open thread – December 4-5, 2020

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

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

{ 916 comments… read them below }

  1. ThatGirl*

    Mostly I want reassurance that I’m not shooting myself in the foot here.
    It comes down to me not wanting to apply for a job at a company I don’t want to work for, but there’s a little more nuance than that…

    I got laid off the week before Thanksgiving, and have set to work reaching out to various folks, writing awesome cover letters, the usual. I actually have been through two interviews and a writing assessment for a job that sounds great, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so I’m still looking.

    Here’s the problem: A woman I worked with several years and two companies ago reached out to me to let me know there was an opening on her team at her current company. I like her a lot, I’d be happy to work with her again — but the company she works for is the corporate HQ for a major mall retailer that declared bankruptcy two years ago, and was in the news last year for safety recalls to several of their products. Beyond that, the job itself is something I’m overqualified for and could probably do in my sleep, though I’d be more interested in doing it if the company were less problematic.

    I don’t want to tell my contact that I can’t see the company lasting another few years without major layoffs or shakeups, or that the job seems somewhat beneath me. But I don’t need to apply for this, do I? What should I tell her, if anything?

    1. Lygeia*

      I think if you have a good rapport with her you could have a conversation about the company’s stability. You just got laid off, so it makes sense that that is a major concern for you. Since this is information that is publicly available, you aren’t bringing up anything that is out of professional bounds.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I agree with this – if the company publicly declared bankruptcy, I think it’s perfectly fine to ask about it. Combined with the recent bad press about the product itself, it’s definitely worth bringing those things up.

        1. Venus*

          I agree except that I wouldn’t ask, I would just tell. The problem isn’t that the role is beneath ThatGirl, the problem is that the company is sketchy for safety recalls. That’s an awkward thing to bring up with the former coworker, so I would just make it super simple with “After being laid off I am really focusing on stability and appreciate your offer yet I don’t feel comfortable pursuing it at this time. I’m sure they are a great employer for you, but it’s a thing for me at this moment in time.”

          1. A Simple Narwhal*

            Oh yes, if ThatGirl definitely isn’t taking the job, then that’s absolutely the way to go. But if she hasn’t decided and is still considering it, it’s worth asking.

            1. pancakes*

              It is extremely unlikely that a company with additional financial or safety problems beyond what’s already been in the press would be candid about the extent of the problems with an interviewer simply because they’re asking. It would generally be unwise to do so, too. Companies hire extremely expensive and skilled PR and investor relations consultants to craft their messaging around these things.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I haven’t officially said “no, I’m not gonna apply” yet but I did ask sort of sideways how she felt about the company’s stability, and got a “oh, everything’s great since we got new investors!” answer so… yeah.

        1. RealPerson01*

          You definitely don’t have to apply for it if you don’t think it’s going to be a good fit (professionally, personally, ethically).

          For some companies, a Bankruptcy is just a proceeding to restructure and eliminate debt and they turn out stronger than ever. I company I worked for years ago went through it (and yes, it was a mess during the restructuring) but came out of it, the board put in new leadership and some of the people I know that are still there have said it’s better than ever work for.

          As for the safety recalls, I suppose it depends on the type of product, and type of recalls, Things like auto manufactures have safety recalls all the time. and depending on your position it may or may not affect the work you do, (ie if you are in account payable a product recall might not cause much change as if you were in say, PR )

          I think it’s definitely fair to ask questions and get a full understanding, of the companies current position (especially with how retail has been doing in recent years) and if its a job like PR where a recall would greatly affect your position, asking about the fallout of it, and changes to ensure that doesn’t happen would be fair.

          At the end of the day, I say go with your gut, If it doesn’t feel right then it’s not right.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I don’t want to spread the name of the company around, but you’d recognize it immediately and the few friends I’ve mentioned this to have immediately made the grimacey emoji face. It’s not that it’s a horrific place to work, but as you said, it doesn’t feel right.

            1. Katrinka*

              I’m pretty sure I know the company. The stores are their only assets, right? And they closed almost all of them? I’d be concerned too, especially if the new investors haven’t made any changes yet. It looks like they’re trying to ramp up the name in preparation to increase their presence in the market again. That sort of thing pretty much requires major changes.

              1. ThatGirl*

                It’s not a department store (you’re probably thinking of Rhymes-With-Schmears which also has headquarters in this metro area, and wild horses couldn’t drag me into applying there) but given the state of retail right now and the way the company is trending, it still feels risky.

    2. nonee*

      You definitely don’t have to go for this job! All you have to say is “thanks so much for thinking of me! I’d love to work with you again, but this role isn’t a great fit for where I want to go next in my career.” If she pushes, the fact that the role is “beneath you” is sufficient reason – you are, after all, no doubt someone who likes to learn new things! I’d leave it at that, in case you ever do decide that a role in her team or company looks interesting.

    3. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      You could maybe tell her that you are looking for something more challenging at this point, if you don’t want to mention the instability of the company at all. I’m conflict-avoidant (unless I go scorched-earth!), so that’s the truth I’d stick with here, but you’re not me, so it might not be your preferred method!

    4. Emilitron*

      It’s great that you have this woman in your network, and great that she reached out to you. Respond and strengthen the person connection. But no, you don’t have to apply for a job. You can use some of the suggested language about how what you want next is Y (and you don’t have to rub it in that this position X isn’t as great as that), you can say you have some exciting interviews lined up (i.e. reassure her that you’re not panicked and scrounging)
      Sounds like this is the kind of thing that if you didn’t have interviews and had rent payments due, you may be thankful to have as a “safety” plan, and she may be aware of that, in which case it’s really kind of her to offer.
      And if the company’s not doing well, maybe she’s taking this opportunity to strengthen her network with you in case she’s out of a job next year, so if she’s genuinely someone you’d want to work with again, tell her you’ll be sure to let her know where you end up and stay in touch.

    5. Smithy*

      If this is a contact you don’t feel you can be that honest with regarding the company – I would give the “thank you so much for thinking of me, but at the moment I’m going to take a brief pause on applying until after the holidays pass.”

      I’ve found the holidays are a time where people often give a lot of grace to people dipping out without needing a whole of explanation.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      People have no way of knowing what we are currently looking for unless we tell them.

      “Thanks for thinking of me. I really enjoyed working with you and I would love to work with you again sometime. Currently I am targeting X and Y type jobs in my job search. I am going to follow this path for a bit and see what I can come up with. [Optionally: If you happen to hear of an opening in X or Y with more good people like yourself, I definitely would appreciate the heads up.] I have to say you made my day [morning] here with your email [whatever contact method] and I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.”

      1. ThatGirl*

        You’re right and I truly do appreciate her reaching out to me! It was a super lovely and thoughtful gesture and I don’t want to burn the bridge. I just don’t think I want to work at that specific company.

    7. Observer*

      I don’t want to tell my contact that I can’t see the company lasting another few years without major layoffs or shakeups, or that the job seems somewhat beneath me

      Why do you think it’s a problem to tell her that you don’t think the company is not terribly stable? It’s not like you are saying that she is stupid to still be working there. (Of course, if that IS what you mean, that’s a different issue.)

      As for “beneath me”, yeah do NOT say that or imply that.

      You could say that you think that the job is a step below in salary and skill than where you are at, and stepping back in this way could set back your career progression. No judgement, just career assessment.

  2. Anon today*

    My great-grandboss (GGB) had one of their assistants purchase and deliver a small gift for each department head. (GGB paid; assistant was just doing the legwork.)
    The assistant and grandboss went to each manager together to do this. And in each case, they closed the manager’s door and pretended like they were there to fire the manager, before backpedaling with, “Haha, we’re just joking. Here’s a gift from (GGB).”
    One manager was almost in tears. Another, who was put on a PIP earlier this year, responded with, “Okay, I figured.” The others realized it was a prank and responded accordingly.
    Then the assistant came back and told us about this hilarious story.
    I said, “That’s a good way to lose employees. It’s not funny.”
    “Oh, they laughed about it,” assistant said.
    “Yeah, but what are they going to go home and say?” I said. “I would laugh here … and then I would go home and rant, and update my resume. That’s vicious. It’s not funny. You don’t joke about people’s livelihoods.”
    Assistant went pale for a minute and then went on with how it was all light-hearted.
    I said, “That’s awful. It’s not funny.” And turned back to my work. (Kept my voice quiet, but didn’t try to keep the shock and horror out of it.)
    Assistant is young-ish and polite, but tends toward arrogance. Grandboss is a practical joker but is usually more compassionate that this – I thought! Great-grandboss, on whose behalf this all happened, probably wouldn’t have suggested or encouraged it, but will probably find it highly amusing upon hearing the story. And GGB’s other assistant (OA) thought it was hysterically funny – but admitted they would have freaked if it happened to them.
    (Other details: The manager who was almost in tears was supposedly laughing about it a few hours later. Assistant has hardly spoken to me since my response – which is fine! I’m not in management, and they did not do this to my manager, but my manager told them it was mean.)
    Should I have said more? Less? Aarrgh! Why do people have to be jerks?!

    1. The teapots are on fire*

      You did exactly the right thing. People who think practical jokes are funny need to be reminded that many of is think they are not, and practical jokers should keep that kind of awful behavior confined to their practical-joking thoughtless peers and not bother innocent people with it.

      1. Jackalope*

        As someone who has enjoyed many a practical joke in my day, let me say that I too was horrified. It’s only a good joke if everyone is having fun, and trying to make people afraid that they’ll lose their jobs is SO not fun for the person being pranked.

    2. newbieMD*

      I agree; you handled it perfectly. Hopefully, that jerk of an assistant learned something from you even is he/she didn’t admit it during your conversation.

    3. Littorally*

      You handled this really well I think. Having your manager also tell them that’s a mean thing to do was good — it means you aren’t the only one chewing up two levels.

    4. AppleStan*

      You handled it just fine.

      I don’t understand how anyone would think such a thing is funny. Even in the best of times, it’s not funny.

      But during COVID, during the holiday season (where a lot of people spend extra money for gifts, intending to pay them off in January and February (not judging, just pointing it out) OR had planned to buy gifts and now have a fleeting worry that they can’t).

      Also, you have no idea what’s going on in someone’s life…maybe their mom just died. Maybe they just got a cancer diagnosis. And then you come in joking about how they no longer have employment.

      I know people that would not have responded positively to a joke like that, and let’s just say their response might not have been only verbal (in which case, they probably WOULD end up unemployed).

    5. michelenyc*

      I also think your response was perfect. I hate when people say things well everyone laughed. They laughed because they were uncomfortable not because admin and GGB were being funny.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      You handled this the right way. I would go one further and speak with HR about it – the Grandboss needs an education in general sensitivity, and also in how to NOT set a bad example for their assistant.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      “Hey, Boss, a few of us have talked about it among ourselves and after serious discussion, we have decided we are going to quit!”
      Silence.
      “It’s a joke, Boss! Get it? Wasn’t that just a real knee slapper! It’s very funny!”

    8. Totally Minnie*

      You said exactly the right amount. The fact that the assistant isn’t speaking to you anymore doesn’t mean you should have done something different, it means you made her feel guilty about doing something she should *definitely* feel guilty about. And hopefully, the level of discomfort she’s feeling now will make her think twice the next time the urge to play mean pranks on people arises.

    9. Observer*

      I think you handled it quite well. And hopefully Assistant actually had a seed planted in their head. You said just enough to plant it, but not so much that they “HAD” to defend themselves so hard that they manage to bury it to deep to grow.

    10. Generic Name*

      You did a great job handling this appropriately. If the assistant felt bad, well good. They should feel bad. Honestly, everyone who was the butt of this prank deserves an apology. If that had happened to me, I definitely would have started a job search.

    11. Enough*

      This type of ”joke” is always ridiculous. Had a high school teacher do this when he was telling everyone what their report card grade would be. He thought I was “playing along” when I was less than pleased when I responded to my C (I was getting an A). I was so glad this was a one semester course and I would never have him again.

    12. Quinalla*

      Seriously, even people who love pranks should know this is a terrible idea, especially during COVID! I’m glad you reacted as you did and think you handled it perfectly, sounds like you may have gotten through at least a little too which is great, but standing up to this stuff is important as there are always others listening or hearing about it later and it is so important that someone(s) said “This is cruel, not funny!”

    13. Pumpkin Bear Salad*

      Unfortunately, this type of cruel joke is so commonplace that when a friend actually was being laid off, she assumed they were kidding and kept smiling and laughing. By the time she realized the truth, it made the situation even more humiliating.

    14. Katrinka*

      GGB will think it’s hilarious until he starts losing people over this. It’s a horrible thing to do to people any time, but especially now.

    15. Diotima*

      There is literally a nine season-long, critically acclaimed television show that mocks this kind of insensitive and rude behavior.
      Dwight Schrute would say, “Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, ‘Would an idiot do that?’ And if they would, I do not do that thing.” These people should think “Did Michael Scott do this in Seasons 1 or 2 of The Office? And if he did, I will not do that thing.”

  3. DiscoCat*

    How to quit a job that was undersold to me and turns out to be a lot more responsibility at same pay (classical bait and switch?)

    I moved across the continent in January, the pandemic hit my new country quite severely and the job market has been dismal. After applying unsuccessfully for about 6 months (and being strung about with lengthy interview processes, “logics” test games and whatnot) I decidedbto apply again in the country I had come from. I applied at my current employer (large, international, reputable) on a whim and got the job after one email exchange with HR, one 45 minute interview, no background
    or reference checks (first red flag?).

    Due to COVID I started remote from my current residence, with the understanding that I’ll move there in 3 months- to get this was the first real red flag because HR did not understand or take my concern about a move amidst the 2nd pandemic wave seriously at all until I flat-out said that I won’t be in the office on my first day and offered to start from home. The job is project management in a technical/ implementation department on a high-stakes project catalogue. The job description says that apart from the technical and administrative management my role will be to give technical expertise and input to different departments, teams etc. In the interview they said that I would be coordinating WITH other departments to fulfill my objectives for these tasks, I assumed that my
    job was more of an individual contributor role in a team of equals.
    Now it turns out that I will not only be coordinating my work with other departments (a few of which have long-standing animosity towards this department), but that I will lead and coordinate the work of a team of 4 people directly, and closely coordinate with at least 5 others from other teams. Internally people don’t refer to me as the project manager for XY project, they call me the programme coordinator. My boss wants me to lead the team on technical aspects but because I’m new, another person will lead on disciplinary/ supervisory aspects. I will be the first point of contact and act as a “narrow door” (my boss’ words) for the other departments. These other departments are overwhelmed by a) the high stakes nature of the projects, b) not being able to say “no” and wanting to provide 150% service for their partners and c) their lack of experience in general, so they tend to rope in and pressurise our young, right and eager technical assistants into doing a lot of ad-hoc work at very short notice and to short deadlines. This leads to a lot of conflict, even long-standing feuds, between our departments and stresses our external project partners who in my mind are our clients. It turns out to be a political job, the workplace is fraught with conflict, misunderstandings, hardened fronts and whole load of dysfunctional crap.

    On one hand it still sounds good (I’m not someone to shy away from challenges and 2020 isn’t the year to get everything you want, it’s the year to appreciate everything you have, right?): a) I’m at a stage in my (working) life that being a team leader would be the next logical step, b) it’d look phenomenal on my CV and c) provide an excellent reentry into an industry that I had left over 10 years ago and that I had been dying to get back into for at least 8 years c) I’m not getting any younger and ageism is an ugly fact, and d) the work and employer/ industry itself has as a very rewarding social/ humanitarian mission, even if the results on the ground are rather mixed….. At first I thought
    that I’d renegotiate the salary and conditions, sacrifice my life in this new place that I love, and move back to a country that I was very happy to leave for a wide range of reasons.

    But this week I’ve already been at loggerheads with someone from the other department over something that my boss agrees is overkill and borders on micromanagement of “my” team. My team don’t seem to mind doing things her way and had agreed to it before I arrived, but my official directive is to protect them from this kind of overreach- which my boss says he has told them and the team over and over again. Besides, owing to the very fast growth of the department over a short time, work flow standard processes are minimal and strategies are not streamlined, a lot of time and effort is wasted by everyone scrabbling in their own little corner. Overall the whole team and organization is full of young, bright people who mistake saying no and setting boundaries with starting drama.

    So, while this is something I’d have died to do 5 years ago, I don’t feel fit for this at all- neither from experience nor mentally. My last job was so bad that I almost burnt out, I probably have something akin to PTSD, after that I’d sworn myself that I will listen to my heart, not bury my gut feeling about a work place culture like I used to in the past, and that I’ll look out for myself and my personal satisfaction, no matter what it looks like on paper. I want to just quietly work away at something stable, be a quiet contributor, not be involved in political strategising nor be a “bottleneck”.

    Even though I am an excellent organiser and communicate well, I have no experience in managing teams for anything other than specific tasks and goals for a short time. I am not conflict averse and like to solve problems proactively, but at the end of the day I like harmony, I want to go home and not have anxiety attacks. My last job/ life experience have hardened me a bit and I don’t have much patience for office politics, I can be stubborn and if my directive is to protect my team from other departments’ overreach, I will make that very clear at the risk of alienating not only the other departments and also my team who are quite young and easy-going, but overworked.

    My gut feeling is to quit, to give my boss enough time to find someone better suited by advertising the position better, fairer and at a correspondingly better pay. As I said above, this is the year to
    appreciate everything I have- true, I have a job now, but what I also got from this year is the time in quiet and rest that 2020 brought me, the peace of mind and resetting that is starting. Staying in this job (even if I manage to negotiate better pay) and moving back just for its sake will make me deeply unhappy; it’d be a step back in so many ways that no amount of prestige on my CV, no amount of growing into the role, into a new person (I don’t want to be), will offset.

    So, how do I quit without it devolving into negotiations about staying on, without recriminations, without burning bridges, without jeopardising my references from this job in the mandatory 6 weeks’
    notice period, and without getting stiffed out of my last salary (my contract is a works contract, not staff contract)?

    1. Harriet*

      A tough situation. Sounds like a lot of responsibility without authority, which is always tricky. Can you hang in a bit longer while you apply to other companies in this industry? Maybe now that you have a current job in that industry, you will have better chances.

      Otherwise, just be professional about giving notice. That shouldn’t burn bridges.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. It boils down to, “After much consideration, I have decided I would like to go in a different direction. Thank you so much for your time in considering my application for the position.”

    2. bunniferous*

      OP, you already know you would not be happy in this role. If I understood you correctly you haven’t even “been there” that long. You have nothing to lose by talking to them-but if I were you I would leave this job off the resume and just keep looking. Perhaps others who have been in your shoes can give more specific helpful advice but I absolutely agree you shouldn’t just grin and bear it unless you have no other choice.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Ugh. I’m so sorry this is happening.

      I think I’d lean hard on the original job description (if you have a written one), and do a bit of prep work so I could clearly lay out the changes with what is currently being expected of you. I might present the discrepancies and request some clarification about the two different versions. Let them explain themselves. Then make that into a revised job description/salary/whatever, and/or an exit plan. Blame the pandemic if you want. Stress greatly reduces your ability to flex.

      You’re miserable and you know that staying miserable won’t help. Don’t worry about the burned bridges because you’ll already have your talking points about the bait-and-switch.

  4. Anonydoglover*

    Hello, I’m getting furloughed beginning January 1 due to COVID cuts. We have a definite return date of July 1, however I’m not sure I want to go back (extremely toxic workplace, but I love my job). What do I mention in interviews if asked? Thanks!

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      Just cite the layoff. It’s understandable. You don’t have to talk about the chance to return.

    2. Jack Be Nimble*

      It’s pretty normal to job search during a furlough! Even if your definite return date actually is definite, it’s not strange to look for other work during that period. At a lot of companies, a furlough is functionally a soft lay off.

    3. someguyscallmeshawna*

      Just say you’ve been furloughed and are looking for something with more stability. I don’t think you need to mention that you have a return date of July 1 because I don’t think you can totally guarantee that you actually will have the same job waiting for you then.

    4. Jenn*

      Blame COVID for the furlough and just don’t mention a call-back date. Then pivot to what attracts you about the job you’re applying for. A lot can (and will) change in the next 7 months and you may not get called back.

    5. SawbonzMD (formerly newbieMD)*

      Since you’re furloughed, you have every right to look for another job instead of sitting on your hands until July! I don’t think there’s any reason to mention that you’re not sure you want to return to your job. If asked, you can say that you’re on furlough and decided to see what else is out there.

    6. Anonydoglover*

      Thank you for the responses everyone! You all mentioned what I was thinking, but wanted to confirm with the wonderful ppl of AAM

  5. ANon.*

    Someone please weigh in on this semi-hypothetical/moral argument my husband and I are having.

    Husband is a public school teacher, currently forced to work from home due to the pandemic and rising number of cases. The school sent out a reminder to teachers about holiday decor during their zoom sessions: Just as they are not allowed to have religious items in the classrooms, they are not supposed to have religious items in the background during their zoom sessions with students.

    Husband thinks this is wrong. He thinks he should be able to have whatever decorations he wants in his home; it’s his home, after all.

    I don’t think it’s a problem. They’re not saying he can’t decorate his home as he pleases, they’re just saying he needs to have a professional background while he is on zoom for work.

    Husband is not convinced. He thinks it would be different if he chose to WFH – in that case, it would of course be conditional on him having an appropriate work space – but when he is being forced to WFH, he thinks there should be no requirements on the background. He thinks his employer does not have the right to dictate how he decorates his home.

    Honestly, I don’t get his position. I tried taking it to the extreme and asked what if his entire house was decorated with confederate flags. He held steady that, although he strongly believes that person should not be a teacher, it is still not the place of his employer to tell him what to do with his home.

    (Note: it’s not like he plans on or wants to have religious decor in the background; we’re just discussing the ethics of the request. He has and will maintain a completely neutral background when on zoom.)

    1. Chainsaw Bear*

      I largely agree with you, but only because this seems to be specific to holiday decorations, which are not a permanent fixture and therefore not a big imposition to move or work around – flexibility is key here and your husband is right about the choosing to WFH distinction.
      My primary concern with this policy is how broadly it’s going to be applied – a lot of people by now have Christmas decorations up that aren’t remotely Jesus-related. But Christmas is a Christian holiday, and while many people celebrate it without any ties to the Christian faith, as Allison has noted before, it’s insulting to other religions to pretend its prevalence in the US doesn’t have anything to do with Christian dominance in the country. So, are Christmas trees okay?

      1. Charly Bee*

        As a now non-Christian who was raised Christian, I always felt there was a distinction between religious holiday symbols and non-religious like Santa or Christmas trees. But as I’ve gone out in the world and met people (both religious and nonreligious) who were not raised Christian, they (generally) do not make a distinction. A Christmas tree is a religious symbol because it is connected to a religious holiday. And we can talk about the pre-Christian roots of such symbols, but it doesn’t change that in our current era, a tree like that is primarily associated with a Christian holiday.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Yeah, I used to believe that my tree wasn’t a religious symbol because I’m not Christian and don’t celebrate it as a religious holiday. I just like my tree, which I decorate with family memories, and view it as a secular family thing. But I’ve come to see that it’s still a representation of Christmas, which is a Christian holiday, and generally contributes to the All Christmas Everywhere All The Time vibe that makes many people feel alienated this time of year.

          1. Philosophia*

            Thank you for your understanding! And I say that as one who helped my best friend decorate a tree every December 24th with her family’s lovingly collected ornaments while we were growing up, (In turn, she came to my family’s Seders.)

          2. Cary*

            For many Pagans it’s actually important to them that a Yule tree is *not* a Christian symbol… (Others don’t care. Me, I care less than I did when I was younger…but…)

            1. Filosofickle*

              I was just explaining to my BF about how early Christians co-opted symbols, personas, and holidays from polytheistic traditions. He had no idea! (He’s not Christian either.) Fascinating stuff.

              I don’t think the tree is a Christian symbol, but it has been co-opted as a Christmas symbol. Which is its own problem. It’s tricky!

    2. Yecats*

      I don’t understand your husband’s position either. Of course an employer isn’t allowed to dictate how you decorate your home, but it does seem perfectly reasonable to require no visible religious items in the background – especially since just turning on screen blur would make it irrelevant what’s actually behind you!

      I suppose if someone’s house is literally so religious-themed that every room has a huge, unmistakable cross on the wall or something that could make it difficult to comply… but, no, because background images are a thing too, so this hypothetical super religious person could just use a neutral stock image.

      1. ANon.*

        I tried the zoom background argument. The issue is, when husband tried using a virtual background weeks ago, it did not go very well. Despite being against a blank white wall, the background came in patchy, covering 3/4ths of his face and not covering large portions of the wall. So, husband’s response to that argument was: Sure, they can make me put up a virtual background, but I should not be liable if it fails to work and religious items can still be seen.

        1. Ashley*

          But if he did a virtual background and it failed and showed say you in the bathroom he would be responsible.

          To me this policy is less terrible then some teachers being punished for BLM stuff. I would say it is reasonable to say where your camera sees should be religious neutral no matter the time of year. (I shouldn’t see a crufix say.)

        2. KimmyBear*

          Technical note: I’m assuming based on the issue that the wall color is close enough to skin color to confuse the software. Try using a contrasting wall color or hang a sheet.

          1. ANon.*

            All our walls are white; he’s just that pale, I guess. Ultimately, since this is a hypothetical issue and not a real one, he’s fine as is sans virtual background and using just the white wall. But I like your sheet idea! Will keep that in mind in case we do ever need it. Thanks!

    3. Not Your Average Jo(lene)*

      I totally see where your husband is coming from and I know in some HR circles, it has been a hot topic, especially when the workplace is not directly paying for your rent or use of your house to work from home. (Yes, we get paid and that pays our bills but it’s indirect.)

    4. Metadata minion*

      I have a small amount of sympathy for your husband in that working from home does create this weird boundary overlap where your home is your office and thus your employer now gets to have an opinion about it where they normally shouldn’t. But there are so many workarounds here — you can try to arrange things so you’re in front of a neutral wall/bookshelf/etc, you can get one of those green-screen hanging stand things, you can use a virtual background, you can drape a sheet over a bookcase. I assume teachers are also not allowed to have their Zoom-visible walls decorated with their favorite artsy erotic photographs, even though that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to hang in one’s private home.

    5. Elphie*

      Just curious — do they mean obviously religious items (like a manger scene or menorah) – or are they including items that have both a religious and secular bent (like a Christmas tree)?

      1. Bibliovore*

        Elphie- not to jump on you but a Christmas tree is not secular. It never has been, it never will be.

        1. Ashley*

          I agree but schools will sometimes allow Santa’s (based in religion) and Christmas Trees but not a manager with the argument they are secular. They are not secular just less religious then a manager. So some of this is allowing ‘holiday theme’ as previously defined for that school.

        2. Double A*

          I feel this is….overstating it. I think it can be both secular and culturally Christian, in the same way the people identify as secular Jews. Like, my husband and I are atheists, but our cultural background (i.e. mostly grandparents generation and prior) is Christian, and we celebrate Christmas in a non-religious way and have various Christmas things up. It’s connected to our culture, but not our religion because we have no religion.

          Maybe this is a distinction without a difference for some people, and I recognize the cultural hegemony of Christmas and that its connection to a specific religion. But people can (and do) have connections with Christmas other than religion.

          1. moql*

            In this context that is very much a distinction without a difference. People call feel however they want about their Christmas Tree but it will be perceived as Christian by everyone else.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m just going to quote from this post from last year because I’m too exhausted by this to do it any other way: “A Christmas tree is a symbol and marker of a Christian holiday… You’re only able to see a Christmas tree as secular because Christmas has the privilege of dominance in our culture. For many of us who don’t celebrate it, it’s not secular and it’s not universal — and saying it is really erases non-Christians from the picture.”

            Please let’s not debate this again.

      2. TTDH*

        If a decoration has both a religious and a secular bent, it’s probably not really secular enough for education, where part of the focus of the job is to make the students feel included (or at least not distractingly excluded).

