open thread – June 12-13, 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.

{ 1,081 comments… read them below }

  1. Wrongful termination*

    Will contacting an employment lawyer for wrongful dismissal have any repercussions down the line?

    The only immediate one that comes to mind is burning a bridge with the company but can it also impact future job prospects? 

    1. Ali G*

      Depends. Contacting a lawyer to find out your options – probably not (when we had layoffs last year, one person contacted a lawyer and he contacted us to get more info on her layoff. It never went forward and we wouldn’t hold that against her). Actually bringing a suit may. If your former employer is contacted for a future job, they will tell them your status with them, which would likely be something along the lines of “not eligible for rehire due to litigation” whether you were right or not. I could make you look like a trouble maker.
      However, if you do go forward and win, you would bring that up proactively with an employer to note why the other job wouldn’t be a good reference for you.

      1. Lucky*

        There’s a lot of room between contacting a lawyer and litigation though, and one of the best things a lawyer can help you do in a wrongful termination (or even a rightful one) is to negotiate what the company will say about your separation.

      2. Dagny*

        ““not eligible for rehire due to litigation” whether you were right or not.”

        For the record, that (at least in states covered by the Third Circuit) is illegal retaliation.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      Contacting an employment lawyer to discuss your options should be private (so long as you don’t announce it), and will have no repercussions. However, actually bringing an action can have repercussions down the line depending on what the claim is, how big the employment community is etc etc etc. All of these are things to discuss with the attorney.

    3. Delta Delta*

      No. Nobody needs to know you talked to a lawyer. I’m a lawyer. We talk to people all the time and we don’t (because we can’t) tell anyone.

    4. Jess*

      One thing they mentioned when I consulted with a lawyer about wrongful termination was that they may need to contact the company to make sure any emails and other electronic records are not deleted in case they are needed in the future should you choose to proceed. If that happened that could tip the job off. After talking to them, even though I had a pretty strong case, I decided it wasn’t worth the potential huge disruption to my life to go through with it and never had any repercussions.

    5. CR*

      Anyone who is terminated should contact an employment lawyer just in case, IMO. Actually going ahead with a lawsuit is a whole other ballgame.

    6. 30 Years in the Biz*

      This is just one instance, but I contacted a lawyer, confirmed that I had been retaliated against, and been “laid off” because I was a whistle blower. I went ahead with the lawsuit because my upwards movement in my career was derailed by this company that I had worked for for over 10 years. Additionally, at least 2 previous employees experienced this type of retaliation by a rogue manager who was not disciplined or stopped by the company. It did not prevent me from getting a new job. Thank you to Alison for all the job-hunting resources on the Ask a Manager site! My new employer (in the top half of the Fortune 500) doesn’t seem to be aware of my ongoing suit. It’s been almost 3 years and the suit is still going on, but I am hopeful. I trust my lawyer and there have been two small wins in the process so far. My new job is very good: my new manager is excellent, the work is cutting-edge and interesting, and the corporate leaders are open and respectful of their employees. This has been demonstrated by their responses to COVID-19 and the George Floyd murder.

    7. Anonymous for this one*

      I worked with a lawyer because, when layoffs were announced at a previous job, the two people selected for layoff on my team were me, who was in protracted discussions with my boss and HR about a reasonable accommodation for a health issue, and a woman who had just told our boss that she was pregnant and would be taking maternity leave. I eventually received a settlement, and there’s a strict nondisclosure in place. I doubt that company would ever say anything to anybody about it — it doesn’t make them look good at all.

      The only way companies like that are going to change is when people like us stand up for our rights.

    8. HR Exec Popping In*

      I would encourage any person who has concerns to seek the advice of counsel. In fact, when we separate employees and ask that they sign a release document in order to receive severance benefits I always tell them that they should consider doing so prior to signing the agreement. Your lawyer has to keep your conversations private. Actually filing a charge or a lawsuit is another thing. There is a decent chance that could negatively impact future opportunities. It would depend on how public the case is, how far it goes, and how small your industry is. That said, if you do believe you have been wrongfully discharged and you are in a situation where that discharge has costed you financially (i.e., you are not able to find another comparably job easily), I would recommend it. The lawyer would be able to help you determine the merits of your claim, the likelihood of settlement and more. Good luck, and I’m sorry if this has happened to you.

  2. Stability*

    I am in a job with no opportunity for promotion, and I will never be paid market rate because my boss is a lifer who created a low ceiling for the department. I was casually searching before Covid, but have just applied to several fully remote jobs that look like excellent fits.

    Giving up the security of a stable company for an unknown is particularly terrifying right now, and interviewing for a remote job seems even harder. What questions would you ask to determine whether a new company is stable, and your position as a brand-new employee wouldn’t be precarious?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think there are too many questions you can ask the company that will get you the answers you want. Toxic workplaces will lie if you ask about what employee retention and layoffs look like. I’d instead try your best to judge the financial health of the company and of the industry the company is in. Does it seem like the kind of company or industry that is likely to be hit hardest by Covid-19? I mean, there’s an economic strain every company is under to some extent or another, so there’s no such thing as 100% job security, but some places are definitely hit harder than others.

      1. Artemesia*

        At my first PhD job I asked all the right questions and they lied and lied and 3 years later I was laid off along with several departments (they did it by department to avoid lawsuits). This was before internet and the ability to do the research easily. So yeah — you need to do an independent assessment of the company’s viability — and having been there forever doesn’t mean these days it will be there tomorrow (my organization had been going for almost 200 years). Hope the LW finds something great.

    2. Choggy*

      You should probably do your homework on any company you are interested in. Use Glassdoor, visit the company website, search for any social media presence (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), do a general search on the company to see if any news articles appear about the company. Also, depending on the industry, do some research around sustainability given Covid and the financial market.

      1. Ashley*

        Also see if you know anyone who knows about the company or someone who has worked there.
        One other thing you can ask is about the COVID response and see how forthcoming they are.

        1. 30 Years in the Biz*

          I believe LinkedIn can show you if any of your personal connections know specific people in another company.

    3. Minocho*

      Another option, once you get through screening interviews, is requesting contact information for someone who would be a coworker if you got the position. I had an employer offer this for a job interview, once, and I added it to my list of requests going forward in my job searches.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      This is very much a personal decision. Were it me, assuming that the current job is tolerable and the pay enough to keep body and soul together, I would stick with it until the pandemic shakes out. But I am fairly risk averse. Your mileage may vary.

    5. Mkt*

      In a similar situation and don’t think there are any questions that would adequately answer that for me right now. Ultimately, I’ve been applying to larger companies or essential industries whose work hasn’t seem to slow down too much.

      Best bet, like others mention, is to do research on the company and industry beforehand to see how they have been handling COVID these past few months.

      Good luck!

    6. Mary Smith*

      Before I moved to a startup, I asked to see their business plan and any reports to their board they’d given recently.

    7. A*

      In re: to assessing their stability as a company – I would recommend pumping your professional network! This can be really hard to get transparent answers on in interviews, even if the employer wants to be transparent and has good intentions – often things can’t be shared with people during the interview process prior to the signing of the employment conditions / NDAs etc.

      I moved last year to a rural area for my dream job at my dream company – but it’s an area where if I lost my job or wanted to leave, I’d need to relocate again and sell my house. So I absolutely did my own research, online, public records etc as well as asking in the interviews – but I wouldn’t dare have assumed that to be accurate on it’s own. I reached out to dozens of professional contacts to see if anyone had a lead on the employer I was looking at, and was able to track down half a dozen people currently employed there or recently that were more than willing to have an open convo about the stability of the company. I imagine now it would be even more important.

  3. Anonymous Educator*

    I had an in-person conference scheduled for June, and I was really excited about it. Rightly so, because of Covid-19, the conference converted to virtual. I think, given the circumstances, the conference organizers did the best job they could in making it virtual, but it just really isn’t the same doing things over Zoom and such instead of in a dull-looking hotel ballroom.

    Am I the only one who feels this way? Anyone had a good virtual conference experience? What was that like?

    1. Ali G*

      So I’m interested in this as well. I was planning a conference that was supposed to be in April. We pushed it to next April. However, in between we hosted some online webinars with some of the presenters from this year’s conference. We’ve had amazing turn out, and with so much up in the air, I am wondering if it even makes sense to have an in-person conference, especially when a lot of our typical attendees have been hit hard, economically.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        Sidenote on this, another consideration if the virtual event was well-received is that the timeline for “relative safety” may be very different for different populations. So if in April 2021, a number of folks feel fine with going to a conference (presuming they can afford to), there may be a goodly percentage (immunocompromised etc.) who do not yet feel safe (my mom would fall into this category; because she lives with me, I expect to stay on the Very Conservative Behaviors side of the spectrum for a long time yet).

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Yours is a common experience.

      It is harder to keep my attention via a Zoom meeting than in person. In person my mind might drift during a presentation, but I’m unlikely to full on walk out/off. I would at least circumspect about looking at my phone instead of full on surfing the web, working, responding to emails on a different screen.

      Also although I’m anxious about it, you lose any networking, meeting new people opportunity with a Zoom conference.

      1. Ashley*

        I am there too. My distraction level is much higher. I would say if you ever considered doing it as a webinar instead of a conference or it is something that works via playback it could work, but if you need audience participation forget it. Also if the conference is geared for networking you definitely don’t get that on zoom the same.

      2. Not This One*

        I totally agree. There was a conference I had hoped to attend in my city in August, but I’ve decided not to now that it is virtual. Part of the issue for me is that they are keeping the hours the same but just moving it online – so instead of two days of full-day in person conference, it’s two days of full-day Zooms! And I totally appreciate that there are almost certainly reasons why the organizers made that choice, I just know that I won’t get as much out of it under those circumstances.

    3. Mimmy*

      I attended one virtual conference a couple of weeks ago. It was well done but I agree it’s not the same. What I like about in-person conferences and workshops is meeting fellow attendees and making connections. You don’t really have that option virtually.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        In theory, there’s a sideroom where you can chat with people as you normally would in a conference, but what ends up happening is that a bunch of people pile in there, and only one person talks at a time, which isn’t what normally happens at an in-person conference, where people naturally break up into groups of 2-5.

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          I attended the virtual Nebula Conference (for science fiction and fantasy writers) and they had a brilliant setup: join the Zoom “transporter room” and ask to be shunted to a breakout room on a particular topic or any topic, and then they’d send you off to join no more than 10 people who are all talking about food or having a virtual tea party or watching a kitten cam together. I had a lovely little lunch break with some nice folks that way. If the group isn’t to your liking, go back to the transporter room and ask to be sent somewhere else. It worked very smoothly and was great for that lobby-con feel.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Sounds good. Breakout room by topic is probably better than just random breakout rooms.

          2. allathian*

            I would love to try something like this! I usually have a hard time staying focused on webinars. I have an annual event coming up in September and they just announced that they’re going ahead with it. I enjoy going, the presentations are usually very good and it’s a great opportunity for networking. The attendance limit for indoor events was just increased to 500 people here and this event usually has about 150 attendees, including guest speakers and staff. I’m still considering whether to go or not. My boss has left the decision to me, the conference is included in my professional development plan and my employer would pay for it, but the timing is less than ideal. I feel fairly safe going, but on the same week, we also have a department development day and the final seminar for the certification I’m taking. If I attended all the events, it would leave just one day that week for working. My certification seminar was due to be held in May but they postponed it due to COVID.

    4. Delta Delta*

      I just did a virtual conference this week. The sessions actually turned out to be very engaging because people could ask questions very easily in the chat (was by Zoom). A couple of the sessions turned into very productive brainstorm sessions between participants in ways a traditional “death by powerpoint” conference just couldn’t. I was really pleasantly surprised by the overall experience.

      Also, we had more participants than usual (I’ve been to this conference several times). I think it’s because people didn’t have to travel.

    5. Super Duper Anon*

      I had the same experience with an in-person conference being switched to virtual. It was well run and the sessions were good, but I just wasn’t as engaged as an in-person conference. My mind wanders in virtual sessions. I plan to hold off requesting to go again until I am sure I can go to an in-person conference again.

    6. Epsilon Delta*

      I was supposed to attend a conference in August which is now virtual. Instead of having scheduled speakers they are going to facilitate an “open spaces” format. I am still deciding if I will attend.

      I have been attending other webinars and we did a virtual happy hour for work. Webinars are good and well-delivered, but really miss the socializing/network aspect of a real conference. Happy hour was awkward but I would attend one again.

    7. Hellow Sweetie!*

      My experience is with scientific conferences, and I haven’t attended a virtual conference yet. But I read a blog post from someone who attended a virtual scientific conference that noted a couple positives (I can’t find the original blog post, so please note that I am summarizing someone elses thoughts from memory):
      1) Better accessibility – normally to ask a question, you have to make your way to one of the microphones, wait in line, and sometimes will not have a chance to ask your question due to time. Because the questions were typed into the chat area, the moderator would they ask the presenter each question in turn.
      2) Fewer off topic questions – more questions that are actual questions instead of statements
      3) easier to move to different sessions without bothering the other people in the room. This is more applicable to the larger conferences where there may be multiple concurrent sessions. It’s common to want to listen to a talk in one session and then move to another session for another talk. But getting up and walking out of the room without bothering the people around you can sometimes prove a challenge.

      That said, I’m currently what I call academic adjacent, so my goals in a conference are more on the networking side, so for me the virtual conferences will not be as helpful for me. But maybe there are kinks to work out! Better methods of interactions, virtual coffee/happy hours. This may be a push to try different things and attempt sometime never done before. I have hope!

      1. JustaTech*

        My company regularly attends an academic/medical conference as a “company with a booth” and they said that the social media engagement was way down for this conference compared to previous years. I guess because people are already on their computers, so they don’t feel the need to tweet about the presentations?

    8. Annony*

      It really depends on what you are hoping to get out of the conference. If you are trying to learn something or stay up to date on recent advancements in the field it can still be worth it, but the networking aspect is gone. Considering networking was one of the main reasons to go to conferences before, it makes them feel largely like a waste of time when it is remote.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Related thought: My now-all-zoom cancer support center occasionally asks me for feedback, and the gist is that the offerings are not as good as in person, which is expected by everyone. People understand that this is the best anyone can do right now–the cancer support center will be the last place to re-open, mixing people undergoing chemo with people who are pretty sure that cough is just allergies. I used the analogy of a glass of plain tap water. If you’re in a desert, that’s great and you don’t care that it isn’t chilled or caffeinated and so on. It’s the best that one can do under very constraining circumstances, AND miles and miles and miles better than nothing under those constraining circumstances.

      A lot is lost when you lose the in-person connection. (Behind a good chunk of my spouse’s international travel pre-covid.) It’s a lot easier for remote things to work when people have the in-person connections, and have a lot of goodwill to try and make this work while realizing it’s a stopgap during a pandemic. So I think the smaller the conference and more already-known the attendees, and more reason to bull ahead and do it now and not in a year, the better chance you have of landing on something that will meet today’s much-lowered expectations for a conference. For some conferences, all I just typed will be enough reason to just reschedule for next year.

    10. IntoTheSarchasm*

      In-person is great but remote is what you make of it – it is easy to be distracted. I do have an additional observation; remote increases access as it does not require travel which is difficult for some and adds to the expense. Also, registration costs may be (should?) be lowered if items like lunch and breaks are not being provided. This also increases access.

      For example, I was in an all day we conference last week for which the registration cost was 150.00, It is typically 230.00 and I didn’t have to drive for 4 hours to get there. I don’t live in an urban area where these things are typically offered. This conference provided continuing credits I need to test for an industry certification which would have been very difficult to obtain otherwise. Just food for thought.

    11. Information Central*

      SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) moved their awards conference online, and did a great job with it. They paid specific attention to replicating the social aspects of a conference — things like setting up multiple Zoom breakout rooms and encouraging people to circulate among them (and providing etiquette tips for doing so), designating some of the spaces for specific purposes (a bar, a meal space, a coworking space), providing multiple avenues for chat (alongside the panels, via Slack, via other social media). The online conference did provide greater accessibility for people who otherwise couldn’t have attended due to distance, finances, etc., and made some things possible that couldn’t have been done in an in-person conference setting. (Granted most business conferences won’t include swordplay demos!) It does take a lot of forethought and expertise, and a lot of labor to keep all the different aspects running smoothly, but it can be done.

    12. EddieSherbert*

      I attend an annual conference in May and this year’s was online as well…. Totally agree with you! I have a much harder time staying focused and really getting engaged online. The hours were also super odd because it’s an international event and they tried to stagger everything so the times would work for everyone; so I had a few sessions that started at like 5am… or 8pm!

      Unfortunately, the conference organizer thinks it went “just as well” as in-person (and obviously was much cheaper to organize online versus flying people in from around the globe) and is toying with the idea of making it online every year now :(

      1. allathian*

        Oh my goodness, I hope they’ll rethink that!
        I really enjoy the annual two-day event that I go to in September or October. It’s two days, starts with lunch on a Thursday to allow people to travel there on the same day and ends around 4 PM on the Friday. Thursday evening there’s a semi-formal dinner where I get to dress up a bit, as my standard workwear is jeans and something not too outrageous on top (sleeveless is not OK, band t-shirts and similar are not OK, pretty much anything else goes).

    13. JessicaTate*

      One strategy I’ve experienced in a virtual conference session that actually kind of mimicked the in-person networking aspect. They were trying to do the Think-Pair-Share approach virtually. They used Zoom breakout rooms that randomly assigned two people per breakout, we were told to discuss question X, and given a time limit. I got paired up with someone, and we kinda talked about the question, but really ended up finding points of commonality in our work and networking more than anything. We connected on LinkedIn and by email afterward.

      It’s not the same as hallway conversations, but it was better than just listening to a recording. I think organizers and presenters should think as creatively as possible about how they might create parallel mechanisms that get people out of defaulting to webinar lectures.

    14. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I attended Microsoft Build virtually last month. I wouldn’t have gotten to attend had it not been free (conference travel has been cut this year due to COVID-19). Being free, I didn’t feel guilty about only attending a couple of sessions I was really interested in, but it also meant that I didn’t get the experience of seeing an unexpectedly good session because I had nothing better to do than hop into whatever session was currently on. And there was no “hallway track”, which is always one of the best parts of conferences for me.

      Ask me again in two months – sometime in late July or early August I should be presenting at a virtual conference. (Originally scheduled for this weekend, so they’ve been scrambling to pivot.) It’s smaller, so I’ll be very interested in how they handle the hallway track.

    15. Faith*

      I may be in the minority here, because I’ve really loved the virtual conferences I’ve attended during the pandemic. Several of the ones in my field were opened up to a larger audience when they decided they had to go virtual.

      But then again, I wouldn’t have been able to attend any of them if it weren’t for the pandemic (there is no $ for traveling to conferences for staff at my level), so it’s not the same for me as it is for others. I just really enjoyed having an opportunity to “attend” conferences that I would never have otherwise had.

  4. Qwertyuiop*

    I’m the only female in the office and am the youngest in my department. I’m not IT, but I work with databases. In a meeting today, my boss was trying to find something in the database and he seemed to be struggling and asked me to help him, so I helped him. He didn’t listen to my advice though and kept looking for it. Another time, I gave information on something to a coworker, but she just ignored me.

    I know that people have different ways of working and I try not to help unless they ask me. I’m not overbearing or a know-it-all, but I often feel ignored and like they don’t respect me or take me seriously.

    Any advice?

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Are you sure that this isn’t because you’re female and/or young? Or perhaps you’re just in a department that in general doesn’t respect you, regardless of your gender or age.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      He didn’t listen to my advice though and kept looking for it. Another time, I gave information on something to a coworker, but she just ignored me.

      Am I reading correctly here that both a male and female (I’m assuming not in your department) both ignored your help? Honestly, you say you’re the youngest in your department. I wouldn’t discount people just brushing you off because of your youth (which sucks and is unwarranted). That, coupled with being female, can definitely lead to people not taking you as seriously as if you were male, older, or both male and older.

      I wish I had some advice for you. How long have you been at this workplace? Weeks? Months? Years? Anyone else young there? Or young and female but not in your department?

      1. Scarlet Magnolias*

        I work with 2 younger women at my library and have found them to be helpful, non-patronizing and patient. I’m 65 and have had to jump into the whole Zoom thing. But you learn something new everyday!

    3. irene adler*

      Get used to it.
      (that’s been my experience, anyways)
      It is not you. At all.

      Long shot: is your delivery of information indirect in some fashion?
      Like:
      – couching directions within long monologues.
      -prefacing with all kinds of hesitant phrases like “I’m not sure, but have you tried x?” or “I’m not an expert so you might want to confirm, but doing x can’t hurt.”

      Another tactic is to ignore requests for help until they are repeated. Let ’em ‘work’ for an answer to their situation. I know that sounds manipulative-cuz it is. But it may make co-workers listen better to your responses as they are not given freely.

      1. Qwertyuiop*

        How do you not get a chip on your shoulder? I feel myself becoming bitter over it because they often seem to dismiss me with “You millennials” or something similar. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, but I know my stuff. It’s just disheartening….

        1. irene adler*

          Beats me.
          For me, it helps to remember that this is their issue -not mine. Dismissing advice based on the messenger of that advice will place limits on them, not me. Leave them to themselves.

        2. anon for this*

          It is really, really hard. Maybe a different workplace soon would be good. Otherwise, if you can manage mostly-good-hearted humor that can help… “yep, you need a millennial for that one, old man!”

          1. Aquawoman*

            I like that; my initial thought was don’t you WANT a Millennial for computer stuff? “I prefer ‘digital native,’ thanks.”

        3. Anonymous Educator*

          Millennials has also become this blanket term for “younger people I disdain.” Teens and people in their early 20s now are not millennials. Some older millennials are 40 years old.

          1. A*

            This! I can’t even count how many times I’ve had older colleagues complain to me in the last few years about “millennials”. I’m 33. I’m not only a millennial – but undeniably so, right smack in the middle.

            9 out of 10 times, the person/group being referenced is not a millennial.

        4. Important Moi*

          You get a chip on shoulder, but I’ve found ignoring requests for help until they are repeated to be the most successful method for me. I also think it is a combination of gender and age, but YMMV. I am not a millennial.

          Definitely evaluate how you convey information when asked. Do you couch directions within long monologues thinking you are adding context to the situation? Do you prefacing with all kinds of hesitant phrases like “I’m not sure, but have you tried x?” or “I’m not an expert so you might want to confirm, but doing x can’t hurt.”? If you do, consider saying “I would try X,Y,Z” and leave it at that. If you’re wrong you’ll hear about it and you can offer another suggestion if asked.

          Finally, you are not able to change everyone. That’s just a fact. It doesn’t matter how strongly you feel they should change.

        5. Avasarala*

          I completely empathize. I try really hard to bite back remarks like, “I hope you respect me/enjoy working with me regardless of my age” or “I thought we weren’t supposed to judge people by their age at work”. Sometimes I succeed.

    4. Product Person*

      Maybe you need to practice saying things with more authority.

      I’m a woman in a highly technical field but even in my early 20s never had a problem making my suggestions “stick”. Apparently I was born with the ability to show confidence (not arrogance).

      Something like this:

      Colleague or supervisor: “I have no idea why these numbers don’t match. Don’t this query look right?”

      Me: “Hmmm… Oh, yes, I’ve run into this issue before! You need to structure the query like this, indicating the timezone here, not there. It is a bit misleading, but make this change and it will work.”

      Does your interaction show this level of confidence when you offer advice? If not, that’s where I would start!

    5. Epsilon Delta*

      Did you say something that sounded or was phrased like a guess like, “Maybe try looking in the X table?” Or did you phrase it like you knew the answer and were giving directions, “It’s in the X table. Filter on Y and Z.” It would be super weird and concerning if they ignored you in the second scenario, but not too odd in the first one. If you know the answer, be direct!

      Also, how do you respond when your boss ignores your advice? Do you say anything/repeat the advice, or do you just awkwardly watch him search elsewhere without saying anything? Verbalize if your boss is ignoring your answer! “Did that make sense?” “No I meant the X table not the Y table you’re in.”

      I am a female in tech so I know the behavior you are talking about. You have to act more confident than you feel because that is the culture/approach in tech. Only hedge when you are actually unsure and being wrong has consequences.

      1. Qwertyuiop*

        I try and be direct as possible. My instructions are usually direct as in, “It’s in the X table. Filter on Y and Z.”

        I could do more follow through if they’re not responding. I’ve literally pointed at something and they still didn’t do it though, so maybe they just don’t like following directions or something?

        1. irene adler*

          Clearly you are communicating directly and clearly.
          So it’s not you.
          Maybe ask, “I see that you are not implementing the instructions I gave you. Please tell me what you aren’t quite getting so that I can better help you.”

            1. irene adler*

              Thank you. Although I’m gonna view it as just being polite.
              Now that you brought it up, should there be repeated “ignores” of offered advice, then I wholeheartedly endorse your “offering a suggestion and you are not heeding it” advice.

        2. Important Moi*

          Stop looking for the “why aren’t they listening to me”? Doesn’t matter. The point is they’re are not listening. They don’t have to tell you why.

          Just saying something like “I am offering you a suggestion you aren’t listening to, I’m heading back to my desk now.” and leave.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          It’s them. My mother is like this because she already has in her mind what she wants it to do and how she thinks it should work, and is unable to shift gears to how it actually works, and then she gets mad that we’re “snippy” with her (i.e. frustrated and impatient) because she didn’t listen and keeps complaining.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          I saw a lot of this when I was in my 20s and on into my 30s. It does lessen somewhat over the years.
          I still see now that people ask me and they freeze. It’s like they won’t move to the next step. I am looking at this from the other side, while I am female I am definitely way into my middle age period.

          I do think that I could have benefited from asking, “Why the hesitation?”, more often. People do answer me. “Well I am concerned…..” and typically they are concerned about something that is several steps removed from the current step we are doing.

          What I am about to say kind of sucks but it’s something that has helped me. We have to stop and find out what their concerns are. They probably won’t proceed until they tell us what worries them. This is a good thing to know about people in general. It can help with family members who seem a bit stubborn, it can help with cohorts, bosses, neighbors and all sorts of situations.

          You will see this pattern of people getting stuck on something because some other thing is catching them up. This comes up often enough so it is good to get use to recognizing it in the moment.

          I had a man come to the house to do an insurance inspection. He kept glancing back at my dog. The dog I had then was part collie and part shepherd. (This was The Dog of my life, I so loved this dog.) It had the German Sheppard lines, so it looked formidable/intimidating. I could see he was challenged by the dog. After the third worried glance, I also knew he had a story that he HAD to tell. Yes, I had to listen to his story to get him to move on to thinking about me and my particular dog and progress to actually evaluating my property.

          After the third glance back at the dog, I said, “He’s 12 years old.” The man’s jaw dropped because the dog did not look that old. “So no one has ever been bitten here?” nooo. And he launched into his story. I knew he had to tell me his story. The house was owned by a middle aged widow like me, the dog was similar to my dog. The dog bit him and would not let go.
          So we chatted about this, I explained that I could get him out of that bite, but more importantly I had spent tremendous time training the dog so the likelihood of that bite even happening was greatly reduced.

          You are right, this is a lotta work just to get homeowner’s insurance. But I had to deal with the person’s concerns before we could proceed with any inspection.

          I call this over coming concerns.
          So you lay out a plan to fix something.
          People stall out and do nothing or they start throwing up hurdles -real or imagined. (In my example, the man would not be content until I heard him through his story.)
          Handle the hurdle or the concern. (We chatted for at least 15 minutes about what I do with dogs. I found out that he actually has a dog himself.)

          You might be totally correct that the behavior is sexist or ageist. You could be 100% right. But that does not solve your problem.

          Try, it is hard, I know, but try to frame it as, “Here is a person who has a concern that they have yet to tell me about.”
          I find that 90% of the time the concern has NOTHING or very little to do with the initial question they asked. Patiently answer that concern. They won’t absorb anything you say until they “fix” the concern that is at the forefront of their thinking.

          I have trained a lot of people. This gave me the opportunity to see patterns in where people stall out. And there are predictable patterns. The more people you successfully help the more you will have to draw on, so you can say things like, “Yeah, I see a lot of people really stumble over x, it’s pretty common. Here is what you can do when x happens.”

          Notice how this works:
          1- you are assuring the person they are not an idiot as many others had the same issue.
          2- there’s a hidden brag there, you are saying you have successfully helped others
          3-the hidden brag is good, because people like to know they have asked someone who is familiar with their particular problem
          4- you gain a rep for discussing problems and getting to the heart of the problem.

          I so understand the problems with being young and female in the workplace. I have lived my own version of this stuff. My ideas here will tend help you clearly identify the people who actually want help vs. the people who are just jerks.
          So you can ask:
          Why the hesitation?
          Oh, I see you’re pausing here, is there something else concerning you?
          Would you prefer me to do an example for you? (It slays me how many people say YES.)
          Hmmm. It looks like I have not really answered your question, do you have another question?

    6. Ashley*

      Try to accept it as best you can. Helping people with the minor IT issues and they don’t listen is a huge point of frustration. Bosses are especially bad when they can’t follow something as hit ctrl F and search and then they keep doing it some other way. The co-worker ignoring can be harder but alot of context is needed including it could be them not you or she didn’t actually want your input and thought you were overstepping. All part of the job soft skills and trying to remain calm outwardly even if it is driving us nuts inwardly.

    7. Meowquis*

      I’m also a woman, quite young, and one of the few in my area, and also work a lot with databases and know ours quite intimately and all the caveats of code. I’ve experienced the same a lot and do find myself getting frustrated, but a lot of the time it does feel like both an age and gender thing – age will change, but gender won’t. I try to be a resource for more junior women in my area who want to learn the things I know in a collaborative, open way – it might just change the culture of the company I’m in for the next set of women to benefit from. In general in my role though, being more assertive (which I still struggle with) and going “no, that’s not what I said”, or switching up between asking leading question rather than telling them where to look or vice versa helps. A lot of people who don’t want to be “told” by a young woman will be more open to being “led” to a solution and thinking they did it themselves.

    8. Minocho*

      I have no advice, just commiseration. As I was on my way out of the office for the day I was tapped by a manager outside my direct report chain, but in my department, to stay late to assist with a technical issue. His report, who would be at the same level as my manager, was also there, along with a couple other people at my level.

      I told them how to do the thing, and none of them believed me. I suggested trying it the way I suggested, but mostly they just kept me there to tell me they wanted to do it another way, but couldn’t figure out how. I explained it couldnt be done the other way, and we went round and round in circles. Finally they called my manager, who told them to do the thing the way I told them to do the thing. An hour after I was supposed to leave, they did the thing because my (male) boss said to do it, and the technical issue was solved.

      I’m still super annoyed about the whole thing (obviously).

      Argh.

      1. irene adler*

        Been there, done that. Still amazed that no one involved learns anything from experiences like this.

        A woman friend worked with another woman in similar jobs. Whenever the other woman needed computer help (which was often), she would first complain to my friend. And my friend would tell her what to do (“hit ctrl+F” or whatever).

        My friend’s advice was politely ignored.

        The woman would contact IT. They would send someone to her desk (a man, every time). That someone would tell her “hit ctrl +F”.

        She did. Problem solved.
        And this repeated many times. My friend learned to dummy up.

        1. allathian*

          This is so disheartening. I can sort of understand that an older man might have a problem taking instruction from a younger woman, even if I find that attitude totally unacceptable. But that a woman would do the same is even worse.

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        Early in my career, I had one of those. I excused myself for a bio-break, collared a buddy of mine (the exact same age and seniority, but a white male), and offered to buy him lunch if he would come to the meeting, sit next to me, and repeat everything that I said – word for word.

        Fifteen minutes later, the problem was solved, and my buddy was receiving hearty congratulations. His insight had saved the day! What a promising young man.

        I did not have to buy him lunch. He offered to buy ME lunch.

    9. Nicki Name*

      It is a truth universally acknowledged about troubleshooting that by the time people ask for help they’re already frustrated and may have trouble hearing instructions over that frustration. Your being female and the most junior person in the department may have something to do with it, but the approach should be the same in any case: wait until they ask, and then be calm, direct, focused, and just repeat yourself over and over with minor rephrasing if that’s all you can do.

      Me: Now do X.
      Person struggling with problem: I’m doing Y, and it doesn’t work!
      Me: Okay, so let’s try X.
      Person: It should work when I do Y.
      Me: Yeah, that’s weird. But let’s do X for now, it should get things going again.

      …until either they do X or decide they don’t want my help.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. This. In my experience both men and women do this. I try to keep stuff like this in mind so I don’t come across as this person.

        Disturbingly, with some people (very few, only once in a great while) you can say, “If you continue to do Y then you will continue to have problems” and they will continue doing Y. It’s amazing to see this.

    10. Lucy P*

      There are some people who will do that. It’s not necessarily you, your age or your gender.
      My direct manager and I are both female. She will often have me call people for information. I can repeat my findings almost verbatim multiple times. However, if she doesn’t like or believe what she hears from me, she won’t believe it until she calls the same person and gets the same answer that I already told her.

      1. Qwertyuiop*

        This is what my boss does too. Glad to know that I’m not the only one experiencing this.

    11. A*

      It can be infuriating to feel brushed aside due to age and/or gender – but it will get better as you gain more experience.

      A few pieces of advice / questions for reflection etc. coming from someone who also dealt with this (started in an extremely male dominated industry, in a male dominated department + role, also by far the youngest):
      1) It is important to keep an open mind to the idea that you might not know quiet as much as you think. I want to be extremely clear that I’m not insinuating that was the impression I got from your comment by ANY means, just that this does often come into play in situations like this – and it can be easy to fall into the assumption that you ‘know your stuff’. Sometimes we don’t know, what we don’t know. This was incredibly hard for me to accept (still a struggle on occasion), but it is so true. No matter how smart you are, or what school you went to, or the number of degrees you have – there is only so much you can know without extended first hand experience. If those around you get the sense that you feel you ‘have it down’, it could amplify some of the attitudes.

      2) Assertiveness. The single most important factor in the success I had breaking out of the similar situation I was in (and went on to run that dept!). I realized very, very quickly that where other people where stating how things should be – I was asking. Where others would demand, I would request. I made a concerted effort to take a stronger stance, improve my confidence, and stand with the best of them. While it can be intimidating, it is important to remember that more often than not what people refer to as ‘b*tchy’ or aggressive behavior/attitudes in women in the workplace, are praised as ‘assertive’ and ‘confident coming from a man. I took the stance that if an employer didn’t recognize that discrepancy, I wouldn’t want to work their anyways.

      3) Approach. In the examples you give – did you ‘give advice’ in the form of helpful tips etc? or did you tell them ‘this is where it is’ etc. Be firm and direct.

      4) Presentation. Could be irrelevant, but if you dress fairly young / casual it could be playing into this. I dressed more formally in the first few years of my career than at any other point – and I was shocked at how many colleagues my age were still going for the ‘cutesy’ or ‘fashionista’ look. It sucked, but I went the suit route and it was mentioned as a positive in the first three promotions I received!

      I want to be clear that I’m not trying to insinuate that you are the issue here. I just don’t think there’s much you can do if the issue truly is just on the other people’s end, but I do think more often it’s a a balancing act. I would however recommend not taking the stance that some have suggested of it 100% definitively not being about you. It’s not personal, we all have room for growth. To assume otherwise would be…. overly confident to say the least (being generous with the wording here).

  5. Hellophoebe*

    What questions should I ask at my internal interview? It is for the senior version of the job I currently do so I am very familiar with the work, the team and the company culture (all the things I would usually ask about in an interview?

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      What challenges exist in this position?
      How will you measure my success in this role?
      What does a successful first (year, six months, whatever) look like?

    2. Emmie*

      Don’t assume they want to keep the position or department the same.
      – How do you see the role / department evolving?
      – What kind of changes would you like to see implemented?
      – Will there be a backfill for my position? If not, consider asking about assigning the work, but you should also think about how your work would be divided if the didn’t backfill your role.

      Good luck!

    3. CM*

      Check if your expectations of the position match up with theirs — you can say things like, “I would expect that this position would involve X, Y, and Z. Is that consistent with what you’re looking for? Is there anything else you’re looking for?” You can also ask questions like if there are any changes they’d like to see in your department/project (you should also be prepared to answer this question), and what it would take to excel in the more senior role that wouldn’t be expected in your current role.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      I applied for, and got, my old manager’s former role last fall when that person went into a new role. I had interviews with the position’s supervisor, the position’s grand-boss, the direct report (who was at the time my direct peer), some of the indirect reports, and some colleagues from other teams with whom our team had a close working relationship.

      Stuff I asked the bosses:
      * What are the things you want to see the person in this role accomplish in their first year?
      * What would make the difference between good and great in this position?
      * What qualities would you most value in an employee in this position?

      Stuff I asked the reports:
      * What could the person in this position do to help you do your job to the best of your abilities?
      * What changes are you hoping to see in the team going forward?
      * What changes that are already in progress have you the most excited? The most nervous?

      Stuff I asked the colleagues on other teams:
      * What can this team do to work better with your team?
      * What do you wish our team understood better about the work your team does?
      * What would you like to know about our team? (not just helpful to inform them, but it also gave me an opportunity to show them the depth of my understanding)

    5. Emilitron*

      Ask about the behind the scenes stuff. “So as a Teapot Designer, I know that the Senior Designer role does X and Y and approves all the designers in circumstance Z; what are some parts of the role that are less apparent to the rest of the design team?” For example, as I’ve been getting mentored towards a more managerial role, my boss is mentioning conversations he’s had with senior management in external industry partners, as a demonstration of how one gathers industry information to help guide internal decisions, because that’s a responsibility of the job at his level; but it’s not a task you’d immediately notice as someone reporting to him.

  6. Herding Butterflies*

    Does anyone have any suggestion on how to tell our boss that the daily-check-ins during Work From Home are no longer needed now that we are back at the office?

    Our boss started daily staff zoom meetings during WFH. They were annoying during WFH, but now that we are back at our desks they are ridiculous. We have Slack to coordinate projects, work load, daily tasks. Plus we have desk to desk dialing. We can maintain social distance and figure out who is doing what without a daily zoom call.

    We are all sick of these meetings / zoom calls but do not know how to approach our boss and get them to stop. He’s either quite enamored with them or enjoys the habit of holding them.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Maybe during the meeting itself you can all say “Hey, do we need these meetings as often now that we’re back in the office?” and then chime in with each other and say “Seems unnecessary now that we have Slack, and desk-to-desk dialing.” If your boss sees nobody likes it, he may relent.

    2. A*

      If it was me, I’d just cancel the meeting occurrence (or if boss created it, change to decline with comments) and say ‘cancelling as we are no longer WFH, let me know if any questions/concerns’.

    3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      You can say: “Now that we’re back in the office, I’m starting to thing that daily check-ins are no longer needed.”

      Basically your question turned into a statement with “I think” added.

    1. irene adler*

      Yea!
      Too bad you can’t waive the two weeks notice and just escort boss out the door right now.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It’s the best isn’t it? At my last company I had the worst manager. She had no business being in charge of us, and she was one of those “tell us what we want to hear instead of the truth” people, when my team was really close and always knew she was lying because we would compare notes. We were pulled into a meeting one day where the director announced she had gotten a new job, and since everyone hated her, nobody said a word. That made me almost as happy as knowing she was leaving, because she was always concerned about people liking her and the silence sent a clear message. As I walked out of the room, it was all I could do NOT to cartwheel back to my desk.

