my job gave everyone a gift but me, pre-planned trips when interviewing, and more

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

1. My employer gave everyone a gift except me — and made me watch

I’ve been working as a co-op student at a nonprofit full-time for the past four months now. For context, because of COVID, it’s been a completely virtual role and the team is quite small with 10 people working at the organization total. I’ve had a fair amount of issues with this organization throughout the past few months (such as hearing microaggressions from the CEO, nobody learning my name for the first two months and just being called “the student,” being told that I shouldn’t expect to do the same things that were listed on my job description, and not being given enough to do even after having multiple meetings and check-in’s with my supervisor to address this). However, all of that is context and not what I’m writing about.

What really is my issue is that the CEO sent out a Zoom invitation to everyone (including me) for a virtual holiday party that was taking place during work hours. When I opened the meeting link, the CEO instructed everyone to open the gift baskets that she had dropped off to them prior and they were filled with different fancy foods like cheeses, crackers, and fresh salmon. I was the only one there who didn’t receive such a gift basket and just sat there and watched and was too shocked to say anything in the moment. It wasn’t that I expected a gift as the temporary student, but I was appalled that the Zoom meeting was taking place during work hours and I was told to attend. It made the situation feel extremely awkward and slightly cruel. Am I blowing this out of proportion because I’m already bitter towards this organization, or is that just an objectively sh*tty thing to do?

Nah, it’s objectively really crappy. You don’t have a party where everyone gets a treat except one person — especially if that one person is the lowest level person there. (You could do it if the one giftless person were, say, the CEO. You cannot do it when it’s punching down.) And really, in a 10-person organization, it is not terribly onerous to buy an extra gift to make sure everyone is included.

But it also sounds like you have way more things to be concerned about with this organization, and the gift snub is just icing on the crap cake. If anything, the gift snub is more of the same. Go forth and know that they just suck.

2. My manager’s nitpicking is making a hard job worse

I work in the public sector, which I know has different rules and norms than the private sector. I work in a busy office that runs 24/7 and serves a large portion of the state. We’ve had a serious staff shortage for a while that isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s not uncommon for us to have two people manning the entire office some nights, and our manager denies time off more and more frequently as she realizes how busy we truly are. We handle the frustration of being overworked and understaffed the best we can, but our manager nitpicks our behavior so much that it’s becoming unbearable.

Her latest pet peeve is how we hang up our phones. None of us are intentionally slamming our phones down, but she has talked to a few of us about how hard we are hanging up as if we are doing it on purpose. Are there people who set it down gently like a newborn? She also dislikes it when we don’t say hello or goodbye to everyone when we come in or leave the office. She stressed out my shift lead by telling her she needed to fix whatever problem was going on with our shift, all because she saw two of us leave on our own without walking out together. She also said my shift lead was wrong about me being helpful with the new hires because I told her, “Maybe, I’m on a call right now,” when she asked if I could take care of something. I never said I wouldn’t help, just that I was in the middle of something and could possibly assist when I was done, depending on what it was. She just thinks every little thing is a sign of an “attitude problem” and I don’t know how to handle that. My natural personality is pretty reserved and I’m worried that somehow this is now a fireable offense. Should I get a lobotomy or is there another way I can handle these expectations?

Ideally your shift lead or someone else with some influence would talk to your boss and explain that she’s adding more stress to an already stressful situation and that she needs to extend everyone some grace while you’re so short-staffed (perhaps pointing out that if she doesn’t, she’s going to end up even more short-staffed because people will leave over this).

If there’s no one who can step up and have that conversation with her — or if they do and it doesn’t change anything — I’d seriously consider moving on. You’ve got a manager who’s making your job harder rather than easier at exactly the time she should be doing the opposite and whose instinct is to assume the worst of people.

3. New jobs and two lengthy pre-planned trips

I am curious to know if you think employers will be understanding of postponed vacations/events when job hunting. Pre-Covid, I worked for a company with an amazing vacation package. Since then I left that job to pursue a graduate certificate and make a career change.

In spring 2020, I was supposed to take a four-week international vacation (not a problem at my last job) but it got put on hold. In summer 2021, I am supposed to take three weeks off for my wedding and honeymoon.

I assumed as I looked for jobs most reasonable employers would understand a big chunk of time off up front for a once-in-a-lifetime event (my wedding/honeymoon), especially since it was planned, booked, and paid for long before I was job hunting. For the month-long trip postponed from 2020 to 2021, I wasn’t worried. I figured school would wrap up a week or two before the trip and I would start job hunting when we got home.

Now, though, our spring 2020 trip has had to be postponed all the way to 2022. I am prepared to take much (if not all) of this time unpaid. And the trips are 7.5 months apart … maybe that helps? Will this be a deal-breaker to some employers?

To some, yes. Not to all.

Most employers will find a way to accommodate you on the three weeks off for your wedding and honeymoon if you negotiate it as part of the offer. But adding in a separate four-week vacation on top of that might be difficult for a lot of employers. Many employers don’t generally approve more than two weeks off a time, although may do it in special circumstances. And if you were just asking for the four-week trip without the earlier three weeks for the honeymoon, I’d think you’d have a decent chance of negotiating it as part of your offer. But both together will be harder. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it’ll depend on the company, the job, their own policies, and how much they want to hire you.

I’d frame it as, “I have both of these pre-planned. I can’t move the wedding and honeymoon, but I was hoping to take the second trip as well. Is there a way to make both work? I’d of course be willing to take them unpaid.”

And if you’re willing to compromise on the length of either (especially the four-week non-honeymoon trip), that’ll likely help. Seven weeks in your first year, in two long chunks, is going to be a big ask for a lot of jobs.

Whatever you do, make sure you negotiate what you want at the offer stage. If you wait until you’re already working there before asking, your chances of getting both approved go way down.

4. Should I wait to leave my job until I’ve improved my performance?

I’ve been in my first job post-grad for about seven months (after working there part-time during college for four months). It’s a “happy to have a job in a pandemic” job, but not my dream job. I’ve been casually applying to opportunities in my field for the past few months and now have an offer to start in early February. However, a week or so ago, I was put on a “verbal warning” for performance issues. They’ve been really empathetic about the situation (reduced productivity because of working from home and general COVID stress) and have a clear plan for moving forward. I’m confident that my performance will improve, but now I’m worried about my plan to leave in ~2 months. Should I wait until I know they’ll give me a good reference? Alternatively, should I stick it out just to have spent a year in the position?

No, don’t change your timeline just because you’re on a performance warning! I get why you want to change their impression of your work before you leave, but it’s not worth turning down a job you want over it. Plus, two months probably isn’t enough time to solidly change their perceptions anyway; even if you were perfect starting tomorrow, that’s a pretty short period of time. And that’s before we get into the reality that with some managers, once you’re at a warning stage, it’s hard to ever fully recover in their eyes. It shouldn’t be that way, but sometimes it is.

Don’t put too much weight on the idea of staying a year. A year isn’t any kind of magical timeline, and staying nine months isn’t that different from staying 12. If the concern is looking like a job hopper, that’s only an issue if you leave multiple jobs after a short stay, not just one (and a year isn’t long enough to combat that anyway; multiple one-year stays will look pretty job-hoppery in a lot of fields.)

Read an update to this letter here

5. Getting over public speaking nerves

Before starting grad school, I was in a role that did not require public speaking or presentations aside from small 3-8ish team meetings, which I did fine in. Through college and the last almost decade of working professionally, I’ve managed to avoid public speaking because frankly I’m terrible at it. I get extremely nervous, and it makes my voice break even though I know that I shouldn’t feel this way. Now that I’m in grad school, I have to confront the issue of presenting to larger groups again. Do you have any advice on how to get rid of nerves while giving presentations?

Toastmasters! If you’re working while you’re in school, some large companies even have their own internal Toastmasters groups, and others will pay for you to attend.

Also, the more you do it the easier it usually gets. Can you practice in front of small groups with low stakes (like family or friends)? Maybe you have a couple of friends who’d similarly like to improve their speaking skills and y’all can practice in front of each other? I know that sounds almost too simple, but honestly repetition is what makes it get easier.

{ 315 comments… read them below }

  1. Lena Clare*

    Wow @LW1 – your employers suck, big time. Punching down is a good way to describe it, and it’s horrible.

    LW2, your manager is a nightmare but I had to laugh at:

    Are there people who set [the phone] down gently like a newborn?

    1. allathian*

      Honestly, it’s been 15 years since I last used a land line phone, so I have no idea how I to do it. Even then, I was working evenings at a call center while looking for a full-time job, and I had a headset. With those, you hang up by pushing a button, so there’s no way to hang up with a bang.

      That said, it really sounds like the manager is the one with the attitude problem.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        On old fashioned phones, where you put the handset down on a button in a cradle, you can press the button with your finger to end the call, and then put the handset down afterward.

        1. NotsorecentAAMfan*

          I’m not certain, but I think the supervisor is in the same space as LW (as opposed to the receiving end of the phone). So it’s more the handset making noise.

      2. Good Vibes Steve*

        Honestly, I miss landlines just for the possibility to slam the phone down after an annoying call. You could put a lot of frustration in that movement.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Same! Even flip phones were good for briskly snapping them shut when irritated. Screens and buttons just aren’t the same.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Plus you knew it was hung up. I work phones now (incoming calls from people wanting to schedule services) and I have now lost track of how many unintended overhears on the end of calls I’ve had.

            1. Zephy*

              I make outgoing calls trying to get people to schedule appointments in the course of my job, and technically I’m not supposed to be the one to end the call, but after our conversation I’ll usually give it a few seconds for the other person to hang up and then quietly press the End Call button, just to be sure. My clientele is almost all Gen Z and none of them have any grasp of phone etiquette anyway, so I’m not worried about coming off rude or whatever the rationale is for having the “customer hangs up first” rule (not that anyone is checking, and I’m definitely not cutting people off and hanging up on them abruptly or anything like that).

        2. TimeTravelR*

          I once got off a call with a jerk customer and my boss didn’t hear me hang up. He was quite startled to hear me say “F— you!” until he realized I wasn’t still talking to the customer!

      3. Observer*

        That said, it really sounds like the manager is the one with the attitude problem.

        Totally. Doesn’t she have better things to do with her time?

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This was my question as well – who has time to be so incredibly nitpicky, especially if the team is so overloaded they can’t take time off? Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees?

          This has been a hell of a year, and even my most demanding team lead has fallen all over themselves to protect their team from these sorts of people in current conditions. I have several project teams who are very, very busy, and now is not the time to hassle them about inconsequential things. Now is the time to express appreciation for all they do both in words/how we treat them and $. My organization does not typically do holiday bonuses (bonuses are processed with annual evaluations), and even they made an exception this year to send every single employee a holiday bonus just for hanging with us and keeping the trains running in the dumpster fire that is 2020.

          1. JustaTech*

            I’ve found (to my misery) that there are some people who, under stress, lash out about the weirdest things, often utterly inconsequential minutia.
            In college, right before exams, I had someone try to get me kicked out of school because he thought I was deliberately circumventing the school email rules when I sent out an email to some but not all dorms to please return their forks to the common student kitchen. I hadn’t broken any rules, I hadn’t even known about the rule in question, but this anonymous person was incensed and I very nearly had to go “on trial” (thankfully the deans were like “What? No.”).
            It had nothing to do with me at all, just my email arrived at exactly the wrong moment and was a “safe” outlet for their their fear and anxiety.

            I’m not saying it’s a healthy or useful or professional way to react, only that it’s not uncommon. Unfortunately it’s also something the OP probably can’t bring up (“you seem really stressed out and you’re lashing out at the rest of us and making us more stressed, can you find a healthier way to deal with your stress?”).

            1. one more scientist*

              Sorry, off-topic but I’m curious…..what “rule” did he think you were breaking?
              Were you not allowed to send emails?

      4. tink*

        I use one at work pretty frequently, but there’s only so softly you can place hard plastic against hard plastic without taking FOREVER to hang up. So there’s definitely the occasional clack or clatter when someone hangs up in our office.

    2. Judy*

      Phone slamming is obnoxious! I worked with someone that I often had to speak on the phone with. She was the type who’d SLAM down the phone before I’d finished my “goodbye”. I think part of it is that newer office phones have better and more sensitive speakers. I nicely mentioned it to her but she didn’t stop. I felt like my eardrum was going to burst. Obnoxious.

      1. Observer*

        Firstly, based on what the OP says they aren’t actually SLAMMING the phone. Seconldy, they clearly are not hanging up till the call is finished.

        And to be honest, as obnoxious are actual phone slamming can be, if your staff is being stretched thin, maybe you should at least protect them from obnoxious callers.

      2. The Rural Juror*

        I was finishing up a call with my boss on my landline the other day and dropped the handset as I was hanging up. It skidded off the receiver and kind of bounced on my desk. My boss was driving, so for him it was over his car’s bluetooth and pretty loud (oops!). We laughed about it later because he heard me quietly say, “Oof, crap! C’mere!” and then hang up. I think our phones DO have sensitive speakers.

    3. Phony Genius*

      Are there people who set [the phone] down gently like a newborn?

      If you remember the old days, the part of the phone that holds the handset was called the “cradle,” so it seems appropriate.

    4. Nanani*

      The way it’s a problem that they sound like they hung up on purpose is killing me trying to figure it out.
      You’re supposed to what? Pretend every call ends because of a technical glitch?

    5. PeanutButter*

      Seriously. My employer gave EVERYONE, including student interns who were scheduled to end their internship before Christmas, a ~$100 gift (from one of those corporate gift sites where the employer picks a dollar value and the employee picks what they want from that gift tier…for me it was hard to choose between the super fancy air fryer and the camera drone!) because they weren’t going to be holding the holiday party this year. Not including ONE person in the gifting? WTF?

  2. Kate*

    OP1, I feel you so hard. This happened to me once, in-person. It was actually featured as one of AAM’s worst holiday stories for a while.

    Know that your boss sucks. But like Alison said, you knew your boss sucked already. Add this to your mental file folder of things you know about them, and relish the day you get to leave.

    1. One Lone Evaluator*

      Also, LW1, if you have a placement office/officer for your area – give some thought to telling them about this place if they don’t have a debrief process. When I worked in co-op admin, we’d want to know about experiences. We wanted students to have good experiences, not…what you’re having. It can be hard to frame objectively when you’re in the middle of it, but certainly in our case we had enough options that a place like this probably would’ve not gotten another placement.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, 100% this^. I came here to say the same thing: *please* tell the co-op coordinator at your school about your experience and hopefully you can stop this from happening to another person in the future. And yes, your job SUCKS. We have co-ops at my org and we always treat them the same way we treat everyone else, and we love them and are always sad when they leave (and have a going-away party for them). When the co-op is present for our holiday party, they are involved in the present-giving the same way as everyone else, and we celebrate co-op’s birthday same as we would any other employee. I’m so sorry you had this experience, they SUCK.

        1. Annony*

          I was going to say the same. If the co-op isn’t almost over (I don’t know if it is by semester) it may be worth reaching out for advice about how to handle the situation as well.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            And when you fill them in, make sure to make it clear that you really tried to resolve the problems with your work. That way they know it’s not just that you didn’t take the initiative to communicate.

            But yes, they sound like a load of grinches! I’m sorry, OP.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        Even without the Christmas presents, this is a scenario that the school’s placement office would want to know about. The presents are the cherry on top of the crap sundae of this experience, really. Even just the bit about how they didn’t bother to learn LW’s name and just called them The Student made me gasp. This is a horrible experience for student workers, and if the school is in any way involved with student job placements, I’m sure they would want to know that so they can stop sending their students to this company. Honestly, as a mid-career professional, I would want to leave a place that treated student workers this way. This is not cool.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Same! And especially at an org with only 10 people, how could they not learn OP’s name???? That’s horrendous. My org has less than 15 and we learn our new coworker’s name the minute they are hired, which is usually 2-3 weeks before they actually start working. It’s. Not. Hard.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            It isn’t, but it’s done on purpose as a power play to remind these co-ops of their “place.” These people are nasty and I would want no parts of this.

            1. Bear Shark*

              100% a power play. When I was a co-op student I was pretty horrified to learn that my department manager referred to the other department co-op student as “the other Bear Shark.” It was apparently too much work to remember which of us was working which semester and learn both names. That was just the tip of the iceberg with that manager though.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              The name issue within the greater context of everything else seems bad, but on its own I don’t think it really is that bad. I am terrible with remembering peoples names. We often have anywhere from 3 to 5 interns for 2/3 month stretches of time multiple times a year (Spring, summer, fall semesters). I will admit it does usually take me about 1 1/2 to 2 months to remember interns names, not because I don’t like them or am trying to remind them of their place but just because I am bad at names. I don’t refer to any of them as “the intern.” I do generally avoid using names when greeting people/talking to them, even with people I know, so that when I don’t use interns names it does not stand out as much.