    6. Bibliovore*

      your husband is just looking for action. or as we say in my house “poking the bear” I am more interested in how your husband is coping teaching to 40 black squared for this semester. for me, it is hell.
      Hows the teaching going? If the school is writing up someone because there is a Christmas tree in a zoom background, they need to get their priorities straightened out.
      Doing my Judge John Hodgeman imitation. Your husband’s indignation about his home decor being pandemic WFH therefore different from other WFH is misplaced and out of proportion. If he wouldn’t have it in his classroom, he shouldn’t have it in his zoom background.
      In our house, we call this “the pandemic talking” Advice for the OP. You don’t have to attend every fight that you are invited to.
      Hope his winter break is peaceful and calm and stress free.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I love this: You don’t need to attend every fight that you are invited to.

        I agree. There were times where my husband got in a knot about something at work. I disagreed with my husband’s stance on the matter. It’s an at-work issue. In the end, it did not really matter what I thought. I would back out of the discussion. “Well, honey, I gave you my thoughts on the matter. But it’s your job, not mine and I have to let you go about it as you think best. Most certainly, if the situation were reversed and you disagreed with my work choices, in the end you’d say it’s all up to me.”

        Then I’d stop right there. Because the next logical step is going to be, “OMG, what would we do without my paycheck.” And sometimes I’d have to let him work through that by himself, or visa versa, he’d have to let me work through that by myself.
        Here’s the key, OP, when someone is left to figure it out on their own then they have to calm down and move through their next steps in actually dealing with the problem. All arguing does is block their progression in actually trying to fix or think through their predicament.

    7. Reba*

      I’m understanding of his concern about employer/school overreach into people’s private spaces.

      But I don’t really think that choose to WFH vs forced to WFH is where I would draw a line in this discussion — these are extraordinary times! Still! So there’s a lot of “shoulds” or “in principle” that are not going to be met in the current circumstances. And that just seems like a way to make yourself frustrated.

      I would also note that teachers often have a lot of extra scrutiny on what they do outside of work. Right or wrong, that’s a feature of the profession. FWIW I think that of all the ways teachers are held to unfair standards in private life, decor is probably one of the least objectionable!

    8. Littorally*

      You’re right.

      I guess the best way I would frame it to your husband is this: it isn’t about what’s in your home, it’s about what’s in your visible background. So if you want to put up the Christmas stuff, use a Zoom background. Or find a stretch of blank wall to put behind yourself.

      It’s just like how you wouldn’t want a messy pile of laundry or a roommate dancing in their boxers in your background while trying to teach. Those are perfectly fine things to have in your home and not your employer’s business, but they can infringe on trying to teach a lesson.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        This. Following his logic to the extreme, *anything* in your home would be fine in the background – nude photos, hate speech posters, etc. It’s safest, and best for his students, to say if it’s inappropriate in the classroom, it needs to not show up on Zoom either.

        1. Cascadia*

          YEP. This is exactly it. If it wouldn’t go in a classroom, it shouldn’t go in a zoom background. I’m also a teacher, though not at a public school, and this is just common sense. I sit at my dining room table but I take great care to make sure that my bar cart with all my booze in it is out of the screen when I’m on zoom with students. It literally means adjusting my camera 2 inches to the left, or I just use a virtual background. You are right, your husband is wrong.

      2. Joielle*

        I think this is the most important point – that there are a lot of things that are fine (awesome, even!) to have in your home but not behind you in a Zoom meeting. Like… a large nude portrait of yourself, an extensive and lovingly-displayed sex toy collection, a needlepoint of the Aristocrats routine. Those are a bit more obviously problematic, but your husband seems to be arguing that literally anything in your house would be ok to have behind you when teaching, and that’s certainly not the case.

        Also I have to say, my husband and I (both lawyers) also have frequent debates like this and I love reading about other people’s weird hypothetical arguments. Nothing like a passionate but ultimately irrelevant moral debate to get the blood flowing!

        1. ANon.*

          LOL! While neither of us are lawyers, we both have parents (and siblings) who are. I’m sensing a theme here… ;)

      3. Delta Delta*

        This. If he decided to teach in front of a wall of tasty yet risqué boudoir photos, would he still have the same position? Y’all can put up whatever decorations you want in your house. As long as they’re not in his background nobody cares.

    9. LKW*

      I look at it as a slippery slope problem. Your husband is thinking about this as a rational person. He has to look at it from an irrational perspective as both the displayer and the watcher. Your example is extreme but good, but not all examples need to be hit you over the head with it. For example, my mom has a lovely needlepoint in her office that my grandfather did about 45 years ago. It’s a replica of a Renaissance nude on a sofa. Would that be appropriate? It’s not tasteless but it is a nude and might offend a parent or make a 13 year old uncomfortable. So where one person has a religious symbol or holiday themed element, someone else gets offended and it opens up a can of worms that the school now has to deal with. Pagan, Christian, Jew, Muslim…. there are so many people who can handle the existence of others and some who simply can’t.

      Basically I look at it as “please help me keep my aspirin budget low this year”.

      1. TTDH*

        Wow. “handle the existence of others”?? It’s not really like that. In a school setting, the teacher is the authority figure, and that strong imbalance of power is what makes it important for the teacher to steer clear of religious items in the background. It’s not like going into a team meeting and seeing your co-worker’s Christmas tree or menorah in the background, or even your boss’s.

      2. Observer*

        there are so many people who can handle the existence of others and some who simply can’t.

        That’s an incredibly offensive thing to say. Totally not factual, as well.

        Every religious minority in the US handles the “existence” of Christmas, Christians and Christianity on a regular basis. It’s not like we have much choice. School kids – who have no choice but to be there also are in a power imbalance with their teachers. That’s totally not about “dealing with others’ existence” – It’s about experiencing something not relevant to you because someone has the power to force you to.

      3. pancakes*

        In addition to what others have said, I don’t at all agree that it’s rational for people to fixate on the simple fact of their own personal agency or personal property in trying to answer a question like this. I would characterize it as myopic. There is more to consider here besides who owns or pays rent for the home. Logic doesn’t compel anyone to pretend that’s the only thing worth considering.

      4. Littorally*

        Why is it irrational to prioritize not making his students more uncomfortable than they already are with remote classes?

    10. CatCat*

      They aren’t telling him how to decorate his home. They’re telling him what to have as a Zoom background. His Zoom background doesn’t have to be his home. Pretty sure my Zoom background is the moon (maybe that’s Teams, but you get the point).

    11. knitter*

      I work at a public school and, while I agree with the policy, I totally get your husband’s reaction. I think as teachers, we’re asked to pour so much of ourselves into our teaching and we’re subjected to so much judgement from the non-teaching public. During the school year, many of us struggle with boundaries. Some of this is due to school policies, some of this is due to the desire to do a good job but not having any near enough time to give thoughtful feedback on all 140 lab notebooks. I once worked at a school that required that we share our cell phone numbers. I got calls and texts at almost all hours. I still have panic attacks 6 years after leaving the school looking at my phone in the morning. Also, there are so many memes about how teachers do the work because they care about the students and don’t need to be paid (this stuff makes my head explode). The list of indignities toward professionals goes on…

      So within this work experience, being told another are of our lives is going to be monitored or it’s a new task to take care of…there is at some point a limit.

    12. TTDH*

      I don’t get his position either. It’s not like they’re complaining about something that’s so onerous to avoid, like seeing bedroom furniture in the background or even general house mess.

    13. Artemesia*

      Wow. So he thinks a big Jesus Saves sign behind him while he teachers would be ‘ethically’ fine because he is working from home? Wouldn’t want a guy with this kind of judgment teaching my kids.

      Yeah, homes can be messy; it is hard for many to have a dedicated professional space — but it is not too much to ask that political signs, religious symbols, bars or other things that would be entirely inappropriate in a classroom not be introduced into an on line classroom. This doesn’t seem even slightly hard to me — so I am wondering about your husband.

      1. Artemesia*

        FWIW. I have been a public school teacher and the important issue here is not the fee fees of the teacher but the kids.

      2. ANon.*

        Hey now! While I cannot personally attest to my husband’s performance (I don’t work at the school!), I can attest that he is consistently the highest-rated teacher among students, has consistently had students perform well above district average on standardized tests, and has accumulated an enormous amount of extra administrative work beyond his teaching duties because the principal trusts his judgement and knows he has the work ethic of a crazy person (also, he just can’t say no… but that’s a separate problem).

        Really, this is more just a moral/ethical/philosophical issue we’re discussing. In actuality, he would *never* actually test this. Or have the desire to. The heart of his question is whether his employer has the right to control his home when he is being forced to work from home and did not anticipate or plan to do so. Although I see it very differently, I don’t think asking the question itself is flagrantly outrageous.

        Let’s not bring his ability to perform his job in question here.

        1. Cascadia*

          Yes – his employer doesn’t have the right to control his home. But they do have the right to control what he presents to students. I’m a teacher and most everyone at my school only uses virtual backgrounds because they specifically DON’T want students to be able to see inside their homes. It’s no different than having a dress code.

    14. Llama face!*

      So I’m actually in agreement with your husband on this. I’d think his employer should consider the grounds that people may not have discrete spaces to keep decoration free. This could easily veer into class/wealth discrimination. If you are wfh in the living room because your spouse is in the only bedroom then what? Are you supposed to not be able to celebrate your holiday this year just because you are forced to wfh? Nevermind the fact that your home background is not a representation of your professional persona; it is your home where you have an expectation of not having to hide aspects of yourself. Having decorations up for yourself in your own personal space is not being religous AT anybody.

      1. CTT*

        But it seems unrealistic that every square inch of someone’s home would be covered in decorations. You can decorate AND find a three inch span of bare wall to sit in front of.

        1. Llama face!*

          If you have a large home, sure maybe that’s so. But say in my living room example, there is often only one couch or chair you can sit on and have plug ins/wifi/etc and it may be situated where the xmas tree is behind you (because those don’t fit just anywhere) or there maybe only one wall you can hang things on. If you can do a generic zoom background that’s an option, but a lot of people can’t make it work especially if they don’t have a really neutral wall space behind them. And again, home decorations are not being religious AT anyone. There isn’t anything inappropriate about students or colleagues knowing that you belong to a particular religious (or cultural) background any more than you learning the same thing about them.

          1. TTDH*

            Well, it’s not really students knowing that you belong to a given background (and I doubt that the concern is about colleagues whatsoever), it’s them having to look at symbols from whatever that background is for however many hours a day that they do virtual learning, when that wouldn’t have been permitted in an in-person environment. These are students, not peers or even employees. They’re obligated to be there and to treat the teacher as an authority figure, so the situation is very different.

        2. ANon.*

          So, Llama face! is pretty dead-on with his position. For example, we live in a one-bedroom apt. There is a living room, a bedroom and, well, that’s it.

          Again, this is all hypothetical. In his hypothetical scenario, WHAT IF someone typically decorated their space to every square inch with religious decor? (He actually knows someone in his school who probably does decorate every square inch; fortunately, she is admin, not a teacher.)

          1. Observer*

            What if someone can’t work from home at all? I get that people are not choosing to WFH, so you need to cut them some slack, but ultimately some things are inappropriate enough that if you HAVE to have them, it’s not different that not being about to work from home. So, eg having a bunch of nudes in your background would be like having the sound of jackhammers at a high decibel level going in the background while you are trying to teach.

            As a practical matter, it’s usually possible to hand something in front or or over the offending item before you start teaching.

            1. ANon.*

              When I wrote “his,” I was referring to my husband – your response was very in line with my husband’s reasoning! My apologies, I should have clarified that better!

        3. kt*

          I feel like we’ve had these discussions before and most people have agreed that while most houses have space for that, not all do. For instance, you’re in a 1200 square foot home and you’ve got three kids who need separate spaces for Zoom meetings, as does parent. Or you’re in a NY apartment.

          There are plenty of kids and college students pushing back on these weird requirements about having to take tests in rooms with only one door (or is it two doors?), or not being able to sit on a bed for class, etc. I’m with them.

          For the teacher, it’s the presence of the blurred background — however imperfect — that influences my answer. Use a stupid malfuncitoning blurred background. One of my colleagues does, and it looks like his face was half-eaten by a fog monster, and when he moves just right a sign on the wall is revealed to name an alcoholic beverage. Oh well. He made an attempt. If you use the stupid malfunctioning blurred background and tinsel is revealed, I think you’ve made enough of a good-faith effort. The school is allowed to require an attempt to use the background. I don’t think they’re justified in fully requiring that no holiday decor is visible in any way at any time.

      2. TTDH*

        This isn’t just any employer, or a meeting with peers. This person is a teacher, and the power imbalance between them and the children they’re teaching makes this important in a different way. The students are not employees and functionally have no choice whether to be there or not, so this is closer to “being religious at” them than it would otherwise be.

        1. pancakes*

          +1. There’s an article in today’s NYT that touches on some of this, titled “Remote Learning Can Bring Bias Into the Home.” I’ll link to it in a separate reply.

      3. RecoveringSWO*

        To me this turns on whether the school is providing a laptop/computer that has the capability to use a virtual background. As long as they are providing that, employees can abide by the background policy without changing their decorations at home. My personal laptop is too old to be compatible with zoom backgrounds, so I would be more perturbed about background requests if I wasn’t provided with a capable laptop.

    15. Suzan*

      This seems like a really weird hill to die on. If he wants to decorate the house with religious symbols, just use a background image so nobody can see behind him.

    16. Emi*

      I’m sympathetic to the general concern about WHF increasing employer surveillance and control of the home, but I don’t think this is an issue since it sounds like it could be easily satisfied with a virtual background, right? If he’s required to display his actual home and to have it meet certain standards that’s sketchy, but then I think the real issue is the requirement to put your actual home on camera.

    17. Disco Janet*

      Public school teacher here, and I agree with you. My impression here is that your husband is kind of playing devil’s advocate here. And in my opinion, there are too many real problems happening this year (especially in the world of education!) to be worried about something as insignificant as needing to have a plain/professional Zoom background. While I get the point he’s trying to make, there are so many bigger problems this year that I can’t imagine the point of him digging in his heels on this.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        That’s a great point. If he were to actually make a stink about this, how many hours would the administration waste on this problem that could be spent on more important issues?

      2. ANon.*

        OMG, he would never!! We like to debate things like this for fun – he would never in a million years actually make a stink about this to anyone. Not least because we are non-religious people and have literally zero religious decor in our home. Honestly, no space for decor of any sort when your walls are covered with climbing trees and scratching posts for your cats…

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          I can’t lie, I’m kind of jealous that you two “go down the rabbit hole” debating things for fun. My spouse cuts off my lawyer tendencies pretty quickly when I get started!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          It sounds like you are not having fun anymore?

          I actually land on your side because reality is employers can tell you what to do. After a bad bike accident and missing 6 weeks of work, I was told if I got on a motorcycle again then I could consider myself automatically fired. I called DOL. Yep. It’s legal.

          Like many things in life, when we accept money from others for any reason, they are purchasing their “right” or “ability” to tell us what to do.

          1. ANon.*

            Sorry to hear about your accident – I hope you are ok now!

            That’s absolutely bonkers to even me that they would tell you if you got on a bike again, they’d fire you. Sure, technically legal (assuming they apply this equally to all people who bike + got in an accident, and not just, say, women or BIPOC, etc.), but ethically? Yikes. Curious to hear others’ thoughts on this as well!

    18. Overeducated*

      I think that the job matters. He is in a position of authority over students, and a government employee. Given that context, I think it’s appropriate for the district to ask teachers to avoid religiously and politically sensitive imagery within the visible workspace. It’s not necessary to interpret as “telling him what to do with his home” – he could put up whatever decorations he wants and put up a foldable room divider behind his chair JUST for teaching, in which case the only thing that would be restricted is what he is showing directly to his students.

    19. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think Christmas is qualitatively different from (for example) July 4th because however much it may have become entrenched into secular practices, it isn’t a secular festival. So it isn’t like having the Stars and Stripes draped on the wall in July. If you’re hanging tinsel in December, it’s because it’s Christmas.

      So I think it’s reasonable for an employer to categorise anything that looks like Christmas decorations as a religious symbol for the purposes of this rule.

      That said, if they would ordinarily be allowed to decorate their classrooms with tinsel or Santa hats, it would be odd for the rule to vary between physical and virtual learning environments.

    20. The Other Dawn*

      I feel there is a difference between being forced to WFH because of the pandemic and choosing to WFH as the standard setup outside of the pandemic. If someone was working from home as a choice then yes, they should expect to have to comply with whatever the school says. But they’re working from home because of the pandemic and many people don’t have a dedicated space where they can make sure most of their home isn’t seen. In that case I think people should make some effort to comply as best they can, like don’t set up right in front if the Christmas tree if they can help it, but I don’t think the school should be super strict in enforcing this.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        That said, just use a Zoom background if it’s not possible to set up somewhere in the house where there aren’t decorations.

      2. ANon.*

        This is exactly his argument: there’s a difference between choosing to WFH vs. being told to WFH.

        Personally, like many others who’ve responded, I still disagree. But he thinks they should be lenient given the circumstances. (Not that it applies to us since, as I’ve said before, we have no inappropriate decor in our apartment.)

        For the sake of the hypothetical argument, we are assuming zoom background does not work effectively.

    21. bunniferous*

      This is the second online thing I have seen that makes me wonder-are you folks not permitted to use fake Zoom backgrounds? This is what I have done when I have been on Zoom meetings and don’t particularly care to let my personal home show up online….it’s not that hard to do.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I’m wondering if teachers can’t do that because they need to use white boards, etc., as teaching aids?

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Virtual backgrounds don’t always work well, and those user older tech might not be able to use them at all.

    22. Dust Bunny*

      You are.

      Honestly, if I were a teacher I’d make sure myself that there weren’t any religious objects visible in the background because students are stressed enough as it is without suspecting that their teacher might have a problem with their religious beliefs.

      1. emmelemm*

        This is my line of thinking. Yes, perhaps, the employer shouldn’t be allowed to dictate how the teacher decorates their home. But it’s about the kids. Having a religious display visible while you’re teaching, whether it’s in the classroom or your house, can make kids who are not of the dominant religion feel bad or alienated. As a teacher, it’s your job to make all the kids feel included, welcome, etc. That’s the really important issue.

      2. Littorally*

        Right, or with anything else!

        A previous manager of mine was openly deeply Christian. I don’t know for sure that she would have had a problem with me being trans, but that upped the likelihood that she would and made me more tense around her and less trusting. I imagine it would be the same for a teacher’s students if they saw religious decorations in the background of a Zoom classroom.

        Of course, because of the cultural/religious line Christmas straddles, not all Christmas decorations scream deeply intensely Christian, but enough do that it could be really uncomfortable for queer students as well as non-Christian (or non-mainstream Christian, either) kids.

    23. Totally Minnie*

      I think your husband is taking his point to an extreme that is not useful. His workplace is not telling him he cannot decorate his home for Christmas. They are, at most, asking him to avoid decorating the 3-ish foot stretch of wall space that is behind him when he’s on video with his students. There are a lot of ways that employers have been over-reaching while their staff are working from home, but I don’t believe this is one of them.

    24. Bea W*

      I agree with you. It’s a classroom when he’s on Zoom teaching. It just so happens it’s located in his home. I can also see how that can be confusing, because it’s your home, not a school building.

      Here’s my take. The employer isn’t telling him what he can do in the privacy of his own home, the key word being *privacy*. When the camera is on, it’s no longer private. Given that he’s teaching for public school, it also becomes essential to keep the personal religion related items off camera.

      Consider it a dress code for the space on camera. I assume he and his students are still required to look presentable in appropriate classroom dress. Maybe explain it that way. Sure, it’s home and pajamas are fine in the house, but it’s still not appropriate teaching attire.

      1. Cascadia*

        Yes to this! Your zoom background is your dress code. As a teacher, we are responsible for wearing appropriate attire. Certainly it can be more relaxed, but just as I would never wear something offensive to school, I also shouldn’t have something offensive in my zoom background. I don’t think it matters that it’s forced WFH – it’s in the best interest of the students to have a background free of religious decor. I know teachers are crazy overstretched this year, but also – we wouldn’t find it acceptable for them to wear something inappropriate on zoom, and the same goes for background images.

    25. Observer*

      Do teachers have the capacity to do the fake backgrounds that these programs allow?

      If yes, then there is ZERO excuse for any problematic decor.

      If not, it’s a bit iffy. And his response about the Confederate flags sidesteps the issue. Does he think that someone who is a deeply religious Catholic should not be a teacher? Or is he OK with having a creche and crucifix in the teacher’s background even when teaching a class with a mix of religious backgrounds? What about someone who is an atheist or marxist? Would it be ok for them to have a sign saying “religion is the opiate of the masses” in a class with a group that contains actually religious students?

      Yes, it’s your house. But common decency says that you don’t put offensive stuff where the public gets to see it. And when “the public” is YOUR STUDENTS – who have no choice but to be there AND over whom you have a good deal of power, then there is little doubt in my mind that whatever the legal standing it, fighting this is NOT the moral stand to take.

    26. RagingADHD*

      The duty is not to the employer here. The ethical duty is to the students, who can’t be expected to parse the difference between official school sponsored promotion of religion, and their teachers’ personal space.

      If it would be inappropriate to display religious holiday decor in the classroom, it’s equally inappropriate to put it in the background. Especially since it only requires moving it out of frame, which could be a matter of inches. Hardly a big imposition.

      Teachers in public school are not supposed to exert religious pressure or influence on their students, and they are not supposed to create an environment where students might be marginalized or alienated due to religion.

      The employer is simply reminding them of the ethical obligation that *already existed,* not imposing a new one.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The duty is not to the employer here. The ethical duty is to the students, who can’t be expected to parse the difference between official school sponsored promotion of religion, and their teachers’ personal space.

        I think this is the most important point. Nobody is going to get everything they want, but in this case, if anyone’s needs can be taken into consideration, if anyone can be spared their share of the discomfort floating around, it needs to be the students.

    27. Lora*

      I will say this: Don’t know about your school district, but where I live (consistently rated one of the best in the nation for STEM, too) they have handled the rollout of distance learning SO BADLY. So, so badly. I mean sure, there is not enough funding, there is never enough funding ever, but also they have handled it so badly and it’s very clear that none of the people involved ever did any kind of online meetings for work at all.

      In comparison, I started an online MBA, and the difference in both how smoothly the tech works and how effectively people use it is AMAZING. We all got considerable orientation training on both how to use the apps (not just Zoom) but how to present yourself and participate in the courses and what the expectations were. Huge, huge difference. The professors clearly had been provided both a lot of training and tech support on how to use the systems, and we were also trained thoroughly as students with a lot of interactive aspects about what to wear (PANTS, PLEASE), appropriate backgrounds & lighting, distraction mitigation, how to manage random people stumbling into your meeting / class, etc. The integration and UX was extremely polished, compared to even my workplace (which has a Big Pharma budget) it was really impressive. It’s somewhat about budget, but not totally about budget – UX and integration to ensure things are intuitive and smooth make such a difference, and the experiential difference when they are half-arsed is truly HUGE.

      I was pretty skeptical of distance learning and not surprised when the local schools struggled with it, but the MBA program has truly changed my mind now that I see what *can* be done if the UX part is fully developed. Seriously, after I am done with this MBA I am thinking hard about doing some UX seminars because it’s so critical.

    28. Sleepytime Tea*

      Yeah I think I agree with you. This is not requiring permanent changes to the home, or anything that even costs you money (by requiring a certain type of background/decor at your expense). This is just saying “keep any religious items in another room.” I would expect the same thing of say… political posters.

    29. LCH*

      he can also hang out naked in his own him. suggest he try teaching that way.

      his stance seems a bit silly.

    30. tiny cactus*

      I’m curious about whether your husband would feel differently if, instead of making the lack of religious decor a requirement, they just requested it out of consideration for students? Because I’m with you that the reasoning behind the requirement seems pretty sound, and I’m guessing your husband probably doesn’t disagree with the principle. It seems like the mandate itself is what bothers him. (Although given all of the unusual restrictions on teachers’ personal lives, it is a bit surprising to me that this is one he’d take issue with, since it seems much more reasonable than most.)

    31. Lucette Kensack*

      This is interesting! Would we say that having a religious symbol in your Zoom background is more akin to wearing a religious symbol (a cross, a Star of David), or like displaying a religious symbol in your classroom?

      Case law is inconsistent about teachers’ rights to wear “religious garb,” but it seems pretty clear that public schools can’t display religious symbols (unless they are being used in instruction).

    32. ...*

      Well its certainly not the hill I’d die on but since he has no actual plan to have religious objects in view I would just find that exhausting to discuss. My 2 cents is that it shouldn’t be a big deal if someone can see the corner of their Christmas tree or whatever but its reasonable to ask that people not have religious displays as their background.

    33. allathian*

      I must say that as a non-American, this whole discussion seems strange to me. I’m wondering why people are offended if they see visible signs of you celebrating Christmas in your home? Surely that doesn’t mean that your husband expects his non-Christian students to do the same? I get it that classrooms should be free from religious symbols, but does that have to apply to your home as well?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I get it that classrooms should be free from religious symbols, but does that have to apply to your home as well?

        Well, the point is that in a Zoom context, his home *is* the classroom.

      2. ANon.*

        What’s (tangentially) interesting to me is the assumption by most people that this is about hypothetically having Christian/Christmas decor. What if the concern were about having a highly-visible mezuzah in a doorway? Is it ethically/morally ok for his employer to tell him that it should be covered/taken down? (Again, assuming having a virtual background isn’t feasible, and that there are no other better spots from which to zoom.)

        I still believe the answer is yes, but I wonder if framing it this way changes peoples’ attitudes towards my husband’s stance.

        1. curly sue*

          That’s a non-equivalent example. A mezuzah is, for those who put them up, mandated by Jewish law as a part of the home. They may be elaborate and decorative, but they are not ‘decor’ in the same way a ‘NOEL’ banner is seasonal decor, nor are they related to a holiday. It would be more akin to asking a practitioner of Shinto to put a sheet over their household shrine. (and even that’s not quite right, because a mezuzah isn’t part of any kind of active practice other than for some people who touch it upon entering a room.)

          1. ANon.*

            That’s a good distinction, thank you.

            But then the next question, I presume, would be: Is it ok for your mezuzah or household shrine to be in the background (or something else that is not aesthetic/decorative, but crucial to your religion’s practices)?

            But, then again, maybe it’s just my husband and me who enjoy these rabbit hole debates.

            1. curly sue*

              I wouldn’t cover my mezuzah specifically, no – it happens to be hidden by the screen I put up when I teach so that my students don’t see my bedroom in all its cat-filled glory, but I wouldn’t hide it, no. I’ve actually put up a small pride flag where it can be caught on camera, specifically so that it can be seen. The difference is that these are things associated with minority groups, and they show my (university level) students that they can find support in me against the majority culture if someone is giving them a problem.

              Decorations associated with a dominant majority with a lengthy history of assimilation, forced conversion and oppression are a totally different beast.

      3. Littorally*

        “Offended” is the wrong word. There’s a long history in America, and quite frankly in lots of other parts of the world too, of Christians being very shitty to non-Christians. There’s also a significant correlation between people’s willingness to display their religion on a giant optional banner and their willingness to get in other people’s faces about their beliefs. So the kids would be made uncomfortable by the red flag for getting preached at by someone with power over them. That’s significantly different from “offended.”

    34. Flower necklace*

      As a teacher, I’m on your side. I understand that it can be difficult to find a good spot to work from, but I think the school is setting a reasonable expectation.

      That said, it’s true that Zoom backgrounds don’t always work. I’ve been in meetings where a teacher using a virtual background ended up losing half their face, and I’m sure that would be very distracting for students. Fortunately, we have the option to work from the school (no students, but the building is open). And I like to think that if removing religious decorations was a real hardship for the teacher, the school would find some way to help them out, maybe by purchasing some kind of screen or lighting to help with the Zoom background.

      1. curly sue*

        I teach out of my bedroom because there is no other space in my house for my desk. It took all of twenty minutes to hang a dowel and a curtain behind me so that I can draw it and block off the view of my upstairs hall.

