open thread – February 12-13, 2021

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.

{ 1,137 comments… read them below }

  1. Despearately_Seeking_Solitude*

    What are some solitary jobs for a sensitive introvert? I have a four year degree already and could devote one year to learning to do something else. Any suggestions?

    1. Zephy*

      How solitary is “solitary,” are you looking for WFH data entry type roles where you never have to physically interact with a living human being? Or would you be OK with an office setting, where you may need to call or email people on a daily basis, but without requiring you to manufacture an entire Work Personality like you would need to for direct customer service (retail, fast food, etc)?

    2. Web Crawler*

      Lots of technology jobs- programming as a developer or quality assurance tester, website developer, or penetration tester.

      As a junior developer at a huge company, I have a daily 15 minute meeting and outside of that, I have the rest of my 7.75 hours to work by myself. Plus an hour of organizing meetings every few weeks, where I have to say about 5 words in the realm of “sure”, “looks good”, “this will take a day of work”

      1. Mimi*

        Potentially information security, too. There would probably be meetings (internally, maybe also with clients or vendors about security questionnaires), possibly occasional trainings, and things would be stressful when there are data breaches etc (though less so if you were an infosec minion instead of The Only Infosec Person), but a lot of it is data entry, tracking, and compliance metrics. I think a lot of companies are looking for a four-year degree (ideally STEM-adjacent) plus one or more certifications, though you’d want to confirm that.

        1. Anon for This*

          Not necessarily. There are a lot of places that have only just realized they need Info Security, so there is a high probability of being sucked into meetings all day because there are too many projects and not enough people.

      2. devtoo*

        Agree! I’m a software developer as well. Programming jobs tend to be structured for maximum focused solitary work time, and a good product owner or project manager will actively shield you from unnecessary meetings or workplace drama that will cut into your coding time. Plus, this already fairly remote-friendly industry has become even more so due to COVID, and companies are a lot more open to hiring brand new junior devs as remote workers than even a year ago (at least in my experience–I don’t have industry-wide data on that). And a year is definitely enough time to do a reputable boot camp or intensive self study

      3. Julianna*

        Yep, came here to say this. As someone who went from a client services role to a programming role, I have one meeting a week and otherwise just communicate with my team over Slack. Its lovely.

      4. sara*

        Yes, agree with this. Maybe less so with testing – at least at my company, but we have just a 2 person QA team, so they’re in lots of meetings to understand requirements as well as doing the testing. But I’d say junior devs on my team are in about 2 hours of meetings total each week (that includes daily huddle). As a senior dev (on a team lead track, rather than individual contributor track), it varies a lot more for me. Usually about 3-4 hours a week, but some weeks especially around project kick-off and pre-deployment, it’s more like 10 hours a week of meetings.

        Your meetings might increase as you get less junior, but also at the right company there would be career paths that don’t require more meetings. Also, the onboarding process might have a lot more meetings, chats etc. with other teams and other developers but definitely don’t take that to be the norm for the rest of your time there. Once you’re set up to be able to write code solo, your meeting time will decrease dramatically!

        One thing to consider here is that software development can be good for introverts but not as much people with poor communication skills. In fact, if you struggle to ask questions effectively or communicate requirements etc. then you might end up in more meetings or impromptu discussions as a result.

    3. Malika*

      I work in Customer Service, and if you get to work from home it is beautifully solitary, but you are still able to have basic interactions with other people. Even though we are in a pandemic, I have never spoken to so many people daily, yet i don’t feel drained by the end of the day. Our programmers are very solitary and they earn bank doing a job that suits their personality.

      1. Emma*

        I’m having the exact opposite experience! I’m pretty introverted, and used to do a lot of face to face customer service for my job which I generally enjoyed, and even when I wasn’t enjoying it, it was just ok.

        Now I’m doing it entirely by phone, wfh, and it’s honestly the most exhausting thing I have ever done. I’m getting halfway through the morning and finding I just can’t pick up the phone any more and and am letting calls go to voicemail so I can ring them back. I get no work done in the afternoon; and today, despite finishing an hour early, it’s 8:30pm where I am and I am just now feeling like I could get up and do something other than watch TinyKittens on the big TV (fortunately my wife has offered to cook today…)

        It’s interesting how different people experience the same thing so differently!

    4. I edit everything*

      Freelance editor. Lots of email communication, but very little face-to-face interaction. There are several editing certificate programs out there. I’ve heard good things about UC-Davis (I think it was Davis), University of Chicago, and Columbia. I think there’s also one from one of the Colorado universities. You can also find good courses from the Editorial Freelancers Association, if you want to see if it suits without making a big investment. I have a 2-year master’s degree from Emerson College, but if you’re just looking to hang up a shingle and do some copyediting, that would be overkill.

      1. londonedit*

        I agree, but only if you’re happy with the idea of pitching to people for work – it can be quite uncomfortable having to do the ‘Hey, I’ve got a bit of spare time in the diary if you have any upcoming projects!’ dance or getting in touch with new contacts to advertise your skills.

        1. I edit everything*

          True. That’s the part of the job I suck at. Luckily, I have a steady gig with a book packager, which keeps work flowing in pretty steadily.

      2. Warm Weighty Wrists*

        I do in-house editing, which avoids the part of pitching work (mostly), and I love it. As my responsibilities have increased, I’ve had more meetings in my day, but the bulk is still spent quietly getting work done. UC Berkeley also has an editing certificate program that I believe can be done online, and I know several professional editors who have spoken highly of it.

      3. Edit This*

        I’m a technical editor for a giant company. But 99% of my communication is through email and occasionally Microsoft teams chat. I can live with that.

      4. nep*

        ‘hang up a shingle and do some copyediting’–I’m still working on getting back to editing after some time away from it. Still pushing for that one break that will help me get established as freelance editor. A few odd jobs earlier this year from one writer, which was great, but nothing since. Any suggestions welcome.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Or even if you are squeamish, depending on how your squeamish presents itself. I can’t deal with pictures, so my team is perfectly happy to let me go AUGH THIS ONE HAS INFECTED FISSURES CAN YOU PLEASE and give me their complicated oncology charts instead. :) But I haven’t had to talk to anyone but my boss for work other than through chat or email in like three weeks.

    5. LTL*

      I’m not sure how old you are or how much work experience you have, but I wanted to share my personal experience with you in case it’s helpful. When I graduated college at 21 (I was 22 when I got my first job), I was a major introvert and I wouldn’t have chosen the job I ended up in. It wasn’t super extroverted but it involved a good deal of collaboration on a semi-social team. Not social outside the office but just at our cubicles. I’m still an introvert, but I feel like I gained a lot from being forced out of my comfort zone. There was so much I hadn’t experienced or seen yet and it was good to experience and see them. I’m only 26 now but just something to note.

      1. DeweyDecibal*

        I had a similar experience- I took a receptionist/sales job and had to learn really quickly how to talk to people. I was painfully shy/introverted and it was so draining at first, but eventually I learned how. A decade later. I now have a job that is in an office alone for most of the time and I find myself missing the interactions!

      2. Overeducated*

        Yes, this was my experience too. I made decisions during and after college looking for more solitary work, but in my late 20s found that I thrived in a more collaborative environment, where I’m not necessarily “on” with the public and meetings all day, but do spend a lot of time strategizing with others to figure out how our individual contributions can have a broader impact. I think I limited myself early on by pigeonholing myself as an introvert too severely.

      3. Hmmm*

        I agree. I’ve always been both introverted and quiet growing up and always wanted nothing more than a boring office job where I could just sit at my cubicle, keep my head down, do my work and go home. I studied pretty solitary major (history) and was used to churning out work by myself. But once I actually started working, I realized that there’s always going to be some level of collaboration and interaction with your colleagues and managers. Work life isn’t at all like school, where your professors will give you a rubric ahead of time and all you have to do is just follow the instructions. Sure, your boss will give you basic guidelines for your projects, but often the specifics aren’t fleshed out because you/your team may be encountering a specific situation for the first time, or maybe you run into unexpected issues that require troubleshooting.

        Even with super entry level data entry roles, I still had to interact with different stakeholders. It was uncomfortable at first, but I found that I’m actually quite good at stakeholder management and interacting with others. I still prefer to have my alone time, but when a situation requires me to work collaboratively, I’m confident in my abilities and my managers have always been able to rely on me.

        All this is to say, OP, don’t knock it til you try it.

      4. A Person*

        This is a really good point. I am also an introvert and I HATE jobs where I have to interact with strangers, but I like having a team of people I work with on a regular basis. I actually worked at a job in my specialty (analytics) where the team was less collaborative and really expected you to work primarily alone and avoid questions. That turned out to be a really bad match for me!

        For me I think it was less about pushing outside my comfort zone and more about realizing things I enjoy in my personal life (small groups of people I know well) translated to work, too.

      5. allathian*

        I’ve always been introverted and in my teens I was painfully shy as well. I’m still introverted in the sense that I need a lot of time to myself for mental health and that spending any amount of time interacting with a large number of people is exhausting. To work through my shyness I joined the drama club at my high school and worked in retail for a number of years in high school and college. It did me good, and I found that I wasn’t afraid of interacting with strangers in a work role, and it also made it a lot easier for me to get to know people when I went to college.

        I do find that I have more energy to spend on other things now that I’m WFH and can avoid most of the interruptions at the office.

    6. ID Work*

      I do Instructional Design work and it is fairly solitary. Depending on the project, I have to talk to Subject Manner Experts (SME) and sometimes work with project teams but that is a small part of my overall work. I have a FT work at home role now, but even when I was in an office my interaction with people was mostly office chit chat. If you are sensitive to feedback it could be hard for you. I have been at it long enough that I don’t care, but in the beginning when people did not like something I wrote, I would feel bad about it.

      1. Skeeder Jones*

        I was coming here to say the same thing. I work 100% remote and work on a 100% remote learning and development team. Most of my day is just me and my keyboard. There is some human interaction, especially with SMEs and project meetings (mostly status updates) but it’s not overwhelming at all and I am definitely an introvert. As ID Work mentioned, you do need to be able to accept critical review but I view it this way: the work I do is not for me. It doesn’t need to work for me because I am not the client or audience. I need the feedback to make sure it works for the people who need. And the other thing is I can see how all the feedback I receive just makes the course better and inevitably, makes me better at my job. I get to be creative, do a lot of writing, bring ideas to life, even some graphic design type work. I love it.

    7. SwitchingGenres*

      I had a library cataloging job where I worked alone in a vault all day. Just me and books. It was blissful.

    8. Hunnybee*

      I work as a Product and UX Designer. I loved the aspect of being able to focus deeply on the work that I do, and I also liked thinking about how to help people with my work. Fulfilling work for an introvert!

      However, your team and manager really determine your comfort. I think that maybe you can carve out ways to be yourself, and also find strength within yourself as an introvert, if you find the right mix of people and manager regardless of what you actually do for a living. Sadly, extroverts seem to rarely value what introverts need in a job and require us to do all sort of emotional and behavioral gymnastics to fit in and make them feel more comfortable.

      I was hired to my current role by someone I really respect who, having worked with me in the past, was willing to allow me the time that I needed to do my work and keep my camera off (I feel REALLY uncomfortable on camera). In this context, I felt safe and it allowed me to feel comfortable getting to know my coworkers in a way that was easier for me, which in turn made me feel more social.

      If you can find a team and manager that nurture and support who you are as an introvert, there is no limit to the success you will have. I hope you will find work that you love and a team that will leave you alone to do it.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I’m also an introvert (mostly) doing UX and adjacent design work. I love the work itself, but I find the work environment has a huge influence on how introvert-friendly / stressful is it. Same thing for devs and QA guys.

        Not friendly:
        – being embedded in an agile team where regular meetings such as standups and sprint planning can take up to 10 hours a week
        – being in a more senior role where you’re expected to engage more with your cross functional team, and other parts of the business, than your junior colleagues
        – a work environment that is structured so you join a brand new team every 3 or 6 months and have to go through all that storming, forming, etc, 2 to 4 times a year
        – working with business folk who don’t really understand design (sometimes not product development or agile either) and need ongoing coaching to understand your job

        So it’s a combination of the job and the environment that makes it a good it or otherwise.

  2. Eff Liquid Planner*

    My company has started aggressively using project management software. Everyone is being shoved into an R&D mold, even jobs that don’t work that way, and we’re floundering.

    I now have to bill 8 hours per day to projects, so my workday has drastically increased, because anything administrative/housekeeping-related now has to occur outside those 8 hours.

    In a typical day, I will have a series of projects that require 5-10 minute updates. But, we’re not allowed to assign less than 30 minute chunks to any project. If I follow that rule, work that uses 90 minutes out of my day would be assigned 4 ½ hours. So I pick and choose a few of the projects I did to bill each day, and rotate through them throughout the week, trying to keep the numbers even.

    I hate this. We’re being treated like lawyers, billing our time, but without the good pay. Suggestions for adapting the system to the needs of non-STEM departments have been ignored. Any tips or hacks to get better at working this way?

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      can they set up a “project” called Administration so that you bill to that project as appropriate? We use a similar tool for our time reporting but my role is purely admin and not at all client-facing, so I bill all 40 hours of my week to “admin” or “business development.”

      1. Marie*

        This would only solve the mechanical problem of billing your time but wouldn’t solve it if Eff needs to bill 8 hours directly to projects and needs to find other time to get admin/management stuff done. I have a STEM-adjacent job and need to bill my time in a similar way. My target is 95% billable even though I supervise people and have other overhead type responsibilities. I do, however, charge time I spend managing my projects in our management software and things like that to the project. So you might need some guidance from your boss about what is “billable” in their opinion.

      2. Unfettered scientist*

        Yeah I’m wondering if there’s a way to have a general account that is distributed across all projects for general admin. We have something like that for purchases and it just pulls equally from all grants. It still sucks that you have to bill your hours, but you should be able to count admin tasks toward those hours because they’re necessary and valuable.

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

          This is how I’ve seen it work before (in a tech company) – departments that don’t directly work on “billable” customer work, such as HR and Finance, don’t have to fill out time sheets etc but rather their time is taken to be apportioned between departments on a (headcount? salary? Not sure, but it’s something like this) basis so that if department X makes up 20% of the company then it’s considered HR (etc) is allocated 20% to that department.

          It works quite well, but I’m not sure in the case that some of the OPs work is genuinely attributed to specific projects but some is more ‘general’/’cross-company’.

          Agree with speaking to the boss – if they are also not part of a STEM department they are presumably also encountering this.

          1. gsa*

            My wife worked in architecture firm and they had to fill out a timesheet in order to track our spent on a particular project.

            What her company did was assigned each person a percentage rate, but I don’t remember the name. In other words the interns were somewhere around 95%, Managers were at 80%, and executives were at 65%.

            1. Frank Doyle*

              Of how much of their time has to be billable? I’m an engineer, so same thing, I need to bill my time to different jobs. But I always thought it was bs to have to have 40 billable hours a week, because there’s still stuff (research, computer issues, filling out timesheets) that has to be done that isn’t billable.

    2. Darlingpants*

      This suggestion comes from the place that this is stupid and you don’t need to learn to work with it, but if your manager/team would super hate this then you know best.

      Bill the 10 minute project updates to the project and then do your admin work for the remain 20 minutes.

      1. TPS reporter*

        I agree with that approach. The assumption is that your fee to the client incorporates an overhead rate. Your admin/housekeeping stuff is overhead.

    3. CTT*

      I don’t think your company gets how billing works – you cannot get 8 billable hours out of 8 working hours. Do you feel comfortable talking to your colleagues and trying to push back to set more realistic goals? I imagine you’re not the only one having this issue.

      (And for perspective, I’m a BigLaw attorney and we’re not expected to regularly bill 8 hours a day!)

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        That’s what I was thinking. From my limited knowledge, when you bill for something it’s not going to be the exact time. You have admin tasks that you have to complete in order to do the projects. So if you don’t answer email, ship packages, or whatever the tasks are, eventually you aren’t going to be able to get the project done.

      2. Pilcrow*

        It’s the difference between “billing” and “accounting.” Billing is charged back to clients at ab hourly rate. Accounting is tracking all your time, including administrative tasks, billed time, and time off. I suspect the employer really means accounting for 40 hrs/week.

        Places I’ve worked usually had two major divisions: project and administrative.

        For the project division there were billed project buckets that were charged back to the client requesting the work and non-billed project buckets that tracked stuff that is part of the job but not directly charged back to clients. For a non-billed project example, I’m a technical writer and every quarter we updated the suite of manuals for the product. It was not specific to any one client for charge-back purposes but still a central job function that was tracked separately.

        The administrative division covered things like misc meetings not accounted for in other projects (like an all-hands meeting), time spent filling out the project tracking / status reports, training, and PTO.

        Most organizations put rules around how much time can be put into general admin buckets, like only .5 hrs/day. Sometimes there is a limit on how many hours can be billed to any one client. However, your employer needs to explain these kinds of rules to you.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          This. What OP is being asked to do is not lawyer-style billing. It’s tracking their time so that the company gathers accounting information.

          OP should ask their direct supervisor for guidance on how to track items that take less than the reportable minimum time.

        2. Donkey Hotey*

          Hey, I’m a Tech Writer who bills 99% to Admin, even on customer specific tasks. It can be done, it just depends on the company.

    4. Sled dog mama*

      Could they give you “projects” to bill to? Like creating an admin project to bill that time to. Also could they look at a weekly aggregate? So maybe you bill 60 minutes a week on those projects that take 5-10 minutes a day (reading back I see you are essentially doing that I’m suggesting formalizing it with whoever is looking at this). Also are they actually looking at where the time is going in a meaningful way, ie are they just saying “Eff Liquid Planner is using all the time in their workday” or are they saying “hmm, looks like more/less time is being spent on this project than we thought.” Because that would change how I would bring suggestions to management.
      I was in a similar boat a few years ago where management was (unknown to us) tracking our productivity based on how much time they estimated the tasks required to generate a note took. 3 problems with this, 1) it didn’t reflect all the non-note generating things we had to do 2) it often left out the fact that it took 2 people to complete a task but only one had to document it 3) they had no clue how long anything took. That place was a nightmare because they wanted a simple we can pull it out of the system without talking to people measure of productivity when in reality it’s really complicated because maybe person X isn’t generating as many as person Y because X is doing harder/ more complex tasks than Y or X is taking on more of the admin stuff because Y loses their temper when they have to deal with it and X doesn’t care.

    5. Blackcat*

      This is bonkers. Everywhere I know that requires this detailed billing has some sort of administrative/overhead/etc category (multiple of them, in fact! My husband’s work has a specific “IT has my computer but I’m ready to work whenever it’s fixed code) AND bills to the 1/1oth of an hour. So a quick email is billed as 6 minutes.
      If they insist on sticking with this system, push for a smaller tracking increment and adding administrative codes.

    6. LadyByTheLake*

      As an attorney, I can tell you that it is well understood that in an 8 hour workday, on average, only about 6 hours is “billable.” The expectation that you would routinely bill 8 hours per day is out of whack. I’m pretty busy this week, but I see I’ve been billing about 6.6-7 hours per day.

      As for the billing “chunks” I don’t understand what is going on there — I didn’t follow the explanation. Billing 30 minutes three times to show a task that took 30 minutes total (in 10 minute increment) is NOT DONE. Instead, throughout the day I track how much I spend on each “project” then (back before the magic of tech) I would add up the numbers and divide by my billing increments. So 30 minutes throughout the day would be billed as 30 minutes. Of course, as a lawyer, I bill in .1 increments. I now have a widget on my desktop that tracks those numbers, so I don’t have to pull out a calculator at the end of the day.

      1. Eff Liquid Planner*

        Better explanation of what I said about chunking, with conveniently-rounded numbers to make this easier:

        In a standard 5-day week, say I spend 6 minutes per day on 5 tasks A, B, C, D, and E. Since I can’t put in less than 30 minutes a piece, I’m instead inputting 30 minutes of A on Monday, 30 minutes of B on Tuesday, 30 minutes of C on Wednesday, 30 minutes of D on Thursday, and 30 minutes of E on Friday. The totals for the week are correct and adhere to the 30-minute rule, even though the daily breakdown is technically wrong.

        Yes, this is stupid and awful, but it’s the best workaround I’ve come up with.

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

          Do you have the functionality to put in a “comment” (i.e. freehand text) alongside the time entry?

        2. Ferret*

          How is this stupid and awful? This is how it’s worked every time I’ve had to use a timesheet. Unless your manager has specifically told you so I don’t think you need to worry about being forensically accurate, it’s just meant to be a tool to make sure your pay is coming out of the correct budget

          1. lost academic*

            It’s not stupid and awful, I think, but you do of course need to be aware if the contract with a particular client might prohibit that because they need a certain level of traceability. Only time I’ve seen that be an issue in practice though is when we’ve had field staff want to ‘float’ billable worked hours on their timesheet from week 1 to week 2 when they’ve had a massively long week and want to create a little breathing room the next – some client agreements specifically prohibit that kind of billing record.

    7. Two Dog Night*

      Half an hour minimum is ridiculous–that needs to be changed. Otherwise I think your strategy is reasonable; you need to be billing that 90 minutes, but you can’t properly split it up.

      Good luck. Time tracking is the worst.

    8. Parenthesis Dude*

      You’re almost certainly taking it too seriously. Assign the admin/housekeeping tasks to the project that makes the most sense. If it’s none, assign your time to the projects you worked on that day.

      1. Evergreen*

        Just wanting to second this! I have always worked jobs with timesheets for accounting purposes and always done it this way: if the purpose is just to get a sense of how long given projects take, getting to plus-minus an hour a week on projects is typically good enough.

    9. Tex*

      My company has a similar set up. However, accounting takes into account overhead tasks and items when billing the client. For example if I am 100% on a project with my 40 hours billed only to that number, accounting has a certain designated % that they assume are overheads and paid for in the corporate budget; I never see that number. If my time is split between two projects (30% Project A and 70% Project B), then the overheads are split proportionally between the two clients. If I have a special project that someone asks me to do, then they give me a special charge number.

      You should not be working extra, it should just be a change in the way your time is accounted.

      1. TechWorker*

        Yes, though it isn’t *free* to track everything you do. Presumably you get used to it, but it can be a pain at first!

    10. I'm just here for the cats*

      Sorry, I am unfamiliar with this type of situation. It sounds terrible. I was wondering, are there any of your administration tasks that could be loosely cataloged as part of a project? I don’t know how this works or what your administrative tasks are. Maybe build into the project’s time for miscellaneous work? Hope it gets better

    11. BRR*

      Instead of asking for adaptions, have you tried asking how you should bill your current work? “How would you like me/us to code work that takes under 30 minutes?” My last job lumped all employees into one template and it was incredibly frustrating.

    12. Chaordic One*

      This is horrible!

      My employer uses a similar system that requires us to break things down into “tenths” of hours (or 6 minute increments of time) and I find that difficult to use. If we could just use minutes or even 5 minute increments time. Similar to your situation, we don’t have time to do things like reading email during during the 8 hours we are supposed to be doing billable work.

      Good luck in pushing back. Hopefully, you can build some consensus with your coworkers and present a unified front when you do so.

      1. Pilcrow*

        I rarely tracked to less than .5 hr increments and never in less than .25 (or .03) hr. There is no real point to dividing it any finer than that. If a task only took 10 minutes I’d still enter .25 in the time tracker.

        If I had to only track by .5 hr increments and I spent 55 minutes on Project A and then 5 minutes on a misc admin task, I’d just assign all that time to Project A.

    13. Erika22*

      My PM job also requires a time card but we have a BAU (business as usual) category for general admin, team mtgs, PD, etc, and the rest of our time goes to specific projects. We’re meant to aim for 20-30% BAU for the week. It seems strange your company wouldn’t have something like this!

    14. Ferret*

      This sound similar to how I’ve filled out timesheets at all of my jobs – though I’m salaried (in the UK so not exactly the same terms but this is the best comparison) but in each job I have been expected to fill out a timesheet each week for 40 hours. It isn’t really relevant how many hours I actually work, just that it is correctly split proportionally.

      No-one has ever cared if the time is billed on the exact day it was done, just that at the end of the week it all adds up*. E.g. if I split my time across the week between 5 projects I will fill out the sheet with 8 hours on Monday to project 1, Tuesday to project 2 etc, even if I have worked on all of them each day.

      Admin and non-project related stuff has been handled differently by different companies, my current job expects me to bill a full 40 hours to my current project and projects are planned with a certain amount of overhead built in, while a previous role had a special admin code for things like company meetings and training. There is generally an “Unbillable” code but this is only if you don’t have a project at all and is normally just in the gaps.

      *Exception is holiday leave which needs to be booked on the day it was taken to make sure it ties in with the leave booking/tracking system

    15. Girasol*

      My boss did this and I had to work 10 hours days to bill 8 hours of work. I complained. A coworker insisted that we weren’t meant to be head-down on a single project for a 15 minute increment (our rule) or else the time didn’t count. What he was doing was at the end of the day deciding that he’d spent twice as much time on Project A as on B and C, and so he’d divide his day into 4 hours for A, 2 hours each for B and C, and never mind that some of the 8 hours was spent reading emails or spending a few minutes here and there pinging people on projects D and E.

    16. Glomarization, Esq.*

      FWIW this is not just a STEM thing. I’ve worked gigs where I’ve had to track my administrative support time across different categories for my timesheets. One thing I’ve done to keep ahead of the tracking was to write little notes down on a notepad as I worked through the day, then take a few minutes at end of business to enter it into the software.

      As others have noted, this is not the same as billing by lawyers or other professionals. Your accounting department likely has some back-end reason (whether “we want the information for business analysis” or simply “new system requires it”) for wanting to accurately assign time to various buckets.

    17. Quinalla*

      Yes, your job shouldn’t be having to be 100% billable. They need to set up an general admin bucket to put time to. They should also let you bill in 15 minute increments.

      I have to do time sheets, though for good reason, but my target is 80% billable. We have a few people who have 90-95% billable targets, but even they get a few hours non-billable a week. They need to fix that at minimum for you!

    18. lost academic*

      I bill at my firm and the challenge for billing tasks that are things like emails or short calls or other management yet billable is significant, but it comes with experience (i.e. we don’t have junior staff who are new at billing working on as many things or doing tasks that challenge how to bill) and we have some clients that you must bill in half hour increments, some being OK with 0.25 hours. I’ve been billing my time for the last 15+ years so it’s second nature. You learn to track what you’re doing closely enough and to recognize that not everything needs to be perfectly represented to the time slot and amount that that single email or call took. Maybe today I spent 5 minutes on Project A, but tomorrow I’ll spent 25, etc. I’ll track it and adjust it, rounding down and sometimes rounding a little up. You have to be careful – you don’t want to burn too much time tracking too closely because then you run out of useful time, but you also need to track ofter enough that you’re not missing time (my problem). A lawyer mentioned that it’s accepted that an 8 hour day gets 6-7 billable hours – for a lawyer or an experienced consultant, that’s about right. That’s why you see lawyers and consultants working 50-60 hour weeks. The billable goals are high but also the client deadlines are tight.

    19. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ugh. We had this. First we were told that we had to log a total of no less than 40 hrs/week, but that there was a code for admin that we could bill to. Then one day, most of us received an email along the lines of “in the last month, you logged X% of your time to admin, but you are only allowed no more than Y, fix this going forward”. I remember it very well that I got dinged for logging 17.25% of my time as admin, with max allowed being 15. I was 2.25% over. If you logged less than 40 hours in a week, you got an email on the Monday of the next week to log the missing hours to a project. We tried to reason with the two managers that were pushing this policy, but no luck. People started coming up with workarounds. My favorite was working on smaller tasks while calling into a staff meeting on the phone, then double-logging my time. We were exempt and none of our time was billable. Apparently the whole idea behind the time logging requirements was to do capacity planning and to calculate the velocity… or something. I’m not good on these terms. One compromise we did get out of them was that we were allowed to log the time spent logging our time. Then one day we had a layoff and both the time-logging managers got caught in it. Those of us that kept our jobs, were called into a meeting the same day, and of course we asked if the time-logging policy was still in effect – do we still have a minimum of 40 hours logged, is there still a 15% admin limit etc. Imagine our surprise when we found out that the department leadership did not know that any of this was happening. We now use the time tracking system to log our work, as god intended. Only tip/hack I have is, keep a notepad or a spreadsheet open as you go through your day, and jot down the tasks you are working on throughout the day; because by the end of the day, or week, you’ll have no recollection of everything you worked on, especially if your typical day consists of juggling multiple assignments, putting out fires etc rather than working on one big thing all week.

    20. Kara S*

      I have to do this for my job as well to track if tasks are on schedule or not (it has its merits and pitfalls but generally I don’t mind it). The general understanding in my industry has always been that you round up or down to the nearest half-hour and generic things like answering emails, going to meetings, etc get recorded on a task like “Misc” or “Other”. If your company won’t create a spot to save that time, then it just gets wrapped up in whatever else you were doing before.

      The idea behind these systems isn’t usually that other work should be done outside of 8 hours if it can’t be recorded anywhere. It’s that either you need a place to record that work or it’s okay to not record it. Hopefully if you explain the issues to your bosses, they’ll figure out how to solve it quickly!

    21. Analyst Editor*

      The strictness of the rules is compensated by the rate of its being ignored.
      If you have an hour of admin work to do every day, it’s “overhead” that all your projects share and should account for, so spread it around.
      Or just be pretty approximate about what you work on. Unless your projects actually bill to an actual client or gramt somewhere, it’s all somewhat imaginary, and certainly can admit you rounding to the nearest half hour.

  3. Should I apply*

    For those who have worked at a start-up, what specific of questions would you recommend asking in interview to get a better sense of the company?

