open thread – November 27-28, 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.

{ 330 comments… read them below }

  1. Goose*

    Hitting the 6 month mark of being unemployed in a pandemic and feeling defeated. I gave some part time work to occupy me and I’ve got some movement where I’ve made it to the final candidate phase… and then nothing. Not looking for advice, just commiseration. Blech

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Same!!! Since March :(
      I had an interview today but only offered a few hours of work a month. Hoping for more soon, but it’s still better than back in America (I’m in Germany). Wishing you luck and know soon many of us are in the same boat. It sucks!

    2. Bagpuss*

      I’m sorry. Many commiserations. I hope things improve soon. You’ve been making it to final phase so you must be doing everything right

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I’m sorry, that really sucks. But don’t stop your momentum in December. Many companies do look to hire for the next year in January or fiscal year starting March/April. It can often be a good time to apply and interview.

      Sigh, January feels a long time away right now, but I hope their is unemployment relief coming for those who need it.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      That was me from January until late October. Hang in there, I think I speak for a lot of us when I say don’t give up, you’ll find the right opportunity eventually. My fingers are crossed for you that it happens soon!

    5. Working Hypothesis*

      I’m sorry, that’s really hard. I hope you find something soon. My husband went eight months unemployed twice — not in the pandemic, but right down to the wire on our unemployment insurance before we’d have run out — and I remember the daily stress of that. Many good wishes to you.

    6. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I’m so sorry – I was in the same boat for 8 months before I found my current position. I hope things turn around for you soon and you land a great position in the near future!

    7. allathian*

      Good luck in your job search. I’m very fortunate in that my job is as safe as pretty much any job ever, but I’ve been unemployed and underemployed earlier in my career and I know how awful it can be.

    8. Hypnotist Collector*

      Same … my company closed down in July. Many of my colleagues have found good roles but I’m 63, my last job is a bit hard to translate into other companies/fields, and it’s not easy. I’m getting random offers of contract work well below my experience/pay level, but they want all the commitment of a job. It feels like crumbs, and it sucks. Hang in there and good luck.

  2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I’m finding my MBA from WGU is more valuable over here in Germany than in America.. any similar experiences?

    1. MissDisplaced*

      No, but that is interesting. Maybe they just see the degree qualification and not the name of whether or not it’s some prestigious school?

    2. rayray*

      I think some people undervalue schools like WGU. It’s a great school, but some people lump it in with those career colleges you see commercials for during daytime tv.

      But I think also, hiring in general is just absurd these past couple years. I see job ads all the time listing unrealistic requirements or wanting a unicorn with 15 years experience, but please don’t be over 25. I honestly wonder if you’re having a hard time in the states because just like everyone else, you have a million hoops to jump through for any job. ATS zaps wonderful qualified candidates all the time, HR departments don’t even understand what they’re hiring for, and hiring managers want an amazing candidate with every box checked.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        To be perfectly honest, my husband and I both have degrees from WGU (in two different departments/subject areas) and we didn’t find it to be a “great” school at all. The instructors do very little instructing – I especially had to basically self-teach my entire program, which would have been very difficult if I hadn’t already been working in the field for fifteen years and not just looking for a specific degree to check a box. They also aren’t involved in developing the class materials or creating, reviewing or grading the assignments.

        Example: In one class, one textbook gave the 4 steps of process X, the other gave 6 steps to process X, the two sets of steps had no overlap, and the final assessment for the class asked for an explanation of the 5 steps of process X. When I reached out to the instructor for clarification, she literally told me to ignore the books and make up something that sounded good based on my professional experience.

        I think a large part of WGU’s reputation in the US is based on the fact that it strongly comes across as a “tick the degree box” type education rather than one that is actually designed to teach. And that definitely still has some value, because as you say hiring is getting ridiculous across the board. (I got mine only because a certification exam required that exact degree to register for it – there was literally no alternative way to qualify, and WGU’s was the most convenient option – and when I took the exam, there was nothing from the WGU program that was actually relevant to it.) But in a field that’s actually picky about the provenance of degrees, WGU is just not going to throw doors wide open.

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          This was my experience. The final simulation offered NO prep and was literally guesswork. We spent hours guessing on possible combinations and reading tutorials from other universities on how to pass. In general, the concept is great for getting an education but the support is lacking dearly.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Yep – my husband’s WGU degree was an undergrad degree in business, and I have an MBA from a brick-and-mortar state school, and he asked me for a lot of help because his course materials were just not helpful at all. (So I basically taught us both of our degree programs. Heh. )

            I hope it ends up being more useful to you eventually!

    3. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Germany loves degrees. Depending on your sector, you can earn more money for the same work by having a degree. Or be more easily promoted if you have one and held back if you don’t. Sometimes the degree subject doesn’t matter at all, as in it doesn’t have to even be applicable to count.

      I think it comes from, amongst other things, a very different education system. Things tend to be much more formal and particular paths are set in stone, at least in theory if not by law. Translating degrees from other countries and systems is really complicated and a huge headache, honestly.

      1. Janne*

        I’m a MSc Chemistry student from the Netherlands and we love degrees over here too. 50% of MSc graduates in my field goes on to get a PhD. They warn us that if you don’t do a PhD, you won’t get the good jobs. It worries me because I don’t know if I’d survive all of the stress and hard work of a PhD.

        People from other countries often are baffled that I did two Bachelor’s degrees in 3 years, but I know quite some people who did it and universities have special schedules and rules to make it possible (for example, you don’t have to pay twice). This might also have to do with the “particular paths are set in stone”: if you want more flexibility, if you want to be able to choose a path later, you need to walk two of them at the same time.

        It seems that education is more important on your resume here. And yes, sometimes the degree subject doesn’t matter, because they think that your degree is evidence of a “high level of thinking” and that’s enough for them to know. It’s nice for my friends who got an MSc in ecology and now have a good paying IT job. I do see that the field in which you got the degree does matter though. A degree in any science subject is generally worth more than a degree in “Leisure Sciences”.

        They do stimulate us to do at least one internship, because companies have been bothered by new hires having years and years of education and no experience outside of that at all. Going abroad for an internship or some courses is valued a lot too. I don’t like that, because it favors rich students (though there are some scholarships you can get). They might like Teekanne’s MBA just because it’s from another country (and a country that’s supposed to have good universities).

        Translating grades is a pain as well. German university grades seem to be quite straightforward but their high school grades are weird. Here in the Netherlands, we grade from 1 (worst) to 10 (best) with below 5.5 as failing, but it doesn’t translate to percentages easily because we are graded on some sort of curve that has a top around 6-7. It’s much harder to get a 9.5 for a test than to get 95%. And the calculation methods differ with every course and every school. So annoying. It’s a disadvantage abroad because an average of 8 doesn’t look excellent to most people outside of the Netherlands, but here it’s almost the highest you can get.

        Sorry for this loooong post. I tried to shorten it but I’m too sleepy. Good night!

        1. Isomorphism*

          German here. High schools and universities use the same grading system (except for law faculties…): 1 (best) to 6 (worst). Each of these numbers can further be given a “tendency”:: 1+, 1, 1-, 2+, 2 2-, … you fail with everything worse than 4-.

          Sometimes decimals are used instead, so e.g. 1.4 would be 1-. And sometimes those “tendencies” are translated to a 15 point system: 1+=15, 1= 14, 1-=13, 2+=12, …

          Those are just different ways of expressing the same things, though, the underlying system does not change. But I see how this might be confusing.

      2. Ms_Meercat*

        German here and to me it has always seemed that, at least in the business world, what you studied is more important than in the Anglo-Saxon world (used to work for an American org, Irish org, and in London for years). If you studied political science but then worked in HR for years, you won’t get an HR role in Germany so easily. If you are working in a role that requires a business perspective, in London it’s ok if you demonstrate that through your experience, but in Germany if you haven’t had any of that in your degree, you’ll have harder time being promoted. I find German job descriptions also to be more prescriptive and narrow in the type of degree they are looking for… Just my perspective

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Exactly what I have found as well and when though my Bachelor’s was in Education, I was licensed and taught in public schools, they said I would have to do Lehramt for two years to even teach in a school.

      3. TechWorker*

        My British friend worked in Germany for a bit. She has an English literature degree and masters, followed by ~8 years of experience in various different marketing roles. The new hire assigned to report to her was astonished by (and tbh quite rude about) the fact she didn’t have a marketing degree yet was in a marketing job. I don’t think marketing degrees are at all common in the U.K, so it’s totally normal to go into the field from other arts/languages degrees.

      4. Belgian*

        Same in Belgium, especially government jobs. I am working on a master’s now because I have already maxed out my earning potential with the bachelor’s degree I have (and I’m only 6 years into my career).

    4. Chutzpah*

      I live in Sweden, and no one cares about my MFA or BA.

      Every job I’ve ever applied to requests my HS credits.

  3. Points for Anonymity*

    Anyone have advice for interviewing for a Higher Ed fundraising role?! I’m in charity right now, so similar, but any HE specific tips/qualities I should focus on I’d be super grateful.

    1. BRR*

      Ive worked in both higher ed and non higher ed fundraising and the biggest difference is your donor base is primarily alumni (and somewhat parents and a little bit friends) vs non higher ed where it’s much more broad.

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

      I’ve worked with Advancement but I’m not a fundraiser. I’d say in higher ed, there is a lot of focus on recognizing and rewarding donors vs. a charity which focuses on outcomes for the charity constituents or causes…we name classrooms/labs/buildings etc. Our students are expected to write thank you notes for receiving scholarships. Donors are often given awards, wined and dined. Outcomes for students or programs are sort of secondary. For my org…businesses and foundations are our largest donors rather than alumni, the former gives tens of thousands, the latter gives in the hundreds.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have friends who did development in higher ed — a lot of faux awards and manufactured recognition in alumni magazines or events to butter people up to give. And in private universities and colleges there is a lot of emphasis on class year cohorts and devising ways to build graduation class identity and cohesion. A lot of that starts freshman year with an eye on future development.

    3. Sue*

      If the role is major gifts, be prepared for a lot of travel (post-pandemic). Alums are spread out and major gifts require relationship building. Tough gig these days with no travel. Also be prepared to be a big cheerleader, follow and support the sports teams (especially D-1) and learn the ins and outs of other departments as parents can be needy and expect lots of insider help that requires coordination with others (housing, counseling, academic departments).

  4. MochaJane*

    Any thoughts on pros/cons of working for a manager that is currently a mentor/friend? I’ve been offered a position by a mentor in my field who I know pretty well (she also likes me and thinks highly of my work). She’d be my manager. Any worries about this type of thing? I’m definitely still considering other opportunities as well, not just this one.

    1. Haven’t chosen a username yet*

      So I recently took on a year role (within the same division) under someone I consider a work friend. We used to be peers and we would go out for coffee every month when I was in Toronto for work(I am based in the states). She was recently promoted to be an executive. My senior VP spoke with me about the opportunity and brought up that it can sometimes be challenging to work for a friend. I took his advice and spoke with my new boss about it in advance so we could discuss any potential issues. It was good to talk about it openly. It has been 3 months and things are going well, but it is important to talk openly about work performance/expectations and what that looks like when you already have a relationship. It can be a good thing if you already know how to communicate well together and have boundaries. It can also go the other way :-)

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I think it can be ok, but you will have to dial back the “friend” part a lot if you become their subordinate.
      As a mentor, they can of course still be your manager and a mentor professionally.

      A lot of this also depends on how close of a friendship you have. Obviously, if the person knows all of your deep, dark personal secrets, and is the person you turn to for support in life’s travails, it’s probably not such a good idea to work for them. But if they are more of a acquaintance/friend you occasionally do social activities with, I see it as much less of an issue.

      1. MochaJane*

        We don’t have overlapping social circles and I wouldn’t say we really attend the same types of social events. We just talk about our lives with each other (Professional and life life) and probably share a bit more than my other mentorships. She shares a lot with me about her life but I get the sense she does this with everyone including her current subordinates.

    3. Venus*

      My manager is someone I would consider to be a work friend. We have known each other for years, used to be peers, and share updates on family. It has worked for us, but I also get evaluated officially by a separate group so my manager’s role is to advocate for my work with that group. If I really messed up and needed official discipline then it would be awkward, but that’s unlikely. It also helps that it’s a small industry that know each other, so it isn’t unusual to be managed by someone who was a peer. I think it can work, but it’s best if you can switch to being friendly rather than good friends while you are working for her.

  5. Lovecraft Beauty*

    Does anyone know of blogs like AAM for non-US audiences? I have sort of figured out the difference between the US résumé and the U.K. CV, but not entirely, and suspect there are more subtleties in the ROI, and would be willing to bet actual cash money that I am totally offbase on EU norms. (Are there EU norms or is it country by country?)

    1. DoomCarrot*

      I’ve lived/worked in four European countries so far and the norms do vary by country, by language, and of course by industry.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Interested, as an American in Germany. Do you have any specific questions? I spent years training Germans on how to enter the US market and find jobs :)

      1. Lovecraft Beauty*

        I don’t know that I know enough to ask the right questions! I’m specifically interested in tech in the Republic of Ireland, and I get the sense that my tightly-edited accomplishments-focused one-page résumé comes off as overly slick &mdash maybe under-detailed if the norm is two pages? (I’m ten years into my career, and it’s still possible if frustrating to keep it to one page, I will probably let go of this when next I’m seriously job hunting, so maybe I’m overthinking this part of the problem.)

        1. DoomCarrot*

          There, again, it’s useful to know whether it’s an American company that happens to have an office in Ireland (many do, as a way to have an English-speaking foothold in the EU market) or an Irish company with Irish hiring practices.

          But yes, in general, you wouldn’t do the resume format there; a CV is more detailed. Mine was two pages there even with only some part-time student jobs under my belt!

          1. TechWorker*

            Tbh I’ve not read loads of American resumes to compare, but I was surprised by the assertion elsewhere on here that a CV must include every job ever or must be more detailed. Might be different in U.K. vs Ireland but I receive a variety of 1-2 page CVs for the roles I hire for and 1 is enough in nearly all cases. (These are grads/early career folks). To me the phrases ‘CV’ and ‘resume’ are interchangeable (and both do get used), I’m not sure there’s quite so much difference as some seem to think.

        2. Thankful for AAM*

          I think Alison says that the one page rule is not really a rule, especially after 10 years of work. 2 pages is fine even in the US.

        3. ROI experience*

          I’ve lived and worked in Ireland (Cork), and have recruited hundreds of people over my years. You definitely need to expand it to two pages, but accomplishment-focussed is not a problem.

          Other than that, the Irish place a crap-tonne of importance on personal connections, so make sure you have an “Interests/Hobbies” section, you have an address listed (suburb, not street-level), and that your personality comes through in your cover letter. And make sure you network!

          Lastly, keep an eye on the local papers, and supermarket noticeboards – there are still plenty of companies who choose not to advertise online in Ireland.

          (In Europe, generally, they will also note US spelling/grammar which can be a turn-off –for who knows what reasons!– so if you don’t want to draw attention to that make sure you replace your Z spellings with S, and add Us where Americans don’t.)

    3. londonedit*

      EU countries are all, indeed, totally separate countries from each other, so norms and working practices will all be different. There are EU-wide directives that may mean some things are similar, but working cultures are varied depending on which country you’re in.

    4. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

      It differs vastly by country, especially the work culture and the cultural norms surrounding it. I have a relative who has worked in Sweden, Estonia, Norway, Germany and Finland and has stories of how so many cultural differences and miscommunication that can happen when moving from one place to the next even within the same company.

    5. Bobina*

      Reddit is surprisingly good for this kind of thing. Find the jobs subreddit for whichever country you’re interested in and see if they have either resources linked (which tend to be local) or if you can post and ask for advice.

      What I’m finding is that not only does it vary by country, but also by industry. I’m looking to switch industries slightly, and what was good for one needs a fair amount of tweaking for the other.

  6. Amber Rose*

    A significant portion of my job, one that I’ve been doing for four years, is being taken away from me and given to another department. I wish it wasn’t.

    I’m proud of how fast and accurate I am at that work. Teaching the others how to do it is painful and frustrating because the software can be painful and frustrating, and working with it requires tricks that are hard to explain, that took me weeks to figure out. They’re slow, they do it in ways I wouldn’t, much of what is entered has to be corrected. It takes them days to finish what I can do in ten minutes.

    How do I let go?

    1. Aurélia*

      This happened to me. It’s been tough, especially as people continue to reach out b/c of the new delays and hiccups.

      What worked for me was to talk to my manager about other projects I could work on that would sort of “fill the void” and also benefit the current office needs. That worked for a while until manager left at which point I mounted a job search. Is there enough you still like about your job w/o that significant portion?

      Warm wishes.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Oh sure. They took it away because it’s basically a kind of skilled data entry. Important and technical, but still relatively low level, and they need me doing other things and moved me partly into another department/to another supervisor to train there. I’m happy more or less with the new stuff, I just kind of didn’t want to lose this. I like that it’s something I’m particularly skilled at, even if the work itself is not very interesting, if that makes sense.

    2. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

      Trust me, if this is anything like a task of mine that got taken off my plate, these people will come ask you for help for months after you officially stop doing the task. It provides a sort of sick satisfaction for me like “ha, you still don’t got this handled? ah well, the management reaps what the sow..”

      I don’t let my pettiness show of course but still, I think it every time.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Oh, I know. I’m in regular calls walking them through how to do the tricky bits and weird stuff. This was taken away from me to free up my time for more important stuff, but i’m honestly busier now with all the questions. :/

        1. tangerineRose*

          Can you mention that to your boss? Although a lot of bosses will just tell you it’s temporary (and it might be).

    3. Sherm*

      Maybe not let go? A big part of your job, one that you took pride in, was taken away. If your job is no longer that enjoyable or sustains your career trajectory, it may be time to blow the dust off the resume and start at least a casual job search. As for teaching the other people, perhaps remind yourself that 1) you did not cause this, and 2) you get paid the same, whether your co-workers are slow or quick.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      Oof I’ve been there. At my last job I was given a very visible but completely messy, annoying, and inefficient task to own. I think it was meant to be a “ugh we don’t want to do this awful thing so you get to deal with it”, but I spent a year revamping the process and making it organized, efficient, and successful. Things were going great and I really made it my own, I was really proud of my work, when all of a sudden they decided they wanted someone else to handle it. They gave me a couple weeks to train the new person and told me I was absolutely not to spend any more time on it once those weeks were up. It killed me to watch the person struggle and mess things up. It wasn’t their fault, but it sucked so hard to lose something I liked owning and had worked hard to streamline, and instead watch them fumble and set things back to the way things were before I fixed it.

      My advice would be to try and separate yourself from the work – you are more than just that job. And the fact that the new people are taking a lot longer and less good than you, I know it’s hard but it’s not your problem to deal with. This is all easier said than done – in all honesty I really struggled with letting it go. But it was part of a bigger picture that I was taking work way too personally, with some therapy (and a healthier, better job) I am able to have work be more of an objective thing – it’s what I do, not who I am.

      It’s hard but try and remember that you are a complete person separate from your work, and that your value or worth has not been diminished because of this.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You may not have to. When TPTB find out how long it now takes, the job may come winging its way back over to you.

      Meanwhile, I really recommend looking for opportunities. Perhaps you always wanted to fix up X but there was no time. You sound like you are really good at streamlining things, maybe you can do this with other stuff that you never had a chance to do before?
      In short, find ways of looking ahead, what’s up next that you can conquer.

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

      How do I let go?

      Other comments have given advice about that and I am not sure what to add, as I am bad at letting go of those type of things myself!

      However… another aspect of this to consider is “what does this mean for your current role?” which may turn out to be more significant. Hopefully it is being replaced/supplanted with something higher level or otherwise more aligned to what you want your path to be going forward; if not it’s time for a Conversation.

