open thread – September 25-26, 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.

{ 1,144 comments… read them below }

  1. Kramerica Industries*

    I work for a micromanager who seems to have picked up the intensity during the pandemic. Now that we’re all WFH, she’s insisting that procedures need to be written as if we were unable to communicate with each other or if “the whole team was gone one day”. This means that every procedure my team writes is now painfully detailed. Normally, if I was writing a guide to scooping ice cream, I would say “Use spoon to scoop ice cream. Scoop it into a bowl.” But now I would need to write something like:

    1. Push spoon into the tub, 5 mm away from the edge.
    2. Glide the spoon across the ice cream, 5 mm deep.
    3. Lift the spoon to complete the scoop.

    These procedures are meant for my team’s processes and we’re all experienced mid-level workers. We tried bringing up that these details make the procedures more complicated and confusing and that we’re competent enough to fill in the blanks ourselves/use common sense. But our micromanager is insisting that everyone MUST follow the EXACT same thing, even if there are multiple ways of doing something that would achieve the same results. I’m really struggling with writing these procedures because my brain just doesn’t work in that amount of detail. I naturally try to filter out steps that I don’t think are necessary, but the feedback that I’m getting is that my usual style of writing is insufficient. Does anyone have any tips on how to overcome this?

    1. blepkitty*

      No tips, only sympathy. My manager is exactly like this, both in wanting insanely detailed guidelines for everything and in insisting everything must do their jobs in exactly the same way. It drives me batty.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      I am a lawyer who works with banks on procedures — so they have to be REALLY detailed and specific. However, there are some things that we have decided are core competencies of the job, so we don’t have to explain them in procedures (for example, we don’t have to explain how to sign in to the correct computer program), or that can be done in any order/manner and it will be okay (gather the following materials for the folder). Where we spend our energy being specific is when doing it differently might cause a problem. In your example, if it really is necessary to use a spoon and not a scoop, then we need to specify “use a spoon” and if a mistake is foreseeable, we would add a note “Note: Do no use a scoop” Maybe if you could get your boss to focus on those areas where doing it differently could cause problems???

    3. Teapot Librarian*

      I’ve found that I need to be this level of specific for people on my team (I recently sent a set of written instructions, complete with screenshots, and one of the people on my team didn’t realize that the first step was to open the URL that I had put on the page because I didn’t explicitly say “open a browser on your computer. Enter this URL in the URL bar: ____”); I wonder if your micromanager is responding to someone on your team who needs this level of detail but you don’t realize it? (Or she’s just a micromanager.)

      1. Mama Bear*

        Do you have a tech writer or similar on your team? I ask b/c this is the kind of SOP/instruction guide that they might write on a regular basis. Would it help to give someone who writes instructions anyway the overview and let them help fill in the details? They may also have more clout to push back on “we don’t’ really need to specify down to the mm” to the boss. OR they can clarify to you why that measurement is really required.

        Micromanagement is usually about fear. Is your boss afraid of everyone getting hit by a bus and losing all this knowledge? Would it be as helpful/more helpful to cross train the staff?

        1. Amaranth*

          This. I used to test software and write up documentation requiring down-to-the-keystroke instructions and ‘what if’ options. One thing that helped me was to write out the outline of steps as bullet points then go back and add details as though I were explaining the process to a new user over the phone. And screencaps. Lots of screencaps.

          It sounds like the boss might know that layoffs are coming up, or is just planning for the worst. I’d personally look for other signs that the company might not be stable.

      2. Kramerica Industries*

        I think I’ve accepted that we either need this level of detail because we have 0 room for error, or she’s just a micromanager and isn’t going to change. The only thing I can do is change my own habits then, but I just hit a huge mental block when trying to get this granular because I personally don’t consume information like this. I end up feeling overwhelmed and confused pretty quickly.

        1. OtterB*

          Can you write them in bullet points at the level of granularity you prefer, then expand the details under each bullet? That might help the reader as well as you keep sight of the overview without getting lost in the details.

          1. Me*

            I was going to say something similar. Start by writing at your level of detail. Then go back and add the additional requested detail. Sometimes it helps to start with a framework and then ask how can I be more specific.

            1. Mama Bear*

              Also, ask for a peer review from someone who doesn’t routinely do this thing. Can they follow it? Is it confusing? If they feel well-informed (and/or can do a dummy task to verify) then you have reassurance that it’s detailed enough. You can also take notes for yourself when you do the task – just bullet points of everything. Try “rubber duck debugging”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging

        2. JustaTech*

          As someone who has been taking the detail *out* of some of the protocols I’ve been asked to use in the last month, I completely understand.

          Can you try framing it in your head as though you were explaining the procedure to a space alien or a time traveler? Or at least someone in a completely different department, who has never seen any of this stuff before? Or even just imagine writing down every single thing you would say *and do* when you are training a new person.

          It is painful, and especially once you understand the process then page after page of “click on this” “select that” is far more of a hinderance than a help, but for the first time around it can be helpful. And sometimes the act of writing it all out can help identify places for improvement.

      3. Burned-Out Nonprofit Millennial*

        I’m a database admin. I have to put this level of detail, as well as screenshots, in all instructions I create because the majority of users I work with need it. I once had to explain to someone how to move their laptop from one room to another by unplugging it.

        1. Another Burned Out Non-Profit Millennial*

          How to move their laptop! LMAO! I also work in data at a nonprofit, officially I plan events (all aspects, marketing, logistics, fundraising, technical website needs, etc…), but get sucked into data as we haven’t had a database manager for over a year due to budgets cuts.

          I’ve also had to do screenshots, but really if people can’t follow them I’ve gotten to the point where I just go “sorry, guess we’ll need to hire a database manager if you need more details.” And it seems the people that can’t follow them at my org are the higher up’s that have the power to hire.

          My favorite comment: What’s the difference between the constituent codes “do not solicit” and “do not email”? Aren’t they the same?

          This came from the woman that picked the codes, lol.

          1. gyrfalcon*

            Do not solicit: do not send any requests for money, by any means, whether email, US mail, phone, carrier pigeon, etc.

            Do not email: do not send emails, but other methods of communication are ok, including requests for money.

            At least, that’s what they mean to me. If they are supposed to mean the same thing, that’s a bad choice. And if people are using them willy-nilly, that’s bad too.

          2. tiasp*

            We had a do not solicit and a do not phone option. Vast majority of donors just didn’t want to be phoned but were willing to stay on the mailing list.

        2. Grapey*

          +1. Everyone thinks a process is easy enough to “fill in the blanks” until Fergus thought that blank meant null and Lucinda thought it meant zero and they each rolled their eyes at thinking they needed to add that much detail.

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

      I had a similar predicament in my first job out of high school. Think of separating customers invoices (key punch cards) and checks, putting them in packs of 100, rubber banding the checks and placing 1000 cards in a box.

      My manager decided that there were additional steps that were needed and that everybody involved in this process must do it exactly the same. It caused a 50% increase in processing time and a huge backlog. Upper management got involved, much yelling behind closed doors and a Vice President sitting next to me on public transit on the way home from work asking me what the heck is going on in your department.

      It taught me at an early age to separate good from bad managers.

    5. TKR*

      Oh man I do not envy you! Even though I am a technical writer, this sounds so painful. The first step to good documentation is to understand your audience and what they already know. If the people reading what you write are all mid-level, they are not going to read every word.
      One thing that might help you and the people reading though – put one sentence at the top explaining the task, and then another sentence that identifies the goal. Something like:

      These instructions are about scooping ice cream from a tub and into a bowl using a spoon. The goal is to get 4 identical scoops into the bowl so someone can eat them.

      That way the person reading it has a clear understanding of that needs to be done, and can make sure whatever approach they used accomplishes the right thing.

      As far as writing something that you know a lot about – this is hard. I always see if my writing passes the “mom” test. If I read things to my mom, would she understand how to do something? Where would she ask questions or get confused? That can help you figure out if you’re filtering out too much information. You can also try running through what you write exactly – maybe while jamming out to the music or something so you can just follow the steps and not fill in any gaps.

      I don’t envy your situation though! Good luck!

      1. :)*

        I use the Mom test too! Sometimes I actually do read stuff to her.

        +1 to clearly identifying the outcomes you’re trying to achieve at the top of the instructions.

    6. Matilda Jefferies*

      I don’t think this is the hill I would choose to die on, although obviously it depends on a lot of other context that I don’t have. 100% agree that it’s annoying and frustrating, though!

      If you do choose to push back, you could tell her how much time the writing is taking away from your other priorities. “I expect it will take X amount of time to write the scooping procedure next week, which means I will only have time for 15 scoops instead of my usual 30. Would you rather I focus on the scooping, or the procedure, for the next little while?”

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

      In my experience people’s behaviour doesn’t really change suddenly without a specific prompt (internal or external) so here are some explanations I could think of about why she’s suddenly asking for this:

      – as a result of some kind of incident (maybe outside of your team or maybe not!) due to someone not following established procedures like this
      – as a requirement from her own management, or on her own initiative, in response to the pandemic in a kind of “disaster preparedness” / business continuity plan
      – (less likely, but something to consider) that ultimately these tasks are being codified and standardised as part of an eventual effort towards outsourcing or “de-skilling” the mid-level positions. In other words, are your team the intended ultimate readers?

      When I’ve had these sort of requests before, I ended up with “two sets of processes”, The official one which was painful to write (and probably to read) and the actual, looser one which continued to be followed.

      Does micromanager have a way to know whether every step has been followed in detail (e.g. whether the spoon was inserted at 5mm away from the edge, rather than 10mm, in your example)? If not, I’d suggest you take the approach above – if so, though, I think your only options are to push back with logic (which it sounds like you have tried) or grit your teeth and follow it.

      I’ve found in some situations that a ‘checklist’ type of approach can actually be beneficial, if it’s a possibility that I could miss a step due to getting distracted with something. Depends on what the actual SOPs are though.

      (This is what I dislike about sat-nav instructions, too. I put in my destination that is, say, 200 miles away and get painstakingly detailed directions to turn right at the end of my street, turn left, continue straight ahead at the traffic lights etc etc etc… when the real instruction is “get to the M1 motorway and continue to junction 20”. Of course, that is (or should be!) the difference between humans and automatons like Satnav Jane!)

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Ugh, yes. It’s a bit OT for this but I found the overly detailed sat nav instructions really distracting and confusing when I was doing my driving test a few years ago.

    8. Sparrow*

      I’ve been in a similar position. I was told (in not so many words) that it needed to be detailed enough that our least competent coworkers would have no excuse for screwing anything up. They shouldn’t have been touching this process anyway, but I digress. Anyway, what I ended up doing was writing up the process the way I tended to think about it with bigger picture steps, and then I turned each of those steps into a subheading under which I added the detailed instructions. So something like:
      Step 1: Get a spoon.
      a. Enter the kitchen and turn 90 degrees to the right.
      b. Starting on your left foot, walk forward six feet.
      c. Turn 90 degrees to the left to face a yellow drawer.
      d. Using your right hand, pull the drawer out 8″.
      e. Keeping your right hand on the drawer pull, use your left index finger and thumb to remove a teaspoon from the top of the first stack.
      f. Push the drawer shut with your right hand.

      Step 2: Get a bowl. [etc]

      I found it much easier to focus on identifying all the tiny detailed microsteps when I broke it down and was only thinking about one discrete step at a time. I would still have to go back and break it down further by looking at each bullet point individually and asking myself whether there were any details that could be added (and there usually were). But drilling down to smaller and smaller pieces was the key for me. Plus! The subheadings that represented my actual thought process could function as a more user-friendly list that was better for everyday use without actually creating an illicit second list the boss would be mad about.

    9. need a new screen name and have no imagination*

      I had to do this a number of years ago when it was discovered that no two people in a particular department did the same tasks the same way. Which in some cases meant that people were not completing all the elements of a task, so people who should have been able to move on to the next stage of a project had to come back and ask them to do what hadn’t been done. In some cases, the task was being completed, but in an awkward, time-consuming, too-many-steps sort of way that reflected how a newer hire had been trained to do the task by a longer-serving employee. No more than two or three people had been trained to perform the tasks the same way, and there were no written procedures or instructions, only collective memory.

      I had pointed this out a few times but it didn’t matter to anyone until a new department head was hired. That person was horrified by the lack of documentation and the inconsistency in training.

      At new boss’s request, I wrote something like ten procedures in the next few months. I rather enjoyed it, since I’ve an analytical mind.

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        This is what my last job was last. And, sadly my was was more time consuming in some ways *but* I was actually cleaning the machines, not wiping them down with cold water. And the “flavoured pretzels” turned out nicer and was finished more efficiently then when my coworkers made tgem

        I’m so glad to be able to call it my “last job” (I wrote instructions, people were supposed follow them. But they were also trained by my coworkers who don’t care as much about food safety)

  2. beancat*

    Happy Friday!

    I’m wondering if I’m misunderstanding salaried work. There are times when I’ll stay an hour late because my supervisor wants to go over something half an hour before close and it takes time, or come in an hour early at their request – which is fine!

    But then there have been a few occasions where I have to leave half an hour early for an appointment and they remind me to subtract it from my PTO. I know it’s legal, but I just feel it’s not entirely in the spirit of salaried work as I understood it to be.

    Maybe I’m wrong though! What have other folks experienced?

    (The job is otherwise great overall and I’m feeling a lot more confident about it as time goes on!)

      1. merp*

        This is me too, although all my salaried jobs have been government, which I suspect is the reason why. I get functionally none of the flexibility that salaried folks talk about on this site.

        1. blepkitty*

          I see that you are also a librarian, and I wonder if part if it is library culture? I worked for one library where the library leadership ignored the actual university policy that we shouldn’t be nickel-and-dimed for our leave, resulting in my having to take 4 hours of sick leave every time I had a medical appointment because I couldn’t just take 1 hour (per university HR rules) and I couldn’t be absent from campus during working hours without taking leave (per my boss). Nor were we allowed to come in late if we were required to stay on campus late for meetings.

          1. merp*

            Oh geez, that is awful! My libraries haven’t been quite that bad (I do not understand requiring PTO in 4 hour increments, ugh) but I have noticed that the library directors I’ve worked for seem to believe in butts-in-seats and no flexibility.

        1. blepkitty*

          Yes. I had one workplace where it was accepted culture to just go home if you attended a workshop at another location and would only have 1/2 hour left to work by the time you got back to your office, but that’s been it. Otherwise, the “good” workplaces have allowed me to make up the half hour by coming in early or leaving late the next day. The bad workplace didn’t even allow that.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I had the same experience at one of my employers. We could deduct down to the 15 minute and if my lunch ran over, we had to leave early, got stuck in traffic, etc. we had to deduct 15 minutes. This was academia and the number of unpaid weekends/travel was absurd (no comp time either) and never evened out.

      2. Magneto*

        Same here. Every salaried job I’ve had has been like this. I think it is done that way often in salaried workplaces.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          It’s never been done that way in any salaried position I’ve ever held, and I’ve had these positions in insurance, transportation, and now software.

          1. Workerbee*

            That’s how companies who treat their staff as adults operate. I found this out when I switched jobs to the one I’m in now, which expects accounting for and making up time during the same week or you’ll have to take PTO.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Following! Also was confused with this when I was salaried back in the States, and HR couldn’t exactly explain it XD

      1. sleepy black cat*

        Absolutely off-topic, but love your username! Would be slightly impractical, maybe, but love the idea haha.

              1. beancat*

                Put the letter i in the sideways angle brackets (above the comma and period) to start them, and then put a forward slash and an i in the same brackets to end the italics! :)

              2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

                You put words in italics by typing [i] and [/i] in front of, and after, the word or words you want to italicize, except that instead of brackets you use the pointy things (on a standard keyboard it’s SHIFT+[comma] and SHIFT+[period]; YMMV on a mobile keyboard.) I can’t type the pointy things here because if I did, it would either activate the code or they just won’t show up (I’ve tried it in the past).

                So if you want to italicize “Me want food,” you would type [i]Me want food[/i] (again, the brackets are just here for show, you need the pointy things) and it’ll come out as Me want food.

              1. schnauzerfan*

                It’s obvious to me that I’ve lost all of my childhood (spoken only) and college German.(reading)

                Sad.

    2. Arc’teryx*

      It sounds against the spirit of salaried work in my experience. My salaried position lets me leave early, stay late- basically come and go as I please as long as my work gets done and I’m available during working hours. I know my experience is on the lenient side, but requiring PTO for leaving 30 min early when you stay late some other days doesn’t seem “fair”. I can’t speak to the legality, though!

      1. SansaStark*

        That’s how my association structures it, too. I went from an hourly position to a salaried and one of the biggest “perks” of the promotion is that you don’t need to account for every hour anymore. We’re only required to take PTO if you’re going to be gone longer than 3 hours, I think.

    3. Future Former Librarian*

      I think this depends a lot on your organization and your supervisor. I’m government, so even our salaried workers have to submit a time card every pay period. I’ve had supervisors who think every moment of time spent out of the office needs to be deducted from PTO, and I’ve had supervisors who say as long as your weekly hours add up to 40, they don’t really care how you get there. As dare as I know, there’s no real legal definition for when salaried/non-exempt people are required to use PTO and when they’re not.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        Academic Librarian here.
        We have 3 salaried employees and 5 hourly. We’ve been at both ends of the butts in seats issue, depends on the director. The current university policy is “salaried employees are expected to average 40 hours a week” We are not permitted to take less than a full 8 hours leave, either sick or annual. We schedule desk coverage time (maybe 1-2 hours, maybe 4 or 5) We are expected to cover assigned desk time, and to be available when needed outside of our scheduled 8 hours. So yeah. “it’s complicated”
        In practice, that means making sure that you fellow salaried employees know when you need coverage, making sure that at least 1 senior staff person is available, while being discrete so the hourly people don’t feel downtrodden (not that they should because they are NEVER asked or even allowed to exceed 40 hours.) We have (or used to have) a 10 week long Sunday film series event that required about 3-4 hours every Sunday during film series season (Jan-March) for all the salaried staff, no easy way to get that much time back, so some days I’ll arrive a little late, take a long lunch, and leave early. Others? Well, some days end up being 12 hours long because someone called out, or we have an event or… Now that we are working at least partially from home? I think I’ll wrap up for the day soon. Call it a week!

    4. a username*

      This is workplace culture I think, your understanding aligns with my office. But for a lot of places there’s an instinctual line of “okay to fudge your hours” that tip into “need to use PTO” – your work place’s line seems to be pretty low.

    5. 867-5309*

      It’s not in the spirit of the work but some managers/organizations are like that.

      You could ask your boss… Just say, “I want to make sure I’m understand how I should be approaching my PTO. Sometimes I need to stay an hour late or come in early, which is absolutely no problem! Since I’m salaried, I thought that same flexibility is applied when I need to leave 30 minutes early here or there but it’s been suggested I use PTO for that time. I am double checking to see if I really need to be using PTO in those instances?”

      1. trudrlka*

        Yep, I would definitely at least try to point out how being salaried+flexible with hours only ever works in her favor & it would be nice if that flexibility worked both ways. Maybe ask if she’d be willing to grant you the same flexibility she expects of you on a trial basis.

        1. KateM*

          Ask if you could add the time stayed late to your PTO the same way leaving half an hour earlier subtracts from it. :)

      2. beancat*

        I’m still pretty new at a pretty small office, and I’m thankful I’ve been able to leave at all given that. It’s something I’m keeping an eye on, and if this continues I’d like to bring it up to them. Thank you for the verbiage!

      3. Important Moi*

        You could also say something like:

        “When I stay an extra hour, what do I with that time? Can I bank it for “future” use (like when I need to leave 30 minutes early)?” Say it like of course the most rational thing to due is net one against the other. [Big smile.] Supervisor is all about being fair to the company. This is fair to the company.

        I think it is important to directly lay out providing additional working hours vs. deducting PTO. 867-5309 seems nicer than me.

      4. Double A*

        I feel like I would ask about comp time. If they’re requiring you to use PTO every time you leave a little early, then you should be given comp time when you have to stay late.

        Nickeling and diming works both ways.

        1. Ashley*

          I thought comp time wasn’t allowed outside of the same pay period unless it was a government organization.

    6. JustMyImagination*

      My last couple of salaried jobs have only let you use PTO in 4-hour increments. So if you needed an hour here and there for appointments, you were just expected to work out the hours with your manager by working a little early/late other days of that week so you would hit 40 hours.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I had an awful oldjob where the HR person decided it was easier for them to only allow PTO to be taken in full day increments. It made zero sense – we had so little PTO to begin with, and now if we had a 1-2 hour appointment we had to take the whole day?? Managers were pissed too, because being understaffed and overworked it made no sense to insist people take unnecessary time out of the office. So we just stopped logging small PTO time. We were working a lot of unpaid overtime already, if they couldn’t be bothered to type .25 versus 1, we couldn’t be bothered to fill out an entire form just to go to the dentist.

        HR wasn’t happy but they were also too lazy to do anything about it. At least until the micromanage-y higher ups got mad about not being able to nickel and dime our PTO in their favor and made HR go through the strenuous effort of editing “PTO Hours Taken: 8” to “PTO Hours Taken: 2”.

        Man I do NOT miss that place at all.

      2. Anonymouse*

        This is how my current job is but we are not a coverage-needed department. In fact, I worked late on Monday and Wednesday this week trying to solve some time-sensitive issues and so will be leaving early today because I hit 40 hours half-way through the day. If there were a major issue that still needed attention, I would go over 40 and if I did my boss would let me take some unofficial comp time next week.

    7. Plant Therapist*

      My experience has been that salaried work = in general, you work approximately 40 hrs per week, from approximately 9-5, but sometimes you leave early or stay late depending on your schedule and the job requirements. However, I do work in a field that is known for flexibility (also everyone works more than 40 hrs per week, so). My partner works in a different field and has also had this experience though – he will usually stay late one day if he knows he’ll need to leave early the next. Personally if I were you and I knew my boss wasn’t okay with me leaving early, it would make me very reluctant to ever stay late. Do others at your job ever need to leave early, and do they take PTO when they do? You might have a conversation with your supervisor about what flexibility looks like to them and their expectations.

    8. Strictly Speaking*

      I’d say that subtracting from PTO for leaving half an hour early is not in the spirit of salaried work unless you are in a customer-facing or similarly coverage-sensitive role where it really matters whether you are available to promptly handle a call/email that comes up before “closing time” for your site.

      If you’re not in a position that requires immediate response for things such that someone else would need to step in to cover your work lest it wait until the next day, it’s a fair argument that your exact start/end times should not be policed.

      1. beancat*

        Hmm…I’m a manager at a small medical office, but I do have an assistant who can handle the meat of the work for an hour if I have to leave a little early on a non-patient day. I don’t do this on patient days for that reason – on those days it’s very important to be there during patient hours – so I didn’t know how to feel about my consideration seemingly not being met.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      It really is an adhoc thing that each workplace sets differently. Some places I’ve worked have been like “just go to your appointment and make sure you are not behind on any of your tasks”. One manager we had in the past, said to make up all time missed by the end of that same week, so we’d have a minimum of 40 hours logged. I’ll be honest, I have not worked at a place that even allowed (much less forced people to do it) to take PTO in half-hour increments. But I guess they exist. And yeah anywhere I worked, regardless of their policy towards being out of office for appointments, every workplace has always been quite happy to have people work extra time, evenings/weekends etc. Like the author of Dilbert said in one of his comics (before he became an unbearable ass and I stopped reading them), “your job description says you are exempt. This means exempt from having a life.”

    10. D3*

      Salaried work + power imbalance = this exact situation, where companies get free “extra” labor but are rigid and inflexible. It’s all about milking out every possible bit they can from people.

    11. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

      It’s against the spirit of a salaried worker, in my opinion. Assuming you’re salaried exempt. There are some who are salaried non exempt.

      My workplace’s handbook says non exempt people can take PTO to the minute, although we generally use in half hour increments. No one is going to fill in an hour PTO, but if you have to leave suddenly, that’s when the minutes come in handy. It also says that exempt employees can only use PTO in 8 hour (full day) increments. So if I scoot out early for the doctor, I still get paid my full day without using PTO. In practice, if I just work an hour on a day I’m supposed to be off, I just use the 8 hour PTO.

    12. I'm that person*

      That’s wrong. Salaried does not mean forced unpaid overtime. It means that you get the same amount per pay period regardless of how many hours you work.

      I have worked multiple salaried jobs and none of them forced me to take PTO when I left an hour early for a doctor’s appointment. Or to pick up a sick child. Or even if I finished my work for the day and wanted to leave early.

    13. Here I am*

      Our HR person has told us that we are not to use PTO unless it’s for 4 or more hours at a time. Their expectation is that, over time, things average out to 40 hours (or realistically, a bit more than that for most). Before this HR person, things were very much the other way, and it was really frustrating – if you’re going to make me account for all of my time off, then you need to account for all the extra time you require! That really is what being salaried means!

    14. NLMC*

      I have worked places that do this and it’s so irritating. My current boss does not make me use PTO for time away from the office unless it’s a significant part of the day. I do the same for my salaried employees.

    15. Meh*

      If they’re going to nickel and dime you, you should do the same for them. No more coming in early and staying in late if they’re not going to extend the same courtesy to you to allow you to leave early. Of course you won’t be able to avoid it all the time, but certainly never volunteer for extra time since you already have seen how they will “reward” your extra effort. This is just them trying to take advantage of you and not how the system is supposed to work. My workplace does understand and lets me take off early/come in late if I’ve pulled extra hours for them.

      1. mreasy*

        Yes, exactly this. When a job where I both spent weekend and after hours time at events/travel and generally got into the office at least an hour early every day charged me for 1/4 day PTO when I had to leave early for a doctor’s appointment, it felt like a slap in the face. I left for a number of reasons but if they hadn’t done that it may have been a harder decision to go.

      2. beancat*

        I hear that – it’s hard when I’m approached at 3:30 to review things that’ll take an hour and quitting time is 4, but I don’t think I’ll strain to work through lunch when it’s not urgent.

    16. N*

      I’m not an expert but I think that it depends on whether or not you are exempt or non-exempt. If you are exempt, you are not allowed overtime, therefore you should not be working over 40 hours a week. But if you are non-exempt, you can get overtime and should request it accordingly when your boss asks you to come in early or stay late. If you’re exempt and not getting paid for these extra hours, I’m pretty sure that is illegal!!

      1. Coalea*

        Nope, that’s not correct. I’m exempt and have been for the past 20 years. I regularly work >40 hours but do not get paid overtime when I do so. It’s not illegal.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Right. Presumably, salaried exempt employees are paid more than hourly non-exempt workers to compensate them upfront for the times where working over 40 hours is expected. Since overtime doesn’t apply to salaried exempt employees, there’s nothing illegal about it. It does suck, however, if the salaried exempt employee is paid on par with an hourly non-exempt employee, which some companies will do to keep costs down.

    17. kittymommy*

      Like others, probably organization dependent. I’m government (so always a little weird) and 30 minutes would not be coded PTO. I’d claim it for a half a day but that’s probably the smallest amount my organization would ask for.

    18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yuck. We log comp time for worked hours over, so that when you leave 30 minutes early later, it’s all washing out.

      But if we’re talking about half hour here and half hour there, then often they don’t bank comp time in some places. But they shouldn’t be nickle and diming, that’s frustrating. It’s certainly done and an office culture thing.

