when you’re inexperienced, how can you know if something is worth complaining about or leaving a job over?

I’m off today, so this is a reprint of a post from 2013.

A reader writes:

If one is unhappy at their work, whether it’s due to their actual responsibilities or problems with their bosses, coworkers, clients, etc., how would one then determine whether it’s a legitimate grievance that grants the right to action, such as speaking to one’s manager, looking for another job, or even resigning without having found another job, or whether it’s a normal part of the working condition that will improve or one just needs to get used to.?

I understand that this is a very general question that does not have the same answer to every situation, but is there a general rule that one can go by? And does money, experience, length of stay, etc. have any impact on the answer to the first question? For example, does it matter if one if unhappy at a job that pays $25K, $50K, or $150K, or whether they have been at their place for 5 months, 1 year, or 5 years?

Those from “older generations” say that individuals my age and generation (late 20s, Generation Y) are just lazy, irresponsible, and think we have the right to a perfect job right out of college. I understand their point and maybe we (the Generation Y) need to lower our expectations, but I have also known people who stayed at jobs that were making them utterly miserable for years. It’s similar to divorce: not too long ago, people stayed in a really bad marriage for the sake of the children or because of societal pressures; however, now, people get divorced at the first sign of diminished passions. So how does one find that balance between not giving up too easily and also not falling into dutiful martyrdom?

You’re right that there’s not  one across-the-board rule, because it depends on the specifics of the situation — but in general, a few principles are worth considering:

First, the more in-demand you are, the more able you are to speak up when you’re unhappy and to walk away for something better. If you’re not an especially marketable candidate, you don’t have as much ground to stand on when insisting on something better (or options to turn to if you don’t get what you want). That’s why people often find it a bit silly when less experienced people leave jobs over complaints that are common or relatively minor in the scheme of things — although it’s of course still reasonable when the issues are bigger. I’d put harassment, real cruelty, chronically broken promises, and being expected to do something illegal, immoral, or unsafe in the “bigger issues” category.

But complicating things is that fact that when you’re less experienced, you can’t always judge the relative seriousness of an issue very well. The more experience you have in the work world, the better perspective you’re able to have when it comes to figuring out if the thing troubling you is:
* common and not really a big deal
* truly outrageous
* something you can or can’t realistically avoid wherever you go
* something worth taking a stand over
It’s often hard to judge those things well when you don’t have tons of experience.

You asked how to tell if something warrants a wide list of actions, including speaking to your manager, looking for another job, or resigning without having another job. In general, the latter is something most people need to avoid, both because it can take a really long time to find another job (a year or more for many candidates in a bad job market) and because you’re generally less attractive to new employers once you’re unemployed, which will make what might have already been a long job search even longer and harder. There are some things that warrant quitting without another job lined up, but they’re pretty rare.

But as for speaking to your manager, a good manager will want to know if you’re unhappy about something, particularly if you’re contemplating leaving your job over it. Of course, as with anything, your specific complaint (and the way you approach it) can reflect on your judgment. If you go to your manager because you’re frustrated spending three hours a day in useless meetings, that’s reasonable. If you go to her because you’re annoyed you don’t get senior-level projects when you’ve only been on the job for a year, that’s going to make you look naive. So you also want to factor in how reasonable an objective observer would find your concern, and — importantly — how equipped you are to make that call. If you’re pretty inexperienced, it’s important to recognize that that probably impacts your ability to assess this stuff.

All of this points to proceeding with caution when you’re relatively new to the work world — and testing your assessment of a situation with people you respect who have more experience to draw on. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to push back on something or leave a job if you’re unhappy — that’s your prerogative at any time. But it’s wise to make sure that you understand the potential consequences of that action and how it’s likely to be perceived by people around you — and that’s the piece that I think is sometimes missing when people are less experienced, and what has led to some of the stereotypes that you describe.

2020 addition: On the flip side — and something I don’t think my original answer emphasized enough — I sometimes hear from inexperienced workers who don’t realize that something going on in their workplace is a very big deal and not something they should accept. That one is harder to flag, because the person might not realize it until they happen to mention it to someone else, who reacts with appropriate horror. All of which points to the value of communicating with people outside of your peer group who can act as a sounding board and reality check when you need it.

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. Bookworm*

    I can relate to this post. My first job had an abusive boss. A screamer and…violent. I wish I had known that was completely inappropriate or that the person I had spoken to had SAID SOMETHING to me, but he didn’t. Sometimes it can be super hard to navigate issues like these, especially when you encounter upper management who is unwilling to do anything about the problem.

    Managers need to be better. And learn how to actually manage.

    1. Anon for this*

      Had a very similar experience with emotional abuse and control tactics, plus apathetic people on the higher level. Biggest regret about that is that I didn’t quit sooner.

      1. Ann Ominous Today*

        I searched for the last people who had worked for my boss. It took a few months, but I found them. We compared experiences. They said, “Run.” I did.

        1. Penny Hartz*

          Yep, I’m feeling every one of these comments. I ran, but only after Abusive Jerk quit abruptly (he was upset by a very valid hostile workplace complaint–not from me). I only regret not being able to quit at him. And I do mean “at.”

    2. Not as young as I should be*

      I am totally in agreement with Alison’s 2020 update. At 20, I worked for two brothers. The only other employee was the bookkeeper who was there part-time. Unbeknownst to me, one of the brothers had a raging cocaine habit. The brothers would get into loud behind-closed doors arguments. Mr. Cokehead would also yell and scream in my face if he didn’t like a slight change in the office such as moving the postage meter to a more accessible area. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about this so I thought it must be normal. After a year of being belittled and frightened by the possibility of a blow-up, I left and got a normal job shortly afterward.

    3. cosmicgorilla*


      I went from 5 years in a protected museum bubble to a company. I had always heard such horror stories of the corporate world that I didn’t have a good framework for what I could push back on and what I couldn’t (and the stories that get sent in on this site reinforce my younger self’s view.) New boss was unstable. You never knew which you would get. The person with seniority on my team was putting up with it. Why shouldn’t I? The HR Director got wind and had conversations with both of us. When the HR Director is visibly shocked during the conversation, it helps reset your expectations of normal behavior somewhat.

    4. Firecat*

      One of my first bosses was abusive. I thought it was bad enough that I complained to my skip level boss.