        We screwed some cup hooks into the ceiling, set a length of leftover quarter-round on the hooks, and I stitched an extra skate lace in loops onto a length of $1 / meter factory cotton to slide along the stick. You do need a second pair of hands and a stepstool, but other than that it’s neither difficult nor expensive, and solves all those problems in under half an hour.

        1. Flower necklace*

          I’d imagine it would be pretty cheap and easy, but I guess what I was saying is that I understand the point that it can seem unreasonable because teachers didn’t choose to work from home. At my school, there are teachers who choose to go into the building every day. And while I don’t know the specifics of their situation, I’m sure they have a good reason for making that choice, instead of working out of their home.

          Of course, this isn’t an ideal situation for anyone, and the school is still setting a reasonable expectation.

    35. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Your husband has really dug in for some reason on this, which means it’s probably NOT the background stuff. In much nicer words, tell him to cut the crap and tell you what’s really bothering him.

    36. Katrinka*

      He can ask for specifics of what they mean by religious objects, but they probably mean a Christmas tree, a nativity, and a menorah, at a minimum. He can also check with his union, but I’m pretty sure they’ll tell him he has to comply. While it is his private home, he is representing the district during those online classes and, as such, has to follow their rules. It would be just like going to a convention on behalf of the school/district and mooning everyone in the lobby – it might be something you’d do for laughs if you were on your vacation, but as long as you’re representing your employer, it’s a nope.

    37. Girasol*

      My first thought is “who could hate a Christmas tree?” since after all, Christmas has been the default December holiday wherever I’ve lived for all my life. But I’m a rather insulated American, after all. Turn it around: what if your husband was of another faith? Suppose he hung Satanic symbols for a year’s-end celebration. It’s not appropriate for the school to tell him to give up his religion or to insist that he may not decorate his own home however he sees fit. But when you look at it that way it doesn’t seem so unreasonable to ask him to restrict his religious decorations to areas outside the zoom zone.

      1. pancakes*

        Why jump to hatred rather than, say, discomfort? The arguments for schools doing this are not “some people hate Christmas trees and you shouldn’t antagonize them.” The arguments are more along the lines of, you’re an authority figure for these children and are expected to treat, discipline, and grade them fairly and without bias, and in a country with separation of church and state, public school children shouldn’t be wondering whether your religious beliefs are in the way of doing that.

        Also, the school in this scenario is not saying teachers should give up their religion, or not decorate their homes as they see fit. It’s saying that their classroom — whether in a conventional school building or a corner of their living room — should be free of religious decorations.

  6. Chainsaw Bear*

    Y’ALL. We’re still working remotely, but my team members and I had to go into the office to pick up a piece of equipment ordered for us to assist with with WFH. Everyone on the team was forewarned that the equipment was heavy and bulky. Then the team lead sent out a separate email making sure we all had a plan to get it inside once we got home and assistance carrying the equipment. Except she only sent the latter email to the women on the team, and left out the guys. Apparently we’re the only ones who need help carrying a 60 lb box that’s 2.5 ft cubed…

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Tone deaf on her part as anyone can get hurt. I think they were just trying to offer the company some cover in case someone did get hurt and tried to claim workers’ compensation. But maybe not something to waste time thinking about unless this is just another example in a pattern.

      1. D3*

        If that was true, do they only care about worker’s comp for female employees? There’s no legitimate reason to single out women here. None.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Ouch! I just had to point out that if we’re doing something special for the two women in our office who are expecting their first babies in early 2021, we need to do something for the man who’s also expecting his first around the same time. (All babies due within a month of each other.)

      A 60 lb. Item would give a lot of people trouble! Especially those who live alone & don’t have a reliable helper.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Sexist and annoying it was only sent to the women. The same communication should have been sent to the men, as some of them may have difficulty lifting that amount too! I’d consider sending a quick response thanking them for thinking about it, and suggesting that the same message be sent to the guys too just in case.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Same. They don’t know if those guys have invisible disabilities that will make it near impossible to lift something that heavy – they should have sent the email to everyone.

    4. TKR*

      We had an office manager that would always ask for “Strong guys to help with moving heavy things” and I (female) made a point of always showing up to help.
      My immature response to that email would be to forward it to all of them men like of course it was meant to go to everyone and of course it was an accident that it was only sent to the women on the team.
      I would say depending on your rapport with your team lead, you might ask (in a curious way, not an offensive way) why they only sent it to them women on the team. However I think in this kind of situation, actions speak louder than words – which is of course 1000% harder to do when you’re remote.
      I applaud you for recognizing how ridiculous it is though!

      1. Chainsaw Bear*

        I love that you just showed up anyways! I ended up responding to everyone on the email and CCing the guys on the team saying “I should be good but looping in Charlie, Linus, and Franklin in case this is something they also need to consider!”

        1. TKR*

          I think that was a perfect response!! Really well done – especially with the tone.
          One thing that happened after I kept showing up (besides the language changing) was a few people told me they appreciated how I always showed up. That was just awesome feedback from people that told me that it was making a difference, and my positive response in a way was pushing back in the nicest possible way. I think that you pushed back in the nicest possible way, too!

    5. Jean (just Jean)*

      Is it possible that all the women on your team are petite or over, say, age 50, and everybody knew each other well enough to know that none of the women did anything to build up strength (weightlifting, sports, wrangling toddler triplets)? Petite doesn’t automatically equal “unable to carry 60 lbs” but it’s not an entirely unreasonable assumption. I’ve been on teams like that. Maybe the request (usually oral) was phrased as “hey, y’all, we need help moving several heavy boxes” but given the available personnel and mutual awareness of everyone’s relative weight-hauling abilities it would have been a waste of time to ask the women.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        As a petite woman looking at 50, I would be irritated at this. And I know someone my size with a 6’4″ husband. His back problems mean that she’s the one who does the heavy lifting at her house.

      2. Observer*

        That makes a LOT of sense. Because the presence of a bunch of petite 50 year old women makes it impossible that the guys on the team might have difficulty managing a 60lb box. Because they would automatically be guys with no health issues that HAVE been doing strength building exercises.
        /sarc

        On a serious note, what difference would this make? Even if every woman on the team is a waif who never does any exercise at all it has absolutely no bearing on whether the guys should be asked this question.

        1. Jean (just Jean)*

          Sorry to offend. I was trying to explain why under certain particular conditions it might not be helpful to ask the women. On second thought I see that my example was not helpful. I’m sorry I brought it up.

          Background: If I recall correctly, somebody stuck their head into our work area with a general request for help to relocate several boxes within the office. In other words, they requested help for a one-and-done onsite task. They were not being supposedly solicitous towards certain people who presumably could not otherwise meet the all-employee obligation to haul home a specific heavy object. The people who stepped up happened to be men who were young, tall, and relatively fit-looking. So, okay, they fit the now-outdated stereotype of “young healthy guys” and reinforced my unconscious sexism about getting sturdy guys, not sturdy people, to lift and move heavy stuff. But even though this event occurred over 10 years ago, the request was directed to everyone, without any sexist assumptions.

    6. EnfysNest*

      Eww. I think I would reply all and add all the missing men’s names from your team to the email with a note saying something like “I think a few names got missed, so I’m forwarding to make sure everyone saw it. I’m looking forward to start using this for [its purpose], I think it’s really going to help!”

      I’d just treat it like a simple typo/oversight (even though it clearly isn’t) and then everyone will have the information and your team lead might hopefully be able to take it as a hint to reassess her own assumptions. That sort of email wouldn’t be out of place in my team, but I’m sure there are some offices where the hierarchy is stricter where that might not come off as well, so of course take this with a grain of salt.

  7. Ann O'Nemity*

    How do you work through burnout when you know the workload situation is temporary? This is always a busy time of year, but it feels extra terrible this year due to all the extra stress and challenges from living and working through a pandemic. There aren’t a lot of options to delegate, delay, or drop any of the work on my plate. I just need to get through the next 4-6 weeks.

    1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      can you schedule vacation/time off for right after the busy season, and have a visual reminder of that somewhere? And is there someone in your personal life that can take on “life work” for this time period so that you don’t have to deal with so many life decisions on top of work stuff (like have someone do grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, child/pet care if applicable for you, etc. for you temporarily. Unless any/all of those things are de-stressors for you!)? I’m sending so much sympathy and support for you, which I know is not a tangible help, but it’s all I’ve got!

    2. RecoveringSWO*

      If there’s a definitive end date, consider making a paper chain covering every day until the busy season is over. It’s kind of silly, but the act of taking one “chain link” off at the end of every work day is helpful for feeling accomplished and recognizing that things are temporary!

      1. Katrinka*

        We did that last year for the teachers to countdown to winter break (my daughter helped me to assemble them). They also had things inside, like “tell a struggling student that you can see their effort.” But some of the teachers just used them to count down with their students. Most of them said it saved their sanity being able to see the end in sight.

    3. The teapots are on fire*

      If it’s temporary, one thing that helps me a little bit is to have a wall calendar with the end date circled and put a big, dramatic X through each intervening day as it goes by. THIS WILL END.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      Order yourself some kind of treat. A special kind of self care, or a book or game you’ve been wanting, or plan a takeout bonanza from your favorite place. Knowing that there’s something amazing waiting for you at the end of a rough time can be a great lifeline.

    5. Good Luck*

      Find small things in your personal life to find joy in and make life generally easy. It is hard this time of year with how dark it gets but even a ten minute outside walk can help balance you out. If you are working from home and that Starbucks seasonal latte makes you happy-spend the money-it’s worth it.

      I do not want to make any money assumptions but if you can somehow outsource any extra tasks during this period to ease your load. Send out laundry? Meal kits or order in? Even as someone who loves to cook we default to Trader Joe’s frozen meals during the busy season just to lighten the load.

    6. Coverage Associate*

      In the morning or the night before, I decide either how much I want to accomplish that day, or an end time. Once I finish the day’s tasks, I stop. It’s given me a few hours in the evening (not every evening, but total) so far this month.

  8. Master Bean Counter*

    What is up with the skills assessments on Indeed? About 20% of the resumes I’ve received this week have had scores on them. Not a single one in Excel, which might actually be useful. Do they even offer it? Can the system be gamed?
    Also does anyone actually read a job posting before they apply? Easily 90% of the resumes I’ve seen have nothing to do with my job posting. And of those all but one failed to relate their experience to my opening. The one that did, will be getting the opportunity for an interview. He managed to make deli work sound very relevant.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I don’t know about the assessment but people clearly don’t read the whole announcement. I once had a position open that was in accounting operations. One of the phrases in there said “drop shipments” (as in processing the AP and AR for those) and I got a whole lot of resumes from shipping clerks…

      1. 1234*

        When the company I work for was looking for a receptionist (basic entry level role and a bachelor’s wasn’t required), we had nurses, dental hygienists and medical billers apply, all without stating the reason they wanted to work at our very NOT medical related company as our front desk person (and yes the company name is listed in the job posting). Are you looking for a career change? Think you have some applicable skills? We wouldn’t know based on your resume and cover letter. Naturally, my boss didn’t interview any of these people.

        Also, this was all pre-COVID…

      2. Rayray*

        Indeed’s algorithm is sending your postings to shipping clerks because of the word shipment. Indeed encourages them to apply for the job so they do.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      As companies like LinkedIn keep pushing skills assessments, I think we’re going to see this pop up on resumes and applications more and more.

      Sometimes people are just desperate to get a job and they resort to a “quantity over quality” application strategy. That may be more true than ever right now with so many people out of work.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I did a hire this past year for someone who needed attention to detail and accounting skills. The Indeed assessments for attention to detail and math skills were somewhat helpful in the choice of candidates selected for initial phone interviews, as those skills are hard to screen for in a conversation. It was the first time I’d seen the skills tests, and I have no idea how good the assessments are, but there was definitely a wide range of results, and I was at least able to prioritize candidates for interviews. As it turned out, the candidate we hired scored highly on both assessments.

      Otherwise, my experience with “posting and praying” is that the vast majority of candidates are NOT qualified for the role. I worry that having more hoops to jump through (assessments and such) may deter qualified candidates from applying, but at least the assessments and the skills-focused questions provide some way to cut down the number of resumes I have to screen.

    4. irene adler*

      I get little flags on LinkedIn jobs, indicating that my resume “matches” the job requirements.
      Only, I don’t. I don’t have a Ph.D. or a law degree or a med tech license. Nevertheless, it says I’m a match.

      For a while I decided to apply to these jobs. Just to show them how wrong they are.

      Never received a request to interview. No surprise.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        Linkedin is way better than Glassdoor in that respect. Sorry Glassdoor I’m not applying for the job that’s 1/3 of my currently salary, no matter how over valued you think I am.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I get a lot of “internships” as recommended jobs. I have 25 years’ experience. Also, lots of software-related jobs for which I have zero experience or qualifications and the only common keyword is “program.”

        One of my friends posted on LinkedIn about a course recommendation he got for “Learn Basic Coding Language X”. He literally wrote the book on Coding Language X, information that is clearly in his profile. The algorithms use keywords and no context, so the results are generally going to be garbage.

  9. Anonollama*

    Anon for this for obvious reasons.

    Has anyone had to get a doctor’s note to work from home because the workplace COVID situation was doing a number on your mental health? This may be a bit too specific but I’d appreciate advice from anyone who has been in a similar situation this year. I’d also welcome input from anyone who would be willing to speak (generically) from a medical professional’s perspective and suggest helpful language when speaking to my doctor.

    The details:  I am not from the US (My home is your upstairs neighbour). I have a pre-existing mental health condition but it is generally low key enough that it doesn’t affect my work. My mental health is being severely* impacted by the unsafe COVID conditions at work and the lies and unwillingness to deal with the problem from management. There is no recourse at the moment to make work safer (HR and the union are both supporting management) and so employees are all collectively coming to the end of their ropes and it is making for an extremely tense workplace. The workplace has not traditionally been a wfh employer but we did work from home earlier this year when COVID first arrived. My particular job can mostly be done from home and I performed really well while working from home (I have had multiple independent unrequested compliments from colleagues affirming that). Management will only consider work from home on an individual basis which in practice means only with a doctor’s note or some authority saying they absolutely have to allow it.

    *The symptoms I am starting to have are ones that I have only had before in one serious mental health breakdown in the past so this is the not run-of-the-mill stress reaction that I can manage the usual way.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I think that is something you should absolutely speak with your doc about. They should be able to write you something ambiguous enough. In the US, my employer can’t ask about my health issues so a note from my doc that says “required to work from home” is sufficient.

      1. Anonollama*

        No,that would be a breach of privacy laws in my country. If my doctor would be willing to do it, the note wouldn’t name the specific medical condition but should be able to name the accomodation required I think?

          1. Anonollama*

            Yes, I *think* my doctor should be able to specify WFH as the required accomodation but have never done this before so I was not 100% sure they’d be able/willing to be that specific. So that was why I also asked if any medical professionals would share their input. :) Keeping my hopes up!

            1. Katrinka*

              If this is a doctor who sees you regularly and prescribes you medicine and/or knows your therapist (if you have one) well enough to accept their recommendation, you should be fine.

              1. Anonollama*

                Thanks! Yes this is my regular doctor who is familiar with my medical history. I became a patient of this same doctor back when I was still recovering from the mental health breakdown I mentioned above (although I was past the worst of it by the time I met this doctor). I find my doctor needs to have things really spelled out for them when I ask for anything so I was just a bit nervous about how I would clearly and effectively communicate what I need from them. I’m probably overthinking it though.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        A doctor can certainly write a letter to a workplace without naming the specific condition. I have a family member who takes immune suppressing medications, and their doctor wrote a letter recommending that they work remotely during the public health crisis due to “a persistent medical condition.” Anonollama, I think it’s definitely worth setting up a phone call or video meeting with your doctor to talk about possibilities.

        1. Anonollama*

          Thanks, I do have an upcoming appointment for this and that wording is helpful to use when speaking to my doctor.

    2. Alex*

      This sounds incredibly tough, and as a stranger i don’t want to condescend but I’m so proud of you for tracking and recognizing where your tipping points are. From a practical standpoint, I’m American so my advice will be based on that but I’d highly recommend also looking at the Captain Awkward advice post about the employee who needed to opt out of a corporate yoga retreat for health reasons: not because she couldn’t do yoga, but because of PTSD related to a childhood assault. It’s got an excellent discussion of how to make things as “generic health issue” as possible, so you don’t have to disclose it as a mental health issue.

      I’d recommend talking to your doctor & specialist about the serious mental health red flags you’re seeing, and then see if your GP or whatever Canadians call a primary care doctor, can write you a note about “workplace conditions under covid place Tangerina at higher risk due to an underlying health condition and for safety reasons, working from home would protect their health” —I’m sure there’s doctor language for this, and legal language specific to Canada but that would be the general drift. Good luck!

      1. Anonollama*

        Thanks! I am not reading it as consecending at all. I am actually very proud of myself for recognizing the signs and being proactive this time around instead of just netflix bingeing to try and ignore the problem. I know better now what to watch out for and I want to take responsibility for my own wellbeing. I am a long time Captain Awkward reader too and I’ll go re-read that post. Appreciate the suggestion!

    3. Dave*

      I just want to say good luck to you during this. I haven’t had to go that route but if my work conditions change it is on my radar as an option by my anxiety going to the just the grocery store is through the roof right now. (So thankful for curbside pickup and the employees who do it to keep me away from others.)

      1. Anonollama*

        Curbside pickup and delivery options are so helpful these days! I can’t do the first one (no car and most places around here won’t even let you do it with a taxi) but have used delivery a few times already. If I am successful with this doctor’s note avenue, I have already promised a few work buddies I’d let them know so they can spread it as an option on the employee whisper network. Since our bosses are unwilling to do the right thing we need to have each other’s backs. I hope your work conditions stay safe and positive and you can find all the good-for-you ways to manage your anxiety!

        1. Ontariariario*

          A shame that you can’t do curb pickup. I have done grocery store pickup despite not having a car, where I stood in one of the car spots and they dropped everything at one end (I brought a cardboard box so they wouldn’t put bags directly on the wet, gross parking lot). The first time, in April, I thought that I would be the weirdo in the crowd but the guy next to me was the same!

          1. Anonollama*

            Yeah, the stores I frequent here specifically said they wouldn’t do it. I don’t know why- maybe they’re paranoid that people won’t keep their distance? Otherwise I’d be doing the same! Glad it’s working for you anyway :)

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Your doctor can write you a note that you are instructed to work from home for “medical reasons” without specifying exactly what those medical reasons are. ie. you don’t have to disclose your mental health struggles to get a doctor’s note to work from home.

      I would go that route – anyone demanding information on why your doctor wrote you this note would be violating your privacy.

      1. Anonollama*

        Thanks, it isn’t my employer demanding details I am most concerned with but that they will claim the accomodation isn’t doable (which would be untrue but it be a really difficult fight to appeal that). I guess if they say no I’ll have to go on stress leave and then I will certainly be immediately applying for jobs elsewhere. And they will suddenly lose a good employee and the only person fully trained and competent in my particular field. I am privileged enough to have the resources available to do this but am hoping to avoid it unless I have no better options.

    5. Bea W*

      Not due to a mental health issue specifically, but my sister had this same fight with her employer who wanted people in the office because of public optics and she wasn’t keen on risking her health for the sake of optics. She had her doctor write a note and had to push back a lot. I recommend you do the same. Work with your doctor/mental health provider to advocate for you.

      1. Anonollama*

        Glad to hear of a successful pushback against an unreasonable employer! I have an appointment upcoming with my doctor and definitely plan to go this route.

    6. Sleepytime Tea*

      Here in the US, you can get accommodations (like working from home) for a medical condition, including a mental health condition, as covered by the American’s with Disabilities Act. The process includes your doctor making a recommendation, filling out paperwork, etc. If you were here, that’s what I would tell you to do. If you have something similar up north, that’s the route I would encourage you to take.

      1. Anonollama*

        Thanks! I’m hoping it will be relatively simple but I would willingly do pages of paperwork if that’s what it takes.

    7. Mad Harry Crewe*

      I feel like this probably won’t be a hard struggle with your doc – they should know more than anyone how dangerous the pandemic is, unless you’ve got some kind of wingnut denier MD. Lay it out just like you did here – workplace management, HR, and union aren’t taking safety seriously, it’s having an extremely negative impact on your mental health, and if you can’t work from home you’re planning to take stress leave and find a new job. The WFH period earlier this year was very successful for you and you can easily manage the stress with that accommodation. Can [doctor] write you a note?

      You’ve got this.

      1. Anonollama*

        Thank you, that is reassuring. I tend to ramble- especially when nervous- and the way you wrote it out is helpfully concise and clear.

    8. Middle School Teacher*

      As a fellow Canuck, I asked about this as well, a d was told it was possible, but also if I was unable to work at work, I was also unable to go get groceries, etc etc. My union said that hypothetically it would be allowed and my employer would have to honour it, but I better be really ready to prove I really cannot leave the house.

      1. Anonollama*

        It sounds like your union sucks almost as much as ours. Ours said that our concerns about safe working conditions in our office are “not a contract issue” so they won’t do anything. Even though anyone who knows anything about history knows that Canadian unions were specifically formed to combat those very issues. #facepalm

    9. Ontariariario*

      Almost everyone is missing a subtlety about accommodations. From my experience with this, you shouldn’t say the accommodation you need, rather you say what your work limitation is. So the person in a wheelchair doesn’t have to say that they can’t stand up, nor do they explain anything about their medical condition. But more importantly, their doctor doesn’t necessarily write a note to say that they need x, y, and z(ed). Having said this, I had a doctor who wrote me a note for specific tools that would help me, and it worked, but they were relatively cheap and my managers were happy to help. From what I understand of DTA, the note should say something like “Ontariariario must have a consistently reliable way to leave the building in case of a fire without using the elevator or stairs, and they cannot perform any part of their work which requires lifting objects more than 2kg in weight.” If someone has a concussion with aversion to light then the employer can do WFH or give that person a darkened office, but they aren’t forced to do one or the other. If they are likely to be jerks then this difference may be important to you.

      Look up Duty to Accommodate for Canadian rules.
      https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/what-duty-accommodate
      They talk about Undue Hardship for the employer: how expensive is an accommodation? If you can do your work well from home and there are no added costs then that should be straightforward, although they may still fight it.

      1. Anonollama*

        Thank you Ontariariario, this is useful to know. My employers are already being jerks but I wouldn’t be the first to request this accomodation, although for different reasons. They have told us WFH will be on a case-by-case basis only- and clearly do not want to offer it- but haven’t entirely forbidden it (they don’t have much of a leg to stand on since our provincial medical health officer is saying that everyone who can WFH should do so). And, yes, I can do a large majority of my work at home using the same office equipment we normally use and which we took home back when WFH was mandatory earlier this year. So it wouldn’t be a significant expenditure they could use to claim undue hardship on those grounds.

        Anyway, I’ll hope for the best since I really don’t want to end up on stress leave and job hunting (which would be the likely alternative if I can’t get away from this unsafe workplace soon).

  10. Retail Not Retail*

    I hit another employee’s personal car with a work vehicle on grounds. I met with HR and the safety person this week for something else and asked if I could give her an apology card. They said that would be nice. They’ll handle delivery of the card because I don’t know her! We never cross paths or have a reason to.

    So. What is the appropriate message for the card?

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      Oh! The car was empty but does require serious repair. (We joked if it was a work vehicle they’d be like eh does it still run? Good enough!)

    2. Mella*

      Is your personal insurance involved in this situation? Because admitting fault via written apology card sounds like a terrible idea.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        Work insurance – that’s why I asked the person in charge of safety investigations.

        The day of I didn’t say anything to her except the bare facts because I’ve run my mouth after an accident before. (I am at fault though! I misjudged!)

      2. LCH*

        ehh.. i mean, it is a very nice idea and they already know you did it but having this sort of written proof still feels like it could screw you over later.

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

      Try not to make excuses or justifications; just make a simple sincere apology and if you can offer to mitigate the inconvenience as much as possible. “I am so sorry I hit your car. I hope that the company and insurance will make everything right as quickly as possible. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to mitigate the impact on your transportation needs*”

      * I added that last bit because sometimes insurance will do that bare-ass minimum and if you can, it would really be nice if you would pay for a few days rental vehicle or Uber/Lyft gift card (IDK if that’s a thing) if insurance isn’t covering it while her car is in the shop, but since this is a company car, they might not want you to offer something like that.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        I imagine mitigation would not be cool, but would a basic gift card be okay? (There’s also the fact that I am super entry level and she’s a director – of a different department, but a director still.)

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

          I wouldn’t do a general gift card — I suggested a gift card for Lyft or Uber ONLY because your accident could cause her transportation issues and I think that you have a responsibility to fix that as much as possible. I don’t think her job level or your job level really affects that TBH. Directors don’t deserve to have their personal vehicles damaged because they’re paid more, and entry level people don’t get a pass for carelessness because they’re being paid less.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            But since this accident occurred in a company vehicle, which is presumably insured under a business auto policy, the company should be making sure the director has viable transportation while her car is being repaired – not OP.

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

              Depends on the insurance policy and how cooperative they are being…in case you’ve never experienced it, you’ll find that the insurance and business will fight tooth and nail NOT to make the damaged person whole even if they are 100% liable.

          2. WellRed*

            I didn’t say she deserved to be hit (wow). I don’t think anyone should be giving gift cards for this. But it’s extra awkward in this situation.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          I wouldn’t give her a gift card but a note with like “I know our cars had a little bristle last week, hoping you have a less stressful holiday season ahead!”

          or some cute play on 2020 – “Even the cars are going a little crazy this year” Of course me sending this to my director might be different because I know them.

          I also agree that while work is covering it you probably shouldn’t say “Hey, sorry I smashed into your car the other day!”

          1. pancakes*

            I would be annoyed if someone who hit my car sent me a card joking about it not actually being their fault.

    4. JanetM*

      I assume that your employer’s insurance is covering the costs of the repair and a rental car for the other employee. Given that assumption, I’d go with something like, “I am so sorry that I hit your car! I know it’s a hassle for you. I will do my best to be more careful in the future. Sincerely, your-name” (or if it was a mechanical failure on the part of the work vehicle, something like, “The safety office is working to keep this from happening again”).

      That covers expression of regret, understanding of situation, and behavior change.

    5. Retail Not Retail*

      I should note this happened the Friday before Thanksgiving – I’ve been off then and afraid because I should have failed the drug screen. (Prescription! Not taken that day!) Because of my own paranoia about liability, I didn’t want to give it to her the next day. I’ll be giving HR the card Wednesday.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t see the relevance of the day of the week. If you’re feeling anxious about liability (or even if you decide you’re not), you don’t have to send anything at all.

        1. Retail Not Retail*

          Oh wednesday is because I’m off Monday and Tuesday – I was trying to say how long between the accident and a card.

    6. Retail Not Retail*

      I guess a follow up is would you want a card in her shoes? I assume she’ll toss it but would it be a negative thing or a positive thing or a neutral one? I don’t want to ruin her day again!

    7. Retail Not Retail*

      Oh! One more wrinkle – insurance/whoever has not cleared me to drive yet. I definitely think if I send a card it should be after I’m cleared.

  11. Lost in the Library*

    I have a job interview this afternoon and I was feeling quit positive about it until I woke up this morning… when my anxiety hit! Any advice to get it together before my interview?

    Unfortunately (or fortunately) I’m working this morning, so I can’t practice much before the interview. My nerves have really got me!

    1. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      Just remember that you are good at what you do! You got this – be patient with yourself this morning (some anxiety is normal). Make yourself a hot beverage, take some deep breaths, and we are rooting for you!

    2. CatCat*

      Try clearing your mind, setting a timer for one minute, and doing deep breathing. It calms the stress response. Do it when you feel the nerves kicking in.

    3. MissGirl*

      Look at it as an informational interview. You’re learning more about them and they’re learning more about you. It’s not about judging you or deeming you worthy. If it’s a no on either side, that’s okay.

      Something I found helpful last time was calling my mom fifteen minutes before the interview and have her ask me some basic interview questions. This wasn’t to practice but to get into the mindset with someone who would think I’m awesome no matter what ;)

    4. Emi*

      Breathe slowly and intentionally. Breathe deep without hyperventilating. It’s possible to create and ramp up anxiety in the body, which means it’s possible to do the opposite. Breathing well doesn’t change anything in the brain, or anything in the world, but making sure my heart isn’t racing, well it helps me a lot.

