open thread – September 18-19, 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 (that includes school). 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.

{ 1,208 comments… read them below }

  1. Rose Dawson*

    I’m on the verge of resigning from my job with nothing lined up. I recently took on my old boss’s work, while maintaining my previous workload. It’s too much for one person, and to make matters worse I am expected to work at the same salary and without a promotion. I asked for both and was waved off. My new boss is also a micromanager. I dread going to work every morning, and I used to actually like my job! I have voiced additional concerns, which have been brushed off. Is it crazy to leave a job right now without having applied anywhere else? I have a decent cushion and could go at least 6 months without an income, with no lifestyle changes. I just don’t know how much longer I can do this job, it’s only been 2 months and I’m already burnt out. Advice appreciated, particularly from other who have been in this situation!

    1. Aquawoman*

      Can you dial it down while ramping up your job search? E.g. prioritize, do the higher priority things and then stop after 40 hours of work?

        1. CatCat*

          Yeah, it’s ridiculous how Rose Dawson is being treated. Do what you can in a reasonable time and let the other balls drop. Bosses aren’t going to take it seriously until it beomes a problem for them. And if you get fired for being unable to manage an unmanageable workload? Could be a blessing! Free from the job, time to job search, and most likely eligible for UI benefits.

          1. Krabby*

            Plus it sounds like you could probably just use your old manager as a reference and not worry about burning that bridge.

        2. Adam Schiff*

          +1

          I would tell you to focus as much of your energy as possible on job searching as opposed to work. I’m sorry they are treating you this way.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Agree – if you’re on the verge of quitting anyway, consider this a last ditch effort to manage what you can and avoid burnout while you arrange for a better position. Use the standard AAM approach of “I have tasks X, Y, and Z – I can accomplish two of the three, which two should I prioritize?” format to explain that your time and effort is not limitless.

        Remind yourself that even if you were able to do it all, they’d never have incentive to hire someone else OR give you your earned raise/promotion. So if they come back with “No, find a way to do it all” you know it’s a lost cause.

      2. Rose Dawson*

        I started doing this last week, but I am a people pleaser and get so much pressure to do things on insane timelines that even after stopping work, I spend the rest of the day thinking about how Greg wanted XYZ by tomorrow and I haven’t even started on it. I think part of the issue is that is prioritizing is non-existent at my company (which is one the other concerns I voiced that was brushed off). When I ask what’s the most important, the answer is “everything” or “if you work more hours, is there really no way this can get done on [insane timeline]”

        1. Morticia*

          The answer to that last is no, there is no way because I am working all the hours I can already.*
          * The “you money-grubbing assholes” should probably be silent.

          1. Rose Dawson*

            They had the nerve to say that “maybe if you worked after hours to get this stuff done, we can talk about a bonus.” That was the moment I decided not to work a minute over 40 hours a week for them ever again. Money-grubbing assholes hits the nail on the head

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Bonus? You mean like a one time thing? After you asked for a promotion and a raise? wth.

              They will miss you when you are gone.

            2. Working Hypothesis*

              Okay, so now you know what’s the worst thing that they’re prepared to do if you DON’T work after hours: not give you a bonus! Which doesn’t matter a whole lot because you’re planning to leave this job anyhow, and you won’t be around to get the bonus either way. So do your 40 hours and go home and try your best to erase work from your mind while you’re off, because you don’t need to please these people, and it doesn’t matter a damn what “Greg wants.” If Greg wants it, he can make a space for it within your 40 hours of work (or, if Greg isn’t in a position to control that, he can take it up with those who are). But either way, it is not and should not be YOUR problem to figure out… it’s the problem of the people who are trying to wedge more than 40 hours of work into a 40-hour-shaped hole that you haven’t the slightest obligation whatsoever to expand by one single minute.

        2. AY*

          I hope you can continue to work on setting boundaries and sticking to them during whatever time you have left at your job. The more you’re able to say “I’m not able to work after hours tonight,” the easier it will get! For the most part, work is never going to set or enforce any boundaries with you. If you want them, you have to set them and stick to them.

          1. Rose Dawson*

            It’s definitely something I struggle with, but fortunately as the requests are getting more absurd, it’s getting easier to shut them down!

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              This is good! Consider this time practice or therapy or something. Viewing it as a temporary experiment while you start looking for a new job might even help with the stress a bit. Especially because, when you find a new job, you want to be able to keep these healthy boundaries you’re learning to enforce, even in a new, healthier job.

              I have people pleasing and perfectionist tendencies too, so I get how hard it is to set those boundaries; but remember that, while it’s uncomfortable now, it’ll be much to your benefit down the road.

            2. Idril Celebrindal*

              Rose, I don’t know if you’re still reading this, but it might help to look at it as in a way they are helping you with a skill you have been wanting to work on. You are learning how to let go of the people-pleasing and focus on boundaries.

              I also struggle with people-pleasing, and I have a boss who can’t make up her mind, gives contradictory instructions, and then gets mad when we don’t follow the instruction flavor of the week that she didn’t tell us about. I finally got to the point where I could just say to myself, “I’m going the best I can, there is no pleasing her, I’m not going to worry about her getting mad. I’ll just keep doing my best and know that is good enough even if she never sees it.”

              Something I found is that I can channel that same feeling into other parts of my life and it had really helped me let go of a lot of the people-pleasing. Not nearly as bad a situation as yours, and I hope you get out soon, but maybe in the meantime it will help when they start being ridiculous to look at them and think, “You are making it so easy to not want to please you, thank you for helping me grow in this area.”

        3. Kathenus*

          As others have said look at this as an opportunity to work on standing up to your people-pleasing drive, practice setting boundaries, and holding firm. Since you’re considering resigning, you have nothing to lose by trying this and might develop a new, more comfortable skill set in this area whether you stay long term in this job or not. Good luck!

        4. The Sky Isn't Falling*

          As a people pleaser, you have to reprogram your brain that you are the most important “people” to please! Continue to make the boss choose priorities, and if he won’t, send an email saying “since I didn’t get an answer to what to prioritize, this is the order I’ll be doing these tasks in.”

    2. But There is a Me in Team*

      I think a big factor is where you live. How is your local economy? Do you know other people who are job searching and how is it going for them? To my shock, our local economy has had no effect from COVID (at least not on white collar jobs.) Good luck Rose!

      1. Rose Dawson*

        I live in a large metro area on the East Coast with an insane COL, but fortunately a not too ravaged job market. I know other people who have searched and found things in 2-4 months.

        1. A Thought*

          If you think you can find a job quickly, one way to think about it is to look while you are still employed and know in the back of your head you only have to put up with this job for 2 – 4 more months! (And then if it stretches longer than that, at least you are not in the situation where you are running out of savings with nothing lined up.) Personally I think I have a much easier time prioritizing (aka disappointing people) when I mentally have one foot out the door.

        2. CBH*

          Rose, is there a way you could get temporary work through a placement agency while searching for a job that suits your experiences. That way you can have a paycheck during the 2-4 months, escape a horrid environment. It would also give you some time to recharge. If you can do that and find a way to pay for health insurance/ bills then I’d say go for it. I know that advice is not highly recommended but I’ve learned the last few months that mental well being is an important part in life.

        3. Working Hypothesis*

          It sounds like you’re in a *great* position to set your own terms for the job you have right now, while you look for something else. Since you’re pretty sure you could get another job before your cushion ran out if you walked away today, you can afford to say no and No and NO again to the unreasonable requests, and just leave the consequences in *their* laps to handle. Worst thing that happens: you get fired, and that’s not an impossible thing for you to handle at the moment. (It’s also very unlikely, because in a halfway decent job market they’re probably very much aware that they couldn’t replace you at anything near your current salary.)

          I recommend keeping the job while you search, but also making a conscious choice not to do one thing more than you can fit comfortably into a 40 hour workweek by working at a reasonable pace. No extra hours, no breakneck speed, no trying extra hard to find a way… just do your job, professionally and appropriately and not one inch beyond that, and whatever doesn’t fall within those limits is somebody else’s problem to handle.

          If they fire you, you’re not really worse off than if you quit now (and maybe better, of you can collect unemployment, which you might depending on the official reason for the firing); and if they don’t, you probably have a new job within a few months *without* having to eat into your cushion. And either way, you are not doing the insane workload. It’s just not your problem.

          Keep reminding yourself: Not Your Problem.

    3. Pepperwood*

      Oh man, you have my sympathies, that sounds really challenging and not sustainable, to be honest. It sounds like you’d really need to start updating that resume and move on – speaking from experience here. If they’re brushing off your very valid concerns and requests, they’re telling you what you need to know about how they see your value there.

      Given the craziness of the job market right now and in the future, unless you really have the financial cushion to do so, I’d at least try to find something else first before leaving. I totally get that desperation of just wanting to leave asap though – have you tried looking into your EAP for therapy services? That’s what I did and it kinda took me hearing from someone else that the burnout I was feeling was not only valid, but was starting to impact my health and would be bad news for me long term. Plus I’ve gotten some helpful coping strategies in the interim to maintain my sanity and take my time back.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          We can’t please people who refuse to be pleased. It’s nice of you to keep hoping they are better people than what they are, but it’s okay to believe them when they show you who they are.

    4. Important Moi*

      I wish you luck however you decide to handle this. I’ve made the decision to for work while staying on the job. I’ve wondered many days is this the right answer.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      I admit the economy was better when I did the same thing back in 2003, but I can tell you it was the best thing I ever did. My old job was making me sick with anxiety. I had applied in a few places, but had had no luck, but decided to quit anyway. I didn’t have as much of a financial cushion as you have, but I started temping so I wouldn’t deplete my savings as quickly, which led to me finding the job that has become a career.

      1. Rose Dawson*

        Appreciate hearing from someone who’s done it! I can relate to being sick with anxiety – my hair is falling out and I’m having panic attacks, which is why I don’t want to stick it out. I will look into temping, might be a good way to stretch my savings.

        1. A Thought*

          I commented above — but adding in here that (while I agree with my earlier sentiment that ideally you’d have something lined up) this level of anxiety changes it for me… you have to protect your mental health and if you are at that tipping point then I think the calculus changes. (As long as you are realistic about the stress levels of being unemployed – since that is legitimately super hard too).

          1. Rose Dawson*

            Excellent points here – it is a good question as to whether my mental health would be better if I was unemployed. I think it would be better at first, but might be hard as things stretched on

            1. WellRed*

              It’s late but I’m commenting: with this new information I’d make plans to exit quickly and soon. Maybe you cut some living expenses or temp to stretch out savings but yeah, physical stress symptoms means time to go.

        2. Box of Kittens*

          Bless your heart, genuinely! Given the physical ways this stress is manifesting, and the fact that you have savings and insurance, my vote is quit. Good luck to you in finding something else soon, and getting your mental health back!

        3. HermioneMe*

          Does your company have paid sick leave? Take it. Does your state have paid disability leave? Go out on stress disability which may fall under Workers Compensation? Are you eligible for FMLA? Use it. If they fire you for that, lawsuit. (And I’m not generally a lawsuit type person.)

          At the very least, if they have to fill in to do at least some of your job duties, maybe (doubtful but just maybe) they’ll realize what your your work load truly is and do something about it. Or they may leave all the work for when you come back. If you come back – maybe you’ll find a job while you are off work!

          1. Rose Dawson*

            We do have paid sick leave, but it’s unlimited – sounds great in theory…in reality it means 0 days unless you’re in the hospital. I will look into stress disability and FMLA – I don’t have any history of anxiety so I’m not sure if I qualify. Worst case, I have some PTO I could try to use, if they’ll let me take it.

            1. Rachel in NYC*

              I don’t know if you’d qualify any way but my mom was able to take FMLA for a couple of months because I was sick. Basically she got so stressed between me and her work and everything that she was ready to quit- at the point, her boss was ready to agree to FMLA just to increase the odds that she’d last at the job.

              It made a difference for my mom- she lasted there another 3 years once she came back from FMLA.

            2. yup yup*

              If you are planning to quit anyway, take your sick time. Call in on Monday, and then again every day that week. The rest of the time turn off your laptop and your phone and ignore them. You are OUT SICK and using your earned time off.

              After a week of them being without you, you will be rested and they will understand just how much they need you. You’ll be in a much better position.

              And they cannot stop you from taking sick time. What are they gonna do, drive to your house and force you to start working?

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Agreed. It’s officially in your benefits package; they can’t just decide you don’t get it anymore. And sick time isn’t like vacation; you don’t have to apply for it and wait for approval. You just call in and say “I’m sick so I won’t be in today.” They won’t like it. So what? You don’t like the way they’ve been treating you either.

                After you’ve been out a week, both of the things Yup Yup said she likely to happen — you’ll be better rested and they’ll understand just how much they need you — but there’s likely to be a third thing as well. Pay attention to how you feel on going back in after your sick week is up. If you’ve been doing pretty well after the rest period and then all of a sudden you’re exhausted and sick to your stomach and showing all your usual stress tells just at the thought of returning, you’ll know it’s probably worth quitting without something else lined up in order to get away from this place. If it’s just a matter of “Well, this is not gonna be fun, but I feel stronger now and I think I can handle it for a while,” then you’ll know that you can probably stick it out while looking for another job, so long as you manage your workload (by yourself, because nobody else is obviously gonna) and take occasional time off.

            3. Glitsy Gus*

              Yeah, my company tried to go to “unlimited” PTO and didn’t understand why most of us told the C-Suite to get lost (especially the CA office, where, due to CA being pretty Pro-Labor they have to pay out accrued PTO or let it roll over). What you just said there is exactly, why. More often than not, unlimited PTO ends up becoming zero PTO.

            4. HermioneMe*

              I don’t think you necessarily need to previously have had anxiety and stress…you have it now and it’s work related. See your doctor. Tell him it’s work related just in case it’s covered by workers compensation. If it is then you go through your employer’s workers compensation to get treatment.

        4. Amaranth*

          Rose Dawson I let a toxic workplace get me to the same point. You should not be physically ill over going to work. You deserve better. Also, in my case I basically had PTSD and needed a few weeks to decompress, reset, and my hair to stop falling out, so if you have the capability of taking a couple weeks off between jobs it might be something to seriously consider.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          Left unaddressed these symptoms can get even worse. BTDT.

          RD, even if you just take a part time job until you find your next gig, that would be a huge help for your setting.
          Additionally, you can try to reduce some of your household expenses temporarily. That might work into some encouraging feelings for you. When my home setting changed here the first thing I did was look at ways of reducing my expenses. It made me feel like I was helping myself along. I was pretty proud of my gains and I decided it was my new life habit. So I kept reducing things and I have managed to cut my monthly bills by around $1k. Now I wonder what I spent that money on….

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

      One thing I would consider is your benefits. You say you have enough saved for 6 months. Does that include health I Durance. I’d hate to have someone not have insurance durring this time.

      1. Rose Dawson*

        My husband’s company offers better insurance, so we are on their plan. Our rainy day fund would stretch 6 months if both of us lost our jobs, but we didn’t account for health insurance. We’ll have to discuss, so thank you for bringing this up! My husband’s job seems fairly secure, but if this has taught me anything, a lot can change in a job in 2 months

    7. Artemesia*

      I would give it three months while you aggressively job search. This is a tough time to be without a future and you will have a much better idea if you start your search what the odds are. My spouse and I have had job searches take 6 mos in good times — we always succeeded but once you get past entry level work, finding the right fit is always more and more challenging.

      Look at your job and begin doing what you can do with a reasonable time commitment, and let your boss know your priorities and what will fall off the table. With the time you free up. get your materials in A1 condition and line up potential references and begin an aggressive search.

      The worst that can happen is you will be let go and collect unemployment while you search. Don’t let go of job and benefits until you have at least got your search underway.

    8. Solar*

      There was a recent letter on here about having too much responsibility given the expectations of the role. I’d encourage you to push back on your manager. I think in that other letter, the employee had written something to the effect of “I cannot take the extra workload of X, I am going to resume focusing on the workload appropriate to my role Y”. If you’re about to quit anyway, what have you got to lose?

      I’ve quit without a job lined up before. The key was that I had saved enough money to go quite some time without a job. Especially with COVID, I wouldn’t plan on quitting without being able to live at least a year off savings. I know that’s extreme, but pandemics are extreme, and we don’t know what the future will hold.

      Definitely start looking ASAP, regardless.

      1. Vermont Green*

        I think the above letter made a great point when she mentioned “writing” your bosses about the problem. Even if it’s just an email, they can’t brush it off as easily as a spoken request. Tell them how many hours you are going to work, and stick with that.

        Then, if you do get fired for whatever reasons they come up with, you have documentation of the situation.

    9. Roza*

      Oh no — hang in there! Agree with the suggestions to crush your inner people pleaser, set boundaries, and get out as soon as you can. Or just leave for the sake of your health.

      I’m actually in a similar situation and have to fight the urge not to rage-quit because I’m having a baby in a month, and this now awful understaffed job does provide decent paid parental leave (I’m in the US, so that’s rare). That said, it’s hard not to REALLY resent working 12-hour days and weekends when I’m already exhausted, and the people responsible for the mass exodus that left us understaffed are unaffected

      1. Amaranth*

        I know you’ll be incredibly busy but maybe you can carve some time in those 12 weeks to job search and then you’d never have to return. Enjoy your new baby! :)

    10. Anonymous Hippo*

      My advice is to stop doing it all.

      If you are already at the point of quitting without another job, you are already at the point of ultimatum. Just tell them you can only do “so” much anymore, and then just stop. If they bring you somehting new, always answer with, “ok, but then this or this has to go, let me know which”. You can always quit later.

    11. Office Plant*

      I vote for staying at your job while you keep searching. I’m currently unemployed and job-hunting, and it’s not fun. If you do end up quitting before you get something full-time, there’s no harm in doing some part-time/gig work to help the savings last longer.

    12. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      If you can hang in there while searching, I would recommend doing so. From the people pleaser perspective, start everyday reminding yourself that you are not staying here long term and you do not need to care what these people think or even want from you. Do your contracted hours and nothing more. They will either get the message and come running to you (which you can leverage to get a better working environment and stay if you want), be jerks, but it won’t matter (remember mentally repeat “I don’t care because I am leaving”) or they may fire you (doubtful, they need someone to do the jobs, but in truth, besides the temporary sting of them breaking up with you instead of you breaking up with them; do you care?).

      Bottom line, they don’t care about you, so don’t care about them! Good luck on the search!

  2. Himbizz*

    I work in digital communications for a US-based nonprofit. Looking to the future, after we have a Covid vaccine and things are more normal, I’d like to ask my boss if I can be a fulltime remote worker — from overseas. If I can’t convert my entire position to remote, if they would be willing to retain me as a consultant for key, regular tasks from overseas. Seeking feedback from the AAM community on the best way to approach having this conversation with my boss.

    1. pandas as pd*

      Honestly the overseas part may be harder than the remote part: I know there are special tax considerations for employing people over seas, and many organizations do not support that at all. Doing a bit of background research (does anyone else at your org work remotely? is anyone over seas? can you have a private conversation with HR before bringing this up to your boss?) might set you up for success!

    2. Ali G*

      Most companies in the US, especially non-profits won’t be able to afford staff in another country. They might be willing to keep you as a contractor, but probably not full time. I work for a NP in the US and I had a staff person in Latin America and it cost us over double his regular salary to conform to all the loopholes to employ him.

    3. Himbizz*

      Just to add some background, remote overseas staff is not unprecedented for my org as we have several overseas staff. My org is in the field of international development. Overseas staff are usually on the program side of things. What makes me different is I am in the operations support side of things. Most operations positions are US based

      1. AP.*

        Would you be living in the same country as the other overseas staff? See my response below about possibly needing to have a legal entity for employees in the country of hire. If the legal issues have already been worked out then it’s an easier conversation.

        If you already know someone on the overseas staff, I would start the conversation with them and ask them about the technicalities of how they get paid and the entity that they work for.

        1. Himbizz*

          Thanks for these insights! I never thought about these legal hurdles and it is good to know these things to inform my approach. There are several staff in the same region (SE Asia) but I won’t be in the same country as any of them. It looks like my best bet would be try to be an overseas contractor.

          1. AP.*

            It really depends on the laws of the local country. Some do have workarounds which would allow you to still be employed by the U.S. entity. You’d really need to do some research. You may want to try the expat forums for your country as many there would have experience with this kind of thing.

          2. Amaranth*

            Also, are there advantages to the company in having operations staff overseas? Does your job intersect with the international employees? If someone has been handling everything remotely from the U.S. maybe you could make a case for handling all the international employees “locally”.

    4. AP.*

      It can be very tricky for the US-based organizations to have foreign employees. They will need to comply with all the laws of both the U.S. as well as the country you are based in. This often means setting up a legal entity in the other country which is beyond the ability of many small nonprofits. At the very least they’d significant legal guidance on how to proceed.

      Hiring you as a consultant may be easier, assuming that you are really doing the work of a contractor rather than an employee according to the laws of both the U.S. and your country. But again, the nonprofit would need to consult a lawyer who specializes in cross-border hiring issues.

      One other point: You’ll be getting paid in dollars but spending in the local currency. Over time currency fluctuations can raise or lower your salary by 25% or more. It may work out in your favor, but it just as easily may not.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Could you elaborate on the last part? I’m not sure what currency would have to do with it – when I worked for a non-US co while living in the US, I was paid in US dollars… couldn’t the OP just get paid in whatever the currency of the new country is? (there would have to be a one-time conversion I suppose…but after that ?)

        1. Himbizz*

          OP here. If I get paid in dollars that would be a big deal. Salaries for fulltime jobs are very low in my home country compared to US rates. If I can get a gig paying dollars at US rates that will go a long way considering lower cost of living over there

          1. TechWorker*

            And if you get paid in dollars your paycheck (in local currency) will jump around each month. That’s worth considering too. (The pay rate and the currency are also I guess not fully intertwined, they could agree to pay you a suitable rate for the area, but still pay in dollars, or (less likely but maybe not impossible?) pay you the normal US rate but agree to pay x amount in the local currency.

        2. AP.*

          Well it really depends. If they are working as a contractor for a U.S. based organization they would probably be getting paid in dollars not the local currency.

          As a local employee they would probably get paid in the local currency. However even in that case all that’s happening is that the currency risk (or benefit) is being transferred from the employee to the nonprofit, since the nonprofit would be fundraising in dollars and paying salary in the local currency. So a drop in the dollar is effectively a large pay increase to the employee which the nonprofit is on the hook for.

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

      There are so many things to consider. Yes this would be hard if your company is not already based in the country your working from. This would probably be really hard too if the country had specific company taxes and labor laws that could affect your U.S (I assume your in US) based co workers. Think of bank holidays in one country not matching up with another. And vice versa. Would you be the only one working on labor day? Although if your a consultant that would maybe make a difference.

    6. Bluesheart*

      I think the biggest issue will be the taxes, some of our people at the beginning of COVID went back home in other countries, we didn’t think it would go on for so long, we are now having discussions that they either need to come back or quit. Because we don’t have offices based in their countries and we are reaching the limit allowed for them work in that country without tax issues for us.

    7. NW Mossy*

      One other thing to consider: time zones. If all the people you routinely need to communicate with are on the other side of the world, it puts you in a real bind for meetings. As the only person with that constraint, you’ll likely get pressure to take calls at unpleasant times (like the middle of the night) because the time falls into everyone else’s workday.

      Some people are totally cool with effectively working graveyard, but if you’re not used to it, it can be really tough to adjust. When we stood up some outsourcing in the Philippines a few years ago, the biggest complaint from US-based folks who traveled there to help was having to stay on US time while working.

      1. Himbizz*

        Timezones — I hear you! Yes, this will be challenging, depending on the task and the necessity to go on meetings or collaborate and turnaround times for projects

        1. TechWorker*

          Is there any working day overlap? If there is ‘none’ I would say it’s gonna be really tough and as you’re the only one overseas you are likely to end up working out of hours.

          If there is some overlap, think about how that’s likely gonna affect you – maybe you’re ok with sometimes joining 7am meetings, but not ok with regularly joining 9pm ones.. :)

        2. Ariadne Oliver*

          I worked in NE Asia for 2. 5 years with my company based on the US East Coast. I could count on working nights two days out of five so I could attend meetings and talk to people real time. That was no fun and really affected my mental and physical well being.

    8. Nada*

      Do you have citizenship in the overseas country? If not, you definitely need to look into immigration requirements before thinking about anything else.

    9. Anonforthis*

      Hi there – agree you may want to talk to staff outside the U.S. and determine what their arrangements are. I would put together a proposal for your boss to consider (i.e. timezones, how to stay in touch, how you could do your job the same or better in your market of choice, etc.), but I would make it clear you understand that the real details will have to be looked at through HR and legal. A few things to consider – 1) if you are a US citizen or green card holder, your income earned overseas will be eligible for US taxes in the same way it is while living in the states, 2) biggest factor is the obligations of the country to which you are moving. To give you a sense, we have several international employees, and generally have to pay 1.5x their salary because of separation/retirement/health obligations required by the governments in countries where they are based, 3) we have done a survey of other INGOs, and unless it is the United Nations, nearly all pay salaries commiserate with local pay scales, meaning if there is a lower COL in your destination country, your salary could decrease significantly, 4) most INGOs use PEOs, which mean your employment is not with the organization directly, but with an in-country payroll provider that specializes in tax/payroll issues in that country. There is a fee for an employer to engage a PEO (usually a first time engagement in a new country, and then a cost per employee). Another thing to consider if you would like to go the contracting route, is that responsibilities have to be consistent with independent contractor requirements, which are generally much broader scale and time bound than those of an on-going employee (this has to be true for both US and destination country). If the SOW is written more like an employee responsibility, and the “contractor” does not have other clients, many organizations’ legal teams will raise a flag because if the host country views the contractor as an employee, the organization could be on the hook for taxes. In general, we only pay PEOs in US dollars because we do not want to have currency hedging issues on our financials. Hope this is helpful.

      1. AP.*

        [i]1) if you are a US citizen or green card holder, your income earned overseas will be eligible for US taxes in the same way it is while living in the states[/i]
        The first $100K of foreign earned income can generally be excluded from your U.S. taxes if you are living abroad. Also, there may be treaties between the U.S. and the other country which would affect taxation in both locales.

        1. Anonforthis*

          Agreed. I may have mis-read but assumed that the poster was not relocating to Europe but If that is the case treaties may affect taxation. Thanks for adding that.

    10. The Assistant*

      Hey OP chiming in SUPER late here. We recently hired a FTE living abroad. The only reason it worked were the following considerations:
      1. She is a US citizen
      2. She has a US bank account and is paid in dollars
      3. She has a permanent address (PO Box/relative with home) in the US

      We are not set up to sponsor H-1Bs or employ folks outside the US, but that was enough to not spin up another in-country office for just her. I think if you could think through those three things, you could pull this off.

  3. Resume helper*

    Alison thought you all might have some ideas for me about how to deal with classified info on a resume!

    I help people put resumes together as a small part of my job. I occasionally encounter job seekers whose previous experience required high security clearance, and the details of the projects they worked on are classified information. I tell them to just do their best to get as specific as they legally/ethically can, but this is easy to say and hard to do. Say they knitted a top-secret turtleneck sweater, for example — if the tricky part was the tight circle around the neckline (or something — I know nothing about knitting), it’s going to be tough for them to name their accomplishment without also naming the sweater.

    These people aren’t necessarily seeking jobs that all have the same high level of confidentiality, so the way they write about this experience needs to be legible to all of us normals.

    Does anybody have any experience with this, or ideas I could offer these resume writers?

    1. Jamie*

      I personally have not had experience with this, but many of my friends have. I haven’t seen their resumes, but I can tell you how they speak about their jobs with me. They boil it down to the absolute simplest form of the task. For example, they can talk about “circular stitching” without revealing exactly what they are working on. People might be able to guess what they worked on, if they have knowledge of the industry, but that detail doesn’t alone reveal what they did if you have no other knowledge. Alternately, framing this in terms of accomplishments might be really helpful here. “Increased safety factor on top secret project from 3x to 4x by changing the material without increasing the size of top secret project” still says what they did, without giving any clear information. Hope this helps.

    2. Lady Heather*

      Your clients (?) may be able to share a part of their accomplishment without context, such as “Did work on turtleneck sweater” or “Tightened neckline circle on knitting project” or “Improved safety features of winterwear collection”, depending either on what part they are allowed to share, or on what part of the experience is most relevant regarding the application.

      The employer may also have an office that deals with classified information in publications – if an ex-CIA agent wants to publish a book about their experiences, someone in the CIA will read the book to make sure there is nothing in there that shouldn’t be. (This gives them time to quietly dispose of the auth – oh, wait, I am not allowed to talk about that.)

      1. Resume helper*

        Yes, good point! I had kind of guessed something like that might exist and encouraged them to go ask someone, but I don’t think it was very compelling advice because I didn’t have a clear example like the one you mention in mind. Phrasing it a little more concretely will help a lot.

        1. Lady Heather*

          If the org has an ethics office, that’s probably a good place to start. Even if they’re not the right office to handle this, they probably know who would be.

          (Or it turns out there is no protocol for this situation, just bureaucracy that can only be navigated with a protocol..)

    3. Summersun*

      Dated example, but my dad went through this because he got all his electrical engineering training during his time in military intelligence in Vietnam instead of attending college. He was able to explain what kind of things he was capable of doing, without explicitly stating things he had done.

      So, review the job duties in the ad, and match them up. “I can read and troubleshoot electrical diagrams, work with ABC circuits, and rewire Widgets in half the time of a standard employee.”

