open thread – September 4-5, 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.

{ 1,187 comments… read them below }

  1. Twisted Knickers*

    Has anyone had any experience doing voiceover work? I ran across some information about, and am curious if any of you have either hired someone to do recording for you, or actually done the recording yourself. Thanks!

    1. RobotWithHumanHair*

      Great, now another job I’d love to do but probably don’t possess the qualifications for, hah. I used to produce and do voiceovers for my podcast’s network ads (back when I had a podcast) and was pretty proud of those, but that’s probably not exactly the experience you’re looking for. :)

    2. codygirl*

      I used Fiverr and hired someone to update our hold message. It was inexpensive, easy and worked out well for us.

    3. Lyudie*

      We used to use professional voice overs for our videos but due to budget cuts, we’re now doing that ourselves. While I do enjoy doing it, you can guess how we feel in general about this situation >.> I don’t know anything about, we used a small agency with about half a dozen folks.

    4. Kimmybear*

      I think it really depends on what you are producing. I do my own voice over for internal training videos. If I were doing external marketing materials, I would probably hire someone. Also, consider language and accent in relation to your audience. I have a consultant that does great training videos but his slight U.S. southern accent is hard for some of our international staff.

      1. Krabby*

        Yep! We just made in-house training videos for our clients and got the feedback that the accents were “too Canadian.” We’re a Canadian company, but most of our clients are in Europe. So one of the guys on our media team messaged every department head and asked if anyone on their team had an accent. He did not provide them any context about why he was asking. I’m in HR so I got a lot of questions about that, haha.

    5. rageismycaffeine*

      I’ve done some of this kind of thing for some online training modules. An inexpensive headset is usually fine for all but the most professional of presentations. I’m also really interested in voiceover work professionally, but I understand it’s pretty hard to get into… :)

    6. LQ*

      I’ve done VO work, audiobook recordings, and other audio work. Both at my job and freelance.

      I feel a little like the market has kind of gone upside down on this where a lot of people are doing it for way too cheap and it’s not really worth it to do a high quality production. A lot of people go with it’s easy I have a head set and I can just record and so it’s poorly produced audio with poor quality, but most people don’t care so it’s sufficient for the need in that case. Highly produced audio takes time, skills, and gear.

      At this point I’ve stopped doing it because of this. Most people who are hiring are looking for someone absurdly cheap with really nice quality (or things like you should do your own music and the like with it, which is beyond unreasonable at the prices I’ve seen it at). Or cheap with cheap quality (which is fine, but I’m never going to be happy with what I produce and I’m not good at dashing stuff off fast enough to turn any kind of profit at the lower end of the market).

      If you can get yourself into a niche where you are successful it is incredibly fun, harder work than people think, and wonderful to know you have produced something that is really beautiful when it’s done.

    7. Disco Janet*

      One of my friends does voiceover work for commercials and things like that. However, she went to school for broadcasting and is now a radio host, so I think she has an actual agent who handles it for her. Seems it can get pretty complicated! She’s Canadian but has a fairly neutral/radio friendly voice.

    8. Triumphant Fox*

      I have done agency work where we hired another firm to do all voice and audio work for us and they secured the talent. In that scenario, they had maybe 10 people who matched our profile (Mature female voice with a British accent, Young male voice with energy, whatever) read a couple lines from our script. We narrowed it down and paid for a full reading from 3 and then presented two to the client already polished and with music.

      For my internal work, we have hired VO work through an agency and through fiverr. We went with pretty much the top dollar people on fiverr for what we wanted and got really high quality work back. It was nowhere near the cost going through an agency, but it wasn’t $100.

      For internal work that isn’t high production, we have equipment and a sound booth to record trainings/etc. where you wouldn’t outsource it.

    9. Anonn*

      Hey thanks! I’m a professional radio broadcaster and just signed up to do voicework for both of these.

    10. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I did some voiceover work for a series of commercials when I was… 15 I think? I had it on my resume all the way until I graduated collage in any case. It was a ton of fun, but my memory of it was mostly how cool the recording studio was and a lot of time practicing a valley girl voice. My biggest takeaway is that even professionally recorded by the best equipment possible you are always going to hate the sound of your own voice and you don’t have any future in it if you can’t get over it (spoiler alert: I couldn’t get over it).

  2. Anon for this*

    Who is supposed to put together the metrics and justification to bring more manpower onto the team? My manager has spent the last few months telling us that he hasn’t submitted the paperwork yet because we haven’t brought him enough justification. At this point we’ve spent so much time writing up the charts and graphs he’s asking for that it’s starting to seriously cut into our ability to do other tasks… and this is as he is piling more work onto us.

    Whose job would this be in a workforce that is not this place? Am I right in thinking something is off about this?

    1. cabbagepants*

      What does he say when you ask him this? If he has a specific person or procedure in mind, he will tell you. If he’s just trying to avoid hiring someone else and giving you busywork to get you to go away in the minute, you’ll see that, too.

      1. Anon for this*

        He just says we need to put together an ironclad justification for more manpower in this difficult time. And he doesn’t always do this when asked, he goes through fits of GIVE ME MORE DATA and then crickets and then GIVE ME MORE DATA. Which is strange because if he just told us getting more manpower at this time is impossible because of COVID we’d not be happy but we’d understand, and we’d not be spending large quantities of time on carefully detailed minute by minute accounts of how we spend our day because he says it will help him tell our story.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          It doesn’t sound like your boss actually wants more data. It sounds like your boss just wants an excuse not to hire another person.

          1. Lance*

            Agreed. This is a whole lot of noise with no substance at the end of it; your boss just wants the illusion of doing something about this while not actually being willing to bother to do anything.

        2. Artemesia*

          Give me for data has in every organization I have ever been in meant ‘I am not going to do this, but I am going to pretend it is your fault I am not going to do this.’ Managers give these busy work tasks to cool people out. Once? Sure. And then he comes back and says ‘this is great, but I need X type number to add to it before I send it up.’ Ok. but repeated vague ‘needs to be ironclad’? He is just stonewalling.

    2. Workerbee*

      Sounds like your boss and mine went to the same school of management. Every time you provide him exactly the justification he asked for, it’s magically never enough. Because the moment he says it’s enough, he’ll have to act on it, and that would never do.

      If he also likes to claim he never hears about stuff or knows what’s going on, despite being in countless meetings that tell him all the things he needs to know, we may have indeed uncovered a nest! :)

      1. Anon for this*

        Other gems of wisdom include “I didn’t start my career until I was 30 so you don’t have to worry because you aren’t 30 yet” (my birthday was several months ago, pretty sure he didn’t even notice), “government contractors are contractors for years and they’re fine so don’t worry, you’re fine”, “if you need time off to destress, take time off” (which I will not be paid for), and “you’re not disgruntled or anything, right? Because disgruntled employees are very very bad” (I might not be happy but I’m also intelligent enough to know there is exactly one right answer to that question)

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          “Yes, I’m unhappy, since my job has been nearly impossible to do for months because of X and Y, and when I raise these issues you tell me it’s not a big deal, and to just leave it off the report. But when I do that, I’m penalized. Since this happened multiple times already, I’m past disgruntled at this point.”

          That’s word for word what I told my boss at Dysfunctional Old Job. At that point, I was in the final interview stages at a couple other places, and honestly would rather be jobless than continue there for much longer. It was extremely liberating, one of the most amazing moments of my work life!

          But yes, the boss found a way to lay me off by the next week, so use back talk with caution, lol. I got the severance pay and a better job a week later, so all was good. :D

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      The biggest way to make someone above you understand that a workload is unreasonable/you need help is to make sure that any issue goes straight to them. You can have all the charts and explanations in the world, if the problem doesn’t show up on their desk and affect them personally then they don’t see it and don’t care to fix it. (This is not how it should be nor is it how it is universally, I’m sure plenty of bosses actually believe what their employees tell them, but sadly many do not.) So anytime someone asks you for something or presents an issue to you, you send them straight to boss. If you stop hiding the problem from them it will make them deal with it.

      My coworkers and I spent last summer absolutely drowning and our boss (who is normally wonderful) kept doing nothing and offering “solutions” that only worked if the whole office system operated perfectly, which is not how people work, which he did not/could not understand. We stopped trying to make things work and just sent everyone directly to him. The problem was fixed so quickly that if our work life hadn’t improved so drastically it would have been insulting for how long we had to make do, when all we needed was his buy-in.

      TLDR: forget your charts, send the problems directly to him so he can’t ignore them

      1. Anon for this*

        What do we do when he tells us he’s sorry but he can’t do everything and he’s going to have to start pushing some of the stuff we send him back to us?

        1. Considered Secularist*

          Then it’s time to say I can do X and Y but not Z. If you need Z do you prefer that I not do X or not do Y?

        2. A Simple Narwhal*

          Make sure you have your priorities set, and then only do what you can do in your workday. “I can take this, but it means that X won’t get done.” or “I won’t be able to take that because you determined Y was the main priority [this is why we requested additional help]”. Make it very clear that you won’t be able to get everything done. When/if the person who wants the other thing done comes to check on it, you send them straight to the boss – “You’ll have to talk to boss about that, he has me working on something else” “Talk to boss, unfortunately my schedule is already full” “If this is urgent you’ll need to talk to boss to move things around, I can’t work on it currently” – never try and just make it work and then tell boss about it, if you make it work then to him what’s the big deal? You made it work, so he has no reason to change.

          This advice doesn’t solve the problem of too much work, you won’t be able to get everything done. It just makes sure that your boss (the person who could actually fix things) is bearing the brunt of things. The main goal is to just never hide the problem from him, but make him deal with it.

        3. lemon*

          You could try explaining the trade-offs to him, e.g. “If I we do X, we won’t have time to do Y, which is bad for reasons P, Q, R. Given that, would you like us to prioritize X or Y?”

          Lather, rinse, repeat over and over again. A decent boss will get it. Even if they can’t hire more help, they’ll be more understanding of why your team may not be reaching certain deadlines and will adjust their expectations.

          However, a bad boss will probably give you some version of, “just figure it out.” I still haven’t figured out what you do in that situation (other than look for a new job). My solution was a work slow-down– not intentionally stretching projects out, but just not running around like a chicken with its head cut off to put out fires the boss created, and just letting the chips fall where they may. Not sure if that was the best solution, but the only option I had at the time.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Our boss kept getting told ‘figure it out’ 40% of us bailed including boss, before someone 2 layers up gave us support to say “we don’t have the staff for everything. What are the top 5 priorities for the month?”

        4. Anne Elliot*

          That you’re sorry but you can’t do everything, either. Not in a snarky way, maybe, but the bottom-line answer to “I can’t do everything” is “neither can I.” So then (and as others have said) you quantify your workload and ask for guidance on how you should prioritize it.

      2. Anon for this*

        (I’d probably be job hunting if not for COVID, but where I am now, I’d probably have to relocate if I were to get a new job, and I’m a bit wary of relocating when who knows whether side effects of the pandemic recovery will negatively affect theoretical new job. At least now I am overworked and stressed but I am getting paid to be overworked and stressed)

      3. Cdn Acct*

        I’m a manager and I agree that this solution is the most likely to work. If I hear from my team that they are swamped but I’m not seeing it directly, I would try to quantify what changed (they used to process 10 widgets daily and that’s up to 50), or get data some other way that I could then escalate to ask for help. If it’s not as clear-cut as that, I might try to spread the work around (if it’s one person) or sit with them to understand their process better and see if anything could be done to streamline or speed it up. If I can’t improve it this way, and there is no data I can find to explain why things are bad, it’s tough to get approval for more resources. But if I felt the pain directly, then that gives me data to explain to TPTB – we might be doing the same number of things but they often have data issues so we have to do re-work, or it’s now more complex because we have to do these extra steps, or they’re sending things with a shorter turnaround time, and so on and so on.
        If after all that your boss still resists, then you know it’s them.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I’m a manager, too, and I agree with this. It’s hard to determine if more help is truly needed when I don’t know firsthand what the problems are. When someone tells me there’s just not enough time in the day for everything that needs to get done, I’m digging into the work with specific people so I can get a good feel for what the issues are that’s leading to a problem of not getting things done. I have to have the data and knowledge of the problem to bring it to someone higher up and be able to justify another person.

    4. Wintergreen*

      Yes, he could conceivably ask you to track your time, what you aren’t getting to, problems that are contributing to you not getting everything done, etc. for justification to take to the higher-ups but if he is asking for charts, graphs, summaries, etc. He is asking you to do his job for him.

      It is your job to let your manager know if you have too much work for your 40 hours or if things are going to be late the reason why. “Sorry, reports A, B & C are going to be late, I was unable to get X from Sam for report A, and I need Y from Jan to complete B & C.” “Manager, I know that Z needs done but I’ve been spending all my time on TOP project because you said it should always be top priority.” It is the managers job to figure out what needs to be done from there. That could be additional staff, it could be processes need to be adjusted or the computer system needs updated.

      That’s my 2 cents anyway.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      Is your boss the one who gets to make the decision about whether more people are brought on, or does it have to get HR approval or other approval after your boss submits that paperwork? If someone else needs to approve it, it might be helpful if you could ask your boss to include you in a meeting with that person or team, and get a better, clearer idea of where the sticking point is. Let your boss know you want this so you can provide him with the best, most relevant information he needs to make the argument, and that if you’re able to talk to the decision-maker directly, that might be easier.

    6. designbot*

      The person with the biggest stake in getting the hire to happen justifies it. If it’s your idea, it’s what you need, then it’s your job to convince him. If and when he feels strongly about it, it becomes his job to convince the next level of people, and so forth. It does not sound like he’s convinced.

    7. Beth*

      Augh, flashback to my previous job in the Hellmouth. My bosses were so good at delegating that they never had enough to do, and we never had enough time to do what they’d dumped on us. Attempts to get more personnel failed in part because our bosses weren’t busy at all, so clearly there was not too much work for the staff.

      Those [insert vulgar noun]s even had us track our work for a week — massive extra time demands there — and came back objecting because the amount of time we had documented as being needed to actually get all the work done was well over 40 hours each. So, clearly, the data we’d assembled were wrong and we didn’t need any more staff.

      After I left, I heard they had to hire four new people in my place — and I was NOT the busiest person on staff. They also started to get massive turnover. Gosh. How surprising.

    8. Juneybug*

      Here’s a horrible story about my friend and lessons learned the hard way –
      Let’s call my friend Candice. Few years ago, Candice was working on some huge projects plus her role in the company was expanding like crazy. For example, she went from being a llama groomer to training folks on how to groom llamas to running the whole training program. At the same time, she also ensured new software was implemented that could track llamas, their grooming, inventory of grooming supplies, vendor payments, payroll, etc. With this new software, she was now in charge of training folks how to use this system. This company had 150 employees. Later, she was in charge of maintaining this software, while still running both training programs.
      During this almost three year period, Candice was working 60 – 80 hours weekly. She went to her boss numerous times begging for more staff. She provided charts, graphs, metrics – all the data he would need to hire two or more staff to keep the company going. He told her that he was trying but leadership was not buying the justification, there was no money in the budget, etc. So my friend kept going because she figured one day management would notice her efforts and provide additional staffing.
      Then my friend Candice had a major heart attack. She was in her late 40s with no previous heart condition or health issues. But that kind of stress would stop anyone’s heart, which for her, it did.
      At the hospital, her boss’ boss comes in to visit her. He finds out that she was working crazy hours (because without her, everyone is running around in a full-blown panic) and ask her why she never asked for help. She told him she had, numerous times. Come to find out that her boss never moved her requests for more staffing up the chain. He never told his boss that were issues. When grandboss noticed once that she seems to be stressed out, he asked about her workload but her boss said she was fine and everything was running smoothly.
      Additionally, grandboss didn’t know about her title or increased pay requests. So Candice did all of this work without a pay bump or change in title. Yep, she was still getting paid as entry-level llama groomer without overtime pay.
      No one knows why her boss did that (maybe to make himself look good, he didn’t want to go through the hassle of hiring more staff, etc.). We will never know cause grandboss let him go immediately.
      Once Candice found out that she had been greatly screwed over by her boss, she let grandboss know she is taking her comp time, medical leave, and vacation – all at once!! She was so upset about their lack of involvement with the management of the company, she turns off her phone and lets them deal with the aftermath of not having anyone trained on who to run the software and training programs. She took almost a whole year off with pay.
      While her grandboss would not provide retro pay for the work she did (we think he was upset she took a year off on his dime), he did give her a significant raise and title (think Vice President of Operations and Training).
      Candice will tell you the hard lessons she learned was –
      1. When your boss is not providing you the support the company needs, schedule a meeting with their boss and your boss. Go up the chain until the issue is fixed.
      2. Use the words “the company needs this support”, not “I need this support”. Because after all, it’s the company’s problem.
      3. Report out to leadership on status of programs, new software, etc.
      4. Ask HR for assistance (come to find out that HR would start the paperwork for additional support staff and her boss would have had to justify approval or denial, which HR would let grandboss know).
      5. Don’t have misplaced loyalty. Be loyal to your family, your health, your friends, but not to the company.
      6. Don’t work beyond normal working hours.
      7. Ask for raises and titles.
      8. Give your boss a short time to fix an issue (she recommends 1 – 6 months, depending on the issue). If they doesn’t fix the problem, then move up the chain, seek additional support like HR, or move to another company.

      1. TechWorker*

        Nowhere near as extreme, but a version of this happened to me. I took over a project that was an utter shitshow (haven’t quite forgiven the previous manager to be honest) and at the same time two mid-level employees were removed, leaving me, one other technical person & 4 engineers with less than two years of experience (requiring significant help).

        I ended up under huge stress, working long hours and close to quitting. I told my manager *every week* that I wasn’t coping with the workload and I didn’t think the team was the right setup, he was just like ‘it’s fine! Don’t worry!’. Nothing happened for months and I would cry on the way to work some days.

        I eventually reached breaking point and went to a director. Clearly my manager had not raised the problem upwards because I got two more people to work on the team TWO DAYS later. That didn’t fix things immediately but boy did it help! I really appreciated how quickly it got sorted out but hey, maybe I could have saved some of those months of stress if I’d gone upwards earlier.

    9. Anonymous Hippo*

      In my opinion, it is the person in charge of getting the work done, ie the manager. He might need some data from the other team members (duties, time alloted to each, things getting pushed onto the backburner, etc) but the presentation would be on him. Clearly, y’all aren’t making not having enough people hard enough on him. This honestly sounds like lazy management…he doesn’t want to expend the capital to fight for this, so he is making you do it.

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

      Yes, something is off.

      Answer to your actual Q – In a normal company…
      – In general the manager would write up / collate those metrics etc and present to their own boss, to justify hiring additional people in to their team.
      – If the manager needs additional details from the existing team they’d request and coordinate that, then present to their boss.
      – If the existing team submit information that isn’t detailed/structured enough or is incomplete in some way (which is understandable as individual contributors don’t necessarily know what kind of info “managers” need), manager would work with them to help flesh out / refine the information until it’s ‘enough’.

      I appreciate that you have spent a lot of time putting together this information (I know how it is as I’ve had to do similar myself!) and I know how unexpectedly-time-consuming it can be (Just last week, I spent ~12 hours working on an estimate that was expected to take half a day!).

      My sense is that you are writing up these charts etc as “busy work” at this point. My gut feeling (and I could be wrong) is that this is a stalling tactic of some sort. He hasn’t submitted it because there isn’t enough justification?

      Have you had a direct conversation with him about what additional justification/information is needed at this point? Tried to get a sense of why ‘so much’ information is needed? (He ought to have a sense of that already as the manager of that area!)

    11. Mavis*

      As long as the work gets done he doesn’t care.

      Time to let him know only 2 of 3 tasks can be done, and which to prioritize.

    12. Product Person*

      carefully detailed minute by minute accounts of how we spend our day

      I know your boss is asking for it but I’d take a different route that is more likely to give him/her convincing arguments. Summarize the data with a focus on throughput. For example,

      On average a llama groomer can groom 5 llamas a day. We have 10 groomers, which means we are set to produce 50 groomed llamas per day. However, we are currently receiving 60 llamas to groom per day. We’re working long hours to finish the week with little to no backlog, but that’s not sustainable, we’re starting to see burnout, and the trend we are seeing teells us that we’ll be asked to groom 75-80 llamas per day in Q4. To keep pace with demand, we need to immediately hire 2 people to be match the demand for 60 llamas per day, and should be already planning to hire a couple more in Q4.

    13. Chaordic One*

      In the past, when I’ve been in this position and wasted a lot of time and effort putting together the metrics, I ended up quitting. My boss always placed the blame on the grandboss who wouldn’t listen to him. I’m not sure if it was true of not. I didn’t hate the guy, but did he seem a bit obtuse and short-sighted. During the exit interview I said that while my boss had many good qualities, he was a complete failure when it came to advocating for his employees, which was the truth.

  3. Should be grateful (?)*

    I do not THINK I am a workaholic, but my own mind and actions shocked me this week when I took vacation. Our entire company is currently in a telecommuting status because of COVID19. However, we still have to burn up our leave, so I took 3 days off. … And I was shocked that I was entirely unable to leave my work e-mail off. I would feel anxiety that outstanding work is not done, so I turned my laptop on and started answering emails so often my own boss had to ask me “Aren’t you on leave?”. TWICE. The only sign I was on leave is that I spend most of my days doing a painting (in between answering work emails)

    During older times, I had no problem ignoring emails during non office hours because my laptop is safely locked in my office during my vacation. During THIS vacation, I found myself unable to ignore that work laptop on my table at all.

    Any experienced Work From Home staff who can teach me how to Vacation From Home, PLEASE SHOW ME YOUR WISDOM, before I ruin yet MORE of my vacation time with my own anxieties.

    1. Zoomed out*

      I found myself checking the work email app at midnight when I couldn’t go to sleep, as if it was twitter or something, so I feel you. Someone framed it in a way that stuck out to me, we’re living at work right now. So now work is part of your home routine and habits. I am glad you got some painting done! Maybe next time hide your devices in a different room?

    2. AwkwardTurtle*

      If you’re living with other people, can you give them your laptop for safekeeping during your staycation? I also make sure to turn off notifications and badges on my phone so that I don’t get tempted to check emails.

    3. Workerbee*

      You might have to do some conscious and concentrated retraining of your brain! It’s too easy to justify those quick check-ins that suddenly turn into two hours gone.

      One thing that works for me is to remind myself, out loud if necessary, that I earned this day or these days off, that I wouldn’t have taken these days if I didn’t want to or need to, and that, quite truly, THE WORK WILL ALWAYS BE THERE. That is not meant to be disheartening but rather a wake-up call that the moment things get done, other things take their place.

      And why not give yourself priority for a change? Why are you not as or more important than that email or project? You are a whole person, not a piece of a person.

      And put that laptop in a drawer, a box, or a closet.

    4. old curmudgeon*

      Do you use a secure fob to access your VPN? If so, it might help to give custody of that to someone else in the household, and ask them not to return it to you until your staycation is over.

      That said, I am sitting here burning through a day of use-it-or-lose-it PTO and I’ve already checked my work email via Outlook Web Access (which doesn’t require the fob) three times and have replied to two messages before 9:30, so take anything I say with a large grain of salt…..

    5. Jane*

      IME if I can get through the first 3 days without checking work email the urge recedes and I start enjoying time off. For me, that involves making it clear to everyone I won’t be checking email while out but my manager can contact me if needed (my manager has my personal number, I find it helpful to know I’m not totally off grid but also someone filters requests so I really will only be contacted if it’s urgent), and then turning off my work cellphone and laptop and hiding them away in a drawer so they’re out of sight / out of mind. I still get the urge to check, but for me checking just once tends to spiral into what you’ve experienced so I need to be strict with myself.

      Also breaking up the routine helps – so going for a walk first thing if I don’t normally.

    6. Workerbee*

      Coming back to add that, for less sympathetic managers and for grasping coworkers, the last thing you want to do is train people not to respect your days off and expect you to be available to their every whim—and hold you accountable/throw you under the cliched bus if you don’t respond.

      1. Should be grateful (?)*

        HOLY SHEEP, I never realised there is THIS unexpected consequence of me answering emails during holidays too. I need to learn this lesson STAT

      2. Anonymous for This*

        Workerbee, you speak the absolute truth.

        I called off sick last Friday because allergies caused a massive headache, sore throat and loss of my voice. I had to send an email and text messages to my supervisor and my direct reports because I couldn’t talk to anyone…and I was very clear on my symptoms and that I COULD NOT SPEAK.

        I still received 3 phone calls from the office and several instant messages — all along the lines of “I know you’re out sick, but I just have a quick question.”

        I made it clear when I returned to work that such a thing is unacceptable, but it really is my fault, because I was always available before, even if I was out sick or on vacay.

        You train people how to treat you.

      3. The Rat-Catcher*

        Right?! We recently went through a reorg and one of my new peers said something over email like, “If my team needs me over the weekend, I am available to them always” and I cringed. I am NOT available to you always. Please handle your own stuff on the weekend. (I am not in a role where the things that come up on the weekend are emergencies.) So you might also be setting a tough precedent for your peers as well.

    7. Diahann Carroll*

      I’ve been working from home now for almost a year and a half, and whenever I staycation (or just when I log off my laptop for the day during a regular work week), I pack my laptop back in its bag and put the bag back at the bottom of my hall closet. I don’t really have much need to go into that closet often, so I don’t see the laptop bag or feel compelled to work. I also have a work-issued iPhone that has my work email on it – I leave that phone in another part of my apartment with all notifications turned off. I occasionally check work email during staycation, but only at night just to make sure nothing blew up during the day.

      But your laptop somewhere else where you can’t see it. Trust me, it helps.

      1. Ashley*

        The notifications on your phone is huge. Because my email is an easily installed app if I am out for more then a day I will physically delete the app and then reinstall it when I return.
        My WFH setup has a room with doors thankfully so I physically close the doors and don’t walk the in the space. The more I don’t look at the setup the better I train my brain not to think about the work piling up while I am gone.

      2. Jay*

        Yup. This. I am not allowed to access my work Email from personal devices and this is a godsend. When I’m not working, the phone is turned off and the laptop and related paraphernalia are put away. My colleagues have my personal cell number and I know that they are far more hesitant to use it than to send a quick Teams message or Email “just in case Jay is checking.” So in an actual emergency, they can reach me. There are not very many actual emergencies (and I’m an MD).

    8. Anon-y-mous*

      The one thing I used to do is put a notice on my out of office reply (even during WFH) that said something to the effect that:

      >> I am out of the office on vacation between X and X and will not have access to my email.
      >> If there is an EMERGENCY situation, you can call xxx-xxxx and I will do my best to respond.

      Send all of your out of incoming email to a VACATION folder during the ooo reply time. It will make it easier to go through them all when you get back versus what comes in the day you return.

      And then turn OFF your computer and put it away! Stick it in a drawer or something. Plug your work phone in, at your desk, but do not check the emails and turn off those alerts. Only monitor the home screen occasionally for incoming emergency calls (like once a day). Yes it’s a fib! But people don’t KNOW THAT. Even in WFH, think of it exactly as you would if you were on a plane, train or automobile on the other side of the world. You are not available. Period.

      It doesn’t always work of course. Some work cultures have no respect for vacation or disconnecting and will call you anyway because the TPS report has a minor change they could do themselves but they’ll consider that an “emergency.” But many people WILL respect the time away and either wait or send the email not expecting a reply until you return. It’s up to you do the disconnecting part.

    9. CTT*

      I think some of this can be chalked up less to workaholic and more to 1) we are always connected at all times in all aspects of our life, so turning off any facet of that can be hard and 2) I think a staycation when we’re all working from home makes it really difficult to erect those barriers because your computer and workstation are (probably, if you don’t have a designated office) right there! You can’t disconnect when your laptop is looming in the background.

      So I don’t have advice, just that we’re in weird circumstances and I don’t think you should be hard on yourself.

    10. Ama*

      I’m not that experienced (been working from home since March, will be here until at least January), but when I took a two week vacation in July, I decided to try packing away my entire work from home set up — I put my laptop, my external keyboard, my mouse, even all the little extras like my notebook and the box I use to prop my laptop up for video calls up on a shelf where I didn’t have to interact with it at all. My home office is in the room where all my clothes are and uses my sewing table as my desk so I wanted to be able to use that room during my vacation without being constantly reminded “oh yeah, work.”

      Since we currently have our work phones forwarded to our cell phones, I also put my work extension on my block list during my vacation so I wouldn’t even have to hear it ring. I also handled my work email app on my phone the same way I have always handled it when on vacation — I turned off all notifications and I removed it from the main home screens so I could only get to it by going into the apps menu, which I don’t use regularly.

      One thing I find eases my anxiety about possible emergencies is to have a couple trusted coworkers (one is my boss and one is the person who covers for me) that know that I won’t be checking my work email at all and to text me if there is truly something that I need to look at. (I will note this works because those two people can truly be trusted to know the difference between an emergency and not being able to find a file or something.)

      The relocation of my work stuff helped so much that I made a permanent storage place for the work laptop and accessories and now pack everything away every Friday (and I put the keyboard, mouse, and notebook up at the end of every day). I call the packing and unpacking my new commute.

    11. DistantAudacity*

      I made sure I travelled the first week this summer, to really get away (I’m in a country where domestic travel is fine – Norway).
      For my last two weeks I stayed too much at home; looking back I should have had more firm plans Doing Something Else (within the rules) rather puttering about at home.

      Normally, the first week I think about work, week two is vacation mode fully engaged and towards the last half of the last week I start getting ready to go back. I didn’t quite get this proper break this year.

      1. DistantAudacity*

        Oops – didn’t catch that it was a 3-day break.

        In that case, I’ll stick with the «firm plans of Doing Something Else» to get out of the headspace a bit.

    12. WellRed*

      I put the laptop away. I also make plans that aren’t compatible with work (harder to do these days, but not i mpossible)

      1. Artemesia*

        This. If you can plan a day of hiking at a nearby park and maybe a picnic with your partner if you have one, then it breaks the routine and becomes a real vacation.

    13. Cakeroll*

      I sympathize! I recently took a week off to force myself to relax, and it was very hard to let work go. I’ve learned that I have to be very strict with myself in these situations – I uninstall all work apps from my phone, I shut down my work laptop and put it in a drawer, and I disable my work-related logins in my password manager (basically to make it more difficult than it normally would be to log in to email or other tools from my personal laptop). Those extra hurdles help a lot to give me the extra time whenever I feel an urge to check in, to tell myself “it’s not that important, the team has got this, no one is going to die if you’re away”.

      The one slip-up I had was logging in on “Release Day” just to see that it went out – and then I shut it all down again and resumed my relaxing.

      Another thought – presumably you would feel you were being rude and not offering your work the attention it deserved if you watched a movie during the middle of a workday, or were texting a friend during a meeting. It might help if you turn that around, and think of yourself as being rude to your friends/family/pet when working during time off, or that you’re not offering your painting or other hobbies the attention the deserve by checking work emails.

    14. JokeyJules*

      i always turn off the notifications for my work email on my phone which is a huge help because out of sight out of mind. i also put my work laptop in a backpack or in a drawer. it definitely helps not to see it, and perhaps the extra moments of physically getting the computer out of the drawer/bag/place gives you a chance to stop yourself and say “wait, i’m on vacation. stop.”

    15. Emilitron*

      For me COVID makes a huge difference. When I used to take vacation days it was for an “event” – I’d get on a plane for a trip, or go spend time with family, or be out of the house doing something completely unlike my usual routine… or even stay home (and do a project), which was completely unlike my usual routine.

      COVID has changed all that. I’m taking my day off in the SAME BUILDING as my office, and I’ve programmed myself that working is what I do when I’m in the dining room (ok office?), which is really hard to let it go. On top of that, I’ve found myself having more trouble entertaining myself as quarantine goes on, and checking work email is genuinely just as interesting as checking Facebook again.

      My solution is to schedule things to do for my staycation days, and mentally focus on doing and enjoying those things. Also fold up my workstation and laptop so I don’t have to see it, and check email only on my work phone, and only when I’m “on break” from my staycation activities. If you’re worried they might need your help while you’re gone, check email in the evenings; that gives them triage support in under a day, but indicates that you’re clearly not “on-call”.

    16. PX*

      I’m lucky that I can turn my brain off as soon as my laptop is off, but like most people have said : physical separation of your work stuff from you is usually the best way. Also make sure things like notifications also don’t come to any personal devices. And finally distraction whenever you find yourself thinking of work!

    17. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m generally pretty good about not touching work stuff except on work time, but I’m bad at Vacationing From Home because it feels like a waste of my PTO if I’m not actually going anywhere. (This is a me thing, not a general thing – to me, the sole purpose of a vacation is to go somewhere else and do as much stuff as possible that I can’t do at home.) So my solution to making it work has been to take my Vacation From Home as half days – I work 6:30-10:30, which is enough to keep my everyday work mostly under control (so post-VFH I’m only having to do REAL catch up on the weekly type projects).

      Then after 10:30am I shut off the work laptop and turn instead to my VFH To Do list because if I can’t go anywhere, I at least have to give myself specific things to do, which in the past have ran the gamut from “finish season X of tv show Y” to “eat ice cream at least twice” to “clean out the fridge.” I plan the VFH To-Do list a couple weeks in advance and aim for a reasonable mix of fun things and useful project things. Having another specific focus besides work helps.

    18. Rachel in NYC*

      I wonder if this is a sign about how much you check your email normally. One of things that has helped me in the WFH transition is that I never put my work email on my cell phone so I’m pretty used to being disconnected from the office. So at the end of the day, turning off my computer and putting it out of sight works surprisingly well.

      I share a pretty data limited cell phone plan with my mother and for safety reasons, I’d rather make sure that she always have data available. So very early on at my current employer, I made it clear that unless they paid for the data or provided a cell phone- work email wasn’t going on my cell.

      [I will admit to have my office Zoom chat on my cell phone. But it is generally social only. The latest thing someone baked or happy birthday wishes.]

      1. Pepperbar*

        I remember at my previous job being asked why I wasn’t expensing my cell phone plan, and responding “Because then I’d have to *answer* it.”

    19. higheredrefugee*

      Please also remind yourself that you are LITERALLY being paid to take time off and this benefits not just you, but your employer when you return a little more refreshed/recharged/rested/whatever. I COMPLETELY turn off my laptop for the duration (even passive electricity costs me money, right?) though I reconnect it the night before I return for any software updates that were done, which allows me to jump in much faster the next morning, less frustrated, and a much happier employee. Figure out your mind hacks (perhaps what works on weekends/nights for you) and deploy ruthlessly until you actually relax. Also, give yourself some grace, the extra uncertainty is raising anxiety for most of us, and it will be some time before most of create and continue to develop and deploy more mind hacks.

    20. Esmeralda*

      Put your work laptop in a cardboard box. Tape it shut (strapping tape, like for mailing something not just cello tape). Stick it in an inconvenient spot in an inconvenient closet. Go do your vacation stuff in another room, or out in your yard if you have one and it’s not full of mosquitos.

      That’s serious advice — put the laptop somewhere that it’s genuinely hard to get at. (I used to give it to my husband or son and say, hide this and don’t give it back til Monday morning.)

      If you find yourself with an exacto knife, standing on a ladder and reaching for the laptop box — well, you are in a seriously bad state…..

