my boss complains constantly, mending things with a job I ghosted, and more

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

1. My manager complains constantly

My manager complains … a LOT. Their voice is very loud in a small office, so pretty much every one can hear. Our team consists of only three people on site — me, my coworker, and our manager. My manager has no one but us subordinates to complain to, and my poor coworker has to listen to 98% of the rants because their office is closer and they have worked here longer. Sometimes my manager makes disparaging comments about other subordinates who work at different locations. I say sometimes, but it is oftentimes. The rants are mostly about how incompetent so and so is, how overworked they are, how corporate expects them to drop everything to do this and that, blah blah blah.

What is the most professional way to deal with them when they bring their rants into my office (it really only happens when my coworker has to day off)? The rants are daily, annoying as hell, and frankly, make me not want to come to work.

Your options are pretty limited, unfortunately, since this is your boss. But there are a few things you can try when they’re talking to directly to you that, in combination, might cut down on it:

* You’re busy — “that sounds frustrating, well, I should get back to X so I can finish it up today.” … “Sorry, I’ve got to make this call” (and then pick up the phone and actually make a call if possible) … etc.

* You’re on the move, about to head to the kitchen/bathroom/copier. Stand up and actually go to those places. If your boss follows you back to your desk afterwards, as you get to your desk (or doorway if you have an office), stop and say something that signals the end of the conversation like, “That sounds really frustrating. Well, I better get back to it!” There’s something about reaching the end of the physical journey that reinforces the message.

* You’re relentlessly positive — “Oh, but I know Jean means well!” … “She’s so sweet though” … “He’s a good guy, I think.” … “I’m just glad we’ve got the work — better than the alternative!” .. etc. If you become an unsatisfying person to complain to, they may stop complaining to you.

The rest of the time: headphones.

2. Can I put tutoring friends and family on a resume?

My friend is finishing an MA soon and plans on applying to teach at small private schools. She’d be teaching in fields related to her MA, but the degree isn’t in education or anything (it’s along the lines of somebody with a degree in medieval English literature becoming a high school writing teacher). This is a pretty normal background for the schools she’s looking at, and she will have the requisite certification as well. But she really wants to convey on her resume that she does have relevant experience, at least at the entry level. She’s volunteered with a tutoring program for a while, but most of her experience is actually things like teaching younger family members various subjects (they’re homeschooled) or swapping tutoring with friends. She’s rarely had something like a volunteer supervisor or even concrete start and end dates. How can she best express this kind of experience on a resume?

Of course, she’ll be able to discuss it in cover letters and interviews as well, but I think she feels like her “relevant work experience” section looks rather thin without it.

I’d love to tell you there’s a way to do it, but that kind of experience with friends and family doesn’t really go on a resume. It’s similar to how you couldn’t put taking care of your own child on your resume when applying for child care work, or your work organizing family reunions when applying for event planning jobs. You don’t have the same accountability you’d have at a paid job (or a formal volunteer job), and an employer won’t be able to assess what kind of rigor your friend brought to it. She could also look as if she doesn’t recognize the ways that doing those things in a professional context are different from doing them with friends and family.

She could refer to that experience in her cover letter when talking about her interest in the work (briefly, not as a major focus), but keep it off the actual resume.

3. How do I mend things with a job I ghosted eight years ago?

About eight years ago, I worked at a very small nonprofit as the on-site manager for a housing facility. I was part-time, working about 30 hours over a weekend once or twice a month. I was the only staff on shift during these times, so not showing up was a pretty big deal.

After working there for about a year and a half (at age 23) I had a pretty severe personal trauma — a friend overdosed in my living room the day before my shift. In my distraught state, I just couldn’t pull myself together enough to show up or even call in. The very sweet executive director called several times and sent the police to check on me. I confirmed with the police that I was okay. The next morning, still dealing with the trauma and deeply mortified for not showing up to my shift, I again skipped work. I was so embarrassed by my behavior that I never called or showed up to work again. I totally ghosted.

I continued to progress in my career at other local nonprofits without this blight coming up. For better or worse, I also include this job on my resume. Now, I was offered a position as the executive director of a closely aligned organization (literally down the road). The new organization is a housing facility serving people in recovery from addiction, and my journey here is a direct result of that day eight year ago when my friend died. Much of the reason I ghosted was because I didn’t know how or if to address what happened, given stigmas around drug use.

It is a matter of time before I run into my former ED or my name comes up in conversation with a mutual colleague. I am not worried about this impacting my career, but I am still deeply ashamed and a bit worried about an awkward encounter. Should I email her and apologize now, eight years later? What do I even say? Do I bring up the overdose, given its current professional relevance?

Yes, email her! Say you’ve always been mortified about how you left that job and explain what happened (if you’re comfortable sharing it — if not, you could just say you had a personal emergency, but telling the truth shouldn’t reflect badly on you, especially with the work you’re now doing). Then tell her about the job you’re doing now. It’s likely that she’ll be relieved to hear from you and to know what really happened, and happy you’re doing okay now. You’ll also probably feel much better yourself!

And if it helps, we all have deeply unprofessional things we did when we were young, most of them without as good of a reason as you had. Good lord, read these.

4. Should I dig in or get out?

I work at a nonprofit and I strongly dislike my job and organization. I’ve been here for two years and have been actively trying to get a new job elsewhere. A year ago, my boss approached me about a significant promotion. For reasons that sort of escape me, it never went through. Part of this was my fault; I didn’t push it because I wanted to get out and wasn’t sure how it would look to the places I was applying if I got this big promotion and then was trying to leave. But there were also organizational reasons it didn’t happen – it wasn’t a priority for my boss, etc.

At this point, I am doing the job I would have gotten the promotion to do. My responsibilities since COVID hit (and we laid off a number of people) have increased dramatically. As you can imagine, this has only increased my desire to leave — I’m overworked, underpaid, and resentful that more keeps coming to my plate with no recognition. At the same time, I’m having a really hard time finding a new position. Should I push for a raise and a promotion that reflects the work I’ve been doing for the last eight months? Ask that less be put on my plate? Double down on applying elsewhere? Maybe all three?

Definitely double down on your job search since you want to get out, and it doesn’t sound like the promotion would change that.

But meanwhile, push for the raise and promotion that your boss originally floated — point out that you’re now doing the work of the promotion and would like to formalize it. Don’t worry that it will look odd to jobs you’re applying for; it’s not that weird to leave soon after a promotion, especially one that really just formalizes work you were already doing. And the alternative would be letting your job search lapse when you’re hoping to leave.

5. Mentioning academic honors in a professional bio

I’m wondering about conventions around mentioning graduation honors in your professional bio. I often speak or teach freelance and am asked to provide a professional bio. I graduated from a fancy college with magna cum laude honors. I include this in my resume when applying to jobs, and it seems clear that I should continue to do so. (I don’t include a GPA, and never have, since that would be redundant to the magna cum laude, but also unnecessary after a first job out of college.)

However, I’ve also been including “magna cum laude” in my professional bio when the convention of the institution to which I’m submitting a bio (university I’m speaking at, fellowship I’m in) is to include education information. For example, in a concluding sentence I will list, “[My name] holds a B.A. in [my major], magna cum laude, from [fancy Ivy league school].

