open thread – November 20-21, 2020

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 921 comments… read them below }

  1. Grits McGee*

    How do you get external stakeholders to articulate what they want from you? These are stakeholders who need my help to do their job (we are all federal employees, and my agency is responsible for overseeing a regulatory documentation requirement), but I can’t get them to actually ask a question!

    Anyone have -Tips? Tricks? Commiseration?

    1. Toodie*

      I think a lot of people are kind of scared of the blank page. I’m a tech writer and sometimes I have to do what you’re describing: work with the subject matter experts to figure out what the documentation needs to include, etc. Sometimes I have the best luck if I put something in front of them–even something I know is truly terrible–and let them shoot arrows at it. It seems to be easier for most people to articulate what’s wrong with something than to define what something should be.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Agreed. Some people seem to have real trouble conceptualizing and articulating what they need if you’re truly starting with nothing. If they have something to look at, then there’s a place to start. I’ve also had good luck being very clear that whatever I’m showing them is nowhere near the finished product, it’s a starting point.

      2. Grits McGee*

        In my case, what’s happening is that we already have a draft document that the stakeholder has written and I’ve given written feedback on. Then the stakeholder wants to meet again but can’t tell me why. A lot of the time it’s b/c their supervisor has told them to, but the stakeholder didn’t ask why. Then our meetings careen wildly all over the place because we have no agenda.

          1. Grits McGee*

            I try to- what usually happens is there’s 4-5 emails back and forth trying to figure out what it is they’re trying to say, and then I kind of have a rough set of talking points to go off of.

            I think my biggest issue is really that the offices I’m working with are a hot mess, and no one really knows what they’re supposed to know. Maybe I’m asking for magic words that will make stakeholders take their required training, understand their own agency, and write in grammatically-comprehensible sentences. :) Big ask, I know!

            1. MissGirl*

              I’ve definitely been in situations where you can’t get them to just articulate no matter what you show them.

              I had one woman who I would mock stuff up, she would hate it, and tell me all the ways to fix it. I would try to explain why her idea wasn’t possible and she wouldn’t listen. I would end up trying to do what she wanted and she would see why it didn’t work, and give me another idea, which, surprise, it was what I already suggested. No matter what I tried this was our process. I learned to save all versions and let her do her process. (She was very controlling and couldn’t approve anything she didn’t “do.”

              It’s so frustrating. I’ve learned to accept with some clients, there’s going to a lot of back and forth, there’s no magic words, and that process (as inefficient as it might be) is part of the project.

            2. winter*

              Taking from the book of my boss:
              * Figure out (for yourself) who is in trouble if this doesn’t get done, you or them.
              * If it’s you, find the most effective way to put them on the spot while limiting the time you need for the topic (is a phone call more effective than back and forth emails? will nothing get done if you don’t call a meeting?)
              * ask precise questions and let the silence drag out if they have trouble coming up with an answer. Let them at least work for your coaching.
              * have the epiphany (in their presence) that it sounds like they need to get more info from x before you can proceed and proactively end the meeting/call at this point.
              * document with cc to anybody who could get annoying about this, so your/their boss knows you have TRIED or you can at least point to the agreement of next steps in the next pointless meeting and cut it short.
              * if this cannot fall back on you, relax and let the chips fall
              * in any case pay attention when the time has come to not care anymore. You might still be responsible for the topic, you might still have to sit in ineffective meetings with them, but at least you can truly emotionally disconnect from the topic and whatever happens happens. This can be quite nice, even if you still have to deal with it

              1. Grits McGee*

                These are all really good points- ultimately, it’s the stakeholders that are in trouble if the job doesn’t get done, but I definitely worry about giving them any kind of fuel to suggest that the reason nothing’s moving is because our agency is dragging it’s feet.

                1. winter*

                  Glad it helps. In that case I would go for a happy medium: be reasonably helpful/constructive, but keep asking yourself where you can do less, where you might be jumping in with help when you could leave it to the stakeholders (to call a meeting, to get to the bottom of the issue, to push the topic along after a longer silence).
                  That is don’t pull (frustrating) work on your table when you don’t have to.

        1. Bobina*

          Interesting scenario. In this case, I’d start putting forward my own agenda for the meeting. Again, the idea here is that if they arent giving you something to work off, you have to set the path forward. So if you’ve given them feedback on something and they then request a meeting with no context, I would say yes and send a provisional agenda back of X,Y,Z – and then ask them to let you know if there is anything else they want to add. Even if they dont respond and the meeting starts detouring, at least you had an initial framework to start with.

          I’m also a big fan of ending meetings and setting up new ones if required. So lets say you sent back an agenda which said: discuss feedback on the apples. And then during the meeting it turns out that what really needs to happen is to focus on the design for the pears – call it out and then plan ahead:
          “Okay folks, I thought we would be focusing on the apples today, but it looks like we need to spend more time figuring out how to shape the pears. Lets put something in the diary for next week so we can all prep for that and come back ready to talk about pears. But for today, is there anything else we need to talk about on apples or are you happy to end the meeting now?

          1. Grits McGee*

            Ending meetings and setting up new ones is a great idea- I think I will need to get more assertive about ending meetings that have devolved into the stakeholders yelling at each other :)

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yelling at each other? wow.

              Maybe they would do better if you met with them one at a time? But maybe that is not realistic for you for reasons.
              Are you in charge of the meetings where they yell or is someone else in charge?

            2. Bobina*

              Semi enforcing meeting etiquette and getting derailed meetings back on track is my favourite thing to do!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Would it be possible to review the document in some organized way, such by paragraph, by section or by page?

          I am guessing but is it because of the toxic environment that you don’t want to send that person back to ask their supervisor why?

      3. Girasol*

        If it’s for writing an app, I start with a flow chart of their process. If they won’t tell it to me in detail, I flow chart what I know – it doesn’t matter how screwy the flow chart is – and let them tell me where it’s wrong. People aren’t good at articulating what’s right but they’re generally comfortable with telling you what’s wrong. (This is especially good when there’s conflict in the room and no one has the confidence to say anything for fear the next guy will say, “You’re wrong!” So you give them both a chart to criticize.) The corrected flow chart provides the clarity needed to talk about the app. I can think about what they do and say, “Would X be helpful?” or “Does Y ever bother you?” or “What happens when it goes off track?”

    2. blepkitty*

      What Toodie said is good. I also start off every initial conversation with the person who needs my help by asking them to give me a quick summary of what they’re doing. That helps me identify what they need, and it can also provide clues if what they’re asking isn’t what they really want—a similar common problem.

      1. Grits McGee*

        Ooooooh, asking them for a summary is a fantastic idea! I bet that’ll cut down on the back and forth of trying to figure out what it is they’re trying to ask about.

    3. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Yes, start with some probing questions. Is a virtual focus group possible (or even useful)? Sometimes, if you can get people to talk (rather than write an email), they open up and you can have a discussion. Can you ask them about problems or issues that need to be solved or resolved? They may know what’s not working or what’s causing issues, but if they don’t know how to fix it, they may not want to see anything for fear of being seen as a complainer.

    4. Its GIF not JIF*

      I’m a huge fan of putting a rough draft out there for people to throw stones at. Most people don’t know what they want, but do know what they *don’t* want.

      But it sounds like your situation is more that people don’t seem to know what they need your help with? Or don’t know what they *can* ask for your help with? In that case, maybe you need to do some advertising? Explain common mistakes you can help avoid, examples of things you can help with, etc.

      I also really believe in the power of process mapping at the start of a new project. I’m always so amazed at how many interpretations there can be – I say “blue” and Becky hears “cyan” and Bill hears “navy” and we all think we know what the other means until we go to process mapping and I write “sky blue” on the board and Becky and Bill pull an audible. Process Mapping is a really great way to eliminate that and clarify who owns what.

      1. Grits McGee*

        Yes on your first question- I get a lot of “I don’t know what’s going on/what I’m doing, so I can’t actually articulate what it is I want to ask you” emails. Sometimes it’s because they tried to get answers from the person at their agency who is supposed to be the point of contact for this sort of stuff, and they were just referred to me because the agency POC also doesn’t know what they’re doing. Sometimes they’re dealing with personality conflicts/internal issues, and think I have a magically not-illegal workaround for them. Sometimes they just really want to talk on the phone, and must think that if they give me any background info, I’ll just answer in email….

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      I like asking questions like “what are your biggest pain points in this whole process from start to finish?” and “once we give you X, how do you use it?” That can sometimes get them to open up about things they need from us, but haven’t expressed because they simply don’t know that we can do them.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      This is going to sound too basic but I have used this idea and I have had people use it with groups I am involved in.

      Go back to square one. Describe what it is your agency does. Then describe what you do. Let’s say you do A, B and C. Tell them, “I do A, B and C. I am going to take each activity, discuss what that involves and I am going to give you real life example. I can take questions after each example. Okay so let’s start with activity A….”

      As you explain make sure you define technical works and jargon. Part of their confusion may be because of having zero orientation to the topic.
      Give an overview of what you do in task A. Try to hit points that are recurring and predictable stumbling blocks for people and explain those parts well. Perhaps even discuss why agencies ask you to help with Task A. Then give a real life example from the recent past.
      Ask if they have any questions. They may not. Move on to Task B. Hopefully, they get in the groove of this and they start to ask questions. They may even want to back track because they suddenly realized they had a question about Task A.

      Going in the opposite direction, I know of a municipality that needs help with X. Outsiders (government or government adjacent) try to help the municipality. I could write a book. I will just use one example, so the Outsider says, in order to qualify for this grant you need to quadruple what you are charging people for X, BEFORE you can be considered for ANY grant for X. The municipality KNOWS for a fact that its people cannot afford this increase and such an increase would be totally crushing for some. So the listeners stare at their shoes, not asking any questions. Finally one little voice pipes up and says, “But our people can’t afford that increase.” And the Outsider says, “OH WELL!”
      Finally the Outsider wraps up and leaves. “Call me if you have any questions.” The little municipality already asked the question. “We can’t quadruple the cost of X as our people cannot afford it.” That WAS the question.

      I think in your case, their question actually is, “What do we do to get training so we can do this?”. The answer may involve your higher ups talking to their higher ups.

    7. Former ops manager*

      There’s an engineering principle i go by in these situations “go back to first principles”.

      Since it’s a regulatory requirement you’re helping them with. Dig out the regulations and start there.

      Build your mutual understanding of what youre trying to accomplish from there. Simplify the language and translate it into concrete steps. Usually if you can get that bedrock of understanding right the rest will flow more easily.

  2. project_manager*

    Does anyone know of temp agencies for project management? I’m an unemployed project manager, and I’d like to start earning some income while I search for my next full time role. I haven’t templed since I was fresh out of college, so I’m only familiar with temp agencies for junior admin jobs.

    1. Elizabeth I*

      Try looking for a consulting firm near you that offers project management as one of their service areas.

      I work for a consulting firm and we often place (independent/non-employees of our consulting firm) PMs with our clients for 3-6 month contracts.

    2. LQ*

      I don’t know of any agencies specifically, but lots of contractors will sub-contract project managers. I know in my area I’d look at the medium-sized technical contractors to find a temporary gig like this.

    3. 867-5309*

      I know someone suggested UpWork but honestly, I’ve found their pay rate is abysmal – at least in my field of marketing. Other than a select few folks, it’s a race to the bottom in terms of income.

      I did a Google search of “project management temporary jobs” and found several pop up… you could also look at ZipRecruiter, Indeed for specific jobs… Creative Circle, Robert Half and most of the major recruiting firms and staffing agencies have roles for PMs.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Look at sites & businesses specific to your industry too — if you’ve been managing software development, computer science outsourcing companies and the forums where they hire developers. If buildings, architectural & construction focused ones.

  3. Dwight Schrute*

    I’ve got two questions:

    1) I’m on a medication where a common side effect seems to be HORRIBLE gas. I mean uncontrollable farting that smells like a sulfur pit. I’m fine with it since I WFH for now but what on earth am I going to do when I have to return to the office?

    2) My job has asked me take a class, can I do the readings and homework during work hours? I have been doing a bit of it on my own time and during work hours but am unsure how to proceed

    1. Panda*

      1) I guess just apologize in advance when you get back to the office.
      2) It depends on the office and your boss. I’ve been able to work on my Master’s degree during work hours and I’m working on another class now during work hours.

    2. The Other Victoria*

      1. They have odor neutralizing underwear and/or seat cushions. It won’t do anything about the sounds, but it should help with the smell.

      2. I think that it’s fair to do it on work time as long as you’re getting other work done and it’s not causing delays. It’s probably the best to block off hours for classwork so that it doesn’t creep into other time and so that you can guard that time.

    3. Mr. Jingles*

      1I. Ithink it would be good, if you have a good report with your boss, to talk about the side effects of your medications so they can tell people to mind their own business if some busybody feels the urge to complain about you farting.
      2. if they’d asked you to take this class it would be decent to let you do your homework during work hours but since it’s great they give you opportunities to grow I’d limit my learning to the quiet times when work is done or you’re waiting for something you need to to go on in your everyday work and finish the rest on your own time just as you already did. That reflects the benefit you and your employer both have from the extra education you get from it. Shared benefits, shared responsibility.

      1. Observer*

        I was going to say the same thing. Please don’t let your doctor wave this off – if you are going to be in an office it IS going to interfere with your life.

        Now, I obviously don’t know anything about your medical condition, so I don’t know what your choices are here, or if even have any good choices at all. But step number one HAS to be your doctor taking it seriously enough to either find a better of option of explain why there is not better option that isn’t “It’s not a big deal.”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            You could ask your pharmacist what others who are taking the med are doing to control the problem. Perhaps you answer is as simple as avoiding a certain food because it interacts with the med. Or maybe you are not drinking enough water and the med needs more water to work right. It could be something that is not hard to fix.

    4. I'm just here for the cats.*

      #1. Have you talked about your gas symptoms with your doctor? Maybe you can take gas x or something each day to help? I’ve been there and it’s so embarrassing!
      2. I think it depends on the company. It should fall into professional development and you should be able to do class stuff, as long as your normal work gets done. When COVID hit I did a bunch of online classes during work hours because there was limited stuff I could do from home.

    5. bunniferous*

      Check with your doctor-there may be ways to deal with this side effect. I’m thinking of certain supplements but because anything might interact with your medication it’s better to let the doctor and/or pharmacist talk this through with you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, I am on something now that means DO NOT eat cauliflower. It was a good thing I was told because I eat cauliflower rice and pastas.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I think it’s worth asking your employer if you could stay working off-site for the longer-term for non-covid medical reasons. It seems to me that it would be a possible ADA accommodation…after all, you’ve already been doing the work at home right?

    7. ...*

      Do you have your own office? If not could you ask for one? Other ideas: Air purifier, I believe they make underwear that assists with this issue, could you talk to your doctor about anti gas medicine? Or possibly there are a few foods you could avoid on the med?

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        Check out gasBgone – they have flatulence-absorbing cushions. There are lots of good reviews.

        gasBgone dot com

      2. Dwight Schrute*

        I’m not sure what the set up is in person as a I started during covid times! But yes I plan to talk to my doctor to make sure there’s nothing else I can be doing to help!

    8. Don't Ask Me How I Know*

      Sometimes you can get a bit of relief by taking an over-the-counter (OTC) medication with symethicone (such as Gas-X or Phazyme). Sometimes taking a dietary probiotic supplement can help. Be careful about what kind of foods you eat. Beans and cauliflower probably aren’t going to be good choices.

      You’ll probably have less gas if you are regular. Sometimes a stool softener can help keep you regular. Consider a fiber supplement such as Citrucel, but avoid fiber supplements with psyllium. They work, but they create more gas. Prunes work.

      Lastly, you might want to consider, at least temporarily, wearing a disposable undergarment such as Depends, just in case.

    9. Pretzelgirl*

      For the gas- Gas X as some have suggested is great. Be careful not to over do it, as it can back you up. Peppermint tea, Ginger tea, or plain old ginger root can help too.

      Also getting up and moving (maybe outside lol). Go for a quick walk around you building or even just take a couple of flights of stairs. Sometimes this helps my system a bit and you can release the gas outside.

  4. Llama Wrangler*

    tl;dr – Would you talk to your direct report if they were regularly taking sick days on Mondays/Fridays, and if so how would you approach it?

    One of my team members has taken about 10 sick days this year, every single one of them on a Monday or a Friday. On the one hand, there’s a lot of reasons for me to not raise this — they are within their allowed benefit, this has not created issues for their workload overall, and they have a health concern that they have disclosed to me that makes them more susceptible to illness (to my knowledge, they have not yet documented this with HR or asked for formal accommodations). On the other hand, we work in the education field, where there’s a history of this kind of thing getting commented on; this person is also relatively junior and may not realize that the pattern might reflect poorly on them. For additional context, our previous HR director had negatively commented on this person’s history of absences and lateness in a way that I found inappropriate (HR head implied that my direct report was skipping work to hang out with a married coworker she alleged my direct report was in a relationship with — very gossipy and unsubstantiated) — I addressed the lateness at that time, and they made some changes that fixed the problem. We now have a new HR person, who probably doesn’t know this history, so I could hypothetically bring this to her first for her for her thoughts on how to take it on.

    What do you think? Is it worth raising it with them, and if so, how should I go about it, given all the factors described above? Should I go to HR first? Or consider it a non-issue, since it is not actually impacting their work?

    1. Littorally*

      I think it would be a kindness to mention it to your report. Make sure to emphasize that you personally have no issue with it, but let them know that it’s the kind of thing other managers might notice and have thoughts on.

      I’ve got something similar with my boss; he’s very laissez-faire about using sick time as a substitute for vacation time if a vacation request is denied but he feels the team is adequately staffed, but he’s also clear that this is something he’s decided not to care about, and that we should exercise our own discretion on the matter and not go around like “hey Boss says it’s totally fine to do that!” with anyone outside the team.

      1. OpticsCanBeChanged*

        Seeing a ton of “optics might mean other people think XYZ” in the comments, but I’m curious to hear how OP should speak to other managers to push back against those “optics” since they have power in this situation.

        I used to have a similar situation, and I had a boss that stood up for me when other managers said things. If he came to me and said “other managers say XYZ about you” I’d be worried about that buck passing if he told me “he didn’t have a problem with it” from the other side of his mouth.

        1. Llama Wrangler*

          In this case, I have definitely had my direct report’s back when other managers have talked to me about it (the gossipy HR director, and my boss – who I assume was looped in by the HR director), but I think your point is a good one if I were to raise it as an optics issue.

        2. Sandi*

          I am an employee who works with stats, so not in management, but years ago a manager did ask me my thoughts about an employee who had only taken Mondays and Fridays as sick leave (no name was ever mentioned, he wanted to know the probability of taking only Fridays and Mondays as sick days).

          I pointed out that with 100+ people in his employ, there was a wide range of sick leave patterns and some were going to seem odd but it is actually normal to have those extremes (it seems ‘normal’ yet it would be super weird if every individual person took sick leave equally every day of the week, although if you count up the days for every employee then the total numbers for each day of the week should be similar). So there is a (1/5)^3 chance (~1%) of taking three sick days only on Friday, but there is that same chance of taking a Tuesday, Wednesday, then Thursday but that doesn’t seem as weird. I explained to this manager that it would be better to ask yourself if that person did good work and had the sick days required. I also pointed out that I have friends with chronic illness and they often push themselves to try harder yet are most likely to be exhausted and unable to work on Fridays, or maybe they make it to the weekend yet they can’t recover their strength by Monday and need the extra day.

          So I push back based on the stats and assumptions they were making.

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

        Make sure to emphasize that you personally have no issue with it, but let them know that it’s the kind of thing other managers might notice and have thoughts on.

        The trouble with this is that it’s far more often heard from conflict-averse managers who do have an issue with ‘whatever the thing is’, but blame it off on to other people so that they can continue to manage by being indirect… I’m not saying OP of this thread is doing that, but that’s potentially how it can get perceived by the report, especially if they have had that type of manager in the past.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      The operative words … “it is not actually impacting their work.” This is not an HR issue.

      If they’re missing important Monday or Friday deadlines or meetings, or if you want to kindly point out to the direct report that the optics of their sick days might not be great, have a one on one. You don’t need a chaperone for this – it’s just regular supervision and mentoring.

      Then work on your scripts for dealing with gossipy HR heads. That’s a whole ‘nother issue.

      1. Artemesia*

        when you say – it isn’t impacting their work — is it that the work overall gets done or that THEY are getting their share done. I have been in situations where people abused sick leave and everyone else picked up the slack. It is demoralizing when some people get away with abusing a generous leave policy.

        1. Llama Wrangler*

          In this case – it is not impacting other people’s workload. And I think if it were, then it would again be a conversation about accommodations, not abusing the policy.

      2. willow for now*

        Yes, knowing that the boss has one’s back goes a long way. I had to specifically tell my boss that he needed to have my back on a somewhat related issue.

    3. Ms. Yvonne*

      Does new HR person replace HR person who made comments? If yes, then I’d say no need to bring to their attention. However, I waffle on if it might be worth taking it to the employee – saying it doesn’t impact their work, they’re still within sick day allowance, but there’s an issue of optics with (nosy?) coworkers. However, that puts a burden on the employee who already has the burden of the health concern. Also, Alison has spoken about recommending employees with health issues take days that allow better recuperation (e.g. maybe they need treatment that the do on a Friday, and they need the weekend to recover). So I’d say no. If your HR person raises it maybe it’s time for action, but not til then.

      1. Ms. Yvonne*

        To clarify, if the HR person raises it I’d think it’s time to clarify (without mentioning the health issue) with the HR person, not with your report.

    4. Stephanie*

      I do think it should be raise, especially if other team members take notice of it and the fact that you’ve not addressed it. I’d suggest that you start by indicating that formal accommodations may be advisable – 10 sick days in a year with a known health issue seems like the perfect reason to get those accommodations, because otherwise, 10 days in a year is excessive.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        People get sick. People have other to care who also get sick. People have preventative appointments.
        One day a month is reasonable anywhere but the USA.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Exactly. But I do agree that OP needs to have a conversation with the employee about disclosing her health issue to HR. If the illness is why she’s out frequently, then she needs intermittent FMLA to protect herself from the Nosy Nellies in the office who may run back to HR complaining/gossiping about her absences and spreading untruths.

          1. FMLA Lady*

            The FMLA regulations require covered employers to be proactive about identifying situations which “could” be FMLA. “Employer” means anyone with supervisory responsibilities for the individual and, should things get litigious down the road, the supervisor can be named as a defendant an long with the company. Being proactive about identifying FMLA protects both the employer and the employee.

            The OP has a situation which already calls for the employer to start the FMLA process for intermittent leave: the employee has disclosed a medical condition and there are sick days taken. The FMLA process will let the employee know whether or not they are eligible and ask them to have their health care provider complete the certification form. If the certification provides sufficient information, the FMLA is approved based on the projected need for absence on the form or those concern For those concerned about employee privacy, it is entirely possible for a doctor to complete a certification form that results in FMLA approval without disclosing the specific condition. (The best one like I ever saw was for my own grandboss, an intensely private and noncommunicative person, who was approved for an absence without so much of a clue for the reason on their certification form.)

    5. Colette*

      Statistically, 40% of absences should be on Monday or Friday. In reality, I’d say it’s probably higher. If you’re trying to get through the week, you can realize it’s not going to happen and take Friday off; if you get sick on the weekend, you may end up taking Monday off.

      If it’s likely to cause problems in your field (and not just with the gossipy first-aid person), I’d mention it as something like “I’ve noticed you tend to take sick days on Fridays and Mondays. Our field tends to judge regularly taking sick days off. If you have a health concern that means you will regularly need to take sick days on those days, I recommend that you ask for a formal accommodation with HR.”

      But it really sounds like it shouldn’t be an issue, and if anyone raises it to you, I’d probably ask why they’re tracking someone else’s sick time.

        1. Llama Wrangler*

          Part of the reason this is historically frowned upon in education is that teachers don’t get vacation days per se, and taking Monday or Friday as a sick day is seen as giving yourself a long weekend that you would not otherwise be able to take. So even though we DO get vacation days that we can use as we want to, I think there’s still some of that stigma rubbed off on our position.

          (I would say a very cynical person — the former gossipy HR director, for example might suggest that my direct report is taking sick days instead of vacation days — which they almost never take — because vacation days will get paid out when they leave and sick days do not. But I do not think that’s the case, and former HR director never suggested that directly.)

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Retail environments, lower paying jobs and toxic environments seem to like to grind this ax. Usually it’s framed as, “Oh you just wanted a three day weekend. Well so does everyone else. You are just making it harder for other people, when it is clearly NOT necessary.”

          OP, I like preemptive strikes. If you see an oncoming issue, prepare for it. Ask your subordinate what they want you to say if this comes up. Your subordinate may surprise you. For example, I have a doc who is only open a couple days a week. If I want to see that doc guess when I have to go? yep. Same deal with my dentist.
          If you are comfortable you can say that you think it’s petty or you do not see an issue, however others will and it’s wise to be prepared for such a conversation.
          For your part in all this, if a peer expresses an overstepping concern you can simply say, “I do not have an issue with it’, in a tone that conveys “this conversation is over.”

        3. Gumby*

          If all of someone’s *vacation* days fell on Mondays and Fridays, that is expected. Being *sick* is thought to be more randomized since most people associate “sick” with illnesses that are unpredictable and cannot tell what day it is (like a cold or the flu). Thus if all of someone’s sick days fall on M or F it can seem suspicious that the person is not sick but is misusing sick days to have 3-day weekends for fun rather than to deal with legitimate health-related needs. It can look like the employee is lying about being sick – which is a problem for integrity reasons. So alerting someone that the pattern may raise eyebrows could nudge them towards getting official accommodations through HR.

          Some workplaces don’t have an issue with using sick days for non-health-related reasons. Some do care about the difference between a sick day and a vacation day. I have only ever worked in the second type of office. But also, at least half of my career has been spent places where we had unlimited sick time so people were quite careful about the perception of misusing that benefit.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Yeah, I definitely think it could be that my direct report is pushing through the mid-week days (which tend to be more externally facing) and taking sick days when they know it will have less of direct impact. But also 100% of sick days on M/F is a big difference from 40-60% falling on those days.

        1. Observer*

          It’s true that 100% is different than 60%. But given the health issue it makes a lot of sense. And, to be honest I’m not sure that she could have behaved in a way that would have kept Nosy HR from commenting. The accusation was just gross and really, really weird. And it goes waaaay beyond anything that HR should be noticing anyway.

          Also, think about this – if you have reason to believe that she’s actually trying to time her absences to be on days that will have less impact, why would you try to discourage that?! I realize that that’s not what you intend, but that’s pretty much what you would be doing.

          1. Overeducated*

            Yeah, I am not trying to pile on, but given this information, what would be the positive outcome you are looking for in bringing it up, Llama Wrangler? If you do trust your employee is taking sick days for legitimate health reasons, and is taking them on days that are less likely to impact others, do you want them to take fewer sick days despite potential impacts on their health, or take them mid-week and require others to reschedule? If you want them to ask for a formal accommodation just to have something on the record for the sake of appearance, what would the “accommodation” be if they are already using leave within your organization’s provided amount? Just something in a file saying they are entitled to use their sick leave as needed? I think if you do bring it up there needs to be a goal in mind that solves more problems than it creates.

            1. Llama Wrangler*

              I appreciate your feedback on this — not a pile on at all! I think many of people have raised the point that taking health leave within the allotted benefit, and taking about one sick day a month is well within the range of normal anywhere but the US. But I have definitely gotten the explicit message from leadership at this organization (and at other organizations in the education field in my city) that one sick day a month is a concern even if it falls within provided amount. I can definitely push back as people below have suggested, but if it’s the norm that people should not take all their sick leave without an extenuating circumstance, and it’s possible that my direct report would have negative repercussions for taking that leave, wouldn’t it make sense to ask my direct report to consider formally documenting their condition? (Genuine question for you!)

              1. Overeducated*

                Ah, I see where you are coming from. I think given the info you’ve provided it sounds like only the new HR director is the person who’s perception you are worried about. If so, why not address it directly with the HR director as a situation where Employee X needs to take their allowable sick leave, and they are doing it in ways that impact work minimally and you approve as a manager, rather than making it the employee’s problem? Asking them to file for an accommodation mainly for the sake of HR’s opinion seems a little backward, to me.