    21. WantonSeedStitch*

      I am not that experienced, but it might help if you plan out specific things to do while you’re on vacation. Not just “I’ll have time to get more painting done,” but “I want to finish this painting today, and also make that recipe I’ve been thinking about for dinner. Tomorrow, I will go hiking. I’ll leave in the late morning after doing some housework, and will pack a lunch so I can have a nice picnic out there. That evening, I will order in dinner and binge-watch The Umbrella Academy. The next day will be all about decluttering the spare room and organizing stuff in the garage on some new shelves.” If you have stuff to fill up your day that is NOT work, it’s easier not to find yourself thinking, “I should be working now.”

    22. Krabby*

      I did this recently and I took my entire workstation and put it in storage. I have a bunch of monitors and it was a PITA to move them all, but I have a lot of anxiety around work and it really helped to shut it off.

      But the real trick is to leave for longer. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but there was a study about how you don’t actually fully de-stress from work until 3-5 days in (or around that). So you actually want to be off for over a week to truly get the relaxation benefits of time off.

    23. Heat's Kitchen*

      When I was on maternity leave, they didn’t shut off my access. I turned off email notifications on my phone. I’ve never looked back. I also don’t have notifications turned on on my laptop. I only check email twice/day – anything urgent can be texted to me. I would also just really try to do it. Put up your out of office, put a point person, and IF YOU MUST you can give a way to contact you, “I am out of the office until Monday without access to email. All messages will be replied to on Monday. For urgent matters, contact Harry Potter, or you can reach me at 555-555-5555.” I never put my contact info. My team knows I have slack on my phone, but that’s it.

    24. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Put the laptop way. It’s on the table you said? Get it off the table. Put it, and everything else, in the laptop bag and put in all in the back of the closet.

    25. OHCFO*

      The phrase I’ve co-opted (eek, maybe from here?) is that we’re not working from home, we’re living at work. Just saying that out loud has had a jarring impact on my perceptions about how things are creeping out of balance. I’ve done my very best to only do work in the physical space that I use as a home office. I keep my work email in a separate app from my regular/personal email on my phone and the button for that app is inside a folder called “Work”. So its just that much harder to mindlessly check it. And since I had an unfortunate reply-all incident earlier this summer, I’ve generally stopped responding to emails on my phone — so I have to walk to my home office to do it. All this to say, I’m building systems that make it so that I have to be intentional about when I’m going to engage in work.

    26. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The week before, send FYIs to project owners telling them to contact you ahead of time for anything that might be needed during your time off, or wait until your return. (With a contact of your backup.)
      The day of — set up an out-of-office message on your company voicemail and laptop that direct people to your backup contact. Start it 4 hours early so people have time to panic while you’re still there.
      The end of your day — Turn off any forwarding things that might go to your home email & voicemail.
      If you use your personal phone for work, see if you can forward calls from your office back to your office voicemail. Temporarily disable permissions for any office phone apps to access the internet.
      Then COMPLETELY SHUT DOWN THE COMPUTER. Not sleep. Shut down. Unplug it. Put it in a drawer with your office phone (ringer off).
      If you are tempted to pull out either, ask someone else in the household to put it in THEIR underwear drawer so you won’t get it back until vacation is over. Put your office phone in there too, with the ringer off.
      It might help to hide the monitor & docking station — I’m working on a room divider for next vacation.
      Another possibility is to connect your personal device to that monitor for the duration and turn on youtube that you don’t get to watch at work.

    27. Buffy*

      This is something I struggled with for a long time. My earlier position with this same company had me as the single point of contact for everything. For 7 years, I went nowhere without my cell phone and work laptop. I was on call 24/7/365 EVEN when I was on holiday. New role is easier to get away and I draw a hard line at working on holiday now. I turn my work laptop off and I do have a separate phone for work related things. I leave the work laptop and the work phone home if I’m traveling. I put them away turned off for my staycations. The only thing that I do is the night before I am back to work is turn on the phone, check my emails, delete crap, accept meeting invites, and check my calendar so that I’m aware of what is coming up for the next day. I also start earlier than normal (7 AM instead of 8 AM) and take that first hour to get through my remaining email as best as I can and to create a to do list for the week. It took a long time to draw that hard line so I try to not let work bleed into personal time. That being said, there are times when I do because it makes sense. We are hugely short staffed in my group right now, I’m training a newbie and to have me completely gone puts a huge burden on the one fully trained (but still fairly new and Jr. team member) so I’ll check in about halfway through my staycation just to make sure things are going ok. But I don’t respond to any emails. I just review and delete only stepping in if it’s critical.

    28. Quinalla*

      Put your work laptop and any other work stuff out of sight. It sounds simple, but actually helps A TON. Before you go on leave, give your boss your phone for emergencies, put up an automatic OoO reply, send out an email with anything folks need to cover while you are gone and then DON’T CHECK EMAIL. Or if you just can’t help yourself DO NOT RESPOND.

      You might not be perfect, be kind to yourself if you mess up, but hopefully this will help. Remember that you should be able to trust your coworkers/boss to cover for you on 99% of your stuff and if a 1% issue pops up, you should be able to trust your boss to reach out on your cell phone.

    29. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I am not even vaguely close to a workaholic, but I have a hard time not checking my email after dinner because it is right there. I would unassemble ALL of your work stuff – unplug your monitor, put away and pull apart everything you use to work from home and then put your laptop AWAY away. Like, someplace hard to get to, like the attic or the back of a full closet. Make it extra work to even check it. It is easy when it is a quick thing to do, but if you create a physical barrier in the way, then you have a metal barrier too. I hope.

    30. Kiwi with laser beams*

      Long-term WFHer! You do the same thing with your work that you do when you’re on leave while working in the office: sort it into stuff to be done before you go, stuff to be done when you get back and stuff that needs to be done by other people. And then you trust that the others in your company will handle things in your absence.

      The nature of business (at least in my industry) is that it will take and take and take. I learned a lot the hard way – I did stuff that was bad for my health and I didn’t stop until I ended up with a chronic illness. It was detected early enough that my chances of going into remission are good, but if it’s left alone, it will be severely and permanently disabling. This was the result of a lot of overwork over a long period of time, but in my case, that was how bad it had to get before I stopped thinking it was self-indulgent to have healthier boundaries about work.

      There are some types of situational anxiety, and this is one of them, that are layered on top of a deeper anxiety where you think that if you try to overcome that anxiety, you’ll be less of a good person. Are you a woman, by any chance? Because I think that anxiety is often connected to the idea that women always need to be self-sacrificing. I notice it in others more easily than in myself, but when I find myself feeling that way, I get good and angry and think “You know what? Fuck that, actually.”

      Finally, regarding your username: I live in a country where “be kind” is an official pandemic measure that gets displayed on road signs when we have an outbreak, and it’s NEVER meant to be used as a stick to beat yourself with. I’m not saying don’t be grateful, but gratitude isn’t meant to be something that stops you from asking for help.

      Good luck!

    31. Deanna Troi*

      Everyone has excellent suggestions about managing this. I haven’t seen suggestions though, that you consider the fact that you might be causing your supervisor to be concerned. The fact that she sent you TWO messages saying that you’re supposed to be on leave says to me that she is not okay with this. If I were your supervisor, I’d have A Serious Talk with you when you come back. While I appreciate dedicated, motivated employees, I also want my employees to have balanced lives and appropriate priorities. I would think that this kind of behavior is unhealthy and believe that people produce better work when they can disconnect from work and come back recharged. The fact that you didn’t stop the first time she said something is also concerning. It seems like you’re ignoring her nudge (and I know some people will say that not everyone gets nudges, but this OP clearly did). If this type of behavior is a pattern with you, it could be hurting your upward mobility, not helping it. As an Associate VP, I wanted managers under me who set a good example for others. I’m surprised that others haven’t mentioned that this might make others feel like they have to do the same thing, especially if you’re a star. They might be thinking they can’t shine if they don’t do it too.

      TL;DR: Think about how this comes across to others, including your boss and coworkers.

  4. Zoomed Out*

    One upside about the pandemic is I’ve been able to see my supervisor’s strengths as a manager. Really great in a crisis which for us has been since mid March so I’ve really been able to see them shine in the role. It also gives me a better idea of how to best work together. It was hard on boarding into a role that is autonomous and doesn’t get much guidance, but now that I’m in the swing of things is so amazing to just be able to get things done that need to be done. We don’t have to have five meetings about it, I just have to figure out how to do it and then do it

    1. honeygrim*

      That’s awesome. I feel like this situation has allowed me to see how everyone works in a crisis; some of my colleagues are just rolling up their sleeves and getting stuff done, and it’s impressive and heartening. My supervisor, however… I’m not really sure what they’re doing all the time. I am working mostly on-site right now, as is one of my direct reports; I’ve seen my supervisor physically on-site once, and have meetings with them maybe once every other week. I have been getting a lot of emails that probably should be going to them; these usually begin with “I emailed [supervisor] about this a few days ago but they haven’t responded. Can you help…?” They usually respond to emails I send, but I’m not sure what’s going on with communications from other departments.

      I know there are things they must be doing, because they are getting done. But my impression right now is of someone who has retreated into their home office, both physically and mentally. My workplace is “out of sight, out of mind” for them. And it’s really frustrating, because I don’t know how to talk to them about it.

      On the bright side, they did make a point of telling me I was doing a great job the other day, so that’s nice.

    2. rageismycaffeine*

      Similar thing here! we have an interim division head who’s been in the role since August, and I think her leadership qualities have really been proven during this crisis. I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets the permanent role when all is said and done.

  5. cabbagepants*

    Survival tips for when your boss is an incompetent middleman and it’s your grandboss who makes all the real decisions? Grandboss is super busy and really wants my actual boss to grow into his role so simply cutting out the middleman and meeting with grandboss directly isn’t possible. When I meet with boss I get awkward feedback about things I should do differently without specifics and I don’t get help prioritizing my many competing projects because boss doesn’t know what the department priorities are.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I think grandboss needs to handle this. If he’s not managing your boss, there’s not a lot you can do about it.

      Can you talk to grandboss directly but discreetly about this?

    2. Anon-y-mous*

      There’s not a lot to do about this except to try to do what the Grandboss wants in a larger big picture kind of way. For example, you can keep in mind when asking about things or working on projects, that the real “audience” for whatever you’re doing is the Grandboss. But otherwise, it is the Grandboss’s responsibility to manage and handle your boss.

    3. Wintergreen*

      My only thought is try to use email for feedback whenever possible. That way middle manager can go to grandboss for clarification before responding. If boss cant/wont go to grandboss, sorry, I don’t think there is a whole lot you can do.

      I’m in a similar situation. Boss is often so worried about making the wrong call and grandboss will be upset, that things that need changed don’t get done until it has reached desperate, red flag, warnings are over this needs changed now! stage.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve been in this situation before and it sucks. What worked best for me is to go to my manager with short questions. In other situations, I would give background information and my opinions, but placeholder managers get overloaded with too much info. So I just say, “These three projects are all due Friday and they can’t all be done. Which is priority?” They may ask for more information, and I will give the bare min necessary to answer the question and see if they want more.
      Less is better.

    5. 1234*

      I would ask Boss to clarify what they mean by “differently” Whenever I get unclear instructions, I usually follow up with clarifying questions such as “different in what way?”

      Would it also help to suggest to your boss what to prioritize first? Such as “I know both the llama report and the bovine report are due next week. Since the llama report takes less time, how about I work on that first? What do you think?”

  6. Well...*

    Does anyone know of a resource like AMA but for academics? I love this site but would be eager for more resources that are geared towards academic life problems

    1. Hamon*

      Different academic disciplines have associations around them. Check out or Google the American Political Science Association, American Anthropological Association, American Sociological Association, etc. Try doing keyword searches for your discipline and “association.” These groups often have online communities where insiders commiserate about academic life from grad students to professors and practitioners

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

      Stack Exchange’s Academia? That’s the only one that comes to my mind.

    3. Anon-y-mous*

      HigherEdJobs used to have a discussion forum somewhat like this. But I don’t know if it’s kept up.
      Also probably you can find that on Reddit forums or Quora?

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        Yes – great resource. A bit of a negative view on academia (which I left so maybe accurate…)

    4. Combinatorialist*

      The Professor Is In is super helpful. It is geared more early career than late career but talks about a lot of the problems of academic life

    5. Dr. KMnO4*

      I have gotten a lot of great things from Reddit’s r/professors sub. I mean, it’s still Reddit so it can be a mixed bag but the community is generally very helpful.

    6. AW*

      the professor is in blog Is one I’ve seen mentioned here before, but I’ve never read it and I do t work in academia so I can’t say how much use it will be.

    7. Analyst Editor*

      There used to be a column called Ms. Mentor at the Chronicle for Higher Education. The author of it, Emily Toth, also wrote a book called “Ms. Mentor’s Impeccable Advice for Women in Academia” which was a good read with Q&As, but a bit old. There’s a newer version of the book out, too.

    8. Biobrains*

      I’ve learned a lot here that’s totally applicable to academia (even if my own questions have not been selected to be addressed on the site).

    9. Purple Penguin*

      Perhaps not exactly what you’re looking for, but I’ve found Pat Thomson’s blog “Patter” and Inger Mewburn’s “The Thesis Whisperer” to be great. Although their blogs are intended to be about pedagogy and writing, I found their introductions to and gripes about academic norms refreshing.

      Also the Stack Exchange’s Academia posts are gold.

    10. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Captain Awkward has some stuff that deals with her work teaching – though the entire website is not geared towards it. She is a great read any day though.

    11. ModernHypatia*

      The forums formally on the Chronicle of Higher Education site (which got rid of the forum a year and change ago) are now at – mix of conversation, ideas/advice/etc.

      (Like all forums, some posters may not to be to your personal taste.)

  7. Jack of All Spades*

    Frequently there are questions about how to handle coworkers who don’t respect the authority you have. But what do you do when the problem is the opposite: coworkers acting like you have authority that you really *don’t* have?

    I’m one of the more experienced employees in a very flat organization. Because most of the departments don’t have dedicated heads and I have a lot of know-how that reaches across departments, my coworkers come to me for anything and everything. When it’s for advice, that’s okay, although in some cases I wish I had the authority to tell someone “you need to make an effort to learn this yourself instead of coming to me over and over again.” But often it’s not just for advice, but for decisions/approvals that I don’t have the authority to make or give, or for tasks that are clearly someone else’s job.

    My direct boss is part of the problem, and I’ve learned that’s not going to change (when we discuss it, he acknowledges he needs to be clearer and more consistent, but his behavior stays the same). Often my boss will tell other people that I’m in charge of something that I’m not, and when I address it directly with him, he maintains that the decisions still need to come from him, or that the task he forwarded to me is really the job of someone in that task’s actual department. But that’s in private, so the confusion for everyone else remains in public.

    This is often awkward because I’m put on the defensive for decisions I disagreed with or mishaps I had no way to prevent, and while I don’t think there is a real intent to do so, it often feels like I’m being set up as a scapegoat. I’m careful to voice my disagreements to my boss in private, and it often seems like he doesn’t really listen to what I’m saying, and later remembers his unilateral decision as something we made jointly, and presents it that way to others. And every time we’ve had a departmental meeting about the fact that certain tasks are that department’s job and not mine, it only takes a few days before everyone (including my direct boss) backslides into telling me to do them.

    Is there a professional, diplomatic way I can get all/most of my coworkers to realize I’m not the one to ask for authoritative decisions and other departments’ tasks? Thus far I’ve been explaining it on a case-by-case basis, but even doing that consistently each time I’m approached doesn’t seem to sink in for most people. Each person might only hear it from me a few times a year, so at the organization level there remains a perception that I’m the go-to for everything.

    1. Hello*

      For me it was a lot of restating what everyone’s role was, and eventually saying “I’m not your boss” because we had that kind of report.

    2. Workerbee*

      It sounds like you need to get repetitive AND stick to the decision to return the coworker to the correct person/department. These are two separate things! But you can infuse your own tone and words into phrases such as:

      “You’ll have to ask boss about that one!” – for your own boss. Corollary if time and inclination: “Let’s go ask boss now!” – walk over, they start talking, you leave them to it.

      “What does X say when you asked her?” – for other departments. If the answer is that the person didn’t ask X yet, tell them that that is their best bet.

      For advice you’ve given to repeat askers, some variant of, “Remember what I showed / told you last time? It’s the exact same thing. You can always look at your notes / Google /company intranet if you get stuck, but you got this!”

      Hopefully it’ll just take some concerted retraining of expectations for a not too long period of time.

      It‘ll feel weird, people won’t like it, I’m not sure what to do yet about the big problem that is your boss— but it may help to recall that you have your own work to do, your own position to uphold, and you sure don’t have more hours in the day than anyone else. Who’s stepping up to help with your work while you’re always helping everyone else with theirs?

      1. Ashley*

        Yes on the did you ask X!
        Often I find my co-workers don’t want to bother the boss so they will ask someone else instead of going to the person they need to ask. My rule is if they legitimately tried to reach the right person and can’t get in touch with them and time is of the essence I will offer my knowledge help. Sometimes I call or text the boss myself with them in the room and that helps cut down on repeats for some people. (Sometimes that makes it worse if they feel intimidated by our very non intimidating boss.)

      2. Jack of All Spades*

        Thanks for the scripts. I especially like the “What did X tell you?” question.

        Nailed it with “who’s stepping in” … nobody. My main job is something pretty much only I can do (in part because of how much interdepartmental knowledge it requires) so when I’m additionally doing random clerical work for others, I just have to absorb the workload.

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          Yup, just politely but firmly and persistently redirect questions. If you aren’t sure where something should go, redirect *that* question – either to your best-guess department, or to the asker’s manager.

          Think of it this way – eventually, you will leave. If you are the linchpin of the whole operation, that’s worse for everybody. Get people pointed in the right direction now so they aren’t flailing down the road.

          This will also become self-reinforcing. When you are The Person Who Gets It Done, all paths lead to you. “Oh, I think I talked to Jack about that last time, why don’t you ask them?” Once you become The Person Who Does Their Job And Otherwise Won’t Help You Much, But In A Nice Way, people start learning where to go for that help/info/decisions, and they’ll start pointing other people towards those resources as well.

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            Hit Submit and then remembered to add – my favorite “why don’t you figure it out for yourself” prompt is something like “Oh, I think Jane runs that program now, you’ll need to ask her. Let me know what you find out!” That last sentence makes it very clear that you are now disengaging, and it is the querent’s problem from this point forward.

    3. Emilitron*

      Ooof, that’s gotta be frustrating. Consider interrupting early in the conversation – “To clarify your question before we get too deep into it, is this about technical pros/cons or about decision-making authority? I’m happy to give advice but Boss makes decisions.” (or whatever the right terminology is for you)

    4. Mockingjay*

      I get a lot of similar requests since I’ve been on the project longer than anyone but the project lead. There is a lot of “learned helplessness.” It got so bad at one point (the entire engineering team was replaced and project lead told them to go to me for onboarding – without telling me, grr), I realized I hadn’t done most of my own work in 6 months.

      So I kindly but firmly informed the project lead (I’m assigned to his team but he’s not my boss) that I would provide a list of resources (again) and redirect all of these requests.

      “Mockingjay, can you send me document x?” “Here’s the link to the document library. All of the teapot handle reports are uploaded here.”
      “Hey, I’m having trouble with checking in this file.” (Seriously. I get this call at least once a week.) “Sorry, I’m in the middle of something and can’t stop. You can call the IT help desk; they’ll walk you through it.”
      “Mockingjay, can you book a conference room?” “Click the link for the conference room calendar on the home page; it opens and a wizard walks you through the booking process.”
      “Mockingjay, can you do Y?” “That’s handled by the Teapot Lid department; contact Fred.”

      And so on.

      It’s going to seem like you are not a team player, which is false. You ARE providing a solution to each request, only that solution is not YOU anymore.

      1. Jack of All Spades*

        That onboarding situation — oy.

        My mileage has varied with providing instructions/links/etc. instead of taking care of the task myself. Often the person will come back with “can’t you just do it yourself?” or “you already know how to do this so it’s more efficient if you take care of it.” From that point I don’t have the authority to say no, and if I turn to my boss, it’s making too big of a deal out of the situation and liable to have him say “just give them what they need!”

        So after accumulating those tasks over months, it comes to a head with me needing to work unsustainable hours just to keep up with everyone else’s work on top of my own, then we have another meeting about how I need to offload tasks, the changes from that meeting last up to a few weeks if that, and the cycle repeats.

        1. Mockingjay*

          That’s why I started saying I was in the middle of something and couldn’t stop. It’s hard to argue with a cheerful, “sorry, I’m on deadline, Project Lead needs this asap! Maybe Fred can help.” Also, I know they won’t ask Fred; they’ll stew for a while and finally do it themselves – which is the goal.

          But yeah, I feel you about the cycle. Sometimes work is one of Dante’s circles of hell.

          1. Jack of All Spades*

            Yep, I get how “I’m on a deadline” is effective. Sometimes I use that. In my particular case it seems like it doesn’t work as well for most others because a lot of the work I need to do is scattered bits of housekeeping that collectively stop the wheels from falling off, but are individually not as timely or as linear as what other people are doing. Other people have several projects clearly prioritized by management, while I have 50+ “projects” that only I understand the relative importance of, and I’m continually putting those aside because management decides they want X and Y Right Now, so I just have to work late afterwards to do what is needed to keep the wheels on. Trying to explain to management why my other work needs attention usually turns out to be a waste of time that gets me closer to the wheels coming off … and if the wheels come off, that’s definitely on my head anyway because no one else is touching them.

            So the “I’m on a deadline” line works okay when the other person is in a hurry and can see an easily explained task that is actually urgent for me. But otherwise it just leads to the response “my task is more urgent than your task” or “cool, you can just work late on my task when you’re done with yours.”

            1. Mad Harry Crewe*

              Can you block out time on your calendar and make yourself uninterruptable during that time? I know Allison has some posts about what to do if people interrupt your work to that degree.

              It sounds like your biggest problem here is your boss, who isn’t willing to defend your time or back you up when you say something isn’t your responsibility. Can you go over his head, or have a big-picture conversation with him to try and reset things? Overall, make this his problem as much as possible, because right now it’s entirely falling on you.

              Also…. I realize this is radical, but… what if you just stop working insane hours? If stuff doesn’t get done, then it doesn’t get done. Ideally, the stuff that doesn’t get done will be other people’s work, but it might be worth tracking your time and logging your conversations with your boss when you raise this issue, so if it comes back to you you can say “look, I spent four hours a day last month doing A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, which did not leave time for my actual responsibilities. I’ve raised this as a concern with Boss on Date, Date, and Date, but was told that I had to handle A-G because it’s faster than directing people to the right resources. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave time for X, Y, and Z.”

              1. Jack of All Spades*

                Over the years I have pulled back somewhat on my hours; they used to be insane and now they’re just somewhat elevated. The tricky thing about the stuff-not-getting-done approach in my case is that in the short term it’s not catastrophic, and over the long term if I juggle things well, I can avoid catastrophe indefinitely, although efficiency and organization and accuracy will (and do) suffer.

                Numerous times management has expressed that they can’t imagine how I manage to get everything done, and when I remind them that I really don’t, and mention some areas that are slowed down or neglected due to how thin I’m spread, they just shrug it off and don’t seem to understand what I’m saying.

                Now yes, I could start setting my priorities less logically and letting some really timely and important things fail, but that would be a sort of deliberate sabotage on my part, and I wouldn’t be able to defend those bad decisions. So instead I give a good-faith effort to get the most urgent and important stuff done, and then have difficulty convincing management that there’s a bunch of other stuff that ought to be getting done, since I’m making it look like the machinery can run smoothly without them.

        2. Dr. Anonymous*

          “Sure, but I’m right in the middle of six other things right now that are all pretty much on fire, so it’ll be a while before I can get to it. If you’d rather not wait, here’s the link.”

        3. Aquawoman*

          Wait, why can’t you say no to things that aren’t your job that are coming from people without authority over you?
          Also, please embrace the power of boundaries/intentional passive aggressiveness. E.g. in the example you give about people asking “can’t you do it?” rather than say no, say ok, I’ll do it when I have a minute later, and then do your own job first. Take a good long time to respond to people so it’s not easy for them to foist their work on to you (because seriously, “can’t you just do [my job for me]” is just abusive).

          1. Jack of All Spades*

            The “can’t say no” issue comes from the deadly combo of 1) a company where we’re encouraged to operate as a fluid team all on the same level where “whoever needs something from you is your boss in that situation” and 2) the fact that I know how to do a lot of other people’s jobs while very few aspects of my job can be done by other people. So when there’s a culture of asking one another for a lot of help, I lose because I can give a lot more kinds of help than I can accept.

            Intentional delay is a handy strategy and something I should do more. Often I give in for the sake of the client or whatever other pressing need, because it turns out I care more about the team goal while the person trying to push their work onto me would be willing to miss the deadline etc. and then say later that it was because I refused to help.

    5. Wintergreen*

      It sounds like you are putting up the appropriate boundaries but your boss keeps telling others to step over them. Is that correct?

      I’d be tempted to take that rope and hang myself by making those decisions for boss. If he’s directing them to you, it’s your call. If boss takes exception, he needs to stop referring them to you. Of course, that doesn’t work if you don’t want that extra responsibility.

      As for all the private conversations your boss is mis-remembering. I’d stop cushioning the responses to coworkers to make the boss look good. If you disagreed with something your boss wants your go to response should be something along the lines of “Sorry I can’t help. I argued with boss to do it the other way but this is how he wanted to do it.” “I agree but this was bosses decision.”

      In the overall scheme of things, keep a log of issues that are not your job that are brought to you. Estimate how much time it took out of your day to deal with. Even 1 minute to direct coworker to X dept. Try it for 2-weeks or a month. Then you can have some concrete data to take to your boss to show how much time is being wasted and why this is such a frustration for you.

      1. Jack of All Spades*

        Most of the time it’s not exactly that he tells others to step over the boundaries, but that he leads by example in ignoring those boundaries, so then others get the impression they’re not real. Once in a while, he will catch himself and correct in the moment, saying he’ll ask the appropriate department to complete a task instead of me, or that he will make and/or convey a decision. So it feels like he’s making an effort, but over the years it hasn’t led to much improvement.

        The lack of consistency and memory often ruins situations that were almost fixed. Like this:
        1. Coworker comes to me to request PTO, and I tell that coworker that approval needs to come from boss.
        2. Coworker goes to my boss, who in a distracted moment says “check with Jack.”
        3. Coworker returns to me confused, so I privately address it with my boss and ask if I really have the authority to approve PTO. Boss confirms that I do not and that he will let the coworker know his decision.
        4. Time passes and I assume it’s been handled, only to later find out from Coworker that they’re still waiting on *me* for the approval and my boss never followed up with them.

        Things play out similarly among other coworkers who tend to assume that I’m aware of everything and taking care of it, even if I had no way of getting the necessary information (such as it’s all in email chains that didn’t include me).

        1. Wintergreen*

          Sounds like some learned helplessness from the coworkers are going on here. In your example, when coworker comes back to you confused about the PTO, act confused along with them and tell them they’ll have to go back to boss. There is no reason for you to be in the middle of it, and you’ve told coworker that by telling them to go to boss. Coworkers have just as much responsibility as you to know who to go to for information/requests. If boss doesn’t fully listen and sends them to you without thinking, coworkers need to learn that and how best to address that with boss themselves, just like you’ve had to learn.

          1. Jack of All Spades*

            Yes, there absolutely is learned helplessness and I agree with what you’re saying here. Somehow it became an organization-wide perception that I have default responsibility for whatever balls are being dropped by others, and am the embodiment of the Information Desk.

            Sometimes this manifests in a person being told that I am actually their manager, with the real meaning of “manager” shifting from one day to the next. It might be thought of as specific to a project I’m leading, or a general comment like “Jack should know X, he manages a lot of things around here.” But it doesn’t mean I’m kept informed or given authority as a real manager position would require.

        2. Quinalla*

          I would do what someone above suggested and ask “have you asked boss?” and if they haven’t walk the person over to the boss right then and say “Hey boss, you need to approve PTO” and then leave them to talk. Do it every time. If they have talked to boss, still walk them over, then have that conversation with him later in the day again about not sending people to you or send him a follow up IM/email. That will make it much more annoying for boss so hopefully he’ll stop falling into his habit of just passing everything to you when it isn’t your decision to make. It’s going to be annoying for you too, but if you can get to your end goal of stopping this.

        3. Dawbs*

          You shouldn’t have to do this, but can you just do CYA emails?

          To boss, cc Brutus
          This is to confirm, per our conversation Tuesday March 15, that you will be handling Brutus’ PTO request.

          Might make boss paranoid that you have a paper trail. That might not be a bad thing-you can include other people in the case as needed.

        4. Deanna Troi*

          In this situation, between #3 and #4, I would send an email to boss and copy co-worker that says “Based on our discussion this afternoon, you will be responding directly to co-worker concerning their vacation request.” I know this is exhausting to have to do every time, but no more exhausting than your item #4 over and over again. And truthfully, as someone who has managed a large team, I want that in writing because I have a tendency to forget things like that when I’m in the middle of something. Having 20 people coming to my at random times and asking for a wide variety of things without any kind of documentation is a recipe for disaster.

        5. Paulina*

          It sounds like you’re expected to shoulder responsibility without authority — like for the PTO, your boss likely isn’t asking you to formally approve it, he’s asking you to determine whether it’s ok for that person to be off then, and he would approve as a result. So you’re the unofficial person expected to know everything that’s going on and make everything work out well, while nobody else steps up to understand it.

          Everyone there should be ashamed that they’re avoiding learning how things work. Since they’re not, I wonder if you could remind them that your time there is finite (could get hit by a bus / win the lotto / whatever) , since it hasn’t occurred to them that they’re treating you very badly and deserve to have you quit.

          1. Jack of All Spades*

            Your description is accurate, really put into words what I’ve been noticing but unable to explain. I don’t know how I became that person, but it started quite early. Within my first year I had cases where inexplicably everyone else on the project got the idea that I was supposed to keep them all informed and on task, and even though I had urged some people senior to me to get their work for our project done on time (and they pointedly ignored me) I was later chided for “letting” them not do their work because I was “letting myself be intimidated” by them. But the reality was that I was not given any authority, and so when I did try to push someone to get something done, they could just ignore me. It was as if everyone else decided privately that they were going to not bother communicating and rely on me to keep track of all their work and then blame me if they dropped the ball, but would never explicitly tell me that managing their work was my job, because that would require making my authority a real thing. Now whenever there is a collective need that doesn’t clearly fall to someone else, people assume that I’ll step in and handle it.

            I have brought up many times how much disproportionate key-person risk is being created, but it seems like management doesn’t take that seriously enough to resolve it. One reason is that we are poorly prepared for turnover in general (very little cross-training and little made official in terms of roles and responsibilities) so my case is shrugged off as just one of many … as silly a reason that is. Another reason is that people misattribute my perseverance to some extreme loyalty/dedication to the company, so they assume there’s no real risk I would leave. (Instead I just have a strict personal code that requires following through on the work, and that’s something I’ve brought to every job I’ve had. The corner-cutting and knee-jerk decisions and poor communication have long stripped away any illusions I had about my current company being worth personal sacrifices.)

    6. Mill Miker*

      I’ve been in a similar boat since my boss quit a few months ago. It doesn’t help that most of his access was passed along to me (because I know the tools), but (almost) none of his authority.

      Do you have any systems you can fall back on to deflect authority? For example, if someone needs access to some of our software, there’s a form they’re supposed to fill out that automatically goes through everyone who’s supposed to approve it. It’s the same for a lot of the other decisions that need to be made, so I can keep pushing on making sure the question and answer are documented properly, which has the side effect of looping in the right people, even if I’m the one pushing the buttons in the end.

      1. Jack of All Spades*

        Oof, access (therefore responsibility) without authority. That’s the essence of the nightmare.

        Unfortunately I don’t have much bureaucracy to seek cover under. In fact it’s what I’m trying to build into the organization, albeit from the bottom so it’s slow going. But at this point there are very few established policies. It’s mostly whatever management is feeling and paying attention to on a given day.

    7. Working Hypothesis*

      Have you considered advocating for the authority to do the stuff they’re asking you to do, rather than advocating for getting it off your plate? That’s obviously not the best solution if you really don’t *like* to do that kind of management and decision-making tasks… but if the actual tasks don’t bother you and it’s just that they’re not supposed to be your job and you don’t have the official authority to make those decisions, you might try saying to your boss, “It sounds like you’re hoping I can be of help in handling areas X, Y and Z since those decisions keep landing on my plate with your blessing. In order to be able to do that, I would need a title bump that gives me the formal authority to decide those things. Can work on getting me that authority, so I can actually do the work you want me to do?”

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A phrase I’ve used: “You need to contact Fergus about XYZ. That is beyond the defined role for my position.”
      With my situation I’d be saying “$Boss sends people to me first because I’m frequently in touch with Fergus and I can give you an idea of what he’ll need to make the decision.”
      The part where your *boss* is telling people HIS role is YOUR role is more problematic. Maybe ask boss if he wants you to collect questions like this for a one-on-one? In which case you could say “I’ll bring your issues to boss at our standing meeting. He’ll to know A, B, and C before deciding.”
      I’m looking forward to reading everyone else’s suggestions.

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

      > in some cases I wish I had the authority to tell someone “you need to make an effort to learn this yourself instead of coming to me over and over again.

      For advice: If they really could do that already and it doesn’t need other approvals or whatever: You do have that authority already! It just doesn’t need to be worded in ‘hierarchy’ terms, but rather, terms of empowering and enabling the person to do this thing!
      You just need to coach them into “actually this is the way to do X, and the best thing about it is that you are already set up to do that so it doesn’t even need to go through any bureaucratic approvals and stuff!”

    10. Dancing Otter*

      It sounds like what you need is a “Roles & Responsibilities” document.

      Mind, I worked primarily in change management / special projects when I did these, but I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t be just as effective for ongoing operations management.

      Essentially, you first enumerate all the people involved, with titles (area and level, maybe signature authority $$$). Then you list all the tasks and decisions. Say the tasks are rows and the people are columns. Next to each task, mark who is responsible.

      Add people from other departments as needed. If there’s a backup or redundancy, indicate the secondary person differently than the primary.

      The document needs to be reviewed and approved by all stakeholders (Supervisors and above), then distributed to all interested parties. It will probably take several iterations to reach consensus: you don’t want to leave room for argument later. “Well, yes, that’s what it says, but that’s not what we really do,” will come back to bite you.

      Be sure to document those approvals. Subsequent changes should be documented, with approvals, in a change log.

      The R&R is what you use to redirect people who approach you for things outside your proper sphere. They might eventually learn to check first so they can go directly to the right person, but YMMV on that.

      1. Jack of All Spades*

        It’s cool to know a “Roles & Responsibilities” is a legit thing in the change management field. That sounds similar to documents I made a series of for some of those departmental meetings (the effects of which dissolved before long). Perhaps if my company had a centralized HR info area where such documents were available, they would become common references.

  8. AwkwardTurtle*

    I’m feeling the COVID burnout and it’s making it hard to do even simple tasks for work. Even though there’s a US holiday coming up, I’m not sure if that’s enough to recover. How does everyone else deal with it?

    1. Should be grateful (?)*

      I know the feeling AwkwardTurtle. Strangely, I find my entire office, me included, has actually been working MORE overtime while everybody works from home than when we were at the office. Even my director is answering emails at 2am and weekends. It’s mentally very exhausting, and I find myself missing my commute.

      1. AwkwardTurtle*

        I don’t miss my 1 hour commute on the DC metro, lol! What I do miss is having a different space to work at. Can’t really do that right now besides working in the dining/living room instead of my own room.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Finding a way to *designate* that space as different might help a little. I know a homeschool family that used to spread a specific vinyl tablecloth to indicate the start of lessons — and pack it away at night.
          I find it helpful to physically put away my company laptop. On furlough I packed it into a drawer and threw a large scarf over the monitors. I’ve also been known to hook up our personal PC to the monitor to play games on a bigger screen. (Shhhhh.) I’m also looking at room dividers for shorter times away.

