my boss is a snob about college degrees, will I look ungrateful for quitting, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss is a snob about college degrees

I work as a strategy leader for a large corporation that—among many other things—builds and runs primary care doctor’s offices. My team is closely involved in training the many types of employees in our primary care locations—physicians, medical assistants, managers, front desk staff, etc. Frequently, when we’re developing a new process or training resource for the positions that don’t require post-secondary education, like our front desk staff, my boss will remind us to make instructions simple by saying things like, “Remember, these are folks who didn’t go to college. We need to make sure we’re not overwhelming them” or “Most of these people only have a high school degree, so let’s not expect too much.”

I find this frustrating for many reasons, both personal and professional. I am highly educated in the traditional sense (bachelor’s and master’s degrees), but I know and love lots of people who aren’t, such as my incredibly intelligent father who couldn’t afford college and instead worked as a police officer for decades. Then there’s my husband, who didn’t finish college but is a leader in the skilled trades and owns his own very successful business. I’m a strong believer that college isn’t the best choice for everyone, and that lacking a college degree doesn’t mean someone is cognitively deficient. My boss’s comments feel elitist and small-minded, even though I don’t think that’s her intention. Should I politely call her out on this? Or should I just let it go?

Ick. It’s one thing to say something like “let’s keep the writing clear and concise” — that’s good advice even when you’re writing for people with advanced degrees — but holy hell she’s being patronizing and gross. “Let’s not expect too much”?!

So yeah, ideally you’d push back on those comments if you’re in a position where you can safely do it. In the moment you could say, “You know, in my experience, these folks are smart and don’t need things watered down more than we’d do for other audiences” or “College or not, these are skilled people in professional, responsible positions. I don’t think we need to worry about comprehension issues more than with anyone else we serve.”

And if you’re up for it, you could talk to her about the pattern too: “You’ve often remarked that we shouldn’t expect much from the people we train who don’t have college degrees, and I wanted to ask you to rethink that. I know a lot of people without degrees, many of whom are very successful, and there are lots of reasons why someone might not go to college, especially financially. It feels off-base to me to talk about people without degrees that way.” (And if you want to throw in that your husband doesn’t have a degree and owns a successful business, that’s especially likely to shame her into stopping or at least make her feel awkward continuing.)

2. Will I look ungrateful for quitting right now?

I’ve been at my current job for three years, one year as an hourly college intern who helped at the front desk, and the last two years I was promoted to the manager of the interns as well as the head of the front desk (I was lucky enough to be hired right out of college because the spot opened up). I report directly to my boss who helps me oversee our interns. I love my interns, and my boss and I have a great working relationship as well as a friendship outside of work. While I’m glad to have a job (I live in an extremely expensive city) the work itself isn’t something I enjoy or see myself doing long-term, and I’ve been feeling burnt out. My original plan was to stay throughout our busiest time of year (Feb-May) and then leave in this summer, which is considered a dead time for us. That way, someone could easily be trained at my position at a low stress time and be well set up for the year and I could make a quick exit.

Unfortunately, COVID derailed me and we were work-from-home from March-June (at full pay). Now that we’re back in the office, my team has been cut to 50% capacity, meaning I won’t be allowed any interns for the rest of the year, so all the front desk work now falls on me and my boss. To top that, my boss has recently told me she’s expecting her first child. I’m incredibly excited for her but this has added to the pressure I feel to get out in a timely fashion so she won’t have to worry about finding someone new as her due date gets closer.

I worry that my quitting will be seen as ungrateful, since I have been lucky enough to retain steady income while many people were not as fortunate, even within my own family. I also worry that I’ll be seen as “irresponsible” because I’m leaving a steady job to pursue my dream in an industry that’s taken a major hit right now. (I currently work in the administrative branch of an entertainment company, but my lifelong goal and why I live in this city is to work solely in entertainment.) I also don’t want to be in a position where I’ve blindsided my boss because I’ve made no mention of wanting to leave prior to this. I know there’s never a “good” time to quit a good job so am I simply over-thinking it? Or should I hold my tongue for a little longer?

You’re over-thinking it — or rather, you’re doing what a lot of people do when they’re ready to quit a job, which is to feel immensely guilty and obligated to stay until it’s a good time for their company or their boss. But that’s not how this works. This is a business relationship. Your obligations are to do a good job while you’re there, give a professional amount of notice (generally two weeks), and assist with a transition during that time. That’s it. You get to leave when you want to leave. Sometimes (often, in fact) it will be inconvenient for your employer and/or and for your manager personally. That’s a normal part of business, and they will be fine.

Quitting now is not ungrateful to your company. You have been trading labor for money. There’s no gratitude obligation that requires you to continue doing that when it’s no longer in your interests.

And this won’t be blindsiding your boss any more than quitting normally is. Most people don’t signal to their bosses that they’re planning to leave until the moment they’re giving notice. That’s normal, because otherwise you risk being pushed out earlier than you want to go. That’s still true even though you have a friendship outside of work! I promise you there are things your boss doesn’t share with you because of your professional roles, and it’s okay for that to be the case for you as well.

The one caveat I’d give is: Are you planning to leave with nothing lined up? That’s always a risky move, but especially in this job market and especially in a highly competitive industry like entertainment. Any reason not to find a new job first and then give your notice?

3. Staying in touch with an old boss after you leave

I recently left a job I was doing for a year and a half. Because I was a personal assistant and for much of the time the only employee of the person I worked for, I was pretty involved in their life, house-sat several times, knew the family well, etc. I left on good terms and gave several months notice, but since I left I have not been in contact at all. I don’t particularly want to be in touch (I don’t really have anything to say) but I also don’t want my old boss to feel weird or snubbed. This is my first job after college so I’m not sure what the norms here are, or if they’re different for jobs where you’ve been so heavily involved in someone’s life. Since I’m applying for jobs, I also worry that this lack of contact on my part may affect the recommendations that my boss might give.

Have they reached out to you? If not, are you feeling snubbed? I’m guessing not — and there’s no reason the onus for maintaining a relationship would be more on you than on them.

Typically when someone leaves a job, if they stay in touch with their manager at all — and many people don’t — it’s more of a once or twice a year thing or even less. (There are exceptions of course, but we’re talking about what’s typical.)

Your boss’s focus has probably moved on, but if you want to sort of … pad the relationship while you’re in active need of recommendations, you could send a short, friendly email to check in, say you’re still searching, hope to have something soon, will be asking for a recommendation when you do, blah blah. It’s very unlikely that sending that email will kick off a round of more intense contact; it’s just a low-key way to stay on their radar when you’ll need a reference soon. But even that is probably unnecessary assuming the relationship was good.

With this letter and the one before it, it’s interesting to note the emotional obligations people pick up connected to their jobs. And it’s not that managers don’t feel emotional obligations to their employees — good ones do — but man, those ties make employees feel way more constricted than they usually make employers feel.

4. Pushing back on an unsafe request

Our office is moving to full-time work from home even after the pandemic ends. We will all need to go into the office at some point to clean out our offices. We have some team items that must be boxed up to be shipped to another office. Our manager doesn’t want to do that by herself (it shouldn’t take one person more than an hour), so she is insisting that we call come in on the same day and do it together. Although I’m happy to do my part shutting down the office, this doesn’t seem safe to me. Is there a way to push back that doesn’t seem like just complaining? Should I suggest everyone do one box? Should I just offer to do it all myself so we can come in at different times and stay safely apart? Am I overreacting?

You’re not overreacting; it’s ridiculous to make everyone come to the office together during a pandemic when the whole thing could be handled by one person in an hour.

If you’re willing to just do it yourself so you don’t have to deal with the risk, I’d say, “I don’t think it’s safe for us all to be there at once, but I’d be willing to do it myself when I’m there packing up my own things.” If you don’t think you should have to take that on yourself, you could say, ““I don’t think it’s safe for us all to be there at once, so can we talk about other ways to do it? Maybe everyone packs a couple of boxes while they’re there dealing with their own stuff?”

5. Should I apply for a job that might not still be open?

I came across a job posting that I think could be a great fit for. The post said “This posting will be closed on X date,” with that date originally mid-October (when it was pulled down) and then Oct 30th, after getting reposted. It just got pulled down on Nov 4th. Would it be a bad move to still submit my resume and cover letter this week? (I’ve been working on them). If so, how can I acknowledge that the job posting has been taken down?

The reason why I didn’t apply earlier is I originally saw the posting on the first due date and I thought I’d missed my chance. On the second due date, I saw it had been reposted, which gave me hope that they’re still looking for someone!

Take the shot! It’s possible that they’re no longer accepting no applications, but it’s also possible that they are. Jobs sometimes get pulled down and reposted — sometimes because they automatically expired on a certain date when the role is still open, sometimes because they thought they’d made a hire but it fell through, sometimes because of internal miscommunication … all sorts of things. The most you have to lose is the time you spend on the application (and that’s true whenever you apply for a job).

When you apply (which you should do ASAP; don’t wait), say, “I’m not sure if you’re still accepting applications but if you are, I’d love to be considered.”

{ 256 comments… read them below }

  1. Guy*

    OP2: Just underscoring what Alison said. Life is too short to feel like people might perceive you as being ungrateful for leaving a job. You’ve gotta look out for yourself. Quit the job with no remorse. They’ll be fine!

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I agree that the OP should leave the job when they decide without feeling guilty. I would also echo Alison’s warning, however. If the OP is quitting a stable job with a sane employer without a job lined up that will pay the bills, that’s very risky right now. They need to be prepared to live without an income for an extended period of time, keeping in mind that if they’re quitting, UI will likely not be an option, and a new job could be hard to find. And that’s without trying to break into a notoriously difficult field that’s tanked badly during the pandemic.

      I have friends who are actors, and they generally have day jobs even in good economic times, because acting doesn’t pay the bills (ditto for music, art, writing and so on).

      1. ACM*

        This was my thought. My understanding is that if you want to make it in front of the camera (or on the stage, whichever), finding work is a full-time job all by itself (e.g. being available at the last minute for daytime auditions and stuff) and better suits more flexible day jobs with more irregular hours. And oh man, if that’s what you want to do and think you have the chops, go for it while you’re young, but maybe…not this year? The vaccine will be ready soon enough. And in the meantime, if this job pays well, you could feel better about losing the time by socking away money in a dedicated account to cover yourself while looking for your break.

        Unless s/he’s not talking about performing, in which case, yeah, find a job before you leave.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        Yep, I am also feeling very burnt out at my current job but I am holding on because it offers me financial stability – plus flexible work hours which will be essential if the kids’ schools get closed again.

        In addition to possibly not working for a longer stretch, LW should also be prepared for stretches of part time work that doesn’t fully replace their income (in general, but especially under current circumstances.)

        I’m very sympathetic to the LW but now more than ever they need to make sure they have strong safety nets in place.

      3. Kes*

        I have to agree – now is not a good time to leave a stable job to pursue entertainment.
        If the problem is really that OP is feeling burnt out and boss is going on leave a better plan might be to talk to boss about all this and see how workload might be adjusted, what the plan is for coverage of boss’s leave, whether it makes sense to bring in someone in advance to train them and help with the workload, etc

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Fully agree! They should not worry at all that others will judge their decision, but should think very hard about how their future self will feel. I would focus primarily on these two question: 1) How burnt out are you? Like “if I have to do this one more day I will explode” burnt out, or more like “I have realized I don’t want to do this much longer” burnt out? And 2) How long can I go without a job lined up?

        It’s going to be quite some time before the entertainment industry bounces back from the pandemic and it was already hard to break into before. I am all for following your dreams if you can afford it, just be really sure that you’re ready to make that leap.

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      Agree with what others have said about the safety net–OP #2, not sure if I’m reading this right, but if by any chance you are considering quitting with no job lined up to make things simpler re: your boss’s maternity leave, DO NOT DO THIS.

      On the flip side, I am so glad both OPs 2 and 3 wrote in for advice about boss/employee relationships. Both are new to the work force, and man, it can be tricky to figure out how emotions play in to work relationships! You spend so much time with bosses and colleague; they are a big part of your new, independent, adult life; bosses are authority figures (like parents and teachers) and yet you’re an adult now, which makes the relationship with authority different. It can be very tricky to figure out how friendly, professional, equalitarian (although not precisely equal) co-working relationships should function. Good for both OPs for seeking guidance.

      1. Smithy*

        That was what I was wondering….was that the OP was essentially offering to leave now to afford the pregnant boss ample time to find/train a replacement as a favor.

        If that is the case, please please please do not do this. I used to work in a country where giving one month leave was considered standard and as a team of one, I felt a lot of internal pressure to provide my organization ample time to find a replacement. As such, I gave three months notice.

