open thread – November 6-7, 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.

{ 878 comments… read them below }

  1. Annie*

    Last month I posted here about my hideous colleague. I would like to personally thank to those who responded to me. Many of you told me to quit and I have been applying for jobs since. However, for the love of me, I can’t land any interviews amid the pandemic. So here I am asking for your help once more. I’m really depressed, agitated and worried of coming down on someone at work like a broken dam.

    In a nutshell, last year in September I (24F) started my current job. In my very first day, my colleague (48F) who I shared an office with badmouthed absolutely everyone behind their back, going as far as calling people’s kids ugly. She said that she didn’t like women. She then started being hot and cold with me. She wouldn’t put phones coming for me through if she didn’t like it but I never made a big deal out of it.

    A month or so into the job, she went ballistic on me. I will spare you the details but basically she said that I had a problem with her and that I bullied her… by talking to other colleagues but not to trying to talk to her when she was giving me silent treatments. I will spare you the details but she swore a few times and when I told her that it was not acceptable, she goes ‘well I’m (insert nationality), it’s the way we talk’. I’m not same nationality with my colleagues, they are native to the country we’re in. So this comment made me feel horrible.

    At that point I found out that she was with the company for 8 years and there have been 7 people in my position during this period working directly with her and sharing an office.

    Around January, I confided in another colleague (40M) about her mood swings. I said that I didn’t know what her problem was and that I was trying to do my job but she was making it impossible.

    A couple of weeks later, I’m pulled into my boss’ office. She’s crying, apparently the colleague I confided in told her what I said. Thing is, as I didn’t say anything hurtful or badmouth her so my boss is not angry with me. He says there’s been a lot of misunderstandings between us, we need to grab a cup of coffee together and talk this through. She absolutely refuses it. And since January she hasn’t spoken to me. My boss just sort of left it there. She has been freezing me out for almost a year now. She completely ignores me in virtual meetings.

    I heard her calling me names, laughing at me, mocking me etc. back in the office before the pandemic. I ignored all these. We are a small team of 7. I don’t have any problems with anyone else. She’s also friends with everyone else. She has her moments with others too but nothing as extreme as it was with me. She’s overly friendly with the colleague who snitched me, calling him lover etc. Now he treats me with absolute disrespect too. He pick holes in my projects and he’s very loud about it especially in front of my manager. Having witness the way they treat me, others started constantly criticising me and my work, overlooking and dismissing my efforts.

    This is my current situation. I’m being constantly disrespected and disregarded. I can’t find another job and I swear I lost all my confidence. I have several anxiety attacks in a day but I can’t quit without having anything else line up financially. When I stand up for myself here and there, other colleagues make such a big deal about it. As I’ll be stuck here for a while, what do you think is the best way of handling this? I’m afraid of speaking up in meetings at this point as she cuts me off and talks over me and others get along with it. Do I confront people if needed or just keep my head down and pray it’s over soon? Thanks so much for all your help in advance!

    1. Office sweater lady*

      Based on your description, you are being subjected to bullying and possibly harassment. Your boss is aware of the problem and is not willing to help. At this point, I would say the job is a wash and keep applying for other jobs. This is unlikely to resolve well and even if you have to take a pay cut, it would be worth it. I don’t know which country you are in, but there may be legal avenues you could pursue. Since the co-worker mentioned she doesn’t like women, you might be able to pursue a gender-based harassment claim. In the US at least, there is no legal protection for bullying (when not based on a protected class like race or gender), but some workplaces also have internal anti-bullying policies. I am sorry you are going through this! TL:DR Get out asap, look into legal remedies.

      1. irene adler*

        In that vein, please start documenting the comments, interactions, etc. (if you haven’t already).

        1. Dave*

          I would also talk to a doctor about the anxiety attacks. I don’t know where you are based if they can be considered severe enough for short term disability.
          I would also consider talking to an employment lawyer along the lines of this does sound like harassment based on being a female and maybe nationality.

    2. Grits McGee*

      Have you noticed any positive effects from the previous times you’ve stood up to/confronted your colleagues? From your description it seems to have only made the situation more uncomfortable for you.

    3. Snailing*

      Ugh, how horrible! Firstly, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. You do not deserve it.

      From how it sounds like your coworkers are reacting – this is, either ignoring the problem or piling on you more – I would protect yourself and try to let it flow off your back as much as possible. You are a duck and their aggression is water – don’t let it sink into you to the best of your ability. In the meantime, document all you can and be proactive with covering your butt with your manager – again, to the extent that you can. Your goal here is to have ammunition if this woman ever decides she’s going to active try to get you fired (versus just trying to make you quite by being a horrible person like she’s doing now). All your peers are on her side and you have a lazy manager who doesn’t want to deal with it. As Alison often recommends, make it your manager’s problem. Do your absolutely best to keep your head down and not make any mistakes in your work and show your manager the receipts when peers try to blame things on you.

      And ultimate, get out as soon as you can. I’m sorry you have to deal with this during 2020 of all times!

      1. Artemesia*

        This is horrifying and I so hope something else comes through for you. But in the meantime you must figure out how to not be bothered by this. Obviously it is objectively horrible — anyone would be bothered but you can’t change them. First work on distancing yourself emotionally using any trick you can. Laugh at their antics inside — letting just slight amusement play across your lips publicly. Think of them as a bizarre culture and yourself as the anthropologist — you are observing, taking notes (and do take notes) and finding their behavior oddly interesting. (I realize that since you do have cross cultural issues here you need to be very judicious about every saying anything about this) If you can approach the work day with ‘I wonder what ridiculous things Fergus and Matilda will pull today’ then there will be slight satisfaction when they do. Practice passive aggressive comments like ‘I expected you to say that’.
        Work very hard on not caring. Obviously it is your job and you care about your work BUT work hard on not caring what they think about you since they obviously are very much in the wrong about that. And we all hope you can get out of there — it is a nightmare for sure. But THEY are defective and incompetent; you are fine and will be fine when you can escape.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Gray rocking at its finest. Be as boring and uninteresting as a gray rock. It might cause them to redouble their efforts in an “extinction burst”, but eventually they will get bored when you continue to give them absolutely nothing at all.

          No defense, no justification, no arguments, no explanations…no engagement beyond basic professional courtesy, and no interest on your end other than the minutest of bored interaction required to keep your job going.

      2. pope suburban*

        This is wise and compassionate advice. Annie, as someone who worked in a toxic workplace like yours, I have a couple of strategies that I hope can help you. One is just what Snailing suggested: find a way to let it roll off your back. This is not a you problem, this is a them problem. This is not typical or acceptable adult/professional behavior. What they do is born from their own problems and not anything you do or are. What helped me on bad days was telling myself I was playing a role. I was just pretending to be, for my own example, the character of Beauty School Dropout (from Grease), and none of it was real. I would set myself the task of nailing my lines or keeping my acting face on, and it sort of turned dealing with the madness into a school theatre class. It also kept a distinction between reality, where I am a perfectly normal person deserving of respect, and the HellJob, where people thought it was okay to sabotage and scream at others. Some days, that reinforced mental wall between the real world and my work world was all that kept me hanging on.

        The other thing that helped me was also pretending, but in the other direction: I pretended that my abusive coworkers were toddlers. This was very easy, as they behaved like toddlers. It is very hard to be mad at a toddler, even if only in your own mind, because they simply do not know better. Then I would use stuff I learned watching Supernanny to manage their emotions and steer them away from me. Imagining I was talking to an overwrought 3 year-old helped me maintain my calm- and it had the unintended by wonderful side effect of the worst, most explosive offenders learning to leave me alone. In my case, what they wanted was an emotional response, and when they consistently didn’t get one, they would wander off in search of easier targets.

        I know, writing all this out, that this is a huge and absurd amount of effort to put into a job. It’s not fair, it’s really not, and I wish you never had to think about dealing with this. But here you are, and your mental health and resilience matter. You deserve every tool and tip in the world to come out of this as intact as possible. I hope you start getting interviews soon, and can leave this dumpster fire behind you as we enter the new year.

    4. CatCat*

      This is awful and I am so sorry you are being treated this way. Literally no one here has your back and that’s a lonely, cold place to be. It sounds like your boss is tacitly approving of this behavior by saying it’s a your problem and also ignoring your coworkers loudly picking on your work.

      I would not confront people as clearly that goes nowhere. In your situation, I would try to fly under the radar as much as possible. Also, it sounds like they may be trying to get a rise out of you. I think the best thing you can do there is not feed into it. Keep your face as impassive as possible and responses neutral. Practice even keeping your face neutral, saying something bland like, “Okay” and then walking away.

      Can you get counseling/therapy to help you cope until you get out of this toxic wasp’s nest?

    5. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      “I’m not same nationality with my colleagues, they are native to the country we’re in. ”

      It sounds like you are being bullied and harassed for your nationality/ethnicity. I don’t think you are going to be able to do anything about it, because your coworkers are bigots and are doing it on purpose. Just get out of there as fast as you can.

    6. MissGirl*

      There is nothing YOU can do to fix this situation. Accept that these people are going to behave abominably. Figure out what makes things more bearable to you. It could be speaking up for yourself; it could be remaining quiet. It’s about what helps you.

      Figure out what YOU are in control of. You can make a great resume and send it out daily. You can stash money away (even a tiny amount). You can identify ways to improve your candidacy long-term: classes, certification, etc.

      Figure out what feeds you mentally and prioritize that. Do not give your job any more of yourself than you have to. Don’t go above and beyond.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      Your boss sucks for wimping out and not handling this!

      You can’t fix this. I hope you find something else soon.

    8. Massive Dynamic*

      You are being bulled; I am so sorry. I had that happen to me too when I was 24, by women much older than me. I was lucky though – when I hit my breaking point and cried in my boss’ office, she was horrified to hear it, had my back 100%, and shut that shit down like wildfire. And things got better for me and I ended up staying at that company many more years (advancing into management a year later).

      But you… you have a TERRIBLE boss who is completely enabling your bullies. So it sounds like your current plan is solid… get a new job as quickly as possible and keep your head down in the meantime. Alternatively, if your anxiety hits a breaking point, you can talk to your doctor about medical leave. Or if your rage fire burns too hot, try going above Boss to Grandboss? Or HR? Also do document specific instances of bullying/freezing out. I wish you all the best.

    9. Jady*

      Keep in mind the job hunt is bad because of the pandemic, not because of something about you! I’m in a normally high-demand field, never had a problem in my life finding a job for longer than a few weeks, but was laid off and then been unemployed for 6 months straight now. I couldn’t even get phone interviews until this last month!

      You will be able to find something!

    10. LTL*

      This is abusive behavior. It’s very common for toxic people to behave in hurtful ways, then turn around and point the finger at you when you respond accordingly. Basically wanting the freedom to behave how they wish without the natural consequences. It’s why you keep getting the message that you’re the problem when you try to stand up for yourself.

      Being in this kind of environment can really mess with your perspective, so I do want to call out specifics. Hopefully its helpful and doesn’t come off as patronizing! I personally like the validation in situations like this so I wanted to offer some.

      “She then started being hot and cold with me. She wouldn’t put phones coming for me through if she didn’t like it” – bullying

      “silent treatments” -abusive

      “I bullied her… by talking to other colleagues but not to trying to talk to her when she was giving me silent treatments” – gaslighting (abusive)

      “when I told her that it was not acceptable, she goes ‘well I’m (insert nationality), it’s the way we talk’” – gaslighting (abusive)

      “He says there’s been a lot of misunderstandings between us, we need to grab a cup of coffee together and talk this through” – gaslighting
      While your boss isn’t the perpetrator, he’s enabling the behavior. And worse, he’s treating it as an interpersonal conflict. There is no misunderstanding here. There is no communication gap. Please remember this.

      The rest of what you describe (mocking, freezing out, interrupting, others joining in???) are further abusive behaviors given the context you’ve described. It’s actually unsurprising that this is an environment where others joined in on her harassment, given that she’s been around for so long. This is a natural consequence of letting someone who treats others so badly work for your company, the people who don’t want to deal with it get out eventually, and the ones left are people who are perfectly happy playing into the dynamic.

      Now for actual advice:

      Your best bet while you’re stuck with her is the grey rock method. You should get a lot of information if you Google it. Healthline has a good article on it. Essentially what you’re trying to do is be as uninteresting as possible. Emote as little as possible. No logic or reasoning or empathy will convince your coworkers to be decent, so don’t try. Accept that this is who these people are while you’re still at this job. They are not reasonable. Their comments have nothing to do with you, just with their need for a punching bag.

      If you can (and if you haven’t already), get a therapist. A real life person providing a competing voice against those voices that say you’re worthless helps so much. And therapists are trained at providing insights and validation.

      Other mental health things are good too. I personally like meditation and the app Happify. Do what works for you.

      Be interested in other things outside of work. One of the nefarious things about abuse is that it can take over your life. If you’re spending all or almost all of your time trying to think of ways to get out, ways to handle the situation at work, etc. stop doing that. Some of that is necessary, of course, but leave some time for yourself where you don’t think about those things at all. This is ESPECIALLY valuable if you’re being gaslighted.

      In the same vein, are there any hobbies or fun things you can do outside of work to help build up your self esteem? Find something you enjoy and potentially are good at/can make progress in. People at work might freeze you out because you don’t have any ideas, but hey, look, you just baked a cake! That’s real life proof right there that you did a cool thing and can do cool things. Evidence outweighs talk.

      In the mean time, do try to keep job hunting.

      Wishing you the best of luck.

    11. Not playing your game anymore*

      Well, I spent the first part of the pandemic hunting for hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Then I moved on to making sour dough and I’ve been organizing closets and cabinets. Lately, as I’ve realized I’m not going to be called back to XYZ corp at least not in the near term, I’ve been concentrating on the future. Career plans, job searches, etc.

    12. JohannaCabal*

      What everyone has said times 100!

      Also, look up the concept of “gray rocking.” Make yourself as boring and neutral as possible. Speak in an unemotional tone, provide short answers to questions, and avoid small talk.

      (I had a therapist introduce me to this concept when dealing with a toxic family member.)

      1. Hydrangea McDuff*

        Yes! Agree very much with all the advice in this thread. A strategy I learned some years ago that helps me very much when engaging with unreasonable, bullying people is to be “BIFF”: brief, informative, friendly and firm. (If you google this, you will find the website I first learned it from, and there are some great examples for written responses. I also highly recommend his book!)

        It also helps me to tell myself: you can’t reason with unreasonable people. Both your boss and this colleague are being unreasonable—the toddler analogy is very accurate. What you can do is control your own choices at work, take care of yourself, and keep looking for that way out.

        I’m sorry this is happening to you. It sounds miserable.

    13. Tina Potts*

      Lesson 1 – should have learned this in high school because now the consequences are higher – you should NOT have vented to the other coworker. As you can see now that just made the situation worse. If these things cannot be worked out between coworkers you take it to the supervisor. Involving other in the office (even just to vent) almost always complicates the situation and often backfires and makes the ventor look bad. With 7 previous office mates I expect she has played this game before. I’m not sure there is a lesson 2 here. I am going to guess that the problem coworker is either well connected within the company or knows something about someone important, otherwise she would have been dealt with by now. Your supervisor obviously isn’t going to do anything so I say it’s fair game for you to do as you see fit. Keep your head down if that suits you or confront and escalate the conflict to the point that either the supervisor must step in or maybe the bully backs down.

    14. Name (Required)*

      You will find a great new job and put this place firmly in the rearview mirror… while the rest of them have to continue to work with the bully, terrified she’ll do to them what she’s done to multiple others.

    15. Tara*

      If you live in a place where you can be signed off sick for X amount of time, and still be paid your full salary, I would do that. This sociopath is going to decimate your mental health, and being on paid sick leave will allow you to rebuild your self esteem, distance yourself from it, have some nice baths in the middle of the day, and really double down on your job hunting efforts!

      If you want to stay in the office, I would personally be petty (because let’s face it, you don’t want to stay there, so who cares), in any team meeting where she seems to be ignoring you, I would specifically call her out. Like “hey Susan, what do you think?… Um, Susan, did you hear me?…. *laugh* Wow, how weird, seems like you have some serious tech problems!”, nothing rude, but making it very clear what she’s doing is incredibly weird and unprofessional.

      It’s also worth speaking to your HR, do you have the kind of role where you could move internally to a team not being held hostage to a maniac?

  2. Ghost Of A Chance*

    Looking for advice on answering what I’ve been doing while furloughed. I was furloughed in May due to Covid and I spent the first couple months hoping it was just a temporary thing, that the lockdowns would pass. Obviously, in the USA it’s been up and down. My company is still affected and every employee furloughed is still furloughed. The realization sent me into a bad depression spiral. For months, I did nothing beyond the basics and just putting one foot in front of the other. I had the means to keep myself afloat so job searching wasn’t a priority. I did attempt to start looking but every time I did, I would literally burst into tears at my computer. That’s the kind of bad state I was in.

    I’ve finally climbed out of that hole and can work on job searching without crying now. While my resume will reflect that I’m still tied to my company, my answer to the question of ‘Why are you searching?’ is because I was furloughed. I’m worried a follow up will be ‘What did you do while you were furloughed?’ I didn’t volunteer or intern, and I didn’t do an online class to learn a new skill. I can’t even say I was taking care of my family because I’m single without kids.

    The honest answer is that I was in really bad state mental health-wise and was doing nothing. While that seems like a fair answer given the state of the world, it’s certainly not something I want to say in a job interview. So what can I say if that question comes up?

    1. Rachel in NYC*

      I don’t feel that right now there can be an expectation that you do anything while you’re furloughed. I’ve seen a lot of people say it- and I don’t disagree- right now success is waking up and getting dressed.

    2. ETT*

      If I were in your shoes I’d keep things vague, unless you’re comfortable with talking about what you went through. Something like “I went through some hardships in my personal life, so I spent most of my time focusing on that” should be enough, right?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This — you held off on job hunting for several months, and are starting now because you don’t want to endanger your family’s future.
        What were you doing? I heard this come up in a conference call and someone laughed and said “No great art to report, but we’ve eaten well and my closets have never been so clean.”

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      “I was dealing with health issues during that time, but those issues are now resolved, and I’m in a position where I am able to work again and I’m eager to find a new opportunity.” But I wouldn’t even bother volunteering that unless they ask.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Since it’s Covid out there, you might prefer to say that you took some time to attend to some personal matters and have now resolved those things.

        But there are a good number of people at home right now, so the interviewer probably will not bat an eye at anything you say.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I would go for a, “I wasn’t anticipating that the furlough would last as long as it did, so I didn’t want to make any commitments to anyone other than my employer”

    5. Not So Super-visor*

      So we’ve actually been interviewing for some open positions, and I can tell you that this situation is so normal. I don’t think twice about someone telling me that they were furloughed and are now starting their job search. I would hope that a lot of other hiring managers would also understand this — a lot of furloughed employees were holding out hope that they’d be called back but are now starting to see that this might not happen as soon as they’d like.

    6. Amethyst*

      “I used the time to take care of some health issues which have since been resolved.”

      I’m glad you’re doing better now.

    7. Nesprin*

      You’re overthinking this- which depression will 100% do. Everyone (who isn’t a complete ass) recognizes that this has been a crap period for a lot of people- so practice dodging the question and redirecting.

      “What did you do while you were furloughed?”
      “Kept myself and my household afloat through a really challenging period.” Followed by a redirect to “can you tell me about how your firm has handled the pandemic?”

    8. LKW*

      I don’t think anyone expects you to be super productive. I think you can say “I took advantage of the time to focus on my health and found some great ways to refocus.”

      It’s true, although it sounds more like you ate more vegetables and started running.

    9. Emilitron*

      There are plenty of people who have been in a fine state mentally and still didn’t “accomplish” anything over the many months of quarantine. Covid itself is enough of an extenuating circumstance, you can leave your emotional state out of the story. And if/when they ask what you’ve done, I don’t think that’s intended to be a difficult question or some kind of pass/fail evaluation, just making space in the conversation for you to add information if you had something exciting to add. And if you don’t, just answer briefly and move on.

      I would start with something about how it’s important to you to be responsible and follow social distancing rules (and therefore you weren’t out doing things)
      And then something about one trivial positive thing you did (maybe it was only on the good days but you don’t have to say that). Maybe you practiced cooking X or you became a fan of Dr Fauci’s updates, or you found a new park in your neighborhood because you’re staying around your house more. It can be trivial, or related to look-at-us-all-at-home memes, but just something semi-true that you can put a positive/light spin on, so that you can answer the question – then Stop Talking. They don’t need to know that most of your days were not good ones.

    10. Malarkey01*

      There’s no need to mention any personal health issues. You can just say you were hoping to be called back so took the time to catch up on home or personal projects, but that based on the length of the furlough you need to now explore new positions. No one is looking for an accounting for how you spent lockdown since most of us were stuck at home waiting.

    11. oof*

      As a fellow furloughee, I’ve been told to keep my furlough status vague on my resume. So, right now, it still says “ABC Company, April 2019 – Present” with no mention of my furlough, since I’m technically still considered an employee at the company, just with 0 hours per week. When asked about why I’m leaving my current job, I mention that I’m looking to transition out of my current role since I’ve outgrown it + I’m looking to work in a more stable COVID-proof industry (because my current job is in travel/hospitality). When pressed by the interviewer, I’ll mention that I’ve been furloughed since the summer, but not many have asked what I’ve been doing during that time. I think employers understand that many people in our circumstances are just struggling to get by.

    12. Artemesia*

      This is a situation where lying is perfectly fine. If it is prudent you can say you worked hard on the election. Take any hobby you have and have spent time working on that. This is not a place where truth has relevance. Pick something that you feel comfortable with that is not verifiable and go with it. Frankly it is small talk in an interview and you just need to get your head past it — no one is going to much care, but you don’t want to project personal doom and gloom if it is asked.

    13. Me*

      You’re overthinking it! It’s a pandemic. Doing much of anything is ill-advised. No reasonable employer expects that you’ve done much except wait to go back to work and as you’ve realized that’s not likely, you’ve begun your search. Frankly, I’d be surprised if you are actually asked.

      A standard answer of initially expecting to be called back to work but now focused on your job search should be enough of an answer.

    14. Yup, Yup, Nope*

      You were staying safe and quarantining with the expectation that your furlough would end. Unfortunately due to the continuing pandemic and the impact it had on your company, you need to look into other options.

    15. Jady*

      If it’s any comfort, I’ve been job searching for 6 months now. I’m in your shoes and thankfully, no one has asked me that question.

      I’d wondered about that too and decided to say something vague like taking care of my health, family (no kids either so it’s a bit of a lie but I have relatives I could be referring to!), and enjoying revisiting some old hobbies.

    16. young professional*

      You can just say you were taking care of family. Consider yourself your own family – no one is going to pry about which person you cared for, and if they do – invent yourself a distant aunt.

    17. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I’m not on furlough because I got laid off at the end of January and haven’t had a job since then. If anyone asks what I’ve been up to I will say I’ve been taking care of some things around the house. You don’t have to explain that those things you took care of were you.

  3. Serendipity*

    Tl;dr: How should I explain the disconnect between my past stellar academic career and current unimpressive part-time job in cover letters and interviews?

    I completed my undergraduate degree about three and a half years ago. I have always loved school so I thrived in college: I served as the research assistant for two professors, conducted my own original research outside of classes and presented it at several conferences, served as a teaching assistant, completed multiple internships, etc. I was encouraged by faculty to apply for fellowship opportunities and I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Germany for ten months.

    After returning to the U.S. after finishing my Fulbright scholarship, I had a bit of a crisis. I realized that I had never seriously planned for life after college and couldn’t bring myself to apply to full-time jobs for fear of choosing the wrong thing. In order to have some income I started working part-time at a small convenience store in my rural hometown. What was supposed to be a temporary solution stretched on longer and longer: I found myself no closer to figuring out what type to career I wanted, and working part-time close to home actually proved convenient when helping to care for my mother during her unexpected yearlong illness. Above all, though, my reluctance to address my anxiety about driving a vehicle is what kept me from getting a job more than a few minutes away from my house, and as a result I have now been working at the convenience store for two years.

    I think I’ve finally gotten myself to the point where I can search for full-time employment. I’ve found an administrative assistant position for my state government that involves research and record-keeping, which sounds like a good fit for me. Applicants with college degrees must attach a copy of their transcripts and may cite work from college that qualifies them for the position if they lack professional experience that does. The problem is, I find myself unsure how to address the disconnect between my past achievements and current dead-end job (there is no opportunity for advancement beyond the level of cashier at my current workplace). Should I make some sort of attempt to explain myself in my cover letter? And if I’m chosen for an interview and asked about it, how honest or vague should I be with my answer?

    1. Her Tinkness*

      Be honest.

      “I took some time to care for an ailing family member. During that period, I did some soul searching and figured out what sort of work satisfies me, and that’s research and record keeping.”

      Though if it’s a state job, this might not even be necessary until the interview stage. At least in my state, you have to take a civil service exam for almost any position.

    2. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I think you don’t have to be so hard on yourself! Transitioning to full time, “real life” work doesn’t always go smoothly, and I think something more vague about finding the right fit and things like that would suffice.

      On a personal note, I was one of those people, too – I went through high school with the goal of getting to college, I went through college with the goal of doing well and completing my education. About half-way through my last semester of college I had a little breakdown when I realized that the degree I was going to get in just a couple months wasn’t what I really wanted to do with my life. But I got it anyway, and figured that the education and experience would still be good, even if I didn’t pursue that career path. And it’s been fine, I promise! I know this isn’t really the advice you were looking for, but I hope it’s been helpful anyway.

    3. ladymacdeath*

      Something like “After finishing my Fulbright scholarship, I helped care for a family member, and I’ve been supporting my family for last couple years. I’m now ready/able to pursue a career in….” would work.

      Family medical things are an explanation that is not uncommon at all! And you could include it in your cover letter but I would keep it brief. It may or may not come up in an interview. The trick is being confident in your answer and not being embarrassed about it–because there’s nothing to be embarrassed about! Tons of people put their careers on hold to help loved ones. Don’t over think it.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I suggest a slight tweak to the second sentence to “Now, I’m excited to pursue a career in…” I’m overthinking, but saying one is “ready” implies the job is yours to turn down, as though is solely yours. Some hiring managers would take issue with that implication (I *hope* I’m not one of them, but I don’t know what my unconscious biases are) and those that don’t care, won’t care either way. So no need to take the chance.

        Power games in hiring, so much fun /sarcasm

      2. pope suburban*

        Yes, exactly this. Family medical stuff is a really, really common reason for people to change their career plans or defer hunting for a career/promotion/career change. Anyone who would distrust or disqualify a candidate for taking a low-pressure, flexible job in order to care for a loved on is not someone you want to be working for, really.

    4. Cheering for you*

      Not advice, but I want to say that the first couple/few years out of college are hard, full stop. So many people take many years to figure out what to do with themselves after finishing. There is 100% no shame in working the convenience store job while facing the challenge of becoming an adult, all the while caring for your mom. That takes strength, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I’m cheering for you!

    5. Xenia*

      I wouldn’t necessarily go for it in the cover letter—I feel like the cover letter is showcasing the best aspects of your candidacy, rather than explaining resume gaps. If they ask in your interview, saying that you wanted a job close to home for a bit and that you were taking care of a family member would be a good answer. But I also feel you’re worrying a bit too hard over your perceived lack of working status. A lot of people get retail or food service jobs for a while to get by, and while it might raise some eyebrows if you were applying for the C-suite, the position you describe seems to be relatively straight forwards and not somewhere a retail history might be looked down on.

    6. Snailing*

      This sounds a lot like me about 8 years ago – I graduated from a top college and moved abroad for my “dream job” in Korea. I realized it was not what I wanted to do, so I moved back home to rural Virginia and got the first job I could find as our local grocery/deli. My advice would be to find a passion in what you’re doing and work toward that. For me, that ended up being management at our tiny story and then eventually using that to break into an HR job at a larger company.