Is it advisable to continue to include honors, when I am 15 years out from college? Or would that be seen as self-aggrandizing — even though the point of your professional bio is to share impressive accomplishments?

I probably wouldn’t. It makes sense to include it on your resume next to the degree, but 15 years out you’ve got other stuff that’ll be more relevant in a professional bio. (That said, it’s not a shocking faux pas if you choose to keep it.)

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. alienor*

    Re: no. 5, part of my job includes collecting/managing/editing/writing executive bios for a variety of uses, and a lot of them include a brief mention of honors similar to your example. I don’t know if people find it particularly impressive, but it’s common enough not to stand out as weird or boastful.

    On a side note, one thing executive bios have taught me is that at least in the corporate world, the school you go to doesn’t make that much difference in where you end up. I’m sure it’s different for doctors, lawyers and academics, but for every exec I see who went to an Ivy League school, there are 10 more who went to a regular university or state college. I’ve found that interesting, considering the heavy emphasis people put on getting into Ivies.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Out of curiosity, I did a quick calculation. ~0.7% of university students in the US attend an Ivy league school. So if 1 in 10 execs is from an Ivy, they’d still be over-represented by more than an order of magnitude. (ie, you’d expect 7 out of every 1000 execs if it didn’t make any difference).

    2. mreasy*

      I think it depends on the culture of your industry. In my industry (media), it would be very unusual and notably so to include anything about your university experience, unless you hold an impressive graduate degree directly related to the field.

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Also – depends on what your industry is and what the purpose of the bio is. I work with a tutoring company… and when hiring tutors families VERY much care about where you went to school, graduating magna cum laude, and even other honors more specific than that. It would be weird NOT to include that info in our bios. But for just a general bio that’s sent out like “so and so is joining our team, here’s a little info about them”… yeah that would be less relevant the further you get from college.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah, this. I’m thinking of a bio for a speaking engagement and in that case I would leave out both the manga cum laude and where you went to school and focus more on compelling professional experience/accomplishments. That gives more of an idea about why people would want to hear you speak than your grades from 15 years ago do.

  2. CurrentlyBill*

    LW1: This may be a career limiting decision, but when I see, “The rants are mostly about how incompetent so and so is,” I’m sooo tempted to respond with:

    “Maybe. I’ve found the competence of as subordinate is usually a direct reflection of the competence of their supervision.”

    1. Violin Player*

      I can understand the temptation, but I don’t think anyone would ever actually respond like that.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      Definitely a career limiter. While pithy, it’s probably not a good idea to taunt one’s superior at work.

    3. Jo*

      Hahaha! This made me laugh, although I think it would probably be better to just say this in your own head rather than out loud.

      1. jph in the heartland*

        Yes, my very first boss (over 30 years ago) would have called a comment like that a “career shortening gesture.”

    4. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      Oh boy, do I understand the temptation, but definitely don’t ACTUALLY do this.

    5. CurrentOP1*

      Op1 here (the letter writer). Your comment made me laugh, but yeah, that’s definitely something I’ll keep to myself.

      1. Rocky*

        I loved Alison’s suggestion of being unshakeably cheerful and upbeat. We have a real Eeyore in our pod (she isn’t in my team). I find that saying “Ah, sadly our organisation has always under-invested in IT ” or “Yes the traffic was bad today, but I think there was an accident on the motorway so we should all be grateful we got here safely” manages to take the wind out of her sails.

        She really can find the downside to anything, to the point of humour. Yesterday my colleague and I were looking a a photo of a new baby and my colleague said “Don’t you love a baby in a cute onesie?”. Eeyore turned around and said “Speaking of onesies, I went to a onesie funeral yesterday. ” Cue awkward silence. “It was for that five year old who died in a car crash up north. His parents asked everyone attending the funeral to wear a onesie”. We all expressed our condolences. It turned out she didn’t know the boy or his family. She had gone to the funeral because the child was enrolled at a creche that her own son had attended years before.

          1. Rocky*

            Yeah her attending the funeral struck me as a bit ‘Harold and Maude’ – but without the appreciation for life!

    6. Amaranth*

      What strikes me is that LW1 is almost certainly also the topic of rants when not around. The manager sounds like one of those people who energizes himself through negativity. I don’t really agree with Alison’s suggestion to respond with “so and so means well” or ‘she’s so nice” however; even if its just white noise to escape the conversation, it also comes across as saying whatever professional issues he’s claiming don’t matter so long as the person is friendly. LW1 shouldn’t undercut their own professionalism.

    7. Nicole*

      I used to have a terrible boss who complained frequently about the terribleness of their own boss. I managed never to reply “I know just how you feel” but it was always a temptation

  3. nnn*

    #3: If you don’t want to mention the overdose, the fact that a friend died in front of you or in your home is a very compelling story in and of itself – and more compelling than what I would have imagined if someone had said “I had a personal emergency.”

    You could say something like “My friend had a medical emergency and paramedics weren’t able to save her” or “My friend had a medical emergency while I was out and I came home to find her dead” or whatever’s the desired combination of vague and accurate and compelling.

      1. Slinky*

        She says later in the letter that the friend died:

        “The new organization is a housing facility serving people in recovery from addiction, and my journey here is a direct result of that day eight year ago when my friend died.”

    1. Mel_05*

      This is what I was thinking too. A lot of people say “personal emergency” and it’s a flat tire or their kids had the chicken pox.

      Someone dying in front of you is much more traumatic than anyone would imagine from “personal emergency”.

      If you really didn’t want to say you could also say it was an extremely traumatic personal emergency, that might put people closer to what happened without going into details.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Agreed, personal emergency is what you would say if you want to downplay the issue. Make it sound normal. But you probably don’t want this to sound like a normal issue-it would make your response seem unreasonably extreme, when it was actually quite reasonable under the circumstances. (I mean, you still should have called in, but it’s also understandable that you weren’t at the peak of professionalism for a few days)

    2. LGC*

      Yeaaaaaaaaaaah, like – dude. I know we’re all about accountability here, and it’s bad to ghost a job, but also – your best friend died in your living room. This is one of the times where I think professionalism was one of the least of your concerns.

      That said, it is worth an apology – it was still the wrong thing to do, you truly feel bad about it even 8 years later, and you want to make amends. And yeah, it’s worth providing some context for mutual understanding. When I hear “personal emergency,” this ranges from “our landlord shut off our heat” to “my mother suddenly died.” (And usually the former.) It really depends on what you’re comfortable with, though.

      1. Artemesia*

        I would not bother with the apology UNLESS you were going to share the seriousness of it — i.e. the death of the friend. I would not mention the overdose but would mention the friend died. You should have called out, but this is a situation where it is understandable that a young person might not have done so — Everyone does things they wish they had done differently. Have coffee with this person or write them a note but you will feel more comfortable professionally if you get this off your conscience.

        1. Elizabeth I*

          I actually think that unless the OP is/was also a drug user, mentioning the friend’s overdose is a great way to express the severity of the emergency as well as provide a natural segue into sharing about the new job.

          In other words, the fact that the OP went on from this experience to do advocacy/addiction treatment related work shows how traumatic but also transformative this experience was in OP’s life, AND it shows that despite ghosting the old job, OP made good come out of a really horrible situation.

