open thread – October 9-10, 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.

{ 986 comments… read them below }

  1. Peanut Butter Cup (Halloween themed Anon for this)*

    Happy Friday, if such a thing is possible in 2020! Hopefully my question has enough detail to make sense while remaining sufficiently anonymous.

    As a required part of my job, I occasionally work with an organizational group that handles matters well beyond my immediate department. That group is broken into subsections that focus on various topics and administrative to-dos. I requested to be on pretty much any of them except for one that’s headed by another member of my department. We’ll call this person Alex. Guess which subsection I was assigned to?

    Alex has a reputation both within my department and the larger group for being difficult to work with and a bit of a bully. I’m not worried so much about my interactions with them as being associated with this person by the rest of my organization. I’m concerned that Alex will act like they’re speaking on my behalf when they start in with their usual pushiness, which they could do easily enough as the head of this section.

    I discreetly asked another coworker for advice, and I trust them to remain quiet no matter what I end up doing. They suggested that I request to switch to a different subsection, citing personal reasons. That feels a little high maintenance to me? I’m still newish, and I don’t want to give myself a reputation for being unable to work with different kinds of people either.
    Thoughts?

    1. LGC*

      …so wait, I have a question: Why do you think that Alex’s inappropriate behavior will reflect on you? You say that being associated with them is your primary concern, but I’m having a bit of trouble imagining how people at your job go from “Alex is a jerk” to “Peanut Butter Cup is a jerk because they work with Alex.”

      I mean, it’s possible, but unlikely.

      Oh yeah, actual advice. I think that your coworker didn’t give bad advice and it’s not that high maintenance on its own. But also, it sounds like it’s a small part of your job – as Alison would say, is this worth spending capital on? If it’s an hour or so a week, I wouldn’t bother.

      1. Peanut Butter Cup*

        That’s fair. I suppose it makes me nervous because I’m relatively new and haven’t had much chance to establish my own reputation yet, especially with the pandemic turning everything inside out. Alex also has some genuinely good ideas, so it’d be a balancing act where I agree with them in theory but find their methods manipulative and unhelpful. I’d like to avoid guilt by association, but I could definitely be overthinking this.
        Thanks for your input! I appreciate it

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I think you’re overthinking it. If Alex is bullying people all over the place, but you remain helpful and kind to the other people in the group, they are not going to assume you two are in cahoots. They’re just going to think Alex is an ass and poor you for getting stuck with him as the new person.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        I understand the concern if Alex is the one who takes point on communication with other teams. If PBC says “I still haven’t gotten the TPS report from last week, can you find out when it’ll be ready?” and Alex confronts the other team with “PBC wants to know where the hell the TPS report is,” I can see the worry that someone might think that PBC is the jerk. But since Alex is already well-known for being difficult, I don’t think there is much to worry about here.

        1. Peanut Butter Cup*

          Yes, you articulated my worry better than I was able to. The consensus seems to be that their reputation won’t transfer to me as long as I don’t start acting like that too.
          Thank you!

      3. Anonymous anny oakley*

        I could see how peanut butter cup could have a concern if Alex is pushy, especially with other departments that don’t know them. Like if Alex says to someone else Peanut butter cup said this department is slackers and needs to get their act together, when all they really said was it’s hard to continue project when department x is behind.

    2. Legally a Vacuum*

      It sounds like you requested not to be on a team with Alex even before assignments were made? Do you have reason to think they’ll listen to the request?

      1. Peanut Butter Cup*

        No one could have known I was trying to avoid Alex. The person making the assignments asked for my preferences, and I listed several of the other committees. However, I know that person also runs toward the disorganized side and may have missed my list. It’s a bit of a balancing act to fit everyone in, and I don’t think it was a deliberate slight. I’m otherwise qualified for this subsection too, and would find the work interesting if it weren’t for Alex.

          1. Annony*

            As a new person, that could come across badly. They made the assignments so you can’t just say “No, I will only serve on these committees.” A list of preferences is not a guarantee that they can accommodate every request. At many places, seniority is also taken into account when making the assignments. It sounds possible that everyone was avoiding being in Alex’s group. I think that the suggestion below of pointing out that assigning two people from the same department to the same group isn’t really achieving the goals of a cross sectional work group may be the best approach.

            1. a thought*

              If the main thing here is optics (you don’t want to be seen as being associated with Alex) then I agree with other commenters that asking to switch is potentially worse than the association. To me whether you should ask to switch depends on how important/formal the groups are, the seniority of the person who made the groups — if these were assigned by a coworker and its no big deal to switch, then fine. If it’s a manager I think this will come across poorly.

              If you are new and you already know Alex is a bully…. others know that too and won’t blame you for that. I’d say stick in your group and just behave yourself according to your own guidelines (e.g., if Alex tells YOU to do something that is across the line, decline. If Alex does something across the line, that reflects on them).

              Finally – if this really isn’t about reputation and its actually about not wanting to work with Alex, I think it’s different variables.

              1. ginger ale for all*

                There could be a lot to be gained by working well with Alex. If you had the reputation of being able to work well with many types of people, it could enhance your standing in the organization.

              2. Peanut Butter Cup*

                Yes, my concern is primary reputation and optics. :) While I’m obviously not delighted to work with them, it’s doable. I’m new to this job and still learning the office politics, but I have the latitude to push back if things really get egregious.

                It occurs to me that if I stick out this assignment, I’ll have more standing later to say that I’ve done my time with Alex and push back on other direct collaborations or assignments with them.

                1. NewAnon, Who Dis?*

                  If you have the chance to be a voice of reason and start initial conversations (so instead of having Alex reach out for TPS reports, can you contact someone directly?) your reputation will stay intact. If my manager ever had to reach out to others for things I needed I wouldn’t consider HIM the difficult one to work with.

                  All that said, my ‘tough’ manager has been my best one. Other groups thinking my manager is (respectfully) “hard to work with” means that he was vigilant about scope creep and pushed back on ill conceived proposals. I hated needing things from him/his group as an external person, but once I was on his team it was the best one I’ve ever been on.

                2. hamburke*

                  It took awhile for me to build trust with clients. For about the first year, I’d ask for normal things (required to do the work for them), be ignored and have to get my boss involved to send the same email request. It took months to make this work without intervention from my boss. I can see the same thing happening with PBC where Alex has been the point of contact for awhile.

        1. Sandi*

          I was once assigned seating and ended up sitting next to a jerk despite asking for several other options. A few years later I found out that I was the only person who hadn’t specifically said “I refuse to sit next to X”. Alex may have been avoided by everyone…

    3. IHaveNoIdeaWhatMyMonikerShouldBe*

      I would say that if you have given off no other “high maintenance” vibes then ask for the switch. Consider it a kindness to yourself. I am a newbie at a job too and I understand how important impressions are at this juncture. However if it’s not a huge drama to change just do it.

    4. Not today, Satin*

      Ask for the switch, say that you’d rather be with a different group because you don’t want your department to be over-represented, which you feel is true of your current group, as it has both you & Alex in it.

      Or ask for a different group because you have experience with the topic they are dealing with, or you want experience with the topic they are dealing with.

      1. Peanut Butter Cup*

        Oh that’s a good idea. We’re a large department and may be over-represented anyway, but I’ll have to look into that.

    5. SaffieGirl*

      Does is make sense for two people from the same department be in the sub section? In my organization we try not to “stack” too many of the cross sectional work groups with people doing the same work/ on the same team as the end product then starts getting skewed. Maybe you can approach it as a coverage issue, I.e. “Alex is able to represent my department for this group, but group X does not have any of my departmental representation. Can I fill that gap?”

    6. Georunner*

      As someone who works with a workplace bully, rest assured that if the other people you work with are decent, reasonable people, they will not think any less of you purely because you work with Alex or agreed with their ideas. You are in charge of your own reputation, just stand up for yourself if needed and don’t let them bully you. Also if Alex tried to start talking for you and you don’t agree, it’s is perfectly normal to wait and state your own thoughts and make your opinion known.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m going to throw a different perspective here. You might be on the cross-section team with Alex specifically because you are from the same group. If the coordinator knows that Alex pushes for what Alex wants, the coordinator might want the rest of the group to have input. You’re new, which might mean you have new ways of working that might keep Alex under control. I don’t say this is easy, just that it’s possible.

    8. moql*

      I’d agree with previous commentators – I bet everyone else is trying to get away from Alex too and you have the least seniority so you got stuck with them. Don’t ask to change unless you think this really will make you miserable. Presumably there are other people on this committee. Can you use this as an opportunity to network and bond with them?

    9. Bunny Watson*

      Since you’re new, you could ask to be re-assigned because you were hoping to get to meet more people outside of your department. Or that you really wanted to learn about one of the other subsection functions and was hoping this would be a way to do that. I don’t see the harm in asking once, but if they say it’s too late then you can tough it out for the year and may learn more how to deal with Alex.

    10. Sparrow*

      My boss can be quite pushy and definitely has some enemies in our organization. Because I’m the only person on his immediate team and am relatively new, I do worry about others lumping me in with him – which is a problem because my job requires me to work collaboratively with those people! My experience so far has been that yes, some of them do make assumptions about what I’m going to be like. I just stay polite and helpful and, whenever I can, deal with people directly instead of involving him in the conversation. Most of the people who acted negatively toward me from the jump warmed up after they had a chance to work with me directly and realized I operated differently. And even the ones who still somewhat lump us together are much politer and more cooperative with me than with him! Do your thing, and I think you’ll be ok. (Plus it’s pretty satisfying to respond to a snarky message from someone you don’t even know with a calm, very helpful email – it takes the wind out of their sails!)

  2. WonderMint*

    I’m struggling from a work-culture standpoint. It’s a natural desire to want to fit in and I feel like I’m missing the mark with my peers. I engage in work-unrelated Slack channels, participate in every (now virtual) happy hour, but whenever I contribute the conversation immediately peters out. This has fed into work when I request something that would take only a few minutes, which I logistically can’t do alone, and no one offers to pitch in so I have to have my manager forcefully assign.

    I feel this is necessary to point out: I’m the only childless-and-under-40-woman at the organization. Most of the company is 20 and 30-something men where as I am a 20-something woman. I’ve made a conscious effort to not be overzealous when relating on a social level with my peers – I have my own friends I swear! – but the lack of inclusion is beginning to impact the needs I have from them as coworkers.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Is the manager intervention only with specific people? How are you making requests? Are they soft serve or do you call people out specifically and let them know that you clearly need them to respond timely? I’d also talk to the manager who has to make these assignments. They may have insight you don’t as to whether this is more about you or them. There are specific coworkers I need to track down and harass and others I don’t. Sometimes it is not personal.

      1. WonderMint*

        I cattle call them essentially – “Hey does anyone have 10min to help me test X?” This is the pattern my other coworkers take, I just tend to get crickets. I try not to take it personally, and I reminded myself that I have a social life outside of work. I feel like the weird kid at school no one wants to pair up with, except this is people’s responsibility – it’s work!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Don’t do it that way! You should approach them individually and put them in the spot to actually have to tell you no. It’s better to get to know people individually instead of the group dynamic.

          In my line of work, if I say “hey can someone help me over here” everyone will just assume someone somewhere else is going to jump on it and ignore it because they just don’t think of it, it’s not necessarily personal at all.

          But if I say “Hey Bob, can you give me a hand?” if he says no, then move on to someone else. Or if the conversation lends to it, say “do you know who could help me with this?”

          You are OK asking your manager directly in the end. You have to be OK asking your colleagues.

          Some people, often times men need you to be direct with them! They don’t take hints. They aren’t actively being jerks, they’re just wired to need to be told directly “I need you right now.”

          I try to figure out who’s the best option for each task and ask them directly, if they shrug away I ask them who to ask about the issue then and again, tell them “I need you to work with me here, dude.”

        2. Quinalla*

          I’d recommend reaching out to someone individually first and asking for help directly. Maybe someone you recently volunteered to help after they made a request. And if you aren’t volunteering for many of those, I’d step it up a little bit. Hopefully once a few folks help you with a direct request you can do the cattle call and one of those people may respond if no one else does.

          It sounds like you don’t have any allies in the group yet. If you did, I’d recommend messaging one and saying hey I’m going to do this cattle call in a minute, can you volunteer to take it if no one else does? But if you don’t have anyone like that yet, that’s ok too. Stuff like this is where allies can help.

          I also liked the advice of others to have a 3rd party look at the conversations too to help an evaluate if there is anything you and the rest of the team are doing differently, but if you suspect it is gender related, it likely is. I’m in a male dominated industry myself, so yeah, been there.

    2. Admin1*

      I would try not to take this so personally. I’m a working mother with two young kids one of whom is home with me all day and I have no extra time. None. I’m not volunteering for extra work or attending Zoom happy hours not because I don’t like my coworkers but because I simply don’t have time and don’t want over promise and under deliver. I’m on the opposite end where I’m the only one in my dept with young children, so from my POV don’t take it personally. Times are hard for everyone but working parents have some really tough struggles we’re working through.

      1. WonderMint*

        I totally get that – I’m not the only childless person but I am the only childless woman. And I have a lot of sympathy towards working parents right now – I don’t bug the women (who are generally warm towards me) because I know they have a lot on their plate. I expect the other young people, all men, to pitch in considering they do it for each other. Requests are made on company-wide Slack channel.

    3. Purt's Peas*

      Since it seems like a lot of this is virtual, I’d actually show a trusted friend a couple of those conversations–just a few snippets. And preferably a friend who either fits your coworkers’ demographic or who gets along with your coworkers’ demographic. I think it’d help to see some of the conversations to figure out if the conversations are really dying when you pop in–or if you have a tendency to come in when they’re about to peter out. Or if there’s some sense-of-humor mismatch that a friend can point to. Or something.

      That said I think these chumps are probably just pretty sexist and “don’t relate” to you; I think you’ll have to find your own lines around what feels like changing yourself to be palatable to these dudes vs what feels like acceptable adjustments to your social style to get along better vs what is just their fault/is unchangeable.

      AND, I think that it’s ok to talk to your manager about the issue of getting people to work with you: maybe they can step in *before* you have “Bueller? Bueller?” in a meeting, maybe ‘suggesting’ a few people who will pitch in without it feeling like an explicit assignment.

      1. Purt's Peas*

        Another point I want to add is, I don’t know if you’re new in the job, but take your time. It already takes a long time to get socially bonded to your coworkers, in most cases; it’s going to take longer because it’s all virtual and people have so little bandwidth. It’s so incremental and takes SO long.

        1. WonderMint*

          That’s a great idea – maybe I just need a total outsider opinion to read over some of our transcripts. I do try to use the same language my peers use for making requests, maybe I should study when in the day they do as well. Copy their every move, essentially. Unfortunately I think some of the inherit “we simply don’t relate to this person” is right.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      Oof that’s gotta be hard. It feels awful to ask a group for help and get crickets. Are you a new employee or have you been around a while? I think that changes if this is a “it may take time to get acclimated into a new group” vs “this is unfortunately how things are”. Looking at it from the purely work standpoint, if their standoffishness is causing you real trouble at work, I think it’s time to loop your boss in. It sounds like they may already be loosely aware (since you need them to forcefully assign someone to help you when no one volunteers), but maybe ask them for assistance. A good manager isn’t going to want clique-ish behavior getting in the way of work getting done. You don’t all need to be best friends, but you should be able to work together without it being personal.

      1. WonderMint*

        I’ve been here over a year, longer than about 25% of the team. Many of my coworkers were hired after the virus, sight unseen.

    5. Not today, Satin*

      Study the group. Who is the person whose style most closely resembles yours, but they have more success? What do they do differently? Do that.

      Or, when you ask for help, ask people specifically (by name) for assistance, and don’t forget to thank them or acknowledge them if possible (ie if you are giving a status update to your manager, or cc their manager if sending thanks).

      1. WonderMint*

        I cattle call for help, just as everyone else does. But I may have to start mentioning by name. Of course, that will make me feel even more isolated, being the only person reaching out specifically.

        1. WellRed*

          Or you could set a new way of doing things by doing this. Cattle calls seem inefficient, but then where I work, it’s typically certain people who can help with certain things.

      2. Budgie Buddy*

        Seconded. If you have low social capital then cattle calling is less likely to work. It’s too easy for everyone to think “Someone else will definitely get on this one.” Ask the people you have the best rapport with.

    6. Double A*

      Okay, so I’ll preface this with saying I think you coworkers are being jerks and probably there are gender dynamics at play here. Am I correct that these groups are dominated by 20 and 30 something men?

      But here are my thoughts. If you participate in every virtual happy hour, maybe dial it back a little? Go to every third one. Keep it light in Slack, maybe mostly to respond with amusement to other people’s comments and jokes. This is gross because I’m kind of telling you to be the aloof girl who just praises the boys. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, so maybe if you’re only at some happy hours they’ll engage more.

      I would also absolutely flag this dynamic for your manager. This is how women get pushed out of companies and toxic cultures form.

      1. WonderMint*

        You are absolutely correct in your assumption of demographics.

        I think you’re confirming my fear. And I absolutely will dial it back when it comes to happy hour and general water cooler-ing. I think by participating I’m generating more resentment both from me and towards me. Until we’re back in the office and some of the other women can socialize (they’re all balancing work and kids right now) it’ll be a boys club, of which I am not a member.

    7. Posie*

      A couple of thoughts from different angles:
      – “This is interfering with my work” angle: You have a few options here. Feel free to loop in your manager with an asking advice question: “It seems like when I reach out to the group, I’m not getting the responses I need. Do you have any recommendations for better ways to reach out so that I can continue making progress?” Because maybe people respond better to email/phone, or they only respond to direct one-on-one messages, etc. Your boss can both be made aware of the issue and help you brainstorm. Then you also have a follow up conversation about what worked and what didn’t.
      – “I’m not fitting in” angle: Yup. I’ve been there: the only female in an office of 80+ men – not the most fun experience for me. Personally, I made a lot of progress by realizing that I spent 2 years trying to fit in instead of being myself. Once I was truly myself (quirks and all), I made some legitimate connections. (how else would I have found out that I worked down the hall from a guy who shared my love of crocheting, or shared an office with a guy who liked the same type of music). I get that this may be a bit more difficult given COVID (i.e. it’s odd to just announce on slack “I love crocheting!” whereas in person someone might ask what you did over the weekend), but I think the perspective of “I am a cool person to get to know” can help a lot.
      – “I haven’t connected with anyone yet” angle: My go-to advice after moving a lot as a kid and having 6 jobs before I turned 22 is befriend the other new people. They feel the same way! (and it sounds like you have a lot of new hires recently) Sure, they might not be your new best friend, but even making yourself available to answer the typical newbie questions can build social capital that can help you find footing at work.

      1. WonderMint*

        Thank you for your reply – Splicing it into these three different angles really help me understand it. I was leaving it to a last resort, but I think at the very least I need to talk to my manager about it, and your script is to the point without being accusatory.

        1. Things That Make You Go Hmm*

          I think reaching out to individuals with personal messages could help solve the “crickets” when you ask for help. If there is a group dynamic happening among the “bros”, that may be contributing to them not wanting to be seen (and possibly razzed by the others) for being the first to offer you help. If that’s the case, it’s likely some will be more open to direct requests and after some time of getting that kind of help, you might be able to post in future along the lines of:

          “Hey does anyone have 10min to help me test X? Thanks again for your help on the last few tests Chad, Butch, and Fergus. If anyone else can help with this one, please shoot me a DM.” That provides social proof that others are helping you (it’s best if there are multiple names you can mention), and by asking for a DM, no one will know if you aren’t getting offers of help from many others.

          1. Things That Make You Go Yup*

            It might sound hokey, but it may help to think of their “inner children”. Some of those grown men may still feel at times like a 13 year-old boy who fears being nice to a “girl” in their class will result in merciless teasing from the others.

    8. Analyst Editor*

      I’m a new-coming member of an all-woman chat associated with a hobby of mine, and I ran into the same. When I tried to contribute to the general conversation, people might LOL occasionally, but generally I’d just be ignored.
      It still happens time to time in the general chat, but less now that I’m more established. I also noticed that other people get ignored too, so it’s not likely to be personal. What helped me was, I found that one of the participants and I had more opinions in common, so I DM’d her and we have a livelier discussion to ourselves, and she’s my ally of sorts in general discussions.

      As for you: how long have you been there, and how close-knit a team was it before?
      Either way, I think you might get more traction if you work on building individual relationships with individual co-workers; you might be running into a “tragedy of the commons” here, where everyone thinks someone else will respond.
      Direct-message one or two of the co-workers, individually, and they will be more likely to answer you, help you, and later be cordial to you in communal spaces. Also offer to pitch in if someone else asks the general slack for help, especially if it’s something nobody else wants to do.

      It is also worthwhile asking someone neutral and objective about how you’re wording things – if it’s long or very unclear that you’re asking for something, people might just ignore it.

  3. Llama Product Manager*

    Product managers, what tools do you use to track your feature development pipeline/roadmap, the process of development, and who, responsible for what?

    I’m working in a team that’s producing training content on various forms on different platforms. We lack a tool to have an overview of what we are working on and what is coming up. This is important for our team but the whole org as well. They should be able to see our roadmap and add suggestions. We would ideally have filtering options by topic.

    What has worked for you?

    1. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

      Do you have access to Microsoft Project? I like it, although when it isn’t flexible enough for what I want to record, I’ll use Excel.

    2. PX*

      As a general project management tool which would work well in this context, I really like Asana. You can group things in ways that suit a product manager really well, along with dates and assigning people to things.

      Depending on the size of your organisation, you might also find JIRA used, which obviously comes with a lot of other things (its primarily a ticketing system) but can be made to work for what you need as well. I’d say with JIRA though, it really needs to be set up in a way that suits your workflow/organisation or group style. Otherwise it can just be unnecessarily bulky and not give you what you need.

      More broadly though, I’d say a lot of the more modern project management tools can do what you need. And if all else fails, good old Excel, properly managed – can also get the work done. But thats only a last resort!

    3. FJ*

      I am a product manager for software development – for development work tracking, we use JIRA for the individual tickets/tasks (user stories). It works well but I agree with what PX said that it needs to be customized for your group. If JIRA is used in other parts of your organization, it’s an easy add to add a new project board for a separate group. If you are say producing training content on other products that are developed with JIRA, you could link your training content to various tasks that have to be done first by other teams before you can do the training, but that might be project management overkill depending on your group size.

      If your org has JIRA, then you likely have Confluence too – it’s a good general purpose documentation & communication & wiki tool. I like it more than excel or MS Project for lightweight project management.

      Probably not suitable for what you describe, but I really like Aha as a product management tool. I would like to use it more, but my org is not a fan right now. It has by default all of the customer strategy stuff (markets, personas, roadmaps) that a typical Confluence/JIRA usage misses.

    4. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      We have used Salesforce for several years. It allows for unique object creation, as well as different views/reports/etc.

    5. C*

      I’m really liking using Trello for my personal/side business projects. I’m not sure if you can filter exactly, but you can add color-coded tags to make it easier to see things at a glance, if that makes sense.

    6. Llama Product Manager*

      We do use Jira and Confluence (and Excel). I think a Jira board with the right setup could work really well, from idea to published. We have a process with quite a few stages so I might need to simplify that for the sake of an easy-to-use board. But if built well, I can see that as a great option.
      And then Confluence could be used for reports and filtering.
      Thank you for the ideas – if you have any tips and tricks with Jira and Confluence, keep them coming as well.

      1. PX*

        For Jira, definitely setting up different boards per project/group/topic if you can. That will help keep things somewhat separate but group-able if that makes sense.

        Otherwise the thing that ended up working best for our group when I used it was creating specific tags for dropdown menus and then making those mandatory so that users had to fill them in whenever they raised a ticket. So for example making tags for Operations/Customer Requests/Project X/Development etc. That way it makes later filtering/sorting much easier because everything is tagged. Definitely do not make these free text as you’ll end up with too much variation to be able to get any kind of overview. There may be some trial and error involved here, but once you get it right, its amazing. And then getting people to get into the habit of using it correctly, updating tickets as required, prioritising etc.

        Not sure if you have a business analyst/product owner type role in your organisation, but if so they should help doing regular maintenance/prioritisation of the backlog (and sometimes of active work). Apologies if you already know/are doing this, but finding the right rhythm of doing this when I was a product manager was really important, and it definitely got easier when we had the right tools!

        Personally, I preferred using Jira itself vs linking it to Confluence, but towards the end I was starting to be swayed by the ability to have them talk to each other and the benefits it could bring. I do know setting up the right linkages between the two was a bit of a pain for the person who had to do it, but that might just have been the learning curve of doing it the first time. You can definitely get some decent metric display/reporting out of it.

    7. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I use Airtable, which I really like. It’s a very flexible database system with good visualization tools.

      There are a lot of project management tools out there, and what’s important is finding one that you click with. Do free trials of a bunch of them and see which ones feel intuitive.

  4. Diahann Carroll*

    I wanted to thank everyone who helped me with my technical writing homework brainstorming session last week, especially Reba – I ended up taking your suggestion to write a report on green washing in the fashion industry.

    https://www.askamanager.org/2020/10/open-thread-october-2-3-2020.html#comment-3141827

    Now I’m just waiting for feedback from the instructor on the scope.

    I also got great news this week at work that I wanted to share – my company notified us that our (excellent) benefits package will remain the same for 2021 with no change to the plan structures or the cost of employee contributions. With them canceling raises this year due to Covid, I was concerned that the cost of our benefits would go up, or they would eliminate some things altogether to keep costs down on their end, which would have put pressure on my current budget. But I can breathe easy because this is not the case (though they haven’t yet gotten back to me on my question as to whether our tuition reimbursement policy will remain the same).

    What good news did others get this week at work or in school?

    1. Hi there*

      The writing assignment topic sounds perfect. My good news of the week is also benefits-related. I was worried my employer might change the tuition benefit for children of retirees. I might do something else in the next few years and would retire from my employer first.

  5. How much trouble am I in?*

    I’m finding myself in an awkward position, and I’m trying to figure how to explain it to my director. For history: I have been in my position 5 years. A year ago, my previous director retired. I applied for the position, but it went to another manager from a different location who had zero experience in what our department does. The reason given by the VP (at the time) was that their overall industry experience made them a better candidate. I have spent the last year trying to get new director up to date on what our department does and industry standards for our dept while at the same time watching them dismantle long standing SOPs with no particular reason (other than disliking paperwork) and fail to advocate for needed resources. Also in that time, we got a new VP.
    Flash forward: new director finds out they have cancer and need immediate surgery; medical leave is predicated to be 8 weeks. They don’t want anyone to know about their medical condition except VP and me. The timing is terrible (but it is what it is) as another manager is already on medical leave plus we just hired a record number of new employees (essential business), so I take on other managers employees, director’s duties, plus train all new employees. I’m exhausted, but I feel like I’m killing it. In the middle of this, new VP announces he wants to visit our location and meet all the new employees. That’s fine. We arranged it for this week. The day that VP flies out, I get an email from Director stating that the surgery was a success, no additional treatment needed, and they’ll be coming back 2 weeks early (this coming Monday). I send a congratulatory email, and we make arrangements to have a meeting when Director returns so that I can catch them up on all details. This is the first communication that I’ve had from Director during the medical leave (which is fine — you’re allowed to not check in to work when you’re on medical leave!), but I didn’t mention the VPs visit. When VP gets there, I mention the good news. VP has not heard from Director either during the medical leave. He expressed that he wished that he’d known because he would’ve rescheduled trip. I feel guilty, but he was literally in the air when I found out. He says that he’ll follow with Director on Monday. The rest of the trip is great. This is the first time that I’ve had access to VP at this level as on his last trip Director didn’t let me get a word in edgewise. He tells me that I’ve been doing a great job in Director’s absence. I share upcoming projects that I’d like us to undertake, and he likes my suggestions for improvements to the operation and provides thoughtful feedback. He’s able to give me insightful information about career growth and shares some technologies that he’d like me to work on certification in (Director does not have these either.) I am successfully able to negotiate for additional resources for my team and for myself. I’m able to give VP valuable information about our side of the operation that he indicates that Director wasn’t able to provide. Overall, I’m feeling great about his visit. In the back of my mind, however, I can’t help wondering if Director will feel like I stabbed them in the back by letting VP plan this visit while they were out. VP indicated that he would not be able to make another visit until early 2021.
    Now as Monday looms closer, I’m getting nervous. Director has been pretty dismissive of me in the last year in a very Queen Bee sort of way. I’m worried that they’ll take all of this the wrong way and see it as a coup

    1. X*

      If the only people who knew about the cancer were you and VP, then Director has no standing to claim that this was your idea. I would just say something like, “VP specifically requested a visit and knew you would be out, then scheduled it anyway. We got the announcement that you’d be back early when VP was already in the air, and were unable to coordinate it around your schedule. In the future, what would you like me to tell [higher-level employees] if they make this sort of request while you’re on leave?”

      1. X*

        Also, “I didn’t mention VP’s visit because you were on medical leave and I know that per [company rules, FMLA, Director’s instructions, whatever] you’re not working at that time, and I didn’t want to burden/bother/send you work items during your medical leave.”

    2. Yorick*

      When you talk to Director about this (which I think you should do right away), frame it as “we wish we would have known when you were returning, we would have rescheduled.”

    3. Disco Janet*

      Being completely honest here…as an outsider who is reading your perspective (which generally puts people in a better light!), I can see why the director would see this as a coup and why they might be keeping their distance from you. Try re-reading your post and imagining that you aren’t personally involved in the situation. The negativity you have for the director is obvious. You don’t think the reasoning for them getting the job over you was solid. The person who made that decision is gone. They have cancer – and at such an inconvenient time! (This is where you really lost me – they have cancer!! But I’m not seeing any concern or empathy here.) You seem pleased that the director wasn’t there for this visit so that you had the opportunity to step in (while inserting a snarky comment about how usually you don’t get to talk much to this VP because the director is…well, doing their job, as far as I can tell.)