    I am currently job searching, and have an phone interview with a start-up next week. The company isn’t brand new, about 5 yrs old, but as recently as 2019 they were getting VC funding. Previously I have only worked at large companies (fortune 500). I looked back at Alison’s recommended questions for interviewees, which were very helpful, but don’t really my address concerns about the company’s long term strategy and funding. Should I just ask that straight out? Any suggestions for getting a realistic answer, and not the everything’s great sales pitch?

    1. Yay Friday*

      Yes, ask straight out about funding. How much do they have, their plan on getting more etc. I’ve been working for 10 years for a startup that’s surviving on vc funding and dreams. Is there a product that is soon to market? Ask for their plans on that. Have they had to pivot products or ideas? Ask that. If they are 5 years old they should have heard these questions before.

      1. irene adler*

        Yep! Ask.
        Ask about burn rate as well.
        Watch to see if there’s an obvious gap. For example: if they expect to have product ready to market in 1 year’s time and they have $10 million to work with, and their burn rate is $1 million a month, then there’s a 2 month gap there. What’s the plan for funding those 2 months? And, what’s the plan should there be delays with getting product to market or realizing revenues?

        1. Mimi*

          I’ve heard “runway” used to refer to how many weeks/months of operating expenses the company has right now (if all revenue stopped) and it is not okay okay to ask about that, but a Very Good Idea.

    2. Malika*

      I would also ask about the work culture and really get a feel whether you would be able to thrive there. It can be very on, and very unpredictable. That might mean you learn a lot of new skills, or it might mean you crash out with a burnout due to the endless pivoting. Another good tip is to get any salary trajectory in writing. That doesn’t mean they have to be beholden to it, but it means it is clear that if you stay there what your salary development will be. Very important, as they then cannot conveniently forget proposed developments.

    3. MissGirl*

      What is their five-year plan? Do they have any plans to go public? When do they plan on being profitable? Are they looking to grow or to be acquired? They’re may not be right or wrong answers to these questions but they need to show they’ve thought it out long-term.

      Pay hard attention to the product. Do they have a service or good that is necessary in today’s world? Does it make sense? Is it something people will pay money for? Are they poised to grow or is it a one-off product?

    4. OtterB*

      Ask about their growth strategy, both in terms of the product/funding and in terms of how they will handle an increase in the size of the company. The transition from “small startup, do lots of things informally and collaboratively” to “big enough to need some formal structure” can be rough.

    5. irene adler*

      If there are investors, then there’s a prospectus. Try to get your hands on that.

      Also, if they have shareholders, they are required to file with the SEC an annual 10-K report. This is a public document that must accurately portray their financial and business situation. Look for item 1A- Risk Factors under Part 1. This should give you some insights as to how they are doing.

    6. Wendy City*

      Based solely on some of the letters on AAM, I would want to know if they have a dedicated HR department or if it’s just Joe Who Is Buddies With the Founder Who Also Does HR.

      1. Mimi*

        This, yes. And depending on your role and the size of the company, it can also be worthwhile to ask about what sort of external training and support they offer (if you’re the only finance person, for example, how will you keep abreast of developments in the finance world? Have they put any thought into your/the company’s long term growth in specialized fields, or will you be expected to keep up on your own (and is that paid time or personal time)?)

      2. Momma Bear*

        Even if they outsource it (there are a lot of administrivia companies), do they have someone dedicated to this task?

      3. voluptuousfire*

        Ooh, yes! This is important! Do they have a dedicated people/HR person/PEO and/or recruitment team? Or is it just a random person tasked with hiring?

        The first is doing things right. The second, not so much.

    7. Momma Bear*

      Ask about the direction they are going for the future – this might give you insight into if they are going after contracts, if they are planning on just venture capital, if they have a plan to diversify or if you realize they’re putting all their resources into one potentially fragile basket. Plus side is they’ve been around for 5 years, so that’s better than brand new.

      I would also ask about staff growth – if there is nowhere for you to grow, then that could be bad. If they are growing exponentially but don’t have the future projects to keep staff, that could be bad. I would want a company with a reasonable plan for the future, basically.

    8. Ann Furthermore*

      Make sure you have a good understanding of the ownership of the company, in addition to the funding. A couple years ago I took a job with a company owned by an equity firm that was in the business of buying and selling companies. Within 9 months, my company was sold to a very large, well-known software giant, and I was out of a job. That was not what I was lead to believe would happen when I interviewed. It’s my own fault; I should have been more thorough in my research.

      1. Brooklyn*

        This this this. I got a job offer from a small, couple year old, seemingly stable startup. The salary was, as expected, pretty low, but I couldn’t figure out why the equity was so low, given the role and how much the product relied on that role. I then found out that the current CEO owned 25% equity, and the founder and former lead advisor, both of whom are no longer active in the project, also owned 25% each. That left 25% to split between investors and employees, but more importantly, meant that two people not involved in the day to day operations had a controlling stake of the company. Needless to say, I did not accept.

    9. Grim*

      I have worked at many startup and only one was successful and launched their product after 9 years; the 5 others ended in layoffs due to poor planning, new competition or one of the big companies putting us out of business.

      Be sure to ask about current and future workload and hours. Are 12 to 16 hour days cyclic or regularly expected. Weekend work common?

      Just know that whatever the answers you get, circumstances are likely to change once you hired into the company.

    10. NotSoAnon*

      So I was very young and naive when I took my last (and most current job) and had no idea they were a startup. We are now well into our growth phase, very profitable, and have become a much more structured company over the last 5 years.

      Things I wished I would have asked during the interview:
      Do you have a formal HR department? (They did not for 2 years and it caused major issues) If not, how are employee complaints handled and by whom?

      How does the company plan to support and develop employees throughout their time with the company? (They had absolutely no training, documentation, role responsibilities, etc.) How do you plan to reach this goal and by when? *side note this is one of the great things about working for a startup. I was able to essentially build out the department, create a training program, all documentation, role responsibilities. So I learned a ton and moved up really quickly over the last five years.

      Some things I did ask that I found insightful.
      *How involved are the owners of the company and how is the company currently being funded. The product had just gone through a revamp the year I joined and it was their first profitable year.
      * Are there any plans in the near future for the company to go public. – I was not interested in going through an IPO at the time.

      I think startups are so hit/miss and would be leery to work for one again. While I lucked out with my company and they ended up being a great place to work it doesn’t work out.

      If you end up going for it, just know that there is usually so much more work involved than they usually disclose in the interview process and that the work you end up doing might be in drastically different areas than the job positing! I’ve gone from client services, to software support, billing, documentation/client facing marketing design, department management and everything in between. This experience has been invaluable in the long run but it could have been SOOO BAD.

  4. Common Otter*

    I had a boss that was always a bit controlling, but at one point their behaviour got increasingly worse. They started yelling at us, micromanaging even more, giving us rules but telling a few chosen privately that those rules don’t apply to them, telling others about teammate’s performance issues without informing the actual employee about it, snapping if we tried to ask reasons for new rules, and more. I ended up carefully suggesting if they could tell us about the problems rather than giving orders without context so we could understand the situation better and give our input. But I got a lecture on seniority and how “it’d be useless to talk to us as we’d end up with the same solution anyway”.

    After that Boss stopped talking to me, didn’t show up to our catch-ups and eventually just cancelled them, made others deliver me messages, and stopped giving me work even though I kept mentioning that I didn’t have enough work to do. My previous work and eventually my planned position went to another coworker without a word to me. Boss also made “jokingly” comments in front of us on how we shouldn’t get anyone to do the same work I’m doing as that person would “kill themselves” due to how boring it is. Some others also got this kind of behavior after trying to talk to Boss, though my situation was definitely the worst.

    After this went on for several months and I was burning out, Boss suddenly started communicating with me again as if nothing had happened since my skills were needed for a project. Boss still continued to not support me though and I was left to solve problems on my own even when they promised to talk to people. I’ve also continued seeing signs and hearing about controlling and aggressive behavior from Boss towards others now and then.

    That all happened around two years back. I now have another position in another team with a different boss in the same company. I did job hunting, but in the end decided that I like my current work much more than what I could do anywhere else. The problem was just one person that I could now mostly avoid.

    But due to upcoming changes, it’s likely (now ex)Boss will become my other boss in charge of my career development and all that. And as a coincidence, HR reached out to me if I’d be willing to talk more due to one of my answers in an anonymous survey. I’m really torn on what I should do. Back when all was going on, another coworker had gotten a stern talking-to from Boss’s boss (who’s currently away) after going to HR to talk about Boss. That coworker still seemed to trust HR though, they just didn’t want them to escalate it again. If I do talk to someone, I’m worried I’ll face another backlash from Boss if they find out. Also, when some issues have been raised before in group discussions, Boss has claimed that those things never happened. So it might just be my word against theirs. I can talk anonymously, HR doesn’t know who I am yet and I can continue to be anonymous, but it’d probably be easy to guess who I am. I would like to still have the option to happily stay in this company for at least a few years. Do you think I should talk to HR or my current boss? Should I wait until I know for sure who’ll be my new other boss? Or should I stay silent unless those problems start happening again since it’s been a while?

    1. Tex*

      Can you ask for another person to be in charge of your career development? If you don’t want to get into the politics of it, just say that you have worked with ex-Boss in the past and would prefer to have someone new so you can get a fresh perspective/network a bit more.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, this, and before you unblind yourself to HR, be really clear on how they can or cannot protect you from retaliation. You should try to get switched away from Bad Boss regardless, but if you decide to talk further with them, it should be a condition of talking!

        1. Common Otter*

          Thanks, you’re right I should really emphasize that if I do decide to talk. I haven’t had to have conversations like that before so it didn’t cross my mind.

      2. Common Otter*

        Unfortunately it was said that who this other boss is depends on the type of work you do and it’s likely that everyone in my field will have the same one since there isn’t that many of us, so there might not be much choice. But if it turns out we’ll be split up between two or more bosses after all I’ll definitely keep this idea in mind, thanks!

      3. I'm just here for the cats*

        I don’t think saying you would prefer to have someone new for a fresh perspective would work.
        OP I would say talk to HR. To me it sounds like they are aware that there may be a problem with this boss and they want your perspective. This might be the straw that brakes the camel’s back and he no longer is a boss.
        As far as your word against his, isn’t there anything you have? Were the check’ins that were canceled, were they on a calendar (like outlook or google) that you, or HR, can look back at and show he canceled them? Are there others who could vouge for you. It sounds like you may have had it worse but that others had similar problems. Are those people still working for your company? Allison says that it can be better to push back as a group. Could you talk with HR with some of those who experienced this? Even if they weren’t on the receiving end?
        Good luck!

        1. Common Otter*

          Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, that Boss really drove people away and I’m the only one left of those who saw the worst of it. I did have a strong ally back then who really tried their best to make things better and I did talk about possibly talking to someone together, but they ended up giving up before that. And I really can’t blame them. There are still some left who seem to have had at least some kind of negative experiences regarding that Boss though, but I’m not sure if anyone left has actually seen even half of how bad they can be, but maybe I could find some allies there.

          It’s true that there could be small hints like nofications of cancelled meetings and such. But since that boss really liked to separate us and talk to people face-to-face one by one every time we tried to talk in a group setting, there isn’t really much evidence at all. But those are both really good ideas for if I have to talk. I’m starting to lean towards not saying anything as long as things don’t go bad again, but if so happens, the possibility not having to go against it alone does make me feel a bit safer with the idea.

    2. Octopus*

      If your HR is competent at all, and you decline to provide more detail to concerns about anonymity and retaliation, that should give them the information they need to understand that the situation you raised is serious. Or at least, that is what I would hope. If I were you, I would still be job searching, but I understand you’ve decided the tradeoffs are worth it. But your HR hasn’t shown signs of competence so far (given that they didn’t protect your coworker from retaliation), and I would be reluctant to rock the boat in this situation. The boss sounds so egregious, I’d be shocked if they didn’t have an idea what was going on.

      If you’re really set on staying, I’d keep your head down until you’re ready to leave, and give HR all the info they’d need in your exit interview. They’ve had years to act to address the boss and haven’t, and you shouldn’t jeopardize a (potentially already tenuous situation) by confiding in them. You don’t try to put a fire out from inside the house.

      1. Common Otter*

        Thank you, that’s a really good point on how nothing has happened after all this time. I guess I was tempted by the small possibility that I could make the situation much better, but that point made me really think more on how dangerous it could be for me and whether it would actually make a difference. Especially since why the situation turned so bad last time was the fact that I went against that Boss even a little bit.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      How’s your current boss? Would they be of some help to you if you discussed all this with them?

      The most conservative action is to believe that there WILL be backlash and plan accordingly. I don’t know how many new people you can draw in here. By “new” I mean people who were not involved in previous episodes that had poor results. Is there anyone around who seems to be a strong player?

      I used an anonymous forum to report a boss one time. They seemed to be genuinely concerned about what i was saying. The situation changed for the worst and I had to leave, my last message to them was that I gave notice. I felt bad because they seemed to be trying, but in the end I concluded they were too far removed from the workplace to understand the nuances of the setting and they would not see how disastrous those “small” problems were. I could also see that they were not going to move fast enough to bail me out. This was a boss who did many of the things you are talking about here.

      1. Common Otter*

        I’m actually not sure. With my current boss their way of leading and my preferred way of being lead have been much more in line. But we haven’t really talked about anything that could give me an idea how they might react to something like this. And now that I think about it, I’m not confident that they’d have the power to be a strong enough ally to actually make significant difference if something similar would happen again.

        Thanks for sharing your experience! It sounds similar to what I’m afraid of and does make me think whether I should stay silent after all. And, as you said, especially assuming that there’ll be backlash, saying something might not be worth it if the situation stays calm otherwise.

    4. 30 Years in the Biz*

      Otter, I think your boss might be a narcissist – or have narcissist tendencies. Controlling behavior, having favorites, keeping secrets, isolating you, denying you work, and gossiping about you all seem to point to this. Can they also be charming? Hate being questioned/challenged?, good at gaslighting or spinning situations? Those are also signs. You can’t change this person. I think you can expect the same behavior from them when this ex Boss becomes your boss. They didn’t show interest in your career development in the past and they won’t if they become your boss again. HR is not looking into the problem, trying to resolve it, and probably not coaching the ex Boss to behave. A coworker got scolded by ex Boss’s boss after going to HR. The ex Boss, HR, and Boss’s boss “have shown you who they are, believe them”. (Maya Angelou). My opinion is that you can’t happily stay in this company a few years. Could you start looking for a better job and just cope with this surreal situation? As Alison has counseled in the past – try observing from a distance and look at the environment as some strange land/culture with weird practices and behavior. Keep your head down, be neutral in responses to ex Boss if they become your boss again, and do what work you have. Don’t talk to anyone about your issues – HR, colleagues, or current boss. I’m really hopeful that things will get better for you and, if you choose to do it, you find a wonderful new job (using Alison’s tips) and have a happy and successful career. It would be great to find out how things go.

      1. Common Otter*

        Wow you just described that Boss so perfectly I don’t know if this is funny or scary. All those additional things you said are dead on. Thank you for the encouragement! After I got out from their claws that’s exactly what I’ve been doing around that Boss: keeping it professional and polite, laying low, and just trying to enjoy the show. So I think I’ll be keeping it that way at least for now. The people I work with day-to-day are amazing and I’m doing work I absolutely love, so as long as the good sides keep winning by a landslide I’m happy about staying. I also have career goal for the near future and it’s really beneficial for that. But of course if the situation turns sour again I’ll be looking for something else, not worth it destroying my mental health over this job. Unfortunately when all that happened I doubted myself for a really long time on whether it was actually happening and if I was actually in the wrong, but I’ve since learned to understand how bad that Boss is on so many levels, also thanks to all the advice here. I’ll be posting in the open thread again if there are any updates!

        1. 30 Years in the Biz*

          It sounds like you’re handling it really well! FYI, one of the things narcissists do is also make you doubt yourself and your abilities; I’m sorry this happened to you. I am 3 yrs, 3 months away from a job working for a narcissist director. This person did all the things mentioned above to me, called in HR to threaten me (even though I had 9+ years of outstanding reviews, bonuses, stock options), and eventually had me laid off. I ended up depressed and anxious (still receiving treatment) and was out of work for a year. Luckily, thanks to Ask a Manager, I received multiple offers and accepted a job in biotech that’s providing real help to the COVID pandemic. My new job and colleagues are great, with no signs of the major dysfunction at the other company. All the best!!

          1. Common Otter*

            Thanks, this all might actually help me really reframe that person in my head. While I’m of course not armchair diagnosing, these descriptions fit so well that if I keep this in mind it could help me remind myself that it’s all because of what kind of person they are and I – or anyone else – didn’t do something wrong and cause this happen.

            I’m really sorry to hear that but so happy that you’re doing so much better! Knowing what it’s like to work under a person like that, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be when it goes so far that they even turn other people against you and eventually cause you to lose your job. Hope both of us will never have to run into people like that again in our careers!

    5. LTL*

      Not sure if you’ll see this since it’s a later reply.

      Your exboss is an abuser. Please prioritize leaving this workplace (which has allowed your exboss to remain employed, so I am certain that they have other issues).

  5. ThatGirl*

    This was sort of funny to me in light of the discussion earlier this week about the adjunct professor trying to jump the vaccination line. I work for a manufacturing company. But I’m in marketing; I consider that my line of work, and I am fully WFH and even when the office reopens we will be at least part-time WFH going forward.

    Yesterday a company-wide email got sent out urging everyone to get vaccinated when we can, and it stated that because we’re a manufacturing company, we’re all considered 1B Essential Manufacturing Workers. And I fully, 100% support our warehouse and production staff getting in line ASAP; our products cannot be produced or shipped from home. But me? I’m low-risk, young-ish, and work at a computer all day. I would feel super weird trying to jump the line when not everyone in 1A or 1B has been able to get appointments yet.

    1. Gigi*

      Honestly, get the vaccine when you can. That’s what Dr. Fauci is saying and everyone else agrees. You sacrificing an earlier place in line won’t give it to someone who needs it more. The system is broken, but you can take comfort in knowing that your vaccination will contribute to herd immunity that much faster. I am also fairly young and healthy, and just got my first shot this week because I’m in a national security job and I really do need to go back to the office sooner rather than later. As a fully-socialized American woman, I also felt some guilt. We need to get over it. Good luck to you and stay healthy.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Not only that, but you’ll be adjacent to the “truly” 1B personnel part-time when you go back into the office. So the WfH portion of your observation is illusionary…

        1. ThatGirl*

          No I won’t — our manufacturing plant/warehouse is in a totally separate location from the office, and the office won’t be fully reopen until vaccines are widely available. My office rarely interacts with the plant folks in person.

          1. Momma Bear*

            My sister is kind of in your shoes and I told her to just get vaccinated because even if the contact with others is low/rare, it still happens.

      2. Student Affairs Sally*

        I agree with this. I’m getting my second shot tomorrow because I work in education, even though my role doesn’t currently involve teaching and 90% of my meetings are online now. I’m mostly healthy (mild asthma), and if I didn’t take the opportunity to get it now who knows when I’d be able to. It’s not our fault that the system is broken. I didn’t do anything to jump the line, but with a vaccine offered to me I wasn’t going to turn it down. There’s a good chance if I did, it would have ended up in the trash rather than someone else’s arm. You gotta put your own oxygen mask on first here.

        1. JelloStapler*

          We have been trying to get our governor to include higher education in their plans so we can get a shot. Our students are struggling too. I will take it if offered.

          1. Student Affairs Sally*

            I was really surprised that vaccines were available to my school, because according to what I’ve read it’s only supposed to be K-12 educators that are eligible in my state right now. But it was literally the county health department that contacted us to offer the vaccine and I figure they know what they’re doing. The only thing I can think of is that we’re in a very rural county so there’s probably less demand? I would assume that would mean receiving fewer doses, but who knows. As others have pointed out, the distribution system is a mess. I hope you get the opportunity to get the shot soon!

      3. ThatGirl*

        That’s the thing, though — right now, appointments are still pretty limited. I’m not even sure I’d be able to get one, and if I could, it might well be taking a place from someone. I WILL get vaccinated, sooner rather than later, and certainly before going back to the office. (In fact, the company has said return to office is predicated on the vaccine being widely available.) I just don’t think now is the time to use my very tenuous 1B status.

        1. Observer*

          The whole prioritization thing is a huge mess, and very badly done. Which is not to say that you should not follow the rules or try to actually game the system. It’s to say that how closely you think you match a certain category doesn’t really speak to any moral imperative or how much sense it makes to get the vaccone.

          Also, you say “right now, appointments are still pretty limited. I’m not even sure I’d be able to get one, and if I could, it might well be taking a place from someone.” Except that given the way this has been happening in many places, it quite probable that you STILL would not be taking the shot from someone who meets the official criteria more closely. The system(s) being used are not just badly broken, they inexcusably messed up. Including literally preferring that doses are discarded rather than be given to someone out of the “correct” category. And systems that make it difficult to impossible for people in some supposedly high priority categories to actually make appointments.

        2. whingedrinking*

          I am not an expert, so don’t quote me on this, but based on what I know, it doesn’t work like that.
          Think of it like fighting a forest fire. Ideally, you’d dump water all over the entire area that was on fire and the surrounding area all at once. But since that’s not possible, you target your efforts to where they’ll do the most good – say by dividing up the forest on a grid and scaling the resources you send to each section based on how bad the situation is there. You don’t look at each tree within those areas to decide if it “counts” – the amount of resources you’d save by targeting individuals would be completely swallowed up by the logistical nightmare of that particular census-taking, and time is just as important as material in this kind of situation.
          Also, it’s not zer0-sum. When you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of individuals, one or two doses – or even a hundred doses – won’t make that much difference in logistics either way. If a firefighter decides not to hose down one tree in a high-risk area, that doesn’t mean the water immediately goes to another tree that might need it more but is in a lower-risk area.
          With a vaccine, this is even more the case, because the goal is to get everybody vaccinated in the end. If you could only put out a forest fire by making sure 90+% of all the trees got 10 litres of water each, we wouldn’t say to send repeated missions of firefighters and water bombers carefully choosing the most at-risk trees each time. You’d send them to the most at-risk areas and tell them to get as many trees as possible while they’re there. You have to balance effectiveness with efficiency.
          I’ll repeat: *the goal is to get everyone vaccinated*. If you get vaccinated, you’re helping others, not hurting them. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      4. TechServLib*

        Agree 100% with Gigi! Get the shot when you can. However, there are ways of getting it that are more ethically icky than others. In my area there’s been a lot of high-income people snagging spots in low-income areas because higher income folks tend to have more free time and internet access to get appointments and our state doesn’t limit availability by area. So maybe try to avoid using tactics like that to get a vaccine. If you have the time and want to do something to assuage your guilt, a lot of states have programs where you can volunteer to help elderly or high-risk people who don’t have internet access or tech skills make vaccine appointments. But if that’s not in the card for you, just get the vaccine when you can and encourage others to do the same!

      5. Dave*

        I think there is wisdom in taking a dose that would go to waste like the doctors who passed out the vaccines that were going to go bad when stuck in winter traffic. I also think there is wisdom in letter people who are on the front lines and struggling to get an appointment to take the early slots. When the process stabilizes sure those of us that are WFH and low risk should get in line at that point. In the meantime I can lay low and let the people who are at higher risk and have to interact with people in person from their job go first.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yes, this is how I feel. If I got randomly offered one, I’d take it, but for now I’m happy to let others go first.

          1. Natalien*

            I think that makes sense, if getting an appointment would require a bunch of effort on your part you’re not obligated to do so. But if it’s offered at some point, go ahead and get it!

        2. Product Person*

          Yes, this. Just because we can (potentially due to ill-defined rules), it doesn’t mean we should because there are still tons of emergency workers, immunocompromised, or K-12 teachers waiting to get vaccinated, and waiting can help expedite their immunization.

          I know someone who took her mother to be vaccinated. She is 62, not yet qualified, and the doctor offered to give her a dose too. After confirming it wasn’t a dose about to expire, and that it could go to a more deserving person, she refused. Her mother doesn’t live with her and she’s working from home. I applaud her and you, ThatGirl. I’ll get the vaccine when it’s my turn, which isn’t now since I can work from home and avoid getting exposed to the virus, while emergency workers can’t.

          I’m pre-registered, and if someone calls me saying there are doses are about to expire and they need ANYONE who can be there quickly, then I won’t think twice.

    2. useitall*

      I volunteer at vaccine clinics and my advice is to make your appointment/show up at the end of the day. There is always one last vial at the end of the day that they need to use up and they don’t want to throw away. If you show up at the very end of the day, you can get a “leftover” dose if they have it but make it clear that they shouldn’t open a vial just for you. We are often going around to businesses near our clinic at the end of the day saying “we have 3 doses left over, who needs a vaccine?”

      1. I edit everything*

        I’ve been curious: In situations like that, where you have leftover doses to give people (or the situation with the health workers stuck in a traffic jam with vaccine about to expire), how do those people get their second dose? My mom got her first dose a couple weeks ago, and was automatically assigned a time/day for her second, but what about the people who are in the right place at the right time, rather than part of an organized clinic?

          1. DragoCucina*

            Yes. My husband is volunteering to vaccinate people (retired nurse). Yesterday they had one that would have had to been destroyed. He called me and I could get there as they were closing. I received a card with the date to get the second vaccination. No special treatment and no waste.

            In higher education it’s been an issue that libraries have been required to stay open and staffed even if all classes are remote. In some states academic librarians, even dealing daily with the students and public, are classified as 1C.

        1. Hooray Spreadsheets*

          I got my first dose as a leftover when a friend running a vaccine clinic had some at the end of the day that were going to expire, no one else at the clinic/nearby who needed or wanted one, and I was the first one who answered the phone and was available in time. I was told that I’ll be allowed an appointment at the appropriate time to get my second dose.

      2. Gutenberg*

        We live very close to a big vaccination site. The word went out on a neighborhood email group that 65+ could take their chances and maybe get extras by showing up during the last hour. We are 68 and 66 so we went there the following afternoon and got lucky! There were 150 extras that day and volunteers were making phone calls to people in need, plus getting vaccinated themselves. That afternoon only, it was open to anyone 18+ and staff said they would not close until all were given.
        Since then, I’ve seen local media reports that any extras throughout this very large metro area will instead be taken to the 24 hour site on the opposite side of town.

    3. Here For It*

      If you prefer to wait to get vaccinated by all means wait, but you’re not jumping the line if you go ahead now. You’ve just been told that it’s your turn, and we all benefit from everyone getting vaccinated as soon as they are able to. The “jump the line” language here risks shaming people who do get vaccinated when eligible, which should be cause for celebration!

      1. ThatGirl*

        I would never shame anyone for getting vaccinated — but to me, I’m not in 1B, that’s my point. It feels only slightly less icky than that spin instructor claiming she was a teacher. Supply should increase soon, and at that point, I’ll start trying for an appointment.

        1. Octopus*

          I agree with you, ThatGirl. The vaccinations should be given out based on actual ROLE, not the company/industry you work in. (I’m in a similar boat, WFH in a critical industry where my ROLE is not essential). Save the doses for someone who is actually frontline. Given how hard it is to get appointments in most places, the concern that you’d take the dose from someone higher risk is legitimate. We’re not talking about a dose that’s about to expire but vaccine appointments that could go to someone else.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I am considered essential. I work alone and pretty much can go days without seeing anyone. I live in an area where the stats are low and always have been. I am in no rush. I will just continue using extra care and let others who want it/need it go first. This is because I see others going through a lot worse than what I have here.
            OP, just from watching the news, it appears like the dam will break and there will be more and more vaccines available. If you want yours now, then you should go. If you don’t mind waiting, then wait. Try not to over think it as I tend to believe we are nearing the downhill side of this problem and your question of go/wait will probably only mean to a very short difference in timing. The difference being some weeks is not worth a ton of brain space. If you feel guilty about taking it from others, it could be in part that is because you feel you are safer than others. I do, too. It’s okay to go. And it’s okay to wait. Both answers are acceptable.

          2. Malarkey01*

            The way things “should” work and the way things “are” working (and honestly the most efficient way to get vaccines in arms) is not to overly complicate tiers. Taking an appointment today when it has been legitimately offered or waiting until next month will still take an appointment slot and there are going to be a lot of people in those later tiers that need it ASAP and appointments will be difficult for awhile.

            Plus your job has been “counted” in your states tier (the know how many people work in education, agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, etc). When your state says step up we’re ready for YOU, step up quickly and efficiently otherwise it’s a delay to everyone— Doesn’t it drive you crazy when we’re all suppose to zipper merge when driving out of a parking area following a big event and then two cars get into the “oh you go, oh no go right ahead, oh no after you” back and forth dance while everyone behind them is like JUST GO You’re holding up the line…that’s this.

          3. pancakes*

            Think of the training, staffing, and hours of labor that would be required to categorize people by role, though. I can certainly see the appeal of doing it that way, but it’s not necessarily practical, and in any case isn’t the approach being taken.

      2. Coenobita*

        I agree. Basically: if you are offered the vaccine (according to the rollout procedures where you are), you are not jumping the line.

        I am also a relatively low risk person whose day job is fully WFH, but I’ve gotten both doses now because I volunteer one day a week at a vaccine clinic (in operations – I don’t have a clinical/healthcare background). I also felt like I didn’t deserve the vaccine and honestly I still kinda feel that way, but I recognize that’s my own issue to work through and it was better for public health for me to take the vaccine when offered.

        Lots of us have strong feelings about vaccine rollout, prioritization, etc. but (as with many things) the answer to that is advocacy, collective action, and systems change – not putting your own health at risk.

