open thread – August 28-29, 2020

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

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

{ 1,431 comments… read them below }

  1. Isthisreallife*

    I need some people to confirm this is really bizarre behavior. Fair warning this is long.

    The mother of a coworker recently passed away. This coworker is someone who I talk to and work with semi regularly, and who my boss works with a lot. Our building has a few open office spaces and I was in one when someone asked who still hadn’t signed a sympathy card. I said that I hadn’t signed and then offered to bring it to the next office, specifically my boss since I knew he’d want to sign since they work really closely and have for 10+ years. It turned out that someone in that office hadn’t signed so I gave it to her and went back to my office.

    When I got upstairs I received a text from a coworker, saying that it was fine that I signed the card and that my boss could but that it wasn’t meant to be a company wide thing, and it was really just for her department. So I told her that I hadn’t been planning on like bringing it around, but I figured my boss and some of the other people in my department may want to sign. She then said that in the future I should ask because it was something that she and two other coworkers had decided to do, and other people wanted to just jump on the bandwagon without putting in any effort or contributing.

    For a sympathy card.

    I didn’t respond because I couldn’t even figure out what the appropriate response would be. I definitely and up with some creative in appropriate responses though.

    1. LimeRoos*

      Yeah that’s super weird. At old job the manager would get the card and it’d be in a folder with a sheet of peoples names, you pass it to someone who wasn’t crossed off, cross your name off after signing (or just crossing it off and passing it on if you didn’t want to sign) and boom done. No weird who started what or gets credit.

      It’s also kind of gross they’re wanting credit for starting a sympathy card. Like, it’s a card, it’s minimal effort at best.

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      People are weird about grief, even other people’s grief. People are also weird about cards, particularly sympathy cards. I wouldn’t respond and I’d try not to hold it against them.

      1. ToS*

        This – grief can produce one-time behavior that can be really unexpected.

        Also, there are office cards and personal cards. If someone personally bought the card, I would grant more grace, especially since there is more financial uncertainty now than ever.

        If the card was from an office, that’s your sign that they are very, very tightly wound about any budget item, and move on from there.

      2. eeniemeenie*

        People can be weird about grief all they like; but it doesn’t excuse the rudeness in this situation.

        It’s kind that you can refrain from total judgment here. But if it was the coworker writing in, my advice would be that they are free to feel whatever annoyance/grief/etc they feel in this situation; but if they’re going to have an unnecessarily rude reaction like this it’s going to affect their relationship with their colleagues and other people would (very understandably) judge them.

        I’m really tired of people trying to find excuses for bizarre and inappropriate behaviour.

        1. TG*

          This. Yes, you should be graceful when people are dealing with grief. But this isn’t the person truly grieving. This is the coworker of the person who’s grieving. Yes, you shouldn’t contribute to more rudeness in the world but you also shouldn’t make excuses for someone who is being weird and controlling over a sympathy card and credit. Believe me the person who lost is mother will love seeing everyone’s name on it and does not care about credit. If they knew, their coworker was acting like this, it would hurt them in their grief.

    3. Aquawoman*

      I agree with you that that is extra. I have experienced the phenomenon of trauma police at work, though. E.g. co-worker died (and it was awful) and months later, his office got cleaned out, and someone who barely dealt with the co-worker got very upset about it. I think this is an emotional vampire kind of move.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I can see where the death of even a distant person might upset someone depending on the circumstances, but acting out about it makes it all about the griever, not the person who died.

        Similarly, making a point to text you about how “it’s fine that you signed, *I guess*, but it was just supposed to be *our* thing” is … weird. Definitely not worth another thought.

      2. Jean (just Jean)*

        Modern, post-industrial, publicly secular, youth-emphasizing society does not give many opportunities for folks to learn how to handle death (whether or not one is close to the person who died). Maybe the person who got so upset was having an episode of learning, not of emotional vampirism or narcissism.

        For the record I’m not advocating an immediate return to a pre-industrial, wall-to-wall official religion society…just saying that a lot of my own lessons in death and dying took place among folks who more or less shared my religious affiliation & outlook. But enough distraction.

        1. HungryLawyer*

          Funny that you say that because the people in my life who act like emotional vampires when someone is sick or dies are mostly religious and older…

          Personally, I doubt that OP’s co-worker’s age or religion had much to do with their weird behavior since it seems like it was an attention-seeking action rather than a grief-based one.

        2. NopeNopeNope*

          A lot of my lessons came from religion, too.

          Most of them were lessons on “why you shouldn’t rely on something historically known for manipulating the masses into committing atrocities at best, and suggesting that the best way for a society to function is for everybody to agree to follow a single norm which just coincidentally happens to be the norm we think should be norm, to regulate your behavior.”

          But y’know. That’s probably just me.

    4. phonebook10*

      What! With cards you would want as many people to sign as possible! That’s weird.

      Isn’t there something Alison says in these situations? I can’t remember what it is but it’s some kind of response like, ‘oh you want to keep the card just your department? How interesting, sure.’ Like, there’s some little ‘how interesting’ type phrase that implies that other person has odd views or practices. Like, you’re saying ‘I will respect your views but this is weird.’ I’m stuck on the action words.

      1. WellRed*

        In my office, sympathy cards are the one kind of card we DON”T pass around. Anyone who wants to send a sympathy card does their own (I don’t why we do this but maybe it’s more sincere seeming?)

        This office, however, is weird.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yeah, that’s our MO as well in my office. We pass around cards to congratulate people on their work anniversaries (which we do instead of birthdays because it’s less personal and less potentially fraught), and to say goodbye to people who are leaving, but we don’t pass around sympathy cards. If the bereaved says it’s OK, their manager will let folks know about what happened and say “you’re welcome to send a card or other message of sympathy” or something like that.

        2. Malarkey01*

          Same, we don’t pass around sympathy or get well cards. Get well cards aren’t typically unless someone has something really serious where they’ll be out a significant amount of time (heart attack, serious car accident, etc).

          I think this person was a bit much, but I don’t think it’s that over the top.

        3. CatLadyInTraining*

          Yes! That’s how it goes in my office. If it’s an employee or their spouse or child who passes away, the HR lady will send some flowers on behalf of the whole company or the CEO will donate to a relevant charity in lieu of flowers in the company’s name.

      2. Grapey*

        Eh, I personally liked that the sympathy card I’ve received was only from my close coworkers. Too many signatures would have felt performative. Seeing familiar names was comfort to me and they knew enough about my situation to write a kind blurb past “sorry for your loss”.

        1. WellRed*

          I was touched by the people who took the effort to send me a card. A collection of signatures passed around isn’t the same (though I wouldn’t have judged for it either). Performative is a good word.

        2. BethDH*

          Yes, at my work typically it is only signed by people close enough to write a personal message. Seems like the coworker handled it rudely, but given that they were okay with OP and the boss, who both worked closely with the person, to sign it, maybe it was more bad phrasing than anything else.

    5. Granger*

      This is really weird and I’m getting a strong Angela Martin and the Party Planning Committee (The Office) vibe! A compulsive need for extreme control over things that don’t matter at all (except the kind gesture to the bereaved obviously). Start a second card (or simply your own independent of the others – honestly, sympathy cards can truly provide a moment of “nice” in a tornado of chaos and feelings, so the more the better, imo) and move on, because this is the kind of person who keeps a list of bad people and her grievances against them and you can’t change any of that and anyone who hears a bad word from her about anyone – including you – will be met with an eyeroll because everyone will know what she’s like.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Wow, that is horrifying.

        — What even is a “soul”, and why is it good to “center” it? What is “the beyond”, and why should it be “connected to”?
        — I don’t think I want to have someone at my workplace who understands my passion and my longing, let alone someone *whose job it is* to do so. At my current job, there are maybe two people that I would even imagine talking to about emotional/””””spiritual”””” stuff, ever, out of more than fifty. And those are just the two people who happen to exceed a certain threshold on the “does Spencer get along with and/or trust you” scale. If management came in and told us “we’ve just hired Fergus, he’s here to understand everyone’s passion and longing,” that would be a different thing entirely!
        — “A ritual for when you get the email from LegalZoom that you’ve been officially registered as an LLC.” LMAO, they just reinvented the Shehecheyanu, this is hilarious!
        — I don’t need to infuse creating pivot tables (or whatever) with meaning — just putting some headphones on and listening to some music I like, which is what I already do, probably has a greater benefit for my mental state than inventing some arbitrary ritual.
        — The “grief rituals” they mention are for things like failed projects; it doesn’t seem like the article talks about how to actually deal with grieving colleagues (which is a rare situation where the personal and professional realms inevitably *do* overlap).

        More seriously, I get some “potential religious discrimination” vibes from this in a couple of ways. First of all, it sounds like these consultants come from primarily Christian backgrounds, so their approach is likely to be pretty Christian-centric (their spreadsheet of cross-cultural rituals notwithstanding). Combined with the fact that in most US workplaces, the majority of people are likely to be Christian or culturally Christian, isn’t that going to make it feel like Christianity is being practiced? At least a watered-down version of Christianity? That doesn’t sound like a comfortable environment for people from minority religious backgrounds.

        And even to the extent that that isn’t the case, we then have the added uncomfortableness of religion being valued over non-religion. That is, this seems like a new evolution of the old idea “atheists live such sad empty lives :( :( we need to show them that they need spirituality”. One person quoted in the article literally says that people have “deficits in themselves” which need to be fixed with spiritual practices. I know a way to give my life meaning — it’s called hobbies, it’s called family and friends, it’s called work-life balance, having a life outside of work. Key word: outside.

    6. LGC*

      The intent isn’t weird, but the phrasing is.

      That is, I don’t think it’s that weird she wanted to just keep it as a department thing. Her reaction is passive aggressive, but I can kind of see her being pressed that you didn’t read her mind (how DARE you). That said – although it’s not weird (in regular English), it IS weird (in AAM English, which means that she’s acting like a jerk but you’re giving her the benefit of the doubt).

      I’d honestly let it go, but also note that she was a bit wacky. Is this normal for her? Or is she going through stuff in her own life?

    7. AndersonDarling*

      My only theory is that the card was going to accompany flowers or another gift that was coming out of the department’s budget so they wanted to keep the card to just the people in the department. At least that is what I would interpret from the “contributing” comment.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I know places here I have worked it’s been fairly normal that for things like baby / wedding / leaving gifts the convention has always been that you put in money towards the gift and you sign the card, and you don’t normally sign if you haven’t given, but if it is just a card then that seems weird, and I think I would expect more leeway for a sympathy card anyway (after all, you are not likely to be sending anything with it other than flowers and you can always put a card on the flowers saying ‘from the x department’ )
        I’d put it down to slightly odd gatekeeping

    8. Annony*

      When someone asks who hasn’t signed, it is an invitation to sign the card. Next time, if she wants to keep the card private, she shouldn’t start passing it around. You were fine, she was weird.

    9. DarthVelma*

      If your co-worker wanted 100% control of who signed the card, she should have walked it around herself.

      Also, if your co-worker wanted 100% control of who signed the card…she’s a loon.

    10. Isthisreallife*

      Just some more background…

      So to clarify I had absolutely no way of knowing that this was *her* card. It was handed to me by another employee and it’s not unusual for us to pass cards around the entire company/office for any major life events (retirements, sympathy, wedding, new baby, whatever). We’re a large enough office to have departments, but small enough that everyone knows everyone (like 50 or so people).

      I’ve been at the company for about 4 years, and I think this employee has been there just under 2. The only explanation I can come up with for this bizarre reaction is that she and another employee frequently organize birthday events for their office friends (and for upper management, which is a whole other problem in my opinion), and she’s transferring frustration from that into this. I’ve heard her passive aggressively mention in the past that she gets annoyed by how much she puts out and how little others contribute. It all started out with a different employee occasionally bringing in like a balloon and a candy bar for someone’s birthday (which was very sweet). It then morphed into full on parties during the workday for half an hour (including piñatas), and this employee kind of jumped on to that and started organizing things. Here’s the thing though… most of the time she doesn’t tell people she’s doing it, and you don’t find out until the next day when someone’s desk is crazy decorated and there’s a cake. Then if anyone tries to participate who wasn’t on her invite list, she gets super pissed off.

      Like I get not wanting to fund these things yourself, but… then, ya know, don’t. Or at the very least let people know it’s happening so they can contribute if they want to participate instead of getting pissed off after the fact. The couple that I’ve been aware of in advance I’ve kicked in for, or if it’s not someone I’m close to I haven’t participated, it’s that easy.

      1. CatCat*

        Ah, the officious, self-appointed party planner. We’ve likely all encountered persons of this ilk in our time.

        Her text was weird because she is weird. It’s not worth further engagement on your part.

      2. WellRed*

        Time to kick it up the ladder and get this all kiboshed. It’s out of hand and it risks favoritism and exclusion. Not saying this is on you to do, however.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        LOLWUT, this woman is absurd.

        Has she even tried to mention it to HR or whomever does employee engagement?

        I was pissed when I found out that someone had suggested something that falls into that category to a manager and the manager was like “nah fam, not happening.” without further discussion. Or in some instances, they’ll be all “sure it’ll happen!” and give them personal funds to do it with…what? No. This stuff can be budgeted for but more importantly PLANNED OUT and therefore there’s no favoritism.

        Unless you’re a nonprofit or public sector of course. Then again, you need a committee put together if possible, not some wayward lady who wants to crawl up on that big ol’ cross and hang there all “Woe is me, I did this all for you all and you don’t even caaaaaaaaaaaaaare to help.”

        I’d report her behavior and suggest a committee to not sound like you hate someone caring about the team members like that.

        Yikes.

        1. Amy*

          I really liked the way they planned this sort of stuff at a place I worked at two years ago. Every month they would take a small amount (like 3,5 dollars) out of your paycheck. This money would then be used to buy a basket (with chocolate and stuff or flowers) and a card when people had a round birthday, had a baby, was getting married or if there was a death in someones family. Yes, it might be less personal, but it also took all the potential drama out of it.

          1. Jackson Codfish*

            That’s $42 per person per year. The company couldn’t afford to cover that cost itself and had to raid employees’ paychecks to do so?

      4. Paulina*

        This needs to be shut down by management, or taken over officially and applied to everyone. Private parties have NO place in the workplace. And I say that as someone who does have close work friends that I socialize with outside of work — but that’s outside of work, not being cliquey inside work and having fancy party stuff going on while telling other coworkers that they’re not invited to something that’s being done right in front of them.

    11. saffie_girl*

      Some people are weird over these things, and it says much more about them than you, but you are not alone in experiencing this. I once had a coworker who lost her house to a fire. Money was being collected to help out, and if you donated money, you signed the card to go along with the gift cards. A department made a big deal that they wanted to put their own gift and card together to “make sure they new what was from our team” (actual quote). Because someone else’s tragedy is all about them? I would just let it go, but now you have some interesting information about your co-worker.

    12. Watermelon lip gloss*

      In my experience this is the norm in a office with different departments on the same floorP. It sounds like you were in another departments area and they were asking their team if anyone had not signed the card yet and you responded. Its sometimes petty but when your working there its more of not having one person or team pay for everything because they are more tune to those things (or more female). If I were you I would text back and ask if there is a contribution that you need to make going along with the card. Our manager used to cover the gift for our team to people when a sympathy card was given, so if another manager signed the card it looked like they also contributed but other managers never offered to give anything but still would ask to sign another groups card. It gets old.

      1. Isthisreallife*

        For the record, we’re both female :) it’s actually interesting to me because I’m literally the only female in my department, while her department is almost entirely female. I do think sometimes I’m hyper aware of trying not to take on traditionally female roles within my group because I’m the only female, although if I hadn’t expected an office sympathy card I probably would have grabbed one myself tbh.

        There wasn’t any kind of collection with the card (usually there is in my office), and I feel like it would have been really easy to say “oh hey we’re all chipping in for flowers” at the time, or put something like that in the text she sent. If there’s a gift or collection I’m happy to contribute. Also I genuinely thought HR had gotten the card as they have in the past. My job involves me being away from my desk A LOT so it’s not uncommon for me to sign office cards when I come across them because I sometimes miss them, and I’ve seen others do the same.

        I don’t necessarily want to text her back and ask if she’s taking up a contribution, because I really do think she’s being very weird and controlling, but I might ask one of the other people she mentioned in her text to see if they got flowers or anything, and then contribute if that’s the case. I don’t want to take credit for other people’s gift obviously! That’s a jerk move!

        1. Paulina*

          She sounds very cliquey, like she’s decided that things she organizes (including a sympathy card!) are for her in-group and nobody else. It’s a very inappropriate attitude to take in the workplace, and even more so when it involves someone else’s loss. Asking if there are flowers to contribute to seems appropriate, and otherwise I wouldn’t worry. She’s being weirdly controlling and doesn’t deserve to have her cliquishness validated.

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I have to wonder what “it was just for us” actually wrote in there… if it contained some personal reference they fear someone else might misunderstand, sympathy that revealed something about their own family medical history they didn’t want common knowledge, or something that management wouldn’t like.
      Or maybe the other group is one of those places where cards go to die undelivered.

      1. Isthisreallife*

        I didn’t actually read the other sentiments because I know it can sometimes be personal, but I doubt she put anything in that management would have an issue with since the person I got the card from was one of the company owners, so at that point the damage would have been done lol

    14. Sadly, not bizarre*

      I actually had something similar happen to me. A manager was leaving and we were signing a good-bye card for her. I reached out to a employee of hers who was now in a different group and asked if he wanted to sign as well. He had left the group perhaps a month earlier. He came up and signed the card and then suddenly I’m getting messages, “did you invite him, you shouldn’t have.” It turns out the two of them didn’t get along and that was why the employee had left the team. I said, “sorry” but left it at that. I figured everyone is an adult and needs to handle their own affairs.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Heaven forbid someone that you didn’t get along with signs a farewell card *blinks*. It’s seriously not that serious, I’m so confused buy this mentality.

        I glance at cards and then go “Awwww thanks!” and throw it in my keepsakes box. I love cards…we’re a “card family”, we don’t nitpick though, so this twist gets me all sorts of “LOL Okay, Marcia.”

    15. another point of view*

      OP – I’m going to disagree a bit with most of the other comments and say that it is perfectly reasonable for members of that employee’s dept to have wanted to send that person a card just from them because they work the most closely together. In the case of a sympathy card, I know that I would most appreciate a card from those in my department … Unlike birthday cards and other happy greetings, I wouldn’t want a card signed by everyone because having people I don’t know well sign it feels more like they did so out of obligation or inattention rather than because they are genuinely sympathetic.

      I understand they you do know and work closely with the card recipient, but it seems to me that the co-worker’s initial response — that you and your boss could sign the card (since you already had done), but that card was meant to to come from their department — was an appropriate, clear attempt to set boundaries. You pushed back by saying you wanted more people in your department to sign the card … certainly something that she might have viewed as intrusive and rude.

      1. Isthisreallife*

        Again, clarification… the person who’s mom died is in my department which is another reason I had no idea the card was department specific when I signed. The person who got the card is in a completely different department and chain of command.

        So basically I was saying more “hey, let me make sure the people from this person’s department sign this card” because that department leaves early and often gets overlooked. Also those employees have been working with this person for like 10+ years, and I didn’t want what I thought was an office card to go out without giving them the opportunity to sign it.

        I do get what you’re saying about her potentially taking it badly when I said my intention had been to take it to my boss and the team that works closely with the employee. My intention when I texted her was less to say “well I wanted these people to sign it” and more to say “oh, I hadn’t intended to like walk this card around the building, I was just gonna give it to her department” Again I must stress that I didn’t know that the card was not from HR at the time I said I was going to bring it to my boss.

        A part of me does wonder if she didn’t say anything in the moment because she knew it would come off really weird that she didn’t want people in the employees department signing the card.

        1. BethDH*

          Yeah, the additional details you’ve shared changed me to thinking the person’s reaction was weirder than I did from your initial description. Especially that it’s part of a larger social-effort-policing she’s doing.

    16. Okay*

      Did her office contribute towards an arrangement or gift card or something that you didn’t know about? If I’m heading up something, I always invite people to sign a card even if they don’t contribute (like a Christmas card & gift card for the cleaning crew) but I know some co-workers feel like only the people who donate towards the gift should be the ones to sign the card.

    17. Cassidy*

      I don’t understand people (your co-worker) who expect other people (you) to be mind readers.

      If she wanted boundaries with the card-signing, she should have stated them implicitly. Meanwhile, you were just trying to be considerate, and she should acknowledge that and make a mental note for next time (if there is one) to make her wishes known explicitly.

      Perhaps I won’t be so noble as I am right now when the time comes, but things like this make retirement look really, really good.

  2. Anon4Pregnancy*

    I want to put a trigger warning on this for pregnancy loss, so my post will be in a reply to myself for folks to hide.

    1. Anon4Pregnancy*

      I’ve had a medically complex pregnancy that I haven’t yet told anyone about at work.
      I’ve been using vague terms like Alison encourages for medical stuff you don’t want to go into.
      I also got COVID in the middle of all of this, and folks know about that. We’re 100% remote and I wasn’t really sick (just tired and couldn’t taste/smell anything for a week), so I worked through that. My work is mostly asynchronous so there hasn’t been any problem with me taking off for lots of doctors appointments.

      My well-meaning boss knows *something* is medically up with me, and COVID made it worse. But I haven’t explained it. Well, the pregnancy has come to a sad end, and I have a D&E scheduled for this Monday/Tuesday (requires 2 days of procedures, but no overnight hospital stay). I let her know that I needed surgery as soon as I found out (yesterday pm), then I let her know my time off needs as soon as I got the schedule (this morning).

      She is, to put it lightly, very worried about me and freaking out. I’ve stated my needs re: work clearly, but she has asked a few times (over slack), what’s going on. I really, really do not want to explain what is actually going on. This is emotionally super hard, and I don’t want to talk about it, even over chat.

      Anyone have a good “Please stop asking me what this surgery is for.” script. I appreciate that she cares, I do, and I understand why she is concerned “Hey, so my doctor said I need surgery, soon, as in Monday.” is alarming, even if it is followed with “It’ll be outpatient, and it’s a simple procedure with minimal recovery.”

      But I really need her to let it go. Help?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “I prefer not to get into the details at work, but it’s nothing that you should worry about, just something I need to take care of. Thanks for understanding.”

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This.

          I did a stint of physical therapy involving body parts you don’t generally mention at work. My boss never, ever, asks what our medical time off is for, but since this was going to involve a couple of months of weekly half-days off, I told him it was physical therapy for an old muscular condition for which I had been unable to find a therapist until recently, all of which was true and none of which revealed more than necessary.

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yes, this is pretty much what I would do. Anon, I’m so very sorry for your loss. I hope your physical recovery is easy, and that you get all the support and care you need in a difficult time.

        1. Anon4Pregnancy*

          Yeah, I mean, I’ve been dodging these questions for 5 months now and it’s been okay-ish to say “I need a lot of monitoring at these appointments, but I’ll be fine.”

          But her questions in the last 24 hours have been more persistent. Ex: “Are you sure you’re alright? If I knew more, I could be more helpful.” While I have, once, a few months ago, said over zoom “I really don’t want to talk about this” pretty firmly, it doesn’t appear I’ve said that recently (at least not over chat). I don’t want to be harsh exactly, but I do think I just need to be more firm.

          Every single time I get one of these questions, it’s upsetting. It has been for months. We’ve been hoping for the best, but honestly, this was sort of the expected outcome, which is part of why I’ve avoided talking about it this entire time.

          1. Annony*

            Since she is specifically talking about being more helpful you could try responding along those lines.

            “The most helpful thing you can do right now is approve the time off and not ask any more questions about my personal medical history. The questions are stressful and I really do not want to talk about my health with anyone I work with. There is nothing to worry about. Thank you for understanding my need for privacy right now.”

            1. Anon4Pregnancy*

              Thanks, this is both true and helpful. I might add “I spend enough time talking about my health with my doctors and family, and I need work to be a break from that.”

              1. Sparrow*

                I think this would be a good addition to the “the most helpful thing you can do for me…” language. I’m so sorry for your loss and that your boss is making life harder right now.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              All of this.

              You’re under a doctor’s care. You are handling it. It’s (as) fine (as it’s going to be).

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            “Are you sure you’re alright? If I knew more, I could be more helpful.”

            “Actually, the most helpful thing you can do is to just support my need to take this time off, as you’ve been doing. I appreciate it!”

          3. Books and cats*

            When boss pushes with “I could be more helpful if I know…” try replying, “Thank you for your concern. I have everything covered on the homefront with family and friends. What I need most from you is to cover the work front. Knowing you have that handled will be the biggest help you could give me.”
            You don’t need to tell her, or anyone, anything you want to keep private.
            My heart is breaking for you. Take care of yourself in whatever way feels right to you. You will be in my thoughts Monday and Tuesday.

      2. Schnoodle HR*

        I’m sorry…It doens’t sound liek it’s an option but I think the best way to have her lay off is to give her enough to undersatnd you don’t want to talk about it.

        “Boss, I’m struggling with fertility and pregnancy loss. I appreciate the flexibility you’ve been able to give me during such a hard time in my life. As you can imagine I have a hard time talking about this and rather not do so at all. I appreciate your concern but now that you know the general issue, would you mind not asking further unless it pertains to work scheduling?”

        1. MCL*

          I disagree. This is way more detail than the boss is entitled to. Just using Alison’s script above should be just fine.

          1. Schnoodle HR*

            I agree but it sounds like she’s been using a similar script with no end in sight of her boss’ prying and it sounds like the boss genuinely is worried, not looking for gossip.

            But again it’s an emotional topic so as I mentioned in my reply it may still not be an option.

            My fear is that others will start to speculate anyway. With such a hard topic, I rather be in control of it than not.

              1. Falling Star*

                This, This, This. People questioning you about your personal business, does not mean they are entitled to an answer. Some people think they are, but since I don’t agree, they will not get it from me.

              2. Paulina*

                Especially since they will get information that will enable them to be even more intrusive, and make their own decisions about how things should be handled, which would be extremely out of line. Boss can help best by approving the absences and stopping asking questions for more information — someone dealing with personal medical issues needs to be able to focus on themselves, not have to deal with other people’s reactions to their situation. Even (and sometimes especially) if those reactions are attempts to be helpful.

            1. MCL*

              I would totally stonewall and repeat Alison’s script ad nauseum if there was a continuation of Boss asking, with an additional, “I’m not up for discussing the details, but I’ll let you know if I need anything beyond some sick days.” If that didn’t stop it, then I would try going to HR to see what they advise. OP’s medical situation is none of Boss’s business, full stop. There is no reason Boss needs to know specifics about this beyond “medical issue that is getting taken care of.” I get that Boss is concerned, but concern does not mean she gets access to this level of detail. Especially since OP is not comfortable talking about it and doesn’t want to discuss.

              If it becomes a matter of office gossip and speculation, she should go to Boss to ask for help shutting it down, or to HR if Boss is unhelpful or instigating rumors herself. It IS a hard topic, and OP has a perfect right to keep it 100% private.

            2. Gerry*

              Boss I appreciate that you want to support me and supporting me right now means not making me talk about my current medical issue. I’ve provided the paperwork so you questioning me makes me feel you think I am a liar. I’m sure you don’t want me to feel like this but these constant questions do. How can we move on?