      If I were your boss I would have serious concerns about moving you to a higher position in the company given your attitude here.

      1. X*

        Except VP also knew Director was out with cancer and scheduled the visit anyway, so VP is at least partially to blame.

        I also don’t think that this forum requires an expression of sympathy for the Director. I get that OP doesn’t like the Director’s work style at all, but that doesn’t mean OP is devoid of sympathy or didn’t already express that to them personally.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          I don’t think anyone is to blame. The VP wanted to visit in the middle of the directors’ leave. No one knew the director was returning early until the VP was already on route. The director might be annoyed, but it’s no one’s fault.

      2. WellRed*

        VP scheduled the visit. VP outranks both director and OP. People that are out on leave don’t get to dictate schedules. It’s obvious OP doesn’t like director, but I see nothing to indicate they have been anything other than supportive in the best way they can: by doing the job. You’re really reading into this.

      3. Insurance mom*

        I think you were kind of hard on the op. They have done a good job in the directors absence and weren’t the one who set the vp schedule

        1. Disco Janet*

          I’m not blaming them for this specific incident – the scheduling was totally out of their hands. But if their attitude about the director comes across the same way IRL as it does in this post, I do think it would affect OP’s working relationship with them and how they are being perceived. And the director’s perception seems to be what they are worried about.

        2. Mags*

          My only moment of pause is…they didn’t mention the VP’s visit to the Director when they spoke to them. From the outside that looks…a bit like they didn’t want to risk the director intervening here. Everything else was out of their hands, so that is where I would expect the Director to focus.

    4. Momma Bear*

      I’m a little confused. Is this a different VP than the one the Director notified about their illness? Trying to figure out where the communication dropped. You mentioned that you didn’t tell the Director that the VP was coming during that conversation – why?

      1. Dave*

        So if the VP that visited is the same VP that knew the Director was out, the Director should have been telling the VP their return plans the same as you.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        VP scheduled the visit for this week, knowing Director would be out. While VP was en route, Director notified OP that they’d be returning two weeks earlier than scheduled and will now be back next week. VP said that if they’d known that Director was going to be back early, they would have delayed the visit to be able to meet with Director.

    5. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I guess I would break this down into what is your worry specifically and what are your goals.

      As far as worry, do you think director will retaliate against you or just have feelings? Because for the first, you haven’t done anything wrong, just keep thorough documentation. For the latter, not your problem or responsibility to manage.

      As for goals, are you trying to audition for a promotion with new VP or just advocate for your department? Both are fine but it might clarify things for you to think of what you want to achieve.

      And if you have outgrown your current role, might be worth asking VP for a promotion and/or looking at other jobs outside your org.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        As for goals, are you trying to audition for a promotion with new VP or just advocate for your department? Both are fine but it might clarify things for you to think of what you want to achieve.

        The retelling here makes it sound like an audition, which I’m not opposed to in general, but some of the particulars here make it a little…ick.

    6. Mockingjay*

      Well, first, you didn’t plan the VP’s visit behind your Director’s back. You set up a meeting while she was absent and her return date was unknown or expected several weeks later.

      I wouldn’t dwell on the visit. Instead, give director a detailed recap of work completed, in progress, and so on. If she asks about VP, he was sorry to have missed her but he plans to return in 2021 and he hopes to meet with her then. Now, about the TPS reports…

      I would also keep mum that the VP suggested you pursue certifications; you are pursuing these as next goals in your career progression. (Obviously VP has you in mind for future opportunities which is terrific, but not something you need to share.)

    7. IHaveNoIdeaWhatMyMonikerShouldBe*

      Don’t lie but maybe downplay all the awesome stuff you just described? Keep it factual and unemotional. Hopefully Queen Bee isn’t nasty and vindictive.

    8. Sue*

      Just be very matter of fact, not apologetic. Say it was too late to reschedule so visit happened, was a success and they will be back in 6 months or whatever. Definitely don’t act guilty or show any hint of discomfort with what happened. Be cool and confident, sounds like a fortunate event for you so just roll with it.

    9. singularity*

      From what I understand, the director told you they were returning early from medical leave but they never told the VP this? Maybe I’m misreading this, but wouldn’t it be the director’s responsibility to communicate to the VP that they were returning early from their medical leave?

      It’s this idea you mentioned that the director would frame it as “you let the VP come for a visit and didn’t tell me.” Is that even the right thinking? You aren’t in charge of what the VP decides to do with their time. If they want to come for a visit, that’s their prerogative. They wanted to meet the new employees and, according to what you’ve said, they won’t be able to make another visit until early 2021.

      I don’t know if you have enough authority/capital to sort of push back if the director frames it that way. You said, “VP has not heard from Director either during the medical leave.” Why is it *your* responsibility to coordinate their communications?

    10. How much trouble am I in?*

      Just some follow-up info:
      – Yes, the VP is the same VP who knew about Director’s cancer
      -No, I don’t feel the need to coordinate communication between them, but I was surprised to hear that he hadn’t heard from Director about the return to work.
      -Director’s communication to me was a quick meeting invite for Monday and not an actual conversation
      – VP’s visit out to my location was positioned to me by him as he needed to check on the operation in Director’s absence and make sure the new hires work working out. It added an extra level of pressure to the whole visit, so maybe I am just riding high afterwards since everything went well.
      – My goal was not to audition for Director’s job. My goal has always been to keep the business moving so that the 50+ employees who work under me can continue to have a job and the business can continue to be successful. If that meant working 14 hour days plus weekends while Director and Other Manager where out, that’s what I did. It’s not something that I bragged about to VP or anyone else; I just got the job done. It is not a secret in the organization that major restructuring will be happening next year. Director’s job is more than secure in this restructuring, but a lot of higher level positions and projects will be created. I’d like to be considered when this happens. Old VP gave me some rather questionable career advise when I didn’t get the director position. Mostly, he told me that in order to advance in the company that I’d need to quit my management position and start over as in an entry level position in Director’s old department. I had actually been considering whether this had merit if I was looking at my long term goals. New VP was shocked by this advice and adamantly disagreed. He felt that I should spend time learning some new technology and working towards certification in these programs. He also recommended some resources towards certification (sadly, none that the company would pay for, but I see it as an investment in myself)

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I think that you’re going to be fine. In fact, I would email the director to let them know that the VP had their scheduled visit and that things seem to have gone well. Don’t dwell on the fact that the director wasn’t there – just ignore it. The VP was there to review the operations in the director’s absence, which is the VP’s responsibility to do and choice to make, not yours. I wouldn’t even bring up the fact that the VP wished he’d known that the director was coming back sooner than expected – it’s not your job to manage their communications, and the director should have told the VP that herself.

        As for your suggestions, hey – own them. I would tell the director that the VP said X, Y, and Z are going well. I would say that you and the VP “discussed some opportunities for process improvements, such as A, B, and C”. You don’t have to say that these were your ideas, just that the VP feels they would be good for the business. ie. you can let the Director think they were the VP’s ideas, if you feel like the director will see them as challenging her authority/control. What matters here is that the VP thought they were good ideas and should be implemented. Your advocating for additional resources might be a little harder to pass off as the VP’s idea, but you can say that the VP felt that additional resources were going to be needed, which is good news for the director’s scope of mandate as well as for you.

        I would make a point of reporting all of this to the director, tell her you’re very happy that she’s returning soon, and don’t act like you have anything to apologize for. Again – the VP decided to visit.

        It looks like you may have found yourself a mentor here in the VP – I wouldn’t mention his suggestion about training programs to the director, but I would look into getting those certifications.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          Yep, this is sound advice. Nobody did anything wrong, the timing was a little off, and OP kept things running smoothly in Director’s absence.

        2. ginger ale for all*

          learnedthehardway has good advice. Remember, standing up for yourself and advocating for your department when you are asked isn’t stabbing anyone in the back.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Mostly, he told me that in order to advance in the company that I’d need to quit my management position and start over as in an entry level position in Director’s old department.

        Yeah, this is terrible advice, so I’m glad your current VP squashed it.

    11. Madeleine Matilda*

      As a general rule I always try to ensure that my boss isn’t surprised by anything with which I’m involved. So when their boss has asked me to do something, I loop in my boss with an FYI email or call. In this case you should have told the director when they called you that the VP was on their way for a visit. It would have been simple to say: “So you are aware, “VP” is on their way right now for a site visit.” Director also broke this rule by not telling their boss the VP that they were returning.

    12. Kazul*

      I think you were totally fine! You were handling the work in director’s absence, including a visit from the VP that was partly to make sure that everything was covered in director’s absence. VP was in the air by the time you heard any change fro director, and you told the VP about it once it was practical to do so. When VP was there, you showed them around and answered questions, and took the opportunity to get some mentor ship and their perspective on things. This all seems extremely normal and fine, and the fact that you talked to someone higher up while director was away, partly specifically for the purpose of allowing that higher up to make sure all was covered, should be normal, correct, and expected. I would keep your tone from saying anything like “and I handled the visit so much better than you would have”, but I think you have done nothing wrong from what I can see.

  6. A question for the commentariat*

    A bit of a meta question: how long do you keep checking the Open Thread if you post a question?

    I usually dont have time to follow on a Friday, but often read it on a Monday morning to ease me into the work week. But I often find I don’t give input to questions because I assume no one will come back and read it – just wondering if I’m wrong with that assumption?

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Same. Well, there was one time I responded on a Saturday to something, but I usually don’t respond on the weekend because I assume anyone who made a comment Friday night/Saturday morning won’t be back to read any follow-ups.

    1. LGC*

      Honestly, I’ll check throughout the weekend. It’s mildly amusing because literally every post after 11:30 Eastern is “OH MY GOD I’M SO LATE ON THIS NO ONE WILL READ IT” and…like, honestly, it’s easier to find a post made at 5 PM Eastern than 20 minutes after the open goes up because literally everyone tries to be first.

      (I’ll also reply to questions throughout the weekend!)

        1. Campfire Raccoon*

          Same. If I’m really slow at work, I’ll start 2/3 the way through and work my way down.

      1. pancakes*

        + 1.

        It often seems like people are trying to compete with one another’s anxieties about being “so late.”

    2. X*

      I check a couple of times on the off chance someone wants to have a discussion. I’ve enjoyed the threads I’ve participated in here.

      I also am someone who will scroll to the end and read backward-I assume that if I got there people have replied to the higher-up comments but maybe missed the lower ones.

    3. Friday afternoon fever*

      Sometimes I’ll read from the bottom Saturday or Sunday morning with my coffee and if inspired will sometimes reply to comments that don’t have replies. I don’t know if the poster goes back and sees them but hope so

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      I usually only read it on Friday. The only exception is when I’ve asked a question and I didn’t get any responses on Friday; then I may check back on Monday to see if anything was added.

    5. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      I’m a big, narcissistic creep and routinely just search the whole site for my handle every so often, especially if I posted a comment (either as a parent or reply) that I put some time into, ha.

      Before AAM started closing comments after a certain amount of time on all posts you used to be able to comment months/years after the fact. Once I was browsing through my old comments and found a reply to one that came in maybe 4 months later. I thought that was fun.

      I’m hoping I’m not the only one who does this…

      1. A question for the commentariat*

        I’ve definitely posted a question here and checked back like a week later and found some additional useful comments, so I totally feel you on finding useful input some time later!

    6. Kate H*

      Usually through Sunday. I tend to assume that no one will post responses after the weekend, but I’d check again on Monday if I knew it was possible.

      1. A question for the commentariat*

        In my experience, definitely possible! I sometimes see comments with Sunday night timestamps, and I’m sure there are others like me who are Monday readers and not shy about chiming in :D

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      As the person who posted the original comment, I say go ahead and give a wrapup comment.
      I am one of those people who keeps a ridiculous amount of tabs open … so I’ve been known to respond to Friday and Saturday forums several days later. And people who discover the site and read archives will not even notice a two-day delay.

    8. Lucy P*

      I often don’t have time during the day. I will, however, spend a few minutes when I get home if it was an important question.

    9. A question for the commentariat*

      Thanks for all the feedback so far. I think I might just accept I will be shouting into the void with Monday morning comments and do it anyway :D

    10. CatMintCat*

      On Australian time, it goes up late Friday night. By the time I’m awake on Saturday morning it has anything from 700 to over 1000 comments. I don’t think I’ve ever had a response to anything I’ve posted because it’s all too late.

  7. Pocket Mouse*

    A friendly acquaintance in my department just gave notice, and I’d like to find out details for the position they’re leaving and express interest in the resultant opening, before the opening is posted. I’m acquainted with this person’s supervisor as well. How do I go about this without seeming (or feeling) grubby about it? I’ve already congratulated them on their new position elsewhere, but don’t really have ongoing interactions with them so would be bringing this up as a new conversation of sorts.

    1. KayDeeAye*

      Why should you feel “grubby”? I’m confused. If someone had died, I can see why you’d need to wait to ask about the now-open position. But the person gave notice of their own accord, so why should you have to wait to ask about the soon-to-be-open job? Am I missing something?

      1. LDF*

        I agree. It’s a job they’ve announced they’re vacating, not a good chair or stapler you’re looting before they’re done using it.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Right – it’s totally normal to ask a departing employee about what they liked or didn’t like about the role they’re voluntarily vacating. If this person had been fired, then it would be a little tacky, but that isn’t the case here.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      What’s grubby about “Congratulations on your new position! Hey, would you have time to tell me a little more about Old Position? I think I’d like to apply for the opening.”

      Seriously, what is grubby? If the positions were reversed, if you were leaving and coworker was interested in your position, would you look down on them for asking? If you would, why? And fyi, most people would go right ahead, so if you’re going to sit back and wait for things to come to you, you’ll be complaining about all your “grubby” colleagues passing you by for years to come.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Early bird and all that. I wouldn’t wait to start having conversations about it. In fact, I think it could be reassuring to the outgoing employee and supervisor that there’s already interest in the opening.

    4. Sleepytime Tea*

      Don’t feel weird! In fact, if I’m leaving a position and people ask me about it as an opportunity, I am more than happy to give them the low down on it. That position has to be filled by someone, and if I’m leaving because… well, something about it is terrible, or whatever, I take that as an opportunity to give them a heads up. I also think it’s a great opportunity to help someone in their career by helping them advance by moving into my old open slot, or help them see if it’s a good fit for them. I enjoy it. I’m sure not everyone feels that way, but some do.

      It would be different if they had been fired or something and you were rubbing salt in the wound. But if they’ve voluntarily given notice, then just shoot them a note and say “hey, I am interested in the llama grooming position and wanted to know if you’d mind if I picked your brain a bit on it and learn more about it.” Most people are very open to that, and if they aren’t, they’ll probably just tell you so. No harm no foul.

    5. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Oh man, no grubby feelings needed! This is how I got my current position, by hearing that someone got hired for a position I had also formally applied/interviewed for and going from “congrats!” to “so did you like your old job? How’s the team? Can you loop me in with your soon-to-be-ex manager?”

    6. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I don’t think you should feel grubby at all. If you knew they had a new job but they hadn’t yet resigned (or you knew they were for the chop but they hadn’t been fired yet) then maybe, but this is totally open.

      Best of luck!

    7. Cascadia*

      Don’t feel grubby! Also, make your interest known to the powers that be – mainly whoever is going to be doing the hiring for the job. A while back the person doing a job I really wanted at my org announced they were leaving. I assumed the job would be posted and then I could apply for it, but that never happened. They ended up offering it to another internal person who they thought would be a good fit. Lesson learned. When the same job became open again 2 years later, I immediately hopped on that. I reached out to multiple people involved in the hiring to let them know I was extremely interested in the position, and when would it be posted, etc. Yada yada yada, I got the job! Always express your interest!

    8. Pocket Mouse*

      Thanks, all! Glad to hear it’s totally normal (and sometimes appreciated), and to know I was over-thinking it in general.

  8. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

    I had this come up in an interview and I’m not sure if it’s a red flag and could use some perspective. They only asked me a handful of questions, but one of them was asking me to tell them about my experiencing working with a difficult coworker and how I’ve handled that and what ended up happening. It wasn’t phrased as working with different personalities or anything softer than that. I don’t know if this was asking “hey, is this candidate going to cause drama” or a question about interpersonal skills or it was really telling me “we’ve got a missing stair here we can’t fire”.

    Thoughts? The fact that the interview was so focused on my specific experiences with things that were relevant to the job posting (ex: “how have you handled grooming a llama that had just gone through the mud and which brush types did you use and what temperature was the water”), having one of them be not related to any specific job duties makes me wonder what I’d be getting into.

    1. Jellyfish*

      It might be a warning sign, but that can be a useful question for determining what someone considers “difficult.”

      If a job candidate describes a situation where their difficult coworker did or asked for something pretty reasonable, that’s a red flag to the interviewers.

      Maybe the person who left the position thought everyone was mean or incompetent – I’ve been in that spot before, and we probably asked more questions about interpersonal interaction than we might have otherwise.

      1. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

        That’s a good point, I’ve definitely had coworkers who thought any reasonable request was an offense to their soul. A coworker once got me in trouble with my boss because she asked me to do something and I told her I was busy right now and could do it next week, and the boss treated it like a major issue between us, but it was all coming from her and I was confused a lot.

        My answer in the interview was essentially “I’m a professional”.

        1. Cinq or swim*

          I don’t know what your industry is, but in government it’s a standard and VERY common question. It’s just meant to suss out your thought process for conflict resolution (IF it happens, often times the person giving the initial interview doesn’t even know who you’d be working with) Conflict resolution is a good skill to have. There doesn’t need to be a problematic person with a temper for you to disagree with a colleague on the best way to facilitate a workshop, for example. Not all “conflict” is a screaming match with bruised egos.

          I’ve interviewed people and have asked that question. I’m sorry to say “I’m a professional” would give you a fail mark for that question. An interviewer is looking for keywords like “I would sit down and try to talk with the person, try to understand their point of view, consult a trusted manager for advice, escalate only if strictly necessary” etc.

          I’m honestly surprised people are treating it like a red flag! I imagine a lot of folks here have never been in a position to interview people.

    2. Liz*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily a red flag, I’ve been asked that question almost every interview and rarely worked with anyone I found difficult. I really think it’s a poorly phrased way of asking about interpersonal skills and how you deal with personalities that clash with yours.

    3. another Hero*

      Eh, I don’t think a question like that is a red flag on its own, though definitely odder if it’s the only non-technical question. Is there a way you can talk with some person/people there about the culture?

      1. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

        Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone there. I’m feeling like the culture is possibly high-stress based on some of the answers they gave to my questions, so I had some concerns if “stressful culture” + “someone with a temper” = bad result.

        1. Dave*

          This difficult co-worker can be extremely relative. I have had co-workers that someone labeled difficult and I loved working with them. Other co-workers walk and water and everyone seems to love them but to me they are a nightmare. (Though I secretly sigh happily when someone discovers that person isn’t as magical as they are portrayed.)

    4. Twisted Lion*

      I think this is a standard interview question to see how you deal with different personalities. I dont think its a red flag necessarily.

      1. MissGirl*

        I agree. I’ve been asked it and didn’t have to deal with really difficult people beyond the odd duck. I think it’s a way to get at how you work with people when you disagree or there’s conflict (inevitable no matter how much you like your coworkers).

      2. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

        The issue is, this is not a standard question in my industry. We don’t ask “standard interview questions” ever, so much so that I don’t bother prepping them anymore and haven’t for years. All questions in interviews are things like “explain to me the difference between these two shampoos and when you’d use one instead of the other”.

        1. Natalie*

          Well, it’s a pretty standard interview question in lots of industries, so I think it’s way more likely your interviewer just got it from a list of standard interview questions, rather than it being some kind of specific dysfunction.

          But you know, in the future you can ask if there’s a particular reason they’re asking that question. Sometimes you don’t get a straight answer, but often you do.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            + 1 to your last paragraph

            If there’s another interview scheduled for after this one, you can even ask them to clarify why they asked this then. They’ll have way more insight than we do as to why they asked it.

          2. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde**

            True, if there’s a follow up interview, I may ask.

            The way it works here is, the interview panel prepares questions they will ask every candidate, and then all candidates are scored based on their answers to their questions. I like it, it means I don’t have to answer “why do you want this job”, “why do you want to leave your existing job”, “what do you do in your spare time”, etc, and only have to answer questions that indicate if I can do the job or not. It’s really great.

        2. Hillary*

          To follow on the salon metaphor, it could mean they’ve had issues with stylists not getting along in the past and want to avoid it, or maybe one stylist is a diva but she brings in a lot of money.

          But it could also mean the person interviewing you has worked in other industries where this is a normal question. I think I’ve answered it at least twenty times in the last ten years at both small and large companies.

    5. should I apply*

      That sounds like a pretty common situational interview question. If the other questions they asked were “tell me about a time..” I wouldn’t put to emphasis on it.

    6. DEJ*

      I’ve asked this before and for me it’s sort of a version of a ‘how will this person approach a difficult situation’ question.

    7. Oh No She Di'int*

      I vote for yellow/red flag. I would only ever ask this question in this way under 2 circumstances: (1) I have someone in mind that I know you’ll have to work with, or (2) This is the kind of place where–for some reason–jerks end up working, so you may possibly run across that at some point. Either way, it’s something to pay attention to. If I wanted to know how you handle adverse situations generically, I would just ask that generically. They chose not to do that.

    8. Brett*

      This is an extremely common behavioral question, with that exact phrasing. It is actually written in our multinational company’s hiring guidebook as one of the suggested questions to ask. It is meant to analyze your collaboration style.

    9. 867-5309*

      I recently saw a job posting that said, “Must have thick skin to work with different, strong personalities.” That to me was more of a red flag than being asked how someone deals with difficult people in general.

    10. hoggilywog*

      These are called situational interview questions and are super common. I don’t think it’s a red flag at all. Sometimes they’re based on actual work skills, like about the llama grooming situation, but often interviewers try to put interpersonal ones in as well (tell me about a time you disagreed with a supervisor, tell me about a time a coworker wasn’t pulling the their weight, etc)

    11. Sleepytime Tea*

      This is a SUPER standard question. The fact is, every workplace will have some difficult people, so that isn’t really a warning sign in my mind. Additionally, you want to try and identify candidates with good interpersonal skills, and that’s really hard to do in an interview beyond asking those “tell me about a time” questions. You wouldn’t BELIEVE what people actually say! I asked that same question of someone (and the team we were hiring for was wonderful with very few issues with difficult coworkers or anything), and they went into a rant about someone they hated working with, how their resolution to it was to pester her relentlessly until they got what they wanted, and if it were up to them they would’ve just fired her. Yeah… we did not advance that candidate.

    12. introverted af*

      I know this question was framed around a coworker, but it might also be about dealing with customers/outside vendors or other people you might be in contact with for business purposes.

      I had that come up in my interview for this job, and I answered that I’ve always gotten along well with coworkers, but we did have this woman using our services who wanted the world, and we had to do a lot to manage her expectations without over-promising. The question was really about others I work with outside of my organization, so my answer was good, and I have seen that play out in the year I’ve been here.

    13. RagingADHD*

      This is a question about how you communicate, deal with conflict or disagreement, and resolve miscommunications. It is intended to get a more specific answer than a glib “I’m a professional,” because different people’s idea of what it means to handle conflict professionally can vary widely.

      For example, some people just keep their mouths shut, which in the worst case scenario means that actual problems fall through the cracks and never get resolved. Some people try to hash everything out to a consensus, which WCS can lead them to overstep their authority or interfere in others’ decisions. Some people automatically cc: management, which can be perceived as blowing things out of proportion. None of these options are always wrong or always right, but it’s good to know how a candidate’s style will fit in with the team, or where they may need direction.

      If, as you mention below, your industry has historically never screened for interpersonal skills, perhaps this new company has realized that is a recipe for concentrating all the people with the worst interpersonal skills in one place, and they want to make an intentional change.

    14. HR Exec Popping In*

      This is not necessarily a red flag. It is a fairly standard question. The reality is almost all work situations result in occasionally having to work with someone who is “difficult”. Knowing that someone has the skills to effectively manage situations that could escalate is important. Also, if someone has lots of stories of dealing with tons of difficult people that results in them “putting people in their place” it is a good sign that you are actually talking to the difficult person. :)

    15. learnedthehardway*

      This is one of those questions that might mean they have a difficult person at the organization, or might mean they want to see how effective you are at working with a variety of personalities, or might mean they want to see how you define “difficult”.

      I would reframe the question in your mind a bit to focus on “what do I do to work collaboratively with all kinds of personalities”? Things like – I listen and make sure I understand the other person’s point of view, I adapt my communication style to how other people like to communicate, I know when to accommodate a request and when to push back (and how to push back without creating animosity), etc. etc. and an example of a specific time when you had to deal with someone being unreasonable, as well as an example of how you dealt with a stressful situation.

    16. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’ve asked a version of this question in interviews before, but I generally phrase it as “a coworker you find difficult to work with” rather than “a difficult coworker.” Because the question isn’t about Bob in accounting who bites everybody’s head off but nobody wants to fire, it’s about the fact that people have different thresholds for what’s a comfortable work situation and what’s not. Basically, the answer I’m looking for here explains that you understand that people and personalities are different and it’s not possible to get along equally well with all people, but that you have strategies in place that will help you stay focused on accomplishing your shared tasks instead of getting bogged down in conflict, and that you’ve put some thought into when would be an appropriate time to loop in a supervisor if things get really rough.

    17. Spessartine*

      I have very little interview experience but the one time I got this question I definitely took it as a yellow flag. In my case it was “Tell me about a time you worked with a difficult doctor and how you handled it”. My job is pretty hands-on and technical, so interviews are typically about how much experience you have in the industry, specific things you’ve worked on, techniques and machinery you know well, etc. Not, I suppose, “soft skills”. And in my job, the doctor is The Boss, and if he or she is difficult to work with, you will be miserable.

      I’m pretty sure I flubbed the answer as I wasn’t expecting it at all and was fortunate enough to only have experience with good doctors, or at least not terribly difficult ones. The rest of the interview went similarly and they did not ask me to come in for a working interview. Their reviews on Indeed, which I foolishly only looked at *after* the phone interview, told me my suspicions were entirely correct and I dodged a huge bullet.

    18. Anon Lawyer*

      Oh, fun tangentially-related anecdote – we once had someone answer that question with “well, I’ve been married and I have daughters, and I’ve worked with a lot of women, so . . . .”

      Ever since, I’ve thought its was a useful question if only because it allowed us to weed out that one very specific guy.

    19. Library Manager 2*

      It might be a red flag. It might not. And it might be a red flag and not matter.
      In my interview for my present position, I was asked, how would you handle a difficult employee. I used an example of an employee who is caught in a lie. Examined where the behavior was coming from, communicate to the employee that we all make mistakes, the important thing was to own up and correct. The consequences of mistakes are learning from them. Everything worked out fine in that situation.

      Turned out it WAS a red flag. An immediate report was a compulsive liar. Big things, little things. It nearly drove me mad. A year and half PIP later I was able to fire her.
      Bad news- my first two years on the job were super stressful, anxiety producing and at times made me question my sanity.
      Good new- 8 years later- still in really fabulous job.

  9. Toffee*

    Normal # of interviews for an associate position at a relatively small law firm? My spouse has had three interviews – 2 senior partners and 1 junior partner, and now they’re saying they might want him to meet 1 more person.

    1. CTT*

      Have these been in person? My experience with law firm interviews have always involved interviewing with a bunch of people in one day (like a half-day of interviews with small groups of people), so my first thought was maybe they’re trying to do full-team interviews but one at a time instead of in groups.

    2. Sunflower*

      That doesn’t sound like too many- esp if they’re virtual. I had 3 interviews(plus phone interview) for a relatively junior support staff role at a BigLaw firm. I’d go on with the next one but make sure your spouse gets clarity from HR on the next steps

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Sounds pretty normal to me. I would generally expect to speak to 5-7 people for a law firm job.

    4. ShysterB*

      My experience is more with larger firms (AmLaw 100 currently), where we tend to stack multiple interviews into a one-day trip (well, pre-COVID anyway).

      It doesn’t seem unusual to me, especially for a smaller firm. If it is small, and everyone will end up working with everyone else, then it can be important to make sure everyone gets a chance to assess a candidate. Even in larger firms, if an associate is being hired for a specific practice group, this number of interviews wouldn’t be unusual.

    5. Another JD*

      I work at a small firm. We do one phone screen, a first round interview with 2 of the partners, then the finalists meet with all 4 of the partners then me for a peer interview.

    6. SM*

      Not a law firm but I had 3 interviews (one was with 2 people, so 4 totaly) for an associate interview in financial services so this seems fine

  10. ALM2019*

    I’m looking for suggestions on how I can accept differences in my coworkers communication styles to cut down on my frustration. This happens with two coworkers that I regularly meet with throughout the day. Normally at the end of a meeting or call that I was leading I would say something like “So then are we all in agreement on the teapot project?” where as these coworkers will end it like this “Then I guess, what I need to know, or finally if anyone has any thoughts or did I miss anything….um…I guess what we need to know, do we need to keep discussing…is there any other thoughts or concerns…did i cover everything or um..maaaaaybe um what we need to do…” There’s a lot of rambling, and while normally this wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world with the WFH environment anything that causes a meeting to go 10 minutes longer than it needs to is frustrating. Both coworkers that do this are senior to me and have been in the industry for 30+ years, so this is just how they communicate. I find that I quickly lose patience or even focus because they’re just rambling. Even if someone cuts them off they’ll continue. Any suggestions on how I can reframe my own reaction to this so I’m not internally screaming every time they talk? I’m aware this is a me problem that I need to fix.