                1. Llama Wrangler*

                  Thanks! I posted this below, but thinking through everyone’s feedback, I think the fact that we now have New HR Director (good riddance to Gossipy HR Director), and that we’re remote (so other gossipy coworkers – not on my team – are much less likely to be noticing/commenting on it) I plan to leave it alone. If New HR Director, or my boss, bring it up with me, I’ll address it then.

        2. Double A*

          If you have a chronic health issue, it makes a lot of sense that being able to rest 3 days in a row is more restorative than working a day, taking a day off, working 3 more days, then taking 2 off. If anything, it can be more stressful to take a day off midweek, especially in education.

          We had last Wednesday off for a holiday at my school, and I swear my week was MORE stressful and I was more tired for the weekend. Honestly I don’t find a midweek break to be a break at all. If I’m taking off days sick, it’s probably going to be whatevery day I’m sick through the weekend, otherwise I’m not actually going to feel better. And if I can power through until a Friday, I will.

          1. Chaordic One*

            I completely agree with you. I have a customer service job and we were closed last week for Veteran’s Day. The work week was horrible as we had a whole bunch of people calling in on Tuesday, who would have waited until Wednesday if we had been open then. (Not going to work on Wednesday was nice, though.) Then on Thursday and Friday, we had a whole bunch of angry callers who were mad about not being able to reach anyone on Wednesday.

      2. cat lady*

        for me, too, if I’m feeling generally under the weather, I look at my calendar and see how many meetings I’d have to reschedule if I took the day off. Monday and Friday are often the lightest meeting days, so it’s easier to take those days off than reschedule 900 back to back Tuesday meetings.

    6. Weekend Please*

      If you are worried about what HR will think, you could suggest to your report that they may want to document their illness with HR to avoid bad optics. Other than that, I would leave it alone.

    7. CatCat*

      Regarding the sick days, it sounds like a workplace culture problem, not an employee problem. I think you address this in the moment when it arises with the people who are being gossipy or inventing a problem where there isn’t one. You definitely don’t want to go down a path of possibly harassing an employee over a chronic health problem because when they take sick leave.

      1. Batgirl*

        I agree. Just because the last HR person was gossipy and ableist, doesn’t mean the new one will assume anything but that the employee is managing her condition (which she is).

      2. Girasol*

        This. Had a coworker who took nearly every Friday off and claimed she was sick. Eventually people griped and she was coached and then put on a PIP. She was almost fired when the doctor finally diagnosed hepatitis. She had enough energy to make it to Thursday and just couldn’t handle Friday, it seemed, until the problem was treated. Then she was a model employee again. Not all weekend-contiguous sick days are cheats.

    8. anonymous1*

      I would not bring it up as a work issue, but as you mention the person is relatively junior so you may want to bring it up as a courtesy to them about perception in the workplace.

    9. Llama Wrangler*

      Thank you all for your comments. I should add — because we’re still fully remote, and Friday (and to a lesser extent, Mondays) tend to be days we’re using as admin days, I don’t think anyone outside of me – and possibly HR – is noticing the pattern. It generally impacts our check-ins, which so far haven’t been an issue for rescheduling. So the nosy-coworker issue has been pretty mitigated by remote work. (And yes — the gossipy HR director has left; the new person is new enough that I don’t have a sense of how she handles these things, but my initial sense is that she is much more professional.)

      1. mreasy*

        What is the upside of raising this? I’m afraid it will make the employee feel paranoid and unsupported when they’re just using a benefit that is part of their job, to help with a health issue they have. I don’t see who benefits here.

    10. Been There*

      I can’t answer your question, but I do think I can contribute.

      I suffer from a condition that is affected by stress, by which I mean the symptoms often arise at the end of a stressful period; whatever hormonal changes occur with a decrease in stress seem to trigger my condition.

      When my condition was less controlled, and work was particularly stressful, this led to a series of incapacitated weekends with symptoms that often lingered into Monday and sometimes Tuesday. My downtime was spent in pain, and when I had good days, I spent them under a great amount of stress catching up on lost work. It was a viscous cycle that only resolved with a scientific breakthrough in treatment options.

      I knew how this looked to my peers and managers, but I was already using every tool I had to combat it. It was very demoralizing to know of this perception on top of dealing with my health issue.

      I’ll defer to others about whether this is something you should raise; however you decide to handle this, please just be compassionate, and try not to make assumptions.

    11. Sled dog mama*

      Since you are in education I have to ask does “this year” mean calendar year or academic year? Because my answer would be slightly different if the person has taken 10 sick days over 11 months that happen to be Mon/Fri than if this is 10 Mon/Fri sick days since August (4 months).

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Oh yeah – good clarifying question – in this calendar year. They did not take any from March-May, but otherwise it’s been about one per month.

    12. Jenna Webster*

      If this person has a chronic condition, taking Mondays and Fridays as your sick days isn’t the worst idea – you get through the week (usually struggling the whole time), and then extend your weekend so you can actually recover enough to do it again. If this doesn’t cause any problems at work, it may be a way that they manage their health issues with the least impact to work.

      1. Nacho*

        I know if I was feeling sick on a Thursday at my last job, I’d try to hold out until Friday to avoid wasting my PTO. Fat lot of good it did me, I was laid off with a hundred sixty hours left unspent.

    13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      A gossip hound in HR is going to be a gossip hound about any little nonsensical thing. You can’t save people from that kind of person.

      I’ve heard a of people draw conclusions about people’s choices using their sick leave, especially when it makes it appear to be a “long weekend”. My response to them is always “It sounds like they became sick over the weekend and haven’t recovered by Monday. That’s normal.” and “It sounds like they have been pushing through the week and finally made it to Friday. Now they have 3 days to recover from whatever is happening.”And then just staring at the person who’s making rude unfounded accusations towards my staff member. “I know them well and they’re very reliable, so I doubt there’s anything cynical behind it.”

      I’d consider it a nonissue unless someone else brings it to your attention. Then you ask them why they’re concerned, if it’s impacting them that’s one thing. If they’re just gossiping, they can take a long walk.

    14. Mr. Jingles*

      If they have an illness this behaviour could be beneficial to the company: instead of falling sick for longer times or risking it they might use their weekends to minimise the effect by taking just one or two sickdays instead of three or for. But by not telling HR they destroy this benefit by optics. So I would talk to them one on one, tell them you appreciate their thoughtfulness but are afraid it could harm them and thus for recommend to talk to HR and make official accommodations. The decision if they want that should then be made by your report though and if they don’t want to talk to HR you should let it rest.

    15. Llama Wrangler*

      I appreciate everyone’s feedback on this question — it’s been really helpful in me clarifying what my concerns are and the best ways to move forward.

      I mentioned this in a comment above, but the reality is that we work in an environment where someone taking all of their allocated sick leave (12-15 days depending on your tenure) is considered cause for concern — this is not just in this organization, but has also been the case in other organizations in my field. Not only did the gossipy HR director comment on my report’s absences (about a year ago now), so did my boss – in the guise of checking in on how my direct report was doing. Compounding all of that, I myself got put on a PIP in a previous organization for taking less than one sick day per month (and was told by HR that the benefit was there in case of emergencies, not because they expected we would use it all). So this is something I’m sensitive to, and I appreciate everyone’s help unpacking the issues and what does or does not matter.

      Thinking through everyone’s feedback, I think the fact that we now have New HR Director (good riddance to Gossipy HR Director), and that we’re remote (so other gossipy coworkers – not on my team – are much less likely to be noticing/commenting on it) I plan to leave it alone. If New HR Director, or my boss, bring it up with me, I’ll follow the model of the script above to let them know that I don’t have concerns about it (that my understanding is that my direct report is meeting their job responsibilities and that they are taking care of themselves in the way they need to), and if they push then, I’ll figure out if it makes sense to talk to my direct report about providing documentation. In the meantime, I will continue to encourage my direct report to continue taking care of themself so they can continue doing the good work that they’ve been doing.

    16. learnedthehardway*

      I think that you might want to encourage your report to speak with HR regarding accommodations per ADA, if they’re entitled to those accommodations. I would put it in terms of it being important to their career that their needs are documented, in case of any concerns. I would point out that you have their back about concerns that have been raised so far, and have addressed those issues, but that you need them to be somewhat proactive to make sure that they are protected in the long term.

      Since the employee’s absences are not documented as accommodations, this kind of leaves you in a difficult position wrt other employees, who might feel that they should get the same treatment.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Since the employee’s absences are not documented as accommodations, this kind of leaves you in a difficult position wrt other employees

        Not just other employees, but the OP’s own boss.

    17. pcake*

      I can think of many reasons for those days off – doctor visits for an ongoing condition, babysitter who can’t take care of the kids, spouse usually takes care of the kids but gets called into work sometimes to fill in for someone taking long weekends. I could keep going.

      If you think it could be a concern, I’d talk to the employee in the friendliest possible way. Because the old HR person could have left notes that make things seem worse than they are, and it might help if the employee has a heads-up in advance or the opportunity to file for FMLA. Besides, if it does have odd optics and isn’t from something like childcare or health issues, the employee might like to know.

    18. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      This reminds me of an old joke that a manager is sure an employee is slacking off because “40% of their sick days are on Mondays and Fridays!”

      I think it could be a kindness to mention if the impression she’s taking these long weekends is causing others to have a bad impression of her work ethic, but I’d also try to push back against others’ impressions. Unless she’s missing meetings/deadlines or not performing the work well, I don’t see this as a big deal at all – after all, if I’m feeling run down and have a light Friday, I don’t feel bad about taking it off to try to get extra rest so I can come in on Monday feeling better.

  5. Job Search Timing*

    I’ve been job searching due to lack of advancement/poor pay, but I have an increasingly-complicated family issue that is going to require court appearances sometime in the next 3-18 months. I keep thinking the end is in sight, but then there’s yet another postponement or continuance, and everything just stagnates yet again.

    My current boss is very flexible and sympathetic, so it seems dumb to chance losing that to move elsewhere. I can’t truly know a manager’s attitude until I’ve been there a while, despite how friendly and approachable they might come across in an interview. But this family issue has also drained my savings, and I need the money.

    Which option seems less risky?

    1. Ms. Yvonne*

      Maybe start applying and see how it goes? You might end up interviewing at some real gong-shows, so it might be easier to evaluate when you see what kind of opportunities you’re presented with.

    2. Grits McGee*

      The question that immediately jumps out to me is: if you get a new job, will you be able take a lot of leave (potentially unplanned) right when you’re starting a new job? Will you have to take that leave unpaid if you don’t have accrued leave? Will dealing with courts, which isn’t doing that much harm in your current position, cause issues in a new position (especially when you’re first starting out)? Granted, these questions are all extremely industry- and job-specific.

      You know your situation best, but until the family and court appearance issue is solved, I wonder if it might be more financially stable to pick up a part time side hustle instead of a new full time job. Something low stakes or gig-economy, that would be easy to drop at short notice if need be.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This was exactly mine line of advice; sometimes even when a new place says they are flexible, there is a reality there is not. And, in my experience, the beginning has required the most OT/work hours because of learning new systems and procedures.

        OP, I am so sorry you are dealing not just with family issues, but also the resulting financial ones.

    3. Empress Matilda*

      Definitely start applying. Your job search may take longer than the court case, or the court case may take longer than the the job search. Either of these could take months to years, and often there’s no way of knowing until it’s all over!

      If you get to the point that you’re nearing a job offer *and* you’re still having to make regular court appearances, you can weigh your options then. But right now you just don’t have enough information to make a decision – not only do you not know how long the job search or the court case will go on, but you also don’t know what kind of a job you might get, how much it pays, how flexible are the hours, etc. And you won’t know any of that, until you start applying!

      1. Mr. Jingles*

        This.
        Also there’s no harm in gently asking about a few unplanned leaves due to personal issues. I guess we’re not taking several appearances a week or even a month?
        You could ask them, if they offer you a job in a way like: I wanted to give you a heads up, I have a personal issue ongoing which may require me taking a day off now and then. I’ll usually know x days in advance, so far it was no more that x days a month and might not even be that much. Sadly I can not completely avoid or reschedule them, do you think we could work something out?
        If they say yes everything is fine, if they say no that’s also fine because you probably would have lost the job then as soon as the court appointments started. Don’t just not search at all. You can only win if you search and ask since you will have a chance to get out of your situation if it works, but if you don’t search at all you can only loose because you’ll never know what chance you might miss while being miserable and loosing money every day.

        1. BetsCounts*

          Mr Jingles is 1000% spot on. You def should be looking, but like an ongoing medical situation that would require accommodation, do **not** bring it up until you actually have an offer.

    4. Malarkey01*

      This seems like something you mention once you get an offer and explain that you’ll need a bit of time off to deal with Court appointments. Court appearances aren’t debatable- you are typically mandated to appear, and mentioning it with the offer as a short term accommodation should help with any issues.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Id recommend practicing the phrasing so it cannot be misconstrued and turn into gossip about you being on trial.

    5. Watry*

      I just dealt with something similar a few months ago–almost a year of continuances and COVID-related postponements. If your required appearances (I’m assuming you’ll be/have been subpoenaed) will be be short/few, you may be able to use the advice Allison has given in the past about taking sudden, unplanned, but necessary leave in a new job.

      Unless this is a jury trial, remember that the judge will set aside however much time they think the case will take. If it takes longer than that, they may set the rest of the case for extra days in a week or two. AFAIK it’s rare for them to continue the next day.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Adding, I have had friends who either through their lawyer or by letter directly to the judge, let the judge know that they have a new job and several absences will cause problems with the new job. Then you can ask politely and briefly, if anything can be done to contain the number of times you must appear in court and lose time from work.

        IF true, you can also add that you need to change jobs because of financial hardships at your current rate of pay. Only say this if true, someone may check, so be careful here.

    6. The JMP*

      In some states, there are job protections for people who are required to appear in court – usually victims or witnesses in criminal matters, which may not apply to you, but it may be worth checking your state law to see what legal protections you have. I know keeping a job is sort of the bare minimum and it’s the manager’s flexibility and willingness to accommodate that is most important, but if you’re considering changing jobs it may help to know if you have legal protections if a new situation turns out to be less than ideal.

  6. MatureStudent*

    I’m currently in school working in a business administration program with a concentration in marketing. I wanted to see if readers have any suggestions for or experience with social media training. There seems to be a lot of offerings out there but I want to make sure I find something with credibility and helpful content (and if it comes with a certificate etc that I could put on my resume, all the better!). I would love to hear from readers about their past experience!

    1. notacompetition*

      Try to instead get some work experience managing social media for small clients. A certification is fine, but work experience is way better. I started my career in social media doing it as part of a full-time job in communications, and now it’s my full-time consulting work. Clients need to see that you have gotten other clients demonstrable results, and a certificate will not do that. Also, bonus, you’ll get paid for this, while a certificate will cost you.

      If you’re going into digital marketing/booking ads/writing client copy, do get your basic Google certifications. But a company will usually pay for you to get that.

      1. MatureStudent*

        Thank you! I value hands-on experience so I’m glad to hear that is more beneficial than studying theory!

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I don’t know about programs. But I have seen a lot of job candidates that talk about social media, but have no track record. I would strongly suggest finding your place on the relevant platforms to your key industries, and find SOMETHING to say on them. Be a resource, write content, curate content, and build a consistent voice/persona. And follow people/accounts that are doing what you want to do. There are some really good ones out there, and once you find a few, you’ll start seeing more and more.

    3. 867-5309*

      Ditto, notacompetition. I’m CMO of a mid-sized company and the certificates mean very little. Look for practical experience at small businesses (paid) or as a nonprofit volunteer.

      One thing you don’t need to do is expect an employer to pay for Google certification. That’s free and something you can do now, thought practical experience is far more important. However, if you have time on your hands than the Google and HubSpot certifications can strengthen resumes of entry level candidates.

      1. MatureStudent*

        It’s great to hear from people actively in the field, as it can be so hard to know the unwritten expectations when breaking in to a new field!

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        However, if you have time on your hands than the Google and HubSpot certifications can strengthen resumes of entry level candidates.

        This is very good to know.

    4. NGL*

      I’m a marketing director who does a lot for social media. Certifications are nice, but really what we’re looking for is hands on experience and the curiosity to follow the changes as they happen. Pick up some small clients, like a local business that could use a hand, or if you/a friend are online creators of any kind (podcaster, Youtuber, artist) you could demonstrate your knowledge there.

      For the curiosity part, make sure you’re subscribed to marketing newsletters/blogs that talk not just about the newest features on social, but you can get suggestions on best practices.

      1. Anonya*

        Same here, and we generally don’t care about certifications. They might be a nice bonus, but the actual experience is a lot more important.

      2. MatureStudent*

        NGL, thank you for the suggestion regarding newsletters/blogs, that wasn’t something I had thought of. I currently have an internship lined up next semester where I will be acting as the communications/marketing coordinator so I hope to build on my past experience there.

    5. cat lady*

      If you’re in school, consider reaching out to the campus communications office to see about doing an internship– we pretty much always need help keeping up with social media accounts, and even if that office doesn’t run the accounts themselves, they should be able to put you in touch with those who do, and give you some in-house training.

      1. MatureStudent*

        That’s a great idea! With everything being online I haven’t thought that much about campus resources, but I will certainly reach out to them.

    6. Pam*

      Look for campus opportunities as well. Student clubs, athletics, academic departments, housing and food, etc. are all places where you can learn/practice/improve your social media skills.

  7. Senorita Conchita*

    What do you do with a coworker that eavesdrops on your conversations? 
    At first I just brushed it off, but it’s annoying because I can’t even talk to the person without her inserting herself into the conversation. Of course, the one or two times I ever jumped into her conversations, she literally rolls her eyes and ignores me.
    She also makes comments about my clothing and life choices, gets jealous if the boss praises me, etc.

    It’s weird because sometimes it seems like she is trying to be my friend, other times she is a bully. How do you deal with this? I don’t trust her, so I’m polite but don’t go out of my way to be friendlier. Is that okay to do?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Get working on your AAM(tm) Confused-And-Perplexed-Stare, and the matching “What an odd thing to say”.

      If you want, you can temper with some purposeful and occasional inclusions in appropriate conversations, or some Bless Your Heart compliments on her life choices.

      And remember, one of the bully tricks is to pretend to be a friend, or act the victim. That’s what’s she’s doing, and you don’t have time for that.

    2. Colette*

      When she jumps into your conversations:
      “Did you need something?”
      “Oh, I’m just talking with Jane, I’ll come see you afterwards if you need help.”

      When she makes comments about personal stuff:
      “What an odd thing to say!”
      *dead silence, turn away*

      It’s fine to be polite but not friendly.

    3. Professor Ronny*

      Back before the pandemic, if my wife or I noticed someone who appeared to be eavesdropping at a restaurant, we would start asking each other if their spouse had any suspicions we were getting together or launch into some other weird, off-the-wall topic. Of course, it only works if the other party knows what is going on.

      1. Artemesia*

        My brother and I used to do this as kids with snoopy people. I remember fondly the vacation at Harrison hot springs when a couple of people who had made nasty cracks about ‘children’ and how much better if things would be if there was an adults only resort got to hear our improve along the lines of ‘should you be going into the pool today? Have your sores cleared up?’ ‘didn’t the doctor say it was still contagious?’

        1. Clisby*

          When my parents were dating, back in the late 1940s, his house had a party line. One neighbor was notorious for listening in on people’s conversations. Once when he was talking on the phone to my mother, they heard the telltale click that someone was listening in. Without missing a beat, my father said, “And when I opened the door, he was there on the floor! Dead!” They heard a gasp, and then a hangup click.

    4. MH*

      Next time you see her eavesdropping, respond with “I’m sorry, Louise, but this conversation is between us. I’ll speak to you later.”

      1. BetsCounts*

        That seems to approach flat out rude. Although the coworker is being the rude one, the scripts of Collette and Aspiring Chicken Lady would probably be a better starting place.

        1. Generic Name*

          Huh. I’m wondering why you see this approach as rude. It is very direct, for sure, but the language is polite. I think if the subtle hints that you endorse don’t work, it’s time to move to direct ones. I think the tone is key. One can say this in a light and friendly way rather than an aggressive/rude way

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Eh, then leave off the first sentence. “I see that you want to speak to me Louise, I will be right with you in a few minutes.”

    5. Threeve*

      How obnoxious. How do your conversation partners usually react?

      If you’re having conversations that are naturally within her earshot (and she’s not, like, lurking around the corner) there’s not a lot you can do to keep her from listening and butting in. If someone drops by your desk, you can try “I’m about to head to the kitchen, walk with me?” to remove yourselves from earshot.

      It’s definitely okay to be as distant as you can without being impolite. Practice your vague, cheerful, handwavy dismissals when she tries to pry:
      “Oh, it was a whole thing, but it’s all good now.”
      “Nothing exciting, honestly.”
      “You know what they say, it’s always something!”

      1. Senorita Conchita*

        Sometimes they ignore her, sometimes they talk to her/include her in the conversation. We’re not talking about anything confidential, but the fact that she has to always insert herself is annoying. Also the fact that once or twice I chimed in about something work related, she and the person rolled their eyes and kept talking/ignored me is annoying.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Eyerolling aside, is there a reason you don’t just ignore her when she jumps into your conversations? Obviously she understands that is a standard response to unwelcome interruptions, because she does it to you.

      Certainly there’s no reason you need to take notice of her jealousy or her personal comments. Let them hang there, let them be her problem.

      Unless you want to go on a mission of turning an unpleasant person into a friend, polite-but-distant sounds like the perfect way to go.

      1. Senorita Conchita*

        That’s what I do- I just ignore it when she jumps into my conversations. (I honestly don’t know what to do or say anyways because it’s never happened to me before.)

    7. Not So NewReader*

      She’s a bully who can act friendly from time to time. Eye rolls on on the list of bullying gestures. You could ask her if there is something in her eye. I have done this, just because it’s kinda fun. I did end up in a longer conversation with my Eye Roller who explained that she did not even realize she was doing it. This was amazing to hear since she rolled her eyes every five minutes all day long.
      The problem with eye rolling is that it sends the message, “I have no respect for you.”

      It’s fine to be polite and superficially pleasant. Assume she will not change.

  8. ThatGirl*

    Welp, the bad news is my now-former employer misled us all a few weeks ago, claiming that the coming reorganization was not focused on cost-cutting, and that most positions would be lost through attrition — and then on Wednesday they gutted the marketing department, laying off 80 people. Including me.

    So… it sucked, it was a rough day, and I feel bad for my coworkers left behind too.

    But here’s my question: I was at that company for 3 1/2 years. I had two roles in that time. I had multiple different managers in the first role. Will it matter a lot who my references are? I have a number of people willing to be references, as well as a few from my job prior to that. I’m just trying to decide who the best references are for THIS company, given that my time there was somewhat chaotic.

    1. LCH*

      could you tell us who is willing to be your reference so we can decide? preferably it is someone who oversaw your work.

      1. ThatGirl*

        right now, my options are:

        – my first manager, who I worked with roughly a year
        – my second manager, who I worked with 9 months or so
        – a coworker I worked with for roughly 18 months, who had seniority and reviewed my work fairly regularly
        – the VP of my second department (my boss’ boss – she heard a lot about me from my manager but didn’t directly oversee my work)

        I could potentially ask my third manager who I had for about 18 months but she also got laid off and is a little trickier for various reasons.

        1. Weekend Please*

          I would lean towards either your first or second manager. Then maybe list the VP of the second department as an additional reference if the application allows it. I would not use our coworker.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            I disagree – I would use the coworker over the VP. My most recent interviewers specifically asked for a coworker – peer or slight seniority – who could speak to my day to day work ethic, interactions with colleagues, etc…that managers aren’t always privy to. I would make sure OP has a couple managers on there and then offer the coworker as a 4th reference since they had both frequent interactions and the longest relationship as well as some kind of review of OP’s work.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              My most recent interviewers specifically asked for a coworker – peer or slight seniority – who could speak to my day to day work ethic, interactions with colleagues, etc…that managers aren’t always privy to.

              I had this same experience early last year when I was interviewing. I thought it was odd at the time – they wanted three references, and none of them could be former supervisors or managers – but the way you described it is what I think they intended.

    2. Mbarr*

      Aww, I’m sorry this happened to you.

      The most important thing is to get references who actually oversaw your work – so your managers. Don’t just rely on friends at the company.

    3. Weekend Please*

      Can you list one from your first role and one from your second role? Overall I don’t think it matters a ton who you pick so long as they weren’t your manager for a particularly short period of time and can speak positively about your work.

    4. Generic Name*

      I’d find at least one former manager who can give you a positive reference. You don’t want all of your references from a former company to be your peers because they can’t evaluate your work in the same way that a manger/supervisor can.

    5. Lora*

      I would go with whoever is going to give you an awesome reference AND oversaw your work the longest.

      Had a place where there were six managers in two years. The one who was my boss the longest does my reference from there.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yes agreed on this. A combination of who oversaw you for the longest time and who will give you a great reference. If it is 1 year vs. 3 months, the time makes a big difference if it is 1 year vs. 10 months, eh, whoevever gives the best reference.

    6. LadyByTheLake*

      No one will usually care — they just want someone who can speak knowledgeably about your abilities — the more current the better. So I don’t know that you’d even need (or want) anyone from the first role unless that role is more directly relevant to the new job you are applying for. The goal with references is to usually to supply three, sometimes five, people who can speak to your work and abilities. It isn’t to supply a contact for every job or role you’ve ever had.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I get that — but even between my two most recent companies I have a plethora of choices so I’m trying to narrow it down. They would all speak highly of me, or I wouldn’t even consider them as references. :)

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

      The one who can best speak to your relevant work. (Not the person who ‘misled’ you all!)

  9. Hello!*

    Good morning everyone. I had written in two weeks ago about my boss offering me a “promotion” to a higher title and he did not bring up compensation, so I was wondering what to do. Well, in case you did not notice the “” around promotion, I talked to my boss about it. He made it abundantly clear that it was not a promotion, but rather a change in title. He asked me to lay out why I should receive a raise and kept interrupting me the entire time and using the B.S. line “well, you’re early in your career.” I suppose why buy the cow when she has been doing the work for the same salary for two years. Then this week I had my vacation time for next week cancelled after it had already been approved. It shouldn’t be about how early I am in my career, but about the work product you’re creating and I had hoped he wouldn’t pull the same reverse ageism stunt that I have heard throughout my professional career. Sorry that I am going on a rant, but this has really affected my mental health and I am struggling.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      In your shoes I’d be updating my resume. At least the better title should be able to help you get more money at your *next* job.

      1. A313*

        Agreed. I received what was called a “lateral promotion” at my first office job (from receptionist to claims clerk). That meant no increase in pay. However, I did learn new things in the claims department and my new title helped me to get a better job maybe a year or a less later. It was a toxic place for many reasons, but it gave me my start in office work and I still laugh at he phrase lateral promotion.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        If it’s just a title change, and no change in the responsibilities nor pay, ask for “CEO” as the new title.

      3. Diahann Carroll*

        That’s what I did the last time a company did that to me. I had a new job within seven months of getting my title change that was deemed a “lateral move” (even though it wasn’t, they just didn’t want to pay me more).

    2. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Why the title change, then? I mean, it’s not a rhetorical question — if it’s not a promotion and there’s no raise, you need him to clarify why the title change. Does it change your work at all? What’s the job description that goes with this new title.
      And yes, definitely time to start looking elsewhere! But until you leave, you need your boss to clarify what impact this title change has on your and your duties and your work load.

      1. Artemesia*

        Been there done that and nothing more aggravating then when they thing they can fob you off with a ‘title change’ and ‘promotion’ and not pay you for the work they want you to do. Be cool. Don’t be in a rush, but start job searching now and only jump when you are confident it is what will help your career trajectory. Don’t let being mad make you rush into something, but absolutely rush into calmly and cooly plotting your next move and doing what is needed to get there. These are tough times to make the move — but not impossible times — and even if you have to wait a few months to seriously make the jump, just knowing you have taken charge of your future will make the current situation easier to bear.

        1. just wait*

          Smiling right now at this — if they cancelled your approved vacation, you can bet they are going to be upset when you leave. And then prepare yourself, “BUT we gave you a promotion!!!!”

      2. Hello!*

        I work for a state trade association and my title was Llama and Moose Specialist while everyone else was at the Director level. So he changed my title to Director of Llamas (even though the part of my job I was actually passionate about was moose) and the reasoning he later gave was to just have consistency of titles across the staff. I have already been doing all of the work of the Director of Llamas for the past two years. In case you didn’t see my initial post about it, my previous boss refused to promote me and was then fired in July and this is now a new boss.