      I would also be on the lookout for this work mysteriously getting re-allocated to you, alongside your ‘new’ workload, in times of time pressure.

      I appreciate that new people take longer to complete something than an experienced person, but “days” vs “ten minutes” is at least 2 orders of magnitude.

  7. hmmm*

    I need to know if I’m out of touch with reality. I guess this could go either way for business or work related.

    Obviously 2020 has been an insanely crazy year and everyone has had to adjust in everyway shape and form. I realize how fortunate I am to have a job.

    Side story….My family does things a little different for holidays and special occasions. As a result, Christmas is a really big deal for us financially and celebration wise in many ways. I don’t mean for that to sound greedy or spoiled. Usually we (for example) on someone’s birthday we celebrate with dinner out or a special homemade meal, an adventure (like going hiking, or a day at the beach) and maybe a token gift or two. No one has ever felt sighted. One year we did a scavenger hunt for my daughter’s birthday and her friends declared it the best party ever… the prize at the end was a bag of everyone’s favorite candy. During the Christmas season you may get a little extra because of this. Also during the holiday season we take advantage of sale prices and stock up for projects in the year to come, treat ourselves to something small, buy a few items in bulk sale prices, adopt a family in need, donate to a few of our favorite charities and holiday gifts. Please know it’s not as if we do not buy things during the year, it’s just that the end of the year is a catch-up/ prepare-for purchases for us. This is a system that works for us. I know it’s not a system for everyone.

    Please know based on what we’ve seen in other families, our overall gifts to loved ones would be considered average in quantity; nothing is outrageously priced (for example we’re not handing out the latest electronics or big purchases). We budget throughout the year with detailed lists and finances. Our annual family budget runs October through September so that all major expenses are done and paid for by mid January. This way we have the rest of the year to save for other important areas in our family’s needs and wants. We are very transparent with one another. There are no surprise costs. However doing a bulk of our annual shopping at one time it does add up (again we’re not putting ourselves in debt as we have saved).

    Now onto my scenario….At work we have a few easy weeks where we are allowed to use the internet for personal use throughout the days. A coworker saw me shopping online. On more than one occasion she has seen me with numerous tabs open and many shopping carts filled. All of the sudden I’m getting this “attitude”. Comments about how I must be making a lot more than her – I don’t. Her telling me I have a shopping addiction with how I spend money. Questioning the morals of my children for receiving so many gifts (side note yes we ordered a few extra non electronic gifts incase our area goes back into a lockdown but we also ordered presents for a local homeless shelter we’re involved with).

    I don’t have to justify anything to her but I’m getting tired of having “the look” when I go to buy a cup of coffee. How do I get my coworker to mind her own business?!

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      You have a couple options at hand depending on your level of ‘give a hoot’ with this coworker.

      1) You can continue to ignore her knowing that the holidays are wrapping up in a month or so and this will soon pass. When said co-worker makes a jerky comment you can make eye contact and give a smile and a shrug. Your co-worker sounds nosy and nosy people need to know other people’s business like living beings need air. You have the leverage here so feel free to have some fun.

      2) You can be transparent but that seems like you’d be sharing quite a bit of personal information that this co-worker frankly, doesn’t deserve to know.

      3) You can angle to make her feel like crap by really playing up that all the gifts you’re buying are for the less fortunate and leave out that you and your family budget carefully to make sure you can go above and beyond during the holidays.

      4) You can give a snarky answer like, “Yep, all those days of collecting aluminum cans on the highways sure has paid off.”

      I’m sorry to hear your co-worker is kind of a jerk and you’re doing a wonderful thing by donating to the less fortunate. You sound like a caring and compassionate individual.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      Some people, honestly. Why does she care so much?

      In any case, I would say you have two basic options. Ignore her, or ask her directly. I tend to pair “ignoring” with being extra cheerful and friendly, to help make the point that I’m not going to participate in whatever shade she’s throwing at me. (Possibly a bit passive aggressive, and possibly also she wouldn’t get the point anyway, but it makes me feel better at least!)

      For asking her directly, don’t make any mention of the shopping – which again is none of her business. Just something like “Hey, you seem to be not quite yourself lately. Is everything okay? Something I can help you with?” Hopefully that will force her to either name the issue (in which case you can finally tell her to MYOB), or to knock it off with the attitude.

      Good luck!

    3. Bagpuss*

      How annoying.

      It’s frustrating as you shouldn’t have to justify it to anyone at all, but maybe something like “Actually, I’m buying a lot on behalf of others” or “My family tends to be pretty frugal in the year but splurge at Christmas”
      Or even “that’s a weird comment. Why are you so interested in what you perceive to be my shopping habits?”
      If she is still making lots of comments maybe “You’ve made a lot of comments about what you perceive my shopping habits to be. I’d like you to stop. What I buy or spend are private matters , although as it happens not all my spending is reason, I am buying items to donate and on behalf of other family members, as well as items I have budgeted for earlier in the year but waited till now to buy.”

      1. londonedit*

        I definitely vote for ‘returning the awkwardness to sender’. It’s absolutely none of this person’s business how or when you choose to spend your own money, so I’d go for the ‘That’s a strange comment – why are you interested in how I’m spending my money?’ approach. I wouldn’t get into explanations about budgeting or donating things to charity.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I second this approach. Make her own the problem, because it really is hers and not yours. “You seem oddly wrapped up in how my family spends our money, ____. Maybe it shouldn’t be more of a big deal to you than it is to us?” said with just the right amount of coldness may be enough to cause her to discover that she doesn’t really enjoy the taste of foot. If she keeps it up, a direct “You’ve said that plenty of times by now. It isn’t your business and I want you to stop,” is probably the next step.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Your coworker sounds like a nosey, judgmental jerk. Just ignore her. It might be hard, but she’s the one being awkward, not you. She doesn’t deserve the extra effort you’d have to make by explaining to her. And if you did, I highly doubt it will cure her of her nosiness. I once worked with someone like this. Trying to explain the whys just gave her more to question, judge, and gossip about.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I’ve had it with someone who just didn’t seem to grasp that I was spending money on *different* things to her.
        She made a lot of comments about how nice it must be that I could afford to go to the theatre so often, and grumbling about how she couldn’t afford that kind of trip.

        I did point out to her that I chose to spend money on regular trips to the theatre, but that I hadn’t been out of the country for a holiday for 3 years (and that was because a friend of mine won a holiday and invited me along) , whereas she took long-haul holidays every year and spent a lot of excursions when she did so , (I didn’t care enough to try to break down the figures, but I imagine that 2 weeks in a 4 star hotel, plus round trip flights from London to New York, buys quite a lot of theatre tickets…. )

        She still didn’t get it and kept on about how lucky I was and how she wished she could afford it. I decided that she just wanted to grumble about not having as much spending money as she wanted, and that it wasn’t actually anything at all to do with me or my spending habits.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Yeah, I means sometimes it’s just rando “conversation” or projection on their own finances and not really concern or even nosiness about yours. If that’s the case just feel free to ignore liberally or reply with a benign “We save up all year for Christmas.”
          But the other type is the person who is more like “How dare you spend money like that when people are in need… blah blah blah.” That type might require a comment to return the awkwardness and judgemental attitude.

    5. D3*

      I once told a coworker (after all the usual techniques didn’t work) that I was okay with her judging me and making false assumptions about me as long as she did it in her head only. No comments, no looks, etc.
      It did work but it was stronger than I’d use for a first round response.

    6. LQ*

      Something I’ve used to some success is “We all make decisions and have priorities for what we do with our lives.” Anything that sounds defensive or apologetic isn’t likely to work. You kind of have to just it is what it is your way through it. A lot of that lies in your own head, which is nice because you can totally change that. You’re fine. This judgey pants person needs a change that you can’t do for them.

      Side note the most notorious coworker I had for doing this I one time rolled my eyes at her extensive blather about how nice it must be and said “You own a plane.” She immediately got defensive about it and how it’s not really that expensive and on and on. I just shrugged and said I didn’t care, but maybe it’s not for us to judge other’s priorities. She did back down a bit after that. But I would just use it as a go to to get her to stop after.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      First, don’t run through this explanation with her. Whatever explanation you give will be diced up in to parts and fully negated part by part. Don’t open the door for this.

      Once in a while, a person can get away with saying, “You are SO VERY CONCERNED for me. I am touched. No, truly, I am really touched by your deep concern for me and my family.” Ideally this would be said loudly so others hear. I have seen this work and shut down these comments entirely.

      Or you could go with, “You have made your opinion known, you do not have to keep restating it on a regular basis.” Or a tamer version, “You said something like this yesterday, I never noticed you repeating yourself. Have you noticed how much you repeat yourself?” Then you have laid the foundation, any time she comes over with her remarks, “There you go, repeating yourself again.”

      But really, your best bet is probably to say, “Your comments are actually pretty personal and you are over the line here. Stop commenting on my Christmas shopping.” Notice there is no please and no thank you. You are not asking a favor, you are telling her to have an ounce of respect.

    8. Simple_Rhyme*

      With people like this I just stare and say nothing while looking directly at them. No smile, no frown, just a neutral look. Just like in a game of chicken they look away and after doing this a few times they eventually give up and stop sticking their noses onto my business.

    9. ampersand*

      You’re not out of touch with reality–your coworker is rude. Questioning the morals of your children?! That’s so ridiculous it’s almost funny, but what the hell?

      I second the advice to not explain yourself to her, since it’s none of her business and you don’t owe her an explanation. Also it gives her more ammunition. She’s the one who’s out of line here.

      I think the best approach is to say something like, “You seem very concerned about this. What’s going on?” and then when she reiterates everything she’s already said (shopping addiction, heathen children, blah blah blah), tell her you’ve heard her concern and she needs to stop commenting on it. I also recommend documenting what’s happening in case it needs to be escalated to management or HR.

    10. Pink Dahlia*

      You’re already JADE-ing here in your post. You owe budgeting explanations to nobody, neither us nor your colleagues.

    11. ...*

      You’re not crazy thats really snarky of her. If you’re allowed to use for personal use you’re allowed. Also your family gifting and celebration strategy sounds amazing. I got quite a few presents from family as a kid and you know what? It was freaking awesome and a great memory. Maybe you just want to be happy and have a nice holiday with your family and give gifts, is that soooo wrong!? I think not. I would say back “Hey you’ve mentioned my shopping, well I do a lot of planning and buy now as its often the best price, you seemed curious so thats my deal.” And then if they keep asking I would just be like “We already discussed this, can we change the subject?”

    12. Emma2*

      I think I would be tempted to feign concern and tell her that she has suggested a number of times that she is struggling to make ends meet at the salary we earn, and ask her if she wanted me to give her some suggestions for good websites/books on budgeting.

    13. PollyQ*

      The next time she starts in on you, tell her directly that no longer want to discuss your finances with her. If it happens again (it will), remind her of what you told her. If she continues after that, literally get up and walk away.

      And tell yourself that it 100% none of her business, nor anyone else’s unless it’s their finances too. She’s wildly, outrageously out of line with even her mildest comments. (Really, calling you a bad parent?!)

  8. Aurélia*

    I’ve been with a smaller agency for a while and have an offer from Agriculture. Things are moving pretty quickly and I go back and forth on whether it’s “too” quickly, like interview to offer within the week. Meanwhile trying not to feel like it’s a weird time of year to be transitioning. Plus, where I am now and where I (tentatively) will be are both 100% remote due to COVID and the idea of having a laptop shipped to me and not having used certain contract writing systems before is a bit daunting without IT and system SMEs holding my hand. I tend to pickup new systems pretty quickly (anyone else been having fun with IPP?) but wish the handful of PRISM courses on FAITAS weren’t DHS-only. Anyone out there transitioning from remote federal role to remote federal role? Any lessons learned? Anyone at Agriculture? Seems like they have some good systems and training, I’ve reached out to a few people but haven’t tracked down any friends of friends to have a quick culture chat with.

    1. sv*

      I started in a remote federal role (contractor) back in March and it’s been a very positive experience! We also recently brought on a new team member from a different office in our federal agency and she’s been stellar so far. I think the remote training is only as good as the team, though – I shudder to think what remote work would’ve been like at my old federal job that I left after just two months.

    2. daisies*

      Ag is a big department–you’ll get a better sense if you speak to people in your destination agency than just general USDA. They won’t necessarily all use the same underlying systems or training (except maybe, broadly, AgLearn and WebTA).

  9. sv*

    This is mostly a question for federal employees or federal contractors. I’m currently a financial services (sorry, trying to keep it vague!) contractor working for a major federal agency and I would really like to become a full-time federal employee in the next few years. However, it seems like the best way to become qualified to do that is to get a masters degree and I currently just have a bachelors. Is it worth trying for the masters or should I just bank on my experience getting me in the door eventually? Should I go to school full time or take night classes (my preference)? And if I did decide to get a masters, what would be a useful field? An MPA/MPP seems like it’s not concrete enough for my skill set but I have to say I’m pretty opposed to getting an MBA. Any insights would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    1. Grits McGee*

      What kinds of federal jobs are you interested in, and what part of the country are you in? (I’m assuming you’re in the US.) I would look at USAJobs and see what kinds of credentials different positions require. In my experience, the biggest hurdle to getting hired is competing with folks who have veteran’s preference just to get on the certificate of eligibles to be interviewed. If you won’t have veteran’s preference, then I think you may have better chances with a position that requires a masters degree, but it’s not a guarantee.

      Do you interact with anyone at the agency who is involved with hiring? They might have some good insights specific to field field/job market you want to break into.

      1. sv*

        I do budget analysis and I am in the DC area. Most jobs that get posted as federal positions in my agency are at the GS-13 level, which requires at least a year of GS-11 experience, which in turn requires at least a year of GS-9 experience. I’m just now hitting a year of GS-9 experience, so this is definitely more of a long-term career development situation than an urgent priority. I really like my specific office and I am not in a rush to leave my position to take a federal job, although if one opened elsewhere in my agency I would absolutely take it just to become a fed. I really want the benefits and security of federal employment! I’m mostly unsure of whether it’s better to keep racking up years of specialized experience or if a postgrad degree would help me jump the line, so to speak.

        1. Grits McGee*

          Ahhh, I see. Yeah, this is definitely a “ask someone who does hiring” question, especially someone who is familiar with how HR ranks applications and assigns points. In my field, GS-9/11/12/13 positions require an MA, but it doesn’t matter that much what the degree is in as long as it’s tangentially-related to the work we do.

          1. sv*

            Gotcha, thanks! It’s all a bit warped for me because I was hired in fall 2019 as a GS-9 federal employee with just my BA, but the work environment was so shockingly toxic that I resigned after just two months on the job. So I know that at least in some parts of the government, I am qualified to be hired on full-time and beat out folks with veterans’ preference! But after that spell of unemployment I’m now in a completely different arm of the civil service as a contractor and I’m much happier with my work environment now. I’m very hesitant to jump to a different agency now because my negative federal experience did such a number on my mental health – I literally thought I would rather work in a grocery store than go back to a desk job, it was so bad. (This was obviously pre-pandemic!) I’ll put out feelers with coworkers and hiring managers and see where that takes me. Thanks again!

    2. Sandi*

      You would probably be best asking someone in your specific field. When we say ‘Masters new grad or Bachelors with related experience’ then we mean it, but I’m not in finance.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I’m not sure my answer would change whether you were a federal employee or private employee.
      You work in financial services, and I assume you’ve been doing this a few years at least and it’s a career you want to stay in, correct? There is no better reason to get a masters in my book.

      I don’t know which masters degree program would be best. You’d have to look at the people in those roles at a federal level and see what their degrees were in to get an idea of what qualifications the Fed finds desirable. I think this also depends on your area of specialization: accounting, economics, business, etc.

      I was able to do most of my masters while I was working, with the exception of the first semester (because I was still laid off). It’s doable, with 1-2 classes per week. Most masters programs will take 2 years, and about 3 years going part-time. But this also depends on hours at your current job, and how diligent you are about doing your school work all weekend(!) with little personal or social time — I sacrificed a lot! If you have any doubts, I suggest taking ONE class while you work to test the waters before you jump into a program full-time.

      1. sv*

        Thank you for your advice! I definitely didn’t intent to start my career in financial services – I went to school for a humanities education and thought I would wind up working in politics, but since I grew up poor, I was scared away from campaigns, etc. by the horrible pay and lack of stability. Now I’m not quite “stuck” doing finance but it’s not something I want to do forever – I love my current job because the agency has a very interesting mission and the financial management I do requires an understanding of a lot of interesting programs and activities. In the long term I would love to take a position that involves both financial literacy and strong writing skills, because I do occasionally publish articles under a pseudonym. I always excelled at school so I don’t think I would have trouble balancing the higher workload for a couple years, especially since my partner and I aren’t planning to start a family anytime soon. Coworkers in my office with masters degrees seem to have MPAs for the most part – if I could choose, I think I’d rather an MPP, but the local universities mostly offer MPAs. I really like your idea of taking one class to test the waters, so thanks for that! And if you don’t mind sharing – did you pay your way through school or were you able to get scholarships? That’s another factor playing into my decision to go back to school. I was fortunate enough to get scholarships for my BA and I don’t have student loans now, so I’m very wary of taking them on now.

  10. DoomCarrot*

    A question for those of you in the civil service: do you find that innovation and initiative are totally discouraged? Do you feel stifled?

    I’ve spent my working life so far happily moving from country to country, from project to project, building my career in zigzags rather than a straight line. But like so many people, the pandemic has really made me realise I don’t want to continue like this indefinitely – I’m ready for some stability, maybe a contract that doesn’t come with a built-in expiry date, some clear expectations of what progress looks like!

    And something I’d be well qualified for has come up, with a full-time, permanent contract in a field and a geographic area I’d like to work in. But it’s in the civil service. Is that, maybe, too much stability?

    1. Aurélia*

      Generally, yes, though I wager it really depends on the office. My office had executive sign-off on an IT modernization project, months of work went into it, and then leadership changed their minds (had their minds changed?) and we’re still paying through the nose for out-dated technology. I’ve spent the last two years trying to get a sharepoint up and running with documented procedures and links to regulations and forms, almost to fruition.
      As an aside, I attended a fun webinar recently talking about scaffolding your civil service career, where one may need to move out to move up. Which I’m working on. No reason you have to stay there forever. Once you’re in it’s easier to qualify for/change CS positions.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      I wouldn’t say they’re “totally” discouraged. It’s more like, innovation and initiative are encouraged in theory, but in practice we’re pretty slow to change. There’s a culture of collaboration everywhere I’ve worked, where everyone and their dog gets to weigh in with their opinions, which slows things down quite a lot. So it’s not impossible, but it’s definitely not quick!

      That said, you’re not stuck in the job forever if you find that it really is too slow for you. And you may find that you do like the change of pace. Why not give it a try for a couple of years, see how you feel, and then decide from there?

      1. DoomCarrot*

        I’m just a bit worried that my practical skills could atrophy if I work somewhere slow for a few years; I’m riding the digital wave and still working on new developtments there at the moment.

        On the other hand, startup culture with overtime as standard and constantly shifting goalposts is exhausting.

    3. sv*

      It depends on what you’re looking for out of your career. I’ve only ever worked in the civil service so naturally my perspective will differ from people who have always worked in the private sector, but I personally appreciate the stability. My skills (finance-related) will always be in demand in the government, but the flip side of that is that I don’t really *need* to innovate because the financials never really change. If you want a job with solid benefits and long-term stability, the civil service is for you! But if you despair at the thought of being limited by forces outside your control, then you should make sure that you can tolerate those restrictions in exchange for the benefits you get from being a government employee.

    4. LQ*

      I don’t feel stifled. I feel like for me personally initiative and innovation are encouraged and my willingness to try and take risks and grab projects and do things has been tremendously rewarded. I have been promoted, moved into different roles with the explicit direction to try new things, given training and support. Put in charge of projects that are new and exciting.