      Good luck!

    5. RagingADHD*

      I learned from performing that you can physically “burn” or purge adrenaline out of your system to a certain degree by physical activity (it’s fight-or-flight instinct, after all).

      If you can do a couple flights of stairs when you get an attack of the jitters/butterflies, it really helps. (If you have the space/privacy, jumping jacks, pushups, etc, work just as well.) Any kind of moderate exertion – you don’t have to do a full cardio session or get all sweaty, just a couple minutes, enough to get you breathing deeply, will take the edge off.

      Another quick body hack I used to use was firmly massaging my ears between finger and thumb, and gently tapping or massaging the nerve cluster in the soft spot behind your jaw and beneath your earlobe. I can’t remember the biology of what this does (endorphins, maybe?) But it absolutely helped on many occasions.

  12. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I’m having a bit of a hard time at work. My coworker just got fired suddenly and I don’t know how to process it. She had COVID for a month and the day after she got back, she was fired. I don’t know the reason, my boss said something about documentation so I have realized I have no idea how to properly document meetings with clients such what to do if you met with three clients at the same time.

    So I need to think of a way to ask my boss that. I’ve looked at other people’s notes and noticed quite a variety of styles and don’t know which are fireable and which are fine. I also don’t know whether it’s rude to call my coworker and give my…condolences? We worked a year and some months together.

    We’ve gone back to virtual meetings too except for one week in the middle of the month, so that’s different. I’m having a hard time changing the meetings over to the different format. It’s just an unsettled time

    1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      You could go to your boss to say you noticed that you’ve noticed a variety of documentation styles for meetings, etc, and ask if there’s a specific style you should use, and also ask for a clear explanation of what needs to be documented. You could frame it as you’re not sure you’re getting everything you need consistently and are trying to put together a checklist or something, I don’t know your specifics! But come at it as something you’ve noticed and a check-in to improve your work, and you should be fine. I’m sorry about your coworker – I can see why that would be unsettling!

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I like this approach a lot. It keeps the focus on “I’d like to make sure I’m doing my job to the best of my ability, is there anything I’m not doing that you’d like me to work on?” rather than “What got Suzanne fired? Because I’d like to not do what she did.”

    2. WellRed*

      Did the documentation issues come to light because your coworker was out, or was that just an excuse to fire her?
      I don’t think it’s rude to contact a coworker who has been fired if you were friendly. Last time I did this, I messaged them through Facebook.

    3. Sunrise*

      Is it possible that your boss meant documentation related to your coworker’s absence? In other words, perhaps she was required to provide some kind of medical documentation for her time off and was unable to produce it.

      1. Dave*

        This would have been my first assumption. That said when people are out for long periods others notice problems they made so it could have been the employee didn’t spell something out in a writing and a customer used that to get more then they should have.

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        She said we were supposed to be very careful in OUR documentation so I thought she meant she documented something wrong although I’m not sure what documentation error would be a firable offense instead of a warning

        1. PollyQ*

          First off, the reason your boss gave may not be the actual reason, or may be a very abbreviated explanation. I also wouldn’t assume that your co-worker made one single mistake and was fired for that. It could very well be that she made series of mistakes, was warned repeatedly, and ultimately fired because she kept doing things wrong.

          So I definitely agree with those who’ve said to clarify with your boss about how you should be documenting your work, but I wouldn’t live in fear that you’d be on the chopping block if you did one thing wrong.

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

          Go back to the boss and ask for clarification on what she meant by this, “as I was thinking about it after our meeting and realized I wasn’t fully sure what’s expected, can you give me some pointers / do you have any concerns about the way I am handling documentation?” or something similar.

          I think in the circumstances it’s ok to be fairly direct with the boss.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep.
            “After what happened with Sue, now I am concerned that I maybe doing something wrong. Can we just quickly review the documentation process? I like my job and I do not want to lose it.”

            I have actually done this one myself. Some is fired for x, suddenly I am worried if I am doing x correctly. So I just went in and asked.

            I am betting that she did not have a proper doctor’s note and that was the document problem.

  13. Annone*

    Furlough/unemployment question (Asking for a family member but its work/unemployment related so I think ok here?) Family member that works in Massachusetts was furloughed as of today. Their org allows but does not require using PTO to cover part of furlough. They are trying to decide if it makes sense to use their PTO first before applying for unemployment. Considerations: there is a max benefit/time period for using unemployment so this would potentially prolong cash flow. They have PTO that would take them into January and hoping that by then legislation or executive order might be passed to bring back something like the extra $600 dollar stimulus in the initial CARES act funding. Using the PTO now means it wouldn’t be available for payout if laid off later. Are there downsides to this plan? Other things to consider? Any reason not to use up the PTO first before apply for unemployment? Thanks all.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I would not use PTO as it will delay their unemployment payment. Apply for UI now. If the layoff becomes a perm thing, they can get the PTO paid out, right? I think (hopefully an employment lawyer will weigh in) that the state won’t consider a payout of PTO as wages but if your relative is “on vacation” and using PTO, then they aren’t yet eligible for UI.

      1. michelenyc*

        I agree save the PTO to use later. If this furlough/layoff is due to Covid make sure they tic the box that is labelled due to Covid so they are eligible for the federal unemployment programs once the traditional unemployment runs out. I had a couple of friends not do that and it has taken forever to get it resolved.

      2. Lifelong student*

        In my state, the fact that you will be paid for a subsequent period does not affect your eligibility for UC- although it may affect the amount you receive. Since UC has a “waiting week” for which you do not receive benefits, you can use compensation to cover that – but your eligibility starts from the day you are unemployed.

        Also, if the PTO is not used now- will it be paid out at some point in the future? Is that definite? Is the date within the control of the employee- or the employer?

        1. Bea W*

          In MA unused PTO (vacation only, not sick leave if different buckets) is paid out when an employee leaves for any reason.

      3. Information Goddess*

        My place of employment offered us the use of pto when we were furloughed with an expected return in 4mo which is now 6. What I would suggest is that you cash out anything that won’t roll over and anything that won’t get paid out at termination (for example our “personal” days don’t roll over and only a set number of vacation/sick hours do and sick time gets paid out at half at termination). In addition it took 6 weeks for my uia to be processed and paid out so having an extra bit for that time period would have been helpful too.

    2. knitter*

      Not really an answer to the question, but they need to apply for unemployment ASAP. Massachusetts is being spamed with thousands of false unemployment claims and people with real claims are going to have to do a lot of work following up. My husband’s info was used for a false claim and it turns out that the majority experienced the same thing.

      So maybe split the difference? use some PTO so there is money coming in as the application winds its way through the bureaucracy (and obviously date the end of the job for the end of the PTO period)

    3. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I agree with TimeTravlR – don’t delay, do unemployment now. It doesn’t make sense to use PTO now while you bank on legislation that is in no way guaranteed to come through. If there’s a holdup in the unemployment now, that PTO can probably still be accessed and used as a safety net, and if they don’t need to use it at all before going back to work or being laid off, all the better. If you use the PTO first and no legislation comes through, that safety net is no longer there and you’re no better off, and maybe worse.
      Having said all that, sure, your relative could gamble if s/he wants to, but it seems unwise! (I’m not a gambler, can you tell?!)

    4. Anono-me*

      How much more will the PTO be than the unemployment each week? Also how confident is this person that their company will still have PTO money down the road?

    5. Can Can Cannot*

      Does your company have a policy about paying out accrued PTO if you leave or are fired? If they don’t pay out, that might be a good reason to use it now. Otherwise, file for UI. Also, if the new stimulus bill includes extra money for unemployment benefits, some proposals say retroactive to September, the value of UI could be even better.

  14. Fauci Fan*

    Is it fair to place value on “above and beyond” work from trainees who are studying for a more advanced role?

    In my line of work we have employees who are paid for the work they do, who are also working on earning a Master’s degree for a more advanced, certificated position that requires this degree. To obtain the certificate from the national board the employee must complete a significant number of internship hours. Our company provides the internship hours for free to the employees, and offers additional free learning and training opportunities as well that directly apply to the work they will do once they earn the certificate and are promoted.

    Because of the pandemic, the opportunity to earn internship hours are severely limited (not just at our company, but throughout the industry). The employees are still taking classes, though. We are been working to provide enrichment opportunities for the employees so they can still learn and gain skills for the work they will do in the future.

    We have been disappointed to see the number of employees who do not want to take advantage of ANY opportunity unless internship hours are attached. I am talking about opportunities like arranging for a 1-hour talk and q& a from a legend in the field via Zoom, so they could sit at home for an hour in their pajamas and get to hear from a hugely influential thinker – most were not interested unless they got internship hours for doing it. This attitude is not impressing management, who are significantly less likely to offer the certificated positions in the future to those who stopped showing any interest or initiative once there was no payback.

    Do you think it is fair for management to judge willingness to participate in these enrichment activities when deciding who to hire for the advanced roles in the future? I am generally older than these employees so I am wondering if my thinking is outdated.

    1. little_bit*

      I would think that working full-time and taking classes simultaneously would be stressful enough without having the pressure to attend enrichment opportunities. I’m not surprised that they’re choosing to prioritize the ones that will directly contribute to their degree. Are these internship hours paid, or are they doing them for free on top of their regular workload?

      I wouldn’t judge them for this, especially this year. Everybody is doing the best they can with their limited mental resources.

    2. Bibliovore*

      That depends. Are the “opportunities” during work time? Internship hours, certification credits etc show that the employer values the employees time. “the hours” “certification credits” are the pay.
      There is a school of thought that even though in the employers’ minds, these are opportunities for advancement and learning, it can be considered racist, sexist, and economically insensitive think that all employees are able to volunteer their limited not-work-time in service to the profession.

    3. College Career Counselor*

      It sounds to me like “enrichment activities” do not advance the employees toward their credential. It doesn’t matter if it’s “free”; they likely view it as uncompensated work (they have to set it up and/or they have to participate in it), rather than developing skills through an internship. I suspect you would generate good will among the employees if you could make these “enrichment/skill-building activities” equivalent to internship hours. If your org can’t do it on its own, can you work with the national board to count these as “continuing education credits” in lieu of internship hours toward their requirement?

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

        As I understand it, those activities don’t count directly towards the credential (short term, immediate goal) but are potentially beneficial towards a longer-term goal which may be a little more nebulous at this point (so they can still learn and gain skills for the work they will do in the future). OP of the thread sees, but the interns don’t seem to see, that although the opportunities being offered don’t count directly as internship hours, they still have value for the interns’ broader career goals (once they have achieved this certification).

        I can understand OP and management’s perspective here. People focused on “this is what counts towards my immediate goal and I don’t take any sort of strategic view of the future outside of the immediate term” generally would be less suited for an ‘advanced’ role (if I understand correctly that that means a role with more seniority, autonomy, etc).

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          I mean, strategy aside, there are plenty of people who cannot afford to take on extra stuff – either because they have caretaking, second job, or other personal responsibilities, or because they are struggling with mental or physical health after 10 months of pandemic upheaval, grief, stress, and fear.

          In theory, I should have been super interested in the speaker we had this week for our diversity and inclusion lunch. It was right up my alley, and apparently it was a super good talk. In reality, I needed to walk away from my work computer and unwind by playing video games for an hour. That was an extremely strategic decision, since my strategy is “being reasonably happy and sane; completing all of my paid work; not taking on more than I’m capable of right now.”

    4. Nesprin*

      Let me see if I understand your question: is it fair to judge interns who do unpaid (or hours that don’t count towards their certification) work/training at the behest of your company? You can judge people on their performance during work hours without judging their ability to take on more work hours.

      During the before times, this would still bias your hires to those with more flexible schedules/less out of work responsibilities. Now I’d argue that during a pandemic when caregivers are hard to find and duties are falling preferentially to one gender, and when no-one has any extra time to do more than the minimum, that doing so would be a generally bad idea.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Agreed. It sounds like the extra enrichment activities are free and easy to sign up for or attend, but still require extra time to participate in. Lots of people just don’t have the time – they have to prioritize and it’s completely unsurprising that uncompensated extra work with unclear value would be at the bottom of the list.

        If these activities are of value, then demonstrate that by assigning a value – let them use work hours or get credit for these. If they’re truly optional enrichment, then don’t use that as a criteria to determine if someone is “motivated enough” for the next level.

    5. higheredrefugee*

      Yes, management is being ridiculous. Yes, it would be lovely if folks wanted to take advantage of extra enrichment opportunities right now, but guess what? We’re exhausted from pandemic worry burnout, having to live and work from the same space for months with no end in sight (especially if you’re healthy, I’m projected to be in the last 10% that gets a vaccine), we’re missing holidays and vacations, missing traveling and seeing our family and friends, and so, no, extra enrichment without some sense of how it helps me right now (or in a relatively short period of time) is not in my bandwidth right now. Especially if I’m taking classes toward the certification- I assume when things open up again, I’ll be putting in some pretty crazy hours, and competing with others to get those hours. Again, appreciate the management efforts, just know too many of us are at the end of our availability and ability to cope. (PLEASE NOTE: if anyone has additional child care, home school, or other caretaking responsibilities, a partner/house mate who is an essential worker who could bring COVID home at any time, has underlying medical conditions, crap internet service, please triple, quadruple, etc. all of this stress.)

    6. Virtual cheese*

      Grad students are MEGA busy. Everyone is mega busy and stressed right now! Everyone is entitled to compensation or “payback” for their work. Are they being paid for time spent on enrichment activities that don’t have internship hours attached? How many hours does it take to arrange this 1-hour talk and q&a? Is this a talk for your interns only, or is this asking your interns to plan an event for the whole company or the public without even academic credit? I would not want to do that and I wouldn’t want a permanent role at a company that asked interns to do that.

      Also, what do you mean when you say that the company is giving internship hours for free? When I interned through my college as an undergrad, I paid for the internship hours — with tuition money in exchange for academic credit — and the *company* benefited from my free labor. Any reason why you can’t offer internship hours for these activities?

      In short, no, I don’t think it’s fair to consider that when evaluating people for more advanced roles and I don’t even think is fair to ask someone to do.

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

        Are they being paid for time spent on enrichment activities that don’t have internship hours attached? How many hours does it take to arrange this 1-hour talk and q&a? Is this a talk for your interns only, or is this asking your interns to plan an event for the whole company or the public without even academic credit?

        Unclear if they are being paid, but even if not, it’s a free opportunity. It doesn’t sound like the interns need to put any time into arranging the talk or planning an event, they just need to show up (so they could sit at home for an hour in their pajamas and get to hear from a hugely influential thinker). It sounded like OP/company are the ones making the arrangements.

    7. Reba*

      No, I think your company is taking it kind of personally. These are work things! Yes, they are “enriching” but they are professional activities!

      I think it’s reasonable to remember the enthusiasm of people who are genuinely enthusiastic, but not to penalize those who don’t wildly exceed the stated requirements. Perhaps that sounds like splitting hairs, but I think it’s trying to be fair. You can think of it like grading to the rubric versus extra credit; someone who fulfilled the requirements for a passing grade shouldn’t be failed because someone else went above and beyond the requirements. (Imperfect analogy, but just as a way of thinking about it, people are doing the “assignment” and not doing things they don’t need to do in order to finish.)

      You perhaps feel like you are arranging these things as a generous gesture to the interns… so they look ungrateful. They perhaps feel like they are being squeezed, like they don’t have extra bandwidth to do things that aren’t necessary to their jobs or their degree/certification progress… so you look a bit out of touch and unable to give them what they really need (hours).

      Not sure what “provides the internship hours for free” and “earn internship hours” mean — these are paid positions? Or the students are doing internship hours for degree credit? If the latter, please bear in mind that these workers would be PAYING to work as interns.

    8. Ranon*

      I work in a field work a continuing education requirement- most folks won’t turn up to trainings/ info sessions/ etc that don’t count towards those requirements. I’ll branch out occasionally but my time is limited and generally stuff that counts towards those hours is also more educational/ worth my time.

      If internship hours are what these folks need and that’s not what you’re offering, I can see why they might not bother- even zoom meetings with “legends” in the field can quite honestly be a waste of time depending on what goals you’re actually working towards. Management needs to be working to help these folks meet their hours, not coming up with substitutes that don’t advance their employees actual professional development goals (which is presumably finishing the internship)

    9. learnedthehardway*

      If I were a grad student doing a masters degree while working, the LAST thing I would have time for would be seminars organized by my employer, in lieu of experience hours that count towards my degree requirements. In normal times, work experience would double as both employment hours and degree fulfillment. If the company can’t offer that practical experience right now, they shouldn’t be requiring employees doing advanced degrees to take time out of their work, studies, and personal lives (which are all VERY busy right now) to watch / participate in online seminars that don’t meet the experience requirements of the employees’ graduate program. Your employees just don’t have the time for that – not even if it is enriching.

      Having worked, done a graduate degree, and been a parent / spouse at the same time – the workload from that is overwhelming. There is no extra time for bonus activities, that don’t directly contribute to getting the degree done.

    10. RecoveringSWO*

      Yes, your company is offering some valuable extra training for their interns, but your interns may already be getting these “above and beyond” experiences outside of work-provided sessions. Their grad school and student associations are likely bringing in other “rock star” leaders to speak to the students. So just because they aren’t showing up to your company’s sessions, doesn’t mean that they aren’t showing extra initiative outside of work. In fact, their attendance at school sponsored events or professional association events could have more tangible benefits–maybe relate to a governing position on a student association, broaden their network in a professional association, improve a relationship with a professor they want a recommendation from, etc. While attending the work events would bolster their relationships at work, they would likely prefer to keep their work resume lines focused on accomplishments and not professional development. Particularly if your employer doesn’t guarantee permanent placement at the company following graduation. All that to say, yes, your employer is offering something great, but there’s many reasons why interns may choose to not attend.

    11. Totally Minnie*

      Try to think of it from their point of view. They have to spend X hours a week at their job with your company. Then they have to spend Y hours a week on their course work for their degree. And they also have to spend Z hours a week getting their internship credit. But you say that internship opportunities have become much more scarce across the board in your industry, so on top of the X hours, the Y hours, and the Z hours, they now have to spend N hours trying to track down the increasingly scarce internship opportunities. They are running out of hours. They presumably need the hours that are left in their week to do things like eat, sleep, shower, and see their loved ones if possible. Of course they’re not interested in taking on more tasks that aren’t going to result in either money or school credit, they simply do not have enough hours in their week to do that.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, it baffles me why companies and schools do not see this. If a person is already putting in a 27 hour day, no they do not have one more hour to give. Anything that is not mandatory will get dropped. That does not mean make this mandatory. It means think about how much time they are already using up daily to push through everything.

    12. tiny cactus*

      When you’re seeing a substantial trend in behavior, I think it’s often worth considering that there is something larger at play than just the individual personalities. It’s nice that these enrichment opportunities are being offered, but clearly there is something that is making employees less able/motivated to attend them. Maybe instead of judging the employees, it would be worth asking if changing the timing or other logistics of the activities would make them easier for employees to attend. As others have mentioned, these employees are likely stretched thin at the moment dealing with work, school and personal commitments during a pandemic.

      1. Nesprin*

        Yes- this. Turns out if you schedule dept meetings for Saturday at 10am (to use an example from my life), only certain people from a relatively homogeneous cohort can show up and take advantage of those opportunities.

    13. Workerbee*

      “ Our company provides the internship hours for free to the employees, and offers additional free learning and training opportunities as well that directly apply to the work they will do once they earn the certificate and are promoted.”

      “ This attitude is not impressing management, who are significantly less likely to offer the certificated positions in the future to those who stopped showing any interest or initiative once there was no payback.”

      Management needs to reconsider their attitude. The employees are doing the smart thing. They aren’t promoted yet! This seems equivalent to expecting someone to do both their own tasks and some of those at the next level, to “prove” they’re ready to advance. Companies are only too happy to let you do more work at your same rate of pay (and then be marvelously vague about when that true advancement will happen, if they haven’t moved the goal posts in the meantime).

      These employees are already studying for the advanced role on top of everything else. Let that be enough.

    14. pancakes*

      I don’t think signing up for a zoom talk, even one led by a legend in the field, shows initiative. Asking a brilliant question during the q&a, maybe, but there isn’t invariably a good opening to do that at every q&a. Sometimes the subject matter just doesn’t lend itself to that, sometimes an audience member who just likes to hear themselves talk monopolizes too much time, etc. I think it’s especially important, during the pandemic, to be mindful of not rewarding interns simply for having more free time to participate in this sort of thing than others do. It doesn’t sound like management is being very mindful of that.

    15. Fauci Fan*

      Thanks to everyone who responded, it was very helpful to see the unanimity of the response. I really appreciated the comments about the disparate impact this situation has had on many folks. I will try to discuss this with management form the perspectives that were provided. Thank you!

      Just to clarify: we don’t get to choose the tasks that qualify for internship hours, the national certificating body does that. We can’t choose the make the enrichment activities qualify for hours, it’s not up to us. We have no control over the fact that thee hours can’t be earned right now (covid). Internship hours are a benefit that we offer; if they chose to work elsewhere they would likely to have to pay for supervision of these hours. When I was in grad school several years ago I did mine through the school and paid 6K for supervision and feedback for these tasks. To be clear: our company has had no role in the fact they can’t earn the hours, and we aren’t exploiting anyone by not paying for the tasks completed.

  15. Grad School Help*

    Hi everyone! Perhaps this isn’t the right outlet for this, but I’m wondering if anyone has experience with grad school/MSWs and would able to help with recommendation questions? I’m feeling pretty lost on who I should ask and would love any insight from either those with an MSW or admissions people in any field!

    1. Nesprin*

      There’s a decent contingency of academics on here- I’m absolutely not in social work, but can answer general q’s.

      For gschool admission letters, the writers should be people who can speak to who you are as a person and a student. In STEM, people who’ve mentored you in research >> people who’ve had you as a student.

      I always tell students to ask at least 2-4 weeks ahead of deadlines, provide resume+application essays+ anything else that’d be useful, give the ask-ee the chance to say no (a bad letter <<<no letter), multiple friendly reminders to do the thing by the deadline, and send a thank you note after letter went in.

    2. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      I work in higher ed, specifically in graduate education — reach out to the admissions contact(s) for the program(s) you’re applying for and ask! How do they weigh academic references v. professional references?
      I’m assuming you’re struggling with asking a professor versus asking a professional in the field for a recommendation. For a professional degree like an MSW, it’s much more acceptable to ask a professional for a recommendation, since they may be able to better speak to your qualifications as a future professional in that field.
      Generally, what you should think about is who can give you *glowing* recommendations AND who can best speak to you being an excellent fit for the program/profession.

      1. Grad School Help*

        Thanks for the tips! I considered reaching out to the admissions teams, but was worried it’d come across poorly somehow?

        To offer a little more info (while still being vague), I’m planning on using my MSW to work with kids and luckily, I’ve spent the past several years doing just that! I was close with a few people who I’m as confident as possible would write me glowing recommendations. They could definitely speak to my interpersonal skills, my enthusiasm/warmth, and my organizational skills, but nothing directly related to schoolwork. They also aren’t professionals in the social work field — they’re parents of the kids I worked with. Would that make a difference?

        I have a few other ideas of people I could ask, but I haven’t known any of them nearly as long. (And unfortunately, I graduated from undergrad 10 years ago and haven’t kept in touch with anyone.)

        1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

          In most cases, it would not come across as poorly! There’s always a few people who are a little weird about these things, but for the most part, admissions committees want a pool that’s as strong as possible! And if the admissions contact is a staff person, they’re not the ones actually making the decision — and they’re not going to pass along that So-and-So asked question X unless So-and-So does/says something REALLY out in left field.
          Now, my 2 cents on your situation is that you might want one parent to write a letter as an ADDITIONAL reference beyond your minimum required number. Obviously, different admissions committees would have different takes on this, so I still say, ask the admissions committee! But this situation sounds a bit more like a “personal reference” than academic or professional reference — it sounds like the parents are not your actual employers nor supervisors. Most admission committees put a lot more weight on the academic and professional references than the personal reference.

          1. Grad School Help*

            That’s good to know! And I probably should’ve clarified more — the parents I’m thinking of were my employers. One I worked for daily, and the other two I did occasional paid work for but interacted with them and their kids on a daily basis. (Think a very tight-knit community where I was the employee of one family, but knew and frequently helped out other families.)

        2. Nesprin*

          It’ll come off poorly if you behave poorly (i.e. if you are rude to staff)- but staff is there to help recruit the best grad students into the department so standard questions about how they judge references is a good thing to ask! Be friendly, thank them for their time and call with specific questions.

          Speaking from my POV in STEM, you want people who can speak to what you’d be like as a grad student/future professional, and academics tend to recognize credentials. Managers are great for that sort of thing- it’s a reference call. Parents you’ve served would be a maybe for me… they’d have to be in a position to judge your work relative to other folks in the same position.

          And this may be my STEM bias, but there’s a known trend in rec letters towards describing women’s personality/interpersonal qualities instead of accomplishments/talents. Which works against the applicants: you want to be seen as a future colleague in these letters instead of “nice”

  16. Yecats*

    I took a whole week off over thanksgiving (we had two days off already, and I used PTO for the other three) and it was so wonderful! The only problem is, now I’ve been having a really hard time getting back into the swing of things at work this week. I miss waking up without responsibilities :(

    1. Coenobita*

      I also took last week off (my first real break in 2020) and my main conclusion is that I need to take two weeks off next time…!

    2. Not Really a Slacker I Swear*

      I feel your pain!! This has not been my most productive week either, and I have been rolling into (virtual, audio-only) meetings 5 minutes after rolling out of bed 3 mornings this week. I’m hoping to gather my “gumption’ over the weekend and start next week with a bit more enthusiasm. Good luck to both of us!

    3. Two Dog Night*

      Same here! I usually don’t have trouble getting back into things after vacation, but this week has been torture. I’m blaming the dark mornings. Hopefully next week will be better for all of us!

      1. Bea W*

        Dark mornings are a killer for me! I have my bedroom lights on timers to try to trick my body into thinking it’s time to start the day.

    4. AppleStan*

      Oh, my goodness, me too. I am struggling. Also noted I slept a lot when I was on vacation, but as soon as I had to return to work, it was right back to struggling with periods of insomnia and inability to get enough rest.

      I’d love another 2 – 3 weeks off…Lord knows I have the vacation time for it!

    5. eshrai*

      I’m honestly feeling the same. Took a week and a half off, first time this year. Its so hard to get back into it. I didn’t get a lot of rest during the break! and now its back to work/being a teacher at the same time!

  17. Speechless*

    I just got off a meeting with our CFO, about my future in the company. Among glowing feedback, he let me know that one action item I should be taking now is to stop joking as much in meetings. He pointed out that I’m relatively young (33) and I’m female, and that by joking I’m diminishing my standing.

    The problem is, I like to joke. I like to make people comfortable, it’s a defense mechanism, all the usual. I want to advance, and (as he pointed out) I’m in a male dominated field and am going to soon be playing in the water with sharks, or at least assholes.

    I’d love to hear from women or otherwise non-cis males about what has worked in establishing authority in your voice, in reducing jokes, and appearing more serious.

    1. Pidgeot*

      I think a lot of this depends on the types of jokes you’re telling. You mention that it’s a defense mechanism – are you telling self-deprecating jokes? (e.g. “Urgh, I can’t math today”, “having a blonde moment”, “someone much smarter than me put this together and I can’t figure it out”) then those need to be toned down because you are undercutting yourself. But having a sense of humor can be an advantage in putting others at ease, as long as you’re not doing it at the expense of your self.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yup, self-deprecating jokes you should avoid for sure, I like to joke to put people at ease too and that is ok when not overdone and not self-deprecating.

    2. SunnySideUp*

      I tend to joke when I’m nervous and, honestly, I’m not that funny… so I work on keeping my mouth shut.

      Jokes can go sideways so easily that it might be something to rein in a bit.

