open thread – February 5-6, 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.

{ 1,118 comments… read them below }

  1. Remote Salaries*

    How are y’all researching salaries for fully remote positions? 

    I’m floundering. I had it down to a science for in-person positions (two industry societies, cross-referenced with the BLS) but now it’s turning into the Wild West. My field is adjacent to tech, so a peer suggested using the Github approximator, but the results were significantly lower than my two most recent in-person jobs.

    Please share your process!

    1. Nanc*

      Try the US Dept of Labor Occupational Employment Statistics site.
      https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm
      Alas, it’s using data from May of 2019 but you can search the salary info for where the company is based and where you are based and see what the differences are. It’s not the easiest tool to use but there’s a lot of good info if you have the time to explore. For me the hardest part was figuring out which occupation area most closely matched my job.

      Good luck!

      1. Firecat*

        It should be where you are working from. Not where the company is located since you will have to pay taxes and COL where you live and not where the company is headquartered.

        1. TechWorker*

          That’s… kinda your problem and not the companies though? Obviously they need to pay competitively but it’s not clear that if you choose to do a fully remote job from an area with a really high cost of living that it’s reasonable to expect the company to pay for that (or to pay you more than someone doing the same job living in a cheaper area).

          1. Firecat*

            Except even for none remote work you get paid for where the work is, not where the company is headquartered. Also the company usually has to pay taxes on your income relative to where you live. So yes – if you live in LA look for roles that will pay you LA wages.

            Lastly, a lot of companies DID immediately cut the wages of people who moved to lower COL areas doing full remote work. It’s a two way street and companies made the decision to pay people based on where the employee is located so they don’t get to tell employees that they aren’t going to consider where you live only when it suits them.

    2. Emmie*

      It depends on how the company calibrates salaries. Some may align pay to its home office. Other companies may consider a locality pay, similar to the US government, where Pat is higher in big cities (like LA, NYC, Seattle, and Chicago), but lower in smaller cities (San Antonio, rural Mississippi, etc…). I would look to both numbers: their home location, and your city. If the post says “Austin or remote,” I’d calibrate it for your area and Austin even if their corporate headquarters is in San Francisco. There’s no way to determine which labor market a company uses.

      1. Squeakrad*

        Some tech companies here in the bay area that are suggesting that employees might want to move to cheaper locations. But that their pay would be changed to reflect those cheaper locations. Others are not making that adjustment for current employees but will do so for new hires who start out remotely in a cheaper location.

      2. CoffeeforLife*

        Lol, San Antonio is a small city; it’s 7th in population. My family lives there and I *hate* navigating their traffic.

        1. Emmie*

          I agree – San Antonio is huge! I intended to say a small market city where labor cost is lower compared to a national average. Good luck in that traffic!

    3. booklovinmama*

      Glassdoor.com and Payscale.com I have been fully remote for several years and am interviewing. These two websites give decent pay estimates and on Glassdoor people report their pay when they review a company.

    4. a thought*

      It sounds like your research you turned up shows that remote work pays less… I wouldn’t discount that out of hand. It is possible that companies vastly prefer in-person and find more value in it, so they will pay more for it. (I think it depends on the kind of work – but for example, the salaries of in-person private therapists and virtual therapists on a site like BetterHelp are very different, even for someone with the same qualifications because people value – and will pay more for – in person therapy).

      Ultimately, salaries are about supply and demand. If they don’t hire you, how much would it take for them to hire someone else? I do think in some cases this might mean remote salaries are lower because they could hire someone else who is willing to do it for less who (for example) lives in a low cost of living area and so is willing to accept less.

      I don’t think this is fully how salaries for all remote jobs shake out — many people in low cost of living areas are realizing they shouldn’t have to accept less for equally valuable work to the company; many companies are realizing that to attract the talent they want, they need to offer salaries that are competitive with in-person jobs in big cities, etc. From this angle, it is very possible that the info you turned up via GitHub is wrong.