          1. CastIrony*

            Not well lol. My manager wants me to work faster, but after making all the changes to be faster, I’m learning I am reaching my mental and physical limits of what I can do, as in I can’t find any other ways to improve.

    2. SansaStark*

      YES! I started noticing this trend in myself and since then I’ve started taking at least a half-day or sometimes a full day off every other week and sometimes taking 2-3 days. Obviously my leave is pretty generous which is very helpful, but I find I come back more energized when I’ve had some time to really decompress.

      Also, not sure if this is your jam or not, but I’ve gotten really into the app Headspace for guided meditation in the mornings before I start work. I think it has brought a sense of calm to my day which in turn helps me feel less burned out.

    3. Slinky*

      I hear you, especially as I’m in higher ed. COVID cases are spiraling out of control here, but our administration is showing no signs of shutting down. I feel like we’re being left to die.

      I deal with it by taking time off where I can. Even a few hours here or there, or just taking a long lunch, does wonders. I also separate fully at the end of the day. When work is done, I’m done. I don’t log in in the evening, check email, or anything. Also, exercise.

    4. Frankie Bergstein*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! Taking vacation and getting a change of scenery (camping in an environment where folks have taken appropriate social distancing precautions) was a godsend. It’s hard to take the time off b/c I fall behind on my work, but I’m hoping that prioritizing really well can help me with that.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This has been a lifesaver for my family as well. Boon docking in a forest with no internet/cell service has been great.

        I acknowledge that not everybody has this option as a possibility.

    5. Hamon*

      I work from home so I nap for 15-20 minutes at a time between tasks, take frequent breaks between tasks. I also take off a few hours or an entire day sometimes. In stressful times I also use our company’s EAP counseling to get through thorny issues and get perspective

    6. Amber Rose*

      I’ve been baking weird things, because even the failures are at least funny. And the successes are tasty.

      But honestly, we’re all struggling. It’s not so much dealing with it as it is enduring it right now.

    7. Anon-y-mous*

      Yes, guilty of feeling some burnout lately. If you can, try to take off Tuesday for a 4 day break?
      And I stress that you should still take your vacation week(s) if possible.

    8. WellRed*

      Take time off if you can. I just went out of state for two weeks (one week vacay, one week working from that location). World of good.

    9. The New Wanderer*

      My stress levels got to the point where I couldn’t make it to this three day weekend so I just took off 3 workdays this past week to help with the burnout I started feeling about a month ago. I notice that a lot of people are taking vacation this week and/or next, which is probably a combination of standard vacation times for people as well as burnout-related vacation. We’re facing some looming deadlines at work and a lot of pressure to perform but no one is discouraged from taking days off (the norm here is that you don’t have to ask for permission, only provide sufficient notice that you’ll be out), so that helps.

      It really helped, although I spent a lot of my down time helping my kids adjust to online school which started this week. But I only had to focus on that and I got through two fat paperbacks, something I hadn’t had time for since last year. I had more things I thought I should do with my time off, but honestly I scrapped all that and just sat outside in the sun with a book as much as I could.

      So if you can take the time, do it!

    10. Cakeroll*

      I forced myself to take a staycation with my partner. I see you’re in DC AwkwardTurtle – I booked a few nights in a local hotel just to get away and break out of the work-focused habits that were leading me to feel burned out. I didn’t bring my laptop – just my partner and our dog and we ordered food delivery, listened to music, took walks, and played games. I was impressed by the COVID safety practices the hotel took (and the hotel was EMPTY). If you’re able to, that kind of physical space in addition to the calendar-space that this long weekend offers might be useful!

    11. Third or Nothing!*

      I’m right there with you, AwkwardTurtle. In fact I had quite a cry last night from lots of feeling I’m having right now about my pandemic birthday. I’ve asked off next Thursday and Friday and plan to spend as much time as possible exploring some local preserves and state parks. Nature does a world of good for my soul, so I’m really looking forward to my upcoming hikes.

    12. Coverage Associate*

      A paper to do list. Arranging some little thing to look forward to each day, like a package delivery or library pick up or dessert.

    13. MusicWithRocksIn*

      The delay in the server when I’m working remote is the thing that really throws me. Saving a document will take a full minute, then I get agitated and wonder off or look at my phone and… it is hard for me to stay focused when there are these agonizing gaps of time. I focus so much better when there is something I can DO.

    14. Chaordic One*

      My office was completely shut down for a month and we were furloughed. I was one of the first people brought back, but there were others who didn’t come back until two and half months after that. There’s a horrible backlog of work, and while we’re done with the work from the month that we were closed, we’re still behind by a good month and a half. No one was laid-off, but there are the former co-workers who decided not to come back, some of whom took early retirement. There’s constant stream of crabby customers who wonder why their stuff didn’t get done, accounts didn’t credited, stuff didn’t get updated. I took a couple of days off in July because I had migraines, but I’m afraid to take more time off. TPTB didn’t give us much vacation during the summer, and we’re still waiting to hear what time we’re going to get for the fall and the winter holiday season.

  9. SnowWhiteClaw*

    How do I address my inappropriate footwear during an interview?

    I am disabled and wear a leg brace. It only works with particular shoes, none of which are professional. I can wear a suit to an interview, and I know sneakers are inappropriate, but I don’t know how to address it with the interviewer. I don’t know if I want to disclose my disability (literally the only thing it affects is my footwear most days) but I don’t want the interviewer to think I am ignorant about proper dress.

    Wearing sneakers every day to any job I would have is typically not seen as an issue. I do lab work where I don’t interact with the public.

    1. Xur, Agent of the Nine*

      I think this depends a lot on where you’re interviewing. If it’s something tech sector, the chances of it being an issue are pretty low. If you’re in a more conservative industry, is it possible to imply it’s a temporary injury and play it off that way? (I’ve pulled that with mixed success, hiding the chronic thing behind a conveniently broken toe)

    2. recent grad*

      I am not an expert, but I would not adress it at all. Can you wear shoes that are all black to match black pants, and then wear wide-legged or flared pants so the shoe style is less noticeable?

        1. CastIrony*

          Have you looked at Shoes for Crews? I used to wear all-black Vitality II sneakers, and they were fifty dollars. The site has the wide option (e.g. 7W). Good luck!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Merrell Urban Moccasins? Leather or suede, accepted at a friend’s fairly formal insurance company. Feel like a sneaker under foot.

          1. c-*

            If plant-based cloth, you should be able to use washing machine dyes. If leather or similar texture, black shoe polish works great, but it takes a few layers over a couple days to get it to set. I’ve never dyed sneakers, so I’d test it first in a similar or cheap pair of shoes in case it doesn’t work.

    3. CatCat*

      Make sure the sneakers are clean and just keep it light. “Pardon the shoes, they’re the only ones that work for a foot issue.”

      I seriously doubt there will be further inquiry into that, and you don’t have to disclose the true details for the need for wearing sneakers.

      I once had to wear sneakers to court for a week because I had a toe infection and could literally wear nothing else. Professional shoes would be the norm there. No one seemed to think anything more of it when I noted a “foot issue” and was otherwise professionally attired.

      1. Buni*

        My grandfather – an Episcopalian priest of the old school – always wore proper black dress shoes while in clericals. Then in his 70s he fell over and broke both thumbs, and because he couldn’t do laces my uncle got him some black trainers with big velcro straps. He never went back; lived and served ’til he was 96 in big pumped-up Rude Boi trainers, absolutely loved them.

        1. MsNotMrs*

          As an Episcopalian, sounds like your grandfather was a trend-setter, because this is the kind of thing that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow today! Love it.

          1. Buni*

            Oh, my current vicar has an enormous beard and two full sleeves of tattoos, so definitely not an issue any more!

      2. The Original K.*

        I had a temporary foot injury once and had a similar situation during an interview. I said “Excuse the shoes, I hurt my foot” (and I was limping, so it was clear that I had indeed hurt my foot) and the interviewer nodded and we moved on.

        I like your framing of it as “a foot issue” because OP makes it clear that it’s a chronic thing.

      3. PennyLane*

        CatCat, I think that’s good phrasing. If someone told me that, I’d understand and not feel the need to follow up. But she definitely has to address it in some way, otherwise I’d be wondering why she came to an interview in sneakers, no matter how nice they are or what color.

      4. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Maybe don’t say “foot issue” but just “specialized shoes”. There are lots of people with weird feet that aren’t considered a disability – you just need special shoes. That are usually not that pretty.

    4. old curmudgeon*

      Hmm. Have you tried your brace with Keens or Merrills? Danskos might also work. None of those are fancy shoes, but they’re super-solid and comfortable, and at least in today’s world, I think they’re reasonable for an interview.

      I’ve seen sneakers or athletic shoes that are very toned-down and subtle (all-black, or dark grey), so if you really can’t use anything but a sneaker-type shoe, I do think you could get away with it. My spouse has foot problems and wears all-black New Balance athletic shoes with his work wear, and nobody has even noticed that he’s not in wingtips.

      1. JobHunter*

        I second the recommendation for Merrells. I once wore a pair of brown leather Merrells and a brown suit to an interview because we were doing a plant tour. I figured I should wear something that could plausibly be steel-toe instead of dress shoes.

      2. JobHunter*

        Allison, I am having some strange problems with commenting (I’m on my phone). For example, letters will randomly disappear while I am typing or segments of preious comments will suddenly paste themselves in the midde of a cmment. My screen will sometimes jump around, too. Do you have an idea of why this happ ens?

        1. RagingADHD*

          I had to use a different browser on my phone that supports robust ad-blocking software. I can’t use the site at all on Chrome on my phone. The ads take over, block out large portions of the content, and cause my screen to jump around when I comment.

      3. SnowWhiteClaw*

        Unfortunately there’s only a couple sneakers I’ve found that work with the brace, and they are very athletic looking light-colored sneakers. It’s not visible if I’m wearing pants at all though!

        1. Lizzo*

          If you haven’t checked out the New Balance 990s, they’re a sneaker that comes in a wide variety of sizes and widths, and they’re available in black, gray, navy, and other colors as well. They’re a top seller.

    5. A Simple Narwhal*

      Is your brace visible? I feel that if someone sees a brace, the sneakers explain themselves.

      I also like recent grad’s suggestion to wear dark shoes – I’m not sure what you have in available footwear or if you have the ability to buy new shoes, but there are a lot of options these days for sturdy supportive shoes that also look professional or at least are not obviously sneakers.

    6. Anon-y-mous*

      Honestly, I would not even bring it up. I don’t think most interviewers will consider a brace/sneakers unprofessional, they will assume an injury of some type which explains the sneakers.

      But if you can, try to wear the plainest shoes, in black with black pants if possible. It’s not hiding it, but it will help it blend. And black on black tends to look nondescript and reads as more polished in general, even for sneakers. And then make your top half look more professional with a blazer, suit, dress shirt, etc. Once you sit, no one will look at the shoes.

      1. Wintergreen*

        I agree, I wouldn’t try and address as it would just bring attention to it. If there is a situation where it must be discussed, just stick with “foot issues” as others have mentioned.

    7. bunniferous*

      I wear leather New Balance walking shoes. Not the prettiest but I use them as work shoes and they come in solid colors. If they would work for you try the black ones.

    8. Not A Manager*

      If you’re wearing an outfit that calls for dress shoes, I wouldn’t try to slide in something less formal and hope it’s not noticed. But for a tech job, can you adjust your outfit so that the higher-end ergonomic shoes do look okay with it? If so, I’d change the outfit to match the shoes.

      But if you have to wear a suit to the interview, I’d just casually dismiss the sneakers. “Please excuse the sneakers, my feet have been fussy lately.”

    9. WantonSeedStitch*

      I might say something like, “please excuse the sneakers, I had to wear them for medical reasons.” No one needs to know what the reasons are–you might be recovering from an injury or some other temporary need for special footwear. If they make you an offer and you accept, I would bring it up at that point, if sneakers are not normally acceptable attire at the office, and let them know that your need for sneakers is due to a disability, and ask for the accommodation.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. I am looking at saying something similar probably some time soon. This is the route I will go. My current and very cool boss says she is so busy being glad I showed up she does not care what is on my feet. The rest of what I am wearing is on par with what is expected in my arena.

    10. GaitLabLady*

      I worked in a Gait Lab so I know exactly what you mean. For everyone else–shoe recommendations aren’t likely to help because options are usually already discussed pretty exhaustively within the family and care team, and it’s not at all uncommon for only one or two pairs (not whole brands) to play well with a given brace. Back to you–I really like CatCat’s “Pardon…foot issue” and give it the tone of an aside that’s not a big deal. It really isn’t a big deal!

    11. PollyQ*

      In addition to getting sneakers that look as much like dress shoes as possible, make sure the rest of your suit game is on point — good quality fabric, excellent tailoring, crisp white shirt, sober tie. All of those will be visual cues that you’re not “out of step” (*snerk*), and I think it’ll plant the idea that you’re wearing the shoes for medical reasons, since obviously you’re someone who knows how to dress.

  10. Summersun*

    I’ve accelerated my formerly-casual job search due to the absolute clusterfluck of how my company is handling Covid. Butts-in-seats dinosaurs are running a STEM company, which is clearly a mismatch of values. HR and management are begrudgingly doing the absolute bare minimum: precautions are inadequate, positive cases abound, and repeat quarantines are common. The company has also filed for essential status with the governor (on questionable justification) to keep people coming to work, when 50% of us could easily work remotely.

    I was previously using the explanation that I am in a position without room for advancement—which is true. But now the Covid mismanagement has gotten so bad that I suspect my company will soon make the metro news (there are multiple lawsuits, including C-suite and VP-level employees being forced to resign over not wanting to report to work onsite, due to Covid deaths in their nuclear families).

    Should I continue with my party line of wanting higher-level opportunities? At what level of company notoriety must I acknowledge the virus-shaped elephant in the room?

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      I would continue with the higher level opportunities thing – it was and still is true, you weren’t aware of your company’s inability to handle Covid until relatively recently. As a former employee of a notorious company, I feel your urge to address the elephant, but it may be better not to make that your main focus. Chances are your interviewers will already suspect it’s a factor anyway.

    2. DaisySteinerz*

      I am in a very similar position, albeit in an industry more impacted by COVID. They’re bringing everyone back into the office because the people who have not been able to work remotely resent the staff who are still not in the office. My job is to run meetings and events… cases are on the rise in my area! I’ve been saying “COVID is heavily impacting my industry,” don’t know if that’s a good idea or not.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      I would say both in my interviews. The last thing you want to do is interview for another position, accept it, and then start working there only to find out that your new company is equally as bad (or worse) than your current company when it comes to COVID prevention.

      I would say something like, “Prior to COVID, I was casually job searching because I wanted to advance in my career, and the high-level work I was looking for just isn’t there at my current employer. Then COVID happened and, sadly, I’ve been really disheartened by how they’ve handled the situation. We have had repeated shut downs due to virus exposures, they’re not following local protocols, and I don’t feel safe going to work there every day.” Then pivot to talking about what drew you to this company in particular and the role you’re applying for while also stressing that you hope they’re following safety guidelines at this time. Their response will be very telling.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        While I am basically in favor of telling the truth about the elephant in the room, I think this is pushing it in the amount of detail involved. I think you can stop after “… Sadly, I’ve been really disheartened at how they’ve handled the situation,” and pivot after that.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree. People read the news. They gossip. They have a general awareness of who is doing what to their employees.

          I’d go the opposite way where you may be faced with some compassionate person who wants to pull you out of this hellhole. I know managers who gave priority to applicants who worked at x place. Granted, the applicant had to be otherwise qualified. But if there was an instance of applicant 1, from better company and applicant 2 from nasty company and both applicants were fairly equal on all other points, the scales would tip in favor of the applicant from nasty company. And that would be because the manager made it a point to use their position to bail people out of that place.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          You could – I’m just the type who will tell the full story, lol. Telling the truth dispassionately isn’t badmouthing an employer IMO.

    4. Aquawoman*

      I’d think about framing what it is that you want and approach it that way. Rather than you’re looking to get away from dinosaurs, you’re looking for a job that is welcoming to otters. Maybe it can be phrased in terms of greater flexibility? I’m struggling to come up with good language but I’d more try to specify what you’re looking for.

    5. PollyQ*

      Rightly or wrongly, I think hiring companies really do not want to hear applicants bad-mouth their current employers. No matter how accurate your description of the problems or how righteous your reason for leaving, it’s likely to make you look like a whiner. Stick to “higher-level opportunities” when you’re selling yourself.

    6. allathian*

      I don’t think it’s necessary to acknowledge the elephant in the room directly. You can do it indirectly by asking how the company you’re interviewing with is dealing with COVID and by making it clear that you would like to work for an employer who lets those who have jobs that can be done remotely WFH. Other than that, just talk about the higher-level opportunities you’re looking for.

  11. Art3mis*

    I’ve been given feedback that some people think I’m “too direct” and that I can come off as having an attitude. So, what can I do about that?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Is there someone you can trust who can give you feedback on this? (And are you ready to hear it?)

      My mother is like this, only she won’t take feedback so she’s just spent the last 70 years biting people’s heads off and then complaining that everyone thinks she’s too brusque. Her life would be easier if she’d find a middle ground between “dancing around the issue” and “cutting throats”.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        For the record, my mother is obviously a woman but she’s also legitimately a head-biter, even by male standards.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Your mother sounds like my mother. She could have advanced far at her current employer, but hasn’t because her way of speaking to people is…rough.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I think I finally realized that Mom assumes that the way she sees things and would respond to things is both obvious and universal, so when people don’t respond the way she would, she immediately assumes they’re dumb and/or weird.

            She has been annoyed for most of her life.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              LOL! That’s how I describe my mom. I’ve tried to coach her on how to be more diplomatic, but no such luck *sigh*.

      2. Art3mis*

        Yeah, my best friend and I used to work together, so I can ask her. Though I’d think after 20 years she would have told me by now. :) I don’t think I bite people’s heads off, unless they deserve it, and you have to push me pretty far to get to that point.

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

        Urg I hate it when you get that feedback. What’s wrong with being direct. For me at a former job it wasnt really me Bei g direct but that I wasn’t friendly enough. So when. I would call my senior colleagues for help with something I would just be hi I have Jane smith on the phone. Here’s account info and I do t know where to go from here. Apparently I needed to take 5 minutes while the client t was on hold to chit chat with seniors because ” they don’t take phone calls from clients as much as support does so they don’t get that personal connection with other people.” Basically because I was direct and down to business, because that’s how I had worked in other jobs, I was punished. This is your job your not here to socialize so why should I make a client wait while we do small talk. Also this came from woman supervisor and I’m also a woman so it wasn’t anything discriminate. Just a culture clash I guess

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          Oh good god. I am direct but fairly adept at being pleasant and can be frustrated by people complaining that it’s too much to ask to not be brusque all the time.

          But that would drive me up the wall. “Hi!” in a pleasant tone of voice should be all that’s needed IMO. This isn’t even a case where a brief “how are you” chit chat would be called for.

      4. Cakeroll*

        This is what helped me, when I had a similar issue/feedback to Art3mis. A trusted supervisor agreed to give me a subtle clue (we joked about her kicking me under the table, or finding a way to say “fiddlesticks” in a meeting) whenever my tone was coming across in a way that she knows I didn’t intend.

        Having the specific instances pointed out, rather than general “sometimes you have a tendency to…” feedback made a HUGE difference in my ability to notice it, and take noticeable action to improve. I was able to detect mental patterns that connected all the instances (for me they were situations where someone had an opinion on an area where I am a technical expert, and my urge to enforce specificity and accuracy would blow past the more important need for less-strict discussion and ideation), in a way that even close observers of my behavior wouldn’t have been able to connect.

    2. HR Bee*

      I was given this feedback early in my career. It was 100% given because I am a woman. I have taken a step back to pick my ‘battles’ as it were and soften some (and by some I mean very, very little) of my speech, but historically, I’ve found this feedback is very gendered. With your screenname, I am assuming you’re also a woman. If I’m wrong, apologies.

      1. Art3mis*

        I am, and that had occurred to me too. I have tried to not just complain about things and give ideas on how to fix things, but apparently it hasn’t helped.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Oh, I got the “you’re too aggressive” during an annual review. I asked my then-manager for specific examples. When he couldn’t provide any, I looked him in the eye and firmly stated that I would prefer if these incidents were addressed with me when they happened. Strangely, there were no incidents going forward.

          I did stop offering solutions for a while and just focused on my tasks. I figured manager could find his own solutions.

          1. Lizzo*

            +1 to asking for specific examples.

            @ Art3mis I’d bet a million dollars that the male colleagues on the receiving end of your communications are intimidated and uncomfortable, and instead of figure out why they’re feeling that way, they ignore that and determine that the problem is you–the person who is making them feel feelings…potentially vulnerability or powerlessness.

            If the people with the criticisms can’t provide specific examples and have a productive exchange with you about how to revise your technique, then I wouldn’t worry too much about their opinions.

        2. Pippa K*

          Seconding what HR Bee said, and will add that in addition to my senior male colleagues just not liking directness from a woman in general, I’ve realized that most of their ‘feedback’ about my tone comes when they don’t like the substance of what I’m saying but can’t rebut it. It’s become enough of a pattern that I now take tone policing from these guys as a flag that they know they’re on shaky ground about something. This makes it easier to smile while responding (which, y’know, they think I should do), but I haven’t yet hit on a way to stop the tone policing itself.
          (FWIW, I’m no more direct than most of my male colleagues, and this is definitely, sometimes explicitly, about gender norms.)

          1. The New Wanderer*

            I read a long time ago that forcing yourself to smile while on the phone gives your voice a positive affect and honestly it works for in-person communication too. So, I totally weaponize smiling while being direct. It causes some cognitive dissonance if someone appears pleasant and cheerful while explaining something in a pretty blunt manner, so it’s less easy to identify as “the bad kind of directness.” Phrasing matters too, but if people are inclined to read diplomatic but critical input from a woman as “too direct” or “too aggressive” the smiling part can disrupt that messaging.

            FWIW, I recently got feedback from peers, managers, and more senior colleagues as part of a mid-year review. My favorite comment was someone describing me as “fearless” as it was clearly meant in a positive way, in the context of being willing to speak up to suggest something, defend a viewpoint, or offer a counter opinion. I’m grateful to be seen that way and I wish more female employees were seen that way.

    3. Hamon*

      I’ve had this happen to me in a previous job too! I tried to get specific feedback on what do they mean by “too direct” and how do they wish for me to communicate? Can they give examples of better communications? They could not give me anything practical and actionable. Sadly, in the job I had the criticism of my communication style was just a symptom of a bad fit with the culture of the department, the preferred style of my boss and the org itself. I left the org and have had a few job since then that were a better fit and where I was never given the “too direct” critique anymore

    4. Xur, Agent of the Nine*

      Depends on where the feedback is coming from.
      If this is feedback you’ve been given multiple times and with instances of where it’s causing problems, I’d look at communication styles between you and the recipient. Is this a midwesterner vs city-folk problem? Is this is a northern-politeness vs southern courtesy problem? If it’s something like that, adding a few polite conversational questions can help complete the social handshake before getting right to the point. (Which. Is awful, I know. I’m definitely in the “I don’t care about the weather, please just give me the report,” camp, but it’s probably the easiest way to get people off your back about it.)

      If this is vague and nebulous feedback and comes down to something like “you aren’t smiling at work, so I’m uneasy” or “you’re not nice”, it unfortunately might be a case of “working while Not-White or Not-Cis-Male or Neurodivergent” …… I don’t have good answer for dealing with those. Completing the social handshake described above can help a little, but I haven’t found a good way to be seen as direct and not “mean” or “grumpy” or other similar appellations.

    5. Zephy*

      It’s hard to offer advice without more context – who are “some people”? Who are they in relation to you? What are you being “too direct” about? – but generally you can soften a message by couching it in terms like “I think/believe…” or “it’s my understanding that…”, so the message isn’t “you are wrong,” but rather, “what you have done doesn’t line up with what I had expected based on X, Y, Z.” Statements that start with “you need to” also often come off rather harsh, so if “some people” are your direct reports and you’re often telling them what they need to do, you could rephrase it as “I need you to…” or “What I need from you is…”

      One caveat: if “some people” are all men, especially men who are older than you and/or below you in the hierarchy, and you present female in the office, there’s a good chance that your communication is fine and they just hate women.

    6. old curmudgeon*

      In what context are these communications? In-person or phone? Email? Virtual meetings?

      I have a strong tendency to fire off replies that are perhaps unwisely worded, and one of the things I do is to force myself to use email rather than replying orally. That requires me to take more time and to think about both what I am saying and how I am saying it. And because I am a bit – ok, a lot – obsessive about my writing, I tend to reread my messages multiple times before sending, which in many cases helps me catch “tone” issues before they get out in the world. I also have been known to start an email and then save it in my Drafts folder to gel for a while before I send it, if I have any doubt that it might be too, um, emphatic or strongly worded.

      Ultimately, what I do in writing an email that has the potential to be perceived as too direct or crabby or whatever is to start by making sure I’ve got all the factual information that needs to be conveyed, and then as I reread it for polishing before sending, I add in the social niceties to try to soften the way the message is delivered. Some examples below:

      I often start an email with “Thank you for asking an interesting question,” when in my head I am really thinking “You polka-dotted idiot, I can’t believe that a putative adult is stupid enough to ask that question.”

      I’ll change “I told you this last week when you asked that same question” to “I think we talked about this recently, but I know it’s a complex subject so maybe I need to break down the explanation a bit more.”

      “How many times do we need to go over this” becomes “I know it’s hard to remember these details, but try to keep in mind that…”

      I have a whole list of stock translation phrases like that, things that I try to come up with when I’m feeling calm and non-stressed. And after I have an email draft that conveys the required data, I go back through and just switch out those too-direct and often snarky phrases for the polite equivalent.

      It takes time. And some days, I don’t have a lot of that, and the snark comes through despite all my best efforts. So I feel your pain.

      1. old curmudgeon*

        I should add, since others have quite correctly commented on how gender can play into perceptions of being “too direct,” that I am a cis-gendered female, which may not be apparent from my user-name here.

      2. Aquawoman*

        I write emails and then go back and add niceties. I address the work thing and then if it’s the kind of email that warrants a nicety, I’ll add Thanks for bringing that to my attention or Great point or Hope you are well.

    7. Dr. KMnO4*

      tl;dr – it’s hard to answer your question without knowing a lot more about the context and specifics of your situation, but gender, region, and culture may all play a role in the feedback you received

      Did they give any examples about what you said, or what tone of voice you used, when describing you as “too direct” or having an attitude? It’s difficult to know what you could change without knowing more about the specifics of the situation. Also, do you identify as a woman? Unfortunately, gender often plays a role in feedback around verbal and written communication. The same traits that are viewed positively in men are often viewed negatively in women.

      I believe Alison has previously written about the differences in communication between people who are more relationship-focused and those who are more task-focused (I think those are the terms, but I’m not sure). Often people who are task-focused are perceived as “too direct” when they write emails that only contain work questions or information. One tactic that I think has been suggested is to add a brief “how are you doing?” or “hope you are doing well” line to emails.

      Some of it may come down to culture. I’m originally from the urban North, and when I (briefly) moved to the rural South for work I was also told that I was “too direct”. Many of my Southern colleagues would begin conversations with relationship-building small talk (how are you, how’s your family, etc.) then move along to the actual point of the conversation. I tended to skip the small talk and get down to business. It was a cultural mismatch, and one reason that I moved back North. I’m not saying that every single person in a region acts the same way, just that the small talk lead-up was much more prevalent in the South than in the North. If culture is the issue, and you want to change based on the feedback, you might try observing how your coworkers approach conversations and following their lead.

    8. CTT*

      It’s interesting reading your question and the responses asking for more context; I think one thing that can help “soften” a direct style is to add context. I work with someone who is very direct, and it can be frustrating because if she sends me an email that says “you need to call John,” I don’t always know what that means. It’s not that I need constant hand-holding and often I can figure out what she’s asking for, but when I do have questions, it can be intimidating to ask because the very direct, short emails have a ton of “obviously you should know what to do.” Just adding a few words to “you need to call John Smith to ask him if he has time to review this document,” makes a difference.

    9. Snark no more!*

      Oh heaven forbid the direct communication of our knowledge, opinions and ideas! As you can see from the responses, this is a common complaint about women in business.

      What I have had success with is a careful moderation of my tone, sometimes accompanied by a slight hesitation between words. If your tone is too “authoritative” a lot of folks think you’re being pushy.

      I am particularly fond of Alison’s “of course” tone. In my head anyway, it is perfectly pitched and any reasonable person would listen.

    10. Triplestep*

      I have been told I am “direct” or have a “Tone” or an “Edge” by every single manager except in my current job (and that’s probably only because hers is more pronounced!) A few of them didn’t care or liked it – they were reporting having been told by their peers – but most often it’s been presented as a negative. I have tried and tried and tried to curb this with varied results, but I have come to the conclusion that communication style is cultural and I am a New York Jew who speaks like one when her filter is not in place. (To be clear, I think *everyone’s* commutation style is cultural, I am just listing my particular culture. It’s been problematic for me outside of the New York area.)

      The best advice I got (from another direct woman) was to ask for examples. But often people decline to give them. This might be because the manager doesn’t want pushback, but I also think that no one can put their finger on what is really wrong with being direct. They can’t say – and may not even know consciously – that it’s because there’s discomfort with a woman saying a thing, or a middle aged person (in my case) saying a thing, or an overweight person saying a thing, or whatever it might be. You may have said a thing that a male could have said with no issue. Or a younger person, more conventionally attractive person, or whatever. Even if none of this is true, I suspect when the person giving this feedback hears how stupid the full explanation would sound if they articulated it, they choose to be vague and put it back on you. In most cases, they think they are helping your career.

      When discussing this with colleagues I’ve typically heard some form of “What? I LOVE your communication style! You’re so direct and you’re funny and sarcastic – who would complain about your communication style?” And I believe these people, but unfortunately this is a thing that only needs one or two conflict-avoidant people in the hierarchy above you to feel discomfort before you’re being coached about it.

      I think the career success of a direct woman will be dependent on those around her and how they respond to her communication style. We all know people who have risen pretty high in their careers and whose communication style rubs nearly everyone the wrong way, and they don’t even seem to try to do anything about it. How did they get there? It must have been the right combination of people around them who didn’t care about their style and only their accomplishments. But if – like my experience in one job – you ask for examples of your “tone” and get the same example several semi-annual reviews in a row, you’ll know you need to leave that place. You’re not going to be allowed to improve, and your direct style will always be thought of something on which to blame things.

      1. Jay*

        Ding ding ding. Jewish woman originally from NY. I have spent my entire working life outside of NY (CA and PA). It’s better in PA, at least slightly, but still an issue. I have learned to slooowwww dooowwwn until I feel like I am wading through molasses, ask questions before offering my opinion, and try very very hard not to be the first person to speak up in a group setting. I have also recognized that all of this takes effort and energy and so I have to be very diligent about self-care. If I get tired or even the slightest bit burned out, I revert to type and I’m bound to offend somebody. It’s taken me decades to give myself permission and as of this afternoon I am on a one-month leave. I didn’t quite make it – I spoke sharply to someone at work last week and had to apologize profusely.

    11. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I am also “too direct”. It’s a challenge. Much of it is gendered, but sometimes I am just too blunt. With time and practice, I’ve gotten better at reading the room, dialing back my approach while still getting the message across.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Tone of voice. Record yourself and play it back. Pretend you have never met the speaker on the recording. What do you think of how the recording sounds.

      Pacing. A quick response with very few words can cut like a knife. A fast “I HAVE THAT!!” vs. moderately paced “Thanks for asking, I am all set.” Ending the conversation too soon with out checking to see if the other person is done- this is one of my foibles. Not all the time and not every person, but randomly sprinkle in, “Are we all set here?” before exiting. Yeah, it makes a difference. A good use for this is for times when the conversation has been longer and there have been numerous issues discussed.

      In general, it’s good to add just a couple more words to sentences that are very short. I emailed someone and said “Do you want A or B?” They emailed back “okay”. For me this is a potluck answer, that person might get A or they might get B. I can’t spend any more time on the question, I have to forge ahead. But the reply could have said, “Do B.” That would have been an improvement. If the reply said, “Usually we want A but on this one we want B.” That would have been really helpful. Add a few extra words.

      The inclusive “we”. It’s really helpful to use inclusive terms often. “our project”, “our group”, as opposed to use the singular “you”. It’s not always possible, but on the good news side some attempt does improve things.

      Avoid the singular “you” if there is a problem. “You messed up the printer!” becomes “Oh that printer is messed up again?”

      I had a relative, who because of thyroid issues, really could not change her tone of voice much. So she made sure to sprinkle in pleases and thank yous. When she had to talk to a person about a mistake they made, she would dial back the whole story line by saying, “I had a similar thing come up like this, too.” (Don’t lie- if you did not have a similar thing come up, don’t say that you did.) Or she would find some other basis to just connect with the person as a fellow human being briefly. “Sounds like you are having a bum day, do you want a hand with the printer?”

      Be sure to act pleased, if you are actually pleased. “Hey, this is great. I really appreciate!” Saying stuff like this randomly can go a long way. I know that it can become a habit to never seemed pleased about anything. I saw it at home and I saw it in school. Keep an eye peeled that you don’t fall into this pit.

      Notice how nothing I have mentioned here involves lying. What it does involve is just taking an extra second with the person.

    13. Viette*

      I’m a very direct, bossy woman in a field where directness and bossiness are expected of people in my position. That being said, I’ve altered my behavior on my own with good results.

      I didn’t actually change anything about how I communicate my thoughts, but I spent more time on making people feel like I’m listening to them (I am listening!) and that we’re both working for the same goal before I told them what I thought. Really listen and act like you’re listening — eye contact, confirming what was said to you, TAKING YOUR TIME with a conversation and not rushing to the end just because you already know what you want or need to do. Even if it’s so so so obvious to you that the solution is “do X”, listen and understand why X will fix the other person’s problem. Then you can easily frame it in a way they understand and accept, or maybe even alter it slightly if in fact “do X-prime” is a better fix.

      “Being direct and having an attitude” is usually “just telling other people what to do” and people usually think you’re just telling them what to do if you haven’t shown them that you’re listening to them.

      1. Jay*

        My favorite piece of feedback in this regard was “You act as if you’re in charge.” Um, I am in charge.

        1. Viette*

          Ha! Yeah, I still act like I’m in charge (I’m in charge), but I’ve had good results, and even a few changed plans on my part, with listening to people and making sure they feel like I understand them before I, you know, tell them what do :).

    14. LCS*

      I’ve been given this feedback too and largely think it has to do with being a woman who acts like one of the guys in a very macho / male dominated environment. I’m certainly no more blunt than the majority of the guys I work with. But I’m somehow expected to be the group peacemaker by virtue of gender rather than anything to do with my role. What I’ve found is that the more I can build relationships outside of specific business communication, the more leeway I have to communicate directly on business matters. I ask about people’s kids, I go for beer after work, I play pickup basketball with a group of colleagues etc. – and as soon as those personal ties are forged, my leeway to communicate clearly / directly / appropriately to the environment gets much broader and the gender dynamic becomes way less of an issue. Not to mention I enjoy my job and colleagues more, the more I engage like this.