      Well skip level convinced me it was my inexperience and that abusive boss was actually an amazing boss.

      I decided not to go to my bosses bosses boss and was convinced I was the problem after this meeting.

      Well a few months later I found out that my boss has always reported skip level boss. As in everywhere he goes she goes. The joke amongst longtimers is that they are joined at the hip. Lucky for me skip level got promoted and away went abusive manager.

      Then about a month after I got a call from a co-worker late at night sobbing and apologizing. She told me how sorry she was she complained about me. How scared she was that if she didn’t trash me that abusive would target her next. I asked why she felt the need to say anything at all and that’s when she admitted that abusive manager was hosting all team meetings just before the actual team meeting. Apparently that’s when abusive would ask what complaints the team had against me that week. If they were silent apparently she would then threaten to increase workload or bring up mild complaints about the other attendees until they coughed something up.

      That’s why each week I would be completely lambasted with a full blown intervention style review of my “transgressions” like:
      Dropped my lunch off into the cafeteria fridge (required place) prior to shift. = Not focused on team metrics.
      Sent an email that said Here are the TPS reports. (Too Curt/rude)
      Sent an email that said- Hi teammate I hope you are well. Here are the TPS reports. (Too flowery/fake/I need to understand I’m not at work to make friends).

      The list goes on. I would say before complaining when you are new try to get a feel for your bosses connections.

    5. Elliott*

      I had a bad manager at my first job. Not violent, but passive-aggressive and really bad at taking stress out on employees. I did recognize this at the time, but I don’t think I realized how much *better* things could be.

    6. Sarita*

      Yep. My first boss was incredibly toxic. I put up with way too much crap because I didn’t know better. I would never put up with that now.

    7. TardyTardis*

      When a friend of mine worked at a job where the boss double-billed customers and insurance companies, and she was the bookkeeper, I told her to run, all right–I pointed out who gets blamed when scams like this get discovered.

  2. Smithy*

    When I was in my 20’s, one thing I personally found challenging was that my friend network from college didn’t translate into a professional network. People still in school (graduate or otherwise) were clearly having very different experiences than those in experiences like the Peace Corps vs those in entry level office-based jobs vs those working retail or food service. As a result, those gut check questions to “people you trust” can go to family where the generational divide can be problematic or your friends who may be having radically different experiences.

    Early in your career, bonding with your peers and seeking networking meetings can feel forced or awkward, but really does help going forward in having better networks to give answers to those questions.

    1. Junior Dev*

      I hear you especially on the generational divide thing. No one in my parents’ generation of my family has a corporate job, most of them have had multi-decade careers in academia or government working at the same place, or else work in industries like healthcare that have their own weird set of norms. I would get advice from them that was not just unhelpful but often actively harmful, like advising me to prove my dedication by working unpaid overtime…in an hourly, part-time job. A lot of the advice on job searching was coming for people who hadn’t job searched during my lifetime.

      There were also a lot of assumptions made that I was “entitled” or “not trying hard enough” when my problem wasn’t one that could be solved by working harder, for example, my boss was unclear with their expectations, or the job I did day-to-day was different from the one in my job description and no one at work would acknowledge the difference, let alone help me figure out how to do the actual work I was doing.

      For friends from more working-class backgrounds they often face the problem that their family members have no idea how white-collar norms work and so they have nowhere to go for guidance on things like salary negotiation or dealing with hiring processes that stretch out over multiple months.

      1. miho*

        I’ve totally experienced this as well. Although both of my parents had white collar jobs, their careers took place in a completely different era and different country. They were so shocked to see that I was struggling with job hunting despite having a master’s degree. They were even more shocked to see that I had to prepare and study for interviews – for them, when they were job searching, interviews were fairly informal and easy. Typically just one round of interviews, where the interviewers asked a few questions related to the job and then the rest of the time was just chit-chatting to see if the candidate and the employer were a good cultural/personality match.

        1. Junior Dev*

          it’s super weird that we just sort of expect that interviews be a multi-day process that you have to study for! It’s a lot of unpaid labor put on candidates, and in many industries that’s on top of other unpaid labor you have to do to be considered (e.g. working on open source projects as a programmer). I’ve heard of companies paying candidates to do practice exercises, which I think is a good practice if the exercise takes more than an hour or so, but also just the whole process of applying is multiple hours worth of work and interviews are often intensive enough that you have to do extra work to stand a chance.

        2. (insert name here)*

          Me too. Both my parents were attorneys who out of law school started working with my grandfather.

          They had both last applied for a job back before law school, probably between 5 and 10 years before I was born.

          They did not know how to create a resume, go to an interview, write a cover letter, or apply for a job online. They did not realize that requesting I not give 2 weeks notice was a red flag. They wanted me to pound pavement and show up at local business in a suit, carrying my resume on fancy paper.

          That said, when I mentioned some of the immoral/illegal things I was asked to do, they were well able to help me push back on those, but they didn’t really know how to suggest I should quit that job after less than 6 months.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        After many years of reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that “you’re not trying hard enough” is the dark flip side of the “you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it” refrain that our parents gave us. After all, if we can do anything if we try hard enough, failure is de facto proof that we didn’t try.

        The other thing it means is “I don’t know how to help you.” I was never able to find a part-time job during undergrad because I went to a very large university in a relatively small town and there were always more undergrads than there were part-time jobs. That wasn’t a problem I could solve. But every few months, like clockwork, my parents and I would have the same exchange: They would ask if I’d found a job. I would say no. They would tell me to apply at more places. I’d tell them I’d already applied everywhere. They would give the usual bad job seeking advice that all parents give. I’d tell them that didn’t work and ask what I could do differently. They had nothing, and on some level they knew it, because as soon as I graduated and got an office job, they acknowledged that actually I’d been right the whole time and they had been unfair. I’m glad they acknowledged their mistake, but I really wish they’d taken me seriously when I was trying to figure out which bill to pay each month.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I loathe “you can do anything” and its cousin “you can be anything”. Because it’s flatly not true. I know I’m being perhaps overly literal, but it’s the kind of counterproductive “white lie” that bugs the crap out of me. I’m all for encouraging people, kids in particular, and it’s absolutely true that we often can do SO MUCH MORE than we think we can. Effort goes a long way! But access, opportunity, and ability aren’t fairly distributed. Not everyone can be an astronaut or President or a basketball star or a famous actor.