      Personally, I would consider if it is the type of work that lends itself really well to remote work (e.g., the value to the company does not depend on your in-person presence). I am guessing you may be in this category because you are tech-adjacent. If it is, I would base it on what the jobs pay in-person. If it’s not… well, then I might rethink if GitHub might be directionally correct.

    5. Public Sector Manager*

      This won’t work for everyone, but if you are in a field where there is an equivalent government position, you can use government salaries in your area to draw some pretty strong inferences. Honestly, the pay shouldn’t change whether you’re in the office or working remotely, and shame on employers who think they can stiff people on pay because they are remote. But I hope this might help you dial down some of the numbers of what employers should be paying.

      I’ve been a public sector lawyer for over 20 years, with 10 of those years being in management, and the cost to our public agency for PTO, health care, other benefits, and a defined benefit retirement plan is about 55%-60% of salary. And for me as an employee, health care costs me about 3% of pay out of pocket and retirement is 9% of pay out of pocket. For the employer, the breakdown is about 12%-15% of pay for health care, retirement has large swings, but costs the employing agency anywhere from 10% to 30% of pay (our agency is about 28%, but YMMV), PTO is from 10% to 15% of pay, and paid holidays are usually around 5%.

      So if your private sector employer isn’t matching public employer costs, then I think the private sector employer should be kicking down the difference as employee wages to make you at least on par with your public sector counterparts.

      1. NACSACJACK*

        What Public Sector Manager says – Even if you dont work in the office, you still spend the same amount. You have to buy groceries to make lunches you would buy at the office. You have to use your car to get those groceries or use public transportation. If you order in, you pay a delivery fee plus a 20% tip. I have not noticed any difference at the end of a paycheck for me working from home than I would in the office. I’m still paying for parking almost a year on, because when we do go back, I want my spot. I leave my house every day just to get out and drive as much as I would working in the office. Of course I live 4 miles from work, so…

        That said, in this day and age (amid Covid) I would expect to be paid the same as an in-office person. Whether the company saves on a desk for me or not should not impact my salary and what I am worth to them.

    6. Wordybird*

      I found that it depended mostly on whether it was a remote-only company or a company that has some remote employees but also a main office that people go into AND the size of the company itself in addition to the usual field of work. You can still use your old frame of reference if you’re in the same field but you’ll just need to add or subtract. Small remote companies, like startups, might pay you comparable what you’d make in-office but many times don’t make enough money (yet) for higher salaries or much in the way of benefits. The same goes for companies that are just starting to accept remote work and/or still have an office that some people go into. You’re really only going to make a lot more money than you would in a traditional office in big companies or ones that have always been remote and/or bring in a lot of money, and most companies like that (I’m thinking Buffer, Basecamp, etc.) are incredibly transparent and often advertise the salary range in their job description.

  2. Hello!*

    Hello AAM! So I wrote in on a Friday a while back about how I was getting a promotion without receiving a raise and was inspired by a LW earlier this week. Well, I have since found the position descriptions from when my coworker and his predecessor held the position that I currently have and needless to say, the low end of the salary range is $10,000 less than what I am making, and that is not accounting for inflation. The two predecessors for this position were both men and I am now being underpaid for identical work. Is it worth bringing up Equal Pay Act concerns with my boss?

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      Sorry I’m a little confused here… the salary from when your male coworkers were paid for the same job was *lower* right? Doesn’t that mean you make more?

      1. Nonprofit Employee*

        Yes, do you mean that the low end is $10K more? That you are making 10K less than the low end? If so, it is worth bringing up. I wouldn’t start in with Equal Pay Act. I would start by saying you found the position descriptions, they encompass all your new duties, and can we talk about an increase in pay.

    2. Weekend Please*

      I’m not sure I would start off by siting the Equal Pay Act (although keep that in your pocket for later). It really depends on what your conversation was before about why you didn’t get a raise along with the promotion. If you have a reasonably good relationship with your boss, I would point out the pay disparity and ask about it. How hard was your industry hit by COVID? I think how you approach this depends on whether you think they have the money and are simply unwilling to pay you what you are worth or if they are floundering financially and may not be able to pay you what you are worth.