    19. Quinalla*

      As other have said, it varies from place to place. Most places I’ve worked at or knew people who worked at them were more lenient – if you got your minimum 40 hours in sometime during the week they didn’t care as long as work was being done. Also, if one person is working 50 hours weeks all the time and everyone else is 40-45, it was expected that everyone try to share that load a bit too.

      My boss now if I am taking say a day off and maybe worked 35 hours during the week will tell me to only take 5 hours PTO when normally I would have been inclined to take 8. Some places are even more lenient that don’t track time (we do since we bill time directly sometimes and we like to see how profitable each project is), its basically get your work done, don’t leave your coworkers in a lurch, generally be here during core hours.

      I think it is crappy if people won’t even let you flex 30 minutes or even a couple hours personally. I’d try to get it clarified too and then if they won’t let you flex I too would be reluctant to stay late. You are salaried exempt, right?

      1. beancat*

        As far as I know I am salaried exempt. Yesterday I did have to say “I need to leave right at closing time for an appointment”…but had to say it again when I almost got pulled into something.

        I honestly do really love the job. I just need to calibrate my expectations and get some language under my belt for when I’m ready to approach the topic.

    20. Anonymous Educator*

      That hasn’t been my experience in salaried exempt work. If I leave early or stay late, a day is a day. I had one workplace tell me that literally if I came into work for 10 minutes and then left, that was a full day of work, and I wouldn’t have to take a day off. That said, my manager would never have let me come in for only 10 minutes.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I had a company tell me that during the interview process (coming in at all = full day of work), as it was one of their perks. Never heard of that previously, but I think it’s a good policy – certainly better than docking people from fixed PTO when they otherwise make up the time.

        My current company has a slightly different take: we have effectively unlimited partial PTO (regular full-day PTO is limited) which is intended for these kinds of short duration events/appointments/whatever that cause you to miss part of a day. However, in some cases management will pressure people to flex their time to compensate rather than take the time off as paid, and that is discouraged by the union because it means we’re not using a benefit we have. But it’s only a benefit because the short-duration PTO is unlimited and not eating into the limited PTO amount.

    21. Dumpster Fire*

      If they’re going to nickel-and-dime you on leaving early or arriving late, I’d absolutely do the same when arriving early or staying late because of something your supervisor needs. For example, “Hey, since this meeting is going to take an extra half hour this afternoon, I’m going to apply that to the time I miss because I need to leave early on Wednesday for an appointment, OK?” (Even if you DON’T have an appointment on Wednesday – just leave a half hour early!) If they don’t let you do that, at least they’ll have to say it out loud and then they might just realize how ridiculous it is.

    22. theletter*

      Salaried means that you are paid for an assumed 40 hours per week, even when you take time off for vacation/illness. When you take your two week dream vacation, you still get paid for those weeks.

      Hourly means you are paid for the time you spend working. If you punch out early, you are not paid for that half hour.

      Everything else comes out to office culture. You might be a flex-time office or team where you really can come and go as you please, assuming your work is complete. Some offices are more rigid.

      What is a little weird here is taking PTO time for appointments. In most offices, you don’t have to use PTO/sicktime for any planned appointments.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Salaried hours do vary. Some say 40 hours per week. Some are 35. Some are 50.

        Just want to make sure it’s clear that expected time is also up for debate and up for management to decide. I know in government it’s what 37.5? Because they’re expecting you to take lunches. Whereas others actually expect 40hrs worked with classic unpaid lunch periods if you’re lucky to get a lunch.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          Yes, I’ve worked all of the below.

          A. 40 hours – unpaid lunch break (8-5)
          B. 40 hours – paid lunch break (9-5)
          C. 37.5 hours – 30 min paid/30 min unpaid lunch (8:30-5)
          D. 45 hours – unpaid lunch break (7-5)
          E. Work whenever the hell you want just don’t miss meetings, be generally available between 10-3 and get the job done. (830/9ish-430/5ish)

    23. Academic Anon for this*

      Ack, my sympathies. All the downsides of salaried work and none of the upsides. However, I could be spoiled where I am, since no one in particular keeps track of me. I can set my own schedule and often work more than 40 hours/week, but if someone was standing behind me with a time clock, I wouldn’t.

      There was the one time that the Dean of Libraries proposed for us to use a time clock, but it was derided and dropped.

      For example, I am working in the office three days this week with late classes each day. So for those days, I worked between 11-12 hours. For the other two days, I was teleworking and didn’t feel guilty for cooking in the middle of the day.

      Does your organization have comp time? What happens if you work on a holiday? Do you get some sort of hours credit or just a pat on the head?

      1. beancat*

        We are thankfully closed for holidays at least! And we’re such a small business I suspect a lot of things that apply in bigger offices won’t apply to us.

    24. Victoria*

      I would unexpectedly be unable to stay late or come in early due to other commitments.

      I’m sorry if you aren’t being reasonable and giving me flexibility I’m not giving you any back.

    25. KayDeeAye*

      I have always worked at places that were – or so I thought – pretty nitpicky on PTO issues, but at NONE of them would I be expected to work overtime for free but then have to record PTO for leaving a half hour or even an hour early. That is just really unfair.

      The rule ought to be that if you’re nitpicky about letting people leave early, you have to be nitpicky about making them work extra, too. You can’t have one without the other.

      But if the job and your supervisor are otherwise great, I agree that you ought to be able to talk to someone about it. I like 867-5309’s ““I want to make sure I understand how I should be approaching my PTO” phrasing a lot.

  3. Professor Plum*

    Considering a bike desk . . . does anyone have one? Pros? Cons? Features to pay attention to? Thanks for any input.

    Available on Amazon: the one from Flexispot looks better ergonomically for a short person over the one by Exerpeutic Exer Work 1000. Links to follow in a comment.

    1. ten four*

      I am using my Flexispot deskbike RIGHT NOW! Can recommend! It came fully assembled, which I appreciate, and it’s super easy to use right out of the box. I’m a casual user – I wanted a way to integrate a little movement/exercise into my workdays rather than a Serious Cyclist who is looking to build or maintain muscle. It does have several tension settings though, so it might work for a more serious cyclist also.

      I’m about 5’6, and my 5’11 husband also uses it in the evening when the weather is crummy. It works great for both of us with just basic seat adjustment. I’ve got the full Flexispot standing desk set up, so I can adjust my desk up to use it and still work.

      I really don’t have any negatives about it! I’ve only had it for a month or so, and I am very excited to have a desk bike, particularly with winter looming.

      1. Professor Plum*

        Thank you–all good to hear! I’m shorter than that, but this sounds very promising. I’m currently moderating 4-5 hour zoom workshops three times a month, and really like the idea of being active during those workshops.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I just have a plain old set of pedals on the floor under my regular desk, which works okay if you have the knee clearance. It takes some adjustment to get used to typing while pedaling, especially if you’re at all enthusiastic about your pedaling :)

      1. LunaLena*

        I have one of those, and I use it a lot when I’m video gaming or watching TV. I can’t use it when I’m working because of the nature of my work, but it’s a great way to get some exercise in during long cutscenes. :)

      2. JustaTech*

        I’ve also got some cheap pedals, but with the shape of my desk I can only use them while reading, not typing. Which is great on days like today when I need to read a 350 page user manual.
        I’ve also used it for long meetings when I don’t need to take notes.

        (How cheap is mine? It’s so cheap it doesn’t have a manufacturer label on it, the distance measurer died years ago, it can get *really* hot, and after years of use it left a fine film of grease on the carpet. But it was maybe $50 and I’ve had it for 6+ years.)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I paid $25 for mine, it never even had a distance measurer :) but yeah, it does get awfully hot after a half hour of semi-aggressive pedaling.

        2. LunaLena*

          Mine doesn’t even have a distance meter, or a way to adjust the resistance! It’s literally just a pair of pedals on a floor mount. But it was also $4 from a thrift store so I’m okay with that, haha.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I have a recumbent exerpeutic Gold 525XLR that we use for TV & gaming. It has one huge drawback: the pedals *can* go in reverse even though they *should not* — if they do they damage something. This may be why we’ve shredded the internal (not serviceable) belts more than once. On the plus side, they have a good warranty and ours covered an entirely new belt unit. When it shredded a second time we didn’t replace it until our daughter was old enough to not play with the belts, and it’s lasted longer. For those of you with plus-size family members, it’s also rated to 400 lbs.
      We also have an upright laptop desk bike — Flexispot “Deskcise Pro 2018”. It’s sized for laptop only – only one of us has patience to use a mouse with it. We get a little extra space setting it up next to the bar in the family room.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      I have a DeskCycle, and I like it. I’m short, so I can rest my feet on it when I’m not cycling (most of the time), and it’s very stable when I am cycling. Plus, I still have the regular chair and setup – if I want to be lazy, it’s still an option.

    5. Fact & Fiction*

      I regularly use my DeskCycle (https://deskcycle.com/) and I love it! I ordered it when working from home became the norm and I couldn’t teach my Zumba classes for several months. It obviously wasn’t quite the same as doing Zumba and Pilates classes, but I love being able to get some activity in while working, writing, or video gaming. :)

    6. OtterB*

      The Flexispot one was recommended to me by someone I’ve known for years online. I ordered it. It’s sitting in the box in my upstairs hall waiting for me to finish clearing out the spot I intend to put it and then assemble it.

      I don’t plan to use it for a work desk. My plan is to use it for social media and personal internet surfing as (a) I’d like to cut down on those a bit, and (b) I’m not getting enough exercise. So I hope that doing those on the bike will help. I’ll let you know.

  4. Future Former Librarian*

    I was planning to post this today anyway, but after the discussion in yesterday’s thread I thjnk there’s a much larger group of people who are also feeling what I’m feeling than I was previously aware of.

    I’ve been a librarian for ~10 years. I held several other library jobs before that, starting when I was a teenager.

    I can’t be in this field anymore. I don’t know of any library systems that have handled COVID well, and I’m so tired of the way government employers consistently put the needs of their staff at the lowest possible priority level.

    The problem is this is the only field I’ve ever worked in and I don’t even know what other jobs exist that I might be qualified for. Are there any former or otherwise non-traditional librarians here who can share ideas of what kinds of jobs I should start applying for?

    1. Archie Goodwin*

      I’ve mentioned this before in similar context, but maybe look at records management?

      I’ve been in the field for four years, now. Personally, I only have a BA right now, but I’ve worked with a lot of people with MLS degrees, and they’re a good fit in the role. (And I’m looking at going for one myself in a year or two, most likely.) It uses a lot of the same techniques that librarianship does, and it seems to be an unheralded field, for whatever reason.

      If you’re in the DC area there are a lot of government/contract jobs available. In the private sector, I’m not sure, but it’s something to look into.

      1. hillary*

        There’s some private record management, although not as much. Companies with substantial real estate usually have a private library for that and some have one inside the marketing team. My experience is most other records management is done by the team that owns the records – for instance my team does our own contract management.

        There are software tools for specifically for product management that might be a possible employer. It’s usually referred to as product lifecycle management. It involves managing drawings, bills of materials, etc. Most companies buy a tool versus trying to do it in house.

    2. Student Affairs Sally*

      You could look into libraries in higher education (or even K-12). I think you’d probably encounter *some* of the same issues, but when you’re providing services for a specific population rather than EVERYONE in a community, I think the issues are less likely. But I can’t say with any certainty – I worked in the university library as an undergrad, but that’s my only experience in libraries.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        I was also going to jump in with a suggestion of some other type of organization instead of public libraries. Otherwise, depending on your experience and preferred role within the library structure, there’s UX, working for a vendor, and lots more that I’m blanking on right now. Good luck!!

          1. lemon*

            User Experience Design/Research. Depending on the role, it could entail doing things like usability testing, surveys, ethnographic studies, card sorting, heuristic evaluations, interviews, etc.

        1. This is Jeopardy!*

          You could look at UX/HCI/Information Architecture. I did that for 20 years when I realized during my practicum that I was not cut out for public librarianship. Got the MLS, framed it, and put it on my resume. It’s very easy to sell “I know how to organize information for humans” in a lot of different IT-related contexts.

      2. Mama Bear*

        Many companies and agencies have a library or document repository. Perhaps something like that? Or go into research?

      3. Concerned Academic Librarian*

        Academic libraries are failing at handling Covid-19 as badly or worse than the public ones. “The students aren’t wearing masks in the library but it’s okay because they know each other.”

        I’m a lifer and academia has a lot of advantages, but we still deal with a lot of the garbage that Future Former Librarian is talking about.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          I’m so sorry that’s happening to you. My uni is handling it extremely well. Masks are required and if students aren’t wearing them, we can call the student affairs office. Our after hours study area was shut down for lack of mask wearing when cameras were reviewed and now it’s being regularly checked after hours by campus safety. So, while I agree a lot of places are messing this up, I wanted to make sure people know some aren’t.

          1. Concerned Academic Librarian*

            Most of my friends at other colleges and universities have been having experiences similar to mine.

            I am relieved to hear not everyone is doing badly at it!

          2. schnauzerfan*

            Yeah. Our academic library is doing OKish. We have 3 floors. We’ve moved staff into solo offices (former study rooms) and closed the stacks to the public. Materials are requested and delivered curbside or to offices. Students are discouraged from congregating in the library and are required to wear masks while in the building.

    3. Toodie*

      I do not know exactly what library degrees cover, but I’m a tech writer, and I think you might have some value in this field. A lot of tech writers come to this with backgrounds in English or journalism or tech, but I think a background in understanding how to architect information–build a knowledge base–would be invaluable.

      1. a username*

        I’m a technical services librarian and would love to get into technical writing! I’m obligated to work full time as a librarian for a few more years but I thought finding part time work might help ease a potential career change down the line. Any suggestions on how to get started?

    4. The New Normal*

      Have you considered a school system rather than a public library system? Our librarians on my 7-12 campus are miracle workers. And in the elementary schools, the librarians are so critical.

      1. Future Former Librarian*

        Unfortunately, my state requires school librarians to have a teaching certificate and I don’t have one. And a lot of the school districts here are down to one librarian per district, if they even have a librarian at all. The on-campus library support is from techs and media specialists, and I can’t survive on that big a salary dip.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          If the teaching licensure is the only thing standing in your way from switching to K-12, you may be able to start at a K-12 media specialist with your MLIS with the understanding that you have X amount of time to get your teaching certification. I was laid off from public libraries in 2010 and thought schools were the best way to stay in libraries and work with kids. (I was a children’s librarian.) I could be hired as a K-12 media specialist with my MLIS and had 3 years to complete the coursework and exams to get my teaching certification. I contacted 2 universities in my state with MLIS programs to find out what courses I needed just for the teaching certification. They needed my MLIS transcripts to answer me, each told me how many classes, and I selected the program that required 4 classes. I know other librarians who have also done this.

          In my case, I took 2 of the 4 needed classes before stopping. I spent 4 months as an elementary school media specialist and hated it. But some folks do love it.

    5. a username*

      The missing data point we’d need is what type of librarian are you? For example, I’m a cataloger & metadata specialist – I could side step into private sector or government data/database management, analyst, technical writer, etc. But a children’s librarian is going to have a totally different skillset and would need different advice.

      1. Future Former Librarian*

        You’re right! I forgot that context.

        I’m a public librarian, focusing on customer assistance and programming (for all age levels). I have virtually no cataloging experience.

        1. MCL*

          Is this the type of work that you want to continue doing once you’ve left libraries? Engaging with the public, planning and executing programs, etc?

        2. a username*

          The first thing that comes to mind if you hope to continue that type of work is donor relations or fundraising for nonprofits / museums – I know, not known to be bastions of healthy work environments here on AAM but not all of them suck! And the high people skill interfacing / program planning would be really beneficial. Also, the pay might be equivalent to what you have now.

        3. Coenobita*

          My mom is a former librarian who works in college admissions, which has a lot of similar customer-servicey aspects. She started off working at a professional organization as an in-house librarian, then worked in reference (in public systems and at a community college) before taking time off to raise us kids. Now she interviews 17-year-olds and reads their college applications! The pay isn’t great but it’s interesting, you can leave your work at work, and being college staff has some nice perks. I think she’s been doing it for 10 years now.

        4. Academic Anon for this*

          Come on over to academia! Even if you are not willing to be public facing (totally understandable right now), at least at my university library there are increasing opportunities in creating maker spaces, data labs and entrepreneurship areas. With your event programming background, it could be a good fit. The current downside is the hiring freeze most universities have, but we were able to get permission from the Provost to hire a entrepreneurship lab head.

          And if the archives or records management thing sounded interesting, most large universities will have both an archives area and a records management area. Our records management area has half of a warehouse, since there is so much generated by the university. For archives, the rule of thumb is that historians drink, librarians eat and archivist do both!

    6. JustMyImagination*

      I work at a larger biotech company. We have a library and two librarians on staff to help with research, maintaining a small physical library space, and maintaining all our online memberships. Maybe there are some companies like that around where you live.

      1. OrangeTabby*

        Document control in biotech/Pharma is another option, although probably less interesting than your suggestion!

    7. MCL*

      I work for a university in the department that produces masters-degreed librarians. I have a MLS myself. I do not work as a librarian, but I work as a program manager in my department, overseeing professional development programs, so I pivoted quite a bit from my original aim of going into archives and special collections. I know several people with my educational background who have transitioned into that kind of work – administration/program management in higher ed. I have several colleagues and classmates who have moved into IT support, UX, instructional design, working for library vendors, grant writing, records management, digital asset management, prospect research (fundraising).
      It kind of depends on what flavor of job you want. Are you currently someone who plans and executes programs, does a lot of access services, works on the reference desk (or do you wear all the hats)? What type of work calls to you?

    8. Southern Academic*

      I have a friend who moved into medical librarianship, from a fairly traditional college/academic library position. She gets the benefits of librarian work but is located closer to where she wants to be and has more job stability.

    9. ursula*

      I wonder about niche education/information organizations. I work for a non-profit that does public legal education and information, and we would consider a library background highly relevant for a candidate, assuming other skills and interests were a fit. I know analogous services exist for medical/health info and a range of technical fields. Most would be non-government.

      1. Mimmy*

        I had thought about doing similar work years ago (I used to work in an I&R role at a non-profit and loved the idea of working with community resources). I did look into getting an MLIS with the intention of either this kind of library work or academic library work, but a librarian I talked with at a nearby university talked me out of it :(

    10. merp*

      I’m a librarian who’s been idly looking for similar reasons. Few options I’ve been thinking about: education tech companies, library vendor companies, records management, tech writing, marketing (say, content writer/researcher), corporate researcher/librarian roles (kind of rare to see, in my experience, but definitely relevant), or legal or business researchers. Depends on the type of library work you’ve done, like another commenter said, but might be a few things that interest you there!

    11. higheredrefugee*

      Depending on the kind of work you’ve been doing or want to do, think about professional associations. They need people to track information on changing regs and laws, sometimes help their lobbyists, other people to oversee accreditation efforts, others handle member education, others do event planning, edit and publish various pieces from newsletters to tech guides to social media posts, etc. Look at some of the work even done by the ALA!

      Depending on your interests, what about advocacy groups – think American Cancer Society to ACLU to animal protection to gun rights and everything in between? Lots of need for organizing and tracking info.

      Also, how about being a state system or court librarian? Those gigs are thin on the ground but you never know.

      Good luck! It is daunting, but I hope this helps you see your skillet more broadly.

      1. Coenobita*

        I was coming here to say this! I’ve worked for or with consulting firms, advocacy groups, and professional associations and they’ve all have corporate librarians.

    12. Lord Peter Wimsey*

      Another former librarian here sharing my experience FWIW. I switched from public to corporate librarianship. (Now, this was 15 years ago, back when corporate libraries were more of a ‘thing’ — the one I worked at has since been eliminated. Not sure if the market for corporate librarianship right now is any better than public, but check out Special Libraries Association for info on that.) The corporate library experiences and skills were a great stepping stone for my current role in corporate strategy/ intelligence. If you’re interested in that field, check the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) organization for more info. Best of luck!

    13. Cendol*

      Would corporate or law librarianship be on the table?

      Caveat: I went straight into this field after library school and didn’t try to cross over from public librarianship, and I suspect I only got the job because I was (a) lucky and (b) willing to move and to work evenings and weekends. I now work in a corporate research department. We do a lot of quick turnaround projects and resource management for internal clients, so perhaps similar to working the reference desk, except there’s HR if the clientele misbehaves (not that they ever have). I often joke that I Google stuff for a living, but it is true, and I love my job (in large part because my boss is awesome, but also because it pays well, and because every day I learn something new).

      Some non-academic law librarian job postings ask for a JD, but it’s really not necessary, and I think most reasonable hiring managers recognize this. (As a member of professional staff, you’re not allowed to give legal advice anyway!) I’ll post some links in a follow-up comment about librarians who have made the switch.

      1. Disguised as me*

        I do business and corporate research in a BigLaw law firm library. I do have an MLS but not a JD. Like you, we are always learning new things and brainstorming outside-of-the-box ways of coming up with hidden info and precedents, which is one of the best things about the job. The hours, pace and pressure can be pretty intense, so it’s not for everyone.

          1. Disguised as me*

            You could look into knowledge management, competitive intelligence and business development roles. A JD and some practice experience can be very useful.

          2. Sandan Librarian*

            I work as a law librarian (with MLS) for a state law library and one of my colleagues has a JD but not an MLS. This person seems to be doing a splendid job without having an MLS.

    14. OperaArt*

      I work at a large science/engineering research organization. We have a large library. Would you consider a lateral move into a place like that? Weekdays only. And if it’s government or government-adjacent, the benefits are usually pretty good.

    15. LKW*

      Consulting firms have internal research groups that research industry trends, market research, analysis of vendors, etc as well as general information on people in key positions.

      Marketing firms likely have similar needs.

      Your MLS provides you valuable research skills. Your work experience provides you valuable customer service skills.

    16. aubrey*

      I have my MLS and do database management kind of stuff for a software startup. I’ve found that my experience conceptualizing and organizing huge amounts of data at a broad and granular level transfers well to this. Content management or information management are related terms. I’ve found that tech doesn’t consider this to be ‘special library’ work, or know what a library degree is, so I need to explain that my focus is systems and data and they see tons of value in it.

      Think about what your strengths are and the type of work you want to do – helping users navigate complex systems? organizing things? are you technical, or people-focused? Then you can research types of jobs that involve those skills, but might not use the word “library”

    17. Dust Bunny*

      Records management, archives, non-public library. I’m not an MLIS but I’m an archives assistant in a medical school library.

    18. Liz*

      I’m a librarian. I worked a couple of years as an access services librarian and then four years as a reference librarian at a university. Then I moved out of state and could not find a library job, so I spent several years working in the educational event planning department of a national professional association. Every year, we hosted a large convention, several smaller conferences on different themes, and several webinar series. I had a background in instruction and had also coordinated an huge exam process for incoming freshmen to test out of a library skills course, so I had some background in education and organizing events. I was able to make the case at the professional association that I was organized, detail-oriented, etc., and they were willing to think outside the box. I worked in that association position for several years and have now returned to the library field. You definitely need to have an open-minded person doing the hiring, but I really think librarians have versatile skills that can translate well into many fields.

      1. Waiting to be Future Endeavored*

        Check out the site INALJ (I need a library job). I think there were recently a series of interviews with people in nontraditional library jobs.
        I work in a university library and the response has not been great, but I’m in a role where I’m allowed to work remotely.
        You can look at government jobs (local, state, or federal) — federal applications are their own thing so definitely look into the best way to apply. If you do a lot of customer service and programming, you could look into events/communications/marketing jobs. Or other types of public service jobs at companies or universities.
        To get an idea of jobs, I would suggest scrolling the local job boards and/or looking at your MLIS program for alumni stories and examples. Then think about how you can apply your experience to these required skills.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Event marketing jobs would probably be right up OP’s alley. My company (a software firm) is currently hiring for a lot of these roles right now.

      2. MCL*

        I agree on conference/educational program management, and it’s a good fit with the program work OP is already doing. The only thing is that things are potentially a little wacky right now due to the pandemic (what isn’t). OP should keep in mind that most of the events they work on will likely be virtual for at least the next 6-12 months or longer.

        +1 to “I really think librarians have versatile skills that can translate well into many fields.”

    19. rageismycaffeine*

      Prospect research is a niche fundraising field that has a lot of MLIS holders in it. We do a lot of work around helping fundraisers prioritize prospective donors, researching into people’s capacity to give, and sometimes some data analysis. I’m an MLIS holder myself and have only ever been in this niche field. You can contact me for more information if you want at this username at gmail dot com – I’ve talked to a few folks from the AAM boards about my profession before!

      1. OkapiFeels*

        I talked a lil bit to rageismycaffeine a few weeks ago (under a different username) and it was really informative, FWIW to other readers.

    20. Anne of Green Gables*

      Many folks have already mentioned academic and corporate librarianship. I moved from public libraries to a community college library 5 years ago. Not going to lie, the pay is worse in my case, but there are trade-offs that made it worth it to me. (Much more flexible schedule, almost 2 weeks off at Christmas that isn’t my vacation time, very rare evenings, rare Saturdays and when I do work, it’s only 9-1, as opposed to every other Saturday at one public library and every third full weekend (sat & sun) at a different public library)

      For me, community college is a much better fit than a 4-year. First, no pressure to publish. Second, my user base is very, very similar to that at my most recent public library. True, no patrons under 16 and not many over 55, but within the rest it’s a very similar demographic including all the racial and socio-economic diversity I had at my public library. As someone who really believes in public libraries, I like that I’m still serving a similar population.

      My institution as a whole (not just the library) has been great about Covid. No one is being forced to return to campus, they put a lot of safety measures in place, many classes and services are online. We’re doing a ton of library chat. We had a small committee within the library that made our plans to re-open with scaled back hours and limited services that started in August. We’re currently considering adding back one service and are taking a department-wide vote. Staff working on site chose to do so, and we were instructed by our dean that those who chose to work on site are still only to be on-site twice a week to decrease exposure. Mask wearing is mandated on campus for all unless you are alone in an office with a closed door. I know not all institutions are the same, but that’s been my experience.

    21. another librarian???!!*

      Some options that I’ve sort of thought about but not fully explored:

      non-profit prospecting for donors
      private law firm libraries
      public law libraries (same issues might apply here, though, so beware!)
      corporate libraries
      any software company that builds taxonomies or indexes into their software
      corporate trainer
      competitive intelligence research for companies

      There’s a lot of options if you take the individual job tasks and separate it out from the “library” title!

    22. Thankful for AAM*

      Excellent question future former librarian!

      Also a librarian and I am interested in a move to technical writing. I did a little looking, I don’t see entry level jobs (so often the case) so does anyone have suggestions about how to get started? I see ads require or prefer a degree in a tech field or in technical writing. Would a Udemy course help me get a sense of the field? What are your suggestions for getting that first job (other than AAM advice about a great cover letter that shows how my library exp translates)?

  5. Arc’teryx*

    have been through 4 rounds of phone interviews for a position with a large global firm. The person who would be my direct manager and I have mutually decided to meet in person (masked, and as distanced as possible) for coffee (because the firm office is closed) so we can mutually decide if it’s a good fit. Here are my two questions
    1. He may offer to pay for my coffee. Should I allow him to or insist I pay for mine?
    2. Do I need to wear a full business suit? I haven’t needed one for 5 years so I would need to buy one. (Which is fine just time consuming)

    Thanks!