          And you’re pointing out a whole new dimension for me, which is we can blame people for not trying hard enough no matter how hard they’ve tried or what headwinds they face. One of my favorite Demotivator posters has a runner with his head in his hands, and the words say: FAILURE – When Your Best Just Isn’t Good Enough. That always makes me laugh because it’s true.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Bonding with your peers is good but it’s not sufficient, because your peers are, by definition, at a similar level of experience as you.

      You need to seek out people who have more experience in your field and in the work world in general. Family members can do this but they’re less likely to be objective about you, so they are less helpful in general.

      How to find such people? At your job: is there someone who’s been there awhile at a higher level than you whom you admire or who has a good reputation? Are there opportunities to work with people at different levels or in different depts/teams — that’s a place to meet people who can answer your questions. Outside of your job: is there a professional organization for your industry or field? is there a professional organization for a group you identify with?

      It can take a long time to know what is actionable and what is not….

      1. Smithy*

        I push back that networking with your peers isn’t enough for the kind of insight that the OP wrote in regarding. Inevitably, after a few years a number of one’s entry level peers will work in different places and have moderately different levels of achievement that actually can be very helpful. Furthermore, your peers – people with maybe only a year or two more experience – are going to be in a closer place to give you the most recent advice around how advancement has worked for them.

        Peers do not replace the value of mentors or advisors – but it’s often easier and more natural to make those connections. And depending on what your existing peer networks are like, they may well be the best people to gut check on norms, standards, opportunities etc. When you’re talking about the kind of vulnerability to say that things are going really badly and you don’t know if it’s where you’re working or the larger industry, it’s going to be the rare mentor relationship in place to help with that compared to your peers.

        1. Esmeralda*

          But as you yourself say, that’s after a few years. Pretty new to the work world? Your peers are not sufficient.

          1. Smithy*

            All I’m saying is that those early years go by fast. It may take someone years and years to find a genuine mentor – particularly if they’re still deciding their exact sector or professional path.

            My perspective is that a mentor is wonderful to have, but a peer network is a must have.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I think rookies should always keep their eye out for potential mentors or advisors.
      Someone in your office who is a little older, a little more experienced.
      And who seems balanced and non-dramatic.
      Maybe not even in your own department, but perhaps someone you interact with.

      and maybe not even someone at work, but a friend of your parents’, or someone at church.

      I’ve been that person for younger people now and then. And I’ve asked for advice from someone who was more experienced as well.

  3. 1 is not a sample*

    It’s hard even when you have years experience but not many position or companies to compare to. I had a great position (which transferred me within the company after 3 years). I moved on from that company after 6 years and landed in a place that should have been great. That place was a nightmare. People were telling me oh it’s great, this is normal, and I believed them because I knew I only had a sample size of 1 to compare to. That place was not normal, if I had talked to others in my industry I would have realized how crazy that place was and gotten out of there faster.

    1. 1 is not a sample*

      I only realized how bad the second place was when my doctor took me off my anti-anxiety meds two weeks after leaving because I no longer needed them. Prior to that I was taking meds and still having lots of anxiety symptoms.

      1. Jam Today*

        I’m old hat with toxic companies but I also either have a very high threshold for absorbing abuse, or I am the frog that gets boiled too slowly to notice. Suffice it to say, at my previous job I had severe TMJ twice in the span of a year, severe enough that I was eating pureed food for about a month. Just as I was getting ready to cough up the money for a custom bite guard, I got laid off. My TMJ disappeared within 48 hours and hasn’t been back in the last 4 years. Oh, it wasn’t organic? It was environmental? Whaddaya know.

      2. sss*

        This reminds me of going to my doctor. She asked a bunch of questions then said, “we could do more testing to see if you have an anxiety disorder or depression or other underlying issue…. but I think you just hate your job and need a new one.”
        She was right! Gave me some sleeping pills and advice to manage sleep and I started looking for other work.

        1. 1 is not a sample*

          Oh man she sounds like my doctor who diagnosed my anxiety based on the “neurotic excoriation” on my arms when I came in for my annual checkup. She was amazing and really saw all of me.

          1. Out of the classroom*

            My mom has a similar story. She was working as a newspaper reporter and had chronic bronchitis. She went to a new doctor who diagnosed her with hating her job. She got a new job at a marketing firm and the bronchitis cleared right up (and she’s been in that field ever since!)

            I had a horrible, belittling lead teacher who clearly hated me at my first real job. I was throwing up before work at least once a week. Once I got out of there I was totally fine. It’s amazing how our bodies take on and exhibit stress.

  4. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

    I think it’s important to remember that the comment about Gen (fill the the blank with anyone not considered a Boomer) being lazy and expecting things to be perfect right off isn’t a bad thing. The bad thing is that Boomers and older have normalized accepting bad behavior from their bosses and the companies they work for. We are entitled to be treated like human beings. The old accept it because that’s the way it is is how we got to bosses requiring their direct reports to be on camera all day long, do massive to do lists and progress reports, and that nasty, insidious tracking software being required in the current environment. It’s wrong. So yeah, stop accepting things as they are and ask yourself if this is really a healthy way to live? If no, push back or at least raise the issue.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      It’s not just normalization, it’s also that the trade-offs were different for a lot of Boomers.

      Leaving a job was probably more likely to mean leaving behind a non-transferrable pension. Organizations tended to be less flat, so some people were more likely to see advancement to middle management as an escape route. Then there’s the whole complicated dynamic that unionization brings into the game. The costs associated with leaving behind a job with a bad boss may have been (or at least were perceived to be) higher for our parents’ generation, which changes everything.

      Reminding them that for us, there’s probably no pension, corner office, gold watch, or even COL increase as a reward for enduring a terrible work environment puts things into perspective pretty quickly.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Gonna ask you not to generalize about boomers in this way please.

      Bad boss behavior you describe: perpetrated by bosses from every generation.

      Putting up with that kind of bullsh!t behavior: it ain’t just the OLD people going along, and btw we OLD people often have the standing and experience to know how and when to push back.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I dislike discrimination and generalisation invariably seems to lead to it.

