open thread – June 19-20, 2020

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

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

{ 1,285 comments… read them below }

  1. Oh No She Di'int*

    I hope readers can help with a management issue.

    My small business (8 people) is currently 100% remote, and there are no plans to ever move back into the physical office.

    We are moving into a new work paradigm in which everyone works the same 8 core hours per week, and then outside of that, all work time is completely discretionary. Essentially, you have to get your work done in a given week, but WHEN you decide to do that is up to you. So if you work best in one big blast from Sunday morning to Tuesday afternoon and want the rest of the week off, you can do that.

    This will translate fairly easily for anyone with a production job, as the tasks can be measured relatively easily, and there is a point at which you can say the work is “done”.

    The problem comes with other jobs such as admin. In those jobs, there really is no such thing as “done”. There is always something more to do.

    I am looking for a way to analyze and quantify the work loads of employees in that second category so that it’s possible to react to changing conditions and assign work without it being too little or too much. In the old paradigm, communication was much more immediate and seamless, so these questions rarely arose.

    I know from reading AAM that work logs are universally despised. But I am having trouble coming up with a better way to find out how much time is being spent on what activities so that we can make informed decisions about priorities and when and how to take on new work. Any recommendations?

    Please note that this is absolutely NOT about spying to make sure that people are actually working. This is about the fact that—being a small office—we have rapidly shifting needs and work requirements. So it would be helpful to know where the time-sinks are and to find out if something is getting much more or less attention than it should be getting.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      How do you normally do performance reviews? What is the outcome of the admin jobs? If they aren’t doing their jobs, do productions not happen? Do phone calls go unanswered? Do meeting notes not get communicated? In theory, their work has an outcome and an effect. You should be able to see that, or at least their managers should be able to see that, no?

    2. Marny*

      In such a small office, it sounds like this is a conversation to have with the admin staff, explaining just what you’ve said here. Ask them to be transparent about their workloads, making clear that you trust them to be honest about how things are going for them and that it isn’t an attempt to micromanage but rather to get a better idea of the staff’s capacity. It can be set up as either a weekly conversation or a short email update meant only to keep everyone up-to-date on the manageability of workloads.

      1. Always Late to the Party*

        Strong agree. I think Oh No She Di’int was looking for a systematic approach, when really if there’s just one or two folks doing admin work, a personal approach is more appropriate.

        1. Sandi*

          Agreed. I have worked in a large office that started to do a new type of project, and they wanted to better understand how to plan the future workload so they asked people to record their work categories for a specific two weeks. This wasn’t spying, and it was voluntary plus the results were combined and distributed anonymously, and it was clear that this was for data collection. That was for a group of dozens of people, whereas in this case it is a workplace of 8 and not all of them are admin, so I think in this case the solution should focus more on the individuals.

          Yet if you want to do something quantitative then you need data, and the best way to approach it is to limit the time in which you are collecting data so it won’t feel as onerous.

          1. kt*

            Yes, I think this would be very useful and not micro-managery! In particular, having people keep a log for two weeks and then discussing workload with them as collaborators as appropriate would be cool.

            The other comment I’ll make is that if you are keeping track of metrics, comparing a person to themselves last week or last month can be a useful guide. Some variability will always be there — plan for that — but it can be a conversation-starter.

          2. One good thing*

            This might work for LW in terms of figuring out normal workload for admins.
            I once had a year of endurance coming up (I could see it coming due to budget cuts, work assignments, new management wanting to make their marks, etc). I decided to track everything I did for 6 months in anticipation of asking for a raise. I took a legal pad (I organize better mentally by hand writing lists), and every day I wrote out what needed to be done, put a check mark on what I had finished, added things as they came up, and put in the approximate time I spent on every item. I ended up doing this for a full year, I filled multiple legal pads. And I got a very clear outline of how my job changed and what I was spending my time on.
            It wasn’t hard to get into the habit, and I was also able to take the list home with me (for future reference).
            I put all the pertinent stats into a more professional document to submit to the managers. I was also able to point out some things about my position that they we not aware of, so they got a better perspective of what was needed in terms of support, budget, time, etc.
            We were also able to prioritize types of work, eliminate redundant projects, and streamline some things in our discussion of my work list.
            I received the 10% raise that I asked for. A month out two later (because management looked into pay/job descriptions/actual work across the company for those in my position due to my info) everyone in my position received a 5% bump (including me!).

            1. MysteryFan*

              A great idea, and a great outcome! Also, just a general comment.. it’s not really onerous and unprofessional to track your time. I mean, lawyers do it.. and they’re “the definition of professional”.

    3. Cats and Bats Rule*

      I think if you tell them the purpose of the log (phrase it like you did here if you can) and make it temporary (4 weeks, 6 weeks, or however long you think it will take to get a good picture), you should be ok.

      1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

        This. Explain why you’re doing it, and explain that it’s temporary. It may be useful to repeat every 6-8 months for a while until everyone has settled into the 100% remote thing and you’ve all worked out how to monitor things between each other, especially if you’re business is prone to busy periods.

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        I like the idea of being explicit about how any sort of logging effort would be temporary. And the way our office and industry work, it would probably be enough to do it for, say, 2 weeks and then repeat that every few months or so.

      3. Amtelope*

        In our office, we were asked to do a detailed work log temporarily tracking the amount of time we spent on a particular project very precisely. It’s not something I’d be happy to do it all the time, but we did it willingly because it was pitched to us very explicitly as “This isn’t about whether you’re working hard enough, we just need a precise and honest accounting of how long these tasks really take so that we can bid your time realistically going forward and avoid over-committing you.”

    4. blackcat*

      Maybe this isn’t the right question, but shouldn’t most admin folks be paid hourly? Is a work log that different from the timekeeping necessary for paying hourly folks? There are software widgets you could provide to make it easier.

      1. designbot*

        That’s what I was wondering about “work logs”—isn’t that just timesheets? Are there people who don’t have to log what projects they’re working on in order to get paid?

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I have to submit a daily work log, and it’s not just for time tracking. I have to write down everything I did during the day. Example:

          Order #12345: Wrote 3 pages
          Order #23456: Edited 2 pages
          Sent four emails
          Zoom meeting with Client X for 29 minutes
          Wrote 2 pages of new style guide for freelancers

          It’s to track our output and our productivity more than our time.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          My timesheets are just how many hours I worked each day. I don’t even have to track which specific hours they are, just that (in my current schedule) I worked 7 hours per day Monday-Friday.

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        Right, but the problem isn’t about just a sheer number of hours devoted to work. I have every confidence that the right number of hours are being spent on work. The issue is that there are lots of possible different thing that can be or should be done. And if X doesn’t get completed, it can be tough to know why. Is it because Z is taking up too much time? Or because she volunteered to take care of A and B in some side conversation with other employees without my knowing it? (That sort of thing happens, out of a desire to be “helpful”.) Or is really just because X is more complicated than we all thought it would be?

      3. Natalie*

        Timekeeping merely has to record when the employee is working, there’s no inherent requirement that the employee also log what they worked on or what they produced which seems to be what the OP needs.

      4. Mockingjay*

        We do worklogs for both exempt and non-exempt. It’s to track work accomplished (against a contract – here’s what we delivered), how long tasks take (is it complicated, does the staff needs training to do thing/use tool), monitor workload (who has too much, who has too little), etc. We analyze the numbers each year for staffing, costs, etc.

        When the team understands why these metrics and reports are being collected, you’ll get much better responses (quality and quantity). I echo others to use a tool or set up a spreadsheet to make it easy for your staff to provide the info.

      5. Salaried Admin*

        I’m not. I’m paid a salary, with overtime for anything over 8 hours in a day or 40 in a week. That’s pretty standard for admins in my line of work.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      There’s only 8 people and is there really “always something that can be done”? I’m going to push back on this because that isn’t usually feasible, as someone who does a one person department job for so long. If there’s always something to be done, you’re under staffed.

      Have a standard turnaround time that you adhere to to tasks. Say you have someone who files, you want all of a day’s files to be done within 2 days time or whatever is reasonable. So that you can look at their file stack and see that they haven’t gotten to Monday’s files and you know someone isn’t on pace.

      1. Funfetti*

        Can you use a project management or workflow software like monday.com? That to me doesn’t feel as heinous as a worklog because it’s also about productivity and sending/tracking tasks to colleagues.

        1. T. Boone Pickens*

          Yup, came here to say this. OldJob had a CRM platform where you could delegate tasks to the support team that you needed help with. It took some getting used to, but eventually everyone agreed it was much easier. The support team could filter by time stamps to ensure that tasks were getting tackled in a FIFO method.

      2. gsa*

        “If there’s always something to be done, you’re under staffed.”

        I will disagree with that statement, as long as what needs to get done is being done timely. And not a point that an Admin has an unacceptable back-log.

        Something else I would focus on, is how much Admin work does each project create.

        Project generated admin work plus other Admin type responsibilities will definitely give you mostly accurate Admin headcount requirement.

        1. Anon Anon*

          I agree. Where I work there is always another project coming up or another task to complete to move things along. For most companies it’s not realistic to have someone sitting on their hands doing nothing when they’ve completed a task. They need to be able to move onto the next thing. That doesn’t mean that they should have 10 pending projects, but I don’t think they should generally be without something to do. If an admin is constantly looking for work, I’d argue that the role isn’t really needed.

        2. Syfygeek*

          I agree with gsa. My position has standard things that have to be done at certain times. And it has things that are repeating tasks that take almost no time, but it’s a mess if I forget one of them. And there’s the giant reports that are being overhauled when there’s time. The rest of my time is reactive- when my boss creates work for me, it’s generally “need it now”.

          For my own time management, I started blocking out time on my calendar for specific tasks, Payables 8:30-10:30, Files 10:40-11:30.. Could that work for your people?

          1. gsa*

            I think setting aside time for long-term, short-term, regular, and OMG stop the presses and do it NOW is the answer.

            If the OP can show/explain the importance it will make the 8 person company more flexible and effective/efficient.

            gsa

            out

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        Add me to the disagreement…. in my field as well, there is always something to be done, but that doesn’t mean we’re understaffed. It just means there’s a revolving door of tasks. Does that task need to be done as soon as I get it? Not really, no, it can wait. Maybe a day, maybe 2 weeks. But it still needs to get done at some point, and it’s those tasks I can balance my workload with.

        1. WellRed*

          I think revolving door of. tasks is a great way to look at this. When I wrap up my work for the week, there’s still plenty more to do, but it needn’t be done “now.”

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            It did take a little bit of mental reworking when I got out of college to reframe for it, to be fair. College – the assignment was due, it got done, I could check it off. I get into industry – well, every month until the facility shuts down I have to record the same numbers. I also will always need to go through files and archive as appropriate. I could always be reviewing policy documents. I could always be reviewing permits. I could always be performing facility inspections. I could always look at ways to improve our programs. I don’t need to do any of them *right now* and due today, but I can easily keep myself busy without being anywhere near overwhelmed. I just don’t have the same type of task list anymore.

          2. SomebodyElse*

            I’ve always used the ‘need to do’ and ‘want to do’ piles to convey this.

            I have a ‘want to do’ pile that’s now 12ft deep, but it means that I never have a time when I’m ‘done’. The want to do pile are all of those things that fall under general housekeeping, improvement, nagging task that can be put off, etc.

            Back to the original question, I think this is kind of tracking is hard whether in office or not, but the remote adds much more challenge.

            I like the idea of soliciting feedback from the team to figure out a way to track for both you and the employee, as well as spread the work around evenly/fairly.

            What kind of tools do you have at your disposal? Off the top of my head if I were looking to do this, I’d probably use MS Teams (planner) or a Sharepoint list to toss out tasks to the group or have them fill out their own if self directed. I’m think of a kanban type setup. Another application you might want to try is Cardsmith… It’s pretty easy to use and can be set up for a kanban type system.

            The other thing to do is to sell whatever system to your team as a benefit (which believe it or not it can be!). It can help them come performance appraisal time to remind of them of their accomplishments, can be used to monitor staffing levels (if the backlog is getting too big), and can help them prioritize and organize their work. It can also be a valuable communication tool. I instituted something similar for a transactional based team I managed once, and they all agreed, it was better and easier for them to keep their notes updated on the system than to have me be bugging them with update type questions.

            Maybe look for a few options and give them to the team to evaluate which may be the best for all of your needs.

            1. Hillary*

              I have A, B, and C tasks. And probably D now too.

              A has to get done asap, whatever asap means for that task. It might be an issue I have to resolve today, data that has to be ready next week, or a contract due next month.

              B need to be done soon but will be shelved if A needs time.

              C/D are if time allows – some of them are two year old nice to haves. They may never happen, or an intern may end up with it as a project.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              +1 for kanban. Trello works well for recording backlog, etc, and helps teams prioritize things, which is part of figuring out who is overloaded and who might be underloaded.

              But there are other tools. The point is to get everyone on board with using them to even out workload.

        2. Oh No She Di'int*

          Yes, this was what I was trying to convey. “Always something to do” doesn’t mean there is always a 4-alarm fire at all times. It just means there’s … always something to do, even if it’s a project organizing some old digital archive files that got shelved 6 months ago. There’s always something to do.

      4. Natalie*

        Aside from what others have said about the nature of workflow, being understaffed doesn’t mean the OP doesn’t still have to address this issue. You can’t always just snap your fingers and hire more people. Pre-pandemic my metro area had functionally no unemployment, and there are always reasons why some of the available people won’t want to join your specific organization (maybe they don’t want to work 100% remote, maybe they aren’t interested in the business the OP does, maybe they don’t want to accept the benefits that are typical in an 8 person business, etc). In the meantime, one still needs to manage and evaluate the existing staff in some way.

      5. Anax*

        Is that true for admin? I know that in IT, it’s very typical to “always have more to do” – there are a lot of “nice to have” items which aren’t really NEEDED, but would be a good idea eventually, so they stay on the list.

        For instance, for me right now:
        Needs to happen ASAP – meeting this morning, reimbursements, display issue on previous months’ metrics, build new data correction tool, etc.
        Needs to happen sometime in the next several months – read over documentation for new project I’ll be building this fall/winter, make sure customer service YTD metrics are all calculated correctly, start planning how to combine plan 1 and plan 2 for 2021, etc.
        Nice to have eventually – take Python class, audit software dependencies and phase out if possible, familiarize self with others’ workflows, etc.

        … there’s a pretty infinite pile, and while the “needs to happen ASAP” pool is manageable, the “soonish” and “someday” lists really should keep moving at least a little.

        1. Been There*

          It sounds like an online task tracker system might be best for these types of roles (I’m thinking Trello). Something simple where they keep a log of their weekly/immediate tasks, mid-length and long term tasks. Managers would notice if things weren’t getting done, and they could see from week to week how things are the same / different, and/or what is falling through the cracks. It also wouldn’t necessarily involve a “time sheet”, but the employee could estimate that X task took 3 hours (etc), and their 40 hours week that they completed over 3 days was completely full because X+Y+Z took 42 hours. (bonus points because they have a log of what tasks need to be completed every week and come review time that’s super helpful. I keep a paper version of one of these (it’s a weekly planner lol) ).

          1. Anax*

            Yeah, ticket tracking software is almost universal in IT – and very needed! I keep a bullet journal to track myself, with notations on time spent per task, and it’s a lifesaver.

    6. NW Mossy*

      It sounds like what you need is a capacity model for your admin staff. In my peer group (6 managers at a financial services company), we each developed one that’s tuned to how our teams work to get a day-to-day gauge of how much capacity is in use.

      One way to assess ongoing, fluctuating bodies of work is a short-duration time study. For a day or a week, you can ask people to keep track of the types of things they do and how much time they spend on those activities. It’s not forever, but will help you get a rough idea of the expected range for time spent on a particular type of work. You can then ask people to self-report against those expected ranges so that you can see day to day how it fluctuates. As an example, Jane might say “we got in a giant shipment of llamas and I spent 4 hours on that rather than my normal 2,” which is your cue to look at adjusting her workload/upcoming assignments.

      None of this has to be a perfect representation of exactly what’s happening – seeing how the flow varies over time is where much of the value is. I learned that one of my teams’ capacity chart looks like a sine wave – two peaks and two valleys each month. Armed with that, we know to use the valley periods to clear out lingering items so that we can better absorb the peaks.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        This sounds awesome, and I think you are exactly right. Is there off-the-shelf software for this type of analysis that you’d recommend?

        1. NW Mossy*

          We did this in a really low-tech way – it does not need to be fancy at all!

          For the time study, we asked people to keep a simple log in Excel (activity, time start, time stop) to give us a body of data to work with. We then categorized the activities into buckets and determined what percentage of a working day (we assume 6 hours of production out of an 8 hour day) each bucket accounts for.

          For the daily reporting, we use a huddle board based on Lean principles – there are tons of examples online if you search. Every day, we huddle for 10-15 minutes in the morning to review where each person talks about how their workload is relative to the targets we established. We now use Microsoft’s Power BI to provide numbers for the huddle board where we can, but you can absolutely use Excel spreadsheets and self-reporting. I’d argue that it’s better to start as low-tech as possible, because the process of gathering info will teach you what tools you need.

    7. LKW*

      For admin tasks – have you considered a turn around time or SLA approach? For example, reports must be completed and issued to a defined schedule. Shipping orders must be processed within x days of receipt. Responses to emails must be completed within 1 business day.

      That way things continue to move, and there is a general expectation of responsiveness that can or can’t be met. Spreading known tasks across the week or month aligns expectations. Clarifying turn around / response times for ad-hoc or unexpected requests means things won’t be sitting for 4 days.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        This worked really well when I was a permit writer – we used a tracking system to document how long each document spent with each person, what that step was the person was at, and how much time was allotted. This created accountability but also made it a heck of a lot easier to prioritize. Also made it obvious which managers would sit on permits for weeks at a time just to sign them – and impacted their metrics in a very obvious way.

        This was a software program built into the state’s operations, and I think they had actually designed it, so I’m not aware of any programs offhand that a company could just purchase, but I bet they do exist.

      2. Anon attorney*

        This raises an important point for me, which is the need to monitor what the people your admins support think: I am totally in favor of flexibility and output based metrics for admin support staff but I also need them to do the thing I need then to do within a specific time frame, because that’s what the court requires. I think you need to factor in the demand side as well as the supply side to this.

    8. CM*

      It seems like you’re focusing on individual workloads, but the problem is really about tracking and prioritizing all the work coming in. Could there be a shared queue or task list, where all tasks are submitted and tracked in one place? Then you could either prioritize as a group, or as LKW suggested, have different types of tasks have different priorities, or when people submit tasks they could put a deadline on them (which you’d have to keep an eye on — one thing I’ve seen is that people fill out a form with a deadline and then have to write a sentence explaining why that’s the deadline).

    9. Juniantara*

      This is a little beside the point, but 8 core hours a week just doesn’t seem like enough if you are in a rapidly changing environment – I can only imagine how frustrated I’d get if I realized I needed widgets on Wednesday for a job on Monday and the person I needed them from had worked Sunday-Tuesday and wasn’t going to be on for the rest of the week. I would also be super annoyed if I worked hard Sunday-Tuesday and thought I was done for the week and got an emergency call Wednesday afternoon, disrupting my plans and making me log back in. I think if you are going to have that few core hours, you really need VERY good project/task/action item tracking across the whole group to make sure that the flexibility doesn’t come at the expense of workflow, including for the admin group. These can be very simple straightforward buckets for everyone to put their time in, and I think it would help a ton to make sure everyone is on the same page. I know everyone hates time tracking, but there’s a reason almost every business requires it in one form or another. To coordinate a joint effort, you have to be able to understand what is actually happening and if you are that asynchronous as an organization you will need tools.
      Ones I have heard about: Monday, AtTask, ChangePoint , customizable options in SharePoint

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        I was just wondering about this, especially for the admins. do they get the same flexibility? (they should).
        If they complete all their tasks Sunday- Tuesday and wrap up Tuesday night, does admin then sit until Sunday?

    10. Curmudgeon in California*

      So, I have a love/hate relationship with work logs.

      I do system administration, which is highly interrupt driven plus has long running projects as well. I run Linux, so I use task manager. Then I try to remember to log ever ticket, meeting or help request I get, plus project work. We have a timecard system that I’ve been very bad about keeping up, but my work log is good for our weekly meeting.

      In my previous career we billed and logged by the tenth of an hour. I literally kept a handwritten log book, and some weeks my timecard was two pages worth of project numbers. Everyone did it, it was the basis for how we billed people! I was probably the most anal about it, making up GBC spiral log books to keep the data in. I could also go back months and tell you what I was working on on any given day.

      There are lots of logging & timekeeping apps.

      But in general, logging is much easier to swallow if there is a good reason for it: “Go ahead and log what you work on and for how long, then send us a copy weekly, so we don’t end up overloading you.” The last part is important – it tells the person why.

      1. Chaordic1*

        Me too. I find it an enormous hassle because my employer wants us to fill out the logs ahead of time, so the best we can do is a “guestimate” and most of the time we guess wrong, because we are all “on call” to be pulled off of projects to do customer service work on the phone and that always happens at the last minute, so we inevitably have to go back and redo the logs. It seems like such a waste of time.

        Also, the logs are locked and we can only enter information during certain times when they are unlocked by our manager. Additionally, I find having to list the time in tenths of an hour to be confusing and awkward. (A tenth of an hour is 6 minutes.) It would be so much easier if we could just list number of minutes, but no.

    11. RagingADHD*

      When I worked admin, most of the tasks were about availability and coverage more than long-term projects.

      There would be some things that were sort of ongoing routine maintenace, some projects that took a few days to turn around, but the bulk of the work was stuff that needed to get done the same day.

      Is it feasible to have admin time be completely discretionary? Can the work wait 3 or 4 days, if they all finish the week early?

      Of course industries will vary, but it seems to me there would need to be some kind of on-call rotation to make sure the core hours have admin coverage all week.

  2. Foreign Octopus*

    Does anyone have any reading recs for freelance writing that covers topics such as normal turnaround time?

    I’ve been getting a little more work in writing lately and whilst I can write, I’m unfamiliar with the industry jargon (i.e. dek and the like), and the typical expectations. For example, I had an article pitch of 1000 words accepted and gave them a turnaround time of three days but I don’t know if that was too much, too little, or just right.

    I’d really appreciate people weighing in on this as when I Google freelance writing I get unhelpful blogs about how to make thousands writing from home.

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      You might actually have some luck with that question on Twitter – I see hashtags floating around all the time from editors and bloggers, maybe something similar exists for freelancers?

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I’ll check that out, thanks. I’ve recently joined Twitter so I’m still not sure how best to use it, but I’ll give it a crack.

    2. WellRed*

      Hmm, I usually give them deadlines. I think three days is awfully quick, but it also depends on the topic and the publication. If it’s a timely news piece, it needs to be really quick, of course. But, when they accept your pitch, are they asking when you can do it by?

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        For the article I just wrote, they asked when I would be able to file by. I wasn’t sure how long was too long for a 1000-word piece. Initially I was going to say a week but then worried that’d be too much so ended up giving them three days from when they answered a couple of my questions. I was able to get it done without a problem, but I’m just worried about appearing out of touch with industry norms and don’t want to set myself for intense work when a lighter schedule would be acceptable.

    3. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I’ve been freelancing for about 10 years now on the side and I think it’s very circumstantial. I usually prefer 2-4 days for most pieces, just so I can prioritize. If I have an empty plate, I can move through things faster. If I have a backlog, I explain that to clients when they place orders with me.

      It also depends on client needs, and even whether you are willing to charge a premium for faster times when clients require things RIGHT NOW. Yes, I can write you 1,000 words in an hour, but I don’t really want to, so either you pay up or accept what is best for me.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        2-4 days sounds about right for what I was thinking. Is there any situation where you’d push back on a filing date? For example, if you need to do some research first or for a longer piece.

        1. Spreadsheets and Books*

          I usually only push back when I have other clients I committed to prior to receiving a new assignment from someone else. Most are fine with it. I have never run into a piece where I had to do days of research, but I function as a generalist so I’m not exactly a go-to for someone who wants niche-specific work. On something I’m somewhat knowledgeable about, I can expect 800-1000 words an hour. 500-600 with research. At this point, I can estimate in advance how long it will take me to accomplish an order, so I’m pretty good about balancing deadlines.

    4. Lemon Meringue Pie*

      Did they ask how long you needed? This may be different in different countries but when I was a freelance writer they told me the turnaround time, not vice versa. It will also depend on the type of publication obviously.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        They asked me when I’d be able to file by. I was expecting them to give me a deadline so I was a little taken aback but gave them three days from confirmation. I filed today so it hasn’t been a problem but, like I said above, I’m worried about appearing out of touch, like when you name a salary too high for the position sort of thing.

    5. pancakes*

      Have you looked at Mediabistro? Also have a look at Studyhall dot xyz. In the meantime I don’t think you could go wrong asking, “what did you have in mind for turnaround time?”

    6. Katie N.*

      Former assigning magazine editor here. Definitely second the Twitter rec (#amwriting is a good hashtag) and check out groups for freelancers on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you’re a woman, the Binders groups on Facebook are good (originally started to help other women writers find opps). You may have to be approved to join but that’s usually not a big deal.

      I consider 2-3 days a fast turnaround unless it’s super timely (like on a breaking news story). I preferred to give my writers at least two weeks. But editors will have different preferences. If you get going and then find the story would be better if you did one more interview or had another day to polish it, I would definitely want to know that. I was often too busy to read things the minute they came in anyway.

      I wouldn’t worry much about knowing the jargon, either! What really matters is good clean copy and a good attitude. Good luck!

    7. Maybe It's This*

      It’s normal to ask the person who hired you “What’s your deadline?” I’ve even had writers tell me that, when there is no deadline, they’d prefer if I give them one so they have something to work to! Three days sounds incredibly fast to me, like it must be extremely timely and related to current news. Generally, I assign things at least a few weeks away, and sometimes months away.

  3. Anonymous because reasons*

    Low Stakes question.
    AITA for not giving my manager more than a few hours’ notice for an afternoon of PTO? I wanted to take the afternoon off, work was slow so emailed him and and put the request through our official system.
    I texted my team (who are my peers) to let them know I would be off and to see if there was any work that needs covering before I went off.
    There wasn’t so I then went and had a nap coz I was tired and I needed the break.

    I woke up to an email from him telling me that if I wanted a few hours off in the afternoon I had to give him a few days’ notice.
    If it’s policy I didn’t realise it and I’ll of course do this, but it kind of takes away the spontaneity of wanting to take a few hours off when the opportunity arises, which was the point of taking PTO?

    1. Littorally*

      It sounds as though your manager was treating this as vacation time, and I’m not sure that you weren’t as well.

      Generally speaking, yeah, you need to give your boss more than a few hours’ notice if you want to take vacation. If you’re sick or having a personal emergency, that’s a different story — of course those arise without notice, that’s sort of the definition — but everywhere I’ve worked, the expectation has been that you’ll give at least three or four days’ notice, if not more, to your boss that you want to use vacation time to relax.

      1. Anonymous because reasons*

        Yes, I asked for it to be vacation time.
        Thanks, I didn’t realise! If others think the same then I shall adapt accordingly :)

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          I would say it definitely depend on the office–and can also depend on what’s going on in the office. It sounds like you e-mailed him, put the official request in, and then took the time–but it doesn’t sounds like you asked him if it would be OK. It might have been better if you’d waited for a response from your manager. Approaching it as “Hey, I know this is short notice, but since not much is going on and I’m pretty fried, would it be OK if I took this afternoon off? There’s nothing that needs covering right now.” Your manager might have been OK with it in that context (or not), but if he was, it would have meant it wasn’t a problem–and if he wasn’t, it would have prevented you from making an error in judgment. But if your boss has expectations of more notice for vacation time, it would probably be best at this point to apologize, thank him for letting you know what’s expected, and promise to give proper notice in the future.

          1. Lucy P*

            Ditto on that. Our staff is small at the moment so we’re as accommodating as possible. At the moment there is one person to fill each position type with very little overlap of duties and skills. Thus, if someone wants to go home because they don’t feel good, the office is generally fine with that. If there’s an urgent deadline, we may have to ask if the person feels well enough to finish their work first.
            On the other hand, if the deadline is close, but not imminent and someone wants to take off 4 hours first thing tomorrow morning to go get their nails done, buy a new car, etc., we’re going to ask them to reschedule their plans.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          Yeah, I think what he was miffed about was that you sent him your PTO request via email and through your official channel, but didn’t wait for his response – you just logged out and went to sleep. I’ve had days where work was slow and I didn’t really feel like pretending to work pre-COVID, so I’d IM my manager and ask if it was okay to take off a couple hours early, and his response was to thank me for asking first and approve the request. I didn’t even need to use PTO time to do it.

          Next time, but in your request at least a day in advance and then confirm with him verbally before you sign off that he’s okay with it.

        3. Clisby*

          Depends on the office. What you did would have been fine at my last job but not at previous ones.

      2. Mouse*

        This is definitely not universal, though. My boss would 100% not mind if I told him I had a light afternoon and wanted to take a half day–in fact, he’d probably encourage it. There are bosses and company cultures where this would be okay (though clearly Anonymous’s boss is not one of them–just wanted to add a different viewpoint for the record!).

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Same for mine. I think it’s been pretty 50/50 from my experience of bosses who could not care less (and have sent me home for an afternoon because it was nice out, and there was nothing pressing, and why not) and those that want min 10 business day notice for a Friday afternoon off.

        2. Sparrow*

          Yeah, attitudes on this vary widely, and I would definitely err on the side of being overly conservative and cautious until you have a good sense of your boss. I could just tell my current boss I’m taking off and she wouldn’t care (honestly, I could probably just disappear without telling her and she wouldn’t care), but if it’s last minute, I do still leave an opening for her to tell me no (as in, “I don’t have anything on the calendar and no pressing deadlines, but let me know if that will be an issue!”) But my current team is tiny and we all work very independently, so it’s extremely unlikely that my absence would impact anyone. Even still, it actually took about a year for me to get used this relaxed view of PTO because everywhere else I’ve worked, spontaneous PTO for no particular reason would definitely be frowned-upon. I did have one former boss who’d allow this as long as I *asked* (not told). Even then, it was something to be done very rarely, and I wouldn’t have dreamed of attempting this until our relationship was very well established and I knew he valued me enough to offer me more flexibility than others.

        3. Joielle*

          Same! I do this exact thing…. not infrequently. At least a couple times a month in the summer. We’re all pretty on top of email though, so if I give an hour’s notice that’s plenty of time for my boss to see my email requesting the time and approve it. I think you have to go with the company culture, but it’s not like an obvious thing you should have known.

          1. Heather*

            The big difference here is that she didn’t wait for approval, she assumed it. It’s quite possible the boss would have never made that comment if she’d waited.

        4. Curmudgeon in California*

          Mine too. Heck, most of our team has done the “offline for errands”, “taking today off, call me if anything urgent”, “taking the afternoon off” since we’ve been WFH.

          The “One Key Thing” is communication. If you’re not going to be available during your regular hours (each person has different ones), you will get talked to if you don’t tell the team. You don’t even need to give details, just when you’ll be gone. Yes, we prefer that scheduled vacation goes on the team calendar, but we remind each other about days off anyway. If you’re sick or have mid-day “honey dos”, that’s what flexibility is about – you just tell the team that you’re going to be afk for X hours, and either extend your workday accordingly, or use vacation time (vacation has to be used in minimum four hour blocks.)

          IMO, this is the adult way to handle things in a results-oriented professional workplace. I don’t ever want to go back to a “mother may I” type job. I feel it is demeaning.

      3. Pescadero*

        Super office dependent.

        I’ve got friends who need to give two weeks notice to take an hour off.

        My wife’s last boss required notice equal to the amount of time – want an hour off, give an hour notice. Want a day off – day notice. Week off – week notice. Etc.

      4. Wm*

        Maybe next time tell him you aren’t feeling well. Sounds like it was the truth since you needed a nap.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think YTA, but I’m also not your boss. If I were your boss, I’d be like “Cool. Take the time off.”

      But your boss wants a few days’ notice. Unfortunately, that’s his call.

      If it’s policy I didn’t realise it and I’ll of course do this, but it kind of takes away the spontaneity of wanting to take a few hours off when the opportunity arises, which was the point of taking PTO?

      Is that the point of PTO? I don’t think so. PTO is typically a vacation day or a sick day. It isn’t necessarily “take a few hours off at the end of the day.” I think what you wanted to do was perfectly reasonable, and it’s a perfectly reasonable ask, but that’s not actually what PTO is designed for.

      1. Justme, the OG*

        That’s exactly what my boss did when I asked last month. We were slow, my kid had not been in a great mood. I asked at 11 and was off at noon.

        1. Bex*

          I think the difference here was that you asked your boss. It sounds like OP might have shot the boss an email, didn’t get a reply, put the request in the system and then bounced.

          1. GrumbleBunny*

            Oooh, I did not catch that from my initial reading of the question, but I see now how that could be the case.
            As a boss, if one of my team members was having a slow work day and wanted to use a few hours of PTO I’d be happy to approve it. If they just submitted the request and then bounced, I’d be *way* more likely to require advance notice in the future.

            1. Coalea*

              Same here. Happy to approve in those circumstances, but I would expect you to wait for me to approve the request before logging off for the day.

            2. Kat in VA*

              I’ve had circumstances where (just recently), I texted BossMan roughly 30m before I generally start work with a request for a “Popup PTO Day”.

              The response was swift and succint: Seeya. Have a good day, talk to you tomorrow. It’s all about your office culture.

              But I *did* wait before I did what I planned to do that day (which was to go back to bed, for starters).

    3. Random Commenter*

      In my experience, spontaneous PTO is for emergencies. Otherwise, it’s always planned in advance (minimum of 24hrs)

      I’m not really sure what you mean by “What’s the point of taking PTO”. The point is to be able to take time off and be paid. I find that very valuable, even if I need to plan ahead for it.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        At my job the bosses ask for 1 week notice for Vacation requests (it is a coverage based, part time, shift work job). Emergencies happen, and they expect and encourage us to use our Sick Leave if we need it, but they ask us for a week’s notice so they can balance workload so no one person drowns because too many people are off.

        (Yes, I recognize I have extra benefits as not all part time shift work jobs give both vacation and sick leave, and even have them as separate pots of time. I also have really good managers now, who do explain why they aren’t granting your vacation request if they deny it.)

    4. Ada Doom*

      If you were me? Not in the least. Especially now, my coworkers don’t “expect” me to be available any specific time outside of pre-scheduled meetings because wftcoronachildblableblable. But really, it depends on what the current practice is among your cohort. Do you all usually have to ask for time off that far in advance? Are you all usually available during specific hours of the day? Is your boss usually a stickler?

      I would say make nice with your boss, call it experience of working with them, and make a point of requesting in advance next time so they see you’re taking their directions to heart. But nah, you’re nta.

      1. Anon for this*

        Well said. Every office is different. Every boss is different. I am senior staff and senior management. But my boss still gets upset if I – or any of us – do not give at least a week’s notice for a single day off. But my boss is a noted jerk, but we have all learned to play nice. It’s not a hill to die on.

        But if I were your boss, I’d be like sure, no problem, thanks for letting me know and enjoy your time off.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          But if I were your boss, I’d be like sure, no problem, thanks for letting me know and enjoy your time off.

          I would be too, but it sounds like boss never got a chance to respond to the request either way. So who knows? I do agree that it’s a good move to apologize and ask in advance in the future. We’ve all been there.

    5. WellRed*

      This is so company dependent. We do this at my company, but others probably get hung up on not getting advance notice (which is OK, but if there’s literally nothing to do, then I think offering adults this kind of flexibility goes toward being a good place to work).

    6. Sleepy*

      I think “a********” would be far, far too strong a term, but in most places I’ve worked, taking sudden or spontaneous PTO would not be seen as very professional. I’m not sure if that’s always reasonable–it really depends on what your work is and how important it is to have coverage for issues that spontaneously arise.

    7. Tuckerman*

      It totally depends on the environment. My last job I could do this and loved it. It makes sense. If it’s a slow day, and beautiful weather, why not use PTO if everything’s already covered? In my current position, they will approve a same day request, but still want it go to through the official request system.

      1. Jaid*

        The official request system doesn’t work for the same week where I am and generally we have to put our leave in via paper and get it signed. Fortunately my boss and cohort are super chill if I need to leave early, even though I have to put down something like an appointment as the reason. *My manager knows it’s an appointment with the open roads but doesn’t care.* Upper management does look at these things, but mostly to make sure customer service reps are available. Since I’m not on the phones, I’m not held to the same standard.

        (FWIW, I’m paid less because I’m not on the phones. It’s worth it.)

    8. Kate*

      I think it is HUGELY office dependent. Even within my current office, there are slow times where I have done this and it was 110% OK, and other times where I wouldn’t even dare.

      Your boss has been clear that he’s not okay with it, so you really have to go with that.

    9. LadyByTheLake*

      It depends on the kind of work you do and your manager. In my work, if I had a slow afternoon, no one would blink about taking the time off at the last minute. BUT you just learned that that isn’t how your manager or work function. Now you know.

    10. Michelle*

      As long as there is no pressing needs or deadlines, a couple of hours shouldn’t be a problem. At least, that’s my experience. I needed a couple of hours off to go get the nose pad on my glasses replaced and pick up a bottle touch-up paint from a dealer in the next town over. We returned to work last week and we are not busy, so I checked with my counterpart and my boss, it was not an issue and nothing urgent was going on. I could have done it on the weekend, but I have a good chunk of PTO left, so I took a couple hours off .

      If it’s only a few hours and it doesn’t affect anyone/their work, being a flexible is always a good thing.

    11. LDN Layabout*

      It really depends on the working environment and your relationship with your manager, but I’d say in the majority of cases this would not be OK.

      Business decisions are made on the basis of knowing when people are available, that’s why it’s polite to provide notice so people can plan around your absence. You talked to your peers but not your manager, what if he had plans you or others were unaware of?

      I have done this before, but because my manager himself was on leave, I asked /his/ manager whether I could go, as well as checking with my team.

    12. Bobina*

      Yup, company dependent. My previous job which I loved was super flexible, and even senior managers would be like “Its summer and the weathers nice, I’m taking the afternoon off to have a BBQ!”.

      Current job? My boss had a similar reaction to you when I did the same thing (work is light, weather is nice, going to head out early). They preferred either a private note early in the day or like you said, a few days notice.

      I’m hoping me new job will be more like the first job!

    13. Art3mis*

      It depends on the job and the company. In my role anything less than 48 hours notice is considered “unplanned” and you get an occurrence for it. Or half an occurrence for a partial day. Get enough and you are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. I’ve had a few half days lately due to migraines or exhaustion, but I’m not near the cap so I’m not worried about it.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Wow. I get migraines. Each one is a guaranteed half day or more if during the work week. At best I get an hour’s notice.

        I would find the “occurrence” and disciplinary action odious. Too much like high school, or an hourly assembly line. I can see the reason for it in jobs that require coverage, or daily production quotas, but I tend to avoid those.

    14. No Name*

      I think it depends on your office culture. I’ve worked places where you gave a minimum 24 hours notice, but currently I’m at a place where it’s not unusual to leave early last minute. Usually I will give my boss a heads up I’m considering it, but playing it by ear on how the day/workload goes as a courtesy.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Nope, and I think that’s what really pissed him off. She told her coworkers she was done for the day and then dipped, leaving him to find out secondhand that she’d done it.