      1. The Green Lawintern*

        Hahahaha my boss was the opposite! She was always in favor of “being honest and telling it like it is” and using that excuse to just rip into people. She drove away two other employees in the same position as me because she had no ability to actually train or mentor – she just tore their work apart until they got fed up and left.

    3. Queen of everything*

      *old dance moves to ‘I want it that way’*

      man wish your boss would take mine with them!

    4. Indy Dem*

      I’m so happy for you! I had a similar situation – my boss was a micro-manager, and supervised me for six years. The boss received a promotion, mostly because we have a high functioning team. Most of my team were new (1-2 years) and loved that the boss was “hands-on” and involved in what they do, two people had recently left (partially due to the manager) and the two people above me in seniority are checked out from being managed (14 years and 30 years). When the boss announced the move in a team meeting, I brought them to tears of joy with how excited I was for them, what a great opportunity, how glad I was that they were able to move on, all with real emotion, because I was SOOO excited that they were moving on. And they had just been passed over for promotion internally, so I dodged them as my grand-boss too.

  7. Lieutenant Uhura*

    ls anyone else disappointed by their workplace’s response to what’s currently going on? My workplace emailed out a few lines that read generic and was full of platitudes with nothing helpful. The statement was emailed out long after other places had done theirs so it basically felt like an afterthought. There has been no further comment and managers haven’t said anything. My workplace doesn’t have the best track record but I was hoping for better than this.

    [Re my workplace not having the best track record: A few years ago before my boss was in management a client made several racist comments towards her. One time when it happened another [white] employee defended her and asked the client leave. He was fired for being ‘disrespectful’ to the client despite proof of the racist comments while the client got an apology. He tried to dispute his firing but HR and management did nothing. My workplace also took it a step further by given him false bad references and there was conspiring with some people from the association that governs our industry. It is like the bar association for lawyers and he was stripped of his license due to lies by the company and those in charge at the association. The association completely overhauled and fired everyone involved and settled at the first chance before he sued. Meanwhile here at my workplace nothing has changed. No one who was involved in his firing or false accusations was fired or disciplined. We still accept business from that client. My workplace did not want to settle and lost in court and appealed it as far as they could and still lost and they had to pay a huge sum to him. He has given up working permanently and retired in his 30s with the settlement and moved away because what happened affected him so much. My boss testified on the side of my workplace in court which floors me and she was offered a promotion to her now job afterwards. This all happened before I worked here but due to the court case so much of what happened is public plus it was a big scandal in our industry. The racism from that case is especially hurtful for me to think about because I’m from the same ethnic group as my boss and the comments were ethnic specific and I’ve had them directed at me many times my life before].

    I feel guilt over working here but I needed a job after I graduated and there was a downswing in hiring and my workplace pays above market with a good benefits package. I have been job hunting but across the industry hiring seems to be on hold due to coronavirus. Since nothing has changed since the incident I have no faith my workplace will side with anyone who faces racism or those who aren’t the target but speak up.

    1. ThatGirl*

      My company sent out a very milquetoast “we’re committing to meaningful change, racism is bad, mkay?” statement but did not actually spell out any initiatives or plans. I gently pushed back asking what concrete steps were coming and got a “thanks for the thoughtful question! we’ll let you know!” response.

      Meanwhile, the company and our leadership is less diverse than it was when I started. So. Yeah, I’m kinda disappointed and unsure that this “meaningful change” will really be meaningful.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I hate gaslighting and I feel like our whole country has embraced it as a way of life.

      2. zora*

        Ha, mine just keeps avoiding the words “racism” and “Black” and talking about “hate” and “diversity”. I’d be a little happier if they were at least willing to say “racism is bad”!

        Did any of us realize how low the bar would actually get at this point in 2020??

      3. Wired Wolf*

        Same as my company, pretty much. Near-zero diversity in management–basically all white with some connection to the company’s home country who have some bizarre views on managing people. The store makeup and my team as a whole is pretty diverse but we’ve all been held back from advancing; all floor managers are white. The warehouse manager (who is black) had to threaten to quit awhile ago to get a raise he was due. I don’t think much is going to change…but it”s clear that our two departments are why the store runs as smoothly as it does.

    2. merp*

      Yes, I’m pretty disappointed. My director went as far as to write about how we don’t just support equality now, we always have! We are a library, there is concrete proof of segregation and lack of services of people of color from the late 20s and onward til the 60s or so. The post is relying on one particular library director who seemed to be ahead of her time and ignores that her successors did not feel the same way, and it leaves a real bad taste in my mouth.

      It may not be worth anything from a stranger and apologies if it’s an overstep, but please don’t make yourself feel worse by feeling guilty for working where you do. Gotta pay the bills, after all. I hope you find a place that is more supportive of who you are, though, for your own health and happiness.

    3. Another Sarah*

      They fired and discredited and tried to destroy someone for defending a coworker from racism? I know you probably already know this but your company sucks OP. I am sorry you are hurting and that nothing has changed. I also don’t get your boss in this situation but I’m not her and I wasn’t there so there are probably factors I don’t know about. I hope you find a better job somewhere else soon OP!

    4. Meowquis*

      Yeah… despite paying lip service to diversity and inclusion, having some internal groups etc, this giant company hasn’t even made a public statement and simply made a weak internal one and has taken no notice of employees pushing for a response, more details, and a public statement. It feels very hollow and I think it impacted both morale and faith in the company to realize that all of the “we’re committed to changing things!” over the past few years was empty. I had hunches of it when they were challenged about majority white-male leadership, but this takes the cake.

    5. RobotWithHumanHair*

      My workplace hasn’t said a single thing, which honestly doesn’t surprise me given their total lack of acceptable communication during the furlough of myself and my remaining colleagues still on furlough. Someone I work with even shared a post containing a pretty contrary statement on LinkedIn (being intentionally vague, lest it be labeled for politics) and a couple other colleagues liked the post, possibly not realizing the implications. If I was a POC at my job (and our staff isn’t terribly diverse, only two POC on the team), I wouldn’t feel encouraged by that.

    6. anonforthis*

      Yeah. I think my workplace is doing better than it was, but recently, as in 2019, an all-white committee asked an excellent candidate (the one BIPOC person interviewing for the job) about challenges in their life and they talked about fighting racism (with clear personal examples) and the lead committee member went full-out White Fragility on them and basically tried to tell them, with less expertise and less accuracy, that racism supposedly doesn’t exist anymore. Obviously, the committee didn’t offer that person the job either. I calmly explained the issue to my boss, who said they couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just get along with the lead committee member. Not the point!

    7. Amy Sly*

      There’s a bit from the TV show “Yes Minister” about “Politician’s Logic”: something must be done, this is something, therefore we must do it. It applies to more than politicians. In this case, an awful lot of companies are thinking “We have to do something to prove we’re not racists; putting out an anodyne statement is something, so we’ll do that.” Of course, your disappointment demonstrates why that strategy doesn’t work — people can tell the difference between genuine sentiment and virtue signalling to camouflage oneself from a mob, online or offline.

    8. JustaTech*

      I’m expecting very little from my company. We’re having two town halls about how we the employees want to address “the current situation” and while I have a specific suggestion (make sure everyone at the Atlanta site has all the time they need to vote because come on those lines!) I don’t know how to address some of the real issues. I mean, how do you say “what are you going to do about the disrespectful and belittling way that the head of X department treats everyone who is less senior than him?” He’s authoritarian to everyone (in groups), but it’s really not hard to see the bias when the vast majority of workers are BIPOC and the vast majority of managers are white.

      But he’s a director and I’m, JustaTech, and I don’t even work at that site, so I have very little standing and I need what little I have to get my job done.

    9. Kiki*

      I’m also disappointed and angry. My company hasn’t been especially horrible, but it’s also not good. They want so much credit for doing the absolute minimum, it is so frustrating!

    10. pancakes*

      Please try not to waste even a moment feeling guilty. You were not and are not responsible for the horrendous behavior of the higher-ups who made decisions about litigation, about keeping the client, etc. Feeling guilty about these things wouldn’t be productive, wouldn’t right any of the wrongs that have been done, and if anything could be harmful to you — instead put your energy into treating everyone fairly and continuing to look for a new job elsewhere.

    11. Indy Dem*

      I’m sorry that you are trapped in such a bad workplace. I work in biotech, and it’s been interesting – boss and grand-boss have been amazing, great-grandboss, except for one or two missteps (no, we didn’t need to hear your concern that a family member’s businesses might be looted) did well, the next two steps up were both off-putting and bland (and one of them I uncharitably could imagine has a confederate flag hanging up out of view of Zoom). However, the international head of our company absolutely knocked it out of the park. He managed to address both racism, protests, and COVID in one 45 minute zoom that really solidified the direction. His best info was – here is what we have done, here is what we are doing, we are trying to get it right, but it’s an ongoing process, so let us know if we are not getting it right. And then repeated the same form for COVID.

    12. RussianInTexas*

      My company haven’t done anything at all, but they never do. It’s a small family owned (immigrants from an Asian country) company, and we literally don’t have any programs or initiatives, or discussions or anything outside of work-related stuff.

    13. Mad and Sad*

      My company made a statement committing to hiring one (1) Black person in a very junior role. The entire executive suite and senior staff are white and male except for one white woman and one Black man (who’s almost retirement age). Absolutely nothing is done internally to support people of color. It’s almost worse than nothing.

  8. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I just got a performance review and don’t know how to take it. I got all 3s out of 5 except on things like ” adaptability to change”. I struggled getting things in in a pandemic! I feel like I work really hard but can’t get any headway in managing all the moving parts of my job

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I’m a little confused. Do you disagree with the 3 ratings and feel you should have rated higher? Did you get feedback along with the ratings? Are these different ratings than you normally get (same manager, same job).

      It’s hard to offer advice (if that’s what your looking for, I didn’t see a question in your post) without some additional context. I’m happy to help if I can.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Its just that I’m like ” does this mean I’m an average employee or should I look for a new job?” Feedback is Ive been struggling with getting monthly paperwork in on time especially after we no longer can physically go out to get signatures….

        1. Annony*

          Can you talk to your boss? Ask her what she would have liked you to do differently given the circumstances and what specifically she would like you to work on. Telling you to get the paperwork in on time isn’t helpful if the holdup is out of your control. Does she realize what the problems are that you are facing or just the outcomes?

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Everywhere I’ve ever worked that used a 1-5 system for reviews, 3 was “you’re doing exactly what you should be for your job” and was absolutely not a cause for concerned. They expected most people to get mostly 3s and managers had to make really strong arguments for anything higher. If you had 1s or 2s you should be looking for a new job. Unless your quibble is you think you really went way above and beyond and they’re not recognizing that at all, I’d interpret the review as you’re fine, unless the tone when discussing it with you indicated otherwise, or if you have internal documentation that indicates 3s are bad.

          1. Tortally HareBrained*

            Agreed. This is our system as well. And my boss often argues in some areas you can’t get above a 3 (I.e. you can’t be extra on time, you are or you aren’t and since our description of 3 says meets requirements that’s what they give).

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      3 out of 5 isn’t a bad thing. The pandemic is making things more difficult for everyone and it’s okay to admit you’re struggling with managing your job responsibilities. Are you having honest discussions with your manager about ways to improve? Is there a co-worker that can provide some advice? There may be ways to change your approach so you’re working smarter and not harder.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        If I had a quarter for every time I have said this to an employee “3 out of 5 isn’t a bad thing.” The bane of my existence is managers who inflate ratings and leave me to level set at a later time.

        IMO:
        3/5 means that the person is good at their job. They are proficient, accurate, achieves the desired results, and works with the normal level of autonomy.
        4/5 means the same with additional results, higher levels of autonomy, higher level of the job being performed, and or additional duties w/in the normal scope of the job
        5/5 means all that + additional duties outside the normal scope of the job

        1. Artemesia*

          That is like saying ‘C’ is average to a college student when B+ has been average for a long time. Anyplace I have worked a ‘3’ is in fact terrible and well below average and people don’t get promoted or even retained with that. So it all depends on the norms. One manager who uses the stated definitions while everyone else inflates scores can destroy careers. If most people get 3s and 4 is truly extraordinary — well okay. But every place I have worked it is the kiss of death. For trainers unless they maintain about a 4.5 rating from those being trained, they are let go. For those in other positions, no one with less than a 4.5 is getting promoted.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            That’s why I really dislike inflation of ratings (and grades for that matter).

            My company does calibration sessions to justify ratings and make sure that you don’t have managers inflating or rating too harsh. They give guidelines to where they usually expect the breakdown to be, but don’t enforce them if it turns out different.

            It seemed odd at first to sit in these calibration sessions, but it makes sense after going through them a few times. Basically if you are in the 1 or 2 range, they need to know because the person should already be on a PIP and/or the manager is trying to do the surprise with the employee.

            If someone’s in the 4-5 range, they want you to defend the rating. They will challenge the rating if the evidence doesn’t support it and ask you to either add more detail or if there’s nothing else to add to downgrade them. I feel that’s fair. One thing that doesn’t happen is they don’t compare 1 employee to another. So my super quiet, keeps his head down, workhorse isn’t judged against somebody else’s gregarious jr. leader.

        2. Lisa*

          Interesting. IMO:
          1/5 – You are going to be fired, or should be shortly
          2/5 – You’re pretty bad at this, but I think I can work with you to make it better.
          3/5 – M’eh. You’re doing the bare minimum but you’re safe. I’m neutral on you.
          4/5 – You’re where I’d like you to be, and occasionally surprise me with extra positive results
          5/5 – You’re doing a great job and when your name comes up I’m happy to promote your name and your work

          1. fhqwhgads*

            That’s how I’d respond on say, a customer service satisfaction survey, but that’s not in my experience how the scale is supposed to work for annual performance reviews.

        3. Boo*

          Yup. At my current employer and last, this is how it’s been. 4 and 5 star are for more than just above-and-beyond (granted I’m in a very competitive environment where ‘above and beyond’ is really the bare minimum for being successful and recognized as such, so it is skewed), and also require approval from the global CFO and CEO. Something like 60% of our employees get 3’s.

          I *once* at another employer got the ‘unicorn score’ of 5 out of 5… and it truly was out of this world. I literally had to put a year of my life on pause to solely execute a several billion dollar project… as a new employee there… and a team that was fired my first week as a result of some of the discoveries I made. I have yet to meet anyone that pushes back on the idea of a unicorn score, who has actually experienced the intensity and sacrifice required to hit it. I’m glad it exists, because as frustrating as it might be the rest of the time – how else can companies recognize those that are truly shattering glass ceilings? One in every five years style?

        4. RussianInTexas*

          At my previous job (the current one does no such things as reviews), the scale was 1 through 5.
          1 – no one ever got it, of if you did – you’ll get fired.
          2 – does not meet expectations, unless improves soon, also fired.
          3 – meets expectations, you are fine, whatever.
          4 – really exceeds expectations, very very rare for actual hard skills.
          5 – reserved exclusively for innovators and upper management. Aka “he walks on water”. You could have bend over backwards, but you will never ever get it.
          The kicker was, my manager (who had very little power over budgets or hiring or firing) had his budget set BEFORE the review time. Basically he couldn’t afford to give anyone any review above 3.8 aggregate, because it would trigger a raise not in the budget. Pretty much everyone was 3.5. You will get 3 on 3 out of 5 categories, and may be 2 of 4, on soft skills.
          So no one took any numbers seriously.

          1. 30 Years in the Biz*

            This scoring scale was my experience too. The “calibration” sessions between managers and HR were to make sure no one was going over budget. This resulted in employees being compared to each other instead of being assessed on how well they met their individual performance objectives/goal for the year. I believe this is called forced ranking. There was no room for multiple people being rewarded for doing outstanding, workplace changing projects at a “5” level.

          2. Wired Wolf*

            That sounds like how scores work at my employer. We aren’t allowed to see scores at all or do self-reviews in advance to compare/discuss with the manager…my first manager did, but now there’s zero accountability (when I was unfairly dinged recently in my first review in 3 years, I never got an answer about it). My first manager desperately wanted to give us all raises but straight-up told me he was told by higher management not to…at the time this happened I had legitimately received 4s on everything and he was pissed on my behalf. That may have been a factor in why he quit.

        5. Lifelong student*

          I never thought that a 3/5 was acceptable. It’s like getting a C in a course- adequate but not respectable. Doing the minimum to stay employed. I received that rating once and objected.

        6. Remote HealthWorker*

          It really depends. Some places I have worked you were not going to get a 4/5 unless you had been there at least 5 years. Others they were more willing to acknowledge an exceptional newbie.

          3/5 is usually a sign you manager is happy with your performance but doesn’t think of you as a rock star.

          If you want a higher rating ask your manager at your next feed back session what 4/5 performance for you would look like.

      2. Eleaner*

        Agreed! Have you asked what the specific expectations are, if it hasn’t been clearly spelled out? I was very grateful my manager explained the scale to me before I got an average slightly above 3 for my first performance review. I would have never guessed that my boss would categorize a 3.1 ish as satisfactory if he didn’t explain the system. Context is king.

      3. TurtleIScream*

        Since my husband is working from home, and it’s performance review time, I’ve inadvertently overheard part of the reviews he’s given his staff (I tuned out enough to never hear specifics or who was the reviewee.) At his workplace, 3s definitely are not a bad thing! The latest person received mostly 4s (and was concerned), but their ratings were actually an indication they are being considered for a promotion! So, you really have to know your office, and trust what your manager is saying about your work beyond the numerical rating.

      4. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        We’re supposed to talk to our managers weekly and she promises to help but is too overwhelmed to. I cant even organize the stuff I’m supposed to do

    3. Minocho*

      Do you have context on what 3/5 means to your manager?

      In my position, 3/5 means satisfactory. 4/5 means exceeds expectations. 5/5 means you honestly shouldn’t still be doing this job, it’s too small for you. So for me, I want 4’s and 5’s, but I honestly believe I usually deserve 3’s. I get upset if I have a 2, and seek feedback on where I’m falling short. For 3’s, I will usually seek feedback on what is needed to exceed, or seek clarification if I have any concerns I don’t understand my manager’s expectations.

    4. Laura*

      What kind of scale does the company use? Where I first worked, 70% of employees were supposed to receive a 3. 20% a 2/4 and 10% a 1/5. It can be hard and eventually they changed it from “satisfactory” to “successful”. But it felt better and the annual raise was better when a worker received a 4 or 5.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      In my workplace, we have a rating system where we rate ourselves and our boss rates us on our achievement of our goals and overall. It was pretty much impossible for ANYONE to get a 5 out of 5, so last year, HR decided that we would just use 2-4. 2 is “needs improvement,” 3 is “successful performer” or whatever, and 4 is “above average.” And HR made it clear that most people should be rated at a 3 for most things, unless it’s really outside the norm in terms of how well or how badly they have done on that thing. For people like me who were straight-A students, this felt like getting all Cs, and being told “a C is average!” But I’ve finally gotten used to it, after managing to get a promotion following a review where I had mostly 3s and one 4 in my ratings: it seems clear that what looks like “middle-of-the-road” just by the numbers actually means, “we’re perfectly happy with this person’s work: they get everything done that they’re supposed to do.” Have you talked to your boss or to HR about what each of those ratings actually means? What the criteria are to meet them? If they can’t give you a well thought out answer, it might be a good idea to ask them for better guidelines and better feedback about how you can improve.

    6. Kimmybear*

      Half the places I’ve worked say “3/5 is you doing exactly what we expect”. The other half have either put nothing quantitative or have done reviews so infrequently they were worthless. So, I would try focusing less on the number and more on the comments that went with it and if you think you and your boss were on the same page. Performance reviews should never be a surprise.

      1. Mrs. Ramsey*

        My company has pretty much flat out said no 5s on a rating scale of 1 to 5. 1 and 2 see you. 3 is ok. 4 is rare and 5 is about impossible. Ironic thing is from 3 on up are raises are basically 2 percent cost of living, no matter how good a rating someone gets. So what’s the point?A few years ago the main office decided that our raises would only be a half percentage point. That did not go over well at all. This year no raises but I get that due to Covid.

    7. anonymouse for this*

      Is this the same rating that you got last year? Can you set up a meeting with your manager to get feedback so you can set specific goals to meet to get higher ratings next year?

      And are the performance reviews linked to raises – so they’re trying to keep them middle of the road this year so not everyone gets a raise or they get the lower percentage raise?

  9. anon for this*

    Does anyone know if donating to a bail fund or a legal defence fund could cause problems with getting high level security clearance in Canada in the future?

    1. Liminally Maple*

      I’ve done the application for Secret (still in process), and there are no questions on it in which donations would come up. You list every place you’ve lived, every place you’ve worked, family information, citizenship information, and whether you’ve worked for any foreign governments. I think they do a credit check as well, but I don’t think that would involve scrutinizing transactions.

    2. anon for this two*

      They care about situations in which you could be bribed or threatened. Do you do something illegal? They want you to tell them about it and not make it worse. A few years ago it was illegal to smoke cannabis, but if you were honest and it was a social thing then it wasn’t likely to be an issue, because you couldn’t be threatened about it. Are you divorced and desperate for money? That might be a problem:
      https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/navy-spy-sold-secrets-to-russia-for-3k-a-month-1.1148431

      They really don’t care about where you spend your money, provided that you have enough to pay your bills and you aren’t funding terrorist organisations.

  10. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

    Alrighty, there is a much older woman, Lynn, who works on the admin team with me. She has a bad habit of giving the women in the office–even those above her–cutesy nicknames.

    For example, one of our mid-level managers is currently pregnant. Lynn calls her “little mama,” even during what I consider formal conversations. For instance, she will say, “Little mama and Joe have a meeting today at 3.”

    Another one of our female managers is named Samantha, but Lynn calls her Sammy Girl. No reason, it’s just the name she gave her.

    For myself, Lynn has called me everything from Mrs. Hellmouth (despite us all clearly going by first names), to Madame, to sweetie pie.

    This is all very clearly gendered. Incidentally, one of our male managers is also expecting a child with his wife soon, but Lynn does not refer to him as “little daddy” or anything of the sort. He still gets called by his regular name and nothing else. And she has never referred to any of the other men as “Johnny boy” or anything similar.

    So, I’m wondering if I should say something to Lynn about this pattern of hers, but I’m not sure I have standing to do so (other than telling her what to call me).

    1. I’m admin too, and I’m not anyone’s manager.

    2. I feel like these women are perfectly capable of correcting Lynn themselves if they want to. Samantha, for example, has never objected to being called “Sammy Girl.” I don’t know if she really doesn’t care, or if she just doesn’t want to hurt Lynn’s feelings.

    I don’t want to make this into A Thing if it’s not, and I know Lynn is a nice person and does not have bad intentions. It just feels a little icky to me that the women are (unintentionally) not getting the same level of respect that the men are.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Given you’re not in a position of power here, I wouldn’t address the pattern. Just yourself. It’s perfectly ok to respond with “actually, I prefer if you called me x”, or “please don’t call me Mrs. Hellmouth” or whatever. Don’t make a huge deal out of it, just state it and move on. If she makes a big deal out of it, then that’s on her. You have the right to be called what you prefer at work.

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        x 1000000

        I can’t decide if I would nip it in the bud immediately, or go passive-aggressive nuclear and call her all sorts of irritating names. “Let me get that file for you, Captain Nickname!”

    2. LDN Layabout*

      This is one of those situations where you can only speak for yourself, if you don’t like it. You’re neither her mother nor her manager to be correcting her on how she speaks to other people.

      Think of it as great practice for keeping a straight face when she uses the nicknames…

    3. Nita*

      Do you have HR? They might be the best people to talk to her, on behalf of everyone. That’s how this was resolved at my company. We had a very similar situation and I think the recipients of these “lovely” nicknames just didn’t know how to respond because… I don’t know… isn’t it obvious that you shouldn’t be calling your women coworkers things like “pumpkin” and “sweetie pie”? It felt so, so icky, especially since it was kind of selective (I’ve never heard the senior VPs referred to this way!) and so came across as “you don’t rate as a real professional in my eyes”.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Someone on my team called me “Missy,” so I guess it’s not so obvious. (No, my name isn’t Melissa or Missy or anything that would result in using Missy as a nickname; she meant it as in the “Hey there, Little Missy” use.)

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      This is so annoying, but I would stick to how this affects you and leave the coworkers out of it. “Oh, please call me Welcome To The.” “Can I ask you to just call me Welcome To The? I’m not crazy about nicknames.” Polite and professional, like of course she would respond and call you what you want to be called. Maybe try to strategically do this in front of the other nickname victims, so they feel empowered to echo similar statements if they want to.

    5. Mockingjay*

      It is a Thing. Similar to this morning’s letter, you should be addressed as you prefer by your coworkers. Lynn’s intentions are irrelevant. Just address it each time it comes up, matter-of-factly.

      “Lynn, please don’t call me *nickname.” Just Hellmouth will do.”
      “Lynn, please use my name.”
      Rinse and repeat.

      I wouldn’t worry about the others; if they want to say something, they can.

    6. CM*

      Minority opinion here, but I would say something in the moment if you’re in a conversation with Lynn without any higher-ups (in other words, where saying something wouldn’t make her look bad in front of someone in a position to evaluate her). Like, if Lynn is talking just to you, or to you and other peers, and says she has a meeting with “little mama,” you could say, “I’m uncomfortable with ‘little mama.’ It feels disrespectful to me — we’d never call Bob ‘little daddy.'” I wouldn’t do this every time, but especially in a group setting, it might encourage other people to speak up too.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        100% co-sign. I do not believe you need “supervise this person” standing to ask them to stop sexist behavior, full stop. I would (and have personally on almost this exact topic, more than once) speak up in the moment if you can (sometimes through IM or email if that was how I received it) on sexist comments, just as (hopefully!) you would to racist comments or homophobic comments etc. It feels very frightening but it does get somewhat easier as you do it more often. I find it helpful to recall that this may seem “small potatoes” but that stuff all adds up and it is not unreasonable to expect your work environment to treat women respectfully – even from other women.

        And I will point out, my mother is not that old and started work during a time where it was still largely expected that when you got married you would quit your job, and she was mid-career when the Anita Hill testimony was happening and IN HER WORKPLACE there was definite discussion of whether it was actually “okay” for a man to smack a woman’s butt as she walked by. This was a debate. During days I was often heading to my mother’s office as teen. This is not the ancient past, it is basically yesterday. Point being, sexism is not like some thing we can just stop ever having to point out or deal with because it’s “all over now”, it isn’t and it lives on in multiple forms and ONE OF THEM is using diminutive titles for only women and not men.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          This. Saying “don’t call me X” is sufficient if there isn’t a gendered component to it, but with a gendered component, I feel it’s perfectly reasonable for a peer to address that. “Hey, don’t call me X. It makes me feel weird, especially since you only seem to give nicknames to the women around here–like the way you call Jane Little Mama, but don’t call Joe Little Daddy!” She might not even realize she’s just doing it to the women, and that might give her pause! Also, FWIW, as a pregnant woman, it grates on me when my own MOTHER refers to me as “little mama,” though I give her a pass. From someone at work, it would make me want to bite their head off.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          And this is why I say women can be just as sexist against our own, sometimes worse than men.

          I am really embarrassed because Lynn sounds like she could be around my age. She should know better.

          You could say something like, “Given all that is going on Out There, I think it’s better to use people names, don’t you? It seems more respectful.”

        3. Sam I Am*

          It’s A Thing, and it’s called “Infantilization.” In particular, infantilization of women in this case. It can be done to different populations, and is separate from giving nicknames to the “in crowd.”

          While it many be unconscious, it is demeaning and I think speaking about it directly is better than obliquely. I’ve used this illustration, myself:

          When I was in high school, I was in an lit class that required 2-page papers each week. Right in the middle of the semester, everyone in the class got “F’s” on a paper about Emily Dickinson. Every single one of us in the class called her by the familiar “Emily,” while on our other papers everyone knew by experience to refer to Nathaniel Hawthorne as “Hawthorne,” to refer to Ralph Waldo Emerson as Emerson, etc. I never forgot this.

          I was speaking (at a bar, casually) with a politico during Secretary Clinton’s campaign, and I told him this. He said they knew that but this “tested better.” I know it tested better, because we prefer to infantalize women, not to acknowledge their power.

          It sticks in my craw, obviously.

      2. Dagny*

        I completely agree. First, anti-discrimination law is pretty clear that women can discriminate against other women, and watching other women being demeaned is not a great environment to be in. Second, I suspect that a lot of people don’t want to be seen as being “troublesome” and let it slide; ironically, this behaviour usually comes to a screeching halt when there are consistently applied messages to stop it. “My name is Sally.” “I find it very uncomfortable that you don’t call a pregnant woman by her given name.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

      3. Jane of all Trades*

        Totally agree. Tbh if I were close by and she calls somebody that, I’d probably try to respond with something like “haha what a weird thing to call somebody” and just call out the awkwardness of her behavior.

        1. Jane of all Trades*

          And as a follow-up, if she refers to her as “little mama” in conversation with you I’d probably call her out on it. We used to have some people at my prior job referring to women as “girl” eg. “the new director of marketing is a girl of about 40, her name is phoebe” and I would respond either with “oh, I didn’t realize marketing had a policy of hiring children” or “how old would she have to be for you to refer to her as a woman.” They usually thought about it a couple of times and then realized that it is weird, so they stopped. I realize that it’s a little abrasive, but I’ve also grown pretty tired of all the (subtle) sexism… of course this depends on the dynamics at your workplace.

          1. Ginger Baker*

            Same re “girl” which I have NEVER experienced with the frequency I have at this (otherwise very good!) workplace, it’s astonishing. I called out my team lead on it and she was not pleased I did so in front of the group (I know because she mentioned it off-record during my review…) but HELL NO, I will die on this hill and have no regrets thanks. See also: emails addressed “Mr. ____, Ginger, Emily” (in this case not gendered but due to the strong attorney/staff divide but ALSO HELL NO).

    7. Parenthetically*

      Oh ye gods, I know this person. Yuck. No advice, just sympathy. It’s infuriating.

    8. Thankful for AAM*

      We have a woman who does that in our office. I don’t think it is as gendered as you have noticed.

      But I notice that getting a nickname seems to be a mark of being part of the “in crowd.” I don’t have a nickname. Sometimes I feel left out, sometimes I’m gald I’m not part of the drama.

    9. Aquawoman*

      I’d be tempted to look puzzled and say “who?” every time, make her repeat it and then say “oh, you mean Samantha.”

      1. Aquawoman*

        Add; that’s for the “Sammy Girl” one where it’s clear from the name. For “little mama,” I might just keep asking until she said the person’s real name.

    10. RagingADHD*

      You can ask her to call you by your name, and when she uses those nicknames in conversation with you, you can respond in various ways that show you aren’t going to play along. You could even respond to her referring to a person by a nickname by saying “I think it’s weird and demeaning to give cutesy nicknames to grown women.”

      But only if she’s talking to you, and in the moment. Don’t butt into her conversations with other people, and don’t try to address it with her globally.

      Some things are worth spending time, energy, and personal capital on a general campaign. This kind of thing is so specific, the only way to address it that preserves your credibility as a reasonable person, is to stick to instances that are directed at you.

  11. Orange Crushed*

    Any scripts for dealing with a hostile coworker? I have to work with “Fergus” and sometimes he can be very social and funny, then it turns into hostility. He doesn’t yell, but he’ll get very snarky and say things like, “It’s all your fault, Orange.” (Even though I didn’t do anything.)

    Other times he tries to pit my coworkers and I against each other and play mind games. He’ll praise one older woman that he’s friends with and say things like, “Jane’s my favorite- she’s my best friend. She’s so nice.” or “She’s normal” (Implying that I’m not?) He’ll then proceed to bash me to my face- he’ll make fun of the way I dress, my hair, what I’m doing, etc.

    He doesn’t do this daily, but it’s annoying. I don’t understand mind games and I’m horrible at them, so I’m totally out of my comfort zone. I don’t want to be someone’s punching bag, either. Boss is friends with Fergus, so going to him is pointless.

    It’s to the point where I don’t want to come in to work. I don’t hide my feelings well, so I feel like other coworkers avoid me. I don’t blame them- I would avoid me too. It’s just difficult for me to fake being happy when he’s making me miserable.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      Have you gone over his head to your manager? I know it’s not actionable harassment, but it is impacting your work.

      Also, somebody that nasty has annoyed other, luckier coworkers who aren’t his target at the moment.

      Can you ignore him? I ignore anything sniping my fergus says and don’t respond. It is hard, he’s a jerk. Do you have to work with him?

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      This sounds like something to talk to your manager about, but you said you don’t thunk that’s helpful. Do you have any coworkers you could ask for their perspective/advice? Frame it as, “How do I work with Fergus effectively?” in a puzzled, “he seems quirky and our work styles don’t line up” way.

      You may just get back “Fergus is just joking”, which may or may not be accurate. Ultimately, this may suggest you should look for a culture which is more buttoned down and professional.

    3. Wingspan*

      Time to basically “grey rock” Fergus. Ignore his nonsense as far as possible. If he says stuff about Jane, you say “that’s nice. Did you get the X report finished?” Or whatever work thing is relevant. Smile blandly, treat him as the unimportant irrelevance he is, move on. He blames you for something, you say “nothing to do with me, I’m afraid. But I’m sure (Name) can help you sort it out.” And move on. You aren’t aiming for snappy comebacks, just to convey the complete lack of interest you have in Fergus and his BS. Keep it as neutral and unemotional as you can. You don’t need to fake happiness, just neutrality. Aim for bland, bored with Fergus, focused on work, and not reacting to whatever he tries. He’s looking to get a reaction, and he’ll probably get bored if he doesn’t get one.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      I think it would help to reframe this — you are putting the burden on yourself “I don’t understand mind games” instead of where it needs to be — Fergus is crazysauce. No one “understands mind games” because in a professional workplace THEY AREN’T A THING. It sounds like you are thinking that there is something you are missing and you are getting flustered and upset because you think you are somehow failing at “enjoying” being teased and bullied. If you can, put yourself in a place where when it happens you don’t react, because really, this isn’t about you. It is about Fergus trying to be a controlling asshat and get a rise out of you. If you can just look at it as Asshat Bingo, a game that you play with yourself with Fergus as the unwitting contestant, that might help. When he says something that’s clearly intended to upset you just think of it as “oh, Asshat Bingo,” roll your eyes and maybe give yourself a reward. Be kind to you, Orange!

    5. CM*

      This is not easy, but I would call him out on it. Also, document each time this happens. Don’t mention the documentation to Fergus, but write down dates, times, what he said, your response, and who else was present.

      Fergus is mean. He is not just playing mind games, he’s bullying you. You don’t deserve to be bullied, and you are entitled to not be bullied at work.

      If he says, “It’s all your fault,” say, “It’s not, and I don’t appreciate that. We need to focus on solving the problem.”
      If he makes fun of you, say, “That comment is not appropriate and you need to stop this hostility so we can work together.”
      If he comments on your appearance, say, “It’s unacceptable to insult my appearance.”

      Practice saying these things in the mirror at home, forcefully and without smiling. It can help to imagine how a powerful person you know would handle the situation, and act the way you think they would act.

    6. Not Me*

      I would respond with calm shock when he acts that way and question why he’s doing it.
      Fergus “It’s all your fault!”
      Orange (with a surprised look on your face) “why do you say that?”

      Fergus “Jane’s my favorite, she’s my best friend. Your hair looks ridiculous today!”
      Orange (clearly surprised and taken aback) “What a rude thing to say!”
      and the next time “That’s very rude and unprofessional. Please don’t speak to me like that again”
      and the time after that “I’ve asked you before not to be rude to me. I’m going to speak to Manager about it if you keep saying such unprofessional and rude things.”

      if his response to any of this is “it’s just a joke!”
      Orange “No, that’s not a joke. It’s rude and it needs to stop.”

      Continue to be professional and calm while making it clear the things he says are not ok with you. He’ll most likely get tired of it when he’s not getting the reaction he wants from you.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Him: “It’s just a joke”
        You: “Jokes are actually funny, Fergus, so that’s not a joke.”

    7. SomebodyElse*

      Repeat after me:

      “hmmm… good to know”
      “hmmm… it’s interesting you have an opinion on that”
      “whatever, fergus”
      “knock it off fergus, no one cares”

      Use as appropriate

    8. Thankful for AAM*

      I like the advice I see to ask, in a flat, emotionless voice, “what do you mean?”

      I cannot tell from the description of what he says or the context but some version of that might work.

      Fergus: Jane’s so nice, she is my friend. She is normal.
      You: what do you mean.
      Fergus: she does x and y, I think that is normal.
      You: what do you mean.

      Just go on till he stops getting a rise out of you.

    9. Jules the 3rd*

      Fergus continues to do this *because* you don’t hide your feelings well, and *because* he can get a response from you. Try making that response either Boring or Anti-Rewarding.

      Boring: Deadpan, straight face, calm, matter of fact: ‘That’s not funny, Fergus’ repeated over and over. With every explanation of how funny it is, the *only* response you give is ‘It’s not actually funny, Fergus’ and ‘Nope, still not funny’. This will only work if you can do it as a statement of fact, really certainly.

      Unrewarding: If you can’t do it calmly because you’re really upset at what he’s saying, then let a little bit of the sadness show and say, ‘That’s not funny, Fergus’. Let people see you working to control your emotions. Don’t let anger show, though, that’s the emotion he’s trying to get.

      US society punishes people for large displays of emotion, but small displays are usually ok. The US finds anger amusing (see; Homer Simpson) but do not find sadness amusing. Pick the approach that feels authentic to you, practice it at home, and tell Fergus directly that he’s not funny, over and over.

      If he keeps it up beyond 5 episodes where you’ve responded with ‘that’s not funny’, then talk to him 1 on 1 and say, ‘Fergus, stop making comments about my clothes / hair / whatever. It is unprofessional and unfunny.’ If he continues after *that*, then you can go to a manager and say you’ve addressed it with Fergus but he won’t stop, and the workplace is starting to feel hostile. If you’re female, that should get a manager’s attention pretty fast.

    10. Koala dreams*

      I’m so sorry to hear about the bullying! Nobody has “being bullied” in their comfort zone. I hope you find another job. I wish I knew how to make the bullies go away, but I don’t, so my best advice is to find another job where people don’t appreciate bullies.

    11. Generic Name*

      Why do you have to fake being happy in the face of objectively awful treatment? I know I too am guilty of hiding my normal (!) and reasonable (!) reactions to outright abuse. I think it’s okay to react in the moment in a professional way. Meaning don’t scream or raise your voice or something like that, but if he says something weird (“soandso is my favorite” “she’s normal”) it’s okay to have a confused expression on your face and say that what he said was weird. Or if he’s playing mind games that are confusing (because they ARE confusing), it’s okay to say you’re confused or ask for clarification or respond at face value to whatever he has said to you. Don’t even try to figure out how he wants you to play along.Feel free to unburden yourself of understanding him and acting like he’s normal and reasonable. He’s neither, and it’s okay to stop pretending otherwise.

    12. RagingADHD*

      Fergus is a preschooler.