        As a tail-end Boomer, I’d like to point out that women were only just starting to embark on careers other than secretary/nurse/teacher when we entered the job market. I remember a poster at school telling us that engineering needed the woman’s touch, and that was put up by our pioneering headmistress. No chance of any metoo movement, we had to put up or shut up, if we complained then the boss would simply decide no more women, they make too much trouble. So yes, we did put up with a lot. Whether it was offices where men had stuck pix of naked women everywhere, or nasty jokes, you name it we put up with it. Metoo happened only because we’d already put in the hard work and proved our worth.

    3. Forrest*

      Lot of that “Boomer” discourse isn’t coming from Boomers who have normalised accepting bad behaviours, it’s from bad bosses trying to manipulate workers into staying in bad places, who just ~happen~ to be boomers or older gen X.

      I think there’s a bit of this which is about generational differences, but a good deal of it it is good old-fashioned class war.

    4. That Girl From Quinn's House.*

      I’ve had the opposite experience! My Boomer parents don’t understand the normal, crappy stuff that’s standard in today’s labor market, ex: working off the clock in a service-sector job, crummy benefits offerings, crappy raise policy, etc., and will start wildly ranting about how it’s not fair and the place is an illegal disaster and you should quit and you shouldn’t do gruntwork because you went to COLLEGE. But the place is just…a normal workplace. It might be a crappy workplace, but it’s no crappier than any other workplace in the same field. It’s just that a lot of workplaces suck, and if you’re going to go around making too much of a fuss about it, you are going to have a hard time finding a place to work, period.

      Our labor market is very broken and you have to pick your battles very carefully.

      1. SuperDiva*

        Same. My Boomer parent who had one employer for their entire career (union, pension) was shocked to hear that many employers don’t even cover 100% of the employee’s health insurance premiums, let alone family coverage. I badly needed to leave a toxic, low-paying job and wasn’t in a position to demand better coverage or hold out for the perfect job that would provide it, so this was a frustrating conversation to have.

      2. Agnes*

        Truth. My parents just don’t understand that jobs today don’t necessarily come with health insurance or retirement Benefits. They also don’t understand why my brother with a masters degree can’t get a tenure track job at a Major university (they both did just with masters degrees many years ago).

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think expecting anything to be perfect, generally, is setting oneself up for disappointment, but that could just be my GenX talking – we original-recipe slackers *are* a pessimistic lot. (Tongue in cheek, but, as the tiny generation wedged in between the mudslinging on either side of us, the reduction of both the Boomers and Millennials to stereotypes without any attempt to consider each other’s perspectives is beyond tiresome.)

      I think the difficulty (and the heart of this letter) is that the space between “perfect” and “bad” is quite broad and knowing what in that chasm is actionable (from complaining through leaving) takes time and practice to figure out. The LW is getting at exactly that – what’s worth burning your political capital on and when can you do it? I think they’ve done a fantastic job at laying out a number of factors to consider, too.

      1. Reality Check*

        My mother is a Boomer & she and her female contemporaries entering the work force was pretty shocking at the time. Sexism was RAMPANT then. She didn’t dare speak up about anything and was terrified to negotiate a salary. I’ll never forget the day she got fired from her job for rejecting the boss’s advances. So angry she came home yelling, screaming, throwing things around we thought she was going to have a heart attack. Now I’m just 1 person but I doubt I am the only Gen X-er who watched their mothers go through that. When I came of age my philosophy toward that behavior (the boss’s) was OH HELL NO. And I think she was jealous of me for it.

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          No, you aren’t the only one. I’m a Gen Xr and my mother went through sexual harassment at her crappy retail job where I also worked part-time summers in high school. I asked her why she put up with it and she told me because she feared she’d lose her job. And she never told my father either because he would have marched down there and taken the guy apart with his bare hands.
          Thinks were so different back then.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          My front-edge Boomer MIL expressed mild surprise that I not only kept my job when I got pregnant but that I planned to return after I had the baby. Not in a judgy kind of way, but in a that-wasn’t-an-option-for-me sort of almost wistful way. She was forced to quit her (secretarial) job when she got pregnant with my BIL – it was just the way it was then and she didn’t even question it or the questions that she got about her childbearing plans in job interviews.

      2. Paperwhite*

        Tongue in cheek, but, as the tiny generation wedged in between the mudslinging on either side of us, the reduction of both the Boomers and Millennials to stereotypes without any attempt to consider each other’s perspectives is beyond tiresome.)

        Heh, *sigh*. Well said.

    6. LGC*

      Ehhh…I’d frame it as more like, “things that were acceptable 30-40 years ago are not as acceptable now.” (And I was reading this letter and flashing back to when every media outlet had at least one editorial about how millennials lizard people were killing the economy with avocado toast each week.) A huge part of that is society moving forward – like, for example, if Alison were writing this blog in 1990, she would be advising people to take their piercings out and have natural hair colors.

      (I also think part of it is that loyalty is a two-way street, and over the past 40-50 years employers have become far less loyal to their employees.)

      1. Wintermute*

        That last part is SO true. Vaguely young people today are the children OF THE CHILDREN of the last generation that had employers that saw any virtue in loyalty to their employees or any concept of layoffs being a desperate last resort not a cheap way to boost share value, we’re the kids of the “neutron Jack” generation. Having any degree of loyalty to our employer didn’t pay for our parent’s generation and it hasn’t paid for ours so at this point it’s almost an irrational behavior to be anything but viciously mercenary.

    7. allathian*

      People have been complaining, in writing, about the irresponsible younger generation since the ancient Greeks.

      The employment market has changed a lot even in the 30 years since I’ve been a part of the workforce, starting in high school. The retail world has certainly changed a lot, you can’t just walk into a store and ask for a job, like I did when I was 17. They asked me to contact the recruitment office, I did and got the job. My first boss was a volatile person. Some days she’d be fun and she’d joke around with her staff, on other days nothing you did was right. She was also very sarcastic and said some truly unpleasant things about and to her employees. I put up with it for 4 years because I didn’t know any better and because I really liked my coworkers, we sort of banded together against her.

      1. Wintermute*

        there’s a reason “O Tempora, O mores” is a well-worn latin phrase.

        It was probably a cliché when the Romans said it.

    8. In the provinces*

      Sorry to disappoint you, but way back in the day when Boomers were young, the same thing was said about them, too.

  5. NotAnotherManager!*

    This is such a great question and also such a hard one to answer! I like the 2020 suggestion of having a network of people to seek advice from. Neither my parents nor friends truly understood my business environment, so having a slightly wider net to gut-check with was helpful, as was my mentor.