        As it turned out, my boss took about 2 months to post the notice and on my last week had no one remotely competitive in place for even a second interview. During my last week, I was offered the opportunity to stay on as a consultant that I was able to take since I was committed to returning to the US, I didn’t have a job set up. At the time my thinking was that as only person who did my job, my boss would be highly motivated to use the three months to bring in a replacement. As I’ve gotten older, it’s perhaps been more clear that she had lots of things she was considering. And she had no problem coming back to me to present an alternative that she knew would work for her.

        OP – your boss is pregnant, likely balancing a number of demands – both personal and professional – that may make hiring someone now not seem like a priority. And if she knows that you’re leaving to pursue performance, it’s not the same as “I have a new job I’m starting on November 23rd, the last day I can work for you is the 22nd.”

        1. Artemesia*

          I somehow didn’t fully grok the leave to pursue ‘performance’ part. I have many friends in theater and music who are desperate and starving right now. Both opera companies in my city have cancelled their seasons (as has the Met), theaters are shuttered and many will fail. This is precisely the wrong moment to take risks in any already insecure field especially a performance field.

          1. boo bot*

            Oh, I didn’t catch that either! I think whether or not this is a good time depends a lot on what area of entertainment they’re planning on going into – if what they do could be channeled into a web series or podcast, for example, those things are available to audiences now, have low barriers to entry, and could be created around a stable, but less demanding day job.

    3. Not playing your game anymore*

      OP2 As someone who has worked with students and recent grads for more years than you’ve been alive, let me assure you, your boss will understand and be happy for you when you find that next job. I appreciate our students and want the best for them. So, I’m thrilled when they move on. It’s a success for all of us. I may grumble about picking up their slack, but it’s understood that they are birds of passage. If you want to leave things in the best shape for the boss, make sure that procedures are clearly documented so that training your eventual replacement will be a smooth as you can make it, and that any backlogs that you can clean up have been cleaned up.

    4. Artemesia*

      ‘Gratitude’ is not even part of the equation. No one ‘gives you a job’ as a gift (unless you are in a family business) — it is business and if it is in their interests to fire you, they do so without hesitation. There was a time when loyalty was a thing. My father in the 40s was very ill and the giant company he worked for paid him for the 3 mos he was off till he was able to return; doesn’t much happen anymore and he always felt very loyal to the company.

      You owe them your best while you are there and two weeks notice and doing your best to leave your job in good shape and documented for the next person. You will be surprised at how little a ‘deal’ this is to your employer once you are gone a week or two. Always make job decisions that are in YOUR interest; that is what the business does – in their interest.

    5. Mel_05*

      Yes, for sure. You will almost always “blind side” your boss. It’s just how things go.

      I was sure everyone at my office knew I was looking around. I hadn’t said anything, but it was clear that the employer was no longer the right fit and I was taking a lot of half days. Nope! They were all pretty shocked, no one more than my boss.

      It had the potential to be awkward because I’d just started in a new position and was pretty excited about the team I was working with – but they were absolutely super about it.

  2. Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery*

    OP3: it’s also worth remembering that sometimes the span of a workplace relationship is the length of time you’re both in that workplace. It can feel weird because you may get intensely close/personal with someone at work, but then one of you leaves and it turns out it was a proximity friendship.
    Of course, if you want to keep a friendship alive after that, you can organise to catch up and so on, but it’s certainly not unusual for people to drift apart when you are not literally sitting next to each other five days a week.

    1. BonzaSonza*

      I’ve always been friendly with colleagues, even spending time with some outside work hours, but none of those relationships have ever lasted once one of us has moved on.

      I work in a very niche professional role, and in my country there are probably less than 300 in total within ~25 companies. I hear about former colleagues in the grapevine, and pass on my regards when they inevitably pop up again. It’s fascinating watching where people end up and reputation definitely matters.

      Even still, it’s quite normal to not speak to someone in 3-4 years, contact them for a specific work-related purpose and then catch up on life where you last left off.

      Don’t over-think it. Certainly stay informed of people’s whereabouts and how to contact them if needed, but linkedin and other similar providers can help with that now. Most people I know don’t expect regular lifelong updates once the work relationship has ended.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Yes, the friendships are real but they are only viable in the context of work. I’ve stayed friends with only one fellow worker over my career.

        1. Artemesia*

          Most of our social life when we were both working was with work friends; once retired and we moved to a new city we now have a vibrant social life we have painstakingly built since moving here — and old work friends of many years have rarely been in touch. One couple has gotten together several times when visiting our city but for the most part those relationships faded once we retired and moved on.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      The holidays are coming up, it is usually a good time to reach back out to an old coworker with greetings as a way to stay in touch, without being clingy.

  3. Diahann Carroll*

    Re: OP #1

    “Remember, these are folks who didn’t go to college. We need to make sure we’re not overwhelming them” or “Most of these people only have a high school degree, so let’s not expect too much.”

    Dear goddess, your boss is an ass. I have yet to meet one person in my career without a degree that’s been an idiot. I have, however, met or know of several people with degrees who are dumber than a box of rocks. Your boss is one of them.

    1. Name (Required)*

      Let me think…

      OP#1’s boss would then talk down to Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Jan Koum, Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, among others.

      Hahahaha! ( ͡ᵔ ͜ʖ ͡ᵔ )

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        Let’s not forget you are naming some very privileged people. Gates dropped out of MIT and had a very wealthy family who backed him. This wasn’t someone who dropped out of a college because of work or financial needs. And I’ve met many people with or without degrees who aren’t the sharpest.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          You’re kind of proving the point about degrees not equalling success. A degree didn’t make Bill Gates successful. However, his own intelligence and capabilities, work ethic, willingness to take a risk, and yes, financial backing with maybe some good timing, all absolutely did.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            It was Havard, not MIT, my error. But it was his money, family, training and privilege that got him ahead. People like to trot out he didn’t finish college without acknowledging all he had and was given and all the privilege.

            1. Observer*

              You seem to be missing the point. Or are you claiming that someone who gets forced out of college (or never got a chance to get it) due to financial is someone less intelligent than someone with the kind of privilege that Gates had?

              1. Black Horse Dancing*

                No, I’m simply stating when people point to Bill Gates as “Someone who never had a degree and look at him!”, they are ignoring all he DID have. He is intelligent, incredibly privileged, wealthy, had connections, etc. Yes, many people without degrees are intelligent, full stop. Don’t pick Gates out as anything but an example of tremendous luck, privilege, intelligence, hard work, and connections. He was in the perfect place at the perfect time. Many intelligent people will never have those advantages or breaks.

        2. Artemesia*

          yeah Gates went to a tony private high school in a town where private school going was rare and his father was a very high paid distinguished lawyer. While still in high school he was given access to computer facilities at the U of Washington through his connections and so got the education that prepared him to be a computer pioneer and he later dropped out of Harvard. He is the poster boy for white privilege – who also was smart and ambitious and arrived with those privileges at the precise moment that the computer age was taking off.

          1. bleh*

            It proves the point that he got educated early, because money, not that he had some mystical internal gumption or that college is useless. He attended two years of college at Harvard about which he said “Harvard was just a phenomenal experience for me. Academic life was fascinating. I used to sit in on lots of classes I hadn’t even signed up for.” Bill Gates is not the example you want here.

            1. Observer*

              Actually, it proves the point that college per se doesn’t mean anything. It’s not even a good proxy for privilege. I suspect that to some extent what the boss really means, whether she recognizes it or not, when she says “let’s not expect too much because they don’t have a degree” is “let’s not expect too much because they aren’t educated and they aren’t one of us.” with “us” being upper middle class and higher children of successful educated professionals (or people who can mimic being of that cohort.)

        3. fhqwhgads*

          Sure but it also illustrates the point that the jerk boss is basically forgetting the possibility that many people went to college and simply didn’t finish. Doesn’t mean they’re morons. Means they either got a job that could progress their careers without finishing and thus didn’t need to incur the extra expense of finishing, or couldn’t afford to keep going, or dozens of other reasons.

    2. allathian*

      I hear you. Some of the smartest people I know are in the skilled trades, one of whom left school at 16 following the 9 years of compulsory formal education here. He started his own business before he was old enough to sign any contracts and had to hire his dad as a proxy CEO, and he’s been earning his own living for the nearly 30 years since then. By all accounts, he’s doing pretty well.

      1. Name (Required)*

        Grew up with a guy who didn’t do well at school, but was a hard worker. He worked weekends for a local removal company while at school and learned the business. He managed to get a loan for a large removal truck (big enough for full house moves) and started his own moving company at 18/19, taking a few former coworkers with him. He was a millionaire before he was 25. He stopped doing the physical side of the business when he could hire more good workers (treated his workers well, something he learned from his first boss who didn’t treat people well). The rest, as they say, is history.

        Worked briefly with someone who had a Bachelor degree, two Master degrees, and one PhD degree but could not fathom how to work a fax machine

        1. Fax Machine Wizard*

          Ha! Your fax machine line cracked me up. I had to use a fax machine in an oldjob about once every 6 months and I remember slightly panicking because my brain would go blank every. Single. Time. “Wait, which way does to paper go again?” “Do I need to add a ‘1’ on the area code when I punch in the number?” The front desk admin and I always would share a good chuckle at my expense. Once I finally had gotten the hang of it, she had made me a certificate that said I was “fax machine certified.” It was hilarious! The admin and I had a very good working relationship and identical senses of humor so it wasn’t mean spirited in the least (she knew her customer.)

          1. COBOL Dinosaur*

            The fax machine story makes me think of when I did computer tech support while in college. I received a ticket to ‘replace the light bulb’ in a phd math professors monitor. I’m not sure if he thought it worked like a Light Bright or not. (the power cord had come unplugged)

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Heh, same. I also have multiple degrees and have to read the fax instructions step-by-step every time I use it because I fax maybe two things per year. I was a whiz with the fax in the 1990s, but it takes me two tries to get any fax sent every time I use the damn thing now. (And it IS because of they numbers – they keep changing whether you have to add the 9 to get an outside line and 1 before they area code settings.)

          3. Quill*

            Same. If I don’t use a piece of technology that I can’t google at least once a month… into the mental shredding bin it goes!

            (I still cannot figure out how to consistently call out on the office phone… because the darn thing didn’t come with a manual!)

        2. BenAdminGeek*

          Oh man… the fax machine… the bane of my existence. I always used to overthink them and take 20 minutes faxing one page.

        3. Your Weird Uncle*

          I work in academia – some of the smartest people in their field, and I guarantee you only a handful of them will know how the fax machine works. Of course, it’s not that they aren’t capable of using it. It’s that they aren’t willing to learn.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I did a quick survey of people I know. The ones who just finished high school or dropped out are doing the best financially. They are; a plumber, electrician, construction worker, mechanic, handyman all with their own businesses. Right now all of them are super busy because of the pandemic, more people are at home and getting work done. We asked for the plumber’s help and he was booked solid for the next three months. The common denominator is that they all like to work with their hands and problem solve. A college degree wouldn’t have helped any of them, getting certified in their trade was needed. They are all the smartest people I know. Mainly because they have achieved enough financial freedom to take the winters off and spend it someplace warm. You don’t need to be book smart to be successful.

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yep. I was dragged to a 30th high school reunion by a good friend. We grew up around the block from each other in a lower middle class neighborhood in a city with a wide disparity in incomes. We both were college scholarship kids who moved back to the home city. While we were in school, we were in classes with the kids from the higher income neighborhoods, but opted to sit with people from our old neighborhood. I was more comfortable there, and they were far more interesting and fun to be with.

          At one point, a former classmate came over to say hello. She was listening to our conversation regarding who now lived in what area of our city. Former classmate said “Uh…you all live around here? But…all the houses are really expensive. How can you all possibly afford that? My husband and I looked recently but couldn’t find anything affordable.” One neighborhood friend who was an electrician said “While you were out getting multiple degrees and going into debt, we were all here working. Only Sparkles went to college and she did it on scholarship and worked full time too. We bought houses before the housing market went crazy. You know…while you were still in graduate school racking up debt.”

          The former classmate was a nice person, but I couldn’t stop myself from laughing so hard I almost fell off of my chair.

            1. JustaTech*

              Some of them get more education to make less!
              A PhD will open many doors, but only very rarely the one labeled “very high pay”. And usually that’s only when you go out into industry as a big name.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                I mean, if it’s a super pointed “how could YOU possibly afford THAT” that that’s definitely rude, but then it would seem weird to follow that up by specifying that she’s a nice person! Idk, just seems very “and then everybody clapped, and that electrician’s name? Albert Einstein!” to me.

