coworker demands my attention when I’m busy, performance reviews during COVID, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker demands my attention when I’m busy

I work with a woman who is senior to me in title. There are several of us and we each work for different bosses, but we all have the same grandboss. She is awesome when it comes to overall morale in the workplace. However, my issue is how much attention I have to give her when she wants to talk about her personal life.

Every time she wants to share her latest story about herself to the group, she notices I am not giving her any attention. She asks me from across the room in front of the others if I’m listening to her. I always want to ask her if it’s work-related, but I wisely don’t. Instead, I apologize, listen, and give the expected compliments or sympathies, and then go back to my work. Granted, her stories are only about 10-15 minutes and she only does this every few days or so.

I know it’s all part of the team-bonding experience in the workplace. But I happen to have a boss who likes to pile work on me. I just can’t help but feel resentment that she has the time to tell stories when I wish I could take those minutes back to take breaks (which I never take but know I should). How can I politely and professionally get out of having to listen to her talk about non-work issues?

When she asks you from across the room if you’re listening to her, be honest! You can cheerfully say, “Nope, sorry, I’m right in the middle of something I can’t stop” or “No, sorry, I’m on a deadline, continue without me!”

If she suggests she’ll hold off on the story until you’re finished, you can say, “Don’t wait on me — I’m pretty buried today.”

2. Performance reviews during COVID

After a rough patch at the beginning of COVID, my company seems to be on a major upswing. My CEO just announced that we’re moving forward with reviews and we can all expect some nominal raises by October. There are two things I’m trying to figure out how to address:

• COVID. Like almost everyone else, I haven’t been nearly as productive in lockdown.

• My mental health. Right after reviews last year, I had a serious depressive episode that landed me in the hospital. As much as I’d like to say this didn’t impact my performance, it obviously did. I struggled to keep my head above water and even fainted mid-meeting due to some medication issues. I’ve also been taking half days 2-3 times a month for frequent doctor and therapy appointments. My manager has some knowledge of what’s going on and has helped me prioritize and manage my workload, but for the most part I’ve kept the severity of the issue to myself.

For the last year+, it’s been a struggle to just stay alive and employed. I don’t feel like I’ve made any remarkable improvements or contributions and I honestly don’t feel like I’m capable of providing a self-assessment that isn’t overly self-critical.

My therapist pointed out that I have been dealing with an actual life-threatening illness the last year and I should cut myself some slack for that AND COVID-related issues that everyone is dealing with. But I was raised to believe that personal life absolutely does not impact work-life and that my mental health is a part of that (and a personal failing). What do you advise?

The basic framing you want is, “Due to the challenges caused by the pandemic and some concurrent health issues, my main goal for this period has been to keep things running smoothly, but not to innovate or add major new initiatives.”

Because that’s true! So say that explicitly right up-front, and then assess yourself accordingly. You’re not evaluating yourself against the standards of previous years, but against what’s been reasonable for this specific period with these specific circumstances. (Your manager should take the same approach if she’s at all reasonable. If she’s not reasonable, this will at least open a conversation about what each of you considers realistic right now.)

And your mental health impacting work is no more a personal failing than cancer treatment impacting work would be (which is to say, it’s not one). Be as matter-of-fact about it as you would about any other health issue.

3. My coworkers want the creative projects we should outsource

My team, the communications department, is 15 people. We all are pretty busy, a bit over the line for what is reasonable to expect from a team of this size. We all have some level of creative tasks, but three colleagues have a role that is full creative (think design, photography, video, etc.). We also have the budget to outsource some tasks, which is lucky as the appetite for these full-creative tasks is huge and growing.

All three of my full-creative colleagues approached our boss (and mentioned the issue for the whole team) with the following problem: they feel that when we outsource the larger creative productions (say, producing a video), they are deprived of professional opportunities to grow and take on large projects. This is fair as far as that goes, but we need them full-time for the day-to-day work (take photo of X event and edit it so social media can publish in less than an hour) and these smaller tasks cannot be outsourced reasonably.

I understand their frustration, but when they want to take on a larger project, they often have unrealistic expectations on how much time they could devote to it. Often they’d say: I need a month just doing this. But that is just not feasible, as there is always something else to do. They constantly complain they have too much on their plates as it is (which, true – so do we all).

We already outsource all we can, so it’s not realistic for other team members to take on more (and the rest of us are not graphic designers, etc.). My boss tends to give in to them, which means we get less stuff done (which I know is my boss’s decision) but with more complaining about how the creatives are overwhelmed. Also we risk not getting the budget for this kind of expense if we don’t use it — we have one of these budget systems where saving money results in less budget for the next year.

On my bad days, I am frustrated by this. I would love to have a month blocked off for some of my projects, but it’s not going to happen and in the end I am paid to do what my boss tells me to do. How can we resolve this?

I don’t know that you can, or that you need to. Ultimately this stuff is your boss’ call. You can sit down with him and make the case for a different approach, using some recent concrete examples of problems the current approach has caused. And you can share your concern that not using the outsourcing budget means it’ll go away, putting all of you in a bind in future years. But from there, it’s up to him.

He might be giving into your colleagues because he’s a pushover, but he might be giving into them for more well-thought-out reasons that you’re not privy to. He might know he’ll lose your best people if they don’t get a couple of these projects each year. Maybe they came on board with the understanding they’d get to do this kind of work. Or not! But ultimately it’s his decision. You can make the case for doing it differently, but after that you’ve got to shrug it off as not your call.

4. Indeed’s “job assessments” on resumes

I wondered if you’ve seen Indeed’s job assessment “feature.” I was reviewing a candidate’s resume today and noticed that it contained a hyperlink. The link was in a section entitled Medical Receptionist Skills and purported to be some kind of certificate indicating that the candidate was highly proficient.

After checking to see that the link actually went to Indeed, I opened it and discovered that the candidate had completed a 16-minute assessment on medical reception tasks.

I find this very odd and I’m not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, it’s clear that the candidate took this assessment in response to our job ad, so I suppose it counts as preparing for the role and interview. However, I have no idea what was actually assessed, and the idea that a candidate can show “high proficiency” in 16 minutes for a job that takes nine months of training for most workers is laughable. What do you think? Endearing sign of preparation or silly gimmick?

Silly gimmick. It’s not the job seeker’s fault; it’s Indeed’s fault for promoting this to job seekers as something employers will care about. Many, many job seekers assume that if a big job board like Indeed tells them action X will be helpful, it must be true. Unfortunately a ton of the time it’s not (see also: LinkedIn skill endorsements).

5. I don’t know which job my interview is for

I recently applied for two different jobs at the same company. I’m really eager to work with them in any capacity. Yesterday I got a call to schedule a video interview. When I hung up the phone, I realized I didn’t know what job I was interviewing for. I have a feeling which one it is because I can see which application was viewed first on Indeed, but I can’t be 100% sure. Since I’m open to working any position that they think would be a good fit for me, is it okay to go into the interview without confirming which job we are talking about? It feels awkward and clunky to go back now and ask.

Go back and ask, because if you don’t know which one you’re interviewing for, you won’t be able to prepare as effectively. And it might not even become clear at the start of the call, and if you have to ask at that point it’ll be a lot more awkward than just asking now. Contact the person who scheduled the interview (email is best if you have their email) and say, “After we spoke I realized I didn’t know if this interview is for the X job or the Y job, since I applied for both. Can you let me know which one we’ll be speaking about on Monday?”

{ 286 comments… read them below }

  1. bookartist*

    LW#3, I agree this is not your problem but your company is going to lose those folks because they are 100% correct. If there is desire to respond positively to this group”s complaint, your company might consider outsourcing the small stuff and letting these folks take over larger work.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I was going to say this about the creative’s leaving. I mean, presumably, they took these jobs thinking they would get to do high-level creative work, work that typically does take time. And maybe that’s why your boss is giving in to them because that’s how they were pitched the positions in the first place – your manager would not want to look like he pulled a bait and switch.

      Honestly, it sounds like the creatives should be broken out into their own group anyway – they’re not comms people. My company has a separate communications team, separate marketing teams (we have product-specific marketers and then corporate marketing roles), and a creative services group that only handles all of the major design work that can take months to complete. If our creative services folks were folded into communications and were expected to only handle the occasional short video for social media postings and other PR like tasks, they would be furious because it would be a waste of their skillset and what they spent years of training for. Plus, it would make them less competitive in their respective fields (graphic design being one) should they ever want to leave.

      1. LW3*

        About the creatives should be in their own team – OMG, you are so right. Honestly, our communications department is such a little mess of somewhat randomly put together roles/people that it’s not even funny. It is one of those ‘for boring historical reasons’ things, but that does not make it easier or better! But that is even more out of my scope to rearrange that, so… here we stay.

        1. Esme*

          One thing you could do is reframe your thinking about it? I hope you don’t mind me saying that your letter makes it sound like they’re really unreasonable, moaning about workload and moaning to your boss.

          They are not getting to do the work they should be doing. Morale will be low. I’d try to stop thinking about it in the way you have been, if you can, and count your lucky stars you’re not in their shoes!

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yup – since OP has no way of making this (very needed change), an attitude adjustment is what’s needed here. Her coworkers really aren’t being unreasonable for wanting to do what they would typically be doing in any other company that has clearly defined roles for creatives.

          2. LW3*

            You are absolutely right – I find (found) it very strange that they complain both about having too much work and about some work getting outsourced. On a very basic level, if I have too much to do, it’s not a bad thing to have someone else do part of it, was my thinking here.

            I don’t want to give the impression that they never get to do bigger projects, that is not true! But still, it’s really useful to hear the other perspective. And of course Alison is right, it’s not my business in the end.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              I find (found) it very strange that they complain both about having too much work and about some work getting outsourced.

              But both of these things can be true at the same time. They can have too much work on their plate because they’re doing a ton of low level work the actual comms people can’t do or don’t have time to do themselves (like editing photos and video clips for social media posts) and be upset that the actual interesting work that’s in their wheelhouse is being outsourced so that they’re stuck doing things they don’t actually like and/or won’t make a difference in their portfolios.

              And just as a side note: when you don’t enjoy doing something, it takes much longer than usual to actually get it done because, at least for me, there’s a mental block that happens that kind of paralyzes you into inaction. So the creatives on your team may also be slammed with work because these lower level tasks are sucking up their mental bandwidth not because they’re hard, but because they’re uninteresting.

              1. Annony*

                I agree. The problem is that there is too much on their plate and the stuff that gets taken off is what they actually wanted to do. So they end up feeling like they are left with the drudge work.

              2. Sam.*

                This, absolutely. I also think it’s easier to be energized despite a heavy workload if you’re actually interested in the work that you’re doing and/or know it will be valuable experience long-term. Right now they’re burdened with too much work, yes, but the kicker is that’s it’s basic (and probably pretty unexciting) work that doesn’t utilize their expertise and won’t benefit them as professionals.

                I don’t know anything about this area, but would it make sense to create a lower-level position to cover a good chunk of the rote, day-to-day stuff, freeing up those with more experience and skills to focus more on higher-level projects? I was thinking about this from the perspective of my last job, where a couple of the supervisors were doing data entry tasks that really should’ve been covered by someone whose time was less valuable, but I’m actually finding myself in this position right now. Because of a retirement, I’m getting stuck with more boring admin work. It has to be done and it means that I no longer have time to take on as many of the projects that made my job interesting and could allow for career growth, so my job satisfaction is plummeting quickly. I feel for them and think OP would benefit from changing their perspective on this.

              3. ThatGirl*

                Yep. I’m in a creative department right now, our comms team is separate, and if I had to spend all of my time helping the comms team with little piddly stuff and never doing anything bigger or more exciting I’d have one foot out the door too. Heck, that’s a big reason I left my customer service role – I was promised it would be bigger and broader than just day-to-day customer service and in the end, that took up most of the time.

              4. Dust Bunny*


                I always have too much work to do but most of it is tedious and I’d be pretty miffed if the few interesting assignments I could have were given to somebody else. It all needs to be done, of course, but you lose good people if you stick them with all the drudgery.

                It sounds like this place needs to budget for more staff and then split the departments into communications and creative.

              5. The New Wanderer*

                It’s not necessarily field dependent either. I was hired to do X type of work at my company (comparable to big independent creative work) and spent the first 1.5 years helping with X-adjacent work (comparable to lots of little fiddly tasks that did need to get done but not by someone with my background/credentials/skills). I nearly left over it but was finally moved over to a role doing X.

                I agree that both can be true – too many minor tasks, nothing really in my wheelhouse. And I agree that if the situation continues, the company will lose those skills they specifically hired the creatives for when they leave for more suitable work.

              6. Roza*

                Just wanted to +1 this as well. I’m not in a creative field at all, but have had similar issues of being overloaded with low-level work that was tangential to what people in my role usually did while simultaneously being frustrated that harder and more time-consuming but also more engaging and professionally rewarding tasks went to other people or teams because my team was “too busy”. It’s good that your boss is letting the creatives do their actual job sometimes!

              7. Troutwaxer*

                I was thinking that if you’re outsourcing a lot of the creative work that maybe what you really need is an additional creative (or two) on staff. Has anyone run the numbers for how much you’re spending on outsourcing?

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              LW3, Diahann Carroll’s comment is on the money.

              To understand what your coworkers are feeling on this, try to mentally sort all the tasks you do in your role into two piles. Pile 1 is the stuff you love to do. Pile 2 is the stuff you put up with because it comes with the territory, and it’s the price you pay for getting to do the stuff in Pile 1. It’s a lot to do, and it’s hard to keep up with sometimes, but you feel like you’re managing. And now imagine that your boss just told you they’ve noticed you’re being assigned too many tasks, so they’re going to reassign all your Pile 1 tasks to somebody else so you’ll have more time to devote to Pile 2.