    This is also why I stress so much to my management team that they have to be approachable and build relationships with their folks so that people feel comfortable coming to talk with them when something is making them unhappy at work. Sometimes, we’re dealing with misunderstandings or small things that are easy to tweak to make things better very quickly. Sometimes, they’re an inherent part of the job and are unlikely to change. I always like to know, too, when a particularly strong employee is looking for more out of their job so that we can look at advancement or more challenging work to keep them engaged and interested. When you are a terrible manager or your employees are afraid to talk to you, it’s going to result in turnover you may have been able to avoid and feedback that could help make everyone’s lives easier.

  6. Kiki*

    I really like the 2020 addition. It made me think about the eBay stalking scandal– so many of the employees who now have criminal charges brought against them were new to the professional world and didn’t have the experience or wherewithal to know that it is not normal for security specialists to spend their work hours finding new ways to harass bloggers.
    I think this is part of the reason I love AAM– it’s such a great resource to be able to write to an impartial 3rd party and ask, “normal or bonkers?” and then have a legion of commenters from a variety of professional backgrounds chime in.

    1. Kiki*

      For anyone looking for details of the eBay story, a great story covering it by the NYTimes is called “Inside eBay’s Cockroach Cult: The Ghastly Story of a Stalking Scandal”

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Thanks for the reference!

        Also, I was just thinking about the Wells Fargo scandal as well (employees opening credit cards and accounts without the customer’s knowledge or consent). I’m sure that had a big part in a lot of them going along with something that was so blatantly immoral!

        1. TootsNYC*

          not to mention the very real coercion: “if you don’t hit these numbers, we will fire you, the way we fired these other people.”

    2. a clockwork lemon*

      The “lower-level employees” at eBay who recently pled guilty were all “lower level” in that they were not executives, but they were all still senior management and certainly not new to the workforce.

      Even if they were, “inexperience” is not a valid excuse or defense when the bad behavior is mailing live cockroaches and bloody pig masks to someone’s house. If you’re the type of person who needs someone else to gut-check you on whether or not it’s okay to try to send a funeral wreath and a book about surviving the loss of a still-living spouse to someone because they criticized your employer, you’re not someone who can be trusted to make wise choices in pretty much any other aspect of your employment.

      1. Kiki*

        I didn’t mean to defend their behavior and I don’t think inexperience excuses the campaign of harassment they inflicted on people, but according to the story I read, several of the people charged were relatively new to the professional workforce and not senior management (the bigwigs involved, Wenig and Wymer, miraculously emerged without charges). The story I referenced also seemed to indicate that the lower-level employees in that department were hired intentionally because they were young and the details of the story seemed to indicate that they were groomed to accept and participate in the escalating absurd and criminal behavior of their department.

      2. The Vulture*

        Don’t pretend this makes sense. This is a sickening thing to do – as is the fact all of the things in writing, showing the men in charge, Wymer and Wenig, starting this truly bonkers vendetta and goading on the security team weren’t charged at all but the analysts ( 26 year-old “security analyst” is not senior management in any company I’ve heard of – would expect that to be more of a glorified security guard) fearing for their jobs were. This would NEVER have happened, these people who *DID* it, the ones you’re blaming, don’t care or have the resources do to this. I mean, I get it, we all want to pretend we would never do the same thing, and not everyone would, but you can always find someone desperate and naive, and how is it not obvious that it’s way worse to be rich and powerful enough to get people to do your dirty work for you, bonkers, pathetic dirty work because you are rich and powerful so let these extremely anodyne blogposts roll off your back, and be able to get off scot free. how about the CEO IN CHARGE OF ALL EXPENSES, who CLEARLY APPROVED AND ENCOURAGED this gets AT LEAST AS MUCH BLAME as the person he paid to do it, included providing plane tickets, salary, the pig masks?

    3. Tau*

      Your last paragraph – I swear AAM was a lifesaver when I started working, just so I could see an experienced manager’s take on a variety of situations and how acceptable she found them.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      OMG! That Ebay story was just nuts. Unbelievable. And yet it’s nothing new for Big Corporate to try and silence the little guy. Every time my husband and I see this type of thing we look at each other and go “Great Benefit and Jackie Lemanczyk” from The Rainmaker.

    5. Katniss Evergreen*

      Ugh yes, I’m so glad I found this site when I was unoccupied during a night shift at my first professional job. I was a hospital unit secretary, and 24, and knew so little about how things should work at work. This site has been a lifesaver, and has helped me help several other early-career professionals who don’t yet have office norms and a decent “this doesn’t sound right” spidey sense. There’s no shortage of good information here, from the commentariat and Alison herself.

  7. Anon (and on and on)*

    Not sure if the LW will ever see this, but I have to say that “falling into dutiful martyrdom” is an amazing phrase and I’m absolutely stealing it.

  8. Barb*

    I am so grateful that at my first job out of college, there was a woman several years further along in my same career path who encouraged me to come to her with questions like these. She gave me perspective on a huge variety of issues that I could not see clearly due to inexperience. I have slowly lost touch with her over the years but her kindness shaped who I was and I have always tried to pay it forward.

    1. TootsNYC*

      It’s so important for rookies to keep their eyes open for these sorts of mentors and advisors. You can find them at your job, in another department, at church, among your parents’ circle, among the parents or older siblings of your friends…

      You want someone who doesn’t court drama, and at the beginning you might want to cross-check among a few different people.

  9. CyaneaCapillata*

    Mentor: “If it affects your staff’s safety, health/wellbeing, pay.” I’m 25 and have been in truly insane jobs, and this has always helped.

  10. Horror Story Time*

    manager (c-suite) gets drunk w employee (director level employee) and claims they were recording employee at some point in the night. Nothing sordid, it was all conversation, nothing inappropriate even said. To add to the bizarreness of situation, it is unclear whether manager actually did the recording because

    a) drunk people are often unreliable
    b) employee claims that manager started to retract statement. As in from “I’m recording you” to “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    C) Also, employee says they weren’t drunk but they were both out and consuming alcohol so this might render claim moot.

    Manager has called out of work week after incident. Employee’s only “proof” of incident is a message sent to colleague about it when it was happening. Employee has no clue what to do next, HR has proved to be nonexistent and shady at best, walking away means no income For the foreseeable future (employee is v niche in skill offering) during a very hard year where employee knows they are very lucky to be working their dream job essentially. Insight from you guys always appreciated.