      With your mother’s illness, I think you can abolsutley use that to help explain working part time for so long, and then just market yourself! Parlay what you’ve learn as a cashier (people skills, working under stress, juggling customer demands) into what you want to be able to do with those skills and where you want to grow. How will those soft skills help you in this admin position? Lean into that and “fake it till you make it” as they say – this doesn’t have to be your end-all-be-all career track (mine sure aint!) but it helps to pretend a little that is and just let it flow from there.

    7. Serendipity*

      Thank you everyone for the responses and kind words so far! I wasn’t super specific about this in my original post, but it’s now been nearly a year since my mom has needed help because of her illness. I feel somewhat dishonest continuing to use that as part of my answer to potential questions at this point, although her health problems did certainly put things on hold for a while.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Not dishonest at all Serendipity — no one is expecting you to account for every minute (unless you are applying for a Top Security position). There is nothing at all wrong in saying you were assisting an ailing family member with a medical issue that is now resolved — no one will bat an eyelash at that.

      2. Hillary*

        It’s not dishonest – it’s part of why you moved back. You sound a lot like me when I was younger and I have a ton of empathy. It took a long time for me to learn that it’s honest to bring less than your total self to work. A silly but telling example – I’m the only work person who knows one of my colleagues plays D&D. He brings his honest self to work but leaves the gamer home, I mostly do too.

        It takes time to figure out who you are after college and they’re not going to judge you for that. Just keep applying for jobs that look interesting where you meet at least 50% of the listed criteria.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        “And when mom no longer needed me, Covid hit….”

        I get that it feels dishonest to you, but they aren’t asking for a day-by-day journal of what you did with your time. They want to know in a few sentences or less what you did. “I came back here, took care of mom and got a small job close to home. Mom stopped needing me, but then Covid hit.”

        It could be what you are actually wrestling with is YOU don’t believe you used the time well. Something for you to mull over, but I think that sometimes we just need to lay low and sort life for a bit. We sort things consciously and subconsciously. It could be that in years to come you will realize how much you have recouped during this period. I think time will be kind here. Meanwhile, boil your explanation down to one or two sentences and try to concentration on other aspects of applying and interviewing. Something like this can be such a distraction that a person can lose everything else. Make yourself look at other things that are needed to get to a different spot.

      4. LunaLena*

        I agree, mentioning your mom’s illness as your main reason for your circumstances is not dishonest at all. If it makes you feel better, though, perhaps you can say something like “I took this job because it was convenient for me (it was a convenience store after all, haha! just kidding leave that part out) while I was helping my mother with an illness, and when she was well enough to be more independent I started re-focusing on finding my own career path. In the course of X I realized how much I enjoy [position duties], especially since it was something I did as a college student…” and then segue into what makes you a good fit for the role.

        Also, as others have said, don’t worry about having a less-than-stellar job after college! Honestly I think it happens to most of us. I was the same as you; I graduated from a top tier university and great things were expected of me, but I hadn’t really thought about what life would look like after college and I was at a loose end once I was out of school. I worked customer service and call center jobs for over a year while I figured out what I wanted to do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of at all, especially if you can say it helped you to grow as a person (for example, I talked about how working customer service improved my communications skills both in person and on the phone, taught me to deal with difficult clients while staying helpful and friendly, and learn strategies to solve problems quickly). Good luck with your job search!

    8. Retail Not Retail*

      Oh man are we the same person?

      I did undergrad, part time retail, grad, flamed out of service work, and now work hourly full time at a place tangentially related to my grad work. (Well I see the relationship.)

      My mom was supposed to have brain surgery last spring. She didn’t, but the underlying issue will never go away, so her health is not a lie. And my current job is good for my mental health and kinda sorta my bad hip (different positions vs sitting/standing all day).

      I just worry the longer I stay here, the harder it will be to get out of low paid physical work. I ask everyone questions about their work here though – “how’s research going? Any new events?” – and in the old days I worked some events.

    9. Firecat*

      Fellow Fulbright Scholar here.

      I think first: you need to forgive yourself and seek counseling. As a fellow academically gifted(tm) American I can tell you that most people don’t expect nearly as much from you as you think.

      I struggled hard returning to the States during the great recession and being forced to string together odd jobs like mulching gardens, walking dogs, and cleaning houses. I was very mad at myself for not following some mythical path I thought all “bright high achievers” did.

      You’ve done a noble thing caring for your mom. You can release this weight you are putting on yourself. A good therapist will help a ton.

      I will say that 10 years later, I’m extremely happy working in a field that has nothing to do with my degrees or Fulbright and solidly a social-economic class higher then I grew up. Things tend to work out if you let yourself go for something that meets your needs instead of focusing on what you should be doing with your intellect, skill, etc.

    10. Argh!*

      Your family situation is a perfect story.

      If you really can’t shake your anxiety about driving, move to a place where you can take public transportation. I didn’t have a driver’s license until I was 30 and moved to the midwest!

  4. Demoted & Disengaged*

    Quick history: I’m a manager and have been for 5 years. Last year, I was passed over for a director position. Our company (Little Corp) was purchased by another company (Big Corp) over 15 years ago. We were left to run independently and were far more profitable than Big Corp. In the last year, Big Corp has decided that we absolutely have to merge into 1 company.
    Where we’re at: this week, I was informed by my director that I am being demoted to a Supervisor. This is not because of anything that I’ve done – I’ve never had a bad review, and I’ve been complimented by numerous VPs. Big Corp has decided that they can only have one director for this type of work, so they’re going with the Big Corp director and demoting my director (the Little Corp director) to manager. I won’t lose any pay or responsibilities, so I am expected to do my same job at a lower title. While I’m grateful to still have a job, I’m devastated by this. I worked a number of dead-end jobs in my 20’s and finally being promoted to a manager level was a huge personal accomplishment for me. I’ll also lose several things like being a part of the bonus structure, and I will no longer be invited to higher level meetings – both are manager level and above.

    First: how do I explain this on a resume?

    Second: someone please tell me that I’m not crazy for being upset about this. I’ve reached out to friends, family, my previous mentor, and my husband, and the response from everyone is “What’s the big deal? You’re not losing any money and still have a job.” For the record, none of these people are currently unemployed.

    Third: how do I stay motivated? I know that I’ll get fired if I don’t perform, but I feel so disengaged that I’m having trouble staying productive

    1. Rachel in NYC*

      I don’t have any answers for (1) and (3) but I think it’s normal to be upset about this. I would honestly be surprised if you weren’t (and would be surprised if your boss isn’t upset about being demoted from director to manager.)

    2. TCO*

      I think you’re right to be upset; I definitely would be. Is there any opportunity to negotiate a pay raise or retention bonus in recognition of the fact that you’re losing not only your title, but actual compensation through the bonus structure?

      It could be time to think about moving on. You’ve been there five years, you know the work you’re capable of doing, and your company’s actions here will probably always sting a bit. Even if you look around and decide that it’s worth staying put, then you’ll feel like you’ve made an active and informed choice to stay rather than just being stuck there.

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

      You’re not crazy. You ARE losing money if you’re out of the bonus structure, and doing the work of a manager with a lower title can impact any future jobs or promotions so you’re out that potential money too. Let’s just hypothesize that in a year they “promote” you back to manager — they’ll probably say you already have the compensation of a manager so no raise — and there you are… losing money.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      I think that on a resume, you’d want to make it clear that your new title was only in play after the change to Big Corp, and you’d still list your accomplishments there, which shouldn’t be too different from what they were at Little Corp. I think you’d be well within your rights to start looking for a new job, since you’re basically being expected to continue with the same level of responsibilities with a lower title and lower pay (if you don’t have access to that same bonus structure). During an interview, you can just explain that very matter-of-factly: “After our company was acquired, I stayed in the same role as far as my responsibilities went, but because of the reorganization, some people, myself included, were given lower titles.”

    5. AnotherAlison*

      D&D, that sucks and I am sorry that happened. I don’t have the exact same situation, but I was passed over a couple times, and then as the dept. grew, I effectively got pushed further down the ladder. Your family just doesn’t get it. You work to get ahead, and then restricting erases all your progress. Even with the same pay, it feels like a major demotion.

      I have personally only been able to stay motivated because my work has to get done. For a while, they dangled some other carrots frequently enough that I would stay motivated. Now I no longer believe them and don’t want to go above and beyond anymore. They can find some younger eager beavers who still have a chance for promotions to take on the extras. For me, that’s why I know I should probably move on, but you might be able to hang on a couple more years. (Maybe your manager will be mad, too, and that job will be open for your promotion. )

    6. CatCat*

      No idea on #1. This blows.

      On #2, you are definitely not crazy. You are losing money from the bonuses, professional opportunity, and the title, which could make advancing harder down the line.

      On #3, what’s the minimum you need to do to not get fired? That would be my focus with the rest of my energy focused on finding a new job. Give yourself permission not to work harder than you have to for a company that demoted you based on nothing to do with your performance! You have 5 years of management experience. It’s a tough time to be looking, but there are in fact jobs out there. I would 100% be looking to leave over this.

    7. Malarkey01*

      I’d take this as a sign to start seriously looking to move on. If you do that right away the title change don’t have as big an effect since you can explain that through a merger and restructure your position was changed and that’s why you are looking to move on and the resume change will be so recent. The longer you wait the more it could appear to be more of a performance/skill issue, but everyone understands restructuring and mergers mean shuffles like this occur.

      Absolutely makes sense to be upset. Losing the position means you’re back down a rung on your organization ladder and also sends a message that big Corp is taking toward your organization.

    8. Artemesia*

      Of course you’re upset. And a fairly straightforward explanation that as a result of a merger your job duties didn’t change, your management of projects (whatever it is that made you a manager) but your title changed and you feel that opportunities for advancement in management are now less available than before and so you are looking for a change to an organization with more opportunity for advancement. It is a classic that the less productive organization grabs the top jobs in a merger situation. I have seen it happen a couple of times. You have a job you are good at and your compensation didn’t change so enjoy that and take your time to carefully look for the right opportunity. Don’t rush it or let is grind you down.

    9. DarthVelma*

      Had something similar happen to me a couple of jobs ago. I came in as an entry level auditor in a state agency and worked really hard to move up the career ladder. Got promoted up to the next level and was pretty happy.

      Then the state did a classification and compensation audit of pretty much all positions. Turns out my position was being underpaid. So instead of raising my salary, my agency chose to bump my position title back down and kept my pay the same. They did this to a lot of other positions as well.

      No one could understand why I was so furious since my salary wasn’t changing. It was about being told by my agency that I wasn’t really underpaid – that I didn’t deserve the salary bump the state said I should get. And it was about being back down to the job title I had on my very first day of work despite all the effort I put in to move up. The day I was told I was getting “demoted” was the day I started job hunting. I would suggest you do the same.

    10. LucyB*

      Ugh, I’m sorry! What a drag!

      I would say: As Little Corp merged into another, larger organization, my department was shifted below the Big Corp department, and so while my title changed, as did those of the rest of my department, my responsibilities did not. Since making this change I have been able to succeed at x, y, and z.

    11. Not A Manager*

      2015-present, Manager/Supervisor (Little Corp./Big Corp.)
      Description and Achievements
      (Title change in November 2020 due to corporate restructuring)

    12. LadyByTheLake*

      If it were JUST the title, I would say not to worry about it — Supervisor at BigCorp can be comparable to Manager at LittleCorp and most folks recognize that title changes happen after a merger. I would also say the change in access, is pretty normal after a merger like this, and while personally it might be upsetting, in the scheme of things it is just a thing that happens. BUT losing out on the bonus is a change in pay, and that’s a real impact, and if I were you I would focus my energies there.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And losing out on the meetings, that is also significant.

        OP, I can’t find a reason not to start a job search.

        One thing I would do is get a job description from Old Title and a job description from New Title. Keep copies of these AT HOME. This is just for your own peace of mind. You may find the two documents to be of some use as you go along.

        I get that this happens often when big companies swallow up little companies. People’s titles get down-graded and they leave because of it. I am sure that Big Company even has calculated out the expected attrition rate. It’s cold, like an iceberg, cold.

        You are still you. They can take your title but they cannot take what you know inside your head. They cannot take the skills and abilities you have. Those are yours and they always will be. And guess what? When you leave your skills and abilities come right along with YOU.

        Stop working for them and start working for what looks good on your resume or sounds good in your job interviews. Don’t do the work because of THEM, do it because of YOU. Picture this: You are sitting at an interview and the interviewer says, “Wow. They reduced your title?” And you say, “Yeah, but I kept working. I increased Y by 20%, I found 30% savings on project W and I upgraded X. ” And the interviewer says, “You did all that after the company kicked you in the teeth? We want YOU here with US, because we want to see what you can do with a company who actually WANTS you.” Start now, working to impress your NEXT boss.

    13. Anon for this*

      The bonus structure part sucks and I hope your leaders are pushing back. It surprises me a bit, at my big employers bonus has been related to grade, not title.

      Unfortunately, the rest is part of being acquired by a bigger company. I work at corporate for a big company, and we have directors and managers from a newly acquired company that are going to be demoted. Their peers at other parts of the org in terms work, reports, and p&l responsibility are mostly supervisors. Right now we have acquired “directors” reporting to acquirer managers. BigCorp should have done this fifteen years ago.

    14. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      You are NOT crazy – this happened at my old company and even though I wasn’t personally affected, I thought it was so unfair. It was only one of what them became a series of awful moves to make our fully functional square peg of a company fit into the round hole of their organizational structure. They owned us for a year, then sold us to one of our competitors which resulted in our facility closing and hundreds of layoffs. I’m still so bitter about it.

      I would start looking for a new job while the old title is newer and less likely to stick to you going forward. I’ts also a very good answer to potential employers when they ask why you’re leaving your current company.

    15. learnedthehardway*

      I wouldn’t worry about your resume right now – for the next year, you can pretty well keep your current company name and title on your resume, and nobody will bat an eye. If anyone does ask, just tell them that you haven’t updated your resume yet.

      After that, list the companies together – Supervisor at BIGCO (2020 – present), then Manager at littleco (whenever to 2020). Put a note under the littleco entry that littleco was absorbed into BIGCO as the reason you left.

      I can understand why you’re upset – I think it is a combination of having wanted a more senior role and a perception that you’re being demoted. However, try to think of it that you’re moving from being a medium-sized fish in a very small pond to being a small-to-medium sized fish in a much bigger pond. It’s pretty common for people with manager or director titles in a small company to go to a supervisor or manager title (respectively) in a bigger company. If your mandate is staying the same size, it makes even more sense.

      Hiring Managers will see that you were retained when BIGCO took over, and will understand that they had to fit you into their structure, rather than that you were demoted.

    16. Starlite*

      I was also demoted because they decided that only one person at each location could have my previous title. It didn’t matter that my location was four times larger than the next largest and my job duties didn’t change. I felt betrayed and immediately started job searching. I went to therapy it and helped me deal without better. You have every right to be angry.

    17. Miss Marple*

      Yes you are right to be upset, as it is a normal to feel this way when you have lost something you have worked so hard for through no fault of your own.
      Something similar happened to me. What I did was:
      1. Looked outside to see if I was financially disadvantaged by being in a lower job and saw I wasn’t.
      2. Realised, it was just bad luck and out of my control. The bigger company is going to keep the person they know in the role, as they know their work and what they offer. You are an unknown quantity
      3. Continue to do your job well and where you can add value. Look for opportunities to encourage and support people in your team and other parts of the company. It makes you feel better about yourself and others appreciate it. The unexpected side effect when I did that is when I had my review, I had to give a list of names and I received incredible responses. My boss was delighted. It worked so well, that 6 months later they wanted to work with me to tell me what I should to get promoted to my old job. Ironically I was so happy with the reduced role I stated I was not interested for now.
      4. Look at the advantages to you of being in a lesser role. For me having a lower title meant I did not have as much stress and less responsibility. It removed me from most of the company’s internal politics. As I was not stressed I could think clearer about what skills I can develop and what things out of work I enjoy doing.
      5. I used my time to pick up things I like doing, such as mentoring and training people in the team to improve their skill set. .
      5. Having reduced stress allowed me time to polish up some of my technical and soft skills. These have helped me do my current job more efficiently and better and given me more confidence that if anything changes I have a better chance of getting another job. IAs a result of my improved technical and client management skills, I recently added extra value to my last 2 projects and received incredible feedback from 2 of our biggest clients that went to my uber boss.

      After doing all of these steps I made the decision I would stay as I like my boss, the work and the people in my team. Plus my knew skill set allows me to do my job more efficiently and it takes a lot less of my time. One of the other impacts is by helping people in other areas, when I need help, they make time for me.

      The other thing is it makes you feel good about yourself knowing you have taken the high road

      If after considering all of these points, you are still unhappy, then polish up your resume. But make sure you are a bit selfish and use your spare work time to benefit your skill set as it will aid you in improving your resume.

  5. sigh*

    How would you show this business you appreciate what they did? Regardless of whether you think you should wear a mask in public, right now where I live (USA) it is mandated. I frequent a local deli often. Today two people just strolled in without masks. Now this deli is a BIG part of our community in the nicest way, the friendliest way, the most supportive ways. The owner, who appeared to be friends with these two, didn’t see them at first. When he saw them, he greeted them and asked them to wait outside. He’d bring their order out to them, even paid for their orders. These two customers seemed a little shocked and put up a bit of discussion/ argument but relented in the end. First, I was a little ticked at these two…. We live in an area where wearing a mask is mandated. It took everything in me not to ask them – Can I have your autograph; you must be so special not to wear a mask (yes, I’m being immature and sarcastic in my thinking). It is what it is, they were dealt with. Now the owner is top of the hierarchy in this business. There is no where to go to commend him. It must have been hard to “stand up” to your friends. How can I say great job? I appreciate you took into account everyone’s safety.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      To be perfectly honest, it wouldn’t occur to me to commend them for following the mandate any more than I would commend them for following the “no mayo” instructions when making my sandwich or for giving me the correct change. They did exactly what they were supposed to do.

      1. sigh*

        I agree but it’s a new normal. I think everyone is going through a challenging time. Regardless if the situation was mandated or not, me as the consumer was happy to see someone doing something. There are a lot of businesses in the area “trying to get away with new rules and regulations”.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Naw, that’s fair, and I meant to commend *you* for thinking about it :) but I had to get up and let dogs in and out about fourteen times over the course of typing my two sentences (because dogs, amiright) and derailed my own train of thought.

    2. Modest Anony Mouse*

      Business owners usually appreciate glowing online reviews, as well as your continued business! Maybe a big tip if they take tips.

      I’ve also written thank-you cards to business owners who go above and beyond for their community. They’re human and I think they like to receive sincere thanks in any form.

      1. sigh*

        I do this all the time! Great minds think alike ;-) I will definitely say something to the owner and write a review. I think when I wrote my originally post I was just shocked that two customers just waltz in like it was a normal thing.

      1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

        Agreed about good reviews on Yelp, Google, etc. Whatever is relevant to your area. Also, I’m part of a Facebook group for my city with 20K+ people, and members regularly post good (and sometimes not so good reviews) about local businesses. Really any option you have to help promote this deli would be a win for them.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I would just send him a card that says, “I saw what you did. And I want you to know I thought you handled it with class. Thank you for enforcing the rules about masks.”

    4. Oxford Comma*

      Do they have a Facebook page? Maybe talk up the business there and/or to your friends. Leave a good review on Yelp? Something like that?

    5. Haha Lala*

      You can post a review online and explicitly comment on how seriously the owner is taking Covid protocols and how safe it feels. Where I live (midwest USA) masks are required, but not always enforced. I’m much more likely to go somewhere if I know the mask ordinance will be enforced, and even better if I can confirm that online before I go.

    6. WellRed*

      Honestly, a simple “thank you for doing that,” in the moment would have been more than enough.

  6. Anonymous Educator*

    Anyone ever get nervous about switching managers?

    My current manager has been promoted, and my current manager is awesome! The new manager seems like a nice person, so I hope they’re good, but sometimes nice people can still not be good managers. Fingers crossed…

    1. IsItOverYet?*

      Yes, I feel like I finally have a good system with my current supervisor and they decided to switch me to someone else. She seems fine but 1) it means I have to learn how she likes things done 2) I’m in higher ed so I don’t know if she’ll have my back with students and 3) we’re not in the same department so I’m only going to her for some things and not others and it’s not clear what goes to her and what doesn’t and I need to follow my departmental rules for classes but then why I am reporting to someone in another department? I tried pushing back on being supervised by someone who isn’t in my department and pointing out at this makes things more, not less, complicated, but no luck. The change is because I am at a satellite location and this person is the only supervisor physically at this location…but me reporting to the chair at the main campus has been going fine.

      This change would be stressful in normal times, but with everything else going on it’s pushed me over the edge. I’m also worried about this making me even more out of the loop than I already am being at a satellite location. So yeah, I’m nervous, I’m trying not to be because my new supervisor will likely me fine, but I am. However writing it out has helped. Fingers crossed.

    2. Emilitron*

      Oh that would be terrifying for me, it takes me a long time to start trusting managers. Sending you and new management my best wishes…

      1. Artemesia*

        I had a great manager for years who delegated huge amounts of stuff to me and I ran a bunch of programs. Then the new manager had a lot of trouble doing the things she needed to do with her own promotion so instead meddled in the stuff I had under control. I had no problem changing policies or procedures if that was her decision — but it drove me crazy to have her just meddle and undercut what I was doing e.g. the top organization would CC her on some routine upcoming deadline for things I was managing and she would contact staff and start issuing directives in an area I normally managed — confusing everyone and because she wasn’t experienced with it also screwing things up.

        So yeah — what it taught me is that I should sit down with any new manager and review the relationship and lines of authority.

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yes, I’ve been nervous about that before! And you’re right that nice people aren’t always the best managers. I’ve had managers or grand-bosses in the past who were awesome people, but weren’t quite right for their management role–sometimes BECAUSE their niceness made it hard for them to stand up to people and advocate for their team effectively. I hope your new manager works out well. If they don’t schedule one-on-one meetings with their direct reports soon after starting in the role, I might reach out to them and suggest a meeting just to make sure you’re on the same page about expectations, about how to best communicate with them, etc.

    4. AnonyWorker*

      My best manager in the world (and 1/4 of the best team I ever worked on) got laid off before covid. The manager our team got moved to, while extremely kind and seemingly knowledgeable, barely knows what we do and just says “keep doing what you’re doing” when I ask for long term plans.

      It’s nice right now to have a certain amount of freedom on my existing projects (I’m in a senior role) but the lack of longer term direction from grandboss leadership is making me job search.

      Hmm, maybe my new manager should be the nervous one.

    5. MNGuy*

      A couple years ago, I got surprised by my then manager with a new boss who would land between oldboss and me. I was upset – especially buy the short notice and cavalier way it was presented. I didn’t burn bridges but I groused with my peers quite a bit

      Fast forward to today: newboss is great and has promoted me while ‘gifting’ me broader responsibilities. It turned out to be a very good thing for the company and for me personally.

      Your concern is very natural; the change can work out fine though and I hope it does for you!!

    6. Outside the box*

      I work for military bosses that change every 2 years and it’s difficult to reprove yourself and wonder what type of boss they’ll be. Some are good managers and some not so much but the bad ones I just say – 2 years I can deal for 2 years lol. New managers need to learn sometimes so maybe you can help with that and make them into another great manager that you’ll love. Good luck.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      For the most part new managers are nervous, in some cases they are more nervous than I am. So I have always kept that to the forefront of my thinking and just offered random helps here and there. This helped to build trust and it also set a tone for our relationship.

      Oddly, one of my top 5 favorite bosses and I had an outright argument. The setting made no sense to me, he uncharacteristically blew up. Because nothing made sense, I remained calm and more bewildered than anything. Finally I said, “This is a lot of upset over something that doesn’t warrant it. I think there is something going on here that I have missed somehow.” I went on to say that in the past the times I have seen people react like this is because they have been burned by others. I expressed regret that happened to him. And I said I would just drop the current issue and he could use his own resources to see what to do.

      So in quick turn-about he admitted he had a serious problem at another job with a cohort. He gave details and it was an AWFUL story, I think even the police were called. I used that as an opening to reset our own relationship. I said, “I am so sorry this happened. If you EVER have the least bit of concern about my work, I want you to ask me right away. I will answer any questions you have. Meanwhile, I am going to let go of this Current Problem so you can handle it at your own pace.” (Yes, I repeated myself. He was pretty shook up, so I doubt he heard me the first time.)

      We never had another problem after that. Years later, I tracked him down and he gave me a great reference.

      I think it helped to think of him as someone who was just trying to learn a new job and trying to get along with other people while doing a good job, too.

    8. knitter*

      Sending you a positive story!

      My department was transitioned to a new manager unexpectedly over the summer when two departments were combined. My new manager was also new to the role. Previously, she was a colleague, but not in my department.

      I have a *TERRIBLE* co-worker. I went through a lot with my previous manager and while my previous manager had her hands tied in a lot of ways with terrible coworker, did her best to minimize the impact of terrible co-worker. So when I found out I had a new boss who was a former colleague, I was *very* worried about her ability to manage terrible coworker. When new manager started, she would allude to the fact that she hadn’t fully been on-boarded with all the info about the department. AND new boss is very feelings-focused. Over the top thank yous, telling everyone frequently “you matter”, etc.

      Well, new person, new eyes on the problem. And, it turns out, she has a backbone of steel. So it looks like she has found a way to hold terrible coworker accountable for being terrible. Fingers crossed she is allowed to follow through! Also, I think all along, she was lying about not being on-boarded so as not to put terrible co-worker on the defensive.

      So hopefully you get the same positive experience of a new boss =)

  7. Pink Dahlia*

    Is anyone else seeing a major increase in recruiter dishonesty these days?

    It was bad enough when they were just trying to get people to quit FT jobs for goofy contract jobs in the middle of nowhere. Now that a lot of jobs are being forced remote, they’re pretending that the remote is permanent, hiding the true on-site location, acting like there’s flexibility when there isn’t, etc.

    I will never be less likely to want to deal with a recruiter than I am right now.

    1. irene adler*

      Yes! I’m finding they are no longer indicating type of job in the job ads: contractor or direct hire or temp-to-perm.

      So I contact them, they start trying to ‘sell’ me on the job. When I ask if it is direct hire, they get all hedgy “that shouldn’t make any difference” because it is a great job.

      Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay.
      Thank you, bye.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      So many have been pitching me MLM’s as actual corporations. They may work in the corporate offices but nopety nope…

    3. Handwashing Hero*

      100% to this being the most annoying thing.

      I’ve been told up and down that a certain positions is remote by a recruiter. Got to the interview stage with the hiring manager and oops, only temporary remote they are targeting back in office 1st Qtr 2021. Which I’m sure in the US we can all laugh at but still. Thankfully it was just a phone interview but the HM still wanted to continue with it even though for me remote based was a deal breaker. I stuck with it because a connection is a connection but man is it frustrating that recruiters are playing even more games these days.

      1. Bear Shark*

        I wish in the US we could all laugh. My employer sent us back to the office before Labor Day.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A co-worker was seeing this even last year — one particular company in the area has project-length contracts galore, and recruiters kept calling. Even though every contact and every email has said there’s no interest in fixed-term employment. Some called multiple times so obviously have zero notes. “Hang on is this from XYZ corp in ABC town? How did I know? You’ve called me three times. Unless they’ve just added health insurance, and a permanent agreement I’m still not interested.”

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

      My LinkedIn inbox is full of messages and requests sent by recruiters. I delete them unless it comes from a trusted current or former coworker.

  8. Student Affairs Sally*

    Today is my last day at my current job – I can’t believe how fast my month-long notice period went. I start my new job right after Thanksgiving and I’m unbelievably excited!!