        1. Anonymous because reasons*

          Please do not answer on my behalf!
          My boss was slightly annoyed not pissed off, and he did not find out from me second hand.

          He is a new boss for me, about 1 year ago there was a change in managers, and the circumstances now with WFH mean I’m likely to want to take time off here and there for a rest, rather than be able to plan a full vacation. So I’ve never had to just ask for the afternoon off before.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Apologies – you should answer on your own. But the point still stands – your boss clearly wants to be able to say yay or nay to these types of requests, you erred I’m not giving him that opportunity, and now you know so it won’t happen again.

        2. Mediamaven*

          Yeah, I’m like surprised this is real. I signed off and went and had a nap? Uhhhhh.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            As other people have commented, this would be just fine in plenty of offices. Not all, and I agree that you should make absolutely sure it’s ok in your office before doing it, but if it was genuinely a slow workday this seems like a totally reasonable and professional thing to want to do.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              My workplace wouldn’t bat an eyelash as long as there was not anything that urgently needed to be done. I’d announce on the team channel that I would be afk for a couple hours, then go take my nap/extended lunch. I’d extend my workday appropriately into the evening.

              Other people on my team have kids, and they sometimes need to be afk for child issues. Same thing. Shrug.

              Heck, my grand boss just announced on the team channel that they would be taking PTO this afternoon, available by cellphone. Not uncommon for Fridays when some people need to use it or lose it on their vacation.

            2. Mediamaven*

              To want to do, not actually do. I don’t know many offices where this would be normal. It clearly wasn’t in this persons.

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            In my office, if I’m not feeling well and I don’t have meetings scheduled, I can email and say, “I’m not feeling well and will be away from the computer for a bit. I will check in later, please call my cell if you need me.” I don’t think it’s that crazy. I do think the difference here is that I’m not completely shutting down, but if I were really sick, I would definitely send an email, sign off, and take a nap. Definitely real.

            There’s the fine point here that it’s not illness but rather “work is slow I’m bouncing,” which I personally don’t have a problem with but I know bosses who do. I used to work at a place where Friday afternoons could be dead, and most of us just left early. When I started my current job, I tried to do the same thing and my boss gave me a weird response so I never asked again. It happens.

    15. Construction Safety*

      Personally? I say screw ’em. A couple of hours or a sudden afternoon off when things aren’t busy shouldn’t twist a boss’ knickers. If it’s Tuesday and you want the rest of the week to go to Margaritaville, yeah I think you need to give more notice.

    16. Anonymous because reasons*

      Thanks, I’ll make nice with boss on Monday and make sure I give advance notice for vacation time :) My bad!

    17. Kimmybear*

      As others have said, very office and boss and situation dependent but my initial reaction was that it wouldn’t fly in most places I’ve worked unless you were the owner, CEO, or someone with a lot of years in. But, I’ve had two launches this week and have been working crazy hours, so my boss would probably say “go enjoy”. If my colleague that started 3 months ago asked, it might give the boss pause.

    18. generic_username*

      I think it depends on your boss and what they want (in the absence of an official company policy). It does seem odd to require that much advance notice, which makes more sense in a setting where someone would need to cover your shift but doesn’t seem to make sense here.

      Another note – you should definitely clear it with your boss before *actually* taking the time off. Like, if you tell your boss at 11 am that you’re leaving at noon and they don’t see it til 12:15, then your leave time wasn’t actually approved. And while it may not be common in your job for leave time to be declined, I’m willing to bet that there is language in your policy giving your boss the discretion to decline it. This might account for the response you got – your boss found the email after you went for your nap and after you contacted your coworkers to let them know you’d be out. So he sent an email giving you a clear guideline that will ensure he has ample time to approve/deny the request in the future (even if it’s highly unlikely he would have denied it).

      1. Anonymous because reasons*

        Yeah this is it! I made an error in judgement.
        I’m on the spectrum. I just didn’t consider I needed to wait for a reply. Now I know I can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    19. Everdene*

      My rule of thumb is twice the notice of the time you want to take off. So for an afternoon off, ask at least the day before. A week off, ask at least two weeks before.

      In this situation if I was your manager I would probably have absolutely agreed to to the time off- I may even have said not to put it through the system, just take an early afternoon due to staying late the other day or working hard in the crazy times. If I discovered you had asked but just left without an answer I would be raging. You are effectively AWOL.

      I think an apology on Monday would go a long way here.

    20. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I would guess the problem is more that you didn’t wait for his OK, rather than the timing precisely. That’s important. Did you say you were going because you felt ill, which isn’t pre-plannable?

      If you say at 10am you’re taking off at lunchtime, you aren’t giving even half a day’s notice for that half-day. I think “a few days’ notice” for a few hours off is an excessive cut-off where there isn’t an issue of coverage or deadlines, but I guess he’s the boss. Where coverage and deadlines apply (team or individual), it’s more necessary to plan further ahead.

      In my country there is law about notice for time off and time worked, which comes down to “at least as much notice as the duration of the period in question”, i.e. minimum one day’s notice for a day, minimum one week’s notice for a week (you can be more generous but not less generous). I think that’s a useful rule of thumb.

    21. White Peonies*

      You really should know the call in/PTO policy at every job(and new manager) you have. That aside, the general rule for 24 hours or less notice of taking PTO is to make an actual phone call (or IM session) to your manager to let them know what is going on. Its a respect thing, they may not know or be as aware as you are of your slow work load or desire to be off.

      Also PTO is the equivalent of vacation time, and is planned and put in in advance (at least a full work day or several days depending on your job).

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The definition of PTO varies widely over time and between places and often by exempt /non-exempt: Sick time, planned medical, caring for family members’ medical issues, breaks when you’re stressed or exhausted, repairs to the house, planned vacations.
        But yes, get the manager’s direct reply before leaving, unless EMTs are involved or bodily fluids or an intermittent medical thing previously discussed. (Eg migraines, which come to think of it do cross over to bodily fluids.)

    22. Beth*

      I’d say it’s definitely different for different companies, but the majority/default expectation will be that PTO is not something you do spontaneously. If you find yourself that a company that does allow it, it will be an unusual company culture.

    23. Lemon Zinger*

      Almost every office I’ve worked in requires at least a week’s notice for PTO, sometimes two. Sick time is different. This is obviously something you need to clarify with your supervisor, but yeah, it’s incredibly disruptive to just say you want to take off just hours beforehand.

    24. X*

      I actually think the issue here is more that you started acting as if the time had been approved before it actually had been. “I texted my team to let them know I would be off” before and “I woke up to an e-mail from my boss” are both yellow/orangish flags for me. You certainly shouldn’t have logged off and went to sleep, or start acting as if it was a foregone conclusion, prior to receiving that response from your boss. It definitely shouldn’t have been a problem, if you don’t have sick time and PTO separated into 2 buckets, but you needed to wait for the official approval. At my organization, this type of last minute request should be covered by sick time, that’s what it’s for. And requests to use vacation/PTO time have to be submitted at least 24 hours in advance. But, on the other hand, you don’t make it out of training without knowing this policy backwards and forwards.

      1. Doug Judy*

        We can take spontaneous PTO but we have to first clear it with others on the team first, making sure there isn’t something they need help with or whatever it. If all seems ok then we submit the request to the manager, and let them know the rest of the team was ok with it if they are. Logging off before it’s formally approved would bother most managers. It’s not the spontaneous PTO, it’s the up and leaving before the ok is given.

    25. Madeleine Matilda*

      As a manager I generally try to be pretty flexible about approving last minute leave requests, but you should have at least waited for the approval. I would imagine your manager was irked because you did wait for his approval and you didn’t wait to ensure he didn’t have something he needed you to do before you took off.

    26. Robin Ellacott*

      I personally say yes to last minute time off all the time, but would prefer they wait for my ok unless they are unwell or something. I did just have to ask someone to check with me first rather than just saying “I’m going to leave at 2” or whatever, after a few times she left when a team member was swamped, and I would have wanted her to check in about their shared tasks before leaving.

      For me always wanting notice is a little rigid, but always wanting to reply that it is ok before leaving would make sense. But each workplace is different.

    27. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

      This would be OK if it had been an emergency or illness where I work vs. just wanting a nap. Needing a day off on short notice = make sure boss is OK with it first. Depending on what you do, there could be a hot potato that you’d be needed for on short notice.

    28. Anonymous because reasons*

      I apologised to my boss this a.m. and he was like “cool, no worries at all.” I think I probably will be ok to take ‘popup PTO’ as someone above labelled it, as long as I wait for his response (which will inevitably be “nothing for you to do, take the time off”) but at least he’ll have notice.

  4. Sunflower*

    I need help with getting my boss to understand my workload.

    I don’t love my boss’s management style. She’s very dismissive and often isn’t open to seeing other points of view. She doesn’t ask a lot of questions or want a lot of details (which I prefer) but it’s becoming an issue as the last two times I’ve tried to talk to her about my workload, she didn’t understand I’m busy. She also doesn’t think the pandemic or protests should have any effect on people’s productivity (my team is all child free and in safe WFH conditions). I asked about having a project that isn’t a core duty of mine taken off my plate and she looked confused and responded that we can’t be saying No to work when our team is not busy. I plan client events and the rest of my team does internal. While my core duties have been reduced, I still have virtual events happening in the immediate term while my team’s events have come to a halt.

    I’m taking on work I don’t normally do that is more time consuming than it normally would- part of the issue is that if I say ‘I’m helping out X team with Yellow Teapots’, she’ll assume I’m spending 1/hr week on that when it’s really 7 hrs/week.

    My boss assumes I have lots of free time and should be finding trainings and projects/research to share with our team. I’m not slammed- I don’t need work taken off my plate. But I also don’t have time to be doing hours of trainings or non-urgent work. My stress levels are higher than normal and feeling like I need to do this on top of my regular work is adding to it.

    Any advice on how to get this point across? It would come off as beyond weird to send her a list of everything I’m doing and the timings. I mostly struggle with how to respond when she acts confused at my saying I’m busy- it feels as if she’s doubting my abilities or thinks I’m trying to slack off.

    1. CTT*

      Have you actually explained to her “This project is actually taking 7 hrs/week on this project so I don’t have time to do X right now”?

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      It sounds like you need to be more specific with her about how much time you’re spending on other things. If you give her the rundown on what you’re doing right now and about how much time each thing takes, you might not need to do it again later. Can you just tell her all the things you’re working on and say “I can break down how much time I’m spending on each of these things if you want me to, but overall it’s adding up to a full 40 hour work week. I am willing to do other things if you want me to, but I would have to take some of these things off my plate if I add anything else, and would need you to help me prioritize that.”

      1. Marthooh*

        Yes, this. And I wouldn’t mention unusually high stress levels or “in these trying times…” or anything like that. It sounds like your boss doesn’t want to hear it, and you don’t need an excuse, anyway. You’re legitimately busier than she thinks your are. That’s all she needs to know.

    3. Anon Anon*

      Can you give her a breakdown of how long each core project/task is taking you?

      If your boss has never done that task or hasn’t done it in several years, then she likely has no idea how long it takes and is basing her assumptions on how long she thinks it would take based on surface details. I tend to think that things won’t take that long, and so sometimes I have to sit down with my direct reports and ask them to explain to me the extra steps that I’m not seeing. It also might be helpful to share your task list and/or ganit chart if you have one, so that she can get a better sense that the task she thinks can be accomplished in 10 steps actually has 100 steps associated with it.

    4. designbot*

      It sounds like she’s talking about the team as a whole and you’re talking about yourself specifically. This is a a tough needle to thread because of “team player” expectations. Is there a chance you could jump on that and be like, “exactly, I thought since the rest of the team wasn’t busy it would be a great chance for Fergus or Lucinda to perhaps take this up since I do still have a full workload.” ?

    5. Juniantara*

      I don’t think you have to send a detailed minute by minute breakdown, but something like “over the past three weeks, I’ve averaged 10 hours a week in remote event planning, 15 hours a week on facilitation, 7-10 hours a week on project x and the rest of my time on y” might help get the point across quickly without bogging her down in details that she obviously doesn’t want to hear.
      Maybe there’s also a mismatch where she’s trying to protect positions and doesn’t want to publicly sacrifice any appearance of productivity across the department. If others aren’t as busy and she’s trying to protect jobs, she may be trying to avoid any appearance of work getting undone.
      This may be a tough sell if you don’t have a good relationship with her, but it may be worth discussing it in terms of “leveling workload” and “proactively adjusting to the new normal” and get a better division of work.

    6. Long Time Lurker*

      There’s a happy medium between telling her every thing you do and telling her nothing. It’s giving her a head’s up when you do work outside your normally assigned duties. “Hey I’m thinking I’m going to help on . Looks like it’s going to take me x hours per week for y weeks. I’m up to date on . Let me know if you see a problem or would rather I work on something else. Thanks.”

    7. cleo*

      I’d try asking her to help you prioritize your workload. Say that you’re spending x many more hours a week than usual on X and Y which isn’t leaving you time to do A and B (or professional development etc) – and ask what she wants you to focus on.

      Good luck.

  5. Remote Work and COL*

    Those of you with fully-remote jobs, how did you negotiate salary? I’m a partially-remote worker looking for fully-remote work, but my husband and I want to live in another part of the country (location undecided).

    We can’t realistically consider moving until I’m firmly established in a fully-remote job, but my understanding of remote work is that they make you an offer based on the COL of your hometown. How do you close this circle?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      My job now is remote because of Covid-19, but it wasn’t designed as remote. I did previously have a fully remote job, though, and I had been in serious contention for another fully remote job last year.

      In the case of my former fully remote job, they just made an offer, and I negotiated it up. They knew where I was going to be living, but they didn’t say “This is the salary we were going to offer you, but since you’re living in _______, we’re now offering ______.”

      That said, the other job I was in serious contention for told me about the salary right at the phone interview stage, and they said the salary depended on where you lived, and they gave me a ballpark for what it would be in the area I lived in.

      And, I didn’t actually apply for a job there, but I know Basecamp (which is fully remote) just offers high salaries (details of which are always posted in their job listings) and don’t care where you live—the salary is the same regardless of geography.

    2. Aitch Arr*

      Another consideration is whether the company is set up to have employees in the state you plan to reside in (called nexus). It can be cost-prohibitive for a company to set up nexus, especially for only one employee.

    3. White Peonies*

      You really want to be set where you are living for the next year or two after you accept the position. Most companies will not change your pay based on COL after you accept the job. Depending on your company it could cost you quite a bit to move your services. Its standard for you to cover costs if you choose to move within a year(some companies are 2 years). My company paid to install my internet and phone and came and set up my computer, I moved 6 months later when I alerted my company they asked how I wanted to cover the charges of moving my services either I could pay by credit card or they could deduct it from my check. Business lines cannot change addresses you have to stop and restart a plan. Also find out if you are allowed to move your equipment, I found out I was not allowed to move my phone, that the company was only allowed to do that and had to have my management. All together it cost us around $600 to my company to move, and hours of time on the phone getting things changed.

      1. WellRed*

        “Depending on your company it could cost you quite a bit to move your services. ”

        Depending on your company, they may not agree to keeping you on if you move somewhere they are not set up to work.

    4. Diahann Carroll*

      I’m fully remote and have been long before COVID. Honestly, I’m not sure how my initial offer amount was decided, but the base was only about $4k more than I was making at my previous employer, and I wanted a much larger increase as I predicted my role would morph into something more strategic and complex, so I should earn substantially more (and I ended up being right BTW).

      I asked the HR rep for a base salary that was $14,500 more than what my prior salary was, and they ended up giving it to me. From reviewing salary sites for similar positions in my region, I’m actually making about $10k more than market rate for my experience level and job title, lol. With my quarterly bonuses included, it’s about $22k more. I guess my team wanted me badly enough that they didn’t care about that and just gave me whatever I asked for (I also negotiated more vacation time).

      So I mean, you can start your negotiations based on your local market rate, but since you plan on moving, I’m not sure if that would help or hurt you later on. Maybe just pick a number you would be comfortable with regardless of location and go from there?

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      I WFH full-time. I negotiated my salary over the phone when the hiring manager called to offer me the job. I work for a state agency so everyone’s salaries are public. I asked for the highest amount someone in my position is making, and they settled on a few thousand less than that (but higher than the initial offer). My employer does not pay people differently based on COL.

      I live in a cheap place so my lifestyle is a lot different than, say, my colleagues in California.

    6. Hillary*

      It’s going to depend on the company too. My partner’s employer is mostly remote – they have salary by grade levels set for different COLs. So if a remote employee move from San Francisco to Omaha you’re going to take a lower salary, but you’ll still be very well paid for what you do there.

      I’ve never experienced this at my old-school manufacturer employers. All of them it’s been mostly negotiated with HR.

  6. Anon for this update*

    I have an update about something I posted several months ago (link in reply).

    My original post was about a minor regulatory violation I had discovered.  I’m responsible for reporting that type of violation in our annual report to the regulatory agency, and my manager (as well as some other managers, including the branch VP) was pressuring me not to report it with the justification of a very iffy loophole in the wording of the regulation.  The branch legal department’s opinion was that I should report it, but I was told that the corporate legal department disagreed, although nobody was willing to put it in writing and sign their name to it.  I was very uncomfortable with not reporting it, but concerned about repercussions if I insisted upon reporting it.

    The short update: Yes, I reported it.

    The long version: Actually not that exciting.  The more people I talked to, the more convinced I became that I really had to report the violation.  I talked to a different person in the branch legal department, who gave me a long speech about how it’s always better to err on the side of self-reporting because the consequences of a minor violation are much less than having the regulatory agency find out that we failed to report it.  I talked to the ombudsman, who said he would discuss it with the branch VP but never got back to me.  So, I put it in the report.  The report is reviewed by a peer, my manager, my grand-boss, the legal department, and the branch president before being submitted to the regulatory agency.  None of them said a word about the fact that the violation was included in the report.  I have a feeling that as time went by, they probably forgot that there was any controversy about whether or not to report it.  Now it’s out there, and unless the regulatory agency takes some kind of action (which they typically don’t for this type of violation), I suspect nobody will ever think about it again.

    1. Eleaner*

      Ugh, I hate how common that is here, when people forget why they opposed something vehemently if you drop it for a couple months. Like if it was so important to oppose and kick a fit, why are you letting it go through now. I can’t talk you through your concerns if you don’t understand your feelings enough to express what’s wrong. It just blows my mind that we can’t discuss the variables and compromise. It’s work, we don’t have to come to a unanimous consent, just the a least (or lesser) worse option. There is no right answer!

    2. Artemesia*

      You were so smart to report. When bosses tell you ‘oh it is fine’ but don’t put it in writing, you are officially under the bus if anything goes sideways. Now you don’t have that hanging over your head.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        +1000

        If anyone gives me pushback for something that is clearly a reportable, generally the statement “okay, sure, can you please email me that so I have a clear process to follow for the future? That way if this happens again, I have it in writing that we will not be reporting this type of incident.” results in nothing being written and I report anyway. No one ever wants to put “yeah I told them it wasn’t reportable actually, it was my decision to not follow regulations/policy” in writing.

    3. LKW*

      Sounds like a whole lot of people didn’t want to be responsible for reporting or advising you to report but were fine with you reporting it. Which is a really bad sign that you work for either a bunch of ethically challenged people or cowards.

    4. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      *Applause* For the win!

      May I offer a bit of unsolicited advice?

      If later on, your manager/grandboss/etc take credit for having instructed you to report it, smile and nod and even add a few remarks about how your management always insists on doing the right thing.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        “I’m always glad to help the company do the right thing!”

        I think it was the right call too and I’m glad to hear it seems to have worked out with no negative repercussions for you.

    5. Marthooh*

      Well, at least now you know what to do if you ever have a similar problem in the future. Just go ahead and make the report without asking for anyone else’s agreement, because you won’t get it.

    6. Loves Libraries*

      Glad to hear the final update. I had wondered how you were doing and had asked around December for an update. Glad it was uneventful and you weren’t thrown under the bus.

  7. PJS*

    I would like to hear some other viewpoints on something that is bothering me. About 75% of our employees cannot do their jobs remotely (generally the non-office workers). We are also an essential service, so we cannot shut down. In late March, our company sent home those who could work from home after our state governor encouraged it. We were home for six weeks. Once the governor began letting businesses open, our company decided that meant we all needed to come back. Now, cases are rising in our area and a few of us have broached the WFH topic. The governor is still encouraging WFH when possible, but our company is conveniently ignoring that. Their reasoning is that the majority of our workforce cannot work from home and that would not be fair and we cannot give a benefit to some employees that we can’t give to all of them. That reasoning sounds ridiculous to me but I can’t put my finger on exactly why or put the reason into words. What do you think? Is that a valid reason? Why or why not? If it matters, we apparently had at least one employee complain that they had to come to work while others did not. Also if it matters, our top management hates WFH and thinks people just goof off even though all of our work was done on time during those six weeks and I think they’re grabbing onto this as a way to get out of allowing WFH.

    1. Midwest Enigneer*

      I would focus on the fact that some employees working from home protects them AND the employees who can’t work from home (less potential exposures for the employees who can’t work remotely). Would they rather have people work from home now or potentially have those who can’t work from home out isolating/sick?

      It sounds like your company would not listen to this point, but it’s a safety measure not a perk right now.

      1. Lemon Meringue Pie*

        Yes, this. People who go to the office aren’t better off if more people come in than need to.

      2. Eleaner*

        If state recommendations don’t help, maybe forward along the federal DOL recommendations (via OSHA)? OSHA has changed their guidelines (assuming US) and reversed whether or not coronavirus cases are recordable injuries. I highly recommend OSHA Publication 3990, they’ve been updating it as they go.

        TL;DR If I have corona, and my desk mate later gets medical treatment for it, company caused injury in eyes of OSHA.

        The way I interpret the new recordkeeping guidelines, is that unless there is a massive spike in your community, cases that occur within a couple weeks of each other for employees that interact often/closely, any subsequent cases that occur and receive medical treatment beyond first aid, are recordable injuries for the company and go on your OSHA logs that must be submitted (with the usual does not apply if you’re not required to recordkeep due to size/farming family exception). Not a lawyer, and 50% of states have state run OSHA, so YMMV but state guidelines are federal but stricter, never looser.

        1. PJS*

          I’ll have to look into that! I know our safety guy thinks we should be WFH so maybe he can push some OSHA reasons for allowing it.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, exactly this.

        If someone who could work perfectly well at home brings disease to the workplace …

      4. leapingLemur*

        “I would focus on the fact that some employees working from home protects them AND the employees who can’t work from home” This!

      5. Hillary*

        This, but the people who have to go in don’t always agree. It’s hard for them to see empty desks when they’re going to work, especially when they know they’re mostly the lowest paid people in the building. Our senior management is very visibly working at their production locations and thanking people who are coming in. They’re talking a lot about risk reduction in standups and paying bonuses.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Their reasoning is that the majority of our workforce cannot work from home and that would not be fair and we cannot give a benefit to some employees that we can’t give to all of them.

      So do they also pay all employees exactly the same, because having any kind of differing salary wouldn’t be fair? Do they also give all employees the exact same vacation time, because having any kind of differing time-off wouldn’t be fair?

      I would actually make the case that having everyone come back isn’t fair to everybody. If only the work-that-can’t-be-done-from-home workers work at the office, then there are fewer people there, and so they can space out more and be more physically distant from each other. If everyone comes back, nobody can physically distance, which isn’t fair to… everybody.

      My workplace is starting to phase people back, and they’ve explicitly told us that we shouldn’t come back unless our jobs are more difficult to do from home, because they want to limit the number of people in the office and make sure there’s sufficient physical distance between workers.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      My first reaction is that the ‘benefit’ of WFH is shared by the workers who do have to come in but maybe don’t have to interact with as many people. I see it as a safety issue, not a fairness issue.

      As for inherent fairness of work from home: different roles have different requirements. It’s not a ‘benefit’ if it’s related to the requirements for the role. That would be like calling ‘doesn’t have to stand on a production line’ a benefit for an office worker, or ‘doesn’t have to answer phone calls from the public’ a benefit for a production line worker. ‘Has to work from a specific location’ is a requirement of some roles, and not a requirement for others. Managing roles based on their requirements is totally fair.

      1. PJS*

        That’s kind of where I was going with it too. Most of the people who have to work on-site also have to spend time outdoors in extreme weather conditions. What’s next? They complain because some of us get to spend our days inside an air-conditioned office? If they want a job indoors, they need to get a different job. Same with WFH. If they want the option to WFH, they need to find a job where that is possible.

    4. Susan K*

      I am also in a business that is essential and cannot shut down. A lot of employees cannot do their jobs remotely, but many can. Our company has dictated mandatory WFH for all employees who can do their jobs remotely. I can do my job remotely most of the time, but there are occasions that I have to be there to do my work (including a month-long project where I had to be there 6 days per week).

      I agree with you that your company is ridiculous to say that you can’t WFH because it’s not fair to the employees who can’t do their jobs from home. WFH is not being given as a benefit, but as a protective measure for ALL employees. At my company, some WFH employees have tested positive for COVID-19. They didn’t infect anyone else at work because they were not coming into work. The fewer people who are there, the lower the chances of spreading COVID-19. That is a benefit for everyone.

    5. Lora*

      “our top management hates WFH and thinks people just goof off even though all of our work was done on time during those six weeks ” Well, that right there is the problem. They think it’s a benefit, like a vacation day, even though people are demonstrably doing actual work. They have a belief that prevents them from seeing the evidence in front of their own two eyes. It’s not a benefit, unless you view “employees not dying due to their work conditions” as a benefit. And sadly, many employers DO view that as the case…

      The goal is to keep people from getting exposed to a deadly disease by their colleagues. That is accomplished by minimizing the number of colleagues they have to share an indoor space and HVAC system with. Nobody does the people who must come to the facility any favors, by exposing them to more germ vectors than absolutely necessary.

      1. Natalie*

        Yep, arguments about disease transmission or fairness probably aren’t going to land as long as they’re holding this fundamental misconception that WFH automatically means people are goofing off more than they do in the office.

      2. leapingLemur*

        Is there a way to walk them through their belief that people are goofing off at home? Sort of “I understand you’re concerned that people don’t work as hard when they’re working from home. I don’t want that to happen either, so let’s go through what was done last week and compare it to what gets done when people are in the office.” Going through what was done specifically might make them think “Well, OK, they didn’t goof off this time”.

        I’d be trying to get them to be OK with “As long as the work output is the same, you can keep working remotely”. It would be nice if they gave a little more grace, what with current events, but if they can see for themselves that people are still working, and they know they can revoke this for people who aren’t getting much done, that might help.

        1. PJS*

          I’m not sure it would work with this particular group of people. The ones most opposed to WFH also are the types who don’t know how to manage beyond butts in seats.

    6. Oxford Comma*

      Couch it in terms of disease transmission. Keeping people working remotely lessens the chance that those who are there physically are going to get the disease.

    7. Remote HealthWorker*

      It is utterly ridiculous and a fallacy. Some people are paid hourly while others are salary, yet I never here those “it’s not fair” managers ever crying about all the free OT they get. Different roles have different perks. Fairness isn’t about treating everyone the same, in fact that is wildly unfair.

      Your managers suck.

      My only advice is to document your productivity and discuss with the most wfh friendly leader. But frankly if they are WFH isn’t fair types then I doubt they care about logic.

      NPR did a great segment on the shifting mentality of WFh and how the dissenters productivity argument didn’t hold water. One caller hit the nail on the head – these weak managers are afraid of being seen as useless if their job isn’t to literally watch employees work.

      1. PJS*

        Your last line is exactly the problem. The ones most opposed to WFH have no clue how to actually manage beyond seeing people in their seats.

    8. Betty*

      In addition to the safety arguments that other have made well, it’s also in the company’s best interest in terms of lost productivity to minimize the risk of an outbreak in their staff. If someone who could have been WFH infects people who had to come in, all of whom then need to stay home for 2 weeks (or possibly longer, if they’re seriously ill), that’s a huge hit to productivity that would have easily been avoided if the original person had been WFH.

    9. Lucette Kensack*

      Agreed with some of the other comments that enabling some employees to work from home benefits all employees.

      But also: it does actually suck to have to come into the office right now, and it is reasonable to be frustrated that other colleagues are getting a very substantial benefit (working from home, reducing their risk of exposure, protecting their families, etc.). The company should address this by offering a benefit to in-office employees (rather than taking it away from folks who can work from home): a $500 bonus? Extra PTO? Priority scheduling of PTO around the holidays? Something like that.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        This, The ones who must come in should be given a pay bump and increased PTO.

    10. BRR*

      My employer, a public university, waited until they were forced to allow wfh because “not everyone can.” I take issue with people defining it as a benefit right now. It’s for public health, it’s not a benefit. We’re not being rewarded with wfh. If you don’t trust your employees, that means YOU are bad at your job.

    11. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      (1) “We have to treat everyone exactly the same” is pure bull manure. Often with an ulterior motive chewy center.

      I think they’re grabbing onto this as a way to get out of allowing WFH.

      I’d say you can bet on that, but good luck finding an opponent.

      (2) It’s not fair for those who do actually need to work in the office to be exposed to others who can in fact WFH. The pandemic’s still here, in case management didn’t get the memo.

      1. PJS*

        In regards to your last line, I am in a state where it feels like the majority of the population thinks this is a hoax and no big deal. “It’s like the flu!” is something I’m hearing a lot. So I don’t think they are taking this as seriously as they should be. Plus, our board of directors has decided they are tired of doing remote meetings and are coming back in person starting next month, so I don’t see that viewpoint changing here anytime soon. Tone at the top, and all.

    12. Sunset Maple*

      This argument particularly bothers me because it’s only ever used to take things away, never to give them.

      My company argues that permanent WFH for us office staff isn’t fair to the factory workers who have to be on-site. The factory workers have union protection, generous pensions, and a mountain of PTO that we aren’t eligible for, but the company would never dream of giving those things to us.

      1. PJS*

        Great point! I can list several “benefits” that our operators get that the rest of us don’t.

      2. Black Horse Dancing*

        Why don’t you unionize and ally yourself with the plant workers union?

        1. Sunset Maple*

          *slaps head* Well why didn’t I think of that? Surely it’s that simple for someone in IT to join a steel worker’s union.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            You don’t have to join that union but unrelated unions do ally themselves together–clerical workers and teamsters, etc. Make your own union, work with the steelworkers.

    13. IndyDem*

      In addition to the COVID specific reasoning as to why WFH is a good option, are their financial benefits you can tout? For example, less employees at a work site – more space available for others, less usage of meeting spaces (we can never find a 6 person conference room empty for the last 6 months prior to COVID), less usage of parking (especially if company leases their parking), less usage of home office utilities, etc.

    14. Fox*

      Fractionally better than my company’s reasoning of just “it’s not a remote job” even though I’ve been working from home since March.

    15. Chaordic1*

      I have noticed that when working from home, some of my co-workers are a bit slow to respond to Skype messages. I don’t think they’re goofing off, maybe dealing with children or family issues, but work seems to be getting done. My work requires me to be online during most of the day and I’m pretty sure that my bosses are monitoring my computer usage and phone calls (which go through the computer), so there really isn’t much of a chance to goof off if I wanted to. If I don’t do anything on the computer for more than five minutes a message pops up on Skype that says “idle” which I don’t want to happen.

      Echoing what the others have said, focus on the results that been delivered. If they’re close to being comparable to what gets done in the office, there’s no good reason to go back to the office.

  8. Cobblestone*

    This happened some time ago: I attended an informal work BBQ to celebrate a work event. It was on private property, and families were invited. Alcohol was being consumed. Two of my coworkers openly smoked a joint of marijuana. I’m in Canada, where this is legal. But I was still surprised to see them smoking it at a work event, albeit informal and outside of normal work hours, and after the event was officially over (many people had gone home by then, including the families). I would have no problem people smoking a joint on their own time, but it seemed wrong at a work event. Nonetheless, it’s legal, so is it the equivalent of having a beer, which I don’t blink an eye at? (They didn’t drive home; they only smoked one.)

    1. Monty and Millie's Mom*

      I’m….. Not sure. I would think that, since families were invited, marijuana use would be discouraged, but if it’s legal and no one over indulged, probably look at it like alcohol. My personal feeling about both those things at a family-inclusive event don’t matter, and I’m not sure there’s a “right” answer.

    2. The Rural Juror*

      In my view, it’s the same as having alcohol. I know not everyone sees it that way, and some people have a more stigmatized view about it, but in your case both are legal and both are substances that cause impairment…so I’d treat them the same way.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        To me it’s closer to cigarettes, in that I don’t want to be exposed to either smoke, and aren’t super fond of those who smoke anything right in a large group of people. If they were off in a ‘smoking area’ downwind of the party, I could not care less. I just don’t want to breathe in other people’s smoke.

        To be fair, I also don’t want other people’s beer spilled on me.

        1. leapingLemur*

          I agree that it’s more like smoking cigarettes. If they were using edibles, that would be different, but I don’t want to get either smoke in my system.

        2. Lucy P*

          I was thinking the same thing. Does marijuana have the same carcinogen issues as cigarettes?

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            A very quick scan of recent articles suggests….maybe? Not exactly? Still has carcinogens, but…. maybe THC does change how it works? But we don’t have a lot of research out there, not near the base of long-term data as we do for nicotine.

            I also just don’t like the smell of cigarette/tobacco smoke, and absolutely detest the smell of marijuana, so even if they became less carcinogenic, I don’t want the smell on me. I can tolerate a moderate scent on other people (just minimizes close physical interaction), but I don’t want to take it home with me. I’m not asthmatic technically, but it still isn’t fun to breathe smoke either.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Most carcinogens are thought to be due to the additives to the cigarettes. Pot has none of that.

            But they haven’t done extensive testing. And it’s all about inhaling unclean air particles, so it still does damages of its own.

            Since it’s only recently enough been legal, there will be more studies moving forward, I’m sure. They’ll come for cannabis like they did for big tobacco soon enough, there’s too much money there not to.

      2. generic_username*

        I was going to say this same thing. It feels weird to see because there is so much stigma around it, but if it isn’t illegal then it’s the same as smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol

    3. Lucette Kensack*

      It’s not quite the equivalent of having a beer; it’s like a hybrid of having a beer and smoking a tobacco cigarette (or maybe a pipe or a cigar — something that has a strong odor). I’d be put off by folks smoking anything at a work event.

      1. WellRed*

        This is where I fall. My new roommate smokes pot, she only does it outside on a deck that is in no way connected to the rest of the house and the smell still annoys me. Otherwise, have at it.

    4. AGD*

      Also Canadian. Yeah, I’d basically shrug at it legally (I hear that marijuana exposure is definitely not good for the developing human brain, but I imagine once isn’t the end of the world), but I’d still have to keep my distance and possibly even go home since I’m asthmatic.

      I keep feeling torn over the weed laws up here: I definitely don’t want a plant to be so criminalized that people are jailed for merely possessing it and scientists can’t easily study its effects. At the same time, there are more incidents of my having a hard time breathing.

      1. leapingLemur*

        I think in some places, people can’t smoke it in public, which might help with breathing.

        1. another anon*

          Just because it’s illegal to smoke in public doesn’t mean they enforce it, at least in the two places in the US where it’s legal where I have had issues. I know because I’m allergic to the smell and smoke and it makes me really sick. Let’s just say that I’ve been carrying around and wearing masks for a couple years since before all the cool kids were…

          Backyards are generally not seen as public property tho.

          If I wasn’t allergic, I’d still find it unprofessional. At a minimum, I’d expect common courtesy to at least ask if people are ok with it. Both substances suck to be around if you have addiction in your family or are in recovery, too.

          Though, now I have to ask about it when I visit people, just like I’d ask about cats for my cat allergy so I can be prepared. I would not expect to even need to ask a coworker, though. It sucks because I hate having to disclose my allergy to pot, it’s rare and I get a lot of gaslighting about it, like it’s my fault or something… it is NOT FUN!

          I’ve never tried it, but does pot impair you more than alcohol? If so, then I think it’d still be inappropriate for a work event. Yes, alcohol is frequently served at work events but it’s unprofessional to have more than a drink or two and be stumbling drunk.

      2. Sandi*

        I’m hopeful that edibles will become more popular, so the problems with smoking cannabis will mostly disappear.

        1. another anon*

          Almost… there’s still no reliable test for driving while high, like there is for alcohol. They don’t enforce it either. That’s how I found out I was allergic, a nearby car had a smoker, I smelled it, then my eyes started to close up. Thankfully, I was able to pull over before I got into an accident, but it was really scary!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Edibles at a party with kids seems a recipe for disaster. (Says someone who got served from the wrong punch bowl at a family event when I was little. )

    5. Candy*

      I think this would depend a lot on context. Was this was an informal work BBQ for movie industry PAs in Vancouver? Or a group of Angel investors and bank managers in Ottawa? One might raise eyebrows, the other wouldn’t even register

    6. Anono-me*

      I consider smoking around other people who don’t smoke to be rude.

      You said the event was on private property, and after the work function had ended. But you were still there. If the people smoking are the property owners, maybe it was a technique being attempted to encourage people to leave. ( In which case I would be much more forgiving, although I would still hope that the hosts would just use their words to tell people to leave.)

    7. SomebodyElse*

      For me the deciding factor on what I thought about it in a psuedo work context would be the company policy on drug use. In the US this is shaky territory, since it’s legal in certain states, but a work drug policy is still enforceable which would mean that the people smoking could be opening themselves up for trouble.

      On a personal non-work level, I’m not sure this would bother me at all even as a non-partaker.

  9. Anxious Librarian*

    TL/DR: Am I a jerk for asking for a work-from-home accommodation when I don’t have a medical need for one?

    I work for a specialized department within the main branch of an urban library system. Our system will open for extremely limited public service on July 15. Our department, which primarily provides more complex one-on-one service, will remain closed well into the foreseeable future. We are providing robust virtual programming from home.

    However, our library system is calling every staff member back to work July 1. This is mainly theater for the city, who doesn’t seem to be aware of the library’s virtual programming and seems to want face time from employees if we’re going to get a budget. (The new fiscal year starts, you guessed it, July 1).

    Our computers in the office are not equipped for virtual programming and we are expected to report in three days per week. We can continue working from home as we’ve been on the other two days. I’m being asked to conduct virtual training for other staff, which I can’t do from the library as things stand now. I’d have to squeeze that and my virtual programs into my two home days.

    The library administration encouraged us to request a work-from-home accommodation if we have child care or health issues within our families. Neither is the case for me. I do have a 45 minute commute via public transit and I don’t feel good about that, but that’s not the real issue.

    The big issue is that I’d legitimately provide much more value to the library–and the city–from home. I feel strongly that there is literally no reason why my department, which has no ETA for reopening for in-person public service, should be put at risk right now.

    My supervision seems reluctant to support my stance even though they know I’m right. They say that re-opening is inevitable, so why not start to report back? But more to the point, they want to toe the company line so our budget isn’t cut. Several of our staff, including both of my direct reports, are newer employees who would be at risk for layoffs should we get a draconian cut. (Both of those reports also strongly want to work from home.)

    Am I being a jerk if I request an accommodation I don’t truly need?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      No, you aren’t being a jerk.