    1. juliebulie*

      1. Did you mean to post this on the Friday open thread?
      2. I’m not clear on what, if any, damage was done here
      3. If HR is nonexistent/shady and drunken managers (maybe) record their drunken employees, maybe this is a “dream job” but it sure isn’t a “dream workplace”
      4. If you ever find yourself in your “dream job,” don’t get drunk with your boss. You pretend to drink, get the boss drunk, and get the boss to talk.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        4. If you ever find yourself in your “dream job,” don’t get drunk with your boss. You pretend to drink, get the boss drunk, and get the boss to talk.

        Bonus if you can have him promise raises to everyone, on the record! :p

      2. Evan Þ.*

        One thing that makes a dream job, for me, is that I don’t have to drink with the boss or pretend to!

        (I just got a new job today. No drinking yet – though I found that the soft drinks in the fridge have a smaller selection than I was expecting. Oh well; it’s mostly WFH anyway and I’m only in the office today to pick up equipment.)

    2. RagingADHD*

      What incident? Two people got drunk and talked. One said something kinda wierd, and maybe recorded part of the conversation.

      Nothing inappropriate was discussed or said.

      There has been no blowback for the employee.

      What is there to do? What’s the problem?

      Why is this a horror story?

  11. Threeve*

    I think it’s okay to let relatively minor issues and kneejerk reactions make some of your big decisions, as long as you don’t make them right away. There’s a difference between planning to advance in an organization and planning to move on after you reach a certain experience level, and the tipping point between those two doesn’t have to be something earth-shattering.

    I had an “okay, I’m not going to stay here for more than a few years” epiphany just a couple weeks into my job and haven’t changed my mind. It’s just meant that I focus more on networking and building transferable skills than I do on shmoozing internally and learning the ins and outs of everything my department does.

    It’s also meant that when things get bad I can remind myself that this isn’t my forever job, and the mostly futile battles to make improvements aren’t generally worth it. It’s kept a certain amount of weight off my shoulders.

  12. Esmeralda*

    Bonding with your peers is good but it’s not sufficient, because your peers are, by definition, at a similar level of experience as you.

    You need to seek out people who have more experience in your field and in the work world in general. Family members can do this but they’re less likely to be objective about you, so they are less helpful in general.

    How to find such people? At your job: is there someone who’s been there awhile at a higher level than you whom you admire or who has a good reputation? Are there opportunities to work with people at different levels or in different depts/teams — that’s a place to meet people who can answer your questions. Outside of your job: is there a professional organization for your industry or field? is there a professional organization for a group you identify with?

    It can take a long time to know what is actionable and what is not….

  13. Alex Beamish*

    In my field of software development, there are often user group meetings that are a great way to network and meet peers in your area. That’s a great resource when it comes to the “Am I nuts to complain about this?” questions. Highly recommended.

  14. lazuli*

    There’s a framework in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) called “Evaluating Options for Whether or How Intensely to Ask for Something or Say No.” It’s not perfect, and it’s not job-specific (though it can work for employment issues), but it may be a useful framework for people just starting out, or who don’t trust their “level of intensity” in asking for things (i.e., know they have a history of asking too forcefully or too passively).

    The explanation of the terms is on this PDF: http://joanna-platt.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DBT-Saying-Yes-or-No.pdf

    And they developed what they call the “Dime Game” to help you rate all the various factors:

    Again, not fail-proof, but I like how they identify all the factors you may want to take into account.

    1. lazuli*

      You’re welcome! I really like the way DBT breaks down interpersonal skills that can feel “intuitive” to people who are good at stuff like that (and so have trouble explaining their framework for those skills).

  15. Bigglesworth*

    I agree with all of this, but especially with the 2020 update. Alison published my letter in 2016 concerning my employer’s new lifestyle covenant. I knew that what my employer was doing was crazy, but I didn’t know how crazy. Reaching out to people outside of my workplace who had a better grasp of professional norms was critical to my decision to get the heck out of Dodge.

      1. Bigglesworth*

        In some ways, absolutely doing better. I finished my JD, held leadership roles in several extracurriculars, and have really understood good workplaces from bad ones due to my past experiences. Like so many others, though, I’m currently on the job market, so pandemic job hunting is my current priority. Definitely looking forward to settling into a job at a good workplace hopefully sometime soon.

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

    I can relate to this. Back when I started I couldn’t see the communist parade that in my first programming job was. Rape jokes, boys only gaming nights, a coworker who claimed to be cheating his rich gf with me, a supposed mentor with a creepy and borderline harassment attitude, and a workaholic team leader that tried to make me work full-time for free (I was a part-timer). My only reference were my parents, whose opinion was (and still is) “stop being a whiny baby, (wo)man up and be thankful you have a job”. Fast forward to last week, where another colleague and I tried to convince someone form OldJob that his boss’ demands are irrational and that he should run without looking back before that place damages his professional reputation.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Sorry you went through all that. I really don’t understand what the word communist is doing there?

  17. QuinleyThorne*

    I know this is an old letter, but for anyone pondering this question, I can’t recommend the book Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen enough, because it’s basically just a book-long answer to this question. It does a really good job of explaining what bad employers or bad employment practices look like, how it got this way, and how it can change.

  18. SheLooksFamiliar*

    For what it’s worth, the things the OP talks about? I went through a lot of them too. I’m a Boomer born to parents from The Greatest Generation – 1901 to 1924. That group tended to keep a job for decades because stability jobs were hard to come by during The Depression, and because loyalty was rewarded.

    In my first job out of college – which neither parent thought I needed, I’d get too big for my britches – my father advised that I do everything my boss told me to do, no matter how stupid or illegal. The Boss had total authority over employees. He also said I shouldn’t ask for a promotion: ‘Keep your head down and just do your job. That’s what gets you promoted.’ When I quit that job after 2 years for a better title and advancement, my father called me stupid for leaving a weekly paycheck for ‘no good reason.’ When I mentioned to my mother that my former boss made salacious comments about me, she said that’s how bosses act and I brought it on myself for trying to be a career girl instead of a wife and mother. During Desert Shield, my employer went out of business; my parents and relatives swore I must have done something to lose my job, a company going out of business just didn’t make sense to them. To wit: when my father’s company laid him off after 34 years – 1 year shy of retirement – he truly did not see it coming, even though his company was in the news for bad reasons. There was no way I could learn what was alarming or acceptable in the workplace from my parents and their peers. I learned the hard way, and I’m still learning: as a 60ish woman in today’s workplace, the things I used to do don’t always work now. There you go.