    15. What the What*

      I have also received this type of feedback. I think it’s important to 1) consider the source; 2) decide if you want to change.

      I received this feedback from a colleague who was of equal rank to me. He felt I was too blunt and too direct with clients and that I should be friendlier. I asked for specific feedback. We pulled up a couple of emails that he felt were “too direct” and I asked him how he would phrase it.

      Actual example: Client wants to do XYZ. My response, “Hello client, You can’t do that. It’s illegal.”

      Suggested response: “Hello client! How are is Sally’s volleyball team doing this season? I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend! We don’t think XYZ is a good strategy because it would be hard to defend under audit. Hope this helps!”

      I said: “That does not convey the important message that XYZ is illegal. I like my response better. Also, I don’t care how Sally is doing in volleyball or what happened during Memorial Day weekend.”

      I was supposed to pretend to care. Also, my colleague turned out to be INCREDIBLY conflict avoidant. He refused to ever tell a client that they were wrong and would often say things like “We’ll do some research into that” or “We’ll brainstorm on a way to make that happen” to things that were clearly incorrect or impossible. But he could not say no. The most common response I got from clients was “But Colleague told us we could do it” because they would take his answer as a ‘yes’.

      Then I started putting “Hope this helps!” in every email to him and he asked if I was mocking him. I admitted I was.

      Turns out a) I did not want to change; and b) the source of the criticism had his own flaws.

      My husband heard me talking on the phone to a client and commented that I was really abrupt on the phone. That I say “This is Cat” instead of ‘Hello’ and I didn’t make any small talk. He felt I should be friendlier. I told him if they wanted a warm and fuzzy accountant, they could find one. If they wanted one that was efficient and accurate, they could deal with the fact that I don’t chit chat with them. My client list is full. I don’t need to change the way I answer the phone. Again, consider the source: My husband will talk at length about any issue, but often won’t come to a decision or conclusion. And decide if I want to change: I didn’t, I was successful as it was.

      If you decide you do want to change, ask the person for specific feedback, like I did with my colleague and the emails. If they can’t give it to you, their criticism is useless to you. And you should tell them so. Directly. Maybe they can suggest a better way of saying it that’s less direct.

      1. Amtelope*

        It sounds like not changing is working for you. I can say that at my company, being as blunt as you are describing without any tolerance for small talk would not work, especially in interactions with clients. It’s expected that you’ll make some effort at relationship building through small talk and at sugar-coating a “no” — “That’s a great question! Unfortunately, that’s actually prohibited by law. What we could do is [alternate option].” I think this is an issue where it’s important to be aware of the norms in your particular region and business.

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          +1. That’s a great alternative script – couching your email in small talk is counterproductive and not required, but softening the wording of “that’s illegal” prevents people not wanting to work with you.

    16. Deanna Troi*

      This is often about gender, but not always, so I’m glad that you’re willing to consider that you might be coming across too brusque and are trying to investigate this.

      I work in a male dominated industry and am a technical expert in an office of 37 people. There are only 3 women Beverly, Tasha, and me) who do what I do. All three of us are recognized nationwide for our technical expertise (we work for the Federal government on projects around the country). All three us are also blunt, straight-forward, confident, and will tend to take over a meeting where we’re the technical experts. However, only one of us, Tasha, is rude, condescending, a know-it-all, and frankly, downright nasty. People routinely ask to work with Beverly and me, and have complained to our supervisor, Will, about Tasha. Will, Beverly, and I have all tried to give Tasha advice and have told her about specific instances where she could have handled the situation better. She tells us we’re wrong, gets defensive, and cries (yikes). She often tells me I am too nice in my interactions…but I get results and have people requesting to work with me. And I’m not that nice – I know I’m a bulldozer, but I try to do it in a friendly, encouraging way (someone at another agency told me last week that I should have been a lawyer, after I convinced them not to go down the path that they were sure was the best one).

      In other words, I’m impressed that you’re not being like Tasha, and I hope you find someone who can give you honest, useful feedback.

    17. Choggy*

      I have gotten this same feedback at pretty much every performance review that always starts out with, you are GREAT but. The irony is that it stems from one underperformer on our team who knows I can see him for what he is, instead of taking any responsibility for his (in)actions, he deflects to put the spotlight on an outside force causing his performance issues. I have found it to be all bullsh*t and ignore it for the most part. I’m a very capable and proficient technical specialist from whom EVERYONE seeks assistance or council regarding decisions, and this ONE guy (I am a woman) is the only one who has ever complained about me. Thankfully, our new manager has finally seen fit to elevate me to a position of higher responsibility, and demote him to a lower one. Our interactions are less, and it will be interesting to hear at my next review if the same issue comes up. And if it does, I will ask for specifics because I find it hard to believe anyone but him has an issue with me. I am trying to be more aware of how I come across, especially when we are in group meetings, and try not to push my own agenda too hard. I realize there are others on the team who do great work, and also want to build them up and make them feel comfortable working with me.

  12. recent grad*

    I have a question about references and dealing with applying for a job while waiting for a formal offer from another.

    I received a call Monday with a verbal offer for a job. I said yes. I submitted my background check and education verification through Sterling (Anyone knows how long this takes?). I have not received a formal written offer.

    This week, I went on a second interview for another job. I would like it, but the first job is preferred due to much higher pay. This job asked for five professional references. I already needed five references for the job I received a verbal offer from. How do I go about asking the same people for references again? Do I provide any update on the other job to them right now?

    Also, the second job is entry-level, my references would see in the posting that it only requires a HS diploma (I have a Masters). Do I need to explain this in my email? (During my interview, they said they now want someone ‘higher level’ but cannot change the pay rate and duties presently). Also, one of my references had a strong connection that helped me get an offer for the first job, and I feel weird if I were to ask them for another reference for a different job, like I don’t want the job they referred me to or something. At the same time, I’m early in my career so don’t have too many references.

    I’m almost considering waiting until Tuesday (when I think the background check will be done) and just formally dropping out of the running for the second job… but also fearing the worst. The company with the verbal offer has been responsive and called again on Thursday to confirm the pay rate, and double check that I received the background check email.

    I think I should call or email the internal recruiter (this afternoon?) and ask to clarify the timeline for the official letter and what the next steps are (a physical, drug test, paperwork, vaccines, i don’t know) and expected start date. Is that acceptable to do? I haven’t put in notice at my current jobs, and I don’t know if I was expected to.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Yeah, you can send the email. And honestly, you can reach out to your references and tell them what you said here – you received a verbal offer for Job #1, but no formal written offer since that’s pending due to a background check. In the meantime, you’re still interviewing (because you don’t truly have a new job until an offer letter is signed and a start date is received) and another company asked for references – you’d appreciate if they would speak to any reference checker on your behalf, but be discreet about the other offer. Your references should understand.

    2. Zephy*

      I think you’re fine to reach out today to the recruiter for Job 1 for an update on timelines and next steps.

      It’s also very common for people to have interviews with multiple companies; your references are probably expecting to be contacted more than once by different organizations if they know you’re job-searching. It’s just smart to keep interviewing until the ink is dry on your offer letter – especially right now, when there’s still so much uncertainty, you definitely don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.

      About this specific Job 2, though, I can’t help but look askance at them – they can only afford someone with a HS diploma but they actually want someone with a master’s degree? How long do they expect that person to stay and work for peanuts? I wouldn’t count on them finding money to pay you what you’re worth, if you take that job.

      1. recent grad*

        I don’t think it’s the case that that they can only afford to hire someone with a HS degree, I was given the impression that it’s too late to really change the pay rate and job description and get approval fast as they want someone soon. They made it clear that it would possible for advancements and promotions, and more pay if the person choose to stay within the company. The last person who started in the position I applied for got a Masters later and now has a higher title, for example.

        I totally understand how it looks from the outside, though. Interestingly during my first interview with them in June, they thought I was too over-qualifed, but their department needs and demends have changed since.

        1. lemon*

          Still sounds sketchy. Even if that is true– that they don’t just want to go through the bureaucracy of adjusting the role– they’re still prioritizing getting someone in there quickly over paying someone fairly.

          Manipulators often use a sense of urgency to get you to do what they want you to do– like advertisements that tell you “act now!” or “there’s only 1 left in stock!”

  13. So Anon For This*

    Has my workplace fallen into irreversible chaos – or am I impatient? All manner of oddly implemented changes are taking place. My job is being modified – but in small increments. There doesn’t seem to be an overarching design to the modifications, but every few days my supervisor surprises me with new additional duties that are being added to my workload.
    Also (the weirdest part) I am supposed to be getting a new admin to help me – by pulling someone from another area. I am now on the third admin – although no one has actually moved to my area! I was told several weeks ago that Helena would be admin beginning September 15th. A couple of weeks later…Helena is out and Flavia will be admin. A couple of weeks later… Flavia is out and Falco is the admin presumptive. Mind you; no one has ever actually moved to my area. Helena and Flavia were taken by surprise that they were being moved – both into and out of my area. Helena and Flavia each seemed to be fine with moving to my area (I haven’t spoken with Falco yet) and seemed a bit upset that they were being moved somewhere else before they even arrived.
    I am baffled and despite asking the managers, I have yet to receive a clear picture of what the plan is – if there truly is a plan. Has anyone experienced a chaotic reorg? Is this a “walk before they make me run” situation, or should I wait a bit to see if things settle into a new and acceptable normal?

    1. The New Wanderer*

      It wasn’t as chaotic, but one of the results of our reorg a few months ago was to assign a bunch of us to a new manager. For most of the group that assignment seemed okay but for me it was a bad choice for several reasons. I’m the only person doing X and there was a new manager managing X work, yet I was assigned to the manager doing Y. So I immediately lobbied with my outgoing manager (who had already tried to get me assigned to X manager) and then my grandboss and X manager directly, and they all agreed yes, it would make the most sense to move me to X manager. That was in the first week of the reorg, before the management switch was even scheduled to happen.

      And then nothing happened for 3 months. I was climbing the walls since I did get assigned to Y manager in the meantime and it was starting to go very badly. I brought it up multiple times but not so many as to be pestering, but there was no clear process for how to transfer me even after there was approval at all the necessary levels. It was surprisingly stressful. I looked at other options (internal, external) and was almost to the point where I was going to ask grandboss to report to them directly, and then one day the transfer happened. I wasn’t even notified at the time, it was just updated in our system.

      Things are so much better now. It was an immediate relief to me, but also I feel a lot better about things in the long term too. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good advice, just commiseration for what you’re experiencing. If my transfer hadn’t come through I probably would have burned a lot of capital trying to get out of Manager Y’s group. I didn’t want to quit without something lined up, but I really did not want to stay on if that was the deal.

      So, if you’re okay with how things are going and you’re not being overloaded (yet), waiting for things to settle is probably a good idea. It sounds like other people are just as unhappy with the confusing situation and it will probably be a relief to all when the assignments are more clear. But if you’re starting to get too much work in the meantime and it’s not stuff you want to be doing, it’s certainly worth a look around just to see what your options are.

  14. Diahann Carroll*

    TL;DR: Does where you obtained a masters degree matter if you’re in a field that doesn’t really require a masters to begin with?

    My company provides tuition reimbursement for masters degrees up to $7k a year. I’m currently approved for a graduate certificate program (that starts in just a few short weeks), but was thinking that after this, I may want to get an MBA online. I asked people here a month or so ago what they thought about Boston University’s online MBA, but many people said it’s too new for there to be any real opinions on the quality of the actual program. Fair enough. Some others suggested alternative online MBA programs for me to look into, including one from the University of Illinois. After doing research on all the suggestion, U of I’s online MBA seems like the best choice given that it would almost be fully covered by my company (I’d have to come out of pocket up to about $3k, which I can do with some tweaks to my budget) and it has the specialization track I’m interested in.

    But then I remembered some of the conversations I’ve read here over the years that said that MBAs not from top 10 or 20 schools really don’t carry much weight with employers. I’m wondering if that’s really true, if not going to a “name” school would make people discount the education I’d receive even if it was top notch and I learned a ton from it that made me better at my job. It’s true that right now, I’m in a field that doesn’t really require a masters. I also just fell into this role, so I know that if I ever want to leave my company and don’t get further training, I won’t be as competitive in the market as other people who either have the years of experience I don’t have or the degree.

    Basically, I’m very interested in getting more training under my belt for potential advancement opportunities, but I don’t want to waste my time or my/my company’s money at U of I if employers won’t take it seriously when reviewing my resume.

    1. rageismycaffeine*

      I take seriously any MBA from a school that’s not University of Phoenix or some other online degree mill. A recognizable school like U of I or BU? Definitely. Go for it.

    2. AP*

      The advice about top schools is really geared to people who are quitting their jobs and going to school full time. You have to live with the opportunity cost of your lost wages as well as tuition costs that can reach $150K or more. Doing that only makes sense if you’re interested in going into management consulting, investment banking, or similar high-powered career. Most of the firms that are hiring for those positions are the ones that focus their hiring on the top 10 or 20 programs.

      The calculus is completely different if you’re getting tuition reimbursement and/or your aim is not one of those handful of very selective jobs.

      In your case the opportunity cost is $3K plus all the time you’ll spend during nights and weekends doing your coursework. If you’re comfortable with spending the money and time, I’d say go for it.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        The advice about top schools is really geared to people who are quitting their jobs and going to school full time. You have to live with the opportunity cost of your lost wages as well as tuition costs that can reach $150K or more.

        Ahhhh, I see – this is an important distinction. Yeah, I will absolutely not be quitting a job to go to school full-time, and I have no desire to go into any of the careers you listed (been there, done that – I’m tired). To you and rageismycaffeine – thank you both for the gut check. I figured I was overthinking this and the opportunity was too good to pass up. (To get an MBA practically for free? That’s dang near unheard of in the US.)

        1. Old and Don’t Care*

          I generally agree with AP. I did a part-time MBA at my local university (you’ve posted where you live; I went to the UC you’d be familiar with). It was in-person but I think still relevant to your question. Anyway, most of the students were either non-business undergrad majors (lots of engineers) who wanted to take business classes or people (like me) whose employers wanted them to have master’s degrees for whatever reason. I think most of us got what we needed out of the program and if you have similar reasons I’m sure the Illinois program would be great. (People in the Midwest have affinity for large Midwestern state schools, preferably Big Ten). But there was no career placement, no employer recruiting, etc. People went to check a box, and I think that’s how employers view it on resumes, and that any recognizable program is as good as another for part-time students. Full-time is a whole different animal and it sounds like not something you’re interested in so I will not pontificate on that. Except to to say that I asked one of my professors if she hated teaching part-time classes in the evenings. She said she liked it much better because the full-time students were much more aggressive and challenging and full of “we are the customers here” attitudes. I told her part-time students were way too tired to deal with any of that.

          Last thought; I concentrated in Finance and many of the same concepts were hit in every class. I thought they would be burned into my brain and I would never forget them. They were not burned in my brain and I forgot them quickly because I did not use them regularly. So if you are looking to use your new-found knowledge in a new field or sub-field be aware it may have a short shelf life.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            But there was no career placement, no employer recruiting, etc.

            This is one thing I don’t need since I’m already employed at a pretty sizable company with connections to other major software companies. I’ve been doing my own networking at these places for nearly a year and a half.

      2. MissGirl*

        Not entirely true. I quit my job and went full time at a top 40 school. I’m not making the big bucks of a Harvard job but I just got into the 6 figures and have more than doubled my salary. MBAs at schools that aren’t Ivy League but still respectable are able to do well for themselves. We had placements at top companies.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I want to make your kind of money!!! LOL

          But seriously – it makes me feel a lot better to hear from someone who didn’t go to one of the top 20 schools who’s still managing to do very well for herself with the degree.

          1. MissGirl*

            I was completely changing careers so I needed to go full-time to do internships and build a new resume. I don’t know if the degree itself would’ve landed me a new job without the extra experience. I was making 40K in publishing before I quit and started at 75K at graduation. Within two years, I moved to 100K. Most of my cohorts made more because the MBA advanced them into an already established career.

    3. Anon-y-mous*

      Does where you obtained a masters degree matter if you’re in a field that doesn’t really require a masters to begin with? Not all that much, no. Any reputable fully-accredited university is fine. Your local state university and private universities would also be fine (and might be better if your local colleges have a good reputation in your community because local employers know and are familiar with the school and alumni networks are good).

      MBA’s: Certainly some MBA programs do have a higher level cachet: such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, etc. and this is also often about the connections you will make at those schools in addition to the rigor of academics.

      But any reputable, recognized and accredited state brick-and-mortar university will also have a solid and rigorous level of online education–they have to. You will basically learn the same things about business and take the same classes as part of your MBA and your degree and education will be taken seriously. The universities you’ve mentioned would all be respected institutions and the education will help you advance professionally.

      You might want to Google the Princeton Review top-25-online-mba-programs to have a look to see where different colleges fall. But honestly, I cannot imagine any employer discounting the UI or BU programs as not being serious even if they may not be as well “known” for their MBA programs as maybe other programs they offer.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I did Google the Princeton Review’s Top 25 list for online MBA programs, and neither school I listed was mentioned. Boston U is the bigger name, so I was initially leaning heavily towards that program; however, their program doesn’t seem to have specific specializations, which made me lean more toward UI. And BU is cheaper – I’d only end up paying about $1k out of pocket. I don’t know; I guess I have to see how my certificate program turns out and whether we even still have this benefit once I complete my program next spring (my company’s going public, so they may change up some things once that happens and our revenues could still tank thanks to COVID, which would effectively kill this reimbursement program).

        1. Paulina*

          Other than the extremes (top name or poor name), if it’s not a job requirement then I’d recommend prioritizing what you expect to learn.

          Also be careful on due diligence when it comes to online-only programs; check who teaches them and who takes them vs. the in-person full-time offerings. There’s a lot of pressure from university boards and from education-sector consultants for universities to monetize their reputations by adding online-only credentials that are run by different people. Some of this is microcredentials, some not. I’ve known someone with a micromasters from BU that I wouldn’t trust with anything and could barely communicate with, so something’s off there.

    4. Moth*

      I went through this same decision process about a year ago when considering MBA programs. I found that most of the people I talked to about it said that, for most fields, the school doesn’t matter (so long as it’s not a diploma mill). In the past, when MBAs were more rare, the big name schools were where you were expected to attend. But outside of a few specific fields (generally ones where connections and shared history matter a lot), these days it’s much more well accepted that you can get a good MBA from a lot of schools. More important is what you do with the degree — meaning, do you grow in your career and utilize the knowledge learned or do you stay in the same position and not really change anything?

      I do feel like there where there has been some remaining stigma is around online programs. The assumption previously was that in person in “more rigorous” and you make more connections, but I think even that has started to change; most people won’t know if a program was done online or in person. And with Covid, I think the stigma of online learning is changing quickly anyways!

      I ended up deciding to go for it and haven’t regretted it. I honestly probably underestimated how much I would learn and gain from the program. And even though I still have one year to go, I’ve applied for a couple of jobs with the note that I’m in progress in an MBA program right now on my resume and have never had any question about the fact that I’m not attending at a big name university, but have always had a lot of positive response for doing it at all. I encourage you to go for it!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I do feel like there where there has been some remaining stigma is around online programs. The assumption previously was that in person in “more rigorous” and you make more connections, but I think even that has started to change; most people won’t know if a program was done online or in person.

        I like the fact that many of the online MBA programs I looked into said that online students get essentially the same level of instruction as on campus students. If anyone ever questioned me about my program’s rigor, I could always point them back to the website, lol.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          I think one time I was asked a kind of screening question about my online degree. They asked something along the lines of “What did you learn?” or “What was the most interesting part of your program?” As long as you can have some good topics to discuss or you can point to a major project you put together, you should be good.

        2. Triumphant Fox*

          I actually think it’s more about losing the network. So much of business school is networking with colleagues, but if you’re not there for that, the instruction is going to be really similar online and in-person.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      I could see the university being important if you are right out of school with no experience and you want to land the best paying job possible.
      For us working folk, any degree is acceptable. I have 2 degrees from WGU and as soon as I added my master’s to my LinkedIn I was getting recruiter contacts every day.
      If you have no experience then the University name matters. If you have experience, then it doesn’t matter where you get your degree.

      1. Can't Sit Still*

        I also have 2 degrees from WGU. I work in biotech and my MSML seems to carry more weight than an MBA, which is kind of the opposite of how the 2 degrees are usually perceived. Maybe they think the MS looks better? But I’m making six figures now and have essentially doubled my salary since I went back to school in 2012, with the majority of the increase coming after I completed my masters program.

        It’s hard to work full time and get your masters, but it’s not impossible. And the sooner you start, the sooner you’re finished!

    6. new kid*

      I can’t speak to MBAs specifically, but I grew up on the east coast and remember hearing the “name brand” school advice A Lot growing up. We moved to the midwest before I started high school, so I ended up doing my undergrad and then later grad program at 2 different midwestern state schools. Perfectly good schools and programs but not remotely Ivy or Ivy-adjacent.

      I recently moved back to the east coast and when I was job hunting I remembered the east coast attitudes on education I heard growing up and worried it would bite me, but it didn’t at all. I’m definitely surrounded by a lot more folks that went to fancy private schools out here, but no one asks where I went and it clearly didn’t prevent me from getting my current (six figure) job. So if you can save the money, I say 100% go for it. I think less and less people care about prestige schools these days, especially when you’re well into your career and have other data points that highlight your aptitude better.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I grew up on the east coast as well, so I know exactly what attitudes you’re referring to. I also did end up going to a fancy east coast private school for college – and I’m still paying for that education 11 years later *sigh.* Funny enough, I now live in the midwest, and none of my previous employers knew anything about my school (though one guy on the hiring committee for my second career in insurance did – but he was also originally from the east coast and vouched for how good my school is with the hiring manager who had never heard of it). So all the good that did me, lol.

        1. Oranges*

          Related to this question of reputation, it seems like there might be a case for doing an online program offered by a local (or at least regional) school versus one that’s offered by a school further away. UofI’s business school might be more of a known quantity to employers in your area compared to BU’s, for example. (As a Midwesterner myself, I realize that UofI may in fact not actually be local to you; I’m talking about the power that a school that is slightly more proximate versus one that is somewhat less proximate.)

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            This is true about the regionalism (and yes, U of I would absolutely be closer to me than BU). But again, I’m an east coaster through and through and always think of things through that lens, lol. I really need to break that habit and the habit of thinking that “name brand” = better because (as my undergrad experience has shown me) that’s not remotely true.

        2. new kid*

          Ouch – I feel you, that was almost me for undergrad but then I couldn’t afford any of the east coast schools I got into lol. Blessing in disguise.

          Good luck whichever way you end up going though! I actually really enjoyed grad school even while working full time and felt like I got a lot out of it.

        3. AGD*

          Oh, do I know this feeling. I got a fantastic education and wouldn’t have wanted to give it up, but the interval from starting my liberal-arts BA to paying off my final student loan was just under 15 years.

        4. Lizzo*

          I commented below, but I’m waving here as another former East Coaster, now in the Midwest. :-D

          Also, Boston University = ridiculously expensive, and low ROI on that investment. At least that was the word on the street in the late 90s.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            BU is crazy expensive, but their online MBA program is only $22k right now. Not saying it would stay that way for the next couple of years, but if it did, my company’s reimbursement plan would almost cover it in its entirety.

    7. Hillary*

      I agree with AP – my MBA is from a midwestern state school, and I’ve done just fine. I still recommend the state school versus the other private options here. The program is more rigorous and it’s the only one well known outside our state.

      Will your diploma say U of I, or will it say something else?

      The other question is what kind of MBA do you want? My classmates, whether full- or part-time (I was the latter but my boss was the former) mostly work for manufacturers or retailers. If you want to work in tech it’s not the right school. We’re not high finance, we want to run businesses and actually make money. I’m happy to talk offline, marguerida at gmail will get to my personal email.

    8. LCS*

      Disclaimer first that I’m Canadian, and I think we place less value on particular alumni affiliation.

      I went back and got my MBA after I’d been working for a few years, subsidized by the company similar to what you’re considering. I went the online route, fully accredited by the same body that certifies MBA’s at more major schools but from a lower-tier school as far as branding / name recognition goes. It was a great choice for me. Online was practical for my lifestyle (most of the program was actually completed while I was home on a one year maternity leave) in a way that classes on campus at one of the major schools wouldn’t have been, not to mention online was more affordable.

      I think if I had a poor reputation at work there would be more critical thought about where I went to school but at that point I already had a pretty stellar rep and the MBA certification was icing on the cake. Everyone kind of went “yup, smart girl, MBA makes sense” and didn’t dig further into where it came from. Just having the letters was enough for an almost immediate promotion and significant raise, and has factored into subsequent promotions & raises also.

    9. Lizzo*

      I went to a top tier school for Master’s number one, and a good school (but not nationally reknowned) for Master’s number two. I was an employee of the school where I did the second degree, which meant it was free. The program was good, but that price tag was the clincher.

      The top tier MBA schools are definitely good, however 1) they’re stupid expensive, and 2) what you’re paying for is access to a powerful alumni network and the value of the school’s brand. That’s great, but at what cost to you in the long term if you have student loans hanging around your neck for the next 10-20 years?

      If you can find a good quality education at a good school that is outside the top 20 that your employer will pay for, DO IT. Be prepared to do a lot of self-directed networking and advocating for your value as a potential employee once you’re job searching after graduation, but you’ll be able to search without the pressure of taking a job ASAP due to the need to pay back loans.

      Also, University of Illinois is a good school! :-D

      1. Lizzo*

        Oh, also…not sure if it’s online, and no idea on the cost, but Loyola’s MBA program might be worth investigating.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          If you’re referring to Loyola in Chicago and not Maryland, their MBA classes are in person.

    10. MBA*

      My husband went to BU for his MBA (he Also. I went to BC for mine.

      We both went while semi working. I did the part time program. DH did the full time program but worked part time (plus a summer internship that paid 30k in 2007).

      We weren’t looking to do MBB consulting or work at a top investment bank. We were looking mostly to get educated and network with people and shift careers.

      If you are the Boston area can’t get into Harvard or MIT, go to BU/BC/Northeastern/Babson for your MBA. The local schools have great connections. If you are in IL and can’t get into Kellogg or Booth, go to IL.

  15. Amber Rose*

    My husband is interviewing for a position next week that he’s definitely qualified for, but it’s a big step up from his current role that would come with like a 40% raise. Both of us are trying not to get our hopes up but… it would mean A LOT to him and our general finances. Ugh.

    He’s on fairly good terms with the woman who previously held the role (she’s stepping down voluntarily due to health issues) and said he was tempted to ask her for interview pointers but that would be “cheating.” Apparently asking his boss for pointers is cheating also according to him. I don’t agree. Isn’t it really normal to make use of your network? It’s not like he’d be asking them for the job (that would be pointless) just for info regarding how to prepare.

    I can send him AAM’s guide but his employer grades interviewees on a points scale so I feel like getting advice from people who know where and how points are assigned would be more useful.

    1. beancat*

      From my (very limited) experience, I actually got scolded for not making use of my network during an internal interview. I also thought it was cheating, but the interviewer expressed disappointment that I hadn’t talked to anyone about the job. It left me underprepared and I did not get an offer.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      He should reach out to her, but not for interview tips or advice or specific interview prep. He should ask her general questions about the job, what she likes most about it, what her biggest challenges are, that kind of thing. Then he can use that discussion to think about how he would approach the job itself, not just the interview. Asking only for interview pointers is like seeing the trees but not the forest.

      1. Katrinka*

        But I think it’s also a good idea for him to ask her if she has any advice to share as he moves through the interview process. If she doesn’t feel comfortable doing that, she’ll say so.

      2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        I agree with this. For the job I’m currently in, I was a part-time worker for about 5 yrs before they brought me on full time, and I reached out to someone I knew in the department they were hiring for, and just asked her some general questions. I thought of it more as a fact-finding mission, but they actually considered it part of my interview process, and were pleased that I had reached out. I also had a second call after a couple of interviews with someone else who was/still is in my department to ask about our manager’s management style. It was nice to feel like they were open to having those types of conversations with me. It’s truly been the best FT job I’ve ever had, and I think a lot had to do with me feeling like I really understood the structure of the position, my manager, and the people at my peer level.

    3. Workerbee*

      Ask her for any advice she wishes to give. It may be distasteful to him but it is not cheating; it is making the most of the current situation. To me it’s similar to researching a company down to its foundation. Only here, you get to ask a living part of the company! In any case, even with what sounds like an internal position, networking is the way to go, and this is but a form of it.

      I know when I was hiring, I looked for people who had enthusiasm, willingness to learn, aptitude, and (if internal), at least some understanding of what the department did and the level of role. I can train on a skill. It takes longer to get someone settled in, so any interest and insight they can show in what we do was a good indicator of future performance.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      This was me thirty years ago — networking is cheating! No, networking is how to get the job. But as others have noted the ask isn’t for “interview pointers.” It is to ask about the job, the people, challenges etc.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      I think that asking things like “what kind of characteristics are they looking for in a candidate for this role?” would make perfect sense. You’re not asking “hey, what questions are they going to ask me?” You’re getting an idea of what kind of person they want. And then you can go through your own work history to think of examples that show those characteristics.

    6. Nacho*

      My old boss didn’t just give me pointers when I was interviewing for my current job, he went and showed me how employees in the position are evaluated during their quarterly reviews and what they’re looking for. Then he sat down with me and gave me practice interviews during our one on one time. It’s definitely not cheating to get help prepping from somebody who knows the job.

    7. Malarkey01*

      It’s not cheating to ask for information on the job, traits they would value, any general advice, etc. It’s proper research. Others interviewing for the job may be doing the same thing and he’ll be at a disadvantage by not seeking information.
      When I’ve moved on in the past it wasn’t unusual to have informal chats with multiple candidates-all above board.

  16. Chi chan*

    I am completely changing my career. From let’s say nursing to a data analyst or business analyst. Should I mention my 2 years of working as a nurse in my CV? I am in grad school right now but was wondering about this.

    1. Anon in Space*

      Yes, it shows work history. And it would be a big bonus is you went into healthcare or pharmaceuticals. Also, it dealt with record keeping, so you have front-line experience with the input of data (and the things to watch out for) when analyzing millions of bits of anonymized data.y

      1. Katrinka*

        Agreed. Especially since at least some of your references are from work you’ve done (I assume – they should be).

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      How long ago was your 2 years working as a nurse? If it’s recent, you should probably list it; otherwise, it looks like an explained gap in your work history.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        And if you are currently a nurse, then they will almost certainly transfer you to a support role in your hospital system. I worked at two hospital systems and just about any nurse that applied for a position in HR, Analytics, IT, or any other support role would be given the transfer.

    3. mayor lewis*

      If you’re open to staying within healthcare, your nursing background is a huge asset. I’m a lead in an analytics group in a healthcare organization, and we consider that kind of domain experience to be a big bonus when hiring. It can be incredibly valuable in developing analyses/dashboards/reports/whatever that are actually helpful to end-users. Our analysts who come into this setting without that experience have to spend a bunch of time getting up to speed on how healthcare functions, so with prior on-the-ground experience, you’re a step ahead.

      If you’re applying outside of healthcare, it’s probably still worth including. Analytics roles often have a pretty substantial customer interaction/management component, and it’s often the part applicants are the weakest at. As a nurse, you’ve got experience working with people who might be stressed and upset or struggling to articulate what their needs are, communicating patient’s needs to other providers accurately and efficiently, etc. – all stuff that shows you have the soft skills that analysts really do need.

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

      Yes, and as a nurse I expect there are many skills you could transfer (I know a lot about data analysis and business analysis; not so much about being a nurse except as a patient!): being able to keep calm in ‘crisis’ situations: you take everything in your stride and analyze it logically. You already know how to deal with difficult people — the worst of your patients will (almost certainly!) be worse than the business users you have to mollify. You already know how to deal with “confidential info” situations.

  17. Anon in Space*

    Is there any benefit from applying for a job posting through LinkedIn rather than the company’s website? Does it get your resume in front of HR sooner, have you be taken more seriously, or some other benefit?

    1. HR Bee*

      This is honestly so company dependent that its hard to answer. I’ve worked at company’s where posting were on our website just because it was required, but we barely ever looked there, and I’ve worked at places where we had 7 different platforms and looked at all of them. It really, really just depends.

    2. Mbarr*

      I’m inclined to say it’s preferable to apply on the company’s website. As HR Bee commented though, it depends on the company.

      To me, applying through LinkedIn is the equivalent of directly emailing your resume to someone in HR instead of applying through the company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and getting your resume in that way. Plus, maybe whoever’s responsible for the company’s LinkedIn page doesn’t check it often, they might check their ATS more often.

      Caveat: I don’t know how LinkedIn applications work.

    3. The Original K.*

      When I come across postings on LinkedIn that I’m interested in, I always see if they’re posted on the company’s website first. If they are, I apply there. It feels more direct to me.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I definitely think of LinkedIn listings as more of an advertisement for the position than the primary or best way to apply. Unless the company specifically asks you to apply via LinkedIn, it’d probably safest to apply through the company’s own website or listing.

    5. ThatGirl*

      In my experience LinkedIn just sends the company your profile and a short message, so sending your resume & cover letter via the company site is better because it’s more tailored.

      1. resume screener*

        Our LinkedIn set-up is that is that it forwards a brief notification message with the resume attachment that was uploaded for our application. Our preference is to receive a cover letter and resume together in one pdf; this arrives attached to the notification email from LinkedIn and is what we look at first.

    6. Coverage Associate*

      My experience with other external application platforms is they can mess up the formatting of your materials without you knowing or the employer knowing where the error came in. I would apply on the company’s website, where at least the problem should be on everyone’s application and is the employer’s fault.

      1. Anon in Space*

        OP here. Thanks for this tip. I was able to preview the pdf of my uploaded resume on the employer’s website…and it looked horrible! So I did a quick copy/past e of the info in a much simpler format.

    7. WantonSeedStitch*

      I think it’s better to apply on the company’s website. Your information will be submitted in the form the company wants, and not having to first go through LinkedIn will mean HR will get it faster.

    8. resume screener*

      I do contract work screening resumes for a couple organizations. In a recent hiring, LinkedIn applications were looked at first. Have worked on other recruitments where applying through the company site was a quicker option.

      Agree with the others that it’s all very dependent on the organization and often the individuals involved and their preferred processes.

    9. BEE*

      I’m the hiring manager for a small software start-up. We advertised for a role on our website and on LinkedIn, since putting it up on LinkedIn was free so I figured why not? The ad on LinkedIn received a large number of applications, almost all of which were unsuitable for the role. I suspect that the quick apply function has something to do with this.

      The candidate we ended up hiring saw the ad on LinkedIn first, but went to our website to submit their application along with their responses to our selection criteria.

    10. Lucky Dog*

      Many companies will not take an application unless you have already applied for a position on their website and received an application number. I would then reference this number in any communication via social media when replying to a posting.

  18. Tammy*

    I work in an agency of a municipal government, and due to the pandemic and everything else, we are in big financial trouble – from what I understand, is that this is true of all cities in the country right now. The mayor has publicly said there may be layoffs and furloughs coming, in addition to hiring freezes and significant budget cuts that will affect services, which our residents will be unhappy about. (I am not very worried about a layoff because my job is considered essential and I have enough seniority now to likely avoid it.) I am wondering if anyone who has been in this situation as a local government employee in the past has any advice for preparing for this? Especially people who maybe went through this in the 2008 crisis, what advice would you give, looking back?