    I have a question that may be academia-specific – in my current role, I supervise a lot of undergraduate student leaders, and I get requests for recommendation letters for grad school fairly frequently. My leaders know I’m moving on and how to get in contact with me, and I’ve let them know that I’m happy to still write letters for them if needed. I’ve worked with some of them since they were Freshman, so as they matriculate out of their undergrad years I anticipate that I”ll get a few more over the next year or so. Normally I use a letterhead template from my current institution. For future recommendation letters for leaders from this institution, should I use a letterhead template from my new institution? Or no letterhead at all – just a blank sheet? Should I state upfront that I no longer work for my former institution? This has been my first professional role, so I”m not sure what the norms are for this.

    1. Medievalist*

      Maybe others feel differently, but I’m a professor and after I switched to my current job, I wrote recommendations for old-institution students on my new-institution letterhead, and just threw in a line toward the beginning about how I had known Jane when I worked in X role at Old Institution. After all, any rec letter already includes context of how you knew the student—so it’s an easy tweak.

        1. Maxie*

          Yes, that’s exactly what to do. This is a normal thing to do in academia. Kudos to you for letting your students know where to contact you and that you still want to write them recommendation letters. Without that, they might think that since you are gone, you are no longer available to them.

      1. Artemesia*

        I agree with this because you have the prestige of a similar role in a similar institution and are not just Joe Rando on private or blank letterhead. If you were head of admissions at X university and are not head of admissions at Y university you are more credible than on blank letterhead. And you then clarify the switch in the first line. (it might be different for some types of contact but not for letters of recommendation for students or staff)

        1. Artemesia*

          that is ‘now are’ not ‘not are’ —- and even if the job is entirely different, I’d use the new letterhead with the explanation. Although if it is a really different role, give your manager a heads up that you are doing it.

    2. Nesprin*

      I use current letterhead if it’s a current letter, with a note of ” I mentored student Z when I was in position X at institution Y”

    3. Emmie*

      I would create a letterhead with just my name / contact information on it, and make a notation of how I knew them. If you remain in academia, you could use your new institution’s letterhead.

    4. Squeakrad*

      Over the past two or three years, I find that most of the letters I write are online only and institutions have their own form and format to do so. So it may not even come up.

  9. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Does anyone have any suggested email language to convey that a year-end fun activity is truly optional? I’m worried that overemphasizing “no really, I promise, this is 100% optional” will have the opposite effect and make people thinking I’m secretly emphasizing it, but I fear anything more casual will get overlooked.

    I’m definitely overthinking this. My brain is mushy this week.

    1. CTT*

      Maybe include an RSVP aspect? Like “please respond if you are planning on participating” – that would give me the message that it’s opt-in rather than assumed I’ll show up.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Or add, no need to RSVP, you can decide last minute if you want to join us.
        That way you signal it is optional?

    2. Littorally*

      I think it depends a lot more on your office culture than on the specific wording you use. In the cultures I’ve been in, where optional activities are truly optional, language like “For anyone who’d like to join in, we’re offering a [Fun Event]!” seems standard.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        This sounds similar to what I would expect. I’ve also seen things like “if you are feeling the need for a break/distraction/celebration, we’re having [event]! Please RSVP to let us know if you’re interested in attending.”

      2. Student Affairs Sally*

        My boss likes to say things like “if you’re available and your bandwidth allows” for optional things, and I find that language helpful – especially now when I might be disinclined to do something I would normally be enthusiastic about due to burnout.

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          This is great, and I think I’ll adopt something like this.

          Our office culture in the past has leaned towards mandatory forced fun, and things that should have been lowkey became An Event. I’m hoping that Covid will actually be a nice excuse to help us break out of that mentality while still providing some optional end-of-year camaraderie.

    3. Malarkey01*

      I use “for anyone interested” on emails for optional things. To my ear that’s an opt-in phrase versus an opt-out which can help signal that there’s no expectation for attending.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Are you the boss? Or the boss’ admin? If so, it doesn’t matter what you say the appearance of mandatory will be there.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I think this depends on culture. If my boss or his admin send me things, I opt out if I can’t go. I missed our end of year lunch a couple years ago and he didn’t even mention it.

    5. Uranus Wars*

      I think you’re right an overemphasis is going to seem the opposite. I like any of the other suggestions already listed “If you’re interested in some fun and have time to attend, please RSVP here” is simple and easy.

    6. Girasol*

      Not overthinking. I don’t have any ideas but it’s unfair what a corner you’ve been backed into by all the companies that have “optional but you have to go” events.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Adding, if possible maybe you can indicate the start and end times for the event and say that people are welcome to drop by at any point and stay as long or as short as they wish.

  10. Bobina*

    People of AAM: A poll. Because my current workplace does things differently from my old workplace, and I’m curious what other people think.

    If a company has certain processes that employees must follow (think quality procedures), would you rather:
    A: the “how” of compliance is clearly specified with standard templates to use, well defined sub-processes to follow and clear guidelines/expectations of what is required explicitly laid out
    or
    B: the “how” of compliance is left to each department/individual, and people are free to use whatever tools/methods or information they like as long as a few key deliverables are provided

    1. Cats and Bats Rule*

      That is tough. I would start with Option B, with the caveat that if your key deliverable are not done or are insufficient, the process will change to Option A. You could do this for individual departments that are not getting with the program, or for the whole company if qualify isn’t improving across the board.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’d strongly prefer option B, since I have a history of thinking outside the box.

      What about a 3rd option, where a few key procedures are required, but the balance are open to be tailored to an individual or group’s strengths? Would that give you most of the best of both worlds, or undermine the effort entirely?

      1. Bobina*

        Interesting. I’m not sure that is inherently too different from B, but I can see how a…more flexible A might be useful. To be honest I feel like in the past, I’ve seen out of the box thinking with A but it just needs to be presented in the right way for people to be able to accept it (eg a totally wild idea, but as long as the numbers in the PPT stack up, thats all good!) . And also have a good story as to why it works.

        But good point.

    3. Littorally*

      A, by a mile. The only element of B that should be pulled in is flexibility on a management level, where changes can be proposed and flowed upward to get the compliance approval.

      Doing stuff and finding out after the fact that it didn’t meet the compliance standard is a gigantic pain in the rear, way worse than having a defined workflow.

    4. Xenia*

      I’d go with A. If Management wants something very specific from these procedures, and from your description it sounds like they do, I would prefer very clear guidelines and sub processes so that what I produce would match what they want.

    5. Pink Dahlia*

      A, because you can’t trust people to carry out proper safety/QA/QC/legal procedures unless it directly affects their job.

    6. Zephy*

      Well, does the “how” actually matter, or do only the deliverables matter? If the deliverables are the important thing, but certain details have to show something specific (think something like timestamps, chain-of-custody handoffs, etc), then the “how” does also matter.

      I’m pretty firmly on the side of option A, because if you have that framework in place and everyone follows it, the process should produce the deliverables on time and to spec every time – and if it doesn’t, revise your process. You should probably make time every year or so to look at the process and see if anything does need to be changed, either to comply with new regulations or because there’s now an easier way to do X or Y. But if you allow individuals or departments to just “figure it out,” you run the risk of (1) a game-of-telephone-style training process for any new hires in those departments, and (2) people finding shortcuts that cut out a key part of the process because they don’t have the full context of how and why a thing is done a certain way.

      1. Bobina*

        Good question. In a way, I feel like in theory the “how” doesnt technically matter – but a consequence of the freedom in B is lots of different versions of the same thing with little consistency and lots of re-inventing the wheel (in the scenario that prompted me to post this question).

    7. LKW*

      A assuming that you need to manage how compliant people are. Questions that might help get to an answer are: What gets measured? How is it measured? How will it be measured if it’s inconsistently applied / implemented across groups?

      If the outcome of the procedure is a verification – how are you assured that the verification for one process is consistent with the same process in another department? If the results are reviewed by someone outside of the company, from the appropriate regulatory body, will they want to interpret the two ways of working or do they want to see a single definition of “compliant” ? I want to be able to show consistency of the definition of “Quality” and “Compliance” and I want to be able to measure things as consistently as possible so that I can determine where improvement is needed.

      If the outcomes are more quantitative – I complete this task within x days, then it’s a lot more work if I have to take various databases, forms, spreadsheets whatever and compile, adjust and normalize to get to an answer.

      1. Bobina*

        Agree with all this. Its interesting because one of the rationale’s for B I’ve seen is that it allows flexibility at a department level, but I often wonder what happens if/when the company as a whole is audited and there is inherently more work because of a lack of consistency.

        1. Elle*

          Internal auditor here to confirm that going with option B makes my life miserable and that means I’ll be disrupting the lives of everyone in the department significantly more. Not because I’m vindictive, but because going with option B requires me to understand every individual process, the rationale, the risks, the people who use it, and the ways it does (or does not) adhere to overall company policy. And that takes more time and requires more meetings.

          Also, individuals and departments usually don’t have the audit training required to understand if something is compliant or clean, so they may incorporate hidden risks into processes that result in an audit observation, which (depending on severity) can mean people risk losing pride, bonuses, promotions, an entire job, etc. And I hate doing that. So if everyone could just run their processes by internal audit or compliance or legal when they create them, that would be cool.

    8. Emilitron*

      I’m on a team/organization that’s very B for internal-only activities but the “few key deliverables” can be much higher if it may ever leave the org. The communication around that is terrible.
      Things are presented as “B, plus extras if…” but I think it would be clearer presented as “A, unless your task opts out”

    9. Mr. Cajun2core*

      B. But if “B” is chosen, if people don’t do it the way other people do it, then there should be absolutely no retribution.

    10. AnonyWorker*

      I’ve seen both in my current role over the years.

      We started with option A until that created needless complexity and confusion in a couple of sub-processes (proven with data, not just complaints of “too much red tape”). Our compliance director gave those groups freer reign since they could demonstrate they took key deliverables seriously.

      Basically it’s been our compliance dept’s call to figure out how much bandwidth they wanted to devote to making sure option B’ers adhere to the rules.

    11. Mockingjay*

      Quality procedures require A. The hallmark of quality is repeatable process, done the same way each time, measured against a standard. Quality is independent of people; no matter who performs the process, the same metrics and outcomes always apply.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        You can carry that logic too far. A didn’t come into existence ex nihilo; at some point, A was an improvement over Z. Being married to A forever precludes improvements that can come from the freedom B provides.

        I’d much prefer a rigid set of standards to figure out how to meet than a rigid set of motions to go through.

        1. nona*

          That’s not the logic. Quality procedures usually exist within a quality system, yes? “A” doesn’t mean you keep the template for ever, it means you *have* a template that everyone uses. And yes, the template/procedure can be updated as needed over time (with careful consideration).

          Being hide-bound to a specific version of a template is not the same as making sure everyone uses the template.

    12. JustaTech*

      A.
      If it truly is a quality deliverable then there can only be one way, annoying as that is.
      But I work in a regulated industry where doing Quality however you want kills people.

      So I would ask: what are the consequences of doing this every possible way, including not at all? Makes life harder for someone in the company? Gets you a phone call from the IRS? You could lose your license? Someone dies?
      The more serious the consequences, the more structured your compliance needs to be.

      1. Bobina*

        What fascinates me about my current set-up is that broadly speaking, everything is regulated, so many parts of the business follow A. And yet internally, for things which I would argue should also follow A – the powers that be have decided to take a very hands-off approach, and basically do B.

        At the very least, I find it wildly inefficient, but I’m not in charge so…

        1. JustaTech*

          In biotech we have stuff that is more regulated and stuff that is less regulated.
          So anything that touches our manufacturing process (and validation, QA, QC) is all under GMP and regulated to heck and gone.
          But over in Development and Support, it’s Good Laboratory Practices, which are much less strict, because the consequences are less. So there’s more flexibility in my document types, or if I can use expired materials, or if I can change the process (as long as I document it).

          I imagine your PTB will take approach B until it bites them.

          (I often say in a sing-song voice that we have “regulations for a reason”, and that reason is someone died.)

    13. I'm that guy*

      A. I’m actually in a meeting about compliance right now. We work with other departments and we need to all be on the same page so that it flows from group to group in an understandable fashion. Consistency is needed for when there are audits.

    14. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      A, with caveats, because processes tend to save time compared to trying to come up with individualize systems that don’t understand the whole context. And it frees up time/energy/brainpower for dynamic work, like strategy development, relationship management, etc. Importantly, it ensures documentation and knowledge can be passed on.

      My caveats: The processes should grow and evolve to meet changing needs and to consider more effective ways of doings things. If they become too calcified, then they can get in the way as things change. And if a process doesn’t work for one department, figure out why and come up with a solution together.

      1. Bobina*

        I like your arguments for A, that it frees up time for more “creative” thinking. That’s certainly how I would see it, and I definitely think we suffer from lack of consistent documentation and knowledge.

        Your caveats are also very sensible and I would hope people are smart enough to figure out when something isnt working, but I know thats sometimes easier said than done!

    15. GothicBee*

      I feel like this would depend on the context. If the only thing that matters are the deliverables and any missed steps that could cause problems would be immediately obvious, I’d go option B. But if it’s possible something could be easily missed along the way and not caught until it’s too late and causes a lot of headaches, option A because it has a better chance of keeping everyone on the same page.

    16. The Disenchanted Forest*

      I recommend thinking about a few things:

      – what are the risks if departments use their own processes?

      – are there any legal considerations? To what degree must people comply? What happens if they don’t?

      – is there any value for allowing departments flexibility in how they adhere to the policy?

      – to what degree are people currently in compliance with the process? In other words, if this isn’t a new process and people are already within acceptable compliance standards, does the process really need to change?

      1. The Disenchanted Forest*

        Oh and also: do you have a way to revisit the decision? How do you measure impact after the process is implemented?

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

      A.

      B is the way to anarchy; can deliverables really be accurately measured and compared if the llama dept is measuring output/deliverables of fleece in butts, using a banana for scale, and the sheep dept is measuring pounds of fleece using a grain of rice for scale? If the company wants to make sure each department is meeting their fleece deliverable, how do they interpret these results? What if it only appears like llamas are producing more fleece because they use a different scale. Or what if, all things being standardized, it turns out the llamas were better producers because the sheep spent so much time picking grains of rice off the floor and now that the sheep are conforming to the same process as llamas, it turns out they are the better producers.

    18. Bob Howard*

      Option A, but only as long as there is a genuine review cycle and means for anyone to raise Document Change Requests, so that the chocolate teapot department can say “The chocolate type check-box needs a milk chocolate option”.

      However, do not estimate the difficulty of option A in any medium to large organisation. People will resent the central control and claim it does not cover important cases & procedures. It will need internal auditing for it to happen. Getting agreement on new procedures & standards when there are many stakeholders is like hearding cats, and the ability for different people to read the same words and put completely different interpretations on them is amazing. Hence the siren song of your option B.

    19. A all the way*

      A. My last company did B and then determined that things needed to be “standard” because of SOC2 compliance. All these groups then had to agree to determine what standard is. And I know we had at least one manager who “regardless of what is agreed, she likes her Excel file and will require that to be done as well.”

      It also makes it easier going from one department to another.

    20. Generic Name*

      My company does a combination of both. We have a few set requirements and for the groups that want to make their own tools and processes, they can, as long as they comply with the overall requirements. We also have a general set of tools and processes for everyone to use. In the past, we had one set of tools and processes, and then people started complaining that they didn’t work for their group, so then when we tried to work with all the different groups to come up with customized processes, many never followed through (even the ones who had been complaining). So we finally said, “here are the generic tools for everyone to use to comply with this process. If these tools don’t work for your group, we will work with you to make new tools.”

    21. LQ*

      I think A tends to be better unless you have areas tht have high compliance already. If it’s brand new compliance stuff implement it as A. But if you have something you’re consolidating and you suddenly force an area that has been doing their tools and method and performing well into using a new process you can get a lot of pushback on that and end up with a serious drop in compliance.

      We’ve had some of A comes into areas that are already performing well and then the templates change a lot and it’s brutal on the compliance. People who have been doing well drop sharply and spend all their time complaining about templates, which sometimes change in response, but the real problem is generally, “I was doing a good job why on earth do I have to change because Other Horrible Department can’t get it’s act together, why am I being punished for doing my actual job?” In those cases you kind of have to get everyone on board with believing the current thing they are doing isn’t working.

    22. Kw10*

      A, as long as there’s some degree of flexibility. (Flexibility meaning not just “if I don’t feel like following this I don’t have to,” but more like “if there’s a real reason why this procedure doesn’t work for your department, we can discuss approving an exception or a revised template”).

      My current job was very much in the B camp when I started. I was supposed to help ensure compliance in certain departments and the general sentiment was basically “how are we supposed to implement this when it’s not documented? No one can tell us specifically what we’re supposed to follow, but then we get criticized for not following it.” We’ve slowly been shifting to more like A: basically there are standard procedures and templates that can then be customized for each department, with approval. It’s going much better the new way!

    23. RagingADHD*

      A.

      Your question posits that there are mandatory quality procedures. Not deliverables. Procedures.

      If the procedure is mandatory, then of course it needs to be fully documented, and employees should be given checklists, templates and other tools in order to follow it correctly.

      If the procedure is not mandatory, but the result needs to meet very specific standards, then the standards need to be fully documented and specified.

      Don’t make them guess. Be clear.

      Starting with – is the process mandatory or not?

      1. Bobina*

        Oooh. See, you are very close to my scenario and yet we don’t have mandatory templates etc and people end up guessing all. the. time.

        The checklists we have basically say things like: “ensure you follow good practice” when there is no common standard internally for good practice. It says things like “document high level requirements” with no guidelines as to how (word, excel, pdf, etc) , where they should be stored and who should sign off.

        But yes. We have a mandatory process with very little supporting framework/material.

    24. Chaordic One*

      While my preference would be to follow “B” and focus on the deliverables, my job demands “A” and, personally, I feel that waste a lot time by asking our customers to verify information that (isn’t particularly relevant to the issue at hand, and that) they either forgot and don’t remember, or never knew in the first place.

      So I have to ask all sorts of extra questions to verify their identity and that they are entitled to the information they seek, and that I’m not violating any privacy provisions, and that I don’t accidentally give it to someone who shouldn’t have it. And if I can’t verify them, they get mad and I apologize. I hope to keep this job for at least a bit longer, although I’ve gotten a bunch of reviews where they say my phone calls are taking too long and I’m not being productive. (Rolls eyes.)

  11. Former Usher*

    An update to my update last week when I wrote that “I call my current manager and let him know I’m resigning. ‘I’m sorry to hear that, because we just got approval for your promotion.’”

    The next day I heard back from my manager that he and his manager were willing to discuss options with me. I thought about it over the weekend and wasn’t sure that more money was going to fix things at this point, so this week I called again to confirm my resignation.

    My manager admitted that he had been thinking of quitting, too. That might explain the lack of effort in, well, managing. At his manager’s request, I have meeting with a couple of people with week to discuss if they even need to fill my position, or if they can rely on consultants.

    What a sad, weird finish to what had probably been my favorite job.

      1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

        What Teekanne aus Schokolade said…also will had if management is considering backfilling roles with consultants, then that is very telling. Not that you need a stranger’s support, but 100% agree with your decision to leave your current employer!

    1. learnedthehardway*

      You made the right decision, for sure. The fact that your manager said that the company was “willing to discuss options” – well, that right there means there was no real promotion on the table. They were just going to see what it would take to keep you on, and I guarantee you nothing in your mandate would have substantially changed. You might have gotten some more money, but that’s it, and they’d have known (and kept in mind) that you were already halfway out the door.

    2. juneybug*

      Thank you for the update.
      That’s so sad that your previous manager wasn’t your champion. I hope your new boss is supportive and helps your career move forward (as well as help your paychecks increase).
      Good luck!

  12. HatBeing*

    Anybody getting any work done today? I’m having a hard time focusing on the strategic, long term planning and support I’m supposed to be thinking about!

    1. Brunch with Sylvia*

      Ha! Not one bit and just had an exchange with a great-great grand boss who admitted as much for her as well!

    2. Snailing*

      Every day this week honestly… :( I’m in the US and won’t get into what my politics are (seems derailing), but I think it’s just been a very tiring week for everyone here, no matter which way we lean. I’ve taken some extra time to join some yoga classes and such but then I also feel guilty for slacking more than usual. Can’t win!

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’m in the same boat, just not as visibly as I have too many meetings that I have to attend, not run, today.

    4. Blackcat*

      I have done approximately 2 hours of good work THIS ENTIRE WEEK.

      I am tired. And unproductive. And you are lot alone.

    5. Pink Dahlia*

      I am a distracted mess this week, while my boss is a nose-to-the-grindstone Puritan all the time. It’s impossible to talk with her about this sort of thing.

    6. knitter*

      Today is the longest streak I’ve had child care (3 days), so I’m on a roll. Most of it is motivated by realizing I’ve dropped the ball on something…

      I have a love/hate relationship with strategic planning–It’s always. nice to have the time to think through it…I just always get the best ideas right before the plan is due.

    7. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Not just you! I had a 1 hour call scheduled with a colleague, we took an hour and a half and were on topic for only about 15 minutes.

    8. Picard*

      Nope.

      well ok yeah some, but Im only working on low level stuff this week. I was a trained poll observer Tuesday for 15+ hours so you know I’m into this.

      Go PA, go GA.

    9. PlantProf*

      I’ve done the bare minimum all week. I taught classes because I didn’t really have a choice on that, and I’ve managed to squeeze in a little bit of planning and grading, but mostly I haven’t been focused. Same is true for everyone around here, both faculty and students, so it’s definitely not just you!

    10. Dave*

      I have been focusing on the phone calls, smaller cross off to do items, or general organization today. Between politics and the weather my focus is shot.

    11. Mockingjay*

      Last month has been terrible as far as focusing. Project is very slow and behind; I am waiting for things to come in. Project Lead is a snit with everyone because the Powers That Be are finally demanding answers as to why project is so far behind (years, not months).

      My supervisor (I’m assigned to a project but report to her, not PL) suggested doing an online cert; the one she wants me to do is laughably easy and I’m bored out of my mind to the point I can’t get through it.

      I know, first world problems, but I really like being kept busy on multiple demanding assignments. I work so much better when I have to laser-focus. Right now I am dragging meagre assignments that normally take an hour into d.a.y.s.

    12. Donkey Hotey*

      You mean besides hitting “refresh” on 538? Nope.
      Thankfully, my one deliverable is on someone else’s desk and until that changes, I have no other obligations unless somehow a tech-writer emergency manifests itself.

    13. JustaTech*

      Not really. Partly because I don’t have much to do and partly because I am just in a mood. It’s not directly election stuff, it’s more COVID/family stuff where I’m upset and feel backed into a corner and really just want to have a solid argument with someone, but I can’t because family.

      The chances of me managing to get stuck in on some scientific papers today is … slim.

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Just finished up a wild ride of a deadline to find that….the project manager has not set up anything with the external customer about getting a mountain of project deliverables reviewed before they go to the next stage. So yeee ha, I have a gap. There is plenty of small stuff to fill it. And I’m not going into OT this week. I promised myself.

    15. Cj*

      Yeah, the election has worn me out. And then I came into work today to find out that a retired partner died yesterday on his 65th birthday. It’s sad and quiet in my office today.

    16. Okumura Haru*

      Kinda?

      I’ve been avoiding my usual news sources (NPR/WaPo/Guardian), knowing that obsessing over updates will only increase my already pretty high stress levels.

      It’s been slow here, but focusing on work has helped keep my mind away from everything else.

    17. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I literally came to this thread to ask something similar and scanned the comments to see if someone beat me to it.

      You are definitely not alone. I was pretty good most of the week because it was consumed with p, but today is a lost cause. I have some similar strategic long term planning I am supposed to be working on with my quieter day today and, well …

    18. Coenobita*

      Oof, I feel ya. We are also supposed to be doing Big Strategic Planning Things and that is not where my brain’s at.

      In my case, I’m a pollworker and every election, I feel like it takes me longer and longer to recover afterwards (I’m the chief pollworker in my precinct so elections for me are 16+ hour days of high-stakes decision making). I still feel kinda wiped out & foggy from Tuesday – guess I’m getting old! :)

    19. Oxford Comma*

      I cannot focus. I just keep refreshing to see if there’s been any news updates. Trying to do some tasks that don’t require a lot of attention right now because otherwise I’d feel guilty.

    20. Anax*

      I’m actually feeling much better since Tuesday; even though the election here in the US isn’t decided, it’s been much easier for me to put that particular burden of stress down and get some work done. Still not at 100%, but it’s not quite so much like pulling teeth.

      (Which is definitely good, because I realized something was broken on Wednesday, and needed to pull a few hours of overtime to try to fix it, and it’s still not resolved, ugh.

      I inherited some old, dreadful Microsoft Access databases doing complex data manipulations, and one appears to have given up the ghost after the most recent round of Microsoft Office updates – it’s just locking up. I don’t have time to replace it right now, and I probably don’t have time to fix it, but it’s time-sensitive and I’ll be asking a coworker to do all this manually if I can’t get it running, which I suspect will take several hours. :\ I feel guilty, but there’s very little I can do – I’ve already spent two days and three hours of overtime on this, and I have about five or six other projects which are higher priority and need to be focused on, per my manager.)

      Did a small presentation today, weekly team meeting, an hour-long in-depth discussion of project requirements, and some mandatory training. One more hour-long in-depth meeting to go, and ideally I’ll get some more work done elsewhere, too… I feel bad that everything’s slid while I’ve been so distracted and stressed, but I’m trying not to burn myself out as I try to catch up, especially because I’m not sure my “feeling better” will last through the next disaster, whatever it turns out to be.

    21. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I have attended my previously scheduled meetings, but otherwise haven’t done anything since Tuesday morning. I’m hoping I’ll magically find some reservoir of energy and attention come Monday…

    22. A Poster Has No Name*

      Hell, no I’ve gotten virtually nothing done this week. Should have taken more days off than just Tuesday.

  13. SunLark*

    Advice for managing someone in an area you don’t know anything about?

    I’m a new-ish manager and have been moved into a recently created position that will oversee a technical specialist. While I’ve interacted with this role before, some reading up and early conversations with my new report are telling me that the job duties are much larger and more technical than I had known – I have little or no grounding in probably 80% of what this person does! They’re relatively senior and independent, so I’m not worried about any crash and burn scenarios, but I have very little idea how to be helpful to them or evaluate their performance.

    Any advice from those who have been in this situation greatly appreciated!!

    1. Emilitron*

      I’ve been on both sides of this situation, in smaller ways or snapshot situations. I’d keep in mind that you’re not overseeing their technical content or evaluating the correctness of their math, you’re evaluating the way they interact with the teams/people who need their expertise. Are they prompt, clear, innovative, thorough, helpful? Are they defensive, condescending, pretending knowledge of topics outside their area?
      And I’d talk with them about what they need/expect from your managerial role. In technical project context, you’re co-leads, and you want to match your styles if possible, though different projects and customers need different kinds of support. When the customer complains, do they need you to have their back and defend, or are you mediating/compromising? Is it okay if they need to throw somebody (management) under the bus sometimes to maintain their tech credibility?

      1. Malarkey01*

        If they are a high performer and fairly independent, a lot of the managing can be helping to smooth the path, acquire their needed resources, and ensuring deliverables and schedules are met (this doesn’t need to be micromanaged but a general understanding of what projects they are working or what major things they want to accomplish this quarter and year).

        With more senior and independent people I also try to ensure we have documentation in place and that they aren’t building an environment where they are the “only” people who could figure out a project/system if they were suddenly promoted, won the lottery, hit by a bus. This also doesn’t need to be over emphasized but keeping in mind succession planning.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      While I’ve not been in quite that situation, I have witnessed it going wrong, so the first thing I would suggest is that when you start managing this person, make time to sit with them and get some sense of what exactly it is that they do, even if you don’t come away with a full understanding of it.