    1. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

      Can you do anything else mindless when they talk? I’ve used dots games on my phone to give me something to split my attention when dudes just won’t stop talking without saying anything.

      1. ALM2019*

        Dudes that just won’t stop talking without saying anything is the perfect description of this! I have to be careful with distracting myself from it because usually I do need to hear whatever point they’re trying to get to. That is where the problem comes in with me zoning out because of the rambling.

        1. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

          I had this one guy who would not shut up and I just.. started taking dictation. I had a notepad or whatever document open and I’d just write down every single word he said.

          My god, could he talk. But that was one way to make sure I didn’t miss anything, while also keeping me from staring at the camera like I’m on the office. But it’s rare that I have to care that much about what he says, since he makes the same point several times in a 5 minute monologue, you know?

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I had a manager who would do that. He always repeated everything he wanted to tell you three times. If you said “I got it,” or anything else before he was finished, he would get irritated. Drove us all up a wall.

      2. moql*

        Second this. I use the Hue color matching app when I’m on a drawn out call with a customer telling me their life story. I can still listen and get the gist or step in if they actually have a question, but it’s fun and satisfying.

    2. Bobina*

      If this is just at the end of the call…..can you leave? Or interrupt and just say, “Sorry guys – I’ve got to drop off now but *my* conclusions/actions are X,Y,Z and I’ll make sure to get them to you on time as discussed.”

      Alternatively, dont be afraid to be the interrupter to wrap things up and conclude the call? This is very workplace dependent, but depending on your tone I’ve seen people get away with this even if they weren’t officially leading the call.

      If they are general ramblers who do it in the middle of the call as well…do they contribute anything useful or drop nuggets that might affect you? If they dont, its not the worst thing in the world if you tune out, especially if you dont need to be there. If they do sometimes have info that you need to know…my sympathies. Again, I’m okay with interrupting people to essentially tell them to get to the point/move the meeting on. But if you really cant do that, maybe focus on taking notes so you have to pay attention?

    3. Momma Bear*

      Maybe anticipate this and ask for any final thoughts or questions and then wrap it up with “So we are agreed to x and y and our action items are ABC.” Make a statement vs a question.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes!
        In fact add to your “So were all in agreement” statement with a very brief rendering of agreed upon items.
        Something like:
        We agreed the llamas need to wear red bows after they are groomed.
        John, your task is to purchase the bows by Monday.
        We agreed bows will be used starting on Tuesday.
        Wanda, your group will be applying the bows. Next time we meet, let us know how that’s going.
        Okay, good meeting everyone. Thank you! Bye!

        1. ALM2019*

          I don’t think I worded this correctly above. When its my meeting I wrap it up quickly with a statement as you said. The issue is when its their meetings, that’s when the rambling happens. I can’t just hang up because I do usually have to hear whatever their end point is. Its just the detours they take to get there are too much.

          1. Oh No She Di'int*

            I have one of these in my office. I basically just learned to interrupt and anticipate the point she was making. I get it right about 60% of the time. The other 40% of the time, I’m wrong, and she gleefully lets me know. But it forces her to actually make the point. It’s a method that works for me.

            1. irene adler*

              That may be the best strategy for a rambler who can’t “bottom line” it in a timely manner.

              Politely ask, “okay Jane, you are asking me to groom the llama’s to half-inch of hair? But not with the Flowbee tool? I can do that!”

              Then she can ‘correct’ you.
              But I can sure see how that gets exasperating over time.

              Sorry I misunderstood your initial post.

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

      Would it be within your office culture to insist on meeting agendas and minutes from these folks? I find if there is an upfront agenda and minutes being taken, it’s much easier to wrap it up quickly and get out of a call even if you’re not in the lead, “I think we’ve covered everything on the agenda and the minutes will be posted so if anyone has any questions they can amend them to the minutes via (email, Teams, OneDrive). Does this wrap it up?”

  11. X*

    I work in a corporate department and I suspect I may be laid off due to a massive company restructuring and consolidation effort that was announced. My supervisor is currently lukewarm about me, in part due to her own stress and resentment-she doesn’t delegate work to me, but also resents me because I work less than her, yet I couldn’t help out anyway on a massive project she was doing.

    My question is, how should I approach my job search? Should I ask her for permission to give out her name, say that I’m looking because of the possible layoffs, and allow companies I’m applying to to contact her? Should I just go with my previous supervisor (who I worked under when I was in school, but will have nothing but glowing things to say about me)?

    1. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

      There’s a good chance you’ll never have to let your supervisor know. I did once have a boss who decided she’d never hire anyone without speaking to their current boss as a reference, which was horrifying, but it has not been the norm in my life. The way it’s gone for me is, people are generally understanding that you don’t want your current boss to know. Having a former supervisor is totally fine to give as a reference.

      An exception might be in an internal transfer, then your boss may get informed/asked for approval, depending.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Absolutely go with a previous supervisor. No one is going to bat an eye at you not providing your current supervisor as a reference while you still work for them.

      And even after you don’t work for them anymore, you can always use a different person you worked with at that job if they aren’t going to give you a glowing reference. You’re allowed to pick and choose your references, you don’t automatically have to provide your immediate supervisor if you have someone else (ideally not a peer) who can vouch for your work.

      Good luck on the job search!

    3. Sleepytime Tea*

      Go with your previous supervisor. It is not abnormal to not want to give your current supervisor out as a reference for a job search, and if she is only lukewarm about you, she’s not going to be a good reference, so that may not be a good thing for you regardless.

    4. Goat girl*

      If you want to use her for a reference, you need to ask her, but I applied for dozens of jobs without anyone asking for references at all. For those that did, I had two former supervisors and a former coworker to use as references and they were only called once (for the only job I was actually offered). If anyone had contacted my previous employer, they would have been directed to HR (not to my former manager who is prohibited from commenting about me by company policy anyway). Hope that helps!

    5. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      Definitely don’t tell current supervisor especially if you suspect you are at risk of being laid off.

      Regardless of her personal feelings towards you, once you demonstrate you have one foot out the door it just makes it a little easier for them to consider getting rid if you as “you were going anyway”.

      Best of luck with your search.

  12. ADA process*

    Can anyone explain your process for requesting ADA accommodations in a new job? When you mentioned it in the hiring process, how things went down, what you would do differently?

    Employee or HR viewpoints both appreciated.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Do NOT mention it before you have an offer. Once they hire you, they have to provide ADA accommodations. During the selection process, it “just wouldn’t be a good fit” is w.a.y. too easy for them, anti-discrimination laws or not.

      1. Watry*

        Agreed. My accommodation needs are extremely minor, to the point that an employer arguing about them would be ridiculous, and I still don’t mention it until I have an offer. I figure I have enough implicit bias points against me already.

    2. Just a PM*

      (Employee viewpoint. I’m a fed so the process may be different in other industries) I mentioned it to HR when we were negotiating my start date to put it on their radar but the agency couldn’t do anything till I started. In the govt, we fill out an accommodations request form, send it to HR (usually an Employee Relations specialist), who process it in coordination with EEO. The request form was pretty straightforward – what are you asking for, how will it help you do your job, and what is your medical reason – general info only. At this job, I didn’t need accommodations since what I would’ve asked for is part of the standard employee workstation set-up so I haven’t pursued it.

      At my last job, EEO would only approve the requests that came with a full and detailed medical report from your doctor (which is a HIPAA no-no that everyone was uncomfortable with) and declined requests that didn’t give the medical history even though they promoted that we didn’t need to give them medical records. This EEO was also notoriously slow. My accommodations request processing was going on 8 months when my agency’s head honcho got involved, told EEO to shove it, and told our IT Director to give me what I’d asked for.

      My advice is two parts. 1) HR or your Employee Relations specialist shouldn’t need your full medical history in your request. A doctor’s note saying you have cause and generally describing it should be sufficient. If they push back and say they need more (they shouldn’t), ask them why and what specifically they’re looking for and talk to your doctor about HIPAA. 2) Stay on top of your request by asking for updates and checking in on it. Don’t be afraid to escalate up the chain of command to get things moving. If going up one level doesn’t get progress, go up to the next. Hopefully it won’t take 8 months for you!

    3. Sleepytime Tea*

      DO NOT SAY ANYTHING DURING THE HIRING PROCESS. Will they hold it against you? Maybe not. But maybe they will, and you’re not required to disclose. They are required to make reasonable accommodations for you. Unless you have a reason to believe that the accommodations you will be requesting would be an unreasonable burden, and therefore you are dependent on their good graces instead of the law, there is no reason to bring it up.

    4. HR Exec Popping In*

      I agree with the comments made to not mention it during the interview process, unless you need an accommodation with that process. Otherwise, once you have accepted the position, tell your new manager about your needed accommodation. Different organizations handle this in different ways. If the manager does not know what to do (which may not be unusual) as if you should talk to HR. There may be a form to complete (which may include a release for medical information) and they may need documentation from your medical provider.

      Depending on how significant the accommodation request is, the process may be more formal or more causal (i.e., need for an ergonomic keyboard is easy vs. reengineering work processes is more complex).

      The more specific on what limitations you have is very helpful. For example, instead of saying “I need a hydraulic lift to raise things for me” you should tell them that “I can not lift things that weigh over 10 lbs higher than my shoulder”. The organization (if it is subject to ADA regulations) has an obligation to enter into an interactive process to find a reasonable accommodation. The accommodation does not need to be the one you or your medical provider identify.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      Do not say anything during the hiring process. IF you are concerned that you will not be able to do the job at all, do ask questions during the process to weed yourself out if you won’t be able to do the job. For example, if they say “light office work, some lifting required” and you ask them about the lifting and it turns out it is a critical, major part of the job, select out if that’s going to be impossible for you, since they’ve already warned that it’s part of the basic job requirements. But otherwise, don’t mention it until the job is already yours because at that point they do need to provide reasonable accommodation.

  13. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

    Whistleblower Case Update & Another Frying Pan I Landed In (Long read….sorry!)

    I’ve been trying to get an update together for y’all regarding my Federal Whistleblower case. I swear to myself every Thursday night that I will draft it, email it to myself and then copy paste it to the Friday Open Thread. Those are my intentions. Road to Hell and all of that.

    As of now, really the only update I can give is that we start depositions after the first of the year. We have finally seen their defense (took them over a year to come up with one) and it is laughable. Supposedly, *I* was the one who lost *my* mind in the office that day, *not* the Charles Krauthamer lookalike president of the company whose red face, framed by the Just For Men Jet Black hair color who was spitting all over me as he was yelling at me. Easy enough to tear apart especially since they have no evidence whatsoever and I have quite a bit of supporting evidence for my claim. Medical records are with the attorneys and they clearly state that my Takotsubo was caused by my Whistleblower Termination. So I’ve got that going for me.
    But now listen to this s*itstorm dumpster fire I’m involved in right this very moment. I am seriously seeking advice before I lose my mind. I am seriously confused and frazzled and am sitting here close to tears due to the cognitive dissonance that is roaring in my skull right now. It’s bad.

    Ok, so I do Accounts Receivable and Collections. Called a customer on Wednesday. Invoice is waaaay past due, my phone calls haven’t been returned despite myriad promises and the gal on the other end of the phone is giving me the same tripe. On a whim, I google the owner’s name (I do this from time to time to see what I could possibly be dealing with) and guess what? The first hit is his mugshot indicating he is in custody.

    I’ll give y’all three guesses as to where she told me he was. Go ahead. Guess.

    She had the nerve to go for the pathetic pity excuse and told me he was in the hospital with COVID. She is telling me this while I have his mugshot, with IN CUSTODY in big yellow letters on it, on my computer screen. I was unable to hide my skepticism and said, sotto voce, “I hear that a lot and find it hard to believe.” Long story short, wrong thing to say. She called back and talked to my boss who then came into my office and told me to “have some compassion!” I explained about the mugshot and how I save my compassion for people who actually deserve it, not someone who is trying to avoid paying their fairly significant bill. So it blows over. Life goes on. (I did leave early that day. Told my boss I was going to go home and sit down with my seven rescue cats—reformed ferals—and discuss my lack of compassion with *them*—if he didn’t mind, I was interested in their opinions as well.)

    Last night, I get a call after work on my personal call from a customer who I happen to be friends with. (Note: I am an hourly employee. This call was NOT compensated time.) There was a problem with the equipment he had rented from us and didn’t know what to do, could I help him? (Basically, he needed someone to run him to a parts store so he could get a part. Dude needed a ride somewhere is the basic upshot.) This was completely out of my wheelhouse but I called the manager and asked him what to do. He told me that it sounded like user error and the customer was completely responsible. So, in an effort to “have some compassion,” help out a friend, and be a good human being, I call the father of two of the guys who work here. My thought process was “hey, let the kids earn some extra money driving him to the parts store.” Well, the dad got his friend, the head mechanic here, involved and I walk in this morning to be told to never do anything like that again. In my boss’s eyes, the person I am friends with and was trying to help, isn’t worthy of being shown compassion despite the fact that he has spent more than $4K in this store in the past week alone (big for the industry and our little store). No one else has ever been able to get him to pay his bill as I have and I have been able to do that by establishing a relationship with this person and showing him kindness and compassion. I took the time to understand HIS issues with his bills (general labor kinda guy, just needs a break…took the time to explain good faith payments and how important communication with me is—I treated him like I would treat anyone else who isn’t attempting to play my heartstrings and use the ‘rona as a bad excuse).

    On Wednesday, I was told to show some compassion. On Thursday, I showed compassion (and lost ½ an hour out of my life that I will never see again and will never be compensated for) and was told to never do that again. That’s my confusion and my anger is coming from the fact that I am NOT a salaried employee and he doesn’t pay me enough to tell me what to do during my own time. Dinner was half an hour late while I was trying to help HIS customer so HE could have more money in HIS pocket.

    Damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I just seriously don’t even know why I try—or why I even care—at this point.

    (Late breaking thought: I think this might boil down to race. The gentleman I was trying to help is an older Black man who is just trying to get ahead. He pays his bills. The gal who lied—badly—the other day and the owner of her company…..aren’t POC at all. And they don’t pay their bills. Where I work, I am (literally) the only liberal/Democrat/LGBTQIA+ Ally and POC Ally. In the year and half I have worked here, any hires of POC haven’t lasted more than a week and the terminology my co-workers use to talk about POC shakes me to my core.)

    My nerves are shot. I have been sitting for an hour and twenty minutes and my co-worker (she handles A/P) has carried on a constant stream of chatter. With herself. The entire time. No breaks. No moments of silence. No peace. This is not the morning for me to be dealing with THAT.

    1. Disco Janet*

      Is there a possibility he thinks you only showed compassion because the person is your friend? Maybe he doesn’t want people doing this as more of a personal favor rather than as a representative of the company? In a past job where I dealt with this kind of thing, we weren’t supposed to handle anything involving our own relatives, friends, etc.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        I guess it’s possible, but we are only friends because of my job. I wouldn’t have met this person otherwise. And the company wasn’t willing to step up and help with their own equipment. This is a pretty laid back company and I was just trying to help one of their customers.

      2. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        As I think about it, I don’t think that’s it. I was specifically told to not help this one person and, based on other comments made about him by other employees, they don’t hold in as high esteem as some of the other customers (including the ones who refuse to pay their bill). The customer has told me the only reason he comes to me to do things is because I’m the only one in the whole place who is nice to him. And based on what I’ve seen/heard, I believe that wholeheartedly.

    2. NaoNao*

      It seems like to me based on this (and the Whistleblower saga) that a couple things are happening here:

      1: You really are going way too above and beyond. The job is account receivable—so Googling the boss’ name and then dropping the dime on why he can’t pay (those mug shot sites are notoriously inaccurate and scammy, btw!) is way above and beyond the scope. Just call, and when the person says “he’s in hospital” make a note, and forward it to your boss. It seems like you almost created this trouble by digging for this person, bringing the mug shot to the boss, etc. So first and foremost, stop going the extra mile. It’s likely very much against your personality but it’s hurting you. So cut that out. Just do the job description for now. You need the mental and emotional break.

      2: You’re taking things really personally and jumbling home and work life. Rescuing cats is great. But storming out and doorslamming and using the feral cat rescue as a “gotcha! I AM TOO compassionate!!” is…high conflict behavior. The boss isn’t calling you “not compassionate”. He’s being loose with language and saying “let it go with this client, okay?” He’s the boss and he can make judgement calls about who to lean on for money and who not to.

      3: You’re going against your boss to a degree that’s almost insubordination. (And in my experience, people always have elaborate, emotional, and in their mind, credible explanations as to why they just HAD to be insubordinate).

      Your boss told you to drop the mug shot guy. You did but you huffed off and left work and made it clear you Disagreed. That’s highly unprofessional and not the Stand For Justice you think it is.

      Your boss told you “sounds like user error” and you decided to create an elaborate boondoggle to get this guy a ride and make a mess of it. If a customer called a parts store and asked for a ride I’d also be like “gee, that sounds rough, I’m sorry but that’s a bit out of our wheelhouse. Do you have Uber or Lyft?” or check with the boss “Hey, customer so and so really needs a ride. Can X and X teenage kids get him?”

      4: You have extremely high standards and expect people to read your mind and get very angry when they don’t. You have an unusual train of thought around this POC customer who your boss told you is user error and you expect that your boss knows about your dinner time, knows about your feral cats (or cares) and that A/P should know that your nerves are shot and you need quiet. How about just telling her? “Hey, it’s been a long week and normally I wouldn’t ask but can we cut the running commentary? Thanks so much.”

      5: You’re using highly colorful and hyperbolic language that dramatizes and catastrophizes the situations. Maybe as an exercise just write out the FACTS ONLY of what actually happened and see who the “victim” is here, if anyone.

      “I googled x, found a possible mug shot. I was told a story about COVID and didn’t believe it. I told my boss, he told me to “have compassion”. I took deep umbrage at that and went home to prove a point.”

      I believe you will likely argue with every single point and word and play semantics over this but I have to say my 2 cents.

      I suggest if you’re not already, please get some therapy for the whole Whistleblower saga, obviously it’s left you on edge and jumpy.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        Excuse me, where did I say I “stormed out” and “doorslamming”? Please show me that and then I’ll read the rest of your comment. You are not going to be able to show me that because a) I didn’t say those things happened; because b) those things didn’t happen. You’ve made a very large assumption about someone you don’t know and you are attempting to present me in a very negative light. Perhaps you should read some of my other exploits so that you understand who I am, ok?

        For the record, I did not get past your stormed out and doorslamming allegations because I find those comments highly offensive and, IMHO, go against the grain of this site. You then further go on to say what you believe I will based on….NOTHING. Again, you don’t know me and the rules of this site say that we take people at their word. I feel attacked by your comment and will not be addressing you further.

        1. Violetta*

          You can argue with the language but I think NaoNao makes some good points… I don’t know your backstory either, because I don’t read the open threads that often, but I don’t think we’re expected to know the history of each commenter. It sounds like your job is causing you a lot of stress at the moment but the situations described here don’t seem to really warrant the reactions you’re having. You didn’t ask for advice or takes in your post but that’s kind of the point of this open thread so you’re gonna get reactions. I hope things get better.

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            Well, the folks around who HAVE been following my saga know me, know how I am, and know what I’ve gone through the past couple of years. If you don’t want to familiarize yourself, that’s fine.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                It’s not about the reactions I want. It is irresponsible for NaoNao to completely and utterly misrepresent what I’ve said and for her to make further assumptions about me. I’ve been reading and participating on this site for ten years and, IMHO, NaoNao’s comment goes completely and 100% against Alison’s rule of “be kind” and take posters at their word.

            1. anonnie*

              With kindness, Alison has said repeatedly that people should not expect other commenters to know their back stories, and the most useful posts are ones that don’t assume that kind of prior knowledge.

              I see you are very upset but I would suggest simply ignoring comments you don’t like and moving on.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                Agreed. On the flip side, though, it is irresponsible for someone to comment about an ongoing saga and not make any attempt to familiarize themselves. NaoNao made A LOT of assumptions in their reply and pretty much all of them are wrong. Alison also asks us not to make assumptions but NaoNao has done a lot of that.

                1. Other girl*

                  Alison has explicitly asked people to not post sagas and the reason is what you are doing right now. People dont need to read all your life story in order to post. You made a post and people will reply with the information you presented- they do not need to “attempt to familiarize themselves” with you saga.

        2. NaoNao*

          Those are idiomatic phrases used to describe the type of emotional response and display you describe that you put up.

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            Since you are handing out medical advice, I need to know where you went to med school.

            1. NaoNao*

              Picking apart my credential and my word choices doesn’t change the core of my position or points.

              But assuming you’re asking in good faith: Suggesting therapy isn’t “medical advice”, or at least it’s not to most people.

        3. NaoNao*

          As I said “I believe you will likely argue with every single point and word and play semantics over this but I have to say my 2 cents.” …and that’s exactly what happened.

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            I have written to Alison about your comment and pointed out that your comment violates pretty much every rule she has established around here. And I haven’t argued every single point because I didn’t even read past where you completely misrepresented what I said. But hey, you do you.

            Just go comment on someone else’s thread ok? I find you highly offensive.

      2. Reba*

        Re: point five, I’m definitely hearing the “confused and frazzled” and just overall *stressed* that Destroyer is experiencing in the way she writes about these incidents.

        I wonder if setting out the details very dispassionately like this would help with creating some emotional separation from the whole situation, which I think is really needed for it to be at all sustainable.

        1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

          That is how I write. I write how I write and have received many compliments from the commenters on this site for my writing. I will not be changing it.

          1. Reba*

            No, no, I was not meaning to criticize the way you write here or anywhere!

            Just suggesting that as like an exercise for yourself, as part of getting into that mindset that Alison has described as “anthropologist observing the workplace” — just to pull yourself back from it all.

            Best wishes to you as you navigate it.

            1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

              I get it. I just write using very colorful language and like to provide some context.

              I am also feeling very, very attacked by NaoNao and am insulted by their comment. I apologize for sort of taking that out on you.

              1. Reba*

                No worries! I can see how NaoNao’s post would be provoking. I was trying to sympathize with you and still pull out what might be something actionable from their long response. But that wasn’t clear.

          2. bluephone*

            …This is sort of exactly what NaoNao was talking about. If you’re getting this overly invested in a work website’s open thread, then I can only imagine how you might be coming across at your actual work.

            1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

              Because you and NaoNao know me so well, right? Riiiiiight. *wink wink*

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Please do not be hostile to other commenters here. You are being very aggressive to people who you disagree with.

                I took a look at the full thread, and I didn’t think NaoNao’s advice was out of line or rude, although it was certainly blunt. You might disagree with it, but people are allowed to offer opinions that OPs think are off-base (and you of course know your situation better than anyone else here). It’s also true that I’ve asked that people not use the open threads if they aren’t open to hearing advice that they might not like, and not to expect other commenters to know their posting history.

                This has spun out of control, and I am closing this thread. It sounds like you’re feeling very defensive right now so I’m going to ask that you step away from this post for today.

      3. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        Just had to add a P.S.

        It was not my boss who told me it was user error and it was not my boss who told me to let it go. It was the store manager and that person is on a parallel level to me. He has no supervisory capacity over me. We are equals. Please read for content and don’t add your editorial thoughts. It’s not a good look.

        You need to learn to not read things into what people are saying and accept what they are telling you at face value. It is irresponsible and disrespectful and goes against the commenting rules of this site.

        And in light of your medical recommendation, please tell me where you received your medical degree.

    3. Yup, Yup, Nope*

      I’m guessing your interpretation of the racial bias is correct but another thought I had (based on working closely with AR at previous jobs) is that a lot of leeway is given to first time offenders/new customers over long-term customers with payment problems. Part of the reason at that company was audit related – chronic late-payers had to be part of our bad debt reserve calculation even if the amount owed is days old so we had to have a larger reserve on our balance sheet and could only claim part of the AR as revenue. Newer customers didn’t have to be on that list until the payment was 180 days overdue or they had 1 year of bad payment history with over 50% of their invoices paid late.
      I doubt that is the issue at your company since you mentioned it is a smaller shop but until I got to the last paragraphs my thoughts were “well yeah…you always give more leniency to someone who doesn’t have a past history of late/difficult payments”. But then you mentioned they have a history of not paying as well and…yeah…you are probably right that race is playing into it.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        Yeah. We have two entities, with the same circumstances. The only difference is the color of their skin.

    4. Violetta*

      Is it a good idea to do blog updates on an ongoing federal whistleblower case? I’m genuinly asking, I’m not a lawyer and I have no idea, but it seems like the kind of thing that could be used against you – you’re not using names, but the situation is pretty specific and identifiable.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        I’ve released the information my attorney says I can release. He is watching. I’m ok.

      2. anonnie*

        I would suggest not doing ongoing updates. Alison has asked that people stop blog post type updates about their lives. The open threads are supposed to be for questions and discussion.

        1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

          Fine. Next time someone asks for an update on my situation in a Friday Open Thread, I’ll reference your comment here. Ok?

          Sorry folks. Anonnie says I can’t provide any further updates to my federal whistleblower lawsuit. You’ll never hear another word about it.

          1. dude what*

            Anonnie has a good point, whether you want to hear it or not. I am not sure you are helping yourself as much as you think you are.

            1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

              At this point, I will never visit this website again and I’ve been around here for ten years. There are many posters who have asked for updates to my case, many more than you and anonnie (a total of two). Those are the posters the update was for. I’m not looking to “help myself.” I was looking to “keep interested parties updated.” But you represent it however works best for you and paints me in a bad light, ok?

          2. Suddenly Saturday*

            To be fair, it’s Alison who has said that. If you really want to flounce away in a huff because people are reminding you of her guidelines, go ahead, I guess. I’m not sure why you’re being so defensive, but maybe you need to take a break if people commenting is making you react this way.

            1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

              She also says to be kind and not to make assumptions about what people post. Yet there have been a lot of assumptions made and very few kind remarks. How come folks aren’t dragging out their fainting couches or clutching their pearls for those violations???? Do tell.

      3. Arctic*

        Should all be public information. I don’t see a problem with it. Unless the judge issued a gag order, which is unlikely.

        1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

          Srsly? Did you see we haven’t even done depositions yet? Why in God’s name would a judge issue a gag order when we haven’t even gotten to the deposition stage yet???????????????????????

          1. Nope.*

            You’re sending comments to Alison that you think break the rules, but you think it’s okay to respond with this much snark and condescension to someone genuinely trying to help?

    5. Arctic*

      Someone being arrested doesn’t make them undeserving of compassion. If he even was. You don’t actually know anything about it. Nor do you know if the person you were talking to knew her boss was arrested.

      Also, being in custody is a great way to get Covid so it’s not certain anyone was lying.

      And it seems reasonable that your boss doesn’t want his employees out driving customers around. Covid or no Covid that’s a potential problem.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        When you are telling me they are in the hospital with COVID and they are sitting in jail for pawning $3500 worth of property that isn’t theirs—for the second time in a year—I’m not highly inclined to show compassion. Especially when it could have been OUR equipment that ended up in the pawnshop. Her boss has been in jail for three months now. That’s a helluva case of COVID and if she doesn’t know where her boss is, she’s pretty gullible. Of course, he’s not just her boss. He’s her husband.

        The boss has no problem with the employees driving someone around to get HIS EQUIPMENT back up and working. He just didn’t like that *I* was trying to help *THIS* particular person. He doesn’t want ANYONE here helping this person.

        1. Arctic*

          I’m sorry but, no, pawning equipment sounds like a desperate person. And no one should be in jail preconvinction for three months on a non-violent crime especially with the high Covid risk.

          How can you not have compassion for this person?

          I mean you got someone else, another employee, to help the person. I doubt your boss would mind if you drove them on your time off.

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            If it was his first time, I’d look past it. If his wife hadn’t lied to me, I’d look past it. There were other crimes involved, and this person isn’t a first-time offender. He can’t make bail, he stays in jail. Too bad.

            And no, no one helped the person. Nothing got done for him until this morning.

        2. NaoNao*

          With all due respect, you’re overinvolved in this customer’s specifics. Whether or not the concern is valid about “it could have been our equipment”, it’s outside of the scope of the job to worry about stuff like that, and the boss has indicated that.

          It also seems like from your description, that an after-hours call to your personal phone came in from a friend that happens to also be a customer (or vice versa) and you on your personal time arranged a ride for this customer to the store. How did the manager/boss find out about this in this case and why would the manager have an issue if this was all conducted on personal time and based on personal relationships? Regardless it seems like again, while it’s laudatory that you care so deeply about the company and its product and customers, it seems like you’re just too over-invested and it’s making you very emotional and stressed out. For your **own** sake I’d try to back off here and get some distance and perspective.

  14. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

    My boyfriend posed an interesting thought earlier this week, and I wanted to get this community’s opinion on it. I was saying that I prefer working a salaried job vs. an hourly job because I like not having to worry about taking breaks and doing things that are not necessarily “active work”, like thinking about a project. He prefers to get paid by the hour. His reasoning was that if you’re a salaried employee, then you & your employer will naturally be at odds about how much you should work. If you’re getting paid the same amount no matter what, then you’ll be more inclined to work less, but your employer will want you to work as much as possible since they don’t directly have to pay more money for more work. But if you’re being paid hourly, then your employer will be invested in you working no more than the number of hours it takes to complete your work, and it’s generally more efficient all around. I’m starting to come around to that idea.

    Assuming that all else were equal (health insurance, PTO, etc.) – would you prefer to be paid on a salary or by the hour?

