open thread – June 26-27, 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.

{ 1,239 comments… read them below }

  1. But Is this Legal?*

    Most of my company(95%) is still working remotely due to COVID. They said anyone working in a NY or PA office needs to bill our time to our company office location even if we are working remotely in another state. This obviously has tax implications as many people’s company office is in NYC but they are working in more rural areas. Is this legal? Wasn’t sure if there is a COVID adjustment in place.

    1. BigSigh*

      My work is doing the same. My understanding was the people currently working in different states than their office haven’t moved to these new states. They’re there temporarily, and so still have a home address in the original state where the office is. I don’t know a lot of the legal stuff, but I assumed it didn’t matter as long as they had the original address.

      1. Just J.*

        +1. I’ve had this come up before when working remotely. It’s an accounting and tax thing. Check with your accounting office.

        1. But Is this Legal?*

          For background, 80% of my firm travels every week to client sites and is required to bill their time to the physical location they are working out of(not the main office they technically are assigned to) so that’s where the confusion has come from.

          1. Five After Midnight*

            Right, but you’re not traveling now. NY in particular considers working-from-home the same as working in the office (in other words you cannot avoid NY state income tax by WFH from another state (say, NJ) if your permanent office assignment is in NY). There is a very good comment about nexus below, and the reason you are asked to use your permanent office location is to maintain the existing nexus instead of creating a new one since the situation is temporary.

            1. But Is this Legal?*

              Ok thank you, this makes sense. My friends at other firms were told to bill from the residence they were working out of and I wasn’t finding anyone else experiencing this. Very much appreciated!

            2. Gaia*

              So this isn’t exactly correct. My company is based in NYC. I work remotely from thousands of miles away. I don’t pay NY income tax and have no obligation to do so. The difference is OPs job is not considered permanently remote from another state.

              I do suspect this is going to create a mess come tax season if guidance isn’t issued.

              1. Five After Midnight*

                The fact that your company is in NYC does not matter. What matters is, as you say, your permanent office station (which I didn’t make clear in my earlier post). If you are a permanently remote worker a thousands miles away, then, no, you don’t pay NY state taxes, because your “normal office” is not in NY. On the other hand, if you are permanently assigned by your company to a NYC office and are required to be there even occasionally, then you are a NY state employee (resident if you live in NY state or non-resident if you don’t) and NY will claim its share of income taxes. It gets even more complex if you travel on business on regular basis, because you *may* be liable for income taxes to other states where you work. For example, if your “normal office” is outside of NY state but your work at your company’s NYC headquarters more that 14 days a year, then, *technically*, you are subject to NY state income taxes and you need to apportion your income on IT-203. Now, take a wild guess at how many employers and employees actually follow this particular reporting requirement…

    2. Lifelong student*

      Generally speaking, having an employee located in another state, gives the employer nexus in that state. This affects tax reporting for both the employer and employee. Even temporary work in another state by an employee can require tax reporting. However, during the pandemic, some states have suspended the nexus issue for employees working in other states. YMMV

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Usually you have to work out of state for a set number of hours, so there’s that. And I’m sure they’re waiving nexus in a lot of cases given the pandemic has forced people to work from home when they’re not setup for that in general.

      Now if they were to allow people to go to WFH permanently I’m sure their home states wouldn’t appreciate being cut out of the tax loop.

      So it’s possibly a super gray area where some states are fine with it and some states will want to eat someone’s face for their money. I don’t know enough to really say legal vs illegal. There’s too many state executive orders and adjustments to know without lots of information and research and most likely a lawyer TBH.

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        Related question, how do I find out which states those are and how many hours?
        I’ve seen several articles floating around about how spending time in other states during the pandemic can cause potential tax issues for both me and my employer, but I don’t know how to figure out just what those parameters are, or if they’ll be waiving them due to the pandemic.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You want to look into each specific state, I’d try a state’s DOR or DOL page to start with!

          Honestly I think a lot of folks are just flying by the seat of their pants now and are doing what works to keep the business going. They’ll figure out the tax implications later. Also states have to start coming for people and in this kind of atmosphere, good luck with them sorting out all that mess!

    4. Jaimie the B*

      Yes its legal. It is kind of dependent on state and your company’s policies. I work for a huge (100k) firm, and this is our policy for employees aligned to our New York Office even if they work elsewhere.

  2. wondering aloud*

    I knew petty things like this would happen with Covid19 but have no idea how to handle this.  Everyone is getting upset and frustrated.  I work for an essential  business.  About 99% of the staff was able to work from home.  About 10 of us had a deadline that wasn’t being moved and we ended up having to come in the office during our State’s lockdown.  Every precaution was taken based on guidelines from numerous medical resources.  We feel safe.    Please don’t get me wrong that the whole company has been a team effort to keep things running smoothly. 

    I will say though with things opening up again there is a friendly disagreement between those of us that have had to come into the office versus those who have worked home.  The 10 of us have gotten into a comfortable pattern of social distancing and figuring out how to social distance in smaller areas.   Now that we are reopening the company has listed a set of stricter rules such as in certain areas preferably no more than 1 person in the room at a time however if need be at least 15 feet between each person in the room; Masks must be worn at all times when anywhere outside of your private office, use hand sanitizer entering and leaving any area, etc.   

    Recently I had to grab a file and someone was making copies in the same room.   I asked if they were going to be long, they responded about 20 minutes. They would not leave the copier.   I had to grab as a department head needed some information while on a conference call.  My coworker and I were about 30 feet apart.  I informed the person I needed to grab something.  My feet literally did not leave the hallway, I stretched out and grabbed the file, mask was on, hand sanitizer was used….   This resulted in me getting reamed out and shouted at by this person for 20 minutes and that I was the most selfish person in the world.  This person went on and on how they had been quarantining and weren’t going to get sick by someone who had been out in public.  I was flabbergasted and on the verge of tears.  I apologized.  Pointed out that I followed all appropriate procedures.   Trying to defend myself just lead to more and more yelling.  My boss said I did everything correctly.  There was no need for me to apologize, but now this person is giving me the cold sholder and will not even talk with me on projects where we need to use the same sources.  What should I have done?  I’m not the only one this is happening to.  It feels like us 10 against the world. 

    1. Dave*

      I am not saying you did anything wrong but one thought would be to say you urgently needed a file and ask to grab it or have them grab and put it in the hallway for you. Different people have different stress levels regarding this right now and I think there is some adjustment to finding everyone’s stress level so you have a better way to handle it. For those you know are extremely stressed a kid glove approach might be helpful in managing relationships with some co-workers.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        It’s on those people just as much to figure out how to manage their stress without abusing people around them. They can’t have everything their way in all instances.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          Thank you, I could not agree more. While it’s true we’re all under a lot of stress, I feel like the current pandemic is too often being used as an excuse to throw normal social rules out the window. It has always been the case that your stress–from ANY cause–does not give you a license to abuse me. Nothing about that has changed.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            I think some people are feeling way more stressed than most and sometimes it explodes out. I stay home as much as possible and we’re WFH for the foreseeable future, so I’m not likely to experience an episode like this one, but when I do go out I see that more people are just wiggy. Not saying “Oh well, that’s just the way it is now so suck it up,” it was totally wrong. But I’m now keeping emotional as well as physical distance because of social distance vigilantes who are really people who are just losing it.

      2. kt*

        Ironically, it sounds like if the coworker had grabbed the file and put it in the hallway, their distance would have decreased from 30 feet to 7 or 10. Sure, if that makes the coworker “feel safer”, I guess….

      3. Senor Montoya*

        Yes. Just because YOU are comfortable doesn’t mean everyone is. For all you know they have a family member in a high risk group.

        I do think it’s on EVERYONE to try to find ways to be kind and helpful. If your colleague (who I assume was not one of the comfortable 10?) seemed stressed, then take a minute to find a solution that kept you out of the room.

        1. Can Can Cannot*

          As long as the OP was at least 15 feet from the other person, they were in the right. If the other person doesn’t agree with the rules, they should probably stay home.

        2. tangerineRose*

          The colleague could have offered to leave the room while you grabbed the file. Did the colleague understand that this was urgent? Either way, the screaming was not acceptable.

        3. Observer*

          If the other person was not leaving shortly, what exactly was the OP to do? Magic is not something we actually have access to. Nor does anyone have the power to move things with their minds.

          Personal comfort is not the appropriate measure to gauge if someone’s behavior is medically appropriate. And if you are going to talk about being kind, it’s pretty obvious that the OP was trying to be considerate. The coworker, on the other hand, was neither kind nor even reasonable.

        4. Saberise*

          She was 30 feet from her. And the work around was she did not go in the room. She reached in and grabbed it. Only mistake I can see she made was allowing the person ream her out for 20 minutes.

    2. Buttons*

      You did everything correctly, they were a jerk. Let them give you the cold shoulder it reflects on them, not you.

      1. Artemesia*

        Since you needed the file right away, it was up to that person to move out of the room if she was uncomfortable with you getting the file.

    3. Just J.*

      IMHO, I think you were fine. I think everyone is stressed out and worried. Everyone is allowed to feel their feelings and it’s okay to be stressed out and worried. What you do with your feelings is another matter. Being yelled at for 20 minutes is not fine. No matter what. I am glad you took it to your boss. They are now aware of the other person’s reaction. If the person continues to give you the cold shoulder, then take that to your boss as well.

    4. Mama Bear*

      It sounds overblown. I wonder if this is that person’s anxiety about being back in the office showing. In the first weeks under new rules everyone here was on edge. There were people apologizing for going the wrong way on stairs and it took some time to get used to the new normal. If your boss says you were fine, then try to let it go. I hope that person chills out. The fact that they won’t talk to you now is something to address with them and if you get no traction, to your boss. They can be upset that you reached for the file, but not speaking to you about work products is a whole other ball of wax and needs to be addressed. Honestly, you and the other 9 had to work in an office when this person got to spend time at home. They’re lucky the 10 of you aren’t more upset about having to come in.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Did your boss speak to them? However stressed they were, shouting at you, especially for so long, is totally unacceptable and it would be reasonable for you to ask that they are spoken to to make it clear to them that their behavior isn’t OK.
      It may be that they need to have someone in authority speak to them and make sure that they understand the procedures your office has in place, and that they cannot behave that way towards other staff members.
      I think that it is also worth raising with your manager that this is not an isolated incident, and ask whether they can perhaps address the wider problem to ensure that you and your coworkers are not treated in that way in future.

      It was nice of you to apologize, but not necessary – you didn’t do anything wrong.

    6. WellRed*

      Well one thing would have been to walk away rather than stand there and be abused for 20 minutes. Since your company can obviously do mostly WFH, they should have kept doing it, so I would mention this to HR or whoever and make sure there are rules in place, etc etc for everyone to follow or that people who are this anxious can continue to WFH.

      1. Mama Bear*

        I agree that if they ever do that again, say you’re sorry – quickly and once – and walk away.

    7. Thankful for AAM*

      You and the 10 staff who came in first are an “island.” You have a whole ecosystem that has had to change now that you are back on the mainland, or the mainland came to you.

      I actually took a class in college that explored the “island” mentality so I am excited to use the idea now! Lol.

      I think you are expecting everyone new to the office to have got past the initial stage of how does this COVID thing work. We had a smaller staff at first, I was part of it, and we had a steep learning curve. I spoke to my managers because I knew the learning curve for the rest of the staff would be steep and I did not want 1. to be exposed (again) as everyone figured out how to function, and 2. To have the kinds of irritations and frustrations you experienced as the newbies and islanders clashed.

      My org did take a few steps (mostly emails about it) to make the learning curve visible, tell us what to expect from each other, etc. I did find it helped.

      1. MyCorona*

        Your management/HR need to have a meeting/email sent to the group regarding how this is The New Normal discussing people’s fears/anxieties surrounding returning to the workplace and what is considered appropriate at work (note: what your coworker did wasn’t appropriate). I get it – everyone is stressed and anxious and scared now, especially with coming back to the office. But, each person coming back needs to learn how to better manage their emotions because things like this could have unintended consequences. Expectations from management HR need to be clearly communicated for all to see.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      They reacted inappropriately. Unless they’re much much senior to me, feel free to cut her off. “Please don’t yell at me. I followed company policy. Let me deliver this file to $CompanyDirector, and then we can both go discuss it with $MyBoss.”
      As for her no longer collaborating, look through Alison’s archives — she’s had letters on the same subject in the years before covid.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        I’d remove the ‘please’. “Don’t speak to me that way again.” You don’t need to explain yourself.

    9. digital nativeish*

      Your coworker reminds me of the drivers who slow down to yell at me about slowing them down when I ride my bike. If they’re worried about covid, yelling at you for 20 minutes (yikes) only increases chances of transmitting it.
      I mean, I would have asked if you needed something if I was going to be at the copier that long and figured it out. And refusing to talk to you even now? Way out of line.
      Maybe you could have announced that you were grabbing something real quick, but honestly I’m not sure that would’ve helped with this person. It’s not you; it’s them.

    10. Seraphim*

      I’ve bought a house using it and am selling a house using it. In fact, I just used it today for something else. Signers receive notification of it being signed as well as a link to the signed doc.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      I think that this is a management issue. People need to be told that screaming at each other will NOT be tolerated. Twenty minute tirades are over the top and totally unacceptable.

      Her reaction here says she believes Covid only goes one way from YOU to HER. But that is not how viruses work. Using HER criteria here, she was equally at risk of infecting YOU. I guess she skipped that part.

      Next time the screaming starts, walk away. IF the screaming follows you lead the screamer to your boss’ office. If the boss is not there lead the screamer to the boss’ fill-in or nearest person in authority.
      If you prefer, the next time simply say, “I will NOT be spoken to in that tone of voice. When you can pull your thoughts together we can have a chat.”

      But better yet, go talk to the boss now and ask for help with this recurring problem of people screaming at each other for prolonged periods of time.
      Remember you did not “make” this Covid situation, you are just in it like everyone else. Just because people are scared does not give them the right to be verbally abusive. It’s stressful enough with out random tirades.

      1. Karinna*

        And screaming at people actually has a more forceful exhale than talking, so they’re actually putting people at risk by screaming at them. Normal language is a 6 ft buffer but screamers should be much farther away. Preferably in another building entirely.

    12. totally at risk*

      I do have empathy for OP but the commenters have missed one thing. The rule is 1 person per room. Someone is in the room. OP arrived at the room.
      OP- asked how long will you be.
      Copier person said twenty minutes.
      OP might have said- I need to quickly get a file- time sensitive-
      a. May we swap?
      b. May I just duck in since we are more than six feet away from each other.
      c. Would you please pull the file for me and leave it on the desk outside where I can retrieve it safely?

      Copier person- suddenly sees OP in the room breaking the rule. Freaks out.
      Copier person is in the wrong for yelling and berating.
      OP- if it was time sensitive- walking away is the correct response.
      Copier person owes an apology for raising voice, over-reacting, and berating.
      OP owes apology to copier person for breaking the one person, one room rule.
      OP doesn’t have the higher moral ground because they are “one of the ten” unless they are an epidemiologist creating and implementing policy for the organization.
      Cold shoulder- juvenile response- needs to be addressed by OP and management.

      1. wondering aloud*

        Hi! Thank you for your comment. I wasn’t clear in my post – it is suggested 1 person in the room at at time however if need be if there is more than one person we must be 15 feet apart.

        The person was aware that the file was needed urgently but stated they had been waiting all day for the copier and they were not budging.

        1. tangerineRose*

          The co-worker sounds like a pain. They couldn’t leave the room for a couple of minutes and come right back?

        2. Oh Behave!*

          You were quite clear about this in your post. Your coworker was out of line. Please let your boss know about the freeze out. You did nothing wrong.

      2. Wheee!*

        Based on what the OP wrote, one person per room is recommended, but can be broken if necessary as long as the people are masked and at least 15 ft apart. And the OP says that the coworker “would not leave” the copier. While it’s possible that OP could have handled things more carefully, it seems like they handled things quite reasonably.

    13. RagingADHD*

      I’m very tired of this “stress” excuse for being abusive to people.

      Squeeze a grape, you get grape juice.

      Whatever comes out under pressure is what was inside all along. People need to start owning their internal garbage, and working on it.

      Maybe you can hold the angry, hostile rants inside when life is easy. You’re still an angry hostile person.

      1. Kiwi with laser beams*

        Co-signed, and as someone who used to behave like this, I fully endorse taking a firm hand in situations like this where you have equal standing. Lashing out is an easy way of dealing with stress and as long as people who do it get no friction, they’ll keep doing it. It’s not unsympathetic to refuse to be someone’s punching bag.

    14. Koala dreams*

      I’m so sorry. It’s not okay to scream at a coworker for 20 minutes, and it’s especially bad right now due to the pandemic. I don’t know how to get bullies like that to stop, but I agree with everyone else that there’s no point in staying and listening, or apologizing to them. Also, try to not take their mean comments to heart. (Easier said than done, I know.)

      Can you get help from your boss or from HR? Could you go together with the other harassed employees and complain as a group?

    15. JQWADDLE*

      You were in the right. I am a jogger and I have seen articles that say that you should try to maintain the 6 feet social distancing whenever possible when jogging, but a brief breach doesn’t raise your risk that much. The risk is a function of how closer you are for how long (and whether someone is carrying the disease). From that standpoint, you potentially raised their risk slightly, but not get screamed at for 20 minutes high. Verbal abuse is never acceptable.

    16. Observer*

      This person is either a jerk or having issues. Either way, their behavior is NOT ok, and you did nothing wrong.

      The one thing you need to deal with is the refusal to talk to you about work. If you can get by with just emailing her and then doing your thing (eg I’m taking care of the green teapots tonight and will put them in the east store room) just do that and don’t worry about them. However, if this is getting in the way of your ability to get your work done, you need to loop in your boss.

      Lots of luck!

    17. possum whisperer*

      If I’m reading the post correctly,it seems to me that the coworker could have been doing something more productive somewhere else instead of camping out watching the copy machine run for 20 minutes.

  3. Foreign Octopus*

    Has anyone used Docusign before? I’m using it to send a W-8BEN form back to a company I’ve been working with and am struggling a little. I think I’ve done it but how do I know they’ve received the document?

    1. Buttons*

      You can login and see your signed document it will usually tell you if it has been viewed.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      I’ve used it a lot both as the signer and the person needing the signature. The program notifies the recipient as soon as you finish signing. It’s been around for years (I sold a house in 2010 using it) and it is pretty standard now.

    3. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

      When you log in, there should be an “Overview” in the middle/left of the screen that lists: Action Required, Waiting for Others, Expiring Soon, Completed.
      Click on “Waiting for Others” and you can view all the docs you’ve sent that are not yet completed. You can hover over the “Status” and it will tell you which signer it is waiting on (if there are multiple). You can also click on the down arrow next to “Resend” for additional options – click on “History” and you can view every single step taken, who it’s been sent to, who has viewed it, who has signed/completed, and where it was sent next.

    4. nep*

      I use it as fitness instructor, having people sign waivers. I receive an email when people have 1) viewed, 2) signed/completed the process. You can also click on ‘completed’ on the website in your account.

    5. Seraphim*

      I’ve bought a house using it and am selling a house using it. In fact, I just used it today for something else. Signers receive notification of it being signed as well as a link to the signed doc.

      1. Artemesia*

        We recently bought and sold a house using it too. Everything went smoothly. Our lawyer offered it for our new wills and trusts, but we decided to do that in person with precautions.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s pretty popular for a lot of things. Even the cable company uses it for contracts since you do everything online now.

      You just have to press the “finish” button or whatever it’s called and yes, it goes directly to the person who processes it!

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I usually also just email the person who sent it to me all “So I submitted it, let me know if there’s anything else you need!”

      This ties up the loose ends and helps give you peace of mind. As noted they get confirmations but I trust no B and therefore I always just confirm with the person so they can be on the lookout. If they can’t find the confirmation or there’s something glitchy-glitch it’s on them to say “Darn it didn’t take, gotta send it again.”

    8. Rachel in NYC*

      I’ve been using Docusign for work for 2 or 3 years now. I LOVE docusign- literally would use it for everything and anything requiring a signature if my employer’s AP group would accept electronic signatures on tax forms. (The IRS does- it’s just my employer. So don’t worry.)

      Anyways, the person who sent you the document will automatically receive your executed document as an email attachment. Additionally, it is on docusign.

      My advice would just be to email your the company and ask them to confirm- checking to see if someone from the banked looked on docusign would be inconclusive. Once someone signs a document I send them, I never have to look at that document on Docusign again. I’m sent the executed document and I have a template set up so a copy is emailed to an internal database. I imagine the bank does the same thing.

      [and not NOT giving tax advice but please make sure you fill out the entire W8-BEN if you qualify for anything in Part II. The number of times I’ve seen people not take advantage of tax treaties is sad. So sad. But not giving tax advice. Not an accountant. Not a tax attorney. And this may not be relevant to you. But I REALLY needed to get it off my chest.]

    9. Done with job hunting*

      I have doing some financial things lately and all but one document was either signed and scanned or used Docusign, including a rather substantial transaction. There were no problems. It was the small transaction, an IRA rollover, that required a “wet” signature. Sigh.

  4. curious*

    How is everyone dealing with burnout during this time?  I have had to come into the office during my state’s pause.  I swear my brain just can’t function anymore.  We have a lot of deadlines to catch up on so taking a day off is not possible til later in the summer.  My boss has been laid back and understands we all need a break.  He’s doing everything he can to help.  For example he’ll send us home early for full pay.  The other day he asked me a question that was the equivalent of what’s 1+1 and my brain literally blanked!

    1. Dave*

      I am trying to give my evenings and weekends as much downtime and non stress as possible. House chores are definitely less important and am really considering do I have to do this. Reading relaxes me so there is a lot of that happening. I also find min-breaks super helpful when I start feeling stressed during the work day. Good luck!

    2. Fuzzy Pickles*

      Doing the best we can with what we got, is my goal. My brain is so fried right now too.

    3. Niniel*

      I’m wondering the same. I’m grateful to be an essential worker, but struggling big time with being on top of work. Every day is a struggle and my brain simply doesn’t want to get things done.

      1. Anax*

        Likewise. I’m staring blankly at my to-do list right now, and just… not managing to get things done today. Slept for 9.5 hours last night, and I still want to crawl back into bed, which I think is just my brain processing all the anxiety.

    4. Herding Butterflies*

      Burned out to the extreme.

      My boss has not been understanding at all through out all of this. He was a jerk before COVID and now is a super jerk.

      We are all trying to grab an extra day off here or there to decompress. I am trying to get outdoors as much as possible. I live in a very rural area so this is possible.

    5. DataGirl*

      I’m completely exhausted, grumpy, and stressed. This is our busiest time of year so no vacation until August at the earliest.

    6. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      My brain is dying. I’m relying on caffeine and pomodoros to get anything done

        1. BethDH*

          It’s a productivity method for working in short bursts (like 25 minutes) with full focus followed by short breaks.

    7. Thankful for AAM*

      I never can’t work or focus.
      Right now I have zero motivation, I’m not thinking that clearly, and I’m on my phone reading AAM – so not working. It does not help that 100% of my job can be done at home but I have to come into work, and I’m in FL an a coworker is out pending a covid test.

    8. Nita*

      I’m going to just give up. If I get fired, so be it. I’m on call literally 24-7 between work stuff and family stuff, and I’m over it.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m trying to take midday naps and breaks even though I have to formally log off to do that.

    10. rageismycaffeine*

      The burnout is real. I’m planning to take some time off even if I can’t really go anywhere. Pondering just pitching a tent in my backyard for the sake of “leaving the house.”

      I keep being told to take up meditation/mindfulness and keep not doing it. It was a huge help to me when I was doing it regularly before, but it’s been a long time.

    11. hermit crab*

      Just adding to the chorus of “you’re not alone”!

      I think my entire organization is struggling with this. The org gave everyone a whole bunch of extra paid days off due to the pandemic, and there’s a lot of “take time off and unplug” messaging from management – but when can you do this? The deadlines don’t stop. Only senior-level staff have enough control over their workloads to take time off without over-burdening other staff and/or coming back to a huge backlog.

      Personally, I don’t have care-giving responsibilities, but my evenings and weekends are packed full of non-work calls/video meetings (volunteering, checking in with elderly relatives, attempting to socialize, etc.) and that certainly doesn’t help.

    12. cmcinnyc*

      Breaking things down bite-sized. Not expecting myself to have full concentration. Not expecting anyone else to manage full focus for very long. Some days I can work like a bee and other days I find myself standing in one room wondering why I left the other room, or opening my notebook to jot something down and sitting there pen in hand with no idea what I was about to write. Sometimes you have one oar and the boat goes in circles, you know? If you really can’t take a day or two off, you’re going to be at reduced capacity. That is just a fact. It’s not just you.

    13. Aggretsuko*

      Same as everyone else: try to use your time off from work to relax, put up with it because I have no other options, just keep swimming, feel burned out and miserable no matter what. I don’t do a lick of extra work, but I don’t get paid overtime so I can get away with that.

    14. Green Goose*

      Definitely feeling the burnout. My company is giving mixed signals by saying that they understand that people can’t perform at 100% and that we should take time off if we need it while simultaneously not extending deadlines and piling new projects on everyone.

      To combat burnout I’ve been making sure I spend relaxing time away from the screen in the evenings. I’ve been taking a lot of baths and that’s been really nice, I’ll get my bath all comfy and read a few chapters of a book with a nice candle. I’ve also been learning to make different dinners/desserts that I’ve never made before and it’s using a different part of my brain.

      And of course, if possible, I go outside for some fresh air. We have a small backyard so I try to make it out there to just get out of the house.

    15. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I’m honestly not sure if I’m experiencing burnout or not? I’ve always had depression and anxiety, which occasionally causes panic attacks, but right now I’m panicking when some clients email me, and I’m dreading going back to the office. I’m not sure if this is my normal, or if I’m fried and this is a sign of the frying.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Not exactly the same situation, but I feel this. There is some stuff happening in both my personal and work arenas that outside of the pandemic would be horrible enough. But I can’t tell if my inability to cope and be resilient is worse now because of the extra stress – I have to assume so.

        Getting outside definitely helps. I’ve been binge watching shows in my downtime to give my brain a break, but sometimes I don’t even have the capacity for that, so sitting outside and just closing my eyes helps.

    16. Retail not Retail*

      I don’t know. My old hip injury flared up and I have zero desire to power through it at work this time around.

      We learned no raises for another six months – at least. And! It occurred to me that we never got any appreciation of any kind for working through this.

      It’s hot, we’re miserable, we’re underpaid, and we’re open to the public.

      I don’t know if this burnout should be worked through.

    17. Kettricken Farseer*

      I feel like my brain has gone to mush. I open up a browser window and then forget what I was going to use it for. I forget what I’m saying in the middle of my sentence. I go to write myself a note and then forget what I was going to write. I have a thought and in the middle of thinking about it, it floats away from me and I can’t get it back. I’ve been lucky in that I’m still able to take PTO just to give my brain a break, but to be honest it’s not helping.

      1. Pickwick*

        Seconding everyone here, especially Kettricken! Mid sentence I lose my train of thought. I have been a bit of a scatter brain all my professional life and have used notepads to offset it. None of my tried and true solutions are helping. Even super nice weekends are not combating weekday brain mush. I just keep trudging through. Hope we all see some relief soon.

      2. Tris Prior*

        This has been my experience too. I find myself just sitting and staring at my screen blankly with no idea how to actually do the thing. I’ve gotten so forgetful that for a while I thought I might have really early onset dementia. I tried explaining it to my partner who was like, “are you not sure of your next step? Do you not have all the information you need? Are there tech skills you’re missing?” And I was like, no, none of that is true, it’s like I just can’t get my brain to kick in at all and take a step forward.

        We have a reduced schedule (and pay) because Covid so you’d think the extra time off would help, but no, not really.

      3. Cat on a Keyboard*

        I’m having this but it’s like reverse-burnout? My work has really slowed down since the pandemic. I’ve never been quite as efficient working from home, but, combined with the lack of deadlines or workload pressure, I’m really losing focus badly. I hate wasting a lot of time when I am neither getting things done nor actually relaxing.

        I guess this could sound like a humble brag, and I definitely prefer my problem to being overworked. I guess my point is that this isn’t a great time for anybody really.

        1. Koala dreams*

          I read an article about that a few years ago. In the article, they called it bored-out. People who were bored-out got sick in similar ways to people who were burned out. The inactivity caused a lot of stress for many people. Maybe there is more information about how to deal with it nowadays, if you search online?

        2. Avasarala*

          I’m with you.
          I’ve been simplifying my to do list and motivating myself with food like a dog. Complete one email, get a chocolate chip.