      1. Hello!*

        Yep. I shouldn’t be working as hard as I do and make as little as I do. I have saved the association about $20,000 this past year by doing all of our web design and graphic design in house. If they even applied half of the amount I have saved the association to my salary I would be happy. But please, give my coworker who works 32 hours a week and can’t figure out how to reply all to an email and passes off all of her work onto me a $40,000 ( which is $3,000 less than what I make) a year raise bringing her salary to $130,000

        1. Hello!*

          I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be so salty and it certainly wasn’t right to bring my coworker’s raise into the mix. I just really wish I was valued. At what point does it get better? At what point do they stop dismissing you because of your age? I just feel like an absolute failure. My parents just had to give me a loan because I couldn’t afford a new washer. I just hope this feeling goes away soon.

          1. PollyQ*

            This isn’t a matter of your age, this is a matter of working for a company that’s exploiting you. YOU are not a failure, but you are working for people who are. I think the only thing that’s going to improve the situation for you is to find a new job.

          2. Batgirl*

            It really has nothing to do with you. It’s their failure to properly manage and train. They’re hoping noone is any better or has more to offer you.

          3. CupcakeCounter*

            Unfortunately, most places like this don’t realize the value until you resign. I had a VP like that – my boss spent months trying to get me a title bump and raise because of the work I was doing and it would fly through the management team but as soon as it hit the VP’s desk…crickets.
            When I finally turned in my notice he had the gall to say he never saw anything on his desk about that. Sucks for him that my boss also had a foot out the door and everytime the rejection came through he would give me a copy with included the VP’s signed rejection. Sucks even worse for him that he decided to announce this in a public setting so I quite happily showed proof that he did indeed see them on his desk and repeatedly reject it. My boss knows I have nuclear tendencies so he made sure to let me know that I would have a great reference from him no matter what I did.
            The company I left for gave me really close to what I wanted (which would have been a 25% increase) and just about a year later gave me another 10% because I had exceeded the expectations laid out in the original job description and were adjusting my salary to the market rate. Did that one other time during my 7 years there in addition to the “normal” merit and COL adjustments.

            So basically GTFO because they will never appreciate you no matter what your age.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          That sounds like great points for a resume! Can we presume you’ve started polishing it to send out?

          1. Hello!*

            I brought that up, brought up that I take courses to improve my work and pay for them out of my own pocket, work efficiently, extremely organized, assist everyone in the office when they need help, have taken on additional projects since I started… It just didn’t work. I am trying to work on it, unfortunately I have a huge work project right now and haven’t had any spare time, I’m working about 9 am-Midnight right now. Was hoping to work on it during my vacation time next week which was cancelled. So hoping to work on it during the Thanksgiving holiday and that weekend.

            1. I'm A Little Teapot*

              Don’t. Take your Thanksgiving break. And don’t work while you’re on vacation.

              I think part of your problem is you’re allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. You’re paying for courses that benefit your employer out of your own pocket. You’re working 9-midnight. You’re willing to work during vacation, you’re thinking of working over a holiday. Stop this. When you lay down on the floor and invite people to walk all over you – do not be surprised when they do. Yes, they might be crappy people too, but you are contributing.

              1. Hello!*

                It is definitely an issue. Trust me, I know. I spent $80 on self help books last night to teach me how to say no. The biggest problem is that I am very efficient at work so everyone passes along the admin aspects of their jobs onto me because I’m faster at it. But yes, it’s a problem I’m more than aware of. My boss had previously approved my vacation time for next Monday-Wednesday and then told me I couldn’t this week. I protested but it was futile. I meant I was planning to work on my resume and job search over the actual Thanksgiving holiday, sorry if that wasn’t clear.

                1. TechWorker*

                  It was… but IMO that’s still too much leeway. If you’re working crazy hours and you’re outperforming everyone else then… cut back. Reclaim your evenings and then you might actually have time to work on your resume. (I know this is easier said that done – but Alison has plenty of advice if you search about how to manage an unworkable workload, or to push the choices of what to prioritise back onto your boss).

                2. Hello!*

                  It’s just this one single project, we send out an annual magazine. I am pretty particular when it comes to editing, I like to do it at night when I won’t get disrupted by a random phone call or request. I turn on the fireplace app on my tv, cozy up, and sip hot cocoa. It honestly isn’t too work-like from like 6-12 when I am working on editing. And it has to be sent out before the end of the year so we are in compliance with contracts with our business partners. But it is yet another project that I have been forced to take on without receiving any additional compensation. I am planning on being more strict about my time once I get this project wrapped up. And being more strict about not taking on work from others starting now. I already told my coworker that I would not be submitting the forms to request money from the grant that she administers in 2021. One small leap for everyone, a giant leap for myself.

                3. Mad Harry Crewe*

                  The only person who can make a change here is you. Your employer is showing you, over and over again, that they aren’t going to change and do not value you. Your colleagues are always going to dump their extra work on you if you let them.

                  I agree with TechWorker – look up Allison’s articles about cutting back an unreasonable workload. Start leaving on time (5:30? 6?). If you’re challenged, say “oh, I’ve got something I can’t reschedule this evening – see you tomorrow” as you walk out the door.

                  When someone says “can you help me with this?” start limiting what you’re willing to do. Maybe it’s too much to go straight to “no, sorry” but try “yeah, I’ve got 15 minutes and we can have a look and make sure you know what your next steps are” – be up front and limit your time for other people’s projects. If they say “Oh, but you’ve always been able to do this for me in the past” tell them “I’ve realized I really need to refocus at work and make sure I’m not taking on too many extra projects.”

                4. Mad Harry Crewe*

                  Forgot to add – I believe in you! You can do this, and the life that’s waiting for you on the other side is going to be great. There are employers out there who will value your work – but also, right now, you need to value your own time and protect it, so that you can make the jump and get to that future. Good luck.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              You are working from 9 am to midnight???? so you are working 15 hours a day?

              You know that no one there is going to lay on that gurney in the ER for you, right? You will have to do that yourself. Not snark, I am dead serious. This is NOT sustainable and it WILL ruin your health. Is this company worth dying for??? You could have health issues for decades to come because of what is going on now.

              Stop assisting everyone in the office, pronto. Do only the work that is assigned to you.
              Do not volunteer for projects.
              If you work efficiently and you are extremely organized then LEVERAGE that so that you are down to an eight hour work day. This means backing out of anything that is not necessary for you to do. Since you are working 15 hour days, in my estimation this means 50% of what you are doing can be done by someone else. You are doing the work of at least two people.

              And for goodness sake stop helping that woman who got the raise you should have had. She makes 130k and you make 37 k??? noooooo. Just nooooo.

              Think of it this way, when the doctor says you cannot return to work for six months your boss will have to figure out something now won’t he?! So he can just start figuring it out now, instead.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                This is NOT sustainable and it WILL ruin your health. Is this company worth dying for??? You could have health issues for decades to come because of what is going on now.

                I can attest to this – I’m still dealing with health issues related to the job I had seven years ago (!).

        3. Diahann Carroll*

          But please, give my coworker who works 32 hours a week and can’t figure out how to reply all to an email and passes off all of her work onto me a $40,000 ( which is $3,000 less than what I make) a year raise bringing her salary to $130,000

          It’s definitely time to job search.

  10. Should be not anxious (?)*

    Does anybody else also get anxiety when you get work related emails? I feel an intense anxiety every time the email notification comes in, and reading an instruction from a boss fills me with irrational dread.
    This is despite the fact my boss is a perfectly awesome person who gives me clear instructions and great guidance. I should be happy as BLEEP.

    1. Cendol*

      Oh yes! All the time! And now that I have Outlook with notifications enabled on my phone, work emails are the first thing I look at in the morning. I guess the ensuing adrenaline spike is good for getting me out of bed, sigh.

      I think I feel this way because I was raised to have very high standards (read: develop debilitating perfectionism), and every email represents a new task that I might not perform well (read: fail). Especially since my boss is also an awesome person who I never, ever want to disappoint. It’s been helpful to remind myself that it’s unlikely anyone else’s standards for me are as unreasonable as my own, that no one actually wants me to fail at a work task, and that I can always ask for assistance/guidance if I need it. I also remind myself that if I were actually doing poorly or on the verge of failure, there are stopgaps in place like performance reviews, check-ins, etc., that would let me know.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Can you disable notifications on your phone, or during certain hours? I am confident that there’s nothing at work that needs handling before you’re even out of bed in the morning.

    2. Caroline*

      I do! I find that this year especially, I have an “oh god NOW what?” response to emails much of the time. Very few of them are actually big problems (for me, anyway), but the stress levels are so up there this year.

    3. Web Crawler*

      I don’t get anxiety about this specific thing, but I do have an anxiety disorder. Some thoughts in no particular order:

      1. Stop focusing on “should”. “Should” doesn’t matter. (People shouldn’t be afraid of sharks or planes, but those are still scary.) What matters is that you do feel anxious when you get a work-related email. That’s the reality that you currently live in, and no amount of “I shouldn’t feel this” is gonna make the feeling leave.

      2. Do you know why work emails make you anxious? If you don’t know why, here’s a few questions. In the past, did something bad happen through work emails? What’s the worst case scenario for clicking on a work email?

      4. If you know the cause of your fear, you can create a better response for yourself than “I shouldn’t be feeling this”. Maybe it’s like “New boss is not like oldboss. The emails won’t be angry, I’m meeting all my deadlines, and my job is not at risk. This email will be about routine work matters. And if it’s not, I can talk to my boss because she’s a reasonable person.” Write this down and stick it somewhere that you can read before opening an email.

      3. You can look into deep breathing techniques to reduce the anxiety in the moment. I like the one that’s breathing in for 5 seconds and out for 8. This will calm down your heart rate.

    4. Anonya*

      Frequently, especially during periods of high stress. It’s an anxiety response and it’s worse than ever, due to heightened anxiety due to the pandemic and being a recovering perfectionist and people-pleaser. Every email represents a task that requires peak performance (in my mind, nobody actually expects that from me).

    5. Bree*

      Have you had a bad job before where your boss wasn’t an awesome person? I had a very toxic job over two years ago where e-mail notifications did usually mean bad things, and I *still* haven’t completely reconditioned myself over that dread response, even though I’m in a new and better job now.

    6. voluptuousfire*

      I have a Zoom call for a second interview for a new role today. I’m intrigued by the role and the company culture seems good and the salary is in range (roughly a at least 10% bump off the bat), but not exactly sold. The reason why is that the call I had with the recruiter was very awkward and I didn’t feel like I made the best impression. Nor did the recruiter give me the best impression either since she had me on speaker phone and the call seemed transactional vs. conversational.

      I’m going through with the call because it seems worth it. The one call I did have recently that went very well of course doesn’t quite have the job available yet. They decided to get a head start on interviews ahead of headcount for 2021. Figures! LOL

    7. Mr. Jingles*

      I started a new job in 2018. My first day of work was Christmas eve so I missed the greeting cards an chocolate my company send out to us and since it is a remote job, I didn’t know they even did that. Forward 2019, a big envelope arrived at home from my employer. It had a cardboard back and was slightly thicker than just a letter. It also had a ˋdo not bend´ sticker.
      I had a complete mental breakdown. I couldn’t even open it, my husband had to do it. I was convinced it was my unannounced termination.
      Inside was a thin but high quality chocolate plate, almost the size of a common sheet of paper, printed with edible ink and secured in s snug transparent wrapper. It was my companies edible Christmas card!
      I wonder if your overall work experience was as toxic as mine before I got my recent job.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I am sorry you had a meltdown but I love that gift idea! So much better than a regular stamped card or a notebook!

    8. BetsCounts*

      Oh TOTALLY. I mean, I suppose it depends what you mean by “intense” anxiety- a sense of dread is normal, sweating and heart palpitations probably are not.

    9. Nesprin*

      Yes- there’s a way to setup your email to pull new emails at specific times of day. helps to not have surprises when trying to focus.

    10. Dino*

      I learned that I much prefer self-monitoring my inbox versus having sound alerts or pop up notifications. I realized that they were the thing making me anxious, not the act of reading or responding to emails. YMMV but it helped me recalibrate myself to where email doesn’t cause any stress for me.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      In genuine concern, does it matter what others experience? All that you really need to know is that you get anxious. It might be worthwhile figuring out what you will do to lessen that reaction. I know first hand that telling myself, “I should not be anxious/worried/whatever” only makes me MORE anxious. Knowing that others get anxious helps for, oh, 2 maybe 3 seconds, then I am back to being anxious. It’s more direct to find some action steps to start to tame the beast.

      1) I like to address things that make me tense/anxious/etc right away. If they sit and sit, I do not feel better. I only feel worse.
      2) I am a big fan of affirmations. It might sound silly, but tell yourself something positive. “Oh there’s a new email from the boss. I have done a good job with his other emails so I will do a good job here, again, also.” I know this sounds silly but it MATTERS what we tell ourselves. Craft a positive go-to statement and use it over and over.
      3)Remind yourself that you have a great boss. Even go as far as saying, “I am so grateful for my good boss.” Gratitude is a powerful tool, if we fill up on gratitude we have less space for anxiety.

      Here’s an interesting tidbit: I have supervised a lot of people. I have trained even more than that. Ninety-nine percent of them were nervous. And the reason for that is because they want so badly to do a good job. The other one percent, caused me more worry than we want to talk about. It’s the employees who have no concern that cause the most concern.
      Use your concerns in a healthy manner- use them to help you stay on top of things. Make lists, use post-its, whatever works for you. Keep refreshing that promise to yourself that you are and will always be a good employee. Yes, this matters also. It is hard to see a boss having faith in us, if we are unsure of the faith we have in our own selves. Decide to have some faith in YOU. You deserve it.

  11. Peachy*

    I’ll try to keep this brief, but would really like some input on my current work situation…

    I’ve been at my company for 5 years. I’m currently 25 weeks pregnant. Through lots of conversations and for various reasons, my husband and I have decided that I will give my 2 week notice around January, and be a stay at home mom (I’ll be around 36 weeks on my last day). Even if I wasn’t intending on being a stay at home mom, it would be time to move on from this company soon.

    My workplace has become increasingly toxic, especially over the past year or so. I’ve always received glowing reviews, which I feel like has ultimately made my work life worse over time (my manager Mary, and coworker Bob are both undeniably terrible – everyone in the office has known this for many years. Both have almost gotten fired before, but sudden personnel changes above them both have saved both of them at different times). People joke that they are having an affair (they aren’t), because of the way they cover for each other’s terribleness.

    I’ve been in several different positions within my small office. Most recently, I moved into a regional-ish contract/customer service position. It was made clear that the contract part of my job would be my main responsibility, while the customer service part of my position would be secondary (Bob is the other customer service person, and he only does customer service). I would not have taken the role if it had been a customer service only role. Bob, however, has been absent (“out sick”) over 50 times this year (almost always on a Monday or Friday), which has left me often being the only customer service person. Even when he is here, he ignores difficult emails, smokes 10 times a day, and is overall extremely unhelpful. He is heavily disliked amongst our sales staff who we support.

    Anyway…yesterday, Mary casually strolled over to my desk and said, “hey, I have good news for you! When you come back from maternity leave, you won’t have to do contracts anymore! Corporate has hired a regional contract person (I’m already doing 5 out of 6 branches’ contracts, so it would have made sense for me to take this role, especially since I’m great at, and it’s the main thing I was hired to do!) From now on, I’ll be customer service only. I was so taken aback that this was brought up to me so casually, in an open office, and was NEVER discussed with me prior to this decision being made. My manager proceeded to tell me that corporate asked her if I would be a good fit for the position, and Mary told them “she would be, but that simply won’t work for me. She’s essential to our customer service operations!” Mind you, most branches only HAVE one customer service person. The only reason I’m essential to our customer service operations is because Bob is completely undependable, and Mary knows it. It is only to her benefit to keep me in customer service only.

    This is bizarre, right? Aside from any other details (which I could certainly get into!) it’s completely unprofessional that my manager would so casually deliver this news in an open office without even consulting me first, right?
    I know, you’re probably thinking, “she’s leaving, why does she care?” I guess the reason is because my manager has been so wholly inappropriate and terrible for so many years. My husband is irate on my behalf and thinks I need to write a letter to HR when a resign, just as an “FYI, Mary is terrible for reasons A-Z.” I’m not sure if it’s even worth it at this point, though. I’ve brought up numerous issues with Mary and Bob to HR over the years, and they’ve never done anything about it.

    Our sales reps call me every day and tell me that they’re afraid I’m leaving, because the office “won’t function without [me].” They recently all chipped in to get me a $100 Amazon gift card because of what I deal with with Mary/Bob on a daily basis. I know I’m valued by our sales team, and part of me thinks it’s worth noting to HR when I resign that a huge part of why I’m leaving is because of Mary and Bob. Thoughts?

    1. Amtelope*

      HR isn’t going to do something now if they didn’t do something when you brought up issues before, and it’s not worth potentially burning your reference just to vent. Be glad you’re leaving a dysfunctional workplace! Enjoy knowing that Mary and Bob will be stuck with each other’s terribleness! And move on.

    2. Artemesia*

      I would not slag on Mary but I would let the appropriate people know that you would like to have been considered for the contracts role which is your specialty and that having that portfolio taken and being assigned to customer service which was not what you were hired to do has led to your decision to resign. I would not even relate it to a desire to leave to be a SAHM. An attack on Mary while justified just makes it look like sour grapes — but a ‘I am a contracts administrator and am resigning because I was not considered when that role was being strengthened is why I am leaving’ will reflect on Mary without your having to appear petty.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        This is great – it makes it clear she is leaving because of Mary while not saying a word about Mary.

      2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Exactly.

        The last position I left, I made sure it was well known that the rumor being spread by the resident Slytherin that I hated doing a particular aspect of my job was simply incorrect; in fact, I’d been hired by another firm to do exactly that. It certainly made a lot of folks look a little more at not why I’d left, but why was he lying within our industry as to why I left. I’ve never made so much as a noise that perhaps he may be part of the reason, but my goodness, there must be a mistake to what you’ve heard as I was hired to direct that entire department at new employer.

        (Spoiler: the resident Slytherin was roughly 33.333% of the reason. His immediate boss was the next 33.333%. The remainder was a rough split between a PM who was on a PIP for harassing me but was the heir apparent to the immediate boss, an overall corporate environment that had its head so far up its derrière that they couldn’t understand that you cannot have salaried people punch out to use the rest room, and other dumb corporate behavior.)

    3. Grits McGee*

      I think if HR cares about why you are leaving, then they will ask. If they don’t ask, then I don’t know if I would bother telling. Mary is terrible, Bob is terrible. You know this, HR knows this, your coworkers know this, upper management probably knows this. If it would make you feel better to make a stand on this, it probably won’t hurt you; but, the company is losing you no matter what action they take on Mary and Bob, so you don’t have much leverage to get them to take action.

      1. Peachy*

        Thank you. You’re right, I don’t have much leverage since I’m leaving. Bob and Mary being terrible isn’t a secret, yet they are still here. Probably not worth my time! I appreciate your response.

      2. Artemesia*

        If you complain it seems like sour grapes. Don’t mention your desire to be a SAHM – make the resignation about the redefinition of your role to customer service when you were hired to be a contract administrator. That will make clear Mary’s bad management without your having to say it.

    4. Not A Manager*

      This seems like a great opportunity to be passive-aggressive. “Here’s my two week notice. I’d been considering returning to the office after my parental leave, but since Mary informed me that I’d be moving solely to a customer service role – which really isn’t my career interest or expertise – this seemed like the best time to move on.”

      1. Grits McGee*

        Just be prepared to have an answer if they try to make a counter offer*- whether that’s offering you a different job, promising to fire Mary, doubling your salary, etc

        *In this case, not against another job offer, but the prospect of a toxic workplace-free life

    5. Ashley*

      Honestly I would be tempted to go on FMLA and use any and all benefits and not return but you get to string them along in the process. If you did know someone in corporate I might try and use my network to keep the contract or get the contract work but that isn’t worth it if there is no way you want to stay.

      1. JustaTech*

        I would go on FLMA and use all the benefits *because you’ve earned them* and then quit. not to be petty and not to string them along, but to get what you’ve earned.

        If everyone at your company were lovely and reasonable and your husband has good insurance then I wouldn’t suggest this. But they forfeited the right to a normal notice period when they treated you terribly the whole time. And since they want to change your job anyway, it’s not like they’re depending on your expertise.

        1. Peachy*

          So, actually…that was my plan initially (which, to be clear, I’d never do in normal circumstances had this company not take advantage of me over the last 5 years). So, I was going to take my 7 weeks of leave (1 week parental at 100%, 6 weeks FMLA at 60%) and then give my notice right after.

          However, the hospital that I’m giving birth at is HIGHLY recommending all patients quarantine 2 weeks before their due date (and hopefully don’t go early), to avoid any positive Covid tests. I emailed HR about working from home during that time (giving them essentially a 3+ month notice), and CC’ed my manager, Mary. HR got back with my quickly saying that could certainly be arranged, no problem (which I knew – many people from our company work from home, including my manager often, but Mary has always pushed back against ME working from home, even during the shutdown back in March/April. Unfortunately, we are considered essential because of some of the Covid-related products we manufacture). HR indicated that Mary “would just have to approve me working from home” during that time.

          I didn’t hear anything from Mary for several days. When she finally got back with me, she said that she would have to think about it, and it may be several months before she could make a decision because she’s “busy with other stuff.” She stated that she “wouldn’t want to be unfair to Bob” by allowing me to work from home, but not him (as if it’s a matter of fairness – I’m literally just trying to follow my doctor/hospital’s direction). She also mentioned that I could just use vacation time (I only get 2 weeks all year. So, if I had planned on staying on after giving birth, I would essentially have no vacation left the remainder of the year. However, knowing that I was going to leave after maternity leave, I knew I’d have to pay some of that money back since our accrual time works off of a calendar year, and time off is accrued per paycheck.) I was extremely frustrated with her ridiculous (but not surprising) response, especially when HR had made it clear that they had no problem with me working from home. After that interaction, my husband and I both decided that it would be better for me to simply resign a month prior to my due date. That way, I wouldn’t have to deal with the stress of my manager being wishy washy, and not knowing whether I was going to be forced to go into the office up until birth.

          1. learnedthehardway*

            Don’t give up benefits that you’re entitled to have. And don’t let Mary push you around wrt not being able to work at home, when your MEDICAL team has required you to self-isolate for 14 days before you deliver. I would loop HR in on this, and force the issue. Get a note from the hospital or your doctor, if you need to, and present it as a claim to accommodations based on medical needs.

            Honestly, you have nothing to lose here – you’re planning to leave, in any case – and you have all the benefits (TO WHICH YOU ARE ENTITLED) to gain. You don’t get all that many benefits in the US, but you should get everything you’ve worked for.

          2. Double A*

            No no no! You have other options. Pregnancy coverage is covered under disability. That disability generally can start up to a month before your due date. Talk to your doctor about this! If you HR is not totally useless, talk to them. Mary does not know what she is talking about. She doesn’t get to decide this stuff.

            DO NOT give up benefits you have earned!

          3. Not So NewReader*

            Mary wants to play this game then go ahead and pull out that card up your sleeve. Get the doctor’s note showing that you have no choice you must go home for two weeks.

          4. Starling*

            It sucks to leave benefits on the table, but as a mom of 2, I love the idea of a clean break a month before you’re due. Sleep in, take long showers, eat ice cream. Just be don’t with that nonsense and focus on your new life! Save yourself the stress!

    6. Malarkey01*

      This stinks, but I agree with others that a letter could do more damage to you, than help the situation.

      On another note, congrats! As much as they all stink, you have a countdown to leaving and can just internally roll your eyes and go back to writing transition instructions or whatever else to fill your time. Writing policies and checklists for my maternity leave was the best activity for dealing with work annoyances!

    7. Batgirl*

      I don’t think you’ll have to be too blunt. People will know why! Everybody is so amazed that you stay and put up with them, that they’re trying to bribe you with Amazon gift cards (which sounds cheap but I was once bribed to stay in a terrible job with bacon sandwiches, so you got me beat).
      The merest hint from you will confirm what they already know: “My job role is changing, so it’s a good exit point” or “I could see myself going back to something like my old job” etc

      1. Peachy*

        Hahaha, I’m dying at the thought of you being bribed to stay in a terrible job with bacon sandwiches.

        1. Batgirl*

          In a world where actions speak louder than words, it was a piss poor move, (“What helps morale? I know! Bacon!”). The strongest workplace message (from a great employee) is always “I quit”; there are no words that can improve that. Except maybe a few innocent words asking them what their plan is now. Honestly, they will be clutching at your ankles, asking why hast thou forsaken them…. but that reflection is really their job, not yours.

    8. Mr. Jingles*

      Your resignation will be a big slap in their face anyway and without bashing Mary you can honestly tell them in your exit interview that you don’t want to work CS and was hired to do contracts and that was what you wanted to do. It isn’t your main reason but it is good for HR to know that even if you where not leaving due to maternity, you would leave for that. People like Mary only care for their comfort. Telling HR that you’d leave for not being consulted before given a job contrary to your job description you wouldn’t have agreed to will show them how bad that is and how annoying in the long run. They can easily deduct from that how silly Maryˋs behaviour is. If not they’re not worth it.

      1. Peachy*

        Thank you, very thoughtful response!

        Your comment of, “people like Mary only care for their comfort” could not be MORE on point!

    9. Double A*

      Honestly… if I were you I would find this delightful. You had already planned to leave, and you will be leaving them in a terrible position which they put themselves in due to their own terribleness! I am like, cackling at how this will come back to bite them.

      Do they offer you paid leave at all? I would take it, and then resign a few days before you’re supposed to come back. Honestly, even if they don’t offer paid leave, but you’re out on FMLA and getting benefits, I would do the same thing. You can show them the exact same consideration they showed you.

      Talking to HR is neither here no there. You can, but who cares. This won’t be your circus, so for now just enjoy the monkeys knowing soon they will not be your monkeys.

      1. Peachy*

        Honestly, there is a part of me that is internally cackling because I know they’re going to be totally screwed when I leave, lol.

        I do get paid leave, but had recently decided not to use it due to another “poor management by Mary” situation (you can see the details in my response to Ashley a few comments up).

        Now, ya’ll are making me think I should still find a way to use that paid leave, instead of letting Mary yet again dictate my decisions!

        1. Hillary*

          please yes. Your doctor might even write a note for this – I’m not sure how avoiding COVID by quarantining for the last two weeks would be any different than bed rest. Lots of people start their leave before the birth.

          You’ve earned this benefit and should take it. And if your manager is making it difficult HR *should* step in.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I vote for seeing if it makes sense to take whatever vacation hours you currently have before your due date, then having your doctor write a note for “home rest to prevent exposure” or similar until you give birth*, take your leave, and then give notice. Also I don’t know if you are insured through your job but that could be a factor too.

          * With my first, I didn’t give birth until 10 days’ past the due date. I started working from home full time on my due date because home was much closer to the hospital than work and my manager was a completely reasonable and supportive person. It’s a hard thing to plan for in any situation, much less in a pandemic and dealing with a ridiculous manager, so whatever makes it easiest for you.

          Good luck!

        3. Double A*

          Oh, also, do you have any short term disability insurance? Either private or does your company pay into state insurance? Because that will have very clear guidelines about when you can be put out on medical leave for pregnancy (in California, it’s 4 weeks before your due date).

        4. Not So NewReader*

          I am def in favor of following up on your paid leave. I favor this over writing that letter- I think this is the best use of your time as it puts coin in your pocket. I am thinking that this is a group of people who do not understand “letters” but they sure understand “checks”. You will communicate MORE to them by letting them pay you than you will ever communicate in any letter.

    10. Choggy*

      Yup, in a situation like this, it’s best to just move on because nothing is going to change and the fact that your manager is gaslighting you with a smile is truly beyond the pale. I too work with a Bob, and if it was not for my new manager, nothing would have changed. My Bob has been demoted to primary phone answering and first level support (though he’s in his 50s with years of experience, but he does the least amount to just squeak by and has also taken lots of time (including FMLA) out of the office), and I have been elevated to third tier and most of my work is technical administration and projects. There are three tier 2 staff who put a nice buffer in between us. What is unfortunate in your situation is, when you leave, they are just going to hire someone else to take on the customer service role so Mary and Bob can continue to be their useless selves. Real change takes courage which is severely lacking in corporate America.