        1. ThatGirl*

          That’s the thing, though – my health is not really at risk. I rarely go anywhere, I live in a pretty mask-compliant area, I don’t have any kids, I’m not a caretaker for any high-risk people, and I’m almost certain to be vaccinated before I start working in an office again.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Then, wait?

            I am in a similar setting where I am very much aware that others have it far worse than I do. I am not feeling any hardship by waiting.

            The thing is, if you actually want the vaccine asap, then you should just go get it. You are probably only talking about a difference of a some weeks anyway.

            1. ThatGirl*

              Yeah, I’m planning to wait! I’m just a little bemused by people seemingly insisting I need to go sign up now! asap! and almost implying I’m being selfish by waiting?! Someone said the state has allocated doses based on info my company has provided to them … I don’t think that’s true. I’m in Illinois and while we’re doing OK on distribution, things are not running smoothly yet. I know that Chicago and Cook County are opting to NOT move to 1C yet because they don’t have enough doses for all the 1B folks. I will gladly start looking for an appointment in, say, March.

              1. KeepIt*

                I’m not sure why you wanted others input if you’ve already made up your mind, but to reiterate it’s not “line jumping” if you take the vaccine when it’s offered to you

                1. ThatGirl*

                  I actually didn’t ask for advice? I was posting to share the email that my company sent out and how I felt about it. I mean, I obviously can’t stop people from giving me advice, but …

                2. Annie Moose*

                  @ThatGirl – Alison has actually asked people to not do this, simply posting something to share without wanting responses. The open threads are all about discussion, after all! Sometimes that means discussion goes in ways we don’t anticipate (I’ve been there!!) but it is what it is.

              2. RagingADHD*

                If you’re “bemused” by people having entirely different perspectives on the items you post for discussion, then perhaps you’d be happier with a medium where you control the comments yourself.

                1. ThatGirl*

                  That’s needlessly antagonistic. I’m happy for other opinions, I just don’t need folks telling me my personal choice to not bend the truth is wrong somehow. I actually looked at the criteria to register on my county’s health dept website; I would have to verify that I’m an essential worker. And I’m just not, regardless of what kind of company I work for.

                2. pancakes*

                  It appears that you categorically are regarded as an essential worker, because this is categorized by employer and not by role. You may not feel this is appropriate but it’s nonetheless how your state has organized things. You said it yourself in your first post: “because we’re a manufacturing company, we’re all considered 1B Essential Manufacturing Workers.” If anyone is bending the rules it is you, to accommodate your discomfort with this designation.

          2. Sue*

            I appreciate your attitude. My spouse and I are both over 65 and essential workers. Neither of us has been able to find an appointment. Meanwhile, healthy friends under 65, their 30 something kids, people from out of town all have been successfully vaccinated here. I’m ok but it’s hard to wait and watch. I’m not saying not to get it, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

            1. ThatGirl*

              My mom and her husband have been vaccinated, thanks to a moment of serendipity where they were both eligible thanks to mom being a hospital volunteer. My dad and stepmom on the other hand have had a ton of trouble finding appointments. It’s really all over the place. But in my area I am still seeing headlines about frustrated seniors, so I really do want to give them a chance first.

              1. Qwerty*

                Knowing your area is really important. I’d recommend looking at waitlists (so the dose doesn’t go to waste) or paying attention to when it sounds like they’ll be moving onto the next phase and getting in while the appointments are easier to get.

                Right now its just easier to categorize people based on companies/industry rather than getting nitpicky about roles, so some people are unexpectedly eligible while others are unexpectedly excluded.

          3. sequined histories*

            You are at risk. It may be a low risk, but don’t kid yourself. You could get this and suffer lifelong damage to your heart and lungs. You also don’t know for sure when or if you will have access to this vaccine.

            It’s commendable that you would feel guilty getting the vaccine earlier than other people who are more vulnerable, but you also have no way to pass on “your” dose to someone “more worthy”; it may well go to someone less at risk than you.

            Most of us—in one respect or another—have unfair advantages in life. It would be a better world if we all had more mental clarity and humility about our unfair advantages, as it would motivate us to do more to make the world a fairer place.

            You are thinking that going to the back of the line is a way to make the world a tiny bit fairer, but that’s not actually the case in this situation. You are considering gambling your life for a gesture that feels morally right but could easily be morally meaningless.

            This is not the test of character—are simple act of common sense—that you think it is.

            1. ThatGirl*

              LOL OK just for the record I don’t think I’m some sort of saint or anything, or that this is a test of character. It’s simply my personal feelings about it based on my actual job, my home situation, etc., etc. I’m not gambling my life — I’m just waiting a few weeks to look for a vaccine appointment. There IS no “my” dose — there are simply limited doses that are being doled out to whomever signs up for an appointment that day.

              1. sequined histories*

                I don’t think you’re claiming to be saint! I think you’re just trying to do the right thing—or the thing that makes the most sense to you in the context of the situation.

                I do think you’re gambling your life, though. I mean, statistically, it’s a gamble you’ll probably win, but still, there are younger people who die, suffer from “long” COVID, etcetera.

                I live in a city that had a high number (700+) of confirmed infections in the spring and fully 8% of those people died. Now, my city’s population is especially vulnerable due to the effects of poverty and racism. My upstairs neighbor was in a coma and we didn’t hear from him for 5 months and honestly thought he had died. I certainly support systemic initiatives to favor the most vulnerable. Absolutely. I would never “jump the line” by not following the roll-out rules in my locality or condone anyone else doing so.

                But I would also strongly encourage anyone who asked my advice to get the vaccine as soon as they are eligible and can secure an appointment. Internationally delaying taking the vaccine does—objectively speaking—put your life at risk, even if you believe that the level of risk negligible and/or acceptable you.

                As for the difference in wait times being only a matter of a few weeks: from your mouth to God’s ears.

          4. pancakes*

            Many people who fit this description pass the virus along asymptomatically. Whether you are at risk of severe illness if infected or not, all of us who aren’t yet vaccinated are a risk as potential carriers.

              1. pancakes*

                Yes, and that’s one of the reasons why the guidance is to continue wearing a mask. My understanding is that the viral load tends to be lower, though, resulting in less severe illness for the vaccinated person and people they might infect.

    4. ghostlight*

      A lot of hospitals are working this way too. I have friends who work in philanthropy and development at hospitals (completely remotely), and they were given vaccines after the front-line workers but before the general public. I would get it when you can. The vaccine distribution schedule isn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t fault you for getting it when you can.

      1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

        My partner works for a hospital in Chicago and that’s how his employer did it. He works in the billing department and has been 100% WFH since March, but he went in and got vaccinated as soon as appointments were available for non-frontline employees. (He is also considered higher-risk for a couple reasons, so I’m glad he was able to get it done early.)

        My mom got her first dose this week and my grandma got her second dose today, so that was good. I, however, am much lower on the priority list – I’m in the general public tier. I _might_ be able to qualify in 1C based on BMI, but I don’t feel like finding out. Based on sheer numbers of people in the state (plus I wouldn’t be surprised if a vaccine approved for kids becomes available by the time they get to group 2), I’m not expecting to be able to get it before October at the very earliest – if not the beginning of next year. However, I’ve read production and distribution are ramping up enough that vaccines should be available to the general public by July. So we’ll see!

        1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          Of course, I’d take one if directly offered to me, but I’m not going to aggressively try before it’s my turn.

    5. Cat Tree*

      For each person who gets the vaccine, that’s a 95% chance of keeping someone out of an ICU. By protecting yourself you are protecting others too. That’s one more hospital bed and healthcare workers available to someone who needs for non-Covid reasons.

      Also, there’s really no such thing as low risk when it comes to Covid. There’s only high risk and very high risk. If the vaccine is available to you, try not to feel bad getting it.

    6. RagingADHD*

      The rollout will go a lot faster if everyone just takes their turn when it comes.

      The categories don’t exist to provide absolute “fairness” because that is impossible to achieve if it even exists. It’s a question of logistics: Get everybody vaccinated ASAP.

      Don’t hold up the process quibbling.

    7. Junior Dev*

      Maybe unpopular opinion (and specific to the US since I live here); I’m not happy with framing “someone getting or trying to get the vaccine early when maybe they could wait” as “jumping the line” or “cheating.” I am explicitly not talking about people who lie about what their job is, or bribe someone, or use family connections to get vaccinated. I’m talking about people who have been deemed eligible by the standards of the state they live in but maybe they’re at lower risk, they just happen to be in some category that puts them at a higher priority. This includes the letter writer yesterday.

      I know someone who works in public health and does work with the public and only didn’t get the vaccine because he was informed about it by an email that gave him only a few hours to go and sign up and by the time he tried it was too late. He was mad at my friend/his roommate, who works in medical research but doesn’t do patient care, for getting the vaccine first. The thing is, my friend works for a large research hospital with its own distribution system and so the only reason she got it first was logistics. It’s not like she could have chosen to give her doses to him.

      The whole vaccine distribution campaign has been pretty chaotic because of how hard it is to transport and store the vaccine and the sheer scale of trying to vaccinate everyone in the US when supplies are limited. There have been cases where a freezer broke or some similar thing happened and people had to rush to get anyone vaccinated on a first come first serve basis. Sometimes it works out fine, but recently a doctor who tried to make the best of such a situation was fired for “stealing” a vial of the vaccine that would have gone bad had he not found people to take it.

      The goal is to get shots into arms. Ideally we get them to doctors and other healthcare workers first, then to other vulnerable groups or groups of people more likely to spread the virus. But we don’t live in an ideal world, we live in one where logistics problems make it very hard to get everyone vaccinated according to plan. It’s really jarring to see some people deriding antivaxxers in one sentence and then putting down people who try to legitimately get the vaccine in the next; this is not a good time and place for gatekeeping or trying to rank “who deserves it” more, and while it’s good to prioritize medical workers and other public-facing people *by default,* there are just gonna be a ton of people who don’t neatly fit into a category and in my opinion those people should get their vaccine as soon as their state’s system says they can. Let’s not shame them for it, and definitely let’s not shame people who ask questions about their status without even taking action (which I think yesterday’s headline did). Ultimately the goal is to get everyone (who can be) vaccinated and any person getting the vaccine is putting us one step closer to that goal.

    8. KeepIt*

      Get the vaccination whenever you’re eligible too. From what I’ve read and heard, passing on your turn may seem noble but the vaccine doses have a limited shelf life and they really just want to get them into as many people as they can. If you’re eligible, you’re eligible. Don’t let people try to bully you or assign some sort of moral value on whether you get the vaccine when you’re told you’re allowed to!

    9. Merci Dee*

      My situation is sort of similar to yours — I, too, work in a manufacturing facility but am in the accounting department. Because of the nature of the industry that I work for and the heavy security for our computer systems, working from home is not an option for anyone in our facility, so I have been coming in to work throughout the pandemic. Additionally, it’s commonplace for managers/team leaders from the production floor to come into the administrative office, and the vast majority of us are in a cube farm in the main office area (thankfully, our cubes are larger than the 6-feet social distance recommendation and the walls are taller than our heads when we’re seated, but we’re still in cubes in one large room). Our company has strongly urged everyone in the facility to get vaccinated, and is giving out an extra day of vacation to those who bring in their vaccination card with information for both injections. Our line workers are arranged into three shifts that allow some time either in the morning or in the afternoon for production folks to get vaccinated, but management has been allowing the 8-5 office workers to leave during the day for a couple of local walk-in/drive-thru clinics that have been happening in towns around us without requiring us to use vacation time while we’re away. I think that, by this point in the week, most all of us in the main admin office have received our first vaccine doses, and are just waiting for the appointments for our second doses. I feel like our company has been doing all that it can to make the vaccination process as easy for us as possible, and this attitude follows on some other changes around the plant that management made with employee safety in mind over the last year.

      1. OyHiOh*

        These are the kind of incentives that will help encourage people to get vaccinated. Good for your company. Making it as easy as possible to go out and get your shots, and essentially paying for the time you spend at a clinic, is the way to go.

        1. Merci Dee*

          Yeah, a lot of people were pleased to hear that they weren’t going to make us use leave to get vaccinated.

          Most of the walk-in/drive-thru clinics in our area this week have been first-come, first-served so folks would just generally show up and wait in line for a shot, hoping that the supply for the day didn’t run out before they got their chance. I was extremely lucky to find an urgent care clinic in a city about 50 minutes away from my home that was doing vaccines by appointment, and was able to get a good time slot back on Monday afternoon. My work is way out on the west side of the city where I live, and the urgent care I was visiting was out past the east side of my city, and my home is less than 2 minutes off the interstate I would have to drive between the two locations. Knowing this, I decided to go ahead and use half a day vacation so that I could take my daughter with me (she sat in the car for the duration of my appointment) and then grab a late lunch on the way home. We were the only two customers in the lunch spot we chose at 2:45, so social distancing was a breeze. And by the time we got home, it was about 4:30. So taking the half-day turned out to be the right decision. And my daughter and I are looking forward to doing it again when I go for the second injection next month. So I’m basically getting a vacation day to replace the two half-days I’m taking to get the vaccine. I’m okay with using a day to get a day, and regard myself as coming out ahead since I get two Monday late-lunch dates with my daughter, as well. :)

      2. The Other Dawn*

        We got an email last night stating we’ll get an extra day of PTO if we bring in proof of vaccination, or a letter from the doctor stating why we can’t get it. I’m pretty happy about that and hope it encourages many more colleagues to get vaccinated; it’s a great incentive in my opinion.

        1. Merci Dee*

          That’s interesting. The email from our leadership only mentioned an extra day if we had proof of two injections administered by the same provider. The email didn’t mention anything about provisions for people who are medically unable to vaccinate. Maybe that’s something that I should bring up with them.

    10. LDF*

      I don’t disagree with other comments exactly but just because your company says you’re eligible doesn’t mean your vaccinating authorities will agree.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah. As far as I’ve heard, nobody is checking exactly — you just have to fill out the form when you register for an appointment — but I suspect if I called the health dept and gave them details they might encourage me to wait. (I’m not going to do that, just an example.)

    11. vaccination consternation*

      I’m going to deviate from what others have said. I think what your company is doing is icky–most places that employ essential workers don’t have 100% essential staff, and should not try to treat all staff as such when it comes to prioritization. But your company is far from alone in trying to claim all its staff as essential. I used to work for a hospital system that started offering vaccines to employees working remotely once all frontline health care workers were vaccinated instead of to high risk patients, which I think is messed up. There are a lot of jobs where it would be *ideal* to return to the office sooner so essential functions can be better supported, and I’ve seen people in that position try to argue as to why they should get earlier access, but the reality is that when there are so few doses available, vaccinating anyone who has the ability to work from home and is lower medical risk comes at the expense of other people who absolutely must work in person and/or is at high medical risk. That is the harsh reality of having such a limited supply and high demand.

      That said…you are not responsible for your company trying to prioritize everyone, and I think the choice to get it now or wait is entirely up to you, so long as your local government doesn’t push back against your company. I posted before about being vaccinated in 1A instead of 1C due to poor communication about how my role was classified. I have a lot of contact with the public and cannot work from home, but I’m also in my 20s and healthy, and may be fielding an offer from a remote job soon, which I didn’t know about when I got my first dose. A lot of people fall into the trap of dichotomous thinking that if they get the vaccine before they should, they are automatically taking a spot away from someone more vulnerable. Had I not gotten vaccinated, it maybe would have gone to a grocery store worker in their 60s with emphysema or an 85 year old retiree, but it also maybe could have gone to waste, or to someone who just happened to be shopping in that drug store that day, or to a healthy remote worker at an essential company like yourself. There is no way of knowing who that dose would have gone to if it weren’t me, and dwelling on that benefits no one.

      tl;dr what your company is doing is wrong, but I think ethically whether you choose to get vaccinated now or later is up to you and both are okay. Vaccination rollout has been so bungled and inequitable that the ethics behind prioritization is convoluted, but you were not responsible for designing these systems. At the end of the day, the more doses administered the better for the population as a whole.

      1. Chestnut Mare*

        It may not be the company’s doing; the providers administering the vaccine may be making the decision to vaccinate everyone, whether they are frontline staff or not.

        1. ThatGirl*

          No, this was specifically my company sending out an email specifically telling us we fit into this distribution group because we’re a manufacturing company — it has nothing to do with providers, who seem to be just taking people at their word.

        2. vaccination consternation*

          Most distribution sites are turning people away without appointments, but relying on the honor system for people to be truthful answering screening questions when they register for an appointment. I can’t speak for everywhere of course, but I think many vaccination sites do have rules on who they are and aren’t allowed to vaccinate (and contingency plans for leftover doses) but lack the capacity to verify. I was told to bring my work ID which was never checked, and my ID was checked at my second dose but not my first.

          My company is split between essential employees and administrative staff. They sent a very clear email to staff encouraging essential workers to get vaccinated ASAP and administrative staff to get vaccinated when they’d otherwise be eligible based on age, pre-existing conditions and state (I live in an area where many people commute from the suburbs out-of-state). I’m glad my company issued those guidelines, but again yours is far from the only one that’s trying to claim everyone as essential when they’re not…

    12. Me*

      Hey there – I work in emergency management for a county and am actively involved vaccine stuff.

      Don’t feel weird please. The priority groups are not meant to be super nitpicky because we just don’t want to get that in the weeds. There are people in the medical community who don’t see or work with patients. But they still qualified for a vaccine. The same is going to happen with the occupation groups and we know that. It’s not a good use of our time and resources to be over-specific.

      Second as far as there being people in other priority groups who haven’t gotten vaccines yet, every time we open a clinic there are going to be people in 1a or 1 b who cannot take those slots for whatever reason such as scheduling conflicts or transportation issues. If we’ve moved on to offering to additional priority groups it’s because we are not able to consistently fill with who is left in the earlier priority groups. So yes, even though there are still people who haven’t been vaccinated in those groups, it’s more because a slot hasn’t worked fro them vs not being offered. That’s an over simplification a bit but captures the gist of it.

      I hope that helps but you at ease.

    13. Cormorannt*

      I’m in a similar boat. I’m in engineering at a manufacturing company. I haven’t received any communication (yet) from our employer to get vaccinated. We are back in the office, but I do have my own individual office and I don’t have to be out on the manufacturing floor. I am otherwise very low-risk. I hadn’t tried to get a vaccine appointment yet, because like you, I don’t really think I’m what the public health authorities mean when they say “manufacturing workers”. I don’t think I’d be turned away, but I don’t feel right about it. This thread is interesting because a lot of people are leaning the other way. Is the calculus different because I am no longer working from home?

      1. ThatGirl*

        Is the calculus different because you’re no longer working from home? I’d say slightly. But since you have your own office, not dramatically. If I was told I needed to be back in the office in two weeks, say, or even six weeks, I’d probably be actively looking for appointments right now. But I also won’t have my own office.

        (My husband has been going in to his office two days a week since the fall, but he has his own office, there are only 3 people there at a time, and nobody else is coming in, so he is also waiting a bit.)

    14. Anonymous for this one*

      I got a call about the vaccine yesterday because I’m apparently just fat enough now to qualify as obese, which puts me into whatever category my state is working through. I’m middle-aged, work from home (kids in school every day, though), and otherwise healthy… I think I’m going to wait. I have 70-year-old relatives still waiting, so don’t feel right about it.

      1. Natalie*

        If you’re able to call back I would really encourage you to take the appointment, since it’s being offered! You skipping it doesn’t actually make your relatives waiting better or fairer or worthwhile, it reduces the resource burden for everyone (by lowering your chance of having serious illness), and there’s no reason to think it’s going to be easy for you to get an appointment later whenever you decide you’re ready.

        “In this together” doesn’t mean everyone waiting until someone else goes first. Just get the shot.

      2. LDF*

        I think it’s skeevy to lie to get an appointment ahead of time. But you aren’t lying explicitly or by omission. You qualify and therefore if you give up your change it’s not going to go to anyone more “deserving”.

    15. Hiring Mgr*

      Everything I’ve read says take it if you have the opportunity. My state (Mass.) just announced they’re giving vaccines to anyone who accompanies someone over 75 to their vacc appointment. So healthy me in my 40s will be getting one when I drive my mom to her appt.

    16. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Just because you can sign up doesn’t mean that you’ll get an appointment in the near future. I’m considered 1b for health reasons, and in my area they’re still processing people who signed up on the website in early Jan (ours says “you signed up on 2/xx/21, we are currently scheduling those that signed up on 1/xx/21”). So unless your state/area is super fast, all your just doing is putting your name on a waiting list to eventually be contacted to make an appointment.

      So you can either join the waitlist now, or just wait. Either way, everyone else who signed up before you are still going to get processed before you.

    17. The Other Dawn*

      You’re not jumping the line. You’re in group 1B so if you want the vaccination, just get it and don’t worry about it.

    18. Donkey Hotey*

      Chiming in: I’m in a similar boat (manufacturing but not turning wrenches department) only I’m 100% Working in the Office. I plan to get it as soon as possible not just because I “technically” qualify, but because many of the “actual” manufacturers at our company are still in the “it’s just the flu, man” mind-set. Either on the large scale or the small, I figure it’s always better to be one of the herd.
      Sadly, where I am (Washington state), the phase finder splits the hair between “essential industry where you can’t be more than 6′ from someone else” and “essential industry where you can” so I’m 1D rather than 1B.
      Good luck!

    19. Nope.*

      You being vaccinated helps others immensely. It is everyone’s best interest to take it the minute it’s offered to you. Please do so. This is not line jumping.

    20. Arctic*

      We are never going to reach vaccination rates we need if people keep doing stupid things like this. Your vaccine dose is more likely to go into the trash than to someone else who needs.

      This whole line of thought is so counter to public health measures.

      Do what you want but your choice is no different than anti-vaxxers refusing to get it from a public health standpoint.

      1. LabTechNoMore*

        Name-calling is against the commenting guidelines. But more to your point, the extremely high demand for vaccines means that they’re actually more likely to go into someone’s arm than be thrown away, with the logistical kinks that lead to expirations being somewhat unpredictable. OP couldn’t just request the “soon to expire” dose.

        With that said, I think a commenter above described it best, that vaccine eligibility requirements can’t go too far into the weeds without slowing down the process. (We tried that in CA, and it didn’t work.) In other words, OP, you’re likely being included in “manufacturing” because trying to tease out which individuals are specifically at highest risk roles would slow down the process to the point of being more detrimental than the occasional shot going to someone who isn’t frontline/highrisk. Broad strokes to decide who’s who for the sake of expediency. Almost everyone’s gotta get the shot sooner or later.

        But I actually sympathize with your dilemma, given what you’ve described and how (on a national level) the vaccine availability is still scare. Don’t have any advice, just wanted to send some e-support.

  6. Kramerica Industries*

    Thinking about work/life balance, how much would you need to make to justify working 1-2 hours more per day than your current standard?

    I know this varies based on location and personal preference, but I’m curious about how people take this into account when looking at promotions, especially getting into higher levels that require more stress and (salaried) overtime.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      From a math perspective, if a job is taking you from an 8 hour day to a 10 hour day, it should be at least a 25% raise. From a personal perspective? It would have to be a pretty big bump or also come with some crazy good perks. Now that I’ve finally attained really good work-life balance, it would take a lot to make me give that up.

      1. Cassidy*

        >Now that I’ve finally attained really good work-life balance, it would take a lot to make me give that up.

        Precisely. Well put.

      2. Picard*

        Yep, this. I used to run my own business and basically worked 24/7. I was always on. Got tired of it and took a job working for the man. Now I get full benefits including health care and retirement. I usually work 8-9 hour days, with a 30-60 minute break for lunch. I’ve been known to do a 12 hour day if needed but those happen maybe once a month? I gross about the same $ as before but the company pays the FICA stuff so my per hour rate has gone up dramatically. You would be hard pressed to have me go back.

    2. Louise*

      If I was going to work more I would hope I was getting paid more so my family finances would be a big question. My partner was able to pick up additional overtime every week for awhile now and the trade off is we have more money, but I also have had to pickup more household responsibilities. It has also given us more flexibility in COVID shopping to splurge on home delivery / pickup options that would be tougher without the extra income.
      Also can you flex the additional time to work for you? Personally if I have to work more I would rather wake up earlier and start then getting done at 7pm. Or can you take longer breaks during the day if you need to run an errand?
      Also if my current job was bad enough better quality of work life might make it work it.

    3. Ama*

      Honestly, for me, there is no amount of money that would be worth working more than I currently do. I am exempt and salaried — my work generally allows me to put in 8 hour days but I do on occasion need to do longer ones (in the Before Times I often worked events that would have me putting in a few 12-16 hour days in a row, these days I might occasionally do an extra hour or two once in a while if I’m in the middle of a time-sensitive project). I am an Associate Director at my employer so I do make decent money even though I’m in a nonprofit. Most of the time I don’t check work email outside of office hours (there are a couple of times a year when I’m doing something time-sensitive and it’s less stressful to spot problems as soon as they come up). Because we’re still work from home and my work phone is now forwarded to my cell, I will sometimes temporarily block my work number on the weekends and vacations so I don’t even have to see it pop up (although to be fair, 80% of the calls to my work number are telemarketers or unsolicited sales calls).

      I’ve actually told my CEO before (when she mentioned she thought I could be a nonprofit CEO or ED myself someday) that I’m not interested in moving much higher (maybe Director level at most) because I know from experience that I need to be able to get a total break from my job and I have no interest in being at the beck and call of Board members and major donors even on my ostensible vacation the way that she is.

    4. Web Crawler*

      Nope nope nope. I make enough money to support me and my partner and also have money in savings. I don’t think there would be a number that could make me work more than that.

      I also have daily chronic pain, and work is already at the outer limits of what I can manage. If I worked more, I’d burn out hard in a month.

    5. I edit everything*

      While I’d like a salary bump, my more important request would be a significant bump in PTO. Working longer days takes time away from my family, so offset that with more vacation, where I can really focus on quality time.

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My employer sometimes offers me an option to do up to 10 hours a week in a secondary role, paid hourly at approximately 2/3 of what my normal-job hourly rate would be. When they offer that option, I jump on it, though I usually continue to work my 40 hours during the week and the secondary role on weekends (because I wake up stupid early anyway). The rate on the secondary role is the same that I was making in that role when it was my full-time job, prior to the promotion that put me in my current job (I’ve gotten five years of pay raises in my primary job, but the secondary job isn’t eligible for annual raises).

      Basically, I’m very money-driven, so if they offer me the opportunity to do something that I like and/or am good at, in exchange for reasonable pay, I’ll probably do it. But per discussion with my boss, I don’t work over my normal 40 hours per week unless there’s either extra pay, or a specific reason for the extra hours that will accomplish something. (My normal job is one of those where the work never runs out, so I COULD five or ten extra hours a week on my regular tasks, but it won’t functionally change the workload for anybody, but if there’s a special project that has to be worked and completed posthaste, that’s a different story.)

    7. OtterB*

      I’m within a few years of retirement and I don’t think I have 1-2 hours more per day in me. Before that, I had two kids. They are young adults now, but the younger has intellectual disabilities and still needs support, so I could not have taken a role that would take away the time and flexibility I needed to deal with that. Pre-kids, I would have considered working more hours if it was a role that offered opportunities or the satisfaction of the work itself, but not so much for the money. I think I’d need to have a specific goal for the $ (buy a house, take a big vacation, paying down debt, deal with some family or medical issue). But I have always been well but not extravagantly paid, so that factors in.

      Practically thinking, what would you need to outsource in your personal life (more paid household help, more takeout food) and does the money cover that?

    8. LadyByTheLake*

      Also think about WHEN you want to work. I routinely work 9.5+ hours a day, but that’s because I work from 7:30-5:30 and usually eat lunch at my desk. I’m “home” way before most people and still completely have a life, but it’s because I’m starting an hour before a lot of people (8:30 start time is usual where I am). Also, think about your commute. If there is a short (or no) commute, adding a half hour at either end of the day can be not that big of a deal.

    9. fhqwhgads*

      $50k more than I make now.
      I’m doing math here though, because my current role requires zero OT and my boss is actually pretty stringent that he absolutely never expects any of us to work more than 40h, and I’m in CA which would require those extra hours daily to be OT (well it wouldn’t if I were exempt, but at the moment I’m not).
      So I’d want double-time for those extra hours…which legally would not require double-time pay, they’d be time and a half, but I’d want double time to do it. So doing all that math out, +$50k.

    10. New Mom*

      For me personally, I feel like the pandemic and recently having a baby has really changed my attitude about how much of my life should be work-only. I really like that I can spend time with my family as soon as work as over and not sit in my car for an additional hour each morning and evening. I’m happy with my current salary so if I were to move to a new role or company that required me to be at the office an additional hour I’d want about a 15%-20% raise, and for an additional two hours, I’d just say no. Eight hours is already a lot and ten hours a day every day, and then commute time just would not be worth it to me.
      I also really, really hate commuting. I’m in a dense traffic area, so it’s stop-and-go the whole way with other frustrated, erratic drivers so I’d only be willing to go up hours worked if the office was closer to my house or WFH. Before we switched to WFH I was coming home in such a bad mood almost every day because of being in traffic for so long, and it was draining my energy so it was hard to snap into productive dinner-cooking mode after being in traffic.
      For you, I think to ask yourself what your quality of life and overall happiness would be with the new hours and see if the salary makes it worth it.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Absolutely. When I had a long commute, it was bad enough. Then I had a baby and spent most of her waking hours on the road or at work. Changing my work-life balance became vital for everyone’s sakes.

    11. AGD*

      I’m an academic and already kind of just work all the time, so the relevant thought experiment for me tends to be the opposite – how much less would I accept in pay if I got an hour or two more per day allocated to hobbies and spare time? I love the job, to be clear, and the pay is very good, and I like that my hours are moderately flexible, but in practice I don’t step away from work much, and most of my hobbies get squeezed into points at the end of the day when I’m too tired to keep at it.