    1. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

      I prefer salary. But I do wanna say that in terms of your employer wanting you to work more hours, that’ll really depend on the employer. My current one is very very clear that you don’t work more than 40 hours, and if you do, you need approval in advance. We’re all salaried. But I’ve worked for places in the past that are not as respectful of work/life balance.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I’m hourly but my supervisor is salaried and he only very rarely works outside of normal business hours, and when he does have to he can take the time off on another day to make up for it. Our employer discourages salaried people from working a lot of extra hours.

      2. Yup, Yup, Nope*

        Yup. OldJob was very much a work-life balance deal (to the point they did not issue laptops because work is for at work and home is for your family). New job is…not. Calls and texts on company phone all hours of the day and night and lots of “this weekend I need you to…”
        Most jobs I’m pretty happy being salaried. This and one other I’ve had definitely take advantage.

    2. X*

      It depends. I work on salary in a department and have been told “the more hours you work the better it looks and the more you look interested in your job.” Totally disagree, especially when I’m not given enough work and would have to make up tasks to work “extra.” I bet if they paid me by the hour no one would be on about appearances and I do think my supervisor would be more invested in me and my workload and be more hands-on.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I prefer salaried as long as my manager and I are on the same page. I don’t want to work for someone who thinks every minute needs to be filled or would send me home early without pay if things were slow. But I also don’t want to work for someone who thinks I’m gonna work 50 hour weeks regularly.

    4. Momma Bear*

      Salary, but with clear expectations and a good work/life balance. Occasionally I work a longer week, but not often. I also think that the perception of work and work product varies widely by industry. Do you and BF have different careers?

      1. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

        That makes sense! I’ve only worked in nonprofits, and BF is a motion designer. His workplace tracks hours and has people fill out timesheets, while I’ve never had to do that.

        1. hamburke*

          I was salaried at my first job but still had to track hours – everything had to be billable. My husband is salary and has to track billable hours as well – needs to be something like 2/3 of his time (that’s to account for the slow season – he’s usually closer to 80% with the other 20% going to joining sales calls as the tech lead, training and equipment maintenance). I am now hourly and have to track billable and nonbillable hours. I would definitely prefer salaried but my current job that I love does not meet the irs exempt test.

    5. violet04*

      I’ve been a salaried employee for 20+ years so that’s my preference. I like having flexibility and not having to track my hours. I think the amount of work you do and what your manager expects is based on company culture. I’m thankful that at my company, we are trusted to get our work done without being micromanaged.

      My husband was paid hourly. (He’s now been laid off) But he had a pretty standard 8-5 schedule with specific break times and lunch hour. He also worked in building maintenance so when he was done with work, he was done. There was no way for him to work remotely or bring work home with him. When he did work overtime, it was nice having the extra money.

      I work in software development and I feel like it’s better suited to salaried work due to the nature of the job.

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

      Depends on the job duties and employer. I’ve been both salary and hourly as a graphic designer — if I’m expected to track my hours on a project so that a customer can be billed for my time, then hourly is essential for that and it’s helpful for maintaining my ability to take breaks and eat meals because I’m literally off-the-clock. When I’m an in-house graphic designer and I don’t have to track my time for billing, my employer only cares about my projects getting finished and not exactly to the minute how long it took me, then I do like being salary. It’s a pain to remember and feels infantilizing to track time for bathroom breaks and meals. But luckily I’m never expected to work overtime or make sure that I’m here for exactly 8 hours per day.

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

        I’m going to add to my own comment…since BugSwallowersAnonymous mentioned that their BF is a motion designer, his job duties probably qualify him as a creative professional, so if he doesn’t meet the salary threshold (in the U.S. there is both a federal and sometimes state requirement), he can’t be classified as exempt even if he did prefer it. This is actually a topic I’m really interested in since COVID because I’m an exempt creative professional — my job meets both the salary and job duties requirements; however, with COVID, I’m doing a lot less creative work and a lot more general computer and even IT type work — that could classify me as a computer professional rather than a creative professional. If it remains that way, then I no longer qualify as exempt because the salary requirement is much higher to qualify as exempt for a computer professional. I believe a lot of this was put in place to protect workers after the dot com bust in the 90s but I could be wrong.

        1. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

          I should probably add that he’s salaried at his job (as am I), so we were speaking hypothetically about the pros and cons.

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

            ah, so his timesheet is to track for billing purposes I assume? Then that sucks TBH — all of the hassle of hourly work, without the benefit of getting paid for every minute worked.

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      His reasoning was that if you’re a salaried employee, then you & your employer will naturally be at odds about how much you should work. If you’re getting paid the same amount no matter what, then you’ll be more inclined to work less, but your employer will want you to work as much as possible since they don’t directly have to pay more money for more work.

      I haven’t found this to be the case at all. I’ve done a whole bunch of salaried positions, and I’ve been lucky enough to have good managers for the most part. Usually I’m inclined to work more, because I want to do a good job and don’t have time cards to fill out, and my manager (when my manager has been a good one) has tended to want me to work less and take breaks so I don’t get burnt out.

      That said, if he prefers working hourly non-exempt, good for him. He should do so. Whatever works for him.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Also, if you get paid hourly and don’t work all your hours, you don’t get paid as much, which is an annoying thing to have to worry about (as is filling out time cards). In theory, you can get overtime, but when I’ve had non-exempt positions, the org has done everything it could to make sure I didn’t get overtime (and thus overtime pay).

    8. Dave*

      I prefer salary because there are a lot of busy slow periods in my job and my company hates overtime. So I won’t get my work done one week when everything is due at once and the next week be bored out of my mind if I was trying to make a full 40 hour week. That said the expectation of roughly 40 hours is how many company defines salary.
      My partner is hourly and that is a much better deal for them because of overtime opportunities. If they got switched to salary they will take a pay cut but also less likely to jump in on projects where they ask does anyone have time to handle this? If he had put in his week the motivation isn’t there to help where if you are making some sweet OT, working over the weekend isn’t as bad.

    9. TiffIf*

      I have been salaried for 7 years and I do prefer it to hourly–but for a number of years I was salaried non-exempt, but now I am salaried exempt–I miss the OT pay!

    10. Littorally*

      Hourly, for certain. My industry has a very notable busy season, where working over 40 hours a week is normal and expected, and the overtime pay I get makes the busy season (which is quite long, 4-6 months depending on specifics of your role) bearable.

      I’ve never had a problem with needing some flexibility in my time (within the pay week) if I need to step away for an appointment or leave early one day. I just make up the hours later in the week. But if I was expected to spend tax season working 50-55 hour weeks for no more money than I make the rest of the year, that would suck.

      1. Tax Wiz*

        I’m in tax, too. For the first 4 years at my firm I was hourly. I got promoted to manager and was salaried. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told “you’re a manager now, you can’t just end your day when you hit 8 hours.” These comments are made outside of busy season — obviously still working OT from January to April, and August to October.

        I’ve always translated this in my head to “you’re salaried now, you can’t just end your day when you hit 8 hours.”

        1. Littorally*

          Yep, and that’s exactly the refrain I don’t want to hear. I’m gonna stay hourly for as long as I possibly can. I’m perfectly happy (well, no, let’s say I’m willing) to work those grueling tax season hours, but I darn well expect the extra $$$.

    11. SaffieGirl*

      I think so much of this depends on your supervisor. I am salaried and have been told by one supervisor that I needed to make up missed time when the servers went down so I went home 2 hrs early (as I could not do anything anyways). My current supervisor would simply say that I know my deadlines and how I manage my time is up to me.

      As I understand it, salaried positions tend to be more project based/you need to do what you need to do to complete your work. Hourly positions are those where the work flow is more constant and there is no end date. I prefer salaried type work, but with a good supervisor.

    12. Diahann Carroll*

      His reasoning was that if you’re a salaried employee, then you & your employer will naturally be at odds about how much you should work.

      This is not true across the board. I’ve been salaried at three different companies now. Only the one before my current employer had a butts-in-seat, work all the time mentality that trickled down to individual contributors. Everyone else has been very respectful of my time and the fact that I’m generally not going to work more than 40-45 hours on any given week because I’m efficient and get things done quickly – I’m not going to sit around and give myself busy work just to look like I’m doing something.

      Most of my managers also worked a lot because they wanted to – but the key was, they didn’t expect that from their subordinates. In fact, I’ve had several executive level people see me working late (back when I was in an office) and tell me to go home – the work will be there tomorrow. I’d of course shoot back, “You should take your own advice,” they’d laugh, but I’d go home and there was no issue with it.

      Because of this, I’ll stay salaried for the rest of my career (assuming that’s even up to me). The flexibility that I get because I don’t have to clock in and out is great, and I love being paid the same even when work is slow and I don’t have much to do. And I get nice sized quarterly bonuses to kind of make up for when I do have to put in extra hours and don’t get paid for them, so in the long run, it evens out for me.

    13. A Simple Narwhal*

      Throwing my hat in with the “it depends” group. All my non-retail work has been salaried, and one of them would make me work extra hours just because they didn’t have to pay me for it, and for that job I would much rather have been hourly. I had a job that was salaried but you had to log client hours, and that was perfectly fine until we got bought out and received a ton of new oversight that led my boss to insist we get more done but reduce our billable hours, which led to me (and the rest of the team I heard) working a lot of unaccounted for overtime, again for no extra compensation. I’m currently at a job where pretty much as long as the job gets done everything is fine, so while I may have to work a few extra minutes here and there, it absolutely evens out when I can take a long lunch on a slow day, or take the dog for a walk just about whenever, or I don’t have to take pto for the dentist. So I think it really boils down to work-life balance and the reasonableness of your boss.

    14. Third or Nothing!*

      This is purely anecdotal, but I am salaried and my husband is hourly. I’m a data analyst/account manager and he’s a welder. He works far more hours than I do, and has ever since I met him almost 6 years ago. In his previous jobs, it wasn’t unusual for him to work 60 hour weeks with barely any vacation or sick leave. Turnover, as you can imagine, was ridiculously high. He made soooooo much money in overtime that I can’t believe this is fairly standard in the welding industry in Texas, but I’m not the one crunching those numbers so whatever.

      Nowadays he’s at a place with lots of government contracts and all the rules and regulations that go with that, and he’s down to just a few hours OT here and there as needed. So much better work/life balance!

    15. Sleepytime Tea*

      It’s a double edged sword. So… I liked being salaried when I first switched from hourly. I came from an hourly job where overtime WAS NOT ALLOWED, which meant constant stress and pressure to get my too big workload done. I went to salaried and that stress was gone, because I could just work until the work was done without stressing about that hard 5pm stop time. The flip side in that first job was I ended up working 80 hour weeks at one point because, well, it was a terrible employer, and I wasn’t compensated for it. I got pretty bitter after a year of that when I thought about how I was already underpaid if I were working 40 hours a week and I was SEVERELY underpaid for working 80 hour weeks.

      But I’ve had salaried jobs that work the way they are supposed to. I work until the job is done. Some weeks that was 50 hours, some weeks it was 30. I love that I never have to worry about taking PTO hours for leaving for a doctor’s appointment early one day, or if it’s super slow in a Friday I can just leave instead of sitting around twiddling my thumbs unless I want to use vacation hours or take unpaid time off. When it’s like that? Definitely prefer salaried.

    16. Massive Dynamic*

      I thought I preferred salary, then I left a toxic job for an hourly position and never, ever want to go back. At last job there was a lot of unspoken hinting about the hours they’d like me to work vs. what I worked (they wanted more, I worked a strict ~43-45). Now I’m hourly and work 40 max, and it’s AMAZING. My time has measurable value now.

    17. Clever Obscure Literary Reference*

      I am hourly and I definitely prefer it. Depends on your company though. I tend to be biased since I spent so long working in the food service industry where they are notorious for having 20 year old managers that they put on salary and then have them work 85 hours a week. Now I work in an office where there’s definitely a status thing around being salary vs hourly, but those of us who are hourly truly wouldn’t want to be switched over. We are asked to pitch in OT on a pretty regular basis – voluntary but still – so I think being hourly makes that a lot easier and more straightforward expectations wise.

      My current company kind of gives me the best of both. We really don’t get policed about “butts in seats” and with just a heads up notice to our manager, they usually let us flex our hours for appointments and stuff. They’re definitely focusing on our work output to judge our productivity which is great. I feel like I’m treated like an adult all the time. Whereas I have had other hourly office jobs where you have to enter a “productivity log” and account for your time to the 15 minute increments and that’s annoying, but not enough to make me yearn for salary or anything. I just am too worried about getting taken advantage of by an employer, but I think that might change as I move away from the huge company, entry-level quagmire where you’re just a warm body that the employer doesn’t give a shit about except to extract as much work from as cheaply as possible.

    18. VT*

      I prefer by the hour. I’ve only ever been hourly but I work with a group of people who are salaried and they are some key differences in how we are treated. I literally work my 40 hours and go home (or move from my home office to my couch, as I am still working from home) while they are pressured to work longer hours to meet deadlines. I like that I can easily say no to have work/life balance. And our pay is not significantly different, though they get paid a little more per hour than I do.

      Alternatively, the guy I’m dating works for a non-profit and they want him to work 2080 hours a year but he is salaried. They just aren’t able to pay him OT for prepping for fundraisers and weekend events. So he flexes his hours after the event. Interestingly, his pay is roughly 1/2 of what I make, which is a pity but we work in totally different industries.

    19. Nope.*

      I greatly prefer hourly and turned down the opportunity to go into management because of it. It helps me shut down after work and keep things separate. When I’m off the clock, I’m off the clock. If I’m on, I’m being paid for every minute of it.

      I’m actually in a salary position now but I still like it because it’s also non-exempt – so when I work overtime, I get time and a half in respective comp time for it, and I have a manager who encourages us to make use of that comp time.

    20. RagingADHD*

      You know, a few years back I would have said salary, because I was brought up in the mindset that hourly jobs = unskilled, low-wage, and salary = high-wage jobs with more responsibility & prestige.

      That may have been true at one time, and may still be true in some industries. But right now, I make far more by the hour or by the project than I ever did at salaried jobs. And my husband is being worked to the bone for a modest salary. His employer isn’t intending to exploit him, but they are way understaffed for the workload, and have no room to hire. His effective hourly wage right now would be far below the legal minimum, and he hasn’t had a full day off in months. (Great benefits, though).

      In my work, thinking time = billable time. So all in all, I wish we were both hourly right now. Even if he made minimum wage, it would be a big raise just to get paid for all his hours. And if they had to pay his nominal wage (salary / 2000 hrs), they would certainly revise their expectations of how much one person can get done in a week, and scale back some projects accordingly.

    21. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve never been salaried; as others have said, it does depend on the employer. Some workplaces wanted the salaried employees to put in lots of hours. Others, not so much.

      The advantage to being hourly: when it’s five o’clock, my work is done. A lot of companies don’t want to pay overtime and I rarely have to work it. It’s not usually the kind of work you take home with you anyway, so I get a very clear delineation between work and home life.

      The disadvantage: Most hourly jobs skew toward low-paid, entry-level work and do nothing to advance you in any way. Salaried positions tend to be higher-level roles (per labor laws) and that means managerial, which = payroll, accounting, budget forecasting and reconciliation, etc. So that’s out for me, anyway.

    22. Kate H*

      My opinion on this is extremely affected by my toxic workplace. I’d be interested in salary in the future, at an employer that isn’t a hellscape, but right now I vastly prefer hourly.

      Salaried employees where I am tend to work odd hours and have no work-life balance. They answer emails late at night (we’re talking midnight or later) and on the weekends. My grandboss (no longer with the company) was salaried and he was forced to keep track of his time to ensure that he was working 40 or more hours a week. Actual work completed didn’t matter. He had to work 40 hours. If he left early or came in late, he had to make up that time (just like us hourly employees). As an hourly employee with no opportunity for overtime, I work my 40 hours and I go home. There’s no expectation for me to be working outside of regular business hours, because I’m not getting paid for it.

    23. emmelemm*

      I’ve pretty much always been salaried (except for when I worked through temp agencies) and I prefer it because it often – not always, as we’ve definitely seen through letters here – means more flexibility. When you’re salaried, if you take a couple of hours for a doctor’s appointment, there’s usually an underlying assumption that you will make it up somewhere along the way. You don’t have to nickel and dime every hour that you might need off. I prefer a less strict accounting of my time. On the other hand, have I had periods of working long hours because “the project needs to be done”? Of course.

    24. NewAnon, Who Dis?*

      “If you’re getting paid the same amount no matter what, then you’ll be more inclined to work less”

      I do not agree with that! My employer bases “how much I should work” on overall trends, not hours. Do I get my job done on time? Yes. I enjoy my job (not to the “its my pAsSiOn! We’RE fAmiLy” level) and have worked extra hours some days on projects that really clicked and kept me focused. I’ve also taken longer lunches (with team members) and liked not having to account for every minute.

      When I worked retail in a job that profoundly bored me, I preferred hourly. But in my current job, salary is the way to go.

    25. Pink Dahlia*

      I’ve never worked an hourly job that had health benefits or PTO, allowed flex time, or were anything other than militant about tracking hours. My association with hourly work is a power-hungry manager breathing down my neck, complaining that I go to the bathroom too often, and giving me hell for needing to take time off when I’m sickly.

      Salaried work may end up paying me less per hour, but for me the flexibility is invaluable. I’m treated respectfully like an adult, my bodily functions are not being monitored, and leaving an hour early for an appointment is no big deal since my boss trusts me to get my work done.

      In my experience, an hourly job that treats you respectfully and offers benefits is a unicorn. If you can find such an animal, keep it!

    26. AcademiaNut*

      Salaried – I appreciate the flexibility and have a job where staring at the wall is an occasional necessity, and having to stop in the middle of a good work flow for a mandatory break or quitting time would be frustrating.

      Also – an employer who takes salaried exempt (in the US) as meaning they can force you to work unlimited hours is a bad employer. Not all salaried jobs try to squeeze you dry, by any means, and having employees who are burnt out and resentful isn’t good for productivity in the long run. I have occasional times when I work a lot of hours in a short period for various project needs, but if I do that consistently, I get a lot less productive.

      And hourly jobs are prone to abuse, just a different type – think call centres or Amazon warehouse jobs where they pay hourly, but have strict and unreasonable metrics that grind the employees down mentally or physically, so they can keep the costs down.

    27. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Like everyone says, it depends on your employer (and job). My career is hourly but most of the time if you need to do things like take a longer break to do something personal, take a phone call, etc it’s not a big deal as long as it’s only occasionally. Plus, if you are asked to stay later for some reason you get paid more. But I have worked at places where everything was timed to the second and it was miserable. The salary vs hourly wasn’t the difference so much as the type of work and the company culture.

      Then again, my husband who is salaried makes twice as much but is constantly working, so maybe hourly is better.

    28. Alternative Person*

      In my field, I tend towards being paid by the hour as per hour rates are generally much better than per hour salary rates. But in my field and geographical area, salaries have pretty much stalled out over the past 5-10 years and a lot of salaried jobs have been restructured to pay less while there’s plenty of short-hours contract work that essentially pay a ‘hassle’ bonus built into the hourly rate to get people to do them.

  15. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Based on the post earlier this week about a job interview where the candidate didn’t turn his camera on, what would you think are some acceptable situations where you truly need to see a candidate to assess them? I work in a library, and I can’t imagine not having a camera on to help us determine how a candidate would respond to student questions and interact with patrons, but I might be letting my biases cloud my judgement.

    What are some situations where visual cues adds value? What are situations where they don’t?

    1. X*

      I would think that in highly technical fields like computer science or engineering, appearances wouldn’t matter UNLESS you’re going for a supervisory or public-facing role where people skills are important.

      I work in a corporate, paper-pushing department and we actually ended up rejecting someone with a really impressive resume because of the way she presented in the interview (pre-COVID). She was totally disheveled, her teeth were smeared with lipstick, and she had these massive bangles that went CLANG-CLANG. CLANG-CLANG. on the table because she talked with her hands. She was loud and domineered the interview. I distinctly recall asking for a moment to review her resume again and she saw me looking, waited a beat, and continued with “SO ANYWAY” while I was clearly still staring at the paper. She also did things like spin her necklace all the way around and gesture with a soda can that she sloshed on the floor, but it never occurred to her to take off the bracelets. The role was a client-facing one and she would have also been required to interact regularly with VP-level employees and occasionally with the C-suite.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Modeling? Acting?

      The danger of requiring cameras is it is known that there are biases against POC, women, folks of certain ages, and people who are not neurotypical without those affecting the ability to do the job. Your unconscious basis may be that your patrons would prefer a certain race, gender identity or age as their librarian, but those preferences even if they exist are inherently discriminatory.

      Removing the unconscious bias as much as possible is all to the good in my opinion. If patrons learn to deal with more diverse library staff, so much the better.

      1. Kara S*

        But wouldn’t you see these factors about a person if they interviewed in person? My understanding of that question was that the video interview was being done in place of an in person interview, not a phone call.

      2. Kate H*

        I’m intrigued by the idea of phone interviews helping to create an environment that removes unconscious bias, but I would if it would just introduce new types of bias. Think of the LW that was regularly being mistaken for a child over the phone. Would they end up missing out on jobs because their interviews were conducted over the phone versus on video or in-person?

      3. Shelly574*

        I don’t think phone interviews remove bias. Ask anyone with an accent, or for whom English is a second language, or who may have trouble hearing and need to read lips. I think there’s always types of bias and while removing it is valuable, I don’t know the benefit of the bias removal by using a phone is that great. I’m happy to be proved wrong, but bias isn’t just about how someone looks. It’s much deeper then that.

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

      In this era — teaching would be one where I think they need to be ready and able to be on camera. It’s already a face-to-face type job under normal circumstances, but demonstrating that they have a basic level of camera savvy would be important. If the job doesn’t have a business need to be on camera, then I don’t think the interview should require it either.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        If the job doesn’t have a business need to be on camera, then I don’t think the interview should require it either.

        This is where I fall.

    4. Alianora*

      I suspect I’m in the minority here but I think it’s reasonable to ask for video in most interviewing circumstances, as long as you’re upfront about it and you understand some candidates may not be able to use video. Almost every job requires working with other people, so seeing how a candidate interacts with other people really is very important.

      To those of you who are saying that video interviews over phone interviews increase the potential for bias – wouldn’t in-person interviews do the same thing? Should employers also accept phone interviews in lieu of in-person interviews? If not, what makes in-person interviews an exception? Genuine question.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        So, I work in a very isolated place and when we hire, we have to do phone interviews. Lately, we’ve been doing video interviews for all positions for the second interview. It is SO much better than the phone screens. We can see people’s faces and expressions. They can see ours. I really think video is a valuable tool if you can’t do in-person. However, I also think you have to be completely upfront with the candidate that this is your plan. We always are. Now if one of our finalists doesn’t have a camera (and this has never come up, but if it did) then everyone would be a phone interview per HR guidelines.

      2. Paperwhite*

        In-person interviews do do the same thing. I don’t have time to look up stats at the moment but I can report that I have, more than once, seen someone’s face visibly harden when they come out to meet the candidate and see Black, fat, female me waiting for them.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          This makes feel sad and outraged for you. Sending you support from this internet stranger.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I think it totally can, but it also can go the other way. My original manager at OldExjob called a male candidate in for an interview. She said he rolled his eyes when he saw she, a woman, was the interviewer and not some secretary, and his attitude during their subsequent conversation did nothing to dispel her impression that he would have preferred to speak to a man. Spoiler: he did not get the job.

    5. SomebodyElse*

      I just concluded a round of interviewing where all candidates were non-native English speakers (English being the ‘official language’ used for our company.) I’ve conducted similar interviews with camera and without and I think it’s much better for both of us with video.

      I can easily see if a question wasn’t understood and rephrase
      I can visibly smile and encourage with non verbal cues
      We can both use hand gestures if needed

    6. Chaordic One*

      Although most people are extremely unlikely to run into a situation like this, an engineer I know told me that quite a few years ago her work group hired an entry-level engineer without actually seeing the person, based on a phone interview. After the new hire started it was evident that they were not the same person the work group had interviewed, as the new hire lacked basic English skills. Apparently, the new hire had a friend with better English skills do the phone interview for them. Although qualified on paper, the new hire struggled badly in the position and was let go after a couple of weeks. Of course, most applicants are not going to attempt a switcheroo like this and they probably don’t need to have their camera turned on.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      I have done a lot of recruitment, and in most roles, you can tell a LOT more about a candidate who you see than you can about a candidate you only speak with on the phone. Body language and expressions convey a lot of information.

    8. Sleeplessinseattle*

      I have found (tech manager) that being unwilling to turn video on is the biggest predictor of being unfit for remote work. There seems to be a large correlation between not being prepared to be on video with being easily distracted outside of an office environment.

      Video is best for gauging reactions – disembodied voices over the phone aren’t the same. However, you have to remember:

      – You must make sure to leave your biases at the door. You’re peeking inside peoples’ homes, and there is less of an expectation of a professional environment.
      – You must be willing to end meetings easily and not just fill time. Meetings can be exhausting and it’s important to give time back so people can decompress.

      With that said, as a librarian? If it’s a public-facing role, I’d revisit my stance. You’ll find out during the probationary period whether they work out as a hire if you’re in-person.

  16. Incognito just for this*

    I am a relatively young, naturally friendly, and feminine woman in a field dominated by men and that is historically misogynistic. I work in a leadership role generally occupied by folks 10-20 years older than I am, and because I have a young face, a familiar way of speaking, and I smile easily, I have people slicing a decade off my actual age. Within my role, I am constantly ignored/undermined/gaslighted. Not overtly, which feels more insidious. I also have chronic stomach issues and endometriosis. The two decided to flare up today. Huzzah.

    I have a meeting today that I cannot miss, but I’m also curled up on the couch with tummy calmers, anti nausea stuff, a heating pad, and easy to remove clothes in case I need to plunge into a hot bath. I really, really don’t want to appear on camera but this is a formal and fraught meeting with executives. I am worried that my frazzled and green-tinged appearance will not bode well for me, but I’m also worried that keeping my camera off will cause them to forget that I’m there and won’t give me enough presence to advocate or fight for what I need. Thoughts? Anyone experience something similar?

    1. Bobina*

      Ooof. That really sucks and I hope you feel better soon!

      One thing about being on camera – unless you have a good system/setup, half the time people end up blurry/pixelated/whatever on it. Or if you’re like me where you sit next to a window, I’m darkened out of it on a regular basis. All of which is to say, do you think they will really notice if you dont look good on camera?

      But if you’re really worried about how you’ll look, leave the camera off. In my head, I assumed you probably have a professional headshot as a contact photo which is what will show up to others when you speak – so that might actually be better (ie whenever you speak, they see a picture of you looking smart). I dont know why I assumed this, but if you dont – it might be an idea to set it up?

      But I think having the camera off but focusing on making sure you are as loud/vocal/present as you need to be is a decent compromise. If you can, some pain relief beforehand, and strongly focusing on getting through the meeting (reward yourself after!) have worked for me when I’m feeling terrible but have important work things to get through.

    2. IHaveNoIdeaWhatMyMonikerShouldBe*

      Definitely start out with the camera so you are acknowledged and keep it on as long as you can. My condolences.

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree. If/when you have to turn the camera off, just turn it off and perhaps do a group chat to everyone that you’re having connection issues and turning off the camera frees up bandwidth (don’t need to explain yourself beyond that)

    3. Mockingjay*

      I would claim a camera malfunction. I find it easier to speak up without a camera.

      If you have the meeting agenda, pick 1 or 2 topics pertinent to you and have your questions, info, or requests ready to go. I usually type quick reminders in Notepad: “Widget production: ask Charles for specific date the first lot will be shipped.”

      It’s easier to break in when you know what you want to say and when you need to say it. Be succinct and specific. Open-ended questions allow the recipient to prevaricate. “Charles, when do you think the first production lot will be ready?” Charles: excuse of the day… I also work in a (white) male-dominated industry. I’ve learned to focus on what I need for my job. If I don’t get it, I call it out bluntly. “Boss, the production report is late again for the third month in row because Charles hasn’t provided the numbers yet.” Then I let boss fix it.

      I am so sorry you are feeling unwell today. Hugs!

    4. Haha Lala*

      Use a good, recent photo of yourself (head shot style, not casual selfie) instead. Most platforms have the option to turn your video off and display a photo instead of just your name/initials. I know that work in Teams, so I’m betting Zoom or whatever other platform would have that as an option too.
      – Signed another young, feminine woman in a male dominated field. Keep up the fight!

    5. Hi there*

      I don’t work in a corporate environment, but, based on your description, my guess is that you need to have your camera on. If they say something about you looking unwell blame the lighting and seize the opportunity to say your piece. Good luck and I hope you feel better!

    6. Notthemomma*

      Start with the camera, and simply shut it off 5-10 minutes in, after the meeting has started. Alternately, can you utilize a profile picture?
      I find no one cares who is or is not on camera once the meeting has started. If your org is different, switch it on when you mean to speak. No one will know if it’s you or wonky technology.

    7. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think it’s very likely no one will be able to tell you’re green and frazzled.

    8. HR Exec Popping In*

      I would tell people that you either are experiencing low bandwidth on your internet so you are keeping your camera off or your having technology trouble. Both happen all the time it should not be a big deal.

      I hope you feel better.

    9. AwesomeRosenGilMom*

      I understand you feel you cannot miss your meeting, but that’s what sick days are for. Are you senior enough to have the meeting rescheduled?

    10. blink14*

      You don’t need to be on camera. There are actually studies that show video camera use puts more pressure on women than men to look their best while on camera.

      I refuse to turn my camera on at all, and I really have only run into a couple of issues with someone insisting that it needs to be on (and I still manage to keep it off). You just want to pay close attention to the call, and find the space to interject. If there’s a meeting leader or moderator, you could also privately message them during the call and ask them to introduce you, and they should be able to find a time or break into a conversation to do that.