  12. Stay-at-home grandchild*

    I’m planning to move across the country and temporarily withdraw from the paid-work world to care for an aging relative. I would love to hear experiences/advice from anyone who has pivoted mid-career into unpaid domestic work. I’m not terribly concerned about the career gap, as I don’t have a very high level/pay job currently, and I wouldn’t mind starting back at a lower level if needed. It just feels weird to follow my gut instead of what I’ve been trained by society to consider success., and I’m seeking solidarity from folks who have been here.

    1. caseykay68*

      Depending on where you live, your relative might qualify for a benefit that would pay you for their care. In california it is IHSS (In Home Supportive Services). Different states may have different programs. It’s something to look into.

      1. Anna Vine*

        Hi, I’ve never experienced this so please feel free to disregard my comment, but I work for a non profit which works to help people living with dementia, and as such I speak to a lot of people (of all ages) who care for aging relatives with the condition. I think you are doing such important necessary work (and it absolutely is work, even if our society does not properly value it as such). It may be seen as a career gap in your resume, but delivering good care to someone who needs it is a ‘success’ even if it doesnt feel that way. I wish you all the best and hope you can get the support you need.

    2. PhyllisB*

      Years ago I had to take a 6 month break to care for an ill relative. I just noted that on my resume and no one ever made a comment.

    3. Alice*

      I’ve been able to balance eldercare with my work because of great organizational culture, so it’s a different situation than yours. I’ll be thinking of you! And I hope that you can set things up so that you get regular respite too. Caregiving is a full time job, and full time jobs should come with PTO! It’s a joke but it’s not *just* a joke….

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Not a joke at all! Respite care is an important part of long term caregiving. There might be programs that help with that, or you can hire someone directly, or get other family to help out, but regular breaks from round the clock work is essential if you’re not going to burn out.

    4. Stephanie*

      I have no experience with this, but I will say that I admire you. Family over Job. Best wishes to you and your relative.

    5. Campfire Raccoon*

      I’ve been there a few times. Once for babies, once for foster kiddos, twice for aging relatives. There were times I felt undervalued as a SAHM/caregiver – but professionally speaking, no one has ever blinked twice at the gaps in my resume. It’s a common enough occurrence, and dealing with the legal/administrative side of elderly care is a skill a good manager will recognize as valuable.

      Not all steps down are steps back. Sometimes it’s just a jump to the left, and the a step to the right. You put your hands on your hips, because you’ll do alright.

    6. Student*

      Make sure you know what your arrangement with your relative is, how you’ll cover your living expenses, etc. I don’t know if you plan to live off your own savings or have something arranged with the relative to cover your needs.

      If you’ll be dependent on your relative for financial assistance or basic needs, make sure you’ve got an agreement in writing that lays out how this will work. I know you called it unpaid – but are you getting housing, food, vehicle, etc. out of the arrangement in lieu of a salary? Even if you trust your relative completely, this is the kind of arrangement that will bring out the greed monster in lots of families; you may find yourself fending off other, threatened relatives who think you’re subverting “their” inheritance (even if no money or material goods are changing hands at all).

      Last, you’ll find it hard to get back into paid work, depending on how long this arrangement lasts. You might consider searching for a part-time job, depending on your relative’s exact needs. It’ll help you maintain a work history to ease a transition back to regular life later. I know that’s easier said than done, but if you can swing it, it’ll keep your options open.

      This is from experience watching my brother go through this kind of arrangement with our parents, and my family’s seemingly eternal internal squabbles over money and control.

    7. Malika*

      Try to freelance once a week, or even volunteer, if you can, that is seen as valuable work experience and papers over the gap. Having said that, i have been job seeking and as i had no desire to go back to being an admin, i pivoted to customer service roles. I have received two offers, even though i have cared for a relative and been ham stringed by pandemic, with a two year gap as a result. So returning to work is doable.

    8. Rana*

      I haven’t done it but one thing I’ve noticed from people who have – if there is any kind of informal arrangement that you will get a larger share of the relative’s assets in exchange for your care, make sure to put that in writing (maybe you get to keep the house, or what have you). Once a person passes (and sorry to jump straight there! hopefully you have as many good years as you desire between now and then) it can be hard to collect on your expectations if it wasn’t made an explicit part of the will or other legal document. Even if you get right back into your career, that’s x years of unpaid labor that you may want to be compensated for in some way by the estate if your relative has any assets.

      Otherwise – go forth with as much joy as the situation allows! As with so much in life, don’t let others’ definitions of success dictate your own definitions. Easier said than done, of course, but give yourself the gift of agency – this is a choice you are making because it works for you on some level, so don’t feel you constantly need to justify it to fit into someone else’s framework.

    9. Jules the 3rd*

      I know two friends who have done this, and two cousins. If it matters, the two friends are male, the cousins are female, sisters to each other. I think the world of all of them, but I worry about one’s ongoing career. There should be support groups and caregiver respite opportunities, take them!!! They seem to be the difference between enduring and enjoying.

      – The cousins were nurses, and just needed to keep up their learning hours to head back into jobs. They each took a year or two to take care of their grandmother (not the one we shared, the other one).
      – 1 friend, college degree + solid career, caring for two parents (one active, one with severe dementia) and a mostly bed-bound 30ish yo woman on disability with a degenerative disease. He expects a 10-yr ish interruption, and hopes to go back without too much trouble.
      – 1 friend, college degree + irregular career. His mom died just this summer, and I’m worried about him. He did spend the fall working on a local political campaign, which I think helped him cope, but not being able to see people in person has been extra hard on him.

    10. Retired worker bee*

      Many years ago, I gave up my job, which was the best one I ever had, in order to move into my father’s house and take care of him. I took care of him for years. There was no discussion about his paying me. He didn’t have any money. After he died, it was time for me to find a job. It was difficult for me to find a company willing to hire me, who had been out of work for years, instead of hiring someone who hadn’t been out of work for years. I always explained in my cover letter the reason why I had taken so much time off from work. When most companies called me, they asked me why I had taken so much time off. I would answer them, and then say that I had explained it in my cover letter. They always said that they never read cover letters.

      I was finally offered a job. The woman who offered me the job said that if I hadn’t explained in my cover letter why I had been unemployed for so many years, she wouldn’t have called me for an interview.

      Unfortunately, the company went out of business after less than one year later. I tried to find another job, but I didn’t have any luck. So I decided to retire and collect Social Security. Every time I get my Social Security payment, I realize how much more it would have been if I hadn’t quit the best job I ever had and had continued to work there all those years. In addition, that company had a pension plan, but I quit before I was vested, so I received nothing. I left a lot of money on the table by quitting that job, not just because of fewer years working and forfeiting a pension, but by collecting Social Security at the age of 62, instead of years later when I could have received my full benefit at the age of 66. If I had worked after I turned 66, I would have wound up collecting even more.

      Think about it carefully. I hope it works out for you.

  13. Courser Bee Honey*

    How do I stop being anxious about having free time in work? Sometimes I get a few hours lull when I finished one task and the boss hasn’t given instructions for a new one. Instead of enjoying it, I keep feeling a dread that I must have forgotten to do something. Anybody know how to stop having irrational fear of the unknown?

    1. Working Too Fast*

      I am a very fast worker and have always had this problem. Early in my career I accidentally turned a full-time job into a part-time job when the company realized I worked faster than the previous person.

      The first thing I would say is to talk to your boss. Ask if they are happy with the quality and quantity of your work. Mention that you have found yourself with some free time and ask what else you could be doing.

      If that doesn’t pan out, is there work you can help your team with? Is there training you can be doing? What is the company culture like? If you are in an office, don’t be too obvious about your free time and don’t be disruptive to other people. If you are working from home, this probably won’t be a problem at all unless your company has some kind of obnoxious monitoring software. My partner working from home right now, and as long as they meet all their metrics, the company hasn’t care what she does during office hours.

    2. Pascall*

      I would say to talk to your boss about it! Ask what they recommend for when you have some down time. I think it may help to know if they are okay with you having that down time (to browse the net, read a book, work on personal things, or work on smaller, longer side projects, etc.) or if there’s something they’d like for you to default to when things are light.

      I’ve got a lot of down time in my current job too and it sometimes makes me worry. But when I ask and they have nothing for me to do, it puts me at ease when they reassure me that it’s okay to have that downtime.

      Communicate with your boss and maybe even your peers to see what their usual go-to is when they don’t have much to do. Figure out what’s allowed and what isn’t and go from there.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      “Look busy” is what I try to do. Make up something if you have to or at least look like you are working.

    4. Ashley*

      I try and use those breaks to organize and clean anything and everything. (Note don’t really clean where people can see you so you don’t get the task to cleaning the break room on a regular basis.) I sort through any paper files and will even rearrange electronic files, tag/ filter emails better, etc. Depending on the job and co-workers you need to look busy.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Sometimes it’s more about restlessness and hating to be bored. Sometimes it’s a well-founded dread because I do have difficulty with forgetting tasks.

      One thing that helps a lot is to make a list of all ongoing tasks/projects, so I can use that down time to check in and see if there’s a way to move the ball forward on them. I also add “downtime” tasks to that list, things I can do to eliminate backlog, get ahead or make things quicker and easier in the future.

      Even planning such a list is a useful thing to do with your time!

    6. Batgirl*

      I don’t think you’ll have to be too blunt. People will know why! Everybody is so amazed that you stay and put up with them, that they’re trying to bribe you with Amazon gift cards (which sounds cheap but I was once bribed to stay in a terrible job with bacon sandwiches, so you got me beat).
      The merest hint from you will confirm what they already know: “My job role is changing, so it’s a good exit point” or “I could see myself going back to something like my old job” etc.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Are you supposed to wait or are you supposed to ask right away when you run out of work?

      I guess I would ask the boss what s/he wants me to do while I wait.
      As far as the dread, go over your work a second time, double check yourself.

  14. Orange Crushed*

    My boss will talk over me and really only listens when she asks a question ( and even then she sometimes cuts me off half way when she thinks she has her answer). It’s not just me, she does this to her assistant as well sometimes, but more so with me. What can I do to stop this? I’d like to nip it in the bud but I’m a bit lost on this one…

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Your boss may be rude, but it’s also likely that she’s busy. She may interrupt when she feels you’re not getting to the point fast enough, or that whatever you’re talking about isn’t a priority. Try to be more concise and impactful. And practice a few scripts for responding to the interruption, like “Oh that’s a good point. As I was saying….” or “One more thing before we switch topics….”

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

      You can’t really change your boss’ behavior, only your own, so what to do is accept that she’s going to only listen when SHE has a question, and stop listening when her question is answered to her satisfaction. You will probably need to have YOUR questions answered or field your concerns with someone else in the org.

  15. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    It’s the end of the month again and I’m really suffering. I worked til 9 last night and didn’t get what I needed done. Next week is 3 days so I have to crunch all my home visits into 3 days and get all the paperwork in. Looks like I’m working til 9 this whole week….
    Even worse, I’ve gotten a headache and a sore throat and I’m wondering if I should get tested for COVID. Do I have to quarantine if I get tested?

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      You need to quarantine until you get your test results if you are being tested because you have symptoms (which you are) or because you need those test results to be valid going forward a period of time (so you do not get exposed in Starbucks after the test, but tell everyone you are negative.) But if you’re being tested as part of routine surveillance (say, work tests you weekly) you do not.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I don’t think you “have” to quarantine if you get tested … until you get results that tell you to. But if you’re concerned that you could be positive, I’d say isolate/test/and call in sick.

      And cut yourself a break. Be accurate with the paperwork, but don’t go above and beyond.

      Hugs. You’ve got this, and there will be pie on Thursday.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        It’s just that’s there’s so much of it. I have ten children and every child has at least ten pieces of paperwork to do.

      2. WellRed*

        I signed up to be tested today and it says to isolate until you get results. It makes no sense to get tested and then go out and a. expose others if you are positive or b. expose yourself while you wait for results and the have a false sense of security.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          If you’re testing because you have symptoms, or because of a close exposure (like a household member is positive), you should definitely isolate until you have results, because people are the most contagious early in the course of the disease, and you could be spreading it. By the time you get the test results, if you’re out and about, you could have infected many more people, and are likely past the most infectious period.

    3. Teapot Librarian*

      1. Feel better.
      2. If you have symptoms, you should self-quarantine regardless of whether you get a test. Getting a test means that you can stop quarantining if the result is negative.
      2a. It sounds like you shouldn’t be making home visits right now. I hope your employer understands the pandemic.

        1. Alice*

          Good luck with the boss and the test.
          And look, it may be sudden in that it’s unexpected that you in particular can’t work on these days in particular. But if your boss hasn’t been planning for people to call out because of exposure, symptoms, or confirmed cases, what have they been doing for the last six months?

        2. Nanc*

          FYI–I had to go Monday for the test after calling our local COVID-19 screening hotline. I had the results in a few hours and I’m in a small town/rural area. I went to the county seat to the drive up site. I’m still sick with something and have been working from home but I feel better mentally/emotionally. Don’t screw around with this! It’s not just you, it’s your clients, medical staff who may have to care for you, family, friends, coworkers who will be impacted.
          You would encourage anyone you know having theses symptoms to get tested, right? You are every bit as important. Go forth, be tested, isolate, feel better.

        3. Ashley*

          I believe most states consider if you get COVID you got it at work which can make it a workers comp claim limiting your medical costs at least.
          Err on the side of everyone’s safety and quarantine for now.

    4. Mbarr*

      Not sure if the rules at the same across countries, but in Ontario, you have to isolate till you get your test results at least. (And then ostensibly you should still isolate for 14 days in case it was a false negative.)

    5. Weekend Please*

      The best thing to do would be to consult with a doctor and let them make the call. Headache and sore throat with no associated fever, cough, fatigue or loss of taste or smell may not lead them to recommend testing or quarantine. Make a Telehealth appointment, follow their recommendations and then rest easy that you are doing the best you can to keep everyone safe.

    6. Alice*

      If I were receiving your home visits, I would not want to welcome you in to my house with a headache and sore throat. And if I were a client of an agency that allows you to keep visiting people with symptoms and no convincing alternative explanation, I would want to switch agencies.
      When I had an unexplained headache and sore throat, I quarantined, including staying away from my housemate. I’m grateful that I had the space, that I could WFH, and that my local government has provided pretty accessible testing. All that allowed me to quarantine and protect others.
      I think you should quarantine, with or without the test. If your life circumstances don’t allow that, then it’s really a sad situation.
      I hope your worklife gets better and that you don’t actually have COVID or any other illness.

    7. Llama face!*

      A lot of other people have given good advice. I’ll just add one thing in regard to testing: If you test and come back negative, you may still be required to self-isolate until you’ve been symptom free for 48 hours. This is a failsafe in case your test results were a false negative. It depends on your local rules of course; I just wanted to mention it as a thing to check on with your local testing officials.
      Hope you feel better soon and can get some relief from your heavy workload!

    8. RagingADHD*

      Unless you normally get headache/sore throat from things like allergies and postnasal drip, I’d certainly call off sick from home visits and get tested with those symptoms. Even if it isn’t COVID, there’s also strep throat going around, and everything else that goes around in a normal fall/winter.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        It can also be stress – stress can cause headaches and sore throats. Still, OP should self-isolate just to be safe.

    9. Paris Geller*

      Please do get tested and quarantine. I had covid in July and it started with exactly those symptoms: headache and a sore throat. I never had a fever and just barely had a cough. Just wanted to throw that out there because I’ve seen people say things like, “I have a sore throat but no cough so I don’t think it’s covid. . . ” I know that by now most of us “know” that covid can present in many different ways, but it’s easy to rationalize yourself out of thinking you need to get tested when you’re the one sick!

    10. Student*

      Go to the CDC website. They have a quiz you can go through to figure out whether your symptoms are something you should consult a doctor about. Your doctor can help you figure out if a COVID test is appropriate.

      Please quarantine if you think you may have COVID, until you can get your test results in. I’m sure you’d feel terrible if you accidentally gave a deadly disease to someone else.

    11. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I decided to get tested Sunday which is gonna mess up my week. I might have to call out Monday or until I get my results.

    12. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Even if it’s not COVID, your body is over-worked and is trying to tell you that. I hope you can find a way to push back on the unreasonable hours (even if not for next week, but to have a plan for how you’ll have this conversation with your management soon).

  16. Anon pour ce poste*

    Thank goodness my 1:1s with my manager don’t include video. I’m Canadian (in Canada), he’s American (in the US). (He inherited me from a reorg back in July.) At our last few meetings, he’s made some comments that have me going, “Woooow”
    – After the election, he complained about some of the so called voting fraud conspiracies (enough that I assume he’s a Trump supporter)
    – He complained about his son’s insistence on wearing a mask, and commented, “Ugh, he’s so brainwashed” (he’s in a state with high rates of transmission)
    – When talking about employee dissatisfaction with salary transparency, he proclaimed, “No one’s every happy with their salary. If people have a problem, they should do their research and talk to their manager, or they should just quit.” Needless to say, I did wax poetic about all the reasons why salary transparency a good thing.

    After all this, I’m practicing using a pleasant tone of voice and smiling and nodding, even as I internally scream.

    1. Moi*

      Your manager has different opinions than you (and me). So what. So do lots of people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If he was trying to push you to vote Trump, stop wearing masks etc. It would be different.

      1. Easily Amused*

        If her job doesn’t involve the election or the pros/cons of wearing a mask, these topics shouldn’t come up in a 1 on 1.

  17. OyHiOh*

    Hey hey hey! Add Colorado to the list of states requiring salary transparency! Effective Jan 1,

    Equal Pay: The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which aimed to address pay disparity for women and people of color, got some new rules, though not everything in the law was addressed. The division focused on the wage transparency in this round of rule making. That includes:
    Job postings must include hourly wage or pay range, plus bonuses and benefits, so applicants know the wages of the published job.
    An employer can still pay more or less than the posted range if the published range was in “good faith” by the employer’s reasonable estimate at the time.
    Employees can file a civil suit against the employer but also file a complaint or appeal to the Division.
    Scott Moss, director of the Division of Labor Standards, said that rule making for other parts of the Equal Pay law have not been addressed but the division is looking into whether those are in its authority. Some of those law changes include forbidding employers to ask about salary history (which was cited as a reason why some workers are stuck at lower starting pay) and requiring employers to keep records.
    But those things are part of the statute, he added.
    “The statute is binding and doesn’t need rules to be in effect,” Moss said. “The statute itself says that complaints can be filed with the division for any of the compensation and job posting or promotion posting or record keeping requirements. And the statute then says that we investigate and enforce, and that includes authority to issue fines for violations.”

    So that’s that. Part of NewJob involves keeping our regional business community up to date on changes and opportunities. Our small business owners are going to make a good faith effort but I expect they’ll struggle to do right by the new rules – especially the part about not asking about salary history. It’s such an ingrained habit.

    1. Generic Name*

      This should be interesting, since I’ve known for a while that a (male) coworker on my team makes more than me (female), even though he has less experience in the industry, has less education than I have, less seniority at the company, and has less expertise and knowledge than I do.

  18. Loopy*

    I am the only person at my small company opting out of the Thanksgiving potluck due to covid concerns. Everyone’s been VERY kind and understanding, but it has still left me feeling terribly left out of joyful camraderie and out of sync with company culture since everyone else opted in.

    I could use encouragement that others have had to make similar work choices specifically around optional holiday fun and it’s all ultimately been fine. I’m sad to miss out on a perk and fun that everyone else is getting to have but also know I’m making the safer decision.

    1. Cautious Employee*

      I’ve opted out of two work celebrations involving lunch. I’m guessing we won’t have our usual Holiday Potluck because of rising cases in our area but I will be opting out of that one as well if we do.
      It’s been fine to opt out, but honestly I don’t care if it’s not. Not having group gathering is the right call.

      1. Loopy*

        I really adore my coworkers and it was very hard to pass even though I agree group gatherings are not a good idea right now. I wish it were easier to pass but I know I would have had a great time if it wasn’t covid year.

    2. Sled dog mama*

      I too have had to opt out of a work celebration. It sucks. I really wanted to go but the idea of being in a single room with the people same people I share a building with every day was a little much this year.
      I have also had to opt out of family celebrations due to family not taking precautions. I am truly in awe that MIL/FIL, BIL/SIL and their kids are still healthy with how cavalier they have been about mask wearing. And avoiding crowds, forget it. FIL did finally have a doctor bring the hammer down on him about not taking precautions and he is getting more serious so that knowledge has help me feel like I’m making the best decision for my health.

      1. Filosofickle*

        What you said about your family not getting it despite being cavalier is something that is leading people to take it less and less seriously even as numbers go up. LOTS of people are doing whatever and not getting sick. Statistically, most people don’t get it. (I read it’s 1 in 100, in hot spots?) Personally I take it seriously — for me and my community — and am being very careful regardless. It’s the right thing to do. But I can see where their experiences reinforce their beliefs: they’ve been ignoring the guidelines and nothing bad has happened, so it can’t be that dangerous. And that’s a reason why we can’t get this under control.

        1. TechWorker*

          Also some people are asymptomatic! So they never know they have it but might still be passing it on.

          1. Filosofickle*

            That’s one of the things that keeps me on the straight and narrow! I do not want that on my conscience. (That, and memories of single bouts of mono and bronchitis screwing up my health for YEARS.)

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Well, at least you can say “told you so” when they all catch COVID.

      Sorry, that was snarky. But seriously, you’re making the right call. Take their kindness and understanding at face value, and try to look for other, virtual ways to connect with your team.

        1. Loopy*

          I appreciate the confirmation it’s the right decision. It’s probably about 15-20 people so I waffled because no one else hesitated.

          1. PollyQ*

            People are being a horrible combination of crazy & stupid about COVID precautions. You are absolutely doing the right thing for yourself, the people you’re close to, and all the people in your community.

    4. EnfysNest*

      My coworkers keep going out for lunch and having retirement happy hours and such, so for the last several months I have definitely been frustrated there and trying to walk a line of showing up briefly in my mask but not staying / taking my food to go, but at this point I’m done even trying. I’m so mad that they keep hanging out without masks even though they 100% know better (we work for a medical facility and we have to wear masks at all times at work unless we are in our private offices, so it’s not like they’re not used to it by now!!!).

      And I’m dealing with it outside of work, too. My Bible study group just had a “Friendsgiving” potluck earlier this week, and most of them have been highly resistant to wearing masks, despite a county ordinance. When I was unsuccessful at persuading anyone else that the event shouldn’t happen at all, I volunteered in our group chat to come “help” move the tables to the county-required spacing (knowing that no one else would have done it otherwise). So I got the tables set up, left the cookies that I’d gone ahead and made for them (separated into baggies of 3 each), stayed a few minutes to say hello as the others started arriving, and then left before anyone started eating. I know there’s a good chance they still got close to each other with masks off, but I did everything I could to encourage them to be safe. But I’m really sad we couldn’t have done something like a Zoom call while we all ate from home so that I would have been able to join in and no one would have been put at risk to begin with.

      You’re definitely not alone in feeling like you’re missing out on fun events. It’s so painful to see others going about business as normal while we’re the ones losing out by trying to protect *them*. It has put a huge strain on both my work relationships in terms of how I view my coworkers and in my personal relationships with my friends. It really stinks.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      Where on earth are you located that your office is doing a Thanksgiving potluck!!?!?!?

      I’m serious. Where are you?

      I saw online a statement that I very much agree with: we are at the Zombie Apocalypse stage of this thing in the USA. Meaning, people are starting to lie about being infected/testing positive so that they can go out do fun things like THANKSGIVING POTLUCKS DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC WITH SPIKING INFECTION AND HOSPITALIZATION RATES.

      Easy for me to scream: I’m in NYC where we’re treating 3% positivity rates out of 150K+ daily testing as a freaking emergency. Some places are watching their neighbors drop dead with a shrug and casserole.

      Yes, you’re out of sync. Good. Do not sync up with crazy people.

      1. Loopy*

        It’s in an area where covid reactions are mixed. It’s a small office like probably less than 20 people in a very large room. I think most people feel it can be done with social distancing so in a safe manner per guidelines, but I was just way too nervous to even chance it feeling too crowded. I don’t want to bash my workplace because it is a smaller group in a larger space.

        1. cmcinnyc*

          Every person who comes to an in-person workplace then goes home, often to a family or roommates, certainly to a larger neighborhood/community (apartment building, grocery store, etc.). I think work gatherings are the LEAST safe because unless your workplace has been aggressive in “podding up” a la the NBA or a film shoot, it’s a real vector. Your coworkers are almost certainly wrong that this can be done safely. Fingers crossed that no one gets sick.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          *I* want to bash your workplace. 20 people for an extended indoor dinner (eating, without masks, wandering around) is simply not safe in areas with increasing infection, even in a largish room. It’s less unsafe than, say, a group orgy, but it’s not even remotely close to a reasonable idea.

    6. Ashley*

      My goal is skipping the holiday with the family this year so we are all alive to celebrate it next year. Fingers crossed we get things a little more under control for Christmas.

    7. Malarkey01*

      I’m just internally screaming here (actually I let out one louder ARRGH). I don’t know where you are located OP, but you absolutely made the right call. Social meetings where food is shared is one of the riskiest behaviors (I guess you can bob for apples if you really want to cliff jump on this virus). Health care providers are on the front lines BEGGING people to please stop any and all unnecessary contact.

      It’s really hard sometimes to stand up and do the right thing when everyone else thinks you’re overreacting, but just like it’s critical not to get in a car with someone drinking and driving who says they are fine, don’t go allow with the CoVid super spreader events.

    8. Double A*

      People are not even supposed to see family this year. No way they should be gathering with coworkers. You are the only person being responsible.

    9. Laura H.*

      This goes both ways- for those who are laxer and stricter: You know your comfort level with how far you want to risk. You’re making the safer choice for you. Nothing to be sorry about there. :)

    10. CupcakeCounter*

      Wow…I can’t believe anyplace is having a potluck right now. My husband’s workplace (essential) has a ban on shared food and my office has banned potlucks and all food that is brought in for meetings are in “boxed lunch” format. They even did personal pizzas for the manufacturing line that won the monthly safety contest (which pisses a few people off because a personal pizza is way less food than they used to get but costs more).

    11. A Person*

      I can’t give you work encouragement since my company is 100% remote, but have definitely been having difficulties with decisions around getting together.

      We live in a part of the country where things are going up but not too much and we’re STILL not seeing my mom (who lives alone) for Thanksgiving. Fortunately she lives near me so I can safely see her outside / socially distanced and maybe exchange some food. It was a hard decision and I could totally understand someone wanting to do something small with family!

      All these larger get togethers just seem crazy to me.

    12. Quinalla*

      We are only having virtual work events, but I’ve certainly opted out of family Thanksgiving & Christmas even though all (but maybe one – he’s leaving it open either way right now) of my three siblings and their kids will still be attending. It sucks being the debbie downer, but mostly I upset with them for not being safe :(

  19. Environmental Compliance*

    We are in month 8 of Hub’s unemployment. Just asking for good thoughts for him. He keeps getting to second place in the interview processes.

    1. PumpkinSpice*

      Same situation here- husband was laid off 6 months ago, and the market is so competitive. Best of luck to your husband!

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        It is! He’s never experienced it before and I know it’s been pretty rough on him. It’s no fault of his own, it’s just a very competitive market and there’s always someone who is just a titch better (on paper at least). Coupled in with cold weather & quarantine, he’s not doing great.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Ooof. And to yours as well. I wish I could help mine more, but there’s nothing he’s really doing wrong, it’s just…..2020, I guess.

    2. Fiona*

      I’m with you on every level! Also at month 8 with my spouse, also getting up there in interviews, but it’s so tough and demoralizing. Sending good thoughts.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Many good thoughts to your hubby and to any one looking for work right now. May everyone receive something (interview/offer/whatever) they are thankful for and something that is a joy for Christmas.

  20. Alice*

    When there’s a policy that your manager agrees is not good, but cannot change, how do you handle it?
    – live with it and never discuss it again
    – bring it up with your manager occasionally — “I know policy X is in effect, and it’s still an issue, FYI”
    – bring it up at higher levels when higher level people ask for suggestions
    – bring it up at higher levels without waiting to be invited
    Interested to hear other people’s thoughts!