      Where my ex manager had no knowledge of what our finance person did, she tried assigning her something that it was impossible to fit in because she had no understanding of what was really involved and (this was an extreme case) it blew up to the point of both people quitting.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I have been the senior person who got a new manager who fundamentally did not understand what I did, and it was going off the rails within a month – fortunately I got my requested transfer the following month.

        Things NOT to do: assume you know better than the senior person what process(es) will work for them. Say you’re totally open to inputs but ignore what your senior person says when they try to explain why those new process(es) won’t work. Claim you ‘get it’ and thank them for teaching you, but retain absolutely nothing of what they said and repeat in the next meeting. Grow frustrated that they don’t blindly follow your input.

        Things TO do: Invite your new employee to give a recap of their career, work interests, etc, and to discuss/teach you about their area of expertise (while it didn’t always take, I appreciated that he initiated these conversations). Be supportive of the employee and help their work get visibility (BM was actually a great champion publicly, which I also appreciated). Make a point of soliciting feedback from others to get a better idea of your employee’s overall skills and reputation (this was done as part of our formal half-year review process, but very few managers do all the steps).

    3. AnonyWorker*

      Huh, are you my manager from my comment upthread? (prob not since my manager and his role have been around for awhile, but still)

      “They’re relatively senior and independent, so I’m not worried about any crash and burn scenarios”
      I wouldn’t rely too heavily on that – independent workers tend to work best given rough parameters so it’s not too much of a free for all. It’s been super demoralizing to me as a senior worker to not have my new boss understand what I do or give me projects/feedback to improve my skills. I’ve started to measure myself by industry standards but my boss doesn’t understand them or can show me how they apply to the organization.

      When I got moved under him, I appreciated that his first question was “how can I help you do your job”. I didn’t appreciate that he didn’t follow up or understand what I needed.

      Do you have access to their previous reviews? In my experience those have “future goals” sections written by both manager and employee that you could see if they were achieved.

    4. OldMtnLady*

      I’ve been the technical specialist in this situation, and what I appreciated most from my manager was her keeping people off my back so I could do my job. I had a niche skill set that was in high demand, and people had a habit of coming directly to me for help with their projects. It was such a relief to send them to BossLady, who would then ask me if I had the time to help without jeopardizing any deadlines. She was very good at saying no.

    5. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Seconding the suggestions above. I’ll add that you should work with your direct report to set goals and timelines for you both to measure/track progress.

      And it’s your role to look at the next level up: What do people higher in the management chain or downstream in the client chain need and want? How well is your team’s work aligning with and meeting those needs?

      Those are questions I would expect a manager to figure out and communicate back.

  14. Hello!*

    Hello everyone. So in good news, I received a promotion yesterday during a one-on-one meeting with my new boss! Since he started only a few weeks ago, I was going to let him direct the conversation surorunding compensation… but it never came up. The closest we got was I had mentioned that an area of improvement would be transparency surrounding the budget process and he responded that he is evaluating the budget and will be reviewing all salaries in the coming weeks to ensure we are paying at least the median for the area. Did I royally screw up by not bringing up compensation? What should I do?

    1. Virtual cheese*

      Yes my dude you should go back and say you haven’t discussed compensation and negotiate your salary. You didn’t “royally screw up” because it’s only been a day and you haven’t started the promotion without a raise yet I assume, but you should not wait for someone else to bring it up. You’re allowed to advocate for yourself and you’re allowed to address salary directly.

      1. Hello!*

        I mean, I’ve been doing the work of the new position for about 2 years now but former boss was a jerk. It hasn’t been officially announced yet, he will tell everyone during our staff meeting on Monday morning. So maybe I will bring it up after that.

        1. Picard*

          I would touch base before its announced publicly unless you’re willing to do the job without a pay raise.

        2. Blondee*

          I would bring it up ASAP. Once its announced, you lose all negotiating power. What is their incentive to pay you more for something you are already doing? Do you know compensation adjustment is even a part of it? In their mind it may just be a title adjustment.

          1. WellRed*

            I’m also concerned by your use of the word “maybe.” Does that mean you might not bring it up at all? If so, that’s something you need to ask yourself “why/”

        3. JustaTech*

          Go back. Do it now. Say “Hey, we didn’t get to a thing I wanted to talk about yesterday, can I have 15 minutes?” and then say “About this promotion, what will my new compensation be?”

          Repeat it in the mirror a dozen times if you need to.

          I’m telling you this because I did almost the exact same thing a couple of years ago, except I explained why I needed a promotion but chickened out of asking. So I went back the next day and said “I need a promotion and a raise and I’d like to do some managing when we hire new people.” And my boss said “anything else?” “Uh, no?” “OK, I’ll get the paperwork going.”

          You can do it!

    2. Hello!*

      Thanks everybody. It is just nerve wracking. When I asked the last boss for a raise and promotion, he instead proceeded to insult me and said my job was to be the dumpster for the projects no one else wants to do because everyone else’s time is more valuable. I really wish I was kidding and that wasn’t the direct quote. But there’s a reason that I am still here and he was fired in July.

      1. Artemesia*

        Today is literally your last chance for a raise. If it is announced on Monday you have no leverage. Do it now.

      2. Virtual cheese*

        I had a bad boss who wrecked my confidence at work for a long time. You have to re-learn norms about how you can expect to be treated (better than your last boss, who sounds like a jerk!)

        You need to advocate for yourself though. Nobody else is going to.

        Be direct. Look up Alison’s language on negotiating using the site search bar if you need to. I would not ever understand my employee meant “can we talk about my new salary” or “I want a raise” if they said “an area of improvement would be transparency surrounding the budget process.”

        1. Hello!*

          Oh just to be clear, that wasn’t me trying to bring up compensation. That was just me bringing up an issue area since literally the first time I saw our 2021 budget was at the board meeting.

      3. TechWorker*

        Your last boss sounds like a charmer. But they’ve already offered the promotion! So go for it. You can do it!

  15. Insert User Name Here*

    A cautionary tale for job seekers….

    I am one of the final-round interviewers for a role that we are hiring in another department (technical role at a large high tech company). A candidate was sent to me with strong endorsements – prior interviewers felt he was ‘the one’ and were mostly looking for a confirmation. Going into the interview, I had heard that the candidate may want to show me a slide presentation of his credentials – this was viewed as unusual/amusing, nothing more.

    During the interview, I was indeed shown the presentation – to my dismay not only did the presentation contain a summary of the points on the resume, it also included examples from his prior work. He showed me several slides with company logos, including organization charts, schedules, and views of internal status reports. He also showed the same presentation to other final round interviewers, and he confirmed it was the “real” information & hadn’t been generalized etc. All of what he showed was unnecessary, he could have easily conveyed the key points without breaking any kind of confidentiality.

    Confidential information is the lifeblood of our company, and guarding it closely is taken more seriously than any other facet of employee behavior. Although he was well qualified and we likely would have hired him otherwise, we decided to end his candidacy due to the mishandling of confidential information.
    This conclusion will likely also apply in case he applies for other roles.

    1. Rachel in NYC*

      positive- now you know he isn’t the “one”? and that some of the other interviewers maybe need a reminder on confidentiality practices…

    2. Xenia*

      Yikes! Is there any way you can contact his old company and give them a heads up? Someone less ethical than you might cause them some serious problems.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Wow, total yikes. But thank goodness you permitted him to do the presentation, otherwise you’d have had no idea.

    4. Sled dog mama*

      Well I guess I know what happened to that student who gave me a presentation about why he deserved an A in my (us) 11th grade class (it included his resume since the age of 6).

      On the confidential info, wow, that shows a huge disconnect in his understanding of the role and what was needed. I hope you at least told him how inappropriate it was to be using the real information. I’d be super tempted to call up his employer and let them know.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      Somewhat similar story — I worked for a famous company, with a famous, very protected brand and trade dress. We would have vendors USE OUR TRADEMARKS AND TRADE DRESS in creating presentations to market their companies and services to us.
      Don’t do that.

    6. Donkey Hotey*

      I believe the technical term here is YIKES!
      As a former classified documentation control person, stuff like this gives me hives.

    7. AM*

      At my company, interviews begin with a general statement that includes some jargon about not sharing any proprietary information (which is also included in the interview meeting notice).

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Same, and if the candidate somehow ignored this we would have immediately shut it down. We’re also obligated to inform our company IP/security people about the potential exposure (we would if the slideshow were sent to us, I’m not totally sure how it works if it’s just displayed but probably the same), and security would handle it directly with the company whose information was exposed. It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a big deal.

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

      I was ok until you said he included confidential information in the presentation.
      Yiiiiiikes.

  16. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I worked for years as an ESL teacher in various countries (licensed as a teacher K-12 in the states and a BA in TESOL Education). My question is, after getting an MBA from WGU though, I’m having trouble transitioning out of teaching… (I’m in Germany now). Any ideas of jobs abroad or online that would fit with these credentials? I do speak German, but not at a high enough level to conduct business. With Covid, most companies aren’t hiring internal language teachers so I’m thinking switching to HR? I did work as a corporate recruiter for a period of time. Thanks!

    1. A Teacher*

      Have you done much teaching of adults or college-age students, especially in ESP or EAP or even IELTS? I’m in ESL too and a few of my former colleagues have transitioned to technical writing by emphasising their writing and language skills in addition to the communication skills necessary to teach grammar as well as other concepts through English.

      1. A Teacher*

        And, I mean, even teaching kids and teens uses those skills, I’d think. Didn’t mean to imply that you had to have been teaching adults.

      2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Hi, I should have specified, though I’m licensed K-12, more than half of my experience has been teaching within companies and at trade schools, from apprentices to C-level execs.

    2. peachy*

      Perhaps look into some kind of translation/localization project management position? I could see your combo of language experience, MBA, and experience working with diverse stakeholders being assets for that. I worked with a couple of people who had these kinds of roles when I was doing UX content strategy, and it seemed like an interesting job that I never knew existed before.

      1. Mameshiba*

        I have done something similar, basically transitioning into roles that require knowledge of the local culture and regulations. Global HR usually doesn’t require you getting too into-the-weeds of each country’s payroll rules and so on, but some companies will train you in it to have an English-speaking payroll expert.

        I also know people who have done project management, international sales/event planning, and programming (self taught/boot camp; English-speaking programmers are highly desired).

        I know others who have triangulated to various international relations positions, for example, Duesseldorf has many Japanese companies with workers sent from Japan who may speak English better than German. I imagine there are all sorts of secondary roles supporting that (relocation services, helping people get settled, working as liaison in various departments, etc). Similarly when we brought our German speaker to the Belgian embassy and French speaker to the West Africa festival, that was the closest we could get.

  17. PersistentCat*

    With remote work…does any one have recommendations as to how to get the “body double” effect to help stay on task when you need to be watching training modules and the like? Body doubling: using the pressure of other people being around you who are also working to stay working/on task. A technique I used for many many years for my undiagnosed ADHD that I found out is a legit strategy (plus I know it works for me)

    Thanks!

    1. Taura*

      Maybe a mirror next to you, so out of the corner of your eye it feels like there’s someone at the next desk? Or something that works for me (for chores, anyway) is finding a youtube video of someone doing the same chore and then I have less of a hurdle to clear to get up and do it, since it feels like someone is doing it “with” me. I know there’s all kinds of “ambient coffee shop noise” videos, you might be able to find an “office noise” one.

      1. PersistentCat*

        Hey, that’s a fantastic idea! I personally can’t use the mirror or I’d be making faces at it all day, but the sound effects is definitely an avenue I’m going to try today! Create the ambiance of work to stay working; love it! Thank you so much.

      2. Elizabeth I*

        I really like the site mynoise dot net for background noise while working. They have lots of sound options, including coffee shop/cafe sounds.

        But the BEST part is that each sound option has all these cool “sliders” where you can customize the sound mix to be perfect for you – like for the coffee shop option, you can increase the volume of the background chatter, while decreasing the sound of clattering dishes, etc. It’s really cool – and free!!

        There are tons of sound options besides coffee shop – I really love the Gregorian chant one, personally.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Someone here pointed me to noises dot online and I made a custom loop for concentration days. Coffeeshop & waves & wind and it’s like being in a dockside cafe. I do want to find a way to add sail boat clinks though. ;)

    2. Sylvan*

      Someone here – I wish I remembered who – recommended Focusmate. It connects you with someone for 50 minutes, you tell each other what you’re going to do, and then you silently work together. It feels like having someone in a cube across from yours.

      1. Sylvan*

        There are also “study with me” and “work with me” YouTube videos that have a little bit of the same effect. Look for ones with “real time” in the title.

    3. Nanc*

      I find standing when I’m working from home helps. Maybe not for the whole day but I start my day standing at the computer, especially if it’s something where I’m doing a passive rather than active task (like watching training videos!). I have quite the collection of boxes and large books (yes, I’m still a dead tree reader) so I can adjust equipment as needed. I just got a Cubii so I may give that a try on my too-lazy-to-stand days.

      1. JustaTech*

        When I was at work with my standing desk I would do all my trainings standing (well, marching in place) to attempt to keep focus.
        I will fully admit to doing a lot of knitting during really dull recorded trainings (even at the office, but we’re pretty casual). Now that I’m WFH it’s the under-desk cycle and knitting/sewing.

  18. General Organa*

    Does anyone have some advice or reassurance to offer? I’m a finalist for a position at Org A and should know whether I have an offer next week. The role has amazing potential, but also some yellow flags. My ideal org would be Org B. They made me an offer for a temporary position a couple of years ago; I turned them down for a permanent role, which I don’t regret even though it made me sad to do so. Org B posted a role that I would love to have. I applied for it but didn’t hear anything, so reached out to HR once I became a finalist for Org A. I got an email from the relevant department head at Org B: “I understand from our HR folks that you are a finalist for another position and wanted to check on the status of your application with us. We are still reviewing applications and to be honest still in the relatively early stages, but I know from having interviewed you before that we are interested in yours. However, if the process with the other position is moving more quickly I don’t know if the timing for our decision-making is going to be compatible.”

    Any tips on how to improve this situation, or at least stay zen? My two nightmares are taking the role at Org A when I could have gotten Org B, or turning down Org A and then not getting Org B. Would love any thoughts. Thank you!

    1. Emilitron*

      A few questions to think about:
      From your last interactions with B, do you think their hiring process is going to be 2 weeks, or 6 months?
      For the context of your industry and the level of the job, would leaving after a 4-month stint at A be a terrible thing that only terrible people do?
      If that put you in A’s black books forever, do you care – how likely are you to be applying with A again 15 years from now (how big is your field)?
      Does A have enough clout that it would count against you across the entire industry, or would you just leave A off your resume and never mention it again?

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      You can’t improve the situation – asking Org A for ‘time to think’ isn’t going to get you enough time for Org B to make their decision. If you get the offer from A, you’re going to have to make up your mind between two unknowns.

      Staying zen: Long view? Worst case? Maybe think about whether it will hurt anything if you got to Org A for 2 – 3 years, keeping an eye on Org B job openings once you get to the 2 year mark. That way, you get to capitalize on some of that amazing potential, and Org B is still an option sometime in the future.

    3. Malarkey01*

      To be honest, org B seems a little lukewarm (not that you don’t have a chance but they are being really clear that it’s early and you’re in it but they anticipate more competition for the roll or a robust hiring). This is a good thing for them to do, and their being honest on the timeline is extremely helpful.

      Given the current job market, I personally would accept A without worrying what B is going to do as long as A is acceptable and something you’d enjoy.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, they seem pretty relaxed about how long they are taking. I’d be worried they use the same approach with issuing paychecks. “Ohh, we will get you your paycheck in a bit. But if you find another job, we don’t blame you. It’s okay we understand.” It sounds like their indecision or slow motion could be costing them good applicants.

  19. Andi*

    I need some advice about how to handle questions re why I left my last job. I had a health issue that required me to take some significant time off, and my bosses at first to allow me to take FMLA. I know, I know, it’s a federal law but that didn’t matter to them. They told me my health condition was “inconvenient” for them (their word) and implied that I would be fired if I took the time off that my doctor said was necessary to recover. The short story is that I hired an attorney and we had to threaten a lawsuit. I ended up taking some FMLA, but not as much as my doctor had recommended bc I was afraid of losing my job and health insurance. Ultimately I left the job and the company and I/my attorney came to an agreement and settled out of court. I was required to sign an NDA in this agreement. My question is, how to I address this with future employers? I didn’t do anything wrong and am not embarrassed about leaving, except that there’s now a gap in my resume that I need to explain. I’m restricted from explaining it bc of the NDA; how do I handle this? Also, my health issue was a TBI (traumatic brain injury). I’m fully recovered and don’t want to discuss the details with a potential employer bc I feel it might cause me to be seen as having some weakness. Addressing the TBI would explain why I took significant time off, but then it creates another issue of possible TMI. Advice? For those who answer this, THANK YOU. I’ve been very anxious about this and need some help navigating it.

    1. TCO*

      Can you just use a line that Alison recommends a lot here? “I took some time off to deal with a health/family issue that has since been resolved.” No one needs to know the details.

      1. Andi*

        That sounds like a good response. I’m wondering if that’s good enough and the conversation can stop there, or do hiring managers sometimes ask for details? What’s the best way to handle it if they pry? Thank you for responding.

        1. PollyQ*

          I can’t say that they won’t, but if they’re in the US, I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to, due to the ADA.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          If they ask, try “It’s resolved quite happily! I’m fully recovered and ready to X” where X is some vital part of the job.

          The key is to give a general answer and then move the conversation back to the job / company.

        3. Zephy*

          You don’t give them the opportunity to pry. You follow up “I needed some time to handle a health situation that has now been resolved” with something that turns the conversation back to the topic at hand, i.e., the job you’re interviewing for. Your personal, private health information is actually not their business, anyway, so if they do pry, you’re 100% within your rights to say “I’d rather not talk about it” and then turn the conversation back to the job, with the knowledge that this company may not be clear on what private health information is – might be a red flag, might not, but now you know that at least this person thinks it’s appropriate to ask job candidates questions about very private matters.

          If you’re interviewing for something similar to what you did before: “And now I’m ready to get back to painting teapots” or whatever.

          If you’re interviewing for a job that’s very different to what you did before: “And I decided that I wanted my next move to be into the llama grooming industry, because [reasons].” Maybe there’s a skill in that area you’re looking to develop that your previous role didn’t really let you flex very much, maybe you have more relevant experience from a job before your last that you could spin toward “I liked doing X and am looking for an opportunity to do more of it,” that kind of thing.

          1. Andi*

            This is really helpful, thank you for the details & examples. Very much appreciated. I realize I’m waiting for these hiring managers to try to make me feel badly about what happened and how I needed to take care of myself, and feel required to explain. Thanks for the reminders about turning the conversation back to the job.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Not everyone and not every time, but sometimes what we worry about in others is actually something we have not sorted out our own feelings about. Perhaps if you buoy up your own thoughts on what happened, it would be easier to see others just accepting an overview and moving on?

              This could be something as simple as finding an affirmation and using it over and over.
              You could tell yourself things like:
              I did what I needed to do.
              I needed that time because LOOK! I am better now!
              I invested in ME.

              It makes sense that you would feel bad about that situation, it sounds awful. I am sorry you went through all that. You had a whole bunch of negative and not much positive going on. And of course your former employer was a real jacka$$, but it’s easier to see that in OTHER people’s stories not our own stories. Remembered the lawyer and the court agreed with YOU.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Would it be possible to go with the “I needed some time to recover from an injury / health issue, which is fortunately now completely resolved” option?

      It may also be worth checking with a lawyer as to what the NDA covers – I would have thought that it would likely stop you from telling others that you were forced to resign as the working relationship broke down dur to your employers illegal behavior, rather than stopping you from saying you worked there, so presumably it’s the time you needed to recover which is the gap?

      1. Andi*

        Sorry if I wasn’t clear about the NDA. I can say I worked there and their HR department is allowed to confirm that; I’m not allowed to talk about why I resigned or what they did to cause me to leave. I’m not allowed to say they broke the law. Maybe I’ve been overthinking it but this isn’t something I’ve ever dealt with, and my anxiety about it is high. Also, just fyi, one of the managers who was bound by the NDA *did* already break it by having a back-door conversation with a company I applied with a while back. I can’t prove it bc he won’t admit it, but it’s these kinds of conversations that I worry will torpedo my efforts to find another position. Thanks for your reply; I really appreciate it.

        1. WellRed*

          I really do think you are overthinking this. As others have suggested You took time off for a health issue that’s resolved and are excited about working at new company because of X,Y and Z. As to back door conversations, I can’t imagine this manager will have the opportunity to do that frequently, but if it does, I suspect it will be easier to prove and if he’s going to violate it, time to bring on the lawyer for a cease and desist letter at the very least, possibly a payout and nullification of the NDA (IANAL).

          1. Andi*

            I tend to overthink things bc I want to be prepared for everything, but lol you’re right! And yes, if my former company was doing this then they would be liable…hadn’t thought about a nullification, though. That might be something to ask my attorney. Thank you for the advice!

    3. Haha Lala*

      Can you reach out to your attorney for advice on how to address it in interviews? Maybe shoot them an email telling them what you plan to say about leaving OldJob and make sure the language is accurate and not violating the NDA. That way in the interview you can be confident in what you say and not having the nagging worry that you might put yourself in legal trouble.

      1. Andi*

        I’ve been thinking about doing that anyway; it sounds like it couldn’t hurt and she might be able to give me some tips about how to handle. Thanks for replying.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is a really good idea.

        Usually settlements are used to buy a person’s silence. This happens in all kinds of settlements. I disagree with this and I hope I live to see the day where no one ever has to agree to silence to get their rightful settlement. I have seen some sad, sad videos of people saying they cannot talk about their settlement with a certain drug. Then the viewer sees a person who clearly has multiple serious problems and is left to assume the drug caused those problems. But the interviewee cannot talk about it. This is just so. very. wrong.

        I hope your attorney has some helpful inputs.

  20. Amber Rose*

    The wheels of the bus go round and round. I’ve been thrown under here so many times I’ve got actual bruises. :|

    I’m really tired of feeling like I have to back up literally every damn thing with massively detailed email chains because sales can’t get their act together and pin the blame on me for it every time. I’ve completely lost my composure and my ability to write emails that aren’t snappy and irritable sounding, which previously was almost my only skill. It’s killing me to suddenly be so awful at politics but I don’t know how to calm my anger after having to battle viciously to defend my every action for weeks now.

    My boss is on my side but she can’t prevent the battles from happening, she can only keep the knives from actually stabbing me in the back.

    I’m exhausted.

    1. Observer*

      It sounds like you need to start looking for a new job. If the place is that dysfunctional it’s not going to get better.

      It’s not you, it’s your employer.

    2. Dave*

      The CYA documentation lifestyle is really annoying The best way I have found with coping is while documenting everything I do right and following procedures to a T also saving times where someone else screwed up. This can be helpful if it is on a email chain where I would normally save a pdf of the email in a file for my reasons and that just happens to be on there. If they want to be petty it is hard not to be petty back.

    3. juneybug*

      I bet you are exhausted!! Could you take a few days off to re-group? It would be nice if you could walk in nature and let your mind think about what can and can’t change about your current job. Or call up a good friend and have the time to vent. Or take a long nap, let your brain rest, and decide your next steps – look for a new job, change some of your processes so Sales has to be justify their decisions/actions, etc.
      I wish you the best!!

    4. yams*

      Are you me? I literally keep a resignation letter updated because of how tired I’m of being thrown under the bus. At least your boss has your back, I feel like mine just throws me to the wolves with a stick (not even a pointy stick) and just tells me to not be so agressive in my emails with the sales team.

    5. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      If you’re working remotely right now this may not help but one way I found to help when my email responses got into angry passive-aggressive and aggressive-aggressive territory was to write what I wanted, go through again with a real willingness to fix it and then most importantly have a trusted colleague read it back over my shoulder. It was a helpful sniff test and typically there would be one thing that was over the line, they could pull me back before I hit send. After some time passed I get better at doing it without the extra help.

      1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

        None of the above is to suggest you aren’t in an unwinnable situation or that it’s OK, but it may help in the moment.

  21. Anxious Librarian*

    I work in a large public library. The building was designed 80+ years ago and has always had outrageous hot and cold spots. Yesterday, it hit 87 degrees in our wing of the building. I’ve spoken to our maintenance department and they acknowledge the problem, but either can’t or won’t solve it. To make the problem worse, we can open only one window a crack, and the rest not at all. Historically, our department, which works in the hottest part of the building, has had high sick rates during the winter, which I’ve always attributed to the heat.

    Next week, our library is re-opening to the public (it has been staff only for the past two months). Put this all together and I’m concerned about the threat of COVID, but can’t find any evidence between overheating and any increased risk. Our maintenance department insists that it won’t be an issue because all of the air being pumped in through the heating system is “100% outside air”; they say the only issue is that people will be uncomfortable, but it’s not dangerous. 

    Does anyone here have enough knowledge of COVID transmission and HVAC to know whether I should I buy this answer? I will acknowledge that my anxiety level is higher than others, and my compass is so thrown off at this point that I don’t know what to think anymore. (And regarding everyone in our department getting sick in the past, this year we have masks, whereas in years past we obviously didn’t.). Thanks.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Not personally, but there is a fair bit of research. I will link advise from the WHO in a reply, but my reading of it seems to be that high temps are not an issue (lower temp and humidity may hep the virus last longer in the air), the main risks are if the fans or system circulating air blows it directly from one person to another – the recommendation is to increase outside air, which it sounds like your system does, and to ensure that the systems are regularly cleaned and good quality HEPA rates filters used.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Links to information – first is the one the WHO is linking to, last one is the UK Health & Safety Executive which is an independent body

        https://ghhin.org/faq/do-air-conditioning-and-ventilation-systems-increase-the-risk-of-virus-transmission-if-so-how-can-this-be-managed/

        https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-ventilation-and-air-conditioning-in-public-spaces-and-buildings

        https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/equipment-and-machinery/air-conditioning-and-ventilation.htm

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        The heat might be an issue, if it is causing the air to be dry. It’s much easier for viruses to invade your respiratory tract if your membranes are dry, instead of moist.

        I worked somewhere with a broken forced-air heating system, the air was so dry I had to stop wearing my contacts because they would just fall out of my dry eyes while I was working.

    2. Rachel in NYC*

      I went on facebook just to get this information. https://dearpandemic.org is probably a good place to start (you could even send in your own questions.) I note that this website is intended for use by individuals and not institutions.

      They did answer a question about A/C over the summer (https://dearpandemic.org/is-it-unsafe-to-spend-time-in-places-with-air-conditioning/)

      And a more recent, generic one for the cold weather months (https://dearpandemic.org/reduce-risk-of-covid-transmission-indoors/)

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      I think it sounds more like the air is not circulating away from the hot spot. Meaning it is hot because it is basically recirculated air. That IS a risk for COVID-19. You don’t want the air blowing from others onto you and you don’t want a part of a building where the air does not move at all.

    4. HVAC person*

      If they are bringing in 100% outside air (which isn’t normal outside of lab, other specialty areas, and things like hallways in apartments buildings) I would ask them how is the air ventilated. You have to exhaust new air. Have them show your the ceiling grilles. Your maintenance people may actually know or they could be making stuff up; my experience is it can be a total toss up. It is way more fun to me to ask basic questions and see what they will offer as explanation.
      In theory 100% outside air is a best practice.
      I would also ask if the make up air unit has air conditioning. That could be why you are so hot. The outside air is often heated but it isn’t always conditioned. So if it is 80 degrees out, 80 degree air comes in side.