      Seriously, that is the way three-year-olds act. There’s no point taking it personally, because it is bizarre and ridiculous.
      I know that there’s no way to just turn feelings off, but is there any way you can just imagine Fergus as a toddler? As a mental exercise, if you were at a function and somebody else’s kid was saying these things, would you get upset about it? Or would you just think, “somebody needs a nap and a timeout.” Maybe picturing him that way can help you get some distance.

      If you’re going to let your feelings show on your face, letting a healthy dose of “WTF is wrong with you?” show might go a long way to spoiling Fergus’ fun.

    13. 30 Years in the Biz*

      I’m not a psychologist, but Fergus is displaying the traits of a narcissist. If you can’t avoid him, I really like the advice about being professional, somewhat ignoring him, and changing the subject back to work. The comment about making things boring and unrewarding for him was also good. You could throw in some light (and truthful if possible) flattery to derail him. And as someone also mentioned, document everything. If you can get him to converse via email, even better. If you Google “narcissist at work” you’ll find some articles that will help you see the signs and defend against them at work. Like this: https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2016/06/20-diversion-tactics-highly-manipulative-narcissists-sociopaths-and-psychopaths-use-to-silence-you/8/ and also this:https://www.businessinsider.com/narcissist-at-work-narcissistic-coworker-2018-8 Remember that Fergus’s behavior towards you is not personal, it’s just his personality (he wants to create drama) and he’ll do it to everyone to some degree.

      1. ..Kat..*

        He is showing signs of Borderline Personality Disorder as well. (I am not diagnosing, just saying pitting people against each other is a symptom.) As such, you might find help in dealing with this by googling “how to deal with Borderline Personality Disorder.”

    14. Ronda*

      just another possible response:

      “that is a weird thing to say” (being detached instead of emotional about it is important)

      I do think you should document when and what he says til you have about 10 to 15 incidents and go to your boss.
      Unless your boss is a witness to this, he may not know what is going in on and his reaction might be different than you think.

  12. Epsilon Delta*

    Parents, how’s virtual learning/working from home with your kids going? How is summer looking for your family?

    My 11 year old had her last day of 5th grade Tuesday. They did individual ceremonies for the kids where they said goodbye to teachers and received a few commemorative items like t-shiets (they move to middle school next year).

    We are excited that she can start camp in a few weeks, because she really misses seeing people and it’s boring being stuck at home playing games on the ipad/doing homework/doing chores. Cases in our area have been declining for a long time so for now we feel safe sending her to camp.

    I am concerned about what next year will bring for school/virtual learning but it’s too early to get worries yet. I am concerned that if they do virtual learning again the kids will all fall seriously behind. We have good internet access, school-issed ipads, and I have a BS in math (which means I can actually help with more complex math and algebra type things) so we’re about as well positioned as possible for her to learn new material and yet I don’t think she retained anything new since March.

    1. Nita*

      It. Is. Awful. I cannot wait for summer break to start. The instruction is 99% PowerPoint presentations and recorded videos. Only one teacher (gym) gets the kids together on video once in a while. It feels like they’re on their own – they’re being graded as harshly as in “real” school but no one’s really teaching them. It’s all stress and no reward. And we’re relatively lucky – very motivated kid, both parents at home, and one of us wasn’t working till recently. Many families have it much worse.

      1. Ted Mosby*

        How is this acceptable?? My mom is antra her and she’s expected to carry in exactly as before, just zoom rather than in person. (Plus checking in on at risk students, lots of additional admin meetings, chasing down parents of students who never show up, and the list goes on.) I can’t fathom how some people are so allowed to just phone it in.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        I think everybody is frustrated at this point. My friend is a teacher, and her school is doing the “You can’t fail anybody, even if they didn’t do any of the online assignments you’ve given out since mid-March” thing (sounds like your district is doing the opposite). So she has kids who did 36/36 assignments, got them submitted in a timely manner, etc. who are getting the same passing grade as kids who did one or two of the assignments or didn’t do anything for two months and then submitted half the assignments all at once two days before grades were due. My other friends are at their wits’ end trying to juggle Zoom meetings and activities for three or four kids–it is too much.

      3. Nita*

        Yeah. It’s complicated. I have sympathy for everybody here. I know the teachers are working hard, and I’m not in their shoes so I can’t really criticize. Especially since they have 30 kids and some of them are struggling much more than we are. There are kids who can’t focus, kids whose parents have NO time to help them with this, and kids whose parents are struggling with English. They probably need a lot more support from the teachers so I can kind of see why they have no time for a live class. I’m just saying it’s a horrible experience, not that it’s somebody’s fault.

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

        They’re grading AS NORMAL!?? WTF!!! Here they suspended all kind of grading for the foreseeable future, for obvious reasons, and people complained!! (Yes, those were the same people that insist that children should freeze to death during winter because “we did it and grew up ok” and “they need to learn how the poor live” No, it’s not ok to freeze to the point you can’t feel your fingers!)

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      We’re done. Last day of (actual) school was 5/18. It was… OK. My state is seeing a crazy spike in cases, thanks to opening too early. I imagine online learning will likely be part of next year’s curriculum.

      My kindergartner did fine, with the exception of losing all that necessary social interaction. Schoolwork is easy at this stage, and requires less than an hour of her time. The teacher was ON IT, and sent HUGE packets home before spring break- two weeks before they decided to close schools. Most everything else they learned could be done online with videos, learning games, PBS Kids, etc. Webex meetings helped keep them all connected.

      My 6th grader is in honors for most of his classes. His homeroom teacher is an airhead who! thinks!! exclamation! points are ! part of professional!! communications! I had him ignore her stuff, and focus on the honors bits. Their classroom/classwork was already mostly virtual: her syllabuses have been online for years, the work is submitted through Google classrooms, math is Khan academy, and so forth. Other than having to herd him back to the computer regularly, it was fine.

      My 8th grader had no change in homework/class load. All of their actual work is online – so the teachers would hold lectures 2-3 times a week, pretty much in line with their regular hourly schedule.

      Summer is going to be boring for them. It’s HOT here, and usually I have them all do swim and dive team in the mornings. That’s cancelled, we can’t go to the gym, and the only pool we have regular access to is a wading pool. The little one is still being home-schooled, the olders are reading their summer reading, and they’re doing a lot of pre-dawn bike rides. The boys bake ALL THE TIME and I’m getting fat from the spoils. I’ll probably take them camping a few times, but really, it’s so hot here the summer doesn’t look that much different from every other summer. All inside, all the time.

      1. NotAPirate*

        Survivor of non air conditioned housing as a child: We found putting pitchers of water in fridge then using that cold water to fill squirt guns worked amazing for outdoor fun. Silly games like marbles in the freezer then try to fish them out of the wading pool with your toes. Slingshot water balloons were also in, (build your targets out of cardboard indoors, drag outside to aim at). I’ve seen ideas for crochet water balloons replacements that dont leave you covered in plastic now too.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      6, 9, 11, all NT.

      We’ve had twelve weeks of school-at-home/home learning, and in normal circumstances the longest period out of school at one time is six weeks here. Playgrounds and attractions are all closed. It’s been a long twelve weeks.

      There’s a reason I used to work in schools and now don’t. These are not my skills. However, I’m using the skills I do have (juggling multiple projects simultaneously, reducing projects to incremental tasks and managing their respective priorities and deadlines, client relationship management) to create a sufficient learning environment that they stay on track.

      But more importantly, we’re not pretending that it’s school, and we’re not using the phrase “home school” because that’s not what this is. Our daily schedule doesn’t look like a school schedule. We don’t do schoolwork after lunch unless we’re screeching towards a deadline. We prioritise wellbeing over box-checking. We celebrate effort and improvement. We compromise. If the worksheet the school has sent over about fractions is just too boring, we find an online quiz on the same topic.

      We don’t stop in the vacations (three weeks so far) because the momentum lost is painful and the lack of structure turns them feral. We do just an hour a day or so of something low stakes. Then they can do what they like even if it is mostly on one screen or another.

      No two families will be doing this the same way. You have to meet your children where they are, right?

      Don’t ask about the distribution of home learning direction and childcare v protected peace in our (previously my) home office because I’ll weep. My work is pretty international so it doesn’t matter if I’m sending emails as if in a totally different time zone, right?!

      1. Epsilon Delta*

        Oh man, yeah, calling it “home school” drives me nuts too. Home schooling is a totally different thing that we are not equipped to do and are not doing. And if we *were* homeschooling, the results would be way better.

        Prior to the end of virtual school, we had a similarly loose policy of after schoolwork is done, you can do what you want. We are trying to limit the screentime now to about 4 hours a day, at least the screens that are just mindless games/youtube videos. Educational and education-adjacent screentime is unlimited. We’ll see how it goes until camp starts.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          It’s very likely that no summer camps will be available this year, which is tough for us because we’d usually use the equivalent of two days a week plus a day or two with grandparents (also not currently permitted). The camp ground we booked in January for August is not permitted to open for the foreseeable future – it’s tents/campers only and impossible to permit even 1m social distancing in shared spaces eg bathrooms.

          Essentially we’re looking at the same again, another twelve weeks, with only maybe very limited access to stuff. Some attractions are being permitted to open (notably zoos and farms, being mostly outdoors) so we are hopeful it will become easier.

    4. mlk*

      I have 2nd grade twins who were in different classes–teachers have very different styles. The one kid was doing fine, teacher is very tech savvy so she transitioned easily.

      The other kid had been struggling with finishing work, paying attention, and just did not get on with his teacher. She has what I would call a more classic style and struggled a bit with going online. She had online meetings 4 days a week. With extra help at home, this kid was doing way better, finishing work, scoring better on tests (without assistance), but because the district froze grades at where they were when the shutdown occurred, his report card isn’t matching how he did in the 3rd grading period. I’d heard that scores couldn’t go down due to distance learning but they had said scores could go up.

      She did some wacky stuff. She would give out the scoring rubric at the beginning of the week. The first or second week we were at home, she announced the rubric (points for various tasks). 8 tasks, X points. I was struggling with work and helping the kids and realized that we weren’t going to finish everything so started prioritizing the various tasks. Then she announced extra credit for switching video conferencing software one day so I was pleased. The weekly score came out and I couldn’t figure out why the point total didn’t match what I’d calculated. Turns out she changed the rubric. The “extra credit” was now part of the required score and she dropped 3 tasks that we’d managed to finish. I badgered her into giving my kid some more points which raised his score from a C to a B that week.

      Both still had glitches where one parent or another would have to bring up that an assignment wasn’t public yet, or the schedule didn’t match which lessons were available, but nothing too bad.

      We’re going to a short family camp and they’ll go for a half-week camp. I’m very familiar with the organization as I attended and worked there. Beyond that, I splurged and bought an above ground pool which we’ve been using almost daily.

      For next school year, I’m a bit worried that my work will open up again but schools will still be distance learning or on a split schedule. My work has been good with WFH, but I do a bit better going to work. Based on previous schedules in our school district (our school lets out at 1 pm every Monday unless they’re having a parent/teacher conference week then it’s a full day but the parent-teach conf days are all 1 pm release and go on for 7 or 8 days), I could see them setting some wacky different-in-class schedule every week which would play havoc with childcare and/or work schedules.

      1. Clisby*

        Yes, our school district also had the policy that the post-shutdown distance learning (basically, 4th quarter) couldn’t lower a kid’s grade, but it could improve it. That is, if a child had a B average at the end of 3rd quarter, they were going to get at least a B for the year. If they were failing at the end of 3rd quarter, they better get motivated, or they’re going to fail for the year.

        My son just graduated from high school – he was taking one class at his high school and three at a local college, and it went OK; but what’s OK for an 18-year-old is likely not OK for an 8-year-old.

        I don’t know what K-12 classes will look like here (Charleston, SC) in the fall. A statewide task force working on this has come up with 3 possibilities (possibly varying from district to district): (a) all in-person; (b) a blended version where classes would be halved and would work on an A/B day schedule (meaning that on any given day half the class will be on-site with the teacher and the other half will be live-streaming the class or doing some other online work); and all-virtual.

        I have zero confidence that any of this will work well. This is one of the wealthiest school districts in the state, but we already know plenty of students didn’t have adequate internet access to do distance learning. I don’t see that changing over the course of one summer.

        I also haven’t seen anything about high-level discussions of what policies to follow when, inevitably, some teacher/staff member/student comes down with Covid-19? If the answer is “we shut down the school”, then why bother to open? Somebody’s going to get sick.

        We’ll see about college. My son’s taking a couple of classes online this summer – but these are regular online classes offered by the college, not online classes thrown together at the last minute.

    5. Kage*

      We’re so, so glad to be done with e-learning (3 kids -> first grader, 4 yr old and 1 yr old). Even though it was just one kid in school, it was so much arguing about doing the activities and so much distraction from the littler kids. The activities themselves could easily be done in an hour; it normally took 3 hours just because of the whining/push-back/interruptions. It’s so nice to not HAVE to get something done each day and let us adapt as the weather/attitudes suit us (oh, you’re cranky – how about a movie now to regroup and we’ll go do some crafts later? Oh, it’s beautiful out, let’s go for a long walk/bike ride! Oh, it’s pouring outside – let’s build and awesome fort and have a tea party!). It’s also made fitting in our working jobs easier as we can push kid stuff as needed if we have major deadlines/demands.

      All of our summer child-plans have been canceled and all three kids will be home with us every day until at least September. It’s going to be a very long summer. But we managed to find a kiddie pool before our area sold out completely of them, so they have that new distraction (the running through the sprinkler is also a big hit). Plus we got 2 of them into biking this spring, so we’ve been focusing on just trying to get out as we can with parks/paved bike trails. We’ve done a lot more crafts than we ever did at home which is a nice thing to keep them all busy. We also implemented an hour of “alone time” where everyone has to be in a separate room/space each day. That has also been incredibly helpful to just give everyone a bit of a break/reset.

      I’m very curious as our state is releasing their preliminary guidance for schools in the fall on this coming Monday. I fully expect that there will be no way that kids are back full-time just based on the realities of class sizes and social distancing requirements; at best I’m hoping kids are in school for at least half-time.

    6. RagingADHD*

      They had about 2 hours of work to do each day, and spent the rest of the day bored. We’ve been on break now, but are having record-breaking highs of new cases per day, so there is no way it’s safe to do group activities.

      We can at least get library materials through curbside pickup, so that’s helpful. But other than that, we’re just doing more and more projects and baking around the house.

      My work and my husbands’ work is slammed right now, because they both involve online communications. I’m happy that we’re not broke, but I wish I could give the kids the attention they desperately need. They are tweens, so they can cope with it as “this sucks but is temporary.” Long-run, we’ll be okay.

      But yeah, it sucks.

    7. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I assume the entire generation of children will effectively have to repeat this year, because so many children won’t have learned/retained much or won’t have been able to access online learning or lack educational support at home, so I’m not stressing it.

    8. The New Wanderer*

      6 (finishing kindergarten) and 10 (finishing 5th grade) – online since March 12, school ends a week from today.

      We are probably in the 1% of families that were able to transition to online school relatively easily in every way. My spouse works in tech and had spare computers/monitors to set up kids’ workstations in their rooms, and both of our work went full WFH in early March. He has an office and I have a full desk setup in our bedroom, so we’re almost always available to help them when there are issues. Both kids are somewhat tech savvy and function well on schedules. They are easily motivated to do the work as assigned through judicious use of bribes (extra free time!) and consequences (no screen time til X amount of work done). My daughter hasn’t had nearly as many anxiety-related issues in the last few months so if anything, this situation suits her better.

      Even under those pretty ideal conditions, they probably did ~75% of the assignments each week and it was hard for us parents to keep track of all the different sites and obligations. There have been tears, foot stomping, whining, complaints, all the usual stuff.

      Summer camp options were very limited and the few in-person camps filled up within minutes, so they will be home all summer. We’re considering taking a homeschooling approach and just maintaining the same schedule as now, with occasional online courses and subject workbooks, with more free time for friends in the afternoons as the restrictions loosen on playing in groups outside.

      School plans for next year do not include a full time return to the buildings for all students. The most likely scenario is a 50% occupancy with supplemental online learning.

    9. Usually a court reporter*

      “Ugh” is how I can best describe it. My two youngest kids are still school-aged (twins just finishing 7th grade) and I feel like it was a complete waste of a quarter for them. My son had one teacher that did some live meetings, and my daughter had zero. Zero. They got assignments via Google Classroom from every teacher to complete each week, but it was probably 1/5 of the learning they would have done in person. Both are very self-directed, so I haven’t had to jump in and assist with anything. Our district went to Pass/No Pass grades for the semester grades, so it was frustrating to my kids that their report cards will be the same as someone who barely did any of the work. I’m sure there was a reason for this, but I can’t really figure out what it is. I’d much prefer the concept of “Freeze the grades at whatever they were in March, and you can go up but not down from there.” I really, really hope my district can figure out a way to have at least partial on-campus learning next year. (My state, and particularly my metro area, have been proceeding with extreme caution, which is generally great.)

      I will say that even the paltry two hours a day of schoolwork now seems better than the completely structure-free and screen-heavy summer looming ahead (their camps were cancelled.) My kids are good readers anyway, but I’m thinking I may need to implement a Summer Reading Requirement for them.

    10. J.B.*

      It was a mess. I’ve told the private school my kid is registered for for 2nd grade that I won’t pay tuition for any more online learning. If school doesn’t move forward I’ll need to find an otherwise isolated tutor/babysitter.

  13. Anon for this re interviewees*

    I am hiring for a Llama grooming job. Additional responsibilities include handling the reception desk (telephone and visitors) The best person for the llama grooming position has a VERY strong foreign accent that makes them almost un-understandable. (They are also older and probably unlikely to be able to improve their accent as they have been in this country for many years) I want to be sure to check my bias but I honestly am not sure they can handle the receptionist part of the job successfully. (Their prior experience is all in their country of origin where language/accent would not be an issue – this person took a work break for family reasons) Am I overthinking this?

    1. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

      Hmm, this is interesting. I do think you should hire the best person and not let an accent stop you.

      That said, being understood on the phone is important. Would working with an accent coach be a possibility?

      I’m thinking of Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he first pursued acting, his Austrian accent was so thick that no one could understand him and he didn’t get cast in anything. But he practiced with a coach and got to where he could speak English clearly enough to be understood.

      Obviously yours is a very different situation, but I’m wondering if something like that could work?

      1. juliebulie*

        I remember that Hercules in New York movie where they actually dubbed his voice. (The dubbed voice is hilarious.)

        It is too bad that the job has to cover both grooming and reception. I really think there will be problems, especially on the phone, if his accent is as bad as you say. However, his age and the fact that he’s been in this country for many years doesn’t mean that he couldn’t be helped with coaching.

        1. Anon for this re interviewees*

          Very small company (which is why this person would be doing both things) and no budget for something like voice coaching

      2. Artemesia*

        The best person for a reception job can be understood; is there a second best llama groomer who is also articulate and understandable?

        1. Anon for this re interviewees*

          Yes, but nowhere near the level of experience sadly. If I could combine the two… :)

    2. Retail not Retail*

      You’ve been able to understand this candidate. Also, was the phone part of the job in the ad and brought up in the interview?

      1. Anon for this re interviewees*

        I have a lot of experience growing up internationally including multiple family members who speak with a variety of accents and I had difficulty understanding this person. Which is why I am hesitating.

        And yes the phone/reception part was definitely part of the job posting.

    3. Ali G*

      You’re not, but I think the only thing you can do is assess whether he will be able to manage the fact that he will have people that need him to repeat himself on the phone, and he might have to measure his speech to proactively allow people to understand him. Do you think he could do that, or would he get frustrated if my grandmom called in and was like “Heh?! I can’t understand what you are saying. Can you repeat that slower for me??”
      Has he addressed this with you? Most people that have thick accents, tend to know this comes up and would like you to know they can handle it all just fine (we recently hired a woman with a heavy accent and she was very upfront that she knows she has to enunciate well for people to get what she’s saying and she’s also very open to being asked to repeat/slow down).

      1. Anon for this re interviewees*

        Mmm. We did not discuss it during the interview. Not sure how aware they are of it.

    4. K*

      How much of the job involves reception? If it’s primary, I think the accent is a bar. If someone is “almost un-understandable” they can’t communicate effectively on behalf of the business on the phone. If it’s occasional coverage when the primary person is out, then it’s fine.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I think you have a legitimate concern. I’ve called customer service in the past where the person was in another country and had to ask to speak to someone in the US because after repeating the instructions multiple times, I simply could not understand them and it was just making the issue I was having that much more frustrating. I don’t think you’re biased – the job requires speaking to the public and if nobody can understand them, that’s creates a problem – but you may want to check in with HR and talk about options.

    6. Ashley*

      How understanding are your customers /industry? Some of this is local culture to the point of will people be rude and hang up and you lose business unfortunately.
      Have you thought about any ways to tweak the position to work for the candidate? Is there another job responsibility split that could happen to make it work?

      1. Anon for this re interviewees*

        We are B2B – very small company offering llama grooming to llama farms which is why this person would be wearing multiple hats.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          That makes a big difference – people can get used to the accent if they hear it regularly.
          Could you have another interview with him where you do discuss this question? ‘How would you handle x / y?’ where ‘a phone caller who can’t understand you’ is one of the scenarios?

    7. Thankful for AAM*

      I think it would be very difficult for a person who cannot be understood to be the face/voice of your company. Is there any other way to divvy up the tasks so someone else can do the reception part?

      English is my sister in law’s second language. I can understand about 95% of what she says in person but on the phone, I can only get about 20% of what she is saying. It is very painful, I feel so badly but I just cannot talk to her on the phone, and they live far away.

      I also have a coworker who is not a native English speaker. When she calls me to transfer someone to me or ask a question about my department, I can not understand most of what she is saying.

      Both of those people are in their late 30s. I dont know about the coworker but I have known my SIL for at least 10 years and her accent has not improved at all. My husband’s accent (English is his 3rd language), got better quickly when he apent more time with native English speakers.

      How would you even bring up the accent or asking them to change it? Even if you could pay for coaching, is it appropriate to ask them to change for a job?

      1. Anon for this re interviewees*

        No way to divvy up tasks – this person would be the primary phone/receptionist.

        1. DFA*

          I’m going to say find another candidate if you can’t give the phone work to anyone else. We have a secretary at work with a very thick accent. She’s great at everything that does not involve talking to people. I have some hearing loss and cannot understand her, as do several of the older attorneys. (I’m young for this type of hearing loss.) So that forces other people to translate her to me and the attorneys. (Actually, it’s been awesome since we all went work from home because it’s all emails now and her written English is fine.) Clients over the phone can’t understand her at all, either. All of the secretaries have extra work because she can’t answer the phone. It’s frustrating and difficult, but she is willing to take on some of our least favorite tasks, so that makes up for it.

          But if there weren’t other secretaries to handle the phone work, we wouldn’t be able to keep her on. We can’t have clients unable to communicate with us.

    8. Ted Mosby*

      How were you able to understand them well enough to think they’d be such a great lama groomer?

      This isn’t snark, genuinely asking.

      1. Anon for this re interviewees*

        Good question – answered up thread but reposting here:

        I have a lot of experience growing up internationally including multiple family members who speak with a variety of accents and I had difficulty understanding this person. Which is why I am hesitating.

        Also, the llama grooming portion of the job is very objective and does NOT require other than basic verbal communication skills.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I’m in your situation – native speaker, used to a very international environment and a wide range of accents. I can generally figure out what someone is saying even through a thick accent. If you are having trouble understanding them, then it’s going to be a problem for your clients. Some questions to consider

          – how important is it for clients to understand information on the phone? If they miss information or misunderstand will it cause problems?

          – if the emplolyee is on the phone with a client and they cannot communicate necessary information, who will they call in to help?

          – what percentage of your clients are non native speakers themselves? My husband is a fluent non native speaker, and he finds phone conversations with some accents very hard. I sometimes have to help with English to English translations, particularly when the information is critical (like financial stuff).

          – can your clients use an alternate method of communication if they can’t understand the receptionist (email, getting information from the web page, coming in in person)

          Basically, assume that the accent will cause problems, and figure out if working around those problems is going to be a major issue, or a minor annoyance.

          1. Clisby*

            “– can your clients use an alternate method of communication if they can’t understand the receptionist (email, getting information from the web page, coming in in person)”

            I don’t know exactly what clients would be discussing over the phone, but is there any chance of offering a chat feature? I prefer that to a phone conversation any day, even when I’m dealing with a native English speaker.

    9. nn*

      That sounds tough and the sort of thing I’d circle around decisions with!

      How is the next-best candidate in comparison for grooming and reception work? What trade-offs would you be making with one or the other in the position and which are more easily absorbed?

    10. Koala dreams*

      If phone/reception is a big part of the job, or the primary part, it doesn’t make sense to hire for just the llama skills. To be honest, I feel it’s a common problem that employers just throw in reception duties with an unrelated job because they feel it’s easy, instead of seeing it as a valuable task that needs someone suitable for the job. It’s great that you have started to think about it now. Keep thinking in that direction.

      The accent is of course only a part of the communication skills needed for reception/phone work, but if people don’t understand the accent it’s more work to communicate with them, and I’m not sure it’s possible to bridge that gap over a short phone call. In person you can use body language and draw pictures, not so much over the phone. People get used to accents they hear often, but few people go the extra step to learn an accent they hear seldom.

    11. JessicaTate*

      I thought of something maybe way outside of the box… You said reception is essential, but not a high volume, and it’s B2B so probably less out-of-left-field stuff — which is why it’s tacked on to someone else’s work. And probably the phone reception work is where language barrier is the biggest.

      Are the phone reception duties pretty basic: answering phone, directing calls to the right people, taking messages? If so, there are some virtual receptionist services — with a live human receptionist — that I’ve come across when researching virtual phone systems for a dispersed, work-from-home staff. (Grasshopper comes to mind, but I know there are others). If it’s more custom or detailed reception work, I’m not sure that would work. But it’s an alternative option you might explore as a workaround to get the best groomer in the job.

    12. gsa*

      How much talking does the receptionist position have to do vs. how much explaining.

      Answer the phone and say, “Hello, Llamas R Us.”

      Or, “Let explain to you our 15-point basic service, our 20-point mid-level service…

      You will have to wait each skill set and depend on which one is most important and what percentage of the job. If I were a highly skilled llama groomer, the last thing I would want to do would be answer the telephone. You can probably say that about any highly skilled person.

      Good Luck.

    13. A*

      This might be too large of a shift – but would it be possible to eliminate the receptionist portion of the position and instead of communications handled directly between stakeholders? I’m a corporate buyer / sourcing specialist (both direct and indirect), so a ‘professional customer’ if you will, and I don’t think any of my suppliers/vendors/service providers outside the largest international conglomerates even have receptionists. I communicate directly with my sales reps, engineers, etc., and vice versa. When I’m looking for a new supplier, even if they have a phone number listed online I still default to the online contact form or email (or go through a broker).

      I had to think back a bit, but the last time I remember calling ‘reception’ at a supplier, or potential service provider, in a professional capacity – was in….. 2013ish, and it was a trucking company so antiquated they didn’t even have a website.

      You can always have an automatic recording setup that includes options for directions, hours, instructions to contacts sales (directing them to the online resource), or as a last resort voicemail – which it sounds like this candidate would be able to listen to and direct to the appropriate party.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      You may have to go with your second best person.

      If communication is part of the job, but people can’t understand this person then they really aren’t doing the job.

      I am that person on the other end of the phone, saying “pardon me? can you repeat that?… etc” I have very slight scaring in my ears. This combined with how crappy telephone service has gotten makes a really bad combination for me.

      I’d have to either email your business or find another company.

  14. Llamas@Law*

    Tips on building connections with folks during remote work? I started a new job recently (job was in the works prior to COVID). I’m a shareholder in a law firm, so making connections with the other attorneys in my office is super important – it is definitely a team atmosphere. It has been a struggle somewhat- everyone is super nice, but getting people to talk has been hard. My sense is that everyone (very small amount of staff in office, almost all attorneys have been working remotely near-exclusively) is seemingly busy, and it’s hard to try to get time. I’ve reached out to folks to try to schedule some time to talk or even get together if they’re comfortable, but haven’t been able to get commitments to talk. I know that everyone is really busy and that hopefully it will all happen in time, but this is hugely important right now for me and my future here. Any suggestions of ways that you’ve been able to foster and build relationships while working remotely?

    1. Ashley*

      Calling instead of e-mailing and texting has helped because you have a change for my water cooler style chats from time to time. I am also bracing extra politeness (including extra praise and thank yours) as this point and that has helped with a few co-workers.

    2. Golden Lioness*

      I have been in the same situation. What I did is look into people’s calendars and just sent the invite with wording such as “to align how our departments will support each other” or “to understand what issues you need support with and how I can help”

      This increased the acceptance to talk (Zoom mostly) and I was actually complimented on it. You talk a bit about each other’s roles, and as an introduction do an elevator pitch on your background, ask about theirs, and then it becomes a bit more personal.

      Good luck!

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I think one-on-one Zoom meetings or phone calls with willing people would be the best way to make personal connections you just can’t get in Zoom meeting with multiple attendees.

        The intern will have to rech out and ask for 30 minutes of their time or something similiar.

        1. Golden Lioness*

          Agreed, I sent this messages and set the meetings as one on ones. So far, everyone except one accepted to speak with me.

    3. ShysterB*

      I don’t know how easy it will be for someone who is new to the firm to launch this, but at my firm (AmLaw 100), some folks have taken it on themselves to schedule informal get-togethers with no set agenda. Folks can drop in for a bit and leave when they need to. For instance, one of the other attorneys on my floor set up a “6th Floor Happy Hour” that follows the firm town hall that is held every 1-2 weeks. I was there for about 15 minutes yesterday before I had to drop off.

      I set up a similar weekly “totally optional X team check-in” (where X refers to a particular litigation team). I and the other partner responsible for managing the team can spend 15-30 minutes just chatting with the associates, paralegals, and executive assistant from our X trial team. That’s followed by a similar Zoom session with the same partner and two former members of X team who moved to in-house positions.

      Others have set up similar regular or semi-regular Zoom meetings that are office-based (where we have small offices) or practice group based or totally-not-law-related-interest or the like. The key has been that it be relatively short, optional, not focused on “marketing in the age of COVID” or “let’s get your CLE” or “learn how to conduct virtual depositions,” etc. We have PLENTY of those things going on as well, and I’m all filled up on CLE for the next two years.

      That said, if your firm is offering those more formal or “substantive” events that allow even a brief opportunity for you to interact with other members of the firm, that can be a hook to starting to build relationships. Maybe even a hook to see if you can throw in, “hey, let’s have a follow-up discussion over virtual coffee …”

      I’d invite you to Thursday morning coffee anytime. :)

      1. Llamas@Law*

        Shyster B, thank you for your suggestions. They had also previously mentioned doing a Zoom happy hour, but no one scheduled it. If one’s not scheduled soon, I may just set one up myself and invite folks? I’ve been attending the group meetings when they meet for all of the groups, but there’s not too many (not a big firm).

        I like the idea of doing a marketing-based zoom. There’s a partner that has been starting to talk about this. Maybe I could team up with him and host one!

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve been paying more attention to my co-workers’ hobbies than before, finding ways to ask them questions as my expert. Having a problem with a nightmare of a knitting pattern, I go to A. Leaves bleaching on my geraniums, ask B. C seems stressed, ask for a puppy training story. And I’m trying to make sure to refer to each of them as the expert in something when it comes up meetings…
      I’ve weaponized my talkativeness. She asks me about X and I wind up my answer with “A you taught that to me, did I get it right?” Newboss needs something, I suggest asking B who is compulsive about archives. Etc.
      I haven’t managed to figure it out for people I don’t work directly with though, because I dont see them in the break room any more.

  15. Potatoes gonna potate*

    I’m still a bit perplexed as to why recruiters and employers keep asking why my company laid people off in March & April, and from what I’ve been reading on Linked In….I’m not the only one facing this. 

    When I first got laid off, I was worried about it reflecting badly on me. But I was reassured that its’ COVID and lots of people are getting laid off so it’s a no-brainer, companies will understand…..

    Yea…no. That hasn’t been my experience. Every single recruiter or employer I’ve spoken to has asked and expressed surprise at my company laying people off. My answer is usually “due to COVID, the company had to downsize and they reduced their staff by 70%”….which is not good enough. They press more or express surprise and I guess are hoping for more?

    Officially, I was given no reason. Unofficially, (which I found out afterwards) to put it crudely: the company was “bleeding money out the ass and needed to cut payroll.” I mean, it’s a no brainer that finances are the reason for layoffs no?

    If I have a good rapport with the person I’m speaking to, I’ll say that it came as a surprise but they must have been struggling financially.

    Am I off base in wondering — how much am I expected to know and share? Does it reflect on me that I didn’t know all the going ons behind the scenes? I was managing a team and I interviewed staff but I was not at the point where I was privvy to anyone’s salary information that I could have had any inkling of the financial health of my employer. 

    That or there’s something in my application or way I come across that makes it seem like I was fired for other reasons rather than part of a mass layoff (it was a mass layoff). 

    I guess it is all moot now since I’ve put the search on a hold and by the time I plan to begin looking, this will be a memory and hopefully not something to worry about…..

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Not helpful, but I would be highly suspicious about the overall intelligence level of these people. Seriously, the unemployment rate skyrocketed overnight. Sure, there’s some industries that were less impacted, but unless you were in one that overall wasn’t as badly effected this should be a no brainer.

      Slightly more helpfully, I do remember Alison had some posts that addressed this, maybe find them and see if there’s anything that might work better?

      1. Ladylike*

        I agree, this is really weird. In my recent experience, anytime anyone blames COVID for anything at work, everyone just gives a knowing nod and moves on.

    2. Sunset Maple*

      Oversharing would reflect poorly on you, rather than better. Being willing to blurt out your company’s financial info makes it look like you don’t understand or value discretion/professional norms.

      If you get pushback, you don’t have to admit that you don’t know. You can say something like “I’m sure you understand that I can’t share confidential Old Company information. You can expect me to show the same discretion as an employee for New Company.”

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        This is a great response. Just deliver it in a warm, “of course you understand” tone.

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Oversharing would reflect poorly on you, rather than better. Being willing to blurt out your company’s financial info makes it look like you don’t understand or value discretion/professional norms.

        Exactly! I mean what other reasons are there for downsizing/layoffs if not money

    3. CM*

      I wonder if they’re trying to get information out of you about your company.
      I would just repeat, “As you know, the pandemic has caused an economic downturn across the board, and many companies including my former employer have had layoffs.” You really don’t need to give a response past “pandemic” or “the pandemic affected my employer financially.”

    4. Speculating...*

      Could it be related to the line of business of your specific company, job or industry? For example, if you were an ER nurse or worked for a business in an essential industry like food production or toilet paper manufacturing, they might be surprised about layoffs. Or perhaps they (wrongly) assume that pandemic-related layoffs are only occurring for retail, food service or related positions?

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        That could be true. I’m in accounting. Gossip was that cuts were coming but COVID accelerated it. When I was let go I reached out to recruiters who said there was a hiring freeze in the industry but then a few weeks ago my applications started replying back. So maybe it was temp.

    5. anon for this two*

      This is completely a guess, but I would suspect that they are surprised that your former employer has financial problems and needed to lay people off. There is little other reason for a company to do layoffs right now. They might be asking about it because they are nosy.

      So I wouldn’t think of it as a reflection on you, rather on your former employer.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      If these interviewers are honestly surprised at this, they’re idiots. I’ve been laid off twice, and a simple answer of “downsizing” was never questioned and both times were way before this pandemic.

    7. Medieval_Minstrel*

      Yeah, I support you here. Like you, I was basically told “no one is going to hold against you the fact that you can’t get employed during COVID”, but at the same time almost everyone I meet says “It can’t be *that* bad!”. And I’m like : have you even seen the current situation right now?

      I had a training last week through my unemployment center that basically said : “We give jobs to people who already have jobs. If you’re sending out the message that you’re job-searching / seeking employment / looking for new opportunities, you’re never getting hired. You have to have a job and right now, your aim is to grab anything that goes and figure it out later.” I felt like it was quite depressing advice, especially since everything I was planning on doing (an overseas deployment that was cancelled 5 days before because of fears of COVID and a job prospect) were all held off.

      Bottom line : I agree with you and there’s a weird sentiment at the moment where people don’t quite believe that jobs got cancelled and firms shut down. It makes no sense.

    8. Aquawoman*

      It’s most likely that recent layoffs are due to covid-related financial issues but there’s a nonzero chance of being laid off for performance or other reasons. So it makes sense to ask but I don’t understand people who would follow up on it –seems like everyone should understand that the economy is not good right now.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Well, no. Layoff = restructuring or downsizing. If you lost your job due to performance reasons, you’re fired, not laid off. Even if you got chosen for the layoff due to not being the best performer, if it’s a layoff, it’s about cutting payroll.

    9. Annony*

      This is so weird. If they express surprise, you could try agreeing with them “Yeah, it was a surprise to me as well. This pandemic really was unprecedented and affected business in ways we were unable to predict.” If they press you could try redirecting them “Unfortunately, that’s all I can really tell you. If you would like to verify that I was laid off due to COVID-19, I’m sure HR can verify that information for you.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh so much this. Just keep saying the same thing in different ways. It sounds like a really stupid question and it’s okay just to restate what you have already said.

    10. Gatomon*

      I think people are assuming most of those layoffs are in more service-related occupations and only expecting to see restaurant or retail workers have been laid off. If you’re in a different line of work they may be surprised because there hasn’t been much focus or coverage on the impact on other occupations.

    11. Koala dreams*

      Your answer is fine and if people press more, you can repeat the same answer. Maybe making it extra clear by adding “and I was one of the people who was let go”?

      There’s something ironic about recruiters looking for accountants and then get confused by a clear, simple statement like that. Imagine their confusion when the conversation goes over into more technical business subjects, like cash flow or equity.

    12. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

      This is so bizarre – when I was recruiting, we became really familiar with layoffs happening in our industry. If I was interviewing someone whose most recent work history was one of those companies, I barely even had to ask why they left. As soon as they say layoff, I would go “Oh yeah, we have a lot of folks who came over to us thanks to that. So sorry to hear you got caught up in it” and then moved along.

      There is absolutely no reason a recruiter or company should not accept “layoff Covid-19” as a reason for leaving a company, and I would be HIGHLY suspicious of anyone who didn’t.

    13. Dagny*

      “Officially, I was given no reason. Unofficially, (which I found out afterwards) to put it crudely: the company was “bleeding money out the ass and needed to cut payroll.” I mean, it’s a no brainer that finances are the reason for layoffs no?”

      I’m a fan of being straightforward (without being unprofessional or crass). You explain that the company’s financial position was dire during the crisis; if they press, you say it was dire; if they still express surprise, you say, “Frankly, I was told by senior leadership that the company was bleeding money out of it’s rear end, except he didn’t use that word, and needed to cut payroll.” And then you say nothing.

      You can also go with other specifics: “My entire llama grooming department was laid off. The only person left is someone three levels up who also manages farm purchasing.”

    14. Darren*

      Frankly I think everyone saying people aren’t going to ask why you’ve been laid off are foolish and not thinking things through there are a lot of questions that need to be asked by the company doing their due diligence during hiring.