    3. asterisk*

      This is more of a general question that this made me wonder–does Equal Pay for Equal Work apply when one is comparing with previous people in the position, or only when there are people currently doing the same work to compare to?

    4. Hello!*

      Apologies everyone for the typo, yes the position description salary range is $10,000 more than what I am making currently, and that is the lowest end of the salary range and from 2016. The only difference is that the more recent predecessor was in law school while he held the position. But the position description clearly states 4 year degree, which I have.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        If he had more education, despite it not being “required”, they can indeed use that pay him more. It’s a bonafide reason for a pay difference.

        1. introverted af*

          Is being currently in law school enough to count as “more education?” I guess I can see how someone who had more than a year of an undergrad degree that would count for something more than no undergrad, and 3 years more than one year, but just curious.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I missed the “in law school” part, I cannot read today. I was seeing “went to law school”.

            As in I have paid someone with a masters degree more money than someone who only had the required bachelor degree. But yeah, it’s not a matter of “enrolled in grade school” verses actually received a degree.

            We give pay adjustments to people who seek higher education/training certifications but yeah, only after the degree or cert is earned. Since you’re in the business of paying people to maybe try out higher educational paths!

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      What is market rate? If market rate for the position is X, and you make X-10, then you ask for X because that’s what market rate is. What people who previously were in the job made is less relevant than what today’s market rate is.

      1. Reba*

        I think that knowledge about what past employees in the same position were paid is a legitimate part of the market research!

        I would begin with market research and move to possible appearance of gender based discrimination if the bosses are recalcitrant.

      2. Hello!*

        Alright I am going to talk in actual numbers. I currently make $40,000. The salary range for the position was $50,000-$60,000. The national average for the position is $74,245, the average for the position for the city I live in is $72,000.

        1. Marie*

          I would bring it up with your boss for sure, initially poised as a “Hey, I am making a significantly below-market rate for this position!” discussion.

        2. I'm A Little Teapot*

          Then that’s your argument. Boss, I make $40k. The average for this position in this city is $72k. I want a raise to get my pay up to $72k. (That wording is not good obviously but Allison has advice on this).

          1. kt*

            I agree overall, although I would also directly point out that my predecessors were making more as well.

            Unfortunately (having been in a similar situation) you may need to look at other companies as well; when I was in that type of situation the employer really wouldn’t come up that much.

          2. Uranus Wars*

            I think this is important to state, but also where you are getting those market averages from? Make sure it’s comparing job descriptions and not only titles and take it with you if it’s a reputable source. Because they will ask.

            As far as what the people before you made, I still don’t know if I am tracking. You make $40, the salary range posted was $50-60K, do you have documentation that the men made $50K? If yes, take that too!

            1. Hello!*

              Hi there, actually to be clear, while the job posting was $50-60K, my old boss was less than cautious about leaving things on the printer so I know that predecessor #1 was hired at $60K and the more recent predecessor (the one who was in law school at the time he was hired) was hired at $65K. This was by no means snooping around, it was really just he left a history of office salaries on the printer and I immediately dropped it off in his office.

              1. Uranus Wars*

                I would definitely take those copies of your predecessors salaries and the copies of the market research done by HR to your boss/HR when you talk to them so you have them to back up your ask.

                1. BB*

                  Don’t take the copies of your predecessor’s salaries to your boss. Use that knowledge for yourself, but your boss didn’t intend for you to see his printouts, so leave that out of your copies. It can be part of your discussion but keep it vague, you don’t want your boss to think you were snooping.

            2. Hello!*

              Oh and forgot to answer part 1 of your question, I have looked at a few websites and talked to people who work in a similar field. I also wanted someone who was impartial, so one of my good friends does HR and so I asked him to research it as well (in exchange for baked goods) without telling him my current salary, the position salary range, or my coworkers’ salaries when they were hired and he also came up with a number that was within $1,000 of what I had come up with.