    3. Poopsie*

      Also on the flip side, being in a ‘lower’ position doesn’t automatically mean a person is uneducated. I willingly work in a ‘front desk’ equivalent position and have a degree.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. There’s also a tendency to undervalue front desk type jobs. They usually require problem-solving and communication skills, as well as the ability to deal with occasionally unpleasant customers without losing your cool or your ability to sleep…

        1. Lee*

          Part of it is that these are hourly paid jobs that are often not paid particularly well. I was looking into an educational program said they wanted their applicants to have been employed in full time work – preferably in a position that wasn’t hourly. Like an hourly job meant, I don’t know, less responsibility, less intelligence? I don’t know. But as an hourly worker it really ticked me off.

        2. Sara without an H*

          Yes, a lot of managers forget that the front desk person is often your first, and sometimes only, contact with the customer. It’s a good idea to hire, train, and pay them well.

        3. Mel_05*

          Yeah, the front desk needs to be smart. I’ve worked with a front desk person who was not and it was a nightmare.

          1. Chinook*

            Yup. Just because a trained monkey can cover a reception desk doesn’t mean that said monkey would do it well. I have taken over positions from trained monkeys and the stuff that fell through caused so many nightmares.

            1. Mrs. Smith*

              My husband is a logo designer and illustrator and people assume that because he works fast and well that it’s easy or that anyone with a computer and some clip art could do his job. He summarizes it this way (and this is perfect – this applies to so many situations): “Just because I can do it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.”

      2. turtle100*

        I’m honestly so angry with OP’s boss. My mother is a front desk worker in the same field as OP, and she has a four year degree (in English, no less! she’s almost definitely a better writer than OP’s boss!) and would be INCREDIBLY insulted to find out someone assumed she was unintelligent because of her role. Another one of her coworkers is a retired Navy officer who works there part time to keep herself busy. Plus, the front desk workers are the ones who process insurance information, onboard patients, do Covid screening….. I hope they all walk out and OP’s boss can find out how quickly the clinics would collapse without their admin staff. What an ass.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          There are always people around who judge, regarding a person’s job and regarding other things. They’re not very bright or observant. I like to think of them as if they’re wearing a sign that says “I’m stupid and unaware”, because that’ basically what they’re doing.

      3. Chinook*

        Exactly – I am educated and smart enough to know that I don’t want the responsibility of a “better” position most of the time. When I am a receptionist, I like being able to leave my work at work and have a life away from the company and have taken that position for just that reason.

    4. T2*

      This is an excellent point. In my tech job, I find many highly educated people who are leaders in their field, who are also hopeless when it comes to what I do.

      Documentation should be clear and consistent regardless of the role.

    5. cncx*

      ITA, the absolute dumbest person i have ever met in my life was a family legacy at an ivy league…my boss left school at like 16 and is the smartest person i know

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Several things.

        People who go to college, as a *generalization* are going to be better at reading comprehension than people who do not.

        This is not a statement on how smart someone is or is not, but about a skill that is teachable. Some people who did not go to college will be great at it, and some who did will be bad. But as a generalization, it’s not off.

        That said, looking down on people who did not go to college is NASTY, even if there is some truth to about reading ability.

        Very improtantly, In general, most instructional writing, even that intended for highly-educated people, is too complex. Writing in a simpler way is almost always the better choice if immediate understanding is the goal.

        So I would flip AAM’s script a little and emphasize that plain language benefit comprehension for everyone, and not say that the OP’s group should avoid “dumbing down” (or even, stately more neutrally, “simplifying” language.)

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I don’t think it’s necessarily true that people who go to college have “better” reading comprehension. They have different vocabulary and they’re most used to academic reading. However, instructional/practical training reading is a VERY different skill. Think of how many highly educated people struggle to follow directions in a manual for, say, furniture assembly.

          And with so many student going to college because that’s just what you do after high school, I don’t know that you can even say they’re automatically better at academic reading/interpretation. I still remember the person who argued in their exam essay that the invention of movable type caused the development of written music notation several hundred years earlier. They even had the dates right, yet it somehow never occurred that technology developed in the 1400 probably hadn’t influenced people ca. 1000.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            And with so many student going to college because that’s just what you do after high school, I don’t know that you can even say they’re automatically better at academic reading/interpretation.

            Yes, this. I’ve worked with college educated people who can barely spell and didn’t understand basic instructions/concepts, so I’m not buying that argument.

            1. CupcakeCounter*

              My husband has repeatedly said that if spellcheck wasn’t around, he would have failed college. He’s an engineer though so really good with instructions/concepts.
              Meanwhile my mother has multiple degrees in her field and is considered a SME but the moment she steps outside the hospital all bets are off and she is a twit of epic proportions. The running joke in the family is that we will have to rely on her coworkers to tell us if there is any cognitive decline since we won’t notice any difference.

              1. pleaset cheap rolls*

                “I don’t know that you can even say they’re automatically better at academic reading/interpretation”

                Did I?

            2. ellex42*

              I think this may depend heavily on the quality of the college they were “educated” at. One of the absolute dumbest people I’ve ever met had several BA’s and was working towards another when I met her. She had them from a state school with class sizes in the hundreds. She’d work on her schoolwork at work, and I had a look at some of it, and was distinctly unimpressed. Even she admitted that all she really had to do was show up to classes and turn in the assignments, and the grades she got on her assignments seemed to have little to do with whether or not she passed the class.

            3. pope suburban*

              Agreed. I have a colleague who subscribes to this boss’s mentality, and who is really, awfully rude about it too. Unfortunately for her, neither of her two Master’s degrees taught her how to write well, nor did they instill any particular work ethic that I can tell. She’s behind things all the time despite ten years in her position, and she’s damaged her relationship with virtually everyone here between that and the way she’s a snob. LW’s boss is so far in the wrong, I can’t find the words to say how wrong they are.

            4. Quill*

              I was lab partners with a couple of those…

              Granted I think collegiate alcoholism probably played a role in their performance in the lab, but yeah. Spelling can be fixed, accidentally turning your reaction purple because you used iodine to clean the beaker cannot, you have to throw the product out and start again.

              The primary requirement for college, as long as we’re talking about “any college at all” is money.

          2. LifeBeforeCorona*

            I can and have put together any kind of IKEA furniture with just the Alan key and instructions. Ask me to read and understand a financial statement and I’m lost.

        2. Paperwhite*

          So I would flip AAM’s script a little and emphasize that plain language benefit comprehension for everyone, and not say that the OP’s group should avoid “dumbing down” (or even, stately more neutrally, “simplifying” language.)

          I was just coming here to say this.

        3. Mel_05*

          Oh, I don’t know about that. Maybe as you get into higher level stuff it would be, but most people have the reading comprehension they’re going to have by the time they’re in high school.

        4. Just...why*

          People whose brains are wired more strongly for language are going to succeed in this “teachable skill” sure, but yuck to this generalization and tying that skill to college. It’s hard to pinpoint what icks me out most about your comment, maybe the whiff of ableism, the hint of “I kinda do agree college-educated people are more capable”…?

        5. Observer*

          People who go to college, as a *generalization* are going to be better at reading comprehension than people who do not.

          That’s highly unlikely to be true. Certainly if you are talking about people who are capable of holding down a reasonably responsible job, it’s not the case. Some of the best research on this comes from the field of fundraising, where it’s crucial that writing is clear and comprehensible and where there are some significant built in metrics of success. Typically, fundraisers are advised to keep materials to 9th grade reading level – and remember this stuff is going to people who have money to give.

          Furthermore, “let’s not overwhelm them” is not about reading comprehension but a general overall assessment of capacity. So, you are completely correct that instructional writing should always be as simple, clear and concise as possible, and a lot of instructional writing is too complex for its purpose. And the OP can and should definitely push back on that.

          But they should ALSO push back on this disrespect for non-college educated staff.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Right. It’s not the core idea that’s the problem, it’s the tone of condescension.

            I have had to tell managers to simplify training documents and memos in the past for superficially similar reasons. Literacy is not critical for most of our employees, and is not considered as part of the hiring process – if you can read/write well enough to fill out the application form, you’re as literate as you need to be. We hire people based on job related skills, experience, work ethic, etc. That means we have many great employees who are not great at reading comprehension – which is fine! It literally doesn’t matter UNLESS management distributes critical information in a memo that looks like it was written by Dickens. That’s not fair to our staff, it’s not effective at communicating, and it will only lead to problems later on when people don’t have the information they need.

            I don’t think it’s inherently bad or condescending to consider the educational backgrounds and typical skill set of employees when preparing documents, no more than it would be to consider language barriers in a workplace with many employees who are not fluent in the dominant local language. The problem I see here is first, assuming that no college degree = poor reading comprehension, and second, the implication that such people are *stupid.*

        6. LQ*

          I’m with you on pushing for plain language for everyone. I don’t care how much education I have, I rarely want to spend my time flexing all my reading comprehension muscles on some absurdly inane and overly flowery complex language that someone’s obnixiously proud of because it has a certain linguistic flourish. Just say what you mean. It’s not a college thesis, write simply. That’s way more effective. Do “dumb it down” stop thinking you’re exquisite words are the best part of someone’s day. Just tell me what I need to know so I can do the thing I actually need to do.

    6. Liz*

      Same! The ones that come to mind are someone I met early in my career, a VP at an ad agency, who never went to college, and was smarter than smart, and a friend of a friend who had a BA, MA, JD and PhD and couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag if their life depended on it!

      I hate this kind of elitism.

      1. mreasy*

        The president of my company didn’t finish her BA, and yet is massively successful and respected for her insight and leadership throughout our entire industry. I absolutely did not need my college degree in ancient languages at any point in my career!

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Maybe not, but that degree sounds fascinating so it was probably worth it in other ways.

          1. Quill*

            In my experience after 1 year of latin it’s fascinating but also a personal quick route to completely scrambling my brain.

      2. 2QS*

        I have 3 degrees, one from a name-drop kind of place and one a Ph.D., but I rarely talk about them; I’d like to see the same respect afforded to skilled tradespeople, or anyone who didn’t have my mix of luck, privilege, and extremely traditional learning style. I’m not going to argue that I didn’t work hard, but I am going to argue that I had a comparatively short, straightforward, uneventful path to people thinking I’m ridiculously smart and therefore worthy of respect.

    7. Snow Globe*

      The other thing OP should convey to the boss is that a highly intelligent person (without a degree) will quickly perceive the boss’s attitude and will realize that this is not the job for them. How will their career ever progress if the boss doesn’t respect their intelligence? So the will have a hard time getting and keeping the best people in those positions if the boss doesn’t adjust their thinking.

      1. EPLawyer*

        that’s the big thing — her attitude will hurt the company in the long run. Good people with the right skills for the job will always have options. Will they stay somewhere that their skills are not valued because they don’t have letters after their name? Nope. They will bail at the first opportunity for a company that does recognize their value.

        I had to teach a class to new attorneys about representing pro bono clients. Of course this means lower income which often means no degree and in a lot of cases, English is not their first language. One thing I made sure to teach was — just because they don’t have money or can’t speak English well doesn’t mean they are stupid. Don’t treat them as if they are.

        1. Isomorph*

          This is so true. When living abroad, before I spoke the language fluently,
          a lot of people would just assume I was dumb – at least that was my impression. I always wanted to say “I could have this conversation more comfortably in three other languages – I am trying hard to learn the only one you speak – at least treat me with respect!”

    8. singularity*

      Yeah, I used to have a supervisor like this, although in his case, he was promoted as a direct result of earning the degree. He’d spent two years doing a job vaguely similar to mine, got the degree and was promoted to supervise me and several others, who all had more years of experience in the job but no advanced degrees. He was a butthole.

    9. ThatGirl*

      I have a BA. My husband has a master’s and a clinical license. I make more than he does. (He is seriously underpaid but that’s a different story.)
      His dad (my FIL) dropped out of college after a year and went back home to take over the family business, which he then helped turn from a small mom-and-pop window and glass replacement shop into a thriving business and he makes WAY more than either of us, lol.

    10. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Ask your boss if she wants the technician who shows up at 3AM to fix her broken furnace in the middle of a cold snap to quote Shakespeare.

      1. Paperwhite*

        I dunno, that could be a fun discussion, not least of working-class characters in Shakespeare. (Who has this rather unfortunate reputation for making The Most Highbrow Art Ever when he actually made blood-and-thunder plays to entertain all classes.)

      2. Chinook*

        Honestly, there is a 50/50 chance the technician could do it, which would be very, very funny. then again, I come from a place where Shakespeare is taught from grade 8 on (a play a year), so even most dropouts have sat through Romeo & Juliet.

    11. NaoNao*

      I am finding these responses to be very binary and reductive. “Shakespeare” and other flower-whiffing whims aren’t the only thing taught at college. Most skilled tradespeople go through a certification or apprenticeship that one might consider the trade equivalent to college.

      College degrees aren’t a be-all end-all, but a classic “Liberal Arts” education does teach several very important skills, such as research, critical thinking, debate, different forms of technical writing, presentation, study and organization skills, and reading for comprehension and for reaction/dialogue with sources.