          So it sounds more impressive – it’s a real, compelling narrative that had now come full circle to the point of OP reconnecting with old boss and their work intersecting. I can imagine that old boss would be sympathetic to the situation and also thrilled at how far OP has come on the other side of this tragedy.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t see why the OP themself using or not using drugs would or should have anything to do with writing this email. That’s entirely beside the point. I’m not clear on whether you’re trying to stigmatize OP or trying to suggest that other people will, but either way, there are many, many thousands of Americans who have friends or family who’ve overdosed.

            1. Elizabeth I*

              That comment was meant to help OP avoid any potential negative ramifications in OP’s current line of work.

              1. pancakes*

                How, exactly? By obliquely reproducing the same type of stigma you expect her to encounter? I don’t think anyone would deny that some people grasp at any opportunity to stigmatize drug users, to the point of trying to stigmatize people who are merely acquainted with drug users. I don’t see how doing so yourself could help anyone avoid more of the same, though.

          2. Daffy Duck*

            I agree with adding specifics. Saying “My friend overdosed in my living room” is a lot different than “My friend died” (where I would assume said friend was in the hospital). Both are tragic, but one has much more immediate personal duties required (calling police/ambulance, cleaning the room as overdoses have significant very messy physical reactions, etc.).

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              And the shock! Very few people have seen someone die right in front of them (outside of a hospital or hospice setting). I think that anyone would recognize what a profound shock that would be. And then, yeah. The clean-up. Dead people have messy reactions regardless of how they die.

    3. Joan Rivers*

      What the answer doesn’t include is:
      “APOLOGIZE” — make that the first thing you say before you go into your explanation and rationalization for why you behaved this way.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        You know that if it were reversed, and your job were suddenly taken from you w/no notice, no explanation, and no apology, you’d be OUTRAGED. You’d be complaining.

  4. not my real name*

    Off subject here, but I read the link to unprofessional things people have done early on in their careers. It was quite entertaining. It reminded me of days long gone by where voice mail was new. There was a business expo going on close to my office, so a coworker and I went to see what it was about. Basically, a bunch of businesses had tables set up and many gave away freebies (Frisbees, footballs coozies, etc) and several had drawings. Well I entered to win a free oil change. I gave them my work number instead of my home number. Anyway, when I got in that morning, I had a voicemail that said I had won the oil change. My coworker came in a few minutes later and I very giddily told her that I had won. She didn’t believe me and she asked me to prove it. I had saved the voicemail, but I did not know how to retrieve it. She told me to just access my voice mail messages and she would walk me through it. Unbeknownst to me, she left the area while I accessed my voicemail. Once I got in, I yelled out VERY loudly, “Now that I’ve got it up, what do I do with it?” My (male) grandboss poked his head around and said “If you don’t know by now, I can’t help you.” Instant mortification! My coworker never let me live that one down.

    1. Workerbee*

      Not being the person involved, I find that hilarious and no cause for mortification on your part! If anything, it was the grandboss who should have kept the euphemisms out of the office.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. That was a gross thing for him to say. It often seems like who cannot pass up an opportunity to make a joke like that regardless of the setting seem to think of themselves as the protagonist of a reality show.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          Yeah, that’s the kind of joke you save for your friends at the bar after work. It’s funny, but completely inappropriate for a boss to make to a subordinate in the workplace.

    2. Jo*

      Brilliant! At least you have a funny story to tell. I still cringe when I think of ways I handled some calls early on in my customer service role – I’m surprised I didnt get more in the way of complaints. I used to let angry or annoyed customers get to me – such as when I got a customer on the phone angry about us making a payment when they didn’t have enough money in the account – I said ‘It’s not our error, it’s your error as you should have had money in the account’ True, but maybe not the most diplomatic way to handle their complaint! Another time I had a manager sitting next to me listening in to a call and the customer was unhappy so asked ‘Is there a supervisor I can speak to?’ and rather than just handing over the call I was trying to be smart so said ‘Yeah there is actually, they’re sitting right next to me, they’ve been listening to the whole call and they’re agreeing with me’. My manager thought it was hilarious but I look back and think that was just going to piss the cusomer off, which it did…

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I think I may have talked to you :) I once had a bank customer service rep say something similar when I called to see if I could get a new card overnighted to me when I was traveling for work after my wallet was lost/stolen.

        I’m not very proud of myself but she had pushed me past the limit when she said something along the lines of “It’s not our fault you don’t have your card, maybe next time I’d keep better track of it” I said some very unkind words and hung up on her.

    3. Ms.Vader*

      Lol I thought the same! I want another round of this! I laughed so hard! Especially the borrowing the limo!!!

  5. Observer*

    #3- If you’ve been leaving that job on your resume, your former boss may have been called about you.

    Send the email. And if you tell her what happened, even without the details, tell her that it was a major factor in your going down the path the lead to this new job. I it will resonate. On the other hand, if you don’t want to get into details, I’d probably go with the language you used in your letter “I had a pretty severe personal trauma” works well because it indicates something REALLY serious and one that could throw a lot of otherwise functional people off kilter in terms of appropriately communicating with a job.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I agree. And I think that assuming your former boss is a reasonable person, they will understand why you didn’t say anything earlier.

      I don’t think you need to go into a lot of detail, if you don’t want to. If you feel comfortable disclosing that your friend died from an overdose then of course you can, but I think I less detailed explanation such as “I found my housemate collapsed, and was the one who called the paramedics, but they were unable to save them” or, as Observer says, use wording about a ‘severe trauma’ which is much stronger the n ‘personal emergency’ (I think ‘personal emergency’ suggests something which may have been a valid explanation for being no-show, no-call on the day, but less so for then completely ghosting the job, whereas slightly stronger language, even without any detail, does imply that it was something which affected you over a longer period and explains the ghosting.

      If you are comfortable giving the details that you have here, then I think that’s helpful, but that’s up to you.

    2. Artemesia*

      I disagree. Don’t apologize with a vague ‘personal trauma’ — it will just seem like an excuse by someone who fears professional damage now. Be more forthcoming i.e. the death of a friend – not necessarily the drug connection – or forget it.

      1. littledoctor*

        I disagree that “personal trauma” necessarily sounds like an excuse. I would probably believe the person that they’d been through something traumatic, and assume it was too upsetting to talk about in any detail. (Though also, if I heard someone say they’d experienced a personal trauma and they gave no further details, I would probably assume they’d been raped.)

        I do think that being clear about it being an unexpected death in the OP’s home might help, though.

    3. bbbb*

      I would definitely provide more context than “pretty severe personal trauma”. I’ve had employees use that phrase to describe losing their cell phone.

  6. Lionheart26*

    #2 I have to say that not only do personal jobs not belong on a resume, but also homeschooling and tutoring friends is not directly relevant experience to teaching in a classroom. As a school administrator, if I had an applicant suggesting they had experience managing a classroom and designing a curriculum because they’d helped out with homeschooling, I would seriously question their understanding of what the job entails. There’s a reason why so many teachers have graduate degrees in education.