        3. Can Can Cannot*

          It might be best for you to start looking for a new job, and shoot for a $32K salary increase.

        4. Chilipepper*

          Others have successfully said things like, of course I do not want us to violate the equal pay act for paying me less than the men who held this role.

      3. Esmeralda*

        I’d say that what people made in that position at that employer is extremely pertinent. May not tell you about market rate, but it sure does tell you how the employer values it. And if they are offering considerably less, why is that? (If the only significant difference is gender…I might not make that the FIRST thing I said, but for sure it would be in an early discussion)

  3. Unfettered scientist*

    I’m preparing to start interviews for my first post-grad school job :o. What’s the best/most interesting/most surprising interview question you’ve been asked? (also looking for any general tips for interviewing in the biotech/pharma sector…)

    1. No Tribble At All*

      A question I was unprepared for: what are traits of coworkers you enjoy working with? What are traits of coworkers you admire?

      1. Violet Newstead*

        I got the flip side of this question unexpectedly. “What things do you most dislike in co-workers or managers?”

        Finding a way to answer that off the cuff while being diplomatic and somewhat truthful was fun.

    2. A Teacher*

      What does an individual that is successful in this position look like? (basically Alison’s golden question)

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        To clarify, is this a question an employer would be asking the applicant? Or a question for the applicant to ask the employer?

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Quick clarification on that Q — it’s “Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?”

        1. Jim Bob*

          Pretty sure this question (and being a perfect candidate, obviously) got me my current job. Thanks for the advice.

    3. Funny Cide*

      I’ve been asked “what are 3 words your friends or family would use to describe you?” While I know that’s pretty much just a coded question for you to describe yourself, I have a hard time doing that sometimes, so afterwards I found it really insightful to ask a few friends and family what they would use!

      1. Chamomile*

        YES, teachers get asked that too in interviews, but it’s “what are 3 words your students would use to describe you?” It’s so awkward because, well, teenagers! Definitely helps to look back at recent-ish (course) evals to gather some appropriate things (students) colleagues actually wrote down so you can pick a few off-the-cuff from a longer list of options in your head.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      I was recently asked “If you could have any job, what would it be?” This was predicated by a discussion about how the question was just a fun question to get to know me and that he did not expect me to say, “The job I’m interviewing for, of course!”
      It was used to start a casual discussion about my hobbies and interests outside of my career.

    5. Sled dog mama*

      I got one of the ridiculous “if you could have lunch with any person living or dead who would it be and why?” I learned later that my answer of my grandmother because she passed away when I was 3, hit a chord with the interviewer because it wasn’t one of the normal famous people. Still think it was a bad interview question.
      I interviewed in one place that had a lot of male employees (I’m in medicine so many places skew female) and they asked how I felt about working with so many men after I said “hey this office skews more male/male presenting than a lot of places how do you see that as an advantage/disadvantage?” So be prepared for them to turn your questions around on you. I am also a female in a role that is heavily male dominated so I often get asked how I cope with that and what advantages/disadvantages I’ve encountered.
      When I was first out of grad school I got interview questions asking me to demonstrate my ability to do certain tasks like a calculation by hand instead of using the software. I was totally unprepared for that, in retrospect I should have expected it. I had no work history and only two professors and an internship supervisor to vouch for my skills and knowledge. I’m not in biotech/pharma but I would be prepared for questions that demonstrate your ability to do the job.

      1. Aquawoman*

        Geez, that so-many-men question sounds like “How will you deal with the sexism you will suffer in this job?”

    6. Blaise*

      The one question that has stuck with me was “How do you stay organized?”

      I got asked that question six years ago and I STILL think about how I would answer it today. And I still don’t have a good answer! I’m a meticulously organized person, but it’s just the way I operate. I genuinely don’t even think about it. In six years I haven’t been able to parse it out!