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                Understandable that you would have trouble remembering names if you have 3-5 interns at a time and if you are already bad at names. If you have 3-5 interns at a time I’d say you are probably a big enough org that you have a lot of employees. This place has but 10 employees so it’s truly terrible that they not only didn’t use or remember OP’s name but that they just called OP “the student.” So gross.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  Our office is only 5/6 staff…. A few times when we have been short staffed due to various reasons, interns have outnumbered employees, not by much usually only by 1 person.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                You can have trouble remembering names, or connecting them to faces, which is my particular problem (like, I know John’s sister was at the party and I remember what we talked about and that she was very nice, but I wouldn’t recognise her if I bumped into her at the market the next day), but then you surely do try to make an effort, and apologise profusely if you get it wrong, basically make sure they know it’s not them, it’s you. Well that’s what I do anyway and I have always managed to be on very good terms with the vast majority of my colleagues.

            1. The Student*

              LW1 here! You two are going to like this update: this position is paid for through various grant streams and I found out that I wouldn’t be doing what was in my job description because I was told to apply for more grant money using any job description because it “doesn’t matter anyways”. So yes, they were totally looking for free labour. As other commenters have suggested, I’ve talked to my school’s co-op office and they’re looking into informing the granter’s about this behaviour so they hopefully will not receive more grant money for co-op students in the future.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                I’m glad you notified your co-op office. These people are just a hot mess all around, aren’t they? Smh.

              2. Ripley Jones*


                Also, I am really sorry about the gift thing. That was such a crappy thing to do, but replace crappy with a much stronger word.

              3. Minnie Mouse*

                I’m glad you reported it! I had to report an externship in grad school due to sexual harassment from the business owner as part of explaining the awful grade they gave me. The associate Dean immediately took them off the “approved” list for students. They actually graded me on things that weren’t part of the externship like giving me a D in “group presentation.”

              4. one more scientist*

                Glad to hear you reported them. I am the program director of a paid internship program at my college. The students generally find their own internships, and we pay the stipend to the student directly through our grant. So, because the internship host site gets a “free” intern, I am always collecting feedback from the students about how they are treated. There are several places that have been black-listed for taking advantage.

              5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Wow yes that’s significant information! Yes, these people need to be banned from grant streams!

            2. Diahann Carroll*

              Not necessarily – I, along with many of my journalism cohorts, did unpaid co-ops when I was in college. The only people who seemed to have paid co-ops at the time were the engineering majors or the people who hustled and found their own internships independent of the school. I’ve heard from recent grads in various locales that also have “soft” degrees that that’s pretty much still a thing at a lot of colleges/universities.

        2. Not A Girl Boss*

          I had a pretty toxic co-op and my school’s co-op office definitely went to great lengths to keep future students from going there, and said they wished I’d told them sooner so they could have tried to find me a different co-op.

          I mean, honestly I don’t think the Christmas present thing is *that* big a deal – its crappy but some employers are just ‘like that’ about interns. Not employers I’d want to work for, maybe. But your school will probably care much more about the lack of meaningful work than they will about the gift baskets.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Yes, in isolation the gift cold even have been an oversight and we’d be saying ‘mention it to boss, they’ll probably be horrified and want to check with whoever ordered them to see what went wrong”, but with the rest it sounds as though it was 100% intentional.

            I’d have been tempted to say, out loud, that I hadn’t received a basket, when she instructed everyone to open them, but of course in the moment you never think of that kind of thing. Plus these people don’t sound like they would have the normal reaction of being embarrassed about it :(

        3. Observer*

          Exactly this. The presents is just rude but *by itself* it MIGHT be seen as just forgetful and clueless. But the rest? There is simply NO excuse. Not even a pretend excuse!

          And for the school, the lack of meaningful work has to be a major issue. I mean, as decent human beings the rest should also be a big deal. But even if they are not decent people or they are stupid about jobs, the whole point of these placements is meaningful work and that’s a metric they need to worry about purely on a paperwork basis.

        4. pamela voorhees*

          I had a student job at a specialty library that employed five people – I made six – and I found out a month in the job that none of them knew my name and referred to me between themselves as Scarecrow (I’m 5’11”). If LW had said that this was a smaller office, I’d absolutely be asking if it was the same place. I am so sorry, LW. I hope you get somewhere better.

      3. Nanani*

        THIS. Though the parts where you don’t get to do the work you signed up for should take more priority than the crappy holiday party. The placement office will care a LOT more that you aren’t getting the skills/training/experience they presumably sent you there to get.

        1. Annony*

          I definitely agree. The Christmas thing is crappy but not doing the work that was advertised and just being called “the student” for WEEKS is a much bigger problem.

        2. Aquawoman*

          I agree that the work is priority number 1. I’d also say microaggressions + not learning the OP’s name + the XMas thing = unwelcoming to student workers. The accumulation is greater than the sum of its crappy parts (and in that way, the crap sundae is like a regular sundae).

      4. Observer*

        give some thought to telling them about this place if they don’t have a debrief process

        Yes x 100

        This was the first thought I had. These people are really being obnoxious and should not have the benefit of coop student workers.

    2. A Nonny Mouse*

      I write in a few years ago because I was somehow excluded from the departmental Christmas parties. It sucked, so I understand how OP#1 feels.

    3. Momma Bear*

      OP1, I am sorry that happened to you. If you have an opportunity to change your co-op, I’d look into doing so. That was really crappy of them!

    4. Artemesia*

      Even if they were not giving you the whole fancy basket because you were not on the list of their employees, there should have been a gift of some sort — this was pretty nasty and it is hard not to feel it was intentional, although it is possible it was an oversight. Sorry and take the lesson forward that when you are a boss some day you make sure not to inflict this sort of pain on subordinates.

      1. GreenDoor*

        This! I was a high-school co-op at a bank and I was invited to the holiday party. I watched while all my co-workers opened up cards with $500 checks in them and was like, “wow!” not expecting anything, since I was just a part-time highschool worker. Then the Vice President handed ME a card. It had a crisp $100 bill in it.
        To a 17 year old that was a gold mine! More importantly, I felt like I was really one of them! The way I was treated there overall was such a great into to the working world. Not giving you a gift is, as others have said, the tip of a crap cake. And how can it take weeks to learn your name???

    5. Student*

      It helps, I hope, to understand that the employer has motivations for taking on interns. If the intern can figure out what’s motivating the employer to take them on early in the process, it can help to navigate the internship or decide whether to pursue it in the first place.

      Some employers do it because they want to help develop the field by teaching newcomers with hands-on experience.

      Some do it to scout out future workers. It’s a “free trial” for the company, where you can see how someone does and then pick them up with a lot more knowledge about them than you normally get in an interview process. Or not offer them a job for any number of reasons without having to write an a actual rejection letter.

      Some do it for free labor. They want to invest as little as possible in the intern but extract as much value as they can.

      Some do it for internal posturing/status/raises. There are companies that reward employees in annual reviews for doing on-paper mentoring, but never check to see that any real mentoring occurred. Sometimes a manager does this to increase the size of his or her reporting staff on paper to look like they’re managing more people, but doesn’t actually care what those staff are doing. Sometimes a manager will latch on to intern programs for under-served or under-represented groups (in my field, minority groups or women) to give themselves a fig leaf to deflect criticism from their behavior towards those same groups in other contexts.

      I’ve seen all of these in my work with interns. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking. Sometimes it’s well into illegal territory. The interns generally lack the experience and standing to push back when they get a lousy roll of the dice, even if it’s a really lousy roll.

  3. Viki*

    #3– I will not lie, if I am hiring for a position and someone told me that they needed 3 weeks off, during the common vacation time in my industry (Summer), I would have to weight that. If the same person then told me they would need 4 more weeks off within their same first year…well they better the best applicant by miles. And even then, it would probably be too much effort for me than it’s worth

    I need someone to be there, to their job, and my industry it would be hard for someone with tenure to take 7.5 weeks off, with a proven track record. All you can do is ask, but understand that, at least in some industries, this would not fly and potentially would yank an offer.

    1. Dan*

      On the flip side, at my org, while I couldn’t guarantee it, I’d wager that OP’s ask would probably be approved. For us, though, we’re generally hiring for a specialized skill set of some sort for the long term, and our work is project based (not coverage based) so it would be relatively easy to transition in and out of projects and nobody would really care.

      My first boss was really cool. When I started at my org, I was in a bit of the same position OP is in, although I just had a month long trip in the works, not two big ones. I told HR what’s up when the offer was extended, and their response was “do whatever you want, we don’t care. You can go 40 hours in the hole and then take unpaid leave for the rest.” This was in the spring. Fall rolls around, and my department manager came up to me and said, “hey, I know you took a chunk of time off earlier in the year, and probably don’t have much leave in the bank. You’ll have to take unpaid leave, but feel free to take what you want for the holidays and I’ll approve it.” That was a nice gesture.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah, the industry can matter a lot. If they’re hiring for longer term positions, or for jobs that are hard to hire for, the inconvenience of 7 weeks leave in the first year can be small compared to finding the best candidate and keeping them happy. If it’s an entry level or junior position with lots of equally qualified candidate, or a job where coverage is needed, or you want to take off a particularly busy time, it’s a harder sell.

        It will also depend on the economy and jobs in the OP’s field post pandemic. If there are a ton of great candidates for every open position, negotiating extra time off might be a harder sell.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          That was my situation when I had to ask for this. I had a 3 week vacation planned for October that we paid for in August. September, out of the blue, a recruiter got in touch with me for a job that was no crap tailor made for me (e.g. one set of experience they wanted was one I was one of 3 folks in the world who had it). When they made the offer they wanted me to start end of September. I explained about the trip and gave them an option of starting me later or letting me go unpaid. They said to just borrow into my leave. I’m not sure they would have been as OK with it if I hadn’t had such a weird skill set.

        2. OP3*

          That definitely makes sense (OP here). My original industry involved coverage and had a lot of overtime hours. I think they gave us such a generous vacation package in hopes we wouldn’t burn out. My fiancé is in a completely different industry with an even better vacation package. Where he works a month off every doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

          Guess I should just hope for the best.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        It *might* be approved at my organization, too, though I’m really not sure. The reason for the longer trip maybe shouldn’t matter, but probably does. All the people I’ve known at my organization who’ve taken 3-6 weeks off at a stretch are immigrants who have made long trips to visit family in their country of birth, mostly in India or China. Managers seem to understand that if you’re going to pay for the very expensive flight, spend 24-36 hours travelling each way, and deal with 10 hours of jetlag, that you probably want to go for as long as you can.

        1. Smithy*

          I do agree that this is both very industry specific – as well as manager specific.

          When I was living overseas, telling my boss that my annual plan would be to take off three weeks at a time to visit family in the US – she was understanding. (I was also the only person who did my job, and inevitably had to do some work during that time – but that’s another issue) However, in another job based in the US, when I asked to take two weeks at a time, my manager was very hesitant as it wasn’t common for our team. A this was a job where we had 25 vacation days and had to use or lose them every fiscal year.

          Therefore, in addition to checking/getting confirmation with HR during an offer negotiation…..I’d try to get that in writing or at least confirmation from the hiring manager.

        2. OP3*

          The only reason I am hoping to get the second trip approved is that we already paid for it :/ If it hadn’t been paid for I’d wait it out until taking another trip felt more appropriate – likely in a year or two down the road and depending on the company, probably 2 weeks…mayyybe 3. Not 4.
          Now, sacrificing a job for a sunk cost wouldn’t make any sense but it’s a hard pill to swallow. Obviously not the worst thing to come out of Covid so I shouldn’t complain. If it get’s approved by a future employer, yay! and if not, oh well.

          1. Smithy*

            Depending on the nature of your work and the nature of the trip – one idea might be to offer a certain number of days on the 4 week vacation when you could work remotely? Completely understand that may not be possible if the vacation is more in motion – but that could soften the request a lot for a number of places that might otherwise not be receptive.

    2. allathian*

      I know that the standards for vacations are different in the US and Europe, in that in most industries, taking 3 weeks off in a row wouldn’t be a problem even in your first year, because it’s part of the PTO package in most parts of the EU at least. The flip side of that is that employers aren’t very willing to let people take even more time off, even unpaid, and especially not new employees.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        That’s not my experience. Although standard PTO in my industry is nearly seven weeks a year, it’s very unusual to be able to take more than two weeks *at one time* (although a big life event like one’s own wedding would be a typical exception) and taking four weeks would be into sabbatical territory rather than vacation.

        I agree with Alison that although it’s worth *asking*, LW needs to be prepared to postpone the major vacation for further year or two (or five).

        1. TechWorker*

          Yeah we have 5 weeks + can buy another.. if you wanted unpaid leave that then you’d have to give some sort of reason and I doubt ‘I want to be on vacation for 7.5 weeks’ would fly unless you were *very* in demand.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          In my experience, regardless of how much you’re allowed to take/what would normally be considered acceptable to take in one go, if there’s going to be an exception, that exception is generally for OP’s circumstance: this was booked and paid for well before applying for the job. Whether it gets approved is dependent on company culture and the manager’s personality (and how much they want you), but still regardless of the nature of the trip “this was planned and paid for far in the past” is the context when it’d be considerable allowable if negotiated for at hiring.

    3. AB CDN Manager*

      Yeah that’s not something that would fly in my organization either. That’s a really big ask and quite honestly unless I had no other candidates that were even close I wouldn’t hire for that long off within the first year. Ours being coverage based even with it being unpaid that means other people would not be able to take time off in those areas either. I would make the wedding work but I wouldn’t be able to make the other extended holiday off. Hopefully they find a good match for them that will do this but you might have to sacrifice something whether it’s the job, or the holidays.

    4. MK*

      Also, in many fields they would have a hard time granting leave so far in the future. The summer 2021 request would probably be fine because summer is our low season and I can sort of know what our schedule will be like. But spring 2022 would be hard in any case, because I have no idea how things will be then, especially now that I can’t know what our hopefully-post-Covid workload will be like. Even in the best of circumstances, I wouldn’t commit to granting 4 weeks leave next spring, I would tell the employee to ask me again in September.

      1. doreen*

        Approving two weeks in 2022 for a honeymoon is one thing, four weeks is another. The only reason I wouldn’t approve a 2 week vacation is because too many other people were approved to be off and that’s not going to be an issue over a year in advance. There are other reasons for not approving vacations a year in advance*, but for some situations, I’m willing to make an exception. But not for four weeks.

        * Transfer from one location to another are very common at my job and practically all promotions are internal. So if I approve someone today for a four-week vacation in April 2022, there’s an excellent chance that either they or I will be working somewhere else by then. And it’s a virtual certainty that there will be other staff who have transferred in or out. There’s no way for me to know what the staffing conditions will be in 2022, and if it was routine to approve vacation that far in advance it’s entirely possible that both of my Teapot Supervisors could be on vacation at the same time – which I would never approve, but there’s nothing I can do if their previous supervisors approved the first two weeks of April for each of them last May before they were transferred to my office.

        1. OP3*

          It’s funny you say that. My fiancé has to get vacation approved a year in advance. Sometimes he can get a long weekend approved here and there with short notice. While taking 4 weeks at time is no problem, only 2 people can be out from the team at a time (hence the year in advance requests). Working at an organization where the year-in-advance couldn’t be accommodated wouldn’t be a good fit for me. But this is a good thing for me to consider. I didn’t realize that some organizations would have issues with advanced requests.

          1. doreen*

            Does he actually have to get it approved a year in advance ( like if he wants 7/12-7/16/21 he has to request it by 7/12/20) or is it more “vacation requests for calendar year 2021 must be submitted by Oct/Nov/Dec 2020”. The latter is pretty common for certain types of job, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the former.

            While I know it’s difficult when each half of a couple has different rules regarding vacation requests, I think that routinely approving vacations a year in advance is not very common outside of those fields where they set a deadline for all requests for a particular calendar year and than approve them after everyone’s requests are received. Sure, a lot of places will do it for a wedding and some will do it for a once in a lifetime trip or event – but most jobs without that “here’s the deadline and the decision will be made after the deadline” system won’t do it routinely.

          2. Librarian1*

            That’s ridiculous! I never plan vacations that far out. And I definitely don’t do that with long weekends. I usually only plan long weekends a week or two in advance, sometimes less. Luckily that works for my boss and I (she takes last minute time off more than I do), but still a year is A LOT.