    18. MindfulnessHelps*

      You have no shortage of replies, but I’ll chime in too. By advice from my therapist, I have been trying to incorporate mini-mindfulness practices every day. At the very least, I try to do a 5 minute mindfulness meditation in the morning before work (just using Youtube to find guided meditations that focus on breath or body scans). Peppering them throughout the day during quick breaks also helps. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not all Zen afterward, but it does help, and the more you do it the better your mind gets at being present and separating your emotions from your thoughts or events around you.

      Also I have started going jogging/walking (and I’m not exactly a runner) with a friend on an outdoor trail on the weekends, and having the exercise while also getting some social interaction has been really helpful.

      When I am really struggling to get going at work, I make ridiculously simple to do lists. Like “send that email to Jane”, “Fill out that form”, etc. I’m still making progress but just at a slower rate than normal, which is better than just being frozen from lack of motivation/burnout.

      1. uniersity admin from home*

        I find getting out for a walk or bike ride, even solo, helps my brain reset some. For me, that generally doesn’t happen completely until about an hour in, though.

    19. Sherm*

      I’m burned out for sure since work has been a non-stop grind since late March, and I’m dealing with all the frustrations of remote work, but I suppose it actually helps that I can’t change the situation, since I find serenity in remembering that. There’s no choice to be made or to agonize over. Counting the days until vacation in August helps, too.

    20. Oh-So-Anon and Almost Gone*

      I’ve been re-evaluating my life choices for about three months now, especially after being passed over for promotion twice and being told I can’t take unpaid leave during one of our quietest times of the year. I am one-email away from doing a career version of that “sweep everything off the table with a backhand” thing, and running away to whatever country opens its borders first.

      1. university admin from home*

        My sympathies. I was passed over for promotion twice at a previous job, and it sucked. I left not long after; I hope you find a better place (both mentally and workplace).

    21. Koala dreams*

      I’m calling in sick when I can’t work due to illness. If you have sick days, now would be a good idea to take some of them. Burnout usually gets worse the longer you suffer from it. Also, get help from a health care provider if your burnout gets worse or not gets better. (A doctor or a therapist maybe? I’m not sure about the proper treatment for burnout, hopefully a doctor would be able to refer you to the right place.)

      I also try to plan activities to recover so that I don’t default to watching TV all the time. I do short walks, listen to music, take time to read a book (15 minutes a day), and write postcards to relatives. In your case, maybe it would be more useful to do calm activities such as watching TV in pyjamas, meditation, bird watching from a window or the balcony.

    22. Quinalla*

      I’ve had to lower my expectations frankly. I CANNOT get as much done as I used to and not burnout. Luckily the management at my company has figured this out and has lowered expectations a little and is giving us maximum flexibility. That being said, I still struggle and have bad days and even got myself a migraine once (I get them from stress and/or lack of sleep). Some strategies that have helped me:
      1. Prioritizing sleep and exercise – I aim for 7 hours of sleep a night minimum and exercising 4-5 days a week, when I slack on this, I feel it and yeah I get migraines
      2. Getting up early to get in at least 1 hour of uninterrupted work a day and use that time for a focus task
      3. Taking lots more breaks during the day and not feeling bad about it – sometimes I use that time to do a mindless household chore, sometimes I take a real break
      4. Getting outside at least once a day
      5. Reading more books again
      6. Asking my husband for help and having frequent check-ins so we both are prepared for each work day on who is doing what for the kids, food, etc.
      7. Making time for zoom chats with family

  5. hmmmm*

    This is a silly question with all that’s going on.    My spouse and I have a lot life necessity, fun and just-in-case financial goals.   We squeeze every dollar out of our paychecks that we can.   We live in a very high cost of living area.  There is a cafeteria where I work.  Breakfasts usually are $5-10/ day; lunch $10-15; snacks and drinks around $5.  This adds up over the course of a week/ month!   People seem to like me here.  They stop by to chat, etc.  However I feel like I am missing out sometimes.  I’ll go to grab something in the cafeteria only to find out there are a few people having bought lunch already sitting together.   Not to sound conceded but I don’t think there is any ill will towards me; I think it’s more of a case where a few people go to grab some random lunch and just decide to eat in the cafeteria right then and there.   I feel like I’m missing out.  Don’t get me wrong.  My spouse and I do budget for things like buying breakfast and lunch, just our budget does not allow for everyday!  Not to sound rude but I have other things I would rather spend my money on than eating in the cafeteria every day.  How do I maintain the social aspect at work while saving money?!

      1. hmmmm*

        Yes I can but I’m still “forgotten”. I think it’s more that most at my office do by lunch so it’s simply walking down the hall to see who is has time to go to the cafeteria. Like I said I don’t think it’s malicious but I think people just realize I don’t buy a lot from the cafeteria. Think about it – theoretically one could easily spend $350/ month or about $3500 / year. I just have other things I would rather spend $3500 on. I’ve tried making a joke – don’t for forget me! There are one or two who do stop by to say we’ll be in cafeteria in 10 minutes, but for the most part I feel like these are spur of the moment cafeteria runs and since I’m not buying it might not dawn on people to come get me. We work in a chaotic environment so it’s not like anyone has a set time to eat.

        1. Mama Bear*

          If you would like to be included, maybe just say so. They may assume that since you don’t routinely eat in the cafeteria you wouldn’t want to be invited. Some people (me) like to run errands at lunch. Maybe ask the person you are closest with if they’ll text you next time. If you usually don’t eat in the cafeteria you can also change your location to eat there more often.

        2. Lemon Meringue Pie*

          It sounds like you might be taking this a little personally? If you know what sort of time they go, just head down and sit with them.

          1. hmmmm*

            I probably am. Just because our office is so chaotic I am not sure when people are leaving for lunch

            1. Beatrice*

              Maybe invite someone to have lunch with you in the cafeteria sometime, and build on it from there? It probably won’t change overnight, but maybe try to get 1 lunch date every 2 weeks at first, then 1 a week, and shift it that way. Before COVID, I set a goal for myself of inviting one person a week to go to lunch with me, just to try to break my personal rut of eating alone or on the run, and it was helping! I tended to just forget the possibility, lol.

        3. Web Crawler*

          Do you have any kind of internal messaging system? My office used to do a “lunch train” where people would (more or less) just say “lunch train!” over and over as they walked to the cafeteria, and whoever heard and wanted lunch could join.

          When we moved to an office with multiple floors, people not on the main floor would get left out. The solution was to create a #lunch channel in the company slack where people would post stuff like “going to lunch in 5 min” and other people would join them.

        4. CTT*

          Have you been talking about the cost with them? You’re really focused on it in your comments, which makes me wonder if you’ve brought it up with them in such a way they’re worried you’ll comment on how much money they’re spending.

          If that’s not the case, it could be that it really is spur of the moment and they don’t think about grabbing other people who aren’t in their immediate area. You said it’s chaotic, so I don’t think that environment lends itself to orderly lunch times.

          1. hmmmm*

            I don’t usually bring up my personal finances. When people comment how “good” I am about bringing lunch I just usually brush it off. If we get into a friendly discussion about personal finances I just say general things like spouse and I set goals and work backwards to figure out where to cut costs. I have never said I’m skipping lunch in the cafeteria because I think it is overpriced.

            I do think it is spur of the moment. I’m just one of those people who gets engrossed in what they are doing and don’t realize lunch has passed until later in the day.

            1. Morning reader*

              Is there one person among the usual launchers you could ask to remind you when lunch time rolls around? Sounds like you get focused and forget to e

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Maybe you could plan one day a week to eat lunch in the cafeteria? You could get the occasional experience without abandoning your financial goals? Or even if you bring your lunch you could still make plans with colleagues to eat together to catch up. I usually work through lunch but I make plans to eat with different colleagues just to catch up – as a teacher, if I don’t plan to chat with my colleagues it won’t happen and those relationships are valuable. You don’t sound conceited! It is nice that people like you – enjoy and good luck!

    2. Buttons*

      My company has a cafeteria but people bring their own lunch and still join coworkers. It is very open and friendly environment, anyone can walk up to any table and ask to join. Our CEO randomly joins a table of people a few times a week.

    3. Mimi Me*

      Can you let them know that you would love to join them for lunch? Grab your lunch and tag along so you can eat your brown bagged lunch while they eat their purchased lunches. You can volunteer to be the person who finds the “good table” for you all to eat at. I don’t see a reason to make this about buying or not buying lunch.

    4. CheeryO*

      I will add that you don’t have to be all things to all people, all the time. You can join for lunch every so often and still be known as a friendly, social person, and you’re almost definitely not going to miss out on any opportunities or any crucial information. I feel like you might be making a bigger deal out of this in your head than it actually is (no judgment, I’m an overthinker too).

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        All throughout the other direction. Dot. When you are getting up to go to lunch, walk past a few desks and say it’s lunchtime, and suggest they walk down with you and you all eat together.

    5. Annony*

      Have you tried being more proactive about inviting people to eat lunch with you? If you never initiate, they may think you only come because you feel pressured.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        This! Ask people to join you. As you walk, pop your head in an office and say, I’m headed to the cafeteria, do you want to join me?

        1. snoopythedog*

          Seconding. In my old office (and precovid) a group used to go for a coffee break. I don’t buy coffee that often, but I started going along anyways. People got used to the fact that I wasn’t buying coffee but wanted to go along on the walks. It started with me proactively reaching out to people on the coffee walk group saying ‘hey, i’ll need a break from my screen in a bit, can i join for your walk over to coffee?”

          Same with lunches- just reach out at 11 to someone you know usually goes for lunch and ask ‘hey, i need a change of scenery, let me know if you are heading to the cafeteria for lunch today”…and then bring your own lunch when you go. Make sure not to ask the same person every time and soon the group who usually lunches together should start including you (if you they are nice and reasonable people).

            1. Indy Dem*

              I’ve often been in the same boat. I’ll forget about lunch, and then feel left out when co-workers have gone up without me. I started, once or twice a week, to set an alarm (usually in Outlook) to remind me that it’s almost lunch time and I’ll go and ask people to go up with me. It’s really helped.

          1. Coffee*

            Definitely join the coffee break! I get coffee everyday but have no problems with people just coming for a walk/chat.

    6. Senor Montoya*

      Bring a bag lunch, grab a coffee at the cafeteria (or not, if you can’t afford it),
      walk up to the table and ask if you can join them.

      I’m sure the others have no idea about your budget. That doesn’t preclude your socializing with them.

    7. Qwerty*

      Why aren’t you initiating plans? Are you asking them to meet up for lunch? Do you join them when you see the group in the cafeteria (*without* laying on any guilt or “jokes” about being forgotten)?

      People are creatures of habit. If they are eating lunch with the same group every day, then that’s who they think of to talk about lunch plans. If you want to be included and remembered, then you have to make a habit of being inclusive yourself.

  6. Unique Application Questions*

    Hi Everyone, I recently came across this question when submitting an online job application and would love some tips/advice on what the employer might be looking for here:

    “What career would you pursue in an alternate universe?”

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Alex*

      They probably want to know what your “dreams” are. But it’s a crappy question that could become a trap.

      I might say “Researching travel between universes.”

      1. JustStoppingBy*

        +1

        Definitely not the time to provide a real-world answer. That question is a trap, indeed.

    2. Captain Stubing is my spirit animal*

      I believe that the question is looking for what you feel passionate about workwise.
      My current job is working with contracts, but in an alternate universe, I’d be a disaster relief coordinator.
      (the meeting spot of the two — I like to fix things, and get the non-rational to function rationally in a way to make things better for all.)

      If you were going for a job that meant handling confidential information, but said in an alternate universe you’d be running TMZ, they might have a problem.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      I’m baffled. The only thing I can think of is they want something similar to the job opening? Say the job is tech-y, so you say crew member on USS Enterprise? Orrrr teaching, so Hogwarts Professor of Transfiguration? Is it a position with lots of writing, and they’re using this as your sample? I can almost see this as “what career would you choose if you won the lottery / had infinite time and money to learn the prerequisites?” but I would expect that more as a question from a recruiter trying to match you to positions, not from a company looking to fill a specific role.

      1. pancakes*

        I wouldn’t assume it’s about the job opening itself – I think it’s just trying to see whether applicants can write something brief about their interests or hobbies without setting off alarms or sending up red flags. Someone who loves Star Trek, for example, might say that they’d love to work as a Script Supervisor if they could go back in time to work on the original run of their favorite series. That wouldn’t raise eyebrows, whereas someone writing instead that they’d want to go back in time and marry Captain Kirk and keep him chained to a space radiator (?) probably would.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      I think this is a bad question, especially since there’s no way to know what they’re looking to get out of this question. Do they want you to insist that this would be your dream job? Do they just want to know what your passions are? If you say this is your dream job will they think you’re boring or just trying to suck up?

      I got asked a similar question (some variation on “what is your dream job”) as part of a one-on-one chat with a grandboss at my first job. Me being young and naive, I answered honestly – that my dream job was to not need a job, leaving me free time to pursue my interests and travel and volunteer. And for whatever reason she very sternly said “NO, you absolutely don’t want that – if you only marry for money it will ruin your life and you’ll end up divorced and alone.” I was shocked, why the heck would she assume that the relatively understandable sentiment of wanting to pursue interests free of financial burdens meant I was a gold digger out for a rich husband?

      Sorry I don’t have any good advice! Captain Stubing and some others commented with some good tips, I’d listen to them, but just also be wary of being too honest with this type of thing.

      1. CM*

        What??? A little too much honesty from the grandboss too! And maybe some baggage on her part.
        Reminds me a little of early in my career, when a senior partner at my law firm, one of the few women partners, asked me how I was doing with young kids and a demanding job as a junior associate at the firm, and I said something like, “It’s definitely a challenge,” and she proceeded to inform me that it is not possible to be a good mother and a good associate. So… what exactly was I supposed to do with that advice??

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I would have Jonny Quest’s dad’s job, where being a “scientist” meant I lived on a private island and was the acknowledged world expert on all nouns. Also there would be hover cars.

      This is more fleshed out than my starting job, which was going to involve a giant battle bot.

      I think they’re just trying to get a feel for who you are as a person. If alternate you is a linguist, maybe it fits some existing team but most likely it’s just a bit of personalizing.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yeah this was my thought too, and that’s why I’d ask it in an interview — pretty low-stakes way to find out a bit more about a person. (My answer is “museum docent” or “food and cooking expert at historical living museum” both of which fit well with my existing skills and teaching career.)

    6. reelist1*

      Is it a creative position? Are they looking for an answer that involves imagination and creativity? If so, have fun with it! Show your creative side-describe the universe and how your career would serve that universe.
      If not, I think it is a personality test/culture fit test and what they are really trying to say is ‘What would you rather do than this?’ In that case, tread carefully. I would say something like ‘In an alternative universe I would pursue a career similar to the one I have pursued in this universe. I enjoy x,y,z aspects of this career, and if this career didn’t exist, I would look for careers that incorporated these aspects.’
      But this question is a pink flag, consider carefully if you want this position.

    7. Pamela Adams*

      I’m kind of hoping they have an alternate universe available, and are hiring for there.

    8. Elenia*

      I usually pick a job that is a nice dream but nowhere near reality. My go-to answer for this has always been to be a dancer. I danced in my younger days, on stages and my high point was Queens Theatre in the Park! And I would have loved to be a dancer. But it is hell on your body and doesn’t make a lot of money, and so I chose a more conservative path! I pretty that up in nice words and give it to them.

    9. Sasha "Potato Girl" Blause*

      Wow this is a terrible question. I’d probably answer something to the effect of, “the alternate universe version of this one,” because my honest answer — “anything where I don’t have pressure and demands forced on me” — is unacceptable.

    10. Gumby*

      I might start a convo about what type of universe this AU is and how it differs from the one in which I am interviewing. Do people age backwards? Are there social conventions that would seem very strange to us? Do people have different senses (like no one can hear but everyone has telepathy)? How much magic exists and how does it work? Because “a universe just like this one but where you have different talents / a different job history and so would be applying for a different job” is fairly boring as far as alternate universes go.

    11. Emilitron*

      Agreed that is a terrible question. I know what my answer would be (and has been to similar inane ice-breaker questions), but I have no idea if it’s “good” or “bad” by whatever intent the interviewer might have had. I suspect it’s pretty good, though. I say “Maybe a dentist? The first time I had a root canal I was really impressed by all the tools the dentist was using, it was like he was building a tiny intricate model airplane in my mouth – that part of the job is oddly appealing!” Key points are approachability (dentist is a classic career like in a preschool story book) but complete impracticality (acknowledge that the thing I like is not all of the job) and touch on something related to my actual job/skills (I do hands-on science lab work with specialized tools) as well as make it about a casual one-time story not a “gosh I’ve always dreamed of…”

    12. Arts Akimbo*

      TERRIBLE question! But terrible in a way I kind of love.

      What they want is most likely “If you couldn’t be an artist, what field would you have gone into instead?” and I’d say “Botanist,” or whatever.

      But what I really want to do is answer it as written, and say “Time-travelling magic-wielding vampire detective!!!” just to see if they have any follow-up questions.

      1. Koala dreams*

        I like your answer! (And I would read the book, if you’ll write it) I feel like answering “Riding a unicorn across the rainbow!” In an alternative world, I would be able to ride a unicorn, right? (Even though I can’t do anything horse-related at all in real life.)

  7. ThinMint*

    My wonderful boss is retiring at the end of the year. Before COVID-19, no one was allowed to work from home, though most of our work can be done from home. Now, because of COVID-19, it’s clear that none of us will be back in the office until 2021.
    I am mourning my missed time to learn from her. Of course we are still in regular contact, but she was training me to take over. A lot of my learning was watching her navigate managing competing preferences of our customers with grace during in-person meetings. 
    I will miss working for her. She’s the best boss I’ve had. 

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I hope you will write her a note or an email to let her know how much you value her!

    2. Mama Bear*

      IMO let her know that she’s amazing and consider a one-on-one to get some pro tips. However, be mindful that sometimes the whole “we will misssss yoouuuu” is overwhelming so I’d keep that to a minimum. Wish her well instead. Can you virtually look over her shoulder sometimes before she goes?

  8. Sunflower*

    Job searchers- What questions are you asking employers during interviews to ensure the new job is secure? Esp if you’re in a secure job currently.

    What things are you personally considering when deciding if you accept?

    1. Trying to hire!*

      As an employer trying to hire, I will give you the answer I would give if asked this question.

      No job is secure. As of right now, we are financially ok but I dont have a crystal ball and I cant guarantee anything!

    2. Mimi Me*

      I haven’t used it in a job interview, but I did use it when looking at apartments (previous landlord sold my place with no notice and I need to be in the same school district for 5 years). “What’s your five year plan?” or “where do you see the company in the next five years?”

    3. Twyla*

      I’ll be following this! The questions I’d ask: if there is a resurgence in cases, how do you see it impacting (company)? And then go from there based off of their answer. I’d ask about layoffs and pay cuts, their response to the pandemic so far – how they’ve supported their employees.
      However, I would get in touch with current employees (e.g. LinkedIn, maybe even ask the employer to connect you with someone) to find out about the ground reality.
      Best of luck!

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        I would get in touch with current employees (e.g. LinkedIn, maybe even ask the employer to connect you with someone)

        Can you really trust someone the employer connects you with to provide you with an objective answer?

    4. Anon Anon*

      Depending on business, I’ve been asking how they managed the 2008 financial crisis and recession and what changes were implemented as a result of that. That usually tells me quite a bit. If a company tells me that they unfortunately had layoffs, but then discusses how they identified additional streams of revenue to avoid being put in that situation again, then to me I feel like they are on relatively sure footing.

      Although to be honest, there are very few openings in my industry right now. Most of us just feel lucky to have jobs. As there are some companies that have had to lay off 70-80% of their workforce.

      1. quirkypants*

        This would be hard to apply in many circumstances, i.e. tech companies that didn’t exist back then, managers who haven’t been there for that long and don’t have the institutional knowledge.

        I work for an org that existed in 2008 but (a) I have only been there for 4 years and work in a management role and we have no discussed the 2008 recession at all, (b) it is three times the size it was back then, and (c) the business model has completely changed.

    5. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I’m not a job seeker, but I’d ask about how the company/organization is responding to the overall economic challenges of the times. If they say they’ve already done a lot of belt tightening in a thoughtful way, that’s a good sign. If they seem evasive or are just coasting on what worked in that past, that’s a bad sign.

    6. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

      The jobs I apply for are typically grant funded. I’ve got a month left in my current job because a grant is running out, so the question I ask is how long funding for the position is guaranteed. I applied for one yesterday that stated specifically the grant was funded through August of 2021 and the future of the position was unknown past that point. I appreciated that level of transparency.

    7. quirkypants*

      I’m currently hiring and I have preferred people asking direct questions, like, “Has COVID-19 had a financial impact on your business?” and “What’s the business outlook given the upcoming economic uncertainty?” etc.

    8. WG*

      As a hiring manager, I recently had a candidate ask what would happen if she was offered the position and then contracted COVID? Fortunately, I was able to honestly answer her that we would wait for her doctor’s clearance to begin/return to work.

  9. Alex*

    I’m frustrated with something and am not sure if I have a right to be, so thoughts welcome.

    On my team, we frequently have tasks of which each one of us does a small part. For example, reviewing a set of documents, each of us taking a section, or generating a report on a set of accounts, and we each deliver a report of our own accounts. The size of these tasks range from just a few minutes of work to many hours of work.

    With the exception of myself, my team is not very good about completing these in a timely fashion. I’m frequently the “organizer” of these kinds of tasks—as in, I identify the need for them, or I organize them on behalf of another department. Sometimes I’m really just the messenger—another department has organized this and made the request, and I communicate the request to my team.

    I am *NOT* the team lead nor do I hold a senior position on my team. But increasingly, I’m being asked to make sure everyone completes these on time. If it doesn’t get done, I don’t get blamed exactly, but I’m given feedback that I needed to send more reminders or be more proactive to make sure that people were working on it.

    I have my own work that I need to manage and I manage to meet deadlines just fine. I don’t have less work than other people (even people more senior to me are assigned less work, actually). Is it reasonable that other people meeting deadlines becomes my responsibility? Is setting a deadline and sending one reminder not enough to reasonably expect people to have what they need to meet deadlines? I’m not their boss, and I don’t have any authority over them. We are a group of four Llama Groomers, with one Lead Llama Groomer, and I am just a Llama Groomer. (Our boss is the Llama Grooming Manager.)

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Can you talk to one of the bosses and say, I seem to have become the default manager of these reports for our team, sometimes that means I have to cut back on my own work/deadlines to send more reminders and organize things. I’m going to let the team know I am going to back off of taking on this role so that I can meet my deadlines. Or would you want me to prioritize my work differently?

    2. Buttons*

      You have fallen into the trap of managing without authority. Do a search for managing without authority and you will find a lot of articles and tips. What will have to happen is you have to influence them, you can’t manage them, you can’t hold them accountable, so you have to influence them and get their buy in on these tasks. Right now you are approaching it like they have the same priority as you do or understands the deadline that has been communicated to you- they don’t really care. They add it to their to do list but they have their own priorities. One way to get their buy in is to acknowledge their other priorities and ask them if they can get it done before the date it is due.

      1. Auntie Social*

        The other thing is to make the slowest person on the team responsible for the document. He now gets to nag, cajole, wheedle and demand.

    3. bunniferous*

      I can’t speak to whether this is fair for you to have to herd these particular cats, but in my job I have to do similar things (get people I have no authority over to do things on time.) One way I do this is to give deadlines to them when I need it back-and I make the deadline a little sooner than strictly necessary. I am not afraid to nag once that deadline has arrived. I hate to say it but you may have to train them that it is easier to get the task completed in a timely manner like an adult than to have to deal with “timely reminders.”

    4. Dave*

      I understand where you are with this. What has helped me is for the key people them knowing the importance of meeting the deadline and getting it done. I have one co-worker that once we established that and they know my reminders are coming from a stay on track helpful place we are good. I honestly would rather send the reminder (a text or e-mail typically depending on the person / item) so I have what I need or I don’t get more work thrust upon me for them not doing their work. There is another department where this approach is far less effective and everything comes across as a burden to them and so I have setup with my boss that he has told them the importance and when they fail to complete there is some cover. Generally though I find the reminders are worth sending because at the end it is less work even if I shouldn’t have to send them.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, no, this is BS. If they’re going to ask you to do this, they need to enable you to enforce it. If they don’t want to do that, the responsibility/bother needs to go to someone who does. Or if you can’t get compliance you need to be free to hand it off to an actual manager and not have your feedback suffer for something over which you had no real leverage.

    6. Mr. Obstinate*

      I feel your pain; IME this is a no-win situation, but if your manager is the kind to address problems, then the advice from “Thankful for AAM” should be effective. It is a legit tradeoff that your manager needs to make a choice on: either you can continue doing some of their management for them (which will be much more efficient if that part of your role is formalized and conveyed as such to the whole team), or you can be maximally efficient as an individual contributor, but you cannot do both. If your manager wants you to do management for them, then they need to accept that you will become less productive as an individual contributor.

      Of course YMMV. I have had that conversation with my manager numerous times, and each time we end up at option two (shying away from me having explicit authority), but nevertheless my manager and coworkers keep on expecting me to act like a manager.

    7. Bagpuss*

      Who is giving you feedback that you need to do more? Can you speak to that person / people and remind them that you don’t have that authority?
      Perhaps suggest to them that they send requests to your team lead / manager, not to you, so that the task can be appropriately allocated?
      Why are you the one communicating the request to the team? Could you start nominating someone else? e.g. instead of ypou allocating who does what, can you suggest that another person does, and that they let the other department know that they are dealing with the task? If you can arrange to take turns then as your coworkers get a taste of trying to organised, they may get better at responding to you when it is your turn, and if not, it may still help that the other department don’t see you as the go-to person.

      Alternatively, lobby your manager to be given a promotion and authority and pay to manage.

      1. The One True Church of Ecucatholicism*

        ??? Why isn’t the Lead Llama Groomer handling this deadline stuff?

        1. Alex*

          Because he doesn’t really understand the tasks well enough to organize them. He’s….extremely incompetent, and everyone knows it so no one asks him to do anything hard. If the task is at all complex I need to redo his (which is how I will be spending this evening).

          However, that’s a whole other barrel of toxic worms.

    8. Alex*

      Thanks for all the fast replies! Ha.

      To be a little more clear, first, my boss is one of the people complaining that they didn’t meet the deadline because I didn’t send enough reminders.

      Second, I know that no matter how many reminders I send, they won’t do it. If there were a magical number of reminders I could send such that it would get done, I’d do it, but I know that there is not, so the thing that frustrates me is that they all feel that they can just absolve themselves of taking responsibility for themselves and leave that responsibility at my doorstep, no matter what I do. I guess my feeling is–we’re all grown ups, why do you need your hand held? But then again, I am the person who was “asked to organize” the task. I’m just questioning whether or not taking responsibility for some people not completing it is therefore my job.

      To some people’s point–the deadlines are usually mutually agreed-upon deadlines, not something being imposed on them that they don’t have the capacity for.

      1. Mr. Obstinate*

        My suggestion: make a point to over-remind a few times. For the next several projects you are asked to organize, send maybe 50% more reminders than you normally would, including daily reminders leading up to the deadline, so that even your boss would say it’s a little much.

        Then when people still fail to meet the deadline, report to your boss that you *did* organize as asked, and point to the numerous reminders you sent. But despite your doing everything you had the authority to do, even to excess, it didn’t work.

        This might make it an annoyance for your boss enough that they seriously look into why the other team members are not heeding the reminders. Your boss will want to be spammed less, but they will not be able to tell you to lay off the reminders without undercutting their own complaint about you not sending enough.

        1. Alex*

          I do like malicious compliance, lol. I’m not sure I have the nerve to deploy this–certain people on my team already view me as “bossy” and “a know it all.” But yes, it is something I can think about doing.

          (Yes, I’m the only woman.)

          1. OtterB*

            Ooh. Being the only woman on the team changes the dynamic of this, although you may or may not be able to make your manager understand this. It’s putting you in the role of team mom, and it sucks.

          2. Mr. Obstinate*

            Aah, I had not been thinking of the sexism possibility. That sucks and likely makes it harder to dig out of this. That said, it also gives you an opportunity to more explicitly, alarmingly (to your boss especially) call out what’s happening. People might expect you to take pride in your manager-without-authority role (read: martyrdom) and they may take that as license to make you suffer in it… but they would not be as comfortable singling you out for office housekeeping as the only woman once you point out that’s how it looks.