    1. Waiting to be Future Endeavored*

      Why can’t it be changed? It can’t be changed by your manager or at all? If it can’t be changed (WHY?!), I would continue to bring up the roadblocks it causes especially when those arise. If someone else can change it, first talk to your manager about going to someone higher up. I wouldn’t want to look like I was bypassing my manager. “I know it can’t be changed at your level, but can we talk to X about it?”

      1. Alice*

        Why can’t it be changed? Good question. Because the company as a whole is huge, sprawling, risk averse, bureaucratic, and pretty sclerotic. Some of the frustrating policies come from the level of organization that’s 6 managers up from me; some from the level of organization that’s 9 managers up from me.
        Happily my unit (up to 4 managers up) has a great organizational culture. We are a super obvious outlier on the annual workplace culture survey — routinely our unit rates 20-30 points better than the org average in most aspects.

    2. ThinMint*

      I do a mix of the 2nd and 3rd option. Usually if I’m bringing it back up with my manager after we’ve both agreed it’s not good, I’m coming with new examples or increased number of examples to show the issue is persistent or creating more headache than we initially anticipated.

      And if my grandboss asks, I will share those with her. Having done option #2 with my manager before usually, I feel prepared with examples to support what I’m saying.

      1. Alice*

        This is the logical answer. But this is a big org, many layers of management. Boss, grandboss, great-grandboss all say publicly they think policy X is misguided but can’t be changed. Then the 6th or 7th level managers “invite wide-ranging feedback about processes.”

        1. TechWorker*

          I’m also in a huge company and your set up sounds vaguely similar (up to 3 managers up is just my site, and those mgrs do sometimes openly disagree with ‘head office’ although only to other mgrs).

          If you can’t change the policy, get creative. How strict is it? Do all teams actually do it? Will people notice if you don’t? Is there any way to make it less crazy from your end? Eg, if the policy results in having to use a bad tool or do something that takes ages, can you work out ways to make that less painful for all involved? Can you do something more sane and treat the policy as a box ticking formality? (Obviously depends what it is!)

          If none of that applies – even bad policies usually have good intent. Can you work out what it’s intended to do and try to focus on that (and communicate that bit to your reports to make them less annoyed too).

    3. Littorally*

      Either of the last two, depending on how bad the policy is. In either case, I think you need to get your manager’s buy-in on escalating, or even ask them to be the one to take it higher for you.

      If it’s generally manageable but suboptimal (ie an inefficient or easily errored process) I think it’s fine to wait until higher-ups ask for feedback before raising it.

      If it’s something that’s causing critical problems (ie failed processes, mismanagement of protected information, etc) then raising it with higher-ups without waiting for an invitation is appropriate.

        1. Littorally*

          Oh yeah, there’s huge variance in problems and an immediate, low-level manager’s ability to change an institutional process ends way before truly mission-critical problems arise, at least in large institutions like yours (and mine).

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Option 4: talk about strategic ways to circumvent the policy that will mitigate some of the issues and won’t backfire on us.

      In my experience at large, bureaucratic, sclerotic (great word, btw) organizations, I pretty much gave up trying to change policies, even when it seemed like EVERYONE knew they were flawed. Trying to change a policy could become a part time job! Paperwork, approvals, committees, discussions, implementation plans, etc. The change management process was so onerous that most people didn’t bother to initiate it. It was just easier to look for grey areas, exceptions, and ways to go around the policy.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      Under NO circumstances do 4 — that’s some career suicide right there. I agree that with some combination of 2 and 3, but if your manager doesn’t like the policy and can’t change it, don’t harp on it — just occasionally provide some examples, not in a complaining way but in a “I don’t know if you are still trying to deal with Policy, but if you are, here are some examples that might be helpful.” Remember, lots of times unpopular policies have been put into place to deal with a problem — one that you probably aren’t fully aware of. Part of my (very senior) job is putting policies into place that I know people don’t like, but are necessary to ensure compliance. If it’s causing big problems and maybe there is a better way to achieve the same result, I want to hear about that. But I don’t want to hear the “but it’s HAARRDDD” complaints. And I don’t want unsolicited complaints from a lower level person who does not understand the full picture and I would seriously question someone who skipped the steps on the ladder to complain.

    6. Aggretsuko*

      Usually I do the first or second one. I tried the third one this year but of course got no response to that one. There’s also “grumble privately with your boss about it,” which is also what we do.

      There are a lot of policies my boss doesn’t like but got overrruled by her boss/higher ups, so it’s not like we can do anything about it.

    7. Bobina*

      As someone who has seen enough complaining actually get terrible policies looked at and eventually changed – definitely 2 and 3. Try and quantify or collect stats as much as possible to demonstrate to the people who are far away *why* said policy is terrible and matters to the bottom line (often they only think in $$$ or time (which is also $$$)).

      The hard part is to make enough noise – it helps if multiple people have the same complaint. Unfortunately if its just 1 group of a few people who suffer, the policy as a whole is less likely to change – but maybe you can work on exemptions or mitigations (ie group X dont have to follow it because Y).

    8. LQ*

      It depends on what it is. Is it a policy that is changeable or is it a policy that is an outcome of a law or other inherently unchangeable for your boss thing? If it’s the latter, don’t bring it up, learn to live with it or find a new job or advocate for a new law as a private citizen (if you are allowed).

      Assuming it’s not actually entirely out of the control of your organization then I think the thing to do is look at where it’s coming from. Is it coming from the senior leadership/president/whatever and it is about the fundamental organizational direction? If so, bring it up in that way, but it’s unlikely to be something that someone 1-2 levels into management can change.

      If it’s something that’s implemented at a layer or two above your boss, be careful before you do this, you can shoot your boss’s plan in the back if you aren’t careful if they are advocating for a change quietly (to you). You can’t always see what they are doing. I think that if the manager has ever asked for evidence about how it’s an issue that’s a huge in, but bring the kind of evidence that works for the people who make the decision as well as your boss. (If your boss loves stories, but you know their boss likes data, bring a big ole spreadsheet)

    9. Sleepytime Tea*

      Since you’ve mentioned this is a large organization with many layers of management between you and your boss and the people making the decision, I hate to say it, but option 1/2/3 are the ways to go.

      If you bring it up too often, you are just beating a dead horse. Your boss can’t change it. Your grandboss can’t change it. If the person who can is literally 8 levels above you, it wouldn’t be appropriate to try and reach out to them unless you have the capital for that. If the higher levels ask for feedback, or you have a way to submit feedback, then use those channels for sure. But I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything good come by someone jumping multiple levels in the hierarchy to make a complaint about a policy (I would say something different for say, sexual harassment or discrimination), and I’ve also never seen anything good come from people continuing to bring up their frustration to a boss that they’ve already expressed it to, and the boss has already explained why it’s outside their power to change.

    10. Ferrina*

      Would it help to document the impact of said policy? Not to complain, but to simply document the trade-offs that have been made to keep that policy in place.
      This should be something your manager is okay with and only if it’s something they could actually use. Like if your manager ever has an opening, they can quantify the impact of Bad Policy. Example: Task 1 took additional 4 hours, adding 10% to project completion time.
      That can also help identify the trends and long-term impact of Bad Policy (warning: this can get depressing, esp if they keep the policy in place. Gotta do in to it for the amusement value and the joy of saying a silent “I told you so”)

  21. Waiting to be Future Endeavored*

    When to ask about an applicant’s gap in employment?

    I was recently part of a group interview for a job candidate for an IT/developer role. I am not on the hiring committee; it was more people who may work with this position. This group had discussed questions to ask in advance so that we can try to ask everyone the same questions. The candidate had an employment gap of a few years on their resume. They brought it up as “a gap” when talking about what they’ve done to stay current. A work friend in the group messaged me privately about it, and I responded I wasn’t going to ask.

    I’m sensitive to the idea of work gaps — maybe it was child raising or other caregiving or a medical issue. And if it didn’t come up or remove the candidate from consideration earlier (there would have been screening before this interview), then it’s none of my business? I also think it falls more on the hiring committee to decide whether to address it or not.

    But I also knew I wanted to ask here. Does the gap matter? Who should ask about it if it does matter?

    1. 867-5309*

      I think this should be addressed in the initial interview with either HR or the hiring manager, not in the group interview. It should be very easy to determine if there is some oddly unique case where this is a deal breaker (I torched my last office because my boss rated me a 3/4 instead of 4/4 and was in jail?) and if it’s not, the most important question is the one they addressed: How did you and are you staying current?

      PS. My example was not meant to imply that individuals with records should not be able to get a job. I think it’s critical to rehabilitation that people who were incarcerated have opportunities to rejoin the workforce beyond just minimum wage. I tried to ensure my example above was extreme.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        Agreed, HR should be handling the initial screening where they will go over the candidate’s resume and if there are gaps, it should be discussed at that time. A proactive HR person should’ve sent those notes to the interviewing team as a multi-year resume gap would’ve been worth mentioning unless the resume laid out the reasons for the gap.

    2. Imprudence*

      It may matter a lot.
      In UK education it matters because there have been cases where prison stays were omitted, and schools did not know until things went very badly wrong. It is now standard practice to ask about gaps. It would be covered in an interview under the “tell me about your carrer so far” question, as a supplementary.

      1. LDF*

        An aside, but I’m kind of curious about you drawing a line between peers and hiring committee. At my company, the hire/nonhire decision is made by concensus between all the interviewers, which is usually the hiring manager and 2-3 devs who may or may not be on the team.

        1. Waiting to be Future Endeavored*

          The peer groups submit feedback but all the screening and decision making is done by the hiring committee committee and the administration (higher ed).

          1. TechWorker*

            In which case I would ask whoever’s senior to you on the hiring committee, ideally prior to the interview, hopefully you got the resume in advance?

            Eg ‘I noticed a gap of a couple of years, are you planning to cover that in your interview or should I?’

      2. 867-5309*

        I was thinking of things that wouldn’t come up in background checks.

        My bigger point was that it’s the hiring manager or HR who should determine that at the start before someone gets to panel interviews.

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I had to attend a training on identifying red flags for child abusers in the hiring process, and this is what I learned, too. Basically, people who got fired for inappropriate behavior with the kids at a previous job, will often leave that job off their resume so you don’t call their old employer and do a spontaneous reference check.

        I’ve only caught one suspicious resume over the years. It was a man applying to be a youth instructor who had an IT background from 1980-2000, a resume gap from 2000-2010, claimed to have a ton of “really great references but they’re old” for working with kids during a phone screen, but did not list those relevant positions on their resume or in their phone screen, or mention how they knew the references that they brought up. We opted to not go forward from there with the interview.

    3. LDF*

      I myself am a software engineer and I don’t ask about their resume as all when I’m on an interview loop. My explicit job is to assess technical skills and values fit. I guess the hiring manager can get into stuff like gaps if they want. And when I’ve gone through interviews, no one but the recruiter or hiring manager has really asked anything like that either. Unless “assess resume” is your job I would not worry about it, like you I assume that someone else has or will ask about it if it matters and it’s none of my business.

  22. ThinMint*

    I cried in the middle of a meeting 2 days ago. I was so upset someone was basically deviating from an agreed upon plan. Video was off, I’m not concerned about that. But I just get so frustrated by my inability to control my emotions sometimes. I’m a sensitive person, and a verbal processor. In my personal life, I’ve found a good balance of support.

    But I still find myself being unnecessarily ruffled in work situations where I feel like someone wronged me or didn’t follow the rules we had all agreed upon. That’s life. I’m not looking to address the situation within the workplace, but hoping for tips or particular therapy modalities that helped you work through this? I’m sure this is rooted in childhood messiness but I need to get in under control as I advance. I can’t be verbally processing everything with my boss. Help?

    1. Web Crawler*

      My partner had success with DBT for working through emotions. I think that the fit with your therapist matters more than specific forms of therapy, though.

      Do you journal? I found that after a while of therapy and bouncing thoughts off of my partner, I could become my own listener, and get through the smaller stuff on my own by journaling. If I don’t feel like journaling, going on a walk helps too- and with covid, nobody can see me muttering to myself behind the mask.

      Outside of that, medication has helped both me and my partner a lot. My anxiety is at the level that I can work through it now, instead of it controlling me.

    2. Weekend Please*

      I think some of this will depend on the exact situation. One thing that has helped me is to reframe the way I think about things. Viewing the agreed upon plan as a rule that must be followed tends to lead me to feeling frustrated when the plan changes. Think of it instead as provisional guidelines that will be renegotiated as time goes on. When someone deviates, it is time to reopen negotiations and explain why that won’t work for you and listen to why the original plan won’t work for them. Most likely they are not trying to wrong you, they are simply trying to make their job easier and don’t really see the effect on your job.

    3. Cry Baby*

      Thin Mint I’ve been known to cry at work, I fall into the group of women who cry when they get angry and it can be a tough situation to navigate. I understand the frustration of others not doing what you thought was agreed to and can relate. Some tips (PS I’m 41 and still haven’t figured it out 100%, which may not help you feel you can fix it but hopefully makes you feel less alone):

      -figure out what similarities the incidents have where you feel close to crying – for you, sounds like being frustrated is a trigger. At a time when you AREN’T frustrated, think a bit about what you need in that moment and how you might ask for it. Can you take a washroom break and actually walk away for a minute? Deep breaths or thinking about something else for 10 seconds? If it’s a zoom call can you mute yourself, let out a scream of frustration and then go back to the call like nothing happened?
      -Again, at a time outside the moment, really think about how to respond once it happens. I found that acting like nothing was wrong and going about my tasks was the best way to calm down from crying and some of my colleagues are great at also ignoring it and helping me stay in task mode, so I would talk with them rather than someone who would ask me about it sympathetically and set me off again. For other people they may need to have a safe place in the office where they can go and cry it out for 5 minutes before splashing water on their face or a trusted colleague to talk about it to.
      -AAM has a few good articles about crying, and if you are able it may be something you can be upfront with your boss about – tell her you’re working on it and realize it isn’t an ideal reaction but you can’t always control it and here’s how you would prefer to handle it if it happens again.
      -Again as a general fix, do find safe people in your life you can verbally process work stuff with. I’m very verbal myself and having a friend in another line of work who will still listen to me process whatever I’m going through in my workplace has been a godsend.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Crying and anger come up when we lack words or feel our power has been taken from us. I also have some background that I carry around with me, less so now than when I was younger. I noticed the tears came up when I felt I had NO say. And how many times in my life have I felt this familiar feeling.

      So what I did to retrain my brain was to analyze what went wrong and what options I may have had, after the fact and after I was done crying. Then I would try to line up things I could actually say.
      Granted the same situation seldom occurs twice, however, it’s exercise for the brain. Get the brain used to thinking toward solutions or at least suggestions. As kids/younger people if we are routinely shut down then we never develop this skill. I mean, why would we bother?
      Here the exercise is NOT to make up a bunch of things to say and memorize them. But rather the exercise is to take a calm moment by yourself and think about what you could do the next time a similar situation comes up.
      Tricky part: You are actually looking for the sound of your own voice. In your example here it might be: What do I sound like when I tell people that we are drifting away from a plan we agreed on?
      With anything, I like to start off with a soft approach. So I might go with, “Uh, folks we had agreed on a plan earlier, do we want to drift away from that or re-think it or do we want to keep it?”

      Here’s the annoying part. I did these mini-autopsies every time the tears or anger came up. The sheer redundancy of the exercise was a pain in the butt. And it was so worth it. I found parts of me. Sometimes I can humorously redirect a sinking conversation. Sometimes I can cut to the punchline and really nail down a matter. But it took time to find these parts of me. And I will say there are times I cry still. It’s less and that is a relief.

      So when the tears come up ask yourself, “What is it that actually concerns me here and how do I put that into words?” You can put it into words, you just did it in your post here. I think you can gain some ground by using calmer moments to figure out how you could have handled things. But also be sure to congratulate yourself when you DO handle things.

  23. yams*

    Does anyone have any reccomendations for software or a method or something to manage a ridiculous number of tasks? I’ve been working with my boss on responding to the requests of the sales team in a more timely fashion so I made a to-do list to see where I was at and if there were any road blocks I could not see. It turns out that I have something like 80-100 individual tasks that need to be completed. This includes both short and long terms projects I work on, and it’s not really a deviation from my normal workload. I have been spending a lot of time lately figuring out how many tasks I finish in a day, roughly 15 to 20–I regularly spend between 5 and 6 hours in meetings– and people add between 10 to 20 tasks to my list per day. Each task can take from 5 minutes to a couple of hours, it depends on the kind of request.
    I have tried to keep to do lists in the past, but because of the number of tasks I go through it’s very difficult to find the time to manage a to-do list, since it becomes a huge task on its own. So, I’m more than a little lost on how to manage such a caotic workflow. Any tips and recommedations would be welcome.

    1. Colette*

      I’ve used OneDrive in the past – every task is an item, and when they’re done I move them from my active sheet to my completed sheet. I don’t put a ton of detail, just enough to figure out what it is.

    2. ladymacdeath*

      I really like Trello! I used it in a past job when my team was managing a lot of requests. I know a lot of people use different cards on Trello to mark where a job is in terms of progress, but I like using a card per DAY, and then marking it done on my own. You can assign different team members to certain tasks, create a checklist on each task for individual items, and you can color code them to either mark them as different time commitments or in various stages (to do, in progress, completed), etc. You can also assign a due date to them and Trello lets you adjust your settings for when you want that to be alerted (one hour out, 24 hours, etc.). It’s super helpful!

      1. Nela*

        I second Trello, I manage my entire business and side projects using it!
        I use one card per task and checklists for task phases if it’s longer. When collaborating on a task, I create separate checklists for each person.

        Trello was designed for the Kanban approach, which means each stack of cards (list) determines which stage the task is in (like “ideas”, “assigned” , “in progress” , “done”), but you can set up the lists however you want.

    3. Ali G*

      Since these requests seem to be from other departments, could you set up a ticketing system of some sort? This would give those making the request a process they need to follow and there is a paper trail, reminders, etc.

      1. Imprudence*

        I use outlook tasks, with modifications for Managing Your Now.
        I have a 100 odd active tasks — some 10 minutes, some longer projects. i tick off the ones I have done and rollover the ones I need to do more on (often to remind me to chase someone who is getting back to me.) It works really well for me.
        After I meet with my boss, I transfer all the things he has given me to tasks (anything that taes <2minutes to do, I do.)

      2. KX*

        SharePoint Lists works great for a ticketing system. People can add directly to the list when they need something. Or, you can set up a Microsoft Power Automate/Flow to add email that meets certain conditions (like, when moved to a folder) to add the item to the list.

        You could add a status column to the SharePoint list, and update that. You can export the list to Excel or add automatic calculations to show how long between request and status update; it’s pretty flexible.

        If you have access to SharePoint and Power Automate, there are very good tutorials and templates all over the place for how to get started.

      3. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        Seconding this. I’ve used Airtable as a ticketing system and it’s really great, especially using kanban view to move tasks from one status to another.

    4. yams*

      thanks! I will literally try everything on this list! hopefully I will make this work since it’s driving me nuts. I hate feeling like I0m ineffective at my job!

    5. Julie*

      You could combine Trello and the ticketing system. I have a shared Trello board for some of my work; when someone has a task for me, they create a card. I set it up so that I and the requester are added to the card, so I see when something’s created and they can see progress. So it’s a tracking and information system; it cuts down on the number of progress emails I have to send.

    6. Gatomon*

      I use Google Sheets so it stays in a browser tab and autosaves – but my task keeping is just a glorified spreadsheet. One tab is for small projects in various repeatable stages. I have another vaguer tab for more bespoke projects that have more fluid timelines but need to be prioritized more. Those are assigned a priority number and sorted.

      It IS time consuming to do all this, but I’ve blocked out snippets of my calendar for dealing with it and all of the other “tick a box in this system” things I have to do for my job. 15 minutes before lunch and 15 minutes before 5 as repeating organization time. It sucks to spend that time, but it saves me time later when I don’t miss tasks or have to go hunting for the ID number for project q. I usually don’t need that much time as I’ve gotten pretty used to my system and only spend a few minutes a day on it.

      Once a task hits the list, I estimate time needed for the next step and put an event on my outlook calendar to do it. That helps me prioritize and see if I need to move things around or give an updated timeline to someone.

    7. TechWorker*

      This might not work for you, but how do the tasks get assigned? I feel like for things that actually take 5 minutes I’m better just doing them when they come in rather than adding them to a list – if I do that by the time I get to it I’ve probably spent nearly 5 minutes brain time tracking it :p

      You obviously can’t do that if you have lots of super tight deadlines or if the 5minute tasks are always the lowest priority ones, but it can help keep the overall list at a more manageable size.

      1. yams*

        the 5 minute tasks are the problem, sadly. There are a couple of ticketing systems, my boss asigns projects on top of that, plus I’m constantly working on cost improving initiatives–it sounds like a lot, but it’s manageable. The problem is that I have some administrative responsabilities, that individually take five minutes or less per task, and EVERYONE contacts me for a quick turnaround. I’m constantly bombarded with those five minute tasks, which then connect into a string of 4 or 5 5 minute tasks and I keep falling behind on all the other stuff I need to get done.

    8. A Person*

      I like Asana because it’s really lightweight to add a task. I think if you pay you might be able to have people create tasks for you too so something to look at if you like it. I use it for ALL my to-dos, from recurring things to “remember to respond to email X”.

    9. Shirley Keeldar*

      Er, I think maybe you buried the lede there. You’re spending 5-6 hours a day in meetings? And getting 10-20 new things to do daily? How on earth are you supposed to have time for those tasks? Once you get this grand to-do list created, can you show it to your boss and push back on the ridiculous number of meetings?

      1. yams*

        I already made a grand-list and sent it over to her, she left me on read lol.
        The meeting thing is out of our control, management–for some godforsaken reason–has decreed that we send too many emails back and forth and we should program meetings for literally everything so we can get tasks un-stuck. It’s a pointless waste of time, but they want things done that way.

        Fun (frustrating story), a couple weeks back I was working on a massive and complicated project to support several sites all over the country (I basically do everything BUT set the price for the items), the project manager programed 3 daily update meetings. THREE meetings. One finished at closing time, the other 15 minutes after I logged in. I literally could not even get enough time in between meetings to update the spreadsheet. Then they went to my boss to complain about a lack of progress lol.

  24. File under T...*

    My question is inspired by a recent article that this is apparently happening in the white house, although I swear I do not want to get into politics here. I am just shocked that anyone uses the “file under T for Trash” rule in real life, or as anything other than a joke! Have folks encountered this in the wild? Did anyone have a bananas boss who just blanket threw literally everything away?

    1. Ali G*

      I once went into my boss’s office and said something like “oh you cleaned up! it looks great in here!” And he basically told me that he just tossed all the papers that had been piled on his desk. His thinking was that they’d been there for months, so they must not have been important. He was not wrong.

    2. Scc@rlettNZ*

      I once worked with someone who just piled up requests in the corner of his office. If the requester asked a second time he’d do it; if not then he just ignored it as clearly it wasn’t important in the first place.

      It seemed to work OK for him lol.

  25. PumpkinSpice*

    How late is too late to tell your boss about a pregnancy? I know there have been examples on AAM of people waiting until the very last minute, but practically, how much time should you give your team to prepare for your leave?

    I am expecting my second child in April, and will be out on leave until mid July. This is the busiest time for my company, and I’ve already been in discussions about timing for deliverables that will go out when I’m on leave. However, I haven’t announced my pregnancy yet because I’m up for a promotion and afraid it could affect my chances. For what it is worth, my boss is a working mom and has been very supportive- I doubt she’d let it impact her decision. But my director might. He’s a good manager overall but I could see him getting held up about my upcoming absence and even projecting a loss of productivity (even though I worked my butt off when my first child was born).

    The plan was to wait until after promotions, when I’ll be about 24 weeks. That still gives 4ish months to plan. HR just announced that because of COVID, they are delaying the promotion period until February, so if I wait I could be giving only 6 weeks of notice! Is that too long to wait? It’s worth noting that since this is my second, I know what preparations to make for my leave, but there’s no getting around the fact that I’ll be out for 12 of our busiest weeks. Thanks in advance!

    1. The Rain In Spain*

      I don’t think that’s too long to wait, but you also know what’s normal for your work place. I told my workplace after 20 weeks both times because we like to make sure everything is on track with the anatomy scan before we announce anything. Your employer is not *entitled* to earlier notice. One option is to tell your direct boss and ask her if she’d be comfortable keeping it between you and that you’re worried about it potentially affecting your promotion. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to wait, as no one is entitled to the details of your pregnancy. I’ve known people that have disclosed sooner due to complications (eg hyperemesis) or later due to complications (not sure if pregnancy was viable). Particularly if you already know how to prep for your leave (and if you can work on that ahead of time so you can present the plan when you tell them) I lean on the side of just waiting.

      1. PumpkinSpice*

        Thank you, this makes me feel so much better! With my first, I announced at 12 weeks, so I feel like I’m “late” this time around. We are all remote for the foreseeable future, so it’s been very easy to hide. It feels strange to be “hiding” this from my employer (which means also not telling anyone besides close family and friends).

    2. Elizabeth I*

      I think your plan to wait until after the promotion is a good one, because it protects you from potential pregnancy discrimination (whether conscious or unconscious) as they make the decision about the promotion. 4 months is a LOT of time to plan for someone being out!

      Seems like a very reasonable plan to me.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I waited to tell my manager about my (first) pregnancy because I was also up for promotion at the same time. I trusted him and I know he strongly supported the promotion, but I still figured that I’d hold off on any distractions until afterwards. I think I waited until the day after the promotion went through, which would have been about 5 months in, and that was just fine. This was in person so it was getting to the point of being noticeable, but I usually wear drapey, boxy stuff anyway so I barely got away with it.

    3. Weekend Please*

      Are you working remotely or in person? It would be a little weird if you were visibly pregnant and not telling anyone and would defeat the purpose of waiting to tell them anyway.

      It sounds like since this is the busiest time, they may need to hire and train a temp to cover for you or to take on lower level work so your coworkers are freed up to cover for you. If that is the case, you want to make sure to give enough notice that they have time to find and train a temp before your busy season (I don’t know how long that takes in your field).

      How close are you with your boss? Do you trust her to keep it confidential if you tell her?

      1. PumpkinSpice*

        Remotely- we are all remote through the end of the year and it seems unlikely we’ll be back before spring.

        I trust my boss, but I don’t think we could start making plans for my leave without telling the director. He has the final say on assigning projects. And unfortunately I just don’t trust him not to fall prey to unconscious bias/ pregnancy discrimination

    4. Waiting to be Future Endeavored*

      At my employer for FMLA you’re supposed to provide notice in writing “not less than 30 calendar days” before the start of leave when possible. Check what requirements your employer has. I’m not sure if the 30 days is employer or FMLA specific.

  26. Amber Rose*

    Stuff is slipping through the cracks. I’m messing up here and there, forgetting things, losing track. I’ve been trying so hard, but I’m seriously breaking under the strain. Taking three days off last week was great, but it all went by too fast and as soon as I came back I was immediately burned out again. It’s affecting a lot. I’m aware that I’m being flat and unhelpful and it’s confusing people.

    I’m all out of PTO, benefits and cope and I don’t know what to do.

    1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      I am so sorry, that’s such a rough position to be in! Does your company offer any EAP benefits, such as some free counseling sessions? How honest can you be with your boss about being burned out and needing to temporarily move some stuff off your plate? How honest can you be with your coworkers? I’m working with a LOT of people who are clearly burned out or way overloaded or both, and I’m cutting a lot more people a lot more slack nowadays than I used to.

      1. Amber Rose*

        No EAP stuff. I was advocating for it pretty heavily at the start of the year and it was under consideration but when Covid hit they opted not to spend any additional money on benefits.

        The funny thing is I’m not really overloaded. Work is slow, very slow. Scary slow. It’s more just that everyone’s job titles and responsibilities have been in flux for like 3 months now, I’m not really sure where my responsibilities start and end with some things, and I’ve lost all motivation to try and find out. I’m also becoming more easily fed up with things that have always been that I used to just deal with. Like people asking me to buy stuff for them. I’ve never been allowed to buy anything, this entire year I haven’t even had access to the vendors list, I don’t understand why after almost 6 years people still don’t know that.

        1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

          Oh, that is frustrating! I’m also in an office where there’s a lot of stuff in flux, a lot of unknown things, and a lot of, we don’t have an answer and we don’t know when we’ll be able to provide you with an answer.
          My approach to this is to job search. It was REALLY hard to get started and get that first application together, but I’ve put in two application now, and I feel a lot better now that I’m actively DOING something.