    5. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Yup, even being in a country with non-US vacation norms, a new hire wanting to take 4 weeks off at once would get some side-eye at a lot of places. That would even be the case if it were a planned medical leave, to some extent – I’ve had that treated as though I was angling for special treatment.

      Even where lots of people have a PTO package with 7+ weeks of vacation, it may send the wrong message to take 4 weeks off at a time, even if you’re a long-established employee.

      1. londonedit*

        Definitely. We get 25 days’ holiday (and that is holiday, not holiday/sick/personal time) but it’s been company policy everywhere I’ve worked that anything over two consecutive weeks off needs special approval from a manager/the boss. It would absolutely be fine for a wedding/honeymoon, but aside from that, a four-week holiday would be very unusual. The only time I’ve known someone take a four-week break, it was an actual sabbatical (I once worked somewhere that gave staff a month-long sabbatical in their 10th year with the company).

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes my company is similar. We also get 25 days holiday but if you’re wanting to take more than 2 weeks at a time you need to flag to managers early and have a pretty good reason. Scheduling for a less busy time would also be key. I only know one person who did and he was from New Zealand and wanted to go home for nearly 4 weeks.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            Yeah, no one will blink an eye at two weeks, three to four weeks IS possible, but will usually require a chat with your manager about the trip, although I don’t think I’ve ever heard about anyone being denied.

            (I’ll be taking three weeks to visit family abroad post COVID and unless we have something urgent due will probably be allowed, but I’m also private sector and about to go to nearly 30 days leave, with some colleagues at 30+…)

      2. KayDeeAye*

        It’s a little different if it’s a wedding/honeymoon, though. People tend to give that more weight and importance than a regular trip, partly because of cultural expectations and partly because the wedding, at least (assuming it involves family traveling to get there and everything), needs to be planned so far in advance.

        My organization is pretty average when it comes to leave, but even we would probably not count out a good applicant who needed to arrange time off to get married and take a honeymoon. Three weeks is a lot, but probably doable, at least for a really strong candidate. I know we’ve allowed 2.5 weeks for this very purpose.

      1. BethDH*

        Yes, though at many places they may fall into the same fiscal year (mine runs July to June) or project cycle of some sort. Also if they all fall into the employee’s first year counting from start date, that often affects the rate of vacation accrual and also might mean the second long vacation falls just before an annual review.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yes– but they’re not a year apart. So even if the vacation is available, the optics aren’t great. For example, if your employer pre-loads vacation and you don’t have to wait to accrue, it still wouldn’t look right to take four weeks off in November and three in January or February. It’s less about having the time available than being in the office continuously at the beginning of your tenure.

    6. Quinalla*

      It would be a BIG ask at my place too. I think 3 weeks for wedding/honeymoon would get approved even for a new employee – but yeah get it in writing with the offer for sure – but another trip that is 4 weeks in the same year or even the next year likely would not. It is a long time to be gone, basically USA crappy maternity leave length of time. It does depend on the industry and hey, you can ask, but make sure you make it clear that you know it is a big ask and you aren’t expecting to do a 3-4 week trip every year, these are just 2 special circumstances. Since COVID delayed your trip, there might be a tad bit more understanding than normal, you had planned to take it prior to starting working originally, but I still think a lot of places will not be keen on it.

      1. Annony*

        Yeah, that would be a big ask where I work too. I did end up taking off two weeks for my wedding/honeymoon a month after I started, but I don’t know anyone who took two long vacations within one year. Taking a month off at a time just isn’t feasible in my industry and even asking to do it twice in your first year would look bad. I think this definitely depends a lot on their industry norms.

      2. OP3*

        That’s my hope, is that I can make it clear this wouldn’t be a usual occurrence. I hope if it’s the right fit, they’ll be more understanding about Covid having shifted my plans twice and allow it. Guess we’ll see!

    7. SwitchingGenres*

      In my last org it wouldn’t have been a huge ask. You may have been asked to work sone overtime beforehand, but it would be doable if you were the right candidate otherwise.

    8. Sara without an H*

      If I were the hiring manager, I think I would probably agree to the wedding/honeymoon combination IF the candidate brought it up as part of the offer negotiations. I tell people that, if I know far enough in advance, I can work around almost anything.

      The second four-week trip — I don’t know. I work in higher ed, which is seasonal. If the trip were scheduled for summer and/or winter break, I might be able to get HR to sign off on unpaid leave, but they’ve surprised me before.

      But in any case, Alison is right that OP#3 needs to work this out as part of the offer negotiations. Springing this on her manager after she’s hired will probably not go down well. (It wouldn’t with me, for sure.)

    9. MissGirl*

      The OP asks if employers will understand things getting pushed because of COVID, but taking a four-week vacation in a lot of industries is outside the normal on its own. It’s an ask that usually takes some tenure at a company before undertaking.

      1. Nothing But Flowers*

        Agreed! I have been at my organziation 10 years, and thus accrue 8 weeks of vacation a year. But taking more than 2 weeks at a time would require a fair amount of negotiating about how the work will be covered, etc. As a manager, I have only once approved a longer-than-three weeks vacation request from a subordinate, and it was indeed his wedding and honeymoon. Longer than two weeks I do generally approve, but the employee has to have sufficient tenure to understand how the work will be covered.
        While I’m sure it might work in other industries, for mine this 3 weeks then 4 weeks within the same fiscal would likely be a deal breaker.

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same – the three weeks for the wedding/honeymoon would be fine, particularly if we know about it coming in, but someone who takes 7 weeks off in their first year with us is not going to make their billable hours quota and is going to have a tougher time getting taken onto project teams if they know that much coverage is going to be required in a relatively short time.

      It may be totally fine in other industries, though, and I think it’s worth asking once both sides have agreed that it’s a good fit. I took three weeks off for my wedding/honeymoon six months after I started a new job and negotiating it on my way in was a complete non-issue. It’s the extra month 6-7 months later that may make it iffier.

      1. consultinerd*

        I was thinking along the same lines imagining that in my field–if I know a new junior employee is going to be out for two month-ish long periods in the same year I’m going to think twice about bringing them onto a long-term project.

    11. Not playing your game anymore*

      At our place, if you’re faculty and the time is during a break? No problem. If it’s not during a break? No way.

      If you are not faculty no way on either ask. If we make an offer just before one of your planned trips we’d be able to push your start date back (probably) so you could start when you returned from your honeymoon. But no way your getting a second long spell of time. You’ll earn 3 weeks that can be taken at anytime after your first 6 months, unless you pick a time when we are slammed.

    12. hufflepuff hobbit*

      LW#3 must not be in my industry (or similar industry) because this actually sounded ludicrous to me on first read — it’s just so NOT DONE. The wedding + honeymoon, yes (although most people take no more than two weeks entirely off in a row), but not a 4 week overseas vacation less than a year later.

      1. Coalea*

        Same here. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea of taking a 4-week vacation PERIOD, much less a 4-week vacation and a 3-week vacation/time off within a year-ish time frame. I’ve been in the workforce about 20 years and have worked with Americans and non-Americans. I can’t think of a single American colleague who has taken a vacation longer than 2 weeks, and 2 weeks would usually be for a wedding/honeymoon or a trip to visit family overseas. 2-week holidays seem to be the norm among non-American colleagues, but 3 weeks is quite rare. I have never heard of anyone taking 4 weeks. It would never have occurred to me that such a thing is even possible, unless you are the owner of the company!

    13. Artemesia*

      Yeah Most places are not comfortable with a month long vacation for anyone — but two long vacations the first year, I’d take a pass on hiring that person. It isn’t just the difficulty coping with getting the job done when the newbie takes so much time off, it is the impact on everyone else unless I want to establish the president that people can take a couple of months a year off from work. A 3 week honeymoon is pushing it but understandable as a one off — the month after that — why would’nt everyone want that and do I want everyone doing that? (and wish all businesses had more generous vacations, but in the US they don’t)

  4. Phil*

    LW5:Toastmasters really works. It helped a friend a lot. And if you’re in command of your material you’ll find your nerves will melt away and you might find that you enjoy speaking. It turned out I did!

    1. Finland*

      I used to be a very active member of Toastmasters and I definitely agree that it helps to build public speaking skills. I lost my taste for it when I learned that dues were increasing while the top Executive made a half-million per year. I mistakenly thought it was a volunteer-only organization.

      I think you can learn to speak publicly anywhere, just put yourself in a position to give small talks at first until you’re not thinking about it anymore and then build up from there. That’s how I’ve gotten to speaking regularly as a part of my job.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I have no information about Toastmasters in particular, but in my experience the people running any national organization are paid professionals. This isn’t an evenings and weekends kind of thing to do. That being said, it is fair to wonder what the top guy is bringing to the organization that justifies a half million dollar salary.

        1. doreen*

          Yes, a lot of times people running the local groups are volunteers, but the people running the national/international organization are paid professionals doing a full-time job. I don’t have any information about Toastmaster in particular – but large non-profits ( especially those that really don’t attract employees due to their mission) can’t pay a whole lot less than market rate.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          I was an officer in Toastmasters for awhile and thought it was an excellent organization. They did a rebrand of the leadership tracks/training a few years ago and it definitely could not have been done if they did not have full-time, paid positions in a global office. I think when I was in it (mid 2010s) it was something like $68 per year in dues.

    2. Quinalla*

      I haven’t done Toastmasters, but we have internal lunch & learns in my company that anyone can sign up to do. You research an interesting topic (some work related, some not) and present to whoever is interested in attending. Usually you have ~20 people and it is a kind and forgiving audience. Perfect for practicing public speaking! We also have plenty of opportunities for running meetings, presenting at meetings, etc. If there are potential opportunities for things like that at your work, definitely get in on them. And get someone(s) who will give you honest feedback too so you can keep getting better.

      And nervousness at public speaking for me has never completely gone away, but if I feel I am well prepared for the presentation and after the first minute or two, I get into the flow of the presentation and I’m good after that now. I also reframe my nervousness a bit and tell myself I am nervous and excited. This helps too!

    3. Cat Tree*

      Yes, I think it’s important to stress that public speaking is a skill that can be practiced and improved. LW5 says they’re just not good at it, but there were tons of other things they weren’t good at before learning them in school and through work experience. It’s more productive to view it as a skill that can be improved, rather than an inherent and unchanging quality.

      1. Sylvan*

        Yeah, I used to be very afraid of public speaking and then college made me do it repeatedly. It’s not my favorite thing, but it got better. You can improve your skills and get more comfortable.

      2. Obelia*

        Another thing for LW1 to consider – being nervous and your voice wobbling doesn’t in itself make you bad at public speaking!

        Those things will definitely get better with practice, but (after lots of experience) now I really enjoy public speaking and am reasonably decent at it, yet my hands still sometimes shake when I’m presenting. I have learned to see that as just a slightly endearing thing my body sometimes does in these situations, and work around it (so for me lecterns are great, and holding loose notes is not!).

      3. Artemesia*

        In grad school there are lots of opportunities to present before small groups of fellow students. The practice that comes naturally in the program should help you get prepared for bigger presentations.

    4. Filtrum*

      One thing I’ve always been curious about regarding Toastmasters — my biggest public speaking issue is my voice. I have a fairly soft voice and when I try to project to be heard I must be doing it wrong, because my throat tightens up and it’s very tiring. Would Toastmasters help with a more “mechanical” aspect of public speaking like that?

      1. tiny cactus*

        If you plan to do much public speaking, it might be worth talking to a voice therapist about that, because it’s not difficult to strain or injure your voice if you try to push it uncomfortably. You can learn to project your voice without straining it. I can’t speak to Toastmasters specifically, but it’s quite a specialized skill set, so I would be doubtful that they would be able to address something like this.

        (I say this because I know someone who injured their voice singing, and it has been a really long road to recovery. Apparently it’s common for teachers and other people who have to raise their voices often to have similar issues.)

        1. This Is My Day Job*

          It’s definitely worth speaking to a speech therapist or voice coach – I’m a voice teacher who works with clients who need to make presentations, and there are lots of techniques and adjustments you can use to make speaking and being understood easier. If there’s nothing physiologically going on (which you can get assessed by a laryngologist or speech therapist) a good voice coach should be able to help!

          Personally, I think the most important thing is to have a nice (gentle) stretch of the neck and shoulders, and most of all, remember to breathe! Breathing goes out the window when we’re anxious and gets all shallow, which makes your voice strain more. Remembering to take a nice relaxed breath right down into your belly (not your chest) makes such a difference, and helps calm your nerves as well.

          I could go on forever as this is TOTALLY my thing and well, my actual job, but just to also echo what a lot of other commenters have said about practice in an environment where it’s ok to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn, and even when you’re presenting for realsies, a little flub or fumble won’t be held against you, as long as you take a breath and keep going.

          Public speaking can be super difficult, but it’s a skill that you can learn like any other!

      2. Uranus Wars*

        I didn’t have a voice issue, but I did have this weird tick that caused my eyes to take on a weird life of their own and it definitely helped me with that. We had some people in our group who were soft spoken and definitely worked on projection, not just comfort, but I don’t know that their issue was exactly what yours is.

    5. calonkat*

      Actually doing presentations is the key here. Repetition and practice. If not Toastmasters, then look for opportunities and practice any sort of presentation in private to get over some of the nerves.

      I think the two biggest things I got out of years of 4-H was the ability to keep records and the ability to be reasonably comfortable with public speaking. Organize your material, rehearse, stand up straight, and speak out :)

  5. Naomi*

    OP1, does your school’s co-op office solicit feedback from students? They might like to know that this company isn’t a good place to send students in future.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I was coming to say the exact same thing – OP, you need to report everything that’s happening to your school’s co-op coordinator so they know not to send anymore students to that company. Not even bothering to learn your name for months is really demoralizing for no reason – no one deserves to be treated like that in the workplace.

      1. MamaSarah*

        Please definitely share about the microaggressions. Sometimes organizations just need more training on this topic, sometimes people have big blocks when it comes to owning unbecoming behavior. Either way, it’s worth mentioning to your program coordinator.

        1. Observer*

          The stuff that the OP is describing are not microaggressions – they flat out bad management and blatant rudeness.

          1. Kelly L.*

            They said there were microaggressions *too*, though–not that the general rudeness was one. It sounds likely that there were casual racist or sexist comments made.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Right? I totally glossed over that detail, but wow, they didn’t even learn your NAME for two months??? Hi again, OP, they STILL suck.

        1. Sylvan*

          Yeah, what was that?! I’m sorry you’re dealing with them, OP, and please do talk to your school about them. And the microaggressions; your school wouldn’t want students to be in this situation at all.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          If they were working full time and it took two months to learn their name I agree that is bad. But two months if they are only working part-time or a few days is not that long. A month and a half to two month is about how long it takes me to remember our interns name every rotation we have three total Spring, Summer, Fall. I often joke that by the time I finally learn everyone’s name they are leaving. Most of our interns will only be with us 2/3 days a week for half the day. So two months a 3 half days a week is really only 12 days. It usually does take me about 2/3 weeks to learn a new full time coworkers name to the extent that I don’t have to stop and actively think about what their name is.

    2. Natalie*

      This is what I wanted to add. Even if they don’t solicit feedback, hopefully you have a co-op advisor or similar you could share your experiences with. My college had a co-op program and student feedback was an important part of the process.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Please check in with the person at your school overseeing the co-op, this is all crucial info they need to know. There really isn’t the learning about proper office norms going to be happening at this place. The program may not be able to move you out – but they should hopefully be able to prevent other students being sentenced to this lack of learning (especially if there is school tuition being paid as a part of this experience).

      1. The Student*

        Hi LW1 here! My co-op office has been aware and kept in the loop about the mishappenings the whole semester and though they can’t really do much, it does sound like they’re going to do what’s in their power to prevent grant money from being given to this organization again (since I’m paid through various grants, not through the organization directly).

    4. Sara without an H*

      Ditto to all of this. OP, even if your co-op office doesn’t solicit feedback, you need to contact the head and tell them about this. They shouldn’t be sending students there.

    5. Smithy*

      Please please please do this!

      I’m sure this isn’t limited to nonprofits – but as someone who’s only ever worked (and interned) at nonprofits – the experiences offered to students can vary wildly. The kindest explanation is that people are stretched too thin to properly onboard and manage a student – and then there are also just organizations with cruel people in leadership. Either way – flag this experience to a student coordinator.

      One place I worked, would only take 1 student volunteer every six months – refused to call it an internship because she didn’t feel comfortable quantifying what anyone would learn. She’d tell those requesting that they would be given a legal research project, a desk in an unfortunately high traffic part of the office due to space limitation, and would only get to meet with a supervisor once a week. Otherwise it would largely be independent research, it wasn’t an office that socialized, and they’d never gain any experience working on cases handled by the nonprofit. It was a harsh summary, but at least it was honest and students were always given a letter of reference upon their completion.