        2. Wintergreen*

          I kind of agree with Schnoodle. I know you don’t want to talk about it, and you shouldn’t have to but… it may be a good idea to mention because after the medical issues are taken care of there will most likely be some emotional stuff you are going to have to go thru. Grief manifests in weird ways and a general heads up to the boss may be better in the long run. Just a quick “I appreciate your concern and I don’t really want to talk about it but I’ve had a failed pregnancy. When we speak, I’d like to keep on work topics if at all possible. It helps me cope. Thanks”

        3. Mr. Tyzik*

          No, this is not necessary. She doesn’t owe her boss her story in her explanation and what she has said would be enough for a boss is isn’t interested in prying for more.

          What this boss is doing is borderline disgusting. Boss is looking for more information out of concern but to assuage herself, not Anon.

          Alison’s script is perfect for shutting this down.

          1. Falling Star*

            Agree. Once had someone ask me a truly intrusive personal question. We were not on those terms. Was asked again. Said I already answered that question. He replied, ” I didn’t hear you say anything.” Me: “There you go” Him: “Oh”

        4. Artemesia*

          But this forces her to violate her own sense of privacy. The snoopy boss needs to back off. This is such a hard thing to bear and she should be able to do it privately with those she loves and not be the object of office gossip – even well meaning gossip.

          I like Alison’s script.

        5. Anon4Pregnancy*

          This is exactly what I do not want to say.

          I don’t want anyone I work with to know that I’ve been pregnant. And a quick google would easily reveal to people that if I’m having a two day D&E, I’ve been pregnant *a while.* Like long enough that it’s weird I didn’t tell anyone. I feel like that was the right call, and I want to continue to keep it quiet.

          1. Anon4Pregnancy*

            I’m also really grateful to be WFH and have people only see my face, b/c I’m obviously pregnant at this point.
            My last pregnancy, people commented as soon as I was showing and I hated it (though I was working elsewhere). WFH was a huge gift through all of this–it allowed me to keep things far more private.

            1. Schnoodle HR*

              Yeah I didn’t think this was an option you’d like. I’m sorry for what you’re having to go through. It sounds like your boss is genuinely concerned and may not back off without more knowledge. I think you’ve been using script similar to what A provided but it hasn’t worked.

              I agree you shouldn’t have to share to get someone off your back. I do think just telling her general though will actually put her on notice that this is something serious and you DON”T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. You know? But if you don’t trust her to start the gossip then it’s a no go.

              But it’s also very personal and an emotional journey you have to take and if you want to keep firm keep firm. Just know you may be to repeat yourself a million times.

            2. ToS*

              One phrase that can be helpful is “need to know”. You can assure the boss that you will help keep work matters strong, even if scheduling or shifting must occur.

              You can also mention that while people may “want” to know more, that you are confident with your health care plan and wish to avoid constantly rehashing details to the merely curious and instead focus on self care with licensed health care professionals. It would smooth feathers to say you’re glad for her concern, and hope she will take you at your word with your return-to-work plan

              You may want to ask her what -work- she is worried about, to refocus?

              So sorry that you are going through this with a side order of bad-boundary-boss. I hope she gets a solid clue and no longer distracts from making it through the coming week!

          2. Falling Star*

            I do not believe not telling people you were pregnant with a high risk pregnancy is “weird”, it’s your private business. You had and have enough to deal with without having to deal with performing “being pregnant” to others expectations. I am so sorry for your loss. I do understand first hand, and if I had to deal with other peoples concern after while I was dealing with all the emotional and physical concerns myself at work, it would have been awful. Take care.

      3. Lizy*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. I agree with Allison’s response.

        Also, please take time off if you want/need to, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so. You are allowed to grieve the loss of your little one and the pregnancy.

        1. Anon4Pregnancy*

          I think I’ll actually do better working than not. It helps to be distracted. Everything I’ve read says that pain is minimal after 24-48 hours, so I’m planning to be back at work on Thursday.

          1. Lizy*

            I almost said something about “but keep working if you want to”. I’m the same way – I went back to work after a very short maternity leave (3 weeks) as it was triggering and somewhat traumatic for me (long story). So many people – including my boss – were like “well why aren’t you taking a longer leave”? Uh… cause this is what’s best for me and my mental health? Also – none of your business.

            But regardless – I’m sorry for your loss. I wish you peace and a rainbow baby – when and if that is something you decide is best for you and your family.

          2. Sarah*

            I’m sorry for your loss – I was in the same boat as you back in March. My procedure was on a Monday and I was back at work on Wednesday (remotely, as COVID was just ramping up). I actually did tell my boss exactly what was going on, as I had also told her that I was pregnant. I REGRET that choice, as she was fairly insensitive in her response (it’s incredibly hard to find the right thing to say when someone has had a pregnancy loss, so I don’t blame her) and since then has asked fairly invasive questions about when we’d be trying again, etc. etc. Not to say that your boss would do the same, but I should have used Allison’s script and avoided the topic altogether. For what it’s worth, the procedure itself is pretty easy and helped me heal emotionally. I did have some significant cramping for a week or so afterwards. Wishing you peace and strength in the weeks ahead.

            1. Anon4Pregnancy*

              Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. That is basically my worst nightmare. I don’t *think* my boss would do that, but I don’t know. She’s fairly new to managing people and relatively young (same age as me). She did ask me a few “how do you parent and work” sorts of questions when I started (I had one kid), and she’s clearly thinking of having kids herself in the not too distant future. So I could see well-meaning yet invasive questions. And I just don’t want to.

              I’ve already dealt with insensitivity from medical professionals, and I just can’t handle any more.

              1. Sarah*

                Yes, the problem, as you know, is that people don’t THINK they’re being insensitive, but that seemingly harmless comments can be incredibly hurtful to people going through it. My manager was also a fairly new at managing people and has no firsthand experience with pregnancy loss, so she was prone to those insensitive comments. She never had ill intentions, but the topic is hard to navigate in general and even moreso in the workplace. So it’s best just to avoid it, which it looks like what you’re attempting to do! I’m sorry you’ve had a negative experience with your medical professionals; that is the absolute worst. Best of luck with your procedure on Monday.

                1. Anon4Pregnancy*

                  Receptionist who told me to cry more quietly to not disturb her phone call totally knew she was being insensitive.
                  Like, you might not know what is going on with someone, but if you work *in a hospital* and someone is sobbing *in a hospital lobby* you suck at your job for telling someone to stop crying. Maybe your hospital sucks for making you take phone calls without some sort of sound barrier, but that’s not an excuse. FFS, miscarrying is FAR from the worst thing I could have been experiencing for all she knew.

          3. HR Bee*

            I was in a similar boat a few years ago. I have the procedure on Monday and was back to work on Wednesday. I’d have gone insane at home all alone. Work let me focus on something else.

            That said, my OB pushed hard for me to take more time. Like he literally wanted me out at least two weeks to ‘heal and process and grieve.’

            You do you. And I’m so sorry. Virtual hugs.

      4. Overeducated*

        I’m so sorry. This is so hard. Maybe you could say something like “I really appreciate your concern and flexibility with my schedule. I really don’t want to talk about my medical conditions at all, so your giving me the privacy and understanding to deal with them outside of work is the best support I could ask for. Thanks so much.” The hope would be that wrapping a firm statement within a preemptive “thank you” helps your boss want to live up to the thanks.

        1. Data Nerd*

          Either Alison’s script or this one should be good–maybe start with Alison’s and then move to this one if she still won’t let it go? And I’m so, so sorry, Anon. I hope you have peace and good health going forward.

      5. M*

        I don’t have any advice, except for the script that Alison provided. But I wanted to comment to say that I’m sorry for your loss, and that I’m sending you virtual hugs and comforting vibes.

      6. hiphopopotamus*

        I had similar issues with my boss when I dealt with two serious medical issues over my first few years working for her. The first time around, I had assumed that she would keep my medical information to herself, but she ended up sharing it widely in the office. The second time around, I provided as little information as possible. It was difficult because we have a good working relationship and I know she was asking because she cares, but I didn’t want to have to discuss my medical situation with everyone in the office. I ended up asking HR to what degree I needed to share information with my boss and told them that when I had done so previously she shared it with others. I looped HR in again when she asked for copies of FMLA-related documentation from my doctors. They ended up stepping in to remind her why medical information needs to stay with HR rather than others in the organization.

      7. Anon4Pregnancy*

        So I sent a message over Slack
        “I prefer not to get into the details at work, but it’s nothing that you should worry about, just something I need to take care of. I spend enough time talking about all this stuff with my family and doctors, and the most helpful thing you can do is to let me focus on work. Questions stress me out right now, so I want to not talk about my health more than I have to. I really do expect to be fine after surgery. I appreciate the flexibility you’ve been giving me, and thanks for understanding.”

        I got back “Okay.” Not sure what to make of that, but at least I sent the message.

        Thanks, everyone, for your help! This has all been so stressful, and I just want to put it behind me.

        1. Sarah*

          I would also loop HR in and/or document these reactions and even this most recent interaction, if you feel comfortable. Based on the way your manager is handling this, I would hate to think that it could have implications or ramifications on your work, but it’s possible. I would either report this to HR as an FYI (“My manager keeps questioning my medical status”) and/or document it just in case it comes back up later (i.e. she starts treating you differently after this for whatever she THINKS your medical situation may be).

      8. RagingADHD*

        Just tell her it’s not cancer. That’s what she’s freaked about. She thinks you’ve been having chemo or radiation, and now cancer surgery.

        1. Anon4Pregnancy*

          I specified that it wasn’t cancer months ago. I’ve described it as complex, requiring monitoring, but not life-threatening.

      9. allathian*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish you strength in dealing with the aftermath and your intrusive boss. I think Alison’s script sounds really good.

      10. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

        Nothing to add to the answers you’ve already received, but just wanted to say I’m so, so sorry. I had a D&E years ago and the hardest part (aside from the emotional effects) was the laminaria insertion, if they’re doing that (though the dilation with misoprostol is similar). I’d recommend making sure you can lie down as soon as possible afterwards, and if they’re giving you antibiotics in pill form to take Monday night, ask if there’s an option to put it in the IV if you’ll be under full or partial sedation in case it makes you sick.

        Good luck on Monday and Tuesday. Many thoughts your way.

        1. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

          (I say all of this because the OB who did my D&E, though I appreciated his matter of fact approach and the thorough job he did related to testing the POC because of concerns he had, didn’t provide a whole lot of information about what the preparation for the procedure would be like and I would have appreciated a heads up about things I didn’t know to expect).

          1. Anon4Pregnancy*

            Thanks for sharing this. I called the doula I used for my first birth, who used to be an OB nurse, and she told me a lot of what you said, too.
            I’ve also been told to ask for ALLLL the Zofran. Get Zofran in IV. Take Zofran pills (I have some, because I’ve been puking all pregnancy. At least that part will be over soon.)

      11. Janet*

        If someone is that immaturely over-curious to know your personal medical information, I’d also wonder about their ability to keep it to themselves if you told them the details.

      12. Anon4Pregnancy*

        In the “not everybody is nosy” category, I told the coworker most effected that I’d be out for surgery, and she just said, “Oh, I hope everything goes well! I’m happy to cover whatever comes up while you’re out, and you’ll be in my thoughts.” A+ coworker!

  3. peachie*

    How do you “put in a good word” for someone? Or is that even appropriate to do?

    I have a friend who’s looking for a job and I told them I’d check at my former office to see if they’re hiring (medium-sized nonprofit; they usually are). I’m checking with a former coworker who still works there to see if they’re hiring to begin with, but if they are, is it appropriate for me to… ?? message someone at the office to let them know they’re applying? (I’d probably know the hiring manager, if it makes a difference.)

    I want to help my friend out and I’d be happy to vouch for them, but I don’t want to do anything inappropriate. (I hope that makes sense; it’s been a long week and words are hard today!)

    1. Alex*

      It’s harder to do this when you aren’t having casual in-person interaction but you can still do it. If you know the hiring manager, I’d go with them (so you’re not bothering tons of different people) and find out if they’re hiring because you know a great candidate with x,y,z relevant skills that you believe could be an asset to the org. I’d make sure to create softening/social language around introducing it as well.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Have you worked with your friend before? If so, your “vouch[ing] for them” will carry a lot more weight. That said, even if your relationship with your friend has never been in a professional capacity, you can simply do something like this:
      “Hey, is that ________ position still open?”
      “Yeah, we just posted it last week.”
      “I know someone who might be good for it.”

      Then see how the person in charge of the position reacts. If it’s fairly tepid (e.g., “Thanks” or “Have them apply, then”), just leave it. But if they seem intrigued (e.g., “Who is it?” or “What’s that person’s name, so I can keep an eye out?”), then follow up with details about your friend.

    3. Brooks Brothers Stan*

      Basically by doing exactly what you’re doing. You reach out to someone in the office that you have a good relationship with to see if they are hiring. If they are, ask them for the best way for your friend to apply, and offer yourself up as a reference. Your friend will know the situation with the hiring manager and the best way to communicate that this is a referral coming from a colleague.

      And that’s it! If your friend thinks speaking to the hiring manager is the best way forward, they’ll bridge that gap for you. But more than likely just the fact that you reached out to someone in the office will get their resume plucked from the stack.

    4. Artemesia*

      Just call the person you know there who might have some hiring authority with a sort of ‘I don’t know if you are hiring, but a former co-workers is looking right now and has the right skills for this kind of work and I thought I would touch base. She is really terrific.’ Of course, do this only if you have worked with her and know she is terrific.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Reach out to your contact, ask if they’re hiring. If they say they are, let them know you know someone you think may be a good option, ask them how your friend should apply. If you know the hiring manager, give them her name directly so they know who to look out for.

      That’s it. Don’t do any follow ups and don’t try to push it is key. Just say “I know you’re regularly hiring, I know a person who is looking for work.”

      Don’t vouch for their work unless you’ve worked with them!!!

      1. Cats and dogs*

        Definitely agree with The Man, Becky Lynch. Don’t vouch for anyone’s work if you haven’t worked with them.

    6. Working Hypothesis*

      At least in my industry (which is also usually hiring), it’s totally right and normal and encouraged to go up to a hiring manager whom you know through your own work and say, “Hey, I just wanted to give you a heads up — my friend X is probably going to be applying to work here. I’ve worked with X and they’re really good… if there’s anything useful I can tell you about them, please just let me know; I’d be glad to.”

      This is enough to count, all by itself, as an internal reference — you’ve flagged the candidate as someone whose work you’re prepared to couch for — while also letting the hiring manager know that you stand ready to give them the further details that would be included in a real reference check if the candidate gets that far. I’ve also sometimes added within the introduction above, a brief statement of what they’re best at, especially if they have a skill that I know the company particularly needs. So, for example, “They’re certified in hoof care, and I know we need someone who can do hooves,” or “They’re really good at llama-shearing, and have a gift for getting the llama to stand still without muzzles,” or something like that — just a quick sentence connecting what I know of the candidate’s work with what I know of the company’s pain points, if there’s a clear connection. I won’t say it if there isn’t a natural setting overlap between what the candidate does well and what the company wants done (though if they’re good at their work and they belong in this field at all, there often is).

  4. envirolady*

    Okay friends, this is a weird one.

    My spouse messed up at work. Not big time, and not on a project that is even in his job description. His boss basically gave him no direction and he tried to do his best. His manager was out of town and couldn’t be reached for any questions. When they got back and saw the small mistake, they made him stay home all day to “reflect” instead of working. He is an hourly employee, so this was a big blow. Is this how you would handle a small mistake? He immediately apologized for it and totally owned it when he was called out. We are both confused and it just gave me icky, sort of parental “time out” vibes. He offered to do anything to make up for it with several solutions but instead they forced him to take a day off of work in tough times. Any insight would be appreciated. If we’re overreacting that this was weird, please say so lol.

    1. Schnoodle HR*

      Based on what you wrote, the employer is definitely weird and seems to manage with immaturity.

      Mistakes happen at work all the time, in fact mistakes and how to fix them is really how someone becomes good and experienced in their field! Not being understanding that this happens and making the best of it is short sighted of the employer.

      I’m sorry you guys had to take an unpaid day. It’s really unfair to hit your wallet like that as well.

      I only do unpaid leave of absences when it is something huge or continuously happens or an investigation needs to happen (think sexual harassment).

      I can validate your feelings on this situation if that makes it any better.

      1. Elliott*

        Yeah, I see suspension/unpaid leave as acceptable mainly in situations where something serious enough has happened that an investigation or some sort of action needs to be taken before the person can return to their position. Things like major policy/ethics violations, harassment, etc. It shouldn’t be a routine thing to discipline people for the sake of it.

      2. envirolady*

        Thank you for your insight.

        I’ve been working full time since I graduated college for 5 years, in hourly and salaried positions, and I’ve NEVER had a manager do this when I made a small mistake that I owned up to and offered to fix. It just felt wrong to me that they would dock his pay, basically, even when he offered to do extra work or whatever to fix it.

        Totally agreed on the sexual harassment/bigger issue. This was a solo project that was totally outside of his normal work duties that they only assigned him, with little context, because they were going out of town, and resulted in a small issue that is of no loss monetary or otherwise to the company. It was almost a personal project – think taking care of someone’s house when they are gone. He probably should’ve asked for more info before they left, which he told them, but now they basically refuse to give him a way to “correct course” I guess.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          It’s definitely a good idea to ask for more guidance when you’re left with a project that isn’t in your normal area of work and you don’t know how to do. But this way of approaching the error seems juvenile she absurd. If I were the manager, I would call them in and say, “I see there were some problems with the llama photography project. What happened?”

          If I got an answer like “I’m sorry. I knew how to handle llamas, of course, but I’ve never done photography before. I didn’t realize there was so much involved in handling the camera, and I messed up the settings,” then I know what to tell them to change. Then it becomes about what I said above: don’t take on a project you don’t normally do without flagging for the manager that you don’t know how to X. You can make it clear that you’re game to try if they want you to, but if you’re explicit that you’ve never done X before and don’t know how well it’s going to go, you give them a chance to decide whether they want to give you more guidance, take the whole thing off your plate, or tell you to go on without any more instruction. But as a manager, I wouldn’t demand time sitting at home to “reflect” — I would just tell the employee, “Next time, if I assign you something you’ve got no experience with, make sure to tell me so up front, okay? I might or might not change anything about the assignment, but it helps to know.” And that would be the end of it, assuming the employee said, yes, they’ll do that next time.

          (Side note: from the employee’s perspective, if I tell them I don’t know how to do something and they tell me to do it anyway, I would get it in writing. It doesn’t have to be formal or dramatic; just send them a quick email saying something like, “Thanks for the clarification this morning about the llama photography project. I’m fine with going ahead on what little I know about photography; I just wanted to make sure you realized that I’ve never used a DSLR camera before or even knew what one was! Glad we got that sorted.” It does a bit of CYA in the event of future issues that are caused by that inexperience.)

    2. SarahKay*

      You are definitely not overreacting, and your spouse’s boss is Horrible. I mean, that’s truly awful behaviour, even before you factor in the loss of income. I don’t have any good advice, sadly, but this is definitely not a reasonable boss.

      1. envirolady*

        Relatively new? He has been working there since May. I’m really not sure – it seemed like his manager took it more as a personal slight than as a genuine mistake (which it was). They said stuff like “reflect on the gratitude that comes with working hard…” For context, my spouse does physical work every day, so this was such a bizarre comment today. He hasn’t heard of anyone else being treated this way.

        1. Natalie*

          reflect on the gratitude that comes with working hard

          I know all of those words, but that sentence makes no sense! /simpsons

          1. envirolady*

            Honestly it was word soup. It was very touchy-feely language that felt sort of unprofessional that focused on gratitude, being thankful for being employed, et cetera.

            1. Natalie*

              If I was your spouse I would job search. Maybe it’s the radical in me, but only shitty employers think their employees should be “grateful for a job”. Companies aren’t charitable enterprises, they are business arrangements wherein the company purchases something it needs to operate (labor) from the employees. Typically the company cannot profit without the labor their employees so magnanimously sell them.

              1. Partly Cloudy*

                Yes, all of this. And suspending him without pay for a minor mistake is the opposite of the right way to handle a minor mistake. It’s bizarre and sounds very “go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done”-type childish.

              2. Hamburke*

                I don’t think I’ve ever been called radical except in jest and I agree with everything in this statement. Time for a job search…

              3. Working Hypothesis*

                Ugh. I agree with this completely. Any job that your boss demands you should be “grateful” for isn’t a job you want to have. Time to look for a better one. Nobody should have to be *grateful* for a chance to engage in a mutually beneficial deal.

          2. Bagpuss*

            Yes – why should you be grateful for working hard? Shouldn’t it be the employer who is grateful in those circumstances, if anyone is?
            And if you are doing a decent job it’s kind of icky to suggest you should be grateful (or at least to imply you should be grateful to your employer) that you *have* a job.

            Effectively suspending someone without pay would only seem reasonable to me if there is a really big issue – for instance where you need to be able to investigate and don’t want them there where they might destroy evidence of their misconduct or cause further issues, or where there is a credible allegation of harassment and you need to protect the victim, or that kind of thing.

            Plus – how is it helpful. Your husband already knows he made a mistake, so the sensible thing for them to do would be to consider whether he needs additional training to avoid it happening again, and mov e on.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              But additional training would mean *they* had to do work, instead of just dumping it off on him!

            2. Easily Amused*

              Seems to me that this punishment serves nothing more than instilling fear that they can send him home without pay at any time, even permanently. Such a gross power play. He should definitely be job searching if it’s possible.

            1. Observer*

              Well, based on the additional information the OP provided, I’m not sure they should managing children either.

        2. Colette*

          That’s pretty strange. I’d keep an eye out for other weirdness, but since he hasn’t been there long, it’s hard to tell whether this is a one-off or not.

          1. envirolady*

            It is a small business, so I think that adds to the general weirdness. Sometimes small business owners want to create a work culture that is unique but don’t really think it through… in this case, I think they were trying (???) to be very touchy-feely, but they literally forced someone who works hourly to miss a day of work, so the intended result was just confusion and a frustration. My spouse is definitely open to other jobs now, so he might be looking around.

            1. Artemesia*

              It sounds like the kind of nonsense someone in a religious cult might inflict. Definitely look for another job — but don’t feel forced to take anything unless it is a good fit i.e. as long as he has the job, look but only leap when something excellent appears not out of desperation.

              1. Artemesia*

                Oh and if he does find a new job and is asked why he is leaving he should say something like ‘I need to be able to count on the job and when I was docked a day’s pay for a small mistake, it was clear I can’t count on management here.’

                1. Cormorannt*

                  Personally, I think that comes across as very bitter and would be off-putting to an interviewer who has no context. I would frame it as “For business reasons, they were unable to guarantee me the same hours from week to week. I’m looking for something more stable”. He doesn’t have to say that the “business reasons” are because they are loons.

                2. TechWorker*

                  Cormorrannt – I totally agree this would be a bizarre thing to say in an interview, but I think the suggestion was actually to say it to the *current* employer in exit interview.

              2. Malarkey01*

                The OP additional comment about gratitude coming from hard work I’ve heard one other time and it was a super conservative religious cult. Between that and the stay at home and think about this move I’d be super super worried about their norms around employment and expectations.

              3. Chaordic One*

                Or he could say that maybe his supervisor needs to “reflect” on how he treats his workers.

                It probably won’t do any good, but it would be an apt thing to say.

            2. PollyQ*

              Oh, they were definitely being punitive, they just wanted to wrap it in language that would let them do it while still feeling good about themselves. Second the advice to look for a different job.

              1. envirolady*

                That’s sort of how I felt too, PollyQ. That they wanted to feel good about themselves even as they were taking a pretty messed up course of action.

        3. I'm that person*

          I think that your husband should reflect on updating his resume and getting a new job.

          You said upthread that you have been out of collage and working for 5 years and never seen anything like that. I have been working for 35 years and never seen anything like that.

          This is a dysfunctional work environment. This is first red flag. It’s only going to get worse from here.

          1. envirolady*

            Thank you. I’m a relatively new professional in an entirely different field from him, but I still didn’t feel like this was normal behavior at all.

            It’s definitely time to brush up his resume!

          2. CatMintCat*

            i’ve beenworking since the mid 1970s and have never seen anything like this. Get that resume out and honed, it can only get worse.

        4. Sparrow*

          Wow, that’s absolutely a work form of time out and is super infantilizing and also just counterproductive. They set him up to fail and instead of letting him work on a solution, they sent him home so that next time this comes up he still won’t be fully versed in how they want it done…? I can’t imagine this company will get better the longer he’s there – I would definitely start looking for other opportunities.

          1. envirolady*

            I really didn’t understand it either because he was basically the only person keeping a few of their projects going smoothly. The work has to be done in-person (it’s a physical job) so they basically messed up their projects by forcing him to take a day off, unpaid. So weird.

    3. Elliott*

      Wow, no, that sounds ridiculous and patronizing to me. Small mistakes happen occasionally because people are human. Punishing someone for a minor error that they acknowledged accomplishes nothing.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I see parental ‘time out’ vibes, too. It’s appropriate to have a coaching discussion with the employee to correct the mistake, and ask them to think about a plan to ensure it doesn’t happen again, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened here.

      Has your husband’s boss talked to him about the mistake, and the offer to correct it?

      1. envirolady*

        No! He offered to get on a call whenever his boss was available but she just said “we’ll talk about it.” They never did! Instead of talking about it she forced him to take the next day “off” (AKA with no pay). It was so bizarre! When he went back the next day and tried to bring it up to her, she didn’t want to talk about it. He really just wanted to apologize, keep working, and try to fix it in whatever way he could. He also wanted to get more clarification on the process so he wouldn’t make the same mistake, but she (manager) didn’t offer any other guidance.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Sounds like your husband’s manager is a manager in name only. Says they’ll talk about it but dclines to do it, won’t give clarification or work-arounds if she’s gone…at least he knows what to expect.

          I can’t help but hope your husband already began a job search. He owned his mistake and tried to do the right thing, and lots of companies would love to have that kind of employee on their team.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Forgot to mention a concern. Your husband’s boss might plan to ‘talk about it’ at his annual review, when it’s too late for him to handle the situation to her satisfaction. Bad managers are known to do that.

            He might want to document what he did to correct the mistake on his own, his new process for doublechecking work, etc., and send it to her anyway. It might not force a discussion but at least he has documentation of his actions, just in case.

            1. envirolady*

              Great idea, thank you! He is relatively new to the workforce (he was in the military for a long time before this) and he isn’t used to performance reviews/documenting stuff like this. I’ll bring it up to him!

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Also document the occasions on which you sought guidance for how to do better at the thing you did wrong. You want to be able to show, if they throw that kind of thing at you again, that you explicitly told the boss that you don’t know how to do X, and if they insist on assigning it anyway you want to document that they did this despite repeatedly rejecting your attempts to get more information on how to do X.

        2. kt*

          My concern (esp given what you said above) is that it’s something that is actually illegal or inappropriate for an employee to be doing, and that’s why she doesn’t want to talk about it.

          1. envirolady*

            Nope, it really couldn’t be. It was basically like… he forgot to turn an air conditioner off, or something of that caliber! It didn’t involve any other employees or people, just objects, and no health and safety issues.

    5. Ew no.*

      Totally bizarre. Enough to trigger a job search for me. If you can, and you want to… that’s where my advice lands.

    6. irene adler*

      What is the company policy on disciplinary matters? Some places do issue a day off -without pay- for some infractions. But that policy should be known to your spouse (and all employees). The day off without pay should not be a surprise. Otherwise this looks like retribution.