      That said, I know that’s not true everywhere. I know that other people in my same business area feel stifled. For me a lot of it has been understanding some of the dynamics, if I want to make change I have to make it in the way that leadership wants change to be made in. Which seems obvious to me. If your area’s leadership is super excited about and does a huge amount of work with and support around a direction, or topic, or idea, innovate there. I see some folks who keep trying to “innovate”, but they are going against the organizational direction and so they feel stifled. Sometimes it’s their personal pet project that they are sure is going to change everything but it’s a bad idea for a reason they can’t see. Sometimes it’s a poorly thought out direction (think pushing for more paper processing in 2020). Sometimes it’s good but the organization isn’t ready or other things have to happen first. Sometimes they ideas are just bad (I should be able to work from anywhere in the world so we should change the laws and regulations to let that happen) in a way that is exhausting.

      I think overall I’ve been lucky and strategic. The area and my boss at the time were kind of chance, but I’ve been fairly strategic about what to push and not push since. I also am not an “ideas guy” (gender not withstanding). I only now after a decade and in a senior leadership role would suggest something I can’t personally implement, and only because most of it is too big for one person. All the innovations started small. Hey, did you know you can make documents have the right information if you use mail merge, I can fix that so all you have to do is push a button and done! I think there is no place in civil service for the “ideas guy” because no one wants to implement new stuff, either they have their own ideas or they do not want to change. But there is a place for a person who is willing to do the actual work. As long as you’re willing to compromise, grab hold of the opportunities as soon as you see them, and make sure you can work with people to get them to come around I think there is absolutely room and I would recommend it if you can!

  11. what would you do*

    Hey all – I need some ideas to help a client. A little bit of the back story. I took on some data entry clients a few years ago. My data entry company grew but it had run it’s course. As clients naturally grew and needed a bigger data entry/ bookkeeping company to help them, I never actively tried to replace a missing client. I am still “friends” and network with these former clients.

    I have 5 remaining clients. 1 is another AAM post for another day, 3 by coincidence had downsized around the same time and the work for me is much more manageable, and 1 that is my concern. My heart aches for this particular one as they are struggling. One of the employees had worked for this company for decades, literally this was the employees first job in high school and he’s been there since rising through the ranks. This employee is in his 40s. The company is something that most people look at as a “fun and cool” business to have; but a business that is hard to get your foot in the door. When the owner decided to retire the employee bought the business. The former owner is said and done and literally retired to a tropical island… outside of the Christmas card we exchange, it’s not really possible to ask him for advice.

    My client (the new owner/ former employee) has asked me for help with social media and marketing. I made it very clear that I had never done this before. My client and I are figuring this out together – reading different sources, talking to different people, attending networking meetings etc. I feel like my client is stuck doing things the way “they have always been done”. While I am the last person to rock the boat (if it isn’t broke why fix it) but the last two years alone industry changes and COVID have reset the playing field.

    Any suggestion I mention is taken with hesitation. I don’t blame my client. Their livelihood is literally wrapped up in the company. I’m having trouble communicating that using old school methods aren’t going to work right now. Even something as simple as sending out a mass email to current customers saying “Hi we’re here and open” are met with reluctance. I understand it’s not my business but I’m not sure how to help if the client isn’t willing to try something, anything, new.

    Any suggestions on how to navigate this situation?

    1. Four lights*

      I don’t know if you can help. Maybe you can say, “As we discussed when we started I don’t have experience in this area. I think we’ve reached the limits of what I am able to help you with. I would suggest hiring a marketing person or firm to help you.” It’s sad they can’t make this business work, but if they aren’t listening you can’t do anything about it.

    2. WellRed*

      My advice is to navigate yourself right out if this arrangement. Tell him to hire a marketing consultant.

    3. Working Hypothesis*

      While I tend to agree with those who say that you can’t actually help if he’s going to refuse to take any advice, I might try first asking him, “What exactly do you see as the kind of help you want from me? I feel like I’ve been trying to help and you don’t want the idea I’ve offered, and that’s your choice, but I can’t be more effective unless I understand what you *do* want me to do.”

      This may help him realize himself that there’s nothing you can do that he’ll actually accept… at which point it’s up to him whether to change what he accepts or gives up on asking you for help, but either way you’re in a better position. If he isn’t self aware enough for that and his answer amounts to, “I want you to make everything better without changing anything!!” you can gently tell him that you don’t think that’s something you’re able to do, and back out.

      1. WFH with Cat*


        There’s really nothing else anyone can do. The client must willing to take steps that may be uncomfortably new, or face losing the business. That’s fundamentally true all the time, but even more so now as entire industries are struggling to survive.

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

      Encourage him to seek out a consultant (individual or company) specialising in social media marketing to help you. With respect – if this is something you’ve never been involved with and don’t really know about – and how much depends on it – you really ought to involve someone who is much more adept with this, rather than try to muddle along, as it could be make or break.

      1. what would you do*

        I totally agree. Sadly the business is temporarily shut down due to Covid, hence funds are tight. We’ve made some networking contacts who graciously are marketing professionals and guiding us. I did make the new owner sign something that he has to make all final decisions and that I he understood I was not a professional in this matter. He has agreed when business picks up (only closed due to state laws not due to lack of customer interest; no we can not be run online) to hire someone. I’m helping out in the interm

        1. Lili*

          The best way to convince him without it coming from you is to advise him to see what other successful companies in that space are doing. What platforms are they active on? How large are their followings? What are they promoting? Usually a hard look at the competition is enough to spur a realization that good digital marketing works.

    5. Nela*

      I am a marketing expert, and if my client asked me for marketing help and then shot down every idea that I gave them, I’d end the engagement. You can’t help people if they’re not ready to do what is needed.

      Sending mass emails, posting on social media and in general becoming more visible is scary for folks! I suppose he’s not hurting enough financially to be willing to try something new. This is not your problem to solve.

      1. Nela*

        If you really want to help, give him a marketing book to read. Maybe that will help him see new possibilities and come up with ideas that you could help him implement. Some popular books are “Inbound Marketing”, “Epic Content Marketing”, “The New Rules of PR and Marketing”, and anything by Seth Godin.

  12. Alex*

    I’m in a really sticky situation that has a lot of background but basically boils down to the fact that my manager….just doesn’t manage. My team is supposed to be doing a fairly important task, and I’m the only one doing it. My boss, who is also supposed to be doing the task as well as making sure her reports are doing their work, is doing neither of those things.

    Because my boss doesn’t manage, and everyone knows that I am the reliable person on my team, I am constantly asked/expected to do all the work. Well, this particular task really needs more than just me. I can’t do it alone.

    The person in charge of the overall project (not my boss) has been notified that my team is not completing the task. Her response? A shrug, because that is just what she expected. Oh well?

    The thing is, because everyone just assumes I will do all the work, I feel like when this project goes bad, which it is/will, I will be the one blamed, because…it was my work. In spite of the fact that *everyone* was explicitly asked to participate.

    I partially got myself into this by getting more involved in the project than someone in my role should really be…but I was asked to do so…because everyone knows my boss can’t/won’t do her job.

    How do I get out of being the fall guy when it turns out the task was not done thoroughly? I can’t do it thoroughly. I’m just one person. I’ve given up my nights, weekends, holidays, and vacation time to do this work as it is. I feel trapped. My boss gets extremely defensive in the face of criticism and won’t take a message of “You’re doing a bad job” very well from me, even in the most delicate of words.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Document, document, document. Everything you’re doing that you’re supposed to do, as well as anything extra. How much time you’re spending on it. Anything that you’re supposed to do but can’t, along with the reasons you can’t – too much work, too short deadlines, can’t get approvals, whatever. Make sure you document the impact on the organization as well – if it’s a product not going out on time, or money being wasted, or loss of reputation, write it all down.

      Ideally you would be able to take all this documentation to your boss and ask for help, but if your boss is part of the problem you may need to go over her head. Would you be able to approach her boss with something like this? “Here’s a problem I’m having, here’s the impact on the business, here’s what I’ve done to try to solve it, but now I’m stuck and need some help.”

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Absolutely document, but also get out in front of the messaging. Make sure everyone you are worried will blame you hears, and hears loud and clearly, “I am doing everything I possibly can on this project but unless X, Y and Z do their work also, it is going to fail. No one person can accomplish this by themself.” Repeat frequently, with specifics.

      2. I'm just here for the comments*

        To add on to some of this – have your conversations in email! Email the team leader asking for her to please help assign tasks to other people, because you can only cover x,y, and z in the time frame, and ask her to respond to you to let you know who you’re passing work to. Email your boss explaining the situation and that you need help getting stuff assigned to other people and that you’d “appreciate her response “. Have a written record of who you talked to, and explained the situation to, and asked for help multiple times, and keep it in a folder in your email that you can refer to if/when they try to make you take the fall for the project not being successful. If these are in-person or phone conversations, write a follow-up email to the person reiterating the conversation and “this was my understanding and I want to make sure we are on the same page. ” save all the responses. You want to show that you were proactive in asking for the team to pull their weight and make it clear it was not a one-woman show by choice. You can then bring these emails and all of your documentation listed by Empress Matilda to your boss’s boss and have a stronger standing when things go south.

    2. Aurélia*

      This stinks. So sorry you don’t have more responsible/responsive folks on your team. How would you feel about a weekly update to you manager just documenting what you’ve been able to do and what you’re planning to do next week? This way you’re documenting your input and hopefully building in some CYA w/ an opportunity for your manager to manage (i.e. assign other tasks to other team members or emphasize priorities) or do nothing.

    3. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

      I have a friend in this exact situation and I used to work for the same boss so I know the situation is not going to change. I’m not sure what you can do besides appeal to your boss or another coworker who can chip in the work as well. When stuff falls through the cracks, document it.

    4. LQ*

      I’m going to suggest something different. Which is can you make allies elsewhere? The person in charge of the project would be ideal here. Project stakeholders or sponsors would also be really good. I have a project that is kind of going like this. There is one (AMAZING) person who is doing everything. I’m not the boss of these folks so I can’t get the coworkers to change things. But I can make absolutely certain that if stuff hits the fan that I’m there shouting about how awesome this one person is because that’s about all I can do to change this. I can’t make people do their jobs. I can’t kick them off the project. I can’t fire them. I can make sure that the good person gets nominated for awards, I can make sure that they get exposure to senior-level people who should hear their names and know only good things. Whoever asked you to do more because everyone knows your boss can’t/won’t do her job, make sure that person knows you are doing everything you can. Try talking to them occasionally. Even if all you’re doing is saying, “Hey, I’m doing everything I can and doing (describe terrifying amount of work you ARE doing) but I can’t get (work other people should be doing) done,” can help. Ideally those folks should be making it clear to you that you will not be the fall guy when it turns out to not be done the way it should have been, and if they aren’t then go for the document document litigation plan.

      1. It happens*

        I think think this is great advice. Documenting is great, but no one will get to see those super-detailed emails and lists if and when the day comes to sacrifice someone on the altar of the failed project.
        I’m so sorry that you’re in this position. Having allies in other parts of the orf may also help you to find another position internally and escape the bad manager. Which should not be a thing, but clearly the management line you’re in is not too keen on managing…

    5. Alex*

      Thanks all. Luckily, I don’t need to work too hard to document–the nature of the task is such that it is transparently documented with who has done what. Frustratingly, EVERYONE already knows I’m doing all the work, and that others are just ignoring it. And the people who will be the first to cast blame are the same that are slacking. There is precedent for this. I’m worried my boss will throw me under the bus.

      Also frustratingly is that the task is sort of like “Please find all needles in this big haystack.” We don’t know how many needles there are. I can only search so much of the haystack myself, but what I’ve searched thus far has turned up a lot of needles. If my coworkers and boss would just do their job, more of the haystack could be thoroughly searched. As it is, I need to just skim the surface of the haystack and pick up what needles I can find.

      I am going to tell the project manager, even though she really has no power over my boss and also already knows that no one but me is looking for needles, and let her know that I suspect there are a lot more needles than I am equipped to find, and that the fact that I am the only one searching for them means some will be missed.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Tell the boss that you want a raise. Seriously. If you are going to do this task by yourself, no one else is working on it, then you deserve a raise.

        I would start with emails CCing PM and Boss. “I am 10% through the haystack, it has taken me x time to get this far. Continuing on at this rate, I estimate I will finish by z date. We will miss the deadline by [A Weeks or B months].
        Your PM should loop in her boss.

    6. Mockingjay*

      Stop doing your coworkers’ portions. Seriously, stop right now. Next, loop in your manager via email for a documented record.

      “Cecelia, I’ve completed the handle safety analysis section of the combined Teapot Inspection report. As you know, the report is due to Grandboss on the 30th. Still waiting on Fred to do the lid portion and Sue to review the final numbers.”

      Don’t own your co-irkers’ work. If your lackadaisical manager comes to you to bail out the report (a likely scenario), use Alison’s (patent pending) priority technique: “Sure Cecelia, I can finish the report, but I won’t be able to finish the glaze order. Which do you want me to work on?”

      Keep throwing the problem back to your manager – “I’m working on my piece, can’t finish unless my coworkers do their pieces, and their lack of performance affects schedule/production/money.” Repeat frequently.

      Do NOT volunteer to keep doing all of the project. That is what your co-irkers and your manager are hoping for – you to solve the problem for them. You can’t make your manager do her job, but you don’t have to do it either.

  13. EnfysNest*

    I know office bathrooms are always fraught, but I still can’t wrap my head around the stack of magazines that lives in ours. The name/address has been cut off of all of them so I don’t know who’s bringing them in, but a new one shows up nearly every month and then they just… stay there forever . But they’re being read, because the order they’re stacked in changes fairly often. And lately the reader(s?) hasn’t been returning them to the stack, but just leaving them stuck in the grab bar beside the toilet. It’s so gross! Some of them have been in there for well over a year! It’s a single-stall restroom. It was bad enough Before, but especially now that everything is being super-sanitized, I just look at them and all I think of is all the germs sitting on them. As of yesterday, I’ve started throwing them away if they’re left next to the toilet because it’s just too gross.

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      That is incredibly unsanitary. Right now we should be particularly vigilant about hygiene in the office space, bathrooms included. You are doing the right thing throwing them away, and frankly I would toss out the lot!

    2. TGI Friday*

      I agree it’s kind of gross – but if (big if…) people are washing their hands properly after using the bathroom (and touching the magazines), then it wouldn’t be an issue in terms of spreading germs.

      1. Natalie*

        And if they’re not, then the magazines aren’t some kind of special issue.

        If you think they’re gross, just don’t touch them? Unless it’s your job to clean the bathroom it should be fairly easy to avoid the magazines.

        1. EnfysNest*

          I do leave them alone if they’re on the windowsill with the whole stack. Like I said, lately they’ve been leaving the magazines stuck in the handrail right beside the toilet (over the toilet paper), so I actually do have to actively avoid them so that they don’t touch me (it’s a single-stall restroom, so there’s not another option). So twice now I have just gotten a paper towel to grab it and quickly throw it away rather than having to worry about it brushing against my arm.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Oh! LOL! and Ew! As I read this I recalled the stack of hunting and fishing magazines that my dad had that always sat on the toilet tank growing up.

      Personally, I never got this need people have to sit and read whilst on the commode. What purpose does it serve? Does it relax them or something? I’ve always been right quickly about my business, so sitting there reading seems so weirdly odd and uncomfortable to me.

      1. anon for this*

        Sometimes “things” take longer than expected. Staring at the back of the stall door thinking “come on come on come on” doesn’t help at all. Having something nearby to read for a minute or two is fantastic.

      2. Jackalope*

        Two reasons: One is that if you’re having stomach troubles, it can indeed help relax you by giving you something else to focus on. But more relevantly, it’s a safe place to escape. I was always a voracious reader growing up and had a family member for whom reading registered as “not doing anything”. She would regularly come up and interrupt me with no concept of the fact that I was already busy and wanted to continue enjoying my book. The only place that I could read in peace with no interruptions was the bathroom (unless of course someone else needed it). Sure, it’s not the comfiest place to read, but if it means getting several uninterrupted minutes to finish the good part of your book as opposed to having someone stop you in the middle of the climax to give you a blow by blow monologue of the procedure they’re using to make their sandwich (true story! I’m still not sure whether she just wanted to talk at someone or if she honestly thought, “Wow, Jackalope is so bored she’s opened a book again! Must give her something else to do….”), the bathroom it is. And this is a behavior which tends to get positive reinforcement because people are generally loathe to disturb you when you’re in there.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I married into family of readers. It’s really not a healthy habit to read on the can. One article said it can be
      contributing factor to hemorrhoids. If things are not happening, then get out of the bathroom, move around and/or go get a big drink of water. Try again in a bit. If this happens often probably it would be a good idea to increase the level of daily hydration.

    5. Might Be Spam*

      +1000 Throw them out.
      If someone needs something to read, they can bring their own reading material.

    6. Analyst Editor*

      I am probably biased but I don’t think that “I just make excuses for the guys” is the case here, having heard of many competent men and women hired over many years that dad has worked in this company. Sometimes it happens that a man is actually better than a woman, however rar (mostly kidding :) )

      The job, as I described up-thread somewhere, is pretty flexible and so it isn’t a fast set of skills, which is what make the decision harder. Many skills can be put to good use, though of course a baseline major in the relevant field is a prerequisite, which both have.

      Talking it out here helped me solidify what I think, which may or may not influence what dad thinks. But I think he thinks what I think, lol. But I think he should support the hiring manager’s choice and choose Jack, explain why Jack is the better choice for the business (I think he is, ultimately), and remind HR that gender considerations are illegal, if anyone was suggesting that (since I wasn’t present, as someone pointed out, I can’t be sure, which I’ll point out to him).

      With the studies: I believe the stem gender gap is caused by a complex interplay of skills, preference, and subconscious stereotypes, but the latter doesn’t 100% explain it all.

      Anyway, thanks for taking the time to respond.

  14. udon the day away*

    Can anyone recommend a good online resume builder? My old Word-built resume just doesn’t cut it anymore, and I’m terrible at formatting anyways.

    1. MochaJane*

      I use the templates available on overleaf. They require some laTex (so writing the resume is a bit like writing code) but it turns out beautiful.

      1. Caterpie*

        I second this! I do have some coding in my background but I think it could be fairly doable without that knowledge as well. I would suggest you just find a template you like and change all the sample info for your own. You can probably puzzle out from the existing code how to add another bullet point, bold a word, etc.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I realize this may not be what you want to hear but when I’m hiring, I barely care about the format of the resumes. Is it clear? Is it easy to read? Then it’s good enough. If you’re “terrible at formatting” in a way that makes it confusing to read, then you need to fix that. But nearly any template that isn’t full of rando graphics and “flair” will suffice. The words matter way way way way way way way more than the formatting. If you’re looking for a special tool to make a resume, you’re probably overthinking it.

      1. MochaJane*

        Does field matter at all for whether flashy graphics can matter? My friend works in tech and swears by the loading bars, pie charts, and fancy graphics for tech company resumes.

        1. TechWorker*

          Um presumably they work in a different part than me. (U.K., software). The loading bars and pie charts honestly make me cringe, I’ve never seen a resume improved by them.

          1. MochaJane*

            Yeah my friend is at a tech company in Silicon Valley. I always cringed when he showed me because in my field that looks gimmicky but he swears by it.

  15. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

    About a month ago in this open thread I asked about my colleague “Janetha” who works with me in a team of one and really lacks initiative. She would often ask me on how to deal with situations or questions without doing the independent thinking or fact finding I really thought the job needed, on about 10-15% inquiries that came to our inbox . I was usually just answering her to move things along quickly (we have to answer or deal with things within a day).