      1. Observer*

        It doesn’t sound like an easy place to work. But, as you say, they were honest and I would think that you would actually learn something, if not as much as one would hope in a placement. And it also doesn’t sound like people were being actively rude and even demeaning.

        1. Smithy*

          It was a difficult place to work on a number of measures – and led by someone who was incredibly blunt/harsh. That being said, it wasn’t a place that had shifting goalposts or any kind of bait and switch.

          That nonprofit also addressed an issue that inspired a lot of idealism and people who “wanted to help” – which I think is a reality with lots of nonprofits and student volunteers/interns. People care deeply about issues, want to help out, and particularly younger adults or those new to the industry – may not be 100% clear what individual contributors actually do. Some nonprofits thrive on a large number of volunteers or invest in programs to make those experiences valuable and clear for all. A lot do not.

    6. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Yes, yes, yes. Tell your school’s co-op office. This company shouldn’t get anymore co-op students from your school.

      1. Again With Feeling*

        This. The organization gets a lot of benefit from hosting students, and they clearly aren’t providing any of the benefits the student should receive in turn. (Work experience, training, professional networking, learning about office life…) LW’s school should know that this org isn’t a good match for the program and they shouldn’t be a placeemnt anymore. I worked at a non-profit that hosted fellows for their first year after college, and they were included as part of the team and given real responsibility. The office held a goodbye party for the fellows at the end of their term and it was always really sad to say goodbye after working closely together for a year! LW’s placement organization sucks.

    7. Orange You Glad*

      This! I was a co-op student and had a really bad experience with one of my jobs – very similar to LW’s experience. I just attributed it to the job being a bad fit for me and the company not having enough work to justify a full-time co-op. I completed my end of job reflection survey for my school’s co-op office with honest answers and it set off red flags all over the co-op office. I was called in for an in-person meeting with a co-op advisor to discuss the position and I think it resulted in the school dropping the company as a co-op employer. My school also has a public review site so students can review other’s students’ reviews of a position before applying.

      I’ve heard of companies that use co-ops exclusively to fill admin roles. The problem is that basic admin work isn’t the best experience for every student. Now that I hire co-op students I’m always trying to balance the work between entry-level tasks and challenging projects to give the students a well rounded experience.

  6. My Dear Wormwood*

    #5: if you can, do practice with your research group/office and get their feedback. One of the things that helped me stop being cripplingly nervous was hearing from someone I respected that they thought I presented really well, even though I was clearly nervous. Partly this is because, however tense you are in the lead-up, you really do relax into it once you get going. The dread before speaking was always the worst part for me.

    Another thing to remember is that, if you’re doing a thesis by research, you will soon become the most knowledgeable person in the room on your particular topic. By the end you will know it better than your supervisor. Everyone except That Guy(TM) will treat you as such. They will ask questions because they’re interested, not because they want to trip you up. That Guy(TM) is the one mansplaining, devil’s-advocating, and generally being a jerk, and everyone else recognizes it too, so don’t worry about him.

    The other thing you can try is sign up to do song leading at church and be assigned as a partner the guy who rolls up 45 seconds before the service starts and never practices. I can guarantee this will make merely speaking in public a breeze by comparison.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      One of the things that helped me stop being cripplingly nervous was hearing from someone I respected that they thought I presented really well, even though I was clearly nervous. Partly this is because, however tense you are in the lead-up, you really do relax into it once you get going. The dread before speaking was always the worst part for me.

      This is the exact feedback I always received in Toastmasters (I worked for a company that had its own chapter and it was a requirement of my trainee program that I had to complete the Competent Communicator level in order to graduate and receive my $300 bonus). OP, many people probably won’t even notice you’re as nervous as you are if you practice your speeches ahead of time and have a strong command over your material – they’ll be too engaged with your speech to notice when you speak with intention and authority on a topic.

    2. JokeyJules*

      speaking up in general made public speaking easier for me. a few weeks before a presentation in college, i’d try to raise my hand more to answer questions and stuff, the line of thinking i had with that strategy was “they already know my voice and how i speak and that i’m not (insert whatever self deprecation you jump to first)” so by the time to speak comes it’s nothing.
      In my professional career, i try to do the same when applicable. It makes me more comfortable and confident and speaking to the group feels more natural.

    3. BethDH*

      I am also someone who is super nervous ahead and then usually enjoy it once it’s going on, especially since in an academic situation you’re presumably presenting about something you care a lot about.
      One thing that helped me was redefining my feelings based on this. I like public speaking! I don’t like anticipating public speaking — just like I like traveling once I’m somewhere and don’t like the plane flight.
      Also figure out what to do if someone has a comment or a question you can’t answer. Watch others for ideas, but “that’s an interesting idea that I haven’t thought about before, so I want to look into it further before I give you an answer” usually works really well!

    4. Artemesia*

      This. You may not be a good judge of your own performance. I remember early in my career giving a keynote speech to 500 people at a conference — all the important people in my field. I was terrified and spent the morning fantasizing about jumping out my hotel window — terrified. Gave the speech and had several people come up and say ‘Wow, I would have been terrified to give a speech in this audience — I can’t believe you were so calm’ — I was literally sick with terror and yet it was apparently not obvious to those not inside my mind. And it gets a lot easier with practice. I could give an impromptu brief talk to 20,000. now without breaking a sweat, but in the beginning, I was quaking in my boots for each presentation. One effect was that I over prepared and so was really comfortable with the material and also never operated from text only from outline which made being natural easier. You talk to yourself enough in the shower and the car and the material eventually flows easily.

      It also helps to have some structure — I always started a talk with a ‘grabber’ — an anecdote, a startling statistic, a question to the audience for show of hands, a rhetorical question or in some cases where appropriate an actual question I would get a few responses on etc. Something to focus the room’s attention on me and the topic. Always had a limited number of key points — preferably 3 but no more than 5. And always had a neat finish — something to leave people with so it just didn’t peter out into, well does anyone have a question or just fade away.

      When you have a way to start that is well thought out, it really helps you feel in control. but mostly it is practice . You speak a few times and the krakken doesn’t emerge and gobble you up and you realize it isn’t that big a deal.

  7. phira*

    LW5: If you have the option to teach as part of your program, that can help a lot. Being the expert in the room by default can often help you feel less nervous, or at the very least it’ll make you practice by requiring you to do it 1+ times a week.

    What I’ve found very helpful, though, is that I kind of have a persona, which I call “teacher mode.” It’s like the teacher version of me, and I’m playing that role. It’s been useful in job interviews and giving seminars, as well as contributing to staff meetings. Teacher Me is laid-back and very practical, so if something goes wrong, she just rolls with it in ways that Regular Me can’t. She’s not nervous because she’s been doing this for years! She knows what pace to speak with or how to write slides because it’s part of her job and she’s comfortable with it.

    To be fair, I’ve been teaching in some capacity or another since 2006, and it’s my current career, so I’ve had lots of time to craft Teacher Me’s persona and practice playing her. However, when I developed severe postpartum depression and anxiety this fall, Teacher Me saved my butt for a solid month. I struggled to answer emails and get my grading done on time, but when I was in the (virtual) classroom, even if I was in the middle of a massive anxiety attack that was pressing the air out of my lungs, Teacher Me was in charge. More than once, that resulted in teaching *decreasing* my anxiety because I had to focus on something else.

    You might never love public speaking, but if you can’t intellectually convince yourself that you know what you’re doing and that the stakes aren’t as high as they seem, sometimes it helps to, like … LARP it.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this. Something similar happened to me as a teen. I was painfully shy and absolutely dreaded talking to strangers. I learned to do it by working retail, starting when I was 17. Putting the uniform on and being able to talk in a professional role eventually helped me realize that it wasn’t so bad and slowly I got over my shyness in dealing with strangers in my private life as well.

      In my previous career I was a market researcher and a part of the job involved presenting the results to customers. I’ve never particularly enjoyed making presentations, but those were pretty easy for me, because I knew the material and I also knew that my audience was really interested in hearing the results, after all, they were paying my employer for them.

      1. Jackalope*

        I also used to have a hard time speaking in front of groups but then I got a job that among other things involved traveling around a few weeks a year talking about what I did in all sorts of settings from one-on-one get-togethers (with people I maybe didn’t even know!) to speaking in front of 150 people. It was hard at first but I was passionate about what I did and got to where I enjoyed the chance to share about it with strangers (and friendly acquaintances) who were also interested. All the practice definitely helped.

        Also, a year or two ago I took a public speaking class. The teacher gave us some useful ideas on how to go about it and over the course of…. six weeks? Two months? We each gave a five-minute and later a ten-minute speech about anything we chose. Plus we also did various in-class activities with mini presentations and such. I found it super useful.

        1. Jackalope*

          The class was through a local community college and was one of their continuing education classes they offered each semester for a very reasonable amount, maybe $50. Totally worth it.

      2. Anononon*

        Yup, this was me, too. In middle school/early high school, when I went to restaurants with my friends, I would sometimes make them order for me! But then I had several retail jobs that really helped my anxiety in dealing with people. I still hated talking on the phone, and that didn’t really start to go away until internships in law school made me do it. Now, phone calls are a huge part of my job, including super awkward cold calling, and I’m really perfectly fine with it.

        (I don’t think the phone thing was generational for me – I didn’t get a texting plan until college in 2006.)

    2. Roci*

      I don’t love public speaking and I’m not good at it now, but when I worked with children I was better at it. If you get stage fright and blank out and don’t do things well, it’s OK, because the kids have forgotten it by the end of the day and don’t hold it against you. And something about having to be the Adult in the room makes it easier to step up under pressure.

    3. OtterB*

      Yeah, putting on a persona of “competent expert” helps me a lot. Or sometimes, “curious about other views on this,” since that means if someone disagrees with me, they aren’t (usually) personally attacking me, we are collaborating on expanding the knowledge of the whole group.

    4. KC*

      100%. I used to be such an anxious speaker I’d barf before every presentation. Toastmasters and a teaching job helped so much. After about 10 class periods I found my “teacher mode” groove and it carries me in all presentations. I still get nervous and have a shaky voice the first day of class, but I just remember this is normal and it goes away after a couple minutes. In fact, I once got a call at 3am that I was going to have to give a 2 hour research presentation at 3pm that day that I knew nothing about. I studied on the plane and nailed it! If I can do that, you can!

      One piece of advice I also have is DO NOT give in to the impulse to avoid public speaking. This is how a lot of phobias start, you feel rewarded by the feeling of relief you get by avoiding, and then it gets harder to face your fears. Embrace your feelings of discomfort, and reward yourself grandly after a presentation to help encourage yourself to do it again.

  8. Red Wheelbarrow*

    As a first-year grad student, I once watched one of my peers give a presentation. I remember thinkng, he’s obviously really scared, he’s visibly shaking, his voice is cracking…and he’s giving a really smart presentation. And I felt nothing but sympathy and and admiration for him. So…maybe if I’m visibly scared when I present, that’s not the worst thing in the world. It didn’t do away with my nerves, but it helped.

    1. Cat Tree*

      It was a real game changer for me when I realized that other people want to see my presentation in the best possible light, rather than looking for any little reason to judge me negatively. Of course it’s still intimidating to give a presentation to multiple VPs, but I now realize that they’re on “my side” and will not be upset if I stumble or am obviously nervous.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, actually, this helps me as a musician too. I’m not a soloist but had to give some solo recitals while in school (talk about scary; I don’t know how regular soloists do it) and it really helped me to change my mindset to “My friends and family are here to hear some beautiful music and not to worry about whether I make a mistake or not” so I was able to focus on the music and not worry so much about the (inevitable!) mistakes. It helps me in public speaking too, and also, OP, keep in mind that stumbling over your words isn’t terrible. Sure, it happens (inevitable!) but it happens to everyone! It might help to focus on the topic of your presentation as much as possible and just think that you are tasked with relaying the information to others and *that* is what is important, not whether you seem nervous or confident or any of that. And Alison is absolutely correct that practice will definitely help get you used to presenting your materials. Best of luck, OP!

    2. Not A Girl Boss*

      I am actually a fairly confident speaker. I don’t know where it came from, I have a ton of social anxiety and small talk makes me so nervous. But with presentations, I can put on a kind of disguise persona and get on just great.

      BUT there was a time I had this huge opportunity to present to the COO of our Fortune 500 company as a lowly engineer. And… it was to tell him that his executive team was causing a huge, huge problem. My whole body just betrayed me, my voice started cracking and I started trembling and my mouth got stiffer and stiffer as I inched closer to the slide where I said “As you can see, this giant problem that is caused by the way senior management prioritizes metrics.”
      I was so mad at myself, because I felt like it made me sound less confident in what I was saying, when really I was just terrified I was about to be fired.
      Anyway, the COO sent me a really nice email after the fact. He told me he appreciated how much guts I exhibited by saying what I needed to say despite how uncomfortable it was for me, and that he wished more people were that honest with him. If anything, I think being so visibly terrified strengthened my case because he knew it would be so much easier for me if I didn’t say it at all.

      1. Web Crawler*

        Wow, that sounds terrifying! But I also appreciate how much guts you exhibited there- that’s awesome!

      2. Sister Michael*

        “I don’t know where it came from, I have a ton of social anxiety and small talk makes me so nervous. But with presentations, I can put on a kind of disguise persona and get on just great.”

        I have a theory about this, as a shy person myself. I think that public speaking can be easier than conversational speaking for me because in a conversation, I often get that shy person’s feeling of, ‘oh gosh I’m talking too much they probably don’t want to hear me anyway why am I doing this’. Or that thing where I start tentatively and then somebody talks right over top of me, which is the worst feeling and only makes me quieter.
        But public speaking is easy- I’ve been assigned a topic, given a chance to prep, and the audience either genuinely wants to hear what I have to say or is, at least, stuck with me because they’ve been told to go hear me. The rules of engagement are just so clear, and I find that comforting and refreshing and I really enjoy it!

        I also really identify with the person upthread who talked about almost LARPing your presentation. I definitely slide into some alternate version of myself when I’m presenting, and I really like that person, even if she takes a fair amount of energy to sustain sometimes. I’ve definitely surprised people who knew me as a fairly timid person and then saw me present publicly and came away with the impression that I was bubbly and funny and that’s true of me too- I just need to be comfortable to be that person, and public speaking helps me with that.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          “The rules of engagement are just so clear” yessss I do think this is a huge part of it. Like, socializing would be so much more fun for me if we had a prescribed agenda (with a preview of questions, of course) and a set time limit with a little bell that rings when my time is up.

          I agree that its exhausting to maintain Presentation Mode though. The last time I started a new job, I put my disguise on for a whole week and then slept like 20 hours straight when I finally made it to that first weekend.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      When I first started presenting I would no crap straight up tremble all over. Knees shaking, the whole nine yards. Funny thing is, in my head, I wasn’t nervous at all, but my body clearly was. Eventually it stopped happening, but I know all those audiences probably thought I was terrified.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      My first presentation to a group of colleagues was a practice run for a Big Presentation the next week. During the practice run, I nearly froze up when I realized that no one else was going to do it for me. But I got through it and then the actual presentation to executives was just fine – mostly it helped that I was occasionally interrupted with questions (so I wasn’t just monologuing) and sometimes my manager/higher ups responded on my behalf, which had the weird effect of taking the pressure off me but annoying me because I also had the answer and could have responded just fine.

      My rule for public speaking for over 10 years was to practice out loud at least 3 times beforehand. I always knew the material but in order to speak smoothly about it, I had to practice and it had to be out loud. At this point I can give a talk without needing to practice and it’s considered one of my highly rated skills, but it only came with practice.

      Obvious nerves usually make people sympathetic to the speaker, because we all have been there or are still there. The one thing I’ll (mentally, to myself only) pick on is if someone chooses to use a script but doesn’t practice the script out loud ahead of time so they’re just doing a flat reading. Using a script is fine, but be familiar with what is written.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I definitely agree on practicing out loud. But I have to be careful not to over-practice, or else it stops sounding natural and starts sounding robotic. I had one experience where I was thinking ahead to my next slide and totally skipped ahead in my presentation and confused everyone.

  9. anonnonaanon*

    OP #5: My graduate program held internal conferences to give us speaking practice. I had barely been able to speak in college, and getting to talk about my research made me realize that I actually liked public speaking. Having the audience be classmates and friends made it low-stakes. Maybe get some classmates together to practice speaking (also, this can be super helpful for learning to handle q&a!)