    1. Kate*

      Eh, I know people (with PhDs) who’ve got jobs in private schools without teaching degrees and with experience more in the one-on-one teaching line. I got an interview at a very prestigious school, and the headteacher explicitly said that they liked to interview people with interesting academic backgrounds, and I could do a teaching qualification later on if I took the job. OP’s friend should definitely emphasise the tutoring that wasn’t for family, obviously, and the more experience the better, but I don’t think it’s so outrageous she should be ashamed for even applying.

      1. Rebecca*

        There is a difference between “I think that tutoring is the same as the job I’m about to do so I’m experienced.” and “I have an interesting academic background and some sort of related experience, and I am willing to learn to parts I don’t have experience in.”

        I didn’t see anything about being ashamed or not applying, but I agree that if someone didn’t make clear that they knew the jobs were different and that they had a lot to learn to be able to transfer the skills, I’d wonder too. See also: half my teacher’s college class who were surprised when teaching a class was different from being a camp counselor.

        1. Kate*

          Well, *I* don’t see anything that says ‘I think that tutoring is the same as the job I’m about to do so I’m experienced’ or that they’re ‘suggesting they had experience managing a classroom and designing a curriculum’. They don’t have any other experience and they’re going for their first classroom job, this is very normal stuff to include to show you have an interest in teaching. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest, as the commenter above is, that tutoring is not relevant, or that the mention of it would make them ‘seriously question [the applicant’s] understanding of what the job entails’.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            No, it is not normal stuff to include on a resume. It may be worth discussing in a cover letter or interview but it is not a good idea to include things like that on a resume for all the reasons Alison listed.

      2. H2*

        Having a PhD implies a very particular skill set. Mostly it implies that the holder is able to figure things out. Many doctoral programs now also include some stuff on effective teaching. It’s not always true that someone with a PhD is an effective teacher, etc etc., but making the comparison to someone just graduating with an MA isn’t apt. The PhD in and of itself is experience (and experience different from master’s-level work).

      3. Startup aficionado*

        In the startup world, the first round of financing that a new company takes is called a “friends and family” round (because guess who’s providing the money), and it’s considered a legitimate milestone. And friends and family is often how a new company generates its first business.

        Then there are established family businesses. How do they generate leads, if not through the family network?

        OP2 should set up her tutoring gig as a proper business (“Altus Tutoring, Inc.”), including incorporating it and branding it, and writing a business plan, and then it is legitimate startup experience regardless of the early clientele.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Can I ask you a question – are you saying there is nothing about homeschooling that relates to teaching? Not the teaching, not the curriculum development – nothing?

      And are you saying that homeschool parents do not do any curriculum development? I did not know that.

      I get that homeschooling does not involved classroom management, and I can understand you being put off by a homeschool parent overstating what is involved, but “not directly relevant” surprises me.

      Note – my mother was a teacher with two graduate degrees in education. I’m not downplaying how hard teaching is or the need for deep experience and learning to do it well, but your remarks border on absurd.

      1. JennyJen*

        I would think it depends on how the person did homeschooling. There are a fair number of “out of a box” programs where curriculum, lesson plans, etc. are provided so the parent doesn’t have to do them.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “I would think it depends on how the person did homeschooling.”


          So the blanket statements about the lack of relevance are wrong. Sometimes there can be relevance.

          1. Rebecca*

            One of the main differences is that in a school, someone is checking and can verify what you’ve been doing, give references, etc. Depending on where you live, homeschooling is very lightly regulated and watched.

            Also, if you are homeschooling, you are only with your own children, who you know very well, and you get to set the goals and the style of teaching and the curriculum (In most places, the benchmarks homeschoolers have to hit are way more general than a district wide program and you have way more freedom in how you hit them and how long it takes you to get there). You don’t have 30 kids to drag through a program, you don’t have to differentiate, and you don’t need to justify why they’re failing. You just adjust your program for your own kids.

            Without making a value judgement about one or the other, I can say that there isn’t really a comparison between the two jobs, and homeschooling would probably NOT prepare you in any meaningful way to be facing a class of 30 nine year olds and a state curriculum.

            1. H2*

              Yes, exactly! I feel like a lot of people think that teaching is really easy and don’t know what teachers do (I’m not a k-12 teacher, for reference…I teach at the college level and my job is much easier).

              You have a classroom of 30 9 year olds, with a very wide range of abilities. Even if you did use a boxed curriculum, you have to differentiate every lesson in a multitude of ways. With very few resources, and generally no other adult. In a variety of subjects. Every day, no matter what. Teaching your siblings just isn’t the same (someone throws up? You can stop. Your car breaks down? Make up that work later. One student finishes a topic much earlier than expected? Just move on to the next thing.)

              1. pleaset cheap rolls*

                “Teaching your siblings just isn’t the same”

                “I feel like a lot of people think that teaching is really easy”

                Yup. Way too many.

                So does that mean that homeschooling can have no relevance to teaching in a classroom?

                A lot of the remarks here are very defensive – they seem to be objecting to the idea that teaching is easy or that teaching and homeschooling are the same. I’m not saying that. I’m saying homeschooling can be *relevant*. Not the same – but possibly relevant.

                I get it – teaching is devalued too often in the US. But the pushback here against what seems simple – some homeschooling experience can have relevance to teaching in a classroom – is wild.

                1. Rebecca*

                  For me, it’s not about feeling devalued. I don’t live or work in the US.

                  I am a classroom teacher and I have tried to homeschool my son. They are two different jobs. It is comparing apples to oranges.

            2. Startup aficionado*

              One of the main differences is that in a school, someone is checking and can verify what you’ve been doing, give references, etc.

              By that standard, no startup or family business is a legitimate business.

              1. Rebecca*

                Honestly, in teaching? You’re comparing apples to oranges. The only place in a school that might work the same way is the marketing or sales department of a private school, and that’s pretty removed from the teaching and classrooms.

                I say that as someone who is about start up my own business teaching online. And if I ever decide to go back to the classroom, I don’t expect any good director of a school to use that experience to decide to hire me or not, unless they’re hiring me int marketing. I would expect them to go back to my references and experiences from the schools I worked in before I decided to do that.

          2. MCMonkeybean*

            But the fact that there is no way for the person hiring to know or judge how the person did homeschooling is why it’s not relevant in any case.

        2. Chilipepper*

          I was a teacher for a while, lots of the traditionally trained teachers used out of the box curricula AND did not know classroom management.

        3. Miss Smith*

          Also true for teaching in schools. Here you aren’t allowed to do curriculum development for some grades/subjects. Your job is to deliver the out of the box material. That’s it.

          It’s made teaching curriculum development very difficult negative you literally just add “accommodation” notes on the material you must teach.

      2. Ana Gram*

        My mom homeschooled my three siblings and I and there was definitely curriculum design involved but it sounds like the LW was a sibling herself. I’m the oldest and certainly helped my younger siblings (homeschooling generally operates similarly to a one room schoolhouse concept) but I definitely wasn’t choosing textbooks or planning lessons.

        That said, the youngest “graduated”* in 2004 and homeschooling was just starting to become popular. These days, you can definitely buy an entire curriculum or do an online program that requires little actual parental teaching.

        *We homeschooled for religious reasons which required no government oversight in my state so we don’t have HS diplomas. But, we all went to college so nbd.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          It used to be called “correspondence courses”. I had some cousins who did their high school that way when their dad built a boat and the family sailed around the world. That would have been back in the 1970’s, and you betcha the entire curriculum was planned out by whoever provided the materials.