    11. Incognito just for this*

      Thank you to all! I combined the advice and did the following:

      – Checked that I had a good photo avatar on Zoom.
      – Touched up my appearance using the Zoom feature. I looked like an extra from Xanadu and it was great.
      – Turned my camera off as needed so I could wince privately, but turned it on to react, nod, and speak.
      – Wore a Madewell coziest yarn sweater that reads as professional on camera but is slouchy and super casual IRL.
      – Enlisted an ally to attend and help support some of my points so I could save some energy for when I really needed it (they were an optional attendee on the original invite).
      – Sipped on plain seltzer water for the nausea and kept a crafting project in my lap, well out of the way of the camera, for when I needed to find another way to redirect from some of the pain.

      A few notes: I work in a nonprofit. I’m pretty senior but the meeting was with execs so couldn’t reschedule.

      Overall the meeting was good! My daughter crashed it several times… but I accomplished what I needed and now I can relax. My thanks to you all for you for your well wishes. Endo sucks.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Well done and impressive! Please take care of yourself this weekend and rest. Sounds like you’re dealing with a lot.

  17. Concerned Carl*

    How many Covid cases does it take in your office before it becomes an issue and you don’t feel comfortable going in?

    We’ve been back in the office about 2 weeks and there have been suspected 4 Covid cases. None confirmed yet. We have about 50 employees. Every time this happens, they send an email to advise us, do a deep cleaning and assure us the office is safe. But I have my doubts. And every time there’s a new case, it adds to my doubt.

    We’ve been pushing back since the beginning and asking to work from home. The work could be done from home but it was deemed to be too expensive and too high of a risk from a confidentiality /privacy standpoint.

    So what do you do when you don’t feel safe in the office but you’re told it is safe and you have no choice?

    1. Momma Bear*

      We have had one confirmed case and we have 3x the employees you do. I would keep pushing back as a group because it’s a legit concern. If there’s been this ongoing WFH request, what have they done to make that a possibility? Do they need a better VPN?

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      One case in your direct office is already one case too many! Are there any government standards/rulings you can lean on? Perhaps take a leave of absence? Your company is dangerously lax about this.

      1. Concerned Carl*

        We have been pushing back since even before the return to the office. Each time, we are told that they appreciate our concerns but that it’s been deemed safe. We’ve contacted the union but they say that the employer is following the rules and regulations regarding office reintegration so there’s nothing they can do.

        The thing is that rather than asking how they can help people to work remotely, they seem to be focused on if they’re allowed to bring people into the office. When it was pointed out to them that other offices were bringing work home, they replied that was because other offices didn’t have the space to safely distance employees in their office. Because we have the necessary space, they said there’s no need to have people work from home,

        We’ve scoured all the government information about Covid and there’s no smoking gun we can point to. But none of the employees feel safe. And whenever I tell this to other people, they can’t believe it. It’s incredibly demoralizing and I have lost all respect for management. The lack of compassion and empathy is astonishing. The sad part is that I love my job, enjoy the work and think it’s extremely important but they are alienating any and all good will.

    3. Malarkey01*

      With 4 suspected cases, aren’t any of the people in your office considered close contacts and being sent home? The biggest problem we’ve seen in the few jobs that must be done onsite is 1 case usually send 5-6 workers home for 2 weeks as close contacts. That by itself shuts us down as there’s no one left to do the work.

    4. LGC*

      …four suspected cases in the past two weeks?!

      Okay, it sounds like you have been pushing back as a group, so I’m guessing this isn’t going to change. (I’m not sure of the confidentiality risk – I have that exact problem with my job, and I don’t want to dismiss that. It also sounds like you’re unionized, and your union has said that your job’s crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s, so…I’m not sure where you can go from here, exactly. Other than out the door.

      One compromise could be – what was your situation before coming back to the office? Is it possible to do partial shifts (that is, you guys have 5 days in/5 days out per two weeks)? Would that be a worse solution?

      Oh yeah, your initial question. Honestly, it’d take one to rattle me, maybe two. I’m just VERY jumpy right now, though. (Let’s see – cases are spiking in my relatively small state, and we had a severe outbreak with a lull.)

    5. WellRed*

      Where I am three within the same group is considered an outbreak. I’m in the US. Not sure if that’s CDC or state refs.

    6. Mad Harry Crewe*

      One is too many. Four is insane. Cleaning surfaces is hygiene theater – C19 is recognized to be aerosolized, and shared air and poor ventilation is a huge problem. I don’t know if it will help your pushback, but I’m including some links in a reply.

      – CDC case study of an outbreak in a South Korean call center – The bulk of transmission was in origin case’s half of the open-plan call center.
      – Time article: COVID-19 Is Transmitted Through Aerosols. We Have Enough Evidence, Now It Is Time to Act
      – Atlantic article: This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic

    7. ShockedPikachu*

      I’m sorry this is happening. 4 is too many! Unfortunately, you may have a hard time finding good government guidelines on this.
      You could look up how the CDC finally admitted on their website very recently that airborne transmission of aerosol particles (smaller than droplets) can occur over longer periods of time and over longer distances than 6 ft, especially in confined spaces. Then they deleted that information and said they were still finalizing the wording for the site, and it was released prematurely.

      As to what to do next, one of my acquaintances had a somewhat related experience. She is a teacher and her school union was being inadequate in their negotiations with the school around the issue of in person schooling. They forced a vote less than 24 hours after finalizing the terms for the contract, and teachers were very upset that they weren’t given enough time to review them in full. A small group organized themselves, drew up their own demands, got a bunch of teachers to sign on, and presented it to the union. That was what finally got the union to take those concerns seriously and change their negotiations! So you may have some hope here in getting the union to act on this if you can get your coworkers to sign on and push the union as a group. Make your concerns and how you want them addressed very clear.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      My understanding is 4 cases from one location = an outbreak. I know you said “suspected” so it might not be actually end up an outbreak, and might actually be zero cases, but 4/50 is not good math. My thinking here is there are 300M people in the US. 7M have COVID-19, which we know already is on the high side to put it mildly. If those 4 are positive…that’s 4x the infection rate of the country. Even if you’re not in this country, the math is still illustrative. So yeah, I’d be very uncomfortable in this situation.

  18. ThatGirl*

    A small bit of good news: after loud complaints to HR, my husband and his fellow 10 month university staff got the same raise that his other coworkers did. It’s not much, but it’s something.

  19. Lizzy*

    I’m looking for tips on how to deal with getting vented to.

    I’m starting a new job. At the interview, the hiring manager mentioned some of the sales guys that will drop off work to me like to vent about how they’re losing out on money because customers prefer to buy cheaper things over more expensive things. Money is tight for me, and I’m really not interested in hearing these complaints from random sales guys who probably get paid a lot more than me. Especially not if it’s during my unpaid lunch break (we’re supposed to eat at our desks). Anyone have any advice on how to shut it down or ignore venting without getting in trouble for being “rude” for not wanting to listen and sympathize?

    1. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

      If they come to me at my desk, I’d redirect them by saying I’m currently working on something and don’t have time to chat. For unpaid lunch breaks eating at desk… any chance you’ve got a door you can close? Otherwise, put in headphones and eat very loudly and when they try to interupt, say “I just got to the good part of the podcast”?

      1. Lolly and the Adverbs*

        How do you build working relationships if you shut everyone out though? I had someone in the office who would almost never talk to me unless it was a direct request. Now, I’m the only one in my department and the only one available for him to talk to so we talk a lot more often. It’s also made that way we work with each other much better.

    2. Juneybug*

      Not sure why the hiring manager thinks that is part of your duties (listening to others vent). Most of us would ask for a significant raise to take that on. :)
      Maybe trying –
      1. Listen for a few minutes and then say, “Oh that sounds like what Bob was saying earlier. You should go talk to Bob about this situation.”
      2. Tell the “venter” you can give them three minutes to vent but then you have to get back to work.
      3. Put a sign on your desk that you are at lunch and please do not disturb.
      4. Stop venting as soon as it’s start by saying you are trying to be more positive in your life so no negative conversations (unless it’s your job to fix something).
      5. Place the drop off box further away from your desk.
      6. Wear headphones.
      7. Change the subject when they start venting. “Bill, that does not sound fun at all. How’s it going with this vendor?” or “How’s the kids doing?”.
      Good luck!!

      1. moql*

        I had a coworker who tried something similar to #4 when we had a lot of complaining about management going around the office and it worked pretty well. People still complained, but not around her as often, and she got a good reputation for being positive and easy to work with.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Wait – you’re not getting paid for your lunch break, but you’re supposed to eat to eat at your desk?

      No go. Go eat in your car or something if there isn’t a break room. If they want you at your desk, they’ll have to pay you for that time.

      1. Deanna Troi*

        I’m concerned about this as well. If you’re required to be at your work station, don’t they have to pay you for that time? Why can’t you go sit outside or eat in your car if you drove to work? If you ended up working 50 weeks a year, this is 250 unpaid hours you have to be at your desk. To me, this is a bigger issue than the venting.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I am so shocked, people actually prefer cheaper things over more expensive ones???? oh my, how unusual. Who’d thunk.

      Set yourself up with some go-tos that you can reuse and reuse.

      “Have you talked to your boss about a game plan to combat that?”
      “So what is the boss’ advice for this problem?”
      (Then later:) “Does the boss know his advice is not working?”
      “Did you talk this over with your boss yet?”

      “Oh you were talking about this the other day also. So have you come up with a plan for it yet?”

      People who vent just for the sake of venting, don’t really want solutions they just want to dump stuff off on someone else. So go in the direction of seeking solutions, ask them about the steps they have taken to help ease the situation and so on. You can be cheerful and sincere sounding.

  20. Mbarr*

    Ugh. I had a 7AM meeting yesterday with 6 VPs and It. Did. Not. Go. Well.

    One of the VPs accused my colleague and I of not incorporating his updates into the materials we were discussing. (I call BS, cause I literally was emailing him copy and pastes of what his content, asking, “This is what I have for you, is this accurate?” and he confirmed.)

    He then complained that we weren’t following the process blah blah blah, and we’re quietly seething because HIS team is the only team that DIDN’T follow the process – but of course due to the power gap we couldn’t come out and say that in front of the others.

    Unfortunately our own VP wasn’t in attendance, otherwise I’m sure he’d have defended us. After the meeting we ended up talking to our manager and he assured us he’d talk to the Evil VP. He also notified our own VP, to give him a heads up about the trouble we’re having.

    We have a game plan for going forward, but I suspect Evil VP is going to argue with us more.

    In happier news, my uncle is getting a double-lung transplant today! (He was upgraded to the critical wait list for new lungs all summer!) Yay!

    1. AppleStan*

      Good luck to your uncle!

      (I have nothing for your actual work problem, but wanted to let you know I’m keeping fingers crossed for a successful surgery.)

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      My favorite way to combat someone accusing you of doing something wrong is to ask them to walk through what you did and confirm what they would like you to do next time. Because it pretty much forces the other party to admit you did everything right without being combative.

      Congrats for your uncle, I hope surgery and recovery go smoothly!

  21. Office Goblin*

    I work in a creative division for a higher-ed institution. For years everything we did was on a shoestring budget for a variety of reasons. This really shaped how we worked, from the idea stage up through execution. At some point we brought on new leadership who successfully negotiated for some project-based budget increases. We were then told to be as creative as humanly possible, and that in the idea phase “money is no object.” Our boss always seemed really disappointed if we even brought up things like “well, printing with 24k gold leaf would be cool, but probably a little expensive.” He didn’t want us restricting our ideas based on money at all (even though it obviously was a factor in the final analysis).
    Then Covid hit, and everyone was back to a shoestring budget. Ok, makes sense. We know how to do this.
    Well, now there’s some money again, and we’re back in the space of “how do we market in a Covid-appropriate way – but don’t consider the budget at all! The only failure is lack of creativity!”
    Have y’all ever dealt with this kind of whiplash? How do you toggle between needing to be deeply budget conscious for years on end, and then just, come up with brilliant creative ideas like you had all the money in the world one day? I am obviously having a hard time with it, so I’d love to hear your strategies for making this shift in a super quick timeframe.

    1. Reba*

      Well, first I think your boss is kinda silly.

      I work in a unit that is not exactly shoe-string, but everything is project based; that is, any position or expense has to be related to advancing the projects (and things like “making everyone’s lives easier” or “having some continuity” aren’t good enough reasons).

      I don’t know how much this will help, but several months ago we did a focused workshop kind of thing with a facilitator to ask big questions about the future of the work. So it was really about setting priorities *first*. Not just pie in the sky, if I won the lottery tomorrow I would… aimless brainstorming. All the ideas were then in the context of the mission and what we wanted to accomplish.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I haven’t had the whiplash, but a lack of restrictions is actually very undermining to creativity. People who don’t do creative work think that “sky’s the limit” enhances creativity, but in fact it gives the creative mind nothing to push against, so you can’t get traction.

      Creativity = problem-solving. The creative mind feeds on problems, so constraints force more creative solutions. (The square air-scrubber problem in Apollo 13 is a great example).

      If money is not a constraint, you kind of have to come up with other goals and constraints (time, space, scope, etc) to feed into the hopper. Otherwise you just get bland, arbitrary and obvious stuff — or you’ll wind up staring at a blank screen until a deadline looms and gives you a problem of its own.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Having zero restrictions can mean some wasted time chasing unicorns.
        I’d rather have at least a broad budget range upfront so I know where I stand and where I can start. I’ve personally seen some companies get into real trouble (Let’s have Beyonce star in our commercial!!!) by never establishing budgets because they thought money was no object. I don’t think that’s the case here though.

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        Raging ADHD–this is so true! I knew this subconsciously, but I did not quite understand it until you spelled it out. I work in a creative industry, and I love getting very clear assignments with clearly spelled out parameters–my brain spins into life. I hate “just use your creativity!” because a) it means the requestor has no idea what they want, and b) my brain has nothing to jumpstart it.

    3. LunaLena*

      Ha, this sounds like me. I work in graphic design and marketing for a smaller university, so we don’t have much of a budget. And that’s fine with me, because most of my career has been in small businesses so I’m used to finding ways to work without much money. Add to that that I’m a naturally thrifty sort of person, and it makes it really difficult to not be budget conscious.

      I’ve found that the first thing I had to get myself to stop thinking was “but it will cost a lot of money.” I have to actively and consciously tell myself to not say it out loud. Sometimes I remind myself that it is not *my* money and ultimately it is not my decision. Throwing the options out there doesn’t cost any money, and while I will usually mention “we could put gold leaf on it, but keep in mind it will cost extra” just having our clients know that it’s an option doesn’t hurt. It is up to them to know what their budget is and if they can afford it.

      Personally I think it’s also kind of fun to research options. Does your institution have a list of trusted vendors you use for promotional items? Sometimes I like to just go through their catalogs to see what they offer, so that I know and can suggest things that are appropriate. Again, it doesn’t mean that it’s affordable; it’s really just about knowing your options. You can’t know if an idea is appropriate or to be rejected if you don’t know it’s there, after all. For example, one department I do marketing work for is looking at making wood directional signs. I mentioned that the local library district has a laser-engraving machine that is free to use and I have permission to use it, so we could engrave our own signs at a minimal price if needed. Will they take that option instead of commissioning a custom engraving? Maybe. I have no idea, they haven’t decided yet. But at least they know there’s a low-budget option and they are free to not choose it.

      It also helps to not get too attached to your ideas. I like suggesting things but tend to not get too invested in it until it actually gets approved and is going to happen. So even if one of my ideas gets rejected because it’s not practical/affordable/doable/whatever it really doesn’t bother me much.

      Dunno if that helps, but that’s how I generally look at things, especially when I’m working with departments whose budgets and priorities vary wildly.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      While it’s a real luxury (!) to have a healthy and robust creative budget and the ability to use it, I still find that I am very practical and pragmatic about how that budget is spent. Sure, it’s nice to dream of what you can do if money is no object, but the question is “Do you really want to spend it on that?” Or, “Do you want to spend less on things, but do more of those things?”

      Your boss is being a little bit silly. I’m not sure if the intent is well meaning, as in let your creativity flow first and don’t be stifled by thoughts of cost, or if the university is posh and are trying to get you to elevate the brand? I find that with an owner or manager like that, the best way of presenting ideas might be by showing two or three examples as in: Good, Better, BEST and estimates for each. Or two examples: Regular and Enhanced with the estimates.

      Ultimately though, you should always question is how does this spend serve the buyer need(s) and what is the ROI for doing so. If you have wealthy donors who expect 24k engraved invitations (and style or exclusivity is important to them) sure, it might make sense because they’ll feel special, valued and donate more. Or, they’ll throw the invite in the trash and you should just spend more on the booze! LOL!

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

      I’m in the same exact situation — are you one of my coworkers? The problem for us is that our new grand boss tells us budget isn’t a problem and we come up with all kinds of ideas and spend time mocking up cool things, only for it to shake out that, of course, not only is budget a factor but so are open/available vendors, time, and materials, especially during COVID.

      We’ve had to pivot to a lot of digital design rather than print which opens up creativity for things print can’t do (animation and sound) and if we “find” money then we do limited quantities of printed pieces; everything has become print-on-demand rather than large run. One thing I’ve always done for creative ideas is keep an inspiration board/notebook/file. When I see something I really like that another company, with deeper pockets, has produced, I keep it for reference. When it’s time to brainstorm ideas, I look through my inspiration for things that I can incorporate or fake at different price points — if my inspiration is an invitation that has a gatefold, die cut, gold foil, spot colors on a fancy colored paper — what can I “fake” with my budget? white paper with a flood color? process color with a UV coat to make it extra shiny? a design that emulates a die cut without actually cutting? keep the gatefold as a splurge? The goal would be to try to keep the overall look without the actual bells and whistles. Honestly though, IMO, if a design rests solely on expensive bells and whistles, it’s not very creative.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Build it backwards?

      Come up with your actual workable idea first.

      Then add ridiculous embellishments such as the gold leaf ink. When he says, we can’t afford the ink, your workable idea is underneath all the embellishments, so you just pull back the added embellishments to reveal your workable idea.

      The waste of my time and my energy would get under my skin. So I’d be tempted to work this way.

    7. Researcher*

      Maybe when you create your proposals, think about listing Good, Better, Best options for the various components?
      That way you can dial up and down the cost in a more granular way based on funds, and you can make more informed choices about where to splurge and where to save?

      Saves you from having to scrap entire ideas and start over.
      But I agree with the rest of the commentators, your boss is silly and this is a really frustrating way to operate.

    8. Chaordic One*

      I don’t have a good strategy, but I do remember being in a similar situation once, and having one of the creative directors snarkily make a comment along the lines of, “Well, I see that someone must have gotten some money in their budget, what with all the gold leaf in the new marketing materials.”

  22. Alexis Rose*

    Tl:Dr: are responsibilities/roles on a volunteer board of directors compelling for non-volunteer job applications?

    I was recently approached by the president of a board I sit on (for a large community organization, think a rec center that is owned by a city but managed by a board of directors. the board is all volunteers). Right now I have a voting position as a representative of one of the user groups. The president asked me if I wanted to take on the role of treasurer (unpaid). Responsibilities would include putting together budgets, keeping an eye on spending to make sure it aligns with policy, regular meetings with the general manager to go over the finances, liaising with the accountant etc. but its all unpaid and traditionally this role has been done to varying degrees of responsibility/time commitment. I’m not super gung ho about doing it, its a lot of work for something that is unpaid and has no other benefit, the only reason I would consider doing it is because “financial management” is one of the weaker parts of my resume, but I don’t want to be naïve thinking that this would be compelling experience or would be considered equivalent to a paid position at a company or something that had financial responsibilities.

    I’d love thoughts from folks who have been in this situation before, or from people who have done hiring of management-y positions that have a financial focus and whether this kind of experience would carry any weight on an application.

    1. Dave*

      Sometimes taking the role is about networking and bringing work to your company. I can’t help on the hiring side though.

      1. Alexis Rose*

        No networking help here, we’re talking a municipal level organization i’d volunteer/be elected to, and my day job is federal government totally outside this field. The board of directors is related to a hobby of mine, not my day job at all.

    2. Johnny Rose*

      I’m going to offer a different perspective, as someone who has worked with a board of directors. It’s better not to take on a volunteer role you aren’t enthusiastic about committing to. Having a Director performing their duties whole heartedly is really important because unlike with a regular volunteer, there are fewer ways to hold that person accountable and since the duties are usually more important it is commensurately frustrating if they don’t get done.

      Of course you can not enjoy something and still do a good job, and I hope you would, but I’ve seen so many people doing board service drop the ball and the damage it can cause.

      1. Alexis Rose*

        Oh yes I absolutely agree. I know myself well enough to know that if I take it on it will be done to the best of my ability, I’m trying to decide if I feel like devoting that much energy to it.

    3. 867-5309*

      I do not know if an all-volunteer board as you are describing has the same rigor for “financial management” that someone is looking for professionally. What is your field?

      1. 867-5309*

        Generally, volunteer work is good to have but a position isn’t (usually) going to make a difference in hiring unless the organization for which you volunteered is somehow related (by industry, by demographic served, etc.) as the job for which you are applying. I like seeing that someone has volunteered but it’s never been something that prevents me from hiring or interviewing a candidate. Focus your volunteer efforts on things you’re passionate about.

        1. Alexis Rose*

          Thanks for the advice. To both your points, this is along the lines of what I was thinking. I volunteer mostly for myself, to give back to communities that I’ve gained a lot from. But for the amount of work that would be required for this elected-but-volunteer position, I was looking at different angles to see if I could derive any benefit from it.

  23. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

    Has anyone ever ended an interview with no freaking clue whether they’re likely to get the job or not? Usually I have a pretty good sense for how an interview went, both negative and positive, but after my second-round interview yesterday I had no idea where I stand. I know trying to figure out what an interviewer meant by a certain comment is an exercise in futility, but they sent me the benefits information, talked at length with me about potential conflicts of interest, told me I have the skills they’re looking for, and generally seemed to like me as a person and as a candidate. But, I spent all day yesterday thinking about the general vibe of the conversation and it just felt off. I suppose the good part of this is that I’m now convinced that I won’t get an offer, so it won’t be super disappointing if/when I get my rejection.

    I’m not looking for advise, per se, just some commiseration and maybe encouraging stories from folks who got a surprise offer.

    1. sarah*

      I have stopped trying to have expectations either way. I typically know if I absolutely bombed an interview, but I’ve had interviews that I thought went really well that I heard nothing from, and interviews that I didn’t feel great about that resulted in an offer.

    2. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde*

      I usually end interviews with no idea of what’s gonna happen next. Once or twice, I knew I wasn’t gonna get it, but mostly I don’t have a clue. There’s too many unknowns.

    3. Alex*

      You really can’t tell if you are going to get the job just from the interview “vibe.” That’s because you have no idea how *other* interviews went. The company is looking at this process “Which one of these candidates is the best?” a lot more than they are thinking “Do I like this person?” You could have a spectacular-feeling interview and not get the job because others also had a spectacular interview. You could have a lukewarm interview and still get the job, because the interviewer just wasn’t the kind of person to give off “spectacular” vibes to anyone, and you came out on the top of their list.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes-it’s a process.
        I’m betting that at the end of the interview, they also don’t know whether you are the one they will hire. They need to do some thinking about all the plusses and minuses each candidate possesses. Not a cut and dried kind of thing.

    4. Goat girl*

      Early in my job search, I thought every interview was great and there would be an offer. Later in my job search, I stopped trying to read ANYTHING into an interview. If they call back, they call back and if they don’t, they don’t – no matter how great (or not great) I thought the vibe was.

    5. Wordybird*

      I had a job once that I applied for and heard back within a week, had a very ordinary face-to-face interview (I got absolutely no feeling one way or the other how it went or what the interviewer thought of me) that was mostly just going over my resume and cover letter, completed a short test… and then heard nothing for 2 weeks. I received one “you’re still in the running” email with a few clarifying questions which I responded to within a day… and then heard nothing for another 3 weeks. The next time I heard from them was with a job offer.

      You just never know. Good luck!

  24. Aggretsuko*

    What I got in trouble for yesterday:
    (a) Forgetting to add a column onto a spreadsheet
    (b) Trying to tackle a weird task, which I should not have tried to do at all apparently even though it seemed like the email spelled out what they wanted and they even admitted I probably did correctly.
    (c) Writing too short of emails
    (d) Writing too long of emails
    (e) Not always starting emails with “Dear Whoever”
    (f) Using the word “just” in emails, as in “can someone please just give me a date for this?” because it’s offensive.
    (g) Uploading a document from the weird task–we literally upload EVERYTHING but I should have known better to NOT upload that one (how?)
    (h) Unexpectedly running out of emails halfway through the day, something that hasn’t happened in ages, because I was disobeying my supervisor to not have any left by the afternoon.

    I’m not defending myself. I am utterly wrong and I do really piss off everyone and I did just have an 8 hour period where I did absolutely nothing right and I’m not even listing the even worse things I did like forget about something and then get unpleasantly surprised when they missed their deadline. But the above list of stuff was…kinda petty?

    Serious question: where is “Bully Broads” for a dumb bitch like myself who can’t write email and now has to have her boss approve all of them before she can hit send? My grandboss, who can’t stand me, has now implemented that rule. (Seriously. I should take bets on how long that lasts since managers get 2000+ emails a day here.) I don’t even know how I am supposed to work today.

    I am just a failure who deserves to be fired and unemployed, which will happen after they finally finish having me train my replacements. I can’t do anything without pissing someone off.

    1. ThatGirl*

      You’re being exceptionally hard on yourself! It sounds like you have lousy managers, none of that is worth berating you for. I feel like you need both a new job and possibly some counseling. You sound depressed and full of self loathing.

    2. Pretzelgirl*

      I just want to say I commiserate with you and I am sorry its happening. Once I got in trouble for formatting an email like this.
      Dear Sally,
      XXX XXX XXX.

      Instead of:
      Dear Sally,

      XXXXX

      Also apparently outlook default the font color to a navy blue on this particular computer. I have a hard time telling the difference between black and Navy Blue. I got in trouble for not having a black font. When I pushed back saying, I have no idea what you’re talking about, bc it looks black to me. I got in more trouble!

    3. Momma Bear*

      I’m sorry you are struggling. But also, take stock and think about the impact of some of these items. You didn’t add a column. What happened? Why did you forget that column? Are you confused about the task? Did it change without notice? A column isn’t petty if it had a big impact on the end product. When you don’t start with Dear Whoever, was that a problem because of the person it needed to be addressed to? I might skip names in some emails but, for example, I would never ever not address a client, my boss or a director by name in the email. Some people are also very specific about their title. I would also clarify the whole not leaving thing – get it in writing if possible for future reference.

      You sound stressed and burned out. You say you also missed a deadline. How do you feel about looking for a new job? What I did when I felt like it was a no-win situation (I even tried to meet with them to work through our challenges and it…did not go well) was try to toe the line as best as I could and dust off my resume to get the heck out of there.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Literally we just got told to add this column very recently. I had to use a template we don’t use very often for one-offs and forgot about the new column.

        Apparently “Dear Whoever” applies to everybody. But yes, that one was a screw up.

        I don’t qualify for any other jobs in the area (equivalent jobs require a lot more skills than I have in areas I’m bad at) and frankly, I wouldn’t hire me. I’m the worst. I can’t interact with people without pissing them off, even online.

    4. Okumura Haru*

      OK.

      Take a few deep breaths.

      Your bosses are gigantic, flaming a-holes. They’re being completely unreasonable with your work, and even if there’s something that needs to be fixed, they’re doing it wrong. It sounds like you could be the Michael Jordan of your field, and they’d still be dragging you over the coals.

      Nobody deserves to be unemployed. This isn’t on you. A decent boss will understand that stuff like this happens.

      Please consider looking for another job. Nothing good is going to come of this one.

      In the meantime, if you have some leave, I’d recommend you take it.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          I’m considering, but if I go on psych leave they cut my pay by a third and even my therapist says it wouldn’t do me any good to be out if it only makes the work load worse.

          1. Juneybug*

            Could you take normal vacation time?
            And I respectfully disagree with your counselor. Sometimes taking time off and reset allows for your mind and body to rest and often brings clarity about situations (oh wow, everyone on AAM is right – my bosses are jerks!).

    5. 867-5309*

      Aggretsuko, First things first: You are not a failure who deserves to be fired and unemployment, and sorry you are going through so much right now. If you haven’t tried this before, sit on the floor, take an ice cube, and sit there while it uncomfortably melts in your held. Sit with the cold and uncomfortable and just breath. Sometimes that helps me get out of my tailspin.

      While generally or as one-offs the above list seems petty, if there are several inconsequential “misses” in a single day, it is understandable that people would be frustrated. And is sounds like those were on top of some bigger misses. I hope you are able to find the emotional and mental space to sort through what you can change, what you can’t, and perhaps kick-off a job search. You sound burnt out and that will always increase the errors we make.

      Hang in there and check in with us next week, please.

      1. Juneybug*

        Okumura Haru is right – “you could be the Michael Jordan of your field, and they’d still be dragging you over the coals”. Sometimes a job doesn’t fit. Or even with you trying your best, mistakes happen for various reasons (bad management, lack of communication, unrealistic work demands, too many requests for changes in a short time, etc.) so please don’t beat your self up. Mistakes happen to everyone, even Michael Jordan. :)
        Ditto – please check in. The world is full of great, loving people (outside of your office).