    I got some great advice on how to deal with it and how to talk to my boss about it, thanks all who replied.

    A minor update, not too successful I’m afraid.

    So I talked with my manager about this and she seemed kind of.. Not worried? Like she talked about how little she had been bothered by my colleague during my last long vacation. She also said something like, “well, people are different”. I guess implying I am more initiative taking than most and while that’s fine its no big deal if Janetha is not like that?

    A situation happened where a task was delayed because Janetha had asked about it from a different department and not told me, so when I saw it the next day I leapt into action and replied ASAP. Then Janetha told me she asked Mel from Grain Processing how to reply and I said “Well to send the inquiry further we needed info on this, so I just asked for that info and if they want our service they should reply”. I then said I would look over our documents to see if I needed to add something about these situations in the document.

    Guys, it was literally second paragraph in the existing document of instructions.
    Janetha promised to do more due diligence in the future and to be fair, she does seem to have improved on making decisions and taking actions independently. We recently picked up a new task and so far she’s been doing well with it , better than I expected. Still, she doesn’t do a whole lot research in our database and prefers to just refer inquiries to different people rather than trying to find the answers herself. It’s okay but it’s not ideal.

    Tldr : My team member who lacks initiative is doing slightly better than previous but I am not confident she will be able to handle everything herself when I leave for maternity leave. My boss doesn’t seem to be too bothered by it. Should I bring it up with my boss again or just let her deal with the consequences when I’m gone?

    1. Joy*

      It sounds like you’ve already made it clear to your boss than Janetha can’t do the job independently but your boss isn’t convinced it’s a big deal. I wouldn’t bother having another conversation with your boss, but I would try to pull back from whatever “cover up” you’re doing now in anticipation of your leave. Stop leaping into action to fix her problems, and busy yourself with documentation for your leave. If possible, redirect her to boss saying that you’re taking a backseat to make sure the processes work without you. Maybe not do-able, but I’d definitely give up on trying to get your boss to care about an issue she’s not suffering over yet.

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        Thanks, this is good advice. I’ll try to document and provide instructions for things, with screencaps to illustrate things better.

        I’ll try to redirect Janetha’s questions to the guides and instructions we have instead of answering her, to sort of retrain her thinking. She really is hesitant and I think even when her intuition is correct, she will hesitate, ask me or ask somebody else for reassurance, even though the mistakes in our job aren’t costing lives or even client accounts, they just delay things or might be a bit embarrassing when corrected by co-workers in other departments. I don’t want to be hokey but I’ll try to be encouraging as well, to make her see her intuition is usually correct, she’s got this etc.

        1. tangerineRose*

          “I’ll try to redirect Janetha’s questions to the guides and instructions we have instead of answering her, to sort of retrain her thinking. ” Good! It might seem like this takes longer (and it will probably take her longer), but this should gently push her to look stuff up first, at least before asking you questions.

          And yeah, you brought this up with your boss; I don’t think you need to bring it up again.

        2. TechWorker*

          ‘Right in the middle of something, have you checked the guide?’ should be your first question. Sometimes the answer might be ‘yes but I didn’t quite understand what it meant’ or ‘yes but I couldn’t work out which bit applies to this’. If the answer is always ‘nope!’ theyll eventualy realise….

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

      Make triple sure your boss knows you won’t be available for more than a quick question or two the whole time you’re out. Boss might not be bothered because she assumes you’re still available.

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        Good tip. Our job is such that without access to the databases I will be pretty much useless (besides the normal, “where to find info X” questions), and I intend on returning the work laptop and phone before my leave. I live in a country with long-ass maternity leave so when I’m gone I won’t be back for a while, so I couldn’t hold onto company property anyway.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this. I expect that Janetha will deal with it well enough once you’re gone and not available for a consultation. When I started my current job, I was overly dependent for far too long on my extremely experienced coworker. But when she quit and I was forced to deal with things on my own, I found to my amazement that I was doing a decent job and that our internal customers were satisfied with my work product. This helped me gain a lot of confidence in a fairly short time. It was tough and not particularly pleasant, but I could do it when I had to. I hope that Janetha will be able to grow as an employee during your absence.

          I’m also in a country with long maternity leave, and at least in the public sector, when you’re on maternity leave it’s basically the same as being on furlough or switching jobs. Because you no longer have access to company systems, nobody expects you to do any work.

    3. All the cats 4 me*

      This might not work for you of course, but when I got fed up with a lazy coworker who wanted all the answers spoon fed to her, I started responding to her questions differently.

      She would say, what address should this form be mailed to? And I would say, if you don’t know, where would you look it up?

      The first time I received a very surprised and hurt look in response, but she has now adjusted to either pestering someone else, or is actually engaging her brain instead. Either way, I am happy!

  16. Jeanie*

    I’ve been at a new job for a few months, but I’ve started to job search again because it’s a toxic environment. (Admittedly there were a lot of red flags in the interview, but I needed a job, and because of Covid I figured I should be grateful to get ANY job, so I just took it.)

    Aside from all the toxic things that go on, a major drawback to the job is no one takes Covid seriously. (I’m the only one that wears a mask, etc.) I have a phone screening for another job next week. If they ask why I want to leave this job so soon, is it best to omit any mention of the toxic environment and just talk about my Covid concerns?

    1. Reba*

      A benefit of talking about your Covid concerns could be that it would also help you screen for a future workplace that is handling it better, so I wouldn’t leave it out either way. Good luck!

    2. what would you do*

      I wouldn’t mention the toxic environment, maybe it’s not a good fit would be better (?)…. I think I would be more general. Most employers can read between the lines. Alison has posted a ton of amazing questions and answers about this – I’d search her archives. In worst case scenario if your future employer figured out you were leaving because of a toxic environment (I include COVID in that since it adds to the stress!) I would have professional-diplomatic-no-finger-pointing examples in case you are asked

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      I would probably say something that includes COVID among your other issues, like “I’m looking for a workplace that focuses less on X and more on Y. I’m also concerned about the way my employer is handling the pandemic.”

    4. Not So NewReader*

      If you stick with the Covid concerns a good number of people will be able to deduce that other things were going wrong also. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

  17. Z*

    I am looking for advice on interviewing techniques.

    I generally get the impression that I interview well. Interviewers seem to respond positively to my answers and often say things like ‘you’ve already touched on my next question,’ which I assume implies that I am on the right track, and, most importantly, I get jobs, or at least make it to the final cut.

    The problem is that to me my answers sound terrible! I feel confused, speak too fast and ramble. I’m pretty good at catching myself and summarising the most relevant points at the end of the answer, and I generally have the right substance, but often, I worry that I’m going too long so round up, but then I don’t get the opportunity to bring up the things I was going to say. I also probably launch into answers too quickly because I’m worried about blanks, when I should give myself more time to decide what I’m going to say.

    I have tried writing down and practicing mock answers and that definitely helps for standard questions like ‘Tell us about yourself’ and ‘why do you want to work here,’ but otherwise you never get asked the exact question you prepare for, and I struggle to restructure the material that I’ve prepared to answer the real questions.

    I understand that it probably sounds worse to me because it’s not the ‘perfect answer’ and because I always think of other things I could say afterwards, but I know it could be a lot better.

    I have two interviews next week (unfortunately on the same day!). One is a final stage interview and, from the voicemail I received from HR, it sounds like it is a confirmation of my suitability, rather than a competition with anyone candidates.

    I am doing a lot of prep and making notes on points I want to bring up, as well as doing some mock interviews with friends and family, but any other tips to responding to unexpected questions and speaking well would be great! Thanks!

    1. Reba*

      Ooh, I would guess that “summarizing the key points from your own answer” reads as pretty impressive in an interview setting!

      Thinking of something afterward is SO so so common. Staircase wit! It’s a thing. I also relate to not having enough time to say everything that I want to say. But remember this is not a dissertation! No one, no matter how perfectly prepared, can say everything they know in an interview. I also think interview nerves are probably taken as given by sympathetic interviewers.

      I’m extrapolating from what you’ve written here, I know, but…. I wonder if you are preparing too much? or making too many notes at the least, since you feel like retooling your prepped answers is hard to do on the fly, maybe that means you are a bit too rooted to the language or ideas you have compiled ahead of time. One thing that helps me in speaking situations to keep it natural is to bring only extremely minimal notes. It is very very tempting to write notes so (in theory) I will remember All The Things! But instead of writing out sentences, I write like one key word, just to remind me of the topic — I know what I want to say in my head, but I’ll have to actually word it as I go.

      Also, like, be nicer to yourself about this if you can. Good luck!

    2. Xenia*

      I have two recommendations. First, it sounds like you’re scripting answers to common interview questions. The problem with scripts and public speaking is that when you get nervous, memorized scripts will fly out of your head and leave you with a big blank.I would recommend having a short page of notes that outline some of your most important points—your strengths, weaknesses, etc—that you want to be sure and bring up, and then practice answering a question based on the outline rather than a script. Second, I like you often ‘think aloud’, and what’s helped me has been to take a deep breath, try to relax, and take 3 seconds to think about where you’re going before you start talking. A short pause is more professional than babbling.

      Best of luck!

    3. Empress Matilda*

      What Reba and Xenia said. Also, after each question, you can take a couple of seconds to plan your answer before you start talking. I prefer to write notes, but you can certainly do it in your head if you’re more comfortable. Just 2-3 quick bullet points that you can speak to – and then stop when you’re done!

      It feels a bit awkward if you’re not used to it, but it’ll help you stay focused and keep you from repeating yourself too much. Also most interviewers will appreciate seeing you take the time to think things through, rather than thinking and talking at the same time.

      Good luck!

    4. Grim*

      Record yourself giving your answers, then immediately review the recording. You’ll see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Keep practicing your delivery and continue recording; this approach will give you confidence and improve your overall interviewing performance; I say performance because it is a performance.

      You can also mirror the body language of those who interview with. Crossing your arms, sitting back in your chair, holding a pen; whatever they are doing, you mimic. Using this approach, your interviewer will see yourself in them.

    5. cubone*

      I write out about a dozen “stories” of my best/proudest/most difficult experiences and accomplishments. Literally, write them out like a story for a class. Then I “tag” them with the skills and abilities I think these stories most demonstrate (eg managing difficult situations, problem solving, strategic planning). For interview prep, I just practice telling those stories over and over til they feel intimately comfortable, and then I try to use the job posting to anticipate what skills they’ll be looking for and highlight those stories.

      Personally I think trying to prep by guessing at mystery questions is an inefficient method, and you risk being caught super off guard if a hiring manager or company has unusual or unpredictable questions. I find this method also improves my comfort and confidence and it’s about using 2 skills (neither of which are guesswork): 1) being able to tell your own stories really well and 2) identifying from the question which story would fit best.

    6. Z*

      Thanks everyone! This is really good advice!

      I wouldn’t say I over-prepare…More that I’ve gone from assuming that I can obviously answer questions about myself to realising that I do need more detailed prep, but not quite sure what the best way to go about it is. I really like the idea of just writing out stories about general skills and experiences, and I will definitely try to have more confidence about taking that time to plan my answer instead of just launching into it.

      Have a great weekend! :)

  18. Going anon*

    I’m a cis woman. My name is an uncommon female version of a very common male name (think Georgina-George). A significant part of my job is regular communication with international clients/vendors/people by emails. Roughly 50% of these people misgender me. Some misread my name and call me George (or Mr/Sir If they’re from a more formal culture) from the beginning. Others get it right at first, but eventually they slip and forget and start addressing me as George. My industry’s on the traditional side, and putting pronouns on the signature is not a thing.

    I don’t have any problem with this and never correct them. I never meet any of them in person, so there’s no potential embarrassment on their side upon realizing that they’ve been misgendering me. They also almost never have any contact with others in my company, so there’s no potential for me being mistaken for others.

    When I talked about this with a friend (also a cis woman), she said that I could afford not to care because of my privilege as a cisgender woman. She also said that I was claiming identity that’s not my own, and that I should correct people when they misgender me or call me by the wrong name.

    My friend’s definitely knows more about these issues than me. But at the same time, I’m really uncomfortable with the idea.

    What’s your advice?

    1. londonedit*

      Could you put (Ms) after your name in your signature, maybe? Otherwise I think it’s really up to you whether you’re bothered and whether you want to correct people! It’s your name.

      1. Going anon*

        I thought about this, but it’s not a thing either in my industry. There also the potential issue that some of them night not be aware of the usage of Ms. Once or twice in the beginning I did say “It’s Ms. actually,” and they started calling me Miss or Mrs. instead.

        And well, I can’t explain why, but I’m really uncomfortable with using Ms. either.

      2. Analyst Editor*

        Ignore your friend’s advice and do what’s comfortable for you. It’s like, if my mom asks me to do something I do it, no biggie, but if my she asks my sibling the same they react and explode because of a bunch of their own personal issues with my mom – or I’m just more chill maybe. So am I “privileged” that I don’t suffer the pain and anxiety that my mom’s simple request triggers in the sibling? Maybe, but I don’t need to fight my mom; the conflict is their problem.
        So also here. Further, the difference in your actions to whatever cause your friend is pushing is miniscule, and doesn’t free people for whom this is an issue from having to deal with it and correct others. So don’t be mean or cruel to anyone, be kind in general, but I think that you should deal with your name as you please.

    2. Xenia*

      You can also include your pronouns in the bit about your info. I’ve been seeing that more and more frequently in official emails that I get

    3. Reba*

      I think I get what your friend is saying, but “claiming an identity not your own” strikes me as rather a strong way of reading the situation. I’m just not sure that framing is germane to your situation. Moreover YOU absolutely get to decide how you want to handle something that is happening to you.

      1. TGI Friday*

        Yeah, you’re not “claiming” an identity here at all – you’re simply declining to correct people’s incorrect assumptions since it’s the path of least resistance for everyone involved and there won’t be any negative consequences for it.

        Your friend needs to chill out about this.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Agreed! No, you are not “claiming” an identity not your own.

          A good friend of mine has this same issue. Her name is uncommon and generally thought of as being male, and she gets this all the time from cold calls/vendors and the like. She says it’s just not worth the effort to correct the assumption of strangers. But if you deal with them more regularly, sure, make the correction.

      2. Empress Matilda*

        I agree. Your friend is right that you can afford not to care because of your particular status, but that doesn’t mean you automatically need to do something about it! You’ve acknowledged your privilege, which is great, but I think that’s all you need to do here.

        Forcing all these people into a conversation about your gender/pronouns isn’t going to make things any better for the broader LGBTQ+ community, and it sounds like it’s going to add unnecessary weight to what would otherwise be a pretty straightforward (ha!) conversation. You would be better off using your privilege to advocate for changes that actually will make a difference – like putting pronouns in your email signatures, for example. Or making sure your company offers benefits to same-sex couples, or increased maternity leave benefits, etc.

        There are lots of problems in the world, and I don’t disagree that this is one of them. But just because it’s a problem doesn’t mean that you personally are responsible for solving it! It’s okay to let this one go and spend your energies elsewhere.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, your friend seems to have added so much more to this problem. I am not sure that this friend is the best person for advice on matters, or at least this matter.
        In the best light, perhaps the friend was trying to motivate you to stand up for yourself. Uh, she could have just said she feels you should stand up for yourself. That would be more to the point.

        Change your worldview. Realize that collectively many, many people are just bad with names. Decide it is normal to let people know that you are not George and you are a woman. I am wondering if you are feeling embarrassed FOR them and that is why you don’t correct them. I can relate to that.

        If this is the case, then decide you will only correct where it is important. Okay so what’s important? Well, if they have an on-going work relationship with you and you will hear from them again in the future. Or perhaps it’s a one time contact but they need to tell someone else they spoke with you. (So if they say George their next contact will say, “WHO?”. Try to prevent that from happening.)

        I have a fairly straightforward name- for both first and last names. I cannot tell you how many times a day people get it wrong. And I actually have to SPELL it. Once they see what they have written I hear that embarrassed “ohhhhhh….”. But ask any one named Smith or Jones how often they have to spell their names out or correct someone. Sadly, I have FRIENDS who still cannot get through my name with out an error.

        Perhaps you can find some relief with framing it as, “Part of my job is to make sure people get my name correct so they can contact me again and keep working with me/my company/my department.”

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      Well, I understand what your friend means and you get to decide about this as it is happening to you.
      I think you can use your privilege and be sure to address this any time it happens in your personal life. Alison sometimes says that if you have to push back on something, you can balance that by being warm and friendly in other interactions with that person. I think this is the same, balance things by pushing back when it is not your job.

      You are representing your workplace, not just you, at work and you would be creating a situation that is embarrassing or awkward for the contacts who are misgendering you. I also think that if/when they realize you are a woman it can help them recognize women are as capable as men. One of my favorite stories is the coworkers, one male, one female, who shared a work email; they used separate email signatures to identify themselves. The manager talked to the man because he was concerned about the lower productivity level of the woman. The man found out why when she went out of town and the email signature was left on the woman’s name. Every single client challenged him and he had to do more than 2x the work because they thought he was the woman. So you are doing your part for gender equality!

    5. Littorally*

      Trans person here, so if your friend is making this a gender identity privilege slapfight, I get to speak louder than her. She’s wrong.

      First off, you’re not claiming anything. Misgendering is a thing that is happening to you. Choosing not to fruitlessly correct people over and over is not equivalent to… whatever she’s thinking of, pretending to be trans, I guess? It’s ridiculous. So from right there, her whole basis that you’re taking some active part in the situation is silly.

      Second off, her whole thing about “claiming an identity that isn’t your own” as some weird manifestation of cis privilege is patently absurd because you are not claiming, or even passively choosing not to dispute, a trans identity! I highly doubt that the people misgendering you are assuming you’re any sort of trans. They are presuming that you’re a cis male. You can choose to call out that presumption or not. But your identity is more embattled than the one they are assuming on you, not less. That isn’t privilege.

      Finally, her framing that you can choose not to care about being presumed male because of cis privilege is… really pretty baffling to me. Defaulting to male terms and a presumption that professional interactions will naturally be with men is generally considered microaggressive against women. You choosing not to engage with it is not a privilege! She sounds like the kind of person who thinks passing privilege is a thing.

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

        First off, you’re not claiming anything. Misgendering is a thing that is happening to you. Choosing not to fruitlessly correct people over and over is not equivalent to… whatever she’s thinking of, pretending to be trans, I guess?

        I’m in no way saying I have any kind of ‘expertise’ about this situation, but I have a “short version” name that, similarly to the OP of the thread, gets identified often as ‘male’ when I am actually a cis woman and as such I am being misgendered when they assume that I’m, for example, Samuel rather than Samantha when I go by ‘Sam’.

        I wonder if what she means by ‘claiming’ an identity is that, in many situations, people presenting as male get “taken more seriously by default” (and all the other things that you will already be aware of so I won’t reiterate them), so that by getting perceived as George/Mr/Sir rather than Georgina/Ms/she/her – ‘Anon’ is somehow accepting, rather than challenging, the ‘natural’ advantage that comes from being George rather than Georgina?

        Sorry, I’ve worded it awkwardly, but hopefully it makes sense.

    6. LGC*

      …I had a much pithier retort to your friend typed up, but I’ll spare it. But it sounds like she’s making this a trans*-rights issue or a gender-rights issue when it’s very loosely that (at best). They’re getting your name (and okay, your gender) wrong, and you seem to be unbothered by that because it’s an understandable mistake.

      (And if I were to extend her logic, she’s presuming to speak for trans* and nonbinary people by accusing you of profiting from this to the presumed detriment of those groups.)

      I’d say that if you really feel the need to correct them after what your friend said, just put “Ms. Georgina Lastname” in your signature. It’s a bit more discreet than “Georgina Lastname (she/her),” yet gets the message across.

    7. Nesprin*

      Include (she/her) pronouns in your sign off block. Helps normalize discussing pronouns and costs almost nothing. If they get it wrong, you still have the option of not caring.