      Who are the first people that will be laid-off during a situation like this? The underperformers followed by the average employees. If you are searching for employees that exceed expectations you don’t want either of those so the question is how bad actually was it at the company that laid off people? They are going to have kept the kernel of the best people they can but was the situation bad enough they had to let go some exceptional employees or was it a convenient excuse to get rid of some dead-weight that they can search for better people to fill in a year or so when business picks up again?

      If it seems like an industry that wouldn’t have been significantly impacted they are going to naturally be a lot more willing to assume you are in the not-exceptional bucket unless they can understand what happened. If you are senior there is also the possibility that they are going to want to know how your company got into a situation where it wasn’t able to survive a situation like this. Being appropriately capitalised, with appropriate diversity in clients to manage risks can be the difference between a company surviving and it failing at the first significant obstacle.

      So depending on your situation yeah I could definitely see questioning happening but questioning that can be answered to make it clear that yeah it really was that bad for my company they had to let a lot of their good people go because my entire division was let go because of X.

    15. Piano Girl*

      I worked for a well-known company, who had previously been one of the local “players”, sponsoring charitable events, etc. Before I was hired, I thought they had all kinds of money. As a fellow accountant, though, I learned that some of their entities were financially supporting others. It was still a surprise when I got laid off, especially seeing the monthly bonus accruals we had to book each month across the board. All you can do is point out the change in the economy and leave it at that. Good luck!

  16. Liminally Maple*

    My resume lists my last job as running from Feb 2020-Mar 2020, at which point I was laid off due to COVID-19. I likely will be rehired in the fall, but I’m still job hunting. Do you think I need to mention why the job ended then in my cover letter, or given that everyone knows that my workplace (government) shut down, would it be redundant? I’m applying in the same city.

    1. Littorally*

      With such a short tenure, I’m not sure why you’d list it on your resume at all. Unless you’re using a CV (which discloses absolutely everything)?

      1. Liminally Maple*

        In the future I probably won’t. It was a temp job that was supposed to run through June, but the office shut down. My previous job ended in January, which seems kinda long to have as a gap at this point.

        1. CM*

          Then you could just list it as Feb-Mar and write (Temporary position) which I think is enough explanation. They don’t need to know it was originally meant to be a longer temp position.

        2. CheeryO*

          I don’t think that’s too long of a gap, especially considering that things ground to a halt beginning in March. I would leave it off unless there’s something compelling about it.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        With the update that this was a fixed-term contract, L.Maple is fine just listing it as is.
        During a previous recession, I did a lot of temping. What I did with my resume was to list the agency as my employer, with bullet points for specific position that I wanted to call attention to.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          What a weird nesting failure, this was supposed to be an answer to Daisy’s comment!

    2. Daisy Avalin*

      Maybe include a note under that job on your resume that it was slated to be a longer term role but due to COVID-19 the end date was sooner than expected?

      That way, even though it’s a very short stint, there’s a clear reason that isn’t ‘you sucked’.

  17. Triumphant Fox*

    How do you handle requests for references when you do not want to give a positive reference/haven’t been asked to be a reference? Do you just say “I can confirmed they worked here from x to y dates and they are not eligible for rehire?” What do you think is your responsibility to comment/warn the next person?

      1. voyager1*

        I wouldn’t say the part about ineligible for rehire unless:
        1. You know it is true.
        2. Are willing to handle any legal actions regarding giving that information out.

        I have always worked at places when a functioning HR and as staff we were to refer all reference checks to them.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      If you can’t provide a positive reference and would rather not say anything at all, it’s okay to say no to the former employee when asked to be a reference. If you want to be honest, just be factual. Leave opinions out of it and present the truth.

    2. BRR*

      You can give an honest reference, just confirm dates and if they’re eligible for rehire, or say it’s your policy to not provide a reference.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I actually think confirming dates only is the kindest way to go when the person being asked about didn’t even bother to ask can you be a reference.

      1. Remote HealthWorker*

        One thing to keep in mind is some employers dig up other references not just the provided ones. So don’t assume the employee provided you.

  18. Environmental Compliance*

    Finally have a standing desk at work! Any recommendations on a floor mat? I’m pretty short, and prefer something I can move easily out of the way. Was thinking the Topo Mini so far.

    1. Stelmselms*

      I have that one and I love it. It really does make you move around a bit and not stand in the same position (which is a good thing).

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I’m a fidgety person by nature, so I like the idea of a textured/contoured mat quite a bit. Right now I have concrete and my feet and hips are very sore, so something has to change.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        Do you wear shoes on it? I wear steel toes for work, so I’m also somewhat worried about wear and tear. I keep reading that they’re meant for bare/sock feet, which is not going to happen, but I also can’t imagine that most people actually don’t wear shoes on them.

    2. ampersand*

      I used the Anti Fatigue Comfort Floor Mat by Sky Mats (purchased on Amazon, has awesome reviews) when I had a standing desk. I have the same mats in my kitchen because standing on tile while cooking or washing dishes can hurt after awhile–they’re very comfortable.

  19. Mimmy*

    This is a long shot, but is there anyone here who has experience with teaching typing?

    I teach typing (and other keyboarding skills) to blind and visually impaired adults. I have to do it remotely because the center I work at is still closed due to COVID and probably will be for some time. I’m having a hard time figuring out the best way to provide instruction.

    When I’m actually with a student, I am able to watch their finger placement and see/hear what’s being typed on the screen since our computers are equipped with the appropriate assistive technology. At home, the students may not have those same options. I could have the student hold their phone camera or have someone else hold it, but that seems really awkward.

    Thanks!

    1. SomebodyElse*

      This may sound odd…. but can you request if they can sit in a place with a mirror behind them and pointed at the keyboard? I think you’d have to test it with a friend or someone else to see if it would work. Otherwise ask if they have a separate device that they can set up pointed at their keyboard like you mentioned.

      Or maybe require they use an external camera that can be moved to observe their keyboard?

      None of these are great options as resources could be an issue. Otherwise, can you ask them to record them typing that you both watch together (again not great for real time feedback).

      1. lobsterbot*

        i had to take a certification exam on line and they had me point my cell phone camera at the keyboard to watch what i was doing, this seems like it might work for some of these students.

    2. Mid*

      Do they have webcams? Could they angle the webcam to point at their keyboard instead of their face?

    3. VI Guy*

      You might want to look for social communities (Facebook for example) that are specific to the visually impaired, and ask them how they did well with learning. I know that my condition has a large online community and it includes those with the condition, their parents, friends, spouses, and occupational therapists. A lot of the questions are about “How can we do this better?” so yours would likely fit in well. You might get some suggestions here, yet I think you would be better off asking those who understand having to learn with the condition.

      If they have some vision (which most VI people do) then they can likely make the font super huge and practice that way.

    4. Jady*

      I don’t have any experience, but a quick google search shows there are software programs that do live heatmap tracking (showing what keys are being pressed by frequency). Would these people be able to install or use any kind of software like that, where this could be displayed through a screenshare during the lesson?

  20. blepkitty*

    I just wanted to drop by and thank everyone for the advice last week regarding my coworkers’ unhelpful trainings!

    We haven’t had another training, but I adapted some of the advice to push for what they were expecting on the “assignment” they gave me. After several emails in which I asked my coworker Jane what she was looking for on one of the questions, and she kept responding with unhelpful, indirect responses, we had a phone call. It was baffling–e.g. she insisted that it’s important I learn how they do things so that we can explain ourselves to clients (perfectly fair) but then later said “You’re not being judged on this!” (if it’s so important, why am I NOT being judged on it?)–but I was at least left overall less concerned that I’m going to be fired.

    I’m also more convinced now that I’ll actually be able to get answers to some of my other questions, if I just think of multiple ways to approach it in advance, for when Jane misinterprets what I say or dodges the actual question.

  21. Anon Fed*

    Our agency-wide discussion on how to identify systemic barriers to our BIPOC stakeholders has devolved into a series of white employees demanding acknowledgement that they individually are not racist, and that is in fact racist to take minority status into account when providing services. The whole conversation is incredibly disheartening and rage-making, and I just don’t know what else to contribute to the dialog at this point.

    1. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

      That sucks. I don’t know how much you can recommend this in a professional context, but as much as you can, I would tell people to read the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.

      1. Anon Fed*

        Thank you for the recommendation- we’ve done a lot of resource sharing as well, I think the real barrier is that some of my coworkers don’t think they need to flagellate themselves because “I don’t turn anyone away- I treat everyone equally!”.

        1. pancakes*

          They aren’t being asked to flagellate themselves, though. Not even a tiny bit. There’s a huge disconnect if that’s what they’re thinking is expected of them, and I think you’ll have to identify exactly where/why that is in order to have any degree of success with this. The frequency with which white people respond to DiAngelo’s workshops that way has itself been written about pretty extensively. I’ll drop a link to a good read in a separate reply.

        2. pancakes*

          I also want to recommend a much shorter read by DiAngelo that could be helpful for your colleagues and doesn’t require them to commit to reading a full book. It’s titled, “How White People Handle Diversity Training in the Workplace.” Will link separately.

    2. Star*

      Aughghgh. I am so sorry. I’m sure you’d say, “the purpose of this discussion is not to designate anyone Racist or Not Racist but to determine ways in which race unconsciously affects how stakeholders are treated and how to ameliorate those effects so that everyone will be treated equitably” if you could, but it sounds like even something that softened (notice the passive voice woven through my phrasing there, ugh) wouldn’t be accepted.

      I am so sorry.

      1. Anon Fed*

        It’s a great suggestion- multiple people made those points in the discussion, but other coworkers are having a hard time not taking it personally that our policies might not be equitable. The framing of the discussion was basically “This is a good time to evaluate if our policies are racist” which immediately raised hackles I think. On the other hand, I hate the idea that we have to disguise and soft pedal discussions on this kind of thing.

        1. kt*

          This is what I’ve observed in many, many discussions on racism — it really can quickly devolve into “but I’m a good person!” which really wasn’t the point. I don’t know how to deal with this very well because I’m a cruel and unfeeling numbers-driver STEM person (ok, not exactly, but I don’t understand the need for the ego-stroking and cupcakes for simply not being a dues-paying member of an explicitly white supremacist group, nor do I understand why everything has to be about meeeeeeeeee). When I have dealt with it successfully in a small group context, I guess I’ve been able to say, “You know, I appreciate your personal approach, and I’d like to turn the conversation back to the metrics (or perceptions) of our organization. Our survey data show that…”

        2. Observer*

          Maybe change the framing – Not “are our policies racist?” But “Do our policies have racist or inequitable effects?”

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        “Our goal is to find ways to X, what are some possibilities there? I’ve heard of A, B, could they fit in our budget / time / company culture?” and frankly, ignore the attempts to lay or evade blame.

        Focus hard on wanting to find solutions to try, and it can sometimes bypass the white guilt.

        I know I usually want to dig into the root causes, but on this issue, on a professional level, you can start with the outcomes you want to see (more BIPOC recruitment, more BIPOC executives, etc) and use that to get the ball rolling.

        Good luck, and thanks for the work.

    3. Kramerica Industries*

      Same. I’m at a large organization and while they can put out as many “we’re trying to do the right thing” messages as they want, how do you target microaggressions? We have workplace training on promoting diversity, but no one ever wants to address the uncomfortable conversations of when white coworkers say “of course he got the promotion, he’s the right colour”.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        oog. That *has* to come from top management on down, with regular consistent pushback against those comments. Mgmt has to create a culture where people recognize microaggressions and are encouraged to speak up about them.

        I don’t know exactly how my company has done it, but the ‘four people to report problems to, including one that’s really anonymous’ might help.

    4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      The agency may not be able to do this (I don’t know what regulations there are), but could you float an unconscious bias training/testing? By a trained third-party with experience leading such trainings, of course, *not* someone internal or someone who just did some Wikipedia reading the night before leading it (not that I’ve been through something like that before).

    5. Ashley*

      If you can play music at your desk there is a song (I think from Avenue Q) that says we are all a little bit racist. My slight passive aggressive self loves those types of moves.
      There was a good piece from NPR about who to confront on discussing racism and having those conversations. If it is someone I work with closely I would try to have a one on one conversation. If it is someone I just see in the hallway I would probably avoid addressing it. If you have a supportive manager or HR it might be worth having a bigger picture discussion about what racism means and even how we are changing what being racists means.

    6. Wendyroo*

      Hey, at least you’ve identified what those systemic barriers are! Sounds like you’ve got a list of people to skip over for promotions and leadership opportunities. If they aren’t willing to be part of the solution, they are part of the problem.

    7. OtterB*

      All you can do, I think, is emphasize that SYSTEMIC means happening in the larger society in ways that everyone takes for granted. So (a) you’re not accusing individual employees deliberately discriminating on the basis of race which everyone (ideally) agrees is wrong, but that (b) your BIPOC stakeholders operate in a world that has systemically disadvantaged them and if you want to serve them properly you need to understand their context. “Context” is a nice, non-threatening word. But properly operationalizing it could get you to those systemic barriers.

    8. Lore*

      I have found a lot of value in this context in Ibram Kendi’s discussion of the meaninglessness of the term “not racist.” The two key things: The opposite of racist isn’t “not racist.” It’s antiracist. In a racist society, if you’re not actively working against structures of racism, you’re acquiescing to them, so to be “not racist” is opting out of engaging with overthrowing racism. And the other is that people aren’t racist or antiracist, actions and structures and policies and choices are. Every person raised in a society built on structural racism is going to at least sometimes take actions or make choices or have thoughts that are racist, because that’s the air we breathe. The goal is to use your voice/choices/actions to create structures of power and policy that are not racist.

    9. Gatomon*

      Do these people need to be involved? They are derailing the conversation by turning the focus to themselves instead of addressing the topic at hand. I don’t see people with this viewpoint coming around to add value and it may torpedo the whole effort if it can’t be reigned in. Perhaps someone in leadership can speak with them separately about why their statements are emblematic of the problem so the rest of the group can continue the conversation effectively.

      That isn’t to say derailing is what I think they are trying to do, but it’s the effect, and if you’re going to get anywhere these responses can’t be allowed to continue.

  22. Unsure*

    My company is transitioning from mandated WFH to Partial WFH and rolled out a new policy with the caveat that permission can be revoked for performance issues. Does this strike any fellow readers as odd, as typical, etc? My understanding was we are all working remotely for our own safety, not as a “perk.” Any thoughts appreciated!

    1. juliebulie*

      Apparently your employer thinks the crisis is over, and WFH is back to being a privilege. Or at least they want you to start thinking of it that way.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes it’s odd. Sounds like your company definitely views WFH as a benefit and not for the safety of their employees. Most of my co-workers were already full time remote, but our parent company sent something out a few weeks ago that they don’t expect anyone to be back in an office before next year, but if some wanted to go back, they could work it out with their manager to do so safely. Some people just have it in their head that WFH = paying people to slack off, and you’ll never change their minds.

    3. CheeryO*

      I don’t think that’s too odd. Many employers are moving towards getting people back in the office with reduced density, so if someone has performance issues, then maybe they’ll have to come in while others who have proven their ability to work remotely get to continue doing so. The only wrinkle is that they should really still be providing WFH as an option for anyone with health concerns or childcare issues.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        The obvious problem with that (as reasonable as it sounds) is the potential overlap between those with caring responsibilities and no access to help/daycare/respite, and those running at lower productivity than normal.

    4. Ali G*

      I agree with CheeryO. As states are opening back up, it’s not crazy to expect people to go back to work, as long as the office is safe to go to. Someone has to be first, and I don’t see why those that don’t seem to be doing as well at home shouldn’t be first.
      If it was a perk for your company before the pandemic hit, it may well revert back once things are more stable.

    5. Ewesername*

      Our company noticed that some of our employees really struggled with accountability while doing WFH. Not referring to child care issues or family related issues. It was more “yeah, I guess I could be online between this and that time”, not reporting in for phone / video meetings, projects falling very behind, non communication, and the like. It showed us who needed more guidance to establish a structure to work independently and they were brought back first. Most are working from home again with the understanding that if they fall back into old habits, they’ll have to come back to the office. Those working in the office aren’t necessarily in their regular spots, either. We’ve had to spread everyone out. We’re really just trying to balance everyone’s needs along with safety concerns while trying out keep the company going.

      1. HR Exec Popping In*

        This does not sound odd to me. We are currently planning our return to the office. People that have child or dependent care issues can continue to work remotely. Others that just prefer to continue to work remotely can do so if their job allows with the exception of individuals with performance issues.

  23. Michelle*

    We returned to the office after being shut down for 3 months. I’m struggling with the required masks. I’ve tried all types and everything makes my nose run and my throat scratchy, which are possible symptoms of COVID so I just have to suffer. I can do 90% of my job from home but because our office is against work from home*, I’m not allowed to do so. . I tried to talk to my boss but he said “if we make an exception for you we have to make exceptions for everyone”, which is not true. My husband is high-risk (due to underlying medical condition), but he actually had COVID in late March/early April. He asked his doctor during his follow-up visit if he could get it again and the doctor said we don’t know yet, there is not enough data. So I worry about him possibly being reinfected.

    * We did WFH during the shutdown. It’s the only time in 18 years I’ve worked for this company that we were allowed to do so. Some executives are very rarely allowed work from home.

    1. Choggy*

      I hate that companies have to open and are making the wearing of masks and social distancing mandatory instead of allowing those who can to continue working from home. But I’m also concerned by your statement about your possible symptoms of Covid. Have you been tested, especially since your husband actually had it? Does your ask its employees to do a self-certification before coming into the office (temp check, symptoms of Covid or exposure)?

      1. Michelle*

        I was tested and it was negative. My husband had it in late March (tested March 23, confirmed March 26, was in isolation until April 10. I was tested March 30 and both of us tested on April 10- both negative). We do self-certification at work and touchless temperature checks. My husband was exposed at his work.

        When I’m at home I don’t get a runny nose or scratchy throat. It’s just when I wear the mask at work all day. I also wear a mask when I have to go to the grocery and since it’s (usually) less than an hour, I don’t have an issue. I get what I need, I get out, I don’t linger.

        I’ve tried paper masks and several different type of cloth masks, including one with a filter and “kinetic flow cover” that is supposed to help keep the masks cooler but it doesn’t seem to help. I’m not against wearing masks, I just can’t find one that doesn’t make my nose run and throat scratchy.

        1. kt*

          Yeah, I don’t have the scratchy throat, but I definitely had a mask that made my nose run non-stop. It’s not great.

          Instead of a mask, you could consider a face shield (pretty different, and it would also cause people to look at you funny). It’s not the same but has some benefit. Or you could try switching out masks every 2 hours.

          Sounds like your boss is not great :( as there’s an easy-ish solution to this and it doesn’t seem like it’ll work out…

        2. Eleaner*

          Might not be applicable in your situation, but I’ve found that if my mask or face gets a little bit of one of my allergens on it that I have similar issues, but I have allergies and asthma. Hope this gives you another avenue to explore/eliminate!

    2. Coverage Associate*

      I was just reading some science about textile allergies. I can’t post a link, but I would look for a plain white mask and check what you’re washing them with. Apparently, reactions to textiles are usually to the dyes.

      But the studies were years before this, so don’t deal with masks.

      1. pancakes*

        That’s a good point. It might be worth experimenting with changing your laundry detergent, too, to something unscented and very gentle.

    3. TurtleIScream*

      If you’re wearing a mask at work, I assume you are taking meal breaks. Are you putting on a fresh mask after eating? I noticed I was having problems with my mask, and I remembered I ate some trail mix. I had nut dust in my filter!

      If that’s not the issue, face shields are the way to go. They also have the advantage of allowing for more non verbal communication.

    4. Koala dreams*

      Shouldn’t your office already be allowing everybody with a scratchy throat and a runny nose to work from home? That should be the general rule, not an exception. Your boss doesn’t make sense. I feel for you. The purpose of wearing masks is to lower the risk, not to make people feel ill.

      1. Michelle*

        I only have the runny nose and scratchy throat when I’m wearing the mask. At home, in the car, etc. I ‘m fine. I think I”m going to try some Benadryl and see if it’s maybe a textile allergy like Coverage Associate above suggested.

    5. A*

      Maybe try swapping out the masks a few times a day, see if that helps? I will also be required to wear one all day when I return to the office, and have concerns so I’ve been practicing at home. It was so much better when I changed it out every few hours (mine are washable, non medical grade ones – purchased from a local tailor). Prior to that I was also getting a running nose, and my skin was breaking out.

  24. SQL Coder Cat*

    How do you push back on prejudice during conference calls when you aren’t able to speak?

    So last Friday, we had an ‘open mic’ video call for my division to talk about how folks were doing with the protests and what they needed to support them. The division VP had all the participants muted, and would unmute folks one at a time as their turn came up. The THIRD (!) speaker was the Obligatory Clueless White Male who went on a ten minute rant about how white privilege doesn’t exist. If we had been in a room, you’d have been able to hear the gasps of horror. Instead, they just let him keep going why my teammates and I texted each other, furious and hurt. When he finally trailed off, the VP said something awkward and moved on. This is someone who I know by name and never interact with, but I feel like I have to say something to someone, I just don’t know what or how.

    Then Monday, I was remote viewing a roundtable on fighting racism in higher ed. Of the three speakers, one was the Obligatory Clueless White Male. We were treated to several doozies such as ‘The protests *here* have been peaceful” and a long story about how great it is to see the resentful student athletes at the beginning of the year Christian Athletes Association event (resentful because they’ve been forced to come by their coaches) and how by the end of the first term they’re hanging out by teams instead of by race. From a public university president. There was no option to comment or question, and the moderator didn’t push back at all.

    Both of these cases made me super uncomfortable. I’d like to think if it had been in person I could have said something, or at least made my disapproval clear, but given the technological limitations there was no way to respond in the moment.

    So I’m looking for suggestions on how to respond afterwards. Thanks.

    1. Star*

      Email the VP and other moderators, and see if you can get others to email them as well?

      If I were emailing them I would make a bit of a project of it, with cites for my rebuttals to CWM’s points, but that may be necessary or may be overkill, depending.

      1. Reba*

        I wouldn’t necessarily spend time disputing the CWM points.

        I’d thank the higher ups for holding the meeting, encourage them to hold more meetings, and key point — get someone who is a real moderator to moderate them!! These conversations will be difficult and moderating is a real, skilled role.

        You can frame this in a collaborative tone, even while registering your disagreement with both the commentary and the way it was handled inadequately.

        In the moment, are these video calls with a chat? that could be an avenue for speaking up when it’s not your turn or your place(?) to unmute.

        1. need a new screen name and have no imagination*

          second the idea of using chat in the moment, if it’s available. it’s been a good way to support speakers, raise questions, etc. in meetings where everyone is muted except for one or two people.

        2. SQL Coder Cat*

          The Friday call had chat, the Monday broadcast did not. This is great advice, thank you Reba!

      2. cmcinnyc*

        This is poor moderation. A good moderator needs to step in when someone derails the topic, goes on too long, or becomes offensive. It takes confidence and aplomb to moderate in the best of times and takes real guts to moderate when things are truly heated. Maybe if you and your coworkers reached out to the mods and requested a professional, out-of-company moderator? That wouldn’t happen at my company now because we’re running on fumes, but we have the good luck to have several people who are trained moderators (and lawyers, and senior, and POC). Letting this kind of discussion become a free for all does more harm than doing nothing.

    2. irene adler*

      I think I’d leave that Zoom meeting. Hopefully others will do likewise. That would have someone wondering, “Gee, why did folks leave all of a sudden?”.
      Why should you have to listen to that?

      I wish Zoom users would employ a strong moderator to short-circuit these long-winded and/or otherwise ignorant statements. I moderate at meetings and I do move things along when folks diverge or can’t wrap up quickly. Never had a negative response to doing so. Quite the opposite.

    3. voyager1*

      This is the problem with open mic, your going to get a multitude of views. These kind of conversations really need someone acting as a moderator.

    4. Wendyroo*

      Push back as a group. If they are genuinely trying to have a productive conversation about fighting racism, then they should not allow anyone to gaslight BIPOC and ridicule their concerns. It’s not supportive or productive, and it does more harm than not saying anything at all.

    5. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I’d have argued in the chat or left.

      And either in the chat or afterwards, you can send a note to the moderator saying something like “it isn’t a good use of the organization’s time to share information that is not be true. Moreover, this undermine our attempts are diversity and inclusion. There’s a large body of evidence on the existence of what is colloquially called ‘white privilege’ – here are some studies and articles about studies showing that in the fields of employment, health, and housing. [insert 2-4 links to strong pieces – there are many]. If time is a constraint in our next call related to racism, I think sharing information like this might prevent the distraction of someone sharing so much incorrect information about the topic. And it could make the focus of the conversation what we can do to move forward.”

      Blunt and factual.

      In terms of the remote event – it might be possible to comment on social media if you want to escalate things if they don’t allow comments in-session.

  25. Sunflower*

    Does this situation have anyone finding themselves wanting to do more impactful work? I’m an event planner at a big consulting firm and I just can’t get behind my company’s mission. I’ve worked here for a year, it’s not a fit. I used to work in BigLaw and felt more behind what we did there! I don’t need to be saving people but I’m really realizing that even though I’m working long, hard hours I don’t feel like I’m making an impact with the work I do. I get done 12 hour days and feel like all the work I’ve done doesn’t really contribute to anything. I’d explored a more helping profession before (speech pathology or therapist) but my passion didn’t outweigh the weight of schooling and salary limitations. I’m heavily looking into medical device sales but nervous about the competition with no experience.

    Not necessarily looking for advice (although ideas are welcome!) just wondering if this is making other people reflect on the careers and work they are doing?

    1. TinyStrawberries*

      The uprisings have definitely cemented my plan to take graduate classes to be able to make more of an racial
      equity impact in my field. Have you considered making a plan for how you in your area can make change? I know sometimes as an event planner you’re in charge of finding vendors – is it possible to start hiring more vendors owned by BIPOC, making sure that the company you’re at is paying contract staff equitably, etc? This might help with the feelings of helplessness!

      1. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

        This is good advice. A lot of people think they have to totally overhaul their life and career in order to do something good, but you don’t have to do that! You can start making positive changes from right where you are.

        That said, Sunflower, I totally get the feeling of not making an impact with your work, and if you truly want to leave your job, I think you can. Just don’t think you HAVE to leave. Even now, you can start making a list of ways that you can an impact right now, no matter how small they seem. Every little thing adds up.

      2. Nita*

        Absolutely. I was involved in a really amazing youth outreach program as a participant years ago. It was very diverse and most of us ended up going into engineering and architecture. I’d been batting around the idea of getting my company involved for years, but the response back then was lukewarm. I’m going to put the idea out there again, and I think the response now will be very different. It’s not happening tomorrow, but when this social distancing thing ends… I’m ready to take the lead in organizing this.

    2. Web Crawler*

      I’ve just accepted that my job isn’t gonna be meaningful- I work in IT for a bank. It’s just a job that gives me money (so I can donate to bail funds and other causes) and flexibility, and doesn’t take too much of my energy so I have more brainspace to devote to stuff I actually care about. Besides, I get paid enough that my partner doesn’t have to work, and she spends that time volunteering. So even though my job itself has no impact, I think me having this position is a net gain.

    3. Bostonian*

      All the time. The work I do is very rewarding, and I know that where I am and what I do helps people, but it’s in an industry that has very low public trust/negative perception. I do think about doing work that’s “more fulfilling” (which to me means working to change something I’m more passionate about, like the environment or animal welfare).

      This comes even more to a head during times when issues of social and racial injustice are at the forefront in the media. It makes me wish my life (including my full-time job) had more impact.

      One idea for you is the possibility of being involved in volunteer work or activism outside of the job? I know you said you work long hours, but if you’re doing something more fulfilling outside of work, it might not feel so much like work. (This idea is explored in more detail in Adam Grant’s “Give and Take”, which I would recommend reading!)

      1. Eether Eyether*

        Yes! It’s like a physical craving for me, to want to help others. I’ve been able get involved with some meaningful work in my current position (legal admin at a large company), of which there is not a lot, and it has helped. I’ve been asking to assist with this type of work for 4 years and finally, due to COVID and one of my bosses being overwhelmed with that work, she desperately needed help.

    4. Cedrus Libani*

      My first job was working on SARS. I’m doing something else now, and while I’m proud of my work in general…it’s mostly business as usual here, because I’m not useful in the current moment. And I’m watching former colleagues kicking butt on the front lines, and I’m not there with them, and I feel like a schmuck.

      If I was better at my job, I’d be doing more useful work. That’s what I’m trying to do with that nervous energy. I’m pretty good, but I can get better. My boss and team lead are doing COVID work while I fend off customers (with unrelated issues) on their behalf, because they’re better than me, and it needs to get done faster than I can do it. Gonna get there someday; gotta hustle for it, though.

    5. PX*

      Its something I think about quite a bit, but as my motto is work to live, not live to work – I can put up with a certain amount of “this is just what gets the bills/donations/holidays paid” as long as the overall environment is okay.

      But you can definitely think about what you can do *in your current situation* that could make a difference. As someone suggested, trying to make sure that most of the vendors you work with are BIPOC owned makes a difference. If you’re in a position to volunteer your time/resource to causes you believe in, that makes a difference. If you really wanted to go the extra mile, can you work on getting your company to do some pro-bono work/support an organisation that does work you believe in?

      Basically, I’m all about start where you are, and see if there are small changes you can make that would help.

    6. ...*

      If you’re looking to do something ethically sound medical device sales in an interesting choice. There is a lot of shady-ness that goes in on any type of medical or drug sales.

      1. Miki*

        The New Yorker had a great article called “Do Some Surgical Implants Do More Harm Than Good?” which was very eye-opening on this subject and has some links which would be really useful for exploring this issue more deeply.

    7. Medieval_Minstrel*

      Your situation really resonates with me and most of my friends (all recent grads, 1-3 years, less than 30 years olds). Yes, I do feel like everyone is pushing for meaning and making a positive impact in this world. It really matters.

      And yet, for me, personally, it kind of went the other way around : I am only more convinced that the career I wish to break into is meaningful (becoming a civil servant, not in the US or UK, where I could help people out rather than enrich some big firm).
      But I’m still not there yet, all hiring seem to have been put on hold. And as the crisis goes on and unemployment stretches, I’m looking at anything that could hire me while making use of my skills : including many branches that I previously shunned, such as lobbyism etc. I’ve expanded my outlooks far beyond finding meaningful work, in a desperate grab for stability.
      Loved ones -that pride themselves in being liberals- are quite unhappy when I say that. But it’s so easy to criticise! When you have no job prospect in the near future, and with the huge economic crisis looming in my country, I feel that looking at job prospects only though the lease of “meaning” rather than “food on the table” is short-sighted.

      This is not to criticize you at all, and I would absolutely feel the same in your place : I’m just pitching in with a different point of view – that is sadly very much driven by fear, in my case. I wish you the best of luck in your search for impactful work : the world needs more people thinking like you do!

    8. BeeJiddy*

      I’m currently undertaking a science degree, and my particular double major is the sort of thing you could take in a very frivolous direction (making fun products that aren’t of any real use and may be considered harmful by some people) or a healthcare direction. I always knew that I wanted to incorporate my values into whatever I did post-uni but 2020 in general, esp. Covid-19, has really cemented the idea that for my own life satisfaction I needed to go the second route. I absolutely do not sit in judgement of people who have gone the first route, especially since the money is much better, but it’s not for me.

  26. juliebulie*

    I have a pesky problem at work. I prepare user documents. I get my info from project documents written by SMEs. If I have a question, I go to a SME. If there is a fact that isn’t available yet, I put a note in the document for review.

    Most reviewers are great. They catch all kinds of mistakes and ask the right kinds of questions. But there is one reviewer – a project lead, so I can’t skip him – who makes comments like:

    – “I think this is wrong” [no further explanation or corrected information]

    – “Not sure about this, ask Dave” [Dave is the one who gave me this info; or Dave doesn’t know]

    – “Check the project document” [I did check it, the info isn’t there]

    – “This should be 17” [project document says something different – and that’s why I feel insecure about relying on the project document]

    – “This might change” [but it hasn’t changed yet, so this doesn’t help me. Also, change to what? When??]

    The comments either create doubt where there previously was none, or they send me on a wild goose chase to track down an answer to something that he is actually responsible for.

    None of the other project leads do this. He should definitely know all of the teapot specifications. It’s like he thinks that if he puts a question mark next to every fact, he won’t be responsible if something goes wrong. That’s not how it works!

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      Are you going back to him for follow up answers? Can you make this thing that is annoying for you also politely annoying for him? ‘Hi Dave, this info isn’t in the project document. Can you tell me what it should be / Do you have any other suggestions for where to look?’ ‘Hi Dave, can you give me more information about what’s wrong?’ Etc. Even if he doesn’t reply, you’ve shifted the responsibility back to him

      1. juliebulie*

        Well, if there’s already some information in place and he’s just questioning it, I will do a quick search/query of the proper people/places; if this isn’t fruitful, I stick with the info I already had.

        If I am trying to fill in a blank that he should know the answer to, and he directs me to everywhere except him, I jump through all the hoops and tell my boss, who tells my grandboss, who tells Fergus’s boss that I need this info. Fergus then gets Dave to determine the answer. (Dave was going to do it eventually.)

        This is ridiculous. Also, if Dave is going to get this info in a couple of months, don’t tell me to ask him about it NOW. Or, ask him to do it now so that I can get the answer now… whatever… I’m exhausted just thinking about this.

        But in general, just throwing it back to Fergus does not solve the problem because he will sit on it forever. One time he actually marked up a document a month after it was released. Um… thanks?

    2. CM*

      A few thoughts:
      You could give him some guidance about the types of comments you’re looking for, like, “Please provide a source for any information that needs to be corrected, such as ‘Section 4.3, Page 18 of the project document’.”
      You could follow up with him by phone, checking with him on each item, explaining how you plan to resolve it, and then sending him an email with a summary of his comments and how each was resolved.
      You could ask your manager for advice — that way your manager would be on notice this problem was happening, and you could get some clear guidance about how much wild goose-chasing you’re obligated to do.
      I also like Friday afternoon fever’s suggestion about asking him to provide the information instead of chasing it down yourself. Then even if he doesn’t respond, you could note that he didn’t provide additional information so you’re leaving it as is, and then have him sign off on that final version.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        All of this.

        I’m in a similar situation and in my case, it seems like the reviewer is just terrible at their job (including reviewing) and expect others to do their work.

      2. juliebulie*

        Unfortunately, some of these blanks really have to be filled in. And my boss is definitely aware of this.

        Sometimes the info simply isn’t available yet, but Fergus is the one who’s in charge of getting it, yet he often doesn’t seem to know whether anyone is working on that or not.

        A problem I have picked up on somewhat with Fergus is that he seems really insecure about his knowledge of the teapots he’s responsible for. He has been working with them for like 10 years so that’s hard to understand, but he really hesitates to commit to specific facts.

        (There have been additional problems with Fergus, like asking women to do clerical tasks for him. He’s getting better, slowly…)

        1. J.B.*

          In that case I would follow up with a phone call, plan on it to be a long one. Ask him point by point and have him look up the references to confirm. Sometimes you can train the person to do the looking up in advance next time.

    3. Lyudie*

      Just showing my solidarity as someone dependent on SME reviews for 20+ years…it is a thing, sigh.

  27. Dress codes*

    I know most of the talk about work post-pandemic has been about remote work, but how hard do folks think it will be to go back to business casual or “above” dress codes? I’m in a law firm that’s a little old-school (staff can only wear jeans on Friday, no one would ever wear shorts or gym clothes, etc.) but has never been a full-suit place unless someone was going to court or meeting with a client. We’re starting to ease people back in to the office, and I’ve noticed that the skeleton crew here is always in jeans and the attorneys are wearing super-casual clothes. Which is fine and makes total sense! But I feel like this is one aspect of the pandemic that hasn’t been talked about much and I’m so intrigued to see if people will voluntarily go back to something more formal when things are back to normal or if dress codes will start to relax in more conservative industries.

    1. Not Me*

      I’m in almost exactly the same situation! I’m actually part of our firm’s “back to work” committee making decisions on when and how we’ll all safely return to our offices, and I suggested we not tackle the issue of dress code. I’m also pretty high up in the HR management hierarchy, so it is a decision I can make, and I’ve warned our ER team to be ready for people to start complaining. It just seems like the dress code isn’t something we need to be overly concerned about at this time. But, I am curious to see who has a problem with that and who takes advantage of it and ruins it for everyone else.

    2. Reba*

      As much as I am enjoying making every day Stretchy Pants Day while working at home… I am actually looking forward to dressing up a bit more when we eventually go back, too. I am a clothes person, though!

    3. Coverage Associate*

      Same! We’re still all working remotely at my firm, but HR is trying to put the dress code back in place for even internal video calls. I told them this was not what the CEOs explained and would be really hard for me. I don’t have business casual clothes for no air conditioning. (I wear sweaters to the office year round.) I can’t buy them with stores still closed. I tried ordering online, and things are taking 6 weeks to arrive, from usually reliable companies. Waiting for a response from HR.

    4. Policy Wonk*

      We are the same, but I think for us the issue is that our building is not open to non-staff except in very rare circumstances, so people are comfortable wearing casual clothes. I am sure that as soon as we are open for meetings and visitors people will go back to the standard wardrobe. Much like your situation, this would be full suit for certain types of meetings, and less dressy but businesslike clothes for other days (with the emergency blazer/tie in the closet for those unexpected meetings.)

    5. cmcinnyc*

      I confess I haven’t really switched out my wardrobe yet because I’m not dressing professionally–ever. I dread this.

    6. A*

      My work environment was already casual (technically they require ‘business casual’ but jeans are always allowed, and people walk around in basic tshirts etc., really just drawing the line at tank tops, band Ts etc.), but I’m definitely making some changes. Mostly that I plan to never return to wireless bras again – F that noise. Bralettes from here on out, I don’t care if it gives me a uniboob and makes some ‘blouses’ look weird. I work better when I’m comfortable, and have no need to climb the corporate ladder any higher : )

      Luckily everywhere I’ve worked, including my current employer, has had at least one person (I hate to say it, but, “that guy”) who wears open toed sandals, board shorts, beer branded shirts etc. so I always have had a bottom-of-the-barrel threshold to work off of.

    7. HR Exec Popping In*

      I do think that this will have a prolonged effect on what is considered “work clothing”. I am currently work somewhere where jeans are normal, but everyone wears professional tops and regularly jackets. But on video calls, we all are showing up in t-shirts right now. Even the CEO. When the time comes I plan on returning to work and dressing slightly nicer than I am at home but not much. :)

    8. A Frayed Knot*

      I normally wear a suit most days, though it’s not required. I have decided that my ‘dry clean only’ clothes will be staying in the closet for a while. I’d rather be able to throw clothes in the washer and dryer immediately should I encounter lots of … people.

    9. Avasarala*

      I work in a conservative and insufferably humid area and have decided I am no longer wearing nude tights/pantyhose. I’ll wear tights for warmth, but I cannot make myself put on those nude stockings in summer and I will die on this hill.

  28. Retail not Retail*

    Has anyone asked their management about BLM or diversity?