    6. Lolly and the Adverbs*

      After reading your post, I thought it was something I wrote and forgot about. I had this yesterday.
      Boss, “we’re going to write to Mr. X, but we want to find out if he recommends braising the strawberries for us before he puts them in the cake batter.”
      I write the email to Mr. X saying just that. Email gets edited by Boss before I can send it. Boss deletes that line. Me, “Don’t you want to know about the strawberries. If so, why did you take out that line?” Boss, “It isn’t necessary.” Me, “The sentence isn’t necessary?” Boss, “No, braising isn’t necessary.” (Then proceeds to give me The Glare.)
      Don’t be hard on yourself. It isn’t you. Some people have bad days, weeks, months, etc. and take it out on everyone else around them.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      At first I hoped you were speaking tongue-in-cheek about this idiots you work for. But somehow, I tend to think that they are really breaking you and you believe (???) this crap they are pushing.

      Remember you are a human being first and foremost. Every human being deserves to be spoken to in a respectful manner. I am not seeing that here. I am seeing a laundry list that tends to read, “your eyes are the wrong color and you breathe incorrectly.” In other words, you will never please these toxic people.

      I am wondering why they let all these things go unchecked and put them into one great big dump on you. I am hearing “bad management” all over the place here. Have they been saying they have concerns right along? How are others being treated? Are layoffs in the near future, could they be looking for ANY reason to lay people off?

      I hear stuff like this and I tend to think:
      These are bosses that do not train.
      These bosses do not communicate clearly.
      They also change their mind frequently and no one knows what to do.
      They are micromanagers and perhaps bullies.

      I am ticked on your behalf. I hope you are able to pull enough together to get yourself out of there and get into a new place.

    8. Legal Leslie Knope*

      I’m so sorry–this was also my Friday too. (My boss told me I should have used the standard office template for something we don’t have a standard office template for, and told me that I need to figure out why something I wrote was wrong, rather than telling me how it was wrong….)

      Seconding everyone below who says it’s not about you, even though I know from experience that’s hard to internalize. Bad managers are gonna bad manage, and it sounds like they’re being pretty unreasonably nitpicky.

    9. ShockedPikachu*

      I’m exhausted just reading about the level of micromanaging going on here. So you get stomped on for every little thing—that is crushing, and eventually, you start to internalize it. Not to mention that the stress in and of itself of feeling like you are constantly failing makes you more likely to make mistakes, more likely to slow down your work because you’re second guessing yourself,
      more likely to be unable to recognize the difference between good and bad work. Do you ever get positive feedback? Given how you are talking about yourself, I’m sure you feel you wouldn’t deserve it, but everyone needs to know the things they do right—if they’re not giving you that, you’re missing half the scale you need to evaluate your own work!

      I mentioned internalizing the message. The way you describe yourself is so harsh and extreme. Was that how you would have described yourself before you started this job or before you had these bosses? I don’t know if this is part of your overall self view, if this job has created or exacerbated it, but I really hope you’re able to get out of this situation in some way.

  25. sarah*

    I’ve started to get irrationally irritated when my boss starts staff meetings by going around and asking us to share how we are. Like, what am I supposed to say– “Not great, lady! Have you been living in the world recently?” I work at a small org where morale and trust is not super high, I don’t think it would bother me if the culture was better.

    This week I tried to sidestep the question by answering just the other part of the icebreaker question and she specifically asked me again to share how I was doing. ugh.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I would privately tell the boss that you understand the thought process but if you don’t share something during the meetings, it means you do not want to share and would like to not be questioned about it. You will share what/when you feel comfortable with. Probably better than “Not good, because the world is on fire and you won’t let this go.” If they keep bugging you, perhaps, “I don’t feel comfortable with that question” or “I would like to move on, please.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreeing with Momma Bear, “I get depressed when people ask me how I am. Otherwise I am okay.”

    2. Sleepy*

      Ugh! I’ve had this happen to me. One thing that I’ve done which helped was jump in as the first one to answer and keep it light. For example, “Well, I didn’t burn my eggs today for breakfast so I’m doing great so far. Who’s next?” I’ve been able to set the tone for everyone else that way. When the boss sees that no one is taking it super seriously they might back off rather than giving them the opportunity to drill down on one person.

    3. lemon*

      I feel you on this. My grandboss does this at our weekly team meetings. I know that she’s trying to boost our morale and has the best of intentions, but the pandemic and politics have turned me into a grouch who is irritated over every single small thing. I just try to slap a smile on my face and pretend (I’m sure that’s what we’re all doing these days).

    4. Ashely*

      Between now and when the electoral college votes and the new Congress is sworn in and maybe a new President my answer will be living on the edge and afraid for what might happen next in our government. This is not a good time to be asking. At some point I would just give a count to how many days left in the year and I say I will be better in X days when this year is finally over.

    5. Gallery Mouse*

      LOL…I really like the ‘Not great, lady!’ response. You can follow that up with “anyone else feel this way raise your hand..” so that you can get the whole ‘how are you feeling’ thing out of the way for everyone. ugh…

    6. Thankful for AAM*

      I say this every time, but my answer about my feelings would always include something about my vagina. It has a problem but due to Covid I cannot get to the doctor or every time I am stressed, like with covid, my vagina gets a yeast infection and it is so hard to get to the pharmacy due to covid.

    7. EnfysNest*

      I’ve got a coworker who starts every morning with a way-too-chipper “Good morning, it’s a great day, how are you?!” with only minimal variation day to day. Usually before I even get to my office because I have to walk past his, but if I manage to get by unseen, he’ll still do it whenever he sees me first each day. Anyway, my responses lately have all been along the lines of “Well, I’m here” or “It’s a day” or “I’m getting by” or “Still breathing, so there’s that” or similar, since I don’t have it in me right now to muster enough fake enthusiasm for even an “I’m fine” when the truth is “I’m miserable being here and you’re annoying as heck and I desperately want to leave this job and also the world is falling apart.”

    8. tangerineRose*

      I’d probably just say “I’m OK” and try not to roll my eyes, but I’d be tempted to say something like “Really tired of living through a pandemic.”

    9. Delta Delta*

      I’m always a fan of “I’m super, thanks for asking.” and then if you’ve got South Park fans in the room, people will thank you for getting the song stuck in their head. or, if you feel plucky, sing a few bars yourself. That’ll get it to stop quickly.

    10. Mad Harry Crewe*

      “Keeping it together”
      “Oh, y’know”
      “Hanging in there”
      “Looking forward to the [weather] this weekend”
      “As well as can be”
      “I’m ok, thanks for asking”

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Honestly? When I was in a situation like this I ignored most of it. How am I doing they ask? I pivot to something external and narrow the focus of my reaction. “I’m really enjoying this weather. It’s been so wet this summer it cheers me up to get in the garden/walk the dog without an umbrella/paintmy mailbox…”

  26. MissGirl*

    I laugh every time I see a headline heralding “Work from Home Tips.” I figure six months in, half the country is now WFH experts. So what is working for you? What’s not working for you? What were you doing back in March you’re no longer doing? Were you in sweats for a month straight but now dress up more? Are you now in sweats after swearing you would get dressed every day? What has surprised you about it both good and bad? What are the struggles? Would you go back?

    1. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      Having a desk/designated workspace is huge for me! I live in a studio apartment, so in the early months before I had a desk it felt like there was no mental separation between work and home. Now that I have a little corner of a desk for work, I feel so much better.

    2. MissGirl*

      I’ve been struggling lately to stay focused during the day. My brain cannot stand to be in my office anymore and is constantly getting distracted. I would move around with my laptop, but I really need my multiple screens.

      I also can’t remember to brush my teeth in the morning. I always did that last thing before I ran out the door; now I don’t have a trigger.

      I’m surprisingly more social now (with limits) than I was before because I don’t have work as that outlet.

    3. violet04*

      I started WFH in March and definitely worked in PJs a lot. It took a couple of months, but I finally got into a routine of working out, showering and getting ready in the morning. I found that makes a huge difference in my productivity.

      The company has locations across the country and decided to shut down my smaller office so now I’m a permanent WFH employee. I’ve definitely gotten used to the more relaxed lifestyle of being at home and not commuting.

    4. lemon*

      I started out doing WFH in sweats and at a first, it was great and liberating. But after a while it started to make me feel like a sad feral animal. So now I’m getting fully dressed every morning and that’s helped quite a bit. Also at the beginning, I was making my own coffee and lunch, which saved a lot of money. But that also meant I rarely left the house, since I get my groceries delivered, which was contributing to the sad feral animal thing. So I also started walking a few blocks to the local coffee shop for my morning coffee and getting takeout for lunch. Bad for my wallet, but really good for my mental health to force myself to stop working and go outside for a walk.

    5. Girasol*

      Have pity on struggling reporters whose subject matter is limited in these days of covid! They probably think that topic is still fair game when there’s nothing else to write about. As for clothing, I quit dressing up pretty quickly. I abhor the idea that people can be more professional in constrictive clothing like ties and heels, or clothing inappropriate to the season, like suit coats in hot summer or scoop neck dresses in mid-winter. I would have stayed home if I could have, but after a year of work-at-home I was required by a new employer to be in office. That experience showed me that all the reasons why it’s better to be in the office in close proximity to your coworkers are balderdash. Some people love the office and that’s okay. But a good professional who prefers working at home can do so as well as they can work in the office. Someone with poor work habits who can’t be trusted to work at home is probably doing as badly in the office too, but reassures their manager with a good act of looking busy.

    6. Hey Anony-nonny*

      I have found the following useful:
      – I will also repeat having a designated work space helps to keep that separation between work time / non-work time. I have a small desk in the corner of my apartment.
      – I am privileged enough to have separate work equipment. At the end of my work day, I shut that off and leave it in my designated work space. Management and my colleagues know that they can call or text if something urgent comes along after hours.
      – I have a blazer and a few sweaters I wear during my work day. I take these off at the end of my work day.
      – Clothes with give and which can pass as business casual or better are my friends.
      – Setting timers to remind me to take breaks and to stretch.
      – Arranging my work day so I can tackle requests and tasks which require more focus or uninterrupted time when I have the natural energy or momentum. I have this time blocked off on my calendar.
      – Checking email a few times a day. Encouraging messaging, text, phone calls, or virtual calls when something requires discussion or an immediate response.
      – Being okay with setting boundaries around my time and what I can reasonably commit to. I gave into the temptation of being hyper-available back in March, which just made my burn out worse.
      – Participating in virtual meetups with work colleagues after hours
      – Reaching out to network or to work colleagues once a week. Scheduling casual virtual meetups with folks who were meeting up before the pandemic
      – Doing what I can to inject a little grace and humanity (and humor!) into work processes, and with my colleagues and management

      I have also had the privilege to work in a place, which has taken the pandemic and evidence-based recommendations seriously. While it doesn’t look like I’ll be going back to the office any time soon, I would like the option to return. I do miss meeting face to face and my employer can afford much more internet than I can.

      It helps me to remember that every person I work with (or have worked with in the past) is facing a terrible set of choices and may be living through their worst time in their lives, for the first time in their lives. So when Cersei is short with me that day, I let it go. When Sansa is visibly upset on a video call, I might check in with her afterward because she might need all of her energy just to pretend she’s okay for 20 minutes. When Chaz’s team hands off something that is 90% of what we need, we work around that remaining 10% or let it go. If Fergus needs to adjust his schedule because of school/elder care/child care/etc., we figure out what we can do to support that as a team.

      Distributing the work and setting expectations now is similar to the “flatten the curve” messaging we were hearing back in March and April. Slow down, rethink strategy and approach, give other teams and any supply chains time to also strategize and regroup—and build or rebuild relationships where and when we can.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Not this round because I’m not working currently, but DEFINITELY when I am, I intend to have a separate space for working vs. just dicking around on the computer. I worked from home sometimes at Exjob, and although I had a desk, I usually just sat on the sofa. It left me with little to no transition from work to after-work, even though I had a completely different laptop.

      Getting at least semi-dressed also helps. (she says, typing this at 1 pm in her PJs)

    8. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I just bought a very nice standing desk and sit/stand stool. Prior to the pandemic, I did a lot of remote work from coffee shops, which meant I moved around and changed position a lot. Now I’m at home all the time, so I need to actually care about my workspace because I’m stuck in it for hours on end.

      My fashion esthetic was already “looks professional, feels like pajamas” so I haven’t felt any need to change it. I do get dressed every day, which I didn’t used to, but that’s because we have a nanny here (since my kid is also doing school from home) and I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable by being in what are obviously sleep clothes. Even though I’m fully covered, that just feels too intimate.

      We’re apartment-hunting right now and it’s really hard to find a place where each of us can have a bedroom big enough to fit a desk.

      I would definitely go back to working in coffee shops. I miss it. I also miss having my house to myself. I don’t miss office work at all.

      1. Llama face!*

        “My fashion esthetic was already “looks professional, feels like pajamas” so I haven’t felt any need to change it.”

        My short stint of WFH before my employer brought everyone back to the office at once for no good reason and without first setting up safety protocols (aargh) made me shift to your point of view. I now own several pairs of work pants that look like business casual but feel like pjs or exercise gear. (And I’m not just fooling myself that they still look okay; I tested it with my coworker and she was genuinely shocked to realize they weren’t standard dress pant fabrics)

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          I need to get some pants like that. What’s the brand?

          I mostly wear jersey knit dresses from eShakti or patterned tunics from Zulily over Pact cotton leggings (which have a lovely wide waistband). The eShakti dresses are amazing, both really comfortable and really stylish. I have one jersey knit wrap dress that gets me compliments every time I wear it, and it’s basically a bathrobe in disguise!

          1. Llama face!*

            I’m in Canada and tend to shop at Winners and have scored a few pairs there. One black narrow leg pair with vertical pinstripe, one grey with light pink pinstripe and ankle cuffs, and a wider leg plain black pair. Each one was a different brand and style since Winners sells clothing from a variety of sources.

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      My company came out with “how to work well remotely”… 6 months in. LOL.

      Starting Monday, I will have an actual desk and chair, so will be off the couch. I’m pretty happy about that. Eventually that desk and chair will be in a dedicated office space, but hey, progress!

      Once things are more under control, I would like to be back in the office for 2-3 days a week. I don’t expect things to be under control sufficiently until spring, if then.

    10. Wordybird*

      I actually started a new permanent work-from-home job mid-pandemic and moved from working PT to FT so my routine from March-September was much different than what I am doing now. My kids were also doing independent remote learning this spring and now are doing virtual learning that requires them to be online and on-screen at certain points of the school day so they are also adjusting to a new routine at the same time that I am.

      I am already a planner so it’s not a foreign concept to me but my previous job and having the kids in school pre-pandemic didn’t require so much of it all the time. I’m also learning a new job/field and am struggling with multiple auto-immune conditions that leave me exhausted by dinnertime. What is working best for me is always having my phone handy so I can create new lists or add things to older lists as I have 5 or 10 minutes here or there during the work/school day. I am also focusing on making sure I plan everything — especially meals since we eat lunch & dinner at home every day and I try to make them at least semi-healthy — and looking over these plans and lists regularly (currently at the beginning and end of the work day) to remind myself of what I need to do. I take one night a week to do groceries & errands and spend the rest of the week listening to my body as to how much we can accomplish. If I need to rest, I will. If the kids and I can get out of the house to visit my parents or take a walk, we will. Since our days are so regimented, our nights (especially since our regular extracurrics are still cancelled) are much more open. I make sure I take a few hours each weekend to rest & relax & recharge for the week ahead. I don’t completely dress every work day but I at least put on a bra and change from pajamas into comfy clothes.

      I am really hopeful that once we are post-vaccine and my kids are finally back in school that I will be capable enough at the new job that I can take more time during the workday to work out or run an errand and that my medical conditions will be under better control so I’m not so constantly exhausted but in the meantime, I am making do and being okay with good enough.

  27. Low Office Morale*

    I work for a non-profit in WI. Covid cases are really spiking here. Currently our office’s policy is that we can work from home but need to spend more hours each week in the office. We are being told that we will likely be required to be in the office full time beginning in November. I’m just so exhausted with feeling like the higher-ups aren’t taking our safety seriously. They keep saying that it’s important for our mission that the “community” is back together but working a hybrid schedule of in the office and home has been working just fine! Our building is old and (literally) falling apart. I’ve been required to attend staff meetings with people sitting two feet apart where masks were optional. But it’s all fine because they replaced the filters in the HVAC system, right? Anyway, thanks for letting me rant a bit. I know times are crazy for everyone but I’m just feeling so anxious and worried lately and that is compounded hearing that I’m going to be back in the office full time.

    1. aghhhhhhh*

      Another small nonprofit where they’re gradually increasing hours in the office and no one feels the need to wear a mask.

      I found out yesterday that one of my coworkers has been out all week with COVID symptoms after being exposed (through work) to someone confirmed positive. I was in the office with her last Thursday and met with my boss on Monday after he met with her last week. No one told me I’d likely been exposed. I had to hear through the rumor mill. I’m pretty furious.

      1. Low Office Morale*

        Oh gosh I’m so sorry. I can totally see that happening where I work too. I feel your pain. It’s so maddening. If I think about it all too long I get so furious. Unfortunately my non-profit paid for some of my grad school tuition so even if I wanted to try to find a job in this awful market I’m stuck here for three more years.

      2. anon for this*

        Apparently that kind of “secondary” exposure is not really exposure – I actually asked about that in a letter Alison answered. Though it sure seems like it to me. When it happened to me, I did not think I should quarantine but I sure would have liked to be told that the person I spent 4 hours working near was exposed to someone who is quarantining due to exposure so I could decide for myself what I wanted to do.

        I am really sorry and I hope you stay well!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to clarify, I think it’s exposure! It’s just the federal guidelines that don’t suggest quarantine in that situation (and maybe that only applies to essential workers, can’t recall off the top of my head).

    2. profe*

      I’m so sorry, I hate that for you and it’s happening to so many of us. It just feels like our leaders are abdicating responsibility at literally every level, right down to employers. :(

    3. LGC*

      …MASKS ARE OPTYIONALGFASKHGHLFJHGLFJAHJFSAHLJH

      I am SO sorry that your coworkers and organization are behaving so irresponsibly. (It’s not fun!) And I thought my job was irresponsible. We don’t have meetings, I’m really strict about masks and open windows in my room, but I can walk over to the main room and half the people have their masks off at their desk. People ARE spaced about ten feet apart on average, but that’s not doing much if it’s 4-8 hours a day with the windows closed!

      (Setup is that the main room is about 2000 square feet, windows along two sides, about 20-25 people scattered around the room. My room is 800 square feet, windows along one side, and has 8 people in it.)

      WI-specific – would you be able to point out that November might be a really bad time to go back to FT? You don’t say where you’re from in the state exactly, but…like, aren’t they actually building a field hospital on the state fairgrounds?

    4. Circe*

      Similar boat. Working at a nonprofit also with an old school boss. I think she’s really struggled with finding ways to talk/manage people that aren’t just walking over to their desk. And doesn’t seem to believe that anyone else can work this way either. An email and tech guru, she is not, unfortunately.

    5. PollyQ*

      Arrrgh, I’m so furious on your behalf! You know what “the community” really needs? It needs to stamp out COVID, which can only be done by social (and professional!) distancing and diligent mask-wearing!!1! IDK how much political capital you & your colleagues have, but these are definitely issues worth pushing back on, IMO.

    6. HR Bee*

      Another Wisconsinite here! Just wanted to say masks are NOT optional in our state! There is literally an Executive Order REQUIRING masks until at least November 21. Please point this out to your team.

  28. peachy*

    Any tips for communicating with someone who is *extremely* long-winded and difficult to understand (possibly due to a condition like ADHD)?

    I’m finding it to be incredibly difficult and frustrating to communicate with my manager. When talking to them face-to-face, they’re incredibly long-winded, and they often give extremely roundabout answers to questions. For example, if you ask them if they’re going to go grocery shopping this week, they’d give the following kind of response:

    “Oh, grocery shopping is fun. But I’m not sure what the best day to go this week is, because I heard it might rain this week, and I don’t like driving in the rain. I guess I could take public transportation, but then it’d be hard to get all my groceries home on the train. The train is always so crowded and sometimes someone will give you their seat, which is nice, but most of the time people just ignore you. That was really hard when I had this foot injury three years ago…”

    And on, and on, and on.

    Now that we’re working remote, we communicate mostly through email. And while email is slightly better because it provides a written record to refer back to, I’m still finding it difficult, because their emails are so hard to understand. They use very convoluted language to refer to simple things.

    For example, they’ll tell me that I need to “align the storage of the pages to be consistent with the visual system,” rather than “organize and color code the folders.” Or, instead of using the word “scissors” they’ll say something like, “the tool that allows you to cut paper, hair, and other fabrics.”

    I’ve tried to the usual approach of asking clarifying questions, but that just gets me more roundabout explanations that leave me more confused. I’ve tried using very simple language, using bullet points to stay organized, using tables and charts when appropriate, but they don’t really help.

    I find that I have to spend hours decoding their emails, and it’s exhausting, and feels like a huge waste of time. And of course, I’m hesitant to set up a Zoom meeting to help clarify things, because their face-to-face communication is even more confusing, and I don’t get the benefit of having something written to refer back to.

    I’ve really never encountered someone like this before. I’ve encountered compulsive talkers before, and while they’re annoying, I’ve figured out ways to work with/around them. This goes beyond just being a usual Chatty Charles, because it’s not just the volume of communication that’s the problem—it’s how disorganized their thoughts and speech are. That’s what makes me think that an underlying condition, such as ADHD, might be contributing to this.

    So what, if anything, can I do to help get clearer instruction from them?

    1. irene adler*

      I found that with my manager, if he’s presented with a choice, it cuts down on his long-windedness. He can’t seem to decide what he wants. But if I can give him one of to methods to select from, he can easily say “oh, the second choice is what I want.”

      I ask him “how do you want me to organize the evaluation data? Do you want regression curves or would you rather see a chart of the actual figures? ”

      It takes some doing to figure out the two most likely choices that you know will meet his needs. But I’ve known him for a while such that this gets easier.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I agree with trying to offer defined options to select from, or reiterating “So the answer is orange. Got it, thanks.” If this happens only in person, email things you need yes/no or short answers about.

        1. peachy*

          Some more good suggestions. Unfortunately, my manager takes at least three paragraphs to respond to questions that only need a yes/no response. However, I’ve been having some limited success with the “the answer is orange, is that correct?” However, getting to “the answer is orange” stage still takes me a good 30-45 minutes of decoding their email.

          Thanks for the suggestion!

      2. peachy*

        That’s a good suggestion. I’ve tried doing something similar when appropriate, but that just prompts my manager to respond with five paragraphs about the pros/cons of charts and the pros/cons of regression curves, unfortunately.

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          Do you actually need your manager to make a choice, or just sign off on your work? Instead of (or in addition to) presenting options, try a recommendation:

          “For the evolution data, I can do regression curves or a chart with real figures. I’m leaning towards a regression curve based on my preliminary analysis. Does that sound good to you?” – by replacing the first question with a statement, you’re doing a little more signposting that you want a choice between these two things. By adding the recommendation, you’re guiding them towards a specific choice.

    2. Nesprin*

      Speaking as someone with ADHD who can be… non-linear in my thinking… and having worked with someone who literally would refer to “the german guy with the yellow raincoat I met in Beijing” (who was a Swedish collaborator that was met in Heidelberg followed by Beijing- it took about a yr to get all the information necessary to have a conversation)…

      Write a list of questions you need answered ahead of time and do not be afraid of interrupting and redirecting.
      I personally find it easier to focus when I understand context/stakes so instead of
      “are you going to go grocery shopping this week?”,
      “I need to know immediately if you’re going to go grocery shopping this week to coordinate with department X” and if the answer starts to meander, bring it back to your needs. I very much appreciate people who can be direct enough to let me know what they need.

      1. peachy*

        Thanks, I appreciate hearing your perspective. I’ve tried using the list of questions and interrupting/redirecting as necessary. Unfortunately, my manager just continues to speak over me. I’ll interrupt with a question and they’ll respond: “I don’t know about that. Anyway, like I was saying….” and launches right back into their stream of consciousness.

        I can definitely take a look at how I’m phrasing my questions. I think I might get better results by taking your suggestion to start with the context first, so I’ll give it a try.

        Thanks again!

    3. Annie Moose*

      Got any coworkers or even other managers who’ve dealt with your manager longer who you have a good relationship with? You might be able to reach out to them for advice. Maybe they’ve figured out some trick to it!

      One trick I’ve done before with business/legalese is to rewrite/”translate” it so I’m not distracted by the weird wording. e.g. replacing “the tool that allows you to cut paper, hair, and other fabrics” with “scissors”, and actually typing up my “translated” version. (I also add paragraph breaks for those who write massive blocks of text…) It takes time and, yes, feels deeply unnecessary, but rewriting it in more “normal” language helps my brain untangle what someone is actually saying.

      I do think your preference for written over spoken communication with them is probably good. Sounds like they’re so hard to follow that without having a written record, it’s even more difficult to figure out what’s going on.

      1. peachy*

        It’s been hard for me to develop relationships with other coworkers or managers. I’d only been working here for a few months before the pandemic forced us all to go remote. It’s also partly due to the way that our team is structured. I’m my manager’s only direct report. Everyone else on the team is either their peer or their superior. And all the work for our little mini-team gets routed through my manager, so I rarely get the chance to interact with others in any meaningful way. I have seen some of my manager’s superiors very firmly interrupt them, such as, “Manager! Did you finish X yet?!” But… you know, they’re superiors so they can get away with that and I can’t. :)

        And yes, definitely have been decoding their emails by essentially rewriting everything they send me into more comprehensible bullet points. It’s time consuming, but I think it may be my only option at this point.

        Thanks for the suggestions!

    4. AnonForThis*

      This is my manager. He likes to provide the entire backstory, think out loud, etc.

      If I know that my question should have a quick, succinct answer, I have found that calling (or pre-plague, dropping by his office) right before a meeting or other engagement works best. It’s easy for me to say “do you have a quick answer for X? I’ve got a meeting in 5 minutes though, so if we need to set up another time, that’s fine too.” It’s my subtle way of telling him to skip right to the point.

  29. Car office tips*

    People who basically work out of your cars, talk to me! I recently started a hospice job and while I’ve had jobs with home visits before, this is way more time out in the field than I’m used to. I’m not a nurse, so at least I’m not dragging around medical supplies, but I still have the PPE I’ll need that day, extra PPE, my computer, and then all my personal stuff. I keep feeling kinda disorganized and scattered, and I’m a neat freak so I hate seeing my care strewn with bags.

    Anyone (in any car-bound profession!) have any tips for staying organized?

    1. Littorally*

      My dad worked out of his car his whole career, and he made significant use out of cargo organizers in the trunk. If pre-existing retail ones aren’t the right size/shape for you, you might be able to pull together your own or ask a handicrafty friend to do so. Just having things sectioned off in their own spaces can make a big difference.

    2. lapgiraffe*

      Outside sales for over a decade and even my most organized and clean colleagues and friends still have messy cars, it’s just the reality. There’s a bit of a mental adjustment that just takes time and trial and error to work through.

      But the things that help 1) rubber mats in the whole car, including/especially trunk space if SUV, so that you can use a variety of bins for help, life doesn’t slip and slide around, and for keeping things easier to clean 2) a small trash can behind the passenger seat 3) some sort of bin that is a catch all behind the driver’s seat (mine is actually a flexible plastic beach type bag, it’s slim and bends so it just works nicely in the space), and in it I have a bottle of general purpose spray cleaner, a roll of paper towels, a couple of random snacks (I eat at Panera a lot and get the chips and stash them in the car for when hunger strikes at inopportune moments) and then honestly I’ll end up having a scarf and a random tee shirt or pair of flip flops. Point of this bin is to allow the mess a space but to embrace a little of the mess because you never know when you’ll need something random far from home or a Target 4) I’d use storage bins in your trunk space for the PPE and other work specific things, it may seem like you have a full trunk all the time and you will, but it actually makes life so easy for when you need to transition car to non work or vacation because everything is already sorted.

      It’s not a hard line for me but using trunk for “work” and car for “day to day” helps to keep things manageable. I don’t know that I’d recommend buying a whole new car for this but having an SUV works so nicely for road work where you have to have access to more than just a laptop bag. It’s easier on the back, you have a sort of built in work table to organize materials, and it’s just a more open-ended space for whatever you need to lug around.

    3. Nanc*

      Full disclosure: I don’t work out of my car but I have a sibling who does and they swear by the Duluth Trading Company Cab Commander. Duluth also has a mobile disk that looks pretty nifty!

    4. JoBeth NotAmy*

      I do home visits for a 0-3 program and pre-pandemic spent most of my weekday hours in my car. Things that I found that helped:
      – collapsible storage bins for your trunk and passenger seat
      – have a designated trash bin/bag for used PPE, food wrappers, etc. (I keep mine on the passenger-side floor)
      – do a full clean-out of the car every Friday. It’s shocking how much trash accumulates!
      – have easy-to-eat foods that keep well during the day – oranges, bananas, granola bars, etc. (I found myself going to drive thrus way too often!)
      -get a good, sturdy tote bag (I like LL Bean style, but with a zipper) and use that for your computer, files, wallet, etc. sou dont’ need a purse
      -have a good car phone charger with you all the time
      -Home visits, especially for those with medical needs, often come with their own issues. Things I keep in my car for emergencies: complete change of clothes (including socks and shoes), deodorant, hair ties/headbands
      -Know which local coffee shops/fast food places have good clean bathrooms. I think I know every Starbucks in my state by now :)

    5. Not So NewReader*

      My husband was on the road doing repair work.