      My supervision seems reluctant to support my stance even though they know I’m right.

      They seem reluctant? The aren’t flatly vetoing your stance? If they’re just reluctant, insist on your stance, and explain all the reasons.

        1. Anxious Librarian*

          Actually, I had a good conversation with my boss today and they clarified that they’re totally supportive. And I made the official request.

    2. Policy Wonk*

      I would develop and provide a list of the equipment you will need to be able to do your virtual programming from your office in the library (hardware, software, applications), and use that as the basis for a request to work from home until they have a list of the equipment you need on site. Include a list of planned and proposed upcoming programming, including the training they requested. The more you focus on work requirements, the more likely they are to approve it.

      1. Anono-me*

        I would follow Policy Wonk’s advice and take it a little to the next step and actually codify it into some sort of purchase order /project cost document with actual prices and a grand total. Then let your direct supervisor “save” the library the grand total amount of money by having you take the additional days to do the training from home.

      2. Anxious Librarian*

        I really like this idea. Our HR asked for just a simple request for now but if they push back, I’ll give them exactly what you suggest.

    3. Another name*

      You are not being a jerk. You are the best person to advocate for yourself in a scary pandemic situation. A lot of public employers are facing the possibility of cuts and trying to prove their value right now. I think you have a worthy argument and your focus should be on getting across how much more value you can bring working remotely.

    4. Observer*

      Make a list of the equipment you would need to do the job in the office and the OFFER them the opportunity to skip purchasing that, by having you do it at home.

      1. Anxious Librarian*

        I like the way you phrase this. Hopefully it won’t come to that, but I think that’s a great strategy.

    5. generic_username*

      It sounds like you do need an accommodation, just not for health or child care… If you literally can’t do your job, then that’s not a good working set-up. You should explain to your supervisor that you cannot do xyz projects at the library and that would mean that you are going to spend the majority of the time in the library twiddling your thumbs unable to work. Maybe suggest WFH 3 days a week and in-person 2 days (if there actually is something to do at the library) or some other mixed schedule. It really isn’t an unreasonable request and would only be an issue if you lied to get an accommodation (by saying you had a health of child care concern when you do not). Just make sure to separate what you want and what you need – you want to avoid your 45-minute public transit commute (which, ooof, I have the same and am so happy to continue WFH because of it), but you NEED a computer set-up that is equip to run virtual programming for the library. Focus on what can only be done from your home (but be prepared for them to possibly ramp up your office tech instead of letting you continue 100% WFH)

      1. Anxious Librarian*

        The funny thing is that my 45-minute commute is actually a big improvement over what I had before!
        I made my request and no, I didn’t focus on that at all. Made it strictly about being able to do my job and provide the most value to the library.

  10. Marguerite*

    I sit next to “Roxy.” Roxy is older and has been there for 10 years. She is passive aggressive and rude to me when she’s stressed out. It isn’t so overt that I feel like I can say something without looking like I’m just overly sensitive.

    First she snapped at me over a Teapot Company not receiving a shipment. I’m not in charge of that. That is Fergus’s job. Instead of talking to Fergus herself, she snapped at me and told me to talk to him about it.

    Later Roxy was looking for some important files that used to be stored in my area, but they were moved to another building. I told Roxy this, but she didn’t seem to believe me. I told her to ask “John” since he was the one who used them last, but he didn’t know where they were.

    I went for coffee and when I came back, I saw Roxy looking over at my desk, trying to look for the files. I don’t know if she went in there, but I was a little shocked to see that. It turns out that they were being used by another department, so mystery solved.

    It’s exhausting to deal with because she’s extremely manipulative and acts like the victim. I don’t know what was said, but my other coworkers looked at me and it was awkward.

    How should I handle this? Any suggestions or advice is much appreciated.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      You say she’s older and has been there 10 years (I’m assuming that’s longer than you’ve been there). What is the professional relationship between you two? Did she have to mentor you when you first arrived? Do you have the same supervisor?

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would address her in the moment each time. I know it’s hard but it’s also empowering to yourself, while it removes the power she’s formed over you by making you feel awkward and uncomfortable.

      Part of this is that you’re internalizing her victimization and letting it effect you. You don’t control her emotions, you control only your own. She’s in charge of her feelings, not you.

      If someone snaps at you, try “I know this situation is annoying but I don’t appreciate you snapping at me, this isn’t my fault. Please don’t take it out on me.”

    3. SMH*

      When she snaps or says something rude or that comes across as accusatory just stop. Don’t speak don’t respond. Wait for her to look at you just stare at her in surprise like you just can’t believe what happened. Then slowly respond. ‘I do not handle the shipments, reach out to Fergus.’ If she snaps back and tells you do it just respond. ‘No.’ And go get coffee or just sit there in silence and continue working.
      I also find fighting passive aggressive with passive aggressive works.
      I had a coworker obsessed with people bringing her coffee. She would say she was too busy to get coffee or must be nice for you to get coffee or oh you got coffee and didn’t bring me any. I started responding the same way. If she had something I didn’t ‘oh it must be nice to have a nicer pen.’ ‘Oh it must be nice to be needed’ in response to her being busy. She was also about 10 years older than me. She didn’t stop the comments but there not directed at me nearly as much.
      If you ever get a chance to give feedback to your supervisor tell them Roxy doesn’t handle stress well and it’s difficult to realize she’s stressed vs mad at her coworkers. Also if you can give feedback for her review or a 360 feedback that would be a great place to add it.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        I really don’t like the suggestion to out-passive-aggressive her. That will absolutely make one seem petty as well. Others won’t know you’re playing a game with her and will see you as immature. I’d rather just go, “lady I’m never going to bring you coffee. Give it a rest. Thanks”.

        OP, anytime she snaps at you, you can simply and firmly say, “don’t speak to me like that again”. You don’t need to say please and you don’t need to implore her.

      2. Marguerite*

        I have made some sarcastic comments. Roxy made a remark on a coworker’s voicemail message and I said something about her being the “voicemail police” or something and she gave me a nasty look, lol. That’s about as far as I’m willing to take it though- she’s chummy with the boss and I need a job, plus I’m not the best at returning remarks. The assistant admin of another dept once snapped back her, saying, “You’re not perfect either, Roxy!” when Roxy was on her high horse about something. (That was awesome…..)

      3. Roy G. Biv*

        Ugh. “She would say she was too busy to get coffee or must be nice for you to get coffee or oh you got coffee and didn’t bring me any.”

        My dear, departed grandmother was like this in her last 10 years or so. I consistently responded with statements like, “Well, come with me. We’ll go get ____ together. Let’s go see what we can find.” And it was rarely about getting the coffee, or going to the mall. It was all about “pay attention to me.”

        I was more than willing to do that for my beloved grandmother. But I would probably plot ways to make that coworker’s day even more wretched, in the most low key, passive aggressive, plausibly-deniable way, because I’m that petty … but only in my head. In real life I would just grit my teeth and bear it.

        1. Qwertyuiop*

          THIS. The whole “I need/want attention.” I had this happen at my last job. A coworker would say random things just for attention and some times I just ignored her or walk away. I don’t want to sound cold, but this is work. Not therapy. I can’t manage her emotions AND do my job. She would make comments saying that she was fat, stupid, etc. It was sooo uncomfortable. The other coworker would sit there and swear like a sailor, between the two of them, it was awful.

    4. Grumpy Lady*

      When she snaps at you to do something outside of your job like speak to Fergus in your example tell her so. “Im sorry but you will need to speak with him. Thats not a part of my job duties”. When she was at your desk I would have said “I already told you I do not have the files. Please go speak to John or ask our supervisor to help you”

      She can be aggressive all she wants but I suspect she is the kind of person who will stand down when you put up calm resistance. You can shut her down by being calm in the moment (which is hard) but also matter of fact. I had an aggressive supervisor who I shut down like this and we eventually became friends because she realized I wasnt going to put up with her stuff. Maintain your professionalism but also dont feel like you need to be subjected to her passive aggressiveness because shes been there longer.

      1. tangerineRose*

        You may want to talk to your manager first to be sure you’ve got backup if Roxy complains to management.

      1. Marguerite*

        I was to the point where I wanted to ask my boss about this. I’m not sure. There are other areas that I could work in, but I don’t think there’s anything permanent.

    5. Anono-me*

      A co-worker of mine taught me this great trick. When a non-supervisor tells her to do something that’s not her responsibility; she says “No thank you.” She uses a nice but firm tone of voice and then immediately turns away from the person speaking and back to her work. Very few people have pursued it further. (The few that have have been directed to my friend’s supervisor and told you need to talk to Supervisor X because that’s who gives me my assignments.)

    6. 30 Years in the Biz*

      I have used this before: “We’re all professionals here and I know you don’t intend to speak to me this way, so please don’t snap at me. You can find X here/I think John knows where those are/etc.” This establishes you as a professional, gives her the benefit of the doubt (even though you know this is her attitude- you look decent when this interaction occurs in front of co-workers), and shows you are trying to help. If she goes through your desk again, say: “Please don’t go through my desk, I would never think of searching my colleagues desks without permission; it’s unprofessional and invades people’s privacy.”
      Pretend you’re on camera or the big boss is watching you. What would you want people to see as you interact with this coworker? Also have ready this standard response when she starts playing the victim: “I’m sorry you feel that way” (repeat as needed). Then go back to your work and look busy to show her the interaction is over – you’ve done your best for her.

    7. allathian*

      I’m wondering, does Roxy have issues with Fergus so that she doesn’t want to talk to him? Sounds a bit odd that she wanted you to talk to him instead of just doing it herself. Or is she often trying to delegate some minor tasks to you so she gets to pretend to be your supervisor even if she isn’t? Some people are a bit hipped on their seniority, as measured by years on the job, with their peers. Especially if the peers are better at the job and more popular with other employees.

      1. Marguerite*

        The company that contacted her is a company that I deal with, so maybe she thought it should have been my issue and not her issue or something she should be dealing with. She and Fergus are pretty close, so I think she wanted to pretend to be my boss.

  11. Justin*

    I started a side hustle. (I’m not gonna link it here, I’m sure that’d be frowned upon.)

    You’ve all heard about my frustrations with dog whistle bigotry at my job, stuff I felt, because it wasn’t directed AT me, I couldn’t do anything about. Well, I still work there, but, I decided, as (excuse the description, but) a lot of Nice White Friends had Feelings in my direction since early May, I knew there’d be a lot of (bad) trainings that don’t actually change anything. So I made myself a real syllabus and a course (it’s several weeks long, but only an hour or two a week for particioants) and I’m working with individuals or organizations that want to actually take the time to really substantively challenge the white supremacy in their context. Not just “hire more folks” but “the systems that support our organization are white supremacist in nature, let’s change that in some real way.”

    I have a bunch of folks interested, so it’s exciting to be able to really put my studies (for those who don’t know, I study whiteness and education in my doctoral program) to use. And maybe I can escape what is a spirit-crushing job where, since we got the day off today, our director urged us to “reflect on the nation’s history.”

    1. Academic Librarian too*

      Just saying congratulations on creating this training that you know will be engaging, informative, and will effect change. Also understanding that your work is paid work and people should trade cash for knowledge.

    2. Altair*

      You are improving the world in substantiative ways. Thank you for doing this. I’d hug you if I could.

      1. Anon-for-this*

        I sign up for everything our diversity team offers. I work at a university that has had a couple of racial incidents, and I’m a librarian. I decided a long time ago to go to everything diversity-related until I start seeing coworkers there. Still haven’t seen even one of them, including either of the two who have a bit of diversity-related job duties. Our blue-eyed protestant white male grand-boss insists we don’t have a problem, and all the blue-eyed protestant white underlings between me and him are in total agreement.

        We have a staff of over 100 and only one person of color on the staff and not one person who was born in another country. There are only a few who were even born in another part of the U.S. Yet we don’t have a “problem” because everyone is “nice.”

        Um…. no, they’re not “nice.”

        1. Justin*

          Niceness, as an ideology, is part of the problem.

          I don’t think a lot of people fighting white supremacy are nice, nor should we be.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Yay! I know that the National Organization For Women (NOW) is working with NAACP on hosting anti-racist programming, if that gives you any local leads.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes. I work in a very white industry (also male and middle aged, but that’s changing) and there are lots of member services organizations and associations that would probably welcome the opportunity for someone to offer this training. I imagine there are lots of industries like this that could benefit.

        1. Justin*

          Yeah I am going to see what happens with my first few clients and then start to use what I’ve learned there to really pitch myself.

    4. Stephanie*

      I have been dodging all these trainings and panels. My department has made them optional and I just had a feeling it would be me explaining systemic racism to my entire division. I hope this works out! This sounds interesting and much needed.

      1. Justin*

        No more free labor. They can read to finally understand racism is real. And I’ll guide them to places where they are able to dismantle it in their contexts.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I have often read the suggestion that if you hate your workplace and can’t immediately get out, to treat it as an experiment where you are the removed or covert observer gathering intelligence. There are likely many examples of it, but the one I remember is the communications researcher going undercover at a big advertising agency.
      So, think of it that way and use your time to inform your research.

      Just curious though, you say you study whiteness and education? I’ve heard of Race and Ethnicity Studies, so is that a subset or it’s own separate segment? Does it more broadly fall under Sociology or Education, or even Law?

      Well, know this. One day you WILL get out of that soul-crushing job! It sucks so bad when you feel trapped, but one day you won’t be. Your experience will make you a better academic.

      1. Justin*

        It would probably be an offshoot of Race (and language, because I’m a language teacher at heart) studies if it were, like, actually on a campus. Ultimately my degree will be broadly in education, but my research centers on whiteness because it’s everywhere in teaching.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Cool! Stay focused on your education. You will get out of the crap job. Best of luck!

    6. generic_username*

      Congrats on the side hustle! It sounds like a great way to put your passion, education, and lived experiences to work for you. Every time race issues come to the forefront of national attention and discussion, black folks are asked to do such a huge amount of emotional and mental labor to explain racism and its impacts to white folks, both personally and professionally. You deserve to be paid for that labor! This is particularly true in a professional setting where people are meant to be paid for their expertise and experience. If educating your white colleagues about diversity and inclusion isn’t in your job description, then you’re consulting and should be paid for it – plain and simple.

      1. Justin*

        My colleagues need it but they don’t know about it. They really need it!

        It’s not a secret, though. Got a website and an invoice situation set up.

    7. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      This sounds very interesting. I’d love to work for a company that actually used a course like this (and let me attend it!). I hope it takes off for you.

    8. Taniwha Girl*

      You are doing the lord’s work (I can’t find a good secular phrase that encompasses how Good and important your work is).

      I really hope you share the link someday, I would love to share your training with the org I work for and to sharpen my own knowledge in the fight for change.

      And that is so cool you’re studying whiteness and education. Wow, we need more people like you.

  12. KiwiApple*

    Anyone in Higher Ed out there? If yes, I would appreciate any tips or ideas about the new academic year starting and how to welcome our new students, how to build a community whilst being online, on campus and online in a different time zone. My students are postgrad, so have already done a degree and are at least 22 years old (so not 18 year old freshmen)

    1. Megumin*

      Higher ed IT here! From what I have heard directly from students and gleaned from online sources, our students seem to be most frustrated with lack of consistent information, particularly from advisors. The university has set up a COVID-19 website and does mass emailings for important information, which is good, but it seems like the advisors are all over the place with the information they have regarding registration, financial aid, etc. If you can ensure that information is consistent across all touch points for students, that would go a long way in supporting them. Make sure all the people on the ground – advisors, call centers, help desk, etc – are on the same page with policies and procedures for the new year. Make it as easy as possible for students to answer their own questions, and that your self-service systems are robust and current.

      1. Forced Online Student*

        Hi grad student here! I also agree with keeping information consistent, especially when it comes to important decisions. At my program they stated that all summer classes will be online only so people made adjustments, but then they walked back and said all-in-person starting halfway through. Well people had already made plans and it derailed a lot of people including people like me who had to move from out of state. Make important decisions and stick to them! And make sure all information is in a centralized place.

        Another important thing is to try set up ways to check in with students. Online instruction is very different from what I am used to, and it doesnt help that every class is set up different. But I work harder in the classes that a consistent lecture time and a professor who really works hard to get us to engage even through Zoom. I am having a harder time with classes that have no engagement with the professor.

        And then final thing (sorry). Make sure every class kind of has a central organization system. It’s hard to organize how to set up your week if every class present their assignments in a different way, order, or even system. I mean like if you’re using Canvas, then just use Canvas and set up the calender feature. Within Canvas, everyone should use modules not just assignments. Professors should use Canvas for one thing and Blackboard for another (trust me it happens and its confusing).

        1. Forced Online Student*

          Oops sorry *professors should not use Canvas for one thing and Blackboard for another.

    2. AGD*

      Faculty member here. The number one student complaint I’ve seen lately is that a lot of instructors are so eager to charge ahead that they overlook how much of an impact the situation is having on students’ time, engagement, and mental health. I’d say: lots of friendly emails with very clear instructions; holding ample office hours online to which students can just drop in; considering moderately flexible deadline policies; and stating upfront that you’re aware of time-zone differences, super-slow internet connections, and other potential logistical issues. If one student mentions a problem and it’s something you suspect a bunch of them are going through, don’t be afraid to be proactive and email everyone about it (citing only anonymous reports) since they have fewer ways of comparing notes with each other. Also, humour is good (one of my colleagues is holding their office hours and wearing a different ridiculous/awesome Halloween costume every week in order to combat apathy and encourage students to drop by). Building community online is tough because so many students are isolated and for them it’s usually just another tab in the browser, but we just need to do our best.

    3. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      I’m in higher ed (staff) and I support master’s and doctoral students in a university fellowship program. I’m dealing with the same issue! We already have some on-campus programming in place that we’re working on moving into an online format. We used to use Blackboard for online community building, but that’s going away (replaced with something else), so we’re using an Office 365 Group for it’s listserv-like function and to share resources. We’ll still be doing a half-day orientation for our incoming fellows, with a current student panel and other activities, but we’re still ironing out the details ….
      I guess I don’t have much to share, other than to say, a lot of people are in the same boat as you and tackling these issues right now.

    4. Candy*

      I’m getting information overload so I appreciate having all the info I need in one place (Canvas, a link to a webpage) to go to when I need to/have time. Also, having a standing weekly meeting with the team to check-in is helpful. We’re all getting so many emails these days it’s easy for things to get lost/forgotten/pushed down. It’s nice to know there’s a set time that I can follow up with everyone who hasn’t responded to me or for others to reiterate something they sent in email without having to send another email/schedule yet another meeting.

    5. Tuckerman*

      Sounds like we work with a similar demographic. I’ve tried to organize social virtual meetings for our students who started this Summer, but students seem to prefer topic-specific discussions, for example, I led an (optional) virtual session on test prep. I invite students in their final year of the program to come to these and share their perspective. New students really like hearing from experienced students.

      Sometimes I connect students based on their shared experiences. There was a student, a parent, who had trouble with time management. I knew of another parent in the program who excelled in this area. With each party’s permission, I connected them.

      Finally, especially for our more “non-traditional” non-traditional students, I make it a point to ask about their families, their job. I find that they often to connect more like colleagues. I think that’s especially important right now, since people are feeling so isolated.

      1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

        I tried doing a “virtual coffee hour” so our fellows could chat with each other (since they all come from different programs). But despite some students saying they were interested, no one actually participated. But I really like the idea of the topic-specific discussions, I might try that out in the lead up to fall semester!

    6. Tessera Member 042*

      Hi! I’ve been teaching online classes for the state community colleges for the past few years while finishing my dissertation. A lot of the other responses have it covered in terms of organizing information, being present and proactively communicating, etc, so I wanted to speak a little bit more in terms of building community:

      -If at all possible with the time zone issue, try and do an introductory session through a synchronous web conference. Being able to see people’s faces and hear their voices, and having everyone in the same situation (vs some people in classroom and some online) helps to make people more memorable to each other.

      -If you can’t do a web conference, ask students to briefly introduce themselves in their first online discussion. It starts to make those connections that would happen in casual conversations before/after class. For example, it turns out that one of my summer courses has a surprising number of people who are part of a set of twins and/or are parents of multiples. Who would have guessed?

      -Ask students to put some kind of image of themselves in the course management system / online discussion forums. It doesn’t have to be a photograph; even a meme or a random picture can give their peers a sense of their personality and something to remember them by online (rather than the standard head icon).

      -There are ways to be clever about designing collaborative asynchronous activities, so don’t discount group assignments altogether; but be intentional about how and why you are using them (particularly with postgrads).

      -Have some sort of optional discussion thread for you all to post items of interest that don’t necessarily relate to class topics. For example, during my spring Children’s Literature class, I started a separate thread with resources about how to talk to children about the coronavirus. One of my student evaluations mentioned that they appreciated that I provided resources without making them front and center.

      Good luck with your new classes!

    7. Pam*

      Ha! We were rehearsing our Zoom Orientation presentations this morning.

      Our Business Graduate program has been getting a lot of participation doing Zoom sessions- not just the official ones, but conversations with faculty, alumni, and employers.

    8. Put the Human Back in Human Resources*

      CUPA HR has a ton of Covid 19 resources. I got access without logging in with my membership ID. Under Return-to-Campus Planning:
      COVID-19 Planning Guide and Self-Assessment for Higher Education (OpenSmartEdu)
      Manager Toolkit for Return to Campus (Houston Community College)
      CUPA-HR Workforce Planning Tool for Fall 2020
      WHO Advice on When and How to Wear Masks
      CDC Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education (updated 5/30/20)
      Recovery 2020: Key Questions and Principles for Campus Leaders (ACE)
      ACHA Guidelines for Reopening Campuses (5/7/20)
      INTERACTIVE MAP: State-By-State Reopening Guidelines for Employers (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

    9. A Cataloger*

      Remind them about the library and specifically the subject librarian for your area. I just spent an hour on a video call with a student (masters degree) who is working on their last class (they were a transfer student so missed some of the classes I do instruction in) and was having trouble finding information online. I was able to provide specific reputable places to search (databases), search strategies, and tools to help save their time. I think they said at least three times that they had never thought about the library and how much easier this was going to make doing their final literature review project.

    10. Emma Woodhouse*

      My small recommendation is to be super honest. Many students have told me they appreciated that I can commiserate with them, because I think a lot of professors are trying to pretend everything is fine but they know it’s not! I also recommend being plain with your language–me saying “yep this sucks” goes a lot farther than “this situation is challenging.” Students know when they’re being talked to with hallow brandspeak.

  13. Upskill?*

    More bad job advice!

    I reached out to a second marketer in my metropolitan region. She has nearly two decades of experience, so I thought she would have insights to share. No, turns out she “fell” into all her jobs and hired someone to write her resume. She recommended I hire the same person because “you need someone else to show you the strengths you don’t know you possess.” What? Who makes a habit of falling into new roles?

    While the basis of her argument holds water, I believe informational interviewers, observations and adhering to standard resume-building practices would suffice. The idea of paying a stranger hundreds of dollars to retell my story sounds ridiculous to me.

    Has anyone encountered such advice? If so, how do you recommend I respond?

    This is the second person to give me strange job search advice. Last week, I wrote in asking if some of the odd job search advice I received was acceptable. The AAM community shares my belief that not tailoring your resume and stating your interests at the tops of your cover letter is wrong.

    Goodness, maybe I should give up on speaking to professionals in marketing. I don’t seem to have much luck!

    This wee

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Way back in the day I paid someone to write my resume. I think it was about $200, which was a financial strain, but it was definitely worth it. I was an administrative assistant and it was really hard to find the right things to put in my resume and I needed help just punching up what I had with better terms. I was so deep in my job that I couldn’t categorize what I did and I couldn’t figure out what was important to detail. And I had only worked at a few places and had a limited view of the working world.
      Once I received the finished product, I still customized it for each application. I just needed to get the base layer that I could build on.
      15 years later, I have a strong background and lots of achievements so it isn’t hard to update my resume, but I needed a second set of eyes back then to help guide me.

      1. Upskill?*

        I apologize if my concerns about using a professional resume writer upset you. It wasn’t my intention.
        Furthermore, I congratulate you on your positive experience with a resume writer.

        Having stated that, I remain firm in my preference to write a universal resume, tailor it based on job descriptions and information obtained from people working in the field locally.

        Shall we leave it at different strokes for different folks?

        1. AndersonDarling*

          No offence taken! I just wanted to tell my story. There are times when you need help and there is no shame is reaching out to a professional.

      2. Mockingjay*

        While there are good general resume writers out there (glad you found one, AndersonDarling), I would look for someone who has experience in your particular field.

        I occasionally do resumes for friends and coworkers, but limit them to people in my industry. It’s actually more formatting, editing, and showing them what areas to expand on. (I am a tech writer but also write proposals for government contracts, so I know what these contracts are looking for in their hires.) I can’t do resumes for marketing, for example; I know nothing about that field.

        Funnily enough, I have a horrible time with my own resume. It’s hard to view myself objectively.

        1. Upskill?*

          I like your sound logic for offering resume assistance. If the resume writer has no ties and little understanding of a field, it would be much more difficult to craft a compelling resume. This makes a lot of sense.

          As an aside, you are a very good and thoughtful friend to help people with their resumes. It’s such a tricky thing to gently suggest edits and guide people through the process.

          Thanks for commenting!

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      maybe I should give up on speaking to professionals in marketing.

      I agree with this. The best advice you’ll get is from Alison on this very website.

      1. Upskill?*

        I respect Alison’s advice and have used it to land previous positions, but I also want to collect information from people working in the marketing field in my area.

        My rationale for contacting marketing professionals in my area is to get an on-the-ground idea of what hiring managers are looking for in applicants. I also want to know which professional development trainings and professional associations are worth my time.

        Does that make sense?

        1. MissGirl*

          Yes, of course, ask for advice from professionals in your expertise. Norms and expectations can vary widely. Some people do need professional resume help. It’s just hard to find good ones because anyone can claim they’re a career expert. It doesn’t mean you need it.

          As with any advice you get, take it with a grain of salt before deciding it’s the gospel truth.

          1. Upskill?*

            Yes, I’ve read horror stories online about people claiming to be experts ripping people off by costing them money and jobs.

            I really am a big believer in going to a subject matter expert for information. These people can be hiring managers, people holding those positions, working professionals who teach, etc. The goal is to connect with people who have valid experience working and hiring for the field.

            Thanks for sharing your perspective.

        1. Upskill?*

          I’m delighted you are a satisfied customer of Alison’s resume writing service.

          She is very good at giving job search advice, and I have used her cover letter writing tips many times.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Just so no one is confused, I don’t have a resume writing service! (Although in the past I’ve occasionally reviewed people’s resumes for them and given feedback.) That link is to my “how to get a job” book :)

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I actually did sort of fall into both my career field jobs, heh. Started out as a cold-called temp (I didn’t apply, the temp agency called me) for both of them and got hired in permanently after six months. (This might be partly why I kinda suck at interviews – I haven’t had to do one since 2003.) But I wrote my own resume. :P

      1. Upskill?*

        Congrats on securing full-time jobs from temp positions!

        Thanks for sharing your perspective.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        My entire career could be summed up with “Heh… that’s a funny story”

        I thought I had a plan, maybe I did- not really sure at this point, but I don’t think I ever actually used my plan in my career. It has been a series of circumstances that has lead me to where I am. So, I guess I’m on team ‘fell into my role’ here and to say that it can work out.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Well, hold on a minute. You’re talking to people who are, presumably, successful, and you’re asking about their experiences. This doesn’t mean that you have to have the same experiences, but theirs aren’t invalid because they don’t follow “traditional” patterns. I always say that I “fell into” my current field, and I do feel that way– I networked, took whatever interview I could, ended up talking to someone about a part of the business and was connected to someone who needed to hire. I also don’t think she was advising you to hire someone to create a misleading resume, just that she recommends finding someone who can emphasize the strengths that you might not put enough weight on. I don’t think that’s bad advice! Regardless, just because she hired a resume writer doesn’t mean you have to.

      The point of networking and having informational interviews is to take in other people’s experiences and learn about their paths in the hopes that you might figure out an improved way to pursue your own career interests. Their “insights” are what worked for them. You don’t have to do the same things, but it’s worth meeting with people and listening to their varied experiences. This is doubly true if you’re having trouble breaking into their field.

      1. Upskill?*

        Your bring up good points!

        I completely agree that there’s no one correct way to do anything. Many people take unusual paths to their current jobs.

        With this woman in particular, she told me she really couldn’t give me advice because she “fell” into her jobs. I emailed her because she serves on the board of a professional association of which I am a
        member. When I reached out to her, I specifically referenced the positions listed on her LinkedIn profile and asked about her transition into her most recent two. She declined to answer the questions I posed and instead told me she “fell” into her roles.

        I feel disappointed in the advice because she’s in a leadership position for an organization dedicated to educating marketing professionals. Honestly, I hoped she would say she attended conferences, listened to podcasts, engaged in discussion groups, conducted informational interviews, acquired certifications (Google, HubSpot, etc.) and other standard job advice.

        With more than 200 applications for each marketing/PR/communications position posted, the market is flooded with qualified applicants. I am willing to invest time, money and energy in improving myself to better my chances. I just want some sound guidance on how to do so.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          It sounds like your expectations are very rigid, and unfortunately that’s not going to work well if you’re talking to individuals. They can share their own experiences, but their experiences may not follow what you think of as “the right way”. You asked her about herself and she told you, so she is sharing her own truth, and to be “disappointed” in that is like saying her experience is invalid– if she’s in a leadership position, then that’s not the case.

          If you want the very specific answers you indicate here, then a better bet would be to ask about YOU. As in, she tells you her past and how she got to where she is, then you tell her where you want to be and ask if she has any advice. If she says she has nothing, then you can ask her if she recommends any conferences or trade publications, or if she knows anyone that might be good for you to speak to. You can even say, “I thought it might be worthwhile to attend the Annual Conference of Marketing Professionals, what do you think?” But she might say it’s not necessary, and you should be receptive to that.

          But you do have to work on keeping an open mind. If you meet three more people who didn’t attend conferences or obtain certifications but are very successful in their positions, then it’s time to adjust your expectations of what it takes to be successful in the field. It’s very likely they put more weight on being personable, curious, and interested than they put on a certificate that you attended a few workshops.

        2. anon anon anon anon*

          I am a little confused here because it sounds like you already know the advice that you expected to get from her? Were you looking for her to tell you about specific podcasts, conferences to attend, etc.?

          You don’t have to take her advice, especially if you think it’s not good advice. But if I had someone approach me for an informational interview/conversation and they already knew that they should be doing the things you’re listing here as standard advice, I would be a little puzzled about what I’m supposed to be adding to that.

          Also: not everyone is comfortable with offering career advice. I generally don’t give informational interviews because I’m not in a position where I feel comfortable mentoring someone into my current field. Possibly this particular person was uncomfortable and didn’t want to say an outright no to your request for whatever reason (hence the declining to answer your specific questions).

          I don’t know anything about the marketing field, but you might try seeing if there’s a pertinent professional association that offers a mentoring program or networking opportunities? That would connect you to people who are interested in providing the kind of information that you’re looking for.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            if I had someone approach me for an informational interview/conversation and they already knew that they should be doing the things you’re listing here as standard advice, I would be a little puzzled about what I’m supposed to be adding to that.

            This was my reaction, too. What else is there to say? If you already know that people in your field attend conferences, listen to podcasts, and get certifications, why not just do those things then? If you have ideas about specific conferences or certs to get and want feedback on their merit, OP, I could see asking those questions directly. But it sounds like you asked what she did to get where she is, she truthfully said she just fell into it, and you didn’t like that response, so there’s not much else she can do for you at that point.

        3. pancakes*

          That’s a lot to expect from an email to someone you don’t have much of a connection to. Being on the Board of an organization you belong to doesn’t oblige her to provide extensive, personalized career advice to all members of the organization.

    5. Mimmy*

      It never hurts to get advice on writing a strong resume, but it has to reflect your true self. Paying someone else to do it makes your resume look disingenuous because it is not in your own words. I remember my mom got someone to rewrite my resume years ago and, looking back, it was so not me!

      1. Upskill?*

        Yes, this is what I worry about with hiring someone to write my resume.

        I want to present the best version of myself with feedback from people working in the field. The idea is to be authentic and accomplished.

        Sorry about your bad experience with a resume writer. From what I gather, it can be a mixed bag for people.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      Hmm…I fell into my career field, in an entry-level position, thanks to a temp job. But I had to work hard and improve my skills in order to be successful, land promotions, and get the job I have now. I’ve been at the same place all along, and I can only assume that if I’d ever wanted to leave my organization or if I wanted to pursue a promotion at a time when a role wasn’t available at my organization, I’d have had to work even harder at getting a job instead of “falling into” one. I’ve had a few recruiters and outside organizations contact me over the years to ask if I was interested in positions elsewhere, but rarely ones that seemed appropriate for me, so it seems unlikely a job would have landed in my lap without my looking for one.

      1. Upskill?*

        Congrats on turning a temp job into a full-time position!

        I concur that it takes work, experience and skill improvement to earn higher-level positions. It also takes all that and a ton of luck to stand out from the overwhelming competition during these trying times.

        Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    7. LunaLena*

      I work tangentially in marketing (as in, my main field is graphic design but my industry is marketing and higher ed), and I think this is also a Your Mileage May Vary situation. I also “fell into” positions in my career… but only at the very beginning. After that, I used the experience and knowledge I gained to get better positions until I was in a position to apply for the jobs I actually wanted, not just Anything Will Do, I Need a Job.

      I’ve never hired anyone to write my resume or cover letter, and I was told by several interviewers that my cover letter is one of the best they’d ever seen. I just followed the standard advice – tailor your cover letter and resume, highlight achievements, etc. Hiring managers are humans, not locked doors that, if you can just figure out the magic keyword to put in your resume/cover letter, they’ll open up for you. In my experience, a solid resume and cover letter are what get your foot in the door, but having a strong portfolio, an understanding of the industry/company, and being able to explain how your ideas worked/were implemented/improved things are what get you the job. Right before we all went on remote work, I was part of a search committee that hired a marketer for a specific part of the university. All of the finalists were required to give a presentation on their vision of how that particular department would fit into the community at large, and the one that stood out to me (and was eventually hired) was the one who clearly did her homework – she showed all the research she had done and talked about her ideas of how marketing would help, and floated several ideas for what could be done to elevate the presence in the community (with the caveat that she realized she didn’t know all the ins and outs yet, so she fully understood that some of the ideas might not be practical). She talked specifics, pulling up things she had found and coming up with possible solutions towards specific goals, whereas the other two had some interesting ideas but were a bit vague about how they would apply specifically to our school.

      I don’t know what the other person you talked to said or what kind of advice you are looking for, but I think you might just be having bad luck. Most people I’ve met in marketing tend to be really passionate about it and have made a career in it for a reason, even if they did just initially fall into it.

      1. Upskill?*

        Wow, what a great real-world example of how doing your homework for an interview (presentation in this case) really pays off!

        I’m not quite ready to give up on finding passionate marketers to share their career journey and perspectives with me. It just make take longer because of the fallout from the pandemic and other concerns.

        Thanks for commenting.

    8. Policy Wonk*

      Hiring someone to help write your resume used to be common practice, before the internet and AAM. Depending on an individual’s ability, it might still be a good investment, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for you. Everyone finds their own way, and many people think they “fell into” an opportunity, without recognizing their own work in positioning themselves to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. Network, keep your skills and your resume up to date, talk to people. A serendipitous conversation at a conference or networking event, plus honing your own abilities and application materials may be how you “fall into” your next opportunity.

      1. Upskill?*

        Thanks for commenting!

        I agree that networking and making a point to engage people definitely yield results. Although I may have to wait a while to have a face-to-face conversation at a conference.

    9. Diahann Carroll*

      What? Who makes a habit of falling into new roles?

      *Raises hand* lol.

      Still, I would not hire a resume writer to rewrite my accomplishments. Oftentimes, people don’t understand the context of something I’ve done, so they end up misrepresenting the experience (not always maliciously either). I don’t want to get something back and then have to correct it, otherwise, I could have just written it myself, so I do.

    10. irene adler*

      Maybe you need to seek out hiring manager types and ask them what skills, experience, buzz words, education, etc. they want to see on the successful candidate’s resume.

      What is in the resumes that get put into the “yes” pile? Why?

      1. irene adler*

        Another thing:
        How accurate are folks in surmising why they were hired for the job? Sure, the hiring manager may tell them something along the lines of “your knowledge of Llama grooming far surpassed that of any other candidate”.

        But sometimes we assume what the actual criteria were when we were selected to be hired.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Falling into jobs.

      It could be my own limited thinking but I tend to believe that people who fell into jobs had been mentioning to friends and well placed professional acquaintances that they were looking. There was probably a time lag and later the person said, “Oh are you still looking for something?”
      The story teller thinking because things did not happen quickly or go in a straight line from start to finish, that means they “fell into it” or it was just “dumb luck”. Or it could be they are embarrassed/made awkward by all the hoops they jumped through: “I told my friend Annie who mentioned it to her cohort Sue. Sue knew her cousin Bob was hiring over at XYZ Company. So Sue told Annie who told me.”

      1. Upskill?*

        That’s a good point. The seed for networking could have been planted long before it sprouted into a job opportunity. I have heard similar stories from people in multiple fields.

        Thanks for taking time to post!

    12. Potatoes gonna potate*

      This is a really interesting conversation and I agree with some of the points brought forth here.

      I think I’d say I “fell into” my career path but I feel I had a non-standard path to begin with. I finished college with a low GPA in a degree I had no intention of using. I started out by taking a volunteer position at non-profits for multiple seasons until I had enough experience to get seasonal positions at accounting firms. In between seasonal work I took on whatever office or admin work I could–it was not an easy time and I had lots of setbacks. I met someone who told me about a few professional designations that were within my reach, and when I obtained that, I finally landed my first career-job about 5 years after finishing school.

      So, I definitely think I got lucky by making connections at certain times.

      Re: a resume writing service, Im of the opinion that it’s just like any other paid service, similar to say, personal trainers/gyms and nutritionists. Lots of people will say exercising is free and you can find everything on the internet. They’re not wrong. and definitely, people who’ve never dropped a dime on either service have been successful in meeting their goals, but I think there’s no shame in engaging in a paid service for help.

      One thing I’ve learned about resumes so far is that you want it to list your accomplishments rather than simply the job duties. With anything, there are a lot of free resources on the internet but sometimes thats an issue as well, narrowing things down.

    13. Beth*

      I haven’t run into that advice, but I did have an acquaintance, who worked in IT, who pretty much fell into all her jobs for the first 20 or so years of her working life.

      Then she quit her well-paid job to move to a new city and state, where she had a shiny new relationship.

      Instead of immediately starting to job-hunt, she took a year off to try to figure out What the Universe Truly Wanted Her to Do to Find Her Bliss. By the time she was job-hunting in earnest, her skills were getting stale; and her track record of never having had to really TRY to get a job meant that she wasn’t hunting very well. She burned through her savings, her relationship foundered, and she ended up doing a series of ever-shorter jobs for ever-lower pay.

      As far as I know, she has never gotten back into IT, and is still resentful that the universe did so many mean things at her.

      So I would say: anyone who has “fallen into their jobs” is someone whose job-hunting advice should not be given any weight.

    14. RagingADHD*

      I think you are taking the phrase, “fell into jobs” much too literally.