      3. Mel_05*

        I was home schooled k-12. There can be *some* curricula development, but therefore not lesson planning like a classroom teacher would do.

        And after a certain point my mom was mostly just handing me some text books, checking my work later, and occasionally warning me I was spending too much time on one subject and ignoring others.

        Tutoring home schooled kids could show an enthusiasm for teaching children, but it wouldn’t be the same as teaching.

      4. Artemesia*

        Homeschooling has no accountability. There are ‘homeschoolers’ who basically use that to justify child neglect and there are ‘homeschoolers’ who create and manage strong programs of education for their kids. It belongs in a cover letter perhaps but absolutely not on a resume any more than ‘CEO of household, managing budget, scheduling, and household maintenance’

        1. Analyst Editor*

          There are also home-schoolers whose kids are impeccably disciplined and blow away their peers in their academic progress. Depends on who’s doing the teaching. Presumably the applicant with the PhD and other volunteer tutor experiencing, or otherwise intelligent person with an education who can cogently communicate, is not the person who is starving and beating their kids in a dungeon for eating an extra cookie or looking too happy, while keeping them illiterate, under the guise of “homeschooling”.

        2. Startup aficionado*

          Homeschooling has no accountability. There are ‘homeschoolers’ who basically use that to justify child neglect

          That is an argument for more government regulation of homeschooling. It is not an argument against LW2 calling her enterprise a business.

        3. pleaset cheap rolls*

          This would be great in a cover letter and also shows accountability.

          “I homeschooled my two children. One got into Harvard after being with me through 12th grade and the other moved to a local high school after 7th grade is thriving there.”

          1. Ana Gram*

            When my mom started working after she homeschooled us, that’s basically what she did. She’d note in her cover letter that she homeschooled her 4 kids and we all started college at 16. Her resume was all volunteer and church stuff so I think the cover letter was useful and helped her stand out in a way that just being a stay at home mom would not have.

      5. Daffy Duck*

        My relatives who homeschool buy a developed curriculum and the kids work thru the lessons. No lesson plans required from the parents, just overseeing that the work has been done. Selling curriculum to homeschoolers is a huge industry, some companies are accepted by local school districts as acceptable and some are not.

    3. Liz*

      I find this sort of thing so confusing. All the advice I read about starting out in a career talks about referencing your transferable skills and including relevant experience where you can. I would have thought tutoring local kids would be perfect preliminary work experience for someone to do prior to qualifying as a teacher. What else could a non-qualified person do prior to their teacher training? If I include tangentially related experience on an application, I’m not claiming it’s the same job, I’m just demonstrating relevant transferable skills. How else do newcomers enter the field if they’re not supposed to reference indirect experience?

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think it can be relevant but you need to present it in a way which shows that you aren’t assuming that it is the same as classroom teaching or doing the full job – so (for instance – and may be a poor example as I’m not a teacher)
        Something like;
        “Regularly tutored 11-16 year old students in [subject] – gave me experience of working 1-to-1 with students, and tailoring my methods to their learning style and level of understanding. Included using different approaches in order to maintain consistency with their teachers at school / fit their style of learning, …”

        So you are focusing on the specific skills or tasks you used/did rather than listing it as if it were a previous job that’s equivalent to the one you are applying for.

        1. Liz*

          I think I’m stumbling over the “not listing it as a previous job” part. I would absolutely phrase the role as you describe here, but can’t think where else I would put it other than under relevant work experience, perhaps as “Tutor – freelance, occasional” or something like that. Unless this is a fundamental difference between the British CV and American resume and so there’s just something I’m missing?

          1. Elle by the sea*

            Yeah, I thought the same thing. You don’t need to list who specifically you taught. If you regularly tutored people, you could put it on your CV as freelance tutoring. I did so (and so did many other people) and it helped me get jobs. It’s a much more valuable and relevant experience to list on your CV as a fresh graduate than, say, working in supermarkets or McDonalds (if your career of choice is teaching and not retail or catering).

            1. H2*

              But it’s not the same at all! Teaching your siblings and helping your friends with their math homework while they help you with your grammar is not equivalent to a formal tutoring job. The level of accountability is totally different. I think that’s the point the poster above is making. Imagine that I’m an interview the candidate is asked about that teaching experience and she describes helping her friends with their homework. She’s going to look like she doesn’t know what teaching entails.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes — if someone had that on their resume and when I asked about it in an interview it turned out to be swapping tutoring with friends, it would not look good.

            2. kt*

              As someone who taught for 16 years on a college level, I’d find working at McDonalds more useful in many ways — it would teach you better skills for dealing with angry, annoying, and entitled people than tutoring. Tutoring is fine — it’s not like I wouldn’t mention it, I certainly would — but subject matter expertise and communication of that subject matter are only part of the job. Classroom management is what separates good teachers from inadequate teachers. If you can’t manage your classroom, you’ll accomplish very little.

              Other commenters say, “well, I know a lot of teachers who were bad at classroom management.” Sure, there are many people who are bad at their jobs, in many types of jobs. Why, as a person hiring, would I want to hire one?

              1. littledoctor*

                And even then, there’s a vast difference between actual tutoring with actual clients, and teaching your little siblings or cousins some stuff. I’ve done both. It’s not comparable.

          2. Yennefer of Vengerberg*

            I have a section on my resume after “Experience” called “Other Experience,” where I have my internships, part-time experience and significant volunteer roles. It’s just a way to distinguish my “real” jobs, where I was full-time and expected to perform on a professional level, from the other stuff.

            Of course, I now have enough experience to justify splitting it up this way. As a new grad, the stuff under “Other Experience” was just my normal “Experience”.

            While I agree this tutoring experience is pretty weak (compared to other, more formal experience), I feel like we’re forgetting that at some point in your life you only have tangentially related experience to go on. If she doesn’t have enough to fill up a resume, I think OP’s friend should include this as “Experience” with the understanding that it’s not her strongest selling point.

          3. Bagpuss*

            Would you not typically have a ‘skills’ section on your resume? (I’m in the UK so may be missing something in how it would be set out) but I think it might fi better under skills than as a separate post, unless you were working via an agency and were employed as a tutor / coach.
            you could put it as freelance tutoring if you were doing a lot of i.

        2. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “I think it can be relevant but you need to present it in a way which shows that you aren’t assuming that it is the same as classroom teaching or doing the full job”


      2. meyer lemon*

        I don’t think it’s about whether it’s a transferable skill, it’s about whether it belongs on a resume. The bar for a resume inclusion is pretty high–it should be relevant and it should also show that you’ve been held to a certain standard of achievement.

        I might be an accomplished home cook, but I wouldn’t put that on a resume for a professional chef position. There are some transferable skills, but there’s no way for an outside observer to know if I’m a good cook or a terrible one if it’s not a formal position with oversight.

    4. hbc*

      I think the main reason it doesn’t belong on a resume is that it isn’t a job (paid or volunteer.) There’s no problem with putting a volunteer tutoring job on a resume for a teacher or an engineer, just like you can put your time at a call center or stocking shelves. The fact that the work isn’t “directly relevant” doesn’t mean it’s *irrelevant.*

      But favors are not jobs, and being the go-to family tutor belongs in the cover letter to illustrate your love of passing on knowledge.