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      IMO: Allow him to pay if offered, as it will be a company cost on his end, and wear a dress shirt and slacks, preferably with a tie, suit jackets only if this is an executive level position.

    2. 867-5309*

      I agree with Teekanne except… and this is just my personal thing… don’t wear a tie. Wear a sweater or blazer over the button down. The tie with just dress pants and a dress shirt hearkens back to high school dance days.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Let him pay for coffee.

      I don’t think you need a full suit. If you wear more traditionally “female” clothing, then go for a dress or dress slacks. A nice sweater if you have one. If you wear traditionally “male” clothing, I think you’re ok with dress slacks and a good shirt. I’m indifferent on the tie, others may feel more strongly.

    4. CatPhotosUponRequest*

      I think No. 2 will depend more upon the industry you’re interviewing for, but “large global firm” makes me think that a suit isn’t totally out of the question. But you can probably get away with a nice pair of slacks and a sport jacket, if you’re a guy (I’m a guy, and I don’t want to give specific advise for non-guys).

      As for the coffee, I would say go in planning to pay. If the manager says it’s on them, offer sincerely once to pay for yourself; if they insist, I would let them.

      1. IsItOverYet?*

        In these situations, I get out my wallet to pay but then I don’t argue if they offer. Someone who is good at this will set it up so it’s obvious they will pay (step up first, put in their order, ask for yours, and then hand over the money) but that kind of body language may be harder with covid precautions

    5. Sled dog mama*

      Perhaps a silly point but how are you going to drink your coffee while masked?
      I think dress for the company/position is important, I’ve been the most comfortable and felt I shined the most in interviews when I wore exactly what I’d wear to work. That said my industry (and personal style) is pretty formal. It would be odd for me to wear anything besides dress slacks and a button down or nice top (feminine-female presenting person). I occasionally wear heels but I’m already tall so mostly wear flats, and the occasional business suit has happened at work for big events (like a state inspection).
      If your industry is more casual then dressing a little above would come across as polished where a suit might come across as too much.
      Let the interviewer pay for coffee if they offer, it’s a business experience for them.

      1. AP.*

        When I met someone for coffee recently we chose a place that featured outdoor seating. We sat at a fairly large table which allowed for a decent amount of distance. As it was hot outside, I had an iced drink and used a straw. That meant I could leave the mask on, and flip it up when I needed to take a sip.

      1. hillary*

        I agree allow him to pay – he’s likely expensing it. I don’t think full suit – I’d probably do a blazer over dress or slacks, modified to be comfortable for the weather. It’s not a formal interview.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Since your comment below says you’re a woman, I’d say wear an outfit suitable in your industry for a normal workday that includes a meeting with your grandboss or a client. In some cases, that would mean a suit.

      Since you haven’t needed one for so long, I’m guessing probably not for this either.

    7. Heat's Kitchen*

      I don’t own a full suit and won’t wear one to an interview. I wear nice pants, blouse & blazer. Especially since it’s a meet for coffee, I’d personally do a bit more that business casual (no jeans). Disclaimer: I’m in tech.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I think
        1. let him pay,
        2: your slacks/blazer/blouse combo sounds fine to me! A few women in our tech department also wear a dress and blazer to work with flats often, so if that is comfortable for you I think that would be fine too.

      2. TTDH*

        This is a question from the fashion-impaired, but how do people usually wear the pants and blazer thing in a way that doesn’t look like a suit but still matches? Is it like black pants and a statement color blazer?

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          It could be. Or you can wear two tone slacks and blazers in the same color family to eliminate the matchy-matchy feel of a suit.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          I do what you said, or sometimes a colorful dress or light slacks with a black blazer. Complimentary colors but in 2 different shades, really. Like olive/black, black/white, white/red, black/red, pale blue/white, pale blue/grey, etc.

          I am originally from SWPA so I avoid black/yellow combos (I love all things sports but that this combo is reserved for game days is engrained in me!)

  6. Student Affairs Sally*

    I’ve had “final” interviews with two positions in the past few weeks. I’m still waiting to hear from my first choice, but my second choice contacted me this week asking me to interview with THREE additional people, one of whom I’ve already spoken with once, even though the last interview was mentioned several times as being the final one. I’m guessing that they couldn’t decide between me and another candidate, so that’s a positive sign, but I’m also a little frustrated that I have to take more time off work and jump through more hoops for my second choice position. I guess on the bright side, it buys more time for me to hear from my first choice.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Yes, getting the extra, extra interviews can be so frustrating! It is a chance, though, to ask the magic question if you haven’t already! I’ve gotten three different job offers using Alison’s advice and asking what the difference would be to the employer between a good employee and a great one :) Good luck!

      1. Student Affairs Sally*

        I ALWAYS ask the magic question, usually in the first interview (and sometimes in subsequent interviews if I’m speaking with different people). So far it hasn’t resulted in an offer, but my interviewers always seem impressed by it.

    2. Observer*

      If your suspicion is correct, it’s the PERFECT time to ask what would differentiate a great employee from a merely good employee in this position, if you haven’t asked that yet.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        :) The short of the long is that I was binge watching Downton Abbey one night, thought to myself I needed a man with an accent and Googled how to live in Europe. Though I had a degree in teaching, I immediately signed up to be an underpaid au-pair. Three weeks later I was on a plane and two days after arriving, I met someone! After a couple of years we got married, I got another degree, and now I am interviewing for larger companies over here after teaching English for various language centers. I am impulsive and was willing to live poor, and it paid off!

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            :) Considering I was UNIMPRESSED with said man when I first met him, and then he slowly grew on me, it was very RomCom. Fighting for a visa for the one year we lived in the States was not. Also, German is not the most romantic language, but for the healthcare system, I’m down with it!

        1. CatCat*

          I’m feeling like the whole early part of this story would make for an excellent and adventurous rom-com. I just love it!

    1. sleepy black cat*

      Austria checking in! just a grad student, but love reading the blog and it’s so useful for some parts of communication stuff.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Yeah? We were in NRW until last month, in Solingen, just nearby Köln. In between Dresden and Leipzig now. I lived in Liverpool a few years back myself, and honestly couldn’t understand a thing of Scouse! Can’t wait to go back though :)

        1. LPUK*

          Scouse is one thing but to be truly unintelligible you need to hear Geordie ( North east).It’s so lovely and melodic that only after they’ve stopped speaking do you realise you haven’t understood a thing they’ve said. Or strong Glaswegian, which sounds instantly aggressive, even if they are only talking about the weather!

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            These are all new places I want to experience just to listen!! The first time I met my Scottish penpal, I had to ask her to actually write down some words she was saying XD

          2. Tau*

            I lived in Glasgow for six years, and it took a while but I eventually got my head round the accent (I think the issue is the vowels, really, they’re regular but very different from other English dialects, so once you get used to the shift you have a much easier time of it). One of my fond memories is sitting on a train to London and, sometime after we hit the border, thinking “there is something weird about how everyone is talking but I can’t put my finger on what…” At that point I’d gotten so used to Glaswegian that the lack of it seemed strange and wrong. The start was rough, though, and I had to play translator whenever someone came to visit.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I’m in the UK . I read as I find it interesting to see what’s similar and what is different in the USA, and a good deal of the (non-legal / rights) advice works in either context.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Agreed. Do y’all get paid monthly or bi-weekly in the UK? I was in a volunteer program when I lived there, and here in Germany it is monthly, which was hard to get used to! Also, is it more contract employment there as it is here in Germany? I can’t say I miss living in an at-will country!

        1. SarahKay*

          I’m another UK person, and I get paid monthly. I’d say that tends to be the norm for salaried jobs, and yes, contracts all the way. My current contract is two months’ notice required if I want to leave – but the company has to pay minimum three months notice if they make my position redundant.

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            I do appreciate that built in security- we’ve got about 3 months here for notice but I had never heard of that redundancy safety, that’s not bad. I’ve wondered though, what can they actually do to you should you leave before the two months is out?

            1. SarahKay*

              Good question. At least in the UK, theoretically they can sue for Breach of Contract, although only to cover any financial losses they may have incurred – but I’d say it’s extremely unlikely most companies would do so. Certainly I can’t imagine my current one would bother.
              More likely it’s just a burnt bridge. Right now if I gave my notice I have confidence that both my managers would give me excellent references if asked; if I left with significantly shorter notice without a very good reason I think they’d still give reasonably good references, but not glowing. And quite possibly as part of the reference they’d tell my new employer that I left with shorter notice than required, which then starts me off in the new job at a possible disadvantage.

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

          (UK here) I get paid monthly and have done in every “white collar” type of job I’ve worked in as has everyone else I know in the same position.

          There are blue-collar jobs that pay weekly or fortnightly but I think that is fairly uncommon now. At a blue-collar job my (now ex) husband worked at, they had the option of whether to be paid monthly or weekly; not sure why!

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            Wow, he got to choose? That seems like a perk that would be offered at higher levels. My hubs and I have been debating whether its finally better to have to plan and be careful for a full month with one lump sum or have the convenience of the two week blocks.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        There’s a reason I introduce myself as a Texan first and not an American right now.. and that reason is a large orange person. But y’all have your own copy :D

    3. Tau*

      Hey neighbour, I’m in Berlin! I actually am German – hope my country’s treating you well! That said, I spent a chunk of my childhood living in the US (+ was born there, so am also technically American) and most of my adulthood living in the UK until recently. I’ve been reading AAM since I joined the workforce in 2015, since a lot of it is still applicable across the Atlantic. Even if it does embarrass me to admit that I now know more about US employment law than either UK or German.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Haha, not too far off. I’m in ye old Karl-Marx Stadt, if you ever want to come take a picture with the giant head ;) Yes, I LOVE this country. Hundesteuer, not so much, but now I cannot stand not separating my rubbish back in the States. And YOU are the multi-kulti here! I have to say I do wish there were local AAM fan-clubs with meetings in various places, because the folks on this blog are the best.

        1. some_coder*

          Karl-Marx Stadt? i’am living in Chemnitz too. Die Welt ist wirklich ein Dorf (the world is really just a small village).

      1. Helvetica*

        Hi, fellow Belgium resident! Also here, though not from here, and also saying for now because I’m on a limited time posting.

    4. Violet Rose*

      Fellow US expat in Northern Germany! (“der echte Norden”, they call it :P) I’ve read AAM in many countries.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We have a lot of Europeans around here, I don’t know that they frequent the Friday posts but you’re not alone.

    6. Chutzpah*

      Ex-pat in Sweden.

      Self-employed, and just here to gape at the stories about weird, batshit crazy human behavior…..

    7. Dane*

      From Denmark! And I’ve noticed posts by other Danes as well :)
      I think I got here from the comment section on notalwaysright.com which I got to from icanhazcheezburger I think? From way back in the old days XD

    8. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      UK here! Although I did grow up in the US, but ended back up in the UK. I’m fascinated by all the US work stuff, although the idea of not having a contract and having healthcare tied to your job makes me quite happy I didn’t stay there as an adult (I have a long term health condition that needs medication whether or not I’m employed).

    9. Thankful for AAM*

      Side story, I work in a library and today someone adked my coworker how you become an ex-pat. We think she wanted a form or something. She had not plans to live outside the US, she just wanted out on paper.

    10. Anima*

      Wow, Teekanne, you live in Chemnitz by choice? That town does not have a good reputation in any part of Germany (especially regarding foreigners). I hope you like it and are treated well!
      I myself am from south-western Germany (born in Saxony, so I know about Chemnitz first hand) and now know a lot more about American employment laws, but that caused me to look up the laws in my country, so win-win. I learned so much from AAM!

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Haha! EVERYONE asks me why on earth I live here. I first got here when the refugee crisis started, and ended up working with a lot of them while working at a language school. Five years on, we’re old friends, and I am in the middle of proofing a master’s thesis for one who decided to pursue English studies. They’re all thriving and it’s wonderful! The only trouble I ever had was from the Hartzvier skinheads. But word got around that I was from Texas and they seemed to respect that? They were awful! Otherwise, Chemnitz is actually pretty fun and so cheap :D

    11. Roeslein*

      I am based in Germany too! Originally from a nearby EU country, but I moved around quite a bit before landing here (most recently left London with the great Brexodus.)

  7. Orange Crushed*

    How do you deal with a manager that does the following: When he assigns tasks, he won’t say when it’s due, he just keeps checking in with me. “How far along are you? Do you have more to go?” Yet he won’t give deadlines. (I’ve asked and all he says is, “We’ve got time.”)

    How do you deal with a boss like this?

    1. Wordnerd*

      My best guess would be to look at your workload and priorities and say to him, “My plan is to have x project completed by [date].” And then if he checks in with “How far along are you?”, you can remind him that you planned to have it completed by x date. Basically create your own deadlines and communicate them to him in advance?

    2. Neosmom*

      I set a timeline that fits in with my other work and share in writing with the person assigning me the work. They let me know if my proposed timeline needs to be adjusted.

    3. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Preemptively offer a timeline! “Okay, I am planning to be at X phase of Y project by next Thursday”. He may also be fishing for you to give him updates on your own. A simple way to do this is to use a Google sheet and simply update the status of current projects every day and give him the link.

    4. Ashley*

      I usually try to suggest a date when given a task without a due date. So something like it is ok if I get back to you Tuesday with my questions? Or I try to prioritize it for them I say I will start working on this when I get X out the door.

    5. Sylvan*

      That’s frustrating. It doesn’t sound like you’re in this kind of workplace, but I had a boss like that at a shop once. Let’s say it was a florist shop. I would make a list of what needed to be done when I started my shift, and if she couldn’t give me specifics, I would ask questions that would let me gauge them. I tried to think in terms of her priorities rather than mine – her deadlines and what she needed to meet them. If she couldn’t tell me how many bouquets of roses needed to be made today, I would ask her how many needed to be delivered tomorrow.

    6. Jaydee*

      Set your own timelines and lay them out to him early.

      You: “What’s the deadline on this?”
      Fergus: “Oh, we have time.”
      You: “Okay. Well, I will plan to talk to the llama groomers this week and have a draft of the llama grooming report to you by next Monday. Then, if you can get your changes to me by end of day Wednesday, I can have the final report to you by Friday. Will that work?”

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      Maybe ask whether your manager wants to sit down and set a timeline? Or, if not, would your manager like to have daily emails you send of how your progress is going? Or just explicitly ask, when assigned work, “What’s the deadline for completion for this?”

    8. Emilitron*

      Wow, “Do you have more to go?” seriously? Yes, I do indeed have more to go, because if it were finished I would have sent it to you.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I’d be inching my way toward the door. This would drive me bats.

      “You asked me that earlier. Why don’t you tell me what time frame we have and I will make sure it is done by or before then?”

      I think I would get to the point where I would hold my answer to his time line questions for ransom. You will get my answer once we talk about why I am not told deadlines upfront and what needs to happen to fix that.

      If that feels a little too much, OP, then request a sit down meeting so the two of you can talk about how to communicate deadlines. This can get old fast.

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

      Ugh! How frustrating. I struggled to put my finger on why (other than that it’s annoying obviously, but it was more than that) but I think it’s because it is kind of… condescending or infantilizing in a way? Like “oh you don’t need to get involved with the actual deadlines, I’ll handle that, you just need to answer my questions” sort of thing.

      There is also a (very often) gendered version of this, where it comes across as a man saying something that boils down to “you don’t need to trouble your pretty little head about that!”, or at least it comes off that way even if that’s not what was intended.

      A more charitable view is that he is shielding you from stressing out over deadlines.

      If you have one-to-ones or regular checkins (or even if you don’t, you could request one as a one-off, but really you ought to be having them) you could try asking him about the pattern more generally, as it seems like you’ve asked about specific deadlines, but not really about the bigger picture like “I’ve noticed that we often get tasks that clearly have a specific deadline but you seem unwilling to share this with me, why is that?” (That isn’t a very good script and others could come up with something better, but that would be the aim of the conversation.)

    11. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Yep. This is my boss. She keeps saying, “oh yeah I keep forgetting you need deadlines” as in, me and only me, the needy weirdo needing deadlines. She lives her life in a constant state of procrastination because it doesn’t stress her out.

    12. allathian*

      I guess I’m lucky because my boss doesn’t set deadlines. Our internal clients do for critical stuff and for less critical stuff we set the deadlines ourselves. Some of our projects have statutory deadlines, so if one of those comes up, we have the mandate to renegotiate less-critical deadlines with our clients. We only involve our boss if a client has unrealistic expectations, and because we’re professional and known for our flexibility in most circumstances, she always has our backs when we just can’t give the client what they want.

      But yeah, I’m used to setting my own deadlines if they aren’t set for me. The lack of deadlines doesn’t bother me, but the progress report queries would.

  8. Confused Anon*

    I’m in a toxic, dysfunctional workplace and my boss is an abusive bully. We have to walk on eggshells around her. She’s cliquish, always choosing a “favorite” employee (usually the person that sucks up to her the most) and treating everyone else like crap. She likes to be in her office with the ‘favorite’, where they gossip/trash talk everyone else. She also spends most of the day on her phone making personal calls and gossiping, then complains about how she has to work at night.

    She sides with her friends and people she likes, so it’s always 2-against-1. She even bullied her assistant manager to the point that he threatened to go to the head of HR and she stopped.

    She’s obnoxious- she makes fun of others and mocks them. I said, “Yes, the report is done” and she repeated what I said in a mocking voice. I was stunned and said, “Is there anything else that you needed?” in a serious tone and she said that she was “just joking”.

    Besides documenting everything, how do you keep morale up while dealing with this until a new job comes along? Has anyone been in a situation like this? Do you just have to kiss up a lot?

    1. ten four*

      Wow, that sounds like a stone cold nightmare. I have worked for abusive bosses, and the things that helped me were:
      + Identify my own goals for my career, and focus on getting those done alongside my assigned responsibilities. Is there a thing you can do that will look good on your resume? Awesome. Having a my goals/their goals frame helped me keep a little distance from the crazy.
      + Really focus on distancing yourself at work. You don’t have to engage with every outrage to come down the pike! Choose your battles, and do your best to let the rest of the nonsense roll off your back.
      + Focus on everything outside of work. This job isn’t your life and it isn’t forever. Do what you can to avoid them living rent-free in your head.

      Literally zero of this advice is EASY to follow. It takes a lot of mental discipline and emotional resilience to get through a toxic job! I hope something better comes along very soon and that you can surf over the worst of the awfulness in the meantime.

    2. LPUK*

      I found that just recognising it was her problem and not mine helped! I did 2 years with a workplace bully – at the start I used to spend a lot of time near to tears in my office because I couldn’t understand how I had suddenly become so incompetent, but after checking with previous employees and realising they all had the same experience I was much less bothered by it. Towards the end of time time there I did get to the point where I said ‘ Ok, so you’re clearly not a fan of what I do – so let’s go to HR right now and you can tell them that and then we’ll both be better off….’ and she backed down right away. If you get to the stage where you can pity her for her insecurities rather being upset by her mean girl tactics, it may lend you some inner calm while you look for an exit

    3. Fiona*

      That’s horrible and you handled her mocking so perfectly. I would just keep up what you’re doing. Your serious response (“Is there anything else you needed?”) definitely indicated to her that you’re not a pushover who will give her a fake laugh. Morale will be tough, but here are some ideas:

      – Really make sure your out-of-work life is as happy and robust as possible. Dive into new or old hobbies, make time to chat with friends or loved ones, really lean into the fact that your life is NOT your toxic workplace.
      – Alison has great advice about pretending you’re an anthropologist and you’re observing the behaviors of some sort of strange culture. It helps one take a step back and add a boundary in your own mind. It’s also kind of sad – you will eventually leave that job; your boss will not leave the kind of person she is. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that to get the bigger picture.
      – Focus on the work and only the work, if possible.
      – You seem like you’re already doing this, but keep your own sense of self and values and don’t get swept along with the dysfunction. In an old job I had, someone senior to me asked me to quasi-spy on a colleague to make sure she was doing her job (??). I was sort of like “uh, okay” and then simply didn’t do it, but in retrospect, I wish I had said something like “I’m not comfortable doing that.” You want to be able to walk away from this job with as much integrity as capitalism allows…

      Good luck!!!! I hope something new comes along soon.

    4. juneybug*

      Oh, that’s terrible! What a shame your boss is such an immature jerk!

      Would you be able to internally smile or thank the universal/God that you are moving on every time she does something mean? For example:
      CA: Here is my report boss.
      Boss: Oh, it’s early! Aren’t you the little over-archiver?
      CA: Thank you. I will leave you to and go back to work (said very calmly).
      (inside your head – yep and soon you will no longer have me to torture cause I am outta here!)

      Once you get good at this, the hard part will be not smiling in real life. Or go for it – smile sweetly. It will creep her out when you don’t take her bullying.

      Good luck! I hope you find a better job, with better coworkers, and much better pay. You deserve it!

    5. Uncannycanuck*

      Well, you do everything in your power to make that new job come along ASAP. Easier said than done, I know, but apply everywhere for everything. This is a bad place to be.
      You have to just decide that her being a terrible person isn’t about you. Her mocking, her bullying, her bad behaviour is all about her. And because you are a wonderful, fabulous, valuable person, you don’t need to take in her toxic negativity. It isn’t about you. It’s not for you. Do your very best to just let it roll right off you and walk away. Visualize a teflon coating or a force field for yourself.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      It looks like you met my old boss’ twin. Tell yourself that people who can’t manage do THIS instead.

      Stop working for her and start working for your resume. Make plans to do things that would look great on a resume OR that would make great conversation for an interview.

      Respond to her in a flat, matter of fact tone of voice. It sounds like you have been doing this. Keep doing it.

      You can always tell how well you got your point across by the reaction you get. In your example here, that she was just joking, you hit a bulls eye. You made your point and she was NOT comfy she felt the need to explain herself.

      Really focus on the work. This confuses the crap out of people like this. “Did you hear s0-an- so was getting divorce?” [Answer yes or no, it doesn’t matter, keep your voice flat and disinterested then switch to work.] “Yeah/no. That xyz report is almost done, I will email you when I got it.”
      And keep redirecting to the work you are doing. This baffles the crap out of people like your boss. They just don’t know what to do.

    7. Working Hypothesis*

      That sounds awful. I’m so sorry you have to go through that. If I were in your position, I would probably try to cope with the time until I could escape by using Alison’s technique of treating it like an anthropological study or something… thinking to myself, “Oh, look! It is making those high-pitched noises again. I believe it is attempting to create a condescending humor performance for the benefit of its social allies,” and that kind of thing. It can help you to keep your brain disengaged from the torment.

      Good luck getting out soon!

    8. Workerbee*

      How much documenting do you have already? It’s interesting that she stopped bullying her assistant manager when he only threatened to go to HR—it doesn’t sound like he followed through regardless of her response. What if you brought up the same, or just went to HR without giving her that heads up?

    1. Nessun*

      What an ass. That VP obviously has quite the inflated ego! I think the manager should have pushed back citing the standards for support, but really, they were stuck between an ego and a bad policy. I feel for the writer, but everything about that was just a mess.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think the manager handled it as best they could.

      Once something has happened it’s too late for preventative steps. All that could be done was to ban the VP (or anyone) from calling people at home and prevent future occurrences.

      I have been told and I have told people something along the lines of being too helpful. Every service offered has boundaries, cut-off points. Telling an employee that they are too helpful recognizes the fact that they were trying to do a good job but also opens a discussion about boundaries.

      The VP sounds very high maintenance.

    3. LGC*

      The manager should have been more understanding of the fish, it sounds like – but the manager was actually right! If the fish was hourly (which is what it sounds like), what the VP did was illegal. (Okay, technically illegal.)

      I will say, though, that it sounds like there was some pushback. Yeah, the fish got reprimanded…but it sounds like the VP was as well for his actions.

  9. Quaremie*

    Hi everyone!

    I currently manage a team of about 30 people, and it’s getting unwieldy. I’m putting in some manager positions and promoting people from the team (which currently has a flat structure) into these positions. On the advice I received here several months ago, as well as discussion with my mentors, I’ve made these open competitions and encouraged everyone who is interested to apply, and I will interview them. Happily, I’ve had a great turnout and many of my top employees have applied. Right now I have six applicants for three positions, and the application window closes on Monday.

    Next week I will do my interviews with them. I was wondering if anyone had any advice for how to approach this. I’ve managed all of them for years and so have a good sense of their strengths and weaknesses, but this position will have new responsibilities that I have not seen them exercise as much. I want my interviews to be fair and equal to them all. In addition to relatively standard questions about why they think they’d be good in this position, and giving examples of times they’ve shown leadership, etc, does anyone have any ideas of things I should explore during the interviews? I really want to look at their qualities from a different angle, and not just come out of the interview with the exact same perceptions I had going in.

    And lastly, does anyone have any tips or resources for managing new managers? When I started managing this team, I had never managed anyone and started with one person. I learned on the job, and through reading AAM and HBR and other sources. But I would like to support my new managers through this transition, beyond just having regular 1:1s with them. Thank you!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      I think specific behavioral interview questions will be key — they may be able to talk about experiences they have had outside of working for you, and/or you’ll get a better sense of their thought processes. I’d also get other people involved in interviewing, so it’s not just you.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m not exactly sure how best to word this, but I would try to get a feel of what they think might be the pitfalls of managing a team of people who have been their peers and/or work-friends and how they feel about their capacity to handle that – basically, are they aware that there ARE potential pitfalls and are they realistic about that, not just “Oh, it’ll be fiiiiiine, we’re all good buddies!”

      1. AP.*

        I agree with this. And in addition to asking how they’ll manage former peers, I would also ask how they envision their new role, what kind of changes they think they’d like to make, what sort of pitfalls they see, etc.

        It sounds like all these people have been there for a while, so they should have an idea as to how they would approach this promotion.

        As for managing new managers, I would just be prepared to spend a lot of time early on guiding them. In the short term you’re workload will undoubtedly increase. In addition to 1-on-1s, you may also want to start a regular manager meeting for all your directs, where you discuss issues that have come up as a team. And while I’m generally not a fan of 360 degree evaluations, it may be useful here to see if there are any issues that pop up after 6 months or a year.

        1. Quaremie*

          Thank you for these comments! Yes, I had been thinking about the issue of them managing former peers… the team is remote and few of them are super close with each other (to my knowledge), so I may be able to manage who works on what team so that the most obvious issues are avoided – but it’s certainly something to consider. One of my main concerns is how people who aren’t promoted now handle being managed and coached by someone who was their peer (and who may have been hired after them). It’s a separate question, but any ideas there would be appreciated :) I am not sure how to best smooth that over ahead of time.

          I completely agree that my workload is going to go up for a while… I’m really hoping this pays off in the long run. But I am looking forward to developing closer working/mentoring relationships with some people as it’s just so hard to do right now when I have so many reports. All of your ideas are great – thank you!

          1. AP.*

            It’s going to be toughest for those who applied but didn’t get promoted. I would even ask them in the interview how they’d handle working for a peer if they don’t get the job.

    3. Bostonian*

      I am really looking forward to seeing other people’s responses to the last bit.

      As for the interviews, situational questions are key: even if they don’t have direct experience, they can talk about what they think is the best way to approach a problem. For example, ask them what they would do if someone came to them with a complaint about their direct report. What would they do with a complaint from another department? How would they train/onboard/coach their direct reports? Even if everyone is equally inexperienced from a management/leadership perspective, some people will have better instincts than others on how to handle these issues.