    8. Jules the First*

      As a woman in a conventionally male STEM industry, with a relatively gender neutral name, the single most uncomfortable conversation I have ever had at work was with a colleague from a partner agency who called for the first time (after a lengthy and technical group email exchange in which we used each other’s first names but no pronouns) and was completely flummoxed to get a woman on the phone. After a few moments of his stuttering, I offered to transfer him to a colleague with better German, and he then sheepishly admitted that he was struggling not with his English but with the mental transition between thinking of me as a technically astute colleague and realising that I was a woman. I told him gently that I was prepared to take that as a compliment on this occasion and we moved past it, but I completely sympathise with your predicament – it gets deeply uncomfortable to correct misgendering all the time and you are absolutely within your rights to choose not to do it.

      1. tangerineRose*

        “with the mental transition between thinking of me as a technically astute colleague and realising that I was a woman.” Yikes! Is he from a culture that doesn’t think of women as having brains, and/or is he just a jerk? What is wrong with some people?!

        I guess I’ve been fortunate. I work in technology and have generally been well respected, but maybe that’s because I’ve worked in a small company, and you get a reputation faster in a smaller company sometimes.

        1. Jules the First*

          I think in all fairness to him, it had just never crossed his mind that a colleague with such deep knowledge of such a technical subject would be anything other than male (women who do this were extremely rare at the time – akin to meeting a female racing driver – and he was a good 20 years older than me, so I could quite easily have been the first woman he’d ever met in a 30-year career who did this…). Fortunately there are a lot more talented young women making careers in this now and so it’s much less unusual to see a woman in the role – I even did one a few weeks ago where there were six of us on the call and only one man!

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

        I’ve went through that at the beginning of my career. I had recruiters and HR people asking to speak with Mr Shoes (my father), who was super confused and couldn’t understand why someone from some random company’s HR wanted to speak with him. Funny enough, I can’t recall getting a second call or email from any of those places.

    9. LTL*

      “She also said that I was claiming identity that’s not my own”

      What? You’re absolutely not doing that. Other people are calling you by the wrong name, despite your name being in the email. You didn’t ask them to.

    10. Cedrus Libani*

      I don’t think it’s cis privilege, it’s low-gender privilege. Many people could not accept being read as George when they’re Georgina. They would feel, in some fundamental way, not seen. They would experience dysphoria. If someone has gone through the considerable bother of identifying as binary trans and trying to make their body match their identity, you can be pretty sure they’re high-gender, but a lot of cis people are too.

      That said, there are roughly a bajillion micro-privileges out there. I don’t think it’s an appropriate expectation that a properly “woke” person should fake disadvantages that they do not have. Georgina should not have to pretend she experiences dysphoria when called George. For one thing, many such privileges are a double edged sword; she may have the choice of allowing a sexist client to go on thinking she’s male, but she also has the mental overhead of making this calculation every time it happens. (As a person with OCD, I can attest that it is in some ways a superpower, even if on balance I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Our differences are almost never strictly a plus or a minus.)

      The proper thing to do is to see your privilege and try to avoid harming people who don’t have it. I’m low-gender myself, and I’ll admit that I am still learning how to feminist while also not being unintentionally rude to the high-gendered. Before I figured this out, I assumed the whole “gender identity” thing was internalized sexism. Wake up sheeple, gender is a lie! Oops. Now I know better, so I can do better, which is the whole point.

      1. Littorally*

        Yeah, this is a great point about bringing high gender and low gender into it as well. There are absolutely trans and cis people all over the spectrum of reactions to misgendering, especially when it’s unintentional on the part of the speaker. Not going into knots of agony over it certainly isn’t the exclusive realm of cis folks.

    11. ...*

      No its up to you if you want to correct it or not because its YOUR name and your clients. Your friend doesn’t know more about how you feel about your own name than you do. If you’re perfectly fine and happy I’d continue on as normal. They dont get to negotiate what you do about your name and your gender.

  19. Hotdog not dog*

    Looking for tips to manage communication from an executive I provide admin support to. He’s one of 5 that I support, and the only one I’m having difficulty with. The problem is that the only way I find out that he expected something is after the fact when he complains (sometimes to me, sometimes directly to my manager) that I failed to complete something to his satisfaction. He never gives me instructions ahead of time, even though I ask him frequently to please tell me what he needs done. I only learn in hindsight that he wanted something else. Fortunately my manager is aware that he does this and has told him very plainly that nobody can read his mind. Other than cringing when I see him on the caller ID (he’s a yeller), reminding him that I can only do tasks I’m aware of, and then going back to redo work that I could easily have done right the first time, any suggestions?

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I hate people who do this. It’s their passive-aggressive petty little game.
      All you can do when he calls is to ask a routine set of questions based around Who What Where When How:

      >What exactly/specifically do you need
      >Who needs to get this or Who do I contact
      >Where is it or Where should it go
      >When do you need it by
      >How would you like it done or How much do you want to spend

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        It goes beyond “do x” without any additional information…I’m getting blasted for failing to know that x even existed at all. Wednesday I got, “why didn’t John get the report yet?”. The answer, unfortunately, was “Who is John, and what report did you tell him I was sending him?”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Ask your boss if you have to tolerate being yelled at. If you can signal the boss to come over when he is on the phone screaming, do it.

      OR Ask your boss if you can tell him to his face, “Remember Boss told you that I do not mind read. That is NOT a the type of support I provide.”

      Whatever you do, let your boss know the problem is still going on. Ideally your boss will say, “Just hang up on him when he yells.”

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        Fortunately, his antics are well known, and I hang up on him a few times a week. We’re all working remotely due to Covid, so there’s nobody to wave over. I’m trying to come up with a way to get him to tell me what he needs BEFORE he needs it. He gets a say in my performance review so I want to try to find a solution. I’ve been asking him each morning to tell me what he needs that day. Usually he tells me a few things, but then a day or so later comes the “you didn’t do x that I never asked for!” call.

        1. All the cats 4 me*

          Oh this is ssoooooooo annoying!

          I would email him a list of the things he asks you to do daily in your morning convo, asking him to alert you if there was anything omitted from the list. then when he says you didn’t do something (b/c he didn’t ask for it), refer to your list and say, I don’t see that in my summary of instructions from you, so I guess you forgot to pass it on to me – I can do that now/tomorrow/whatever, what is your priority level to complete this?

          Of course, we all forget things sometimes, but if he is doing it regularly, this should help you both realize steps are being missed and maybe bringing it to his attention will trigger a bit more detail orientation on his part. if not, at least you have a satisfying way of reminding him he didn’t actually tell you to do the task.

  20. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    I work on a team of 20 where everyone is remote, and only I and one other person are logged in online today. We’re both contractors so I’m sure the no PTO thing is driving her attendance today just like mine. I’m so new I have zero to do because 90% of my time if being trained by my Team Lead, who’s off today.

    Anyone else holding down the fort while mindlessly scrolling the internet?

    1. Mockingjay*

      Yep. I didn’t find out until this morning that my project lead took the entire week off. We have a teleconference on Fridays. When the call didn’t come, I started an email to ask if he had cancelled, only to get his autoreply that he was off. (So much for his admonishments to the team to put leave on the shared calendar…do as I say, not as I do.)

      I was hoping to get some new assignments settled; guess I’ll have to wait until next week.

  21. Thankful for AAM*

    tl;dr I wrote a lot here which helped me figure out that my question is, how do you find happiness in a job that is not that challenging? How do you just do the job and find meaningfulness outside work?

    I grew up in a family that centered work and most of my friends find personal fulfillment from their jobs. I see posts about when people invest too much in work, but where is just right, where is that for you? It’s the Goldilocks thing; I feel like I can not care much at all, just do the basics, or go all in and give my all. I cannot seem to find the “baby bear bed.” This is an issue because my coworkers and I all want to do more, engage more, have more of a role and an impact and we are frustrated when we cannot.

    More on my role:
    I have a job that is considered paraprofessional by the field. My particular place of work reserves the professional title for managers. But most other orgs like ours have a level of staff with the professional title and their jobs are about 75% professional tasks and 25% other. In our org, the paraprofessional positions are about 75% para and 25% professional duties. I recently realized that everyone from my coworkers right up to the top in our org lean into the professional part meaning that we all seem to think our jobs are more like 75% professional and 25% para. Several of us, even part timers, have done things like present at conferences, publish, work on professional org committees, etc. There is frustration by all that I think stems from the way we all expect our jobs to be the professional title job but is really the para professional job. It is like we have retail jobs but sometimes need to take on the manager’s roles but only when they want us to, not day to day but no one makes that clear.

    This is a problem specific to my workplace but is also specific to me as I navigate this particular workplace. I do look for other jobs and I am addressing this gap in expectations with managers. I worked retail like jobs for a long time while I raised a family so I have done this before but my focus was on family. Now that it is just me and the job I am finding it hard to find the balance. And despite covid, I have developed new hobbies (crochet, yay!) and have other professional outlets in the field — but work is so unsatisfying and it is impacting my happiness.
    I am place bound and if we assume I stay for reasons, how do I find the right balance? Do you just go to work and do what they ask/expect and go home to real life or does work play a bigger role in life satisfaction for you? How do you just go to work and do the thing that is not that challenging?
    I am not happy being a “desk monkey” but that is really my job. I am not happy in myself I mean, It is not rewarding to me. And I am not happy trying to figure out when my role can be more professional duties and when managers don’t want it to be. That is just exhausting.

    Thanks all!

    1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

      It often helps me to think about what would happen if my job didn’t exist and what the alternative would look like, and also to think about what it would look like if somebody was to do my job a lot worse than how I do it. Not everyone will do it as well as I do, simple as that.

      Beyond all that, I just find a lot of satisfaction in pursuing goals in my hobbies and in my personal life. Something as simple as hitting a savings goal can be a great feeling.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Well, truth be told you may not actually last at the job. You might try everything you can think of and then say, ENOUGH!

      But for the time being, work hard on your personal goals. One thing about being very familiar with one’s job is that one can have actual brain space left to do “life” type things. You might consider going as far to write out a list of personal goals and the steps to attain each goal.

      Another thing you might want to think about is using the point in your life to develop a skill or expertise that could get you a job doing something else. There are advantages to having a paycheck that is not a mental or physical drain. See how you can leverage those advantages.

    3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Do you think you’d feel more settled in your work life if you moved into a nominally professional role? I’m not suggesting this because of status anxiety, but here me out: when you’re doing professional duties as a paraprofessional, sometimes there’s a sense that you have to “prove yourself” or work just that little bit harder to earn credibility. Even if you get some wins, you may feel increasing pressure to lean into that professional role more as though that solve any of the cognitive dissonance that comes from your situation.

      Moving to a professional role doesn’t solve everything (and TBH introduces new challenges), but there’s a degree of peace that comes with doing things that are well-aligned with your organizational role and status. Taking away the political guesswork that comes with straddling two roles would free up a lot of energy for the rest of your life.

    4. allathian*

      I admit that occasionally job satisfaction simply means that I’m satisfied I have a job and get paid every month. Most of the time, I get a little boost of good feels when I’ve been able to help an internal client and when I realize that I can actually make a significant contribution through my work. Even if I feel that my org could value my contribution more by paying me a bit more, I feel appreciated at work because I get positive feedback frequently and corrective feedback only very occasionally, and when I do, I’m confident enough in my professional identity that it doesn’t crush me. I may have screwed up but it doesn’t make me a bad person and I can resolve to do better next time. It does help that any corrective feedback is always task-focused and doesn’t get into personalities.

      I guess I find contentment in not being overly focused on finding happiness, or in expecting every day to be better than the previous one. I’ve also declined to participate in social media, because I think it’s one of the main reasons why people are so discontented these days. Keeping up with the Joneses is definitely not my thing! We can’t all be high achievers and I’ve found contentment in realizing that I’m not one of those and in having a job that doesn’t require me to be one but still pays me enough so that I can afford all of the necessities and some of the luxuries of life.

  22. Josephine*

    I hope everyone who is US based had a great Thanksgiving, despite social distancing. 

    I have a pretty low-stakes resume question which I would like to get some advice on from the commenters. Actually I think the question is more ‘is this something that should go into the resume/CV or cover letter’:

    Since I started my current job, I have received two performance awards (these are monetary) and two additional awards for exceptional work done on specific projects (these are non-monetary, although one was a cross-functional team event). This sounds like a lot, but it’s actually not and I’ve just come up on a lot of finalizations and milestones on my projects that are also widely announced in our global company.

    But my question is, is this something I would put on my resume along with the achievement they were awarded for (e.g., ‘brought new llama food product “Andean glory” to market and received performance award’) or is something I would put in a cover letter?  Or would I make a separate line with just these awards in the resume? I don’t want to clutter it up too much, but these are linked to achievements a decade in the making.

    I’m not currently looking for a job, but COVID may yet do a number on my company after all and I want to update my resume just in case.

    I’d be grateful for any thoughts on this!

    1. Reba*

      I think I might do it like

      – Achievement description (recognized with Company award)
      – Further achievements (Company award)

      OR if that starts look over top top, you could make one bullet among your achievements
      – Recognized with four Company awards for performance in four years (or whatever)

      Like, I don’t think it’s worth going into detail about the different degrees of awards, but noting that the bosses thought your work was exceptional, yes definitely!

    2. Mockingjay*

      Achievements make great cover letter topics. You can throw in a few lines about the accomplishment and how it relates to Exciting!New!Job! The actual award itself (company recognitions vary widely) is not as important as the reason you got the award.

      In your resume, quantify all those achievements: Brought new llama food to market in six months, three months ahead of schedule with cost savings of $x, which ensured we were the first to offer this product…As a result, CurrentCompany enjoys the majority market share of Llama foods.

      1. Josephine*

        Thank you! That’s a tad long for how resumes are structured where I am (not US based), but I’ll definitely take it under advisement and play around with it. Thanks so much!

  23. Data Nerd*

    I have just been asked to do an interview about my work (I work at a big place, they want a few minutes of me talking about my work as a promotional thing). I’m normally not a fan of being on camera, at all, but I know we need more non-male visibility in STEM (I am genderqueer / look more female). At first it seemed strange to do this by zoom on my cellphone, but I realized that that’s normal now, and I shouldn’t be worried about it. I asked for the questions ahead of time, so that I can come up with short, interesting answers.

    Has anyone ever done something like this? Any advice or fun stories?

    1. Casey*

      I do these for my (STEM) school fairly often! Whatever I’m talking about I try to make sure it’s (1) accessible — no jargon or technical language, since my audience is often prospective students and their families who aren’t well-versed (2) truthful — I don’t lie about my experiences to make my school look better (3) insightful — I don’t cover anything that the admissions officers or the school website could answer. I talk about the student experience, sitting outside a professor’s office waiting to talk to him, making pancakes for my friends at midnight during finals week, finishing a project that I’m proud of.

      Thinking about what my goals are in participating in these interviews and what I want viewers to take away has always been helpful in preparing!

      1. Data Nerd*

        Thank you! I think that last bit is particularly insightful. In order to speak coherently I plan to write up answers to the questions and then practice a bit and then speak with only a few short notes, so keeping your suggestions in mind will be useful when I write everything up. Much appreciated.

  24. Anax*

    Any thoughts on performance review anxiety in this crazy year?

    No surprise, but between the pandemic, election, and work-from-home, I haven’t been as productive as I hoped; I’ve been keeping the lights on, but not a lot more. Our year-end review cycle starts… right around now, and I’m collating my list of “stuff I did”, and wincing. I tried really, really hard, but… it’s 2020, we’ve had five deaths, two confirmed covid cases, and a stroke in the extended family so far, and I’ve just been too stressed to think straight. My whole family is in Wisconsin, land of the “really quite bad covid handling”, and I’m across the country.

    To make matters worse, I was dealing with some nontrivial health issues last year which also hit my performance, and this is only my second year in the job.

    Intellectually, I know that I did the best I could, but I’m feeling really insecure and anxious right now, looking at what I’ve actually done in black and white.

    1. Trisha*

      Speaking as a manager who just had to wrap up all of my mid (fiscal) year reviews – don’t sweat it. Frame your achievements within the scope of a worldwide pandemic. This has been a difficult and distressing time and sometimes the best way to look at things is that you were focusing on mental and physical health amid a worldwide health crisis. You were able to continue to perform (keeping the lights on) lots people this year weren’t able to do that. And make sure under the “stuff you did” also includes adjusting to any changes in how and where your work was performed along with other stresses that changed the fundamental of how your company did business.

      As well – is there a colleague you could talk to who does a similar role? You may be surprised at what you kept afloat that you’re not giving yourself credit for.

      1. Anax*

        Thanks; that definitely helps.

        Honestly, the closest peer to me IS my manager, so I’ll be talking to him soon; there’s me, him, and one other guy on my team who takes a lot of the most technical work on. My manager was promoted from peer-status about a year and a half ago, so he’s still pretty inexperienced at the management side of things, and that does make feedback trickier.

        I’m on good terms with everyone, but since they’ve both been around for quite a while and I’m still the newbie, I always feel like I need to prove myself, especially because anything I don’t get done goes directly onto their plates, and the goal has always been to train me up for promotion. (And I’m in the middle of a big “stretch” project for me, which is particularly nervewracking.)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      You and an army of other people.

      Is your boss a reasonable person? How has your company reacted to the pandemic? One way to cope with anxiety over many different types of concerns is to make yourself collect up facts. Is there something concrete that causes you to believe you might be in trouble here?

      I work in a place where the rules change almost daily. Monday it’s Do ABC. Tuesday it’s never, ever do ABC. I really don’t care which way this ABC thing goes, I’d just like to get it right. But I can’t, it’s not possible. Fortunately, I have a good boss. She will look at the ABC quandary with me and figure out, that it seems to make the most sense to do XYZ right now, in place of the whole ABC debate. Happy to arrive at some decision, I carry on with XYZ. She thinks I am doing a great job.

      I am so, so sorry your family has been hit so hard here. There’s no doubt in my mind that all these saddnesses could be clouding your view of how the boss sees your work. Do the best you can with your list and then just exhale. It is what it is. If you like your boss/job/cohorts be sure to tell your boss that. If your company treated you fairly be sure to say thank you and that you appreciate it. If you have plans to build yourself up next year such as beefing up a particular skill or taking an interest in some training, let your boss know that also.

      I am betting that your own boss is looking at his own review and sighing also.

      1. Anax*

        Thanks; I’ll do my best, and you’re right that my own state is definitely affecting how I think others see me. It’s been a rough year, and I’m not at my best; just heard about the stroke yesterday.

        My company has actually been great – they’ve been very focused on work-life balance, recognizing that we won’t be as productive now as usual, continuing to offer professional development online, avoiding burnout. But we’re also essential – I work at a bank – so there’s a lot that does need to get done, sometimes last-minute, and the workload definitely hasn’t decreased during 2020. There’s kind of a disconnect there that hasn’t been addressed.

        My boss is a good guy and doing his best, but he’s also only been a manager for a year, and sometimes his expectations aren’t totally clear, especially when it comes to “how much do I really need to get done this week, and what can I punt until later?”, and “am I performing the way you want me to?” (And yes, I directly ask regularly.)

        He’s spent most of the pandemic working long hours, and since it’s a three-person team, I feel partially responsible, even though I know that working nights and weekends isn’t sustainable in general, and especially not for me, when I have chronic illness involving fatigue which I need to carefully keep in check.

        (He also is at home with a six-year-old, which I’m sure has been a strain; kiddo’s very cute, but remote learning for a first-grader takes a lot of parental involvement.)