    I emailed my manager’s manager (manager would be useless) to say hey, comparable site has released a statement, will we? Comparable site is in a whiter more conservative part of the state so we should not be overshadowed by them! If they can do it…

    1. ex-tech guy*

      A group at my workplace asked the company to respond internally when they had not done so immediately of their own volition. That prompted the most awkward all-hands meeting of my life, although bless management’s hearts, they tried. Now the same group has been drafting a list of suggestions for policy changes. I have contributed to that list, but I probably won’t sign the formal letter when they send it because I don’t agree with everything on the list.

      (A few notes on this: I work at a public agency that is whiter than the community it serves. The primary people involved in pushing the agency on these issues right now are white although there is certainly input from colleagues of color. I don’t really know what to make of this aspect of it.)

    2. IndoMex*

      Check out the link in Rachel Cargle’s Instagram for email templates to push for employer, school district (from the parent perspective), and university (from the student perspective) accountability for racial justice. She gives permission to copy/paste or you can use it as a starting point.

    3. LDF*

      Have they put any internal policies in place,or donated any money? If so then yeah, you could encourage them to put out a statement and mention concrete things they are doing or will so. If not, I’d say push for those things, a statement with nothing behind it isn’t much in my opinion. Others may feel differently though.

    4. Boo*

      Yes! My employer sent out a mass email that included – along with all the buzz words / not-so-helpful fluff, also included the announcement of several million dollar donations. My team and I (power in numbers!) asked for clarification on what organizations, and what the reasoning was behind each selection. Heard back by the end of the day, and thankfully had some really wonderful and thoughtful information. Including, as we had hoped, the decision not to donate to the BLM org directly in light of the recent lack of transparency on where those funds are actually being spent (anyone interested in more, see the recent Reddit AMA). To be clear, we 100% support the movement, it’s just the current uncertainty of that particular financial entity that we were concerned with. We were very happy to find that the money was dispersed mostly on a more local level, funding individual chapters and local efforts.

  29. NERecruiter*

    Anyone work in or tangentially in recruiting space in New England (or elsewhere) that can share successful efforts to develop a diverse candidate pipeline as well as select more diverse candidates? My org has been committed to improving the diversity of our candidate pool and staff but we have struggled to make progress in this area (please assume for the sake of this discussion that our leadership is genuinely committed to and supportive of any changes we can make to do better). Some context that might help: We are a mid-size non-profit, our leadership team is pretty evenly split from a gender perspective but very little racial diversity, we don’t have a lot of entry level roles due to the nature of our work, we have a mix of typical nonprofit roles but also are related to the STEM space so we have more technical roles than the average nonprofit might have, we probably only fill 20-30 positions per year, the majority of our staff is based in New England but we do hire some fully remote roles that can be based other places. Things we have already implemented: posting openings on relevant professional societies (e.g. NSBE) , doing blind performance tasks (we havent’ figured out how to do blind resume due to ATS and capacity of only one staff member that manages recruitment), interview rubrics used for all candidates, identifying must have requirements and applying those consistently. Also currently discussion how we can involve key stakeholders from our community in the selection of senior roles since we can’t provide a diverse selection committee just using internal staff. Lastly, I want to acknowledge that its not enough to recruit diverse candidates but also have to create an inclusive environment but hope that this discussion focus on the suggestions related to recruitment field.

    1. OtterB*

      Also in the nonprofit STEM-adjacent space. Besides posting with societies like NSBE, do you post jobs with regional colleges and universities? Often they have job boards for alumni as well as students and new graduates. If you can post at schools with more student diversity so you can cast a wider net for your applicants.

    2. it happens*

      Where do BIPOC students get degrees in your subject and geographic area? A lot of companies recruit from the HBCUs, but most students don’t attend them. Can you build relationships with profs in the program there, have professional staff speak on panels, set up internships? Even though you aren’t recruiting for entry-level positions, making those program connections can help you recruit for more advanced jobs, and most schools have alumni job listings.

      1. NERecruiter*

        I agree with the comment about HBCUs, especially since those aren’t prevalent in NE. We do post at local universities but since we don’t have a lot of entry level we don’t get a ton of interest. And since we are a nonprofit in NE we don’t have always have a ton of people who want to relocate for a role, usually its people who know our programs that want to move to take a job with us. Also, a lot of the local universities have the same demographic issues we do.

        1. pancakes*

          Universities might have the same demographic issues but cities don’t always. The demographics of, say, Bridgeport CT are a lot different than the demographics of Darien.

        2. Boo*

          Do you cover relocation and offer relocation salary incentives? I’m in a very similar boat as you, same region, and the only thing we had found to be successful so far (~7 years into official/formal diversity hiring effort) is recruiting candidates out of HBCUs. We cover relocation costs, and offer salaries above market. Without that, we would not be successful in attracting a diverse talent pool willing to relocate.

          When we first implemented this, we had to make many financial changes within the company – but it has paid off in spades. We now consider these salaries, and relocation costs, just part of doing business. If we can’t afford it, we need to relocate to an area that isn’t 99.9% Caucasian.

    3. kt*

      A lot of jobs are filled by referrals through a network. Are you able to go make presentations at Meetups, etc., about your work or about work done by your STEM people? Can you rely on the presenters at such a Meetup to make a point of talking to Meetup attendees from a variety of backgrounds? On a person-by-person basis, making connections with folks who can connect you with good candidates from more diverse backgrounds can be very useful. Being open to informational interviews, etc., with undergrads in the field (or grad students if applicable) can also help raise your profile in the community as a place to apply. If you have folks who are doing seminars with NSBE or SHPE or WiSE etc, and those loose connections are made, you can more effectively advertise and recruit.

    4. Wendyroo*

      Do you have an employee referral program? If so, be deliberate about the business need for a diverse workforce and the importance your company places on diverse referrals. Nothing wrong with asking for referrals from underrepresented groups, or even give a referral bonus for diverse hires. Word of mouth opens doors like you wouldn’t believe!

      1. NERecruiter*

        Yes we do, although sometimes i worry that is part of the issue. Given that our EE aren’t diverse and our community of volunteers isn’t as diverse as it could be i think that leads to referrals tending to be someone who is “like them” and therefore perpetuate the problem in some respects. but I like the idea of being intentional in asking people to keep that in mind when they are giving referrals. Also, when we select candidates we often give preference to candidates who have experience with our programs (such as in a volunteer capacity) and given that our volunteer base is not yet reflective of the communities they serve that can also contribute to the issues.

        1. Wendyroo*

          Referrals have absolutely perpetuated the problem, but it can be used to intentionally correct it too! It wouldn’t bring in diverse candidates overnight, but if you incentivize diverse referrals and make it very clear who you are trying to recruit, it will bring in more BIPOC in the pipeline. The more BIPOC you hire, the more diverse referrals you will get. It’s a snowball effect.

    5. it happens*

      Ok, it’s after five on Friday, you got a minute?

      It sounds like your org reflects the diversity of your geographic area, namely, not much. You can’t fix that by yourself. So here’s the story, I saw a play called Paris earlier this year, when live theater was a thing. It was about a black woman working at a store in Vermont. Every time a new employee/customer would meet her for the first time they would ask where she was from, and she would say “here.” And they’ll all say “naw, we’d have noticed you“ [implying a black woman would most definitely be noticed for being very much out of place] So how welcome would a BIPOC person feel coming not just to your org, but living in your area? Which makes this a much bigger problem than NERecruiter can solve.

      You also said remote is a possibility. Ok, then, what is the nearest more diverse city? What schools have a relevant program? Look at the college stats to find the more diverse schools and talk to THOSE professors and make a program with them and get referrals for their former students and list on their alumni boards. Look for grads of those schools on LinkedIn and reach out for referrals and apps you have an opening. Look for the schools that are primarily commuter and might take more than five years to graduate because a lot of kids have to balance work and school and family commitments. Their professors will remember the ones who could do it all and still succeed. And work with your current employees to take part in the diversity, equity, inclusion panels for their professional associations. Get the org’s name out there as one committed to change… it’s not gonna be fast, but it’s gonna be worth it because science is way better when diverse perspectives are included.

  30. susan*

    My company (~200 people) has had more than 10 cases of coronavirus in our building and yet our policies are still

    – Stay home if you’re sick
    – In-office presence is mandatory (even for people who can work 100% from home)
    – Disinfecting when there’s a new case

    I’m in AL, where cases are rising, and yet the government is full steam ahead on “business as usual”. There is still not widely available testing (only of you show symptoms) and the government is basically not doing anything for individuals, only businesses (by letting them open as usual).

    I’m pissed, I’m terrified, and I don’t know what it’ll take for the company to do anything. (They say they’re doing “everything they can” but that’s a blatant lie.) Many of my co-workers feel the same as me, but management doesn’t care.

    I guess there isn’t really a question here, but there’s nothing I can do, right? I’ve been at this job for about a year, and based on my work history I felt very, very lucky to have gotten this job – I don’t feel like I have the standing to speak up and go against management (and risk being laid off) or look for a new job, make my work history spottier, and start all over as the very newest and most expendable person. But I’m having panic attacks daily, during my lunch break and when I get home. It’s not good but I don’t know what to do.

    1. Michelle*

      I don’t have any suggestions but offering sympathy. We were were shut down for 3 months and allowed to WFH for the first time in the 18 years I’ve worked for this company. Now that it has been deemed safe for us to reopen, we have to come in or use leave. I’m struggling with the masks, as I’ve tried all kinds and they make my nose run and my throat scratchy. I can do 90% of my work from home and I could come in a day or 2 to do the other parts.

      Does your employer have or offer EAP? I think most offer a free session or two. Maybe you could learn a few techniques to help with the panic attacks. My son has diagnosed anxiety (side effect of hypothyroidism) and he takes a small dose of anti-anxiety medicine everyday and it has really helped. If medicine is an option, it could help you manage until a vaccine is found.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I’m frustrated to hear the news that 20 US states have rising Corona virus cases and zero mention of any of these states rolling back their easing of stay at home orders.

      I proud of my state and city. Our numbers are still falling and my city (biggest city on state) has not moved as fast to stage 1 and 2 of return to normal as the state. IMO that’s a wise supported by data.

      1. Squirrel or Chipmunk*

        …..some of the rising cases are due to the protests. So this isn’t solely being driven by how responsibly the states are handling the pandemic. I’m sad that cases have creeped up a wee bit in my state (TBD if it’s a trend, only 1 day of increase so far, statistically negligible) but also incredibly proud of my state and city for being on the right side of history and taking a stand against something even more important.

        We have multiple things going on here.

        1. pebbles*

          Due to the timing, many of the rises are from Memorial Day openings and the anti-mask protests. wWe will certainly see spikes from BLM protests but it’s unlikely that they’re in the data yet.

    3. Oxford Comma*

      No advice of my own. There was a post the other day though where a commenter had some suggestions about building a base and trying to distance as much as humanly possible.

    4. Indy Dem*

      I’m not sure will work, but if you can center your discussion on how even one person contracting COVID and being out for an extended period of time can effect the company financially, will that work? And that if one person gets sick, there is a good chance of more getting sick, adversely affecting productivity. Use the humanitarian aspect as a secondary outcome, but still mention it. Also point out that family members with certain diagnoses are more vulnerable (so if the managers aren’t moved personally, it might strike a cord if family members have diabetes, COPD, etc). But talking about it will affect the company’s bottom line may be the way to go. Ofc, start with your direct boss, and make sure you are talking about your concern for the company’s future.

      1. susan*

        Nope, because the people who get sick are out on unpaid leave, and about 1/2 to 2/3 of the people in the building work jobs that are easy to learn – not that the people who do them are unskilled, but the jobs don’t require long training periods (think customer service). So they don’t care about losing people, and might even be happy – many of the lifers have legacy benefits that cost the company more than anyone hired in the last decade. It’s pure unfettered evil capitalism.

    5. allathian*

      I’m so sorry. Sounds like your company won’t do anything until someone in the C-suite gets seriously sick from COVID.
      Also, if you’re expected to stay home when you’re sick, what’s your sick leave/PTO policy like? Is it realistic to expect people to actually be able to do that?

  31. Outlook expert*

    I need an Outlook expert to tell me if this could possibly be true.
    My coworker was tasked with reviewing a large document and providing a bullet list of issues for discussion at a meeting between our team and two other teams this week. She didn’t do it, and was nearly 10 minutes late for the call.
    She was a bit flustered when she joined the call and was not very organized in her thoughts on the issues — I suspect that the whole thing just slipped her mind. But rather than say that it slipped her mind, she claimed that she had completed the work and emailed it to all of us last week, but we apparently didn’t receive her email and it was not in her sent folder. The entire email completely vanished.
    We are on Outlook for Office 365, so can access through a desktop application or online. Drafts and Sent are automatically saved. So, is this a thing that can happen?
    I am not going to out her or tell her that I suspect that she lied. Our shared boss was not on the call and it is very unlikely that he would have heard about it if she had just apologized and said she forgot the assignment. She’s lied to me in similar circumstances in the past. I try to give her the benefit of the doubt, but this just seemed like such an obvious lie and I wonder why she does this and whether she thinks she’s fooling me.

    1. Choggy*

      Yeah, that’s a hard sell, anything is possible but that *one* email vanished into thin air? Highly unlikely, especially if she’s been caught lying about the same previously.

    2. miho*

      I guess it’s possible that the email was stuck in her outbox, and that the email was never properly sent. It’s happened to me a couple of times due to poor internet connection, but this should be an easy fix for her if that is the case.

      1. Gallery Mouse*

        This has happened to me a few times when I’ve sent the email and closed my laptop down – it just sits in outbox sometimes until I reopen the laptop at which point it’s actually ‘sent.’ After a few times of this happening I now wait for the email to actually go out (I also have an email delay set up for those pesky ‘reply all’ horror emails).

    3. Fancy Tea Drinker*

      I definitely have had issues with emails in Outlook never arriving in my inbox (and not being filtered into spam) or emails I sent never arriving to someone else, and therefore not showing up in my Sent. I’m not an Outlook expert, and I eventually determined that if I used the browser version of Outlook it didn’t have issues, so I just switched to the browser and never solved the desktop/mobile issue.

      So I would say it is possible. However, just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it happened, especially if she’s been caught lying before.

    4. Brownie*

      I’ve had emails “disappear” like that before where Outlook had a network hiccup or a computer reboot and instead of sending the email it put it in the drafts folder. Actually disappear completely? Possible if there was a computer reboot involved, I’ve had the automatic Windows update reboots wipe unsent emails out because it crashed Outlook while I had those emails up, not even a copy left in Drafts. If she’s not very Outlook savvy though it’s very possible she didn’t even know about the autosaving Drafts folder and never thought to look there, so to her it disappeared without a trace. I’ve got a coworker with very little Outlook experience and I could easily see them panicking when something’s not in their Sent folder and retyping it all last minute rather than knowing they could look in Drafts.

    5. A Simple Narwhal*

      Sooo I did have a very bizarre issue happen with outlook a few years back where emails would completely disappear from my inbox. Anything associated to it (replies, forwards, etc) would disappear into the void as well. I would have been in real trouble if I didn’t have cced coworkers backing me up that they received my response, but all of the replies never made it to me. Not even the outlook tech support guy believed me until I made him stay on the phone/looking at my screen until I could replicate the issue. Turns out a weird glitch would happen that would randomly send emails to an archived folder within the archived folder within the archived folder that was only accessible via the web version of outlook and not the desktop version I used for email.

      So yes, random confusing errors can absolutely happen. Do I think it happened here? Ehhhhh….so the only thing you can do is treat it as though she is telling the truth and make sure she opens up a ticket to have it addressed, ask about if it’s happened in the past, what is she doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again, etc, all the things you would do if someone was having computer troubles.

      I would also address the other performance issues she’s had in the past IE the past dishonesty, because it’s one thing if an otherwise solid employee got flustered once and made a bad decision, it’s another to have an employee with a pattern of dishonesty.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Just realized this is a coworker and you don’t manage them, my bad!

        Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about a dishonest colleague unless it’s affecting you directly, in which case you should absolutely tell your manager. It sucks, I feel like you should be able to say “hey Jane has lied to me several times about small things, and I’m concerned about our ability to work together”……Actually that doesn’t sound too bad, I thought it would sound tattle-y but writing that out it does seem like something you could say.

        Ugh it sucks, I guess definitely also be wary in working with her.

        1. Lucky*

          Yes, while she’s below me in rank, she does not report to me. Which makes her past dishonesty more flummoxing, as she would lie about knowing something that was not part of her core skillset but was part of mine as a more senior person.

    6. Outlook troubleshooter*

      It is technically possible, especially if there is a large file attached, etc. I’ve had emails sit in the outbox, usually when the file is the problem, even when I have a strong internet connection.
      This is the reason when I have documents I want to discuss at a meeting, I have a back-up plan – email the document and attach it to the meeting invite, referencing it in the meeting agenda as “see attachment”. This way you hopefully reach 99.9 per cent of attendees/participants at the meeting.
      If you are her manager, then this would be something I would address as a pattern. As a colleague, you could recommend a back-up option as noted.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        I’m going to echo the “maybe it got stuck in her outbox?” comments, but also echo the “yeah, that sounds fishy” comments. I have a direct report who has emails disappear WAY too frequently for it be an outlook glitch. On the other hand, I received an email this morning from a different direct report THAT I READ (as in, I saw it, I know it arrived in my inbox) and now I can’t find it anywhere. Not in my inbox, not in any folders, not in deleted items. So…yeah, I guess glitches do happen, but…the circumstantial evidence here suggests otherwise.

    7. Annony*

      I have had emails I sent somehow end up not sending but they do stay in the drafts box if that is the case. If she checked both sent and drafts I find it rather hard to believe.

      1. The cat's pajamas*

        I’ve had emails dissappear when sending from the web interface (not desktop), and it’s usually when I’m emailing to call in sick, so now I double check they went through before closing the browser. Sometimes they go to drafts, but not always…

    8. JustaTech*

      Outlook can be bizarre. I had a director who was always saying people didn’t send him emails. For quite a while folks just thought he was forgetful, until he was having a meeting with a direct report and they both saw an email vanish from his inbox, right in front of their eyes.

      It was some kind of very weird bug that took IT the better part of a week to hunt down and fix.

      So, possible, sure. Likely, dunno.

    9. pancakes*

      I did have a draft Outlook email vanish recently, and it was a big inconvenience because I’d been keeping track of my billable hours for the week in it. I tried to recover it and eventually had to ask IT to send me my log-in records instead, and that was a whole process. It was very strange. It seems much more likely that I accidentally deleted it without realizing (or the VPN hiccuped?) rather than that it evaporated.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      The last month or so I thought Outlook for 365 was running very poorly. Some group emails I never get, some group emails I get much later than other people, etc.

      I assume it’s more than one problem running concurrently? Internet bogged down, outlook bogged down?

      In my case though at least some people did get the email. It sounds like you have enough evidence that she is lying without this particular example, so I would go with the instances where you are on solid ground.

    11. Yep*

      It can definitely happen. Especially when you work from the web version or write from your phone.

  32. OtterB*

    I have suggested that my office (19 people, nonprofit, 6 PoC and 13 white, all WFH for some time yet) have a book club reading a book about race and our topic area. My boss liked the idea. It’s completely voluntary. We have a couple of book choices we will select from. I created a channel on our Slack for it and thought we’d discuss there. I’m thinking of a pattern like online re-reads I see of various books, where each week a leader points out the things they see and there’s a discussion about a new chapter. Has anybody done something like this? Do you have any suggestions on making it run smoothly? There aren’t any out-and-out jerks on the staff, but obviously it’s a sensitive topic and I want this to be a safe space for discussion.

    1. CM*

      I would make sure at least one POC person (which may be you, I don’t know) is helping to run the book club.

      If you are white, this is a little tricky because you don’t want to impose on your POC colleagues to do unpaid work because of their race. But you could reach out to people you have a good relationship with and see if this is something they’d be excited to do.

      I say this because as a POC, I find discussions about race with white people increasingly exhausting, even (especially?) white people who really want to understand. I would also check in with POC members of the book club once in a while to see how they’re feeling about it.

      Also, it would help to have concrete outcomes for this so everybody feels like they are contributing to something real, not just doing a consciousness-raising exercise. For example, you could have a goal that the book club will come up with a list of guidelines to help eliminate bias in your area.

      1. OtterB*

        Good point. I’m white and that’s one of the things that makes me want to tread carefully. So far 3 people besides me have indicated interest, one of whom is a POC. I will ping her about it. I just floated the idea so there may be others before we start.

      2. kt*

        You’ve put your finger on the difficult spot. It’s not great to have an all-white reading group coming up with their own ideas without real-life feedback, but it’s also not great to have PoC pulled into something that’s exhausting, tiring, high-risk, sometimes low-reward (not sure in this instance). I’m white, but a woman in STEM, and I’ve certainly been put in some real lose-lose binds re: diversity initiatives. Since this is completely voluntary and hopefully not led by management (I think that’s important! that it be peer-led!) it shouldn’t be the same kind of lose-lose situation (for me, it was either you do something you think is misguided and that will damage your promotion track because it’s not research, or you refuse to do something and damage your promotion track because you’re uncooperative. Left that job entirely.). But discussing race with white peers can be draining and depressing in a unique way that can really have lasting repercussions.

        How internally-focused vs externally-focused will this discussion group be? Sometimes externally-focused discussions can be easier to manage. How adept are you at redirecting if someone steers into either excessive self-flagellation or the kind of “if you say redlining is racist you’re saying I’m a bad person” cycle mentioned in a comment above?

      3. Millicent*

        “I say this because as a POC, I find discussions about race with white people increasingly exhausting, even (especially?) white people who really want to understand.”

        Yes, all of this! Also a POC here, and to be honest, I don’t want to spend what little free time I have “coaching” or “teaching” or even potentially arguing with well-meaning white people looking to me for answers.

        Why not just have a general book club but focus it on books with diverse authors, diverse topics, diverse genres, etc, rather specifically on race relations? I think that would stimulate a lot of interesting discussion that touches on race relations, different backgrounds and cultures, without making it feel like homework.

    2. OtterB*

      I didn’t want to read one of the general books on racism that are currently being recommended because it felt off for some reason. Probably because it felt too much like expecting my POC colleagues to do the work of educating me, as several of you have pointed out. (I’m reading a couple of those books on my own, because it’s my work to do.) I was thinking of a book focusing specifically on issues of race in our field, because one of our organization’s roles has long been to advocate for diversity & inclusion in the field. So that would potentially give us concrete objectives, as CM suggested: what can we learn from this book about what our programs / communications / etc. could do a better job of? I think we’ve realized some of it over the years about underrepresentation of women, i.e. realized that the goal is to fix the system and not to fix the women. But I don’t think we’ve seen that as clearly about race.

      Well, I’ll take it carefully and see what happens.

      1. need a new screen name and have no imagination*

        I’d also want to be certain that people are aware that it is voluntary, try to make sure (somehow) that no one is shunned or thought less of for not participating. I’m a white person, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading on racism in the last few years, and have been protesting and talking to other white people about racism since early in the 2010s.

        I might not want to participate in an office-based discussion of these issues and at the same time I might be worried about other people thinking I was racist because I chose not to join in.

  33. anonforthis*

    Anybody have suggested lines for asking to put off a difficult work conversation for a day in light of stressful family news without calling it that? In this particular case, my mother and I found out last night that my father had an affair several years ago.

    I don’t want to call in sick, since it’s not too likely the conversation will even happen today, but I’m too distracted to keep my cool. I struggle with that on a good day, and between the pandemic, the political situation, and now this personal life bombshell, I’m afraid I have no hope.

    1. Star*

      Augh, I am so sorry.

      You could say, “I got bad news concerning a family member, can we please put the conversation off for a day or two”, if you won’t be pressured as to the content of the news.

      1. anonforthis*

        Unfortunately, my coworkers are likely to pry, or assume my parents have COVID19 (I’ve mentioned that both parents have underlying health conditions that put them at high risk, and everyone also knows that my father is disabled). Thanks, though. I might just have to say “Nobody’s hospitalized” and leave it at that.

        1. HR Exec Popping In*

          If they ask for more details, just say “it isn’t health related.” I think just being upfront and saying you are dealing with some family issue and ask for a day or two delay is very reasonable. Unless your manager is a jerk, I would think that would work.

    2. Marshbilly, not Hillbilly*

      No advice, just thinking calming thoughts for you. I went through something similar (mom left my dad during an ongoing affair), was studying for an important professional certification, was having health issues and problems with my boss… all at once. It was the most stressful period of my life.

      Can you take a day or two of vacation or plan a long weekend with something to look forward to? Or would that be viewed as equivalent to calling in sick?

      1. anonforthis*

        Thanks. Several years ago I had to deal with my father having a debilitating, life-altering health condition across the country while handling work problems with an abusive boss, so in some ways this is a cakewalk compared to that. I’ve already identified that some of my issues at work stem from being raised by two parents who handle conflict terribly, so I’m not that broken up over this. Just a little stressed.

    3. superanon*

      I’m so sorry, how awful. I’ve been in a similar situation and I ended up bursting into tears during a difficult conversation because I was too embarrassed to tell my boss I was having trouble coping with family stuff (in my case a mentally ill parent being involuntarily hospitalized for scary, threatening behavior — did not want to talk about at work!).

      If it feels safe to do so, I would recommend telling your boss/relevant coworker that you’re dealing with a “family emergency.” Reasonable people won’t pry for further details and will want to support you, so hopefully this creates the space to request the meeting be postponed.

      Family stuff like this can be so so so hard, even as an adult, and it’s okay to feel like you can’t be at 100% at work, to ask for accommodations that you need, and to maintain your privacy at work. Take care of yourself however feels best for you (taking little walks during the workday when I felt overwhelmed was helpful for me) and know that this will all feel less impossible, eventually.

      1. anonforthis*

        Unfortunately, my coworkers are prone to prying and don’t always take hints, and my boss in the past has passed on information to them that I didn’t expect her to (with incorrect details, even). Luckily, the need for an explanation was averted by my colleague simply scheduling the meeting for Tuesday.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          Honestly, that sounds like a perfect reason to pull out a boring, reliable excuse. You’re having tummy troubles. You’re having car troubles. Your dishwasher broke and you have to be home while it’s fixed. Sadly, the “I have a cold” excuse has been cancelled, but there are plenty of others. If you’ve made it clear you can’t be trusted with the truth, you’re getting the socially acceptable white lie.

        2. HR Exec Popping In*

          Just because people ask questions doesn’t mean you have to answer with details. A simple, “I really can’t talk about it” or “Sorry, I can’t get into it right now” or “Thanks, but I don’t want to talk about it”. You can even imply or state that if you talk about it, you will get emotional. Frankly, don’t let someone bully you into telling them more than you want or making up a story.

    4. JustaTech*

      Could you pre-emptively tell whoever you are going to have that difficult conversation with that “I’m not in a good headspace and would prefer to wait a day (or until next week) so that I can give the conversation my full attention.”

      If your coworkers would pry at “not in a good head space” you could try “didn’t sleep well” or something similar to indicate you’re not at 100%.

      (I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this.)

      1. anonforthis*

        Luckily they scheduled the meeting for Tuesday all on their own, so crisis averted. :) The work one, anyway.

      2. Avasarala*

        Agree with this. “Having an off day” or “It’s just tough right now” rather than hinting at a juicy secret, if they are wont to pry.
        I’m also sorry you’re going through this.

  34. eager beaver*

    Any project managers out there? Especially in the non profit/human services/education realm?

    I am considering pursuing an MS in Project Management, but what I would want to work heavily in the communications side of things (developing new educational content like books, pamphlets, videos series, etc.) I already have experience leading and implementing these projects and I love it. But I dont know if a project management degree is the best way to keep doing it? Maybe I should be education or communications instead?

    Another tricky spot is that most of the best programs are exclusively online, and I have historically done horribly in online classes. I thrive in the classroom.

    Any advice or insight is appreciated, thanks in advamce!

    1. eager beaver*

      Good gracious I typed that too quickly. Hopefully you can read my intent despite the typos.

      1. Jackie*

        Senior Project Manager here! Although in pharma, not in your specific industry.
        What are your specific career goals? Are you trying to break into project management or are you a current project manager looking to advance?

        1. eager beaver*

          My title has nothing to do with project management, but I have led several creative projects that were ground breaking for the org, namely creating and implementing new educational resources that required coordination with many people within and outside of the org. I’m only a few years into my career, but if I can make a career out of developing special projects that result in helping/educating people I’ll be thrilled. So far, I just have an ambitious idea and have been given room to make it happen- it has never been an official duty of mine.

          I originally wrote off project management because I have no interest in getting a business degree, but I love coordinating with people and thinking creatively. I’m not sure of that is enough to make a degree/career path a good fit for me though.

      2. Alliecat*

        I’ve been looking into project management roles too — I have some experience as a part of my current role, which is not in the PM field. I don’t know anything about PM in non-profit, so please take this with a grain of salt!

        From what I can tell, a lot of people get certified from PMI as an outgrowth of their current career. https://www.pmi.org/certifications. There’s ways to get the courses cheap instead of taking them through PMI (Udemy, Coursera). There’s an r/pmp reddit and a r/project management reddit that I’ve found useful in learning about it. I haven’t pursued anything yet, so I can’t give you solid information. But it’s definitely interesting!

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I work at a non-profit, working closely with both project managers (on our program side) and communications staff. Our issue area isn’t human services/education.

      None of my colleagues have a degree in Project Management. The folks who work on the communications side have backgrounds in design and writing, which seems more relevant to what you’re describing than project management.

      1. eager beaver*

        Interesting! Thank you. I have a strong writing background and have some communication and education experience. (I’m only a few years into my career but I hustled in college and usually had two career-related jobs at a time.) Now I’m just trying to figure out how to blend it all together.
        It’s good to know that if project management is the direction I choose, I don’t necessarily need a degree.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I’m in an entirely different type of industry, but I have a PMP certification and am a project manager. My masters is in business, not project management, though.

      I consider the MS-PM path more about the technical side of project management, as well as leadership. I don’t know anything about educational types of projects, but unless the projects are large and complex, I think I would lean towards a subject-matter degree instead. In my industry, we do use PM tools and methods for small projects, but we manage dozens of them simultaneously.

      Other options are graduate certificates in project management or getting the a PMP or CAPM certification. You can also take PMP education courses on platforms like Udemy. I understand not liking online education, but I took all the PMP required hours for <$10 and learned quite a bit.

      1. eager beaver*

        Wow! Thank you, that sounds like a really good way to get a taste for the field and possibly get certified along the way.

    4. J.B.*

      I recently got a degree that I’m not sure was worth it. I think I learned overall but could probably have gotten the job I have without the additional credential. My experience of managing projects and trying to get hired is that it’s very organization specific and that it is easier to get hired for subject expertise and take certification courses than to get someone to consider transferrable skills.

  35. Delta Delta*

    I really liked yesterday’s “Ask The Readers” question and it got me thinking about how institutions need to reconsider their systems in order to be broadly inclusive.

    I’m involved in a volunteer organization that has a board. The board is a) a big time commitment and b) not as diverse as some of our membership would like. We recently had the opportunity to elect new board members. One new member is a POC. She hasn’t been a member of the organization very long. But she expressed a desire to lead and a willingness to put in the time. Feathers are ruffled that a relatively new organization member is on the board because generally board members are long term organization members. I’m seeing a tension between “we’ve always done it this way” and “we want to be more inclusive.” Sometimes it can’t be both.

    Not a question, just an observation about how some systemic change might be simple but also too scary for some people to accept.

    1. Ashley*

      I have always hated ‘we have always done it this way’ as a reason to keep doing 98% of things; at least give me why we do it this way. As all the protests are correctly showing, they way we have always done it hasn’t been the right way.
      Good for your new member for being willing to jump in and help. That should show she belongs as opposed to any potential annoying board members who just show up to vote / complain and never seem to have time for any committee level responsibilities.

  36. ex-tech guy*

    Yesterday I had one of those interviews that really leaves one wondering why they bothered. It was for a manager-level position with an organization I really admire, and I had to submit a resume and cover and answer a questionnaire when I initially applied. Several of the verbal questions were ~identical to the questionnaire.

    Additionally, almost every question had some clause inserted into it to make my experience not directly relevant (do you have experience using xyz tool/process in llama grooming, when I have tons of experience using xyz tool for other things but none for llama grooming, which is very clear in my resume).

    Why do organizations do this? I put a lot of work into prepping for this interview and allowed it to add a lot of unnecessary stress to my life during this already-stressful time, and I am clearly not getting that job, so what was the point?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t know, but I’ve seen that in job posts too, where they want experience that’s obviously transferable, but then it has to be specific to that EXACT thing. It’s really annoying for something like a receptionist role, which is the most generic of all office jobs.

      My guess would be they don’t want to spend any time at all on any kind of instruction. It’s utterly ridiculous, since everyone starting a new job has to orient to the routine, that particular physical workplace, new coworkers, etc. even if you’ve used that exact tool or program in another workplace in the exact same way.

    2. Policy Wonk*

      I am guessing they have an internal candidate they want to hire, but have requirements where they have to advertise for x number of days and interview y number of applicants. So the advertisement attracts applications and the interview knocks them out and allows them to hire their internal candidate. All too common. Sigh.

  37. Varities in Govt Jobs*

    Are there any significant differences between working in a city/county, state, and federal government job that job seekers should be aware of?

    Are there any differences in operation nuances, regulation, office interaction rules, interview process, promotion process, etc. that are different?

    1. ex-tech guy*

      The short answer is yes. Although you will see hiring processes are generally pretty regimented at all levels of government, they can be drastically different from place to place and agency to agency. For example, I got my current local government job by submitting a resume, cover letter, and questionnaire, and I know my management had the ability to actually directly look at the resumes submitted for the position. At the Federal level, initial screening is usually by OPM and unless something has changed, no one at the hiring agency generally gets to see the pool before OPM has taken an initial cut at filtering out a significant portion of the resumes. Meanwhile, at the state level, in the state I currently live in there are still civil service exams for most positions and you cannot even get interviewed without passing the relevant exam.

      In terms of other things, cultures will also be very different. My agency is not unionized in a state where many government agencies are. In some other states, unions essentially don’t exist or have much more limited roles due to right-to-work laws. Funding sources are different – my agency is local but receives a lot of its funding from long-term grants from the feds and the state, so we are not as disrupted by the current economic crisis as many of the other local agencies we work with who are heavily dependent on sales taxes.

      And on and on, lots of other differences too.

      1. Government worker, woot woot*

        Meanwhile, at the state level, in the state I currently live in there are still civil service exams for most positions and you cannot even get interviewed without passing the relevant exam.

        And in my state, it’s the opposite. No exams for the vast majority of positions. No hiring preferences for current employees or veterans. There is also no promotion process as it seems to exist in other areas, where you don’t change your job but you’re promoted within it. In my government agency, if you’re hired as a Llama Wrangler I, you can’t get promoted into Llama Wrangler II unless there’s actually an open position.

    2. JimmyJab*

      In my limited experience, yes. I have many friends that work for federal government – we all have the same advanced degree, while I work in state government. Those federal government jobs are super formal, strict clocking in/clocking out works hours and very strict hierarchy. Mine is kind of the opposite. I’m expected to work my hours but no clocking in/out, very informal (internally, not when we deal with public) and just overall a different atmosphere based on my friends’ descriptions of their jobs. I’m sure this is far from universal, but one point of data for you.

  38. Lygeia*

    My work situation is getting more and more untenable, but my job hunt isn’t bearing fruit either. I got several interviews in the first few months of the year, but all of those went on hold. Now I’m struggling to even find relevant jobs to apply to.

    I can’t afford to not be working, but my mental health is going down the drain fast. Any advice on balancing these in today’s climate? Early in the year I was able to tell myself to just stick it out until I find a new job, but that’s not cutting it now.

    1. Bubbles*

      I’ll be following this, I’m in a similar situation. I’m sorry I don’t have any advice. Hoping for the best

    2. Medieval_Minstrel*

      Sending you all my support too. Job searching is insane with all of these jobs on hold. I’m sure you’ve considered expansion your job search too but the idea of retailing your resume and cover letter seem too much atm!

      I think this is a case where you have to meditate, hang in there and rely on your close ones for emotional support. You can give yourself short-term objectives, like answering 1-3 job offers per day (or 3 in the morning, 3 in the evening) without caring too much about the non-responses you’re likely to receive often. Just tailor your aim to anything that seems feasible to you and stick to it, and every day where you’ve succeeded is a win.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Kind of in the same boat. Was looking pre-pandemic, but everything dried up. Not seeing much to apply for that interests me and/or pays what I earn now.
      My solution was to take some classes and get a graduate certificate in a related area my masters didn’t cover.

      Also, it helps that my work has been ok since moving to WFH during the pandemic. This has helped me deal with the frustrations a lot.

  39. Teatime*

    Any advice on how to word “Took a 2 month mental health break” on an application that wants every employment gap explained?

    Background: I left a job because it turned into a trash fire that caused the 3 people immediately in the chain of command above me to all resign without jobs lined up. I took time off because I needed time to de-stress and was fortunate that I could comfortably afford to, then got my current job where I’ve now been for over a year.

    1. CM*

      “Personal time.” Then if they ask you about it, you can say you took some time off to handle matters in your personal life / family matters that are now resolved. If they press you further I’d just repeat that line.

      1. Teatime*

        I ordinarily wouldn’t mention it, but the application is explicit in asking for details of any gaps. I’d rather include the short gap then be dinged for not following directions.

    2. More coffee please*

      I haven’t dealt with this before, but I imagine the employer won’t care about a 2 month gap that happened before your current job. I have several friends that have opted to take ~a month off when switching roles to give themselves a break, to make a move to a new city, etc. You could probably write something vague like “personal time between jobs.”

      1. Teatime*

        Thanks, it’s reassuring to hear that your friends have taken short breaks with no ill effects. I’m hoping that it will be a non-issue, but wanted to prepare an answer just in case.

    3. Flyleaf*

      Talk about how you used the time to help manage a family health emergency. You don’t need to say that the family member was you.

    4. HR Exec Popping In*

      Don’t worry about this at all. Someone taking a few months off is not an issue. They are asking for this to see if you were fired. But if you wanted to take time off for personal reasons, no issue at all. Something like, took time off for health issue, personal issue, family issue, etc. is fine.

  40. Wendy*

    I posted a couple of weeks ago about a meeting I was set to have with my boss about getting some plexiglass around my reception desk. I just wanted to update that so far, everything is going well. He seemed to understand my anxiety about being exposed to every single person who came into the office, especially as a diabetic.

    We had someone come out that week to measure my workspace and in the meantime I was able to move my computer etc into an empty office. We’re still waiting on head office to approve the quote so we can order everything and even then it’s a 4-6 week lead time before it arrives. But I’m safely in an office away from every Tom, Dick and Harriette who comes in so I’m in a much better place mentally than I was. I haven’t actually stress-cried since the meeting!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Good for him for listening and good for you for getting what you need. I am glad you are doing better.

  41. anonymutt*

    How do I be supportive of a coworker who just had a miscarriage? I tend to be very detached when it comes to other’s emotions, I just don’t know how to react properly. Usually I just ignore other people’s emotional problems since they have nothing to do with me, but everyone in my office are particularly close to each other and I know it would hurt her feelings if I seemed like I didn’t care.
    How do I show my support without it coming across as weird?