      I’m also seeing a conflation of business/street smarts/common sense/savvy with a skilled trade with a general Liberal Arts education. Those are all different things and have different applications. It seems weird to compare your privileged but none too bright neighbor who has a college degree with a cutthroat businessman and find one “smart” and the other “dumb”. What metric are we using here? It feels like “money making” is the only metric I see mentioned which makes me more than a little uncomfortable!

      As a final note, I feel like people are being really savage to those they find “dumb” or “stupid”. Ability to read, write, present/speak and other typical business or professional skills aren’t someone’s only value and I think if someone in the letters came on with that attitude we’d see a huge volume of comments about how people can be caring, giving, inspirational, sweet, and other positive qualities without being “smart” in a conventional sense.

      1. lazy intellectual*

        I’m noticing this as well. I think it comes from people trying to compensate for society’s bias towards college education. Kind of wish college degrees and trade education were both understood neutrally as “things you do to gain employment in areas you’re interested in” without being wrapped up in value judgments about one’s intelligence.

        1. The Other Victoria*

          I’ve been thinking about how society’s bias toward college degrees also contributes to a job market that currently devalues degrees as well. For instance, there are a lot of jobs where people don’t *need* a degree, but because of the job market being flooded with people with degrees and the wider perception that a degree is some sort of baseline marker for intelligence, suddenly a degree is now a requirement for that job.

          When I was in higher education, I saw this a lot: A lot of entry level program coordinator type positions at universities can be done with a Bachelor’s or no degree with relevant work experience. Yet, universities know that there are a lot of people out there with advanced degrees who want to keep institutional access to university resources, so suddenly that job is being listed as Master’s required, PhD preferred. And the pay and benefits, while on the whole are not great, are WORLDS better than adjuncting, so people pursue it, and then you’ve got someone with a PhD in the job doing work they certainly don’t need a PhD to do, and when they move on, well the last person had a PhD, so this is now the expectation. And to be clear, I don’t think that a PhD makes a person better or above the work, but you’ve spent years developing a highly specific skillset and the job doesn’t require it. There are a lot of reasons why someone might take such a job, and I don’t judge them for it, but it’s not fair that employers raise the bar higher and higher in their requirements, when it really amounts to the assumption that each advanced degree means someone is smarter.

      2. Paperwhite*

        I completely agree with you about the value of a college education (and personally worked really hard to get one), but I think the responses here are meant to be a ‘balance’ to attitudes like the mentioned boss’s college-is-superior attitude, rather than complete statements setting trade work as always superior to/more practical than college. Maybe they overbalance too far in the other direction?

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Yeah, I think we are just seeing a lot of overcompensation all over this post that really has not been very well thought through.

          1. Sasha*

            Honestly, a lot of it is coming across as sour grapes/insecurity to me.

            I come from a working class mining background and was the first person in my family to stay on in school past age 16, let alone go to university. My family were not dumb, it just wasn’t seen as achievable for a working class kid. My mum got a lot of ridicule from the wider community for having “aspirations” for me, for not teaching me to know my place.

            These comments sound a lot like the kind of thing the belligerently stupid kids in my class who would beat up “swots” used to say. It isn’t helpful to working class kids to disparage doing well at school, or studying for qualifications. For every electrician who becomes a self-made millionaire, there are a hundred on tax credits. That’s not the case for chartered accountants.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Yep. I am mostly seeing a large group of college-educated people (a lot of whom have gone to some lengths to describe just how highly educated they are, just in case someone thinks that THEY didn’t go to college, god forbid) telling each other that college is useless and mimicking that exact kind of “hur hur why learn useless Shakespeare when you could be a rich electrician” discourse that keeps so many people in the crab bucket. I mean, I guess that it proves their point that college doesn’t automatically make you capable of critical thought so I’ll give them that.

        2. Observer*

          Also, a lot of people are responding to assumptions of the sort NaoNao is making.

          The really important skills that college teaches, according to them, are skills that can – and in decent schools ARE – taught at the high school level. And at least one of them can be taught (and often is learned) outside of school.

          College education can be very, very valuable. And it can be an utter waste of time. And in no case is it a useful indicator of people’s basic capacity and capability outside of specific skills based positions. So, eg, and JD is an indicator that you should have the baseline skills to practice law.

      3. GothicBee*

        I agree with you on what a liberal arts education should be, but as someone who works in a university, I’ve become pretty jaded about college degrees. I mean I do not regret getting my degrees at all, but it’s hard to keep that experience in mind when I regularly work with highly-educated people who clearly have not had a critical thought since 1983.

        I think the rise of schools that just churn out degrees because they make money (and this happens in not-for-profit schools too, not just for-profit schools) is a big part the change in how people value degrees. Not to mention, if you have to pay big money to go to college, then people are going to prioritize the money-making side of the degree. Nobody wants to go into decades of debt for better critical thinking skills. They will go into debt for a better salary. Making it so that every entry level job requires a 4 year degree that puts you into major debt does not help.

        Also, I think it’s pretty clear that the LW’s boss in this situation seems to be laboring under the impression that someone who only has a high school degree lacks basic reading comprehension skills, which is just absurd.

      4. Observer*

        but a classic “Liberal Arts” education does teach several very important skills, such as research, critical thinking, debate, different forms of technical writing, presentation, study and organization skills, and reading for comprehension and for reaction/dialogue with sources.

        Oh dear.

        Many of these “important skills” are not very important in a large swath of jobs. “Many forms of technical writing” for one. Academic research is even less useful. “Dialogue with sources” is the kind of thing that sounds lofty, but I can’t think of any non-academic job where that comes into play in any way at all.

        As for “study and organization skills, and reading for comprehension”, if someone needs to go to college for that, there is a good chance they are not making it through college. A decent high school education covers all of that. And organization skills doesn’t even need high school. In fact, I have found that a lot of “organizational skills” taught in academic settings are useless or counterproductive, because they don’t map to the way the world operates.

        The reason people are commenting about “smart” vs “dumb” is because the boss is making the very stupid and elitist assumptions that a degree = “smart, accomplished and capable” whereas no degree = “stupid, incapable and lacking capacity.”

        In that context people are talking about smart and ACTUAL education vs degrees, rather than human dignity and worth.

    12. ITisnotEZ*

      A college degree is A path towards education, not the ONLY path.
      And education intelligence.
      In fact, I’ve found (in my personal experience), that in many times, a college-educated individual has been less intelligent (problem-solving, analytical) than someone without a degree. Those people tend to need their learning spoon-fed to them, in smaller chunks, as compared to someone who dives in and tries to figure things out for themselves.

      As always, this is just my experience, and YMMV

      1. Surly*

        “Those people tend to need their learning spoon-fed to them, in smaller chunks.” No, that’s not at all how a university education works.

        1. lazy intellectual*

          Yeah – where I went to college, students had to be self-motivated.

          I agree college-educated does not automatically mean more intelligent, but let’s remember that the point of college/university is to receive training in certain subject areas. It doesn’t make you unintelligent to, well, learn things and possibly apply them in the future.

      2. Lisa Turtle*

        Look, I agree that a college degree is not necessarily indicative of intelligence, but claiming that college makes people dumber is pretty ridiculous.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          This has been my impression of the comments so far. Just a influx of examples of success without degrees, not judgement that all degrees are bad.

      3. Temperance*

        This is a weird comment. A college degree is education. Trade school is education.

        Liberal arts degrees teach you how to think critically, how to read critically, and how to research. No, people with degrees aren’t “less intelligent” than those without; FFS, media literacy is important, and it’s clearly something that many people without degrees (and some with) lack. That’s just one example.

        This weird anti-educational positioning is strange.

      4. EventPlannerGal*

        Look, I think we can all agree that the OP’s boss is wrong, condescending and small-minded. That does not mean that we have to veer into this weird anti-intellectual discourse about how a degree actually makes you stupider.

    13. ellex42*

      OP#1 boss really needs to get her head out of her ass. I dropped out of college halfway through for a number of reasons, including financial issues. For the last 10 years, I’ve worked at the same level, and even overseeing and training, people with not only college diplomas, but advanced degrees. A former boss who is a lawyer says that my knowledge and skills acquired on the job are minimum paralegal level.

      I’ve thought about going back to school to get at least an AA, but the skyrocketing cost of education has deterred me, along with the fact that the lack of that diploma doesn’t seem to have held me back career-wise.

      My own experience is that having a degree may – *may* – mean that a person has a slightly broader level of general knowledge, and they *might* be a little quicker at learning new things, but that is by no means a certainty.

      1. Temperance*

        You could probably obtain a community college paralegal certificate for not too much money. I think AA degrees are generally not worth it.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I second the certificate route now, especially with work experience. That would be more valuable professionally, IMO.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            The University of Washington has one that looks pretty reasonable from a cost standpoint, but I think a lot of the classes are in-person, so that may not work depending on where elle lives.

    14. JJ*

      Ew ew ew this boss is awful! There are SO many examples we could all share about how wrong she is. I know plenty of whip-smart people who either didn’t finish or didn’t seek out degrees at all, because they were so far ahead of the coursework, because their brains just didn’t conform to How You Have To Do Things In College, because college costs a million dollars now, etc etc etc!

      Also has she never come across the “absent-minded professor” trope? People come in all varieties and shaming those without degrees is truly awful and classist.

    15. drpuma*

      The one time an acquaintance asked if a guy I was dating who didn’t finish college would be a good match for over-educated me, my response was that he is curious and loves learning about the world around him. That’s all I need. There were too many people in my grad school class who that description would not apply to.

      I wonder if that would be at all persuasive for OP1’s boss – sure, some of these folks may not have completed degrees, but the fact that they’re working these complex jobs shows they are curious and they are committed to learning new things, academic setting or not. That’s a big indicator of intelligence to me!

    16. Knoxville Knox*

      Hi, everyone! OP #1 here. Thank you all for reinforcing my initial thought that my boss is out of line in what she’s saying. She’s not a bad person by any means, just woefully out of touch at times, and she’d probably be mortified to realize how elitist she sounds when she says this kind of thing. I’ll try to gently push back next time a similar comment is made. (Hopefully there won’t be a next time!)

      1. Dr . Employer*

        Hi OP. I’m a physician, have owned a practice for 20 years, and employ your boss’s target audience. My perspective is somewhat different from most other commenters. While your boss’s language may be snobby or unrefined, the message is correct. These positions are low paying, and high turnover. Not skilled professionals. The amount of information they need to learn can be overwhelming for people who barely, if at all, finished high school. My front desk staff is Not a bunch of Bill Gates’s. Write for a 5-6 grade reading level.

        1. Jennifer*

          You get what you pay for. If you want competent, experienced employees, you have to pay them decent wages. And at the bare minimum, give them cost of living increases. Because otherwise high turnover.

          1. Jennifer*

            To clarify, if you want to hire more competent, experienced people you need to offer higher pay. Not that paying inexperienced people will suddenly make them competent.

  4. BWP*

    This. I just left a workplace that was super toxic, but I had work friends while working there. We had daily chats, would often go to coffee, lunch or HHs together. When I gave my two weeks notice, I wrote personalized thank you notes to the people I got along with. But now that it’s been over two months since I left, the more I realize how much my work friends actually contributed to the toxicity of the office and have lost all desire to keep in touch. In fact, the last time I heard from one of my colleagues was to vent about a case and several clients.

    1. singularity*

      Yeah I left a job several years ago when it turned into something I wasn’t originally hired for and the same happened. There were a few people I got close to very quickly, but as soon as I left, our interactions stopped. We’re still friends on Facebook but we don’t do anything social together anymore. It’s not that they were bad people, they were great, but the proximity isn’t there anymore.

    2. Partly Cloudy*

      Sometimes it takes leaving to realize that the friendship, or at least part of it, was actually a vicious cycle of negativity and validation. When you’re in a toxic cesspool together, it’s really hard not to commiserate, but that can just feed the cycle. Once you’re no longer in the foxhole together, you sometimes realize that you didn’t have much else in common. And that’s okay.

      1. Sleepless*

        So true. I used to have a work BFF. It was really fun, quietly griping with this cool-seeming person. I left, then she left, then I ended up coming back. Guess what? The people who made this place somewhat toxic have all left…and she was one of them. She texted me a couple of times and seemed to think I was going to keep griping to her, and…I just didn’t want to. I was done with her feeding the negativity. I’ve barely spoken to her in months.

  5. Heffalump*

    OP2: If they’re like most employers, they’d let you go it that met their needs, and not necessarily at a time that was convenient for you.

  6. Oh god the forms*

    Op 1
    Your manager is very wrong. Half my job is dealing with the issues caused when my colleagues with degrees can’t follow the process or form set up by my other colleagues who also have degrees. These people are all subject matter experts but become incredibly stressed about filling forms out correctly and someone (me) has to fix the issues in the database or delete the letters they filed in the wrong spot because *some people* don’t care about whether they understand the form and *some people* think you put free text fields because “people should follow the business rules”. Etc.