    4. Nesprin*

      Same as dealing with NDAs- you give generalities when you have to, focus on your own accomplishments and metrics of success.
      For example, “as part of major classified knitting effort, developed new stitch which lead to 80% improvements in stitch evenness”
      “developed process which lead to 80% improvements in stitch evenness, receiving rave reviews from stakeholders”

    5. designbot*

      I think it’s important to know the norms of the field there. In architecture for example, we all have NDAs but there’s an understanding that they have different motivations and different levels of secrecy. For example, my resume lists projects like “Confidential Technology HQ” and I can show images of it in passing, like show in a portfolio that I don’t leave behind but I would never distribute images of it, and as soon as you see you know what it is. Often these are projects that are confidential only until the client has gotten a chance to handle the media release the way they want, so I periodically search the web and see if it’s out there and if it is I can be more forthright. But some of my colleagues who work with high end residences for example, can not only not name their clients, they can’t say what city it’s in, and the key thing they can never show is a floorplan, because the concern is the physical safety of the celebrity they’ve worked for. Sometimes these clients can be included in a more generic ‘client list’ format but not associated with a specific project because the issue again is safety as opposed to the appearance of authorship. We can always talk about for example, working with a city planner to achieve favorable interpretations of code requirements, or researching and putting together details working with a novel material, or even conducting workplace research that helps establish and resolve the needs of disparate groups within a client organization. Sometimes that means a person in the same field would indeed be able to identify the organization (my husband’s real estate friends like to see if they can guess what project I’m working on by my anonymized answers for example), but that’s generally accepted in this field.
      If you’re trying to help people whose fields they don’t know, maybe try asking them about how information is handled in other situations, how secretive their organization is about it. What do they put in their website, vs. what do they put on a brochure that has a smaller distribution, vs. what will they say to another client but not put in writing?

      1. Resume helper*

        This is extremely helpful, thank you.

        I have encouraged them to go back to whoever they worked with and ask someone there to explain the norms to them, but it was really just a guess because I didn’t even have an idea of what such norms might even look like. Your explanation here is really helping me imagine the possibilities more clearly.

    6. NRG*

      I have this sort of thing on the CV I used for applying to various technical jobs. I would list things like
      Maintained work scope of Top Secret yarn techniques within (relevant statute number) guidelines.
      And for a list of publications it would go:
      Authors, “Effects of Fiber Tension on Selected Garment Apertures (U)”

      The U is for a title of a document wherein _the title_ has been officially tagged as unclassified, not the contents.

      1. Resume helper*

        Oh, I like the idea of mentioning a specific standard rather than a specific project. I hadn’t thought of that.

    7. Bad Hare Day*

      I don’t have anything to add but I did want to say that as a knitter, your example is apt! Necklines are tricky :-)

    8. Tabby Baltimore*

      First off, your clients need to check with the person who oversees, or who oversaw, their work product(s), to find a point-of-contact within their agencies who does resume review. In some agencies, it’s a two-step review process, and one of the reviewers has to be a senior subject matter expert who can vouch that the resume content is fully unclassified before the resume holder is cleared for take-off/posting. If your client is a defense contractor, s/he should probably look at what their company handbook says about this kind of review.

      Second, I’d like to second the poster upthread who mentioned listing types of technical skills as one way around the problem. Another way is to offer the number and type of products the resume-holder produced in any given job’s timeframe (e.g., “delivered 40 briefings in a 6-month period,” or “wrote/coordinated a weekly threat summary for the team/office,” or multi-page articles, ad-hoc notes, response memos, etc.).

      What’s trickier is country affiliation. One writer I knew referenced “a major Middle East ally” in an unclassified product. Another example might be “a regional South American adversary,” or an even vaguer “South Asian power.”

      Regardless of what your clients choose–assuming they’re currently employed—I’m fairly sure they’re going to have to get approval from someone in their government agency before stepping off. Even if they’re contractors, I’m pretty sure they’ll still have to get government’s blessing, but this might vary from company to company. If they’re currently unemployed (regardless of whether they’re ex-government or ex-contractor), the only option I can think of is to go back to a point-of-contact at their old agency/employer and ask if s/he would be willing to take the resume and try to get it approved, but that is a real long-shot.

      1. Resume helper*

        Ah, your country affiliation examples are similarly helpful to the poster above. I don’t know the details of their past positions (other than that they’re generally pretty low-level), but if I can give them several examples of possibilities like this, it might help them figure out what questions they need to ask of their point of contact (I do mention on it, but I’ll lean on that part harder, too).

        Thanks!

    9. Emilitron*

      Every agency or business who deals with classified material has a department who deals with info for public release, and when things are going well, that office is also responsible for and helpful with approving information for emplyees resumes and CVs. It’s a pain in the butt to have to go through them, and in the non-optimal cases there are the questions of “how to get release approval if you haven’t told your boss you’re leaving”. But you should talk with your client about what resources her place of work has.

      1. Tabby Baltimore*

        The issue of needing an unclassified resume might be easier to navigate than it was before, since so many people are working from home. It’s plausible to send the resume to someone for review and say “I need an unclassified version of this for work now.”

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

      Interested in this one as this is a difficult one for me as well. Not with security clearance and government work as such, but having signed a valid NDA about “cutting edge” projects.

      Let’s say I am highly experienced in Technology X and Y (e.g. something with machine learning, although it isn’t that in reality) and applied X and Y to a project where it was a completely new application of that technology that no-one had attempted before (at least not known), was potentially patentable, required designing completely new algorithms to make technology X able to be used with the problem at hand, etc.

      In academic research circles, I suppose this would be kept under wraps with a view to publishing it as a PhD or other paper, but this is in a company: the details of the application of X to problem P will never be made public as such, just quietly integrated into the proprietary source code for the project.

      I could put wording around technology X and Y, something like “applied machine learning to recognise facial expressions of people on video with 98% accuracy”, “advanced knowledge in technology Y” but this doesn’t get across the “novel” nature, the unique step of ‘invention’ that differentiates knowing everything there is on a particular subject from ipso facto expanding the subject.

      1. Resume helper*

        Yes, this is very similar to the frustration the resume writers I work with express! And in their cases, they’re generally pretty low level, so they can’t really take credit for the Thing; it’s more about showing that they had rare firsthand exposure to the process of making Thing and even played a grunt role without screwing anything up.

    11. Arvolin*

      Reminds me of a job interview I had. I would be working on The Project, for The Client. They were able to tell me that The Project had hardware and software components. They were able to tell me what the necessary skills were for the job and some of the duties, and that if hired I’d be on side projects until my clearance came in and they were able to tell me what I was hired for. I didn’t get the job, and I wasn’t completely sure I wanted it, but it would have been interesting.

  4. Book Pony*

    I start my new job on Sept 28!

    It’s the library job I had been posting about before that had gotten bogged down in a hiring freeze. I was able to able to negotiate the starting salary (first time ever doing that), so it’ll be a 10% increase from my current pay. The commute is also shorter and it’s more in line with what I want to do with my life, so it’s just great from every direction.

    I’m just so happy to be able to leave my current job and its toxic environment. (My boss just recently was talking about condoms with me, unprompted and barely related to the conversation at hand.)

    Freedom! Woo!

    1. Lives in a Shoe*

      That is such a good feeling, and so many congratulations. And now that you’ve done one salary negotiation, you’re going to do so well at any future ones!

    2. alison*

      Congratulations!

      Idk why, but I feel like the commentariate and letter writers of this blog have an extremely high concentration of librarians relative to the rest of the internet…

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Libraries can be particularly toxic. They can attract people who want to avoid ppl and work with books but the job is mostly working with ppl, if not patrons than with each other. And the path to management is to be a good librarian. That does not always (usually?) overlap with being good at managing people. Also, according to one webinar star and frequent presenter in the library world, we are mostly conflict avoidant people.

        1. Youth Services Librarian*

          yeah. weird combo of nonprofit and local government job, and it’s a toss-up whether or not you have access to human resources etc. plus, we like to share resources, so askamanager gets shared a LOT in library groups.

  5. Fluffernutter*

    I am currently on the board of an ERG at the company I work at. My role is board member at large so my responsibilities are only say participating in meetings/activities and filling in when needed, whether due to another board member’s absence or having too much on their plate. I volunteered to help cover the communication coordinator’s responsibilities while she is on leave. (She is unsure when her leave will end, it could be 2 weeks or 2 months.)

    How do I list this on my resume or should I skip that and just talk about it in cover letters? I have had to receive some training and have already done some work to take over temporarily and don’t want to discount that by not talking about it in my resume/cover letter. I think having a more concrete example of what I have done as a board member would be better than just saying I helped out in a vague sense. I also mentioned the uncertain leave time because if I end up only taking over for a couple weeks, can I even include that anywhere? I did still have more responsibilities for a period of time.

    Also, any suggestions as to how to list taking over another member’s role in the future on top of the communication coordinator? Just in case! Thanks! :)

    1. ThatGirl*

      I think it’s a little early to start mentioning the filling in part. You can certainly list somewhere that you’re an at-large board member if you’d like, but I’d wait until you’re at last a month or two in and actually have some accomplishments. It’s also more applicable if it’s giving you skills or accomplishments that are useful for a new job you’re applying for.

    2. Bad Hare Day*

      I would probably list it as a bullet point under your job description (maybe the last one?); something along the lines of “Serve on Llama Owners Employee Resource Group as an at-large board member; handled communications responsibilities while Communications Chair was on leave.”

    3. Solar*

      This may depend on where you’re applying. Some places, ERG roles are pros… and some places are less enlightened. I personally don’t include ERG work on my resume, but that may depend on how picky you can afford to be (or how anxious you are about the job search).

      If you do include it on the resume, I’d leave it as a lower item for that job, and list it “As ERG board member, accomplished X, Y, Z”

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

      Are you already listing the ERG board membership on your resume or do you just want to include the additional responsibilities but haven’t mentioned the general membership?

      Assuming it’s the former – I would list your normal responsibilities and an additional bullet point for (e.g.) “Deputized for communication coordinator when required including tasks x, y and z”

      If it’s the latter – presumably you want to introduce it as it’s relevant additional experience, so you could perhaps include it within your general company responsibilities “As a board member of the ERG, deputized for communication coordinator on tasks xyz in addition to typical tasks abc”

      On your last question – I don’t have suggestions of specific wording, but my intuition is saying you need to be careful about how you word this. Taking over one member’s role temporarily in case of absence is stepping up, putting the org’s needs at the front of your mind, etc. Taking over more than one role looks like a pattern, and someone reading this could well get an impression of “will Fluffernutter try to push out others in the future and take over their responsibilities and/or is Fluffernutter more concerned with other people’s tasks than their own?” both of which could come off negatively if you are not careful.

      Don’t get me wrong – I think that both could be presented positively! But you need the right wording.

      1. Fluffernutter*

        Based on the answers, maybe I didn’t make it clear the ERG is not part of my job. I have a separate role at my company that I am paid for. So I don’t think it should be listed under my job? It is also only a one year term.

        @Captain, it never crossed my mind that it could look like I’m trying to take over since my responsibility as member at large IS to take over in times of absence/business. Would that change your view of how careful I need to be?

        1. engr*

          Is it actually worth discussing ERG responsibilities? I lump my ERG involvement into a general “other activities” at the bottom and just put the ERG and whatever title I held (also where I put industry volunteering stuff, eg judging a K12 competition). Within my industry, being involved in an ERG is worth mentioning, but beyond that it’s really not useful.

  6. Resume Writing*

    Resume writing: tips and tricks for finding ROI when your job doesn’t have that sort of actionable metrics?

    My technical writing job is basically “write instructions that keep us from getting sued”. There’s no way to measure how successful I am at that, and even if there was, I wouldn’t be allowed to know the confidential details.

    My yearly goals are vague nonsense to fulfill the company-wide standard form, like “improve software skills”.

    1. Resume helper*

      This is kind of similar to my question above, which also has to do with how to write about confidential stuff on a resume.

      Can you say something about meeting all of your deadlines? As a person who used to be in a position to wrangle writers, that’s actually a bigger accomplishment than you might think. . . .

    2. Ducky*

      I’ve put things like how fast I was able to turn around certain kinds of documents, ability to reduce page counts without losing content, “distilled 80 pages of engineering documentation into an easy-to-understand 2-page guide,” and stuff like that and been successful with it.

    3. Lyudie*

      As a former tech writer, this is something writing teams struggle with a lot, it’s hard to quantify or apply metrics to writing. You can point to meeting deadlines as one thing, and if you do any sort of feedback forms or customer satisfaction surveys, you can mention getting good scores and acting on any feedback. Talking about working with SMEs or other cross-functional teams can show collaboration (and quality in a way, as you are having things reviewed for technical accuracy).

    4. Clever username goes here*

      Do you get audited at all? Can you emphasize how your job keeps your company in line with whatever applicable standards/regulations etc?

    5. Middle Manager*

      Is there a way to say something like “wrote 10 sets of instructions that led to no adverse legal action for a 1 year period”. Not my field, so not sure, but if the main take away is did you write well enough (and I’d assume research it thoroughly enough in advance of writing) that it doesn’t lead to lawsuits, then I’d be impressed that there were no or few lawsuits (whatever is standard for the field) that led to bad consequences.

    6. Pilcrow*

      Fellow tech writer here. I hear ya. Feels like screaming into the void at times.

      Regarding the ‘so we don’t get sued’ agenda, sometimes I just want to write, “keep your hands off the big spinning blade, nitwit!”

      These are areas I’ve touched on my own resume. Maybe some of these will apply to you?

      * Have you improved the documentation? This can reduce training time and/or help center calls. Can also reduce lawsuits if the previously buried ‘keep your hands off the big spinning blade’ warning is now prominent.

      * Have you presented difficult technical info in an easy to understand format? This reduces help center calls and/or training time. Can also improve quality in a production environment.

      * Have you worked on templates and presentation? Did you reorganize documents so they are easier to use? Again, can reduce help center calls and reduce training time.

      * Did you convert paper docs to an online system or CMS? Reduces costs, reduce help center calls, improve doc update timelines.

      * Did your ‘instructions to keep us from getting sued’ help bring a product into compliance with regulatory bodies and/or reduce lawsuits? Bringing docs up to standards (for example, FDA standards) is a big accomplishment. Reducing fines from HIPAA breaches would be another.

      Remember to save some samples (anonymized), especially before and afters. Tech writers are lucky in that we can show a concrete portfolio of work. Literal show, not tell.

    7. Wintergreen*

      I have no advise but wanted to commiserate. I too struggle with how to put accomplishments on my resume and my only real goal at work is too keep up with all the work (which I can do fairly easily). Most of what I have done, when distilled down enough for a resume, sounds unimpressively generic even when the accomplishments were somewhat impressive.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Me too! I do health care work, and most of my job consists of taking people who are basically well and KEEPING them well. It’s really hard to translate that into a list of accomplishments! I’ve never put together a resume I felt really satisfied with. Fortunately, my industry doesn’t tend to take them quite as centrally as some… they want to see where you trained and how long you’ve been in practice and where you’ve worked before, and then they test you so they know for themselves what you can do. The lack of a good accomplishments list has never stopped me from getting a job, but I always keep thinking it will!

  7. CBH*

    I got into a topic of discussion with friends. I am hoping to hear (hopefully success but any advice) stories. About 12 years ago I worked with a great group of people. Today we range from ages 30-55. We were a small department that was the last to be laid off when the company closed. We formed a tight group. Despite the age differences we all get along well and are good friends professionally and personally.

    One group member is 46 years old. He has always wanted to start his own business. He is doing everything “right”. He has a business plan, research, contacts, etc. Like everyone else he also has a lot of commitments – wife, car loans, mortgage, kids college tution, family vacations etc. He is very good at budgeting and is not willing to go into debt starting this business. He’s at a point in life the last few years where he has been saving for this dream.

    Friend seemed a little (I don’t know) discouraged/ glum/ down, when he realized that in order to be financially stable to take on such a big adventure, he really couldn’t start this business until age 50-52. He isn’t looking to make millions, but would like to just use this as a better-than-average second income.

    We’ve tried to encourage him that it’s ok to start a business later in life. So I guess what I am asking AAM fans, what have been your experiences starting a business later in life?

    1. 867-5309*

      There are tons of online articles about being in their 50s+ starting their own companies. A quick search will pull them up.

      I copied this stat from an MSN article, “In fact, a study from the Census Bureau found that the majority of successful businesses were founded by people who are middle-aged. More specifically, a founder who is 50 years old is 2.8 times more likely to have a successful business than a person who is 25 years old.”

      A high percentage of people in my field go into consulting and freelance in their 50s and I know of at least half a dozen who were so successful the turned their independent gig into creating an agency that hired others.

      Also, I mean technically 50 is later in life but it’s not the same as someone being 50 many years ago when that was considered “old.” 50s is still quite young by today’s standards.

      Hope that helps. Good luck to your friend.

      1. CBH*

        Thank you for this info! My friend has worked very hard, responsible and successful. I think my friend through this business would already be up and started by the time they hit the big 5-0 and become a but glum with reality. We all say go for it. He has the know how and resources. In addition if he waits a few more years there really won’t be a huge impact in his lifestyle. I just want him to know that it’s not a “failure” to start a business later in life. I personally think it’s more of a success given he would have more experience. Thank you for the words of encouragment.

    2. LunaLena*

      Maybe it would help to see his age as an asset instead of “I won’t be able to do this for YEARS”? When he gets to start his business, he’ll have the money, experience, and contacts to start a *successful* business. Anyone can start a business (I’ve worked at a couple of small businesses where the owners were first-time business owners who grossly underestimated the amount of work needed, and it… was not good. For anyone.), but keeping it running and viable is a different story. And if he starts building his plans now with the end goal of starting when he’s 50-52, that gives him 4-6 years to solidify those assets and maybe start laying the foundations so he can hit the ground running when he takes the plunge. I guess I’m saying that he should shift his mindset to seeing those 4-6 years as preparation to ensure success, not a delay.

      I honestly think being an older business owner is not a bad thing. You can’t buy years of experience and problem-solving off the street. You also can’t say “I wish I could have done this when I was 30!” because you at 30 is not the same person you are now. To quote Terry Pratchett, “That was always the dream, wasn’t it? ‘I wish I’d known then what I know now’? But when you got older you found out that you NOW wasn’t YOU then. You then was a twerp. You then was what you had to be to start out on the rocky road of becoming you now, and one of the rocky patches on that road was being a twerp.” Sure, maybe he could have started his business X years earlier… but would it be as likely to be successful than if he starts it in 4-6 years?

      Good luck to him, at least he’s brave enough to go for his dream. Not everyone is. :)

    3. knitcrazybooknut*

      This doesn’t answer your question, but has he considered starting his business as a part-time endeavor? He could start out with a few clients, and build his way up.

      Obviously, his mileage is going to vary with time constraints and his other obligations. But it’s not really an all-or-nothing, in my eyes.

      1. CBH*

        I believe he has but part of his business plan involves manufacturing. I don’t have much experience in this so sorry if I sound naive. He has been able to make some of his inventory on a smaller scale and sell them as a hobby/ informally. I guess he did this to test the waters. However as he put it, he is really at a point where he will continue with what he has done, but can’t move forward until taking the plunge and actually starting the business.

        1. Arvolin*

          There are companies you can go to for small-scale manufacturing. It’s going to cost more and/or be less reliable than doing your own, but it might work for getting started. There are different sorts of companies in the field; Proto Labs does their own in-house manufacturing for others, for example, while Xometry is a clearing house for excess capacity. If your friend is going that way, researching what’s available is important.

    4. MacGillicuddy*

      Something someone said to a friend: “But will take 8 years to do this project, and by that time I’ll be 52 years old!”
      The reply: “How old will you be in 8 years if you DON’T do this project?”

    5. AnotherAlison*

      I am in my 40s, and I’ll second the comments about age as an asset. My husband has been self-employed for 15+ years, but it’s only now that he has been comfortable growing his business beyond “owning a job”. Even in his 50s, he could easily work another 20 years and more if he wanted to. If he wants to retire at 60, then maybe this business isn’t as important of a dream as it once was (and that’s fine).

      The other thing I’ll add is if he wanted to do it sooner, he could. Is the family on board with his dream, or does he have to work around them? Does his wife have a job, or could she? Will they sell the $40,000 SUV and 3,000 SF house? What other options could be considered to pay for the kids’ college? I’m painting this guy as Mr. Worst-Case-of-Suburbia, but my point is you can make lifestyle changes to live your dreams sooner. Most people seem to like having a dream that they don’t actually have to commit to, though, and not changing anything. Since my kids are 23 and 16, I think I can safely say trying to accommodate them all the time and giving them a nice lifestyle was okay, but it wouldn’t have hurt for them to have had less stuff, fewer privileges and more skin in the game.

      1. CBH*

        While a great idea, my friend and his wife made a lot of sacrifices, including some that you mentioned, for different areas in life. This business just one of their goals. He is ok with taking a while to save for his business I think he was just shocked when he saw age 50-52 when speaking to his financial advisor.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          For those of us who are older than him, we are just shaking our heads and saying, “Keep going, don’t stop now.”

          Ask him to pretend that he is now 62 years old, he decided not to set up his biz. How would he feel at 62 knowing that he had a chance and did not do it because he thought early 50s was too late?

          I am fond of a story about an elderly man in a nursing home. He was celebrating a milestone birthday and a reporter came to interview him. The reporter asked if he had any regrets in life. The man shook his head sadly and said, “I should have take bolder chances more often.” I think of this story often and I want to put myself in a spot where I don’t have this regret. It sounds like your friend has a well thought out plan. Like everything else in life- getting a spouse, getting a house, getting a career- none of these things are instant they take time. Tell him to keep his eyes on the goal and not let this small potatoes stuff distract him.

          1. CBH*

            You are amazing with your words of encouragement. I think I should have been boulder should be everyone’s life motto.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          The good news is you did say the business is one of “their” goals. It’s obviously fine if they had other goals that were higher priority. I think we’ve all seen some couples where one person wanted to do something new and the other one didn’t want to change anything. My parents are those people. My dad bought land to move to 20+ years ago, and my mom refused to move.

          Your friend will get there, and like NSNR said, don’t stop. Do what you can now. Another way to do it with a smaller investment could come up, but it won’t if he gives up.

          1. CBH*

            They will get there. They have a great business idea. Years ago, many of their finances were allocated towards a business his wife started (not an MLM). They decided for her to stay at home to save on childcare. They allocated some funds towards an idea she had that could be done for home. It took a while to take off and it is still growing, but more on the mom and pop side. Friend and wife are very much on the same page financially, they work together. Everyone should have a financial openness that they do. However as everyone said there were many priorities. Now they are getting around to saving for Friend’s dream. He won’t give up, but I definitely think he is discouraged by how long everything is taking. I do think he doesn’t realize (wife does) how great it is that they are set financially. They are tackling hurdles before they even happen.

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

      Between 46 and 50-52 isn’t really that many years, although I’m sure the ’50’ is a big psychological barrier (but doesn’t need to be necessarily). It also assumes that things will continue as they are, I think (e.g. continues to keep a paying job in the meantime) which is by no means certain.

      If he’s in a good place financially already, I think a little less risk aversion and a little more acceptance of risk is indicated. There is no risk-free “starting your own business” no matter how financially sound you are (within reason).

      1. CBH*

        Yes 50 is definitely a big psychological barriers. See my response to AnotherAlison. It definitely answers many of your questions.

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

          I think my post crossed with yours :) Well, 50, as a chronological age… in some ways I feel like ‘society’ doesn’t help us here, as (at least in the UK, and it’s most likely the same elsewhere) we like to celebrate ‘milestone’ birthdays (16, 18, 21, 25 sometimes, 30, 40, 50, 60….) and those round numbers seem to imbue a lot of significance, in the same way as the turning of a new decade at New Year’s… 50 as an age in itself, doesn’t mean anything really. It’s just a way of marking the passing of time… (I am late 30s and my partner is late 40s, so I am closer to 40 than 30 and he’s closer to 50 than 40 and I just asked the other day “do you feel ‘old’?” (tactful I am I am) and he said “hell no, I’m just reaching my prime!”

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

        .. what I implied, but didn’t explicitly say, was a bit of a frame challenge to his “starting a business later in life” (e.g. age 52). In that – what if he took the bull by the horns now? Has he considered the possibility? It would be irresponsible of me to say “encourage him to start now” so I won’t (as I have a more risk-tolerant attitude than many), but it’s worth at least suggesting the idea, as I say, as a frame challenge.

        1. CBH*

          My apologies. I misunderstood. I think with their financial planning (one child being ready to enter college) starting right now is not possible.

    7. Loz*

      Um…Car loans and mortgages are debts to get something you want that has value. The same goes for debts associated with starting and operating a business. The number of business that run without debt or line of credit is miniscule. Also, he should be able to separate his person debt from business debt. Given he’s got business plans and models that presumably show him the way, he should rationally be able to move forward or not as per his data. If he’s despondent because it won’t work then he’s dodged a bullet. If it’s merely because “debt” then he should review that.

  8. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    I have a question for supervisors and managers. What do you REALLY think when people take short-term disability? My company seems to denigrate those who do, and works hard to find out why they’re taking time off. It’s been recommended that I take time off for intensive outpatient treatment for severe depression, but I don’t want to be sneered at, or thought less of because of mental health issues. I wish it wasn’t this way, but in reality we know it is.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Personally, I would think, “oh good, this person is taking care of themselves using a benefit to which they are entitled.” It’s not my business what the medical reason is for their using it–that’s between them and their doctor and our disability services office. If the person’s work or attitude has been bad lately, I might think something like, “I hope this leave will give them what they need and that they improve after it’s done.”

    2. Wordnerd*

      I know this isn’t the perspective you’re looking for, but my husband had to take short-term disability to get outpatient treatment for his depression and it saved his life. I hope that the people you work for aren’t terrible people who would think less of you, but you have to do what is right for you. Good luck <3

    3. Catalyst*

      I tend to just think that the person is taking care of their health, if their doctor feels they need to be off, I need to trust that . I do know though, that sometimes it’s not the manager who is taking issue with it/super interested in why but the company itself (which I know is not helpful). All of my staff who have taken short term disability have been very open about the reason they were taking it when they were telling me they would be off, but I do think that I’ve been lucky to have such open relationships with those people. So regardless of what the company knew, I knew the reason (and sometimes the companies impact on that reason) and tried to re-enforce to my manager or HR that the reasoning was valid without actually saying what it was.

    4. Picard*

      Does it matter? No seriously… if you have such serious depression that you require inpatient treatment, who the ef cares what your company/management thinks. Take care of your self. Period.

      I hope you’re doing ok soon.

      1. D3*

        Clearly you’ve never been in a situation where you were treated differently after someone learned you have mental illness. The stigma is real, and it’s a big deal.
        This comment is pretty tone deaf to that.

        1. pancakes*

          Stigma is real, yes, but it doesn’t follow that trying to please the sort of people who stigmatize the treatment of mental health issues is advisable.

        2. Arvolin*

          That depends partly on whether you have to tell the employer what the disability leave is for. In any case, you do need to prioritize your health over possible (or likely) reactions from others.

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        This is not helpful. And if the OP would get treated differently at work they would care,

    5. Neosmom*

      I had some sinus surgery and my recovery time was going to be about 8 business days. STD kicked in after 5 business days and I told my boss (the company president). She asked me why I was using STD instead of PTO for those three days. I told her the STD was part of my total compensation package and I had plans for using those PTO days. Her response was, “Good answer.”

      I hope approaching STD as part of your total compensation package is effective with your management team.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I wish my short term disability was like that. When I had emergency surgery and was outfor like 3 weeks HR said I had to use up all my PTo and sick time first. since the PTO had literally reset itself the week before I got sick I ended up using almost all of my personal and vacation time. I have like 3 days left

    6. achoo*

      As a human, I think, “oh no, I’m sorry this person is in distress/pain/etc and I hope they feel better soon.”

      As a manager I think, “okay, what do we need to cover while this person is out.”

      Sometimes I’m sure people get frustrated because workload is increasing, do more with less, etc but the frustration should be aimed at the workplace, not the co-worker. As a manager, I always help prioritize tasks so that people are not overwhelmed.

      Denigration and suspicion never enter the picture.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Achoo stated it EXACTLY the way I would have. I had an employee who had to take short term disability for treatment of a chronic medical issue and about six weeks after she returned from that, she got into an accident and had to be out again for several weeks. My only response was to hope that she got better, to help facilitate the leave paperwork and to make sure that her work was covered by the team. Because that was my job as a manager.

      2. le beef*

        That’s exactly what I was going to say. Short term disability eligibility is determined by a person’s medical provider, so that’s all I need to know. I’m not a doctor; I don’t even play one on TV.

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        Yeah, in my experience, the way your company handles work coverage can really color how the disability time is viewed. It’s unfortunate, but kind of part of human nature.

        If your company is relatively good at keeping teams well staffed and has solid fall back and coverage plans, most of the time folks may be a little annoyed at the extra work, but overall they will want you to take care of yourself and won’t judge you or even ask a lot of questions (unless they are just clueless nosy people).

        If your company is perpetually understaffed and has no real back up plan for people being out for longer than a couple days, people may not want to blame you or think badly of you, but there may be that little bit of bitterness that lingers from having to shoulder the burden of your work while you were out. This isn’t fair at all! Please know that I know that, and the employees having to cover should be blaming their boss and overall company structure, not you. Having been on both sides of the equation, though, sometimes it’s just easier to blame the one person than to try to get mad at the bigger structure you have no control over.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Oh, sorry I forgot to also center that around when supervisors need to deal with the scrambling and the bitterness from other employees covering your work it can sometimes leave a bad taste int heir mouth regarding your leave. Good managers will understand this is not your fault, and actively try to recenter the whole thing so they don’t let the issues they had to deal with bleed onto you. Bad managers aren’t as good at that kind of self reflection and re-centering.

    7. NW Mossy*

      Without getting into too many details, I’ve previously managed a couple of people while they were having a serious mental health crisis, so I’ve got direct experience with this.

      For me, my overriding concern was that they were getting the help they need (which included leave/disability) and providing logistical guidance – links to policies, connections to appropriate HR contacts, reassurance that the process is designed to protect confidentiality around medical info, etc. It was also really important to me to make sure they knew that I’d follow their lead on what to say to teammates or other staff – I’d keep anything they said about their issue/treatment in confidence unless they explicitly gave permission to share more widely. Happily, in both cases the employee was able to return to work after treatment and were highly productive afterwards.