          And yeah, if people haven’t learned something in the past 6 years, they are NOT going to learn it this year.

    2. Kiki*

      Is there a chance you are struggling with depression and/or anxiety? If so, it may be worth talking with a doctor to be screened and discuss possible treatment options. I’m a NP and the amount of newly diagnosed depression and anxiety due to COVID is staggering. The other suggestion is to find a way to practice some level of self-care every day. It doesn’t have to be much, something like a 5 minute meditation or a minute extra ina hot shower just enjoying the water. Good luck!!

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        This. I shy away from armchair diagnoses, but as I have been through this cycle of burnout/forgetfulness/disassociation before, it may be time to see a doctor. Even a mild case of depression or anxiety can really throw you for a loop. The last thing you want to do is internalize this and burnout harder. Take care of yourself – we’re here for you!

    3. willow for now*

      Is it financially feasible for you to go to part-time for awhile? Keep enough hours that you keep your health benefits, but I found that having 30 hours hanging over my head rather than 40 hours every week helped a LOT.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Set goals in your personal life. How often do we have time to do that? Don’t answer here but what would you like to beef up in your private life? Now might be a good time to focus on those things. I remember using dead days at work to think about a project or solve a problem around the house.

      Another thing to consider is quit working for your boss and start working for your resume, see what you can do that looks great on a resume or makes good conversation for a job interview.

    5. The teapots are on fire*

      I’m getting the sense that with no usable benefits and PTO you’re hoping for just how to hang on.

      If you start off your day taking just three tasks in front of you and taking JUST THE FIRST STEP you may feel more control. Sometimes the first step is writing out the first step. That counts. Give yourself credit. Maybe make a saved email phrase that you can send with just a couple of clicks to people who want you to buy stuff. “Oh, I’m sorry, but I don’t have purchase authority. Check with (your manager, Martha Gotthecorporatecard, the person who sells the magic dust you have to spread to get The Things Bought) on this.” and then just cheerfully send it to anyone who wants stuff, over and over and over, and try to be grateful that somebody ELSE has to actually buy the thing for them.

      If you can make yourself view doing ANYTHING AT ALL is an accomplishment, you can start looking for little wins in your day, where the only “win” is kicking one more stupid thing off your list. This is the gallows humor version of productivity when you are depressed. It’s not job satisfaction but it’ll keep your head above water.

      I hope you are able to grant yourself some grace.

  27. Lynn*

    Happy Friday!

    My team was recently merged with another team. Our old manager moved to a new team, and the manager of the other team became the manager of the new combined team, with 3 people from my team, and 2 from their other team.

    I previously didn’t get along great with one of those people, but it was mostly fine because we didn’t report to the same person and I could leverage my boss for advice and / or a shield. Now, however, we do report to the same manager — and they get along great with the new manager.

    I feel kind of step-childed in this new team (which I say, as a step-child, and knowing both that I am loved, and that I the third favorite).

    Any advice about managing this dynamic? Thanks!

    1. TechWorker*

      Try to view this as an opportunity to build a better relationship with your team members? That’s easier said than done but I know that sometimes I’ve ended up quite irritated with someone on a different team & it really came from miscommunication and not understanding each other’s priorities – which can be easier if you’re working more closely together.

      Otherwise if that doesn’t apply I’d mostly try to avoid seeing the relationship as adversarial. If your colleague gets on with new manager – great! Good for them! That doesn’t prevent you from building a relationship with your manager, nor from asking advice about how to handle interpersonal issues if they do come up.

  28. Camellia*

    On this site we say a resume is a marketing document and it does not need to include every job you’ve ever had, but do employers really think that too?

    Let’s say I’ve been working for 40 years…for the first 20 years I painted other people’s designs on teapots and for the last 20 years I’ve created the designs that others paint on teapots. If I only include the last 20 years on my resume, and then an interviewer sees that I’m obviously older than 40, is that going to negatively impact their impression of me? And will they consider my resume to be a lie?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      It’s not a lie. You’ve got 20 years of senior experience. You didn’t crack out of the egg with that. They won’t be surprised at all.

      A resume isn’t a ledger. You’ll be fine.

    2. Lynn*

      There may be some cultural norms I am not aware of, but I think this hits on the difference between a resume and a background check. A resume should be a detailed list of recent and relevant work and accomplishments — and something 20 years ago is likely not relevant. A background check should be a short statement of comprehensive work experience (typically going back 5 years or to age 18 whichever is shorter). If they care about stuff from further back, they will ask.

    3. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Speaking personally, I don’t want to read resumes that have every job a person’s ever had! Especially in the first round, I only have a little time to review each application, so I appreciate when someone’s resume makes it really easy to get the highlights, with the experience relevant to the specific job. If I like what I see and I want to know more about earlier experience, I’ll ask in an interview. If an employer REALLY wants to know every job you’ve ever had, they’ll ask you to fill out a form listing your entire work experience.

    4. 867-5309*

      I’ve been in the same career for about 20 years and and for some early-career roles that I still want captured (big company, and I’m looking to narrow my niche back into what I did earlier in my career) I write:

      2003 – 2006 Title, Company (location)
      Single line that lists responsibilities.

      I also have a line at the very end of my experience section that says, “Additional experience at X, Y, Z and A” because of the clout of the employers.

    5. JustaTech*

      Nope.
      If I saw a resume like that I would assume that you’ve been working for years and the old stuff is, well, old and maybe not super relevant. No one wants or needs to know about the part-time gig you had in high school or college unless it was something incredibly impressive *and* relevant to the job you want now.

      A while back I got a resume for a potential hire through a temp agency. My coworker and I looked at this thing that went on and on and were like “what the heck?” until we realized it was a CV, not a resume, so it had every job and every paper, including stuff that I know that my now-coworker would leave off as irrelevant.

    6. Sleepytime Tea*

      Not at all. I am 37 and I don’t include my full work history (relevant work started at age 21, so 16 years of work, and I only put the last 10 or so on my resume). No one has ever expressed my concern that I must not have been working prior to what was listed on my resume, or thought I was omitting anything. My resume include my most relevant experience, and it is not a comprehensive curriculum vitae (life’s work). And in interviews I have brought up situations or projects I worked at jobs not included on my resume if they happened to be relevant, and no one has ever said “wait, that wasn’t on your resume?!?!?!!?!”

    7. AcademiaNut*

      Leaving off older experience, or very short jobs, still gives a consistent picture of your work history, so you’re okay.

      If you’re obviously over 40, and you only list 3 years of experience, they’re likely to have questions, or if there are significant gaps in your resume where you’ve left out entire jobs.

    8. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      If they want to see your entire work history, they can look at your LinkedIn. A resume is about giving them information that’s relevant to the position.

  29. Retroactive*

    I started working as a Zoo Designer at my company. Then I was promoted to Lead Zoo Designer. However, what I actually do is more the work of an Animal Artist, there’s some overlap between the two but it’s not the same. I brought this up in a meeting and it was well received and it looks like my title will be changing to Lead Animal Artist which I’m excited about.

    But how do I handle this on LinkedIn/my resume? My preference would to be to just change my last role title to Animal Artist and use my new title of Lead Animal Artist for my current role. I’ve already moved around a bit in my career so I don’t want to make my resume look even more like I’ve jumped around. Thoughts?

    1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      I just went through this! I got reclassified about a year and a half ago. On linked in, I added a new position, but the company/division is the same, and the job descriptions are fairly similar, so it’s clear that it’s not an entirely new job. On my resume, I have something like Current Title (reclassified from Old Title) with the entire range I was employed by my unit.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      You definitely want to have your resume line up with your employer’s records. So, Princess’ suggestion above could work. Another option is to combine your jobs into one header, e.g.

      The Zoo
      Lead Animal Artist, October 2020 to present
      Lead Zoo Designer, December 2019 to October 2020
      Zoo Designer, June 2019 to December 2019
      *Accomplishment
      *Accomplishment
      *Accomplishment

  30. Potatoes gonna potate*

    I’m starting to look for some part time/seasonal work for the upcoming season. I’m struggling to come up with questions/language to figure out the process for new hires. Basically I want to know if they expect me — a new hire at a mid-level — to work as quickly and easily as a senior whos been there for 5+ years within days.

    I’m not sure if it’s my chosen profession or my own bad luck or it’s how things are now, but literally every job I’ve had so far expects new hires to know everything within days. I’m not talking about the actual work but everything else. IME/IMO the biggest learning curve lies in navigating the software if its new to you, learning all the systems, company procedures, figuring out where client data is, learning about each client, building a rapport w coworkers and managers. It seems like everywhere I go, they want you to know this the first week with little wiggle room.

    Is my experience common now?

    1. avocadotacos*

      In terms of figuring out their expectations, maybe specific questions about the learning curve for the role would give you an idea of how fast they’d expect you to pick everything up

    2. RagingADHD*

      I’d ask about their onboarding process. I’ve never, past or present, encountered any remotely sane employer who expects any employee (especially part time or contract) to know all that stuff in the first week.

      They do expect non-entry-level employees to have taken good notes and ask good questions about where to find the information. And to take initiative on learning things rather than expect everything to be included in formal training. IME, it’s not that they expect me to know, but after the onboarding is over they are going to assume I can handle it / work it out for myself unless I say otherwise.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        I did that at my last job, take notes and try to figure out stuff first before asking. A few times I would start typing something and as soon as I hit “send” I’d have already gotten the answer (I think I asked here and people said it was normal…rubber ducking?) .. but it didn’t seem to upset my manager when I did that. Your last sentence makes a lot of sense to me.

    3. Sleepytime Tea*

      Ask about onboarding/training procedures. It’s true that for non-entry level positions, it seems more expected for you to hit the round running and take initiative in learning quickly. That said, no, I wouldn’t say it’s normal for a part time, mid-level person to be greeted with the expectation of being fully up and running in a week’s time to the same level as employees who have been there for years.

      So ask about training. Do they have dedicated training resources specific to the team/department/role you’d be in? Do they just have you sit with someone for a week and then expect you to ride solo? What support mechanisms do they have in place for new hires? (A team lead who’s responsibilities include helping new employees and answering questions, or specific SMEs that you can go to with questions so that the work is maybe spread around the team a bit.)

    4. Sink or swim*

      I just started a mid-level management position. Day one was HR and IT and training on a couple of the systems. Day two was my team’s previous manager handing off the team to me and another colleague suggesting I get my feet wet by taking on an easy first project. I was literally doing hands-on work before I even had access to Asana for tracking my tasks. I felt very in-at-the-deep-end! But it actually worked out very well because I got to use my skills and get immediate feedback, rather than sitting around watching and learning and being very self-conscious about my newness. I expect I’d have felt differently if the systems we use were more complicated, or if the feedback were at all impatient or judgmental. But everyone’s fine with me making beginner mistakes or not knowing things, so I’m fine with going hands-on right away.

      If you’re looking for seasonal work, I would expect very little time to be spent on training, because you’re not going to be there long enough for them to recoup the investment of more intensive training. You might just have to brace for a challenging first week.

      1. RagingADHD*

        That sounds normal. You were expected to have the skills to do the job, but you weren’t expected to know all the details like customer history, or have the company-specific procedures memorized.

        The way OP describes the situation sounds like either a string of bizarrely unrealistic employers, or a misunderstanding of what the expectations were.

    5. ModernHypatia*

      I’ve had luck asking in the interview process “What are your goals for this position for the first month, three months, six months, and year?” which gives a sense of how long they expect more intensive training to last, and when they expect you to be pretty much up to speed.

      (Adjust the times as makes sense for your context, of course.)

  31. Swiper*

    My meetings with my team are mostly updates that I feel could be given in an email and we could follow-up to discuss with an on-person meeting if necessary. But my team likes the meeting (I think the general chit chat before) and so we keep having them.

    I am the boss so I know I could change this, but I just… don’t.

    1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Well, could you move the updates to email and turn the meetings into a shorter social check-in meeting?

    2. 867-5309*

      I’m not sure if Alison will let me link to our company blog but we talk about this and similar topics, since we’re a meeting SaaS solution. We address how to increase engagement and how attendees should prepare.

      One of my favorite customer stories: One thing we recommend is that people mark agenda topics for information, discussion or decision, which helps attendees understand the degree to which they need to prepare and review materials. Our solution allows you to mark the purpose using these options right within the agenda. Well, the President of the nonprofit started changing agenda items listed as “for information” to 1 minute, which was enough time for the person to ask people if they saw their email/message in Teams. This created a habit that if there are no topics for discussion or decision, the meeting was canceled.

      To address the team liking the meeting… I started a monthly, optional chit chat sessions for our company so people could connect but those who had work they needed to get done could skip it. Maybe that would work for your team?

      1. All the cats 4 me*

        Would you mind clarifyinh? Are you saying that cancelling the meeting was the desired outcome?

    3. Elizabeth I*

      What if you did a trial period of less meetings for a couple of weeks to see how it goes? You could get feedback from the team afterwards, then reassess.

    4. Weekend Please*

      How much time is being spent on the meeting? Is it getting in the way of productivity? I think it is actually pretty important right now to feel some connection to your coworkers and having a once a week meeting to give updates and a chance to chat could actually be a good thing for morale. If you are having them too often or it is costing too much time, then maybe shift some the updates to email form but try not to cut them altogether if team likes the meetings.

      1. JustaTech*

        Seconding this. My (small) group could totally do our weekly meeting by email, but we generally keep it to an actual call because we like to talk to each other. Often it’s work stuff or work adjacent stuff, but often there’s something about the big game last weekend, or the weather or the construction next door. All the stuff we would normally talk about in the in-person meeting.

        But as a grain of salt, none of us are wall-to-wall meetings, either, so it’s not a burden to have another meeting.

  32. A Better Place?*

    Last week, under my usual name, I had an update on one of two final interviews (different companies). The first offer wasn’t going to work out. The other final interview happened this week. I thought it was going to be a lot more eventful than it was. I had to travel to another city and take a behavioral test first, and it seemed like it was going to be really formal. It was pretty relaxed, and they are going to make an offer. I am excited, but already getting nervous about the potential resigning process. I am a long term, senior employee. We are working in the office, but due to the recent covid spike, my direct manager is out a lot, and now I have to figure out timing with year end/holidays, work hand offs, insurance, etc.

    I also guess I would give notice to my direct manager, who we were told was leaving the division last spring. He is doing his old job as my manager and a new job. We are also good work friends. I work more directly with my grand boss currently, but he is extremely unavailable. I don’t think it will be easy.

    Here’s hoping no lowball offer.

  33. Free Meerkats*

    My manager is very supportive on training, and has had me sign up for a year of unlimited Fred Pryor live seminars and online training. The choices are overwhelming!

    I’m a new manager, so I’m looking for suggestions.

    1. The JMP*

      Fred Pryor has a bunch of management trainings, though I found them to be…not helpful, even when I was a new manager. None really stand out as being particularly good or bad, but I remember getting some helpful tips here and there, so there was some benefit. FWIW, it seemed like the management trainings were really geared toward managers of teams with clear productivity goals and pretty rigid standards (like call centers or factory or warehouse workers) so I think the people in my classes who had those types of teams took a little more away from it than I did.

      On the non-management stuff, I’ve heard really good things about their more technical trainings like Excel/Advanced Excel.

      Also for the in-person classes, assuming we ever get back to those, a huge chunk of time was devoted to pushing Fred Pryor membership (which you probably already have) and, when applicable, the trainer’s own books or other materials and services.

  34. NewYork*

    I have a GREAT boss. She really helped a co-worker who had a B.A from a for profit school (I know, useless). She helped the woman apply as a transfer student to local public college (let’s call it Springfield State, made up name), helped her get transfer credits Woman is now on verge of getting BA from a real school. Even thought this makes co-worker more marketable, boss helped her.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      So cool. My uncle who was a department manager said the way to get people to stay is to allow them to move on. What happens next is that they really think about their next move. People are willing to put up with slightly less pay if they have a decent boss. I am betting your coworker will think long and hard before making her next move. Smart boss.

  35. MH*

    Hi all. I belong to a writing group (we all write for a living). Lately, I’ve been getting the cold shoulder from one member of the group. We used to seem like friends, but she seems to interject, or disagree, or give me odd looks when I offer advice or help. Recently:
    – When mentioning a highly-respected hospital for COVID-19 testing to another member, she said the test should not be the end-all solution
    – When sharing an article on pitching solutions, she said that she can look at pitches and provide feedback
    – Messaged me about not posting images from a past trip, thinking I was writing about the trip for an outlet that doesn’t accept those submissions. I wasn’t and told her this.
    – Any IM convos I try to have with her get short answers.

    I figured that it was all being done out of her emotions, and I don’t want to cause havoc in the group, but I don’t know why she changed on me.

    1. JustaTech*

      Have you asked her?
      “Hey, you’ve seemed a bit distanced when we’ve talked recently, is everything OK?”
      The short IMs might just be that she’s busy, but the rest of it seems a bit like she’s on edge.

      Here’s another question to consider: I’ve noticed recently that I’ve taken the slightly off things coworkers have said a bit more personally than I did a year ago – is 2020 impacting the way you’re reacting to her? I don’t have a suggestion for what to do about that except be aware of it.

    2. RagingADHD*

      It sounds like she’s probably got pandemic fatigue, and is getting irritated / pernickety about things that nobody would even notice in normal times.

      If you feel like you were real friends before, you could always check in and ask, “Hey, you seem different lately. Are you okay? Have I personally done anything to bug you?” If there is anything stewing it might prompt a boil-over, but most likely she’ll just let you know about whatever’s going on personally to wind her up.

  36. DiscoCat*

    Can participants of a Teams meeting see and hear you when you’re on a Zoom call and vice versa? It’s my first week in a new job, this afternoon I participated in an online workshop that wasn’t compulsory, just informative for me and ran over my usual finishing time. I bid my goodbyes and left the call, but forgot to close the app. Then I opened Zoom to participate in my online Zumba class. I only became aware that I hadn’t closed Teams because someone replied to say goodbye. I quickly closed Teams and continued my Zumba, but I’m so paranoid that they saw their new colleague shake her booty, and even with the app closed that they continued to see me (mic was off). Someone please tell me that these apps have separate access to the camera and mic, and that leaving the call was also enough…

    1. blink14*

      Eeeek! I think it’s safe to say that given you were muted in Teams, there was no sound. And it’s safe to say that once you left the meeting, you cut off camera and mic access to that meeting. However, if you were on video during the meeting, it’s possible that the video was still running in Teams.

    2. 867-5309*

      If you clicked the upper right, red button and actually left the call then no one saw or heard you.

      What you saw was just in the meeting chat, which stays even after the meeting has ended.

    3. Zephy*

      If you left the call, you were not on camera in Teams anymore, don’t worry about that. Teams is just Skype – the instant-message, voice call, and video call features operate more or less independently.

    4. ...*

      well if you closed the app no they wouldn’t be able to see or hear you? It sounds like you maybe didn’t fully leave the meeting somehow.

      1. Flower necklace*

        I think this is true.

        The first time I used Zoom to meet with my department after we went remote, I wanted to see how I looked on the webcam first. So I opened up the camera app on my computer and checked the lighting was okay, there was nothing embarrassing in the background, etc. I accidentally left the app open when I joined the Zoom meeting, so the webcam didn’t work. So I think you were safe!

      2. Rebeck*

        Yes, they can. At one point when Zoom breakout rooms weren’t working, my workplace had a meeting with the main meeting in Zoom and the breakout rooms in Teams. It required quite a lot of coordinated muting and unmuting and people were very bad at it.

  37. Samantha*

    How do you handle getting new work assignments when you are expecting a job offer any day?
    I have a verbal job offer and am waiting on the formal paperwork which I’m expecting within the next week, imagine there will probably be another week of negotiations before things are finalized. My boss is great and knows I want more responsibility and is always looking for new projects I can be part of to get more experiences, take on a leadership role, work with senior team members, etc which I appreciate but at the end of the day I want a higher title, more consistent responsibility, and a higher salary which my company cannot offer at the moment so I’m planning to leave. The issue is my boss is presenting me with new projects and opportunities trying to keep me engaged and offer me opportunities to grow but without a raise and promotion I do not want to stay in my current role. I don’t want to waste her or others time by starting a new project only to end up putting in my notice in a few weeks but also do not really feel like I can say no. I know this verbal job offer could always fall apart so I’m waiting until I have a formal written offer to officially tell her my plans. In the meantime, how should I manage this?

    1. 867-5309*

      Continue as if there is no other job on the horizon. In the back of your mind you can be thinking of transition plans but until you have received and accepted a written offer, I would not do anything different at your current job.

    2. Threeve*

      Carry on as if you’re going to stay until the new offer is set in stone and don’t turn down new projects. Take copious notes that can be passed along to whoever takes over.

      The only exception might be if your job was spending money on you (paying for a conference, training, extreme amounts of overtime pay). It’s best to avoid things like that as subtly as you can.

      Congratulations!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I hope to be in this position very soon myself. And it’s tough. But as others have said, I am proceeding as if nothing is changing and I am making sure other people are in the loop. For example, I was just given two major projects and, if all goes well (fingers SO crossed), I will basically wrap them up and then leave– but the company intends to make these types of projects a long-term initiative with me at the helm. So all I can do is make them transparent, set up a template, and give my co-worker the tools she needs to take over.

  38. Cendol*

    It’s performance review season for me, aka the least wonderful time of the year! Does anyone have tips and tricks for writing a good self-evaluation?

    There are no raises or promotions at risk, and (knock on wood) no layoffs on the table, so the stakes feel lower than usual. Still, I don’t want to sell myself short.

    1. Its GIF not JIF*

      Write about you like you’d write about your friend. Better yet, have a friend read what you’ve written. Women are so hard on themselves. I pick only my top 5-10% of things to rank myself excellent in. From there, for negatives, I try to only focus on shortcomings that can actually be improved – like “Hey I need more exposure/training to X” or “Gee boss, could you help reel me in if I start being too Y?” but not just… fall on my sword about what an awful person I am.

    2. Twisted Lion*

      I cant speak to your industry but mine likes metrics. Like “Successfully completed 400 tea pot painting orders”

      Also one thing to consider for next year is a word document you save on your computer that you can periodically go into throughout the year to write down things you have done. This helps me remember things when annuals are due.

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        Having a kudos folder in your email is good too. Every time someone attaboys you, save it! Then go through and write up all the things you did that got even small amounts of recognition. You’ll find things you’d totally forgotten about.

    3. JustaTech*

      I wrote mine in the third person, and any time I waffled between two ratings I went with the higher because I know women tend to down-rate themselves.

      Of course when I sent it to my boss for his review he asked me to change it to be in the first person, but it was much easier for me to stand back and write with confidence in the third person.

    4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Ask your colleagues what format the bosses prefer. My current boss wants me to literally go through my job description line by line and say “TBLCS met the goal of X teapots per year”, but I’ve had other bosses that wanted a more narrative and descriptive review.

  39. E*

    My boss (who is difficult for a variety of reasons) effectively will not be in the office from Monday until January 15. This is not in step with office norms – people generally take two weeks over Christmas plus a few days at Thanksgiving. We have a few high-stakes, time-sensitive projects that require a lot of collaboration with external and internal people and need to be wrapped up by the end of the year. How should I respond to people that become frustrated when they are unable to reach him/get information? This project is quite politically sensitive and he won’t/can’t delegate it out to me in his absence, so I am only able to provide limited assistance to the other partners on the project.

  40. JiminyCricket*

    I’m the CEO of a small (25 employees) organization. By way of background: I’ve been in this position for 2 years but I knew I was being “groomed” for it several years prior to my official promotion so I spent a lot of time mentally preparing and reflecting on the things I’d like to improve – one of which is the overall culture of the organization. It’s not toxic – or even bad – but there were definitely some issues with the prior leadership so there’s room for improvement.

    Recently I hired “Jane” to fill a newly created management role. Her main focus is process development/improvement. She also supervises several front-line staff. She and I have had a lot of great conversations about culture and workflow/process improvements. We are very closely aligned in our values and goals in this regard – which is not surprising because I was very intentional about hiring with certain skills and leadership traits in mind.

    My concern is this: she seems to have taken a special interest in our discussions about culture change and is kind of running with the torch as though she is responsible for making it happen. I have not asked her to spearhead this initiative. Her job description indicates she should “help promote a positive culture,” but that’s it. Her main focus should be on helping me evaluate workflow and making suggestions for process improvements. She is meeting the core expectations, but now she’s regularly engaging her own team in discussions about culture topics and also organized recurring culture meetings with the rest of the management team (there are 4 front-line managers reporting to me). I didn’t mind that she organized the recurring management meetings, but I was surprised that she immediately assumed the role of meeting facilitator too. I think I was too caught off guard in the first meeting to respond right away, so I let her continue for a while before hopping in. When I did speak, I tried to provide a bit of context for why were were meeting in an effort to demonstrate that I was driving and not a passive attendee. In subsequent meetings, I have tried to take the reigns from the start, but I don’t do it aggressively so the end result looks more like Jane and I are co-leading. Even still, I believe the rest of my management team believe she is 100% responsible for this new direction as I’ve heard comments that suggest they correlate it with her coming on board.

    To be completely frank, I want to be the one to lead this kind of initiative and I also feel like it should come from me as the head of the organization. I don’t really want them having lengthy culture discussions or exercises with staff before we first define what we’re striving for as an organization. At that point, I would expect each manager to support and promote a cohesive culture. Am I wrong in thinking this should come from me? I would like to address it with her and clarify her role, but I don’t want to come across as unreasonable, possessive or on a power trip. Nor do I want to discourage her from taking initiative about such an important topic. That said, I have to admit that I DO feel a little “possessive” about it! I have spent so much time thinking about and educating myself about these topics! I’m very passionate about my job and care very much about leading the organization in a good direction. Before Jane came on board, I had multiple one-on-one conversations with each of the other managers about my vision for the organization so thought they knew where I was coming from. But they apparently don’t as they credit her for the fact that we’re “finally talking about culture.” They are all excited and engaged, which is great, but I can’t shake my annoyance (probably not the most mature reaction).

    Should I ask Jane to step back and let me take the lead or is my pride getting the way? If I’m not being unreasonable, does anyone have suggested wording for my discussion with her?

    1. Anon Anon*

      Talk to Jane and ask her to take a step back.

      She probably believes that she’s taking initiative, and if she’s new she may be eager to prove her value to you. However, cultural shifts (even modest ones), really need to be lead from the CEO of the organization, especially in a small organization. It’s too easy for other staff to dismiss the changes being requested when it comes from others.

      I think it might also be worthwhile differentiating the expectations and cultural tone she wants to set for her own department and direct reports versus those as the organization as a whole. If she wants to make a shift in cultural tone within her own department (as long as it doesn’t cross purposes with anything you wish to do as the head of the organization), I’d encourage her and empower her to do that. It could even be considered a pilot of some sort. But, I would definitely be clear that an organizational shift needs to be spearheaded and led by you.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      If I were Jane I would have thought you wanted me to do this, and in fact is what you hired me to do. I also would be a little surprised that a CEO would want to take the lead, but in such a small organization maybe that makes more sense. For the conversation with her say, “I apologize that I wasn’t clear, while I appreciate your initiative I want to take the lead myself on XY and Z.”
      That said, do you really have time for that? It sounds like Jane is taking the actual action that you’ve been wanting and thinking about — what’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t your reaction be “I’m so glad we have Jane with us to push through the vision that I’ve (we’ve) been working on.” Also, if she isn’t doing this, what would her job be?

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, with a job description like that (which is vague enough as to be unhelpful) I’d assume what’s she’s doing is what you wanted. But, you can absolutely clarify this!

    3. Bobina*

      I see this as a bit of both – some of it is probably your pride speaking, but she may also be overstepping a little bit. However my caveat for the latter – process improvement is very often tied to change management which is often very close to company culture and trying to improve it. Depending on her background, I wouldnt be surprised if Jane sees discussions on company culture as part and parcel of process improvement because they very often go hand in hand.

      Honestly, considering the optics as well – I would say be the bigger person here. As CEO, you should be more concerned with the wellbeing of the company and not just what you personally want. At most, bring it up and try framing it as a *joint* effort, make sure your messages align and that everything she is promoting fits with what you intended. But I kind of feel like trying to take ownership back from her may end up casting you in not the best light, so be very careful about how you do that if you choose to.