            Also understood regarding the nerve for malicious compliance. It is unpleasant, and I’ve been yelled at here and there for resorting to it; in most cases I gave up because it while it made hypocrisy more obvious, it still did not make people change their behavior. In a large corporate environment it can help to CYA, but in a small one even that might not be worth it because your bosses answer to no one.

            Do your coworkers seem to think that you’ve chosen to be in this position of having the “organizer” burden? Or are they aware it was imposed upon you?

          3. bunniferous*

            If you have the title you may as well earn it. Oh, and you absolutely dropped the lede here, btw. YOU”RE THE ONLY WOMAN.

        2. Hester Mae*

          On one project, I had one person who was well-known for waiting until the last minute. So I had to go from requesting it in an email, to in-person, getting a date to start, getting another date to start when that passed, to letting our mutual boss know, and on and on.

          Later my boss said that I should have handled it better because “I waited too long to loop [boss] in again after the first conversation with him.” Well, ok, thanks. I thought we were all adults here and could be relied upon to do the work or communicate about it. But no, coworker does this over and over again both within and between departments. But I got out of having to deal with it … that is a whole ‘nother story. Not the only woman in the department, but the only one on this project.

      2. Osmoglossum*

        You have been designated as the sole coordinator and that needs to stop. The only way the other team members are going to take this seriously is if they are required — read: held responsible — to organize these tasks. Can you suggest to your boss that everyone on the team needs to take a turn at being the coordinator? So the burden isn’t falling on you every time.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think whoever doesn’t meet the deadline should be coordinator for the next deadline.

          I am giving your boss a sideways glance here. The boss sounds lazy because it sounds like it should be THEIR job to make sure everyone meets deadlines.

          I think the next time you send out a reminder you could tell them that multiple reminders are not working. Therefore you will only be doing one reminder for any given deadline because you need to keep up with your own work. Then stick with it, do just ONE reminder.

          WHEN they complain because they will complain, remind them that they are in control of setting their own deadlines so maybe the group should reconsider the time frame for deadlines so more people are meeting the deadlines in a timely manner.

          I am kind of ticked on your behalf, OP because the boss is not role modeling proper behavior here and making it even more likely that people are not going to respond to you on time. I would go down to ONE single reminder and that’s it.

        2. Artemesia*

          I’d be inclined to have a frank conversation with the boss that you resent being ‘Team Mommy’ — that you don’t want to be in charge of nagging with no authority. Grownups get their crap done. The team leader needs to lead and manage deadlines. If you can manage your time and get the job done, there is no reason other team members can’t once the schedule is set.

          Push the boss to lead. Make the sexism explicit.

      3. Emilia Bedelia*

        A very annoying (but effective) thing that is sometimes done in my org: People will set up a meeting or “work session” to get a task done. As an adult who manages her time and assignments reasonably well, this drives me up the wall. But, I know that the people who set these up are doing it out of necessity, because other people will leave simple things on their to-do list for an eternity.

        Maybe setting up a meeting like this would be helpful for you. If asked about why you’re choosing to set up this way, I’d say something like “The past few times we’ve agreed on deadlines together, the team hasn’t been able to meet them. I know we are all busy, so I wanted to try another strategy to make sure that everyone is able to set aside the time needed. If you have another idea perhaps you could take the lead next time on organizing it.”

        1. DoneThat*

          Haha, I used to work with a guy who would need my help on logistics for events he hosted, and he would frequently schedule “work sessions” that consisted of me sitting at ready while he got his notes and thoughts organized. I didn’t really have stuff to do because I’d taken care of it promptly when he had requested so before… so it was basically 30-60 minutes of watching him work, punctuated with him asking me questions as he thought of them (which could have just been grouped into a five-minute email).

    9. Christmas*

      Alex: It seems like the kind of thing that slowly just became standard without anyone consciously realizes its a Thing. That being said, your feelings of frustration are totally valid. Why do you have to hold everyone’s hand?
      If you’re giving higher expectations and responsibilities, it wouldn’t be out of bounds to ask to be recognized and compensated for that.

    10. Coalea*

      I think you are right to be frustrated! In a previous job, my boss and I would attend Llama Grooming conferences together. Each of us would attend certain sessions (eg, he would go to the Innovations in Llama Shampoo session while I attended Expanding Your Business to Include Alpacas). At the end of the conference, we had to deliver a report summarizing all the individual sessions and giving an overview on key themes across the entire meeting. I did everything I could to maximize the possibility that my boss would be able to complete his work on time (assigning myself more sessions, assigning myself more complex sessions, collating the report, drafting the overview, establishing a timeline, and sending frequent reminders). Without fail, he would miss deadlines and put the entire project in jeopardy. I would end up working nights and weekends to ensure that client deadlines were not missed. Since he was the boss, I was really in a tough position. I tried getting my grandboss to intervene but he was worthless.
      Is the person who gave you feedback about sending reminders your boss? Can you follow up with him/her, explain the situation, and see if you can get some authority to back your reminders? Perhaps if someone in a senior position told the group that you were “in charge” of this, your fellow groomers would be more likely to meet deadlines? Good luck!

    11. LCS*

      I’ve been in a similar position. What I’ve found helpful is to use simple project tracking software or apps. There are a ton of options out there but even something basic and widely available such as Microsoft Planner (which you can add as a free app within Microsoft Teams) lets you log action items, set deadlines, etc. Anyone you assign gets an automatically generated e-mail when the task is assigned. And the tool is built with a ton of pre-populated reports (literally just click a “report” button) and it will show overdue items, upcoming items, high priority items etc. by person responsible. Rather than trying to nag individuals about various items I’ve found it much more helpful to use a tool like this and then publish a public weekly status report to the team. Seeing that other colleagues are completing their work vs. the stragglers being visibly overdue tends to peer-pressure (shame?) them into action. And it’s a lot easier for me because it’s a one-and-done – my weekly time commitment to publish status updates / nag those who are falling behind is honestly a five minute task now. As an added bonus, if you’re sending weekly updates on a task that’s say scheduled to take 8 weeks, it’s not like your boss can tell you that you didn’t send enough reminders when you sent 8 of them.

      1. Artemesia*

        I like this. Is it too much to hope that people who are not meeting deadlines will be in red? or that the tasks in their column will be?

      2. Alex*

        We are trying out some new “organizational” tools, so maybe I can include stuff like this in them. Right now we have only talked about using it for X thing.

        Although, we have tried less high-tech versions of this–everyone fill in progress in a document on a server, etc. People just don’t do it. I really don’t get why–we are not a very overburdened department. They have plenty of time.

    12. pcake*

      If your boss is their boss, why doesn’t the boss give each person a solid completion date and check in with each of them periodically, and if they’re not working on it already, make sure gently that they understand doing this in a timely way is their job? And if the boss needs to keep reminding them, find out what the problem is; if the problem is they need more training, train them. If they problem is they spend all their time defocused or hanging out on Facebook, boss should gently let them know there are consequences to not doing the work they’re paid to do.

      1. Alex*

        The boss also is usually (not always) included in the task, is one of the people who doesn’t complete the task.

  10. ThatGirl*

    I got an email out of the blue last week for a potential new job. I’m not actively looking, but I also don’t want to say no to potential opportunities, you know? I like many things about my current job, but I can see that my manager is never going to become less frustrating, and there’s not really any path to career growth. I had a brief phone interview, and it seems to be right in line with my skillset, so I’d be pretty surprised if I didn’t at least get a second, more in-depth interview.

    Which got me thinking about what’s truly important to me in a new job. Things like pay, benefits, good work/life balance, room for growth … but also a true sense of diversity and inclusion. It would be a largely remote position, even post-covid, but I would really like to work for a company that put its money where its mouth is. The question is, how do I ask about it? (I already asked about how the company was treating its employees during covid and the manager seemed really impressed by that.) What kinds of questions can I ask that get at “how much do you value diversity and how do you show that?” without sounding accusatory? (Also worth noting that both I and the hiring manager are white ladies.)

    1. Alex*

      I have literally asked that question as you describe. Nothing wrong with it. I’ve also asked “How is your company trying to increase diversity in this field?” as I work in a notoriously white field.

      If they have a bad reaction to that direct question, that tells you a lot of information.

      1. ThatGirl*

        That’s true. It seems a tad bit harsh to me but maybe I’m just socialized to soften things :) I don’t think I’d get a bad reaction to that per se but I know if I’d asked that at my current company I would have gotten a bunch of corporate mumbojumbo.

        I also think I will creep around their website and LinkedIn and see how white the faces look. It helps that the HQ is in Chicago so if they don’t seem to reflect the diversity of Chicago that’s kind of telling.

        1. Allie*

          I’ve softened it with “Working in this field I’ve definitely noticed that many of our companies are not as diverse as the neighborhoods we’re in. How is your company working to increase the diversity in this field?”

          Kind of we both obviously know this is a problem (even if it isn’t obvious!), whats your solution. It may be a bit easier for me to ask this as a non white woman

          1. ThatGirl*

            Thanks, I like that idea. I’ll think of a way to ask it that sounds natural to me but that’s a good starting point.

            It’s kind of funny, actually; while I’d be happy for a new opportunity, I would not be upset if a BIPOC (especially a woman) got more consideration than me for this. But either way I want to work in and for places that are welcoming to everyone [and, to be clear, that includes people with disabilities, lgbtq folks, the whole gamut of diversity]. So me asking that is a tiny thing I can do, at least.

    2. lil falafel wrap*

      I would say as someone who works at an organization where DEI is strongly emphasized and something they’re actively working to improve, if they’re a company that does value diversity, equity and inclusion, they won’t be thrown off by you bluntly asking the question at all. It’s become such commonplace terminology that I would say if a company didn’t have anything to say or didn’t know what you meant by it, it’s probably a sign they don’t value those things and don’t have a good culture on the DEI front.

    3. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

      As someone who has hired, I would respect and appreciate that question. I don’t think I’d want to work for a company that had an issue with asking about diversity.

      You could ask how the company supports the local community…that answer can be revealing.

  11. De escalating BEC vibes*

    Hi. Is anyone almost at BEC levels (but not quite there) with a coworker? How do you reframe things in your head to de-escalate it mentally? I hope I’m not displaying my annoyance. Camera off zoom is easier than in person meetings and thank goodness we are still wfh.
    But in emails I feel like saying ‘as per last email….’ every time he emails me with a question I’ve answered in the past few hours.

    Thanks.

    1. Dave*

      YES! I do often forward my last e-mail. I try to vent to a no work party so I can express the annoyance about how person X can’t read more then one sentence of an e-mail or whatever it is and try to almost make it a joke. Working with incompetent people sucks.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Also, I’ve completely reformatted emails for certain individuals (ie those that can’t seem to read) with bold & bullet points. It helped keep it down a little bit.

        For a boss that was very known for just not reading anything properly among many other shenanigans, I had a mental bingo card of “Boss Antics” and kept Starburst in my desk to reward a bingo. I also would occasionally pull a Steve Irwin and pretend she was a rogue croc or something silly and internally narrate the antics. It helped a little.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, I’ve forwarded the e-mail with the info too.

        And as Environmental Compliance says, bullet points are very helpful sometimes. A numbered list can also be useful, especially when referring to the list later.

    2. revueller*

      Honestly, venting has never worked for me. It feels wonderful in the moment but once I released I have a valve to take out every little annoyance I have with a person, I end up using it more often, end up angrier, end up in BEC mode way more often.

      One thing I’m trying to do is, in a moment of extreme frustration, to take a moment, inhale, clench as many muscles as possible and think as many angry thoughts at the person as possible, and then exhale and release. That lets me get rid of a lot of the physical symptoms of anger I feel. It’s a lot easier and less weird to do this in the privacy of your own home though!

      Another thing that’s helped is … pretending I’m completely fine with that person. Being extra professional, friendly, etc. Or approaching them like the behavior they do is completely separate from them as a human being. Because I have many coworkers who I’d get along with well if only they’d stop doing XYZ. Sometimes having talks with the person that boil down to, “Hey, XYZ is causing ABC problems for me. Is there a way I can help you stop doing that/do 123 instead?” Reasonable people respond super well. Unreasonable people just out their unreasonability and make clear that there’s no better way to deal with them than to avoid them.

      1. Beatrice*

        I love your suggestions!

        One thing I do, at work and outside, when I have no control/ownership over the other person’s behavior, is to imagine a scenario where the annoying behavior is acceptable, really picture it clearly in my head, and decide that, unofficially, that’s my narrative doe what’s happening until proven otherwise. It just lets me let go of the problem and focus on more productive things.

    3. Anonariffic*

      I’d be strongly tempted to send him an overly concerned sounding message asking how long he’s been having trouble with his email losing messages- you keep asking me for things I just sent you, obviously they’re getting lost in the system somewhere, let us loop in IT and your manager to make sure nothing more critical is falling through the digital cracks!

      1. Email from Hell*

        Oh, no, I tried that once and now my boss blames “missing email” for everything. He has a habit of replying to part of an email but sidestepping whatever the main point of it was, and a couple of times when I’ve asked him to clarify he’s said he didn’t get an email that he already replied to. What’s worse: because he uses this excuse so often, a lot of our clients think our email system is just really screwed up, and if they have something important to send they’ll send it to all three of my email addresses (we use role-based addresses, and currently three of them are forwarded to me).

    4. hermit crab*

      I have been there in the past! The only thing that has worked for me – and it can be HARD, and sometimes not possible – is to deliberately try to become friends or at least friendly with the person. If I get to know someone a bit, and develop some pleasant or warm feelings about them as a human being, then I’m less likely to be annoyed by little things. You don’t need to be BFFs but think it helps with giving people the benefit of the doubt.

      Of course, that might be too much to take on, especially right now when you’re remote. And that’s OK too! It’s OK to be annoyed in an annoying situation.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      Last week I came THIS CLOSE to having The Conversation *again* with the guy who drives me nuts on the regular about basics we’ve been over before. Like timezones. Which he refuses to acknowledge. OK! I tried. I don’t usually let coworkers walk into obvious buzz saws but this guy is now on his own. This has two wonderful effects: 1) I get less stressed because I’m not explaining gravity to this jerk over and over knowing that he’s not listening because I’m a woman, and 2) he messes up and it’s nobody’s fault but his own and his WonderBoy veneer is getting chipped.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Honestly, when it comes down to this, I take it upon myself to tweak my approaches.

      If they can’t seem to read emails, I expect it and and therefore don’t get bothered by the fact they’re asking questions they should have the answers to.

      I say this as someone who has bosses over the years who don’t read well but it’s because of their severe dyslexia.

      I opt for pity in the end and take it upon myself to manage my own emotions to the frustrations these issues can cause. [That may sound rude, like I’m saying that you shouldn’t be frustrated and they shouldn’t have to change too. But really, you can only change yourself in the end and your reactions. So I always just take the baggage back on myself and digest it. It makes working with very…different and sometimes seriously strange personalities a lot easier in the long run.]

      1. Elenia*

        I found WFH exacerbates this for me, a lot. I don’t have the little casual chats with the person, the friendly bits that make them human, so little things annoy me more. I know not everyone is like this, but lots of WFH people I’ve seen get this mentality – every little thing annoys them about the person.

        I agree with reversing your stance entirely and trying to be friendly.

    7. SarahTheEntwife*

      I don’t know if this will work for you, but as someone who desperately wants people to like them and who has a strong get-along-with-people socialization, it was remarkably helpful to just admit that I didn’t like one particular coworker. We didn’t particularly click on a social level, and if there were two reasonable ways to do something we’d inevitably each pick one and feel very strongly about it. So just deciding that I didn’t have to like her, she didn’t have to like me, we just had to be civil and work together took a huge load off.

      In this case I also tried to disagree with her only if I had a serious issue with her suggestion — it was otherwise a team where we could pretty freely say “eh, that would work but I find X process really annoying; could we try Y instead?” or whatever. But with her I would tell myself to just suck it up if she suggested something first unless it was a case of “wait, the main teapot glazing machine can’t do metallic finishes”.

    8. valentine*

      If you’re responding promptly, maybe filter his emails and have set times when you go through and copy/paste “I answered this earlier today.”

      If you keep giving him the answers, it’s easier for him to keep asking you and he’s going to keep doing what’s easiest/working for him.

    9. Remote HealthWorker*

      I have this coworker and if they are a peer or less, ignoring the email is best. Seriously this works.

      They send an email with their question and you answer it. Then every email they send asking the same question just don’t answer it.

      Then if they escalate it to a boss, and these types usually do, just reply all with a “I’m confused. I answered this on date. See attached (attach the email). Was there something else you were needing?

      They will never bother you again with repeat emails. They are trying to pass blame on you and/or good off or a just that incompetent. None of that is yours to fix. By not engaging it will help lesson the BEC mode too.

      Seriously think about it, does annoying mc BEC face ever bother to get you the stuff you need? Probably not so you definitely don’t owe them repeated answers.

    10. laughingrachel*

      I’m at that level with a coworker who -among other things – works during meetings with her camera on so we can all see she’s working, but messages me after with a bunch of questions that were covered! in! the! meeting! Truthfully I just vent to someone totally unrelated to my job and never likely to come across any of these people, for me that’s my mom. I will get it all out, the real stuff and the petty stuff that only bothers me because of the real stuff, we make jokes about it and then all of the sudden it’s just a funny thing. Sometimes when she does something that annoys me it’ll make me smile because I can’t wait to tell my mom about it? Still might not be the healthiest, but it puts me in a genuinely good mood when I talk to her and that sets a tone for our conversations that is a much better place than the seething resentment I was building up to.

    11. Circe*

      Now that I’ve seen this written out, I’ve realized I have the exact same problem….except with my boss. His managerial duties are relatively superficial. The vast majority of important things get approved by the executive director (who is also my boss’ mom). But everything else is delayed/affected by the fact that he never responds to emails or leaves things until the last minute to approve, only to not have any changes at all. It’s gotten to the point where I’m proactively in a state of annoyance and thinking that he’ll drop the ball on new projects.

      It’s complicated by the fact that he offers zero support, emotionally and professionally, and we don’t click personality-wise. I’m getting all my support from the executive director.

      There’s nothing I can change externally atm. But I probably can change my mindset about it all. Any advice on how to re-set or at least be less permanently frustrated? I feel like I just need to let all this go, but am having trouble actually doing it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Your boss’ boss is his MOTHER? omg.

        Okay. So take everything you have written here, where you say “I” referring to yourself and where you say “my boss”, substitute “my boss” and “boss-mom” respectively.

        Yes in other words, this is how his mom treats him so he is treating you in a similar manner. Picture yourself in his shoes, how well would you be able to provide leadership to your underlings given his set of limitations. He is basically there as a “lawn ornament” and not much else.

        Just in what you have written here, I sense that your boss carries a huge amount of shame/embarrassment from not being allowed to do basic management work. This can go a number of different ways, he might be rude to you OR he might be like working with a large scoop of mashed potatoes instead of, you know, an actual person.

        It’s going to be difficult to let this go because this is a problem in the system of management in your workplace. I am going to assume you MUST stay in this job. I think what I would do is build an even stronger connection with the ED-mom. Maybe you can work your way up to asking her things such as, “I am having trouble getting Boss-son to answer my emails, how would you like me to handle that?” OR “I am having trouble with Boss-son waiting to the last minute for approvals with changes missing, how would you like me to handle that?”

        If you don’t want to do this part, then just think of him as having is managerial wings clipped and he will never fly like most managers fly. And isn’t that sad, really, not snark. It’s sad. There is something buried in the mother-son relationship that has leeched over into the boss-subordinate relationship and it has broken him in ways you may never understand.

        1. Circe*

          Ugh, yes. Thanks so much for responding. The boss and boss-mom thing, as you’ve so eloquently put it, really puts a damper on everything. I never in a million years would have agreed to take this position if I had known what kind of dysfunction I was walking into.

          It’s hard to realize there isn’t much I can do about it, but, to be honest, just seeing someone else acknowledge the weirdness, makes me feel a TON better.

      1. Diatryma*

        B* Eating Crackers. Essentially someone who, for a variety of reasons, you cannot stand and even the most mild behaviors make you angry.

  12. FedAnon*

    I just started a new position and my manager thinks I’m a higher level than I am. It’s the government so I got, say a GS-10 target 11, so I’m a GS-10 but will be a GS-11 after a year. My boss knew *of* me before I applied because I’ve been working in the area for a bit, but he wasn’t involved in the hiring. He now thinks I’m a GS-11 but I have another 8 months before I’m eligible for the promotion. I’m not really sure how to bring it up with him. We’re teleworking so I can’t just drop in and talk to him, and we haven’t set up one on ones or anything. I would’ve brought it up when he mentioned it, but he mentioned it in a team meeting and I didn’t want to call him out in front of the entire team.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Can you just email him and say, at x meeting, you mentioned I’m a gs11, but I’m still a gs10 until Feb 2021, unless something changed already?

    2. Policy Wonk*

      If this is your first-level supervisor (rater), this may be an issue. If it’s your second-level (reviewer) I’m not sure this is an issue. I must admit, I don’t always know the rank of the people who work for me, and often think they are higher ranked than they are based on the quality of their work. If it is important, or if you are concerned that they won’t do the paperwork for your promotion, send your boss an e-mail along the lines of “today in our meeting you mentioned I am a GS-11. Actually, I am currently a GS-10, but expect to be promoted to GS-11 in [timeframe].

      Important note on the promotion. While it is largely automatic in a case such as you describe, there is still a need for paperwork to be done. Promotions cannot be retroactive, so approach your boss and/or your HR at least a month beforehand to make sure the paperwork has been started/is in train so it can be signed off on and effective as soon as you are eligible.

      1. FedAnon*

        That’s actually my biggest concern. I’m definitely working at the GS-11 level (gotten multiple awards; former bosses and coworkers have told me I should be a higher rank) but am stuck in waiting a year between promotions. I’m honestly not even concerned about appraisals because I always get top ratings and only positive feedback, but since he’s my first-level supervisor I’m worried about him not pushing the promotion paperwork when it’s time. Sounds like I just need to send an email.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          It sounds like you know this already, but I just want to note that even though you’re eligible for a promotion after a year, it’s not a guarantee, even if you’re doing a great job. When I took a X/Y job, it was 18 months before I got the promotion to Y. My boss is fantastic and he said I was doing a great job, gave me an outstanding review, and I got awards. But his explanation was that some things require a level of proficiency that can’t be learned in a year, no matter how much you’re knocking it out of the park.

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

      I’m not sure how things work in government, but I’m assuming it’s something similar to, in my world, someone assuming the new person is a “Senior QA engineer” rather than “standard level QA engineer”.

      In that case I wonder why it is that the supervisor thinks that you are a level 11 rather than a level 10? Just because of your level of experience?

      I would have suggested you bring it up in your next one-to-one except you mentioned you don’t have them. So next time something relevant comes up I would add it in, like “oh by the way…”. I’d also highly recommend regular one-to-ones (unless they aren’t really a thing that’s ‘done’ in government).

  13. Stuck with Trunchbull*

    I sit next to the Admin Assistant. She will interrupt my conversations with coworkers, but seems annoyed if I do the same. “Mark” came by to ask where Boss was. We were chatting a little when Admin interrupted us and gave him further into. He talked with her and I chimed in about something. They looked at each other and ignored me. I was giving them information about the situation- it’s not like I said something irrelevant.

    It annoys me that she will interrupt my conversations, but isn’t happy if I do the same. There is a clique-y dynamic in the office and they are very snarky.

    Any tips on surviving a place like this until I can find a new job and get out?

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I love Alison’s advice to get out the popcorn and enjoy the show. It is difficult to achieve but a good skill to have so well worth the effort. I tell myself, look, they are paying me x dollars to ignore them, or to do this silly thing that does not use my expertise.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I utilize this tactic with my own snarky office clique. I like to pretend they’re actors in an office dramedy and I’m in the audience just watching everything go down. Although I will admit it can be very difficult to not roll my eyes sometimes.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Just remember that it speaks more about her character than anything when she acts like that. Are you senior to her? It sounds like she’s a queen bee in her own mind. Just yawn at her internally because she sounds boring and an energy-waste, don’t bother with her rude behavior and just do what you want, tbh. They never learn, they’re trainwrecks of their own making.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Ha! In situations like this for me some days are better than others. Some days I just don’t have the bandwidth to deal. Don’t push yourself to deal when you don’t feel like it. But perhaps you can work into conversation something like, “Whoop, I wasn’t finished talking.” Or, “Sue, I was speaking.”

      Probably your best bet is to let the nature of the question be your guide. There are some questions that are super-urgent and need exact info. Most questions do not fall under this category. However for this level of super-urgent, you can just barge in with the correct info if theirs is not correct. “Oh! I just read an email that our building #3 burned to the ground and now our #4 is on fire. Did you see the company-wide email on this? It was sent out 5 minutes ago.” These are almost life and death situations and they very seldom happen.

      Then there are questions that are important. You can barge in with, “Uh, actually the General Meeting was moved to an hour earlier. So it’s 2 pm, not 3 pm.” This is probably the highest level you will see, but you won’t see it that often.

      Most things you can just let slide. Eventually they will figure out the supply order is not here or where the boss went or whatever. This is a pick your battles technique where you just decide something is not that important and you bow out of the conversation. (Tip: Most things are not that important. I’d pick things that were under the umbrella of “doing my work”, like letting people know meeting times have moved, etc. Don’t leave yourself in a position where you later have to explain why you knew X to be true and you never spoke up. Don’t bow out prematurely if you will get spoken to later for failure to convey info. )

      I have done this with letting the nature of the question guide me and I have gotten some good results. It was definitely an interesting stance to adopt, as it forced me to realize how much of the goings-on was really small potatoes. The annoying part is the necessity to take each question on its own as it meant I still had to listen in order to decide. But at least I got out of conversations quicker.

  14. Trying to hire!*

    We are hiring for an entry level office position in our small company – you would think we would get a ton of applications but a) we didn’t and b) the ones we did get were not very good quality. I don’t understand as I feel the salary is very fair for the position and part of the world we are in. In any case, one of the top candidates we have lives a substantial distance away which we didn’t realize until after the interview. Its not a commute that we feel would work long term as we do have fairly bad winters etc and we don’t want to hire someone just to have them leave in a few months because they are over driving hours a day. (plus they will end up eating up a lot of their salary just in gas – there is no public transport to where we are) How can we approach this with this candidate? This is something I just drafted up quickly but I’m sure there is a better way to ask this question…

    Dear Jane
    We are reviewing your candidacy and are concerned about one item. As you live in “Town a long way away”, you would be commuting 3 hours a day. We feel this is not tenable over the long term. Do you have any plans to move closer?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      This seems like a phone call conversation, not an email. Why not give them a call, say you noticed post-interview, and you’d like to ask some questions about how they would handle it? Perhaps they have a relative nearby they plan to stay with if there are storms, or some other solution you haven’t considered.

      It would also make a difference to me the specifics of where they live. Your candidate may have to commute to have any job and fully understand what they need to do to keep their job commitments. I work with people who make commutes like this. Our weather isn’t terrible, but we definitely get winters with snow and ice, and it is not an issue. They just don’t have good professional options closer. They’re going to commute somewhere to be employed in their field.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I think that’s Jane’s problem, not yours. Presumably she knew where you were located when she applied.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes- this is the candidate’s problem.
        What one can do is make it clear what the attendance expectations are. For example, you could inform the candidate that there is little work from home opportunity, and they are needed to be on-site every work day. In addition, they must arrive by a certain start time (or within a reasonable time frame like within +/- 15 minutes of established start time). This is the case all year long-even in winter when the weather may make commuting difficult. Then ask if the candidate is able to meet this attendance expectation.

        1. Trying to hire!*

          This is a butts in seat type of job (manning phones/door among other things) so not a whoel lot of leeway for late arrivals +/- 15 minutes.

          And it IS our problem if she quits in 3 months after we’ve spent time training her. :(

              1. FedAnon*

                If she’s coming out of school into the role, I’d think she’s planning to move. I applied all over the state/region when I was graduating from college, with the plan being to move within a reasonable distance, but my parents’ address was listed on my resume.
                I agree with others; you should call and ask her about it.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            As Alison has pointed out before: People can quit at any time for any number of reasons. If it’s not her it might be somebody else.

            (Might this be related to the reason you’re not getting a bigger or better applicant pool? “Paid fairly for the work” might not mean “paid attractively”, and I feel like “butts in seats” jobs are often not paid attractively even when they’re paid what people tend to get paid for such positions. I’ve had plenty of jobs where I was paid the going rate and it wasn’t a living wage.)

      2. Green Goose*

        At my company we’ve been burned a few times by people accepting the job when they live about 1.5-2 hours away and they thought they could handle the commute but it didn’t end up working out. It has been hard because it’s usually a few months in, just as the person is getting used to the job and then they quit because they want a job closer to home.