      Nobody falls into a successful career. It means one or more of:

      a) The person has excellent interpersonal skills, to the point that they don’t view them as a deliberate activity. They are constantly networking, helping others, trying new things, and talking about career topics as a normal part of their life, thus they often hear about good opportunities or have people seek them out as good potential hires.

      and/or b) Their personal network or opportunities are especially valuable, due to privileges they know are not available to everyone (family connections, elite schools, etc). There’s no point giving advice, because you can’t tell a job seeker to pick different parents.

      and/or c) They were giving you a minimal answer to brush you off without being overtly rude.

      You are unlikely to get useful advice by cold-emailing strangers with a list of questions about themselves. In your place, I’d first ask them for permission, and only follow up with questions to those who say yes.

    15. Tkm*

      I am currently in a pretty coveted marketing role at a company that’s widely regarded as “cool”. Hopefully that is helpful context for this advice.

      I am curious – what area of marketing do you want to pursue? Marketing is BROAD. PR is different from advertising, which is different from content creation, which is different from point of sale retail design.

      One of the best ways for you to become a desirable candidate is to get experience or knowledge in a certain industry, not in “marketing”. For example, if you want to become a content marketing lead for a tech company, you should know about the products they offer, and the competitive landscape within that area of tech. Not just about how to create marketing content (though that is also required).

      I got this job because my previous role was in a very similar industry, which gave me 3 years of experience with similar competitive challenges and customer types that we wanted to reach.

      I encourage you to define what type of marketing you want to do, and in which industries. B2B or B2C? Large established brands or small upstart companies? In tech, or telecom, or food, or CPG retail?

      I have never heard my colleagues hire someone because they listened to a certain podcast or were a member of a certain professional organization. They hire due to expertise in the industry and type of work, and then based on personality.

      1. Upskill?*

        Good to see you again!

        I followed up your response last week with some questions, but I missed you. Thanks for taking time to respond.

        Yes, I am aware that the field of marketing is broad. That’s part of why I want to speak with people working in positions that interest me in the metropolitan area in which I reside. My focus is on content creation, social media and some SEM. I have mostly B2C experience with limited B2B but am interested in learning more.

        I am a big fan of HubSpot’s inbound marketing approach and have earned a Google Analytics certification. Additionally, I am taking webinars, attending conferences, remote volunteering and being active with PRSA and AMA.

        The market in my region is absolutely saturated with qualified candidates. I am hoping my transferable skills and good degree will big me a slight boost.

        Please feel free to provide additional suggestions. Thanks!

        1. RagingADHD*

          There are a LOT of freelance, remote, and flextime opportunities in content & social media. Even if it’s just side gigs, a few relevant items on your resume can make you a stronger candidate when you apply to something full time in your area.

        2. Tkm*

          Sorry I missed you last week!

          It could be useful for you to build some real world content and social channels so that a prospective interviewer can get a feel for your “voice” in published content. It’ll also help familiarize you with KPIs / analytics for each platform, so you will know how to report on performance.

          Good luck!

    16. EventPlannerGal*

      So while I am not in marketing I work very closely with a lot of marketers/PRs to do my job, and I have found that it is pretty common for them to have “fallen” into their roles rather than having a direct career path (much like many people in my role, event planning). Yes, many people will have followed a direct route of “professional qualification in marketing/PR -> researching roles, self-improvement and networking -> interview -> get job”. But it is also the type of field where many people have qualifications in something different but related, or had marketing responsibilities added on to their job then realised they liked that better, or didn’t intend to go into it at all but just kept on being given the marketing to do because they knew how to work photoshop. In my experience of working with marketing teams, it is very normal for individual people to have unexpected work histories, like most creative fields. So if you are approaching individuals for jobseeking advice, you do need to be prepared to get that kind of response.

      It does sound like you are expecting/hoping to receive only very specific types of job advice, which I have to say does seem to sort of defeat the purpose? In terms of how to respond if you receive advice that is unexpected or is not what you want to hear, you should still be polite, thank them for their time and leave it at that.

  14. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

    How do I tell my boss the reason I’m leaving is because I just don’t want to work there?

    A few years ago, my husband and I decided that I would work a full-time corporate job to sustain us while he finished school and looked into starting a business. Now, here we are. His business is finally doing well (luckily he offers an essential service) and he’s looking at hiring some employees. We also have some savings in the bank in case something goes wrong or he loses a client.

    My husband recently told me that I can quit my job if I want to because he knows I hate it. I work for a decent company with good people, but the work is incredibly boring and unfulfilling. And, honestly, I’d like my job to go to someone else who truly needs it to survive. What I’d really like to do now is work on house projects that have been neglected and start doing some more volunteer work.

    So, I’m looking at putting in my notice soon, but I have no idea how to tell my manager and coworkers. I realize that I’m not legally obligated to tell them anything, but we’re a friendly, chatty office so I know I’ll get questions about what I’m doing next.

    I’m not leaving for a better position. I’m not moving. I’m not retiring. I don’t have any of the normal reasons to give. I just don’t like being here, but I don’t think I would actually say that. What do y’all think?

    1. Exit Stage Left*

      Any of these will work but I don’t think you have to offer a lot of details.
      1) I took the job to support our family while my husband built a company. Now that company needs me more than this one does.
      2) I feel like its time for me to do something new and I want to take a few months and discover a new focus. I’m going to complete several home projects and do some volunteering and see where that leads.
      3) I don’t feel like I can grow at my current position and want to take some time to decide where I want to grow and what I want to be doing. ( I wouldn’t do this if you think they would offer you another position to stay.)

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      And, honestly, I’d like my job to go to someone else who truly needs it to survive. What I’d really like to do now is work on house projects that have been neglected and start doing some more volunteer work.

      Can you just say this? It’s the truth, and it also doesn’t sound weird as a reason to give.

    3. Amy Sly*

      You’ve decided to focus on other priorities in your life and help people in ways that you can’t at your current job. That’s your framing. You can go into those other priorities (like the volunteer work you want to do) with some folks, but stick to this is about work/life balance, not getting away from a job you hate.

    4. HereIsAThought*

      “I am really excited about being able to do more volunteer work with XXX group now that my husband’s company is up and running. But, I will really miss all the wonderful people here and have enjoyed my time at this company.” Use the question as a means to talk about your volunteer work and how great the organization is or the organizational goals are and focus on that.

      1. BRR*

        This is what I’d recommend. I admire how much this community values honesty but sometimes it’s ok to withhold information or lie. There’s no need to say “I’m quitting because I don’t like it here and I don’t have to be here.”

      2. Sara without an H*

        I like this — it’s positive, but doesn’t go into unnecessary details.

        I sometimes feel that people forget that they don’t need to provide a “good excuse” to resign. “I’m resigning, my last day will be two weeks from today, it’s been good to know you.” You can supply more details if you like — and people may ask — but you’re never required to give a “reason.”

        1. Mockingjay*

          Yes to minimal details. Also keep in mind, someday you may need this job as a reference. You want to be remembered as the professional employee who gave notice, wrapped up and handed over work in decent shape, and who left on a cordial note.

    5. Mimmy*

      That’s kinda how I feel about my current job – it’s not awful but I’m ready for a change. I think it’s fine to frame it that way (the scripts everyone else have suggested are probably better than anything I could come up with lol).

    6. LadyByTheLake*

      Just say that your husband’s business is picking up and you have the opportunity to work on XYZ that you’ve been putting off. Say it in a happy way and no one will think twice. I think it is pretty universal that a lot of people would choose not to work if they had that option, so no one is going to be wondering if it is because you hate the job.

      1. sequined histories*

        I like the word opportunity: “Because of XYZ, I have the opportunity now to do A.” You’re leaving because you want to avail yourself of an opportunity. Not every opportunity has to be another full-time job.

    7. KR*

      You’re leaving to focus on hobby x and hobby y maybe? Spend more time with your family? Take a break?

    8. Lemon Zinger*

      “I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family” is all they need to know.

    9. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Could you say you’re going to help husband with the business? If I were in that situation I’d probably just say either: I’m going to help my husband with his business (it’s true, you are but in an indirect way) OR that I want to focus more on volunteer work/causes close to me and if they push, you can bring up those volunteer causes as a way to redirect the conversation?

    10. RagingADHD*

      I would say that we’ve been building up our family business, and it’s time to make the leap.

    11. MissDisplaced*

      Lordy but why do so many people not know how to quit a job?
      Honestly, we’re at will employees so you don’t really even owe them an explanation other than giving notice. You could just say “no reason, I just want to do something else”

      1. RagingADHD*

        OP’s looking for how to frame it socially, in conversation with coworkers. Not how to give notice.

        They want to avoid sounding like, “I hate this job and now I don’t have to work, so long suckas!”

        Which is understandable.

  15. Dr. Doll*

    Posting again from last week because this query got buried and I’d love more input.

    As you know, universities all over the world went online midway through spring classes. At least at my university, cheating on exams was absolutely rampant.

    We discouraged faculty from using our online proctoring software *unless* they had already been using it from the beginning of the semester. This is because 1) students didn’t sign up for classes knowing that they’d be digitally proctored, and 2) you need a webcam and good internet access and we didn’t want to force students to have that to take exams if they didn’t already have access to those things.

    We strongly *encouraged* faculty to redesign their tests to be open book, to have honor statements, to talk to their students about academic integrity, to set up their online tests with appropriate controls, etc. Even when all of that did happen, and it did for a lot of classes, cheating was outrageous especially in math, engineering, and other high-anxiety disciplines. Relationships were damaged in a lot of departments. Faculty are now suspicious of and disappointed in their students.

    As potential employers, co-workers, etc., what is your response? How would you recommend that faculty talk to their students about cheating? …or frankly, does it even matter out in the work world that students cheated on exams? If it doesn’t matter, how do you recommend faculty talk about it?

    If you are a student, what can faculty do that works for you and your fellow students?

    1. Artemesia*

      When you work on line you cannot prevent someone from having someone else complete their work. Of course that happens in class too but testing is a control on that to some extent. If you are working on line you CANNOT give standard closed book tests, so you need to design work products that are more challenging than memorization and which require people to solve problems using what you are teaching. A lot of faculty operate at a fairly low level on tests — largely memorization of material; they need to think in terms of outcomes and learn to be able to design assignments where people demonstrate what they can do with information rather than just recite it. I would focus on this rather than some sort of monitoring software.

    2. Heidi*

      This is a super tough problem. I work in a medical school, and there is growing evidence that students who have issues of accountability in medical school are more likely to have issues with accountability as physicians (being brought before disciplinary boards, getting licenses pulled). The argument that no one gets hurt won’t hold water there.

      Not to be too cynical, but the students could definitely have been cheating before, just in ways that weren’t as obvious. There’s always going to be a way to get around the safeguards. Even proctoring software won’t be able to tell if the student has a giant whiteboard full of answers propped up behind their computer. I hate that I don’t have a great solution to it, other than making the tests oral exams where they have to work through a process and explain their reasoning rather than just answering multiple choice questions. This puts a huge burden on the examiner, of course, and won’t be applicable to all classes.

      1. Artemesia*

        For a class where students need to demonstrate a skill in classic testing format, doing one on ones with student solving the problem and walking you through it, is a time consuming but effective approach.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      As a student: I think the online proctoring services are skeezy, invasive and gross. Heh. Their requirements are also convoluted – My desktop computer can’t be used, because it’s in a room that doesn’t have a door and has another computer in it and people occasionally walk through, plus the webcam is built into it and I can’t rotate it around. The only place I can take my laptop that has a door is either the bathroom (and, uh, no, obviously) or my bedroom, and that means sitting on my bed, but then again they require that I rotate the camera around to show off the whole room, which is super not comfortable with me. And even if I do all of that, they have no idea if I have sticky notes covered with information stuck to the screen. :P

      Basically, I’ve always felt that if the test is written such that a student can pass it with only the book and google and not any actual understanding of the material, that’s not a very useful test. I don’t take a class to learn what the book says; if that’s all I wanted I could just read the book. I take formal education to have guided assistance from an instructor in engaging with the course material in ways that I might not have thought about myself. Unfortunately, it’s hard to hit a line between “all multiple-choice tests are much easier on the instructor’s grading time because the computer can do it” and “the easier it is to grade the less likely it is to actually measure how well the student engages with and understands the material.” A written (or practical) assessment is WAY more likely to demonstrate my actual understanding of the material, and incidentally harder to cheat on than an objective test, but requires a lot more work out of the instructor to provide grading and feedback.

      (Instructor shouldn’t need an attendance policy either – if I can pass their class without ever attending it but they still feel that it’s important that I have my butt in the seat, then maybe they should rethink how they’re presenting the course material, because otherwise it’s no different from the jerk bosses who don’t think people can work without being eyeballed. If you really want me in your classroom four hours a week, then make that a valuable use of my time, don’t just sit there and summarize the book to me. /curmudgeon)

      1. Reba*

        My first experience as an instructor was taking attendance in a big class…Ugh! That has definitely informed my opinion that if the teacher hasn’t been able to plan a class that people want to, or at least feel they need to, show up for, the problem lies there!

      2. Artemesia*

        attendance is not about memorizing X for a test but often about the actual class process itself e.g. in a seminar you need everyone participating in the analyses of materials or experiences — their ability to do this in the group is part of the evaluation of their work. ‘If I can pass the test, I don’t need to show’ is for a class with low level outcomes that are easily tested.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          You make my point for me – when I say “make it a valuable use of my time,” what I mean is the kind of thing you describe. If that is happening, I’m not in class because of a stupid attendance policy that says I lose ten percent of my grade if I’m not, I’m in class because being there is applicable and relevant to my success and the attendance policy is unnecessary. Either I’ll be there and learn, or I won’t and I’ll fail because I didn’t learn. My being there has a demonstrable purpose that relates to my ability to understand the course material.

          If I can be successful in the way that the instructor measures success, without attending the class meetings, then the instructor is either teaching a very basic set of concepts or measuring success incorrectly. (Or maybe just a bad instructor.)

        2. Paquita*

          At many schools attendance has to do with Federal funding. The numbers have to be reported. Yes, it’s a big pain and students are dropped from the class after so many absences. I went to one of the state technical colleges, maybe it’s different for private schools.

    4. Reba*

      This is such a tangle. Clearly there is not a lot of trust between students and faculty. That goes both ways. There was that prof that made an actual trick question on an exam and then posted an “answer” online — he entrapped students! What the heck! In general I don’t like the way surveillance is ramping up across higher ed. It’s adversarial.

      Even before everything went online, everybody had boilerplate about plagiarism and so on in their syllabi. What did that do? I do think that cheating matters, but OTOH no assessment is truly truly cheat proof so 100% no-cheating is probably not something to try to achieve.

      I also think that focusing on cheating misses opportunities to find more meaningful assessment and actually advance pedagogy.

      I think that faculty need to be encouraged (and helped, with resources and value given to this work) to totally rethink assessment. It will be perhaps especially difficult in the high-volume courses in the disciplines you mentioned that tend to rely on standardized tests. But using different forms of assessment will have wider benefits beyond just averting cheating, having potential to work better with more learning styles, potentially improve accessibility if multiple options for response are available, and actually create better and more authentic engagement with the material.

      Basically I guess I’m saying faculty need to be a lot more creative to solve this, and not keep applying what they did in classroom setting with increasingly draconian, tactical measures.

    5. Anonymity is Overrated*

      As an Alum of a college that is fairly well known for it’s serious honor code and for how seriously everyone takes violations of the honor code- This situation is somewhat baffling.
      In college it came down to the culture, the culture on campus was very you succeed on your own merits, we’ll do everything we can to support you in the endeavor to put this information in your brain but your success or failure will depend on your ability to pull it back out. There was less desire to cheat because there was a feeling that you should be able to get the answers from your brain. Maybe it’s me because I never was in a position to “do anything to get ahead” but I also only felt that desire once in college and it grew out of the professor’s actions. In this particular class (it was Quantum Mechanics and I was a physics major) the professor treated us as if all five of us were absolute idiots because we didn’t know the material yet (I had an English professor that was like this too, but her class was composition and at least I can write well). We were there to learn the material and the professor treated us like we should already know it, that was demoralizing and did not motivate any of us to work harder to learn the material. The student’s perception of the professor can matter a lot, in college I would have predicted this professor to be the source of any cheating allegations in my department because he didn’t come across as trying to spread knowledge and understanding, he was clearly there for the research. I was seriously tempted to try and cheat in this class, Ultimately I ended up finding a tutor who was much more patient and able to explain things in a different way so I could understand better.
      Giving your professor’s the resources to learn how to teach to different learning styles is very important, we tend to teach in the way we learn best but not everyone can learn that way. What I mean by learning styles is think of tying a knot; someone might learn how to tie the knot by watching you tie it over and over (watch), another might learn by hearing how to tie to knot and visualizing it (thinking), a third by seeing the finished knot and translating that into the pattern to move the rope through (feeling), and a fourth might learn best by having their hands guided through tying the knot a few times(doing). If you teach your professors to incorporate all these into their teaching the students will learn the material better and hopefully feel less desire to cheat.

      1. Teacher Trainer*

        Just so you know, the whole “learning styles” myth has been comprehensively debunked – it’s extremely clear from a lot of educational research that so-called learning styles have nothing to do with actual learning ability, and that they are at best a red herring and at worst actively damaging to students’ opportunity to learn. Any good educator these days will know better that to use that old nonsense.

        The myth seems to endure because it “feels” right to many people, but it just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, I’m afraid.

    6. Lora*

      Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick. Yes, yes it matters and frankly in those particular disciplines – the cheating will be found out when they can’t do simple tasks. In my field, students typically do internships which are required to go well as part of their program. If they cannot perform well during the internship because they cheated in class, we find out quickly and they will get a bad reference and a bad grade. This isn’t like “I’ll never use the Quadratic Equation again,” everything people learn in an engineering and chemistry program is definitely used daily in the field. If you’re not good at it, not doing well, worried that you might flunk out or something – then this is absolutely not the field for you. Change majors, for crying out loud.

      Let me put it this way: in STEM classes at both my graduate schools and undergrad, we had Washout Classes. In my undergrad program, the Washout Class was Organic Chemistry. If you were not very good at this field and didn’t have either the study skills or the discipline or whatever to hack Organic Chemistry, you were strongly encouraged to go into some other field. Of course, there was strong pressure to cheat for this reason.

      On exam days, you were allowed only a regular calculator – nothing programmable. Cell phones were rare and students didn’t typically have even a pager back in those days, but all our belongings were put in the hallway outside the room where we took exams. If you did not wear short sleeves on exam day, you had to roll up your sleeves and show there was nothing written on your arms or clothing. Hats of any kind were not allowed. You were allowed two wood (not mechanical) pencils, an eraser, and your cheap little regular calculator. Nothing else. Multiple proctors checked your work, constantly. Students were spaced out with two desks between each person, and there were multiple rooms reserved for the exam as otherwise we wouldn’t have all fit in the regular room. Multiple exams were written from a large master set of questions, and then mixed up so that the people sitting around you, whose exams you might be able to see, would not be at all the same as your exam. Occasionally the professor would notice that two friends in the class seemed to be sitting strategically close together, and he would tell one of them to move to a different desk.

      At least half the class dropped out of their major that year. Regularly. This was normal and routine and just a thing that happened. Because you can’t have pharmacists who don’t know how to calculate a dose, or chemical engineers who make facilities explode, or scientists who commit fraud on grant applications, and if you as a university are graduating a bunch of incompetents, believe me when I say nobody is going to want to hire them and we will start thinking VERY badly of you. In my field, there are some universities that clearly do not value student integrity and we don’t hire from them, despite Ivy or near-Ivy status. And, to hit them in the pocketbook where it counts: many of the grants they apply for in STEM are reviewed by industry folks, not just their fellow academics. Do you reckon we give really good review scores to investigators at such places? We don’t. If the students cannot hack it…then this isn’t the field for them.

      My work is always checked and double checked and then put into use by other departments. If I screwed up and tried to cover it up, or lied about results, or even honestly made a mistake – it is found out right quickly and thrown back at me to fix pronto. If that happens too many times, I’m fired. End of. Even in academia, Duke lost a lot of money thanks to Anil Potti, MD Anderson lost a lot of money on Bharat Aggerwal, Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard had to pay $10 million in fines to the government due to two researchers falsifying data, John Darsee at Harvard was disbarred for 10 years due to misconduct, and google Woo-Suk Hwang for a lot of fun reading. More recently in STEM, uh, if you haven’t heard about Theranos – read Bad Blood by John Carreyrou.

      Yes, it fking matters. A LOT. If they have this much anxiety about taking an exam, they may book an appointment with a counseling service and consider medication or asking for longer exam times or some other accommodation, they could have worked on study skills, petitioned to be graded on a curve, there are a vast number of non-cheating options. If your university is at all selective, I’m sure there were dozens of other hopeful applicants who were wait-listed or rejected who would have been happy to take their place and NOT cheated, who would have used the opportunity to work hard. The students who elected to throw away this opportunity should be invited to apply to other schools, as they should no longer be permitted to enroll at yours. At the very least they should receive 0s for the work and be barred from the program, since they didn’t value it enough to study hard.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        When I was in school, I flunked a couple classes (not having money and being housing and food insecure will do horrible things to your study habits.) I never considered cheating. My advisors sucked, I had to drop out, but I didn’t cheat.

        I guess I don’t understand cheating. You pay a lot of money to attend the course to learn a useful skill. How does cheating help you learn?

        The testing surveillance is borderline creepy, and impossible in my house. If I enrolled in a class that told me my test would be like that, I’d probably drop.

    7. RMNPgirl*

      I took an online program that we could have cheated on exams if we wanted, but it was all to be able to take a national board exam. If you cheated on your exams in the program, you would fail the board exam. So our program director said it was up to us because we’d only be hurting ourselves.
      I think faculty need to decide what material is important for students to know without assistance and what material is fine to look up or find resources on.
      Also, did faculty change any grading practices once everything went online? Students were kicked out of dorms and moving back home, having to figure out how to do schooling online while family was maybe also working from home. Everyone’s lives got turned upside down. If there wasn’t any ability to change grading practices or do more pass/fail sort of exams, I could see students who normally wouldn’t cheat suddenly do so just because they can’t be as prepared for an exam and don’t want to ruin their GPA.

    8. anon faculty spouse*

      My spouse has worked hard to teach ethics, including cheating, in their engineering classes. There are curricula out there for this and I think that is likely the heart of any answer to your question; normalize ethics as part of university courses. The engineering ethics work includes lots of case studies based in real life situations and is a good start I think.

      My spouse has also worked very hard to find alternative ways to measure student learning outcomes and has not found acceptable alternatives to using at least some traditional testing.

      Spouse quickly switched to online teaching and developed a system using online proctoring software with a camera that could be external. They made sure all students had access to internet, cameras, etc. But they were still prevented from using these tools, as you said, by the campus admin. I think my spouse is more disappointed in the university and in other faculty than in the students – spouse knows students are there to learn and make mistakes but did not expect other faculty and the university to ignore cheating the way they did. Also, the university never made sure all the students had access to internet for lectures so spouse found that disappointing and, given no attempt to address that, preventing use of proctoring software seemed like intentional support for cheating.

    9. Observer*

      Yes, cheating matters. If the student will cheat on the test, they will cheat elsewhere. It’s common sense, but the numbers bear it out.

      Don’t have A DISCUSSION about cheating. Build ethics into every course. And all 101 type courses related to the majors should have an explicit ethics component built in at an early part of the course. You want them to see ethics as part of the profession. And also to understand the ramifications of lack of ethics.

    10. JustaTech*

      My undergrad school had a very, very strong honor system, so our exams were often open-note, open-book, take-wherever exams. Cheating was very, very rare. Partly because it was punished strongly (bye!), partly because the style of the exams made it hard to cheat (it’s so obvious if two people turn in the same essay), and partly because there was no one to cheat *with*. Everyone was bound by the same rules, and, at least when I went there, it wasn’t like you could just buy stuff online as it was often higher-level than what’s generally available online.

      But, it was also a small school with a very long-standing an respected tradition of the honor code, so it was easier for everyone to feel invested in it.

      As for “cheating” at work: my work is a bit different because some of what we do is covered by government regulations where there is one way to do a thing and not doing it will not only get you fired but, depending on what you’re faking, could get you sent to jail. And everyone is told that on day one, and every year. You can not back date. You can not sign for someone else. (We also discuss the other consequences of hiding stuff, in that you could potentially hurt, physically, another person if you mess up making their medication.)

      But for me specifically, I don’t actually make the medicine, so a lot of that stuff doesn’t technically apply to me. But the thing is, there isn’t really any way to “cheat” at my job. When your job is to answer the question “does this thing work”, there isn’t a known answer, so the only way to get the results to turn into your boss is to do the work. There isn’t anyone to crib the answers off of. (And if you did just try to make up numbers you’d be called on it immediately because it would be super obvious.)

      So I guess I would say that students shouldn’t rely on cheating because it probably won’t be possible in the workplace (depending on what they do) and the consequences could be much, much bigger (again, depending on what you do).

    11. Anon Recent Grad*

      So I’m a semi-recent graduate and know a lot of fellow students that cheated on exams, especially for online classes. I had the teachers that would make the speech at the beginning of the semester about cheating, but that didn’t really deter people. It’s like a yellow light, you know you should slow down, but you’re gonna gun it and hope there isn’t a cop nearby to give you a ticket.
      From my experience, teachers have to do more work if they don’t want their students to cheat. You can’t just use the same exam year after year and then get upset or act incredulous that people cheat. You have to come up with new questions every semester, I’m not saying recreate the whole course, but change something, the exam should not be a word-for-word copy of the previous semester’s exam. I’ve had exams where it was timed and everyone got the same question but different numbers, so even if you wanted to cheat with a group, you had to at least half learn the steps to solve a problem. I even had professors who would make up quiz questions 20 minutes before class, so not even he knew the answer, he would just solve it while the class was completing the quiz. Now that was more work for the teachers, but each student is paying sometimes thousands of dollars to take the class, the least you can do as a professor is spend some time updating the exam.
      As for does it even matter in the work world, I don’t really think so, in my experience most of what I learned in school was just an introduction to what I do. Most classes are just 3 months, so they are just a brief insight on what you’ll do in the future. With that, I’m not saying just cheating doesn’t matter and doesn’t affect anybody. I think cheating hurts the student the most, because they are paying for something that they are choosing not to receive. Plus, if it is knowledge that they need in the future they are just doing themselves a disservice by not learning it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        All this.

        The in-person class where I saw the most cheating was with a prof who was very likable but spoke over everyone’s head. The problems on the test look nothing like what we covered in class. She should have been teaching at the graduate level instead of undergrad.
        Her subject came so easy to her that she was not able to recognize three quarters of her class was really struggling.
        When she gave the final, she LEFT the room. Slowly but surely, people got out of their chairs and brought their papers over to their friends for assistance. I would say at least half the class consulted with each other that day. In reading the test, I understood why they were doing this. We are not talking about trying to ace the course, people just wanted a grade higher than an F.

        It was truly an odd situation because she was very nice. Usually teachers like this are not likable. But no one could get through to her that we were not able to follow what she was showing us.

        In a different setting another prof created an odd situation. She started the course by saying “There really is no such thing as statistics. And there are no rules to statistics. You just do what seems right. And if you can kind of explain it to others then you are all set.” I knew I was hosed.

        Maybe it is less of an issue now, but what I saw then was people came from varying backgrounds in computer usage. Some had no exposure to computers at all. Others had never used MS products. I remember the day before a big paper was due, one woman asked me how to use Excel. We were supposed to put our answer in Excel. I knew how to use Excel but I could not figure out what the prof wanted us to do. We had to use several different formulas carrying the answer from the previous formula into the next formula, finally ending on one answer. It took me quite awhile to figure out how to lay this out in Excel. I ended up using a calculator and typing the answers in manually. (So in other words, I used Excel poorly for this assignment.) I told the woman I could not help her because I knew her work would end up looking too much like MINE.

        I don’t know how many other people struggled with this. But I handed in what I had. When I got it back I found that I had used all the wrong formulas and my methods were totally incorrect. However, I landed on the correct answer. And for that I got an A minus.
        This to me is why more and more people cheat. This prof was really hard-nosed.

        1. JustaTech*

          “there are no rules to statistics”

          *screams*

          I, just, what the heck? There are *so many* rules in statistics! And people use statistics to get answers that matter, like, will this drug work? or will this bridge stay up?

          Either that prof hated statistics and didn’t want to ever have to teach it again (my macroeconomics prof) or they were completely ignorant of the subject.

      2. Artemesia*

        I had to do my own test copying for years when I taught at a prestigious university because it became clear to me that the AA for one unit was providing copies to her daughter who was in the graduate program. She would bug me before one of the weekend classes to ‘get those materials to me so I can copy the for you — ‘ and I would get her handouts for class activities and so forth and it would drive her nuts ‘I haven’t got the exam yet — you need to get that to me so I can get it ready.’ And then after a few rounds of that, I would just say ‘oh I took care of it.’ Suddenly her daughter stopped doing so well (I let other professors in the program know that it was a problem and others who used tests also began just doing their own copying of those). Most of our work was not tests but projects, papers and demonstrations —

    12. H*

      As a recent grad, I certainly agree that online proctoring software should be discouraged as much as possible, for the reasons that you mention here and that others have also said on this thread. Also, despite the tests I took using the online proctoring software being exactly the same as they would have been in the classroom, I found myself much more stressed out when taking a proctored exam where several things could go wrong and potentially invalidate my test. For example, I had an extremely brief internet outage that nearly shut down my test, required me to leave the room to reset the router, etc., and I found myself very worried about the software marking that event as possible cheating. I think I could have focused on the material better and bypassed those concerns with a differently designed test– e.g., an open note test with more application questions that can’t be easily googled.

      Another thing I heard about at my university and others were literal schemes by professors and TAs to post solutions to sites like Chegg, etc., and then failing all the students who used those solutions. I suppose I understand the rationale behind that plan, in that it helps professors prove who’s cheating fairly easily. However, it also feels really really underhanded to purposely publish a document that will allow very stressed out students to do better on an exam in a class they may really need to pass, just to catch those people in the act and fail them all. That kind of plan does not feel very cognizant of the immense pressure that students (and all of us) have been under lately. I realize that’s not a suggestion of something that does work, but it is something that might be successful, but would further harm the relationships between students and professors/TAs.

    13. Jennifer*

      Also, and I realize this is slightly peripheral to the “cheating on exams” question, but please have your faculty establish clear expectations at the start of classes!

      My college freshman kid got in trouble for helping another kid with a programming assignment — and I’m not saying my kid is blameless, but in talking about it, it became clear that the teachers of the class had never made clear “this is how much helping you can provide your classmates before it becomes a problem.”

      The students learned to paraphrase text (so as not to be copying) in high school, but not what academic dishonestly looks like in programming, and the take-away is going to be “never do CS homework with anyone else ever.” Which I think is a crappy lesson, because they’re going to have to do group work, both in upper-level classes and in life.

    14. Colette*

      I think cheating is wrong.

      But.

      I also think that in a job, you can google answers and adapt solutions others have come up with first. If a test requires students to solve problems without using the tools available, then it’s not a real-world scenario.

      This is largely an issue because tests were designed for a closed environment, and taken in an open one. If tests are online in the future, they should be redesigned to show mastery of the concepts, not just memorization of the results. (e.g. figure out how to use the course material to answer the question)

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, this was my thought too. If all the test covers is stuff you can find right in the book, then what good is it anyways?

        1. JustaTech*

          This was the philosophy at my high school and undergrad: we’re not here for you to memorize equations, we’re here for you to learn when and how to use the equations. When you get to the “real world” you’ll either use this stuff every day and know it in your bones, or you’ll look it up just like how you would look up anything else you need to learn.

          I agree with this completely, and it’s the way my working life has been, but it wasn’t helpful when it came time to take the APs or GREs.

          1. Artemesia*

            If you don’t know stuff i.e. the basics of the field, then you are not competent to ‘look up what you need to do’ because you are too ignorant to know how to even frame a complicated search.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          YES HOLY CRAP. An math-based exam that’s closed-book is fine, if you want to ensure that people are memorizing the formulas, but in the real world, I am never going to have to calculate semi-monthly compounded interest so urgently that I can’t take five seconds to google it and make sure I’m remembering the formula correctly – and even if you give me the formula, I still have to know how to extrapolate the right numbers to plug into it from whatever problem you give me to solve.

    15. UK Computing Lecturer*

      I’m a Computer Science lecturer in the UK and we recently had to put all of our exams online as 24 hour open book exams with nearly no notice. It actually worked amazingly well … there didn’t seem to be many issues with cheating, the main issues were when lecturers set exams that turned out to either have answers directly in the lecture notes or else that required code that actually compiled.

      In retrospect I think the exams were better precisely because it made us all remove the “regurgitate the textbook” questions and have more application questions. Marks were higher than normal, probably because the students were able to take more time than usual.

      We have to do it all again in August for the resits and in December for normal exams and the students might be less respectful next time. But as a one off it worked better than any of us thought it would.

    16. MinnesotaGirl*

      About me: Former student, I have a BBA, MS, and am a licensed CPA.

      That being said, exams are pointless (especially at the university level) and you will be doing your students a big favor if you can convince your professors to get rid of them. There is no point to memorize something that will be easily forgotten as soon as the exam is over, especially given the ability to look up the information online. A good professor will teach their students how information is used and how to evaluate good from bad sources.

      Exams only penalize people that don’t test well and are not an accurate predictor of future performance.

      All that being said, students are going to cheat on online tests and exams especially given the pressure on students to maintain a high GPA. So reduce the incentive and need to cheat and enable students to succeed.

      Full disclosure, I loved exam only classes because I did test well, but those classes never made an impression on me and I forgot everything as soon as I walked out of that class.

      1. PhysicsTeacher*

        It is certainly possible to write an exam that is not memorization, but rather application and problem solving. It’s harder than writing a memorization exam, but totally possible.

        A good exam will ask a student to demonstrate their knowledge of a subject by actually DOING something with it or making some new connection.

  16. KiwiApple*

    Another, more general question about communications.

    How much information should you put in emails, how many emails are too many (from July to Sept, we are sending out 7 emails to incoming students) and any general tips for communicating effectively?

    1. Academic Librarian too*

      Emails- have clear subject heading with the name of the school.
      Hudson University-MLIS- Registration info.
      Hudson University-MLIS- Last day for Drop-Add,
      Hudson University-MLIS- Anti-Racist Resources
      Hudson University-MLIS- Zoom Faculty Tea
      Hudson University-MLIS-Message from the Dean

      1. Artemesia*

        Great advice. Perfect clear subject line. Key message in first sentence. If there are tasks involved the second sentence is ‘here are the steps you need to follow to (register, apply for dorm space, or whatever) or if it is a simple RSVP Then the second line is: please let us know if you are coming by replying to this message.

        Of course 20% will ignore the messages and come in a day too late ‘unaware’ they need to register to take classes.

      2. Thankful for AAM*

        I’d number the subject lines like a twitter chat:
        1/7 Hudson University-MLIS-registration info
        2/7 Hudson . . .

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        One of my contacts always puts in capitals at the top of the email

        RESPONSE REQUIRED BY Date

        or

        NO RESPONSE REQUIRED

        Because of my particular job it’s unnecessary, but I think it’s a very good model.

        So those headings could be

        Llama U – Incoming Freshers – Registration Info – REPLY BY FRIDAY 26 JUNE

      4. only acting normal*

        This a thousand times!
        And keep to topic in that email. If you’ve got a small unrelated thing to communicate, don’t just tag it on. It may well be worth it’s own message to avoid confusion or burying the info. (Trying to find the llama stabling info but not remembering it was in the teapot registering email.)

        (Aside. I got an email from a colleague this week- a reply to part of a chain we’d both been in earlier- with comments about *three* unrelated projects. He is the most frustrating random-subject-liner! His meetings tend to be similar. Makes my head spin. )

      5. International Klein Blue*

        I’m a fan of the clear subject lines, but here’s a challenge: how do you handle updates and corrections in a clean and unambiguous manner? Notthemomma’s suggestion to hang everything off of a web page is good – but not everyone has a web page they can easily update.

    2. Notthemomma*

      If possible, can you put all general info onto one webpage and send the emails to direct them there saying info in XYZ has been updated’. Or set and communicate that upcoming emails will be sent on, for example, Thursday afternoons. Emails get lost so easily, and directing to a central location would be easier for the parents and hopefully start training the students to look for info rather than having it spoon fed.

    3. LunaLena*

      One suggestion I saw at the university I work at is to have scheduled email communications. So, for example, emails go out on Mondays at a 4 p.m. with a specific subject line, so that everyone knows that that email has all the current information. I personally like this idea because the fac/staff list where I work gets kind of abused, so I’ve gotten into the habit of just scanning the subject line and deleting without reading.

    4. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Especially for students, keep emails short! Use headings to make emails as “scan-able” as possible. Make sure students know where to go to find the info in case they lose or delete the email — whether that’s an easy to find webpage or a contact person they can reach out to.
      With students, you really have to have the same info provided via multiple channels. Some students just don’t read emails at all, but will pay attention to social media (and vice versa).
      I actually don’t think you need the university name in your email subject, assuming the email address that is sending out the email is clearly from the institution. Also, if you are using a listserv, the listserv name may already make it clear what university and/or program is sending the emails.

      1. Bibliovore*

        I would put the university in the subject line even if it is an acronym HU so it can be sorted or found easily.

        1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

          Typically, the university name will be in the email body as at least a footer or part of the email signature.

    5. TL -*

      Do a modified bottom line up front – assume most people will read the subject and click on it, and then you will have their attention for 1-2 sentences max, so make sure your takeaways (even if it’s “you must read this entire email”) are there. The longer it is, the more attrition you’re going to get, so organize information by incentive – if only 30% of people need to see one paragraph, but 95% need to read another, the 95% should be first, with the 30% clearly marked in the first paragraph.

      IE: All students are required to fill out the online enrollment form by Aug. 1. International students are also required to fill out the international form, detailed below. Failure to fill out the forms will turn you into a big purple donkey.

      Steps for filling out online enrollment form

      Steps for international students.

  17. Academic Librarian too*

    How do I know when to start following up on “business as usual” items on my to-do list.
    I have been working time and half supporting distance teaching. Have too much vacation time that I must use or lose. 5 furlough days I need to use AND
    A task list of VERY IMPORTANT follow up things to do that with permission of my supervisor I have done nothing about since March.
    Good news is due to being in high-risk categories, not returning to campus any time soon.

    Some are time sensitive like the seasonal newsletter to our friends group. Other things are specific to my role.
    Truthfully. Absolutely nothing seems important except support of Fall classes, supervising interns, and community engagement.
    I feel no urgency except for what is in front of me.
    I am engaged with professional help for physical issues and PTSD.
    Can I tell my supervisor that? If I take time off, the VERY IMPORTANT things will not get done.
    Words please?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Possible script:
      “Hi Boss – I have not been able to get to VERY IMPORTANT (VI) things, and because of the impending furlough / company policy on vacation days, I don’t see how I’ll be able to do them. Can you help me figure out how to get VI things done?”

      Then add some ideas on how to get VI things done, like
      – Could Persons X and Y take on some of them?
      – Can we trim the list at all – do we really need to do VI7 ?
      – Can any of these be done later?