    5. Observer*

      As a school administrator, if I had an applicant suggesting they had experience managing a classroom and designing a curriculum because they’d helped out with homeschooling, I would seriously question their understanding of what the job entails.
      Except that that’s not what the OP was suggesting. And also, most teachers do not do curriculum development. In fact, the trend in many school / school systems has been to reduce the teachers’ input into curriculum with some schools even going so far as to limit teachers’ ability to do their own lesson planning. I’m not going to get into why and if it’s a good idea. But the reality exists, so if you assume that just because someone was teaching they have any experience in curriculum development, you are off base.

      On the other hand, many homeschooling parents DO develop the curriculums for their children, and when they don’t most people do actually do a fair amount of evaluation. It’s not quite the same as evaluation for a classroom, but it’s not “knows nothing about curriculum”.

      There’s a reason why so many teachers have graduate degrees in education.
      Yeah, well that’s a whole different discussion. When look at outcomes, there’s actually not a whole lot of correlation with success and graduate degrees.

      1. PT*

        OP’s friend is seeking employment in private schools, too. Most private schools hire teachers with subject area degrees, rather than teaching degrees. It’s not inappropriate, in that context, to say, “I have a Master’s in Llama Studies and some experience tutoring,” versus, “I have a Master’s in Education and some experience with llamas.”

    6. Quill*

      Yeah. If you got paid to tutor it counts on your resume when you’re just starting out because it’s more evidence that you’re reliable than anything else. Later? Not so much, unfortunately, unless you have some sort of verifiable statistics to back it all up.

      Though a few education degree holders I’ve known have gone on to work designing courses or classroom events for homeschoolers because they couldn’t find a classroom position right away, and/or as a step towards retirement.

  7. Elle by the sea*

    OP2, it depends. Tutoring your younger siblings is not something you would normally put on your CV. But tutoring friends, especially if you do it regularly, can probably be included. That was my only work experience out of my first masters (English literature with specialisation in teaching), and it gave an advantage over people who had no work experience or worked in jobs unrelated to teaching.

  8. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

    OP1: Seconding Alison’s suggestion to become an unsatisfying person to complain to! Long term it’s the only thing that works. People who incessantly complain like that are usually after attention and validation – so don’t give it to them and they won’t come to you for it in future.

    If someone does it to me and I’m not up for the drama, even if I know that all they want is an audience for their rant, I’ll feign ignorance and assume they’re actually asking for something. Eg:

    “Jane is so incompetent, look at this llama!” / “Oh…. are you chasing the llama-grooming protocol to send Jane… or, are you asking me to retrain her specifically in shampoo methodology..?”

    “I’m so stressed and overworked!” / *pulls out notepad* “Ok, what do you want help with?”

    “I can’t believe corporate have dumped this on us at the last minute!” / “Oh, so we’re rearranging the schedule then? Is that something you’re wanting me to look at or Cecil?”

    If she straight out says “I don’t need you to do anything, I just need to vent!” then you have that ‘deadline’ you’re working to, or at least some leeway to be easily distracted.

    I feel for you though, OP. It’s horrible working with people who do this and I can relate to how much it brings your mood down. I’d dread having to go in to work and listen to it every day too!

    1. Workerbee*

      Yes yes!

      Our office manager is like that. If once she decides she doesn’t like someone, that’s it for her, she will never like that someone again! I’ve had to field subtle let’s-rant-together conversational openings by pretending all is well (even if it actually isn’t).

      Lead-in: “So…what’s Jane been like to work with lately?”
      Me: “Everything’s going well!”
      Response: “Oh. That’s good to hear.”

      And then I don’t hear from the office manager the rest of the day.

      I had to learn this the hard way with, coincidentally, another office manager in a job earlier in my career. She got to not liking me and then I heard about that from other people! Ugh.

    2. Sara without an H*

      This is a very good strategy. It doesn’t reinforce the bad behavior (and a manager complaining to one report about another is very bad behavior) and is mildly aversive, since the complainer has to stop and explain, no, I wasn’t asking you to do anything specific here.

      1. Current OP1*

        Op1 here: I find it interesting that you used the “she” pronoun when I only used they/them/their. No judgment, it’s just interesting. Let me just say that male managers can be just as whiny as females.

        1. Myrin*

          Unless otherwise stated, Alison defaults to using female pronouns to subtly combat the tradition of simply using “he” when gender is unknown, and many commenters ove the years have followed suit.
          Granted, you actually did specifically use “they” and people are usually very good at following that but it’s not unusual to see someone slip up and default back to “she”, especially after they’ve just written a long-ish comment without going back to the letter (I’ve certainly been guilty of that several times!).

        2. Sara without an H*

          Sorry! I used “she” because it’s the default at this site.

          And I agree that male managers can be just as whiny as female managers. I could show you some Olympic-class examples from my own experience.

    3. Sara without an H*

      This also might be the one situation in which being relentlessly perky and upbeat would be appropriate. Complainers usually want to avoid such people.

      1. cabbagepants*

        This is a great tip. Doubly great since my local complainer has no boundaries around gossip, so even if I agree in sympathy — “Yeah, that meeting with Big Boss was really tough” — my complainer might twist it and then repeat it — “CabbagePants said that Big Boss is mean!”

        1. Artemesia*

          This happens more frequently than you might think. I have seen several admin types do this a lot. If the person they are assisting says ‘we need to redo this because it doesn’t include the recent X numbers’ — it gets shopped around the office as ‘Bill was furious and screamed about the TPS reports and made Jane do them again.’ etc. People like this are like quicksand in the office — unexpected danger. I once watched someone whine to half a dozen people about how unreasonable Fred was for making her re-copy all the documents for the meeting just because an inch on the right was chopped off. She claimed he yelled about it, which he didn’t but he insisted they be re-done. It didn’t stop until finally the Boss said ‘we don’t hand out illegible materials at meetings; of course they need to be re-copied.’

          1. pancakes*

            Yes – like a game of telephone where the idea is to pile on more drama and hyperbole at every opportunity to do so.

    4. Sylvan*

      Yep! Seconding the advice and the sympathy. This can be frustrating. Becoming either very positive or very boring helps — it also helps if you’re hearing a lot of gossip, by the way.

    5. MCMonkeybean*

      I think that’s also the hardest method for the boss to push back on. If you just act like you are busy some part of them may feel like they are the one who gets to tell you what you should be spending your time on, but it’s much harder to justify wanting you to stop saying nice things about people.

  9. ThePants999*

    On #1, I’m surprised by Alison’s advice. As a manager myself, I’d be delighted to receive feedback from my reports about something I do that annoys them so I can stop doing it. I don’t understand why “your options are limited” just because the annoying behaviour is coming from your manager – why is “raise it with them” not an option, as it would be with any other colleague?

    1. pcake*

      Bad managers who don’t like criticism – and there are plenty of them out there – can make employees’ lives a misery when they’re not happy with them. They can make sure they only get scut work so their careers stall, put untrue or debatable things in their personnel files or complain about them to HR – they can even have them fired. If they feel embarrassed or feel their authority is being challenged, a lot of bad managers will do bad things.