  10. judyjudyjudy*

    LW 5: Alison is totally right, I got way better at public speaking in grad school because I had to do way more public speaking — so done of those nerves might go away with time! Being a TA is a good way to practice public speaking because you are the authority on the topic at hand and your audience won’t know nearly as much. Also, when I had an oral exam coming up (including my dissertation defense), I would give a practice talk in front of friends in my program and take suggestions from them. This really helped me craft my talking points and get into the flow of the talk. I would buy them pizza and beer as a reward. Best of luck, keep practicing!

  11. Amelia*

    #5 In grad school, I took a weekly improv workshop series at my university which helped with my public speaking. It was lots of fun and no one made cared if you misspoke. It was all about being comfortable speaking in front of an audience (especially without a script). Eventually I gained enough confidence to enter pitch competitions (and was a finalist too)!

    1. Wanderer*

      In improv, you are literally practicing the mindset of balancing something prepared (in improv, a structure of a game, or ideas about developing a scene) with the readiness to respond to whatever the situation calls for. Since you’re doing it about low-stakes things, you can get through the self-judgement and nerves through just time and practice. Then, when it’s time for real-world public speaking, you’ll have done the work to be able to access that mindset or, if you need to, just start playing a character that’s a slightly more confident version of yourself.

      I will say that through improv and having to play the piano in public (which is terrifying! not a good situation for shaky hands!) – the best way through is through. Once you’ve done it a bunch of times including messing up, you’ll realize you still have the same number of friends and everyone is still alive. And then the nerves are less, and then your mess-ups are less, and when you do mess up it’s easier to recover.

    2. Yay_Improv*

      Seconding/thirding improv for #5! My husband has social anxiety, and back when he was in grad school I signed him up for three months of weekly improv classes as a gift. He is not a natural performer or remotely enthusiastic about being the center of attention, but he tried the classes out. He felt super awkward at first, but by the end of the class he was much more confident with his improv. Surprisingly to us, the place the course had the biggest impact was in his presentation skills – he would regularly receive compliments in graduate school for the quality of his presentations, and he now leads weekly webinars for his job with confidence and skill.

  12. Verruecktsax*

    LW #5
    This was also me when I started grad school! I was so nervous that I could barely string a sentence together without stuttering, the laser pointer shook in my hands like there was an earthquake, and anything I ate for breakfast was coming back up. My first few presentations were rough. Here are a few things I did to help myself, you might find them helpful also.

    1) I memorized my first 3 slides. Complete memorization–down to the pauses I wanted to take. I found that once I got through the intro, I was more relaxed when I was talking about my specific research topic.
    2) Find the nodders. I had one friend who was great at nodding along when things made sense. I spoke directly to her until I could get better about looking around the room. Even now, when I give talks to larger audiences, I find the nodders and speak to them.
    3) Practice! I signed up for every student-run seminar, every department retreat, every opportunity that was presented to me where I could possibly talk. I was not always chosen, but I made it my goal to put myself out there. Gradually, my brain realized that giving a talk wasn’t a fight-or-flight scenario. (This has the added bonus of people in your program / department getting to know you more!)
    4) Consider taking a class. Many people have had success with Toastmasters. I have not attended Toastmasters, but I did take several classes on how to communicate science (my field) to non-scientists. It really forced me to think about the messages I was trying to convey to different types of audiences, and as a result, my grad school talks improved.

    It won’t happen overnight, but from my experience, it will improve with time. Sending love, head nods, and good presentation vibes!

    1. GreenDoor*

      I competed in public speaking and debate in high school and am a judge for students in competition now. Here’s my advice:
      1. Practice in front of a mirror – out loud! The out loud is crucial – you will hear how fast or slow you are, how often you stammer, parts where you forget your words, etc – and then you can practice doing something about those issues.
      2. If your presentation has a time limit, make sure you practice with a timer. There’s usually a big differene in our perception of how fast/slow we’re talking and our actual time. you might also find that you need to add or remove material to fit your time parameter.
      3. Forget about picturing people naked. Worst advice ever.
      4. You can create the illusion of making eye contact by sweeping you eyes back and forth along the back wall or over the people’s hairlines. You DO need to make eye contact or at least look like you are.
      5. For the love of God, do not use notecards! They seem like they’d be helpful, but they end up being a crutch because you look down at them instead of up at the audience and because they hold you back from being able to make effective hand gestures or use your visual aids. Do not hold pens or other objects in your hands for the same reason. If you need notes, type them into the notes section ofyour power point or type up a one-pager and keep it on your podium.
      6. Don’t use visual aids unless they will actually enhance your presentation. I had a student who made beautiful poster boards for his topic – but never referred to them once. Why are they there?
      7. If you use powerpoint, do not just put you notes on slides and read them. Your audience knows how to read – again, your slides should show images or words or videos that enhance what your mouth is saying.
      8. Before you even begin speaking, pause, look out and…smile. Lots of people will subconsciously smile back and being smiled at will put you at ease. It also leaves people with a warm impressoin of you, which means they’ll be more apt to be forgiving if you stumble later on.

      And truly, it gets easier the more often you do it!

  13. Georgia*

    #1: I was a contract employee in the HR dept of a for-profit university. I was not allowed to attend the monthly HR meetings where catered lunch was served because I was not an “employee”. One time, there was no business agenda, just a social event. I asked to attend but was told “no, employees only”. I nearly flipped when a well-meaning employee let me know that there were leftovers in the break room; she thought I was staying behind voluntarily to cover the phones. I was employee enough to have full unfettered access to the entire HRIS and payroll systems, but I was not worthy to mingle at a lunch . I took the gig to keep paying my bills after being laid off for 10 months and continuing my job hunt. I loathed that place heartily.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is something some employers do because they run legal risks if they treat employees and contractors basically the same. They’re (usually) trying to preserve some distinction for legal reasons, not to be jerks. (There are far more effective ways to preserve those distinctions, but the financial consequences can be high if they get it wrong.)

      1. Firecat*

        I have no sympathy for companies about this.

        What you mean I might get penalized for 1099ing an intern who comes on site each day, has to record their breaks, reports directly to me, works 8+ hours a day, and uses all of my equipment????

        Jeez federal government I guess I can’t show them an ounce of humanity and give them a holiday gift. Look what you made me do gov. Look what you made me do.

        1. doreen*

          That’s the thing I never get about this- nobody is writing in saying that they are truly an independent contractor and aren’t invited to the holiday party. It’s always people who are treated just like employees in most ways. And if the “contractor” was the employee/owner of a consulting company with other clients , I can’t see why inviting them to meetings and holiday parties would be a problem.

          So I’m kind of wondering how it’s legal to 1099 someone who is treated so similarly to an employee that meetings/parties might make a difference.

          1. pancakes*

            I think the specific issue around holiday parties is that they’re tax deductible in the US if limited to employees, and not fully deductible if people like vendors and contractors are invited. Of course this doesn’t oblige anyone to be miserly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s often the impetus for being miserly.

            1. doreen*

              That’s not really what I was getting at. My husband’s company does not have any HR employees. They use a consulting company. The company has many other clients, and the rep is on-site a couple of times a month. She presumably gets a W2 from her actual employer. Inviting her to a holiday party or meetings is not going to make her appear to be an employee of my husband’s company. ( tax deductibility is a different issue) Some temps are employees of temp agencies and get a W2 from the temp agency – inviting them to a party or meeting wouldn’t make then appear to be employees of the client company. And if someone is a “contract” employee, but works for only one company that exercises control over how and where the work is done , I don’t think that excluding them from the parties/meetings is going to be the determining factor if the IRS questions whether they are appropriately classified as contractors or whether they should be considered employees.

          2. Firecat*

            Yeah exactly. To me it’s just the corps making things miserable while pointing to the law. Like how a lot of crappy places made everyone part time and pointed to the ACA. It’s using an excuse to be crappy that has nothing to do with the law while trying to drum up sympathy and support to overturn the few meager protections we have as US workers.

        2. Lala*

          Yes, it sounds like Georgia was working entirely for them doing HR work. She shouldn’t have been a contractor anyway.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Companies certainly do outsource work and hire people as contractors when they shouldn’t, but there are certain situations where it is a reasonable choice. If you need someone to cover an extended leave 4 to 6 months of absence due to medial or parental leave, it can certainly make more sense to hire someone on a temp contract basis or hire through a temp agency to work during that period of time instead of trying to hire someone directly for only 4 to 6 months.

            Sometimes people might be a “contractor,” but that does not mean they are a 1099 independent contractor, but they are just employed by a different party sometimes the temp agency. In that situation a person is not being misclassified for IRS purposes because they are a W2 employee just not for the company but the temp agency.

            1. pancakes*

              Sure, but some companies and firms do it because having a second class of employees who aren’t technically employees allows the higher-ups to hang on to more of their profits.

                1. pancakes*

                  As someone who spent 4 years as a W2 temp in one law firm and several long stints in others, I have frequently found it just as damning as other types of profiteering. I think the success Google contractors have had in organizing walk-outs indicates that many other people find it ugly behavior, too. I hope it becomes deeply unfashionable.

                  I will also point out that many for-profit companies do things for reasons that aren’t about profits at all. There’s a good NYT op-ed on this subject by law prof Lynn Stout titled, “Corporations Don’t Have to Maximize Profits.”

            2. Lala*

              A temp contract is different from a contractor. They are employees just employees of the contract agency. There are no concerns about treating them like employees.

              You don’t have to not invite your temp contract workers to parties because they aren’t independent contractors and the government doesn’t care if you treat them like employees.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                We agree a W2 employee of a temp agency contracted out to another company is different from a 1099 contractor, but I have often heard people use the term “contractor” for both situations. I could be wrong but my understanding is there are several different reasons for differentiating between employees. Sometimes it is for misclassification issues, paying someone as a 1099 contractor when they should have been a W2 employee, but it can also be due to prevent a determination of joint employer liability.

      2. Alldogsarepuppies*

        Is there a difference here if you are a 1099 contractor than getting a w2 from aother company and contracted out? like a temp agency

        1. Firecat*

          Yes because in the 1099 example you are an I dependent contracted and on the W2 you are an employee at the temp agency who is working for the other company.

          1. Alldogsarepuppies*

            yes i am aware that is the difference between the two, i meant in terms of being allowed to invite them to parties and such.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              I think the distinction is if you’re getting a W2 from Temp Agency and attend Work Placement’s holiday lunch, your W2 from Temp Agency makes it clear that you are not a Work Placement employee.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Even then, there are legal reasons for the company to preserve the distinction (otherwise the workers can be found by a court to be employees of that company, not the contractor company, and entitled to benefits, etc.; see the Microsoft temp case from around 2000).

            2. Autumnheart*

              Well, it would certainly clear up the complication that they might “seem” to be an employee of your company, when they are plainly an employee of your vendor. IIRC my (large national) employer evolved to allowing only W-2 contractors. Coincidentally or not, contractors are invited to most company parties and events.

              But on a team of 10, I can’t imagine it would have to be that formalized. Everyone already knows that The Student isn’t a W-2 employee of the company, but if you’re not gonna buy them a present, then they shouldn’t have to go to the meeting. Obligating them to attend and watch how the Real Employees get treated is just crappy.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          From my understanding, it wouldn’t matter. The fact is “not an employee of the company providing the party.”

          The thing is, with “meals and entertainment” expensing, you only get 50% of the write off if it’s not within very special limitations. If it’s 100% employees, that’s 100% write off. If it’s 100% open-to-the-public, that’s 100% write off. BUT if it’s a “by invitation” for the “outside parties” involved, it’s just standard 50% for “meals & entertainment”.

          You can thank the jackasses throughout history of writing off their gulf and lunches with business “buddies” forcing this hand at the IRS all those years ago!

          That aside, I’d love to hear from folks who follow this rule…do y’all keep a list of who gets a sandwich at the company meeting?! Do you sign in?! Anyone could technically just sneak into a conference room and take food that wasn’t technically meant for them. Who has that extensive of records over a catered meeting?! How deep does an audit have to get to find out that Jane the Temp was involved in an “Employee Only” meeting?!

          I guess it could be by the number listed on the catering? “You bought 30 lunches but only have 25 employees, whats up with that?” I buy a certain percentage over because many caterers never feed us enough when I put down the actual amount. Like seriously, it’s a problem, lol.

      3. Kiki*

        I can understand this in theory, but have there really been cases where the clincher in a dispute about employers treating contractors too much like employees was the holiday party or free lunch?

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Without doing any research I doubt it where a single thing/item was the clincher, but often in cases it is a totality of the circumstances. I could see where a court might say, well they were given the free employee lunch, were invited to the holiday staff party, given access to the EAP and employee discounts they are treated and pretty much considered an employee by the company.

          1. pancakes*

            The question remains, though: Are courts in fact saying that, or is that people who make these decisions for a living think it’s possible they might? And if the latter, are they being realistic?

              1. pancakes*

                I don’t and didn’t doubt the general idea is on point, but there’s a difference between “I could see this happening” and “this did happen, in the such-and-such case.”

                1. pancakes*

                  I’ve just read several articles about the Microsoft cases (the contractor litigation and the IRS ruling), and the Darden case the final ruling in the Microsoft contractor litigation relied on, and a law firm white paper about it, and I must be missing something. I haven’t seen any indication that occasional lunches and holiday parties were central to any of the courts’ analysis. There are so many other factors that are far more important. The “hired party’s discretion over when and how long to work,” for example, and Microsoft’s failure to use clearer limiting language about its employee stock purchase plan.

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

      My first job did the same. End of year lunch? No, only employees. Easter eggs? No, only employees. Birthday cake? No, only employees. On site medical wing? No, only employees, call your medical insurance and pray they come quickly, the nurse wasn’t allowed to evaluate you.
      At least snacks and kitchen weren’t restricted.

  14. Amy*

    #2, please do what you can to remove yourself from this situation if it can’t be resolved. Constant critism over the most insignificant things can make you start to second guess everything you do. Same with the jumping to conclusions.

    Once, on my first day at a new job, I made an error (like, you know….literally everyone does on their first day?). My great grand boss happened to be there, and he informed me of my (very tiny) mistake. I apologized politely and asked him how to handle it next time, and he explained. The whole thing took about 60seconds before we both moved on to other things, and after that I didn’t see him for the rest of the day. A few hours later, my direct supervisor called me into her office and said, “There’s been some concern that you have difficulty accepting feedback and critism. Perhaps you’re not a great fit for this company.” Honestly I thought she’d mistaken me for someone else, since I had been given exactly one tiny piece of feedback and I accepted it cheerfully! But no, that was just the way things were at that workplace.

    Things like that happened CONSTANTLY and it started to make me paranoid. Once during a shift I got an email from a new-ish coworker who was in a long boring training class all day. I wrote him back quickly to let him know that our emails were monitored closely and he shouldn’t use his account for personal use. MINUTES after sending the email I got called in to the boss’s office and lectured for sending personal emails. Yes, even the one I sent counted as personal and verboten.

    So all my superiors thought I was bad at taking feedback, a serial email account abuser, and any number of other imaginary things that came up after two years of working there. I finally left because my therapist put her foot down. It took over a year of intense work with her and other mental health professionals before I could get a job again. That job had me convinced I was a useless person with no redeeming qualities. I learned a lot about gaslighting. I left the job in 2013 and I’m still somewhat haunted by it.

    So yeah. What’s happening to you is serious. Don’t let anyone downplay it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Wait. So what were you supposed to have said to GG boss? I am curious because I tend to think that ANYTHING you said would have been wrong.

      OP, don’t let yourself be treated like garbage at any job, ever. Promise yourself that if you encounter anything that reminds you of this toxic place, you will take immediate steps to get yourself out of there. See, if we keep showing up it sends a message to the fools that their behavior is okay, often times their behavior gets WORSE because they think they can get away with it.

      My wise friend used to say people test us. They send out some small slight to see how we handle it, then they try again with a larger slight. Pretty soon we see them as the obnoxious people they are. It’s okay to leave jerks in a cloud of dust.

      1. it's me*

        What your friend said reminds me of my first job out of college. Someone else in my department remarked at some point that they deliberately tried to hire “people pleasers” with authority/parent issues who would scramble to dance to the president’s wacky tune. Yada yada yada, I was fired for insubordination.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      LW2, I had a boss like this as well and I agree with Amy. I would take each criticism my boss handed out and address it and do it exactly the way she told me she wanted. And then the next week she’d haul me into her office to tell me off about something completely different that I was failing at. At one point, I am not making this up this was a real thing I was disciplined for, she said “there was a gum wrapper in the parking lot near your car when I got here yesterday morning and it was still there after you left last night, why aren’t you being more proactive about picking up litter?” And just like Amy said above, after two years of this, my self confidence was utterly shot.