    3. MissGirl*

      I’m like you and had to learn there’s a place and a time and a type of humor. Is your humor directed at yourself? If you’re being self-deprecating that can affect you’re standing and other’s opinions of your skills.

      Are you joking too soon before you’ve built a professional and trusting relationship with someone? I realized I was defaulting too quickly to joking with clients I had just met. I needed to err more on the professional, friendly side of things.

      How much of your meeting time is you joking versus you presenting? You don’t want to go full Michael Scott, but some humor is welcome. There’s also a difference between bringing in humor to a situation and constantly joking at your or someone’s expense.

      Are you joking in meetings where you’re not presenting rather than offering helpful suggestions or questions? It can be exhausting to present to a group and one person constantly has a snarky comment.

      Use others as a gauge to how much to do. I hate to say it but sometimes women are less allowed to be humorous. Watch the men. Are you within the realm of normal and it’s possible your boss is giving you some sexist advice?

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

      His comments are pretty sexist TBH and without hearing your jokes I’m not sure you need to do anything other than document that he said that to make sure he doesn’t keep giving you gendered “suggestions” for your career. It’s still in the same category as though he told you that you need to smile more and be more soft and friendly…yikes.

      As for the jokes…timing is everything. If the room is having a serious conversation about, for instance, safety, finances, legal issues or problems etc., then that’s not the time to make a joke — any joke.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I’m not sure that pointing out that sexism exists and there are double standards at play is necessarily sexist in itself.

        1. Giant Eye Roll*

          Yes, but what the CFO likely overlooks is that in a male dominated environment, acting in what he considers as a neutral way (less joking) is received completely differently if the employee is a woman rather than a man. Women are constantly asked to apologize less, not worry about putting others at ease and so in but often once they change that behaviour they are suddenly viewed as “less warm” or the dreaded B word or worst of all, “I used to really like Primrose but these days I don’t care for her. I can’t put my finger on why though.”

          The WHY is that Primrose is no longer putting so much of her energy into making YOU feel comfortable. This is the sexism thing: it is hard to win either way because the middle ground of not too aggressive but still likeable is about as wide as a sheet of paper held sideways.

      2. Sandi*

        Women in male-dominated fields make these suggestions to the younger women all the time, because it’s a reality. You can get upset at the manager, but that’s the wrong person as this is systemic. It is sexist, but it’s the system more than the person.

        I have been told, and suggested to other women, that they would benefit from using a lower pitch of voice in meetings, wearing more neutral or masculine clothing, referring to themselves in documents by initial. Lastmane (studies have shown the person is more likely to be assumed to be male), and so forth. I know that if I want to succeed in the system I’m given then I need to learn and share the rules. As time passes and more women and POC join then the rules become less strict, but they still exist. I know which rules are likely hindering me (I like unusual impactful technical problems more than the routine mathematical ones of my more respected coworkers) but I’ve decided that I’m willing to live with those. The OP has decided that they want to learn how to improve their reputation within the group, and sadly the best answer is that this is reasonable advice.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      I would take the advice seriously. I don’t feel that your CFO is being sexist, but rather is pointing out to you that sexism exists and how to not be adversely affected by it. Let’s face it – you are going to run into situations where sexism is at play. Being prepared means knowing when and how to communicate, including when and how to use humor effectively.

      Beyond that, the CFO is giving you good developmental advice about deportment and “executive presence”. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to project a level of competence, confidence, and polish that leads others to recognize you as a professional. Too much humor – esp. self-deprecating humor – can read as a lack of confidence in your own abilities, or that you’re trying to play the class clown instead of getting down to business.

      I would be more conscious about your use of humor, and would make sure that when you use it, it really serves the purpose you want to achieve.

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

        “but rather is pointing out to you that sexism exists and how to not be adversely affected by it. ” perpetuating sexism by telling the OP to adapt her behavior to the sexism, rather than put a stop to it, is not right the right answer.

        1. Observer*

          Except that he’s not. Keep in mind that he’s not advising her to act in stereotypical “female” ways to make herself more “likeable”. Nor is he telling her that she needs to act like a guy in a skirt. Rather he’s advising her to reduce a behavior that would likely have and adverse impact on her standing even if she were a guy, in a situation where she is already at a disadvantage.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Exactly. “Don’t joke around so much in meetings, people aren’t taking you seriously” could apply just as much to a guy, especially a younger guy working with older peers.

            The gender aspect just means the stakes are higher on being perceived as unserious.

    6. WellRed*

      I’m sure your jokes are funny, but I’m having flashbacks to the letter in which OP prided themselves on their sense of humor but it was often poorly timed or derailed meetings or something. And one of the two examples they offered was not only not funny it was gross.
      This is not a hill to die on.

    7. Generic Name*

      I understand how you feel. I like to think of myself as a funny person (I’m a woman in my early 40s), and I love joking around with family and friends. It’s fun! At work however, I joke around very sparingly. I joke around with coworkers I’m close with, but in meetings I almost never make jokes. For one, it can be very distracting, especially if it’s a larger meeting, and if someone is ALWAYS joking in meeting, it can start to be perceived by others that the jokester is essentially on stage and derailing the meeting. Not good.

      That’s not to say that you can NEVER joke in a meeting, but use good judgement. I’m in a leadership role at my company, and part of my role is to create and implement new/improved processes. Part of implementing processes is getting the word out to staff via posting on our sharepoint site. In a meeting with a small group of project managers today, someone mentioned they were reading one of my articles I posted, and I chimed in with, “Wow! I had no idea anyone reads stuff I post!”. It’s a bit of a running joke at my company about folks not reading instructions and then having all kinds of problems/questions that would have been solved if they had read the instructions, plus, I was making a self-deprecating comment. I wouldn’t make that joke in a companywide meeting, however.

      As for how I reduced the amount of jokes? I first became aware I was doing it and then before meetings I would remind myself to basically keep my mouth shut and to only contribute things that are on-topic. If you have a coworker you are close with and trust you can ask that they help keep you on task. Maybe by gently nudging you if it looks like you are about to tell a joke or by keeping track of how many jokes you tell in meetings.

      Your CFO is totally right that in order to be taken seriously, you need to cut out the joking. I think this advice applies to men too. And using self-deprecating humor as a defense mechanism in front of a bunch of assholes. Well, yikes. If they really are assholes, there’s a chance they’ll use the topics of your humor against you. Don’t give them the ammunition.

    8. Policy Wonk*

      He’s giving you direct feedback so, unless he has a track record of treating men and women differently, I would take it seriously. You note that it’s a defense mechanism, so maybe your jokes aren’t landing. Or maybe they aren’t appropriate for the audience.

      I would make an effort to come up with responses other than jokes that you can call on in the situations where you currently respond this way. Think back on some of the situations where you fell back on humor, and come up with a couple of better responses. Then you’ll have them in your arsenal for the next time you need them.

    9. Alianora*

      I’m not sure whether my situation is similar to yours, but maybe hearing my experience will be helpful?

      I don’t make jokes at work. Overall I have a deadpan sense of humor and delivery, and I think that style is generally not suited for a typical office.

      Contributing to that – my conversational style is a bit unusual in that I have a tendency to make statements that imply a conclusion, but I don’t state it outright. I do that with jokes and with regular conversation. It works when you’re talking to someone else who operates the same way or understands what you’re doing – my friends get it, my family gets it. However, I’ve learned that many, many people won’t pick up on what I’m implying. They’ll follow the thought process to its natural conclusion, but instead of realizing that’s what I’m saying, they’ll think I didn’t think of it and say the thing themselves. Kind of like r/yourjokebutworse on Reddit.

      Anyway, I get that it’s kind of a weird communication style and I can’t seem to pull it off at work, so my rule now is no jokes at work. I try to stay friendly by being… well, I guess “earnest” is a good way to put it. So genuinely asking and caring about my coworkers’ days, laughing at other people’s jokes, overall being warm. But no joking myself, and I try to remind myself to state what seems obvious to me, because my intention isn’t obvious to everyone.

      As far as establishing authority in my speech, I think the joking instinct can sometimes be an attempt at making “I don’t know” feel less awkward. So I mostly try to own what I’m saying and overall act matter-of-fact.

    10. RagingADHD*

      I’d kind of look beyond the jokes, per se, at the function that the jokes serve and why.

      Why do you need a defense mechanism? Why do you feel the need to put people at ease? Considering that deeply might lead you to some organic changes.

      I’ve often seen people whose instincts to appear confident actually betray their insecurity, or make them appear insecure. It’s possible that the feedback here should be interpreted more generally than just jokey vs serious, to nervous/insecure vs confident.

      If you just need some external “performance notes” to get by for the time being: When I want to project more confidence or authority, I start with my posture. Not rigid – relaxed but upright and evenly balanced so my head, shoulders, and hips (if standing) are straight, not cocked or akimbo.

      I slightly slow down my speech and movements (just a hint) because I can get hyper under stress. I try to look straight-on at people, without cocking my head. And I try to be aware of my gestures so they aren’t frenetic or exaggerated.

      The other thing, specifically for jokes, is that I work on listening. Sometimes an urge to make jokes causes folks to jump in and cut people off, or fill up all the pauses in the conversation without adding value. It’s not about talking less, but making sure you have a useful point to contribute (even if you make it in a humorous way).

      You can still be very warm, friendly and good-humored with a bit more “high-protein” presence.

      1. Speechless*

        Thank you for bringing up confidence! This was part of a large conversation about my role in our company, how I want to have a career and not just a job, and how I’m ambitious and want to move up. His advice was around how so many people in leadership are faking it, that they’re not inherently better or smarter, and that what gets them where they are is confidence, both in themselves and inspiring it in other people. His note on my joking was that I’m warm, people like me, but that I seem to try to get people to like me too much by joking and I should work on concentrating on my emotional intelligence and exuding confidence, so people will not just like me but also trust me.

        1. MissGirl*

          Wow, I wish I had someone coaching me half so well. He honestly sounds like a great career mentor.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Oh, good! I’m glad it helped.

          Confident people are grounded in their energy. They have traction.

        3. The New Wanderer*

          Ah, okay, I think that makes more sense. It sounds like maybe you’re leaning too much on humor to be likeable, and he’s concerned that if you work with less sensitive people in the future they might not respond in a kind way. But on the other hand, he basically just told you that your personality alone shines through already and is what will have people trusting you and liking to work with you. And that sounds like it could be really empowering.

          Jokes have their place at work, but it’s all about the timing and the audience. I’m happiest if I have to give a dry presentation and manage to phrase things in a way that gets a laugh. I don’t go out of my way to do so, but once in a while it just happens and it’s great. I’m told I have a reputation as a good public speaker and it’s not because I’m funny exactly, but because my presentations are a little more entertaining than they would be if given by someone else. I try to find the humor in things without overtly broadcasting it but still letting it come through, if that makes sense.

          FWIW, I told my mother in law once about a dream I had where David Letterman was coaching me on my standup career (dream me has a very different life). She said she really couldn’t picture me as a comedian, and yet she frequently tells me how funny I am or that I say such clever things. So if I had any advice to give, it would be “Be witty, not jokey.”

    11. Haha Lala*

      Ugh. I’m also a female in a male dominated field, and if my (male) boss tried to explain the best ways to ‘behave’ as a female in our field… it would not go well! I’m also in my early 30’s, and my boss is much older, but I am much more qualified than he is when it comes to existing as a female!

      It sounds like your CFO is ‘aware of sexism’ in the workplace, but maybe doesn’t realize how his comments can come off as sexist. His advice might still stand if you take the gendered aspects out. Would he tell a man with similar experience, who jokes as often as you do, that he also needs be more serious in meetings? But if that’s the case, then that’s how he should have phrased it. You don’t need to stop joking completely, but make sure you’re only joking on topics that won’t lead to anyone questioning your authority, and at times where it’s still professional and not derailing meeting. You’re allowed to joke around and be social just as much as your male coworkers!

      But to answer your question, the best way I’ve found to establish myself has been to call out BS as soon as I hear it, and go about my job to the best of my ability. I also like to joke around, but I reserve that mostly for close coworkers or outside contacts that have already shown that they respect me. When I have to work with condescending “old boys club” types, I am business only, with no joking on my end, no laughing at jokes from them (which is easy, since most of those jokes are incredibly offensive…), and no details about my personal life at all. Of course, there are some men that won’t respect me or my authority no matter what I do, but that’s their problem more than mine. I’ve definitely developed a thick skin, and that’s probably the best defense.

      Also– I have a few coworkers who I know respect me, and who do appreciate joking around. We’ll joke back and forth over teams or email (or in person) and that’s a good outlet for me to get out jokes and socialize without overdoing it with people that don’t know me well yet.

      1. Speechless*

        I don’t think he was being sexist. I think, if anything, he was helping me to navigate my position by recognizing the difference in how we might be treated, as a man vs a woman, and helping me overcome that. I won’t get into it, but I’ll say that a lot of the advice he gave around this one piece was not gendered. This was the only time gender was mentioned, and I think it was beneficial to me that he noted a difference in how we would be treated given our respective gender presentations. His advice was not about my ability to do my job, as you seem to be implying, and if you read the rest of my initial post you’ll note that he gave me glowing reviews. In an above response I note that really this was about confidence and trust, and how to showcase confidence in myself in order to build trust in others. Thank you very much for your perspective, I do appreciate it.

    12. Anon this time*

      I am a woman who spent a lot of my youth joking and making the funny remarks at work. It was a defense mechanism I had learned because it was my role in my family, which featured a parent with a very short temper. Once I arrived in my mid-40’s, no doubt bolstered by my confidence in my skill set and industry knowledge, I realized I do not need to joke so much, or at all, when at work. I try to be kind, courteous and authoritative at all times. My inner monologue is hilarious, but my outer dialogue swings between “just the facts” and “if a sitcom character would say this, I definitely will not.” And yes, I have frequently been the only woman in the room on my various work teams.

      I wish you the best, Speechless. Let your confidence shine.

  18. Mella*

    What makes a good project manager?

    I’ve never worked with one who wasn’t annoying, clueless, and obsessed with box-checking to the detriment of understanding the realities of the R&D process. I find myself grumbling and sullen every time I have to deal with them, because I need to provide a few pages of backstory about why their requests aren’t realistic/reasonable every time they e-mail me a request. (e.g., I can’t give you estimate on cure times for teapot glaze until the chemical engineers finalize the glaze formula. They are still trying to find a formula that holds up to the new tea parameters. Sorry, I didn’t invent chemistry.)

    Development engineers who transition to PMs are slightly better than freshly-hired PMs, but they still seem to inevitably fall into the same patterns over time.

    1. Nesprin*

      Clear outlining of priorities, providing the resource allocation to match those priorities, dealing with dependencies in tasks, constant communication to check in with workers on whether tasks are getting accomplished, and if not, why not, and recognition of good work and work that fails to meet that status.

      Really, when you find a good PM, even horrible projects can run on rails. Problem is that very few ppl are actually good PMs.

    2. Project Manager here*

      Hey! I’ve been a PM for just about 15 years, and I was one of those hired directly to be a PM people. I can tell you that largely, those kinds of requests come from people higher up than me. And often, I don’t know enough technically to answer their question, so I have to ask around.

      Personally, I always appreciate getting the real answer, even if that answer is “I don’t know” or “We can estimate it because X”. Often these questions don’t require accurate answers, but more of estimates. So answers of “well I can’t be sure, but when we did something similar that took about a week (or month, or 6 months, whatever)” are way more helpful than the more vague answers. I know that stuff happens, and things do not always (ever?) go as planned. And largely that’s ok, as long as I can provide a reason to the higher ups about why the scheduled the changed. But yeah, if teapot glaze times took longer than expected but compound A + compound B made the teapots explode, than I need to know that so I can explain it to everyone else.

      Lastly, I do want to plug that being a PM is a pretty thankless gig at times. The good ones jump in and do everything they can to make projects work, often working crazy hours to do so. They often deal with leveraged resources who have other priorities, and they don’t get to help shift those priorities, because the project team doesn’t report to them. They get a lot of nonsense from people higher up if any little thing goes wrong. And even if everything goes right, well that was their job, so whatever contributions they provided go unnoticed and unrecognized.

      1. Sarah*

        Lastly, I do want to plug that being a PM is a pretty thankless gig at times… even if everything goes right, well that was their job, so whatever contributions they provided go unnoticed and unrecognized.

        Sing it!

      2. Mockingjay*

        @Project Manager here, could you address the other side? As a PM, what do you need from your teams? I hold a collateral role as a Project Coordinator supporting my Project Lead and I’m always looking for better ways to “manage up” to keep things flowing smoothly.

        1. Project Manager here*

          I tend to think that managing up is specific to each person above you. The trick is to figure out what makes their job difficult, and hopefully do something that make their job better/easier/less frustrating. Bonus points if you do something that makes them look good to the people above them.

          Along with that, some people are happy for you to just take stuff on if you think it’ll helpful, and other people really really want you to run it by them first. If you’re unsure, ask. Personally, I’d be super excited if someone came to me and said “it looks like we’re struggling with X, how would you feel about me doing Y about it?”

        2. Just a PM*

          Kind of echoing Project Manager here, I’d say learn how your PM manages their work. Whenever I get a new coordinator/scrum master, I like to sit down with them and level-set. The conversation is more “this is the method to my madness/tell me about yours” than “these are my rules and you will follow them,” which I find is super helpful at figuring out how we’re going to work together. I had that conversation with my first project manager (I was in a coordinator role when I first started working) and it helped me find my fit better on the team.

          As a general team member (ie not in a PM-support type role), all I want from you is communication and transparency. Tell me what you’re working on. Tell me when you run into problems. Tell me when you screwed up or made a mistake so I can give you cover and buy you time to fix it. There’s nothing too big or too small for me to know about. Tell me when you’ve finished/fixed something so I can get you the credit and kudos. Tell me if you’re stuck so I can help — I’ll either give you my Cookie Monster (instead of a rubber duck) to talk it out with or find you something mindless to do for a distraction. If you’re getting dragged into something you can’t get out of and you want out, tell me so I can get you out.

          But at the same time, call me out on my stuff too. If I do something you don’t like or that you think should be/could be done better, tell me. We’re all in it together. I succeed only when you succeed so help me help you, even if it’s me that’s the problem.

      3. Auto Engineer & Project Manager*

        Another Technical Project Manager and former R&D Engineer here.
        I agree with everything that was said above. The other big thing is patience – lots and lots of patience.
        I understand the frustration with being asked to provide timing/cost/effort when you don’t have enough information or details. Like what was said above we are looking for projections/estimates/SWAGS or even WAGS to let us do some planning. (SWAG = Scientific Wild A$$ Guesss)
        Unfortunately part of a Program/Project Manager is also to make sure that the check boxes are done as required by the ISO/TS/Internal Process. Making sure that the TPS documents are right and correct is an unfortunate part of the job.
        The best PMs are willing to step up and support the team and ask “What do you need to make it happen?” and they make sure to give the credit to the team for the success and step in front of the management bus when things go wrong.
        On the flip side what makes a good R&D engineer? One who can communicate the gist without going down the technical rabbit hole. More than once I have had my eyes glaze over as the expert explained the deep technical background when all I needed was give us 6 months and $1 million to get an answer. Try to keep that in mind the next time the PM comes with questions.

    3. Sarah*

      A good project manager can help bridge the divide between the local team of experts (who may be less focused on certain rules and schedules) and external stakeholders (who may care more about those things than the local team realizes). The good ones don’t expect to be given unreasonable information, but do ask questions where the legitimate answer is sometimes “I’m not sure, but should know more in 2 weeks.”

      Plus, another facet of a good project manager is being able to deal successfully with people who are unprofessionally “grumbling and sullen” at every interaction. The soft skills required to deal with difficult people are often under-valued, but still important to an organization’s success.

      Signed,
      A Good Project Manager

      PS – If everyone of a certain category you meet is “annoying, clueless, and obsessed” perhaps the issue does not rest solely with the people in that category.

    4. Lora*

      R&D who transferred to PM-ing R&D type projects:

      Communicating dependencies and getting people to flesh out their plans and just step through things logically is REALLY HARD and a lot of R&D SMEs tend to throw their hands in the air and say “I don’t know, we have to do it…” No, you do know, or can figure it out, but often they don’t want to commit to some schedule / resources and then get pulled off to a *different* #1 priority project that delays them or eats resources. So there’s also a certain amount of, you don’t just need the SME to commit to a timeline and plan, you need their boss and their boss’ boss to commit to not distracting them and agreeing to priorities and then sticking to what they agreed. And THAT is very difficult indeed, to the point of being a no-win sh!tshow in some organizations.

      In order to do teapot manufacturing throughput calculations, we need to know kiln firing ranges for time / temperature. How are you finding those out? DoE? Fractional factorial? Do you have a representative sample of clay and glaze types in house or do you need to order them? How long is the ordering lead time? How long will it take you to paint the bisqued samples and fire the kiln 96 times? What QC tests need to be done afterwards and how long will it take the available QC lab people to run those tests? Can we have them done by a third party lab if in house Analytical doesn’t have capacity? How long will it take to write up the analysis? As an R&D manager I had to figure this stuff out allllll the time in order to tell my bosses what our research program was doing – what were critical decision points and so forth. But I spent a buttload of time just trying to keep people on track and on priority and not getting “borrowed” for some other thing that had just come up.

      PMs do understand task dependency, but as a manager-manager: if a PM has to manage the SMEs, why the fk are we employing their actual managers at all?? Does their actual manager sit around with his thumb up his butt? (I may be a bit salty about this as there is one particular manager in my organization who clearly just lets his employees do whatever and doesn’t manage, then yells at PMs for not doing his job for him, and it is A Problem.)

      1. anon for this*

        I second communication so so so much. I’m involved in a recovery right now where the SMEs can’t tell us how they’re going to finish what they’re behind on, how much of it they have done and still need to do, or when they’ll be done. They didn’t estimate the impact when the problem started and they didn’t communicate the problem to the business.

        A good PM helps the SMEs understand the end goal and how the SME fits into it. The PM also manages the politics and leadership expectations around the project.

        Conversely, a good SME understands that the PM is a partner and responds in good faith. To follow on the cure time example, I’d want to hear based on experience it’ll probably be somewhere between 12 and 24 hours, we’ll be able to calculate it once the chemical engineers finalize the formula. I’m asking because it’s a major dependency, not to annoy you. At the same time, without the back story I can’t help. If it’s brought to my attention that the chemical engineers are stuck (which should have come up already but whatever) I can help them communicate the problem and get different resources.

    5. Observer*

      I need to provide a few pages of backstory about why their requests aren’t realistic/reasonable every time they e-mail me a request. (e.g., I can’t give you estimate on cure times for teapot glaze until the chemical engineers finalize the glaze formula. They are still trying to find a formula that holds up to the new tea parameters.

      I’m confused here. The question is a reasonable one. It really is. Your reason for not having the answer is also reasonable. So why is it such a big deal to explain this? And maybe add something like “typically cure time on glazes for this sort of project is x days, so we’re hoping for something similar here.” and / or “The chemical engineers can’t give me a definite timeline on finding a functional formula, but at this point they think that we should not expect anything for at least 6 months”

      1. Mella*

        My point is that the PM is asking for an end deliverable from me while already knowing the info it depends on isn’t done yet, and constantly expecting me to explain the details of how and why someone else’s part isn’t finished.

        To create yet another metaphor: repeatedly nagging for a pie when you know the apples aren’t done growing yet, and doing it by constantly nagging the baker instead of the orchard owner, is wasting all of our times.

        1. Sarah*

          But in some cases, the baker has some authority over the orchard owner (e.g., can compel her to prioritize apple picking over pear picking). If that’s not true here, just tell your PM that clearly and without unnecessary backstory.

          PMs are doing their job. If you try to approach their questions that way (instead of treating them as annoying nagging time wasters) you will get further with them. If an ounce of your tone here is apparent to them, you’re making it harder to collaborate not easier.

    6. Just a PM*

      I agree with everyone else. Communication is key. In addition to what everyone else has said about communication, I’ll also add that part of a PM’s communication is the ability to translate. A significant chunk of our time spent on communications involves translating your techy devspeak into normal-people-speak for our bosses, users, and stakeholders. This is why we ask a lot of questions (sometimes dumb questions) and why we ask for detailed explanations. The more specifics we know, the easier it is for us to talk to stakeholders. Especially if we don’t understand what we’re talking about.

      A good PM is someone who knows how to negotiate priorities. It’s all give-and-take so a good PM who can negotiate priorities (if you do A, then I’ll do B *AND* talk to C for you to see if we can move D). Your PMs may be the type to focus more on what their own priorities are rather than yours or the stakeholders. Urgency is also key when it comes to priorities. A good PM will have a great sense of urgency and will know when to push X or pull Y and how to respond to Z or what to trade ABC for to get DEF. My experience is that this skill has to be learned and developed over time with practical experience. Some people get it, some don’t.

      Box-checking is important because that’s the proof you’re doing your job and that’s the cover that will save your neck if something goes wrong and the box-checking is part of our deliverables. That said, a good PM will keep the box-checking to themselves as much as they can so the team can focus on their own deliverables. That’s why good PMs often work crazy hours — we do your stuff during the day when everyone’s around and we do the box-checking/our stuff after everyone’s gone home.

      Though to be honest, my favorite part of the box-checking is finding out where the lines are, how far I can push them, and what will happen if I push too far. A good PM is someone who knows how to make deals and isn’t afraid to use or earn capital/favors with others. But you can only do that when you know where the lines are in the first place.

    7. ArtK*

      I find the issue is not limited to PMs but appears anywhere someone non-technical is a stakeholder in a technical project. I have such a situation right now where I’m responsible for a major effort that is taking much, much longer than most people think it should. Other products that had a similar activity did it much faster than we are. I ended up bringing in a PM to help me address the issue. He and I sat down and detailed the dependencies and that has really helped communicate things.

      In the example you cited, the PM should have that dependency in the project plan. Your response “can’t do it until the ChemE team does their thing” is right, but needs to be added to the project plan. Yes, it’s frustrating to have to lay things out in that much detail but them’s the breaks. I try to deal with the “pages of history” up front rather than explaining over and over again.

  19. Confused Anon*

    My boss told us that we had to work from home, so I work from home 2 days a week and am in the office the rest of the time. When I came into the office this morning, my boss made the remark, “Did you enjoy working from home yesterday?” in a sarcastic tone.

    I was working, so I’m not sure if there is an issue or if I’m reading into it too much. I was sending emails and cc’ed the boss on them, so I was working. We also have to keep track of what we do each hour in a system, so there’s that as well.

    My boss will often talk about how “John” isn’t working or “Jane” (in another dept) is “slacking off”.

    Later on my boss said that if I wanted to come into the office, instead of working from home, I could do that.

    Does my boss not trust me to work from home? How do you handle this? Has anyone been through this? What did you do?

    1. Artemesia*

      I would go see him and say ‘I worked from home yesterday but when I came in today you seemed sarcastic about that. Am I reading that right? Do you not think I am getting enough done when I WFH. Yesterday I did XYZ and got the TPS report out which is what I would have done here, so I am confused.’ But then I am direct and it has always worked for me. You have to judge your situation.

      1. Confused Anon*

        My first thought was to say, “Is there a problem?” Luckily I didn’t, but I was still wondering what the issue was. They always do this though. Originally we were supposed to be working from home through the end of the year, but they keep changing their minds.

    2. Dasein9*

      Can you ask the boss something along the lines of “Is there a concern with my work when I wfh, maybe some aspect of the process I don’t see?”

      Sounds like maybe you’ve got one of those bosses who don’t believe people are working unless they are at their desks and unhappy.

      When people ask me how my wfh went, I tend to reply with, “Oh, I did enjoy it, and I got so much more done!” It’s true and places the focus where it belongs: on the work and not my enjoyment.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Ignore the sarcastic tone. I’d address his question as perfectly reasonable: “Yes, I did! It’s great that Company is allowing us flexibility during this pandemic. I really appreciate the quiet; I was able to focus on the Wellborn report and got it finished. It’s in your inbox for review.” If he blusters about slacking, reply blithely: “Haha. It’s so cool that we have System X to track our work. Makes work assignments and progress updates so easy. I’ve got a friend at Company B that has to write manual reports daily. So glad our company is on the ball.”