        So even though it’s a Jane problem, the company will have to re-open the hiring process and retrain someone else if Jane ends up leaving in less than a year.

      3. Mama Bear*

        I agree that it’s Jane’s problem. If two people live in the same area but one drives and one takes the train, does it matter how they commute so long as they arrive on time? I agree to make clear your leave and attendance policies because really that’s the part that matters.

        1. Artemesia*

          nah. That is like saying ‘oh let the potentially difficult tenant move in but make the ‘rules’ really clear.’ You can ‘make clear’ all you want, but someone will burn out with a 3 hour commute and leave the first chance they get just as disruptive people once secure will be their disruptive selves. She may plan to move and so a phone call is in order. but I’d look further if she isn’t planning on moving.

    3. Natalie*

      Generally speaking there’s nothing wrong with asking about this, long commutes do wear on people. You don’t specify whether or not your office is working remotely right now, if that’s not clear in the job ad I would make sure you discuss it (explicitly, directly) with her, in case there’s any kind of misunderstanding.

      1. Trying to hire!*

        this is definitely NOT a remote job and we are open due to being an essential business. This was made very clear on the job app.

        1. Natalie*

          Then I would just ask her about it. Rather than being attached to a specific answer, personally I’d be listening for her sounding realistic and flexible. Any kind of experience she has commuting could also be useful, you might want to ask about that specifically if she doesn’t mention it herself.

            1. Liralen*

              In that case, she might not realize what a toll the commute will take on her. Asking her might flag it for her, but she might be so desperate for a job that she will accept anyway and then find later that it doesn’t work for her.

              On the other hand, it might tide you over through a difficult period if you really are finding it that hard to hire someone. In three months time if she does quit, it may be easier to find applicants. Or she may not find the commute a burden until winter, in which case again things might be different in your company and the applicant pool.

            2. LunaLena*

              That doesn’t mean she has no experience commuting? I’ve known people who commuted almost that much for school, since it was cheaper to live at home than to live on-campus or get an apartment. I also knew one girl who was a part-time intern while she was a college student, and she had to drive 3 hours roundtrip to get to our company.

              Speaking as someone who had a 2.5 hour commute for four years and (at a different job with a 2-hour roundtrip commute) once had to live at a co-worker’s house for three days because a massive snowstorm closed off the only way home, I agree with Natalie’s advice. Talk to the applicant, stress the importance of being there, and see if she has realistic expectations about the commute. Explain your concerns and see how she reacts, and then decide if she has a good handle on it. Long commutes are not easy, but it can be done, and it shouldn’t be considered an immediate dealbreaker. Especially since, as others have pointed out, it might not work out for all sorts of reasons beyond either of your control anyways, and that’s just the price of hiring.

    4. Angelinha*

      I agree to just ask about it from a place of curiosity vs. assuming it won’t work for her. (It might not, but give her the chance to explain first in case there’s something you haven’t thought of.) Also, I don’t know where in the world you are, but it stuck out that you mentioned the salary is fair, but that gas would eat up a lot of the salary. Unless you’re somewhere where gas is very expensive or fair salaries are very low, the salary might be more of a problem than you are thinking!

      1. Trying to hire!*

        A 3 hour commute is almost a tank of gas a day unless shes driving electric or super high efficiency car (most people around here drive SUVs or pickup trucks- rural south). Even if you’re buying the cheapest gas, that’s still about $125 per week just in gas much less wear and tear, maintenance, new tires etc.

        We’re in a very low cost of living area and the starting salary is more than double minimum wage – not going to take month long vacations at four star resorts in Fiji but its certainly reasonable for the skillset needed and job duties.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          . . . and she might be driving a small car. Or be looking to move. Or be planning to bunk with a friend during the week. Seriously, don’t overthink this before you’ve called her.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          Most people I know with long commutes do select efficient cars. I mean, my teenager has a $1,500 2000 Honda Accord that gets 30 mpg highway, with a 17 gal tank. Current mileage is in the low 130,000s, and those will go for 300,000, so you would still have a few years before replacing something like that, even with that commute.

          He would get 500 miles per tank, ~$34 per tank. I’d estimate she drives 200 mi/day, so that could be about $70-80 per week in gas. That’s probably about $4000 out of $31,000+ gross salary. It’s a lot, but it really just would depend on what other options are out there. This may be her best opportunity.

        3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          “A 3 hour commute is almost a tank of gas a day ”

          I don’t think so. With typical cars in the US, it’s a tank every two or maybe three days.

          1. Kat in VA*

            It depends. I have a high horsepower sports car, and my 3ish hour commute per day, five days a week, meant I had to fill up once a week. I should note I do not drive in economy mode. :)

            However, there’s a major difference between three hours of commute due to distance (as in ~90 miles of open road driving at ~60mph) or three hours of commute due to traffic (as in ~26 miles but horrendous DC stop-and-go traffic).

    5. aqua arrow*

      Is there any reason that you’d think that she wouldn’t just move to be closer to your area? Especially considering that she was in school before, I think that it would be safe to assume that she’s either a) living at home for the time being and planning on moving to your area or b) willing to take any job right now, even if it means a long commute.

      With that being said, an hour and a half commute one-way isn’t all that bad, I worked at a place for a few years with a very long (2+ hours daily) commute and many of my current coworkers drive more than an hour each way for their job. I enjoyed the alone time and it gave me time to wake up in the morning and decompress on the way home.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Came here to say the first half of it: If they are fresh out of school, they may be planning a move.
        And frankly, were I a recent college grad with few attachments and facing a 90 minute commute, I’d be planning a move too.

      2. Detail Therapy*

        When I graduated from college I moved back home with my mom, but applied for jobs as far as 4 hours away, because I wanted to move *out* of my mom’s house. I know I didn’t ever mention in my cover letters that I was willing to move, and now I wonder if that’s a reason I didn’t hear from very many of those, since I got a lot of interviews in the area where I was living.

        I ended up getting a job two hours away, and IIRC the interviewer asked me straight up why I was applying for jobs two hours from where I lived. I told her I wanted to move to the city the job was in because I had a lot of friends there (which was true) and wanted to take graduate classes at a university there (also true). So I would say just ask the candidate.

    6. Z*

      I’ve been told not to ask candidates specifically about commutes/where they live/how they will get to work. The reasoning was that this can be interpreted as using financial information to make employment decisions. Additionally, there’s a possibility of overt or implicit biases against living in certain areas/neighborhoods. Instead, focus on asking the questions that get to the center of what you’re trying to determine–if you’re concerned about arriving on time, you can stress the flexible start time and ask if they will be able to arrive at that time.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I read one job at where it said that attendance was mandatory. Not showing up for work because of snow/bad weather were not accepted as valid reasons.

        I do think there is merit in asking her how she planned to handle bad weather and a 3 hour commute. I have a friend who took a job 45 minutes away from here. This can easily morph into a 3 hour or longer ride in bad weather. Her plan was to pack an over night bag and stay at her sister’s place which was nearby her workplace. My friend never missed work and never arrived late. Her plan was fail-proof.

    7. Remote HealthWorker*

      Wow you sound really bitter about this job search. It may be better to take a break and reevaluate your candidate pool and search strategy. If your thinking was, our Salary is OK but people are desperate so we will get great candidates…well that clearly didn’t happen according to your letter.

      It seems like you are expecting your favorite candidate to fail. You have harshly turned down a lot of excellent advice. I strongly recommend you reflect on your feelings about the search and get your needs and hire strategy aligned so whoever you hire isn’t taking all that pent up negativity.

    8. AcademiaNut*

      There have been threads on this before, from the applicant’s position. In at least one, the OP wrote back to say that the employer was right – the commute was not sustainable.

      I do think it’s a valid thing to worry about and ask about. And honestly, if it’s a job where being on time is important and she can’t work from home, I’d be very hesitant to hire her unless she had solid plans to move. A 3 hour daily drive is a lot, and exhausting for most people. And that’s in good weather and traffic – throw in highway construction, bad traffic, poor weather, and it can be a lot more than that.

      If an applicant had done this in the past, it’d be different, but for a new grad who really wants a job it’s really easy to rationalize it as being doable, end up three months into the job exhausted with no free time, and quit abruptly. For a new grad, though, I think that “I can move as soon as I get a paycheck” is a fine response, because it can be nearly impossible to relocate without an income, as a new grad isn’t likely to have substantial enough savings to live in a city for months off of it.

    9. Kat in VA*

      To be fair…

      (for LetterKenny devotees, “To be faaaaaiiirrrrrrrr-uh!”)

      …when I was still, you know, actually coming into the office, my commute was roughly 1:20 to 1:40 in the mornings and minimum 1:45 to 2:00 in the evenings.

      I love my job. It’s an admin position (I’m an EA), and I’m well paid…I still spend/t roughly three hours a day in the car when actually commuting (DC area, everyone who lives here now nod wearily with me).

      I also have four children, a husband, and two dogs. That time in the car was literally the only headspace that I ever got, and I miss it bitterly.

      YMMV

  15. PM here*

    Has anyone ever gone back to a job or workplace they left? How did it work it when you went back? How did you preserve the relationship with old workplace to make it happen?
    The reason I ask is because I’m thinking of leaving my really great workplace I’m currently at but if things don’t work out at the new place, I might want to come back. I wasn’t looking for a new job. I love my boss, team and workplace (now that is, there was a time that I was deeply unhappy and thinking about looking). However one of my past clients recently went into c-level role in a startup and is trying to recruit me. They’re offering me almost 40% more than what I make now and everything else- team, workplace and benefits seem reasonable. I’m really tempted by the offer but I know my boss and leadership team will be upset if I leave. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to preserve the relationship if things don’t work out at the new place.

    1. Mama Bear*

      I didn’t return to the same place, but a lot of us ended up in the same second company. I would guess that half of us knew each other prior. Basically when I left the first company, I was very professional about it. I kept in touch with a few folks on LinkedIn (which is how I noticed the migration). But mainly I just didn’t torch that bridge so when life came back around again years later, it was a good move. Your boss/leadership may be upset that you’re moving on but try to keep the mindframe that it’s all business – for you and for them. Most people don’t stay 30 years in the same job anymore. This is an opportunity for you. Take it and move on professionally, and try not to think about it as having Old Job in your back pocket. If you keep looking back, you’ll not get the most benefit of the new opportunity. If you have reservations about the new job, then don’t take it. But don’t take it because it’s the right thing to do for YOU, not them.

    2. Laura*

      I temped at a job for 3.5 years left for a permanent job and was hired back permanently four years later. I had connected with two coworkers on Facebook (LinkedIn isn’t a big thing in the dept). I sent a Christmas card a couple times to the dept. The office isn’t in a part of the city I’m usually near so once when I was nearby I stopped into say hi.
      Just generally being a friendly person.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I only did this once, and I went back as a temp. When I left the first time, it was because the job responsibilities had shifted from customer service to more sales-oriented, and I wasn’t happy with that, so I decided to leave. I did so on good terms; they had a goodbye party for me and everything. During a later period of unemployment, I called and asked if they had any open positions, and they had me come in to sub part-time for someone on maternity leave.

      This was in 2001; I actually went to work on 9/11. All we did all day was watch the news (someone brought in a small TV) and stress-eat cookies. In retrospect, I’m glad I was with people I liked. It would have sucked to be alone that day.

      I think it’s also a sound reason to stay on good terms with a former company even if the job itself doesn’t work out. You never know when you might need to leverage that connection in a pinch.

    4. JustMyImagination*

      Give adequate notice. If you’re in a management position with a lot of projects to transition, consider giving more than 2 weeks notice. I’d keep my resignation news to the bittersweet tone when talking to people casaully, since it sounds like it would be bittersweet for you- “I really enjoy it here but this was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up”, “the team here is so wonderful, I can only hope that my new team is half as good!”

    5. Cedrus Libani*

      I’ve never done it, but I’ve seen it. My team just re-hired someone who was laid off in the 2008-era R&D cutbacks. He was a known quantity who required much less training than the average new hire. It wasn’t weird; it’s a small world, people move on, but we’re not surprised to see them again.

      There’s a guy on another team who prefers working for startups. He’s quit at least twice, but he’s still working here, because he keeps getting acqui-hired (I work at a mega-corporation that loves to eat startups).

      Just leave a good last impression – wrap up your work, make a clean hand-off, etc. Not much more you can do.

    6. JustaTech*

      I haven’t done it, but I have had several coworkers at my job who have left and come back. One of them has left and come back twice. Some of them came back after layoffs, but some left for other opportunities and then came back.

      Generally the people who come back are the ones that were at least good, if not great, at their jobs, and often the ones who have specialized skills or knowledge.
      There is often a tone of “oh, back slumming with us again?”, but it’s kindly meant.

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

      Depends on the company’s situation, in almost all places you could leave on excellent terms but they aren’t going to hang around to wait and see if you come back while you use them as a kind of “fallback position” so it may well be just due to business realities that they will need to recruit someone to backfill the role you are leaving, and then no matter how much they liked you and wanted you to come back, they may not be able to create a position for you… this is a “know your company” sort of thing, as in how much leeway would they have to ‘create’ a position rather than have it approved through 5 levels of bureaucracy at the annual budget setting process…

      I haven’t “gone back” myself but have worked with people who had (i.e. I worked with them during both their first and second term of employment at that company). Generally they came back to different roles that were a genuine vacancy/business need. I can only think of one case where a role was ‘created’ for the person and that was due to extenuating circumstances.

    8. I'm that person*

      I work in biotech where people playing musical chairs seems to be the rule rather than the exception. I know 5 or 6 people in my department who have left and come back. Some were gone for 2 or 3 years, most for less time. One co-worker was gone for such a short period of time she called it her sabbatical.

    9. Jules the First*

      I did it. I sat my boss down and explained how much I loved working here, but that an opportunity had arisen that I couldn’t pass up. He was gutted to lose me, but agreed it was a great-looking opportunity. I gave my notice, we had a boozy farewell lunch and promised to stay in touch. I started the new job and had lunch a couple of times a month with a couple of key people from the old job, went to a couple of events where old boss was, and just generally stayed friendly. A few months into my tenure at NewJob, it became apparent that all was not as I had been sold at NewJob. At my next lunch date I casually mentioned that it wasn’t going as I’d hoped, and three weeks later I was back in OldJob with a refined job description, salary matching NewJob, and a one-year fixed contract. I was thrilled to be back – I loved that job and the people in it – but left at the end of my year’s contract because it quickly became clear that I’d outgrown that job. I’m still in touch (ten years on) with people from that job and still hear from old boss from time to time. It can be done, but you need to be committed to nurturing that relationship and you need to be prepared to discover that the job is no longer right for you.

    10. RowanUK*

      I did this once and it was a mistake.
      I left because the culture was toxic and I was about to be signed off with stress. I didn’t have a job to go to. Around a month later, a temp agency said “we have a place you would be perfect for!” and it turned out to be one of the other departments in the company (I knew and liked everyone on that team).

      While the team was much better, I hated the role and started getting panic attacks from just being in the building. My old manager was not impressed AT ALL that I was temping there because they refused to replace me and she was swamped with work I would have done. I was super awkward for the few days I could stand it before quitting temp work and taking more time off.

      It shouldn’t be an issue to go back in a healthy company (the one I’m in now has taken several people back before and been really happy to do so), so I’d say it depends on the culture.

    11. Jen RO*

      I left after 3 and a half years on good terms, kept in touch with former coworkers, and returned when they were hiring for the same role in another team. As for the logistics – the ex-coworker I was friends with floated the idea to my former manager (‘Jen’s new job has had massive restructuring so she doesn’t feel it will work long-term, she said she’s open to considering our new role, what do you think?’), I met with the manager for an informal discussion, interviewed in a couple more places but his offer
      was better so I ended up going back.

      I’ve been on the new team for 6 years and loving it!

  16. Lemon Ginger Tea*

    I work for a small office and about half of us typically travel out of state by air several times a month. As restrictions are lifting, these coworkers are resuming air travel with special letters of permission and, I assume, using proper safety precautions. They return to working in the office as soon as they’re back.

    I have growing concerns about them possibly contaminating our office. We live in a state that is thankfully doing well and gradually reopening, and these coworkers are traveling to hot spots. They reopened our office a few weeks ago after we all were WFH for the past 3 months. They’re otherwise being reasonably cautious — we all have individual closed offices, and have a policy to wear masks in common areas and reduce face to face time. But I’m worried about this. Thoughts?

    1. The Grey Lady*

      Well, some places are definitely aware of the hot spots. In Kansas, for instance, there is a policy stating that anyone who travels from my state must immediately go into a 14-day quarantine, reason being that my state is one who has not been following the rules and has done nothing to stop the virus.

      That said, I’m not sure there’s really anything you can do about this. But the good news is that your coworkers seem to be following the safety guidelines as much as they can. I think you can trust them to stay safe and to stay home if they think they may be sick. Try not to worry and keep doing everything you can to stay sanitized and safe. Maybe you can talk to your boss about getting a cleaning service to come in and do a deep sanitation of the whole office once a week or something? That was an idea my office threw around, although we haven’t done it yet.

        1. kt*

          If folks are deliberately ignoring such rules, you’re right to be worried — and also I don’t know what you can do :(

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      Id be worried too. My employer will not allow us to travel right now and if we do travel out of state, even personally, we have to tell them and might have to take leave and not work for 14 days.

    3. WellRed*

      My thought is that many of the airlines are not enforcing social distancing, planes can be full up with passengers all, you know, breathing, and forget about mask wearing, even among the employees. I’d be worried too, but I’m not sure what the answer is.

      1. Beth*

        Even if the planes aren’t full and the flight attendants are masked: travelers spend more than enough time in airports to be exposed to each other. I’m more leery of airports right now than I am of airplanes.

    4. Nita*

      Do they have the ability to work from home? If so, I’d bring it up with the manager that it would be a good idea for them to work from home for a couple of weeks after they travel.

      1. Lemon Ginger Tea*

        Yes, we’ve all been WFH for months so it’s possible but not ideal. A handful of them started going in regularly while we were still technically closed because it was preferable. (These are the same ones who are still coming in after traveling now…)

    5. Artemesia*

      yeah they are definitely increasing the risk of those in the office. I hope everyone is masked all the time at work.

  17. Job and House*

    I’ve been casually job searching for a while and had a few interviews recently, but a house has come on the market that is absolutely perfect for my family. Does anyone have experience with how a new job is seen when you’re being evaluated for a mortgage? Am I better off staying at a lower-paying, but very stable, job for now? I’ve been there for 7 years.

    1. Alex*

      You need to stay at your old job in order to get approved for a mortgage (unless your spouse makes enough money to cover it themselves, or you are independently wealthy). Being new in a job could disqualify you for a mortgage.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Shoot. On a similar note, I work at a bank that offers its employees mortgages at great interest rates. But of course if you leave, you need to pay the mortgage in full.
        I’m considering buying a house in a couple of years, but getting an employer mortgage is scary because it seems pretty impossible to refinance if I leave, since I’ll be switching jobs. On the other hand, I will have paid some of it off by then, so maybe the LTV ratio could offset the job status?

          1. Indy Dem*

            That sounds… like indentured service? Okay we gave you a loan for this much at this rate, but if you leave the whole loan is due? or does the interest rate go up? And is that actually legal?

            1. Sunset Maple*

              I had to pay back tuition reimbursement if I left sooner than two years past my graduation date. I don’t think that sort of thing is unusual.

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            Normally you would refinance, and get another bank to take over your mortgage.

        1. MassMatt*

          I would NOT want my employer to hold my mortgage, nor a friend or family member, unless the discount were really large, and even then I’d be leery.

          But why would refinancing be impossible if you leave? You might have to pay a non-discounted rate, but something is wrong if refinancing is impossible. Are they lending to employees with bad credit?

      2. MissGirl*

        Nope, not necessarily true. I quit my full time job to go back to school and was only at my post-graduation job for three months when I made an offer on my house. I had only part time jobs during those two years at school. I had great credit and a good income and was approved with only 3% down payment.

        One thing to watch out for is changing jobs between approval and signing. That can mess things up. Hold on off on a start date until after you’ve closed.

      3. MassMatt*

        I doubt this is true, unless the new job is at a substantially lower rate of pay or the pay is unstable, as in a lot of sales jobs.

        There’s a reason mortgage applications ask how long you’ve been in you4 current job, and then ask about your previous job if you haven’t been in the current one for more than two years. If being in your job for less than 2 years were disqualifying why would they ask about the previous job?

        Mortgage lenders make money by lending money, not denying loans. People change jobs, having switched in the last 2 years is not going to dramatically increase the risk of default.

    2. Lemon Ginger Tea*

      Yes, I’ve been in this position and the new employer was willing to hold off on my start date until after I’d closed on the house. I literally went from the closing to give notice at my old job, haha.
      I do have a friend who went ahead with a new job and then bought a house, but I don’t know whether it was a conventional loan and whether the same credit checks would apply.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      The bank needs to see steady income usually for two years. It is fine if that income is with a new employer — after all a lot of people buy houses after changing jobs! I think every house I’ve ever bought (I’ve owned five houses) was within a month or two after starting a new job.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        I should specify that I am a senior level risk executive who has been in the mortgage industry for over twenty years, so I know what I am talking about. When you fill out the 1003 (the application) it will ask for your current job, but if you’ve had that job for less than two years, then you will have to provide information about the previous job(s) to go back two years. The bank will be concerned with job hopping and there may be concern if you switch from one profession to a new profession and are not yet established. But it is VERY common and customary for people to buy houses after switching jobs and that shouldn’t be a problem.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. My kids have both bought houses when new to jobs. But they had long employment records, so what the mortgage holder was looking at was stability of the job record not just ‘this job’.

      2. LadyByTheLake*

        I should be clear too that I am assuming that you would be in the new job before applying. If you aren’t and anticipate moving jobs while in the middle of the mortgage process. I agree with others that it would be best to buy the house THEN start the new job. Sorry if I wasn’t clear on that.

    4. Natalie*

      You shouldn’t start your new job until the sale and mortgage are completed but that doesn’t mean you need to stop looking at postings. Don’t borrow trouble, as they say. Deal with a desired job offer and a closing in the same week if and when that actually happens.

      1. Artemesia*

        People move for a job and buy a house in a new area all the time. I have done it back in the day and both my kids have done it in the last 10 years. And we know many others who moved to a new community for a job and of course needed a house and bought one.

    5. HR Bee*

      I literally *just* did this. My spouse and I submitted our mortgage application, then I got laid off for COVID, but THANKFULLY found another role quickly. Our bank wasn’t concerned in the slightest. However, I had time before closing to give them two paystubs, my salary was substantially similar (slightly higher, actually) and I did not change fields. Changing fields would have been a much bigger issue, from what I understand.

      I would not change jobs less than a month before closing if at all possible.

    6. Amy Sly*

      I just did this in March. I submitted the mortgage application under my old job … and in the middle of the closing process, I got hired for a new job that had a $15K pay bump.

      To sell the mortgage on the secondary market (which ninety-odd percent of banks and credit unions do) the qualifying income generators need to have worked for two years. They do not have to be at the same job; one catch though: if you are relying on commissions or overtime payments as part of the qualifying income, you must have two years’ worth of records showing that commission and overtime payments are large and steady enough.

      The loan officer needed confirmation of my new job, salary and payment schedule; they called my new boss and accepted my offer letter. From the LO’s reaction, this is common enough to have a well-versed procedure in place.

    7. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think there are a lot of factors that the bank would consider. Is there someone at the bank you could talk to?

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

      This is something that’s always puzzled me. In the UK at least, it’s possible but often more difficult to be approved for a mortgage when you have recently changed jobs. To a degree I can understand that, (“last in first out”, etc I suppose) and I guess there must be some statistical modelling behind it, but I’m not sure what the issue is if the person has a stable history in general (i.e. not just 3 months here, then a gap, then 2 months, a gap, 8 months, a gap…. etc).

      Having been at a company for 7 years (or whatever) just says that the company were hiring 7 years ago and that the person was able to get hired in a job 7 years ago. It doesn’t say anything (from the mortgage company’s perspective) about if you are going to be downsized next week… or how easily you could find another job. Whereas if you have just moved job, it proves that the company was actively hiring as recently as (say) 2 months ago…

      This isn’t a direct answer to your question I know, but is something I’m curious about and wondered if anyone here knows. I’ve never been able to find an answer to this in anything I’ve searched or people I’ve asked!

      The only answer I’ve ever received, which wasn’t very convincing, was that mortgage applications take account of facts as they are at the time, not “things that might happen in the future”… which seems crazy to me since the current situation includes all the possibilities of the future!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        They don’t check the company because the company is not buying the house, they only consider the individual buying the house. In some ways this makes sense, companies can fail and that is a big long process, but individuals can move about with much more ease to find work else where.

        Here in the US stability is defined as staying in the same line of work. So if I was a librarian at my last job and I start a new job as a librarian then it’s really not too much of a problem.

        And just my opinion mortgage companies here in the US are not that future oriented. I am unimpressed with how they calculate living expense in order to figure out how much debt a person can carry. I might be too picky but to me the way they view the numbers is, “Can this person make their first payment? Oh, good. Okay then give them a loan.” The remaining 30 years of payments seems to fall off the radar.

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

          (This is my additional thoughts, rather than an argument against you, please understand!) … I understand the “companies failing and that’s a long process” but the immediate impact of that on an individual is that the person would be out of a job. Presumably from the fact that the company was known to be recruiting 3 months ago… they are statistically less likely to be “going under” (since most companies have a hiring freeze months before mass layoffs) than a company where all you know about them is that they were recruiting 10 years ago.

          Similarly the person with the new job has shown that they are eminently “hireable” 3 months ago, vs stagnation of skills after being hired 10 years ago.. Again, statistically.

          I have seen people spared from layoffs in favour of others being laid off (when there was a choice of “whom to lay off” among people doing the same role) based on situational factors like “they have just taken on a huge mortgage”, though. (Personally I wouldn’t take that into account at all!)

          I’m so frustrated that all these companies seem to take such a short-termist approach. (Again, not your fault, I’m just saying in general)… “Can this person make this first payment?” — it’s exactly that! I’m not sure what they do in the States these days, but here in the UK we now have ‘stringent’ affordability requirements where the person requesting the money has to detail out their income, outgoings, childcare costs, credit card repayments etc etc… and this gets “tested” against scenarios like what would happen if interest rates were to increase by 1, 2, 3…%? That’s all laudable, but there’s no testing of scenarios like what would happen if they were laid off tomorrow. The current facts are assumed to be the future facts for the next (as you say) 30 years!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I totally agree with your points here, so absolutely no offense taken. Our systems are short-sighted and prime examples of shallow thinking. If we went into a longer conversation here, we would prove out that most lenders are just concerned about making money. The people-factor is non-existent. I think of it as a form of soulessness. We are people, not ATMs that dispense a mortgage payment each month to our lenders.

            1. Amy Sly*

              More accurately: most banks are only worried about making the commission for selling the mortgage on the securities market. Banks who hold the loan themselves (and thus will be the ones stuck with a house that probably won’t sell for the remaining value of the loan if the borrower can’t pay) are a lot more conscientious about ensuring a borrower’s ability to pay.

  18. The Grey Lady*

    TL:DR version: My coworker pointedly refuses to write my name correctly.

    Okay, so, I got married four years ago. At that time, instead of dropping my middle name as it traditional, I chose to drop my maiden name. So, for example (not my real name but just to show what I mean), this is what I did:

    Before marriage: Emily Anne Smith
    After marriage: Emily Anne Johnson

    At our company, one of my coworkers–Jane–is in charge of keeping up with all personal info on everybody. Additionally, we are also a company that uses people’s initials a lot in emails, written materials, etc. It’s just the easiest and fastest way to refer to someone, kind of like our version of shorthand.

    Well, ever since my marriage, Jane continuously writes my name/initials as Emily Smith Johnson or ESJ. I have corrected her multiple times. She always say something like, “Oh, okay,” but then changes nothing. I became aware of this again just a couple of days ago when I received some papers that Jane and had written some initials on. Again, she had me as ESJ.

    This isn’t really a huge problem, as HR and Accounting has my correct legal name on file, so my name is right on my paychecks and stuff like that. It’s mostly just an annoyance more than anything.

    Jane is not normally forgetful, so I don’t think she is forgetting my name. The only explanation I can come up with is that she is annoyed that I didn’t change my name the traditional way (she’s an older woman with traditional values, which is fine), but if that’s the case, she’s chosen a really weird hill to die on.

    I don’t want to fight with her and, honestly, after four years, she’s clearly not going to change it. Since it doesn’t really impact anything, I guess I will just let this go.