              On the one hand, yeah, your workload is smaller and more manageable now. On the other hand, it’s entirely composed of the stuff you don’t like and all the interesting tasks are gone now. So your job has suddenly become less stressful because you’re got fewer tasks, and a whole lot less rewarding because those tasks aren’t what you feel like you signed on for.

              1. D'Arcy*

                True, but this doesn’t change the fact that Pile 1 *can* be outsourced and Pile 2 *can’t* be outsourced.

                1. I coulda been a lawyer*

                  But maybe it can be. But instead of to an outside company, maybe one or two of the “non-creatives” can stretch themselves by learning some of the tasks the creatives find tedious. I sure can’t design that huge mural downtown, but for me it’s fun to do the paint-by-numbers part. The artist is probably bored with that part. Might be a win-win for a few people on the team.

              2. LW3*

                I understand this, and maybe I was not clear enough in the letter, but we do not, not can we outsource all big projects. So it’s not as clear-cut.

                And, building on what you write, indeed we all have things we only do because it’s part of the job. This is weird for me but in abstract, I can understand their frustration, but in practice, it can feel like they actually get to pick and choose, while the rest of us are just expected to do whatever needs to be done.

                In the end though, neither managing their emotions nor managing the risk that they may leave is my job, so… I can keep my peace.

                Seriously, thanks for all the input, it is very helpful!

      2. Esme*

        I had missed that they were in the comms dept and had to reread.

        That’s really not good.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Could you elaborate? I don’t know anything about the specifics of Comms.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            The particular function of a communications team is going to vary by industry and company size, but typically speaking, comms people are writers first and if they have design experience, great – but that’s not the bulk of what they do.

            Corporate Comms basically shape the perception of a company externally by doing a lot of media relations work (like writing press releases and media alerts, responding to news inquiries, etc.), customer/public relations work (like producing brochures and other printed material for public consumption and managing the company’s websites and social media), developing crisis messages (so working with attorneys and government officials to get specific language to describe anything that’s a threat to a company’s reputation or public safety), and they even do a lot of internal employee communication like writing emails to announce important company news and updates.

            Designers and photographers and videographers generally do not do those types of things in their day-to-day work (and many don’t have the training). They may help with aspects of it, like designing the cover of brochures and editing photos for social media, but they really shouldn’t be lumped into a comms department because there’s going to be a large swath of work they just can’t do as well as someone trained in communications would.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              How standard is this split across the industry? I’m in the middle of a BA for communications and the classes are at like 50/50 between writing and graphic design. Sort of concerned if that’s not standard but maybe it’s because it’s communications with a focus on internet communications.

              1. Shortstuff*

                Nowadays, there’s a huge trend for communications content to be more visual. I would say that it’s a good thing to be studying graphic design as well as writing and it would be the kind of thing I would value in a job applicant. But both of those are skills you can put to good use working in a communications team, rather than what the communications team fundamentally does. I’ve seen communications teams with a couple of graphic designers, communications teams with no designers, and communications teams working alongside creative/design teams. Only the latter had no outsourcing element for design. It depends really on the kind of communications you do (and the kind of audiences you have) which works best.

      3. Stock Image Finder*

        I’m a digital designer and this scenario is exactly why I left my last job less than a year after starting. In the interview I thought I was going to be working on challenging senior-level, client facing projects but the actual work was very junior level production work (quick turnaround photo cropping and sourcing stock imagery.) Part of the problem I found was the company didn’t seem to understand how to work with designers as more than just a service department, the account managers didn’t understand what we did or why we were always pushing for more time and opportunity to be part of strategy. (And trying to educate or explain to them was often met with implied eye-rolling etc.)

        It’s really important for marketing/comms places to understand the skill-level of the work they’re delivering to clients and match that to who they’re hiring. If you get higher level folks stuck doing low-level production work they’re not going to be happy. Production artists are a thing!

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Production artists are a thing! SO SO TRUE!
          It’s how I got my start. But I’ve long moved on (even though I still use all of those skills daily)

    2. Courtney*

      There is probably a bookkeeping reason, but I don’t see why the outsourcing budget can’t be redirected into a new hire? Some one who works maybe 2 days a week to stay on top of the small tasks. It would help with the overall issue they’re having with the workload being too high for everyone, at least to some extent.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a budget reason, as the OP mentions risking the budget for the next year. But yes, hiring someone new for the day to day tasks and letting the creative types do what they were hired for would be the logical solution. Being hired to do high level creative tasks, and ending up spending all your time doing lower level routine tasks is really frustrating and demoralizing, and the kind of thing that drives away good employees.

        1. TardyTardis*

          This doesn’t happen just in graphics–I had the ability to come up with some really helpful type of reports, but they needed someone who could grind through 1000+ invoices a day instead (ignoring the promises made to me). So glad to retire from that!

      2. Do As I Say, Not As I Do*

        I agree! A more junior person might be thrilled to take on these tasks and able to accomplish them more quickly than the senior creatives.

      3. LW3*

        Yes, unfortunately the most obvious solution is not available for us – it’s complicated for no good reason, but the fact is we cannot just convert budget for buying stuff/services into budget for hiring someone. On a very high level, our staffing numbers are determined by my great-great-great grandboss, and it’s near impossible to get approval for an additional staff member when we have filled our ‘quota’. Which sucks!

        1. Courtney*

          That’s disappointing to hear, but not surprising. Politics in the workplace make so many things very difficult, especially when the person who needs to make decisions is so far removed from the problems.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            This. Also, when the people making these decisions are not themselves creatives and, therefore, don’t understand why those roles should be separate in the first place, this is the result. A bunch of overworked comms folks stuck with marketing tasks they shouldn’t be doing because there’s no marketing team and a bunch of designers and videographers stuck doing low level marketing and PR tasks because the comms folks need help.

            1. LooLoo*

              OMG. This is my work life now. I handle branding and visual design/strategy but I end up doing so much writing and editing and it is NOT my forté.

              I have repeatedly told my boss that asking the designers to rewrite and edit content is a terrible use of our time AND increases the likelihood of typos and generally creates just uninspired writing. It’s poor use of resources and funds and results in a sub-par product. Half the time I’m not happy with the design work I do because I have to spend so much time working on the copy.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Yeah…I really value our marketing folks, especially my company’s brand/product-specific marketing contacts because they often do a lot of the tech translation for me – but many of them are not writers, lol. One person in particular, I had to rewrite his entire product playbook because the writing was very uninspired, insipid, and also full of buzzwords and jargon that means nothing outside of our company’s walls. He needs to just stick to campaigns honestly, lol – that’s his forte.

        2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Could your budget for buying stuff/services be used to bring a more junior freelancer to work in house as needed? Someone who submits invoices rather than is on the payroll?

          1. LW3*

            Yes, that we could look into – this is also difficult though because of our fairly high security requirements (we definitely cannot just call someone randomly). But yes, could be an idea.

            1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

              I’ve done similar as a freelancer, and speaking from that perspective, once you’re settled in as a regular supplier it’s fine. Pretty efficient actually, you know the work, they know you and you become sort of like an on-call casual staff member. Few times I’ve had to sign an NDA or other contract before particular assignments, but the HR/procurement teams at those clients always seemed to have those processes well in hand.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Would an in-house contractor look different to the budget definition? A long-term outside person *could* take smaller tasks–and get very good at them.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Oops it seems like I should have read farther for your reply before I commented. There are agencies whose temps have security guarantees and all of that. Just think agencies in the Washington DC area… They would be out of business if they didn’t have at least some people with clearances.

    3. Esme*

      Are they at least getting to be involved in the outsourcing, eg writing the brief and giving feedback?

      1. LW3*

        Giving feedback – definitely, writing the brief – I would say half the time? We do have a corporate visual guide, so some things are on paper and can be sent to any external. So that depends on their availability and the project.

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      LW#3, I agree this is not your problem but your company is going to lose those folks because they are 100% correct. If there is desire to respond positively to this group”s complaint, your company might consider outsourcing the small stuff and letting these folks take over larger work.

      We run into that, too. You’re going to lose the good people to keep the mediocre if you keep outsourcing the good work and forcing them to do the mediocre stuff.

      How much of the mediocre stuff really needs to be done by hand? Are there opportunities to automate it, or at least expedite it with better software tools?

    5. jj*

      As a video producer who often got left with low level projects while the big, brand-building, high profile projects got outsourced: this is beyond frustrating for your creatives, and if the economy was better they’d probably all be gone. They’re likely looking for new jobs. There’s nothing worse then having a bunch of expertise and wasting it on something an intern could do, while an outside agency gets to bring all the great creative ideas to the table and get all the credit. I was told it was supposed to help me because I was “so busy” but no one asked me what I wanted to be busy doing. Creatives aren’t machines. If you have a lot of pure production type work (resizing, cropping, etc) you need people who specialize in that, and free up your creatives to use both their creative energy and their knowledge of your brand (which your agency will never have) to bring those high profile projects to life.

      1. LW3*

        Well, they all have been here for 5+ years, so it would even be normal that they would want to move. But, yes, 2020 and all that – I certainly do not wish them to be so unhappy as to want to leave immediately, now!

        “Creatives aren’t machines” – yes, and neither are the rest of us has been my feeling. It’s really interesting and useful to see how most people here consider their wishes (and our boss’s reaction) completely normal.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yeah. If your colleagues were actually comms people, I would totally understand your frustration with them seemingly getting to do whatever they want while the rest of you were stuck doing drudgery you didn’t want to do because you’re understaffed (and possibly doing work you shouldn’t be doing anyway) – but they aren’t actual comms people, your boss understands that, and he’s trying to accommodate them so that there isn’t a mass exodus of these folks, which will hurt all of you even more because then you guys will have no one to do those lower level production tasks and will have to do them yourselves.

        2. Elaine Benes*

          I’m getting just a liiiitle whiff of not really respecting the work the creatives are putting in from your comments, LW3. I think you’re feeling like, because they want to do it, if they got to do only the assignments they wanted, they’d be somehow getting away with something. But trust me, all those bigger creative projects come with their own headaches too (constant edits, trying to read the mind of the person who assigned it, too tight deadlines, etc)… just because they like it better doesn’t make it not work. And doesn’t make it not work that needs to get done, or else your company wouldn’t even have these projects.
          It’s just that you have a team who prefers “challenging & interesting” over “easy & boring”. Neither one is better than the other, but you really need to match the type of work with who you’re hiring. It’s as if your company was a newspaper hired 3 full-time investigative reporters and then gave them the work of writing short obituaries “because it needs to get done” and outsourced every long journalistic project that came up. It would be super frustrating to be one of those investigative reporters! They worked hard to be able to be hired as an investigative reporter. It doesn’t mean obituaries shouldn’t be written, but it also doesn’t mean that they should be the ones writing the obituaries.
          I almost think your company needs to let go 1 or 2 of the 3, and re-design those roles to be exclusively production. The remaining creative can be a full time creative, and the balance of work is better proportioned to what the company needs and the employees expect to be working on. And if your perception of work is that it’s supposed to be whatever drudgework needs to happen, we should all suffer equally… maybe you need to find a role that feels less like drudgework for you?

          1. bananab*

            Agreed on the whiff, last place I worked that had a kinda similar vibe, it was like there was a subconscious resentment that we got the “fun” work, and it would flare up whenever we mentioned excess rote tasks and would be asked if we felt they were “beneath us.”

            The issue isn’t that everyone has to deal with what comes through, the issue is that what’s coming through is out of step with their development and will 100% affect their opportunities. 5+ years of primarily mundane, low-stakes work that’s not portfolio-able, no stories about decision-making to speak of because there hardly are any: that’s poison for a creative field.

          2. LW3*

            Oh wow – well, first, I certainly did not intend any disrespect towards my colleagues or creatives in general, so I am sorry if I came across like that. I have done layouts and made videos and I know both the frustrations you are talking about and – trust me – also the difference between my videos and the ones made by a professional.

            But to turn things around a bit, I also find “It’s just that you have a team who prefers “challenging & interesting” over “easy & boring”.” a bit insulting – we have maaaybe two people out of the 15 who would say that is not the case for them! So this is not a division of creatives versus drudgery-lovers. And so – yes, in a way, deep down I still find it unfair that media people don’t get to not write the boring press releases, but creatives can pick and choose. (Yes, I know, life is unfair).

            For what it’s worth, my job is no more than 5-10% drudgery (for me). I get the sense now from most of the comments here that for creatives, there is less of a grey area in this than for me – there are the cool tasks and there is drudgery. So that is a something for me to consider, to maybe better understand my colleagues.

            I find your proposal for the rearrangement of the team interesting! Again, I am not the one deciding these things, but from what I learnt today, it would indeed make sense.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              For what it’s worth, I didn’t get the sense that you don’t respect the work of the creatives – I mean, you even made a point to say that the rest of you non-creatives keep handing off a lot of the basic creative tasks to your full time creatives because you guys aren’t designers and presumably wouldn’t do these tasks as well as they would. (Which is true.)

              Where you have to make a mental shift is in thinking that just because you all fall under the same umbrella and manager at this company (when you wouldn’t in a much larger and better defined company), you should all be doing the same amount or kind of work. I get it – teams jump in and help each other out. The idea that a few people can complain when they’re asked to do work they may not like when the rest of you have no choice but to do it, and then your manager gives in to those complaints, is crazy making.