    I wish each generation could agree that every single generation before and after it has unique challenges – and that each generation probably irritates the hell out of the generation before and after it. Also, I wish older generations would show some empathy and patience; it’s easy to forget how it felt to be new to the workplace, and not always easy to handle evolving workplace norms.

    1. The cat says meow*

      Thank you for this. I’m about the same age and what I learned from my parents and their peers about professional job norms was pretty much useless. I read a book (can’t remember the name) about the adjustment of being raised in a blue collar household and then working in a while collar job and it was quite eye opening. I still struggle with how much things have changed since I started working and how much they continue to change.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Alfred Lubrano, Limbo: Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams (2005). Very interesting and quite readable.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I’m so sorry you’re parents couldn’t relate. I’m not a Boomer, but I grew up in much the same atmosphere in a small town, and was the first in my family to go to college and work professional, non-blue-collar jobs.

  19. Mainah*

    55 yro here. Trust you instincts and remember that every single younger generation has been describes as weak by their elders. Personally I think your generation has been shafted, but you’ll emerge stronger.

  20. AnotherAlison*


    This post has me wondering if there is a corollary: How can you tell when you are very experienced if you have normalized the dysfunction like a frog in the pot slow boiling to death?

    I definitely was the young person who thought this was a strange way to live/work, but I stayed in the field and now it is normal. Nothing toxic or terrible, just no longer enjoying the workaholic culture. (Ya know, once you are a certain age, you know you are at the ceiling.) I do wonder if it is more toxic than I think, though. People are either in the industry and think similarly, or outsiders “don’t get it”.

    1. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I switched teams recently and didn’t realize how much I had internalized the dysfunction (we did the four-hour working meetings that involved watching someone edit PowerPoint on screen share). It’s been an adjustment. But to answer your question, not sure!

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I guess some fields always have a reputation like that though. Hopefully you find that out early on when you’re deciding nowadays due to the Internet. When I first started working in the 80’s there was no way to even get a sense of what certain industries were like.

  21. Potatoes gonna potate*

    I’ve been in the workforce FT since 2014 and sometimes I’m still nto sure that something is normal until now. I’ve tried really hard to get a better sense of judgment and try to spot red flags beforehand, but I still keep making the same mistakes. It’s like I don’t think I will ever be smart enough to to find myself in a better position.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think you’d have to take a hard look at:
      >Your field (what’s normal for that field?)
      >The way you interview / questions you should be asking
      >Sense of desperation (I’ve always gotten into the WORST jobs when I was unemployed or desperate, naturally)

      But other times all the stars aligned and it was perfect and good… Until something changed.
      I don’t know how one could know that, really. I mean, can you predict a boss leaving and getting a horrible boss?
      Things taking a nosedive due to a pandemic?

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, it was Gen X —> Gen Y. And for awhile people thought Gen Y and Milenniak were different somehow.

  22. Sarah*

    Most of the answers/comments addressed workplace dysfunction issues, but I think it’s worth noting that sometimes inexperienced employees may want to move on if the job simply won’t give them the experience they need. It’s tough as an inexperienced applicant sometimes to know the questions to ask to ascertain exactly what the job is, and sometimes there’s a mismatch. And I think everyone needs to hear that, assuming they can still pay rent and put food on the table, there’s nothing wrong with walking away from a job if you just realized it wasn’t exactly what you thought it was. (Now if this happens repeatedly, you need to start figuring out the right questions to ask, but having it happen once is one of the ways you learn those tough lessons.)

    1. MissDisplaced*

      True. Sometimes you just hit kind of a dead end with jobs or with companies. If you’ve been there 2-3 years, it may be time to move on.
      I really wish the employees would not be penalized for job hopping though. Sometimes 3 years at a company is more than enough. That’s not job hopping. Hopping is more like if you’re quickly moving though jobs every six months to a year.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I work in an industry that cares about job hopping, and three years wouldn’t really stand out as hoppy – I agree that six months to a year at each one better fits the “job hopping” description.

        I would want to know what someone was looking for in a job and what sort of thing might interest them to stay longer-term, but three years is still a good run to have someone.

  23. Sue*

    I am a professional woman Boomer and I saw plenty of sexism in the workplace. We were trailblazers in many respects and it definitely wasn’t always easy. I could write a book on all the stuff that happened to me. But..many of us stood up to it, spoke out and quit over it. We weren’t all lemmings putting up with garbage because it was a thing of our generation. I don’t need any personal thanks but the generations of women after us are benefiting from our efforts. My own daughters see that and have some appreciation, not all this disdain for Boomers. Generational stereotyping is often pretty insulting.

    1. Firecat*

      ? Is this supposed to be a reply to someone because the OP didn’t disparage boomers anywhere I see?

      1. Esmeralda*

        Comment above blaming crappy boss behavior on Boomers’ willingness to roll over and take it.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I said something pretty similar and I think it landed in the right place so there you go!

  24. MissDisplaced*

    Truly, I’ve worked at a lot of places, and it’s STILL often hard to judge those things well even when you DO have tons of experience! Sometimes, it’s because it was something difficult to suss out during interviews. But often, it’s because something changed (management, manager, finances, job description, etc.) after you’ve been there a while that was perfectly fine when you started. There’s just no telling! And, outside from truly egregious things, it’s never really easy to decide when you need to just move on. And this is not a Gen Y thing, I’m a GenX and have always felt that way. Life is way too short to be miserable at work. The grass is (usually) greener as they say.

    >I try to give companies a year and see if there is any improvement or steps being taken to remedy issues.
    >Try to speak to your manager if possible, but realize it might mark you as being “problematic.”
    >I don’t recommend up and quitting without lining up another job unless you are under genuine duress or danger.

    Also, of course, this is not the greatest time to compare. Even if companies are trying to make things better or right, they may not have the wherewithall to do so right now because a lot of even the big companies are in survival mode.

  25. Anon for this*

    I like the 2020 addition and echo that everyone needs a network outside of their office to figure out norms.