    2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      If you’d be delighted to receive feedback from your staff on how to be a better manager, that probably means you’re a kind and approachable person that cares about staff wellbeing and job satisfaction.

      A manager like the OP’s (who loudly complains about routine things all day, makes disparaging comments behind people’s backs, and is not self-aware enough to realise the negativity her behaviour is breeding in the office) is demonstrating that they are not kind, not approachable and not focused on the wellbeing of their staff. But most of all, it demonstrates that they cannot be trusted to handle themselves, or mild inconveniences (like negative feedback) professionally.

    3. LGC*

      I’m getting the vibe that this manager would not be delighted to receive feedback from their reports about something they do that annoys them so they can stop doing it, though! Granted, we have limited information here. But IME, the kind of person who loudly complains about stuff constantly tends not to take criticism well.

      LW1 can bring it up, but it probably won’t result in the outcome they want.

      1. Anonymity*

        I don’t think the beating around the bush will help. These kind of people don’t care about hints. They just want to complain. And they are draining.

        1. LGC*

          Neither do I – to (inappropriately) use abuse terminology, I’m suggesting LW1 “grey rock” their boss when they start complaining.

          You can probably get away with being direct to them once, but I wouldn’t belabor the point.

    4. Current OP1*

      Op1 here: I once had a boss ask for feedback during a performance review; she specifically asked ME for constructive criticism for HER. I very politely told her that I don’t need her to micromanage me and she did NOT take that well. She looked like she’d just licked a lemon. That was a lesson learned and I will never do that again.

      1. LGC*

        …oh dear. This is my nightmare (not the constructive criticism, the employees being afraid to give it because they think I won’t listen).

        However, did she listen at least?

        1. Current OP1*

          She did, though begrudgingly so. At the time I told her I thought she was going to pop her top. She did NOT take it well. But it did get her off my back a little.

    5. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      You might welcome feedback because you have some degree of self-awareness as well as recognition of what’s appropriate in a manager-subordinate relationship. It sounds like you’re willing to even contemplate that it’s possible that you’re doing something that could annoy others, and that you don’t think that your behaviour is above reproach. Don’t take that for granted!

      A manager who’s ranting about some of their subordinates to their other subordinates is probably not someone who has the greatest handle on appropriate boundaries or self-awareness. You can’t really trust someone like that to take feedback gracefully. When they’re a peer that’s not necessarily your problem, but when it’s your manager they can make it your problem.

  10. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Several years ago I recommended a friend for a job at my workplace. She was hired and within a month she ghosted them. They tried calling and texting her but she never responded. I still see her around occasionally and it’s obvious that she is avoiding me. I don’t need an apology but a brief explanation would go a long way to making me feel more charitable towards her. One result was that I never recommend people anymore, I direct them to HR and never mention any connection to me.

    1. Anonymity*

      I don’t recommend anyone for anything. It’s amazing how little we know people we think we know.

      1. NeonFireworks*

        I got one of my closest friends hired at my organization, and it turned out that they were a wonderful friend but not a wonderful employee.

    2. noahwynn*

      I no longer recommend friends or family for jobs either. After one bad experience, I realized I have no real knowledge of their work. Colleagues are a different story of course and I’ll happily recommend someone for a role if I have direct knowledge of their work.

  11. ttlanhil*

    re #2: While the teaching itself probably doesn’t count, if you have prepared or recorded teaching materials that might work. Assuming it’s not just straight out of a workbook/textbook.
    If you have that as part of a portfolio, then the people hiring can actually see the quality of your work (not necessarily showing your ability to teach, but your ability to plan a lesson and collect materials is still relevant).
    A number of YouTube educators started out teaching kids of friends/family – and now they’re known by thousands of people

  12. Ana Gram*

    I really hope #2 actually has a degree in medieval literature because then there would be two of us! What can I say? Nobody in my family ever went to college or had any advice on choosing a major. My career? Law enforcement. I can write a heck of a report, though…

    1. Pippa K*

      It happened that in that season on one day,
      In Southwark at the local nick I lay
      Ready to go on my foot patrol
      Round London with a very devout spirit,
      At night had come into the local pub
      Well nine and twenty in a company
      Including the accused, now charged with affray.
      And in brief, when the sun was gone to rest,
      I had so spoken with everyone of them
      After reading them the caution.

  13. Person of Interest*

    #4 depending on the jobs you are applying to it might help to have the formal promotion title on your resume. I was in a similar boat to you and I pushed for the promotion, in part so I could put the new title on my resume, which made the new jobs I was applying to either a lateral move or a small step up, rather than a big jump up.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, OP#4, definitely push for that promotion and pay raise. You never make up for lost income and the new title might make you a more credible candidate for the kinds of jobs you really want.

      Your letter suggests you’re think your options are all the either/or kind. All of the things you mention can be done concurrently. You might also look into what professional development options your employer is willing to fund and go after those.

      Keep up the job search. It’s tough right now, and it will probably take longer than it would under Normal Circumstances. Alison has a lot of good stuff in the AAM archives about job searching, cover letters, etc.

  14. Pip*

    #4, please push for the promotion regardless. Career progression within one company always looks good on a CV, and in your case it also shows that you’ve not mentally checked out from your current job whilst job searching.

    Also, imagine if your job search takes one more year (hopefully not, of course!). Would you rather spend that year on your current salary or the higher salary?

    1. Epsilon Delta*

      At my old job it took over a year from the time my boss said, “yep, you’re qualified to become Llama Groomer II” until it actually happened. I think he draged his feet a bit and there was a ton of bureaucratic red tape to wade through, but it didn’t stop them from making me perform the duties of the more senior position in the meantime at a steep discount to them! I started job searching about 10 months into the process (having all but given up on the promise of a promotion), finally got my promotion, then quit to take a new job 2 months later. And even though it was a very recent official bump, it still helped me negotiate a higher salary at the new job.

      It was a little bit awkward to give my notice to my boss, but honestly the more awkward part was that I’d also just come back from a week long vacation (I got the job offer while I was sitting on the beach!).

      So, my answer is, go for the promotion and job search at the same time. This doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.

      1. op4*

        OP here and just wanted to say thank you all (And Alison). Even just writing and sending this question to Alison helped me gain the clarity and confidence to push for the raise and promotion and I got it! Still no bites on my new resume, but fingers crossed. And in the meantime, enjoying my salary bump :)

  15. Anonymity*

    Why can’t LW 1 say “all this negativity is bringing me down” in a genuine, non-hostile way? Just that declarative statement? It’s not insubordinate, rude or accusatory.

    1. Observer*

      It’s not insubordinate, rude or accusatory.

      That assumes that the person you are talking to is reasonable and has an appropriate level of self regulation. However, this manager seems to be missing those two important qualities.

    2. Current OP1*

      Op1 here: I would love to be able to say that! It may stop them from coming to me with their rants, but it wouldn’t stop them altogether. And like I said in my letter, the office is really small and they are really loud. I have been using headphones more lately and that has really helped.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I’ve posted this before, but I recall that I once made A Big Deal about declaring my workspace a “No Complaint Zone” for a week. I framed it that I wanted to try it just to see how it would go, and to see if it would make my thinking more positive. I may have done it around my birthday or around Lent (“I’m giving up complaining for Lent! Let’s see if I can make it a whole week!” or some such). I did this specifically for myself, but also because I started to feel like people would complain to me too much about things I couldn’t control, and it was irritating.