      The tough part is that your situation, like a lot of others around leave, boils down to whether or not your boss/upper management have your trust because they’ve behaved in ways that earned it. Here, it doesn’t seem that they have, so it’ll require you to be more circumspect. Alison’s archives offer lots of great suggestions for “it’s a medical thing, not-your-business” scripts, which will likely be your best bet.

    8. I wouldn't but...*

      Never had that happen but thinking about it and answering truthfully…
      I would be understanding and want them to do what they needed to feel better but would be stressed about covering their workload. But that would be on me to deal with and not something you’d need to worry about. Things happen when we don’t want them to and if you got hit by a car and spent a several weeks in the hospital, as your manager I would need to deal with the additional stress. Just because it is your mental health, that doesn’t mean you should put off treatment any more than you would if you got hit by a car.

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Every time I’ve heard of someone who’s out on medical leave/disability/whatever my thought is hope they’re ok. If I know generally what’s going on, it’s more a specific “hope their surgery went well” or whatever.

      Then I think about how their absence impacts the work. Your company is apparently made up of crappy people.

    10. Zzz*

      I did it this. It was fine. (It was also months-long.). It was, I think, frustrating for some team members at first, and maybe some grumbling happened. But then… it was fine. I was panicking about being gone so long, but my bosses didn’t care all that much. Coming back was hard for me because I had these feelings like I’VE BEEN DEALING WITH HELL HOW CAN YOU ACT LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED. But it’s work, they didn’t ask, and it was actually much, much better that I didn’t have to explain. And- it’s all been fine, work-wise, in part because I’m healthier. I don’t think anyone remembers; I’m assumed to know about things that happened while I was gone. Somewhat relatedly, someone in my team had to go part-time for a few months while dealing with an ugly divorce. I don’t know the details (ie if there was STD involved) but everyone rolled with it, and it was fine. My work environment is high-stress, lots of hours, and my bosses don’t manage well. But even here, the whole thing was a lot easier than I feared. [Note: the STD paperwork took more energy than I had at the beginning, so be aware. But it was fine, too.]. It’s worth getting better, though it will always be a struggle- taking time now will help you deal with things better long after the immediate crisis ends.

    11. Thankful for AAM*

      My son took leave for that. I was very worried about how his workplace would react. I have no idea what the backroom chatter is but they were very professional and matter of fact with him.

    12. Someone On-Line*

      I currently supervise a couple of people who are handling some complex, complicated health conditions, some of which have required use of short-term disability.
      As a manager and supervisor, it is so much easier to plan workload around someone who proactively takes care of their health and communicates with me about their need for time off.
      The hardest to plan around is someone who does not adequately plan and fails to communicate with me, so I’m not sure what they need, what they have been doing, etc.
      So taking disability, for things such as depression, would be fine in my organization, but we are a public health agency. I think the lesson here is that if your current company is not good about that, other companies are.

      Take care of yourself!

    13. LQ*

      So I hear some REALLY harsh folks talk about this and you asked for what people really think.

      It’s 80% based on how the person normally is at work. If it’s someone who is a really excellent employee the thought is “I hope they take care of themselves, I hope everythings ok, I hope they get better.” If they are the top 1% of people it’s “I will do anything to make sure they can keep this job while going through that and I’m willing to read the rules really broadly to do that.” If someone is fine, but not outstanding but is nice and polite and not a difficult employee its “Let’s make sure they have the space to get well but we need to think about what happens if they can’t come back or it takes longer.” (Never gotten rid of someone even bad, but sometimes jobs are different after people return to try to find a better fit for them.) If someone is a troublesome employee (and they are being poorly managed) it’s never good, it’s always a weird combo of annoyance “they never show up anyway so why not take disability” and frustration “have they done a single days work in the last year?”

      The last % is how critical that person is to the work at that moment, what the disclosure/work for the boss is, and then how well liked the person is.

      Even at my pretty sneery workplace unless you’ve always been an actively bad employee (which in this case needs to include at least some element of being a jerk) then it’s going to be some variation of fine.

      1. Firecat*

        My experience is quite different then yours.

        I’m a top performer, consistently ranked in the top 10% or 15%. I cover tasks for coworkers, train, give lots of notice for vacay, and have step by step with picture guides for everything I do.

        I had to have an emergency surgery and I was treated like shit by my coworkers and bosses for months! It went as far as groups of people lying about me when I returned to get me in trouble. And that was for emergency surgery for an organ failure!

        When another co-worker of mine, also a top performer, had to go on leave for mental health she was ridiculed at staff meetings, behind closed doors, out in the bullpens the works. She eventually left our department.

        What’s interesting is the manager that gave me the hardest time for the organ failure was kind about the mental health crisis but the manager who was ok and not great about my surgery was a hulking terror about the mental health issue.

        It’s very much a know your office thing.

    14. Former Retail Manager*

      I really think it varies by industry & company. When I was a retail manager, it was certainly frowned upon, to put it lightly, and there was always gossip as to why so-and-so was out. But retail is a different beast, and taking short term disability (or any leave really), with little notice, creates a staffing problem in most retail environments. I will say that it was much less of a “thing” if someone had an obvious injury, like a car accident, fall, etc. But if the injury isn’t obvious, everyone tended to believe that they were making stuff up to get time off work.

      If your company is like this, I hate to say it, but it’s probably pretty likely that you’ll be thought less of. The only thing I can say is to protect your privacy and don’t tell them any more than they need to know (don’t mention mental health if at all possible). And I do hope you get the treatment you need.

      and I can say, that not all employers are like yours or my old retail employer. My current employer is very supportive and wouldn’t bat an eye.

    15. Sarra N. Dipity*

      To be honest, if the person didn’t tell me what the leave was for, I would be REALLY curious as to what it was, but I would definitely refrain from asking because it’s really none of my business.

      I worked for a company that demoted people after while they were off on STD leave, and laid people off who had planned STD leave (including me; I was laid off 2 weeks before my maternity leave was scheduled to start) (all illegal, AFAIK, and I am happy to say that the company is no longer in business). so yeah, I know there’s some pretty rotten companies out there.

      If you do take this opportunity for intensive treatment, please make sure that some of the work you’re doing involves your therapist(s) helping you strategize around your return to work!

    16. Ashley*

      I think a lot of this can be based on how reasonable your manager is normally. If they are not normally reasonable I doubt they will handle this well either. Same thing applies about HR. If they are normally ok, they should be ok with this. This is all made easier the better employee you are.

    17. Not_Kate_Winslet*

      This wouldn’t be an issue at my work place at all. We encourage employees to take the time that they need (aligned with bargaining unit contracts, civil service rules, etc.).

    18. LGC*

      Self-important supervisor here!

      1) you’re probably going to get outlier answers because the kinds of supervisors that read AAM are also the kinds of supervisors that are Extremely Woke (hi).

      2) if you’re in the US – if you’re at an FMLA-eligible employer, legally it shouldn’t matter what they think.

      3) I am likely going to get myself in trouble for what I’m about to say.

      Okay, all that said: to be honest, I’d probably be a bit frustrated on the inside that you’d spring a (presumably sudden and lengthy) absence on me because honestly, I’m chronically short-staffed as it is. But I’d probably follow your lead in terms of how much information you’d like to reveal to me. (I’d direct you to HR, because you do need to document this with HR. Plus, they don’t have that much control over hiring as shown by the guy who made a wildly inappropriate comment to one of our HR reps in his interview and still got hired)

      But also, I’d probably be fine with it in 5 minutes. Like, people get sick all the time. People get cancer and need to take months off for treatment. People get COVID and need to take weeks off at least. Maybe it’s because I’ve had mental health issues myself (depression in my case), but I think that mental health is…just health. The job’s important, but what’s more important is that you’re well enough/in a good enough position to work. And if you need time off to get well, then take that time.

      Specific to your situation – I would go to HR and ask them to keep it confidential because you’re afraid of retaliation. I’m not sure how well that’d work in practice, but 1) as I mentioned, FMLA and 2) even if they don’t, you said it. If you’re up to it and you want to use vacation time instead, that might be an alternate route you’d want to take. (I hate that answer, but if you’re that worried about them finding out, that might be an option.)

      1. New Senior Mgr*

        Outlier answers… was thinking the same and really hope she has one of us as her manager (or like-minded).

    19. Kiwi with laser beams*

      At my company you’d be fine. At yours, I think Alison has written advice before about dealing with companies that are nosy and judgy about what you’re taking medical leave for, so it might be worth having a look and seeing what you can find (I can’t remember much and I don’t want to put you wrong).

  9. Ducky*

    Continuing this week’s coaching and language-softening discussions, I’m having trouble dealing with my boss, who is eager to coach me on likability even though I am not at all interested.

    I’m a woman on the autism spectrum, with very direct style and no patience for empty buzzwords or placating egos. I can “people please” given advance notice, but it’s exhausting to constantly maintain. Generally, people who are good at their jobs like and appreciate me and people who skate by on the social contract can’t stand me. (Yes, I realize how judgy that sounds.)

    I’ve come to peace with this now in my late 30s, but my current manager desperately wants me to be more “likable.” To that end, she is doing her best to coach me with tips about tone and phrasing. She’s often right, and sometimes what she tells me is something I realized myself immediately after I said the wrong thing, but sometimes I think she simply has different ideas of what’s best, or it’s a situtation where nothing would have worked. Plus, many of the tips contradict each other, such as when I’m supposed to over-communicate and when I’m supposed to have faith in my colleagues. I just want to be a person, not a perfect robot.

    Do I need to just suck it up and tell her “thank you” after each tip, even knowing I’ll never be able to perfectly implement them or make everyone like me? Unfortunately, I’m already resentful because I’m doubtful my co-workers get regular “did you know people don’t like you?” conversations with their managers 3-4 times a week.

    I think I just need some neutral third parties to weigh in so I can feel better about dealing with what seems a very unfair situation.

    1. Littorally*

      Thanking her for her advice doesn’t imply that you’re going to take it or that you consider it useful. Think of it as thanking her for her time and thoughts, rather than a commitment that you’re going to implement every suggestion she offers.

      A lot of people will give you more suggestions than you can take, with the understanding that you’ll pick and choose the options that work best for you. There’s an unstated sense of “here are ten options, if you implement six of them that will be a great improvement.” I can’t know for sure from here whether that’s how she’s coming at you, but it’s a distinct possibility.

      1. Ducky*

        She’s my boss, though, is the problem, so I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to treat her advice as gospel. And she means well and is very kind and smart.

        I’m very happy with the rest of my life at this point – love my family (most of whom are also on the spectrum), have wonderful friends, back in the Before Times all the people at the coffee shop and grocery store were great to me because I would say nice things to their managers, etc. The only problem is that work forces me to deal with people who aren’t great and those people in turn are forced to deal with me.

        1. Helen J*

          If she is telling you 3 or 4 times a week that people don’t like you, I don’t think that’s “very kind”.

          1. Ducky*

            I was paraphrasing there and did her a disservice. What I mean is, 3-4 times a week during our one-on-one meetings she’ll bring up something like “I don’t think Soandso liked that you said X” or “When you wrote that in the chat, did you notice no one responded?” or “I’m just worried about people liking you and seeing your value” and so on. Then it turns into a whole Thing and my blatant attempts to say “okay” and change the topic aren’t appreciated.

            1. Littorally*

              That is really often for her to be getting into that — at that point, you should be having big-picture discussions less often, not constant granular nitpicking. But also, the “say ‘okay’ and change the topic” strategy really isn’t appropriate when your boss is trying to coach you on how you’re interacting with coworkers.

              1. Ducky*

                I say “okay” and change the subject after acknowledging the feedback and explaining if there’s an explanation and telling her that I’ll try to do better. But she seems to want more from me. I’ve explicitly said “I understand, I will do my best, but I can’t promise because this is something I’ve always had problems with” and that’s not what she wants to hear.

            2. Kathenus*

              While I understand that this can be grating, when I was working on smoothing out some of my communication issues, being told specific examples in the moment was enormously helpful to me. It was so hard to figure out when people thought I was curt or didn’t have enough tact when I was told in generalities months later. Hearing after a meeting or call a specific example really helped me.

              From just what you wrote, I think there might be a couple of levels to consider. Maybe your boss is focusing on building appropriate work relationships which is an important skill throughout your career, and helping you learn the tools to do that versus the goal being that ‘everybody likes you’. I will guarantee that everyone I work doesn’t always like me as I’m still pretty direct to the point of blunt at times, but I’ve learned and continue to practice the skills of respectful communication so that my message doesn’t get lost in my delivery which will hurt me and my projects in the long-run. I know it’s a tough aspect of work to navigate, good luck.

            3. Uranus Wars*

              I wonder if she is bring it up so often because you are brushing it off and trying to change the subject? A deeper conversation around it or indication you are listening to the feedback might help. Not suggesting you take it all, but a nugget or two as suggested above.

              She could also be bringing it up because others on the team might be bringing it up to her in their own one-on-ones each week and overall she is trying to work with all of you on something harmonious – not just you.

              1. Ducky*

                *I* know I’m not brushing her off, but I could try and make it even clearer than I thought I was being, that’s a good point.

                Other people bringing it up – I’m pretty sure certain people, especially in Sales (aka people most likely to rely on the unspoken social contract/put importance on eye contact/use buzzwords instead of saying what they mean/avoid negatives) do tell her whenever they don’t like something about me and that’s what she’s concerned about, but even if no one says anything to her she’s anticipating problems based on what she perceives as unlikable behavior. :(

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  How seriously does she take this as a performance issue? Do you know? There’s a big difference, in terms of what you actually have to do about it (assuming you want to keep that job) between “my boss likes to give me advice about personal stuff, it’s just a thing of hers,” and “my boss is trying to get across to me that she requires me to change the way I interact or my employment could be at risk.”

            4. Esmeralda*

              The thing is, YOU may be ok with how you’re interacting, but your boss has to care about how others feel about their interactions with you. Other people are not OK with how you are treating them — as the boss, she needs to make sure those people are ok and that the team as a whole functions well. Right now, if she needs to tell you multiple times a week that what you are doing is making other people feel not-ok, then that’s a problem for the team and (this is blunt) you are the problem.

              You may be ok with that, but understand that your coworkers are not ok with it and your boss is not ok with it (otherwise she wouldn’t be coaching you on changing your behavior), which can affect you ultimately (promotions, raises, opportunities at work).

              Of course it is hard and seems contradictory at times (social interactions are like that, because the situations are complex and there is not always a one-size-fits-all rule). And you may not want to do it or like to do it. But we all have to do things that are hard, seem contradictory or illogical, are things we don’t want/like to do. Especially at work.

              More importantly, to me anyway, is respect: not even trying sends the message that you don’t really respect the people who you are making feel bad: maybe you respect them for their work but your behavior says that you don’t them as people who are worthy of consideration.

    2. Nesprin*

      Your boss is trying to communicate that “being liked” is part of your job, and unfortunately that means you have to be interested. And unfortunately, there’s no formula for “being liked” as you point out- what’s acceptable behavior at a bar with friends is frequently not acceptable behavior at work and vice versa. Given that you have autism, your interactions with your boss will be different than your coworkers (trust me from another non-neurotypical sister, they will be) and comparing how you interact with people to how others do is not going to be useful.

      But more fundamentally, do you trust your boss’s judgement? Do you think she’s generally on your side and trying to make sure you succeed at your job? You admit that sometimes you have your foot in your mouth and agree with your boss’s advice and sometimes you think she’s overreacting. Can you try for a week and every time she gives you advice on anything, remind yourself that she’s trying to make you a better worker, say thank you for her willingness to give feedback, and consider what she’s trying to tell you?

      I try hard in my own life to remember that feedback is a gift- being given the opportunity to hear that there’s a problem is so much better than the alternative, which is indifference. Sometimes feedback is wrong, and sometimes the giver doesn’t have all the facts, so it’s so tempting to argue.

      1. Aquawoman*

        But is being liked part of her job? Or is the boss a middle-child type who is stressed when not everyone gets along and feels like she has to fix it? Or are people yanking ducky’s chain by complaining to the manager incessantly just because they don’t like her?

        Also, three to four discussions a week is way excessive. I would never do that as a coaching approach because you’re just going to shut people down. I work with the person, not against them. “Everything you do is wrong and you have to change into a different person” is not actionable and will just lead to resentment. “Don’t directly say that a co-worker messed up” is actionable.

        1. Ducky*

          Nesprin has a point. I’m a content writer, so being liked isn’t an explicit part of my job but I do need to be able to interact with many of my co-workers to get information about products. On the other hand, *I* can guess that the people complaining just don’t like me but for some strange reason people who like me refuse to believe me when I say someone else hates me. “No, they don’t hate you! They just don’t understand.” No, they really, REALLY hate me. Trust me. Been there, done that, learned that sometimes giving the benefit of doubt will only lead to literal tears.

          She likes my writing, but has told me she doesn’t want to just give me compliments all the time and wants to focus on what can be improved. XD Yes, she was definitely a straight-A student. (I always had at least one B…)

          By the way, I really appreciate the compassion of you and the others taking the time to respond. This is very hard for me to figure out.

          1. Junger*

            Argh, the fact that people refuse to believe you about what the problem is really doesn’t help with this either. No amount of social niceties will stop someone from hating your guts.

            If you haven’t had one already, maybe a higher-level conversation with your manager could help? One where you sit down with her and work out all the changes she would like you to make, how they’re meant to help, and which ones you’re going to focus on?

            Then if she tries to keep having these conversations 3-4 times per week, you have something concrete to point to (and cut her short if it seems like she starts rehashing previkus discussions)

        2. Malarkey01*

          I think there’s a difference between “liked” and “actively disliked” and it sounds, based on Ducky’s examples, that she is saying things that others don’t take well and they dislike her (and serious props for being able to talk about it because that’s hard). While it’s fine if my employees aren’t good friends and wouldn’t chose to spend free time together and aren’t each other’s cup of tea, it’s not okay if someone is creating discontent by rubbing people the wrong way-especially if I can point to specific things said as “not appropriate” or “that’s not how we speak to each other in this office”. It breaks down collaboration and drags down productivity and morale.

          I know it’s exhausting but maybe try to go a day where you don’t say anything without running it through your mind first. It also comes across that you don’t respect a lot of your coworkers and think they are slackers, which totally valid but in your case it’s hard not to display that and you could try reframing it to not judge anyone’s performance and stay neutral to help in your specific situation.

        3. Esmeralda*

          “Being liked” may not be part of her job, but behaving in a way that does not upset other people almost undoubtedly is. That is, unless you are working almost all the time on your own and don’t have to interact with other people, you have to interact appropriately with them.

          From the examples, even though the boss may be saying “likable”, what I’m seeing is, learn behaviors that show you respect other people and have consideration for their feelings. It doesn’t matter if you really do care about other people’s feelings; what matters is behaving as if you do.

          I think we’re getting hung up on “be likable” when that’s not really the problem here.

          1. Wintergreen*

            Ducky is not responsible for other people’s feelings. Ducky need only be professional. As long as she is professional, she does not need to be likable or consider their feelings at all.

            “Hey idiot, you didn’t include X document.” is not professional

            “You didn’t include X document.” may be a little blunt but is professional

            “I’m so sorry, I can’t find X document. Can you please resend?” knowing they didn’t send the first time but you don’t want to not sound “accusatory” and hurt their feelings is not necessary but is often seen as “likable”

            From the original OP, I’m assuming the middle scenario is where Ducky is falling

            1. Anon Lawyer*

              Eh, no, sometimes you need to not always be blunt with your coworkers even if each individual utterance falls within the bounds of “professionalism”.

              1. Anon Lawyer*

                Also, you do need to consider other people’s feelings. Not all people all of the time. But it’s a copout to say you’re not responsible for other people’s feelings full stop. If you say something rude, it is predictable that their feelings will be hurt and that’s on you. If you say something that is not rude and their feelings get hurt, that is on them. (Generalizing.)

            2. Working Hypothesis*

              It really depends on the office. It’s entirely possible that her particular boss DOES regard saying things in ways which protect the feelings of other team members as a necessary part of the job. At that point, as Alison often says, Ducky would need to decide whether she wants the job as it is, including that requirement, or whether she wants to look for something else.

              Not all offices require more consideration for others than simple professionalism… but many do, and it’s not a ridiculous ask. If they’re concerned with overall morale and trying to ensure that their staff is, on balance, healthy and happy, they may well be prepared (if Ducky makes it necessary) to sacrifice one otherwise-good employee who is making everyone else unhappy. That may not be Ducky’s or Wintergreen’s preferred method of managing, but it’s a fairly common one… and if it’s the one Ducky’s particular manager is using, she needs to know that and decide whether she wants the job on those terms. Just saying “No, I’ll be professional but blunt is who I am and you’ll have to live with it” only works if you don’t really care whether you get to keep the job or not.

        4. Filosofickle*

          While it does sound like a lot — and I have no way of knowing if what I’m about to describe is what the boss is doing — there is a philosophy of coaching that aims to give lots of frequent feedback on specific instances as close to in-the-moment as possible. So that means lots of small corrections / praise. In a perfect world, the boss would be handling it in a way where the feedback is direct and light, not a big to-do. Constructive and not shaming. Hopefully not a “discussion” FFS. But, I can certainly see where it would feel excessive and crappy anyway.

          Emotionally, I would hate it but this approach is exactly what I would need to change how I communicate in a reasonable time frame.

      2. NW Mossy*

        This is a really helpful way to look at it. Effective bosses make a conscious effort to coach their employees on internal politics and culture as part of development for success. Having allies and “professional friends” in your company makes you more effective because you can call in favors, get support for your goals, and have a group of people who’ll support your point of view even when you’re not in the room.

        Relatively few of our colleagues really see our work in the frequent, up-close way that allows them to reach deeply informed judgments about how good that work is. Instead, their opinions of you are more of a sense impression – what they feel working with you takes on outsized importance because that’s the easy-to-reach data about you and your work. This feels deeply unfair, but all humans face this – it’s the nature of working relationships. We’ve all had situations where we formed an impression of a colleague that turned out to be wrong, and we’ve all been misjudged in return.

        It’s a natural reaction to understand this reality and then react by discounting the opinions of others – I mean, they’re factually wrong, right? But at work, this is a trap. The opinions of others matter a lot in defining things that impact you heavily – your compensation, your performance rating, the types of projects you get, promotions/transfers, and more. Their sense impressions guide their reaction when your boss advocates for you, and the more they’re disposed to like you already, the easier it is for her to get them on board with her aims on your behalf.

    3. KimmyBear*

      Wow. I’m sorry. This sounds exhausting. I will say that there are elements of work that are made easier by being liked but that doesn’t justify these ongoing conversations. Does your boss know you are on the spectrum? I’m not encouraging disclosure but I suspect there might be different advice depending on the answer.

      1. Ducky*

        She does; I accidentally let it slip about two months into this job. Since then, she’s been persistent about wanting me to disclose “so that other people can understand me.” I resisted for quite a while. I’m “out” in the rest of my life and happy to talk with people about it – actually love answering questions -but disclosing to people who already don’t like me usually just gives them another reason to not like me. I finally gave in and said she could tell people a couple months ago but have noticed no significant changes. Of course, it’s the plague, so hard to judge.

        I’ve tried to tell her I’ve been getting this kind of feedback my whole life (girls who are weird are very much pressured not to be) and what she’s seeing is actually the improved version with a lot of work put in, plus I genuinely like her so I tend to let down my mask around her, but she’s really, really determined.

        1. Amaranth*

          Does she want people to like you personally or just smooth working relationships? Have you asked if there is a significant problem here, and if she is trying to get across there might be professional consequences if A or B don’t change? On the one hand it’s not up to her to make everyone BFFs at work so long as everyone can work together professionally. On the other, she should be clear if this is going to impact raises or promotions.

        2. Barb*

          It could be that she’s worried that she’ll have to fire you if you are not working well with others. You’re not doing your job well if people are so unhappy they don’t want to work with you, and that’s a problem for her. I would be very worried about ignoring a top priority of my boss.

    4. Aquawoman*

      Just for context, I’m probably on, or at least very near, the autism spectrum myself. Three to four conversations a week are a lot, like hugely a lot. I wonder if certain people are complaining to her about you and she’s responding every time, and they’re yanking her chain and yours. She should shut that down.

      It’s hard to know without knowing what kinds of things she’s identifying. My only suggestions for you are to maybe have a higher-level conversation with her where you say that you’re willing to try to improve your communication style but you can’t really change into a completely different person; and to try to incorporate routine lines into your conversations that might ease things. (And I do get that that takes effort, which is why I’m suggesting that they be a sort of script).

        1. Wintergreen*

          Have you specifically mentioned how much stress it causes you? Perhaps something along the lines of “Boss, I know we are working to improve my communication style but these meetings 3-4 times a week is causing me a lot of stress and anxiety. Would it be possible to step back and not look at each individual occurrence that could have been improved? Perhaps cut down the meetings to 1 every other week and focus on (insert what you think could actually be improved) in a larger context.”

          1. Ducky*

            I’m going to try this advice, thank you. I would have thought hearing about things as they happen would have been best, but it really is draining when it’s so constant.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Can you try one more ‘big picture’ conversation with her, to get her to back off? A script might be, “Hi Boss. I really appreciate that you want me to succeed, and I do understand that getting along with coworkers is an important part of my job. I understand that saying X isn’t constructive, for example.

          Can you accept that I see the concern and am working on it? [pause for her response]

          When you give me explicit feedback 3 – 4 times a week, it makes me more tense, and makes it harder for me to focus on my work and demeanor. Can you focus future feedback on issues we haven’t discussed so far?”

          But you have to mean it – appreciating that she wants you to have a better career, actually trying to limit whatever it was you said that got commented on before, putting in a little softening language. It will slow you down and is extra work, but it is actually part of the work they’re paying for.

          You might set up a positive jar to remind yourself of that – every time you send an email with softened language or do something else she’s recommended, put in a quarter. At $x, buy yourself something nice.

          Good luck. My kid and sister are autistic; I probably am but haven’t bothered with the testing. Weird – definitely. Totally, very, yep. I feel your pain.

        3. Junger*

          It sounds like she’s trying to make vague and unreasonable demands and hiding them with buzzwords. Combined with the boundary-pushing you mentioned, it sounds like she’s not very good at this part of managing, so I’m not sure if her complaints are valid or not.

    5. Anon for this*

      Given that your boss is suggesting this, if you haven’t already had it, see if she will pay for some social skills training. My son, who is also on the spectrum, benefitted from a social skills group led by a social worker. He received some tools to use, practiced responding in various situations.

      Far more helpful to get this help from a professional than from a supervisor who is not an expert on communications styles and the challenges faced by those on the autism spectrum.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Also a woman on the autism spectrum, in her early 40s.

      Your boss sounds obnoxious, but that doesn’t mean she’s entirely wrong. I can’t tell here how much you’ve maxed out your ability to compensate and how much you’re digging in your heels because you’ve decided this is unfair, but if your coworkers are, indeed, better at placating egos (which, to a certain extent, is a job skill, not a personality trait), then maybe it’s not.

      I work in a medical school library, which means assisting a lot of big-shot researchers and doctors, and placating egos is very definitely part of my job. It doesn’t mean they get to walk all over me (and my boss will back me up on this) but if I refused to budge every time I thought somebody was too big for his britches I would not be doing my job. There is a lot of room between “not implementing this perfectly” and not implementing it enough because you just don’t think you should have to. (You don’t have to make everyone like you, either, but you may have to make certain people like you more than they currently do.)

      Have you asked her to clarify the conflicting instructions, with specific examples? There may be a difference in situation there that you’re not picking up, or she may back off when you point out that she can’t have it both ways.

    7. Important Moi*

      Is it really important your job that everyone finds you “likeable”? If so, I say suck it up and say “thank you” like you said.

      If not, I would suggest talking to someone about resenting your boss wanting you to be a different person than you are. You may need to manage that. I am managing that. I am not on the spectrum, but I’ve heard that my tone is too formal. I don’t agree. I think my tone is professional with the appropriate boundaries. This is my job. We aren’t family The observation about my tone feels like a personal attack on me and my personality.

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I was wondering if I’d written this in my sleep, until I got to the manager wanting you to be more likeable part. (The worst I’ve gotten from my current manager is that my foremost area of improvement on my review the last couple years has been that I should work on having more patience with people who make repeated mistakes. Which makes me wonder why I should have more patience with them, instead of they should STOP MAKING THE SAME FRIGGIN MISTAKES OVER AND OVER AGAIN, but whatever, at least she’s not putting “get other people to stop screwing up” on my review.)

      But no, 3-4 conversations a week is ridiculous and it is an unfair situation.

      1. Doc*

        Have you ever considered that 3-4 conversations a week implies that OP is the one who keeps making the same mistake over and over again?

        1. Barb*

          Yes, to me this says she is at risk of being fired for not making an attempt to implement the boss’s suggestions. Intense coaching sounds like an informal PIP.

    9. Bad Hare Day*

      I am a woman, not on the autism spectrum, and this is my personality, too! I am very direct with my feedback and I have very high expectations for others. If you are my colleague/direct report and you put effort into doing your job well, take responsibility for/learn from your mistakes, we are going to get along great. If you are lazy or unmotivated we are going to have a problem, especially if your performance impacts my ability to do my job to a high standard.

      While I’m not on the spectrum, I do have a parent who most likely is (no diagnosis), so it took me longer to learn some of the social rules that other kids absorb at a young age. I am also an introvert by nature. However, I have a job that requires a high level of emotional intelligence/empathy and extraversion (client relationships). I can switch into a different personality mode when I need to be charming if I’m at an event or in client meetings. However, it’s exhausting and I certainly can’t maintain it for a 40-hour work week.