      He had rubbermaid totes for most things. The problem he had with tote bags is they don’t hold their shape, contents shift around and then the bag flops over. So rectangular plastic containers were his answer. What he knew he needed for the day was in the passenger seat beside him. This would be his lunch, special ordered parts, and bottled water. It also included any personal things to take care of such as mail. The idea being that by the end of the day the seat should be empty, except for things like the empty lunch container and water bottle which came into the house with him. (Nice little double check to remind himself.)
      He chose not to use the lids on the rubbermaid containers, because the lids were just more stuff.
      I think he eventually went with a work tool bag that was on wheels, so when surfaces allowed he could wheel it rather than carry it. (After decades of carrying it, that can get tedious.) Small stuff went into a small container with many dividers- if you have small stuff to keep track of sewing stores have nice containers.

      One tote had emergency car care stuff. The important part is to know how to use it. He had a tire inflator that ran off a cigarette lighter port. That saved him a few times. He had a can of Stop Leak for slow flats (tires). There was one of those tiny emergency blankets that camping stores sell- it’s the size of the palm of your hand. He also had random fuses, extra long jumper cables and a few basic tools. He had a portable CB because cell phone was not a reliable plan. In the winter he kept another set of clothes that could go over the ones he was wearing (ski pants, heavy sweater and a knit hat). He was on the road for 30 years, so he had time to refine his list.

      A problem is loose papers as they tend to fly all over if you accidentally open the windows. A clipboard between the seats works for this. A designated container for receipts is also a good idea, if you collect receipts for gas, supplies, etc.. He put all his receipts into a zippered holder and emptied it when he did his “books” for the month. The clipboard is also a good place to log your start/stop mileage for the day if you have to do that.

      Trash went in a designated grocery bag, usually hanging off of something on the transmission hump- the gear shift, radio buttons or something like that. He routinely emptied the garbage when he got gas for the vehicle. That way stuff did not build up for too long.

      If you keep the car through a number of winters it’s good to get a good protective floor mat for the driver’s seat. Snow and water accumulate there and if this goes on long enough the floor can rot right there. I think the winter salts help it along, too.

      If you google car organizers you will find lots of interesting stuff. Some goes over the visors or the backs of the seats.

    6. pancakes*

      I don’t, but there’s a website called Riverbend Home that sells various trunk organizers, some with coolers incorporated. I haven’t bought anything yet but somehow I’m on their mailing list. I want one — we don’t often take car trips (we live in NYC), but when we do we tend to bring a cooler so we can bring special foods back. I’m a bit food-obsessed and maintain a mental map (and actual map, in google maps) of noteworthy spots. The bins would be useful for things like emergency kit, soccer ball, other stuff that’s always in the trunk and doesn’t need to be rolling around.

  30. Carrots*

    I work with “John” and we have the same boss, but he is a manager. He manages one section of our department and has interns that help him. They send me information and I work on entering in data.

    John and the interns went out to dinner and he invited me, but then said, “Well, you don’t work with the interns in our section, but if you want to come with you can.”

    Even though I don’t work with the interns, I still am an important part of the process- I have to enter their work in the database. When I started, the interns had to check-in with me and I took attendance, so I know them. Plus, I felt like it was a rude invite, like “You’re invited, but don’t come” type of thing.

    My boss and John are friends, so I don’t think he would do anything about this. I had another meeting, so I declined the invite, but then John made a stink about it the next day saying, “It was a great dinner. Carrots missed out.”

    I’m confused…. He’s giving conflicting messages. I assumed he didn’t want me there, but then he did?

    Am I overreacting? How do you deal with something like this?

    1. X*

      He probably said that because your boss made a comment, which gave John an opening to say “I did invite Carrots, but she didn’t come” and then followed it up with that message to reinforce that idea. I would honestly be careful around John. I’m not saying he’s a monster, but that sort of two-faced behavior is shady and probably not the first or the last time he’s engaged in it.

      1. Carrots*

        “that sort of two-faced behavior is shady and probably not the first or the last time he’s engaged in it.”

        That’s correct- he’s very two-faced and often changes his personality/attitude depending on whom he is talking to. (It’s very frustrating and confusing.)

    2. Not today, Satin*

      I would state the facts. “Sorry I had a scheduling conflict, but if it is that important to you that I attend, next time give me advance notice and I will let you know what days I am available.”

      1. Not today, Satin*

        Don’t let your reasonable actions be twisted into telling a false story. If he acts like you let him down, then acknowledge his feelings and his responsibility in the situation/offer a solution (ie “You seem very angry/disappointed/sad about this, had you let me know in advance/next time let if you give me more than an hours notice) — basically clarify his re-telling with some truth. He caused it, his feelings are a result of his actions – not a reflection on any action of yours.

    3. MissGirl*

      I’m super confused. You said he invited you so what’s the problem? Was it because he said you can come even though you’re not an intern? I’m not sure why that’s offensive. Both statements seem to imply you’re invited.

      He invited you, you chose not to go.

      1. Carrots*

        It was confusing because he invited me, but then was all, “Well, you’re not part of my team, but you can come.”

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Don’t read into what people say – I think that’s the big problem here. I mean, you’re taking this negatively. But, at least John initiated the invitation – he may have been concerned that you’d see it as an imposition on your time and didn’t want to to feel like you HAD to be there if you didn’t want to. He might really think that you and the team would benefit from having this social interaction, but doesn’t want to make you feel weird about saying no.

          Honestly, I would take the invitation at face value, say “Thanks, I’d love to” and go. Being team-oriented is a good thing and sometimes you have to build the connection yourself, rather than wait for other people to recognize that you are indeed a part of the team.

          1. MissGirl*

            Yes, this. John could be a jerk or he could’ve been thinking the OP might not want to hang out with a bunch of interns. Your advice on being team-orientated is spot on.

            1. Carrots*

              I understand the team-oriented aspect of it, but they are catty and gossip. I walked by once and they were huddled in a group gossiping about another intern that was working by himself about 6 feet away. It’s very clique-y. John appointed one to be his secretary and she just bosses me around and is rude. Individually they’re nice, but in a group not so much. One intern said that they talk about me, so I don’t think that I am part of the “team.”

              1. MissGirl*

                That makes sense. A lot of times people are angry at something that on the surface isn’t worth the anger, but it’s indicative of a bigger problem. The issue isn’t the invite; the issue is the treatment. Address that or move on. The invite is just a red-herring.

        2. EnfysNest*

          I feel like this is the sort of thing that if I was John, I would be way overthinking things and after sending the invite, I might suddenly start to worry that I might have made it sound like I’m treating you like you report to me or like you’re one of the interns when you’re not and I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I was thinking of you as a subordinate instead of a peer. So the second message would be to clarify and make sure you know that I’m not trying to minimize your position in any way. And I would be angsting over whether or not it was appropriate or needed to send that correction at all, but every moment that passes, you might be reading the first message and getting the wrong impression so I just need to send *something* and so on.

          Obviously I have no idea of what’s actually going on in John’s head, but unless you have evidence to the contrary, I’d just assume that it was a bit of awkward wording on John’s part and that he didn’t mean any malice by any of it.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          With these types of statements I watch the last half of the sentence and respond to that half.
          “but you can come”- I’d just answer that part.

          I agree that he was awkwardly offering you an easy out, if you wanted. Go. Bring your own transportation. If it’s not fun or the group is not nice, then leave and don’t go again.

          1. Carrots*

            They just gossip and make fun of people, so it really isn’t fun. John created a cliquey environment that I don’t feel comfortable with, especially when they’re all in a group. (One-on-one, they’re nice, but when they’re all together it is different.)

    4. Workerbee*

      I’m wondering if you’ve experienced problems with John in other ways, as at face value, the dinner invite situation just sounds mildly irritating given his phrasing.

      1. Carrots*

        Yes- he alternates between being verbally abusive in front of others to me (ie: “Carrots, it’s your fault.” Even though it isn’t my fault.) In private, he flirts with me and makes advances. (The guy is a creep, BUT he charms everyone else and sucks up to the boss, so they don’t see it.)

        1. Morning reader*

          Way to bury the lede! Do you have HR, if so you need to report sexual harassment. At least document.
          As for the invitation, it sounds like you wouldn’t want to hang around with these people anyway. Especially John. How about, no, I’m not interested in invitations from people who are creating a hostile workplace. Make it clear that’s it’s not a scheduling conflict.

  31. Sunflower*

    Anyone have luck changing industries in the middle of all this? It seems like people are having more luck job searching than they were a few months ago (yay!). I have a job but was looking at changing industries long before this and feeling like I can never get away from work has just solidified my decision. I’m looking to move from events to sales/account management and hoping things are looking up from the last 6 months!

    1. lapgiraffe*

      Following because also curious, in sales but my industry is not doing well and have been trying to switch over into related jobs but different field and….it’s not going well. Did get one offer…for literally half of what I was making at my old job (laid off). I was expecting to take a pay cut or at best stay in the same ballpark salary but so far I have not cracked the code and feeling rather discouraged.

  32. Flaxseed*

    I’m having a tough time with getting responses from people- I email and call them, but no one bothers to respond. They come to me for help and dump work on me, yet when I need *their* help, they can’t be bothered.

    Sometimes I have to have my boss contact them and THEN they respond, but he’s busy and shouldn’t have to do that all of the time.

    Any thoughts or suggestions?

    1. X*

      The only solution I’ve found is to be very clear and specific about when you need a response from them. Like if you say “can you please let me know if you’ll be able to complete this by Friday?” on Monday, then I would follow up with them based on how much time the task will take. As in, if you know it’s a four-day task, follow up with them again on Monday. If they’re still not responding, loop in their supervisor or your supervisor and express your concern that “I’m not sure if Coworker will be able to get to X Y Z by Friday, can you assist?” Frame it as a collective problem to solve, rather than “I’m mad because Coworker didn’t respond to me.”

      For the problem of you giving them things and them giving you other work rather than what you asked for, I would again get it in writing and say something like “Sorry Coworker, I really need to know [task I gave you] is being completed/is going to be finished before adding [unrelated thing] to my queue, or I’ll need to spend time looking for another coworker to help me on [task I gave you] because I need it by [deadline].”

    2. Dave*

      Internal and external are two different issues. I would ask your manager about their suggestions especially on the internal side. Externally I can actually get a faster response to people then my boss because of years of relationship building (and they know my boss sometimes gives me unrealistic deadlines but they try and help).

    3. Juneybug*

      1. Could you try sending weekly emails to your boss on project status, etc? –
      Dear boss,
      Weekly status of projects:
      Llama grooming – waiting on supply team to determine when they will make a decision if we are using brushes or combs for the specialty llamas. Once I hear from them, I will be able to order the grooming tools.
      Llama billing – waiting to see what new billing system is selected. Next step – see if we need to training for new software and schedule training time.
      Flaxseed

      Hopefully your boss will start mentioning it to their bosses and work will start moving forward. I have found out that bosses do not know what is causing the delays and get frustrated that the projects are not moving forward. So inform them and use their authority to get things moving.
      PS Did you notice that I didn’t mention anyone by name or saying anything negative? Just state the facts and next steps.

      2. Stop doing work for others (unless your boss directly ask you to assist). I worry that you tasks are not getting done because you are doing their work instead.

      3. Or state you can knock out this task if they are able to provide this answer/status/task. Use their need for assistance to ask for their assistance.

    4. Tabby Baltimore*

      This topic came up (in the context of accountability) in a July AAM post (https://www.askamanager.org/2014/07/holding-people-accountable-isnt-always-about-formal-action-sometimes-its-just-a-direct-conversation.html). Whether your own supervisor is willing to try what was suggested in this post (printed below) may depend on how good the relationship is between them and the non-responding employee’s supervisor.

      In that July posting, a commenter, who I think was a supervisor named Jamie, mentioned that when someone who works for them (let’s say “Bob”) is having trouble getting responses from someone else, and Jamie knows that if Bob cc’s Jamie’s name on the email, it will move the other employee to action, Jamie will suggest this to Bob … but then Jamie follows up privately with the non-responding employee to ask why it took that (having to cc: Jamie) to get a response.

      The question Jamie typically asks the other employee is “Thanks for getting back to Bob on X. Was there a reason you responded when I got involved, and not before?” And then Jamie just waits, quietly, for the answer. Jamie emphasized that they never ask this in email – *always* face-to-face. It might’ve been Alison who pointed out that having a direct conversation with an employee about why something went wrong can create accountability and reinforce messages about how we want people to operate without the need for write-ups or other disciplinary actions.

      Flaxseed, if your boss is brave enough to do this, you might suggest it. Maybe doing so will solve the problem(s), at least for a few months … until the backsliding starts.

  33. scandalized yank*

    I’m in the US, and was applying to a job at a US office a UK-based consulting firm. I was completely shocked to see that one of the required questions, that you could not submit the application without answering, was marital status! It was right in the section with gender/ethnicity/etc, although most of those were optional. Is this normal? Or was this place just a complete outrage?

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      No, that’s not normal and in the US can get them into trouble because if you can’t submit the application without answering it, the assumption is that it must be important to them and they are using that information (which would be illegal in the US). In the US companies tend to bend over backwards to not ask for information that is prohibited to consider, because why would they be asking for it in the first place? Then they have the burden of showing they didn’t use it, and it is really difficult to prove a negative when the positive is staring them right in the face.

    2. Lara*

      I’m also in the US and I’ve applied for a few UK-based jobs that have asked for marital status, sexual orientation, religion and whether I have caring responsibilities. Apparently its totally normal to ask that stuff in the UK, but yeah, it’s totally bizarre from an American perspective.

      1. TiffIf*

        And potentially getting into illegal territory given that this job is actually in the US and therefore has to follow US laws.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Er, it really shouldn’t be on a UK application. I too would be scandalised (but with an s).

      3. TechWorker*

        It’s also illegal to take into account in the U.K., but it’s relatively common for companies to collect that data so that they can see whether there’s a difference in demographic between who applies and who hires. In that case though it should be a) optional to provide the information b) clearly stated that’s the purpose it will be useful for and c) not viewable by the people making hiring decisions but stored separately.

    3. misspiggy*

      That’s quite odd, unless it’s a position where you might be moving countries at some point, in which case it might be necessary for immigration. They might do it for all their ‘international’ hires just in case, which would be pretty poor of them.

    4. Xavier Desmond*

      In my experience here in the UK, those questions are usually asked in a separate section that is removed upon the application being submitted. The data is then used to make sure the company isn’t discriminatory in their hiring practices.

      1. Xavier Desmond*

        After a look on the UK Government website this is called an Equality monitoring form. It would be illegal to ask questions about marital status on any other part of the application form

      2. Randomity*

        This, yes.

        It’s demographic data and the idea is that the company can make sure they are not inadvertently discriminating.

    5. mdv*

      That is more common in European countries, where it is also still fairly common to submit a headshot photo together with a resume (at least, in my experience).

    6. allathian*

      I’m in the EU, and I can’t remeber ever answering a question about my marital status directly. That said, for my current job and one that I interviewed for in the summer and didn’t get, I had to agree to a security check. That means that they would have found out my marital status that way, as well as the fact that we have a child. My husband is also listed as my next of kin and emergency contact.

  34. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

    User Experience Researchers: a few weeks ago I posted about looking for jobs outside my field (public health/reproductive health/maternal and child health) and someone–I think Addie?–suggested looking into user experience research based on my background in qual and quant research. If anyone who’s in the field sees this and don’t mind sharing, can you talk about how you entered the field (i.e. connections, random job posts, etc), please? I’ve applied for a few positions but they look pretty popular, so any tips would be amazing. Thank you!!

    1. 867-5309*

      Hey Ryan, I am not UX but hire for that position on my team and a few folks I know have moved into the space.

      While generally LinkedIn courses aren’t especially valuable, since you’re moving from a related field, it might be a good idea to check them out. It signals to hiring managers and recruiters that you’re interested in this type of work.

      I also just checked out the LinkedIn profile of a colleague who moved from marketing communications to UX, she is now working in that role for one of the largest tech companies globally. It looks like she got a UX/UI design certification from Bloc (bloc.io). She also did some volunteering as a web manager for some nonprofits. There is a group called Hexagon UX, a global UX non-profit focusing on community events and mentorship aimed to empower women & non-binary folks. While I don’t know your gender, volunteering with them could still be possible & I’m certain there are other groups out there for UX.

      Good luck and hope this helps!

  35. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

    I guess it’s possible, but we are only friends because of my job. I wouldn’t have met this person otherwise. And the company wasn’t willing to step up and help with their own equipment. This is a pretty laid back company and I was just trying to help one of their customers.

  36. darlingpants*

    Any advice about how long to stick around after a reorg you think has negatively changed your job? It looks like all of the interesting scientific parts of my job where I learn new things has been moved to a different team, leaving us/me with the boring grunt work of running the same 3 tests over and over and over again. It’s possible that my manager was being pessimistic when he said that: he was laid off and he’s not super happy right now, but I’m pretty nervous about the change.

    I’d also love advice on how to bring this up with my new manager without sounded precious or spoiled. “You hired a PhD and the role is now at a lab tech level” sounds bratty to me but I haven’t come up with anything better.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Maybe have a conversation with your boss about how you really enjoyed x and y from the job you had and is there any opportunity for something similar in this role?

    2. Nesprin*

      I think that “You hired a PhD and the role is now at a lab tech level” is an absolutely appropriate bit of criticism, tho you’d need to cover that nucleus up a little better, and justify what you can do that’d be more valuable than running the same 3 assays over and over again. Rands in repose has a great post titled “bored people quit” that is probably relevant to your situation.

      For example:
      Since the reorganization, I’ve been assigned less (interesting sciency work) and more (assays susceptible to automation). I’d like to spend more of my time on the challenging/forward looking work, both for personal development and to take some strain off the personell budget. We can buy the robot to automate our assays for (5k), which will free up my time to go after (shiny new approach) or (better coordinate with group’s needs) or (develop VP’s pet idea).

      1. Annony*

        One thing to keep in mind if you want to take this approach is that they may decide the best thing for the personnel budget is to replace you with a lab tech. You may not want to have that conversation until you are ready to walk away.

      2. darlingpants*

        The very frustrating thing is we already own a robot that I’m the only one who knows how to use, and we just bought another one where I was the only one trained. So taking the responsibility away from me seems so dumb and shortsighted I’m having a hard time communicating that politely.

    3. Annony*

      You say it “looks like” these changes made your job that of a lab tech, but has it actually happened yet? I think you can definitely bring up your concerns but you may be overly pessimistic right now. Try phrasing it as asking for clarification. “I was hired to do x, y and z but with this reorganization, it looks like my job is now just running these 3 tests. Is that actually the case or are there other job responsibilities planned that I haven’t been told about?” Clarifying your job duties is not at all precious or spoiled. You can then take that information and decide if it is worth sticking it out or if you should start job searching.

      1. darlingpants*

        I’m definitely anticipating trouble, but I want to be prepared as they communicate the boundaries of the new role. So far I’ve gotten “[two development things I’ve been working on] are going to the other group” from my outgoing manager, and “the goals of this group are to make the assays we already do more efficient so we can do more of them faster” from the new manager.
        My first one-on-one with her is Monday and I want to be prepared.

    4. 867-5309*

      My partner is a chemist and in his company’s last re-org, they moved him into a project management type role. He is and wants to be in the lab, as a scientist. He spoke to his boss to see a timeline for him to return to his previous type of work and while they were open to it, several months later there were significant lay offs that particularly hit R&D. It was then clear he wouldn’t be moving back so he just accepted another position.

      I think you have to have a conversation with your manager – “The work I’m passionate about and where I can most contribute to the organization is doing X. Do you see a path for me to return to that kind of work”? There answer will give you the best indicator of your next steps.

    5. RC Rascal*

      Stick around as long as it takes you to find another job. You could easily get hit with another reorganization soon.

    6. Emilitron*

      When this happened to me (specifically “You hired a PhD engineer and the role is now about how our tech makes people feel”), it was 9 months of my being the last holdout in oldtasks, followed by me giving the new role a shot for a year or so because I didn’t want to feel disloyal/ungrateful/petty/etc, followed by me job searching for 9 months. That adds up to 2.5 years, which was at least 1.5 years too long. Start a job search now, you can always choose to not to take an offer once you’ve got that offer in hand if your role has improved by then.
      That said, a corporate change of direction with official reorg is a real change and is not going to magically change back. It doesn’t hurt to ask whether there’s a possibility that the new role will grow to include new things you like, but if they say probably not, you should believe them – this is not the time to be optimistic, especially if optimism means hoping the reorg will undo itself. My one caveat to “just plan on leaving” is that if there are other people at the company doing work that you would find interesting and rewarding, ask about moving into those groups, you may not have to leave entirely. But you do need a new role/group/team at the very least.

  37. OTGW*

    I have a question about supervising. I’m applying to be one—sorta an assistant to the head of the department—but I’ve never had any supervisory experience before. If I were to get an interview, as I doubt this will be the only supervisory role in my field I’ll apply to, what are things to keep in mind that I’ll be able to handle the role despite my lack of experience? What are questions I should ask them to make sure it’s right for me?

    It’s a job that involves a lot of patrons/customer service, which is where my experience is (in the same field too) so it’s not like I’m jumping from, idk, retail to like zoo manager.

    1. The JMP*

      When I interview people who have never held an official supervisory role before, I always ask about similar experience – things like taking the lead on a project, supervising interns, training new colleagues. Think about the things a supervisor would do in the position you’re applying for and see where you have similar experience.

      I also try to determine if the person I’m interviewing understands what management is all about – it’s hard! Do they know what they’re getting themselves into, especially if they don’t have prior experience? Are they prepared to make decisions people will be unhappy with? Are they prepared to problem-solve? Will they be capable of delegating?

      One thing that may be helpful to think of is the way you like to be managed and use that to both think about what your management style might be (and how you’d adapt it for different employees) and to make sure your supervisor is someone you can work with.

      I’d also ask questions about responsibilities/authority, and if possible, speak to some people who are supervised by the same person you would be to hear about their experiences. Having all of the responsibility (for meeting deliverables, or whatever) but no authority to enforce standards or address concerns with the people you supervise is a miserable position to be in. I wouldn’t accept a supervisor role without a good indication that your supervisor will have your back.

  38. October Anon*

    I have been working with my supervisor for about a year and a half. He is a NEW supervisor and is much younger than me (just to illustrate that I have more years of experience working at similar jobs / my current position). He has asked for feedback during our 1:1 weekly meetings (currently we use Teams meetings only and try not to meet in person). I would like to tell him that he should improve: being late to meetings (a few minutes usually) and pay attention to the presenters and topic during meetings. He seems to be distracted and feels that he has to respond to emails immediately (emails that he gets during a meeting / not related to the topic of discussion / from someone not part of the meeting).
    How do I bring this to his attention?

    1. October Anon*

      I came back to add that before COVID social distancing guidelines at the office (Teams meetings and wearing masks when meeting in person) My supervisor seems to be open to hearing negative feedback about work topics. I did notice during the in person meetings that he would sometimes respond to not so great news about any work related topics with rolling his eyes and crossing his arms. Yet his tone would remain relaxed.
      And since I would have to deliver the feedback about him on a Teams meeting (without video), I am not able to see his body language and facial reaction.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I think Alison might say that he is asking for feedback that impacts you/your work and these are not things that it is your responsibility to bring to his attention. Does his lateness or his lack of attention in meetings impact you?

      Even if he is late to meetings with you, that might be ok for your organization. It might be ok that he is a few minutes late because his time might be worth more than yours, that is just the power imbalance of supervisor/supervisee, not a measure of your worth. He is also free to use his time in meetings the way he wants, he might be responding to his own supervisor. But no matter what he is doing, it sounds like that is something his own supervisor needs to address.

      Can you tell us more about why you want to raise these issues?

      1. Dave*

        I would also lean towards not mentioning it unless it impacts you. The lateness thing with bosses gets a pretty wide berth but if there is a meeting his later to then others ask him if the meeting time should shift or if you want to get into it you can offer to send a 10 minute reminder. (This is a very slippery slope but I am never sure sometimes if boss is running late or they forgot and then wasting an hour because I don’t want to start anything big if we are meeting.)

      2. October Anon*

        Thanks for the feedback.
        The main reason is that when he is late to some meetings or is distracted during the meeting (meetings which include other managers who are higher level employees and are super busy) everyone has to wait for his arrival or response to the questions discussed in the meeting (for example, how is tea cup production effected when part A of tea cup equipment is not installed, yet part B is installed). He is the individual with more insight in the manufacturing and we have the meetings to response to the questions of specific department manager who is approving work instructions and such.
        What are your thoughts?

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          I think I would leave the lateness for his boss to bring up – it sounds like you’re mostly concerned that he’s inconveniencing higher-level employees, and less concerned on your own behalf. In that case, drop it.

          For being distracted during your meetings, I think you can bring it up since it does impact you – “I felt like we had a really good 1-on-1 dynamic back in the office. Since we’ve gone remote it seems like you’re more likely to be multi-tasking during our meetings and I’ve noticed [negative impact].”

  39. profe*

    I could use some advice on how to bounce back emotionally from a very (unexpectedly) bad interaction with my bosses. This happened about a month ago and I’m still having a hard time keeping it from coloring every interaction and making me anxious.
    For context I teach at a school that reopened in early August despite my area being very bad in terms of Covid cases. I worked on the reopening task force to establish the protocols. After a few weeks, I wrote an email to my boss and grandboss (copied grandboss bc my department head encouraged me to) outlining my concerns about protocols not being followed. I had specific examples, but my concerns were big picture. Both my department head and a trusted teacher friend read my email and thought it was tactful but clear.
    I didn’t expect to accomplish anything, but I felt it was the right thing to do to bring this up. I’m not one to rock the boat and I don’t like bringing attention to myself, but it felt too important in the context of safety.
    Well, boss and grandboss flipped out. I was hauled into a meeting with both of them that lasted two hours in which I was humiliated and insulted personally and professionally. They continually pushed the conversation away from my big picture concerns toward specific instances and made it out to be just my personal failings as a teacher. Among other things, it was thrown in my face that I ‘overreacted’ by taking a sick day early on to get a covid test when I was… sick. It was horrible.
    I get that they are under a ton of pressure and did not want to hear criticism from me, but I figured I would most likely just be brushed off. This was my nightmare scenario. I think it was wildly unprofessional of them to react this way, but it still makes me feel awful and a month later I still feel like my every move is under scrutiny, whether that is true or not. It makes me want to avoid bringing up problems because I feel like I will be blamed for them. Rationally I know that my bosses are no longer thinking about me a fraction as much as I am thinking about them, but I don’t know how to recover from this.
    Advice or pep talks welcome.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I can only say that I am so sorry that happened!
      What would “recover from this” look like to you? Is it, “I can act like it never happened” or is it, I” see them in a better light,” or something else.
      This is information about them that I would not be able to ignore. Believe people when they tell you who they are. And it is not just losing it at one meeting, it is also not following up to say, I lost it due to stress and I apologize. Next time, please handle your concerns this way . . . because cc’ing grandboss prevented me from managing it well, or whatever your boss should say.

      And in my mind, the folks who encouraged you to cc the grandboss deserve some thought too. They essentially asked you to do their dirty work for them.

      1. profe*

        Thanks. I wish I could just stop feeling like I’m on thin ice. Which realistically my coworkers assure me that I’m not. But teaching in a pandemic is through the roof stressful and I’m having trouble having perspective.

        I agree that I’ve learned some stuff I wish I hadn’t about my school admin.

        For what it’s worth though, I do trust my department head completely. She shares my concerns and has expressed them herself many more times than me. She encouraged me to include grandboss (head of school) because she had more productive talks with him than boss. Nothing remotely like how it went for me. So it wasn’t a case of her throwing me to the wolves, she really thought it would help and was disgusted when I told her what happened.

        Incidentally, my principal (boss) suddenly now wants to help me find a solution for my over crowded class of freshman who won’t keep their masks on, after she had to cover for half a period when I was out this week for an emergency. And she said this to me as if I had never brought up those problems before and she had just notice them. *screams internally*

        1. Double A*

          I do think one thing to keep in mind is that even if your administration is super mad and kind of hates you… it probably would be a huge pain for them to fire you. And once you can get into a, “What are they going to do? Fire me?” mentality, it can be a little easier to distance yourself from them.

          And in the meantime, keep working with your dept. head. If your principal has now seen the light because she walked in your shoes, be extremely gracious about it (while mentally shooting her with your laser vision).

          Admin makes or breaks a school. I’m sorry yours sucks; I’d work on updating your resume and as your dept head to write you a letter of recommendation*.

          (*This may seem weird to most people, but every teaching job I’ve every applied to requires to submit multiple letters of recommendation.)

      2. Exhausted Trope*

        I concur with Thankful.
        Your bosses have overreacted and acted egregiously. And they say you “overreacted” by taking a sick day?!
        This is an organization that you do not want to work for. And their persecution of you over this will not end once the Crisis wanes, I guarantee. They’ll find something else to weaponize. I’ve been there.
        Get out as soon as possible. I wish you all kinds of luck.

      3. Who me?*

        But you didn’t tell any lies! They lost their s$@t because they knew they were wrong. And as above, they showed you who they are! I’m sorry you had to be treated that way

    2. Blackcat*

      What is turnover at your school like?
      Basically, will you outlast boss and grandboss? If so, I’d keep my head down, and would agree with avoiding bringing up problems.
      You can’t trust them. You can’t trust them to care about safety or students’ well-being.
      Having been a teacher… it’s really, really hard to work under administrators once you lose faith in their care for students. I couldn’t do it. I left, in part because I was already planning to (grad school), but even if I hadn’t had those plans, I would have had to leave. So if you think they’ll be around >5 years, and you will be to, I’d start making plans to move onto a different school.

      Basically every teacher I know is so, so miserable right now. I’m so sorry this happened.

    3. Flower necklace*

      I’m a high school teacher, and I feel for you. We were scheduled to go back in November, but that was pushed back a few days ago. Now they’re taking a phased-in approach, so that PK-3 will be going back in waves, but everyone else won’t be going back until January at the earliest.