      Convey reasonableness and appreciation in your interactions and ignore the snark. And as mentioned in another post below, I think we are all pandemic weary. Managing remote work is challenging in the best of times; I’m inclined to be a little more charitable toward Grumpy Boss right now, who obviously prefers staff in house and has to monitor performance in trying circumstances.

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

      I’m not sure what to do about it (others have commented on that though) but I think I can understand the motive. It seems to me that your boss has told y’all to work from home as much as you can due to a decision made by higher-ups, probably due to the pandemic, but boss doesn’t personally believe WFH is as productive as working in the office, or that it’s “slacking off” or similar. It isn’t personal to you, so I wouldn’t think of it in terms like “am I not trusted to WFH”; if you aren’t, it’s because no-one is (see: boss’s comments about John and Jane etc).

      I wonder if your boss is working from home? I bet they are still working in the office pretty much full time…

      Generally I treat sarcasm (or any other kind of passive-aggressive behaviour) at face value and reply as if it was straightforwardly intended, which I’ve found to be a very effective approach. So in this case, I’d say e.g. “oh, I wouldn’t say I ‘enjoyed’ it as such, work is work after all hahaha but it is much easier to get things like X and Y done without being interrupted by trivial thing Z all the time, so it is nice to be able to be more productive!”

  20. CR*

    I’m pretty sure I’m getting laid off. I feel sick about it. I have no idea how I’ll get another job considering…everything.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I’m so sorry!!! Follow Alison’s info on resume and cover letter writing, and interviewing! You will get something!

    2. michelenyc*

      It absolutely sucks! I was laid off 45 minutes after Governor Cuomo announced the NY Pause in March. It was rough but I found the most amazing job. I started in November 2nd and I will be relocating at the end of the month but it really did all work out for the best. You will find something it will just take time.

    3. Chaordic One*

      Yeah, it sucks, so be as prepared as you can be. Start working on those resumes now and start getting those applications and cover letters out there. This weekend isn’t too early to start.

  21. Anon anonymouse*

    I work in a toxic environment for “Cruella”. She is abusive- she yells and swears at people. Cruella will also call us multiple times a day if we’re working from home. She is also very insecure and will ask if we’re “leaving her.”

    Cruella will make snide remarks in meetings, roll her eyes, give people the silent treatment, will cut people off when they talk, etc.

    There is more, but I think you get the point. It’s bad. I’m trying to leave, but can’t until I find a new position first.

    Any tips to cope with this type of place/this type of boss until I can leave?

    1. Elizabeth I*

      I dealt with my own version of Cruella in a former role. I would suggest first framing this as a “Cruella problem” not a “you” problem – in other words, it’s absolutely NOT your fault, and there’s nothing you can do to change her. In my situation I found recalling the “serenity prayer” quote really helpful to reframe things in my head (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”) – it’s a quote that reminds me to stop pushing against brick walls, as I’ll only hurt my own head. Cruella is a brick wall.

      Once you truly accept internally that she is a brick wall and her behavior is completely outside of your control or influence, then you can give yourself permission to stop using your mental and emotional energy either reacting to her (since if you expect her to behave poorly, then it’s not a shock when she does) or to trying to change her (since pushing against a brick wall is a pointless activity) – and instead use that mental and emotional energy to deflect and keep your head down.

      Keeping your head down/deflecting means not letting her get your riled up (or at least not letting her see it). You might consider looking up the “gray rock” technique – be boring and non-emotional in your responses. Don’t give her anything to “grab ahold of” emotionally speaking. Minimize your interactions as much as professionally possible.

      I would also suggest having a positive “response” message you tell yourself in your head each and every time that she acts up, to counter the negative affect her behavior might have on your sense of self-worth: for example, “That is just Cruella being Cruella. The truth is that I am a smart, accomplished, valuable employee, and I deserve to be treated with respect.” You can even write this down several times a day to reinforce it, or write it on a note and post it right by your computer (if you work from home, so she can’t see it). This might sound cheesy, but it’s really important to not let her behavior communicate “untruths” to yourself about your worth and value, because they can sink into your sense of self so easily if you don’t proactively counteract them (for more ideas on how to do this, look up cognitive behavioral therapy techniques).

      Asserting the truth loudly inside your own head keeps you from being beaten down by her internally. If you are beaten down inside, it’s a LOT harder to interview successfully. You need to have a strong sense of your own value to communicate effectively to potential employers why you are worth hiring. So techniques like this will not only make your remaining time at this job more bearable, it will also help you get out sooner.

      Good luck to you – I hope you find a better job soon! You deserve a good workplace filled with good people.

      Keep us posted. :)

    2. Zephy*

      Keep reminding yourself that Cruella’s BS has nothing to do with you, and if she’s this blatant about it, everyone knows what an AH she is and nothing she does or says is going to reflect negatively on you. Keep your head down, get your work done, and polish up that resume. Maybe suddenly you have a mischievous cat trying to knock over a vase every time she calls while you’re WFH, so you can cut the call short (since it doesn’t sound like she’s actually calling you for important work-related reasons).

    3. tangerineRose*

      Make notes about what she’s doing and post them on next week Friday thread (and some on this one too) so that we can tell you just how awful she is.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      You can have little go-tos in your mind that you use and reuse.

      Not speaking to you: Tell yourself it’s gonna be a great day.
      Eye rolls: Picture yourself saying, “something wrong with your eye?”
      Cutting you off when you are talking: Tell yourself her hearing aids are coming next week.

      Snide remarks can be a very interesting puzzle actually because you can make a game of how to turn the remark around in a way that she can’t touch it.
      My Cruella: YOU WILL NEVER GET THIS DONE. IT WON’T BE ON TIME BECAUSE YOU CAN’T DO IT.[ rant]
      Me: OH! Well I guess I better get right back to work then. Did you need me for anything else right now?
      [I threw it down in a neutral place. What is she going to say, really.]

      My Cruella: You can be in charge of [Miserable Project] let’s see how YOU make out with it.
      Me: [Gray rock] Oh, okay. I better go get started now. [An easy exit out of the conversation.]

      My Cruella: Everyone here hates you. [The opposite was true, they hated her.]
      Me: I am sorry to hear that. I am willing to talk with people if they would like to work through things.
      You can let them know I said that. Or we can sit together in your office and run through some issues.
      My Cruella: oh never mind.
      [Yeah. Just what I thought. Sometimes you can go right into this stuff with them and get out of the conversation very quickly by just following along with the next logical step in response to the off the wall thing they just said.]

      She loved to rain on people for mistakes. I watched her do it to others and I learned her predictable responses because I knew my turn was coming. Our work lent itself well to mistakes, large mistakes. The inevitable happened and I had a large mistake. She deluged. “I am going to write you, you might get fired, blah, blah, blah.” [Other people had made even larger errors and never got fired. I felt that she probably was not going to fire me.]
      I said, “Okay. I am reporting myself and reporting my own error. I have already started my plan to fix the error. If you write me, what people will see is that honesty does not pay. And they will hide their errors. You will be wondering why materials are missing and so on. Which you will have to explain to someone but you won’t know what to say.”
      My Cruella: [grumble, grumble and walked away]

      For my own peace of mind, I’d try to manipulate famous songs to fit a given situation and hum the song in my mind.
      So when she starts asking if you if you are leaving, you can start humming an old Billie Holiday tune:
      “I’ll be leaving you in all the old familiar places”, picture yourself on stage singing with all your heart.

    5. Business Librarian*

      Can you make a bingo card with things like “eye roll” and “snide remark” and “threat” etc? Then when you get bingo, give yourself a treat. Mine would be chocolate, but whatever works for you. You’d probably have to work on it a while because it sounds like you’d be getting bingo every day, but maybe that wouldn’t be bad!

  22. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    A few weeks ago about my new college grad daughter trying to land an entry level office position with little luck. I am thrilled to say that after a phone interview, online assessment and in-person interview, she has landed a Customer Service phone/chat job with a medium-sized regional bank. It sounds like she really nailed every step and I’m thrilled for and so proud of her.

    She’s only eve worked part-time retail and serving so the idea of PTO and being able to start a 401K is absolutely blowing her mind. I’m really looking forward to seeing her navigate this new stage of her life.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      My daughter recently got a job that includes a pension! She didn’t even know that that meant. I understand why you are happy for your D!

  23. Overeducated*

    Should I apply for my old boss’s job? I seriously can’t decide. It would be a lateral move, I work in a different division now.

    Pros of applying for old boss’s job:
    -Great team! And old boss’s boss specifically called me and tried to pitch it to me to apply, which was flattering.
    -I’d be working more in my subject matter field, although it would still be heavily oriented toward proposal development and project management rather than technical work. My current work is more indirect, think working with proposal developers and project managers on the administrative side, which is not what I want to do forever.
    -I’d get experiences managing a program budget and possibly supervising an employee, which I don’t have now, and which could help me move up in future.
    -I’d build closer connections to my employer’s regional field sites, where the projects take place and where I may want to work someday. Currently I don’t work with field sites at all, which is limiting.

    Pros of keeping current job:
    -My current job has been great with hours flexibility during the pandemic, and boss approved 60% telework when we go back, allowing me to move further out. The old division’s telework policy used to be quite restrictive, and now they’re on full time telework indefinitely, but there hasn’t been a formal change to the policy. I also know I have a manageable/flexible workload while my kids are in virtual school and out of day care with the current job.
    -I have “I’d follow you to hell!” feelings about my current boss.
    -I’m set up to have a lead role in some initiatives I’m excited about this upcoming winter and spring. It has been a rough couple years in my current job and we’re finally in a pretty good place.
    -I’m not 100% positive what direction I want to move long term – I’d thought maybe to a field site, and this isn’t that.

    Thoughts? I feel like applying and withdrawing would perhaps burn bridges. I know the lay of the land here, I just
    am not sure what the right move is for me right now. I feel like it would be better to leave in another 6-9 months rather than now, but opportunities don’t come up on that kind of schedule, my old boss retired after about 9 years in his position.

    1. Emilitron*

      How far up the ladder is this in general? Are you moving from contributor to project lead, or at the more senior end of the scale? Because you talk about this being your first time managing others and seeing a project budget, that sounds more junior – and in that sense I’d say this matters less, you’re not choosing where you’re going to settle forever, just finding what’s your next step. You’ve got strong positive feelings about both groups/bosses/etc, and one of your assets is always going to be your ability to connect those two teams no matter which one you’re on.

      1. Overeducated*

        I’m mid-career, the previous incumbent of my current position retired after 15 years and my old boss retired after 9 – I am basically at a level people tend to get stuck at or move laterally for different experience to move up. Old boss previously had a higher level position in terms of the salary band, but they actually downgraded it upon his retirement without changing any of the duties (something that happens a lot in my organization), so it’s hard to say it’s “farther up the ladder.”

    2. CatCat*

      I would apply and ask about the telework policy of the old division and flexibility on managing work. “Is the official policy going to be changed to allow more telework following the pandemic?” “What sort of flexibility is available during the pandemic to employees who have care obligations during the day such as kids in virtual school and without after school daycare?”

      The old division opportunity sounds like it checks a lot of boxes, but the above is a big one that is not clear that it would. If that was aligned in a way that you like then it would be worth pursuing. If not, that makes your decision easier. I think it’s weird if you interview and decline that would burn a bridge, especially if you explain that the telework and flexibility are things you highly value currently so you’ve decided the old division isn’t the right place at this time (assuming they are going to be rigid now and in the future).

      I wouldn’t hang onto liking your current boss as a big reason to stay where you are. That could change any time and is not within your control.

    3. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Yes, absolutely apply. Applying is not committing to taking the job should you be offered it. Applying gives you the opportunity to learn more about the position, and that information will better help you weigh the pros and cons.

    4. Can Can Cannot*

      If you got the job, would you be managing your former peers? Would you be ready to do that? Would they accept you in that role?

      1. Overeducated*

        No, my old position was grant funded and no longer exists. There is a new employee in a different soft money position (recently hired), but I am not sure whether my boss’s replacement will continue to supervise that person or they will move her around. The rest of the team is people who were previously my peers but under different supervision lines, or my boss’s peers or superiors.

  24. first time reader, long time poster*

    Do any of you know some good sites for social workers/clinical social workers?
    I am not a social worker, but know someone that is and that person is looking for a job.
    Are there online resources for black women in particular? Or older women?

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Your friend might try a couple of these:
      socialwork.org (may also be state-level SW Chapters to explore)
      idealist.org
      workforgood.org
      cswa.careerwebsite.com

      Does your friend have a particular area (mental health counseling, schools, hospitals, prisons, etc.) or population (pediatric, adult, geriatric, immigrant/ESL) in mind? Is the issue finding a job or changing jobs within the field? Those are some off the top of my head, but I suspect there are SW practitioners here who have other suggestions/resources/advice.

      1. first time reader, long time poster*

        Thank you!
        I am not privy to the details. What I know is that she can work with adult populations, has worked with prison populations and with populations struggling with substance abuse. She has a masters in social work.
        I would say her issue is that she’s older and hasn’t been able to establish a career in social work until recently.
        The most recent social work job she had was very low-paying, even for a social worker, and in a toxic work environment.
        She gets a lot of praise from the courts for her well-written and prepared documents, but struggles to connect that to higher-paying and more stable workplaces.
        She’s very passionate, and isn’t looking for a massive salary. I’d like to help, since she’s older (early 60s), but this isn’t my area of expertise. Due to child-rearing and life she never kept in touch with her college classmates and doesn’t have much of a social work network. She had a few social work jobs after college, but had kids young and employers in the 80s weren’t all that open to single mothers. She was able to get back into social work in the past few years, but as I mentioned earlier, the workplace environment was very toxic.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Does her county DA’s office have a victim’s advocate specialist? If no, would they like one or two????
          Has she looked at programs that work to prevent recidivism or prevent people from having jail time such as community service programs for offenders?
          Some states/counties are looking at things involving pre-trial assessments, perhaps that would interest her. Judges would love her.
          I know here DWI offenders have several programs they need to do as part of their sentencing. If your state has such programs maybe they are hiring.

    2. Sa*

      I’ve been working at home since mid-March. Nobody else is. We communicate primarily through instant message, phone, and email. Until recently, my supervisor was first supportive and friendly, then just friendly. Now, it seems like there is just a hostile silence. Can you really feel that though? Maybe I’m overthinking, but I feel upset. This isn’t a warm place to work in the best of times, but I felt like that better relationship was the most positive thing in this situation. Even if it isn’t hostile, I just miss the support and friendliness.

    3. Green Goose*

      If she is licensed she could look at being an online therapist with TalkSpace, they are recruiting therapists right now.

        1. pancakes*

          Also maybe the August 2020 NYT article, “At Talkspace, Start-Up Culture Collides With Mental Health Concerns.” A number of people working for the company were / are alarmed that conversations they thought were private are not.

    4. ThatGirl*

      Colleges might be good place to look – any that have counseling centers. They are often looking for BIPOC candidates.

      1. first time reader, long time poster*

        I believe she’s submitted resumes to the massive university system in her city. But they tend to hire from within, unfortunately for her.

    5. Elsie S. Duble-Yoo*

      The big city I live adjacent to has a “City Social Workers” Facebook group. We’ll post job opportunities there or even “hey who knows of a therapist who takes adolescents with BCBS insurance?” Type questions. Also the city’s university that has an MSW program is a good hub for networking and they’ll post open positions in the community. Also assuming she has to do CEUs to maintain her licensure, sometimes the agencies that put those on can be good sources for networking. Otherwise she could explore her local chapter of NASW to see if they’re active.

  25. Nacho*

    Do you guys ever complain about the customers at your job to your coworkers? We were discussing what to do if a customer asks to speak to a manager at our meeting yesterday, and I asked what I should do if they were being unreasonable and demanding to speak to a manager about something stupid. My boss couldn’t even comprehend the idea that somebody might want to speak to a manager for a reason other than incompetence on the part of the CS rep they were talking to, so I eventually gave up on trying to explain it to her after a few tries.

    After the meeting, I got a very strongly worded chat from Boss Lady about how unprofessional it was for me to say that sometimes customers are assholes though, and that I should never, ever talk like that again, and that she’s worked at companies all over the world and none of them would have tolerated an employee saying that during a team meeting.

    So is she right? Or am I right and do people call customers assholes all the time when venting to their coworkers?

    1. a mechanic*

      Well, when I was working retail the coworkers and I vented about customers constantly – some of them certainly didn’t think there was a need to be nice to us workers at all. I don’t recall calling any of them assholes (although there’s a chance I may have with a coworker I am and was friends with outside of that job) and I wouldn’t do so in a team meeting, tbh.

      Unrelated to your specific question, I have to admit that I was always happy to escalate stuff to my manager(s), no matter what the customer was complaining about or whatever, but of course I was just doing a couple of hours per week during college and wasn’t expected to deal with complicated issues.

    2. Artemesia*

      I learned this hard way. You have to read the room. Did anyone else in any meeting you have been in call customers ‘assholes’? If not. That is your answer. This does not mean you cannot discuss unreasonable customers and the challenges they. present. You can even reference the ‘Karen’ phenomenon as a way to clarify this. And you can talk about how managers who overrule policies and throw associates under the bus actually increase the number of unreasonable customer demands. None of this is offensive — but using crude language in a meeting with your boss and colleagues apparently is in your organization.

      1. Nacho*

        We have a large group chat where everyone constantly complains about the customers and how stupid/shitty they are, but boss isn’t in that aparently.

      2. tangerineRose*

        As much as possible, I’d give a specific example of a problem and let the boss figure out that that customer is a jerk.

    3. Bibliovore*

      I hear what you are saying, sure its okay to vent to co-workers, but this meeting might not have been the time or the place.
      Of course customers can be assholes but sometimes its because of policies that they don’t understand or are in direct contradiction to previous information or frustrating and not clear as communicated by the representative that they are speaking to or they have already gone through this before with someone at your level and they are angry and out of patience- that’s what managers are for-
      I try twice and then escalate.
      That said- does getting a manager on the line penalize the representative?
      “My boss couldn’t even comprehend the idea that somebody might want to speak to a manager for a reason other than incompetence on the part of the CS rep they were talking to”
      this statement makes me think so and THAT is the real issue.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        +1. To be clear, yes, I think pretty much everyone complains about problem customers and you’re not an outlier. The best bosses are the ones who are empowered to stand up to customers when the situation warrants it, but I haven’t seen many bosses who can (or will) do that.

      2. tangerineRose*

        “My boss couldn’t even comprehend the idea that somebody might want to speak to a manager for a reason other than incompetence on the part of the CS rep they were talking to” Yeah, that makes me think the boss has never worked as a CS rep or has forgotten what it’s like. It also indicates that the boss will NOT be on the CS rep’s side.

    4. Jasmine*

      You are entirely correct, Nacho. Having worked in a variety of customer facing roles over the past 20 years, I’d say about 70% of the time a customer has wanted to speak to a manager it’s because the customer is wrong, not the staff member. And yes, people have vented about customers in every place I’ve ever worked (and there have been some doozies).

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          I have! 10/10 would recommend! Typically when I have a great CS rep, I’ll tell them and ask if they can make sure I get the follow up survey to rate them highly. One time the CS rep responded that she couldn’t ensure I would get one (they were randomized, I think) but said that she could transfer me to her boss if I was up for it. I cannot tell you how pleasant that conversation went–this manager was clearly expecting another angry customer and was delighted to hear a compliment and assured me that this would be put in her employee’s file. Honestly, the entire experience was so positive it made my day.

    5. Anhgstrom*

      I had a very blunt boss who’d tell us(the frontline team) “Yeah, sometimes the customers are f*** ing idiots, but you have to be nice.”

      As a consumer, I sometimes ask to talk to a manager because I know the frontline customer service rep is not responsible for the problem, and probably does not have the authority to fix it. I’ve been there. I’d much rather say something like “I need to complain to someone, and I don’t want to yell at you. May I speak to a manager?”

    6. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

      No, I don’t think she’s right. I’ve worked CS and I’ve only ever had one manager who genuinely thought the customer is always right (this manager also thought we shouldn’t hang up on the customer who audibly touched himself during calls – I told her flatout I don’t get paid to be sexually harassed). Every other manager has acknowledged some customers may be “a handful” or difficult or just plain unreliable when it comes to what actually happened. They’re in a tiny minority but they do exist.

      What I do think is fair to let those people through to the manager if they wish, like the bar should be very low for that kind of thing IMO. Most CS reps aren’t getting paid enough to deal with the difficult ones for 10+ minutes and the manager has more tools to soothe their anger if need be. If your manager thinks it’s your fault that some people are angry when they call customer service, then they really don’t know customer service ..

    7. ...*

      Did you actually say the phrase “customers are assholes” or did you say “upset customer who wanted to speak to a manager about something that I would have been able to solve”. If you actually said asshole, then I think its understandable that she spoke to you about that. I have vented about customers and said that people were rude/being a jerk but not in a meeting only 1-1 with someone I have a good rapport with and have heard them use similar language in the past.

    8. RagingADHD*

      To *peers,* sure.

      You don’t call customers assholes to or in front of your BOSS!

      The question about how to handle a situation calls for describing specific circumstances, not generalities about the customer being unreasonable/an asshole with no details.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      From my experience she is dead wrong. But that is just my own small world view.

      I do think that managers have to not dwell on that too much in order to stay on as managers. However a good boss knows people can be total jacks and has your back.

      One time I had a customer cuss me out royally because I would not break company rules for him. It was his unfortunate luck that when he said he would report me, I said, “My big boss right over there. You can talk to him now if you like.”
      Big Boss heard every. single. cuss word. And it was brutal, the only way I got through it was because the big boss was standing right there and the customer had no idea how foolish he looked. (Even my cohorts asked me why I was not in tears, it was baaad.)

      Later I said to the big boss, “I sent him over to you but I guess he didn’t wanna.”
      The big boss said, “And that was the ONLY wise choice he made during his visit here. I would have told him to never come back to this store.”

      To me, it appears your boss does not have your back. I’d be looking for a new place when I could.

    10. Anono-me*

      I agree that it is probably more a case of where you said it.

      In the future in your workplace, in any written or electronic communication and on any social media etc. I would suggest using neutral language to describe customers. Challenging, optimistic, upset ect.

      As to your question about other people venting about customers , I think you may find the site ‘not always right’ interesting.

  26. Retail Not Retail*

    How can a sexual harassment claim be anonymous on a small team with only two women? Every man on the team either does it or sees it and doesn’t stop it.

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      Maybe gendered harassment is a better word, I don’t know. But when the behavior reported is sexist and degrading there are only two people who could have reported it!

          1. ...*

            Based of the harassment training I’ve done (California specific management anti harassment training don’t recall the name), anonymity is not guaranteed because they have to discuss the situation where harassment took place. So if a co worker said inappropriate things or touched me, and they were flagged for that, well they’d know it was me or they cant address the harassment.

          2. The teapots are on fire*

            Yeah, anonymity is a fantasy in that case, so all you can insist on is protection from retaliation.

      1. LNLN*

        Well, then maybe both women should make complaints, if you will both be suspected of making a complaint!

    2. Emi*

      I can totally see someone not having the nerve and/or presence of mind to intervene in the moment, but still reporting it afterwards.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        The only man who hasn’t done it told me that in his investigation interview he said he had no firsthand knowledge of anything because he knew they’d be talking to us two women.

        She reported it because it escalated to touching and was effecting work assignments. They called me in to ask if i’d seen any instances of harassment so I let fly on every damn thing since I started.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Unfortunately, even on larger teams, it can be difficult to make a sexual harassment claim that’s anonymous, because you usually have to give some details of the incidents, and those details would make it quite obvious.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I would say if you’re not ready to make an actual claim, just keep documenting everything in the meantime.

    5. HRBee*

      I offer assurances of confidentiality to the extent that I can complete my investigation. The more important piece is offering assurances of no retaliation and actually following through on that.

      I’m never going to say Jane Doe reported X during the investigation, but I’ll ask “have you ever seen any inappropriate conduct by John Smith towards Jane Doe.” It’s have you ever seen or it was reported that… but not actually naming the person who did the reporting. Just because Jane is the alleged victim doesn’t mean they are also the complainant.

      I know its tricky, especially with small teams, and its just human nature that people will guess or assume.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      It sounds to me like everyone except you and the other woman are in a bad spot here.
      No one else reported it?
      Might be time for firing a person or two and training for the rest.

  27. esemess*

    I have been feeling kind of insecure about how my personality is perceived at work and whether I’m ‘as good’ as my colleagues; it’s something I’m actively working on inside and outside of the (virtual :)) office.

    This week someone who I’ve perceived as having A+ works skills provided me with a really lovely compliment on a work thing, and it meant SO much. Note for us all: kind words are SO important, especially now.

    What’s one thing that you appreciate about how you show up at work/your personality adds to the work you do?

    1. esemess*

      I appreciate that I’m really good at the interpersonal parts of work; I am able to make people feel heard and seen in the midst of charged situations.

  28. a mechanic*

    First time participating here, hello y’all!
    This is a very low stakes kind of thing and in all likelyhood something that’ll just… go away with time, but I wanted to talk about it and this seemed like a good way to do so, so here I am!

    The short of it is that I’m crushing on a colleague of mine – ZERO intentions to act on it for a variety of reasons (no dating colleagues, oh noooo; I’m the only woman on the team, so I think the dynamic would be awful; plus while he’s not in my chain of command, he’s most definitely senior to me, etc), but *gestures at everything* eh. Here I am, mooning. (Obviously not at work, and I try not to dwell on it, but it happens.)
    Here’s my question: Anyone with tips on how to get over this quicker? We’ve been working together a lot lately and I’m guessing we will work together a lot in the future too – which is great, I’m learning a lot! But I’d like to not fight the heart eyes on the reg, y’know?

      1. a mechanic*

        It may well be! I admit not to always keeping up with everything Alison posts, so there’s a good chance I missed it. Will go looking for it though :)

    1. JanetM*

      My thoughts are that if you focus on being professional (which you are, well done!) the crush will eventually resolve itself. If it doesn’t, I’ve seen advice to the effect of, “Imagine them doing something that turns you off — having a filthy bathroom or picking their nose.”

    2. Randomity*

      Hello!! I am currently struggling with a crush on a colleague. Just wanted to commiserate. I’m basically just trying to wait it out. Haven’t got any better suggestions :(

      1. a mechanic*

        Same hat!! :D Hellooo and welcome to the waiting game!
        Like, I know this is gonna resolve itself in time and I know it’s not a big deal as long as I stay professional, but alas… It kinda sucks, doesn’t it?

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I’ve seen advice to take a good hard look at the weaknesses of the individual, and to imagine them doing all the things that would really annoy you in a long term relationship – eg. never pitching in on housework, leaving the bathroom a mess, etc. etc.

    4. Generic Name*

      I had a mild crush on a colleague for years. What ended it for me was falling deeply in love with someone else. I am still very fond of this colleague and consider him a friend. What also helped is that we don’t often work together on projects, and he worked out of a different location than me, so I wasn’t seeing him daily. Still, it was hard.

    5. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

      My usual advice is do more in your actual love life, put the focus elsewhere, but I realize right now is a horrid time to be dating, even online dating, since face-to-face dates are not safe in many parts of the world. I usually found myself crushing on a coworker when my other love life was dry as a desert, but when I was going out, dating, I tended to find non-coworkers to be interested in.

      My second piece of advice is instead of indulging in romantic/sexual fantasies, indulge in a highly realistic fantasy where most things about this person are disappointing. Like they don’t clean their teeth enough, or they laugh at offensive jokes in private, or imagine that they suck in bed. Or imagine you do get together and it goes well initially but then it slowly ruins your work life, your career opportunities, and when you try to break up, they turn out not to take it well, and sabotage your work because of it. Give your brain the worst case scenario.