    1. CM*

      I think just acknowledging it would go a long way — send an email or if you talk to her regularly, on your next call say that you’re so sorry. Treat it like any other death in the family.

    2. Amarantha*

      Will be eagerly awaiting replies to this, as I have the same kind of issue – my boss is going through a long, drawn-out personal tragedy with a loved one and I have no idea how to respond.

    3. Epsilon Delta*

      This was me not so long ago so I have a lot of thoughts. I had not shared with my coworkers yet, so I pretty much hid it at work, but if I had told them this is what would have helped me.

      Tell her you are sorry for her loss. Do not try to spin it as positive or lighten it (hearing “everything happens for a reason/baby is in heaven/etc” are going to invoke rage or despair). There is nothing you can say to make it better so don’t try. If you’re close to her you could ask her if she wants to talk about it if you’re comfotable listening.

      If she is more forgetful, distracted, or working slower than usual just give her time and space and be patient with that as much as possible. If she is missing deadlines or sending things out with errors you will of course have to say something to her or her manager, but if it’s not impacting your work let it go.

    4. Falling Star*

      It’s fine to say “I’m sorry for your loss”. I don’t know if this is universal, but the times this happened to me, I had a really hard time controlling my emotions for about 2 weeks. I felt like bursting into tears for no apparent reason. I am quite good at controlling my emotions at work so this was very difficult for me. I assumed it was my body trying to re-calibrate my hormones. If you notice something like this, giving your coworker some emotional space in a low-key way would be kind and helpful.

  42. FormattingQuestions*

    Low stakes question, but what do people do to represent internal promotions and title changes on electronic resume forms? If there’s only room for one job title, do you add two entries and two consecutive dates, or do you put the multiple job titles together on one line? On my main resume where I control the formatting, I just put both titles under the same broad header, but electronic resume-reading software gets confused by this and I have to edit electronic forms extensively.

    I also have similar questions about how to represent my double major in college (represent it as two degrees or just pick one of the majors?), and a position where I was placed at one nonprofit through another larger nonprofit (kind of like Peace Corps, but the placement org isn’t as widely known).

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      For internal promotions, I list them as separate entries in the ATS.

      I don’t know about a double major in college; I might just list the more relevant one in the ATS rather than listing two degrees, but I could see it argued the other way.

      For the placement, I might suggest listing the company as:
      Nonprofit You Actually Worked At (Seconded/Placed via Larger Nonprofit)

  43. Kelly Kapoor*

    When a job application rejection has the words, “we encourage you to continue to look for positions at our company that match your interests and experience”, how do you go about it without coming off as desperate/clueless about the jobs you’re applying to?
    So far I’ve been applying to only a couple of jobs, spaced out, all relatively similar. What’s the point at which it crosses into ‘why won’t this person stop applying’ territory?
    If it matters, the firms I’ve been applying to have hundreds of thousands of employees across the globe, and have posted quite a few (30-40 I’d say) jobs in my country in the last couple of weeks.
    Any advice is appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think that’s just standard text they include in the letter. I don’t really think they necessarily believe you applied to the wrong job at their company.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Agreed, that sounds like boiler plate language. It’s unlikely they are looking closely enough at your applications (unless you were particularly notable in a negative or positive way, as some of AAM’s archive showcases).

      2. Kelly Kapoor*

        Sorry, I should’ve been clearer. I understand it’s a standard part of the message, would it reflect badly on someone who applied again after being rejected? How many times can you apply to one firm without coming off as pushy (assuming the jobs are similar but of course not the exact same, I’m not reapplying to openings they’d rejected me for)

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I wish there was a definite answer to this. I’ve been on the hiring side and seen some hiring managers take a candidate applying to multiple positions as the same place as evidence the candidate really wants to work there (positive) but other hiring managers taking that same behavior as the candidate being desperate (negative). Hard to know as a candidate how it will be perceived.

          I would just say don’t apply indiscriminately. Apply to things you’re genuinely interested in that you know you can do well.

          1. A Person*

            I agree with “don’t apply indiscriminately”.

            If I see a few applications for similar positions across time I’m not going to give much of a plus or a minus unless I see something specific from a phone screen or interview.

            However, if I’m hiring for a Teapot Coordinator and our system notes that you’ve applied for 20 positions with our company including a bunch of Llama Wrangler jobs that are completely unrelated, that’s going to be a negative since it seems really unfocused and unclear what job they want.

        2. HR Exec Popping In*

          If these are large companies, don’t worry about it. They get many applicants and will most likely not notice at all unless the same hiring manager ends up considering you for different jobs on their team.

  44. K*

    Hi all! I’ve just had a wonderful phone interview the other day with a potential new employer, and am a step closer to leaving my current toxic workplace. The CEO and I really clicked, and she wants to meet me in person in the next two weeks, due to NYC reopening guidelines. She’s the only full-time employee at this startup, along with a part-time intern.

    This is also actually the first time where I’ll be interviewing with the same person I’ve spoken to on the phone, and I’m not sure what else I can expect, since we’ve covered everything from my experiences and qualifications, as well as the job requirements and company information. If anyone has a few pointers and some advice, it will be much appreciated!

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Yay, good luck!

      This is a good opportunity to ask further questions. I’d be a little worried if I was interviewing someone who didn’t have any further questions, so take some time to brainstorm what else you want to know about based on what you learned in that first interview.

      Do bring a hard copy of your resume, of course, and be prepared for some more in-depth questions about your experience/work.

    2. More coffee please*

      I had something similar recently, so I can share my experience. I had two phone interviews with two different people. On the final interview day, I had five interviews, and two of the five interviewers were the people I’d spoken with on the phone.

      In the phone interviews, they asked about my background, projects I’d worked on, and I was also asked a case question. Then on the final interview day, it was mostly behavioral questions (the “tell me about a time when…”). The conversation was a little more relaxed since we’d already spoken once. I also asked questions that were a little more specific about the work – like what the first priority upon joining would be, what their current biggest challenge was, how they saw the team growing or changing in the future, etc.

  45. Kelly Kapoor*

    Looking for advice on approaching recruiters on LinkedIn. I’ve been sending the following message but not gotten much interest.
    “Hi, hope you’re doing well! I’m currently looking for a new role and I’d love to connect with you to discuss opportunities. I have 2 years of experience in (area of work) and am a (professional exam) candidate. Looking forward to connecting, thank you for your time!”

    To the people who accept my request, I then send this message, if there’s no other communication from their end:
    “Thanks for connecting!
    I wanted to introduce myself to you – I’m working as (job title) at (company), and I’m looking for opportuniti

    1. Kelly Kapoor*

      I accidentally submitted in the middle of typing my question. I’ll continue the second message here:

      “Thanks for connecting!
      I wanted to introduce myself to you – I’m working as a (job title) at a (firm), and I’m looking for opportunities at any (type of firms), preferably in (location). I’d love to email you my resume and discuss further, if I am a fit for any roles you’re hiring for.
      I’m available at (contact details).
      Thank you!”

      But I haven’t gotten responses to this message. Any way I can improve the framing? Or is this just a LinkedIn numbers game? Any advice is appreciated, thank you!

      (Of course I do look at roles posted by them, in case I can’t find a good match I send the above message)

      1. CM*

        I’d suggest starting with the second message, which is more specific. Personal preference, but I’d also get rid of some of the exclamation points.
        “Dear ___, I’m currently working at (firm) as a (job title). I have two years of experience and am looking for (type of opportunity) at (firms) in (location). I’d like to send you my resume and see if I’m a fit for any roles you’re hiring for.”
        And then the second message could be your resume and “please keep me in mind if there are any opportunities that might be a good fit.”

        1. Kelly Kapoor*

          Thank you, I’ll make the messages more to the point.
          I understand what you mean about the exclamation points, I’m not a fan either but I worry I’ll come across as rude otherwise (I’m also an over-thanker, if that’s a thing – navigating professional communication is a minefield for me haha)

          1. More coffee please*

            I used to struggle with exclamation points, too. What I started doing was first writing the email however felt “right” to me, including exclamation points. Then at the end, I’d go back and choose only one exclamation point to keep. I definitely use more of them in personal conversation, but for professional emails, I try to keep them under control. Hope this helps!

    2. pancakes*

      It could be that the professional exam is holding you up. The job market (in the US, at least) is incredibly tight right now, and there are likely many people who’ve passed the exam looking for work right now too.

  46. IndoMex*

    Posted this too late yesterday, so hoping to get some more feedback today.

    I’m a non-White, non-Black, woman of color. The organization where I work serves a large BIPOC population (think education, social work, service type field) but our workforce (a couple of hundred people) and particularly our leadership are almost all white. I can think of maybe three Black people. And there is one Black man who is always used as a token in anything that calls for “diversity” or needs a person on video (he has incredible camera presence and energy, but after a dozen videos of him, they need to find a new star!). The president of the org (old white man) sent a letter talking about the police shootings, saying our org stands for social justice, and proclaiming that he and the board stands behind employees and those we serve from all walks of life. In a recent all org meeting, he said that someone asked him if we might do diversity training for staff. He said he feels diversity training is better used more as a reaction to an particular incident and that he thinks it’s each individuals responsibility to educated themselves. I agree and disagree with this. But it sounds like there really won’t be any internal changes or conversation moving forward. If there is, it wasn’t shared with us.
    However, my biggest concern right now is that our staff does not reflect those we are serving which means that our mostly white staff are making decisions and creating resources from their well-meaning but biased and white privileged perspective. I want to send a letter to the president to point this out and ask (tell my thought about?) what could be done to improve this. I’ve got a jumbled rough draft started but I’m at a loss for a clear approach. And I’m nervous to send it so I want it to be thoughtful and clear in my letter.

    Any advice on what I could say? Or talking points? I’m not super influential so I can’t lean on management or leadership credibility. I don’t want to ask my boss for advice because he is the one Black man I mentioned and I don’t wish to add more to this stress. He’s going to be leading a talk next week on serving men of color (!!!). He has enough going on.

    Thoughts?

    1. OtterB*

      Maybe an advisory committee from among the population you serve, to consult on policies/resources? Should be paid.

    2. genius by association*

      It’s a fair question in any job, but especially when the staff doesn’t reflect the community you serve. Maybe coming into it like they are asking for feedback, the way Alison says it, like *of course* you want to know this, and asking if they are changing anything about the recruiting process, etc. If there’s a white person who you think would want to push for it as well, you can nudge them about saying something as well. If it would reassure you or you think it would be helpful to have articles/research about culturally competent practice you can look it up to bring with you, because the evidence is on your side, but you don’t necessarily need to do that.

      I don’t think this is something you necessarily need to keep from your boss. You don’t have to ask him to take it on himself, but it’s OK to let him know what you’re feeling, and chances are he’s less likely to invalidate your concerns than a white boss would.

    3. CM*

      This is something that benefits all BIPOC at your company, so I would give them a heads up, starting with your boss. The ideal outcome would be that the letter would come from all or many of you.

      Your boss is clearly doing the diversity work even if you think the burden shouldn’t fall on him, and he may appreciate that you’re willing to step up and do some of it too. He would probably also have strategic advice about how to approach this.

      I’d suggest sending your draft to your boss, explaining your thinking, and asking for his thoughts.

      As to what to write in your letter, I think sticking to your main message of “we need representation to serve our constituents effectively” is perfect — it’s not accusing anybody of racism, and you’re framing it as “let’s pursue our mutual goal together.” Try to think of a couple of concrete examples, either from your own work or the similar work of other organizations, so you can tell a story that might resonate with your leadership. Some statistics could help. Here’s a possible outline:
      Dear __,
      Thank you for your recent statements about racism — it’s good to know our organization supports anti-racism work.
      I [or ideally, we] would like to add to the conversation about anti-racism by proposing steps we can take as an organization to stand behind our public statement.
      We have X% of BIPOC staff and Y% of BIPOC clients. This can lead to our making policies and decisions that don’t effectively serve the needs of our clients. For example… tell your two stories here.
      I/we propose that the organization take the following steps to address this issue:
      Change hiring practices, assemble an advisory board, etc.
      Thank you for your commitment to this important work. As POC, we greatly appreciate that the organization is willing to stand for social justice.

      1. IndoMex*

        These are great thoughts and echo what I’ve been thinking. I’m so thankful you took the time to reply. Much appreciated!

        1. CM*

          I admire you for pushing for change in your organization. Best of luck and come back with an update to let us know how it goes!

    4. Anono-me*

      I think prior posters have given you good suggestions about your message.

      But… depending on how your organization’s internal politics are; you might want to run the final version of your letter by your direct boss before sending directly to the president. There could be weird chain of command issues that wind up obscuring your message.

  47. Mediamaven*

    Are there any POCs out there who don’t want their bosses reaching out to them after what’s been happening? I have one black employee in our small company. She’s fairly introverted and a very business oriented, get the job done person. Very nice and loved by her tight knit team but also the first person to dig into her work and not get distracted by chatter. I had felt strange reaching out to her because I was afraid she’d feel singled out, but I definitely didn’t want her to feel like I wasn’t recognizing what happened especially because it really affected our work. After reading AAM this week I decided it would be bad for me to not reach out so I gave her a call and asked her how she was. Her reaction was pretty much what I expected – like she really didn’t want to be singled out or treated differently. She didn’t come out and say that but that was the vibe she sent me so we shut down the conversation pretty quick. She’s the hardest worker we have and hasn’t skipped a beat. I think it’s hard to know how to navigate with different situations but we shouldn’t assume everyone wants the same response in their workplace with a situation that might feel personal. Anyone have any thoughts or perspectives?

    1. Millicent*

      I think it all depends on the individual. I can see why some people feel bothered that their boss didn’t reach out, but I can understand that there will be people equally bothered if their boss does reach out!

      I’m on the side of not wanting my boss to reach out. I’m the lone POC (but not black) on my team and would feel more uncomfortable being singled out. But everything in the last few weeks has definitely affected me – I just tend to be quiet about it at work and that is how I prefer it.

    2. kt*

      I think your employee has really communicated what she doesn’t want, and you’ve picked up on it, so that’s cool!

      If you want to do something about the broader issues, it might be worth thinking about your team and company culture around race and your team and company culture around recruitment. Is your black employee very business oriented in part because the team culture doesn’t allow her to feel comfortable doing anything else? It might be time to just sit back, observe, and keep reading & learning outside of work. I know some folks who just really don’t want to talk about this stuff at work: they see no benefit from any angle to them discussing these matters. That has to be respected, and it also says something about the company.

      1. Mediamaven*

        I honestly think it’s just her personality – her team in particular is incredibly tight knit and I don’t think she feels ostracized in any way other than the obvious right now of being the only black woman (we do have an asian employee too). But she feels very close to her teammates as far as I know. There’s never been any intention to not be diverse. It’s just the last few years have been extremely competitive in our industry for any talent. Obviously that’s now changed but we aren’t hiring so that’s the catch.

    3. PX*

      Hi, it me!

      Basically, I like seeing that my company as a whole is taking this seriously, and they have sent out various messages to that effect.

      But I am super glad no one on my team has personally asked me about it because I have absolutely zero desire to talk about this at work. I’m tired of dealing with it in my personal life, definitely tired of my white friends trying to talk to me about it, so I definitely dont want anyone at work talking to me about it.

      My approach to all this is I want to see actions, not words. So if you can, things like meaningful public statements (makes a statement to others and future BIPOC employees!), donations, working with minority affiliated groups that may be relevant to your industry, working on making your hiring as unbiased as possible, shutting down any microagressions you hear, making sure handbooks talk about respecting diversity (and actually mean/enforce it) etc etc, and all the other things that would make your work environment a pleasant place to work in are what I care about.

      1. Mediamaven*

        Great. Now I wish I hadn’t said anything! Ugg. I think that perspective should have been referenced in the post this week.

        Thank you for your POV. I’m very sensitive to putting things out on social media just because that’s the thing to do. So, I made a quiet donation to a group that felt right for our company and I let the team know so I’m hoping she was happy with that move. Hopefully she isn’t feeling weird and hates me. She’s a fantastic employee.

        1. julie julie july*

          if it’s the post I’m thinking about (from the lw who was the only black person on her team) the answer did say in some circumstances it can make things worse and linked to a discussion of that.

        2. PX*

          Ah, to be fair, as long as you respected her desire to move on from the conversation (which it seems you did) then there’s not much more to beat yourself up about. If she’s anything like me, she probably just rolled her eyes and went back to work, but probably filed it away in the back of her head that at least you seem to be one of the good ones.

          I will say though, while its great that you care and are putting in the effort – what is the rest of the company doing? Thats probably what I’d also be paying attention to.

          1. Mediamaven*

            We’re incredibly small so it’s hard to really look at “the company” as a whole. I’m honestly not sure if anyone reached out to her directly – I told her manager not to after I spoke with her myself – but I know they have all been posting things on social and going to protests. I don’t think she would have any ill will towards anyone even if they said something that was tone deaf while still intended positively. She’s very level headed and professional and I imagine that’s just what she wants from everyone right now.

        3. pancakes*

          I’m white fwiw, but I think it would be helpful here to stop centering your own feelings, and definitely stop thinking of your employee as someone who maybe “hates” you for having had this conversation. You described her as being close to her team and good at her work, so why instantly pivot to thinking of her / depicting her as overly- or inappropriately emotional? That doesn’t correspond with anything else you’ve said about her.

          1. CM*

            Preach! Mediamaven, I’m really glad you’ve been paying attention to the news and feeling some responsibility both personally and as an organization to make changes. I’ve also seen an overwhelming amount of “you MUST check in with your Black coworkers” going around. So you did, uneasily, and it wasn’t that well received — because Black people are individuals and even if lots of people feel like they appreciate the checkin, some won’t! So now, move on — don’t focus on whether your action was sufficiently appreciated and definitely don’t blame Black people who prefer to avoid discussing race at work for not informing you in advance. (This is a little tongue in cheek, based on your comment above saying you think this perspective should had been referenced in the post earlier this week. If you know this person, as an individual, you should have some idea how she might react.) You did what you thought was right, you’ve learned that it’s complicated. You donated and that’s great.

            I’m a little concerned that you seem to think she has no issues (feels very close to everyone, not ostracized in any way) because the group is close knit and she’s a great employee. This reminds me of a Reddit relationships letter I read a couple of days ago where a white guy said his East Asian wife had “never experienced racism.” You may not see it, and she may give no outward indication, but if a close friend asked she might have a whole list of microaggressions that she would vent about.

            1. Mediamaven*

              No, I more felt as though white people are telling other white people what they absolutely must do which is what I felt happened in that original thread.

          2. Mediamaven*

            You might be overthinking my response. I don’t really think that she would do that. I’ve described her as the complete opposite if you read the rest of what I said. Come on now.

            1. pancakes*

              If you don’t really think it why make a point of writing it? I did read the rest of what you wrote in this thread, which is why I was able to see the discrepancy between that comment and the others. I think the disconnect is worth thinking about.

              1. Avasarala*

                I agree with pancakes.
                You clearly want to do the right thing, but I also see an undercurrent of “dear committee of black people, just tell me what the right thing is for my black employee”. Your employee has communicated to you she doesn’t want to be singled out–whose approval are you looking for?

                And as CM says, why are you so sure that “I don’t think she feels ostracized in any way other than the obvious right now of being the only black woman”? That’s pretty lonely. I bet your one Asian employee feels lonely too.

                You said “Hopefully she isn’t feeling weird and hates me.” This is very extreme and almost defensive; as pancakes said, if she is a reasonable person, why would she suddenly pivot to hating you? It’s almost like you’re afraid of accidentally Doing A Racism but haven’t really thought about how your everyday actions and the systems you participate in contribute to racism (this is something we all must reflect on to be antiracist.) You say “There’s never been any intention to not be diverse. It’s just the last few years have been extremely competitive in our industry for any talent.” Why is the “default” of your hiring process white people?

          3. bunniferous*

            Seems to me the poster is bending over backwards to center HER feelings. In any case reasonable people-which it sounds like they both are-are going to have some grace as we all do our best to navigate these times respectfully.

  48. Lady Heather*

    Is there anyone here involved in the hiring or managing (or working alongside) of volunteers who can tell me a little about what makes an adequate volunteer?

    I’ve had several volunteer positions in my life, and something I keep running into is that I don’t feel ‘good enough’ and then don’t apply for a volunteer position, or when I do have a position, I stress constantly about whether I’m good enough or whether I’m just taking the space of someone who’d be better. Or, when I really want to volunteer somewhere, I have trouble being honest about my weaknesses in the interview/application stage; similarly, once I’m a volunteer, I have trouble asking for help on how to handle something or with saying ‘if I do x I’ll be tired for days, so I’d rather not do x, actually’.
    Some of the things that make me a potentially bad volunteer is that it takes me a while to adjust when things or expectations change, my social skills are meh (I’m autistic), and depending on the situation and work I might have limited availability as well as some physical disabilities.
    Strengths are that I am a nice and kind person who works hard, and I keep to my commitments. (I don’t no-call no-show and rarely call sick.)

    The ideal volunteer is (I assume) someone who is flexible, social, and reliable. And a bad volunteer would be inflexible, antisocial, and unreliable. But where is the ‘cut-off’ between ‘come and be welcome’ and ‘please stay home’?

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I’ve been an informal volunteer manager of other volunteers a few times. In my experience, what makes a good volunteer is similar to what makes a good employee: It depends on the (volunteer) job.

      Sometimes, flexible and social are key. In other cases, they aren’t key characteristics. For example, I’ve volunteered doing city clean-ups and urban gardening; what volunteers needed to bring is a willingness to work hard and commit to the job.

      In many, many volunteer roles, I think you bring a lot as a volunteer: your kind, your willing to spend your time on the role, and you have follow through on your commitments (flakiness is an issue with volunteers). There is a huge need for volunteers at many organizations, so as long as you feel like you’re not being taken advantage of, then I would encourage you to apply and hopefully know that you’re greatly valued, since reliable volunteers are hard to come by.

    2. Ashley*

      The cut off for stay at home is if you are volunteering in a work position and treat it as social hour or can’t follow basic instructions. Though there are places you can create social positions for volunteers that can prove really useful for organizations.
      To me the good volunteer is willing to try and help, flexibility helps, but I have worked with great volunteers with a set skill set. When I needed that skill set I would go to them.
      When I am working with volunteers or volunteering for something myself understanding the time commitment and skill set for the volunteer is key. I recently left a board I loved (term limits) because they respected my time but came to me for things in my wheel house and were understanding when work commitments limited my time. I am still on their call list for some things because of how well they treated me and the fact I feel like I make a real contribution. I have left organizations who I felt like were demanding I act like a paid employee with the responsibilities and no flexibility.
      I also always try to think about hours. When working with volunteers I always tired to meet after work hours so it didn’t impact their job.

    3. AnnieMay*

      I think you’re being much too hard on yourself! Plenty of volunteer roles don’t require being social. I think it might help to write down a list of what skills and talents you have, when you are available to use them, and what limitations you have. When you become aware of an opportunity sit with that list and compare.

    4. RagingADHD*

      I’ve volunteered for years in various positions/orgs, been on an oversight committee for one group, and got hired as a result of another. The main things I see is as important are:
      1) Reliability/availability;
      2) Making sure your work is furthering the mission, rather than undermining it, and
      3) Skill match.

      For example, in the org I mostly work with now, there are a lot of different positions. Some, like meeting clients at the front desk, require an ability to multitask and adapt quickly to change. Some, like peer counseling, require a lot of emotional skill. And others, like distributing material support, require organization, reliability, and sticking to policy. There’s a wide variety of personalities!

      The cut-off would be when the volunteer is undermining the organization’s mission, or making it worse to have them in the role than to have nobody. That’s a pretty low bar. I’ve only seen a few instances of orgs “firing” a volunteer – for really egregious crap like making racist comments or derailing the work entirely.

      I did once fire a volunteer who responded to minor, reasonable feedback by locking herself in the bathroom and loudly weeping for hours. Naturally, nothing else got done that day. At all.

      We made sure she was okay and I followed up with her afterwards, but we did not have her come back. I couldn’t afford to lose hours or days of work time for the whole team because she couldn’t handle being asked to move two feet to the left. (Literally. That was it.)

      Usually, if there’s just a poor fit between the person and the role, management will just ask them to move into a different role that’s a better fit for their personality or skills. Reliable volunteers are a precious commodity!

    5. Cwaeth*

      I have been a volunteer manager for many years. Nice, kind, and reliable? You sound like a great volunteer! You probably need to research volunteer positions to find a good fit for your strengths. Fund raising board member? You will not thrive in that position – too much socializing required. You may find helping at your local food bank sorting donations or animal shelter walking dogs to be rewarding. They both require commitment to a set schedule. The beneficiaries of your work will be very grateful.

  49. LikeUmmOK*

    I have a Gen Z employee (early 20s) and this is their first professional job. Overall they are a great employee but their verbal communication has proven less than professional. Nothing terrible like curse words, just surprisingly limited vocabulary, numerous verbal pauses, etc. – they remind me of a young teenager when speaking. Their job is outward facing and we work at a cultural/educational institution were education/polish is expected so I’d like to address it quickly (plus I think it’s a long term skill she will certainly need to develop to progress professionally). I plan to encourage them to join Toastmasters or a similar organization (and will approve attending meetings on company time) but am looking for other resources I can provide that come at minimal to no cost (yay nonprofits during a pandemic). Any recommendations you all can provide would be appreciated!

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Would it be weird for your employee to partake in some of the training/classes your organization offers, maybe separate from the folks who normally attend? Or maybe just offer that to your staff in general, so they can experience them first hand and provide feedback.

      1. LikeUmmOK*

        We’re a small(er) museum so we don’t offer trainings/classes of that nature. Sorry, my label of cultural/educational institution was probably misleading but I was trying to keep it vague.

        1. PX*

          Hmm. Still, sometimes it helps if you can have something tangible to point toward (polish is so open to interpretation) that perhaps if you can organise for her to see some of what you mean in action, that can be helpful.

          Personally I’m thinking of her attending eg a high level meeting for her to see how others speak so she gets an idea of what you are looking for. If you have any recorded, you can set up a review session perhaps? Maybe she could shadow someone for a day or shift (if thats a thing) so that you can demonstrate to her what ‘ideal behaviour’ looks like in your organisation?

          1. Tiredtiredtired*

            I would proceed with caution on this. Per PX’s response polish and “professional” is open to interpretation and in my experience, that phrasing can come across as coded (racially/culturally, etc.) language if you’re not super explicit in articulating your intent.

            While this could be an instance where the employee in question just needs more experience speaking in professional contexts, their limited vocab or verbal pauses could be the result of other things—perhaps English isn’t their first language, or perhaps other colleagues have responded unfavorably to their input/speaking out so they’re choosing to speak with limited words or having trouble finding the right ones.

            Personally, I know due to some recent changes in my workload, ongoing stress related to covid and racial injustice, in addition to interfacing with colleagues who regularly talk over me or minimize my input, I’ve definitely been having more and more difficulty trying to verbally communicate with clarity and fluidity. This might come across to my colleagues as lacking professionalism but I’m just exhausted, on edge and struggling to find the right words

          2. Avasarala*

            In a similar vein, are there younger people who speak well that you could point to as ideals?

            There are plenty of young people who speak well, in the vernacular of their age group (it’s not weird that a young 20s person speaks like a teenager, any more than a 60 year old sounds like a grandpa). This might actually be helpful when connecting with younger patrons and workers. And it’s easier for a young person to mimic say, AOC as opposed to RBG, speech-pattern-wise.

  50. LegallyBrunette*

    I’m a law student who recently started as an intern at a law firm. I’m very excited to have the opportunity, and the firm specializes in subject matter than I’m passionate about.

    My issue is that the internship is entirely remote, and everyone is connecting using Zoom, Teams, etc., and I’m having a hard time making useful connections and getting involved in interesting projects. My law school shifted to online classes after the outbreak, so I’m not unfamiliar with working remotely, but it seems more difficult in a work environment than a school environment, particularly a new environment where I haven’t actually met 90% of my coworkers in person.

    My other issue is that I have a speech disorder – a stutter that isn’t glaringly obvious to most people but does have a profound effect on the way and the amount that I speak. Using video conference tools has exacerbated my existing anxiety about my speech, because the technical glitches (sound going out, delays, poor video/audio quality) feel like the embodiment of the personal speech glitches I already have, and I feel like it’s very difficult for me to speak strongly and confidently in Zoom and Teams meetings.

    1. CTT*

      As an associate on the other end of this, I think it’s just going to be a weird, hard summer. I’m sorry! It’s a bad situation. I usually try to get summers involved in my projects, but work is slow right now and there’s not a ton to engage people on, and I imagine it’s similar at your firm.

      You’ve probably already done this, but just in case: if an attorney has reached out to you to welcome you or ask if you have any questions about their practice group/what the firm is like, do respond, even if you do it just by email. I did this with our summers and only one responded. It’s so hard to get a feel for people this summer since it’s virtual, and now all I have to go on for the majority of them is nothing (and I’m a little annoyed at one because his mentor emailed my practice group to say that he was interested in working in my area…)

    2. Coverage Associate*

      I am a senior associate relatively new to my firm. I have been trying to take the attitude that any positive contact is good for my career. Definitely when we first went remote you could tell people just wanted human connection.

      So any time something goes firm wide that is particularly helpful or interesting, I reach out to the people responsible to tell them so. If I were you, I would add a sentence introducing myself and offering to work on follow up projects. The worst that can happen is nothing. The best is you get to work on some cutting edge stuff.

    3. CM*

      Similar to what Coverage Associate said, my first thought is that you could try emailing individual people, saying that you’re interested in learning about their work, or would appreciate the opportunity to work with them. If you know something about their cases/matters you could reference that. If the issue is that work is slow, you could also ask them if they have any resources they would recommend to help you learn more about the practice area.

      It can really help to connect with one partner or senior associate who likes the idea of being your mentor and can help you find work. If there’s somebody who you’d like to mentor you, you could specifically target that person. Don’t ask “will you be my mentor” but put extra effort into learning about their work and communicating to them that you share their interests and would love to learn from them / work with them.

      Is there somebody who’s assigning you work? If so, definitely be very clear about the type of work you’re interested in doing and any specific people/groups you want to work with.

      I’d also suggest sitting in on meetings, but since video conferencing is presenting problems for you, that may not be the best strategy for you right now.

    4. TPS reporter*

      I’m in the legal field and have an intern this summer. We’re fully remote. I have assigned a senior person on the team to be her mentor and have set up times each week for her to connecg with a different person on the team. Is there someone in the firm that can help you set that up?

    5. Avasarala*

      I don’t have any advice, except that I once worked with a translator who had a stutter, and interpretation is a role where every single person is listening carefully to every word you say! I don’t know what tricks she used to get past the anxiety/internal thought-process part, but she was one of the most capable people I’ve ever worked with, and no one ever questioned her judgment or speaking ability.

      I hope and expect your colleagues will be just as understanding.

  51. anonybear*

    SEEKING ADVICE

    I lead a team of 22 people. My managers (company owners) insist on running the meetings with my team, and the team HATES them. They kill morale, people feel picked on based on how my managers insist on leading them, and the team is largely an anxious mess about them and/or they feel like a huge waste of time.

    The trouble is every single time I’ve raised the issue of these meetings, my managers are indignant that these meetings are the only way to manage the team, and are not open to doing anything different. I even once got in what amounts to a professional fight about it, without anything changing.

    Lately, I’ve been hearing even more from the team about how awful these meetings are. And I don’t know what to do: Raise the issue again? Tell reps I empathize but there’s nothing to be done? Any advice on how to nudge a CEO when they are attached to an idea that is causing active harm?

    Thanks, all!

    1. PX*

      When you say they run the meetings, what exactly are they doing? Setting the agenda? Dominating conversation?

      This sounds tough, but the only thing I can think if you havent already tried it is by subtly taking back control of the meeting. You can start with something along the lines of “I read this great article on meeting ettiquete and efficiency, and thought we could introduce a few changes..”.

      And from there I would appoint yourself meeting facilitator. The beauty of a good facilitator, is that it is 100% their job to keep things on track, so that means they can interrupt people (nicely ofcourse), move topics on which arent helpful, define an agenda, insist on timekeeping etc etc.

      Is it more work for you? Yes. But maybe it could help? You can also assign roles and perhaps find ways to get the owners in more passive roles and people on your team in more active roles so they can be heard?

    2. Golden Lioness*

      If you can’t stop the meetings, how about changing the content of the meetings? I am sure employees are complaining because they do not find them useful. Maybe brainstorm on things that could be addressed on the meetings that would make them engaging for your employees, such as asking them to submit points they need help with in advance, or topics they’d like to discuss, or even some kind of lunch-and-learn type training.

    3. HR Exec Popping In*

      Can you have separate meetings? One without them where you cover what you need and then a shorter meeting with the owners so that they can feel connected to the team. In other words, the working meeting is “on the side” and then more of a dog and pony show for the owners.

  52. Aggretsuko*

    It has been officially confirmed multiple times this week by higher-ups that we absolutely cannot hire anyone new. There is nothing that can be done to relieve my stress and nervous breakdown.

    Oh well. I guess I will just keep going until I collapse, that’s the only option.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Oh well. I guess I will just keep going until I collapse, that’s the only option.

      I can’t disagree strongly enough. You do not owe your company your health or your life. Do what you can reasonably do (cap your hours per day and week, if you need to), and be transparent with your manager “This is what I can accomplish and this is what I’m prioritizing, but let me know if I should prioritize something else.”

      If your manager pushes back and says “Everything MUST BE DONE,” just tell them “That’s not possible without more staff and resources. Here’s what I can accomplish and what I’m prioritizing.”

      1. irene adler*

        Yes! Prioritize and let them know what you can and cannot accomplish. Let them decide what won’t get completed.

        Only you have your best interests at heart. So you need to be the one to draw the line and attend to your health. No one else is going to do this-even at the expense of your burnout or crash.

        Right now management doesn’t have to address undone tasks. They just tell you there’s nothing that can be done and watch as you accomplish all tasks-the the detriment of your health. Clever aren’t they?

        Look, are they going to fire you should a task go undone? Thinking no. They might chew you out, but then what? You explain that there’s only so many hours in the day and THEY need to prioritize tasks and accept that unless they pitch in, things will go undone. No amount of punishment is going to change that reality.

    2. Koala dreams*

      I agree with Analytical that even if your company refuse to do anything, you can still do your best on your end. Prioritize among work tasks, shut off phone/email so you can’t be reached after work, look for new work with better work environment, take care of your health as good as you can and focus on non-work things when not working.

      If you truly feel a collapse is coming, it might be better for you to quit now so you have some time to take care of yourself and look for a new job. If you have any sick days left, take them first of course.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Quite respectfully, that’s BS. You do not have to work yourself into collapse. Alison has several posts about exactly how to deal with this situation. You’ve tried to get help, that’s not going to happen, which means quite simply that not everything will get done. Go back to those posts and use that language/approach. And take care of yourself. They are not paying you enough to destroy your health.

    4. Invisible Fish*

      Please don’t. You must put yourself first- no one else will. I’ve been the person in the office who always did “all the things,” much to my own detriment. It’s a job- they get their 40 hours a week out of you and that’s it. Please, please put yourself first.

    5. Avasarala*

      Aggretsuko, you are here every week growing more and more fatalist and defeated.
      Have you read/tried the advice commenters and Alison have shared with you?
      We cannot fight for you if you will not fight for yourself.
      Is your health and sanity worth so little to you?

  53. Another Sarah*

    I saw something in the thread on workplace diversity yesterday but I didn’t want to ask my question there and de-rail things or go off topic. In one post the poster mentioned her work had pulled job offers that were promised promotions from eight current employees because they were not black or indigenous. The poster even clarified this in a follow up comment. There were four employees that are black or indigenous abd their offers were not pulled. I don’t understand how this is possibly legal but I don’t have a law or HR background so maybe I am missing something? I also don’t get why the poster was surprised how some of those eight who had their offers pulled quit. I tried searching for employment law but nothing I saw showed what they did being legal.

    1. Hannah Banana*

      Whaast? I don’t disbelieve you Another Sarah but I when I read this just now I couldn’t believe it. Did that really happen. I’m slack jawed if it did.

      1. ...*

        Yes it did. I cant remember the posters name but they basically pulled 8 job offers from people that had already been discussed. I would quit too so long as I wouldn’t starve. Im pretty sure its illegal. Pulling a job offer solely on the basis of race isn’t legal, even if the person its pulled from is not a minority or is white.

    2. Natalie*

      Assuming the poster was in the US and at a company large enough to be covered by Civil Rights Act (which seems likely given the number of offers they mentioned), it would be illegal. US anti-discrimination law doesn’t distinguish between groups with privilege and groups without – making a hiring decision based on race is prohibited across the board.

    3. Darren*

      It was this post: https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/my-employer-says-theyre-committed-to-diversity-how-can-i-hold-them-to-accountable-to-that.html#comment-3007919 in case people wanted to read it themselves.

      From what I can see this situation is definitively not legal in the US (it sounds like they have earmarked 8 positions to be held by people of color which as a quota system is unconstitutional), in other areas it may or may not be legal depending on the specifics of the rulings about quota systems as attempts to redress previous discrimination.

      Now if we were just talking about taking those handpicked groomed successor roles and instead we are going to advertise for these roles externally and internally, encourage people from diverse backgrounds to apply and hire the best candidate that is perfectly fine and ethical you are just broadening the candidate base to try and get more equality in there.

      The quota system itself again there are arguments either way for that (and it’s legality is usually clearly one way or the other based on where you are), but the specific way it was enacted in this case feels particularly bad.

  54. Still Looking*

    I’m going in an interview later today and growing nervous!! I’ve been actively looking and been through many interviews but still can’t get used to it!

  55. More Anon Than Usual*

    Pre-COVID, I expected to get a promotion this summer (no major change in job responsibilities, but a title change and pay increase commensurate to the work I’m currently doing). Now, my small company has done layoffs and instituted a pay freeze.

    Can I ask for the title change with no raise attached? What’s the most tactful way to approach this?

    Normally I would never ever ever accept a promotion with no pay increase, but I’m about to apply to grad school and the new title would strengthen my application quite a bit (plus, the raise is off the table regardless). My boss is a reasonable person, and is aware and supportive of my grad school plans.

    1. PX*

      I think yes. I’ve seen this come up a few times and Alison may have already answered, but basically yes, ask for the title raise, and say that you can discuss the associated pay raise X months in future (with an option to backdate it if things get magically better!)

  56. genius by association*

    Why are companies asking people to come into the office now, mandatory, if all the work can be done the same from home?

      1. tangerineRose*

        Then why don’t they just ask the people who aren’t working well at home to come in?

    1. Rebecca*

      Good question. I have one more week at home. Then, it’s back to the office, with all sorts of restrictions, and I have to trust that my coworkers won’t mask symptoms of illness (they have in the past, even after HR said no one was permitted to come to the office with even so much as a cold in early March). We’re non-exempt, 99.9% of my work is perfectly fine here at home, I have all the equipment I need – but I think it’s a control thing and my company is so backward with the whole punch in, punch out to the minute thing, butts in seats, etc. Out of our entire group, I think 2 people are happy about going back. The rest of us are screaming internally.

    2. JimmyJab*

      Some hate the thought of people “slacking off” at home, regardless of whether there is any evidence of it. Butts-in-seats people versus get-the-work-done-however people.