      I can’t even imagine what being in school is like right now. I don’t see how it’s even possible to enforce social distancing and mask wearing while also teaching in person students and remote students, all at the same time.

    4. NoMercy*

      My first thought was they were lashing out at you for putting your concerns in writing and therefore they can’t ignore them. Keep a copy of that email and make notes about your meeting with them. Make notes of every interaction going forward as well. You pushed them out of their comfort zone and they know the onus is on them to do something about this. Their heads are on the chopping block if anything goes wrong now.

      Good for you for doing the right thing!!!

  40. Anonymous for This*

    Just a rant:

    I’ve got a direct report, Jack, who is on the cusp of getting a PIP, but not quite there yet…

    Unfortunately, while waiting on his COVID results, Jack decided to come to work (yes, he knew better – in fact, he had already been isolating at home for two days) — when I found out, he was sent home, but his results came back that afternoon as him being positive. His housemate also works on the same team, and he hadn’t even let his housemate know that he was waiting on test results.

    I’m just so appalled at Jack’s lack of judgment I just want to scream. I’m working with HR on the appropriate response to this, but in the meantime, we’ve of course had to close the office, the other employees are wanting to know if they should be tested, and all I can do is say, for your peace of mind, if you feel more comfortable having a test, don’t wait to be “notified” through contact tracing, just go get tested (we have to work remotely until the office opens back up, which won’t be for another week or so, so since we have to be home anyway, you might as well get tested now since you wouldn’t be able to come back to the office until your results came back). I don’t have confidence that Jack was as forthright for contact tracing purposes as he should be. It’s just….ugh.

    OK. Rant over. Thank you for listening.

    1. Sunflower*

      Any idea why on earth he came into the office if he was waiting on a result and already had been isolating?!

    2. pancakes*

      I don’t think you should play along with the idea that this dude knew better. His behavior was no better than that of someone terribly misinformed or hopelessly uninformed. If he wants people to believe he’s smarter and more trustworthy than he in fact is, that’s his problem.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Honestly, I’d trigger the PIP right now. or terminate the guy. He came to work WHILE AWAITING his test results. That shows a the very least, a lack of judgement. It’s also pretty darn selfish of him.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        If he violated official office policy by coming back during his quarantine time (and it sounds like he might have since it triggered an office closure), that should be grounds for termination.

    4. allathian*

      How is your employer reacting to COVID in general? Are they really taking it seriously or going through the motions?

      I wonder, because Jack knowingly endangered the rest of you and possibly caused expenses for the business by forcing an office closure, certainly if there are jobs that can only be done from the office and people are out on paid quarantine.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Is your company policy clear? If yes, follow it. If not, use this ti push management to make it clear, and go from there.
      My company has its covid policy clearly posted including on our login screens- rules like not coming in with a fever over 100.4° or when exposed and waiting test/quarantine period. It clearly states that breaking these policies is grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination.

  41. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

    Anyone have any tips for dealing with ridiculously cold offices?
    It’s currently 60.3°F in here. I’ve got gloves, long sleeves, a sweater, blanket, woolly socks, and even one of those microwaveable rice packs, but the cold just seeps in.
    Space heaters are out of the question – someone used one last week and it blew the circuit the servers were on and caused a whole mess.
    The thermostat is set to 70, so this isn’t a case of the office heat wars, there appears to be a problem with the A/C. My boss is trying to get it fixed, but we’re in a small suite of offices in a larger building and are stuck with whenever building management decides to get around to it (which we figured would be sooner rather than later as we’re in the southern US so this is a good 15-20 °F difference from external temperatures and can’t be cheap to maintain, but this has been going on for weeks now…)

    1. violet04*

      I’m sorry. That sounds miserable! Can you use an electric blanket? Or plug in a heating pad and sit on it? Is working from home an option?

    2. irene adler*

      Would individual heated throw blankets work? They certainly use less electricity than space heaters. But they are limiting in that you can’t walk around the office while they are plugged in.

      Don’t know if your HVAC unit is gas or all electric, but could the pilot light be out? Hence no heat no matter what the thermostat is set at. And, the HVAC unit would probably run all the time, trying to get to 70 degrees, only to keep circulating cold air. Not comfortable at all!

      1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

        I think we’re electric, and I doubt they’ve switched to heating yet since we’re still in the 75- 80°F range outside.
        I like the electric blanket idea and will definitely be using that.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I would encourage the boss to nag the landlord. In my office, we did some remodeling and the downside was we messed up the proper airflow. The landlord had to fiddle around in the ceiling to get the ducts working right. Before that I was FROZEN and you could feel the temperature plummet as soon as you came into the suite.

      How big was the heater? Mine is very small, lives under my desk and blows warm air on my feet/legs. Can you find/use a battery operated one? Or is there any kind of floor mat you could put down to insulate your suite/under your desk?

      1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

        Boss has been pretty good about bugging building management. She grabbed a pic of my thermometer today to send them as evidence that there was a real problem.

    4. red orange yellow green blue indigo violet beauregarde**

      My sympathies.

      This one is gonna depend on your body, but are you able to do squats? I’ve found that going off into a corner and doing 5 squats or so, or maybe jumping jacks, or whatever, can help warm me up a bit.

      1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

        I can – and getting up from my desk and moving a bit every so often would probably be good for me even without the cold.

    5. CatCat*

      Sounds miserable! If electric heating options are not something you can do, hot water bottles will hold heat for a long time and help keep you warm (I have hot water bottles that came with “sweaters” that help insulate them). Also chemical handwarmer packets (check out “Hot Hands” brand) can go in your gloves.

      1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

        I think I have some of those handwarmers somewhere. I should dig them out and toss them in my purse, just in case.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          From my days of 4am winter train rides… 16oz plastic soda bottles with hot tap water fit inside coat pockets and hold more heat than rice. Just watch the timing in a microwave because eventually they melt.

    6. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

      In my own bit of Friday good news- building management has called an HVAC company and my boss is sending us to work from home!

    7. Third or Nothing!*

      I’ve seen little USB plug in heating gloves to keep your hands warm while you’re on a computer. I haven’t gotten any, but I’ve been tempted.

    8. Rusty Shackelford*

      For me, having something warm *under* me is a lot more warming than having it over me. Like, if I use a throw blanket, I’ll put it in the chair and drape it over me, rather than throwing it over my lap.

    9. RC Rascal*

      I worked under these conditions for 6 years. Building had a screwed up HVAC system that wasn’t easily fixable. Best answer I ever came up with was layers. I would wear a lightweight blouse or short w lightweight long sleeve Woolf sweater over it even in summer. Pants. Shoes & socks and or nylons & socks. Keep a wrap at the desk & take to meetings.

      It’s hot where I live in summer —90-100 degrees. Don’t try to run errands on your way hone in this getup. Change clothes there for after work.

      Sorry. It’s miserable.

      1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

        I’ve been doing a bit of layering, but resisted going all in, since anything that keeps me warm enough at work is pretty stifling when I get in the hot car at the end of the day. Even the bit I’m doing leaves me stripping layers in the parking lot.

    10. Elenna*

      Glad to know things are working out! Just in case they don’t get fixed – eating/drinking warm food tends to warm you up more compared to wearing warm stuff. It’s because warm clothes/blankets rely on keeping in the heat your body is already generating, while warm drinks a) warm you up from the inside and b) add additional heat. Could you maybe keep a thermos of hot tea/coffee/hot chocolate/hot drink of your choice at your desk? (Source: am Canadian :) )

      1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

        I have been drinking soooo much tea. It really has helped, both warming my insides and my hands.
        (Excellent source, very convincing)

  42. Kelly AF*

    Not official Friday Good News, but some good news nonetheless! I’ve been in a job I liked for awhile, but known I was seriously underpaid. This week, I received THREE offers, all for about 50% raises. I’m nervous and excited to be taking a new job.

    And Ask a Manager was hugely helpful to me while interviewing. So thanks, Alison and AaM community!

  43. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I’m still waiting to hear back from my third (fourth if you count the phone screen) round of interviews for a job I’m interested in but not crazy about. I’m actually kind of impressed with myself for feeling pretty indifferent and not sweating it much, though of course I worry that it means I don’t really want this job. Complicating matters is that this week my boss actually did listen to something I had to say and put me on a project that will be very exciting and new for our company and will take us into the 21st century. But would the promise of that make me stay? I don’t think so. If this other company came to me with a solid offer, I would take it.

    Then a few minutes ago I had a conversation that absolutely shook me. My boss told me he got approached to do business with an organization I find personally abhorrent AND is completely out of our company’s wheelhouse. When I raised my objections, in language that was unfortunately a bit too diplomatic, he countered me at every turn, sometimes quite rudely. It wasn’t until he did some digging on the organization’s website that he realized I was right and we shouldn’t take this business. I almost told him that if we did this I would have to walk out, I feel that strongly about it. In the end, I’m glad he changed his mind, but man, I was so thrown. I even said to him, “Think about all the people in this company who are _____ and what it would mean to them if you took this business, and what they would think.” He didn’t even flinch.

    I hate this limbo. I wish the company I’m interviewing with would just tell me one way or another!

    1. Emilitron*

      Congrats on doing a good deed (on your way out the door) preventing your boss from taking on a gross contract

    2. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Don’t stay for this project. Just like you generally shouldn’t take a counter offer – it sounds like overall this place and/or your boss has too many problems.

  44. violet04*

    A couple of weeks ago my husband was laid off from his job of 23 years. His work involved maintaining large industrial heating and cooling systems.

    He’s looking for HVAC roles, but is also interested in IT help desk type work. Outside of work he’s taught himself lots of things related to computers – building them, software, troubleshooting, networking, etc.

    If he’s applying to an IT role, what would be the best way to address it? Put something in a “skills” section of the resume? Address it in more detail in a cover letter? It may be a long shot, but I figure it doesn’t hurt for him to apply and give it a chance.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Most important thing in a help-desk situation, if that’s really what he’s thinking he wants to do, is customer service skills. He should highlight any history he has of dealing with difficult (and less knowledgeable) clients, and helping them to troubleshoot and resolve their issues. Best place to talk about this is the cover letter, but if it played a large part in his previous position, he can probably fit it into the resume as an accomplishment

      Skills section for the actual hard skills (or certifications if he’s gotten any), definitely.

      1. violet04*

        That’s a good idea about customer service. Thanks! He’s very much an extrovert and enjoys talking to people. In his old role, he worked in an office building that had lab equipment so there was interaction with people helping them troubleshoot issues with their equipment.

    2. Annony*

      Does he have any IT certifications? That may help. Also, try to talk about troubleshooting problems in his current role and following processes.

      How much does he know about what it is like to work at an IT help desk? I have a couple of friends who work at IT help desks and apparently it can be mind numbingly boring. Most of the job is talking people through things like restarting their computer, making sure it is actually plugged in and other things to account for human error. Any interesting problems involve sending the computer to the technicians to fix. They have a flowchart to follow so there is very little actual troubleshooting involved. At my company, most of what the help desk does is reset our remote access when it stops working or remoting in to type in an admin password to download software. If he is looking into these jobs because he enjoys building computers he may want to think about whether he actually wants a help desk job.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        My son says the same thing about Help Desk jobs!
        He also told me that most of the errors are ID-10-T errors – for anyone not in the know, that is id10t errors! lol

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            Or PICNICs (problem in chair, not in computer).

            Help desks generate a lot of euphemisms

      2. violet04*

        Good point. Thanks for mentioning it. In his old role, he was usually doing lots of hands on work so a desk job might be a bit of an adjustment. If it gets to the phase of doing an interview, it might be good for him to get an idea the specific type of work he would be doing.

      3. TiffIf*

        Amusing story related to IT Help Desk work. I once was working a job supporting an e-commerce website application. We had a LOT of older people trying to create their own web store who really didn’t know what they were doing and needed a lot of hand holding. Sometimes when I was helping them I would need to know what browser they were using–some people would know how to answer but some had no idea what a browser was. Most of the time you could guess that they were using the OS pre-installed browser–so the vast majority of the time IE, but sometimes you would have someone who probably had their computer set up by a family member who had installed a different browser.

        It got to the point that I boiled it down to “What do you click on to go to the internet?” and if the answer was “The big blue E!” I knew we were in Internet Explorer. Occasionally it was “The orange flame thing” so firefox. Rarely it was “the Compass” and I was suddenly in Mac/safari territory. It was never ever Chrome.

        1. violet04*

          That’s funny! He’s helped his 75 year old father with IT issues over the phone and I have heard things like that while he’s trying to explain things.

        2. Thankful for AAM*

          TiffIf,
          I teach classes at the library, most of them tech related.
          I teach what is an operating system, what is a browser, and what is a search engine in almost every class. I say the operating system lets you talk to the computer, the browser lets you talk to the internet, and a search engine lets you find stuff on the internet. We go over examples and I have a whole funny thing, I cannot talk in 1s and 0s, can you? I cannot see the internet flying through the air, can you? No! So we need the OS and browser.

          They still get confused minutes later when they tell me the google no longer works now they have been forced to upgrade from vista to widows 10.

          Its job security for me!

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      My partner went from HVAC to IT. What has gotten him his current job (beyond being willing to move to a small town with me for my job) is that he’s really good with people. His person skills, more than his tech skills, have been what he’s been awarded for.

    4. nonprofit director*

      He might also consider smaller organizations with general facilities supervisor/manager openings, because those roles often include some IT tasks. If he’s enthusiastic with good customer service skills, it’s possible he could take on a greater share of IT-related work.

      1. violet04*

        Thanks! That’s a great suggestion. He was often the unofficial “computer” person in his old HVAC group.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          He needs to add this to the accomplishments section of his resume and cover letter! It doesn’t have to be just official job duties.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      He might also look up the manufacturers of the equipment he’s used and their competitors for tech support, test lab, and training positions. Even sales. Trainers in particular are spread out geographically so it’s worth checking into if the HQ is elsewhere.

    6. CC*

      I think some data centers/server sites use HVAC technicians to help with maintaining the computer systems as well… something to consider!

  45. Erin F*

    I just found out that my department (Marketing) will be having consultants come in to do interviews over the next few weeks to help us “optimize”. Our department is pretty large and there definitely are some inefficiencies so on one hand it’s good. But I’m feeling pretty nervous about the whole process. I’m considered a high performer so I’m not worried about my job but I also have a tendency to downplay my contributions. Has anyone gone through something like this? Any tips on what to expect?

    1. CR*

      It sounds like in Office Space when they brought the Bobs in to interview everybody just to find people to fire.

    2. irene adler*

      If “optimize” is code for deciding whom to lay off, then yes, I’ve been through this.
      You’ll have to prove your worth-even as a high performer.

      Reason: the consultants may not comprehend the value of your work.

      I do not mean that as an insult in any way.

      It’s just that some consultants, especially those who are not familiar with the what a specific department does, use superficial yardsticks to size up the employees. For example, they might consider: number of times arrived late to work, or took too long on breaks, or doesn’t generate the same amount of out-put that other co-workers produce (never mind that your work is 10X more complex than that of your co-workers) to be an accurate rendering of your worth. They can’t understand anything else.

      Get the picture?
      So try to ascertain the consultant level of understanding of Marketing. And gather data on your end that proves your high performance. Make it as straightforward as you can for them to digest. Hopefully they do have marketing knowledge and will understand your value.

      I work in a lab and I just never went to the break room for my breaks (too much hassle!). And, I only used 15 min of my 30 min lunch break. That, to the consultant my company hired, meant I was of great value. Folks who went outside for their breaks and lunch were considered less valuable to the company (they were considered not serious enough!). Eyeroll!

    3. 867-5309*

      I’ve been through this at several large organizations where it didn’t result in layoffs. Honestly, it is a frustrating waste of time because the consultants end up suggesting the things most people on the team internally had already suggested, but somehow having an incredibly expensive suit tell you the same thing holds more weight with leadership.

      I would just try to suss out the interview purpose(s) so you can prepare accordingly: Is it an assessment of the work you do? Is it a conversation about your responsibilities? Do they want to hear about your results? Is it a feedback interview where they want you to talk about what’s working and what is not? Or, some combination thereof.

    4. Girasol*

      Depends on how long they plan to work with both employees and contractors together. I would expect that the company will discover that a well-educated and qualified contractor is not the same as a good employee because employees carry company culture information. It’s as hard for a contractor to pick up on the culture as it is for a new employee, but this isn’t usually accounted for in the timeline for ramping contractors up to full speed. Culture is the water employees swim in. They typically don’t know what they know about culture and don’t put it into the contractors’ training, which can lead the unsuspecting contractors to make huge mistakes. So unless the company is planning to lay off employees so quickly that they don’t learn their lesson before shoving people out, there’s a fair chance they’ll come to see that you’re actually a more valuable employee than they had realized.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      OMG! You’ve got THE BOBS!
      At worst “optimize” really means layoffs are a coming.
      At best “optimize” means the consultants will provide a seemingly innovative solution, but when it’s time to implement, they find there really isn’t much there in the way of actionable steps to take. Or, the c-suite won’t take the necessary steps to make the solution work (lack of buy-in) because they really just wanted to pay a lot of money cover their own asses to say they tried.

    6. Can Can Cannot*

      Do you know the name of the consulting company? Find out, and then do some investigating. Might help understand what they focus on.

    7. Debbie Downer*

      In my experience, it usually means adding extra steps and extra tasks to your list of things to do. “It’ll only take a a second to include the extra notation,” an extra minute, an extra 5 minutes, and on and on… which is fine, except when you’re already overworked and and don’t have that extra second, extra minute, extra 5 minutes. The extra steps all add up and take time, and then you’ll be criticized for your drop in productivity because you can’t process as many orders or take as many calls in the same time as before.

  46. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    I started my new contract-to-hire WFH job for a Fortune 500 on Monday. Turn on laptop, try to log in but can’t connect to the VPN.

    I call tech support, they tell me my VPN access was never set up. No idea if my manager dropped the ball or IT, but he puts in a ticket and asks it to be expedited. Let me add that I cannot even log in to my laptop and get to my desktop without VPN access due to an authentication process that has to take place. At end of day on WEDNSDAY, the ticket is still in pending status. I was also told to stay available all day so I could jump in a soon as my access was granted, so no leaving the house or doing anything I couldn’t stop on a dime for. So basically doomscrolling social media all day like I’ve been doing for the past 7 months. :(

    Finally yesterday after my manager rattled some cages I get my VPN credentials. They don’t work. I’m on the phone with tech support for nearly and hour and they can’t diagnose the problem because I can’t get to a browser so they take over my laptop and see what’s happening. The ticket gets kicked up to a higher tier of tech support. We are on day #4 at this point and I haven’t been able to do a single thing even though I asked several times if there was anything I could be studying, reviewing, etc in the meantime. Nope, gotta get me logged in first, nothing can happen until that happens.

    This morning I finally was able to get in touch with the higher tech support. My VPN access is not working because whoever set me up didn’t include a security group. At least I was able to confirm that my manager did everything right with his request, a ball just got dropped on the IT side it sounds like.

    So now on Friday, the last day of my first week, I am waiting on another ticket (also expedited) to be resolved by adding my security group. I spoke to my contact at the placement agency and we agreed that I should put in for the whole 40 hours because I have been “engaged to wait” every single day this week from 8am to 5pm. I’m really hoping we don’t get any pushback on it – this week has been incredibly frustrating and stressful for me and I think I deserve to be paid for my time even if I accomplished very little. At the same time though, since I’m so new I don’t want to start of the relationship by quoting labor law as that seems a little confrontational.

    Here’s to hoping that next week is better so I can get rid of the red-flaggy feeling creeping up on me.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      This sounds like three major corporations I’ve worked for. They’re probably used to it — annoying but not unusual.

    2. Spice for this*

      That sounds like the IT department at my current company. It takes forever, yet they get things done.

    3. Zephy*

      The same kind of thing happened to me when I started at CurrentJob. I was hired in a week that had a holiday in the middle of it, one of the ones that doesn’t get moved to Monday for observance, so it took the whole week for IT to get my credentials working and then get my permissions coded correctly in our database system (I had a vague title, they guessed wrong and gave me access to Rice Sculpting tools and functionality but I was in the Llama Grooming department). I was hired as a regular employee, though, not contract-to-hire, so payment was thankfully never an issue. Your agency is correct that you should be paid for your time this week.

    4. Yup, Yup, Nope*

      Shockingly normal.
      I didn’t even get a computer until Day 3 and my system access wasn’t approved until the next week.

    5. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I’m glad to hear that this is pretty common! I *really* need this job and I keep fearing that they’ll figure out it’s too much work and cut me loose.

    6. Jules the 3rd*

      Totally common. When I started working for one employer (IT, Fortune 100), they had no computer for me the whole first week. I could borrow someone’s for two days while they were on vacation, I could read a ton of printouts, but 1pm Fri, manager told me to take an early day. This was a company that built PCs.

    7. Mad Harry Crewe*

      100% you should be paid for all of that time. Sorry about a frustrating week – hopefully it’s smooth sailing from here.

    8. Anon Fed*

      It sounds like working for the federal government in the U.S. My sympathies, and yes, do put in for the whole 40 hours. You weren’t off having fun, you were waiting around trying to work.

    9. ShockedPikachu*

      If you get any pushback on the hours (you shouldn’t), can you kick it back to the placement company to deal with it? They can lean on their existing relationship and their own credibility on labor law to take care of it. I see no reason why they wouldn’t go to bat for you.

  47. Dust Bunny*

    There’s no answer to be found for this one but I’m sort of fretting over it: We’re getting a new executive director. The one we’ve had the past few years has been great but she took over from a guy who neglected us and did a lot of damage to our reputation and professional standing, so she’s had an uphill slog. We’re a private academic library associated with the medical field so this seems like an especially precarious time to transition to a new and unfamiliar boss. Also, we’re in the weird position of serving a bunch of institutions but not being a department of any of them–we’re basically 75% independent, with one institution providing oversight but not complete control. You can imagine how much fun that makes funding.

    We’ve gotten through the past few years with a lot of belt-tightening and zero layoffs, which is pretty much a miracle and a testament to our outgoing ED’s devotion, but now . . . who knows? I heard that at least one of the candidates seemed a lot more interested in what kind of lifestyle Our City could provide for her than she did about our library. I assume they did not hire that person but I don’t know how big the candidate pool was and our weird sorta-independent status is one that wouldn’t be familiar to a lot of people who would be eligible for and interested in the position.

    Also, the head of my department is planning to retire early next year and we’re all on the edges of our seats about that. He’s been a godsend and really turned us around after his predecessor (benignly, but nevertheless) let us slide into outdated procedures and an overload of empty busywork. We all get along well, too, and everyone is pleasant, reliable, and hard-working. So now we get to worry about who will take over from him (we’re kind of a high-strung bunch).

    1. dear liza dear liza*

      Fellow librarian here, and I completely understand having concern for these big changes. Having been through many administrative changes, all I can say is that the more you can compartmentalize, the better. What do you have control over? Not who will be the new director, and probably not who will be the new department head. Don’t fret over the “what if”s. But you can make sure you document all of your successes, and talk about how to best communicate your work to whomever is new. What is your department’s story? Are all of your statistics up to date, and ready to be shared in a compelling way? Who are the champions on campus you can make tap if needed? Don’t got into this with a defensive view but rather as a way to promote collaboration. View these new colleagues as partners, not threats. Good luck!

      1. Dust Bunny*

        My department, fortunately, is in the best shape it’s been in in decades. I think our bigger concern is the weirdness of being semi-independent since libraries are basically resource sucks, and the institutions that support us are hurting because of COVID-19. Journal subscriptions (we have basically no books in the regular stacks, only in the archival/rare book collections) just keep getting more expensive and nothing we do generates profit to speak of.

        1. dear liza dear liza*

          Yep. But all libraries are “non-revenue generating” (as the Business School loves to classify us.) How do you contribute in other ways to the success of the institutions? You’re not going to change your weird status or the cost of journals (Elsevier!!!) so you need to redirect your energies away from fretting somehow (which I think is what you know.) So I’ll just say you have LOTS of company in your worries, and I hope your concerns are for naught.

  48. Much Anon*

    Has anyone successfully recovered from a rocky job start?

    I’m almost a year in and still not totally sure where I fit in a complex organization. I have some duties that are clear, but in many projects feel like I’m on the sidelines and don’t know where to jump in. When I address it with my boss she assures me I’m doing great and “still learning.” It seems like she’s encouraging me to figure this out on my own. Under normal circumstances, it’d be wonderful to have that high level of trust and this job would be a huge growth opportunity for me…but with 2020 madness and challenges in my person life, it’s all I can do to get out of bed and get online every day. I want to have initiative here, but I am burnt TF out. (I have taken several days off and that seems to cure burnout for a week or two tops…I’m planning to take a longer vacation at the end of the year and hope that will help with the exhaustion/dread)

    I feel like I’m doomed to do poorly in this job being this far in and still feeling incompetent. Any stories of success in similar situations would be really helpful. Tips for self-motivation also helpful.

    1. Sunflower*

      No advice but my biggest sympathy. I’m a year and a half in and my specific function is run closer to a start-up as we’re a new unit and man, I feel the exact same way as you. Being in events, it’s usually a lot of other folks driving the content and marketing while I work out the logistics- which often times people don’t care about or need much detail on. It’s one of those things people assume just gets done- except when it doesn’t get done, it’s clear. My boss is also very hands off and I have pretty much daily anxiety and stress about if I’m doing enough/my job right. She’s not big on giving positive feedback so I feel like I’m always kind of floating in limbo with if I’m actually doing a good job or not. FWIW, I think you are probably being harder on yourself than others and you are probably doing a fine job. It might be a feeling like you aren’t in control of your job that’s causing this feelings (I know it is for me).

      My question is- do you like your job and do you wanna get better? For me, I know this isn’t the right place for me and I was thinking of changing industries before starting anyway. This only further adds to the dread of waking up every day as I see no real value in doing a good job beyond not getting fired and keeping a good reference. I do enough to get by but it’s tough when my boss encourages me to go above and beyond for when I want to move up in the org(ehh I don’t!)

      My advice would be that if you like what you’re doing and unsure when you jump in, it never hurts to offer to lend a hand or speak up when you have an idea. It might help to meet with other folks you work with and see if they are experiencing similar feelings as you(I found out most of the folks I work with also feel like this place is chaos). Or just ask them how you can help them best accomplish their goals (if they work in different functions than you). If you’re stressing about specific repeat scenarios, keep a list of them and bring it up with your boss to get her thoughts on it. It might also help to keep a list of inefficiencies or processes that could be improved with solutions- even if you can’t enact them immediately, it may give you some feeling of control.

      It might also help to ask for more feedback from your boss even if it’s little things. I’ve found recently that little things like my boss asking ‘how I’m doing’ or giving me nods for doing little things like ‘X said you were very helpful in Y task’ really drives my motivation up.

      1. Much Anon*

        Thanks for your reply! I hope you find a way to feel more comfortable in your work.

        I was in a job I was very good at for 5 years before this one and started out this job very confident it would be a great fit. Due to some poor interactions with colleagues early on, I lost the confidence almost immediately and never found it again. Since covid I hardly deal with these colleagues but it shook me pretty bad.

        Honestly, I don’t think I really like this job enough to get better at it, but it suits my personal life and goals very well right now and I don’t think I could easily find something better. But I hate not being good at it! Coasting the way I have been is not my style at all…but it’s hard to engage when I feel so disconnected from the work (also a new problem for me…I’ve never felt particularly passionate about the mission of my work, but always feel passionate about working hard if that makes sense).

        My boss is a big picture thinker and I think the issues lie in the details, so she’s always very encouraging and complimentary when I ask for feedback. When I try to go over small issues she tells me I’m overthinking. There’s no one besides my boss I can ask whether I’m overthinking these things (I know small details can cause big problems much later if unaddressed and I don’t think she puts these together because she’s ridiculously overloaded).

        I think there are a lot of issues I could help solving, but I don’t just find one to figure out/stick to so I have all these things started that I never follow through on (because my boss forgets, priorities shift, etc.).

  49. FearNot*

    One of my consultants, who has been fantastic for years, is losing her damn mind due to Covid. She’s turned into a demanding, rude stressball, and I’m worried that her behavior is destroying relationships I have with other departments. Should I email the people we’re working with that have been the object of her craziness and apologize?

    We both report to the same supervisor, but I don’t know if I should complain since I know before this she’s been one of the best part time people we’ve ever had. I really think it’s just the stress of her having three children under five and dealing with *waves hand* all that. Should I ride it out?

      1. FearNot*

        Sure. We work in a very bureaucratic government-linked workplace that is still pretty casual, culture wise. We were working together on a very complicated system where a different department has to set up many parts for us. With covid, everything has slowed down. She lost her temper on them when it wasn’t done in one day (it is never done same day even in The Before Times), and emailed so many people furious that the main contact there sent back an a short email basically telling her that things are different now, thanks for being patient, but in a way that was really heavy on the “you are being super rude” undertones, and now that department refuses to use our shared chat function at all, for anything. We have to go through the ticket system, which is fine, but much slower for me, when before I could just send them a chat message and get an answer quickly.

        She did this AGAIN with our a different department yesterday. Like, they sent a “you aren’t following protocol” email and she took it very personally and CC’d like five people saying they are trying to prevent her from doing work and accusing her of being criminal. It’s all done with very exasperated language that is very out of character. And I’m afraid people with think I’m on board with her.

        Also, none of the items that we are working on have hard deadlines or need to be done soon. So it’s just unnecessary.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Could you talk to your supervisor and tell her what you said here:
      “I’m worried about her and her stress and I’m worried that her reaction to the stress is having an impact on relationships with other departments and I wanted to check in with you if you think there is anything I should be doing?”