      You can bend yourself into a pretzel trying to do everything your boss wants exactly the way she wants it. But it sounds like she’s the kind of boss who will always have more concerns, more ways you’re doing your job wrong. She’s not going to celebrate your successes, she’s just going to find more things to nitpick. Get out when you can and remind yourself that you’re worth being treated well by your next supervisor.

      1. it's me*

        “there was a gum wrapper in the parking lot near your car when I got here yesterday morning and it was still there after you left last night, why aren’t you being more proactive about picking up litter?”

        Goodness gracious.

      2. Nom*

        Until I read this comment I thought policing how you put your phone down was the most micromanagey thing I had ever heard. My god. How can you be expected to be responsible for all the world’s litter?

  15. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    Ugh, I worked at a place with high turnover and people refused to learn newcomers names until you proved you would stick around, I guess?*

    The lack of gift is just poo frosting on the dumpster fire cupcake of that job. They’re jerks.

    *I “got lucky” in that during my second week there, I fainted at work. Showing up the next day earned me the right to my name, I suppose. Yay?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Often times when you see behavior like this they are mirroring how upper management treats them. This stuff very seldom happens in a vacuum.

      1. TechWorker*

        Ding ding ding!

        I have a coworker who is a few levels senior to me who can just be awful to people in meetings (loudly talks over them, rubbishes their work, sidetracks, acts like he is the expert on every topic even when he doesn’t actually understand the nuance, etc). And then I saw his manager do it to him.. and I understood…

    2. Toxic Waste*

      I’ve been in my position for a year and a half and my coworker that sits next to me *just* started to say “Good morning” to me. Seriously. I think they expected me to leave after a couple of months or something. (She only does this with me and not the others in the office, so maybe she just hates me? Don’t know…)

    3. Observer*

      You mean they hazed people until they “proved” how “tough” they were and that they could live with being treated like trash?

      I mean, I don’t care how high turnover is, it’s not THAT hard to learn someone’s name. And, maybe the fact the people can’t be bothered to try to learn people’s name is the reason for the high turnover, not the reverse.

  16. MH*

    #1: Sorry to read that. My second high school job was as an office helper. During my first holiday season there, the women I worked for all met in the back to exchange gifts one afternoon. I was not included. Got nothing, not even a card. The office manager came by and said it was because they all knew each other for years. Eventually, they included me and future employees (including office helpers) in gatherings, but it stung a bit at the time.

    1. BubbleTea*

      That’s just rude of them. I’m spending Christmas with a family including one person I’ve never met, and I’ve still bought them a small gift because that is the polite thing to do!

  17. Batgirl*

    OP5, I know you asked for tips about about nerves, not your voice, but the best tip I got as a trainee teacher was to practice projecting your voice in small good-acoustic rooms like a bathroom. Power it with breath from your diaphragm, instead of talking from your throat as we usually do. Work up to bigger rooms in your home or elsewhere; when you can hear that the voice bounces off the walls, you have a clear voice that everyone can hear at the back without shouting.
    If you try to raise your volume from the throat, without projecting properly, the voice will crack.
    It helped my nerves enormously. When my voice was unpracticed, I knew that I was either mumbling or cracking, so I would shake and nerves would show on my face. Recently, I had to address a huge audience of expert peers, rather than students, and although I was very nervous, my voice held and it didn’t show. Everyone is right about practice too. Get used to the type of audience, let it be a routine thing, and the nerves vanish. When I stop practicing (summer!) my voice weakens and I have to get it back again.

    1. nightcat*

      lw5, adding to this – does your school offer any type of soft skill kind of classes/seminars? i’m in the same boat as you and took a class with a postdoc friend of mine called roughly “challenges in research”, it helped enormously! we covered conference talks with q&a, poster presentations, flash talks, voice training, but what helped most was just having a small group of people i knew weren’y judging me to practice in front of. what also helped me was hearing myself recorded. while it’s horribly uncomfortable at first, trust me when i say hearing yourself talk and being happy with how you sound makes it worth all the listening cringe. good luck!

    2. Forrest*

      I’ve taught presentation skills and always used to do some voice production like this. My way to do it was: Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands on ribcage, breathe properly down into your diaphragm so you can feel your ribs pushing apart. Go “brrrrr” up and down the scale a few times until you find the place where your voice resonates in your finger tips. That’s the pitch you use for public speaking. It’s usually just a little bit below your natural speaking-directly to people. Your natural speaking voice will crack and sound harsh and strained if you just “push it louder”, and you’ll get a sore throat and go hoarse very quickly. Centering yourself and drawing a few deep breathes (properly deep, into the lower parts of your lungs, not just taking gulps of air) before you start can help you find it.

      OP, I always used to start my classes with a debate about whether presentation skills are something that just comes naturally, or something you learn. My own view is that some people are way more comfortable public speaking than others, so seek out opportunities to do so, and the practice is what makes them good at it–but *everyone* gets better with practice, and when you see people doing it really, really well, you’re pretty much always seeing experience, not natural ability. It is 80% a skill you can learn, and hopefully some of your nerves will start to go when you actually see improvement and realise that you CAN do it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I so agree especially about practicing in front of the bathroom mirror.
      OP, oddly we have to get used to the sound of our own voices speaking in a professional tone.

      At one point, we had to mentor students. We had one woman in the group who was really smart, but so very nervous with public speaking. She practiced in front of her mirror and the difference was astounding. All of us had dropped jaws, as she had made huge improvements in her presentation skills.

      Because of nerves people forget to breathe normally. Take a nice deep breath and then start your opening sentence. In the beginning, any time you start to speak or resume speaking, take a moment to grab that deep breath. After a bit you will do it more naturally, so don’t worry about how obvious it is right now. This is only temporary.

    4. Sara without an H*

      Good advice. If OP#5 is primarily concerned with a weak voice, singing lessons can actually do wonders. I used to be hoarse after a 50 minute lecture. A couple of years of vocal music training taught me to support my voice properly and the problem cleared up.

  18. Majestic Space Whale*

    LW1, poor you! I had an… interesting experience at one of my previous jobs as well, I was a local equivalent of a temp and while my boss and grandboss were awesome and treated me like part of the team, the HR had some wildly different ideas. Because they kept sending everyone, me included, e-mail reminders to sign up for the christmas party, so I did, only to learn that “well not you obviously, thats only for real employees”. And then they came to give everyone their Christmas present, and wanna guess? :D Yep, everyone got theirs right in front of me, and not that the HR ladies would just politely pretend I was not there without comment, no. They very specifically came up to me to say “Oh well, so sorry, none for you, but maybe you’ll get one next year when you are working here for real”. So that was fun!
    It sure does feel sucky. Sorry LW1.

    1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

      Treating permanent employees differently to temps, I mean, it sucks, but I sort of get it.
      However, what I don’t get is the kind of mentality that says things like that to someone. Did they forget what the H in HR stands for?

      1. Majestic Space Whale*

        Oh yeah, I didn’t really even mind not getting the gift, because i get that treating temps differently is a thing, it was more the very deliberate, very intentional rubbing my nose in it with a super-sweet smile that made it truly suck.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        See, and when I was a temp at a law firm, they treated us exactly like they treated full-time, permanent employees. We were invited to all Christmas parties (which were actually kind of fun), we received treats on our birthdays, etc. But maybe that was because 2/3 of their workforce were long-term temp-to-perm hires, so they really couldn’t leave us out without souring their relationships with our agencies (and we had tons of turnover, so if the agencies wouldn’t send over new bodies, they’d be in trouble).

        1. The Original K.*

          I’ve been a W-2 temp and was invited to holiday parties and stuff. I remember at one place, the holiday party was lunch at a restaurant nearby and then the rest of the day off, and they paid me for the whole day and made that clear to me up front. The only time I was treated differently was as it related to HR matters, because I was an employee of the agency, not the client so their HR stuff didn’t apply to me.

          I will say, I’ve done temp work in my field and I’ve done admin temp work, and I was always treated much better on assignments in my field because it was more senior-level work.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            The only time I was treated differently was as it related to HR matters, because I was an employee of the agency, not the client so their HR stuff didn’t apply to me.

            Yeah, same. We didn’t get benefits or paid time off (my temp agency didn’t even offer these things, so that was miserable), but everything else employees received, we did too.

            1. pancakes*

              That was generally my experience as well, though one agency I worked for did give paid time off after a certain amount of time on a project.

    2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      Years ago, I was a temp in the mortgage department of a very large bank. This was during the housing bubble of the early 2000s, so they had a lot of temps in the department, and each team had a mix of temps and permanent employees. The first manager I had was great! She, however, got transferred to a different team, and the second manager I had really kind of looked down on the temps. This bank was always giving little tchotchkes and things to the full-time employees. The first manager just left these things on the desks, no big deal. The second one made a big production out of handing them out, and would come up to the temps, show off the item being given away, and tell us “This is for the REGULAR EMPLOYEES ONLY! You don’t get one because YOU’RE A TEMP!” This bank has since failed spectacularly, and I can’t say I was sorry.

      LW5: If there’s a Jaycee chapter in your city or nearby, you could join. I was absolutely terrified of public speaking when I joined, but it really helped me to conquer that fear.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I do not get the rubbing it in. Did she think you didn’t KNOW you were a temp? I would think about saying “yeah I know i am a temp, that means I can just not show up tomorrow. You however have to keep coming in.”

        There is no reason to go out of your way to be rude.

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          Or possibly, “Yes, I know I am a temp, which means I will move on at some point and I will not have to deal with you any longer. Actually, even the permanent employees will move on at some point. You, however, will have to deal with yourself every day of your life. My condolences.”

          Not out loud, of course, but it’s very satisfying in a fantasy world inside my head.

        2. Batgirl*

          Seriously, being a temp is awesome. My boss and I were waxing nostalgic about that very thing today.

      2. Batgirl*

        That’s actually kind of hysterical and makes me think the niknaks chosen by this woman weren’t all that. Gold barbies? Sounds like top entertainment and bonding for the temps.

    3. foolofgrace*

      That reminds me of when my son was born. LaMaze had told the class that we and our husbands would get a surf and turf dinner the day the baby was born. So I waited for mine … which never came because I didn’t have a husband. (single mom) I was already depressed from postpartum and I went on a hunger strike and nobody noticed I wasn’t eating except for my son’s new pediatrician, who told me I should write the newspapers.

  19. Seeking Second Childhood*

    In my view, you have 11 months at one company because your PT job snapped you up and made you full-time. And that during a pandemic with high unemployment.
    One thought .. ask yourself if this is a subconscious stand-in for you overlooking red flags at the new company is it. If you’ve interviewed them while they interviewed you and are reasonably sure it’s a good environment , then go for it.

  20. Quickbeam*

    OP #5: I ended up being a professional public speaker and one of my long time jobs…and not by choice. The #1 thing that helped me was knowing my material cold. I’d write my presentations down, go over it, fact check it again and then do a dry run. I found that if I really mastered the content, there was little that could rattle me.

  21. EventPlannerGal*

    Just adding to the chorus of people recommending knowing your material inside and out. YMMV of course, but for me I think the most UNhelpful thing is treating it like learning lines or a script – inevitably you forget something and then you’re trying to recover and it’s all “ahhh if I can’t remember this bit then I can’t remember what comes next” and it’s just not good. Whereas if you just know what you’re talking about then it feels more like a conversation where you just happen to be doing all of the talking.

    (Eg. When I was shadowing my boss to learn how to give venue tours at my last job, I remember thinking “oh my god how am I ever going to learn this whole thing??” because she was giving basically a half-hour presentation on the history of the building, venue specs, previous events etc, and I don’t particularly enjoy presenting either! But after a few tours I realised that it was actually different each time because it wasn’t a script – she just knew all this stuff about the venue so she was just… talking about it. Once I became confident with the information I was trying to convey, I became much more confident conveying it.)

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Totally agree with this. As well as you knowing your material, your classmates also want to know your material! They’re excited to learn about your content and deepen their own knowledge, and a few flubbed sentences, pauses, or imperfections aren’t going to change that.

      I also find it helpful to wear or do something that makes you feel like the best, most empowered version of yourself. For me, that’s wearing my favorite pair of heels. I wore them even when I was presenting virtually. For you, it might be a favorite piece of jewelry, a nice skincare routine, some deep breaths, or taking some time for a good stretch.

  22. Blisskrieg*

    OP5: There are a lot of public speaking tips that are geared toward comfort level: imagine people in their underwear, etc. Those are helpful, but if you have a specific issue like your voice shaking or your hands shaking, there are also public speaking tips that are geared toward those specific behaviors. I generally like to public speak but I also have an anxiety disorder, and I went through a flare up where my voice would shake during public speaking. One of the best tips I ever received is that it is not possible for your voice to shake if you are projecting from your diaphragm! If you find your voice quivering speak from deeper down in your chest and increase your volume. If you are near a microphone at a podium, back up a bit to allow you to do that.

    Another tip is that if you are able to walk a bit (even two blocks or through the hotel) it helps to burn up adrenaline. Again, look for tips that address the specific behavior you are concerned about. They are out there. Good luck!

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve been getting into speaking at conferences as part of my job, and while stage fright has never been something I’ve suffered from, the advice for increasing your confidence still helps me.

      Two things I haven’t seen mentioned yet:
      1 – You’ll see a lot of advice about making eye contact with your audience. Actual eye contact can be intimidating, so you can fake this by appearing to make eye contact, but actually looking just above the heads of your audience. I remember the back wall of the room where I gave my first conference talk really well.

      2 – A lot of the physiological reactions to nervousness are the same as the ones you get when you’re excited about stuff: sweaty palms, excess energy, butterflies in the stomach. When I get these before a big presentation (and yes, I do get these reasonably often), I tell myself it’s because I’m excited I get to give this presentation. Using this framing (“nervous” becomes “excited”, “have to” becomes “get to”) puts me in a positive state of mind before the presentation.

  23. Person from the Resume*

    For LW3, who has rescheduled the 4 week international trip? Can you get out of it or reschedule for 2023? Even if you do get agreement does that mean that you end of never taking any days off during your first 1-2 years except for these 2 long trips because you’re saving your PTO for it. It sounds like a recipe for burnout.

    4 full weeks off in a row is a long time for a new employee. And while it’s 7.5 months after 3 weeks off for wedding/honeymoon that’s asking for 7 weeks off within a year. I have a very good PTO package and I don’t earn that in a year.

    And people say things like “take it unpaid” but do many companies do this. I haven’t really encountered it at all in the real world in my experience.

    1. Kaiko*

      Yes! A friend of mine negotiated a five-week trip as part of his joining a new organization. It was unpaid, and I think in the first couple months of him being there (or maybe even before he started), but it’s possible. People also travel internationally for up to four weeks at my husband’s job, in order to visit family abroad.

      OP, if you go into the conversation with as much as info as you can give (specific dates, not just “spring 2021”), along with a reasonable-to-you Plan B (delay for a year?), you might get a positive outcome. And at the very least you’ll get loads of info about how the company actually treats time off, not just how they say they do.

  24. DarthVelma*

    I’m a really good public speaker and I give all the credit to years of piano competitions and recitals. I get asked for tips all the time and I used to joke the answer was “build a time machine and change your childhood”, but over the years I’ve actually pulled out in words what I learned from performing. Here’s the advice I give people now if they’re scared of or new to public speaking:

    Preparation is key. Write out what you want to say about each slide and practice it over and over. Until it’s practically memorized. You aren’t actually going to present it by rote, but it’s like mental muscle memory – you want it in your head (and on paper in front of you) just in case you need it.

    Practice. A lot. And in two different ways. Early on, if you flub something, it’s ok to stop, re-set, and start over. But eventually you have to practice like it’s live. If you flub, don’t stop. Practice how you deal with those mistakes in the moment.

    Do at least one dry run with another person. They can help you know where what you’re presenting may not be clear. They can give you insight into the kinds of questions you might get asked. They can spot places where you aren’t as confident – where you’re looking down to read your notes vs making eye contact.

    Finally, and I don’t mean this in a facile way, be yourself. I see a lot of people who try to be way more formal in their presentations than they would be in normal interactions. So they have that mental load on top of trying to remember what they want to say. They end up coming across as stiff rather than professional. And they last thing you want is to come across as cold or robotic or just going through the motions. If you aren’t enthusiastic about your topic, your audience won’t be either. Find what it is about the topic you’re presenting that makes you enthusiastic or interested and go with it – if that feeling comes across while you’re presenting, most of your audience will come along for the ride. And they’ll remember your enthusiasm for the topic more than any little blunders you make along the way.