    3. Nicki Name*

      Because it’s How Things Are Done.

      Also maybe because they have multiple years left on the office lease and hate paying for all the empty space.

      1. Ali G*

        Yup. And add to it, if people start working from home more, they may want the employer to pay for internet, office supplies, etc. I can WFH as long as I want, and I can go get things from the office, but besides that, I am on my own. Why? Because I have a large private office in our suite. There’s no way we are going to support local folks WFH when they have an office where we already pay for everything.

    4. Oxford Comma*

      My guess is that they are still buying into the perception that people who are working from home are slacking off.

      I don’t get it. My team has been as productive, if not more productive than when we were in the building. Also, this pandemic isn’t going away any time soon.

    5. pbnj*

      Old school butts in chairs mentality instead of measuring performance and productivity. It’s easier to assess the amount of face time than to hold people accountable for getting their work done.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Which is kind of sadly funny sometimes. I’m thinking about a former co-worker who was an expert at not working while at the office. Very frustrating to the rest of us since we got to pick up his slack.

    6. Anon for this*

      Some work is the same, but some of it is not. I hate trying to get decisions through a conference call or WebEx meeting and look forward to the day I can have a regular meeting to hash things out. It is also very hard to have a nuanced conversation to sort out a problem over the phone or on a VTC. This is a particular challenge when counseling an employee who is not performing up to par. (I don’t mean in the current circumstances, I mean someone who wasn’t performing well before the COVID-19 WFH. I understand about people with kids at home or other challenges.)

      Depending on what you do, you may be able to do all your work from home. But I can’t, most of my team members can’t and I must admit to frustration when they insist otherwise. I admit that they can perhaps do 70% of their work at home, and personally prefer that they do so. But those who are able to come in a couple of days a week need to do so. Those of us asking employees to come in are not all old-fashioned grumps who just want to see butts in seats!

    7. What the What*

      So, our company had a very productive time working from home. We got all of our backlog taken care of, and in record time! Everyone felt great!

      Unfortunately, a few things did not work. Overall, about 10% of the work duties could theoretically be done at home, but weren’t done well – things like customer acquisition and team collaboration. It’s actually no wonder we were super super productive… the things that were productivity killers were ignored and simply not done.

      Except that those things are 100% necessary to our business.

      And it’s not that we didn’t try… our team tried talking to clients on Zoom, but it was no substitute for in person contact. Our team tried talking to each other on Zoom, but you can’t really schedule creativity and off the cuff collaboration into a Zoom call.

      So now we super productively made it through our backlog, but have very little work to do moving forward, because no one picked up any new clients or met with the team to develop new projects.

      There’s pushback from a lot of the team about coming back to the office. Afterall, from their point of view, everything went fantastic. Super productive. All metrics and deadlines met. No one was slacking!

      Unfortunately, work product is only 90% of our business. Relationships is the other 10%. And without the relationship side, our business can’t function long term. So we’re having to poke and prod people back to the office.

  57. Sarah*

    How do you deal with a work culture of passing the buck? We are over-worked and incredibly under-staffed, nerves are frayed, and no one wants to take responsibility for new or unassigned projects. It’s a merry-go-round of individuals passing tasks from one to the other and leadership is unwilling/unable (?) to assign things. I’m not sure if there’s a solution, but if there is, I’d love to know.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Assuming you’re not management, then the solution might be “stop caring so much.” Apparently, those tasks aren’t being done and things are fine*, so don’t worry about it.

      In management, they need to evaluate “Are these tasks necessary?” If not, take them out of rotation. If they are, then you need to juggle responsibilities/priorities so they are done without burning staff out.

      *For a given value of fine; sorry you and your colleagues are over-worked and understaffed :/

    2. CM*

      I don’t think you solve this without leadership.

      Management needs to prioritize here and make some hard decisions. If they are unwilling, the merry-go-round continues. At least, somebody with authority needs to be willing to stand up and name the problem.

      I’m assuming from your letter you’re not part of management. One possible solution is to try to enlist other people — get your manager on board with the idea that people need to take responsibility for projects and you probably need to drop some projects altogether, and start talking to others individually about the problem, so people gradually start thinking of this idea as their own or at least as something everybody acknowledges needs to be addressed. This is time-consuming but can be effective.

  58. Alicia Florrick*

    My employer has started phasing staff back in to the office. One of the policies (announced via video meeting, not in writing) is that employees no longer have access to water fountains/coolers and must bring in their own beverages. Water bottles are not provided. I’ve emailed HR and asked for them to confirm the policy but haven’t received a response yet.

    This is an OSHA violation, right? What can I do?

    1. Not Me*

      Will you not have access to tap water either? Or is the tap water not drinkable? Surely you’ll have access to a sink that supplies water so you can wash your hands, right?

      1. Venus*

        Our workplace is concerned about the quality of the tap water, as lines have been stagnant for months, so we need to run water for at least 2 minutes before drinking. Water fountains are cut off, presumably because they aren’t used as often so are even more likely to be stagnant. This makes it harder to drink water if someone doesn’t bring in some sort of container, but on balance it seems reasonable.

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      OSHA Standards require an employer to provide potable water in the workplace and permit employees to drink it. Potable water includes tap water that is safe for drinking. Employers cannot require employees to pay for water that is provided. An employer does not have to provide bottled water if potable water is available.
      – from the OSHA website

      Do you have sinks or other sources of drinkable water? There doesn’t appear to be anything in the OSHA and COVID regulations that new COVID recommendations supersede prior OSHA rules, so it does seem like you have a case.

      1. pbnj*

        Key words – “and permit employees to drink it”. Sounds like you have a valid complaint. Do you have a safety person at your company you could talk to?

    3. AnnieMay*

      Bring your own water bottle. Raising a fuss about this is going to be a really bad look.

      1. Anima*

        I don’t agree. Having access to drinkable water should be a basic human right (sadly it isn’t). Having no access to water at work in a first world country in the 21th century is absolutely worth raising a fuss.

  59. Stabbity Tuesday*

    Not actually a question but fun story: this week I learned a valuable lesson in not being friends with your boss on social media no matter the circumstances! Even if they’re family!
    Thanksgiving is going to be fun.

      1. stabbitytuesday*

        So I shared a post on my instagram story in favor of.. let’s say one of the more justified moments of destruction in a local BLM protest. The headquarters of an organization that promotes a deeply facetious version of history was burned down and suffered a lot of damage. I’m a property manager of a building near the city center, just a couple blocks away from the state capitol. That building is owned by a company run by my grandfather and uncle. Literally the day after my birthday (on which neither of them spoke to me!) I got a call from my grandfather who does not understand social media even a little bit and he told me that it was inappropriate that I post such things on an instagram account that wasn’t related to my work in any way except for the fact that I and the company I work for share a surname.

        So then I blocked my uncle, who was the only person at the company who followed me, and I’m just waiting for someone to passive-aggressively complain to my mom about it. Bless her, she does not deserve this garbage.

        Don’t work for family!

  60. VirtualTeambuilding*

    Looking for suggestions for virtual team building activities… I did try to search some of the past open threads but couldn’t find a good past discussion when I searched “virtual team building” or “remote team building”.

    ——

    Our 40-person office has been fully remote for over 3 months now with no definite end in sight. We have been having a weekly 30-minute fun meeting to just keep everyone in touch (as some of our departments are fairly siloed). As part of those fun meetings, we have been doing some small 5-10 minute team building things such as mad libs and “tell us your craziest story,” but we are starting to run out of ideas. Additionally, our company’s annual retreat is coming up where we would normally do a bigger offsite team-building activity (such as escape rooms or rope courses). We’re looking for some ideas for what we can do virtually – both for the short weekly meeting and for a longer 30-45 minute activity for the retreat. Breaking the company into smaller subgroups is totally fine/not an issue. We would love any ideas readers have to offer on what things have worked well in their company. Thanks!

    And before folks ask -> everything is opt in without pressure to participate. We have a fairly young team (most folks are under 40) and everyone has traditionally seemed to enjoy the ability to get together without stress/work discussions.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My team is fully remote (has been for five plus years) and not super participatory in the fun stuff, but a couple of things that have had better than usual participation —

      Virtual parade. We did ours at Halloween, sort of a powerpoint version of the “everyone and their kids in a costume parades around through the cube farm,” but you could do any sort of theme. I collected pictures for a couple weeks beforehand, threw them all into a PP with captions, and sent it around as a PDF.

      Similarly, virtual pitch-in. Everyone submit a favorite recipe, someone compiles them and send them around. I got an excellent recipe for dressing when we did this right before Thanksgiving.

      Neither of these are so much “do them on the spot” type things, but if you collect them ahead of time, you could show the PP off at the meeting?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        We just did “hat day” at our staff meeting the other day. Half participation, and half those who did participate were in regular ball caps and the other half in hats of varying styles. I had a stack of eight hats by my desk and changed my hat every five minutes to see if anyone noticed. (No one did, but I wasn’t talking much so it wasn’t that surprising.) My boss was like “Everyone tell the story of your hat!” and nobody really had a story about their hat, but if you told people to show up to show-and-tell with something neat they would be willing to tell a quick (work-appropriate) story about, you could try that.

    2. House-Elf Liberation Front*

      One thing my department (30-40ish people) has been doing is a ‘guess the baby photo’ game. Completely voluntary, any one who wanted to join in sent the designated person their baby photo, then a few times a week a new picture gets sent out. All guesses are a secret until the final picture has been sent and then there will be a reveal at the end along with announcing who guessed the most right.

      I’m normally not big on team-building activities, but this one has been fun! Some photos are super easy – the people look exactly the same now, which others definitely are total guesses.

  61. Granger Chase*

    Hi all! Looking for advice on a coul Em things. I had a second round interview for a job today and learned a few things that gave me a bit of pause, but I was unsure how to address the questions in a professional way:

    -The interviewers stressed how much the company works as a team and values team work, but the position I am interviewing for sounds like 4-6 hours of your day are spent on very solitary work, only dealing with the same handful of people on a daily basis (all of whom work at different locations). This was different information than I was given during the first interview.
    -I am in my early 20’s and they admitted most of their work force at this location (50+ people) is roughly 60-65. They also stressed that there is a lot of institutional knowledge/long time employees, which I appreciate, but I’m worried about being the only person there who is so much younger than everyone else.
    -They sent me a link to their website and of all the employees on the site (about 100-150 within the group photos) absolutely zero of them were POC. We live in an incredibly diverse area and it’s concerning to me that there was not even one non-white person out of such a large sample size. I am a white woman, but I value workplaces that actively work to create diversity and inclusivity, and don’t think I could work somewhere that doesn’t seem to hold those values, especially in light of what is going on right now.

    I am not sure how I am feeling after this interview, and I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions on how to possibly word some of these concerns in a follow up email.
    Thank you!

    1. Avasarala*

      I would draw a line between the first concern and the second two concerns. The first sounds like a question about your duties and actual day-to-day work. I think you could ask about that in an email.

      The second two are about culture and company values. I don’t know that you could ask about this in an email and get an answer that isn’t “we don’t see this as a problem” or “what are you talking about, we value everybody”. Maybe over the phone you could ask about what the company is doing to promote diversity and inclusion, but their actions speak loud and clear IMO.

      Honestly I don’t doubt that those latter concerns are connected. How can you hire more POC when you have the same 50 white people for decades. Sounds ripe for a “this is the way things have always been” environment.

  62. Quill*

    Going back to the office in two weeks, somehow more worried about the literal mountain of mail that I’ll need to sort than the flight back to my hometown and all the covid related stuff.

    Been job hunting out here where my parents live, since there appears to be a 0% chance I will ever get a job with benefits near hometown (and I neeeeed me that health insurance, yesterday) but nobody appears to be hiring. :(

  63. Tiredtiredtired*

    How are other black folks handling unreasonable requests from coworkers during this time? Colleagues at my job who have previously disregarded my feedback, undermined my abilities, talked over me (or have spoken “on my behalf”, when I am in the room) are now *suddenly* interested in my ideas and what I have to say. I’m now being told I have a “voice” and am being “encouraged” to “speak up”. This is primarily because my employer has done a horrible job at responding to the ongoing organizing efforts for Black lives.

    I’m the only person of color on my team and one of few black employees, my employer as a whole is overwhelmingly white, especially Sr. Leadership. Now they all want me involved in their efforts to virtue signal, when I know from my lived experience that they truly do not care and just want me to help them do damage control.

    Backstory:
    I’ve been struggling with a higher workload for several weeks now due to furloughs. I’m the lowest ranking and lowest paid person on my team. On top of the responsibilities of my role, I’ve been handling those of another full-time position. I’ve been transparent with my higher-ups about the challenges. Accommodations have been made but for every item that pauses or shifts off of my plate, another project or series of tasks crop up.

    It wasn’t until after I expressed how I was feeling about the recent killings, pushed back on some tasks, took time off, and unfortunately did a wee bit of educating them that my team became more reasonably responsive to my earlier grievances.

    I frankly think they’re trying to say the “right things” to keep me pacified so that I don’t quit and honestly, trying to cover their own asses. While I’m relieved to be heard, I know this effort on my team and employers part, is temporary and when everyone else forgets about this movement, they’ll slip right back into their old micro aggressive habits, it’s already happening now.

    I’ve been trying to leave this job since I started, and have a set timeline for when I want to quit, the only reason why I haven’t done so already is for financial reasons. This will sound a bit insensitive given the current unemployment situation in the US, but I really wish my employer had just furloughed me. I’m drained every day, I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate, and I don’t want to do the work, I just need the income.

    1. kt*

      This really sucks :( I’m sorry. I don’t know if I have much advice, really, because I’ve seen that sort of thing play out before. It sounds so familiar…

      My story is somewhat similar (very low pay, as the token woman being brought on to a bunch of grants to give them that STEM diversity angle, a continual story of not enough money for this, not enough money for that, can’t let you do this, can’t change your title to reflect that, can’t make this job classification change that would cost us zero money but allow you to make money from a grant you got funded — yes, I got a six-figure NIH grant and I was not going to be allowed to get any salary from it, while the department was going to get six figures from it in overhead). I laid out my requests clearly, concluded they wouldn’t be considered, job-searched for a summer, and quit. I think they were happy I quit.

      I honestly have no useful advice for the workplace. I tried reading all the leadership books and business books. Probably what was best for me was cultivating my hobbies and joys and network outside of work. Blegh. The experience also caused me to become more plain-spoken, as I lost many of the f(*&s I had to give. I think it has decreased my desire to give my all to any workplace, though, and I’m a bit sad about that.

      1. Tiredtiredtired*

        I’m so so sorry you went through that, especially not being allowed to receive part of…your own grant funding. What in the fresh hell?! Unfortunately, your experience does closely mirror mine, especially the lack of budget/funding being used as an excuse for barring professional advancement and development opportunities.

        That happened to me very early on and I recognized then that I likely wasn’t going to get far at my current job. My supervisor has followed the “pet to threat” trend to a T.
        https://zora.medium.com/when-black-women-go-from-office-pet-to-office-threat-83bde710332e

        No matter what I do, she refuses to see me as anything more than her personal assistant (and assistant isn’t even in my job title).

        Before I started this position and way before Covid, I had many hobbies and activities that kept me occupied outside of work. Believe it or not I accepted my low level, low paying job primarily because I naively thought those factors meant that the job would be less demanding (I was also promised work-life balance, and both aspects were true my first few months). But now I’m too burnt out to do much else outside of focus on my job search.

    2. PX*

      Take this moment to ask for a bunch of things and see what they do? Like, ask for more money and more help and see what they say?

      But also, I’m a big fan of working you designated X hours per day, and not giving the company free money. So let stuff slide (work never ends), use the time to mentally refresh and job hunt.

      1. Tiredtiredtired*

        Thank you, this is solid advice and are steps that I’m actively taking. The compensation bit is tricky because in addition to the furlough there were also banded pay cuts. I was remarkably spared this because I make so little (ha! my salary falls well below the starting point for the cuts). I’m also eligible for overtime, which complicates the “free money”/labor bit. I think a push for a raise at this time just won’t land well.

        I have however, been pushing for more staff. I have intel that they’re making moves on that front but no clue how long it will take and what that staffing might look like. I do know that I’m already burnt out.

        1. PX*

          Oof. The overtime makes it tricky, but I think if you can survive on the base salary alone its worth thinking about not working the overtime, and using that time for your mental health and job hunting. I know how tiring the latter can be, but if in the long run it gets you to a job where you make more money and are more supported – the short term financial pain might be worth it?

      2. CM*

        +1 to just working an 8-hour day and doing no more. Prioritize your mental health and recalibrate from “being an excellent employee and handle every task handed to me” to “putting in a reasonable work day and not letting this job take over my life.” If they’re asking you to “use your voice,” I’d suggest a consistent message that your current workload is unsustainable and you’ll be prioritizing your tasks to stay at a sustainable level. (In other words, if they overload you, you’re going to let that excess work drop overboard.)

        I personally wouldn’t use this moment to ask for stuff because I think they would hold it against you later — with the exception that, if you’re planning to stay at this job for a while, now would be a good time to point out that you’re the lowest-paid and only Black person on the team and say that you expect salary equity.

        I hope you find something else soon.

    3. Star*

      Ugh, I hear you. I’ve been in this position before and I’ll be following the answers here with interest because all I could do at the time was smile and make placating “I’m totally fine I’m so happy” noises while I frantically jobhunted.

      All my best wishes for you to get through this and find another job in a better place.

    4. J.B.*

      I’m sorry. From a practical standpoint I would say take more time if you have it so you can unplug some. I would also be very specific about what time each thing takes. So suggest “I’m taking Friday off, here are the specific things I can get done M-Th” or in 32 hours or whatever, and here are the things left. If something on the “left” list is higher priority than get someone else to do something on the 32 hour list.

  64. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I mentioned a couple weeks ago that my spouse was required, with very little notice, to fly across the country to solve a huge work problem. Spouse is due home today — only, they found out yesterday that there was a confirmed covid-positive individual on their worksite. The company’s contact tracing insists that this individual was not anywhere near the visiting team (my spouse was not the only person sent to help resolve this problem), so they’re fine. Between this and the fact that spouse is coming through multiple airports today, spouse is going to be quarantining in their home office for the next couple weeks to be safe. However, spouse had to be somewhat insistent to be allowed to work from home for that time frame instead of being expected to come into the office.

    Related: Spouse feels grumpy and unsupported when I point out that spouse’s management is a bunch of jerkface morons, because this is the latest in a long string of similar stupidity. :P

    1. tangerineRose*

      How does that management team not have any sense about COVID-19? It’s not secret. Sorry he’s having to deal with this.

  65. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    Question for my boyfriend (who just moved in with me, yay!): how do you get a job in a field you have little/no work experience during COVID?

    Context: My boyfriend just graduated with a master’s in statistics. He’s worked in food service for the past four-ish years, partly because they allowed him flexible scheduling so that he could work during the day and then take his classes at night. Because of how crazy high turnover is in food service, he got promoted to trainer and then shift manager over the four years. Now he’s moved a couple hundred miles to live with me in a very rural area.

    His work history prior to the food service job was two environmental/conservation projects and an internship with a professor of his, all in undergrad. He doesn’t have any work experience in the field he wants (data analysis and other math-y things), and he doesn’t know what to highlight as accomplishments or strengths or transferrable skills that would be relevant to future employers, since the two fields are so dissimilar.

    Any advice on this situation would be really helpful. I can provide more info if needed. I just need help troubleshooting since my job search was so different from his.

    1. Lyudie*

      I’m sure others will have better suggestions, but a few things that come to mind…he should try to not only focus on the specific “hard” skills, but things like increasing responsibilities, leadership, mentoring/training, reliability, flexibility, pitching in/teamwork. I bet he has all or most of those things and those are valuable in any role. He was a shift manager and trainer and that shows his bosses valued his knowledge and contributions and counted on him in important roles. I’d also think he would want to describe how he worked and went to school at he same time, that shows some dedication and good work ethics IMO.

      Good luck to him!!

    2. OtterB*

      Data analysis involves stat skills but it also involves the soft skills to listen to people and understand their needs so you can crunch the right numbers to provide them useful answers. I would suggest that his resume and cover letter emphasize the skills that he’s learned from his master’s program (any class projects or papers he’s especially proud of?), and also his increasing responsibilities at work because that demonstrates his success at communication and problem solving.

    3. Cedrus Libani*

      The nice thing about getting a first job in data-type stuff is that it’s one of those fields where a portfolio can speak for you. Does he have any projects (even school projects) that he can stick on a website?

      He can show technical skills via the degree and portfolio, and work ethic through the service job (and succeeding at that while doing a technical degree). That can be enough for entry-level.

      It’s also not unheard of to take a badly-paid first job for experience. Academia is a good place to look. They expect you to leave in a year or two, once you’ve proven yourself – and you should.

  66. Flaxseed*

    My coworker “Jane” and I are friends with a woman in another department, “Sue”. My boss promoted Sue, but after he left, the new managers were upset that Sue “wasn’t working fast enough” on something, so they demoted her back to her previous position. Jane and I feel bad for her. One morning, Jane asked out loud if that means that they will pay Sue less- and Sue was in the room! She didn’t answer, but I hate to admit that I’m curious about that too.

    In this case, would Sue’s pay return to what she was previously earning? We’re friends, but I feel too embarrassed to ask her and it’s none of my business anyways. In general though, how does this work?

    1. Kettricken Farseer*

      Most good companies aren’t going to drop someone’s salary if they are taking a demotion. I suppose they could, but that would be a really crappy thing to do. I’ve worked with a few people who took demotions and their salary wasn’t impacted.

  67. Engager*

    I never ever ever ever feed the trolls… I just move on and find a better job. I don’t know whyyyy I engaged this time, but for some reason I did. Maybe I should just accept that HR depts aren’t going to be run perfectly and put up with it. Feel free to judge me.

    From HR:
    Dear [me]

    Thank you for your interest in our Senior Product Manager role. After a brief review of your profile, we think you could be a good fit for this position, so we’d like to learn a bit more about you!

    Please take a few minutes to fill out this personality profile survey – [link to myers-briggs test].

    Once completed, please reply with your personalized results.

    We look forward to hearing from you!

    From Me:
    Dear [HR],
    The Meyers Briggs results were ENFJ-A.

    However, I’d reconsider using it as any indicator for employment. It seems like you’re running a thoughtful organization and I’d hate to think you’re losing qualified candidates! I’m sure you’re trying to find the right person for the job, but multiple studies have come out suggesting the dangers of using it in the hiring process. I would suggest review:
    [links]
    “The guidelines put out by the Myers & Briggs Foundation very clearly state that “it is not ethical to use the MBTI instrument for hiring or for deciding job assignments.”

    From HR:

    I want to offer you a little feedback on your response. First, to be completely clear, we do not base hiring decisions on this personality test. Frankly, the actual personality has very little to do with why we ask for this.

    One reason (of several) we ask candidates to complete the survey and submit a link to personalized results is to see who is willing and able to follow simple directions.

    I would encourage you to keep an open mind in the hiring process as most of the time candidates don’t actually know what the employer is looking for when they ask for something… it is not always what it seems. It’s easy to say the right things in an interview and make a beautiful resume, but hiring managers have to peel back the layers to get to the real person. That’s especially challenging, yet vital in a virtual environment.

    I wish you all the best in your job search and all your future endeavors.

    From Me:

    Thanks for the explanation. In that case, it does not sound like a good fit for me. By offering a personality test as a test to determine if a Senior Product Manager is able to follow simple instructions, you are filtering your talent pool to candidates who follow instruction without questioning reason and who haven’t done their research into hiring best practices — exactly the opposite qualities of a good project manager! (After reading your reasoning, I thought I might have accidentally applied to an admin role!) Regardless of your reasoning, the Myers-Briggs test is widely known as a red flag when offered by companies. Additionally, while many companies do use personality tests, most well-regarded companies will only make a candidate do work once they have at least had a conversation first.

    1. Medieval_Minstrel*

      Wow! Your responses were great considering the weird defence they had going on. I would have felt just as put off as you were.”To see who is willing and able to follow simple directions”, crazy. There are tons of other ways of testing that that don’t rely on using a dodgy psychological profiling of the person answering you.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      One reason (of several) we ask candidates to complete the survey and submit a link to personalized results is to see who is willing and able to follow simple directions.

      … … …

      Wow, just…wow.

      (Also, thank you for pushing back on this ridiculous hiring process)

    3. Allypopx*

      Haha this was a very ENFJ way to handle this.

      Seriously though, this was a public service. Hopefully they didn’t just roll their eyes at you.

    4. pbnj*

      Love your responses! I’m generally non-confrontational but am working on becoming more assertive. I find I am getting less tolerant of BS in the workplace. Maybe it’s a part of getting older or maybe I’m just tired of rolling over. I thought you were polite but honest.

    5. Admin Formerly Known as Actor*

      Okay, based on the way you introduced this comment I thought it was going to go a totally different way – I’m so glad I was wrong! You handled that MARVELOUSLY. You were calm and communicated your concerns clearly (without being offensive or judgmental in the slightest, that “I’d hate to think you’re losing qualified candidates” was diplomatic poetry). I’d consider it a victory, frankly, and several red flags spotted and well-dodged.

      This also reminds me I wanted to go google whether there’s any research on the Predictive Index being a bad idea to use in workplaces. (Or if you happen to have one handy I’d be happy to read it!) I know it’s not the same as the Myers-Briggs but my workplace is instituting PI and going HAM on it and I feel like I’m the only one side-eyeing it.

      1. leapingLemur*

        Myers-Briggs can be useful when helping people work together, but it specifically wasn’t designed to use in hiring.

    6. RagingADHD*

      It just makes me sad to know that the person who was emailing with you is not going to understand or care about your response, and will not raise it with their higher-ups.

      They probably don’t even know what a Senior Product Manager does. They are just following directions, and the directions say to send that link to anyone whose resume ticks a certain number of boxes.

    7. What the What*

      The old “things are not always what they seem” excuse for inappropriate behavior. They have their reasons, and they assure you, those reasons are a super smart test of your reaction!

      And now that you’ve called out their seemingly inappropriate behavior, they are no longer interested in hiring you, because the point of this super smart test was to see if you will put up with inappropriate behavior without saying anything? They really peeled back the layers on this one!

  68. moron5*

    I work for a big international organization, started a few weeks ago. It’s a white collar, specialized job.

    The job itself is ok.

    The only thing is people are fired really a lot. Already 3 of the people I regularly worked with were fired with immediate effect. Basically I spoke with them on Wednesday, on Thursday their email address wasn’t active anymore. Then I learnt they were gone.

    I live in a country in which this isn’t normal. You aren’t fired unless you do something totally unacceptable, but these colleagues were all competent and seemed friendly and I can’t think about what they could have done.

    Should I start searching for a new job now? I’m very anxious about my future.

        1. Never mine straight down*

          Perhaps people do know but are still hesitant to tell you because you are so new and they don’t know you very well yet? I once worked where a colleague who had worked there 20 yrs suddenly got fired. We knew why but if a newbie asked we would give a vague answer.
          Do understand the anxiety especially when fireings like that are rare where you are. Agree with the other advice given below it was probably something that was going on for a longer time. But its always good to ask feedback to how they think you are settling in.

    1. Medieval_Minstrel*

      I absolutely understand your anxiety. Where I live, it would also be very unusual to have 3 people died that way, and it definitely rings alarm bells.
      If you’ve just started a few weeks ago, it seems odd to start job-searching again but I’m assuming that your resume is up to date and you have a few solid cover letters. You could keep your eyes peeled for job offers in other international organisations (I’m assuming you live in a city where there are more than one), and perhaps apply discreetly. But this is more to assuage your stress by being proactive, just in case.
      I would also try to ask for feedback on the way you’re settling in, so that you can understand how to be the best fit possible. You don’t have to act overly concerned, but you can ask after a month in, as a general good practice.

      If they had all been there for a long time, there were perhaps things going on behind the scenes that you were not – and have no reason to be – privy too, such as fraud. It might have everything to do with a specific situation and nothing about job security.

      Keep us informed of how it goes, and good luck!

      1. moron5*

        Frauds can happen, yes. But it’s absolutely improbable that 3 people resulted to be fraudsters within this short period of time. Not to mention the org is paying us well.

        1. Medieval_Minstrel*

          Were the 3 people hired at the same time as you were?
          (I was thinking something along the line of collective fraud, where all 3 of them covered for one another. But these are just speculations and there is no point in spending too much time wondering about that).

          My only advice is to combat anxiety by being proactive about feedback and job search. Ultimately, you can never be sure.

          1. moron5*

            They weren’t fired at the same time. They were fired independently.

            They worked at the company for several years.

      2. Picard*

        Died? Thats a heck of a way to fire someone!

        (I know, I know, JK! I need some Friday levity)

        1. Medieval_Minstrel*

          Ahah, sorry, I meant “fired” of course! No idea why it autocorrected that way but you can’t edit your message afterwards, so here’s the joke!

  69. How to tell colleagues that I wasn't laid off after all?*

    Last month, my organization announced that my division would be eliminated as of today. Nearly everyone was laid off, including me.

    … and then, I got a mini-reprieve. Yesterday, I learned that I’d be staying on, part-time, for several more months.

    It’s not, like, GREAT for me — I’ll be earning less than I would have been getting on unemployment, and my job is 100%, no possibility of a reversal, absolutely definitely going away completely by the end of the year. But it’s good news, and I’m not sure how to share it my colleagues who didn’t get a last-minute reprieve.

    It feels awkward to tell my laid-off colleagues that I got a lifeboat, when they didn’t. There’s honestly not a great reason why I’m going to keep getting a paycheck while they aren’t — just a quirk of the calendar that means that my projects couldn’t be finished by today’s and the political skill of my boss, who managed to convince the decision-makers to find a little money and keep me on board to help her wrap things up.

    What should I say/how should I say it?

  70. Lost in the Forest*

    I’m in shock, though I saw it coming. I’ve been furloughed for six weeks. And my 12-month position is now a 10-month position, meaning I lose two months’ salary every year. I work in a college library, in circulation, and as the president of the school put it, “We have no students on campus right now, so we don’t need any circulation workers.” Even though I’ve been working from home, helping one of our librarians with a project, I guess that just doesn’t matter. (I am not a librarian but a tech). Several other people in the library are also in the same position.

    Several months ago, our president announced the school was in Deep Financial DooDoo, and there’d be pay cuts, no contributions to our retirement plans, etc. I got that cold, weird feeling of intuition that I was going to lose my job as a result of this.

    I’m middle aged, one of the fields I worked in before is a dead duck, and i thought I was gonna ride this one out till retirement, though frankly, I’m not thrilled with it.

    Do I look for another position? My friend who works for the UC office in my state says this is not the time to find another job. But I feel like a sitting duck. I don’t want to be too stupid to see that “furlough” and “big pay cut” means “your days are numbered.”

    My head is whirling, but I need to know what to do next (other than put in my claim for UC on Monday). Thanks, folks.

    1. Medieval_Minstrel*

      My advice in this case is to be proactive. Not knowing what the future holds, it’s no use getting lost in hypotheticals. But picking up your job search, if only by brushing up your resume, reaching out to prospective employers in interesting fields, and perhaps attending online workshops, is going to help. You’ll feel more in control and ready to face bad news, should they come your way.
      If you’re not thrilled with your current job, it might also be the time to think about change, if only in a vague and hypothetical way. You never know what might come up! Maybe you’ll want to pick up new hobbies, or train yourself for another part of your current work. Don’t close yourself to the idea of changing careers once more : the job markets might be radically different in a few years, or it might not, who can tell…

      Basically, taking action can never hurt, and you’ll feel more confident and prepared anyhow. It doesn’t have to be a full-on panicky job search, and you can give yourself objectives such as 20mn or 30mn per day to brush up on your resume, online presence, getting recommendations from former bosses, etc.

      Good luck with this situation and keep us informed!

      1. Medieval_Minstrel*

        Expanding on my reply a bit. You say :
        “Do I look for another position? My friend who works for the UC office in my state says this is not the time to find another job. But I feel like a sitting duck. I don’t want to be too stupid to see that “furlough” and “big pay cut” means “your days are numbered.””

        And, well, yeah. This is not the time to be looking for another job. But what that means is : if your current job is very secure, but only halfway fulfilling, this is not the time to drop everything while relying on your savings to find something else quickly.
        But if you feel like your job is at risk, you might find yourself with the cohort of unemployed people sometimes. And anything that you’ve done proactively is going to help out should you lose your job. Having a “battle plan” just in case can be super helpful. (Ej : “week 1 : file for unemployment and brush the resume up. Week 2 : reach out to 50 people you know and let them know you’re job searching. Week 3 : look at 50 job offers that could fit use and use the langage to tailor your cover letters”. Etc etc. This is not a great battle plan but it gives you a few ideas.)

        That way, even if you never need to start job searching again because you have a guarantee of job security (unlikely in the US nowadays, but you might be one of the lucky ones!), you’ll still feel empowered and in control of your life. Anything but the “sitting duck” thing which is terrible for morale.

        1. Pamela Adams*

          Perhaps looking for other jobs in academia- although probably not at that campus. I think that state systems will be in a better position, as they have lower costs for students.

          Good luck!

      2. Lost in the Forest*

        To be honest, there is no “other part of my current work.” It’s a totally dead end job, and every time I have tried to suggest/take on new duties for the position, they’ve been squashed by my supervisor, who likes everything to stay just the way it has been for 20 years so he can sit on his rear and do nothing all day long. Also, I’m 56 years old. A new career? This is my fourth career in 40 years of work, so…I have some doubts.

        What sort of online workshops were you thinking of?

        I also don’t have a great work history, so getting recommendations from former bosses is going to be difficult. I felt like this job was my last chance (after being let go from my last four jobs–yes, you read that correctly).

        Thanks for your good wishes.

        1. Medieval_Minstrel*

          Not knowing the exact details of your situation, it’s hard to give good advice… But yeah, it sucks.

          In my (non-US) country you have free or cheap seminars for people who are job searching, and they can touch just about any topics : CV building and professional networking of course, but also some job training (learning to code etc). Reaching out to an employment center would be my first way to go.

          Your age is no reason to refrain from starting over : sure, you’re not going to start a 40-years career, but you could be working for 10-20 years still depending on your health, retirement savings and stamina. That’s more than enough time to be a good employee somewhere.
          Of course, age discrimination is very real and I’m no recruiting agent. These are hard times for everyone. Any little thing you are motivated to do to help yourself out is a step in the right direction.

        2. Librarygal30*

          I like webjunction.org and infopeople.org for library-related webinars. They have lots of different areas of interest, and most are short, only an hour, and you can receive continuing education credits for them.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      No harm in having a look to see what’s out there, is there? It definitely seems like this position is at risk.

      1. Product Person*

        This. I hate people who give the advice “don’t bother looking for a new job”. I know a lot of people who were laid off or just tired of a dysfunctional workplace and started a new job in April, May, and June. These people probably faced less competition precisely because others believed no one would be hiring, and gave up without even trying.

  71. Sick leave for covid test*

    My office ended all telework in May after our governor lifted his stay at home order. I was nervous about it because I know one of my coworkers is a Fox News viewer who believed coronavirus concerns were being overhyped, and I knew she wasn’t being careful.

    I was told earlier this week that she tested positive for COVID and now everyone in the office has potentially been exposed. But the office is still open and people are still there working.

    I decided to to the responsible thing and go get tested myself, and the orders from the doctors at the testing clinic are that I stay at home until I get my test results. But my boss told me I can’t take sick leave, I have to take it as vacation. I am not on vacation. I am not having fun. I am home because my doctor told me I have to be, and that should damn well count as sick leave. So today I get to call and email ALL the people and try to get this straightened out.

    These people got me exposed in the first place, and now they want me to empty my vacation time because of it? No thank you.

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      Isn’t that part of the FFCRA?

      Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or

  72. Sharkie*

    Hi guys,
    2 things-
    1. I was laid off in March along with most of my old coworkers. I was the only person that got a severance package. I feel horrible about it, but is that normal? Background- I am a women in a male dominated field.

    2. Is anyone else hitting road blocks in job hunts? I’m getting interviews over the phone but it’s always “we want an in person interview and we will be in contact when the office opens” but there are a ton of companies not letting everyone in the building until 2021… any advice ?

    1. Product Person*

      I just posted that many of my friends got a new job over the past 10 weeks.

      If you are hitting roadblocks because offices are closed, try to expand the type of businesses you are considering. My company is entirely remote now, but sales are strong and we are hiring and onboarding several new employees to work from home.

      If you don’t find these opportunities locally, perhaps searching for remote positions in indeed dot com will help. Good luck!

  73. Former Unicorn*

    Is there a good way to find out more about a job before applying? I am trying to figure out which skill set to refresh but each of the jobs that I’m interested in has a different one. I used to be strong in several programming languages which are very different from each other, but my current job no longer involves coding, or anything technical (the role changed drastically and I no longer believe promises that I’ll return to coding). I’m also very burned out so I’m going to struggle to find time to bring one language up to interview level much less 5+.

    The tech Meetups in my area have switched to webinar style events so there isn’t individual minging/networking right now. Some of the more well known companies in my area have a reputation for being *very* toxic which is starting to seep into the smaller firms as well. A lot of the places around here have a coding test early on in the interview process so there won’t be time to learn about the job then brush up on the skills. This is a weird spot for me to be in because I’m used to being an extremely high performer that companies and teams used to fight over so I never had to worry about proving myself before.

    1. More coffee please*

      I think the best way to learn is to make connections with people at those companies, even if you can’t meet in person. You can send a LinkedIn message and ask for an informational interview (you don’t have to use that phrase specifically, but that’s basically what it is) via phone. If you chat for 15-30 minutes with a couple people who work at a company, you’ll be able to get a decent idea of what it’s like to work there. This is easier if it’s a big company (it might look weird to contact, say, all 3 engineers at a small startup).

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Most coding jobs I’ve seen specify which languages they want you to work in. I probably wouldn’t bother applying to one that didn’t specify. For a more general overview, TIOBE publishes a monthly report of the top 20 programming languages – for June it looks like the top 5 are C, Java, Python, C++, and C#. If you can make connections with current employees, you can potentially ask them what languages their companies are currently using, and what direction you see them moving in.

  74. Academia blues*

    Do creative day-jobs leave one no energy for creative hobbies?

    When my job started to involve a lot of writing, I began to spent less and less time on my hobbies (the overall amount of work didn’t change). Is it normal? Or am I just lazy?

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      It’s normal. You’re not a wizard. And according to conventional wizard-lore, even wizards have a finite amount of magic.

    2. Cedrus Libani*

      There’s a reason that artists seek out very routine work for their day-jobs. There’s only so much gas in the tank. Even if you’ve consciously trained your capacity for hard mental work, most people are only good for a couple hours per day of real creativity and/or deliberate practice, plus a few more hours of turning the crank (doing routine tasks, answering emails, etc). Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, on uppers, or both.

    3. Qwerty*

      Very normal! I’ve heard this from most of my creative friends. It’s like any other field – if you are using a certain part of your brain all day it will need a break so you don’t burn out.

    4. Star*

      This is normal. It’s one of the reasons I never pursued an artistic job. Currently I’m writing for work and my writing for home has definitely dropped off.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Happened to me. The consolation is that I make a lot better money at the job that’s using my complex skills, than I did at my no-brainer jobs. And it’s less boring, so I don’t hate my life.