      Is there an employee manual for reference? That should contain a discipline section where the policy on punishments are outlined. And name who is the authority for handing out disciplinary actions. And it should outline the procedure for discipline-first time offences, repeat offences, etc. It may also describe what things are punishable offences. Does this policy include when mistakes are made? Employees are human and make mistakes. Punishment won’t fix the human condition.

      1. envirolady*

        I wish there were. He works for a small business and I think they really need something like this. Totally agreed on all your points – mistakes are a part of life and how we manage them is very important for growth.

        1. irene adler*

          Gosh, if there’s no set policies re: discipline, then they can make it up as they go. And that’s not good for employees.

    7. Liane*

      I think it is pretty odd & unkind. How bad is it?

      WALMART (a company that has had many large-scale instances of mistreating employees) stopped doing that years ago. Heck, even when Walmart had that in their discipline procedures it was NOT a first step; it was the next-to-last step before firing, after multiple (I think 6 or 8) verbal and written warnings. And Walmart still PAID you. You were taken off your next shift, but paid for however many hours you had been scheduled that shift.

      1. envirolady*

        If he were paid for the forced absence that would be totally different. Still weird, but at least it wouldn’t be so punative.

        He works for a small business and I really think they don’t have a good process for this stuff, which is part of the problem. It just felt so strange to double down and penalize someone who was actively working to rectify their misstep (a misstep that literally only impacted the owner and not the company in any meaningful way).

    8. Lady Heather*

      “Stay home and reflect” definitely sounds like “working from home getting paid” to me..

      Your spouse may value his employment more than being snarky.

        1. Lady Heather*

          I think saying “Pay me for the time I spent, per your orders, working from home by thinking about how this mistake can be avoided in the future” may be considered snarky and may result in a “Here’s money for that day, and don’t bother coming back”.

          I don’t think the spouse has been snarky.

          1. envirolady*

            Yeah, he just wanted to go into work and do his job and take actions to make up for the mistake. He really didn’t want to sit at home all day and reflect (aka feel like garbage with no ability to rectify the mistake). It just wasn’t helpful for anybody.

            1. Observer*

              You know, he really should not feel like garbage. The people who really messed up are his employers.

          2. Liane*

            Hmm, since Boss/Company specifically gave Spouse direction for that unpaid day (“Stay home this shift & reflect”) I think with Lady Heather that it counts as a work day, which means it should be paid. therefore:
            Step 1: find a new job
            Step 2: after leaving, report it to the state Wage & Hour agency and let them determine if “Pay me for the time I spent, per your orders, working from home by thinking about how this mistake can be avoided in the future” is Snark or a Legit Claim for Unpaid Wages.

      1. envirolady*

        Yeah, that’s how it felt! He just kind of did small jobs around the house all day, but he felt really down. They didn’t really give him any way to fix the mistake, even though he offered several solutions. It just didn’t feel productive. Plus he is one of their most valued team members (he gets a lot done in a day) so they also shot themselves in the foot.

        1. Chris too*

          When he gives notice that he’s leaving for another job, I hope he cheerfully says yes, I appreciated the opportunity to reflect and realize I don’t want to work here any more…

    9. Annony*

      That’s not normal. I have made big mistakes and the response was “We forgot to tell you not to do that. In the future, it is bad to do X because this happens.” This does not sound like a functional workplace. A suspension pending investigation sometimes is called for if the mistake is big enough. Staying home to “reflect” is not.

      1. envirolady*

        Thank you. I appreciate your experience and insight! I totally agree on big mistakes, and I would’ve wanted him to do the same if it was some investigation. But it was literally like… a mistake as big as misplacing something and then finding it again. Or something of that nature. And it didn’t delay work or throw a wrench in anyone’s plans (he asked to make sure and they said it literally didn’t impact anything). He asked them about what to do next time and for more instruction so he could do a better job and they acted like it was all his fault for not guessing/knowing the correct solution (even after working there for a few months).

        1. Annony*

          Their response is not good. When ESP becomes a job requirement you know something is off. By big mistake, I mean I broke something expensive and important.

        2. Sue*

          Is his manager the owner? If I were him, I would start looking for another job not just because of how ridiculous this was but also because of what it says about how they value him as an employee. It is probably not personal to him, they seem very punitive and unpredictable. But if they feel this is an appropriate way to treat employees, he can do better and find an employer who values their employees and treats them well.

    10. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I would recommend contacting his company’s HR rep and asking what the protocol is in this situation.

      I once gave a boss bad news he did not want to hear. A program he was very desperate to run, was not going to be possible due to safety regulations. I showed him the documentation indicating what standards we would have to meet to run his program: he was not willing or able to give us those resources. He became angry, accused me of lying, and sent me home.

      When I called HR and explained the situation, they said that he was allowed to send me home, but that he could not send me home without pay, so I did get paid for the remaining 4-5 hours of my shift.

      1. envirolady*

        Yeaaaah I don’t think they have an HR rep.

        This is a really small business. Two owners and like seven full time staff total. I’m not sure how bringing up the idea of hiring an HR contractor would make them react.

        Re: your story – wow. That is wild! I used to work for an H&S consulting company and you wouldn’t believe how many people have very similar issues with management and standards.

    11. WantonSeedStitch*

      Wow, no. This is not cool. If the small mistake caused cascading problems that they needed to fix, and couldn’t give him any more work to do until they were able to fix it, that’s the only reason I can see them telling him to stay home with no pay. But even then, it’s not to reflect, it’s “look, we need to clean this mess up, and until we do, there isn’t anything for you to work on, so we’re going to take you off the schedule tomorrow while we fix it.” This sounds like a place that thinks punishing its employees is more important than making sure its employees grow and learn how to do their jobs better.

      1. envirolady*

        Yes, that makes total sense (re: them having to fix it and no work being available). They were working on a busy project that day and could have totally used his help and input. But now they are slightly behind because of their own choice to make him stay home.

        It’s weird because they sort of pride themselves on being very human-centered and “nice.” But I think I see it for what it is: a bunch of BS that is used more for marketing. Who in the world forces an hourly employee to lose money because of something they offered to fix (that was totally fixable, btw)?? Thank you for your input, it’s definitely helping us think this through.

    12. juneybug*

      I wonder what are the employment laws in your state. Maybe give Department of Labor a call to see if they are allowed to send an employee home without pay. Some states, once you report in (which sounds like he did), the company has to pay you for the whole shift.

    13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      No. This is not normal for a small mistake. WTF was he supposed to reflect upon?

      I have suspended people for things before and made them take the day off. These things include being excessively late to shift work and minor safety violations that are meant to say “you really goofed up and thank God nobody was hurt, you need to take the day off and remember this next time you do something reckless.” But again, they need to be actively messing up and not just “oh you forgot to lock the drawer last night.” or “you put up the wrong notice.” or whatever it may be.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Especially when the task isn’t even in their normal job description and they were given zero instruction on how to do it! As somebody said upthread, ESP should never be a job requirement. When you’re expected to “reflect” on how to do a better job and the only answer is “work for someone who doesn’t assign tasks they know I’ve never done before without telling me how to do them,” then that’s what you should be looking for a way to do — work for someone else who’s like that, since the current employer clearly isn’t.

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

      Definitely weird, it could be a “time out” sort of dynamic (have there been any other incidents in this company with ‘parental’ sort of vibes? – though I appreciate he has only been there a few months so it may be too early to tell).
      Is there any possibility they are under pressure to ‘cut costs’ and seized what they saw as an opportunity to do that?

  5. New girl*

    It’s been a minute since I’ve needed to update my resume. What program is the best for formatting? In the past I used word but now sure if things have changed.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I went to Word and found a template I liked. Simple as that. Unless you’re in a really specific field, I wouldn’t worry about using an existing template. You can also Google resume templates and see which one you like best. Just don’t use a photo and don’t take up too much (if any) space with gimmicky graphics.

    2. The Rain In Spain*

      I still use word, but I don’t do much fancy formatting either, just sections and bullets

    3. nep*

      I have been going back and forth on that, and–especially after seeing a colleague’s fairly plan Word resume recently–I have decided to stick with Word with a simple layout and bullet points. Her resume is nothing fancy at all, just very impressive by its content.
      This will vary by field, of course, but my conclusion has been that in most cases that’s the best way to go. I’ll be interested to read responses here.
      (I’ve read, even if you use Word, not to use ‘Header’ function for name and contacts, as that isn’t good with ATS. Maybe someone else can confirm.)

    4. Jellyfish*

      Word is still fine for formatting. I was job hunting in 2019 and got plenty of responses with a clean but unexciting Word doc resume. The program offers a couple different templates that you can use a base too.

      Make sure to also save it as a PDF, and submit that version when possible. That will ensure your formatting is preserved no matter what weird program a potential employer runs it through.

      1. ThePear8*

        +1 on the PDF, so important. I too use word and save a PDF version for when I actually submit/send off my resume. Otherwise yeah, formatting can appear funky if someone else opens it on their device – think like the last letter of each line pushed down onto a new line and screwing up all the alignment/formatting or spacing being different, etc.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      If you can avoid using a template, please do. ATSs and CRM tools are a lot better about parsing info from templates than they used to be, but there are still older and iffy systems out there. You only have to create and format your document in a simple format once, and edit content only as needed or desired.

      I took an informal poll of my jobseeking friends. Everyone who has complained about having to re-type info on their resume into the application used a Word template to create their resume. Not a scientific study, but noteworthy!

      1. Raia*

        I just tried using Notepad to copy paste my info into and it removed all of the weird symbols to make re-entering the resume info into the application program easier

    6. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve been able to do what I need in google docs. I haven’t been willing to buy MSOffice for my personal use, so I uploaded my current resume into google docs and I have been able to make all my updates. And every job I applied to accepted google docs.

    7. Donkey Hotey*

      I use InDesign, but that’s because I’m more of the “anal-retentive has a hyphen” sort.
      Word can totally work, especially if you can fidget with paragraph and line settings so it doesn’t look like it came off a typewriter.
      But, as others have mentioned, the big thing is saving it as a .pdf.

    8. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I used Word recently and it’s fine because you want only minimal formatting (headings, bullets). Unfussy, factual, and laser-focused on the position(s) you’re targeting.

      Alison’s back catalog of advice is a great place to start for layout and content. She combined all the links into a single post recently – I’ll look for it and post in a reply.

    9. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      A few years ago I purchased a resume template off etsy.com, and I HIGHLY recommend it. It was $15US, and included a 7 page resume guide (with a whole page of action words which I used quite a bit). There are tons of options, and I got a shout out from the hiring manager that he liked my resume design. I know not everyone may be able to afford this option, but I found it helpful.

    10. voluptuousfire*

      I personally like Google Docs more than Word for resume formatting. You don’t get all the wierd formatting issues you can get in Word.

    11. Quinalla*

      Word is fine as is google docs if you don’t have word, keep your format simple and readable. I usually download a few example resumes to look at when I want to brush mine up, but I keep it really straightforward and always get compliments on how easy my resume is to read.

    12. Anax*

      I like LibreOffice and used it for my job hunt last year; it’s free, I don’t have Microsoft Office at home, and I feel like it gives me a little more control over versioning and formatting than a cloud-based solution like Google Docs. (I’m also in IT, so I have irrationally strong opinions about my text editors.)

      It’s a fork from OpenOffice, if you used that in the 2000s. I wouldn’t recommend Apache OpenOffice at this time due to security issues.

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

    Vacations request, take two: my boss says he’s too busy, but maaaaaaaaybe next week we can discuss it. Come on, it’s just one working week! Fingers crossed.

    1. WellRed*

      Uncross your fingers and email him, stating that you would like to take a week of the vacation that is part of your annual compensation and benefits and what time would he like to meet? If he still doesn’t, can you reach out to HR for help?

    2. Pickwick*

      My friends org just instituted a 3rd step for requesting PTO. The first is to put it in the online payroll system, second is to send a calendar invite to supervisor who will approve or not. The new third step is to fill out a form to send to supervisor for approval that then goes to HR. The kicker is that the company wants a reason why you are requesting time off.
      I told friend to write “time off”.

      Converse, seems like you work at a similar organization. Why there is so much angst for bosses to approve PTO is beyond me.

      1. Emi.*

        Our T&A system includes a “justification” box and I basically always put “time off” or “appointment.”

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        The requiring justification part may be an awkward way of trying to ascertain if the leave is due to COVID. Our antiquated system of a leave request (PDF form) has a new box added to note if any of our time off is due to COVID, because then the leave is covered by Families First Coronavirus Response Act and not just regular vacation/sick leave.

  7. Rachel the Admin*

    Alison, you recommended that I post this here :)

    I am the administrative coordinator in the best office ever. I have been here for 12 years, watching the organization grow and change in almost entirely positive ways. I would tell you about it, but we are unique in my metro area and would be entirely identifiable. Relevant to this discussion is that we provide services both directly to disabled children and professional development and communities of practice for teachers and school administrators who work with disabled children who can otherwise access their main curriculum.

    About a year after I began working here, I was diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and ADHD. My boss at the time (who now works at a different amazing organization addressing the needs of a different part of the disability community) took this news well, was unsurprised (especially at the “and your high IQ has been masking this all this time” part), and offered all of the accommodations I needed and some I hadn’t thought of. One of these was her accepting that I am very good at being the office generalist and do not need nor want to be promoted.

    And yet, one of the things that has been a common thread through all of my mid-year and annual reviews is that while I am respectful and kind to everyone, my social skills take a little getting used to when new people come on board. On my twelfth annual review, I asked if the organization would pay for me to have some sort of social skills training, and was told yes.

    So now I finally get to my actual question: do you and your readers have recommendations for places to look at – or avoid – for this sort of training?

    Many, MANY thanks.

    1. ra*

      This is maybe something you’re already covering if you’ve got this diagnosis from a doctor, but my best social skills learning came from working with a therapist who specialized in skills acquisition. I had/have social anxiety, so it would be different, but we did a lot of practicing for real life and creating “social stories” about things that could happen in social interaction and appropriate ways to respond. We role played situations a lot, until key skills (like small talk and polite boundary enforcement) became automatic tools I could reach for instead of floundering. It felt like someone was letting me in on the “rules” that I sometimes worried everyone else secretly knew somehow. You might start with your therapist, or recommendations from them?

      1. Rachel the Admin*

        Thanks. I’m 50 years old and generally successful, so I’m actually looking for something geared toward older professionals rather than neurodiverse people.

        1. MissBliss*

          For what it’s worth– generally successful 50-year-olds can also benefit from therapy, particularly if they are helping you acquire skills that you desire. They’re just a different type of teacher.

          But if you’re opposed to therapy, for any number of reasons, which is totally valid and only up to you to decide, maybe look into a life/engagement/success coach. I’ve worked with both over the past few months and they have areas of overlap, but there’s no need to bring insurance into the question with an engagement coach, and their clientele may skew more toward the professional go-getter crowd than a therapist.

    2. Picard*

      Dale Carnegies’ How to Win Friends and Influence People is where I was sent when my office had the same issue with me. eh. Useful? Maybe. In my case, many years down the road, I suspect I’m on the spectrum so there having specific tools to use were helpful to me. In general, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve only slightly been able to tamp down my habit of jumping into things without waiting (also part of my ADD). I do try to be more aware of HOW I speak to people but its an ongoing struggle.

      What specific social skills do they think you’re lacking?

      1. Rachel the Admin*

        Mainly reading people for how much they like to be checked in on, getting a sense of different communication styles, things like that.

        1. JustaTech*

          Wait, we’re just supposed to know what other people’s communication styles are? My work had a whole outside course on that because it turns out that even though we’re a bunch of nerds we don’t all have the same communication style and it was a bigger problem than we realized.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Not know automatically, but between reading cues and trial-and error, you can figure it out a lot of the time.

            Most people don’t, and just stumble along, though.

            1. Arvolin*

              I’m willing to believe that lots of people, maybe most, can figure it out from cues and trial-and-error, but some of us on the autism spectrum don’t do well with cues and could use more structure.

              1. RagingADHD*

                Yes, of course. I was addressing the idea that one could somehow “just know” other people’s communication styles.

                Nobody can do that.

    3. Anon for this*

      Ask the doctor who diagnosed you for referrals. My son, who has autism, was referred to an organization that provides a variety of services, including counseling and social skills groups. The organization put together a small group of similar situated young men, they met weekly in a group led by a licensed social worker (under the supervision of a psychologist) and occasionally had outings where they practiced in real life what they had worked on in the office. It was very helpful, and I would never have heard of the organization if not for the doctor. (Note – it took a while for them to get the appropriate number of people for the group, but we were dependent on insurance so had to wait, and honestly I think the group situation was helpful. If your employer is paying, it might be possible to get one-on-one help, if that is recommended.)

      1. Rachel the Admin*

        Thanks. I’m 50 years old and generally successful, so I’m actually looking for something geared toward older professionals rather than neurodiverse people.

        1. A Corporeal Body*

          What do you think the difference between something geared to neurodiverse people and one geared towards older professionals?

          Why would something geared towards neurodiverse people not be helpful, if you’ve discovered that you have neurodiverse diagnoses that are masked – wouldn’t addressing that be helpful, even if you are generally successful and older?

        2. Nesprin*

          As a successful midcareer professional who also happens to be neurodiverse, there’s some judgement here that I don’t quite like. Quite frankly, traditional social-skills type work is not geared at neurodiverse persons, and there’s some unique challenges, such as impulsivity, that may not work in more traditional settings.
          It sounds like you would benefit from a therapist who specializes in “dual label” persons (i.e. gifted and also learning disabled)

          1. ThoughtsToday*

            Agreed. Real judgey language coming from a neurodiverse person about other neurodiverse people. Our needs differ from neurotypicals and that’s something you probably should keep in mind if you actually want to work on this issue. Shooting down any attempt to help you address how your diagnoses are impacting your social skills is mindblowing to me.

          2. NopeNopeNope*

            It’s kinda funny (not ha ha funny but y’know) that it’s a very strong piece of evidence that they deeeeefinitely need the training they’re looking for, yah?

        3. DisturbNotHerDream*

          Hey Rachel, I’m sure you didn’t intend it this way, but this sort of response is pretty upsetting. I’m having a particular issue with the use of “rather than.” Being an older, successful professional is great (I hope fit all of those descriptors myself one day!), but it doesn’t exempt a person from being neurodivergent. In fact, looking at resources specifically for neurodivergent older professionals would probably be your best bet! As a fellow ADHDer, I strongly suggest prioritizing advice specific to your diagnoses. This is especially the case if those diagnoses are significant factors in your pursuit of the social skills training. I hope you find something that works best for you!!

        4. Mike C.*

          This is pretty myopic and offensive. So is bragging about having a high IQ. Outside of unusually low results, it’s just a number that doesn’t have any impact on your life from a category of tests that are well known to have several weaknesses and biases.

    4. Lyudie*

      Depending on what skills you are looking to improve, if you can find a class doing Crucial Conversations, that’s a really good one. I did it through my company a few years ago. It’s about handling difficult conversations at work with people at various levels. So it could be helpful for interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, conflict avoidance, etc.

        1. WhatDayIsIt*

          When I was struggling at work, I took a conflict management workshop for a few hours that was beneficial. It was offered through my work (university). Maybe you can find something similar to that?

    5. ThoughtsToday*

      This isn’t a class, but just putting it out there that a therapist could do wonders. I work with a therapist who specializes in work with autistic individuals and it’s been 1) wonderful not to have to deal with judgment, 2) know my therapist knows exactly where I’m coming from, and 3) be able to guide me through work interactions in a way that makes sense for me. It’s lovely.

    6. Jean (just Jean)*

      Have you checked out CHADD (U.S.-based organization for children & adults with ADHD or ADD) and ADDitude magazine (which I think is put out by another organization, but I’m not sure)? There may be articles or webinars to help strengthen social skills of people diagnosed as adults. I know that CHADD has many local chapters with programs aimed at parents of kids, and at adults living with ADD/ADHD. There are also a gazillion books with suggestions, ideas, etc. Edward Hallowell is one author to look for. Kathleen Nadeau has also written a lot about the experience of ADD/ADHD for girls & women.
      Mom here of someone on the autism spectrum — we enrolled our child in social skills groups for many years. Group was run by the psychology group practice Alv0rd Baker & Associates. They are in the Maryland suburbs outside Washington DC but they developed and published a curriculum that may be available elsewhere. I think it has “Resilience” in the title.
      Final idea: go to the “Find a Therapist” section of Psychology Magazine (published by American Psychological Association). You can sort therapists by many variables, including area of specialization; if I recall correctly one of the variables is ADD/ADHD awareness.
      Good luck and good wishes. Your office sounds like it’s doing good work and filling a community need, which is great.
      My own ADD was identified in mid-life. Too long a story for here, but it’s been an interesting trip and not all bad.

    7. plant psychologist*

      Depending on what state/city you’re in, some vocational rehabilitation or state mental health departments have supported employment programs called Individual Placement and Support, that are designed to help people with mental illnesses (and other disabilities) attain and maintain competitive employment. They have specific people (usually with social work training) called “employment specialists” who coach and support people based on their individual needs in exactly this type of role. You obviously have and maintain employment already, but IPS programs might be a good resource to look into for these sorts of skills trainings.

    8. kestrafalaria*

      Good for you on being aware of the need and working for an organization that is open to helping you gain these skills! Would occupational therapy or a neuropsych evaluation/referral be an option? Otherwise, therapy is a good place to work on things like this.

    9. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I’m not sure what you’re looking for exactly with “social skills” training but a few resources you could try:
      • If you want feedback about your communication, body language, tone of voice/delivery, you could try joining an organization like Toastmasters.
      • If it’s more business etiquette training that could help with soft office skills (like writing email, or customer service), there are plenty of orgs for that, including online courses. Try the Emily Post Institute (I have no experience with them, but it’s a well-known and reputable org).
      • It doesn’t sound to me from your post like you need a behavioral therapist, but if your ADHD is causing anxiety, depression, or other mood problems it could help.

    10. ADD Anon*

      I had good luck with a Steven Covey course. It was a few years ago so I’m digging for the exact title…something like ‘Dealing with Difficult People”.
      Scripts and role-playing situations with immediate feedback from peers as well as the class instructor. (And then a chance for a discount for more classes for the year if you sign up same day as class…I fell for the hard sell and got more than my money’s worth when we hit a slow period.l)

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would echo others mentioning a therapist or someone specialized in your specific requirements. Courses and seminars are going to be geared towards those without your specific diagnosis.

      They’re also all geared towards early professionals,instead of simply fine tuned towards a patient’s requirements.

      Between the defensive dialog when others have mentioned therapy and specific coaching…and the fact you didn’t find your bosses response of “and your high IQ has been masking this all this time” add on, it sounds like you’re in a bit of a trap of thinking your diagnosis is some how shameful and you’re downplaying a lot.

      The vast majority of the bipolar and ADHD folks in my life, there are many, are high functioning brilliant individuals. I know literal MD’s who are diagnosed with both.

      I would suggest medical professionals and avoid “coaches” or “classes” geared towards very generic kind of social skills training. They’re often a waste of money and time.

  8. Anon Anon*

    My kiddo needs an outpatient surgery. We got our surgery date, but it’s just a few before a big deadline at work. The surgery while medical necessary could theoretically be pushed back a month to after the deadline, however, I’m very uncomfortable with that sort of delay. However, I have a couple of co-workers who are upset and feel like I am being inconsiderate of my fellow co-workers, that I’d be taking a couple of days off in the lead up to this major deadline, because of my kiddo’s surgery. So am I being inconsiderate when I could potentially get the surgery rescheduled? I’m concerned now that I am, and that I’m upsetting my teammates.

    1. hmmmm*

      Not at all, you are not being inconsiderate. You don’t know what things are going to be like in a month – a covid relapse, company restructuring. Do as much as you can to help prior to the surgery. This is a one off necessity, not something you are doing every single deadline.

      1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

        Agreed with going forward with the surgery, especially if your current job provides health insurance for the surgery. I completely get feeling obligated to schedule life around work, and I’ve done that earlier in my career. But you also have time now to prep as much as you can, and just respond like it’s such an obvious thing that of course you’re not going to reschedule a surgery for a deadline. I mean, any of you could get really sick right before the deadline, or g-d forbid have a house fire, or any number of things. The best thing you can is treat the surgery like a high -priority (which it is for your family) and prep as much ahead of time as you can. And good luck to your kiddo!

    2. Aster*

      They think you’re being inconsiderate to get your *child* medical treatment? When children grow fast and their medical conditions can change very fast? WTF. I can’t tell you how to convince these ghouls to act like human beings but I can tell you they’re being ridiculous.

      May your kiddo heal up well and completely.

      1. Anon Anon*

        I think it’s because it could be delayed by a month. It’s medically necessary not medically urgent. I understand their frustration, I don’t think they are being ghouls, but I don’t think that they understand (the people who have commented do not have children themselves).

        1. Schnoodle HR*

          There you have it.

          I had a job where my boss didn’t understand why I had to pump multiple times a day and not just pump it all at once.

          Turns out he doesn’t have breasts that make milk so…

          1. AnonInTheCity*

            I hope you asked him why he didn’t just pee all at once in the morning and not pee again all day.

            1. mreasy*

              omg it’s like a Reddit thread where the person’s boss thought they could just “take care of” their whole period at home by like…trying to get it all out at once? Anyways jeez.

            2. I wish I could...*

              I wish I could urinate just once a day and be over and done with it. It would make my life a hell of a lot easier. (I’m diabetic.)

          2. Shenandoah*

            HA, like…. if there was a way to only pump once a day, lactating people would have figured that out. If only.

          3. Observer*

            No. You don’t have to have “X” to understand some of the pragmatics of “X”.

            You don’t need to have kids to understand that “could” and “it’s advisable” as NOT the same thing, especially when it comes to stuff like medically necessary surgery. And you don’t to have kids to understand that this is a time where you really don’t want to push schedules for medically necessary procedures any further out than you NEED to. In fact, you don’t need to have kids to understand when someone says “I know that I could technically push it off for a month, but things can change so fast, especially with kids, that I don’t want to take that chance.”

        2. Aster*

          You are a good hearted and empathetic person. I’m livid at your coworkers on your behalf. :) Just because a surgery *can* be delayed doesn’t mean it’s best for the patient, and all the more so when it’s a child who is suffering.

          Anyway, I absolutely think you are the furthest from inconsiderate. And I send you strength. Having one’s kid have surgery is difficult for the parent too.

          1. Anon Anon*

            Thanks. And I’m not rescheduling the surgery. When I scheduled it, I didn’t think for a moment about how it fit into any deadlines. I took the first available date. However, as this is the first time I’ve run into this issue and this type of reaction I wanted to makes sure that I wasn’t being thoughtless. I was childless for many years, and so I know how it feels when it seems like you’ve been left holding the bag.

            1. Observer*

              This has nothing to do with being left to hold the bag because (theoretical) you are childless. I would expect nothing different if it were your spouse / SO, your parent or someone for whom you are the primary support system.

            2. Pennyworth*

              You are not being thoughtless, and having your co-workers pressuring you to change the date is something you don’t need right now. Could you say to them ‘changing the date is not an option anymore’? – and let them assume that a change is not possible rather that just something you are no longer considering.

        3. un-pleased*

          I have a grand-kiddo about to have necessary-but-not-urgent surgery. A month delay now in the time of COVID could mean catching an illness that moves the surgery from necessary to urgent because you have no real idea in that scenario when it can be rescheduled. Your coworkers need to get over it.