      1. academic Full*

        yep, that pretty much describes my work life balance, none. I also was ambitious and did what I could to fast track promotions. Went up early for tenure and for full. I am trying to do less, but having difficulty stepping back.

    12. Echo*

      For me it depends a lot more on the work than on the money. 1-2 more hours per day of engaging, fulfilling work that I love? Frankly, I’d do it at my existing salary. 1-2 more hours per day but it’s tedious, exhausting, or stressful? I’m quitting, there is no amount of money that would make it worthwhile. This is in fact exactly the way I look at promotions and job changes: is this an opportunity to further shape my role in a direction I’m excited about, to do more of what I love and less of what I hate?

      Some big caveats: I am already paid competitively for my location/seniority/industry, I’m salaried exempt, I have no kids, and while I am partnered my partner (salaried non-exempt) already works 1-2 hours per day more than I do.

    13. AY*

      Well, I used to work 3-4 more hours per weekday than I do now, plus one partial to full weekend day most weekends. At my last job, I made 75k more than I do now, plus a year-end bonus. I left because there is nothing more valuable to me than my time. To do regular 10-hour days (no weekends), I’d need more than a 75k raise. There are a lot of things I do now (gardening, weightlifting, running, trying new recipes every week) that I simply did not have time for under my old schedule. I wouldn’t go back.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      Ten hour days, 5 days a week have not been doable for me for a while now. So no amount of money would get me to do it.

      On rare occassion I have done a 12-14 hour day. I need the next day to recoup. So it’s basically a wash- I’d rather just work two normal days than spend the second day totally useless.

      I am willing to do a 9 or 10 hour day to help pull my group out of a bad spot. My focus is more about getting out of the bad spot than it is how much more money I will take home.
      It’s just been my experience that if I work right along, very seldom is OT needed anyway. I do see that other people doing the same work are having a different experience. So there’s that.

    15. Girasol*

      I’ve done this in a bad job market for no extra salary, just for the confidence that I would keep my job, but I regret it. For the boss, the 10th hour is worth the same as the 8th, or perhaps even less because the employee is tired and ineffective. The employee drags home so tired that the little free time left after doing necessary home chores can’t be enjoyed. So the employee sacrifices more for the 10th hour and should demand more for it. The company should consider that the price of an inhumane work schedule.

    16. sara*

      Back when I worked at an office rather than from home, there’s probably a number at which I would have made that trade-off. 25% at least, but hard to say for sure. But that’s because there are ways I could have spent that money to save myself time – house cleaning and laundry service is the main one that comes to mind. But also maybe gym/trainer membership near the office.

      Now that I’m essentially permanent WFH (in a job that pays well enough to comfortably cover my expenses and leisure activities), that just doesn’t make sense anymore. As much as I’d love a house cleaner, I’m home all the time so that doesn’t really make sense. And for laundry, I have it in my building so I can really do laundry anytime during the work day.

      I’d take a pay increase for other reasons, and I’d maybe work increased hours in the right situation, but the two are less linked in my head. Working increased hours, I’d have to be comfortable doing less ‘fun’ stuff, basically, as there’s not as much opportunity to free up more time by throwing money at the problem.

    17. A*

      Not enough money in the world. I accepted my current position largely because it was an ~$25k/yr raise from where I had been – but it’s a global position and since I deal with all time zones I’m often working 10-12 hour days and… it wasn’t worth it. I say that even after the raise allowed me to purchase a home on my own. Still not worth it. And it’s a difficult shift to pivot away from.

    18. Esmeralda*

      50% bump up. I’m close to retirement and would be happy to make more in my last few years, especially since our kid will be graduating from college in a couple of years and I’m worried about there being jobs where they can support themselves. On the other hand, this year has really brought home the importance of down time for my mental and physical health. And, although I like my job, I don’t love it.

    19. Donkey Hotey*

      Maybe I’m mis-reading your question, but for where I am, my work-life-budget is such that my 1.5 overtime is enough to motivate me to work 45-50 hours/week for short periods of time. Anything more than a month or two and there would need to be other PTO-type remuneration.

    20. Quinalla*

      It absolutely is something I think about with my career progression and I avoided moving up much when my kids were very young. Now that they are getting a little older, I’m looking to progress further knowing I will be adding easily 5 hours to my week, though I’ve dialed back some during the pandemic cause right now I basically am part-time teaching my kids on top of my full-time job.

      I don’t know exactly how much $$, but yeah it has to be pretty significant bump.

    21. Fushi*

      You literally could not pay me enough. My job already has periods where I end up doing 10-14 hour days and honestly I find that anything beyond a 9hr day once per week impacts my health significantly. (I have chronic physical and mental health issues, but I think others working tons of OT in my industry are probably not going to end up unscathed in the long run. I’m just the early warning system.) I don’t make that much to start with, but I’d definitely take a 10-15% pay cut to have guaranteed 8hrs or less per day!

    22. Wordybird*

      My current job is pretty thought-intensive and includes lots of really detailed (albeit repetitive) work so I’m really thankful that we’re only asked to work 35 hours a week. On Fridays, my brain is just DONE at 4 pm. Being able to be done by 4 pm also means I get a little break before I have to launch into the dinnertime-homework-bedtime routine. Our benefits are fine but more in line with in-office businesses vs. remote ones.

      It would take at least another $10K + some more vacation time for me to consider giving up that hour from 4 to 5 pm. Once my kids were high school or college-aged, maybe I’d be more open to a more traditional schedule (but I’ll be old by then so…)

  7. Dwight Schrute*

    Is my undercut unprofessional? When I eventually go back to work in person, will I need to hide it? For context I work in public health and also have very curly hair which I often wear in a bun

    1. Gigi*

      I’m guessing Alison would say that it depends on your office culture and norms, and I’m sure she’s correct. But I work for a conservative government agency and those norms are getting looser and looser. These “rules” on professionalism were created and defined by the patriarchy anyway. Push those boundaries and wear a bun! If you act professionally, you are professional.

    2. Weekend Please*

      It’s really hard to say. How are tattoos and unnatural hair colors viewed in your industry? I had an undercut and had no problems but I work in science. I think if other “edgy” style choices are ok, an undercut is ok. In general, an undercut is more subtle than the other examples I listed so it is less likely to raise eyebrows.

    3. londonedit*

      I’ve never worked anywhere where anyone’s haircut would be viewed as unprofessional (unless someone’s hair was objectively actually dirty) but then my industry is very casual and most people wear jeans to work. It would definitely depend on your industry/office.

    4. Captain Raymond Holt*

      Depends on the undercut. Can it be hidden with your hair? I’m female and the back of my head has a pointed undercut. My hair is long enough that you’d only see it if I put my hair in a ponytail. I don’t work in a field where it would be a big deal though (I also have a small nose piercing and nobody cares).

    5. Generic Name*

      I wouldn’t say it’s unprofessional in the sense that it has no place in an office setting (like wearing a bathing suit to work, as an extreme and obvious example), but if you want to be seen as polished and on a management track, maybe it’s not the most professional hairstyle, especially if you’re super young and struggle to be taken seriously? That being said, I totally dyed part of my hair purple for a while and got nothing but positive comments from my coworkers at my consulting firm.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        My view is it depends on how well done the cut is. It’s like that fad of “cutout shoulders” in women’s tops — if it fit perfectly it could be flattering on a movie star, but some people wore ones that gapped and didn’t fit well, or weren’t well designed. I didn’t find that flattering.
        It’s not about the idea of the haircut or the top, it’s about the execution. Is it a great haircut that flatters you? I’ve seen some that are “making a statement” but the person doesn’t seem to look in a 3-way mirror and see how they really look. Some stylists are better than others.

        1. Better off dead*

          Wow.

          There are so many awful things in this comment, I don’t know where to begin. I’m just stunned that anyone would think it acceptable to be so judgemental and rude.

          What a horrible way to think.

          1. Dream Jobbed*

            Awful things? Judgemental [sic] and rude? Your comment seems much ruder to me. Shoulder pads don’t work for everyone, and how a haircut looks, not just what it is, matter.

    6. Natalien*

      I don’t really think of public health as a super buttoned up industry, so I think you’re probably fine.

    7. Hillary*

      Just an undercut? No one noticed mine for 5+ years, even when I had a high undercut and pull the top/sides up from my bob. As long as your hair is styled neatly you’ll be fine.

      1. Hillary*

        in case you’re wondering, I’m saying this as a manager in a business that’s moving more casual. My usual look in the office is a polished dress or slacks/blouse and a blazer. My hair is less conservative now – I added unnatural color and now have a short cut that can be styled as a pixie or straight up (think Natalie Maines right now but shorter).

        I think of public health as mostly business casual, if you’re in international public health and wear suits my answer might be different.

    8. Dwight Schrute*

      Thanks everyone! I do also have tattoos that can be hidden, and the undercut is hidden if I wear my hair down. Dress code would be business casual in person

      1. Sheldon Cooper Doesn't Represent Me*

        Be conservative at first and test the waters by wearing your hair in a way that partly reveals it. For example, try wearing your bun lower on your head so that only the lower part of the undercut shows. Or alternate hairstyles between styles that show it and styles that hide it. Then once you have accustomed people to the look, rock your usual style. Sometimes the surprise at an unusual style is worse than the style itself, so easing people into it might work.

        1. comityoferrors*

          This is exactly why I did mine! I have an undercut on the back of my head, shaved to just below the spot I pull my hair up in a ponytail/bun (probably 2″ above the top of my ears). It makes my long, thick hair so much easier to manage and it’s soooo much lighter/more comfortable.

          I work in a business casual office in a leadership role. I wear my hair in a bun a lot so the undercut is very visible, and most people don’t notice or, at worst, they think it’s cute. The only problem I have is maintenance (especially in the lockdowns – it grew out to 5-6″ long and looked terrible. Thankfully everyone politely failed to comment on it then, too.)

    9. Chilipepper*

      I have an undercut on both sides. Ok, I really have a buzz cut everywhere but the top. If I wear it down, it looks aymetrical but I mostly wear it on top pulled into a clip. I love my cut and no one bats an eye.

      I’m actually a tail end baby boomer and female. I do work in a library but even the public does not care.

      It really depends on your industry and region and specific workplace.

    10. A*

      I don’t understand why it would be considered an issue. Unless you have elaborate designs shaved in that are somehow offensive, it’s just another hairstyle.

  8. Not a Real Giraffe*

    I got promoted! I am very excited — however, part of the promotion puts me on a career track that I don’t really have experience in. My boss knows this, but believes in my ability to learn this side of my role and has offered to cover the cost of courses/trainings, with the idea that this will help them retain me long-term at the company. I’m stoked! But I have no idea where to look for classes.

    Can anyone point me in the direction of some really great marketing strategy and digital marketing courses? It can be one-off courses or it can be a certificate program type of thing. I don’t yet know the budget for this (and it sounds like my boss wants me to provide a few options so she can determine how much is realistic to be spending on this).

    1. Ali G*

      You could start with your local community college or adult education center. They have all kinds of one-off classes and certificate programs.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        Thanks! I guess I should clarify I am looking for specific recommendations of specific courses rather than types of places to check out. I have looked at my in-state university system and my alma maters but have not found courses that are quite right. I’m open to doing this with any institution that offers online learning, but also don’t know if there are marketing organizations/associations that offer this sort of thing.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You may not find a course that fits your setting that well. A lot of this stuff is cobbled together.

          I just did a quick search of SUNY (State University of NY) Online and there are so. many. courses.

          I think what I would do is ask my boss, if I were in your spot. See, the thing I’d think about is that I could pick out this great course BUT the boss/company would think that the course was small potatoes. So I’d try to get buy-in from the boss in anyway I could- that would be picking something and discussing it with them OR using something the boss suggests as being a good idea.

        2. Xenia*

          You could check back with your boss and ask, too—if this isn’t the first time your company has done something like this, they might know some good courses or have a referral program of some form in place.

          1. Not a Real Giraffe*

            I’d love to use my boss as a resource on this but she has no functional overlap with my role and this is a newly created role that I’ve been promoted into. So my boss is really looking for me to send her a few links to classes/programs and she can say yea or nay. She has no background in this or any idea of what’s even out there in terms of education. The only guidance I got was “look at Harvard’s online classes,” because she took one there once. So, as Not So NewReader and others have suggested, I’ve already scoured online course catalogs for ideas — but I was hoping someone in the AAM Commentariat might have already taken this kind of graduate-level or professional-level course/program and could point me to something specific they’d recommend.

    2. Kiko*

      If you have zero experience, General Assembly may be a good place to start. The only thing is that it’s pretty expensive, but I would take advantage of this program if the company is footing the bill.

    3. Chilipepper*

      See if your local library has a subscription to linked in learning – the classes will be free.

    4. Lord Peter Wimsey*

      Might try the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). They have some great training resources for marketers. Not sure if you have to be a member to access, though.

      1. Cassidy*

        This. Start with professional groups in your field. Not only can they recommend training, but also, it’s likely the training will be standardized/certified/recognized in your field. Membership might be a requirement, but then, you’d be paying for access to quality.

        Good luck, and congratulations!

  9. fhqwhgads*

    How would you deal with this?
    We recently had all-staff training on insensitive language – in particular the not-necessarily-obvious kind, either stuff with racist origins that someone might be genuinely unaware of, but also things like casually using ADD or OCD as adjectives when one does not have those conditions.
    Literally the next meeting I was in after that one, a highish up person made a comment about “OCD about…” something in a particular task we were reviewing. This wasn’t one-on-one. There were maybe a dozen people in the meeting.
    On the one hand, if the person in question does have OCD, I’m not trying to police the language. I have OCD and occasionally mention it, but usually only around people who know that I do. I’m not trying to go around asking for this person’s private medical info. But on the other hand, if you don’t have OCD, the statement really rankles. Especially given the timing.
    There is a DEAI committee and I could probably broach it with someone there, but I also don’t want to seem like I’m targeting this one specific person. On the other hand, if this one specific person is the one who needs a reminder, that one specific person should get the reminder. I know I could also point it out to the person directly, but A) I don’t want to mention my own OCD to that person, B) if they do have OCD I don’t want to make it seem like I’m demanding to be informed. It just feels messy. We have this committee and these trainings to make a more inclusive environment, so people don’t have to feel the very squicky feeling I did when I heard that comment. But it also feels like there’s no good way to stop it other than the wide-broadcast message everyone already got.
    Do I need to just let it go, or is there a way to raise it that isn’t horrible?

    1. TPS reporter*

      I think I would try to raise it but the approach depends on hierarchy and relationships. If the person is your peer, I’d say talk to them one on one at some point after the meeting. If they’re junior to you and you manage them, you should definitely talk to them. If they’re higher up, perhaps your own manager has a rapport with them. You could ask your manager (hopefully they’re sensitive enough) to bring it up in a general way and not mention your name.

      Especially because this was just addressed at a specific training, your company has made it clear that it’s important to the culture to be aware of this type of language. I do think the approach after that has to be more targeted.

    2. RagingADHD*

      The point isn’t that it’s okay for people who actually have OCD to casually use it as an adjective for micromanaging or over-controlling behavior in general. Or to use ADD casually to mean flighty, forgetful or disorganized in general.

      The point is to change the norms of using language, so nobody uses it that way, stop perpetuating stereotypes and stigmatizing real health conditions.

      I wouldn’t escalate this one, because there wasn’t really time for anyone to absorb or practice the training and changing habits takes time. But if it keeps happening I’d bring it up.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I was not suggesting it’s OK for people with OCD to use it as synonymous with the stuff you said. The statement in question was phrased in such a way that it was ambiguous as to whether the person were making a literal comment about their own OCD or whether they chose to use “OCD” in that sentence as a synonym for “I find it very difficult to let this go”. If it had been more clearly the latter I wouldn’t have a conundrum.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Okay, since it wasn’t anything clearly dismissive, stereotypical, or disparaging, then that’s all the more reason to hold back and see how it plays out.

          1. Dee*

            I feel like waiting to bring it up might be good, but I disagree that those adjectives don’t apply to people furthering stigma about OCD.

            1. RagingADHD*

              Eh? Those adjectives certainly do apply to furthering stigma.

              OP said it wasn’t clearly a case of stigma, but the speaker could have been speaking about their own condition in the ordinary course of conversation, not in a stereotypical way. I’m having trouble visualizing that, but conversations can be subtle in a lot of ways.

              I don’t think it’s worth calling someone out when you aren’t even sure what happened or what they were talking about.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  I have OCD (diagnosed under treatment). I occasionally reference it in conversation to normalize it. If I had a more visible position at work (eg, was an executive), I would probably bring it up more.

                  If the usage did not strike fhqwhgads as unambiguously offensive, then they are best off waiting to comment.

                2. Dee*

                  Jules the 3rd, that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s not about bringing up or discussing OCD. I’m a huge proponent of open communication about mental health where possible! It’s about saying something that completely misrepresents OCD in a way that furthers stigma.

                  Nobody with OCD is doing the rest of us any favors by saying “I am so obsessive compulsive disorder about things I just happen to be picky about.” That is *not* what OCD is. I don’t have to explain how much OCD isn’t that. So I’m really not sure why there seems to be an issue with realizing that *anyone* talking about it this way is a problem for me.

                3. Dee*

                  And yes, I know other people can’t judge what is picky vs an OCD symptom. OCD isn’t an adjective though, and regardless of anything else using it that way comes across as very dismissive, which yes I do find offensive. I have don’t care about proper grammar, But talking about OCD in a way that’s constructive like you mention means to me, talking about it more accurately.

      2. Dee*

        fhqwhgads :awesome name!):

        I don’t know enough about stuff like this in a workplace environment to say if you should say something, but if you do, I think RagingADHD’s comment is insightful. Both in regards to, maybe it was not enough time to absorb, and also with your points A and B. A talk doesn’t necessarily have to include who has OCD or not.

        I would probably say to the person, in light of the information we were given in the training, I was wondering if you had given it thought that ideally people both with and without OCD would not use that language because it still can have a negative impact either way. I might, make it clear from the start I’m not asking for a confirmation or disclosure of medical information – this might have the result of making the conversation sound more formal (where I’d want to keep it light and curious sounding), but it could help keep the conversation on what you’d want to focus on more than who has OCD.

        1. Dee*

          Your comment posted while I was typing mine, basically my point is that if you’re not saying it’s okay for people with OCD to use it as a synonym, then it doesn’t have to matter to how you’d approach it if the person was making a literal comment or using it as a synonym.

        2. TPS reporter*

          and you don’t necessarily have to confront/call people out. You can have a more general conversation at some point about how you felt in that training and how you think you can incorporate the lessons learned.

    3. Cat Tree*

      This is a tough one. I used to have OCD (treatment was extremely effective). It annoys me when people use it flippantly, because for me it was seriously debilitating and not not just some annoying quirk. Sometimes I would sort of call their bluff by acting like they genuinely have it and make a sympathetic comment to commiserate our shared challenge. And hypothetically if they did actually have it, it wouldn’t sound insulting to them (although I fully admit my intent wasn’t sincere and I recognize how passive-aggressive I was). Generally people who have medical conditions, especially mental health ones, are reluctant to “out” themselves so casually.

      Usually when the person realizes that I actually had OCD, they realize that they made a thoughtless mistake, and it’s enough to make them more careful in the future but in a way that doesn’t make them feel ashamed in front of the rest of the group. And it has been my experience that most of the time people are using it thoughtlessly and truly feel bad about it once they realize.

      That said, I think it is ok for someone to feel embarrassed about a mistake and we don’t have to bend over backwards to protect their feelings at all costs. I think it’s fine to mention something in the moment, and if the person frequently makes that comment you could even mention it in a sidebar conversation between just the two of you. The vast majority of people will handle it graciously.

      1. TPS reporter*

        I don’t think you even need to say you have OCD to make a point about this. I don’t have OCD but my spouse does so I rankle at those comments as well. Hopefully we’re getting to a better place in society where we can act with empathy even if we have not personally experienced a certain issue.

    4. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      Ideally you can address something like this in the moment – whether letting your shocked face do the talking or a broader “I guess Alex wasn’t listening in the session the other week, but using OCD flippantly isn’t really something everyone here may be comfortable with.” That said, it may not work with someone very defensive and sometimes a public call out isn’t the best choice.

      You can go back to that person and say casually, “I know you may not even realize, but the other day in a meeting you referred to something as OCD. I noticed because it came not long after the training session and that was an example of language that can be exclusionary (or however you’d like to frame this, but take it back to how it was raised in the training). I thought it worth pointing out because of course you want to avoid that kind of language.”

      A couple of Alison stand-bys here, one of which is framing it as “of COURSE you didn’t mean anything by it” because that makes it less likely they will act all defensive about it. The other is to lean on the existing corporate messaging.

      No need to disclose any of your own stuff. You just had training where this was specifically mentioned, which is the perfect way to address it! Even if this person does have OCD, you can point out that others might also and not be OK with the language, so it’s still best avoided. If you wanted you could add “I’m especially sensitive to this due to some experiences in my own circle” but there’s really no reason you need to.

      1. RagingADHD*

        There’s also a power dynamic at play here.

        This was a high-ish up person that OP apparently doesn’t have a close direct relationship with, in a group meeting. That’s not just a momentary embarrassment, that’s a high-stakes callout that could potentially derail the conversation.

        And in private, that type of script would sound really condescending and inappropriate for someone junior to address to someone more senior.

        In OP’s position I don’t think they need feel any obligation to do either of those things. If it continues, the diversity/inclusion committee are the right people to speak to.

    5. Jim Bob*

      If it becomes a pattern, raise it. A single instance, before the training has had time to sink in? Let it go.

      1. Zephy*

        I disagree, I think right after a training is a good time to point it out, to reinforce what was covered and drive home the idea that when the training talked about people who do this, it was in fact talking about them, here is the evidence.

        1. Jim Bob*

          I might agree if this was a peer, but policing an isolated instance of language of someone high up the food chain will not end well, unless it’s something horrendous.

    6. Yorick*

      I have been diagnosed with OCD and used to struggle with compulsions and obsessive thoughts. I also have pet peeves about things. Those are not the same. I’d never say about a pet peeve that “I’m OCD about the types of silverware being put in their exact place.” If I were really talking about a symptom for some reason I wouldn’t phrase it that way either, I might say something like “I compulsively count the ceiling tiles.” I’m guessing other people with OCD wouldn’t do that either.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        It’s variable. My C is usually counting or reading, and my O is usually about drowning (which fortunately doesn’t come up at work much!). But there are some professional things that make me uncomfortable in the same way that a drowning reference does, just not quite as intensely. They are very much formatting / look stuff, and are definitely different than a peeve.

        The last time someone asked how I get tables in emails and complimented them for always looking good, I had to bite my tongue *not* to explain it’s an OCD thing. (My C there is that I always fix tables or fix weird font changes that come from copy / pastes. I am very uncomfortable if I don’t do this for the tables / text in my responses when other people have introduced them in their emails. I don’t go back and change their fonts or tables. Just ‘Paste Special | Plain text’ if I quote them…) I have become more comfortable than I ever thought I would talking about my OCD. Every time I’ve mentioned it, the response has been very positive, including one person who told me that my casual discussion of OCD helped push him to get ADHD testing and treatment.

        I consider this part of normalizing and de-stigmatizing OCD and mental illness. If I were an executive, I’d probably talk about it even more, though I’d have to be careful about not pressuring people to do their stuff my way.

        To me, since fhqwhgads didn’t register this as obviously offensive, they’re better off waiting to have a conversation.

    7. Analyst Editor*

      Let it go. I bet more employees than will admit it think the training is ridiculous already, and I guarantee that the message will not be received any more gladly if you make a thing about catching every Speech Crime in action.

      1. Yorick*

        As a person with OCD, I cannot tell you how harmful it is that people think I have a “disorder” that makes me neat and organized. We really need people to stop saying they’re OCD about keeping their files in the right place or whatever.

      2. pancakes*

        This is projection, and seems to be a persistent theme with you. Your personal objection to any sort of diversity and inclusion training isn’t in fact strengthening by imagining that many people you’ve never met agree with you about it. Pretending that it has anything to do with “speech crime” is similarly obtuse.

    8. Roci*

      You could shoot them a message in a casual medium–like an IM or Slack, or an email even–afterwards, saying, “Hey, thanks for bringing up that point about [subject they said they were OCD about]! I remember from that training we just went to that we should say we’re ‘particular about something’ rather than ‘OCD’. Just wanted to let you know, and please tell me if I slip up myself–hard to change speech habits!”

      Maybe add some emojis or whatever seems appropriate to soften the message. The idea being that you’re both trying to change a habit for everyone’s sake, not that you’re correcting someone–could be tricky if they’re senior to you.

  10. I need tea*

    Are there any autistic teachers here? Particularly those teaching primary/elementary/junior level (ages 4 to 11ish). I’m working towards going into teaching and have been recently diagnosed with ASD and am wanting to better prepare for potential issues. Is there anything specifically you struggle with with ASD and teaching, any particularly helpful accommodations you need etc? General tips and advice you wish you’d known sooner?

    1. anon helper*

      I sometimes work with principals who are trying to support struggling teachers. One common problem with struggling teachers that sometimes makes me wonder if a particular teacher is neuro-divergent is the inability to “read” a room and take in if an individual student or group of students are struggling to master the material. A good teacher has a sense for this and will pause, pivot mid-lesson and re-teach if necessary. It is a problem when a teacher simply marches through the material without regard to learners; these are also very frustrated teachers who are sometimes angry with the students for not learning, which is not a good situation for anyone. Perhaps you can seek out some volunteer opportunities and see where you are with respect to this particular, essential skill.

      1. I need tea*

        Thanks for this. I should’ve mentioned above that I have a few years of experience doing voluntary tutoring, designing and teaching short-term or 9 month ESOL courses and this wasn’t a problem for me there – it’s pretty easy for me to identify when someone’s struggling or an entire group is struggling; the thing I initially found difficult was finding different ways to express or apply a concept, but that got easier once I developed a wider range of strategies to draw on. One of the things I plan to work on is developing a much wider range of different strategies that I can better tailor to the individual struggling with the concept.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I am a special ed teacher with ADHD and I have worked with ASD students and education professionals for much of the last 25 years. Some suggestions of things you might want to be aware of:

      – Executive function. Teaching multiple classes and multiple preps is a lot of planning and detail. My last department head was ASD and she excelled at the detail and minutiae of special ed paperwork but she found the constant switching, planning and unpredictability of the classroom to be exhausting. I love the classroom and people but I really struggle with the details of paperwork and grading. It can be managed but the first two years were STEEP learning curves.

      – Emotional workload. There is a lot of this in teaching, no matter how hard you try to manage it. It can be done, but kids are emotionally needy (and their parents can be too.) I have compromised on campus location in order to have a short commute so that I could exercise and make healthy meals each day because I need those things to be at my best.

      -Technology. School tech and workplace tech are different. You have to use what the school/district gives you. Be prepared to be flexible on this point but also you have to be willing to learn. Which brings me to…

      -Flexibility. Teaching requires more flexibility on a constant basis than anything I have ever done which includes parenting and being a celebrity personal assistant. If this is something with which you struggle, start planning now with your best practices to make this easier for yourself.

      Good luck! I hope you land in the ideal position as you launch your teaching career!

      1. I need tea*

        Thanks very much for this! Have you always taught special ed or did you move into it? What do you feel the pros/cons are between teaching special ed and general in terms of your ADHD (if you’re comfortable sharing, if not no worries!)?

        Where I live, class sizes on average are about 24 students and at the level I want to teach there’s a single class to a teacher. (This is a major draw for me – I believe it’ll be easier to manage but also will allow me to better support students’ development, academic and otherwise, which is something I’m really passionate about.) One thing I found when I was planning and teaching short courses or planning from an existing curriculum was the frequency at which plans would change – often pre-planned work needed rescheduled. Switching to something else in the moment was okay (I was teaching ESOL, it was pretty easy to pivot to “let’s review this aspect of grammar” or “let’s practice talking in the past tense” etc.) but I struggled with feeling like my planning time was wasted. Any tips on best practices for this? Something I’m thinking of is building up an activity bank colour coded by time, learning modality, skills, concept, link to curriculum etc., that I can use to plan lessons on the fly when they need to take a different direction – do you have any particular critiques or advice on this?

        Re emotional workload, I’m honestly more concerned about the parents than I am about the kids. I obviously expect there to be a lot of emotional work for the kids; they’re little and need support to develop their emotional regulation skills! From what I’ve read on teaching forums etc., it seems like the major thing here is to have a supportive admin who’ll have your back with problematic parents, and to be able to set good boundaries. I can do the latter, but finding the former is somewhat more challenging!

        1. AcademiaNut*

          One thing to keep in mind is the market for teachers in the job you want – the job in your local town at the age you want as a full time classroom teacher – may not be easy to obtain. Talk to teachers in the area, and ask about their path to their jobs – did they have to move to get work, did they have to spend years as a sub before getting a full time position, etc. This can be a particular issue for popular areas to live, or anywhere with a teacher program.

          Re wasted planning – I’d reframe the way you think about it. Lesson planning is a skill – even if a particular lesson wasn’t used, the work of planning it builds your skills. And it gets more efficient as you get more skilled. I’m more familiar with post secondary teaching – it’s normal for a professor to spend all their effort on teaching duties the first couple of years (when their job is a combination of research, teaching and administration), but the work tapers off as they build up a set of lecture notes and get better at prepping efficiently.

          1. I need tea*

            Re the local market, I’m open to moving and looking for work within at least a dozen council areas and all teachers who complete the postgrad qualification (it’s the same qualification country-wide) are guaranteed a paid position in a school for their probationary year, successful completion of which results in status as a qualified teacher. I know a few teachers who were offered a job at the same school they worked at for their probationary year, mostly in deprived or rural areas, and honestly some of those areas are ones I’d want to live and work in longterm. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed but the undergrad – postgrad – probationary year – full-time position one appears to be pretty typical here.