      I definitely got into a lot of trouble at my last job where my dept director had a very similar style to what you describe your company/boss’s culture. “Bad Hare Day, why did you make X cry?” “Well, I told her she couldn’t leave early to get her nails done because she didn’t finish the TPS report that was due last week.”

      It sounds like this job/boss is not a good fit for your style. In the meantime, what helps me with clients might help you. I can find something I like about nearly everyone. Even if we have wildly different backgrounds, personalities, values, etc.–there’s going to be at least 1 thing we can connect on or I appreciate about them. “Susan spends a lot of her free time volunteering at the Humane Society,” “Michael is a really good dad to his 2 kids,” etc. See if you can get to know your colleagues a little better and find something you can appreciate about them, and you will start to care about them on a personal level. Developing those relationships will hopefully make your boss back off and will also make your day to day work life a bit easier.

    10. Super Duper Anon*

      I think there is a middle ground here. Its not so much being “liked” as being able to communicate well with everyone so that they are willing to give you content/reviews/information that you need to do your job. I am a technical writer, and while I am not autistic, these soft skills didn’t come naturally to me either. It took a lot of practice over a number of years to learn how to do it well.

      Hopefully what might help is separating out “being liked” from “communicate effectively”. You don’t need people to like you socially (I am not friends with my coworkers), you just want them to think “Oh hey Ducky is asking me for something, I should jump on that soon”.

      Maybe your boss could point you towards some communication classes? That might help more than her working with you directly.

    11. Dasein9*

      Okay, so you have feedback from the boss that your “likability” quotient isn’t high enough.
      And we can all agree that being pleasant to work with is part of most jobs.
      And the boss is giving contradictory advice that doesn’t seem very effective.

      Could there be another solution, a third way? Maybe you can identify some commonality among those who don’t like you and address whatever that commonality is? You describe them as people who “skate by on the social contract,” which may be a clue. Can you figure out what these folks value and maybe accommodate that a bit? Social cues can be super tricky, but most people do appreciate a genuine attempt to be agreeable.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      I am not on the spectrum. However, my Worst Boss Ever (WBE) decided that she was going to help me get along better at work.
      I was doing fine until I went to work for her, but skip that part.

      We’d cross paths on an irregular basis but it got to the point when I saw her I wanted to hide. It would be a list of my sins (real or imagined) that I had committed since then last time she saw me, plus a recap of our previous list of sins. I ended up super self-conscious about every move I made. Then one day I realized I would never, ever please this person. And I realized what she disguised as helping me, was actually her way of sabotaging me. Behind my back she was telling others that she did not want a female assistant manager.
      In the end she told me that her boss said to either fire me or demote me. Long story short, I didn’t think her boss said that. And that made this whole story even worse because I realized she was a loose cannon with no supervision herself. I quit. When she begged me to stay, I found confirmation that she had basically lied about what the big boss said. She hadn’t planned that I would quit over it.

      My point is your boss is a terrible boss. Her degree of intervention will NOT work with most people. She is over the top. Worse, she is making you more resentful which is not going to motivate you to “improve”. (Notice the quotes, because I am not convinced you need to “improve”.) And she reminds me of my WBE. My boss was going to manage everyone’s relationships with everyone else so we would all get along better. What needed to happen was each person needed to be told to discuss a situation with the other person involved. And what also needed to happen was WBE needed to actually manage her people. For example, workers who were saying totally inappropriate things should have been spoken to, written and then if there was no change they needed to be fired. That never happened.

      My suggestion is to go one story at a time. One toxic boss I had, one day informed me that one of my favorite people had put in a complaint about me. I said, “I am sorry to hear that. I like this person on a professional level and on a personal level. If there is a problem I think we should talk it over with her right now.”
      Suddenly my boss backpedaled. So I pushed. I started walking over to the supposed complainer. My boss reached out and touched my arm to stop me. (It was a light touch, but enough.) Now she had to come up with something, so she said, “Well the complaint was a while ago.” So I pressed on. “Well, still it should be put to rest.” Then finally she said, “It wasn’t that bad.” Okay so why are we talking about it?

      I did this each time this boss complained about some imaginary thing. She only did it one or two more times before before she realized my response would be the same each time she did it. And her complaints stopped.

      Punchline:
      Tell her that you want to talk to the actual person involved and get their take on things.
      OR
      Tell her that people should ask you questions if they do not understand your tone or why you have just said something.
      Let her know that her coaching sessions are more like information dumps and it’s too much information all at once. Remind her that it makes it harder to do your job if you feel like your every move is being watched.
      [I’d ask her if she would do this coaching sessions with me if i was male. But that’s me.]
      And I would consider going to HR. You said she did not do this before you disclosed. What she is doing is too intense to be called coaching. It’s not coaching, it’s something else. I have worked with folks with all different types of disabilities for over a decade and I never came close to the level of coaching like what she is doing. It’s not necessary, nor is it helpful. She does not have the quals to be coaching on this level. Seriously.

      I am ticked on your behalf. I hope you can get this situation turned around.

    13. Disabled in Seattle*

      I’m also autistic (and working to navigate it in my work life) and I want to share something I’ve noticed. Sometimes, when people know that I have autism, minor “oh, I wouldn’t have said that in that way” things that would be ignored and forgotten in not-autistic people get noticed. I think it’s that they’re actively thinking of me as someone who needs social help– so everything becomes the next mistake in the string of a pattern of mistakes, instead of viewing things as a stylistic choice or a minor rudeness that they quickly forget about. I’ve never been able to break that pattern in someone’s mind once they’ve started thinking that way.

      Knowing that doesn’t always make it easier to deal with at work, which is where this merry-go-round gets exhausting. Sometimes they’re right and you can take something from that feedback to improve work emails. Sometimes, you end up in a constant downward spiral of someone nitpicking your every word because they think that maybe, if you never use a contraction and never say ‘know’ instead of ‘think’ and add six dozen adverbs and then remove the six dozen adverbs– maybe, if you follow all these rules perfectly, no one will ever be mad at you. You and I both know that’s not true. It’s hard when you’re seeing “person X will never be happy about me asking for the TPS reports, but I can’t do my job without those TPS reports, so why am I spending 5 hours trying to craft the perfect godlike email to make person X happy if it’s impossible? why, if the result is going to be ‘person x resents having to do their job’ whatever I do, can’t I use my normal communication style that’s easiest?” and your manager, who probably doesn’t have the same trouble with person X, is just seeing that you’ve given up on them.

      At that point, I usually try to follow what the manager says at work as far as concrete steps you’ve been given (even if they are the silliest of silly things that take up the time you should be working), say “okay, I’ll take your feedback into consideration going forward so that I’m communicating more in line with what you want”, and mentally file it away in the “find a nearby park for screaming practice because my boss wants me to do stupid pointless things that feel like I’m tearing my teeth out” folder. Yes, it’s endlessly frustrating. No, it probably won’t make things better with your coworkers. But the concrete show of “I’m doing the things you specifically asked me to do, look, I’m doing my best here” may improve things with your boss.

      1. Ducky*

        You’ve nailed the experience exactly. I do try to follow concrete steps, and she’s congratulated me on some of them, but I know I’m never going to reach her lofty standard and can’t hide that fact. Guess I’ll just have to be more explicit about how I’m trying, but I’m going to take the advice above and ask if we can move to having this sort of conversation much less frequently. Prior to this experience, I would have thought comments as soon as possible was ideal, but not at this frequency! I can’t do good work when I’m depressed, and this has really been getting to me.

    14. KoiFeeder*

      Ah, I see you’re living my special hell.

      I don’t have any advice here. I’m autistic too, and I’ve pretty much hit the upper limit of my likability capabilities so this sounds uniquely awful. I’d probably point out that I could spend my entire work time attempting to conform to allistic sensibilities to the best of my ability or I could do the job I’m being paid for, but both is not going to happen. But, as I said, I’m at the upper limit of my capacity on that front.

    15. LGC*

      Hi, I’m a man on the autism spectrum! (Mid 30’s so a couple of years younger than you.) There’s…quite a bit to unpack. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is going to make you feel better.

      I do think that…honestly, your boss should be coaching you on more effective interactions. You say you have “no patience for empty buzzwords or placating egos,” but to be honest – a lot of times you do need to placate egos to some extent. Part of effective communication is getting people to listen, and if they feel attacked (by – for example – being told on a nearly daily basis that people don’t like them) they’re not going to listen to what you have to say. Plus, you yourself admit that you have problems with communication and that your boss is often right! It’s definitely an area that you should improve, and if you’re having nearly daily clashes with your coworkers, it’s urgent that you do so. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in it or not – this is something that’s essential to your job.

      But also: I will point out that at no point did I attack you personally by calling you unlikable or saying that people don’t like you. (Okay, I didn’t literally say that. I could take what I said as calling you unlikable, but that’s not what I meant.) I can totally understand why you’re offended by that – if my boss told me people didn’t like me, I’d be mortified and devastated. And if she’s coaching you to be more “likable,” 1) that’s sexist and 2) her boss should be coaching her on effective communication.

  10. AndersonDarling*

    So I have a new paranoia. Whenever a Zoom meeting is wrapping up and some asks for someone else to stay on so they can talk…I’m assuming they want to talk about something I’m doing wrong.

    1. Mr. Cajun2core*

      I don’t blame you for being paranoid about it. I used to be that way and even now depending upon the situation, I can still be that way. You can just tell yourself, “I recognize this as unfounded paranoia. I am good at what I do. There is no reason be believe I have done anything wrong.” I do this and it does help.

    2. CockrOPch*

      I get this too. It helps to try and think “oh, I bet they need to have a super boring chat about something I don’t wanna be part of.” I find if I consciously replace the anxious thought with this, it helps a lot!

    3. Ducky*

      I don’t know about your office, but in mine any extended chat time is exclusively about some project that just those people are working on (as opposed to everyone else attending the meeting) and they’re trying to squeeze in some clarification or something.

      If someone wants to gossip, after a zoom meeting is not the way to go about it!

    4. JanetM*

      Oh, I misread your question. I don’t have that particular fear; I always assume it’s about something technical and possibly unrelated to the current meeting (e.g., Person A says, “Person B, can you hang on after the meeting to talk about a very specific database concern?”).

      My particular fear is that every time I get an unexpected Teams call from my manager, I assume it’s something I did wrong.

    5. homework*

      I’ve been the person asking for someone to stay on and usually it’s because I wanted to talk to them anyway and we’re both right here. Similar to an in-person meeting when you wanted to talk to Fergus about the expense reports after your group meeting about llama grooming.

    6. Charlotte Lucas*

      I work for an organization that loves meetings. This happens a lot when there’s extra time, & it’s always about an unrelated project. Since it can be a pain to log off & log back in, it makes sense to me. But if it were my old job, I’d be paranoid, too.

    7. NW Mossy*

      I like the way my boss handles it: if he wants to spill tea with me after a meeting, he’ll leave and then call me separately. This way, it’s not awkward for unrelated people on the call.

      This way, if he calls me right after we conclude a meeting with others, I get a small amount of warning that he has Opinions about what was discussed. It’s typically not about anyone doing anything wrong, though – it’s usually reacting to something surprising or strategizing how we’ll position a tricky conversation. As a recent example, I’d shared in a meeting that I was getting pushback from an unexpected quarter on my project, so he called me to talk through how he’d help work through that.

    8. Tuckerman*

      It might help to remind yourself that people do this all the time with in-person meetings, too. Or they start to walk out the door and have a quick impromptu meeting 10 feet away, in the break room.

    9. LQ*

      Honestly? It’s so unlikely to be about you. There are billions of topics and you are only one of those topics and so it’s unlikely to be about you.

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

      Ahh.. I have a history of anxiety myself, and am prone to worrying about things like “this meeting my boss has scheduled with HR, is it about me??” so I can relate!

      However… I’ve been on enforced WFH with occasional office appearances since March (has it really been 3 months?!) so have been on (Teams in my case) meetings for most everything.

      I can tell you that “Jon, can you stay on so we can chat” is 99% because Jon is hard to get hold of, or they have this slot now but Jon generally gets invited to so many meetings – or it’s just convenient to continue the discussion while the other person and Jon are both available, before they get diverted with something else.

      It’s a lack of empathy IMO, because I sometimes make the “Jon, can you stay on” request but I always say what it’s about, like “Jon, can we continue in this meeting after to discuss the email from customer C about ticket 123?”

      (I’m not sure if this will help or hinder!) — if they did want to have a discussion about something you’re doing wrong – which I expect they won’t!! – it would typically be scheduled as a separate thing.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Several things here:

      This is no different than asking someone to come to their desk or office to chat. Just like in actual office spaces, people do this.

      At some point, you can feel free to kick back here- meaning, you can tell yourself, “If there is a problem I can’t fix it until I know what the problem is.”

      Running at the same time, look around. Are there ways you can beef up your work? If yes, start. Now. The way this works is that if you KNOW you are working at your stuff, you will be less likely to believe others are not happy with your work.

      And you can also ask your boss for a 1-on-1 check in. Find out how you are doing. I am a big fan of confronting a fear head on. See, we have a choice. We can let the fear follow us around for days/weeks/months or we can decide to just face it head on.

    12. Kimmybear*

      I get this. Hang in there. Whenever I ask someone to hang on to talk it’s either because the issue is so small that I don’t want to schedule a whole new meeting for it or because one of us has so many meetings, it’s the only time I can grab their attention. (The second scenario is more common.)

    13. PollyQ*

      A two-step thing that sometimes helps me:

      1. Recognize, and explicitly tell yourself, that this is your anxiety speaking. It sounds like you’re already pretty much doing that, since you’re posting here. I know not everyone agrees that splitting up your brainweasels & identity is a good thing, but I’ve found it really helpful when dealing with anxiety & depression to separate the disease from my basic self.

      2. Don’t try to talk yourself into or out of anything, just say to your anxiety, “Hey, I see you. It’s OK.”

      Somehow just recognizing that there’s a part of me that’s out of sorts is far more helpful than trying to wrestle myself into rationality.

      Good luck! Anxiety is a beast to deal with, and I hope someone’s suggestions here are useful.

    14. Lynn Whitehat*

      Oh no. I do this (ask people to stay on the Zoom meeting). It’s never so I can talk about what someone else did wrong. Almost always, it’s because something came up in the main meeting that only a few people care about. I *know* everyone is Zoomed out, and I don’t want to make people for whom the discussion isn’t relevant stay on longer.

  11. Pepperwood*

    When to give notice? Just got an offer and am so glad to have an out to leave my toxic af employer (extreme burnout that led to me seeking therapy, which helped me realize it was unsustainable to stay for my physical and mental health) – and while I didn’t want to give notice until the offer was in hand (official as of this morning!), I’m trying to plan out the timing.

    If I give notice on a Monday for 2 weeks to end on the Friday of the following week, is that still considered a good faith 2 weeks’ notice? I’m probably overthinking but got an offer and signed the offer letter, but everything’s contingent on the background check and drug test (no concerns anticipated, I’m just paranoid about putting in notice and then the offer getting revoked or something). Also not looking forward to telling my boss, ugh.

    1. Ali G*

      Yes giving notice on a Monday and departing the following Friday is fine. It’s still 10 working days, which is all that matters. Giving notice is stressful but it’s a good problem to have!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup! That’s the way notice normally goes (at least in my experience)– give it on Monday, leave the following Friday.

      2. Can Can Cannot*

        To be clear, that’s the Monday after you clear your background check and pass your drug screen.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Yes. I’d consider that good faith two weeks notice as long as you give it in the morning and not Monday last thing.

      They’re only loosing a few working hours from a Friday afternoon notification.

    3. Policy Wonk*

      I’ve known background checks to take a long time, so I wouldn’t put in notice until you’ve cleared that. I agree with others that notifying on a Monday and leaving the Friday of the following week is fine. But prep for it by cleaning out your desk and personal items, and e-mailing yourself anything personal from your computer before you do it, as some companies will walk you out the door when you resign.

    4. bookends*

      I’ve worked places that require 14 calendar days’ notice in order to have PTO paid out, so you might want to check any relevant policies! A former coworker did a Monday notice to quit the following Friday and got screwed on the PTO payout, so I’d hate to see that happen to anyone else.

    5. Sara(h)*

      First, don’t give notice until the background check is cleared — your instinct around that is correct. You never know if there’s something that could come up, even if it’s incorrect or a mistaken identity issue.
      If that does not allow for a full two weeks of notice, explain to the new employer at that point that you were waiting to give notice until the offer was official and the background check had cleared, just to be safe, and that you would like to give your current employer a full two weeks’ notice, and are requesting a start date of October __ to accommodate the notice period. Hopefully the new employer should respect that and have some flexibility if needed.
      If the background check does allow you to give notice on Monday, that should be fine, but if you have a good relationship with your current employer, the way I would handle it is to say (no matter what time of day it is), “I’d like my final day to be Friday, October 2. I understand that two weeks’ notice would technically bring us to the following Monday, but I’m hoping it will seem reasonable to you to have my last day be next Friday. If you have concerns about this being a few hours (or “a half day” or whatever is accurate) short of two weeks, please let me know as soon as possible so I can look into adjusting my arrangement with my new employer.” (Or something along those lines, a lot of it depends on your relationship with your current employer!)

    6. PollyQ*

      Yes, Monday morning to the following Friday afternoon is normal & fine. However, you should definitely do not give it until all contingencies are clear and you have an official start date.

  12. Sydney Ellen Wade*

    I have a three-hour interview this afternoon. Good vibes/happy thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you!

    1. 30 Years in the Biz*

      You’ll do great! If you’re a reader of Ask a Manager you’ve found the tools you need to show your skills and competence and secure the position!! Sending good vibes your way.

    2. Jennifer*

      You got this! They picked you to interview for a reason. Also, plan something fun afterwards. Doesn’t have to be anything too exciting.

  13. Sarah*

    There is a position I’m interested in for an Executive Director, and as I was researching it, I noticed that the chair of the Board is someone I was on a different Board with about ten years ago. I don’t know them too well but is there value in sending a LinkedIn message that says, “I saw XXX was hiring and you were the chair. I know we haven’t spoken since our days with YYY, but I thought I’d let you know that I threw my hat in the ring.” They’re using a recruiter, so I’d go that route for my resume.

    Part two – they have an acting ED, and I’m wondering how often the acting person does NOT get hired. I will likely apply no matter what, but I’m curious what other people’s experience is.

    Finally, for a senior leadership position, does the 1-page cover letter, 2-page resume still hold, or should it be longer?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Have you spoken to the recruiter yet? If so, I would mention to the recruiter that you used to work with the chair and ask whether you should reach out. Ordinarily I would say absolutely, reach out. But because they’re using an external (I assume) recruiter, things get a little hairier, so I would apply first and go from there. Others may disagree, though!

      1. Sarah*

        Thanks. I’ve never worked with a recruiter before, and they are external. Should I apply and then follow up with one of the two the recruiters listed to say I know this person?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          No, I wouldn’t do that. Apply, then if the recruiter contacts you, you can add that you’ve worked with the board chair in the past– ask if the recruiter recommends you reach out. They may say no.

          I’ll give you my context: I was contacted by a recruiter for a position with a company where I know a TON of people, including a former manager. When I spoke to the recruiter I mentioned that, and she said, “Great! Go ahead and give them a heads-up that you’re applying.” In my experience, going through a recruiter means that most of your communication, if not all, should go through the recruiter, and the recruiter should be made aware of any contact with the company while you’re in the recruiting process.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Without knowing more about your relationship with the chair of the board, it’s a little hard to advise. That said, I think it certainly can’t hurt to let the chair know that you are interested in the position and that you are applying through the appropriate channels but wanted to let them know as well. The “hat in the ring” phrasing, while I understand it, may cause your interest to come across as a little more casual than you might want, but that’s a stylistic quibble on my part.

      As for how often does the acting ED get hired, it depends on a lot of factors including:
      *is the acting person qualified for the job long term?
      *does the acting person actually WANT the job?
      *what is the acting person’s reputation with the various stakeholders?
      *is there a strong incentive to bring in an outside person?
      *is this viewed as an opportunity to bring in new experience/perspective (could go either way)?
      *how fast do they want to wrap up the search?
      *do they (think they) know what they want in an ED?

      I can think of several jobs I applied to over the last several years that went to the acting/incumbent person. In some cases, that was because the person had prior experience/knowledge of the institution which was deemed helpful. But probably more than that went to external candidates. (The really annoying part is when they fail a search for a position that you’re more than qualified for–in those cases, I tell myself that says more about the organization than it does about my candidacy.)

      As for the last, it depends on your industry, but in higher education, I use a 1.5 page cover letter and a two page resume. Is this for-profit or non-profit? Are there any specific prompts that you need to address when crafting your materials (sometimes you see this more in nonprofits and higher education than corporate environments, although there are sometimes follow-up writing assignments that are given to applicants)? I’d say you were in the ballpark with 1 page cover letter and 2 page resume.

      TL;DR: If you’re interested, I would certainly advise you to apply, regardless of whether you think there’s an inside candidate. Good luck!

    3. TCO*

      I work in nonprofits and I’ve seen a lot of interim EDs not take the permanent position. I’ve seen a couple of common scenarios play out:
      1) An existing employee takes on interim ED responsibilities. Sometimes they don’t even want the permanent role. Sometimes they do want the permanent role but don’t get it. Interims aren’t expected to be able to do the entire job; they’re there to keep basic functions going in the short term.
      2) An external interim ED is hired, sometimes with the explicit understanding that they won’t be applying for the permanent role. There are people out there who really specialize in being great at these short-term roles during transitions.

      Of course, sometimes the interim person does take the permanent role, but the alternatives are common enough that you should definitely apply!

      1. Esmeralda*

        Sometimes the interim person does a mediocre or terrible job.

        Sometimes the interim person is the un-choice of someone with pull, and that person is just itching to get rid of the interim person.

        You never know. Give it a shot!

    4. MrsPeaches*

      I can’t speak to how often someone acting in a position doesn’t get hired for it, but there are definitely situations where it doesn’t happen. Especially if it’s the second most senior employee filling the role in a pinch, they may not be fully qualified or interested in running the entire organization. I was acting director for my department for a minute but was not interested in taking on that responsibility long-term.

    5. Bubbles*

      My husband’s company has an outgoing ED who wants to retire yesterday. They couldn’t find a replacement they liked because the in-house person they wanted did not want the job. So now retiring ED is willing to work “part-time” until December and until then, in-house person who said no has been appointed to interim ED and is very much looking forward to not having to do the job.

      So no, not every acting person gets hired. And sometimes it is one or two people doing the “acting” part.

      I think it would be wise to do part 1! Your message is great.

    6. It's a fish, Al*

      If it helps, I am currently an interim ED and I have no desire to keep the position. I was hired to deal with the mess that the last ED left, so that the new permanent ED doesn’t come into the garbage fire that currently exists. I sure hope my presence encourages people to apply rather than the reverse!

    7. The Rat-Catcher*

      I’m in an agency that has unfortunately been in this position several times over the last few years. Interim is often about “who can do the job right now.” Someone that doesn’t require a lot of onboarding and who is already familiar with the immediate and short-term items to take care of. But that person may not want to be the new director, or the department might take the opportunity to intentionally change the strategic direction, or they might have a chance at a rock star from elsewhere. Their argument that they can do the job because they’ve already been doing it is fairly compelling, but is far from a guarantee. You should apply!

  14. Pain au chocolat*

    How do you deal with dramatic workers that give you the cold shoulder? I feel like I’m walking on eggshells by trying not to upset them, which doesn’t work because they get upset anyways and it’s stressing me out.

    I work in a small department and people give you the cold shoulder if they’re mad, including the boss. They never talk about things or discuss it outright. When I’m out sick and return to the office, my coworker wouldn’t say good morning to me and avoided me the entire day. She’ll then turn it around and act as if I was the one that had the problem! I’m the only one in my department, so no one has to cover for me or do my work.

    My manager is moody and does the same type of stuff. He’s easily offended and frequently makes comments about how people sound mad or “look angry”- He thought that I was mad at him, so he started ignoring my work questions. He and my coworker that I mentioned above go out of their way to leave me out and ignore me.

    They’re all adults, yet I feel like I’m working with children. Do I just wait until they start speaking to me again? If I called a meeting with the boss, we would be in his office every week basically. Do I just ignore it?

    Any thoughts or advice?

    1. Here I am*

      It’s rotten that your whole office is like this. I’ve been in a situation where 1 or 2 people acted this way, and I just ignored it. I asked them work questions if I needed to, said hello when I saw them, and then just left them alone to feel all their feelings until they got over it.

      1. CastIrony*

        Man, you’re braver than I. I worked in a place where the boss would refuse to work with me and give me the info I needed after we had a fight and didn’t let me explain what happened. I would avoid that guy at all costs because I was so scared to get yelled at again. I hope OP gets a new job because it sounds so, so toxic and draining.

    2. Lady Heather*

      The mantra of “I am not here to make friends, I am here to collect a paycheck” can work.
      Or, if they are refusing to help you, something on the lines of “Answering my questions is part of their job. They are not doing their job.”

      I was excluded a lot in school, and the part of that that was worst for me was the humiliation of trying to interact, and being ignored or rejected. When I stopped trying – “I am not here to make friends, I am here to learn and get a diploma” – a lot of stress and unhappiness disappeared.

      When dealing with difficult people, it also helps me to set goals for the interaction, kind of like expectation management. You’re interacting because you need them to give you a file. You’re not interacting to get your social needs met.* If she gives you the file while rolling her eyes, you have met your goal.

      *You are not interacting with this specific coworker to get your social needs met, because this specific coworker is not a nice person. This strategy only applies to annoying coworkers, a difficult relative you need to speak with regarding an elderly relative’s care, and the combative receptionist of the only 24/7 vet in your town. I’m not advocating using this way of thinking on all people.

    3. knitcrazybooknut*

      You feel like you’re working with children because you ARE working with children. This is ridiculous behavior. Here’s something liberating, though: You know that they’re going to be upset with you whether you walk on eggshells or not. So, just don’t! Expect that they’re going to be upset every day. Do your job, and be your professional, friendly-if-you-want self all through the day.

      If your boss asks if you’re mad, just answer him, “no”. Be factual. Don’t get emotionally involved. If someone’s ignoring you, you can do what you want! Get things that you need, and don’t bother engaging in the I’m not talking to you because you took a sick day game.

      Obviously, it’s not as easy as this, but I’d recommend all of the standard coping mechanisms: Pretend you’re carrying a clipboard and wearing a lab coat and observing a strange new culture. Remember that this is just work, and while you get to leave and be a happy person, these folks have chosen to live with this behavior always.

      If you have an EAP, use it. I bet they have even better coping mechanisms at the ready.

      Also – Can you get into another department? Do they behave better?? Figure out your options!

      1. Pain au chocolat*

        I just ignore them because that seems to work the best. Eventually they come around and talk to me. It’s annoying though and I don’t understand the point. I straight out asked someone one time if she was ignoring me. “What? No, I’m just busy” Yet she wasn’t too busy to talk to everyone around me. :Sigh:

    4. PollyQ*

      Medium-Long term: Find another job. This whole office is toxic and is likely teaching you bad habits/ways of thinking. (and yes, they’re acting like badly behaved children!)

      Short term: Quit trying to not upset them, be pleasant and professional in all interactions, and ignore the way they ignore you. Captain Awkward has said that the silent treatment can be a gift, if it keeps people from hassling you. Her other suggestion for cases like this is to ruthlessly ignore all subtext, and only respond to what people actually say.

    5. Hare under the moon with silver spoon*

      Sorry to hear you are experiencing this, your coworkers sound quite unpleasant to be honest. I think it’s important to really take that fact on fully to empower yourself when you need to deal with them.

      You can try treating this situation as project, how to disengage emotionally while still enjoying the parts of the job you enjoy. When they do sulk if you’re off sick (seriously), treat it as evidence of their ridiculous behaviour (we’re in a pandemic!), if someone is curt with you, internally wonder how pathetic someone’s life is they have to take their feelings out on a coworker, if your boss tries some manipulative, blame shifting dance with you take it as evidence that they must be pretty incompetent to need to divert attention away from what really matters. And balance all this extra effort they are putting you through with extra self care outside of work (and times in work day too). Also seconding looking for somewhere else as there are workplaces full of decent people – you deserve better.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      In some cases, not all, I have just ignored that they were ignoring me. And what that looked like was this:

      Me: Good morning, Bob, how are you today?
      Bob: [silence]
      Me: Sure is a pretty day {nasty weather/whatever], isn’t it?
      Bob: [silence]
      Me: I have that xyz report done, I am going to email it to you now. [I walk away, not giving any clue that I actually noticed Bob said nothing.]

      You can think of fun activities such as bumping Bob’s beverage on to the floor. He would suddenly have to speak to you. You will get more ideas here, such as bring your pet tarantula to work and setting down on Bob’s desk for him to see. I bet that would also cause him to speak to you. [Just thoughts, do not actually do these things.]

      The big problem here is the boss, he condones this behavior. One thing I might actually consider doing is going to him and reporting that Bob is giving you the silent treatment and you consider that wildly unprofessional. People don’t have to chat but they do have to be civil and Bob has turned himself into someone who is NOT approachable. The evil thing here is that since the boss does the same thing, you are actually telling the boss about his own behavior. But on the surface you are talking about Bob. Two birds, one stone.

    7. Rainbow Brite*

      Oof. I had a coworker like that once, and it was not fun. I have a lifelong case of RBF but am a generally bright and cheerful person, so I was beyond shocked when this coworker told me that she thought I hated her because — and I quote — “you never smile when you’re just sitting there.” (Which still confuses me, like, am I supposed to be sitting around doing paperwork or whatever and actively smiling, like a serial killer??) The worst part, though, was that she told other coworkers *and some of the kids we taught* that I was miserable, hated everyone, and didn’t want to be there.