        4. pancakes*

          They don’t need to have children of their own in order to understand that your child’s healthcare shouldn’t revolve around them. They just need to not be absurdly self-regarding.

        5. tangerineRose*

          I don’t have kids, and I think your co-workers are being inconsiderate. Your kid needs surgery – you scheduled it for sooner than later – that seems like the right thing to do.

        6. Jill*

          I don’t have children, your coworkers are being absolute jerks. Medically necessary means as soon as you get a chance. Medically urgent means if this doesn’t happen immediately there will be deadly consequences, I can’t believe it’s even a question for them. My dad was supposed to have his hip replaced March 30th, a revision on one that was completely out of socket; necessary, not urgent. COVID hit and they cancelled 3 days before, he wasn’t able to have the surgery until August 4th. Please do not question your judgement on this for a second! Get him in sooner if you can!

    3. Schnoodle HR*

      No, it’s your co workers that are inconsiderate of another human life, in this case, your child.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Your child needs surgery, so they can deal. Prep as much as you can, work with them to make plans and try not to leave anything hanging, but it’s basically an emergency. Don’t make your kid wait a month for something medically necessary just to satisfy your co-workers. Would they feel the same if you were the one who needed the surgery?

      1. Anon Anon*

        I know one of my co-workers raised a point that they asked a family member of theirs to delay a surgical procedure to accommodate a deadline. I mean that’s fine if they want to do that, but I’m not about to do the same.

        1. Natalie*

          Well, now you know that they don’t need these kinds of details about medical procedures for you or your family. Any future treatments or procedures have to be done when scheduled and can’t be postponed even a day.

          1. Anon Anon*

            I think the mistake that I made was in the lead up to scheduling the surgery that I made a comment to a co-worker that I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.

            1. valentine*

              I made a comment to a co-worker that I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.
              There’s nothing wrong with this.

              Your coworkers are being horrible. Don’t give them details in future and ask your manager not to share your reasons for taking leave. Keep the surgery date. I hope it goes well.

            2. Observer*

              Uh, that is what NORMAL and REASONABLE people generally want!

              Your mistake was not in expressing a very normal thought. The mistake was to assume that you were dealing with a normal, reasonable and decent person. It’s a reasonable mistake. But going forward, know that these are people you cannot share ANYTHING with.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Uh, yeah, that’s a bit much. I understand if we’re talking wart removal vs. sinus surgery, but come on– that’s a choice that should only exist between you and your kid’s doctor.

          I once got seated on a jury right before one of our big yearly projects. I wasn’t about to say to the judge, “Oh yeah, I can’t sit on this jury because I have to create a couple of reports that other people on my team are also capable of doing.” And it was fine.

          If you’re REALLY feeling pressed… outpatient surgery, depending on what it is, may not require your full attention. If your kid just needs you around while they sleep off the anesthesia, then think about whether you can be available for short spurts in the day or for certain tasks that aren’t time-restricted. But don’t feel obligated to offer that!

        3. What's with Today, today?*

          I’m pretty sure my response would be along the lines of “Cool story.”
          *Changes subject*

        4. Lance*

          I very, very dislike that move of theirs, to be honest. Sure, deadlines are deadlines, and work needs to get done… but family and the like should still be able to come first.

          If someone was suddenly gone tomorrow, things would still move on. People would have to manage. Work with them in the interim to make things easier, sure, but don’t follow in those sorts of footsteps.

        5. tangerineRose*

          “one of my co-workers raised a point that they asked a family member of theirs to delay a surgical procedure to accommodate a deadline.”

          This tells me something not so great about the co-worker.

        6. Observer*

          They WHAT?!

          I could just see the agony aunt letter:

          Question:
          I have a condition that needs surgery, but my spouse says that it’s going to interfere with their work schedule. How can I manage my surgery so it doesn’t bother my spouse too much?
          Answer:
          By leaving the idiot. Then he won’t be bothered by your surgery (or anything else about you) and you’ll be free to find people who actually care about you.

    5. Delta Delta*

      I hate your coworkers.

      Your child needs surgery and you need to be there with your child for lots of reasons which would be fun to list for your coworkers so they can see how terrible they are being. What they overlook (other than their abject awfulness) is that you are able to give a head’s up about your absence, and everyone can plan accordingly.

      Don’t reschedule your kid’s surgery.

    6. I'm A Little Teapot*

      What?!? No, you do not delay. You schedule the surgery for when its possible and recommended, and everyone else deals because it’s generally understood that crappy timing happens.

      The wording I’d use for your coworkers is something like “so, in order to not inconvenience you, you’d prefer that I delay my child’s medically necessary surgery, against medical advice, potentially causing additional complications or pain for a child?” Then just stare at them. Because they’re being crappy people. And if they continue it, please talk to the manager and ask that they intervene.

      1. Anon Anon*

        To be honest, I didn’t even ask the surgeon about delaying by a month, so it’s possible that there are no significant risks or complications. It’s just one of those things that with flu season coming up and COVID (especially given that my kiddo is still in diapers and cannot talk), I want to get it done as soon as possible. So I don’t really feel like I can use the against medical advice.

        And I don’t think that my c0-workers are crappy, I just think that they take their jobs very seriously, and because they either haven’t had medical issues of their own of this nature nor do they have children, that they simply can’t relate. To them as it’s not medically urgent, then what is the big deal in delaying the surgery. And the deadline is major and complicated, but as others have noted, it can be planned for.

          1. TechWorker*

            Yeah of all the lies this is one I would have *no* qualms about whatsoever. ‘The surgery has to be this date, it’s not ideal but *shrugs*’. Absolutely none of their business.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          If the surgeon wanted to push it out a month, they would. You’re bending over backwards trying not to feel guilty when you are doing the appropriate thing and YES, your coworkers are being crappy people. I don’t have children. I haven’t had medical issues of my own of this nature. I still get it – your child need surgery, you are said child’s parent, you will be taking some time off to be with the child. What I need to know is: when and for how long, so let’s start planning. Your coworkers have zero excuses here.

          And remember – if you DID delay, there’s an argument that could be made that you were abusing your child because of the delay. So wipe the delay possibility out of your head. The only reason the surgery gets delayed is if the surgeon delays it. Your coworkers need to pull their heads out of their respective a**es and stop being sh*tty people.

          1. Wintergreen*

            +1
            Just because it can be done doesn’t mean its whats best for your child. Your coworkers don’t get a vote in how to handle your child’s medical issues. They are being crappy. Don’t bend yourself into a pretzel to please them and don’t let them feel guilty for doing what is best for your child.

            1. Wintergreen*

              sorry, left out two important words here
              “and don’t them them MAKE YOU feel guilty for doing what is best.”

              (I don’t know what happened, I tried to correct this once and it didn’t appear. Sorry if there is two corrections)

        2. I'm A Little Teapot*

          And the details are none of their business anyway. The conversation goes something like “I know this timing is not great, but child need to have surgery and its been scheduled for x date. I will be taking x-y dates off to take care of child. I’ve got some ideas on how we can handle my absence related to the z project, when do you want to talk about it?”

          Your child is entitled to medical privacy. HIPAA applies to children too.

            1. I'm A Little Teapot*

              True. I should have clarified. Yes, HIPAA doesn’t directly apply, since they’re not medical providers. However, since HIPAA applies to children, it also implies that children have a right to privacy.

        3. Ali G*

          You are giving your coworkers way too much power here. They don’t need to know anything other than your kid needs surgery on this day and these are the days I am taking off. Period. End of conversation, unless the conversation is related to what you are going to get done before your leave starts.

        4. Ranon*

          There’s a pandemic. Literally anything could happen in a month when it comes to accessing medically necessary but non urgent surgery. If circumstances are good where you are to get it done now, you should absolutely get it done now.

          Your coworkers can deal. They may not like it, but they can deal.

        5. cmcinnyc*

          100% of your coworkers have been children. That they are alive today in adult bodies means someone took care of them sufficiently in their youth. But apparently not well enough that they understand certain human basics like “children need care, daily” and “minors can’t escort themselves to and from surgery and fill out the paperwork.”

          Please, PLEASE don’t raise your child to believe that necessary surgery, it’s timing and relevance, is something to be decided by a random group of people that don’t love them and don’t care about anything but their own convenience. You bending over backwards to explain that your coworkers are good people who just don’t think it should be a big deal that YOUR CHILD NEEDS SURGERY is super concerning, frankly.

        6. Esmeralda*

          Nope, your co-workers are crappy. Anyone who takes their job so seriously that they can’t work up a teeny shred of empathy is a crap person.

        7. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

          Your child’s provider has given implicit medical advice to have the surgery on the scheduled date, by doing it now and not later. You can definitely use “against medical advice.”
          Your coworkers may not *be* terrible, but the stress of this deadline is making them *act* terrible. You do not owe them any information, or any explanation at all, even if it feels like you’ve already opened the door by giving them something. If some sort of emergency befell a team member hours before the deadline, they would presumably scramble and get it taken care of, and they can do the same here — but, as was noted upthread, they have the benefit of a heads up.
          I hope all goes well with your child’s procedure!

        8. pancakes*

          The idea that people need to personally experience medical issues or have children in order to understand that they’re out of line in asking a coworker to delay their kid’s surgery is setting the bar really, really low. Too low. There’s a word for people who take their jobs more seriously than anything else in life: Careerists.

        9. VelociraptorAttack*

          Your coworkers are absolutely being terrible people, please don’t excuse this behavior. If your kid is in diapers and can’t talk then either they’re very young or they have other medical needs which kind of exacerbates this. You aren’t taking a week off when your teenager gets their gallbladder removed here.

          1. VelociraptorAttack*

            Which by the way, depending upon a variety of factors, would be FINE. My gallbladder removal was super easy but not everyone’s is.

        10. Mockingjay*

          Your child’s medical needs are none of your coworkers’ business.
          I can’t repeat that enough. If they ask, “no the surgery will not be rescheduled. I am not discussing this.” Here’s what you can say and do [NO APOLOGIES]:

          “I am taking the 15th off. Here’s what I am doing to ensure we meet our deadline: I will complete and submit the widget report by next Tuesday. The parts have been ordered and should be delivered on the 10th; I’ve copied Mabel on the supplier emails so she can follow up if needed.” Etc.

          For goodness’ sake, you’re talking about taking off ONE DAY, maybe two. If that one day impacts the schedule that badly, the company has much bigger problems.

          Wishing a speedy recovery for your child!

        11. Delta Delta*

          Your child is small enough to be in diapers and needs surgery. This really shouldn’t be a conversation anymore. You have a surgery date, the surgery is happening, the team will have to figure out the project for a couple days without you. Are they seriously suggesting a project – which I’m sure is important – is more important than the health of a human baby? I’d ask them this.

          I don’t even have kids and I’m finding them outrageous.

        12. Observer*

          It’s still a medically stupid thing to do. You don’t need a surgeon to tell you that it’s a medically stupid thing to do. So you don’t have to say that “my surgeon told me” but you most definitely CAN say “medically bad idea”, because it is 100% true.

          I just think that they take their jobs very seriously, and because they either haven’t had medical issues of their own of this nature nor do they have children, that they simply can’t relate.

          Nope. You don’t need to have kids or medical problems to understand that when someone says “MY X (child, parent, SO, etc) needs surgery and I’m doing it as soon as possible” you don’t push back on the schedule (unless you’re scheduled to do some lifesaving surgery yourself, that day.) That level of lack of empathy and unwillingness to consider anything but THEIR WORK SCHEDULE as important *is* garbage behavior and tends to indicate a garbage person.

          The fact that your coworker actually asked someone close to them to push off a surgery tells me that this is not about lack of knowledge. And I hope they never have kids.

        13. PollyQ*

          Your co-workers may not be uniformly crappy, but they are very definitely being crappy about this. I’m childless & single, and I’ve faced godawful deadlines, but I would never in a million years try to tell someone that they should move a surgery for themselves or their family just because of the crunch. I’m trying to think of a polite way to say “This is none of your business, and I don’t need to make excuses for the choices I’m making for my child’s health.” Hmm.

          Maybe, “I understand that you’re worried about getting everything done by the deadline, but this is the choice we’ve made for our child’s health. [with an implicit ‘and I’m not going to discuss it further.’] I’ll do everything I can to help up until the time I leave.”

    7. LaDeeDa*

      You are not being inconsiderate, for goodness sake, your child needs surgery. They are being inconsiderate to even think of asking you to reschedule. That is absurd, and don’t do it.

      1. LaDeeDa*

        pardon my manners I was so appalled at your coworkers I forgot to wish your child a speedy and full recovery. Good luck!

    8. Artemesia*

      Why do your co-workers know you could reschedule? I would never let that be known. If I were in your position, I would say ‘we had a lot of trouble getting this surgeon and it was the only time available in his schedule. Billy needs to get this done and this is when it can be done.’ And then stop explaining. Some things are more important than others and your child’s health is one of them. Do what you can do work longer and harder on the project in the lead up — but then take the time you must for the surgery.

      1. Anon Anon*

        I am very friendly with one of my co-workers and so that person was aware that surgery was on the table, and I noted to them that I wanted to get it over with ASAP. So when I told them the surgery date they asked me if I had asked about dates after the deadline, and I admitted that I had not. So some of this is my own fault for sharing more information than necessary.

        1. Mockingjay*

          None of this is your fault. You mentioned a concern about your child in passing and your coworker immediately made it about her. She’s a cow.

          I’m taking a day off next week because my husband is having outpatient surgery. I don’t care what kind of deadline I have at work, I’m not going to have him reschedule for my project’s convenience. There will always be another deadline. I’ve marked the shared calendar, I’ve noted what’s due when and am finishing the last item this afternoon. If something crops up next week, they’ll either wait a day or get someone else to fill in.

          Take care of your child first and foremost. That relationship is infinitely more important than project X with Cow coworker.

        2. Observer*

          No, this is NOT your fault. I mean, sure take a lesson and learn that you cannot share anything with this person. Oh, also that this person is NOT someone you can trust. You might be able to have good lunches and outings with them, and you might even be able to have a good working relationship with them. But never, ever trust them to do the right thing from a human point of view.

        3. PollyQ*

          “Fault” is not the right word. Your co-workers are being crappy, and nothing you did is causing that behavior. However, it is perhaps a lesson learned about sharing personal information at work.

    9. WellRed*

      Your kid needs surgery. Any comment from any coworker other than, “Oh, no, what can I take off your plate?” is totally assholey. Your coworkers suck. Have they always sucked? File this information away.

      1. WellRed*

        Adding: I don’t have kids myself. Please don’t try to excuse your coworkers by lumping child-free folks together as assholes who take their jobs waaaaaay too seriously (you guys aren’t curing cancer or brokering world peace,right?)I.

        1. Anon Anon*

          No to cancer or world peace. We are shorter staffed than I think is appropriate (but we’ve always been that way), and the work we do is critical to the organization. But, the world will not crumble if I take a couple days off for this.

          1. Observer*

            If your department is short staffed, that is not your fault – and it is CERTAINLY not your child’s fault. You don’t consider putting off necessary surgery to accommodate and employer that won’t staff appropriately.

      2. Anon Anon*

        I shouldn’t have been shocked at the response from at least two of my co-workers. Their lives tends to revolve around whatever deadline that we have, and they often reschedule things to accommodate whatever deadline comes up. I know that they definitely think others should do the same as well.

        I will note that my boss had zero issues and was fine, which is the most important thing.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          My boss once made a comment about when I scheduled my own outpatient surgery, something along the lines of, “Oh, I guess you scheduled it for when we don’t have a lot going on, good job.” And I basically had– my doctor had recommended scheduling on a Friday so I would have the weekend to recover– and even THAT rubbed me the wrong way. Because I was miserable and needed this surgery. I didn’t need it right away, but I did need it as soon as my doctor could do it.

        2. Observer*

          There are some things that are OK to reschedule. And there are even some things that are ok to ask someone else to reschedule. But you do NOT EVER ask someone to reschedule a medical procedure. The fact that one coworker has actually asked someone else to to that and you are not the first victim, speaks volumes about this person’s lack of humanity.

    10. kat*

      Let’s say you did delay the surgery- and then the deadline got pushed back?
      What then?
      Schedule the surgery.
      Put your own oxygen mask on first.

      1. Anon Anon*

        “Put your own oxygen mask on first.”

        I like this thinking. The deadline definitely will not be pushed back at all. That is a 100% certainty. But, the world is crazy right now, so I don’t know what everything else will look like.

    11. CatCat*

      No. If your teammates are upset, they are directing their feelings to the wrong place. If there is a shortage of resources for the project deadline, management should be addressing that. Teammates need to use their words to talk to their supervisor if there’s a work problem created here. If management won’t provide the support, well, that’s not on you.

      If they start their bellyaching again, “My time off to attend my child’s medical needs is not up for discussion. Please see Supervisor if you need more resources or support while I am out.” Repeat as necessary. If necessary to repeat, you might want to loop in your boss.

      1. Anon Anon*

        Ultimately, I think the lack of resources is the real issue. Because of the nature of our work we have more on our plate because of the pandemic, and our bottom line has been impacted and we’ve been told that we have to make do the resources that we have. So in general we having to do more with less. So I’m sure even me being out for a few days is adding stress to their plates. However, that is not an issue that I can solve. And it’s good for me to remember that.

        I appreciate getting the feedback and best wishes.

        1. tangerineRose*

          They’re still being terrible. Your kid needs surgery; that’s important. Acting like a deadline is more important than your kid’s health isn’t OK.

    12. Kimmybear*

      Do not reschedule. Having dealt with hospitals too much during COVID, in our region everything is still a bit more tentative than before COVID. Things get moved too often and take a bit more planning and coordination. If it eventually gets moved by the doctor, so be it. Besides, the last few days before a big deliverable deadline should be final tweaks and adjustments and review by leadership, not major overhauls. (I recognize there are exceptions.)

    13. Esmeralda*

      F those co-workers. I’ve worked with people like that (thankfully not many). Is your boss ok giving you the time off? If yes, you’re good.

      Sit down with boss to discuss what you need to do before you are out to help prepare for the big deadline, then share with your team. If it makes sense to do so, you could instead meet with boss and team. If people complain after that, calmly remind them that you have planned X Y and Z. If they continue to complain, refer them to your boss.

      You said it is a few of your coworkers — are these people who are usually complainers and/or shirkers and/or pot-stirrers? If so, all the more reason to ignore them. Is the rest of your team griping about it, or are they being professional and maybe expressing sympathy about your child’s surgery?

      1. Anon Anon*

        Yes, my boss had no issue. My direct reports have no issues. And you would be correct, that the coworkers who are cranky about this situation can be complainers (not shirkers, the opposite really). However, I’m friendly with one of them, and the reaction made me think perhaps I’d been inconsiderate. It’s definitely the first time I’ve run into this situation, and so I think was taken off guard.

        1. Esmeralda*

          It’s very surprising when people act this way, especially people you are friendly with!

          I hope all goes well with your child’s surgery. I hope you’re taking care of yourself, too! Sometimes we are so focused on being strong for others, or being competent and *doing*, that we push our own needs aside. Please come back and let us know how it went and how you are doing.

    14. Uranus Wars*

      I recently took a day off because my SO had surgery (it was a Friday). We had a huge blowup the day before at work and me taking the time off was really, really not great but I was not willing to (or expected to FFS) to ask for the surgery to be moved. Actually, I think I just told people I needed the day to take care of something personal.

      What I did end up doing, though, was working while he was in surgery and recovery and intermittently throughout the day while he slept and between medications and meals.

      For the record I think you should take off and do so without a second thought. But I also sense from your comments you are feeling some guilt. Could this work for you? You would 100% be at limited capacity but is it possible to still contribute leading up to the deadline? And do not use PTO.

      1. Anon Anon*

        It’s one of those things that I’m not going to reschedule, it’s more a case of dealing with my own guilt. My hope is that I can still contribute on the two days that I’m working, however, I don’t want it to be expected that I’ll be working, in case the recovery is more challenging than anticipated and my kiddo needs me.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I think you might be a little shell shocked and not perceiving this correctly (my son needed surgery while still in diapers and I remember downplaying it to myself and feeling guilty for being out of work for a few days and thinking others needs were above mine and my family). Your coworkers are jerks. The only correct response to my baby/toddler needs surgery is “I’m sorry to hear that. Please take what time you need and let me know if I can help out with anything”. Of course you want to get this taken care of and over as soon as possible, that’s normal and the right attitude.

          Please repeat to yourself that your #1 responsibility is to your little one and you aren’t blowing off work to be a field trip chaperone but for a required surgery. If anyone makes a comment give them a truly confused look and say “you want me delay surgery for my baby? Why would you make me feel bad about getting medical care”. Then accept that these people are serious jerks.

    15. Rachel the Admin*

      This actually just happened at my workplace; a coworker’s teenage son has needed a lot of surgery for an ACL tear, and needed another operation last month. Pretty much every communication she sent to *anyone* that day (while she was in the waiting room trying not to worry) was responded to with “how is J? can I take care of this thing you just asked about?”

    16. nm*

      There is no need to delay the surgery. Also, even if it *can* be delayed, your coworkers don’t need to know that, it’s none of their business.
      Continue as planned and remember that they’ve behaved inappropriately and will probably try to cross boundaries in other ways when it’s convenient for them.

    17. RagingADHD*

      Your coworkers are way out of line.

      They want you to delay medical treatment for your child, to suit their convenience?

      They are being horrible. Please ignore them.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Any nice surprises for you this week?

        Or work gear that gives you a boost to use?

        I delivered on a massive work deadline this week and am celebrating by treating myself to a few things. One thing I’ve been needing is a good headset/mike because I do a lot of videoconferencing and work with audio.

        I was disappointed in the fact that everything with the features I wanted was either plain black, cost 3x as much, or looked like a pre-teen boy’s video game setup.

        Then I discovered that you can get skins for everything now! I thought decorative skins were just for phones and laptops. But no, they had some made to fit my new headset – so now I will have a pretty floral experience when I’m working.

        It makes me unaccountably happy.

    18. Clever username goes here*

      A surgery date is a surgery date. If it’s not urgent surgery, there is always the risk of the date being pushed if an emergency case bumps you off the schedule. Stick with the date you were given. If ANY of your (awful) co-workers bring it up, I’d say something like:
      “Surely you don’t mean my child’s health should be jeopardized for the sake of XYZ project?”
      “I appreciate your understanding, but I need to work with the timeline provided by the surgeon.”
      Or if they’re being particularly obtuse:
      “I don’t feel comfortable discussing the health of my minor child at work, thanks for understanding.” And walk away.

      As a parent, I am seething. I hope your kiddo sails through with flying colours, OP.

    19. mreasy*

      Your child’s surgery is more important than anything at work could be, unless the project is performing surgery on children. I have no children and I cannot fathom a world in which I pressured a colleague into putting off a medical procedure for a child to help meet a deadline. That is not normal or okay of them.

    20. Please make it stop*

      I had the first of a two part eye surgery last spring the day before everything closed down. The second part ended up being delayed two months due to Covid and the wait was miserable. I absolutely would not take the chance that your child’s surgery could be delayed indefinitely.

      Also, your coworkers suck.

    21. fhgwhgads*

      Better to be inconsiderate of your coworkers than inconsiderate of your kid. They do not appear to deserve extra kindness from you.
      With medically necessary stuff ALWAYS take the earliest slot they have. You don’t want to push it voluntarily and then have it pushed involuntarily and then become a bigger thing than it was.

    22. eeniemeenie*

      So I’m going to giveYou’re not responsible for other people’s feelings about your child’s surgery. Let them be annoyed and judgmental all they like.

      1. eeniemeenie*

        I pressed something weird and it posted while I was typing! I was going to say, so I’m going to give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt. People are inherently selfish. Maybe they are too overwhelmed and stressed to care about the health of a coworker’s child they’d never met – and I understand where they’re coming from, too. But! You are not responsible for their feelings or if they are feeling overworked and burdened. It’s totally okay for you to be unavailable for a limited time frame because your child is going into surgery (even if it can be rescheduled – there’s never a convenient time for surgery). So let your manager sort out the deadlines etc. Not your job.

    23. Anonosaurus*

      This blows my mind. Not getting at you personally, OP, but what kind of culture has been created where people are suggesting that work is more important than the medical needs of a CHILD?!!! I am genuinely shocked.

      I don’t have any children. Several of my coworkers do. If any of their kids needed surgery I wouldn’t dream of even suggesting it should be scheduled around work. Now, I do agree that we childfree staff sometimes get the short end over things like vacation dates/working hours and I have and will continue to push back on that. But medical treatment for a child? Not in the same çategory.

  9. a question*

    This is definitely a mix of professional and personal life. More a personal issue that my professional coworkers are supportive of. I work for a very laid back, family orientated, friendly company. Part of our job we are given time throughout the year to work on philanthropy and helping the local community. It’s not mandatory but you are in no way penalized either; giving back is encouraged. I am trying to not give too many identifying factors.

    While working on huge community project (project A) I found a group of indirect recipients (project B) that are suffering due to a totally different cause. This situation literally fell in my lap when I stumbled across it. I have tried helping all I can. I feel horrible that I can’t solve the situation. There is a lot of red tape to solve project B. Project B is a very very local issue but is directly affected by current national and international events and various fields. It’s just a mess. I’ve done all I can with rallying the local community, my boss has taken to helping me getting some additional outside resources. Everyone tells me they are so proud of me for doing all this work but at the end of the day project B is not solved. Sadly, I (nor my employer) don’t have the know how, ability or resources to do so.

    I guess I’m also conflicted too personally. Anytime I spend money for myself I sit there and think gosh this could really help project B. For instance my family and I didn’t go on vacation this year due to COVID. We decided to continue saving and upgrade our vacation next year – a better hotel, extending the trip, trying things we normally could not afford. I’ve also been saving for 2 years for a fun but expensive hobby item to buy. I can’t begin to tell you the guilt I am feeling since I am close to booking that future vacation and clicking the buy button.

    I’ve talked to my boss about my feelings. Boss said he loves my passion. It’s ok to help others but it’s also ok to treat yourself. While I’m sure my employer is able to claim some deductions from helping on project B, my boss has taken a personal interest as well. He even started volunteering his own time on project B. The company even allocated additional donations to projects A and B. Boss said he is impressed with all I’ve done on project B and still managed to get all my work done. I know I can’t save the world I just feel like it’s one step forward two steps back; project B recipients are still suffering; I’m being selfish for thinking how to spend money I’ve worked hard to save. Anyone else experience something similar?

    Side note FYI my company and bosses are not solely focused on donating to projects A and B. My coworkers have some amazing community projects they are helping as well. I am not being “favored” with all resources. I have contributed my time and resources to other projects too. For some reason project B just really affected me in a way I never thought could.

    1. ladymacdeath*

      I don’t have a similar situation, but I work in the non-profit sector where burn out and running yourself into the ground for the cause is really common. You have to take care of yourself. Take the vacation. Buy the hobby item. You clearly care so much and are working so hard on this. It is incredibly admirable, but some things can’t be solved with just one person. And it isn’t worth the emotional and physical pain to commit yourself so fully sometimes. There are no awards for suffering over your work. Take care of yourself!

      1. a question*

        Thank you for your kind words. Fun thing is I don’t work for a non profit but one of the reasons I accepted an offer at this company is because they believe in helping the surrounding community. It is my dream job and dream working environment. I will need to learn it is ok to voluneer for a cause and not feel guilty in my personal life. Project B recipients is such a small handful of people that I feel like there should be a reachable solution in a timely manner.