      Get someone (ie, Boss) started on critiquing the ideas and often they’ll think of alternates.

      Do try to do 1 or 2 of the VI things that’s been deferred, so you can show that you did try to get them done. ‘Hey Boss, I did VI 1 and 2, but couldn’t get to 3 – 7’ is a stronger script that the one above.

      Not that I am having similar conversations with my boss this week, nope, not me…. (All my sympathy, for reals)

    2. Anon-for-this*

      Can you ask for priorities & new deadlines? Since those things were put on hold, some will likely be urgent by now, but others may not be.

      You could just pick your days off and let your supervisor sort it out, too. Supervisors are supposed to be managing workloads, time off requests, and moving projects forward. If your supervisor won’t do those things, it’s on them, not you.

    3. Academic Librarian too*

      Clarifying.
      I am faculty-like and head of a department. The tasks on my “must do” list are all of my own initiative. Everyone on my team has a reasonable work-from-home responsibilities that are specialized to them therefore not able to take on any of my tasks.
      Thank you for the responses.
      Even just writing this has helped.
      I am thinking the language that might be appropriate would be ” these are times of revised expectations, therefore I will not be following through with project X. Project Y will be pushed back to 2021. I will let you know if I will be able to follow up on Project Z this fall after I reach out to our partner in Department 56.

  18. Updates*

    I was wondering if anyone else has noticed that if you read old topics the update is not an option below to click on? I remember the updates being there but now I have to hunt to see if there is an update.

    1. Mary, Queen of Scoffs*

      I’ve found this had happened to, with the ‘ CEO’s wife ruined my job prospects’ that was linked below this. I had to search for the post’s title to find the update for it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, I used to go back and add a note to the original letters that there was an update, but my workload hasn’t allowed it in a while. If I ever hire an assistant, that’s on the list for them!

      1. HBJ*

        That’s not what I’m talking about, and I don’t think that’s what OP is talking about either. I’m talking about the three links under “you may also like” at the bottom of the post. Updates used to almost always pull as the first one there, I presumed because the post title and keywords are the same? It seems like the updates don’t show nearly as often there anymore.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh! I think it’s because I’m more often using the option of choosing the “you may also like” links myself when the post first publishes. If I choose them myself (rather than letting them auto-populate), they’ll stay as those links forever rather than updating if an update on the letter appears at some point. I could stop doing that, but sometimes the auto-populating ones are weird choices (and of course, most letters don’t get updated). There was also a WordPress update that means I don’t need to tell the “you may also like” function to refresh itself as frequently as I used to need to.

  19. Millennial Lizard Person*

    What does a boss want to see from an employee after that employee makes a careless mistake? I’m the employee here, and I’m feeling paralyzed. I was careless with checking something, we let it go live, and it broke stuff. Now I feel like I shouldn’t be allowed to do /anything/ without my manager doublechecking. And it wasn’t a systemic problem — we have thorough tools for checking, I just… didn’t use them. I guess I didn’t think it was a big enough change? I thought “sure looks fine” instead of “this is significant, I better be as thorough as I possibly can”?

    Boss said “remember these need to be carefully checked for everything” in an email. But I feel like I should be lectured more?? What does a supervisor want to see after an employee completely flubs something?

    1. WellRed*

      An acknowledgement that you recognize the problem and an apology. Anything else and you are essentially asking the manager to take on the work of managing your guilt. Don’t do that.

      1. Cormorannt*

        Yes, and demonstrate that you have learned from your mistake by using the tools you were asked to use going forward. That’s it.

      2. Amy Sly*

        I’d add one more thing: some kind of step you are taking so that it won’t happen again. In this case, “I will be using the company provided tools consistently.”

        But yes, take that anxious guilty feeling and use it as motivation to do the job better, not to apologize over and over.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      What does a supervisor want to see after an employee completely flubs something?

      That you came to the supervisor as soon as you realized you messed up, that you know the exact impact of that mess-up, and that you have steps for how to clean up the mess and plans for how to prevent it from happening again.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      General answer:
      Acknowledge the error.
      Apologize for the error.
      State what your plan is so that this particular error does not happen again.
      Fix the error if possible or be part of the plan to fix the error if others are involved. This means rolling up the sleeves and doing whatever is necessary to get back on track.

      In my narrow experience of supervising people, not yelling at them sometimes makes people feel even worse. I think that it is because people can be pretty hard on themselves. Many times people yelled at themselves harder than I ever would/could.
      I think the feeling that you should be lectured is a disguised way of yelling at yourself. You have found something that nags at you and it’s working, it’s nagging at you. The end point of getting back on track is the same either way, either your boss nags you to get back on track OR you nag yourself to get back on track.

      I had a boss who used to talk about “self-correcting employees”. This is the employee who figures out what they did wrong and makes changes so that error does not happen again. These folks are a delight to work with. They don’t personalize anything and they quickly fix the problem and we go back to “life as usual”. That’s really what bosses want, fix it and move on.

      When I supervised I was hugely aware of how easy it was to make a mistake. We handled so much and in our environment we handled it at a very fast pace. This meant the likelihood of having errors was higher. I made my own full set of mistakes that I had to apologize to my group for. From what they said to me, it seemed that they did not think less of me because of my error. I never thought less of them for their errors. Eh, crap happens. My primary focus was that it was more important to catch the error and fix it.

      People make mistakes and we all have this in common. What makes people standout is when they handle their mistakes in a forthright manner.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      One of my teapot assemblers put a whole bunch of teapot spouts on upside down last week. She should’ve known better, and when I sat her down and was like “So, uh, why are all of the spouts upside down?” she flat out said that she should’ve known better. We went through a couple of teapots to confirm that her revised understanding was correct, and then she started beating herself up. (Her solution was that she should redo all the teapots she got wrong off the clock, so we had a sidebar conversation about the many reasons that working off the clock is not acceptable and in fact puts her at risk of termination if HR catches it, not to mention getting the rest of her management chain in trouble too.)

      I said “Look, hold up. Everyone makes mistakes. I don’t want you to be perfect. I want you to do your best, and when we find the inevitable big mistakes, I want to know that you understand what happened, that you understand why it was a mistake, and that you will do what is necessary to make sure you don’t do it again. That’s it.” (And then I told her about my own million-dollar mistake from years past, which makes hers completely pale by comparison.)

      So if you feel like you should be lectured more, here’s your more lecture: Understand what happened. Fix it to the best of your ability. Do what you need to, within reason, in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And I bet you won’t skip using those tools again, will ya? :) Go forth and prosper.

    5. NW Mossy*

      I’ll tell you what I see in my employees sometimes that I don’t need to see:

      * Shame-spirals and/or self-flagellation. You goofed. Stuff got broken. But we dealt with it and the world continued to turn. Don’t get so distracted into beating yourself up that you can’t focus on your current work assignments.

      * Overkill on preventative corrections. You allude to this when you say “Now I feel like I shouldn’t be allowed to do anything without my manager double-checking.” Most mistakes are not so catastrophic that we need to take heroic, expensive measures to prevent them. If I’m your boss, I’d much rather spend that double-checking time on other things and deal with any issues as they arise. We don’t set 100% perfection as our target for a reason – we have a tolerance for the normal stumbles and gaffes of life.

      TLDR: A good boss is not interested in punishing people for mistakes, and doesn’t want them punishing themselves either. Take the feedback into the next time, and leave the rest behind.

    6. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      Also, very important: Management needs to find out about the mistake from you.

      The impression I get is that you handled your mistake badly and now your management has, understandably, greatly shortened your leash. If so, good luck regaining their trust.

    7. Argh!*

      If your boss is able to trust you to remember your mistake on your own, then it’s on you to remind yourself and check your work. At this point your mistake seems to be trated as an anomaly, which is a good thing. Having your boss breathe down your neck would be demoralizing to both of you.

    8. generic_username*

      Your boss is likely assuming that you recognize your mistake and will not do it again. He/she isn’t going to berate you or dig in with criticism (like, you KNOW you messed up and are clearly holding it against yourself already… what can they add? What would be the purpose?). Personally, I like to see that someone who has made a mistake recognizes their error and accepts responsibility. Literally, “I apologize for this error. Here is a step I skipped that led to me not catching/making that error. Going forward, I will be sure to do this to prevent this error.” Nothing grinds my gears more than an employee/coworker who makes a mistake and then finds a way to blame someone else/shift blame.

      If this is something that you are concerned about, you can ask your boss to doublecheck your work, but I would caution that this might lessen your standing in your boss’s eyes and make it seem as if you can’t work independently. You don’t want to become an employee who “shouldn’t be allowed to do /anything/ without [your] manager doublechecking” because that employee creates work for their boss. Making one mistake does not make you that employee – making repeated mistakes does.

    9. Curmudgeon in California*

      When you screw up in production, you need to do three things:
      1) Own it “Prod is down because I…”
      2) Fix it “I reverted my change to prod, fixed the code, tested it, and redeployed”
      3) Change/improve the process “Before releasing even a ‘minor’ change to prod, it must be tested in non-prod first, and run for a couple days under test loads”

      If you never screw up in production, you’ve never tried anything new or unfamiliar.

      Part of the journey from Junior to Senior is learning how to avoid or fix your own mistakes.

    10. International Klein Blue*

      I think NSNR’s “self-correcting employee” sums it up pretty well.

      Let me comment that there are *bad* ways to handle mistakes: I once had a direct report who would never accept that he made a mistake. He’d break the build and instead of saying “sorry, it won’t happen again” he’d go on and on and on about how it wasn’t really his fault.

  20. Heidi*

    I wanted to thank the commenters who offered advice about my plant, Mr. Greene, who was struggling with the transition from my office to my home. I followed the advice about moving him away from the direct sun, and he looks much better now! He still has one or two yellow leaves, but far fewer than before and the rest of the leaves have perked up considerably. I really appreciate the thoughtful advice.

  21. Ray Gillette*

    This is probably a question that’s been asked a million times, but nothing jumped out on an initial search of the archives. How do I screen for good writing skills in applicants? Everyone says they have excellent written communication skills, but many people just… don’t. I’ve started receiving resumes for an open position on my team where probably 75% of client communication goes through email, so I need someone who can write a good email consistently, quickly, and several times per day. I’ve thought about some sort of writing skills test, but that doesn’t account for the quick turnaround that we’d need.

    1. Lemon Meringue Pie*

      You need to do a test. Ask them to write something in the style you need, and do as much as they can in an hour.

    2. irene adler*

      Can you give qualified candidates a timed test where they must generate written responses to 4-6 scenarios involving client interaction? Tell them they will take a 2 hour test and they must schedule this with you. Then you email them the test at the scheduled time. They must return the test at the end of the 2 hour time limit.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Require a cover letter. Email them a couple of times back and forth to see how they communicate via email?

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh, the cover letter is a good idea. A friend of mine was saying how she wished she could get writing samples from candidates, but she’s generally opposed to interview homework because it disadvantages specific groups of people who tend to be the kind of people she’s trying to recruit (basically all minorities in tech).

        I’ll ask her if her company normally does cover letters, and if that would be a check on writing skills.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I think cover letters are generally a normal part of hiring practice, unless you’re in a niche industry. The fact that this person would be working in communications a lot would be all the more reason to require a cover letter.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        This was my first thought – play a little email tag to see how they communicate with me.

        1. Mouse*

          Do keep in mind though that if a candidate is already employed, they may not respond to you quickly from their personal email accounts during work hours. It would be a good indicator of communication style, but not necessarily of quick responses.

          1. Ray Gillette*

            Yeah, this is true. I know for a fact that a couple of my applicants (referrals) are currently unemployed, but they still have lives.

    4. Bobina*

      I’ve definitely done skills tests with time limits on them (which were specifically about sending emails), so not sure why that isnt an option for you. I’d say the hardest part is creating a scenario that works for your company, but otherwise a skills test is a perfectly fine option for you to implement.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        Really, it’s more that I can’t administer a test I don’t have, and I don’t have time to write a test. Based on some of the other replies, I’m thinking about taking actual client emails with identifying details changed and asking the candidates to draft a sample response.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          Really, it’s more that I can’t administer a test I don’t have, and I don’t have time to write a test. Based on some of the other replies, I’m thinking about taking actual client emails with identifying details changed and asking the candidates to draft a sample response.

          I still think you need to add some parameters to make this a good test.

          So not only the sample emails, but what you expect them to communicate back.

          Like “for Sample A, you need to tell the person X, Y, and Z and point them to our website for more information, link here”

          Telling them the substance of what to write will allow you to focus more on their writing style, and also ensure that they understand the assignment (and if they bork every writing sample, that they did not read the instructions well and also shouldn’t be hired, no matter how well they write).

    5. Artemesia*

      What do you need them to write? Say it is press releases: give them some information about the organization and ask them to write a press release. Or if it is some other format — say an informational memo, give them the information and have them write it. Or if they need to quickly research on line and write — have an assignment where they do that as part of the interview.

      I would if the job were very demanding of writing want writing samples of things they had done PLUS an on site quick turnaround writing task.

      for jobs where people have to do particular things — writing, teaching, interviewing others etc, always have them demonstrate the skill as part of the hiring process when you are down to finalists.

    6. Triumphant Fox*

      I have found that 95% of candidates eliminate themselves with their cover letter and resume when written communication is essential. After weeding out those with poor grammar and generic cover letters, I’ve asked for samples of their work. The candidate pool is typically small enough that it’s manageable to click a few links to work samples. Then I do a timed test to answer an email/create a pitch/describe a product/turn bullet points into a narrative. I usually do an assignment that I recently had one of our writers complete so I have a frame of reference (and no one can accuse me of using their work after the fact). If we have an established voice, I’ll give them a sample to try to match. If I’m looking for a new direction/their voice, I offer less direction and instead give a goal and any details they need.

      1. WellRed*

        +1 to the sheer volume that don’t even get considered due to their written cover letters.

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yup, test. If you’re talking specifically about emails, give them some information (including the roles of the intended recipients) and ask them to craft a few emails. For everything else, you can ask for writing samples.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This – timed email responses as a test would help you to weed out the poor communicators. I even like the idea someone else mentioned above about emailing the candidates yourself to see how they respond to you – that will also give you an idea of their writing skills.

    8. JPVaina*

      I recently applied to a job where they asked you to write responses to 5 interview questions (think: tell me about a conflict you had, and how you resolved it), and that was submitted along with my resume. They stated in the ad that writing quality would be assessed (punctuation, grammar, etc), but I know it forced me to think about how I present information/talk about things I’ve done. I really liked it, and actually think I would like to use this format in my own hiring practices!

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I have been asked to respond to supplemental prompts asking me to provide a narrative about a problem I solved, or a collaborative experience I had. While the main idea was to see more deeply into what I’d put in my resume and cover letter, I’m sure the secondary aspect was to gather additional information on:
        1) how well I write beyond the resume and cover letter (including punctuation, grammar, word choice)
        2) how persuasive/effective I am to the audience
        3) how much I edit myself (because higher education can be, uh, wordy) without veering into not enough explanation
        Besides content specific tests (press releases, pitches, etc.), is it possible to have the person respond in 250 words (or whatever) to a behavioral question prompt to get a sense of how they write/explain things to a colleague?

    9. Bend & Snap*

      I’m in communications, and most of the lower-level jobs I’ve had included a writing test as part of the screening process. Usually a 24-hour turn for a paragraph or two. Now that I’m more senior, there are no writing tests because writing is such a huge part of the profession.

    10. Lucette Kensack*

      The specific scenario you’re describing sounds pretty easily testable, actually!

      Send the applicant several mock emails, based on real-life scenarios. Include as attachments any relevant context. Give them 30 minutes to respond via email to as many of the emails as they can. Make it clear that you’re not concerned about the content of the email (like, they’re not expected to know what your budget gap is or whatever) but rather their skill at writing quickly and appropriately.

    11. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

      Requiring a cover letter should weed out a lot of them. I think the rest could be weeded out at the interview stage.

    12. Painauchocolat*

      I would require a cover letter with the application but then save any other requests (like a writing test or samples) for later in the process.

    13. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I may have missed this but are these entry level or more senior positions?

      If entry level, I can easily see someone saying they have excellent writing skills (thanks everyone who told me I”d go far in life because I am fluent in English!) but it’s not what’s needed for the working world.

      When I first started at my full time job, I had to learn that I needed to provide the right amount of detail but still be concise rather than write a long drawn out email. It was a bit of a learning curve. But I agree with everyone’s suggestions to start with a cover letter and if not that then see some email back and forth. I wouldn’t give pause to the time lapse between emails esp if they are already employed but if, let’s say they call you in response to an email, I’d definitely make a note of that. 

      1. anon for this this this*

        Yes, going from verbose academic writing to concise business writing can be tough.

        When I applied for my current in-house translator’s job 15 years ago, I was asked to provide a portfolio of old originals/translations. The job required a few years’ experience. I had worked freelance earlier, so this was simple to do. My customers gave me permission to use some translations I’d done for them as references when I anonymized any identifying information.

        As a part of the interview process, we were asked to do translations on-site to get an idea of speed and the quality of writing. I didn’t have access to translation software at the time, but I did have a few dictionaries and online dictionaries to use. IIRC I had to translate a couple pages of text (a few paragraphs each of different kinds of texts that we work with) and I had an hour. The idea was to put candidates under a bit of pressure, we were never expected to complete the assignment. The texts were then sent out to a translation agency for evaluation.

        A few years after I started we hired my current coworker and I was a part of the hiring process. We mostly work independently but there’s some collaboration, so I really appreciated that I was involved in hiring and that I wasn’t just assigned a new coworker. Neither my then-boss nor my current one are translators, so I’m glad the hiring manager requested my input. In any case, the written test was really crucial in that process, it really helped to weed out a couple of candidates who looked very good on paper, but who would have needed a lot of training before they could work independently for us.

        Most of our collaboration involves proofreading each other’s translations, although due to our current workload we’ve had to stop doing that for everything except really critical stuff. When I started, we published a lot more on paper, where errors are harder to correct. These days with electronic publishing formats, it’s a lot easier to correct mistakes later.

  22. Kitten On My Chest*

    I usually post here under a different name but I’m slightly paranoid because my boss mentioned me hypothetically leaving the other day, so…

    I’ve been really unhappy at work since starting to work from home a few months ago. It just highlights all the things I don’t like about the job. There was a job I was interested in, but it had an application deadline in April, and by the time I found it, it was May. Well, they reposted it! And I applied!

    It would be a stretch for me, and I don’t even know that it’s absolutely the next step for me. But I’ve never applied to a job that would be a new opportunity without being 100% done with my last/current job. Reading this blog has helped me get to a point where I can recognize that there’s never going to be a good time to leave a job, my job doesn’t care about me like I do, and I need to apply to all the opportunities I’m interested in if I ever want to reach the stage of my career I’m aiming for.

    That said, I’ve put it out of my mind, and I’m not stressing out about it… Except when I get phone calls from unknown numbers, which, of course, has been happening way more this week than normal. One step at a time.

    1. Argh!*

      You updated your resume and wrote a cover letter, so you are one step further on the road to the next application if this one doesn’t pan out. It’s a huge step toward getting un-stuck.

  23. anonymous for this*

    I have a strange dilemma and would appreciate feedback. I work for a large organization (Llama Breeding and Raising) that frequently interfaces with related organizations (Llama Feeding, Llama Training, etc.), and there are many enormous conferences. A few years ago, when I was about 18 months out of college, I was at one of these and met another person just starting out, in one of the fields adjacent to mine and in another city. We had a fun conversation and connected on Facebook. For the most part we had plenty in common, but there were some red flags. They said some sexist things about women’s clothing choices, and also once tried to flatter me with a compliment that turned out to be completely disingenuous (they praised me for having earned certificates of mastery for the lifespans of two separate llama breeds in my first 18 months – a little unusual – and then I discovered that they themselves had already earned FOUR in exactly the same amount of time!). I decided to disregard these, especially as it was clear that they would stick up for BIPOC folks and the LGBTQ+ community. But then imagine my dismay when they made an announcement on Facebook detailing some thoughts about what was and wasn’t working for society – which veered straight into horrendous Islamophobia. We unfriended each other and I thought that was it forever. However, lately I heard from a work colleague in another city that they’ve just hired someone with the same unusual name from the same previous company – to serve as, I kid you not, their diversity consultant. I can hope that my acquaintance has changed, of course, but based on my experiences, I do not trust this person to be fair to Muslims, and/or possibly to women either. Should I quietly say something, or should I just let it go and assume that the acquaintance can get themself into trouble with their new colleagues if they want to?

    1. MissBliss*

      While it’s possible this person has grown and changed, they should be able to account for that if it’s brought up. I would let my work colleague know about my reservations, particularly if the work colleague is in a position over that person. If they’re peers… I’d probably still say something, so that they can be on the lookout and will hopefully report it themselves if they see something first-hand. If they don’t know there’s a history, they might be, like you, inclined to disregard whatever initial thing they hear.

      1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

        Seconded. Given their position it’s just too important to let lie. Let’s hope they had an ‘I see the light’ moment but since working against prejudice IS their job now it can’t be safely assumed.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Thirded. A bigot as a diversity consultant – dear lord. That has “potential discrimination suit” all over it.

    2. generic_username*

      Omg, wow, say something. Send screencaps if you have them or ask someone still Facebook friends with this person to get those screencaps

      If this person is qualified to be a diversity consultant, they will be able to explain their previous views and how they’ve changed. If they can’t, then they aren’t able to talk about their subject and are unqualified for their job… that’s on them.

    3. Observer*

      If the facebook post is publicly visible, send them a link to it.

      Even if this guy has changed, the company needs to know about it. And if he hasn’t changed, they need to know that people can see it….

  24. Tech*

    Looking for some advice or input on how to incorporate hobbies (and those specific skills) into your resume when they actually relate to your work.

    For background, I work in a technical field doing electrical and automated control work. I have a degree in drafting and design, and I’m currently in school for a second degree in engineering. Over the last five years my hobbies have expanded into 3D printing and robotics, specifically functional robots. There’s a lot of overlap on all of these things, but because the hard skills I’ve developed with my 3D printing and robotics projects didn’t come from my work or specific education, I’m curious on how to best incorporate them. My end goal is to find a job doing something with rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing, and I know the skills I have are relevant but I’m wondering if there’s a better way to present them rather than just listing them in a “skills” section on my resume. Thanks all.

    1. Web Crawler*

      I had a Projects section on my resume where I talked about some of the technical things I did in my spare time. It included what the functionality/purpose was, and the technologies I used for it. (I think this section was how I got my job- all the companies I interviewed at mentioned it.)

      1. Product Person*

        What Web Crawler said. As a hiring manager, I’d be way more impressed by a projects section than a skills section (show me your skills rather than telling me you have them!).

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      There’s nothing wrong with a “Skills” section to list stuff like that. If those skills are particularly relevant to the job you’re applying to, you can also mention it in your cover letter.

      1. designbot*

        +1 to this. It can mix your rapid prototyping skills, 3d modeling, 3d printing right in there with the drafting skills you use on the daily. It’s ok for this to be a mixture of software and topics.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      It’s totally normal for things like that to be self-taught in the engineering space. I don’t list *how* I got a particular skill on my resume; if they ask for details in an interview, I tell them I was self-taught and what motivated me to learn it. And I’m honest about my limitations.

    4. Artemesia*

      I would use a skills section when you have some important skills like these.

      but it is also good material for the cover letter; a flash of personality as you relate these things to how it can add to effectiveness in the job.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. My husband went into electronics repair. He wanted to show his immersion in the arena. At that time he had a “relevant personal interests” section on his resume (built a tv from scratch, etc.). He went on to explain he had X and Y and Z as hobbies and interests. When interviewers read about X, Y and Z, you better believe they asked about it.
        Here’s the beautiful part. He was on his home turf. Ask him anything about X, Y and Z and he could tell you off the top of his head. He was impressive with his enthusiasm. He had an ease or confidence about him because he knew that he knew his stuff.

        It definitely helped him get jobs. His field was not a field where you could go home and forget about it. To be on top your game you had to have an on-going natural inquisitiveness which lead to self-teaching. Since the field is evolving the employee needs to be evolving also.
        One boss even said, “If you can do a, b and c which are necessary for Hobby X, then you can learn to do this job also.”

    5. LunaLena*

      I’ve added that sort of thing to my cover letter before. Something like “In my spare time, I practice Alpaca Grooming and Fur Braiding. It gives me a creative outlet and allows me to experiment in different areas, which expands my knowledge of Llama Grooming and keeps me up-to-date in general Grooming trends so that I have additional tools when unexpected issues come up.” As long as it’s relevant to the position you are applying for and you can explain how it’s a net positive, you should definitely talk about it. I once got a job as a technical illustrator because they asked if I had any knowledge of 3D structures and I talked about a video game I played a lot that involved rotating complex three-dimensional structures to solve puzzles.

    6. Argh!*

      I agree with the above, plus I’d add it to the cover letter. They won’t just ask “Why do you want this job?” in the interview! If you give them that answer in the cover letter, that gives you a leg up. “I am so interested in [this aspect of the job description] that I have learned the requisite skills as a hobby…”

  25. Insert Witty Name Here*

    My boss’s assistant eavesdrops on conversation and gossips, but she and the boss are close. When I share info with my boss, (ie: I’m out sick, I’m leaving early for an appointment, etc.) I know that my boss tells her assistant because the assistant will make comments about it to me.

    We’re a small department, but I feel like the assistant knows too much that is going on and I don’t like it.

    Am I overreacting? It just seems like a very clique-y place with a lot of gossip.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That’s a bit creepy. Are there good reasons for the assistant to know you’re out sick or leaving early? My feeling is that bosses do have an obligation to let other employees know if a particular employee is going to be out for all or part of the day, but the reason why (doctor’s appointment, tending to a sick relative, having the flu, going to pick up someone at the airport) doesn’t need to be shared with other employees. Do you know how many details your boss is sharing with the assistant?

      1. Insert Witty Name Here*

        I don’t mind her knowing that I’m out because if there’s something that I need to handle and I’m not there, at least she knows. But “Fergus” can be out and no one has any clue where he is and they don’t seem to care. It seems unfair in that regard. Or certain info is shared and only they know, yet no one else does. (ie: “John” was out because he was having surgery and yet no one knew where he was.)

        I’m not sure what the boss shares with the assistant. I just don’t understand why she needs to know everything going on, but she is also very active on social media and will bring up info that people post about. A “Nosy Nellie” type, maybe? My boss also has no filter whatsoever, so I think boss just blurts stuff out.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        It reads like the boss is sharing all details.

        IWNH, the only way to control that is to limit what details you give to the boss.
        You: ‘I need to take [Date/Time] off’
        Boss: Why?
        You: ‘An appointment’
        Boss: What kind of an appointment?
        You: Nothing fun. Is it ok to take that time off?
        Boss: Ok, but what kind of appt?
        You: Boring stuff. [pivot to new topic] How about those TPS reports? Did you like my new format?

        Do get the ok before you pivot, but *as soon* as the boss says ok, pivot to a new topic. Work is good, or any enthusiasm of the boss’s. If you do this verbally, email later to remind boss, ‘Just to confirm our conversation, I’ll be out of the office [Date / Time].

    2. Emma*

      I want an employee to bring the error to my attention, to recognise the gravity of it and to take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
      If that happens, particularly for a first issue, I am unlikely to go overboard lecturing an employee. I generally find that if a good employee makes a mistake, handles it well, and recognises how serious it was, they usually feel pretty terrible and are likely not to make a similar mistake again because it will cause them to be much more careful in future. If someone makes repeated mistakes, or is cavalier about their mistakes, I would lecture them more because

    3. WellRed*

      Does she literally eavesdrop? If so, I’d make a pointed comment to call her out on it, or a physical shift away from her when I’m trying to have a conversation (Stop in middle of conversation, look at her, say to person I’m talking to: “let’s pick this up later” or close the door or whatever). But this depends on. how overt or annoying it is.

      1. Insert Witty Name Here*

        Yes- I’ll be talking to the Assistant Manager- in person or on the phone- and I notice her looking my way. When he comes over to my desk, she has to chime in to our conversation, even though it has nothing to do with her.

        It’s funny, because if I return the favor and butt in to their conversation, she doesn’t like it. She just ignores me, lol.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      What are the nature of the comments?

      For practicality’s sake, I would assume that most of what I tell a boss gets repeated somewhere. I think it just helps to make that assumption. So if you need time to go to the doc’s ask if your reason for leaving can be kept confidential and just the time of your departure be made known to all.

      If you can think of an assistant as a back up drive to the boss’ brain, that might help here. I really can’t tell the extent of the problem here. If you are saying that she is talking about your dr appointment and speculating on your health, then this is Not Cool. But if she is just relating you are OOO as of 3 pm for a dr appointment that seems less worrisome.

      1. Insert Witty Name Here*

        She does a little of both- it’s more invasive that just confirming that I’m out. Once I had a Dr’s appointment and the Assistant started asking me all of these questions about if I need surgery, what tests they’re doing… Um. Not cool. None of your business. I just kept it vague and quickly walked away out of the office to my car.

        It bugs me because she plays it off as if she cares and “she’s a mother”, but she’s not my mom. Office mom but toxic with no boundaries and weird emotional issues. It just irks me.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Her questions seem invasive to me. Can you say “I’m not comfortable taking about all of this?”

    5. RagingADHD*

      These are normal things for the boss’s assistant to know. You should always assume the assistant knows everything you tell or email to the boss, because many bosses use their assistant as an external harddrive for their brain.

      Similarly, if you or another coworker don’t want people reading your social media, then change your privacy settings or don’t post private info. If you post stuff on the internet, people will read it!

      She should not be asking nosey questions. Looks like you’re handling that just fine by walking away. Feel free to do that much earlier in the exchange, before you have time to get annoyed.

      A chipper “I’m fine, thanks for asking!” can shut down a lot of nonsense very fast, if consistently applied.

      1. Insert Witty Name Here*

        I’m not on social media-, though the assistant actually asked me why I wasn’t!

    6. Taniwha Girl*

      I think it is really important for the boss to have an image that what you share with her will not be repeated. After all, there are important things you share with your boss that you don’t share with your boss’s assistant.

      And if the boss does need to share things with their assistant, the assistant should know not to talk about them to you! That’s Gossip 101.

      I understand your concerns here and see how it could damage trust with your boss.

  26. ThatGirl*

    My husband is a counselor (mental health) at a small university. He’s being told their offices are reopening as early as June 29.

    We’re in Illinois, so our coronavirus cases are doing OK; we’re on a general downward trend and a lot of our restrictions are lifting. But it’s still out there, of course. I don’t think they’ve worked all the details out, but it sounds like he’ll be in the office 3 days a week, with 2 counselors (out of 4) in the office each day, and I think using their conference room as the main counseling space so that there can be more space. Counseling via Zoom will still be an option as well and I think a lot of students will opt for that.

    But he’s still pretty uneasy about the whole thing, of course. Anyone facing anything similar?

    1. Qwertyuiop*

      Can he check to see what safety measures they are putting in place? I work in Education and we have desk shields up and everyone is required to wear PPE, take temperatures, etc. He might still be nervous, but it might put him at ease if these safety measures are in place.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Some of it’s still in the works, but he’ll absolutely be wearing a mask and using lots of hand sanitizer (and requiring the same of students); not sure about temperature taking. I feel like desk shields/plexiglas are unlikely but possible — I think the compromise was using the conference room and continuing Zoom sessions, since their individual offices don’t allow people to be 6 ft apart. I guess we’ll see what else they come up with.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          This all seems consistent with CDC recommendations. Half capacity, masks, bigger spaces when you have to meet…

          For mental health counseling, would it be possible to do some sessions outside? Like, is there an area that could be made private, and for the counseling center’s use? My school had a garden with a tall brick wall and lockable gate tucked away in an odd corner. I think you might hear if someone inside were shouting, but you’d never know if someone was in there talking or crying.

          1. ThatGirl*

            They’re definitely following CDC guidelines and local/state recommendations as well. It’s just that it feels like tempting fate, a little? They’ve been doing fairly well working from home. That said, he just got up the update that he’ll be in there Mon/Wed every week and one Friday a month, and using the two bigger rooms/offices for sessions.

            It’s an urban campus, and his building is on the edge of it, so I don’t think there’s any great nearby space for outdoor sessions. But I certainly appreciate the thought!

  27. No Tribble At All*

    Inspired by the garbage college career center letter: what advice did you get from your college career center that was helpful? What advice was bad? What do you wish they would have told you?

    1. Altair*

      My college career center was worthless because their advice wasn’t personalized. I went in there with an incipient biology degree but non-grad-school level grades. They told me to go into sales. :( And didn’t even suggest industries, no less.

      1. JustaTech*

        I got “Don’t bio majors go to grad school? Well, here’s a binder of job postings.” The binder was full of out of date print outs from Monster only in the local area (I was moving to another state) and I was only at the Career Center because I hadn’t gotten into grad school. I left and cried and it took me almost a year to find even a temp job in my field.

        I hope they’ve gotten better.

      2. designbot*

        LOL, yeah. As an architecture major, I don’t think any of us went to the career center because we all had the impression that they wouldn’t understand our field at all. I’m not even sure where that came from, but it seems to be 100% accurate from the tales I hear around here. Now the more generic a job board is the more wary of it I am.

    2. Spearmint*

      My experience with my college career center was that they were pretty useless. I was a liberal arts major and wanted some guidance on the types of jobs my skills would apply to. I was also hoping they could connect me with alumni to network with for internships and jobs.

      They did neither. The counselor seemed unsure what to say when I asked him those questions. He pointed me to an ok-but-not-great resume writing guide, and a fairly useless career interest inventory. The only useful advice he gave me was to get an internship before I graduated, but beyond that gave me little guidance or support.

      1. HatBeing*

        This was also the case for me. I was told that because I was smart, I could get a job doing anything! When I ask for guidance about careers related to my interests and skill sets, they told me nothing. In retrospect, it made me think they had the same thoughts as my high school guidance counselor who told me my 5 year plan after graduation should be getting married and thinking about kids.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          OMG, your counselor said that out loud?! You would have been better off with no counselor, smh. Where do they find these people?

      2. Roy G. Biv*

        Fellow liberal arts major here. My school wanted three “to whom it may concern” letters of reference before they would even talk to me about job prospects. I thought that sounded ridiculous, and it turned out to be impossible to produce. For example, my shift manager for my part-time job at the sandwich shop wasn’t interested in writing such a letter for me.

        20+ years later, I realize the career center did me a favor by being that useless. Their outmoded methods would probably have sent me looking for all the wrong types of work. I ended up finding a job in a very interesting industry, and while I am a not millionaire, I have a career that continues to interest, challenge and pay me. So yay!

        1. College Career Counselor*

          That’s ridiculous and stupid. I’m sorry you went through that. Note to self: build a time machine to go back and intercede on behalf of students with crappy career counselors.

    3. humans are weird*

      My career center did mock interviews which I thought were really helpful. If there was a job you were applying for, you could bring in the job posting and practice interviewing for that specific job (I did a mock interview for the job I ended up getting right out of college). Obviously the person doing the mock interview wouldn’t have technical knowledge about specific positions, but they could ask the standard questions that you might expect so you could practice answering them to an other person. The job posting mentions experience with SQL queries, “Tell me about your experience with SQL queries”. “So that sounds like you haven’t had a lot of experience with that. Tell me how you go about learning new skills.”

      My particular mock interviewer also flagged for me when I was coming across as nervous and clearly using rehearsed responses vs. when I was obviously excited and engaged in talking about some of my past experiences/career goals. That helped me focus in on certain experiences to highlight when I did my real interviews.

    4. Web Crawler*

      Advice I got:
      * Make your resume as long as possible to fit all the relevant things you’ve done
      * Have an objective at the top of the resume (this was required for our general “Life Skills” class freshman year)
      * Have a website (also required for that class)
      * Use your full legal name at the top of the resume
      * Use this specific resume template. If you don’t use it, the career center can’t help you. (It wasn’t a bad template, but mine was good enough)
      * List your soft skills. Aka “leadership, good at working in teams, communicates well”. That’s really what employers are looking for

      And this wasn’t from the career center, this was from the campus doctors, but that letter reminded me of it:
      * Drop out of school- you have migraines and that’s the only way to deal with them (offered to me in place of migraine meds- F*** those doctors.)

    5. Thankful for AAM*

      I was in college in the 80s. I had no idea what I wanted to do.
      I went to them for help in finding a direction/job (I had a sociology degree). I told them I was not sure and said things like my friend thinks this, my mother suggests that, etc.

      They told me I mentioned my mom a lot and maybe I should think about that.
      I am still divided about whether that was helpful or not – I certainly did find it helpful to find out I was leaning on my mom a lot but I was pretty lost and went to them to get help so I did not just lean on my mom. They did not offer a way to explore my interests or occupations.

    6. anon for this*

      In the spring of my junior year, I applied for an internship and was accepted. The company asked me to write a follow-up email to the project manager to get the necessary paperwork. I did so, and then there was silence. I reread my email and wondered whether I’d worded the message badly and been rejected for being unprofessional. I got in touch with my college’s career center and they left me convinced that yes, I hadn’t written it very well. Ashamed, I walked away, and never talked to anyone from the organization again.

      This many years later, I know what probably really happened: there was nothing wrong with my email. The company in question just dropped the ball and I should have either emailed them again, called them to follow up, or both!

      They did give me good advice about graduate school, though.

    7. Jellyfish*

      My college career center offered an aptitude test that said I should be a librarian. I don’t remember whether they explained why that could be a good fit or how to pursue that path, but I immediately rejected the idea as too boring.

      Ten years, four organizations, and some grad school later… I’m a librarian. :)

      Unfortunately, the grad school’s career center was utterly worthless. Their contribution was to create a linked-in style profile via their own website rather than Linked In itself. My individual professors were quite helpful with interview prep though.

    8. only acting normal*

      I went to mine a few times. They were rather rude and terrifyingly unapproachable, and the most I got out of them were some poorly photocopied flyers with not very helpful info. Nothing specific to a science grad.
      Then one time I went on a prebooked course about what to expect from assessment centres. The trainer was funny and engaging, she gave us some actual assessment tests and talked us through the results, she gave some test-technique advice: “Remember RTQ, RTQ, read the question. RTQ, RTFQ.”
      It was 20+ years ago and I still remember that :D
      Now I have never been through an actual assessment centre, so I don’t know if it was good training for that, but RTFQ is very good advice for life in general.

    9. KoiFeeder*

      Because I was going to apply for a job at the college in undergrad, I was obligated to visit with the campus career center so that my resume would be allowed on the job site.
      1) The counselor refused to even look at my resume because I didn’t use any of the templates the career center provided.
      2) The counselor “strongly suggested” I use a template which included a pie graph that looked like hello kitty’s head, because I was an art major (although I doubt they would’ve given that to a male art major!).
      3) The counselor refused to go back over my resume once I used one of the templates, so I could not get my resume on the job site, therefore locking me out of any campus jobs.
      4) After graduating, I received an email from the career center with interview tips that included giving male interviewers alcohol and female interviewers chocolate.

      And this part isn’t bad advice, but these people were impossible to contact. Emails came back with an autoreply, and they never answered the phones, so you basically had to go into the office to even make an appointment. There seemed to be no accountability for any of the counselors, although I also just didn’t have the energy to pick that fight.