    Trust me. Having a degree doesn’t make you more likely to do it correctly and simple form design and clear instructions benefit everyone. Everyone makes mistakes and the more complicated it is, the more mistakes happen. It has nothing to do with having degrees.

    1. Oh god the forms*

      Plus, so many people work in medical admin after going to uni. It’s not 1954 anymore and a degree isn’t a ticket to a corner office with a view, pension and job for life any more. Who does your manager think works in doctors surgeries?

      1. Karia*

        Exactly! Wasn’t there a letter the other day pushing back on the idea of requiring receptionists to have degrees?

    2. Asleep at the mouse*

      I was coming here to say something similar. A higher level of education doesn’t magically gift someone with any more time, inclination or increased patience for deciphering unnecessarily detailed or complicated instructions.

      If you’re developing a training tool or resource, you want the trainee to be able to focus on whatever process they’re learning, not getting bogged down figuring out the instruction manual. I’ve done similar work, and in my experience if anyone wants simple it’s senior medical staff. They’re so time poor and already inundated with detailed instructions all day long… the simpler you can make it, the happier they are.

      In my best reading, the boss is trying to be helpful by minimising the stress of learning for the front desk trainees. But it’s an elitist attitude that cuts both ways, she may not realise that she’s doing a disservice by not keeping it simple for everyone. And it’s still gross and deserves to be politely pointed out.

      1. Oh god the forms*

        Yeah! These are busy people who don’t have time to check the manual five tgtimes a day. They don’t have time for overly complicated processes or instructions. They have better things to do.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I remember an ad from several years ago. A secretary tells a young employee to photocopy some papers. He says “I went to Big School!” She pauses and says, “OK, I’ll show you to do it,”

    4. hbc*

      Yeah, in my experience, people who harp on something like “We must keep things simple for the Little People” are in one of two camps:

      1) They personally can’t follow whatever procedures are written out, assume they’re at least average in following/comprehending instructions, and project that out to everyone else. Of course, they’d never just come out and say, “Hey, guys, I wouldn’t be able to follow this if I was filling in at the front desk, please simplify.”

      2) They are incapable of writing clearly and are constantly confusing others with rambling and incoherent instructions. (Like my Friday post with “nominative address” and “exemplarity.”) But it must be everyone else needing Dr. Seuss-level instructions and not the fact that they made word salad out of the thesaurus and use 100 word sentences.

      1. JustaTech*

        “Incapable of writing clearly”, this is so true! At my company (biotech) we’ve had several writing classes that were specifically about writing clearly rather than writing to impress people with your smarts/education.

        Academia has its own writing style that is just not like any other, and so it takes time to teach people a new, briefer, writing style. But the different writing style isn’t because people in industry are stupid, it’s because the writing is conveying something different (just the facts, ma’am).

  7. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. With the end of the year approaching, I often drop previous bosses/colleagues, a note wishing them all the best for the forthcoming year, which helps me to stay in touch, without having to think of a reason.

  8. BonzaSonza*

    OP #3

    Most of my conversations with former colleagues/ employers now go something like this: “BonzaSonza! Great to hear from you again. How have you been? How’s your kid? What? Three kids? How long has it been? Wow, doesn’t seem like five years…”

    Most people I encounter are perfectly happy picking up the occasional conversation without getting upright that I’ve not contacted them sooner. I think you’ll be fine

  9. M Smith*

    Lots of very intelligent people have issues with literacy. And intellect isn’t a measure of worth anyway.

    Your boss’s language around this is awful but they are trying to ensure accessible writing. That’s hugely important.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, I think this is a great point.

      The boss’s argument is crappy, but their goal is absolutely important – I don’t think anyone would have an issue if the boss just said, remember that these people are not experts in [our medical field]. I have several degrees, none of them medical or even sciences – I would need to have things spelled out in fairly small words for anything medical.

      Honestly, instructions should be as simple as possible just on principle.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. Clear instructions that the majority of readers can follow easily ensure a good service experience and less need for customer service to get involved in the basics.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        I mean, in principle everything should be “understandable,” but there’s a huge difference between “understandable to a layman” vs. “understandably to someone in that field.” If the boss was saying “ok, remember people” we’re writing to non-lawyers/medical professionals/computer programmers/gardeners” that would make perfect sense, as you have to assume a lesser level of knowledge in that area. But being college-educated has zero bearing on whether you’re more able to understand any specific subject you didn’t get a degree in.

        A degree in math, history, engineering, or french poetry does nothing to help you understand a training manual for a medical facility, and it’s very weird that this boss thinks it would.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this.

          But even when you’re writing to other professionals in your field, it’s still worth writing as clearly as you can, if you actually want someone to read what you’ve written. This doesn’t mean dumbing down, but it does mean using consistent terminology, avoiding unnecessary abbreviations and defining them when you do use them, and avoiding excessively long and convoluted sentences, etc.

          Don’t make the average reader work harder to read your writing than you did when you wrote it.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Clear writing is my bread & butter, and I can’t stop the annoyance I feel. There’s no need to be insulting– and there’s plenty of reason to be clear and accessible writing for people with college degrees too.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        If anything, people with degrees can be remarkably stupid with stuff they consider is beneath them. I remember explaining how to use software to learn touch typing – this was back in the 80s. We had all sorts of people coming in who wanted to learn to touch type, and then we got a journalist. He was being made to learn, so that they could make his assistant redundant. He was furious at the prospect of no longer having someone to order around and came to the training centre brimming with bad faith. He failed to understand that the letters appearing at the bottom of the screen did so further to him pressing the keys… as he stormed out, he told me I was as narrow-minded as a donkey.

        1. Sasha*

          I think the issue there was “actively didn’t want to learn how to do this”, not “had a degree” (also, did journalists in the US have degrees in the 1980s? They were apprenticeships in the UK back then).

          I am teaching my three year old to read at the minute (teaching letters). If he is in the mood, he can do it. If he isn’t, forget it. Adults are not so different.

      2. Mockingjay*

        On my project, we have engineers and technicians – most of the latter have military training and experience.

        Want to know who the best writers are? Hint: it’s not the degreed engineers.

        I’m a technical writer and I have one tech I’d love to clone – he’s THAT GOOD. He writes at my level and I’ve been doing this for 30 years.

        In fact, 35 years ago, most technical writers were technicians or what used to be called field engineers: hands-on people with good writing skills that could capture maintenance and test procedures clearly and concisely.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      I get the sense that OP understands that. I don’t think her objection is the request, but the way it’s being made.

      I would object to that sort of stereotyping as well.

    4. That Girl from Quinn's House*


      I worked somewhere where we had lots of people who, degree or non-degree, were more kinesthetic learners and thus reading/writing methods of trainings had to be kept very, very accessible. If you ran a training that required reading/writing (say, it had a written skills check, or a standardized e-learning component), you would need to be prepared to provide extra support for people with diagnosed/undiagnosed learning disabilities, low levels of literacy, English language learners and non-native English speakers (plenty of fluent speakers struggle to read their second language), low tech literacy, and low access to personal/at home technology. You would also need to be prepared to do all trainings via repeat demonstration, rather than manuals and checklists, because those tended to trip people up. The manuals and checklists that were provided, had to be both very detailed and very concise at the same time.

      It’s gross to say “people who didn’t go to college are dumb” but it is also wrong (and in some cases, racist and classist) to not consider the specific needs of your audience when planning trainings.

  10. Allonge*

    OP4 – do push back!

    Obviously I don’t know your manager, but I have had a fair few of them and even semi-reasonable ones are open to input. This does not seem to me like a set-in-stone plan that has been through a dozen rounds of approval and therefore unchangeable, it’s just what your manager came up with when asked who exactly will move X.

    A gentle reminder that this is not the best way should be more than ok.

    1. Regular Reader*

      We did this a few months ago but using individual time slots for packing up. Staff were instructed to ONLY come in during their booked time slot and how to stay safe. Who came in when was organised so that only one person was in a particular area of the office at any time. This worked for individual desks and team areas.

      1. Mockingjay*

        This is a very sensible suggestion and easily implemented. I hope OP4 passes this to her boss.

      2. TRexx*

        This is a better idea than having one person pack everyone’s things. What if that person was ill and then touched everyone’s stuff?

  11. Batgirl*

    OP1, your boss is coming across as hugely sheltered; not only in being unfamiliar with people who didn’t get degrees, but with the message that she thinks these people are alien to you too, she’s making an assumption that your background is equally sheltered. Ive had great success with “That will be news to most of my family. I’m the only one with a degree and they’re ridiculously clever.” Standing up for your colleagues is pretty easy too: “Well, I doubt you mean Lisa, she wrote the book on this. And George is the most reliable at that.”
    It can be a softer message to say “You probably don’t mean to suggest…” and follow it up with “It will come across strangely to some of us, since our loved ones didn’t go to college and it hasn’t affected their ability to do a job well”.
    Be aware though, that some people are just in love with what a degree, and being part of a certain class, means to their identity. These ones are just impervious to reality checks. It doesnt bode well for intelligent leadership when that’s the case.

    1. Just...why*

      Agree, I think particularly in the medical field there is a strong class framework set up (highest degrees = highest level of authority), so I’m not surprised at her attitude, even though it is gross and also dumb. This boss literally could not do her job if people with differing strengths didn’t do the parts that she’s deficient in.

      It’s very annoying to me when people esteem one particular type of education/training/intelligence over another (and how all creative fields are often left out of this conversation). Like, great, you’re a medical doctor, that is impressive! People who can make art that moves you, organize events, work/connect with people, and who can build complex things are also impressive! Oh, you’re a whiz at math but can’t draw to save your life, cool! Wow, you can’t add in your head, but you can write a full novel? Amazing! It’s all on a lateral continuum.

  12. Millennium Bug*

    Re OP #4:
    Do push back if you feel unsafe! We had the same thing: we had to pack up our things for an internal office move. The day I came in I had contact with a colleague who fell ill the next day and tested positive for Covid-19. I had to stay in self-isolation for a week then until I (thankfully) tested negative. Suffice to say I am not too happy with my employer!

  13. Analyst Editor*

    For OP1. It’s kind of an assholish way of your manager to put it, but realistically speaking, healthcare is a major employment sector in the US; and if you’re employing lots of people, especially for low-skilled positions, you’re going to get a lot of people who are, in fact, low-skilled, and you need your training to be accessible to the lowest common denominator, however un-PC it is to say.
    On the other hand, I think being snobbish about college degrees is bull, especially when you consider that many people coast through college or get grades without really mastering the material and on inflated pity grades … the college degree on its own is not a guarantee of a high-ability applicant.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      If you’re writing for a diverse audience, regardless of education level, you should aim for clear, accessible writing that assumes little to no background knowledge. Their education shouldn’t have anything to do with it, because we can reasonably assume in such a large group there will be some people who need that from their training on X topic.

      Frankly, even highly literate people who breeze through complex writing probably don’t have the time for training that isn’t simple and consise. Typically we reserve our concentration for specific elements of our work and prefer some hand-holding in other areas.

      (It’s not like you get multiple college degrees and suddenly find yourself wishing for everything to be complicated and more verbose. That only happens to characters on Bones.)

      1. Dan*

        I work in a specialized field that has a broad array of sub disciplines, and it’s a real pain to write to. There *are* some elements of background that have to be assumed, or our written reports will be three times the size. The kicker is, different sub groups will have different levels of familiarity with various parts of the subject matter, so if you spell out the wrong things, they get insulted. I recently wrote a paper for “industry” practitioners that had a lot of theoretical statistics. The stats concepts themselves were things that an undergraduate would be taught (e.g., not that complicated). I was told that I needed to spell out all of that background stats stuff. I’m not a stats geek, so I had to learn (or relearn) most of that stuff for that work, but I was like, “How much copy/paste from wiki do you want me to do? For the industry people with access to the internet, a quick google search is going to yield exactly what I write here, because that’s what *I’m* going to do. If you want to take the time to edit my copy/paste and get it to flow with the rest of the document, be my guest. Otherwise, is there a nice way of saying “see google for an explanation if you need one”?)

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      But *realistically* college does not improve intelligence or ability to comprehend something like a primary care training manual. College just makes you more knowledgeable in whatever area you studied. I mean, it’s not like I can hand a French document to the guy with a math degree and be like “hey college boy, figure it out,” or go to someone with a degree in history and be like “hey, you went to college – can you explain this pharmaceutical report to me?”

      I mean… you might as well say “now these people never went to college so don’t assume they can bake chocolate chip cookies.” The subjects are unrelated.