              But just keep reminding yourself – the creatives are not comms people. The creatives are different even if they’re currently on your team and, therefore, your manager is right to listen to their complaints and try to give them more of the work they actually want to do as opposed to the stuff they don’t want to do because if he doesn’t, you will lose them, which will in turn cause more work for your already overstretched team.

            2. bananab*

              If drudgery is not detrimental to future opportunities in your field, this might be a key difference. In creative fields a lack of proper opportunity is absolutely a career detriment.

              1. bananab*

                (Wish there was an edit function) We need a showreel, basically; and resume matters far less than in other areas. Worked a decade for X but portfolio sucks: slush pile.

    6. Anonymous Librarian*

      I came here to say this. The outsourcing money might be better spent on a temp or contractor to handle some of the small, routine things. Let your permanent folks have at least some of the cool projects so they stay motivated and engaged (and don’t leave). Also, they will learn and grow from those projects and become even greater resources to the company. It’s one of my pet peeves that good people get denied interesting/stretch projects because they are too busy with day-to-day work, so the company spends a fortune to outsource the cool stuff.

    7. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Yup. As a software developer, if I get hired and then find that my job is to spend all day doing support tickets and configuring off-the-shelf packages, I’m not going to be happy. I can do that job, and I can do it well, but I’m not gonna do it for very long.

  2. Mid*

    I once scheduled an interview and didn’t realize until the next day that I was never told what company it was with. I eventually got the meeting invite and looked up their address to figure out which company it was because I was too embarrassed to ask.

    1. I edit everything*

      That sounds like something I would do. I once didn’t know the gender of the person I was writing to about an internship (cover letter, I think), and wanted to write back using the right form of address (Mr./Ms.; this was long before specifying pronouns was a thing). I ended up calling their office number late in the evening just to listen to their voicemail greeting. Once I got to know her, I fessed up. She was amused.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        You needed information and found a way to get it that wouldn’t uncover your backside. Pretty effective, I’d say.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      While on unemployment, I applied for a job I wasn’t really qualified for. They called me and pointed that out, but asked if they could pass my resume on to another department. I got a call on that other job, and went into the interview. I’d never seen the job description, didn’t know what I was interviewing for, and was trying desperately to answer questions and figure out what the job was by the questions being asked.

      I was qualified for that job, and still have it. But it was sure awkward going into the interview that blind. I do recommend Alison’s advice – ask ahead of time! It will help you prepare, and in my case, they wouldn’t’ve counted that against me.

  3. Anonymity*

    You’re not taking your deserved breaks and your manager wants to blather on about her personal life? I feel bad for you. I think every time she did that I’d respond “sorry, I have a lot of work to do”.

    1. Brian*

      I agree with you. She is obviously ignoring cues that you don’t want to can’t chit chat. Her manager sounds narcissistic / tone death.

          1. LW1*

            Yes, she is senior to me, and very respected. I like her; I’m just always feeling like I’m being held hostage when she wants to share. I’ll be taking the advice of those who say I should tell her in a *cheery voice* that I can’t stop what I’m doing. Tone will matter for sure in my circumstance. I worry how long I can do this until she notices and says something.

            1. Mockingjay*

              Change it up. Tell her one time “Sorry, trying to finish the Ferguson report for you! You said it is priority one.” Next, really take that bio break: “Hey, too much coffee! Back in a few.”

              She may be senior to you, but if she’s not part of your reporting chain (in supervisory terms, not task distribution), I would just ignore and redirect to work each time. Realistically, how could she complain? “LW1, why won’t you listen to my [boring] life stories?” “Because I’m working?”

              She sounds exhausting. My sympathies.

            2. pancakes*

              I’d have a very hard time respecting someone who’s as domineering as this, and so routinely. A 10- to 15-min. monologue is a LOT to foist on coworkers, and demanding that people who don’t seem to be paying attention feign interest is bizarre. I don’t think you or anyone else should be apologizing to her for not falling in line with her strange expectations.

                1. valentine*

                  Why does she think all her coworkers are interested in her personal life?
                  She may not care. She wants to talk and command the entire audience.

              1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                You said it! EVERYBODY on my current team spends a lot of company time talking about personal and family stuff. Besides being way uninteresting unless you’re one of the parents swapping teething stories, it’s distracting and very annoying when you’re trying to get the work done and Boss is regaling Coworkers with the latest adventure of taking Junior to the movies and getting him to sit still.

            3. Librarian of SHIELD*

              If you can stop feeling forced to engage in ALL of her overshares, you may find that you’re willing to engage once or twice a week, which would give the impression that you’re still at least somewhat engaged, even though you’re very busy with work.

              1. pancakes*

                It’s not clear from the letter whether this person is over-sharing or not — some people talk about themselves at length without revealing intimate details of their life. This person’s habitual steamrolling over others and insistence on having everyone’s full attention seem more problematic than their choice of subject matter.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  It doesn’t matter? The comment you’re responding to addresses the amount of time and emotion LW feels forced to sink into senior coworker’s self-indulgent bullshit and offers a possible solution. This doesn’t change depending on the content of the timesuck monologues.

            4. Jennifer Thneed*

              LW, people literally died for your right to have breaks at work. Plus research has shown that people do better work when they get breaks. (Other research has shown that people who agree to everything do not get as much respect as people who don’t.) For many reasons, including the example you set for others, please *please* take your breaks!

            5. Not So NewReader*

              Under ordinary circumstances would this bother you?

              I am asking because you say the boss piles work on you. I know for me, if I am worried about losing 10-15 minutes, I am in deep doo.

              I am going a different way on this one and, of course, YMMV. You say you like the woman and you say she helps with morale. These are two big deals, right there. How often do we meet people who do both of these things? Not often enough.. ahem…

              Why not just tell her the truth in a one-on-one conversation? “Hey Jane, you know that [I think highly of you, I am grateful I work with you or similar positive comment]. I am not sure how to say this, there are times during the week where I need every minute of my work day. I have x, y and z going on and it’s a real push to get through it. I feel bad that I really cannot stop and listen to your stories, but I can’t. If I stop to listen, I won’t [meet deadline, finish before quitting time, whatever]. Here’s my pickle-ment: I really, really don’t want to be rude to you because I honestly like you as a person and a cohort. Is there some way I can signal to you that I am feeling time pressed? I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t want to get in trouble for not finishing my work either.”

              Key points:
              Whatever positive thing you tell her, keep it real. Only say what you honestly believe.
              Let her have participation in a solution here. People who are cued in are more apt to have buy-in to the solution.
              Know exactly what it is you want before you start the conversation. Let’s say, Thursdays are always rough for you, because of the way your work cycles through the week. You can point to Thursdays as being particularly bad. Or let’s say the going gets tough when you have to do the ABC report and that report comes up at odd intervals. You can say that doing the ABC report really gets just to dicey in terms of chewing up your time. Be sure to point out recurring times where you just HAVE to concentrate period, so she sees what is actually happening.

              Eh, who knows, maybe she will turn into an advocate for you who helps lighten your load, That would be an added bonus here. But basically you can tell her what you are doing and why and hopefully head off any hard feelings that might have occurred otherwise.

              Yes, I have done this with people and had success. She sounds fairly open to this type of conversation so I think I would try.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          But it matters. She’s not in charge of OP so you don’t have to be as careful about the language used to fix the issue.

    2. Esme*

      But you weren’t taking the breaks anyway.

      This coworker sounds annoying but she isn’t stopping you from taking breaks. You are stopping yourself. You’ll feel better if you start!

      1. I can only speak Japanese*

        I think if I were OP I’d probably resent the coworker for the time she seems to have whereas I was working without breaks. We don’t know if coworker stays late or has the type of job where she has to wait on something or she can use her hands while talking, but if she really has less to do, I’d be annoyed.

        1. I edit everything*

          I don’t think taking 10-15 minutes to chat every few days is a sign that she’s underworked. While being forced to pay attention to someone else’s personal stories is annoying, I’m having trouble getting upset about the actual number of minutes it represents.

          OP should be taking at least that much time as breaks, a couple times a day if possible. It’ll make her more productive in the long run to step away for a few minutes. Not necessarily to listen to Coworker’s stories, but for a walk, a stretch, a coffee run, whatever. Then she can say, “Oh, I just took a break, so I need to get back to [X project].

        2. Remote HealthWorker*

          I’ve seen this sort of resentment for the people, like me, who take our breaks. It’s not productive and it’s frankly a precious attitude to think that you are busier then them. The “must be nice” attitude isn’t appreciated.

          The best example I have is at old job. Resentful coworker “must be nice”‘d me all the time. I took my hr lunch and 2 15s everyday. I typically left on time, occasionally stayed an hour late for an emergency audit but that was it. She never took breaks and was finishing around 8pm or 9pm daily. She got promoted by our butt in seats manager who then gave me her work to take over.

          Well it only took me 25 hours a week to get all her work done and I went back and corrected months of her errors. She was exhausted and thus not working effeciently. I actually was able to hop on high level projects while in her role because it was less work then my previous role. I still took all my breaks.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Sounds similar to my current coworker. She does everything the long, hard way to show how much she’s working and get lots of attention and compliments for doing so much “for the team.” I used to leave an hour earlier than she did, and she’d deliberately leave last-minute calls for me to pick up, forcing me into overtime. She had my old manager convinced it was no big deal to work unpaid overtime, but I started documenting it by emailing my boss every time I got stuck staying late. (now the co. uses an online timesheet and we get paid correctly if a call or appointment runs us past 8 hours.) If I took a 10 min break from my desk, Coworker would give me a stink eye as if I were taking shameless advantage of the co. and her. Yet when she wanted even more attention she’d make a big deal about “there was so much to do on this project, I just *had* to take a break,” and instantly everyone would be showering her with sympathy.

          2. Ego Chamber*

            Okay but the senior coworker isn’t taking breaks while LW skips them, she’s interrupting everyone else’s work and demanding they watch her tell a 10 or 15 minute story when they’re at their workstations.

            If she was doing this in the break room during a break, that would be resentment over someone taking a break. LW’s resentment is over someone who has less work to do and apparently no self-awareness that others might be working on work at their workstations instead of whatever it is she’s doing.

      2. LW1*

        You are absolutely correct that I am the only one who is preventing myself from taking breaks. I guess I conflated her storytelling as a 15-minute break she’s imposing on me, on her time.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I think the root of the issue is that you are not taking your breaks and you don’t feel like you can take breaks. It sounds like you have too much on your plate (in which case you need to push back a little, make sure you are working on the most important stuff and let the other stuff not get done).

          It’s also important to realize that building relationships with your coworkers is often how you get stuff done.

          That doesn’t mean you need to stop and listen every time she wants to talk – but I would suggest stopping to listen occasionally, and going out of your way to be warm and friendly the rest of the time.

        2. Remote HealthWorker*

          Definitely take your breaks. You will probably find you get more done then when you were not!

          I’m a researcher so I actually empirically tested it. When I work 40 hours with breaks I get about 30 hours of work done. When I work 40 hours with no breaks, it’s 31. When I work 50 hours it’s 35. I get no return or improvement on total work done, do mainly to errors meaning I have to rework, after 50 hours.

          In addition to the diminishing returns for more hours worked, my exhaustion causes interpersonal issues. I tend to have complaints against me when I am working the hardest, which builds up resentment quick. So in the end 40 hours with breaks is what’s best for me and the company.

          1. Mr. Obstinate*

            While this is true and we would be much better off if all bosses understood it, I want to mention that many workers are micromanaged and under the gun too much to put it into practice.

            Overwork harms productivity over a longer time frame than it helps productivity. So a boss will often myopically demand more output right now to avoid waiting until tomorrow, without caring as much that the worker having rest right now would make tomorrow a more productive day.

        3. schnauzerfan*

          If it was me, I’d use AAMs script every other, or two out of three times. The third time I’d jump up for a cup of coffee or bottle of pop and take “my break” then get back to work after a 10 minute socially distant visit. Of course, now in month 5 of working from home I MISS visiting with my coworkers, and I have some sympathy for those who live alone or are just feeling isolated. Don’t know if that’s true here but…

          I have to force myself to take breaks now that I’m wfh and I’m more productive for doing so.

        4. Workerbee*

          If you can see/sense her gearing up to go on blast with her live show, I find myself wondering if you can nonchalantly head off to your break(s) then…

        5. JustaTech*

          Can you try using her storytime as a reminder to take a break? Either hop up for a cup of coffee or, if you’re in the middle of something, make a note to take a break at your next stopping point?

          Then she’s being useful, and you’re getting your breaks.

      3. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes, I came here to say – take your breaks! Even if you’re swamped, the amount of time you expect whatever test to take should be thought of as “the amount of hours I have to work on this including a couple necessary breaks throughout the day.” You’ll probably do better work if you just take your breaks properly, too.

        1. I edit everything*

          Exactly. Breaks are good for productivity.
          And then you’ll have another reason to tune out of her boring stories: “Sorry–I just took my break, so I’m going to get back into the zone.”

  4. Ellie*

    Alison, thank you so much for your answer and script in #2, “Due to the challenges caused by pandemic and some concurrent health issues, my main goal for this period has been to keep things running smoothly, but not to innovate or add major new initiatives.”

    I have been struggling a lot with similar circumstances and it really helps to see it written out as normal. I’ve been feeling like a such a failure until you framed it this way.

    LW #2, you are only human and the 1-2 punch of other health issues + COVID hits hard. Take care and wishing you a steady recovery.

    1. Esme*

      Also on the topic of being human:

      Of course your personal life will affect your work life sometimes, because you are human! I’m sorry anyone has told you this is somehow a failing. It happens to everyone!