        My big worry is that, as expected, a lot of the longer-term, lower-priority issues are slowly becoming bigger problems over time. For instance, we have ancient Access databases which are slowly causing more problems as Office updates and users move to Windows 10, and I haven’t had time to completely replace them, so I’m just patching bandaids on top for now. I know my priorities are correct – my boss has been clear about what I need to do first – but in a normal year, I would have been able to burn through more of that backlog before it became a problem.

        Definitely plans for next year – I have a project backlog to work on, and professional development and industry research are always a big part of the job; I’m a software developer, and the only one with that background on the team. There’s just a lot to do, and I’m honestly feeling overwhelmed this year.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          For a person who has had one hellified year you sound really good here, really put together. I think that if you talk like this with your boss you are going to be just fine. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “In a normal year, I would have burned through that backlog.” If you have any kind of time frame you can add that in, “Once I get on that issue, it will take me X period of time to remedy it.”
          This is the way I talk with my boss. “Once I can get next to X problem, I will probably have it cleaned up in Y time frame.” She really appreciates that 1) I know it needs to be done and 2) I actually have an idea of how long it will take. That part really impresses her as it defines the scope of the problem.

          I think you have quite a few things in your favor right now, that, UNDERSTANDABLY, you are not seeing. I think you will land okay here. Just go in and talk to him along the lines of what you are saying here. Think of this as practice. I am optimistic for you. You will have to let us know next weekend how it went.

          One more tidbit: Decide right now, that you do not have to come out of the review over-the-moon happy. Decide that coming out of the interview feeling satisfied is what success looks like here. I have always found it helpful to dial back what I expect of myself. It grounds me. It’s a pandemic, you don’t have to win “employee of the decade” in order to be a winner here.

  25. Anono-me*

    Happy Friday!

    A friend with an elderly parent, just expressed frustration at not bring able to help them in person right now. Her parent is in poor health and is aggressively self isolating right now, except for medical appointments.

    My friend is also self isolating, WFH, grocery delivery only, and not even doctor visits.

    The issue is my friend’s employer (IT) has told her that she will be terminated immediately if she catches Covid. She won’t be terminated for having covid; but rather because she must have engaged in some sort of risky behavior that caused her to catch covid.

    My friend doesn’t feel that she can risk the very low possibility of her parent contracting covid at a medical appointment and passing it along. Nor does my friend feel like she can take the risk of her own medical appointments.

    I can understand if an employer discovered someone actually engaged in high risk behavior, but to assume it and terminate based on that assumption seems extreme.

    Has anyone else seen employers do this?

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Wow, that is going pretty far on the part of the employer. Can you suggest she talk to the employer about plans to help her mother and get a sort of pre-approval to do the tasks she needs to do?

      Also, I got fired by my employer because I got covid is something most employers will understand.

    2. Littorally*

      That employer is nuts. There’s a huge gulf between “activities that might result in someone getting covid” and “risky, unnecessary activities.” If she gets sick or injured, is she not supposed to seek medical treatment because contact with healthcare workers raises her risk of contracting covid? Given how long we’ve been in this situation, she’s probably coming up on needing a routine dental cleaning — is she supposed to neglect that, too?

      I can understand if she doesn’t have the power to push back hard on her employer, but this is the kind of thing that really does deserve a lot of resistance, and hopefully organization among the workers subjected to such an unrealistic and punitive policy.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Can your friend push back by asking permission from her employer to do certain things that aren’t high risk but also aren’t no risk? Maybe the employer will start getting a clue how impossible this all is.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Well, that’s kind of bs. I don’t believe that getting COVID is inevitable, but I do believe there are going to be situations where you can take every precaution in the world and still get it. For example, I live in an apartment building and way too many of my neighbors won’t wear masks (don’t even get me started on that). I can wear a mask and sanitize my hands and avoid the elevators, but I can’t be 100% isolated. What would her employer make of that? And G-d forbid your friend falls and needs to go to the hospital, what then? Her chances of contracting COVID would be low but certainly not non-existent. What of that?

      This employer is cutting off their nose to spite their face. Not all behavior that exposes people to COVID is “high risk”. Sometimes it’s “calculated risk” or “necessary risk”. I would push back so hard on that policy.

      1. Janne*

        Yep. I know people around me that turned into hermits in March and haven’t come out since, and one of them contracted Covid. She thinks it came from her neighbor, who has been working in a daycare all the time, but said neighbor hasn’t had any symptoms (here they don’t test when you don’t have symptoms) and my friend has been masked when she met the neigbor at a safe distance. I was so surprised when I heard that this friend of all people got Covid.

        It is totally, incredibly, terribly unfair that this employer puts such a sentence on something that already is very not fun. Getting Covid is bad enough on it’s own.

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

      Unfortunately this will have the side effect of people lying about COVID exposure and symptoms. I’d normally not recommend this but if you’re friend is working remote, just don’t inform them of anything. Contact tracers shouldn’t contact her employer if she hasn’t been to the office. Smart employers know this and encourage people to report symptoms and positive test results. But yes, dumb employers do punish people for doing the right thing.

    5. Anax*

      This sounds like a legal issue waiting to happen, honestly – older folks and people with existing disabilities which cause them to be immunocompromised or need regular medical appointments… are all going to be disproportionately targeted, because they’re more likely to get infected by minimally-risky behavior. I think your friend may want to talk to a lawyer.

      1. Natalie*

        Assuming the company isn’t over 500 employees, this also seems like it would run afoul of the expanded FMLA and sick leave, at least through the end of this year.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I am annoyed on your friend’s behalf.

      My suggestion to you is to call the DOL in your state, or look at their website and see what you can find out. Or have your friend do this. I have called the DOL in my state on a couple things I have seen employers do, they answered my concerns for me.

    7. Anono-me*

      Thank you to everyone. I’m glad to hear that this is not something lots of people are dealing with.

      I think this any escalation will need to be friend’s choice.

  26. Haley*

    Hello, anyone have any tips on how to make the most of your vacation time when you’ve been working at home since March and you aren’t able to go anywhere? Ever since we started work from home I’ve had a really tough time disconnecting from work. It doesn’t help that my boyfriend and I share a tiny one bedroom apartment and I have to work at a small table right at the foot of our bed. We took the whole week of Thanksgiving off, but our travel plans had to be canceled because of rising COVID cases around the country, so we’ve been trying to make the most of it at home. I’m worried because Monday is right around the corner, and I feel just as stressed about work as when our vacation time started! I even had a stress nightmare about work last night. Any tips on how others have been disconnecting during time off?

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I just made a class for my workplace on how to staycation. There are lots of articles online and you can google, staycation mytown and get some ideas.
      One of the ones I liked best was to “cruise at home” by planning days at sea and excursion days.
      Days at sea are unplugged, reading, playing games, maybe a movie – things that are relaxing.
      Excursion days can be things like visiting a local park but also spending a day learning about a culture you might visit, watching videos of local cooking, dance, art, museums, etc.
      You can also plan fancy meals or international meals, etc.

      There are so many museums and things with online tours. There are even virtually reality tours/versions of so many places online!

      But I do feel your frustration! It is so hard to disconnect while staying in the same space.

    2. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

      I had a pretty good staycation in the summer by just making sure I was doing things differently than usual. Things like – making a big breakfast when I normally eat pretty light in the morning. Lingering in bed. Ordering takeout when I normally make dinner myself. Not worrying too much about household projects and instead doing self care like reading a book I love or testing a new cosmetic product I just bought or giving my partner a massage in the evening and him returning the favor. If I did cook I did a long involved recipe I normally would not have the time for. If the leisure got boring I’d head out for a socially distanced walk with a good podcast to listen to.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I think the best thing is to try to spend some time outdoors. Walking, hiking, biking or whatever.
      If you can, maybe take a day trip and drive somewhere close by, preferably for an outdoor activity or something scenic.

    4. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Are there parks or walking trails or outdoor things in your area that you could explore? That will be somewhat dependent on the weather, of course, but doing outdoor things is kind of my go-to, especially now when things are closed and we don’t want to be inside with a bunch of people anyway. Getting outside is a good de-stressor! But it’s also hard for me to “vacation” when I’m at home – there’s always stuff I SHOULD be doing and there’s always a nagging voice telling me to be productive, but actually planning the fun or “vacationy” things helps me to remember to relax.

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

      It may be a bit late now, but try to make a break from whatever your usual “at home” routine is. e.g. get out of the house and go ‘somewhere’ if local quarantine laws allow that… if not, and you are actually stuck at home, can you do something like switch off all screens and electronic devices and work on something like board games, jigsaw puzzles, construction toys (I’ve been working a lot on the Ravensburger ‘marble run’ lately), DIY at home, LEGO, etc).

      I feel similar to, but I had 2 (separate) “whole weeks” off but couldn’t go anywhere, but felt pressured into logging into the daily stand-ups etc because I was around and there were things left unresolved. Don’t be like that as I am burning out with that now.

    6. Doc in a Box*

      I took a couple days off around Diwali (I’d actually blocked the time for a conference, which of course was canceled but I forgot to unblock my time so I decided to just take it as a four-day weekend — first time off I’d had since March).

      I put up an out-of-office auto-reply and asked a coworker to cover any urgent issues, same as a “normal” vacation. Then I spent the time reading novels, watching Netflix, etc. Not as restful as a regular vacation, and I really miss travel in general, but it did really help not to think about work for four days in a row.

    7. Roci*

      Struggling with this too. Here are some things I am trying:
      – Creating a switch/trigger/change that signifies Work Time and Free Time. A friend changes their lamp, I move my computer, I’ve also tried going for a walk after signing off as if I’m “commuting”. Or changing clothes.

      – Making sure to get enough outside time. Whenever I feel the stress building up I know it’s time to go for a walk. Best if you can see some nature, but even just taking the long way back from takeout is good. Try an app to gameify it.

      – Create structure and activities for your time off. I love staying at home and hanging out but I can’t do that every weekend for a year. I like to DO things when I travel/on weekends! I go to a certain bakery as a weekend treat, or go to the dog park and watch the dogs. For date night we did an “escape the room” puzzle book, search “Exit” if you like that kind of thing. I saw recommended here AirBnB experiences, I want to try those–you basically skype someone who is a tour guide in Pompeii, or a zen master in Japan, or a drag queen in Portugal, and they teach you something or do some kind of experience for a set period of time. Like traveling but from the couch!

  27. Alien Aisha*

    This is a work/study question, I hope it is appropriate for this thread. I’m very early in my career and have always been academically strong. However, I struggle to relate theoretical concepts to practical applications and my brain fogs up when I try to do this, thus making my bookish knowledge pretty much useless. I feel like I don’t actually know anything and am just good at giving exams.

    Does anyone have experience with this? How did you work around it? Please tell me it gets better with more years in the workforce!

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I can relate and I think it definitely improves with experience!
      I think stop thinking (I sooo hate to be told that, sorry) and look at the problem or task in front of you. It sounds like you are approaching things like you would write a paper – in a paper you have to tie your point to a theory. IRL, focus more on the task or problem and think of solutions based on what you see, your evaluation of the problem. Your brain can make connections to a theory that helps IF that is actually useful. So if you had a stuck drawer you needed to open, you try a gentle pull, you look under it if possible, if it is open a little, you stick your hand in to see what is blocking it, you check that it is not off the track or needing lubricant, etc. You don’t really start with a theory about friction or the angle of the item that is blocking the drawer even though those might be relevant.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Do more hands on work. Seriously, this forces connections to develop in our brains. When you step away from the books and actually put your self into things the real learning starts. And the wider variety of situations that you push yourself through, the more you will be able to use theories in practical settings.

      Consider something like looking at pictures of how a computer is wired to its peripherals. Then look at the difference, when you have to move that computer to the next room and take it all apart to make the move. That picture was just an information dump, you got a whole bunch of information dumped into your brain. But moving that computer you actually have to think, okay this is the printer cable and it has to go into this port over here. Whoops, I have a 6 foot cord, the printer is 8 feet away and the port is on the FAR side. hmm. Better reconfigure this somehow.
      This is the same for many things.

      For the most part, I have found that theories are good for a general starting point. But many, many real life situations actually require a modified version of the theory involved.

    3. tangerineRose*

      Sometimes there’s a huge leap between theory and practice, and it’s not always explained well. Are there books you can read that would help bridge the gap? Are there people you know who could help?

  28. Amethyst*

    Doing a small celebration here. Today’s my first day back to work from vacation, & my job asked if I could work tomorrow. After some back & forth, they asked if I’d be okay with returning one full vacation day to my PTO bank & working tomorrow instead so I’d still get my 40 hours. I said it wasn’t ideal, but…okay.* (We’ve been in penny pinching mode since March.) My supervisor told me our boss was really pushing Grandboss to just give me the overtime. An hour later, I have an email saying I get to have 8 hours of overtime tomorrow!

    *I was torn on refusing & being seen as a team player with this ask. After I said the above, I nearly changed my mind but sat on it. I’m glad I did. They know I’ll pull 12 hour days if need be, particularly at end of month when we have to get all the money in before close, so I’m glad they saw sense & did this for me. :)

  29. omega*

    Quit my job today, after just a few months. I’m a very proactive and quite workaholic person and tend to believe I can change things I don’t like with a bit of work. But I had toxic jobs before and didn’t want to try to fix this one. I made this mistake before. The problems I’ve witnessed at the current job seem to be cultural issues, a lost battle really.

    A fun fact is: my boss unfairly criticized a (technical) project of mine and then gave it to a (male) colleague without even informing me.

    It took me just a month to land an offer that’s 25% better paid – although even my current job was well-paid for my country. It’s a more technical role than what I’ve done so far. During the interview I presented the project and I’m quite sure it landed me the job ;) They were impressed.

    I tend to overthink and since I don’t value giving up easily I feel like a failure in such situations. But I will try to do my best to understand it was a needed step.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      There is a rule of thumb that says a wise person knows when to leave, too. I think time will be kind to you on this one, I think as months and years go by you will be proud of yourself for getting out quickly.

  30. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I have one more (I hope it’s only one!) round of interviews for a job I really want. I thought I might have had it, but no, there’s one more step. I have to give a presentation on the topic of my choice. I love presenting, I think I’m a very good and natural presenter, but damn, this one is up in my head. I spent most of this morning refining my talking points and timing my speech, and hopefully it will be good enough to take me through to the next step.

    But the WORST is that this is a Zoom presentation. Which I do in my current role, but I have never done for an interview. I really feed on the vibe in the room for moments like these, so I keep psyching myself out. I’m also psyching myself out because I found out about this presentation on Monday and I’m not presenting it until the middle of next week, and too much time causes over-thinking and second-guessing.

    I could use good wishes and commiseration, please!

    1. Sherm*

      I know how it is with Zoom presentations — it feels like you are presenting to a blank wall, and can make you wonder “Is anyone listening??” Perhaps, instead of the traditional “picture everyone in their underwear,” picture that the people are all there in front of you, nodding and smiling, appreciating your presentation. You’ve got this!

    2. Jules the First*

      The best advice I ever got about presenting to camera is to put something cute and unexpected directly above your camera (googly eyes; furry antennae, your toddler’s stuffed monkey) so that when you look up from your notes, you “make eye contact” with your audience (way easier to do when your camera also has eyes) and smile. My personal go-to for this is a duplo eyes block balanced on a hairband with glittery pompoms on springs, taped to the back of my laptop, because the pompoms wobble in the tiniest breeze and the movement makes me look up more often.

      Even better if you can use a second device at eye level for your filming camera and have your attendees on a separate screen below that.

      Also – if you can hide your own video so you’re not made self-conscious by watching yourself present, do…

    3. nep*

      I keep psyching myself out. Stop doing that.
      The extra time does not have to be overthinking and tripping yourself up. Sound trite, but really, let that narrative go.
      You’ve got this. Sending you huge good vibes.

  31. Blob*

    Anyone out there who previously worked with colleagues that they loved and now, due to a new job in a new company, you find yourself with very negative and selfish colleagues? I am happy in my social and personal life, and I don’t need to make friends at work but it is always good to have a nice relation with coworkers… Anyway, I feel a bit demotivated sometimes because of the negative energy within my team, even though my job is interesting. Has anyone been through this before?

    1. sv*

      Yes, this happened to me about a year ago! I ended up loathing my colleagues so much that I quit the job after two months with nothing lined up afterward. I obviously don’t recommend that strategy at the moment! It took me about four months to find a new position and I started shortly after the pandemic forced everyone into telework. Pandemic or otherwise, though, I will warn you that the longer you stick it out with bad colleagues, the more “normal” their conduct will feel to you. I don’t like to toss around the word trauma all willy-nilly but my bad colleagues genuinely traumatized me and I hope that you can avoid the same happening to you. I’m very sorry you’re going through this!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Did you work with that manager at all? If so, you can email and say, “Hi Priscillla! I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed my internship experience with you back in 2015, so when I saw an opening on your team I submitted my application. I wanted to let you know in case you see my resume come across your desk. I hope we have the opportunity to speak again soon!”

  32. Office Grunt*

    I know I need to be patient, but I’m starting to lose it.

    I’ve been a “Llama grooming technician 2” for almost two years, and two months ago I applied to be an “advanced llama groomer” within the same state agency/department. From talking to people near the opening, it’s been vacant for close to a year.

    I like what I’m doing now, but I’m vastly overqualified and it was made clear that a pay/title bump isn’t happening. Per the job post, the minimum qualifications for the title are a BS and two years’ relevant experience. On top of being an internal hire/transfer, I have a MS and seven years’ experience, most of which involved running an entire accounting/finance department as as army of one at three different organizations.

    My former and current bosses, grandboss, and great-grandboss have all been singing my praises for my performance during the pandemic. The short version, I’ve been doing my own job and 1/3 of my boss’s job since April, because there was no boss from April until August, and new boss has been leaning on me hard (especially now that he’s on paternity leave).

    I applied two months ago, and five weeks ago was told by the personnel director that interview requests would be going out within a few weeks. What’s irking me is that someone else within my same unit applied for a different urgent opening within our agency (full staff is 7 people and a manager, currently at 1.5), and was offered the role last week with no interview.

  33. Kat Maps*

    I was invited to a pre-interview earlier this week, and I was asked about salary expectations. I wasn’t anticipating that question until the actual interview, but I threw out a salary range that I thought was reasonable. I did my research after the fact and it turns out that salary ranges for that type of role varies widely – but I still think I may have low-balled myself. If I move further into the hiring process, do you think there’s a chance they might actually disclose what they budgeted for the role if I did aim too low, or have I kind of screwed myself over?

    1. irene adler*

      No, you haven’t lock yourself into a potentially too low salary. The-pre-interview is just to ascertain a ball park figure to see if both parties are on the same page.

      Although, next time when you are asked the salary range you are looking for, might ask them to disclose the hiring salary range they have established for the role. Some are amenable to citing this after you have named a figure.

      After your next interview, you will know a great deal more about the role. This will put you in a better position to fully understand the nature of the role and hence, determine what a proper salary for the role should be. So if they bring up the topic of salary again, or they present you with an offer, you can explain that you have a better understanding of the role and hence, a better idea of salary expectations for the role. Then cite that updated figure.

      NOTE: now that you’ve given them a figure, let them cite the next salary figure before telling them your updated figure.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      It’s frustrating to play the salary range guessing game and come in low, but you’re not committed. Since you’re early in the process, you should have a chance later on (at the offer stage, when salary comes up again) to say something like “now that I’ve learned more about the position, I think $X is appropriate.” Hopefully you get lucky and they’ll make an offer more in line with market rates that you’re happy with, but just in case have that counteroffer ready to go.

  34. Jane Victoria*

    I just received a really good performance evaluation, that also had some corrective feedback about communicating better and not keeping information from him in my areas for improvement. When I asked my manager to give me an example of a time this occurred, and how he’d like it to go differently next time, he finally admitted this isn’t something that applies to me, and that he is really upset with my coworker, so wrote this in everyone’s evaluation. I haven’t signed it yet, and I think I want to add a comment about this. On the one hand, he said it doesn’t apply to me, so maybe I’m overthinking it? On the other hand, it’s part of my HR file, so I want it clear that I don’t hide information from my boss.