    10. Lyudie*

      I didn’t find much use in the resources there and I had already learned about resume writing in a technical communication class (back when Objectives were a thing) but I did get my first job out of school because my resume was on file with the career center. My first manager was an alumna and liked to go back to that university when she was looking for new grad hires.

    11. TL -*

      I went once and the person said they didn’t know much about biology degrees/jobs and pointed me towards a book they had called “101 jobs for biology majors.” I think they also asked if I was interested in teaching.

      It wasn’t helpful enough to go back, though I didn’t get any terrible advice.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Well at least mine was kind of honest. They said they weren’t going to be able to do a lot for me and they were right.
      Their big suggestions were creating an account with Monster. Which we did, and unfortunately it was tied to my school and degree so I only got to see jobs that were chosen for me. There was a lot of assumptions in those choices. I have to wonder how that would hold up in today’s pressing social concerns.

      Their next suggestion was to link up to graduates who were currently working. I was even more introverted in those days so that did not happen.

      They assumed I would move across country for a job. As a returning adult with a mortgage and extended family that was not going to happen.

      Their resume advice would make any of us here cry. I knew not to take their advice.

      Over all my impression of them was that they gave advise that any insulated/isolated person would give. It was almost on a par with Mom and Dad’s advice but I was deceived for a minute because they actually seemed to be doing things unlike mom and dad. Then I realized their things they were doing were sheer fluff.

    13. Hop Frogg*

      My college’s job placement center has been great, but I think that’s because I went to a technical college. They have lots of direct connections to actual employers in the area and know what they’re looking for. There’s a lot of help for people who are entering the professional world for the first time.

      My high school actually did a job searching module during finance class, and it was… not great. I got 5 points taken off my resume writing assignment for not including a References section that said “References available on request.” The class was a good idea, they just needed someone to teach it who had actually been in the job market recently.

    14. nn*

      I remember so little from my single career center visit except when I showed my resume. The counselor was really peppy, but I visibly saw her face drop when she got to my 3.2 GPA (so – not stellar, but I didn’t think dire, and at the time + place considered a standard requirement). It was at a name school, so she said – well, why don’t we make everything smaller under this part of your school career, but make the name of the school up here a font size larger. She looked worried for the rest of it. It may have been overly sensitive, and I supposed I would rather this than scorn or rejection, but I guess I wish she at least projected empathy rather than… pity?

    15. Disco Janet*

      Mine was actually quite helpful, but that may be because I was going for my teaching certification in addition to my degree, and the school of education had a wealth of experiencing with placing students for student teaching and was in regular contact with local school districts and knew what they were looking for.

    16. Chaordic1*

      Mine was horrible and completely useless. Admittedly, I lived in a rural state where there weren’t many job prospects for liberal arts majors, but still. They offered nothing. There were a handful of “hot” majors that they seemed to help: engineering, computer science, nursing and education and that was about it. They didn’t seem to know anything about jobs located out of the state although there were some out-of-state recruiters for the engineering and computer science.

    17. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I dimly recall a careers day in middle school when I told the person running it that I wanted to be an archaeologist. She said, rather disdainfully, that I needed to be detail oriented for that. So I made a point of paying attention to details from then on.

      I have rarely bothered to visit career counsellors since then, because they usually know nothing about this field and offer vague advice like “be sure to spell check your CV”. The only substantive useful advice I ever got on my CV format was from asking someone in a relevant Facebook group to have a look.

  28. JustaTech*

    Low stakes office supplies question:
    Post it used to make paper page flags (like the little “Sign here” plastic sticky notes, but paper), which I love for marking references because it’s much easier to read the writing on paper than on plastic. But these have been discontinued.
    Does anyone know of another brand that makes a similar product? Or do I need to go back to cutting up regular post it notes?
    (I’ll try to put a link to the old product in a comment below.)
    Thanks!

      1. JustaTech*

        Those are super cute! Sadly, because they have super cute designs I can’t read what I’ve written on them. :(

        1. Lyudie*

          Lol yeah, they are mostly decorative. There are some that are basically tiny post-it notes but you can probably find those other places already.

    1. JustaTech*

      Here’s an image of the thing I’m looking for; they’re pretty wide so you can write horizontally on the flag.

      https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FbI5yzZWBSC8%2Fmaxresdefault.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DbI5yzZWBSC8&tbnid=vFByKdJHcgpvNM&vet=10CCAQMyhxahcKEwjIwsqplo7qAhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAg..i&docid=2pHlMueJdUasbM&w=1280&h=720&q=post%20it%20paper%20flags&safe=active&ved=0CCAQMyhxahcKEwjIwsqplo7qAhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAg

    2. LuckySophia*

      Seems as thought the Staples web site has both the brand name post-its as well as the generic Staples equivalent.

      1. JustaTech*

        Nope, those are about half as wide as the ones they used to make. The old ones were as wide as the plastic flags, but made of paper so you could actually read what you’d written on them.

    3. Marny*

      I see Post-it page markers on Amazon– are those what you mean? I tried to post a link, but it won’t let me.

  29. New to WFH*

    Question about meeting with your team while WFH. Prior to COVID, we very rarely held remote meetings; when we did, they were short conference calls. Since we have been WFH, our company has transitioned to using Teams for meetings. I manage 10 people and I hold weekly meetings. During these meetings, very few people choose to use video (maybe two or three people per call; I always use it to encourage them) and they all mute. My question: how do I ensure they are paying attention or increase engagement? My concern comes because I do not often get questions, comments or responses as I’m chatting. When we met in person, I would get more responses or questions, and obviously non-verbal cues that helped me understand that they all understood or if I needed to follow up. The reason I wonder if they are paying attention is because I will get emails from them during our meetings or I will get a questions about something I have clearly covered. And the question is not asking for clarification, but rather asking as if I have never brought it up. Would appreciate any ideas!

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      I think some of this needs to shortened and moved from large 10 person meetings to 1 on 1s (which may take more of your time). I have had to do more work organizing our meetings – an agenda that is super tight – and keeping them really short unless they are person to person. I now do one on ones with my team Monday morning and our team meeting is super short in the afternoon to cover any questions we had with my boss/collectively. It does take more time but I find I have fewer little questions constantly throughout the week, which was really cutting down on my productivity.
      If you covered something in the meeting and it then gets asked about via email, etc. that needs to be called out in the moment. The first time give them the info and just say that you had mentioned it in your meeting. The second time I would hop on a call and ask what’s up.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      My question: how do I ensure they are paying attention or increase engagement? My concern comes because I do not often get questions, comments or responses as I’m chatting. When we met in person, I would get more responses or questions, and obviously non-verbal cues that helped me understand that they all understood or if I needed to follow up.

      Instead of ensuring this happens, can you ask them how best for it to happen? If they have any suggestions? Can you also ask them why it isn’t (not in an accusatory fashion)? Maybe Covid-19, racial injustice, or other stuff is weighing on them, and they’re having a hard time concentrating? Maybe other stuff is going on? Maybe they have suggestions for how better to run meetings?

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        Agree with Anonymous Educator here – asking them what’s up is not “WHY DO YOU NOT RESPECT ME” but more of a “How do we solve this? Is this the best way to communicate right now? Are there things going on that make it more necessary than usual to have written communication vs. talking?”

        1. New to WFH*

          Thank you both! I generally do weekly check-ins (always have, even prior to WFH). Those conversations are 5 min to 60 min long, depending on the associate. In generally call with no agenda beyond “how’s your week going.” The longer conversations are you if the associate has questions. But I think getting their thoughts on the effectiveness of meetings is a great idea.

    3. LDN Layabout*

      You need to proactively bring people into the conversations, otherwise it’s a monologue not a meeting. And monologue have people tuning out, it’s natural.

      What do you cover in these meetings? If it’s things people are participating in, they should be the ones talking about some of it, not you. If there’s a log or calendar that you go over, there’s always the check-in e.g. ‘X, are we on track? Do you need some support, I know Y has done this before’

      In our team we also rotate who leads the meeting on a weekly basis. Obviously the team manager provides a higher level update each week, but everyone’s expected to participate.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yep. And if there really is no requirement for anyone to talk other than you, is there any reason you can’t distribute the information in a written format instead of taking up everyone’s time with a monologue that you don’t think they’re listening to anyway?

    4. OperaArt*

      Maybe you should come at the problem from a different direction. Are the weekly meetings necessary? Even if they are, could they be shorter? Could some of the information be better sent by email or group chat? What is the purpose of the meetings? How many other remote meetings do people have to be on each week? Are they suffering from Zoom/WebEx/Meetings burnout?

      1. New to WFH*

        I try to keep them as short as possible, usually 30-60 min. I agree there maybe some meeting fatigue. Pre-COVID their roles didn’t include a lot of meetings, they were out visiting clients. Since they can’t do that now, their roles have changed a little so their is a need for more meetings to review those changes. I also have a very inexperienced team (of the 10, four have less than a year experience, typically the average tenure in this position is 2-3 years), so I’m trying to generate better dialogue with the more senior members so the newer members can learn from the more experienced team members. It sounds clunky without providing details.
        I appreciate your response and will look to reduce some of their meeting load!

        1. Senor Montoya*

          You can talk to the more senior members explicitly about this and ask them to help you out in showing the newer folks expected behavior.

          60 minutes is a long meeting btw. Are there breaks? Is it all just people reporting, or is there discussion/ activities?

    5. Bobina*

      There are several guides on meeting etiquette, and the first thing is always having a clear agenda sent ahead of time, and only inviting relevant people. So I would start by re-evaluating the purpose and structure of the meetings, and figuring out what you really want to get out of them. And then try to adjust the meeting accordingly.

      Triumphant Fox’s suggestions are also good, and might be the result you end up going for.

    6. Saxy*

      These sound like briefings, not meetings. You talk, they listen. They are likely to tune out. I would.

      If they aren’t being specifically asked to contribute opinions, experiences, thoughts, ideas etc then this doesn’t need to be a “meeting”. Put it in an email. Save meetings for times when you actually need them to contribute, and proactively let them know that will be be required when it is so they are prepared. And only involve those who need to be there.

      1. New to WFH*

        Some of it is a briefing, which I agree, I can move to email. There are definitely parts that should be dialogue with feedback from them. I will ask for feedback or a response when that is the case and usually the same couple of people will respond (usually the ones with their video on!). I don’t like calling on people because then it feels like a “gotcha, you weren’t paying attention” which I do not like.

    7. Anon for this*

      I hate virtual meetings. I find it very hard to concentrate and retain information – it’s very different from in-person meetings, for me. Stuff just doesn’t resonate the same way. I take detailed notes to keep myself engaged, but when I read them over after the meeting I sometimes don’t even remember the topics I’ve written down being discussed. Or I do remember the topic being discussed but the context is gone. There is something about the format that makes it hard for me to retain information. Could be your employees are like me. One thing that has helped for me is to ask someone to be the notetaker (rotate the chore among staff – I do it alphabetically to be sure everyone takes a turn) and send the notes out afterward, with a list of due-outs and assignments. (Notetaker sends them to me to send out so I can correct them as everyone seems to have some blind spots or gaps in knowledge on the topics covered.)

      1. allathian*

        We do the same at our meetings. Our team lead publishes an agenda on the intranet a few days before the meeting. Our manager has a standing invitation to attend (the team lead’s main task is to chair the meetings). Pre-COVID our manager attended about every third meeting or if there was somethings she wanted to brief us on, but now she attends every meeting she can because we’re all WFH. The notetaking task rotates, and after the meeting the minutes are published on the intranet for those who couldn’t attend the meeting or who need to check something they may have missed. The minutes aren’t very detailed, usually only decisions and action items are included.
        There’s often quite a lot of discussion, but we use Skype and screen sharing and video doesn’t work very well, at least not on our VPN, so we don’t use video. We do have voluntary coffee breaks (30 minutes on Friday afternoons) for informal chats that we’d normally do during coffee and lunch breaks at the office and then we turn on the video, because sometimes it’s nice to see people. During mandatory WFH, my manager has scheduled monthly 1-1 meetings.
        My job doesn’t involve very many meetings, some weeks I’ve only had the team meeting and coffee break scheduled, but some others on my team can have days of back-to-back meetings.

    8. Juniantara*

      I used this trick when I had a group that had trouble retaining information at in-person meetings: at the end of the meeting I would appoint one person the “scribe” at random. Their job would be to type up their notes from the meeting and distribute them to everyone afterwards. This group had so much trouble I had to review the notes, but it taught me a lot about how they thought, gave them practice in producing business documents, saved me from having to type the notes, gave me a chance to confirm their understanding of what I said, and ensured I had a paper trail of what I discussed when I had to put some of them on PIPs

    9. Workerbee*

      If you’re already using Teams for calls and meetings, how about using the rest of the platform for collaboration, specific and general work channels, announcements, files, and projects? Open and/or focused collaboration can cut down on the need for actual formal meetings. It might be a better use of everyone’s time, especially if some of those meetings are more along the lines of updates or reviews. People can still ask questions and get answers on the post.

  30. Director at a 35 Person Company*

    Has anyone moved from a high title (for my experience) at a smaller organization to a bigger organization? I definitely do the work of my title for this organization, but I’m not sure if that title would translate to the same level somewhere that’s doing a much higher volume of work/work that impacts a bigger bottom line. I manage 6 people, not 60. I’m trying to figure out what jobs to be applying for that are realistic but aren’t downgrading.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      I had a VP title at a small nonprofit. My next role had a Director role at a larger nonprofit; the work was a step up, and I got a ~10% raise.

      When I left the Director job I actually took the VP title off my resume (my title was Vice President and Director of XXX; I just called myself Director of XXX) because I was concerned that it would cause folks to think I was overqualified.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Be careful about changing your title, as your small non-profit may not verify that title.

        Earlier, in either last week’s open thread or an letter AAM answered, the general agreement was to instead put your real title then a more accurate title in parentheses.

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          Thanks, but I’m not looking for advice. I’m not worried about this, both because of my particular circumstances, and because I have faith that reference checkers won’t be baffled by “Director of XXX” instead of “Vice President and Director of XXX.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You’e not asking for advice but I want to say for others reading it that I agree that is fine.

            Basically, you want to picture a reference checker calling and hearing the official title and whether it will sound like you were misleading or tried to inflate things. That isn’t a problem in cases like this. (So it’s not that it must match word for word; it’s OK to shorten or so forth. I mean, obviously you can’t shorten “assistant to the director” to “director,” but something like this is fine.)

    2. designbot*

      I’d really focus on the duties as opposed to the titles wherever possible. You’re absolutely right that it won’t always translate, but that’s also something that managers are used to handling. I think if anyone asked about it I’d say something like, “I’m looking for a similar or slightly higher level of responsibility but understand that organizations of different size often title very differently so I’m trying not to read too much into that. Please do let me know if you have any specific concerns as we talk because I’m on the look out for that too.” In my field at least not getting fixated on titles is usually very much appreciated.

  31. Spencer Hastings*

    Any advice on calling in sick in the Age of Covid?

    (Context: I’m in an essential industry, so we have returned to work in the office with a whole lot of health and safety precautions. I have a sedentary office job.)

    I’ve always been a fan of the strategy of not giving specifics, but just saying “hey, I’m not feeling well, I’d like to take PTO today.” But now, I feel like I couldn’t say that, because management would assume it’s COVID (or possible COVID) and take precautions (like not letting me come in for two weeks). And if I were actually feeling ill, that would make total sense!

    But, for instance: every so often when I have my period (not every time, maybe once or twice a year?), I have a day where I have pain and discomfort to such an extent that it’s hard to function at work. And when that happened again recently, I came in to work anyway, because how would I have explained “I don’t feel well enough to come in, but I swear it’s not the ’rona”?

    Telling the whole truth just seems like such a huge overshare to me. But maybe it’s inevitable in a time like this that our employers are going to know way more about our lives than we ever would have wanted — who’s high-risk, who has complicated childcare issues, etc. And so maybe that means if I call in, I should suck it up and tell them exactly what’s going on with me, even though it feels so awkward and I don’t want to?

    1. Amy Sly*

      I’m a fan saying things that are true if misleading in cases like that. “I’m having lower abdominal pain” or “I need to stay close to the toilet” are true statements about your situation, but the implication is that it’s some form of GI complaint. Especially when coupled with “But I’ll be fine tomorrow or the day after.”

    2. Triumphant Fox*

      I think all you need is: “I’m not feeling well, but I don’t have any COVID-19 related symptoms.”

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Or, ‘Not feeling well, but it’s something that has happened before, and it’s not COVID related’.

    3. Altair*

      Not least as someone who has had horrible periods all my life, what I say when I’m in this position is “I’m unwell — it’s nothing catching, but I can’t work today. I’ll be in tomorrow.” No one needs to know the grody details; what they need to know is that it’s not infectious.

      If they press (which most people don’t) I’ve added something like “system malfunction” or made vague gastrointestinal-related noises (a bit of a misdirection, but it works).

      Also, good luck with those. I send you all easy-period vibes.

    4. Nonny*

      While I’ve always erred on the side of being as upfront as possible, there is some middle ground here if you’re not comfortable with that or just want to keep things private. Just because you give them *some* information doesn’t mean you have to give them all of it, if that makes sense. If you think they’re going to assume the worst if you call out and say “I’m not feeling well today so I won’t be in,” you can easily add a statement of assurance to make it into something like “I’m not feeling well today so I won’t be in–it’s nothing extreme/serious/life-threatening, but I should be back in tomorrow.” Or, if you don’t feel like that would be good enough, you can give specifics on the symptom (to clarify it’s not COVID) while also staying vague: “I’m having some really bad issues with pain today so I’d like to use my PTO to get some rest. Thanks.” With something like that they still won’t know that it’s your period, but it will easily let them know that it’s not something contagious that you need to be quarantined for. For all they know it could be a migraine, or back pain, or an upset stomach!

    5. Web Crawler*

      I’ve been saying “I’m not feeling well today- but don’t worry, it’s not covid”

      1. CM*

        Agreed, this is totally fine. “I will be out sick today — don’t worry, it’s not COVID.”

    6. Stephanie*

      This happens to me some months. I just say something vague like upset stomach or GI issues. Or I just say I’m slightly under the weather, but it’s not contagious. It is admittedly much easier now as I’m in a nonessential job that is remote indefinitely and I can just do WebExes from the bed with a heating pad (we rarely use video at my job).

    7. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think the best options are 1. just the facts (“staying home today, don’t feel well, but don’t worry it’s not coronavirus”) or 2. little white lies (“I’ve got bad back spasms today so I’m staying at home”).

    8. anon for this*

      I usually say, “I have a chronic health thing acting up.” Because it’s health related, it’s acting up, and monthly-ish is chronic.

    9. anon today*

      I had to this last week. I just text my boss and said, “Hey, I’m sick. Promise it’s not COVID. See you tomorrow.” And that was it.

      1. PollyQ*

        I think this is fine. Just because there’s COVID going around doesn’t mean you owe your employers any more detail than usual about sick time.

    10. Chaordic1*

      I came down with a migraine on the Memorial Day weekend and spent most of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in bed. I called in sick on Tuesday and just admitted that I had a migraine, but then migraines don’t have the same kind of TMI stigma that other things do.

      I’m do worry that my new supervisor might have thought I was trying to take another day off after the three-day weekend, though. But I was really not up to logging into my laptop and working from home.

  32. Daisy*

    I am absolutely at my wit’s end at work.

    My title is “contract specialist/customer service”. I am supposed to be the 2nd line for our customer service; our “main” customer service person is Ronald. The only other employees inside our office are 2 warehouse employees (more on that later), and my manager, Karen. We also have 7 outside salespeople, and 1 sales manager.
    In late January, one of our warehouse guys quit. The remaining warehouse guy, Mark, is a subpar warehouse employee. Because of this (and because we were down a warehouse guy), Ronald, who has warehouse experience from his previous job, started helping out in the warehouse and spending about 95% of his time there. Because I have a great track record of being a rock solid employee here, I was left to do all the customer service alone, even though the volume of work was far too much for one person. I’m a very efficient employee though, so I have kept my head above water and still done good work. I do however feel like if I were a mediocre employee, Karen would have told Ronald to spend more time doing customer service, which would have helped me immensely. Karen claims that she has been searching for a warehouse employee, but I’m not so sure.

    Then, coronavirus hit, and my company was a rare one that THRIVED during this time. These were some of the hardest times in my working life, as I was handling 100% of the customer service (and barely having a free section for my MAIN job, contacts). Our business was up 500%. Add to that, my manager, Karen, works about 25-30 hours a week (and gets paid for a full time job). She has done this for years, and all the salespeople joke that she must have blackmail on someone high up at our corporate office. She’s been on several PIPs, and somehow made it through each time. To be clear, it’s not the nature of her job where she can be out of the office, but still working. She simply leaves to go grocery shopping, get her oil changed, go to the chiropractor, etc. Of course these are normal things to do every once in a while, but we’re talking numerous times a week. Needless to say, Karen does NOT make any effort to make my job easier, even when we’re swamped. Additionally, a lot of Karen’s previous duties have been moved to our corporate office, so I’m truly not sure what she does every day. She is usually browsing online retail stores when I go into her office.

    On top of that, Ronald calls in sick at least once a week. He has done this for years. 95% of his “sick days” are on Fridays or Mondays. For some reason, Karen has always allowed him to do this, no questions asked. Our salespeople and the sales manager are VERY aware that I do essentially all the work in our office. Last week, they actually mailed me a $100 gift card, along with a card saying how much they appreciate my commitment.
    SO…on to the actual story now (sorry for the in depth background!) On Monday, Karen came to me and said, “since you’re always here and don’t have the freedom to come and go like others do, you can pick a day in the near future to leave at 2:30, and I’ll make sure you get paid for it” (I’m an hourly employee, and our office hours at 7:30-4:30). So, the following day, I asked her if Friday would work. My husband also is off today, so I was looking forward to getting off early. She said that she had a meeting from 2-3, but would make sure Ronald covered customer service during that time so that I could leave (I heard her confirm this with Ronald yesterday, too). I joked with my husband last night, “watch, Ronald will call in sick and I’ll have to work all day.” Well, as predicted, Karen texted me around 6:45 this morning and said “hey, Ronald is sick today, I’m going to have to have you stay all day today.” I responded candidly and said, “Honestly, I am quite frustrated with this. The irony is that you offered me a day to leave a couple of hours early because I tend to be the only one consistently in the office…now, I can’t take that planned day because once again, Ronald has called out sick and I’m the only one here to cover. Quite honestly, I expected this to happen though.” She responded and said “I know…I appreciate everything you do, though! That’s why I extended this offer to you and no one else. I wasn’t even going to make you take PTO for this, Ronald takes PTO every time he’s gone.” Ronald has 120 hours/3 weeks of PTO. He’s been gone at least 25 full days this week (since he’s gone at least once a week), so I know this isn’t true. He is an hourly employee just as I am. It’s a well-known thing amongst the company that Karen fudges him time card. At one time, one of our salespeople brought the concern to HR (located at our corporate office), but I guess nothing ever came of it because there was no proof.
    I just don’t know what to do at this point. I feel like I’ve been punished over my 5 years here BECAUSE I’m a good employee. I’m held at a higher standard, and the default attitude is, “Daisy is going to be here, the rest of us can do whatever we want.”

    For context, my husband makes great money. He’s a cardio PA at one of the best hospitals in the nation. His pay is in the 95th percentile for what he does. We don’t have kids yet, and we have no debt. He got a raise last year that was bigger than my whole salary. I truly don’t say this to sound entitled and braggy, but to make clear that I don’t NEED this job. I’ve always enjoyed the work that I’ve done here, but the environment recently has made me unbelievably stressed and angry. My mental health is unraveling by the minute. I’m tired of being held to a higher standard than Ronald, just because I’m a good employee. I just don’t know at what cost this job is worth it to me anymore…

    1. Millicent*

      I would actually quit, in as nice a way as possible and getting as many potential references out of it as possible, and take some time off. It sounds like an incredibly frustrating place to work. It will never change.

      1. Daisy*

        Thank you. I am seriously considering it. I spoke to my older sister (whose opinion I trust greatly!) who relayed the same sentiments. I agree that it will never change – I’m finally starting to realize that after 5 years here! I’m still new to the working world. I’m finally learning how to stand my ground and realize when things aren’t right. Thanks again!

    2. Myrin*

      I’m so sorry, that sounds really frustrating and demoralising!

      Can you go over Karen’s head? You mention a corporate office and their HR who didn’t do anything about the timecard issue, but might they be receptive to your situation as a whole? Or really, Karen must have a boss somewhere, right? Do you have any kind of relationship with them at all? But even if you don’t, they might be quite interested in what you’ve told us here. (Or they might not, seeing how lax stuff seems to be at your job, but who knows?)

      Or, taking your last paragraph into account: Can you have a very frank talk with Karen in which you, well, threaten to leave? Only if you’re actually, earnestly willing to do that if things won’t change, of course. But might that be a wake-up call for her?

      1. Daisy*

        Thank you so much!

        So, I have wondered this too; there IS an HR office at corporate. I’m just not entirely sure if that’s who I would go to. My concern (which I know, I have to be willing to do if there’s even a SLIGHT chance for change to happen, which I still doubt would happen!) is that my manager would get into trouble, and then she’d hold it against me forever if I stayed here. So, the other thing is that Karen DOES have a manager – he too works at our corporate office (which, for reference is only 45 minutes away). I get the impression that he is VERY hands off. Other people from upper management visit our office fairly often just to check in on things. I’ve worked here for 5 years and have never even MET Karen’s manager. I only know his name, but truly know nothing else about him. I wish I knew if he’d be of any help at all.

        To answer your last question, that is something I have gone back and forth on for SO long. Over the years, I’ve attempted to stand my ground and express my conerns to Karen many times. Every time, I’m basically told “no, sorry, it is what it is” and I, being too agreeable, just say “okay” and then move on. I think if I say “I will leave if things don’t change” (in better words that that, of course!) she would say, “sorry, we’re doing the best we can.” If and only if I then said “okay, expect my 2 week notice soon” would she make a concerted effort to change things (and would probably give me a raise, too). Although at this point, I’m not even sure if a raise is worth the stress. It’s never really been about the money for me; it’s been about having a reasonable level of job satisfaction, which I no longer do.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        I was very much thinking ‘go over Karen’s head’ here. Use the Ronald situation as the lever.
        – Document what days Ronald calls out sick. Go back in time if you can.
        – If possible, get someone else to confirm independently (Sales Mgr seems like a good candidate?)
        – When you have over 25 days *documented*, go to Karen’s boss and say, ‘I am concerned about something. I’m doing Ronald’s job because he calls out sick a lot, and is in the warehouse the rest of the time. Karen says she’s hunting for another warehouse guy, and that he’s using PTO to cover the sick calls, but I didn’t think we got that much PTO.

        1) Can you fill me in on the progress for the warehouse replacement, or whether there’s a plan for Ronald to transfer to warehousing and hire another customer service rep?
        2) Am I missing something on the PTO? Is there a pool of it that I don’t know about?”

        I guarantee that someone up the chain will care if Karen’s fudging Ronald’s time sheet, showing him as in office when he’s called out sick. Putting the PTO question as ‘something seems odd’ helps give you cover, while raising a REALLY legit question for her boss. If nothing comes of that, ask HR the same question – ‘coworker who gets same PTO as me is out tons, mgr says they’re using PTO, is there a pool of PTO that I didn’t know about?’

    3. Tex*

      A couple things you can do if you want to keep this job:

      1. Appeal to the corporate office (with the sales people’s support) that you need another person for the 1st line job Ron isn’t doing. He can stay in the warehouse. With sales up 500%, it’s an easy justification and they have the money to do so. You could even sell it as a temp thing until corona is over.
      2. Take a vacation – 2 weeks and see if everything falls apart. That may not be enough.
      2. If you are really stressed out, ask your doctor for a FMLA note and be out 4 weeks.

      But, honestly, it sounds like you have the freedom to be picky about jobs and your skill set, while valuable, is not niche. So why not quit and look for a better place or dial it back at work to only 40 hours and look for a job.

      Karen isn’t going to change unless pushed and, quite frankly, it doesn’t sound like she’s going to ever champion your career, so this isn’t the best long term place for you.

      1. Daisy*

        Thank you so much, all great advice and thing to certainly consider (and things I have been considering!)

        I agree that Karen will not change. I’m going to really put some time and effort into looking into jobs that suit me this weekend, something I have been scared of taking the plunge on in the past.

    4. Another name*

      No job is worth sacrificing your mental health. I’ve been there, done that. I needed to do it until i could find something better. It sounds like you don’t. Please give yourself the gift of leaving this job and opening yourself up to the opportunity of something that gives you more peace of mind.

    5. Scarlet*

      Oof. I’ve been there. So frustrating.

      But since you have the financial security… what would happen if you DIDN’T quit, but started doing the bare minimum – customer service isn’t your job, right? Focus back on your contracts. Phones ringing off the hook? “Sorry.. I really gotta get this other thing done! It IS my job you know”. Malicious compliance is the best.

      Eventually you will either force the company to take action and hire additional people, OR you’ll attract the attention of corporate who will wonder why all of a sudden things are going south, and they’ll come in to investigate.

      1. Daisy*

        Thank you for your sympathies!

        I’ve certainly considered doing that (and my husband tells me to do the same thing all the time!) I just for the life of me can’t bring myself to let things falls through so that people understand what I’m dealing with. I get annoyed with MYSELF for caring too much, lol.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          As Alison has said many times (paraphrasing), “if you keep the manager/boss from feeling the pain, nothing will change.” And that’s what you’re doing right now because you’re sacrificing your time, energy and health to maintain the status quo. You have two basic options, in my opinion:
          1) Go to Karen and ask her what she wants you to prioritize given Ronald’s 95% time in the warehouse and significant days off. Have her put it in writing or you make notes of it and send it to her as confirmation.
          2) Do the “malicious compliance” just YOUR job only mentioned above. See what happens.

          In either event, if nothing changes OR you get flak for not going above and beyond, then you know that it’s time to leave.

    6. CatCat*

      This sounds so exhausting and frustrating. Since you don’t need this job, why not put in your two weeks notice? This will give you a chance to restore your mental health and focus on finding a better fit.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, put in notice and make it clear why. Also, good for you for voicing your disappointment when she pulled your afternoon off away from you. (She should have found a way to make it work).

        You focus a lot on Ronald, but honestly, while it’s annoying, he’s not actually the problem. She is.

        1. Daisy*

          No, I mean you’re totally right. She’s been a huge problem for years and I think Ronald acts the way he does because he knows he can get away with it under Karen.

          Thank you for your kind words. I rarely voice my disappointment, so I was proud of myself for actually sticking up for myself for once.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Can you document that? Or document going forward? Then go to Karen’s boss and ask, ‘I thought Ronald and I got the same PTO, but he’s been out 25+ days, and Karen says he’s using PTO for all of that. Did I miss a PTO bucket?’

        My prior post got eaten, but you could also mix that in with ‘Ronald’s in the warehouse 95% of the time, can you update me on how that hiring is going?’

    7. Ronda*

      if you otherwise like the other people and the job ……… just start doing things your way without regards to what Karen wants.

      for example when she tried to change the time-off, your answer is “Sorry I already made plans that I cant break, you are going to need to find some other way to handle this.”

      It does not matter if she lets you go, cause you are almost ready to quit anyways.
      Change the job to work how you want it to.

      you could also try talking to Karen’s boss about how you are good with the work, but Karen is driving you to want to quit and is there anyway to change this. Maybe they value you more than her.

    8. Anono-me*

      Right now you have the luxury of choice. You can choose to stay where you are and know that nothing’s going to change. Or you can choose to look for something better.

      Things may change in your life that take away that luxury of choice. I hope they never do. But I think you should take advantage of now and look for something that is a better fit for you.

    9. Stephanie*

      I would quit.
      I had a soul-crushingly awful job years ago. My boss was a complete nightmare, and she seriously messed with my confidence in myself. I stayed because the job market was dismal, and we really needed the money. When we got to a point where we didn’t need my paycheck anymore, I quit. The moment I put in my notice, I felt nothing but relief. It doesn’t sound like there’s much hope for any kind of change at this job, and if you don’t have to stay, get out.
      I can’t emphasize enough how much working somewhere that makes you miserable effects your life and health. And often, you don’t really see all of these negative effects until you’re out.
      Get out. Then give yourself some time and space to breathe and heal.

    10. Super Duper Anon*

      I would quit. You don’t need this job and it is impacting your mental health. Give two weeks notice so you don’t burn any bridges, but the sales people and sales managers know how much work you do and can be good references. Then you can stop worrying about how Ronald and Karen act or what they get away with. Either Ronald and Karen will have to step up, Karen will have to hire to backfill positions, or the place will crash and burn and maybe people from corporate will be forced to sit up and take notice of what is going on. Either way, you will leave and it won’t matter anymore.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      You’ve done this for 5 years. It’s time to move on.

      We tell ourselves stories inside our heads. We convince ourselves for the most convoluted reasons that we should stay on. What do you get out of staying? Serious question here.

      When you are stressed and angry and having mental health concerns, this means you should have left long before now.

      I was married for just over 2 decades. I know how conversations can go: “Oh spouse said that to me because they love me and they are kind.” NO. Spouse said that to you because it’s the truth. “Oh spouse said that to me because spouse does not get the whole picture.” NO. Spouse said that to you because they see you dragging yourself around the house, they know that is not you and something is horribly wrong.

      Look at it this way, spouse has a nice good paying job. What steps did he take to get there? What steps can you steal and make them your own to get yourself to a better place?

      Spouses/SOs/other cohabitants are very well position to make accurate assessments of what is going on. We just have to chose to listen to them.

      Count up the numbers of times you say, “if only” and see what you get:
      If only Boss showed up and did her job
      If only Ronald did his job
      If only the big bosses listened to what is going on here
      If only they hired another person
      You basically are envisioning a totally different place than what you actually have.

      Business increased by 500% and they did it with the same crew they always had. This company is making money hand over fist and using the crap out of you. Time to move on.

    12. Hillary*

      I was in your shoes emotionally a couple years ago. I took a week off, and by noon the day I came back my stress level was just as high as it had been before my vacation. I gave my notice that week.

      It’s ok to quit. My vote is to turn in your notice, take some time truly off to breathe, then start looking for something you like.

      1. Daisy*

        Ugh, I totally feel how you just described! I took last Friday off just to have a long weekend to recharge my batteries, and I was already drained by mid morning Monday. Thank you for sharing your experience, it is truly eye opening!

    13. Daisy*

      Thank you all SO much for the thoughful replies. I have read through them all, and truly appreciate it. It is nice to know that my feelings are totally valid.

      I plan on doing some soul searching this weekend, and making a committed effort to seeing what my future career looks like, while being aware of the need to support my own mental health. I’ve talked with my husband about it today, and he is 100% supportive of my moving on. I plan on putting in my two week notice in the near future.

      Thanks again, all.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        That is great news that you will be leaving. Time to recharge and figure out what you would like to do in the future is a real gift to yourself.

      2. International Klein Blue*

        Daisy, two questions for you:

        1. if you could fix all of the problems with your current job, what would that be like? Ie, what specific changes would be required for you to be happy at your job?

        2. if you decide to go to HR or above Karen’s head, do you think they will make the changes you need?

        IME, the answer to #2 is almost always “no”. But – you are in the lucky position such that you can do anything you want to do. You may wish to simply quit. Or you could perhaps be a ‘whistleblower’ (some people might opine that Karen&friends have been engaging in a long-term pattern of waste, fraud, and abuse). You’d probably want to think long and hard about the ethics/morals/karma involved in blowing the whistle, but it might be an option.

        I wish you the best, whatever you decide.

    14. Juneybug*

      I have a plan but it’s gonna sound crazy. First of all, your situation is so similar to mine that I had to take a step back to see if I wrote my thoughts down. :)

      I don’t need to work (DH and I are extremely lucky to be financial secure) but so much of my self-esteem is tied up in how well I perform at my job. If I was given more resources, I could “fix” things. But after a while, I realized that I couldn’t fix things, no matter how many hours I put in, how hard I worked, etc. It’s not a “lack of productivity, time mismanagement, or wrong prioritizing” situation, it’s “your boss sucks, your coworkers suck, your workload is unrealistic, and it’s not going to change no matter what you do” situation.

      So here is my plan to leave my situation:
      1. I told my boss my situation is not sustainable, I am at the end of my rope, and she needs to change things to reduce my workload. I told I had tried numerous steps to fix the situation but am out of options to try. I (gently but firmly) pushed back when she asked about my priorities, said my time management skills could be lacking, etc. I repeated quite a few times that it’s unrealistic workload for me to do the work of two people as well continue with the numerous projects that have grown significantly and keep growing.

      2. I stop doing less. It felt strange at first but after a while, I got use to letting things not get accomplished. When my boss ask why something didn’t get done, I calmly explain I didn’t have time. I didn’t go into details. I didn’t justify. I just said that one sentence and let it go. Then stop talking or change the subject. Sometimes she asked if I could take care of it, sometimes she let it go. If she ask if I could take care of it, I know I can either explain that ____, _____, and ____ won’t get done or just let others things not get done and not say anything.

      3. Because I knew so much of my self-esteem is tied into my job, plus I need something to do (kids are out of the house), I started a side hustle/home business. I think this will help me for two reasons – continue to get job satisfaction and still earn money. While I know we don’t need it, there is something about getting paid for a job well done that also gives me gratification.

      This is extremely hard to do!!! I felt like a failure. I wanted to avoid the conflict. But I knew that I needed to stop lying to myself that if I keep trying a little harder, tomorrow will be a better day.

      What has happen in my work situation (two weeks so far) – My boss has stop emailing me numerous times a day to add more work or check on the status of a project. She doesn’t get huffy if something doesn’t get done (I can tell she is annoyed but she tries to keep it to herself). She just ask if I can add it back to the list of things to do this week, which I do (but I let other things not happen). She stared doing small tasks instead of delegating it to me.
      At home, I started thinking about my future in terms of ideas and hope than dread. I dream about ways to grow my side hustle instead of being stressed or angry about my job.
      If my boss doesn’t reduce my workload to more realistic standards ( I am giving her two months), I know that I have tried everything to fix the situation. At that point, I leave my job and increase the time on my side hustle. Now I feel that I am not running away from something but instead, moving forward to be a better future.

    15. Alex*

      Sounds incredibly toxic. If you can quit…quit! Take some time off. If you don’t need to work, why kill yourself? Life is too short.

      Your workplace is taking advantage of your work ethic. Places like that don’t change.

      Signed,
      Someone who is constantly punished for being the “competent” one, but who is single and can’t not work.

    16. Oh Behave!*

      QUIT!
      You owe them nothing.
      Please don’t feel regret in doing this. Karen will have to actually work.
      Feel free to be honest in your exit interview.
      You are in an enviable position to do this without the urgency to get a new job.
      Go, go, go!

  33. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    So a few weeks ago, Alison posted a letter from an LW who was the only Black person in their office, who felt upset and isolated that no one had asked if she was doing OK with respect to the current events of police killings/protests for racial justice. But this week, someone wrote to Dear Prudence saying the opposite, that people were bringing it up at work too often and it was making her feel upset and singled out, and she’d rather not discuss it at work.