    1. Kaiko*

      Another key component of doing a run with another person is they can also practice Q+A with you! And a brief back-and-forth can help underscore to you how well you know your material, can think on the fly, and outs you in a headspace where you’re in presentation (but not recitation) mode, which is great.

  25. Good Vibes Steve*

    LW5, if Toastmasters isn’t your cup of tea, a less famous alternative is Pecha Kucha – it’s a public speaking format that helps you learn pacing in presentations, and there are clubs globally that you can join to both see how others are doing, and in which you can try presenting to a very friendly audience. Some clubs are holding COVID-safe online meetings, so you don’t need to wait to post-pandemic to get started.
    I tried this format with a (now former) intern as there wasn’t a nearby Toastmasters club he could join, and it worked wonders.

  26. Academic Librarian*

    LW4 (and life) make me wonder how much job hopping will be given grace around the pandemic. I was at my previous job, first post-grad in my current field, for 3 years. I’ve been at my current job for just over a year and a half, but the pandemic has revealed incredibly dire financial straits for my employer, a series of large layoffs are being discussed, and trust between upper admin and working body is tanked. I’m watching the listings because there’s nothing much in academia right now anyways so I figure it doesn’t hurt to at least keep tabs on the scene, but I have wondered how much my short stay at my current place would hurt me as an applicant, or if “Started Spring 2019” sort of says it all

    1. Colette*

      One term of a year and a half isn’t likely to be a problem – it’s multiple short stays that hurt.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Another academic librarian here. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue — if anybody asks, just say that your employer had to lay off people during the pandemic.

      Good luck! Really, I think anybody who works in higher ed right now needs to be in permanent job-search mode. Hope you find something better in 2021.

      1. Academic Librarian*

        Thank you! I feel reasonably safe in the short term but I agree with you – it seems like the coming years will be shaky, and even moreso where I am right now. It would be naïve to not be pragmatic about it.

  27. Spicy Tuna*

    LW#1 – I once had a job where I was the only Spicy in our department (and actually in the whole office). I had one co-worker who refused to “know” who I was if I called her. So she would answer the phone and I would identify myself as “Spicy” and she would say, “Spicy who?” and make me formally introduce myself as “Spicy Tuna” every single time I called her on the phone.

    LW#2 – I had a job in my early 20’s where someone made a formal complaint that she didn’t like the way I placed paperwork on her desk. Of course, being in my early 20’s and not very mature, I started making an exaggerated display of very gently and formally placing the paperwork on her desk, which also did not go over very well.

    I think the takeaway here is that there are a lot of people in this world, not all of them are going to be mature and well-adjusted, and sometimes, it is inevitable that we end up working with one of them. It’s not you; it’s them!

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      Who knew that paperwork was such a thing????

      My first professional position, my immediate supervisor’s system was “if its new, it goes in my chair if I’m not in my office. If it has to do with llama grooming compliance, blue tray. Donkey seminar training requests, red tray. Other than that, in my hand or in my chair. Its going to get lost in (waving hand at desk) all of this”. This carried over into how projects, assignments, and written correspondence came to us – unless we designated a tray for something particular and labeled it as such, it went in our chairs if we weren’t there. This system worked well across the entire department.

      Years later, I suddenly have a coworker screaming at me for the absolute ridiculous placement of necessary paperwork….in his chair. So I started leaving on his keyboard. More screaming. Desk? Screaming. Decided that I was no longer dealing with his issues, requested meeting with both of us and his supervisor to determine where I needed to put XYZ paperwork. Interestingly enough, it was determined that he needed to handle his own XYZ paperwork and not have me, his equal in job description, prepare it for his review. I guess that was problem solved? (His issue was that he disliked having to do any paperwork whatsoever and wanted to go back to our industry standard of a handshake like back in the 1970’s.)

      1. KayDeeAye*

        Some people are (or so it seems to me) very odd about having paperwork put on their chairs. They seem to consider it…disrespectful, I guess? Which I don’t get. I mean, sure, it’s fine to have preferences, and assuming these aren’t too complicated, your subordinates should certainly follow them whenever possible. Even peers/coworkers who regularly deposit paper would be well-advised to find out the best place to deposit said paper. But other than that…relax, people, relax! No doubt there are folks who use paper placement to convey subtle messages, but I am fairly confident they are the minority.

        At my current employer, putting paperwork on chairs is incredibly common – from interns up to the COO. (I don’t think anybody puts stuff on the president’s chair, but…it’s not impossible.) Maybe we have a lot of messy-desk people? I used to be a fairly-messy-desk person, but after COVID, I had to clean up those fairly neat paper piles so the cleaning crew could get in there and sanitize, so I no longer have any piles of paper, neat or otherwise. People still put stuff on my chair, though.

        1. Me*

          Yes! There was a huge debate here one time. Papers on chair in my office is what’s done when you are away from your desk so you don’t miss them. Some people in the comments felt personally insulted if you dare be so disrespectful not to wait until they are in their office to personally hand the papers to them. It was a bizarre overblown reaction to me.

          1. Librarian1*

            I remember that! Alsom a lot of people accidentally sit on paper that’s placed in their chair, which I don’t totally understand because I pretty much always notice if there’s something in my chair before I sit down. But that may be related to the way my office is set up or something.

    2. Kaiko*

      I once rage-made a ‘zine about the correct way to staple papers, after being formally reprimanded for doing it “wrong.”

  28. Watermelon lip gloss*

    #2 Ask for headsets, then you press a button to hang up. In reality a boss like this will find something else to complain over, move on. You cant fix this.

    Though something threw me in your letter, don’t get me wrong I think your boss is a giant jerk. However I also see where if someone said “Maybe, I’m on a call right now,” when I asked them to do something that we would have a problem. So if that is happening I get where the boss’s pettiness is coming from.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I caught that line too. I can’t say I’d be thrilled if an employee responded to a request/direction with that phrase. It screams dismissive to me.

      1. higheredrefugee*

        Eh, would it have been more or less dismissive if OP pointed to the phone as a gesture but didn’t answer verbally at all? I think both reaponses can be interpreted as rude, but I also get that there isn’t a perfect response without putting the other person on hold, and who has time for that in a busy environment? She provided a short answer, didn’t give any indication that it was curt or rude, just a busy environment where things have to keep moving. This sounds like nitpicking to me, demanding a perfection of response when juggling competing demands, when it likely conveyed what was necessary.

        1. Lala*

          I think if they could say “maybe I’m on a call right now” they can say “sorry, I’m on a call I’ll catch you after.” It’s only a few more words.

          1. Lala*

            That being said the root of the problem is clearly that the LW is overworked and her ultimate boss is a jerk rather than this interaction.

            But sometimes when people are horrible you don’t pay attention when they may have a point.

  29. KarlN*

    Honestly, OP1 could quit.

    If, and only if, your resume has enough that you’re not relying in this coop and also if you could do it dispassionately. I’ve always been told bad interns should be fired the same as any other underperforming employee, the same should be true of a bad workplace.

    You could say something pretty bland about the position not working out, being as objective as possible. If they pressed you for details, stick to there not being enough work.

    Give detailed, objective feedback to any third party that set you up with the position.

    1. Colette*

      She could, but she probably shouldn’t. Coop terms are usually limited – she’s probably done at the end of the month – and there’s nothing so terrible in the letter that makes quitting the best option. Presumably, she needs the coop term (for the experience or for school).

  30. Salad Daisy*

    #1 The same thing happened to me a few years ago, but it was at an actual holiday party at a nice restaurant. About a dozen employees, and after dinner the VP handed out “awards” to everyone but me, with captions such as “most punctual”, etc. Just silly things with no value. But I did not get one. So everyone is reading their awards, showing them to each other, and I am just …. sitting there. I was by no means the newest employee and neither at the bottom nor top of the hierarchy. The boss was just the kind of person who liked to single people out for his own amusement. This was his first year as the boss and instead of the usual holiday bonus of 1 week’s pay we all got a $25 gift card to Walnut.

  31. Sugarpie*

    LW 1, Many years ago I worked for a family business with about 30 employees. One night, the boss took the sales force and my boss (design department) out to dinner to celebrate a big sale. The next day, they ordered lunch for the rest of the staff of ~20 people. Except me. It was because I worked for my boss who was treated for dinner the night before. That is what I was told when I walked in the room where lunch was being served. I must say, I was very upset and I think I may have cried in the bathroom. Even the owner’s wife and mother were invited in the office that day to get lunch. My boss was upset as well and later on we called it salad-gate. I had never been excluded like that in a work environment. This letter brought back all the feelings of humiliation, sadness, and anger I felt that day. I started looking for a job the next day and left solely because of this incident.

    1. pancakes*

      That was ridiculously petty and rude on the boss’s part! And weird. I don’t know how someone does the math on the cost of one lunch in a scenario like that and decides it’s worth antagonizing people.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Wait — you were excluded from lunch because your *boss* (not you) was at the previous nights’ dinner? Wow. Congratulations on getting out of there!

    3. The Student*

      LW1 here! Yes I would say that humiliation, sadness, and anger all sum up how I felt- sorry to hear that there’s so many crappy bosses out there.

  32. Amy*

    I’ve done a lot of far-flung international travel at a job with a good but not great vacation policy.

    It’s definitely worth looking at the calendar to maximize vacation days while minimizing days off.

    For example, taking a night flight the evening of Friday May 28th, you’d hit Memorial Day (presumably work is closed) and then could maybe take something like 12 work days off. This would put you at returning June 16th, which is a 19 day vacation.

    I once flew to Dar Es Salaam, connected to Kilimanjaro, had a 10 day safari and a 3 day stop off in Istanbul (cheap flight Turkish Airways) in that time. Maybe it’s not perfectly ideal but it’s sometimes the framework you need to work with.

  33. blink14*

    OP #5 I feel you! I loathe public speaking. I had to take a public speaking class in high school, which did help me in knowing how to prepare, but honestly for me it was just about having to do in classroom settings through my school career and then in smaller settings in my work career.

    I used to have a stress reaction to it where literally my eyes would start closing, and there was nothing I could do about it! Something I learned in the required class was envisioning the speech several times in advance. They also suggested practicing in a mirror and having notecards with talking points, and not trying to memorize an exact speech, but running through your talk over and over with those bullet point notecards so you have an outline but the speech is more free flowing. Focus your eyes on a visual point at the back of the room and make that your reference point, something steady to look at from time to time so that you aren’t looking down the entire time.

    This is what I’ve used going forward for a planned meeting or presentation – having either a mental or written outline of talking points, running through them mentally several times before speaking, and making sure I’ve thoroughly checked any visual aids that I’ll be using. For bigger meetings where you may be called on spontaneously, which has always been a major point of stress for me personally, I will “answer” other questions in my head that someone else has been chosen to answer. That way I’m working out my thoughts on the topic, I’m following the conversation closely, and I feel more prepared if I’m asked to speak.

    I’ve never had to do a presentation in front of more than about 50 people, but I think all of the above still applies in how to prepare and present. Overpreparing can sometimes be just as bad as being underprepared!

  34. agnes*

    I’m kind of sad that so many of today’s generation will probably never experience the satisfaction of slamming down the phone in a huff….

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      That may or may not be one of the reasons I elected to keep my desk phone at work after being assigned a company cell phone :D

  35. Onyx*

    #5: Toastmasters is apparently great for many people, but if you’re like me and think the concept of doing that voluntarily in your free time sounds worse than just winging your required presentations and dealing with the discomfort, my suggestion is *rehearse*. Run through your slides multiple times aloud in private (or in front of friends/colleagues, if you want to/can), until you consistently hit all the points you need to under your time limit. Run through your talk in your head without the slides when you’re waiting on something and have time to kill. Anticipate likely questions. Basically, eliminate nervousness about the *content* as something you need to deal with, so it’s just the fact that you’re in front of people left to handle.

    Whenever I have a presentation to give, I make a good set of slides considering the duration of the talk and a rough time per slide estimate (my grad-school adviser’s rule-of-thumb was 2 minutes/slide, with slides not jam-packed with content) and then rehearse the talk to refine the slide content and make sure I’m prepared. The goal is *not* to converge on a fixed script, but to make sure that 1) you consistently hit the key points you need to on each slide, 2) you’re confident your delivery is the right length (you know how much detail you should give for each part) and don’t need to worry about the clock, and 3) you’ve thought through the material enough to have an idea what sort of questions might be asked, so you can either address in your spiel or have an answer ready so you aren’t floundering in the Q&A.

    I still don’t love presenting, and often feel very nervous in the immediate leadup to my talk, but that evaporates once I get started because I’m comfortable with my content.

  36. Maltypass*

    LW1 your manager is definitely not helping and it sounds like there’s too may problems to address individually, but maybe it might be worth giving benefit of a doubt just on the phone part IF she’s not addressing it as an attitude thing. Some people just really are affected by noise that much and things that bother others not at all are incredibly grating/even painful, though of course it’s likely getting lost in the girl who cried wolf mess of all the criticism. Again if she’s addressing it as ‘putting the phone down like that is practically slamming it and shows your bad attitude’ then ignore. -A chronic migraine sufferer!

    1. Observer*

      First of all you simply CANNOT ignore the context here. Secondly, even if the boss has a good reason to ask that people be extra careful when they hang up the phone, there is no reason to frame this a “slamming” the phone. Lastly, if someone has an extreme sensitivity, it’s on them to manage it. It’s bad to dump it on others – ESPECIALLY when those others are so stretched thin already. If the boss REALLY cannot deal with it other than making sure that everyone is REALLY gentle when they hang up the phone, she needs to be honest about it.

  37. ErinWV*

    OP1: Just this morning, my org shared the list of employee recognitions (that are usually announced in a big public breakfast gathering which obviously is cancelled this year). I’m 5 years this year, but you wouldn’t know it from the list, where my name is fully absent. But at least three people whose onboarding I coordinated in my first six months on the job–they were included.

    These things are stupid but THEY HURT.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      In my early days at my company there were a lot of owner changes. So I basically was screwed out of every early milestone acknowledgement…

      Company A- acknowledged year 1
      was bought by company B when I was about 10 mo in…
      Company B- did not acknowledge year 1
      Company B sold us and at about my 15 mo mark to Company C
      Company C- acknowledged year 1

      We were quiet for awhile, right up until I neared my 5 year, can you guess what happened? lol, I didn’t receive anything until my 10 year!

      1. ErinWV*

        Our HR office compiled the list. The same guy has been director for like 25 years. My office is directly across the hall from his, and when his secretary is out, he will come in and ask me to copy things or show him how to do something on the computer. He definitely knows who I am. I fell off their list somehow and I am awaiting an explanation.

      2. HRBee*

        Its so hard to make everyone happy on these things! But it does suck to constantly miss out.

        At my last org, we recognized year 1 and then every multiple of 5 at our annual holiday party. And every single year, the most tenured employee complained that he wasn’t included (I think he’d been there like 42 years when I got there). He thought he should be recognized every year with some big production since he’d been there the longest. I’d get a lecture from his wife every single year at the party and then passive aggressive comments from him for weeks after. I left before his 45th anniversary so I’m not sure if he was finally happy or not.

    2. pope suburban*

      Yeah, this is why I don’t attend my employer’s holiday party anymore. I am classified as a part-time regular worker, though at enough hours to be considered full-time employed by my state. There is a huge class divide between part-time and full-time employees, though, and it becomes very clear at events like this. We either have to spend some of our leave (We only get one bucket of it, and have to use it for everything including federal holidays) or leave halfway through the thing, and we are not included in the holiday bonus, which is usually a free day of time off. It’s pretty brutal being considered “good enough” to keep things running, but to still be excluded from recognition and perks. My immediate supervisor is very good about acknowledging us to the extent that he can, because he doesn’t approve of this “second-tier” kind of thing, but the agency overall refuses to budge on treating us shabbily.

  38. employment lawyah*

    2. My manager’s nitpicking is making a hard job worse
    Your manager is a PITA but also maybe not lying. Once you have started to notice something it can be a lot worse due to selective perception. (Haven’t you ever noticed someone, say, picking their nails? Once your attune to it audibly you can’t ignore it any more. Same deal here.)

    Honestly, if you plan to stay, there’s a solution: THIN FOAM TAPE. (Search “B07Z4PKBC5” on Amazon.)

    A small piece and–voila!–no “clack” sound, just a muffled “thud.”