    1. Quill*

      I 100% did not grow up with the expectation that you would lose your middle name upon marriage (born in the early 90’s)

      My mom has used various combinations of her name depending on context: in her first profession she was First Maiden Last, which she still uses on facebook to facilitate being found by her dozens of cousins, but in her personal and professional circles since about 2000 she’s always been First Middle Last or First Middle Maiden Last, or First Middle-Initial Last. Outside of situations where you only use First-Last, which is, now that I think of it, most situations these days…

      1. The Grey Lady*

        I was born in the early 90s too, and I 100% did grow up with that expectation. Even my mom had to get used to the idea that I was not changing my name the “traditional” way.

        1. Quill*

          My grandma (born in the early 30’s) didn’t use her maiden name as a middle name consistently either. So it may be regional / more common in specific subgroups? (I come from an embarassment of Catholics.)

          But also my mom and my grandma both had art careers before marriage (and in my mom’s case, well into my childhood) so that might have something to do with it.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            My mom, a Boomer, went by First Maiden Last, as did both my grandmothers – they told me this was the German tradition. (I am an American Euro-mutt of mostly German heritage, though they all came over in the 1700s, so all that’s left of the old country is the surnames and a couple of family recipes.)

            Still, it’s a weird hill to die on. I would just treat it like a typo and send it back. Return the awkward to sender…literally.

            1. Quill*

              Very similar heritage but I think the difference might be that my mom is boomer gen X cusp and my grandma kept the middle name around for corresponding with her extensive family, where there were likely to be multiples of a first name. (My other set of grandparents divorced… I don’t actually know what that grandma considered her full name.)

      2. Scarlet Magnolias*

        I didn’t like my father so I didn’t want to use his name, so I’m first, middle name, married name

        1. The Grey Lady*

          That’s exactly what happened with me. Abusive father, so I had no desire to carry on the name.

      3. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I’ve rarely seen this so I don’t think it’s super normal or traditional. May e it depends on where you live. I’ve only seen it a few times when I worked with real estate agents.
        I would just talk to Jane and say that your afraid it could cause confusion, especially if someone new comes in and sees the wrong initials.
        Then if she continues after you talked with her bring it up to your or her supervisor. It’s stupid and petty. What if you hadn’t changed your name at all. She needs to stop

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yep. It was not common among my family (Iowa/South Dakota/Nebraska) to do a name change thus. My aunt is the only woman in my family who went from First-Middle-Maiden to First-Maiden-Husband’s.

    2. AY*

      No advice here, just commiseration! It’s very grating when others think they get to have an opinion on a woman’s name change/lack of name change. Just know that her having an opinion of your naming decision and expressing it at work is not appropriate. I had a private COVID wedding in March (just me, husband, and officiant), and I’m already dreading the nonsense after our formal wedding next year.

    3. bunniferous*

      It’s wrong. I would go to her and ask her why she keeps getting your initials wrong and then wait till she gives you an answer. I am also Southern, married for decades, and I also kept my middle name and dropped my maiden name. TBH I wrote my initials both ways for awhile but then settled on the correct way at some point.

      I know you say it is more just an annoyance but it is conceivable there may be a time when this would be an actual Problem so I would still press it. Maybe she forgets your middle initial and remembers your maiden name?

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      Talk to her with concern, mention she got your name wrong again, its been 4 years, and ask her if she is having any age related memory problems and recommend an app to help with that.

      Don’t do that, but I kinda want to.

    5. Ashley*

      I honestly would start asking who is ESJ or if she gives you something marked that just say that’s not me. It is a little passive aggressive but you have tried direct. I find refusing to learn someones name to be flat out rude. (And I have been there and still argue with my family 5+ years later about my name … and my sister who didn’t change her name has the argument in reverse interestingly with the same family members.)

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

        Ahh the passive aggressive possibilities are almost endless if “writing initials on things” (the full ‘incorrect’ name is harder to get away with of course) entails stuff like allocating work items or shifts to people, or otherwise attributing something to the non-existent “ESJ”.

        Didn’t pick up that work item? I didn’t realise it was for me, it had the initials ESJ whereas I’m EAJ, etc.

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

          … to be clear, I’m generally a fan of direct, rather than passive-aggressive approaches and I wouldn’t recommend doing this. But it is amusing to think about, and is one possible approach!

    6. Dust Bunny*

      I’m old enough that I’d just ask her what the heck is going on: Point out that you’ve corrected her multiple times and she keeps getting it wrong, so what will it take to get it to stick?

      (I, personally, would probably cold-stare her down until she answered to my satisfaction, but you maybe shouldn’t twist the knife. Sorry, my real names are all offbeat and I’ve had it about up to *here* with people not taking the time to learn them. I no longer hesitate to make things a little awkward if it helps someone’s memory.)

      Since we’re chiming in, my mother kept both her middle and maiden names, so she has four initials. I never married but I think I’d do the same.

    7. Natalie*

      Have you pointed out to her that it’s a continuous problem and asked her why she keeps messing it up?

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I know one person, total, out of everyone that I know across a variety of generations (going back to people who were born at the beginning of the 1900s), who chose to take her husband’s name and use her maiden name as her middle name instead of dropping it entirely. Personally, I’ve taken two different husbands’ last names and hyphenated a third and never dropped my middle name :P So I guess, if it helps any, you’re definitely not unusual in what you did – if anything, I think your way is the most common? – and you’re right, she’s being REALLY super weird about it.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        Until this post I had completely forgotten that women used to do this (I’m a bit older than the OP apparently) and I don’t think I’ve ever actually met someone whose done it.

      2. Double A*

        My mom did this, but I didn’t know it was “traditional.” And actually my grandmother was a little upset at her for dropping her middle name, because it was a family name!

        But we’re on the West Coast so rules about naming conventions? What are those?

    9. LadyRegister*

      One small way to short circuit this is to repeatedly misspell her name. It’s low stakes but gets the message across that having someone get your name wrong is disrespectful and irritating.

    10. Mama Bear*

      It really doesn’t matter what the expectation was on her end – you changed your name and she persistently keeps using the wrong name/initials on documents and files, so those references to you are wrong. What if there is a legit ESJ down the road and it gets mixed up? Or there’s an audit and they ask who ESJ is? These are company files.

      I realize that this has been a four year fight, but I’d bring it up with her once more, correct or have corrected anything that is wrong, and if she balks or argues, bring it up with the team lead or whoever. If I have to have people sign off on a doc so it can proceed for approval, I need the right names, not what I think those names should be. If I take minutes, I better get every name and title right for posterity. If I introduce someone under the wrong name for a client then that makes all of us look stupid. Your name is no longer Smith. She needs to use your correct name/initials. She remembers that your name changed, but refuses to use the right one. Send her those files back and tell her to fix them as she used the wrong name – again. Names and titles matter and she needs to get it right.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Agree. It puts the focus on her professionalism and keeps it out of the personal range, which a manager or higher-up might not take seriously, plus it’s a legitimate business concern.

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

        What if there is a legit ESJ down the road and it gets mixed up? Or there’s an audit and they ask who ESJ is?

        I understand your point, and it is valid, and it also makes me think of a wider implication of this. A clash of initials isn’t all that uncommon, for example I’m working in a “dotted line” relationship as part of a team at the moment in which two people have the same initials (let’s say J.D.), and there is an approval step before checking code in to the main system, in which you have to review the code with a team-mate and then put their initials in the “reviewed by” field in the system when they approve that it’s a-ok to go in to the main system. So let’s say I check in something and then “J.D.” approves it. Later we get audited, and there’s no way to tell if it was John Doe or Jane Dorian who approved it.

    11. ThatGirl*

      I do have a few friends who have gone the Emily Smith Johnson route, and some who didn’t change their names at all, but both my mom (who’s almost 70) and I went the Emily Anne Johnson route, and I would never have guessed that ESJ was more “traditional”. That strikes me as a very weird stubbornness to insist that changing your middle name is expected.

      1. The Grey Lady*

        I think it’s mostly regional. I was born and raised in the Deep South. Everything is very “old school” here in a lot of ways.

      2. Nicki Name*

        Same here! I’m old enough to remember the ’90s when Hillary Clinton took a lot of flak for being Hillary Rodham Clinton rather than just ditching her maiden name completely.

      3. kt*

        I’m a Midwesterner, almost 40 yrs old, and I’d never heard of dropping the middle name and slotting in the maiden name. Never! That’s so interesting. I was raised that when you married, that maiden name was *gone*!

        (I didn’t change my name at all — too much fuss.)

        1. Dancing Otter*

          Another Midwesterner here. My mother (born 1918, British parents) informed me that when a woman divorced – not when she married – she used maiden name married name. So, she would be Mrs. Sally Smith Jones instead of Mrs. Matthew Jones, to disambiguate her from the next Mrs. Matthew Jones. I assume her Edwardian mother told her that.

          We were discussing whether I would take my husband’s surname at all, keep my own, or hyphenate the two, back in 1978. I have no poker face, so I probably looked at her as though she had two heads, but she really thought a double last name would make people think I was divorced instead of newly married. (Best to forget her comments on “Ms.”)

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I didn’t grow up with this. It wouldn’t work for me anyway, since I go by my middle name and not my first. I’m much more likely to drop that instead.

    12. Bagpuss*

      I would start returning anything that’s wrong to her and say ‘this isn’t for me – I don’t know who ESJ is.’
      IF she says ‘of, it’s for you then say ‘No, I used to be EAS, I’m now EAJ, I’m not, and haven’t ever been, ESJ. Can you please correct this and make sure it is accurate moving forward?’
      give it back to her to correct every single time until she gets it right, – that way, it becomes a hassle for her to get it wrong.

      Alternatively, skip that and go to her boss, point out that she has repeatedly been told she is using a name which is not yours, that you have asked her to correct it and she has failed to do so, and you need it to be sorted – quite apart from anything else, if it’s ever relevant to see who was involved, the records will be wrong because they don’t have someone by the name or initials she is using, and other people are not going to know who was meant.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        Yes, I support this way of dealing with it. I wouldn’t let it go, just proceed as if it’s a mistake (which it is) and needs to be fixed. Every. Time. Be matter of fact, like of course she wants it to be correct.

      2. Observer*

        You might want to point out that given how everything is going digital, using the wrong initials could REALLY mess with things down the line. Think about it – I’m looking for all emails and documents with your initials, and I’m not going to find all of them, either because her list is wrong so anything other than HER stuff is not going to show up. Or someone uses your actual initials and anything she’s been involved in is not going to show up.

        In other words, she’s messing around with important information. Don’t get into whether your name is “traditional”. This is what your name is, as the IRS, Payroll, HR etc. can attest to.

    13. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’d let it go.

      What is the risk — other than your annoyance — if she continues using the wrong initials? Will a document not reach you? Will someone misunderstand whom she’s referring to? Will either of these problems actually be a problem for you? Never say never, but I’m thinking that they won’t be your problem. And even if they are, they won’t be your fault. If they cause a problem, then perhaps some other people will get her to understand that she needs to use your correct initials.

      Signed,

      Someone whose own grandparent went to their grave believing that I’d actually broken the law by not changing my last name upon marriage

    14. revueller*

      I’m sorry, that sounds so frustrating.

      I’d really want to take the unprofessional road and act as if “Emily Smith Johnson” is a completely separate person and be confused about why Emily Smith Johnson is being referred to in an email or written material where you, Emily Anne Johnson, should be. “Emily Smith Johnson? I don’t think I’ve ever met her, does she work at another office? I have no idea whose initials these are, but I know I’m supposed to be the person referenced here and my initials are EAJ. How strange! I wonder who this mysterious ESJ is!”

    15. Someone from VA*

      What I would do is a) have one final conversation about it and then b) start asking for who ESJ is.

      Side note: I can think of two people that took their maiden names as their maiden names so I’m not really sure how traditional that is (maybe not where I’m from).

    16. Database Developer Dude*

      Your name is your name. I would point-blank ask her why she keeps doing this. This is the hill to die on. Intentionally messing up someone’s name crosses a line.

    17. CatCat*

      If it’s something that has to be passed to other people, I’d kick it back to her to correct because it’s confusing when there is no ESJ. Otherwise… if it’s annoying to you, but not offensive, I’d let it go. If it’s offensive to you (and I can see why it would be), I think you should ask her what’s going on. “Jane, my name for years has been EAJ, but you keep referring to me as ESJ, what’s going on?”

      I had an assistant who kept using a wrong name in a document and it turned out it was because she kept on using a template that wasn’t current (so even when she corrected the document, the template wasn’t getting corrected).

    18. cmcinnyc*

      I have never heard of dropping the middle name as “the traditional way” and I’m middle aged. In fact, where I’m from, almost everyone in my mother’s generation and 100% of my grandmother’s generation kept their middle name and changed only their last name. So your supposition that “everyone knows this” is off. You think this person is making an intentional point about your name but that may not be true.

      Also, when people change their names, there’s a period of “is it Emily Smith? Or Emily Johnson?” It’s crystal clear to you, but since other people are not actually thinking about you all that much, and I *guarantee* not giving your *middle name* a thought, ever, I’d be happy she’s got your new LAST name right and just gently remind her of the new middle until it becomes as automatic for her as it is for you.

      1. The Grey Lady*

        I always thought of dropping the middle name as traditional because that’s what I was taught (Deep South), but I’m learning through comments that it’s not traditional at all in other areas. So that’s interesting.

        Also, I realize that there is a learning curve when someone’s name changes and no one really puts much thought into your name. That doesn’t bother me at all. It’s just that my name change happened four years ago, and Jane is literally the only person in the office who consistently (and purposefully) gets my name wrong. And I have been “gently” reminding her for four years now.

        1. kt*

          Yeah, given the info you’re provided, I feel like this coworker is making A Point. Do you have any other friction with her?

    19. RagingADHD*

      For a long time (like 10+ years), I was the only person I know of my generation or younger who kept my maiden name instead of my middle name!

      I was born in the 70s.

    20. Anne Elizabeth Shirley*

      I know! I have had my married name for over 35 years. I married at 25. I hate my maiden name. Hard to spell, hard to pronounce, estranged from my family of origin. In my new position HR could not understand that no- although it is on government documents, that is not my name and shouldn’t be on anything co-workers have access to- staff lists, websites, emails etc. Took 6 months to get through but okay now.
      Since it is annoying and annoys every time she does it, I would opt for the super polite over the top correction every time.

    21. Observer*

      If she is actually IN CHARGE of keeping this information, then this IS an issue, because she’s keeping the wrong name.

      If this is going on anything where your name needs to be (ie anything that’s actually a record, which includes emails, allocation of work and sign offs) then this IS a big deal. Loop your manager in then star pushing back. In public. So, for instance she writes “ESJ will be pulling the green teapot reports” you can respond “Who is ESJ? I was under the impression that I was supposed to pull those reports.” When she responds that YOU are “ESJ” you would respond “My initials are EAJ. To clarify, you are saying that I am going to pull the green teapot reports.” Just keep on doing it.

      PS The way you did it is “traditional” (As much as anything is) here. This is the first time I’m hearing the other way described as “traditional”.

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

        You and I seem to disagree often on this site, but I fully agree with you (and your other post) about this!

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

      On a “naive” level: one of my coworkers–Jane–is in charge of keeping up with all personal info on everybody.

      Then Jane has been repeatedly failing to keep up with your personal info for 4 years (!) even though you have corrected her multiple times. I don’t think she is forgetting your name either. (even as a sometimes forgetful and absent minded person myself, I make sure I get basic details like people’s names right including whether they go by Jonathan or John or John, Alexandra or Alex or Sandra or Sandy or….) It seems clearly either a passive-aggressive statement about you using the “wrong” name, or just strong norms that make her think that ESJ is the “right” name.

      [I wasn’t consciously aware of this as a norm, and most people I know in my part of the UK either keep their original name and don’t change anything when they get married, or change EAS to EAJ as in your example. But thinking about it I do know one person from the south of Ohio (is that ‘the south’? Not really?) who did change their name from EAS to ESJ (who has a “non-traditional” outlook in other ways). I feel sure it must be a regional (?) thing.]

      Anyway, on a surface level, one of Jane’s responsibilities is to keep up to date with people’s personal info, and she has been failing for 4 years to get yours right, despite repeated reminders. The simplest thing may be to just treat this in the same way you would if anyone was repeatedly failing to correct any other aspect of their responsibilities that impacts you.

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        I have no patience for any of this nonsense. Go tell this person directly, firmly, and unapologetically that you want this corrected. Be polite but don’t cut her any slack. The “I’ve asked you many times to correct this, but it’s still wrong. What’s going on?” might be effective. If she answers with some BS, say “But it’s still wrong. Is there some reason why you’re not fixing it?” (or if you want to be slightly less confrontational “…some reason it hasn’t been fixed”). And then let her sweat/be embarrassed etc.
        It’s the height of rudeness to be called or referred to by something that is not your actual name.
        Same principle: I didn’t change my name when I got married (over 25 years ago) and some of my in-laws STILL can’t (more like WON’T) get it right. The times this really irks me is on wedding invitations and the subsequent place/table cards at the reception. I’ve written on rsvp cards : “Mr Heathcliffe Smith and Ms Inez MacGillicuddy will attend” and still get “Mr & Mrs Heathcliffe Smith” on the place card.
        People who do this think they’re the etiquette police. They deserve to be called on it, whether business or social situations.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree. And I lack patience for this type of behavior, also.

          I wonder if she randomly changes men’s names to her liking also. I hate to say this over something that is so easily fixed, but she is really leaving you no choice. She cannot be deciding married women’s names for them. Period. Since going alone has not brought a solution, then it is time to go to other people. This can be your boss or HR.

          If you feel bad about going this route, maybe you can give her one last chance by saying, “I don’t understand what the difficulty is here. I have asked numerous times for my correct name to be used. If we can’t get this permanently fixed, then I feel that I must ask [boss, HR] to step in to find out where the problems are and what corrective steps need to be taken.” You may like to add that four years has been more than enough time to have corrected the situation so you think it is fair to loop in other people at this point.

    23. KuklaRed*

      I’m probably older than most of you here (62) and I have NEVER heard of this “custom”. Ever. Not even once. Wow. Jane is really picking a minor hill to die on over this. It’s annoying, disrespectful, and just petty.

      Have you tried confronting her directly on this – not just correcting her when she does it, but really sitting her down and telling her that you know she is not generally forgetful and that you feel ignored and disrespected by her continued use of your previous initials? Some people just need to be brought up by the short hairs and told to knock it off.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I have never heard of it either. To me, I have always seen a mix of ways that women have changed their names. Since I never could see a pattern, I just followed what each individual said they wanted.

        Sadly I hyphenated my name. Thirty years later it’s just too cumbersome. DMV had no problem just accepting my name change back then. Now I need a court order to get the name changed to First, Initial of maiden name, last name. I am waiting for someone to take legal action here. I did not need a court order to change my name on my DL when I got married. And clearly no man has to go to court to get DMV to follow a simple request like this. (At the time I was married I was not allowed to have a bank account in my maiden name. The bank told me NO on that one. This was 1983, so not that long ago.)

      2. Lady Alys*

        My mother (born in rural central Illinois in the mid 1930s) dropped her middle name and used her maiden name in its place. So did a neighbor of mine, born in the early 1950s in suburban Connecticut. (My mom’s name got me in some trouble when I was setting up to be her personal representative – I opened an account for her at a financial institution using the wrong combination of names, and it took me months to get it straightened out!)

    24. Artemesia*

      Actually you did change your name the traditional way. In my first marriage I used the Emily Smith Johnson approach and had a heck of a time getting the workplace and social contacts to go with that. I had relatives insisting that I had to drop my old last name and make it Emily Anne Johnson.

      I solved my problem by divorcing, reclaiming my name, and then not changing it when I married again. That one is coming on 50 years.

      What you are doing IS traditional; your co-worker is just a jerk with an agenda. You should insist on her getting your name right and if she doesn’t ask her why she persists in doing it that way. (I say that as someone who prefers her approach myself — but this is YOUR name)

      1. squeakrad*

        I kept my (relatively unique) last name when I got married 30 years ago and there are folx who STILL call me by my FirstName-Husband Last name although I have never used it.

    25. Flabbernabbit*

      I think names are important. It’s your identity. I’d ask her once at least *why* she is doing it and wait intently for the answer. A real answer, not gaslighting. Even tell her that you are quite sure she doesn’t mean to be disrespectful but ….

      Where I am, names changing on marriage are really not common, never mind the middle name, maiden name conundrum. A man changed his name recently at our workplace and he did it when his abusive father died, which was a promise she made to her mother to wait. Transgender was another source. And a woman who just always hated her first name. She had gotten married, but her last name didn’t change, just the first as she wanted to match what she was called professionally with the name she had been using longer personally. I’ve been married 20 years, and name changing on marriage was more common, but I didn’t do it.

  19. merp*

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I’ve enjoyed the greater flexibility my job has granted during all this, and how it’s going to be disappointing when it all goes away sooner rather than later. I’ve realized that there are people who do similar work to me in an independent/freelance way and it’s kind of an interesting idea to me. It’s not something I would do soon (or maybe at all! who knows), but it’s nice to think about in a far off way.

    So I’m wondering – anyone who has gone freelance, what longterm prep would be helpful, or was helpful to you? If I were thinking about giving it a shot a few years down the line, what would be smart to start doing ahead of time? (Other than probably build up my savings!)

    1. merp*

      (Also would welcome any general thoughts on freelance, if I should run screaming from this idea, etc)

    2. BRR*

      Build your network so when you start needing work, you have people to go to. And as you already said, savings.

    3. Mama Bear*

      Freelancing for me was good and bad. Bad that I had to do all my taxes (they take a CHUNK). Look at everything your employer is paying for you that you would then be responsible for. Do you have healthcare you would lose? I preferred being a 1099 contractor on something longterm vs short gigs. I also found out that a lot of companies outsource what they don’t want to do. If they need llama grooming help, they will give you the one that always spits. Watch out for that. If you like your job and just want some flex, bring it up with the powers that be. I had a PT WFH option with a prior job that was really nice. I think a lot of companies are looking at some sort of hybrid now that they’ve put a toe in the water. If you don’t want to be your own boss, take the time now to find the job with the schedule you want.

      1. merp*

        This is really helpful, thank you. I worry that the places hiring for my kind of work may not jump on board so much with changes after this, but I shouldn’t assume! Or there’s always other career options…

    4. pancakes*

      The Freelancers Union has a Freelance 101 page on their site that looks useful. Freelancersunion dot org – there’s a drop-down menu in the upper left corner for Resources.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Freelancers Union also offers some benefit options, I believe. There’s the NASE, National Association of Self Employed, as well.

        Unless you’re an accountant, or have a tax preparer already, I highly recommend researching small business accounting and taxes, both at the federal and state level. California, in particular, has some harsh laws about small business registration and fees.

      2. pancakes*

        I think they do, yes, but they also have a lot of guidance on taxes, sample contracts, how to apply for an EIN, etc. in that Resources section.

      1. Beth*

        ETA: ah, I see. I had not understood your comment.

        I still think the usefulness is rather limited — it will work for a company with clear, consistent job titles and responsibilities, but I personally have never worked for any company large enough and formally structured enough to have them.

        1. Random commenter*

          There are a lot of companies that are large enough for it practical for them. I’d argue that clear consistent job titles and responsibilities are a good way to fight wage gaps.

          1. KatK*

            This this 100x this. I worked at a company that moved to consistent titles and benchmark ranges and lo and behold I got an immediate $20k raise. Company of 100 people, so people in the past would have said it was too small to do this. I am forever grateful to the exec who fought tooth and nail for it.

  20. California Ltd.*

    Have you been through a merger or been part of a company that was acquired by another? What helped you through that process? What do you wish your company had done to help? What do you wish you’d known? And how did it work out for you?

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Short answer: “oof.” No matter how much they say things won’t change / will only improve, things will change, and not all of those will be for the better.

      Longer answer, and context: I worked for Startup A. One of our biggest investors, Company B, chose to fully buy and integrate us after I’d been with A for about 3 years. Startup A had about 1/3 the personnel of Company B, so Company B chose to re-org soon after announcing the merger. I think a lot of the changes have been due to culture: going from a startup to a much larger, more bureaucratic company.
      How this personally affected me:
      Pros:
      – I had stock options from Startup A. At the buyout, those were all exercised, and I got a Nice Chunk Of Cash.
      – Company B, being larger, had better/more formal policies around things like tuition reimbursement, Employee Assistance Programs, etc.
      Cons:
      – they moved my team to a different manager and changed the scope of our jobs (previously combination X & Y, now only Y). I think this was a strategic mistake because the strength of my team was our ability to do both X and Y. Plus X was technical and Y was more clerical, so it was a huge change away from my career goals, as well as the new manager was a jerk, so there was almost 100% turnover on the team within a year. Since then, no new hires have lasted longer than 1.5 years. Sucks to suck.
      – I knew who our new manager was, and I hated him. I started job searching after 4 months, and that was only because I was dealing with family/life stuff so wanted to delay. I ended up doing an internal job change which new!manager stalled for almost another 6 months.
      – I like the culture of the new company less.

      How they executed the merger:
      Things they did well:
      – Our new grandboss flew out to meet us and had hour-long one-on-ones with every single person on the team. We talked about what we’d worked on, our career goals at the company, etc.
      – Held meetings to go over the employee handbook for Company B: all our new rules / regulations & benefits.
      – Most teams transferred around as teams, so I still worked with the same people — we just reported to a different boss.
      Things they did not do well:
      – said “we won’t change anything!” and then in fact changed so much. Honestly, they will always change a bunch of things. They wouldn’t buy the group if they didn’t have plans for it.
      – Decreased benefits: our health insurance got noticeably worse, with much higher premiums. Legacy-company-B employess had better 401ks, and it took almost 3 years to roll us into those.
      – reorged / rebranded multiple times. Do I work for Company B, Brand A? Do I work for Company (A and B smashed together)? Or is it just B now?? We had a lot of announcement fatigue because things changed every 6 months. The decisions they claimed were huge (rebranding) affected me 0%, while things the senior leadership said were “marginal” changes had a huge impact on me.
      – they didn’t include our time at Startup A in anything related to time-of-service at Company B. For example, the % of your yearly bonus increases slightly every year. All Startup A employees started at year 0. At least give us half? Some people had been with Startup A for 8 years.

      Summary: it’ll be a change. The technical aspects of merging 2 systems will be difficult, so expect lots of emails like “New features available on X system! Except for legacy A employees, who still use Y. Our bad.” They will adjust your teams and roles– it’s new managers, and they have different priorities.

      1. MassMatt*

        I’ve been through lots of this, my field (finance) is known for lots of mergers, buyouts, spinoffs, etc.

        It’s a cliche, but I would say try to be open to change. It’s natural to cling to the familiar, but you will do better to look at changes as opportunities to learn and grow. Maybe the new software (or whatever) is a pain to learn but better than your old software. Some changes are going to cause hassle, at least in the short term, others will appear to be moving backwards. Try not to get drawn into lots of bitching about it with coworkers, it’s fine to vent but overdoing it can put you in a really negative mindset.

        When organizations change, there is upheaval and need to fill new roles, if you are agile and flexible there can be lots of opportunities for advancement.

      2. Flabbernabbit*

        This is a great summary. I’m in change management and am taking notes. I’ve gone through just such a change but as an employee, not active at leading the transition. The brand thing rings true. In my case, the acquired company “us” was largely left intact because it became a service division that the larger company lacked, as it was product based. But the management clashes were the most interesting to watch. Plus the policies, benefits and overall culture were an adjustment too. I was fairly new though and left for other reasons so wasn’t impacted as much.

        I did notice that people who did well on both sides were open to trying a different way of working, learning about the larger company (that works both ways btw), and put effort into creating relationships with their new colleagues.

    2. voyager1*

      What industry are you in?

      I am in banking (back office) and M&As are pretty common. If you work back office you have a target on your back. If you work front office like a branch, then you have a tiny bit more security if there isn’t a saturation of branches for both companies.

      Been through two. Lost my job both times. Good thing is you generally have a long lead time from finding out your being let go and actually being let go.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Twice. The first time, things DID change and became more sales-oriented, which resulted in me leaving voluntarily. The second time, it was fine until a new VP came in with the aim of hiring people he’d worked with elsewhere, which resulted in layoffs of me and several others across all levels of seniority.