    2. The Rain In Spain*

      It’s wonderful to be passionate about your community work. It’s not selfish to save up for a nicer vacation or spend money on yourself or your family, either. You know you can’t single handedly create a solution for project B (rationally, at least)! You can’t burn yourself out or devote all of your personal resources to the project. Continue working on it as you are able, you are making a difference already and you’re helping to get more resources allocated to the project (which is necessary, because YOU alone can’t fix it all yourself!).

      1. a question*

        Thank you for responding. Yes I guess I am making a difference, I just feel helpless. I’ve always had this personality where if there is a problem, lets find a solution. I know I can’t solve all the problems of the world (I can certainly try!) but doing this on a smaller scale is my way to give back. I am so frustrated not being able to find a solution. I do need to make sure I take care of myself emotionally, something my boss pointed out. I’m just glad I’m working for a company that does encourage philanthropy.

    3. Colette*

      There are always people suffering while we spend money we don’t strictly have to spend. People suffer from hunger, war, natural disasters, and other horrible situations.

      At the same time, it’s OK to do things that will help you recharge and be able to help in the future.

      It’s hard to balance the two, but what you’ve done (raising awareness, getting others involved, etc.) is likely to help more than giving up your vacation money or money on a hobby you enjoy.

      1. a question*

        Thank you for your encouragment. I’ve always volunteered. Even as a child I was taught about giving to others is a wonderful selfless opportunity. I’m fortunate to have a great family, friends and support system. It appears project B recipents don’t. While anyone could end up in Project B’s situation, I most likely won’t due to my lifestyle. I have volunteered for projects similar to Project B, but I guess seeing it on a local level effected me in a way I didn’t think it would.

    4. Artemesia*

      Need is an unfillable hole. You could live in a shack and give all and still hardly make a dent. Do what you can throughout your life — that doesn’t mean you can’t also do nice things. I understand your impulse though. We couldn’t travel this year and had to bag a long planned trip to Europe with our grandchild. That meant we had a lump of unspent money. We used it to upgrade out kitchen by installing an induction cooktop and I have used the other half of it to finish up 10 projects for teachers in our community on Donorschoose.org and have been giving small amounts to key political races all over the country — house and senate races that seem winnable with resources.

      1. a question*

        I love how you treated yourself and helped others too! It is difficult. As I said in other comments Project B’s recipients is only a handful of people. We could scrape together the (somehow) the money needed to get the ball rolling, but with all the red tape “handing” the money over might cause more harm than good in the long run. Like I said It’s A Mess. I just feel helpless but everyone’s comments have been encouraging with time, resources and personal issues.

      2. a question*

        I love how you treated yourself and supported other causes you believe in. I just feel so helpless. We could easily scrape together some funds to get the ball rolling to solve Project B, but with all the red tape’s stipulations, the funds might do more harm than good in the long run. I think the “easily scrape together some funds” is where I am feeling guilty spending personal funds. I do plan to try to save for the hobby purchase and upgraded vacation it’s just gives me a greedy feeling. Everyone’s support and encouragement has made me realize that at least I am bringing some notice to an important cause.

    5. valentine*

      You assigned yourself not just B, but solving it. Can that be done in your lifetime? Who has the power and resources? Neither you nor your employer. There must be a group or groups working with the affected people toward benchmarks on the way to a solution. Perhaps you could volunteer with them. But I think you need to dial this way back and perhaps put your efforts elsewhere because you’re so close that it’s possibly hindering you. You might delve into the source of your guilt and remove yourself from B until you can detach and stop feeling you should give anything you can.

      1. a question*

        I totally agree with what you are saying. Project A used to encompass Project B. A still helps B but A got so big that they refocused their efforts. No one seems to have picked up Project B; it got lost in the shuffle. I am frustrated that Project B’s recipients is a handful of people. I feel like it should be able to be solved but as you said it’s not a one person job. To answer your question, can it be solved in my lifetime… on a local community level, yes it can! I honestly don’t think it should take more than a few years. Just there is a lot of red tape to the situation. Finding a solution to get to the finish line without harming the little aid that Project B recipients get (and depend on) is the challenge

        1. Reba*

          Yes, I got that “assigned yourself” vibe too. You are doing good by working on B. You are not personally responsible for solving Project B. You can help as much as you can reasonably help; depriving yourself or treating yourself doesn’t really bear on B. Try to focus on what good you are doing with B, not guilt for what remains undone!

          1. a question*

            Thank you! It’s a handful of people effected by Project B. I started working on this thinking with such a small group of recipients this would something easy to solve with some efforts. I misjudged.

    6. Lizy*

      That’s hard. I’m sorry.

      You have to have stuff/things/time for yourself. Think of it this way – you simply can’t help if you’re stretched too thin, regardless of if it’s money or time or resources. You will be a better help to them if you disconnect even just a little and take care of yourself.

      Just because people are struggling doesn’t mean you don’t deserve your hobby item or vacation! Buy it and take it, and enjoy them both.

    7. Veronica*

      I set aside a certain percent of my income and my time to volunteer or donate each year. Then when I see a need or get asked for money I don’t feel as bad saying no because I have a budget that I’m already spending on this type of need. Have a time and money budget is also helpful because it makes me sit down and think about where am I spending my resources.

      1. a question*

        that’s a great idea! This started as a work project but spilled over into my personal time.

      2. MissGirl*

        I really agree with this. Set an amount of time and money each week you’re able and willing to do without losing yourself or burning out. Then when the guilt starts to creep in, simply say to yourself, “that’s not in my budget.”

      3. Cedrus Libani*

        Having a budget is lovely. It’s like having boundaries, but for money. Yeah, I know that I could give everything away, down to my last dollar, and still there would be people who need that last dollar more than I do. That can’t be my standard. I have to decide what I’m willing to give – somewhere between nothing and everything.

        I personally have been inspired by the Effective Altruism concept of tithing. That’s the 10% of your income which historically would go to the church. An ordinary human can spare 10% of their income for the general improvement of society. It’s non-trivial, but not a crushing burden either. I’ve been ticking up at 1% per year (am at 6%) because I’m a coward who would like to buy a house, but I’m still doing more than is “normal”.

        1. Veronica*

          I also started doing this for my time because I felt like I wasn’t engaged in my community enough. I started mentoring at my local community college which is a low monthly time commitment. One benefit of keeping track of my time is I realize I volunteer my time for a lot of things that are of a benefit to me, like repairing buildings at the summer camp my kids attend, and not enough on things that are not a direct benefit to me.

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          Yes, I came here to say this too! There’s a post by Scott Alexander (slatestarcodex) that talks about how it’s easy to feel like you owe an “infinite debt” to a person, or a cause, or whatever, and to go into a guilt spiral about not doing enough, but setting a limit like that makes it manageable to do something tangible without burning out on it.

          1. a question*

            that’s exactly how I feel! I feel like even setting smaller goals is taking forever to accomplish all while I’m enjoying summer nights out and fun shopping.

    8. Mill Miker*

      If it helps at all, it sounds like you’re already doing more for project B than almost anyone else. More than your fair share anyway. That’s anything but selfish.

      1. a question*

        Thank you. I just hate seeing someone suffer when I know I can do something about it. I’m not curing (for instance) cancer. I’m trying to help a group of people that no matter how many times this cause has knocked them down, they still have hope that Project B will have a solution. I just want them to know that our little community is there for them. They don’t have to struggle through things alone. This only affects a handful of people in our community.

    9. Anono-me*

      When someone is suffering, being ‘seen’ is a powerful gift.

      Yes, I am sure that the first preference of the people in group B would be to have their actual problems resolved; but don’t underestimate the value of you as an outsider validating and acknowledging the suckyness of a situation.

    10. Web Crawler*

      I just wanted to say that I feel this- I’ve burned myself out too many times while trying to solve the world’s problems. One thing that’s been helping me is therapy- it’s nice to have another person who can help me figure out boundaries and how to volunteer without giving everything I have.

    11. JustMePatrick*

      Take care of your self. Don’t beat you’re self up because you can’t find the solution to B. If anything taking a few days off to get your mind off “work” may very well help you to find the solution you’re looking for. Refreshed mind, fresh ideas.

  10. LGC*

    …I have ALL the issues!

    Main one is that I’m actually advocating for a couple of employees (we’ll call them Michelle and Wakeen). I talked to my direct boss Lucinda about them, and she agrees that they’re both ready to move up.

    The problem is that we can’t give them formal promotions right now (not because of Miss Rona, because we lost a major contract). I do want to start delegating some things to them and preparing them (and in fact I’ve done a bit), but I don’t want to take advantage of them. Any advice?

    1. LGC*

      Extra info: Michelle and Wakeen are individual contributors with little management experience (so like they do need management coaching), and I’m a mid-level supervisor (with little mentoring experience). I do worry about coming off like I’m playing favorites.

    2. Rachel in NYC*

      Could you talk to them? Let them know that you and L have discussed that the ultimate plan is to move them up but right now the company isn’t in the position to do that. However, you want to make sure when the company is ready that M and W are ready- and if they are okay with that you would start delegating and training them on some things now.

      I would imagining doing that would require some of their current workload would need to be done by someone else so before you go to them, I’d have a plan for that- as well as a solid plan with L about when M and W will move up (as long as they are successful with this work). So this doesn’t become a promise that never happens.

      1. LGC*

        I’ve talked a bit to them! The problem is that the company is a bit weird about promotions (that is, I don’t know if they would set a timeline or make guarantees).

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      I would avoid giving them the impression that they will eventually be promoted, unless it’s something over which you have total control. I mean, don’t tell them they WON’T be promoted, but don’t say “we’re going to make this happen when we can.” It can be disheartening to hear the whole “jam tomorrow” thing.

      Do you know for a fact that Michelle and Wakeen WANT a promotion? Would a promotion in their case be to a position that requires new skills (e.g., moving into a management role)? If that’s the case, it might be a more complicated issue than just promoting them as a reward for good work. It might be good to sit down with each of them and have a career development chat to find out what their goals are. If it seems like they’d be interested in the next step you have in mind, you can discuss what has to happen for that to be possible. Let them know what THEY need to do to make it happen, and then let them know the other deciding factors (e.g., “promoting anyone in our department will require approval from HR and room in the budget”). If there are gaps in their experience or knowledge that it would be helpful to fill before they are promoted, now is a good time to do that. I would say that training, especially, is a good thing to do now: it’s something that isn’t asking them to take on more work without a corresponding bump in pay or title, but is helping them develop professionally so they can be ready for a new role when a new role is ready for them. If giving them certain assignments/projects is something that will be helpful to prepare them, make sure you keep an eye on their overall workload and maybe offload less-advanced tasks to other people to free them up.

      1. LGC*

        (I was going to reply yesterday afternoon, but my phone refreshed itself. I am now downloading ad-blocking software because this is ridiculous.)

        So, to answer your first question: Michelle explicitly expressed interest in supervising – first, to my other boss Jane and Lucinda, and then to me. Wakeen hasn’t expressed as direct interest in taking a supervisory role, but he has been interested in project management – and in my company, that’s part of the supervisory role. (It doesn’t seem like he’s opposed to supervising, just that his interests are primarily project management.)

        You’re right that I should do more training, although I’m not sure if I can do it myself. And I’m not sure if I could get my company to go in on it, although I’m trying!

    4. CC*

      I’ve found transparency to be best. Something like, “I think you’re great, and I’d like to give you the opportunity to take on more responsibility. I could see you moving into X role, but it’s not possible right now due to [[reasons]], and I can’t promise anything at this point. But there are still ways for you to gain experience that will help you grow into X role/help you grow in your career. I was hoping to be able to have you take on a few new projects like [[managing an intern or contractor/managing a bigger budget than they have in the past/whatever makes sense in your context]]. How would you feel about that?”

      Then listen to what they say! Chances are they’ll be excited to dip their toes in. And really, before you promote someone it’s always good to give them a few stretch projects like what they’d have in their new role, but with you more heavily involved/playing a bigger coaching role. It gives them a safe space to learn when the stakes are lower.

      If they’re really resistant — like “I’m not doing that until I have the title and salary to match” — well, I’d have real questions about their judgement and expectations about how promotions work. But you can also frame it as “this is a way for you to demonstrate to [[company]] that you’re ready to step in to the new role,” or “this will really help both of us get a feel of whether the new role would be the right fit — so you’re set up to succeed.”

      1. Chaordic One*

        I wouldn’t worry about them being resistant, but certainly disappointed. This might be the time for you, LGC, to acknowledge that you’re not in a position to offer them that next step up right now, and since you’re not you should seriously consider supporting them by telling them that if they feel the need to move on to that step elsewhere, you’ll be happy to be be a good reference for them if they feel the need to try for greener pastures. Then be that good reference if called upon.

  11. Please just give me raise, I don't want a giftcard*

    TDLR: How would you feel about your company mailing you little gifts periodically? What if they were not always equally distributed, ie, parents got gifts when non-parents didn’t? Salaries tend to be just below market rate and benefits, working conditions, etc. are good.

    Long version: I’ve volunteered to be on the new “Fun Committee” for my org, thinking that its goal was planning virtual events and activities while we all work from home. We’ve had our first couple of meetings and while events and parties are a major part of the committee, everyone is really interested in sending out periodic care packages. For example, with school starting again, they want to give parents a coffee mug and gift card or something similar. This is not the only example of singling out various group to send care packages to.
    This sets off my “ick” alarm because:
    – Could be seen as preferential treatment
    – Would it be well received? I would appreciate the thought but wonder why my org was wasting money giving me a mug when I really want either cash or recognition for my work, not my life circumstances
    – A much as I love and support the USPS, the shipping costs of sending out candy, mugs, etc. makes me feel like its a poor investment overall

    But I am the only one on the committee to feel this way. We tend to be a very “we’re a family!” type org so they see it as being supportive of our coworkers.
    (I should say that the org has handled COVID beautifully and as far as I know, everyone who has needed “real” support has gotten it, such as schedule flexibility and time off. It’s a good place to work and no one feels cheated by our compensation, but we are slightly below market level. I should also say that I’m a chronic stick-in-the-mud.)

    1. topscallop*

      I wouldn’t love it if I found out parents were getting gifts and non-parents weren’t. Especially because at my company, the parents tend to be more senior employees who are making more money than the non-parents, who are younger. I also would not want a coffee mug. A gift card to uber eats or something of that nature, offered to everyone, would be a nice gesture.

      This may not be relevant for your company, but mine is just starting to come around on making WFH more comfortable for people by allowing them to get reimbursed for a monitor and mouse, or get them from our office (when we shut down the office, most people only took home their laptops). We have a wellness program that previously gave steep discounts on gym memberships and placed fresh fruit in the office kitchen every day – obviously these are now not happening, so they’re exploring whether that $ can go toward office chairs for WFH. Maybe there’s something like that you could explore?

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        And this goes to show that you really can’t win. I try to steer clear of many of the restaurant delivery aggregators because they mean the restaurant gets less money from my order, and many of them treat their employees (or “contractors” who should be classified as employees) terribly. Instead I try to order directly from restaurants whenever possible. Not sure if uber eats is among the bad ones in terms of fees to the restaurant, but I would be kind of irritated to get a gift card to them. Uber in general is not a company I want to support – see the recent kerfuffle in California over classification of employees.

        Some people would object to Amazon gift cards on similar grounds. Cash is best.

        1. topscallop*

          LOL it doesn’t have to be Uber Eats specifically – it was an example of something that most people have access to. I suppose if you wanted to do restaurant gift cards you could offer them to a local restaurant group. But then you run the risk that some people can’t eat at those places due to dietary restrictions or religious reasons or whatever, or they just don’t like that type of food. Cash is easiest, for sure. I got a “spot bonus” once and the company gave it to me on a Visa giftcard. Which may have some fees associated too, I’m not sure.

        2. Nesprin*

          Eh, If its cash, it gets subsumed into my household budget. If its a gift card for something as easy/ubiquitious as uber eats, I don’t have to make dinner one night. I’d infinitely prefer the latter as otherwise that 50$ is going towards standard expenses.

    2. Not for Me!*

      Money. Benefits. Time off. Yes to all three. Mug…meh. Gift card…maybe (but I’m picky – don’t give me Starbucks, I don’t drink coffee). For cost of mug + gift card + shipping, just email EVERYONE a link to a loaded gift card for “COVID supplies.” I’m kind of a stick-in-the mud, too, and it would annoy me to no end that a company who doesn’t pay market wages would spend money to ship me some crap I don’t want.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Why are parents getting gifts and non-parents aren’t? I could sort of understand if parents got different gifts from non-parents (but even that’s opening up a can of worms), but non-parents getting no gifts? Why?

      For example, with school starting again, they want to give parents a coffee mug and gift card or something similar. This is not the only example of singling out various group to send care packages to.

      Is there anything special about coffee mugs and gift cards that would be useless to a non-parent?

      – Could be seen as preferential treatment

      Yes. It is preferential treatment and disgusting.

      – Would it be well received? I would appreciate the thought but wonder why my org was wasting money giving me a mug when I really want either cash or recognition for my work, not my life circumstances

      I would hope not, if it’s gifts for some employees and not for others.

      Cash is better. Pay people better. Stop with the gift cards.

      – A much as I love and support the USPS, the shipping costs of sending out candy, mugs, etc. makes me feel like its a poor investment overall

      I agree.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yeah, it would be one thing if what the parents were getting were actual useful benefits like discounts on childcare. But… a mug? What makes parents more in need of a mug than other employees?

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ll let others deal with the actual questions here, but I am 99% sure no one in the working world wants another mug. The only exception might be if there’s something incredibly, unusually awesome about it (which would mean tailored specifically to them, which doesn’t sound like it would be the case here). But generally, no one wants another mug.

      1. Emilitron*

        Especially not while I’m working from home! At my workplace we have a culture of using vendor-freebie mugs that show off what subfield your specialty is in, it’s actually kind of fun in a broad llama grooming meeting to be able to identify your llama-hooves expert by their mug. So having a selection of mugs to choose which I take to one meeting vs another is one of my private entertainments. But in my HOUSE? no.

      2. WellRed*

        I can’t fit another mug in my mug cupboard! But I guess that don’t matter because only parents get mugs. Because mugs somehow help with back to school. /s

        1. SarahKay*

          I smash my unwanted freebie mugs and use them to line the bottom of plant pots to help with drainage. Mug handles, in pairs, are also useful for putting under plant pots to raise them up slightly from the saucer/base.
          Smashing a mug is also remarkably satisfying if I’m having a bad day. Of course, since I’m not a parent I won’t get a mug to smash to remove the irritation of not getting a mug….

        2. MacGillicuddy*

          All the freebie mugs in my cupboard are from companies that no longer exist. My family refers to each one as “ Memorial Mug”.
          One mug in particular no longer has the logo – it wore off rather quickly. That particular company ALWAYS did everything on the cheap (including salaries) so it wasn’t a surprise that they went to some fly-by-night printers to get the mugs made. That one is called “The Cheapo Mug”.

      1. CTT*

        aaaaand I accidentally hit enter before I could get the rest of my thought out. Either do something like a small gift card pick-me-up for everyone, an actual monetary benefit, or don’t do it at all. Stuff is okay occasionally (I still have a blanket I got from work almost 10 years ago) but the cost of mailing it will leave people thinking “if they’re willing to spend that much money, I would have rather gotten a check.”

    5. AndersonDarling*

      Yeah, sending out items to just parents or sending different items to parents and non-parents is icky. It is showing that parenting is all the company sees of them. And it is especially problematic is only moms are receiving gifts while dads are not, that will lay the foundation for discrimination claims if any other fishy things go on.
      As far as spending money on gifts instead of raises…these things are budgeted differently. The gifts are used to keep employee engagement up while a raise only comes once a year. It’s really two different things.
      Honestly, I’d be happy receiving a gift box with office supplies like sticky notes, notepads, pens, and maybe a silly paperweight or cozy socks. I have SO MANY coffee mugs and sports bottles.

      1. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

        Even though they are budgeted differently, I don’t think that changes the reaction from employees. I work in a profession that has an Appreciation Week, and my org always sends out some kind of gift (recently, mugs!) during Profession Appreciation Week. Maybe some appreciate the gesture, but I hear from many more who don’t. Even if they understand about the budgeting, they would rather the time and energy that went into choosing the mugs or flugelhorns or whatever would instead go into figuring out how the budget can be fixed to address our very real, very known, oft-discussed-but-never-addressed salary issues. The feeling is, how much do you really appreciate us if you don’t allocate time and resources all year in figuring out how to truly support us?
        So, I think the answer to your question might lie in whether your organization does a good job overall of supporting staff. That impacts whether the gifts come off as nice or tone-deaf. (But all staff, all at the same time, unless there’s a special project being recognized. I, parent, emphatically DO NOT want to get something non-parents are getting. My spouse can get me Parent’s Day gifts.)

          1. Jaid*

            LOL! The only things they gave out were pencils and stickers, even then. It was just an excuse to have a cookout and play silly games.

            Anyway, I’m good. Besides, I use a big ass Thermos at work since I avoid the breakroom and a thermal carafe/Chinese teacup at home.

    6. Elliott*

      It would bother me if I found out that some people were receiving gifts and others weren’t. I also wonder how the committee would avoid leaving someone out by mistake, since not everyone shares as much personal information at work.

      As for getting small gifts in general, I don’t mind the idea in theory, but I think my feelings would be influenced by how well the workplace was handling things overall, and how good a job they were doing at supporting employees in more meaningful ways.

    7. Artemesia*

      I can see providing funds for parents specifically to help upgrade home office for kids learning from home i.e. very home school specific, but parents have no more need for a mug than non parents.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        Nope. If you upgrade the home offices, do it for all. Someone could just as easily point up there are numerous resources for kids getting online/getting assistance, etc. and non parents/adults don’t have access to those resources.

    8. Ann Perkins*

      An alternative suggestion you can bring to the group: rather than doing gifts based on group, make it seasonal and send to everyone. Send fall scented candles as fall approaches, hot chocolate sets for winter, flower seeds for spring, stuff like that so that nobody gets left out. Of course food and consumables are always good. Then if someone is going through an individual circumstance that they feel warrants a care package like a childbirth or family death they could send flowers or meal gift cards or something like that.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t agree food and consumables are always good coming from an employer. I’d much rather have a larger paycheck, even if only by a few dollars per year, than corny seasonal gifts.

    9. Cabin in the Woods*

      I agree with your concerns about preferential treatment and also just being a waste of money. I don’t like receiving tchotchkes from work. It feels like lip service and only adds to the junk in my house. I agree with another commenter than gift cards for everyone would be a good alternative if the group really wants to focus on giving a gift rather than providing some other kind of support.

    10. Riley*

      I would be annoyed if parents got a gift and non-parents didn’t. Especially when the gift is something everyone can use — it doesn’t make sense why some people are excluded.

      Also, I wouldn’t want a mug. Everyone already has one and it’s kind of a waste of money. I know people above mentioned avoiding specific kinds of gift cards but someone will be picky no matter what you get. A good generic option is a SkipTheDishes or Postmates virtual gift card, then anyone who has an objection to using it can opt out. I think most people would be happy to get a $50 dinner on their company.

    11. sarah grace*

      It makes me out of step with what commenters generally say here, but as long as you aren’t pausing bonuses / promotions / etc., I don’t see anything wrong with sending out Visa giftcards or mugs to everyone. Like is it going to thrill all of the recipients? Probably not. But is it going to offend anyone? No. Not in the real world, outside of this website. It’s lovely to say oh, give people money / time off / benefits / etc., but that’s almost certainly outside of the scope of your committee and also, a totally different thing to consider.

      I mean, it WILL offend people if you only do it to parents. But if you send everyone a gift card (and I would recommend the Visa giftcards, which are super easy to find and easier to use) literally the only people who will complain about it are people who would complain anyway.

      1. Rachel the Admin*

        Agreed – our new CEO just did the “small anything gift cards for everyone” thing. It just makes more sense.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not that a mug will offend anyone — it’s that if you genuinely want to do something thoughtful that people will enjoy, there are better choices. If you want to send something a lot of people will toss, go with a mug. But that’s not their intent, presumably. (Clearly I am very anti-mug today — and all days — but it’s just a thoughtless, generic gift that few people will actively appreciate, when they want to do something morale-boosting.)

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          I agree, but also: is there literally anything (in the $10/pp range) that would actually feel thoughtful to, say, at least 40% of the people receiving it? I can’t think of anything, including a $10 check.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Probably not! Which is maybe a reason not to do it — if your budget won’t produce the effect you want, it makes sense to change the plan.

    12. ...*

      Honestly it wouldn’t bother me at all unless it was like an extra paycheck or something. I may give it a passing thought but ultimately, who cares? Like you gave a parent an extra cup or something? Non issue for me

    13. Reality Biting*

      I agree with others here about the parent vs. non-parent issue. However you mentioned “This is not the only example of singling out various group to send care packages to.” So it sounds like it’s already an established pattern. I’m curious to know how it’s been received before.

      1. JustaTech*

        I just found out yesterday from an offhand comment by someone in the “fun” committee that some departments have been sending care packages (and mine has not), and while that’s kind of annoying I filed it away in the “different departments have different budgets”.

        But singling out groups to get stuff (even if it’s not stuff they necessarily want or can use) based on non-work characteristics? Yeah, not cool.

    14. Oxford Comma*

      If morale is decent, then something sent to all the employees would be fine. I personally do not need any more mugs or stickers or low grade swag. A gift card would be nice.

      But if I found out my employer was only sending something to parents and not to all employees, I would be annoyed and it would be an annoyance that would stick with me for years.

    15. Oh No She Di'int*

      I know this wasn’t your main question, but I’ve never understood the whole “I’d rather have a raise instead of a pizza party” gripe. Do people really think that? It seems like 3 nanoseconds of calculation would tell you that those aren’t equivalent things. I personally don’t hold it against a company that they might not have an extra tens of thousands (or millions) of dollars to commit themselves to raising everyone’s salaries (a commitment that would be ongoing indefinitely into the future), but may have an extra 200 bucks lying around and would like to do something nice for people with it. How do people see those as interchangeable? Do people really not know how corporate finances work?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think you only see that getting said when people already feel underpaid, overworked, and/or under-supported. In that context, it feels like “if you genuinely care, there are more important places to put your energy, but you’re not doing that … and do you really think throwing $200 at pizza will address the morale deficits of these significant issues?”

        And frankly, no, usually companies don’t think pizza will address the other things; they just think it’s a nice thing to do, which it is. But against that backdrop, it can rankle.

        1. Lora*

          THIS.

          Especially when the people in question are very capable of doing the math to realize that their 80 hour workweek is translating into 2X revenue…but their raise is still 2.5%.

          From a corporate finance perspective – the employees putting in 70-80 hour workweeks at Site A may not realize that the revenue is needed to finance a renovation/upgrade of a dangerously decrepit facility at Site B, or because management is planning an acquisition, or because the hedge funds based on South American money markets aren’t doing so hot, etc. and this is what a large international corporation does: use a high performing asset to offset the risks and costs of the lower performing assets as a stopgap measure to avoid site closures, mass layoffs etc. There may very literally not BE money for raises, after all the liabilities of a low performing asset are paid out, but it still sucks to be the person putting in 80 hour work weeks and the only thanks you get is two pieces of pizza and a lukewarm soda.