      In order for you to be able to evaluate them, you need to get clear in your head what your vision is for how you want this group to be managed. What skills do they need to be able to coach in their direct reports? How critical is relationship building in their role? This will help reveal the types of questions you should be asking them.

      And, finally, it’s really important when building a team of managers that you have different perspectives. So, if you end up with all of them being really competent options after the interviews, you don’t want to pick the 3 that have all the same ideas as you.

    4. LPUK*

      If you have the time and the job lends itself to case studies – you could use a relevant example and ask them to prepare a response to a given situation – in my experience it tells you more about their thought processes than any number of ‘tell me about a time’ . I’ve done inbox exercises for roles where correct triaging is very important and asked people to comment on innovation briefs when I’m looking for analytical skills and commercial understanding. In both these cases, the person who seemed to have the best skills/experience on their resume actually underperformed in the task vs the others, and the people who did well ( and got the jobs) went on to be great employees. The inbox example I adapted from an online case study. The innovation brief was a real, although older brief that i had access to in my role – I just anonymised it.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Case studies are a great idea. For my current job, I got a case study question about managing both my team and external stakeholders that was 100% relevant. (Also I now bet it was designed to see how the internal applicant with no management experience would think about it.)

        1. Quaremie*

          Hmm, interesting idea. I would have to think about this but I will see if I can come up with something!

          1. Lily Rowan*

            It really was as simple as describing a typical situation and asking me to write down how I would handle it.

    5. JustMyImagination*

      “What would one of your first priorities be as a manager?” It might give you a sense of who is thinking bigger picture and who may be too focused on minor details.

    6. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      I was hired as a first-time manager last year, and the second-round questions in particular were focused on the people management part of the job – at one point I was told “we think you have the technical skills, but since it would be your first job managing people that component is what we’d like to discuss here.” That is a nice line to take because you put the employee at ease by acknowledging that they are good performers AND lets you pivot to the stuff you actually want to know about if they are leveling up.

      It might be worth detailing what that looks like for them in your workplace, to position them for understanding what the job looks like (as Alison says, it is a fact-finding chat for the interviewee as well as interviewer). “There will be some days where it feels like you get no actual work done because you’re putting out fires or handling the vacation schedule or stuck in meetings, are you prepared for that?” and to discuss how they feel about delegating, or interruptions, or whatever makes sense to discuss.

      I felt great after that conversation because it gave me a better sense of the job and whether I felt able to handle it, and for my bosses a glimpse of whether I had the full skill set they needed.

    7. Haha Lala*

      Is there someone else at your company that can conduct the interviews with you? Maybe a manager from a different team, or someone from HR that doesn’t know your team as well as you do?
      That way you can get an outside opinion as to who’s best suited for each role, and you don’t have to worry about your own preconceived notions. And the interviewees might end up giving more detailed answers, since they’ll need to prove more to someone that doesn’t yet know them.

      1. Bex*

        This is a great suggestion! It would also help make it clear that you’re not playing favorites if there is another outside interviewer.

        1. Quaremie*

          This is a great idea! Your comment and one below actually made me think outside the box and think of someone who has a similar role on another team. He may be able to help me. Everyone is so swamped these days and most people will have a hard time committing to even a few more hours work, but he may help – and I think it could be beneficial for both of us. Thank you – this is SO helpful!

    8. NW Mossy*

      When I interview, I find it really helpful to work backwards from the behaviors I want the person to exhibit in the role and use that to formulate both a question and what I’m looking for in a strong answer. I used a model that the Manager Tools podcast (a great resource for new leaders) suggests of Lead, Question, Behavior to give a consistent structure to all the questions – they discuss in more detail in their cast “How to Create a Simple Behavioral Interview Question.” The idea is that you lead in, ask a question, and cue the behavioral aspect you’re interested in.

      As an example, the last time I hired, it was for a role that involved reviewing peers’ work and giving feedback on it. I used this question to explore that: “One of our most important controls is peer reviewing each other’s work. Tell me about a time when you had to give someone critical feedback about their work and you weren’t sure if they’d take it well – how did you go about it, and what was the outcome?” In the answer, I was looking for behaviors that go with giving feedback well – doing it timely, using clear/direct language, assuming positive intent on the other person’s part, seeing improvement after giving feedback, and using the situation as a relationship strengthener. This one also lends itself well to a follow-up question about how they behave when the shoe’s on the other foot.

      Setting up questions this way is really interesting. From the interviewer standpoint, it seems like they’re questions that lead people to the “right” answer. In practice, you get wildly different answers and the difference between strong ones and weak ones is really obvious – exactly what you want when you’re trying to hire the strongest candidate.

      1. Quaremie*

        This is a wonderful idea! Thank you. I really have to think carefully before I go into these interviews! :)

    9. HR Exec Popping In*

      I would consider doing a panel interview. Do you have peers or other colleagues that can participate with you and help you assess the candidates? And as others have already stated, be sure to use behavioral questions that would enable you to assess the critical skills needed for the new roles. And if there is a technical knowledge component of the jobs, a case study or exercise is a good option as well.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I have one huge question. Will these new managers be authorized to fire people?
      It makes a difference.
      If people know their boss cannot fire them, they can start having all kinds of behaviors.
      And from the other side of the question, I wouldn’t take a job where I couldn’t fire people and I still had to be responsible for their work. We’ve talked about this here and I see there are others who agree, so I am not alone on this one.
      I don’t care if I have to get approval to fire first, that is pretty normal in many places. But I need to have say in the matter.

      Where i am going with this is if these new managers have the authority to fire, can they follow through? It matters. If a person cannot fire someone who needs to move on, new layers of misery can start to happen.

      My very next question is for the candidates. Can they train? If they can’t train/teach/coach then they can’t do a whole section of the management job.

      If you end up with a manager who cannot train/coach and cannot fire you have a problem.

      1. Quaremie*

        Thank you for your comment! Certainly right now, they wouldn’t have the authority to fire people, but I anticipate that if there were severe problems with someone’s work, the protocol would be something like:
        – The manager tries to work with the employee to solve the problem/behaviour
        – If the employee is not improving, the manager would bring the issue to me and I would get involved
        – If the employee is still not improving, we would consider termination. This would involve feedback from the person’s manager, but I would be heavily involved. For that matter, I don’t think even know if I have 100% authority to fire people – if I had severe issues with someone that I couldn’t fix, I would be getting my bosses involved first.

        My authority as a manager has grown a lot since I started 4 years ago, and now I handle most of the interviewing and hiring without getting my bosses involved, but for quite a while I was a day-to-day manager but not a hiring/firing manager. I would expect that my new managers would not start hiring and firing people on day one, but of course I would want their feedback and I would start involving them in interviews and listening to their feedback on employees. Right now I really need people to help run this huge team and take some of the work off my plate, but I would still maintain control over those type of larger decisions.

        As far as training goes, we have a supervisor who trains all of our new team members, and she will continue in that role -but I need the new managers to be subject matter experts who can help review their employees’ work, catch mistakes, and coach them to improve. So yes, I agree that they need to be able to coach!

    11. 867-5309*

      Have you thought about asking someone else to also interview candidates? Maybe a peer manager in another department? That will give you an outsiders point of view, given how close you are to these team members.

    12. Policy Wonk*

      RE: the interviews themselves, can you have a fellow manager join you for the interviews? Always good to have a second opinion, particularly when you know the candidates, so the result is not perceived as playing favorites. (We usually do teams of three, but I’m not sure you have time to round up two others.)

  10. Sylvan*

    One of this morning’s questions brought this to mind for me, and probably a few other commenters. What is your Zoom/Teams video setup like? Have you made any recent changes?

    1. Millennial Lizard Person*

      Our laptops have their webcam in the bottom frame of the screen, so everyone has the least flattering angle possible. I got a laptop stand not just for that reason, but it was a motivation. Now my camera is actually at face height.

        1. Betty*

          My Dell laptop has the camera in the lower left corner. It is so awful! In addition to being a totally unflattering angle, it makes it look like you’re looking off to the side at something else when you’re really looking at the people on your screen.

          1. KayDeeAye*

            Mine does, too. It’s just ridiculous. I use (no kidding) either a box or a stack of books, depending on where in the house I’m taking the call, so at least it’s at face height. I’ve given trying to look directly at the camera because it feels so unnatural to talk to a teensy little black oval – and besides, when I do that, I can’t see anybody’s face, and what’s the point of a Zoom call if you can’t see anybody’s face?

          2. Pennyworth*

            No all Dell laptops have the camera there – my newish Dell V0stro has it top center. I though that was just standard and didn’t even think about it when I bought it.

            1. KayDeeAye*

              Yes, I’ve heard that there is hope, once I get a new laptop, which I think will be sometime next year. Yaaaay! :-)

              I like Dell laptops a lot, but the camera placement is just so silly and counterintuitive.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Come to think of it, a webcam like that has exactly one use: helping me find and pluck those pesky chin hairs… XD I would consider using an external cam

      2. Mandy*

        I’m laughing at the horrified responses to this. My kindergartner could use a setup like this! She has to have the laptop monitor at a step angle or you can’t see her at all.

      3. Tomato Frog*

        Ours, too. It’s also very entertaining when someone is typing and you get to see their fingers in EXTREME CLOSEUP. I switch over to my personal laptop when I have to be on video.

    2. Web Crawler*

      I have a cardboard box on an ottoman that I can stick my laptop on so that it’s head height while I sit in an armchair. I can’t type while the laptop is sitting there, but I have a wireless mouse and a lap desk so I can still click around.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I had to do that once for a video call (which we don’t have to do often, thank goodness). My ottoman is a little softer than I realized…the box shifted and the laptop slid off during the meeting! Luckily I was on mute at the time and it wasn’t that disruptive, though I did see a few people snicker. So now I know what NOT to do! Haha

    3. Southern Academic*

      this morning’s convo made me laugh. I have basically no zoom setup.

      If I want to seem even semi-professional, I’m at my desk, w/ books in the background, but I have terrible lighting & so one side of my face is in shadow. (I’m one of those people who works better in dimmer environments, so between that and the cost !! of lamps !! I have no motivation to get more lights.)

      But I’ve also Zoomed from my couch (with my front door in the background), and from my bed (kinda hoping people did not see my pillows in the background) and tilted my screen up so the only thing that could be seen was a white wall.

      I also haven’t worn makeup for five months.

      If I were needing to seem professional (e.g. presenting to other grad students / faculty), I’d work at a more professional setup, but for meetings w/ students or informal talks w/ faculty and advisors, I don’t think anybody cares.

      1. Hermione*

        The no-makeup life is AMAZING. The most I’ve done is filled in my eyebrows on days where I wear contacts instead of glasses (rare nowadays) to frame my face a bit for video calls, but really, all of these regular Zoom meetings have killed any video-related anxieties I used to have.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I had bought some heavier-framed reading glasses at the beginning of the year. They’re very low-powered, I mainly got them for the blue light filter. They’ve been a godsend! I don’t have to wear any makeup if I’m wearing them (so I wear them pretty much anytime I have to be on camera). If I’m not wearing them, then I have to do something or else my eyes look extremely washed-out…and I look a little sickly. I’ve saved so much money on makeup this year but wearing these glasses! I got them on Zenni, they were cheap :)

    4. Hermione*

      I’m lucky enough to have the space to set up a desk in my dining room, which I already owned and was in basement storage along with a rolling desk chair from my college days.

      I bought a pair of noise cancelling headphones fairly early on in quarantine because my 20-something year old neighbors are the worst, and so moved my desk so that I’m facing the door and my family doesn’t sneak up on me (experience is the best teacher). I have a window and mostly blank wall behind me, and a second monitor to connect to my laptop. I also bought a back pillow for my desk chair and a plastic mat to protect the wood floors early on when it was clear that we’d be home until at least the end of the summer.

      Now that we’re confirmed to be WFH until at least January, just last week I caved and bought a two-armed monitor/laptop clamp stand to raise them to where I need them instead of having them stacked perilously on books, and I bought a cheap bluetooth keyboard and mouse because mine were old and squeaky.

      I’m hoping that this is the end of my WFH purchases, but I’m also pretty impulsive when it comes to comfort…

      1. Hermione*

        I should say, I already owned the second monitor, but my office also allowed folks to – pre-planned and with contact tracing in effect – go in and pick up their monitors or folders as needed.

    5. RagingADHD*

      I have an auxiliary webcam on top of my desktop monitor. I’ve tidied the field of view behind me and hung a pretty curtain so that it doesn’t show the messy coathooks or random junk.

      My desk is already facing a window, so that when I look at the monitor I have natural light on the side of my face. If the lighting were worse, I’d probably put a lamp or something to fill it.

    6. Not_Kate_Winslet*

      I have an external camera that sits on top of my main monitor. The height of the laptop camera is awkward for all of the reasons previously mentioned. All summer I sat with my back to the window, but I recently got a new sit/stand desk so I’ve been experimenting with different arrangements. I haven’t nailed the perfect setup yet… I thought I had it this week, but the floor is slightly sloped in this area so my chair rolls sideways, causing me some strange back pain.
      My team has started calling me Goldilocks because I can’t find the arrangement that’s “just right.”

    7. HR Exec Popping In*

      External web cam on a second monitor so it is above eye level, desk lamp for lighting and I try to remember to remove the various cat toys from the floor in the background although one of the cats will often make a cameo in the background chasing a ball around. :D

      I am fortunate to have a home office it has glass paned french doors behind me into the living room so you can still see what is happening behind me in the other room. I am considering putting curtains up on them but just haven’t gotten around to it.

    8. JustaTech*

      For work WebEx/Teams if we have to have our cameras on I use the dinky little camera built in to the top of my laptop screen (which then messes up the resolution on my main monitor, but whatever).

      For Zooms with family on my personal computer (but at the same desk with the same monitor) I got a nicer webcam.

      For both I use my giant Bose headphones because the mic on my laptop is useless (I can’t find it and no one can hear me) and I don’t have any speakers on my personal computer yet (lazy).

      I thought about using my nicer webcam for my work video stuff, but it shows off way too much of my office/craft room and I don’t want to have to scramble to pick up every time someone wants to chat. (It’s not that the room is a disaster, it’s just that it’s full of non-work stuff and somewhat cluttered because I hadn’t started actually setting the room up before COVID, so there are stacks of things rather than shelves and bins.)

    9. pancakes*

      I don’t often do video calls, but my boyfriend leads a zoom meditation class from his phone with a Manfrotto mini tripod on his desk and it works well. We already had and sometimes use an assortment of clamp lights with their own tripods & diffusers from various projects over the years. There’s a lot of decent advice out there on DIY lighting diffusers, much of it meant for film students but useful for anyone trying to avoid glare and weird shadows.

  11. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

    When you’re job searching, how often do you check for new jobs? I’ve been looking for a few months, had several interviews but no offers (for lack of very specific experience), and am getting discouraged. Jobs for my degree and experience are few and far between in my local area, so I’ve been concentrating on remote opportunities and it’s starting to feel unhealthily obsessive.

    1. Student Affairs Sally*

      Two questions – one, are there specialized job boards or websites for your industry? And two, if there are, can you set them up to send you emails when new jobs get posted that match certain parameters you set? Quite a few higher ed job sites will provide email alerts, so I’m able to “passively” search every day – it doesn’t take up a ton of my time, I just skim my daily job emails for anything that looks promising. Sometimes I will check out job postings at particular institutions I’m interested in, but usually I let the job boards do the work for me.

      1. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

        Yes! The websites with the most relevant postings are easy to go through daily and I’ll keep that up. Where I’m having problems are sites like indeed, idealist, and LinkedIn because it’s just a constant scroll.

        1. Student Affairs Sally*

          Gotcha. I don’t really use Indeed much because it’s targeted more for private-sector jobs, which isn’t what I’m looking for, so I can’t really speak to that. I do use LinkedIn occasionally but it’s more something I browse when I have downtime rather than a daily search. LinkedIn will also send emails about new jobs, although I’ve found that those are more likely to not be useful for me. The only thing I can suggest there is just to be as specific as you can in your search terms so that you’re seeing more things that are relevant versus not relevant. And maybe set a schedule, so that you browse each site for 30 minutes or an hour and then let it go until tomorrow.

    2. RobotWithHumanHair*

      Daily. Hourly even. It’s really all I do anymore, which I realize isn’t great for my mental health, but it is what it is. In six months, I’ve gotten 3 first interviews…and nothing beyond that, unfortunately. So I keep searching and applying.

    3. Sylvan*

      I skimmed Indeed when I had a few minutes to kill and liked any job posting that looked like it might be interesting. About twice a week, I looked through everything I had liked in depth.

    4. Kiitemso*

      Daily, although I wasn’t looking for anything super specific when I last searched, just any job that could get my foot in the door on something new that taught me a lot of skills I didn’t already have. Since I found a job in a field I like, the next time I job search I know will be more discerning and possibly apply for fewer jobs but put more energy towards each application.

    5. Okumura Haru*

      Daily, and I’m signed up for both my grad school’s library jobs listserv, and a few Indeed notifications (for example, if there are any library jobs in Arcadia Bay, OR)

      I’m not looking right now, but it’s still nice to know that there are other options out there.

    6. Nikki*

      Depends on how competitive your field is, I think. My husband is job searching at the moment in a pretty competitive field. There will be new postings that are taken down after just a few days, probably because they’ve managed to get enough applicants in those few days. He searches every day because he doesn’t want to miss out on any postings like that. My field is much less competitive, so it’s pretty common for jobs to stay open for months before they’re filled. If you’re not worried about jobs disappearing before you’ve had a chance to see them, I’d say follow the above advice, set up some email alerts and check job boards every few days.

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      Usually about once a day. I used to have a folder full of tabs to job sites and employment pages of workplaces I’d like to work, and then right-click to open the folder in tabs, and then go through the tabs.

    8. JobHunter*

      Daily. I signed up for notifications from Indeed, Glassdoor, a state DOL website, the societies I have membership in, and specific employers. Most of the listings are useless to me, giving me lower-level positions or jobs that don’t match my profile. I have to sort through listings myself to find ones appropriate to my education level. I have missed several perfect opportunities because I relied on a Glassdoor algorithm to inform me that those professional opportunities existed but it chose to tell me about some random intern position instead.

      I attended a webinar that gave great tips on “Flourishing During the Job Hunt.” The first was to set a schedule and stick to it. I.e., schedule in advance how many hours you will search listings, how long you will read AAM, when you will prepare cover letters, when you will submit applications, etc.

      I plan on implementing a lot of those tips in my job search…right after I close my AAM tab. :D

    9. AnonPM*

      Been searching for a year. I made a spreadsheet of companies within a good commuting distance and, up until a couple months ago, I checked each of those employers weekly. I checked LinkedIn daily. I looked at Indeed and industry sites much less frequently, maybe one a month. It was too much and now I check LinkedIn once a week and run through my spreadsheet every 2 weeks. I noticed the same handful of jobs were being reposted on LinkedIn every couple of weeks so I dont think I’m missing out by not checking as often. Definitely recommend pacing yourself!

    10. BEE*

      Usually in the morning, and then again in the late afternoon. This week I have made a conscious decision to only look at LinkedIn once every second day or so (it’s not used as much for job listings compared to other sites where I live) and only click on the job search button, as scrolling down the feed and seeing all my alumni and other contacts sharing their promotions and advancement within their fields was making me feel even more useless. I’m happy for them, but it’s also crushing when you’re trying to move forward with your own career goals and feeling like you’re getting nowhere. It’s better for my mental health that I just not expose myself to that right now.

  12. Free Meerkats*

    Who is officially a Pretreatment Manager effective Sunday?

    This guy! The previous manager retired over 2 years ago and it took them this long to figure out that the position really needed to be filled.

    1. Toodie*

      What is a pretreatment manager? I can’t decide if I think you work for some substance abuse clinic or a laudromat.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        We implement the National Pretreatment Program on a local level.

        That didn’t help at all, did it? :)

        The National Pretreatment Program was initiated under the Clean Water Act of 1972 and fully implemented when EPA released the General Pretreatment Regulations in 1983. Basically, our job is to require commercial and industrial operations to treat their wastewater before sending it to the sewer.

        Quoting from EPA’s Introduction to the National Pretreatment Program https://www3.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/pretreatment_program_intro_2011.pdf , it’s our job to:

        > Prevent the introduction of pollutants into a POTW that will interfere with the operation of the POTW, including interference with its use or disposal of municipal sludge
        > Prevent the introduction of pollutants into a POTW that will pass through the treatment works or otherwise be incompatible with such works
        > Improve opportunities to recycle and reclaim municipal and industrial wastewaters and sludges.

        So, I’m a Sewer Cop. I can’t arrest you, but I can shut you down, shut off your water, and dig up your sewer line. Then I’ll send you a fine for up to $10,000/day/violation.

        I’ve been in the field since 1982 and could talk about it all day, but if you’re interested in this small section of environmental regulation, look at the linked document.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        Congrats!!

        In my line of work, this would be wastewater management, so I am also interested to find out.

    2. LPUK*

      Congratulations!! My Bro-in-law is currently living this hell – trying to do a vacant job as well as his own while the government department keeps promising it WILL be filled – I think he’s also around the 2 year mark and counting. So there may still be hope for him as well!

    3. Generic Name*

      Oooh! Congrats! I interned at a factory one summer, and I thought their industrial pretreatment facility was fascinating. Chemistry in action!

      1. Free Meerkats*

        This reply is late, but I was away all weekend.

        Butler is still around and seems to have taken well to the new employee. Plus, our critter cam has caught two more cats who are apparently living under the trailer with him.

  13. Flaxseed*

    The manager that I work with has become increasingly hostile towards me- the way he talks to me is not how he would talk to anyone else. The problem is, he only does this when we’re alone. When our boss or someone else is present, he acts all friendly and nice. I feel like I’m going nuts!

    He has seniority over me and always tells me to “smile” because I “look upset”. I don’t feel like smiling- he’s a jerk! (I’m still professional, I just don’t go out of my way to socialize with him like some of my coworkers do. They look at me a little funny, but I don’t care. Too bad.)

    Has anyone experienced this? How did you handle this?

        1. Chai Tea*

          Ugh, I’m sorry. That sucks.

          There was an AAM letter about this (a woman who’s male boss kept telling her to smile.) and there was some good language.

          I think you’re bigger issue is that he’s being nasty to you when people aren’t around. Do you have to spend one on one time with him? And is he your direct manager? I agree with the suggestion below to document.

        2. JustaTech*

          Ugh. Right now I’d be tempted to say “I’m smiling under my mask!” in a very chipper tone.

          I hate the smile thing, and there are so few workplace-acceptable ways to deal with it.

          An engineer friend of mine got the “smile” comment from one of her peers in grad school. So she bared her teeth at him in something that might have technically been a smile but really looked like she was about to rip his throat out with her teeth. The “smile” thing never came up again. (Sadly, this is only barely acceptable in grad school and wouldn’t work in most of the business world.)

    1. Garnet, Crystal Gem*

      My last manager was like this. You would need to check your state laws on this one but I recorded our 1:1s and documented everything. Our HR team was overwhelmed and unlikely to resolve the issue, but I did it anyway for my own piece of mind, and eventually left the job.

      I’d advocate for putting your foot down, but the power dynamics make it tricky, which is why I was really careful with what I said to my manager. I ultimately decided to take the approach that would require less emotional labor/effort on my end but still suggest that I didn’t approve of her behavior. If she said something disrespectful or inappropriate, I would either ask her to clarify, which often prompted her to ramble and trip over herself, or sometimes I wouldn’t say anything and let my silence or a brisk “Hmm” communicate my disapproval.

      If he tells you to smile, don’t. If he remarks that you look upset, you can say that his comments are making you uncomfortable and you prefer that you keep the conversation about the work. I don’t know how manipulative he is, but use your best judgement and act accordingly and document everything!

    2. juneybug*

      Maybe he thinks you don’t like him and is lashing out? Not the best response as a manager but he doesn’t sound very mature in the first place.
      Immediate plan: Could you try to socialize more? Fake interest in his life? Stand in the group while they are talking and nod? Basically play the game (and yes I need a shower for typing that statement).
      Possible plan: Could you drop a bug in HR’s ear to have microaggression training for the workplace?
      Long term plan: Do you think your career can handle having him as a supervisor? Will his personal feelings towards you prevent career advancement? Pay raises? If so, it’s time to start looking.
      I am sorry you are going through this. Good luck!

      1. Flaxseed*

        I’ve tried to socialize more and sometimes he would respond, other times he would change the topic or walk away. He’s moody, so it’s difficult to judge how he’s going to be acting. (Whether he wants to talk or not.) He says things to get a reaction, so I ‘m trying to train myself on not reacting.

        1. Marthooh*

          Ugh. It sounds like he’s going to do whatever he feels like, no matter what you do. I think you should stop trying to manage his behavior. Just think of him as something you get paid to put up with*, and do the rest of your job as well as you can.

          * And I bet you don’t get paid enough for this nonsense!

          1. Flaxseed*

            I think that I make him nervous or something because he seems awkward around me and like he’s trying to impress me. Other times if I go out of my way to be nice and smile, he maybe thinks that I like him? I don’t know. It’s confusing and I really don’t have the energy or training to figure it all out. Yes, you’re correct- I don’t get paid enough to deal with all of this.

            1. PollyQ*

              I very much doubt it’s something you’re causing in any way by your behavior. He just sounds like a jackass.

        2. juneybug*

          Thank you for responding back to our comments. It’s always nice to connect with the writer as well get more info about the situation.
          It sounds like you have tried so hard to make this work relationship become better. It speaks highly of your character that you seek advice and tried to fix the situation.
          You deserve better than this and we all look forward to hearing your good news on Friday story how you were able to move forward from this man-child (new job, promotion at same company, etc.).

      2. pancakes*

        I don’t think it’s advisable to play along with the warped and sexist expectations of someone like this. He’s not entitled to have his insecurities pandered to by women subordinate to him, he’s not entitled to monologue about how women’s appearances make him feel, and being polite and professional doesn’t require feigning interest in managing his insecurities.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I’d handle it by looking for a new job. Life is too short for this crap.
      But most people have to stay in place until something else comes up.

      He probably has figured out you think he is a jerk. Unfortunately for him as a manager he has to put that to one side and still be a good boss to you. Not everyone likes their boss, that is just a fact of life.

      I would be sorely tempted to ask him if he would tell me to smile if I was male. But perhaps you can blow it off with, “I will if you will.”

      It sounds like your coworkers are buttering him up by socializing with him. Not everyone takes this route but enough people do chose to butter up the cranky boss. Because you say that you don’t care, I think that is another reason to start searching. I know when I reach a point that I don’t care what my cohorts think, I am probably done.

      1. Flaxseed*

        My one coworker (She compares him to her son- I think that just misses her children because they live out of the country) is always bringing him food- she acts like he’s the next best thing since sliced bread. Yes, he can be very charming and social when he wants to be.

        Otherwise he is like an angry man-baby. I call him out on his behavior, which he doesn’t like, but too bad. I’ve been through this before with a manager like this and the only thing that worked was to find a new job. (I tried everything in a previous job to work it out- from bringing food to meeting with our boss and nothing worked. I left and then 6 months later, so did my former manager.)

        1. valentine*

          It’s worth speaking to your boss about it. I’d stop making overtures because he sounds like he has a thing for you and will use your attempts to say you want him, but he turned you down and you’re retaliating.

          You might ask the other young women if he’s privately hostile to them.