    1. ONFM*

      Don’t take on any new expenses and see where you can make cuts in your personal budget. I worked in municipal government back in 2008, and we went without any sort of pay increase (raise, COLA, anything) for about 4 years. That’s what I’m telling people to expect now. We went through a lot of “We’re all doing more with less” speeches, which back then, for us, meant that no services were being cut, just staffing. We all ended up doing about 1.25 jobs while cutting overtime.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yes – no increase in pay, no decrease in services provided, cuts in staffing. So be mentally prepared to push back against the expectation that you’ll work 80 hour weeks for no increase in pay and be grateful you’ve got a job. If you’re in a management position, be prepared to shield your reports from the same.

    2. Nita*

      My husband is looking at a similar situation. We may be in the same city for all I know. We decided to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We’ve just recently spent most of a year living on one income, so we know we can do it and there are actually some savings in it for us (child care is expensive!) It’s obviously been factoring into what new expenses we take on – fixing the broken old car instead of trading it in and looking for a new one, not replacing the smashed-up phone, and so on. Ironically, the possibility that he may be laid off actually made us spend more on child care so I can keep my job. But we thought about it long and hard (two weeks of not being able to eat or sleep properly from the stress… that was not fun).

  19. Death Rides a Pale Volvo*

    Hi! So my husband is having a 2nd job interview next Thursday via Zoom. Yay! (happy dance)
    Here’s the question: so we’re wondering, for Zoom interviews, does he have to wear a tie? Would a jacket and collared shirt be OK instead without a tie? *I* think he has to wear a tie, he doesn’t, and we agreed to bring it to the commenters .

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      I would err on the side of formality, and wear the tie. That said, I have had several Zoom interviews where the interviewer was dressed very casually, but most of them have been in either business casual or full business.

    2. BadWolf*

      Does he know what the dress culture is at the place he is going (during in office times)? If it’s a super informal place (jeans/tees), I’d skip the tie. Unless, I guess, he’s interviewing for an upper management position.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I would dress for a Zoom interview exactly the same way I’d dress for a normal interview. It’s still an interview.

    4. OyHiOh*

      Female shape human but coming off a summer of Zoom interviews and successful job search: I would say the top half of him needs to look just the same as if he were walking into an office for the interview.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And the bottom needs to be at least corporate casual in case there’s a reason he MUST stand up. (Fire alarm, just for one.)

    5. Should be grateful (?)*

      Best err on the side of caution, but I suppose it depends on the industry. At the very least, opt for a crisp dress shirt.

    6. old curmudgeon*

      The thing about dressing up for an interview, even by phone or Zoom, is that it tends to come through in the person’s voice and phrasing. It sounds weird, but there is something about dressing as if you are actually going for an in-person interview that gives both interviewer and interviewee a mostly-unconscious heightened awareness and attention.

      The last time I was job-hunting, I had preliminary phone-screen type interviews for a few of the positions to which I applied. Even if they were on a day when I was wearing business-casual at the office, I would come home and change into my interview clothing before the phone call. It just somehow made me sit up and be more “on my game” during the call, if that makes sense.

    7. Emilitron*

      My team has conducted 4 zoom interviews over the summer, and things have been distinctly more casual than usual. In part, it was very hot in a region of window-unit air conditioners that make too much noise to run while on a meeting, so expectations of a suit jacket were just unreasonable. But we’re always a business casual office, and interviewees can vary from suit+tie to tie+separates to tie OR blazer but not both, all within the bounds of appropriateness. And on Zoom, I’d say “tie or blazer but not both” is about right. For us. That doesn’t help your husband’s choice at all.

    8. IEanon*

      I had a series of Zoom interviews for a position (should find out next week!) and the only thing I did differently was wear a dress under my suit jacket rather than the full jacket/blouse/skirt combo for one.

      All others I dressed for as I would if I were going in person.

    9. AnonInTheCity*

      I think it really depends on the industry. I work in tech and did a million Zoom interviews in the four months I was laid off, and a tie would have been too much. But most people in my field wouldn’t wear a tie to an in-person interview either.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Yeah, I just had a video interview today with a tech company. All I did was put on a blouse (the kind you can wear anyday, not a business-y or button-up kind), earrings, and a lip gloss with no other makeup and still felt conspicuously overdone compared to my interviewer.

    10. Oh No She Di'int*

      The fact that it’s even up for debate would seem to indicate that there’s some wiggle room. So wear the tie. Because where there’s room for error, you might as well err up not down.

  20. beancat*

    What’s something that surprised you when leaving a toxic work environment and coming to a healthy one? For me this week, it was that I easily requested and was granted three days off in a few months – no questions asked, no wheedling about “can’t you go another time?” or guilting me about taking my PTO. Just a simple signature of approval and a friendly “I hope you have a nice time.” It’s…baffling to me that it can be so easy.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      It’s been 15 years and I still can’t believe that PTO exists and that some places encourage you to use it.

      1. beancat*

        This job offers the most I’ve ever had (18 days! There’s no separate sick bank, but still) and I actually think I’ll struggle to let myself take the days for things like conventions, assuming those are back on the radar anytime even soonish. I used to feel guilty about it at previous jobs.

        This job actually says you can’t cash out your days for extra money because they believe in taking time off so you don’t burn out, and I can’t believe how awesome they are about it.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Asking if I can step out for an hour for an appointment and hearing “of course.” In a tone that implies she’s wondering why I’m even asking.

      Previous jobs, once I was in the building I was pretty much only getting permission to leave if something was on fire.

      1. beancat*

        Oh, I had this one too! I asked if I could step out for a telehealth appointment with my provider and my boss said it was absolutely fine and I could even stagger my lunch to take it at that time instead. It’s wild, isn’t it?

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Ha! Something very similar happened to me six years ago when I left Evil Law Firm and moved over into insurance. I asked my manager if I could go to the Starbucks across the street for a coffee, and she said, “Uh, yeah. Why are you asking? You can just go.” I explained to her that the firm I worked for previously would only allow us to leave the premises between 11-2pm (the lunch block) during our lunch breaks. We weren’t allowed to even go downstairs to our lobby where there was a coffee place inside to get afternoon caffeine jolts – if you did and you were caught, you’d be written up (this was true for hourly employees, not sure how they treated the attorneys). My new manager was horrified and was like, “How in the world did you manage to stay there that long?” *shrugs* I needed the job and it was during the recession when no one was really hiring in my area.

        1. Amber Rose*

          At one old job I was terrified of drinking coffee or water in the morning because I knew it would be a hassle if I needed the bathroom before my first scheduled break. -_-

          I’m grateful to this job, it may still have some not-great things about it but at least I can pee when I need to or go into the lunchroom for water when I need to.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Oh wow – yeah, that was really bad if you couldn’t even go to the restroom when you needed to. We could at least do that.

    3. Ama*

      At one of my previous jobs I had a coworker that complained to me every time I was sick for more than one day (she had to cover for me when I was out as I had some light reception duties). She wasn’t my boss so I thought I was doing pretty good at ignoring her until I got to my current job and realized I was having anxiety attacks every time I needed a second consecutive sick day, even though no one at this job has ever said anything more than “feel better, let us know if you need anything.”

    4. PennyLane*

      Not being terrified to call in sick, which I rarely do anyway.

      And having flexibility in my schedule instead of having my boss standing next to my desk looking at his watch when I walk in 3 minutes late because there was a car accident (even though I called to let him know I’d be late). We live in one of the largest cities in the US with some of the worst traffic in the US, sorry that I’m occasionally a few minutes late! Meanwhile, us lowlings would some days be forced to sit in the hallway outside the office waiting for someone with a key, like my boss, to show up and open the office (late) in the morning.

      1. beancat*

        I haven’t had to call in sick yet (crossing fingers), but I was sent home one day with a migraine and there was no issue at all despite my worrying.

        With our type of work we don’t have quite as much flexibility since phones have to be on, but as long as someone is here it’s generally not a problem if you’re a few minutes late. It’s such a strange feeling!

    5. Coverage Associate*

      Mentioning my favorite office supplies (Pens, erasers, nothing fancy), and just getting them delivered promptly to my work space. No suggestion I buy them myself. No pens so cheap they’re like a 21st century version of the orphanage in Jane Eyre.

    6. AndersonDarling*

      I was surprised that I could ask a question and receive a thoughtful, kind answer instead of being belittled for not knowing something.

    7. Amethyst*

      My toxic job from, like, 15 years ago: I had a standing appointment with an ENT for allergy shots + whatever other things I/my doctor needed to discuss every Wednesday at 2, which meant I had to leave by 12:30-1 to get there. I also had a standing volunteer thing every Tuesday at 3 just down the street from this job that my boss was aware of when I signed on. The volunteer thing was never an issue, but my doctor’s appointment always was. I’d get the eyeroll every time I reminded her of the appointment. Sighs. Side looks. “Can’t you reschedule it for a different time?” & smirking like she knew I was lying when I said no, I couldn’t because the doctor I see left the office at 3 & they didn’t want me doctor hopping within the practice. Snide comments & all kinds of passive aggressive crap, including berating me in front of customers because I “wasn’t prepared” for something a customer needed that there literally was no way to prepare *for*.

      Then they fired me (I subconsciously sabotaged myself). I found a new job & told them of the standing appointment. “Sure, no problem. We’ll make sure not to schedule you past 1 so you can get there in time.”

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      Not having small mistakes treated as though they were a matter of life and death. The scorn and scolding I got in my first “real” job for making small mistakes unnerved me so much that I started making bigger and bigger ones out of sheer panic and eventually had to quit before they could fire me. In my next job, when small mistakes were called to my attention, I would start having serious anxiety, but my boss would just say something like, “I probably didn’t make that clear when I was training you. Can you go back and check this part of the assignment again, please? Everything else looks fine!” Getting normal reactions like that made me a lot more confident, and made me more comfortable asking questions, so I learned faster and did better! No surprise, I still work in that place, and have had a lot of career growth since I started.

    9. Princess Scrivener*

      How freakin’ *LONG* it would take to start feeling confident and like the expert again. It’s been 5 years for me, and I just realized I’m slowly losing the bad memories and feelings.

    10. Mill Miker*

      Every time I notice a quality/reliability/accessibility issue I should push back on, I have a small panic attack. I mentally play through the fight of having decide if it’s a hill I’m willing to die on, prepare for all the “I don’t think that’s worth delaying this over”, followed by the inevitable “how could you let this through” criticisms.

      Finally I muster up the courage and raise the issue and it’s all “Ok, thanks. I’ll update the project timeline and let the stakeholders know.” and it surprises me every time.

    11. NeonFireworks*

      I no longer have my movements and (supposed) emotions micromanaged!

      And I get reimbursed properly for travel.

    12. Paperwhite*

      My boss asks for my opinions on things! And listens! I had begun to think that a pink collar job necessarily meant being told “if we want your stupid admin opinion we’ll tell you what it should be” for the rest of my career.

    13. Cedrus Libani*

      The words “thank you” still blow my mind ever so slightly, and I left ToxicJob in 2016.

      I also remember, in my first week at NewJob, they handed me an assignment they expected would take me a couple of days. After the first day of whacking at it, I concluded that I could do it, but it would take months to do it properly. I documented the issue, and returned to my boss to give the bad news. No, I didn’t expect him to listen. I was just starting the paper trail, so when this all became my fault, I would at least be able to prove that I told you so. I expected that I’d get reamed for being too incompetent to do the job.

      “OK. I trust you. What do you need?”

      Could have knocked me over with a feather. A few months and a patent later…I made a thing, it does a thing that nobody else’s thing does, you can buy it, and it works. I can assure you the two-day special would have been quietly scrapped by now.

    14. Beebop*

      Oh man, so many things blow me away since I’ve worked several months at a decent place. I think the fact that I can ask off for whatever reason I have and not feel the need to lie about it. At my old job, I’d often embellish things when I was sick or if I needed a mental health day, because my boss was terrifying.

  21. Status report*

    During the daily status meeting over zoom this morning my very senior dog decided to poo right beside my desk while I was giving my update. This felt like she was trying to comment on my update which was not that bad.

    When something like this happens do you usually react? Just ignore?

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yes, this! And instead of having to gag over the smell of it for the rest of the meeting, excuse yourself and turn off your video and mute yourself as soon as your update is over to clean up.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      Oh no! That’s so awkward. I think I would approach this like I do most situations that make me uncomfortable — humor. I’d have said something like “Come on, Spot, my update wasn’t that bad?!” or “Clearly Spot does not feel as enthusiastic about the numbers this quarter”. Then just turned off the camera as soon as my section was done and cleaned it up.

      So sorry that happened. I have a very elderly incontinent dog and I could easily imagine her doing something like that. *cringe*

      1. Auntie Social*

        In law school my husband was a reader for a blind attorney. One day the attorney’s seeing eye dog had an accident in court, and my husband grabbed a trash can to put over the mess until the court took its break. The judge’s “good thinking” remark and poo story were the only story in a print article years later when Hubs received a lifetime achievement award—no quotes from peers, no cases cited—just poo. In print. With the name of the dog (Darrow).

    2. Epsilon Delta*

      If it makes you feel better, my cats have started puking loudly when I’m on the phone. I just mute until they’re done and silently scream to myself. If I have to talk when they start making the pre-puke-yowl or other noises I apologize and take a moment to chase the cat away or go on mute until it’s done. I do not explain that they’re puking though!

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

      I’d have just continued and ignored it. Assuming all the other participants were focused on your update, they probably didn’t even notice anything in the background (have you seen that video / social experiment with the gorilla?)

    4. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I think this depends on the culture of your office. At my office, I can imagine any of my coworkers or my manager saying some combination of “Oh no, Spot!” followed by “I’ll be right back, I need to take care of this” or “Oh, no! Spot just had an accident. I’ll be back in a moment”.

      But we’re a pretty casual workplace and have pretty much embraced that dogs (and kids) and any number of things may be a distraction. My manager has had to not attend a team meeting because something glass broke right before she was about to call in and she needed to clean it up.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, it really depends on the culture of your workplace. Mine’s pretty casual and although it hasn’t come up during our team meetings, I don’t think it would be an issue.

  22. Wintergreen*

    Something I have been wondering about for a while… job titles. How important are they?
    Almost my entire working life has been at a small company where job titles have not been important. I truly do not know what my official job title is; I think it’s just “Estimator”, though I put “Teapot Estimator” in my email signature. A coworker puts “Lead Estimator” in her email signature, although technically I have more seniority and she only quotes coffee pots while I quote teapots, coffee pots and hot cocoa makers. (My section of the department is kind of unique to the company so I think she forgets we are in the same department.) I really don’t care that much and whatever we call ourselves doesn’t change our pay rate. But there have been comments here on AAM that seem to place a lot of emphasis on job titles, for example settling for a title change during salary freezes, that left me wondering.
    Is this just a personal peculiarity? I really don’t place importance on titles in my personal life either.
    Is this de-emphasis on job titles a weird company thing? A result of being a small business?
    Is it only important in some industries, or a cultural/regional thing?
    What are your thoughts? Do you place a lot of importance on your job title?

    1. Amber Rose*

      I’ve been working here for almost 6 years and my job title only was decided on a month ago. I don’t actually care, but it does make listing this job on my resume hard, because I have had a long list of growing duties and responsibilities but there’s no way to reflect that well since I never had any titles, let alone changing ones. If you were to look at my resume you’d think I have had all of these duties the entire time and not grown or changed.

      I lowkey hate the one the CEO gave me at our review compared to what I was using, but what can you do.

    2. Fluffernutter*

      I think in smaller companies like yours it may not be as important but I work at one of the largest employers in my state and have met some people that won’t even talk to someone beneath them in title. They’ll just send the question to the person’s manager who then has to send it to the actual person. I also know people who won’t email someone higher than them because the titles are “too different.” I personally think these might be generational things.

      On the more practical side, for hiring, titles are a quick way for hiring managers to know if someone is qualified. Someone with an associate title probably isn’t qualified for a director role. But that does depend on the duties of each position.

      1. Wintergreen*

        When you work at a company that doesn’t place emphasis on job titles but are looking to move on to another company, how should you handle resume titles?

        I’ve been at my current place 18 years. My first job here was Estimator (what my coworker does), then Production Writer, Project Manager, and Estimator (current more advanced job). All are very basic and of no help to hiring managers, and it looks like I’ve circled back or been demoted which is not the case. I think that is obvious if you look at the details of my resume but worry about if hiring managers are just looking at job titles and moving on quickly.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          If your manager or company is willing to back you (by confirming your title during any future employment check), maybe you could start using “Senior Estimator” to differentiate from your previous role. Or use parens to include the closest commonly used title to your position, like Estimator (Senior Level).

          My official title is pretty bland and not accurate (for me) outside of my company; it implies a degree and experience I personally don’t have, which is annoying because all of the auto-suggestions from job sites are completely off base. It’s effectively like having “Doctor” as a title and it’s always assumed that means medical instead of the other valid degrees. I can add a modifier that more accurately describes my position, and that’s the part that I emphasize in my resume.

        2. Darren*

          Typically companies that don’t put a lot of emphasis on titles are small enough that the titles actually wouldn’t make much sense.

          At a small tech firm for example a Developer might also handle hardware purchases, setup the machines and networks, do front line tech support outside of the software they’ve written, help with macros, and work on a wide variety of the companies software and might be the sole developer working on a lot of the systems. This would be a mix of Lead Developer/Service Desk/Infrastructure Engineer/Network Engineer.

          At a larger firm a Developer would be working on software usually parts of a larger system and delivering components to spec. That’s it. This would be just a Developer role, not even a Lead Developer one and would have none of the other aspects.

          Anyone that has done a lot of hiring knows that the title is a small fraction of what you need to know, since based on the company size and focus that title can be extremely inaccurate (and can be both ways as in smaller companies manager roles are often the equivalent of a level or two lower when it comes to what they interact with compared to larger ones).

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      Titles, and the importance of, vary wildly from company to company. Personally, I want a title that accurately conveys what it is I do all day because it’s easier to list on a resume when job hunting. But I’ve had job titles in the past that were vague and/or not remotely impressive (even though I was doing impressive work) – I don’t know, in a flat company with no real hierarchy, titles really don’t matter. I like my current one a lot because when I move on from this company, I’ll be able to apply for some very high paying positions elsewhere.

      1. old curmudgeon*

        It also varies widely by industry. Both my adult kids have very similar jobs working for different software companies. One has a title of “Business Systems Analyst.” The other has a title of “Practice Lead for Teapot Solutions.”

        Accounting, on the other hand, is generally much more consistent across the industry. You might be a tax accountant or a cost accountant or a company controller, but it’s rare to see an accounting title that makes you wonder what the heck the person actually does.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup. I work for a software company, and I swear half our titles are made up, lol. I have never heard of these titles at any other company, and when I look on job boards, I rarely see these titles. It always makes me wonder what hiring managers are going to say when looking at my colleagues’ resumes.

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Probably depends a lot on industry, especially in large corporations where there’s a clear path to move up.
      For my job, it doesn’t matter much. Honestly though, I kind of wish it did. People change titles willy-nilly and can add “lead” or “senior” pretty much on a whim, and it doesn’t mean anything.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve found they matter only when you’re applying to other jobs, because people reviewing résumés have their own preconceived ideas of what a job title means (even if you have bullet points explaining what your actual responsibilities and accomplishments were) and of what an appropriate previous job title would be for someone applying to the position, even if it’s just unconscious bias.

      1. Wintergreen*

        Have you found any way to counteract the preconceived notions of what jobs are? And what would you do when your job is understandable in a technical sense but is more difficult to define for those in different departments who are not proficient in the details?

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I wish I had found a way to counteract that. I’m not going to make up a job title that I didn’t have, just because it’s what a more typical title would be for my position. I just hope the person reviewing my résumé is actually paying attention to the cover letter and the bullet points in the résumé instead of just glancing over titles. I mean, sometimes it’s not even a person—it’s some silly algorithm scanning résumés for keywords or phrases.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      Hmm…where I work, our titles are our titles, and we don’t get to title ourselves how we want. Someone using a title other than their official one in their e-mail signature here would be directed by their boss to change it to the official one.

  23. Just a manager*

    Since the pandemic, we’ve really embraced Teams within our company. Hardly anyone calls anyone anymore on the telephone. I always send a little IM before calling someone asking them if they are available for a call. Am I being fussy about being peeved when someone calls on Teams/Zoom without asking? It’s really jarring to be in the middle of something and the Teams call box pops up.

    1. BadWolf*

      Not in my job. It’s very normal for people to ask if you can call/WebEx via IM/Slack. If you called me directly, I’d assume something is on fire (not quite literally, but almost).

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Same. It’s just proper etiquette to ask first, especially during these times. People could be indisposed or dealing with children/pets/partners/etc. at the moment and can’t really talk right away.

    2. Summersun*

      Not many departments at my company have headsets (basically just CS and tech services), so it’s really out-of-touch here to expect someone to sit in their cubicle and bellow at their laptop for all to hear, when there’s a perfectly functional landline within arm’s reach. Asking someone’s status before trying to call via IM is SOP here.

    3. Lyudie*

      Oh I don’t like that either. Most people ask first on my team. There is one person who will sometimes call me without notice (sometimes we are not evening IMing first) and half the time I have to scramble to grab my headset because it’s not even within easy reach.

    4. Mbarr*

      My coworkers definitely usually IM before they call. I think it’s just common courtesy, especially since before I call, I need to turn off my music and crank up my volume in order to hear people.

    5. rageismycaffeine*

      Yeah, I definitely would not appreciate being called with no warning. I guess you could make the argument that it’s not dissimilar to just appearing in someone’s office door, except that if you show up at someone’s door you can see that they’re busy or otherwise not there. Definitely think an IM is courteous.

    6. LQ*

      We are not an organization that I would have guessed would have gotten this etiquette right without a lot of work, but everyone is asking before calling (except the top boss here, who has always been like this about interrupting work, sometimes reasonably, sometimes entirely not). The couple times I’ve had someone share or call on Teams without checking first I’ve just declined because it is so jarring and yes, I’m at my desk and not currently on another Teams call, but I could be on a zoom call, webex, phone, or doing actual work. So I’m totally with you on don’t just call on Teams.

    7. CatCat*

      If you’re showing as available, I don’t see why someone wouldn’t call. It doesn’t seem that much different than a phone call to me. (I almost always only use the audio function when someone calls.)

      1. Nessun*

        I agree. By default, we use Skype for audio calls and Teams for video chats, but eventually we’ll move to Teams for audio calls and Skype will be discontinued. So Teams or Skype are both the same as picking up the phone – you call and if someone has to grab their headset they will do so; it ring along enough that they can. (Some of us keep our headsets on all the time, but not most.) I use the indicator on Skype to see if someone’s free, and if they’re green I’ll call if I need something.

        Part of it is also that an IM can be harder to explain the question sometimes, but a lot of it is that I just want to hear a human voice! If I’ve done all my work all day by email or just IM I’ve not heard a human talking to me…it’s nice to have a quick call to change up my headspace.

        1. allathian*

          I hate unscheduled calls. I was nearly 30 when I got my first cellphone, so I certainly grew up with landlines and have even used them at work. These days, though, I’m like many young people today in that I really don’t like answering the phone when I don’t know who’s calling.

          We’re still on Skype although a move to Teams is being discussed, mainly because Teams uses less network resources and is less prone to sound issues, or so I’ve been told. Our Skype calls are limited to 150 people because of VPN issues. This is not enough for some town hall meetings. I usually flag green unless I’m in a meeting, and I only flag DND if I really need to focus on something or if I’m sharing my screen in a meeting. I really appreciate a message on IM before a call, if only so that I can close my home office door and put on my headset. My home office is pretty tiny, 9 square meters or about 97 sq ft, so I prefer to keep the door open unless I’m on a call so it feels less claustrophobic. I also find that with a softer approach to the call, it’s much easier for me to refocus on the work I was doing, than if the phone just rings. That 5-10 seconds of preparing for the interruption makes it much easier for me to get back to what I was doing. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like talking to people. Sometimes it’s great to hear a human voice and some issues are much easier to resolve in a voice or video call than by email or IM. I just want a heads-up so I can prep for shifting my mental gears, because when the phone rings unexpectedly I get a weird, almost fight-or-flight reaction. I certainly lose every thought in my head as I answer the phone or Skype call. My reaction is the same even if I have my phone on vibrate, so I react to the surprise rather than the noise.

          I do have a work phone as well, but it gets something like one call a month and most of those are telemarketers. We aren’t supposed to use our work phones for private stuff and they’re on every do not call list anyway, but sometimes one slips through the cracks. Those calls are easy, though, I just say it’s my work phone and please take me off the list, and then I block the number.

      2. Malarkey01*

        In my company we IM chat before we’d call on a landline too (for at least the last 10 years). Taking an unscheduled call seems totally weird to me in this day and age.

      3. Amtelope*

        At my company we usually email or message someone to ask if it’s a good time to call on the phone — lots of people who don’t like suddenly being on the phone.

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

      For me it depends on what I’ve set my status to in Teams. If I’m set at Available, they can just call me without an IM. But I try to be diligent about setting my status and keeping it updated — if I step away, just want to focus on something, or in a ZOOM or WebEx meeting (Teams auto marks as busy if you’re in a Teams meeting). Others aren’t so diligent and they seem to be perma-set to “busy” or “away” which means I feel like even sending an IM is disruptive.

    9. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      One of the things I love about my new job is the (can you talk) emoji, you don’t even need to properly IM someone to ask the question!

    10. Dr. Anonymous*

      Can you just not answer the call or IM back that you’re busy and now isn’t a good time? In other words, treat it like a real telephone. You can choose whether to jump out of the shower to answer it, but if you do, don’t blame me for not knowing you were in the shower.

    11. Workerbee*

      I get peeved too! I set up Teams in a former and my current job, and it still bugs, even though we used Skype before that as our phone system. I think for me it’s a combo of not actually liking to speak on the phone in the first place, and because both Teams and Skype facilitate in-the-moment chat, both to ask the question—and from there see if a call is even necessary— and to see if someone can take the call. I guess I do view calls as an interruption. Just because I’m green-lit doesn’t mean I’m not in the middle of something. I’d have to mark myself as Busy or DND all day otherwise if I’m not in a legit meeting.

    12. Snark no more!*

      We also embrace Teams. We do at least send a chat to be sure the other person is available. If you call me without doing that, I may answer and I may not!

    13. Bear Shark*

      It’s a bit fussy to be peeved about it. Prior to the pandemic, did you also message people to see if you could call them on the phone?

      I think it’s nice to get a heads up if I’m being called from a Teams meeting, but a call with one person doesn’t bother me. If I’m not available I don’t answer, just like I don’t answer the phone if I’m not available.

      1. allathian*

        I can’t ignore a ringing phone, I have to answer it almost no matter what. And in a business context, I think it’s a bit rude to reject a call. I know it goes to voicemail, but I hate voicemail even more than I dislike unscheduled phone calls, so I basically never listen to any messages.

        In before times, I definitely messaged people before calling them, if I didn’t just walk up and go to their office/cubicle.

        Just to clarify, all of my posts on this thread refer to a business context. In my non-work life, I both make and take unscheduled calls all the time with little or no fuss, but when I’m not working, I’m rarely doing anything that can’t be interrupted by a call. Pretty much the only times I can think of aren’t really an option now, I’ll switch off my phone or at least mute it completely if I go to the movies or a live show.

    14. Alex*

      I think it is really rude to just call without warning, especially video calls!

      I only request a call at all if it is something I really can’t put in an email/message, or my BFF work friend. But I don’t even call my BFF work friend without permission!

      In fact the only person who calls me AT ALL without warning, on any medium (regular phone, FaceTime, Slack, etc.) is my mom. Always, always message for permission before placing a call directly to a person.

  24. Anon for this*

    Anyone know of a reliable, preferably free, and current custom medical dictionary for Microsoft Word?

    I’ve found a few links but everything looks old or costs a fortune.

    1. Katrinka*

      When you say medical dictionary, do you mean something that corrects spelling of medical terms? I don’t think those really change, that may be why you’re finding older ones still available.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yes, that’s it exactly. I am looking at links and trying to find something that isn’t real sketchy.

  25. BadWolf*

    I have a new manager and since we’re all working from home, we’re meeting online. We have been doing video chats. I don’t feel like I’m connecting with him very well and I think it’s because I feel like he’s not really listening to me. He’s very busy so we have 30 minutes and he’s pretty brusque at ending on time (not exclusive to me, he ends all meetings very succinctly — it’s a bit of joke when it’s a department type meeting). Not that he’s ignoring or dismissing me outright, but he jumps in while I’m talking and sorts of finishes? Or summarizes? With enthusiasm, but it leaves me feeling like I haven’t really finished my point.

    Some examples:

    Me: I started tracking Thing in 2 places–
    Him: Yes, that’s fine. Maybe next year, we’ll vote on which thing to keep.
    Me: Sure, I don’t have a pre-
    Him: I don’t want people to have to switch mid year, I don’t have a preference.
    Me: Neither to do I.
    What I was trying to say “I started tracking Thing in 2 places so people wouldn’t have to remember where that information is. I don’t have a preference so if you only want me to do one, that’s fine too.

    Or Me trying to say that I’m worried coworker is going to get pigeon holed into a job role that he may not want.
    Me: I wanted to mention that Fergus has been working on all the same projects–
    Him: Oh yes, Fergus is a good employee
    Me: Yes, and while he’s been doing llama support–
    Him: Fergus said he was interested in llama support and is doing a good job
    Me: He’s good at it, but normally we’ve been sharing llama support and llama grooming between the team–
    Him: Well, you guys can discuss that with your team
    Me: We will, I just didn’t want there to be confusion that Fergus wasn’t good at llama grooming
    Him: I think its good for Fergus to do grooming along with support

    At the end, I couldn’t figure out if I’d conveyed that Fergus has already done great grooming and I’m pretty sure is not interested in full time llama support. I plan to talk to Fergus separately to make sure my assumptions are correct (and a heads up that he may need to make sure New Manager is on the right page).

    1. Xur, Agent of the Nine*

      This might be a good place to practice the “Right. As I was saying,” and repeatedly pick up where you were interrupted.

    2. Katrinka*

      What about sending an email prior to the chats? That gives him the opportunity to look it over and then he can discuss or ask questions as he sees fit. The other recommendation I would have would be to start your sentences with the main point. So, your point about Fergus could have started, “I’m worried about Fergus getting pigeonholed into just llama support.” And your boss would then know right away what your point is and could address that right away. However, your boss said that Fergus said he was interested in support, it’s really up to Fergus to speak up if he wants to do less of that. Even if Fergus told you himself that he wanted to do less support, you’re not his manager and it’s not your place to change his duties.

      1. Wintergreen*

        I doubt the email prior would be of any help. The people I know who are like this tend to skim and not read an email the same way they think they know where a conversation is going and not fully listen.

        I do agree with trying to start with your main point and then add following details and this would help focus the conversation where you want it to go rather than derail on where manager thinks it was heading.

    3. Joielle*

      Oh that would drive me bonkers. Maybe it would help to point this out directly at the beginning or end of one of your calls – like “Can I mention something? I’ve noticed that when we’re talking, you sometimes jump in before I’ve finished a sentence and I don’t end up getting my whole point across. I really appreciate your input, but could I ask you to wait until I finish my thought first?”

      My husband can be like this if he gets excited about something – he doesn’t mean to be rude, but it still feels SO rude and dismissive. We had this conversation once, years ago, and he felt really bad and has reined it in a lot. He didn’t even realize he was doing it. Hopefully your boss is the same and will fix his behavior once you point it out.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      Hmm. I agree a bit with Katrinka that a slight adjustment in approach might help. As a senior person, I want the question first, then the background. It sounds like you are providing background without context, and since the boss has no idea that a question is coming, the background isn’t very meaningful and it sounds like your boss just thinks you are providing a general update and is jumping in. So maybe preface some comments to clue your boss in that a question is coming — “I have a question about tracking Thing — I’ve been doing it blah blah.” “I’m worried Fergus is getting pigeonholed.” I also agree with Xur, and with Joielle. Your boss likely has NO idea that he’s cutting you off — he probably thinks he’s engaging! With enthusiasm! But your communications styles aren’t quite meshing. I think call it out (politely as suggested by Joielle), but also make adjustments to make sure you do end up communicating what you needed to.

      1. blaise zamboni*

        Yes. My boss can be like this too, though it sounds like she’s not quite as bad. Still, it’s important to give her the BLUF version of things. For every 1:1, I type up an agenda for myself with bullet points, and then I go through my bullet points and call out what each item is. I.e., “I have a question about Project X,” or “I have an update about Task Y” or even “I’d like your feedback about handling a team/personnel issue.” That lets her consider the question and any background I give in the right context for what I need from her.

        I do agree that you could mention the issue to your boss using Joielle’s language, especially since he’s new. I would approach it as collaborative thing, where you’re trying to make sure you work together as efficiently as possible.

    5. Mill Miker*

      I know my boss does this a bit too, and after watching, I think it’s an internet connection issue. Zoom does all sorts of things to try and hide lag, for example if someone freezes up for a couple seconds, instead of skipping ahead it plays their video and sound slightly faster until they’re caught up.

      So from one side it looks like:
      A starts talking, A stops Talking, B starts talking, A interrupts.

      And from the other:
      A starts talking, A pauses for second, A Resumes, B interrupts.

      And then everyone thinks everyone else is rude.

    6. Malarkey01*

      I think one of the problems is you are giving him way for more information than he wants or needs. New managers usually feel like they are drinking from a firehouse with all the new things to learn, details, and changing management styles. If he’s already very pressed for time, he’s probably signaling that you need to tightly prioritize what you need to share.

      Just as an example, he probably doesn’t want to talk about Fergus with a third party when he’s talking directly with him and figuring out everyone’s strengths and preferences. I would make a personal agenda with the things you absolutely need feedback on and start with “I need to know if you have a preference…”, or “I need your help resolving…” or “just wanted to let you know y is on track, any questions?). I would assume the least amount of detail to start and then work up as he’s asking questions. If there’s something he seems to blow off that’s important you can say “I want to make sure you know that this is important to senior management/account/company”.

      Usually this works out after 6 months as manager learns the ropes and knows what information he wants and needs.

  26. Tired*

    I’ve completely lost respect for my management in the last month. Their general pandemic response (more accurately their response to corporate’s response) already had them on thin ice with me. In the last month they’ve been downright cruel to people under the pretense of “joking.” One was “pranking” an employee into thinking he was about to get arrested then giving him good news. I’m completely done and have been looking. Unfortunately I can’t find anything close to secure employment with benefits. My attitude is worse than ever, and I can’t seem to get past it.

    I’m sorry, I needed to get it out somewhere. Thank you for reading.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      That sounds like such a toxic work environment. Who pranks someone like that? Especially at work. It’s so rude and unprofessional.

      I have no advice as I”m sure you’re already looking for something else. Just hang in there. Not all work places are toxic sewers like that (speaking from experience).

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Who pranks someone like that? Especially at work. It’s so rude and unprofessional.

        There was a letter here a few years back where a company pranked an employee like this, even going so far as to having a coworker’s spouse – who was in fact a real police officer – show up to the office in uniform and wait outside for the “offender.” That letter was nuts, lol.

        1. Today*

          They didn’t go that far but they kept him twisting for 20 minutes. He thought it was funny later in the day. I told him he may think so now in life, but one day he’ll probably look back and think differently. I hope he does, anyway.

    2. The Original K.*

      I’m sorry, what? Pranking an employee so that he thinks he’s being arrested? WHAT?!

      There was a letter like that on here except there was no good news – they just made the employee think she was being arrested. The employee quit.