          Which is why you should never feel bad for an instant about quitting a job that sucks or not being able to put in extraordinary effort in exchange for nothing very much. If the high-performing asset only produced 110% instead of 130%, the corporate masters will just figure out another way to bail out the asset that is only producing 80%. Yelling at people to work harder in exchange for pizza is just a sort of easy-lazy way to try to get that extra few %.

          To OP’s point, anyway: my employer sent me a big gift box of junk food (candies, chips, pretzels, stuff like that) to support everyone through these troubling times or however you want to call it. Probably spent $50/employee. I don’t eat junk food, so gave it to a friend, who gave it to her kids, because she doesn’t do junk food either. I honestly didn’t notice that I hadn’t received one until my boss asked if I received it, and I replied I just assumed they forgot me. “No, you should have gotten one!” OK, well. He was very fussed that I got the dumb box of junk food which I wasn’t going to eat.

          I guess I would rather have had the $50, if that’s the budget. What we really NEEDED was a better VPN system so all the people working from home weren’t locked out of the server all the time because of the crummy cheap security app they wanted us to use. For the $700,000 -$800,000 they probably spent on gift boxes of junk food, they could have bought a decent enterprise VPN.

          1. I don't want a mug (op but I'm not scrolling up to see what I named myself this morning)*

            Yes! If I had my say, the ~$300 that might go out toward sending our small staff Halloween candy this October would go toward a letter folding machine, or some similar thing to improve office life (despite all of us working from home for the foreseeable future). Its not that I think $300 will make a dent in the “give everyone a raise” fund, its that I can hate this way of spending it and would rather they skipped it/saved it up for something actually helpful.

        2. Oh No She Di'int*

          Yeah, this clarifies it. In some ways I guess I’ve always been lucky to have worked in places where the working conditions were at least decent if not fabulous. In those contexts, when you get a pizza party [or whatever other minor perk] it never occurs to anyone what they would have rather had; it’s just another nice thing that happened at work. At least that’s been my experience. But I can see how a different context could evoke a completely different reaction.

    16. Justme, the OG*

      I would hate this. As a parent, I don’t really want a coffee mug and gift card. Just support and better pay.

    17. ThinMint*

      I was part of a fun committee. For our annual winter party, they spent $50 at the dollar store and wrapped up all the gifts and then we did a white elephant exchange. It was the biggest waste of money ever and we all just went home with crap none of us wanted. Blerg.

      I wouldn’t want to be mailed gifts periodically. Those add up and I’d always think about the other items we could have used that money on.

    18. Veronica*

      If you really want to do something for parents, send them school supplies tailored to their schools supply lists. Or better yet, set up a request so people can get resupplies of all the items they are running low on like pens, paper, sticky notes.

    19. ExcelJedi*

      No. No. No.

      It would be a bad enough idea if you were sending out school themed things for parents only (lunchboxes or first day of school photo props? I don’t know what parents would actually want), but I’d be pissed if I heard that parents were getting coffee mugs and starbucks gift cards when I wasn’t, since I AM a coffee drinker. It’s not even about the physcial thing (I have too many mugs already! I’d be just as annoyed to get it!), it’s about feeling forgotten or left out.

      You’re not supporting your team or collaboration when you do things for only a portion of them with no business-related reason for partitioning them.

    20. Absurda*

      The only way singling out one group for a gift would be appropriate was if they were rotating groups. So, maybe one group gets gifts this quarter but the other group gets similar gifts next quarter. At the end of the year everyone should have received equal gifts.

      The sad reality is that in many large organizations (like where I work) managers and directors simply don’t have any control over raises, bonuses, benefits, etc. It’s up to the very highest levels if raises or bonuses are available and if they decide not, then lower level managers’ hands are tied. They may, though, have a budget for gifts, team activities, company swag, etc. So that’s really all they have to work with. Am Ex or Visa gift cards tend to go over well.

    21. PollyQ*

      no one feels cheated by our compensation

      I would not bet on that. Maybe most people are OK with it, but I can pretty much guarantee that there are some people who are unhappy with it. I can definitely guarantee that almost everyone would be happy to be making more.

      Giving gifts only to parents is both preferential, and thus likely leave non-parents a little miffed, and also probably not something parents will be that impressed by. Does anyone need another mug in their life right now? And it sounds like the GC would be more of a token amount than something that would really affect their quality of life.

      IDK if you can convince your colleagues, but I would scrap this entire plan, and use the savings to either improve everyone’s work conditions, email everyone a gift card, or put the money towards salaries or bonuses.

    22. Partly Cloudy*

      All else aside, there are likely to be tax implications of these gifts, so either the employees will have to pay taxes on tchotchkes they didn’t want in the first place or the company would need to gross them up, thereby increasing the cost of this project. And creating extra work for payroll. So if you do decide to go with gifts, PLEASE loop in your payroll peeps BEFORE doing anything so you can fully understand the impact from a nuts-and-bolts perspective of taxes and administration.

      Yes, de minimis gifts are tax exempt, but the IRS has a pretty specific definition of “de minimis” and it’s not always what people think it is.

      Having said all that, I’d rather spend an hour at the end of the day playing virtual bingo with my teammates than get a mug. For example.

    23. Please just give me raise, I don't want a giftcard*

      Thanks everyone! I’m feeling extremely validated. I’ll do what I can to slow this down and get the gifts to be universal and virtually distributed (I don’t think there’s any chance of them being given up completely). Cross your fingers for me!

      1. Please just give me raise, I don't want a giftcard*

        Oh, and the answer the extremely valid question of “why parents?”:
        Virtual learning, I guess? Im not a parent but we have just under 50 people and are a very social org, so everyone knows everybody and many parents have expressed how challenging it is to work from home and manage their kids home schooling. And it does sound challenging! I would not want to be in their shoes. But I agree with everyone that a coffee gift card won’t actually help and not giving the gift to everyone would be super weird.

    24. Animal worker*

      I haven’t had time to read the already 50 comments, but I can share an experience I had with an “Employee incentive and motivation committee” I chaired years ago. We got funding for a program we called Random Acts of Kindness. Basically four times a year we did something (generally food related) for the staff. Two of these were for the staff that happened to be working that day, so kind of luck of the draw if you were there for it (we are in an industry that works 7 days/week so many with weekday days off). These were things like donuts or ice cream brought around to all the areas. The other two were intentionally for everyone, working or not, and were more coupon oriented – pizza gift card, pack of ‘treat coupons’ for at the zoo (icee, ice cream, soda, etc.). This way everyone got some, and the ones that everyone didn’t get were still fairly distributed to all working that day. I think if something were sent to only some staff and not others it would have had a reverse impact on morale.

    25. Anax*

      If your org is really insistent on giving gifts – My team did this last year, and delegated managers to select a small gift (~ $10) for each of their subordinates. Each manager normally has 2-3 subordinates, so that meant there were a lot of inside jokes and gifts which were actually appreciated – coffee for the coffee junkie, a funny costume wig for the Halloween fanatic, etc.

      I thought that was a better way to handle things than impersonal mugs and t-shirts, and everyone seemed pretty happy; we were actually having an “appreciation day” for our many remote team-members, since even in 2019, we were split across several national offices.

    26. Dancing Otter*

      It was nice when the company arranged for a birthday cake AT the office, so people would see it and say, “Happy birthday, Otter.” (Not sure how that would work now.) Flowers after surgery were sweet, but unless your employees are a sickly lot, probably not widely applicable.
      Bringing in dinner when the team had to work late, kind of standard, right?
      December holiday package shipped to my home? Nice thought, but….
      Random junk during the year? Please don’t bother. I don’t want to have to pretend to be grateful.
      Based on non-work characteristics such as parenthood? Steam coming out my ears!!!

      All else aside, what would they do for parents who have lost a child? Pretend the child never existed, and upset the grieving parents? Include them anyway, and remind them of their loss? Talk about d@@ned if you do and d@@ned if you don’t.

  12. Secret Agent*

    Recommendations from the crowd about how to start an *anonymous* salary survey via a Google Sheet, or similar, and disseminate it to the entire company without being traced? I don’t want to be “found out”, but I think it’s important for me to try to organize my coworkers.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think a rando who doesn’t work at Google can find out what personal (non G-Suite) Gmail account created a particular Google Form, but if you want to be extra safe, create another Gmail account that isn’t yours, and use that new account to create the Google Form.

    2. Sled Dog Mama*

      Also you could use good old fashioned paper to hand out the details to access the sheet, printout some business card sized slips and hand a few to the people you know would be interested/participate and have them hand them to people they know, only rule don’t tell who you got the info from or who you gave it to.

    3. Rachel the Admin*

      The AFL-CIO has extraordinary resources around this. And your employer could get into serious legal trouble over union-busting.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Try a survey tool like surveymonkey or qualtrics.
      The surveys are anonymous, but you’d still have to have a way to get the link out to all the employees.

  13. Jellyfish*

    Any practical suggestions on dealing with impostor syndrome? Alison has posted on it before, but I always go back to the question where a woman kept claiming impostor syndrome when she really just sucked at her job. Maybe my coworkers are all objectively better and smarter than me, and that’s okay, but it’d be nice to go to work without this constant mental barrage telling me that I’ll never succeed and everyone secretly despises me.

    If I could get out of my own head, it would be better for everyone. I’d be more confident and better at both innovating and performing my usual tasks well. I’m just not sure how to actually do that.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Is there someone relatively objective you can talk to about it? Not a co-worker but someone who still works at your workplace? Or a professional contact (not friend) who works in a similar industry but not at your workplace?

      I think in general (obviously woman kept claiming impostor syndrome when she really just sucked at her job is an exception) most people who have imposter syndrome are actually better than they think, and most people who think they’re amazing are actually showing the Dunning-Kruger effect.

      That said, how does your actual manager evaluate your performance? What do your performance reviews say?

      1. Jellyfish*

        My last performance review was quite good, which is why I’m pretty sure this is impostor syndrome rather than me being completely terrible.
        My boss is largely hands off. It’s nice in some ways, and I have a lot of freedom and flexibility. That also makes me inclined to freak out if I try something new though, as I don’t get much feedback unless I actively seek it out.

    2. Amy Sly*

      Start documenting your procedures and institutional knowledge. One, it’s probably never been done for your role, or if it has, the documentation is years out of date. Two, the act of pulling all that together and getting it down will demonstrate to yourself how much you do actually know about what you are doing.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Love this, and it has the bonus of being a really tangible thing you can point to when it comes time to ask for a raise.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Yep.

          And if it turns out that you do have important gaps in your knowledge, they will turn into “known unknowns” that you can find the answers to. You can then ask about them as “I’m trying to clarify this so my documentation is accurate” instead of having the embarrassment of asking “Can you tell me about something I’m supposed to know already?”

      2. Jellyfish*

        That’s a good idea! I’m the first person to ever have this specific position, although there are similar ones in the organization, so I don’t have a pre-established model to follow.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      Maybe start by identifying one or two things you do well. Give yourself full credit, and give some thought to how you can build on that foundation. In my first management job, I was sure my whole team hated me and could see that I didn’t know what I was doing, but I also knew that I’m a good listener. I spent time with each person and heard their concerns. Over time, I learned the things I needed to know and was able to build trust with my team. They knew that I wasn’t a genius, but they also knew I’d give them my best efforts.

    4. Nessun*

      What helped me was an open conversation with a more senior level colleague who I greatly respect. I don’t know if you have that kind of relationship with a role model or mentor at work, but talking openly about my fears (and discussing my wishes to improve both my attitude and my skills) was very good for me. My mentor even admitted she sometimes feels the same, and could share time she’s made a mistake and how she handled it with our boss, to help me realize its not just me, these feelings can strike us all at times. I felt much better knowing everyone can experience that self-doubt, even someone I greatly respect. It also helped to discuss strategies to address mistakes and own good work.

    5. Chronic Overthinker*

      Jellyfish, I am in the same boat, especially if I make mistakes. Usually what I do to boost my confidence is list my accomplishments for the past week or two. Did you get praise from the boss on something? Did you finish work ahead of a deadline? Did you send out a successful fax or create something that the boss or co-workers liked? Pat yourself on the back for the small stuff and realize that every day is different and comes with it’s own challenges. Also, try to reach out to your supervisor and talk with them as an informal 1 on 1. They can usually confirm or deny issues you may or may not have! Good luck and keep your chin up!

    6. buzzbuzzbeepbeep*

      I find it helps to sit down and think about what you feel you are actually good at. Then try to identify times where someone else has acknowledged that you are good at these things too. This exercise helps to put things in perspective and realize that if other people see it, you are not imagining your abilities. Also think about times others have acknowledged your work in areas you don’t feel as confident. Was what they said about your performance in line with what you felt you accomplished, even if you struggled with it? Then think about if you have received negative feedback (not what you think was negative, like “so and so said I should use red and she knows I hate red so she is mad at me” but actual “you have to stop doing this” or “you messed up” feedback). Do you get feedback a lot? Do you have to change the way you would have handled a project or task due to this feedback? If you are consistently being told different ways to do things then perhaps your idea of how things should be done is not lining up with the reality (or you work for a company that keeps changing it’s mind … ugh!).

    7. Emilitron*

      Wow, that sounds really hard.
      I think of Imposter Syndrome as being something that everyone experiences, but you’ve just shown me that everyone experiences it differently. If you asked if I often feel Imposter Syndrome at work, I’d say yes, but I don’t know if I could handle a “constant mental barrage telling me that I’ll never succeed and everyone secretly despises me.” That is really tough, and sounds like something you’d benefit from really focusing on, and getting some help with. I hate being the internet person who says “go talk to a therapist!” because I know that’s not for everybody, but I bet it would be really beneficial to you if you could.
      Everyone experiences self-doubt! Everyone worries that they’re not doing as well as their bosses expect! But not everyone is dealing with it as a constant barrage of self-insults. I think the message that everyone experiences imposter syndrome is important, because it encourages people to recognize their self-doubt as a universal condition rather than a true indicator of failing – but I wouldn’t want that message to turn into normalization of really negative feelings as you seem to have.

      1. Jellyfish*

        I recently started seeing a therapist for a different issue, so I will bring this up with them. Thanks!

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      For me, something that helps is putting myself into situations where I have an opportunity to get a better idea of what other people know. I remember a number of years back, a colleague and I were trying to put together a resource guide on, let’s say, what kinds of teapots are made in various countries, so that folks making international-style teapots in our organization could find the info they needed to make them correctly. We found out our local professional association was holding a round table on international teapots, so we went to it, thinking, “we know so little about this vast field! Surely everyone else there will be experts, and we’ll learn a ton from them.” Much to our surprise, we found out that actually, the level of information we’d been able to find on international teapots was significantly more than most of the people there, and we’d done more to organize and document what we’d found!

      I think as much of imposter syndrome is due to overestimating others, as it is to underestimating ourselves.

    9. Arvolin*

      That “constant mental barrage” sounds very like depression to me. Please go to a doctor or therapist and get checked out. A lot of depression can be treated nowadays, with drugs and cognitive therapy, and if you do have it you will be far happier once it’s dealt with.

    10. MissDisplaced*

      Two of the strangest things about the workplace are Imposter Syndrome and Gaslighting and whether or not you are actually experiencing this for real, or is it your own insecurities. Of course with Gaslighting, the whole point is to make someone feel their reality does not match what has actually happened (through lies or denials or manipulation). With Imposter Syndrome, you kind of do that to yourself. And Gaslighting someone may cause Imposter Syndrome.

      It’s normal to feel some level of Imposter Syndrome, especially at a new job, new duties or the like. But a constant mental barrage is not as normal. You have to accept that you really ‘can’t do it all’ or ‘be the expert at everything’ and that your coworkers may be better at some things and worse at others compared to you.
      I hate to jump on the see a therapist bandwagon (because therapy isn’t a magic cure all), but if you’re experiencing this to such a degree it’s damaging, it might be the time to do so. If not a therapist, a work or career coach might also help with some of it.

    11. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

      Close your eyes and try to figure out whose voice you’re really hearing…it might be a hypercritical parent or teacher. Then once you know, start saying, “Shut up, Mom!” when you find yourself plagued by doubt. If this doesn’t apply to you, feel free to ignore…but my imposter voice was absolutely a parent.

    12. Jaded*

      Oof. This is something I can really relate to, but I don’t know how helpful I can be because the things that got me out of it did so indirectly. First off, getting a new job where I was a lot happier, and a ton of changes in my personal life that also made me much happier. Plus antidepressants, and (on the worst days) I have some anti anxiety meds that are simply amazing. I still have imposter syndrome, but I don’t have the constant mental barrage any more. I hope you too can find a way out of it.

  14. Amber Rose*

    Usually when I come to work I’m SO fatigued. Like, getting out of bed in the morning is just awful every time, and I get home wiped out. On Wednesday night I barely slept at all due to some health issues, so I was pretty tired yesterday morning, but I wasn’t feeling the fatigue like usual. I got up, ate some breakfast, did work. Took my lunch break at the gym, then went back and ate carrots as a snack while finishing up the new work that came in. I was just 100% in a better mood.

    The difference was that I was working from home yesterday.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that my fatigue is all mental, and it’s all coming from the misery inherent in having to be in this office all day. I don’t feel stressed about working, or having to be up at a certain time to work. I just don’t like being HERE, physically here, in this building.

    But my job mostly can’t be done from home. I got special permission for yesterday because I had some stuff going on, but today I’m playing catch-up on the bits I couldn’t do.

    Has anyone else been having any success with finding WFH jobs? There should be more of them these days, right? Think I could do quality/compliance type work from home?

    1. Cabin in the Woods*

      What industry are you in? There are several good job boards out there that advertise only remote jobs. In the meant time, can you talk to your boss about working from home as part of your normal schedule? Even just 1 or 2 days per week?

    2. RagingADHD*

      Check out The Mom Project. It’s not just for moms. There are lots of remote opportunities in different fields.

    3. Zephy*

      It sounds like your main problem is with the physical space in which you work. Are you allowed to jazz it up at all? Like could you get a small plant for your workspace, or put up photos or something on the walls? Can you get office supplies in your favorite color? Could you turn the overhead lights off and use a lamp for some warmer, gentler lighting?

      My department’s offices are all interior rooms with fluorescent lighting, so the only windows we have just look out into another room or the hallway, and we’ve all done at least one or two of these things to make our little dungeon-boxes a bit less dreary. I got to borrow an upstairs office space one day–for one day, over a year ago, and I still think about it–when they were replacing the carpet in ours, and just having that natural light and a window to see trees outside made such an incredible difference in my overall mood.

    4. A Building Nerd*

      Look into Sick Building Syndrome. If the HVAC system in your office isn’t functioning correctly, you could be re-breathing air with too much CO2 and pollutants which has side effects for mental function and mood. Other things mentioned by Zephy like lack of natural light, general dungeon-y vibes definitely impact mood but I wouldn’t rule out a physical IAQ problem.

      Since you’re the kind of person who goes to the gym on their lunch break and eats carrot sticks, you could be extra sensitive to changes in physical functioning compared to coworkers.

      1. Fresh air*

        Industrial ventilation issues are definitely a thing! In my almost 20 years of professional experience, I’ve worked everywhere from a home office to a brand newly constructed state of the art office, to regular offices in middle aged buildings. I never could figure out why I felt so drained at the end of the day with a combination of dry skin, limp & flat hair and overall just gross when I’d done nothing but sit at a desk when working from corporate offices. Then when my colleague literally broke the window lock so we could have fresh air, I realized it’s the HVAC. Many of them use ions to cleanse but they can also zap energy. I never feel that zapped working from home or when I worked in an office based in someone else’s home. The fresh air is now absolutely essential, especially in COVID times.

    5. librarienne*

      I recently looked into environmental design for a project and was really surprised by what I found. It might be helpful to think about what exactly about the building is stressful to you. In my research I found that different types of design/layouts are more or less stimulating. Open-plan layouts are actually *less* stimulating because you can see everything, whereas “segmented layouts,” with separate walls and doors, are *more* stimulating because if you hear noises, etc, you have to think about what possibly could be happening elsewhere. That type of cognitive activity (wondering what is happening that you can’t see) is more stimulating. There are a lot of other stressors too that happen in design. So if it’s not something about the job, but about the actual *building* it might be useful to pinpoint it so you can maybe try to adjust it as much as possible, or ensure that the next job you have fits with your needs.

      Of course, when you’re burnt out, stressors that didn’t bother you before are going to stress you out– if we were not in a pandemic, if all our mental health was 100% etc we probably could deal with more, but when our energy/gumption is already low, tiny things can make a big difference.

  15. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Would like some input on if to say something, and if so, how. I’m an individual contributor reporting to a newish to the company manager, call him Peter. He is not a new manager, and supposedly has extensive experience in the field. He started in late March, so hasn’t met the team in person due to covid remote work. I’m seriously questioning his competence/mental health. We’re auditors. Examples:

    -Had a meeting with Vivian, who’s known to be highly competent, doesn’t like beating around the bush, and easy to work with if you are also competent. Vivian had asked us to look into something that has been a problem. We did, and yes it’s a problem but not the way she thought. It’s me and Peter on the call with Vivian, I’m talking her through what we found, showing her some data, etc. She’s satisfied and quite pleased. I move into next steps and specifically ask Peter to chime in on some timing. He then spends 5 minutes monologuing about what I already said and never addresses the timing question. Vivian is nice about it, but clearly annoyed.

    -Another meeting with Chris who’s known to be a smartass and not a fan of auditors. This is a risk assessment meeting, so asking open ended questions. Chris talks for a couple minutes answering a question, Peter then doesn’t respond. At all. To the point that Chris starts talking to the other person on the line who’s just there to take notes. (Could be explained by technical issues, but the connection during the meeting otherwise was fine)

    -Same meeting, Chris is talking about a “multi year big dollar project”, and Peter responds with “so is this ongoing or is it completely wrapped up”.

    -Peter is working with Ryan on an audit. Ryan did the planning, Peter reviewed and approved it, it’s in fieldwork. Now Peter is asking Ryan all sorts of questions that should be part of planning – 2 weeks late. And not just one or 2, but there were at least 10 detailed questions (I saw the email) that all were/should have been addressed in planning.

    These are just some examples. However, literally every interaction between Peter and anyone else that I’ve seen or have knowledge of is similar. I’m really wondering if the guy is ok, mentally. I know he has a couple of young kids, though they’re back in day care. Regardless, this sort of thing is causing problems for the wider team. I can’t rely on him to do what is literally his job, timely and well. He is annoying clients, he is damaging relationships, and he’s not encouraging people to trust the department to be competent because he’s clearly not. So, do I say something to someone higher up? If so, what?

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      Do not be like “is he okay mentally.” Focus on everything else, the problems he’s causing for your work with his responses or non responses. It would not be appropriate for you to bring his mental health into this based on your summaries. Don’t underestimate the power of an incompetent man in the workplace that everyone has silently agreed to work around or just accept and carry the workload (see ‘missing stair’ syndrome).

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        That makes sense, thanks. And missing stairs is a concept I’m very familiar with. We have some of that happening, though since our big boss just left I think the chances of repairing those missing stairs went way up.

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          Do you have any regular project check ins? That could be the best place to raise this, so it’s not like We Are Meeting About Peter Who Is Terrible but more like We Are Meeting About My Project Which Is Going Well Except for Peter Who Is a Terrible Obstacle

          1. I'm A Little Teapot*

            Yes, but not with Peter’s boss. I could easily go to Peter’s boss, I used to report to him directly, but don’t have regular meetings with him now

            And really, Peter isn’t causing major problems for me. I’m experienced and good, I can (and am) working around Peter. I just shouldn’t have to.

            1. Friday afternoon fever*

              No, you shouldn’t! I also missed initially that you’re reporting to Peter now, is that right? Soooooo sorry to hear that. Peter’s boss is probably the best person to approach. It will help to have goals in mind — do you want Peter off your project? Do you want someone else to replace him on your project? Do you want to report to someone else? And then go to your old boss, Peter’s new boss, and be like “this is a big problem for me that I don’t know how to solve. He is annoying clients, he is damaging relationships, and he’s not encouraging people to trust the department to be competent. [If this creates extra work for you or delays your projects, say that!] How would you approach this? It’s really untenable for me. SOS.”

            2. Observer*

              No, you shouldn’t have to work around the guy.

              Talk to your grandboss. It’s impacting you directly, and it’s having a significant impact on other aspects of the business.

      2. Baffled Teacher*

        This doesn’t sound like mental illness, it just sounds like someone who’s terrible at his job

    2. Super Duper Anon*

      Yes, please say something to their boss. You don’t need to bring the mental health aspect into it, but just how they are causing problems. I had a coworker like this in a previous job, not new to the industry and plenty of experience. But she could not handle very simple aspects of her job that we thought she should be able to and we eventually all actively had to take her work on and work around her. I had some candid talks with my boss when she asked for my opinion (and she also could see the problems as well) and eventually she was let go.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      This strikes me as a person who is multi-tasking on phone calls instead of listening. I think that making a leap to “something is mentally wrong with them” is going way overboard. Instead, they are probably looking at emails, distracted by kids, reading or looking at something else etc while on calls instead of paying attention. It is a hard one to fix if someone is senior and you don’t have a long relationship with them.

      1. Absurda*

        This is what I was thinking as well. Since these are all over the phone, unless it’s video conf., it’s impossible to tell if he’s paying attention or even listening at all. I wouldn’t speculate about this mental health just based on the examples you provided.

    4. Workerbee*

      Multitasking or just plain not listening in the first place, or retaining what has been said.

      My boss is like this and will claim he has no knowledge of anything.

    5. Uranus Wars*

      I would express your concerns to someone higher up.

      If he started with the company post-WFH he may also not be getting the support he needs to get up to speed; especially if this isn’t normally a WFH position or he has never done it before. It’s hard to lead a new team in general, let alone remote when you’ve never met them.

      This doesn’t excuse the monologue at all, but some of the other behavior might be things he would have picked up on in an office. And he could be stressed and uncertain and acting in ways he normal wouldn’t without having just changed jobs in the middle of a pandemic.

      Or he could just be incompetent himself and a conversation with someone higher up would reveal that too. I agree, though, focus on his work, not his mental stability.

    6. Grey Coder*

      Peter is bad at his job. A few jobs ago, I was in a similar situation — company had hired (say) Paul as a very senior person to advise on all aspects of our llama care service. Paul had had impressive sounding roles in relevant llama related enterprises, but (crucially) none of the hands-on llama care staff were involved in the interview process. It turned out that Paul was not actually knowledgeable or competent at any of the pragmatics of llama care. He was maybe an okay generic project manager, but he had been hired as a llama super expert.

      After Paul was given a couple of very specific tasks related to improvements to our llama services and failed at them, the senior folks realised what was going on. Paul saw the writing on the wall, and (I was told) handed in his resignation when he was pulled in for his first PIP meeting.

      Raise this with Peter’s boss, and sooner rather than later. Do not cover up for Peter or work around him. Let his failures be failures and let them be his alone.

    7. Observer*

      Why are you even going into this guy’s mental health? Or the fact that he’s a parent? There is absolutely nothing here that points to a mental health issue or that the issue is that he’s a parent. Of course there could be issues in either area, but there is absolutely nothing in what you describe to even hint at it.

      Which is to say that if you are genuinely concerned about the work, as you should be then just talk to whoever is in charge of your department, and tell them about the issues. Give them these (and similar) examples and explain the impacts. And then let them do what they need to do. Do NOT even HINT at anything about his mental health or family status.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        I think OP mentioned the children being back in daycare as a “rule out” on distractions from having to work and watch them at the same time.