      1. Llellayena*

        Yep, where the air comes from (outside) is not as important as where and how often/quickly it goes. Air scrubbers can only clean air once the air reaches them. If it circulates past 40 other people before getting there, it doesn’t do all that much for reducing virus transmission. So lack of efficient circulation is what you’d need to check on.

    5. JustaTech*

      Oh man, that sucks.
      I’ve worked in some libraries of a similar age and even with a facilities team who was really invested in making sure our temperatures were even and comfortable (cool in the stacks, but not miserable), and had the money to do it, old buildings just often weren’t designed for effective HVAC. (Heck, mine was built such that the whole of the 7 stories of stacks was a chimney and huge fire hazard.)
      If you’re roasting and other people are freezing then you’re not getting efficient or effective movement of air, and that is potentially a problem. If your facilities folks can’t fix it (and they might not be able to without ripping everything out down to the bricks) then I’d suggest opening that one window and putting a fan in front of it, and maybe little fans at everyone’s desk.
      Bonus points if you can arrange fans to blow your over-heated air to the parts of the building that are cold.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Ironically, 80 years ago buildings were intentionally overheated to allow windows to be opened for airflow to prevent another Spanish Flu style outbreak.

    7. Anxious Librarian*

      Thanks, everyone. This is all really helpful and I appreciate it. It sounds like I have some questions to ask our facilities department. (Good luck on them actually answering them, but that’s another subject entirely.)

    8. Not So NewReader*

      There could be filters, these filters may have ratings as to what types of particles they remove. A while back I remember reading that malls here could not open unless they had Y filter with X rating. I’m not a technical person so I don’t remember the details.

      It also seems to me that your library should have a written plan to protect employees and patrons from Covid contact. I’d ask to see that written plan.

      Maybe you could get someone interested in hiring a cleaning company to come in. A library that I know of had professionals come in with a “disinfectant bomb”. It was done when no one was there. I have no idea how to find such a company or how much it cost.

  22. RJ*

    Anyone have suggestions/tips for applying for jobs postpartum? I’m going to be having my first kid next week, and I’m hoping to use my time off (about 12 weeks) to find a different job. Has anyone else gone through something similar?

    1. knitter*

      I was laid off when pregnant with my second and my job search continued after she was born. After having a baby, you will have very, very, very limited personal time. After my first, I used this time to shower and cook. I needed this time to help me feel human again. When I had to do applications after my second child, I maybe had an hour or two a day when my daughter slept that I felt coherent enough to write a cover letter. TBH, my husband helped with the logistics of the applications a lot–mainly the detailed stuff–making sure I had inputted info right, etc.

      I interviewed 5 days after my daughter was born. Interview logistics were really hard. My mom drove me to the interview, I fed my daughter in the parking lot, then I went in. But my daughter didn’t go to sleep this one time and cried the whole time I was interviewing…. maybe things will be different with virtual interviews…but it will still be hard. I ended up getting the job I interviewed for when my daughter was around a month old. I left her at the house and that was the longest time I had been away from her a that point…definitely a bit emotional.

      Obviously it’s doable, but it will likely be the one “you” thing you can do.

    2. Ann Perkins*

      Logistics are hard on this of course due to recovery and potential pumping/nursing. Give yourself at least a little time after the birth, a couple weeks or so, to focus on your own recovery and then reevaluate how feasible it is to dive in to job searching and how to approach it. If a partner is there to help with newborn baby duty, see if they can take dedicated chunks of time to be on baby duty so that you can focus. And get someone to doublecheck any resumes or cover letters you submit. Your mind will be all kinds of hazy and sleep deprived. It gets better but those first few months are not easy.

      Also, especially if you’re doing in person interviews, be prepared to need to buy one or two outfits for that. Your body is usually a little different after having birth even if you go back to your pre-pregnancy weight quickly, and you may find clothes fit you differently than they used to. A-line dress and blazer is a flattering choice, and pants with side zipper and a little stretch to them are clutch as well.

    3. HBJ*

      Make sure you’re aware of what your employer does about insurance. If you’re on FMLA and then you quit, your employer can typically claw back any premiums they paid during that FMLA time if they so choose. (This can vary by state.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If you’re going to breastfeed, double up on leak protection. And consider cashmere/wool instead of silk/poly. Milk letdown is unpredictable and would be hard to hid in a light shell.

    5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I don’t have any personal experience but I did think about doing this when I had my son in June, but then the world imploded so I’m sticking around.

      Things to think about:
      – Insurance/benefits – if you’ll be adding kiddo to your insurance that’s one more thing to evaluate. Also, you’ll likely hit your out of pocket max in your current insurance plan but then start over somewhere else so make sure you get any medical things done before you switch. Also also, you have to evaluate your comfort level with any gap in insurance for a few weeks/months until the new one kicks in – sometimes postpartum health issues can pop up even months later, and kids go to the doctor ALL THE TIME

      – is there a payback clause if you leave your employer within a certain length of time after returning from parental leave? Or any repercussions for not returning from leave? For example, I’ve seen policies that if an employee doesn’t come back from parental leave they have to pay back anything the company paid toward their health insurance.

      – My kiddo is 5 months old and has been home with me the whole time due to COVID, so my experience is unusual, but generally the first few months after maternity leave are crazy. You might have to take days off if kiddo is sick and can’t go to daycare, you might get sick from daycare germs, your brain and body will still be recovering at 12 weeks. Is this a time when you also want to be figuring out a new job and proving yourself, or would you feel more comfortable in a place where you’re a “known quantity” until you get your feet under you?

      I hope that doesn’t come across as discouraging! Just things to think through. And for some positivity, my office just hired a new director whose daughter is 7 months old – so it’s definitely possible to get hired right after having a baby!

  23. August*

    Any tips on how to deal with the emotional fallout of a dysfunctional workplace? I posted about my boss and coworkers here last week, and I’ve fully accepted that I need to stay in survival mode until I find a new job and get out.

    But frankly, these are the people I spend the majority of my time with right now (I live alone, and keep in touch with family and friends through calls/video), and sometimes I find it really hard sometimes to not get a little hurt and bewildered at how my coworkers treat me. It’s gotten to the point where I’m probably being a little paranoid — this week, there was a big team email with lots of reply all’s, and whenever I answered or asked a question, my coworkers seemed to go out of their way to reply only to each other’s responses? Which is so petty and insignificant that I’m pretty sure it’s just me being paranoid and oversensitive.

    I’ve upped my time speaking with friends, working on hobbies, etc. but I can’t help but spend time both in and outside of work with a little voice in the back of my head going “why?? I’m trying my best, why don’t they like me??” Which results in me being more hesitant to ask them questions, less confident in my work/decisions, and more inclined to be accommodating when they treat me badly. Overall: a bad time! Any coping strategies or advice would be appreciated.

    1. WellRed*

      You’re not actually spending time with these people though, or are you? I can’t tell if you are remote. It’s easy to misread and read into texts/messages/emails in a way that wouldn’t if you were in person. Not saying your workplace isn’t dysfunctional but I do think you might be reading into things that aren’t there. I think it’s wise to up your friends and family time. Are you getting out of your house at all? And are you setting clear boundaries between work and off work hours?

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I spent a long time with Alison’s advice to get out the popcorn and watch the drama like it is a show. Separate yourself mentally and think, look, there they go, look how hard they are working to avoid replying to me! haha.
      It took time for me to be able to do that but it has been very helpful.

      I wish you the best.

      1. knitter*

        Yeah, this is my strategy too. It took a while, but now anytime evil coworker does something…it’s no longer evil. Just funny. I try to puzzle out how whatever latest incident fits into her strategy of doing as little work as possible. Is she taking credit for someone else’s work (bonus points for quoting my work back at me)? Is she complaining about how difficult something is so that she isn’t held accountable for a future issue?

        It is hard being in it, but if you can take a step back and think “wow, I cannot believe that they are going to such great lengths-impressive” it does help.

        best wishes for a quick job search

    3. Donkey Hotey*

      Having suffered with something similar, I can offer what worked for me: Getting outside and putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe an audio book, maybe just listening to the leaves under your feet. That open, unstructured time with a wee bit of physical activity does a TON for carving a nice healthy line between work and everything else.
      In any case: best to you in getting through this.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I am going to dig into this a little bit. Let’s go with the idea that they are avoiding your emails, let’s pretend you find out that you are correct. Now what.

      Well, you are still doing your job. It’s not your job to make them answer emails, they are the ones who are not doing their jobs. It’s okay if you think my thought here is a bit “evil”, but I believe you can still hum along and do your job. If they do not co-operate with you, then you have something reportable. “I asked Marge for the xyz report two days ago and I still have not heard back, Boss. So that is why I do not have my report ready. I can get my report ready in x time frame once Marge gives me her info.” And then let the chips fall where they may for Marge or anyone else. Oh well. How sad.
      So for me, this works into a don’t-frig-with-me attitude. I am polite. I do my best work. But if someone wants to cross me then there will be fallout. I will not protect them from the boss’ inquiries. I will answer my boss truthfully. And if my work will be late I will not have any problem asking my boss to ask their boss for the material I need.
      What happens next is because I have an action plan, I better able to look at what is happening and I am better able to figure out if I have a real problem or not. I don’t like throwing anyone under the bus. There is only one thing that is worse, is if someone tries to set me up to fail. Then I will stand up for ME.

    5. Wordybird*

      I’m 40, and I’ve spent the last couple years as a recovering people-pleaser. You will experience such freedom in your life/mind/soul when you realize that it’s perfectly normal for people to not like you. You don’t like everyone, right? Why should everyone like you (general you)? In fact, you can be a very likeable person and there will still be people who don’t like you and/or even people who go out of their way to make it very clear that they don’t like you — and that is still no actual reflection on your likeability or worth as a person. Being liked or appreciated does not make you valuable; you are valuable because you are a human being. They can’t take your human-ness away from you so they can’t take away your worth/value, either.

      I know that can come across as a lot of touchy-feely goobledy-gook but realizing other people’s perceptions of me are mostly their perceptions of themselves reflected onto me (unless you are actually a puppy-kicker or non-turn-signal-user who deserves all the ire you receive) has made my life so much easier. I have one particular family member who literally looks for every opportunity to mock/ridicule/criticize me, and it’s certainly still irritating but it is no longer painful (most of the time) when I remind myself that she has already decided I’m This Kind of Person Who is Unlikeable and there’s literally nothing I can do to change that perception or judgement. What I can do, however, is continue to be myself, who is a Generally Likeable and Good Person, and not allow her insecurities and personal demons live rent-free in my head. Hurt people hurt people, KWIM?

  24. AndreaC*

    Our District Office sends an occasional email to my boss, copying me, to ask us to check with an employee about whether they filed for unemployment because there’s been an increase in fraudulent claims. At the beginning, my boss would be the one to take care of the task. He was in a meeting one day when one of these came in, so he asked me to handle it. Now he asks me to handle every one. But he does it by asking me at each instance. I want to just make it my job because I’m starting to get angry every time he emails me, “Please handle this.” but I don’t want it to look like I’m volunteering to take on this task. Any ideas for how to address this?

    1. Bagpuss*

      Could you speak to him and say “I’ve noticed that you’ve been passing me all of the unemployment checks to do – do, are you making this one of my regular duties now, in which case would it make sense for you to tell the District Office to send them to me directly, or are you planning to return to dealing with them directly yourself moving forward” you could even add “I’m not lookin to volunteer for the job, but f you want me to take it on it would be easier if the requests came to me direct”

    2. TheMonkey*

      If you want to make it part of your job, how is that different from volunteering to take it on?

      At your next 1:1, or the next time he asks you to do this, can you just say “Going forward, I can handled these without you needing to ask me. It’ll eliminate the extra step and still ensure the task gets done”

      1. AndreaC*

        I’d rather not make this a part of my job, but he seems to have assigned it to me but on a piecemeal basis that adds up to the whole. It mostly drives me crazy because a) the email is specifically addressed to him and b) he immediately responds to only me to ask me to handle it. I get that bosses delegate, but I also know he spends a lot of remote working watching Netflix, which he’s told me, so that adds to my annoyance.

        1. Bagpuss*

          If you don’t want to do it at all, or if he only ever asks you while there are other people who could equally well do it but whom he doesn’t ever ask, you could push back a bit – maybe by asking whether he could ask the others sometimes rather than always requesting that you do it, or by letting him know that you do have a lot of other things on your plate (if that’s true) and asking that if he is looking to add this to your duties that he asks District to send them direct and that you will try to deal as and when you have time .
          depending on your relationship with him you might even be able to mention that he’s commented about having time to watch netflix, and you tend to be very busy, so while you will of course do it if instructed, it would take some of the pressure off if her were able to deal with these himself. He may not appreciate how busy you are particularly if your job is affected in different ways but WFH than yours is.

        2. Just stoppin' by to chat*

          It sounds like you have reached “B**ch eating crackers” stage with your boss. Maybe admitting that to yourself will free you from the angry feelings when seeing those emails?

  25. Kuddel Daddeldu*

    Here’s one for the good news file: In spring, my company had to take measures like early retirement, furloughs, reduced hours, and salary cuts at all levels from the C-suite down. We also went to working from home almost exclusively and reinventing processes and equipment to make it possible.
    This helped us weather the storm unexpectedly well.
    Last week, the CEO announced that the company not only deeply appreciates the sacrifices everyone has made but will retroactively and fully reimburse us for the lost wages. This is most unexpected and obviously a great morale booster that not many companies can or will afford in these uncertain times.

  26. Sandwiches*

    So uh, I work for a large company that allows managers to nominate their employees for an award every week, which I think might come with a small cash prize.
    This week two of my teammates were nominated for that award. We’re so understaffed right now that they’re my only two teammates, meaning that I’m the only person in my dept who wasn’t nominated for an award this week. We don’t often get nominated for stuff, because my manager isn’t big on participating in company-wide initiatives like this, so I guess if there was anytime she’d do it, it would be this week (always one of our busiest times of year.) To nominate 2/3 employees just feels like favoritism to me? Am I blowing this out of proportion?

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Was there something specific for which they were nominated? A certain project, or something? If it’s just “they were working hard during a busy time of year,” it seems a little jerky to me to nominate only part of a team that’s all doing the same thing and all working hard.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      To be honest, I think you might be blowing it out of proportion, unless there’s context I’m missing. Is there a pattern of your manager giving your coworkers the better projects, more room for advancement, etc.? Is there a reasonable explanation for that pattern, like they consistently volunteer for extra responsibilities that help but are terrible or just perform better? Or is this an isolated incidence?

      I’m not trying to negate your experiences, since you may have reasons to feel this is favoritism. Based on what you’ve written, I don’t see signs of favoritism. And regardless of all that, it’s valid to feel a little bit miffed (and hopefully you can simultaneously feel happy for your teammates).

      I think it’s important to remember that it’s not *inherently* favoritism to treat employees differently, because we each have different strengths and weaknesses and perform at different levels. It becomes problematic if a manager is treating some better than others for reasons other than the quality, quantity, and consistency of their work (which includes interpersonal soft skills stuff).

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Ask her. “Uh boss, what can I be doing better so that I would get a nomination also?”

      But only ask in a calmer moment when you will actually be able to hear and absorb the answer. I mention this because the answer could be, “I am going in alphabetical order. You’re a Z so you were at the end of my list. Your on the list but not this week.” In other words, you could get some very basic and very unsatisfying answer. But ask anyway. It’s better than sitting there and wondering.

  27. Name goes here*

    Just need to vent – had an internal interview this week – that started 3 hours late. Got a generic “you were unsucesful” email. Only half of the questiosn were relvant to role. Happy Friday!

  28. JustaTech*

    TL;DR Is there a website that would let me have a cute visualization of our holiday toy drive?

    Weird technical question: Does anyone know of an already-existing website or something similar where my site could keep track of the donations we make for our holiday toy drive? Something like putting ornaments on a tree? We usually do a toy drive where we have some nice fake birch trees with tags, and then a box for the toy so everyone can see how many things have been donated. Since we can’t do that this year, I was hoping that there might be a website that would let us track that (just “I donated” on the honor system, not what or how much you donated). The organization we’re donating to doesn’t have anything like that (totally reasonable, their efforts are elsewhere).

    If we can’t find anything then our plan is to have people email our HR person when they make a donation and she will update a PowerPoint slide with ornaments on a tree and post that to our intranet. It’s doable, it just seems like a lot of work for her, especially if something like that already exists.

    I’ve looked and there are tons of places that will help you set up an online donation website, but nothing that is just a tracker and not money collection.
    Thanks!

    1. LKW*

      I think you could just create a dynamic dashboard in google sheets. As long as you give everyone access, they can enter information and it updates whatever graphic(s) you’ve defined.

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh, that’s a good idea! I’ll try to set that up (a distressing number of my coworkers think they’re technologically inept), or maybe there’s something similar in Teams or Sharepoint.

    2. Mill Miker*

      Is anyone still in your office, or have room for the traditional display somewhere? Setting that up and sharing a picture of it daily (or some kind of live stream?) might be less work day-to-day than messing around in powerpoint.

      1. JustaTech*

        We do still have people in the office; the lab teams come in on a regular basis because you can’t take a centrifuge home. Unfortunately the traditional display was the giant pile of toys, but the charity we’re working with has asked for deliveries directly from Amazon this year (sensibly!), so since most people aren’t coming in, and we’ve been asked to have the gifts shipped, it wouldn’t really look like anything.

    3. Skeeder Jones*

      If you are going by the honor system, you could use a wordcloud activity on PollEV and they can enter their name or the item they donated it. As people enter their information the word cloud will grow and change.

  29. Burnt Out Toast*

    Happy Friday everyone!

    Early last month, I finally put in my resignation at my workplace, which I felt was not a good fit for me (I was basically forced to support other areas of the business that were not even my industry or expertise). It felt like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders! Before that, I’ve also went on final interviews for 3 other companies, which I expected to result in offers that same week.

    The next few days, my boss wanted to discuss a promotion opportunity, in which they’ve completed revamped management and offered a significant pay increase and new job responsibilities that I would enjoy. During that discussion, I was asked about my experience working within the company, and finally felt heard and acknowledged when I told them my feedback, and they agreed that I will focus on what I was supposed to be doing. It felt good, and I’ve accepted the counteroffer a week later, on the basis that they would keep their promises on these “changes”.

    Well fast forward to now, I got my pay increase, change in job title… yet I’m still expected to perform the same duties that I was assured that I wouldn’t have to do anymore. When I would bring up that I’m going to work on what I’m supposed to be doing (based on what was discussed), they’d tell me that they really “need my help and support” for these specific areas of the business, and keep getting the runaround.

    I really regret ever agreeing to stay onboard with the counteroffer.. and felt like I made such a foolish decision to even believe that the same company that I was trying to run from would ever change.

    Now I’m not even sure what to do anymore, as I’ve rejected the other 3 job offers.
    Does anyone have an advice on how to cope?

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Argh, how frustrating! This is why I’m always leery of the idea of counteroffers. Do you have anything in writing about the job duties you were expecting to be able to dump?

      1. Burnt Out Toast*

        Yes, I have the email communications that outline my duties for the promotion! When I would bring up that I need to focus on these new duties, it’s just just like they are dragging it out and placing me onto projects for those other areas for *their* benefit.

    2. PollyQ*

      You could try reaching out to the companies that made the job offers. I wouldn’t give it a high chance for success, but it’s also not much effort. Other than that, I recommend you start up the job search again and treat this as a lesson learned.

    3. CatCat*

      Time to get the job search going again! You trusted your company to live up to their end of the deal to retain your and they are not. That sucks, but lesson learned that you cannot trust them. They have failed, not you! Sounds like you are a competitive candidate in the job market and re-booting the job search is the best path forward.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Yes, job search. If you do reapply to one of the 3 or reach out to them, you can say you accepted an internal position (not a counteroffer) but they have not actually moved you.

      2. WellRed*

        I agree. I cringed when I saw “counteroffer.” The good thing is, you know you can get hired elsewhere. Do it.

  30. Disappointed Today*

    I’m curious if others have had the same experience I have.

    When we all started working from home due to COVID, senior management started rethinking current office space, changing a planned expansion for one of our buildings, and considering the possibility of certain departments becoming permanently remote. My department was one that was slated to be 100% remote once the pandemic is over. Well, I just got word that the CEO is worried the company culture will suffer and now wants people to come in several days per week (after the pandemic is over, of course). She wants people to be able to see others, interact with them personally, things like that. Stay connected, in other words.

    Normally I roll with pretty much everything, but this is really disappointing: we’re all now used to working from home, it’s not necessary for our department to be on site, we’ve overcome all the WFH hurdles and are running like a well-oiled machine, we’re more productive due to lack of distractions from being in Cubicle Land, and the department’s comraderie and connectedness hasn’t suffered at all.

    We will, of course, do whatever the CEO wants us to do, but it’s still disappointing, especially since our department really is one that is independent from other areas of the company. Fear of losing the company’s culture, in my opinion, is kind of a weak reason for making people come to the office, especially when some of us have a long commute, young children who are still distance learning, and things like that. And I’ll add that this isn’t a matter of us thinking, “Ewwwwww, I don’t want to see and interact with people!” My senior person and I spoke to my boss and expressed how we feel, and she’s supportive, but ultimately it’s the CEO’s call.

    Has this happened to anyone else? How did you deal with it? Did you have any success in pushing back?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      My employer (Fortune 100 tech co) brought everyone in the US back to specific regional centers (ie, Atlanta, Colorado, San Jose), after encouraging WFH for over a decade. A lot of people had moved outside of commuting distance for these centers (ie, Charleston SC or Maine), and had the choice of ‘move or leave’. It had a disproportionate impact on older employees who had moved to cheaper retirement areas, so there’s this extra layer of resentment.

      I’m lucky, I’m young enough that I still wanted the good schools near one of the regional areas, so I didn’t have to move to keep my job. (And there are a lot of other reasons to stay with this company – they’re good on gender / racial / LGBTQx diversity and promotion; they pay well; they have lots of interesting career paths)

      Our managers accepted mixed weeks, where we’d be in the office about half the time. It was not totally bad – for once, I was seated near people whose jobs had some relation to mine. The informal casual conversations really do help if you’re in a good team and have overlap in responsibilities / tasks.

      As fast as things are changing, those informal conversations help bubble up ideas and increase flexibility. Slack and Zoom just don’t work the same way. So, ask your manager if you can make a regular WFH a couple days a week, and talk up how ‘organizational flexibility’ (ie, either office *or* home, depending on needs) will be a competitive advantage for hiring once this is over.

    2. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      This hasn’t happened to me, but I wanted to mention that you said you spoke to your boss about how you “feel”, but have you also noted to your boss what you said earlier, about how you are working really well from home, like a well-oiled machine, and are even more productive? If you or your boss could maybe show the CEO some numbers or something, that might carry more weight than your feelings.

      1. Disappointed Today*

        No, actually we didn’t say anything to her at all about feelings. We gave her all the reasons I listed her and she supports it. She was the first person to say that our department is one of the ones that’s ideal for WFH.

    3. Qwerty*

      You said she wants you to come in *after* the pandemic is over, right? Or did I misread that? If the pandemic is over, won’t the distance learning be done as well?

      If you took the job while it was in the office, than I don’t get why the commute is suddenly an imposition. The department started 100% in the office, became 100% remote, and now they want the future to be somewhere in between.

      The best way of pushing back on this is to focus on the benefits of being remote and probably compromise on the number of days in the office (maybe everyone picks the same 2 days so you can spend 3 at home?). Your CEO and top management may also be concerned about the future state of the team – maybe they are concerned about what will happen when they add someone new and need to train them or start having a problem employee. Also consider your location and payscale for the department – could being fully remote be a hardship for lower paid members of staff who can’t afford an in home office?

      1. Disappointed Today*

        Yes, after the pandemic. I didn’t mean to include distance learning in there since that would be over by then.

        We asked every team member and they all want to stay at home. Some work from their couch, others in their bedroom and a couple have an office. We’re completely paperless so really all we needs are our laptops and a place to sit.

    4. JustaTech*

      Yes, this is happening with me too, on a smaller scale.
      I work for a biotech, so our manufacturing plants have stayed on-line this whole time (no one’s gotten COVID from work, and they’re already wearing more PPE than a surgeon while they’re working anyway). All of the non-manufacturing and non-lab staff has been strict WFH (we have almost as many support people as manufacturing people because the thing we make requires a huge amount of logistics). My department is lab support, so we’ve been in when we needed to be in the lab and WFH otherwise.

      My director (3X boss) and his next-in-line (2X boss) have been coming in a ton since the summer. They don’t do lab work, but they do have their own offices, so they can de-mask for large parts of the day. (I also think they didn’t have great home office setups.)
      Since they started coming back it’s been a steady stream of lunches, bagels, and a general “but we miss seeing you!” that has been driving me wild. Yes, we have a mask mandate (that they are the worst about), but it means that the only place I can take off my mask is on the toilet, which is not a place for me to eat my lunch!
      So I asked the director point-blank what this was about, was it a ruling from the CEO or COO or what? “I’m worried about our cohesion.”
      OK, I get that, but having me resentfully sit at my computer at work when I can be equally productive sitting at my computer at home doesn’t help cohesion. (What would help cohesion is if like a fifth of our department and only our department hadn’t gotten laid off. Grr.)

      So far I’ve been able to push back on coming in for no reason, and I’ve put more effort into finding reasons to be in the lab so I can “show face”. (Best part? 3X boss and 2X boss don’t sit on the lab floor, so they don’t actually see us when we are in.)
      If the pressure intensifies my plan is to 1) coordinate with my coworkers because a lot of them used to commute by bus but aren’t comfortable with that now but there’s also no parking and 2) put on my Master’s of Public Health had and outline more definitive steps we would need to take to make being on-site safer (temperature checks, tracking apps, making 3X and 2X boss actually keep their masks on, god). Since the pressure isn’t coming from the CEO, and there’s a whole department in our building that is still 100% WFH, I’m hoping I can push back against it.

    5. Hillary*

      We’re planning to go hybrid when we get to the new normal – more WFH and more flexible than before, but probably not 100% remote for most roles. We already had experienced individual contributors who officed at home and traveled a lot. I could be one of them and be successful but I prefer going in.

      Personally, I’m glad most of our teams aren’t going 100% remote. It takes concerted effort to replicate learning by osmosis and maintain development opportunities in a remote environment, and I don’t think my company is ready for that. We may never be.

      Our customer service team members are very good at their jobs and are productive at home, but they’re not getting the exposure that will let them grow into sales or analysis roles.

    6. gentlejeff*

      I can totally see advantages of maintaining a physical base. If there is one thing I learned during this pandemic is that I prefer to work in the office, and I know I’m not the only one. Your current team may, by chance, be made up of people who thrive at home. But the decision to go remote permanently may limit your future pool of candidates. The CEO may have made a decision not to go that route. It’s also a lot harder to integrate new team members remotely than in person.

      Presumably, you took the office job knowing about the commute times and knowing you child care situation (pre-pandemic). Provided the kids won’t have to e-learn after the pandemic, I don’t see those as factors to go full remote, but more as general life reasons to be flexible with schedules where possible.

      I think the best route is to use the fact that your department has worked so well at home to make WFH arrangements for several days a week or whatever schedule makes sense after the world is back to normal. This flexibility can be beneficial to people with various work setting preferences and different life situations.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        This is where I think a lot of companies are going to end up – more flexible regarding remote work, but not going full remote/work from anywhere, and wanting to be able to bring employees into the office when needed. Some companies will realize that they can get rid of the expense of maintaining an office and go fully remote, or have work that’s particularly well suited to it – people who want 100% work from home will gravitate towards those jobs, and will choose their living situation with the expectation of having a suitable work area.

        The new teammate part is an important one – you and your coworkers are part of an existing team that moved remote after becoming experienced and smoothly working in person. A new member, who has never met any of you in person, might well find it hard to be integrated and trained. There’s also the issue of training entry level employees who are new to both the work and office culture in general, which may work better with regular in person contact.