      1. Today*

        He said he needed the promotion, and later thought it was funny. He’s also the 4th kid -excuse me, young adult – my boss has talked into quitting school for the job. Not everyone needs to go to school. If someone is talking of quitting it’s one thing to say “there’s a job and possibly a career for you here if that’s what you want – finish the semester and decide.” They talked one kid out of school a semester before graduation.

        I didn’t know all of this. I used to respect my direct boss. Not anymore.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      Any chance you can mentally dissociate? Alison has often suggested pretending you’re an anthropologist making observations, that might allow you to get through things without having to feel stuck in the thick of them.

      I’m sorry, I hope you find something soon.

    4. KaciHall*

      I’ve been having similar issues – though instead of people being pranked, it’s just my bosses being very conservative of the modem variety -denying Covid is an issue (it’s just like the flu, drink water constantly and the virus will be killed by your stomach acid!), Denying WFH because of COVID not being an issue, being vocally anti-protestors – but yesterday the owner decided to go on a rant about how the Democrats are running the economy by pushing the COVID lies, that the ‘riots’ would be over soon if the cops would just bash a few heads in, and how unmarked cars and plain clothes officers pulling people off the streets isn’t an issue because we don’t know the whole story so it’s obviously justified.

      I like my job. It doesn’t pay great, but it isn’t too bad. But I can’t stand being in a toxic environment where my moral buttons are pushed every day. I’m looking for a new job.

      1. Today*

        I’m there, too. I started to go into it and cut a lot of that out. I’m used to being a liberal minority in a conservative majority area. My company forbid anyone from talking politics after George Floyd. Good in theory, as you probably know crappy in practice when people think they’re all like minded.

        I hope you find some kind of respite.

    5. WellRed*

      “One was “pranking” an employee into thinking he was about to get arrested then giving him good news.”

      this was the subject of a letter a few years back. The employee quit.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      Oh man, this is awful. Your attitude is not a problem. You’re having a perfectly reasonable response to a toxic work environment!

    7. Not So Negative Nelly*

      What I did in a similar situation was not even try to get past the bad attitude-it was something that kept me afloat from the toxicity like “I’m not one of you people and I WILL be gone from here not if but when “. As long as your attitude doesn’t destroy your ability to work enough to keep your job you’re ok. I was desperate man and I did what I could to survive.

  27. Homebody*

    What do you do about having to return to the office when you don’t feel comfortable or safe doing so? And frankly, you don’t want to. Working from home has been a revelation. I’m saving my commute, I can go visit my parents in another city and work from there. I just feel so much more productive and efficient both personally and professionally.

    I’m being assigned to a new project that cannot be done remotely. I was volun-told that I would be working on it. I’ve sent my concerns to my supervisor. I’m waiting for a reply.

    If he comes back and says *no, you still have to come in and do it”, what are my options?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      “I don’t feel safe coming back” is a different thing than “I don’t want to come back,” and since you’re leaning more towards the latter in your question… I think the only thing you can really do is look for a job with more/better telecommute options. If your work involves things that cannot be done remotely, that’s really your best bet.

    2. HR Bee*

      If it is unsafe and your company is not following recommended practices then I think you have leverage to push back a little, and – at the very least – have them commit to needed safety practices first.

      But if you just don’t want to, then unfortunately I think your options are going to be either do it or you may have to quit.

  28. The Original K.*

    This is the end of my second week unemployed. I’m having a harder time with it than I expected to, and I expected to have a hard time with it. (There’s also some hard stuff happening in my family … it’s just a really bad time for me right now, on top of everything going on in the US.) Any advice for maintaining a positive attitude? I am doing some virtual volunteering, which helps a little.

    1. codygirl*

      My heart goes out to your situation. It’s really tough being unemployed — At one time, I was for 2 months! For me, staying on a schedule was helpful. Morning coffee routine, read news, a few yoga stretches then hygiene and diving in to making sure my resume is perfect, looking for a job and researching the companies, researching how to interview and what questions to ask, etc. Things seem to change all the time and there is so much to be learned. Don’t forget your afternoon jog or walk and then feel good about your accomplishments for the day. Oh and don’t forget to make sure you get caught up on all of your medical appointments, shopping, etc. Good luck!

        1. The Original K.*

          Oh, I do. I did before; I’m into fitness so getting regular exercise has been a part of my life for a long time.

          It’s just hard for me to imagine landing a new job, given how many millions of people are out of work. I think that’s what I mean by staying positive (really, “becoming positive” would be more accurate).

          1. Not So NewReader*

            What do you tell yourself when that image of millions of unemployed pops into your head?

            The first thing I thought of is you aren’t asking the employer to employ all of the people, you are just asking for employment for yourself. See, take the image and twist it as best you can. So okay why would an employer want you? Yeah that can be tough. It’s good to have one master resume so you do not have to figure this out every single time. I started the master resume and I still add to it as things occur to me.

            You only truly need to be positive on paper and for interviews. Don’t force yourself to be positive all the time, there’s a term for that. It’s called dream world. However, DO something positive for yourself each day. I will clean a drawer out. Or break down and vacuum a closet. Do something that makes you feel a tiny bit of success. And that something is unique to you- clearly I have a few messy drawers and yours may be fine.

            Feelings of success can come from many places. Run an errand for an elderly neighbor. Pick up an incomplete hand craft and decide to finish it this week. Promise yourself that you can read every night before turning in and make a stack of books you have been dying to read. Some of this is restorative also, it reminds us that there is more than one aspect of life, not just job hunting.

            A friend was commenting to me this week, that people around her are deciding that working long hours and earning big money is not what it is cracked up to be. It seems that some folks are deciding to dial back even once “normal” (whatever that means) returns. You can use some of this time to figure out where you want to be in 5 or 10 years.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      I’ve been unemployed since January, and there are times I think I’m going to lose my mind! Sticking to a routine and allowing myself only the occasional wallow in misery helps. Things will eventually change and you, I, and all the other frustrated job seekers will have our day in the sun.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I was unemployed back in 2008 and it lasted about 3 months. I look back and wish I could have understood that no matter how long I stared at the job feeds, it won’t make me get a job faster. I had savings and was financially okay, but I was so shaken by not having a job that I couldn’t think about anything else but job searching.
      My advice is to accept the situation and know that it is okay to enjoy your time. Take a hike, start a hobby, do a home improvement project. Set aside time for job searching and then enjoy your free time.

  29. BiscuitBaker*

    OK. This is a weird one. We’re hiring for an administrative assistant role to replace an admin everyone loved, who became the CFO’s personal admin. We found a couple of candidates we like, with everyone initially really liking this woman “Angie”.

    One of the folks in our department (Liz, who Angie would be supporting) did some social media checking on the candidates, and Angie seems to have her Facebook open to the public. She has reposted and made supportive comments about several whackjob right-wing conspiracy theories and groups such as some things from Qanon. It looks like Angie’s husband is a hardcore supporter of these groups, and that Angie is less committed.

    She hasn’t said anything overtly racist (from what I saw), but Liz (and now others in the department) have made it clear they now consider Angie unfit, and don’t want her to continue as a candidate. I agree that nutjobs like Qanon are horrible, and am OK with excluding Angie (there is no way she could work in the department now), but am concerned with the precedent for “cancel culture” disqualifications of candidates who may have different beliefs. Am I overthinking this?

    1. HR Bee*

      I would tread very carefully with this. In California, it would actually be illegal to exclude a candidate for this reason. Political beliefs are protected in California.

      I’ll admit to not knowing much about QAnon. But being right-wing, even far right-wing, or believing in conspiracies is 100% not a reason to turn someone down for employment. Discriminatory, racist, sexist, etc… beliefs, absolutely appropriate to turn someone down for that. But just being a right-wing conspiracy theorist, no.

      1. BiscuitBaker*

        Well, I didn’t know much about Qanon either until this. They are really crazy (like believing Hillary Clinton is a Satan worshiper trying to take over the world for a pedophile ring), and their adherents have committed acts of terrorism. There are clear racist and antisemitic undertones to their rhetoric. That’s part of the problem. *She* hasn’t said anything overtly racist, but she clearly endorses a group that is universally recognized to be racist. BTW, we’re not in California, but we do some work for clients based there.

        1. HR Bee*

          I didn’t realize the group itself was considered racist (the most I’ve heard about it is vague save the children type messaging). So yes, by all means, pass on this individual.

          Like Dr. KMnO4 says, there’s a difference between having different beliefs (being a democrat or republican) and having hateful beliefs. From what been written here, it seems QAnon falls to the latter and that’s not someone I’d want in my org.

    2. Dr. KMnO4*

      There’s different beliefs…and there’s hateful beliefs. You aren’t walking away from a candidate because they are a vegan, or believe in horoscopes. You are walking away from a candidate that publicly espouses hateful rhetoric. I think there’s a big difference.

    3. Dorian*

      I think there is a distinction to be made between beliefs that are based on different interpretations of facts and beliefs that are based on provable lies. Q-Anon has no basis in reality and I would not hire anyone who shows this deficit in critical thinking. I am extremely comfortable “canceling” new coworkers who can’t discern truth from propaganda, no matter what political philosophy the propaganda is based on.

    4. Summersun*

      An admin’s job often requires discretion and judgment calls. Whether you agree or disagree with what she’s espousing, I think her choice to put something of that nature out there using public settings is fair game in your “list of reasons I would or would not hire”.

    5. OyHiOh*

      I am a big believer in the strength an organization gets from having employees coming from ** varied backgrounds and points of view. That sentence of course assumes that the people holding varied points of view are capable of being respectful and professional of all others in their work environment. I think, with exceptions for people using hateful or threatening speech in their own words, evidence of abusive behavior, evidence of illegal behavior, and similar, social media look ups should carry far less weight than what happened in your department.

      A good reference check, with specific questions about her relationships with office staff would help more to reveal her history and ability to perform well. I would say to be particularly wary of social media conclusions this year – COVID and isolation are ramping up fears and anxieties in unexpected ways. I have a friend who is a progressive, intelligent, thoughtful human being . . . who in the past six months has completely fallen for certain QAnon conspiracies. It’s shocking and out of character for them.

      ** I come from a background in arts non profits (staff, volunteer, board member) and hospitality/customer service, and have succeeded most in places that value a wide range of experiences and points of views. I’ve struggled in places that expect everyone conforms to a narrow range of experience and voice so this certainly informs my perspective on the matter.

    6. Not A Manager*

      Slippery slope arguments aren’t always useful for making concrete decisions.

      Unless your jurisdiction prohibits factoring social media into hiring decisions, I think it’s perfectly legit to say “IN THIS CASE what this lady is posting is de facto hate speech and we won’t hire her.” You’re not signing yourself up for a blanket policy of prohibiting anyone whose beliefs differ from the office culture in any manner at all.

    7. ...*

      Maybe stop calling people who potentially have different beliefs that you ‘nut jobs’ to start. Definitely not advocating for Qanon but she still is a person.

    8. AndersonDarling*

      If you were to move forward with Angie, I would consider asking her about the posts. How she responds will tell you everything you need to know.

    9. Analyst Editor*

      I find that it’s possible to work with people whose ideas are, in my opinion, bat-crazy, but it somehow doesn’t bleed into work. Especially at a level of admin assistant, and not CFO or Chief Diversity Officer, someone’s personal views are less relevant. I do think that cancel culture is divisive and harmful for civil society and social cohesiveness. I don’t think her being tarred by association with WrongThink is, in itself is grounds to deny her (or grounds for her to not be able to work any job ever).

      HOWEVER: I think Liz, who will be using her services, should have the main say. If it didn’t bother Liz, or someone else with comparable standing, then a random co-worker’s opinion should matter less. But it does bother Liz, so I think you should be fine going with another candidate.

    10. RagingADHD*

      Legal issues aside, I think there’s a difference between disqualifying someone for having certain political beliefs, and disqualifying someone because they are publicly proclaiming themselves to be stupid or mentally unstable. Anti-vaxxing, anti-masking, Q-Anon etc. are not actually beliefs about politics. They are conspiracy theories that sell themselves by making emotional appeals to hot-button issues many right-wingers respond to (big government, the “nanny state”, etc.)

      QAnon (and other conspiracy theories) have no true philosophical relationship to classical conservatism, and I know lots of politically right-wing people who hold fiscally or socially conservative positions who can see that it’s insane nonsense.

      Better to discover that someone is gullible and weak-minded before you hire them, than after.

    11. Nacho*

      “Cancel culture” is just a shitty way of saying people who do and say shitty things outside of work don’t magically change to not being shit when the enter the office.

    12. Alex*

      Someone with an understanding of professionalism doesn’t post stuff like that on a public social media page while searching for a job.

      I think that that is an indication that she doesn’t have great judgement. People are allowed to have their own beliefs–even beliefs that the majority thinks are totally whackadoo and offensive–but it is what they do with them that matters in the workplace. If she posts that stuff on a public social media page, she’ll probably bring it into the workplace too, and that’s not OK.

    13. Malarkey01*

      I think there are absolute degrees to things and that making a decision in one case does not set an overall precedent for all future employment. OP, you worry about disqualifying people who have different beliefs, but that’s something we already do in hiring. The better question is where is the line. It’s fine to disqualify someone for the belief that women don’t belong in the workplace, or who believe it’s okay to prioritize speed over details if the job is about details, and it’s okay to disqualify candidates for poor judgement.

      In this case Q-Anon is a group of bad actors. These aren’t “good people on the other side of an issue” and their group has been responsible for what many would consider domestic terrorism. Someone who publicly advocates for this group is telling you a lot about themselves.

    14. Nita*

      I think of this situation less as you disqualifying someone over their political beliefs, than as disqualifying them over a major lapse in judgment. There’s a fine line here, and IMO she’s on the wrong side of it – when you start spreading lies about people and you don’t get hired over that, you’re not a victim of cancel culture. You’re someone who tried to hurt another person and faced the consequences. I don’t care one bit whether the people in question are Angie’s next-door neighbors or someone rich and famous that she’d likely never meet (think Hilary Clinton or Bill Gates).

      I also wouldn’t be so sure she’s less commited to the conspiracy theories etc. than her husband. Maybe she just keeps her beliefs off Facebook a bit more because she has a thinner skin for the inevitable flame wars that follow. That doesn’t mean she won’t bring them into the workplace/let them bleed into how she treats coworkers and clients.

    15. theguvnah*

      anyone who doesn’t know how to properly manage their facebook permissions isn’t fit to hold a role like admin assistant anyway.

  30. A Dog Named Rowdy*

    When introduced to vendors through an email, they often get my name wrong (think Ellie instead of Elle, or Katie instead of Kate). At what point can I/should I correct them? The first email? First time we talk on the phone and they get it wrong? Never?

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      If it’s something you’ll be regularly interacting with, I’d vote for the first email. I’ve been emailing a colleague Laura-Elizabeth for months, and she JUST told me she normally goes by Elizabeth.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I’m with Kimmy Schmidt, dammit, on this one. It really depends on how often and for how long you have to interact with this person. If this is going to be an ongoing relationship, definitely correct right away.

    2. beancat*

      Ugh, so many sympathies. As a Beancat who often is addressed as Bancat, I wish I had a good answer. I’ve often wished I could just highlight that E in my email signature so they can’t possibly miss it.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Please correct it right away while it’s no big thing “It’s Kate actually, no “i”!” is easy and they will then know. I’ve had two instances where I misspelled colleagues’ names (two different colleagues) wrong for years — I had family members with the same names, different spellings and my brain just didn’t catch the more unusual spellings. I was MORTIFIED when they finally told me I had it wrong. I would have so appreciated an “Oh, I spell it without the “h”” heads up early on.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      In e-mail, I don’t normally correct someone the first time they call me WantonSeedStick. I just make sure that I sign clearly as WantonSeedStitch in the hope that seeing my name spelled properly a second time will make them go “oops” and correct it next time. A second mistake, and I’d correct them. Just start off the e-mail with, “Hi Fergus, just so you know, it’s actually WantonSeedStitch, not WantonSeedStick. About that contract…”

      On the phone, I will correct someone the first time they say my name wrong, as there isn’t an easy way to reiterate my name otherwise, and they may just have misheard it.

    5. Another JD*

      If you’re going to have future interactions with them rather than this being a one-off, I’d casually work into the reply, “By the way, I go by Elle, not Ellie.” I find spelling the unusual version of my name correctly is a helpful indicator for attention to detail.

    6. Hillary*

      If you’re going to be working together, I vote for correcting them immediately. I like doing it over the phone, and I
      tell them a story about why my parents spelled my name that way so it sticks. If it’s a one off, sometimes I don’t bother, for me it’s not worth the effort. I even got work to give me an email alias with my name spelled wrong.

      Hillary with two Ls

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

      The first time you respond. You could blame it on auto-correct if you want to be more indirect, like “oh, auto-correct seems to have changed Kate to Katie but my name’s actually Kate!”

      … auto-correct is the fall guy for a lot of things!!

    8. Not So NewReader*

      If you worked with me, I would want you to tell me immediately. Plus it’s too awkward the longer you wait. If you waited a while to tell me, I’d be really embarrassed but I’d also ask you to just tell me things that I have clearly misunderstood the first time you see them.
      Generally, I ask a person if I am saying their name correctly when I am in doubt so I don’t have too much problem. My name on the other hand, has been said so many different ways I can’t count that high. And it’s not that hard a name – two syllables- what could possibly go wrong… hmmm.

  31. Becca M*

    I graduated from with a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Family & Social Relations five years ago, and have been working as a front desk receptionist since then. I originally took this job because it was full time, and I needed something that paid the bills while I decided if I wanted to pursue my Master’s.
    Well, now it’s been five years, I’m still making minimum wage and I have been unable to be hired at a better paying and more satisfying job despite hundreds of applications and several interviews.
    My question now is if it might be worth it to get a professional diploma or certificate. Something along the lines of a Human Resources Management certification or maybe Office Adminstration. I just am not sure how else to bring in a higher wage.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I would say yes, get a certificate or at least a couple classes in the area you want to advance in, then consider if you want to invest in a master’s program. It does sound like you are stagnating in your current job, whether because of your perceived lack of qualifications for advancement within the company, or because there is no logical path forward at that company. Either way, some classes won’t hurt if you can afford them, or start with one and see if you like the field.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Certificates can be tricky because some are required for jobs while some are worthless.
      Check out job ads for jobs you are interested in and see what the requirements are. If you routinely see a Certificate listed, then you’ll know it’s a good investment.

    3. SewSheSews*

      You’ve been out of school a while and not working in your field, so despite the degree you are now being seen as a receptionist when you are applying. Before you jump into more schooling or even spend money on a certificate program! I think you need some real world experience in what you want to do. I would look into trying to volunteer to do work similar to what you want to do. Even if what you are looking for is higher level admin work a lot of non profits often need help with that. This may even give you an idea of where you want to go next. Also that’s a lot of applications I think you need to take a hard look at your resume and cover letter and maybe even your interview answers to see if you can tweak or change some things. Good luck.

      1. Lucky Dog*

        This is a wonderful suggestion. With your degree, you’d be great serving on a victim advocate team as a volunteer. It would give you more exposure to real world situations and allow you to determine where you would want to work going forward.

        1. Lucky Dog*

          P.S. IF you do get some sort of certificate, ensure it is nationally recognized by that discipline. Invest your dollars in the most flexible certification possible.

  32. Mbarr*

    Rant ahead. (I don’t think there’s a need for me to intervene, it’s just a quirk that irritates me at times.)

    During pandemic, I transferred teams. I now work very closely with a lovely lady whom we’ll call Belinda. Belinda is awesome – she’s super on the ball, friendly, and fun. We’re located in different countries, but chat multiple times a day on the phone, or in various meetings.

    The problem? On calls, once Belinda starts talking, she will not pause or stop for anyone else until she’s done. For example, Belinda will say something, and I’ll try to interrupt for clarifications. “Mbarr, I need you to update the Llama Grooming numbers [Mbarr: For which Llama division?]. It needs to change from X to Y, and we need to update Z [Mbarr: Where can I find the source data for Z?] because Cecil needs to update Bob on it at Monday’s meeting [Mbarr: What meeting?].” But picture this as been a 5 minute word vomit explanation with me vainly trying to get a word in edgewise, then getting overwhelmed, and trying to corral all my requests for clarification without forgetting anything.

    It also happens during social conversations. Y’know how there’s normal give and take in a chat? That doesn’t happen with her. She’ll start talking, I can tell people want to chime in with, “Oh wow, yeah, that happened to us too!” or stuff like, “I remember when I did that back in …” but no one can chime in. It doesn’t hurt anyone… And after Belinda stops her story, others can contribute. It just drives me up the wall.

    The real kicker? Belinda only does this to peers and people below her on the totem pole. She WILL pause and allow others to speak if it’s a manager/director/VP. So this must be a somewhat conscious behaviour.

    1. Beccca M*

      I think you can intervene actually, atleast with regards to her giving work requests. If she only does this with certain people and not everyone, then she is aware of it and able to stop. So maybe send her an email saying something like, “I am having a hard time getting my work done because you don’t allow the space for me to ask clarifying questions”

    2. Bob*

      Interesting. I almost wonder if she read an article about how women are interrupted more / got frustrated by being interrupted by mansplainers and decided not to let anyone interrupt her unless they’re senior to her?

      For the work convos, if we were peers, I would just talk over her until she stopped talking, saying “Hold on, I’ve got a quick question.” Or if she was senior to me, I would write down my questions and then read them off to her.

  33. Jaid*

    Got a call Monday night that my floor was closed due to cleaning for Covid. Get another call at nine in the morning to come in, they opened the floor at 8.

    By the time I get into work, I would have had less than three hours of actual work plus 45 minutes travel time each way. Pfft, I told my boss to put me down for annual, I had laundry in the washer…

    Just another thing to get the union to work on.

  34. Remote manager*

    I just won a massive contract. We need the work. The American client client insists on doing face to face workshops locally in the UK. He says he will travel to the UK at the first opportunity and expects the people who are based in the same country to travel around the cities.
    My office had been pretty much work from home but we are in client-facing professional services and this is the first win in ages. I said we’d do our best but everyone in my team should have the option to dial in remotely if they do not want to travel and be in another room with others.
    I had a similar situation 2 months ago but was able to get around it by sharing a checklist of things we need to consider travel. But we were under lockdown at the time so it was easier to say: non-essential travel is banned, hotels are closed etc.
    When the day comes and we actually have to do the workshops, what rational arguments would you put forward to not travel to a nearby city just to stick post-its on a flip chart?

    1. WellRed*

      Can he even travel to the UK? Does everyone on the team need to participate or do you have some team members that are willing to meet with him, with proper precautions? I’m not clear on who would attend these workshops…

      1. Lalage*

        Yes, you can. The government is pushing to get people back to offices (the assumption is that all firms have made offices Covid safe…). Not really working atm.
        Regarding public transport, beside masks being compulsory, you are only asked to try avoid rush hour. How many of your colleagues may be able to use their car for the task? That would help.
        There are official guidelines on how to make business spaces ‘safe’ – they are a bit wishy washy, but there may be something in there.

        1. OP*

          None of us has cars, we work in London so no cars needed in normal times. Though we are all dispersed now as a few are from outside London originally

    2. PX*

      How much sway does the customer actually have here?

      I’m assuming you’re in something like consulting? The impression I’ve gotten is that as long as there are at least 1-2 people from the consulting firm there, and you can run the workshop efficiently via teleconference then you can go ahead with your decision. Say it’s company policy or whatever, but I don’t know if the clients have that much say on who is present?

      1. OP*

        Good point. Yes consulting. He wants face to face workshops but has no say as to the team composition. I’ll focus on the output rather than the method of delivery

    3. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      Point out that he’ll have to quarantine for 2 weeks in a hotel before he can give the meeting (legal requirement in the UK) which should delay the trip for a while!

      1. OP*

        He is aware of the quarantine, the workshops are for the local teams, and he will wait until quarantine requirement is lifted to come in.

        1. Lalage*

          Those quarantine requirements are not going to be lifted any time soon (the numbers I found googling report an incidence 100 times higher in many states than the limit now used to determine quarantine for European countries, over 2000 vs 20 cases for 100k). One weird aspects of the present situation is that planning more than a few weeks ahead is… Pure guessing.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. How long is your client willing to wait to get things rolling rather than doing a teleconference? The quarantine requirement for US citizens traveling to Europe could be in place for years yet, given the number of cases in the US.

    4. Katrinka*

      Well, doesn’t the UK currently ban US visitors? So it might be a while before the client will even get there. When it does happen, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just setting things up for remote where you can and tell the client that this is the protocol your company will be following to keep everyone safe. As long as you can complete the work and meet the terms of the contract, there’s no reason why the client could pull it or claim you are in breach.

  35. Kat Maps*

    I’m feeling some job search whiplash after this week and just looking to vent a bit.

    I was invited to an interview on Monday, and it went well. I was invited to a follow-up interview on Thursday, which also went well, and a couple hours after that was finished I was presented with an employment offer. I had a couple follow-up questions before I signed – whether salary was negotiable or whether there were any kind of benefits available.

    Based on the second interview, it also really began to sound like there would be a lot more travel involved than I originally anticipated, so I asked whether I’d need to own a vehicle, or whether just having a valid license was enough. I probably should have asked this during the interview itself as opposed to after they offered me the job, but considering it made no mention of a vehicle in the job posting I assumed they’d have company vehicles. But that wasn’t the case, and based on the fact that I don’t own a car they rescinded my job offer.

    I’m left feeling kind of dumbfounded and frustrated. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I’d accepted and only when I showed up on my first day was it disclosed that I didn’t have a car. I obviously just need to let this go and move on, but holy cow, what a roller coaster ride I went on yesterday.

    1. WellRed*

      They made you an offer before they even discussed whether they offer benefits? Probably a dysfunctional company.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Right. And rescinding an offer because you didn’t have a vehicle when they didn’t even mention the need for one in the job ad is a dick move. They could have worked with you to see what alternatives you could come up with (rideshares are a thing, and rental cars exist).

        1. Katrinka*

          They were also less than open in the ad about how much travel was involved. I suspect that the actual amount is even more than they led Kat Maps to believe during the interviews.

          1. Kat Maps*

            I went back to comb through the original job posting to see if I somehow missed some of that key info, and I didn’t… Even re-reading the posting now, I would have never expected that there’d be more travel involved than I do for my current job, and in my current role my lack of car has never been a problem.

  36. Fluffernutter*

    I just want to know if this is too extreme of me or justified or there is another solution. This person (A), they are a supervisor and managed by my supervisor’s’ manager, so they are equal with my supervisor (B). Any time I send an email to A or A’s direct report, A complains to B that I was rude, I was telling them what to do, I was overstepping, etc. This has been going on for 2 years. A doesn’t complain to me, I hear it from B. B does not hold any of A’s complaints against me.

    I have voiced my concerns directly to my grandboss, A and B’s manager. Grandboss said we should be working on our communication and feeling like a team. I have voiced my concerns to B and B has also brought it to their shared manager. B just gets told that it has been addressed but nothing changed. Because of the frequent complaints about my emails to A and A’s report, I have been asking B to reply to all emails, except for very very low stakes ones, from that team since they are equal. I actually finally responded to a higher stakes email recently because B was OOO and it needed a reply. B then relays to me that A said “OP has been good for 2 months and now we get this kind of email.” So I am back to B replying to everything, even if B is OOO, I wait. B is understands and is fine with me not replying. Is this too extreme? I feel like I have no other way to stop the complaints.

    1. WellRed*

      I’m a little confused, but it sounds to me like the one person who you haven’t addressed this with is the one person you should have: A. Also, your boss sucks.

      1. Fluffernutter*

        I feel uncomfortable addressing this with A directly since they do not voice their complaints to me, just my boss. A is also above me in title and I don’t normally care about titles but I think this is something a manager should be addressing.

        I will also defend my boss that they have defended me to A when hearing the complaints and has brought this up to their shared manager, with no change from either avenue.

        1. WellRed*

          Didn’t realize A is senior to you. I still think when employees are having a problem like this, they should address it directly, but after that, yes, the manager should. Your manager should be going to bat for you. If grandboss wants everyone to feel like a damn team, he’s doing a poor job of including you.

          1. Katrinka*

            It sounds like (1) Fluffernutter’s boss doesn’t think there’s any merit to A’s complaints (and no one else seems to complain about email tone, so it sounds like A is just a jerk) and (2) Fluffernutter’s boss has gone to bat for them with both A and Grandboss, but A doesn’t want to change and Grandboss sucks as a manager and won’t do anything to fix it. There’s not really anything Fluffernutter’s boss can do at this point.

            1. Fluffernutter*

              Correct on all points! That’s why I thought the only solution was to let my boss do the replying. IfA doesn’t respect me, they’ll at least respect my boss’ title.

    2. Wintergreen*

      Do you/have you CC’d B when you email A directly? Does it make any difference in how A responds?

      1. Fluffernutter*

        I have CC’d B before on my replies but instead of forwarding my “rude” email to B to complain, A can now just reply to B and take me off. I have even consulted with B on the exact wording on some of my replies and B still gets complaints.

        1. Wintergreen*

          Yeah, it sounds like A is just a jerk. I don’t have any useful advise but it doesn’t sound like you are doing anything wrong.

    3. Reba*

      Ok, why is your supervisor still relaying these complaints to you? Ugh. Does your supervisor think you have a problem that you need to change (sounds like not)? If they don’t expect you to do anything about the complaints, why share them, it just serves to make you feel bad!

      It sounds to me like B needs to go to Grandboss again, and say yes it was addressed but nothing has actually changed in A’s behavior. However, given that Grandboss kinda whiffed on this one last time, I think simply asking B not to convey the complaints in your direction could also be a good outcome here.

      1. Cdn Acct*

        Yeah, if someone on another team complained to me about a team member and I didn’t agree with their complaints, especially if it was the same person multiple times with no factual basis, I’d stop bringing it up with my team member. It’s just a waste of time and mental energy. I’d also spend some of my own time to respond to the complainer and say their constant complaints are not valid, not productive and to stop. Then they can escalate if they feel I’m wrong.

    4. Malarkey01*

      I would ask my manager if we can have a meeting with A, B, and me and come up with a process everyone can agree on. Grandboss said he wants you to work on communication (and honestly this sort of thing coming up to me would make me think both A and B have serious management problems and I’d be shocked they needed me to weigh in on an issue of email).

      Then you can hear from B exactly how they want you to handle it and you follow that. You’re covered and there’s no more of this telephone complaining.

    5. Lucky Dog*

      Ask your manager to arrange a meeting between all concerned and bring in an experienced facilitator. The four of you need to discuss how to handle communication and work as a team. Sooner or later, you may be thrust into a more intimate working relationship with A and they don’t need to bring in this baggage. I suspect that A is threatened by you and will work against you behind the scenes until this is resolved. Also, B not giving these complaints credence puts you in an awkward position.

  37. Student Affairs Sally*

    I have a question about how to add an extra role to my resume. I just took on what my institution calls an “overload role” – it’s a separate, distinct role that I’m doing in addition to my “normal” job, but it’s only part-time (about 10 hours a week). So it’s not a promotion or position change – it’s essentially like taking on an extra part-time job, but at my same organization. The role has some similar pieces to my normal job, but is mostly very different. I’m also currently job searching, and this new role has some overlap with some of the roles I’m applying for – and I think my willingness to add more to my plate (especially now) will generally make me look good to employers even if there isn’t overlap. Should I list this as a totally separate job entry on my resume? Or somehow combine it with the entry for my main job (like how Alison suggests formatting different roles with the same org)? I should note that I’m pretty early in my career and currently have only 2-3 jobs listed on my resume depending on what I”m applying for (I had a part-time job as a student that is very similar to some roles that I’ve applied for, so I include that for those jobs, but for other roles its pretty irrelevant to so I leave it off).

    1. Kathenus*

      I’ve had similar things in my past, and I listed them like this:

      Organization Title
      Main role – 1/2018 to present
      Overload role – 9/2020 to present
      – Bullet pointed accomplishments and main duties

      Alternate option:

      Organization Title
      Main role – 1/2018 to present
      – Bullet pointed accomplishments and main duties
      Overload role – 9/2020 to present
      – Bullet pointed accomplishments and main duties

      This will show that you added a new role but also maintained your original one and duties.

    2. Bees Bees Bees*

      Hm. I think if you list it as a totally separate job entry, employers will just think that you forgot to close the date on your resume. Maybe something like this would work….

      (May 2020 – Current) Llama Groomer & Paddock Manager
      (May 2016 – May 2020) Llama Groomer

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have one of those – in my case, the overload role (we call them “supplemental roles”) is with the team I worked at prior to a promotion, so mine looks like this:

      Crockery Institute Inc, Cityville USA
      January 2016-current
      Teapot Development Team Lead
      *duties and accomplishments

      July 2014 – current
      Tableware Associate (continued as supplemental role after January 2016 promotion)
      *duties and accomplishments

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        I love your commenting name SO MUCH. When my kids were into those books, my husband and I had so many jokey variations on those titles!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I… was totally unaware that there’s an actual reference involved in my commenting name, haha. The “Red Reader” part came from the fact that I have Merida hair and am currently on book #185 for this year, and the “Adulting Fairy” part came from a couple years ago when someone here requested an adulting fairy to prompt them to do the thing, so I had some fun with it.

          Which books are you talking about, out of curiosity?

          1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

            That’s almost even funnier. Rainbow Magic Fairies. It’s a very very lengthy kids series where the titles started off like “Robin the Ruby Fairy” and ended up completely losing inspiration after about 100 books, like “Stacy the Stapler Fairy”. We would then make up references to “Penelope the Potty Fairy” etc etc. around the house. O the excitement when a fairy book came out using my daughter’s actual name!!!

            1. Katrinka*

              I remember those books, my daughter (now 19) loved them. I used to joke about them running out of names and things to fairy too!

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            And I had always pegged it as a play on ‘Red Ryder’!
            (Ralphie: I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!
            Everyone else: You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.)

  38. General Chaos Wragnler*

    I know Alison has written a lot on managing in open offices, and coping with open offices, but what suggestions do you all have for resigning in an open office? I just signed a new job offer and am gauging how to best have a discreet conversation with my boss. We have tall cubicle walls, but absolutely zero enclosed spaces. We don’t even have an open conference room; meetings are held wherever we can fit the most office chairs. I’m not confident she’s going to take it well given her history and my timing, so I’m trying to limit the initial collateral damage to my coworkers.

      1. General Chaos Wrangler*

        I’ve been around for two resignations. I don’t remember how they delivered the news, but I know one she completely cold shouldered for two weeks. The other was a weird situation because it was a client offering the job so they told my boss they offered the job.

    1. Cakeroll*

      Is it part of your culture to ever go for walks, grab coffee, have lunch, etc? It sounds like your best bet would be to get your boss out of the office to tell her – which will have the additional bonus (if she doesn’t take it well) that there’s a solid “discussion end point” opportunity at the end of the walk, getting back to the office, etc.

      1. General Chaos Wrangler*

        Not really. Especially now that we’re in a busy period. If I bring it up, she’s just going to ask me to grab her something.

    2. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Yup, toward the end of the day, ask her to step outside with you. We have started doing outside impromptu meetings at my workplace, it’s not as weird and suspicious as it used to be!

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I did this very poorly. I happened to be working from home on the day I needed to resign, and my boss was in the open office. I was going on vacation and had to put in my two weeks that day. So I IM’ed my boss that I wanted to have a call about a project. She was caught completely off guard when I resigned. She was sitting in the middle of the open office space and I think she was trying to keep it a secret on her side (just from shock) so she couldn’t ask any follow up questions. She didn’t even talk to me when I came back after my vacation and worked out the rest of my time.
      So I don’t know how to do it right…but the way I did it wasn’t the right way.