  29. Alldogsarepuppies*

    I recently saw a job ad (that for many reasons I don’t intend to apply for) and one of the requirements is that you have had to be a member of their service (in this case a niche streaming service) for at least sixth months. This struck me as an odd thing to require as it essentially means you must be paying them in order to even apply. Thoughts?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I can see both sides. On the one hand, it does seem to advantage applicants who have that disposible income available and also screen out perfectly good candidates who just had no interest in the niche streaming service; on the other hand, they may want people who are already invested in their product. I think the advantages of the latter are far outweighed by the disadvantages of the former, but I’m also not a hiring manager there…

      1. WellRed*

        I agree with this. On another level do you want to buy hardware from someone who’s terrible at fixing things or yarn from someone who can’t knit?

    2. Sleepy*

      They’re really limiting their own applicants, but since I work in a niche area myself, I can understand wanting people who are users of their own product.

    3. Chaordic One*

      I agree, it is an odd thing. It seems to be one way to insure that their employees are familiar with their service. I used to work in a notoriously cult-like school where you had to have taken a course from the school before they’d consider you for many of the customer service or instructor jobs.

      I sort of can see it for the instructor jobs, because they want to provide a fairly standardized experience to their students and want to make sure that the instructors are all on the same page, but I think that the school should pay for the course (which it usually didn’t). The school regularly broke this rule and would hire CSRs who hadn’t taken a course if they were the spouse of someone with a hard-to-find and in-demand skill, such as the spouse of an IT person.

  30. Anon for this*

    Sanity check- I’d like to know if my interpretation is rational.

    My report, in a two person department, has a lot of flexibility in the job. There are certain functions which are scheduled for specific days- none of which are full day projects or time- sensitive beyond close of business each day. I have established systems with other departments to generally have all the necessary input for those functions prior to the day of schedule. While there are sometimes things that must be handled off schedule, this is not common. In fact, I have been known to tell demanding people that their failure to plan does not constitute an emergency on my part!

    I generally am in the office two hours before my report, and leave much earlier as well. As a result, the overlap time is around 5-6 hours- which includes a 1 hour lunch period. We do not have an established time for the lunch break.

    I do need to consult with my report during the day.

    My report did not take the one hour lunch break at a consistent time, which began to cause problems since I could not depend from day to day when we would be able to communicate. We negotiated and agreed that lunch must be taken between 11am and 2pm.

    Within days, my report had not taken any lunch period as of 1:45, when report stood up to declare it was lunch time. I found this to be a violation of the negotiation- unless it was to be a 15 minute lunch.

    What do you think?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I agree with you, and I wonder if your report is trying to do some kind of “letter but not intent of the law” move by *starting* lunch before 2:00.

    2. Bibliovore*

      I think your report is manipulative, but that is just me. I had exactly this situation. This is not a negotiation. Put in writing that her one hour lunch break must be taken between the hours of 11:am and 2:00.
      As discussed on x date, lunch in this department is to be taken between 11 am and 2:00 pm.

      1. Wheee!*

        This seems a little over the top. OP is just trying to make sure they have a time to sync, which is fine and there are some good suggestions below regarding setting up a sync meeting that I think are worth taking.

        I can’t speak for the OP or their report, but I frequently get wrapped up in things, or asked questions and end up not getting to lunch until 4, when I’d planned to go at 12 or 1. If someone was scheduling my lunch break, I’d probably just end up skipping it on those days. I suspect that’s not what the OP is going for.

        I realize that plenty of folks have actually scheduled lunch breaks, but it doesn’t sound like it’s normally that kind of workplace.

    3. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Sounds to me like the agreement is that lunch is supposed to be between 11am and 2pm, which means that lunch time is OVER as of 2pm. If they are just STARTING lunch at 1:45pm, that wouldn’t make sense, unless, as you say, it’s a 15 minute lunch. Your report is either being deliberately obtuse, or is genuinely clueless, but either way, I’d clarify that lunchtime is anytime BETWEEN 11am and 2pm, but that lunch has to be completed by 2pm. I mean…..that’s just common sense! Basically, lunchtime goes until 2pm, so you can’t be on a lunch break after 2pm, per your agreement.

    4. WellRed*

      I think you’re being a bit micro-managery. There is a 5 to 6 hour overlap, minus one hour for lunch. Surely you can find a time to communicate within that other 4 to 5 hours.

      1. Bibliovore*

        I disagree. I have been in this situation with conflicts like meetings during other parts of the day. It is not unreasonable especially in work that may be time sensitive to require a report to have predictable availability during the day.

      2. VelociraptorAttack*

        I agree with this 100%.

        If you actually NEED to have a reliable time to be able to talk to them, why not just schedule a standing 30 minute touch base.

        1. Bea W*

          This seems like a much better and more reliable solution to me. I’ve used this many times with good success as we’re all in and out of meetings all day and the free spots left over for both other work and lunch are moving targets.

        2. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

          I was going to say the same thing. If it’s important to communicate on a regular basis, schedule a standing meeting. They can be canceled or shortened if there’s no discussion that needs to be had. But my calendar is full of those and it works great. I know that I’ll have x amount of time for sure with certain people at certain times. Makes it easier to plan the workflow.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        But it’s a 3 hour window for lunch, which seems extremely flexible. While I agree that a standing meeting is a good idea, I don’t think it’s micromanager-y to say “You agreed to take your lunch break sometime between 11 and 2, arriving back after 2* isn’t part of the agreement.”

        * if that ends up happening with a lunch start at 1:45

    5. Anono-me*

      I can see a communications break down here.

      Person A sees ‘taking lunch’ as a designated period of time. As in “I’ll be taking lunch from 1:15 pm to 1:45 pm.”

      Person B sees “taking lunch” as a starting point in time. As in “I’ll be taking lunch at 1:00 pm.”

      I think it’s worth reflecting on the fact that your first reaction was to feel that this was a violation of your negotiation.

      I also think the fact that you posted here and asking about it indicates that you have some concerns about that being your first reaction. (Which I think is very smart of you.)

      Are there other behaviors by this person that seem rules lawyering, uncooperative, or rude?

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Agreed, communication fail not malice.
        Also, consider WHY they didn’t get lunch earlier. Did they have their heads down working through something complicated, and just came up for air enough to notice the time?
        Do their later hours mean they won’t get dinner until eight o’clock or later? Two until eight is a long time.
        If they start work later, it makes sense that they would eat lunch later — was “before 2:00” reasonable in the first place? If I start at ten, there’s no way I’d take lunch at eleven, or even twelve.

    6. Littorally*

      Was this only a one-time incident? In that case, I would discount it. It’s possible she was wrapped up in something til the last minute, or is still working on getting adjusted to having a schedule that is constrained. If it becomes a pattern, it might be something to treat as a violation.

    7. Policy Wonk*

      I would just schedule a standing appointment with the report rather than try to police lunch. E.g., every day at 2:30 we will have a 30 min meeting to go over pending matters. That way, if your report is trying to squeeze in a trip to the dentist or dry cleaner at lunch time, they can do that without throwing off your schedule. And the time is neatly blocked on calendars in case there are others trying to schedule things.

    8. ...*

      I would assume that she thought that was the possible start times for lunch most likely, I would just clarify the agreement rather than assuming its a “Violation!!”

    9. BRR*

      It is not what you agreed to but “negotiation” and “violation” come off as very strong words for taking lunch. I would bring it up by talking about the broader issue of just needing to know when you two will be able to touch base rather than focusing on not taking lunch during a specified time.

      If a standing meeting as others have suggested doesn’t work (I know that every day can be different), do you know in the morning when you’ll need them and schedule a time later that day? Can your report let you know by a certain time when they’re taking lunch? Do you know if you’ll need them in the not too distant future and book a time 20 minutes ahead? Can they check with you before the leave for lunch in case they need to push it back 20 min?

    10. Nesprin*

      Do you have a calendar system? Can your report just mark her lunch times each day so you can contact around it?

    11. RagingADHD*

      I think your report is not the one being unreasonable here. You should not play silly mind games with your report and then hold it against them.

      If you want them to be present in the office from 2pm onwards, say so.

      “I need you back from lunch and available every day from 2-5 pm.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. This.

        I relate to you, OP, because I have everything set into a time frame and I need to follow that schedule to get everything done. I live my personal life this way also.

        But many people do not and that is the rub here. Since you are the boss, you get to have say about her availability. It’s more to the point to say, I need you here first thing and then from 2 pm on.
        I have to chuckle because my current GOOD boss and I have the opposite problem. I run on time and I am fairly consistent. During each work day I usually have a fair idea of what needs to be done by when in order for me to cover everything.
        My GOOD boss, not so much. She comes and goes randomly. It’s normal for her to be working at 2 am. I. Can’t. Do. This. Since my pay is limited then I must limit my hours also. My job could go 50 hours a week if I did not watch it. Eh, she’s the boss. She can do as she wishes. She totally marvels at my ability to have a schedule and follow it. And she also comments on how I know just how much time each thing will take.
        It truly does not occur to some people that they need to watch time frames. Explain it to her again, “I need you back from break by 2 pm.”

        Also remember the rule of three.
        First time is a free pass.
        Second time is a caution flag.
        Third time is a problem that needs to be addressed.
        So yeah, give her a free pass. Assume you were not clear enough and explain it again.

  31. Keymaster of Gozer*

    It’s a really minor question, and is from my husband not me, but what is the common view of having Yuletide decorations visible in zoom chats? (His lot don’t use backgrounds and he works in the living room where must of our Yule decorations go).

    Not really an issue if we need to keep a section of wall bare, I can probably move the green man and goddess figures and the lights. Just asking for your views :)

    1. Emi*

      I personally don’t care what decor I see in people’s backgrounds at all, seasonal or otherwise, as long as it isn’t obscene or violent. I also doubt that people who aren’t already familiar with them would be able to tell what kind of statues they are over Zoom. But maybe you have a really spiffy webcam haha.

    2. esemess*

      I don’t see an issue, as long as it isn’t overly distracting. I see people’s decorations (both holiday related and general home decor) on nearly every video call.

    3. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Personally, I think I’d try to avoid it if at all possible. But I’m lucky to be in a large enough space where I can have separate spaces for decorations and no-decoration-zone.

    4. Nicki Name*

      Are you wondering about holiday decorations in general, or decorations for a less widely celebrated holiday?

      I think that we’re all used to seeing into each others’ homes at this point, so blinky lights, menorahs, Kwanzaa setups, etc. being visible in the background should generally not be an issue. Plus we’d expect to see decorations around the office at this point anyway.

      For Yule specifically, I think you have pretty low odds that there is someone in your workplace who would both (1) be knowledgeable enough to recognize Yule decorations as being specifically for Yule and not Christmas and (2) freak out that they work with a pagan.

      1. Haha Lala*

        ooh, blinky lights in the background would be super distracting to me. Not offensive at all, but I would have a hard time focusing on the person talking….

        Other stationary/static displays I wouldn’t have a problem with at all.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Decorations in general. There was a good point about the lights being irritating so I’ll move those. I’m not really worried about the pagan stuff, husband is atheist and also open about that and having a wife who is pagan.

    5. allathian*

      Do your husband’s coworkers know you’re pagan? If they do, it shouldn’t be more of an issue than having a Christmas tree or or menorah in the background. It’s your home and your husband is not being pagan AT his coworkers, it’s a part of his identity.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Husband is atheist, I’m the pagan, he just loves the decorations as ‘pretty shiny things’ (we’re geeks, we have LEDs on lots of things).

    6. Ferrina*

      Depends on the role. IMO managers should err more on the side of being sensitive (i.e., no or minimal decoration, and mindful of the language that they use around “holidays” and not “Christmas”), but individual contributors have a bit more leeway.
      Depends on the company culture, too. My team tends to be pretty open about politics and religion, so religious symbols would be just background. Our broader company tends to be more “let’s not talk about it”, so I wouldn’t include religious symbols unless I knew the other people on the call would be fine with it.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        He’s not management, but he does have a lot of zoom calls with overseas people from many different countries, some of whom may find it offensive. I’ll move the lights and the overt goddess/god stuff. There’s some generic ‘ivy leaf’ stuff that’ll work.

        (I love ivy leaves. Any excuse!)

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m in the UK so we don’t have that rule. But we both work in software and not government.

    7. RagingADHD*

      If you’re a public school teacher or have a similar role of authority that impinges on the separation of church & state, then keep any religious iconography out of the background.

      If everyone you’re zooming with is an adult peer, it’s fine. And most people wouldn’t know or care anyway.

  32. Red Boxes and Arrows*

    If you could send a message to your company’s CEO and leadership team on what you think they should be doing to make your workplace more inclusive, what would you say (assuming they would actually take your suggestion to heart)?

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Something I saw recently (and it may have been on AAM) I thought was the best single thing an employer could do is to ask EVERY new employee their preferred name and pronouns!

      1. Web Crawler*

        Better idea than that- have top-level people start introducing themselves with their pronouns alongside your name. Start from the top, not the bottom. When it’s fully ingrained in the culture, then ask new hires for their preferred name and pronouns.

        The reason for this is because many non-passing trans people, non-binary folks, and those who don’t use “he” or “she” get caught in a weird position. Where they have to choose being being honest, outing themselves, and potentially being a target, or remaining closeted- this gets worse before you know the culture of a place, like new hires. If everybody’s sharing their pronouns and there’s at least another openly trans or queer person around, the environment looks a little safer to come out to.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is absolutely numbers 1-8 on the top ten list. A business that maintains those racial and gender disparities in pay because ‘she didn’t negotiate’ (although we know negotiating damages women and people of color in many cases) or ‘his previous pay was only X and so it was an increase to work here.’ is not committed to diversity.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Honestly, there is no reason not to make salaries transparent. Just as new teachers realize they shouldn’t just arbitrarily assign grades to student work, and they need to actually use rubrics, workplaces should also realize they can’t just arbitrarily assign salaries and bonuses. If there are good reasons for so-and-so making more than so-and-so-else, then there’s no reason you can’t say what both of them make and why one makes more than the other.

    2. Web Crawler*

      So much. Some of these are questions, some of these are requests, and some of these are stuff my workplace is already doing:

      1. Where do I go if I need something fixed? It took a year for my manager and I to get my name changed in most systems, and my deadname still appears in a screen or two now even though I’ve changed it legally. Who do I talk to about this? Is this even something I can ask for?

      2. Business resource groups are amazing imo, especially when they have official support and good leadership. It helps so much to have other queer and disabled people at work to ask questions to, and sometimes we uncover bigger problems that we each thought we were alone in.

      3. Diverse people in positions of power. It’s not a fix on its own, but it needs to happen

      4. Any instructions for having hard conversations or where to bring up “little” stuff like “John talks over all the women” that you can’t completely prove. Because if you feel like you can’t talk about it, it won’t change.

    3. Lucette Kensack*

      It depends on what’s going on at your workplace!

      Most generally, I would recommend that they review their policies and their informal practices with an eye to equity and inclusion, considering how each policy or practice affects people of different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures.

      1. Red Boxes and Arrows*

        It’s a traditional industry (engineering/manufacturing), but our CEO [a white, cis-het, Christian, man] seems to have been deeply affected by George Floyd’s murder (and the murder/abuse of other black people at the hands of police) and the way the “alt-right” weaponized the resulting protests. He has signed a pledge of diversity and inclusion with dozens of other CEOs, and now a survey has been sent asking for our opinion of where we’re at and what we could do differently/better going forward.

        1. Hillary*

          I suspect my CEO signed the same pledge – we got an email about it today. Overall my employer does pretty well. My biggest thing right now is more diverse recruiting for our entry-level jobs, don’t just go to the same five schools we always hire from. Really support them once we hire them with formal and informal mentorship. Bring in recruiters that can diversify our external hiring pool for experienced roles.

          On the factory side we’re mostly doing well now, so these are general. Pay a living wage, give good benefits, and don’t be a jerk about schedules. Don’t require a high school diploma or GED, allow a reading/numeracy test to substitute if the role requires it. Watch the supervisors/managers closely and have zero tolerance for racism/sexism and inappropriate behavior. Do statistical checks to make sure you’re giving women and POC the same opportunities for improvement/promotion as men, and fix it if you’re not.

    4. Nesprin*

      Do an audit of how your minority groups perceive the workplace relative to the majority group including likelihood of hire for majority vs. minority candidates, pay disparities+ time to promotion etc once you’ve hired someone in. Figure out whether your benefits and leave policies are sufficient for your different groups.

      Get the data on what problems your institution is actually having, make management understand the problems, then figure out how to fix.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      People will only try to tell something once. They watch the reaction. If they do not get a strong, proactive reaction, they probably will not ask again. That does NOT mean the problem has gotten better on its own.

  33. Orca*

    I’m sure this topic has been covered extensively but am kind of blanking on what to search for here, if someone can suggest terms or articles. I’m looking for phrasing to politely push back on stuff.

    The real answer is “my job sucks and isn’t going to change” and I am aware of this…I’m already doing three jobs and found out yesterday my counterpart is leaving. Historically this means she won’t be replaced and her duties will slowly ooze to me. I definitely have HARD LIMITS on what I will accept of her work, so would like to find articles where alison has advised on how to push back on stuff. I’ve already met with my manager and he’s aware and on my side luckily, but the stuff will come from adjacent managers to him that don’t listen when I talk, so am just looking for some things I can keep in the back of my mind in preparation. Thanks in advance!

    1. TimeTravlR*

      My workplace recently went through a challenging time which (had it actually happened) would have meant I had to do the work of lots of people. I told my boss right away, “I won’t possibly be able to pick up all the work. Let’s talk about what the priorities are.”
      I believe that employers will keep piling on and if you can get it done, they will pile on more, and then think they don’t need to replace people because you’re doing it! I am a hard worker and don’t mind upping my game but at the end of the day I am just one person. I would start with something like I noted in my first paragraph and see what their response is.

      1. Orca*

        That’s definitely how I’m already in this situation, everything fell onto my plate and I figured it out so it all stayed on my plate…I am determined for that not to happen this time!

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      Alison says when they give you more work, ask them to prioritize, I can do a and b and sometimes c, but to add in d, I will have to cut something, which one should I cut?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Tell your manager that you want all work assignments to go through him first. So other managers cannot just walk up to you and demand x.

    3. Not A Manager*

      Is your company one where it’s reasonable for your manager to monitor your work assignments? In that case, you and he could agree in advance on what assignments you will accept from other managers. If someone tries to assign you something different, you could refer them to him. Not like you are vetoing them, but more like you don’t have to authority to accept this kind of work without his okay.

    4. Bobina*

      If its other managers that will come to you, redirect, redirect, redirect. “Thanks for flagging this as something that needs to be done. Please email my manager and they will prioritize it for me to work on accordingly.”

      My manager is very good at that and she always lets her team know: work should only be allocated through her. *If* we have enough bandwidth we can choose to take on things directly, but if we feel like we are being pulled in too many directions or are getting work that is beyond our scope or area of responsibility, we are always free to tell people that things have to go through her first.

  34. Miffed donor*

    When you personally donate to a group fund to purchase funeral flowers on behalf of your department, is it reasonable to expect any sort of confirmation/acknowledgement from the person collecting the money?

    The president of my organization recently lost an immediate family member. My great-grandboss (a VP) emailed stating she was collecting money to buy flowers on behalf of our department. I was instructed to make the check out to GGB personally. This check was cashed. I never heard anything else about the flowers. I didn’t need a personal acknowledgement, but I was expecting a mass email to our department from GGB along the lines of “Thank you all for your donations to the flower fund. With your contributions, we were able to purchase a [standing spray] in honor of [family member].”

    It strikes me as a bit shady that there was no public acknowledgement after these funds were collected. I think I’m extra miffed because of the stature of the people involved relative to me, just an employee. I work for a state agency. Would love to get some perspective from others, thank you!

    1. WellRed*

      I’m surprised the recipient didn’t pass on their thanks, either in some sort of group email or through the boss or other appropriate person.

      1. michelenyc*

        I would also expect an acknowledgement from the recipient at some point. I wouldn’t expect to get a note from the person that was taking care of getting the flowers. What I think is weird is that they wanted checks instead of cash from people. I hardly write checks anymore and I don’t carry even carry a checkbook with me. I am not sure how recent all of this took place but it could be the recipient is still in mourning and just hasn’t had time to send a Thank You.

      2. Miffed donor*

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It sounds like maybe my expectations might not be totally reasonable. Because of the nature of the loss, I didn’t really expect to hear back from the president right away because I’m sure he’s mourning. Also, to put it delicately, I know him to be the type of person who might not have a strong grasp on social graces (though he’s well-intentioned) and it’s possible that it didn’t occur to him to thank the department.

        I was concerned that there is really no proof that flowers were purchased at all – how do I know GGB didn’t just keep the money? But perhaps I’m unreasonably suspicious.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think your expectations are unreasonable. If I’d collected the money I definitely would’ve sent precisely the sort of email you expected to receive. I suppose you could ask, “Were you able to get a nice display of flowers to send from our department?”

    2. Joielle*

      I also work for a state agency and I don’t think I’ve had contributions like this acknowledged in the past? I’m never giving a lot of money though, like $5 usually. So I send the money and then pretty much forget about it.

      1. Joielle*

        Edited to say – sometimes (usually?) the recipient thanks the department in a mass email. But I wouldn’t notice if they didn’t.

      2. Miffed donor*

        Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! FWIW, I donated $20. Based on your response and others’, it sounds like I might not have reasonable expectations on this. I’m glad to get some perspective, since this type of thing will happen again in the future, I’m sure.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Honestly, if I were the recipient it would never occur to me that people had paid out of their own pockets so as to require an acknowledgement. I would assume that the money had come from a department general fund and so any thanks would be due to the head of the department. Also, grieving people have a LOT on their minds — cut them some slack.

      1. Miffed donor*

        Thanks for your reply! Hopefully you’ve noted that my question was about receiving an acknowledgement from “the person who collected the money,” not the grieving party.

      2. WellRed*

        Even if the company pays, its good to thank the office. And yes, Miffed, it would have been good of the manager to tell everyone “we sent a lovely array of petunias.”

    4. RagingADHD*

      I think this is good practice, and sometimes I’ve received a mass email or picture with what was purchased. But not universally and I wouldn’t necessarily expect it.

    5. Say It Ain't So*

      I recently ordered a spray of flowers for a funeral recently on behalf of a group. Because of COVID, none of our group was able to attend the private service. A friend of mine who was able to attend the service (her husband was the minister at the funeral) texted me a photo of the flowers and I sent that along to the group along with a thank you. I had planned to send the thank you email anyway, but adding the photo was a nice extra.

    6. Former Retail Manager*

      At my organization (govt agency) I am usually the person that handles this sort of thing…collecting the money, ordering the flowers, confirming delivery, etc. When we’ve had deaths, sometimes the recipient/family will send a thank you and sometimes they won’t because they’re too grief stricken and it slips their mind. But regardless, as the person “in charge” of the duty, I always send a thank you to those that donated along with a picture of the flowers that were purchased and a statement similar to what you mentioned. If the recipient tol me thank you verbally, I will pass that on as well. Quite honestly, my main reason is that I want people to know what their funds were used for and to know that I didn’t misappropriate them (not that I’ve ever been accused, but I have been a personal victim of this in the past.)

      I too would be miffed. I think that ‘thank you’ goes a long way.

    7. Bobina*

      Hmm. I dont think I’d expect that kind of announcement to be honest. In my experience, the money gets collected, something gets bought, and in the days of in-person offices, you would gather round to see them open or be presented with whatever was bought (usually for happy occasions). For sad occasions, you would typically only hear back a few weeks/months later with a “Person X said to pass on their thanks for the generous contribution” – and in this case, if Person X never got round to saying thanks then you would just never hear back.

      For me this is a fire and forget situation. Contribute whatever you are willing to, and forget about it after that.

    8. Snark no more!*

      I’m an admin and I would have sent out a confirming email to those that had contributed. I likely would have sent a picture from the website too. To expect that level of thoughtfulness from a VP is maybe a little optimistic, but couldn’t his assistant have handled that on their behalf? I would be annoyed at the lack of confirmation as well.

  35. Part time work?*

    Questions for people who have done part-time contract work.

    I am a US citizen who lost my job in the pandemic and am currently living outside the US caring for a sick relative full time. As my relative improves, I’m looking for some super part time work (like 10-12 hours a week) to make a little money in my free time. I’m not expecting to make a lot of money but even $100 a week would go pretty far in the country I’m currently living in. 

    I’d like to hear people’s general experiences working as 1099 contractors for transcribing, proofreading, content writing or similar websites as well as any recommendations for specific companies.

    I’m also curious how taxes work. About 6-7 years ago I was working for a company that was illegally hiring us as 1099 independent contractors when we were actually employees. I really struggled doing my 1099 taxes and honestly that’s a major factor holding me back right now. That time, I finally hired an accountant to do them but if I’m only making a couple thousands dollars a year max, then that doesn’t make sense.
    Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. TYIA

    1. All the cats 4 me*

      My two cents, and you likely have already cleared this hurdle….. be sure you are legally eligible to work in the country where you are currently living.

      As I say, you likely have already addressed this, and I only mention it as in my job we frequently have to help clients mop up the mess when this requirement is not considered in advance.

      Good luck!

    2. RagingADHD*

      I did transcription for a large agency that does a lot of government work (US Marshals, the Library of Congress, NIH, etc). Nice people and it was good to be able to take as much or as little work as you want.

      It was not a good fit for me because I’m a fairly fast typist but not fast enough to earn decent money at it, and the turnaround times were so short that I’d wind up pulling all-nighters.

      If you’re very quick and accurate, it could be good. National Capitol Contractors. I did need a background check for the higher-paid jobs, but not for everything.

      I’ve also done content writing, and it’s hard to earn decent money until you have some good samples built up, but not impossible! Check out Reddit – I can’t recall whether the sub is “freelancewriters” or “freelancewriting”, but one of them has a very very useful Wiki about getting started, that I wish I’d had starting out.

    3. Shirley Keeldar*

      I did some work for TranscribeME and found them pretty exploitative. My experience with Rev has been more positive, but it’s still pretty hard to work quickly enough to make significant money.

    4. Natalie*

      Tax wise, any DIY tax filing software can handle a Schedule C, net income from self employment. It sounds like your business expenses would be minimal, which makes the entire thing much easier.

      If your income is below a certain threshold ($72,000 for 2021) you can access commercial software such as TurboTax for free through the IRS’s free file program. The easiest way to do that is *through the IRS’s website*. Don’t start at Intuit’s website, they are quite fond of trying to drive people to paid options even when they are entitled to free filing. If for whatever reason the Free File program is not an option, FreeTaxUSA functions very similar to TurboTax and is, as the name implies, free.

    5. nep*

      I have worked for Rev on and off for a couple of years. It’s nice to have the few extra dollars each week, but it’s long, intense work for very little. While I really like the work itself, whenever I’m working on a file I feel as if I could be getting much better ROI on my time doing other side jobs.
      As far as taxes, in my filing last year I had income from Rev, Poshmark, and Shipt in addition to a very part-time fitness job. I have an accountant do my taxes; while it is a good chunk of money it’s worth every penny to me knowing it’s all solid.
      Wishing you all the best.

    6. Slipping The Leash*

      I was looking into this a while back (in pre-pandemic times), though I decided to sit tight at my job so I didn’t dig deep/apply anywhere. In addition to other commenters provided, there’s Allegis Transcriptions. There’s a site called realwaystoearnmoneyonline that seems to provide remote work leads. Writers.work looks to be freelance gigs. Working Nomads is digital jobs.
      Good luck!

  36. Web Crawler*

    Can somebody give me a gut check on things I should and shouldn’t say about my life in casual conversations with my manager?

    I’m new to the workforce and it’s hard to judge because everyone else in my company seems so “normal” and I am not. The culture is pro-LGBT, has a disability BRG, and a slack channel for talking about “overlooked history” but I don’t know where professional lines are.