    1. Alex*

      Ugh! This exact thing happened to me. My boss literally wrote in my evaluation, “this doesn’t apply to Alex, but generally as a team we need to do X better.”

      Meaning, I was the only one who didn’t have trouble with it. And yet….she still put it in my evaluation to be “fair.”

      Not sure how that’s fair. I wasn’t able to get it out of there.

    2. Filosofickle*

      Oh that would make me mad! I would not want something in my evaluation that my boss even acknowledged was not true. It really doesn’t matter what he or you know to be true, its’ what HR or your next boss would see if he wasn’t there to explain it. I’d definitely go back and find out what options exist to change / amend / comment. I’d be pretty dogged about it.

      p.s. How does it makes sense to put it in your eval if it’s about someone else?

    3. tangerineRose*

      He’s upset with your coworker, so he decides to punish everyone on the team?! Weird. Sorry he did that. Can you ask him to modify it so it says this doesn’t apply to you?

    4. TexasRose*

      Ask him to revise your evaluation along the lines of:
      The team needs to focus on communications, especially in regards to updating Supervisor about progress in my areas of improvement. At this time, Jane Victoria has been doing these tasks well.

    5. PollyQ*

      That’s some BS, and you are not overthinking it. If it’s not something that you’re doing wrong, it shouldn’t be in your corrective feedback. It’s bad enough to try to address an individual’s issue with a team-wide email, but to add it to you individual evaluation is ridiculous.

      Is there a section for the next evaluation period’s goals? It’d be OK, IMO, to add a line there that said: “Team Goal: communicate issues to boss clearly, fully, and promptly.”

  35. Helvetica*

    Has anyone else thought of composing an e-mail to Alison and once you’ve figured out the gist of it, knowing almost exactly what she’d say and/or recommend in response? I’ve been having some issues with my co-worker but I know the answer would really be “talk to her!”
    I guess what I’m trying to say is, most work problems really do have a flowchart type of solution and I am ever so thankful that Alison’s wisdom has seared it into my brain.

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

      Not as such, but I have worked with people who “processed the solution externally” in the way you are essentially describing.
      In tech “rubber duck programming” is another way it gets described… essentially, by articulating the problem in explicit terms it leads you to the solution.

      I got a reputation for “helping people figure things out” so they came to me for help and then figured out the answer to their own question with minimal prompting ultimately, because they really just needed to articulate it and be listened to. If they didn’t already (once they’d voiced the question) have an answer I would be able to ask relatively simple questions to prompt them into an answer.

      1. Might Be Spam*

        Helping people figure things out was at least 50 percent of my job when I was hired as technical support for an IT department.

        The very first morning I was there, they handed me a manual for a database structure I had never even heard of and using a programming language I didn’t know. They told me that I was now the expert and by the way, Dave had a problem and needed my help. Thinking back, I wonder why they even hired me.

        Anyway, by the time Dave walked me through his problem and I asked some questions, he figured it out and I got the credit and his gratitude.

        Half the job is knowing what questions to ask and the other half is making the person feel intelligent and respected. Reading the manual helps, too. I ended up really enjoying that job.

      2. Helvetica*

        I didn’t know the term but this is exactly how I problem-solve! Me asking for advice from my friends is usually just me talking through my issue and by the end of the tale, I have my answer without really needing their input.

    2. Beans are green*

      Often! Especially when I’m writing something for an open thread. Just writing it out helps me process the situation and confirms that journaling is effective.

  36. Analyst Editor*

    My father, a department head in a quantitative research firm, has a dilemma whom to hire? What would you do?
    TLDR: two interns, a man and a woman, say Jack and Jill. Only one can get the offer. Father and hiring manager wants to hire Jack, but one of his direct reports (the hiring manager’s peer) and HR are pressuring him to hire Jill to meet diversity and inclusion objectives. Here are the pros and cons of each:

    Jack: white male.
    Pros: Brilliant at the discipline. Graduate courses on transcript, straight As in the demanding quantitative discipline, max honors classes. Self-taught himself the niche subject area the company works on (not necessary for internship) and made progress worthy of a full time staffer during his internship. Did very well with work from home.
    Cons: Little prior work experience (only some academic research). Weak writer. Mostly Bs on his non major classes, like humanities and core.

    Jill: white female.
    Pros: Very good writer. Good grades overall – higher overall GPA. Extensive work experience since high school in diverse roles. Competent intern – completed her project and did well as expected of interns.
    Cons: her general stength in the discipline is weaker. Not as good a problem solver/creative thinker within the discipline. She took the minimum required courses for the major and her grades in it are weaker – As and Bs and no graduate level ones.

    The hiring manager is my dad’s direct report. The other staff member, who is pressuring my dad (her boss) to hire Jill, is very involved in D&I initiatives at the company, but doesn’t have input or much visibility into the hiring manager’s work. HR is also expressing support for the peer staff member.

    What would you do? And how does my dad, the boss o the department, push back against his other staff member and Hr to hire Jack?

    1. Natalie*

      Well, it’s illegal, for one thing. Civil rights laws are written privilege-blind, so to speak – you cannot use race, sex, etc as a factor in hiring *even to the benefit* of less privileged groups. His HR department should frankly know that already.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        That’s a good point. That might be enough. Luckily my dad’s problem, not mine Lol. I don’t think either candidate is likely to sue, because the firm isn’t world famous or the industry cutthroat or anything – both can probably find other stuff if they don’t get this position.
        But I don’t know how D&I discussions go forward in an environment where there’s a dearth of applicants, without making these decisions. I’m glad I never had to work in HR

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For what’s it’s worth, those aren’t the factors that go into whether someone is likely to sue or not! But you also can’t decide whether or not to follow the law based on whether or not you think someone will sue. (It can also come up as evidence of a pattern in someone else’s suit.)

    2. Jules the First*

      Well, how important is writing skill for the job?

      Personally, I would hire Jill based on your précis…I can teach technical skills, but it’s much harder to turn a crap writer into a stronger one. Plus “extensive work experience since high school” says to me that she’s from a less privileged background than Jack and that the difference in grades and courseload may be less about aptitude and more about Jill having other demands on her time through school. You make different choices about which courses to take and how many when you’re scrounging for every penny they cost (and holding down a term-time job) than you do when money is less of a consideration.

      What does the rest of the team look like? Is it possible (uncomfortable as it is to consider it) that HR has a point and the hiring manager and your dad are giving more weight to Jack’s experience because it reminds them of their own / the rest of the team is white men who look and act like Jack?

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s no way to answer this without knowing what the important skills/qualities for the role is. It’s not obvious either of them is the right hire without knowing that.

      But as Natalie points out, it’s illegal to consider gender in hiring so it absolutely can’t be based on that.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        An answer from the master herself! I thought I’d writing to you but decided to post it here. Thank you for taking the time!

        The position (think “research assistant”) can be made many things, so the writing can be more or less important. It’s also expected that these staff just move on to grad school in a few years, so it’s not a path to management.

        Jack could work directly for the PhD staffers and make meaningful conceptual contirbutions to the core business, like develop the models.

        Jill would be better at developing the written products, e.g. memos, for the customer, and presenting the stuff. Both needed, both useful, I don’t know.

        I think I’ll point out the legal aspect to my dad, and then be happy it’s not really my circus, I just get to hear about it in detail.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          I’m pretty familiar with the type of role you’re talking about – the this-is-a-thing-you-do-before-grad-school developmental aspect of these positions makes it really difficult to say that you need a *specific* balance of skills. Another way of approaching how to choose a candidate is to flip everything on its head and ask, which one of these candidates’ weaknesses can most easily be addressed while meeting business needs?

          Jack’s weak spot seems to be writing, but is it strong enough that you could quickly get him to Jill’s level?

          Jill might be more well-rounded and has stronger grades, but you have questions about her general problem solving ability in the discipline. Would it be more challenging on the company’s part to help her level up in that area than it would be for them to help Jack become a better writer?

          1. Analyst Editor*

            Given the context and their work- imo, graduate classes and honors vs the basics – I’d say in this case the skills aren’t teachable to Jill. Not easily, anyway.
            Anyway, I think that’s a good way of looking at it, and a good way of explaining it to anyone who complains.

    4. LQ*

      It’s super weird to use the language that a staff member is pressuring their boss. Because I guess you can do that, but the boss is still the boss. Even in a government and union shop. The boss is still the boss. Like I’ve had darn near yelling matches with my boss when I vehemently disagreed with something, but it would still be weird for him to say I was pressuring him. I was making my case as hard as I could, but at the end of the day he’s still my boss. He still gets to make the decision.

      Partly I’m saying this because I think it’s important for the boss to realize. If someone is making a case to me in a way that feels like pressure I need to really stop and step back and think about it differently. Maybe the decision really is a bad one. Maybe it’s coming from another place (did the peer really say “this is about D&I” or did the peer just say “I really think Jill’s the right hire, we need a new voice.” Or “I really don’t think Jack is the right person to hire.” And others think it’s a D&I thing. Nothing about the descriptions of those two makes it clear that Jill is clearly a bad choice, different from Jack, but that’s not a bad thing. Extensive work experience and good writer could make a good clear choice for the peer on top of not having to deal with someone who is “brilliant”. I’d vote against the “brilliant” person just based on that description in a lot of jobs.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        I am getting this second hand, so I don’t know the exact wording. And I admit I might judge differently in a situation.

        I agree the boss should be the boss. I think my dad will ultimately makes the decision he wants. But that doesn’t decrease the amount of heckling he’s getting from a staff member that he has to work woth and get results from, and who needs to be told No without feeling targeted or minimized, even if she’s technically engaging in insubordination.

        I know for legal purposes you will say “we want different perspectives” when you really just want to hire more women, but the truth is – if one is being candid – Hr wants more female candidates; And I understand them. Whatever words are used to keep it legal.

        I think in the case of e.g. something legitimately advanced and difficult, brilliant does make a difference and is verifiable. I myself majored in a quant discipline where I was ok, like I can tutor high school students, but absolutely NOT brilliant, alongside many who WERE. You can tell they get things you don’t, solve problems you can’t, explain it and make it obvious, etc. And when I went to work in that discipline, or adjacent to it, there were definitely things I could not do that others could.

        1. EnfysNest*

          I would definitely clarify whether the people who want to choose Jill have outright said it’s because she’s a woman (which would be illegal and in which case they would probably need some additional training), or if they just think the writing skills are more important and they like other parts of her resume more, but it’s being assumed that their investment in diversity initiatives is the “real” reason even if that’s not actually factoring in. It certainly sounds like it’s the first version, but just be sure that your dad is certain of their reasoning and not assuming the reason for their preference, just in case.

        2. Juliet W*

          No no no no no. You cannot think about this in terms like “whatever words are used to keep it legal”! It’s not about the words. The thinking is wrong, unethical and illegal. You CANNOT base it on gender. That is wholly unacceptable, discriminatory and wrong. If HR “wants more women” then they need to ensure they recruit from a wide and diverse range of people, reduce barriers to women in the field, and make it feasible for qualified women candidates to apply. Then hire the best CANDIDATE.

          You can’t just decide to hire a woman then massage the language to make it seem OK. That’s so gross and wrong.

    5. omega*

      Not sure how we could help if we don’t even know what the job is really about.

      E.g. you mention writing skills but don’t mention whether the job requires them.

      It shouldn’t be about the general impression, which can favor choosing candidates based on similarities to us, but about choosing a candidate who’s better for a specific role. Observe sb doing the job you’re hiring for and make a list of requirements, then score both candidates according to the criteria.

    6. AnotherAlison*

      I looked at the pros and cons as if both were women and picked Jack. I probably would have picked Jill except for how her problem-solving skills were characterized. It depends what you’re looking for, but Jill might be a better long-term hire for the overall business and Jack might be a better analyst. I’ve worked in analyst and engineer roles, and the Jacks I’ve worked with have become SMEs while the Jills (with good problem-solving skills) become business leaders. Communication skills and diverse experience and interest would be important for future roles, and sometimes the Jacks reveal stronger but narrower strengths. Obviously, you would have to be in the shoes of the dad and his colleagues to have enough info for the role’s needs, but you can’t hire Jill for her gender, and she seems like less of a fit for the immediate F/T position.

    7. Blue Eagle*

      You did a good job of mentioning the pros and cons of each but you neglected to say WHY your dad wants to hire the man. And why he DOESN’T want to hire the woman.
      If he thinks both will do a fine job but the man will do a little bit better job than the woman (particularly for a job where the employee will only stay a short while), why does he need to dig in his heels against the woman?
      On the other hand if the analysis suggests there is a significant difference between the two, then there is your answer. But it is really sad to me that your dad seems to be digging in his heels so that the man will be hired.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        The pushback is against Jack by people not directly involved with the hiring team- a peer of the hiring manager and HR. Jack is currently the more preferred candidate by both my dad and the hiring manager.

        To speak candidly, I think Jack is preferred because he is probably better at the work and smarter, and is in fact, very talented and does unusually good work, and can do more advanced work at the outset than many in that position ever would. Think developing a complex data model himself (with guidance) instead of just plugging in someone else’s and using the outputs.

        I’d guess for Jill it would be one of those situations where you get unlucky and the future head of MIT Quantitative Teapots dept (not Jack’s actual destination or anything btw) is your competition.

        Anyway, thanks everyone who weighed in on this celebratory night ok a tough situation. It also helped me clarify what I think and how to word it. Again, glad I don’t have to deal with this myself – the only subordinates I have are under five.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      There is another answer. They could try again and see if someone applies who has experience AND is able to write.

      Both candidates have gaps that are noteworthy. It is as if he is deciding between two gaps rather than two assets.

      I do want to comment on the direct report. I think your dad should tell the direct report that he has made his opinion very clear and your dad will take it under advisement. BUT, unless the direct report has new information or new inputs to add then the direct report needs to stop repeating what has already been said.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        They’re looking to hire one of several prior interns for a slot, which is how it usually goes. I think another intern wasn’t considered at all.

    9. Mary*

      Here are my thoughts. They’ve kind of already made it impossible to be sure whether or not they’re making an unbiased hire because they didn’t follow best practices: (1) have a job description & knowledge of the skills needed for the job before you start considering candidates and (2) decide how to weigh certain criteria before you start considering candidates. For example, decide beforehand whether or not academic success or work experience will be given more weight.

      Some studies have found that if you don’t decide on that in advance, you’re likely to give more weight to the skills of the person you’re biased toward – going with your gut feeling, then justifying it by changing how you weigh criteria. ( – you can get the first 100 articles free)

      Not to say that’s what’s happening here, but it’s food for thought. If there’s a pattern HR can see, like that your father is doing this kind of flip-flop to always hire the male candidates, I can see why that would be worrying.

      It’s also interesting to me that the female candidate is described as being better at more administrative work. A study found that these skills are sometimes emphasized in women as justification to push them out of technical roles and into more administrative roles that fit better with gender stereotypes ( Also, that female engineering interns are more often given more administrative, less technical work and not given the opportunity to prove their technical skills (

      Of course, we have no idea if that’s happened here. But it’s definitely a possible bias to be aware of. I bring it up only to underscore the need to reduce bias in the process, especially at the beginning. If that can be done, then one can actually show the steps they took to reduce bias and justify their hiring decisions to others much more easily. And that, to finally answer the question, is IMO how you push back against people wanting to engage in “positive” discrimination because they think you’ve made a biased decision.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        I am probably biased but I don’t think that “I just make excuses for the guys” is the case here, having heard of many competent men and women hired over many years that dad has worked in this company. Sometimes it happens that a man is actually better than a woman, however rar (mostly kidding :) )

        The job, as I described up-thread somewhere, is pretty flexible and so it isn’t a fast set of skills, which is what make the decision harder. Many skills can be put to good use, though of course a baseline major in the relevant field is a prerequisite, which both have.

        Talking it out here helped me solidify what I think, which may or may not influence what dad thinks. But I think he thinks what I think, lol. But I think he should support the hiring manager’s choice and choose Jack, explain why Jack is the better choice for the business (I think he is, ultimately), and remind HR that gender considerations are illegal, if anyone was suggesting that (since I wasn’t present, as someone pointed out, I can’t be sure, which I’ll point out to him).

        With the studies: I believe the stem gender gap is caused by a complex interplay of skills, preference, and subconscious stereotypes, but the latter doesn’t 100% explain it all.

        Anyway, thanks for taking the time to respond.

        1. Mary*

          “I am probably biased but I don’t think that “I just make excuses for the guys” is the case here, having heard of many competent men and women hired over many years that dad has worked in this company.”
          I’m just talking about the one hiring manager. I mentioned that only as food for thought, if it’s just been assumed that the reason HR is pushing is to meet D&I initiatives and not because they have actual concerns about the justification for the hire.

          “Sometimes it happens that a man is actually better than a woman, however rare”
          Sure. I’m not saying that taking steps to reduce bias means every woman would always be hired over every man. I’m saying that taking measures to reduce bias means you could much better prove which one was best for the job and then show that evidence to people who push back against the hire.

          “The job, as I described up-thread somewhere, is pretty flexible and so it isn’t a fast set of skills, which is what make the decision harder.”
          Yes, and like others in the thread, I think this is the main problem causing arguments between team members. I pointed out how it could possibly lead to a D&I issue (but not necessarily cause a D&I issue). But I think it’s also essentially just poor management. Hiring without having really evaluated which skills are most needed by the company or which skills would bring the most value to the company ups your risk of bad hires and leaves more room for arguments among the hiring committee.

          “I believe the stem gender gap is caused by a complex interplay of skills, preference, and subconscious stereotypes, but the latter doesn’t 100% explain it all.”
          If we were at 50-50, it would still make me angry to learn that someone was being discriminated against on the basis of gender (of whichever gender). If we were at 80-20 but women were overwhelmingly treated respectfully, I would be happy. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been my experience.

          “I think he should support the hiring manager’s choice and choose Jack, explain why Jack is the better choice for the business (I think he is, ultimately), and remind HR that gender considerations are illegal, if anyone was suggesting that”
          I think we agree, then, lol!

    10. Michaela*

      I would say it depends on the amount of communication in the role – there’s no point being able to come up with something brilliant and not be able to sell it.

      If the expectation of the role will be a fair degree of comms with outside departments, the woman’s writing skills and broader skillset could be a benefit. If the role is purely focused on internal deliverables alone, go with the guy.

  37. Lentils*

    Hey all, so I’m in WA state and my work (I do billing for a private security company) has handled the pandemic…let’s be charitable and say exceptionally poorly. They have only allowed WFH for some people under specific health- or childcare-related circumstances, and the only thing they’ll do about masks is put up posters in the bathrooms basically saying “you should wear a mask BUT some people can’t and they have to be accommodated!” I would say maybe 15-20% of the office elects to wear a mask while working – some of my coworkers will walk in wearing a mask and then take it off! Many of us are not 6 feet from our nearest desk neighbors. They were also having big in-office holiday events as recently as last week (a catered Thanksgiving lunch).

    So, myself and at least two other people made anonymous complaints to the local Department of Labor & Industries. On Wednesday, we received an email informing us that a complaint had been filed, and thus there would be “additional measures” implemented, including removing all provided snacks, drinks, and the coffee machines, due to “a belief that [these things] may foster the spread of the Corona Virus [sic].” Only four people are allowed in our lunch room/kitchen at a time, and the top floor (which is partially a small bar/additional seating and partially an open roof, meant for parties) is off-limits. It concluded by reminding us all of the voluntary layoff option they gave us in April, with a severance of $1k, and reiterating that this option has been reopened due to “a greater administrative headcount than can be justified by the amount of business in this area.” We now have the option to take a voluntary layoff by December 18th, with $2500 severance minus taxes. “Those accepting a voluntary layoff will help us right size this office, reduce occupancy, and, hopefully, avoid an involuntary layoff in the future.” They passed out one disposable mask to each person on the same day, but the email did not mention masks at all.