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      Not exactly what you asked but Ryan Dowd has a webinar about getting hit on at work (you can google for it). It includes what to say when someone says “smile, you’d be prettier, etc. He says to interrupt their script, they expect you to react x way. If you say with no emotion other than bland nothingness, my smile/appearance are not relevant right now, can I help you with anything or do you need anything else from me for the reports, etc, it will change the dynamic.

      But overall, I’m sorry your boss is that way. It has taken a while but I follow AAM advice to watch the drama like it is a play, get out the mental popcorn and enjoy the show. That has helped me. Good luck with the job search.

  14. Tuckerman*

    I knew my employer required we go on FMLA for illness absences longer than 5 days, but I didn’t realize that they required it for more than 5 total absences in a year, related to a single illness. I’m not sure if that is intended as benefit to employees (job protection). Any thoughts on this? We get a ton of paid sick time, so while FMLA is unpaid leave, I’ll be able to use sick time to get paid (I’m exempt). This just surprised me. Private, not-for-profit University, if that helps.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I think this is intermittent FMLA. I have a family member who uses it because of a chronic illness. It allows her to take off for appointments or call out sick on bad days throughout the year when she has already used up her leave.

    2. Annony*

      Since you are allowed to use your sick time it doesn’t sound like they are trying to penalize you. Maybe this is their way to make sure that policies are applied evenly to all employees? How do they know the absences are for the same illness? Are you required to give that much detail when using a sick day?

    3. IsItOverYet?*

      I’m at a community college and we only do this if it’s going to be ongoing absences – like if someone knows they will have to be out regularly for an ongoing issue. In the end it has the same result mostly: you would have to use sick to take the days off anyway and get paid, so instead the school is filling FML and you are still using sick time to get paid, but it seems like extra paper work for everyone. Also, unless you tell them, how do they know that all 5+ absences are for the same thing? (Actually we just at an FML use debate yesterday)

    4. HR Bee*

      This isn’t an “Employer required” thing as much as its a “law required” thing. If the company knows or has a reasonable belief to know that your illness may quality for FMLA, they are required by law to give you notice of your rights and responsibilities under the FMLA.

      1. fhgwhgads*

        It makes sense to me they’d be required to inform you about FMLA rights and responsibilities, but not that they’d require you to take it. Like, say I have a chronic condition that I know means I’d use at least five sick days a year. Well, I get 10 annually, so that’s fine. Say I also know I intend to have a baby within the next year. I want to use FMLA for that. If I’m already being forced to use intermittent FMLA for the other thing, I won’t have it available to me when I would’ve preferred to use the whole 12 weeks post-baby.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is to protect you both.

      This puts on record you have a condition that’s covered under FMLA and that they can’t start penalizing you if you do need to take more than your allotted sick time.

      It is indeed “intermittent” FMLA. Such as “I have chronic migraines which may require me to miss more than 5 days in a year.” They will let you use PAID leave regardless of your FMLA status! My mom had to take it for my dad and they paid her vacation time, sick time and then FMLA “unpaid” status kicked in. But it was for job protection and also transparency/fairness on a business level. So that the everyone is held to the same standards moving forward.

      My gyno has a notice up for pregnancy about getting your FMLA paperwork in ASAP so that it’s on record, it shouldn’t be left until the minute you actually need to utilize it [if possible, pregnancy or chronic conditions are different kettle of fish, unlike sudden treatments for a new diagnosis.]

    6. MacGillicuddy*

      How do they know that the intermittent absences are the same cause? Don’t people just say they’re taking a sick day? The details are none of the manager’s business.
      Or is your company somehow getting details of the reason for your sick days? I would think that’s some sort of privacy violation.

  15. RestResetRule*

    Yesterday we had a Zoom team meeting and when my boss shared her screen, we all saw that she had just been on Pinterest while someone else had been talking. She’s a great boss, so I don’t care, but it definitely made me realize bosses are human too, and we all get bored during Zoom calls haha

    1. RBG yeah you know me*

      We’ve exchanged the legal pad and blue pen doodles for Pinterest :) but at least it looks like you’re taking notes. As long as she’s not pinning ‘How to fire everyone at one time’ you should be good to go.

      1. JustaTech*

        After my boss IM’d a coworker during a meeting (where the coworker was presenting) “Don’t take the bait!” and everyone saw it (and then heard the boss swearing softly as he tried to make it go away), we’ve all been very careful to only share a specific program (spreadsheet, slide deck, email, document) rather than sharing everything.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Me: close out resume, cover letter drafts, job search tabs, hides bookmarks. *Shares screen*
      Something’s odd in my coworker’s tone of voice….
      Then I notice my “Job Search” Finder shortcut is riiiiight there. Oops!

  16. yala*

    So…got a call from HR this week. I’d had my annual review a couple months back and gotten “needs improvement” (which…I’m still pretty frustrated about that, for a number of reasons). But payroll had apparently given me a “market raise” of fifty cents back in July, and it turns out because of the review, they shouldn’t have done that. So “we need that money back” and they’ll be taking the extra money out of my next too paychecks.

    …this coming about two months before a move, which is already going to be So. EXPENSIVE.

    I’m pretty pissed off. Like, I get it. Glitches happen and all. A bad review means no raise (though I’m still upset that my work has “improved, but not enough” when there’s nearly six months of painted teapots that haven’t gone through quality control. But I really wasn’t expecting anything else).

    But I’m still pissed.

    1. Ashley*

      I am not sure they can retroactively change your pay like that. I mean the first week I could see a we made a mistake, but two-three months? That sounds like that was your agreed upon pay rate.

      1. yala*

        I’m not sure who to even ask about that, though.

        My guess is there was probably something in the paperwork I signed however long ago that specified that raises are dependent on performance that could justify taking it back.

        If it was just changing my pay back, I wouldn’t be so upset. But they’re taking something like $75 out of my next two paychecks (each) to “pay it back.”

        But also, I don’t know that $150 is worth trying to fight for, if trying to do that might just Make Things Worse.

        1. Annony*

          My guess it that it is not actually legal. But it does make sense that $150 may not be worth the fight to you right now. You say that you are moving. Are you also leaving this job? If not, I think you should start looking. $150 may not be worth fighting over, but their actions are a significant breach of trust. Next time there could be much more money on the line.

          1. yala*

            No, just to a different apartment.

            I’ve been there for years and this is the first time anything like this has happened. I think it’s an understandable glitch. I really can’t think of another job that would let me do the kind of work I do, or give me the kind of stability this one (usually) has. Not in town, anyway.

            I feel like if I stick it out, I can pass and get that raise next year. Maybe. Probably not. But I legit don’t know what else to do, and I like most of the things about it. :/

            1. Observer*

              It may be worth going back to HR and saying “I don’t think it’s legal to make that change retroactive. I realize it was given in error, and of course you can rescind it going forward. But changing the pay scale retroactively and taking it out of my checks is probably illegal, and could get us into trouble.”

              The *US* is important as you want to indicate a collaborative intent. Also, if they say something like “Who is checking anyway?” you could respond with something like “Hopefully no one. But if anything ever triggers some sort of government audit down the line, like if someone else complains about something, this would show up.”

              Since you sincerely don’t intend to do to the government at this point, it’s best for you to make that clear without acting as though you think they are acting in bad faith.

      2. Bostonian*

        It’s not the same as retroactively changing pay. They can fix the mistake, but you can request that the amount they need to take back be spread out over more than 2 paychecks since it sounds like that would be a significant amount if they’ve been overpaying for months.

      3. Bibliovore*

        yup legal and they can do it. I was over paid for six months. The first paycheck I got, I called the finance dept. and they said no, its right. I KNEW it was wrong. The second paycheck, I called and they said, stop calling us. Six months later, I get a call. They were going to deduct the overpayment from the next paycheck. I fought with them and then for two years, $50 came out of every paycheck.

    2. WellRed*

      If you make so little that 50 cents an hour is considered a raise, make sure their recoupment doesn’t take you below minimum wage.

      1. Betty*

        My company’s minimum annual raise is 2.5%. For someone making $42,000 per year, 2.5% would be equal to 50 cents per hour.

        1. yala*

          Minimum annual raise? Man, that sounds nice.

          We weren’t getting any for a while, and then they put a new system in, where if you were making under a certain amount, it would be 4%, then 3% for the next tier up, then 2.5%

          I don’t know what regular raises are supposed to look like (we certainly never got them at the public library), but little bits add up. An extra $40 a month would’ve gone a long way.

          1. yala*

            It comes out to a little more than an extra thousand a year.

            …. i really wish i hadn’t done the math on that just now…

    3. juneybug*

      I would check your state’s laws about “wage overpayment recoupment”. Some states require advance notice, payment plan, if your hourly pay can go below minimum wage or not, etc.
      You can also call your state’s labor department and ask. In Washington state, it’s Department of Labor and Industries.
      Good luck!

        1. ADHDAnon*

          Fun fact- while you probably agreed to repay them, in theory, in the direct deposit, since it is direct deposit, federal law says they can’t claw $ deposited back without your agreement to the terms in writing.

          Also, watch for the impact on your taxes, SSI, Medicare, retirement, etc. since those are proportionate to your salary, they need to fix those retroactively too.

          I’ve been there with the accidental overpay and it was a huge PItA to get it fixed.

    4. Policy Wonk*

      As it was their error, not yours, push back. Agree that they can adjust your pay going forward, but ask that they waive the overpayment, citing hardship. Worth a try. (We are big enough that we actually have a procedure for this.)

    5. mynameisasecret*

      I feel your pain yala. I recently found out that I owed my company $4,000 in PTO (basically I tried to take unpaid medical leave and they said No No, we will pay you and figure it out later! And when later came it was … me owing them $4000). We came up with a really good compromise for me to pay it back, and I’m grateful for that, but OOOF, I was not expecting that financial setback, and I am about to move too.
      I am the tiniest bit irritated that it wasn’t just forgiven, given that I was paid out of PPP funds for that time, and those will be forgiven by the government, so it didn’t cost the company a dime. But.. anyway, I feel your pain.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Some of these incidents seem really illegal… I’m hoping Alison comes in late to read.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            A request since this is increasing in frequency — I’d prefer people not use links as a way to ask me to comment on things in the open threads (as opposed to flagging something that needs moderator attention). It’s not the purpose of moderation or the open threads, and it ends up being a demand on my time that I often can’t meet. The open threads are in part a break for me. (And if lots of people do this, it will really mess up the moderation queue.) For things people want my input on, they should submit it as a question for publication rather than use the open threads. Thank you!

  17. W8ING*

    Hi all, happy Friday! Just wanted to ask based on your experiences:

    How long is too long to wait for an update about a raise?

    I’ve brought it up in the beginning of the month, and was told that management will “review and have an answer for me next week” when I ask if they have any updates. It’s now the end of the month, and I’m still getting the run around… while my new responsibilities just get piled hire and hire.

    Would love to know your thoughts!

    1. Annony*

      Generally, waiting a week longer than they estimated would be reasonable. They really should either have an answer for you or be able to tell you why they don’t.

      1. Viette*

        I agree with that. Especially because you’re doing the work. You don’t want to be asking every day, but they gave you a week as an estimate and have now way overshot that.

    2. Goat girl*

      I can’t answer your question, but at my last employer (with annual revenue in the billions), to ask about a raise was to ask to be put on the layoff list. So I am really envious of those of you who can do this.

      1. Kowalski! Options!*

        I have been, especially for calls and making videos. What I found worked was to use a smaller clip-on light ring, then put the phone or laptop higher up, then bend the light down so that it’s aiming at the crown of my head, not hitting me directly in the glasses.

        If it’s really dark outside, I’ll position the bigger ring light (AKA the ring light that makes me look like I’m being kidnapped by alien donuts) on the darker side of my face, usually by balancing it precariously on a stack of books.

    1. hillary*

      I can see my colleague’s ring light reflected in his glasses – he looks better without it on. I don’t know if he has any coatings on the glasses.

  18. Potatoes gonna potate*

    My current job is 100% remote. We have a time clock on the employee side and another time clock to track work tasks for clients and other office work. Clients aren’t billed by the hour but we still have to track how long we spend on something for them to determine future billing rates etc. It was like this at my last firm too so I’m not unfamiliar with this, but the time tracking just wasn’t as strictly enforced for employees.

    Anyways, its taken me some used to clocking out the every few minutes I’m not working. I now clock out every time I: go to the bathroom, go downstairs to grab a drink, take a quick phone call, eat my food, talk to hubby, etc. Basically, all those minutes add up and to get to an 8-hour shift on the client time clock, I end up having to be at my desk for 10+ hours.

    At my last job we used the same software for hte same reason but it just wasn’t enforced as strictly for employees. No one got in trouble if you stayed clocked in to admin if you got up to chat with a colleague or go to the kitchen and grab a drink. We’re allowed to use admin but I have to be careful as I really don’t have much admin related work to do.

    The job is great, so i’m not complaining about that, just struggling with this.

    TLDR, basically every minute has to be accounted for. Is this normal with working remotely now and has anyone else had the same struggles?

    1. Kiitemso*

      I used to work a call center job where “on call or available to take call” time was counted by software but even then they allowed some leeway and extra breaks. We didn’t have to hit 8hrs on a 8 hour shift since 30min would be lunch and a couple of breaks would be around 20min. So while it was strange, it wasn’t inhumane like your system sounds like.

    2. WellRed*

      A job that makes you clock out to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water? I’ll take your word for it that it’s a great job but. Yeah.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I can’t say they make me, but I do it myself. My manager had to have a conversation with me that my hours on the time clock weren’t making sense with my output and that I shouldn’t have so much time coded to admin (which is what I would do when I took a few minutes). Obvs for lunch or any longer break I’d clock out. Maybe its an over-correction on my part.

        Anyways, maybe it’s too soon to tell..everything else seems to be fine. I just don’t know if it’s normal to be under more scrutiny. I was working remotely for a few days before being part of COVID cutback.

        1. Fulana del Tal*

          You’re ignoring very important feedback from your manager and focusing on something else. They are expecting more work to be done in the amount of time/ not meeting expectations. If they already had this conversation with you this soon you need to focus on that.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            I’m not sure if I understand where you’re getting that interpretation. It’s not that I don’t believe you, only that I can’t follow the translation from “you’re coding too much time as admin” into “you’re not working fast enough/your production didn’t meet expectations.” Can you explain why you think it means that?

            1. Disco Janet*

              Not the person who originally said it, but I see why. Her manager said that her time clock hours don’t align with her output. I would assume that means they expect work to be completed at a quicker pace.

    3. Veronica*

      Does the time policy say you have to clock out to go to the bathroom? I only clock out when I’m taking a long break or switching to a kid or family task I wouldn’t be doing at the office. I find I often figure out the best approach to solve a client problem when I’m sitting in the quiet bathroom. So, yeah, I charge for that. Basically if it’s a needed to do the job it counts. You need to stand up and move in order to be more efficient for the job.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Separating between home task vs office task, that makes a lot of sense. But what would I even code it to? I was putting everything non-client to “admin” before and my manager wasn’t happy with that, but then I didn’t clarify that my admin hours also included going downstairs or stepping away…..

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That would be a question for your manager, I think! When I’ve had to track time I never included quick bathroom breaks or even getting up to get a drink. The general theory is that I’m still thinking about the work, but it’s also 30 seconds or so and really insignificant. Have you asked your boss flat out how to handle short necessary breaks, like going to the bathroom or getting a drink of water?

            1. AnonyMs.*

              If you don’t ask, though, you risk getting it completely wrong and causing some kind of conflict with your manager. Frame it like this: “You know, I’m still getting used to the time-keeping system here and I want to make sure I’m doing it correctly. I feel like I should know this, but should I clock out for quick breaks like going to the bathroom and getting a coffee?”

              You feel like you should know this, but

            2. AvonLady Barksdale*

              If you don’t ask, though, you risk getting it completely wrong and causing some kind of conflict with your manager. Frame it like this: “You know, I’m still getting used to the time-keeping system here and I want to make sure I’m doing it correctly. I feel like I should know this, but should I clock out for quick breaks like going to the bathroom and getting a coffee?”

              You feel like you should know this, but you don’t, so you have to ask. Don’t keep guessing and risk getting it completely wrong. If they’ve spoken to you about this already, you need to seek clarification and the best source for that is your boss.

        2. kt*

          I don’t know if this fits your office norms, but… I’d pee occasionally on BigCorp’s account. Or grab water. After all, I do have thoughts while in the bathroom or walking to the kitchen :)

          When I was working by the hour I really needed to adjust, and realize that given my rates it was fine to charge “walking around the block while thinking about the software” as well as “fingers are connected to keyboard, typing”. I would not put it all on one customer’s account — I’d spread it out equally-ish. I feel like you may have overcorrected. But it also sounds like there might be some other things to think about.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            lol at my last job I used to joke that I get paid to poop. I never clocked out for bathroom or any other breaks unless I knew beforehand they were going to be more htan 15 minutes. And that was perfectly fine. But again that was in-office.

    4. Coenobita*

      Is it really every minute? And by that I mean – do you have a set billing interval? When I worked in consulting, we billed by the half-hour, so if you did billable work for 27 minutes and then got up and chatted about the weather with someone for 3 minutes, whatever, that’s half an hour billed to the client. We were basically never allowed to use admin codes, but we still had a relatively sane working environment and time-tracking never took over your whole day.

    5. Annie Moose*

      If you’re in the middle of doing something and get up to go to the bathroom for a couple of minutes, I wouldn’t bother either clocking out or coding it as admin time–I would just code it as part of whatever my broader task was. If it’s under, say, 10 minutes then it’s not really long enough to make a distinction IMO.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Something is not making sense to me here. If you get a half hour for lunch and 2 – 15 minute breaks that would mean it takes you 9 hours to do an 8 hour day. So where is that 10th hour going to? I bet a chunk of that 10th hour is used up just clocking in and out.

      For your own sanity, find out how to handle this correctly. You maybe over compensating or you may work for jerks. I can’t tell. There’s only one thing that can make a person feel more humble than asking a basic question and that is waiting MONTHS to ask that same basic question. Ask now, get it clarified. This will not get better on its own.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        There’s no set time for the breaks but generally it’s a 1 hour break. but we’re allowed to take 2-3 hour breaks as long as the hours are made up within the day/current week. During my interview/onboarding I was told that set hours are 9-6 but it’s flexible…which I took to mean, I can log in at 830 or 930 and leave accordingly…

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I think you have to get out of the mindset of “I took to mean.” You may be right, but you also want to make sure you establish open lines of communication with your boss. This is especially critical since you started remotely– makes it tougher, but also gives you more opportunities to ask questions because the norms have shifted. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Can you define flexible?” or, “Is it ok to log in at 9:30 and out at 6:30?”

          You’re new. You’re supposed to ask these questions. Every workplace is different– you’re 1000x better off asking, even if it sounds silly to you, than assuming and getting it wrong.

    7. PollyQ*

      Are you actually required to have 8 billable hours per day? I haven’t worked in this particular setup, but in past jobs, project managers assumed that people in my role would have 5 “functional” hours a day, with the rest of the time taken up with meetings, administrivia, breaks, etc.

    8. Generic Name*

      As others have said, I’d check with your manager on how you are expected to charge your time. I work billable hours as well. Our minimum increment we track is 15 minutes. So if I’m working on the Kitten, Inc. report and need to use the restroom/refill my water, I’ll step away for a few minutes to take care of that, but I don’t clock out or count that as “admin” time. It gets wrapped into the overall time I spent on that project. For example, from 8 am to 10:15 I spent writing a report, but I had to step away for my desk for a few minutes in the middle, I would still enter the time in my timesheet as 2.25 hours to Kitten, Inc.

      This is the second job I’ve had where I bill hours, and they both handled various small breaks in this manner. I understand it might feel different because you are remote, but normal workplaces understand that you need to attend to your personal physical needs during the day and don’t make you clock out for those regardless of whether you are in an office or at home.

  19. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

    Tl;dr: What is the best way to encourage or even teach initiative in a co-worker?

    I’ve been thinking a lot about my colleague since I am going on a long maternity leave next year (12 months, possibly more). We work as a team, collaborating a lot and thus communicate throughout the day. I’ve noticed that despite being in this job for 9 months now, she still seems very unsure about many things she should know for sure by now and lacks initiative.

    If she’s unsure, she doesn’t do anything. Sometimes she asks me but her questions don’t include any direction that she thinks she might go in. Ie if there’s an email in our shared inbox that she doesn’t know which department to send to, she might write me an instant message “Did you notice the strange email from Oatmeal Cuts in our inbox? I’m unsure about it.” and I might either just flat-out tell her where to send it, or try to ask questions to direct her to the right conclusion. Or if there’s a message from a customer that doesn’t contain a lot of information, she will again write to me, “They don’t say which grain porridge they want, hmm.” instead of emailing the person and asking the information we need, ie. “Hi, this is a general information inbox for Rolled Oats. What type of grain porridge were you looking for, so we can direct this to the right department.”

    Now in my every day life this is low key annoying but fine. But when I leave for maternity leave, she can’t go around asking the brand new temp for confirmation on half of her tasks. An added wrinkle – our boss has only been managing us for 5 months and thus has no idea about the minute details about our work. So my colleague could ask our boss but she would only be referring to the instructions I wrote up about the job, as she doesn’t follow our day-to-day work that closely.

    Can anything be done about this on my end? Do I just resign to the fact she’s an uncertain person who lacks initiative and when I’m gone, it’s not my problem? She doesn’t make many mistakes so I don’t know where this uncertainty stems from. If she does mess up it’s minor and can be fixed with a quick apology email. I try to be encouraging but it seems condescending to be like “You got this, just send it to where you think it fits best” on a random question about an odd email.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Stop fixing things for her now. “Hmm, this is strange!” “Sure is. People, right?” and go back to what you were doing.

      Depending on your relationship, you might also point out, “Hey, you know I’m about to be gone for a year and you’re going to be the one with seniority – have a little more faith in yourself,” or some such. Possibly also give the boss a heads up that this is still a thing, see if boss has any suggestions (or at least make boss aware of the situation).

      But ultimately, no, when you go on maternity leave (and congrats!), her dawdling is not your problem :)

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        Thanks for replying. When I tell my manager about my maternity leave (have to get my ducks in a row first) I will definitely talk about my colleague and my concerns. One of my friends suggested that some people thrive under pressure, so maybe when I’m gone and she has to figure it all out on her own, she will.

        My problem with rebuffing the questions is that this may ultimately mean those tasks fall on me because she doesn’t act. I’ve tried the tactic a few times, she did nothing due to uncertainty and then I had to do them myself because we need to deal with things fast (within the day at least). But maybe I should just feign ignorance, “Oh this stumps me, you figure it out!” or even just direct her to my written instructions, “Hmm what did my guide to sorting emails say about stuff like this?”.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          If she’s just sitting on time-sensitive stuff and won’t even try to figure it out, then yeah, I’d definitely alert your manager to that, unrelated to the maternity leave part. “As you know, our turnaround time on goose juggling inquiries is 24 hours, but when Lucinda opens inquiries she’s not sure about, she just leaves them to sit instead of processing them. I’ve shared the processing document with her a couple of times now, so I’m not sure what the hold-up is.”

        2. Faith*

          Instead of you emailing the person to ask the question (and therefore fixing it for her) you could try suggesting to her what she should do to solve the issue/get rid of the uncertainty. “Did you try emailing them to find out what they wanted?” or even “If you’re not sure, you should just contact them directly and ask for clarification.”

    2. Mockingjay*

      I think you need to bring your manager in on this. Not “get in her trouble,” rather “let’s plan for my maternity leave now.”

      “Boss, there’s several areas that Lucinda doesn’t seem confident enough to manage while I’m out. Options: train Lucinda, bring in a temp, borrow Wakeen from the other department because he has experience in our tasks. What do you think?”

      Give your boss some options, based on critical tasks and knowledge required to execute. Do you really think Lucinda can/will master your tasks, or is she a worker-bee employee who prefers to have complete assignments handed to her? In the latter case, you probably need someone else to cover for you.

      Your new boss doesn’t need to know your tasks step-by-step; she does need to know the impact of your leave and whether Lucinda can cover for you.

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        This is really good perspective, thanks. I will use it when I talk to my boss, probably next week or the week after. I think maybe she can do it? This is what I wonder – does she ask because it’s so easy to ask, or does she have such deep anxiety that she can’t act before gaining certainty on something? To an extent she has subbed me when I was on leave a few times but I did always note that we had more “what to do” messages to our old boss in our shared inbox’s Sent folder when I came back. So she did ask ExBoss for info that she would have normally asked me, maybe just not as much.

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

          In your OP you said She doesn’t make many mistakes so I don’t know where this uncertainty stems from and here, that you are not sure of her motivation: is she being lazy or is it driven by anxiety?

          I think your first point has cause and effect the wrong way round. She doesn’t make many mistakes because she sees to it that she doesn’t have the opportunities to make them (i.e. the uncertainty drives the lack of mistakes, in that sense).

          It seems clear to me, without wanting to armchair diagnose, that this is driven by anxiousness (not necessarily clinical) of some sort, rather than laziness or “it’s just easier to have Oatmeal Baby Bump answer it”.

          I say that for 2 reasons – 1) that when you were away before, those “what to do” messages went to your boss, rather than her (if it was just easier to ask usually) sucking up like “well, I’m going to have to find this out myself, grrrr”. Someone just being lazy wouldn’t repeat that behaviour to the ExBoss. 2) she freezes and doesn’t act in the case that you go back to her with something like “yeah, customer was a bit unclear about that!”

          That anxiousness could be caused by something in a past job (like how mistakes were handled), just a general personality trait, or something going on in her personal life, or any other number of reasons… it probably isn’t very useful to speculate as ultimately it doesn’t really change her behaviour even if it does explain it!

          Do you typically just take on the thing for her instead of helping her figure it out? Maybe yes, since it sounds like they are time sensitive so it seems like a waste of time to be ‘coaching’ when you could just clear the thing from the joint inbox and then move on to the next urgent thing. But (I’ve been there!) I think that does her, yourself, and your company a bit of a disservice ultimately.

          I agree with the other comments that this needs to be discussed with your manager, with the context above in mind.

          How long do you have before your maternity leave? You said it was next year but that could be anything from January to June sort of time, it would be helpful perhaps to have an idea of how long you might have to turn this situation around.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I so agree.

            I would just tell her that in a bit she will be on her own. She needs to practice what it will be like not having you there. Tell her it’s okay to ask questions but you want her to offer a couple thoughts on what she should do with each question she asks you. In other words she can’t just leach off of your brain, she has to pull some thoughts together. You can even go as far as saying that you won’t answer any questions that do not show a suggestion or two from her.

            From the sounds of it you are doing her job for her but she gets the paycheck.

          2. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

            I don’t typically just take the thing (maybe 5% of the time I do), but for the sake of quickness I don’t coach the answer out of her, because it just seems to lead her to spiral into further uncertainty, so I typically just tell her what to do or answer her hunch “Should I send this [spirulina inquiry] to Jane?” “Yes, all spirulina inquiries go to Jane.”

            I agree it has to be anxiety based, so you’re right about the cause/effect thing. When I do correct her on her mistakes I try to keep my tone breezy and just let her know a way forward, in case she has this anxiety about making mistakes.

            My leave starts in late-Feb so there’s still about 5 months.

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

              Ah, actually I’d lump in “just telling her what to do” with taking on the thing for her, as it’s basically the same (since at that point she is just carrying out your instructions rather than thinking for herself), so really it may be much more of the time than 5%!