        So, I framed it that it was going to be Fun! And that I’d enforce the Fun! And when people complained in my office that week I’d point to my sign and say, “nope! It’s no complaints week!” It worked. People would start to complain and I’d point at my sign and either they’d change their discussion or leave. It worked so well I did it a few more times and I’d like to say it stuck but instead I got a new job. So, not sure if my mild cognitive programming worked on a larger scale but it worked intermittently.

        1. F as in Frank*

          I really like this suggestion, and it is still early enough in the new year to announce it as a New Year resolution.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Honestly, I wouldn’t say anything about it. I once was the office complainer (although not a manager, thankfully). If someone told me to stop being negative, I wouldn’t have necessarily been mad but I would have been miffed and wouldn’t have stopped complaining. The issues were on my side and I had to deal with some stuff (including moving a different company). When the complaining is this extreme and just constant, your boss probably needs to deal with some stuff and unfortunately there’s not much you can do as an outsider. Hopefully they eventually realize that their own misery is bad enough to make some changes, but that’s on them.

        Sorry I don’t have a better answer, but I really don’t think you can change this person’s behavior even if they weren’t your boss.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          Hopefully they eventually realize that their own misery is bad enough to make some changes

          This is bang on and even more relevant because they’re a manager, which implies that they’re at least somewhat complicit in whatever’s causing them to complain about their subordinates.

          But yeah, there are some people out there who aren’t conditioned to connect “wow this sucks 24/7” to “maybe I need to put all the possible solutions on the table.” They may stop complaining to you, but they won’t address any of the underlying issues and their negativity will ooze out in other ways.

  16. Chilipepper*

    I had success with a boss like #1 by saying, “that does not sound like information I need to know.” It made the conplaining boss surprised enough to stop in the moment and to cut way back on the comments. I did not stay there long enough to find out if that worked in the ling run or if it hurt me with her. I’m curious what you think about this option; is it just irritating?

    1. Current OP1*

      Op1 here: that is an excellent tip. Next time I’m told something I deem inappropriate I’m going to say something! Thanks for the input.

  17. NoName*

    Alison, there’s a small typo for #4. It looks like it should be ” I’ve been doing for the last eight months” instead of “I’ve been doing for the last right months.”

    1. Mizzle*

      There’s a special form for reporting typos (linked just below the commenting rules that show up when you post). I think that might be more effective than posting here.

  18. Current OP1*

    Op1 here: prior to reading Alison’s advice, I have been doing little things to maintain my sanity. Headphones really do help. I’ve also been giving my manager only about 1/4 of my attention when they come to my office with their nonsense. That has seemed to lessen the length of the time they spend in my doorway. I think they’re getting the hint.

  19. Friend of Bill*

    I made amends to my old supervisor 30 years after the fact! I was my first corporate job. I kept running into him at business conferences. Wrote out my part. Spoke to trusted friends. Rehearsed the language. Next time I saw him, I asked for a little time. I was clear about my actions, the impact on him and the work. That was it. He was gracious. Pre-covid- we saw each other about twice a year. Post- we have a professional relationship that benefits both of us.

  20. Delta Delta*

    #3 – I think it’s entirely fine to reach out to the prior manager and apologize for the method of departure. I think it’s also appropriate to say your friend died at your home, and that it was such a shock you had a difficult time dealing with it and unfortunately, you acted unprofessionally. Framing it so the boss has context that it was an incredibly serious thing is probably helpful. I think I’d leave out the part about it being an overdose; unfortunately there’s a huge stigma associated with drug use and overdoses, and even if it was accidental, or the friend misused a lawful prescription, it seems like it opens too much of a door to include that piece.

    Given the passage of time the manager would have enough space to understand and would probably appreciate the gesture.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP is also going to say she’s now leading an organization that helps people in recovery from addiction, which pretty effectively counters that (and I’d bet that as the leader of that org, she’s going to be talking publicly about her own experiences with drug use, although perhaps I’m wrong about that).

      1. kt*

        Yes, I would 100% include the information about the overdose if I felt I could — because it is so directly related to her work now.

  21. Bookworm*

    #3: While in the end what you choose to do is up to you, as someone who has been on the org’s shoes (not in this same scenario, though), it would be certainly nice to hear from you and know you’re okay. You don’t have to go into the details, but sometimes I’ve heard or been part or orgs (not in the same field) where stuff like this happens–someone simply ghosts their job and we never hear what happened to them. Most of the time it is something like a significant personal emergency, sometimes it’s a matter of people just deciding they don’t want to go to work anymore, etc.

    Again, what you choose to do and what you’re comfortable with sharing is totally your choice. But considering that they did care enough to check and to send the police over means they did care. But the police probably at least confirmed that you were okay, so if this is something you’d like to leave behind, that’s also up to you. Good luck!

  22. Alanna*

    #2 – Would it be appropriate for OP to put her tutoring under volunteer work on her resume? I do a lot of different volunteer work and just have a small section, no details, because all of those things are related to my work/career. As an employer, I’d like to know that a candidate spends their free time doing things related to their career.

  23. Analyst Editor*

    I strongly disagree with the advice for #2. The relative should say honestly how much tutoring or teaching they did, what grade level and content and how often. They shouldn’t mention that this was for family and friends, just that it was in a home setting (rather than in an institutional one).
    But if she, on a regular basis, prepared and gave lessons in a certain subject to a group of children, and they successfully learned something, she did the work. This might not be relevant if she was applying for a corporate consulting job, but it’s absolutely relevant to a private school job.

    1. Cita*

      Done a lot of teaching?

      I have. 23 years. I now train teachers.

      We laugh at candidates who apply saying sh*t like this. It’s a bingo card square. Everyone and their rabbit lists nonsense like this as “experience”.

      We know the truth.

      1. Forrest*

        Laughing at it seems unnecessarily unkind. Everyone’s been a new candidate without experience at some point.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I strongly suspect that they are not laughing in the candidates’ faces, but rather behind the scenes, with peers.

  24. agnes*

    Most people appreciate an honest admission of one’s fault in a situation.

    “i came home to find my best friend dead in my living room, and I didn’t have the skills to cope with it very well. I’m sorry I put you in a bad spot. I have learned a lot and am glad now I can be of service to vulnerable people. I hope we can work together constructively now in our respective roles. I am truly sorry.” And then be quiet and see if there is anything they want to share with you. Just listen and don’t be defensive.

  25. Paperdill*

    OP #3, I just want to say thank you for writing in with your story and giving us all a glimpse of what things can look like on the other side of “ghosting”.
    I have developed something of a significant social anxiety over the last few years and, although my experiences have not been as harrowing as yours (and I am so so sorry this happened to you – much love and compassion to you), I am finding myself having times when I cannot contact someone about something, then cannot contact them because I am too mortified about not having contacted them in the first place….and so the cycle plummets into oblivion and drags me down with it.
    Being a “ghostee” is a terrible thing to experience, but I hope that having seen what can be happening on the other side, we can all have some empathy and compassion for the possibility of what could be going on for the “ghoster”.
    Thank you for sharing, OP #3.

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