      Not to say it can’t go well. It just didn’t in these two cases.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      At oldjob, my company was acquired, and it did not work out well for me. This will be a little wordy, but here’s what happened:

      I worked for a smallish, employee-owned company, in a department that was a unique division – we provided services similar to but completely different from the main offerings. Think intricate tea cups versus diner mugs. Upper management didn’t full comprehend what we did, but we were consistently the most profitable division so they pretty much let us operate as a unique entity with no interference. The head of our division was a bit disorganized but brilliant at what he did, so while things were a bit chaotic we always delivered.

      The company was acquired by an international conglomerate, and all of a sudden they wanted us to justify every little thing we did. Every step of a process, every hour of a job, we were constantly under scrutiny and had to prove that everything we did was worth it and 100% efficient. We went from “you guys are great and profitable, keep doing that” to “we don’t know what you do and don’t want to, justify your existence to us”.

      I also discovered that my manager was a fair-weather boss – when everything was great they were wonderful, but under any pressure they completely cracked and turned into a monster. Rather than defending their employees, they constantly threw us under the bus. They made unreasonable promises to our new corporate overlords and then immediately pointed the finger at us for being unable to do more work in less time and keep the same quality level. The only time they were ever happy with my work is when I would work my full 8 hours, go home, and then work another 6+ hours but not bill the time.

      My health suffered, I cried constantly, and dry-heaved getting ready for work each day. I eventually quit with nothing lined up because I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought I was just awful and terrible because all of my coworkers seemed to be handling the changes fine – turns out I was the canary in the coal mine and a ton of people left shortly after I did.

      That being said – it doesn’t mean all acquisitions are terrible. A few things to keep in mind if you’re facing one:
      What’s the difference between your company and the new one? Ours were completely different, and even though the new company insisted they didn’t want anything to change about how we operated, going from a small company with little oversight to a massive one with intense scrutiny was a shock to the system.
      What’s your boss like? Have you worked with them under less than ideal circumstances and have they shown they are reasonable and will stand up for you? Having my boss stand up for me/my coworkers would have made a world of difference, instead they cracked under pressure and proved themselves to be a yes-man.

      So that’s my story – it’s not universal, and I’m certainly not trying to scare you. I’m sure plenty of mergers or acquisitions go smoothly! I had several factors that made things really challenging. I think if I could change something on my end, I would have jumped ship sooner. It’s important to recognize when the writing is on the wall – if things aren’t going well, don’t be afraid to get out.

      Good luck! I hope your experience is better than mine.

    5. Ronda*

      I was part of 2 mergers of equal size companies…. I am an accounting dept person working on systems.
      Lots of confusion / lack of clear direction for longer than you would think is possible.
      Lots of layoffs…. dont really need 2 CFO, etc.

      Tons of extra system work… Tons of decisions around which systems to use,etc that take much longer than one would hope. double the volume of transactions. Lots of missing knowledge of manually done stuff.

      We had many smaller mergers where the company bought smaller companies. We just integrated the financials into the total and didnt move them to common systems…. It was the plan to eventually get there…. It just didnt seem to happen for some companies that were acquired. They did have new bosses that the head of that company’s accounting, marketing, sales, etc groups reported to at parent company that I am sure they had to regularly explain themselves to.

      So it really varies depending on the merger. Generally they are looking for $ savings in a merger, so things like accounting or product development will get combined / reduced to get savings.

      The first merger of equals was miserable. they decided to keep the people in my location but use the systems for the other company and lay off all those people. So much work and pain.
      The 2nd merger, I left before the systems stuff got into full swing. I wanted to move and they didnt want me to work remotely. I am glad to not be part of this merger nonsense again, cause they were really driving me nuts on my last weeks with their panic mode crap after I had given them 2 months notice.

    6. Donkey Hotey*

      At $Previousjob, we were a 100+ year old family-owned business who got bought out by a private equity firm. I saw the writing on the wall and volunteered to be laid off. They accepted the offer and I never looked back.

    7. JustaTech*

      I’ve done it twice (at the same job!) and it can be terrible and it can be OK.
      First thing: it will always be stressful, and there will always be stuff you didn’t predict.
      Second, never assume you’re safe, but how safe your job is will depend on how big the buying company is and how generalizable your job is. If you’re in a position that doesn’t already exist at Buying Company, and your area is why your company was purchased, you’ve probably got more safety than the HR team.

      Here’s how it went for me. I work in a very specialized technical field.
      Round 1: We went through bankruptcy and got bought by a giant conglomerate that already owned a couple of tangentially-related companies, but basically they were a hedge fund. That round was straight up terrible. “We like to move fast” was what they said and they moved so fast they laid off an entire department that is 100% essential for selling our product because they didn’t take 5 minutes to ask what exactly the department did rather than just assuming. (All those people had to be hired back two days later, and got to keep their severance. Several said no and it was a mess getting in new folks.)
      Any department that we had that EvilCorp also had was laid off completely, so legal, HR, purchasing, basically everything you need to run a medium business that isn’t directly involved in making or selling the product. They also off-loaded a huge amount of the work that had previously been done by the support departments onto the remaining technical staff. (I never saw or got an email back from my HR rep the entire time we were owned by EvilCorp.)
      So it started badly. But their stock was really high! And some of the benefits (like tuition reimbursement) were better. Then it turned out they were actively amoral in their business practices, the NYT developed a bit of a vendetta against them, and the stock completely tanked. Which lead directly to …

      Round 2: We were purchased away by a different international MegaCorp, also with little business in our (highly technical and highly regulated field). This time it went much better. Partly because we were already cut to the bone, so there wasn’t really anyone left to lay off, an partly because our new owners are … business owners and not hedge fund managers? I don’t know.
      We finally got an on-site HR person (who was somewhat confused by why we were all so excited to meet her; most people aren’t super excited about an HR person, but after years of getting yelled at for asking for help fixing payroll issues we were thrilled). Benefits stayed generally the same. The new CEO was someone who’d worked for the company before and actually understood what we do.

      It hasn’t been all great; our new owners have asked for some pretty challenging things on crazy short timelines, but they do listen to facts about why things are and are not possible. They are obsessed with org charts (which is hilarious because I still haven’t seen one of my org). But they’ve given us the budget to actually get work done and aren’t constantly doing things to get themselves vilified in the newspaper, so it’s generally a huge improvement.

      All of which is to say: so much of how an M&A goes down for the company being bought depends on the company doing the buying. See what you can find out about the buying company, and if they have a slash-and-burn reputation, get your resume out ASAP. But if they’ve got a good track record of not laying people off just for fun, it might be worth sticking around, if it will give you things you want and need for your career.

      1. Hillary*

        In addition to what JustaTech said – if BigCompany is on your resume it can reset your salary to a higher level in some markets. In my field and geography BigCompany salaries are about 20% higher than the equivalent at a medium or small company, and once you’ve worked for one you become eligible for all of them. Breaking into that first role is hard.

    8. Hillary*

      I’ve been through it on both sides. I’ve worked at smaller businesses that have been acquired/merged, and now I work at the acquirer. One of my responsibilities is business systems integration.

      Good things I’ve seen – we bring our new employees’ benefits up to ours immediately. For most of the companies we acquire in the US, that means their health insurance gets cheaper immediately and they get more/better 401k options & match. Their safety systems will get improved immediately if necessary. One of our recent acquisitions has great systems and their people are really talented who had mostly topped out in their smaller org. They’re quickly moving into regional/global leadership roles for the division they’re now aligned to.

      Not so good – duplicate back office functions will probably disappear from the acquired company. Benefits management, finance, AP will end up moving to the acquiring company even if they think at first they won’t.

      What I wish every company had done in either direction – move faster on systems integrations. There’s never a good time to implement an ERP, but there’s energy during the initial acquisition. If you don’t capitalize on that energy you’ll wonder why a business still runs on Quickbooks five years later.

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

      2.5 times in my case.

      First time (the “0.5”) I joined a company in which the takeover of the company had already been agreed, and executed on paper, but wasn’t yet being felt “on the ground”. (It was mentioned in the interview but I was still quite ‘green’ and it was an early in my career job so I didn’t yet have ideas about how M&A impacted companies etc). I was recruited as a direct replacement for someone who was leaving for reasons unrelated to the takeover. My role was ‘safe’ through a few waves of layoffs at that company, some related to “efficiencies”/”synergies” (i.e. duplication of roles so we can get rid of one of them and stick the remaining one with the increased workload) and some just related to market business conditions, like reduced revenue and so on.

      Second time, (at a different, unrelated company) we were part of a ‘group’ of companies and our part was spun off and bought by a new parent company. People were scared for their jobs and futures because of this company’s reputation and history of cutting and cutting. (You know how that is!) One of the “big cheese” execs came and gave us a speech when we were taken over, about being “stronger together” and all that. Everyone was afraid for their jobs, but (I assume) also afraid about the answer so didn’t ask in the “any questions?” open forum, apart from one person who I knew quite well, and I knew had a happy go lucky attitude and didnt give a rats ** about corporate politics or who’s “allowed” to ask questions or whatever. He asked the question.. and got the response that (something like) “We aren’t planning to cut any jobs in this [acquired] company in the short term”.

      There was a collective sigh of relief. There’s two types of people hearing “we aren’t currently planning to cut any jobs”: those who take it as reassurance and blithely go on their way, and those who ask “but what about the medium or long term”? Indeed, in the medium term multiple rounds of redundancies saw off about 30% of the people.

      The last time (so far), the (again another one) company I worked at was acquired, and there was a massive cultural mismatch between ‘my’ company and the acquiring company. No one was let go immediately, and it was all very “people” focussed but ultimately it seems to me that people who were let go were the ones who were culturally un-aligned, in the main. I don’t mean in terms of gender, sexuality, race etc but just more “approach to work”, philosophical approach and stuff like that.

      I’m not sure what “helped” me through those processes; I couldn’t point to anything specific. But what I would say is do your research; be aware of the possibilities, and don’t assume your company is there to “help”. Your company, the one being acquired, is being run by people who (at that point) are about to cash out with $$$$$s and as such, at that point are likely to see their workers as just ‘collateral’ at that point.

      Money blinds us all.

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        I’ve been through this 3 times. There’s always lots of changes, and many are not for the better. This in high tech, where big companies often eat smaller companies.
        My advice is update your resume and begin at least a cursory job search.
        It takes a while for the dust to settle. Often the acquiring company tries to eliminate redundancy (like “we don’t need two sets of payroll/HR/marketing people”) or they get into the “ we’re now doing it THIS way regardless of whether acquired-company’s way is better”.
        A sadly typical approach is for the big company to do the Vulcan-mind-meld on the small company and then spit ‘em out. Sorry about the mixed metaphor!
        If they keep you it can be a good thing, especially if you adapt to the new culture. But if you’re caught in the “right-sizing” (that barf-inducing euphemism for layoffs) its a PITA.

    10. tangerineRose*

      I have been through this.

      Advice:
      – Update your resume and take a look at what’s out there (you don’t have to apply for jobs, but be prepared)
      – Be flexible – there probably will be changes. At least some of them are likely to be annoying.
      – Know that there might be some improvements, so try not to get too nervous about it.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      My husband’s company was spun off. (Set adrift at sea in a little tiny boat.)
      It was just a matter of time. Two years later Big Empire “merged”*. No. It bought up tiny company. It matters if it’s a hostile take over or if it’s more like a business transaction. I never could tell which one this example was.
      Fortunately, because Big Empire was so big, they perceived my husband’s office in “rural America” as nothingness. Actually the location was not really rural to us, so point in our favor.

      *merged. The word choice is fascinating to watch. I never for once believed it was a merger, that would imply there was some equal footing and there was NOT. We were a little nervous. But we made jokes about, “What’s the name of the company TODAY?” because of the 2 changes.

      Big Empire offered 24/7 service. Things such as illness and death were not good reasons for missing work.
      In the end, Big Empire wanted to diversify by expanding its offering but it just could. not. handle the differences in companies. The business were two different mindsets and two different needs. My husband was separated from the company due to his own health issues which had nothing to do with Toxic Empire.

      From what I heard later, front line people probably were okay-ish. Middle management could walk in on any given day and find their job GONE. They did offer 24/7 service which I am sure did a number on the front line people. Eventually Big Empire let go of tiny company and the tiny company ended up getting bought by a different (perhaps better?) company. It had to be a rough few years there.

      The problem with my husband’s office was also what saved them in this story. The office did not make big bucks. It pulled in some good revenue but no one was super wowed by the financials. This meant that other offices in the tiny company probably had more actions and more concerns. They ignored a lot with my husband’s office.

      My husband was a diabetic. He would not have been able to work the 24/7 work. I think for this reason alone if he had not been very sick and been able to stay with the company, he would have had to look for employment elsewhere.

      Good things to do:
      Write stuff down. Set up files and keep things organized so you know where you stand and what you have been told.
      Benefits were a thing. Make sure you have a good handle on where your benefits are at. Watch to see who is doing a good job of following the benefit changes and keep their name/contact info handy as a reliable go-to source for current updates.

      Trust your gut. If your gut is saying, “Uh, I think I have a problem here….” then get a plan for yourself to get out. No one, anywhere in the company, will help you with this decision. I think this is the scary part, because it sure feels lonely figuring this out on your own.

      Try, try, try not to get involved in all the freakin’ rumors that go around, This is more of figuring out your reliable sources. Do your homework, find out the name of the buyer and google. If friends or family are willing to help you research, let them help you. Read the good articles and read the bad articles, learn about the buyer. Ask yourself, “Under normal circumstances would I apply for a job with this employer?”.

      At home here, we tightened up our spending and our budget. We prepared for problems. You can relax your spending once again when you are able to figure out what your new setting is. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and probably what will happen is somewhere in the vast middle ground.

    12. Cottleston Pie*

      Been through acquisition a few times. A lot depends on the relationship between the two companies.

      Situation A: During the first dot-com boom, my company was acquired by a larger but mostly unrelated company which had empire building aspirations. Because the product lines didn’t overlap and were in different markets, there wasn’t much change day-to-day.

      Situation B: Company was acquired by GiantCorp. This was a much different scenario. GiantCorp had recently bought our main competitor so it wasn’t clear which products would survive, and in fact the acquisition was dragged out because of antitrust investigations. During this time our management lied to us repeatedly about plans for the future — one manager was at heart an honest guy and was therefore visibly awkward when he was lying. GiantCorp also had a reputation for periodic layoffs. I got out before the takeover completed, but there were years of chaos after that.

      Situation C: Company was acquired by MegaCorp. We had been doing work under contract to MegaCorp for some time, so we were familiar with their management and ethos. Not much changed, though eventually MegaCorp cut some projects which hadn’t been directly related to the previous contract work.

  21. Quill*

    I’m headed back into office on monday to sort the “avalanche” of mail that’s been waiting since mid March, and folks, I am NOT chill about this.

    My boss’ boss says she can’t see my desk.

    1. Jimby*

      Oh no! Best of luck. Maybe have a treat stashed at home for when you’re done for the day (new fuzzy socks, favorite beer, tasty dessert, spring for good takeout…. or all of the above!)

        1. Llama face!*

          Then at least you’ll have one wonderful thing to look forward to! (I really enjoyed that show.) :)

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      Well, good news is that this mail is probably not timely since your boss and boss’ boss were around to watch it fill up your desk? When you start to go through it, keep that in mind and treat it with the same level of urgency that people at a higher pay grade than you did since mid-March.

      1. Quill*

        Oh, I’m just in the last set of people to return to the office. (Been hiding out at parents’ house out of state.)

        Everyone knows that the policy for next week is “you get it when you get it, I’m digging in from the top down for structural reasons.”

        It’s logging all the mail that I worry about… not fond of our system at the best of times.

    3. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

      Do you have to do the sorting at work? Can you take it home or is that just not worthwhile?

      1. Quill*

        Most of it has to be passed along via international fedex, so… yeah, most of it has to go back out via the office.

    4. Third or Nothing!*

      Oof, that’s rough. Maybe load up a really awesome playlist, podcast, or audio book to listen to while sorting? I’ve found listening to highly motivating music, like say the kind of music you’d play while exercising or perhaps the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, helps me a lot when doing those sorts of tasks.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          My library does Libby/Overdrive and it’s been a godsend. Sometimes I listen to interesting audio books while driving or on long runs. Right now it’s Calling on Dragons, and before I started that particular series it was Furiously Happy. I only let myself listen to them while running right now and it’s highly motivating. I’ve only got it set up on my phone, though, so when I do boring repetitive tasks for work I listen to Myths and Legends or Fictional on Spotify since I can stream it through my computer. Or I listen to one of my “Get Sh*t Done” playlists, also on Spotify.

    5. JustMyImagination*

      Try to find an empty box or something you can stash all the mail in while sorting. It will at least give you the calming presence of a clean desk!

      Or bring it into a conference room, listen to music without headphones, and use the bigger work area to organize piles that need similar actions.

      1. Quill*

        … I really should commandeer one of those. Just drag the box of mail and my office phone over…

    6. Grumpy Lady*

      Just did this a few weeks ago at my desk. I sorted by postmark date and thats how I went through them. It took a while but I stayed busy at least :)

  22. Peter Piper*

    Apologies if this should go in tomorrow’s thread, but it is work-related, so I’m posting it here.

    My friend that I worked with at a previous job was laid off and lost her job. The company said that it was due to covid and budget cuts. Well, the company just posted her job and my friend is mad.

    I understand why, but she was demoted to a lower position. She was also constantly late, took a lot of days off so someone always had to cover for her, and was slow to complete work in a fast-paced environment.

    The writing was on the wall. She seems sort of oblivious or in denial of this. My manager said that she was talking to my friend’s manager and her manager was talking about moving her to another position that she could do. (Obviously, they didn’t do this.)

    She has anxiety and other health issues, so I don’t want to upset her and tell her anything. I feel bad for her though.

    Is it best to say nothing in this situation?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      . . . I wouldn’t, at least not about this job, which is water under the bridge. It sounds like there were plenty of reasons to let her go and you’re better off encouraging her to move forward than to look back.

    2. Web Crawler*

      It depends. If you feel like she’s actually looking for answers over what happened, you could try to lead her to the conclusion yourself. (I would first ask- what do you think happened? in this situation)

      But if she’s just venting, then I agree with Dust Bunny- encourage her to look forward instead.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      This sounds like a very sure way to upset your friend and potentially damage your friendship. I would stay out of it unless she asks for advice.

    4. The Grey Lady*

      I don’t think there’s much you can do. But I will say that the company should have been upfront with her and not used Covid as a cover. If they really laid her off because of performance issues, then they should have told her that.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Is she asking you for advice?
      I don’t think you have any obligation to say anything to her if she isn’t.
      You could perhaps focus on encouraging her to apply for new jobs.

      1. Peter Piper*

        No, but I feel guilty because I know that her manager was looking into other positions for her. I know that she wouldn’t believe me and it would just end up hurting her feelings.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          In this case, then you have to let that part of the story go.
          You can say things like, “Oh gosh, I am so sorry (which is true as you care). I hope you find something else soon! (also true).”

          You might be able to find supportive things to say about how she is handling her health issues. This would actually be more to the point anyway. If you talked about the problems at work, those problems were only a symptom of something larger for her. Talking about problems with her old job would lead to a discussion of health issues. No matter what you do you’d end up talking about health issues either way, so that is the core problem. The lateness, absences etc, are not core problems.

    6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed with just not saying anything. There were many really legit reasons to let her go – they just took advantage of COVID to try and soften the blow.

    7. Not So Negative Nelly*

      Say nothing. It’ll only rub salt in the wound. She needs to look forward and not back. The only exception would be if she asks for input.

    8. Green Goose*

      I had a former coworker like this, she did slightly below the bare minimum but was always incensed when she was not considered for promotions. She did not seem to grasp that her actions impacted her ability to move up, but I don’t think she would have taken too kindly to me pointing it out.

      I didn’t say anything because my thought process was > if she thought it was okay to watch youtube videos in front of her coworkers and come in late/leave early while they all worked she probably would not be open to critical feedback.

    9. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Anytime I have been this person (your friend), I had to learn the lessons on my own. If she asks for advice, give it. But don’t offer unless asked.

    10. MassMatt*

      What would you say that would help? Telling her they canned her because she was a bad employee and that she should have seen it coming is not going to help her. Saying you heard rumors from managers that they were thinking of moving her around would be even worse.

      Be supportive of her, try help her focus on getting her resume together and started on her job search, and help her network. Maybe she can look for something better suited?

  23. MyCorona*

    Just found out I will not be moving forward in the interviewing process for a job I applied for and I am pretty disappointed and discouraged, even though I knew it was a long shot. I’m hopeful that I find something interesting and challenging soon. I am incredibly lucky to still have a job!

    1. The Grey Lady*

      Stay positive! One of my mentors used to say that every “no” just gets you that much closer to your “yes!”

    2. Christmas*

      True! My Dad always said, “The best way to find a job is to have a job.” Thank goodness you still have something while you continue to look. I hope you find the perfect role soon!! You’ll get there, don’t give up!!!

    3. MassMatt*

      Sorry this happened, job searching is hard and rejections take a toll on your self-esteem, it’s really hard not to take it personally.

      I try to focus on the positives—OK, I didn’t get that one, but I got more experience interviewing and will be better prepared for the next one, plus I know more about that company now, and have met some people there.

      Good luck!

  24. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Whargarbl. Four weeks ago, Spouse got 2 days notice that their employer was sending them to the other side of the country for two weeks. When Spouse got home, they quarantined in their home office for five days, then got tested (recommendation for asymptomatic testing is 4-7 days past suspected exposure; earlier than that has a much higher risk of false negative) and the test took another four days to come back negative. Spouse has now been out of quarantine for five days, and … this morning, about an hour ago, Spouse was informed that they’re being sent BACK to the same site (which is in one of the states currently in the news for massive huge Covid case increases, no less) on Monday morning for another two weeks. WHO EVEN DOES THIS.

    On top of that, when Spouse travels for work, they end up having to work weekends, will almost certainly end up having to work the holiday, and putting in 10-12 hour days every day to boot, including those weekend/holiday days. So this will be four weeks out of six that were 10-12 hour days with no days off. And Spouse is salaried exempt and REALLY bad at setting boundaries with their employer.

    1. Picard*

      Sounds like Spouse needs to put on their big girl panties and set some boundaries. Nothing you can do vis a vis work.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Actually there are things, OP can do such as helping the spouse to figure out what to say and how to find talking points that would actually have weight with their employer.

        I really doubt that spouse needs tips about how to get dressed, though!

    2. valentine*

      Spouse is risking your life as well as theirs. What boundary are you willing to set with them?

      1. Annie Moose*

        This seems a bit overblown of a response! Nothing in OP’s post indicates that their spouse is being cavalier with OP’s health.

        1. MassMatt*

          No, but there’s plenty to indicate the spouse’s EMPLOYER is being cavalier with their health.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        You mean the part where, when he gets home again, he stays closed in his office and doesn’t come within 20 feet of anybody else until he gets a negative test result?

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          I think you should definitely email his boss and tell them the job is “encroaching on your relationship.” (Ok, definitely NOT that!!)

          Seriously though, this sounds rough, and I hope he can find a way to push back on the travel. Unless you are my sister-in-law, in which case I can only say I’m sorry he never pushes back on the travel!

        2. valentine*

          I’m sure it’s easier for the employer to stop ordering Spouse to risk lives than it is for Spouse to say no, but Spouse is the one in your sphere of influence. Why is Spouse’s lack of boundaries a given and not, at the very least, a work in progress? Condoning Spouse’s lack of boundaries, and expecting others not to steamroll him, isn’t sustainable. What is sustainable is holding Spouse responsible for creating and enforcing boundaries so that he can be the partner you need.

  25. OwlStory*

    I work for a county government. I finally went into work on Wednesday to pick up some supplies and found a thank you note from someone from a group I occasionally serve (think early childhood related program). I’ve been working with them for about three years now. The thank you note had two gift cards in it ($50 to a large chain store). I don’t know what to do. The gift is sweet, but I’m almost positive it is quite inappropriate as a government employee to accept such a generous gift. How do I resolve this? Do I bring it up to my boss? Send them back? I’d much prefer that they spend the money for the organization for the people they serve, not me for doing my job.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      My govt job requires reporting of any gifts over a certain value and in practice, requires the form for any gifts. I hate the paperwork so much that I return everything of any value (even a few dollars worth) that anyone gives me.

      I’d return it to them and let them know you cannot accept gifts but appreciate the thought so much.

    2. Ashley*

      When in doubt ask the boss. They also might be able to give you language for the rejection because there are typically limits. Maybe yours is over $50 but I am used to $20 for stuff government related.

    3. Federal Employee*

      Contact your boss, accepting those gift cards would probably be an ethics violation. I’m a federal employee and accepting a gift like that would get me in a lot of trouble.

    4. Brownie*

      Check with your ethics office if you have one, the employee rules handbook otherwise. There should be a section in there about accepting gifts, what’s allowed and what’s not, and if there’s a procedure for sending the cards back. It’s possible that kind of thank you is allowed, but only if the funds are spent/dispersed in such a way that the whole office/department can partake so it avoids favoritism. That’s something which can happen if the relationship with the customer is such that returning the cards would worsen the client relationship. Again, check with your boss and/or ethics department. A good script would be “Hey boss, someone at program mentioned they’d like to send me a thank you gift card and I realized I don’t know how to handle it if they do.” I’d be wary of telling my boss right off the bat that they did send cards, but that’s because I know my boss doesn’t always know policy and procedure properly and might confiscate them on the spot to use in a way that’s not approved. And if, at the end of this, everyone says it’s okay to keep the cards and you still don’t feel right you can always donate the same amount to the program to even things out.

    5. Notthemomma*

      Report to the boss. If you are allowed to keep but feel they or others could benefit, simply say in your thank you card how you appreciate it and were honored they thought so highly of you. Then write that you would so much rather their limited funds go to their needs, so in the spirit of paying it forward, you ask that they use the cards for some of those things or people the org can use.

    6. Lemon Zinger*

      Report it to your supervisor and ask what to do. There’s probably a policy or regulation you need to follow, working in government.

    7. Bagpuss*

      Talk to your boss and ask. Do you have an employee hand book or any policies you can check?

      I’m not government, but my office has a formal gifts policy and anything worth over £20 has to be reported and you have to be authorized to keep it, and gifts of money or money equivalent (such as gift cards) are not permitted in any circumstances .

    8. Beth*

      Repeating what others have said: report it and find out if it exceeds the acceptable value limit for gifts (de minimus). Some industries and workplaces have a de minimus of $0, that is, absolutely no gifts whatsoever.

      If you have to give the cards back, you can always emphasize how deeply you value the kindness of the gift. That part you get to keep.

    9. kittymommy*

      For local government it’s probably mandated by your government entity and should be in your employee handbook and unless you handle bids or budgeting/finance it’s likely a yes within limitations. I know ours is $25 maximum. Maybe check with your HR department.

    10. ECHM*

      I sent a couple of low-value coffee shop gift cards to a couple local legislators recently, to thank them for all their work in this tough time. Previously when I’ve done that, I had one of them returned for these reasons, so this time I did not sign them or put a return address. Would they have been able to keep them?

      1. pancakes*

        Why make a point of continuing to do something that you know is against their protocol? Why not write them a nice note instead, if you feel a need to do something?

      2. Not So NewReader*

        No, technically speaking they are still gifts even if the source has not identified themselves. I would assume the cards were given away or destroyed.

        If you really care about the job a person is doing, then don’t put them in a position where they have to deal with stuff like this. You can send them a kind note. Or you can post a kind comment online as appropriate.

        I have worked local levels of government. And even on that level I would, and indeed I HAVE, turned down cups of coffee. The offer was nice. But what was even nicer was when the person instantly grasped that they could get me in trouble and they stopped insisting on giving me a coffee.

        That NO is a hard no, a full stop no. It doesn’t mean to go ahead look around for backdoor approaches for gifting.

  26. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Just curious, how seriously do job seekers generally take Glassdoor reviews of companies?

    I was looking for reviews of a company and i came across my ex-company’s. I noticed they added dozens of reviews just from April-May 2020, and all gushing and said pretty much the same things, some of which weren’t true. From when I was working there, I know my company would have fake reviews put up. It was a common joke amongst us coworkers.

    I mean, I’m not surprised at the company putting fake reviews but not sure how seriously GD is typically taken.

    1. voyager1*

      I take them with a grain of salt, but if I see a common theme then I note it. I usually dismiss the really gushing and really negative ones too. I treat glassdoor like Amazon. 5 stars and 1 stars are usually coming at it with a agenda.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same here. You have to average it out. A whole lot of negative reviews, however, will send me googling for more information. Also, the company’s responses to negative reviews can tell you a lot.