      It was weirdly freeing; I’d spent months listening to her endless drama (mostly with her sister-in-law, and in retrospect those conversations should have been their own red flags) and trying to be her friend, but once I realised she was just a ridiculous person, I was able to stop trying. From then on, I kept my interactions with her as minimal as possible, was as bright and cheerful (and smiling, dear god) as I could possibly be for the brief moments when I had to actively interact with her, and focused on building stronger relationships with other coworkers to minimise any potential damage.

  15. otto bimini*

    I just received a request to do a one-way video interview as the first step after submitting resume/cover letter. I hate voice and video recordings of myself. In particular, the thought of talking spontaneously to a computer screen without any interaction on the other side while being recorded fills me with dread. (I have no problem talking on the phone or via video chat. It’s the recording and one-sided nature of this that make me very uncomfortable.)

    Also, based on the job posting, there is a (good) chance this position pays significantly less than what I am looking for, and of course there was no salary info provided.

    So, I’m thinking of just withdrawing my application, but I’m wondering if I should request salary info first instead. Any advice for doing this?

    Also, are these one-way videos becoming more common? I don’t mind walking away from this opportunity, but if it’s likely to come up again I guess I should use this as a chance for some practice.

    Finally, can anyone point to an AAM post on one-way video “interviews” that is more recent than 2012? That’s all I could find, though I feel like I’ve read posts on this topic more recently than that.

    1. 867-5309*

      I can only sympathize. I’m actually confident and good on camera and I freakin’ hate these things. I withdrawal every time because it’s a ridiculous, impersonal way to judge talent for most positions.

        1. 867-5309*

          Late to respond.. sorry! No, but now you have me thinking about it. :)

          Maybe a polite note that says I’m quite interested in the role but feel that the best way to get to determine fit is with person-to-person contact versus a one-way video and if the process is modified at some point to please keep me in mind.

    2. BusyBee*

      I did a one-way phone recording once. I hate recordings of myself and one-way things too, so I was uncomfortable with it. It seemed stupid because the pre-recorded questions didn’t make sense based on the job ad (like asking questions about warehouse experience for an office job). If I get a request to do them I just ignore them now.

    3. Ginger Baker*

      I detest them but had to do one for the job I currently have (which was following the boss I had worked for from one firm to another, so while it was not 100% guaranteed it was…pretty high). Even knowing I was pretty assured the job, it was stressful and UGH. I did give feedback that I really disliked it, but as far as I know they are still using this. :/ I haven’t job-searched (not counting this one) since 2012 so I don’t know if it is more common yet but I sure hope not. The speaking-into-the-void aspect is the worst by far for me.

      1. Emilitron*

        Have you got a friend who could sit next to (or behind) the camera, to silently play interviewer, just to be the person you make eye contact with and help you feel less dumb?

        (caveat, I don’t know how these videos work, is it a “live” meeting with a bot providing questions that you answer spontanously, or is it a list of printed questions that you set up a camera and record your answers to?)

    4. Zephy*

      Ugh, I hate the one-way video interviews, too.

      If you haven’t been in contact with a live human person yet in this process, there’s probably not a good way to ask about salary or anything like that. It’s not a good setup, but companies that outsource their hiring process to automated software get what they pay for.

    5. NW Mossy*

      I’m deeply leery of expecting a video recording of a candidate unless presenting via prerecorded video is a critical part of the job duties.

      Doing these videos is sold as a way to hire more efficiently, but the goal of hiring isn’t efficiency – it’s effectiveness. Hiring the right person is one of the most consequential decisions a manager can make, so it doesn’t make sense to me to purposefully spend a minimal amount of time on something so crucial.

      When an organization’s hiring process shows itself as weak or ineffectual, it almost by definition means that a decent number of people who work there wouldn’t have made the cut in a more rigorous process. I’m at a stage where I want to be choosy and work with people who are truly excellent at their work. A hiring process that shows the manager’s willingness to put the time in to get it right is a useful clue to how they and their org will be to work with and for.

      1. otto bimini*

        The funny thing for me is that I would also hate this if I was on the hiring committee. I don’t want to watch a bunch of videos of candidates. I want to review their written materials and speak with them.

        I imagine I am extreme in this regard. I hate watching video to get information unless the video is necessary to convey the information (e.g. youtube video on how to take off the inside of the driver’s side door in my car = very helpful). For me, video like this demands your complete attention without providing anything to hold your attention. It’s a total time suck with no reward.

        The icing on the cake is that they sent me a link for “what to expect” with the video interview, and the link goes to a bunch of videos! So I have to wade through videos to even get info on how to do my video interview.

        Definitely leaning towards withdrawing from the process.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I’m with you. Video is popular, but unless something benefits from being physically demonstrated I find it slow and ineffective. I read super fast and it’s how I learn best, so it makes sense it doesn’t work for me.

          1. allathian*

            I hear you. My org is big on continuous learning, which I think is a good thing, but I do hate the fact that most of our courses are video based. Luckily I’m in the EU and accessibility is a big thing. For many, accessibility means being able to watch a video rather than read, but for me, it’s the reverse. I work in our communication department, and for some of my coworkers it’s been a real eye-opener when I’ve insisted that I find videos a waste of time, and these are people who mostly write for a living. I’ll watch a video for a course in malicious compliance, but don’t expect me to learn anything from it. I’ll retain the info long enough to be able to answer some questions and pass the course, but it won’t stick long-term.

            If a mandatory course I’m doing offers the option of reading the same materials, I’ll always give the course a high score if there’s an evaluation. If I can read the material and skip the video, I’ll finish the course in half the time it usually takes.

            I don’t even do selfies and I hate being on video, so I would definitely nope out of a recorded video interview.

            For some jobs that involve a lot of presentations or for some jobs in sales, I can imagine that short elevator pitch videos could work. That said, my main worry with video is that it’s very discriminatory. Attractive, presentable people will always do better, and neuroatypical candidates or people with even a slight speech impediment won’t do so well. Not to mention that it’s far too easy to discriminate against ethnic minorities or overweight people, etc. as well…

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Nothing says “you’re just a cog in the mechanism to us” when all the concern is about how the candidate appears and there is NO concern about the candidate liking the group or the job.

    6. Double A*

      My company does this but we are all remote and presenting is part of our jobs, so the format makes sense for us to do. But our hiring managers also know it’s awkward so they’re not super harsh about it.

      I dunno. It’s a little awkward but I also talk to myself a lot so it’s not all that different from that.

    7. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      There was a Washington Post article last year about the analytics company behind all of these one-way video interviews, and how sketchy and potentially discriminatory they are.

      It’s titled “A face-scanning algorithm increasingly decides whether you deserve the job ,” October 22, 2019, and is about the HireVue software being used in these interviews. It’s shady.

      1. BEE*

        I did one of these interviews a fortnight ago. When it started, I felt pretty nervous as I’d never done a one-way interview before, but because I got 3 attempts to record the answer to each question, I felt like I was able to give a better thought out, more concise answer with each attempt. After I’d completed the interview, I was asked to do an online spatial rotation game (I suck at these) as well as a maths game (I am maybe a bit better than average at these) and I felt my performance was ok for both. Within ten minutes of completing the interview, I’d received an email with “Insights” about my responses that were calculated based on my performance and an invitation to proceed to the next round of video interviews, which would be reviewed by a human.

        Overall, it was an interesting experience. I haven’t heard anything back from the hiring company so I don’t know if I’ve progressed any further but it’s a government job and the hiring processes for those always take a ridiculous amount of time. I’m not sure how to feel about being graded by AI for a job application. On one hand, if it removes human bias and incorrect assumptions made about me, that’s great, but there is something sort of creepy and weird about the process that I find unsettling.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, and the problem with AI is that it’s dependent on the info that’s used to teach it. If that’s discriminatory, the AI won’t be any better. GIGO.

    8. Goatgirl*

      I also hate recordings of myself. Torture!
      I have done two one way video interviews. Both via HireVue which gives you a written question and four tries to record an answer. The first one was really terrible. I didn’t allow myself enough time (the “20 minute” interview took me well over an hour and as time went on I felt rushed, got really flustered and each answer was WORSE than the one before). I actually emailed the hiring person and begged for another chance but no.
      The second time, I realized that I could read the question, record one answer, but then pause the system before trying again. I could make a few notes and compose my answer before trying again. For some reason, that really helped me. And the other thing I did was block the video of myself with a sheet of paper. I guess I’m like a parakeet or something because I was very distracting to myself and it helped to have that blocked. I didn’t get that job either but at least I know that I can do it now.

  16. Anon for this....*

    I’ve been contemplating this situation for a while, but now that it’s closer to a reality, I still don’t quite know how to approach it. I work for a government agency. Our work consists of doing audits of firms in our industry. Our audits are project based assignments. I’m assigned to a firm, given an area to look at and I do my work. My teammates do their work. We turn our workpapers into the project manager who reviews them and provides feedback to each of us individually. We discuss outcomes and how our results might impact each others, but I don’t see my teammates work and they don’t see mine. It’s pretty segmented and silo’d. When our audit is finished, we are assigned to a new firm for a new audit. I may or may not be working with the same teammates.

    We have a few retirements on the horizon and there will be openings at the project manager level. I am very interested in moving into one of these roles, but still have some questions – namely the challenges of the job. Most of the projects managers have said that they are more concerned about who is on the audit team than anything else when it comes to our work. If you get a good team, it will go smoothly. If not, it’s a disaster. The problem is that I don’t know how to find out more about this or ask the necessary questions without getting into performance issues of my co-workers. I’d really like to know who is a problem? What kind of problems do they face? How often do these things occur? While I suppose I could not ask about “who”, our office is pretty small and I’d probably be able to figure out who they are talking about. I have a similar question on the workpaper reviews – I generally don’t receive much feedback on my workpapers and my work is pretty solid. I have absolutely no idea how my colleagues perform in this regard. So it’s hard for me to gage how much of the job consists of review and feedback, and, more important, what kind of feedback. People have up and down relationships with our project managers, so I’m sure there’s more critical review and feedback going on. I’m just blind to it.

    And I should be blind to it. It’s none of my business right now. But when you’re applying for a promotion, particularly a supervisory promotion, how appropriate is it to ask about these things in an interview? I mean, I might not get the job and even if I wasn’t given names, it’s pretty easy to figure these things out. But on the other hand, it’s information that I would want to help me figure out if I even want the job. (If there’s just a lot of critical feedback that the managers have to give, frankly, I’m not sure I’d want to do that job. But if it’s some of the time, I could handle it.)

    I have a pretty good relationship with one of the managers. I think she’d give me a lot of information including names, if I asked. But I don’t want to put her in that position. Another manager would give me higher level information if I asked him, but again, I’d probably know who he was talking about. (And he hasn’t always been discreet in the past, but it’s usually in a positive way… I.e., “One of our auditors is really good at this function … I can tell you, it’s Persephone.”) I’m concerned that just by asking, I might look nosy or out of touch in some way.

    Regardless, if there is a way to ask either of them informally, it would help. Otherwise, any suggestions for what kinds of questions to ask to get at this information in an interview would be helpful! TIA

    1. 867-5309*

      I do not think it is at all appropriate to ask for names or anything that would identify individuals. I would also question the judgment of an interviewer who gave me that information, even if they were my friend or someone I knew well in the organization. Until your get the job that is just not your information to have. What if you interview, get all this information and don’t get the job? Then you have performance details about peers.

      I think you can ask questions about how they deal with challenges and challenging people, how they coach people who are struggling, how often it’s an issue, questions not centered around specific people

    2. Choggy*

      Well, I think you could always ask about the challenges without necessarily needing anyone to divulge names. I think there are challenges with *any* supervisory position, and it’s really all in how you, as a manager, deal with them. Who is to say part of the the project managers issues may be the way they are managing the process, and or the auditors? Have these other project managers been auditors who moved up like you want to do? If not, you probably have a better perspective than they with regard to the work itself, and the processes you follow for a successful audit. You would actually be in a position to create a better process for everyone involved given your experience!

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Yup, this is my thought. I would go to the first person you mentioned that you get along well with and just ask about the job. Tell her you’re interested in applying to fill one of the positions that will open when folks retire but you’d like to know a bit more about the day-to-day of the job and what kind of issues and challenges are the most common. That is a totally normal thing to ask someone you are familiar with. You can also make it clear that you aren’t looking for her to name names or gossip, just more an idea of the types of issues and problems and how they end up getting resolved.

        Even if you can figure out who she’s talking about, it isn’t gossip or smack talking if she’s sticking to the facts. “Yeah, I will say one of the biggest issues is staying on folks to turn in their audit reports on time. When those lag everything gets harder,” isn’t smack talking, it’s the reality of the job.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      The question here isn’t “who sucks and who doesn’t” the questions are “what does it take to succeed as a project manager” and “what are the challenges?” You can assume that sometimes you’re going to get bad folks on the team — the question is how much of a challenge is that, what can the PM do about that, what kind of resources are available etc. And then you decide whether this is the job for you — if you are only going to be happy if everyone always does their job right and you aren’t going to do well dealing with folks who aren’t as good — then that’s important information that tells you the job might not be for you.

    4. TeaGirl*

      I think asking in a high-level way is OK at this juncture, especially if you have a good relationship and are couching it in terms of “I am looking to move my career forward and I want to make sure I am developing skills to do that”. This would give you a chance to think in advance in the interview about (a) if you have those skills and (b) how you would need to develop/improve them to be successful in the job.

      For me as an interviewer, if someone hasn’t thought about these issues before talking to me, I would be worried that they don’t know what they are walking into, especially if they are an internal candidate. That said, if you can show that you have thought about these issues, but have questions about procedures/training/etc. that is better.

    5. NW Mossy*

      Some questions that may lead you to useful insights, or things you may already know but just not considered in this light before:

      * How are individuals assigned to a given audit? This will tell you how much ability you have to choose/influence who ends up on your team. If it’s little to none, that says you have to be prepared to deal with a wide range in performance. If it’s substantial, that suggests your horse-trading skills with your peers will be crucial to getting the individuals you want.

      * When you say they give feedback, what does that mean? As described, it sounds like it tilts heavily towards quality control – timeliness, accuracy, adherence to process, and such. That’s a different (and more limited) vantage point than a manager giving behavioral feedback to a direct report. In my experience, it’s much easier to emotionally disconnect as someone giving quality-control feedback than it is giving behavioral.

      * What metrics does your boss’s boss pay attention to? They typically won’t be looking at the audit team individually (that’s the job of your boss/their peers), but what the big boss cares about will give you clues to where you’ll be expected to focus your feedback without getting into naming names.

      * How is your performance evaluated outside of project manager feedback? Do you have a boss that remains constant while your PMs change? This is another clue to the scope of what you’re being asked to evaluate others on.

      I’ll also say this: even when you know all the players, people surprise you. I’ve had directs who performed poorly for past bosses but did great for me. I’ve had directs who were a previous boss’s favorite that drove me up a dang tree. You’ll create your own dynamics with people, so you can’t put too much weight on someone else’s.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Most of your questions can be handled in general terms.
      On average how many times a week or a month do you have to speak to people about crummy work? (You don’t need to know names if you are asking for numbers.)
      If there is a difficulty what resources are available for a project manager to use to work on that difficulty?
      How do you feel about the training you received to do your job? (meaning the manager)

      The nuts and bolts questions you show here you will probably be told once you have the job so you know where the problems are.

      I have to say this, unless you are determined to work through problems do not take this job. If you are living in dread of certain people or certain issues, this job might not be a good fit for you.
      Going the opposite way, it’s normal for leaders to worry about things. But underneath that worry is some determination to make things work out in some manner. If you can’t find that ah-ha moment where you think to yourself, “I will just work at it until I get it”, then maybe you shouldn’t apply.

      One thing I’d want to know is if there is a bad worker and the bad worker is so bad they need to leave, how do TPTB handle that? Will you be listened to? Will you be heard? Will you have the authority to fire people if necessary?

      For me, if I do not have the authority to fire, I don’t want the job. And the reason is because difficult people do not listen very well to someone whose hands are tied. This can be new levels of misery.

      One thing I see here is that you are concerned about the people who work there now. New hires are an unknown. At some point you will have to deal with unknowns, there’s really no avoiding it. While you know the names of the people you work with, their work habits and outputs are unknown to you so far. There is always going to be unknown parts when you are a leader.

  17. Anon here again*

    I’m currently in and have been in jobs where it’s like walking into hostile enemy territory. It’s difficult to fit in with the “old guard” (people who have been there for a while) and they don’t like newcomers. I’m also shy and quiet, which doesn’t help. During the interview, they either act nice in front of the boss or are not in the interview, so I don’t meet them until I start.

    My friends and family say that they’re just threatened and to ignore it, but it’s difficult to spend so many hours a day with people that are hostile or outright hate you. I don’t know if they wanted someone else in the position- I try to be as kind and helpful as I can, but I’m getting sick of being treated like garbage.

    Is there any way to deal with this? I find myself ostracized and never quite feel like I fit in with the group.

    1. Aurélia*

      I was in a very similar situation in my last position. The two things that really helped me were chatting-up the most friendly person in the office and also working on a work related/approved certification that required a good deal of online trainings. I hope there is one friendly person in your new office, like maybe the one who’s showing you the ropes? And also that there is some work-related training you can do on the clock. Oh, and that your co-workers get a grip.

    2. LQ*

      The they’re threatened and ignore it can work but I think that makes a lot of assumptions.

      * Find a person to help champion you.
      * Be really good at making other people’s jobs less stressful (this includes turning in work that doesn’t need to be reworked, but also not suggesting a whole bunch of things that are new all the time if they are “old guard” folks)
      * Don’t worry about fitting in (this is a slight difference to the suggestion from family) don’t think of it as you vs them (which is what threatened implies) but think about like “this is who I am and what I bring to the table” (this got much easier for me as I got older – not at all easy in my 20s)
      * Look at the tone of the whole thing – it’s difficult to know what the actual behaviors are here since your notes (fairly so) are pretty broad – are they just a very quiet bunch – do you have a couple people who are very chummy but kind of leave everyone else out of the loop? – do they actually get in your way on stuff or do they just keep to themselves so it feels very cold?

    3. Wintergreen*

      I place a lot of importance on liking the people I work with. I had an old boss that said something that stuck with me. “I better like you, I spend more time with you than I do my kids!” (You was a group of us in the office)

      I’m shy and quiet too. I think a lot of times it’s the quiet part that throws people off. I try and keep a friendly smile. I’ve felt isolated occasionally but I’ve never met outright hostile. But that was for short-term volunteer work. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a new job.

    4. Kathenus*

      I’ve been in a similar situation as far as old guard/new person dynamics, but I’m on the other end of the personality spectrum and get into trouble by trying to be involved and offer ideas and such and it’s considered ‘less than’ because I’m new and my experience came from somewhere else.

      But I learned something many years ago from a supervisor, when working with a peer that I clashed with. I tried and tried to figure out how to make her like me, doing all the hard work, always being nice in the face of abject rudeness, etc. One day my supervisor said that when working with someone like that, be careful not to “bend over so far backwards that all you do is kiss your own a**”. Basically by trying to do the work to carry both parts of the relationship I was disrespecting myself and not even succeeding because the other person didn’t care about trying to be part of a solution.

      So now my approach is total professionalism, don’t do their part of relationship-building but do everything as well as I can within my role and sphere, and let the chips fall where they may if they won’t do the same.

    5. Not trying to be rude, just good at it*

      Work hard. Learn your craft. Make yourself indispensable. When they realize you are an asset and not a liability to your department and they can count on you, they will warm up to you. You don’t need them, they will discover they need you. It will become apparent when they want a vacation week or sick day and need someone to cover their work. It’s amazing how friendly people become when they need a favor.

  18. Remote Worker FTW*

    I work for a company that until COVID-19 happened, only let certain people work from home and then only one day a week. Since March, many of us have been working remotely and I love it. I’m enjoying the no commute, the money I save from not commuting, the more time I gain with my family, etc. Almost every week somoene is saying they can’t wait till we go back or they hope we can WFH at least 3 days a week, not me I’d like to be remote full time. I really hope we get options, but I doubt we will.

    1. londonedit*

      There’s a real split, isn’t there! We have the same – some people have said they’re not intending to go back to the office at all, whereas others are already back in four days a week (our office has been open since the beginning of the month, but there’s no pressure to go in, it’s personal choice). I started off thinking I’d like to do two or three days a week in the office, but having tried it out when the office reopened, I’m not so keen. I love going to central London and it’s nice to catch up with people, but with Covid cases rising all over the UK, my feeling is that if I don’t have to use public transport, it’s best to avoid it, and leave it for people who *do* need to use it because they can’t work from home. I have to admit, the savings on travel costs are a pretty attractive argument for continuing to work from home, too!

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I have a friend who works at zone 2 GP Hub and another who is MOD and can’t work at home and the feedback from them is, if you’re London and can wfh/commute without using public transport?

        Do it to spare those who can’t.

        1. Remote Worker FTW*

          I’m in the US, and I used public transportation to get to work. It’s pretty efficient (my job pays for the transport, but not the lots parking), but it’s time consuming. When COVID-19 hit a lot of people stopped taking this transportation source, I have no idea how many are now.

      2. Remote Worker FTW*

        A friend of mine in another location and with a different skill set than me, has worked from home for almost 2 decades now. A family member had an office job that became remote, years before COVID-19. It’s apparent now that it’s more traditon and company culture than a need for most people in office jobs to need to be in an actual office.

    2. ThatGirl*

      My company went from most teams having a regular WFH day every week to the new CEO saying it could only be done in limited circumstances on rare occasions. And then covid happened and even after the office has technically reopened most of us are still WFH full-time. While I don’t mind being in the office and some days I miss the social aspect, I really hope this causes leadership to reconsider the ban on regular WFH; for me the ideal mix would be 1-2 days a week to WFH.

      1. Remote Worker FTW*

        I sort of miss the social aspect, but we have a lot of meetings via video conferencing and phone. So I am connected to a lot of people. While I have a lot of skills and could get a job at another company fairly easy during normal economic times, I really like this one. There’s honestly no real reason for most of us to go sit in an office, if anything our productivity is higher working from home (I know mine is, and this is with taking a toddler to and from daycare for socialization reasons and so I can get work done).

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I am in camp would like to WFH 2-3 days post-pandemic. I feel connected now, via Zoom, phone, email, etc. but part of me worries if I’ll still feel so connected if the majority return to the office and not everyone is relying on virtual. Being the only 1 of 10 dialed in vs. 10 of 10 dialed in worries me a bit.

    3. PollyQ*

      Obviously, I can’t predict what your company will do, but I think many more jobs will be remote or remote-eligible in the future. If your current job turns out not to be one of them, I think you’ll have good luck looking for one that is.

      1. CatMintCat*

        I always thought I would like to work from home, but am in a job where it was always thought impossible (teacher of young children). Then Covid hit and we went remote. I hated it. Not just trying to work out how to do it, but the isolation and feeling cut off from my world. When school went back to normal in May I skipped happily back without a backward glance.

        Apparently I’m not nearly the introvert I thought I was.

  19. MaryAnne Spier*

    Just an update about the negotiating question I posted last week…

    I had been offered a teaching job in another school district in the subject area I really prefer. They offered me a salary 10k below my current salary, and I asked them to match it. They said they would get back to me.

    So on Tuesday afternoon, just when I had decided that -10k would be too low and I would turn it down if their offer was firm even though it would break my heart… they called and offered me 4k MORE than my current salary. I was really shocked and had to ask them to repeat that. So I formally resigned from my current job yesterday and I’m really excited for the new job even though leaving my students will be hard.

    Thank you to everyone who told me that it was OK for me to ask for more!

      1. MaryAnne Spier*

        Yes! Thank you!

        But you know what I didn’t expect? How hard actually resigning would be. Now that I’ve submitted my letter I keep thinking about all the great things about my current job that I’m going to miss. I’m attached to a lot of my students, I really like most of my coworkers, my principal is fantastic. I still know that this is the right move in the long run but I’m not good at endings. At all.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I think this is fairly normal when you are leaving a place you love – exciting with some uncertainty about what you are leaving behind. Best of luck and congrats on the successful negotiation!

  20. EDinTX*

    I applied for a position at a reputable but smaller non-profit and got a call back from an external recruiter asking for me to answer a questionnaire and provide references – ok, no problem. But they are requiring a headshot. Is that typical? It makes me feel gross. I also don’t have one . . . Can I push back without getting bounced from consideration?

    1. Picard*

      are you in the US? If yes, then no, not happening. If not, I do know its fairly common in Asian countries so… not sure?

      1. MrsPeaches*

        I feel all kinds of weird about this. I work in nonprofit development, an area where you definitely want to know that candidates can present themselves professionally, but requesting a headshot feels like it opens the possibility of discrimination.

        But also, if they really want to know what candidates look like, can’t they just look on LinkedIn?

    2. Kathenus*

      Could you respond by asking why they want the photo? And if they double down, maybe mention that you are concerned that it could open them up to legal issues if there was a claim that photos might lead to candidates being evaluated due to legally protected categories?

    3. PollyQ*

      That is so far out of the norm, it makes me wonder what else is wrong that org. Honestly, it’s so weird, I wonder if it isn’t something creepy the recruiter came up with himself.

      But for your question as to whether you can push back without consequence, my answer is “Well… I dunno, maybe not.” I’m not sure what to recommend though. One option is to ask the recruiter directly why they’re asking for this. Another is to go to HR of the org and ask if this is their standard or something the recruiter came up with. If my guess that it was the recruiter’s idea is right, and the hiring org is actually appalled to hear that it’s being done is correct, then raising the issue shouldn’t hurt you. If I’m wrong, then yes, it probably would knock you out of contention, or at least be a mark against you.

      I do think that an org that thinks this is a good thing to do as part of their preliminary evaluation (since once you call people for interviews, you’ll find out what they look like anyway) of candidates is not going to be a great one to work with. Given that, I wouldn’t just go along with it, unless you really need to find a job. Push back a a little, or a lot, or maybe just let them know that you’re not comfortable with that requirement so you’re withdrawing your application.

      Sorry, it sucks that they’re behaving this way.

  21. SpurLeeLoch*

    When applying for jobs, should I not talk about being a single mom? I usually don’t mention my kiddo until I have an offer, but I’ve been reading some varying opinions. I’m home with her during Covid, and that’s a big reason I’m looking for virtual work. Any ideas?

    1. 867-5309*

      Not relevant unless you’re asking for some kind of accommodation, and then you should wait until the offer.

    2. Ducky*

      As I recall, they did a study (studies?) where a man who talked about his kids in interviews was praised and rated highly but a woman doing so was judged not dedicated to her work. I’d like to say things have changed since then (ten years ago, maybe?), but I doubt it.

      On the other hand, you should also be interviewing *them*, so if you can afford to be picky it might be a good litmus test.

    3. Observer*

      What useful (and legal to act on) information does this add to the conversation?

      It shouldn’t be this way, but in many cases this information could hold you back. On the other hand, it’s unlikely to help you. So, I would not bring it up in most cases.

    4. Dino*

      It depends on her age. I see this from the other side of things as a person working in K-12. If you are needing to support her through distance learning and need scheduling flexibility to do that or need to be full remote due to childcare, AND you have the ability to be selective, I say to mention it. I wouldn’t say anything about being a single parent or even give any information on your kiddo’s age or support needs, but a quick mention of having a child at home doing distance learning when asking about the company’s WFH and scheduling flexibility would help you get a more specific answer.

    5. allathian*

      Yes, I would mention it when interviewing the company.
      “I’m happy in my current job but I would like some more flexiblity as a single mom with a kid in remote learning. What kind of flexibility do you offer your employees concerning working hours, core hours if any, etc.”

  22. Middle Manager*

    Highlight of my week with my poor performer who I’ve posted about here before. I’m desperately trying to manage her out of the job at this point after years of training, coaching, warnings, PIPs, etc.

    She outright asked me why I won’t provide her verbatim language for multiple work assignments. As in, she would like to use our weekly 1-1 meeting not to trouble shoot specific items or talk through project status/next steps, but for her to bring a list of emails she needs to send, documents she needs to draft, etc, have me provide her language that is in final form to distribute publicly, and so that she can type it out and submit it as her own work. She’s not a typist or a clerical staff person of any kind. She’s a management level program manager/subject matter expert. I truly cannot understand how someone can have gotten to this level and worked in a professional setting this long and doesn’t stand that it’s wild to ask your boss to routinely do your work for you, including writing your emails for you.

    1. BlueBelle*

      Whoa! That is ridiculious to even ask, can she not fake it like everyone else and search it! LOL! She needs to go. Why is it taking so long to get rid of her?

      1. Middle Manager*

        A combination of some bad upper management (who have mostly moved on now, thank god, who were conflict avoid to the point of absurdity) and the VERY long process of firing a government employee. It is moving now, but it’s going to take a few months unfortunately. At least she gave me some good documentation this week?

        1. BlueBelle*

          Ahh Government, that explains how she reached the level and carried on so long. Managers often seem to be conflict avoiders in government and non-profit. People get to just coast because no one wants to challenge then, coach them, or make the effort to get rid of them.

      1. Middle Manager*

        I told her that she is responsible for providing first drafts of any work assigned to her and that I can edit in some cases (not day-to-day emails, but public documents or sensitive emails, yes). Pointed her back to her position description and the difference between clerical roles and program roles.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Sounds like a good answer. What did she say? I’m kind of feeling like the biggest issue here isn’t even that she doesn’t know how to write her own emails; it’s that she doesn’t have a clue what it is okay to ask somebody else to do for you and what you really need to at least TRY to do yourself.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I would have had such a hard time not staring at her with my mouth wide open. That’s chutzpah right there. Any way to take all of her projects off her plate and just leave her twiddling her thumbs?