            Re planning – that’s very useful, thanks! I can be quite methodical in my skills development so reframing that would very much help me develop those skills and hopefully set myself up well for future years.

    3. Dino*

      I’m not autistic but I have ADHD (which I understand has some overlapping experiences) and worked in K-12 for a few years. I had a hard time with some of the sensory input stuff. Tapping, yelling, sniffling, squeaky shoes, fluorescent lighting, keyboard clacking, etc.

      1. I need tea*

        This is a good point, and one of the things I’m concerned about. I rarely get overstimulated these days but I think the most I can minimise the sensory input that I control (like in terms of what I wear and eat) the easier it will be to cope with additional sensory input. Thanks for your response!

    4. STEM teacher with ASD*

      I think it depends, to some degree, on what your ASD means for you.

      For me, one thing I didn’t anticipate is how hard fire drills would be for me. In retrospect, it’s obvious – very loud noises and very bright flashing lights, lots of commotion, etc. At my first school, they were random, and we never knew when one was going to happen, but they happened at least once a month. At my current school, they tell teachers in advance so that we can plan not to be testing or doing a delicate lab, for instance, and that gives me time to mentally prepare too. So, if you have sensory issues too, knowing how fire drills are handled might be good to know!

      In that same vein, my current school was wonderful about switching out a light bulb that bothered me. The color temperature was different than the other bulbs in the room, and it buzzed. No one else seemed to hear the buzz, but they didn’t make me feel strange for asking that the light bulbs match.

      Since I struggle with social interactions, I worried about how I’d connect with students, but it’s been way better than I expected. I teach high school, and I love that I get to have warm and friendly relationships where the rules, roles, and boundaries are so clearly defined. We are not friends; I am their teacher who also loves geeking out over Star Wars and whatnot, and that’s a surprisingly lovely thing.

      I also think sometimes my ASD makes me a better teacher because my need for structure and clear expectations is pretty in line with my students’ needs. Students really thrive on clear classroom routines, and do their best work when they understand what is expected of them and how they will be assessed. Maybe I don’t read their facial expressions as well as other teachers, but I make up for that by checking for understanding frequently.

      I see you mention parents further down. I’ve found that most of my parent interactions are over email, and that works well for me. I can take my time to write a response, and have a colleague read it if I’m worried the tone sounds wrong. My current school has a culture that encourages appointments for parent/teacher meetings, so I never have surprise visits from parents, and that makes a big difference in my anxiety levels.

      I hope some of that is helpful! I was worried when I started too, but it’s been 15 years and I’m still really happy teaching. I hope that you can say the same in the future!

      1. I need tea*

        Thanks so much for your input! It sounds like a lot of things that make a difference for you are a supportive school culture – when I get to the point of applying for jobs this is definitely something I’ll be keeping in mind. I’ll definitely be looking into policies re fire drills and classroom options etc.

        Re social interactions and structure, honestly a lot of what draws me to teaching primary is the space for helping kids develop their social skills. (It’s an explicit part of our national curriculum.) I’ve spent most of my life masking, wasn’t diagnosed till adulthood and developed an incredibly solid social support network and meaningful relationships without knowing I’m autistic, but I had to learn a lot of this stuff explicitly and I think that could help me to teach others who might struggle with developing their social skills too. I also feel that providing clear structure and expectations for the kids will help both me and my students – I do very well with routine and strongly value transparency which I think will be beneficial if I can implement those things well.

        Thanks again, I really hope to be in a position to be able to pass on similar advice in another 15 years!

  11. Mez*

    I’m hoping y’all can either help me re-frame this in my head, or maybe there might be an actionable solution. Like a lot of offices, mine had to abruptly pivot to a working from home situation last March because of Covid. As a result,  I was home from late February through mid-June, since my daughter’s daycare shut down. I voluntarily came back into the office at that time, because I felt confident in the Covid protocols our office put in place (mask wearing, social distancing, work from home as needed, etc) not to mention, working from home was not a good fit for me. Most of my colleagues now work from home one day  a week , and it’s worked out well. However, our newest colleague (this is her first job out of college) – has been home for almost a year now. While we OF COURSE do NOT want to make anyone feel unsafe or like we are forcing something, the reality is…we need her here. There simply is too much work between myself and my other coworker to shoulder on our own, and so much of what we do itsn’t conducive to going fully digital. While we want to be respectful of her fears – she’s said she’s scared of the virus – she’s been to the beach with her friends, her roommates have all had Covid…something’s not adding up. This all came to a head last week, when, after our weekly zoom call we requested that she start coming in Tuesday – Thursday. She would be using an empty office with a door, and we’d be following our usual protocol – mask wearing, distancing, etc. She was pretty poker faced on the call, but agreed she’d see us then. Tuesday arrives…and she just doesn’t show. We call her at 11, and she says “Oh I just don’t think it would be a good idea for me to come in – I’m studying for my CFA and I don’t want to get Covid”. Okay? Besides this not being a good look in normal circumstances ….what do we do? This virus is absolutely scary and should be taken seriously. But in the time I’ve been back (last June) there hasn’t single Covid case in our office. We’re not perfect, but we’re doing something right. HELP.

    1. Darlingpants*

      If you need her in the office, then that’s what you need, but it’s her managers problem if she no shows.

      When it comes to reframing: I went physically into work basically this whole time, but I have a much better idea of the risks of seeing friends (who I know don’t have children in in-person school and can straight out ask if they’ve travelled or how often they get groceries) than I do the people at work. Multiple people at work have kids in childcare/school, which is an exponential increase in my exposure risk, and I can’t go around asking my colleagues how often their grandma (who they live with) goes to doctors appointments and what kind of mask she wears, or how many people came over for Christmas.

      1. Darlingpants*

        Also like you, I hated working from home full time and was thrilled to go in. But the first couple times dealing with the COVID protocols and the masking and the anxiety was so so draining and I was totally exhausted. If someone is more anxious about COVID then me then that anxiety isn’t going to ease the same way mine did when I got used to it all. You’re asking her to do a thing the way you prefer it, so it seems easy/logical. But you’re asking her to make a really big change in the way she’s been working for a year and that’s a big deal.

    2. Ins mom*

      Are you management? If the work cannot be done remotely, and everyone else is in safely, time for management to deal with it .

    3. Ama*

      OK, I think you buried the lede here a bit! Seems like the real issue is she agreed she’d come in and then just decided not to without telling anyone, and didn’t seem to think it would be a problem.

      Whoever is managing her needs to sit down with her and have a talk about how big a deal it is that she agreed to come in and then no-showed. And then they can move from there into “we need you to commit to being in the office at least X days a week, can you do that?”

      1. Almost Empty Nester*

        Absolutely! Her attendance requirements have now changed, and she either needs to commit to doing what’s been asked of her, or if she can’t do that, she should be replaced. She’s not being asked to do anything that others aren’t already doing successfully, so I suspect she’s got something personally going on that she doesn’t want to share (living somewhere that makes working in the office impossible, etc.). The no-show is non-negotiable though, and needs to be dealt with.

    4. PolarVortex*

      I am going to try to think the best of her – hard when she no showed but – there could be multiple reasons she is stressed about coming into the office:
      – She’s never been in before, it’s weird and awkward particularly if you struggle with social anxiety
      – She’s actually WFH a large distance away and didn’t tell anyone she’s actually Working from Grandpa’s Cabin
      – She thinks it’s optional after WFH for the past year and she can just keep on doing what she’s doing.
      – She’s a young kid fresh out of college who truly doesn’t know the difference between a professor telling you to attend class and a workplace telling you to show up to work and needs some education on that fact.

      I’m going to assume you’re managing her somehow – if not the manager needs to do this – but you need to have a serious conversation about how no-showing on Tuesday was not acceptable when you expected her to be in. You need to have a larger conversation around her expected duties and precautions the workplace has taken and the expectations given when she signed onto her job. Then you’re going to have to hold her to those expectations.

    5. mf*

      This is her manager’s problem, not yours. Best you can do here is talk to him/her and ask if your coworker can please come into the office on a weekly basis.

      It is possible that she has a reason for continuing to WFH. She might be high risk or she may live with someone who is. In any case, that’s a private conversation she can have with her boss and may not be something she wants to discuss with you.

    6. Black Horse Dancing*

      This is something her manager (Is that you?) should be handling with a something like “We understand your fears and have prepared the office for COVID safety. We need you here. If you can not do this, we need to discuss if this is the role for you.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. So agree.
        I would also say that no show/no call for her first day at work is now part of her record. I’d stress that the problem is NOT that she did not show up, people fail to show for lots of reasons. It’s the fact that she did NOT CALL to report she would not be in to the workplace, that was her big error.

        I do think that this deserves a response from her boss and definitely should be addressed asap.

    7. Librarian of SHIELD*

      You call her your colleague and not your employee, so I’m writing this comment under the assumption that you’re not her supervisor. If I got that wrong, feel free to disregard this advice.

      The person who gets to tell her that she needs to come in and work from the office is her supervisor. If you really do feel that there are functions of the job that aren’t getting done and require her to be there in person, you need to talk to your boss about it.

      And look. All of her roommates have had COVID and she managed not to get it. That’s basically miraculous. She’s already dodged some pretty enormous bullets and I imagine she feels like that kind of luck is something that will almost certainly run out eventually. She went to the beach with her friends because she knows them and knows what precautions they’re taking, and that makes her feel secure enough to spend time with them in person. She may not feel like she knows all of her coworkers at the same level, and it can be awkward to ask your colleagues if they eat in restaurants or buy their groceries in person.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Yeah the thing not adding up is how this was done and what the relationships are here. If several of. Y coworkers told me after a staff meeting they thought I needed to come in, I could see feeling trapped and nodding along and then following up with my actual supervisor. She should have circled back with the communication but maybe supervisor said let me handle it??

        As a manger who works with a very very liberal WFH group, I’d actually be upset if people were pressuring coworkers to return. I’d go to your manager ASAP and talk about workload.

        If you are her manager and you have authority to order her back, then do that if it’s necessary.

    8. BRR*

      First, I think you need to abandon any thoughts or positions in the realm of dictating her comfort level with exposure. I think it’s just not a winning argument to have and she’s allowed to have behavior that doesn’t add up. I personally would be far more comfortable at an outdoor gathering with friends than inside with coworkers because I would have at least a ballpark idea of what my friends were doing compared to my coworkers.

      From a work angle, I cant tell for sure but it sounds like you’re not her manager so I’m approaching it from that perspective. Instead of focusing on her not coming in, bring the issue up to your manage that your workload is unsustainable. That’s the crux of the problem (the problem as it relates to you). If you get roped into her coming into the office, but again I don’t think that’s your point to bring up, I would change from “here our are protocols, see they’re good” to “are there certain things that would be needed for you to feel safe and comfortable to come in for the work that requires being here?”

      And I’d be incredibly irritated if someone just didn’t show up and didn’t think to maybe give a heads up.

    9. Anono-me*

      I think that the answer really depends on your professional relationship to this person.

      If you as her supervisor discussed/told this new supervisee to come into the office on Thursday and she agreed. Her not showing up and not communicating beforehand is a problem that needs to be addressed.

      If you and other coworkers decided to team up and tell a new coworker that she had to start coming into the office as of Thursday; I can understand the new coworker feeling like she had to make agreeable noises in the moment, but later going “Ooooooh no. No. No! NO!”. She may feel like the peer pressure and risk of potential damage to future woring relationships are too great to give a hard ‘no’. She may also not want to discuss any agreement or accomodation she has with management. If this peer situation is the case; you need to discuss your workload issues with your manager, not your solutions to workload issues with your coworker.

      As far as the Covid-19 risks:
      -You don’t know what your coworker’s health is like, you only know that she looks healthy.
      -I have gone to outside events with friends and still maintained 10+feet distance while masking. Maybe she did something similar.
      -Maybe your coworker is at her grandparent’s BECAUSE her roommates had Covid.

      It is also possible that your new coworker is a slacking off jerk; but that also is an issue for managment.

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

      “I’m studying for my CFA and I don’t want to get Covid”

      Is this a work thing? (I know what CFA is, but wasn’t clear if she’s doing it as part of her role, or independently). Is it possible that the real reason she doesn’t want to come in is she’s using ‘work’ time to study for that instead?

      1. LavaLamp*

        Are you actually her supervisor? If not, I don’t think you really have the authority to tell her what her schedule should be.

    11. TechWorker*

      You don’t say you’re her manager so it sounds like something her manager should deal with? I have full sympathy for not wanting to be in work but you can’t just agree and then no call no show…

    12. RagingADHD*

      What’s company policy on no-call, no-show?

      Because covid or not, most places would immediately discipline or fire someone if they simply refused to come in after they acknowledged & agreed to the schedule. If she wants to keep re-negotiating her return, then she shouldn’t agree to it and let you believe you can count on her being there.

      You can’t manage people if you have no actual authority. So whoever has the authority is the one who needs to talk to her about her schedule and then follow through on it.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        We don’t necessarily know this employee did a no-call/no-show. If Mez doesn’t actually control this employee’s schedule, it’s possible that the supervisor was fully aware that she was going to be working from home and didn’t expect her in the office at all.

    13. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

      Everyone is scared of getting/dying of Covid, that is not a excuse that should allow you to push your work on other people. Being afraid of Covid also doesn’t mean you get to stay in the house and have nothing change just because you want to. Unless she has a real reason other than being scared (ie. childcare is closed, spouse/SO or child is immunocompromised) then she needs to come and do the part of her job she is not doing.
      My advice depends on who you are in relation to your co-worker.

      If you are not her management: Whoever your management is you need to let them know how much of her work you and your co-workers are taking on and that its not feasible for you all to continue like this. Its up to your management on what steps to take next, but they need to be aware of how much you and your co-workers are taking on. They also should have been the ones to call and find out where she was, if she doesn’t show up for work when she says she will call your management let them take care of it.

      If you are her management: Then tell her she needs to be in the office on the days needed to start fulfilling the job she has not been doing due to not being in the office. If she doesn’t show then follow your companies next steps for employees refusing to work (usually an improvement plan or termination depending on her response).

    14. allathian*

      Going to the beach with friends is not particularly dangerous if you’re masked and keep an appropriate distance. The most risky part of a trip to the beach would be sharing the same car, but even that can be mitigated a bit by driving with the windows down, weather permitting. Beaches are outdoors and windy. Also, if her roommates have had COVID and she’s managed to avoid it, she’s been very diligent with precautions as well as very lucky, because plenty of people have caught it in spite of taking precautions.

      If you need her in the office, her manager needs to tell her that. You as her peer don’t have the authority to do so, no matter how much you’d prefer her to be at the office.

      Has your youngest colleague been WFH for as long as she’s worked for you, or did she work at the office before you all went WFH? If it’s the latter, asking her to come back to the office should be a bit simpler, but if it’s the former, her manager needs to tell her that the WFH arrangement was never intended to be permanent and that she needs to come to the office at least some days of the week.

      But if she’s really determined to WFH, her manager may need to let her go.

    15. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Not going to rehash my variation of things already said, just add a factor I hadn’t seen: car vs public transit
      If she doesn’t drive, getting to office means public transit which is an increased risk for her AND YOU.

  12. Learning to Breathe*

    I need serious help with learning to concentrate at home! There are no distractions, it just like my brain went on vacation and never came back. I finally got back to do what I love – individual contributor role where I work independently. Previously I spent the past year in endless back-to-back meetings and never got to actually *do* anything myself. Now that I’m back where I want to be – I just can’t focus on anything! My tasks are not something that I can break down or make a checklist, it is more of “learn about the domain by investigating what we have until you find where the change needs to be made”

    Factors at play
    – Likely ADD (self-diagnosed as an adult female – in the past whenever I had a problem I just drank a cola and would be able to concentrate once I got started on the task at hand)
    – Asthma is much worse than usual (so my brain is probably not getting all the oxygen that it should)
    – Live alone
    – Quarantining due to very small chance of covid exposure
    – Not really anyone to talk to at work unless I have a specific question

    Normally I just lean into the distractions until I tire of them and become interested in work again (often would become hyperfocused on work at that point and more than make up for the wasted time) But I’m not being distracted by anything – I’m really just zoning out or pacing around my apartment. I might walk around composing an email in my head but won’t sit down to type it out. I can spin around in my chair thinking about how I’m going to accomplish my tasks, but space out the moment I look at the computer screen. This is work that I really enjoy and want to do!

    1. Gigi*

      Oh, friend. I feel this deeply. I’m also ADHD and diagnosed as an adult. Working from home SUCKS. All of the tools I’ve spent 15 years developing are gone and I had to start again. I strongly recommend getting an ADHD counselor to help you with strategies and see if you would be a good candidate for medication. (I was on it, now I’m not, everyone is different.) I found mine on https://www.zencare.co/. They can help you find someone who will work with you online and take your insurance.

      I’m a woman and got a lot out of the work of Sari Solden. Her research focuses on how ADHD specifically affects women. What’s most important is that you stop trying to stuff yourself into a neurotypical box when you are neurodivergent. There are ways to be successful and even benefits you bring to the job because of how your brain works. I’m still working on not beating myself up for not operating like everyone else does, but it’s a worthwhile project. Good luck to you!

    2. Always Late to the Party*

      I’ve had (and still have) similar issues. Things that have helped me:

      – Taking a walk when I feel distracted like that (I’ve seen in several places that even folks quarantining can take walks if you leave your mask on the whole time and stay away from people as much as possible – of course do your own research/use your best judgement)
      – Starting my day with my Panda Planner (a bullet journal would also work) – I write out my schedule and my priorities for the day. Some days it’s just one or two things like Stay Hydrated and Complete Llama Report. Even on light meeting days I block out “work time” and “home time”.
      – Putting on a music playlist and telling myself I’m going to force myself to focus on one task for the length of one song – usually this kicks hyperfocus into gear. If you can’t focus with music, you could set a timer for three minutes.
      – Can you break down what you’re working on in any way? I don’t think I understand what you do, but if there’s a way to say “today I am only going to investigate the Teapots section of the domain” or something like that. It sounds like you don’t have much structure – can you create it for yourself?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        On the timer, yes — I’m a big fan of “I can do anything for three minutes” and there’s a non-zero chance that by the time I get through the three minutes, I’m into it firmly enough that it sticks for a while and I get shit done.

      2. Learning to Breathe*

        Impossible to break the task down any further, unfortunately, which is probably why I’m struggling so much!

        I’m in tech, which is normally a lot easier to break things down, but the complexity of the current project plus my newness means things are expected to be confusing for a while. Think of it like being told to move something from point A to point B, but you don’t know where point B is, and to get there you have to go through a maze that might take you to point B or might take you to yet another maze. Once you’ve mastered the mazes, it’s easier to know the turns and exits to take, but until that point you’re just kinda wandering around trying to build a mental map.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          I referenced something like this in my wall-o-text below, but I will brain dump when I’m in this situation. I’ll keep a document open in OneNote, but you could use any program you prefer, or even paper for this.

          I will write where I am, and where I’m going. I write down my “known unknowns”. I write down what I’ve searched for, maybe summarize what I’ve found and/or how it relates to everything else. I’ll copy links to useful sites. I’ll make notes when I hit a dead end, and highlight when I’ve found something helpful. If I’m digging through old code, I’ll make a note of potentially relevant method names, and possibly swear at whoever wrote the mess.

          More or less, document your attempts to get through the maze, especially the bits that DON’T work so you can skip that bit in the future.

          1. OtterB*

            This. I wrote something similar below, except I always use pen & paper for some reason – but online would be really helpful for links and such.

        2. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

          You can always break a task down further. Suppose you were not struggling with concentration — that you could just sit down and get to work. What would you do? That’s your next subtask.

          If you don’t know what your next subtask is, then your next subtask is to figure it out! Write down a list of all the things you could possibly do next to advance the project. Then pick one and get started. If it’s too big, repeat the above steps until you get something well-defined that you can actually do next, preferably something that has a specifiable “done” state .

          I know this sounds a little “just do it” and I totally don’t mean it that way — I have trouble with concentration too, and what I’m trying to convey here are the steps I use to get myself going on big, amorphous projects, and what I advise my reports to do. I hope it’s helpful.

      3. Damn it, Hardison!*

        Second the recommendations for timers and music (if not too distracting). The last few days I’ve been listening to the same song over and over pretty much all day and it has helped me focus. Electronic dance music seems to work best for me. I also bought Mooas cube timers from Amazon. They are set to increments of 10, 20, 30, 50, or 60 minutes, and beep when time is up. When I start something I’m struggling with I set it to 10 or 20 minutes, and usually find that when it goes off I’m engaged and reset it for a longer duration to continue. Or if it’s something I might get too in the weeds on, I set it for 30 minutes and when it goes off, I move on to the next thing. It’s helping, but I’m still struggling at staying on task some days.

    3. Mental Lentil*

      I like the pomodoro technique. It’s usually 25/5 minutes, but you can go 10/2 minutes or 15/3 or whatever works for you to get you on track.

      1. Mantis Toboggan, MD*

        Most of my jopb is working independently on large research projects with no firm deadline. The struggle is real. I use pomodoro and track each 25-minute unit on my calendar. I set reasonable daily and weekly goals of total work units.

      2. Reba*

        I have the pomodoro plug in on my web browser! I don’t use it constantly but when I’m struggling it’s a lifesaver and helps me reset.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Timers and rewards.

      First, set the environment to be enjoyable and have a small luxury – background music, comfy seat, favorite socks, colored lights, whatever puts a smile on your face.

      Set the work timer, when it goes off immediately set the break timer so you don’t forget to resume.

      During the break, get up and away from the screen.

      After a certain number of successful work intervals, get a small n0n-screen reward. (Cup of favorite tea, some music, or a snack).

    5. Ashley*

      To do lists help me and then add the reward factor. I must do these 2 items and then a break or snack, etc.
      Full daily goals like today I will do these ten things before I finish working for the day can also help. (I am assuming there isn’t hourly clocking in requirements here.)

    6. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Adult woman with ADHD diagnosed as an adult here. These are some things that have helped me, presented as some things to pick and choose from if they sound helpful.

      – Caffeine is your friend, in moderation. I am a tea drinker, which helps keep me away from sugary colas. But when I really need an hour or two of hyperfocus, I will go for cola anyway.
      – Move. Get up at least once an hour or so and walk around, even if it’s just around the room you’re in. Have a fidget toy at your desk (mine’s a VW Beetle matchbox car). Maybe try one of those under the desk peddlers?
      – Change your workspace a little. Is there anyway you can convert your setup so you sit rather than stand to do your work? (I miss my standing desk.)
      – Pomodoro sprints, as Mental Lentil mentioned. Working any length of time is better than not working.
      – Introduce distractions (so long as they aren’t too distracting). I like music, some people like to have the TV on, looking out my window sometimes helps. Basically, give your brain additional inputs that you don’t have to do anything with.
      – Write down what’s in your brain. I keep a OneNote document open at work specifically for this. It’s stream of consciousness, what I’m looking for, what I’m looking at, what is making no sense whatsoever. Also good for getting those draft emails out of my brain some place where I don’t have to impress anyone with them.
      – There’s some expressions “The perfect is the enemy of the good” and “Done is better than perfect”. I’m personally fond of “It’s not just good, it’s good enough”. I’m not sure if my perfectionist tendencies are related to the ADHD or not, but they definitely contribute to my procrastination.

      Also, regarding the asthma – could you get a small indoor air purifier and run it in your home? If dry air bothers you, could you run a humidifier?

      1. Learning to Breathe*

        Distractions were what was missing! Thank you! I just did more in the past hour than I have in days!

        Music / TV weren’t doing the trick for me, but I found an playlist of office background noise and boom – could suddenly focus! I guess I needed something to ignore. This also explains why I never get any work done in normal office environments until my other coworkers start showing up. Hadn’t put that together!

      2. meyer lemon*

        This list of tips has contributed to my theory that I might secretly have ADHD, because these are all things I have to do to focus as well (except for the caffeine–low tolerance). Thanks for this!

    7. Batgirl*

      It’s a lot worse for me if I’m tired or eating junk, or unrested so I have a strict sleep/cooking/relaxing off duty routine. I do a fast few mins yoga routine in the morning too, just to get me focused.
      I tend to start with the easier, faster jobs first (with rewards for each completion, usually just ‘now I can have a cuppa’) until I get motivated into work mode. I use noise cancelling headphones with purple noise (don’t like white noise and find music too distracting; though music can be a good timer in other contexts for me). I alternate between ‘talk to people about work’, boring admin tasks and creative tasks so as to keep things mixed up and moving. I make sure to stop for lunch. I second what everyone is saying about timers/pomodoro/rewards. They are my bread and butter approach. Oh and make sure you have a check list to strike things off/tick completed items. Seems to work every time and whenever I go without it, I do less.

    8. OtterB*

      It won’t help with all tasks, but with your example of “learn about the domain by investigating what we have,” instead of just thinking about it, can you talk or write through it? Do the rubber duck thing (explain your programming problem out loud to a rubber duck; it’s amazing how often that shakes loose a solution). For me, I work well in writing, so I’ll start with a notepad and make a list of questions/findings, essentially talking to myself in writing. Things like, where does X come from in this process, oh, we pick it up from the monthly report … why does Y matter? … I see what they’re doing with Z-1 but I don’t understand Z-2 … oh, okay, Y matters because it’s used to do this and that … writing it down makes it more concrete and helps me focus instead of charging off in a dozen directions.

    9. Kiki*

      I’m really similar. Left to my own devices, I do a lot of pacing and randomly getting up to do non-essential tasks. I’ve have found that, counterintuitively, adding a low-level distraction helps me work. I like to have a TV show I have already seen playing in the background. I know data shows that multi-tasking doesn’t work, but I’m not really watching the TV at all, I just am replacing the incessant noise of my tireless brain with a mindless sitcom.

    10. cleo*

      I feel this so hard.

      One thing that’s working for me right now is zoom co-working. A buddy of mine who’s also in tech (that I do not work with) and I will set up a zoom call when neither of us have meetings and just work on our own tasks with our cameras on. It’s the pandemic equivalent to meeting a friend at the library or in a coffeeshop to work. There’s something about hearing and seeing another human being working that helps me stay focused.

      I also take a morning “fake commute” walk. After breakfast, I take a short walk (some days shorter than others) and then come in and go straight to my desk and start working.

    11. hallucinating hack*

      Ah, I feel this so hard. I’ve never been diagnosed, but task transition has always been a major issue for me. I do the exact same thing as you right down to the pacing/zoning out vs going like a house on fire once I get started. Getting started though…

      What works for me on particularly bad days is extreme chunking. I’m a writer and my work doesn’t have much of a task checklist either…so I made one! Consisting of the exact tiny actions I need to take: (1) sit down at desk (2) line up keyboard in front of me (3) start up word processing program (4) open new document (5) type “Header:” on new paragraph (6) type “Strap” on new paragraph etc. Sometimes I spend time actually writing the steps up into a checklist just to force my mind into the right frame.

      It took me a while to identify all the above steps as the places where I get stuck, but starting work got a lot easier with that awareness. I do the same thing for getting back to work post-distraction: sit down in chair, line up keyboard, open what I was last doing, etc.

      On days when I feel too low energy to get started, I use the image of a foot pressing an accelerator in my head. It mostly works, but if not, caffeine is the fallback.

  13. Jo*

    Can someone give me a script to use with a person who is more senior to me and a technical consultant/approver I need to work with quite closely on a regular basis to say:

    “Please dont say that I’ve been involved in this project when you ignored most of my input and the standard of work you’ve sent out is awful (by my standards)?”

    I think this person thinks they are doing me a favour by getting my name out there to senior leadership – but what they’ve sent is nowhere near the quality of work I would ever send out (even for a draft), didnt take much of the input I provided into account and they didnt tell me in advance that they were going to be doing any of this. I was very much under the impression we were still going to go through a few rounds of iteration before sending it out to others.

    Note, this was more of a backburner project that I had picked up because it was interesting for me/good for my development and they had said they didnt have time to do. Its more business focused (which I have experience in) vs technical (which they have experience in). Mitigating factor: I’m relatively new to the company while they have been here for 20 years, so maybe this is normal by their standards?

    Bonus question: if you have scripts for “this is actually really terrible, can we bin it and start from scratch?” that I can save for future use, that would be great. My chance to use if for this project has probably sailed, but I feel like this might come up again.

    1. MeTwoToo*

      Nothing for the first, but for the second I like “This really isn’t turning out like we envisioned and I know we can come up with something better. Let’s go back to the drawing board and correct some of these deficiencies together.”

    2. TPS reporter*

      Please don’t acknowledge me as a contributor unless I otherwise give explicit permission. Sometimes my contribution is very brief so I don’t feel that this reflects my work product. If you would like to include my name, please schedule time for us to review and co-edit the presentation or documentation prior to sending to senior leadership.

      1. Firecat*

        If I acknowledged a Jr employees work and got this result… I’d be pretty peeved.

        Also is it possible that this is a great for our needs but not ‘A+’ quality issue? I know I struggled at work with ‘good enough’ being the preferred compared to the caliber I am use to turning in.

        1. TPS reporter*

          to be fair, the OP’s reputation is potentially being ruined by this person. The OP has to be able to stand up for themselves and not have to tiptoe around certain people just because they are more senior.

    3. Qwerty*

      Since you mention being relatively new, what about asking the senior coworker for more insight on what the process is? It sounds like the two of you were on different pages for how much more review time was going to be spent on that, so it could be useful to understand that disconnect first. I’ve worked with some people in leadership who really want the rough version of information so they can act on it sooner, rather than wait for it to be polished up to a draft level, so its possible that he was asked for that level of quality. Or was told to just send over whatever he had so far and move on. Or maybe what the two of you produced was actually nicer than his previous work, despite it seeming low quality to you.