      2. Jeri Curlz*

        I do the same thing. A bunch of reviews that were all posted at the exact same time are probably astroturf. However, if the same company has a couple of good reviews every few months stretching back 5 years, then that gives me more comfort that the reviews are legitimate. Similarly, if the same issues are being reported by different people over a long period of time, that has more credibility than a ton of really bad reviews posted

        To me, something like what Potates Gonna Potate mentioned would come across as obviously fake. Why would dozens of people suddenly write a review of one company in the span of a month?

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          Exactly. Back when I was working there, I witnessed HR asking newcomers to leave good reviews. Anybody whos been working there more than 1 month and sees the reviews knows that they’re fake. I guess HR was trying to attract people (but they cut staff by 50ish % b/c of COVID so?).

    2. aiya*

      generally speaking, I think it’s pretty easy to spot fake reviews. I’ve seen reviews for companies with 4 or 5 stars, just absolutely gushing over how great the company is, and there are never any comments in the “cons” or “comments for improvements” sections. That and combined with the other less than stellar reviews, it’s pretty obvious that the 4 or 5 star reviews aren’t real.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I haven’t looked through any other companies, I wonder if I’d be able to sniff them out. I feel like I was only able to spot these because I know more than the average outsider would (i.e., customer service reps working there for 1 year saying that the meeting rooms were too small when we didn’t have CS until a month prior, and they never met wiht clients and oh the office was closed since March).

    3. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I was feeling petty one late night some days ago and I ended up flagging each of the fake reviews and why they were fake. GD said htey didn’t find anything wrong. Oh wells. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    4. Nesprin*

      I always read the negative reviews b/c about 5% of any group of people will complain, and i want to know if the ppl with an axe to grind actually have a reason to do so. i.e. was fired because I was painting my nails is probably a good sign, was fired because I reported malfeasance is much much more concerning.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Right, but would anyone really admit that?

        We had someone who left a scathing review saying that we were discriminating against her b/c we didn’t promote her — but she had been told exactly what was needed to get promoted and she refused to do that, would take 3 hour lunch/dinner breaks without clocking out (was hourly and eligible for OT) and openly screamed at 3 of her bosses/supervisors in front of teh whole office.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          They’re not going to admit it, but they’re not going to show their receipts either. If someone’s vague – the boss is a meany-pants, one star – then I’m putting little to no weight on it. If there are specifics, I’m paying attention, especially if there’s a pattern.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Exactly, the answer is in the details.

            If several people are posting about a screaming boss, I tend to believe that.

            If a person posts “this place sucks”, I tend to ignore that. It’s not specific. Maybe the writer just doesn’t want that job.

    5. Bex*

      Out of curiosity, I pulled up the glassdoor page for an absolute dumpster-fire company I worked for 10+ years ago. Looks like they are still a dumpster fire! 1.8 star overall rating, mostly 1 and 2 star ratings with a few over-the-top 5 star reviews. If I had read that before I interviewed, I never would have gone in.

      My current company had a bit of a mixed bag, and I read them all before I accepted the offer. There were a couple themes I noticed that I asked about, and the interviewers did acknowledge that they were areas the company was actively working on and they were able to speak to the plan to get better.

  27. Bacon Maple Bar*

    I have been lucky enough to get some interviews but I end up being the runner up or the position has closed. I am getting tired of prepping for interviews (some interviews lasted almost a whole day) and then crickets or no thank you. I have practiced with Alison’s guide and the feedback I got from the last interview was that I interviewed well but the other person had more experienced. I don’t know what else to do and my work contract is expiring at the end of July.

    1. Picard*

      Its a numbers game. If youre getting interviews and feedback is someone with more experience is getting the jobs, all you can do is keep applying.

  28. DataGirl*

    What tips do people have for a 16 year old applying for their first job, when they have no work or volunteer experience yet? Especially in this time of COVID, when most places one could gain volunteer experience are shut down?

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      What types of jobs are they applying for? In my experience, most places such as retail or food service don’t really care about any experience. They want you to be able to demonstrate that you’re reliable, friendly, and reasonably hard-working. This could be done through clubs, activities, things like church groups, or school. And even then, those things may not be super important.

      The one thing I would caution against is making any mention of a short-term or summer job (even if it will be). When I was in college, I was rejected for a fast food cashier position because I informed them that it would only be a summer job and I would return to school in the fall. They wanted someone there more permanently.

      1. CheeryO*

        Agreed. One thing that would be helpful would be to do some mock interviews. I viscerally remember my first food service interview ~15 years ago; the interviewer described a situation with a difficult customer and asked how I would handle it, and I gave her the blankest stare and finally said, “Uhhh… I don’t know.” I got the job, but I was really embarrassed about it at the time. I also found the whole experience extremely stressful even though it was pretty short and straightforward.

        1. Thankful for AAM*

          Ooh, interview prep! My 26 year old son had several group interviews when he was 16 and looking for his first job. I did not even know that could be a thing so did not prepare him for group interviews.

        2. tangerineRose*

          When I got a job at a fast food place (over 20 years ago though), they basically just asked us to write down what hours we were available to work. I think they figured that they’d figure out who could do the job while we were working.

          Although a different fast food place that I applied for gave me a test.

    2. WellRed*

      There are all sorts of jobs made for 16 year old first timers, though probably less so this year. Grocery stores, for one.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      They don’t need experience. They need to show they can follow directions and learn on the job. They can demonstrate these skills in the interview. I feel like interview practice is the best thing for teenagers, not necessarily having any kind of resume.

      I say this as someone who got their first job DESPITE crying through the interview out of stress. Nobody prepared me to interview. I wish they had!

      1. anon24*

        Agreed about following directions. I know this will make most people here heads’ explode, but at the job I had as a teen/young adult my manager’s preferred way to check how well people with no job history followed directions was to take their application, look it over, and then give them the company phone number and say “hey, if you haven’t heard from me call or stop by again in about a week.” If you called back, even if he was out, whoever you talked to could pull your application and make a note that you called or stopped by on X date and he knew you followed directions and as long as you looked good when he talked to you suddenly you’re on the “hire when we have an opening” list.

    4. The Grey Lady*

      Like the others said, if it’s just retail or food service or something, they don’t care about experience too much.

      Here are the best tips I can give for your 16 year old: Make sure they show up to the interviews clean, on time, and well-dressed. As a former food service employee, I saw so many people blow an interview because they came in late or unkempt. Yes, I realize it’s true that you can be a great employee who just happens to dress a little sloppy, but appearance is very important. If they can do this one small thing, they’ll beat out a lot of other applicants on this alone, I promise.

    5. Coco*

      Interview prep is def helpful. When I applied for my first job as a teen, I applied, interviewed, and was hired at the same time (fast food) so make sure you have any legal work documents as needed when applying. (Social security card, etc)

      Clean up social media if necessary. Don’t know how much they will check before hiring but after hiring, fellow employees or manager may look your child up

      1. MassMatt*

        Good point, it’s amazing how much stuff people post with seemingly no idea that employers can or will check and see. Extreme examples, but people post videos of themselves drunk driving or committing vandalism or robbery.

        I’d say the best tips are talking with them to make sure they understand what an employer is looking for, as opposed to what THEY want, interview practice, and emphasis on knowing to be reliable and show up on time. Employers of teens have lots of turnover for people that don’t show up, show up late or high, etc. Showing up seems like a pretty low bar but it’s one a lot of people don’t pass in entry level jobs.

        Chances for advancement might be rare for these types of jobs but reliable employees will get more and better shifts, raises, etc and be able to stay with an employer if they want vs: having to job hop.

    6. Retail not Retail*

      Right now, don’t. The kind of jobs a 16 year old can get is not safe during this time.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, that’s a problem.

          What about jobs working outdoors, mowing lawns, power-washing kinds of things?

    7. The Rural Juror*

      If you’re not used to public speaking, take some time to practice interviewing and speaking in front of a mirror or with a relative. It will feel weird, but hopefully it will help you feel more confident speaking to someone interviewing you. Practice catching yourself if you use a lot of filler words such as like, um, uh, well, or you know. I’m not saying to speak completely differently than you normally would, but to be more concise with your language. If you absent-mindedly say “like” a lot, it’s not going to come across well to most interviewers.

      1. MassMatt*

        Recording yourself is useful too. Make eye contact with the camera, sit up straight, etc.

    8. Jennifer*

      My then-15 year-old (who might’ve actually been 14 at the time) had a great interview with a friend who runs a local soccer program — he wanted to “work” as a volunteer assistant coach. The guy doing the interview (who has known him since he was 4 or 5) asked him a couple of questions (think “why should I hire you”, or “what would you bring to my program”) and then, when the kid looked at him blankly, walked him through possible answers (“you might say ‘because I’m interested in working with smaller kids, and I am good at following instructions.'”)

      I was sitting around a corner listening, because I’d driven him over, and I remember that it was honestly the sweetest thing ever. (The kid’s still there, although he’s now getting paid.)

      Anyhow, I agree that practice interview questions are a great idea. He should know why he wants to work at that specific place, and what he can bring to that specific place. It’s a lower-key version of personalizing your resume.

    9. DataGirl*

      kiddo in question has OCD and a lot of food triggers so no fast food and preferably not grocery either. They are hoping for retail but those jobs seem harder to get any many where we are require you to be 18. They want to create a resume, but have no idea what to put on it. other than choir and music lessons they have no extra-curricular activities, no sports, no school leadership or group membership.

  29. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

    Are there any AAMers who work in the advertising industry? How do you like/dislike it?

    I’m possibly going to lose my job and I’m in an industry that has a notoriously impossible job market, even in a good economy. And I’ve always been fascinated, for whatever reason, with commercials, which are always going to exist regardless of what the economy looks like. 

    I’m guessing there’s a lot more to this industry than writing inane jingles like “Liberty Liberty Liberty, Liberty,” and “Ba da ba BA ba, I’m lovin it,” right?

    1. Almost Academic*

      My sister works in advertising, so this secondhand information. She’s an account executive.

      Pros: Really good pay structure overall; frequent promotions, fast-paced work, and her area is very stable in terms of long-term outlook. She works on international products, so she likes that she can take work trips to cool locations sometimes.

      Cons: Really stressful, especially since a lot of the workforce she’s surrounded by seems young (and imo unprofessional, from the stories she tells). Note that this is across multiple different companies, same story. A few wonderful people, but the position she has is so interconnected with different people’s expectations that it can be hard to juggle. For example, if a member of the creative team is doing poor work, it really impacts her stress and work level since it means a lot more work to smooth things over with the client and change things with constant pressure from the boss to stay on budget.

      Overall I think she’s okay with it, but looking to move to more boutique or smaller agencies in the future as I think she’s a bit burned out overall.

    2. Natalie*

      Not in advertising myself but I live in an advertising town and have a lot of friends in the industry. One thing to be aware of, if you don’t like job searching, is that layoffs can be common, more than I think people expect for a white collar profession. Staffing needs can change quickly as clients’ needs change or they change agencies.

    3. pancakes*

      I don’t work in the industry but I read Digiday and Adweek now and then out of curiosity. Those will give you a bit of a feel for what’s going on in the industry.

    4. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

      I don’t work in it, but I have a lot of friends who do – lots of big agencies in town. I’ll second the Pros/Cons Almost Academic gave – especially the bit about the workforce skewing young. It’s an industry that LOVES their nontraditional offices, lots of “perks” that really boil down to You-Never-Have-To-Leave-The-Office-Everything-You-Need-Is-Right-Here-Please-Work-80-Hours-To-Prove-Your-Dedication. It’s a “Work Hard Play Hard” industry with lots of and lots of playing hard. One agency in town had a holiday party with a buffet table of free assorted marijuana products a few years back. That’s just the scene.

    5. Can Can Cannot*

      I worked in advertising for about four years after having working mostly at startups but also at financial service companies. I ended up leaving advertising for another FS job when all the dishonesty in the ad space got to me. It was by far the slimiest, most dishonest place I have ever worked. Leadership could not tell the truth, both to employees but especially to clients. According to my colleagues that had spent their careers in advertising, this was just how the industry worked. It wasn’t something that I was comfortable doing, so I moved on.

    6. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

      Thanks, everyone. These comments confirmed what I thought: this field is not for me.

      1. San Juan Worm*

        You might consider looking into in-house creative departments (marketing-communications), which also employ writers, editors, designers, videographers and creative directors. They’re typically smaller than ad agencies and work within smaller budgets, and they types of projects might be a little less cutting edge. The salaries are lower than ad agency equivalents, and there aren’t typically as many perks. But the variety of work can be interesting, especially if you’re interested in the larger company’s goals or mission. The environment can also be less cutthroat than agency culture, too.

    7. Ad Experience*

      I do want to provide a counterpoint, I have 5 years experience in the advertising industry – not on the agency side (which is all described above) but on the client side. Basically it’s a choice between coming up with the ad ideas at an agency, where you may work on multiple different brands, or being the one at a company (insurance, makeup product, etc) who manages the overall ads program for that company’s product.

      I love it. It feels like you get to find all the best things about the product and bring them to life in creative ways. It is a mix of project management, creative idea brainstorming, and accounting / business ops.

      If you want to be on the “good” side of advertising, it’s best to be the client, not the ad agency. You will probably need some degree of marketing experience to get a job like this.

  30. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Not sure if this belongs in the weekend thread or work thread but is it inappropriate to send a gift/gift card to a Real estate agent if a deal falls through on our end? This was our first time working with someone for this and they’ve been great to work with. my husband and I feel bad for this happening. The chances of working with them in the future are slim, so we want to send a token of appreciation.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I was going to do a gift card in addition to a thank you note. Is that too much?

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          Were you their client or another agent? As their client, it’s not too much to send a gift card and every real estate agent I’ve worked with (or been!) would hugely appreciate that.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      From the few things I have picked up here and there I definitely would not do this. She probably has to give it back to you.

      If you want to do something for her, take a few business cards and recommend her to people where appropriate.
      Maybe post a nice review online.
      Send her a thank you anyway note.

  31. Interview Outfits*

    Hello! Question about interview attire.
    Last week, I had a promising video interview (yay!) with a large bank. Every article I read about video interview attire said that candidates should dress as they would for an in-person interview, so I wore a blouse and a suit jacket. My interviewers were dressed much less formally though (shirt/solid tshirt). I would rather be overdressed to an interview than underdressed, I didn’t feel awkward. If I get a second interview, should I also dress down? By that I mean not wearing a suit jacket, I’d of course wear a formal shirt or blouse. Any advice/perspectives appreciated, especially from people in finance. Thank you!

    1. HatBeing*

      Base your outfits on what your interviewers were wearing, but bring it up a notch (i.e. they wore a polo, you wear a button down). This shows you were paying attention but still appreciate the professionalism expected in an interview. Good luck!

    2. CTT*

      I say still dress up; one of the interview double standards is that the interviewers aren’t going to specially dress up for it if it’s a more business casual environment. Also, it could be that those two are internally known as being sloppier and the second interview could involve people who will be more dressed up.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I agree with this – and it’s pretty much always better to be overdressed for an interview.

        For your second point, I remember going in for a couple of interviews for a job, and one of them was on a random casual day – the interviewers were wearing jeans and tshirts, but on the other days everyone was dressed professionally. It would have been embarrassing if I followed the first people’s queue and dressed down for the second interview!

      1. Jemima Bond*

        Yeah I agree. I think it’s fairly normal for the interviewee to be a bit smarter than the interviewers, if there is a difference. I would dress up a touch more smartly to be interviewed than I do to interview others. Unless they said something or the difference was awkwardly wide (like you were in a pinstriped suit and they were in a paint splattered boiler suit!) I’d carry on as you were. I can’t imagine anyone applying for a job at a large bank being marked down in any way for being too business-formal.
        Maybe lose the tiara and opera gloves though ;-D

    3. New to WFH*

      Not in finance, but in an industry where we are expected to wear suits when visiting clients. I interviewed a few people for an entry level position and I dressed up more than I have been since WFH (button down chambray shirt, so not super formal) but my colleagues didn’t (think tee shirt and baseball hat). Our grand boss will interview the final couple candidates and she specifically commented on her surprise that a couple of our candidates didn’t dress up at all. She will definitely be dressed up (not just for the interviews, but in all our video conferences she has been in normal business casual attire). So if you move on to the next round, the people interviewing you might be more dressed up. I’d personally err on the side of being overdressed.

    4. Interview Outfits*

      Thank you everyone! I’ll stick with the suit. I was worried I’d seem… out of touch, but I think it’d be safer to dress up.

      1. The Grey Lady*

        I don’t think you will. It’s hard to overdress for an interview, especially in a field like finance. The only instance I can think of is if–for example–you were going to interview on a farm where you’d be shoveling cow manure, then maybe you don’t need to wear a 3-piece suit lol. Otherwise, suit up! You can always dress down a little once you get the job and get a better feel for the culture.

    5. Beth*

      Back in the days when Microsoft was the hottest company on the planet, it was an open secret that you were expected to wear a suit and tie (or equivalent) for your interviews, even if you never wore it again.

      Finance tends towards the conservative end of the professional dress spectrum (even when the people involved are not conservative at all personally); at my current firm, we’re dressing up for our video meetings with clients, even though we’ve stopped wearing professional attire for much of the rest of the time.

      Definitely dress well for your second interview, and for every interview. Good luck!

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Side note: My father in law worked for a department that kept exactly one (1) tie on a peg to be used by whoever needed it that day.

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

      I’d wear a similar thing (to what you wore for the first one) for the second interview, (assuming it isn’t sweltering heat in your home office so your are sweating all over the place!).
      But a formal shirt or blouse, without jacket, wouldn’t be out of place either.

  32. Washi*

    Folks in grad school, how are you holding up? I’m super lucky to be healthy and have steady financial support from my husband right now, but am struggling with coming to terms with how different my last year of school is going to be from what I was hoping. My classes will all be online, my (unpaid but mandatory) internship options are way narrower than in Normal Times, I’m anxious about finding a job after graduation, and I’m just feeling generally upset that while my learning experience will be greatly impacted, my tuition bill is the same thousands of dollars. (I understand that universities are in a very difficult position and I understand why they can’t reduce tuition…it’s just frustrating.)

    How are other folks coping?

    1. LMW*

      I was already in an online MSW program, so I didn’t have to adjust to switching to online classes. My internship was delayed due to Covid, but I was able to find a 100% online internship (crisis/suicide hotline). So, things are looking up. Thanks for asking. I hope the last year of your schooling goes as smoothly as it can.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      Death! Death! Death! Death! Death!

      (More seriously, though, I’m hanging in there. My college has had a reasonably sensible response to all this, and I wasn’t a candidate for a summer internship this year anyways, so it’s better for me than it could have been.)

    3. Middle School Teacher*

      I took a spring class which finished a couple of weeks ago, and did well. It was entirely online, which I didn’t like. I taking the summer off (from everything) and taking my next class in the fall, which will hopefully be back on campus.

  33. Almost Academic*

    My PI keeps misgendering people around me, behind their backs. I think it’s accidental, she’s about 50% on saying the correct pronouns and she has a lot on her plate otherwise (and pronouns are hard!). Still, it feels hurtful, or at least not fun to be around. She knows I’m gender non-binary, but doesn’t seem to respect it (e.g., repeatedly sending out lab emails referring to all of us as “Ladies”).

    The combination of it all just gets under my skin and has me down, even though no one part of it is a big deal. Some days it doesn’t bother me that much (I’m not super picky about my pronouns anyways), other days it really gets under my skin for a little while. I think part of it is that our department isn’t really good with diversity in general, so there isn’t much in the way of other support. On the one hand, I want to bring it up with my PI, on the other hand she’s historically been really defensive whenever anything that sounds like criticism or wanting a change in the lab comes up. I’m hesitant to rock the boat (further) since she has so much power over my future. Any suggestions for navigating this?

    1. Notthemomma*

      If as a middle age midwestern person in a non-diverse area of the country can get it, so can your PI. Have a 1:1 conversation that says it is disrespectful to others and detrimental to others perception of them. I would personally go a bit further and provide examples of acceptable pronouns.
      They aren’t hard, they’re respectful. And no matter how busy one is, there is always time for respect.

    2. kt*

      I agree in principle with the sibling comment here, but in practice… I’ve seen some terrible PI behavior. Argh. I don’t want to counsel you to roll with it and allow injustice to perpetuate out of fear, and I also know that you getting your degree and being able to continue this fight in a position with more power is important. This is really hard. Can you recruit a friend or colleague to correct your PI?

    3. JustaTech*

      Ah, PIs who own your soul.

      If your PI perpetually called you by the wrong name, would you let it slide? (And you might, depending on how close you are to done and the nature of your PI. It’s totally your call.)

      If you want to work on your PI and their use of pronouns, I would try to keep it very light, “they, not her” in a gentle, relaxed, breezy tone, just like if your PI had, used the wrong units or some other slip of the tongue. And then see how your PI reacts to a very mild correction. If they take it well/OK,then keep it up and hopefully they’ll start doing a better job of remembering. If they bite your head off, well, that’s another data point and you can recalibrate your approach.

      As for the “Ladies” thing, can you try to model a different salutation for your group? “Dear PI’s Lab,” or “Dear Labbies” or some other address? (PIs often like the ego boost of seeing the lab referred to as “theirs”.) This is where I would try and enlist the support of the other grad students/post docs/ techs in the lab: If everyone else gets away from using gendered language to refer to the lab as a group your PI might get out of the habit too.

      And you’re allowed to be bothered by this! Your PI is a grown adult with an advanced degree and the ability to get grant money. They’re plenty smart enough to figure out “they” in place of “she” or “he”, and quite frankly shouldn’t use “ladies” anyway (says someone who went to girl’s school – they don’t even use that address anymore).

      I hope you can find a method that works and that your PI is more supportive.

    4. Gaia*

      I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with this. It is disrespectful of your PI. You are right that pronouns can be hard, but repeatedly misgendering people (or referring to a group that isn’t 100% made up of people that identify as women as “ladies”) is not acceptable.

      Ultimately, it is up to you if you feel safe raising this with her. But just know that you are fully within your rights to do so. She is in the wrong, not you.

    5. Pomona Sprout*

      Slightly OT, but what is a PI exactly? I did a Google search and found those initials can stand for a ton of things, and I don’t have enough context to be able to suss out which one might apply here.

      TIA!

      1. BethDH*

        Principal Investigator. Head of the grant, in charge of whatever research it funds, in practice often head of a lab that is wholly or partially funded by such grants.
        In other words, they are OP’s boss, but also usually their advisor for graduate-level research. In many places, you don’t really get accepted to the school/program, you get accepted to work with a particular person. If they leave for another school, you likely go with them, and if they don’t like you, you’re more likely to leave the program than just be able to switch advisors. That’s not always true, but does help give you a sense of how much power they have.

  34. blackcat*

    I’ve been pushing the folks I work with to think more critically about how racism has historically and is continuing to impact our field (in STEM). I’ve been beating this drum for years, and been met with either apathy or outright resistance (I’ve been shut down when I’ve pointed out problematic language before).

    The past few weeks, I’m suddenly being expected to do all of the work of educating people who are now, in this moment, open to learning.

    On one hand, I feel obligated to do the work. On the other hand, I’m frustrated and angry it’s just now happening. And I’m worried–I think rightfully so–that when it is no longer trendy to be anti-racist, things will go back to the way they were. And on a third hand, I’m being asked to do this as the only parent in the bunch and daycare is still closed.

    This is all exhausting. And I know it’s less exhausting because I’m white. It’s been helpful to talk to former colleagues and friends who have been put in this same position. I am still just frustrated when I have to explain to someone, again, that the issue with diversity in our field is not about finding POC with enough “grit” to survive the BS in the field.

    Anyone else struggling with similar stuff in their jobs?

    1. Marshmallow*

      Just confirming your perception. Yes, this is exhausting. Yes, this is frustrating. Layer on top of that kids at home AND the sudden NEED. When the need wasn’t sudden. Also as a white person balancing when I should be speaking and when not.
      the “grit” thing. I can’t even address without the anger rising in my chest.
      What I have been doing.
      Putting on my own oxygen mask first. I get that I am seen at “that” person.
      I note there are professionals in the field that should be paid to help deal with, train and implement policy in these issues.
      I am not that person and I point to those organizations and resources.

    2. Nita*

      It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you don’t have the bandwidth for this right now, it’s OK to make plans to work to improve the situation later. Frankly, I think a lot starts with schools, and I’m going to push to have my company participate in an outreach program. This can’t happen right now, obviously. I’m more angry with our NYC authorities, who think that the way to increase equality is to burn the good parts of the school system to the ground, instead of making sure there are enough seats for everyone, and enough support for the kids who struggle to keep up.

      1. blackcat*

        I think what gets me is that I hear a lot of “white people fix your shit” and I am a white person with a ton of privilege. (That privilege is why I’m in this position–I went to a fancy pantsy private school that taught me to critically examine my whiteness at a young age. So my privilege means I’m not new to difficult conversations about race.) I feel like it’s really on me (or people like me) to try to fix other white people.

        In general, I don’t mind doing this work! I find it rewarding! I know tons and can be helpful!

        But damn, why weren’t people listening to me when I first brought up these issues and offered to create/lead a reading group? I think it would be an easier pill to swallow if folks acknowledge that I’d been trying all along, and apologized for not listening.

        On one hand, I think it’s a really awful thing I have no Black colleagues in my current position. On the other hand, holy hell am I glad there’s not a Black person on the receiving end of the bullshit I’m getting right now.

        1. Double A*

          (fellow white person here)

          If you’re going to do this work, you just can’t be resentful or have an “I told you so” attitude. No one is going to apologize for not listening. Like, THAT is what as a white person you need to let go of. You’re doing the right thing of talking about this even when it isn’t “trendy.” Now that it is “trendy,” you can’t get all hipster about it — it doesn’t really matter why people are suddenly listening. They are listening. You have limited bandwidth. Waste as little as possible on being resentful — it will benefit exactly no one. What bandwidth you do have, revisit those conversations.

          I don’t really find these conversations all that hard because it comes down to my values and I can articulate those easily. You don’t have to argue with people — if they’re engaging with you in bad faith (i.e. they want to debate and not learn), you can just disengage. You can say, “I feel like you want to debate about this and not actually learn.” You can say, “I worry a lot of white people will just go back to their old ways once this isn’t in the news.” You can say, “I worry you’re only interested in this because it’s trendy.” Be blunt. Why not?

          Here are a couple of statements that might help you disengage and leave the door open for further conversation:

          -I’ve found when I’m defensive, it means I have something to reflect on. I notice you’re being defensive about this topic, so I suggest you reflect on why that is and we can revisit this conversation later.
          -I believe that people in power should behave better, not worse, than the people they have power over. This is especially true for people who enforce the laws. I believe in more accountability, not less, for those who have more power (and society is mostly set up the opposite of this). Those are my values. You can reflect on what yours are.

          These conversations are for the long run. It’s perfectly find to pause them, leave, and leave the door open. It’s perfectly fine to direct people to especially powerful resources that have helped shape your perspective.

          Think of yourself as participating in a restorative justice practice. You are working with perpetrators. It’s a long process of accountability.

          1. blackcat*

            Thank you, this is really helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to write it out.

            I need to let go of the resentment I have over some of the times I brought up things that are not okay and got really negative responses. For reelz, people in my group “celebrated” Indigenous Peoples Day aka Columbus day by trying to get everyone to do a “What’s your spirit animal” exercise. And the response to me saying “Hey, I’m sure you’re not aware, but the construct of “spirit animals” is actually pretty offensive to native peoples. Here are some writings by Indigenous Americans about it” was to actually have people say I was “ruining the fun.”

            I don’t actually think I have the social capital in the group to be blunt, partly because I burned a lot of it by calling out racism earlier. And I’m bitter about being asked to do extra work RIGHT NOW when I’m overwhelmed with juggling my normal work without childcare. If I’m actually going to do the work of helping educate people, I need to let that go. And if I’m unable to let it go, I need to find some way to excuse myself from this work.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              A comment about resentment. If you can reframe it to, “Good thing I did all that talking in the past, so they know me and they know I have info that will be good info.”
              Or find another reason why all your energy was put to good use. I find that I have to say things 6-8 times before I get heard once. Especially with ideas that are new, “strange”, different to others. So I can make it a counting game. “Good thing I have said this 7 times already because now they are actually prepared to HEAR me on the 8th time.”

              The hardest part of any job is figuring out how to handle the things that go wrong. I think in part because there is no set method, there is no one way that fixes all the things that are wrong.

    3. PX*

      Ugh. Yes, please, as Marshmallow says, use this moment when your company is bothering to point them to organisations and resources who are professionals and paid to do these things properly.