      1. BlueBelle*

        A few years ago I hired a LMS (learning management software) admin/ junior instructional designer. After the first month, once she was up to speed on the LMS I gave her the first ID assignment and she looked at me and said “I don’t really want to do instructional design, I am only interested in the LMS.” It took me a few minutes to recover and shut my mouth and stop blinking. Then we had a discussion about all the things she said in her interview and how much of that was true or not and what her future looked like in this company. It took 9 months to get rid of her.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          It’s so weird when that happens! I mean, it’s one thing to have a check-in with your boss and say, “You know, I find that I prefer the LMS part of my job and I’m not super into ID” when talking about general career goals, but you still DO the ID. I once had a meeting where I asked someone about his development in his role and he said, “I want to do what Co-worker does,” I said OK, but what do you think about your current role, and he refused to answer. He started refusing to do work he had promised to do. They fired him much later than they should have.

      2. Middle Manager*

        It was wild, truly.
        In order to fire her, I can’t take her work away from her. I have to assign her a full work load and document that she can’t do it.

        1. ex-DoD employee*

          In my experience, there are many “duffel bags” in government work who would love to have their work taken away. She may be hoping you do exactly that.

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      Whoa. I could see a person new to their job or to communication with higher-level or outside-the-team people being hesitant about wording of e-mails and so on, but even then, I’d say, “draft something and send it to me, we can discuss it and figure out if it needs changes.” There’s no excuse for someone who’s been working in this kind of role for years.

    4. Bad Hare Day*

      Your employee needs to find a new job. Perhaps she would get along with my first boss, Karen? Karen wanted me to print out all my emails first thing every morning, then she would dictate what should my response should be. I’d type it up, print it out again, and bring it to her so that she could yell at me and call me stupid if I made a typo or if she had changed her mind. I also had to type mailing addresses on a typewriter because no one knew how to use the printer for labels and we couldn’t possibly try to figure it out, we might break something. Yes, this was in the 21st century!

  23. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

    I’m back at work full-time this week, after months of WFH and and then a delightful two weeks of 4 4 hour days (seriously. If I was a billionaire and still wanted to work, 2pm-6 would be my schedule). It’s…hard. I like my schedule (4 days of 1:30-10pm, Friday 9-2 with a 40min-1.5hr commute), and definitely prefer it to 9-5 (so not a morning person), but like…40 hours a week+commute is a lot of time. This is the first time both my partner and I have been working full-time at the same time, and completely opposite schedules so we never saw each other. There’s not time to cook. I’m remembering how quickly weekends fill up when you’re working full-time in the weeks. Ugh, the adjustment is just hard.

    1. Ali G*

      It is hard! I spent a year volunteering and working part time. When I got my current job, I started on a Wednesday and by Friday at noon I was exhausted. It gets better!

    2. MaryAnne Spier*

      I’ve been remote since mid-March and next month I have to start going in again. I have no idea how I’m going to handle that! I’m so not a morning person and I’m finally getting enough sleep, plus plenty of cat time. I’m going to try to make myself plan/cook meals to put in the fridge and freezer on the weekends so I don’t have to try to cook for myself much during the week.

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        Oh yes, my menagerie has been very happy the past few months! I’m thinking that Soup is gonna be the way to go for meal-planning for me (and my partner loves soup and makes it a bunch). Super easy to make a huge pot and freeze most of it, and then it thaws fast when you don’t feel like cooking from scratch. But I miss, like, having something in the oven while I worked and just needing to take 5 minutes now and again to make sure it’s not on fire, instead of having one weekend day be Big Cooking Day

        1. MaryAnne Spier*

          I’m going to have to bust out the crock pot again. I’m in New England and it’s about to get chilly. We have an instant pot too, so I could multi-task. I’m going to start counting macros to try to lose weight, and that requires a lot of pre-planning too, so I’m seeing some weekly meal prepping marathons in my future. But I’m going to miss my cat time and having lunch with my boyfriend every day. He’s remote until the new year.

    3. Filosofickle*

      Oh, I feel for you. I recently applied for “regular” jobs after many years of setting my own schedule and creating a life around my desire to sleep in and work half time. There are some good reasons to do this, but I dread how hard it will be to adjust and regain the stamina if I do go back to that life. At least right now there would be no commuting, which is the only reason it’s even possible. In my 25 year career I’ve never been able to have a full time job AND enough energy for a life and sanity. It seems like I can only do one or the other.

  24. Old Admin*

    Hubby (who is not from the US) will start a job as ground crew at an airport pretty soon.
    This is a union job, and he thinks that means he will get a written JOB contract (not the union contract).
    I think the one doesn’t have anything to do with the other! What do the commentors think?

    1. Teacher Lady*

      I have no experience with that particular line of work, but as a unionized employee, my “contract” is the collective bargaining agreement between the union and my employer (the school district/city), and it defines working conditions. I do not have a separate “job contract” that guarantees any type of employment length or other terms – everything pertaining to the agreement about my work is in the “union contract.” BUT, I don’t know for sure whether this is the norm; the only unions I have experience with are teachers unions.

      1. Teacher Lady*

        I guess the one thing is that although the progression from being a provisional employee (in my district, this means an employee who has worked for the district for 0-3 years) to a permanent employee (4+ years) is outlined in the collective bargaining agreement (“union contract”), technically I did have to receive letters each year from the school district confirming that there was “reasonable certainty” that I would be hired again the following year (this was in February) – but again, that’s because that procedure is spelled out in the CBA and is standard in my district, not because of anything particular about MY personal employment. If I had ever not been rehired for the following year during my provisional period, they would have had to send a letter specifically stating so.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      When I’ve been in a union, the contract was with the union ( that’s why it’s called “collective bargaining”), not individuals. He should get a handbook outlining the agreement & the name of his steward. The steward can help answer questions he has about the contract.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      My dad was a union steelworker for his entire career and he never had a contract. The union contract is the contract.

    4. SunnySideUp*

      No, very doubtful he’ll get anything besides his union contract. Good for him! I’m union all the way!

    5. noahwynn*

      I work for an airline. He will not have a job contract, but will be covered by any Joint Collective Barganing Agreement between the airline and the union. Also, assuming he already knows this position is union, but the majority of ground crew positions at the airport are non-union and many are not even directly with the airline but with a third party.

    6. Double A*

      I have had an individual contract in the union jobs I’ve had, but they are teaching you need to commit for the year, every year, so that is pretty different.

    7. Old Admin*

      Thank you for all your answers!
      Yes, the position is definitely with a specific union that even mentioned hubby’s direct employer (an airline) in articles on their web page. The hiring manager even told him about the union steward contacting him in 30 days.
      I’ll tell hubby he can look up the collective bargaining agreement with them.
      So, aside from the collective bargaining agreement, can the union help or negotiate in case of layoffs etc.? This being aviation, we fear the job might suddenly vanish again if the plague picks up again…

      1. acmx*

        The CBA will have the furlough terms already. The union will provide representation for your husband if he files a grievance against his employer or if his employer needs to discipline your husband.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Yes, this is how it would work. There may be some communication that comes straight from the employer, including on boarding stuff that outlines the job, etc. But any negotiations will go through the Union. If you husband ever has an issue with his job, when in doubt he should communicate via email and always cc his Steward. Chances are the Steward will go over all of this with him when they contact him, including the best way to reach them when needed and if there are any especially contentious situations to keep an eye out for.

  25. George Litefoot*

    I’m a newer manager (since January 1) and I’m having trouble with one of my employees.
    She regularly calls in sick and keeps mentioning applying for FMLA for illnesses that do not exist. She says she has three chronic illnesses: morgellons disease, chronic lyme and multiple chemical sensitivity disorder. But none of those are real illnesses. The documentation she has given me is from a naturopath but naturopathy is illegal here (you can’t act as a naturopath, call yourself an ND, treat people or use your certification from another place here).

    Our firm has unlimited sick days with a note being needed if you are off more than 10 days but looking at past data from my division she takes more than 3 times the amount as everyone else. Notes show the old manager told her she had to get documentation from a real doctor but didn’t do anything beyond that. He notoriously checked out the last two years before he retired and left a few problems, her being one of them.

    I’ve told her she needs to give documentation from a doctor and not a naturopath due to the excessive time off she takes but she says doctors are ‘liars’ who tell her she is healthy when she isn’t. She says she almost died from adrenal fatigue, which is not a real illness, and doctors ignored her and she used traditional Jamaican remedies back home for a cure (her words).

    I’ve tried to have understanding due to the pandemic because things are hard for everyone but this can’t continue. She’s missing too much work and it was a pattern before I came on as a manager. It’s also difficult for me because I didn’t work at this firm before I was a manager and I only had 2.5 months of working in person with my employees before we all started working from home. The amount of time off she takes has caused my other employees to be upset when it affects them. I guess I’m struggling with trying to be compassionate for her while also trying to enforce something that was not previously enforced.

    1. BlueBelle*

      Yikes. “this is company policy” and then if she tries to talk her way out, as in “doctors are liars.” You respond with “this is company policy and you must submit documentation from a doctor by X date or Y will be the consequence.” As long as HR is backing you up, that is. Good luck!

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Oh, I’m sorry, that has to be difficult. I think framing it as following the company policy is the right way to go. I had a student try to get special accommodations from me without going through the appropriate channels and pushed back when I wouldn’t. I reminded her the policy and process existed to protect her and other students from individual teachers making their own rules about accommodations and applying them inconsistently and perhaps unfairly. Best of luck.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think you need to talk with HR about what other options are available – for instance , are you able to address her poor performance, rather than her high use of sick leave? Or whether there any policies which allow for you to assess whether her illnesses mean she is no longer capable of doing her job? (Where I am, it’s possible for someone to be dismissed on capacity grounds if they are no longer able to do their job, due to illness or disability – usually preceded by an assessment as to whether they would be able to do it if there were accommodations made – so it might be worth exploring whether (for instance) a part time role, shortened hours or other accommodations might fit better with her health issues.
      If you are legally allowed to require medical evidence , talk to HR about what the next steps are if she can’t /won’ provide it. Again, here, you can’t compel someone to provide medical information but if they chose not to, you can make decisions based on the information you do have, including the fact that they have declined to provide medical evidence to support their statements.
      As an aside – you say “none of those are real illnesses” – I would be cautious about how you refer to the actual conditions as unless you are a medical professional, you aren’t really qualified to say whether they are real or not, (for instnace, Lyme Disease is absolutely a real illness (she may not have it, but it is a real illness,!) and some people do end up with chronic or long term symptoms, so while (as I understand it) ‘Chronic Lyme Disease isn’t the accepted medical terminology, it may reflect a genuine illness) — focus on how her absences affect her work and on what evidence she provides of any medical needs.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        “As an aside – you say “none of those are real illnesses” – I would be cautious about how you refer to the actual conditions as unless you are a medical professional, you aren’t really qualified to say whether they are real or not, (for instnace, Lyme Disease is absolutely a real illness (she may not have it, but it is a real illness,!) and some people do end up with chronic or long term symptoms, so while (as I understand it) ‘Chronic Lyme Disease isn’t the accepted medical terminology, it may reflect a genuine illness) — focus on how her absences affect her work and on what evidence she provides of any medical needs.”

        Yes – this.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yes, this – Per NIH, Morgellons is a real disease as well. 2018:

          “Recent studies from that point of view show an association between MD and spirochetal infection in humans, cattle, and dogs. These investigations have determined that the cutaneous filaments are not implanted textile fibers, but are composed of the cellular proteins keratin and collagen and result from overproduction of these filaments in response to spirochetal infection. ”

          That said, it is fair to require a doctor’s care, not a naturapath.

        2. Elizabeth I*

          Seconding this!

          Lyme disease is REAL. I had (or possibly still have?) Lyme disease. Testing is notoriously bad (lots of false negatives), plus it can be very hard to get rid of Lyme because of how the bacteria operates in the body – and as a result, you can’t actually prove it’s gone, unfortunately. So even if you think you’ve gotten rid of it, it’s possible there’s still some bacteria hanging out in your body that your immune system is keeping in check – and it can flare up again later if your immune system is compromised by something else.

          Also, I just wanted to note that while adrenal fatigue isn’t an official medical disease, HPA axis dysfunction is, from what I’ve been reading recently – and it’s possible that she was not told the correct term for the illness that she has. That doesn’t mean her illness isn’t real!

          Look, the thing is – immune system issues can be VERY VERY complicated. We are in the middle of figuring a lot of this out right now – the medical community is learning more everyday and making breakthroughs bit by bit. But meanwhile, doctors often don’t have the answers, doctors might be trying new treatments that seem to work without really understanding why or how a particular health issue works, and a patient might not know the precise medical terminology to talk about their condition. That doesn’t mean that the patient’s health issues are fake/imaginary/not real! People are suffering and muddling through and trying to get better as best they can, based on the limited medical knowledge we have today. And they don’t need your scorn on top of the that, please.

          1. E.J.*

            Chronic Lyme is not the same thing Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is real but Chronic Lyme is not the same as that.

            If she was truly in adrenal crisis or dying, home remedies would not ‘cure’ her and fix the problem. She would have died without actual medical intervention.

            She might be ill but all the doctors she sees say otherwise and the diagnosis she has said she had are made up and not recognized by the medical community. If the employee can’t provide credible documentation from a real doctor OP should take appropriate action.

            1. LavaLamp*

              I really encourage you to stop and think about why you’re arguing so heavily about this. . SO MANY people said similar things about my mom who was very ill.She had fibro (back when it was hotly debated in the medical community) among other things. She passed away, partly due to attitudes like this. It’s not our job to gate keep, or make others feel badly about illnesses that are being argued about in the medical community. Doctors come back all the time with new information that makes previously ‘non real’ diagnosis real. Treating people with kindness is more important in this situation because we aren’t this person’s doctor, or a fraud investigator. If you were sick and no one believed you how would you feel?

      2. Dust Bunny*

        My cousin’s husband died of Lyme disease. I don’t know if it was technically chronic or just undiagnosed and therefore inadequately treated, but they didn’t find it until the autopsy (he had been tested for it before but it didn’t show up). He died suddenly, in front of their kids, I guess of Lyme carditis. It was horrific.

        1. E.J.*

          Chronic Lyme is not the same as Lyme Disease. No one dies from Chronic Lyme because it’s not a thing. I’m sorry about your cousin’s husband.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            While Chronic Lyme is not a thing, Lyme Disease can sometimes have long-lasting after-effects (much the way Covid 19 does, or scarlet fever used to), and that may be what she’s referring to by an by incorrect title. Just because she doesn’t have the medically correct terminology doesn’t mean she’s not sick. (She may not be sick. Or she may be. But whether or not she has the right names for things doesn’t prove it either way.)

    4. Anonymouse*

      She says she has three chronic illnesses: morgellons disease, chronic lyme and multiple chemical sensitivity disorder. But none of those are real illnesses.

      Please be careful with statements like this. I am not familiar with Morgellons, but chronic lyme and multiple chemical sensitivity are currently disputed. However, there is a LONG history of symptoms, especially women’s symptoms, being ignored or discounted by the medical community, and being dismissed as psychosomatic or the result of hysteria or mental illness only for, decades later, actual diagnoses to be discovered, accepted and applied. This has happened with multiple diseases and disorders over the last century, including multiple sclerosis and some forms of epilepsy.

      Don’t focus on whether you believe her diagnoses are fake or not, in fact, don’t even bring it up, focus on the documentation needed to satisfy company policy.

      1. No Name Yet*

        Yes, this. I have a family member whose multiple sclerosis was diagnosed 10+ years after her first symptoms, quite literally because physicians thought she was having a hysterical psychosomatic reaction. And given the mention of Jamaican remedies, having symptoms being ignored/minimized is even more common for women of color.

        That being said – I assume company policy is that a licensed medical provider has to sign off on FMLA. So she may not trust physicians, but it’s also totally reasonable to need someone besides a naturopath to sign off.

      2. Nita*

        I know someone who battled what, for all she knew, looked like chronic Lyme disease for several years. She went from very fit to barely able to function, and had to leave her job because of it. It was a long time before doctors figured out what was really wrong. It wasn’t Lyme, but a co-infection picked up at the same time from the same tick bite. Once she got the initial Lyme diagnosis, no one thought to check if there’s anything else (despite the fact that she wasn’t responding to the standard treatment). So for several years, she said she had chronic Lyme. She wasn’t lying, it was the truth as far as she knew at the time.

    5. AGD*

      Definitely not real illnesses. There may be understandable reasons why conventional evidence-based medicine has pushed her away (either individual mistreatment or implicit bias or both), and/or why she has one or more conditions that are tricky or subtle to diagnose, but yeah. These labels mean nothing, because they’re made up. Many doctors and specialists exist, and it’s appropriate to tell her to try again with someone with standards.

    6. Come On Eileen*

      I urge you to get away from statements about whether her diseases are real, because this won’t do you any favors as a boss. You aren’t a doctor (are you?) and researchers are looking into things like Morgellons and Lyme disease every day. There’s debate about whether Morgellons is a physical disease or psychological, but even psychological disorders need treatment — if someone needed time off for depression or anxiety, would you scoff because it’s more psychological than physical? Please, please, focus on her work performance and let her manage her own health.

    7. Observer*

      Please don’t get into whether her condition is “real” or not. It’s counterproductive.

      Stick to the the documentation issue and use more neutral language. Don’t tell her that naturopaths are not real doctors – a lot of science based people would differ with that, and in many jurisdictions they are treated like MDs – with very similar qualifications and requirements to practice.

      What you CAN and SHOULD tell her is that “Here naturpoaths are not licensed to practice, and our company policy requires that medical documenation be from licensed medical professionals.” Also, if she brings up FMLA again, you should absolutely find out what your company policies are and what paperwork she would need, and then the next time the issue of her illnesses comes up, tell her “You mentioned FMLA. This is what we require for you to be able to take it. Here is the paperwork you need to fill out and here is what we need from a medical professional.”

      If at any point she starts talking about how doctors are liars, etc. don’t engage in that. Just tell her that you need something signed by someone who is licensed in order to comply with both the law and your company policies.

      1. Observer*

        I should clarify that I was talking about Naturpathic Physicians, not a Traditional Naturopath.

        But, as others have noted, the fact that she may not use the precise language is annoying bit not really relevant.

    8. Choggy*

      Without actual documentation from a medical doctor, I don’t think she would have a leg to stand on should you decide to manage her out. Of course, you would need to do this carefully without targeting her illnesses but her absences and work performance. You should absolutely have HR involved with the plan as this is something that should have been handled years ago, and should not be left to continue. This is the type of situation that causes incredibly poor morale for the rest of the staff, and may even prompt some to leave because of it. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Don’t bring up (your opinion on) the validity of her diseases – that’s not relevant. If your company policy requires that she get a note from an actual MD physician to authorize extended time off, then she has to get a note from an actual MD physician to authorize extended time off. If she doesn’t do that, extended time off will not be permitted and disciplinary action will be taken. End of.

      Applying for FMLA requires documentation be signed off by a legally authorized physician. If she can do that, great. If not, then the extended time off is not approved and disciplinary action will be taken.

      1. LavaLamp*

        Please don’t bring up or even let the thought of ‘these diagnoses aren’t real’ to color your dealings with your employee. You’re not a doctor of medicine, and women especially are often told they’re making shit up.

        Also; if she does get proper FMLA certifications do not discriminate against her because you still think she doesn’t need them. You’re setting yourself up for failure here.

        You need to have a sit down with HR; discuss what policy is, how to manage her breaking that policy and document without your opinions of her medical issues coming into play.

    10. Malarkey01*

      You are new to the firm, before doing anything else you should talk with your boss and HR. Some of the language you’ve used here about “real illnesses” and the fact that this is a long standing issue that was being handled (potentially badly) by a previous manager open you up to some potential liability. Everything varies by state, but you also have a company that was previously accepting her doctors notes and is now shifting to enforcing policy. That can be fine if done correctly, but it can also go sideways. Make sure you are aligned with your manager and HR and understand if they will stand behind this as a company policy (this is so true when you are new since every company has POLICIES and then also oh the policy is x but we actually do y) that becomes important if you aren’t treating medical exemptions consistently.

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

      I’ve tried to have understanding due to the pandemic because things are hard for everyone but this can’t continue.
      Okay, I don’t know what to think about ‘morgellons’. Rationally I’ve ruled it out, (but I did once, shame on me, go down the rabbit hole of “is this morgellons real?”… ans: no, ultimately — but I’ve gotta shamefully admit I still look in from time to time on morgellons forums, in the way that I look in on other conspiracy forums. Now with a skeptical viewpoint tho.)

      There is a link between Lyme (a real syndrome) and ‘morgellons’ admittedly.

      I’ve also researched adrenal fatigue myself, even became convinced at one point, but I’m now ambivalent about that.

      I think you need to get her to produce a certificate from an actual doctor… because “morgellons”, “adrenal fatigue” etc are theories but not someting you can document.

    12. Anon for this today*

      I’m a retired doctor.
      All three diseases listed by the the OP’s employee are disputed in the medical community, especially Morgellons (currently considered a psychiatric syndrome).
      HOWEVER:
      It’s neither here nor there what diseases exactly the employee in question is listing:
      – The diseases might be misdiagnoses for very real symptoms of something else (e.g., “hysteria” was and is a laughed at catchall for very real gynecological issues). The OP therefore must address the need for documentation by a medical professional as required per company policy.
      – If the employee fails to provide documentation in a form recognized by the company, the credibility of the diagnoses is irelevant. The employee should face fair but consistent consequences, right up to termination for her long term performance issues.

      I remember a post about an employee who claimed to have a “real disease” (stomach cancer) to get all sorts of perks, and who never provided real proof from a medical professional – he later turned out to be a liar.
      The big issue here as well was a lot of time off and pay he shouldn’t have gotten. The nature of the unproven diagnosis doesn’t make difference, so let’s not get any deeper into this.

    13. MacGillicuddy*

      Lyme disease is absolutely a real illness. And when an infected person is NOT diagnosed initially and treated (many people bitten by an infected deer tick do NOT exhibit a bulls-eye rash), Lyme disease can produce a range of neurological problems weeks, months, or even years later. This is sometimes referred to as “chronic Lyme disease”.

      Over the past several years there has been new research in the areas of Tick-borne diseases. In the past, there has been a problem with lack of knowledge, both in the general public, and even with medical professionals who practice in regions of the country where these diseases are rare.

      This is a REAL illness and I take issue with you calling it fake. You do a disservice to people who actually have Lyme disease. I live in a region of the country where it is prevalent and can assure you that it is real. Look at the science.

      Your approach should be making sure that the employee provides the required documentation for requests of leave, not questioning whether she is actually sick.

      1. E.J.*

        Lyme Disease is indeed a real illness. And it is awful. But Chronic Lyme is not the same thing. It does not exist. OP isn’t saying Lyme Disease isn’t real. He’s talking about Chronic Lyme which is a completely different thing.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Lyme Disease does not have a chronic variant. But it can trigger long-term problems like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or something that looks a lot like post-polio syndrome. I’ve known two people with Lyme and they both had long-term consequences from the disease… diagnosed and confirmed by actual MDs, unlike the employee in this situation.

          Whatever she is calling it, it is entirely plausible that she had Lyme Disease and then had long-term consequences which she attributes to that illness and therefore thinks of as an ongoing, chronic case. It doesn’t matter if she’s got the correct name for it… what matters is that she DOESN’T have the correct documentation. All the rest is noise.

          So George Litefoot, drop the whole concept of whether her illnesses are real or not. Work on the assumption that they’re real, even if called by the wrong terminology, because it’s not going to be useful to you to do otherwise. But you’re certainly entitled to tell her that unfortunately, company policy does not allow for anyone except an MD to sign the relevant paperwork, and therefore she will need to get you a copy that’s signed by the correct type of practitioner if she wants to access the benefit in question. If she’d rather drop her claim than see one of those “liars,” of course, that’s up to her, but those are her only choices.

    14. Jellybeans*

      Chronic Lyme Disease is not recognized by mainstream medicine, but Chronic Fatigue Syndrome absolutely is, and it’s very common for people who had Lyme Disease to develop it. While you definitely have the right to stand firm on requiring official medical documentation, please let go of the idea that she’s imagining her illness. Many chronic illness have been historically dismissed as hysteria or mental illness, and even if she does have mental illness, she deserves the same consideration as she would for a physical illness.

    15. LGC*

      Woof.

      At this point, there’s a few things I’d consider:

      1) I’d work on a PIP suggesting concrete improvements. As in – her work is suffering because of her attendance issues and because things are getting dropped. Y’all can work from home, so therefore…she can find a way to provide some sort of coverage and not drop so many balls.

      1a) I would not do that right off the bat if you haven’t said anything about her attendance before – I’d talk about her attendance first with her, and say that it’s been causing problems. It’s something I’ve just learned – the problem isn’t that the employee is sick, it’s that the employee isn’t here and it causes cascading problems when they’re not here (and I’m usually frantically covering).

      Your problem isn’t that she’s out sick per se. It’s that she’s not meeting standards because she’s out sick.

      2) More importantly – this is something I’d consider having the HR person (or the person who serves HR functions) handle. They’re probably better equipped to handle things and what she needs.

      As an aside: I personally agree that Morgellons isn’t a formally recognized illness (ditto for chronic Lyme, adrenal fatigue, and multiple chemical sensitivity disorder). But…it sounds like you’re doubting that she’s sick, which is extremely problematic. I would tread really carefully about saying anything to that effect – because it could make other employees overly cautious if they become chronically ill. (Another commenter wrote in about this issue where she saw other employees treated poorly for taking disability. Don’t be that company.)

    16. Not So NewReader*

      I have found it to be necessary to avoid getting down in the weeds about my subordinate’s health.

      If you are telling her that her diseases are not real, then you are getting down in the weeds. This is way too much involvement in their lives and it will only cause you consternation and other miseries.

      Keep it simple.”The rules are after x days you need a doc’s note on letter head from an MD.”

      What I see missing is what happens if they don’t have a note? The only way this stuff works is because of follow through. It looks like someone kept letting her come back to work with no note or an inadequate note.

      In my old workplace the rule was to have doctor’s note for 3 days or more of absence. If you did not have the note you were not allowed in the work area. If you went to your work area without presenting a note you had to go back out and present your note, immediately. If you were a silly person, who did not have a note, you were told to leave and not return until you had a note.

      Make sure you can send her home if she has no note. Then, once you have your answer, let her know the next time she is out x days, she will not be allowed in her work area until she has presented a note from an MD. This is done and over.

      When she says, “but, but, but”, which she will probably do, just calmly repeat the message, “The next time you are out for x days you must have a doctor’s note to return. If you do not have that note you will be told to leave and not come back until you have one.”

      And brace yourself. Because it is reasonable to expect she will be out in 9 day stretches rather than 10 day stretches. With this in mind, it is best to get together with your boss and develop a plan. Follow the plan to the letter. Keep your boss looped in as you go along. The rationale to use with your boss is that her absences are excessive and it’s pulling down morale as she is routinely allowed not to show up for work.

      I am a big fan of doing alternative stuff… if one is actually getting results. If she were actually getting results she’d be at work. She’s not getting results. While I could go down her path in a conversation because of my life experiences, I would chose not to as I am advising you to do here. And the reason is that I am her boss not her practicioner. Same thing with medical docs, we are their bosses not their medical doctors.

      For arguments sake, let’s say she is 100% correct about everything. What does that get her? She is still a person who does not show up for work. And you still have to deal with that part. Get your boss looped in and build an action plan.

    17. Anon. Scientist*

      This attitude that it’s not real if the name is wrong makes me crazy. I have a mystery thing that means that at irregular intervals (from 3 months to a year) I get utter muscle exhaustion and can barely get up a flight of stairs, and i sleep at least 12 hours a day. Also my whole CNS goes in the toilet and I’m an emotional wreck. The episode may linger for up to a month, but I’m usually housebound a couple of days at most. If I don’t have this mystery thing, I’m the energizer bunny. Luckily for me it’s obvious what the difference is and so people can see there’s something clearly wrong with me. I’ve been tested for every chemical imbalance you can think of (and Lymes and other pathogens) and my bloodwork is fine. If I exhaust my PTO and need a diagnosis for STD, the doc may well throw up her hands and say “chronic fatigue syndrome”. Doesn’t mean I’m faking anything.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, but for the employer of someone who suffers from a comparable mystery thing, there’s a big difference between an employee who can say “here’s a letter from my doctor that affirms I need time off” and “my healer says I need time off.” The specific diagnosis or lack of is beside the point, and not the employer’s business either way.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Yeah, I don’t see many (if any) commenters complaining about the requirement that she has to have a letter from an actual MD. That’s completely legit. But there’s two separate issues here: whether George Litefoot can reasonably insist on an MD instead of a naturopath to sign the forms (which is a pretty easy yes), and George Litefoot’s apparent belief that she’s not really sick just because the names by which she calls her illnesses are not conclusively proven by science.

          I have severe fibromyalgia. At the time I first began having symptoms, there wasn’t even a name for that yet, and to this day I occasionally see doctors who insist that it doesn’t really exist. It took me twenty years to get an accurate diagnosis, and while the other disorders with which I was misdiagnosed for those years were medically recognized, I could easily imagine myself latching onto a theory that seemed to match what I was feeling if nobody in the formal medical community seemed to be able to define it or help me with it. If you’re suffering and nobody can tell you why, you’ll start trying to figure out for yourself, and you may come up with some pretty weird ideas in sheer desperation before you hit on the correct one.

          It’s not George Litefoot’s place, as her boss, to judge whether she’s really sick or not. Assume that she is suffering, without worrying about what exactly she suffers from… as others here have said, even if it’s mental in nature, mental illnesses are unquestionably real in their own right. Accept her suffering as axiomatic, and don’t worry about the whys… they’re not the boss’ business.

          Her attendance record and the documentation that goes with it ARE her boss’ business. Stick to insisting that she is required to submit an actual doctor’s letter if she wants to be excused for these absences, and don’t get into the question of whether or not she’s really sick, even in your own head.

  26. MissGirl*

    How to know when it’s time to move on.