    Another litmus test I (unfortunately) had to use was “Is this a fixable issue or will I be going against my values if I stay?” A few years ago, I took a position with future equity as part of the offer. Except when I started, I realized what I had been sold on was not close to reality. Two weeks in, a mistake from before my tenure came to light that put people’s lives at risk. It was not handled well by the owner. I realized I couldn’t trust this person’s integrity and continuing to work there would put my integrity at risk. After many uncomfortable discussions, I realized it was a sinking ship I couldn’t save. I slept on it, then woke up on a Tuesday and quit that day, with nothing lined up. I was there less than 2 months and while no one hopes to job hop like that, quitting immediately was the right decision. I will never regret getting out of there quickly.

  26. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I tend to see people like glass–if one’s broken and that’s ruining your work experience, you’re going to tear yourself up trying to fix it. Bad boss, bad grandboss, bad CEO–all you can do is stick it out long enough to get a different job offer and a workable reference. I wouldn’t even advise you to try due to the risk of retribution.

    Technology can be more malleable. You might be able to get a less-broken keyboard, mouse, computer, phone, etc.

    The 401k and IRA, for all their shortcomings, means you’re never beholden to an employer for two decades to earn that pension that’s going to sustain you in retirement. When it’s bad enough to look and a better offer is there, just go; when you stop seeing better offers, you’ve found your level.

  27. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

    May sound cheesy but this site has been invaluable in helping me understand in broad strokes what good employers/ workplaces look like and then by comparison what isn’t quite right in my own (or friends’) situations.

    Also the comments and Friday open thread are so useful – so many different perspectives and so helpful to see things from so many different sides. People in workplaces (and life generally) see and approach things in so many ways so having this type of community Alison (thank you btw) has built up is so useful as it’s hard to step out of my own headspace sometimes to get a different perspective on things.

  28. HR Exec Popping In*

    I find this topic fascinating. To me, it is all about making conscious trade off decisions. To do that, you need to know what is important to you, how hard is it to get that and what are you willing to give up or put up with to get that.

    I’ve been willing to give up somethings to get the career I have today. I have friends who think I’m crazy as they value stability and a 9-5 environment more than I do. Yes, I’ve dealt with crazy bosses, some minor disfunction and personal sacrifice. To me, what is most important is to be very aware of your choices. Because then, if the “payout” (however you define that – flexible schedule, money, growth, interesting work, etc.) isn’t what you thought it should be, then you know it is time to move on.

    1. Emma Woodhouse*

      I think this is spot on. I work in client services which is notorious for having no work-life balance, unpredictable hours, and weekend work. It’s not abnormal to work an 80 or 100 hour week. It would be out of line with the industry to raise concerns about working nights/weekends/more than 40 hours. We rarely say no to clients so when I was junior I spent a lot of late nights, early mornings, and weekends doing research and preparing deliverables.

      It’s all about trade-offs. The work is really interesting and high profile so the hours are completely worth it to me. Senior people are well-compensated and those who leave go on to do “very big” jobs. There is a clear path to success at the company or high profile exit opportunities. It’s more important to me to do interesting, important work than it is for me to have my nights and weekends.

      I’ve been reading this blog since I joined the workforce and most of it is not applicable to my company or industry. A lot of the advice on here is divorced from my reality and the reality of my peers coming out of elite universities in NYC. Banking, law, consulting, and adjacent fields all have their own norms. You don’t go into I-banking, for example, for the work-life balance. You’re not going to get clear instructions. You’re going to be expected to put together high quality documents with very little guidance. In some jobs the lack of guidance or clear direction is something you can raise with your boss but if you’re an analyst at a bank you’re out of luck. It’s so important to know your industry and know what you value!

      1. allathian*

        Yes, knowing your industry, knowing yourself and knowing what you value is so very important.

        I do know that your life sounds like a nightmare to me, I would collapse from exhaustion or a mental breakdown in a week if I tried it.

  29. Teri Anne*

    I was a biology major, and my very first job out of college was with a university laboratory working with rats. I was still living at home, and the professor badgered me frequently that getting my own apartment was a condition of employment. Even 40 years ago, a $12,000 salary was insufficient to afford an apartment in Chicago. I felt very harassed, but in my inexperience, I did not realize how inappropriate this was. Finally in desperation I went to HR, and the university HR representative said that the professor was treacherous, and that I should quit before I needed her for a reference. I realized she was right, and I quit after 3 months which was a good decision. My experience is a good example of how a new college graduate can learn by asking more experienced people for advice.

  30. fhqwhgads*

    Personally, I think the real answer to this question is hie thee to this site and read every post tagged “jerks” first. Then when you’re done, if you’re still unsure about your own situation, move on to “workplace practices”. There find allllllllllllll the reality checks.

  31. babblemouth*

    This is why I started advising young graduates around me to make sure they try multiple workplaces while they’re still in their 20s. You might have your first job in an amazing place and not appreciate it; you can work in hell and not realize.
    But one thing that also really helps is to talk a lot and become work friend with people in their 30s and older. They’ll have data about what you should demand that you don’t have; or be a reality check if you’re being unrealistic about expectations. It also helped identify real balance perks (free Friday afternoons are genuinely helpful!) from fake ones (we get a massage therapist in once a month, but that’s just because it’s cheaper than upgrading our office furniture to ergonomic types).

  32. Gigi*

    I got excellent advice on this very early in my career from a trainer when I was an Americorps*VISTA volunteer. He said that when your soul is hurting (as opposed to being annoyed), it’s time to move on. He qualified that you should figure out what the bare minimum time is that you need to stay for work experience, reputation, etc., but start making a plan based on that timeline. “Soul hurt” can seem like a woo-woo concept, but over the past 20 years I’ve learned that I can definitely identify it when it’s happening.

  33. Echo*

    As someone who manages early career staff, I don’t think there is any question too presumptuous as long as it’s clearly phrased as a question–and you’re prepared to take no for an answer. So, asking for senior projects as a junior staff member: “I’d love to do more work like X and Y. Is that something that’s really only an option for senior staff, or is that something I could potentially work on too?” Even something like the dress code that the interns wrote the petition about! “Our office dress code feels strict to me, particularly X and Y. Is there any flexibility on that, or are X and Y just an accepted part of dressing for an office setting?” I’m usually happy to opine not just on whether the thing they want is realistic within our company, but also whether it’s typical at other places.

Comments are closed.