all the time, since in advertising the creative team doesn’t report to the account team, but the account team often forgets that the relationship between account and creative is a partnership, not boss-subordinate.

      It’s situation-dependent how I respond, but it can include any of the following:
      “To do what you’re asking, I’d have to put aside the work I’m doing for Jane and Lucinda. If this really needs to be done now, let’s meet with Jane and Lucinda to see whether they’re willing to have their stuff pushed back.”
      “I’ll take that into consideration.” [Considered and rejected!]
      “That’s not something the copy team typically takes care of.” If I’m feeling generous and the person asking is really in a bind, I’ll add “I can help you with it this time, but this is a one-time thing.”
      “I’m not able to do that. I need to get X done for Y by Z, so I’m focusing on that right now.”

      I did have one really awful account manager who kept trying to dump a particularly onerous task on my team, and her favorite trick was to wait until the day before the task was due, then claim that it wasn’t going to get done if my team didn’t do it. I talked to my boss, let her know this was happening, and said to this person’s face, “The copy team will not be doing that. I have my manager’s full support on this.” But in that case I didn’t care whether this person liked me or not — to me a “good relationship” with her was “she stops ordering me to do this thing,” not “we are conflict free.”

    3. PJM*

      Yes, I was in the same position as you and I know how frustrating it is! My controlling coworker had 5 years seniority and acted very bossy even though he admitted he was not a manager and had no authority over me. I’m too embarrassed to admit how long I put up with him. I eventually learned to never ask him any questions or let him know what I was working on. This was very difficult due to his controlling nature, he would even snoop and look at my computer screen. Whenever possible, when he was making bossy suggestions (thinly disguised orders), I would say ‘I got it handled, thanks.’ But the biggest question you are facing is whether or not the people in charge support that person acting like a supervisor or not. When that bossy person’s behavior is supported by management, it is a terrible situation and you might want to consider getting another position. Looking back, I wish I had left a lot sooner than I did.

      1. seconded*

        I second this last bit. If you are in a situation where there is no hope of change and support, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere?

  89. Fikly*

    How about a sharing a thing you are proud of yourself for doing at work thread?

    Currently putting together some goals for work. I was looking at the list in progress and started to think that it was getting to be a bit more than could be accomplished in the time frame.

    So I spoke up and asked my manager if the goal that was to start on a non-urgent “nice to have” project could get moved forward to the next time I set goals. She responded enthusiastically.

    It’s super hard for me to say no, and even harder to back out once I’ve essentially put my name on something, but I’m trying to make healthier choices for myself lately.

    1. Blueberry*

      That is awesome!

      I’m pretty pleased by the blog posts my boss has had me writing. His main criticism is that I use $5 words too often, but otherwise he really likes the style I’ve cultivated.

      1. Fikly*

        Oh, style is tricky, so that’s great!

        I have a real love of $5 words myself, so I feel that temptation!