      1. Washi*

        Yes, that line made me think that perhaps the OP tends to be very hard on herself. I have also struggled with depression/anxiety and an accompanying tendency to push myself really hard, and during those times I actually found my performance reviews to be a weirdly positive experience (with the caveat that I had a good manager.) I had spent a lot of time telling myself I was a failure so my boss explicitly saying “hey, you’re a solid worker! you do X and Y really well!” felt amazing. I wish the same for OP!

      2. FionasHuman*

        This! When I read “But I was raised to believe that personal life absolutely does not impact work-life and that my mental health is a part of that (and a personal failing),” my primary thought is that most of us work to live — we do not, and should not ever have to, live to work. Our worth is not measured by our contribution to a corporate machine, nor should anyone, EVER, feel like they are failing when their health issues impact their work, because *health comes first.*

        There’s obviously some shades of gray here. Some of us are doing work that is a primary passion for us (I’m blessed to be doing so). Others are doing literally life-or-death jobs (but/and in those cases, we need to do a much better job as a society of building support for those workers’ health and wellness into such jobs) For most of us, though: 1. work is a way to make money so we can have our lives; 2. No profit-making entity (and few nonprofit ones) deserve to be the #1 priority in a worker’s life; and 3. The US in particular has created a very, very sick culture around these issues and I hope that the COVID crisis burns this cultural expectation to the ground.

      3. I Can Have Fun?*

        I struggle with this. I have some minor health issues that impact my energy level. For years I assumed this meant that I had to ace work and bills and housework and other “life maintenance” and that used up all my energy so I didn’t get to do anything else. I only recently decided that a better tactic is to spread my energy across work, family/life maintenance, and recreation/personal time more or less equally and not let “recreation/personal time” be all sleep because I’ve exhausted myself in the other two categories.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I read that some folks consider it unethical to do so much at work that there is nothing left to us when we get home.
          I had to think about that. Well, we are depriving others of enjoying us in their lives and visa versa. We are depriving ourselves of enjoying them.
          In a similar vein, it’s an oxygen mask thing. If we don’t take care of home and self, and it falls apart what is the point to anything else?

          Another untruth is “acing everything”. Some times a mediocre attempt is good enough. Some weeks I do a better job mowing than I do other weeks. The lawn does not have to be purrrfect, but it does have to be cut. Once in a great while, I am a day late paying a bill. And then…. NOTHING happened. Life went on.
          Likewise at work, not everything needs our A-1 attention. I find a missing page and add it to a file. I know the file is done and will be toss in a bit. I don’t bother putting the page in chronological sequence. The odds that anyone will ever look at this file again are 1 in a million. If they do, they can tuck the page in the correct place. Not everything requires super high effort. It’s good to check to see what we actually need to do vs what is “nice” to have done.

    2. NYWeasel*

      I’ve positioned my team as “During this period, we focused on adapting our processes to address the disruptions caused by the pandemic.” It feels like you didn’t accomplish anything bc you haven’t had a net increase (or had a decrease) in productivity. But just keeping it close to neutral is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated!!

    3. weasel007*

      #2 – I am in EXACTLY the same boat. I too am merely trying to keep the lights on in my head during this pandemic. Additionally, I ended up on STD due to an accident during the pandemic, and a separate hospital stay that *may* be related to covid (I was not tested). Therefore I feel like I’ve done nothing to be evaluated on. I SO appreciate this answer today!

    4. Remote HealthWorker*

      I don’t understand why companies are bothering with performance reviews this year. Everyone’s is going to read pretty much the same.

      We quickly adapted to catastrophic changes.
      We kept work afloat despite numerous challenges, isolation, and danger to our personal health.
      We survived the layoffs and absorbed tasks outside our normal scope.
      We didn’t flip out and toss chairs around the conference rooms… I kid but seriously it’s been a really stressful year!

      My company has already announced no raises but is doing these reviews anyway. It’s dumb.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I had my performance review in March to cover 2019, and it was written/done pre-shelter in place (though the actual review happened over the phone) — the part about accomplishing my goals LAST year was fine. What IS going to be strange and awkward is the one covering this year — because the goal is essentially “keep my job and adapt”, and everything I had planned in February is out the window.

      2. Helen J*

        I agree. We do them every year and we rarely get an increase (merit or COL). When we do get raises, maybe once every 5 years, it’s more than is normal for our industry (my last raise was $3/hour).

        It’s like a box they need to tick on some list somewhere. My manager told me I could write pretty much the same thing each year since my duties rarely change. I’ll rearrange the order of my “goals” or change a bit of language. I’ve done that for 5 years in a row and no one has noticed, so that tells me no one is reading them.

      3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I had my review this year and got dinged on adapting to change because I didn’t do well with the sudden shift to not being able to physically get signatures, not being able to print things as easily, and just telehealth in general

    5. theletter*

      You could also put, “With business challenges caused by the pandemic, my priority has been to maintain our current standards of productivity.”

      I’m also in the same boat as several of my goals from the beginning of the year have literally failed. But I’m not going to to write that! I’m going to lay out the goal, describe the positive outcomes, and close it up.

      You can call me a one-woman lemonade stand b/c that’s what I’m making today.

      1. Hazel*

        Me, too! I thought I was really falling down on the job by having a hard time being as productive as I had been in the office – and when there wasn’t a pandemic going on that we’re all feeling anxious about. When I discovered (probably through AAM) that everyone was having a hard time, I felt a lot better. I still have to force myself to keep working during the day, but now I know it’s helpful, necessary, and not lazy to take a break.

  5. staceyizme*

    LW1- I think you’re doing the right thing by trusting your intuition here! You don’t have to be attentive to every anecdote and it’s worth retraining her to expect less of your attention- but doing it gradually is going to make it easier on you.
    It seems like the more immediate issue might be your workload and THAT is worth addressing directly and immediately with your Mr. or Ms. Pile-On of a boss! Take stock of your projects and ask for a check in on prioritizing. Get clarity on where you’re at and begin trimming where you can. Hopefully, your boss is reasonable and just hasn’t realized how much you actually have to do. I hope that you can get the support, validation and assistance with your workload that you need! Failing that, maybe start looking and polish up that resume.

    1. JSPA*

      “Sorry, wish I could, but I’m racing the clock again today,” said brightly, usually works. Ideally, it might also get you support on some of the tasks, if they’re underloaded and you’re overloaded. Or unexpected, useful tips on efficiency. If the coworker successfully frees up time for you, though, you will owe them some of it, for listening to personal anecdotes.

      1. LW1*

        You’ve given me things to think about, thanks. I do feel obligated to listen to her (rather than appreciative), because she is always helpful.

        Thankfully, we as a group step up when we need help. I guess I can appeal to her strengths and ask her for advice on how to deal with the more demanding boss.

      2. Quinalla*

        We usually use the “Cranking on a project today, catch up with you later!” in my office. While there might be mild disappointment, everyone in my office has to deal with deadlines, so we all get it. This works well with the people in my office (there are always a few everywhere, but I have more in my office as we have a higher percentage of socially awkward folks) who either ignore or don’t catch on to cues that clearly this person is busy and should be left alone. I used to not like having to announce “Hey I’m busy today, so don’t bug me unless it is really important!” essentially, but now I think it is best to be straightforward and appreciate when others are too.

      3. Come On Eileen*

        Nah. She doesn’t owe this co-worker any more time to listen to her anecdotes.

        1. JSPA*

          It’s a basic part of the social contract, and of being human, that we sometimes listen to things that don’t interest us, if we value and/or respect the person telling the story. Per OP, this averages maybe 3 minutes a day. In a humane workplace with reasonably-distributed tasks, a reasonable workload and decent interpersonal relationships, this should not be an imposition.

          Sure, if someone’s a time wasting pain in the ass who never pulls their weight nor ever makes your work easier, the calculus is different. Their incompetence and unhelpfulness is already burning up anything you might owe them on a “social contract” basis. But this is someone that OP reports is competent, valued, helpful, and that OP likes reasonably well. The person who makes everyone’s job easier and more efficient very reasonably gets some bonus points, as far as taking an occasional “chat and bond” break.

          1. EPLawyer*

            but it’s not the average that is the problem, it’s that it’s chunks of time that she does not have. You can average it all you want but its not the reality. If someone is taking 10-15 minutes out of my day every few days on THEIR schedule just to talk about personal stuff, I am going to resent it. The social contract goes both ways. The storyteller needs to stop REQUIRING the attention of her colleagues whenever she wants. She needs to respect that others have work to do and may not have time at that moment for a long monologue on her personal life.

          2. Bostonian*

            I would agree more with your POV if this were OP and the coworker 1:1. However, this coworker seems to enjoy “holding court” talking to an entire group of people at once. And then goes out of their way to ask if OP is listening, which is kind of rude. It doesn’t really matter if OP listens or not, there’s still other people who are engaged. Besides: someone just stands up and starts talking and everyone is supposed to drop their work and give their full attention? There should still be an understanding that sometimes people need to work and don’t always have that extra 15 minutes to spare in a day.

          3. pancakes*

            No, you’re trying to time-shift. The letter says these monologues take “about 10-15 minutes . . . every few days or so.” Redistributing those 15 minutes to 3 minutes per day would remove a good deal of the boorishness that makes this irritating, but it’s not what’s actually happening. And no, feigning interest in what tediously self-regarding people want to talk at you about isn’t part of the social contract.

    2. Sara without an H*

      OP#1, I think staceyizme is onto something. You may be letting your irritation focus on StoryTeller (who I agree is a bit much), rather than talking with your boss about your workload issues. Does Boss Pile-On really know how much you have on your plate? It’s very easy for a manager to send work through without realizing how much the employee already has on their schedule, especially if the employee doesn’t speak up. So please set up a meeting soon to discuss workload and prioritization.

      And take your breaks. Take a lunch hour. Leave at a set time most evenings. No job is worth your health.

      1. Willis*

        This – having work piled on to the point you can’t take a break or lunch sounds like the real issue here. Yes, it’s rude of someone to assume you should listen to their story and OP should say she’s too busy to chat, but a 10-15 minute conversation with coworker every few days isn’t that outrageous. Certainly don’t do it if you don’t want to, but it’s a separate issue from being overworked and cutting out the convos isn’t going impact the bigger problem.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Except its not a chat with a co-worker. It’s co-worker standing across the room and demanding everyone’s attention. If LW isn’t paying attention, because she’s you know working, co-worker will shout across the room for her to pay attention.

          1. Willis*

            Sure, and she should say she’s busy if she doesn’t want to listen. That’s pretty easy to do. But it’s also not going to make a dent in being overworked.

          2. The New Wanderer*

            A 1:1 chat would probably be better received. This is a monologue that the OP is scolded into being part of the audience for. That is annoying, disruptive, and doesn’t offer the OP much of anything except maybe the coworker’s good will (which should *not* be dependent on this, but could be).

            I agree with the advice to excuse yourself from story-time at least once in a while by saying that you’re really focusing right now. If the coworker holds it against you, you may have to rethink whether they are as great as you thought because good people understand that you’re not always at their beck and call.

            (Also take breaks! Picture yourself as a music box winding down. The longer you wait to wind back up, the slower and less effective you’ll get.)

          3. JSPA*

            It’s “awesome,” “senior,” “helpful” coworker doing that. (All in OP’s own words.) Those three things, together, get you some extra floor time.

            1. RestroomTimeExtraordinaire*

              grandstanding is annoying – these people aren’t an audience who bought tickets for a one-person show. But ultimately agree that the OP needs to review why she can’t take breaks during the day at all – that’s unsustainable over time even without attention-seeking monologuer.

  6. Lunasmom*

    LW3 –
    You will lose good designers or fail to develop your creative team if you don’t give them meaty creative opportunities. There will be resentment for sure. This tension is not specific to your company, it’s fairly common in agency and in-house design departments everywhere and it’s a real concern for anyone who manages creative teams.

    While it isn’t your call, I can say that your team could definitely find a freelancer to cover periodic ad hoc jobs as opposed to the big projects. In fact, it may be easier and less expensive to outsource smaller ad hoc work rather than the larger or more specialized projects. Your resource manager would need to populate a bench of reliable ad hoc freelancers and ensure their cost rate allows enough margin to be reasonable but this is done all the time. If there is enough work, your boss could also consider bringing in a production artist as opposed to a designer, or a specialist for the type of as hoc work you have most often (like a PowerPoint specialist), both of which may be more cost effective than a freelancer.

    But it is a legitimate concern for graphic designers that they may fail to develop or find their work at all fulfilling if the creative jobs are always outsourced and it’s likely a fine balancing act your boss has to take into account.

    1. LW3*

      Thanks for this! I understand (the whole team understands) the need for our creatives to do high-level work, and we definitely don’t outsource all complex jobs. Honestly, it feels more like they are complaining every time we outsource anything, but that is probably not fair either.

      It’s an interesting idea to have a group of freelancers for sure, we can look into that – mostly the problem with this is the level of security we work with, which makes it difficult to have people coming and going in the house or in our information systems. But it’s not impossible!

      1. Esme*

        They’re complaining for good reason.

        As mentioned above, your letter is written as if they are unreasonable. They’re not.

        1. serenity*

          I’m also unclear on if the LW is their manager? She said “my team” but that could just mean they are colleagues?

      2. NinaBee*

        I work in ad agencies as a freelancer and what drives creatives is doing interesting, challenging and variable work, especially at art director level which seems like some of the staff is at? Banners and social post type of work bread and butter, but most creatives just do it because we understand it’s necessary. So then to get a chance to do something interesting and see it outsourced would be disheartening (like if your staff would be left to do data entry or filing while interesting projects were outsourced).