    4. Web Crawler*

      This isn’t a workplace issue for me, but I’ve had to do education work for basically every person around me since I’ve come out as trans. Here are some things that’s made it easier for me:

      1. Find some resources and get used to sending them out. I know that people have written stuff or recorded Youtube videos about the problems POC face in STEM fields. So when somebody’s coming to you with basic questions, give them a basic resource instead of spending energy explaining “why we need diversity” for the millionth time.

      2. If people are asking the same questions, but they’re too specific to have a resource (aka, “why should Llamas Inc care if we have Black llama groomers”), make your own. It’s the same principle of spending energy once to reach multiple people.

      3. Set boundaries. You don’t have to reach everyone and you don’t have to be a teacher all the time. If you can, decide ahead of time what your boundaries are- for topics, specific people/attitudes, times of the day, or whatever you need. Mine are roughly that I won’t engage with people who misgender me on purpose, I won’t engage with people who bring Christianity into the equation, and I won’t engage with people who are trying to “win” the argument instead of listen. This is so that I don’t burn myself out. I can reach so many more people if my mental health stays safe.

    5. Lora*

      Ugh, I’m sorry. Let me make sure I got it right – the work of decades and decades of study and workplace psych/soc, labor history and identity-based discrimination is expected to be compressed neatly into friendly, palatable layman’s-size chunks for the edification of people who couldn’t be arsed to Google it…and you are to provide this service for free, without making anyone feel bad about their past choices, in a soothing way that encourages them to do better in the future without actually learning anything from their past.

      I kinda feel like the reason people are asked to do this FOR FREE as opposed to say, hiring a consultant and paying them money, is because the people doing the asking do not actually value this service, you know?

      Was that non-confrontational enough? Probably not. Nobody asks me to design them a new technology for free, they ask what my rate would be for a 3-6 month project. Are the people doing the asking trying to get a used Playstation from Craigslist? Are they Instagram influencers, who will pay you in ExposureBucks? No? You’re supposed to play Occupational Psychologist for their amusement, when they’ve been completely unreceptive to it before, because now it is cool and they can get their Inclusion Badge on their corporate jacket.

      Agree w/ what Marshmallow said – they can google and find a professional and cough up if they want to have a Diversity Team Building Pizza Party.

      1. blackcat*

        Your first paragraph is the nail on the head. Thank you for putting it that way! I’ve worked on educating myself FOR DECADES about this stuff. DECADES. I invested the time and energy in learning, in listening, in asking myself some really tough questions. I took entire courses in this stuff! And I’m supposed to me some magical, feel good, social justice fairy.

        You know what, I really like the idea of hiring a consultant, and I even know a couple of really awesome (POC) consultants who do this work. They’re super busy now! But they exist! We could book them for 6 months from now, probably.
        I think part the deal is that this work of educating isn’t being viewed as labor of value. I’m expected to do it for free, and they’re certainly not going to pay someone else to do it. If they valued it, they wouldn’t have rejected my (free!) offers earlier that required their time and effort.

    6. tangerineRose*

      If you could pick something that would help that the company or co-workers could do that would make a difference, what would it be? It might help if it’s something that’s sort of easy and rewarding so they’ll be more likely to do it and keep doing it.

      Could the company sponsor some kind of scholarships/tutoring for POC kids (or adults) who could use the help and couldn’t afford it? One thing that annoys me about how math tends to be taught (at least what I’ve seen) is that since a lot of it builds on itself, once a kid thinks they’re bad at math, they tend to keep thinking that, so 1 bad teacher can basically take STEM out of a kid’s future path unless someone can intervene and help.

    7. Flabbernabbit*

      Share the load. Get an ally and work on this together as your first order of business. Formalize it to the extent you need to. Required to create lasting change, so getting more people invested anyway will help. You don’t have to be the only one.

  35. JustAClarifier*

    My boss insists on attending every meeting and call I am invited to or make with anyone other than the team that reports to me, in addition to requesting I CC her on all emails not to my team. She has also started telling me to send her my email drafts so that she can approve/edit before I send them. My last employee review – the end of April – she rated me incredibly high, so I am perplexed about what could be triggering this. I asked her in writing if there was a performance issue or trust concern that was raised by any of my performance that I could address, and her response was that “it’s just how she manages.” Her behavior has been undermining me to others in the company and our sister locations, and the micromanaging is getting so bad that I’m contemplating resigning over this, but in this pandemic I’m worried about doing so since I am in a federal position with job security. I truly feel stuck and don’t know how to proceed. Any advice on this situation is welcome.

    1. rageismycaffeine*

      Has anyone here ever successfully gotten managerial responsibilities removed from their role while maintaining their salary line/position or only taking a small pay cut? I absolutely detest managing, find it incredibly draining and stressful, and would basically take another job to get out of doing it. But I know my manager and workplace value me highly, and I might be able to have my two direct reports moved off of me. (Emphasis “might.”) I just don’t know a strategy for taking up this conversation.

      1. rageismycaffeine*

        Ugh, another wrongly threaded comment! Alison, please delete – I don’t know why this has happened two weeks in a row.

    2. rageismycaffeine*

      Is this something that’s happened since the pandemic? Are you working remotely now? I also found that my boss got super micromanagey when we initially moved to working from home, but after about six weeks of it he chilled out. I also called him on it similarly to what you’ve done, but for him it seemed to make him realize what he’d been doing and made him calm down.

      How long have you worked with her?

      1. JustAClarifier*

        That’s a good question; this started just before the pandemic. I moved under this boss in November 2019; there were instances of this happening, and it has slowly grown more extreme. I do wonder if the pandemic has influenced it. How did you communicate with your boss, if you don’t mind my asking?

        1. rageismycaffeine*

          Are you the only one who works under her or are there others? Is she doing this to other people or just you?

          I will say that my boss and I have a really informal relationship, partially because we were acquainted with each other before I came to work for him. We have a standing Friday “war room” meeting with him, myself, and one of my direct reports, and I had noticed that he was increasingly asking her to give detailed information about how she was planning to do some task that didn’t need to be explained step by step. In a one on one meeting with him I told him that he was making my direct report anxious by asking her for this level of detail, and that it was making both her and me not sure who her boss was. (That’s the part I don’t think I could have gotten away with if our relationship was more formal.) This opened up a bigger conversation about him suddenly becoming more controlling and micromanage-y as soon as we went to remote work, and he acknowledged that it was partially the result of his extroversion being stymied because of not getting to interact with anyone but his family on a daily basis. He voluntarily removed himself from the weekly war rooms unless we specifically asked for him and it’s been much better.

          I really don’t know if this is going to be particularly helpful for you! It sounds like you asked your boss the right question in the right way and just didn’t get a helpful answer.

          1. JustAClarifier*

            It sounds like you have a good leader and you approached that very well. My relationship with my current supervisor is less formal, but it has begun to get strained over this. I think the issue is that she doesn’t see herself as micromanaging, and in fact actually wrote that out in an email to me. I don’t know in what possible realm of the imagination demanding to attend every meeting and proof-reading emails isn’t micro-managing, but she insists she isn’t.

    3. PX*

      Ack. I know Alison has answered a couple of letters about micromanagers here and given good tips on how to approach it.

      Oddly enough, because you mention how its undermining you, I’d be curious to build a bit more of a network internally and ask others who you might be comfortable with if this is just…known behaviour from your boss? Do other people know that she’s a micromanager? Can they give you tips on how to work around her? If you have a mentor, this may also be a good question for them.

      And because I’m a rebel, sometimes I’m like, what would happen if you just…didnt do all those things?

      1. JustAClarifier*

        Other people do know that she is; and other leaders I have spoken with about this issue, including my mentors, told me that there has been a huge change in personality from her in the last six months. Compared to how she used to be, there has been a large shift. If I don’t do those things, she finds out when she reads my daily highlights (to prove I’m working) and I’m disciplined, it reflects poorly in my performance reviews, which impacts my year-end pay, etc.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          Given that others have noticed a huge change, is it possible to escalate this to her boss? Either directly or indirectly. Or someone else who has power or influence over her and who would tell her to chill?

          1. JustAClarifier*

            I could try; unfortunately my location is very chain of command, so if you speak to your boss’s Grand Boss you get put on the crap list.

            1. valentine*

              You already feel like you’re on the crap list, so, why not?

              First, though, call her and tell her it’s making others view you as [negative adjective]. Say that you expect a person doing good work to work independently and reducing her burden, but you can’t do that if she’s tied up in your same meetings and doing the work for you.

              And job search.

        2. Emma*

          Could you say this to her? Not that others have noticed a change, but that you have notice one, and ask for the reason- is it something she is concerned about with your work?
          That might help to get more clarity on the situation, or even prompt her to reflect on what has changed.

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

      I’m going to ask a question / speculate.. and wonder if there is any job security issue for your boss?

      I wonder if it’s possible that (either in her own mind, or externally) questions are being asked about that additional “layer” of management and what it adds to the company…

      Does she actually have a workload of her own, do you know?

    5. Tabby Baltimore*

      Other fed worker here. You are in a really tough spot. My first thought was that–if you are the only one she’s treating this way–she is targeting you for some reason. If you don’t either (a) figure out a way to positively influence her approach to you before your year-end appraisal is due or (b) apply for and get another job at your agency (or at another federal agency), you are on a trajectory toward a “training plan”/Letter of Performance journey that will end with a Performance Improvement Plan she will ensure you fail.

      You have already done what I would suggest, which is go to her peers for a validation check. I might go back to these same people to ask if they can give you any more details on what might’ve happened 6 months ago to prompt this change in her. It might give you some insight on what’s driving her, if you think that would help you in any way.

      If that’s not an option, then you could consider asking one of the those friendly senior managers you spoke to before, to help you with approaching your boss’ supervisor to arrange a private talk–very, very quietly, phone call only, nothing in writing–and lay out for him/her what’s been happening, how you’ve reacted to it so far, and ask if they have any suggestions/guidance on how you can “manage up” in a way that could bring your boss’ trust in you back up to previous levels.

      If that’s also not an option, then it looks like you’re going to have to embrace her approach full-on. What that might look like for you: take some time to analyze all the changes she’s made to your email drafts for the last 2-3 months – can you detect any patterns to the changes she makes from what you sent? If you can, then start putting those changes in your drafts from the outset (even if you think they’re ridiculous). Start cc’ing her on any correspondence you send outside of your own unit to anyone who is at her (GS-13? GS-14?) level, or higher. Ask her if there’s any specific professional training your agency offers that she thinks you ought to take, and then take it.

      Regarding the undermining: do you know anyone at the sister location who knows your situation and might be able to give you suggestions on how to counteract her undermining?

      If I were in your shoes, I would start looking for a lateral move to somewhere else ASAP. Please don’t quit! Your job security is very important. Don’t let her run you out of federal service. We need people like you! Please keep us posted on how you are dealing with this. And good luck!

  36. Anne Shirley*

    Anyone else here struggling with taking things off their work plate? I am working from home for the foreseeable future. My expectation was to be doing less instead I am doing more.
    I have identified the long range projects that will be on moratorium.
    I have structured my work flow so that my computer is off by 4:00.
    Do people put “down-time” or “reflection time” on their calendars. Is there a better phrase for that?
    regroup? revision? research? review?
    I need to show the blocked time on my calendar otherwise my days fill up with zoom meetings by people above my pay grade.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I definitely put blocks on my calendar. The more serious sounding they are, the less likely I’m interrupted. “Research” is one of my go to’s, or a specific project name. I probably wouldn’t use “down time” because my boss would think I wasn’t working, and I wouldn’t use “reflection time” because people wouldn’t take it seriously and would book meetings over it. I usually have a “weekly wrap up” during 4-5 on Fridays, which I use to get organized for the following week.

    2. Elenia*

      I literally just put “block” on my calendar for certain times, up to two hour increments. (More than that I will put the name of the specific project I am working on). If someone asks me I just tell them I need some time to knuckle down and concentrate on a project and can’t get any uninterrupted time otherwise.

    3. A Frayed Knot*

      I use the label “Project Time” for these situations. That way, I know I have chunks of time to devote to a single task – whether it is a project, clearing my inbox, writing a novel, or catching up on my soap opera. My “Project Time” isn’t always at the end of the day or at the same time each day, but it gives me breathing room two or three times a week.

    4. Ali G*

      It doesn’t matter where I work. I started putting “nope” and blocking off time so I could actually do work. No one has said anything to me (and they a generally good about not scheduling over other appointments).

    5. Policy Wonk*

      Reading time or research time are popular where I work. For some reason it is impolitic to put “lunch” on the calendar, so you will often see those at noon as well.

      1. Elenia*

        One caveat here: you need to have established yourself as a good worker so your boss trusts that you are using that time to work or whatever. I can’t imagine I could have done this in my first three months on the job.

    6. Jules the First*

      Honestly? I book a meeting (labelling it with whatever project I’m planning to work on, or, if it’s downtime, with something like “special project catch up session”) and invite my private email so it shows as external with multiple attendees in our scheduling software. People here are good about not scheduling over actual meetings and not good at working around “time blocks.” On the rare occasion when I have to cave and accept a meeting during that slot I just let them know I’ll try to reschedule my other meeting and magically I’m always able to do that ;)

  37. HatBeing*

    Any ideas for a title change as our office goes fully remote? I had the dreaded ‘office manager’ title and handle everything from human resources (recruiting, ER and admin stuff), AP, vendor relationships, IT, and random things that no one else will do. I suggested People and Business Operations Manager, but my boss has been dragging their feet. Any suggestions?

    1. WellRed*

      Why are you changing the title? What is the main nature of your job? Maybe just operations manager? Business manager?

      1. HatBeing*

        Well, we don’t have a centralized office any more and are all working remotely, so I think my title should reflect that! My main duty (and interest) is human resources, but I also spend a good chunk of time doing bookkeeping. Big upcoming projects are creating virtual team building events and keeping an eye on infection rates to see what in-person get togethers may look like (we are in an area that was very hard hit early on).

        1. Anon for this*

          We have a tiny company and the person in this exact type of role eventually took the title of director of finance and administration ( rolling my eyes at director, mind you).

    2. Beth*

      “People and Business Operations Manager” is a very cumbersome mouthful. How about just “Operations Manager”?

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Or Logistics Manager, maybe?

        P & B Ops Mngr is a long title, but Ops Mngr makes me think of facility operations rather than business/HR.

    3. Kw10*

      Operations Manager, Administrative and Financial Manager, HR and Administration Manager, etc.

  38. Anonymath*

    I work in academia and my part of the college is a known snake pit. The college itself is fine, and our President has done a good job of cleaning house in the upper administration ranks, but has not yet gotten to the festering issues within my school. As such, several of our school’s faculty are shut out of school-level service opportunities, as they are given to the favorites.

    I found out yesterday that I had not been selected by my Dean for an administrative position that would have been a good service opportunity. Today, while at a campus event, I was standing near the President and my Dean. The President called my attention and then highly recommended me to my Dean as someone who has useful skills that should be put to use in service. I thanked him and stated that I would be happy to serve.

    I feel like it would be good to follow up with an email to the President, thanking him again and reiterating my interest, but it feels like that might be going overboard. Should I send the email? If so, should I cc my Dean?

    1. rural academic*

      This is hard to give a good answer to without knowing more about your situation. How is service generally treated at your college? You sound like you think of service opportunities as a perk rather than a burden; is that the general perception? Would getting an administrative appointment help get you noticed and move your career in a direction you want, or would it take up time from research and teaching?

      An email to your President probably won’t do any harm, and your President might keep you in mind for future administrative appointments, especially if the cleaning-house is ongoing. CC’ing the Dean seems more passive-aggressive and might unnecessarily rile them up. It seems unlikely that they’ll suddenly reverse their decision and un-appoint whoever they did put in that administrative position. I would probably try communicating with the Dean directly (either in person or over email), separately from the message to the President, and telling them that you’d be very interested in any future administrative stuff that may come open. Sometimes even if other people are being passive-aggressive or playing favorites, and can pay off just to be direct about what you want.

      1. Anonymath*

        Thanks for responding!
        In our faculty appointments, service is expected to take about 10-20% of our workload and we are rated on service on our annual reviews. You are expected to have service each year at a variety of levels (national, state, local, professional, college/school) but you must have college/school level service in order to earn the minimal good rating. If you do not have enough service your review will be lower and you will be less eligible for any merit raises. It can also have effects on your promotion if you get enough low ratings or are considered as non-contributing. In healthier schools service is widely distributed so everyone gets a chance to contribute and get some service credit while not overburdening any one person. In our school service is only assigned to the in-crowd and even positions that are open to election tend to have back-channel “don’t vote for her” campaigns going on, making it difficult to get the needed school-level service.
        Previously I had dealt with this by working harder on college-level service (I’ve chaired some college-wide committees) but in the last few years the in-crowd has organized campaigns against electing some of us to college-level service as well. In case one thinks I am paranoid, I’ve been shown some of the emails/texts that have gone around, so I know what is going on behind the scenes. My Dean is aware of the ongoing issues and even actively contributing to them by only selecting certain individuals for service.
        I know the healthiest answer is to get the heck out of here, but I’ve got a two-body problem plus local family that need care. I agree that cc’ing the Dean is most likely passive-aggressive, and I’m trying so hard to stay clean in this mess, so I think just a short thank you letter to the President might be the best option.

        1. rural academic*

          Oof. Yeah, that sounds like a mess. If service is required for promotion, then there has to be a system for passing it around somewhat equitably. Good luck — if your President is intent on cleaning house, the system at your college may eventually get an overhaul too. Perhaps a new Dean or a more thorough re-org can shake things up.

    2. Hi there*

      Sorry to respond so late! Like others I agree with emailing the President and not cc-ing the short-sighted Dean. Would it be possible to specify the kind of service you’d like to do or the issues you’d like to tackle? The goal here is for the President to appoint you to a campus-wide committee, and the easier you can make that for the President, the better.

  39. Jenn*

    I am rolling my eyes so hard at my organization. I work in a retirement community, but on the administrative side and have little to no interaction with residents. I’m also in a Midwest, mostly rural, state that has had relatively low levels of COVID and never had an official “shelter in place order” (that’s an entirely different rant!) Leadership has been handling COVID “fine” – not great, but not terrible. They were slow to close to outside visitors and to let those of us who could work from home. The WFH people were told that we can all plan on being back to the office on Monday, June 29th. I think this is the dumbest idea I’ve heard. First, you’re not supposed to bring everyone back at the same time. Second, we’re bringing everyone back just in time for everyone to celebrate a major holiday and come right back to work. Did I mention my state has one of the lowest rates of people wearing masks in public? I’d push back but A) everyone has their own office and we’re a relatively small number of people and B) my state is also one of the many states that is starting to experience an uptick in cases again so I have the feeling that coming back to work is not going to last for long!

    1. WellRed*

      We have 12 employees, mostly well spaced due to office space (but not private offices), and we are still going back in phases (if we want, we don’t have to) so, like 3 people in the first phase to meet the 25%. So, just because a company is tiny, yeah, it’s ridiculous to go back if not necessary.

  40. Orange*

    If you lose your job in the middle of job searching/interviewing, how do you notify the employers you’ve already spoken to? I think I’ll have to leave my current job soon (not due to the pandemic). I’ve already sent out a bunch of resumes that show me as currently employed, and spoken to recruiters/interviewed with some organisations. Any advice is appreciated, thank you!

      1. Orange*

        Might be fired (unless I quit first! I kid, I wouldn’t quit without another job in hand)
        This isn’t the right fit for me so I think the decision would be mutual, it’s about who brings it up first.
        Context that I feel is important here: very high attrition rate in the industry, very stressful, mandatory 60 hour weeks all year long, most people are fired/quit within their first year. I’ve already been here a couple of years now. I’m applying to jobs in different but related fields where I can use the skills I’ve gained but avoid the parts of this job I’m not good at.

    1. WellRed*

      I don’t see why you’d need to? It’s easy enough if they call you in for an interview, to explain that (and this is true even without a world health crisis). Update resume for going forward.

    2. WellRed*

      I don’t see why you’d need to? It’s easy enough if they call you in for an interview, to explain that (and this is true even without a world health crisis). Update resume for going forward.

    3. Alex*

      Definitely don’t have to. You didn’t lie on your application, and that would be obvious if for some reason they contacted your employer–they would say, “Oh Orange stopped working here on X date” and anyone with half a brain could tell that the date was later than your application.

      I mean, definitely be honest about it from here on out–but I’d argue that you don’t even need to volunteer it if it doesn’t come up, with people you’ve already spoken with. It’s not really relevant, except maybe that you can start asap!

      1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        Unless of course (a) the prospective employer doesn’t bother to check (or even misreads) the date on the application, (b) the previous employer does not in fact add the last date worked there and the prospective employer doesn’t think to ask or (c) the previous employer got the departure date wrong and the date they gave was before the application.

        Yes, as Alison Green points out, a good prospective employer will check back with the applicant about that discrepancy. As she has also pointed out time and time again, jumping to a plausible conclusion (heaven knows how many applications are “inaccurate”) doesn’t even come close to the worst that employers do.

        A prospective employer may assume — and may expect you to understand that they will assume — that the information on the application continues to be true until you say otherwise. In other words, if you don’t volunteer the update, especially once they mention the old job, once they find out you actually left they may feel you lied by omission and permanently disqualify you.

        Proceed with caution. (And good luck!)

  41. Tabby Baltimore*

    In one of my workplaces, we are probably going to build a prototype document tracking application. I’m specifically looking for commenters’ thoughts (macro- or micro-level welcome) on what kinds of capabilities you find helpful when using that kind of software. Some of the things I’ve heard so far regarding tracking are: who’s got the document, from what date they’ve had it and for how long, how many times the document has been passed back and forth and between who, and how fast is the document getting through the system (which I guess could be “velocity”?). What other capabilities do you value in a document tracking system where the end result needs to be a fully-edited product that’s ready to be sent to/read by a high-level executive?

    1. A Frayed Knot*

      Automatic reminders when the document has been in someone’s queue for an extended period of time, say 48 hours (depending on deadlines). The system should send reminders to that person that X document is waiting for review. Also, a way to bypass the slow person, who may be on vacation or out sick – possibly, “Sorry. You took to long and missed your opportunity to provide input. This document has been sent to the next reviewer.”

    2. pancakes*

      I’ve mostly used Sharepoint for working on collaborative documents and it worked really well for our purposes. It might have all the features you need, rather than having to build an app from scratch. I’m not sure what you mean by getting through the system, though.

      1. Darren*

        Typically everything has an end to their workflow. At some point it’s finished (even if it’s just this iteration) for example:
        * A monthly report gets written, reviewed, edited, and finally dispatched to management
        * Offer letters get drafted, reviewed, amended, and finally dispatched to candidates
        * Invoices get entered, reviewed, approved, paid and then dispatched to a list of paid invoices that may be referred to for monthly/annual reporting.

        People typically refer to hitting that last step as getting through the system as it’s usually external to the document management system at that point (an email, part of the financial records archive, etc).

    3. Dancing Otter*

      Needed functions:
      A way to request access when someone has a file checked out. Human beings, being fallible, sometimes forget to check the file back in when they finish. Grrrrr…

      If you can manage it, a mandatory add-on for the editing programs (Word, Excel, etc.) that requires confirmation when closing a file, whether or not it should be checked back in – default to check in.

      A way to lock a file to further editing. This has been an issue for monthly reports, where the previous report is the starting point for the next month. There HAS to be a way to keep idiots from overwriting last month’s report, there just does!

      If your organization uses linked files (Treasury just loved these at one ex-job), please please please find out whether the DMS will permit those. Not all of them do, or there have to be special work-arounds, like having to have both files open. This can be a deal-breaker for users actually to use the DMS properly

      Organizing:
      Think really hard about the folder structure before you let the end users loose to add files higgledy-piggledy. Maybe restrict creation of new folders to whoever has to maintain the system. Text search is really slow: a poorly organized DMS can waste person-hours looking for things saved in unlikely spots; or duplicate files may be created when someone can’t find a file where they expect it to be.

      Yes, I know there can be keyword searches, based on the “catalog card” metadata, but there need to be some guidelines for that, too, or the same problems occur.

      The folder structure can also be part of the system security, where only certain users (by department or function) can access certain folders, or have levels of access (read only, comment, edit, create new).

  42. Me!*

    Question: how are other job seekers asking about COVID protocols? What language are you looking for? And what if the reality is different from what they tell you on the phone?

    IT’S STORY TIME

    Last week, I saw a job post for a nothingburger admin job, front desk at a staffing office (meh), but the pay was decent. So I tossed a resume at it (no cover letter). I didn’t expect any response. But someone —I’ll call her Sue— called me immediately to ask a few questions and see if I wanted to come in for an interview on Monday.

    Of course I asked about COVID safety, and Sue said it was okay to wear a mask and they had hand sanitizer in the building and in the office, etc. She said she wasn’t wearing one because she had trouble breathing, but I was more than welcome to do so. She told me a little bit about the work — it sounded very boring, but hey, I need a job. I decided to check it out.

    Monday, I met Sue in the office and she led me to a computer to take a short skills quiz. She cleaned the keyboard and provided sanitizer for me, then when I finished, she parked me in the conference room to wait for the hiring manager.

    Keep in mind that I was wearing a mask — black cloth with sugar skull-styled Star Wars motifs on it. (I made it myself!) Hiring manager (I’ll call her Jane) walked in. She took one look at me in my cute mask, and I swear, her brain broke.

    Jane comes in with, “Well I guess we’re not shaking hands?” I said jokingly, “No touchy touchy!” Then she started in. I was literally the first person who had come in with a mask on, nobody there was wearing any, was I sure I’d be comfortable with that, the big boss was taking it seriously but she didn’t think there was anything to worry about, it’s just the flu, “If I get sick I get sick,” it’s a PERSONAL LIBERTY to not wear a mask, when sales people who were working from home right now came back, they were going to talk a lot and lean over my desk and touch my stuff, someone would be right up in my face during training, etc. etc. on and on, forever and ever, amen.

    I debated walking out, but I decided to finish the interview and see how it went. But first, I had to interrupt her in order to ask about the work.

    Well, it went about as well as I expected after that. Jane seemed contemptuous that anyone could get anything done from home (the front desk person obviously could not do it and neither could she). I couldn’t tell if she was butt-in-seat or resented that she couldn’t work remotely. She also explained things that my extensive resume would indicate I already knew, as if I were a newbie admin and not someone with years of experience. I know she looked at it; there were red marks all over it.

    I wasn’t even out of the parking lot before I started begging the universe for a shot at another, better job, preferably far far away from here.

    It definitely fit the comment from the COVID exposure post about passive accommodation, since the big boss, while allegedly taking it seriously, had not implemented any mandatory precautions. And as ridiculous as Jane was, I really hope she doesn’t get sick.

    This morning, I received a rejection email (thank goodness!). She said they went with someone who had more industry experience, but I’m pretty sure she decided against me from the get-go. I wrote back that I’d decided it wasn’t a good fit for me since I was hoping to leave that kind of job behind eventually and I knew they wanted someone long-term (Sue had told me that). I couldn’t resist adding “Stay healthy,” at the end. >:)

    I feel like walking out would have been antagonistic. If this happens again, I’m not sure what I should do. I need a job really badly so I can find my own living space, but obviously, I don’t want to work with someone so careless, since if I get sick and can’t work, I can’t pay rent either.

    1. Disco Janet*

      I wouldn’t want to work there either! That being said, I’m used to interviews in pretty formal settings, so I also would’ve chosen a more plain mask and answered differently than “no touchy touch” – to me, that does seem out of step with most fields’ interview formality levels. As does responding to a rejection to basically say “well, I don’t want to work for you anyways!” I mean, you don’t, and I totally understand why! But in a situation like this I think walking out is the better way to go.

      I probably would have just said in the interview that health-wise this didn’t seem like a good fit, since you’re following the recommended cautions regarding coronavirus. Then thanked them for their time and left. I know leaving mid-interview is easier said than done, but that’s just my take on it.

      1. WellRed*

        “no touchy touch” I don’t like this language.

        But I think you dodged a bullet, they not only didn’t care about health protocols they needed to hammer it home (right from the start: “wear a mask IF YOU WANT TO.”)

        1. Me!*

          See my answer to Elspeth below; it sounded like she was joking around.

          I think Sue was trying to take it seriously, with the keyboard cleaning and the hand sanitizer, but I’m now questioning the reason for her pending retirement. She said it was because her husband was retired, but I know of a couple of people who’ve taken theirs early due to the pandemic. I wonder if it’s actually because the company (i.e. her boss) doesn’t seem to care. She said she has trouble breathing, which doesn’t necessarily translate to I-hate-masks.

          She also said Jane wanted someone long-term for that role, so I might have turned it down on that basis alone. I didn’t ask about potential advancement since by that time I was over it anyway.