    4. Sleepytime Tea*

      You are the CEO. You should have addressed this immediately after the first meeting, and it’s going to hurt Jane a little more now that she’s been this heavily involved for so long versus if you had said something right at the beginning.

      It sounds like you do want this project to come from you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. So talk to Jane now. Tell her you really appreciate the work she’s done thus far and for taking so much initiative, but you would prefer to be lead on this one from now on. Ask that she not set up any more meetings on your behalf.

      That said… she has everyone excited and engaged, which is hard to do. The mature thing to do would be to look at her performance in this area and ask yourself if you are going to be adding anything more to it by taking it away from her. One of the best things you can do as an executive is recognize your assets and take advantage of them. You had some one on one conversations about culture that apparently didn’t stick, and what Jane is doing apparently is sticking. What is more important? Changing the culture, or you getting credit for it? It sounds to me like the smart thing to do here would be to work with Jane directly on this instead of removing her from it. This can be your plan, and if you work together with her you get to help shape it and guide it and make decisions, which is what you really want, yes?

      The best leaders I’ve ever worked with worked with people “smarter” than themselves. They weren’t threatened by other people’s talent, and were only ever thrilled when someone they worked with exceeded expectations. Employees who do great work reflect great on YOU. I highly recommend you collaborate with Jane rather than remove her from the situation, and start focusing on how team success is the true measure of your success as a CEO.

  41. Wool Princess*

    What is a good email subject for networking?

    I want to send an email to someone who met with me for career advice in early 2019. That interaction was very warm and I of course followed up with a thank-you note, but we haven’t interacted since. I want to let her know how my career choices panned out.

    Is “Hello!” or “Checking In” sufficient? Those both feel a little awkward to me.

    1. Imprudence*

      I use “hello from Tiny-Town” or “Hello from Teapots-Inc” or wahtever the connection is. But don’t overthink it.

      1. Wool Princess*

        When we had coffee she had just left the large organization that I still work for. We operated in similar circles (like I think she knew who I was before we had coffee). And it’s over personal email.

        I was thinking “Hello from MyName” but I think that’s odd when my email address says my name haha. So maybe just “Hello!”

        Clearly overthinking is exactly what I am doing.

    2. Kw10*

      I would go with something like “Checking in” or”Career update”. Maybe it’s just me but “Hello!” as an email subject line feels kind of spammy.

      P.S. I’ve done a number of informational interviews (where I’m the person being interviewed/giving advice) and if they go well I always encourage the person to keep in touch/let me know how they’re doing. People rarely if ever take me up on that, so I for one would be thrilled to hear back from someone down the road!

      1. Wool Princess*

        Thanks for answering!

        I ended up with “An overdue hello” although “an overdue update” in retrospect would have been better. I agree with you and “Hello” as an email subject feeling very odd!

        Our interaction over coffee was *very* warm (we hugged at the end). I didn’t end up taking the advice she gave me (although it would have been a smarter move career-wise, emotionally/financially it didn’t work out) but still wanted to tell her where I landed. She’s someone whose career I very much admire so I’d like to keep the relationship.

    3. lil falafel wrap*

      I’ve used something like “Hello and an update!” before when sharing info about new career developments

  42. CanTrip*

    I have a question about what counts as lying in a job application. I went to University of State at City A, and I’m currently applying for jobs in City B in the same state, closer to my parents. There is also a University of State at City B. For some reason, I’ve found some application systems for local businesses that don’t recognize USA as a school, but do recognize USB. (I’ve only found this on local smaller businesses, leading me to believe that it’s made by another small business.) Usually they only have one option for University of State, but once clicked it shortens to USB. On my resume, I have the correct school listed, but I can’t put it into the application field. What really makes it feel like a big deal is that USB is known for it’s more exclusive program in my field, while USA has a completely different main focus, think engineering and fine arts. I don’t want to seem like I’m claiming a more rigorous education, I knew what I was choosing when I chose my school and I passed certifications the same as any USB graduate would have to pass. Should this be something I bring up to anyone at the various companies that I’ve found this issue with?

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Ooof, I wouldn’t select USB if you didn’t go there. Is there a way for you to select ‘other’ or write in the name of your school?

    2. Sleepytime Tea*

      Well that’s frustrating, because you are in no way attempting to lie here, but your options are limited. If there is an “other” option, use that and write it in. If there isn’t and you HAVE to choose from what is available, choose USB and then I might make a remark in my first interview about the system having limitations and so you chose USB because USA wasn’t available (which I would bet dollars to doughnuts most HR reps aren’t going to be concerned about, especially since what school you went to is not a primary criteria for the vast majority of employers). If/when you get to an interview stage, they will be looking at your resume and not the system you put data in.

    3. Gumby*

      I would bring it up – but that could be because I live in California and think of Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz as completely different universities. (There is nothing wrong with either of those. It’s just they are in no way interchangeable. Well, actually, it’s hard to get behind having a slug as a mascot, but in return you get Tom Lehrer hanging around so it balances out.) Some state universities could be more closely tied together so switching in one for the other is less weird.

  43. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Professor/teacher/educator friends – how lenient are you with technology issues, especially when it comes to submitting assignments? How much is my responsibility to resolve the issue, and how much is the student’s?
    I think I’m pretty relaxed, but definitely more so if a student gives me a heads up ahead of time. I keep running into one particular issue with one particular student. I’m trying to be sympathetic, but at the same time, I need to see the assignments so I can grade them!

    1. Jaid*

      I remember seeing a “life hack” for late papers, where the student will deliberately send a corrupted file, go “oopsie” and then take the extra time to finish their project. Are you sure it’s not this?

      1. tangerineRose*

        Depending on what’s wrong with the technology, I wonder if the student could take some photos of the paper with a cell phone and send that in to “prove” it’s written.

    2. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      What you should do is clearly communicate your policy about navigating these issues. Let students know that the sooner you know about the issue, the more likely it is that you can provide some flexibility! If you have a clear policy that’s communicated to everyone, that benefits all your students. It’s also a place to start with the one student, to hopefully get them to be more forthcoming about their issues, or for you to draw the line and say that you can no longer be accommodating.

    3. KiwiApple*

      I work on the admin side and we have online assignments. What we can do is very much a higher university level than my office however my school has unofficially decided that we can be lenient and there will be no late penalties if there are technical issues within 2 hour of the deadline. This is not advertised to students. We have also all gone back to having one singular set time for submission regardless of if you are under or post grad (2pm).

    4. Anon Anon*

      It depends on if it’s a first time thing, and how quickly the student reaches out and what alternatives they suggest for providing the assignment.

      A student who reaches out before the deadline or immediately (like a few minutes after) the deadline via text, email, chat, etc. and who has been consistent about submitting materials on time for other assignments then I tend to be very lenient. Stuff happens, and I don’t want any student to panic because technology failed. Heck, I try and be lenient if the technology is fine, and there is a life crisis.

      However, if I have a student who has repeatedly had technical issues and asked for extensions. Especially if I’ve put them in touch with other resources to get the issue resolved or offered other submission techniques, then I’m not lenient at all.

      I’m all for working with students and providing them with options. But, the few students who are trying to game the system I’m far less likely to work with. And, sadly, there is always one or two.

      1. academic lab tech*

        Yup yup, and my rule of thumb is it’s late if it’s not there when I go to grade the assignment. In theory it shouldn’t take someone more than 24 hours to fix a tech issue, right? Or at least that’s enough time for them to email you that it’s broken, and ask for an extension.

        I’d say to let them know that the ball is in their court, and when it’s late they can’t expect proper feedback at the normal time. Maybe just do a round up of all the assignments once a week, and then that’s when you’d grade the late student’s work?

    5. Sleepytime Tea*

      One off situations? Yeah, be lenient. Chronic issues? Well… even if it really is a technology problem, then the student needs to take that into account. If they are apparently always submitting last minute and always having technology problems, they need to start planning their time better and finding different resources to use so that they can meet the deadline. When I was in school I never waited until immediately before class to print a paper in the computer lab, because what if the printer jammed or ran out of paper or whatever and then it was late? It’s not unreasonable to expect students to take those things into account, because that’s what life is like.

    6. Tessera Member 042*

      This is really dependent on the context in which you are teaching!

      When I taught at a 4-year state university where most students lived on campus and I knew students had access to computer labs and printers through the library, I was fairly strict about enforcing deadlines without prior requests for exemption.

      Now that I am teaching for a community college where all students have been forced into remote learning during the pandemic without access to the library and computer labs, I give a ton of leeway. I encourage students to use cloud-based software for their assignments so they can access it from multiple devices, and I point out that they can access our LMS from their smartphones. I point them toward our college’s program to assist students with their technology needs. I’m giving all the extensions and flexibility I can, because I know how fortunate I was to be able to replace my 8 year old laptop at the last minute in the middle of the semester and how unlikely it is that my students would be able to do the same. I also try to incentivize on-time work by reminding students that they can turn in work late for (half credit/points off as per my syllabus), but that late work goes to the bottom of my (never-ending) grading pile.

      At the same time, if there is a student that is continually having issues, I will contact them directly and alert them to the pattern, ask if there’s a problem, help trouble-shoot and/or connect them with resources, and alert their advisor. After that, it’s on them, and I don’t chase assignments.

    7. Dumpster Fire*

      High school teacher here – I’ll accept the tech issues excuse the first time, but I’ll also tell the student who they should contact to help resolve the issue (we have an instructional technology specialist who will help students with their tech problems). In fact, I’ll often copy him (the ITS) on the email to the student when I tell the student who to contact. If the late work continues and the student HAS contacted the ITS, I’ll be a lot more understanding than if there have been no efforts to resolve the issues.

  44. wantaJobNow*

    Anyone tried the online job hunt service JobNow?

    A local librarian recommended it to me as the metropolitan library system recently added JobNow as a resource. The program promises real-time interaction with certified resume and job interview specialist.

    Because I’m still not receiving much feedback on my resume, I opted to chat (in text form only) with a resume reviewer. The challenges began when I learned the program only allows for reviews of one-page resumes. All of my resumes are two pages as I have well over 10 years’ worth of experience.

    I also ran into problems when Debbie P., my reviewer, noted the amount of quantification on the first page of my resume “broke up the flow” and made it look like a “CV rather than a resume.” Now, I am an American, so to me CVs are for Europeans and academics, neither of which I am. I was also thrown by the reference to reducing the number of quantifiable achievements on my resume. Every person with whom I’ve spoken has noted that adding figures increases the strength of the resume.

    So, has anyone worked with JobNow? If so, how was your experience? Lastly, do you agree with the advice I received?

    Thanks!

    1. RagingADHD*

      Have not used them, but just looked up the FAQ on their site. Their coaches/reviewers are trained in-house, and the minimum qualifications are a 4-year degree and teaching experience.

      In other words, it looks like their coaches have zero experience as hiring managers. Overall, it looks like they are mainly targeted to people newly entering the work force and trying to learn remedial resume and interview skills, not so much for folks with substantial work experience. So I’d take their advice with a grain of salt.

  45. Persephone Mulberry*

    My year-end review is this afternoon and I’m supposed to be writing my self-evaluation. Obviously allowances are being made due to the 2020-ness of 2020 (in addition to COVID pushing everyone in my office to WFH, my father passed away unexpectedly in August and I moved in October), but I still have to fill in the standard eval form with questions like “List your most significant accomplishments or contributions since last year and how they aligned with your goals/objectives from your last review” and “What new tasks or additional duties outside the scope of your regular responisiblities have you successfully performed?” Quite frankly, I know my productivity and task management have been erratic even making allowances for *waves vaguely* and I feel grateful I haven’t been put on a formal PIP. I’m really struggling to see anywhere that I excelled this year.

    Suggestions for how to reframe my thinking and find some positives to put down on paper? I need to send an advance copy of my self eval to my supervisor in a couple hours.

    1. Amtelope*

      I would lean into the weirdness of 2020. “Successfully transitioned to working from home due to COVID-19” is probably a big part of the answer to “What new tasks or additional duties …” For “List your most significant accomplishments or contributions,” I would put whatever you did, and add something like “while dealing with the disruption to normal work processes caused by COVID-19.” I think what you need to say in your annual review is some work-appropriate version of “This year has been a garbage fire, but I’ve done the best I could, and next year will be better,” so put the stuff in your self-evaluation that you need to support that.

    2. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

      I went through this very thing in the last two years. My father passed away after just 3 1/2 months of illness. During the full year, I was regularly needing to be gone on short notice and work remotely when I could. Plus the emotional impact of losing my dad! I was a wreck and then COVID happened and it made things worse. But on my reviews, I owned the impact it had on me. In stating what I could have done better, I flat out said ‘Due to X, I was able to keep the lights on and the trains running but I’m sure I missed a lot of opportunities in many areas. ‘ I’ve had to deal with short staff, new tools, COVID and isolation. Just be honest about how these things have impacted you. Don’t try to hide it. State that due to x, you were focused on ensuring that basic core functions were completed properly but you were unable to take on stretch goals at this time. Your plan for remedying it is xxxx. Good luck to you and I’m sorry about your dad.

  46. Tears for Fears*

    I need advice on dealing with this situation with a coworker. “Jane”, frequently will say things like she’s “stupid” or “dumb.” Other times, she’ll complain about being “fat” or something related to her weight. I have to sit next to her, so I can’t move or leave the area. I’ve tried changing the subject and ignoring her comments, but it’s bothersome.

    Since I’m quiet, she’ll say, “Oh, Tears, I bet you’re perfect.” Um, no, I’m certainly not. I just don’t want to complain out loud about my insecurities at work while I’m supposed to be working!

    I don’t know if she has emotional issues and/or is just attention-seeking and dramatic (I’m not trying to diagnose, just saying that there might be other things going on), but it’s frustrating….

    Has anyone dealt with something similar? What did you do?

    1. wantaJobNow*

      Sorry you’re dealing with this! It sounds both exhausting and distracting.

      Honestly, you may need to be more direct with “Jane” to ensure she understands that your silence doesn’t mean you feel yourself perfect but that you are instead focusing on the task at hand. Sometimes people are so inside their own heads that they cannot fathom others’ need professional boundaries.

    2. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      It’s not your job to soothe her insecurities. Don’t engage. If you must say something, it can be something like “that’s an odd thing to say” and don’t discuss further.

    3. 867-5309*

      I have not, but it reminds me of the scene in Mean Girls where they all waited for Cady to say something bad about herself and she mentioned her bad breath.

    4. Helvetica*

      Oh, I feel you. I used to have a co-worker/friend who kept making comments about her weight, calling herself fat, and me being skinny and perfect next to her. This, as you say, was very uncomfortable. I never wanted to talk about weight or eating habits but she never missed an opportunity to do so for some reason. I chose to just not respond, and change the subject as much as possible, so never engaging on these topics.

    5. Shirley Keeldar*

      “Hey, I really like my co-worker. Please stop saying mean things about her.” Might just shock her out of doing it?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I like this one a lot. I use it with friends also. “Hey stop beating up my friend, Bob. Bob’s a good egg.”

    6. AcademiaNut*

      I’m wondering whether she’s expecting you to reassure her, or to make disparaging comments about yourself in response. Either sounds annoying.

      I’d be inclined to go with completely ignoring it all. Ignore the initial comments, ignore the follow ups that try to get the response from her. With a friend, I’d be more likely to say something directly, but with a coworker that I didn’t particularly like in the first place, I’m a lot less willing to put emotional work into helping them with their insecurities. If she doesn’t get what she wants from you, then hopefully she’ll give up. If she goes really direct “Do you think I’m stupid/fat” you could still ignore it, or if necessary, go with a “that’s an odd question to ask” response. Just don’t get pulled in to feeding her neediness.

      Snarky me would want to go with “Yes, yes I am” in response to the perfect comments, though.

  47. Theory of Eeveelution*

    I’ve been unemployed since April because of COVID, and I’m truly stuck, demoralized, and convinced that I’ll never have a job again!

    I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do. I’ve joined a TON of networking sites and Slack channels, attended soooo many related Zoom events, redone my linkedin, sent countless cold messages in linkedin, applied to jobs I’m actually qualified for, and in all this time, I’ve had one interview (and it didn’t go super well). I have no leads, no hope, and I truly don’t know what to do next.

    This hurts extra bad because I graduated undergrad at the height of the Great Recession, and so spent the 4 years between undergrad and grad school doing unpaid internships and waiting tables and generally being poor and having no savings. Then I went to grad school, got my dream job after… and spent 2 years in that position before being laid off in April. I’m 34, and all I have to show for my entire adult working life is 2 years in a job I actually liked. And this was in a very niche industry that’s been destroyed by the pandemic, so I can’t hope for this type of job ever again.

    I’m not sure what advice I’m looking for here. I know there are a lot of people in my same position. I just can’t believe I’ve made it to my mid-30s and have nothing to show for my life. It sucks! I did everything I was supposed to do and put in all the work necessary to get where I was last year, and I’ve lost everything. Please someone tell me that my life isn’t over and it will get better, somehow!

    1. Persephone*

      Hey, it’s totally ok. You’re going to be ok. Having that grad degree will usually help with job hunting. You made it through grad school and worked really tough jobs even if you feel like they don’t fit with your career trajectory. It’s a shitty time for everyone, and no one will worry about this current gap in your resume. You may need to pivot to a new field, but you will get through it to the other side. Your life isn’t over— this is a new opportunity to learn and do something new, whatever that may be.

    2. MissGirl*

      First of all, it sucks, it’s not fair, and I’m sorry.

      Second, you have plenty of time to write your career story. I started my current career at 36 when I realized my old industry (hammered by the recession) wasn’t where I wanted to be anymore. You have thirty years left in your working life and only ten behind you. Identify several industries that are hiring and figure out how your skills translate. Look at people with those jobs and ask to set up informational interviews. People want to help right now.

      Third, work is not all your life. I totally get your feeling. I’m single, childless, and had a dead-end career before starting over. While things are better, I still don’t feel entirely great about myself. COVID has only highlighted my loneliness. I’m trying to develop my hobbies, volunteer and help others, and build a life that’s not my ideal but isn’t that shabby either.

    3. blepkitty*

      Two things: 1. Your career isn’t something to be ashamed about. You worked really hard during the recession to get into a more fulfilling career, but even if you’d waited tables forever, that wouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of.

      2. You aren’t your career! There is a whole lot more to you than what you do for a living. It might be time to focus on what it is you like about yourself. If you can’t find much, what can you do to change that? I’m talking about things within your power, like taking up a hobby or volunteering somewhere meaningful to you. It won’t solve your job woes, but it’ll make you feel better.

      Also, your story is an example of the bs that is the narrative we millennials were fed, that if we just worked hard and did all the right things, we could have a fulfilling career and a comfortable savings account. It sounds like you’re aware that it isn’t true, because you say you know other people are in your situation, but you don’t seem to be giving yourself the grace that should go along with that. None of this is your fault.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Also, your story is an example of the bs that is the narrative we millennials were fed, that if we just worked hard and did all the right things, we could have a fulfilling career and a comfortable savings account. It sounds like you’re aware that it isn’t true, because you say you know other people are in your situation, but you don’t seem to be giving yourself the grace that should go along with that. None of this is your fault.

        This bears repeating.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Your life actually is not over and it actually will get better somehow. Honest.

      Nothing lasts forever, just as the good times don’t last forever, neither do the bad times.

      You will continue on and you will find jobs you like. Just like SOs and pets, you will like these new jobs for very different reasons from why you liked the old jobs. And somehow that will be okay.

      Decide to be an opportunist. What opportunities do you see now that never would have existed any other way? Can you grab some of those opportunities?

      Remember no one can ever take your education away from you. No one can ever take your resourcefulness, your creativity, your stick-to-it-tiveness away either. These are yours and you keep these things.

      If you think of yourself as being 3/4 of the way “there” in life, how does that change this picture? If you think to yourself, “I almost got this!” what does the picture look like now?

      My father was a brilliant man. He said he did not feel settled into life until he was into his 40s. Well, he had the Great Depression, WWII, Korea, whoops all of the sudden it’s 1960s outside and he is 40 something years old. He bought a house in 1965. We were not there too long and he said, “This is the longest I have lived in any one place in my entire life.” So on top of all these historical events, he moved. Constantly, he was always moving to a new place.

      He went on to work for Household Name Company, he gained 50 patents (that he would talk about, I dunno about the others…) and he even managed to get a second modest house. He wasn’t rich but he was on solid ground. He had a terrible launch in life, it was awful. He went through times where he was scared, he said he often had migraines, probably due to crazy levels of stress.

      My point is that just because things aren’t good, it does not necessarily mean they won’t ever get better. One trick that my wise friend pointed out is to plan today for what you will do or need when things get better. For example, you will need healthy habits, a diet of good foods, exercise, hydration. But there are other things to think about also. It’s in the down times we can start building these things up that we will definitely need/want in the future. As we do these building-up activities our vision of what our future can start to sharpen. Unfairly, it’s the choices we make when the chips are down that change things later on in our lives. Keep making good choices even though it feels like it’s going into a black hole right now. Picture Future You congratulating Current You for having the audacity to plow ahead despite all the issues and all the fatigue.

    5. Skeeder Jones*

      I can definitely relate. I left a job voluntarily shortly before the ’08 recession due to a back injury that made sitting at a desk 40 hours a week near impossible. I expected I’d heal up and return the job market fairly quickly but didn’t happen because the recession hit. In ’09 I took the first job I was offered after nearly a year of searching. It was a significant under-employment situation for me. I was laid off from that job less than a year later, helped out with special projects off and on for the CEO for several more years, worked seasonal jobs, just whatever I could do. I didn’t really reenter the job market until 2015 (but that was partly due to chronic illness that was triggered by the back injury and I was disabled for about a year). By this time, I was in my late 40s. Just 2 years later, I was working the my perfect job for a great manager, with amazing teammates and at a company I believed it. I was nearly 50 when it happened. As you can see, it took me quite a while to get back into the job market and on to a career path, but it did happen and I was a decade older. All this is to say: Don’t give up! And also don’t be too hard on yourself. You aren’t alone, there are a ton of stories like ours, not everyone is brave enough to share their story.

  48. Burnt Out Toast*

    Hi all, happy Friday!

    I posted last week about my current situation being, “promoted” with a counteroffer, accepting that counteroffer, rejecting 3 outside job offers, and ultimately my current employer not fulfilling their end of the contract details.

    Excited to let you guys know that I officially put in my 2-week notice, and my last day is December 4th!

    During this time, I’ve reached back out to one company that I rejected, and they were open to re-consider me for the position. I’m also starting up the interview process again, and I’m feel SO hopeful that something will come along soon! It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, and I’m having less and less anxiety on the daily!

    However, I’m starting to notice that my manager is becoming more distant, and of course, excluding me from meetings. I do want to leave this on good terms, and would like to hear if anyone has had experience dealing with their management giving them the cold shoulder after resigning?

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      In my experience it isn’t abnormal. My grandboss didn’t talk to me at all for my notice period (very unusual – we usually spoke at least once per day) but I have to give him a little break…he lost both me and my boss in the same week.
      Boss from the most recent job I left didn’t talk to me for 3 days even though there was a TON of transition stuff we needed to discuss.

    2. holy cats*

      I gave notice today and my incredibly difficult/toxic boss has put HOUR-LONG 1:1s on our calendar for every single day of my notice period…. we usually check in 2x a month. it’s infuriating and also I’m like, this is why I quit!

  49. Unique*

    I had the most interesting interview (in a good way!) this week. The hiring manager/executive director asked very specific questions, including about small things I put on my resume, which has never happened before. I think it went really well, I got a great vibe about the organization, and the conversation ended with scheduling a second round interview. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes!

  50. Pandemic Polly*

    I have a coworker who I am well aware has a complex personal life (he has several young children, including a special needs child, he has had to move house recently due to his current apartment becoming uninhabitable, general pandemic/schooling, etc.) and I am sensitive to that. However, he continually asks to have meetings/discuss work issues on weekends and very late at night (like 10 pm). While I know he is very busy, as we all are, I also know that this is in part because he needs to fulfill non-work responsibilities during some “normal” work hours, which means that he prefers to do meetings and calls on nights and weekends. I, on the other hand, am strict about keeping work meetings and calls from bleeding into my home life ( I do work outside work hours, but on project/writing work, not meetings and calls) and frankly resent having to clear time on a Sunday afternoon for a call that I would much prefer to handle before 7 pm Monday-Friday. Any advice?

    1. Amtelope*

      I think you’re well justified in drawing boundaries around non-work time, unless your job requires you to be available at all hours. I’d send him an email saying something like “Hi Bob, I wanted to let you know that I’m not available for calls and meetings after 7 PM M-F or on weekends. I know you have some time commitments during the day — can we compare schedules so that we can find call times that work for us both?” If your schedules are really totally non-overlapping, he either needs to deal with getting responses by email, or propose some kind of regular check-in at a time you can both live with (could you both stand to do a 7 PM to 8 PM call once a week on a weekday?)

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      I wonder if this is an ask vs guess culture clash? He’s figuring he’ll ask and you’ll tell him no if it doesn’t work, and you’re figuring he’s only asking because he already thinks it’s okay.

      How direct have you been with him about your hours already?

    3. Sarah*

      Ugh. Unless a situation were truly urgent, requiring a meeting ASAP, I would not make myself available at these unusual times. If he can’t manage to meet during the workday, then that’s what asynchronous communication was made for. And while I feel for him, it’s not clear why his complex personal life should allow him to steamroll over his colleagues’ boundaries.

    4. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      “Sorry, I am not available to meet on that day/at that time. Are you free Monday at 4?”

    5. CatCat*

      I would decline these meetings! “Sorry, I’m not available on weekends or after 7:00 pm on weekdays.” And if you have a shared calendar system like on Outlook, you could add, “I keep my Outlook calendar is up-to-date so that should show my free time slots.” And then block all hours that aren’t your work hours.

      There may be exceptional situations that call for aftef hours, but not on the regular. It’s totally reasonable to expect work meetings to happen during the work day.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yeah, if anything I would provide more leeway for early meetings (7:30-9) than evening ones. Somehow it seems less intrusive to start the day early (and be able to sign off early!) than to have to stay late. Maybe that’s an option for this coworker?

    6. WellRed*

      Decline to be available! What if you had an equal load of family stuff that needs to be dealt with in the times he’s suggesting?
      Also, are all these meetings really necessary?

    7. Sleepytime Tea*

      Straight up? I would decline those meetings. I consider myself pretty lenient when letting my work life bleed into my home life, and I definitely wouldn’t agree to this. I am completely empathetic to dealing with schooling/housing/covid issues right now. But he should be handling as many meetings/calls as possible during regular working hours and then doing his solo tasks on nights/weekends, not the other way around.

      If you have the same boss, I would absolutely take it to them and explain that while you understand everyone is needing some flexibility with schedules right now, this is much too much and you can’t continue to accommodate it.

    8. RagingADHD*

      It sounds to me like he’s trying to schedule calls when his partner is available and/or the kids are in bed, to avoid interruptions. As someone who’s juggling kids at home while WFH, it’s not always really about doing hands-on things for long blocks of time, so much as it is about the unpredictability of when you’ll need to drop what you’re doing and intervene. When you’re working on your own, you can drop things and pick them up – not so much when it’s a meeting/call. Or there might be noise issues. There really isn’t a non-abusive way to keep children silent for 8 hours a day.

      I’d just let him know that evening/weekend calls don’t work, and offer an early-morning time (as others suggested.) Another option would be to suggest that you can be flexible during the meeting itself if he gets called away.

  51. Annie*

    I have an interview for an internal promotion to entry level management, on my own team coming up. I need to provide two references, I have one down, but I’m at a loss at who to use as my other reference. Who from this list do you should I ask?

    1. My usual reference, a former manager turned close friend. Normally I have no problem using her but she just had a baby 3 weeks ago, is exhausted, depressed in isolation, and the last thing she wants to do is think about work. I feel guilty even asking.
    2. A family friend I have known my whole life, I interned for her in university, now 6 years ago. Used her as a reference for some time but I think that part of our relationship has naturally run its course. She speaks enthusiastically about the work I did for her, but I don’t think she can discuss the kind of skills I need for this role. She also put a lot of effort into helping me through the earliest part of my career, with little in return, and I don’t feel right coming back asking for just one more thing.
    3. Somebody from the interview panel, aka my current bosses. Is this even a thing? Can they do this without bias? Will it reflect poorly on my application if I even ask?
    4. My former interim boss, who only managed me for 3 months after my last boss got fired. He only managed from arm’s length so we didn’t actually interact much and he didn’t really assess the quality of my work.
    5. The person leaving the role, who has managed me in the past and can say a lot about me, but has also been extremely vocal in her preference of another candidate.