        And freelancers are used to doing the small work that frees up inhouse staff to do the more interesting projects, that’s just a normal thing we accept :) Working at places with high stakes and high security is pretty normal, they usually give an NDA to sign etc. If you use professional freelancers they understand because we hop around a lot! You might even get interesting info or suggestions about ways to work they’ve picked up around the place. And as someone else mentioned if you use them regularly they’ll get to know the work and your company which will help too. Try Yuno Juno or a similar platform, who are cheaper than recruiters but have quality freelancers (am not affiliated with them, in UK they’re the standard and have a US platform too).

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

      We’re facing a related problem where I work – higher ups in other offices outsourced the design work, and the end result looks nice but it’s a massive PITA to implement. It’d be much better if we had an in-house team who understood the gap between the requirements and our limitations.

    3. Georgina Fredrika*

      I read this letter assuming (probably incorrectly, but it sounded like the exact setup) this was a university marketing office. I was on a much smaller college team (3 people, not 15!) but outsourcing something like photography for daily events would’ve been unfeasible, and it was an unrelenting requirement for the department.

      For me these events can be neatly sandwiched into the rest of the day because I’m already there – paying a freelancer to handle them, though, would be really – paying a freelancer to drive half an hour there, take a photo, drive away.

      Of course, it is possible that things can be outsourced in another way. And it’s true you might lose talent, but that’s always a truth. Maybe someone in charge needs to really break it down in terms of time budgeting (we can give you 2 weeks to wrap this up, but beyond that it’s only cost effective to hire a freelancer)?

      1. anonymous 5*

        If it *is* a college/university setting, then the lower-level tasks seem like a great opportunity for a work-study student. Especially if the school has academic programs/courses in which students might already have learned some of the processes. In the latter case, there might also be an opportunity for a student to get some form of experiential education credit that way.

        But I also thought I read that there was the hurdle of people needing a security clearance…?

      2. LW3*

        We are not a university but we are not a classic company either (whatever that is), and you are right, having externals do the low-level stuff is tricky both for security reasons and because a lot of them come up way too fast for someone to come in and do them or it would be prohibitively expensive as you say.

    4. Kodamasa*

      I’m with you. I’m one of those creatives and I can tell you it is INFURIATING to see all of the big, fun projects being outsourced. Being bogged down in the numbing day-to-day so much that you can’t take on bigger, meaningful projects is moral-killing and you will lose those people if they have the means to leave. We don’t take the job to do social media turn-arounds all day; we do it for the opportunity to flex our creative muscles.

      -signed someone who’s had every big, fun project in the last three years cancelled, outsourced, or hamstrung by unreasonable deadlines

  7. Maree*

    I think if a manager interrupts you for 10-15minutes every few days I would take the time to listen.

    Good morale in the workplace increases productivity and strengthens teams! These interruptions might be worthwhile in other ways. (I’m judging by the fact that the OP reports this as a strength of this person).

    I would hate to work in an office with people who were strictly 100% business and no team building chat.

    Also, take breaks! They are good for productivity not bad. Just 5-10 minutes a couple of times a day makes all the difference for your ability to focus.

    1. Irishgal*

      I totally disagree. Listening to a colleague or manager talk about their personal life for 10-15 minutes straight is not part of any job description or work bonding. That is an example of the the colleague or manager being tone deaf to what is appropriate conversation for the work place and having poor boundaries. Add in the expectation that the listener has to sit there showing signs of active listening and it crosses into totally out of order.

      1. Jane Plough*

        +1. Chatting about your personal life in the office is fine, but demanding an explanation of anyone choosing to opt out and get on with their work instead, is just bizarre. Save the personal chit chat for the water cooler, coffee machine, lunch break (or WFH equivalent!), or if you (=OP’s annoying colleague) have to talk about it at desks, have the self awareness and self confidence to accept that not everyone will be interested.
        I also think 10-15 minutes for an anecdote sounds painfully long (and from the letter these sound like monologues rather than conversations)! If I was this person’s manager I’d have a word with them about this.

        1. Quinalla*

          Yes, this is what bothered me. Someone chit chatting for 10-15 about personal stuff in fine and expected, but that person excepting everyone to pay close attention and no allow for folks to continue on with work is ridiculous. That really rubbed me the wrong way!

        2. Helen J*

          If I called out across the room of our open floor plan office to ask if a coworker if they were paying attention to a personal story I was telling, I can guaranteeyou that my manager would call me out immediately.

      2. EPLawyer*

        I cannot agree more. Forcing people junior to you to listen to your personal stories for 10-15 minutes every few days is not in any way shape or form team bonding. It’s taking advantage of a captive audience. Add in calling LW out as if she were a child caught passing notes in class only makes it LESS of a team bonding experience.

      3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        +1 – chatting with colleagues is one thing, but DEMANDING that OP stop the work that they’re doing to listen to her drone on and on about personal crap is 100% inappropriate and serves no purpose.

    2. Ellie*

      They’re not just sharing stories: they are repeatedly *calling LW out across a room* to demand more attention for personal story time told to a whole room.

      That’s immature, self-centered, inappropriate office behavior and NOT good for moral.

      It might be the case that LW could benefit from taking breaks to socialize, but that’s a separate issue.

      If I’m telling a story at work, I wouldn’t literally ask one person if they were paying attention across a room unless it’s a joke with a friend or there was a specific reason (e.g., shared interest, I was talking directly to them, or other reason that one person “should” listen). Certainly not multiple times a week to the same person.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The “across a room” part is what suck out for me. I expected this to be a letter about a Chatty Cathy who would appear at LW’s desk to talk about her date last night. It turns out to be a Chatty Cathy who demands an entire roomful of coworkers sit in rapt attention as she bellows out her story.

        1. MCL*

          Yes, she seems to like to hold court. I can’t think that the others she is talking to appreciate daily interruptions about this person’s personal life either!

      2. RecentAAMfan*

        I must say, I’m a bit sceptical about someone that self centered really being awesome when it comes to overall morale.
        Maybe it’s one of the situations where she has that reputation so you just go along and assume it must be true. She’s certainly not awesome for YOUR morale. Maybe everyone else is secretly thinking this too!

        1. EPLawyer*

          Is morale really awesome there? If you think being forced to listen to a co-worker’s personal life every few days just because they are senior to you is part of “team bonding” then maybe you need to assess what good morale really is? I mean nobody openly grumbling is not necessarily good morale. Does this person just seem like a really nice person so morale must be good? Or is there a more concrete example of how this is good.

          1. LW1*

            I say she is awesome because she is known outside of the office as someone who will provide the cheer and the personal, heartfelt messages to the employees of the departments her boss is in charge of. So, yes, she does raise the morale level throughout the workplace in her own way. She gets recognized for that all the time.

            But you’re right in that I do feel like a hostage when she wants to share. And it doesn’t do much for my morale. I’m still too new here to assess how touchy she might be if I were to try to bow out more than she’s used to.

            1. EPLawyer*

              Does she really raise the morale with these personal, heartfelt messages? I notice she is known outside the office, what about inside the office for doing this? Which is what matters. I am sure she LOVES the attention she gets for sending them. Which is why she does them.

              To me, a good helpful coworker is not someone who sends me a nice personal message on my birthday. It’s someone who is friendly, polite — and this is key — let’s me do my damn work when I am busy. You said she is helpful, but it doesn’t seem like her reputation is actually related to productivity at work. It’s for the touchy-feely stuff.

              You know what raises morale? Making sure people have time for breaks. Not a nice note on special ocassions.

              1. valentine*

                Does she really raise the morale with these personal, heartfelt messages?
                And is this something the company and/or employees value? OP1, do you need or want cheer and/or heartfelt messages at work?

                She’s selfish. She can plainly see you’re not taking breaks, yet confronts you about not paying attention to her instead of doing literally anything else, but what would be helpful would be to leave you to your work and/or express concern about your lack of breaks.

                I wonder if you’re making up rules and following them, like assuming your boss knows you’re swamped. Take the breaks you need, assess your output, and tell your boss what you can complete while working your new, reasonable hours. See what they want to do about it.

                I wouldn’t ask the coworker for advice about your workload and, unless she’s a terror (possibly too early to know), you can reduce your deference to her by a significant amount. If, in general, you feel like people senior to you (especially if you were raised as lesser-than compared to older people) are hostage takers and you can’t say no to them in any way without it being a massive deal, that’s something to investigate. Right now, you have a lot of the power here. You need only to use it.

            2. staceyizme*

              THIS is what I mean by paying attention to your intuition! At work, it’s often not about being right, it’s about being known and being perceived as right or praiseworthy. You’re new and she’s kind of pushing on you to listen to her. That would ordinarily be something that you’d call out and bring to a hard stop. BUT- when people have succeeded in accruing significant backing (they’re well regarded by the higher ups), it gets into more of a gray area. You’re new. It’s time to connect with your own “power structure” in the office. Be strategic in cultivating relationships with people who can advance your political capital. It’s a game and a lot of very smart people play it very well. You’re better off working WITH her quirks for now (and selectively tuning her out… maybe even have something that you can focus on in your mind while she natters). After you’ve assessed whether it would cost you very much, you can lay down the law. (A bit later…). Right now? It might be time to find associations that will serve you. She may or may not be one of them. But hold off on burning any bridges for the moment, even on low stakes stuff. Just my two cents…

    3. Anonymity*

      She doesn’t WANT to listen to this personal stuff and is being made a captive audience.

    4. justabot*

      Ugh that sounds like a nightmare. Also, it sounds like the coworker is giving monologues about her life and seeking validation, flattery, or sympathy. That is not a conversation or pleasant non-work chit chat. That’s someone who wants a captive audience to talk about herself. For 15 minutes. Every few days.

      I hate that you even have to use being “busy” as an excuse not to listen. It sounds like you just want a few minutes to check out when you have a down moment. But it’s like we can’t say that. Can you put on headphones when you see her coming? Even if she’s a nice person, it’s not very nice that she demands attention and isn’t considerate enough to realize that everyone might not be in the mood – or mindset – to listen to her. Because it can also be completely draining to hear a constant stream of someone else’s health issues, family problems, house issues, neighbor issues, mortgage talk, vacation plans, what they made for dinner… (Can you tell I have one of these…)

      Next time she asks if you are listening, just say, “What? No I wasn’t.” It annoys me on a personal level to have to say I’m so busy when the truth is, I could make time, I just don’t want to listen to it. I usually try to say something like, “I’m focused on something else right now” – which can mean I’m focused on checking the weather or reading a text message – without having to resort to “I’m just so swamped” which sometimes makes other people think you are perpetually stressed – when in reality you just want them to leave you alone with the running monologue.

      1. LW1*

        She has admitted that growing up, she received a lot of attention from her family for being the only child, and the only girl in a family of all male cousins. She’s probably expecting the same treatment at work. And my attention span about her life only goes so far when I have competing deadlines looming while she talks. The few times I’ve told her about my deadlines, she always says her talk will “only take a minute”. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.)

        As I mentioned elsewhere, I feel obligated to listen because she is always helpful. I’ll try to play to her strengths and ask her advice about my workload.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Consider the situation this way: She is supposed to be helpful; that’s the definition of teamwork. More plainly, as a senior worker, she is paid to be helpful, especially to junior employees. There’s no reciprocal obligation to massage her emotions, only to do your own work well and pleasantly.

        2. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Have you tried something like this when she says it’ll only take a minute.

          Her: Are you listening?
          You: Opps no, on deadline gotta crack on.
          Her: It’ll just take a minute.
          You: Cheerfully – In the zone, can’t break it – you understand. {puts in earphones with a shrug and and a blazing, warm smile}.

          In the zone / breaking you train of thought is a real thing – could it make the difference?

        3. Helen J*

          She’s an adult now and needs to learn that coworkers are not in charge of stoking her ego or giving her the attention she got growing up. I think I’m known around the office like your coworker- senior, helpful, lots of company specific knowledge, asked to help with employee morale and recognition, pitch in to help out if someone is swamped- but I have never expected everyone to listen to me talk about my personal life for 10-15 minutes every couple of days. We do chit-chat and small talk but if someone’s busy, we don’t bother them.

          I think if you tell her you’re busy and she says “it’ll only take a minute”, say as cheerfully as possible “sorry, I don’t have minute, let’s catch up later” and turn back to your work. I know she’s senior and helpful, but that doesn’t mean she gets to disturb your work to tell a story.

        4. Paulina*

          The proper repayment for a colleague being helpful at work is to also be helpful at work. Not being their audience for personal storytime when they demand it.

          It may be that she thinks this is part of her morale-building: everyone takes a break and she entertains. But she’s insisting on it whether others find it helpful or not, and that’s not acceptable.

    5. pancakes*

      Being pressured to feign interest in listening to someone tell boring stories about their life for 10 to 15 minutes every few days isn’t team-building. Being a manager or having seniority doesn’t mean that the rest of the office becomes someone’s captive audience or ersatz friends.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      Friendly interactions with coworkers is good for morale.

      Demanding “hey, are you listening to my story???” when a coworker is busy is definitely NOT good for morale.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      Eh! It depends on what they’re talking about. Pleasantries in the morning is fine. But there is such a thing as oversharing too much and too often, even if it is the manager.