    4. Katrinka*

      Do people go to lunch at set times? Is there a meeting that a lot of people around you go to? If you can’t grab a quiet room, you can try to grab a quiet space when others aren’t around. The one advantage to an open office is that your boss is less likely to have a meltdown if she’s where others are going to see her. As for the cold shoulder BS, if she starts that, just send her an email summarizing whatever work you still have open and your plan for completing/handing off before you leave. Unless you know for sure who you’re supposed to hand off to, ask her to let you know who you need to meet with for that. Let her act like a child if she wants to, she’s just going to make herself look ridiculous.

    5. Wintergreen*

      Can you do it before the majority of the office gets into work in the morning? Or stay a little late one day until the majority leaves? That way your discussion can be a little more private?

      1. General Chaos Wrangler*

        I think it’s going to be tomorrow. It should just be the two of us and one other co-worker in the office, and they are her sibling, and my favorite co-worker so I would have told them anyway as soon as I told her.

    6. Hare under the moon with silver spoon*

      I just resigned this week – similar issue knew it would not be taken well.

      I messaged the boss and asked for a chat somewhere private (im wfh,
      they are based in an office) – then when they were in a private space broke the news.

      You’ll be fine – about any fallout have a script ready – mine was “opportunity of a lifetime” – was helpful to keep repeating something cheerily to every goading question – just stay on a loop like a politician or something!

      1. Hare under the moon with silver spoon*

        oops meant to say – I messaged them to ask them to be in a private space then I spoke on the phone (and I was nervous beforehand too) but honestly don’t worry as are leaving! Having a scripted prepped before was invaluable though.

  39. Dreaming of a Cabin in the Woods*

    The first week of school ended, and I’m already exhausted.

    I’m in my senior year, I’ve cut out activities that I can’t prioritize and/or am no longer interested in, and I still have a bunch of stuff to do.

    To make matters worse, I’m fighting with the business office to release the hold on my account so I can officially register for classes, and that’s a huge roadblock for me (they don’t have access to their phones, and don’t respond to emails for several days! I take responsibility for my own procrastination but I would love a reply within two business days!)

    At this point, all I want is to graduate and get to work. Classes are uninteresting, internal politics are breaking my spirit, and I don’t even get to see my friends in person anymore.

    How are other college students handling this strange semester?

    1. Juneybug*

      Few suggestions –
      Rest as often as you can.
      Make list of things that have to be done. Everything else can wait until break.
      Drink water and eat often.
      Realize that this semester will be just be busy/no fun and soon, it will be over.
      Hang in there! The first few weeks each college year made me doubt why I was putting myself thought this hassle, etc. But then I would get into a rhythm and the stress level would come down.

    2. Laura H.*

      Can you go above the business office’s head/ up their chain?? That’s a problem that needs resolution ASAP.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      The office probably has so many emails they can’t get to anyone quickly. We have days of backlog all the time since this hit.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      About admin issue–that’s something to take to your faculty adviser if you have one and/or your most supportive professor. Bonus if they have strong personalities and no patience for bureaucratic cock-ups.
      Faculty can have a LOT of influence in administration if they’re willing to use it.

  40. Miss Bookworm*

    Has anyone successfully negotiated for more PTO? If so, any tips?

    I’ve just had a second interview with a company I really like (they tick almost all the boxes and I’m in the running), but I found out during this more in-depth interview that their PTO (vacation, sick, and bereavement) is below the standard for this industry in my state. I started my current job with 16 PTO days (at 22 now), which is what I’ve seen from other companies, but this job only offers 12 PTO days. I can easily do the 16 again, but 12 just seems like not enough. It’s slightly better than the national average, but not by much.

    1. Anon-y-mous*

      Yeah, I mean the best way is probably to try to match what you’re coming with.
      So, if you have 20, but the new job only gives 10, you can try to negotiate for 20 or settle for 15.

      But I must say that in my last job search 3 years ago, I found negotiating for extra or even matching my existing PTO time was a big no-go. And this was not just one company, but several big companies! The excuse given was usually something like “All employees start at 10 days per year and this is all anyone at every level gets.” (yeah right)

      At my current employer, I successfully negotiated a higher starting salary that was equal to the one week of PTO I would’ve be shorted on because the PTO was so non-negotiable.

      1. Miss Bookworm*

        I’d be fine with something in between so I’m hoping they’ll at least go up to 15/16. If not I guess I’ll have to try to negotiate a higher salary, but I’d 100% rather the PTO.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      I asked my current employer to match the amount of vacation time I’ve become accustomed to at various companies I’ve worked for over the last five years (15 days – my current company starts everyone off at 10 with 10 sick days and paid personal time/holidays off). I got the 15 days I asked for. HR said my company regularly negotiates this with new hires (probably because they know 10 days is way too low to be competitive, especially if they’re trying to recruit mid-level to executive level candidates who have accumulated more time somewhere else).

      Ask your company to match what you currently have. If 22 days is too much, hopefully they’ll counter with something you can live with. If not, ask for more money to make up for it.

      1. Miss Bookworm*

        Thanks! I’m really hoping they’ll go with more PTO. The pay is already considerably higher then I’m getting now and I’d prefer more time off so I don’t burn out.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          There was a letter about this only a day or so ago–Alison said why not ask for both. Commenters had good insights to read too. Good luck.

    3. Katie*

      I didn’t receive more at the get go, but the first level of PTO lasts 5 years before you move up to the next level. I told them I wanted to level up on my two-year anniversary. That worked. I think because it was a “two-years-away” thing, it wasn’t as painful to them as having an employee come in with more PTO right off the bat.

      1. Miss Bookworm*

        Thanks! That might be an option because it also shows that you’re planning to stick around at least that long.

    4. fhgwhgads*

      If you get an offer say this “You mentioned 12 PTO days a year. I’m currently at 22, and have been for several years. Is it possible for you to match that?” Then stop talking.

      1. Workerbee*

        This! One of the greatest things I learned in negotiating is not to fear silence.

        OP, sounds like you have a current job, so you are in a strong position. Ask for what you want! No need to lowball yourself beforehand.

  41. rageismycaffeine*

    Has anyone here ever done the 7 Habits course through Franklin Covey? I’m in it for a professional development program at my org and… yikes. Everyone else in it with me seems to be very enthusiastic but it’s so over-branded and full of buzzwords that it feels like a cult.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I did back in 2005 right before I went to college. For some unknown reason, my school’s academic enrichment program thought this would be an awesome course for select freshmen to take before starting school. I don’t remember much from it other than being highly annoyed that I had to read it during my summer break and it didn’t seem remotely relevant for college students.

    2. Can't Sit Still*

      I haven’t done the course but I’ve been required to read the 7 Habits far too many times, >5 times, in my career, which was bad enough. I can’t imagine what a course would be like. I did find some of it helpful back in the early 90s, but now, yikes!

    3. Generic Name*

      I read the book a few years ago and about a third of the way though it I thought, the first “highly effective” thing I’m deciding to do is stop reading this book. Maybe in the 90s (when I was a teenager) the advice was revolutionary, but I didn’t find a single thing in there that I wasn’t already doing/didn’t already know.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I did and inside my mind I was eye-rolling …but some of the techniques have stuck with me and helped.

    5. Coffee Bean*

      We had to read it. I was not a fan. A lot of emphasis on “win-win” methodology. The author didn’t seem to acknowledge there are some situations and/or people that are just not tolerable.

  42. blepkitty*

    On a similar note to the post from yesterday, is it reasonable to go to HR over my boss pushing me to allow IT services to remotely access my personal computer, which I’ve been using to work from home, to solve a technical problem?

    I’ve been struggling with mic problems with my laptop. My grandboss told me I need to contact IT services, who will remote into my computer to identify the problem. I’m not even remotely okay with that; I’ve owned this computer for years, so there’s no way I could hope to get every bit of private information properly hidden without scrubbing the whole thing. I tried asking my supervisor, Jane, if it’s possible that I could get a company laptop, but she responded that historically only permanent teleworkers could get laptops. Even if I can get one, she thinks I might need to allow IT to troubleshoot my problem first.

    She insists that the IT staff are courteous and will only access my computer with me present, but the thing is, accidents happen. In fact, terrible accidents involving my personal computer *have* happened to me in the past (in the early days of autosave), and I would like to avoid them in the future.

    Luckily IT had some suggestions I can try first, but considering this is an older computer, it’s possible that it will have more problems. The only other solution to this I can think of is for me to go into the office to use my computer there for Skype/Teams meetings. I’m certainly not about to purchase a whole new laptop just because the mic doesn’t work.

    For the record, I have tried using headsets. My computer doesn’t even seem to recognize them!

      1. blepkitty*

        People often complain that I sound very, very faint. IT suggested that I need to close Skype for Business before meeting in MS Teams and MS Teams before meeting in Skype.

        1. Summersun*

          I have poor audio on Skype as well. I call in manually while following along visually on the laptop, so I’m technically “signed in” twice. Is that an option?

          1. blepkitty*

            The call in option doesn’t work. I might be able to download the app to my phone, but I’m not sure my bosses won’t keep pushing me about IT if I do that.

        2. Workerbee*

          Has that worked? I’m thinking if you’re running Teams and Skype in Islands mode since you still have both, the audio isn’t sure what the heck to do. I am not sure of this. I have had to manually check my settings in Teams if I’m coming from a meeting in another platform as Teams doesn’t always recognize what’s going on.

          Otherwise, if available, Teams and Skype meetings should include dial in numbers you can use from your cell phone. You would still be able to follow along on screen with the presentation, just mute your computer. (I wasn’t sure from the below if you were trying to call in via computer as well.)

    1. ThatGirl*

      Most programs don’t allow remote access without permission from the other user, unless you’re a hacker or something. I understand your reticence but surely you could revoke access immediately after they were done? Also professional IT folks don’t generally want to poke around your computer for fun.

      1. Box of Kittens*

        +1 I was getting ready to comment this. You could always hide any personal stuff in an innocuously-named folder if you’re worried about the IT folks seeing file names, but when I’ve had to do this you have to allow the person access, and there’s always like a border around the screen or something else to indicate they’re there while they’re working, and then you can kick them off after they’re done and should be able to see that they’ve left.

        1. blepkitty*

          No, I really can’t trust that I have managed to hide every bit of personal information on my computer! I thought I had once in the past, and a coworker opened Word only to have a document I told it *not to save* pop up autosaved. The document was fanfiction. It was a really awful experience that I do not ever want repeated.

          1. Ramona Q*

            No, it is not reasonable for you to go to HR over this. You are refusing to let IT access your computer and apparently also refusing to use another computer you have access to. Your boss, reasonably, wants you to solve the communication problem your computer is causing.

            1. Joielle*

              Yeah… I understand the reticence, but realistically I don’t see a way around it if they won’t let you use a work laptop. I know you don’t want to get a whole new laptop but could you get a cheap Chromebook just to use for work? Or just for Skype calls? I can’t think of another way to eliminate all risk of IT ever seeing anything personal on a personal laptop.

            2. Wintergreen*

              It’s a personal computer. blebkitty has no obligation to let IT access her personal computer just because she is doing her company a favor by using it during this pandemic.

              I would let boss know that IT remote access is permanently off the table and will not be a viable option. Boss can get a company laptop approved or give you access to the office so you can use your work computer. I don’t think HR would be the appropriate department to escalate this to. Could you talk to the head of the IT department? Perhaps they have an old company laptop that would work until the office is open or a permanent company laptop could be provided.

          2. Laura H.*

            Nope and I’m feeling secondhand embarrassment on that… or alternatively you lived fanfic authors’ nightmares. Sorry that happened.

            If you do allow remote access, would you be more open if you had time/ could negotiate time to clear all the autosave files? Or stick all your personal files on an external drive?

            How do you feel about looking at a repair shop and paying to get them to check? It’s another option.

            1. Laura H.*

              Hit submit too early…

              You shouldn’t have to submit your personal device to IT if you don’t want to. I’d investigate other avenues as well to troubleshoot the mic.

      2. blepkitty*

        Yes, I can revoke access after they’re done. I’m still not okay with it. Like I said, this isn’t my doubting the IT staff’s intentions (though some of them are jerks, which increases the likelihood that they’ll share any damaging information they find), there’s just too much potential for accidents, like them happening to see a file with a telling name in the brief time they’re on.

        1. Another JD*

          You can’t go to HR. You can go to an IT company and pay them with your own money to fix the problem, or use your work computer.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      It is reasonable for IT to get remote access to troubleshoot a problem with a work-owned computer.
      It’s also reasonable for an employee to expect to be provided with a work-owned computer if a computer is required to do work.

      So the unreasonable part is not mainly that IT would gain remote access. The unreasonable part is mainly that your workplace is making you use your personal computer to do work.

      1. blepkitty*

        You’re absolutely right, but these are extraordinary times. Insisting on needing a computer from my employer for work might just result in my being required to return to campus to work.

        1. Mockingjay*

          You mentioned a computer was available in your workplace. Why can’t you bring that home? (I’m presuming it’s a laptop.)

          Heck, if I were you, I’d tell them, “oh crap! my computer died over Labor Day weekend. I’m going to grab my laptop from the office.” Arrange a date to literally do just that: walk in, grab it, and leave – in order to minimize contact. Don’t apologize – you’re just presenting a solution to a problem.

          If they object,what would they have done if you didn’t have a laptop at home in the first place? They’d have to give you something. Lots of people don’t have laptops or towers at home anymore; instead they use a tablet, which rarely has office business features or software. I don’t need or have MS Office on my tablet; I use it for video streaming and e-reading, and the occasional log-in to view my bank statement in an app.

          1. blepkitty*

            The computer at work is a desktop, unfortunately, otherwise I already would’ve brought it home. They’ve historically only issued laptops to people who formally work from home. I could ask if I can bring it home, but I don’t know if there’s a policy on that.

              1. Anonymous Educator*

                I definitely work with people who took desktops home once they realized the Covid situation wasn’t going to end any time soon. Worth looking into.

                1. Artemesia*

                  I’d just go in this weekend and load up the computer and take it home. Seems like a classic, better to ask forgiveness than permission situation —- you are using it for work after all.

                2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  I’m with Artemisia — go armed with Alison’s Thursday column about what support people are getting from their companies. Many readers have been sent home with their desktop PCs.
                  Be prepared with a breezy “of course” explanation if questioned– your personal computer is too old, and you’re going through the extra effort to bring this beast home to help your coworkers.
                  (Also see about maybe calling into Teams on the phone AND signing into the Teams call without audio to get the presentation screens.)

            1. Mockingjay*


              Here’s the thing: you areworking formally from home per their directive. COVID happened suddenly, which is why IT didn’t have enough laptops to issue for everyone, so they asked (presumed?) that you all work off your home devices. As a stopgap measure, most employees are probably okay with that.

              But your personal device is an older laptop that is clearly not up to the job. In that case, IT should provide a solution, whether to bring home your work system or supply you with a laptop.

    3. Ranon*

      For meetings, I just dial in with my phone for audio and use my computer for the video/ screen share- phones are much better at voice audio anyways. Is that a workaround that could work for you?

      1. blepkitty*

        Nope. Like I said above, the dial in option doesn’t work (I think it’s an extra cost for the company that they’ve chosen not to pay; I know this is true for WebEx).

      2. Ranon*

        I should say, I don’t use the app, just the dial in number. Zoom and Teams (and Chime, and Vonage Meetings) have dial in audio options just like a conference call and they work well

    4. Dr. Anonymous*

      Nope, not reasonable. How about a pragmatic solution: Can you create a separate user account on your computer that you use for work only? It can’t see your personal files, has its own user files, and then you can let IT port into that desktop. As a bonus, you won’t ever have to worry about your fanfic popping up on the screen when you’re presenting in a Skype session.

    5. RagingADHD*

      No, it is not reasonable to go to HR. Your boss isn’t overstepping or doing anything inappropriate.

      Your boss is proposing a reasonable solution to the issue. You don’t like that solution, and have your own reasons to not do it. That’s fine, you’re entitled to those reasons.

      You also have options. For example, you could take your computer to a “geek squad” type repair service and pay to have the mic fixed by people with no connection to your work. You could, as you say, go into the office.

      You are being offered a way to get the problem fixed for free, in the comfort of your home. If you don’t choose that solution, then you have to bear the brunt of fixing the problem your own way. Your work is not required to solve all your concerns for you.

    6. blepkitty*

      I feel like I should clarify something here: I’m only working from home semi-voluntarily. My workplace is encouraging everyone who can to work from home and only allowing office spaces to operate at 20% capacity. If I want to go into the office, it has to be negotiated with the rest of my team. If somebody else ends up in the same situation I’m in, it could get complicated fast.

      We’re in an area with pretty hefty case counts, so I’d also be exposing the people who do have to work in the building to more risk.

    7. Twisted Lion*

      IT person here- your computer doesnt recognize headsets? Are they USB or audio jack? Can you hear audio on them at least? It might be that your USB ports arent working properly. Alternately, can you do the Skype/Teams meetings on the app on your cellphone instead of your computer? That would use your phones microphone and eliminate the need for IT to look through you computer.

      1. blepkitty*

        All the headsets I have use the audio jack, so that’s where they’re not being recognized, but yes, I can hear through them! If I go into settings when I have them plugged in, sometimes they appear on the list of devices and sometimes they don’t.

        The only issue I have with using Skype on my phone is that I need to share my screen sometimes (I handle this by only sharing my citrix portal, which nearly eliminates the concern about privacy), so I’d need to be on both phone and computer.

        1. Twisted Lion*

          Okay so there is a chance you may just need to up your microphone volume in your computer settings. Try some of things listed here (assuming your Windows) Specifically the part that says “The microphone volume is too low ”

          My other quickest solution would be for you to buy a cheap USB headset. The audio port on your older computer might just be damaged. Or if you have another item you could use as a microphone you could try that. I have old webcams lying around and you might as well. You can use them for audio only and still use the camera on the laptop.

        2. Twisted Lion*

          Ok! So there is a chance its just that your computer setting is set to low volume for your microphone. Try going to Settings > System > Sound. In Input, ensure your microphone is selected under Choose your input device, then select Device Properties. On the Levels tab of the Microphone Properties window, adjust the Microphone and Microphone Boost sliders as needed, then select OK.

          Other solutions: 1) you buy a cheap USB headset (they cost about $20-30). It might just be the audio port has gotten old and is wonky. 2) Find an audio to USB adapter. Still bypasses your audio port and lets you use your laptop camera.

          1. blepkitty*

            Yeah, that’s the problem. When I go to Settings > System > Sound, the microphone is almost never listed under Input. The one time I did manage to adjust the settings there, Skype chose to adjust the volume on its own anyway, and adjusted it down to much quieter than people said they could hear.

            1. Twisted Lion*

              The driver for your audio might be missing or old and need an update. If you go in device manager you can try to update it from there. You can also uninstall the driver and reinstall it but that might be more exciting than you are willing to troubleshoot on your own. You can see if IT will walk you through it on the phone or try creating a separate account like suggested earlier and they can do it there.

    8. Snark no more!*

      Is there some reason you cannot just take your laptop to your repair shop for guidance? Why are you relying on your office IT folks to fix your personal machine. From the way you have responded to questions, it sounds like there could be some settings that are fighting with each other.

    9. Lucky Dog*

      Actually, I believe they have already accessed your personal computer. Most companies have the ability to track any machine that accessed their internal software. Many have a disclaimer that they do so. I would take my computer to a repair specialist and ask how to boost the microphone capabilities. It may be as simple as obtaining a microphone from Amazon. A consultation with your company IT without computer access may achieve the same result.

    10. AcademiaNut*

      I think you’ve got two main options, if it’s a problem that’s impacting your ability to work.

      – fix the problem yourself
      – let IT fix the problem

      Just leaving the problem without a solution isn’t going to be sufficient. It might be possible to have IT on the line as you try stuff yourself, but that’s going to depend a lot at how comfortable you are at troubleshooting computers on your own – walking an expert user through troubleshooting is very different than doing the same for someone who doesn’t know much about computers.

      For the mic itself, though – have you tried a headset with a built in mic, if it’s the computer microphone that’s the problem?

  43. I don't have time to be in the weeds*

    I have been managing a small department at a medium-sized company for about 4 months. Let’s say we are the teapot glazing department. An assistant manager and 3 staff members report directly to me, and I report directly to the CEO. Our entire team is relatively new; everyone has come on board within the past year, and we have a huge backlog of work due to staff turnover in the previous year.

    Fergus was hired several months before me, and had been acting as manager until I started. He is still considered part of the leadership team, but is not privy to everything that I talk about with the CEO, nor would it be appropriate for him to be. Fergus is a subject matter expert in glazing, while my experience is in management, as well as overall teapot engineering and design (including some glazing, but I am not a subject matter expert by any means). When I first started, I spent a lot of time learning more about glazing, but as time has gone on my priorities need to be on longer-term projects that have been on hold since before the team was hired. In fact, trying to stay in the weeds with all the day-to-day glazing was interfering with my ability to deliver on projects the CEO was asking for, and CEO had a conversation with me about this last week. She encouraged me to start delegating more to the staff and stop trying to do everything a teapot glazer would do in addition to my own work (which was essentially what I had been doing to learn).

    The issue I’m having is this: Fergus thinks I should be more involved on a day to day basis, and that by delegating things to the staff, I’m shirking my responsibilities. And he will say so in meetings with the staff. For example, the CEO suggested I have my staff member, Jane, attend a monthly meeting that I have been going to, and report back about what was talked about in our all-staff meeting. Fergus made a comment along the lines of “that’s really YOUR responsibility to go to that meeting” in an all-staff meeting the first time Jane reported back. That’s only one example, and there have been others. I’m not quite sure how to handle this. Does anyone have advice?

    1. I don't have time to be in the weeds*

      One thing I wanted to note, I don’t think Fergus is TRYING to be a jerk. I think he honestly believes that I need to be a subject matter expert engaged with the same work as the rest of the staff to be a good manager. He wasn’t privy to the longer-term projects that were on hold when he was acting as the manager, and not everything I’m working on can be shared with him. I’d just like to figure out how to get the comments to stop!

    2. Kathenus*

      I think a face to face conversation with Fergus is the way to go. Not in a – he’s doing something wrong kind of way – but to be open with him about your direction/priorities/focus now that you have some basic orientation/acclimation under your belt. I think especially with him as both a former acting manager and a subject matter expert in an area you are not, this could be helpful. For his acting manager ‘hat’, explaining to him that the CEO has given you certain direction and priorities that guide your role, including delegation. And for his SME role, that you respect and trust his expertise here, and that you don’t need to understand everything he or other SME’s do to be able to support them and have a strong team/product. He may or may not agree, but an open conversation so he knows how you are proceeding is both respectful and hopefully will clear the air before this becomes a more significant issue to him. Good luck.

      1. Sam.*

        I think addressing him directly, outside the meeting, is also a good idea, and I think you can do that without getting into details of the projects you’ve been asked to work on. I’d say something like, “CEO wants me to take a different approach to this role than it seems was standard in the past. That means spending more of my time focusing on long-term projects that she designates and delegating more of the nitty gritty aspects of glazing. I recognize that it is a change and that you may not agree with it, but it is in line with CEO’s vision for the role moving forward. I need to ask that you not challenge that in front of the staff.”

        This happened at my last office – traditionally, the director was herself a subject matter expert. When she retired, they decided to go with someone who actually knew very little about the work we did but was better with long-term vision, fundraising, etc (though they didn’t tell us this). As staff, we were pretty annoyed that he was so disengaged with the work, and it did help a lot when he just explicitly said, CEO is taking this position in a different direction and has asked me to do more of X, Y, and Z. As such, A, B, and C will now be delegated to… It was still frustrating that he seemed to have no idea what we actually did (so don’t be that disengaged!) but telling us explicitly that the role was no longer what we expected was crucial.

    3. Me*

      Does Fergus report to you? If so then tell him he is not the manager and it is not his place to be instructing you how to manage – full stop. He’s way way way far out of line if this is the case.

      If not, then I’d let him know you are delegating work per discussions with the CEO he is not privy to and you’d appreciate if he has concerns that he’s address them privately with you as you’d give him the same courtesy.

    4. Another JD*

      Ouch. You’ve got to shut down those kinds of comments in an all-staff meeting because they undermine your authority.

  44. Retail Not Retail*

    I applied for a low level county office job – it’s “clerk 2” – and got an email telling me about a civil service exam I have to take.

    I applied for a very similar job with this county 5 years ago and there was no exam. There is also no mention of an exam in the job posting.

    What can I expect? I’ve never heard of an exam for a low level job!

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I work for a big county, and it’s very common to have exams for EVERY open position. An “exam” can be many things including a written test, an oral test, a timed test, a take home essay, a typing test… whatever. It’s just a screening tool.
      Five years ago, you may not have met the prelim screening requirement to even make it as far as the exam stage. Or, you say the role was “very similar” but perhaps it was different enough (like temporary/part time) that there was not an exam.
      Good luck!

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        It was a full time position and I interviewed and was offered the job – turned it down for grad school, oh well.

        I guess I’ll brush up on the county specific laws/rules? I remember in the interview they talked about the changes following gay marriage legalization.

    2. Katrinka*

      A lot of places have added exam requirements as a preliminary screening step. It saves them time in determining who has the basic essential skills (because people either don’t understand or outright lie over their qualifications). Rather than having to interview a large group of people to figure out who really has the skills, they can start the interview step with a smaller group that has the same basic level of knowledge/skill. It can also protect them from claims of discrimination.

      1. Gatomon*

        Yes, exams and tests became trendy pre-covid, they’re just another way to narrow the candidate pool that is actively considered.

        I swear government jobs get some astoundingly poor applications as well – people don’t read the instructions or even deliberately bypass them. I remember having to assist people with applications as a state employee and the ones I needed to help would often blow right past the supplemental questions. Even when I pointed out the requirement and got them to stop, they’d write 2 – 3 sentences maybe for what should’ve been more like a small essay to have a strong application. It was frustrating, especially when it was for a position in our own office. If I, a past successful applicant for this position, are telling you to do something another way, you should probably listen!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Similar job, but different departments, by chance?

      Or they could have updated their criteria over the last 5 years.

    4. Generic Name*

      I’d brush up on basic math. Like multiplying 3 digit numbers together and long division. I had to take a test for a state job and got a perfect score on the scientific reasoning section bit bombed the math. Math Isn’t my string suit, and it had been like 20 years since I had to do math by hand.

  45. Cakeroll*

    I’ve been having ongoing discussions with my lead (my day-to-day supervisor, who is only my dotted-line manager in our org chart) and my director (my solid-line manager in our org chart, but whom I don’t interact with frequently, or go to for direct collaboration/feedback on my work) about an updated job description and likely promotion for me. Very similar situation to “Sara” here:

    I’m frustrated because my lead is my biggest proponent, and has the attitude of “it’s inexcusable if we can’t make this happen for you”, but also seems pretty powerless to actually make it happen (as they formally are in a different reporting structure than I am, and don’t have direct influence over my job with senior leadership/HR). My director also says they’re supportive – but after months of these discussions, it feels like all talk and no action. They don’t seem to be prioritizing any discussion with leadership/HR or tangible actions towards making something happen for me. It feels like lipservice.

    Is there any situation where it would be appropriate to go over their head? Either alone or with my lead – to bypass the perceived logjam of my director and make my case directly to senior leadership, or to HR? Or is my only option to keep these discussions going and keep the pressure on my director, or to start looking more pointedly for opportunities outside my current organization?

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Going over their heads to senior leadership or even HR is the nuclear option and has the potential to blow back on you in unimaginable, career limiting ways. Everyone assesses risk differently, but for me, it’s not something I would attempt right now in this climate.

      I don’t know what the solution here is (you could end up in discussions that don’t really go anywhere for the foreseeable future), but I wish you luck. This is incredibly frustrating.

    2. Katrinka*

      Have you asked for and/or received any explanation as to why things are not moving forward? If not, there’s nothing wrong with asking, “We’ve been having these discussions for X months now and it’s very disheartening that nothing is happening. Can you tell me if there’s any movement on my request?” You should get an answer that will help you decide whether to keep pursuing it or just start looking for another job. If the issue is that they’re waiting to hear form HR or upper management, you can ask ,”Have they given you a timeline for their response?” If it’s that they’re waiting for the new fiscal year or Y date (when everyone’s raises or merit increases kick in), you can ask for written confirmation that the change will happen on that date. If it’s that the straight line boss hasn’t brought it up yet, you can ask “When do you think you’ll be comfortable discussing it with HR/upper management?”

      But really, if they’re not moving on this and not being open about why, you should probably assume it’s not going to happen and start looking in earnest for something else.

      1. Artemesia*

        I was once patiently waiting in a scenario like this for a promotion and finally pushed hard and the Division head who had put the promotion forward finally put a little pressure on and discovered that the file was literally sitting in an inbox that was getting no review. They were never going to act until someone grabbed the folder and waved it at them. I had the promotion a week later.

        I’d want to know if your bosses have even put the recommendation forward. I suspect they haven’t. So I would want a ‘where is the proposal for the promotion now? Who has it?’ and then if it has been put forward, what can we do to follow up so it doesn’t get lost in an in box somewhere? Or if it hasn’t, is there something I could do to help move this along?

  46. Super Anon For This One*

    Hello all, semi-anonymous for this one. I’m sorry in advance, this is long.

    I am in line for a promotion this year, when my boss retires.

    I will be inheriting an employee (currently a coworker) that is really, really struggling with working from home, job expectations, etc.

    He has always struggled with expectations – our department is held to higher standards than others, and that really rubs him the wrong way. We view this differently – I believe the rest should be held to higher standards (of work output, mostly, but also communication standards), and I have also seen this happening in the last couple of years so don’t have nearly the mental block around the unfairness of it all he seems to have. He believes that we should stop working as hard – that we should be held to lower standards.

    He also struggles with the parameters of the job – at one point he was hourly, and while he complained about overtime he performed it fine. He was made salary a couple of years ago (over my objections at the time) and…he just does not understand that he’s now paid to do the *job*, not to be present for 40 hours a week. Quite frankly it basically feels like he’s performing his job under protest a majority of the time, especially if parts of that fall outside of 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday, but also in every day interactions – we are constantly having to ask him where stuff is, getting what I would consider “C Grade Level” work and information back from him that requires us to review/edit/adjust, etc.

    He’s complained loudly and heartily to anyone that will listen that he does not like working from home (it’s mandated by state/local regulations that employers should have people working from home that can, and we most certainly can the majority of the time), but also complains loudly and heartily to anyone that will listen how put upon he is when he’s asked to go into the office for a day.

    Each time he’s complained about having to go in once a week, we’ve stepped back and asked if he wanted one of us to go in instead, and explained that we were having him go in because he seemed to be struggling the worst with working from home (basically – giving him a break from working from home). He always says no, he’d rather go in….then acts like his nose is all out of joint the next week for having to go in. Obviously the WFH problem/grousing is just been since COVID hit, but it’s so far out of line with what the rest of us (company-wide) expect from coworkers, it’s been a striking problem. We’ve had layoffs, some of our employees must go in full time because they are essential, etc. It’s tone-deaf to complain about it.

    My boss and boss’s boss have addressed his attitude and the salary aspect (we are paying for the completed job, not 40 hours, and this is well in line with what our department would be like at any company plus he agreed to the change to salary?) several times over the years. It hasn’t helped, and at this point it doesn’t matter if it’s because he doesn’t understand or doesn’t care to understand, either way: he isn’t performing at what I would consider appropriate levels.

    (Of note: it is my understanding from his own words to me that his reviews have reflected this the past two years).

    There is a 99% chance this won’t be addressed before I take over, and I’ll be tasked with hiring someone to take over most of my daily tasks that will have to interact with him on a daily basis, plus will need some training from him. He’s a smart guy, he’s capable of any task we assign him, and he has enough history with the company in another role before this one to know the culture and be pushing against it anyway.

    I will be new to management, and I’ve already got a turd in the punch bowl. What do?

    1. Anon-y-mous*

      Honestly, can you layoff this person and call it due to covid? If not a PIP and be prepared to manage them out.
      I had one like this, and it isn’t easy to get rid of them. But they’re a huge morale suck and constant problem. Yet they somehow know how to do *just enough* to not outright be fired for performance or insubordination.

      1. Super Anon For This One*

        I’m hamstrung in that I won’t be able to do anything until at least January, so I don’t think a COVID layoff will work (or I guess: let’s hope we’re all not still dealing with COVID layoffs by then!). I would also be vary wary about not getting that payroll back to use (being left with 2, not 3, people).

        I think that’s where I am struggling – he does “just enough”, and he is also good at doing those “just enough” things in a very visible way in front of the right people. My boss and grandboss are both very aware of the issues, but those issues have never been “bad enough” to do anything other than talk to the employee about it. No PIP, no improvement plans outside of a formal PIP, nothing besides agreement that yep, this guy really has a poor attitude. So will basically be starting from square one, with a “coworker” history with him rather than manager, and handicapped by a general feeling from some on the Executive side that this guy is a whiz and really helpful (and he is! Strategically.).

        What’s square one, I guess? Where did you start ?

    2. WellRed*

      How has no one said, “you complain about being at home, your complain about being at work. What the hell do you suggest?”

      1. Super Anon For This One*

        Yes, I’ve said that, and gotten a litany of other excuses about how it’s different because it’s not full time working from the office so doesn’t count.

        It’s difficult knowing I will be in charge, and having been able to borrow authority from my boss for years in other matters, but in this one I’m just stuck until I can take over, and it’s such a large problem now where it shouldn’t have been.

        1. Artemesia*

          Any chance the people now managing him could take care of this for you before you come on board. A layoff now would be helpful to you and let him claim unemployment.

    3. Kathenus*

      Can you have a very open discussion about this with your boss and boss’s boss about the employee, the past conversations and lack of change, and about how to either ‘manage them up or manage them out’ starting NOW – not waiting until some time in the future? If it’s openly discussed that your boss is retiring and you may be/are taking over, can you be honest and say that it would set you and the department up for success much better if the groundwork is laid for this now with boss still there versus having you have to start out dealing with such a difficult situation in a new role?

      If they won’t do that, then all you can really do is wait until you are in charge and then start setting clear expectations for this person, offering them the support and resources to succeed, but holding them accountable for reaching their metrics and using PIP or whatever other tools are needed if they don’t.

      Hopefully a candid discussion with leadership about this might shine a light on it and make it harder for them to keep letting this person slide and dumping it on you in the future. Good luck.

      1. Reba*

        Yep, getting ready to manage this person out of the role is the answer. Alison answered a similar question last year, search for “where do you start when you inherit a bad employee?”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Alison has repeatedly pointed out that getting along with people, accepting negative feedback, and generally exhibuting professional behavior is a requirement of the job. Your “Fergus” should have been on a PIP long ago, in my mind.
          A constantly grossing co-worker can make good co-workers want to leave.

    4. Circe*

      I think the benefit to this is that you CAN effectively start from Square 1 once you become manager. Have a frank conversation with him that things will likely change once you are manager, and then hold him to the standards that you expect.

    5. Dr. Anonymous*

      I think you’ve gotten some great suggestions about the overall management, though I’d also suggest you ask for assurance that you’ll have management backing if you do need to put him on a PIP and enforce it if he doesn’t improve. One other thing you can do in the meantime is stop entertaining his complaints. Quit offering to go in to work for him if he complains about going in, or complains about being home. Make the best choice you can about who does what and don’t worry about him since he complains anyway. Just explain that this is what’s best for the department and let’s all get back to work now. There’s no point making your interactions with them suck more than they have to.