      If you have work closely with this person, getting more closely aligned on when something is ready might be a more productive approach. I really can’t think of a nice way to say “I don’t want to be associated with your work” that won’t be offputting, so what’s a different goal that would improve things? Maybe ask that you both sign off on it before it gets sent out? Or at least have the same understanding of the timeline?

      1. Quinalla*

        Yes, I think this is the approach to take. If you weren’t going to work with him again, I’d just probably let it drop, but since you’ll be working this can be a good learning experience. Maybe you’ll learn that this is how its done, maybe you’ll learn this guy is odd, but yeah you don’t want say “Your work is terrible!” Be curious and see where you can better fit in the process. Could be of good benefit to both of you or at least make it so you are better prepared for next time.

    4. Malarkey01*

      Ohhh don’t say your script. Even though I get you want to, that will burn bridges so bright,y you’ll see them from the parking lot.

      There’s two different takes on this depending on how high up they are and how the project was established. If they are pretty senior and you didn’t have any responsibility for the project, you can go to your manager with “I wanted to talk to you about Fred’s project. I initially contributed some ideas but he took it in a different direction and it’s not reflective of my position or work”…then they can give you insight on how to proceed in your specific office culture or can make sure you aren’t tagged with this.

      However if this was a project you were assigned and had shared responsibility for, you really need to address that you’re on different tracks and pull management in on that if you are really stuck. Washing your hands of it can really be a hit against your reputation. At that point I think you can go back and say Fred I’ve gotten some feedback and we need to make some changes on this (and pull in management if you can’t get Fred’s cooperation or are at an impasse).

  14. Large Hippo*

    Has anyone here done inside sales? I have a phone interview next week with a position with a tech company. I’d love to get into tech and am hoping this can be my way in, but I’m really nervous about a sales job with quotas. I’ve done sales before but not the kind of sales where I had to cold call and make pitches and worry about not making a goal. Any insight or advice is appreciated!

    1. Roy G. Biv*

      Yep – inside sales experience here, but very little cold calling was involved. It is my experience that you have to have a thick skin, and shake off the “no” answer 20 times, because that one customer who says “yes” is such a victory. Like it puts all the wind back in your sails. (sales?) And be self starter to keep on task no matter what, because discouragement and distractions abound. Slipping below your monthly sales quota can set you on a downward trajectory that is difficult to overcome. Not impossible, just difficult. I would also ask for a more senior rep who can be your mentor as you learn the ins and outs — and not just someone who says things like “make more calls.” Someone who can help you understand the psychology of the customer, and how to identify hidden potential opportunity in what a customer says. And work on making your pitch sound natural to how you speak. A script can be a good starting point, but I never read one that sounded like an actual sales rep speaks.

      1. potatocakes*

        Great advice here! I’m envious you didn’t have to cold call…did you have a lead generation/marketing department who prospected for you?

        1. Roy G. Biv*

          Yep. Also niche market with few competitors, so customers tend to return for next generation products.

    2. potatocakes*

      I work in inside sales.

      I’ll be honest, if you’re considering just using a sales position as an entry point to get into the tech industry: don’t. Sales is a career path on it’s own and it’s really not a job you want to do for a year or two while you wait for a position more relevant to your interests come up.

      To enjoy sales, you have to want to be doing it, and have the correct mindset/personality for it. I believe anyone can learn how to make a cold call and walk a prospect through the sales process, but the number of people who not only do it well and enjoy it are very few.

      Inside sales roles almost always involve cold calling, and lots of it. Think about whether you’d be happy making 80-100 cold calls a day, most of them ending up in voicemail or rejections. Most people are decent, but you will have someone who’s totally rude and disrespectful at least once every few days.

      To successfully pitch a prospect, you’ll have to be ok with asking a ton of questions, doing presentations (depending on your company it could be by phone, in person, or Zoom,) negotiating rates, and again…most pitches will end up in rejections. A good closing rate in my company is about 30%. For every 10 pitches you make, seven of them will not happen, and this is after you’ve spent hours working on the deal. Sometimes the prospect lies to you or outright stops responding and ghosts, and then you have to start all over cold calling someone new.

      Quotas and meetings goals is really all you’re measured on in a sales focused atmosphere. Of course, good sales managers will value effort and a good attitude, but at the end of the day if you aren’t making the company money, they aren’t going to keep you around for long. Also, you need to be ok with being compared (often publicly) to your colleagues. Most sales teams have everyone’s numbers and goals displayed for the entire team to see. This is great for people who get motivated by competition, but awful for people who aren’t.

      Sales people usually earn a small salary, with the company expecting them to earn the rest of their compensation in commission. You must be ok with the fact that you’ll have some crappy months where you’re waiting for deals to close and living off a meager salary until you’re well established at the company and have a steady stream of deals coming.

      Overall sales requires a very thick skin, at least some degree of extroversion, confidence (or at least a strong ability to fake it til you make it,) excellent time management skills, the ability and desire to work more than 40 hours/week without getting paid overtime and a naturally competitive nature.

      It might not sound like I enjoy my job, but I do! I love talking to people, the variety in my day, the feeling of getting to help people purchase a product that suits them, and of course the commission I earn for my good efforts. However, it is NOT for everyone.

      Happy to answer any other questions you may have!

      1. Roy G. Biv*

        Potatocakes — That is a great summary! Overall sales requires a very thick skin, at least some degree of extroversion, confidence (or at least a strong ability to fake it til you make it,) excellent time management skills, the ability and desire to work more than 40 hours/week without getting paid overtime and a naturally competitive nature.

      2. Large Hippo*

        this is *so* helpful – thank you! I do believe in the product but also know the target audience is made up of people who have very little free time to talk and can be a little rough around the edges. The fear of getting fired for not meeting quotas is what makes me nervous about a job in sales and has been what’s always kept me away from trying it.

        1. potatocakes*

          No worries!

          The amount of time a company gives for a new person to learn the ropes/get up to speed differs. Any company worth their salt will have a good training/mentor/coaching program to support new reps as much as possible. In a lot of companies, including mine you’ll start off as a Sales Development Rep or Business Development Rep which means you book appointments for the full fledged Sales Rep, and receive sales training during this time. You get promoted to sales if you demonstrate aptitude for the job and meet the quotas in your current position. Of course this isn’t the case for all companies, but it’s nice when it is as it’s a bit less pressure and gives someone new to sales a nice easing in period.

          I don’t know about your personal situation but when I entered sales, I was unemployed and really had nothing to lose by trying it out. If this is your situation, I vote to give it a try. The worst that happens is that you don’t enjoy it and can move on to another position. The best case scenario is that you like it and succeed and get yourself a great new career. If you’d be quitting an existing job for this one however, more consideration is required.

          Hope this helped.

  15. Ann O*

    How do I take more ownership as a middle manager?

    This was some feedback I received in my recent annual review, and the examples given suggested that I was pushing too much ownership to my direct reports instead of owning those areas myself. (Note, I was praised in the same review for how I handle my own projects as an individual contributor.) In theory, I totally understand that I am ultimately responsible for my department and for my direct reports. But in practice, I’m not sure exactly what that means in tangible steps. My internet research on this topic found mostly high-level and nebulous ownership ideals. And a lot of the articles were about how to get front-line employees to take more ownership, which is the opposite of what my boss is asking for.

    1. Emma Woodhouse*

      Without knowing the specifics, I wonder if this could be solved with “roadmap” emails. I’m a middle manager and a big believer in letting the people below me have ownership of their projects; I’m in professional services so I’m also an individual contributor. Basically it’s serving as air traffic control and quality control at the same time – I compile a list of all deliverables in one email with the individual drafting, who will be reviewing (me or someone else), and the deadline. It’s more about project management and less about micromanagement.

      1. In my shell*

        @Emma This is outstanding advice! I’m not OP for this question, but that really helped me with a struggle I’m having! Thanks!

    2. Qwerty*

      Can you elaborate on what it looks like when your direct reports own something? When you pass along something to a direct report, are you still in the loop and able to speak about the status / successes / shortcomings of the project?

      From outside of your time, it shouldn’t be obvious which team member is the main contributor for each project. I would expect you to the central point of contact and relaying the relevant information. If Fergus is handling a project, how much does his name come up in meetings? Are you responding to questions about the project with “I’d have to ask Fergus” or bringing him along to most meetings on the topic? If Fergus misses a deadline, who gets blamed to your boss? How involved are you in the major decisions on the project?

      As a middle manager, I consider myself responsible for everything in my scope. To external stakeholders, I take all blame (then handle it internally) but give praise when someone does something well. I need to be able to speak knowledgably about all of the projects that I’m in charge of, regardless of my contribution levels. I’m involved in the hard decisions for the projects, even when I’m just following the recommendations of the people running them, and sign off on the large items.

      1. Ann O*

        I really agree with your last paragraph. I take blame, give credit, and stay apprised of how things are going. I’m not usually in the weeds or know all the details, though. I’ve seen my role as more about providing support and coaching, communicating organizational strategy and vision, setting expectations and setting employees up for success.

        One thing I should clarify is that we’re in a small business, so we usually have just one employee in each function, instead of a whole department. One person for accounting, one for IT, one for marketing, etc. Cross training is essential so people can actually take time off, but otherwise the one person is generally responsible for processes and projects in their area. I rely on my direct reports for their expertise, as my own education and experience is mostly in just one of the four areas that I oversee. I don’t think my boss is asking me to be super involved in the day to day for each of these areas, but I’m also not exactly sure what I can do to take more ownership?

        1. Qwerty*

          Have you checked in with your reports for feedback and if there is anything you can do to support them better? Maybe there is something in your blind spot or a specific situation that led to the ownership comment.

          If you don’t really understand what your boss is looking for, ask them to be more specific. Ownership can mean slightly different things to different people, so it would probably easier if they can point to a certain behavior they are looking for or a situation that could have been handled differently. Or if nothing immediately comes to your boss’s mind, she bring it up / coach you next there is a situation where she’d like to see more ownership.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think I would start with what is your process for when your subordinates hit a problem, snag or roadblock? How do you respond to that? This should be a long answer because it’s such a broad question in that there are all kinds of issues that can pop up.

      Another question I’d ask myself is do your subordinates know what is under their watch and what things are under your watch? Have you been clear what your responsibilities are to them?
      I remember one job where we had a Random Issue recur and recur. Because it was random it was really hard to trouble shoot what was going on. Finally, the problem became a focus of a department meeting. In the course of that meeting some previously unmentioned facts got dragged out of us. Once these facts were in the open the boss, exclaimed, “Well, no wonder you guys are having trouble here. This is MY problem to handle NOT yours. You all are not authorized. So what I want everyone to do is when they see X happen, just come get me. I will handle things from there.”
      There was an audible collective sigh of relief.
      Subordinates should be informed of what they should pass on to you, for you to handle.

      In general terms, each of your subordinates should know what their job is and what the company expects out of them. If your direct reports have their own direct reports, they are dependent on your coaching to relay basic info regarding policies and expectations to their own people.
      There are two components here:
      They must have a good understanding of the work at hand so they can successfully do the job.
      They must also have a clear understanding of what company policies and rules are so they can KEEP their jobs.

      As an aside, because your boss has failed to be specific about what you should buoy up here, I am really giving your boss the side eye on this one. Ironically, I have to say, try not to be the failure your boss is here. Ugh. I am so sorry your boss is so vague.

  16. Anonnyforthisone*

    My company has IBM Notes. It’s clunky and outdated, especially compared to other email clients.

    What other outdated tech or tools does your company use that you can’t stand? What would you prefer instead?

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Some of the tools I can’t stand the most are the brand new ones! Just because they’re “cool” doesn’t mean they’re functional.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Our billing system (for the largest health care system in the state) is a text-based telnet program that was written in *checks* 1989.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’m kind of impressed that the IT folks can still manage to get the upstream systems (which are newer) to feed into it properly, and then for it to feed back out to our (also newer) claims management systems.

          Also, both the claims management systems we’ve used since I started working here are absolutely terrible, in totally different ways, but the current one is the worst. I have a little knick-knack on my desk that’s Gus-Gus and Jaq, the mice from Cinderella, in a teacup, because we joke that the claims management software is powered by tiny drunken mice who keep falling off their treadmills or running the wrong way, and we named the CMS mike Gus-Gus and Jaq as a result.

    3. Lyudie*

      Oracle. Dear lord, Oracle. I don’t know what else is out there and how they compare for managing time off, but we used to have SuccessFactors for performance reviews and it was so much nicer. At least we no longer have to do time sheets in Oracle. That was excruciating. I might dislike Clarity but it’s better than Oracle’s time sheets by a mile.

      1. Lyudie*

        Also as a former IBMer I am snorting at the Notes thing. It’s been years since I’ve used it but I gather it is not any less clunky these days.

      2. Wendy City*

        Just had a full-body flashback to filling out time-tracking sheets in Oracle, good god that was awful.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I know of a person who ended up in therapy because of trying to deal with all the stuff with Oracle. smh.

    4. Anon for this*

      Tech Company:

      Fax Machine. There’s absolutely no reason for us to have this except we have the occasional technophobe customer who prefers fax to being on a computer and they’re only beginning to realize these customers cost us more than they’re worth.

      Also we just got ride of lotus notes.

    5. Rotherham Sleepy Hollow*

      I personally think that Notes is underrated, and some of the hate is unnecessary. Many features in Notes still do not exist elsewhere, e.g.the format box and the colapasble section “Twisty”, and the “Send and move copy to folder” function in the e-mail client. It becomes a repository for lots of little applications, like a hire car request/authorisation/booking system, and access to these applications is just a matter of sending a link. No local software needs installing.

      This is Note’s real problem: If competently set up it just works. It becomes hard to justify migrating applications away from it when they continue to work just fine.One company has been attempting to migrate away from Notes for 10 years; some business critical applications are over 20 years old. The version of the desktop client is over 12 years old.

    6. anon for this*

      we’re currently running an ERP older than I am. and I just turned 40. our “newest” one was installed around when I graduated from college.

    7. Msnotmrs*

      I’m a librarian. We’re transitioning our circulation software (the computer program that checks books in and out) from one called LibrarySoft, which is the most bare-bones circ software I have ever seen. It was designed specifically to be used in secure institutions (like prisons), so it basically does nothing except hold patron data and basic info (title of book, author). You can’t make any sort of lists, the search function is junk, no display pictures or biographical info of authors or anything like that.

      We’re transitioning to Follett, which is what most school libraries use. It’s a Plato’s cave situation–I didn’t know how blind I was until I was led outside.

    8. NotMyRealName*

      We only just stopped typing purchase orders in the last 5 years. I still have a typewriter in my office for some state regulatory forms. I wish more of them would send me fillable PDFs.

      1. Owler*

        Are you allowed to convert it to an editable pdf yourself? I do that all the time with school forms. It’s built into Macs, and one can probably download an app for other devices (I used to do this on my PC all the time.).

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

      Not in my current company, but at an old job we used Visual Source Safe for a certain significant part of the code base long after it was “obsolete” and had been superseded by TFS as it was at the time!

      Also: I have never yet come across a good “ticketing” system (like for managing IT Support tickets, requests, incidents, etc). Even when current technology they all seem clunky and have an outdated kind of mental model about them. I don’t know why it is so difficult to write a good ticketing system that does the basics (categorise a request, workflow/approval, notifications, basic reporting) successfully! (I’m not in charge of this in my company so no need for suggestions, but curious if anyone else has encountered this.)

    10. Cheesesticks*

      WOW!! I thought I worked at the last holdout company that used Notes. I do miss Sametime. Miss being able to use my own emoji’s. Skype is just not as fun.

    11. Minimal Pear*

      You know how computers used to be black screens with green text and you mostly used key commands to navigate? We use a program that STILL works like that.

      1. noahwynn*

        I work for an airline, we have a lot of programs that still work this way in the background, even if the front-end has been updated to a newer GUI. Some obscure things are only possible in the old text and some things are just way faster as text only instead of the GUI, so it is still used.

    12. Dr. Anonymous*

      We use a version of medical dictation software that is so outdated that the voice recognition algorithm was last updated in 2011. We’re supposed to move to the current version (checks watch) 18 months ago, or maybe next month.

      We compile a list of hilarious mis-transcriptions once a year. Many of them get caught before they end up in the patient’s chart. Because doctors are human, all of them do not.

    13. Donkey Hotey*

      Oh, don’t get me started. Our company uses an inventory/scheduling/billing system that is DOS based. It gets better because the guy who coded it for us can only ever do remote tech support because (wait for it), he lives in Mexico now and can’t return to the US. Bonus: Our 75-yo CFO is also our lead IT guy, so any tech upgrade is always seen through the lens of “but that will (gasp!) cost money!”

    14. Workerbee*

      We have a server holding years of files because leadership doesn’t like the cloud.
      We also have one team with a hornet’s nest of Google docs with varying levels of permissions, most of which have no categorization, and more are added all the time. Even the person who created the doc can’t find it a few weeks later. Meetings are held on what to do about it. I have solutions,p. Nobody wants to try them.
      The icing is that Google Drive is only supposed to be for temporary working files, and the final version is supposed to be stored on the server. This happens perhaps 2% of the time, and the document on Google is still never removed.

    15. allathian*

      I just wish we’d get rid of Skype and switch to Teams already, although I realize this is a minor nit. My issue with Skype is its lack of decent collaborative tools and the horrible sound quality even with a good headset.

      I’ve never been happier at work than I was six years ago, when we got rid of a legacy working hours tracker. I had to set up an Excel worksheet to convert our working hours and minutes to hours and decimals. A totally useless admin task that took at least an hour every month to complete.

    16. mreasy*

      We use Airtable, which I think would be fine if anyone who built them over the years had adequate training…as it is theyre impenetrable.

  17. reject187*

    So, before I graduated college, I got fired from a pizza job because I wasn’t doing the things they didn’t train me for. Now I’m a teacher. I’ve never been fired from a teaching job. Is it unethical of me to check the “never been fired” box on application forms?

    1. MMMMmmmmmmmMMM*

      I was fired from a grocery clerk position when I was in my teens, and I don’t check that box. Its been over 15 years. I’ve kinda considered it for more professional jobs. That said, if you feel morally questionable about, you could check it and just be prepared to explain why.

    2. Zephy*

      Is the pizza job on your resume, like is there any chance someone is going to contact them for a reference? Are you applying for a government job where you have to list every job you’ve ever had in the history of the world?

      1. pancakes*

        Those are the key questions, I think. Otherwise it doesn’t seem to be within the scope of what anyone asking wants to know about.

    3. Doctor is In*

      If you are going to be totally honest, check yes. How long ago was the pizza job? Are you including it on your application? Keep in mind that falsifying anything can be job-ending if you get found out.

    4. Malika*

      I once got fired from an ice cream parlour because i didn’t have the required arm strength. I don’t put this anywhere on my applications. I have also had contracts not be extended, I just say when asked we didn’t see it working out longterm.

      I wouldn’t lie about my history, but i also don’t need to jeopardize my chances by dwelling on the more unfortunate stuff in my working history. I don’t think you need to either.

    5. story time*

      Six years ago, I applied for a job that had a “Have you ever been terminated?” box. The honest response would have been to check that box, because, 17 years earlier, I was fired from my first job out of college. It was a small, dysfunctional company, where the boss was quick to fire people, and I was naive and struggling with mental health issues. Out the door I went.

      Seventeen years later, I did *not* disclose I had been terminated. I got the job, and today, I am still at the same company. I have “aced” every performance evaluation, and my colleagues seem to like me very much.

      I think such boxes are ridiculous, and I have strong negative feelings against them. One part of the absurdity is that there are no time limits to the question; that is, it doesn’t matter how long ago the termination was. I also take issue because, in the US at least, employment is largely at will — you could be fired after making one minor mistake, or you could be fired because you have an irrational boss. We had a letter here from someone who was fired after standing up to the employers for their policy of literally making low-performers wear dunce caps. That person would now have to indicate that firing, allowing no nuance or context, on applications.

      I won’t speak about getting caught, but when it comes to risks, I feel zero guilt, zero shame, and if I could go back in time I would absolutely do it again.

    6. reject187*

      Thanks everyone. Just kind of confirms my thoughts – the pizza job has nothing to do with my professional career, it’s been over 10 years, I don’t list it on my resume and teaching generally asks you to list your teaching jobs. I’ve never been fired from a teaching job, and the experience wasn’t one that I’d gladly bring up during an interview.

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

      The purist answer is they didn’t ask “have you ever been fired from a teaching job?” they asked “have you ever been fired”. (I expect many more people than you think have been fired at some point!) I think especially with a job like teacher that has a lot of responsibility it’s better to be honest.

    8. Anonymous for this one*

      I just had this come up today and first checked no, then decided on honesty and checked yes with my explanation. It was 17 years ago, I was there for a few months, and it was my one and only deeply dysfunctional workplace. Honesty is one of my highest personal values and I didn’t want to violate that for myself, but I deeply resent being put in the position to make that decision. I may regret it.

    9. meyer lemon*

      Those check boxes are extremely frustrating. Should everyone who’s been fired at any point in their lifetime, regardless of the reason, have to wear a scarlet letter forever? I would be inclined to answer it in the spirit that is most reasonable, and if it comes up in an interview, give the more nuanced version of the answer. They should really phrase this question better so they don’t end up filtering out candidates for no good reason.

    10. Anono-me*

      It’s a ridiculous question. And I can see an ethical argument to be made either way. But the question might be what is practical and in your best interest? If you answer “No.” and a background check finds the pizza place – a government job (a public school) could have ‘rule’ that means trouble for you.

      1. LabTechNoMore*

        Worth pointing out, there’s a big difference in federal government jobs and municipal government jobs in terms of the application process. I’d anticipate that very literal, thorough background check for the former, but the process for the latter will vary.

  18. Sunflower*

    Is anyone here an executive coach or works in a training role like this? I am interested in doing something like this but it seems there are some negative connotations online. I’d be interested in going into corporations and teams as opposed to being a ‘life coach’ of sorts.

    1. Malika*

      Are you good at networking? Because if so, it’s a very good idea if you have the requisite experience. Someone I know makes more money part-time with coaching, than being a harried full-time executive. You need to put yourself out there though and be prepared to work on that visibility regularly.

  19. MMMMmmmmmmmMMM*

    Good News Today! I got a new job!
    The position I interviewed for a few weeks back offered me the job, but it was only 32 hours a week. I politely declined, saying that’s not something I could afford to do. They said, “let us talk to the board to make it a 40 hour position.”
    And then they made it full time!

    AHHHHHHHH yayayyyaayayay!

    Its slightlllly less pay, but more doors will be open to me. And a better title, AND better benefits. And, with my vacation payout from my current job, I will make the difference up for the first year.

    I’m so excited.

  20. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

    I manage a prominent service across a large public library system, supervise a small staff that provide this service, and work at the always-busy main branch. My stress level is through the roof right now and for the sake of my long- and short-term health, I need to do something to change this.

    An assistant manager position opened up at the quietest branch in the system. It has a great staff and is in a sleepy neighborhood where I can walk to the beach at lunchtime. On paper, it’s a much easier gig for the same salary. Ideally, I’d like to apply.

    What gives me a lot of hesitation is that my interest isn’t going to add up for the decision-makers. The assistant manager position is normally geared toward librarians with 2-3 years under their belt who will be first-time library managers; I have 15 years in and have already managed for seven. I’ve faced what will likely be the same panel to interview (unsuccessfully) for three much more prominent full-manager roles in the past 18 months. Yet this position would technically be a lateral move (I hold a unique position within my library system that is administratively equal to assistant branch manager), but for all intents and purposes, a considerable step backwards. 

    The regional managers are likely to be surprised to see my application and if I were them, I’d really wonder why I was suddenly applying for a blatantly easier job when I’ve previously applied for some pretty high-profile jobs across the system. How do you think I should approach this in the interview?

    1. Troutwaxer*

      I think the first question I’d ask is whether you’ve talked to someone above you about your stress levels and what you can reasonably do about them? If you’ve taken action in that regard, I think it’s reasonable to say, “The job I’m currently working is much too stressful. I’d like to stay with this organization, but I’d prefer to do so in another role.”

      1. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

        Thank you. The folks I have spoken to have been sympathetic but ultimately dismissive as far as what they can do. I can’t blame them; everyone’s stress levels are out of control right now.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          If “everyone’s stress levels are out of control right now” maybe the solution isn’t to change jobs. You’d have the stress “everyone has” plus the stress of learning a new job. So how about an alternate solution. Is there something you can do to manage your stress levels? I find that a quick “shoot-em-up” video game or spending some time reading does it for me, and if worse comes to worse I’ll invest a couple days in lying on the bed meditation, but YMMV. Maybe the solution isn’t to change jobs, but to invest some time in learning better ways to manage stress?

            1. a librarian manager*

              Lets look at the positives- Can you answer the interview questions so that it spins in a positive direction?
              Are there parts of the Assistant Manager job that you yearn to do? Is it a super great fit for the work.
              As the supervisor, I would look askance at someone stepping back and then finding they really wanted my job.
              Examine the population of the branch and speak to their needs, programming and collections.
              This is less a job to “coast” but a new opportunity.

    2. Zephy*

      If you’ve already applied for three other roles and been denied for those, it sounds like your library system wants to keep you where you are.

      1. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

        My interviewing skills could be better and for two out of the three positions, I know firsthand that the people they selected for the jobs have a more appropriate skill set to do them, so I can’t totally fault the decision makers, but… that’s ultimately my fear, that the library perceives me as being too valuable in my current role to ever move me. I don’t know if that’s something I can defend against, other than to leave the system altogether. I hope it doesn’t come to that, especially with so few library-related jobs out there right now.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My suggestion is to let it be known that you are making some life changes or shifts in what you are doing in life. That way this information is out there. It’s vague but it lays some ground work.

          Then when you interview, you can say that you will be making some changes in your life but you would like to stay in the library system you are in. You are interested in the new role because it fits with your new overall life and health plan.

          What I am aiming for here is a subtle message that, you are going to make a change and this is their chance to keep you on in some position. If that is not doable for them, then you will start looking outside the system for other jobs.

    3. Weekend Please*

      It doesn’t sound that odd to me. This is a lateral move on paper. Your eventual goal is the full time manager position. You could say that while you have enjoyed managing Prominent Service, you would like to focus more on the main focus of the library system and manage a branch. It seems clear that you aren’t going to get the management job from your current position so you are making a lateral move to eventually move up to the full-manager role.

      1. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

        Thank you. If questioned, I was thinking that I could say something along the lines that I realized — after interviewing a couple of times for managerial positions — that I might need to take a step back and learn more about branch operations before jumping directly into a full managerial role.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Focus on the positives about the branch and why the staff is great, as well as the ability to get specific branch-management vs service management experience.

      1. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

        Yes, thank you — this is a great point. My skills/knowledge are short in the area of branch management and this would be a great learning opportunity. The only wrinkle is that there’s a culture in my library system that you learn about branch life by starting in the most difficult branches possible, then getting “promoted” to the calmer ones. I don’t think managing a service – even a challenging one – from the main library is going to count, so I’d effectively be doing the opposite and taking a “short cut” here. But we’ll see.

        1. Awkward Interviewee*

          There must be some weird internal politics there, because you’re saying that in some ways it’s a lateral move, in some ways it’s a demotion (but for the same pay), and in some ways it’s a promotion. So maybe think of it more like a lateral move and focus on why you want this job over your current one – such as other commenters’ suggestions of getting more branch experience.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Former library manager, current front line librarian here!

      My situation felt a little bit like what you’re describing. I was managing a busy, high traffic branch that had been through several staffing issues over the course of about a year, and I was seriously burned out and exhausted and I needed to take a step back for the sake of my own mental health.

      My HR rep and region manager were surprised by my decision, but they understood it, particularly since they knew about the staffing situation that was causing a lot of my stress. You say that everyone you’ve talked to about trying to decrease the stress of your situation has been sympathetic, so it probably won’t feel entirely out of the blue when you make the application.

      In the interview, try and focus on all the ways the smaller, quieter branch can give you positive experience for those high profile jobs. It’s not just the “busy all the time” libraries that give you good experience. At a slower location, you may be able to focus in on specific areas of staff training or programming or community partnerships that you wouldn’t have had time to focus on in your busier work unit. This way, you’re not taking the option of those high profile jobs off the table entirely, you’re pointing out that there are other kinds of experience you can gain that will make you even better at those jobs when the time comes.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        I think this is excellent advice. The trick is to frame it as a thing you want and be willing to talk about the professional benefits to you. Goals can change and that’s totally okay.

      2. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

        This is amazing, thank you.

        I’m glad you were able to change your situation!

      3. DragoCucina*

        Yes. Look at what positive you can bring. What you enjoy about librarianship that’s in this position. Almost a year ago I left a director position to start a library for a government agency. I’m a library of one. Yes, I gave up a lot of stress. More importantly I recaptured the joy of working with people to support their information needs. Recapturing that joy is as good as the raise and bonus.

      4. Quinalla*

        Yup, laterals moves are often something folks do to prepare to move up. I think it actually makes sense for you to do this for that reason and it sounds like you have been looking for a change in general, so I don’t think they will be surprised or if they are, easy to explain.

  21. PeachCube*

    I’ve been at my job for 3 months. Unfortunately I was a victim of bait and switch. Job description said I would be a team lead and after I accepted the position, they claimed it was an error. I was upset but I decided to stick it out. I was leaving a highly toxic job to move onto this one. I am once again feeling stuck. I’ve learned everything I need to and I don’t enjoy the job. I have too much downtime. Can I start looking for a new position and tell employers I interview with that the job description didn’t match the role?