    6. Anono-me*

      There’s an absolutely fabulous brilliant essay about medical issues and energy. I believe it’s called The Spoon Theory essay. (Or at least you should be able to find it with that title.) I believe the message it shares can be applied to many things in life. You may find it helpful to read it.

    7. Academia blues*

      Thank you everyone for advice, commiseration, and reality checks. I see I’ve fallen to the usual “aren’t we all robots?” fallacy. Now I see where the problem is.

  75. Cakezilla*

    I work at a shelter and my job is requiring (or strongly encouraging) everyone who comes to work for any reason to be tested. The health department comes and does it. Out in the parking lot. In front of everybody.

    I 100% believe that public health is more important than my discomfort, and also that “I’m scared of the covid test” is not a real reason for me to avoid going into work at all, but I am such a baby about anything medical. I’m nervous enough about getting tested as it is, and I’m horrified at the thought of having to do it where all my coworkers and anyone else can see! I just want to suffer through the test in peace!

    How do I get through this while preserving any of my dignity??

    1. CatCat*

      I had a COVID test at a drive-thru testing (not particularly private, available for all in the vicinity to witness). The test is super fast (like a matter of seconds) and even though it was not private, no compromise of my dignity. I was dealing with some other “embarrassing” health issues at the time and was feeling particularly vulnerable/upset/emotional on the dignity front and the COVID test really was not a big deal.

      1. Cakezilla*

        That is comforting! I realized I didn’t clarify what I’m mostly worried about is I’m going to end up crying or being otherwise upset, and then everybody is going to see me being a mess. I’m glad to know it’s fast, maybe it’ll be over before I can get too freaked out about it.

        1. need a new screen name and have no imagination*

          I find that most people are really sympathetic when others freak out over medical things. I know several people with bad reactions to needles and they have said that no one has ever been anything other than kind and reassuring when they start crying or need to hold someone’s hand in order to get vaccinated. Even total strangers in CVS.

        2. CatCat*

          They stick the testing Q-tip thingy pretty high up your schnoz so it felt a little weird/itchy for a few minutes afterward (kind of like if you get water up your nose, or walk by someone leaf blowing and get a bunch of dust particles up the nose) so if you get teary eyes, you can blame it on that! “Oh man, it felt like I still had something in my nose afterward and that made my eyes water like crazy!”

        3. Call Me Dr. Dork*

          I always schedule a treat of some sort after medical things like this. It doesn’t keep me from being freaked out, but it does give my mind something else to focus on.

        4. Kettricken Farseer*

          It could help, too, to briefly tell the person performing the text that you have anxiety and that you’re trying not to cry. They are usually very empathetic people who will try to keep things calm for you. I know for me, sometimes just saying it out loud takes some of its power away.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Everybody else there is focusing on trying to preserve their own dignity. They have zero mental energy left over to watch or judge you.

    3. Anono-me*

      If you can get there a little earlier than everyone else, maybe one of the medical people will want to get you tested and out of the way before the crowd shows up.

  76. Senbonsakura*

    I’m a fledgling developer who recently graduated from a bootcamp. I’m presently job searching and am doing everything in my power to make myself a viable candidate to employers during my job hunt. This includes:

    – Attempting to improve my presence on LinkedIn (regular posting or relevant and eye catching material)
    – Reaching out to individuals on LinkedIn with interesting backgrounds, who work at companies I want to work at, to get their advice on what they did to get hired there
    – Searching several job sites and applying with cover letters to the postings that interest me
    – Attending networking events
    – Volunteering for Code for Boston (part of Code for America) on a development project
    – Practicing my coding & posting results where relevant
    – Engaging in continuing education through third-party sites

    I feel like what my candidacy is missing is engaging/relevant projects or portfolio pieces that can show that I’m “worthy” of an initial interview. Keeping this in mind, my request is this: If you work in the tech industry would you please share the following information:

    1) What languages/frameworks do you most like to see in the candidates that you interview?
    2) What types of projects would you like to see these individuals work on in their spare time? Or, put another way, what are some of the stand-out personal projects that have completely floored/impressed you in candidates you have spoken with?

    Any advice or guidance you can offer would be very much appreciated (either about my questions above, my present work, or even just an ” ‘atta boy! go get ’em tiger!”). Thank you all in advance!

    1. moron5*

      Anything that shows you’re interested in the topic and able to learn helps really.

      The labor market doesn’t look good currently, so it doesn’t need to be about your applications, it’s about factors you can’t control.

    2. basically gods*

      I got hired about 3 months after finishing my bootcamp, and the best thing I can recommend is to just apply *constantly*. For those 3 months, I made sure that I had 5 good applications sent out before 10am every day– you just have to keep throwing resumes into the world into you find someone willing to take a chance on you. (It was about the same for most everyone in my class, too– everyone took around 3 months to find a job.)

      1. we're basically gods*

        Oh, and if you don’t have one already, I really recommend having a portfolio set up, or at least having a robust and nicely organized github, and then *link to it* on your resume. That’s the main thing that was cited by my boss for why he liked my resume– I had clickable links to show off my work.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’d say you can reference your work on Code for Boston as part of your portfolio if it’s on a site like GitHub and available in a public repository. I think this is a great way to keep your skills up to date (and learn new ones – in my experience any classroom coding experience leaves out a lot of real-world complexity). I’d actually give more weight to this than to a personal project, because you are working with other people to implement someone else’s requirements.

      My suggestion for connecting on LinkedIn (and you may already be doing this!) is to make sure to customize your message to say why you’d like to connect to the person. I’d recommend phrasing it as asking for career development advice (ie, “How did you get to where you are in your career?”), rather than hiring requests (ie, “How do I get a job at your company?”).

      For languages and frameworks at my company, I’d look for someone who knows javascript and C#. VueJS specifically would be a bonus, as would experience in Python or Swift. But that’s because that’s what languages we’re using in our current code. We’ve interviewed candidates whose primary object oriented language was Java, and while we don’t use Angular or React, it would still count as a positive on the resume rather than a negative. Just not as much as something we’re already using. If you really want to work at a company who primarily uses Go, or Rust, then by all means, focus on those languages instead!

      Also, if your bootcamp offers any job placement assistance, absolutely take advantage of that! We got the resume for one of my current coworkers from a batch a local bootcamp sent us of graduates from a prior cohort who were looking.

    4. Lovecraft Beauty*

      It’s not about what languages or frameworks I “like to see”, it’s the languages and frameworks the office already uses; if you’re a Ruby person and we use PHP, you’re going to be less of a fit for a position.

      Contributing to an open-source project is significantly more impressive/interesting than personal projects, to be honest.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I second the open source contributions. It shows you can work with existing code, and your code is being reviewed by other people. It’s also a good way to improve your coding.

    5. programmer*

      From the list you posted Code for Boston stood out immediately. When hiring from a bootcamp I’m concerned that someone will not be used to coding in a large work environment, and that really helps with that. Put as many of your projects in their own repos on Github, with clear, detailed READMEs. SOmetimes people over present their school or bootcamp projects as if they were a very complicated cutting edge project, when they arent, so just be aware of that.

      For personal projectsm there was a great thread on reddit in cscareerquestions about this, but it’s better to take a random topic you’re interested in (their example was baseball scores), get the data yourself, and make it into something with a UI that people can work with. I would be much more impressed by anything approaching that than yet another project using a Kaggle dataset.

  77. Nessun*

    Question about how to approach a discussion on a direct report’s performance review: I will be in a meeting with leadership to discuss this direct report, and he’s had great feedback on working to deal with a difficult director that he sees on a daily basis. The director will be part of the leadership on the call. How do I phrase this politically, when the core of my comments is “James has done a wonderful job dealing with the demanding, somewhat narcissistic, and incredibly changeable requirements Moodie has needed this year”? I don’t want to call Moodie out, but James deserves all the credit, and I’m his performance manager.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Maybe something like “James has done a wonderful job keeping up with the rapidly shifting goals and expectations on the banana and kumquat projects,” without specifying that Moodie is the one who kept moving the goldang goalposts on him?

  78. Mkt*

    How to make good impression on my new manager when I’m really burned out, disengaged, and quietly looking for other jobs?

    background:
    Having reported directly to Grandboss for 6 months while they were recruiting for the manager, I got first hand view of Grandboss working style, their views on our department, how they believe we should operate and prioritize work, etc – so know that a new Manager won’t be able to make substantial changes needed for me to become more satisfied with my job. Meaning though it’ll be great to have someone hands on to work with, I don’t expect things to really change and I’ll still be overworked/underpaid, etc. I’ve been looking externally for jobs, but it’s been slow slog for over a year now, so I still want to ensure I don’t burn bridges internally.

  79. Echo*

    My company has been unusually good about their approach to equity and racial justice, particularly in light of George Floyd’s murder but also in general over the past few years. My question: as a white manager of an all-white team, how much should I push my reports to go to optional trainings and other sessions on these topics aimed primarily at white staff? I’ve been taking the approach of letting them know when there is an opportunity but not directly asking them to attend. I’ve never seen any of them throwing around microaggressions or treating other colleagues unfairly, it’s more like racial justice is an issue they’re sympathetic to but haven’t chosen proactively to engage with.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’d push them more. You haven’t seen them doing microaggressions? I don’t think that’s good enough.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I answer this as a white person who isn’t heavily engaged with racial justice, and (I hope at least) not terrible with microaggressions, but who is definitely not perfect but IS trying to be better.

      The trainings I’ve been to are useless for me. Especially when they’re lead by white people. What’s useful is practical experience. Talking to people of color, hearing what they experience. Reading things written by people of color. Letting that stuff swish around in my head, and then making connections and having realizations that I simply did not before. This isn’t generally safe to do in the office. Because I make mistakes, and say something wrong, and I don’t want that to impact me in the office because while I’m trying, I’m still learning. Don’t punish learning because it’s not perfect yet.

      Next time you’re hiring, really figure out how to recruit so that your application pool includes a truly diverse group of people, then work extra hard to make sure you’re not biased against them. Look at your policies and figure out what’s a problem, and then fix them. Try to find professionals who are diverse themselves and get their input on what is a problem and what you can do about it in your workplace. You have power, you’re the manager. Use it for good. Even if you can’t fix everything, you can fix something. I’m positive that you can find resources to help you figure out how. Captain Awkward had a post recently that might be a good starting point overall, I know I’m looking at some of the things she linked to.

    3. Anlina*

      As I’m A Little Teapot mentioned, the usefulness and quality of these kinds of trainings can vary dramatically. I can’t say whether these optional sessions are something that you should push your employees to attend, but I do think it’s really important to actively work on being anti-racist with your team.

      You cannot take a passive approach to being anti-racist, and in a society and team that’s dominated by whiteness you can’t simply be non-racist.

      Maybe these trainings and sessions aren’t valuable, maybe they are. Either way, you should also be having discussions with your team and leadership about being anti-racist and ways that white supremacy manifests within your organization.

      There’s lots of great guides out there, written by people of colour, on how to have these conversations and be actively anti-racist in your organization.

  80. Terminating nanny*

    Long time lurker. Hoping for some of your thoughts/perspectives on this. Thanks in advance.
    Strongly thinking about fireing our nanny. We want to handle this as fair as possible and also feel very conflicted.
    We are thinking that if we do this we would give her 2 months severance pay. Or another option would be to have her return (whenever social distancing restrictions are lifted) part time but she would be on sort of a PIP.

    Background: we live in Indonesia. She has worked for us 4 yrs (since I moved here with our eldest to join my Indo husband). At first she only cleaned but she hit it off with our eldest so that morphed into more nannying especially after our second was born. Her duties now are nannying and cooking for the kids when we need it, we’ve made it clear other household tasks only if there is time and doesn’t interfere with watching the kids.
    We pay her, we believe, fairly for working only weekdays. We are almost always agreeable for time off for illness or something else (I think per year it adds up to 10-15 days) In comparison many here pay their help half what we do for 24/7 live in conditions and maybe 3 days off a year. (this of course is very wrong). Which is to say if we fired her she would have a hard time finding employment with a similar wage level and flexibility.
    Since social distancing/lockdown measures have been in effect in our area we have continued to pay her wage.

    The problem is her behaviour since have made us question her judgement more and more and thinking back that actually for a longer period, at least 6 months before Covid, she has been increasingly not great. Lots of minor things (flakiness, leaving household things half done for us to stumble on later, she’s turned into a complainer about her private life and every other day she has another ache ) a few bigger things (telling some stupid little lies, and I mean stupid unecessary little lies, sneaking a lot of time on her phone and she has fallen asleep while watching the baby who could by then already climb on things). We have adressed things in the moment but Covid hit before we had an overarching conversation.
    We did have that conversation about 6 weeks ago after she showed a lot of flakiness and bad judgement. (* for anyone wondering how exactly see below) She acknowledged that she also felt she has been unfocused and unreliable. Apologized and promised to do better when she started work again. She offered to do regular gardening in the meanwhile. But we suggested since she wanted to work, she would be most helpful in our small store (essential local business selling filtered drinking water in the neighbourhood) usually MIL would be in the store for walk ins and our employee would do deliveries but due to her age we asked her stay home.
    She agreed to this, but it turns out the first few weeks she came sporadically at irregular times, playing loud videos on her phone and not hearing customers knocking. And then she stopped coming in at all 3 weeks ago (before Eid). We waited if she would contact us because we had enough other things on our plate and did not have the energy to chase her. 5 days ago she contacted me if she could ask me a favor. I asked if she had the next day because we needed to have a conversation. She agreed but 20 min later asked if it was ok that she had a bit of the flu. So we cancelled that. I reminded her of the health dept advisory. Now do not know if she really had the flu, I do know that our employee saw her at the market 2 days later. So either lying or irresponsible.
    Typing this all out I actually don’t think this can be salvaged anymore because she doesn’t sound like someone you would trust with your kids anymore right.
    But I feel so conflicted because she has worked with us for 4 years. And she wasn’t always like this.
    Your thoughts?
    Also my deepesr apologies for the novel.

    (* She contacted us about going bonkers doing nothing at home and if she could do some work and say hi to the kids through the window, we suggested to do some gardening outside because then there would be no person to person contact. She came, did about 1 1/2 hours of gardening and said she had to go and would come back next day. She left kind of a mess in the garden and did not come. When we messaged two days later she said “sorry I forgot, I’ll come back tomorrow” . Next day she messaged she is so scared to go out of her house because there are rumours someone in her neighbourhood has it. We were understanding. But 3 days later she is happily cooking donation food at my MIL who lives 5 mins from us and it turns out after her ‘gardening’ she had swung by MIL and ate lunch there. MIL also got a talking to btw).

    1. AnnieMay*

      I think when she asked to come and visit the kids and you assigned her gardening work that was weird and wrong. I think you want to view yourself as a great employer but aren’t really. Absolutely fire her if she’s not good though.

      1. Terminating nanny*

        Thanks for the reply. How much severance pay would you generally think would be fair. Since she worked 4 years for us. I mean these are economically rough times.
        As for the gardening, she did a lot of gardening in our garden like growing vegetables because she enjoyed it while playing with the kids. And she messaged me and asked to do work. Her message said she was so bored and wanted to do something. So didn’t think it was so strange to do that IF she wanted to. But maybe I should have just said no. Hindsight.

      2. Terminating nanny*

        Thinking a bit more about what you write about thinking I’m a great employer, I actually don’t think I am. Over the years I think we let the boundaries get blurred. And developed bad habits on both ends that didn’t get adressed properly. And now it’s come to a head.
        In terms of fair wages and flexibility I do think we have been good. I dont say that because I want a pat on the back but because I meant it as a factor in worry I have about her when we no longer employ her. I mean I still care about what happens to her even though working with us is not longer sustainable. Or should I not?

        1. Kettricken Farseer*

          I just want to jump in here as a person who recently fired her weekly housekeeper for much the same reasons (work wasn’t up to par, whole rooms not cleaned, etc). Once I started working from home, the lines began to blur very quickly. She started to share more and more things about her personal life, and I think she started to see me as a friend. Just like with my job, I can be friendly with people, but not friends.

          And so….when I tried to let her go, it was like breaking up from a dysfunctional relationship. She got very upset, texted me constantly to tell me her thoughts and feelings about it, repeating “I can change!” etc. It sucked.

    2. Terminating nanny*

      Thank you to anyone who made it through my word vomit.
      I think considering everything it is time to part ways with her.
      Remains the questions what would you think is a fair severence pay? Perhaps all that I wrote up there isn’t even relevant to this question.
      So there is one vote uo that 2 months is fine. Any other opinions?
      Thank you again

      1. Picard*

        Hmm. I cant speak to customs in your country but when we fire someone, they dont usually get severance. If we lay them off, at my current company, they get two weeks. My other company, you got 2 weeks per year worked so… Hope that helps!

      2. CatCat*

        What is the custom in Indonesia? (It’s fine to be more generous than custom would dictate, but that would be one place to start on what is considered fair.)

        Where I am, severance would be unusual for an employee fired because of the employee’s own behavior, but is common for someone laid off (i.e., job terminated for reasons other than the employee’s behavior like the company can’t afford to pay them anymore or doesn’t need that job to be performed anymore).

        1. Terminating nanny*

          That’s kind of the thing there aren’t really any consistent ones regarding this. Though it does skew more to no severance or only a little.

      3. BRR*

        I think two months is fair. It’s definitely not the bare minimum but if she’s been good otherwise for most of the four years I’d try and bump it up a little if you can.

      4. ...*

        I probably wouldn’t give any severance. It sounds like she had the opportunity to work appropriately but instead watched videos and fell asleep and also lied to you. If she had done her actual job, she’d still have it. If you are extremely flush with cash I guess it could be a nicety but idk why you’d pay her another penny

        1. valentine*

          idk why you’d pay her another penny
          I assume it’s because of COVID and feeling sorry for her that she’s about to take a massive pay cut, but the weirdness with your MIL shows she will land on her feet. Give her whatever you feel okay with, but realize she may not understand you’re firing her for cause (not that her understanding is the goal). Be sure to tell her you’re cutting off contact, because wanting to wave to the kids is also weird and you don’t need her popping up and jumping on your guilt button.

          Don’t let the sunk cost fallacy of the four years, on both sides, obscure that she was way out of line and endangering your baby. Napping is understandable. Not securing the baby first isn’t. She was acting like your teenager who was tired of babysitting for free. Longevity at work, as in relationships, doesn’t mean anything positive on its own.

          For your next hire, create a job description that includes benchmarks, and have regular appraisals. Consider a rota so no one gets too attached.

    3. Jessi*

      You haven’t got a professional nanny because you hired your cleaner to nanny instead. I think two months severance is fine.

      Nannying is a funny job in that you are part of the family but not. You need to have very clear boundaries, and should you choose to hire another nanny make sure you are up front about what sort of relationship you are looking to have with your nanny

      1. Terminating nanny*

        Thanks for your comment. Yes agree with what you wrote regarding the boundaries. Lesson learned.

    4. ...*

      I would fire her and Idk why you are still paying her when she’s unreliable, a liar, put your child in danger, and doesn’t even properly finish household projects.

      1. Terminating nanny*

        Because we have apparently contracted the syndrome known as ‘but we are like a family’ and not dealing with things appropriately and timely enough for too long which is totally on us.
        Thanks for your thoughts.

    5. Anono-me*

      It sounds like this woman was a good cleaner who became a good care taker of your son and then about six months ago her behavior changed dramatically and became quite disorganized and irresponsible. I know we are not supposed to diagnose here, but that sounds like something that may have a medical component. If you are in a position to pay for a medical exam for this woman, it might be worth considering prior to another course of action.

      Of course, if you do find out that she has some sort of incurable debilitating medical condition, it changes your ethical dilemma, but doesn’t solve it.

      I think 1 to 2 months in normal situation would be fair, however due to the High rate of unemployment worldwide from covid, if your family is in a position to be a little more generous, I would err on the side of generosity.

  81. Income Tax Law*

    Can someone please explain to me the income tax laws that go into effect when you work for a company in one state but voluntarily choose to telecommute from another state for a period of time? Our company just notified us that working vacations from other states are not allowed, with zero acceptations because of these laws. I have always worked remotely (not just during COVID) and had planned to work for a few weeks this summer from my parent’s beach house in another state. I was hoping to work during the day, relax on evenings, weekends, and the occasional day off, and get some relief help from my parents for my special needs kid.

    1. Picard*

      If you have a physical presence in one state but your employer is located in another state, you create whats called nexxus. This means not only does your employer have to get set up with your state to handle your income tax (withholding) but also state taxes (like unemployment) AND they then become liable for collecting and remitting sales tax (if applicable) in your state. It is a paperwork nightmare, costs real money and I handle this for our company.

      That said, there are some exceptions being made right now in SOME states due to covid 19 but there are still reporting requirements.

      1. Income Tax Law*

        I just thought it was common for people to answer emails, put in a few hours of work, or even phone in for meetings while on vacation. I never realized it was essentially illegal unless the employer was willing to jump through all these hoops. Wow. Good to know.

        1. Picard*

          There are limits to what can be done without incurring nexxus and every state is different and it changes often.
          This is from a recent seminar I took:

          Arizona | is in the state for more than 60 days in a calendar year.
           California | earns in-state wages above the state’s “Low Income Exemption Table.”
           Connecticut | is in the state for more than 14 days in a calendar year.
           Georgia | is in the state for more than 23 days in a calendar year or if $5,000 or more or 5%
          or more of total income is attributable to Georgia.
           Hawaii | is in the state for more than 60 days in a calendar year.
           Idaho | earns in-state wages of $1,000 or more in a calendar year.
           Maine | is in the state for more than 12 days in a calendar year or has gross income of
          $3,000 or more.
           Minnesota | earns a specified amount in a calendar year (currently $12,200).
           New Jersey | earns in-state wages that equals or exceeds the employee’s personal
          exemption in a calendar year.
           New Mexico | is in the state for more than 15 days in a calendar year.
           New York | is in the state for more than 14 days in a calendar year.
           North Dakota | is in the state for more than 20 days in a calendar year and is a resident of a
          state that provides similar protections (such as reciprocal agreements; certain occupations
          not protected).
           Ohio | earns in-state wages of $300 or more in a calendar quarter
           Oklahoma | earns in-state wages of $300 or more in a calendar quarter.
           Oregon | earns in-state wages equal to or exceeding the employee’s standard
          deduction.
           South Carolina | earns in-state wages of $1,000 or more in a calendar year.
           Utah | employer (not employee) does business in the state for more than 60 days
          in a calendar year.
           Virginia | earns in-state wages equal to or exceeding the employee’s personal
          exemptions and standard deduction or filing threshold (if elected by the
          employee).
           West Virginia | earns in-state wages equal to or exceeding the employee’s
          personal exemptions.
           Wisconsin | earns in-state wages of $1,500 or more in a calendar year.

            1. Picard*

              You’re welcome! A typical one or 2 week vacation is most likely not going to create nexxus but if you’re working full time from a state other than the one where your employer is located, it could very definitely have an impact.

    2. IndyDem*

      Are you always WFH? Will your boss notice that you are for weeks at a different place? Will they care? Have you been specifically told you have to let your boss know that you are working somewhere other than home?

  82. Beanie Counter*

    So my employer mandated WFH in mid-March. The bosses (who were previously all butts-in-seats) are so impressed – and in need of physical space very badly due to growth – that I and teammate were asked if we’d like to WFH permanently. Enthusiastic yes!

    But now we’ve had a precedent of using our own computers and cell phones to work from home, and I want to pave the way correctly to protect both employees and the employer. First I’m requesting a work computer with a video cam and a microphone for the required Zoom meetings. Secondly, I’m requesting either a work cell phone, or a VOIP phone, or a reimbursement for using my personal phone. Third, I’m asking for an allowance for my Internet use if I get a VOIP phone.

    What is normally reimbursed to WFH employees? Is there anything else that I should consider?

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Depending on the company, you might be able to request office furniture, computer accessories (e.g. external mouse/keyboard/monitor, headset), and supplies (e.g. pens, printer paper, notebook).

      Many (most?) companies would say that furniture is up to you to provide, so that might not be worth asking for, depending on how reasonable your company is with exploratory conversations.

    2. need a new screen name and have no imagination*

      My workplace is currently supplying computers, monitors, cameras, mice, and any specialized tech employees need, as well as software and full IT support. Some people, but not all, have office-supplied phones; I think for full-time work-from-home, I would definitely ask for a phone.

    3. IndyDem*

      We have been 3 WFH days/week for years. We have our laptops, we have a company cell (and the ability to use it as a hotspot in a pinch), we get a company discount on internet with certain companies, and we get a USB mouse as well as a USB headset (Jabra – love it!) to use. Everything else we have to purchase on our own.

  83. Hey Nonny Moose*

    Does anyone (esp. folks in education) have experience with effective active learning/anything not-a-lecture that is delivered simultaneously in-person and remotely?

    I know it’s early and who knows what the world will look like in the fall, but my university has declared that they’re going for “as in person as possible”, particularly for freshman classes, and pushing this God-awful “hyflex” model (I’m clearly not objective on this). “Hyflex” means hybrid-flexible, so students can move between/choose between being in person and being remote for the same class as their situations shift, but the remote learning is still supposed to be synchronous so the students are “together” as much as they can be in order to help with the community-building and retention that is the primary purpose of insisting on in-person classes in the first place. This would be fine if I were lecturing (I can stream a lecture while giving it in person, have folks use PollEverywhere or whatever to check comprehension as we go, all the usual active lecturing stuff), but my classes are very discussion- and activity-based. Students read and sometimes listen to short lectures/contexts before class, in class we Do Stuff with what they’ve read/heard. For discussions, fine, I can have a student on video chat in a small group with a couple in-person students (though I’m uncomfortable with having unmasked students in a small classroom unless something really changes in four months, so even small group discussion will be…interesting). How well will the video chat student be able to hear/participate in the “share” portion of that? Probably varies. But activities, a major part of the class (and of best practices in teaching and learning), are honestly stymieing me. If a student is quarantining at home and we’re Doing A Thing (plotting the location of curb cutouts on the main street, or touring the community gardens, or visiting and presenting on different student services on campus, for example), how the hell do I meaningfully involve them in that? I can certainly have them do *something*, and if they’re just remote for a day or a week, it’ll be fine, but if someone had to be remote for multiple weeks or the whole semester? Definitely a different and probably lesser education compared to the in-person students. If we were fully online, I could plan for activities that were fully online-compatible. If remote students could basically switch to an online version, same (so the in-person class maps curb cutouts while the remote class uses Google Maps to see which curb cutouts are visible using StreetView). But the administration really really really wants that synchronous “community” element, even if students are remote, and it doesn’t seem like “do different parts of this project but you’re definitely not interacting a ton to do them” is what they’re thinking. So, anyone experienced anything even remotely (ha) related? What works?

    And, I’ll be honest, I’m kind of resentful that I’m expected to plan three versions of the same class – in-person, synchronous remote to go along with in-person, plus online just in case we get a lockdown order. But I can’t just plan it to be hybrid from the start (meaning we’re all doing something online one of the days regardless of circumstance) to at least reduce the number of days of 3x planning I have to do, that’s not enough in-person time. And a major reason my activities are so hard to meaningfully include remote students in is because I’m trying to have them outside/moving around outside and not sitting in close quarters in a classroom. It is certainly possible, though, that I’m doing the equivalent of a teenager’s “why don’t you just take away ALL MY FURNITURE then!?” when they’re grounded from their phone for a week, and I’m open to hearing that as well.

    1. Hi there*

      There is a lot in your question. One way I’ve been thinking about it is that students can do complementary things if some are remote and some are not. Reflecting and talking about their findings together would be the synchronous part. So in your cutout example the on-campus students might look at cutouts near campus, and the remote students could examine cutouts near them or digitally. Then they all talk together with you about the experience or put all the data together in some new way.

    2. Ranon*

      It sounds like a lot of your coursework is about exploring the outside world- is there a way you can take advantage of your student’s different locations to introduce more compare/ contrast elements (e.g. everyone maps curb cuts on the street most convenient to them, compare in service and digital student services, etc)

      In terms of group engagement, one thing that’s been successful in classes I’ve taken has been pair reviews of work- in the case of your students maybe they each do an exercise, swap with a partner, and do a quick team written or verbal analysis of how theirs compares with another? It’s not the same as group work but I feel like it actually makes stronger connections because attention isn’t as spread. Plus it’s wildly easier to sync two schedules than, say, 4 or 5

    3. KiwiApple*

      Does your institute have some sort of online learning tool? We have one and we are planning on helping to foster community by discussion boards. Recorded lectures. We also use blackboard collaborate where you can break classes up into small groups and then bring everyone “back in” to the main lecture. But it’s going to be difficult for sure.

      My institution has gone for the term “hybrid teaching” but it is exactly the same 3 types as yours That they are planning to teach.

    4. Hey Nonny Moose*

      Thank you all for engaging so graciously with my feelingsdump, these are all things I will keep in mind as more information comes out and I’m course planning in the next couple months.

  84. basically gods*

    How do people handle unlimited PTO? I just started a job with unlimited PTO, but it’s also the first job I’ve had with unlimited PTO *ever*, so I’m extra uncertain on how to proceed.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Hope that your manager isn’t the kind of manager who takes “unlimited PTO” to mean “Constantly deny requests for time off.”

      Also hope your office culture isn’t the kind of culture that takes “I took reasonable advantage of unlimited PTO” to mean “you’re a slacker for taking more time off than other people took.”

      1. basically gods*

        Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about– it’s extra weird because technically I’m an employee of a large company that primarily sells llamas, but I’m part of the development team making an application to make the process of selling llamas easier.

    2. superanon*

      I had a job with unlimited PTO where we were encouraged to take about 3 weeks off per year. I also found the ambiguity confusing, so I took about that much but didn’t stress about an extra day here or there. IMO the best thing about unlimited PTO is being able to take the odd day around a long weekend or just for a break without feeling like you’re squandering your limited vacation.

      I would recommend setting a target that feels in line with your company’s norms, and then track your own PTO usage to ensure you’re actually taking at least that many days. Usual norms apply, don’t take a long vacation in your first few months unless prenegotiated, plan your vacations in advance, etc.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        It’s also okay to ask people (co-workers) how much time people usually take off. You can certainly guess at what norms are, but you can also just explicitly ask what the norms are.

        I work in an unlimited PTO company, and my manager is great about granting time-off requests (we typically use 3-5 weeks per year), but other managers handle things in different ways and are stingier. I don’t love that inconsistency, and the company won’t move to a minimum-time-off model for unlimited PTO.

        1. we're basically gods*

          Normally I’d ask coworkers or just look for norms, but the work situation is really weird (and was weird even before Covid)– the company has a bunch of retail locations that sell llamas in one state, but the team I’m on is entirely located in another state, and our team is responsible for developing an application that will make it easier to sell llamas.
          But having a general goal of 3ish weeks a year is a super helpful bit of advice! I figured I would pick a number of weeks and go with it, and then adjust based on how my boss reacts.

          1. Product Person*

            “but the team I’m on is entirely located in another state, and our team is responsible for developing an application that will make it easier to sell llamas”

            Ask your local team.

        2. superanon*

          Minimum time off is a great way to structure unlimited PTO. It seems very dependent on company culture whether these policies work well.

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Setting a target is how my husband handles his vacation time. In his case, setting the target was easier, because he was converted from a fixed amount of vacation time and a fixed (separate) amount of sick time to one bucket of unlimited PTO. He tries for 4 weeks of vacation (give or take a day), because that’s how much time he had before the conversion.

  85. passaging*

    When USAJobs says “flexible” scheduling is available, what does that mean? It shows up in the listing as:

    Compressed/Flexible: Available

    I know what Compressed schedule is. What’s Flexible?

    1. That'll happen*

      Flexible usually means there isn’t a set schedule you have to work, so you can “flex” your hours within a certain range. For example, you might be able to start as early as 6am and end as late as 6pm. There may also be core hours where you need to be available.

      1. passaging*

        Thanks! It comes right beneath a line with the work schedule with hours, but since they’re offering compressed, they probably don’t mean that work schedule is set in stone.

    2. moql*

      My husband is a fed who has a flexible schedule. He can show up anytime between 6 and 9 AM and leave after the corresponding 8 hours of work. When he has a long day due to travel time (fairly common) he is allowed to either accrue comp time or flex his hours to take off another day that week. I am quite jealous.

  86. Amelia Shepherd*

    hi! I’m a librarian at a library part-time with significant on-desk time at the reference desk. sometimes my coworkers will take a little longer to take over the desk for me – like if I’m supposed to get off desk (and often leave work for the day) at 1pm, the person taking over for me might not show up until 1:05. I don’t sign out until I’m in the back/not on desk, so I am getting paid (we clock in and out). generally it’s not a huge deal and I wouldn’t mind waiting an extra couple minutes. but I think 5 minutes is a lot, and sometimes I have a bus or ride to get to (I won’t miss my bus but the rides are sometimes a little more flexible). my coworkers could be in the back offices working, or they might just get in for their day when I’m leaving, it depends.

    anyway, how can I ask my boss if I’m even supposed to be waiting for a coworker to take over before I leave? I wait in case someone walks up to the desk and has a question, I don’t want them to have to wait if I don’t know when my coworker will get on desk. I’m generally waiting for the same people, but I don’t want it to sound like I’m placing blame on anyone. it’s not a daily thing, but it happens often enough that I’m a little annoyed.

    thank you. :)

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      “Hey boss, sometimes once my shift ends I have to catch a bus / catch a ride / go to an appointment. How do you want me to handle that if nobody’s come to take over the desk yet? It’s only a few minutes and I usually don’t mind, but sometimes I do need to leave right at 1”

        1. valentine*

          I’d be wary of leaving it up to your manager, even though it is. Start leaving on time and see what happens. Maybe the people in the back were hoping to use your appearance there as their cue. Do the people you relieve wait for you or are you never late?

  87. Any Europeans Still Here?*

    A young US couple I know wants to move to the EU. Can you tell me how they can look for jobs online? What sites would you recommend? Or is there a better way to approach this? They don’t have the money to travel around looking in person.
    One is a very good sales person (good, not skeevy) and the other is a technical, hands-on type, also a photographer. In addition, they are both chefs. They aren’t fluent in any other languages but very willing to learn.
    Thanks for any help!

    1. moron5*

      There are few websites popular in more than one European country. Stepstone is one of them.

      However, I assume it would be difficult to find a job in Europe being from US and residing there unless they are highly specialized. A good sales person with native English can hope for a job. Does the “technical hands-on type and a photographer” have formal, documented experience in technology? If that’s not the case, I wouldn’t be too optimistic.

      1. Any Europeans Still Here?*

        Thanks for your POV, experience. This person does have some documented experience. Enough? IDK. I will tell them about Stepstone.

    2. Bobina*

      Hmmm. Its hard because getting a resident permit without an EU passport is getting harder and harder these days. I’m only mostly joking when I say have either of them checked for some EU ancestry? It genuinely might be worth it!

      Also, given that the EU is many countries, do they have a specific country in mind? Given that the UK is about to change/tighten up its immigration policy, they probably want to be careful about that. Ireland would be best given language constraints but maybe not economically.

      I’d suggest they think long and hard about where they want to settle, and look at residency requirements in that country + language difficulty (+think long and hard about culture shock because it is definitely a thing).

      Also, what industry does sales person want to be in (or are they currently in). Because sales is a profession where I’d think being able to build a rapport with clients is essential, and in many EU countries, while people will speak English, the kind of relationship you want to have as a salesperson will really require you to at the very least speak some of the local language, if not a lot + understand cultural background. Is their current industry one where they can easily find comparable work (eg if they are in a specialised tech field, they may want to look for countries with equivalent specialised tech field so work will be easier to find).

      1. Any Europeans Still Here?*

        Sorry, Bobina, I forgot to say the sales is in nutraceuticals and this person has really deep knowledge of the field. I agree about the culture shock and have warned them. They seem ready for it, one never knows.
        The ancestry has been explored, and that might be the route they take. It’s not easy though. I did not know the EU was about to tighten it’s immigration policy.
        All things to “think long and hard” about. Thank you.

        1. Bobina*

          No worries. Yes, unfortunately as with many places in the world, populism/nationalism is also rising in Europe, so many countries are making residency requirements hard for non-EU nationals and even eg reducing benefits for other EU nationals who have moved within the continent.

          If they can find a handy grandparent, I would suggest that. Otherwise I think the best advice is honestly to start to narrow down countries that might be good fits culturally and then really look at visa requirements in detail. I also just googled nutraceuticals and would also again say they should look for countries that might have the best job market for that (and also I would expect its regulated/approached quite differently in Europe, so to keep that in mind when thinking about job prospects).

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I don’t know that the EU as a whole is, but individual countries might. And the UK has now technically left the EU even though we are still in the “transition” phase for now, so unless they have a connection here I wouldn’t recommend trying to move here. (I’m a bit bitter, though, as an immigrant to the UK who is now very unhappy about the way things have changed since I became a citizen).

          This person really needs to research their field and find out where they might have the most luck pursuing a career before they worry too much about EU-wide rules or immigration policies. Are their products made in or popular in a particular country?

    3. Medieval_Minstrel*

      Answering from Europe here. Honestly, there just can’t be a blanket answer. Which country/countries are you planning on moving too? You’re willing to learn another language, but how long are you planning on learning them before moving? You need to have a visa before moving → in order to have a visa, you either have to have a job or having a local spouse. (You know, the same rule that apply to a foreigner to the US, or basically most first-world countries!)

      My advice is to use expat networks and places where you can find US compagnies. Just like in the US, there are hundred of job boards depending on countries, type of work, etc. Before the crisis, finding jobs as chefs would be doable in most bigger cities but everything was shaken with the lockdowns and there are not guaranties anymore.

      Please remember that sales practices in most European countries are very, very different from US sales (I’m talking UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium and probably a couple of others → that’s still not half of EU countries btw). Honestly, what works in the US can be met with outright hostility in some places. Conversely, when I worked for US clients, I found them insufferable : expecting everyone to fawn on them while not even settling their own bills. Yeah, no. Respect goes both ways and just because you’re the client does not mean that you get to be king).

      With a bit of networking, it should be possible to move!

      1. Any Europeans Still Here?*

        Thank you for your time and answer. I will pass this info along. It would be a relief to the sales person to have different practices, but we”ll see how that would be in reality. I have also dealt with the kind of companies you describe–they made me want to scream.

    4. KiwiApple*

      They should see if their chef skill level is on the skills shortage list on the gov website. That’s how my partner arrived in the UK on a two year visa. (But then again the UK struggles in hospitality – not sure if EU countries do as a whole)

    5. Never mine straight down*

      Echoing previous commenters. Work visas from outside EU are difficult at least in my native NL and generally applied for through an employer and they have to give very good reasons why they are employing someone from overseas instead of the EU. And agree EU is large and the difference in for ex. communication culture between countries can be significant. Even between countries next to one another like Belgium and NL.
      Any advice I would have is to narrow down which countries they consider and do research from there.
      Maybe there are professional connections to be made from the US. You say the sales is in a specific field are there companies in that field that work in Europe? and go from there? As for chef the same perhaps through larger hotel/restaurant/etc chains?
      Good luck

      1. Any Europeans Still Here?*