  8. Granger Chase*

    For #4, from experience using Indeed there are employers who require you to take one of those skill set tests offered through Indeed as part of your application. I didn’t realize until tweaking my resume after my latest round of applications that my scores from those skill assessments were defaulting to being listed on my resume. I have also be given more tailored recommendations to job listings that require those same skills assessments be taken as part of the application process. I also have had Indeed recommend I take certain skill set tests after applying to a job, and sometimes the phrasing will make it sound as if the recommendation is on behalf of the company versus being strictly from Indeed.
    I wouldn’t count having this on a resume as bad judgment on behalf of the applicant, especially if the rest of their resume is great.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Came down here to say this. It’s not on all applications through the platform, but it is on some and I can’t always tell where it’s coming from either.

      The last time I saw it, I was given the choice to just send my scores to the employer since I’d already taken the same exact assessments for other applications. But I wish they’d just leave that crap off.

    2. LW4*

      I didn’t hold it against her, in fact she’s got the job conditional on her references and background checks going through.

      I’m pretty sure she had to build those hyperlinks in herself though, her resume didn’t look like the ones that Indeed’s software generates.

      My first thought on seeing that whole section was that she’d taken some tech school classes. Alas, it was not so.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Oh no I hope no one is taking the skill assessment links and building them into their real resume that they send out to employers who might not be using Indeed. :(

  9. Heidi*

    This person is not even her manager; they work for different bosses! The part that stood out to me is that coworker will call out the OP if she’s not paying attention to a story about her personal life. “Are you listening to meeeee?” Ugh. If you think there will be repercussions if you refuse to stop what you’re doing to listen, maybe you can make yourself an unappealing target. Stop the little nods and sympathetic clucking noises that encourage people to keep talking. Don’t ask follow-up questions. And take your breaks! It might make you feel less stressed and these stories might seem more tolerable.

    1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      All this.

      The OP wrote
      ” I always want to ask her if it’s work-related, but I wisely don’t. Instead, I apologize, listen, and give the expected compliments or sympathies” and I though no, no, no.

      It should be:

      “If it’s work related, could you please come closer so I can hear better.”
      “I apologize and say I’m busy with work”
      Or possibly (more risky)
      “No, I’m not – I’m busy at the moment.”

      1. Paulina*

        I might go for “I’m sorry, I’m in the middle of something right now.” Not every time, but to get it across that she doesn’t get attention whenever she demands it, if it’s not important.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      > “Are you listening to meeeee?”

      It’s not even cute when a little kid does it. If I had a colleague do that to me more than once, I’d be finding LOTS of reasons to visit the restroom, breakroom, printer room…. Nothing like that half-run to the printer to convey “SH!T MUST HURRY”.

  10. Chc34*

    I had to take Indeed’s proofreading assessment for a job I applied to and I was so annoyed with it because grammar can be so context dependent. It was like taking a test that you know has two sets of acceptable answers but you don’t know which answer key the grader is using. And there’s the fact that I had to spend twenty minutes on it before someone even looked at my resume. I blame Indeed, not the job seeker.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      This is true of many, many standardized tests. The test-taking skill is not only knowing the correct answer, but also the “correct” one. Grammar tests are easy for me, because I have a hobby interest in grammar peeves. So if the test includes anything that would set off a peever, no matter how ill-informed, than I have my answer. The wild card is that there are occasions where the test is looking for just the reverse, written by someone who consciously rejects irrational peevery, but this is very rare.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Is there no way for you to just skip applying on Indeed altogether and just apply on the company’s website instead? Use Indeed as the search tool to find your jobs, and then hop on over to the company’s site to apply directly. This also ensures the right company gets your materials anyway and in a timely fashion.

      1. ellex42*

        Having used Indeed for job-seeking, some smaller companies use Indeed because they don’t have a company website, or (this happens even at larger, multi-billion dollar, multi-national companies) they don’t have public job applications set up on their website. A lot of companies use recruiters or contract through staffing firms, which sometimes (I discovered) post current job listings on Indeed but their own website is not up to date.

        That last one is how I got my current job – and the multi-billion dollar, multi-national company I contract to reserves their company website for internal job listings and applications. You can’t access it unless you’re currently employed by, or contracted to, the company.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Ah yes – small businesses without websites or job portals use these boards to basically act as both. I always forget this since I don’t apply to small businesses. The point still stands though in the event Chc34 is applying for larger companies.

  11. Luke*

    LW#1 “Respectfully, Darlene, does this story have any bearing upon our duties? I have a lot on my plate today.”

    When you’re through being tactful, go Full Vader: “You have overestimated my interest in your witless prattle.” (Force-choke optional)

    1. Ego Chamber*

      That doesn’t sound tactful, it’s so overly formal it comes off as condescending. Thread that needle carefully.

  12. Aggretsuko*

    Oh god, I wish they weren’t making us do reviews. Nobody can get a raise even before this, and I am going to get the worst review because I have gotten in trouble multiple times, and I’m also having a nervous breakdown I have to hide from unsympathetic management who won’t cut me the slightest of breaks about anything. Seriously I just can’t deal with pretending to give any kind of crap about them, I haven’t done nearly enough and WHO CARES ABOUT GOALS?! I have to come up with seven of the dumb things and nothing matters! The only goal is to not get fired.

    Hopefully this line works on mine….

    1. Jane Plough*

      OP1 – I’m interested also in how you describe your response to your attention seeking colleague. You say that you “wisely” don’t ask if it’s work related, and that you instead pull yourself away from your work to listen, and then apologize to this colleague for not listening to her?

      Alison’s advice is spot on, but I’d suggest also reflecting on your own boundaries and whether you have a tendency to let people trample you at work. I’m not sure where you learned that it’s “wise” to feed a person’s ego when it conflicts with your own personal/workplace goals, or that you should apologize to a person who’s behaving badly, but I’d suggest it would help you in future to unlearn some of those behaviours and beliefs and advocate for yourself a little more. The ability to politely say no to people (especially a senior colleague) is such a powerful skill, and this situation sounds to me like a great opportunity to practice that in a low stakes environment.

      Of course there may be specifics to the relationship dynamic here which mean it really is wise to pacify this person (e g. you are in a toxic workplace and she is the boss’s favourite), so I may be wide of the mark here, but other things you’ve said, such as not taking the breaks you need, indicated that this might be at play here. Use or ignore this advice as needed!

    2. Retail not Retail*

      We’re having our reviews this week – no raises! Usually the raises start July first, so wow my manager took advantage of that to delay them.

      Thankfully we don’t have to evaluate ourselves. Annoyingly, he said I need to increase the quantity of my work, but also set my own schedule, just stick to it. (He gives us one very vague task at a time.) He started that by saying, I know you’ve been injured and I know covid has made everything crazy, and I know it’s hot…

      Review in the time of corona: you still work here! You’re making it! I’d give you top marks and recommend the top raise if I could! (Seriously why not do that man, they’re not giving us raises.)

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ll be using the line too. With our staffing level now down to 30% (counting the people who used to do this work before it was passed to us), the only thing that matters is keeping up with the day’s hot deliverables. Quantity over quality until someone complains from outside the department. And one thing that helps me hold it together is knowing I’ve done high quality work.
      (I’m just glad my reviewer is not the former manager who told me I’d have to start letting errors through because we needed to speed up… we’re not making airplanes but that’s still a safety concern for our customers!)

    4. ieAnon*

      Same! This is my supervisor’s first year with our organization, so half of what they’re assessing me on is mid-pandemic, remote work, which I really struggle with. Not only that, but they don’t “believe in working from home” for themselves, so have been going into the office everyday and productivity hasn’t suffered at all on their end. I’ve already heard that there will be “issues” to discuss on my review, when I was very upfront about how I’ve been struggling these past few months.

      I’m actually really pissed about it…

  13. MK*

    “I was raised to believe that personal life absolutely does not impact work-life and that my mental health is a part of that”

    To be blunt, OP2, you were raised wrong and you should work on unlearning this unrealistic and frankly stupid attitude. Certainly it’s on you to manage your private life and, barring legally required accommodations, you have to adjust your personal life to accommodate your work life. But this absolute statement that personal life must never ever interfere with work is completely unrealistic and the people who sprout it are a) actually blind to the many ways their personal lives do impact their work life, and they are allowed to stay blind because someone else had to make up the deficit (I had a colleague with a MS who never allowed his condition to slow down his output as regards quantity. The quality of his work was dreadful and the people who reviewed it were tearing their hair out), b) incredibly lucky in never having to deal with major strain in their personal lives and/or in having strong support networks when it happened, and c) “blessed” with the kind of mind with which working actually helps you de-stress, releaves tension and takes your mind off personal issues (I am one of those. I recognise it for the unearned advantage it is and don’t think that anyone can do it if only they tried).

    1. Erstewhile lurker*

      The OP has obviously been through some trauma, and is simply trying to do the best for his/her employer. I don’t think calling her attitude stupid is helpful.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t either, but this mindset does need examining. Being raised to believe something doesn’t oblige a person to carry that belief the rest of their life, especially when the belief is detrimental to their own and other people’s well-being.

    2. calonkat*

      I think this was very much the attitude that many were raised with in the past, and at least in the midwest, it’s still the attitude. That said, many employers are learning new ways, even out here in the hinterlands :)

      OP2, your employer has invested in YOU, and you now have skills and knowledge that are valuable to them. I’m not saying that to boost your ego, but to give you confidence as to why your employer would be willing to work with you through troubled times. Use Alison’s script and remember that this is not a personal failure, you are simply not a machine, the same as if you had a physical illness or car accident.

      1. pancakes*

        People whose employers haven’t made any real investment in them should take this on board too, though. The only people this mindset serves well are people who own meatpacking plants & the like, people who benefit from treating their employees like workhorses.

  14. Keymaster of Gozer*

    My eternal love and support to LW 2

    Had a nervous breakdown earlier this year (partly due to Covid stress!) and gods does the recovery take not only time but a lot of your own energy too. I wholeheartedly endorse Alison’s response and would like to add that if possible you schedule something nice and distracting for later in the day of the performance review. Watching your favourite film, having some nice food, getting into a craft project, playing a computer game…whatever will make you feel better for a while.

    It’s how I got through a few worries about performance reviews. Knowing I’m doing something great later.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Also, giving yourself permission to be visibly affected by your mental or physical issues is really, really hard but such a relief. I hid having a spinal injury and severe depression from work and friends and family for years because it was ‘my problem, nobody’s else’s’.

      Nowadays I ask for accommodation straight up. If I have to live under the weight of these issues, the least the world owes me is a bit of help.

  15. NinaBee*

    #3, why not bring in freelancers/temp staff to cover the small tasks rather than outsourcing? Not sure if that’s what outsourcing means in USA (am in UK, I thought it would be more like sending it to an external company to do) but bringing people IN on a per-need basis while they’re still having day-to-day team conversations and briefs might help? That way you could still spend the budget but they’re more part of the team.

  16. A.N. O'Nyme*

    I wonder how many of OP 1’s colleagues would follow her example if she implemented Allison’s advice, because I think more people are probably annoyed by what sounds like 10-15 minute irrelevant monologues.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Me to manager: “Are we using the new TPS input system?”
      Manager: a 10 minute monologue on their cat’s latest food related tantrum.
      Me: “Are we using the new TPS input system?”
      I dom’t miss that manager or their cat.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Been in that boat…substitute a series of bad personal relationships for the cat. They’re a lot of fun to be around, but hard to work with.

      2. Matilda Jefferies*

        I had that manager too! I would tell her I was taking the afternoon off to go to the eye doctor, and she would tell me all about that one time she went to the eye doctor in grade four, and then after that she went to visit her friend Melissa, wait, was it Melissa G or Melissa H? Pretty sure it was Melissa G…no, it was definitely Melissa H, because she was the one who lived near the eye doctor….

    2. Erstewhile lurker*

      Yeah, that sounds infuriating to be honest, and not really showing respect for their time.

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      I was that colleague at an earlier job I’ve posted about here before. Boss liked to talk at length about things that honestly don’t need to be bawled out loudly at work, in incredible detail, like how much she tore after her last childbirth….. 25+ years ago. To everyone. She had nooooo concept of boundaries.

      I didn’t trust myself to not say something rude, so if the same ol’ discussions began again, I’d leave and breezily say oh, better get back to (whatever task here), bye everyone! After a week or so of that, more and more coworkers began doing that same thing. It did end up with Boss then just appearing randomly at your desk/office to tell you Same Random Stories, but the amount diminished overall. And after a little bit I became very comfortable with blankly looking at her and inserting work questions in the middle of stories (or, if desperate, texting another coworker I was friends with and getting them to call me about Something Very Important).

      1. Helen J*

        NOBODY needs to know how much a woman tore during childbirth. I would fake gag and run away if she told me about that and I have given birth twice. I have mastered RBF and totally blank face to deploy against coworkers who insist on telling something I’m interested in (in a meeting), but if I’m working I’ll just tell them I can’t listen and I even walked away from someone who was telling a story once.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Nope. 100000% disinterested. I can’t have children, don’t want children, and this was usually coupled with “EC when will you have some babies so I can be a grandma again???” Uh, 1) you ain’t my momma, back up and 2) why in the heck would you think a graphic description of your nether regions *tearing* and all the associated issues you had WOULD MAKE ME WANT TO GET PREGNANT

          Even the *nurses* (we worked in a health department) would bluntly try to shut her down with “no one wants or needs to hear about your vagina!” but somehow that didn’t faze Boss.

      2. valentine*

        After a week or so of that, more and more coworkers began doing that same thing.
        I think this will happen for OP1.

    4. LW1*

      This is another issue: Everyone else is at the same stage of their life with her. They can all talk about kids. And I personally keep my opinions to myself when they thrust baby pictures in my face. The coworker doesn’t necessarily talk about her kids all the time, but she’s more relatable to everyone when she talks about her life. One other person might push back, but she will ooh and aah any baby pictures.