    1. Ripley Jones*

      Except we all know then the boss will just find something else to complain about. This isn’t about the specific complaint but rather the pattern of making everyone’s life harder than it needs to be.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Ok, but how do you fix the boss’s weird fixation on everyone saying hello and goodbye to each other or to her bizarre need to see people leaving at the same time “leaving together”? Especially in a pandemic when we ought to be social distancing as much as possible, not cozying up to our coworkers to keep the boss convinced that everyone is the bestest of best friends! And to put this sort of forced friendly and cheerful behavior requirement on staff rather than seeking to alleviate the conditions that have staff stressed and less than cheerful – well, that is not going to work out for her. Because forcing her staff to act happy and friendly will not change the fact that they are stressed and resentful … it will just make them more so.

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

    On the other hand, one of the hiring agencies here sent a box full of Christmas goodies to their people, and our agency refused to do so claiming “budget constraints” and people are raging mad. We do the same job at the same company, BTW.

  40. AGD*

    #5: Check out the Academia StackExchange boards – search for public speaking. Lots of extra tips and commiseration in an academic context (including Toastmasters!).

  41. Anon anony*

    Regarding LW#2- I had a temp job where I was told that I stapled papers incorrectly. (Didn’t know that there was a “correct” and “incorrect” way of stapling!) I stapled it so that the staple was horizontal and my boss said to do it vertically. (This was my first “real job” and I was upset, so a coworker pulled me aside and said that I was fine. Boss was just nitpicking and did it to all of the temps.)

  42. Texas Librarian*

    #5 – The first time I had to talk to a group of 4 people (they weren’t even looking at me) I shook my way through the hour long presentation, so I understand. My advice is practice, practice, practice. My husband has heard more presentations in the past 20 years than he wanted to. Pets are also great listeners. I never did Toastmasters, but that is a great suggestion. You can do it!

  43. Yay_Improv*

    A few more thoughts for #5:

    I’m a naturally confident public speaker in general, but this year I was asked to deliver a keynote address to a completely new audience for work. I was assigned a coach, and they had some great tips:
    1. If you won’t be able to have notes or a teleprompter, don’t try to memorize your script from the beginning to end. Start by learning the first three slides (or first page if it’s just text) and the last three slides (or page). This way, no matter what, you will start and finish strong and confident. Follow this principle for the rest of the presentation – break it up into chunks, rather than trying to practice and memorize it all the way through.
    2. Practice, but really practice like you’re delivering it. I practice my speech, including how I would move, with my dog every night for a month.
    3. It should be your words and your style. I’m direct and precise. My coach was emotional and empathetic. My coach didn’t try to change my style, but rather encouraged me to deliver in the way that felt natural to me.
    4. Vary your speed, your volume, and your pitch. This will help keep your audience engaged in a way that doesn’t happen when they stay constant, even if they’re at an even speed with plenty of volume.
    5. Practice in the space you’ll be delivering the speech, and if possible bring a friend to at least one of these practices to offer encouragement (make it clear you don’t want developmental feedback, just feedback on what went well).

  44. Esmeralda*

    LW #1: Contact your co-op advisor at your school immediately. This is not what co-op is supposed to be. They need to find you a new placement and they need to know not to send anyone else to your terrible employer. (I’m referring to the other issues, not the gift issue) Surely you do not want to return to this employer for your subsequent co-op semester/s!!

  45. ara*

    For LW2, it really varies based on the organization and how hierarchical it is. In a similar situation in a very flat org, I have told my direct manager that he was adding stress to a situation and he at least backed off, and in that place that wasn’t unconscionably rude. I’m sure a part of it is them taking out their stress on their employees, which I find completely unacceptable. I agree that your best bet is to ask someone else to tell her

  46. Jaybeetee*

    LW2: This sounds like your manager is anxious and dealing with it badly. Lime, she can’t fix the big stuff, so she’s gonna spin on the small stuff because she has nowhere to put her stress and needs to feel like she’s doing something.

    My boss isn’t this bad, but she does sometimes get hung up on minor errors and details, and it seems to be an anxiety thing. Luckily I’m in a position where I can eventually just say, “Look, I’ve got it, don’t worry about it”, but not everyone can do that. If your boss isn’t one who would respond to gentle boundaries or pushback, there isn’t a ton else you can do.

  47. Vanilla Latte*

    #1 – This sucks. You have my sympathy.

    Oddly enough, I’m in a similar situation today – I’m in an all day meeting with a small group of folks who all have higher seniority than me. The head director bought lunch and had it delivered to everyone…except me. It hurt my feelings but I’m not too bummed about it because I’m starting a new (and much better) job early next year, so jokes on them.

  48. Ace in the Hole*

    LW2 – I work in the public sector. I am a person who sets my phone down very gently, and says hello/goodbye to everyone in the office. And I STILL think your manager is being unreasonable!

    My most charitable read on this is that she’s reacting badly to the stress of the situation… if she feels like she has no power to change anything in meaningful ways, this may be an unconscious attempt to get back some semblance of control. But that doesn’t help you any.

    Depending on your organization’s structure, how long you’ve been there, and your working relationship with management… I’d suggest talking to her boss about it. You can frame it as you’re having some difficulties working with Direct Boss, you’ve noticed some morale issues because of [specific behaviors], and you’d like some suggestions on how to improve your working relationship with her. I’ve done this a couple of times with my unreasonable ex-bosses. As long as you keep the tone collaborative (as opposed to whiny) you have a good chance of improving the situation.

    One of the good things about public sector is our jobs are usually much more secure from capricious layoffs or retaliation compared to the private sector. That goes double if you’re union, but even without a union you’re not likely to be let go on a whim once you’re passed probation.

  49. Des*

    LW#1 FWIW I cannot imagine doing something like this to one of our interns. So no, it’s not you, it’s them.

  50. EngineerMom*

    OP4: Definitely do NOT change your timeline.

    I was placed on a PIP by an incompetent manager after working in his group (estimates) for a grand total of 2 months. I had been moved to his group after getting glowing reviews from another manager in QA. The estimates manager had zero interest in managing people or improving systems, and basically wanted me to do my job in exactly the same way he did his job, even if that method (a) didn’t guarantee good work, and (b) clearly didn’t work for my particular work style. Side note, I was the third hire into that position in 1 year – the first guy left after 2 weeks, the second guy left after 2 months, there was a gap when they couldn’t hire anyone into the position, and then it took them 4 months to convince me to give it a try.

    I started looking for a new job around month 3 as soon as I figured out what a hot mess that manager was. I’d been at that company a little over a year at that point, but I’ve worked for enough excellent and terrible managers to know to get the heck out of dodge before his attitude influenced mine. Fortunately, our HR lady fully recognized that I was really good at my job, he was really terrible at his, and was helping to push back against him because the company as a whole didn’t want to lose me (QA department, some members of upper management realizing that having a fully trained and experienced engineer who enjoys learning would be a good asset to a company that makes sheet metal parts – they didn’t have a single trained engineer working at the company at the time, just drafters and machine operators). Unfortunately, he was good friends with the guy who owned the company, and wasn’t getting enough push down from the top to learn how to manage effectively.

    Don’t try to “stick it out” with someone who is truly a terrible manager – it’s not worth the toll on you.

    1. OP/LW 4*

      Thanks for this. I really like my manager, but I’ve come to realize that some of the performance issues are incompatibility with the job and company – the reason I was placed on warning was because they tracked how many minutes each employee spent on a particular task in their database and I came up short compared with others. That’s totally valid and probably necessary for this particular work, but it doesn’t work well with my working style and, even though I’m now up to and exceeding my peers’ hours, it gives me so much stress and anxiety I’m not sure if it’s sustainable. The new job is actually an internship, but it’s in an exciting location abroad doing meaningful high-level work. Possibly most importantly, it’s not remote.

  51. Lana Kane*

    OP1 – to commiserate, I once worked in a firm that was maybe 15 ppl max. I was one of 3 admin assistants and I’d started maybe 4 months before. The wife of the owner gifted the other 2 admins some super pricey crystal punchbowls (!), and I got nothing. At all. I did get to watch everyone open presents though!

    One of the admins told me the same thing happened to her the 1st Christmas she worked there.

    And yes, the place was awful. So awful that some of the partners were caught in a Poinzi scheme a few years later.

  52. IrishEm*

    OP5 I LOVE public speaking. One thing that really worked for me when I got too nervy was to just bust out a presentation on something I knew inside out for friends and family (not always willingly on their part – I would literally bust out a powerpoint presentation in the presence of Those Relatives to shut them up haha). If you can, practice on things you are SUPER enthusiastic about and think of it as a formal infodump :)

    Also a friend of mine who would get almost paralysed with fear at public speaking went to Toastmasters and they really helped her :)

  53. katemonster*

    Ohhhh LW1, I feel you so much. At my first public librarian job, everyone went to a Nice Dinner for the holidays, and the director would make a big production giving every single person an envelope.

    Everyone but me. My coworkers then started asking “Where is Katemonster’s envelope?!” to which she replied, frostily, Katemonster should see me in my office on Monday.

    I remember her explanation was “the board didn’t feel you were here long enough” – I had been working there for 3 months, I didn’t expect a bonus, but it would’ve been nice to just get a card that said they were happy to have me on the team. It was quite embarrassing.

  54. Kali*

    Ugh, L1, I have so much sympathy.

    I used to work in a financial call centre, and there was a subtle but constant idea that the people who actually worked on the phones speaking to customers – as opposed to the back office people, or marketing, or risk management, etc – were lower-class citizens. I mean, sure, the job was entry-level and didn’t require many qualifications or experience, BUT no one else in the building would have a job if we didn’t do ours well, our tasks were often the ones that required the most immediate attention (because there was literally a customer on the other end of the line right there and then), our role was one of the most stressful, if we didn’t abide by the data protection act we could cause a lot of trouble for the company, and no one else, including our managers, could take over our role without significant additional training. Conversely, the call centre team DID take on jobs from back office, marketing, collections, and sales, off the top of my head. Still, our requests were treated as lower priority – I once saw a back-office staff member look at the phone, roll her eyes, and say “it’s the call centre” while not picking up, even though the person calling would have had a customer on the phone with a query right there and then – and there were constant little signs that we weren’t important.

    The event that LW1’s letter reminded me off was the time we launched a new card product. The customer service staff – as opposed to sales, whose job it normally was – had been trained by marketing, we’d worked with marketing to design different features, and we were the ones facing a lot more work following the launch. While we were working on the phones, other staff members decided to hold a party to celebrate the launch, on our floor, in full sight of us, to which we were not invited, complete with champagne, speeches, and cake. After clocking the shocked/disgusted looks, they did slice up the cakes and spread them around to those of us on the phones, but it was a pretty paltry, last-minute effort to include us.

    Prior to that, as a teenager, I worked in a branch of McDonalds. The entire three years I worked there, not one person ever learned to pronounce my name properly, and I can’t recall many attempting it. It *sounds* like something that shouldn’t be important, but it is. Being called by your name is a basic human right, which, sure, some people aren’t fussed about, but a lot of people do have feelings about it and, while I may be biased, those feelings seem very reasonable to me. This was definitely about that specific team, not about all McDonalds. McDonalds as a company definitely has problems, but on the specific store level, I know some people personally who had very positive experiences. Plus, McDonalds is one of the most diverse employers in the world because they genuinely don’t care who you are or where you came from. The reasons they don’t care aren’t brilliant – it’s generally about prioritising low pay over literally everything else – but the diversity itself can be a positive factor for people working there.

    Oh, I also briefly vegan in my 20s (long story short, I would very much still like to be vegan, though I don’t judge people who aren’t, but veganism triggers my disordered-eating and I can’t do it and be healthy). At the job I worked at then, it was so disheartening when managers would buy treats like doughnuts or ice cream and just go “oh, you can’t have any, you’re vegan”. Not least because doughnuts are bread-based and are very often vegan accidentally, especially the jam-filled ones or those iced with just a sugar/water mix, but they never even kept the packaging so I could check.:( Same with ice lollies – some contain ice cream, or use gelatine, but some, especially the cheaper ones, are mostly sugar and water.

    So, yeah, any of these things sound little by themselves, but when it’s a constant message of “I don’t see you” or “you don’t matter” it can really do a number on your self-esteem. I hope things get a lot better for you. :(

  55. NoRealNameHere*

    LW 1, reminds me of an internship I was in! The staff was small, but there were 3 interns. Staff members were very set on the restaurant they wanted to go to for their holiday party, but that restaurant had a limit on the number of people that they’d book for a reservation without a set menu, minimum per head price, etc. Staff was small enough, but us interns put them over that limit. So instead of finding a more accommodating restaurant, they made a reservation at the one they really wanted and … just didn’t invite us along. They all very blatantly went to their holiday luncheon while the three of us … sat in the office.

    When they returned, turns out they decided to go to a totally different restaurant and we could have gone along. They just didn’t bother to invite us.

    Can’t say I’m sad to hear that they closed up shop a while ago.

  56. Jen*

    I really feel for #1. Last year, I had to sit through a company holiday dinner in which I was the only employee to not get a bonus. It got more and more awkward as all eyes drifted in my direction. I can see how it’s funny now but at the time I wanted to climb under the table. It just seems that it would be very easy to not put a person into such a situation. Stick a starbucks gift card in an envelope and call it good. Don’t make a person watch every other person open a gift. It’s really not that difficult.

  57. Another Co-op Student*

    LW#1: All of that context sounds like things you should talk to your co-op advisor about. Even if it’s too late to change anything for your experience, those sound like issues which will have your school reevaluating whether or not to continue having a co-op relationship with that company, or at least to keep a much closer eye on it in the future.
    Even if the other things (no one learning your name, etc. which are obviously not good) would be very hard for the school to address, the “being told that I shouldn’t expect to do the same things that were listed on my job description” should be fairly straightforward. For future co-op searches they need to change the job description, and the co-op advisor should have regular checkins with the student to make sure that they are being given work to do.

    My main advice, LW#1, is to please *talk to your co-op advisor.* As Alison said the gift thing isn’t something for you to try to address (although it would be nice for your co-op advisor to point out to them that it’s not great), but your co-op advisor should be made aware of the other problems.

    I wonder if we go to the same school, or if there is another school with this form of co-op program?

    1. Another Co-op Student*

      @LW 1 The Student
      Hi! I just look through the other comments and saw your replies. Good on you for keeping your school informed, and I’m glad the school is doing what they can. Hang in there, (hopefully?) you’re almost done and then you can take what you learned and leave that company behind.
      If you’re going to do another co-op, ask your co-op advisor if you can talk to a student who previously had a position before you accept it. It’s not always possible, but it really helps when you can. This year I was offered a co-op that at I thought would be great but was able to talk to the student currently in the role before accepting it, and I was so glad I did because it turned out that the job was not at all what I wanted, and otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered that until I started. (It wasn’t a bad job, just not what I was looking for, and I ended up getting a much better co-op anyway!)

  58. All Hail Queen Sally*

    LW#1: Things like that happen all the time. I had a similar thing happen when I had a work-study job at a VA Hospital while going to school on the GI Bill. I was a woman in my late 40’s and was told to sit over in the corner answering the phone while the entire office had their Christmas party with a potluck and gift exchange in the opposite corner of the room (the gymnasium). I just sat there and stared at them (there were no phone calls). After they were all done and people started returning to their jobs, a woman I didn’t know came over and told me I could have some of their leftovers if I wanted. I went over and looked and saw that no one had touched the vegetable lasagna, so I took the whole thing.

  59. DiscoCat*

    #2 Your boss sounds like someone who’s highly strung due to stress and being overworked- she needs to control everything in order to feel she’s on top. However I also find the wording of “Maybe, I’m on a call now” a bit unfortunate. Yes, the person shouldn’t have talked to you while you were on a call, but I find “maybe” passive- that is a highly personal opinion, it sounds like your ability to help doesn’t depend on tangible factors relevant to the work. I find “Let me finish and see whether I can help you” more agreeable.

  60. Traveling manager*

    OP3- have you looked into the norms of vacation time at a couple companies you’re applying to or the industry at large? I would think that would help inform your approach.

    There are a lot of people on this thread where 2 long vacations wouldn’t be an issue. For me personally, a candidate even asking for one 4 week trip would rule them out. At a small company, I can’t have a team member gone close to a month barring some great emergency. Everyone else would have to take on their work, and realistically we would need to turn down projects since we wouldn’t have bandwidth. 2-3 weeks max is fine, but any more than that is excessive and would tell me that candidate does not understand our company needs. Now if it were two weeks off and two working from elsewhere, that would be fine.

    Long response to urge you to dig into vacation culture and capabilities in your industry before you ask. You don’t want to end up in the “no” pile over asking for a trip.

  61. Kay*

    For public speaking in grad school, I also found that it becomes MUCH easier once you realize that you are the expert in the room! I used to get very nervous (lots of professors and brilliant people around), but most of them really want to hear what you (!) think about something. It definitely gets easier. Good luck!

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