    I have serious FOMO and even more serious anxiety and those are constantly duking it out. That makes it hard to make a decision. I’ve worked as a ski instructor for nine years. Each year I say it’s my last one and each year I decide to go one more year. I have a plethora of reasons to stay and a plethora of reasons to go. One thing clouding my decision is this particular job exacerbates my anxiety like nobody’s business but keeping me is the fact I can ski for three days and take home $1000. If I take a season off and go back, I lose all my benefits that accrue each year and start at the bottom.

    Usually I make a decision and live with it for a bit to see if it’s the right one. Last night I decided to accept and felt good and promptly woke up and felt awful. I can’t bring myself to make a decision and I have to today.

    *In case it comes up, they have made changes for COVID. I will never be inside with the students. They’ve shortened the day so we’re always outside. I can dress in my car and avoid the crowded locker room. I think there’s less risk than working in retail or teaching.

    1. voyager1*

      I was a ski instructor for 3 winters when I was much younger. I had a PSIA certification even. It is really hard work, especially the two weeks when kids are out of school. I would love to know what is wanting to make you quit, but if getting a seasons pass is what is holding you back, can you afford a pass on your own? I loved the pro form benefits too, back in the day. It made buying ski gear affordable.

      You say the job really impacts your anxiety, umm ski instructing is working with the public. I am curious how you got through the last 9 winters? Is it COVID that is making you nervous? It isn’t easy to social distance on a lift chair.

      1. MissGirl*

        I first started during the recession when I couldn’t afford a pass now I can. My anxiety stems from several things and has grown over the years: I once got injured and had to have surgery, my confidence in my ski skills and social skills, constantly having to drive in the dark in a blizzard up a narrow canyon, bringing COVID home. Then there’s the fact I have to use vacation time from my actual job to work another job. Like I said there are tons of pros and cons. If I don’t work, I don’t get a pass to ski. So if I do get sick or have to quarantine or if they don’t use me because they’re cutting lessons, I don’t get to ski.

        1. Mill Miker*

          If you can afford the ski pass, then it might help to take “I get to ski” out of the equation entirely.

          For example’s sake, say the pass is $400. Instead of “stress and $1000 and ski pass” vs. “No stress and no skiing” it’s “Stress and $1000” vs. “No Stress and paying $400”

          So then it’s just a question of “Is the Stress worth $1400”.

        2. voyager1*

          Is Ski Patrol an option? When I taught we had a lot of weekend folks. Not sure if I was working a second FT job if I would want to take PTO to teach skiing. So what are the pros?

          1. MissGirl*

            Ski patrol requires an extremely high level of skills not to mention medical training. The pros are money for one. I can work over Presidents and make between $500 and $1000 in tips. I get free passes and discounts on ski gear. We’re given free training. It all comes out even when I weigh the pros and cons.

            I know I’m the only one who can make the decision. I’m just curious how others have come to the knowledge it’s time to close one door and open another.

            1. voyager1*

              Wow okay, that is very tempting. I can see why you are wrestling with that.

              When I taught I was full time and mostly teaching children’s ski school. I did adults during the week though. I never made that kind of money in tips though. The children came with an extra $1.00/hr and I got another $1.00/hr with my certificate.

              But your setup sounds pretty sweet.

            2. Jessi*

              Do you love it more than you hate or dread it?

              thats how I decide.

              I once decided to leave a place I was living because I was lying by the pool one day and was no longer appreciative/ awed, it had become normal and I felt that was time

    2. valentine*

      It sounds like you don’t want to do it. I don’t see any joy here. Why do you have to drive in a blizzard? If you’re worried about COVID, that’s a great reason to end your streak. (You might try to convince them to freeze benefits rather than to drop you back to zero.) When you ski on your own, are you so excited and happy that the work seems worth it?

      Decide you won’t ski this year. Do something else with your vacation time, so you miss the “We miss you” and initial nostaligia. Maybe you will panic and feel dreadful about the decision. Keep going. Skip it next year as well, but if you want to ski, go somewhere you’ve not worked. In the meantime, find the root of your massive discomfort with decisions (is it just this one?). Tackling that and becoming more comfortable with your choices will help you the most.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It will be okay. Yep, change is hard. Cry when you need to.

        I’ve talked about the job of my life. I loved that job so much. In the end, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hack the chemicals. When I quit I had a 9 week long migraine. It dissipated once I got my next game on.

        Time was kind. I realized the chemicals were going to kill me if I stayed. I realized the people that I thought were so great, were… uh…. just people. I found out some Not Good things about them later on. It took time but the counterpoints became clearer and I was glad I made the jump.

        The job demanded a lot out of me. It was numerous stresses like you show here. It was not a long term plan. Like you I said each year i was quitting. And each year I went… all total I did 8 years. I could have used that time in better ways. I could have used it to get started in an arena where I would get paid better money. It’s funny/odd how something that was so important to me then, is a whole lot less important to me now.

        Lots of lessons.
        I will never love a job that hard again, it’s not healthy. It takes away the ability to be logical about matters. I will never work that hard again,
        I gave too much so it hurt even more to realize I had to leave.
        I pushed my body beyond its limits. This is always not wise. I had nothing left to me when I got home.
        Like you show here, there were many aspects of the job that I was afraid of and this is a quality of life issue. We are not having a quality life if we are going around in fear.

        Look online at Indeed for remote jobs. Perhaps you can find something to WFH. It’s worth a try.

        1. MissGirl*

          Thanks for your great advice. Luckily this was just a side hustle for me. When I started it was much more of a necessity. It does feel silly how big this lives in my mind. You’re right time will make it smaller.

          I think it gave me a sense of identity. I struggle a lot with my decision to go “corporate” a few years ago when the other “dream job” I had couldn’t support me. Hence why I had two. This gave me a way to feel like I was still living the dream. I feel a little less than right now.

    3. Workerbee*

      The last time I had to make a difficult decision where I just couldn’t make up my mind, I rephrased it from “Which do I want more?” to “Which _couldn’t_ I live without?” The answer, which had eluded me before, came to me instantly. Maybe a similar rephrasing might help.

  27. Outside Earthling*

    I have a boss who continually delays in providing me with information I need to write reports for our senior management. I have tried talking to him about it and explaining that it makes me very stressed as I’m left reminding him repeatedly and then filing my reports at the last minute. Any advice? He’s taken to asking my coworker (who works with me on the reports) for an extension of time right at the deadline, which coworker feels obliged to agree, because my boss is senior to us. So from boss’s perspective, he has an agreed extension, so doesn’t even acknowledge his lateness when he eventually provides the info, even though this just cuts into our own prep time. I like the job but this is driving me nuts and I’m finding it harder to hide my exasperation from my boss. Boss is legitimately busy and over stretched, so I can’t get any traction if I escalate, but it’s me who has the responsibility of delivering good reports on time to upper management.

    1. BlueBelle*

      That kind of thing drives me nuts too. I would approach it from the perspective of “I know you are stretched, what can I do to help you generate the information I need? I feel like my work is suffering and I am not doing as well as I could with the delays. How can we – together- solve this?”
      Good luck!

    2. Observer*

      Stop telling your boss how stressed you are. Of course your boss SHOULD care about this, but he clearly doesn’t. Rather tell him that when he does that it has a negative effect on your work, as it means that you need to rush and do stuff last minute with less ability to deal with last minute issues, double check things and just do basic proper proofing (assuming all of this is true, and it’s not just your desire to get things in early.) Also, if this is true, even when your coworker “agrees” to an extension, it’s not because the extension makes sense but because your coworker doesn’t feel like she can say no. But make sure to check with your coworker before you say that!

    3. Emilitron*

      How does your coworker feel about this? They’re consistently granting the extension, because he’s the boss, but they’re also impacted by the stress of it. Maybe talk with them about pushing back, suggest something like “Well of course if it’s not done yet, it’s not done, and we can accommodate if you get it to us Tuesday, but I wanted to make sure you’re aware that this means ABC and throws off our delivery plan. I know you have a lot of other things on your plate, but it would really help us do our jobs if we got that info reliably on schedule”

    4. Malarkey01*

      The thing that jumps out at me is reminding him repeatedly- as someone who has been on both sides of this problem that’s ineffective and a little annoying and reads as if you have artificial deadlines set earlier than needed and they can be ignored the first few times. Setting that expectation can do a lot of damage even with really good, but busy people who are juggling work.
      I would figure out what “the real” deadline is for when you need his piece. Make sure it’s accurate and reasonable, I would love to have everything a week early, but honestly only need it 12 hours early if working at a normal reasonable level. If there’s no actual consequence for missing the deadline it’s not the real due date. Then tell him “in order to get the monthly TSP report out I need your stuff by noon on the 29th every month”. I’d give one reminder the day before -“just a friendly reminder that I need your information by noon tomorrow or we won’t be able to deliver the report on time”. If he misses the deadline that’s not on you and you can reasonably point out that the lack of information is affecting your work.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        This, with cheese.

        With your coworker, figure out what the real deadline is and communicate that to your boss with the information that there isn’t room for an extension built into it. Then when he misses the deadline again (and he will), turn in the report without that information. Of course, keep all the communication on this in writing, document the heck out of it. If boss says something verbally, send an email summarizing the conversation and and conclusions/decisions reached.

        Right now, you and your coworker (mostly the cow-orker) are covering your boss’s butt with no consequences for him, just effects on you.

    5. Wintergreen*

      I don’t suppose you could leave a big glaring hole in the report to management and let boss know that upper management is going to come looking for answers.

      The whole asking for a “time extension” from coworker is BS and your boss knows it. A subordinate cannot grant an extension to the boss. He is covering his ass at the expense of coworker’s job if something goes wrong.

  28. P.*

    I’ve been with my current org for about a year and a half. I took the job after a whirlwind interview process where they revealed that they need a higher level of skills than the job they had advertised. I thought what they needed was someone who could develop data guidelines and processes to tune up CRM operations in specific departments (which is my jam), but it’s become clear that what they really need is an overall accounting manager.

    I don’t feel comfortable with the amount of financial reporting and fiscal responsibility that has just landed in my lap, and I’m not interested in continuing that as a career path. The org has tried to be very good to me, giving me a 20% raise in March to acknowledge just how much work I’ve taken on. They’re constantly dousing me in praise about how hard I work and how great I am for the org. The reality is that I’m feeling more and more overwhelmed and burnt out, and that all of this praise makes me feel sick because of it.

    I think the right thing to do is to search for a new position, but is there a way to talk about this with my supervisors? My skills are with a specific CRM software and a new position would likely require a relocation, which I can’t really afford right now.

    1. Mr. Obstinate*

      I would recommend finding the highest-up person in your company who would be expected to understand the gravity of a potential mistake in your current position’s work, and making clear to them that the situation is a hazard. Since you are being lauded for your work already, you can retain a good position at the company even if they “demote” you from the overwhelming responsibilities you currently have. And if they don’t listen, it’s best to have on record that you made them well aware of the risk they took, in case you do later on make a financial reporting mistake that brings disastrous audits etc.

      A script:
      “I appreciate all the kudos and I’m glad my work is meeting your expectations. However, I must tell you that I think it’s only a matter of time before my lack of experience with/training for these responsibilities leads to me making a major mistake. Given how important these accounting duties are to the company, my working in this position alone is a hazard. I’m sure I can continue to be an asset to the company in roles closer to my training. Please consider hiring an accounting resource who can verify that my work is as it should be, because right now all I can verify is that I’m doing my own best.”

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

      Embrace the opportunity in the meantime, why do you not want to pursue it? Because it’s not your “path” or smaller picture because it’s not part of what you have taken on?

      What would you rather do instead?

      Can you embrace a “financial analyst” position for the moment? And get what you can from it?

      I sense that you have a higher earning opportunity here potentially, if you are open to it.

  29. But There is a Me in Team*

    Something I never thought I’d be posting. Racist comments are accepted at my job as long as they are directed at white people. One recent example, said in an all-staff meeting: “White men shouldn’t take up space.” I fully believe that people who hold privilege should be aware of that and try to use it to make the world more equitable. I also believe that once you start accepting the disparagement of anyone based on their race, it’s problematic and it’s not something anyone should be exposed to at work. Any advice?

    1. ThatGirl*

      It’s not actually possible to be racist against white people, since we’re the ones who hold the power. What was said may have been inappropriate, but it’s not racist. And honestly, I agree with the sentiment — white men have long had way more than their fair share of attention and space. It would be really helpful to know the context to decide if it WAS inappropriate.

        1. ThatGirl*

          It’s not.

          As I said, it may have been inappropriate, but it’s really hard to tell without more context.

        2. AGD*

          Agree with ThatGirl in every respect. It can be prejudiced or even bigoted, but for it to be racist, it needs to be aligned with existing power structures, not pushing back on them. This does call on a slightly technical definition of the word, but I’d say that’s fine; we don’t want to pretend that a massive power imbalance is somehow a two-way street.

          1. Observer*

            That’s a really narrow and far from universally accepted definition of racism.

            And it’s still sheer bigotry, which should be unacceptable.

            1. Bostonian*

              Nope. Every implicit bias/racism workshop I’ve ever attended has had a definition of racism that includes taking into account existing power structures.

              1. Observer*

                Most of these workshops are pretty bad – and I’m talking about documented failure to move people’s attitudes and / or behavior in the direction we really need to move (ie less racist).

            2. Paperwhite*

              I was thinking about this. It’s interesting to watch the statement under discussion being considered the apotheosis of bigotry. Was it a good idea to say in the workplace? No, not least for the reasons I tried to lay out in my comments. But I put it on the scale opposite the battered forms of Emmett Till and Sandra Bland, and somehow it doesn’t precisely balance.

      1. Enough*

        Making antagonistic remarks based on race is racism. Your contention that it is not possible is the flip side of saying it is not possible for blacks to be racist.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’m not qualified to say whether Black people can be racist, though I know they can absolutely be bigoted or prejudiced.

          I think that the OP of this question would do better to focus on whether the comment (and other similar comments) were inappropriate or unprofessional than making a claim that racism against white people (who, again, uphold the structures of white supremacy and power) is a real thing that’s happening here.

        2. Savannah*

          Yep. Black people can’t be racist. They don’t have that kind of systematic institutionalized power. They can certainly be biased and bigoted.

      2. Delphine*

        There is a difference between institutional racism and racial prejudice. There is no such thing as institutional racism against whites people, but it is possible to be racially prejudiced against white people. Saying “you can’t be racist against white people” and leaving it at that isn’t going to help race relations. There needs to be empathetic dialogue and listening from all parties.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Thank you for providing the distinction! Additionally, as things change for the positive, the power can shift and then it may be possible that racism against white people can exist, because reasonable, non-racist viewpoints, or even just simple opinions from non-POC can be ignored or not be considered as valid just because of their race.

      1. Disco Janet*

        That doesn’t make this not problematic. Telling someone they shouldn’t take up space because of their race is inappropriate. While I absolutely agree that white men generally get TOO much space…telling them they should get zero is also not okay – I can maybe see some environments where it would be appropriate, but at work is not it!

      2. Devil in the Details*

        (I know this will not be a popular post, especially on this website, but…)

        Stop assuming that racist doesn’t exist against white people. The difference is that white people don’t have the right to complain and seek redress for racial discrimination – which in itself is racist.

        You, likes other, just assume that it doesn’t exist. This means when we are racially discriminated against, we have no rights because generally speaking the government doesn’t recognize that there is racism against white people.

        As for the comment about white men and space, who is the judge as to whether it’s racist? If I, as a white person, is offended and believes it to be racist, you saying “racism against white people doesn’t exist” does not negate it. It tells me it does exist… and you confirmed it.

        The reality is racism exists everywhere in the US – and elsewhere in the world – and it applies to all kinds of forms. We can never eradicate racism when one form is still permitted.

        1. Paperwhite*

          The difference is that white people don’t have the right to complain and seek redress for racial discrimination – which in itself is racist.

          This is risible. When POC speak up about racism we get shut down, told we’re overreacting, and otherwise silenced.

          I’m looking at this statement against the background of all the Black people killed for being Black, this year and every year, and it just… continues to be amazing.

    2. The Vulture*

      Ehh, I’d leave this alone. “Both sides-ism” is something that slows down progress while we’re trying to correct huge, historical wrongs, and “white men shouldn’t take up space” just isn’t that big a deal compared to the importance of addressing structural wrongs. Maybe just accept “white men shouldn’t take up space” is how people are fairly feeling, and take this as an opportunity to not have white men and their hurt feelings taking up space in this conversation.

      I really like this framework: https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html
      And for this I think take a particularly look at objectivity and right to comfort. This came to my mind – “Assume everyone has a valid point and your job is to understand what it is”. What is the context, what is their point, their background, what are they trying to say, why does it make sense to them, can you identify with it?

    3. Littorally*

      Advice: First, look at the context. Was this a discussion about making more space for nonwhite or non-male people to speak? Then accept the statement as contextual, rather than absolute, and understand that “shouldn’t take up space” meant “shouldn’t take up disproportionate space.”

      If there wasn’t a context that softened that one specific sentence, then go talk to a relevant authority — either the speaker themself, your manager, or someone else realistic to the situation — and express that the statement made you uncomfortable, and what kind of change you would like to see in the future.

    4. Aurélia*

      I would ask them, “Take up space how?” It’s tough in the heat of the moment, I hope it doesn’t become a pattern, but I’d be curious about what they had to say. Not sure how this isn’t considered racism as people are being singled-out in a negative way based on physical appearance.

    5. Important Moi*

      Context matters. Obviously it is up to you how much detail you provide.

      “White men shouldn’t take up space.”

      Someone may have inarticulately stated a feeling. Part of the issue is that white men get benefits the others do not, like for example the benefit of the doubt when someone says something inarticulately.

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

        Yes. I’d like to know what the person was refering to. If it was something like manspreading, it would make sense.

        1. Savannah*

          The ‘space’ in this phrase is not really physical space. It is usually applied to white men talking during meetings or emotional labor spent on a white men in organizations, or white male ‘experts’ on panels/at conferences instead of others. It’s an equity reminder more or less.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      I wouldn’t call that a racist comment, for the reasons ThatGirl says.

      I WOULD say it’s not really a professional way to word things. If it seems that white men are taking up disproportionate space in meetings, on committees, etc., in your workplace, it would be absolutely appropriate to say so, or to say “white men should be conscious of how much space they’re taking up in comparison to women and people of color, because we want to make sure that everyone has the same opportunity to speak and be heard.”

    7. voyager1*

      It is problematic. As a white guy and a employee made that kind of comment I would be very worried. If my supervisor made a comment like that I would report it to HR or her supervisor.

      Many folks are going to tell you this isn’t the definition of racism, or maybe they agree with the sentiment. That is all fine, but those views are kind of irrelevant. You can’t have employees making those kinds of comments, it is going to become a liability at some point for the business.

      1. AnonToday*

        Yeah, I think the issue here is that US work discrimination/harassment law is not based on critical race theory. It just says: you can’t treat anyone worse because of their race, whatever their race happens to be. So obviously you can discuss ways to make the workplace more equitable but you can’t tell people not to exist (?) because of their race. Also, the behavior has to be a persistent pattern or an egregious incident. I think this comment on its own doesn’t really qualify as that, but perhaps if this is a persistent pattern (or is combined with actual objectively demonstrable discrimination), it could be considered harassment/discrimination on the basis of race.

      2. But There is a Me in Team*

        There’s a lot more going on. We’re not a big organization and I think a coworker may pass through AAM once in a while so I can’t get more specific. But IMO words matter regardless of who you’re directing them at. Just saying white folks should laugh it because they collectively hold power isn’t productive in, or appropriate for, the workplace, any more than it would be if someone was making Model Minority comments to an Asian staff member or comments about anyone based on their race. It’s generally an OK place to work, I don’t want to file an outside complaint at this time, but I want the behaviors to stop. An interesting convo, I appreciate folks who taking time to civilly [for the most part] share their views.

        1. pancakes*

          “Just saying white folks should laugh [at?] it . . .”

          Not one person here said or suggested that they think the remark was humorous, or that you should put it entirely out of mind. Several commenters asked about the context for the remark, which you haven’t expanded on. For these two reasons I don’t trust your narrative of what exactly happened here.

          1. But There is a Me in Team*

            I realize I was thinking about other interactions and the general attitude in my office when I posted this, and my comment was unclear. You are 100% correct that nobody here has suggested white people should just laugh it off.

      3. Paperwhite*

        I’m going to agree with you because more broadly I disagree with you.

        I would advise that a supervisor not make such a statement because a supervisor must present themself as someone an employee can trust to be fair and to not hold any demographic quality against them. I would also advise that a supervisor not make such a statement because a non-White supervisor with White reports is at greater risk of being disrespected and not obeyed by those reports, and making such a statement simply provides such reports with more ammunition to dismiss, belittle, and undermine the supervisor.

        Societally I really don’t think such a statement is at all the equivalent of the racist calumny heaped upon Black people, but because people really want to use such a statement to dismiss anti-Black racism in general and twice over in the workplace. it’s inadviseable.

    8. Paperwhite*

      I’m going to both agree with you and disagree with you.

      I would advise people not to make disparaging/ could-be-interpreted-as-disparaging comments about anyone’s race to the best of their ability, because of the opportunity it provides to people to disregard oppression of non-White people, as you’ve demonstrated here. I can understand how after years and years of, for example, being considered and reprimanded for a Loud Out Of Control Black Woman every time one opens one’s mouth, and being told to stop speaking up because it’s ‘aggressive’ and ‘frightens people’, that someone might say in exasperation, “White men shouldn’t take up space” as an oversimplification of “White men have taken up disproportionate space and that needs to be rebalanced.” However what happens in reality is exactly what you’ve done here: all you heard was a statement about White men that you used to completely disregard the context and what years-long experiences might lead someone to feel that by being not White nor male they have been denied their fair share of space, being heard, etc. Is your company truly free of racist comments and actions against non-White employees? You don’t have to consider that now, because someone said something you could consider racist concerning White people. So I would have advised them not to have provided the opportunity.

      An important consideration in racism and other bigotries is who holds the power. If a company has three Black employees, two of whom are entry level, and thirty White employees all the way from entry level to C-suite, the Black employees have a lot less power to do anything about the idea that “White men shouldn’t take up space” or to otherwise discommode the White employees for being White. The White employees have far more power, in terms of sheer numbers, position within the comparny, and position within society, to discommode the Black employees with multiple ideas about Black people ranging from “Black people aren’t as smart” to “Black people are thieving.” There are power differentials that determine which comment is annoying vs which is dangerous.

      1. But There is a Me in Team*

        That’s a very interesting point, thank you for chiming in. Lots to consider. That particular comment wasn’t made about a fellow employee. As I said, there’s a lot going on that I can’t share. One comment I wouldn’t have brought it up, esp. right now.

      2. voyager1*

        Paperwhite,
        You pretty much nailed it. I bristle at being told I take up space. It is very dehumanizing.

        I agree with your views on the societal impacts. I didn’t mean to sound dismissive or snarky. It is just having a debate if this kind of behavior is racist or not as some comments seemed to wanted to do doesn’t really help the original commenter.

        In the end though, the company has some liability having an employee making those kinds of comments. That was the main point I was trying to convey.

    9. Thankful for AAM*

      The white men in this room and at this moment need to stop taking up all the space can be a fair statement.

      white men should stop taking up all the space in general is pretty accurate but can be an irritating take on things.

      I would not call this racism, I’d label it calling out power structures.

      It can make us uncomfortable if we are white. But it is an opportunity to examine our own beliefs.

      1. Nita*

        I just don’t understand something here… when people say something, there is an intent behind it. Usually. Unless you’re my annoying uncle who just says things because he likes to hear himself talk. So the intent of saying “white men shouldn’t take up space” is? Lay the lot of them off? Stop inviting them to meetings?

        1. Paperwhite*

          Lay the lot of them off? Stop inviting them to meetings?

          As if Black people have the power to do any of this to White people in the workplace. Your dreams of oppression and martyrdom are unlikely to be fulfilled.

          Based in part on my experiences as a Black person who has never had a level playing field when dealing with White people in my entire 20th-21st century life, I think “White men shouldn’t take up space” was a clumsy attempt to say “White men shouldn’t take up *disproportionate amounts* of space. People who are not White men deserve space too.” Apparently this is a hugely controversial statement, but whatever.

          Now as I said above the person who said it shouldn’t’ve said it at work, in large part because such a statement allows those White people who want to dismiss racism against non-White people to claim to be the real victims, at risk everyday of being assaulted, fired, and otherwise mauled by imagined hordes of violent vengeful Black people. But I think it’s abundantly clear from societal context and the relative amounts of power that White people hold over Black people in US society that it doesn’t mean any of the victimizations you’re so eager to claim.

          1. Nita*

            Why do you think I dream of oppression and martyrdom? Or even that I’m white? Here’s the thing. I’m not from around here originally. And my home country has a very long history of a supposedly civilized society turning on one group or another in a heartbeat. My great-grandparents have lived this (and died of it). I’ve seen photos from their time that I cannot unsee. My grandparents have lived this. My parents got lucky. My generation is living this now. There’s a civil war going on over there, and if anyone told me five years ago that this would happen I would laugh in their face. I’m a little bit nervous when people say that any group “shouldn’t take up space” because I don’t know where that will go next. Do you?

            1. Paperwhite*

              Oh please. Black people are a minority in this country, many police feel they have carte blanche to kill us, and many conservatives wish aloud that they did. I think we’re at a bit more risk of genocide than White Americans, to be frank, and I sincerely doubt you’re the least bit worried on Black people’s behalf, judging by your comments here. I wish I couldn’t believe that you think “White men shouldn’t take up space” is the ultimate in racism, or that I didn’t feel confident betting $5 that you think Emmett Till deserved what was done to him, if you even know who he was.

              1. Paperwhite*

                … this is the problem with posting while annoyed. I meant to add this:

                I mention Emmett Till not because he’s the most recent Black person killed for his race — far, far from it. That title changes daily. I brought him up because he was a teenager beaten to death by grown men, and because so many White people think he deserved what was done to him and that a Black kid doesn’t deserve a memorial that his memorial needs to be replaced every year due to being defaced again and again.

                Black Americans have disproportionately less money and property, live disproportionately shorter lives, and are in danger of being killed by police and civilians alike because of our skin color. But you want to tell me White people in the US are in danger of a genocide from vicious Black people — which, incidentally, is a concept that gets alluded to a lot in discussions of racism. I really don’t think so.

                1. bluephone*

                  Okay where in God’s name does Nita say that Emmet Till deserved his horrific murder???
                  I think you need to take a step back from here for a while. Between this exchange and your more recent, vaguely threatening comment to Nita earlier today (that Alison already had to delete), it sounds like these letters are hitting way too many nerves for you. I hope you’re okay.

        2. AnonToday*

          It’s hard to know without more context. It sounds like this was given as a directive at an all-hands meeting, perhaps as part of a D&I initiative. In which case I think the biggest issue is that it’s unclear and assumes the listener understands theories of spatial politics (I work in a blue-collar field where many people of all colors did not go to college, are not feminists, and would probably not get this shorthand). I mean, how *does* a general statement like this help anyone who doesn’t already know about these theories and agree with them? I’d much rather implement policies/procedures to ensure everyone gets talking time in meetings or something.

          I get what you’re saying about intent, although your last two questions are kind of flippant! Many years ago when I (white) was just starting out in my career, I came down with a severe, months-long illness. My boss (Asian) let me have more flexible hours and work from home sometimes because I was ill. My coworker (Asian), who had a different boss, assumed that my flexible schedule was a perk given to me because I was white. She went around telling all our coworkers this and made snide remarks to me all the time about it (and monitored my “excessive” bathroom usage, because yes, that was part of the illness). As far as I know, she never asked my boss, our shared grandboss, or HR about this – because I would assume they would have told her she didn’t have info she needed? Because she never took actual action toward making the workplace more equitable, it certainly felt like the intent was not to make the workplace more equitable but to harass me for my medical condition. I mean… I could be wrong about this… but it seemed like she was making an *ableist* assumption.

          That’s why, again, I think it’s always best not to treat statistics or averages or general theories as if they automatically apply to any specific situation. These are supposed to be tools to help come up with a plan that works for your specific situation/company.

        3. pancakes*

          + 1 to what Paperwhite said. I’m white but have a hard time getting a handle on this sort of inordinately literal interpretation of what people tend to be talking about when they talk about taking up space. The same people who seem to have a really hard time understanding any degree of metaphor or abstraction with regard to racism don’t seem to be burdened by the same confusion in other circumstances. If someone posted here about a work dilemma that was weighing heavily on them, we wouldn’t see a dozen commenters express confusion about whether they mean they’re literally carrying something or buried underneath something, guessing at the number of pounds or kilos, etc.

  30. Come On Eileen*

    How are your benefits changing for the coming year in light of everything that’s happened in 2020? My company has gone through furloughs and layoffs and warned us that benefits would change for next year in order to keep us fiscally healthy. This week they announced that our premiums for healthcare are increasing and they are taking away a week of vacation. Needless to say, many of us aren’t happy about it. They did survey us about two month ago to ask our thoughts about our benefit package and to rank what we consider most important, so the positioning is that they made hard decisions but used our input. Would love to hear what other companies are doing or not doing to benefits for 2021.

    1. MissGirl*

      We lost our 401k match and have frozen promotions and raises. My old company did the same but also reduced vacation time by 2 days for the year. But neither have been hit so hard that we had lay-offs or furloughs. It really depends.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Our healthcare premiums are going up by an average of 6%, but they haven’t increased in the last three years. Dental premiums are actually going down a tiny bit. Otherwise, I’m not seeing any major changes in our overall benefit package. (We have four different healthcare options, and there’s some small changes in specific plans options, like one is getting a decreased urgent care copay and a slightly increased ED copay.)

    3. noahwynn*

      Our only big change is reducing PTO rollover, now limited to 80 hours. For 2022 it will be reduced to 40 hours.