    1. Ashley*

      I would think yes assuming your previous jobs were longer stints. Also keep in mind you will likely need to stay at the new job for a few years to show stability on your resume most likely.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      This is tricky. How long were you at your toxic job. Was it for a year or more? I think Allison’s advice about short times at jobs bing left off of resumes would work.
      However, if for some reason you want to put the job on your resume and in an interview you get asked why you want to leave your current job I think it would be fine to say something like
      “the role was originally supposed to be X with myself being a team lead as a component. But after being hired the role had changed and there was no team lead component. At this time there is no expectations for a team lead position to open up. I enjoy Y of my current company but I really want to advance to a leadership position. That is why I’m excited about ABC of your company.

    3. Hooray Spreadsheets*

      I think yes. You’ve got a good explanation on why you’re looking again so soon. If you find something quickly you can probably just leave this job off your resume in the future.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I expect a 3month gap to be unremarkable in a pandemic.
        Something to think about for right now, is it possible the pandemic is the reason the team lead component disappeared? Just off the top of my head, your company might have been planning a new venture that had to be cancelled. It could be hard to find this out, because you’ve already questioned people on the matter. You’ll know better than me if it can be done without annoying people in control of your reviews.

        1. PeachCube*

          No, the company was not affected during the pandemic and stated that the team lead portion was an error on their part. I thought I would stick it out to see what growth looked like in the department and unfortunately, even those that have been there for 10+ years still have the same position and responsibilities. I think they put team lead in the JD as bait :(

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Yes. “The job was not what was advertised and I am interested in something more challenging.”

    5. Hunnybee*

      I’m in the exact same situation, although I’ve been at my job for a wee bit longer. I just had to leave the toxic job I was in and took the first thing that came along….and it has nothing, nothing to do with what I was promised.

      I’ve been ACTIVELY interviewing, and I have told recruiters discreetly that my current job doesn’t align with what I was promised, and they have been ok with that. I think a lot of this is about phrasing. I mean, people know that this happens, and as long as we are being professional about how we communicate.

      I have been VERY careful not to say a word about why I left my other toxic job in the first place and don’t talk about it or bring it up in any interview. I think that would start to indicate that I am a job hopper and people do not have empathy for that kind of thing.

      Best of luck!!!!!!!!! I hope that you find something that makes your heart sing and your wallet overflow.

      1. PeachCube*

        I’m so sorry this also happened to you! It’s the worst feeling. I will be upfront and honest about my current job and not complain about the toxic one. I left the toxic one because I thought the new position would be a step up in my career which totally sucks.
        Best of luck to you as well and hope you find a great position very soon!!

  22. Always Late to the Party*

    Can I take a whole sick day to have a crown put in?

    It’s a two hour morning appointment so theoretically I could be back at (remote) work by noon, but I have a sensitive mouth so imagine I’ll be grouchy and sore after, and in general could really use a mental health day. I just took a few vacation days last month, but still I’m very burnt out. My last sick day was in April if that matters.

    My job doesn’t require coverage – there’s a very low chance of someone needing something from me that can’t wait until the next day.

    If I do take the whole day does this message to my team sound ok? “Hi all – Just letting you know I will be offline Thursday for a minor dental procedure. I’ll be back online Friday morning.”

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Hey, it’s your sick day. Sometimes I take a whole day to go to the doctor because I know I’ll be hungry abd cranky before and the doctor might take a long time and I’m a little sore after getting all my blood drawn.

    2. Just a PM*

      Yes. That’s what the time is for. If you have it, use it!

      Your script sounds fine. I would say you don’t even need to tell your team it’s for a dental procedure. Just say “I’ll be out Thursday. Back online Friday. Contact Jill if you need urgent assistance.”

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        All of this. Take the day if you have the PTO available!
        Some offices are kind of over share-ish with the OOO messages, so if that is your office culture what you have is fine, but really, I would be more vague unless that would be very out of step with your culture. Unless it’s very last minute I always put something very generic like what Just a PM has above. It’s none of their business why you are out!

    3. Coenobita*

      YES! Do it, take the whole day. Your message sounds perfect.

      I have done the “it should only take a couple hours, I’ll be back online for the 3pm meeting” thing, and then had way more pain than anticipated, and had to miss the meeting anyway. Take the time you need!

    4. Mental Lentil*

      Yes. And I wouldn’t even be that specific.

      “Just letting you know I will be offline Thursday for a sick day. I’ll be back online Friday morning.”

      It’s a sick day—ain’t nobody’s business what your issue is.

    5. Should I apply*

      That seems completely reasonable to me. I wouldn’t even add the details, I would just say I have an appointment and will be back tomorrow. Is there a reason you think it wouldn’t be appropriate?

      1. Always Late to the Party*

        I think my executive function is just totally fried due to burnout so I’ve built this up in my mind to be a *much* bigger deal than it is. Thank you :)

    6. Okumura Haru*

      Go for it. It’s incredibly common to take a whole day for something like this – nobody will second guess it.
      Also, your message is perfect for communicating that.

    7. Littorally*

      Sounds fine to me!

      When I had my crown put in, the procedure sucked and my mouth felt weird and off-kilter afterward. Depending on the sensitivity of your work, I think it sounds completely reasonable to be vague on the details and just take the day.

      I wouldn’t call it a “minor” dental procedure, since that would make me assume that means getting a filling or something else that’s very brief. A two-hour appointment isn’t minor! No matter what’s being done, that’s a long time to spend with someone’s fingers in your mouth.

    8. Anon for this*

      When I got a crown I was in pain for a whole day, pain killers made me loopy, so I support taking the day off.

    9. Nessun*

      I’d do it. I abhor the dentist, and I’d need the time to recover regardless of how the actual appointment went. It’s your time to use – use it! (I’ve done so in the past, and I’m generally not even that specific about why; just “I have an appointment, I will be back on X morning”)

    10. PT*

      Yes, but if this is your first crown, I’ve had several done and they’re not nearly as bad as everyone says they are! So while you might be sore because you have a sensitive mouth, there is nothing to dread. It’s really no worse than any other dental work.

    11. Grim*

      My wife just had a crown put it and it took 45 minutes. They numbed her prior to installing the crown and she was sore after about 5 hours with no pain the next day.

      But take the day off? Hell yes!

    12. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes. Totally. I have taken a whole day off for a medical thing that took a few hours, because well… I wanted too.

    13. funkydonut*

      You sound burned out and exhausted so I say you take several days to have the procedure and recuperate!

    14. MistOrMister*

      I have taken an entire sick day when I was just having my physical. I usually just make up time around appointments, but sometimes you just a day off and there is nothing wrong with that. When you do it this way, you have the benefit of a mental health day without the guilt (at least for me) of calling out one morning. This way your job gets some notice.

    15. Donkey Hotey*

      Oh YES. Yes, yes, yes. If you haven’t taken a sick day in 10 months – take the day.
      And yes, the out of office sounds fine. They don’t know when your appointment is or what it is (because it’s none of their business.)
      T a k e t h e d a y !!!

    16. Always Late to the Party*

      I had to step away but much gratitude to folks for affirming my anxiety about doing this. I will be Taking the Day!!

    17. Bibliovore*

      I always take a full sick day for dental work. I don’t know how I will feel and better not to be responsible for decisions or participation in meetings.
      I learned the hard way when I made an unfortunate decision that impacted others because I wasn’t myself.

  23. JohannaCabal*

    I’m going to be in a position later this year where I may be able to hire entry-level staff. I’ve always found references to be valuable (in spite of a previous company that banned me from reference checking–not surprisingly they got burned by some bad hires).

    I work for a virtual company and as such do not have an office number. Instead, we all have Google Voice numbers that go to our mobile phones. My previous company is still working from home and, from what I hear, likely to make it permanent. To save costs, they’re also considering replacing their phone system with Google Voice numbers for staff.

    All this to say, I wonder if it will make it easier to fake references as more companies are permanent work from home? Previously, I would check references usually by going through their company’s phone line, even if the applicant gave me a mobile (with some exceptions). Potentially, I could have no idea if the number I’m given is going to their former supervisor or a friend who has been coached.

    I’m leaning toward calling the number I’m given and arranging a Zoom video call. That presents other issues.

    Maybe I’m overthinking this?

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      I think you’re overthinking this. Especially for an entry-level position, they’re not really going to have a long track record of work or a lot of references. Plus they’re not (I assume) going to be doing work that requires lots of experience or highly technical skills that a reference could speak to – you’re mostly trying to learn if they have qualities that would make them successful at the role and that they didn’t literally light a match and walk away from their last position (if they even had one).

      And I’d just stick with the phone call, what are you going to learn from seeing someone’s face? The video adds a layer of burden that wouldn’t seem to provide any useful benefit.

      1. JohannaCabal*

        I suppose I’m overthinking it. Years ago, I used to participate on another message board (for a hobby) and on a job hunt thread some of the posters were bragging about using friends and family as fake references. That gives me pause because I have a job I was fired from, and despite it being a three-month stint, I found it difficult to get past it in my subsequent job search (I’d been laid off before that job and leaving it off the resume created a nine-month gap).

        I never considered using a fake reference though.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Decide to listen closely to what is said. People who are telling the truth have details that liars do not have.

          “I could count on Jane to arrive exactly 15 minutes before her shift started every day. She was the most punctual person I have ever seen.”

          “Bob was a real trooper, he did everything that was asked of him and he never acted put out by a request. One time someone dumped grease all over the kitchen floor. Bob was the only one who did not complain and just helped clean it up.”

          Notice how specific the comments get.

        2. Natalien*

          I would be cash money that most people who arrange fake references are doing so for fairly perfunctory reference checks. People aren’t naturally good at improv, they would struggle through an actual back and forth conversation about their “employee”. So have a real conversation with them.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        I wonder if they’re asking for more references than is reasonable for an entry-level position. Entry-level folks may not have all that many professional/academic references to begin with, and may not even know that they can provide less-obvious (i.e. non-supervisor) references that aren’t personal. I’ve seen some places ask for five references, and for candidates early in their careers, that’s basically asking them to scrounge up randos or fakes in some cases.

      1. Weekend Please*

        That is what I was going to suggest. Ask for their company email address and use that to set up a phone call. Requiring video could be very off putting.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Absolutely. Given that you’ll get personal phone numbers for some references, people can be tetchy enough about non-work phone calls they’re not expecting that it’s a good idea to give a head’s up and schedule a reference check chat over email.

        Even with email, though, in some cases you might get references’ personal rather than work emails, especially if they’re trying to hide out from their employer’s no-reference policy. Still doesn’t mean they’re fake, though.

    2. Malika*

      You can check their Linkedin beforehand, and see whether their work history overlaps. If you would check my references you would see we overlap at the companies we both work in and that they are therefore legit.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Way over thinking. A fake reference is a fake reference, regardless of how you reach them. The key is to ask certain questions but also to give the benefit of doubt. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think faking references is a hugely pervasive problem.

      I once gave a reference for a former direct report. My company had no main phone line. The HR rep called my personal cell. I would have hated to think that the risk of me being a fake reference might have impacted the application.

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think you might be over thinking this a little. I’d so an email and then set up a call. If you have any concerns, you can always check with another reference or ask the candidate to provide more references.

    5. meyer lemon*

      I expect that if you have a substantive conversation about the candidate, it will become obvious pretty quickly if you’re talking to a fake reference. Anyone who agrees to act as a fake reference is probably not up for inventing an extensive, coherent work history with the candidate, and probably only expects you to ask one or two very basic questions, or hopes that you won’t contact them at all.

  24. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    I’ve realised that I’m completely burned out at my current job. (I’m starting a new job in about 6 weeks, yay.)

    Does anyone have experience with talking to one’s manager about burnout? It’s a big part of why I’m leaving, and I haven’t decided how much of that to disclose. But I’m interested in how the conversation might go, given the stigma against mental health issues. WHO classifies burnout as an occupational condition (?) – not as a mental health condition – but I think some people see it as one and the same.

    Thanks in advance for any responses. I won’t be able to check back for a day or 2.

    1. Distractinator*

      To me, burnout is both an occupational condition (factors of the job that make it unavoidable) and a mental health condition (your symptoms in response to those occupational pressures). Usually when talking to your manager about burnout, both of those get addressed but the focus is on finding ways to fix the causes and the personal aspect is treated as a health thing to be managed by the employee and their doctor (therapy, vacation or medical leave, anti-anxiety or anti-depression treatments, etc) – especially since that’s in a large sense none of the manager’s business beyond Alison’s standard “taking some time for a health issue” scipts. So I’d expect the manager conversation to focus on how can the job be restructured, shift tasks or schedules, etc such that once the employee has worked through immediate health issues of the symptoms, the environment doesn’t drive the problem to recur. But it’s generally focused on long-term problem solving, except for the immediate triage if you need to take some medical leave time.
      Since you’re leaving anyway (yay! congrats on the new job!) it’s up to you to decide how much you want to address the systemic problems, whether for your own benefit or for the person who takes on the role after you. Or maybe you just want to talk about the immediate term, and that would all hinge on your specific case and your doctor’s recommendations.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      “I can’t do 90 hour work weeks any more. For my own health and well-being I must move on.”
      OR
      “I have taken on the work load of two other people who have been laid off. I cannot do this pace anymore.”

      Notice how I did not even mention “burn out”. Any thinking person is going to realize that people have limits, period. Here, my goal would be to say, “X is going on and it’s not sustainable for me.”

      But as others have said, this is closing the gate after the horse got loose. The time for talking about work load, or toxic behaviors or lack of pay or whatever has actually passed.
      In my experience I ended up disappointed that they did not even ask me why I was leaving. But then I realized that fit with the rest of what was wrong with the place.
      Think of it this way, no amount of conversation now is going to fix anything. Meanwhile, you personally need healing- you need calmness, orderliness, reasonable workloads, etc. It’s more to the point that you just go get these things for yourself.

    3. Donkey Hotey*

      All I will say is this: Burnout is a canary in a coal mine. So many of the tools for dealing with burnout are incumbent on the person suffering from burnout. Not only does this make it impossible (see also: depressed people trying to “motivate” to do things that help ameliorate depression), but those the majority of those tools just make a stronger canary. They do nothing about the toxic condition in the mine.

    4. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Thanks so much for your responses, and the valuable insights and scripts.

      To add some context:
      – My work is mentally taxing. I’m not a healthcare or emergency worker or anything like that. It’s an office job, but a demanding one
      – It’s also emotionally draining because of the types of interactions I need to have with some of my colleagues
      – This is much more of a stressor than the actual work hours which are fairly normal for office work
      – The operating model / processes where I currently work are such that the job is made more stressful than at other companies
      – It’s complicated by the fact that my actual employer doesn’t have any control over my work conditions – I’m contracted out to a client – so the company that creates my work environment has no obligations to me as an individual (not in the US so the protections you may have do not apply to me)
      – I was finding it pretty challenging but I was coping – until March last year when I was put on a nightmare project with a brand new team, the same week that we went into a very strict lockdown – that project slowly eroded my confidence and enthusiasm for my work and left me drained and barely functional by the end of the year. I’m now on a much better project but still struggling to recover and do the high standard of work I was capable of in 2018-2019
      – Feedback to both my employer and the client hasn’t resulted in any significant change, which is why I am leaving. But they will nonetheless be surprised that the situation was “that bad” – compounded by the fact that some of my colleagues seem to tolerate the situation better than others

  25. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    How do you get organized when you’re impervious to organization? I’ve tried the paper planner that I went to a training for, but it just gets lost/ignored. ( The training was not just designed for people with different brains than me but people on a different planet. It was all about how you put the important rocks in first and then pour in the gravel. But people give me gravel all day and it’s not like I can give it to other people. Also apparently all the gravel is important gravel. I dont know. All looks the same. )
    I’ve started using trello as a to do list but my amount of to dos ( like I need to do 10 seperate documents for 12 people) is way too much for the app.
    Even worse there are physical forms ( I’m annoyed this morning because 30 pages of physical forms are missing. I wanted to use the office because it is misery scanning 30 pages on your phone) and even if I give the forms to people and tell them to get them filled out, they won’t or they’ll lose them. If I try to get the forms filled out myself, some places will simply refuse to fill out the forms even though we need them. So then we don’t have the forms.
    Also my desk is covered in paper and I have no idea of where to put it so it doesn’t get lost.
    Also I’m supposed to block out time for tasks? I use the calendar on my phone for meetings but I’m still a little worried that I’d put it in my phone and then I’d still not do it.
    Sorry for the long complaint. Everything is a mess.

    1. Ann O*

      It took a lot of trial and error to find a system that worked for me. I use a tool similar to Trello for project management on the big stuff – longer projects with lots of milestones and interconnected parts, big tasks, things assigned far in the future that I don’t want to forget. And then I use a simple bullet journal for the smaller tasks that come up on a daily basis.

      Regarding physical papers, don’t ask me. I used to “file” it in cabinets, but my organization and labeling was so useless that I could rarely find things later. Then I started scanning the most important stuff and tossing the rest.

      One thing that has helped with overall organization is putting a “weekly wrap-up” block on my calendar for late Friday afternoon. I clean up my desk and inbox, review my calendar for the next week, make a plan of what needs to be done.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Yea I often make myself a next week to do list in my journal ( notebook? It’s red and I write down the details of what people say in it?)

      2. Esmeralda*

        Physical paper — does it have to be in a certain order or are you just needing to group it in some way? Because I use boxes — literally, empty cardboard boxes. I take a piece of paper — different colors for different items / functions/ people/ days of the week (whatever makes sense for you and your job), write a short label in big letters with a fat sharpie (for example MONDAY or SUSPENDED or DEANS LIST or WAKEEN), tape it to the box, and chuck papers into the correct box. If I then need to sort the papers or do something with them, I can go through them and I know exactly where they are. Haha, I often have a SORT THIS or ??? box as well, but don’t put too much into it.

        I’ve done the same with manila folders and even tidy piles of paper on the floor.

        It makes some of my colleagues twitch (well, it did when we were all in the office, they don’t have to see it now while we WFH), but I get through a lot of work and my stuff is always done on time or early and it’s done well.

    2. Ashley*

      I really like spreadsheets for tracking lists for myself. It also sounds like part of your problem is relying on other organized people to return things. In your example if possible I would email the form and then set an email reminder for followup. If I know the person they aren’t going to fill it out, I typically fill in as much as possible and high light / red arrow items they need to complete. And then depending on my relationship with the person but them by text to get me what I need and when I am desperate go to their boss.
      I don’t have enough meetings on a regular bases to block out time for tasks but if you have a meeting heavy schedule that can help. I am a big fan of starting 30 minutes before the phone will start ringing to try and sort through emails and follow-up on high focus items.

    3. OyHiOh*

      I have Outlook for email. I use Calendar to track my meetings (fortunately, I don’t have too many), so that I get reminders ahead of time.

      I use a bullet journal-type book to track the daily gravel, as you so aptly describe it. It took quite a bit of searching to find exactly the right book – mine is about 5×7. It has the months and days lined across the top, and then just ruled lines below. My org is primarily grant funded through a US federal department so we have all kinds of reporting requirements. If I spend 2 minutes on the phone answering a question, that goes into my gravel. So do emails following up on questions. Not to mention the actual daily functions I’m supposed to do, or the things my boss hands me. Notebook functions as a record of what I did when.

      I use an old-school desk calendar for the big picture rocks. When the board packet needs to go out. When to have the newsletter done. Days my time sheet goes to the bookkeeper (I’ve forgotten often enough this is necessary . . . . . ).

      Filing and organization – takes some time to figure out a system that works for you and the kind of material you deal with. I have a 3 section file organizer, file drawers in my desk, and a stand alone file cabinet. The sectioned organizer functions as a holding zone – things that are in progress in one way or another. The drawers in my desk are for things that need to be secured (those drawers lock), and the stand alone unit is for all the reference materials boss or I need to call up sometimes. Generally, the simplest filing system is best. Mine is broad divisions (counties, grants, sister agencies, etc) and alphabetical within those divisions.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Okay, it sounds like you are trying to prioritize before you sort. The first step in organization is always sorting things into categories. Identify your categories from largest to smallest.

      To me, it looks like your top 2 categories are Paper and Time. These need to be handled differently.

      For paper, there are usually a few different sub-categories:
      1) Stuff that needs something done to it as soon as you can
      2) Stuff that needs to be dealt with on a specific day (like papers for a meeting next week or bills to be paid at the end of the month)
      3) Stuff you can’t do anything about yet because you’re waiting for someone else, or to complete another stage first
      4) Stuff you are done with but need to keep for records/reference (or stuff that doesn’t need doing in general, but is general information you will need to read/know).

      So each of those needs a container. Sometimes #3 and #4 can go in the same container, if they pertain to the same project. Usually those containers would be file folders, but you could use a physical in-tray for the “as soon as you can” stuff, I like to use a dated expandable file for the “do on that date” stuff, and even a pile for a project is better than everything randomly scattered.

      You may also need to separate stuff people give you that you haven’t looked at yet, from stuff you have looked at and is in process. So maybe that’s an in-tray for the new incoming items, and a different box or tray for stuff that you’ve looked at but haven’t done yet.

      Label everything with sticky notes so you can move the labels around and change them easily while you work it out. Don’t worry about anything being perfect – it won’t be. You have to try stuff and move it around to see what works, that’s why sticky notes are the best way.

      After you get the Paper sorted, you can start prioritizing the stuff in your in-process box that needs doing as soon as you can. How you define urgency or importance is really going to depend on your role, your team, and so forth.

      The two biggest categories for Time are probably something like “stuff you do for yourself” (like get organized, keep your time records, check your priority list, check calendar/messages/email to see if the day’s plan needs changing, plan how long things will take, block off time for tasks, etc). This will be a lot of time at first while you get sorted, and then less on a ongoing basis – but you should probably allow 10-20 % of your time every day on this category. Doing that regular maintenance is going to make the rest of your work a lot easier.

      And the other is “stuff you do for others” like deal with their gravel. This will be 80-90% of your time.
      Some of the most common categories here are:
      1) Quick tasks that can be started and finished in one sitting, or that can be done for many topics/projects one after the other. These can often be batched.
      2) Tasks that require longer periods of concentration and sustained work, and/or will be done over a longer period of time
      3) Communicating with others to follow up on questions or initiate a new question. This can also often be batched.

      Blocking off time to do different types of tasks involves seeing what you can batch, seeing what needs single focus, and then deciding when your physical and mental energy is likely best for doing them. Personally, I concentrate best between about 9:30-2:30. I prefer to get in touch with people before that, and am most likely to bang out quick tasks after that.

      I don’t know if any of that was helpful for you, but if it was I’d recommend the book Getting Things Done. The author recommends a pretty specific system, but the principles are sound and can be applied to pretty much any kind of physical or software system.

      1. Imprudence*

        I like getting things done, but also managing your now ( especially the earlier editions:. The later ones seem to consist of sales pitches) which works especially well with outlook.

      2. maggggghie*

        I love your comment, and will be taking “categorize before prioritize” with me as a mantra. My problem has always been that I get to this level of planning, and then my ADHD brain conflates the “planning” with “actually doing the task”, and somehow we’re back at square one. Building the routine and reinforcing the habits has taken so many years, but I am finally in a place where I can perceive and conceive of time beyond “Now” and “Not Now”.

    5. Rational Lemming*

      Do you have Microsoft OneNote?
      I was a person who always used different notebooks for different subjects through school (math = red!). And I find OneNote sort of replicates that in a digital way. You can assign a tab or “notebook” for a specific person/project/assignment type and then you can have sheets within. My first sheet within each notebook is a “To Do” list. I’m sure a quick YouTube can explain it better than I can.
      Like any organization system, it does require a little bit of dedication.

      Or I had a coworker who invested heavily in post-it notes. Everything he had to do (important rocks and gravel) was a post-it and they were stuck to his desk until he completed them, and tossed them when the task was finish. It would drive me nuts, but I can see how it would work for some people!

    6. Batgirl*

      I used to (when I was an admin) use a big A3 plain pad on my desk as a mouse mat. Random gravel was annotated down mindmap fashion. It was easy to scan the mindmap and choose a next priority after each task, when it would be crossed off on completion. If I had to write on the next page of the pad, I categorised that as tomorrow’s tasks. Sticky Notes on the desktop can be used similarly. I much prefer scattered-mind-map to do list to a linear to do list. Everytime you note something down on the pad, or select a priority, ask yourself if it needs a calendar entry or reminder. Test the reminders.
      I’ve found that an exhaustive filing system for papers is a waste of time. Three or four categories (Go by to he number of drawers or folders or sorter shelves you have) will do; just keep similar types of papers together where you can pick a pile and flick through. I’m a teacher so I separate by ‘generally useful’, ‘do this’ and ‘tasks I do all the time’.
      I miss having a desk because I hate planners, but teachers are kinda married to them.

    7. Mockingjay*

      A big white board for quick view tracking. I list things like:

      2/5, Sent teapot report to Fred for review (due 2/20). 2/10, still waiting.
      2/8, Rec’d spout breakage numbers for analysis. 2/9, in work.

      Doesn’t have to be pretty, just list items and their status. I can look at my board and see that I need to call Fred to get the report moving.

      I love all kinds of trackers and databases, but this simple board is what I use 90% of the time.

    8. DeweyDecibal*

      I’ve got ADHD, so this was a huge issue for me! I finally ended up getting a rocket book in the medium size that I carry everywhere with me and write down everything I need to do. Anything that a staff member tells me in person I ask them to email me, then when I’m back at my desk it gets added to the rocket book.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I scan forms to my documents. I do have hard copies of some things because we need those hard copies. Other things just exist in my computer for the rare times we need them.
      The hard copies are in in subfolders grouped in files by topic/area. The files of blank forms are all in one drawer. I cannot function without these blank forms as you show here. If they are not organize I will drown.

      I have successfully weaned myself off of a lot of post-it notes. I get the super sticky for the few post notes I use because post-its fall off all the time. Instead I started using tracking sheets. I staple the sheet to the inside of the file. I write down what has been done and then I put what needs to happen next. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. For example: “Estimate is done. Waiting for approval.” It does not have to be paragraphs of writing. Just something to get me back on track with that particular file.

      I do have a tray for my immediate work. This tray holds the work my boss gives me AND it holds the work that I need to go back to very shortly. The goal is to empty the tray daily but that does not always happen.

      The number one thing that controls the paper on my desk is my label maker. I love my label maker. I make folder or file labels often. There is just something for me about having a nice clear label on a file. So those forms I was talking about a minute ago- each one is in a folder with a label from the label maker. I have no idea why the label maker helps me so much. I guess it’s mostly because I like how the labels come out and every thing just feels clear and organized.

      My boss got me some plastic pockets. They look like plastic folders but they are closed on 3 sides to work like a pocket. The pockets are colorful- bright pink, bright green, etc. I can locate them quickly no matter how badly i have buried them. The pockets have a designated use, for example one is labeled mail. I dunno why but mail seems to turn up several times a day. (It gets sent to the wrong place, then handcarried to me.) I can throw all the mail into that pocket and then do the mail as a group.
      Other pockets collect other specific things that come my way during the day. When I am done with the mail pocket, I can move to the X or Y pocket and do what is needed there. Of course the pockets have labels from my label maker that l love so much.

      Routines help immensely. I have my daily routines and I use them without fail. Doing things in the same order and/or the same way each day can save time and it can insure that not much gets forgotten.

      I think the biggest thing that I had to reinforce with myself was to date everything. I’d forget to put dates on my notes, on my mail, etc. Putting dates on everything really helped me not to lose my reference points when I had to go back in on something.

      Making a start up list for the morning, has been valuable to me. I do sometimes forget where I left off. I can save a bunch of time, if I know where I need to start in the morning when I return to work.

    10. Lizy*

      OMG ARE YOU ME???? lol – all the paper and unfortunately all the paper won’t go away and yes all gravel is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. *sigh*

      Good luck.

    11. Glitsy Gus*

      I have a lot of issues with organization too, so I feel you. Most systems that I’ve tried really just don’t work for me.

      I did get a system together to handle the relatively large amount of paper my job generates, though. I got myself two of those desktop, step-up manila folder sorters and a bunch of manila folders. The folders I then labeled by department, you could use people if you needed to instead. I also put together folders for each day of the week. If I knew something was due or I should follow up or something on Tuesday, it would go in the Tuesday folder (even if it’s due 2 Tuesdays from now, into the Tuesday folder, I’ll get there eventually). if Jan submitted it, but I just needed to hang on to it until I could file it/hear back from Jan/whatever next step, into the Jan folder. I also have a few categories, so there may also be an “Incoming Client Approval” folder or something.

      That way it’s all easily available should I need it but not all over my desktop. If I don’t know what to do next I can just grab the folder of the day and pick something or scan through the folks and see what pings as a pending item. I will also sometimes write a note and throw it into the folder of the day if I need a reminder. The good part is that it is really fast and simple but keeps things categorized just enough. The trick is to find the sweet spot between “enough categories to find things” and “way too many folders, I don’t have time for this.” Anything too complicated or time consuming I will abandon in a few days, so simple is the key for me.

    12. AnotherLibrarian*

      You have to find a system that works for you. For me, it’s a bullet journal, spreadsheets, a hyper-organized staff person who works for me (thank goodness for her) and some of those standing file things, because I have an “out of sight, out of mind” problem. I also have a weekly- email clean up, file things, check lists, that I do on my Friday afternoons usually. I think Ann O suggested this as well. It helps me stay on track.

    13. vertical organizer*

      I feel your pain. Lately what has worked for me is a big white board with post its. Papers in stacks.