      1. Dan*

        In my field, the big mistake is to assume that because someone is an expert in Topic X, that they are in expert in Topic Y. (There’s really no way to know the relationship between the two topics unless one is familiar with both.) It’s like asking a world class cookie maker how to make sougherdough bread. “Hey, you can bake, right?” Yeah…

        1. Paperwhite*

          As a cookie maker who spent some months of quarantine learning sourdough bread (and indeed found less overlap than I would have expected), I rather love this simile.

      2. Allonge*

        I disagree on college not improving comprehension – any additional schooling should do that. The whole point of college is that you need to read and learn things on a higher complexity level than in high school, about things you don’t know yet, and interpret these. Practice helps a lot with understanding texts that are about subjects unknown.

        Of course this does not mean that you can only get these skills in college, it also does not mean that you already know everything in the world when you graduate from college. But it would be very sad indeed if college did not give you skills to learn new stuff.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. No matter what your major is, advanced studies teach you to think analytically. Or at least, they should. Some people are just better at applying these skills later. That doesn’t make it impossible to learn analytical thinking without a degree, either.

        2. Batgirl*

          Hmm, but the skills you learn in college are not as basic as comprehension though are they? The focus is on analysis and evaluation. Comprehension – that’s more of a high school level.

        3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          The whole point of college is that you need to read and learn things on a higher complexity level than in high school, about things you don’t know yet, and interpret these.

          Maybe it was just my degree, but what I noticed going from high school to college was a transition from learning things other people demanded that I know to learning things I was interested in.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I disagree on college not improving comprehension – any additional schooling should do that. The whole point of college is that you need to read and learn things on a higher complexity level than in high school, about things you don’t know yet, and interpret these.
          That was what a group of my college classmates were told, back when we were all CS students and a group of people approached a professor asking to teach us (programming language that has now been obsolete for 30 years) instead of an older (programming language that was already obsolete back then). The prof said something like “we are not here to insert the knowledge of a specific language into your heads, we are here to teach you how to learn new tech on an ongoing basis”. While I know a lot of people with college degrees that fail at understanding new things, as well as people without degrees that are successful in their work specifically because they are good at understanding new things, the fact is that, in theory, this is what colleges should be teaching.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Ah, my classes in Pascal, Fortran and Visual Basic 6… such memories!sdf

            1. Two Dog Night*

              Ha, I’m still using a VB6 application. VB6 isn’t supposed to be installed on Windows 10, but it is possible, with a lot of effort.

              Anyone else remember MacScheme?

              The point about college teaching one to learn new things is a good one, though. I’ve never been paid for programming in any of the languages I used in college, but learning new ones is a piece of cake. I also learned how to argue in college–how to develop a thesis and provide supporting evidence. That’s been valuable in every position I’ve held.

        5. Just...why*

          I get the point you and the other commenters who are saying that “college makes reading/writing comprehension/your understanding of your chosen topic better,” but remember this is only true for some people. Some people are just very very left-brained and their minds work in numbers, some are very right-brained and their minds work in art, some people have learning disabilities, some people have ADHD, some people have jobs and families and can’t laser-focus on schooling. Many of the people I know who fit into these categories are so, so smart and have great comprehension and ability, but they have been made to feel stupid or like failures because they don’t have that degree.

          I don’t think anyone making your point is doing it in bad faith, but there are other considerations that can affect the idea that ‘college makes you better at stuff’, i.e. college CAN make SOME people better at stuff, but it’s no guarantee.

    3. Firecat*

      I worked at a hospital for years. It was the nurses and providers who were way more likely to misread something then a front desk staff was.

      Heck our clinical managers, all BSNs at least several were MSNs and some had MBAs on top of it were so incapable of understanding that a negative variance to expense was a good thing, that finance eventually threw up their hands and changed all the reports so negative = bad.

      I worked with several staff at all levels of the hospital and frankly the staff who worked their way up prior to degree requirements were typically the brightest.

    4. singularity*

      I know from experience that most major publishing houses and book editing software recommends that novels and non-fiction books be written at a 9th grade (US) reading level because that’s the most accessible level for the largest group of people.

  14. Dan*


    I’m not as taken aback as many others are on this one.

    There’s two parallel (and somewhat contradictory) themes going on here. The first? I work primarily in the government sector, where the “plain language initiative” thing is being encouraged. Except… I happen to be in a discipline where there is a ton of industry jargon, and yes, it’s confusing to non-industry people. The thing is, though, the jargon has very precise meanings. Point being, we’re more or less told to dumb it down by government mandate, yet the dumbing it down makes it more confusing than the confusing jargon itself. The irony is, a fair number of industry practitioners who consume our products never went to college, and if we try to comply with the plain language initiative, we get told we’re a bunch of academic idiots, and can we please use terms that “normal” people understand?

    Second (and I looked this up, google “average reading level in the us” where the first link for me, at least, points to the centerforplainlanguage dot org), From this link, I quote: “The average American is considered to have a readability level equivalent to a 7th/8th grader (12 to 14 years old). This level is actively used as a benchmark for written guidelines in the medical industry.”

    Point being, OP1’s boss’s framing may be a bit obtuse, but substantively correct. Unless I’m writing an academic paper, I’ve been instructed to write at somewhere around the 9th grade level, which tracks what this link says.

    I’ll note, though, that I’ve never seen clear guidelines as to what constitutes appropriate writing at whatever grade level. I stand out from the crowd at my org, which is heavily academic. (A majority of my colleagues hold an MS or PhD. The irony is that most industry practitioners in my field maaayyybbeee have a BS/BA at best.) I have both an MS and blue collar industry experience, so I often am in a position where I have to communicate to both crowds. Fun times. Once, my boss even said to me, “Dude, this thing you wrote? I understood every word of it. That doesn’t happen often.”

    To wrap it up, OP’s boss’s delivery may be a bit off putting, but an instruction to write to a general audience at the ~8th grade level is on point for something that isn’t an academic paper of some sort. I realize OP’s boss isn’t being this direct, but I digress on that one.

    1. Roeslein*

      OP#1, I came here to say exactly this. Your boss’ framing may be unpleasant, yet at the same time it is a legitimate concern. First, concision, readability and using plain language are good for everyone, and generally a good writing habit to implement. But I also have experience working with the medical field and you tend to see both sides of the problem – situations where physicians expect patients with potentially low literacy to understand complex instructions, and situations where they assume patients can’t even grasp basic concepts. It’s really hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who may (or may not) find it more difficult / need more time to process new information than you do, so some people over-correct despite having the best intentions. They may also not personally know anyone in that situation. Of course, many, many people without without degrees are highly skilled, read widely and enjoy engaging in cognitively challenging tasks! And many people with degrees do not. But statistics do suggest that /on average/, less educated populations are more likely to find engaging with large amounts of new and complex information challenging, so it is something to keep in mind when designing materials (but again, this really should be the case anyway).

      1. Oh god the forms*

        I work in a government sector with similar issues about writing. I have to translate our software manuals into simpler processes among other things. Clear communication is so hard and it takes so many passes to get things clear enough to send out to the industry and if we miscommunicate, people will break the law. But claiming that clear comms are only needed because people don’t have degrees is a fallacy – some of the hardest comms we have are to internal staff with PhDs.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          We have this problem at my company, and it’s because I work with a bunch of engineers that have PhDs. Very smart people, but they overthink everything. They’ll read something clear and concise and try to puzzle it out to determine if we really mean something else, and it’s so frustrating – no, there is no double meaning, we meant exactly what we wrote, so just do the thing outlined in the guide and be done with it! Lol.

          1. JSPA*

            If multiple people are doing this, you have almost certainly used one or more words that are “general meaning” words to you, but “terms of art” / jargon / words of restricted usage, to your audience.

            If you’re writing for a specific audience, you do well to ask what they understand language to mean, instead of laughing at them for “overthinking.”

      2. Maltypass*

        To be fair though we’re not saying don’t keep the writing clear – we’re addressing the unpleasantness. There’s a huge difference between what you’ve said here and someone regularly saying ‘let’s not expect too much’

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

      Yes. My work for the last month has been writing non technical documentation for a knowledge transfer. Switching from “technical” to “layman” is so difficult my first draft went through THREE rewrites. Ironically, OP1’s manager phrasing is so odd it’s a good example why they should do it.

    3. Batgirl*

      It wouldn’t occur to me to use the phrasings the boss is using to avoid jargon though. I would say “use plain English and clear steps” or “No medical jargon for this, it’s for non medical staff”. Casting them as muggles is completely unnecessary and not very direct.

      1. EPLawyer*

        THIS. The problem isn’t that things might need to be written clearly, it’s the assumption that it has to be written differently because people without college degrees are “stupid.” OP1 is asking about how to address the assumption made by the boss.

    4. MicroManagered*

      I think what you’re saying is a big reach. If the core issue were “industry-specific jargon vs. plain language” that would be in the letter.

    5. lazy intellectual*

      It probably varies by industry. I had a job writing customer surveys. Our standard was 2nd grade reading level.

      Also something to consider is not everyone is a native English speaker.

    6. Chinook*

      I remember being taught that as an educator as well – that the average person reads at an 8th grade level in Canada and that was the level most newspapers and magazines here aimed for. Writing for anything higher (except for when specific language is required) makes it unreadable to more than half the population.

      1. Chinook*

        And we have the “clear language” mandate up here too. It is wonderful to be able to go to any government website and understand what it is trying to say. Of course, it probably helps that everything at a certain level needs to be translated into at least one other language and doublespeak and complex language can be very hard to translate.

    7. JSPA*

      People who are outraged are a) responding to tone or b) guilty of faulty logic.

      The boss isn’t saying that all people who lack a college degree lack reading comprehension.

      The boss isn’t saying that most people who lack a college degree lack reading comprehension.

      The boss isn’t even saying that 15% of people who lack a college degree lack reading comprehension.

      The boss IS saying that a college degree guarantees a certain mimimal level of comprehension; that guarantee does not exist, for the non-college educated. Some degreeless people may read five languages, upside down and backwards; some may be functionally illiterate.

      Now, there are still issues with the boss’s stance.

      1. Having taught college courses (including graduate level) I’d say the boss is incorrect if they believe a college degree 100% guarantees functional literacy. That’s even before considering people who do fine in college despite dyslexia, functional blindness, or anything else that explicitly decouples “ability to process written information” and “ability to understand complex reasoning.”

      2. the boss is presuming that the hiring process does not adequately select for people who can do the job–a job that includes some level of functional literacy.

      The boss is nevertheless correct that essential documentation should always be written so that 99.5% of the people in the job will not have to sweat and puzzle, to make sense of the information. (That last 0.5% has support, accomodation, is on a PIP or otherwise on their way out, etc.)

      We can say “it’s always good to be clear.” But it is simply not true that writing all documentation at the most basic level is a way to maximize clarity. If you’re writing documentation for CERN, information on beamline alignment is very different from safety documentation that everyone on site must be able to understand. Writing the beamline information at a “some high school” level of understanding would be like using the XKCD Thing Explainer language; it creates puzzlement by being too simple, simplified, and simplistic.

      1. Maltypass*

        I think it’s mainly A. Someone regularly saying ‘let’s not expect too much’ is fairly egregious.

    8. biobotb*

      Being asked to explain something without industry-specific jargon is not “dumbing it down.” And it can’t be more confusing to people who don’t know what the jargon means, that’s impossible.

  15. Karia*

    Holy heck. My director doesn’t have a college degree and she’s literally the smartest person I know. My dad didn’t and was a senior area manager with a territory that spanned three counties (in the U.K.). This is just so gross.

    1. 2QS*

      I know of a person who dropped out of uni six weeks into the first year, then visited campus a couple of years later to reconnect. Or maybe to recruit, since by that point the company they’d founded was worth seven figures.

    2. The Rural Juror*

      My grandfather is smart as a whip and only went to school through the eighth grade. He never liked school anyway, but when the school building in their rural town burned down they had to go off to a neighboring school further away. He convinced his parents it wasn’t worth the time and that he should stay home and help them run their business (a service station). This would have been in the late 40s I believe… He learned by doing, and running the station ended up being a better education to him than being in classes that he hated. Even if he could have afforded it, he never would have gone to college. But man, he is so sharp!

      1. Chinook*

        My grandfather was the same. Finished grade 8 and later joined the military and made it up to non-comm ranks. After he retired, his last job was working as a museum curator, something that still blows my mind for someone with his education. They hired him not only for his historical knowledge but because he also knew how to fix things.

    3. Jamahl*

      The plural of anecdote isn’t data. Of course there are many smart people who did not attend college. But it is reasonable to expect that smart people will seek out education. If we went by the anecdotes here, we might as well abolish all education after 8th grade, because we don’t need no book learning.

  16. Tomalak*

    In my experience people who make the most of academic credentials aren’t that bright. They’re people who noticeably underperformed relative to where they studied. They presumably like to emphasise they went to an elite university because it’s an outlier in their lives. The brightest people mostly have a long trajectory of success so where they went to university doesn’t stick out much for them or anyone else.