    More broadly, I feel like this is a theme advice columnists see a lot, ex: something emotionally fraught is going on with me and either: I want to talk about it but nobody has said anything or I don’t want to talk about it and people keep bringing it up. Be it something happening publicly that’s part of current events (elections, legislation or court decisions, natural disasters) or something that’s happened on a personal level (deaths, health issues, divorce.)

    How do you know which group a person falls into (I want you to say something vs. I don’t want to talk about it) without violating their boundaries?

      1. RagingADHD*

        Well, asking is bringing it up. So you’re already committed to the “bring it up” camp by asking.

        I’m not sure that the phrasing makes a huge difference if you’re the seventy-third person to ask and they’re sick of it.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I would say if you’re particularly close with the person, check in with her. But if you aren’t, don’t. One person can’t be that close to every single person in the company, but if every single person in the company says “Oh, my God. How are you doing? Are you doing okay?” that can be super overwhelming. And if nobody does that, that can feel extremely isolating.

    2. Altair*

      I’ve been thinking about this [because I want to be the change I want to see in the world, haha] and here’s my take, as one Black woman:

      Like any other group, all Black people are individuals. OTOH, one experience many of us have had has been being asked to Speak For The Black People, so if possible, please try to avoid creating such a request when talking to someone about the current sociopolitical situation. Talking in private is generally better than talking in public; talking to someone you’re already close to and/or manage is better than a more random query.

      What I really didn’t appreciate during a similar time at a previous job was how the Grandboss asked me at the end of the staffmeeting in front of everyone else (and I was the only Black employee) how I was and what I thought. What I really appreciate about ym current job is that my boss asked me privately, and told me if I needed anything to let him know, and then *stopped asking* and left the ball in my court to go back to him. When I needed to come in late later in the week due to insomnia, I knew I could go to him; because he had ended the conversation the first time, I knew he wouldn’t make me Explain At Length.

    3. Millicent*

      A lot of it depends on the person. Is the employee someone who typically is open about their feelings? Or is the employee pretty private?

      There’s no one solution that will work for every person.

    4. pancakes*

      I don’t think there’s any substitute for getting to know them better. If you’re afraid that a particular question or interaction would violate someone’s boundaries, don’t proceed with it.

  34. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Has anyone been able to successfully ask for a delayed start date? I’m in the last steps of landing a job God willing. Before starting the process, I told the recruiter that I’d be going on medical leave in August and would need 2-3 weeks recovery after that so if I land the job, I could work the month of June & July and would do unpaid leave in August. I went forward with the process.

    Well, a few health complications have come up and looks like I’ll be seeing a dr multiple times a week until August. I disclosed this to the recruiter so I can’t really start sooner than September.

    Normally I’ve always been able to start ASAP but circumstances this time. Just wondering if a 10-week out start date is so outrageous that its out of touch?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yes, I’ve asked for a delayed start date, very similar to a 10-week one.

      Here’s what happened.

      I applied for the job. They contacted me right away and interviewed me by phone. I told them I couldn’t start for another 3 months. They said they needed someone immediately, so I didn’t hear from them again for a while. Then, they reached out back to me a few weeks later, and they said they could on-board me when I wanted to, and I went through all the rest of the interviews and got hired.

      Later on, I found out that the person I was replacing had left at the beginning of those three months, and that my future boss had to cover two jobs until I could get there. I also found out that the other candidates for my future position were not great, which is why they came back to me.

      So just keep in mind that you can ask for a 10-week-out start date, but if they want to fill the position immediately, they may drop you as a candidate if you’re not flexible with that. But if they can’t find any better candidates, they may come back to you.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Yes, that’s a very real possibility that they will not want to move forward, but I’m OK with it if it happens. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    2. Anon for this*

      Are you saying you expect to take 2-3 weeks for recovery from birth? That seems pretty ambitious. Have you discussed that with your doctors? Most recommend 6 wk for vaginal, 8 or 12 for c-section.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        *facepalm* I know…..that was dumb. :( But it’ll be remote, and I figure it’ll be easier to work if I’m going from bed to chair and taking it physically easy. (and yes childcare has been worked out).

        1. KiwiApple*

          What about.mentally easy though? Dealing with a new born, stress of a new job, becoming a mother for the first time…it’s A LOT. You have commented before about finding things difficult in weekend threads. Just…look after yourself. And your baby.

        2. Cat*

          Yeah, I would think really hard about whether you *have* to do this, or whether your family has the financial resources for you to look for a job after you give birth (or to hold out for a more delayed start date). I was lucky and was more or less physically recovered at 2-3 weeks. But mentally I was still all over the place then, as are most new parents, particularly ones who have given birth. At that point, the baby may well need to be woken up every 2-3 hours to eat, for instance, and it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll be sleeping in a bassinet or insisting on being held or rocked to sleep for hours. If you’re breastfeeding, that is a *process*. It is not something that babies usually just come right out knowing. In terms of crying, fussiness often peaks around 3 weeks. And that’s to say nothing of the hormonal fluctuation issues.

          It’s also cruel to yourself – you should give yourself sufficient time to bond with your baby after birth and not feel like you’re forced away. And if childcare is in the same house as you (I assume, since daycares don’t take babies until six weeks usually and who knows in this Pandemic), you’ll be listening to the baby cry off and on all day while you’re trying to work.

          Sadly, many, many women in the U.S. are forced to go back to work soon after giving work. But don’t volunteer for it if you have a choice.

          Also, while looking for work, I’d say you’re having a baby. Yes, it’s medical leave, but decent employers will know what that means in terms of asking for leave afterwards.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            I’m not in a financial position to not work. If I was still at my old job I would have had partially paid FMLA.

            I’m reluctant to disclose pregnancy at work capacity since the last time I mentioned it, I was let go from my job a few weeks later.

            Just trying to make the best with what I can under my circumstances.

            1. Cat*

              The problem with not disclosing during the application process is that you will almost certainly not be able to hide that you have a newborn indefinitely when you start work. At that point, you’ve already invested a lot more in a company that is going to discriminate against a new mother than if you negotiate pregnancy-related leave as part of the offer.

              1. Potatoes gonna potate*

                You’re right. but….fear. The company does have a reputation for being family friendly and flexible. I think I’ll go ahead and disclose it and let the chips fall.

    3. Ktelzbeth*

      I just recently asked and they said, “Well, that’s the date we were thinking about anyway.” Because I had to give 90 days notice and then wanted to delay beyond what that required, I’ll be starting >4 months after accepting the job.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        90 days notice? Wow! Do you mind sharing what industry you are in? Just asking strictly out of curiosity, understood if you can’t share!

      2. Ktelzbeth*

        This looks out of step because of how long I took replying. You’ve told a ton more story while I was busy not refreshing and have a very different situation from mine.

  35. Don't call me Shirley*

    An employee that I manage was arrested. Any other commenter have one of their employees arrested while they worked with you? The charges are several counts of fraud and lying to the police. She had a crowdfunding page and claimed to be a victim of domestic violence. Some of her colleagues donated money to her page and PTO to her. She took days off on our company’s domestic violence leave policy. According to the charges, she was never in a relationship at the time. She didn’t have any injuries and it is likely she forged doctor and hospital records. She has said she will pay back the money but who knows. Since we don’t deal with anything financial and there is no money or confidential information involved in what we do the company doesn’t do a criminal record check. She has been convicted of fraud before. I don’t know what to tell my other employees or anyone else who asks about her besides saying that there was nothing for her to steal or commit fraud with here and through her job.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Aside from telling them that she’s been fired? Because she 100% should be fired, if that hasn’t happened yet.

      Otherwise, simply state what you have above, you didn’t arrest her, you don’t know what else is going on.

      1. tangerineRose*

        You said “Some of her colleagues donated money to her page and PTO to her. She took days off on our company’s domestic violence leave policy.”

        So she defrauded her colleagues and stole time from the company. She should lose her job.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, she should definitely be fired for defrauding her colleagues and stealing time from the company.
          I also suspect that if any of her coworkers are victims/survivors of domestic violence, they’re going to be pretty mad at her for pretending to be something she’s not.

    2. Kimmybear*

      There is arrested having nothing to do with work, and then there is arrested for fraud and she defrauded your employer and employees. “Some of her colleagues donated money to her page and PTO to her. She took days off on our company’s domestic violence leave policy.” You don’t say whether she still works for your company but I can’t see how she can, if for no other reason than causing drama. I think you need to take the high road here and say you can’t discuss employee matters but “she is no longer employed here”.

      1. Kimmybear*

        Rereading my comment, I wasn’t clear. If there was any hint this person had actually been the victim of domestic violence, that is not drama. It is a person in need of support and a different conversation. Talk to your HR department.

      2. designbot*

        This. It’s not accurate to say there’s nothing for her to steal or commit fraud with here, because she’s defrauded your company and her coworkers out of leave and money already. And drilling down, what is fraud really? It’s dishonestly for personal gain. A dishonest person can find anything to be dishonest about.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      You need to speak to HR. Each state has legal policies for how this is handled, and the company also will have internal policies for how this is handled. HR will know what these are and will start the ball rolling on making sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s in doing so.

      For example, the last place I worked had youth programs, so the employee database was background-checked monthly. If someone got arrested, their boss would get an email, “Your employee Fergus Ferguson has been arrested. They may continue working/are suspended pending the outcome of their trial/are terminated immediately. Do not share this information with anyone and wait for further instruction from HR.”

      1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        “Your employee Fergus Ferguson has been arrested. They may continue working/are suspended pending the outcome of their trial/are terminated immediately…”

        Excellent point. The best response to an arrest depends on the circumstances — including what you know about likely the person did it and the kind of crime they were arrested for. (Obviously, with certain kinds of crimes you tolerate much less risk than with other kinds of crimes.)

        Also: Are you allowed to make hiring decisions based on arrests? If not, talk to legal to see if you can make firing decisions based on them.

        1. WellRed*

          I would argue the firing decision would be based on stealing $ from coworkers, and fraudulently taking time off work that she wasn’t entitled to. The arrests are irrelevant when you consider the other stuff. And frankly, if someone is in the news for committing fraud, it’s OK for an employer not to want to be associated with this person.

          1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

            Just to be clear, I’m not commenting on this firing decision in particular. I’m commenting on That Girl From Quinn’s House’s youth programs employer’s approach.

            And frankly, if someone is in the news for committing fraud, it’s OK for an employer not to want to be associated with this person.

            I understand the PR aspects. My default gut reaction — barring strong reasons to do otherwise — would be to wait to see how the charges pan out. Possibly put the employee on administrative leave (with pay if possible) until a final adjudication.

            As a rule, I don’t believe in throwing someone to the wolves for PR reasons based on a simple arrest. Every rule does have at least a few exceptions.

      2. International Klein Blue*

        > You need to speak to HR.

        This. And HR will either have a policy or talk to a lawyer to figure next steps. I believe it is common for people to be put “on leave” until they’re actually convicted (ala “innocent until proven guilty”, and when that happens, cut ’em loose).

        Your company may decide to fire her based on her abuse of the domestic violence leave policy … but I believe those kinds of decisions come from upper mgmt.

    4. Alex*

      I’m not sure how you can say there was nothing to steal, when she stole from your other employees. As for what to say, you can say “She has been fired, and we will cooperate with the police in their investigation,” (if there is an investigation).

    5. Anono-me*

      I don’t think your statement that there’s “nothing for her to steal or commit fraud with” at work will be helpful. Especially it will probably not be helpful to the people who donated money or time off to her because I do believe they may feel like they have been stolen from.

      This person has been arrested, but not been convicted of the current accusations (Yes there’s an offer of restitution, but that may be a strategic decision.) I would probably go to corporate HR and legal for advice on how to proceed.

      Please consider asking if your company can offer paid leave to any victims of any crime that need to speak to law enforcement or prosecutors during the work day?

    6. Observer*

      Some of her colleagues donated money to her page and PTO to her. She took days off on our company’s domestic violence leave policy.

      there was nothing for her to steal or commit fraud with here and through her job.

      These two statements are mutually contradictory.

      This woman is a fraudster. There are very, very few jobs where that should not be a deal breaker. I understand why the company doesn’t do a criminal check, but given the fact that it’s been shoved in your face and she defrauded your staff she needs to go.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Some thing like this I go directly to my boss to coordinate what will be said and when it will be said.

      Definitely do not say there was nothing there for her to steal or to commit fraud. If you do say this then you have just told your employees that their money and PTO is nothing to you. Do not say this.

      Instead in a very serious and somber tone tell them, “I am in discussions with MY boss about this and the company will decide how to move forward.”
      If they try to nail you down on particulars you can just say, “All I know is what I read in the papers/online. Just like what you guys read. So I have nothing I can add to that.”

      Discuss with you boss about the lost PTO, how do you want to handle that?
      Also discuss if you should recommend they go to the police also to state how much cash donations they gave her.
      Discuss what to do about her employment status.
      Ask the boss what they want you to tell your people.

      I think it is fair and reasonable to let your crew know that you are very concerned about this situation and you will keep following it, although you might not be able to report to them all that is going on.

    8. Pennyworth*

      You might want to introduce criminal record checks as a routig part of your hiring process. What if an applicant had a conviction for stalking a co-worker? That’s not financial but certainly relevant to a hiring decision.

  36. FaintlyMacabre*

    I saw a job listing for a State of California job and was somewhat amused to see that I wouldn’t qualify for the job, despite the fact that I do that very job in my state. It would require passing a state exam, which it appears you can only take in California? Is that true? If you’re a California state employee, do you think it’s a good system?

    1. CatCat*

      I am and was out-of-state when I was hired. I was able to take the exam online. I have also taken another exam in a difference classification. This must vary based on classification. Not sure it’s the greatest system, but it’s not a system that’s going away any time soon.

      1. eshrai*

        Yes! I did forget to mention that…a lot of exams are online. There are a few in person though, for things like office tech/assistant/typing/program tech/etc.

    2. eshrai*

      Hi! I am a California State employee, and our application system is a big mess. Yes, you have to take a specific exam to get the job, but the exam usually doesn’t matter (as in, no one looks at it when you go for an interview). For example, when I started, the recruiter told me to answer all 5’s for my knowledge and experience, even though it was an entry level roll. If you don’t get top marks (on self-reported experience and knowledge) you cannot get an interview. Some jobs have practical exams where you have to go in person and take a math/filing/reading comprehension test. The exams are not always in line with the profession, and often the requirements are rigid. I was denied a job in accounting with my accounting degree, because I didn’t have enough “experience” and they didn’t count running a restaurant, including doing payroll and books and records, as experience.

      I do understand the rigidity to an extent , it is there to ensure a level playing field and to attempt to stop favoritism and nepotism. Also, the State is so large, that making things uniform across all the agencies causes more of this red tape and rigidity. The worst is when there are a ton of job postings, but the exam hasn’t been released in forever, so you sit and wait to be able to apply. I like that they attempt to make it transparent and fair, but I think sometimes the personnel interpreting the requirements are overly rigid and often wrong. It can also be very hard to move between classifications. I just made a switch and it was a nightmare….to move to a classification that technically has fewer educational requirements (in the same field) as the classification that I came from, for a job that is essentially the same.

  37. SQL Coder Cat*

    I posted last week about when webinars on fighting racism go off the rails. I (and my university) continue to struggle this week. The school is really trying to be supportive of Black Lives Matter and the current push for change. There have been several supportive messages, trainings and workshops have been made available, and they’re giving everyone an additional 8 hours of leave and encouraging us to use it for participating in Juneteenth activities or other reflection/growth activities (although they’re not tracking how we use it).

    On the other hand, there have been multiple cases in the past two years of nooses being displayed on campus, they had to send out a message stating that Black Lives Matter participation/discussion was not prohibited political activity and you could not be subject to disciplinary action for it, and today we got an email reiterating our “commitment to addressing *any* overt and systemic racism that plagues us at ” (emphasis mine)

    How is everyone else’s jobs handling this? Is there anything that you feel has really made a difference? I want to make constructive suggestions, not just point out issues.

    1. WellRed*

      You work on a college campus, where there’s been multiple cases of nooses being displayed!!!!!???? Good lord, maybe they oughtta worry less about the staff and see who the hell they are accepting as students (because I have to hope it’s students doing that and not actual fully formed adults).

    2. JustaTech*

      My work had two “round table” discussions this week (that didn’t have any kind of description beforehand, but I went to the second one so maybe it was all explained in the first) where some of our Black coworkers volunteered stories from their lives. It was *very* intense, and a lot of people cried.

      We also had some very specific suggestions/action items for making progress. The first two I remember were: call out microagressions whenever you see them (and look hard for them in yourself). And: do way more outreach to schools to get kids and teens and college students interested and excited in a career in the sciences (it’s a science-based company, and the sciences are still waaaayyy too white-dude-centric). We used to do a lot of this kind of outreach, but then we had a bankruptcy and some really evil owners who didn’t believe in anything but short-term profits, so it’s been a while since we went to schools.

      But we didn’t address things like “how to call out the director of a site for his constant microagressions”, because, well, how do you do that unless you’re above him?

      My husband’s company is having a full day of talks and discussions today featuring some really big names, but they’re GiantCorp with money out their ears (and an obvious diversity problem on several levels).

      Will any of this help? I have no idea.

    3. pancakes*

      It can’t hurt to spend some time reading up on how other campuses and workplaces have responded to nooses. That’s quite a ways beyond being an unsupportive community, and possibly prosecutable as hate crime.

    4. New to WFH*

      My BAC has held several discussions on race in general and Juneteenth specifically. Today, we had an early dismissal and were given a list of resources, books, articles, podcasts, documentaries, etc to learn more about racial injustices and how we can make a difference. I think they are doing a great job. However. There are several people that have rolled their eyes (virtually, we are all still WFH) at all that the company is doing. For example, I had a training scheduled this afternoon and changed it when we were told about the early dismissal. In the meeting request, I indicated why I was changing it. The person leading the training (a peer) called and didn’t understand why, since we were all at home anyway. When I reminded him, he said, “well I guess I’m just an old white guy, so don’t understand the need to change it.” SMH. Another peer also commented on why we would need an early dismissal, and I offered to send him some article about Juneteenth (before our company did) and he said not necessary.
      All of this is to say that the best thing my company has done, IMO, is made it okay to talk about race. For the company to host virtual town halls and acknowledge Juneteenth (they never have previously) is a huge deal in my mind because it makes it okay for the rest of us to talk about it. As a WOC, I can say that the support of the company has made it a lot easier for me to be able to speak up when somebody makes comments like above.

    5. Curmudgeon in California*

      Sounds like you work at the same type of private non-profit university I do.

      Our university bigwigs try to be upfront and consistent about messaging when this nastiness hits campus. We’ve had nooses and white supremacist leaflets/posters. The admin tries to be pretty thorough about addressing it. (Of course, there are some groups on campus who think it’s not enough, and others that whine that it’s “too much”.)

      One thing they have done is start a Slack channel for equality, equity & justice resources, and people have been sharing books and videos to help people understand the whole mess. We also have a POC interest group (that’s open to all staff) that started this year. There is an overall diversity and inclusion initiative that just started last year, and is sort of… lopsided, but at least is on multiple fronts.

      It feels like baby steps, but I’m hoping over the long term these and the student activist groups pressuring the administration will make meaningful change possible.

  38. Minimal Pear*

    I’m being furloughed (last day is today, I suspect it will end up being a layoff) and since I was great at my job, everyone’s been complimenting me a lot. I kind of suck at accepting compliments, but it’s sort of easier in person when I can just smile and say “thank you”. However, one of the directors at the company sent me an email just a bit ago that was really kind and complimentary, and I’m not sure how to respond to it. She’s actually one of my favorite people at the company so I want to make sure she knows how much I appreciate her email. The email basically said thanks for all the work I’ve done, complimented me on a few specific character traits that have made me good at the job, said she hopes she’ll see me again, and referenced a shared hobby. I am so very, very socially awkward. Any ideas? Thanks!

    1. Altair*

      Write the verbal equivalent of a smile and “thank you.” something like,

      “thank you so much for writing me this kind and supportive note. It’s been a pleasure for me to work with you and I really appreciate hearing the same from you. ”

      Also, save the email! It’ll be useful when you’re writing your cover letters and need to talk about how great you are.

    2. Triumphant Fox*

      Agreed! Also, connect with her on linked in and in your note, share your personal email address and phone number to keep in touch. It’s easy to lose track of people once they leave a company. I would ask if she’d be willing to serve as a reference in the future. I’d just expand on Altair’s language:
      “Thank you so much for writing me this kind and supportive note. It’s been a pleasure working with you – you have always been (specific trait) and your direction and leadership on (project/shared work) were instrumental in making this job great. With this furlough, I’ll be looking for a new position as well as working on (shared hobby). Would you be willing to serve as a reference during my search? Your encouragement and appreciation for my work have made a hard time a little brighter.”

    3. Former Young Lady*

      I so feel this. After my layoff eight years ago, a lot of people encouraged me to stay in touch; I was painfully shy at the time, and I still wish I’d taken more of them up on it.

      How would you feel about a response of this nature?

      “Claire, thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement. I’ve been so grateful for your guidance and mentorship during my time here at TurdCorp. I’d love to stay in touch! I’m on (Facebook/LinkedIn) or reachable by mobile at 555-555-5555. Let me know if you ever want to catch a [hamster circus] together!”

      (But obviously, in your own voice.)

      Best wishes for the future. Be good to yourself.

    4. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      Also, forward that email to your personal email address and/or print it out and take it home!

    5. RagingADHD*

      Thank you so much! That means a lot, especially coming from you.

      or

      Thank you, that’s so kind of you to say. I really appreciate it.

      plus

      It’s been a real pleasure working with you, and I hope we will see each other soon – perhaps at [hobbything]?

  39. Pepper Potts*

    So my company has been completely WFH since mid-March (about a week after I started!), with a small handful of people in the office to carry out essential tasks that cannot be done from home. There has been extensive communication about protection for these workers, as well as plans for bringing people back to the office. Fast forward to now, when we found out that the first “round” of people will be back in the office in mid-July. Yesterday, I found out that I will be a part of that first group going back into the office. My manager is looking forward to me having the resources of the office to better learn my new role since I didn’t get much of the same interaction/training I would’ve gotten if COVID hadn’t happened. Which all makes sense……and yet.

    I’m so incredibly anxious about going back to the office. I don’t have any health concerns that would put me at a special risk, but I just feel I lack the standing to request to continue to work from home. Between my boss’ enthusiasm and the fact that I don’t have a medical reason to point to, I’m at a loss. Do I just suck it up and rely on my own measures of protections and the new safety guidelines from my company? Or is there something I can say to my boss? She’s very reasonable but has been chomping at the bit to get back to the office and have a routine. I totally understand that and want that as well, but my desire for normalcy and anxiety are constantly battling it out!

    Thank you for any guidance.

    1. Another name*

      So many people are dealing with this right now! I know you don’t feel you have standing to push back – but it’s worth expressing the concern that you don’t feel comfortable coming back to the office full time yet. Maybe your boss won’t budge, but maybe you can get a little more time, or at least work out an arrangement to come back in only 1-2 days a week at first.

      1. Pepper Potts*

        That might work. My shock at hearing that I was in the first group meant that I didn’t push back at all when my manager called me to tell me about the plans. Which she then saw my agreement as enthusiasm. But the way it was presented to me was that there wasn’t really room for discussion, so that’s why I didn’t push back at the time. And now she thinks I’m excited to be going back.

        Maybe this would be better handled if I go back the first few days and see how it is? And assuming my anxiety hasn’t lessened, go to my boss at that point? I’d be playing a bit dumb in asking for a change of situation at that point, but barring an actual medical need to stay home, she assumes everyone is as eager as she is to be back.

    2. Anxious Cat Servant*

      I understand! If it helps, I’m having to get in the office for job #1 and back in the store for job #2 (both part time) and my state is currently seeing if it can become first in the nation for most infections and worst handling of all this. What I’m trying to say is that this sucks and I understand the anxiety (on a deep, personal level!).

      For me what’s helped is first reading up on current guidelines and the best current science on how this spreads and right now the consensus seems to be that the biggest risk is mainly sitting and talking with someone without masks. Once both are wearing masks the risk goes way down and add in social distancing and good air-flow and it’s … well, not safe but not exactly risky either. So that’s helped me feel better about going back in public so long as I can wear a mask and, in the case of the store, require others to wear them as well.

      The other thing that’s helped is just doing it. Get out there with your mask firmly on and strategies for lowering the risk and it really will quickly become the new normal. We humans are remarkably good at adapting. The first while is really hard but it gets easier as your brain incorporates your office into it’s known ‘safe’ spaces.

  40. Waiting for August*

    Buckle in, I’ve got a story for you. You may remember the beginning of this from when I posted in February. TLDR: Problematic new hire from January has given notice to leave in two months and last week admitted to intentionally trying to trip me up out of pettiness.

    We hired a new guy in January while a coworker was on unexpected family leave — my counterpart and I said a temp would be sufficient but the boss insisted because it fit into his grand scheme of growth for our team. Fine. We both recommended a former coworker for the job, having gotten along with him well in the past, and thinking he would be taking on much of the administrative work we’d been saddled with in our coworker’s absence. (We discussed the need for this with the boss, it was not just assumed.)

    Unbeknownst to my counterpart and I, our boss sold the new guy a very different job description that did not include helping with general administrative work — even though we had lunch with the new guy ahead of the interview to give him a heads up that the boss would likely upsell the job and told him what it was really like, he apparently decided we were lying. My boss then didn’t bother to tell me what he had set up as far as expectations for the new guy, *even though I was the person tasked with everything from ordering his office furniture to training him.* (This is a small company, can you tell?)

    So I do my best with training, still not realizing the vast disparity between the job we needed done and the job our boss had told him this was. As with most new jobs, there’s some boring stuff at the beginning to get the lay of the land, and frankly we were drowning in work and just needed help getting caught up– things like stocking up on office supplies, get the copier serviced, put away paper filing that had piled up. This guy ignored every one of the administrative assignments with a smile on his face.

    The tension came to a boil when I took a higher level assignment from him because he hadn’t done any of the earlier tasks I’d given him. The following week he had a hissy fit over not liking our filing system, which I was insisting needed to be kept consistent whether he liked it or not. We got into it and that was when I learned that he was told he’d be doing higher level work and that “we’re all on the same level”. I informed him that I was certainly not his boss or supervisor but that I was his senior and with our colleague out on leave, I was acting as her proxy. I brought the issue up the chain of command. It took a month, but in a meeting of the entire office group (which is rare) the big boss informed us all that I was indeed second in command after our colleague on leave, essentially validating what I’d said to the new guy.

    We avoided each other for the next month but made friendly small talk as necessary, and then the pandemic hit and we all started WFH. I made a conscious effort to continue being professional, still emailing him tips and little bits of information that I thought would be helpful / stuff I’d forgotten in training because we were so busy when he started. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was doing the same, even though there were little things here and there that made me question that.

    Fast forward to this week. New guy gave notice earlier this month and is leaving at the end of the summer. (yippee!) I’m still only going into the office once a week due to lack of childcare, but the rest of the office is up and running. My colleague — the one who had been on leave and is the informal office manager– told me that she noticed an unopened envelope on my desk a day after I’d been in the office. This was not ok, we all know that mail needs to be opened immediately and whoever put it on my desk knew I wouldn’t be in to process it for a full week. She asked the new guy about it and he told her that yep, he’d put it on my desk. Claimed we all only open mail for our assigned teams. That may have been true before the pandemic when we were all in the office every day, but common sense is straightforward here. My colleague told him that was unacceptable. He later *came back* to her to tell her that actually, it was because he and I haven’t gotten along since February and I had created a “toxic workplace”, assigning him tasks outside of his job description. She saw right through it (I’d had a long talk with her about the whole thing back in March) and the way she relayed it to me, she saw it as him admitting he’d done it just to be petty.

    I’ve had a few days to let this sink in and honestly, it’s sent me spinning. I was assuming we were both being professional but now I have zero confidence that he’ll be a team player, especially with me still out of the office much of the time. Looking back at other things over the past couple months, I believe he’s been intentionally trying to trip me up and at this point, trying to agitate me in order to make it seem like I’m being hostile toward him. I plan to have a talk with my colleague next week about follow up/accountability. I no longer want to have any one-on-one conversations with him for fear that he’s trying to gaslight me/make me look bad.

    He’s leaving in two months and our boss is already saying there may not be room in the budget to hire another person full time. If that’s the case, why keep him on? Summer is always a quiet season in our industry, on top of the pandemic, and his direct supervisor has repeatedly said she’s light on work while he claims to be swamped. And *he has admitted to intentionally sabotaging a coworker*.

    Am I crazy for thinking that in a functional workplace, this guy would be gone? Realistically I don’t expect it to happen. I’m going to try to cool off over the weekend and approach it with a level head next week when I’ll be able to have an in-person conversation with my colleague (not the new guy). I’d welcome any ideas about reasonable repercussions/accountability steps that would prevent any further BS for the next two months.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      Oh my. I can tell you, I had a coworker once who was “upsold” her position and was in shock when she found she was expected to do executive assistant duties including send faxes/make copies for senior staff (we have two fax machines that most people don’t remember how to use for work with a couple of vendors that use them). She was miserable in the job and most people couldn’t stand her. It was not her fault–she got sold a bill of goods. She quit at the worst possible moment, a time that created maximum chaos, and I’m sure she enjoyed that. All to say, while your ire is perfectly understandable, your best tactic to get rid of this guy is probably to see it from his persepective, cut him some slack, and then in that frame of mind suggest that it just end. To you boss: “Fergus is clearly unhappy here and understandably resents some parts of his job. The latest example is that he didn’t open mail for me. I get it, he feels like this is beneath him and maybe it is, but since he’s moving on soon, maybe it would be best all around to cut the cord.”

      1. Waiting for August*

        Thank you, that sounds like a solid approach.

        I agree with you about trying to see it from his perspective and understanding how miserable it is to find yourself in a position you feel is beneath you– with some reservations, though. My counterpart and I went out of our way to warn him about the upsell, and he apparently assumed we were wrong/misleading him rather than ask the boss about the disparity or try to clear it up some other way– the upsell didn’t become apparent until a month after he’d started. By then he’d convinced himself I was the bad actor trying to push him down, when in reality I was just hanging in there until my colleague returned and I could stop playing office manager. I haven’t been warm towards him for many months, but I have absolutely been courteous and professional, whereas he’s been trying to make me look bad. :-/

        …and I know, this is the stuff I need to swallow for this conversation next week and just be facts focused and level headed.

      2. Waiting for August*

        Also, this is the 3rd company he’s leaving in a huff (or fired from) in less than a year. -_-
        He’s ten years my junior with about 3 years of professional experience.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Why the hell did your boss hire this guy in the first place? Does he owe someone a favor? I agree with what others have written: since you have zero confidence that he will be a team player (and ample evidence to the contrary), and he’s clearly unhappy now, so why not let him go?

          1. Waiting for August*

            Ha, my counterpart and I joke that the boss basically hires anyone on sight. He’s allergic to administrative responsibility so he likes to get it over with.

            But to be fair, we’d worked with the new hire before and he was great back then so we recommended him! Sometime between then and now he got a big head and decided he was above this work.

      3. JustaTech*

        I also have a coworker who was sold a total bill of good about what her position would be. It was less of a case of “we said analyst but we meant admin” than a case of her boss being frankly delusional about actually being allowed to do the project she was hired for. The rest of us chickens warned her as strongly as we could about the financial problems, but we didn’t know what her boss had planned (because he wasn’t our boss).

        It was terrible. Her boss didn’t do any onboarding at all, so it was left to me to try to train her, but we all just kept waiting for her to be given her “real” job, so she didn’t get any specific projects. When the boss finally figured out that he wasn’t going to be allowed to do that project he still refused to give her any work, but every time the rest of us tried to get her help on projects he would get super huffy about “you can’t delegate tasks to Betty, she works for me”. But then he never *told* Betty any of that, so she just thought we were mad at her.

        It was a huge mess that took literally years to clean up, and Betty can still be bitter about it.

        And that’s the *best* possible outcome, where the person who was sold on the wrong job still wants to come in and work hard!

      4. The New Wanderer*

        I can see the victim of a bait and switch being really unhappy with what happened. In Waiting’s case I’m sure it seems to this guy that Waiting wants him to only do the admin stuff (the actual job) even though the boss said he could do higher level things (empty promise to get him to take the job).

        Bait and switching is the worst, and all blame should go on the hiring managers who pull that garbage and then don’t back it up when things go south. But the answer to their problems isn’t to act like a stubborn jerk and alienate everyone around them until they leave or get fired. Either do a decent job and be a reasonable employee and coworker while actively job hunting, or quit and job hunt.

        1. Waiting for August*

          Yup.

          I would add that the administrative tasks I’d asked him to do, were things I was also doing regularly. I wasn’t saying “you need to take this over indefinitely,” rather, “this is how you can be most helpful right now while we’re underwater.” And when he repeatedly didn’t do them, I sucked it up and did them myself because that’s what needed doing.

        2. Waiting for August*

          He’s also pulling the same stunt on my colleague now that she’s back from leave. She asked him to help recycle old file materials and he just … didn’t do it … so she took care of it.

          The couple of times I followed up with him on stuff, he 1) brushed it off telling me that it wasn’t a priority for him and 2) asked me if I ever followed up with him, insinuating it was my fault for not doing so.

          It’s him. He’s the toxin.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          I agree this is a boss problem not a coworker problem.

          You told the boss you guys needed x,y and z.
          So the boss decided you needed a, b and c.
          Then the boss never told you who would do x, y and z.

          Your coworker feels they were sold a bill of goods and, of course, they tussled with you every inch of the way.

          Here’s where you have to be careful. You asked for xyz. Your boss’ answer was “Here is abc.” YOU chose to ignore that. You needed to go back to the boss for a long discussion. This discussion could have looked like, “Okay WHO is going to do a? And who is going to do b? And who is going to do c?” In other words draw the answers out of them the slow painful way.

          But the boss set this one up by using a bait and switch type of thing. I have had this done to me and honestly, I feel for the employee here. I would have been resentful also. Older and wiser me would have just quit before now. “The job was not what was described on the interview.” It’s that simple.

          1. Waiting for August*

            I generally agree with you except here– “You asked for xyz. Your boss’ answer was “Here is abc.” YOU chose to ignore that.”

            Nope, he never came back to me to say “here is abc” he just told me the start date. No indication that what we needed would not be forthcoming and I’d need to adjust. Honestly I think he just wasn’t paying attention to what we needed and so he neglected to include the administrative piece during the interview. Normally my colleague who was on leave would have had a chance to interview and hammer home the whole “there’s a lot of boring/grunt work” thing.

            So I fully agree it’s a boss problem… but it’s also a coworker problem. We gave him ample warning ahead of the interview, he ignored us completely AND didn’t even attempt to clear the up the confusion when he started. Remember, no one told me the job description had changed.

            Even shifting to the exact job description he was told– which would be identical to my role, albeit junior to me– *I also do general administrative work as part of my regular job*. He is/was just turning his nose up at this part of the job while we, his senior coworkers, are doing those exact tasks.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Okay, sorry, I did not catch that.

              I know younger me tended to pay less attention to what cohorts said, it was confusing for me to be told one thing then an opposite thing.
              He definitely needs to adjust or leave.
              I do find it concerning that the boss is misrepresenting the job to people. That won’t fly well in these times. He is vulnerable to having issues because of his bait and switch stuff.

              1. Waiting for August*

                Yeah, the problem with the boss is definitely ongoing. I had been job searching before the pandemic but I’ll be hunkering down for the foreseeable future, so I’m hoping we can improve things with the boss/management in general. I don’t think he means to be destructive — he wants people to be happy which is why he tells them they can do more interesting work than is realistic— but he’s traveling 90% of the time under normal circumstances, so he just doesn’t get what it takes to keep an office running. It’s an ongoing conversation and thankfully, outside of this guy who is leaving, we’re a very harmonious group.

                For now I’m just focused on not getting sucked into this other guy’s antics…

    2. designbot*

      yeah, band together with the coworker who’s back from leave and pitch to your boss that since he’s leaving anyway, it’s not working out anyway, and other team members are light on work right now, it’s be a boost to morale if he just cut this guy loose now.

      1. Waiting for August*

        Oh, here’s a fun twist– the coworker who came back from leave has now been unwillingly pushed into the office manager role, and the big boss is saying she is in charge of personnel. In other words, he doesn’t want to deal with it and he trusts her. But she’s incredibly reluctant to take on the role and so even though she could 100% tell the big boss she thinks he should be fired, she probably wouldn’t feel empowered to do so.

  41. Lost Tech*

    Coworkers Say I Make them Feel Stupid

    I’m hoping you all can help me because I don’t know if this is a me problem or a them problem. If it’s a me problem I don’t know what else to try.

    A work friend of mine let me know that “Most of the people who bad mouth you feel like when you are so smart with computers that you are talking down to them. That’s their problem with you.”

    I work in healthcare as tech support. Most of my customers are nurses, and tech savyness is not required by our boss. So even though the nurses have to use an iPad to do their jobs, some lack basic knowledge such as how to undock an app or how to power off the iPad. Others are great with tech so I really never know what I am going to get when my cell rings.

    When I get called to assist, I usually start at basic competence level. The first time I got the feedback that I make nurses feel stupid when I use technical terms (like “home button” and “settings app”) I tried explaining what those buttons were on calls. That backfired and folks with more tech competence got upset and complained I was patronizing them. In the end the nurses with tech competence are kinder to me, so I decided I would rather not risk offending them and now start out at the basic knowledge level when I am unsure of their level.

    Here is a typical exchange with a non-tech savvy coworker who are the source of most of the complaints:

    This is Name.

    My iPad is broke!

    I’m sorry I know that’s frustrating. Let’s get that fixed. What steps have you tried?

    Uh none!? That’s why I am calling you!

    No problem. Let’s try turning off the iPad. Turn it off and wait 15 seconds.

    How do I turn it off???? I am not a tech genius like you! I am just a nurse!

    To turn it off, press and hold the power button on the top right corner of the iPad until an icon you can swipe appears.

    There is no button there!

    I’m sorry I should have been clearer, hold the iPad like a piece of paper in portrait orientation with the home button facing you. The power button will be on the top right corner.

    It’s not working!

    It’s not working? Did you press and and keep it held down?

    Yes! And ! … oh now it’s working.

    There’s a bit more too it as I do make sure the original problem is resolved but that’s a good example of a typical exchange with the non techies.

    I really am not sure how I can be be any nicer and non threatening! I don’t get flustered on the phone. I use a kind voice and smile as I speak. (I use to be the escalation caller in house collections/repossessions so I know I’ve mastered the polite customer service voice.) I don’t say things like “this is simple” or “you don’t know this?” or any other language or phrases I can think of as rude. Frankly the nurses are typically pretty rude to me as they are flustered by the time they call. I’m apologetic and try to empathize. Depending on the situation I ask about their schedule and let them vent that they have a lot of visits and now their tech is malfunctioning. I resolve the problem in 1.5 minutes or less 95% of the time.

    Our boss has instructed me to fix it, but our service calls aren’t recorded so I can’t point to an example besides my description. My suggestion to record for QA was shot down. My boss is also a nurse and he is also not tech savvy so hasn’t been able to give me any examples or pointers. It feels like I can’t win, but maybe I am missing something and the above exchange is rude somehow? 