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Only thing I can add is that it’s your manager’s job to help you prioritize the gravel.
      I recently picked up an idea from someone on this list, to keep a running email of the tasks that hit my desk and the ones I complete. I use that to ask my manager which gravel is the highest priority. Manager knows the company’s business plan and tells me what’s worth my time. Every time I send a copy to manager, I delete the things I’ve done already and start adding new tasks to a new standing email.
      Key thing I’ve done is put a phrase in that I can search my email for later, when someone asks about project history.

    1. Qwerty*

      Nooooooo!!!!

      I would really like to talk to the developers who write software like this and give them a piece of my mind.

      However, it does remind me of an survey I had to take for a job interview over 10yrs ago. It would give you a list of four statements and you would essentially have to rank them – except it was sneaky by saying “pick the sentence that you most identify with”, eliminating your selection, and making you choose again. All of the statements were objectively terrible things to say in an interview (“sometimes working with others makes me furious”). Since it was college, a bunch of us all applied to the same company and laughed afterwards, then refused to accept any further interviews because we didn’t trust their judgement.

    2. LabTechNoMore*

      The test in there asking subjects to identify which emotions correspond to which faces seems blatantly discriminatory against neurodivergent folks.

  26. Nowhereville, USA*

    My unit has been successful and productive performing 100% remote work during quarantine, but our executive management is set on return to on-site work when it’s safe to do so. Prior to the pandemic, we had 5 fulltime telecommuters and very occasional telecommuting (snow days, etc). During the pandemic, we are 100% remote work and producing a huge amount of quality work. The majority of employees prefer remote work. However, our executive management wants to return to on-site work as it was before the pandemic, despite that the majority of employees do not want to return to 100% on-site work. I think that many of our current employees will always hold some degree of bitterness, that for more than a year, they had no commute and did the same work (the majority of our work is solitary and on computers). But some time in 2021-2022, workers will be driving 30+ minutes one way 4-5 days a week….to perform solitary work in front of a computer. Only difference is that it’s in a cubicle (or worse, open office). Just commiserating with other workers here.

    1. PolarVortex*

      I’ve come to the conclusion that executives are out of touch and/or don’t realize their job is drastically different than most their employees’. So maybe their job makes sense to come in, but ours doesn’t. (And we don’t have the pay, vacation benefits, work hour flexibility, etc that execs get as a benefit to being in their job.)

      Honestly I suspect as people abandon ship for remote jobs, they’ll wise up a bit and suddenly launch a flex work thing where people can WFH x days and talk about how progressive they are in about 5 years.

      1. Nowhereville, USA*

        I think that’s what I find the most irksome. The executive management has not considered how different production employees job’s are compared to theirs, despite that we are a small unit. The executive management also doesn’t consider that the company benefits are decreased and regional housing costs have increased; it doesn’t affect them as much due to higher pay. All of these factors affect production workers more than management.

      2. Ashley*

        Or they can’t focus at home alone so they assume no one else can possibly work that way. The office phase in for those who love WFH will be interesting battlegrounds in the year ahead. Not to mention how companies who have had much of the workforce WFH define safe to return.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ve started keeping metrics now while remote, because I can tell that I am more productive when not in the office. And I want to be able to prove that after three months if I am called back to the office.

  27. HeyAnonyNony*

    Tips on transitioning within a company…especially leaving a job you enjoy and an amazing boss?

    Work has been paying a large part of my tuition for a MS in a technical field (think Computer Science), which I’ll finish before the end of the year. I’m excited about the new work, I love working with that team. Our 3 year plan includes expanding this type of work in our company.

    But my current job was essentially created for me and my boss has fought to keep me on the team, rather than moving me to a function I’m much less interested in. I have a lot of goals for 2021 to build out company knowledge related to my current work.

    I wasn’t supposed to like this job this much!! Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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

      Is your boss supportive of the move / the study or do you think they will try to keep you back in your current team?

      1. HeyAnonyNony*

        He’s made room for me to use my new skills on the current team. He’s a really reasonable person, so I can’t imagine him trying to block the move, but I do think he’ll be disappointed given his push to keep me last year.

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

          but I do think he’ll be disappointed

          … so he wasn’t [fully] in on the plan, I’m inferring?

          Was it presented that you’d be able to continue to work for him but with more of a focus on field X.. when the reality is that you’d be expected to transfer out?

          If so I think it’s a management communication fail ultimately. I think this is what you’re going to end up having to navigate.

          1. HeyAnonyNony*

            It’s been a weird couple of years. We initially were charged with creating team for a 2 year project. At the same time, the other function was just getting off the ground, so it seemed like a great fit in terms of timelines. I was upfront at the time about my track.

            After some leadership shakeup, my boss and I were moved into an adjacent function that became a permanent team.

            HR also has changed a ton in the years I’ve been working on my degree and there was no formal plan for me moving to the other team, aside from my own advocacy to get involved with that group.

            The more I write this, the more complicated it seems. Blergh, likely going to just have awkward conversations and ask pointed questions.

  28. Elenia*

    Hey do you all think I should hold some kind of after hours thing for my staff? I am really not into this stuff, and I hate asking my staff to stay after. They are all paid hourly so it would be off the clock.
    But we’ve been in this stupid quarantine a year. We haven’t been able to connect.
    One of them has three small children too. So asking her might be difficult.
    And besides who wants to socialize with their boss?
    Maybe I should suggest they hold one without me?
    Not really sure. Thoughts? Or should I just mail them some chocolate and be done with it?

    1. Maria the Medical Librarian*

      Honestly, I would prefer the chocolate (or whatever) with a short, personalized note.

    2. Catriona*

      Mail them some chocolate and a nice note and be done with it! Love it. If they want to to get together and socialize on their own, they can certainly sort that out themselves. And/or, you could do an optional, social “coffee hour” or something one day, on the clock.

    3. Decidedly Me*

      I did a virtual meetup with my team a few months back. Surveys were sent to ask for the best day/times (we did this on a weekend) and then everyone was sent invites. Totally optional, but a fair number of folks came and everyone had a great time.

    4. TCO*

      I don’t know what your line of work is, but could you offer paid opportunities to connect during the work day? Even if it’s just an occasional 30 minutes of chatting over lunch or something? If you were working in person, what kind/level of socializing would be considered “acceptable” during the workday and can you try to replicate that level?

      I think it’s really nice to have opportunities to connect with coworkers during an isolating and difficult, and if team cohesion is important to your job then it makes sense for an employer to support some time to connect. But I agree that for some people it might feel like asking a lot to add unpaid socializing, that might feel obligatory, to their already-busy lives. It might come down to knowing your team–is this something they’d enjoy?

      1. A*

        Yes, this is what my team does. We all operate independently and quickly fell out of touch when we switched to WFH, so we setup a 30 minute monthly ‘vent & chat’ session during the work day (usually a Friday). No infringement on personal time, and also avoids the tricky issue of after hour events sometimes inadvertently being themed around alcohol/happy hours.

        I want to stay connected to my team, but not enough to sacrifice even more of my limited time (granted, I work 60+ hour weeks and felt differently when I was in 40 hour/week positions).

    5. HeyAnonyNony*

      I’d poll the group, especially if you can ask people casually or send an anonymous poll (easy to do in Microsoft Teams, which we use). If your staff won’t feel pressured to answer, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

    6. Weekend Please*

      Can you do something during the work day? As we saw this morning, forced socialization off the clock tends to not be very welcome.

    7. Eirena*

      Given the choice between unpaid social time at work, paid social time at work, and chocolate and a note, I would rank chocolate first, paid social time next, and completely skip out on unpaid social time with coworkers.

    8. I'm just here for the cats*

      After hours socialization kind of sucks, especially right now when a lot of resteraunts and bars re not open. I would say hold off and show appreciation some other way.

      Another thought, if you are all in office, and if everyone feels safe and up to it, have a pot luck where you can all bring in dishes but eat in your own areas. Or maybe have something delivered, like sandwiches. DO this during work hours.

    9. mreasy*

      Mail everyone coffee or their treat of choice. Bonus points if it’s a local maker. If you can use half or all of a regularly scheduled meeting for a looser “hopes for the year / teambuilding q&a,” great – but I’d avoid after hours for sure (I have no kids and still wouldn’t want to do it).

  29. Thursdaysgeek*

    My company deals with interns so well. They are paid, of course, but they aren’t given side jobs that no-one has time to do and no-one cares about. They are part of the team, doing the same work the rest of us are doing, just part-time. We work with them, ask them for help, just like anyone else.

    Our team intern has been helping me learn a language I’m weak in and he’s been studying. And yesterday helped me resolve an issue that I couldn’t figure out. I let our boss know. In many cases, we end up hiring the interns when they graduate, so we get to evaluate geeks while they are getting very useful experience, and then we get to hire well trained fresh graduates.

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

      Yes! I make it a point to “big up” people, especially junior/intern level when they have done a good job. Don’t forget to give good feedback (without making it embarrassing :) ) directly to the person also.

  30. RagingADHD*

    I made a stupid brain glitch last week, and got away with it.

    I sent a client an analysis and recommendations for their book proposal, and after it was too late to recall the email, I realized I’d used an entirely wrong word. I know both words, I know what they mean, but the ol’grey matter just served up the wrong one and didn’t catch it until later. I was dreading the follow-up conversation, because it would make me look really ignorant, which could undermine their confidence in the whole process.

    (Sidenote: before I got dx, this kind of thing used to really freak me out and make me think I was losing my marbles altogether. Now I know what’s happening and it stinks but is just something to deal with.)

    The client LOVED my document and is using the recommendations. I don’t know whether they missed it/misread it, whether they used some kind of alternate interpretation of the sentence that made the incorrect word work, or whether they didn’t know the difference. Ha!

    Did you have any “whew, dodged a bullet” moments this week?

    1. Troutwaxer*

      I recently sent my higher-ups a presentation which was generally complete, but one bullet point read, “Not sure what to say here. Any suggestions?”

      Silly me. I thought they’d read it carefully before sending it out to very important people with money!

        1. Troutwaxer*

          I noticed it and fixed it. I suspect some money was lost, but nobody has told me whether that’s really the case.

  31. ahhh*

    I know this is a silly question to ask. I work a job that has papers flying everywhere. It’s an industry thing, not personal trait. How do people get organized? Things come in at such a fast pace…. my piles have piles; I either end up with a pile of papers or a pile of folder; despite trying to go as paperless as possible it’s just not entirely possible in this position. Sadly doing things and filing them away doesn’t always work due to how certain projects are run. Any suggestions… I just want to see the bottom of my desk!

    1. Sleepless*

      That may depend on how many projects you have and how many papers each one generates. If it’s multiple projects that will eventually get filed when they are completed, can they each be put on a clipboard? Each new piece of paper gets stuck to the clipboard, and you can have a certain order they are put in. Maybe add colored dividers to the stack so you can find each one. The clipboard is set in a certain spot depending on the stage of the project, and then filed when it is completed (or scanned so you don’t have to keep the paper).

        1. Sleepless*

          It’s how we handle the paperwork in a paperlight veterinary practice. Every patient gets a checkin sheet on a clipboard. All of the paper that is generated during their stay/visit is added to the clipboard. We have specific spots the clipboard is put for each stage of the visit to minimize the amount of time people spend running around looking for it. After the visit, it’s all scanned into the electronic record.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I just want to commiserate! I have so much paper! If I can get to the office and scan them on the big scanner I can throw them away. Man maybe I’ll bring my whole desk.

      1. ahhh*

        Sadly I’ve gotten to the point of being able to locate things in the piles without even looking. Need document ABC – second pile over 3/4 of the way down. I’m not the neatest person but personally I my home life is a little more organized. My desk is DRIVING ME CRAZY. Cheese to mutual commiseration!

      1. ahhh*

        I’ve been trying that. I love the idea and concept but its taking me a while to get things organized that way as I need more verticle files than there is room on my desk (we have a shortage of storage space where I work)

  32. Other Options?*

    I am trying to find a new path in my career but don’t know where to even start.
    I have been in sales operations for the same publicly held company for the past 20+ years in various types of roles, with my most relevant experience being managing sales operations – developing and implementing commission plans, sales goal-setting, CRM support, pricing analysis and deal conception, sales reporting, sales territory development, and sales training.
    I’m good at what I do, but my motivation sucks and I just NEED something different. I’ve been looking for new opportunities at other companies but always seem to come up in second place and even then, I’m not sure if I need a new company or a whole new path?
    Do these skills have any logical path to something new and different or am I stuck here forever? I’m open to pretty much anything – non-profit, government, etc – but I just don’t even know what to search for that might be a feasible option?

    1. Late Bloomer*

      Have you looked at program/project management roles? They exist in multiple sectors (tech and marketing are two big ones) and it sounds like you have a ton of good experience in the sorts of things a program manager does (developing a plan and guiding a team with the aim of completing a goal). Sometimes times postings look for people familiar/skilled with Scrum/Agile/Lean concepts or SQL but you can learn about them if needed. There’s even a fairly inexpensive test you can take to get a certification in Project Management that employers do actually seem to put some stock in (although it doesn’t seem to be absolutely required for every role)

    2. ahhh*

      I haven’t done what you are trying to do, but have you tried a job search by skill as opposed to Sales Operations? Also can you relate your experiences to a job posting. FOr example how can your experience with pricing analysis and deal conception – cater a cover letter for a purchasing agent or a company. Maybe network, linked in.

  33. VeryAnonForThis*

    Negotiating a raise when you survive a layoff. Think Teapot Design Architect for 14 teapot factories. Three people had the position to cover all 14 factories. Two positions were eliminated. Two people decided to retire rather than go through the application process when the remaining job was open internally. I’m offered the job with a 10% pay increase. I know of only one other solo Teapot Design Architect responsible for more than one factory, and she has three factories. I want to request a 20% raise with the hope of getting 15%, but is that tone-deaf when surviving a layoff during a pandemic?

    1. Troutwaxer*

      What you’re describing sounds crazy-making stressful and maybe a little toxic. I’d tell management that no amount of money is worth the stress of doing a job normally filled by three people. Tell them that when they’ve hired the other two you’ll be happy to take the third position.

    2. tab*

      During layoffs is a terrible time to ask for a raise, but I think you can safely ask, “I appreciate a raise, but this is MUCH more responsibility and work. Can you do better than that?”

    3. Weekend Please*

      This really doesn’t bode well. Combining three positions into one which would be responsible for 14 factories when the highest you have seen is 3 sounds like being set up to fail. Do you actually want the job if you get a 15% raise? I don’t think it is tone deaf at all to tell them that you aren’t interested in taking a 200% workload increase for a 10% raise.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I’ve been thinking about this, and maybe there’s another way to handle it, which is to day, “This is a huge job, much too big for one person. What’s my budget for hiring help?” At that point I think they’ll probably look for someone else.

    4. *daha**

      Negotiate around workload and expectations first of all. This sounds like you’ll spend 16 hours a day putting out fires and 0 hours doing the meat of the position. You can’t produce the work of three people and maintain quality. Negotiating for more money for a job you are going to fail at is not a winning strategy.

  34. Southern Academic*

    Suggestions for managing people who are right out of college / in their first professional role? I took on some new responsibilities related to this, this spring; and I’m finding a few aspects of it (e.g. knowing how much to expect of them vs. a college student; what to prioritize coaching on vs. what to let slide) challenging.

    1. Malika*

      Time management skills and allround organization, whatever their job entails, is something they are better off learning sooner rather than later. Are these some of the issues you are dealing with, plus professional etiquette, especially in your industry? I notice that a lot of college graduates struggle with those aspects the most and need the most coaching in.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      One thing I struggled with (as a new hire) was asking for feedback and/or telling if my expectations were lined up with the manager’s. In school it’s very structured — you’ll have a rubric, you know what you’ll need to do to succeed.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      So, I have hired a few people right out of college. I find the best and kindest thing I can do is regularly check in and also regularly set expectations. I sometimes frame it as, “I know you might know this already, but I really need your timesheet in by X, because then payroll can process it by Y.” Or “No, I can’t have you check email off the clock, because that’s wage theft and it’s illegal, so please please don’t do that.” Or “I noticed you’ve been taking longer lunches. That’s no problem, but if its’ going to be over an hour can you let me know so I can make sure we’re covered on the Desk.” Those sorts of things.

    4. Lisa B*

      Plan to have a LOT of conversations with them. Not just weekly check-ins, but twice, minimum. Three is better, because you want to check in on their progress regularly to make sure they’re not veering way off. It’s very difficult to give too much feedback to people this green, so lay it on!

      Another big one is to go overboard on describing your office’s norms and expectations. I found that if I prefaced those conversations with “I know this might seem pretty basic, but everyone has such different expectations going into what’s often their first professional role that I find being so specific is generally helpful!” Then they don’t bristle as much when I explain, in great detail, what “business casual” entails.

      If this will be a regular/ongoing thing, developing a “newbie manual” is really helpful. I started one for our interns since we get a new crop each year, and even our regular new hires will glance through it during orientation. It covers things like trash only gets emptied on Tuesdays so throw any lunch garbage away in the kitchen, not your office; here’s how you request office supplies and the type of things we provide; you should have your teammate’s and supervisor’s cell phone numbers for emergencies but here’s what generally is/isn’t ok to use them for, etc.

    5. Qwerty*

      1) Plan on spending a lot of 1×1 time with them and know that you’ll need to explain thing multiple times. New professionals require a ton of investment, but I find it to be a very rewarding process

      2) Assign a dedicated mentor! If you are their manager, they may not feel comfortable coming to you with all of their dumb questions, so give them a secondary resource who can help with guiding them but that they don’t report to. Try to get someone who balances you out – usually we picked mentors who was mid-level since they have gone through a lot of the same growing pains relatively and balanced out the managers who had 10yrs of experience. Eventually you can turn these college grads into a pipeline to be new mentors in a few years.

      3) Focus on a small number of improvements at a time. New professionals can feel like they are drinking from a firehose or that they are screwing everything up. So if they need to improve on a lot of things, focus on just a couple of them. You may need to get specific and celebrate the small wins.

      4) Lots of oversight on their work. You’ll want to put a buffer on deadlines so there is time for an extra round or two of reviewing their work. Schedule weekly check ins and keep them casual. Talk to them about what works and doesn’t work for them. If they need to send an email to someone external or high up, pair with them to help them learn Office Speak.

      5) Do you have a wiki? I keep a new hire guide on our wiki with all the relevant links that they need. Ask them to help you add information to it that is missing – this gets them involved in the process. I try to train my college grads on asking me “where do I find X?” rather than “what is X?” so they start learning how to solve things on their own.

    6. meyer lemon*

      My company often hires interns and new grads, and while I don’t manage them, I do help train them and give them day-to-day support. I find that there is a lot of variation in their abilities, both in direct job-related skills and general professional skills and judgment. For my job, the most difficult thing to coach is that our jobs require a pretty high degree of discernment and judgment, even at entry level. The feedback I’ve received is that three training tools/techniques I’ve implemented have been particularly helpful:

      –A high-level document that encompasses the full breadth of the kind of project we work on, with some detail provided about each step in the process. This helps provide some orientation about how the various daily tasks all fit together in the larger project.
      –A series of more focused how-to documents, including some with general entry-level information, such as office basics (dress code, breaks, where to find things, who to contact for different things) and a glossary of industry jargon
      –Having a point person who is available to answer questions as they arise. Usually we pair up the interns/new employees with a more experienced employee on a project. After one or two like this, they are usually able to take on a project by themselves with more limited support.

  35. slackr*

    During the pandemic we had a few rounds of layoffs. One of my direct reports was laid off, not unexpectedly; my department had a big reduction in workflow. I was sympathetic and offered a letter of recommendation, as he was a competent, but not outstanding, employee. Since his departure, while doing some of his job plus my own, I have discovered some portions of his responsibilities that he was neglecting or not doing at all and hiding it from me. Now, I am owning that it never would have happened if I had been more closely supervising him, but I am a standoff kind of manager – I give you the tools and the support to succeed, and I expect you to run with it. Add to that, he is not the first of my people to be laid off during that time and I was stretched pretty thin.
    Now he keeps contacting me for references/recommendations. In light of my discoveries about his work, I am not comfortable with recommending him with my reputation in the industry on the line. I don’t really feel like having the conversation with him about why – I have just been ghosting him. I know longer work for the company and answered his last text telling him so, but he still asks time to time. Do I owe him an explanation? Do I owe him a conversation, or will an email work for this sort of thing?

    1. CatCat*

      I think you need to lay out the cards especially since you initially offered a reference. He may be putting you down as a reference because of that. It’s unkind of you not to address that your position has changed because you don’t feel like it. You don’t have to have a big discussion about the it. Just tell him what’s what and then you don’t need to engage anymore. So at least he can find someone else to be a reference.

      “Ned, aftef you left, I discovered work that you were supposed to be doing, but hadn’t been doing. For this reason, I can no longer provide a positive referenence.”

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

      Now he keeps contacting me for references/recommendations.

      I think in this situation you could give (realistic…) references but not recommendations and make the distinction clear.

      Presumably you keep being asked because he’s applying for new work and keeps getting to that point in the process (and then turned down, I suppose). Is there anything in what you’ve given already as a reference that could be negative like that? I wonder if there are other negative references about him.

      You will hate me for saying this, but although you are a ‘standoff’ manager there still needs to be some level of oversight about work being completed surely – I would look into how (in terms of the process/structure, not specifically about this person) they were able to pull the wool over your eyes on a sustained basis so that you believed work was being completed and only found out months later that it wasn’t?

      I think that you could drop him an email if you are able to get the right ‘tone’ and content.

    3. BRR*

      You owe him a response. Being ghosted by a former manager is pretty rude. Even if you don’t work with the company anymore you still managed his work at the time so of course he’s listing you.

      I think an email or text is not only fine, but preferable. “I discovered that X & Y were neglected. I need to provide an honest reference and it’s going to be in your best interest to find a stronger reference.”

      And I’m with Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd above. Ultimately you have some responsibility for the work not being done. That doesn’t change anything above but you can give your employees autonomy while maintaining some oversight.

    4. Workerbee*

      From here, it sounds like both a style mismatch and, honestly, an outcome that is due more to your handling of his employment. I am extrapolating here, but—if you came across as expecting your employee to figure everything out on his own and not come to you for help or with problems, I’m not that surprised that this person didn’t achieve much and even outright hid things.

      I don’t know! This could be an overly harsh interpretation.

      I also like to let my employees do their work without me hovering, too. But because I’m that way, I also make it very clear that I am there to help them—with issues, with running interference, etc. Otherwise there’s a risk they won’t trust that I’d have their back, or listen to them, or otherwise be able to help them work through stuff.

      As another commenter said, adding on the ghosting to this makes it sound like there’s more going on that isn’t good.

    5. aarti*

      Honestly, I think an email is fine. You can briefly summarize the issue and explain why you are no longer a good reference for him to use. I think if you make the email brief and polite, it should be clear that you’re not looking to have a lot of follow-up discussions. I honestly think you’ll feel better if you can just shut this whole thing down, rather than having to wait anxiously for his next text.

      Obviously you know better (given the situation what’s possible) but you may want to leave the door open for the possibility of some genuine error rather than malice on his part. After I left one of my first jobs, my former boss contacted me pretty annoyed because once big task update I was charged with doing wasn’t done. Except I had done it! But I’d been saving it in the wrong format thus it ended up in the wrong place on the server. We figured it out, both had a laugh and she served as a reference for me a few times after that. I realize this most likely isn’t your case, but at least by sending a clear email you’ll eliminate that possibility. Best of luck!

    6. slackr*

      Thanks for the advice. I will be contacting him via phone this week.
      For some of the more judgmental of you – its a 16 acre site with 12 buildings, including a couple of warehouses/shop areas over 100,00 square feet. All I have time for in my 45 hour workweek on top of budgets, permits, reports, etc., is a two or three physical walkthroughs of random areas for a couple of hours each week and a top to bottom inspection annually that takes most of a week. If you think there’s an issue with me not discovering a single storage locker in an attic area where he was stashing equipment instead of cleaning/maintaining/calibrating it, I suggest you lighten up a bit.

  36. ReluctantManager*

    I returned to managing staff directly this year after a few years functioning in a consultative role within the same company. I manage subject matter experts within my subject area but they are spread out across multiple teams with 1-2 staff assigned per team. Their function with each team is similar but slightly different due to the nature of the team. I do 1:1s weekly to train based on their strengths/weaknesses and to address specific needs of their role/team and do mostly team email updates because juggling schedules to bring people together is difficult logistically and noone wants another meeting. COVID has thrown a wrench in things because we all primarily WFH. My current struggle is how do I balance holding distant staff accountable without becoming nitpicky and micromanaging them?

    1. Cassidy*

      Perhaps you can focus on the main thing: are they getting their work done properly, with few mistakes, and on time?

      I think WFH means making sure people’s work isn’t impacted negatively. You can’t really know if they’re putting in a full 40 hours, or sleeping a bit later each workday, but you can manage the quality and timeliness of their work. If it were me, those two variables are what I’d focus on until I had reason not to, at which time you might need to have meetings whether your people would want them or not. If they don’t give you reason to meet, the situation itself is kind of managing itself.

  37. Well, that happened*

    I’m the director of a department at a medium sized company. I’m in a leadership development program with my associate director, who reports to me, but is considered part of the company leadership. As a background, our department has grown a lot in the past year and we’ve had some growing pains that we are all aware of and have a meeting to address in a few weeks.

    Our leadership program met yesterday and we’d had a homework assignment work with a group to present a leadership challenge (real or hypothetical) to the group to assess and come up with a solution. My AD presented for her team, and the “problem” she presented was listing every single growing pain that the team has had in the past few months – all of which we were slated to discuss in the spring – and some critiques of how I manage in general. I had no idea she was picking this topic and we have never had a discussion about it as a team.

    I was totally taken aback and had to sit there and listen to our company’s entire entire leadership team – including my own boss – dissect our team dynamics from the limited information she presented and come up with “solutions”. This included someone thanking her for “airing our dirty laundry” and talking about how her manager (me) could do better. I didn’t participate because I didn’t know what to say. I’ve never stormed out of a meeting before but the whole thing felt like it was designed to undermine my authority, including the message she sent me halfway through “sorry I meant to tell you that I was picking this topic”.

    Afterwards my boss messaged me that she wanted to talk about my reaction to the discussion at our 1:1 this afternoon. I told her yes please, I had no idea that AD was picking this topic, it totally caught me off guard especially since we’ve ever talked about it on our own team. Boss was surprised that AD hadn’t talked to me about it (they were in the same group), but still wants to talk about it this afternoon. I’m not quite sure what to say…. generally I have a good relationship with AD and she is not the type to just “forget” to mention something. There was one other incident of her vaguely criticizing my leadership in a 1:1 late last year, but at the time I figured she’d just been really stressed like we all were in 2020.

    Thoughts, advice, help??? I’d love some strategies for how to talk to my boss about it, and if anyone has dealt with this type of situation in the past I’d love to hear how you dealt with it.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Aaaghhhh this is frustrating! I guess I’d go into this meeting prepared to, as non-defensively as possible, outline the ways in which I agreed or disagreed with AD and the steps I had already planned to take (the scheduled spring discussion) and then just… be open and receptive to hearing what your boss has to say about it. You can and should have a separate conversation with AD about what you wish had happened instead (i.e., her telling you ahead of time and giving you the opportunity to loop her in on your plans, etc.).

    2. Troutwaxer*

      I mostly noticed the phrase “…we’ve had some growing pains that we are all aware of and have a meeting to address in a few weeks.” Reading between the lines I suspect that your AD is very, very frustrated and maybe even angry, and doesn’t feel like you’re moving fast-enough to handle the problems the team is facing.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      I would approach it as discussing with my boss the coaching opportunity that the AD has provided. It was inappropriate for her to pick that topic without discussing it with you and that you were caught off guard in front of senior leadership. I would (if it were me) talk to my boss about how to help AD navigate office politics and how that wasn’t okay. In other words, I wouldn’t go in with an “AD screwed me over and what are we going to do about it?” mindset, I would go in with a “AD did something in a clumsy way that did not reflect well on our group and didn’t keep her boss in the loop and how do we coach her to not do that?” If the boss wants to talk about why you didn’t participate in the discussion or wants to say that you looked defensive or angry (which you might have) then I think you own it — if you can give a little laugh and say “well, to be honest I did feel kind of blindsided and I have to admit that I felt a little defensive since these are known issues that I have a plan to address, which AD knows.” In other words, you WERE blindsided and you DID feel defensive. If pressed on that, admit it — because you have every right to those feelings.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        You could even say that you appreciated the ideas and input that you got from the meeting (if you can say that with a straight face and give an example), but that you would have appreciated a heads up.

        1. Well, that happened*

          I actually think we could have gotten some really good input on a specific issue if we’d talked about where we feel like the group could have helped us. “We are dealing with X, here’s some more information about X, can you help us get to Y?” But because we haven’t discussed it, instead it was just a vague “here are all the things that are wrong how do we address them”. So frustrating.

          1. Qwerty*

            This is a really great angle to take with your boss! It shows that you don’t object to the topic being discussed, just how it was handled, which is a really important distinction.

    4. Princess Scrivener*

      Yikes, you didn’t ask for commiseration, but you’ve got mine. There are some things you can’t develop in a potential leader, and your AD just missed the boat on one of them–the sense to know what and WHEN to let your boss in on before you blab it to the world. Good luck with your meeting, let us know how it went later.

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

      It’s gotta be one of these – if you can identify the motivation I think you’ll be in a better position to figure out the way forward. I think it’s telling that she isn’t the type to forget to mention something and sent the “sorry I forgot” message as a means of plausible deniability I presume (why?).

      – she feels things aren’t likely to change / aren’t moving fast enough and saw this as an opportunity to expedite the process.
      – she feels unab