              5 months isn’t that long, especially as (I feel like, not sure if you’ve had the same experience) time seems to be flying by these days: here we are almost in October, and the last thing I clearly remember was in March and everything has been a bit of a blur since then…

              But, I think 5 months is still enough time to turn things around – if you act now, and especially get your manager on-side.

              My suggestion, which I’m conscious probably isn’t the majority opinion, would be to try to (to some degree, not deep rooted psychological issues etc) get to the bottom of what exactly is motivating her to act like this. It seems clear that she isn’t just being lazy, and I infer that she wants to do a good job and to perform well… so much so that she’d rather not act if there’s any sort of uncertainty, but she seems to be approaching that from the perspective that there’s an in-built security net (i.e. you!) that she can always fall back on, and who can smooth out things if there is ever a problem with a customer etc.

              I sense that your boss probably isn’t aware at the moment of how much she is still dependent on you for answers, and probably assumes that she is operating independently on most things at this stage, so boss will of course be planning for a ‘temp’ to take on the (lower level?) more easily accessible things and for your colleague to deputize for you whilst you are out.

    3. NW Mossy*

      This is really difficult to do as a co-worker/teammate, because it really falls to your shared boss to do this – it’s literally their job to coach and give their staff feedback, and they’re the ones given the appropriate organizational authority of carrots and sticks to drive the right behaviors. You can certainly share your observations with your boss, but that’s as far as your involvement needs to go. Whether she sinks, swims, or treads water until you fling her a buoy when you return, isn’t your responsibility.

      And speaking from my own experience, the combination of being absorbed in your tiny human and the disruptions to your normal life patterns will rapidly make work worries far easier to set down as “not my focus at this time.”

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        Thanks for replying; I will clue in my boss. Oh for sure, the first week of maternity leave I may ponder it but once the baby gets here (my first!) I will be preoccupied with my actual life, not any petty work problems they may be having without me.

    4. AnonReader*

      I have that issue with a direct report – he does exactly what is asked and no more. Never volunteers info, never anticipates related questions. Very interested in suggestions here!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is a different problem because OP’s cohort is letting OP do all the work.

        It almost sounds like your employee is trying to some point.
        When I first started working, I had a boss sit me down and tell me that it’s fine to ask questions. My current boss laughs, she said that I always had questions and remarkably it was never the same question twice. Our work does not lend itself well to not asking questions. There’s always questions. You may tell him that he is not asking questions and it is not only okay but that you EXPECT him to ask questions.

        Regarding volunteering info- you may have to give him a short list of information he needs to share with you, without you having to ask each and every time. Tell him that you will be adding to the list.

        It could be he had a toxic boss who verbally slammed him every time he opened his mouth. Or maybe he has a toxic family, who’s to know. But these are your expectations and tell him that you will be watching to see if he is asking questions and volunteering information. Tell him it is part of the job and he must learn to do these things on a regular basis.

        For your part in this, don’t be surprised that his questions are basic, at least at the start. A person cannot shut themselves off from the world around them and still learn lots of stuff. It just doesn’t work this way. So you will need to be patient and need to give thoughtful answers. Hopefully you can get him to make a shift in what he is doing.

      2. All the cats 4 me*

        My question would be whether your employee has expressed interest or ambition in growing the current role or moving to a new one? If not, it may be because employee is content to do the job as is, and isn’t interested in expanding the role or career growth.

        If employee does want to grow, or reach a higher pay level, etc. My take on this is that this is a teaching opportunity. “To grow in this role, ideally I would see you taking initiative to think through the process and anticipate efficiencies and opportunities, and to implement (or strategize…) them…”.

    5. mynameisasecret*

      Replying to this thread really late, but I have experience being the coworker who lacks initiative. Although I can’t speak for your employee, for me it is because I worked at a toxic workplace where very, very small nuances and details would be called out as serious errors that reflected on your credibility and trustworthiness as a person. So for instance, I would email out information on insurance renewal, and would end with “Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!” Then an executive would ‘flag’ that they ‘had an ouch’ when they read the term “Feel free” because it makes it sound like I thought they wouldn’t or shouldn’t feel free to do so, when they would and should. This would become a discussion about how we generally communicate/treat each other in the workplace, and the communal conclusion would be, “People in operations need to not make assumptions about what other people know and who they should ask, and need to be more respectful of the fact that their job is to provide customer service to employees, it’s not an extra thing.” And the result would be that all emails on insurance information need to be vetted through the vice president of a separate department, and then the CEO, before being sent out. No email could ever make it through the approval, so my options were either no information would ever be sent out on insurance and I’d be in trouble for not doing my job, or send out THE PERFECT email without permission and if it 100% meets every possible requirement they could possibly have for phrasing, I won’t be in trouble (but otherwise I will). That’s if we were lucky – more often than not, a tiny quirk of phrasing that someone over-interpreted and took issue with would lead to a full re-org, in which operations was broken up among other teams and assigned new bosses and new tasks.
      I know this is a long example, but I’m unfortunately not exaggerating. It’s the sort of thing that I cant’ even find a word to describe, because ‘insane’ is downplaying it plus is an offensive ableist term and blah blah – see, I’ve been gone over a year and I still obsess over my phrasing.
      Although I’m not over it yet, the things that have helped are:
      1. My boss not freaking out when I do make a mistake – simply notifying me and allowing me to fix it. This is the toughest one, because my brain tells me “Yeah, she tells me I’m doing well and she tells me it’s okay to make mistakes and that she won’t freak out if/when I do, but that’s exactly what the last people said too,” so it’s like, each and every time, my brain assumes she’ll freak out, and if she did, my brain will tell me it’s proving everything I ever feared about her. (‘I KNEW you would betray me someday!’) Every time she doesn’t freak out, it gives me a slightly larger body of proof that it’s okay to make and fix mistakes.
      2. An environment in which people do not nit-pick phrasing and tone, decisions, etc
      3. an environment in which individual expertise is valued, rather than simply seniority (so a coordinator with a certification would be better qualified to advise on a topic specifically related to their certification than an exec who has never heard of the topic before)
      4. Accepting that I won’t always make the right decision, and that there are many (most?) decisions where it is literally impossible to know what the ‘best’ option would be, but it is still part of my job to make the decision.
      It sounds like you are already doing 1-3, but 4 can be helpful – even just stating to your coworker before you leave “A lot of times there is no right answer. Part of your job is to use the evidence you do have to make a choice that you feel comfortable defending if questioned. Sometimes you’ll make the wrong decision, but it’s expected that we all will do that sometimes, so have courage and make the decision.” Basically – giving her permission to make a decision even when there is a chance it might not be the same decision someone else would make. (And as much as you can, making sure those above you are not expecting employees to never make a mistake.)

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        Hey, first of all I’m sorry for your experience and I’m sure this has to an extent happened to my co-worker. I don’t think it’s happened at our company, as while there are some nuances to what we do, none of them are to do with phrasing or tone or word choices and both bosses we’ve had have been very encouraging and reasonable people.

        My own corrections to her have mostly been a simple breezy heads up, no berating her or blowing it out of proportion, and trying to offer explanations for why something is done better this way. If she does make a mistake, like I said, it’s usually “send X an apology to ignore it and forward the original email to Z instead”, again, no harm no foul, we all send an errant email sometimes.

        But your point 4 has given me a lot to think about, thank you!

    6. Wintergreen*

      Have you been training her for the last 9 months or start out training her? I know I tend to get stuck in the “training” brain and making the break into just doing the job. Especially since your examples are about shared work, in my mind it would make the break that much more fuzzy.

      Separate from the next ask, maybe say something like “You are doing really great work and my maternity leave is just around the corner, I think we really need to get the training wheels off so if something comes thru in the inbox you think you can handle, go for it.” and then if she asks about that Oatmeal Cuts or grain porridge email “Go ahead and handle how you think best, I’m still working on this new Steel Cut Oats report for manager” And then see how she handles it from there.

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        Yes, I did train her and during normal times we worked right next to each other in the office so she could ask in person. Maybe I did leave my training brain on..

        Your phrasing examples are great, thanks!

    7. Chaordic One*

      I can only imagine that in the past, when she has taken initiative and done the wrong thing she was probably scolded or maybe even shamed for having taken action and now she’s more afraid of doing something wrong, than of doing nothing. Encourage her to take action, and if she takes the wrong action, let her know and give her the opportunity to correct her mistakes without shaming her. As long as she doesn’t get someone killed, it probably isn’t a bit deal in the overall scheme of things.

  20. Zac Eisenstein*

    Is anyone familiar with background checks? I’m asking for a friend who lied on a background check.

    Let’s say a candidate gets offered a job. There are lots of different background check companies out there, but this employer specifically uses ABC Company for the background check. The candidate was knowingly dishonest on their job application/background check and listed a company they never worked at to cover up a year-gap. The candidate requested not to contact this company, but ABC requests a pay stub to verify that the candidate works there. The candidate doesn’t provide anything and hence ABC is unable to verify it, thus the candidate ultimately fails the check and doesn’t get the job. The candidate learns the hard way to always be honest and not lie during the job process.

    Let’s say the candidate is now truthful during their job search and happens to get a job offer later down the road from another company which also uses ABC Company for the background check. Will ABC Company still have a record of the OP failing the previous BC in their system? Being that the candidate is truthful and doesn’t list the company they never worked at on the new background check, will ABC note the discrepancy and ask the candidate something like, “Hey, you listed this employer on your old check but it’s not here now. Why is that?” Or is each new background check completely independent of the old?

    Just curious how the process works.

    1. HR Bee*

      The previous background check will be in ABC Company’s system, but they are not allowed to share it with a new company. The new background check should be independent of the old.

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      The background check company will only share information they collected in the background check for the current company. They will not share results from a prior search with a different client.

    3. Formerly in HR*

      I think each background check is performed independently. After all, they are paid for by different clients and the providers should not just save efforts and use an old result. Also, things change between applications. From what I know, it’s not up to the provider to question discrepancies, but they are supposed to flag them to the employer paying for the check. And that employer has some department (Legal, HR, LR) who makes a decision.

  21. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

    Two questions today, because, like I said, unhealthily obsessed. I have an MPH with a concentration in MCH. I have a mixture of policy-focused (analysis, strategy based on analysis, etc) experience for a nonprofit and academic work doing mostly qualitative research and analysis–I currently have two published papers and will likely end up with ~5-6 once all the work is done. As I’ve said ad nauseam, I’m very geographically limited for my field, and I’m starting to realize I need to branch out and look for other positions. I have project management experience, but not *all* aspects, which has been an issue with positions to which I’ve applied. I’m leaning into pay and not passion, so if anyone has any ideas of where to go from here, I’d love to hear any tips. Thank you!

    1. Public Health Nerd*

      If you have qualitative experience and like it, look at market research firms for pharma research/market analysis, or the same thing for drug companies and contract research organizations.

      1. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

        Ok, that’s what I was thinking, too, so I’m glad that seems like the right track. I was actually offered a job with a research organization outside my field last year and turned it down to stay in my field thinking I’d be able to find something else when the grant ran out. :( Stupid!!

      2. Coenobita*

        +1 to research and consulting. Don’t necessarily discount other non-profit orgs, either. I have an MPH (in env/occ health) and work at a big environmental nonprofit. I actually get paid really well – way more than I did at my previous consulting job!

    2. sarah grace*

      This is my field! Seconding market research / health-care research, which is what I do. Look for consulting firms / contract research organizations (PSB, RTI, NORC) as a starting point — less policy unless you aim for the DC area. You might also look into managing clinical trials (most major hospitals, especially the big research institutes) as another starting point, although I’m not sure those pay as well.

      The pay is definitely better client-side, where you might look for something in their pipeline or managing the development side – there’s a lot of opportunity for project management and qualitative research there. Regulatory agencies are also good places to look, but I’m not sure what kind of jobs they might offer that are in your alley.

    3. Frankie Bergstein*

      Government is another option. The state/local level won’t pay very well, but the federal one does. Also, like you, I made the transition from passion (similar qualifications and background to yours) to pay & healthy work environment, and I am *not* looking back at all.

      I don’t know how far out of passion you’re willing to lean, but government contractors in defense and other fields will be able to use your research skills. LinkedIn really helped me identify such firms.

      1. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

        No, that’s definitely on my list! My prospects aren’t good for the current administration (one look at my publishing history and any political appointee is going to immediately delete my application!), but if the administration changes I expect there’ll be multiple opportunities in my exact field on the federal level.

    4. Addy*

      Oooh this is me!!

      If you want more money, go into UX Research in tech. I do the same sort of stuff that I did in public health (qualitative research, project management, analysis) but for real money.

      You can even do this in health tech, which would be an easy transition. Come to the dark side!

      1. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

        Does this work without any background in tech at all? I’ve seen positions advertised but have been intimidated by the technical aspects. Real money sounds pretty great, though!

      2. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

        Just applied for one! The starting salary is almost twice what I’ve ever made and it only requires a BA. I’m crossing my fingers!!

        1. Addy*

          I had zero background in tech at all and came straight out of academics. I just played up the whole “my job is to speak human” and “if I can talk to rural villagers about contraception I can talk to product managers about why no one is using their product, etc etc” thing.

          Don’t sell yourself short!

          1. Ryan Howard’s White Suit*

            Ha! I do have lots of examples like that—the one good thing about doing repro work in the deep, deep South.

    1. 867-5309*

      I sit at the bar area of my kitchen flat, which has the benefit of being both uncomfortable and facing the kitchen so I think about food all the time. :)

  22. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I have a Very Big job interview next week. The job itself isn’t my dream job but it’s a good step for me, the company sounds solid, and I really need to get out of my current job for a variety of reasons.

    So far I’ve spoken to two people to whom I might directly report. Those conversations went REALLY well. This next round is a peer interview followed by an interview with a C-Suite person. I feel fine about the peer interview– I have a bunch of questions about culture and daily work that I’m really looking forward to asking– but I don’t think I have ever had an interview with a C-Suite this far removed from the position (I currently work directly with my company’s president, so that was a different thing). I wouldn’t be reporting directly to her, but this role functions under her overall umbrella.

    Any suggestions of questions I can ask in this specific situation? I’ve already asked Alison’s “magic question” in some form (i.e., “what differentiates someone good in the job from someone great”) and I’ve asked about reporting structure and day-to-day responsibilities. Can I ask about her vision for the department and the company? How this role fits into that?

    Regardless, cross your fingers for me, please!

    1. Neosmom*

      How about asking the executive about their history with the company, specific company goals, and what they need from the person they hire to help reach those goals?

    2. AP.*

      I would ask questions about the company and company strategy:
      – In the last earnings call, the CEO said that the company was considering future acquisitions. What sort of acquisitions are you looking at?
      – Sales of XYZ are down 10% this year due to COVID impact. Do you think this is a one-time blip or will there be ongoing impact even after the crisis has abated?

      I would also make sure that I was familiar with all recent articles, earning reports, press conferences, etc.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Fingers crossed for you! I just finished a second round of interviews, including folks who would be above me in the hierarchy but not in the hiring department. I think your question are good. I also asked what is the top thing that the position could do to help their part of the business. I got some good – and very interesting – answers out of that question. (One answer was about helping with IT security, which was interesting because the position is not in IT, no IT security responsibilities were in the job description, and I’m not in IT security.) Good luck!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Oh geez. How did those answers impact the process? Did you withdraw, or… just go in with your eyes open? I’m fascinated by this now!

    4. HR Exec Popping In*

      Focus on questions related to the company overall or the function this person oversees.
      – What would you say are the biggest priorities for the Lama Grooming Department?
      – How does the Lama Grooming Department work with the Sheep Shearing Department?
      – What has changed at the company as a result of COVID? Culturally? From a business perspective?
      – How would you describe the culture at the company? OR What kind of people fit in best here?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        — What type of changes do you see in the future that you are free to talk about?
        –What types of concerns do you see right now and how can an employee like myself best help with those concerns?
        –Thinking back about employees who have been impressive to you in the past, what did those people do that stood out in your mind?

  23. Dissatisfied*

    A lot of people yesterday were talking about burning out in high pressure, low paying “dream jobs”, and realizing that normal jobs were better for them. It’s an important message that many people need to hear, but it left me wondering: what if you have the opposite problem?

    I have a pretty good “normal job” for someone in my age range (late-20s): decent pay, great benefits, excellent work-life balance, and a healthy culture. And yet I feel dissatisfied. I don’t hate my job, but it often feels devoid of meaning and like I’m wasting my potential by being here. The prospect of doing doing this kind of “normal” office work for the rest of my life is depressing. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about ditching my current career and getting a PhD or becoming a professional writer, even knowing the real drawbacks of those paths.

    The common advice for someone like me is to invest more in my personal life and find passion and meaning outside of work, but I don’t feel like I have enough time or energy for that despite never working more than 40 hours a week. It’s hard to make enough time for passion projects between a full-time job, household chores, a long-term relationship, and maintaining some sort of social life (mostly virtually now, of course). And even when I do have the time, I don’t always have the energy to really focus on my personal projects after working 8 hours.

    I’m not sure the anti-dream job advice applies to everyone; I have a few friends who are in a similar position. I think many people would be better off with slightly less stability and pay in exchange for more meaningful work that helps us realize our full potential, but their experience is underrepresented in the current discourse.

    Thoughts?

    1. Student Affairs Sally*

      I don’t have my “dream job”, but I’m in my dream field (higher education) – and my salary definitely reflects that. There are definitely opportunities to make big bucks in higher ed, but those are higher-level university leadership positions, and I’m much more interested in the “down and dirty” work of engaging directly with students, which is not particularly well-paid. For me, it’s worth the trade off. Of course I wish I made more, but I also know that I would really be unhappy in most of the more lucrative fields. Doing something that I’m passionate about and that I feel makes a difference in the world is a higher priority for me than salary.

    2. Southern Academic*

      Mmmm, I feel you. I discovered as an adult that I had more ambition than I realized (I had a relatively stable job with some satisfying parts. But for a variety of reasons, it was clear I’d never be able to move *upwards* in that job, nor would I be able to diversify my responsibilities / take on new challenges. If I were there 20 years, I’d be doing the same thing.) So I moved on and am now in the middle of a PhD program.

      I recognize the dangers of working too hard, and I’m careful to block out time for myself (I enjoy being outdoors and turning off work / going to bed at reasonable hours, and I hold myself to that.) But I also work a lot and take on new projects because they’re interesting or important to me. I know what I want to happen after I graduate, but I’m also working at picking up skills that will, I hope, open other doors.

      One thing I’d say is that just because something is true for a lot of people, doesn’t mean it is true for you. And just because it’s so-called conventional wisdom (or even anti-conventional wisdom that’s been popularized) doesn’t mean it will work for you.

      Keep conventional wisdom in mind (e.g. don’t go into debt for the PhD, have some savings if possible, etc) but it’s okay not to think the same way as everybody else, and to want different things.

    3. Kramerica Industries*

      I’m totally in your shoes! Career-wise, I get bored easily so I tend to move around in my large organization every few years. This way, I have a goal for each new role and what I want to get out of it that makes the general 9-5 grind feel less devoid of meaning. It keeps things fresher and easier to keep going.

      Outside of work, I agree that I don’t have the energy (or honestly, the motivation) to pick up a side hustle like so many people seem to be doing. So I focused on what my stable boring job does allow me to do. For some people, it’s a solid income to be able to travel. I’m in an expensive city, so I’m currently thankful for my job for allowing me to be able to purchase a house and still have enough fun money to try a new restaurant every week. And of course there are some days that I want to leave it all behind and pick up a passion project/job, but knowing that my job has helped me achieve other goals of mine (no debt + home ownership), it’s enough to get me through most days.

    4. Postdoc*

      I think the grass is always greener. I have a PhD, work on a very do-gooder topic, and am miserable. In this world, I’m surrounded by people whose work is their whole identity–so whenever I start to pick my head up, and have an identity outside of work, I am falling behind my peers in my professional success. I feel like I’m “wasting my potential” by taking vacations. Having your ONLY identity be your work is a bad thing, but it’s very much the norm.

      I think the thing about these passion careers (PhDs, mission-driven nonprofits, creatives) is that they satisfy some needs (the need for meaning, the need for challenge) while leaving others unmet (the need for a multi-dimensional life, the need to be able to have a conversation that you don’t turn back to work). Same with “normal jobs,” but it’s a different balance of met/unmet needs. It kind of reminds me of the way people talk about codependency in relationships: no one partner can meet all your needs, so you’re going to need to also maintain a bunch of friends and call your sister sometimes.

      If you just straight up need more variety during the day, yeah that might mean a career change. But from the other side, I see the flexibility that you have and think you may have a middle option. Practically speaking, if you were working 8 kinda boring hours a day plus doing 4 hours of writing 3 nights a week, you’d be in a functionally identical position to me as a PhD but with 2 more nights off, and almost certainly making more than I do!

    5. Kiitemso*

      This resonates with me to an extent. I also love writing, and I confess I also don’t do it enough. I love research but doing a Master’s made me understand I don’t love academia. I felt more pressured in that atmosphere than in any job I’ve had, and academia pays less, so I didn’t think that route was worth it.

      I’m sure you’re right, some people are meant to chase dreams. But for me, stability is always preferable to instability. I have friends who have slowly built lives that look like their own, like buying a house in a low COL area, doing odd jobs from home, gardening their own food, starting a bee keeping business or making soy candles and selling them online – not huge money makers but leading the kind of lives they want to lead. They have to work hard, too, of course, but they’ve chosen a different kind of way to not worry about paying bills and I salute them for that.

      I think so long as you’re guided by realism and not just the best case scenario where your first novel becomes an international bestseller or you gain tenure-track with a snap of your fingers, then you can slowly build the life you want to lead. But I would still encourage all day-dreaming writers to not quit their day jobs. If nothing else, try doing NaNoWriMo one year alongside your job, the challenge will make you carve out time you didn’t know existed to write.

    6. Ama*

      I don’t think not pinning your hopes on having a “dream job” means you should not look for work that is fulfilling to you personally in some way. I have always worked in nonprofit admin, for example, because if I am going to work a 40 hour a week office job, I need to know that it is in service of a larger goal that is helping to improve the world/community around me. For other people it may be less about the employer’s larger purpose and more about the goals of a certain type of work — my father loves being an accountant because he enjoys using numbers and data to organize and explain how a business is performing.

      You don’t have to love everything about your job or want to do it forever (my dad’s a few years from retirement and definitely looking forward to it), but it is totally understandable to try to identify a type of work that will at least make the 40 hours a week grind feel more bearable. And it’s also totally fine for whatever that “thing that makes it bearable” to change! People don’t stay the same forever, and some people thrive more on variety and changing things up every so often.

    7. lemon*

      I really relate to this. My life plan was getting a PhD for such a long time, until it really just sank in how financial unstable that path can leave you. So, I prioritized profit (or really, just… financial stability and emotional well-being, lol) over passion. Now, I have a good job, with great work-life balance and benefits and a decent paycheck. But I’m bored out of my mind. I’ve considered going back for my PhD from time to time, but then I remember the reality of being an academic today.

      Postdoc made a lot great points above. If you feel like you don’t have energy for passion projects now, going into academia won’t necessarily solve that. You still have to find the time and energy for your own work as an academic. If you’re lucky enough to get a tenure-track job, your day will be filled with teaching and grading and committees and administrative work, and you’ll still be expected to do research on nights and weekends. If you’re an adjunct, it’s worse, because then you’ll be trying to teach as many classes as possible (while still being expected to do research on your own time), because the average adjunct pay is $3000/course, which means you have to teach 4 courses a semester just to make $24k a year. And a lot of that stuff you’re doing during the day can be pretty boring– reading terribly written papers, sitting through boring meetings, teaching classes on subjects that aren’t your primary research interest.

      So, that’s something I keep in mind when I start to feel really bored. But I don’t know what the solution is yet. I know that I do need to find a more challenging job, but I don’t know what that job is yet.

      So far my strategy has just been… keep trying new things until I find something that captures my interest. I’ve been going to lectures to learn a little bit about things I wouldn’t normally think to be interested in. I went to a lecture about graph analysis, which sparked an interest in data science, so I’m taking a data science course online now. I have no idea if that means I’m going to start a career in data science. But the good thing about my boring job is that it gives me time and space. I don’t have to rush to make this new interest profitable right now– I can just enjoy learning a new thing and not have to worry about what I’m going to do with it just yet.

      Courses have been a great way for me to conquer boredom, because I’ve found that often “boredom” is just masking feeling overwhelmed with where to start. Having the structure of a course makes it easier to get started, and also holds me accountable.

      A lot of universities make their lectures open to the public. I’ve found a lot of great events just by following schools on social media. And the nice thing about the pandemic right now is that everything is online, so you have the chance to attend events you wouldn’t normally be able to attend. There are also independent orgs that offer some interesting courses for adult learners (like the Brooklyn Institute of Social Research, which is 100% online right now, so you don’t have to live in Brooklyn to attend).

    8. Analyst Editor*

      With “dream job” stuff, I think there’s a wise way to and a foolish way to follow the advice. Andy from the Office style – burn bridges, quit with no savings or prospects – is very foolish. Going into tens of thousands of dollars in debt for a life of adjunct professor contracts – also foolish. But looking around and building a plan – e.g. studying to be an actuary, learning to code, getting a masters your current job pays for — these are much more realistic, low-risk approaches – and the feeling of working towards something else will ALREADY change your attitude and your feeling of being trapped.
      Alternatively, maybe you are a “work to live” person and that’s how you are. My family (of origin) is very much like that; work is just work, and we live for family and friends – and I think it helps make it matter much less among their friends who does what and who makes how much. For my part, my career is absolutely secondary to my kids; and I’m seriously looking at options from becoming a teacher, to having a day-care, to homeschooling myself, as increasingly more realistic options; maybe that will also become your path if you choose to have them.

      1. Gamer Girl*

        Teaching is the worst possible choice if you want to have time to spend with your kids. Please, don’t do it for that reason. That’s one of the reasons I was pushed into it in college, and it is absolutely untrue!

        The only exception could be: higher level math (high school level) or possibly physics, where grading is quick (former roommates were dedicated math and science teachers), the pay is good, and the jobs are in high demand. Anything else will leave you working 10 hour days (I had to be at school by 6:30am, stayed for bus duty and after school care duties or coaching or parent/teacher meetings til 5 or 6pm–all of these are an expectation and often a requirement for teachers). And then, you still have more grading at night if you teach a “soft” subject, like language or history. You have no life the first 3 years of teaching while you are finding your feet. Summers are not free–you will be taking 1-2 extra courses every summer, designing new curriculums to keep up with standards… You will have endless meetings about at-risk children, IEPs to keep up with (no problem with doing that work, but the admin is absolutely killer if you have more than one or two per class).

        I do NOT recommend doing this with children, especially young children, at home. This is part of why I quit teaching, after 7 years in the profession, two years before my children were born. It is a job with almost no work/life balance. That is a myth that needs to die, now, before more young women get pushed into this. It’s also highly sexist–young women are told they can be there for their kids by being teachers, when really, what we need as a society is a baseline expectation that BOTH parents will need to parent. (Sorry, that should be its own thread). But, seriously, this pipedream of teaching being an “easy” work/life job with summers off is increadibly untrue.

    9. Washi*

      I think there’s a lot of space between “I feel like a soulless office drone” and “I am a starving artist.” And in that middle ground you might find your happy place!