    I’ve also tried a lot of self training like reading crucial conversations, recording mock calls at home and  listening to myself, and checking with trusted SR leaders. The SR leaders don’t see a problem with my professionalism or politeness, but the complaints and feedback from my boss continues.

    I’m at a loss for what to do. Any ideas?

    1. voyager1*

      Your calls need to be recorded. I have seen this with call centers too. Customer says CSR was rude, the manager pulls the call and poof the CSR did everything right.

      Only other thing I can think of is watch your tone. But honesty without the calls being recorded, this is really just a he said she said.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      This is just bizarre. You’re being gaslit. I’ve worked in tech support in multiple contexts (not healthcare, though) with people on the full range of technophobic to technophilic, and I’ve never heard anyone accusing me of making them feel stupid for assuming they know what a home button is.

    3. Kimmybear*

      I totally get this. People’s comfort levels and insecurity levels with technology are all over the place. 1. Do you have someone non-tech savvy and self-aware you can role play with and get feedback? Sounds like you’re doing everything right but at least you can tell your boss you learned one tip or trick. 2. Are you working with the same people on a regular basis? See how much you can customize the conversations based on what you know about the person and their needs. 3. List out the basic assumptions you are making for your most common tools. (e.g. home button on ipad) Can you give a short handout out to existing staff and new hires to help get everyone on the same page? This can also include more advanced tips and tricks that the tech savvy staff will appreciate as well. Good luck!

      1. CTT*

        I was also thinking about a handout. If there’s a cover on the iPad, would it be possible to put a printout with the most common trouble-shooting solutions on the inside cover (or even on the back if there isn’t a cover)?

      2. Lost tech*

        I actually have done lots of education including a monthly newsletter. The technophobes don’t bother to read it and aren’t held accountable to learning it.

        There are so many easy to reach resources – videos, handouts, etc. There are over 300 staff with various numbers so most of the time I really have no idea where they are at.

        Lastly they have flat out lied about me to. I guess I should have mentioned that. It seems I’m always to blame. The one time a nurse lied and said I wasn’t answering my phone I was able to prove they didn’t call. I was still told I needed to address the perception of not being available.

        1. digital nativeish*

          The example you gave just reminded me of the people who don’t want help; they want you to do it for them. They will never be happy. Not even doing it for them would make them happy. They just don’t want to use the tech, period.

          Given that people are willing to lie (wtf), document document document. I’d say loop in any supervisors if you can for repeat offenders. This isn’t about you. It’s bad management enabling bad actors.

        2. Kimmybear*

          Ahhh…That’s key context. Perception of availability is huge and tough. And healthcare is extra tough because nurses aren’t sitting at a desk all day so you can’t swing by and check-in or ask to come by in 5 minutes. Does it have to be calls? Can you IM or text? That gives you the ability to deal with multiple issues at once and no one leaving a message.

          Also, I’m hoping there is more than 1 person supporting 300 staff on a 24 hour schedule. You can’t be seen as available if there is only 1 (or even 3) of you.

        3. College Career Counselor*

          Okay. You’re definitely being gaslit by the technophobes. Agreed that your calls need to be recorded for “quality assurance purposes” (and also so there’s a record that you’re not being a jerk).

          More immediate suggestion: What about a nursing in-service on technology education? Your boss (and probably you by now) have a pretty good idea of who the technophobes are. Enlist your boss to make them attend an in-service on ipad/app troubleshooting (pick the things that they complain about 75% of the time) and (this is important) frame it as making their working lives easier. That may not work, but maybe doing it in person vs. sending a newsletter that no one will read might give you some relief. Good luck.

          1. digital nativeish*

            This plus pushing for mandatory training as others suggested if possible. At my old job, we had people go through an online training course that included doing routine tasks in a practice (not live) system. Something to consider if in person would be difficult/not as frequent. And I would think even suggesting it would show availability so bonus.

        4. tangerineRose*

          “The one time a nurse lied and said I wasn’t answering my phone I was able to prove they didn’t call. I was still told I needed to address the perception of not being available.”

          OK, so someone lied about you, you were able to prove it, and the boss still seems to be on that person’s side? I think this is a no-win kind of job.

    4. CM*

      I think this is a boss problem, not a you problem. You have gone above and beyond to try to fix this.

      I would lay out everything you said above to your boss: “We’ve had several conversations where you’ve asked me to resolve complaints from nurses. To address these, I’ve taken a lot of different measures. For example, I use a kind voice and smile when I speak. I have stopped using terms like “home button” and “settings” after getting feedback that people didn’t understand them. I’ve read books about communication and have checked with trusted SR leaders, who don’t see a problem with my professionalism or politeness. Unfortunately, taking IT support calls means that I’m working with people who are upset and frustrated with the technology they’re using, and as every IT support person knows, that frustration is often taken out on us. I’ve made substantial efforts to please the people I’m supporting, but I don’t think it’s realistic that everyone will be happy with IT support. On average, I resolve people’s problems quickly and efficiently, within 1.5 minutes or less 95% of the time. If you have a concrete suggestion about what you want to see change that’s within my control, I’m happy to try it. But otherwise, I’d request that we focus on the outcomes of the support calls and not the complaints. I’ve made so many efforts to make the calls a better experience for the nurses that I don’t see what else I can do.”

    5. Former Retail Manager*

      Lots of good suggestions about your you vs. them problem, but if most of the calls you are getting are things that are very simple and could be fixed with basic knowledge of the device, I think the best solution is to require mandatory training on whatever the most frequently used technology is. If it’s just iPad’s, then require a 1-2 hour iPad training course for all nurses, current and new hires going forward. Ideally, they’d have an iPad and the training would be interactive where they’d learn to use the device and troubleshoot it during the class. That seems to be the source of the problem.

      To offer another perspective, health care is stressful in a way that many other professions aren’t. If I need this device to do my job/communicate the inputs into the device to others in a timely manner, it’s not working properly (even if it’s my fault) a patient is not in good shape or an interaction has gone badly, quite frankly, I might be snippy with IT as well. I think the best solution to nip it in the bud is to train them on it to begin with. It’s really to everyone’s benefit if the technology is integral to their ability to care for patients accurately. And maybe even tell them that when they call IT they need to have at least tried to resolve it themselves with whatever basic steps you typically use first, but that’s a maybe depending on whether your employer would want that.

      1. TL -*

        This! Mandatory training would help a lot, and the hospital definitely has the infrastructure to do it. And if you can meet the nurses (I know there’s a lot of them, and probably not many IT people) but long-term, anything you can do to actually meet at least some nurses face-to-face (or mask to mask) and have a sympathetic conversations with facial expressions will help a lot.

        Once they feel like they know you (and hopefully your colleagues), the conversations will change from “My iPad is broken and it’s so frustrating to go through IT!” to, with any luck, “I’ll just call Lost Tech in IT, she’s really helpful.” Just switching the context from “calling help lines is really frustrating” to “I’m calling someone I have a good relationship with/comes highly recommended” will make the experience seem different for them, even if nothing about your script changes.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, some people are nicer to tech support if they’ve met them. Or if they think this particular member of tech support is high status somehow or if someone talks up the tech support person. I call those people snobs and/or jerks, but they’re out there.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree on mandatory training.

        Not the same but my older friend has some kind of device that is NOT intuitive to run. I had another friend who is retired IT look at it and she struggled with it also. There are no buttons anywhere. You are magically supposed to know to tap in a specific spot or it should be in your genes at birth to drag your finger. The gizmo came with absolutely NO instructions.

        People need orientation to a new device. This step cannot be skipped. If this step is skipped all kinds of problems flourish. Companies have no idea how much money they are losing by skipping this step. I remember at school you were supposed to learn all programs on the fly this included MS Office. Profs laughed at those who struggled. But when that same prof struggled with Dreamweaver that was a whole different story. It wasn’t fair, etc.

        No. Just no. People need orientation to their devices and programs, period.

        The nurses are displaying a helplessness that can be real or it might be a passive-aggressive behavior against a management that does not meet their needs adequately.

        One thing I will add from the advice receiver’s stand point: make sure that all the techs are telling people the same thing and giving reliable answers.
        This is a normal scenario for me:
        Them: You are getting a new computer that has 2 hard drives.
        Me: You gave me one last month, why do I have to get another?
        Them: No we didn’t.
        Me: Yeah. you did.
        [We argued and he finally agreed that I did have two hard drives.]

        Later I find another tech that understands I have two hard drives and we converse about things.

        Two years later I have to return the hard drives because I am ordered to get a new computer. By then we are back to me having one hard drive. Can I just say i am exhausted by all this?
        Them: No you only have one hard drive.

        I pop the cover off and sure enough there is two hard drives. I pop them out of the box put them into my shipping box and I sent back the two hard drives that “I did not have”.

        What I find objectionable is how strident people are in their disagreement. The 2 drive person was vehement= yes you have 2 drives. The 1 drive people were equally vehement- you have ONE drive.

        Try to realize that the conflicting information is very, very difficult to process. My current problem is getting a monitor.
        Them: Oh we don’t support monitors.
        Me: Then why did you give me the last two monitors if you don’t support them?

        In my mind, I just need to talk to a different tech to get the answer. I can hear the eye rolls in their speech when I say, well the last person I spoke with said x. “Well they never should have told you that!” How was I supposed to know what a tech should and should not say?

        They are not in sync with each other and the gap is HUGE. No one seems to understand this except for those on the recieving end.

    6. Curmudgeon in California*

      This environment really sounds like a toxic no-win scenario.

      I’ve been in support jobs where often very senior people didn’t really want to learn how to do stuff with my help, they wanted me to just drop whatever else I was doing and do a simple, common task for them that 99% of the people in the office could do. It’s why I won’t do first level Window support anymore – it’s not a good use of my time to come and do a few mouse clicks that they could easily do while they stand over me impatiently. Tech support isn’t supposed to be tech crutch forever, they’re supposed to help people fix problems, not do part of their work.

      The biggest red flag is the blatant lying and gaslighting. Tech support should not be a punching bag to that extent. Yes, I know that it is somewhat everywhere, but it shouldn’t be condoned by management to that extent.

      IMO, you need to find a place where people respect the fact that you are trying to help them, and that not everyone has the same skill level. You shouldn’t be the office punching bag.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        I have worked with many nurses and it can be a frustrating win experience. Many nurses feel that their job is the only important one and are arrogant to those whose help they need. Many are resistant to new tech, especially when they don’t understand it’s role in the accomplishment of their work, so they take it out on the help desk. Still other nurses are very narrow about what falls under their job description so they won’t even clear a paper jam in the copier that they caused.
        Then there are the lazy ones who just don’t want to learn anything new. I’m sorry Lost Tech, you sound like a great IT resource. I would be happy to have you on my team. I know you can’t change the nurses, getting management buy in on mandatory training sounds like the best way forward. Good luck.

  42. many bells down*

    Anyone else feel like WFH is eroding boundaries in really weird ways? Like, we’re seeing into each other’s homes all the time now and it’s gone into some weird beyond-professional-but-not-friends space. I feel like I’m too much in my coworkers’ lives now.

    Also I have weird guilt as I’m the most junior person on staff, both in position and tenure, and I have a really nice WFH setup. My boss has a small one-bedroom condo and she has to host public functions on Zoom from a recliner with her kitchen (and occasionally her spouse) in the background. I had both my adult kids move out before everything locked down, so I now have a complete home office in an extra bedroom.

    There’s no real REASON to feel guilty about that but I do? And my husband is the real breadwinner but he’s doing his meetings from the sofa because he’s more comfortable and i feel like he should have the office even though he doesn’t want it.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      I think you’re overthinking this. You are probably on calls with people who have multiple people in their home, kids, partners, other family members. Maybe their house is very nice, but the partner has the office and the kids are in another space and that’s why you get people working at their kitchen tables. One of the associate deans here makes at least double my salary and he’s working out of his dining room.

      If you’re self conscious about your space being nicer, what about a zoom background?

    2. Former Young Lady*

      Don’t feel guilt. You have my permission to feel a little bit of quiet pride that you’ve managed a nice setup! My husband has taken a few Zoom calls in the bathroom because they conflicted with the ones I was taking in our room. If your guy doesn’t want the office, and you like it, well…hey, that’s marriage, right? Same as divvying up household chores by whoever hates them less. You’re both winning bread and buttering it together, in the best way that works for you.

      We’re all doing what we can, and as long as you’re not smugly judging other people’s recliners, it’s OK to be pleased with your own surroundings.

      But you’re totally right — it’s making all the boundaries super weird. I like the metaphor of the blouse and blazer with pyjama bottoms: the world your colleagues can see right now is still the office, and everything else is still your home. My boss and her boss are both way too familiar with my cat’s butt now, and someone with an unmuted mic made a loud gassy noise during a best-practice roundtable the other day. It’s just life.

      1. many bells down*

        Yeah and I’m not like somehow immune to it; yesterday I took a Zoom call from a former (but she’s still on tap for an upcoming event) coworker and I was in a tank top in my hammock. My boss’ cat’s butt also makes regular appearances. Work meetings veer off-topic into our personal lives regularly now. Tuesday, my grandboss and I ended up the only two people at a small online event we host regularly – no one else showed up that night – and he drank martinis and we talked about our families. It was that or stare at each other for 30 minutes hoping someone else will show up.

  43. Pomegranate*

    Super low-stakes question, but this has been driving me batty lately.
    How do you handle it if a colleague frequently refers to you by the wrong title?
    A colleague in a different department frequently copies me on correspondence with grapefruit customers, and refers to me as the “Assistant to the Citrus Director” (which is not a role that even exists in our company!) . I’m the “Grapefruit Coordinator”. Right now, I’m just pointedly adding in my signature (with my correct title) when I respond.
    Should I just let it go, or handle it another way?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Can you just ask that colleague?

      “Hey, I noticed you keep referring to me as Assistant to the Citrus Director, but I’m actually the Grapefruit Coordinator. It’s not a big deal, but I’m just curious where that comes from.”

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I have a colleague who has done that to me twice in talking to people outside our company, using two different titles that aren’t mine and don’t exist at our company. Fortunately those titles would be promotions and I wish they were true, so I’m a little reluctant to correct him. :-) But I do, because if I let it stand and anyone refers to me later by either of those titles it might come across as puffery on my part. If you’re being misrepresented, I think it makes sense to clarify what your actual title is.

      So in the moment (or in the email reply), I just add in a mention of “my official title is X” wherever it makes sense to add as a clarification. If you think it would be odd or there’s not a natural opportunity to do so, using your signature block is good too. If it’s your first reply but you expect to become the point of contact in the future, you could add a specific note like “see my contact information below” to draw attention to the signature block.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      The sooner you speak up the less awkward this is. It’s when we let stuff like this go on and on that it gets hard.

      If you speak up and he refuses to change then there is not much you can do.
      You can, however, when introduced to others say, “Actually I am X not Y, but it is very nice to meet you.”

    4. Mints*

      I’d let it go. It’s super annoying but if he’s being appropriate in all other ways, it’s better to chalk it up as a quirk. Or if he’s being condescending in other ways, that’s a problem.

      I could see it being benign if the customer asked to talk to the Citrus Director, and he’s trying to convey that you work closely with them

    5. Potatoes gonna potate*

      It depends. I’m not sure if that’s your situation but, I managed a team whose primary function was bookkeeping and payroll.

      A colleague had mentioned “oh that’s Potato, she’s the bookkeeper” — I corrected htem immediately but in a light tone, “oh I’m actually manager of the team!” But if it kept happening and it was with a tone of “she’s just the bookkeeper” I’d bristle very much at that as bookkeeping is traditionally seen as a junior role occupied by women whereas a manager is a “male” and it would be diminishing my role and authority.

    6. BuildMeUp*

      I wouldn’t count on most people to read your email signature, honestly. I would just cheerfully/politely say, “Oh, I’m actually the Grapefruit Coordinator! It’s great to meet you,” or something similar at the beginning of the email, replying all so your colleague is included.

      If that doesn’t get your colleague to stop, I would reach out to them directly and politely say something like, “Just wanted to clarify, my job title is Grapefruit Coordinator. I want to make sure customers don’t get confused!”

  44. EnfysNest*

    Drama today! I work for a hospital. Someone in our housekeeping department just tried to send an All-Employee email saying “I’m stepping up and taking charge. Masks are no longer required unless you are within 3′ of a patient,” and rambling on some more. He actually included his social media information (where he has himself listed as a “Public Figure” and posts conspiracy stuff). He sent the email to the All Employees email address and added the director’s email specifically.

    The thing is, most employees don’t actually have access to send to the All-Employee email group, to prevent nonsense like this, so only the director actually saw the email – the server didn’t let it go to anyone else, even though the address bar still showed the group as included. The rest of us only saw the email when the director promptly responded with a brief and diplomatic email of his own simply saying that masks are in fact required at all times. But since the director sent that as a reply-all, that actually provided everyone else the original email as well, so we got to see it in all of its rambling, conspiracy theory glory.

    Within 15 minutes, the director had recalled his own message and there are no longer any traces on our email server, but we definitely already had people in my section print it out to pass around incredulously. Not sure what prompted this guy to send out an email like that (although I’m going to speculate it was likely just in response to being corrected for not wearing his own mask), but I don’t think it was a good career choice. Just sayin’. :P

      1. Nessun*

        Came here to say just that! I had an awesome boss years ago who was very fond of cautioning people, “That sounds a lot like a CLM…might want to rethink it”

    1. WellRed*

      Hopefully his presence is no longer required at work. Not only overstepping, but overstepping with regard to PATIENT HEALTH AND SAFETY! my god!

    2. Marthooh*

      By the authority vested in me as a Public Figure(TM), I hereby declare and ordain your coworker to be a complete nitwit.

    3. JustaTech*

      Dude. There’s the kind of disconnect from reality that gets you not invited to dinner (that one cousin who insists on talking about aliens controlling the weather every single time you get together), and then there’s the kind of disconnect that says “I can not be trusted to do my job correctly”.

      Wow.

      1. EnfysNest*

        Yup – in a previous office, I did have a coworker who liked to warn everyone about the way that billboards are used to send out mind control waves to drivers. Still strange, but at least that guy wasn’t advocating putting anyone at a direct health risk like this guy. *sigh*

      2. designbot*

        Not just that but “I cannot be trusted to know what is my job and what is someone else’s,” and “I cannot be trusted to rely on factual information,” with a side of, “I cannot be trusted to put prioritize patient safety.” WOW.

    4. 30 Years in the Biz*

      Thank you for the story, amazing and scary!
      Someone at my last Fortune 100 Biotech/Pharm company sent the “$250 Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe” to EVERYONE, including the CEO back east and all the foreign offices. Don’t know how this happened, but it was back in the 1990’s so maybe they couldn’t control it. They later corrected this gap. They also corrected the ability of the “All Employees” group to view and book seats on the corporate jet schedule :)

    5. Sara without an H*

      Why, oh why, do I think there will soon be a vacancy in your housekeeping department???

  45. Elle*

    Good morning, and happy Friday!
    I was having an interesting conversation with a co-worker today about what makes someone a good manager, and it made me start thinking about it some more. I thought I’d throw it out to anyone who might like to chime in – what are some qualities/characteristics do you appreciate in a good manager? Thanks!

    1. Book Pony*

      One that doesn’t micromanage, for starters. That actually takes the time to commit to diversity and inclusion. What else…a boss that encourages professional development. A boss with critical thinking skills and active listening. A big thing for me is a boss that doesn’t just pay lip service to being respectful and understanding of disabled folx, but actually engages(employs? utilizes? enforces? the verb is escaping me ugh) with working them and making a healthy culture.

      Otherwise you end up with my job where they say they care about disabled folx, but then question why you take days off, and the office sends out a memo reminding people not to pester people about their disabilities. >_>

      1. Pamela Adams*

        I do have boss who has micromanagey attacks. Luckily, she’s excellent in all of the other areas you cited, and we are a pretty independent group, so sometimes we just put up with it.,

    2. Nessun*

      Someone who explains why they’re taking the actions they’re taking, or why the processes we’re following are laid out that way, whenever possible. Knowing how to do a thing is great for the current moment – knowing why is better for long-term growth and understanding of the market/environment/company thinking.

    3. Anono-me*

      Knowing people’s names. Saying please and thank you because it’s polite and because confident of your Authority.

    4. allathian*

      A good manager should:
      -be professional
      -be friendly but not a friend
      -respect boundaries
      -treat employees fairly and equitably, although not necessarily exactly in the same way, someone may need accommodation
      -be open to feedback from their subordinates, even if they sometimes have to make unwelcome decisions
      -be able to tolerate uncertainty and that sometimes their subordinates don’t like the decisions they’re making
      -be able to work with people from diverse backgrounds and willing to hire employees who are different from themselves
      -recognize that employees are human and that sometimes work can’t come first
      -be able to make hard decisions when an employee is not working out
      -doesn’t micromanage unless it’s absolutely necessary (entry-level employee who’s new to the workforce, employee who’s on a PIP where appropriate)

      All of the above also require a functional organization. Even a good manager can’t do their best job if they don’t have the support from higher in the org or if the org is dysfunctional. Being a manager is a tough job and not one that I’d want to do.

  46. Apologizing at work*

    I’m a woman with 20 years of experience in IT. There are a lot of articles about women softening their message in the work place. So I’ve been trying to apologize less in life in general and especially at work but it is difficult!

    Ex
    Sorry, I didn’t hear what you said. zoom froze. Can you please repeat?
    Sorry I didn’t see your email or it may not have been received. Can you please resend?
    Sorry I may have misunderstood. Would you like us to do x or y?

    Anyone have any success stories on how to stop apologizing so much?

    Thanks

    1. Book Pony*

      I usually replace “sorry” with “hey, so” or “so”.

      Ex: Hey, so I didn’t hear what you said. Zoom froze.

      From there you can usually work to remove the “hey so/so” from the start so that there’s less apologizing.

      1. Circe*

        I really love that you found a middle step for this, instead of cutting out apologizing language cold turkey. I’ve always struggled with being concerned that people would notice a radical change in my tone if I did something like this.

      2. Enough*

        How about replacing sorry with the person’s name? Joe, I didn’t/couldn’t hear what you said. Zoom failed.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, you are going to establish more authority for yourself if you stop apologizing so much. On the other hand, many women are raised to apologize, so it seems women are being penalized for just doing what they’ve been taught to do. And maybe some men should apologize more. Why does what men consider the norm mean that women have to conform to that norm to be taken seriously?

      Just my opinion, but I don’t see anything wrong (maybe your co-workers do?) with the examples you gave:
      Sorry, I didn’t hear what you said. zoom froze. Can you please repeat?
      Sorry I didn’t see your email or it may not have been received. Can you please resend?
      Sorry I may have misunderstood. Would you like us to do x or y?

      These all just seem like… being polite?

      Do you apologize (not using the word Sorry but actually saying “I did something wrong”) for things that aren’t your fault? I would find that a lot more worrying.

      1. Reba*

        The third example is the only one that I think may be problematic… in that “may have misunderstood” can be code for when someone else made a mistake but you are trying to be gracious by taking it on yourself. But like, if you misunderstood, I don’t see it as weakening your position to acknowledge that.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, I always do that to give an out so it doesn’t appear that I’m accusing somebody of something. Has that hurt my career? I don’t know. But I’ve felt fine about it. And, yes, it isn’t just giving an out—I’m human (as we all are), so it’s very possible I might have misunderstood, so it’s okay to mention that possibility.

    3. CM*

      You’re already saying “please” so you don’t need the sorry too. Just delete the “sorry” and keep the rest.

      Zoom froze and I didn’t hear what you said. Can you please repeat?
      I didn’t see your email, would you mind resending?
      I’m not sure I understood. Would you like us to do X or Y?

    4. TL -*

      I’ve just decided that “sorry” is not the battle I’m going to fight. I use it as a softener and it’s helpful and it’s not the hill I’m dying on.

      Hills I am dying on:
      1) I’m not taking on admin tasks because I’m female. We have an admin for those; she’s excellent at her job. I am not, nor do I have any intention of developing that skillset. I’m willing to take the silent disappointment and judgment when I don’t excel at or don’t volunteer for admin tasks. I’m really good at my actual job, which is not that.
      2) I’m not cleaning up after others because I’m female (I’ll help if the male:female ratio of volunteers is equal. Otherwise, my gender is well-represented, thanks.) I do clean up after myself.
      3) I’m not letting others dismiss me because I’m female. I’ve claimed some areas of responsibility because I have the needed expertise and others don’t and my boss pretty much decided “it’s easier to let you run this than to manage multiple back-and-forths.” I’m good at my job and I work hard to own that.
      4) I’d rather err by speaking up too much and learning to speak less than never speaking up and having to fight to be heard at all. (I’d much rather be perfect on this, but alas, it’s unlikely to happen.)

      If sorry is a big deal to you, than it’s absolutely fine to make it the hill you want to die on. For me, I have to do a lot of asks for people who are senior to me and if sorry helps, I’ll use it. There’s a lot of battles to fight in the feminism front and it’s absolutely okay to focus on the ones that are important to you.

      1. Taniwha Girl*

        Great framing. I’m not worried about saying “like” too much or vocal fry either.

    5. Llama face!*

      I smiled a little because all the examples you gave are just normal language in “Canadian”. But one alternative I like to use when I find myself “sorry-ing” too much us to replace it with “I’m afraid (that)”. Like so:
      I’m afraid that I didn’t hear what you said. zoom froze. Can you please repeat?
      I’m afraid I didn’t see your email or it may not have been received. Can you please resend?

      For the communication one where it is the other person’s error, I might use passive voice if I didn’t want to point out blame:
      There must have been a misunderstanding. Would you like us to do x or y?

      1. Mints*

        +1 I’ve thought about this a lot and I really prefer the female-coded language; I think everyone sounds nicer when it’s a female majority space. The problem is when others see you as a push over for saying “Sorry, I didn’t hear what you said. zoom froze. Can you please repeat?”

        I’m slightly older now where I can feel I don’t have to police my language as strictly, AND I work in a female majority space so it’s very common.

        Although when I was younger I taught myself to say “Apologies” instead of “Sorry” because it was slightly more formal and it only seemed warranted if I was really apologizing. Otherwise I would skip it.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t see a problem with your examples.

      Where I’d see a problem is if a woman apologizes if a man drops his own pen. why-why-why.
      Or if a woman apologizes for anything that is not under her watch, such as Sue’s failure to return a phone call or Bob’s bypassing a deadline.

      There are other times where sorry can be modified. So “I’m sorry” turns into something more specific:
      “I am sorry to hear you had bad news regarding X.”
      or you can say
      “I was saddened to hear you had bad news regarding X.”
      Or
      “That is too bad about the news regarding X.”

      I think the most important thing is to ask yourself if something is under your control or not. Don’t apologize for things you cannot control. If that feels awkward to you, you can decide to reframe: “Yeah, this snow made the driving really bad. I hope you don’t have any more problems today.” This could replace, “I am sorry you had a difficult drive in to work.”

      1. RagingADHD*

        But “sorry you had a bad drive” isn’t an apology. It’s an expression of sympathy.

        Surely nobody thinks “I was sorry to hear your dad died” is an apology? Like, that you’re confessing to murder?

        If someone is working this hard to eliminate a common word that has multiple meanings, then I’d suggest the word is not the problem. And tying one’s self into a knot to avoid it isn’t going to improve self-esteem or authority. It’s just going to sound wierdly stilted and awkward.

    7. A Person*

      I think a lot of this depends on the culture you have / the culture at work as well as how often you say “Sorry”. If you’re someone who *always* adds “Sorry” in front then I suggest what another commenter said and dropping the “Sorry” occasionally.

      As for how, I do a lot of email / chat communication and found it MUCH easier to practice removing softening language there first to get myself into the habit as well as to make sure I’m not overcorrecting. I’m a manager so when I newly assigning asks an example might be (exaggerated for effect):

      * I’m thinking it might be best to do task X before Y if that’s okay with you
      * Do task X before task Y
      * Please do task X before task Y, stakeholders need it today

      Personally I’ve spent a lot more time on things like the above and not wrapping my expert opinions in modifiers (to this day I often edit myself from “X might be best” to “X is best in my experience” or something else more definitive).

      1. tangerineRose*

        When a manager tells me what order to do things in, I prefer the 3rd option – it’s very clear and includes the deadline. Option 1 is too open. Option 2 doesn’t tell me when it’s needed by.

    8. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      There was an article I saw a year or two ago about replacing “sorry” with “thanks” – eg “sorry I’m late” becomes “thanks for your patience”, and “sorry for my error” becomes “thanks for picking that up.” It’s intended to reframe the same communication more positively. A friend and I made a deliberate effort to reprogram our language and although it’s sometimes unnatural it does seem to make a difference. It was tough because we’re British so “sorry” is pretty much half our vocabulary ;)

      I also like LlamaFace’s suggestion to substitute in “I’m afraid”. I think there’s plenty of options for softening language which don’t sound like apologies.

      It means you save “sorry” for when you’re actually sorry.

      I think the rewording additionally helps to support assumptions of best efforts and cooperation.

      1. allathian*

        “Sorry I’m late” is OK, I think, if you’re late because it’s your own fault. As in, you forgot you had a meeting scheduled and stepped away from your computer just long enough to miss the calendar notification. If you’re having technical problems or you’re delayed on your way to a meeting at the office by someone very high in the org chart or you see someone you’ve been trying to get ahold of for a while, “thanks for your patience” is a great way to put it.

    9. Sleeplessinseattle*

      I think you can omit the “sorry” from any of those examples and the message would be kept, so that sounds great! I try to lead with the ask and then go for the explanation, which removes the tic of starting with “sorry.”

      For example:
      Could you please repeat? My zoom froze and I couldn’t hear what you said.
      Can you resend your email? I must not have seen it, or maybe it wasn’t received.
      Would you like us to do x or y? I may have misunderstood your proposal.

      This keeps the meaning but there’s a less obvious place for the apology. And you can still be disarming when giving the explanation to help the request along.

  47. Book Pony*

    An update for anyone who’s interested: I emailed the place I applied at and it turns out they’re in the middle of a hiring freeze. Apparently the manager thought HR had told me and didn’t want to send duplicate emails. (This also explains the tarot cards I kept getting, lol) Hopefully the hiring freezes will end once our state’s budget gets signed by the Governor.

    In other good news, things have improved for me at my current job. My coworkers still want to go back to the office (and seem confused as to why people want to socially distance themselves), but thankfully we’re all still working from home with no sign of that changing anytime soon. This is also petty, but I am very amused at my boss making a mistake that is entirely not my fault because they forgot to do something. Heheheheh

    Happy Juneteenth!

  48. blepkitty*

    So…more updates to my work situation regarding coworkers jumping in to “train” me how to do things I already know whenever I do work they dislike, without seeking to figure out what I do and don’t understand first.

    I’ve come to understand, finally, approximately what they expect me to do, and multiple ways in which I was doing things differently that might’ve confused them. That’s good! Great, even! I might be able to meet expectations in the future. imho their methods are overkill for a lot of situations, but I’ll give it time to see if I can learn to live with them.

    The problems now are that Jane doesn’t seem to understand my explanations, and also that her trainings continue, still without clear goals and often in a manner I find humiliating, and full of questions that make it clear that Jane still thinks I’m an idiot (or that she thinks any one mistake I make is a pattern instead of an individual mistake). For example, she had me do an assignment to use their methods to redo some work I’d done in the past that she wasn’t happy with. I went through and did it. Then she wanted me to highlight the differences, and in class asked what I learned from the exercise. Literally the only thing I learned is how they do things, which I said, but she seemed to expect more revelations than that, based on all the things she “taught” me last week that I already knew.

    So now I would like to address some of this at my next standing meeting with my boss. The problem is that I’m not sure what’s necessary to bring up and what’s just BEC material, so can anyone suggest which of these to leave off?
    a. Explaining to boss the differences in what I *was* doing vs this company’s methods, because I’m pretty sure she’s hearing something different from Jane.
    b. Asking that she assist me in getting Jane to state objectives/ELOs for all future trainings and assignments so that I have clear expectations and know how the outcomes will be evaluated.
    c. Asking that Jane and I both complete some training on communication. (Boss recently assigned a course for a group of employees including me but not Jane; I want something more in depth but think Jane could benefit even from the short one.) Jane, for the record, is always insanely busy. I’m also starting to suspect that she’s on the spectrum.

    Any other advice would be appreciated. I’m in incredibly poor mental health this week after a family crisis and know my perspective is skewed as a result. (I promise I have started seeing a therapist!)

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      Just read your last 2 posts also. Feedback on your discussion topics

      a. Unless you already known the answer, a more productive way to reframe this might be ‘Often Jane corrects me when I do something a different way than she trained me but the result is the same. In my role is it more important for me to do something a specific way, or to get to the right outcome?’ Who knows, maybe your boss will say they need you to do something the company’s way.

      b. Do you ask Jane before the trainings what the objectives are? What does she say? Can you tag your manager in as those happen? Rinse, repeat. As a manager I would appreciate ‘What’s the goal of this specific training? I don’t understand Jane’s answer’ over ‘Can you help me make Jane do this?’ at least the first few times. For what you wrote about last week, it is OK to keep saying ‘I don’t understand’ until she says something that makes sense. If she consistently responds inappropriately, then you go back to your boss and say something like ‘Can you help me understand what you’re looking for from me here? I asked Jane and she said xyz.’

      c. I don’t think communication training is in your purview to suggest as a new employee. I could be wrong though. Anyway after you take the training, you could say, that was really helpful and I think that everyone at the company could benefit

      1. blepkitty*

        Thank you so much!

        re: a. They do expect me to do things using this company’s methods. That much is at least very clear. I come from a subfield with a fairly regimented set of methods, but Jane does not, and the company includes both my subfield and several others. The result is that their methods are so far from what I’ve been doing, it’s like…I don’t know, being an American and saying “fanny” to a British person. Everyone THINKS we’re on the same page and then it turns out we’re reeeeeeeeally not.

        b. With Jane, I’ve been trying to get objectives for her assignments out of her, and it’s like pulling nails. She misinterprets or dodges the question nearly every time, or tells me it’s not that serious (and then in the trainings insists on how important what she’s going over is). The problem is that my boss likes to chalk up miscommunications to email, so I’m afraid CC’ing her will lead to instructions to bring these things up via phone instead. Phone isn’t any better.

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          Oh by tag in your boss I meant you could bump the question to them instead – I can’t figure out the objective of this training, can you clarify to help me better understand? But it sounds like your boss is also not helpful

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I can’t tell but you may work for a rigid, anal company that sees only one way of doing things.

      I worked for one of these places once. And if I happened to mention there was another way to do something the listener would go into meltdown. I mean totally fall apart. NO! This cannot possibly be done another way! NO!

      My best advice is do things their way. Just resign yourself to doing it. Once you get out of training perhaps you can change back or fight to change the systems.
      It boils down to “do I want the job or no?”. At that company I did a bunch of things the slow, stupid way long enough to get out of training. Once out of training and established, all of the sudden I had a bunch of good ideas. (sigh they were the same ideas as before.)

      Please don’t diagnose people. This will save your own peace of mind. Whatever hurdles they face, you will have your own set, too. That is because we all have some type of hurdle to some degree. To them you appear to be unwilling to accept company methods. Remember that. Hold on to how you appear to others. A person in training is just supposed to absorb and absorb, they are not supposed to redesign the wheel.
      I hope you see that I am meaning in this in the context of keeping the job. Things can look better once training is passed.

      I feel your frustration. But I tend to think that you could accidentally be making the training take longer. And you could be driving her repetitiveness with out even realizing. It might be a good plan to repeat back to her some of things she has said, so she sees that you have absorbed what she has said. Yes, even if she is wrong, just give it back to her to show you know.

      So training at my old place was similar to what you show here. Once I got out of training they pretty much forgot me. Well, they forgot everyone eventually. That was how they trained, they did an information dump and then left you alone for the rest of your time with the company.
      Hang tough and decide to fix problems later. Meanwhile they are paying you to listen to some one repeat themselves.

      1. blepkitty*

        Okay, but I’ve accepted the company methods! The problem is basically that I can’t tell if *they* can tell that I’ve accepted the company methods, or even if I’m really doing them correctly, and I’m worried that they’re going to fire me over this. And Jane keeps deciding that I don’t know really basic parts of doing my job (“Did you never search Cuzco’s Dictionary of Llama Grooming Terminology at your prior jobs?” when in fact I’ve written an entry or two for the current edition of Cuzco’s Dictionary and search it all the time), which could hurt me if she passes them on to my boss.

        Also, this training comes after several months of being left to do work on my own, so I’m pretty concerned that I’ve managed to be doing things incorrectly still and want to be sure that I do get things right in the future. The problem is that this information dump method of training is not very useful when the information they’re dumping on me isn’t the information I actually need to do the job, and they don’t give me the answers I need when I ask.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Collect up several examples of where they have failed to answer your questions and go to your boss with a concerned tone.
          If the conversation goes well then you can add in things like they don’t seem to understand that you use Cuzco’s dictionary regularly. Tell the boss that you are concerned if too many of these misunderstandings are noted, your work would be misrepresented and in turn you are worried you will lose your job.

  49. Mimmy*

    Jobs and cross-country transitions – preliminary job search planning

    So there’s a good chance that my husband and I will be moving within the next year from the East Coast to the Southwest. Nothing is set in stone but I wouldn’t be surprised if things start happening soon after my husband’s job finishes August 31. My husband grew up in the Southwest and he’s told himself he’d move back out there once his job was done. It’ll be a big change for me as I’ve lived in the East my entire life. I am perfectly fine with this change though as I’m ready for a change of environment.

    One thing I’m a little worried about is my job prospects. Right now, I’m getting a second Masters with the hope of entering a career in higher education accessibility, ideally starting with coordinating student accommodations but I have other options in mind. There are a gazillion schools in the East (NJ, NY, PA, etc etc) to choose from. It seems the Southwest doesn’t have as many (NM, AZ, southwest TX). I am open to other organizations. One caveat: I do not drive. I’m hoping that some schools and organizations will have WFH options. Also, yes, I will look at transportation options.

    I am looking for suggestions and insights. I do recognize that I’m getting myself into a potential pickle, so I’m also open to reality checks. I promise that I will keep my options open and discuss everything with my husband. I also will be sure to look for contacts in the areas that we’re looking to move.

    1. JJ*

      Depending on where you are, there may not be much in the way of public transportation options. It’s insanely hard to live in Texas, for instance, without driving. I don’t know if this is “I don’t drive” or “I can’t drive”, but I’d look into getting some lessons once you relocate. I work at a college and being onsite w/the students (normally, at least), is very important.

  50. voyager1*

    Hey All,
    Looking at changing careers next year. I am looking at two fields:
    1. Financial Planner
    2. Real Estate Agent

    Do we have anyone in the house who has done either that would like to drop some knowledge or experiences?

    I have about 15 years experience in back office bank operations… just for context from where I am coming from.

    1. pancakes*

      I don’t work in either industry but it seems like it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with the licensing requirements applicable to each in your area — would you need to or want to take FINRA Series 6 & Series 7 exams, etc.

    2. Kimmybear*

      I don’t work as either but lived with a Financial Advisor. His job was mostly sales and very little actual financial planning. Long hours. Both fields are commission based. Not something I could do but works for many people. The exams are definitely something to think about. Ultimately are you looking to work for a company or strike out on your own?