    But still, the manager does have a good underlying point. So much communication in all walks of life is filled with jargon and is very poorly written. People do differ in how smart they are and writing that includes someone at the 20th percentile is good practice.

    1. mreasy*

      Good point about written communication – and anyone who has spent time reading academic writing will know that ironically it’s among the most impenetrable and jargon-filled…

      1. biobotb*

        Well, academic writing is usually easily understood by the audience, but only *because* they know what all the jargon terms mean. They’re not aiming their articles at people who don’t know what the terms mean.

  17. Tamer of dragonflies*

    Op #1, Your boss would offend me if I didnt realize they were of such a small mind.The majority of folks that I work and have worked with have never gone to college. Yet we’ve kept manufacturing plants up and running that make things folks use everyday, from cars to water heaters to potato chips…My current job tasks us with maintaining,repairing and building the facilities that send water to folks homes and sends the used water be treated.Its not glamorous and theres only one degreed person in the shop (he was going to be a teacher…Makes more money as an electrician)But it is something that needs to be done and it takes skill and knowledge to be able to do it.We may not be able to fill out TPS report,but when your bosses car breaks down,the roof on their house needs to be replaced,and washing machine goes kaput, I doubt a degree will take care of those things,but someone of the uneducated masses will,and I hope they charge you accordingly.

    1. Paperwhite*

      It’s such an inaccuracy and a shame that our society considers skilled workers “uneducated”. It takes a lot of education to be a safe electrician!

  18. Asenath*

    I think the boss in # 1 is a variation on the boss who insists on completely irrelevant degrees – often in fields like low-skilled health care and university admin. I’ve run into this a lot – from businesses that won’t hire people who were successful elsewhere for the same job because they don’t have a high school graduation certificate to businesses who only hire those who have university degrees in completely irrelevant subjects for jobs that require nothing more than basic office skills. I suppose the boss never met one of those formidable office workers who has a high school education but nevertheless has been keeping her office working well for decades.

    Naturally, all training materials should be written clearly and be well-organized. Perhaps OP could act as if this is the issue – “Yes, I am of course ensuring my writing is clear. I always do.” She could continue with specifics about the reading level if she wishes – if I remember correctly, the recommended reading level for such materials is usually NOT at university level.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      My old boss was this boss. Wouldn’t hire anyone without a college degree and high gpa for front desk work

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I work in an area that is rife with academic snobbery, and I got a wish list for an entry-level administrative position that wanted an Ivy League grade with a GPA higher than 3.75 and played an NCAA sport (shows good time management!). Fortunately, we got an amazing candidate who met zero of those credentials that the more logical members of the hiring panel just loved and ultimately outvoted their peers – to the surprise of absolutely no one, they did a fantastic job. Even the initial naysayers had to admit they were wrong, though one did insist that this person was “an aberration” (and is no longer allowed on hiring panels).

        I wonder sometimes if the people telling me these things realize *I* don’t meet their hiring criteria for the people I’m supervising. Guess I’m an aberration, too.

        1. Sasha*

          I’d be interested to know if the person who came up with that personal spec has all of those qualities too. There really can’t be too many people who went to an Ivy, and achieved that GPA whilst also playing high-level sport.

          If you met those criteria, and still ended up applying for work as a min wage receptionist, I’d be looking long and hard at your resume to work out what went wrong in your career – sacked for cause/blacklisted in your previous profession? Disability? Because that is not the career trajectory you expect from a college high flier.

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

    I love how OP1’s manager’s phrasing is a good example of what they’re advocating against. Oh, the irony.

  20. LGC*

    LW1: Honestly, maybe it’s because I’m a really tall guy, but I’d actually modify Alison’s second suggested line to leave off the first sentence and add on an icy stare.

    (Okay, maybe not the icy stare. But you get the idea. The important thing is that your boss doesn’t need to worry about comprehension issues above and beyond normal.)

    That said, your boss is right for the wrong reasons. You should still create clear and easily readable documentation – one thing I’ve learned is that unless things are very clear, people will misinterpret it. (And even if they are very clear, people will misinterpret it.) But that’s just a general rule.

    Finally, I think that even if your boss doesn’t intend to be condescending, it’s definitely coming across like she is. I don’t know your boss, but I think she’d appreciate knowing how she comes across – if you’re in the United States, education level is a pretty big dividing line right now.

    (Signed: a college dropout who also happens to be his office’s stats nerd. To be fair, I dropped out of a math program, so…)

    1. Mockingjay*

      In writing, the rule is: “identify your audience and write to them.” The unspoken translation is: “find the lowest common denominator and write to that.”

      Sometimes the LCD is a specific industry audience. Most of the documents I write range between 9th and 11th grade reading comprehension due to the technical knowledge required of the user base. I work in a narrow field, so it’s okay. I do simplify things when writing briefs for upper management.

      Sometimes the LCD is the general public. That’s why furniture assembly instructions are pictograms – these are designed for all levels, because the manufacturer has no way of knowing who’s buying a piece. Software is installed by a wizard – by clicking the prompts to install, you don’t need to know code to get the program running.

      To summarize, OP1’s boss needs to provide context for the instructions without the condescension.

      1. LGC*

        Thanks for saying that better than I could!

        I think that if LW1’s writing too high above her audience’s heads (which it doesn’t sound like she’s doing), that’s an issue. It’s just that…the boss is assuming that formal education is a proxy for that, which is why LW1 is (rightfully) bothered by that. And honestly, the boss should be just as focused – if not moreso – on the documentation for positions that require secondary education.

  21. Blue Eagle*

    OP5 – “I would love to be considered for this position”. Hmmm, that sounds kind of juvenile to me. How about “I would appreciate being considered for this position” instead.

    1. Bostonian*

      How interesting! It doesn’t seem juvenile to me at all. And I find that “would appreciate” language sounds a bit unnatural, whereas the original language sounds like a real person talking.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Yes – the “love to be considered” sounds more personable and ‘human’ to write, whereas the “appreciate being considered” sounds more formal/distant.

        Though, to be fair, the first is something I would write as a compliance manager, and the second is something my husband would write as an engineer, so may have a difference between fields.

        (I don’t think it sounds juvenile at all, it’s just less traditionally formal.)

    2. JJ*

      This probably depends on context, I’m in a creative industry in a friendly city, so “I’d love to work with you” is a normal expression of interest/enthusiasm for me. Although I would formal it up for more buttoned-up clients…just take a cue from how they talk to you and adjust.

  22. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1 I would cut straight to the last bit of Alison’s advice and just go with “my parents never went to uni, yet they were both incredibly smart. And I never went to uni either, I got my masters degree purely on the strength of my professional experience, so AFAIC a degree is not a sign of intelligence. It’s only a sign that you spent time and money on education, and depending on the degree, you learned some specialist info.

    As a dear Swedish friend says, if you want to learn something, there’s MOOCs about it somewhere on the internet. Uni is more for getting to know like-minded people, constituting a network and getting laid ;-)

  23. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP4 I’m thinking that maybe the boss wants everyone to meet up one last time…
    Which is not a reason for not pushing back of course, but I’d factor that in and add extra honey to my suggestion.

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

      I thought the same thing. Many are not doing well in isolation and probably not communicating very well that they’re having trouble. Mental health is also in crisis right now as a result of the pandemic and economic troubles. Unless the boss is someone who is denying the pandemic exists, or signaling that they are willingly putting people at risk to prove some sort of point, maybe treat this with compassion. If there are less than 20 of you, can you all meet in the parking lot — masked and distant — everyone bring their own beverage for one last “toast” to the old office?

      1. OP4*

        I know she is seeing plenty of people, so I don’t think that’s the problem. However, it did occur to me that she’s retiring soon and therefore might want to see everyone one last time. I get that, but I’m also trying really hard to limit my exposure.

  24. Cordoba*

    For OP3: The upcoming holidays are a great reason/excuse to re-establish contact with people without coming across as weird, random, or as though you’re setting them up for a favor request.

    Something as simple as an email or text to the effect of: “Hi Bluto, I just wanted to wish you and your family a happy holiday season. I hope you guys are doing well in this very strange year. Signed, Popeye” reminds the recipient that you exist and have positive feelings towards them, and gives them an opening to respond in a low-effort low-obligation way.

  25. Mitford*

    OP1: That is incredibly corrosive behavior. I once had a boss who liked to point out that I went to one of the public ivies in front of the rest of staff who were largely graduates of a for-profit university in the DC area. It made it very difficult for me to interact with everyone else, who pretty much loathed me on sight because of it. Your boss needs to knock it off right now.

    1. Paperwhite*

      I hear you, not least a boss did the same thing to me (at least it was a temporary job). My friends group at [well known university] developed a joke: “When someone asks where you went to college just say “**** you”. You’ll offend fewer people in the long run.”

  26. AnonNurse*

    #1 – I’m definitely cringing! That’s not good at all! While those in healthcare absolutely emphasize keeping communication and instructions clear and simple, whether for providers/employees or patients, categorizing people without a college degree in the way she has is ridiculous. Keeping instructions clear and simple is a great idea for so many reasons but NOT the ones she is using. I am a bachelor degree educated nurse who is currently working on my master’s degree. My husband has no college education but went in to a skilled trade instead. He is one of the most intelligent, well-read, well-spoken people I know, and as an aside, also makes a higher hourly wage than me. To dismiss his level of understanding simply because he chose a different path is beyond ridiculous. Please push back on this if at all possible. I love Alison’s script here and completely agree with her!

    1. Anonymous Commenter #27*

      Part of my job includes writing and editing for primary care practice staff. As a nurse, you know all too well: one great reason to write clearly and concisely for this audience is that most health care workers are freaking busy! An MD is no more likely to sit down and parse purple prose than an MA.

      1. AnonNurse*

        Yes! Such an excellent point! If I have paragraphs upon paragraphs of prose, I’m never going to read that and MDs very rarely are either. Give me the down and dirty, bullet points, and most important information in an easy to read, concise format and more than likely I will actually pay attention!

  27. Delta Delta*

    OP 1 – It’s not about a degree, it’s about creating processes that are understandable to anyone using them.

    I feel like a comment to the boss that her comments are out of touch is sufficient. I don’t think I’d go into a whole backstory of everyone you know and love who doesn’t have a degree. That’s likely just to make the boss look down on OP for marrying someone without a degree. It’ll quickly turn from “Lisa in reception obviously can’t understand this because she only graduated high school” to “I can’t trust your judgment, OP, because you chose to marry a *gasp* plumber.”

  28. NewYork*

    OP1, I doubt you are going to change your boss’s opinion. Pushing back will likely either make boss uncomfortable and/or annoyed with OP1. She needs to let it go.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Not necessarily – sometimes people get an idea in their head that goes unchallenged, and sometimes making people examine that thought can make them question it and change their mind. I think it’s worth OP1 testing the waters at least once.

  29. CRM*

    OP3: LinkedIn can be a great tool for keeping in touch with former managers and colleagues! Any time I get a notification regarding a work anniversary, promotion, or new job, I reach out with a quick note to congratulate them and wish them well. It feels more natural to celebrate a professional milestone rather than randomly reaching out or sending out a holiday card every year. Of course, this is reliant on you and your former boss having LinkedIn accounts.

  30. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP2 – One of the common things I’ve seen in this board is the feeling “oh I feel so guilty about leaving.”

    The boss, the co-workers, oh “woe is them and woe is me.”

    If you give adequate notice – that’s ONE thing. BUT …. BUT….

    Unless you have another situation lined up, or are planning a major life change – such as going back to school to complete a degree or get another one — OR — you’re going to retire — you don’t discuss your departure this far in advance. Otherwise they’ll begin PLANNING for your departure.

  31. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – your boss’s comments are snobbish, for sure, but they do have a point about making sure that the material is written in a way that everyone can understand it, regardless of reading comprehension level.

    If I remember correctly, you’re generally supposed to write technical instructions to a Gr. 6 level of reading comprehension. That works for most people, and ensures your instructions are clear to someone who is not just reading them, but trying to learn and apply a new skill.

    1. AnonNurse*

      You definitely want writing to be clear and simple if you want people in an office to read it. But not for the reason the boss is giving! It’s because people are too busy and need to be trained as efficiently and quickly as possible. Having the information in the best format will accomplish that rather than speaking about them like they’re morons.

  32. Dwight Schrute*

    OP2 you won’t seem ungrateful to quit a job, but I’d seriously urge you to wait until you’ve got something lined up. This economy sucks. I graduated in May and didn’t get hired until October, in a field that shouldn’t have had a hard time due to covid. It’s rough going 6 months without a pay check.