        The arguments about commute and child-care are a bit of a red herring if you took the job knowing both. Besides, when the pandemic is over, kids won’t be remote learning, and companies will definitely go back to requiring childcare when you’re working. They’ll also be likely to go back to requiring that you have a quiet place to do meetings from. The argument about working better away from the cubicle farm is a more valid one one though.

    7. Rana*

      Just as companies have realized that there are benefits to having remote workers since we were all forced into this “experiment,” many workers have realized that they value the benefits of working from home. So I think it is a bit disingenuous to only fall back on “you knew about the commute beforehand so what’s the issue.” Not to mention that it has always been the case that many many people with a commute tolerate it but hardly enjoy it, and would jump at the chance to reduce it (by working from a different office, by moving, by working off-traffic hours, and yes, by working from home).

      Yes, I was previously commuting so the commute would not be a new thing for me, but I have really enjoyed having all of that time back. Now that I know I can work effectively from home and don’t really miss the office (I always thought I would hate a fully remote job because I am a very social person but actually I haven’t missed it), my thinking on how willing I am to do that commute has changed. Honestly, if my company forced me to come back 5 days a week to the office, I might think about looking for another job, even though that’s what I used to do. My thinking has changed, and that’s okay! It’s fine for my company to want me back but they also need to deal with the reality that this experience has changed people’s thinking, and it might be better for the company to retain those people by allowing WFH, especially if there is not a compelling reason to require them be in the office.

      1. Wordybird*

        I was looking for remote work pre-pandemic but WFH during the pandemic at my former job really sealed the deal for me in how much I enjoyed it and could be so much more productive and efficient. I was saving 90 minutes a day not having to drive my kids to school or drive to work, and being at home meant being able to prep dinner, do a load of laundry, etc. on my lunch break so I didn’t have to do all of those things after dinner, like I did pre-pandemic, when I was already tired from the day. Being able to run errands or go to doctor’s appointments without needing to arrange coverage or use up PTO has been incredible, too.

        I was hired onto my new position as a remote employee with a bunch of coworkers who were all local to one another (but not to me) but our company recently announced that they are closing down the office and transitioning into a fully remote company because of how much the organization has been able to accomplish WFH. They have already begun to roll out some new benefits for us as they want to reward everyone for a job well done + anticipate their savings once the office is fully shut down and are already passing that along to us.

        The relief I’ve felt with taking this new job and knowing I don’t have to transition back into working out of an office and can maintain my own schedule and deadlines is indescribable. I know that I would not go back to a traditional job or office ever again unless a company offered me a RIDICULOUS amount of money to do so.

  31. Nora*

    I have a third round interview next week that I feel very good about. I also happen to be on paid vacation in my current role next week. Currently thinking about how to proceed giving notice during a vacation period. If all works out, I really don’t want to come back early from my vacation time as this is a much needed mental health break for me.

    Have any of you been in this situation before?

    1. CatCat*

      If you accept an offer, why not set start date at “date you return from vacation + 2 weeks”? That should let you enjoy your vacation and put in customary notice.

    2. LDF*

      Do you have to give notice on vacation? I don’t know how long this vacation is but I think it’s pretty normal to ask for a start day that isn’t exactly 2 weeks to the second of when you get an offer. Also, you will probably want some time before accepting any offer anyway, even if you feel good about the job I assume you’ll want at least a day to look at benefits, so that’s another small buffer.

    3. Haha Lala*

      Even if your interview goes well, it’s quite possible that it takes a week or so to get the offer, and then you’d still have time to negotiate salary or benefits or start date. By the time all of that is ironed out, then it’s likely you’ll be back from vacation anyway, and you can give notice then. Good luck next week!

  32. Nicki Name*

    People outside the US: What are the norms around talking politics at work in your countries?

    I’m curious because one of my immigrant coworkers mentioned yesterday how weird it seemed to them that the US is having this huge, super-important election, and no one wanted to talk about it at work.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      UK – in my experience people tend to avoid talking about politics unless it’s directly relevant to work (e.g. I work in IP and Brexit had a massive effect not just on applicable statute but also business development direction for us and for clients).

      This year has been different because almost everything has been relevant to work – lockdowns, furlough schemes, local infection rates, etc and yes, the US elections.

      I think it may depend on how homogenous and how engaged your workplace is. If you’re all woke west coast twenty-somethings at an NPO then chances are you’re voting very similarly to one another and can have conversations about individual propositions at vote without fearing that you might encounter major pushback and risk your job. If you’re in a larger manufacturing organisation with a mixture of minimum wage and senior management then maybe the voting demographic is more mixed and you don’t want to be the one to put your head above the parapet.

    2. DistantAudacity*

      Norway here – it’s generally not discussed at work, no.

      Except the US election – that does get a fair bit of commentary!

    3. allathian*

      I work for the government in Finland. Politics isn’t generally discussed, except in the way that it directly impacts our work.

    4. Helvetica*

      I work for the highest level of government in Northern/Eastern Europe. I’d say political talk is actually fine among my colleagues but you have to know your audience. If there’s local or parliamentary elections, people don’t share their political preference and voting generally but they do talk about the process and results and they can and do express their joy or displeasure at those. We have a multi-party system so it’s not as clearly divided as in the US and I’d guess that might be a part of why people don’t want to discuss it at work there. It’s definitely not taboo but you are not expected to be neutral as an individual, you just have to be able to carry out government policy even if it isn’t exactly what you’d like to do.

    5. Ghostwriting is Real Writing*

      I suspect this is office and country dependent. I worked in France for a few years and politics were definitely part of the normal conversation — and there are lots of political parties in France so conversation was wide ranging and sometimes loud. But somehow it never seemed as personal as it has become in the US.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Hi Nikki, I’m in the US, and I’ve been in the work force since 1989. I’ve never seen a year where people avoid politics at the office like this one. I think we have all seen families and friends bresk contact because of politics. And nobody wants that to happen at their place of employment.

    7. No Zeros*

      Kiwi here – every day this week we’ve spent more time in my office discussing the us election than we spent in total discussing our own! I even pointed this out, and the response was a long silence before they went back to discussing the us election!

      1. Adara*

        This made me LOL!

        I’m in the US and work for the military, though I’m a civilian. We aren’t really discussing the election at all except for an occasional, “I wonder when we’ll have results…” kind of comment here and there.

    8. Mameshiba*

      I think the immigrant person may have missed that everyone is very, very carefully NOT talking about it.

  33. Not a superhero*

    TLDR: I’m supposed to save the world (or so it feels).

    I work at a small nonprofit. I was the lone digital SME, with a small team that had no overlap. Since COVID, because we can’t teach in person, our encounters are virtual. Our workflows are all converted to virtual. And yours truly is managing them. My team has also grown. This is a permanent reorg because we anticipate the need to keep these digital programs alive in perpetuity. Overnight, I’ve gone from a SME with a small team and a background role to a senior manager, SME, head of the linchpin team, AND what has been described as working in the org’s key role. That’s not the issue; I work well under pressure. The issue is that I have to do All The Things because there’s no overlap in roles with my team. No backfill for my previous role. Just more work. And the expectation is that I can keep us afloat even after our teachers can get back in the classrooms. The job I have now is expected to be the job I have in the future.

    I’ve done what I can- I try to find any natural things that I can delegate to my team, tried to decentralize some of the things that don’t need to be under me but were because of inheritance when i was hired. I also check in on priority or due dates of things people need from me so i know how to prioritize, and I am also transparent with people on when I can reasonably fulfill a request. It’s not enough. Short of saying “I can’t do this job anymore,” what else does one do?

    1. LKW*

      One creates a business case for hiring additional resources by defining the increase in hours and unsustainability of your current model and how your time would be refocused and what you would do to further improve services or solutions. Key elements would be how do you either define this as a return on investment, improved services and improved standing in community or whatever other benefits are to be derived from the larger focus on these activities.

  34. Dino*

    Thanks to Alison’s wonderful advice I just accepted an offer with a 50% pay increase and more affordable health insurance! Woo-hoo!!

  35. 867-5309*

    I now work from home now, like so many, AND THERE IS A MOUSE IN MY FLAT. I cannot focus at all.

    Is it extreme to call of work for a week to burn everything?

    My coworkers seem to be enjoying it, as my boss suggested I keep my frying pan nearby. (hahaha)

    1. IsItOverYet?*

      Ah thank you for this. I’m sorry you’re dealing with a mouse but this gave me a little chuckle which I really needed. Are you referring to human coworkers or cat coworkers? If you are talking about human, may I suggest getting a cat coworker? Although the last cat I lived with had a fun habit of cornering mice and just staring at them…

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        This brought me back to when I was in grad school and a mouse got in my apartment. I didn’t want to kill it or trap it, which meant I ended up chasing it around my apartment for several hours, with my fat and very unhelpful cat waddling along behind, before I finally trapped it under a wastebasket and was able to let it free outside.

      2. Rebecca Stewart*

        I expect mice to come in as fall transitions to winter; they want to be warm, too.
        First I knew that one had was to find its remains neatly laid out by the food bowl. But, of course, one of my cats was a stray and knows how to deal with live prey.

        1. 867-5309*

          I live in the second floor of a large appointment complex in an urban area. I definitely do not expect mice here. :)

          1. RagingADHD*

            Hate to break it to you, urban apartment buildings are mouse heaven. And they can climb anything.

          2. Inanna*

            Uh, well, you should. There’s nothing about that that protects you from mice. Most apartment complexes have them, and they climb. Traps down, find and plug all the holes in your walls (yes, even the ones you think are too small for a mouse to get through – they can squeeze through just about anything) and keep all food in sealed containers. Or call the exterminator. It’s never just one mouse, I’m afraid. Where you see one, there are many.

          3. Mouse Lawyer*

            I live on the 7th floor of an urban apartment complex and had mice, it can happen to any of us!

    2. Noncommittal Username*

      Ooooh my sympathies. I have *something* in my ceiling making horrible insulation-chewing noises but I’ve yet to see the creature. My cat has never been even somewhat useful with previous mouse issues, and will just look between the mouse and I as if she’s waiting for me to handle it. Best of luck to you!

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Oh man, the visual of your cat!

        On a related note: I do not recommend snorting coffee out through your nose. Its painful.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        At the risk of TMI, it is possible to teach a cat to hunt. It takes a strong stomach, because you have to play the part of the mama cat and show kitty how to get the good stuff. Then the problem becomes leftover dead mice … or half-dead which is worse in my book.

    3. Malarkey01*

      Clearly you need to immediately locate a new home and start reassembling all your earthly possessions because you will need to walk away from everything you own.

      True story, I a grown woman with children and home, saw a mouse while my mother was visiting and husband was out of the country. When we “caught” it in the trap, I freaked and panicked to the point that my elderly mother had to deal with it while I cowered on a desk with my children. Had it been a snake I would have walked out the door and never came back.

      1. Yup, Yup, Nope*

        Yeah if a snake ends up in my house it is game over.
        Not fussed about the mouse though…I grew up with them as pets (my mom is weird)

        1. allathian*

          Recently someone found an almost fully grown boa constrictor in their toilet. It had come up through the sewer. The snake was reunited with its owner.
          I don’t mind mice or rats as pets, but I still don’t want wild ones in the house…

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        One of my coworkers moves her home office setup out to a three-season screened in porch during the warmer months. Her husband had set up her window fans, but didn’t have the screws for the little wings to secure them in place, so he just wedged it and said he’d get the right screws next time he was at the hardware store. She came out to her desk the next morning with her coffee and started to sit down at her desk … and found a five foot black rat snake wrapped around her computer staring at her.

        Her husband, summoned by screaming, wrangled the snake into a pillowcase and dropped it off in a patch of woods on his way to the hardware store to buy screws that morning.

        1. JustaTech*

          My mother and brother teased me about my inability to deal with snakes in the garage, snakes in the basement, snakes in the shed (though when my mom saw the size of the one in the shed she agreed that my reaction was proportional).

          Personally I don’t think there’s any reason for me to be chill and relaxed about snakes in my house, even if they’re just garden snakes and not something dangerous.
          I spent a summer working with a herpetologist and mostly got over my insta-scream reaction to snakes, but if I found one in my house today there would still be a lot of screaming, and then a lot of cursing.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I would definitely scream. Fortunately, my housemate keeps four of them in tanks in the basement, so I would scream for HIM. (From there, the response depends entirely on whether it’s one of his four or an extra. :P )

            1. JustaTech*

              I think that at least 50% of screaming at a mouse or snake or spider or anything is “unexpected moving object”. The rest of the screaming is how you *feel* about the object.

              Like, I don’t scream at all snakes. If I know they’re there, and they’re not way up in my business, it’s fine. Snake in a tank? Cool. Snake on the other side of a path? Fine. Being gently handed a snake to hold? OK sure, please, uh, can I give it back now? (Once got stuck holding a snake for an hour because the boss that gave it to me got a very important call and I didn’t know how to put it back in the pillowcase.)
              Snake in my hand because I thought it was a garden hose? No one’s happy there. (The snake was fine, I didn’t hurt it when I dropped it.)

    4. 867-5309*

      Twice in the last four days late at night I’ve seen something move out of the corner of my eye and heard things in rustling. Honestly, I thought I was having a mental break due to lack of sleep and stress. (Also, I had just watched the season 1 episode of Criminal Minds where people were poisoned with LSD and Rohypnol.)

      1. Sunflower*

        I understand- I’ve been there! I haven’t seen any indications of mice in my new apartment but I still am insanely suspect anytime I hear a sound at night (Have I mentioned I live downtown in a major US metro city)? I sleep with a fan on low at all times so I don’t drive myself crazy at every little noise.

        My best advice is to scour your walls, pull out every piece of furniture and get some steel wool and caulk and seal ANYTHING that looks like a mouse can get in. I think they can get into anything bigger than the end of a pencil eraser. Move your stove if you haven’t’ (it’s very common for them to come in behind there). If you are a renter, call your landlord and they should be able to do it for you.

        1. 867-5309*

          Maintenance for the building has already been over and set humane traps but it’s still the IDEA that something I don’t know or see is running around my flat, while I try to work no less. *shivers*

          1. Sunflower*

            I totally understand- the idea of it skeeves me too ugh. I wouldn’t be optimistic with the the humane traps. Not sure where you live but between apartments in both NYC and Philly, I was only able to catch them with the old school snap or glue traps(I know they’re awful but city mice are way too smart for anything else) with some peanut butter. Did maintenance find any entry points nad seal them up? I’d still recommend pulling all your furniture out and checking for entry points along your walls(including your closet)- if anything, it will help give you a piece of mind!

            1. 867-5309*

              I am not convinced about it either but could not bring myself to let them put down the others as if I see it… I will scream and pretty sure my dog will then try to eat it.

              They are sending out a company on Monday or Tuesday to pull away the furniture and check everything!

      2. Malarkey01*

        Honestly if I had to decide between seeing an unknown animal, demon ghost spirit, or homicidal maniac out of the corner of my eye at night I’d go with murder and ghosts.

    5. Twisted Lion*

      Oh ugh. I have humane trap and release traps. You might try one of those. Or borrow a friends cat.

    6. Ashley*

      When I had a mice problem years ago the first day I huddled on my couch in fear. I would order traps online and some peanut butter. I like the white orkin ones because they are way easier to set. Then I would take the dead animal in a shovel straight to the exterior garbage. It took a week to get them all. It took awhile to be ok in the house again.
      I would also buy some caulk (you can get small ones that don’t require a caulk gun) and or spray foam and start looking for any entry points. If you have a bedroom a towel under the door would be a must to sleep at night. Good luck!

    7. Professor Plum*

      I set an open paper bag on the floor and then place the mouse trap inside the bag. Makes for much easier disposal of the entire trapped mouse.

    8. Mickey*

      I find that peanut butter mixed with cocoa is the perfect bait. Sometimes, the peanut butter alone doesn’t work. Good luck!

  36. Tired Unicorn*

    Any advice or scripts for convincing an interviewer that you know your stuff but are just really rusty at the moment? Especially if your non-technical skills would also be useful to that company? I know I need to give them something more reliable then “trust me, I’ll be good at this” but I’m not sure how to show that.

    I have posted a lot about how I used to be an awesome programmer in several languages but my current job means that I’ve barely been able to code in close to two years and my job has insane hours that leave me no time to practice. (am close to quitting without any lined up so I can work on my skills). I know that if I start programming full time, it’ll all come back to me pretty quickly – I’ve had smaller gaps in the past or switched languages after a few months and ramped myself back up before.

    An exciting job has landed in my lap! Old me would be perfect for this job – however they want to do an intense technical interview next week. I’m obviously trying to cram in preparation, but odds are I will fall flat on my face. Normally I’d be fine with that – usually I start job hunting at less interesting places so that I can learn from failing the first couple interviews. Since it is a growing startup, I’m trying to lay some groundwork so that if I fail this interview that they’ll still be interested in the future after I’ve had more time to get my skills back.

    This opportunity is great – both for me and for the company, since my non-tech skills really fill a gap that they have – it just showed up about a month too soon. Help on not botching it?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      1) Emphasize the planning part of the tech? Many good tech interviewers want to see how you analyze / plan / organize the solution. The phrase I remember from my more programmer-ish days is pseudo-code.
      2) Do you have any kind of public portfolio to point to?
      3) Are there any specific stories you can give about ‘had to learn new language / refresh after gap in X time for Y project, which was completed on time’?

    2. AnonyWorker*

      If you’re taking any courses/refreshers on the languages (I know there are so many MOOCs out there with bootcamps) that would go a long way to backing up “trust me, I’ll be good at this”.

      Good hiring managers should understand employees want to grow in the role, not just hit the ground sprinting.

  37. Unsure*

    There have been topics on this before, but I wanted to see if anyone has had experience and would want to share. Our part-time (25 hours a week) babysitter is pretty much always late, between 6 and 20 minutes late. I work from home and haven’t missed any meetings because of it, but her work is coverage-based, clearly, since I have to supervise our toddler if she isn’t present. I don’t want to come down heavily on this, but what do people do about babysitting/nannying lateness in a way that addresses the concern without being too intense or ruining the relationship? Should I just let this go since she’s good otherwise? If it’s relevant, reasons for lateness have been traffic, oversleeping, and stopping for breakfast taking longer than expected.

    1. CatCat*

      What if you set the start time earlier? So if she’s supposed to be there at 9:00 am, something like, “Looking at my work schedule, I need to revisit your start time. Can you do 8:45 am instead?” That may get the outcome you need ultimately.

      1. Unsure*

        I mostly just feel like, for coverage work like childcare, it’s reasonable for me not to pay her for more time than she works (8:45 or 9 doesn’t matter with my work, I just want the amount of hours I’m paying for)… at the same time, I feel like a nickel-and-diming jerk for not just letting a few minutes here or there go… I just don’t know what to say, since my schedule is flexible, other than pointing out the fact that she’s paid for this time and needs to be here…

        Thanks to everyone for their points! I appreciate the suggestions and commiseration.

        1. Weekend Please*

          If your work is flexible, can you ask her to stay late to make up the time? That way you are getting what you pay for. But it is reasonable to be upset she is routinely late and completely understandable if you don’t want to shift your whole day back by 20 minutes to accommodate her stopping for breakfast. I would try telling her it is very important that she be on time and then start not paying her for the time she isn’t working or asking her to make it up at the end.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Could you replace her if you had to?

      All of that is annoying because it’s bad planning and she hasn’t learned from it that she needs to leave more of a time cushion (or get a louder alarm, or make herself a sandwich and skip the takeout breakfast, or whatever).

      1. Unsure*

        I could, I just worry that, given my inexperience hiring in the childcare world and my limited budget, I’d end up with someone worse or a ton of time looking for a new babysitter. It’s hard for exactly the reasons you mentioned: she’s not super young or inexperienced, so these reasons are ones that she should recognize aren’t adequate as long-term excuses.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      It sounds as though she isn’t coming from something inflexible (e.g. school/college or another job) where she wouldn’t be able to control her leaving time. It sounds like she just isn’t good at allowing enough time.

      “Pretty much always late” for a coverage position is really not very good, though, and “breakfast taking longer than expected” is particularly off, assuming she isn’t required to bring *your* breakfast to work!

      Does she make up the time later on, or is she prompt to leave? I’d be more generous if you are always able to do your full hours and the window of her arrival is reasonably predictable. But if you’re struggling to get your own work done in time to release her at 5pm sharp then you definitely have standing to have a stern word about getting her act together.

      However, we know there are lots of reasons people are late beyond pure thoughtlessness, so you might want to check in first that she isn’t being prevented from arriving on time by a complicated relationship / medical condition / living situation, and work out what you definitely need from her (e.g. 8 hours’ coverage) v what you would mostly just like (e.g. being at your desk uninterrupted between precisely 9am and 5pm).

      1. JustaTech*

        I would also make sure that you’ve communicated to her that you need her there at a specific time because *you* need to start work and that there are work consequences for you if she’s late.

        Often telling people the *why* of things helps them do those things better.

    4. Ashley*

      I would consider how responsible this person is otherwise normally. Also how hard would it be to replace this person? Maybe if you offer breakfast that will help for some of the days.

    5. EBennet*

      Agree with the suggestion for setting an earlier start time.
      How about providing her with breakfast or letting her make breakfast at your home so that is no longer an excuse?
      Unless you are clearly communicating the problem, she may not even realize that her lateness is an issue.

    6. GothicBee*

      I could be off base, but is it possible that you need to spell out more clearly that the lateness is a problem? Since you’re working from home, it’s possible that she doesn’t realize how much of a problem being late is. Which seems like it should be obvious, but it may be that she’s not internalizing that the lateness is a problem the way she would if she were late when you had to leave the house.

      Also, presumably if you were leaving the house, you might build a little overlap into the time she needs to be there for to avoid the down-to-the-wire wait where a couple of minutes ends up feeling like a big deal, so a combination of giving her like a 15 minute earlier start time and being really clear that the lateness is a problem for you and could affect whether you can keep her on. Just because your schedule is flexible doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to rely on her to be there at a certain time.

      Alternatively, if you don’t actually care about the start time, but do want to make sure you get the full hours you’re paying for, I would just bring that up instead of focusing on the lateness. Say something like: I don’t mind if you’re a few minutes late, but I do need you to stay later so that it’s a full [insert # of hours here].

      1. WellRed*

        I agree with this. I don’t think setting the time earlier or offering her breakfast will help (but happy to be proven wrong). She’s regularly late due to poor planning. She will still be late.

    7. Not A Manager*

      Have you clearly told her that you need her to arrive on time? The very first thing I would do, before docking her pay or looking for a new nanny (or swallowing your anger), would be to sit down with her formally to discuss it. I’d try to bracket the time by saying, “Let’s set aside a few minutes before you leave to have a chat,” or “Please let me know when the baby’s napping so that we can talk for a minute.” Then tell her clearly that your job depends on your being available to do it, and that you need her to ensure that she arrives on time for her job, so that you can be on time for your job. You can let her know that everyone has true emergencies once in a while, but that in general you need her to plan her time so that she arrives at 9 every morning.

      There’s no need to be harsh in any way, just friendly and matter-of-fact. My guess is that she has a different expectation of professional behavior than you do, and that she devalues your need for her services because you’re still in the home and not actually leaving at 9 am. None of which you need to discuss with her, just a place for you to start in your own mind.

      If this continues, I’d give her a friendly reminder every time it happens. Don’t ask for reasons why she’s late, and cut off any excuses or explanations. “You don’t need to explain it. If it’s an emergency I understand, but otherwise I need you to arrive on time.”

      After that I would start docking her pay. I’d also put out feelers for a new nanny. In my experience, word of mouth is best. You could also try neighborhood sites like Nextdoor.

      1. Unsure*

        I really like this, especially the idea of starting with the talk with no docking of pay, and then just letting her know that, because things haven’t changed, the docking of pay needs to happen. Everybody else also had really good, clear-headed ways of addressing this too. I just felt like I was too awkward to say what needs to be said, I think? It’s such a clear expectation in my mind but letting her know the issue is a good way to make it better moving forward. Thank you all!

  38. Sophia B*

    Some Perspective help, please? I’m a bit bummed out, and I can’t tell if it’s tiredness or something valid to raise..

    Short Background: I used to be a one-woman department in a partner company of a software vendor. I did implementations all by myself – Project Plan, Solution Design, Technical Build, Training etc, you name it. And when I got burned out, the vendor themselves hired me! Largely for my in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of their fairly complex software.

    Well.. it was a bit of a bait-and-switch. ‘Come and build a team’ became ‘We’ve hired management consultants who will patronise you while you just push the buttons and sit quietly’. They didn’t last long, and life is looking up, but I’m still sat in a role that is, on paper, ‘button pushing person’.

    I still have the Solution Design skills, and the next role up for me is doing that full time – we just need the budget approved.

    Trouble is, my current boss (who was my equal when I was a one-woman-band) is the senior Solution Design person for our whole vendor. And another dude is the Technical Designer. So when I get things which can’t be solved by Button Pushing , the process is to escalate to them and have them come in and fix it. I don’t mind too much – if they’re too busy, they just let me lead and I use them as sounding boards as needed.

    But this week I have a patronising PM who insisted I escalate the design work (which I did!) and then double-booked the Tech Designer (he does this *constantly* – all our calendars are shared). So my boss had to ‘cover’, but of course, he had no context or detail, so I just ran the session, built the design… all of it.

    Only three times this week, on meeting with Senior Management, the PM has thanked my boss for *saving him* on the design front and ‘we would have been in such a mess without [boss]’.

    ..no. Not even a little bit. Boss made three contributions. One to explain that they might have to abandon the call (cue the client and me protesting – we’d already done the work). One to interject with the wrong solution (client immediately interjects that he and I had both seen and dismissed that). And finally one to plan a follow-up with Tech Designer.

    I am so cross. *I* did the work. The session would have been the same if not smoother without Boss (or Tech Designer), but a non-starter without me.

    Senior Management are wrestling with the budget and who to promote. I do the work on a daily basis – more so than any other non-Designers. Far more so. How do I call out that *I* did all the work. Boss was just… there…?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      1) Can you ask Boss to highlight your contributions? (From the letter, I can see PM’s the problem, would Boss be willing to be part of the solution?)
      2) Can you reach out to a Senior Management member with, “PM handed off this work to Boss, who rightly delegated most of it to me. PM’s not got visibility to this; do you have any suggestions on how I could make my contribution more visible, without undercutting Boss?” (The question alone makes it more visible. Secondary benefit is that it highlights that Boss may not be making your work visible, which higher ups might want to know.)

      1. Sophia B*

        Thanks Jules – I definitely need to speak to my Boss, don’t I? He’s a good person, I trust him to sing my praises typically.

        I just need to keep promoting myself (with the work I’m actually *doing*) because I really want this job! I don’t trust that the Big Boss has enough detail to see it unless it’s raised to him.

        Thank you for providing some perspective – I didn’t want to get too caught up in my own head.

  39. Firecat*

    What is a good follow-up time for emails? I’m particularly interested in hearing from European and Canadian readers since I work at a global company.

    My boss is very much a “check-in” weekly type of person. We have some Canadian and EU based projects that are with our international 3rd parties. The last contact we had was: “We’ve identified the issue. It’s on our end. We will let you know when we have fixed it.”

    That was about 5 weeks ago.

    My boss wants us to ask every week for updates anyway, even though after the second request on week 2 they just repeated their first “it’s us, working on it, will let you know.” Weekly emails 3-5 have been ignored.

    I think we are coming across as pushy/don’t trust them/annoying with the weekly check-ins; however I also get that the project is now a month late and we don’t have any details on a timeline.

    So what is a good check-in strategy for something like this? What cultural considerations should I be considering?

    Any tips on getting an eta?