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

      I’m not going to comment about whether he is “ok mentally” as such, but what I see here is someone greatly out of their depth and unable to keep up, for whatever reason. I’ve seen this numerous times in workplaces, the causes I can think of (without comment as to your particular manager) included: “over-egging” a resume and being recruited for a job they weren’t qualified for; mental health issues of various kinds; severe personal life issues that weren’t really mental health ‘conditions’ as such but did have an impact on their emotional wellbeing; alcoholism eventually requiring in-patient treatment; a ‘diet plan’ (or whatever you want to call it) that involved fasting and resulting in the person being light-headed, dizzy and ‘spaced out’ (All different people!)

      In your position I would gather concrete examples of things he’s done (or not done, as the case may be) leaving out any judgements or assumption of causes, just note things like the impact on the team/client etc and ultimately have a chat with his boss (assuming you can’t address it with him directly or have already tried). You didn’t mention HR but I don’t think going to them will be very helpful in the first instance.

  16. nep*

    I’ve moved on from this and am working on another application as we speak, but I’d like to hear people’s thoughts. A friend/colleague who knows I’m looking for work in our shared field recommended me for a consultancy she can’t take on as she’s now working full time. It would a bit of a stretch as I don’t have as extensive a background in the work as she, but we both thought it was worth a shot. She emailed the HR person, CCing me, just saying, there you go–you two can take it from here.
    My initial thought was that I would wait to hear from the HR person. My colleague emailed me later saying ‘feel free to reach out to her with your CV.’ I took that to mean to go ahead and do so before hearing from the HR person. That felt odd to me and I was on the fence about whether to do so. Finally–almost inexplicably–I did send a note and my resume. As an HR person, would you have seen that as off-putting? To hear from the candidate ‘unsolicited’ like that? Or is either way OK–and in the end it’s trivial and all that matters is what I have to offer?
    Thanks for any thoughts, insights.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I think the ball was in your court to send the email with your resume. You’ve done that, now the ball is in her court.

    2. LaDeeDa*

      Since your friend made the introduction I would expect the next step to come from you. I would expect that the next thing I got would be your introducing yourself with a copy of your CV.

    3. AnonQ*

      I’m not in HR, but I am a freelancer, so I’ve encountered this before. The other permutation is that your professional friend Wakeen says, “Hey, AnonQ, I can’t do this gig, but here’s the info, give them a call.” In both cases, I’d definitely take the initiative.

      Since you have an email from your friend/colleague (let’s call her Jane), I’d just reply to that email (take Jane OFF the email!) and say something like, “As Jane indicated, I have a great deal of experience in llama grooming, and would love to schedule time to speak with you about this opportunity. I’ve attached my resume…… [the usual cover-letter type stuff].

      If it’s the other situation, and your colleague did not email the HR person, I’d just change the wording a bit to let the HR person know where I got their contact info. “Jane Hilbersham let me know that you have an opening for a llama groomer….”

      But in either case, do Jane a solid and take her out of the loop. Email her separately to say you contacted them, thanks for the lead, yay-I-got-the-gig, etc.

    4. AnonQ*

      Move from nesting problem below.

      I’m not in HR, but I am a freelancer, so I’ve encountered this before. The other permutation is that your professional friend Wakeen says, “Hey, AnonQ, I can’t do this gig, but here’s the info, give them a call.” In both cases, I’d definitely take the initiative.

      Since you have an email from your friend/colleague (let’s call her Jane), I’d just reply to that email (take Jane OFF the email!) and say something like, “As Jane indicated, I have a great deal of experience in llama grooming, and would love to schedule time to speak with you about this opportunity. I’ve attached my resume…… [the usual cover-letter type stuff].

      If it’s the other situation, and your colleague did not email the HR person, I’d just change the wording a bit to let the HR person know where I got their contact info. “Jane Hilbersham let me know that you have an opening for a llama groomer….”

      But in either case, do Jane a solid and take her out of the loop. Email her separately to say you contacted them, thanks for the lead, yay-I-got-the-gig, etc.

      1. nep*

        Good points. Thanks.
        I did an entirely separate email to the HR person–of course, having thanked my friend/colleague for the lead earlier.
        In the end, I do think it was a stretch as I’m missing some qualifications–but definitely wanted to put myself out there given that they did ask her to recommend anyone since she’s booked.
        Appreciate your insights.

    5. Working Hypothesis*

      If your friend made the intro and said “you two can take it from there,” then it’s totally appropriate and expected for you to take the next step by giving them your CV and whatever other particulars are necessary. They were probably expecting it. It’s more than fine; it would’ve been a little weird — though not really a problem — to wait to be explicitly asked for them.

  17. topscallop*

    My husband just got turned down for the only job he’s gotten an interview for, in quarantine times. He quit his much-hated old job in late December and we moved for my job in January, to a lower COL area. He has taken courses and studied for a career switch since we moved and is looking for jobs in front-end development. Any tips/recommendations for breaking into the field? He has tons of CRM experience, knows JavaScript and some other coding languages, and has designed his own app that he uses as a portfolio to show potential employers what he can do. I see lots of computer programming jobs on LinkedIn and forward the ones for entry level that seem relevant, plus the course he just finished has him applying for or at least connecting with 25 job leads/week, which seems to me to be the best way to find something. But are there other options we’re not thinking of? He looked at coding bootcamps but balked at the cost when he already knows a lot of what they cover.

    I can support us on my salary alone, but he’s really struggling with boredom and the feeling that he’s not contributing enough. I’m also going on maternity leave in about 6 weeks. We’ll be okay financially, but without two incomes, we’re going to have to stay another year in the apartment we’re renting, when we’d really rather buy a house. Which is fine, just not what we were hoping for. I also don’t know if we should be looking at daycare for when I return to work, because if he doesn’t have a job by then, he’ll be the primary caregiver, but if he does have a job, we’re going to need to find child care, and from what I’ve heard, you need to find a place months in advance (though maybe not with COVID? Ugh I don’t know).

    Sorry, that turned into a ramble! Just looking for advice for a career change into coding during a pandemic, I guess, without formal education in the subject area.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Is he a college grad? Has he looked into networking with his alumni association, or seen what his alma mater offers for services? Even if he graduated years ago, many university career centers offer all sorts of advice, networking, etc.

      1. topscallop*

        Yes, he has a BA from a university in the US and a master’s degree from a university in the UK. That’s a good tip, I’ll suggest it, thanks!

    2. Picard*

      Cant help you with the job stuff, but I would look for daycare. You can always cancel it (and someone will be delighted if you do as it will open up a last minute spot for someone else) but trying to find somehting last minute is a bit of a crap shoot.

      1. Natalie*

        Yeah, if you’re due in 6 weeks and don’t have daycare lined up definitely start looking now! In my area most people get their daycare nailed down about midway through their pregnancy. It may have settled down a bit, but for a while COVID was making it *harder* to find infant spots. They needed to divert caregivers to the toddler and preschool groups to allow for distancing, and caregivers are out more often due to possible exposures.

        1. topscallop*

          Ok, you lit a fire under me! I reached out to one place a few months ago and they said they did have availability, I just need to actually call and talk to someone.

      2. VelociraptorAttack*

        Agreed 100% with this. When I was pregnant, I was due in September and when I started calling about daycares in April, some places actually laughed. One place literally had a waiting list of 2 years. The only way we were able to get in at the type of place we wanted was because they were building another building and able to expand. We just sent some friends over to check them out, they have an infant waiting list until July of next year.

        My kid is two and about to move out of the “infants” room at daycare but I’m fairly certain I’m still on at least 3 infant childcare wait lists.

        Rules tend to be a lot stricter in terms of caregiver:child ratios with infants , which is great but it can make care very very very hard to find.

        1. Jackalope*

          How do you even….. I mean, some people plan babies out that far, but you can’t even know for sure if you’ll get pregnant or when. How can you get on a waiting list for infant child care 2 years before he infant is born???

          1. MsNotMrs*

            In my experience, it’s mostly the parents who are anticipating having a second or third child.

    3. Jimming*

      He needs to go to virtual coding meetup groups and get to know people in the field in your area. He also needs an active GitHub presence. Unless that app is really amazing he needs more than 1 project in his portfolio – maybe contribute to an open-source project. Good luck!

      1. irene adler*

        Yes!

        And look for professional organizations that have a chapter local to you area. They may have networking events, and mentoring and may have job leads or know who is hiring.

      2. topscallop*

        Thanks, this is great advice. I know he has an active GitHub presence but I don’t think he’s been doing virtual meetups or open-source projects.

      3. T. Boone Pickens*

        Yup, totally agree on finding a group that meets and talks shop whether that’s .Net, Ruby, Azure, etc. He’ll be able to keep current on new trends and more often than not, recruiters will often attend/sponsor them.

    4. LDF*

      A reputable boot camp will help with getting him an internship or full time job. Not all bootcamps are reputable though.

      1. LDF*

        This is a little vague so to clarify I mean they will literally help him, not that the bootcamp will be a resume booster. Good ones have industry connections.

        1. Artemesia*

          Really critical to research the bootcamp. A few years ago they were a real ticket and I now a couple of people who transformed their lives and careers with one. But they have faded out and many have closed. I’d want to know real evidence of their ability to connect you with work.

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            One place to check if a bootcamp is potentially worth considering is the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR). Basically, they validate that their member schools are accurately reporting their results. They also provide a list of member schools, and outcome reports for those schools.

            Their website is https://cirr.org/

    5. Jill*

      Virtual/Online schools need a lot of help in that area right now, but I don’t know what kind of qualifications they’d require!

    6. Anax*

      If he’s specifically invested in front-end development – I remember hearing a lot about Node.js, REST API, Ajax, Ruby, and SQL/NoSQL on that side lately. This will vary by region, but might be a place to brush up.

      If he’s mostly self-taught, I would STRONGLY recommend brushing up on formal terminology. It’s super easy, speaking from experience, to sound silly at an interview because you know best practices and procedures… but you forgot the formal term and have to call it a “selecty-thingy.” Argh.

      Generally in coding – Entry-level software development jobs are just hard to find! In my experience, most openings want 3-5 years of experience, and the few entry-level slots often get snapped up by people with 2-3 years of experience who are looking for a second job. He can keep playing the numbers game – lots of applications, eventually one will get in – try to network his way into a job, or make a really impressive GitHub, but this first position is likely to be the toughest to find, in my experience. To make matters worse, it seems like a lot of places are reluctant to hire in IT during Q4, and even more reluctant during COVID; we’re not direct money-makers, so IT is a common place to cut costs. Jobhunting may take a bit.

      1. Anax*

        … bad phrasing. People with 2-3 years of experience who are looking for THEIR second job – e.g., to move on from the first, often because they’re burned out.

  18. MissGirl*

    My company puts on a super awesome industry renowned conference. Of course, it’s going entirely online this year. I have a hard time staying engaged in long online meetings. My attention doesn’t hold past ten minutes unless I’m interacting as part of it.

    What tips do you have to getting the most out of a conference that’s online?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Take lots of notes. Even stuff you already know. Down to the level of meeting minutes if you have to. That will keep your brain and hands engaged and occupied. Write down questions and meta-observations too.

    2. Leap Day Highway*

      Things I tried to various degrees of success during a recent online conference:
      Sit in a different spot in your house (if you are working from home) or office
      Engage in the chat (if there is one)
      Take detailed notes
      Color or do mindless chores while listening

      One thing I should have done but did not do: pretend that you are physically at the conference! Clear your schedule, put up your out-of-office message, only check your email during breaks, etc. Just because you are not physically at the conference doesn’t mean you should be doing your normal job too!

      1. Bostonian*

        That last one is huge! I did a week-long virtual conference earlier this year, and since I had to participate via Zoom, I was literally on my work computer the whole time. It was really hard to not respond to emails in the moment (or even between sessions, which can make it easy to miss a session you had planned on attending).

        I also took copious notes and screen shots to stay engaged.

      2. AnonQ*

        +1 on the “Engage in chat.” I sincerely hope that the sessions have chat and are not just talking heads with a Q&A afterwards. I do a lot of online teaching. Not exactly the same, I know, but I actively encourage chat as a way to engage the audience. It will help the speaker and you both–as a presenter, it’s HARD to just talk into a void. An open chat shouldn’t be just for Q&A. There should be room for you to connect with others by sharing your own experience (“I’ve have tons of customers who like blue teapots!”), even make some lighthearted comments. (“This report shows where our most profitable teapot customers are, but you can use our application for just about anything.” “Like showing which Walmart has toilet paper in stock?”)

    3. Rachel in NYC*

      Or if you have a hobby that can be monotonous (and it isn’t obvious that you are doing it) so you can listen actively and it will keep you engaged?

      I have this problem even at in person conferences when it’s just really not related to my day to day job- but I knit. So I’ll bring a really basic knitting project that I don’t need to look at. It keeps me engaged in what is going on- and I get a hat when I’m done. (I’ve seen other people mention doing the same thing now with long zoom conference calls.)

      1. rageismycaffeine*

        YES. I play puzzle games (2048 is a current favorite). It keeps me occupied and not bored, and lets me listen.

      2. AnonoDoc*

        In the before-times, knitters and hook-ers would congregate in the back rows at medical conferences.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      Will it be recorded so you can watch segments at your leisure? I have a favorite conference that I wasn’t able to go to a few times and they record then post all their speaker’s talks online. It’s great physically being at the conference, but I like the virtual conference almost as much because I don’t have to pick which break out session to go to if there are many great ones at the same time. And I can quit a session that wasn’t what I was expecting instead of being trapped in a crowded conference room. I’ll watch a few sessions, then come back when I think of a topic I want to learn more about.

    5. asleep at the disco*

      Pacing in front of the computer helps me a lot. I keep moving, my mind stays focused.

    6. Oxford Comma*

      My biggest problem with my online conference was that I had other tasks going on. I was answering email, clicking away from presentations, etc. By the end of the conference, I realized I needed to treat it like I was there in person. I blocked off time. No email. No multi-tasking. Just dealt with conference activities even if it was just for a portion of the day.

      Also, I second everyone else who recommended taking notes on paper. In general, I find that helps me focus and retain information.

      And schedule breaks to get up and stretch, eat, and so on.

    7. Hillary*

      if you have space and both a laptop and a tv, it can help to put the conference on your tv. moving into the living room is different enough for me that it triggers a different kind of work focus.

      I stand up when I need to focus on something virtual, or I do handwork. Lately I’ve been doing english paper piecing, which involves shaping small pieces of fabric around cardstock forms and then sewing them together.

    8. MissGirl*

      Thanks, everyone. There’s a lot of good ideas here. Unfortunately, I can’t turn work off completely but maybe I can identify the sessions I’m the most interested in and block those out. I also like the ideas of having it on my TV and doing some light activities while listening.

  19. Vested Benefits + Corp bankruptcy*

    A colleague was fully vested at her job, & the company went bankrupt & closed. She was given none of her promised benefits. Any recommendations on tracking down things after the fact? I’m assuming profit-sharing doesn’t happening when there are not enough profits to remain open, but what about retirement & other “protected” funds?

    She has called the Dept of Labor, which told her they have no info for her. She’s been working at this for some time; I offered to ask here for info or suggestions.

    1. WellRed*

      She needs professional advice, probably from a lawyer. Others here will have more knowledge of this, but with bankruptcy she’s probably way down the list of creditors to be paid. I don’t know how things like protected funds work in relation to a bankruptcy, but Enron comes to mind. It sounds like the company no longer exists? Or are they reorganizing?

    2. Reba*

      She needs more information about what type of bankruptcy (sounds like Chapter 7 but she needs the details about what the company was ordered to do).

      She should contact the financial firm(s) administering her retirement and other benefits. In general they are protected by the ERISA law. If she can’t find out about her accounts, or she thinks things were not deposited where they ought to have been, she can call a helpline at the Employee Benefits Security Administration (US DOL).

    3. pancakes*

      There’s a Dep’t of Labor fact sheet on this topic titled, “Your Employer’s Bankruptcy – How Will it Affect Your Employee Benefits?” It has links to resources and contacts within. I’d start there.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      She should see if there’s an Unsecured Creditor’s Committee in the bankruptcy. They might be able to explain what is happening. I note that employee claims actually usually have priority, but that doesn’t help if there is no money in the pot.

      1. Natalie*

        Although you still want to file a claim as their may be money forthcoming from asset sales and so forth.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If she has a profit sharing plan, that money should be in an account separate from the company. It wouldn’t be something that the company had any part of after they closed down. It’s sitting in an account somewhere, who was the provider of the account? She can have them rolled over into another account like a personal IRA.

      When we had to shut down our profit sharing because of lack of profit, not bankruptcy, we had a financial advisor assist in rolling it over into personal accounts with a place like Vanguard.

      DOL wouldn’t have that info, it’s in the securities world. She should look in her paperwork and see if she has any details there and contact the company who holds the funds.

      Of course it could have been invested in the company itself then there’s no assets to collect upon since it’s a dumped company. I hope that’s not the case. But if it’s a general profit sharing one, held with an outside retirement company like Hartford, then it’s a matter of tracking the account down. it’ll eventually end up in the Unclaimed Properties otherwise.

  20. Aurora Leigh*

    I’m pregnant!

    Looking for any workplace advice you can offer, especially in the time of COVID.

    1. Notthatkindofmarinebiologist*

      Congratulations! I just had a baby in June, so I hope I can offer some general and Covid-specific advice.
      1.It’s up to you who you tell and when. You can be specific or vague, but you might need to disclose that you have some medical issues right now that limit your ability to be around people, lift, whatever. Personally I told as few people as possible, and I love my coworkers. It was just exhausting overall to think about pregnancy, covid, and work, and I wanted to focus on work at work. I did tell my boss and direct supervisor early, because they are very family friendly (both moms themselves) and I wanted them to know why I had so many blocks on my calendar (for doc appointments). They are incredibly supportive people and very discreet, so it was nice to be able talk with them and ask for their advice. But find out what the maternity policy is at your workplace NOW. You can say it’s for future planning purposes if you don’t want to out yourself yet.
      2.Plan, plan, plan. I managed several projects, so I started putting together timelines and redundancies early. I didn’t share them with my team until I was ready, and that’s when I shared that I was pregnant, when I planned to go on maternity leave, and how long I expected to take off. I wrote my progress reports that would be due while I was out, I created a very specific away message with contact people for each project (and saved it until I was ready to post), created a master excel doc with where files are stored and who was responsible for handling what while I was out, and was extra careful to backup my work to the shared files, etc. I’m in the US at a small organization that doesn’t offer maternity leave, only short-term disability, so I also had a spreadsheet of how much salary I would miss out on using short-term disability and if I returned part-time, how much I had spent towards my deductible, how much I expected to spend over the course of my pregnancy.
      3.Be kind to yourself and as flexible as possible. Your situation will depend on your workplace, but I knew which supervisors appreciated a plan and which co-workers would be best able to pick up my tasks while I was out. During pregnancy, you might need to take more breaks, shift your start time, or spend more or less time sitting/standing, and you should listen to your body and your doctor! Don’t assume everything will be “normal” until you give birth. I made no promises of when I would come back and for how many hours, especially as I am now working from home with an infant in my office! As for Covid, I’ve been very isolated since March. I’m fortunate to be able to work 100% from home. Early on, I declined some in-person opportunities to be extra cautious, but I’ve also sought out new opportunities at work and have been able to pick those up because of Covid. I’ve also sought out online forums for pregnancy support, which were super helpful.
      Best wishes to you for a healthy pregnancy!

    2. Eleanor Knope*

      Congratulations!

      Currently 30 weeks here. Without knowing your circumstances, the best advice I can give is to just be kind to yourself. There have been many, many days where I felt bad about my productivity dropping or not having as much mental energy as usual. I was constantly worried people thought I was dropping the ball — then when I finally announced my pregnancy, I reached out to a few close colleagues and apologized for my drop in output lately and they all said they hadn’t noticed a thing.

      If you have a role where someone will be covering for you during maternity leave that doesn’t usually do those tasks, you may want to make a list of easy procedure updates or reviews that you can go through on days where you can’t quite focus but still want to feel like you’re making progress.

  21. Eleanor*

    At what point is the pandemic no longer a ‘good enough’ reason for lack of motivation or productivity at work?

    Back in March when the lockdown first happened, the company was really good about reassuring people it’s normal to be a bit out of sorts, to take their time adjusting, and not to be too stressed about keeping up pace with what would be business as usual. (Everyone’s been working from home since then and there’s no plan to return to the office before 2021)

    It’s been mostly okay I think, it took about a week or two to get into a new routine and to set up the home office, but that got done. I was working mostly as usual from April until just recently. Since mid-August however, I’m feeling a resurgence of the ‘weirdness’ from early March, and I’m just not working as efficiently, I’m more easily distracted. Maybe it’s an awareness that summer’s coming to an end, or just the feeling of being ‘disconnected’ finally catching up, but yeah, it’s getting harder.

    Thing is, it’s almost 6 months into this, so this is nothing new and I don’t think the higher ups would be as understanding as they would’ve been earlier on. So now I’m not sure what to do. I took a few days off last week but that turned out counterproductive because I’m even less motivated now.

    1. Gatomon*

      I’m struggling too, and so I’m getting back on meds for it personally (historically my depression has always hit at the tail end of summer anyway). I’m also digging back into some coping strategies I was using at the start because I need them again.

      For me I think it’s the realization that COVID will likely be here through the winter as a serious threat, which is not something I truly understood back in March, plus the feeling that summer is gone before it ever really came. The changing of seasons really marks the passage of time. In early March there was snow flying outside my window. Leaves came, and now they’re starting to turn here. I’ve got maybe a few more weeks before I turn the furnace on again.

    2. Kristinemc*

      I will add a link to an article below this comment – I read something about “surge capacity” and how our surge capacity is being depleted. Basically, your surge capacity is what was keeping you going, but it’s meant for short term situations, and the pandemic is ongoing, so that is why a lot of people are feeling the way that they do now.

    3. MissGirl*

      Since this is a long-term issue that isn’t going away, it’s time to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t and how to manage it. Your problem may not be the pandemic per say, it may be working from home isn’t ideal for you or it may just be end-of-the-summer malaise. You might have to try different things to see what sticks. Some things that help me:
      I joined a Wednesday night hiking group and having that break in the week has saved my soul, I kid you not
      Can you plan a mini-vacation down the road to give you something to look forward to
      Are there projects at work you find more engaging that you could request.
      Set a timer at intervals during the day where your 100% focused and then you can move
      How’s your office set-up and can it be improved upon
      Is your off-time fulfilling?
      I took certain distracting apps off my phone and blocked websites

      1. Bostonian*

        This is so true. Not only is it a long-term issue, but the situation and regulations around it are constantly changing. The uncertainty plays a huge part in the feelings of burnout and unease.

        I second the hiking! I wish I had a hiking group to keep me accountable. :-)

      2. Watry*

        That last thing cannot be understated. I somehow managed to get myself away from certain sites that are designed to keep you scrolling, especially Twitter. My work output level was already fine (lower workload than usual), but the benefit to my mental health has been enormous, and my personal productivity goals have becomes far easier. I’ve also started taking an altered tech Sabbath. From 7 pm Friday to 7pm Saturday, no websites except a handful which are directly beneficial to my mental health, which for me is limited to certain book sites, my online book group Slack, and Youtube with comments removed.

    4. Aggretsuko*

      I have the same problem and lemme tell you, work will have NO sympathy–I brought it up once and it was so instantly DON’T EVEN SAY THAT YOU BAD PERSON vibe that I gave up.
      So all I can say is keep your mouth shut and keep faking.

    5. SimplyHired*

      These 2 quotes were from the surge capacity article, I think they say it all.
      Shouldn’t I be used to this by now?
      “Why do you think you should be used to this by now? We’re all beginners at this,” Masten told me. “This is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s expecting a lot to think we’d be managing this really well.”

      1. Leap Day Highway*

        Oh, I like this a lot. I have also been struggling with motivation and also with guilt – I have no kids or other responsibilities and 100% should be able to do my job from home, whereas my teammates all have young children. I feel like I should be stepping up and doing more! I have no excuse, I should be rocking this! But of course “we’re all beginners at this” regardless of our particular circumstances.

    6. LGC*

      Okay, that’s tricky.

      I was about to comment with everything I’m going through, but this isn’t about me. It’s about you – and your life has been uprooted in the past five months with an end date of next year at the earliest. (I honestly doubt that things will be fine next year, or even in 2022. But that’s just me.)

      I don’t know your company. But things are very obviously not “normal” as defined in February 2020. And they’re not going to be normal for a long time. I don’t know if you can say “pandemic,” and that explains everything, but I do think it’s a valid reason to be out of sorts. (I work in an office and I worry every day that one of my employees is going to get sick and die. This is perfectly normal now, but I wish it weren’t.)

    7. BlueBelle*

      I think we are all going a bit stir crazy. My motivation comes and goes, some days I am hyper focused and then other days I can barely be bothered to reply to emails. When I am feeling like that I try to schedule a day or two off if my schedule will allow it.
      I have worked from home for years, but since we can’t go anywhere and we aren’t socializing, I am OVER IT. I am really grateful I started on an anti-depressant a few months before all this began, I am not sure how I would have done without it.
      Be kind to yourself.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yeah, taking some time off here and there has helped me recharge, as well. Also, I’m very much introverted and feel very drained after a day or two of 4+ hours of meetings. So for others who might also find that draining, having no-meeting days may be a way to recharge when you can’t take time off.

    8. Niniel*

      I feel you, 100%. I am just at a point where I simply don’t care. I also took a mini vacation(3 day weekend), and that didn’t help either. I’m supposed to come into the office every day I can and work as normal…..I just can’t. I hate feeling this way. Solidarity!

    9. higheredrefugee*

      I’m struggling anew, and realized I need a long weekend at least once a month of truly unplugging, which for me, means a long hike, lots of knitting, reading, and writing, and unplugging from electronics. I’ve started to take a walk at lunch to stretch and reset, and I’ve increased calling friends and family, started to journal again, and increased my workouts and refocused on proper nutrition. I’m taking a week at a time approach and trying to make adjustments as needed. I live alone and though fairly introverted, I’m definitely getting lonely, especially as I expect to amongst the last of my federal agency to be allowed to come back. I’ve never used a therapist before, but I’m considering that as well as talking to my PCP, as I’m definitely a little more depressed but also anxious, and I’m running out of coping skills. So a really long answer to encouage giving yourself some grace, experimenting a bit with routines, and spending some time thinking about what is at your own root (for me, the state of the world on top of all of this is NOT helping).

    10. Reba*

      Yeah, we are hitting walls periodically around here too.

      One thought is that “a few days off” is really not enough.

      I’ve read a few articles about burnout and brains+stress recently that I found helpful. Not necessarily with like, tips, but I felt better having some understanding and validation of what I’m experiencing. Links in reply!

      1. Reba*

        oh, one of which has already been linked in the thread. Well, I guess that illustrates something about how my brain is faring :)

    11. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Honestly, the longer all of this goes on the more depressed I get. Plus I’m anticipating much worse to come, both in terms of the virus and the general state of the world and my particular country.

    12. Former Retail Manager*

      No real advice, just commiserating. I’m in the same boat….time off doesn’t help….management claims to care and understand, but the expectations regarding our work are the same. In fact, because would could not get information from third parties during the shelter-in-place (which is required for our work), most of us are behind, but being expected to miraculously get “caught up” with no ability to work beyond 40 hours. The underlying, unspoken message from management is to just “get it done” and we are questioned on a regular basis about why we aren’t making progress at the rate that management wants.