    6. voyager1*

      You had me with this guy being a turd in the bowl, but there is one hang up. The switch from hourly to salary. I would have your legal folks look at anything before you start disciplinary actions. I would worry about any liability your company is setting themselves up to over that.

      1. Katrinka*

        He’s not doing the job, he’s just acting like an hourly worker and putting in his 40 hours a week. Being exempt means that you complete the work you’re given, whether that means you work more during a week or less. If he were getting his work done on time and without it having to be fixed, this would just be a discussion about how to deal with his attitude. But he’s not, so either a verbal talking and a PIP or a verbal talking and a written warning with clear metrics can and should happen.

        1. voyager1*

          But they switched it. A employment attorney could make a case they did it to avoid paying overtime.

          1. Super Anon For This One*

            Hmm, point taken about hourly to salary, but (it’s my understanding) the previous year’s wages with OT were used to calculate salary at the time. I would say my current role is similar enough our wages should be comparable, and I’m salary and it definitely falls into the legal definition of such not only for the role, but the profession.

            Thanks to all that have replied – I will check in with grandboss about what the company feels my various options are when I take over, at least get a feel for what I can expect in support from him and the company, and I was already leaning towards a “clean slate” kind of meeting with the employee: like, we now have a clean slate, here are my expectations, starting today when this meeting is over.

            1. PollyQ*

              I think you’ll need to be very blunt and ask your boss up front if you have the authority to fire him, and if your boss will support you in that if it gets to that point. Without that ability, your options for getting him to change are more limited.

    7. Lucky Dog*

      One thing that struck me in your responses was that this employee can be “strategic”. What about having a conversation with him about what his perfect job would be…just conversationally. Once you know what would interest him, perhaps it would be possible to align his interests somewhere else in the organization and possibly reassign him. I would be careful about positioning yourself as his future boss until that is a set deal. I agree with others that you should not offer to sub for him going forward. In the event you are promoted, he will think you will cover him every time he’s unhappy and I don’t think that is your intention.

  47. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    After a phone interview, followed by a Microsoft Teams panel interview that included my doing a 20 minute Powerpoint presentation on the financial services industry, I FINALLY GOT A JOB OFFER! With a 20% pay bump! I’ve been out of work since mid-February and I’m so excited, y’all!

  48. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Two weeks to my last day at my job. Been here way too long. I was thrilled to get offers, to have a choice, and to be going to a new job. It pays 50% More in base salary than this one, aside from 401k matching and other things. It also looks like it will have intact systems…I won’t have to reinvent the wheel with each project.

  49. Setting a Start Date?*

    I know this is a very ‘your mileage may vary’ question, but I was hoping to see some folk’s experiences with the time gap between accepting a job and the start date. I’ve been interviewing with an org and I think it’s going well (have met with the team, etc). If an offer comes I think it could happen next week. In my current role, I’m an integral part of a larger project that launches Oct 9 (a Friday). I would be a real jerk if I left before then and I also want to see it out because it focuses on me building skill that will be good to have in our new virtual world. I was also hoping to take some extra days over the Columbus holiday (the next week) regardless of whether I got this job. So, ideally I’d start the 19th. My question is how long have you taken between accepting an offer and your actual start date? This would be 6 weeks which seems like a lot? Addtional info: these are both nonprofits, I’m a manager (4yrs, first job out of school) now but the new place is flat and advertised this role as entry level (which seems like it would have an effect on this), the new role is newly created so its tasks are spread among others now but not a gap in their office per se, and currently I’m the head of my department with one person under me so there’s a lot I have to transition regardless of the big project. Thanks!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think the longest period of time I had was three months? Something like that? At least for a non-teaching position.

    2. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      If you get the offer next week, you respond with “Wonderful! I’m super excited! I am committed to see through the launch of current big project X in mid-October, but I can start with you after that! How about November 1?” (then you have some wiggle room, but they may be totally cool with that and you’ve gotten more time off) Most good organizations would be pleased to see that you have a lot of team loyalty and aren’t willing to leave your old organization in the lurch – because the same will be true when you work for them.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          4 weeks is the most I’ve done. I traveled a bit to see family, then came back to my city and had about a week of downtime before starting. In that one week home with nothing to do I got bored…so apparently 4 weeks was too long for me haha!

    3. Twisted Lion*

      I pushed for about 6-7 weeks before starting my new job for similar reasons. I had some projects that were coming up and a vacation planned. But this is federal government which is so different from the non-profit world.

    4. Bear Shark*

      I left a low-level job and started 5 or 6 weeks after the offer, I don’t remember exactly anymore. I didn’t want to leave old job in the lurch during the Christmas shopping season and I had a vacation planned. New job was fine with it.

    5. Lucette Kensack*

      6 weeks is going to be on the long end of reasonable (for a relatively junior person in the nonprofit sector). That is: you probably won’t freak them out by asking for that much time, but you need to be prepared to negotiate backwards (e.g., don’t take a full week off after your project ends).

      You should also get clear about what you’ll do if they aren’t willing to give you that time. Would you take the job if you have to skip the days off? What about if insist you start before your October 9 deadline?

      I’d frame it exactly as you have here: “I’m committed to finishing out a project at my current job, and I have a previously scheduled vacation immediately following that. So, ideally, I’d like to start October 19.”

  50. Counter-example to AAM discussions about "gumption"*

    A recent college grad told me how he got his current job lined up during his last semester of school. An alum posted a job with his company (small business, he’s the owner) on some kind of college/alum networking site for this kid’s major. Kid wanted to apply, but worried that applying per the instructions to the business website would be lost in the crowd. So… he tracked down the guy’s personal email address and emailed him.

    Guy emails back, delighted with kid’s initiative and sleuthing skills, and hires him. Kid’s been working full time since graduation.

    Just thought I’d share. Every time I think of it, I’m stuck between a big grin and my mouth hanging open. (Of course, one could probably predict how professional and well-managed this small business is, but still, the kid has a job.)

    1. Meh.*

      I think the problem with these kinds of stories is that they’re the exception, not the rule. Sure, the kid got lucky, and I’m happy he has a job too, but for every hiring manager who loves this sort of stunt, there are about ten who would be really annoyed by it.

      1. Double A*

        Also…how much does the kid resemble the guy who hired him? I bet a lot and there’s dysfunction at the company.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m glad he got the job, but that’s a red flag to me about the employer to be impressed by “gumption.” Hope that’s not indicative of what kind of workplace the kid’s going to go into. Hoping I’m wrong.

    3. all this and heaven too*

      The problem with “gumption” is that 1 time out of 100,000, it actually works. Then those 1/100,000 people go around bragging about it forever. It’s a kind of observation bias, we don’t hear from the 99,999 who fell flat on their faces by trying.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yeah, I got a job after hand delivering my resume. I would NEVER try that again. It really was a bizarre set of circumstances that I handed it off to exactly the right person who would be susceptible to that kind of “gumption,” and they were having problems finding someone that dressed like a professional, so all the marbles fell into place for it to work out that one time.

      2. CatMintCat*

        I got several jobs by hand delivering my resume. In the 1970s. It was a different world, employment wise (as well as many other ways). I wouldn’t recommend anyone try it now, outside of low-level retail jobs.

    4. Emilitron*

      This is and isn’t a great example of “gumption”. It certainly would be if Kid were tracking down owner contact info for every application they submitted. But I can image if I were hiring and I posted as an alumna on my college major site to supply a link to the job application, I’d actually be pleased to get an email that said “hi, I’m from the college major and I just applied for the job, thanks for posting that”. So it’s somewhat of its own circumstance.

    5. Artemesia*

      My husband’s ex law partner hired a new guy who just walked in and pitched for a job so there are times when gumption works — just not often.

  51. Dr. KMnO4*

    I’m bemused, and amused, by something my college did.

    HR made and delivered yard signs for all faculty and staff that say “Honk to Support. An Outstanding Member of [college] lives here. Thank you for your continued Dedication and Service.” Weird capitalization is theirs.

    Idk when exactly the sign was delivered to my front yard, but I only noticed it on Tuesday. We had no communication about the signs until Thursday, when our President sent out an email explaining them. It was a surprise to him as well, so I guess the HR department did this in secret. The intent was to let employees know that the college appreciates that we “go-that-extra-mile” (a direct quote) for our students and communities, especially in these tough times.

    I find all of this odd, but ultimately harmless. I am irritated by the reply-all chain of “thank you” emails, though. Just thought that other people might get a kick out of this situation.

    1. Summersun*

      If my work stuck a sign in my yard that encouraged noise pollution without my knowledge or permission, I would toss it in the trash ASAP and have to bite my tongue. Maybe I’m showing my rural roots, but that’s trespassing.

      1. EnfysNest*

        Yeah, I would be very uncomfortable with anyone from work coming to my home in person without warning/permission no matter what the reason – I know HR needs that information for official records, but they should not be accessing it unless there’s a real work need to mail me something and nothing but an emergency should have someone coming there in person. Add in sticking a sign in my yard without permission and encouraging cars to honk at my house, which I would never want AND which my neighbors would now think *I* asked for? Nope nope nope. I would definitely not be cool with this one.

        I’ve never really understood the “Honk for __” signs in any context anyway. Honking should be used only as a warning signal – if I hear a vehicle honking, I am immediately alert for danger and worried there is about to be a wreck or I am concerned that someone is angry at me. It is not a sound that makes me feel *good* and hearing it outside my house would be frightening, not encouraging.

      2. Reba*

        I would be profoundly annoyed if someone was encouraging honking outside my house, are you kidding me??? But I’d hope that I could laugh it off (after relocating the sign to the bin).

    2. Joielle*

      Ha! That is weird. Not least because if I saw that sign, I’d assume that you, the outstanding member of [college], had put it there yourself, and were hoping that people would honk to support you. But then the last sentence makes no sense. Such a hilariously odd gesture!

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

      I’d hate to have someone from work just randomly show up at my house, delivering a sign or not. I mean, I know they have my address, so I can receive paychecks and letters and such, but show up? NO! I also wouldn’t want all random passers-by to know where I work. This is not a great idea at all.

      On the reply-all chain of “thank you” emails, that’s the least irritating to me but I can mute or send them directly to trash.

  52. Cdn Acct*

    I think this was a topic before, but I’m struggling to find a diplomatic way to stick up for my way of working.

    I think I feel very defensive about this because to ‘regular’ people it looks bad. Being 100% WFH and in accounting (lots of spreadsheet discussions), I hardly ever have video meetings, and I make a point of not asking my team to do them. They’ve all seemed happy with that so far and I’ve asked specifically what they prefer. I also work in my PJs and often on my couch, I don’t find it hampers my work at all and even lets me concentrate better because I’m comfortable.

    Perhaps I’m the exception? The other manager under my boss often mentions things like ‘everybody should dress for work still’, and ‘people need to have a dedicated work space’ because a lot of articles say it helps people get into the work mindset. I’m certainly not against people doing that if it helps them, but I don’t, and I don’t really want to present that to my team as if it’s the only way.

    It reminds me of the morning person/night owl thing, where you can find millions of articles saying getting up early is the only way to succeed and it can feel like if you’re not a morning person, you’ve already failed at being a good worker. I’ve never been a morning person, and being able to start work a little later is much better for me and I’m happy to work later instead. I’ve never seen any evidence that I worked better or got more done when I forced myself to get up earlier, so the judgement that some people make around this feels unfair.

    Anyways, I don’t care how my team sets themselves up for work as long as it works for them. So I’m totally fine with presenting the ‘get dressed everyday and sit at your desk’ as a valid option, but feel uncomfortable saying it’s the ‘best’ way. But I want to find some wording that doesn’t sound like I’m denying it because I’m the outlier – I feel like I can’t be the only one who doesn’t find any benefit to getting dressed for work? If it’s a tiny minority maybe I should suck it up and not mention it at all.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      I work at a desk because I want/need extra monitors. I work in lounge pants and tshirts. Often, my hair is…unruly is the nicest word. If we had video calls, I’d feel pressured to ensure everything from me to my surroundings was more cleaned up. Also, I have a dog in my lap 85% of the day. Some people would probably judge that.

      I think labeling something as the “best” is a very dangerous thing to do for an entire population of people. Yes, it’s the “best” for me as an individual, but I won’t throw that label around for everyone. I prefer to start early and end early so I can do other things. To each their own.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I agree with literally every word of this comment. (I think my hair is still in its bun from Wednesday night and the dog draped over my lap is a velcro-y whippet/boxer mix. And when it’s not her, it’s the one-eyed pirate cat.)

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          Same. I need a desk b/c of monitors. But my hair’s been in a bun for 3 days and I don’t immediately change my shirt after spit up. When in the office, I’m well dressed and makeup done. Everyone has a different way that works for them.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            Yep. I have an office chair and a desk at home, but I usually have my feet curled up beneath me and I’m in PJs. On a conference call one day someone asked who had their window open because they could hear the birds…it was me…I had totally tuned it out and forgotten the birds were all a twitter. I think I may have become a little too comfortable at home…

      2. LavaLamp*

        Considering I’m sitting here in pjs with my hair thrown up listening to a podcast. . . you’re fine. Throw on a nice top if you gotta do a video chat but do what works for you.

        1. team .010*

          In case of emergency, I find a blazer with a scarf ’round the neck is lovely over my PJ top.
          Some lip color too.
          Buns ftw …… always.

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

      Productivity or effectiveness totally aside, I find that having a set “work” routine that is separate from “home” routine, especially if I never physically leave the space is beneficial to my mental health. The benefit to me for getting dressed for work (which can just be regular clothes not a suit or anything) and sitting in a dedicated work spot isn’t getting into the work mindset, it’s that feeling of “leaving work” when I change back into my PJs and sit on the couch; otherwise I start to feel that I never leave work and find myself checking email or Teams, or finishing that one last report well after my 8 hours are up (I’m exempt, and that actually makes it worse for me because I’m not tracking time on a timecard and getting paid extra for all that). Some people need those mental compartments and some don’t.

      You sound like you’re giving your employees options, so that’s good, but does anyone feel that they need face time with you and isn’t comfortable asking for that because they know you’re in your PJs and they don’t want to be the one to say, “Hey boss, can you put on a shirt, I’d like to discuss something with you face-to-face?” (body language and facial expression is a necessary component of communication for some people).

      1. Cdn Acct*

        I have monthly-at-least 1:1s so I might ask if they want to do the next one using video. As mentioned I’m in accounting and whenever I ask in team meetings if anyone wants to do the next one on video I get nopes, but maybe 1:1 some people would like it.
        We do meet on ad hoc things quite a lot, and have weekly team meetings that are pretty casual and it seems people like the current setup, but it’s always good to check.
        Speaking on the work/life separation, I guess I do actually have ‘my’ seat with a lounge that I only sit on after work is done, so I guess I do that as well! During work I like to move around, dining table, bed, couch, sunroom, but never my lounge chair.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        + 1 to your entire first paragraph. That’s why I make the effort, otherwise, I’d be acting like I was on vacation all the time, which is not good (and would get me fired).

    3. Joielle*

      I work from my couch in my PJs until lunch, and then I work out, THEN take a shower and get dressed (and go back to working from the couch). Being able to do a mid-day workout and only have to shower once has been a big perk of working from home!

      I understand why some people would find a benefit to having a dedicated work space and routine, but my job doesn’t really bleed over into my non-work hours and I’m good at compartmentalizing, so it doesn’t bother me to just shut my laptop whenever I decide to finish working and move on with my evening. No need for particular rituals to separate the time or space.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Why do you have to say anything? The other manager makes these comments. They are not your boss, right? They get to manage their team the way they want to, and you get to manage yours. This is not some kind of global referendum on pajamas, where you need to defend the pajama people.

      Just ignore it. Or say something like, “Huh, I’ve heard that helps some people.” But better to just say nothing, probably. There’s no need.

      1. Cdn Acct*

        Oh man, I totally forgot to include context! It’s because we’re discussing some team activities around wellness, tips for working from home etc., and she wants to include these. We already did one presentation and emails on these topics earlier in the summer but we’re planning another one, and I don’t want hers to be the only message that gets conveyed in case there are people on our team (I’m pretty sure there are) who also have different ways of working to the ‘ideal’.

    5. lapgiraffe*

      I would appreciate your approach if you were my manager, and would hope to have the freedom to lead that way if I were in such a position. I’ve never been great at working from a desk, I wrote my masters thesis from cafes and bars or sitting on my couch. There are certain situations where I find I want to be at a proper desk, and I completely understand the commenter(s) who believe in delineating work from life space when both are at home, but I honestly like being able to sit on the sofa or switch to a cozy chair in my sunroom or stay in bed or whatever my mood is.

      As to phrasing it, I don’t think it needs to be that complex. A neutral “I’ve found the opposite to be true and I’m more productive when I’m able to be in comfortable clothes/work from an untraditional space/etc. And I trust my employees to do what works best for them, unless someone is struggling to get their work done I don’t see a need to police their WFH setups and preferences.”

      1. Cdn Acct*

        I love how you phrased the first sentence, I’ll definitely use that! I don’t think the other manager wants to police people, but I think she’s more traditional and might not realize that not everyone wants to work that way. She also usually wants to do team-building activities like birthday parties and having personal questions as a quiz, which I try to avoid. I can think of too many reasons why people might be uncomfortable talking about or providing how old they are (she’s asked me that already), birthdays, kids’ photos etc.

    6. allathian*

      I think the best you can do is to accept that people on your team can have different preferences. You’re lucky in that your working hours are flexible. So are mine, but lots of office workers have to suck it up and work certain hours, even if they aren’t morning people.

      I have very few video meetings, but I find that working from my desk and wearing actual clothes gets me in the mood for work. We’re a very casual office anyway, jeans and a plain t-shirt are fine, as long as they aren’t visibly dirty or tattered. Usually I dress more or less as I would at the office when I’m WFH. I need to sit at a desk because I need a bigger monitor, my laptop screen just doesn’t cut it. When I stop working, I switch off my work computer and change into sweats, so I feel that I’m really off work. Then I can slouch on the couch for the rest of the evening, when I’ve exercised a bit. WFH I can usually fill and empty the dishwasher, etc. during my breaks. (My husband does most of the cooking.)

      I’m a fairly extreme morning person, I regularly get up at 6 am even on weekends and I’m usually up by 5.30 on workdays. I’m usually at my desk by 6.30 and start working before our VPN gets overloaded. Even when I went to the office, I was often there by 7 am and avoided the worst of the rush hour that way. Although I like getting up early, I hate rushing in the morning. That said, by 3 pm I’m running on vapors and unless I have a meeting or something really urgent, I stop working by 3.30. On weekdays I want to be in bed by 9.30. On weekends, if I want to stay up longer than 11 pm, I need plenty of coffee or some alcohol, or preferably both, to stay awake. I worked 2nd shift for a while in my 20s, but I don’t think I could do that anymore. I certainly couldn’t work nights… It has to be said that I’m in the Nordics, and regular office hours have always been 8-4 rather than 9-5 here. It’s just the way I am, I don’t think I’m in any way a “better person” than my night owl coworker who rarely gets in or shows up online before 9.30 am unless we have a meeting in the morning and who’ll regularly work past 8 pm if we’re busy, and who’ll often take 2 or 3 hours off in the middle of the day to exercise and eat. I’m just happy that our employer is so accommodating!

      All that said, many people are struggling with WFH. If you’ve found something that works for you, you’re very fortunate. I don’t think it should matter that you may be a bit of an outlier. I think you can support your team by not dealing in absolutes. I don’t think saying something is the “best”, never mind the “only acceptable” way of doing things is very constructive. If you wanted to, you could certainly tell your team what works for you.

  53. should I apply*

    “Future reorganization” hope or mirage? I have been feeling stuck in my career and a bit bored with my day to day job, but still generally like my company & co-workers. I want to progress, but there simply haven’t been any opportunities to apply for. Our business has been doing well in Covid-19 because we make healthcare devices. At my last one on one with my manager, I asked directly what opportunities he saw in the next year for career growth. He said that he thought there would be restructuring in the next 3-6 months, and that could lead to new opportunities for me.
    His manager is new, so I do see this as a possibility, but nothing has been announced and there is no guarantee that even if we do re-structure that it will mean a new opportunity. I have been casually job searching, but nothing has seemed like a good fit for what I want to do.

    Would you continue to casually job search, or ramp up the search under the assumption that there is no guarantee for changes, or that those changes would lead to new opportunities?

    1. Ama*

      I would keep casually searching in case something really great drops into your lap — don’t hold off searching while waiting to see what happens at your new job. Plans get delayed (particularly right now), or an opportunity could develop but it turns out to not be what you want after all — this second thing actually happened to me at a previous job, I waited patiently for a chance to move out of my role for over a year and when the managers finally decided what the new structure would look like I realized I didn’t want any of those new jobs.

  54. honeygrim*

    How does everyone open and/or close emails? I have a colleague who is super-formal in their email style, and that plus the increased emailing I’m doing due to COVID has made me wonder if I’m too far in the opposite direction (though most of my other colleagues have email styles somewhat similar to mine). My industry is kind of a mix of formal and informal interactions, so my email style does vary depending on whom I’m emailing: If I’m emailing a coworker, I usually just open with “Hi, [name].” If the email is going to a group of coworkers I basically do the same thing: “Hi, everyone.” For these emails, if I’m requesting someone or someone has done something for me, I just close with “Thanks!” and my name. If “Thanks” doesn’t work, I usually just put my name.

    If I’m communicating with someone on a more formal basis, I would probably say “Hello, [name].” I might use “Thank you!” instead of “Thanks!”, or maybe “Sincerely,” followed by my name. Sometimes I just put my name.

    For the record, I’ve never had anyone say anything about my style. But I’ve been wondering if just closing with my name isn’t a great idea. So lately I’ve been trying a few other closings: “Regards,” “Best,” “Best wishes,” etc. “Regards” and “Sincerely” are okay for more formal communications, but I don’t think “Best” or “Best wishes” is me. “Cheers” would probably be okay if I were English, but seems a bit affected coming from a Southerner (I suppose I could try “Bye, y’all!” but I have a feeling that wouldn’t go over well).

    I don’t think I should be more formal, but I don’t know how to close an informal email without either coming across as abrupt or stodgy. Also, I am most likely overthinking this.

    1. Summersun*

      I echo what the person has done in the past. I have a few specific colleagues who are unusually formal, and I follow suit with them. For a group, I name it. “Llama Team, Please see the updated hoof stats below.”

      “BR” is a common closer [at my international company].

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        What does “BR” mean??
        I am in local gov. I think starting with “Hi Jane” or “Hi everyone -” is totally fine, and usually what I do. Less brusque than just starting with “Llama Team -“. I close with “thx! [my name or just my first initial]”
        If I want to give the thanks extra weight (talk about overthinking it), I close with a separate line for “Thanks,” and a separate line for my name. Gives it that extra oomph (in my head).
        What I really hate is something I unfortunately see a couple of my staff doing, which is adding “Thanks, [their name]” to their auto signature. To me that reads very thoughtless/assumptive. Take the time to write thanks in the body of the email if you really mean it!

    2. Mimmy*

      Most of my emails are along the lines of:

      Hi [person’s name] (if it’s to a group, I’ll say “Hi everyone”),

      Body of email


      If my email is to someone I’ve never met or if it’s to someone well up the chain of command, I tend to be a bit more formal with the intro and closing. Instead of “hi”, I’ll say “hello”; I may still end with “Thanks” but I’ll put my first and last name.

    3. The Rural Juror*

      It seems like you and I have similar styles. My boss has actually commented before that he likes the way I email because it seems semi-formal and friendly, without being overly familiar or pushy.

      For a little while I struggled with how formal to be in emails. I kept remembering having a friend in high school with the nickname “Grammar Officer.” She wasn’t stuck up about it, in fact she was a goofball and kept everyone laughing, but she would definitely point out when someone was ending a sentence with a preposition!

      So I would catch myself typing an email in the tone in which I speak…and when I speak I end a LOT of sentences with prepositions. I realized it doesn’t really serve a purpose to be nit-picky about language in an informal email setting. I’m a little stricter in very formal emails, which are rare for me.

      I end formal emails with “Thank you” and informal ones with “Thanks.” Even when I’m the one replying to them and providing them with information, I still end with a thank you…not sure why, I guess it’s just a habit. I’m also in the Southern US, so maybe it’s just because we all thank each other for thanking each other…we can be overly friendly sometimes. It wouldn’t be out of character for me to say, “All the best! -RJ”, though.

    4. squeebird*

      I’ve been closing with “Take care,” since COVID and I’ve grown to like it! I use “Thanks,” as well but usually only when requesting something.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I don’t think I ever pay attention to the signoff of an email, but I do notice when there is nothing at all. It can get confusing when there no opening at the top of an email asking one person a question — but others are cc:d because they need the answer. (Cue at least one reply-to-all from at least one cc:d person saying “you need to ask Fergus that not me” …even though Fergus is the only person not cc:d.)
      Also? For the love of baconpants please help me discourage people who use salutations and sign-offs on instant messenger chats.
      By the way, this is a less heated discussion than we had when the topic came up in a previous chat…maybe there’s more pressing worries now.
      Be well,

    6. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      I think for internal emails you don’t need a closing phrase; just your name is enough. For external I’d use any of the closers you mentioned. You’re already on the side of propriety by using the comma after “Hi” or “Hello” in the greeting. Even though the comma is strictly correct I drop it for informal emails.

    7. Lizzo*

      I’ve been signing off with “Cheers” for years, and I am a Midwesterner. It’s very upbeat (matches my communication style) and not too informal for work.

      I’ve seen “take care” and “all best” in use, too, as alternatives to the more formal choices.

  55. Jennifleurs*

    Uggggh, my workplace has said they want to recall me back from homeworking. It was going to literally be Monday, except luckily my manager couldn’t do that soon.

    There’s no point to bringing us back. Absolutely none. I attend no meetings in my job role, and I have full access to everything I need from home. Ugh. The rubbish about stimulating the local economy doesn’t count either – it’s in a village in the middle of nowhere that you have to have a car to get to, and where almost everyone brings a packed lunch.

    I’m so frustrated. So dreading my unbearable coworker.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m starting to track my metrics now because I know I am more productive when not at the office. I want to be able to present rationale for conversion to remote if they try to call me back before a reliable vaccine. It may not work, but I’m going to try. I’ve had to take sick time only once for a scent-triggered migraine since March. (My daughter was apologetic & stopped wearing it, unlike a cologne bathers in my office.) I’ve been able to attend 6am meetings on the same days as 7pm meetings … one or the other would have been missed if I couldn’t ‘go home’ for 3 hours in the middle of the day. So…metrics. the hard part will be documenting last year’s numbers because I wasn’t specifically tracking them.

  56. Office Overachiever*

    Just here to vent about the fact that I’ve become the office “go to” person for everything, and I hate it. I’m getting so many questions and requests about issues that aren’t mine, because my coworkers don’t answer their emails in a timely fashion. I’ve tried redirecting people to the correct person, but when it’s two week later and they’ve still received no response, I end up getting the request again. I don’t mind being helpful, but it’s honestly gotten out of hand. As frustrated as I am with everyone at this point, I blame myself. I set the precedent by responding so quickly, and also not shutting down people sooner when getting requests outside of my purview. Now I have a wonderful reputation in the office, but am honestly miserable because of it. It’s going to be a really long road retraining these people not to expect so much from me. Now that I’ve come off my soapbox, I just want to say I stand in solidarity with anyone who’s been in this position before or is there right now. This is one part of office life you’re not really warned about before.

    1. SpurLeeLoch*

      I’ve been there!! It’s so hard to send people away when you can fix it, but all those requests add up, and it’s so hard to re-train people once they’ve started depending on you!! Honestly I treat it like I did when my daughter was small and wanted me to do everything for her. It’s much faster if I tie her shoes, but then how will she ever learn? It’s the same at the office. People want the easy fix (and who can blame them?!) But if you keep helping them, how are they going to learn? Simplistic, I know, but it helped me with my people-pleasing issues :)

    2. Kathenus*

      Agree completely with SpurLeeLoch. Continue to redirect to the correct person. If it comes back to you later, either redirect again or send it to your boss – ideally the whole thread so they see the first redirect and that it wasn’t handled. If this is a reoccurring problem maybe a separate discussion with your boss about how to solve it as well. But if you keep handling it on a later request, people requesting will keep coming to you and people ignoring the work will keep doing so. You really need to be 100% consistent at NOT doing it if it is a task for someone else, or change won’t happen.

    3. Cakeroll*

      Saaaame. But I’ve found recent success following advice Alison often posts here – sometimes the appropriate thing to do with a request is let is sit for a bit. The amount of time depends on the communication format and your work culture, but the key piece might be to let things sit longer than people are used to with you.

      You’ve built up respect and good-will and that might help you here – people know you to be prompt and knowledgable, so letting some things sit shouldn’t cause sudden perception of “they’re dropping the ball”. And it gives the people asking the opportunity to think “maybe there’s someone else I can ask while I’m waiting for Office Overachiever” or for someone else in the email/chat/meeting to say “I think the answer is…” instead of you.

    4. all this and heaven too*

      I’d suggest roping in your manager. Tell them that you are getting a lot of requests that aren’t your job and it’s taking up X amount of time and distracting from A, B, and C tasks, and propose that you’ll only answer these once a week or whatever/ask how the manager wants to handle it (if your manager is a “give me a problem and a solution” person or “give me a problem and then discuss a solution” person).

      If your manager isn’t aware of them, also consider cc’ing them on the ones that come in from email.

    5. PollyQ*

      Any chance you can get your boss to send out a general email listing who should be contacted for what responsibility? That might help speed up the process of retraining people, and would also give you official cover for saying “no.”

    6. Ginger Baker*

      I frequently forward to the correct person and cc the requestor, and then follow up (aka pester) the Correct Person until it gets handled. It’s a bit of an investment to continue following up *but* over time folks usually learn that it’s faster to just handle the issue right away than to have me consistently checking in (and, I look like The Person Making Sure It Gets Done, which is still great for my rep).

  57. Sleepy*

    Any advice for when you work for a nonprofit and your boss says, “We’re having trouble getting RSVPs for our fundraiser, please invite your family and friends!”?

    I already invited family and friends to a previous fundraiser in April, only one of them came, and I really don’t want to burn my credibility with my personal contacts by asking something like that more than once per year.

    I’m hearing a lot of messages at work about how “All staff need to participate in fundraising.” Fine–give me a list of our current donors and I’ll call them. Give me a list of past event attendees and I’ll do personal outreach. That’s what I see as me participating in fundraising–not digging into my person network. Am I off base?

    1. Summersun*

      Being expected to involve my personal network is MLM-y. It’s what made me realize two different job interviews were schemes. I would push back and say you don’t cross streams.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s actually not uncommon in some nonprofits, even though it’s obnoxious. Some mission-based orgs have a credo (wrong, in my opinion) that all staff should participate in raising money from those around them. Just say you tried and they weren’t interested.

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          It’s common in nonprofits that don’t have an effective fundraising strategy. Asking for money from people who aren’t invested in your mission but are temporarily connected to your organization is never going to result in sustainable, quality giving.

          Development departments love to talk about a “culture of fundraising” and that everyone in an organization should be involved fundraising. I’m skeptical of that approach in general (what about a “culture of delivering programs” or a “culture of government relations” or a “culture of any other role at a nonprofit”?), but it certainly shouldn’t mean that all staff are literally soliciting donations.

            1. Lucette Kensack*

              Oh, agreed. It’s a flag for “old-fashioned, poorly-run nonprofit,” not “MLM scam.”

    2. OyHiOh*

      So, once upon a time, I was a board member for an arts nonprofit. In structure and bylaws we were a governing board, rather than a working board. Except that it was really a social club and we were really supposed to just sign off unquestioningly on what the CEO wanted. The place was and is a disaster.

      Anyway, a board member at one point told the rest of us that we should contact anyone in our personal networks who might be interested in sponsoring performances (it was relatively cheap, like $200 or something but still).

      In the meantime, I’d been educating myself on how to be an effective board member (and as an aside, how effective non profits should run) and learned that no, fundraising/development staff are somewhat specialized in their niche and have built relationships with donors and orgs, and all others need to stay out of the way.

      What you asked, “give me the list, I’d be glad to make calls” is appropriate (you’re working under the direction and guidance of the fundraiser); “tap into your personal network multiple times a year” is not. Unfortunately, the latter is the far more common mindset, even though it burns out staff and community contacts.

      You’re not off base. Every time they bring up the issue, ask for a small set of donors and talking points.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        Eh, boards are different. Most board members are expected to make personal contributions and solicit contributions from their network. In many cases, that is explicitly why they are recruited to board service (it’s not like corporate VPs are recruited to the board of the local orchestra because they all just happen to be the most insightful about governance, you know?).

        1. Sleepy*

          Yes, fundraising is definitely part of a board member’s role–but I also agree that it would ideally be guided by a fundraising strategy from the staff.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, if I got an invite to a fundraiser for a friend’s or family member’s non-profit, I’d have no problem with it. I might not go, but it’s not obnoxious to invite. Just don’t be pushy about it if people say no or just ignore your invitation. Invite in a quiet way (Facebook event, emailed invitation, mailed invitation). Don’t invite in person or over the phone. If your boss asks you to be pushy, then, no, that’s not okay.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        That said, adding me to a mailing list without my consent or having people call me is definitely bad.

      2. Mimmy*

        I’m with you. While I don’t like constantly being bombarded to donate or attend fundraising events, I think using an existing network is acceptable; it’s what I call a “warm” contact. However, being pushy or “cold-calling” people in your network starts to cross a line.

      3. Sleepy*

        I agree with this. Inviting people via Facebook feels okay since it’s so easy to ignore/decline if the person isn’t interested.

    4. Mimmy*

      My sister is the Executive Director of a nonprofit. She added the family (plus relatives and friends I imagine) and her development staff are always sending invitations to fundraisers or to donate. What I appreciate, however, is that she has always been clear that there is absolutely no pressure to donate or attend events. When my husband and I do donate, she is extremely grateful.

      I think an approach similar this works well, though I do agree with Anonymous Educator that adding someone to a mailing list without consent is not cool. Maybe send an email to your network saying that you’d like to add them to your nonprofit’s mailing list so that they can be invited to future fundraising events; include that, if they absolutely do not want to be added, they can let you know.

  58. Q without U*

    Can anyone recommend a good microphone to use with computer speakers for Skype/Zoom calls? The one I tried gave an echo from the speakers, no matter what settings I switched. I’m getting tired of wearing my headset for hours on end and it looks like we’re going to be remote until 2021.

    1. PX*

      You probably need to look at getting an integrated microphone and speaker. The brand I’ve seen in various companies is Jabra but I’m sure there are others. My understanding is a separate microphone plus laptop speaker will always be an issue due to feedback as you’ve already experienced (the issue is physical proximity not so much the mic itself ).

    2. Buffy*

      What sort of headset do you have? I use the Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 which has the large ear coverings like the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones do. They are super comfortable and even after being on calls for 8+ hours, I don’t notice they are there. If you can’t find a decent external microphone, it might be worth it to look into a more comfortable headset. The one I use isn’t very expensive.

    3. Mill Miker*

      I’ve got a Blue Snowball that I’ve been happy with. It’s pretty directional, so it does a good job of not picking up thing’s that aren’t more-or-less directly in front of it.

      That said, how’s your computer? Do you have a lot of other software running during meetings? I’m pretty sure modern conference software tries to actively detect and remove echo, but real-time audio processing is tough, and if the processor is s