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      European (UK), also working internationally. I tend to lay timings out and/or ask for them quite bluntly, but it’s expected in my industry (and NB we write fairly formally).

      “It is our understanding that the next step will be $Process1. Please let us know when we are likely to be able to expect $Process1 to begin.”

      “To date we do not appear to have heard from you regarding $Process2. I should be grateful if you could let us have an update on the likely timing.”

      “I have now completed $Process3. $Process4 is typically initiated within 12-15 months, so we should not expect to hear from $GovernmentOffice before Q1 2022.”

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Sorry, I missed the “when can I chase?” part of the question.

        For me it’s partly to do with how long since I asked, but more to do with when the deadline is. If it’s months off, once or twice a month. If it’s weeks off, once or twice a week. Once it’s days off, daily, with bold, cc, High Priority, etc as necessary.

        And it also depends on what their last response was. If they said “next week” then you’d better believe I’m politely quoting them. “On 6 October you indicated that we could expect this by 15 October. Please advise the current status.”

    2. Ashley*

      Can’t speak to cultures but I usually like to ask do you have a rough time frame early on or when should I check back?

      1. TechWorker*

        Yeah, it’s pretty reasonable to ask for an ETA (or if they’re like ‘we’re still investigating we have no idea’ for an ETA for the ETA). I don’t think you should feel guilty – if it’s something where it’s truly impossible to give a deadline then they should be updating *you* with progress as it happens.

    3. MissGirl*

      A weekly check in for a project that is a month late is not pushy or rude. Your stakeholders need updates. Ask for a time frame.

  40. notacompetition*

    This summer I got some great advice here as I waffled on whether to leave my job and consult. I had pretty much made up my mind and just needed some more professionals to weigh in on whether this was a crazy idea. Thank you again for that!

    I’m now two months into full-time PR consulting. I billed 15% higher in October than I expected to, and I received a $5K grant to provide pro bono marketing services to artists in my area through next year. One of my clients may already add some monthly hours to my retainer. It’s going GREAT and I’m incredibly happy with this switch. Not having any emotional attachment to my work and not working for jerks is doing wonders for my health and I set up a Roth IRA so I can keep contributing to retirement. I love working to make my clients happy and I love having the opportunity to do one-off jobs that let me learn or try something new. Just wanted to pop in with this happy update : )

  41. DG*

    How is everyone here in the US balancing election anxiety/fatigue with work? I am not in the right headspace to get much work done right now and responding to even small requests that are well within my job description feels overwhelming. Leadership at my company likes to say things like, “we know times are hard – take time and space for yourself right now” while assigning work and deadlines like normal, so it doesn’t seem like they *actually* want anyone to do that.

    I’ve pushed out as many non-essential meetings and tasks as I can, and I keep reassuring myself that I have enough of a good reputation at work to weather an “off” week or two relatively unscathed. My boss is on vacation so I’ve been able to fly under the radar a bit this week, too. That’s helped, but I’m curious to know how others are coping.

    1. Weekend Please*

      I was about to ask the same thing. My productivity this week is trash. I just can’t concentrate. Luckily my boss has said she doesn’t expect us to be as productive as normal and even told us to take off if needed. But honestly, taking the day off makes my stress skyrocket because I just can’t look away from the news channels.

    2. Lyudie*

      Hahahahhaha

      Between burnout/election/global pandemic/normal depression/disillusionment with my grad school program, I am not. You are not alone, at all. I am trying to take time off when I can (luckily we are not super busy right now and I have lots of PTO to take before the end of the year). I’m just hoping that between time off around the holidays and a long break between semesters I will be able to crawl out of this hole a little.

      1. DG*

        Yeah, part of me is also worried that the dark cloud surrounding me will not lift in the next week or two. COVID is absolutely out of control in my state, setting records multiple times a week, to the point where I’m even rethinking my twice-monthly trips to the grocery store (the only time I go anywhere!). I’ve accepted that it’s irresponsible to visit my family out of state for the holidays this year (even though everyone on my social media feeds are living life as normal…?) and that’s weighing on me too.

        1. Lyudie*

          Solidarity. My state is much the same way, at least we avoided the governor candidate who would probably have repealed the mask mandate immediately.

        2. tangerineRose*

          Does your store offer curbside takeout? I use that a lot, and it seems so much safer!

          I’ve been having a hard time focusing lately too.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Ditto. Add in Halloween post-pressure and ‘oh hey we might be able to do a bday party for our kid [who has been remote learning and isolated af] but only if we put in a whole ton o’ work’ and I’m nowhere near productive.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          (A safe bday party, involving 6 kids and an outdoor canopy, multiple computers and a space heater in the US South in November….)

    3. Nacho*

      I just pretend everything’s alright and will continue to be alright until the end of time. It’s not technically lying if you believe it hard enough!

    4. just a small town girl*

      It’s been really, really hard. I’m also going to school and at that point in the semester where I just wanna sit on the floor and cry. And, my birth control got changed out a few weeks ago, so I’m in a hurricane of insanity.

      I have a camping trip planned next weekend and I’m clinging to looking forward to that, right now. And I’m using school as the excuse for my largest stressors and burn-out feelings, since my workplace is pretty red. I disconnected on Saturday and took a hike (literally) and that helped a ton with pre-election feelings, and I’m wishing I could manage it again this weekend, but I just have too much to do.

      As for work, I’ve been focusing on very small, very simple things I can check off my to-do lists so I AM accomplishing things. The dopamine hit from that has been helpful for sure.

    5. MissGirl*

      I work in healthcare so not working really isn’t an option. I’m, of course, distracted but checking the results every 15 minutes doesn’t change anything. I just keep telling myself to focus on what I can do and block all the sites on my phone.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Burrowing into project that require a lot of attention but not a lot of thought (there is a lot of that in my job, anyway). Mercifully, my whole department is on the same-enough page politically that even if it came up it wouldn’t cause much conflict, but I think we’re all trying not to think about it.

    7. Anonymouse*

      I’m having the same issue, though luckily my work is a little on the slower side right now.

      Ironically, Election Day itself was great for me–my company offered up to 8 hours paid for “Civic Engagement” whether you needed to go wait in line to vote, or if you were volunteering to phone bank or drive people to the polls, etc. I took those hours and volunteered with my county in the elections office processing ballots (Though it is called a “Paid Volunteer Position” which seems a contradiction in terms to me but I guess it is to differentiate from an official county employee). So, though I was literally surrounded by the election on the day, I was too busy to check the news and too exhausted after being there for 13 hours to obsess over night. The subsequent days however…yeah. Focus is shot.

    8. Dancing Otter*

      Personally, I would so much rather be thinking about work than politics. Though I’ve been going through an unusual amount of antacids this week, regardless how I try to distract myself.

  42. Bebel*

    Best practices for handling cold calls/visits/emails from vendors who want your business?

    I’d like to just ignore them. I know how to google if we need to find a new vendor, but our VP wants us to follow up with everyone and can’t discern between a new company who wants to offer us cleaning services and a scammy email where they want to “trade links” on our website or write articles for our “blog” (that we don’t have).

    Am I totally off base in just ignoring these requests? Am I being rude by ignoring these cold calls?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I usually say “I’m not interested,” and then hang up on them. I then put them on a list of vendors to never consider.

      1. Bebel*

        Most of ours are emails, with the occasional walk-in (pre-covid). I’m sure I get some phone calls, but I work in a job where I don’t have to take calls from numbers I don’t recognize and I can let those go to VM.

        I suppose for the emails, I could just reply back “I’m not interested.” My boss often wants us to meet briefly with these people though, which…argh!

        1. TechWorker*

          Seems odd to me too – maybe because all the spam emails I get are so very spam (like, it’s not my role remotely to deal with any of the things they’re emailing about) but I have zero qualms about junking them.

          (I also get *loads* where they’ve tried to guess my name, because my email address only has an initial and it’s a fairly uncommon letter. They always guess the one male name that starts with that letter, which obv gets them an immediate junk ;))

    2. *daha**

      I wouldn’t blow off the VP’s instructions. Comply and document each interaction with the amount of time it takes you, maybe in a spreadsheet. When you’ve got enough data to show that this is taking you away from other assignments, you can go back to your boss or the VP and ask how they want you to prioritize your time.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’m really confused why your boss wants you to meet with each and every company who solicits your business. What are her (meaning your VP’s) goals for these meetings? I’d probably try to have a conversation (or email if necessary) to find out exactly what she wants – does she want to see if you can find a cheaper/better service? Just put on a friendly face so people don’t come away thinking your company is rude? Something else? And what does she want you to do with that information – pass it along to an office manager, or to the VP herself?

      Maybe in having a conversation about the goal behind these meetings the VP will realize it’s not a good use of your time, but if she insists on you doing them at least you’ll know why.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      Your VP is like my husband who won’t agree to a No Solicitors sign for our door, “just in case” there’s a deal. So, he deals with door to door people, because I refuse.

      The best practice is to ignore all cold solicitations and send a request for quote if you’re in need of new services. On a practical front, does the VP have knowledge that you’re getting all these solicitations? As in, you don’t have to respond to the ones they don’t even know you’re getting, like the obvious spam. And the sales calls you aren’t allowed to ignore, I would go with Not interested at this time, we’ll keep you on file.

  43. College football is back!*

    Perfect timing today! I’ve just been tasked with coming up with fun office team ideas that we can do while socially distanced. Yes, they assigned it to the office introvert. In any event, we currently do monthly Zoom happy hours (5-7 pm) that not a lot of people tune in to (probably kids/dinner schedule/ect). We tried a picture thing at first – send a selfie of you doing/wearing X. We have a Teams channel for water cooler type discussions that isn’t used much. They did an offsite in the boss’s backyard – which was a work event, but you could attend via Teams if you didn’t feel comfortable w/ the social distancing. We have bi-weekly staff meetings, but they have specifically asked for something “fun.”

    I’ve suggested that we do a Friday virtual brown bag lunch thing – there was always a group that went to lunch on Fridays when we were in the office. Someone mentioned “Aloha Fridays” but going into winter, not sure its warm enough. We have one person who has moved to another time zone (2 hours difference) so I’m not sure how lunch will work for her.

    Anything that your office has implemented that is fun and works? Thanks!

    1. Noncommittal Username*

      This is not what you asked for so apologies of it won’t work at all, but my ~30 person office created a “fun committee” to plan these events. Its a twofer because it takes the onus off of an individual, and the planning of the event becoming its own socialization opportunity. We have 50% of staff on the committee so people who are less committed drop in amd out of the regular meetings but still get to feel involved. It wouldn’t work for a lot of workplaces, but its working for us!

      As for your actual question, our most successful event was the Halloween costume contest because it required attendees to fully buy-in and put work (making a costume) into the event. Again that might be unusual but I think that element of needing to be an active participant rather than a passive one made it work.

      1. 1234*

        I wonder if you work for my old employer…that “fun committee” is something they would do, along with the costume contest.

    2. 1234*

      What is the budget for this? There are companies that create virtual team building events for groups of people.

    3. WellRed*

      Your happy hour is too long and too late. Ours is from 3:30 to 4:10 (zoom timed). I like the idea of brown bag lunch. It may or may not work for the person in a different time zone, but you’ll neer have one activity that everyone can or wants to do.

      We do some trivia most days on the slack channel.

    4. Just a PM*

      If there are common hobby topics in your group–like movies or football or TV shows, you could do a trivia-themed event. Something short, easy, fun. Especially if there are families too, you could make it kid-friendly.

      My group does trivia contests using Zoom and the Kahoot app/website. The questions/slides are done through Kahoot and participants download the Kahoot app to their phones or mobile devices to submit their answers. The moderator/question-reader shares her Kahoot screen via Zoom to show the questions. The format works really well for us. Most of us participating will keep our cameras off and interact with each other via the chat. Families even got into it and that made it a lot of fun as well.

  44. Frustrated New Attorney*

    Thank you everyone for your advice last week. On Monday, I emailed my boss asking for a time to talk about goals and expectations. On Wednesday, they fired me instead.

    It wasn’t unexpected—the writing was on the wall and it became clearer and clearer through the week. For example, they were cutting me out of projects and important calls. I am frustrated that I was never given a chance to improve or meet their expectations. It makes me think that I wouldn’t have done well there even under the best of circumstances.

    I’ve never been fired so it’s been tough handling that. Trying to remind myself that it was just a bad fit and that I didn’t do anything wrong. Still hard, though. I’m starting my search and will hopefully find something soon.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you find some good leads for a better fit very quickly.

      1. Frustrated New Attorney*

        Thank you! I’m in an okay financial place for the time being, but I’m eager to find something soon.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      I remember you well, Frustrated, and your boss was nuts. i know it sucks to get let go, but it was NOT your fault. Get up, dust yourself off, and look at this as a blessing in disguise.

      1. Frustrated New Attorney*

        Thank you! I was super depressed on Wednesday, but I’m in such a better place right now. I didn’t realize how miserable I really was until I got out.

    3. SpellingBee*

      You didn’t do anything wrong! Their expectations of you were way out of line. If they had wanted someone who was already performing at a 3-5 year litigation associate level (i.e., turning out perfect work with zero guidance and input from them), they should have hired one. I know it’s still a blow to one’s pride, though.

      Good luck in your search. There are firms out there that work hard to develop their young associates and bring them along; I’ll cross my fingers that you can land a spot at one of those.

      1. Frustrated New Attorney*

        I think my former boss has learned their lesson. It was just a bad, bad fit for both of us.

      1. Frustrated New Attorney*

        Yep, that was me. Just me and my boss. It was such a bad fit, I’m happy to be out for sure.

    4. FUISA*

      I’m sorry to read this. It can be really hard as a new attorney finding a place that’s supportive enough. A lot of newer attorney’s I know, who do great work, were let go because of fit problems there are some pretty crappy firms/employers out there. I hope you find a better fit soon.

  45. Nacho*

    What’s the etiquette on wearing branded clothing for another company at work? My last company gave out some very nice swag with their name on it. It was all clearly something given to employees, with messages like “Teapot Inc cares” or exclaiming their commitment to LGBQ rights. The shirts are probably the most comfortable I own though, and I hate to keep them sidelined at my new job. Would it be weird to wear one in the workplace? My new job is casual tech support, so there’s no dress code.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Unless the old company is a direct competitor or there’s a particularly fiery rivalry, I think it’d be fine at most casual offices. I wouldn’t wear it too often, to not draw undue attention to it, but I’d leave it in my wardrobe rotation.

    2. Lyudie*

      Generally it should be ok, I think, after all (especially in tech) you get swag from other companies at conferences and such. Unless it’s a competitor like Kimmy said, I doubt people will think too much of it.

    3. Littorally*

      I still use my company-branded mug from my old job, since it’s large, well-insulated, and very stable against getting bumped or tipped. Maybe one person has raised a question about it in the four years I’ve been at my new job.

    4. Okumura Haru*

      It’s really not a good idea to wear branded clothing from another company at work. Although it sounds like your company would care less than others, it’s still not a good look.

      The shirts sound amazing, though. I’d just make them weekend/at home wear.

    5. LDF*

      Add me to the “it’s fine” camp. Though there’s no harm in casually asking your new manager what they think about it first if you’re worried.

    6. Weekend Please*

      Would you feel comfortable wearing other shirts with writing on them and are only concerned because it is your former employer? If so, then I don’t think it is a problem (so long as they are not a competitor). However, shirts with writing do tend to be seen as more casual, so if you wouldn’t wear a t-shirt you got from a walk-a-thon you participated in, maybe these should be out as well.

      1. Weekend Please*

        I also probably wouldn’t wear it if you have visible contact with customers since it could be confusing.

    7. AnotherAlison*

      We had a guy who would wear his old company swag to site visits (plants) as a representative of our company. His old company was not a competitor to ours. They were parallel to our clients (and actually are a client), but our clients don’t compete with each other because of regulated markets. Anyway, TPTB hated seeing him in is OldCompany gear and told him that, and he kept wearing it. No one fired him or anything, but I think I’d consider that it may rub people the wrong way, even if they don’t say anything.

      1. TechWorker*

        Yeah I think if you’re doing site visits or anything customer facing it’s a strong ‘no’. If you’re just in the office and it’s a pretty casual workplace? It’s probably fine.

    8. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I wouldn’t wear swag from a competitor, but I pretty regularly wear shirts from vendors/potential vendors. These are primarily shirts either with just a logo, or with a funny/cute/inspiring saying, as opposed to something specifically about something the other company is doing.

    9. Qwerty*

      Wait a couple months and slowly start phasing them in. Start with the more discreet ones and work your way to the more interesting ones.

      The main thing here is you want them to get to know you first. Otherwise you become “the tech support person from Teapot Inc” rather than “Nacho”. The more memorable the shirts, the more people will remember them, so it can seem to other team members like you are wearing them more frequently than you actually are.

      If you are remote right now, you can probably start this sooner since it’ll be less obvious on camera and people are wearing casual clothes at home.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wear my husband’s office’s swag and he mine. Even my friend the trainer wears other logos –just never on front of a customer/client, that’s all.

  46. Noncommittal Username*

    How do you handle a mean boss who isn’t really “punishing” you beyond chipping away at your self esteem?

    My boss is…fine. She tends to give confusing and incomplete instructions, and changes plans midway through a project while expecting everyone to read her mind. But she’s been giving me great opportunities, my working conditions are good, and I’m even up for a promotion. So I can’t act like I’m experiencing negative repercussions.

    But she’s just mean. She will say belittling things to me (and only me) in team meetings (away from other leaders but in front of my peers). She fawns over my colleagues’ ideas, and nitpicks mine. I could go on and on. I’m open to the idea that I’m just not succeeding as she needs me to be in the role, but I just got a phenomenal evaluation and like I said, I’m in line for a promotion.

    Honestly sometimes it feels like maybe she’s harder on me than me peers because she…idk, believes in me? Wants to break me down in order to build me back up into something better? But that’s all interpretation on my part, and it might just be a coping mechanism to feel less attacked on a daily basis.

    1. juneybug*

      Actually, your boss is not fine. She’s confusing, not able to clearly communicate, and a bully. You say you haven’t experienced negative repercussions but you have – she is damaging your reputation (regardless if they are peers or not), not championing you to leadership (I guarantee she is talking bad about you to leadership because if she will do it front of your peers, she is doing it as well to your leadership), and breaking down your spirit and morale.
      Start looking ASAP for another job. The promotion will not happen, your reputation will take a hit if you stay, and your soul will take longer to recover than if you leave now.
      BTW, good bosses don’t need to break you to build you up. So unless you are in military boot camp, run to another job that will treat you like you deserve.

      1. WellRed*

        Hard agree. She’s not fine at all. She’s the workplace version of “my boyfriend is perfect, but (insert whatever form of abuse).”

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I can understand trying to find a reasonable explanation so it doesn’t eat at you so much, but whether she’s doing it because she thinks you’ll benefit in the long run or not, it’s not okay behavior. You can push back to some extent on any comments that are just mean and belittling. Others have had better suggestions of responses but things like “Wow.” or “I don’t appreciate that comment” or “That was hurtful” all said in a calm voice with raised eyebrows or a neutral or puzzled expression.

      Will your promotion keep you reporting to her? Are there opportunities to transfer to another team without derailing that? I guess most importantly, how confident are you that the promotion is a real thing and not a carrot she intends to dangle but not approve? All things considered, I wouldn’t want to keep reporting to her, no matter how great the opportunities (especially if they were projects I was really committed to and resulted in endless nitpicking and direction changing). But if you do, I think calmly enforcing your boundaries on the mean comments will help at least some of the interactions.

  47. Nixologist*

    Does anyone have experience navigating a raise/promotion for a tipped employee?

    I have been doing significantly more “creative” work for my job: writing recipes, proofing drink menus, etc. This comes with a lot of meetings and emails. I love the work, but I’m also an hourly tipped employee, so even if I could be “clocked in” for these activities I would be making less than minimum wage.

    How would you handle this “in between” situation?

    1. WellRed*

      I’m not a tipped employee but no one else has weighed in: are you sure this is legal in your state? I thought there were rules (and I”m sure it varies by state), about when you are paid less than minimum wage (waiting tables) and when they actually have to pay you for other things. But I may be completely off base.

      1. WellRed*

        I just asked an experienced server. If you aren’t doing tipped work (meetings) they have to pay minimum wage. If you’re scheduled for full time tipped work and you fall below minimum wage cause it’s slow, they also need to bring you up to
        Minimum.

    2. Cj*

      If you’re not doing tipped work at the moment, I’m pretty sure they have to pay you minimum wage. That’s why restaurants break out time for when a person is working as a server vs as a hostess.

    3. Nixologist*

      Sorry, it seems my original question lacked some details and nuance.
      Yes, they have to pay me minimum wage for hours worked in a pay period where my tipped income doesn’t meet the minimum wage threshold for the hours in the pay period. The hours I spend on these other tasks would not put them in a position to pay that difference.
      I was wondering if it would make more sense for me to advocate for an administrative rate, where I could clock in at a higher rate to do that work, or if it would make more sense to push for an increase to my hourly rate which would affect all my hours.
      It’s tricky because I cannot be promoted to a “manager” title because I would be ineligible for tips and the company cannot afford to pay me what I would be making in tips.
      I want to increase these additional tasks, and grow in that way professionally, but I have to be careful to remain tip eligible as it’s the primary source of my income

  48. Wondering*

    I’m currently working at a nonprofit with less than 10 employees. This is a job I really do not like. I interviewed with a nonprofit with about 50 employees yesterday and am excited about this possibility. However … they do not offer health insurance. Which is really surprising to me? If I were to be offered the position, this is giving me pause. Bad job but insured… or good job and uninsured (unless I pay for my own, which I know can be expensive and not always good…)

    1. oof*

      do they offer salary that is high enough to cover for health insurance? when you’re negotiating salary with this new employer, be sure to factor in the cost of your health insurance.

      1. Wondering*

        haha I am going to say NO, it is not very high. I am entry-level in the Midwest and this actually offers a few hundred dollars more than my current position so I didn’t even think about trying to ask for more if it comes to that.

        1. oof*

          there’s a reason why when people are giving out their desired salary range, they always say “$x-y, but range is negotiable” THIS is the very thing you want to negotiate!! If it’s a full time position with no health benefits, that’s a serious thing you have to consider. Once you get to the negotiation stage, be sure to do some research on healthcare costs and put that as part of your desired salary.

          you might end up bringing less money home after paying for healthcare out of pocket with this job. but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what is more worth it. personally, I would hold out for a better job that includes healthcare, given the state of things currently.

    2. Retail Not Retail*

      Get on healthcare dot gov and call someone and ask what your options are with a marketplace plan. If it’s too expensive, stay with health insurance!

        1. Old and Don’t Care*

          And look closely at the networks offered. I’ve been in the individual market for a while, with plans and networks changing frequently. For a couple years my network was the what I would call second tier hospital/physician network in town. I didn’t have any issues, so it was just very expensive insurance, but if I had had a major health problem my options would have been much more limited than I would have liked.

          This all varies by state but I would assume you won’t be able to replace what you have now at a reasonable price.

      1. Combinatorialist*

        Try to avoid giving your phone number (though you might not be able to). We were getting a marketplace for my husband (before we were married and he had access to mind) and the number of phone calls we got re health insurance was unbelievable.

      2. Chaordic One*

        A few years ago I had an offer from a place that didn’t offer health insurance. I asked for a day or two to think about it, and then I checked out the insurance marketplace and found that I could get covered with a decent health insurance plan for a reasonable monthly premium. However, when I called back to accept the offer, they pulled it. WTF?

    3. JessicaTate*

      Assuming you’re in the U.S., if they have 50 or more FTE employees they are required to provide an affordable coverage option under the ACA (Obamacare). I’m guessing you’re “about 50” means they actually fall below that threshold, so the mandate doesn’t hold and they could totally just not offer anything. (I will add, some small employers don’t offer group insurance but give employees an HRA to buy their own insurance and meet the mandate. I’d assume they would have mentioned that when you asked about insurance though.)

      I agree that you should research the cost of individual insurance, and consider what your current company chips in / charges you, and come up with your minimum salary requirement so that you can take the job and have insurance. And I’d explain that in salary discussions… if others do too, maybe they’ll realize at some point that a group plan would be more cost effective and boost morale with 50 employees. (From someone who’s recently priced things in both ways for a very small company!)

      But whatever you do, I’d advise you have/keep (real, not just catastrophic) insurance. Either new job and the marketplace; keeping your current job; or finding Door #3 that considers health insurance a basic cost of having staff. Good luck!

      1. WellRed*

        I agree with all this. Maybe you could ask how other employees of the company handle health insurance? If you are young and healthy, you could maaaaaybe take a job with no health insurance, though it’s risky, but otherwise I’d say turn it down.

  49. bleh*

    Need to vent – I feel terrible for being so ungrateful…

    I’ve been furloughed from my FT job since the summer. I never thought I would get my job back, so I immediately started job searching, although I’ve yet to secure a new position. I was casually looking for a new job even before my furlough, because I really didn’t enjoy working with my temperamental micromanager at my current position. Instances of his behavior that I didn’t enjoy include:

    – getting angry at me for saying “okay!” or “great!” when responding to his IMs, because he perceived it as me undermining his authority
    – not allowing me to print out a temporary “the conference room is closed” sign unless he proofread it and made minor formatting changes, which were made according to his personal preferences
    – watching me do data entry line by line on a live Google Sheets on his computer and pointing out my mistakes (I normally like to do all my data entry at once, and then re-visit the sheet again with a pair of fresh eyes to correct any mistakes)
    – taking over my projects without telling me anytime I didn’t do things to the exact way he liked it
    – giving me the cold shoulder and not talking to me for days because of something I did, but I have no idea what I did wrong since he wouldn’t talk to me. After a few days, he returned back to his normal chatty self and pretended like the entire cold shoulder period did not happen.

    Shockingly, I’ve been recalled back to work starting January on a part time basis. I know I should be grateful for having a job at all during COVID, but the thought of returning just fills me with dread…

      1. bleh*

        I know that’s definitely the mentality I need to have, but it seems silly to say no to returning to a paying job (even if it’s only PT) when the economy’s so rough. the thing is everyone at the company love him, because he’s been with the company for so long and he’s actually really good at the technical parts of his job. he’s unfortunately just completely lacking in managerial skills, which everyone overlooks due to his superb technical skills.

        1. WellRed*

          Stop. Stop! he’s awful! Keep looking! He’s not normal, even for a bad boss. He’s a control freak with a big ego.

        2. PollyQ*

          If you need to go back to this job for time being because things like food & shelter cost money, fine. But don’t feel like you have to talk yourself out of your completely reasonable feelings.

    1. 1234*

      I would keep job searching but if I didn’t land something by January, take the job back and continue job searching.

      Also, WHY doesn’t your boss have more/better things to do than reformatting a conference room sign? =\

      1. bleh*

        yes, that’s def my plan. especially because they’re bringing me back on a part time basis, I will still have time to keep job searching while I work at my old job. i just wish i didn’t have to go back to old job at all lol…

        as for the sign thing, I’m pretty sure he’s just a control freak. he’s worked solo for a really long time and isn’t used to having someone working under him. he doesn’t really know how to properly delegate tasks.

    2. Nynaeve*

      I read the first bullet point and immediately narrowed my eyes in disapproval and loathing. My opinion of your boss did not improve upon reading further.

      You can be grateful for job security while disliking the particular form your job security takes. You don’t have to medal in the Misery Olympics to be justifiably unhappy. Keep looking and good luck!

    3. PollyQ*

      Screw grateful. You work for an immature, ill-tempered, over-the-top micromanager, and that’s nothing to be thankful for. Keep job-hunting, because almost any boss would be better than this.

    4. Qwerty*

      A job is not a favor. You were recalled because of your skills – there’s no reason to be grateful or stop your job search.

      It’s also ok to mourn a little bit before going back. Give your self a week-long version of a Sunday.