    Almost all of my work experience has been at this job. My last manager was fired for serious misconduct and is unusable, and another went completely awol after retiring (nobody has been successful in contacting her). I had another job briefly after university but burned bridges with them to come here. I did reach out to my boss there once and she declined giving me a reference. I’m at a loss as of who to use in this situation, can you guys give me any advice?

    1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Ask #1, and make it very clear you will understand if she says no! Even at my lowest, if I had someone close to me reach out for a reference, I would jump to do it! For me, giving a positive (accurate, but definitely positive) reference is something I love to do! It makes me feel good to know that I am helping and supporting someone else. I would then go to #2 if #1 says no.

      1. Annie*

        Thank you!!! I know she has been really encouraging of me applying for this role. I just feel bad knowing the struggles she is going through right now.

        1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

          Given what she’s going through, she might welcome a short break to engage her brain in a different way. There were definitely times during my maternity leave that ALL I WANTED was to have a discussion with another adult that was NOT about caring for the newborn.
          As long as you’re very clear that you understand that she may need to say no, definitely definitely ask!!

  52. Anon for this*

    How do you cope with anxiety and depression at work? Last month I started an exciting Llama grooming job (thanks to Allison’s advice!!) that fits with my interests and career path, however some workload challenges have left me feeling lost and demoralized. I am worried that I am ruining my career and will never amount to anything. Any advice would be appreciated!

    1. beanie gee*

      If you haven’t already, please talk to your manager about your workload! It might be that they can help – whether that’s shifting work to others, changing deadlines, or just giving you some tools and resources to lighten the load.

      You aren’t ruining your job, and you already amount to something – don’t let a stressful time make you question your worth!

    2. Web Crawler*

      Are you in therapy? Because you can try to manage anxiety and depression on your own, but having a professional on your side can help immensely.

      And it’s better for your professional image to offload the “I fear that I won’t amount to anything” onto a therapist or employee support line instead of your boss.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yes, I am. However I may need to switch therapists as my current one is not offering specific guidance on how to get rid of these feelings and rather says to just be kinder to myself) I worry that my boss already thinks I’m incompetent/not giving me work due to these earlier challenges.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          While you are collecting more data to figure out what to do about therapists, how is your self-care doing? Sleep, good foods, hydration? A new job is a whole bunch of stress that just pulls vitamins and minerals out at an incredible clip. Try to get good stuff into you as often as possible. You might benefit from a drink with electrolytes in it.
          Proper nutrition helps the brain to function better so we can pull through tough stuff.

          Have you talked to your boss at all? I am not really sure what the concern is here, sounds like the work you are doing is not what you thought you would be doing? Ask him why. Ya know, I reached a low point with a job and I went in and said to the boss, “I want to be a great employee. What do I need to do to get there?”
          Sometimes just dumping everything out on the table can be a game changer.

  53. goinganon*

    This week, my boss waited until the morning of a meeting she scheduled with a project staffer to send me information about the staffer’s request–about 1-1.5 hours before the meeting. It was clearly not all of the information he had sent her, and I know she’d been aware of his request for days.

    Then, in the meeting, she told him I would be taking the lead in asking questions. Something she didn’t tell me ahead of time. Needless to say, the meeting did not go well.

    Tell me your “my boss screwed up and then accused me of ‘dropping the ball'” stories? She hasn’t said anything to me about it, but I’m sure based on past experience that this will come back to haunt me one day.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      My boss lay opposite roles than what you just described. I prepare materials for our meetings with clients, but he waits until the very last second (like literally when he should be logging onto Zoom) to look them over. So then we have the meeting and there are times I feel I can speak up and plug in the information, and other times I can’t (because I’m not entirely sure how he wants to present the info…and he didn’t look at it…).

      He’s talked to me before about having ADHD, and I think that contributes to his last-minuteness…but man it is frustrating! I work so hard to try to think of every little thing that could come up in a meeting, have documents and visuals to help us through, then half of it goes unused. But at least I know I’M not the one dropping the ball. It slows down our process for him not to be aware of what I have prepared, but that’s on him. *shrug*

  54. Half-Caf Latte*

    Has anyone heard of “Office Hours” – it’s a freelance consulting gig website? I got a generic email that a “colleague” invited me, but no real specifics. Looking for reviews from anyone who has tried it out or what you’ve heard.

    1. Chaordic One*

      Never heard of it, but the generic email saying a “colleague” invited you sounds suspicious and a bit on the shady side.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I have not, but often such sites encourage new users to invite as many people as possible to build their base, or offer incentives if your referrals sign up or book work. Someone probably sent out a lot of invites at once and didn’t bother personalizing them.

      It looks like their featured business model is based around being an on-call expert to take questions, rather than doing long-term projects. It looks like a good idea.

  55. Casey*

    Ughhhh, I’m so nervous. On Tuesday I had 6 back-to-back interviews (25 minutes each, five minute break between each — still grueling!) with a company I’m really excited about, and they seem to be excited about me! I had great conversations with everyone I talked to and I think I represented myself well. Then, literally two minutes after I logged off the last interview, I got an offer from another organization. They said I had 24 hours to decide, I asked for more time, since I knew the first company would be getting back to me by the end of the week, and they said no. So I panicked for 24 hours, discussed with my parents and friends and professors, and eventually decided to hold out for the first company.

    Well, it’s the end of the week. The HR rep I spoke with promised she’d be getting back to me with a decision by the end of the day. I wish I had class or meetings or something to distract me, because I’m basically just refreshing my email every 15 minutes and dreading how bad I’ll feel if I turned down the other offer for nothing. I just want to know and get the emotions over with!

    1. Bobina*

      Just so you know, demanding someone accept a job offer within 24 hours is not a sign of a good company. In my experience, companies will give you at least 2-3 days, often a week to respond. So for me, you are probably dodging at the very least a strong orange flag there.

    2. Zephy*

      If it helps, I think the first company was unreasonable in giving you a hard 24 hour deadline to make a decision on their offer, especially since they sent it to you on a Tuesday night. It’s not clear if you told Company 1 that you were waiting to hear from Company 2 before deciding – if you did tell them that, it’s not the end of the world, and it says more about Company 1 than it does about you.

  56. AnonThisTime*

    We are a small team (less than 50), our co-worker is in hospice and I’m have mixed emotions about holding our annual holiday team event (virtual this year).

    I think we should ask for team input to see if everyone wants to celebrate now or later, some bosses want to move forward with our normal plan. This feels a bit squidgy, considering our co-worker likely won’t be able to participate, or may have recently passed when the even occurs. Ugh even typing that.

    Conversely, I can see how it would be something for everyone to look forward to, especially during a pandemic. However, since it could be delayed until Jan 2012, when restrictions *hopefully* ease up, with the possibility of celebrating in person (we usually have around 25 attend), I think the option should be exploded.
    I’m curious to hear from those of you who have dealt with something similar. Worth pushing back on?

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I wouldn’t count on “in person” within the next 4-6 months, whatever you plan. (Since you wrote “Jan 2012,” I have no idea if you actually meant 2021 or 2022 here.) I wouldn’t postpone though, since it’s going to be kind of weird and suck no matter what. I have no idea reading this if your coworker in hospice is still able to “attend” anything anyway?

      1. tangerineRose*

        I wouldn’t want to hang out with a bunch of my co-workers in person within the next few months at least. Why take the risk?

    2. Theo*

      A beloved coworker of mine died during the pandemic — we knew it was coming, it was a long-term thing, not COVID — in an office about the size of yours. While of course we were sad when they passed, it didn’t affect the planning of events during or after their illness; nor should it have. You need to consider the needs of the majority of your office and the reality of the pandemic. There’s no particular evidence that Jan 2021 will magically be better, or that your coworker will magically be better by then; what if they are still in hospice in January? April? June? Hospice is pre-death care, and I doubt they are really thinking about their office holiday party; no offense, but it’s just not that important.

      Have the party or don’t, but base it on your coworkers who are at work! Don’t make decisions on a single person, base it on what your company as a whole needs.

    3. Not Australian*

      We once delayed our Christmas party because a co-worker was in hospital; ended up having it on 5 February – no special menu, no decorations, no festive atmosphere, just a boring disaster. Your co-worker won’t care either, and would probably be mortified that you were thinking of postponing your plans on their account.

  57. Communications Mentor*

    Does anyone have experience in teaching basic social skills? Someone that I mentor at work is really struggling and his negative interactions with coworkers are starting to jeopardize his job. I’m having trouble explaining the differences between how he thinks he’s presenting himself and how it’s being received by everyone around him.

    Fergus has barely had to spend much time with other people so his communication skills are terrible. He was homeschooled his whole life (in the only-interact-with-parents way), did college online, then did remote freelancing where team interaction was minimal. This is really the first time he’s had to work with other people and it sounds like he’s never had friends or the opportunity to make in-person friends before. I think we’ve made some progress on getting him to see that the he’s the common denominator in the problematic social interactions, but I’d like to give him some resources such as books or websites for understanding how to communicate with others.

    1. Spearmint*

      I am also someone who has struggled with social skills, in large part due to not having many friends in high school and much of college (though I wasn’t homeschooled). Here are a few resources I’ve found helpful:

      SucceedSocially.com is a great resource for general social skills and has a ton of helpful, very clear articles about the basics of socializing. Though it’s more focused on making friends than work relationships, a lot of the stuff should apply to coworker interactions as well.

      How to Win Friends and Influence People is also good and a classic, and more focused on work/career interactions.

      You may already be doing this, but I strongly encourage you to be kind but very direct and explicit when coaching him on social skills, and err on the side of being more direct. People tend to be very vague when discussing social skills, in my experience.

      For example, if he accidentally annoys or upsets people, then you could say “hey, when you say/do X, most people will think/feel Y, regardless of your intent. I know you didn’t mean it that way, but that’s how people will perceive it. Try saying/doing Z instead next time”.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I have heard of social workers offering coaching in teaching people social skills and of developing an awareness of what other people are thinking and feeling. I’m not sure if that would be helpful in this case or not.

        In addition to being kind, direct and explicit, do try very hard to give him tools to succeed. When there’s a event coming up, give him an idea of how he will be expected to behave ahead of time, so he isn’t caught completely off guard. You might try softening criticism by telling him that the way he does things, isn’t necessarily bad (even if it is), but that what you are recommending is better. Then have him try the better techniques you are advocating. Let him know when he does something well and compliment him on it. No one wants to experience a constant barrage of criticism (even if it is legitimate) or to feel personally attacked (and though I’m sure that’s now what is intended, sometimes that is how it might feel by the person who needs help with social skills).

        Try to be open and approachable and to model the behavior you hope Fergus will emulate. It sounds like poor Fergus’ mind is being blown. This kind of coaching isn’t something that is going to work with everyone, but I do think it is worth the effort and I hope you and Fergus will succeed.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Someone recommended The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine to me once. I bought it but didn’t read it, because that’s how I roll. The person who recommended it was a business coach, so I would trust her word.

    3. Web Crawler*

      If body language is a problem, the book What Every BODY Is Saying by Joe Navarro helped this autistic person a lot in high school.

    4. ...*

      How did the end up getting hired if his social skills are that bad? Thats puzzling. You’re not a social skills coach or a life skills coach, and these are basic life skills. If he’s regularly making people made and unable or unwilling to change then unless he’s a super star at his work I’d consider just letting him go.

      1. Roci*

        Agreed, this sounds like a life skills problem and the job is probably a bad fit. I can’t imagine “teach basic social skills” to be in the purview of a boss-employee relationship. Accommodations for neurodivergence, sure, but not coaching someone through basic team interactions that are a requirement for the role.

  58. To Report or Not to Report*

    Hello everyone, I wrote in a couple weeks ago about the office problem child, Mary, who reported a couple of our maintanence guys for drinking a doing drugs on premises. I wanted to thank everyone who commented and give an update. I knew I was going to have to file the report, I just hoped someone could give me a good reason not to. I ended talking to my boss, who forwarded Mary’s “complaint” to HR for investigation.

    One of the reasons I was so leary of forwarding the report was because I know that one of the employees being reported, John, does smoke marijuana, or did. Now, it’s legal in our state, and because of that, the company does not do random drug tests, there’s no heavy equipment operation or driving, and we don’t work with kids, so it’s more just don’t show up high or do drugs doing work hours, but we’re not going to police what you do on your own time. The reason I know John smokes is because a little over a year ago my husband was diagnosed with Lukemia (he’s recovered), and was given a medical marijuana perscription. I would sometimes drive him to the dispensery near our house and occassionally saw John there buying. I never asked, frankly it’s none of my business.

    So, the reason I was so worried was that even though we don’t do random tests, a report of an employee doing drugs on the premises would trigger a test as part of the investigation, and if John had smoked recently, he would pop positive and lose his job because there would be no way for him to prove he smoked on his own time, not at work, the eyewitness account would go hard against him, even with Mary’s record of unsubstantiated claims.

    There isn’t much to update on, there’s and investigation happening and I will let you all know when it concludes.

    1. pancakes*

      An employer that would fire someone for a positive test without any regard for whether their marijuana use was on or off the job is policing what employees do in their own time, though. It’s good this isn’t happening randomly, but in a state where marijuana is legal and the job doesn’t involve driving, etc., I don’t see why it should happen at all.

      1. To Report or Not to Report*

        Without the eyewitness account from Mary I’m not sure they would fire him, but without that there wouldn’t be any test. They’re giving weight to what she said.

    2. WellRed*

      The problem remains: the company has a system that puts undue weight on the so-called observations of employees who may or may not be drama llamas/vindictive coworkers/liars. Until the Marys of the world are required to offer more proof (at least, when they have this track record), the problem will continue, unfairly.
      I look forward to the update.

      1. To Report or Not to Report*

        I agree, and my boss and I discussed this, and the fact that we don’t trust Mary’s word anymore. Unfortunately, HR will not take that into account when conducting the investigation, however, the head of HR and my grandboss, the department director, have signaled a willingness to discuss Mary further if this new accusation doesn’t pan out.

        I know my boss and grandboss are concerned about Mary’s habit of reporting things to me or my boss, and not using the HR hotline that exists for this reason. My boss thinks she’s up to something, and I agree, but I can’t see what she gains. Unless, she’s hoping we fire her for making a false report so she can sue us.

          1. To Report or Not to Report*

            I’ve considered that, like the incident with her team lead, but honestly, a lot of the people she reports are people who she doesn’t have direct contact with most days, like John and the other two maintenance guys she accused this time.

        1. Anono-me*

          Could she actually have a beef against you and be hoping to eventually get you in hot water for not turning one of her complaints over to HR?

          1. To Report or Not to Report*

            It’s possible. In my more parnoid moments I theorize that she’s and HR mole, making bs complaints to see if me and my boss file the reports like we’re supposed to.

  59. JustaTech*

    Help keeping purchasing organized?

    My department recently decided that rather than having one person from each group do the purchasing from that group, we would each be responsible for purchasing the materials and services we need to do our work.

    Now, this is a terrible idea because we’re a bunch of scientists who use lots of materials and services from lots of vendors and suddenly having no centralized person who is experienced with setting up Purchase Orders, or getting POs and service contracts through Legal, or even just keeping track of orders is a recipe for things not being here when we need them.

    But, terrible idea or no, we’re stuck with it. (This is partly a consequence of layoffs over the summer and most of the people who were laid off were the people who had been doing the ordering.)

    So, how do I keep this stuff organized? I am absolutely terrible at remembering to follow up on things like “did that vendor get back to me?” or “when did they say that thing would ship?”, which is part of why I never did this part of purchasing or inventory. Now that I’m not in the lab as much, I don’t get the regular visual reminders to check on the stock of this or that. Also, I’m not ordering every day or even every week, but maybe once a month, so I’m not going to get familiar with it.

    I am also frankly terrified of messing up anything to do with company money (for no reason, nothing bad’s happened), which adds to my stress and makes it harder for me to remember things.

    Right now I’ve got a document of everything I’ve ordered this month, when I ordered it, when/if the vendor responded. We also have a big shared spreadsheet of all our vendors, the POs for those vendors, and each order to each vendor. But I still feel like I am going to drop the ball (and hate myself when I do) – are there other tools or best practices?

    1. Bobina*

      As with many other work things, my tip is to set up a reminder as soon as you do the thing. So as soon as you send out an email, I set a reminder (I just do it in Outlook, Alison has talked about the system she uses elsewhere) , I usually do it for 2 weeks later and all it says is : Follow up on ‘thing I just did’. This works alright for me.

      For your situation, I might also consider having a designated ‘Admin Day’ – again, maybe every 2 weeks, maybe once a month. And then if you already have a giant spreadsheet of things you’ve started working on, I would just spend the day following up on the spreadsheet, chasing people, ordering things, updating the spreadsheet etc. Definitely try to make it reasonably regular so you dont forget, but if you create a checklist of things which you know need to be done – its just a case of making the time to do it.

      1. JustaTech*

        Setting up reminders immediately is a really good idea. Thanks!

        I almost wish I could make it more regular because then I know I would 1) stop freaking out about it and 2) get some good systems in place, but the ordering I’m going to do will be so erratic there’s no hope for anything regular.

        It does not help that the orders I placed this week don’t seem to have gone through, which makes it very hard to get them fixed, as I don’t have an order number… (Why can’t it be like buying anything else online?)

        1. Bobina*

          Erratic sounds tough so in that case reminders are probably your best bet. If they come back with estimated dates, stick a reminder in for those dates + X days grace period immediately. Its also good to get in the habit of asking for due/expected dates if you can!

          And to help stop the freaking out – I’m a big believer in creating ‘how-to’ guides for myself. I’ve been (un)lucky enough to work in places where things werent always documented well, so I got in the habit of taking notes for myself so I could refer back to them, and also update them whenever I found a new piece of information or nugget that would be useful. Which….can you ask the person who used to do this in your team/department if they already have such a thing? If they can put together a user guide and share it with everyone, that would probably be helpful.

          My record for chasing someone for a thing is probably sending a reminder every 2 weeks for about 6 months so it can be done! The key is to not ignore the reminder ever – snooze only!

          Good luck!

          1. JustaTech*

            Oh, how I wish I could have asked my coworker who used to do this how to do it, but part of the reason I’m doing it is that she was laid off with a couple of other people, at the end of the summer and we didn’t get a chance to ask her for *any* of her processes or procedures.

            The only reason I’ve gotten as far as I have is that she wrote everything down for herself in a well-labeled folder on our shared drive, so we didn’t have to start over from scratch.

            Oh, and the person who trained the department in how to do this, and still does some parts herself? She’s going on leave just when all my PO’s expire. So I’ve just got to plan as much as I can.

    1. Its GIF not JIF*

      This is one of my all time favorite articles! Of course, I spent so long just… feeling bad about being one… and not actually doing anything about it.
      I finally bought the book “How to be an Imperfectionist” in October and it has literally changed my life. I was in the depths of depression when I bought the book, and obviously there is more to a life turnaround than one silly little book, but it has really really helped me reframe my approach to life without just forcing myself not to care about doing a good job at work or similarly fundamental-to-my-being things.

      1. hats r us*

        oh that sounds interesting! It’s definitely also a current topic of mine how to do less? Lower my standards? Just do things in such a way that I don’t forget to enjoy myself.

        1. Its GIF not JIF*

          This book really helped me with understanding how to reframe perfectionism and create more achievable goals without feeling like a loser.
          It’s so easy to think of it as a superior stance or positive trait until you start to break down all the ways it makes you miserable. It often causes inferior results (missed deadlines, wasted time/money making something 100% when 95% is good enough, being overly judgmental of yourself and others, etc).

          2 quotes I wrote on sticky notes:
          “Perfectionists are driven mad by the chasm between desire and reality.”
          “To be happy, you have to rid yourself of the illusion of perfectionism’s superiority.”

  60. Lunch Lady*

    I feel like this is a really dumb question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. How do you bring your lunch to work? I feel silly carrying a lunchbox, it makes me feel like I’m in elementary school. It seems likes the best solution though, I mean after all that is literally its purpose of existence. Am I overthinking it, is it socially acceptable for an adult to carry a lunchbox? If not, what are some of your recommended alternatives?

    1. CatCat*

      It’s totally normal carry a lunchbox. Not like one with kids cartoons on it, but a plain lunchbox. When I was still going to the office, I carried small a Coleman soft-sided insulated cooler.

      1. Lunch Lady*

        Thanks! I’ll just try to stop overthinking it then. I’m definitely not using one with cartoons on it, so I think I’m in the clear.

      2. Okumura Haru*

        And if you want cartoon characters on your lunch box, go for it! One of my co-workers has a Star Wars lunch box that he uses daily.

        1. ...*

          But arguably this wouldn’t work at all workplaces. A basic colored, understated lunch bag would fly everywhere.

    2. blepkitty*

      Some people do bring lunchboxes! I usually brought my lunch in a regular microwave-safe food storage container in a bag. Since I’ve always worked places with refrigerators, I skipped the ugly insulated bags and obtained a more attractive canvas one that fit better on a fridge shelf.

      In my experience, how people bring their lunch varies a lot.

      1. Lunch Lady*

        I do have my own mini fridge in my office, which I guess means I’m really giving it even more thought than it deserves since even fewer people are seeing it. I’ll keep bringing it and thinking less about it! Thank you!

      2. blepkitty*

        Oh, also, I used to carry a big purse and put my lunches in that. 0/10 do not recommend. Those food storage containers occasionally fail.

    3. Carmen Sandiego*

      Before we all started WFH, I used to work really long hours (though nothing like the OP in the previous post!) so I would end up eating both, lunch and dinner at work. I used to carry my food in Tupperware (or similar) containers in my backpack or in a separate lunch bag.

      I don’t have any suggestions for alternatives, but I’m here to say – carry the lunchbox! For me it was convenient and practical, and encouraged me to eat healthy + cut down on my spending. There are many clear or monochrome glass/steel/plastic (not eco friendly but it’s better than nothing) options available – you don’t have to go for the cartoon themed lunchboxes we used to take to school :)

      Plus, and I really do mean this nicely – people don’t think about us as much as we think they do. You may find that no one notices that you’re carrying a lunchbox, or they might even be carrying one themselves!

      1. Lunch Lady*

        I think the reason I’ve been overthinking it is because I work at a university and I look younger than I am, easily mistaken for a student, and hey kids can be mean lol. Realistically though I think everyone is right and it’s not a big deal at all. Plus I’m only walking from my car to my office and I have my own mini fridge in my office. I’ve just always wondered because I feel like I never really see anyone else carrying a lunch bag, but perhaps I just haven’t even noticed. I mean I certainly wouldn’t think anything if I saw someone carrying a lunch bag.

    4. CTT*

      I also have a lunch bag (calling it a lunchbox does feel a little juvenile since it brings to mind those hard plastic boxes)! I have a big tote bag I use for work and it usually fits in there so no one sees it.

      1. Lunch Lady*

        You’re so right, for some reason the wording does seem to make a difference even though it’s essentially the same thing. A big tote is a good idea, thanks!

    5. OyHiOh*

      As a NewJob gift, a dear dear friend of mine tracked down a real metal lunch box. The graphics are so not me – a Pixar animated film franchise – and it’s meant for a preschooler in terms of size – but it’s perfect for the amount of food I like to eat while at work and he stuck a very sweet note in it on my first day that’s still there months later and the whole thing makes me smile every day.

      It fits comfortably in my work bag. I work in an odd space with a bunch of professional social misfits. We’re all very good at our jobs but in our off hours we’re an artist, a maker, three photographers, and a classic movies afficianado. We’re a weird bunch and proud of it. Pretty much anything shy of showing up in fuzzy slippers and pj pants is socially acceptable.

      I’d guess this is a know your office issue. How do other people in your office bring their lunches?

      1. Lunch Lady*

        What a thoughtful gift, those are the best kind! Your workplace and co-workers also sound fantastic.

        I work at a university, and unfortunately I look younger than I am and could be easily mistaken for a student. I think that’s why I’ve been feeling more self-conscious about it, judgey kids lol. No one in my office would actually care, and I don’t even know how others in my office are bringing their meals because I have my own mini fridge so I never really see anyone else’s lunch. For that matter, I suppose they never really see my lunch bag either and I should stop thinking about it. Thank you!

        1. Theo*

          I think you are probably slightly overestimating how observational college kids are about their teachers and staff! I could not tell you what kind of bag a single person carried even while I was actively attending college.

    6. Bear Shark*

      I use basically the same kind of insulated soft sided lunch box that my kids use for lunch, mine are just plain or more grown-up patterned instead of cartoon characters on them.

        1. Lunch Lady*

          Currently that’s what I’ve been bringing too! It’s just black with a floral pattern that to me at least doesn’t appear to skew young.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        My early-30s male coworker has one that has a kid-friendly pattern. . .like a sports motif, but not like a pro team or something more common for men. Just balls and bats, that type of thing. I almost chided him about it, and now I’m glad I just kept my mouth shut.

        My own lunch bag is black.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Nothing too terrible! In the moment when I first saw it, I almost said sarcastically, “Oh, did you have to bring your kid’s lunch box today?” He does have a kid, but the kid is pretty little…not necessarily at the age of owning a lunch box, so it might actually be something my coworker bought for himself. . .he has brought it more than once.

    7. Its GIF not JIF*

      I have one of the large Packit freezable lunchboxes that fits really nicely inside my tote. From the outside no one really knows what I’m carrying because its hidden inside my tote, and I view not having to put it in a shared fridge once I get to work (because it stays cold all day) as an enormous perk.
      (Also, I’m a powerlifter, so this is a giant lunchbox crammed full of stuff lol).

    8. Nanc*

      I love Slim’s Lunch Box from the Duluth Trading Company but in the past I’ve often used a reusable frozen food bag with a zipper closure from my local small town grocery store. I started carrying Slim’s when the dog gave me one for Christmas a couple of years ago (yes, the family dog gives presents!). Both are great because I also carry a cloth napkin and bamboo utinsels
      Go forth and carry your lunch in personalized style!

    9. Campfire Raccoon*

      It’s fine. Lunch bags, sketchy tupperware shoved into your purse, a cute beach bag, thermos, bento box, a Styrofoam container from last night- it’s fine. People are busy and people gotta eat. No one is going to look twice.

    10. lemon*

      Tupperware in my backpack. But only because I hate carrying things in my hands, because I take public transportation and need to be able to hold onto to stuff and use my phone. But I see people using grown-up lunch boxes all the time. They’re those insulated fabric bags that come in adult colors/patterns. Or, I’ve seen some people carry around those tiffin-style boxes that have separate compartments that stack on top of each other. Definitely use a lunch box if that’s your preference!

    11. Zephy*

      You’re overthinking it. I’m an adult who carries a lunchbox. It’s blue and it’s got cat faces on it, they have hearts for noses. I’ve only ever gotten compliments on it. (NB: I’m not in an ultra-staid, serious-as-a-heart-attack, black-suits-and-ties-all-day-every-day industry. YMMV if your workplace tends toward the Serious Business end of things.)

      Really though, there are perfectly serviceable insulated lunch bags out there, and even a plain black one would, I would argue, look more professional to carry than a paper or plastic bag from the grocery store. Plenty of professionals of all genders carry bags of one kind or another these days; nobody has to know that the only thing in your Very Professional Messenger Bag is a lunchbox and maybe a change of shirt, for all they know it’s full of Very Important Files and Briefings or something. You could also look into a bento or thermos. Bentgo makes a variety of lunch containers, including two styles of insulated bag to carry your bento box in, and they have a variety of colors and patterns as well. They come up discounted on Zulily about once a week, if you’re not fussy about getting your item ASAP, but you can find them at other online retailers as well.

    12. MissGirl*

      Costco had a sale on insulated lunch boxes. Pretty soon a lot of people on the train were carrying one. Felt good to be part of the cool group for a change :)

    13. Emi*

      I usually use random tupperware but I wouldn’t blink at an adult carrying an adult lunchbox. I really like the bento-style ones.

    14. ...*

      I bring mine in a basic re-usable bag or tote bag. But bringing it in a lunch box is totally normal provided its not like a kids lunch box or one of those odd plastic ones. I would just get a simple lunch bag . Its not weird at all.

    15. Alianora*