      1. Helen J*

        I just want to transport you to my employer so you can go about your work and not deal with coworker anymore. It sounds exhausting and infuriating. Oh, and bonus, you can your manager that you are swamped and have too much on your plate and we can usually pitch in or reassign things!

        My workplace is definitely not perfect, but we told hold people hostage with stories or let them get so swamped they can’t even take a break.

      2. Malarkey01*

        10-15 minute monologues that require attention are too much, but I would be careful about not discounting your office culture (you mentioned in another comment that you’re newer).

        The comment about keeping opinions to yourself when they “thrust” baby pictures at you seems a little strong. What opinions are you keeping to yourself (other than the fact that most babies look like red moles and aren’t as cute as their parent thinks)? You might be going to one extreme of your office culture and this coworker might be on the other end, but if you’re newer pay attention to the office culture or you may be a bit more estranged (even if right).

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Suggesting someone might not fit in at their job if they don’t like babies is a weird thing to say without any other context. It sounds like LW is doing their work and has a lot of work to do. Taking breaks would give them some time to socialize with their coworkers in a non-hostage situation though, which is a good idea.

          Besides, babies are super gross 24/7 and breeding apparently infects a non-zero amount of people with the brainworms that destroy their understanding of what stories are “disgusting” to people who aren’t familiar with being covered in baby poop from eyebrows to ankles (and when they start describing the colors of the baby poop in Pantone specifics, I’m out).

    5. calonkat*

      It’s the time investment that gets me. I’m in a historical re-enactment group that does bardic activities, and while some historic pieces can be really long, NO ONE does pieces that long casually! I have 2 stories of the history of our group, that run about 10 minutes each, but that’s with pacing, they are funny, they relevant to the audience, and I don’t tell them unless ASKED! Who tells personal stories AT WORK that are 10-15 minutes long each time! I manage to cover my family’s health issues in under 2 minutes, and I’ve got 2 family members dying of different things!
      This one really bothers me on some sort of basic level. I’m “not a team player” when it comes to being an involuntary audience.

  17. Mannheim Steamroller*

    #1… [“I always want to ask her if it’s work-related, but I wisely don’t.”]

    From your description, she would probably answer that is is “work-related” because she works with all of you. I could even see her trying to “report” you to the Grand-Boss for ignoring her personal stories in favor of actual work. Of course, your time-sensitive tasks for the Kirk & Picard Enterprises account should take priority.

  18. Going Anonymous for this one*

    The “reviews in the time of covid19” letter struck home. I’m in a similar boat, although the body-health issues belong to other people in the family. Worse, it’s with a manager new to our team– thrown into a position she didn’t ask for, a position that is honestly less than what she’s qualified for, so much so that I fear she’s going to be looking at the wrong metrics. And we’ve got to give feedback on her at the same time… it’s anot uncomfortable task to say the least.

    1. CM*

      Giving your new manager feedback at the same time she’s reviewing you? I’m sure everyone will feel free to be completely honest and bring up their concerns. (Sarcasm)

      Alison’s script about just maintaining during this time is wonderful. For your manager, my suggestion based on what you said above is that your feedback could focus on the metrics she should be looking at. So it’s less “here’s my review of your performance” and more “My feedback is that I think metrics for our group should be measured in this way, and here’s why” — in other words, you’re sharing your suggestions and concerns about how the group works, rather than about her individually.

  19. legalchef*

    Re #5, do you know the name of the person you’ll be interviewing w? Maybe you can look them up on linked in or whatever and see if you can figure out which dept they are in.

    1. KCL*

      Yes, I do know their name. I googled the email address and it came right up, so I’m planning to email in a few hours. That’s a little less uncomfortable than calling and I want to be respectful of her time.

      1. legalchef*

        My point was more that if you can find out in which dept they work, then that could help you figure out which position, without having that awkward call/email.

        1. KCL*

          I see, that makes sense. Judging by their position it does make one of the positions more likely. I’m about 85% sure I know which position it is, and I really would love to avoid the awkward email.

          1. CM*

            I don’t think it’s that awkward! It’s a straightforward question and Alison’s script is matter-of-fact. You applied for two different positions, and you want to clarify which one you’re being interviewed for. There’s nothing embarrassing about that. They really should have said “We’ll be interviewing you for the ___ position” when they called.

            1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

              ^^ This. It’s totally not your fault that they didn’t give you enough information. When I reach out to a candidate to schedule a phone interview I always tell them which position it’s about; candidates frequently apply to multiple positions at my company but even if they don’t, it costs me nothing to be explicit about why I want to talk to them. This organization you’re interviewing with was remiss in not giving you that context.

              Related: I once had feedback from one of my hires that when she was doing telephone interviews (and even in the on-site interview) she didn’t always know who she was talking to. I have made it a point ever since then, when I sit down with a candidate — whether for a position on my team or on someone else’s — to tell them exactly who I am and how my position relates to the one the candidate is interviewing for. It’s too easy to forget that the candidate doesn’t know all the context that you know.

        2. Senor Montoya*

          Don’t rely on that. Our hiring panels always have at least one person outside our dept.

  20. KCL*

    #5. Thank you for your answer. I will definitely contact them today. I wasn’t given her email address but it’s easy enough to google. I am coming from the service industry so this world is a bit foreign to me and I’m stumbling my way through!

  21. The Other Dawn*

    OP1, when you see your senior colleague getting ready to start her 15-minute monologue, why not use that as a queue to take your break you’re not currently taking? You don’t have to do it every single time if you feel uncomfortable going that (though you could), but maybe every other time. Or listen for a few minutes and then take a bathroom break. Or just use one of Alison’s scripts. It doesn’t sound like this woman is your boss, so I’m thinking that doing any of these things wouldn’t impact opportunities or anything like that. At least, I sure hope not.

    1. Generic Name*

      I like this idea. See if you can maybe cut down your captive listening sessions to once a week. The other times you’re on a deadline that can’t budge, need to use the restroom, refilling your coffee, going to the break room, etc

  22. Choggy*

    LW#1 – You have got to start taking breaks, just to get away and have some time for a breather. I used to have lunch in the conference room with my coworkers until it changed and now the managers join in. One of them, my former boss, while she is very caring and will go out of her way to shower her staff with gifts and praise, she is, in every sense, a narcissist. Everything she does (for others) is just a way to have the spotlight directed on her. After a few lunches where she would tell the same story (that I heard 10 years ago) to the new people, I had had enough. My lunch time is my own, I refuse to be in the company of someone who has an incredible, pathological way of turning everything back to her. I knew that I could not change her, so I had to make a change for my own own sanity. Working from home, even though I hate the reason why, has been great for my mental health.

  23. Luna*

    LW1: Why not ask her if the thing she’s talking to you about is work-related? I would think you don’t mind listening to or talking about idle gossip and everyday life issues while you are on break, but while you are busy working on the clock, there are rarely any reasons to talk about non-work-related things.

    1. Colette*

      Where I work, that would be a really weird attitude – people have personal conversations interspersed with work. No one will be upset if you bow out, but saying that you don’t talk about non-work things during work time would be really odd.

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        In this case, the offending party is demanding everybody’s attention for her clearly non-work diatribes, at the expense of actual work. Asking if it’s work-related is quite warranted.

        1. Colette*

          She’s asking if the OP is listening; “sorry, busy with work” is a valid answer. Implying you’ll only talk to her about work will hurt your relationship with her.

          1. pancakes*

            It’s also just not necessary. The problem here isn’t that people at work are talking about things that aren’t work-related; the problem is that one person is routinely and tediously talking at people and demanding they feign interest. The solution is not for everyone to pretend they’re in a Dickensian workhouse where even a moment of idleness is forbidden, but to either re-set this person’s strange expectations and/or find a way to avoid her monologues without being too confrontational about it.

            1. Colette*

              I’m not sure that’s accurate. There are reasons why she might ask who is listening other than because she wants attention – for example, if the OP says no, she might lower her voice or move to a different area. We don’t know, because the OP hasn’t said she wasn’t listening.

              1. pancakes*

                The letter doesn’t reflect that at all. Re-read the part that starts with, “Every time she wants to share her latest story about herself to the group, she notices I am not giving her any attention.”

                1. Colette*

                  That’s not inconsistent with someone who is conscious about disturbing people who are busy?

  24. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – this isn’t about team bonding. It’s about a co-worker who is an attention seeker and when she sees she doesn’t have the attention of everyone in the room, feels the need to call more attention to herself and force you to listen. It doesn’t matter if she’s senior in title to you, she’s not your boss and you’re busy. As Alison said, be honest. And if you use her suggestion, don’t let her bully or guilt you into stopping what you’re doing to pay attention to her.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Yes! Team bonding only works if everyone is participating, and on approximately the same level. I’m 100% on board with the idea that personal conversations are important at work – I’ve worked in lots of situations where they didn’t happen for one reason or another (like now, ahem), and it really does matter. But that’s not what’s happening here. You’re not talking together about your plans for the weekend or your favourite sportsball team or whatever. You’re all just listening while she talks, whether you want to or not. That’s basically the opposite of bonding – you’re doing all the work, and it’s not fun for you, and of course it’s driving you bonkers.

      I agree with Alison and the others who are saying just be honest. “Nope, definitely not listening! Sorry!” If you can, maybe also wear over-ear headphones, so you can be very visibly Not Listening. After she has called your name a bunch of times, make a show of taking them off and asking her to repeat herself, then cheerfully say you were focusing on something else, and make a show of putting them back on. You can be polite, and still not listen! Good luck!

  25. AdAgencyChick*

    #3: How does their falling behind in their work affect YOU? If it doesn’t, it is indeed not your problem to solve (and as Alison and other commenters mentioned, your creatives will start deciding they themselves want to freelance if they don’t get those big juicy projects they like).

    If it does, say something about that to your boss! “I think we should be outsourcing that project instead of giving it to Jane” sounds like “I’m up in Jane’s business.” But “I couldn’t get the photos that I needed from Jane for the social media project because she’s spending so much of her time on that other shoot” *is* a problem that you have standing to ask your boss for help with.

    The solution might not be that boss pulls Jane off the fun stuff, for reasons others have already given. But maybe it means hiring another person, taking on fewer projects as a group, etc. (And if the solution your boss proposes is “just find a way to get it all done,” my sympathies.)

    1. LW3*

      That is a fair question – it does not affect me in a lot of cases, but at least 40% of projects involve the majority of the team, so at least it’s close. Excellent phrasing for these cases, thanks.

      And yes, “just find a way to get it all done” sounds familiar…

  26. Geez Louise*

    For #5, a smoother way to get your answer is to ask the HR person or hiring/interview coordinator for a full job description, which is different from the truncated version one sees online.
    If they don’t have those to share, maybe just prepare for both jobs.
    It’s pretty goofy that they are calling you in with a genetic “interview” request and not saying specifically for what position.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      +100 for the job description request.

      And yeah, I think it’s strange too that the interviewer/HR person who called didn’t specify which position, but I’ve had that happen plenty before too. And then some even get snitty with you when you ask to clarify, because they not only didn’t say which position, they didn’t even say what company they were with. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Sometimes they’re just busy and it’s a whoops, and sometimes they’re just incredibly disorganized and difficult.

      1. KCL*

        Would you suggest asking for the full job description before or during the interview? I agree that they should’ve specified but maybe she thought it was obvious. For anonymity’s sake let’s say her job title is “ripe banana coordinator” and one of the jobs I applied for is “ripe banana”. It would make sense to deduce that that’s the job we are speaking about. However according to Indeed, they hadn’t even viewed that application until after they called me. So that’s what’s throwing me off. I’m certainly overthinking it at this point, but as I said above I am coming from the service industry so this is new territory for me and I really want it to work out.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I have before, and it helped me get more detail going in about what the job is actually going to entail. I’ve applied for jobs before that basically stated “keep facility in compliance!” Well, duh, lol. But the actual, whole job description went into a lot more detail, including if anyone is reporting to the position, what is the actual breadth of responsibility, etc; and with that information I could go into a lot more nuanced detail about why I would be a great fit. I can’t guarantee compliance, but I can say I have a lot of experience in wastewater management, for example with (this project and that project, with results of this and that).

          FWIW – they should know better than to assume you know what they referencing. And, you are definitely overthinking. Good luck!!

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      They very probably don’t know OP has applied for more than one position.

    3. Colette*

      I don’t think most jobs have a secret job description? Everywhere I’ve worked, the one online is the only one available. (It may not match the job exactly, but there is no other written description to share.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, you may just hear, “Oh, it’s the one on our website.”

        You don’t need to be crafty here; you can just ask straight out which role it is because you applied for two. That’s fine, really.

  27. CheeryO*

    LW #1, I had a senior-to-me coworker who demanded attention like that. He’d give a 15+ minute monologue every morning (well, he probably thought he was chatting, but he only talked and never listened), and he’d try to pull in anyone who wasn’t paying 100 percent attention to him.

    I think you need a mix of strategies. Listen occasionally when you have a few minutes to spare, but aim for the least amount of engagement possible – don’t ask questions, don’t follow up with a story of your own, etc. The normal rules of conversation do not apply with people like this. You can also stay standing and look for an opportunity for a graceful exit, maybe when she pauses to let people react. Remember that there’s no way that everyone else is enjoying these conversations, so others might be grateful and follow suit if you gently cut her off.

    If you’re truly swamped, definitely use a script like Alison’s, but I wouldn’t expect it to work every time and not cause friction in the relationship.