  31. Damn it, Hardison!*

    Sharing my own Friday good news this week. I had a really good interview with a hiring manager on Wednesday (prepped thanks to AAM, of course) and have been moved to the next round of interviews with other members of the team. It’s a logical next step in my career, and the company is doing some interesting things. One new thing for me is that the company is headquartered in China. That should present some interesting challenges, the least of which may be scheduling meetings. The teams primarily US based, though on the opposite coast from me. If I get an offer I’m sure I will come back here to ask for your collective wisdom on some of these challenges.

  32. Amber Rose*

    I soften my language too much and I think it’s limiting the kinds of responsibilities I’m able to take on. It’s been a couple times now where I made a comment during a meeting and our CEO Fergus cut in to kind of reinforce it. For example the most recent one was when I said we had a new mask policy and that “I’d appreciate it if people would take these measures seriously.”

    And he cut in and said, “it’s not about taking them seriously or not, you HAVE to do this, it’s policy.”

    And after he said that I realized my words were probably taken as the mask thing being a suggestion rather than a policy, even though I had said that it was policy and what I was thinking during the last bit was “I know most of you think Covid is BS and I’d appreciate it if you’d at least pretend to care, for the sake of others.” I know he gets a lot of mocking behind his back for being mask police and whenever I try to say anything I get, “whatever you say, Fergus.”

    Anyways I volunteered to take on an additional role to my existing responsibilities and he seemed really hesitant and I get the feeling that he’d rather give it to someone else (the woman who keeps snarking at me with the above line) because she’s more aggressive and straightforward in how she talks.

    All this rambling on is basically my way of saying, how do I learn how to change my entire communication style? The soft kind of self mocking, joking tone I use is one I developed because it works really well for getting people to do most annoying things without making them hate me (I’m good at soft manipulation), but it’s obviously not endearing me to management.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      If you’re hoping to move to management, you can’t do it well if your goal is manipulation and not being hated. Using your example, yeah, you’re going to have to be the mask police, not the mask Mr Rogers.

      So your communication style will need to change. Personally, I much prefer a boss who tells me “These are the rules” over one who hems and haws around the subject at hand, hinting at things.

      Good luck

      1. Amber Rose*

        I can’t move to management. There’s no upward motion in this company, only sideways. I want to take on some additional responsibility related to our HR documentation and such, that’s all.

    2. Policy Wonk*

      You need different communications styles for different situations.

      When you are a peer trying to get someone do do something for you, the softer manipulation you describe can be a good strategy.

      When it is subordinates, you direct. Don’t waffle or qualify. You can use please and thank you, as that seems to suit your usual style, but make clear that this is an assignment, not a request for a favor. (E.g., Fergus, please prepare this week’s teapots report. It is due on Friday. If you have issues or problems consult me, otherwise I’ll expect to see it then. Thank you.)

      When it is a superior, often their time is limited, so you get to the bottom line up front. Write a few bullet points before hand on what you need to convey and practice them so you can get it out quickly. You can always amplify if time permits. Rambling is the death knell on getting more responsibility or to higher levels, because the boss just won’t want to deal with it.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I like getting the bottom line up front for everyone, and then adding a ‘background’ section if anyone needs to know why I’m asking for X or telling them to do Y.

      2. GothicBee*

        “You need different communications styles for different situations.”

        This is really important. Because if you just change your communication style, you’ll probably still have trouble with communication sometimes if you apply the same communication style across the board. How you communicate should depend on context, audience, and what information you’re trying to convey. Like the mask policy, especially in the context that your coworkers think it’s BS, means you have to take a pretty hard stance with no room for push back.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      1) Start with collecting data on your current style.
      * Verbally: Maybe go back and look at any recorded meetings where you talked, or if there’s none, ask a non-work friend to role-play with you and let you record it.
      * In writing: go back to old emails
      2) Analyze that data
      * Drill into your exact word usage. Write down what softening language you used.
      * Look for patterns – is there a phrase you use a lot? What % of your words are softeners? Is it different between emails / verbal?
      3) Then decide one concrete and specific thing you want to change. Possibilities:
      * Changing ‘I’d appreciate’ to something stronger, like ‘Everyone is required’ or ‘It is important that everyone’
      * Removing some terms entirely – I took ‘I feel’ out of all my emails and no one missed it. I use ‘I think’ about half the time I would have used ‘I feel’, and nothing at all the other half, and my emails are better for it.
      4) Then put a plan into place to change it:
      * If it’s verbal, practice practice practice. In front of a mirror or recorded on computer.
      * If it’s written, make yourself do a separate review pass for language. I found it took about two weeks for ‘I feel’ to drop out of my emails.

      Places where you can practice and get feedback from other people includes Toastmasters and therapy. But definitely work on the self-mocking / joking tone. If you don’t take yourself seriously, your boss won’t either. Good luck!

    4. Kathenus*

      I have this situation with one of my managers (who is my direct report). He has a high degree of empathy, which is great, but it can at times impede his giving clear direction. For example when coaching an employee on an issue with negativity, the language used was very vague, and couched in lots of softening language. But unfortunately it was at a level where the message got lost at times. It’s one of the things we’re working on together this year, because it does absolutely affect things if he doesn’t always give clear direction and feedback in his effort to also be at times overly empathetic.

      So a suggestion in building this – think before the conversation what you want the outcome to be. Then think of the words/phrasing you’d generally use in the conversation. Lastly take a moment to evaluate how clear your direction is towards that goal/outcome, and if your wording could be viewed with multiple interpretations. For example in the mask example – the outcome is that everyone follows the mask policy all the time. Your wording is very kind but also not very direct. The result could be some people viewing it as a request and not a requirement.

      In my opinion the more empathetic approach works well in some situations but not as well in others where directness is more appropriate. Identifying which is which is a good step to clearer communication when needed.

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

      I said we had a new mask policy and that “I’d appreciate it if people would take these measures seriously.”

      …. “We have a new mask policy [details] and everyone has to understand and comply. The only exceptions we’ll accept is if you are in a medically exempt category (or similar).”

    6. LGC*

      I’m also prone to this. I think that you have to be conscious of when you really need something done and when it’s high-stakes, like masks. What’s important is…after they say, “whatever you say, Fergus,” do they put their masks on?

      At this point, masking isn’t an annoyance issue. It’s a direct safety issue, and there could be catastrophic consequences if it’s not followed. (The difference? People have heard about the wedding in Maine that’s caused at least 170 cases and 7 deaths. I read an article back in May about two hairdressers in Missouri that had COVID and worked on 140 people while symptomatic. None of the customers got sick because the hairdressers had masks on.) This is something you need to be serious about if they’re not following your soft suggestions. And it’s hard because it feels mean and it can sound mean, but it’s necessary.

      So, back to communication. Honestly, if you went fully direct when necessary (I trust you know better than I do), that would work better than just always being direct. You have the element of escalation – they know that if Amber Rose is being serious about this, then it’s really serious. And even if they don’t like it, they know they still have to do it. And I think that’s better than being Snarky Sally and always no-nonsense and direct.

  33. Fuzzy Frogs*

    I rejected a manager’s advances and now he’s not talking to me/going out of his way to ignore me. He also talks about other women now in front of me and brags about how they’re so nice, bake him cookies, etc. He’ll go to my coworker next to me and say, “Sharon is my favorite. She’s so nice.” while glaring at me.

    He has connections higher up, so going to the boss is pointless. Until I can find a new job and leave, is there anything that I can do to get through this? I feel like he’s going to make my life unbearable until I can leave.

    1. Andie Begins*

      No option to go to HR or an unconnected higher-up who’d take it seriously (and specifically mention that you’re worried about retaliation because he’s already doing it).

      I’m so sorry, that’s awful to have to deal with. I hope you can report on your way out, if there’s no safe way to escalate it before you leave. Good luck finding a new position.

    2. Jaded Millenial*

      Document everything. This sounds like it’s close to going over the line into illegal workplace harassment. Familiarize yourself with your workplace’s harassments and reporting policies.

      As for how to get through it, remind yourself that his behavior has everything to do about him and his issues/failings and nothing to do about you and your actions. You acted appropriately. He did not. You are in the right.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        + A Gazillion! Document document document. Is there *anyone* you can get to who is higher than his connection? Sexual harassment is getting real attention these days.

        If not: he should be ashamed of himself, but he’s trying to push that awkwardness off to you. My preference is to Grey Rock jerks: Ignore him except for work statements. Any social statements, you didn’t hear / don’t notice. You’re too busy focusing on work (and practicing deep breathing).

        In situations where I feel particularly safe (like the guy who had trouble hearing my no when my 6’4″ husband was *right behind him*) I sometimes go Dismissive. In this case, it would look like: when he glares, give a small glance at him, tiny raise of the eyebrows, like ‘How stupid he is to be doing this but I’m too professional to comment on it’. Verbally, a few ‘bless your hearts.’

        Dismissive is escalation, so use it cautiously.

        He sucks. Good luck.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I am so sorry you are being treated this way. It sucks.
      Document it all, and consider going to HR even though he has connections higher up. It may help to have a documented issue raised even if they don’t address it effectively, for instance if you are forced out or sacked and need to claim unemployment or make a claim for discrimination.

      Does your employer have any formal policies around sexual harassment, bullying or retaliation? If so, reference them specifically in your complaint.

      If his not talking to you affects your ability to do your job effectively then focus on that.

      Is there any chance of a sideways move so you could report to a different manager? I think sometimes if you can offer a solution when you report a problem it can help, especially if (as here ) the obvious solution of disciplining him is one which HR can’t or won’t take.

    4. Ellie Mayhem*

      Is he 12? He sounds embarrassingly immature.

      Document interactions thoroughly, especially the interaction(s) when he made advances toward you. Indicate that you feel that his actions are now retaliation for rejecting his inappropriate advances. Do you have an HR department?

    5. Elenia*

      First of all I am sorry this is happening to you.
      Secondly, I think this is a great opportunity to use Alison’s technique of pretending you are an alien, investigating a strange culture. Why, look at the fragile little males on this planet! They think their penis is SOOOO important they are children about them! Isn’t that funny? Oh and now he’s being passive aggressive. Must add this to my anthropology notes!

      Fuck, I would even bake delicious cookies and next time he makes a comment, passive-aggressively eat cookies in front of him. With a smile on my face.

      1. Observer*

        No, this is not the place for this. The boss is mistreating her, and it IS going to do her damage. She needs to find a way to protect herself. And if possible, some way to stop this guy as well.

    6. Twisted Lion*

      Just because he has connections it doesnt mean he is protected. Go to HR. Document everything. My friend bought a recording device that looks like a pen (recording another party without consent is legal in our state, but check your laws). She used these recordings to build a case.

      Also, call him out especially if its in front of other people. His behavior is inappropriate and if other people hear what you tell him when you tell him to stop that will help you.

    7. Observer*

      Document your head off. Then check your company’s policies. Because they ARE required to have a way for you to report this stuff that doesn’t essentially require you to report to your harasser or harasser’s best buds.

      Please also don’t assume that “has connections” means untouchable. But, if that turns out to be the case, if you are in the US, the DOL and / EEOC can be a a good place to turn. The more documentation you have, the better.

    8. Helen J*

      I would agree with him “You are right- Sharon is nice and one of my favorites, too!”. It might not work for your situation, but when you agree with people like him, it can be really disarming.

    9. Paperwhite*

      Ugh, I send you strength.

      If you have a Legal Advice Line or Free Legal Advice organization in your area I’d definitely recommend contacting them, as well.

    10. Kathenus*

      Jumping on the bandwagon here – document and report this. If there is someone in the upper ranks or HR who’s less connected, great, but even if not it’s the right thing to do. Make sure it’s in writing such as an email which you also save on a personal email or drive. Say straight out that you are being retaliated against for rejecting your manager’s advances, that clearly, in writing.

      He probably gets away with this as much because people assume reporting it won’t work as anything. I know it won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do for you and the other current and future women in your company.

      1. I take tea*

        How frustrating. And people still wonder why it can be problematic to ask a co-worker for a date, when these kind of situations occur.

    11. cleo*

      This sucks, Fuzzy Frogs!

      So this may not work. But are there any potential allies you can cultivate? Do you have a good working relationship with Sharon or any of your other female coworkers? I wonder about asking one of them for advice – you may not want to say you rejected his advances but maybe say “I unintentionally got on Manager’s bad side”

      1. Marthooh*

        Coworkers won’t be able to give good advice if they don’t know what the problem actually is. Framing it as a vague unintentional offence will probably result in hearing “Just bake him some cookies, he loves that!”

      1. Lizzie*

        I am sorry, Fuzzy Frogs. Bear in mind that it is very unlikely that you are the first person he has ever treated like this. You probably won’t be the first to leave because of it either. The other staff are also being a affected because they can see he is now bullying you with his glaring and his remarks. Make a comprehensive written record, including details of his initial inappropriate behaviour/ words, for your own sanity, so that you do not later doubt yourself and how you dealt with it.

        Read up online about workplace bullying, and how to stay as safe as possible (physically and psychologically) – a good written record is crucial. Record the impact of it on your sleeping, eating, socialising patterns as well as on your workplace productivity. My own experience of being bullied by my manager put my blood pressure up significantly – I saw my doctor who recorded all of my symptoms and I asked her to note that it was due to what was happening at work, and she said “Oh yes, I have seen a number of patients from your workplace because of this!”.

        Don’t assume that your manager will eventually drop this bullying, he may escalate it.

        So, what allies and supports can you activate? Friends, relatives, past or present colleagues, counsellors, EAP etc – this man is bullying you, and workplace bullying is horribly commonplace. You are not alone in your experience and YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME FOR IT.

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

      As someone who went through something similar, my number one advice is: avoid at all costs being alone with him. You don’t know what he is capable of now that you rejected him. My “mentor” in my first job was a creep who followed me to the toilet every time I went, and I was lucky enough to reject him in a corridor full of people.

  34. Skye’s the limit*

    I manage a small department in public services that’s open to the public. A few weeks ago, on a day I didn’t work, one of my staff was 30 minutes late and the department was unstaffed for approximately 15 minutes. My immediate boss called this staff member into her office and said as punishment, my staff member would have to write a research paper about the importance of punctuality. After they protested, it was eventually changed to finding several quotes about timeliness instead.

    I’m upset for several reasons and have no idea how to handle this. This person doesn’t have a history of irresponsibility. I feel like I should have been the one to address the timeliness issue, as I just did that a few weeks prior with a different team member. And then there’s the issue of assigning research papers as punishment. How is that okay in a professional work environment? Am I wildly off base here?

    1. CatCat*

      No, you’re not wildly off base. “Punishment” doesn’t really belong in the workplace and a research paper is just bananas. If there was a pattern, maybe training on time management or a PIP if being on time is critical to the job (sounds like it is since this is a place open to the public).

      Your immediate boss also undermined your authority here.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      Oy vey. I have visions of Bart Simpson writing “I WILL NOT BE LATE” on the chalk board.

      I think I’d bring this up with your boss and say something like, “When Chris was half an hour late the other day, I understand that caused real problems for the department. Being entirely unstaffed for fifteen minutes when we are open to the public is serious. But I wish that you had brought the issue to my attention. Chris doesn’t have a history of being irresponsible, and I think they understand the seriousness of the problem. I am happy to have a talk with them about the importance of timeliness and the effects of being late, and will work with them to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I did that recently with Wakeen, and he’s been very diligent about timeliness since then.”

      I don’t think that it’s possible to push back at this point about the ridiculous punishment work (I mean, REALLY, what is this boss, a bad kindergarten teacher?!), but if you can convince your boss that you are capable of handling situations like this in a way that results in improved behavior by the employees, maybe she will give these issues to you to handle instead of handling them so poorly herself.

      This is kind of appalling, really.

      1. irene adler*

        This is good!

        I’m thinking that there’s one very wounded employee there. No doubt they were fretting over being late. We don’t know what caused the tardiness, but if it was a car accident or abnormally bad traffic or something else they had no control over, they they are probably in a state of upset. And THEN to have the grand boss discipline them for this tardiness- well, I’d be in tears. Might even have to leave for the day.

        I don’t get why some manager’s go-to is discipline for everything. Maybe find out what was going on that caused the tardiness first.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          “I don’t get why some manager’s go-to is discipline for everything.”
          Because they don’t know how to manage!

      2. Mr. Shark*

        Nicely put, WantonSeedStitch.

        That is completely appalling, on all sides. The boss by-passing Skye as the direct manager and then requiring a ridiculous punishment makes no sense at all.

  35. SugarFree*

    The location manager at work is leaving. They scheduled an in-person mandatory meeting last week to let us know if his departure. (Our area is still very much a Covid hotspot). Now they have scheduled a Going Away Party at a local restaurant! I live will very high risk individuals and cannot get them or myself sick. How bad is it if I don’t go?

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I would send an e-mail to the person (if you’re close enough that it wouldn’t be weird), and say “I won’t be able to make it to your going-away party because I have to be careful about going out in public since I live with people at high risk for Covid, but I wish you all the best! Hope you enjoy the party!”

        1. Blue Eagle*

          Rather than sending an e-mail, I would get a card and write a nice sentiment in it. Something tangible would be appreciated far more than an e-mail. After all, we all have prior commitments and feel bad that we won’t be able to attend all events we are invited to.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I would just say you have a conflict and can’t make it (assuming it’s after hours). No need to debate Covid with them. On the plus side, a managers going away party means even if you do annoy him there’s not much of a repercussion.

    2. Kara S*

      Not bad at all. They are being ridiculous to schedule those things right now as the first one could have been an email and the second one is not necessary.

      1. SugarFree*

        I agree! We could of had the announcement during a zoom meeting or something. It didn’t have to be in-person. They also brought in two senior managers from out of state which made us worry the meeting was going to be bad news, like salary cuts or layoffs.
        I’m not even sure how the party organizer even got a venue – restaurants are limiting seating to groups of 5 or less due to county restrictions. Unless they didn’t tell the restaurant which would be a whole other issue.

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

      Just reply with something like “Sorry can’t attend as I’m isolating due to you know what, but please express my best wishes!”

    4. PollyQ*

      Not bad, even without COVID. “I wish I could make it, but I have a previous engagement” is a fine excuse, assuming it’s not during office hours. Even there, doctors’ appointments are things that people have mid-day.

      Send him a nice going away card, and I doubt anyone else will care.

  36. Rayray*

    I started a new job at the end of July. I’m in an industry that still uses hard copies of documents – things that need to be signed and originals kept. The company is great and has most of the workforce at home but I just happen to be in one department that needs to handle these original documents so I’m in office. I do like how it’s set up, we sit safely spaced out, temperature checks as we come in, have to respond to daily health check emails, sanitizers etc.

    I have one part of my job that could easily take a full day and will soon take on another responsibility which I was told would take another full day or day and a half where I don’t need to handle any documents. I’d like to ask to work from home 1-2 days a week. I’m moving back with my parents who are over 65 and I’m also a little iffy about what some coworkers do outside of work that increases theirs and my risk for COVID. I don’t want it to seem unfair to my direct teammates though. How would you ask about this request?

  37. Bobboccio*

    My fiancee got a promotion!!!

    I wrote in a couple of weeks back about some crazy antisemitism that happened under the auspices of some of her office training. I was asking the dear readers here if they had any advice about bringing it to the board, or just laying low.

    Well, she did bring it to the chair of the board, because she is someone who just always feels the need to speak up when faced with indignities, and I am happy to say this one worked out! The chair was extremely sympathetic, said he had no idea the seminar was going to go so astray, and he was aghast at a trainer making an antisemitic comment. He admired her courage, and now she’s in the management fast-track!

      1. Bobboccio*

        Thanks! It’s really tough not knowing what to advise her to do, but she said that she is someone who has to speak her truth.

  38. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Any tips for dealing with someone who is way too focused on minor details with absolutely no imagination? Especially when that person is senior to you?

    My co-worker Minerva and I–both members of the executive team, so we are not junior members of staff– were given a visual project. Neither of us is a graphic artist, but we were charged with managing one that we hired and with putting together materials. Minerva and I work really well together and that’s been great, but when we were at the final stages, one of the senior execs basically came in and said, “OK, thanks, my project now.” Which would be fine, except we keep getting messages asking for our feedback on the most picky things and asking us to do stuff for him. These tasks are not particularly difficult or time-consuming, but they are tedious and they come in individual emails. So instead of giving things some thought and asking for several pieces at once, I can barely go to the bathroom without getting another minor request from him. For several of these requests we have said things like, “This will not look perfect; it’s designed to get an idea of what we want before we go back to a professional,” because that is what we all agreed to when we met about it last week. But he won’t listen. Things like, “Adjust the colors on this,” and “Take the logo off of that.” Things we are no more capable of doing than he is. And things that I truly believe do not matter when you’re trying to make a decision based on an overall look.

    I tried teaching him how to do certain things (why he didn’t Google and try to figure it out himself, I will never know) and he appreciated that. I tried telling him at one point that it was hard for me to give feedback on a single piece and I needed to see something in a larger context, and he argued with me. (Sorry, dude, that’s how my brain works.) But the worst part is the constant emailing with questions about minute details.

    I don’t work like that. It’s probably a matter of different work styles– I tend to lay out the big picture and then refine the details after getting general feedback, he’s doing the opposite– but I object to making more work for ourselves than we need to at this point, I object to the project being taken from us so unceremoniously, and I object to being asked to take time away from my other projects to do these things for him. But I do them because he’s senior to me. He’s not my boss, but I can’t very well say, “Dude. This is not helping. Why don’t you make notes and send ONE email later this afternoon?” Nor can I say, “It really doesn’t make sense to focus on these details when we don’t have feedback on how the whole thing looks.”

    Maybe I’m just BEC with him and the whole thing. I had an interview this morning that seemed to go well and I’m job searching like crazy. Should I just vent my frustration and suck it up and keep hoping I can move on soon? Or is there something else I can do?

    1. Emilitron*

      Oh, ugh. Is he waiting to hear back from you before he can work more, or can you say “ok great, I hear you on the logo. I’m doing XYZ until mid-afternoon, keep sending me notes and I’ll take care of it all at once at 3:30.” Or any way to not have to reply in micro-bites – even spin it like standard versioning, he took your v2.0 and has created v2.1.13 and different people on the team accumulate minor updates (graphic design, copy edits, etc) until you’re ready to bring it all together into version 3. Maybe if you make it sound high-tech enough he’ll bite?

    2. PollyQ*

      Does your boss know that SrExec McGrabbypants is asking for all these changes and fixes? Would she support you if you told him that you didn’t have the bandwidth to work on something that’s not your project anymore?

      1. valentine*

        Does your boss know that SrExec McGrabbypants is asking for all these changes and fixes?
        Yeah, do they want you at his beck and call? I smell sexism: He’s treating the two of you like his personal assistants.

        You’re the one prioritzing his emails. Filter him and schedule a daily read/response, but only if you should still be working on the project. You’d do well to get a schedule because there seems no end in sight.

  39. Llama Wrangler*

    TLDR: I am a department lead at a non-profit, and it is likely that we are going to lose one of our funding streams that covered some of my department’s work. How much does it make sense for me to push my boss or the ED for their plan about what will happen if/when the funding disappears?

    For more context, we first thought that this funding might be pulled at the previous grant cycle, and at that time, my boss and the ED said that if we lost the funding, our department’s roles would likely need to shift, but that they wanted to retain the staff, in potentially different roles. The grant was renewed, but with very stringent goals/requirements that I think we’re unlikely to meet because of the pandemic. About a month ago, the ED and our head of development had gone back to the funder with some requests about changing the goals in light of the pandemic, and I’ve heard crickets since then. (I asked my boss once two weeks ago, she said she hadn’t heard anything but would let me know when she had.) 
    Complicating this is the fact that while the funder pays for our department, the goals they set for us are not related to the work my department does, so there is very little I can do as team leader to influence whether we meet them or not. As in, I’m the Director of Teapot Painting, and our funder set the goal that 100% of our teapot spouts should attach perfectly, when usually the teapot spout team hits 80% (but the Teapot spout team mostly has a separate funding stream so they won’t get cut if they don’t meet the goal, and the org feels like they can eliminate some of the painting staff if needed, but they obviously can’t afford to send out teapots without spouts). There are some things I am already doing as a leader (supporting the Director of Teapot Spouts to improve his QC processes to increase their perfect attachment rate), but it might potentially make sense to also leverage staff to support — I’d certainly rather temporarily assign some of my team to support some of the Teapot Spouts work if it means I’m able to long-term secure Teapot Painting (to further belabour this analogy – I am passionate about painting and think that our teapot company should prioritize well-painted pots, but it is less central to the teapot making mission than spouts, lids, etc). 
    I obviously am job-searching (I think “we want to retain the staff” is a nice thing to say but not likely to hold up if we lose a substantial portion of our funding), but I’m trying to figure out if it’s appropriate to push my boss or the ED on what their contingency planning is. I do not know enough about the budget to know how much of our salary lines are covered by this funder (at least 50%, possibly more?), and it’s possible that the leadership made plans for reassigning staff at the previous renewal that they didn’t share with me because the crisis was averted. On the one hand, it seems like it makes sense to push my boss to share clearly with me what the revised goals are and what the plans are if we don’t meet them, as well as to get her signoff on strategies for how we can support Teapot Spouts if necessary. On the other hand, I wonder whether this is a case of they’re sharing info on a need-to-know basis, and my desire to know more is fueled mostly about my anxiety about an impending layoff rather than an ability to change things.
    What questions do you think are worth asking or pushing on? How would you approach this conversation? 

    1. Director of Development*

      I’m sorry you are going through this. Foundations suck and the system is broken. It’s ridiculous to give you a grant for one program area and then put goals & restrictions on the grant for something covered by a different program team.

      I am a fundraiser and we are going through something similar–we have a big chunk of money from a funder sitting in a bank account for a project that for various reasons, including COVID, never got off the ground. We have been reaching out to the funder for MONTHS with increasing levels of urgency and crickets. I know that the employees of the funder are still working because I am friends with some of them on facebook and see their posts! We can’t spend the $$$ until we get approval from them and it’s half of what we need to raise by the end of the year to stay solvent.

      That said, I’m not sure how much pushing on your boss/ED you can do. They likely don’t know much more than you, or if they do, they’re not at liberty to share. It’s good that your DoD reached out to the funder; that’s exactly what they should be doing. I’m sure that your ED has two scenarios in mind & at least some idea of what they would do. Scenario #1 is we never hear back from funder OR funder refuses reallocation request. Scenario #2 is funder replies and says yeah sure great use our money for whatever. If #1 plays out, your ED will have to draft a new budget and go to the board for approval, and until that happens, there’s not much that they can share with staff. The board could easily reject that budget draft and ask the ED to come up with something different.

      If you already have the $$ in the bank, why can’t you just spend it however you want? A fiscally prudent ED would not do this. What if they retain all the staff and 6 months from now the funder comes back and says we didn’t approve this reallocation, you need to pay us back? The funder has the legal right to do this, even though it’s shitty. Then the NPO is on the hook for those 6 months of salaries/benefits for staff that they would have let go if they had that info earlier. The funder can also sue the NPO, and the board has a fiduciary responsibility for the org so the $$$ to pay the funder back would have to come from their own pockets. That’s why boards have to vote to approve the budgets.

      Do you read the blog Nonprofit AF? Vu Le has some great articles about funders & equity in NPOs.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Thanks so much! Yes — this whole system is deeply unfair and broken.
        To clarify the specifics, we have the money to spend right now how we need to BUT the things they’re asking us to report on are not in alignment with how we’re funding.

        We use the funder’s money to cover our teapot painting division; previously they’ve asked us to report on teapot painting; this year they’re asking us to report on just teapot spouts. But if the funder cuts the money, teapot painting is what will get cut because we have other, more stable money to cover the teapot spouts.

        The question is about whether I should be pushing on how we’re running things now to help the teapot spout team meet the goals, and/or just so I know what might happen when the funding (likely) runs out at the end of the year.

        1. Director of Development*

          Ok, gotcha! That does clarify a bit. Did you ask specifically in the grant for $$ to fund the painting team or is it just, “Here’s $100,000 for teapots” and your ED decided it would cover painting?

          I do think you can press your boss for more information on what your priorities should be (Right now I’m spending 60% of my time helping Fergus with spout alignment, and 40% supervising the painting team. Does that allocation sound correct to you?”) but I don’t think you’re going to get a good answer about plans for if/when the funding runs out. If you do ask, I would do so very politely/deferentially ie “I was wondering if you were able to share any information about the plans for my dept?” and not often.

          1. Llama Wrangler*

            Your suggestions make sense! Thank you!

            When we originally applied, I think it was general teapot funds, but as our teapot painting took off, they asked for us to report (and funded accordingly) our teapot painting — we’ve always previously been accountable for our teapot painting outcomes to them. This year, because of the pandemic and other things, they’re just asking us to report on our teapot spouts.

  40. LTL*

    Thoughts on putting a short term volunteer stint on a resume?

    I know when it comes to jobs, it’s recommended not to put it on your resume if you were there less than 6 months or a year, depending on context. But what about volunteering? The volunteer project itself was only one month long. I had been including it because I thought it’s a good way to show interest in the field I’m trying to get into.

    1. ADHD Career Changer*

      I’m no expert, but here are some arguments for including it:
      – if you are in the first few years of your career
      – if you are trying to change industries
      – if you have really good achievements

    2. Llama Wrangler*

      Did you have notable accomplishments during the stint? If it was like, volunteered for a month to manage all public communications for this organization’s gala, that might be worth including. On the other hand, if it was a month of doing something a lot of other volunteers were also doing, I’d leave it off — if I saw it, I’d either feel like you were padding or be concerned about your commitment.

    3. WFH with Cat*

      You could add a Volunteerism or Community Service section to your resume and list it as a key accomplishment. This might work best if you have a couple of other key projects that you can also highlight — but, even if it’s the only one, it could be worth including if it’s particularly germane to the jobs you are pursuing.

      Alternately, you could address it in cover letters when it seems most appropriate, as an indicator of your skill set and your desire to do more in that particular field.

      1. LTL*