  33. bananab*

    Maybe just me, but I’m surprised how many are seeing this as a clumsy call for clear writing. “Don’t overwhelm”/“don’t expect too much” aren’t phrases I associate with a push for accessible language. She’s saying their abilities are diminished full stop. LW even specifically mentions cognitive ability, and I don’t think she would have if this was significantly about jargon.

    1. bananab*

      Apparently my own comprehension needs work as I missed this was about instructions, I was putting a lot of weight on “developing processes.” I do think it’s unarguable that she thinks very little of these folks though (an opinion that seems pretty unanimous here).

    2. Sylvan*

      “Don’t overwhelm people with information” and “don’t expect them to have knowledge of X industry” are feedback I’ve gotten from editors throughout my career. I’ve also been reminded to write for roughly an eighth-grade reading level. But that is about writing clearly, concisely, and accessibly, not writing as if you think your audience is stupid.

      1. bananab*

        Right, I’m with you. I avoid jargon myself when talking to clients, but not because I “dont expect much of them.”

    3. Heidz*

      The boss shouldn’t just assume that the front desk staff don’t have degrees. The medical office that I used to work in had a receptionist who was working on her Master’s degree in addition to working part time. Another front desk staff member was working on her BSN.

  34. JessicaTate*

    OP2: If it helps with your guilt, your boss will have lots of qualified candidates. They will fill your position quite quickly with someone who will do great (especially with so many entertainment professionals in dire need of work, any work).

    So, I would reiterate Alison’s last note: Think long and hard about leaving without something else lined up, especially knowing what you do about your field’s likely recovery time. The financial resources for an indefinite period of unemployment is the main thing. But even if you have a huge safety net, I would also think about the psychological toll of extended unemployment; I’ve seen that hit folks in entertainment during the best of times.

    I also have seen that hiring and stability in entertainment jobs is rarely like the normal work world that many of us here may imagine. So, the calculus may not even as simple as “Wait until you have something lined up,” because depending on your field, that “something” may not be a permanent or even long-term position. So much entertainment work is a 2-month gig, and then you’re back to lining up the next gig, even in the best of times. You know your field, but if it’s one of those where employment is largely freelance/gig-based, I just would advise to factor that in. You are young. You have time. Just consider whether mid-pandemic is the time to make the risky leap, or if the job is tolerable enough to wait for the industry to recovery a bit, while you build out your professional network?

    Good luck to you!

  35. Chinook*

    ” (And if you want to throw in that your husband doesn’t have a degree and owns a successful business, that’s especially likely to shame her into stopping or at least make her feel awkward continuing.)”

    AAM, in my experience, it may do neither. DH didn’t finish college but became a cop in a program that usually requires a Bachelor’s degree based on his military experience. He was one of three in his class like that in one of the first classes to do so. His coworkers treated both he and I (because obviously he wouldn’t have married a woman with more education) like we were uneducated. Proof of that was when we went over for the one and only game night with his colleagues. We played Cranium and he and I cleaned up under history and literature. One of them looked at me and asked where I learned “to speak so good” (with that grammar). I said that it was sort of a requirement for an English degree and teacher and tried to send the awkward back. It went over their heads and their attitudes never changed. Beyond never wanting to socialize with them again (a point DH was trying to make with me), I also worried about how they must interact with the average person on the street in rural Alberta with such a snobbish, out of touch attitude (and totally explained the attempted change in hiring standards from university only to journeyman trade certificate and/or min. 5 year contract with military)

  36. Brusque*

    For a long time I thought everyone should be required to work in a blue collar job at least one year before they can be admitted to a university. This should be mandatory and the rules for jobs should be very strict. No job in a business owned by family or business partnets of family. No jobs wit customers of family busines or otherwise dependent companies. Nothing above fast food, retail or similar service industries. Cleaning companies or social institutes are fine too. Young people should see the world on the other side of the counter before they are allowed to pursue their dreams so hopefully the idea that a lower job is always somehow deserved to be looked down on is finally snuffed out.
    Thanks to corona our company thrives. We handle service and order requests for several big sales companies. Yes we are a callcenter but all our colleagues always work from home. We’re growing and constantly hiring. This year we had a lot of ‘smart people’ who lost their jobs due to corona and surprise surprise, they’re not cut out for the job. They are slow, they struggle with the workload and lack the neccessary flexibility to handle up to 5 different projects with sometimes contradictory guidelines. Shipper A has 30 days to pay and 14 days for refund, shipper B has 14 days to pay and 30 days for refunds. Shipper C has 60 days for payment and 21 days for refunds. Greeting a is ‘Hello, my name is…’ greeting B is ‘ Welcome to x, my name is…’ greeting C is’ Welcome, my name is…, what can I do for you here at XY?’ every project has its own software. Different thinks you can or can’t do, different products. There is call after call after call.
    Last week I had a manager, who works part time for us because his company is closed during the newest lockdowns, cry on a workcall because he couldn’t memorize the call-script for his second line and how could we expect anybody to work full eight hours without stop? (They can take as many breaks as they want btw. They just won’t be paid for them, he was talking about being paid for ‘breathers’) When I had him in training he had joked that after his management duties a callcenter job should be a piece of cake. He constantly belittled my warnings and didn’t listen to me when I talk about compartmentalization and organizing your digital workspace.
    When he got his first irate customer on the line belitteling him when he couldn’t find their order he lost it.
    You need a lot of tenacity, endurance and fast thinking on so called menial jobs. You need to be pretty smart too. People who don’t understand that only show their inexperience and lack of practical knowledge.

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

      Making “blue collar” work some sort of compulsory penance that each person must perform is part of the stigmatizing of manual labor. It’s not a punishment one must endure in order to move up to the “next level.” If you want people to respect retail/food/custodial/manual work, make it a respectable job with livable wages and benefits that can support a person without having to take a second or third job. That’s why there’s a push for a high minimum wage. But also have standards to those jobs, train better and hold workers accountable — I don’t think food service is a “lesser” job — I’ve worked it as well — but I’ve met more than a few fast food workers who can’t figure out the change on a $ without the register telling them, and that’s unacceptable IMO.

      1. boo bot*

        “I’ve met more than a few fast food workers who can’t figure out the change on a $ without the register telling them, and that’s unacceptable IMO.”

        I feel like this is unduly harsh, especially in a context where you might be ringing up a string of orders really quickly. It’s not unreasonable for people using a computer for their job to depend on the computer for the tasks it’s set up to do.

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

          No, you’re adding detail that doesn’t apply; I mean it literally when I’m the only person in the line and they keep handing me the wrong change out of the drawer because they can’t figure out that if the cost of the food is $3.25 and I had them a $5, my change should be $1.75. Basic math skills are a requirement of being a cashier the same as knowing how to use a wrench is a requirement of being a plumber.

  37. Spicy Tuna*

    LW #1 – yuck! At my last job, the CFO didn’t have a university degree. He was from another country and had certifications and he certainly knew what he was doing, but no US college degree.

    I went to a state university for undergrad and a mid-tier private college for my MBA. My boss did the same. We were working with investment bankers on a project and I needed to give them a live demo in my office of a financial model I constructed. Everything was going great until one of them spotted my degrees on the wall. He elbowed his colleague and the both of them started talking really slowly and using basic words. They saw my STATE U degree and made an assumption that I must not be too smart. It was super obvious as well since my boss commented on their behavior after they departed.

  38. A Very Depressed Costumer*

    Many here have already talked about how you shouldn’t feel guilty for leaving a job, which I agree with.
    Leaving for a job in entertainment right now is so risky. I’m going to assume you don’t mean acting because you would most likely still be needing a “day job” while starting to pick up acting gigs. To put my warning bluntly, theatre and other live performances are dead right now due the Covid-19. Smaller theatres have been going under left and right, while larger theatres a struggling to hang on to finding while trying to wait until who knows when (seriously, the theatre I work/worked for keeps trying to give a timeline for when they think we’ll be able to come back, and it keeps being pushed later and later. We’re currently looking at opening night being about a year from now). And all of us who had thought they had a job to go back to once all of this is over are now doing the mental math to figure out if they’re valuable enough to be hired back once their department has been cut down 50-75%. If theatre isn’t your cup of tea and you want to go into film and television, while it definately wasn’t hit as hard as live events, a lot of those layed off theatre employees are trying to get their foot in the door. While I’m definately writing this from a production stand point, this applies to everyone in every posistion that I know: carpenters, casting directors, dramaturgs, writers, performers, box office, even the more traditional desk jobs. The market is completely flooded and desperate at every level, and some of the people who you would be competing against have 5-25 years of experience, maybe/probably even more.
    It sucks. It really does. But from someone who is sitting on their hands, waiting for things to get better, it seems far better to do that sitting while getting a paycheck.

  39. M2*

    2- It is easier to get a job when you have a job! Trust me! Unless you have something lined up you should stay until you get something else. GL!

  40. Tidewater 4-1009*

    #1, don’t get me started on employers who screen with college degrees and the damage they’ve done to society and the economy. Thank you for standing up for us! :)

  41. Sinister Serina*

    I understand Alison’s point, but this hit home for me. We lost a floor in our offices, so everyone who had a spot on that floor had to come in, pack up their stuff and either take it home or leave it for me to put in storage. And we told thos that didn’t want to come in that someone would do it for them. If you were doing just one desk, and moving their movable storage cabinet, it wouldn’t take that long-maybe 30 minutes. People were asked to sign up for a time, in order to keep the numbers safe.
    Aaaand no one wanted to come in. A handful of people did, but on a floor of 65 people or so, I packed up spots for around 45. So, I’m sympathetic to the office manager/manager, and not the writer. When you don’t want to come in and take care of your stuff, it means someone else has to do for you.
    I asked a colleague back in late July to come in and take care of his desk-it was piled with papers and all sorts of items. Didn’t hear back-sent another message in September. Didn’t hear back-I thought he might have been let, but no, not true. I let it go and packed it all up-it took well over an hour because he had so much crap.
    And he emailed last week, apologizing because he “just saw my message”. Whatever, dude.

  42. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

    OP1. Unfortunately, these attitudes regarding assumed intelligence level because of formal education level are endemic in workplaces all over the Western world. Despite having been tested as extremely gifted twice in primary school, I was unfortunate not to receive any post-16 education because I went to a failing 1980s UK comprehensive school. Expectations there were extremely low, and if leavers got any kind of paid employment it was seen as a success story for the school. There was a culture of having girls taught to type so that we “would be able to get a job”.

    Having spent many years in administrative/secretarial kinds of jobs, I finally had the opportunity to repair my education and get a BSc, where I got a very high First, graduated top of the cohort, and moved straight on to an MPhil/DPhil program. Simultaneously, I got some part-time teaching work which developed into a module leader and then a curriculum writer gig, all before I had even completed the MPhil part of my studies. What this meant was that within the space of about four years, I progressed from support staff to doctoral researcher/academic.

    The point of this story? It has been a fascinating field experiment to observe people’s attitudes. Because the change in my circumstances was so sudden and dramatic, the difference in how people address me now is in stark contrast to how they did before. When I was perceived as support staff, it often felt like I was being spoken to as if I were a child, slighly hard of hearing, not quite the full ticket, or some combination of all three. Now at least I am spoken to like I’m an actual adult.

  43. Lizzo*

    OP4: Is it possible that your manager is having lots of emotions about closing the office, and is trying to deal with those by pushing for things to be “normal” like they were in the beforetimes, i.e. people in the office together?

    My company was already on the path to full-time remote before COVID, and we’ve recently ramped up the clean-out process. I’m not personally involved in that process for a variety of reasons (and have never worked in the physical office, so have no emotional attachment to it), but I have heard from the team who is handling it that it is exhausting, and they’re all feeling very sad and grieving the loss.

    I am 100% on board with Alison’s advice of pushing back, but some empathy may be in order, too.

  44. Maltypass*

    OP1 there’s a ton here for you already and a lot of it’s descended into debate but for what it’s worth I personally find it better to approach these matters without the personal angle, (the ‘I know people without college degrees’), only because saying this tends to discourage them from making these comments around YOU, and not necessarily changing the behaviour. I mean if that’s the outcome you want I totally understand, you are under no obligation to achieve that given how tough it can be! But realistically there is no way she doesn’t also know people without college degrees herself, and in my unfortunate experience of, (admittedly different issues), pointing out ‘hey I know x person or have x issue’ has just made people think I’m speaking from offence rather than really listening to the point. YMMV. Good luck!

  45. jamlady*

    OP1 – the words she needs to be using are thing like “ensure the information is digestible for a broader audience”, “ensure non-subject matter experts can easily absorb this information”, etc. Her words are elitist, and I sincerely hope it is because she simply does not know how to correctly say what she should be saying.

  46. Verde*

    OP1 – I kind of want to come smack your boss with my poor, little ol’ GED that I’ve done just fine along the way with, thank you very much.

Comments are closed.