      Your boss sucks, no wonder you were happier being furloughed than working for him. It’s a statement on his behavior.

  50. NervousCollegeKid*

    Calling anyone from inside the beltway! I’m a soon to be poli sci grad (graduating in December) and am looking to move to DC and work in progressive politics. I go to a school in NYC so I haven’t had the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill but have interned extensively with NY elected officials and govt. agencies. I also interned for one of the Senators from NY but at their district office in NYC, not down in DC. How much of a disadvantage am I at compared to recent graduates who have experience in Capitol Hill? Also any suggestions of how to job search wisely for DC positions? Is USAJobs the best way? Any job site recommendations? I’m already on the Daybook mailing list.

    1. Jen*

      Check the DC Reddit, as they get this question a lot. However I don’t think they are doing interns like they used to due to covid. Just know even then you’d need a second job bc the pay is AWFUL. However, the Reddit is a good place to start if you’re dead-set on moving to dc.

    2. Lisanthus*

      I don’t work in politics so I can’t answer all your questions, but am in the DC area.

      TraverseJobs (used to be Brad Traverse) is a subscription ($6/month, one-time $10 fee, cancel anytime, or there’s a yearly option) list of all kinds of policy/nonprofit/political/etc. jobs both in DC and nationally.

    3. Policy Wonk*

      USAJobs is for Civil Service positions in the Administration. If that is what you want, yes, start applying. Write a new resume tailored to each job in order to have a shot at it.

      If you are looking for Hill jobs, you probably need to work your network from the internship in order to find something. Your supervisor from the district office should be able to give you some points of contact, former co-workers may also be helpful. There is often some chaos right after an election: newly elected officials will be seeking staff, and those working for members who lost or retired will be pursuing new gigs. So you need to get started on this now.

      I also note that living expenses in the DC area are really high, so you may also want to start working on looking for group houses or other cooperative living situations.

      Good luck!

      1. NYC to DC*

        If this person is coming from NYC, prices in DC wouldn’t be considered high. What I pay for rent in the DC area living with one roommate, I would have 2-3 roommates in NYC.

        I will say, cheap eats are found much more easily in NYC than in DC. Like where in DC do you get dollar pizza?

    4. Just a PM*

      Yep, what Policy Wonk said. USAJobs is mostly for the civil service. There are jobs in policy shops and policy support/analysis positions posted there if that’s your interest, but you won’t find any political jobs (e.g., like working for Senator X or Committee Y) there. There’s a separate listing board for those jobs, which you can find on the websites for the House and Senate.

      If you are open to jobs in the civil service, then look specifically for jobs in the GS-05/07 range since that is what you’ll be qualified for. There are also jobs posted on USAJobs that are exclusively for Recent Graduates so consider those too since they may not be as competitive as the general “open to the public” announcements.

      If your goal is to work on Capitol Hill in/around Congress, definitely ask the Senator you interned for or any of their staff members if they can refer you around or if they can refer openings to you. (As much as everyone denies it, knowing someone in the agency/office you’re applying to does help.)

      Since your interest is in progressive politics, you might want to consider a lobbyist organization that specializes in progressive politics or adjacent topics. If you google some combination of “K Street lobbying” then you should be able to find options. Also, like Lisanthus suggested, nonprofits are a good place to consider.

  51. Lost in the Library*

    I’m just finishing up a 1-year contract librarian position and I’m feeling awful about my future chances of employment. I had an interview last week for a position and found out I didn’t get it. I feel more crushed than I thought I would.

    I’m wondering if I can get some advice on HOW to get into a better mindset for job searching?

    I only have 2 weeks left (well 7 working days, I’m taking 3 vacation days next week) and I feel so miserable. I’m really regretting the fact that I chose to become a librarian during *all of this.* I got my MLIS in 2019 and I can’t stop regretting it. Part of my problem is that I have no idea what else I can do. Re-training for a different career seems ridiculous at this point, but is it necessary? I live in Canada and it seems like you need a *specific* degree or diploma for ANY position. I have no idea how people get jobs here without a specialization. I can’t even imagine who’d hire someone with a background in libraries in an un-related field.

    I have no problem moving for a position, but there’s nothing posted. I moved to a different city for my current position and now I’m moving back in with my mother. The past few years have been really stressful for me and I’m starting to think that everything has just caught up with me.

    I think I am going to take a “break” and try to relax until New Year’s and after that start job searching heavily. However, I’m just afraid of being trapped in this negative mindset, which certainly isn’t helped by the true fact that library jobs are hard to come by. What else should I be doing so I don’t end up MORE stressed out and feel even worse about myself during this job search?

    Are there other fields, industries, anything I should be looking at instead of libraries? Ack!

    1. Jen*

      If you have at least a bachelors degree, most white collar jobs don’t care what it’s in, as long as you have one. Are you looking for a more of an office-vibe? Can you translate any duties to a nonprofit?

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      What kind of library work did you do, any specialization?

      Some ideas, although I am in the States and not sure of the specifics of job hunting in Canada.
      – Admin assistant (I know this sounds flippant and like “why don’t you just apply for admin job duh” but those information skills would translate really well)
      – Tangentially related academia jobs, such as registrar, advancement, assessment, admissions, advising
      – Working for a library vendor
      – Customer service in general
      – Data entry
      – Research or research coordinator

    3. Lord Peter Wimsey*

      Competitive/ market intelligence is an area that is tangentially related to libraries, where you can leverage your skills in research, organization, communication, etc. Check out the website for Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) for background on the field (they also have job postings for the US/ not sure about Canada).

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Two things I have seen here before our records management, and corporate libraries, especially legal libraries. But also you are very recently out of school . Try calling them, and finding out what they have for alumni placement help.

    5. Bureaucrat*

      Government always needs people with a broad range of transferable skills. For most entry level jobs you just need a degree, not a specific kind of degree. You may need to move to a major city, but I’m sure you’d find something. Good luck!

    6. Diatryma*

      Mindset: jobsearching makes you hate yourself. It’s a side effect. If you ran a marathon and your feet hurt the next day, you’d think, “I ran a marathon, no wonder,” rather than, “BONE CANCER!” If you are jobsearching and you hate yourself and think it’s hopeless, think, “I’m jobsearching, no wonder,” rather than, “I am worthless mope.”

      Right now, with jobsearching, you are not a reliable data point for your own quality. Awesome people feel this way. Terrible people feel this way. It’s jobsearching.

      You can do this. It sucks, it’s hard, your feet will hurt from this marathon and you’ll have to keep reminding yourself that you’re running, not developing arthritis or cancer or gangrene. That is sucks and is hard is not a reflection on you.

  52. Mbarr*

    This is an utter “first world problem” of a cushy tech job… But I’m wondering how other slackers handle it. :D

    Our IT department recently installed software (zScaler) that blocks some sites, tracks usage, etc. My problem is, the software also broke Firefox (I keep getting security warnings for websites that still work in Chrome). I use Chrome for business internet uses, and I use Firefox for “fun” stuff like reading Ask a Manager, reading the news, etc. I like keeping my internet use separate because I often share my screen at work, and don’t want to accidentally show non-work websites. Or, y’know, AAM titles like “My boss pees in a cup.”

    Obviously I can use Chrome Incognito, but it’s a pain to have to re-type/google addresses, etc.

    I work in high tech, and it’s the norm in our country/office/every company I’ve ever worked in that we can surf during our lunches, etc. Even some of my local news sites have been blocked because they fall into the “TV/Media” category (though it appears these were recently unblocked).

    1. How do you separate your “fun” internet use from your professional internet use?
    2. Has anyone ever asked IT, “Can you unbreak my ‘fun’ browser” but in a, y’know, professional way?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I do the same as you. Do you have the same problem in Safari, Edge, Opera, etc. as you do in Firefox? Any chance you can ask the IT department to fix the Firefox issue? Since it’s clearly not the actual websites they’re trying to block (seeing as how those same sites work in Chrome)?

      1. TechWorker*

        I also do the same, though for me Firefox is work and chrome is play. (I’m also allowed to use my laptop for personal use as long as it’s not ‘excessive’ so feel zero guilt, I don’t even own a different laptop…).

        Agree it’s worth asking the IT department, unless they explicitly said ‘we only support chrome’, Firefox is a pretty mainstream browser!

    2. Becky*

      Huh, that’s interesting–my company transitioned to zscaler this year and I regularly use Firefox just fine (and I have to use it for cross-browser compatibility testing for our application so if it didn’t work that would be a “I can’t do my work” problem). I suppose your company could have different zscaler settings or something that is causing it though. Alternative possibility, are there any extensions or settings changes you have made in Firefox that could be the issue?

    3. Sleeplessinseattle*

      Try this:

      In Firefox, go to about:config (like, literally type in about:config as if you were typing in http://www.google.com or something) and accept the warning that pops up. You’ll see a big spreadsheet. You want to search for the one titled security.enterprise_roots.enabled and click on the value next to it (should be false) and change it to true. Save changes if you need to (depending on the version of Firefox, it may save automatically, I forget.) Then restart Firefox and see if the problem goes away.

      You’re getting security errors because your job is recording all of your computer’s internet sessions, by the way.

    4. Malika*

      My last two jobs weren’t sticklers for non work internet usage, but to prevent any issues i just used my smartphone for fun sites. Would that be an option?

  53. Casey*

    I’ve had a couple interviews this week and have 3 next week! I’m graduating in May and it feels like I’ve been throwing applications into the void, hoping that someone can wait til June for me to start, and now things are happening all of a sudden.

    I did want to get input on one interview I had this week. The hiring posting said they were looking for a Llama Groomer I, II, III, or IV. Obviously, I’d start entry-level as a Groomer I. Every other interview I’ve had has been for solely entry-level positions, so the questions have been mostly behavioral or things like “tell me about this internship you had.” But this Groomer interview had a loooot of technical questions! Things like “how familiar are you with the Llama Toenail Trimming manual and software?” “What’s your experience in managing a llama parasite removal facility?” that I just did not have answers for. I’m pretty good at keeping my cool, so I said I didn’t have that exact experience and would have to learn on the job, but here’s a similar function I performed at my internship or on a project at school. I think the main interviewer noticed my trepidation, because he said they were just trying to get a feel for where I’d be starting at. But it still felt bad to not have the “correct” answers!
    It’s a state government position, which explains why the questions were so rigid and not tailored to me, but is advertising for a wide range of experience normal? Like, I’m talking 0-10 years.

    1. Modest Anony Mouse*

      That does sound strange, but it’s true that in government or unionized positions, folks are not allowed to tailor the interview questions to the applicant because it could be construed as unfair, biased, or preferential treatment. Still, I would expect the questions to be tailored to the position a bit better.

    2. Combinatorialist*

      I work at a national labs and we hire technical people at a lot of different levels. We often ask a ton of technical questions to see where people’s interests and the boundaries of their knowledge. We totally expect a lot of the questions to be “I don’t know”, especially for people graduating soon. Reasons we ask the questions:

      – what are you interested in
      – have you looked into the field that you are interested in at all
      – do you have skills or knowledge related to any of our current projects
      – if you say you are really good at X, do you know the fundamentals of X

      I have no issue when people are upfront about stuff they don’t know, and your approach sounds excellent. You are relating it to what you do have, you are flexible, you keep your cool. For us, that would be performing very well on that type of technical quiz.

  54. esemess*

    I FINALLY bought myself an office chair. Three hours into using it, rather than my dining room table chair, and my tailbone feels SO much better. I hate buying things for temporary uses, but at this point my body needs appropriate furniture. So, here we are. :)

    I know that the resources to buy extraneous telework office furniture are not available to all, but I do recommend being comfortable as you are able.

    1. Pam Adams*

      I brought home my office chair, and also my desktop set-up with dual monitors. I did buy an inexpensive desk.

      1. esemess*

        My office told us we couldn’t take ANYTHING home (not even a mouse!) and that we were responsible to provide all equipment ourselves. Womp, womp.

        I resisted for 8 months, but I’m glad I finally have what I need!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Dang, and I thought it was excessive how detailed a list we have to fill out to bring items home…at least we get to have them.

    2. WellRed*

      I was about a month into WFH and went back to he office to grab my office chair so I wholeheartedly agree. Next, I will have to buy myself a desk because I’ve learned this may be permanent.

    3. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

      My employer did let us take equipment from the office. I’d been putting it off because it’s a fair bit of a drive up there but I finally did a couple months ago. I’m soooooo glad I did. A good chair makes a world of difference. I really wish I had done it sooner. I second your recommendation. I know it can run into some $$ to get a good one but overall, you will be happy you did. So, if you can afford it, do.

  55. Triumphant Fox*

    There was a letter earlier this week about having an employee who doesn’t seem to be “getting it” when something is new vs. a repeated task. There were a lot of responses in the comments about learning differently, giving information in different formats (writing most often) and then coaching to help someone. I have a direct report who I’ve struggled with – they are meant to coordinate the department, but I’ve found I cannot rely on them to take in new information from a conversation or even a written document and organize it/take action. Any advice on coaching?

    1. ambivalent*

      I don’t know, I have the same problem. For me, the problem seems compounded by them not being a native English speaker (actually neither am I, but I don’t have this issue. It’s clearly not *just* a language problem.). I’ve tried pointing out the problem and suggesting ways to improve, and I don’t think they are super-motivated to change. So for me, I’ve mostly given up, and have tried to focus their work on things they are very good at (attention to technical detail) and am trying to find another person to do the part that requires information integration. This is going to limit the original employee’s upward progress, but seems like they are ok with that. Honestly, I think this might be the kind of thing that’s hard to coach.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        That’s my instinct too. So many people referenced coaching – I think because the LW said their employee wasn’t interested in coaching – but I don’t have any idea where to start with it. It’s not just me who has this feedback – others have mentioned it too. It’s gotten to the point that I dread giving a new assignment if we’ve never done it before because I know they won’t process the new information well.

    2. Cary*

      It depends what the cause is. ASD can look like this, and so can specific learning disabilities, and so can a general weakness in abstraction–but they have different solutions. If you’re required to provide accommodations for disabilities (such as if you’re subject to the ADA), then you’re also required to notify employees of this, so you could make sure you’re doing that clearly. They might disclose. (Don’t take that too far, of course–don’t ask them, “Do you have a disability?” Just, make sure that your openness to making accommodations is clearly stated.)

      I’m familiar with general weakness in abstraction and also with ASD. The former requires the task to be broken down into smaller pieces and drilled.

      ASD is the one that often does better with written information. Someone with this issue can also work on asking clarifying questions to make sure they’re understanding the larger context. They may tend to just accept “things not making sense” instead of instinctively investigating as most would. So they may need to be coached to notice when “things don’t make sense” to them and…ask clarifying questions. And coworkers need to know that the ASD person is not “being willfully obtuse” or “fucking with them” but actually has these odd-seeming questions.

      Don’t know if any of this will help but I hope some bit of it might!

  56. Confused Anon*

    I’ve worked in environments where as soon as you leave the room, they talk about you. (They also talk about everyone else.) In my previous position, I know that they talked about me because I went back to get something and walked in on them talking about me. In my current position, they do the same sort of thing. I know that no matter where you work, this stuff happens, but is it always so petty? I walked to another department and they were all gossiping about another worker that was using the copier a few feet away.

    Is this normal? In some ways, it appears to be a way to bond, but it just seems so unprofessional and immature.

    Does anyone have any experience with this? What did you do?

    1. Gumby*

      No, this is not normal. Particularly the ‘as soon as you leave the room’ part. Sure, in most workplaces there is conversation like “hey, did you know Fergus got married last weekend? I didn’t even know he was engaged!” – you know, factual stuff that the person wouldn’t mind sharing themselves.

      But petty? Unkind? That stuff is not universal – I have had jobs at 3 different places where that did/does not happen. Or if it did, it happened outside of my hearing. (I have only worked 4 places – the one place it did happen it was **one time** that I recall overhearing, the item being spoken of was true but damaging, and about a minute into the conversation someone piped up and said the conversation should stop and it did.)

      I’m sorry I have no advice.

  57. awesome*

    I’m having a hard time thinking “I’m doing my best” at work right now, as I could hypothetically be doing better in a non-pandemic, non-stressful environment, so instead I’m applying Alison’s resume advice to my own ability to feel like I’ve accomplished something. So instead of “I’m doing my best,” I think, “I’ve helped X number of people today with Y, I’ve given food to X number of children,” etc. Days where I am in meetings all day are more structured, so I don’t feel the need to do this exercise on those days

  58. Modest Anony Mouse*

    So, just found out that a former intern kept receiving her stipend for four months after she wasn’t working for us any more and didn’t say anything.

    As the stipend is much less than a full-time salary, we’re inclined not to ask for the money back since it was our mistake and our miscommunication with HR that led to it. But I also feel weird about the fact that the intern didn’t say anything for four months. I reached out to her about a month after her internship ended to congratulate her on a life milestone, and she didn’t say anything then either.

    Thoughts?

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Maybe she didn’t notice it right away and then felt awkward about bringing it up later? Or perhaps she was really struggling financially and the money was a godsend to her and she felt embarrassed? If she’s an intern I’m guessing she’s pretty young, so my thought is there was just a lot of shame/confusion around this as opposed to nefarious intent.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      Oh, that’s bad. I know she probably needed the money but it is dishonest and I would never be able to give her a recommendation going forward.

      1. Zona the Great*

        I only agree if OP reaches out to explain what she’s seeing and wait for a response. Intern could have closed that account or stopped using it once the assignment was over and no longer expected to be paid. Or any reason, really. But find out first.

    3. 1234*

      Is the stipend paid via direct deposit? If so, she might not be monitoring her bank account.

      Also, some people don’t feel the need to say anything when someone congratulates them so she may not have thought to reply?

    4. GothicBee*

      I agree with not asking for the money back. But has anyone touched base with her about it after the issue was discovered? Before letting it impact any future references, I’d at least be inclined to at least allow for the possibility that (assuming it’s a direct deposit situation) she somehow didn’t notice the issue. Maybe it’s set up to deposit into an account she doesn’t monitor regularly, or she has other sources of income and missed it, or she’s just bad at monitoring her own finances.

      Personal anecdote: I collected a paycheck for several months at my first job before realizing they were overpaying me by quite a bit and brought it to my boss’s attention (I was hourly and didn’t realize the hourly pay rate was on my pay stub). Not quite the same situation, but it’s possible for young people to miss this kind of stuff, especially if they’re new to managing their finances.

      I think if no one’s contacted her about it, you should reach to let her know that the issue has just come to your attention and is being corrected and see if she responds with any clarifying info.

    5. Modest Anony Mouse*

      All good points–thanks everyone. When I was younger and didn’t have as many bills to pay, I didn’t carefully monitor my bank account either. Also equally possible that could have desperately needed it and felt ashamed to say something.
      We’ll reach out to let her know we have stopped the payments and that we will not ask for it back, and see if she offers any clarification once she’s not afraid of our reaction.

    6. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      You should check with the law before you ask for it back. In some states, you legally can’t. Once it’s paid, it’s paid, and the company has to eat the loss.

  59. Orange Crushed*

    When you’re hourly, is it still okay to still leave your seat to get coffee or ask a coworker a question? I’ve been in hourly work places where they seem to want to chain you to your desk. I know that it’s different than being exempt, but it seems like they’re more strict when you’re hourly. (I still get a lunch break and 20 minute break, but it seems like they want to know where you are every second and it’s annoying- maybe it’s just the places that I’ve worked at?)

    1. ambivalent*

      OMG, I manage several hourly employees and can’t imagine not letting people leave to get coffee. I mean, is this the kind of employer who times your bathroom breaks? It’s one thing if there’s some good reason (security guard etc) but if not, this just seems horrid. I suggest who try to find another employer, I don’t think most are this awful.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      It depends on the workplace. It’s fine where I am–they don’t nickel and dime you for time. I’ve worked other place that did, though.

    3. Donkey Hotey*

      Chiming in: this depends on the nature of your job and the company’s culture rather than how you’re getting paid.

    4. PollyQ*

      Well, if you’re asking a coworker a question then you’re still working, so no employer should have a problem with that. Most reasonable employers are also completely fine with people getting a cup of coffee or taking a bathroom break. I believe there are laws about employees NOT having to clock out for short breaks like that.

      Sounds like you’ve either being working with ridiculously controlling companies, or maybe you’re misreading the situation? I say that because you used the word “seems” a lot, so maybe they’d be fine with you grabbing a cup of coffee and you’re worrying more than you need to.

    5. Can't Sit Still*

      I’m hourly and, pre-COVID, I could go for weeks at a time without seeing someone in person, even if they were in the office and working down the hall. But my job really only requires that I be accessible by email, IM, and phone. Since my boss travels so much, there is very little difference now WFH than there was when I worked in the office.

      Since I’m typically non-exempt (sometimes hourly, sometimes salaried), I drill down on questions about a typical work day and expectations to make sure the job description doesn’t include “be at your desk 8 – 10 hours a day” or “answer the phone after the first ring” or “respond to email immediately.”

    6. Zephy*

      Sounds like a culture problem.

      If your role requires you to be immediately reachable at any time during your shift, like an inbound call center, then you probably shouldn’t stray too far from your desk for too long since that will impact your performance metrics. But if a core job duty isn’t “answer the phone immediately every single time it rings,” then a place that expects you to keep your butt in your seat for the entirety of your 8-hour shift just because is probably not a great place to work.

    7. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

      Yeah, that really is a company culture thing. I’ve been exempt for roughly eternity now but even back when I was hourly, I never was in a position where my every movement was closely monitored and I felt I couldn’t get coffee or go to the bathroom outside break times. Even when I worked in an org where the director mandated that you arrived a few minutes early so you could be sitting at your desk to log in at exactly 7:30 AM and that you couldn’t clear your desk and start to wrap up until 3:55 PM, we weren’t ‘chained’ to our desk. But I’ve heard of many places that do so the only real solution if you find yourself at one of those is look for a new position. Sorry. That sucks so bad to not treat people like human beings.

  60. Ensuring remote workers during pandemic minimize distractions*

    What are the rules around hiring a remote employee right now? Normally, I’d be accepting of employees who were forced to be remote due to the pandemic, to have distractions like kids and pets. But I’m now hiring for an officially remote position, and I’d like them to make sure (or at least try their best) that there are no distractions, if they want the job. Obv I know about not asking illegal questions, but it it ok to hold a person hired for an officially remote position, at a higher standard for no distractions than for people who were forced to be remote due to the pandemic?

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Is this a position where they would be on the phone or video a lot, where anything but a designated quiet office with a door would inhibit their ability to be successful in the job? Or do you just want them to have this because you want it? Essentially why do you want this? Because even if this job is not remote due the pandemic, the pandemic is still happening, meaning their living situation and distraction level may not be ideal due to no fault of their own. It might mean someone who normally would be home alone all day has their kids at home because they can’t go to school, or maybe they have a roommate/spouse who is also remote now, it seems unfair to eliminate them if there isn’t a strong and solid reason that they need a austere work from home setup.

      1. MechanicalPencil*

        I agree with this.

        You have your normal non-pandemic setup that’s pristine. And then you have the reality of what’s happening right now, and that could include that your spouse/roommate/kids are home because of workplace/school closures. So while in an ideal world you can certainly want those things, I don’t think you can insist on them.

      2. Ensuring remote workers during pandemic minimize distractions**

        It’s a role where they would spend most of their times in remote meetings and take minutes, so yes, their being distracted would be a serious problem because they could miss important points in the meeting. It’s not just because I’m a control freak, I let all other employees work very flexibly and don’t say anything about distractions. But for this particular position, I want focus.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I think Alison would say it’s up to you to explain what you need from the position and ask the candidate if they can fulfill it without getting into specifics of “do you have kids/a spouse/roommates/etc that would distract you”.

          Also, as everyone else is saying, it’s reasonable to expect a remote worker to have a permanent workspace that’s relatively distraction free. I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect anyone to be able to work with zero distractions of any kind, ever – life happens, especially now.

    2. LDF*

      This might be a perm-remote position and not just a pandemic-remote position but we’re still in a pandemic, kids are still distance learning, people still might not feel comfortable moving, people might still need to provide more care to high-risk family than they will in the future.

    3. Me*

      It’s common for remote employees to have to have things such as formal childcare and a dedicated work space. That said, just because this is a permanent remote position doesn’t mean that the pandemic won’t affect it. There are still places where it’s difficult to find childcare. Family members may be sharing the space to attend school or work in a way that wouldn’t happen in non pandemic times.

      As part of offering the job you will need to be clear what the normal expectations are and ask if the employee will have any difficulties meeting them. I’d encourage you not to hold the potential for temporary distractions against a candidate.

    4. Tabby Baltimore*

      Some telework jobs make it a condition of employment to show proof that childcare or eldercare arrangements have been made during the employee’s work hours as one way to ensure the employee will not be distracted. I don’t personally know anyone who’s had to do that, so I have no idea of what kind of proof a business could ask for, but that’s something you could consider if the employee has familial obligations.

      1. Tiny Kong*

        And I don’t know if those things would even work where childcare/eldercare arrangements have fallen through due to the pandemic.

  61. A Simple Narwhal*

    I started interviewing our next round of co-ops yesterday, and one of the first questions the candidate asked was how our company handled covid. Just as anticipated here!

    I’m glad I was able to tell them our company reacted swiftly and compassionately – good candidates tend to have a lot of options, so anything but a good response to covid would probably have scratched us off their list.

    1. WellRed*

      you know those workplace surveys from like, associations and magazines, that employees fill out and then he company gets recognized as Top Ten Best Place to Work, Teapots? (Eyeroll, I know). Some of them are including questions about how the company handled COVID, which I applaud.

  62. Age of the Geek, Baby*

    I’m kind of at a loss and hoping for advice.

    Tdlr; my boss announced he has cancer, and seeking advice on how to help when possible.

    I work in a fast-paced industry of, let’s say, writing and editing stories for the llama wrangling industry. I’ve managed to get by on experience, but there are some knowledge gaps and I have always dreamed of taking on more responsibility and duties.

    My boss, Rupert, is great. This is my second time working with him, and he had a great hand in me landing my current job. Due to restructuring, he was promoted to lead Llama Times Magazine Editor in August. At the time, he made some comment about “giving me more to do,” which obviously is what I want.

    That hasn’t materialized, and I find myself wanting more guidance in a sort of “mentor-mentee” role. I’ve been really frustrated this week for some reason and Rupert’s been very elusive and throwing on last minute assignments while not communicating plans on Very Important Llama Wrangling Client (something I would have been thrilled to do, but he just did it himself.)

    Well, now I know why. Rupert announced yesterday he has cancer and will be undergoing surgery next month.

    Aside from feeling like a jackass about the whole situation, I want to do something to let him know I’m ….in his corner? A Get Well soon card seems a little odd for our relationship at this point, but something that says I’m thinking of him and wishing a speedy recovery.

    I’m also realizing that while we work together very well, both of us have a mentality of “if you want something done right do it yourself.” Obviously I want to let him know that he doesn’t have to do it all alone while he’s dealing with his prognosis at the same time. Because no one should!

    1. Littorally*

      I would have a conversation and explicitly ask him what you can do to support him while he’s going through all this. Are there things you can take off his plate and handle?

      1. Age of the Geek, Baby*

        I think there is in terms of some of the smaller items like wrangling llama wranglers to write columns. Maybe not everything.

        1. Littorally*

          Not everything, but anything you take off his plate helps you. And there may be things he knows about that you don’t! When my manager went on maternity leave and the team lead stepped up as interim manager, I asked that question — and much to my surprise, got handed a really nice business trip to the other side of the world and a lot of opportunities to train others. It really burnished my resume.

        2. WellRed*

          If you are literally talking about writing and editing, etc., I’d definitely think about what you can specifically offer to take off of his plate. (editor here).

          1. Age of the Geek, Baby