      When I was in college, my “dream job” was to be a translator of literature. But as I neared graduation, all it took was an hour of research to realize that it is very difficult to make a stable living that way. I had done HR work throughout college and considered going in that direction, but the thought of doing that for the rest of my life felt depressing (not to knock HR! It’s just not for me.) Now I’m a social worker and often use my second language, and it feels like I found a good middle ground of those two things. I don’t make what I could as an HR exec in a for-profit company, but it’s steady, meaningful work that challenges me while providing a decent living.

      I think instead of trying to figure out “what’s my dream job” it might help to just think “where could I be just a little happier/more challenged than this?” and go from there.

    10. ArtsNerd*

      As someone who is super disillusioned with ‘cool’ arts/nonprofit/creative jobs, I’d recommend you cultivate your dream job *function.* What tasks bring you delight? Which ones do you grudgingly slog through? Focus on jobs that have more of the former, less of the latter. Do you want to be a specialist, or do you do better when you have a variety of tasks and projects that use different skill sets?

      I realized that my next gig should be visual graphic design, not “marketing” and that I’m personally not super picky about what I am designing. Top priorities are to get in a better work culture and to get far far away from running any social media accounts or press pitches. While in my current super-cool arts job I get to do some fun, creative work, the basic “format brochures” “crop photos for a web banner” “update the text on this form” design work happens at least as much as the ‘fun’ design work. Not to mention all the other hats I wear (writing, fundraising, email marketing, web updates, and …)

      The industry and employer aren’t irrelevant per se*, but they are actually less important once you’ve been in the job for a while than you might think (aside from using “meaningful” as an excuse for poor treatment and pay.) Smaller companies, as well as smaller nonprofits, have MANY special flavors of dysfunction, but bureaucracy and stagnation aren’t usually among them. Working at one of these usually gives you the opportunity to do lots of different types of things and stretch your skills and be very visibly, tangibly helpful to the business/customers/your peers/clients.

      *For example, the CIA is hiring a graphic designer. I am not applying there. The American Association of Llama Brush Manufacturers, on the other hand? Sign me up! Joe Bob and Associates Accounting? Let’s talk.

      1. Alina*

        I do think this is the way to go – become a graphic designer or accountant or HR or comp sci or some other type of transferable skill, and then work in a company or organization that you like. Nonprofits have all the departments a for profit company does too.

    11. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve done both (“dream job” that’s intense and draining and pays little, as well as “ordinary job” that pays much more and is less fulfilling/meaningful). Honestly, if you feel restless in an “ordinary job,” you can consider getting a different type of “ordinary job” that’s slightly more mission-driven or supports a mission you believe in. You could also just be bored at work and find your fulfillment outside of work (write in your spare time, do hobbies, etc.).

    12. Alina*

      I feel like spend so much of your time at work that I can’t give up on the idea that you should at least like it and you should think of it as a good. way to spend that much time. One of my dream jobs was limited in tenure by its nature, and I’m so glad I did it. It was absolutely crazy in terms of hours, stress, but also immensely rewarding. I’m glad that was something I got to experience during my life, and it will shape my career decisions and how I approach situations in the future. I also made a lot of good friends and professional acquaintances!

      In the future, I do want a more stable, regular job, but I will continue to work in this field where I’ve made a niche for myself now, and I’m glad I pursued that opportunity.

    13. Mynona*

      I left a satisfying but not fulfilling career at age 31 to start over in a dream job in the arts requiring a masters and PhD. Twelve years later, I am in my dream job and it is everything I hoped it would be. My life really is a dream.

      But I also have no children, $100K+ in student loan debt, laughable pay, a term-limited position, and I have to move wherever I can find a job every few years. This is what success looks like in my field, for someone like me with no family or spousal financial support. And none of it fazes me in the least. Those things just don’t matter and they never have.

      So, my advice is to really research your dream job and be brutally honest about what failure would look like and what success requires. Dream jobs cost money and time and, when they don’t materialize, they tend to leave you with no marketable skills. Can you work with that level of risk or not?

    14. Not So NewReader*

      I think that this is something we go through and for me it was especially bad in my 20s. “This is it? This is all I get?” I remember that. I think we are supposed to want more, I think that is a healthy sign. I’d worry about a person who did not want more in some form, whatever form that may be.

      Life fills up and it gets hectic. It can be nice to have a mundane job when life is otherwise crazy. I remember plenty of days saying, “TG I can do this job in my sleep, because I really need the rest.”

      You are saying you want to write. So start writing. Use the job you have now for the stability it provides while you sort out what to do with your writing. Seriously. When something has become mundane/ordinary there are advantages to that. It can be used as a platform for the next thing. Or go the same route with a PhD.

      Stagnation is a killer. Healthy people get restless when they stagnate. It’s normal to want to grow. It’s normal to want to do something meaningful. Pick strategically. You have the luxury of being choosy as to how you go about your next steps.

      “It’s hard to make enough time for passion projects between a full-time job, household chores, a long-term relationship, and maintaining some sort of social life (mostly virtually now, of course). And even when I do have the time, I don’t always have the energy to really focus on my personal projects after working 8 hours.”
      This is the toughest part right here.

      Life is all trade-offs. We forego this to get that, we give up something else in order to get New Thing. Part of your solution here may be to figure out what you are willing to give up in order to have the time, energy and brain space to do New Thing.
      Another thing I had to do was DELIBERATELY take satisfaction in what I done so far. It seems odd to say that, but we can actually take for granted what we have done. We can forget to allow that to “fill our cup” in some manner.

      And sometimes the answer is the very answer we don’t want to hear. I heard, “Not right now. You have enough on your plate atm. ” Sometimes when we want to make the big reach to the New Thing we can’t because there is stuff in front of us that needs to be taken care of now. I did not like this answer but I found it to be true. It was very helpful to hang on to the fact that I had a job that if nothing else, it was stable.

    15. JessicaTate*

      There’s some good advice above. I do think it’s true that it’s OK to trade some stability and pay for more meaningful work. Absolutely. But do it with eyes wide open, consider how much stability/pay you’re willing to give up (and the cost of pursuit – i.e., PhD), what the field demands to get where you’re trying to go (i.e., more than passion). And most importantly, be continually self-reflective about whether the path is still working for you, what the evidence is telling you about YOUR long-term prospects, and how your view of the situation is evolving (with age, time, etc.). Don’t be afraid to course-correct for you.

      I think the “follow your dream” advice fails the most when people follow it blindly, get so invested in “the dream” that they stop re-evaluating themselves and what they’ve learned. Put your happiness, not the “dream,” at the center of your perspective and decisions.

      Sometimes we decide to take risks in life and careers. I guess my other piece of advice is to not view it as all-or-nothing; don’t view it as “failure” if you don’t end up where you thought or bail on the “plan” or the “dream”; and don’t view all you’ve learned and gained along the way as a “waste.” Learn from it. Use it to figure out the next step. See your own resilience. A long-term narrative of hopelessness and being “stuck” by forces out of your control is damaging, I think. Life’s short. You can’t go back. So, work the problem in front of you and move forward with all that you’ve learned to make yourself a little bit happier (and fix the system for others when you have the power to).

      Good luck.

    16. Wintergreen*

      I have a strong need for stability and have gone the “Not a dream job/Don’t hate my job” route. At times I’ve definitely had the “I should be doing more” feeling. After 20 years I’ve come to the realization it is not coming from a lack of meaning in my life as I am not dis-satisfied with my life. For me it is more like an aspect of impostor syndrome, or closely related to impostor syndrome. Where I somehow believe that if I was doing my job right, I would be more stressed and have to work more than 40 hours a week. But because I am not, I must be doing something wrong because everyone else is always talking about how stressed and overworked they are.

    17. allathian*

      This is interesting, because my dominant core value is security. I surprised myself in the summer by applying for a job when I didn’t have to do so, for the first time in my life (I’m 48). I didn’t get it, but I enjoyed the experience of a reasonably low stakes interview process. If they had offered me the job, I would have taken it. I like my current job, my manager and coworkers, but at times I feel like I need to change something. There are days when job satisfaction means I’m satisfied that I have a job and nothing more. Not often, but sometimes.

      Until now, every time I’ve changed jobs it’s been because I was laid off, or I went abroad for a year as an exchange student, or quit a retail job on the spot with nothing else lined up because I’d grown to hate it and had wept buckets the night before I did it. Until now, I’ve never considered changing jobs unless I was truly miserable in a job or unless circumstances beyond my control forced my hand.

      I can’t imagine what a “dream job” would be for me. I guess I’m happy to contribute to something I feel is doing something good in the world. I work for a government agency that provides necessary services to the public, although my job is pretty invisible except in my work product. I wouldn’t say that I’m passionate about my job, and I’m definitely someone who works to live rather than lives to work. That said, work isn’t just a paycheck. My professional identity is very important to me.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s possible to find meaning in pretty mundane things, and also that I don’t know what “reaching my full potential” really means. It’s certainly never been an openly stated goal for me, I’m happy with “a good life well lived”, even if that is at least as hard to define…

    18. Wordybird*

      You need to figure out your currency… which isn’t always actual currency. :)

      I’m an INFJ & an Enneagram 1 which means changing the world & making a difference is super important to me as is working for an organization that is very ethical & very practical/reasonable/logical. Creativity is a defining aspect of my personality (reading, writing, photography, cooking, interior design) that I would like to use more in my professional life but I don’t have to make it a main focus as that tends to suck all the fun and passion out of it for me. These are not things that I just figured out on my own, especially when I was younger, but things I had to really think about and research to get to know myself better.

      As a 20-something, I thought my “dream job” would be an editor for a magazine or publishing house in NYC or a full-time writer. Those dreams did not work out, for various reasons, and now that I am 10+ years older, I realize that my dreams are actually more intangible characteristics/values vs. tangible roles. My last job search focused on those things — working remotely, ethical field with an ethical company that was doing something good for the world, something with a focus on administration but not being an admin assistant/CSR — as well as a role that would offer more specific/niche experience (hi, fellow English-degree-but-don’t-want-to-be-a-teacher majors!) than I currently had + enough money for me to be financially independent.

      I started a new role in professional education a few weeks ago, and it checks all those boxes for me. Is it my “dream job” or a field I ever thought about working in before? No. Is it a job I can be successful in & mostly enjoy while also making enough money to do the things I want to do in life & not have to work a lot of overtime or strange hours or suck all my brainpower away (so that I can volunteer & be creative which bring me lots of joy)? Yes. Do I get to do every single thing every single week that brings me joy + work FT? No. Do I make sure that I do at least one thing every single week that brings me joy + work FT? Yes.

      My ultimate dream job & life is to make a difference, be happy, & be healthy so I am intentional with the big choices I make each week. Some weeks (like now as I’m learning this new job) are just working & sleeping & taking care of my family & getting by. Some weeks are intently focusing on one side project or activity (like when I volunteer and a big event/project is coming up). Some weeks are spending 30 minutes each night after dinner working on a little bit of this or a little bit of that. I remind myself of the big picture goal of being happy & healthy vs. focusing on what I may or may not be be tangibly accomplishing day-to-day.

      It’s just about really getting to know yourself & what works best for you & then doing those things.

    19. Gamer Girl*

      I am a writer in a dream job. I did not set out to be a writer–in fact, my parents actively discouraged me from it during my education and pushed me into being a teacher. The thing they didn’t count on is: being a teacher propelled me into being a writer.

      First: This is what I tell people who think they want to write professionally:

      1. Do you write? Regularly?
      Or is this just a dream of a cool job?
      If you think you can do it, do it. Don’t just practice writing. Instead, give yourself an assignment with a wordcount, a concept, and a deadline.

      (To be a workhorse professional who pays the bills, you need to have the chops to write well and write very, very quickly. You want to be known as “that writer we can always rely on” who keeps getting hired on the strength of a sterling track record of deliveries, as well as the strength of your ideas and voice)

      2. When you were in school and now at work, is your writing praised? Not necessarily for correctness, but for style, vision, etc. Is there an aspect of your writing that has stood out to a variety of people over the years?

      (This is not a universal measuring stick–some people develop later than others as writers, and with study, I truly believe many people can write, but please, really think about this one. At least some natural talent is a component of success as a writer).

      3. Did you grow up with wealth or with scarcity?
      Why do I ask this? Because it’s the kids who had to hustle and the kids who lived with just enough to get by who “get it”–who know what they are signing up for. You are highly unlikely to be salaried. There’s a ton of writing work out there, especially if you can specialize in a niche topic that doesn’t have many good writers. However, the pay is almost always low, even for famous novelists, so for awhile, you will be living on a shoestring budget.

      On the other side of the coin, if you grew up with plenty, perhaps you have family money to bail you out. This is, unfortunately, why writers with family riches and wealth are overrepresented across the writing fields.

      But the best explanation for what it’s often like to live the artist life: read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. The photographer in that story–her background is the perfect explanation of why people who know how to work are the ones who ultimately have the tools to succeed as an artist, writer, or other creative type. Briefly: her parents taught her to work and to work hard, she had many odd jobs growing up, and she was a dedicated, hard worker, working all-hours waitressing jobs and other jobs hustling for enough cash to pay the rent. All the while, she was creating. She didn’t buy new catalogue-worthy furniture, but she could go to a thrift store with 20 bucks and set up a home for herself and her daughter with odds and ends and a bit of ingenuity.

      If you know that you are able to have that level of commitment during lean writing years, perhaps you have what it takes to be a writer.

      4. There is no reason why you can’t try both! Plenty of people work for years in a “regular job” and all the while slowly transform themselves into writers.

      Personally, I worked around the clock as a teacher for years. In the end, I figured that, even if I had to work 16 hours a day, every day, to be a writer, it would be better than the admin hell I was in, doing all of the paperwork that teaching has steadily devolved into–tracking standards, begging for grant money, and countless admin forms, not to mention the curriculum differentiation, endless grading, and constant worry about certain students (anything student-focused, I would have continued. It was the admin that broke me).
      I loved teaching, but the profession, as it is now, does not love me back, and after several breakdowns, which I was coping with using alcohol, I was on track for total burnout. I was also already working on yearly contracts, as salaried teaching work in my field where I live means waiting for Boomers to leave… I took a look at my life, thought to myself, “There has to be more than this.”

      I remembered Ann Patchett’s “The Getaway Car”–her advice for becoming and being a professional writer, went back to it, and realized that I already had most of the skills and drive she discusses within. I quit my job, took on tutoring gigs as a side hustle while I found my writing focus and started looking for jobs.

      Your question really spoke to me, as we were around the same age (late 20s) when we started thinking about these things. I am not trying to critique your desire for change or to scare you off of writing, only to tell you what it’s like to be a writer from the inside. The different I see between our stories, though, is that you have a great, well-paying, if boring, job. Please do not underestimate the value of your job! Having money and spare time after work to start writing is a valuable thing!

  24. Lost in the Library*

    I have 2 questions, one is straightforward and the other is a bit more complex.

    1. I’m currently in a temporary mat. leave position which is coming to an end shortly. How do I note this on my resume. Do I just amend my position with something like “Librarian (maternity leave position) — October 2019 – October 2020” on my resume? I’m concerned about people thinking I’ve been fired from a position!

    2. A position I’m applying for requires a 1-page writing sample/assignment describing “a time I’ve shown leadership as an “X-Type” Librarian.” Okay, I have provided leadership in this position, so I do have an example. However, I am floundering and I don’t understand how to write this. At all. I’m not a natural born writer, so writing anything is a chore. Coupled with my general anxiety for applying for jobs, well, I’m a mess!

    I wrote a sample and emailed it to my boss and a colleague and both of them said that it sounded “too much like a story” and that it should be more “professional,” “formal,” succinct, and written like a report (with headers!!). HUH? I legitimately… have no clue how to write this! How am I supposed to discuss something that I did, without making it sound like a story… aren’t they ASKING for a story?

    I took a business writing course YEARS ago, but apparently I’ve forgotten everything. I just struggle with writing… so. much. Not the mechanics of it, but the actual process of getting my ideas out from my head part. I don’t know how to de-personalize my experience and turn it into a formalized report? I haven’t found any good “samples” of writing something like this, either.

    I don’t know if I can write like this. I am sincerely thinking about not applying to this position at all, which is ridiculous and over-dramatic. I’m just, not a good writer. There’s something wrong with me (I think) that is preventing me from understanding how to write this. I’m just so mad at myself for not understanding what this library wants OR understanding how to take in the criticisms from my colleague and manager about how to improve what I’ve wrote. I feel like an absolute moron!

    Anyway, any advice on how to write something like this? I’m so confused.

    1. Mockingjay*

      There are significant differences between a report and a story. Different audience, different content, different writing styles. Get a couple of books on technical writing from your local library. These have plenty of before and after examples of reports.

      this is a blog, so I won’t take up too much of Alison’s space, but quick items:
      Scope: content boundary. Stick to the subject.
      Grammar: Impersonal. Action verbs. Concise wording.
      Organization: BLUF – bottom line up front; STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result, etc.

      Check out online tech writing courses – there are free ones which will give you an idea of how to structure and put together a report. You CAN learn to write well; it just takes practice. Remember those report outlines you did in high school? I still use them for technical writing. The skills are there; you just haven’t used them in awhile.

      1. Lost in the Library*

        What I think I’m having difficulty is, do I have to de-personalize my whole experience to write it as a report? I don’t think I understand how to remove the personal from a personal experience/story. That’s what’s really tripping me up.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Focus on the action and result, not the person (yourself). What’s the benefit of the leadership or the action you took to the company?

          “Well, two days before the big presentation, coworker Bob fell and broke his ankle and I had to suddenly step in for him and I had to find the presentation on the server and finish the slides and set up the conference room, and give the slides to clients I’d never met.”

          becomes:

          “Completed and provided Widget Specification presentation to Acme Corp. last week on short notice, for coworker Bob in absentia. Presentation was well received by Acme Corp.; their CEO complemented our company on the in-depth specs we provided. As a result, we received a large Widget order from Acme today, with others to follow in the next quarter. Kudos go to Bob for preparing such a quality slideshow; recommend we use his work as a template for the upcoming presentations to Amazon and Walmart.”

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      For #1, yes I think listing it with the “maternity leave cover” parenthetical will be fine and convey it was a temporary assignment.

      For #2: is writing a component of this job? I am confused why they need a writing sample if you won’t be writing as a key part of the role.

      1. Lost in the Library*

        To be honest, judging by the duties/experience they indicate writing is NOT a key part of the job. I do know that there is an internal candidate they’ll likely hire, so I’m wondering if this whole rigmarole is less about sharing leadership experiences and more about dissuading people from applying? It’s also why I’m thinking about not applying.

    3. LPUK*

      There may be a value in ‘invisible headings’ that you don’t actually type but which may help the structure eg ‘ context, ( in which role, who else involved), situation or issue, why was this a problem, what was potential impact, what did I do to show leadership, what impact did that have, what worked well in this situation, what did I learn from this, what might I do differently etc. short sentence or paragraph on each

    4. Merci Dee*

      I think your instinct to write your experience as more of a story is the better way to go. I’m not sure why your boss and colleague were suggesting that you complete the writing portion as though it were a report. I think that, for an application, writing about the experience in your own voice is essential — think about how you would tell the story to the interviewer if they had asked this question in a phone or face-to-face interview. You wouldn’t be able to set up the example in a report-like format in that situation, and it would seem kind of strange if you tried to go into a more formal type of structure in a re-telling (“Co-worker Librarian A, otherwise known as CL-A, approached with a problem at 0930 on July 12 related to a conflict between . . . . “). Especially since the position doesn’t seem to have a large writing component, and especially not a technical writing component, I think you’re going to be able to express a lot more about your personality and your perspective if you just write out the example in a natural language kind of way, as though you were telling an acquaintance about what happened to give you this experience.

      1. WellRed*

        I’m a writer for a living and second this advice. Reading should be enjoyable and if it reads more like a story that helps. Make sure to use proper grammar and punctuation, choose words carefully and keep it active. Oh, and use paragraphs. Sounds obvious but lots of folks think such a short read doesn’t need it.

    5. Roja*

      I’m with Merci Dee on this one. I would have taken that as a more narrative style as well, because it’s a stand-in for an interview question.

      But realistically, if you want to apply for the position, the best application is the one you can actually do in a reasonable amount of time and effort. Don’t get so caught up in trying for the perfect writing sample that you don’t actually apply. As long as it’s well written, clear, and answers their question, it’s likely to be just fine.

    6. Amy*

      I think that my best advice is to be yourself. You can try to take their advice on board and put headers in and maybe review your tone to remove casual words, contractions or similar. After that though, it is your voice that should be heard, the application request is unclear and your best is actually a good thing to submit. Good luck!

    7. 867-5309*

      You do not need to say mat leave – I’d put it in the job title

      Librarian (Contract) October 2019-October 2020

    8. Not So NewReader*

      For question #2: To add clarity for your own writing find a definition of leadership. Then try to find what leadership in that library position would look like. If we are not clear on the terms it’s going to be super hard to write about something.
      This can be even harder if you did not supervise people. You can talk about a time when you changed what you were doing for the better and other people copied your new idea. You might have an example where you came up with a new idea and convinced your boss to buy equipment to implement the new idea. Or in a different approach maybe you decided that you were going to make sure patrons were informed about x program or y offering and you made it a point to discuss x or y every day with people. I worked one place where people never said please and thank you to each other. So I started saying please and thank you randomly, without going into overkill. It wasn’t long and others starting doing the same.

      1. Lost in the Library*

        I think I have difficulty understanding what the term “leadership” truly entails. My “story” is about my supervision of a summer student this year, so yeah… I guess technically “supervision” = “leadership.” But truthfully, I don’t think what I did was leadership. She was almost better at her job than I was at mine!!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          And this happens to a lot of bosses, their employee is almost better at the job than they are.

          THIS is what good leadership looks like to me. Each generation should excel beyond the previous. For example a good teacher will have a student who grows to be better in the subject than the teacher.
          You’re right when you have an excellent employee you have a special set of circumstances. But in fairness, each employee, regardless of quality of work, requires something unique from their boss.

          So you had to tailor your leadership for this person in light of the fact that they were an extraordinary worker.
          You probably listened closely to her thoughts on things and took her ideas/thoughts under advisement before making some decisions you had to make.
          Maybe there were times where you waited for her inputs, because it was that important to you.
          You probably tried to find interesting things that needed to be done to help her feel and remain engaged in the job. This means you tried to expand on her experiences in ways that you could.
          Of course you had to keep her supplied with work assignments/materials/whatever. Because she was a good worker this involved more planning, projecting, estimating than you would have done with a worker with less experience.
          But you still remained the boss. So, how did you draw your boundaries with her? How did you convey company expectations meant for her? For me, I would say things such as, “We need to A, not B and here’s why…”. Because I taught as I went along the people knew why I was saying and doing things. They got better and better at picking out solutions and ideas that were fitting for our givens. Over the long run this meant that work flowed much quicker and outputs went way up.

          If you are stumbling over the concept of leadership here then lay it out in a truthful manner as you have done here. “I supervised a summer student for x months. Since she was really great at the work, my challenges where to help her stay engaged with the job and provide tasks/background knowledge that would be of interest to her. Correcting and redirecting where simple because of her work ethic. I found I could just explain why we did something a particular way and she did it that way.”

          If true, you may consider adding, “There were a few times where she showed me a couple things and I learned from her. I made sure she knew I respected what she had to say.”

          If true you can land on, “We got a lot accomplished in our time together as we did x, y and z.”

        2. WellRed*

          Supervision is not leadership. Leadership is bigger (implemented student program or at least, fought to get your supervisee accommodations the library was hesitating on).

            1. Lost in the Library*

              No, that’s exactly what I’m worried about. My boss and colleague who offered the initial feedback have assured me that I showed “leadership” with the summer student, but I remain unconvinced to be honest.

    9. Lizzo*

      1) I have done this kind of work! I think I indicated it as such:
      Job Title (Contract)
      -Covered maternity leave for blah blah (in my case, I wrote “for two key team members responsible for revenue-generating projects”)
      -Job responsibility/achievement A
      -Job responsibility/achievement B
      -Job responsibility/achievement C
      etc.

  25. It's a Bev-olution and I'm all in*

    Today in 2019 I quit one of the worst jobs I’d ever had! I say one of because I had an even worse job because I started my non-profit career 20 years ago. So I guess I could say that I’m luck?! I haven’t worked since then but I’ve donated 480+ hours of pro bono volunteer time and I’m feeling very charged for the next opportunity that comes around.

    1. juneybug*

      Congs! I just recently retired (did it sooner than had originally planned due to bad boss). I too, am looking forward to the next chapter in my life.

    2. Viette*

      Congratulations! I gave notice on the worst job I ever had in November of 2019 and I’m looking forward to celebrating that, too. It’s nice to remember that you can really just leave them behind!

  26. The New Normal*

    I work in a secondary school and am fortunate enough to get to interact with nearly every one of the almost 5,000 students on campus (normally). As such, I really try hard to check my internal biases and microaggressions so students know they have a safe place with me. My students are not on campus, but several still email, text, or call me to chat. One of my students asked me a question that I do not know the answer to and I was hoping that the AAM commentariat would be able to help me answer.

    During Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s memorial service on Wednesday, her Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt was captivating. But my student asked me about the yarmulke she was wearing. The student had only seen men wearing yarmulke and thought it was supposed to be at the top of the head, but Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt wore hers at the back of the head. Could someone teach me about the guidelines (if any) for this?

    1. Jaid*

      “In Conservative and Reform communities, some women choose to wear a kippah as a way of showing that they have accepted upon themselves the same obligations to do positive, time-bound mitzvot like men or out of general egalitarian principles.” Quora.com

      My Mom and I will wear kippahs when we go to services. Mom’s Conservative and I’m….not observant, but it make Mom happy. But not every woman I see there wears one. It’s definitely am individual thing.

    2. Ramona Q*

      There aren’t guidelines. It’s supposed to cover the head however it fits for the wearer (and contrary to popular belief, it’s just a custom, not halacha).

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This might be better suited for the weekend thread, but a yarmulke isn’t really meant to go on the very top of the head as if placed directly from above. It usually sits on the crown, towards the back of the head (i.e., the largest part). There are no real guidelines. When women wear kippot, our hair often makes things a little more complicated so we pin a kippah or head covering wherever it feels most secure.

      1. pancakes*

        I live in NYC and I’ve never seen anyone wear one directly on top of their head. I don’t know how the student arrived at that expectation.

    4. The New Normal*

      Thank you all for your clarification! You can scour the net and get information but asking real people is my preference. Thank you!

    5. Emby*

      Rabbi Holtzblatt is my rabbi, but I could answer this even without that. In Orthodox settings, only men wear yarmulke (or kippah, as many call it), but in the other movements, especially the Conservative Movement, which Rabbi Holtzblatt is a member of, some women do, too. And most rabbis, regardless of gender, wear head coverings at least while leading a service, though not always a traditional kippah. As for positioning, it is actually pretty flexible– you will find people wearing them in many different places on their head. In some communities, the positioning (and the size and type) of the kippah signifies a set of beliefs (both religious and political), but that is not the case in most non-Orthodox communities. Generally speaking, people wear their kippahs where it fits most naturally on their heads. Since kippahs are not flat, for some people, the fit better further back, so the curve of their head matches the curve of the kippah. I believe that is why Rabbi Holtzblatt wore it where she did. The point is to have a head covering, and having it on the top versus further back doesn’t change that.