    1. CM*

      Agreed, I think it’s easy to tell somebody else “Just ignore them every time, they don’t deserve your captive attention.” But in reality, if everybody else is listening and you’re being specifically called out, that’s going to make you look prickly at best and disrespectful at worst. So I like these suggestions about limiting engagement, rather than cutting it off every time. That way when you especially need to focus you can fall back on “Sorry, I really need to get this done,” and other times you can listen but let your mind stay on your task, or give yourself a mental break during that time and daydream about what you’re going to eat for lunch instead.

    2. Atazir*

      Agreed! LW1: look into grey rocking. I have a similar colleague who will talk endlessly about her life and I can’t really separate myself physically because it’s a retail job and our desks are adjacent. I know our work environments are different but if saying “I’m in the middle of something” or “I’m busy at the moment” won’t fly since you’re in close proximity all day and you can’t *always* be busy, that’s when you grey rock. If they share a story about their xyz, “oh that’s nice.” If they ask you about your weekend, “yeah it was good” (with no elaboration). Yeah, someone could call that unfriendly but you’re at work, you don’t have to be best friends with everyone and it’s definitely not part of team bonding.
      (Also to echo what everyone else said – take your breaks! Not taking breaks is seriously an unrelated issue to your coworker.)

  28. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    #1 – I used to sit next to a (dear friend) coworker who never.shut.up. Luckily, she had other coworkers come visit her that she would also talk to, so it wasn’t just me. One of the other visiting coworkers was also a good friend, and one day told me: “I really like it how you’d chat with us for a bit, and then go back to work. This is good. Keep doing it.” I hadn’t even realized I was doing that, but I certainly continued to! What I am saying here is for OP to not feel bad for limiting her chat time with Chatty. Other people are watching and being seen chatting with Chatty all day, every day, is not a good look in the long term, so you are doing everything right, OP. Give her some time during the day (hopefully her stories are entertaining enough to listen to occasionally during breaks) and for the rest, tell her sorry, got to get back to work. As someone who’s also occasionally been a Chatty myself after too much coffee, I will totally understand it if a coworker has to cut my story short, because work comes first.

    1. LW1*

      I like this idea! I can certainly “engage” (ask the expected questions to show how present I am), and then ask to leave as soon as I’ve had my say because I have deadlines. I will certainly mix it up with being direct and cutting things off on occasion.

      I don’t want to be a sore thumb and be known as the one who never participates in group talk.

      1. Generic Name*

        Please don’t ask to leave. Just announce it. “Well, I’d love to hear how this turns out, but I’m swamped!”

  29. foolofgrace*

    She asks me from across the room in front of the others if I’m listening to her. I always want to ask her if it’s work-related,…

    Maybe if you asked if it’s work-related (as others have suggested) and then said “Sorry, I’m swamped with work” three or four times in a row, she’d get the message. You might even inspire others to take this tack.

  30. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP3 If the situation you describe continues, those full creatives are gonna leave and set themselves up as freelancers just so they get to do that work. It’s what I did after I found out they had a meeting and my boss decreed that nobody should send me big juicy projects any more because then I wasn’t available for Ms Tantrum’s projects.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      (they = my boss and the project managers)
      (the meeting was behind my back, but it wasn’t necessarily sneaky in that I worked at a different location and they very often just forgot I existed unless I sent in messages to let them know I was available)

    2. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      This may very well be why OP3’s boss continues to let these folks do some of these projects even if OP3 finds it frustrating.

  31. Elmyra Duff*

    4: I’m deep into my post-COVID-layoff job hunt right now, and I only take those assessments because I get an email immediately after applying on Indeed saying, “The Krusty Krab would like you to take the following assessments.” So, apparently someone really thinks they mean something orrrr Indeed is just saying that? Idk, but I hate them.

    1. OyHiOh*

      Same. I can’t tell if some employers are activating certain assessments or what but Indeed certainly makes is sound necessary or required for some posts.

    2. Exhausted Trope*

      Yes. I got two of these requests in one week. Hate those assessments. The ones I took didn’t have much to do with the actual job but fell under the category of, “gee, it would be nice if applicant knew this stuff!”
      Just another ridiculous hoop.

    3. LW4*

      I know for sure that our company is not requiring them. We post to Indeed but we have our own process.

      It’s sad that employers are jumping on that bandwagon though. I very much doubt that the hiring managers are getting to look at the tests that their company is requiring.

      1. No Longer Looking*

        They sound like assessments I used to need to take occasionally when I was working for office temp agencies. If I applied to a new agency they often had tests for data entry/typing and word/excel proficiency, for instance. I really disliked the Excel ones because there are usually 3 different ways to do any excel task, and the tests were often only coded for one of the ways to count as “correct.”

        1. The CLawww!*

          Indeed’s are even worse. They involve jobs that COULD easily be done in Excel or Word. Some ask you to find differences in letter-number combinations that are in different fonts on top of differently shaped and colored backgrounds. Some ask you to look at columns of data, e.g. A table of several employees who’ve recorded work done in number of minutes for several companies (the companies not being listed, you have to differentiate by the job ID codes which are, again, mixes of letters and numbers) , and you have to say which employee did the most work for which company. Some ask you to review two itemized receipts (again different fonts, colors, backgrounds) and click on the differences/mistakes in the second one.

          The problem with all the above is two-fold. First, they’re IMAGES. Meaning no copy-pasting into Word/Excel to use resources you absolutely WOULD have in the job types I was applying for at the time (administrative in professional fields). Second, they are TIMED, so you can’t just use two windows to type data such as the time log table into Excel. And frankly I’m pretty good at skimming for differences and the time limits were SHORT. I’m no lawyer/HR person, but doesn’t a test like that discriminate SEVERELY against people with problems like dyslexia, etc.? I mean on top of being a stupid waste of time, like asking people to do math work on an abacus.

          And the job I eventually got mentioned when they called me that I’d “nailed” the test, which I hated. I asked if they’d seen the test and they said no, so I outright told them the test was poorly designed and I felt it risked unfairly filtering out certain applicant. Luckily they also hired me based on my resume (I had skills that weren’t required but would be a huge benefit to them for the position to have) – but I don’t want Indeed’s god awful idea to become a normal part of the hiring process.

  32. bananab*

    OP3, just a data point: I’ve worked this sort of design role exactly twice and both times my only thought, 24-7, was I have to get out of this job. It is so, so demoralizing to watch jobs of interest go outside because you’re needed for non stop piddly rote stuff. Totally get the logic but you’re 100% gonna lose skilled folks here.

    1. bananab*

      ETA, the best solution is sadly to hire on people that don’t have career aspirations on this direction when they quit. Quick edit to a photo before posting up on social media: really anyone with low-level computer skills could at least be taught this.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I have been on both sides of this equation. As a manager of creative teams and having to make difficult decisions about team structure and projects not everyone liked, and the one being managed and having all the seemingly good/interesting/creative duties outsourced to an agency. I’ve seen companies go either way: outsourcing nearly all creative work, or outsourcing barely none.

      Ideally, it should be a balance of outsourcing high-level branding or conceptual initiatives and market research to an agency (who has the resources and objectivity to devote to it) and then implementing those decisions in-house as much as possible, possibly filling in with some freelance resources as needed.

      The manager needs to MANAGE this! And it sounds like that isn’t happening here. Managing creative teams is inherently somewhat more difficult because of this aspect. There will be times when the in-house creative team really wants to take on a project, and it is better to outsource it for skills or time, and that isn’t always easy for the team to hear. It sounds like this manager isn’t really assessing the work, or they are and don’t care (which would not be surprising). A lot of companies take the stance of outsourcing everything creative–until they see the bill for the agency!

  33. Generic Name*

    #3 I see lots of posts about how the structure of the team the creative people are in is weird/not good or how the creative people are gong to leave if they don’t get to work on the sexy cool creative projects people yearn for, and while all of that might be 100% true, it sounds like it’s not within OP’s purview to address or fix. They refer to the creative staff as coworkers, and it sounds like they aren’t a company decision maker. So maybe OP needs to think of how they can make the situation more palatable since it sounds like they can’t restructure the company or reallocate others workloads. OP, are the creative staff coming to you to complain? Maybe ask them to stop, or use the techniques from letter 1 to excuse yourself from the conversation. If you’re hearing it through the grapevine, you don’t have to voluntarily listen to gossip either. As someone who likes to fix things, I understand it’s hard to mentally disengage from things that really aren’t your problem, especially when you love your work. But if it’s stressing you out (to the point where you wrote into an advice column) to think about it, find ways to either stop thinking about it or reframe the situation so it’s less bothersome.

  34. Lunchy*

    Re #2: Alison, I just want to thank you for giving me validation in my own mental health struggles, which have only been exacerbated by having to work at home due to COVID. I’m on thin ice at work because my output dropped by about 50% (imagine a quota of 20 files completed each day) after transitioning to working from home in March. I’ve been able to push myself and get it back up to about 80% of what it was in the office, by my manager has made it clear that despite my mental health conditions (which I’ve disclosed) and COVID, I’m expected to meet (or exceed!) quota.

    I’ve felt really gaslighted these past four months, as though there’s no reason why shouldn’t just be able to tough it out and do what’s asked. Although you’ve previously alluded to the fact that it’s harder to work during a pandemic, it makes me really happy to know that my feelings and experiences are valid, and whether I end up losing my job because of this or not, it wasn’t just due to my not trying hard enough. Thank you.

  35. MissDisplaced*

    Regarding #3
    [they feel that when we outsource the larger creative productions (say, producing a video), they are deprived of professional opportunities to grow and take on large projects]

    This is very, very true! It is always a source of irritation within in-house creative departments when an agency is brought in to do the “good” recognizable high-level work. And it DOES deprive them, and they may leave because of it eventually because they ARE missing real creative opportunities and being given “grunt” work.

    [we need them full-time for the day-to-day work (take photo of X event and edit it so social media can publish in less than an hour) and these smaller tasks cannot be outsourced reasonably]

    I would argue that YES they CAN be outsourced reasonably! OR hire a lower level marketing assistant who is entry-level to take care of those sorts of things (such as an intern, university coops, or a freelancer). This is “grunt work” or at best lowest level creative production work. I don’t blame your team for being irritated if all the good projects are being outsourced in favor of them doing this kind of work day, in day out, even if it is needed timely.

    But ultimately, it’s not your problem to solve this. Your manager needs to step up and manage this creative team!
    And by that, I mean really and honestly sit down and assess the people, skill levels and workload that exists already, and decide how to structure the people for maximum efficiency while also giving them a chance to produce quality work in-house. And the creatives also need to be honest about what they can realistically take on and if they truly have the skills in-house to do so in a timely manner (ideally, they should be part of this process of deciding what should stay and what should be offloaded). This may lead to some hard and difficult choices about department and staffing needs, but it’s part of managing this sort of team, and deciding what or what not to outsource is one of those things. If you have any say at all, it would encouraging your boss to take a deeper dive into this examination to structure the department accurately to business needs.

    1. LQ*

      I’d agree on the kind of work that can be outsourced. And I think it’s very reasonable for those folks to want and expect the bigger projects.

      I kind of think the manager IS managing the creative team. They are giving them the complex, big projects, possibly deciding that some of the work is work that doesn’t need to be done saying its a lower priority. I’d say the boss needs to get more creative about contracting, but otherwise is doing the right thing. (This is an entirely doable contracting problem, you can absoutely get those things contracted for.)

  36. Lindsay Gee*

    LW1- calling someone out for clearly not paying attention in a meeting: fair
    calling someone out for clearly not paying attention to their personal anecdote: BALLSY
    I would honestly feel sooo awkward if I was a bystander to that.

  37. Budgie Buddy*

    LW 1 – Dang I work with some veteran monologuers who are senior to me in an open plan office. But no one ever makes a peep when I pop in the ear buds and tune out the chatter so I can get my work done. It’s bizarre that this person demands stock responses from one specific person when she already has a whole group listening to her story. Other commenters are right that you have no obligation to listen. “Haha I wasn’t really listening – I’m swamped right now” is a perfectly fine answer, and there’s no cause be outright rude to this person.

    Also, as other people have pointed out, the real issue is LW 1 not feeling like she can take necessary breaks. This chatty lady is just an easy target for LW1’s wrath, when LW1 needs to stand up for herself to get the breaks she needs.

  38. I'm just here for the cats*

    #4: has anyone else ever applied to an 8ndeed job and gotten an email stating they need to do an assessment through indeed? I’m wondering if this was actually the employer wanting this done or if it was indeed?

    1. LW4*

      It was not at my company’s request! We have a short questionnaire that people fill out when they submit their application but no tests or anything like that.

  39. Just Me*

    For LW 2 – I was a little unclear about whether Alison’s suggestion: “Due to the challenges caused by the pandemic and some concurrent health issues, my main goal for this period has been to keep things running smoothly, but not to innovate or add major new initiatives.” was meant to actually be put on your self-review (if you have one) or used as a talking point.

    As someone in HR, we coach our managers all the time not to reference things in reviews that are protected – think FMLA, ADA, etc. And I’d suggest the same for employees. This leaves too much room for discrimination or perceived discrimination.

    If you have a specific goal you are speaking to, you might see something like this… Goal: Bob should make contact with 1,000 new prospects this year. Outcome: Bob only made contact with 700 new prospects, but based on the circumstances faced this year, this amount meets expectations.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Managers shouldn’t mention health issues in people’s evaluations in general, but employees certainly can point out factors that affected their performance … and it would be silly for either party to do a review without acknowledging, for example, that the reason you didn’t meet goal X was because you were unexpectedly on medical leave for six months (as opposed to providing no explanation or context).

  40. Ollie*

    For #3 why not outsource the grunge work and let the creatives work on the cool stuff.

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