    1. Having autism (so far I’ve gone with no)
    2. Being in a poly relationship (I only live with one partner, so she’s the only one I mention)
    3. Being part of a group that supports people who have been jailed for protesting. The group isn’t open and is full of anarchists
    4. Being in pain nearly every day from migraines and back pain (I only mention it in the abstract, not “I am in pain right now, today” and make it sound like a once a month kind of thing)
    5. Doing embroidery and sewing, as a dude
    6. Doing mental health and disibility advocacy things- mostly around removing the stigma, which makes me feel like a hypocrite not to talk about, but it also feels like I shouldn’t?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, it’s hard to know, because workplace cultures can vary widely, and even ones that seem to be accepting may not be. Unfortunately, you may just have to wait and see if it’s safe.

    2. Manders*

      The advocacy work and your hobbies seem perfectly fine to mention in the office! Some offices would also be fine places for discussing supporting protestors–but that’s very dependent on where you work and what sentiment about the protests looks like in your office.

      I’d recommend not talking about being in a poly relationship, just because it’s pretty normal in most offices to not want or need a lot of information about the relationships of your coworkers. In an office setting people usually meet their coworkers’ live-in partners a couple times a year at most, and don’t think about them at all the rest of the time.

      I’m not really sure about talking about autism and chronic pain. There’s nothing shameful about those things. In some offices it’s pretty standard to talk about health, in others it’s only mentioned if someone has a visible injury like a cast or walking boot or you’re passing around a generic get well card after a surgery.

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I can’t speak to most of your questions, but I will say that for number 5, embroidery and sewing are pretty mainstream, inoffensive hobbies and an excellent choice for office small talk. There may well be people who are surprised by you as a dude participating in hobbies that are traditionally considered “feminine”. This is firmly a “them” problem, not a “you” problem. (Granted, there are terrible workplaces that may try to make this a “you” problem. Consider it a sign that the workplace is terrible, rather than an accurate judgement about you.)

      I say this as a woman who enjoys motorsports (driving/navigating road rallies, mostly) and is not shy about discussing this at work. For people who are baffled by a woman being interested in such things, I next tell them about my knitting and crochet projects, then sit back and enjoy watching their heads (figuratively) explode.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, and if anyone tries to tease you about being a dude who does embroidery, you can point out that pro football player Rosey Grier published a book called Needlepoint for Men in the 70s!

      2. Ontariariario*

        I participated in a regular Thursday lunch Stitch and Bitch with a male colleague, and was pleasantly surprised at the people who would drop by to chat and not comment at all on what we were doing with yarn, or at most ask us what we were working on. I enjoy counted cross stitch when I travel and have been surprised by the number of burly men whose eyes light up and they tell me about their latest project.

        1. Manders*

          This is a good point! A lot of advocacy groups really push the idea that the best way to raise awareness is to always disclose information about yourself. That does work in aggregate, but on the individual level, you have to make the best choices for yourself and not for the cause.

    4. Nicki Name*

      If you think #1 or #4 might require an accommodation from your workplace at some point, you should probably give your manager a heads-up, but not in a casual conversation. Talk to that disability BRG if you’re unsure whether or how to approach it.

      #5 and #6 should be fine.

      With #2, yeah, polyamory is still seen by most people as pretty out there, so I think you’re doing the right thing. You can describe your other partners as “close friends”.

      #3 is a good and worthwhile thing which I commend you for! But it falls under “don’t discuss politics in the workplace”.

    5. Disco Janet*

      I think a lot of this depends on context and how you talk about it, how it comes up, etc. But personally for me I’d say:

      1. Yes
      2. No – or if you do, only occasionally/casually. I may be biased here because I’ve only had one coworker who was poly (that I know of) and he would literally spend hours a week talking about the dynamics of a poly relationship. Obviously you’d know better.
      3. No. Generally a good idea to avoid politics at work, and I assume the group is closed for a reason.
      4. To an extent. Letting people know you’re dealing with a daily problem is okay. Bringing it up daily at work, I wouldn’t.
      5. Of course!
      6. A bit – but if you’re doing it casually. My cat went to the vet last week, which my coworkers knew since I had to take an afternoon off. When a coworker who I’m close to asked about how she was doing and I told her about the meds they gave kitty, I jokes, “So now I’m not the only person in my house who is on anxiety medication!” And laughed. Wouldn’t do that in a larger setting though or with my boss – know your audience kind of thing (which really is the case for many of these.)

    6. Weekend Please*

      None of these things are things you should feel bad about not disclosing if you do not feel comfortable with it. I don’t think this really comes down to what you “should and shouldn’t say” but what you feel comfortable discussing at work vs keeping private. #5 and #6 are things that would be ok to discuss in nearly all offices without significant risk. Unless you are picking up some pretty toxic vibes about masculinity and looking down on mental health I think those are pretty mainstream.

      I think being in pain should be something you can talk to your boss about if you want to. I wouldn’t bring it up in the first week if I didn’t have to, but a few months in after you have shown that it won’t keep you from being reliable I don’t think it has to be kept secret. Having autism probably falls into the same category but does face more of a stigma in general. In some offices it won’t matter and in others it may cause some bias (conscious or not) that can affect promotions.

      Unfortunately, telling people that you are poly is still very risky. It shouldn’t be but people see this information as TMI often and equate it to knowing too much about someone’s sex life even though it isn’t saying any more about your sex life than knowing you have a live in partner does.

    7. Temperance*

      I think #5 is awesome and you shouldn’t think twice about sharing.

      For #1, #4 and #6, if you feel comfortable outing yourself as autistic and disabled, I think that’s fine. But if you don’t feel comfortable, or are worried about the impact, it’s totally okay to not share that. If you need accommodations, #4 should totally be disclosed.

      For #2, I see nothing wrong with sharing that.

      For #3, I probably wouldn’t share this one.

    8. Gingerdoodle*

      So my initial thought on all of these is to apply (what I think of as) The Alison Test, which is to ask myself “How does this affect my work?” and “Does this affect my work?” but I think the specific things you mention are a bit more nuanced because several of them have historical stigmas attached. So individual answers:
      1. This one has the biggest potential to affect your work and your ability to work in the long run. If you think you might need an accommodation in the future and you trust your supervisor (or whoever you would go to about an accommodation) then maybe mention it but it sounds like you work in the kind of place that not mentioning it and later needing an accommodation isn’t going to be a big deal.
      2, 3, 6-You are allowed to have activities outside of work (even whole parts of yourself) that you don’t share with your coworkers. You are allowed to not share for any reason.
      4. I too have chronic pain and migraines and I also swing toward minimizing because most people (even others with migraines or chronic pain) don’t get what it’s like to be me. My partner also has migraines (maybe every 6 months, I have 2-3 a month, which a huge improvement over when I was diagnosed when I was having 25-30 a month), after one of his he always goes on and one about how he can’t believe that I put up with that and work through them. For me it is just a state of being and sometimes I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have that little nagging pain to keep me company. I probably wouldn’t share the full extent but if you are in pain everyday it’s ok to let on that it happens more regularly than once a month. (PSA to non migraine sufferers (and even if you have them)- if someone shares with you that they have them don’t adjust their environment for them, not everyone has the same triggers. Bright lights are a trigger for many but trying to see in my office with lights that are too dim is a problem for me and my co-workers keep dimming my lights after finding out that I have migraines)
      5. Can we be friends, please?

    9. blink14*

      I think so much of this is about how much of your personal life you want to bring into your work environment. I have a pretty hard line for myself between work and personal, always have. I’m a private person and that translates into being a fairly private person at work. I’ll talk about my family or interests casually, and my manager knows alot about my chronic medical conditions because we get along really well, and because she supported me while I was ill quite a bit and was looking for answers. But I avoid things like political conversations as much as possible, I do not feel that type of topic is appropriate for work unless it directly relates to your industry or something has come up that is important. For instance, being in higher ed, government shutdowns have an effect on research.

      Items #1 and #4 are medical and may effect your ability to do your job or might require a special accommodation at some point. Keep that in mind. #3 for me falls into the no politics at work. I think it’s awesome you do sewing! It’s possible you might get weird feedback on that, but who cares? You like it.

      I will say on #2 that you may want to test the waters on bringing up this subject. Keep it vague, like many people do about significant others. I think the more open you are, the more questions you might get, and that may make you uncomfortable. A former co-worker was in a poly relationship, living with 2 partners, and they really overshared in comparison to how other people I’ve worked with talk about significant others, but it also wasn’t enough info in a weird way? So it actually made their home life status more confusing.

      My opinion – work is work, nobody needs to know every detail of their co-workers lives, and vice versa. You be you, and don’t let your work environment dictate how you live your life and what you do outside of work.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Until you get into the rhythm of things here, stick with saying stuff that only ties directly to your work efforts or to the workplace itself.

      Remember your boss is not your friend. So you don’t need to chat about everything. This leaves talking about things that are relevant to him.

      Things do come up, such as a charity auction and you happen to have this gorgeous pillow that you have made and you are willing to donate to the auction. Totally appropriate and a natural conversation to explain this is one of your hobbies.

      In regard to #6. You can talk about it where it fits the conversation. It would be weird to walk in one morning and just start discussing it. So here, I would assume that as you went along you will find natural openings to add something of value to a discussion or a question. It’s not a betrayal to your cause/your values if you do not randomly initiate a conversation about it. For me, I feel that I have betrayed my cause or my values when my own actions are not in alignment with what I support/believe. It’s less about what others do or others think. From what I have seen people are more apt to copy our actions than listen to our words.

      For the time being, if you want to talk about x or y, ask yourself, “How would this be relevant to my boss right now? Why does he need to know this about me, right now?”

  37. All the cats 4 me*

    Your thoughts on this….

    As most workplaces do, many of my co-workers have children in school who are involved in fundraising for various reasons (I would have thought COVID might have reduced this, but clearly it has not) – think “miniscule chocolate bars priced at $20 each” type of merchandise.

    Now that we are using teams, and back to mandated wfh, the sign up sheets for these fundraisers are now all-team messages, instead of the ratty piece of paper hanging around on the lunch room table.

    I keep finding myself enraged when persons in supervisory positions post to ask team members to support their child’s fundraiser. While we never see team members at the partner level do this, many of the intermediate levels supervisors or managers do, and I can’t believe nobody other than me finds this incredibly inappropriate!

    The office personnel manager (Fleur) has just posted asking people to buy her kids’ stuff, less than a month after we have all gone through our annual evaluations, which Fleur is heavily involved in, both as PM and as a direct supervisor of the work of many team members, including me.

    I admit to being biased, as within the last two years Fleur has publicly pressured me to sign a petition to support her personal opposition to a local municipal politics decision ( I declined and took the issue to my manager, who swiftly made the petition vanish, although I never heard any acknowledgement from Fleur that she acted inappropriately) AND pressured me to the point of harrassment, trying to get me to volunteer to change my contract from full-time salaried to part-time hourly (unsuccesfully, and I took that to my manager as well).

    So, once again, Fleur is taking names of people who “support” her, in a very public way. AITAH? Should I let it go as “not my circus, not my monkeys”?

    If not, how do I bring this up to TPTB, who clearly haven’t found this to be objectionable or questionable so far?

    1. Artemesia*

      No one in management of any sort including supervisors should be able to request subordinates buy this crap from kid fundraisers. It should be a conflict of interest policy.

    2. Toodie*

      My workplace doesn’t use Teams (we’re a Slack place) but I’m assuming that Teams has channels, kind of like Slack? If so, could you have them create a channel for that hoohaw and just post it there? Then they could post it and it would at least be out of your face.

    3. ...*

      I normally just buy a box of the cookies or whatever and consider it the price to pay to be well liked and just keep things moving but Fluer seems weird as hell, the most concerning thing is that she pressured you to change your pay structure? What? I would just say nothing about it and if asked say money is tight due to covid and the holiday so you cant participate. It sounds like you’re manager has backed you before so maybe letting them know too

    4. fhqwhgads*

      Everywhere I’ve worked had a no solicitations policy that would’ve banned using anything like an all-staff email list or all-company slack room for both types of behavior you’ve described Fleur doing.
      Can you double-check your employer doesn’t have such a policy, and if they do, lean on that?

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        This is different because of covid-times, but at places I’ve worked, people would just put the sign up sheet in the break room with an envelope for checks ( or location to drop off checks). No solicitation emails.

        If your company has an internal employee (non-business) sharepoint or etc where people post stuff for things like the volleyball league and yard sale notices, people could post there. I look at that as being the virtual equivalent to leaving the cookie list in the break room.

      2. MacGillicuddy*

        Side note: when my kids were in elementary school, they used to have sales like that, until one year somebody suggested a pledge drive. They organized it so the amounts people gave were confidential (not posted). People liked the idea that if they gave five bucks, the school got the entire five bucks, not some piddley percentage of the cost of stale popcorn or overpriced wrapping paper. It worked really well.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Definitely not TAH.
      Go back to your manager with the $20 microscopic candy bars. Your boss is a winner- just keep going to him. This is super inappropriate.
      We had a boss selling gold items. But then we found out they weren’t real gold, even though he said they were. (This is illegal.) omg. No, just no. Nip this stuff.

    6. All the cats 4 me*

      Thanks all, it seems like about a fifty-fifty mix of responses that don’t see any ethical conflict in this, and those that do find it an ethical problem.

      I am still not sure what, if anything, I will do. I appreciate your input.

  38. Mouse*

    So, I’ve been passively job searching and was just emailed by a hiring manager for one I had applied for. They asked for potential times and dates for an interview and I emailed them back with some options. It’s been two days without a response. Do I send a follow up email now or should I still give it a few more days?

  39. Green Goose*

    I just got back from a multi-month leave and during my first check-in with my amazing employee Mary* (who covered for me while I was out), mentioned that a colleague, Jordan* who we have to work quite closely with from another department had started acting antagonistically towards her while I was out. I remember Jordan being a little prickly right before I was leaving about a major project that we were working on together but I assumed it was stress-related and it was minor enough.
    Well according to Mary, it’s escalated and Jordan’s overall attitude towards Mary and the project has become negative and there were two meetings where Jordan raised their voice at Mary. To me, raising your voice at a coworker, especially one lower on the org-chart than you is absolutely unacceptable. I asked Mary if she had tried to discuss it with Jordan and she said she had tried to set a meeting about it but at the last minute Jordan invited other people. Mary is now having anxiety about meeting with Jordan.
    This is a problem because Jordan is the only person we can work with for this project, and this project is pretty major. I told Mary that she should invite me to any of their 1:1s because Jordan tends to be more unpleasant when its just the two of them and if I see any behaviour directly I will call it out either with Jordan or Jordan’s boss. My boss is aware and said to keep him looped in. Is there anything else I should do?

    1. Reba*

      Do you know if anybody with authority over Jordan has spoken to them about the pattern? In strong terms?

      I think that your saying that you will back Mary is great, but indicating that you will only tackle behavior that you personally witness in the moment is just not sufficient. You say yourself that they behavior is unlikely to occur in front of you, so you effectively wouldn’t have opportunities to address it.

      If you read the recent update from the dead-naming coworker situation, that’s a great no-bullshit example. Perhaps your situation is not as egregious as that one, but yelling is pretty darn bad.

      Finally, I get that Jordan is important but they’re not like, made of gold and rainbows. They are not the only person on earth who can do this work — don’t let the fear of derailing the project lead everyone to passively shield Jordan when you shouldn’t.

      The behavior is unacceptable, but if you don’t call him on it because he’s important, you are really saying that it is acceptable, right? Would you choose “prickly” Jordan over “amazing” Mary, because that is what your inaction would do.

      Good luck! It sounds like you have a great working relationship with Mary and between you, you can work it out for the best.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that the point about Jordan being so critical can become a huge hurdle. People will cater to this bully and give them the red carpet treatment. Yes, he’s a bully. Since you are a boss, he ropes it in a bit, but if he is curt with you, you can kind of figure he is NOT better with others.

        My suggestion is for you to promote the idea of talking about workplace issues such as discrimination and bullying. Perhaps push for programs for all to attend. If people have the vocabulary to describe the problem and why it is a problem then they can begin to address it.

        I am not sure why you need to see it for it to be real. Mary is a trusted employee, right? You don’t question her work. So why would you question this? I think two complaints is enough to move forward on. BECAUSE it got worse when you were not there only adds credence to the idea that he knows exactly what he is doing. Most bullying never occurs in front of the boss. So if you wait for it to happen in front of you he will still be working there 20 years from now and Mary plus 10 other Marys will be long gone. He could bring your company to its knees with the problem of high turn over in help.

  40. Someone101*

    Alison, sorry I’m late to the requesting update party, and I’m not sure if they have been mentioned but I would love to hear back from the OPs for ‘I may need to fire my husband’s ex wife’ and ‘my coworker is trying to have me transferred so his girlfriend can have my job’s. Would love to know how they turned out!

  41. London Student*

    I’m working toward final year of a graduate program working in a field where graduate degrees are necessary to legally practice, and further training is also expected.

    I now have had so much information from so many different sources. Notes upon articles upon papers upon books!

    Many of these resources I’d like to keep track of, but it all feels a bit overwhelming. I won’t be using all of this info all the time, but might, in a few years, run into a situation where I would need to call up the evidence-base for something from training.

    If there are any others who have been through similar processes — how (if at all) did you store/organise all the info?

    1. Former Curator*

      Have you looked into citation management software? There are lots out there, but I’ve used Zotero in the past and found it very useful to store and manage my sources. It allows you to save a reference/pdf directly from your browser and annotate it in the software, and then you can use it to import your citations into word if you’re writing a paper on it. It was incredibly satisfying clicking a button and having it build my endnotes for me…

  42. Anonapots*

    I think I’ve hit the wall at my job. I work for a federal program managed by private contractors and it’s starting to feel like they don’t trust anything we say we’re doing. My corner of the program has been WFH since March because we work directly with out clients and our clients can’t be relied on to quarantine. (My program consists of mostly residential training centers with a very small number of non-residential training centers. My worksite is one of them.)
    1. We have been turning in daily tracking logs accounting for every half hour of our time since March. This is required by the contractor I work for (literally no other contractor is doing this) in case the federal government wants to know what staff spent their time doing while WFH.
    2. For the last 8 months we’ve been allowed to take trainings online for professional development. It hasn’t been a big deal, but we’re not being told we no longer have the ability to decide those trainings on our own and have to have them approved. The corporate office is concerned the federal government is going to ding them for staff taking free trainings that are, I don’t know, not 100% directly related to our current job?
    3. It’s not enough that on our daily logs we say we emailed partners, or checked in with students. Now we have to write which students we checked in with, what partners we emailed and about what, etc.
    4. Because our clients joined our program for the hands on aspect to the training and we’re now all distance learning, we are struggling to keep our clients We have been doing our best to keep them engaged, to offer interesting classes and activities, but we are still being told we need to do more.
    5. The office that oversees our program nationally has allowed some residential sites to bring clients back in cohorts so they can quarantine, and this feels incredibly irresponsible to me, even with the quarantining.

    I think I’m burned out. There’s a position open at a local uni that’s similar to what I do and I’m going to apply to it, but it’s frustrating because my boss has been investing in me with the idea I’d move up to management with this organization and at this site, but I just am not feeling really good about anything right now.

  43. whistle*

    How do you answer interview questions about your experience with specific software when you don’t have experience with that specific software but are tech savvy and have never had an issue picking up new software? I’m talking about software that does things I have experience doing, not like CAD software when I have no CAD background.

    I feel like I get really annoyed by these questions and it shows in my answers. It just seems so silly to have my candidacy questioned because my company doesn’t use MS Teams or whatever so I have no professional experience with it. But I feel like I overcompensate and come off arrogant in the ways I try to assure them that I will have no problem learning MS Teams (etc.)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I would say something like “I haven’t used Teams but I’ve used X and Y, which perform the same functions, so Teams should be similar. I’ve always taught myself to use new software quickly, so I don’t see this being a problem.” Do you think that sounds arrogant?

      1. whistle*

        I think I say something similar to this, but I also think I have a tone because – as Always Late to the Party correctly surmises – I am getting unnecessarily defensive. So, no, it doesn’t sound arrogant when I read it, but I probably have to practice my delivery. (My current company does not use a lot of standard/mainstream software, and my previous career was in a very niche field where I used a lot of specific software that would not be known outside of that field, so I seem to run into this a lot.)

        These comments are helpful. Thanks, all.

    2. Always Late to the Party*

      It sounds like you are getting defensive unnecessarily.

      I would say I don’t have direct experience with that software, but cite similar software you are experienced with and then tell a detailed anecdote about learning a new software package.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Are you talking about as a user of software – because in that case I would say that while I haven’t used X, I have used Y and Z softwares and have done A, B, and C tasks with the software packages, that map closely to X software’s functions. Also mention if you’ve been an expert user of whatever kind of software it generally is (databases, graphics programs, etc.), and point out you will be able to hit the ground running.

      If you’re talking about software in terms of implementing or developing it – then you’ll likely have to demonstrate that you have specific familiarity with the software package, or at least that you have implemented very similar systems and that you know what the specific differences are between the packages. Even then, that might not be enough.

    4. Hamish*

      I’m an accountant and have come across this about specific accounting packages. I usually say almost exactly what you said… I’m tech savvy and have never had an issue picking up new software. Sometimes I might give an example like, when I worked in audit I had to figure out how to get the data out of whatever system our clients used and it was fine.

      I feel like people who really think this is a problem aren’t tech savvy themselves, unfortunately.

    5. Red Boxes and Arrows*

      I was asked this in the interviews for my current position (“Have you ever used Blackline? SAP? Policy IQ? Alteryx?”). My answer was, “No, but I have always had to learn new software in every job I’ve ever had, including clunky homemade programs, and I haven’t found one yet that I couldn’t master in a short period of time.”

  44. Mimmy*

    Giving sad news at work – I just want to get a sense if the way this was handled was appropriate or not:

    Yesterday we were given the sad news during our weekly staff meeting that one of our students passed away recently. The very next topic? Our (virtual) holiday party in two weeks. I get that our manager wanted to move to a happier topic, but it just felt so odd. This happened once before too. When do you think such news should be announced? These students were not currently active with us but we did work with them just this year.

    By the way, this is the fourth recently-active student to pass away in a year. Our students are ages 18 and up and the ones who’ve passed were in their 50s and 60s with health problems. But still, the latest one yesterday just broke my heart because of how many we’ve lost and how connected I feel to all our students. I have no doubt my fellow instructors feel the same.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      As a facilitator, I’d probably start the meeting with acknowledging the students’ death, ask anyone who wants to share a memory of the student to do so, and then invite everyone to pause for a moment, take a breath, and then move into the meeting.

    2. Tipcat*

      This sounds wrong to me, too. Could it be done in an email? The email could also include info about sending a message to the family or a virtual condolences book at the funeral home.

  45. Always Late to the Party*

    Any advice for not getting ahead of yourself/over-excited when you think you’ve found the perfect candidate?

    I took on a job a year ago that I have struggled with. In any year but 2020, it would be a great learning experience, but it’s beyond my current capabilities, and honestly I don’t particularly want to grow into it.

    There are some aspects of the role I excel at and could expand long-term, so my boss tasked me with finding someone to take on the aspects that are more challenging for me. (Like many folks, my role could easily be done by 2 people.)

    Today I talked with someone I met through my network who sounds absolutely perfect, but we haven’t even got a job posting yet, he hasn’t talked with my boss yet, so obviously it is Way Too Early to be excited about him but I’m feeling pretty hype. Has anyone managed to mitigate these feelings of excitement?

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Remember that there are probably over 50 variables that have to match up before someone gets hired. And keep on looking for other candidates. Build up a slate of 3-5 finalists, and don’t let yourself get too attached to any one of them, even your star candidate.

      Also remember that while a candidate may look like a perfect fit at first glance, there are a) other candidates who may be just as good, and b) nobody is perfect. Don’t let yourself get fixated on one candidate (no matter how perfect they seem) to the point where you can’t recognize other good candidates. In fact, if someone is absolutely perfect for the role, consider whether they will really have room to grow and be challenged in the position, or whether they will be looking for another opportunity before 2 years in the role for which you want to hire them.

      Another thing to do is to develop a list of criteria based on the job profile, and to assess every candidate fairly against that. This moves you away from comparing candidates to each other, and towards a more accurate approach of evaluating each candidate against the job requirements.

      1. Always Late to the Party*

        Thank you! I went for a walk after I posted this and that helped me calm down and remember all the potential issues that may come up so while I’m staying optimistic, it’s much more cautious than I felt a few hours ago.

        There’s actually a lot of growth potential for them in this role, which is part of the reason I was so excited about them. I think my unit will grow better with them in the role than me.

  46. Malika*

    Next week i will be starting a new job after being out of work for one and a half year of unemployment. The unemployment was due to a burnout and an allergic reaction to being an executive assistant ever again (the combination of being responsible for so much and being paid so comparatively little) and of course the minor matter of the pandemic. I am ecstatic at being able to earn my own money again and to do something other than admin work. I will be working as a customer service rep, and yes the pay is substantially less than my last job, though it should rise after my training period. I aced all the role plays and am confident that I will get through the training period. To anyone else who started a new job in a new sector and with different responsibilities; How did you get through the transition? Did you find it easy or are there some challenges i should be aware of? I am watching YT for an allround introduction to customer service responsibilities and tips and tricks, and any additional videos would be a great addition.

  47. NotHoney*

    My supervisor has a weird habit of calling people by pet names. I have been in the oil industry, and have a strong association between pet names and old oil men trying to belittle me so I want to get other opinions before I confront her on this. Calling people honey, boo, and names that rhyme with their name at work on calls, is not ok, right?

    1. CatCat*

      I would not like it either. “Hey Boss, please don’t use pet or nicknames for me. I prefer NotHoney.” And if it persists, be just as persistent. “Actually, it’s NotHoney, not booboo. Anyway, to address the work question question…”

    2. a mechanic*

      I guess it could be okay, if everybody was okay with it? Like there’s region where people just call each other honey and it’s just… done? Even in that context though, I think it’s okay to not want to be called by pet names at work!

      HOWEVER mostly it is not okay, plus she’s your supervisor which means people below her may just tolerate it because they don’t know how to object to it (sidenote: does she call any of her higher ups pet names??), so do speak up!

      1. NotHoney*

        She doesn’t do it to anyone above her, but she’s recently started calling us pet names on calls outside of the team, which is when it really started bothering me. I don’t want my other (all male) coworkers thinking of me as this girl they can write off. She’s upset about the amount of power and responsibility I have and she is my supervisor in that she files my time sheet only. I don’t know if this is affecting the pet names because she uses it with our whole team, but it my head it feels relevant

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          She doesn’t do it to anyone above her, but she’s recently started calling us pet names on calls outside of the team

          Oooh, yeah, these two factors make it really bad. I’d see if you can get the entire team to ask her to stop. If you ask her on her own, it sounds like she’ll continue it (or even ramp it up) as a power move.

          1. a mechanic*

            Oh big yikes.
            I don’t want my other (all male) coworkers thinking of me as this girl they can write off. I feel you SO HARD on that – as the sole woman on a team, this is especially grating. Question tho – does your supervisor also call the guys pet names? How I’m interpreting what you’re writing (your use of the plural as in “started calling us”) it seems like she might, which would make me reevalue things to eyeroll worthy and not necessarily something to raise.
            Either way though you sound bothered and I think it’s reasonable to not want to be called pet names at work from anyone, so I second Rusty’s suggestion of teaming up and as an idea – could you talk to her supervisor/boss? Obviously talking to her first and you might not want to escalate it that much, but just as an option to keep in mind.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Ugh. I don’t love it, but sometimes you have to pick your battles, especially with someone you report to.

      1. Maxie's Mommy*

        I was in Oklahoma and got “boo boo”-ed. I said “please no, booboo was my father’s name”. It got a laugh from the rest of the room but it still made my point, I think.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Let’s say my name is Sally.

          I have gone with, “Actually, I will be Sally today.” Some times a light touch gets the point across.

    4. Anono-me*

      I can understand your concern and agree with your reasoning.

      Obviously the ‘best’ solution would be to just ask her directly to stop with the cutsypoo nicknames. I’m guessing that you haven’t become your gut is telling you not to for some reason. (I find it worrying that it is a successful woman in the same historically rough and tough masculine environment who is calling you cutesy nicknames.)

      I would probably try redirecting the nickname. The next time she calls you by a cutesy nickname can you respond with “Blah, blah, blah, They are taking