      While I understand that progress must be made and this can’t be used as an “excuse” forever, the fact is that some people just aren’t cut out to work productively in this environment for any length of time. I am one of them!

      The only way I’ve been able to cope is by making to-do lists, every day without fail. No item is too small for the list. Checking things off the list motivates me to keep going. For longer items, I try to break them down into parts and even give myself time limits for each part to keep myself on task. It is a struggle for sure.

    13. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Have you taken any time off, even just random days here and there? Even if you can’t go on an actual vacation, I find that semi-regular time off helps me to re-set. If a day or two here or there isn’t cutting it, take a longer chunk of time and try to do SOMETHING that seems vacation-y — a hike nearby, setting up a hammock in a low-traffic area, camping, I dunno – whatever YOU like and will find relaxing! But also realize that you may need some new/different coping strategies for this time, just because this is life now…..best of luck to you!

    14. Parenthetically*

      I’m sorry you’re feeling this way.

      My answer is: the pandemic isn’t over just because your bosses are over it.

      Also f*ck capitalism.

    15. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah… I was actually so GOOD back in the spring. But for some reason after my short July 4th getaway, I am also just struggling to be productive and positive. Some of that is not my fault. My large company has laid off a lot of people, and the layoffs threaten my program. In addition, I find that any work I am trying to plan for the second half of the year just gets STUCK. By that I mean, it needs to be approved for the budget spend, and my managers just simply… DO NOT RESPOND. I have one thing where I still do not have an answer and it has been two months since I submitted it to them for approval (of course I followed-up many, many times, but now I’ve just stopped bothering them — because I feel it is not my job to babysit and make them work). I feel blocked and annoyed and I hate it.

      Some of it is my fault. Given the lack of communication or response I’m getting, I just feel like shrugging and throwing up my hands. ¯\_ (:/)_/¯ Like oh well, if my managers don’t care, why should I care? I do try to work, but I keep getting distracted and let myself be unproductive and unmotivated some days. I actually have an interview next week, which makes me even less motivated at work, because I see it as an out.

      So, you’re not alone in feeling this way! For some, it’s pure burnout, for others it’s just all becoming de-motivational due to factors within your company, and for some it’s also the state of EVERYTHING in our country lately. If you’re a parent, double or triple that.

    16. CC*

      I soooo 150% have this problem. It comes and goes in phases. Right now it’s pretty bad. I haven’t found a solution, and this obviously very much depends on your company culture, but my boss has been super understanding. I think more people are struggling with this than any of us realize, and our bosses may be some of them :).

      1. MissDisplaced*

        You’re absolutely right about it coming and going. Some weeks are fine, others are a frustrating ball of the pits.

    17. Working Hypothesis*

      Honestly, the world being horrifically weird seems to me to be a valid reason for having trouble behaving normally for… as long as the world is horrifically weird. Weird input equals weird response! But I’m aware that most bosses will not feel they are in a position to take this approach, even though I think they should.

    18. A Building Nerd*

      I sympathize, for me it’s been coming and going in waves. One week I’m pretty much at normal capacity, the next week I can’t seem to focus on anything long enough to keep it together. I don’t have helpful advice but I feel you.

  22. Pocket Mouse*

    Have you ever taken a position that was supervised by a friend of yours? How did it go? If it went well, what did you do to make sure it went well? How did you avoid actual or perceived social favoritism?
    I’ve become friends with someone on a team I work closely with. We’ve hung out one on one outside of work, text frequently, talk about some personal stuff, etc., and she’s the person I’m closest to at work. She’s now the hiring manager for a position that would be a very good move for my career. I would very much like, but don’t 100% need, to change jobs: there are significant aspects of my current role that I do not enjoy, my title doesn’t match my responsibilities, and I don’t have much opportunity to dedicate time to learning or development for the foreseeable future. If I do take a new job in the next year it would be with the same employer, meaning my current options are quite limited.
    Additional context: My friend and I already maintain a solid separation between work and friendship, with each of us enforcing the separation at times by saying “You’re not at work, stop answering work questions” etc. We have standard schedules, coverage is not an issue, and projects would be divvied in a way that’s not conducive to favoritism (imagine a Venn diagram of the team members’ specialties where the circles overlap a little, but not much).
    I know Alison says to managers in this situation that you can’t be friends with a direct report, and I fully understand the concerns. On the other hand, I’ve worked with a handful of pairs who maintain a friendship while having a work arrangement like this, and the ones I’ve observed seem to handle having both professional and personal relationships (largely) well- both those who were friends before the reporting relationship, and those who became friends during.
    My questions for those of you who have been friends with your supervisor or direct report: Were you friends going into it? Are you a person who easily navigates complex relationships? Did you or the other person set any boundaries, and how did you talk about them? How did it go for you? If you no longer have the reporting relationship, are you still friends now?

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      For transparency- I posted a version of this question in an open thread two weeks ago, but posted relatively late so am looking for more input. Former Retail Manager, E., Anonymity is bliss- thank you for responding then!

      E. – I’m glad to hear of an instance where it worked out, and glad to know it wasn’t easy! Did you do anything around avoiding the appearance of professional or social favoritism?

      Former Retail Manager – You said you’re still friends with the former supervisor and with the former direct reports- does this mean the aspects/events you advise avoiding lie primarily or wholly within the professional realm?

    2. c_g2*

      This is gonna be kinda long hope it helps!

      So I was not friends with my boss going in — we met at work. I have issues around friendship that I’m handling in therapy. Boundaries-wise I followed my boss’s lead (but we have a big age gap and they also mentored me). However, I occasionally checked in with them, make sure the lines weren’t blurred between personal life and work. What helped is starting conversations as either friends or work for instance, “speaking as your friend…” or “As the ___ here’s my concerns”.
      We made sure not to use work time for friendship convos — including lunch. I focused on developing other friendships, so that this was not my only social outlet. While we did talk about personal things (we both had signficant events occur) we did not hang outside of work while they supervised me. In front of others we were polite and more cool, so no references to inside jokes or mentioning each other’s non-work life.
      We are still friends (they no longer manage me). It’s been rewarding to be only friends with them, as now I’ve added them on social media, we can text more, etc.

    3. Lizy*

      I was friendly with my supervisor after I moved (Facebook friends, messaged every so often to see how things were, but nothing more than that). I moved back and ended up working for the same company. Day 1, she said that she was going to de-friend me on Facebook and would not connect with me on any other social media. I can’t remember what else she said, but essentially she made it clear that she was entering supervisor-mode and although she was interested in me and enjoyed my company, she didn’t want any blurred lines. She was very open about how this is as much for my benefit as hers – she didn’t want me worrying about what my supervisor thought if I posted/did X and she didn’t want to worry about how me doing X might affect my work (because it’s separate). She said when/if I left the company again (not that she wanted me to), she would love to re-friend me on social media and of course continue the friendship. I did end up moving (again) and left the company, and we’re still connected on social media years later!

      I do think our relationship is a little different in that she was always my supervisor first, and became my friend afterwards, but I would think/hope as long as you guys have boundaries and openness you should be ok.

    4. Esmeralda*

      It may work for you and your friend, but it is not likely to work for your friend’s other direct reports, your coworkers, etc. Even if you are not getting preferential treatment, people will reasonably worry that you are or could be.

      What if your friend has to decide who to layoff? She may feel obliged to lay off you so that it doesn’t look preferential, or maybe she reasonably for work reasons keeps you on but it’s going to look to others like you got special treatment. What if your work is crappy but you don’t get penalized? What if you get a raise/bonus/promotion?

    5. TechWorker*

      I think it’s difficult for it to actually be totally fine – but it’s also common in my company because we hire grads and organise lots of social stuff. It’s pretty common for people to become friends outside of work and later end up in a reporting relationship.

      My partner (who also works for the same company, we met at work, go figure) was pretty good friends someone who was a peer & then later promoted to become his manager (though no longer is). This honestly, didn’t go great and has definitely impacted their friendship. Said manager was not that good at managing managers and my partner ended up feeling micro-managed and under-valued – which meant they basically stopped hanging out.

      On my side, I was friends-ish (not super close, but we went on the same group holiday) with someone who later moved to report to me. I have taken a step back from the friendship and kinda avoid spending much/any time together outside of work events – but don’t think I would have thought to have done even that were it not for AAM.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve worked with couples and friends all the times. It’s never been an issue as long as both people are solid individuals who don’t make things weird.

      If you keep “friendship” out of the work place that’s the first huge step. Lots of people won’t even know. Listen, I supervised my partner once because we needed someone BAD and couldn’t find it the traditional routes, so we hired my partner who needed a job change. The only people who knew we were even together were the boss because of full disclosure duh and my direct reports at the time just because it was an easier transition between “We can’t find ANYONE” and a turnstile we had setup and then suddenly “this person shows up and finally clicks, what happened here, where did you find this person finally?!” kind of thing.

      After we had someone leave, we didn’t make it a thing. When I finally left, I mentioned it in my parting and the people who didn’t know where shocked that they didn’t even know. I treated my partner the same, I spoke to them the same, I corrected them when necessary, etc. If you treat everyone equal in the first part, even if in the back you’re having a more personal relationship, it is pretty chill and easy. Unless someone is prone to bad management or favoritism then it’s just…not a lot of worry.

  23. Semaj*

    My boss overly edits my work and I’m trying not to be sensitive about it.

    A coworker and I partner on projects that involve creating resources and webpages for the organization. We research, collaborate on the content, and polish it off before sending to boss. Then, he rewrites almost every sentence with edits that aren’t about content but just slightly adjusting the phrasing. It seems unnecessary and a bit prickling for it to be so hugely overdone, and it leaves me wondering why he doesn’t do it himself if he’s so specific about the phrasing of each and every sentence.

    I am being sensitive about this for sure, but also my coworkers and I are seasoned professionals and the content we put out I genuinely believe it good.

    So what gives – any tips on not caring or approaching this differently? I honestly don’t think I could ask for feedback because truly the content is changing, they’re just rewriting sentences to mean the exact same thing with different sentence structure.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Oooh, this kind of thing burns me up. I used to work for someone who did this. I work for someone now who occasionally does this. It’s because they insist on putting their stamp on things, even if it’s unconscious. And yes, it’s not, “Hmm, I think we should make a different point here,” it’s, “I’m going to use different words to say the exact same thing.” My current boss has even acknowledged this! He’ll tell me my phrasing is wrong and then he’ll say, “Well, I guess it’s not wrong, but I would say it this way instead.” And he changes it.

      It’s so hard to remove yourself from it. I used to take it really personally, and sometimes I still do, because I think I’m a good writer and I put a lot of care into phrasing and word choice. (There was one time when I was SO PROUD of a sentence I wrote– seriously, just the one, it was a slide header– and the senior person changed it. Sigh.) The only thing you can really do is roll your eyes, shake your head, and move on to the next thing. Fully expect him to change things. This doesn’t mean you should put in less effort– I mean, you probably can, but I find that tough– but just prepare yourself for this happening.

      Does your co-worker get annoyed by this too? You can create a game with each other. Take bets on how many changes the boss makes or something.

    2. ThinMint*

      I still think asking your boss about it is a good idea.

      “I notice that when we pass our work to you, you usually have a lot of edits. I don’t want to unnecessarily take up your time. Is there something you’d like to see us do differently for these documents in the future?”

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Sooooo…this is challenging and I’ve struggled with this. But I changed my mental position on it and have been doing much better. I’ve started to think of my work as my boss’s work, so it doesn’t belong to me, it really belongs to the company. I’m laying the groundwork for my boss and they will take it from there.
      It sucks to think of yourself as just a cog in the big machine, but you eventually gain enough experience that you will be the final editor.

    4. Academic Librarian too*

      Mostly I understand the Boss which doesn’t mean I think that they are right.
      One, the Boss is not capable of actually creating the content.
      Two, the Boss has a “style” preference.
      Three, the Boss sees the materials as reflecting themselves therefore will change as they see fit. Don’t take it personally, let it go. It’s a job.

      OR
      the Boss is a micromanager and has to pee on everything.
      Don’t take it personally, let it go. It’s a job.

    5. a username*

      The exact same sentence with different structure could be a matter of institutional voice, which can feel petty but with organizations that users frequently read materials from, they can for lack of a better term form a relationship with that voice and can actually find it jarring when it’s noticeably different. I’ve worked under a director who had been with our employer his entire career and had basically formed the modern iteration of the voice himself, and was very protective of it. I had colleagues tell me I nailed it faster than most, and even occasionally got a document by with no or only one or two edits, but even I had to submit everything to him before distribution. Could it be something like that here? Even if your boss isn’t protective like mine was, are their parts of the institutional voice you haven’t quite nailed? Try looking and seeing if the types of adjustments he makes are consistent, if there’s something you could conform to more closely.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah — voice can really matter. And I obviously have no idea what kind of writer the OP is, but if she happens to be someone where writing isn’t a great area of strength and it is for the boss … well, the boss is going to edit.

        Re: “why didn’t he just write it himself” — it’s way faster to just edit a draft than write from scratch. And editing is a separate job from writing; this might be perfectly role-appropriate.

        Or it could be all unnecessary, for all I know. But there are lots of situations where the boss would be acting appropriately.

        Of course, I’m the daughter of a newspaper editor of whom a reporter once said, “He’s like a dog who has to pee on every tree.” So maybe that’s genetic.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Going along with institutional voice, it could also be the medium — writing content for a website is going to sound completely different than writing for a newspaper, even if the subject matter is the same. Writing for the web is supposed to aim at a 5th grade reading level — there’s a whole rubric for “grading” text based on the number of sentences and number of syllables — because people read differently on the web than they do a book. So word changes that mean the same thing, happy vs. delighted, might seem petty, but they affect the reading level of a piece.

    6. Bagpuss*

      It is frustrating.

      Ideally, I think it’s worth speaking to him and asking whether he wants you to just give him bullet points and let him write the article, instead, or indeed to ask him if he can clarify what his concerns are about your style so you can address them. Maybe make the point that his edits appear to be about style rather than substance and that it seems inefficient for him to make that kind of change, unless of course he has a significant issue with your style.
      If that doesn’t work, or if you feel it wouldn’t go down well, then is it possible to look at the way in which the style he uses if different from your and to try to aim for something closer to his style in your original draft? It’s frustrating, but if he is more senior and prefers a certain style then think of it as the ‘house style’ and maybe run with that?

    7. Donkey Hotey*

      Tech writer here. I feel your pain. To be charitable, composing and editing are different skill sets, so it’s understandable why your boss doesn’t just do it himself. At the same time, personal word choice edits can be frustrating, especially in the absence of a style guide. I’ve had a boss who would edit something (e.g. change “credible” to “believable”), I’d re-do and re-submit, and they would change it again, often reversing their previous edits!
      I like the previous suggestion of game-ifying it. “You had twelve edits, I had fourteen. You win this round.”
      Beyond that, the only way I can put it is to take my ego out of the equation. This isn’t my child that I must watch being operated on. It’s a document. The person higher up on the food chain is making changes and it’s my job to go with it unless it is absolutely legally or grammatically wrnog.
      (yes, that was intentional)

      1. Mockingjay*

        I call those kinds of edits “Happy” to “Glad” changes. Used to drive me nuts. Now I’m like: whatever, it’s ultimately your product and your name will be on it, not mine, which makes the final responsibility yours.

    8. Workerbee*

      Just adding on to say that I’ve observed those types can be unable to recognize their own work and set to with their editing pen, wondering out loud how it could have been written that way in the first place! I work with two of them right now. It can be amusing…but it still ends up creating extra work with the rounds of review and revisions. True satisfaction seems ever elusive.

      In cases where you are stuck in a loop, in a previous job we used to get away with a Courtesy Copy that was not for additional review or edit, just an FYI of the final piece that’s going out.

    9. RagingADHD*

      I would bring it up and ask if there’s anything I need to take on board in terms of matching the desired voice & tone.

      Tone is a real consideration in branding, and many companies have specific guidelines as part of their style sheet.

      If your org doesn’t already have a voice & tone document, maybe you could offer to create one, which would turn an annoyance into an accomplishment.

    10. Esmeralda*

      I’ve been an editor (technical and not), have advanced degrees in English, taught writing, do communications for our department as part of my job. I am a good writer and an outstanding editor, which my boss knows and praises me for.

      If my boss wants to fiddle with the sentences but the meaning is the same and the new sentences are truly not impeding understanding, well, then, they can go for it. It’s a waste of their time, but hey, it’s their time, not mine. BTDT.

      It’s not a love letter. It’s not the novel you’ve secretly been polishing for years (which, by the way, will get edited before it’s published). It has nothing to do with YOU. It’s work.

      Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of people just like to put their personal stamp on things. Unless that stamp makes the work worse and it gives me a bad rep because others will think it’s MY stamp, I just ignore it and move on to the next project.

      Remember: (1) It’s just work, it’s not your body and soul. (2) It’s your boss, they get the last word. (3) It’s not taking any of your time, and you probably have a lot of other work to do.

    11. SparkleConsultant*

      My boss holds my work up in many rounds of intensive edits. A couple strategies that have helped me are:
      1. Do your own writing projects outside of work to have a way to express your writing voice (I like NaNoWriMo!)
      2. Set a time limit for the initial draft and speed write it. Then you can go back and edit, but this helps me not get too attached to individual sentences as I’m crafting them. They will just be torn apart later.
      3. Re-frame requests for a document as your boss needing a template, not a draft. (Because that is the outcome of what is happening). Sometimes I pretend I work for a newspaper since my boss is overly invested in playing editor. These both help me not take it as personally.
      4. If your boss then uses this as a way to take credit for your work, document when you’ve given them the first draft in the body of the email so that you have proof of your authorship. (I hope this isn’t the case for you)

    12. Bex*

      Is Boss is making consistent edits across different projects? If so, it could be a matter of voice or tone, as other posters mentioned.

      I’m in a partnerships/bus dev role so I’m the last person to edit before something goes to a client or external stakeholder. My edits are often extensive. I change all passive voice to active . I rearrange sentences so that the most important part is first, followed by explanatory phrases and descriptions. If someone uses 15 words where 10 will do, then I change to the 10 word option. If a sentence is repetitive or doesn’t add anything new and relevant, I remove it. I shift framing to reflect what I know of the client’s worldview. I ensure that we explain and position things consistently across the company.

      So someone might write a very good draft, and it will still come back 70% red once I do my job. And the content likely didn’t change much at all.

    13. CC*

      If I were you, I’d ask if I could sit next to your boss and watch them edit my work once or twice, while they verbalize what they’re doing. (Literally watch them read and type and ask them to say what they’re thinking out loud. Don’t interrupt for broader questions; don’t argue — just watch and listen and try to understand your boss’s unfiltered thoughts about your writing.) I’ve been on both the receiving end of that kind of feedback and used it with my staff, and nothing works better to very quickly get aligned about why the editor is changing what they are.

      And I am that boss! I really don’t try to be, but…sometimes sentence structure really matters for clarity. Sometimes the tiniest edits make a big difference in tone and voice. Sometimes certain words aren’t quite right (I work in a nonprofit/political context and if a certain word isn’t quite what our allies are using, using that word could lead to an angry phone call from an important stakeholder). And sometimes I have staff who are really really awesome at 90% of the job but their writing is a liiiiitle too sloppy and I’d rather spend the 5 minutes tweaking it every week than the hours that coaching someone whose writing is just a tiny bit off would take.

    14. Wordybird*

      A former supervisor of mine was like this, and it drove me crazy — especially since I’m the one with the English degree and he had a completely unrelated-to-communications background. It really drove me crazy when he would have me draft something for him to edit, and then he would not completely proofread it before sending it along so there were occasional spelling errors, stray commas, possessive apostrophes when he just needed an “s” for pluralization, etc. They were all his errors not mine. Don’t get me started on how I would take minutes at our meetings and he would add in context/details that were never said at the meeting!

      I had to accept that this was just the way it was going to be. It was not a communications org, just an org that does some communications, so the things that bothered me were not things that most other people noticed or cared about. He was also used to the high turnover in the role so he never quite let go completely of the tasks associated with it (self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone?) and had been at the organization long enough that things were done the way he was used to because of his seniority. While I tried to speak with him about it several times, he was one of those types who told you what you wanted to hear and then did nothing about it afterwards. Since it was not a long-term position or a company where I could move up or make more money, I just gritted my teeth and bore it.

      I tend to think that people like that fall into two different categories: those who are genuinely trying to be helpful (but don’t realize they aren’t) or those who are purposely trying not to be helpful (and are very aware of it). What kind is your boss?

    15. Diatryma*

      This may be a style guide situation. Ask if there is a style guide, and if there isn’t, you can see about putting one together. Everything from abbreviations to numbering conventions to prose-level rules (“Use short sentences whenever possible. Semicolons and parentheses should be avoided.”) can be included. The one I made for my previous job included margin/tab measurements because they weren’t consistent over multiple documents.

  24. SQLDev*

    Is it worthwhile to pursue a professional certification (in software development) that is being discontinued with no plans for replacement?

    Background: I work in ETL/SQL development and am looking to change companies. My current employer is my only post-college employer (>5 years). I was planning on completing a Microsoft certification in BI development to strengthen my candidacy, but I saw that they are discontinuing the certification in January 2021 and they don’t plan to replace it with anything equivalent. I guess all they care about now is Azure…

    I’m debating if it’s still worthwhile to get the cert. On the one hand, this is my only chance to get it. On the other hand, I’m not going to be able to keep it up to date.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      What are you hoping the certification would give you? A leg up on the job search? I don’t work in SQL development (though I’ve dabbled in it at various jobs), but I work in IT, and I 100% don’t care at all if an applicant has a certification for anything. Certifications give me zero indication if they know anything worthwhile or can actually do well the job I’m hiring them for.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I’d be concerned with why they are discontinuing it…it may be because the test was awful. I had to do a cert in either Oracle or SAS for BI Development and the exam was the most terrible, awful exam I have ever taken in my life. The test documents were minimal and there were no supporting resources. I had to take it 3 times and I still don’t know how I passed because the questions were the most out-of-the-blue random questions I’ve ever read.
      So it may be less about the subject being phased out and more about it being a bad cert to begin with.

    3. AnonQ*

      I think I (probably) know which certifications you’re referring to–Microsoft is revamping everything, and certain things are going by the wayside. With that said, I think the certification is still worthwhile. Especially if your company will pay for it. Not all companies are moving at the same speed as Microsoft. Your new role may still include ETL/SQL, so the certification will stand you good stead. Even if the new role is different, the certification shows you have solid skills that I assume will be related to your new roles.

      (If this were a certification that was simply being updated/replaced, of course I would say forget the old one, get the new one.)

      But also start to look at learning what else you can learn to build your skillset. Again, especially if your current company provides some funding for taking classes, etc.

      I see what Anonymous Educator said in a separate post about not caring about certs, but also consider that many roles have certification requirements and/or the initial weeding-out of resumes is likely to be done by HR, not a hiring manager. So while a hiring manager may truly not care, in my own experience, HR does not always have the level of expertise and may rely on more quantifiable “proof” in the vetting process.

    4. Anon for this*

      So I work for one of those old-fashioned companies AnonQ mentioned, on the business side but doing a lot of work with the DB teams. Most of our SQL team is already being retrained on our new cloud tools, and our SQL servers are going to go away as we move to cloud platforms. It already takes c-level approval to get a new SQL server spun up even though we have licenses available.

      it’s not what you asked, but if it was me I’d focus my development more on cloud tools/architecture if I wanted to stay on the IT side, or move over to data analysis to go into the business.

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

      I know this field well.
      I would still go for the cert.
      The “industry” is going towards Azure yes, but there’s always companies out there, maybe even the majority, who aren’t moving there yet and want candidates with demonstrated knowledge of the BI ‘stack’.
      Have you looked into Power BI at all? if not, that’s also worth pursuing imo.
      Longer term look to branch out/expand into cloud data analytics, may or may not be exclusively Microsoft technologies.
      I’d suggest you take a more holistic view of the certs ‘market’ right now and see what you might be able to move sideways into.

  25. BRR*

    Looking for advice on feeling a little stuck. About a year ago, I was laid off from an extremely toxic job/workplace. Thankfully I found a new job right away and while it is a huge improvement over my last job in many areas (my coworkers are nice and good at their jobs, my work is valued, and my commute went from awful to good), it was a big step down in terms of responsibility and pay.

    So while my mental health has dramatically improved, most of my work is simply not challenging at all. Additionally, the sheer quantity of work is way too much for one person. I’ve been utilized somewhat for the more advanced skills that my predecessor did not have, I simply don’t have the capacity to take on more of the interesting stuff. 

    So basically I work on stuff that’s way too easy and there’s too much of it. It’s more or less the role I was hired for and while I think my manager would like to be able to better utilize me, there’s not a way to elevate my position. The basic work, that anybody could easily be trained on, can’t be assigned elsewhere and it’s basically unheard of here to elevate someone’s current position (aka going from teapot coordinator to teapot manager). I was loosely keeping an eye out for new jobs but I work in a more niche field in nonprofits and the already small number of job postings seem to have dried up during Covid. 

    Other than continuing to keep an eye out for new openings which I’m doing, is there anything else I can do since I can’t grow at my current organization?

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      Oh, wow, does your post apply to me! It reads like something I would have written.
      I’ve been actively hunting for about a year now trying to to move up as my current position has zero room for growth. Like you, I get stuck with all the busy, mind-numbing work others don’t want to do or aren’t capable of (no training).
      I hate the situation but since COVID-19, I’ve gotten very little responses to any of my applications. Don’t know what to do.

    2. Cabin in the Woods*

      Is there any way to start to automate some of the tasks? Or otherwise improve on efficiency? Even if you’re instinct is to say “No,” make yourself pause and really think about it. If you HAD to figure out a way to automate or be more efficient with it somehow, what could some of your options be? My thought is maybe you can decrease the time needed for these tasks and then open up time for taking on more interesting projects.

  26. AVP*

    For women who are pregnant in supportive but small companies (ie., there’s going to be some scrambling to cover my projects, maybe a temp that I’ll need to train, etc) – when did you tell your boss? And what is a reasonable parental leave to ask for?

    My company is tiny to the point where this has never come up before, but I believe they’ll be supportive and try to make a good system here, but I’d like to go in with reasonable expectations in case they ask me for input on what I’d want to do.

    1. Swarley*

      I actually just found out I was pregnant with my first child! I work for a moderate-sized non-profit, and had originally planned to wait until the 2nd trimester to say anything. However, with the COVID situation I ended up telling only my supervisor about it right now, just because as we roll out a plan for us to come back into the office (we’re almost all remote right now) I wanted her to be aware that I may still need the option for remote work. Plus, this gives us time to plan out coverage (while we’re not as small as it sounds like you are, there are things that really only I can do so I’ll need to train her or another team member). Thankfully she is incredibly supportive and is keeping mum from everyone else. I’d say this is mostly a know your boss situation.

      In terms of leave, is there a handbook that already lays out what leave is offered (both paid and unpaid?) I’d start there and then talk with either your boss and/or HR rep (if there is one) about what options are available for expanding it (if needed).

    2. Ann Perkins*

      I’ve always told early, but I carry completely in my mid-section and show early too. My company is small enough that it has rarely come up for us as well. I’ve taken off about 10 weeks with both of my births. The second time, my boss just wanted me to come back because it was going to be around the time of a particularly busy time period (tax time). I would still check your handbook to see if there’s anything laid out.