    I just got a glowing performance review and a slight raise (to $23/hr which seems like an impossible amount to me), and am the most senior of the billing clerks, so I don’t think I’d be first on the chopping block, but I’m horrified by this. It feels like they’re punishing us and/or trying to get people to root out the people who reported. I should have left a long time ago, but my wife was laid off in August and has only been able to get freelance part-time work, and she needs to be on my insurance for meds. I also know when I leave I will probably take a significant pay cut. My question is, are there any authorities I could contact at this point or do I just need to get out ASAP? I honestly was just hoping that L&I would be able to get them to follow the statewide mask mandate, that’s all I wanted, but I guess the higher-ups still think this whole thing is overblown.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You should do a follow-up with the agency that took the original report and tell them they appear to be attempting to retaliate and discourage further complaints.

    2. Headachey*

      Also in WA and current state guidelines require businesses to allow telework: “Professional Services are required to mandate that employees work from home when possible and close offices to the public if possible. Any office that must remain open must limit occupancy to 25 percent of indoor occupancy limits.”

      Please report again to L&I!

  38. purpleyellowredblue*

    I have kind of an odd question that I haven’t been able to find a good answer to online, so I’m hoping someone here can help me. I work at a national laboratory in a state where marijuana is recreationally legal, and I cannot figure out if I can go purchase any once my background check is completed. I had to complete the SF-85, and they don’t require us to get reinvestigated. I passed a pre employment urine test and all of the lab’s documentation is carefully worded to only prohibit usage at work or on lab property (which makes sense, obviously!). I like marijuana and I use it responsibly, and I’d like to continue enjoying it once my background check is complete. But I don’t want to get fired! I’m in this weird federal gray area where I’m not a federal employee, but I’m not not a federal employee, and so if anyone has any insight about this I’d appreciate it. Is this something that would even come up on a background check? Thank you!!

    1. purpleyellowredblue*

      oh and other important info: they don’t do random testing, just pre employment! i do have to submit a bioassay every three years but they’re only checking for radioactive molecules haha

    2. Not So NewReader*

      What kind of a BG check do they run? Do they check with your neighbors and friends? Some of these checks can be very invasive.

      My bestest guess if they check with your friends, family, and neighbors then you know the answer is do not make any purchases.

    3. AnotherFED*

      Err on the side of caution and don’t do it. It is illegal for federal employees to partake, even if recreational use is permitted in your state. Though you also aren’t a federal employee, it would be a safe assumption that many federal regulations and practices apply to you.

      Though it seems you won’t be randomly drug tested, there might be procedure where if you’re in an accident at the lab, you might have to be drug-tested as part of liability coverage and for any worker comp.

      As far as background checks and security clearances go, they do expire after several years and you’ll have to go through this whole process all over again. Most background investigations that use the SF-86 requires talking to friends and family.

  39. AnotherAlison*

    It’s late and a holiday week, so I’m not expecting many people will see this, but I had to get it off my chest! I’ve had a few posts about interviews and offers over the past month, as well as some complaints about my current role (some not under my usual name). I recently had an offer that was not going to match my current pay and I wasn’t going to take it. Looks like I’m in the similar boat with the second job, but this time I’m 99% sure I’m going to take it (telling them Monday). The offer meets my financial needs, but the type of comp is different and the benefits aren’t quite as good. Still, I think I’m going to be on a better ladder where it won’t take too long for a promotion and to get ahead of where I am now. (No promises, of course, but the path has been discussed.) It’s also a job I’m really excited about. The other turned-down offer really didn’t have a growth path and was the same functional job I’ve been doing.

    At my current place, where I’ve been for a very long time, I’ve been passed over or have had advancement opportunities retracted due to reorgs. I AM doing pretty well, and it’s a terminal role for some people, but I’ve already been in the role for years and it’s not really my long-term goal. I’ve done everything someone should do to get promoted, and the area I work in is growing, but they’ve found ways to make sure the opportunities go to the Chosen Ones.

    The deciding factor was when I found out last Monday that the P&L I work in is getting a little restructuring. There were 2 P&Ls under our EVP, and now he’s moving strictly to the other one, and another VP from outside our division is getting promoted to head up ours. We also have one specific line of business that has been doing really well, and it’s going to get moved back to the main P&L org for my division, whose previous main business is declining due to expected market changes. We also had a business plan published that flat out pissed me off. If you want to identify future leaders and key players in the business plan, maybe don’t make it a public document. Obviously, I’m not on the list, even though I’m running more work than anyone else in the department and I always make money. This is after my boss telling me in annual reviews this summer how I should be preparing to move into a department leadership role. The new place is extremely excited about my experience and all the ways I could plug into different roles in their org going forward, so I’m going to go do that instead.

    The only roadblock left is resigning from a job I’ve been at forever. Due to the holidays and what I’m currently working on, I plan to stay through the end of the year, but I’m already enjoying having hairy long-term problems come up and being able to say to myself, “Good luck with that.” I hate leaving my team in the middle of a job, but I would really regret not taking this job.

  40. Spessartine*

    For those who do freelance/contract work, do you have any organizational tips or software you recommend? I’m doing 1099 work for my former employer, billing them by the hour, and I’m not sure what the best way is to keep track of everything. At the moment I’m using a combination of Google Tasks (because they email me the specifications for each order) and a time clock app which I already use for my W2 job. It works, but I also haven’t gotten a ton of stuff from them yet and if things ramp up, I don’t know how efficient this system will be. It also doesn’t do anything to help me with invoicing, accounting, or taxes.

    I’d also love general advice for freelancers! I’ve pretty much always been a W2 employee aside from a brief, ill-advised attempt early in my career to have my own business (LLC and everything–no desire to do that again). I also plan to open up a solo 401k and stuff as much money into it as I can, so any insight on that would be appreciated as well.

    1. Nela*

      I can only think of the app Harvest (which has a limited free plan) that combines tasks, time tracking and invoicing. I’m sure there are many alternatives that offer similar features.

      I don’t charge by the hour, so my setup is quite different. For project based work 17hats is an often recommended all in one app for CRM, quotes, booking, contracts, automated emails, invoicing etc. but it’s pretty pricy so I never made the switch from my cobbled-together setup.
      I swear by Trello and recommend it to to anyone who will listen :) I run my entire business (clients, marketing, admin) through it, and all my side projects have a hub there as well.

      Freelancing tips? Oh boy, I don’t know where to start :) I’ve been writing articles about it for years. Some quick tips:

      – Your hourly rate needs to be much higher than an employee’s. You need to account for equipment costs, paid time off, sales and income taxes, health insurance etc.

      – Always sign a contract with specified scope of services, payment schedule, notice period for service cancelation, etc.

      – Your client is not your boss. You are your own boss. Act like it.

      – You can walk away under the terms specified in your agreement. You must walk away if the client is toxic and impacts your mental health and availability for other clients.

      – Do not start work on another project with a client until all past projects are paid. They can try switching priorities, and you need to set the rules for how you get paid. Your work is your only leverage – if you give it away for free, they can just decide not to pay you.

      – Try not to rely on just one client for more than 50% of your income if you can help it. It’s fine to start with one client, but long term stability comes from multiple sources of income.

      – Treat your great clients with extra care. Treat your OK clients fairly. Great clients are rare, but they exist.

      – Freelancing platforms are fine when you’re getting started, but if you want to be respected as a consultant, you need to set your own marketing up so clients seek you out. When clients seek you out, price is not their primary criteria for choosing who to work with so you can charge much, much more that most of your peers. Positioning is so important.

      – Don’t work on weekends (unless you’re working a day job as well). Or at least don’t tell clients you’re working on a weekend.

      – Try not to send emails outside of your regular work hours. Gmail has an email scheduling feature now. If I’m replying late in the evening, I schedule it to go out the next morning. You don’t want clients expecting you to be available 24/7 if you’re not providing emergency services.

      – Rush fees. Extra speed pays extra money.

      – Freelancing is not for everyone. If you try it and realize you’d rather have a stable job, that’s not failing as a freelancer!

      – Having a part time job to tide you over during hard times is not a sign of failure, either. You need to take care of yourself and your family in any way that works for you, and sometimes freelancing takes a long time to work out, and for some folks it never does. Don’t beat yourself up if things are moving slow. This “be your own boss” stuff is really, really hard, and far less glamorous than social media makes it out to be.

      That’s off the top of my head… And we’re only scratching the surface :) good luck!

      1. Spessartine*

        Oh my goodness, what a wealth of information! Thank you so much. (I especially needed to read the tip on not starting new projects until they’ve paid for previous ones, because I am TERRIBLE at sending invoices out. Can’t blame them for not paying if I don’t bill them…) If you want to share where I could find your articles I would love to read some of them!

        1. Nela*

          I’m glad this helps! :)
          Yeah, that’s basically the gist of all advice. Do the awkward thing because if you don’t, you won’t be protected from client’s misbehavior.

          You can google: Nela art design blog – it will be the first result. I write about a lot of different topics, but there’s a “business” category with all my freelanceing / small biz advice.

    2. Tiffany Hashish*

      I’ve used Harvest for five years and absolutely love it. Sounds like a great place to start for you for the fiscal part. There are several integrations now, as well.

      May consider Xero or Freshbooks for easy accounting, unless you’re a spreadsheet goddess and enjoy that. Setting up your books correctly in the beginning will save time, money, and tears later when you have more transactions to manage. Open a separate biz bank account as soon as you can – community banks are often very entrepreneur friendly. Keep and document receipts.

      Trello and Asana are great task management programs. We’re into ClickUp now for some complex project management within our team. Most of these programs have the ability to set up templates and recurring tasks.

      Echoing and love everything Nela posted and add: when in doubt, overcommunicate. Consider a weekly status update stating work completed, plans for following week, milestone dates upcoming, and what info others owe you.

      She’s a million percent correct that it’s sometimes not glamorous or fun. Find a great group of small biz owners who know what you’re going through and can give you guidance and perspective and space to vent when needed.

      Yay for you!

      1. Spessartine*

        Thank you for the recommendations! I am definitely NOT a spreadsheet goddess, hah. I do have a question about the bank stuff if you happen to see this reply…I essentially have no expenses for this job as the only equipment needed is a computer and internet (and any accounting or management software I settle on). I had already planned to set aside money for taxes, and I’m a very strict budgeter so there’s no risk of me accidentally spending it. Would it still be beneficial to open a separate account just to deposit checks into?

        1. Nela*

          Tiffany may have a different answer, but I think a separate account is helpful so you can mentally distinguish between “business money” and “personal money”, and between “profit” and “salary”. Salary is what ends up in your personal account. If you need a new computer in a few years, or a new office chair, or a printer, whatever – you pay for it from your profit, not your salary. Salary is for living costs and fun! If you don’t have enough in profit left over to buy a computer, the solution is not to spend personal money, but to increase your prices. YMMV, but usually having separate accounts makes this clearer for people. Especially if you get a windfall, you don’t want to transfer all that money to your personal account. You just keep paying yourself your normal salary and have a buffer left for the lean months.

      2. Nela*

        Totally agree with the suggestion to hang out with other freelancers and small business owners! It can get lonely if you only talk to people who have a job. Local Meetup groups and Facebook groups can be a good place to start.

  41. nep*

    More just to get this out than anything else…I have been un(der)employed for so long, I can no longer envision myself getting an interview, doing well in an interview, having much to offer, getting a job…
    When I can’t envision any of that, it’s really tough even making the effort to apply. I just keep having setback after setback. And it feels debilitating.
    I am seeking ways I might brush up on my skills or further my education, but feeling quite directionless there too; looking to re-enter an industry I’ve been away from for years, then I second-guess that.
    Have to keep at it, of course.
    Best to all the job searchers out there.

  42. KoiFeeder*

    Just a tiny vent, I have the weirdest technological issues with my school’s grading system. Once again, I am locked out and starting my timer as to how long it’ll take before I can grade students again. I feel like the worst TA, even though this literally is not my fault.

  43. ThePear8*

    I’m pretty late so don’t know how many will see this but this is a pretty minor question related to references. On those job applications where you have to list your employment history and there’s a checkbox for “Can contact?” is it usually a good idea to check with the employer first before putting “yes”? It seems like a lot of effort to go through just for an initial application, but I also wouldn’t want my references to be caught off-guard if they do get contacted…

    1. ThePear8*

      Following up, I am going farther through this specific job application and there’s a separate section for references right after the employment history…so what are the odds of the employer being contacted when I’m additionally providing specific references? There’s also an optional field in employment history for pay rate of each job, and I’m wondering if it’s actually a good idea to list what each job paid (particularly as most my experiences are hourly part-time student jobs or internships and this is an application for a full-time salaried position)
      I may just be overthinking a lot of this, but thank you any readers who can answer!

    2. Malika*

      My experience is that they only go back ten years and even then it’s a very basic ‘did this person work here on these dates’ kind of thing. For references, they would either have to go to the ones you provided or you have a mutual acquaintance that they will ask for their imrpression.

  44. ThePear8*

    Alright, one more minor/nitpicky/overthinking question for the day: When listing location for remote work, do you list the location of the company, or your location? For example let’s say I’m working for a company that has their main office in Sealand, but I’m working from home in Llamatown. Which location do I put?

    1. Nynaeve*

      In the section where you list the job and job duties, put the location of the company. But put your own location in the address section. If you want to make it extra clear, you can also put (remote) in the job title.

      For example:

      Llamatown, LA | (310) 555-1383 |


      Camelids Inc. – Sealand, LA
      Grooming Tools Associate II (Remote)
      *Created comb that decreased alpaca wool matting by 18%
      *Maintained tool inventory in Access database, decreasing loss by 23%

    2. PollyQ*

      I’d say the location of the office, so whoever’s looking at the resume can find the company, since names are not always unique.

      1. Marie (not my real name)*

        I don’t know if this is helpful, but this is what I put in my email signature (already before the pandemic). In my current position, I cover the 5 Nordic countries (in Northern Europe). I have a general-Scandinavian-sounding family name, from which you cannot guess, which country I am from (I live in Finland). I report inside the company to the Region Europe team. I decided to have in my signature

        ”Marie Eklund
        Nordic Llama Grooming Lead
        Region Europe Camelid Team
        Global Mammals Corporate Finland Oy
        Legal language required in my industry”

        I decided to skip the postal address of the Finnish office, because it has no relevance (nobody sends me anything by snail mail and I am not legally or otherwise required to add it).

  45. matcha123*

    I’ve wanted to ask this question for a few years.
    I know someone who is female and a racial minority (not black). This person’s age would be in the “elder millennial” range. She’s very smart, but I find her attitude to work and her coworkers problematic. Based on what she’s told me.

    When she started her job five or six years ago, she would frequently talk to her older (white male) boss about her dating life. Asking him for his thoughts on her dates. She also got drunk a few times at work functions and threw up with him possibly helping her. She’s asked him to weigh in on the clothes she’s wearing. There’s more, but I won’t get into it.

    At one point she decided she wanted to date a contractor to her office, ten years her junior, and told me she’d told his boss to give him better work assignments.

    Recently she’s described her boss’ behavior (asking about her dating life) as “harassment” and she’s stated she’s looking into filing a complaint against him. I asked her if she’d told him directly she doesn’t want to talk about her dates anymore, but her stance is that he should have known not to ask her. Even though she was the one who often brought up the topic. She’s said that she now ignores him at work functions, doesn’t reply directly to his emails, and more. She told me at one point he called her name at an after work function and she walked off without acknowledging him.
    When it came to this boss and her relationship with the younger staff member, I said many times that the topics were problematic and she shouldn’t be talking to them about personal stuff if she didn’t want them to ask about it. With the younger guy in particular, I told her that her telling his boss to give him better assignments was a huge red flag and she needed to stop immediately. Especially since she was involved with that guy.

    She’s brushed me off because I have been working overseas since graduating college and, “You don’t know what American work culture is like.”

    My question is: If I were working with her, what would my obligation be? Would it be okay to keep my mouth shut and head down? Or could I be fired for not reporting this?
    I don’t work with her, don’t know the name of her company, and I’m not about to get involved.
    I don’t want to seem like I am okay with workplace harassment, but I think that if you are talking to your boss about your love life and soliciting advice, you have to be proactive in telling them to back off before calling harassment.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I’m not quite clear on all the relationships but is there someone you trust and can ask for advice? Maybe your own boss?

      Say, I wonder if you can give me advice about this awkward situation and if I have any responsibility here. And tell them the basics. That allows them to take action if they think it is needed.

      1. matcha123*

        I guess the TL;DR? version is:
        Acquaintance started a new job with a ton of oversharing about her life, etc. with her boss and coworkers. Rather than tell them she doesn’t want to talk about her private life, she’s decided to file a sexual harassment complaint against her boss and ignore him.

        Is this the kind of thing that you could reasonably get advice for at work? Again, I don’t work with her, but I would worry about people gossiping .
        I’ve been hearing about these people for years and I can’t keep all of their jobs and substories and fights straight. There’s a lot more, but I’m not even going to try and write about it here.

        1. Thankful for AAM*

          I thought you were at the same workplace. If you are not, there is nothing to do here. If you are at the same workplace, then you might ask your own manager for advice.

          1. matcha123*

            I was wondering what my obligation would be IF I worked with her.
            I have worked with her in the past and she’s told me about behaviors she’s engaged in that I found questionable, but I wasn’t sure what I should do. This was before AAM was a thing, so I couldn’t ask then.

      1. matcha123*

        It’s important because she’s used it as a reason for what she’s called harassment, and she has made statements to the effect that as a minority they have a duty to treat her in a certain way.

    2. Roci*

      If you were her coworker, I don’t see that you have to do anything here. If someone is having issues with their boss, you not getting involved doesn’t mean you’re “OK with workplace harassment.” Even if the boss was genuinely harassing her there’s nothing you can do–just be a support to the victim. If you don’t think they need your support and you don’t trust their assessment of the situation, I don’t see why you have to do anything here.

  46. Anon librarian*

    I am thinking about shifting out of working in libraries and wonder if anyone has thoughts on entry level help desk jobs. I do see some that come close to my current hourly wage.

    The parts I love about my library job is helping people solve their problems and problem solving in general. We do a lot of tech support for patrons and I am just starting some online comptiaa a+ cert classes.

    I want a new challenge and am looking for a way to transfer my current skills.

    Any thoughts are welcome!

  47. Teyra*

    I’m new to my job and loving it, and signed up to my first ever the Secret Santa, thinking it would be good team-building fun (and, I admit, I’m a bit paranoid about standing out as the Standoffish One if I don’t). It’s got a fairly low budget (£12, incl. packaging and postage) and everyone on my team seems lovely.

    I got my manager (line manager’s manager, so my grand-manager?) as my person to gift. He is admittedly also lovely. But I have no idea what sort of gift to get him! I barely know the guy, after all – he’s friendly, but the gift is going to be basically my first proper interaction with him. Anyone with more experience in work/life/Secret Santa/manager’s-manager-gifting who could give me some suggestions would be super appreciated.

    1. ThePear8*

      I don’t know about manager’s manager gifting but Allison recently had a great post with a workplace holiday gift guide. I would say that’s a good place to start – items like blankets or a fancy pen or olive oil make great professional gifts. It’s a little different but the club I run at my university used to always do a white elephant gift exchange, and we had rules about no gag gifts and had a pretty low spending limit as well, and we had some nice gifts like fuzzy socks, chocolates, books, and board games.

    2. Bobina*

      I genuinely think that the older you get, the more attractive good quality socks as gifts become – so thats my suggestion (although getting the size right might be tricky I guess!)

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