  27. Anon Interviewer*

    Long story short, I am finally leaving my terrible manager. However, I am leaving for an internal role and have been roped into interviewing replacements. I will be doing the 2nd interviews on my own. What I am looking for is some scripts and sample questions to ask these poor people while also giving them a hint on what they are in for.

    Some background: This manager is truly terrible. He will never change, and upper management doesn’t care, so complaining about him is pointless. He talks a good game about being supportive and collaborative and a relationship builder but is actually none of those things. To him, being a manager is feeling important and delegating. He may do SOME work if it is visible to upper management, but more likely you will do it and he will take the credit. And don’t you dare ever ask a question, you will be “undermining his authority!”

    I also need a script to answer why I, and so many others, have left. Help please, AAM Fam!

    1. RestResetRule*

      I think because you’re still going to be within the company, the only thing you can do is ask the usual questions. I would steer clear of trying to “hint” to them about what they might be getting into. It’s unfortunate that you’ve been roped into this situation, but there is no way that trying to help these applicants out is going to help you. What if your “hints” get back to your old boss or somebody else within the company? That might hurt your personal career.

      I think the only exception might be if a candidate approached or messaged you privately and asked specifically about your manager. Then you might feel safe enough to share your true concerns and his role in you leaving. But I think it’s a bad idea to try to warn people away.

    2. NW Mossy*

      One way is to think about how to frame it as an answer to “what type of person would work well with Fergus?” In your example, you might say something like “someone who enjoys problem-solving on their own and setting their boss up for success through their contributions.”

      Now, you and I and the rest of AAM may know that said person does not, in fact, exist outside of Fergus’s dream world. That’s fine. All you’re doing here is creating an opportunity for the candidate to hear this and go “ooh, yeah, that’s not me.”

    3. juneybug*

      Could you change the script? For example –
      “Boss doesn’t do anything” to “you will work independently”.
      “Boss will never change” to “boss is a consistent manager”.
      “Boss doesn’t want you to question him” to “you will be expected to find the solutions without input from the manager”.
      While that might seem deceitful, other folks might enjoy that type of work situations. Others will read behind the lines and stay away. Others will take a chance. You can only control the narrative, not their actions/choices.
      Good luck!!

      1. Ama*

        The one time I self-selected out of an interview process, it was because I interviewed with the woman I would be replacing and got a clearer understanding of the role and what it was actually like to work with the boss. She wasn’t trying to warn me — she clearly thought several of the things she mentioned were fun, positive things about the workplace (“sometimes we go to boss’s house and work on Fridays!” “oh it’s a flexible day, sometimes you go out and pick up boss’s dry cleaning or drop something off for her so you aren’t stuck at your desk”) but they were very much not what I was looking for at the time.

        So I think you can be honest without being overly negative and let the applicants self-select out as they desire.

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

        Ahh, there are so many of these code phrases once you know what to look for!

        “Able to work with minimal supervision and take charge as needed” (in a position that wouldn’t normally require it) = management is a shambles and you will have to make it up as you go along

        “Fast-paced and dynamic environment” = priorities constantly change at the drop of a hat

        “Work hard and play hard” = you will work 20 hours a day; also we have a pool table!

        etc.

    4. RagingADHD*

      I would say that he has a very strong personality and a top-down, directive management style. And that I am moving on because I, personally, am looking for a more collaborative environment.

      It’s not rude, but the more clear you are about the situation, the less turnover there will be in the position. I’ve seen some real ogres find assistants and teams who were quite successful in working with them long-term, because some folks are okay dealing with that as long as they know.

      1. 867-5309*

        I would say moving on for a new opportunity – not related to the boss. OP is still working for the same company and needs to toe the line here a bit.

        I do think it’s okay to say manager’s style is top-down and directive.

    5. Mockingjay*

      I asked a similar question several years ago about ExToxicJob. The wonderful commentariat here reminded me that my hated job could be someone else’s much-needed opportunity. The new person may click with the boss and everything goes smoothly for them. They may be about the work, not the credit.

      Describe the work and the nature of the boss: he’s gruff and noncommunicative, and prefers his subordinates in a support role because that’s what he needs/wants as a manager. That’s all you can do.

    6. lemon*

      omg, I have worked for a boss just like this and also was forced to interview my replacements.

      My approach was to think about what some of the key issues with working with this kind of boss were, and focused my questions around that. For example, this boss liked to “delegate” by dumping massive projects on people with very little experience and provided very little guidance or support (but blamed them when things inevitably went off the rails). In order to be able to survive that, you have to be a good problem solver and have some comfort with managing your own projects. So I asked questions focused on that: “Tell me about how you approached this project that’s on your resume and the steps you took to complete it (followed up with questions about their specific role/contributions)” “How would you handle a project with rapidly changing deadlines and requirements?” “Tell me about a time you worked on a project where the goals/objectives were unclear,” etc.

      It was partly to get information from them on how they handle projects, but also partly to give them a head’s up about the environment they’d be working in.

    7. Anon Interviewer*

      Thank you everyone, you definitely gave me some things to think about. I was for sure not going to say “how do you cope when you work with a terrible person?” but I was blanking on professional questions that did not feel like flat out lying. I really appreciate the help!

      P.S. Thanks Alison for fixing my post!

      1. The New Wanderer*

        You know, I was asked “How do you deal with passive aggressive people?” twice in a half-day interview (two different interviewers). I had gotten some background context so I knew they were referring to someone I would have to work with at times, but not the hiring manager. Unfortunately I also knew that said person was responsible for running off the previous people (multiple) in the role I interviewed for, and the division made changes to ensure that person had less power (hence the PA attitude, I suppose?). It was good that they were up front about it and if I’d been more interested in the job that would not have put me off.

        So I agree with framing things to address the root of the issue, but I also think you can be more straightforward if you need to be.

  28. Lady Macbeth*

    A bit of a sensitive issue..I was promoted to management starting in January. Since we started working at home we have video meetings to solve any issues. When we are in the office we have our own offices and high walled cubicles (we work in the legal department of a financial firm so lots of confidential info). It can feel like there is less privacy sometimes because we can’t do the quick face to face chats we did back in the office. One of my employees confided to me that she has trichotillomania and that it gets worse when she is stressed. I offered my support and said for her to let me know if she needs aanything. Now during our video meetings her trichotillomania often comes out. She has pulled her hair and eyelashes out in full view of everyone while the meeting is going on. If her hair is in braids, pleats, dreadlocks or other styles she will undo them before pulling it. She has even pulled her own hair while under a wig. The last thing I want to do is cause her distress but it has raised lots questions and concerns among her coworkers and our clients. I have not disclosed her trichotillomania to anyone and kept it in complete confidence. I’m not even sure she realizes she is doing it. I’m unsure what to do now because our industry and area is very conservative (business formal dress every day) and when she does it (which is frequently and not a one off) it is noticeable and distracting. But the last thing I want is for her to be shamed. How would you address this with her if you were in my shoes?

    1. The New Normal*

      Is it possible to reach out and ask her how she would like it to be handled? Would she want you to shoot her a private text message when she is doing it on camera? Would she rather everyone ignores it? I would absolutely not acknowledge that any one else has seen it, but it will only increase her shame and stress, but you could ask her if she wants you to help by sending a text or if she would prefer to have her camera off.

      1. Lady Macbeth*

        Unfortunately having her camera off is not an option. Besides a mandate from those in charge (on camera, not covered) and the norms of our industry where we are, the software we use for video meetings does not allow users to share/view screens unless the camera is on. She could not participate in the meetings otherwise. If things were up to me I would change the software and allow it.

        My fear is that someone (especially a coworker I don’t manage, another manager or a client) will call her out or complain about. I know one client was distressed at seeing her repeatedly do it (it is never a quick pull of one hair) and there was murmuring from other coworkers who I don’t manage and who aren’t her peer about her ‘unprofessional behavior’ in a meeting. I don’t want her to get into trouble but I don’t make the rules and I’m afraid she will be thought badly of or unprofessional.

        1. EnfysNest*

          If she chooses to do this as an ADA request, being allowed to physically block her camera so that it only shows a black screen (or the camera faces a photo of her or something) would presumably fall well within reasonable accommodation, so that mandate wouldn’t matter. They would legally have to allow it and your company would have to ensure that she didn’t face any retaliation for using that option.

    2. juneybug*

      Technology solutions:
      Could she cover her camera with a post it note or camera cover?
      Could you reach out to your IT support to see if there is something they can do? Sometimes it’s as simple and changing her default settings.
      Could she call in instead of using her computer?

      Personnel solution:
      I would talk to her and gently explain that customers and coworkers “might” see her actions and ask her what you can do to support her. You do not want to tell her that others have complained (she’s already stressed!).
      You could see if there are job duties that could be switched or removed to help reduce her stress.

      Good luck!

    3. Joy*

      This is a fascinating question I have no idea how to answer — I wish it was for Allison given how complicated it seems!

      Since she’s disclosed it to you, I feel like you probably could have a conversation with it, and maybe should as you have people discussing it with you. Maybe take a problem-solving approach with her? Obviously you’re not going to fix the core issue here but maybe you can come up with some strategies for her to minimize it on video calls — can she focus on taking notes when in video calls? Turn off video if she’s able to? If it is unconscious, would she be open to you pinging her in a private channel when it becomes distracting?

    4. RagingADHD*

      For the sake of the other people who have to watch this, you need to say something. It is very distressing, as well as making them feel like they are intruding on her private issues. Trich is not clinically categorized as a form of “self-harm” in the psychological sense, but she is hurting herself and people shouldn’t have to be a captive audience for it.

      This isn’t about her appearance, it’s about finding an accommodation for her condition. Forcing everyone else to watch is not an appropriate accommodation.

      I’d suggest you have a conversation about what type of support would be helpful for her. Perhaps she can leave her camera activated but put tape over it. Perhaps a reminder in the moment would help. Perhaps she can set up an intentional task for her hands. But she definitely needs to know that doing it on camera is a problem that must stop, and she needs to be involved in figuring out the right way to address it.

      1. 867-5309*

        I do have to agree here. You would not expect other forms of self-harm to be viewed by others. This would be very distressing for me – I would be incredibly concerned for the individual and unable to focus on anything else.

        Can you frame this as an accommodation, as mentioned above, to IT and others? Is your team member seeing a therapist or doctor who could issue a note for it?

        1. valentine*

          For the sake of the other people who have to watch this, you need to say something.
          Especially the clients!

          You’re oddly super focused on (over)protecting this employee. Why? I think she’d want to know so many people (including clients!) have seen her do this and you’re making assumptions about the camera rule being hard and fast, instead of asking about it. As much as you want to keep this confidence, part of helping her is going to be asking about alternatives for her, assuming her participation is more important than whatever forcing everyone to be onscreen is doing for the company.

    5. kt*

      This is very hard, and I don’t know the full answer.

      For those who are interested, though, I have met the founders of HabitAware (a wearable that can help raise your awareness of when you’re engaging in trichotillomania) a few times, and they seem really cool and it seems like their wearable has really helped some people. I don’t know if it’s appropriate for you to suggest this kind of direct intervention, but if she mentions that she is simply not aware, it might be reasonable for you to mention that there are tech interventions that could help, and who knows, might be allowed under FSA or HSA or other insurance rules.

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

      It isn’t a full answer, but I feel like this is the key to it:

      it gets worse when she is stressed

      She has confided to you that she has this condition and that it’s exacerbated by stress, and now you are seeing it happen more often (I’ll assume that you would have noticed it before in the office if it had been happening, so probably it wasn’t) – so – isn’t it the case that the real issue you need to address isn’t the behaviour itself, but rather, why is it being exacerbated by stress now.

      Is there something in the work environment, home environment (did it start immediately or almost when you started working at home, or is it a recent development? I’m inferring recent since enforced WFH happened for a lot of people several months ago, yet you only asked about this today…) or whatever, that could have suddenly precipitated this?

      It could even have been a hint that “I am stressed” actually.

    7. 867-5309*

      Like someone else mentioned, I would also be curious for Alison’s take on this so perhaps submit the question to her as well.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      No speedy fix-it ideas from me. I do have a suggestion for the longer term, though. Tell your employee that she can pick a topic that is giving her stress and you guys will sit down together and work out some ideas about that particular stress.
      For example, she worries that her report is not good enough. Then go over what points a good report has, give her a check list so she can check her own work.
      In another example, she is one day late with her work. She is past the deadline and upset. Talk with her about which deadlines are hard deadlines and which deadlines allow wiggle room.

      Key part: Each of these conversations is about work. Each of these conversations should be short and should feel like a coaching session, filling in some of her knowledge gaps about the job. You should see clues that she is happy you talked with her.

      I have a situation right now, sorry can’t be too detailed. But the general idea is if the Person feels unsupported or feels they do not have enough support they get grumpy. I mean grumpy to the point that they are not likable. This is how stress manifests for this Person. The situation is such that if the grumpiness does not change Person will be fired.
      BUT. And here’s the punchline, when Person gets some time with a leader to go over specific questions, then Person changes. The difference is day and night. Person becomes happy and animated. Person works at their job even HARDER.
      So this tactic of setting up short 1-on-1’s to go over specific questions would be something I would consider here.
      ANNNND… people are amazing. I never stop marveling. I can ASSume that x or y is necessary for a situation. When I sit down to talk to the person, 9 times out of 10 they already know what they need and it’s unrelated A and B, which I never would have thought of.
      I think I would open the conversation with, “I’d like to go back in on the conversation about the concern with trich. I have noticed this on video, where you have been stressed and others can see. What I would like us to do is to talk about the various work settings that are stumbling blocks. I’d like to see if we can find practical ways of dealing with the work itself so that you are not so stressed. My thought is that you could line up specific questions and we could have a short 1-on-1 to go over those questions, if you would like. My second thought is I can recommend this really great blog that I read all the time and has been so helpful to me….. ;)”

      Then you can conclude with, “What do you think would be a helpful activity here?”

  29. D3*

    The dreaded “manager doesn’t want to address a problem with a few so they address everyone.

    My boss keeps telling us we need to buy equipment to fix tech issues on Zoom. We are contractors so that cost is on us, and she’s left it to us what to purchase. But some people are getting complaints so we ALL have been told to upgrade. I have already invested in mid grade equipment and I haven’t heard of any issues with my clients.

    I’ve asked my boss if I am getting complaints, if my midgrade equipment is good enough. I’ve asked four times. Every time I ask, within 3-4 hours EVERYONE gets a “reminder” that we have to do this and there are no exceptions.

    Having already invested in midgrade equipment, another upgrade would be expensive, and I’d rather not. I don’t know how else to push back, and we’re a small org so no one above her other than a director, who pretty much just leaves our dept to run autonomously.

    1. WellRed*

      If she doesn’t want to specifically tell you, yes, you need an upgrade, you should feel free to assume your good! After all, you DID upgrade. People that don’t set clear expectations deserve to not get the results they want but haven’t asked for.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Buy a new mouse pad and call it a day? Not sure what you mean by equipment but if you already have a computer setup that is Zoom capable, then you have addressed your personal tech issues.

      Or push back as a group on equipment being “new” versus “meets these specific (described by boss in detail) minimal standards.” The first is silly and a lazy form of troubleshooting, the second is very reasonable.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Hi, boss. I’m working on that equipment upgrade, as discussed. Can you provide specifics as to exactly what is needed? What kind of monitor/camera? Are headphones necessary? Is there a particular brand that’s required? I want to be sure I am getting what will work best for you and our clients. Thanks!

        If the boss never gets back with specifics, then I’d say you are in the clear.

    3. Teapot Librarian*

      I hate this. “Some of you aren’t doing X,” where X is subjective/qualitative. Am *I* doing X? I mean, there was that one time when it was obvious to me that I was the someone who wasn’t doing X, so does that mean that if it isn’t obvious to me, it’s probably not me? Just address the problem with the person who needs to hear it!

      1. D3*

        Right?!?!? It’s the worst. She has a habit of doing it because she thinks it avoids confrontation.
        When really it means that none of us know if we are the problem and we all have to take “corrective” measures.
        It’s the worst part of her managing, and I’ve worked for her forever. Usually if I ask or push back she tells me “it’s not you” but this time she won’t answer me personally at all.
        Which makes me wonder if it IS me this time….but who knows?

    4. JustaTech*

      This is simple: you have upgraded. You are using more than the minimum that came with your laptop. Just because you upgraded a while ago doesn’t mean you didn’t do it.

      “Boss, I have upgraded my video/audio system to [whatever you are using now for camera/audio/lights/background].”

  30. JustaTech*

    I’d like to give a shout out to, propose a toast to: ferociously organized coworkers!

    There are organized coworkers, and then there are the people who take hideously complicated systems (purchasing, I’m looking at you) and break them down and build them back up with spreadsheets and folders and documentation that is so organized, so clearly labeled, so sensibly put together that even when the coworker is laid off with no notice, there is no desperate scrambling for information. It’s all there, in one place (with backups in another easy-to-find place) ready for you to take over as though it had been a planned transition.

    Some people are worth their weight in gold. Ferociously organized coworkers (good lab managers being a subset of these) are worth their weight in saffron.
    Cheers!

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Allow me to give my praise to my co-workers who document EVERYTHING!
      Me: Question
      Them: Here’s a link to all the information we collected on that topic. And here is a video someone made to walk you through this process change.

      solid.gold

      1. JustaTech*

        This has been one of my COVID projects – going back through all the ancient reports on one object and writing up the whole (usually convoluted) history of everything we have ever done with the Automatic Llama Braider.

        It’s already been useful when we had a new person start on one of my projects and she was like “how the heck did we get here?” and I could say “here’s the whole history, it’s a thing”.

        Now, part of why I’m doing it now is because as a company we have a terrible history of never writing anything down (or putting it “somewhere” that can never be found again), so I’m trying my best to get things collated and out of people’s brains and onto paper.

      2. Helvetica*

        Not to toot my own horn but I do this and I am bewildered by people who don’t. For context, in my organisation/field, we rotate between positions every 3-4 years, so you’d think people realize the importance of leaving documentation but I’ve heard so many stories of getting a “clean desk” from your predecessor. It just seems wildly unproductive. But I do love organizing files and keeping track of such things in general and also love sending such e-mails as above.

  31. Betty*

    Yesterday’s post about Ann Helen Petersen’s new book was very timely as I am dealing with major burnout and desperately want to change careers. I saw a handful of comments yesterday from people who said they were able to not be emotionally invested in their jobs and found something that provided decent pay and checked their boxes for job satisfaction. I know what is most important for me in a new career/job (using my critical thinking and problem solving skills, a mix of working independently and collaboratively with a small team, flexibility, decent pay), but I have no idea how to identify careers that might match. Does anyone have suggestions for careers that might fit or any ideas of how I go about identifying careers that check these boxes? Is this what a career coach does? Are there other ways to figure this out?

    1. N*

      I think that there are some sites out there where you can take quizzes and such to identify what kind of careers match your skills/personality and then you can go from there to search locally and see what kind of jobs are available.

    2. LPUK*

      It can also differ by company – I was relatively open to the industry I might be working in, but very clear on the corporate culture in which I flourished -one where decision-making is pushed down the line as far as it can be, as far from hierarchical without descending into chaos, collaboration was valued, employees were trusted and where learning environment was a priority and problem-solving was expected.

      1. Kiitemso*

        Hell, it may even differ by department! I’ve been a part of different offices’ work-flow within my company and some offices work like a charm, everybody carries their own tasks to perfection and collaborates, takes responsibility and help each other out, taking work off somebody’s plate if they notice they are too busy. Other offices, it’s a mess where communication doesn’t happen, people often reply “that’s not my problem” or “ask John” (John tells you “ask James”, communication going around in circles) and a drowning employee is faced with a shrug, not a helping hand. When a co-worker recently told me he’s switching offices, I told him genuinely, “Congrats, you’re joining a great group” because I knew first-hand his current office was a poop show and the one he was joining was a great place that functioned so much better.

  32. Chai Tea*

    How do you all deal with finishing projects in a timely manner when about half of the work week is dealing with “emergencies” that pop up out of no where?

    My boss keeps telling me that people feel like our office doesn’t deliver on time or that we ask for too much lead time to complete projects. We do marketing and PR and I handle the graphic design. I told her the only way we can get faster is if we add more designers. I already work over 40 hours a week and I don’t think that I’m slow at what I do. For an example, this week was totally derailed by a discussion on email signatures. I spent a day and a half in meetings and mocking up 4-5 different versions of our company email signature for the c-suite to approve. (this all happened AFTER a company-wide email went out from boss with our new email sigs. I guess the other managers didn’t like it.) They all went back and forth for another day and half with revisions. I had scheduled to finish two other projects during that time and they obviously became delayed. This happens ALL THE TIME. I try to keep my schedule really open because of this, but now I’m being told that we’re too slow.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          My boss does the same damn thing. I think it has to do with his ADD. If the project we’re working on isn’t really that fun, and is in the stage where things are kind of tedious, he’ll start to focus on the inconsequential things like, “Should we get company hats?”

          1. Chai Tea*

            Yes! I think they’re all afraid of making “BIG” decisions, so they perseverate on small inconsequential stuff.

            Which…fine. They can do that.

            But when it delays everything else and then our office (or just myself, I can’t tell which) get blamed for being too slow…I don’t think so. But I don’t know how to either fix it, or at least protect myself from it.

    1. tangerineRose*

      Can you start documenting where you’re spending your time? That might be a good way to push back because the details should make it clear how much of your time they’re wasting.

      1. Chai Tea*

        I have just started doing that! I think I need to get a paid version of a time tracker because the free one shows how much I’m working, but I can’t pull it out into discrete projects.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I know how to scare the crap out of them.

      The scene: A plume of smoke is coming off a machine in the middle of the area. Off to one side employees are arguing, it might get violent. Meanwhile, I am behind on a deadline. Boss comes up to me and says, “Unrelated X needs to be done in the next 5 minutes.”
      I just stop. Cold, hard, dead stop.
      And then I said, “That machine over there is probably on fire, those two over there are going to kill each other, Task A is not complete and now overdue. Plus you need Task X done.” Then as I sat down, I said, “Which one would you like me to do first?” My body language said, “I will sit here while you decide.”
      The color went right of the boss’ face.
      As she wandered off she said, “Just do what you can.”

      Here the technique is to have the presence of mind to be able to list off all that you are doing. And to have the presence of mind not to let any upset you have show. I was able to do that because I decided the whole situation was absurd and not worth my upset.

      1. SoftwareWiz*

        As a software engineer for heavy equipment (not garbage trucks, but you get the idea) I have the same problem. A machine in the field is down, this $1M machine must ship Wednesday with the new special feature, and here is another top priority project.
        As stated above, make sure to list what you are working on, and the consequences of what happens if you do the emergency work. Will the $1M machine not ship until next week, so the customer cancels the order? Also, remind you boss that the interruption pushes the entire work schedule out 15 minutes to avoid frequent interruptions and progress checks.

  33. blepkitty*

    Grandboss, a couple months ago: What are you *doing* with all that time? You need to ask your boss for more work!
    Me (repeatedly): Hey boss, do you have anything for me to do?
    Boss: No. (Or she gives me individual tasks that never take up anything close to all my hours.)

    Later:
    Boss: Go on LinkedIn Learning and find some trainings to watch. Send them to me for approval before you watch them.
    Me: *sends a few that look relevant to my job*
    Boss: Grandboss has decided llama grooming isn’t a priority, so these are out for now.

    I don’t get it. I hardly have anything to do except read books on how to do my job, and I can’t do that all day, every day. Why is it a problem for me to watch training videos on an aspect of my job that isn’t a current priority when I don’t have anything else to do?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I can’t tell you why it’s a problem because I agree, that’s weird, but I think you might have to reframe this conversation. “Go on LinkedIn Learning and find some trainings to watch.” “OK, any particular areas you would like me to focus on?” and press her a bit if she waffles. If she’s still vague, make sure you’re looking for variety.

      Does your boss know about your conversation with her boss? That her boss thinks you need to ask for more work? I know that you asked, but does your boss understand the motivation? That might kick things into gear. Don’t assume your boss’s boss spoke to her about this.

      1. blepkitty*

        Oh, I sent her the question, but past experience tells me she’ll find a way to dodge it. Or misinterpret.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          This sounds like a good time to pick up the phone and talk about it. She can’t dodge as easily that way!

          1. blepkitty*

            No, she really will still dodge or misunderstand. She doesn’t understand anything I ask, to an utterly flabbergasting degree. I wasn’t actually asking for advice on dealing with her; I was hoping for potential reasons people could think of, because there is zero hope of ever getting anything out of her. I’ve been trying for a year.

            1. Chai Tea*

              Can you cc your grandboss on these emails with her? I know that’s generally frowned upon, but maybe it will motivate her? Or at least get grandboss to assign you work?

              Do you know WHY she won’t assign you work? Is she bad a delegating?

    2. Super Duper Anon*

      Honestly, sometimes you just have to find your own work if your boss isn’t helpful or giving you anything. I started out at a job like this with very little to do and was finding it hard. My boss wasn’t trying to hoard work or anything, she just truly didn’t have much to give me. I dug around and found free courses that I could do on my own to help with my field, and I found some work that could be improved and I asked if I could do it. When our company bought out another one and they needed work done from our group, I volunteered immediately. I basically had to build up a stable of projects and now two years in I am at a nice comfortable capacity that I can handle.

      If you aren’t having much luck with your boss, maybe sit down with your grandboss with some ideas of things you might be able to work on, or ask for projects they need help with?

  34. Pepper Potts*

    So I started a new job in March and I have my first annual merit reviews coming up soon. I reached out to a teammate just to get the background about what our boss/company typically expect from the self assessment part of our reviews. The conversation was super helpful.

    However, as part of the conversation, he brought up an email from our department head where she suggested reaching out to the managers of coworkers we had worked with closely to offer prose or other insights if we felt the urge to do so. So my teammate suggested that we both do that for each other. I don’t have a huge problem with this, as my teammate has been helpful over the 7 months I’ve been here, but nothing to the point where I naturally would feel the urge to especially commend him. But he already said he would do the same for me, so I kind of feel like an asshole if I didn’t. I don’t want to commit a faux pas but I also don’t want to offer insincere praise.

    Advice?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      First year, you can possibly skate by on something like “Jarvis has been welcoming and helpful in my onboarding at Llamas Inc. He has been very approachable when I have had questions about where the grooming tools are kept and our procedure for hoof polishing and I have appreciated his assistance.” (Assuming that’s all true, of course. This obviously gets a lot harder if he’s a jerk who doesn’t answer questions and tells you to go look it up yourself when he knows it’s not actually in writing anywhere.)

      1. Pepper Potts*

        Nah, he’s not a jerk. But like idk, hasn’t gone above and beyond? Maybe I’m being too stingy with praise and I just send a short note. But then I feel like I should DEFINITELY do it for my teammates who really have gone above and beyond to help me out and answer all my newbie questions.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Then I’m lining up behind Emilitron below, who suggests one email expressing support of all your coworkers, and then identifying the ones who have been extra useful. :)

    2. Emilitron*

      If you’ve got confirmation from the dept head that this emailing-in-support-of-coworkers really is something they want to have happen, then yes, do it. If there are coworkers other than this guy (I’m calling him Cecil) who have the same manager, I’d suggest a single email, in which you can be more enthusiastic about some but definitely include positive words