      1. Julianna*

        In my experience, this is how truly organized people feel. For them, organization it’s just natural. My friend, When I asked how she stays organized, says “you just do it”.

        I don’t like this question because how you organize information really depends on the information. What am I organizing? A ticket queue, a long term project, etc.

      2. Caterpie*

        Same here! I’m a pretty good note-taker, so that’s my go-to for this question that always seems well received. I usually just mention that I take a lot of detailed notes, which can be easily synthesized into an outline from which to create the final product.

      3. Joy*

        As someone not naturally organized, I’ve answered this question by listing the tools I use, such as Outlook calendar reminders, email follow up flags and dates, file folder system (what are some main categories I use), note taking programs, One Note, timeline tools, just to name a few examples I use in my job.

        1. Product Person*

          Same! I stay organized by always summarizing my action items after a meeting ends, using a tool like Trello to keep a Kanban board with items moved from “Waiting” to “In Progress” to “Done”, blocking time on my calendar to work on items approaching a deadline, etc.

          Interviewers are only asking for reassurance that you do have a system in place, so being able to mention specific tools help.

    7. LessNosy*

      When conducting peer interviews recently, one of the candidates asked me “How will the right candidate in this position make your life easier?” I loved it.

    8. Midwest Manager*

      As an interviewer, I always ask at the end: What else do you wish to share with us that we haven’t asked about?

      This is separate from the invitation for them to ask questions. It’s an opportunity for the candidate to highlight additional skills they’d bring to the org, or talk about any anecdotes or project/work they wanted to highlight but didn’t get a chance during the earlier Q/A. My org requires all candidates are asked the exact same slate of questions, with little opportunity for variability. This gives an open door for additional discussion.

      1. Squeakrad*

        That’s actually a very common question on grant applications especially in the arts – “what would you like to share with us that we haven’t asked?” I think it’s a great question.

        1. Chamomile*

          I give college interviews too, and it is helpful with (I think shy) students who aren’t so comfortable with self-promotion or who haven’t been coached on how to sneak X info into an conversation about Y.

    9. JustA___*

      I got “how do you deal with stress?” when I interviewed for my current job which was new to me, but was clearly part of the hiring managers regular list of questions. In the before times, I used to go to a gym and lift weights, so that was my answer because it REALLY helped with the stressful job I was trying to get away from.
      I appreciated that new manager actually broached the subject of stress whereas other job just said people needed to deal with stress outside of company time while creating maximal stress for employees.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        My current boss asked something similar: “How are you dealing with COVID stress?” and it was obviously sincere and meant to spark a conversation about life outside of work. He actually cared about the answer. It was a nice part of the interview process.

    10. Accidental bear*

      My favourite one remains “What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received?” I had to take a brief moment in the interview to gawp at the genius of it – allows you to see how they talk about and respond to feedback, which is a really good way of understanding what they’ll be like as an employee.

      (Unfortunately, after gawping at it, I was stumped. Honestly still a bit stumped, a year later. I think you ideally want something substantive where you can demonstrate how you responded and improved your performance.)

      1. Krabby*

        Yeah, one of the hiring managers I work with always asks, “What’s a recent piece of constructive feedback you’ve received and what are you doing to address it?” It’s a great question :)

    11. PostalMixup*

      I’ve gotten “tell us about the types of people you have had difficulty working with, and about how you managed those relationships.” I’ve actually gotten a number of questions like that, about inter-personal challenges.
      Odds are good you’ll have to give a talk. I recommend focusing on your process as much as the results. Let them see how you think through a project. I interviewed for (and got!) a job using a hot technology I didn’t have any direct experience with. I spent a chunk of my talk explaining how, had it been available during my dissertation work, it would have made my life so.much.easier.

    12. Caterpie*

      “Tell me about a time when you were a bad coworker”.

      I thought this was a really interesting question (and I think I answered it well), but it definitely caught me off guard. I guess it sheds light on whether the interviewee is humble and coachable, or the type of person who thinks they can do no wrong.

    13. Grits McGee*

      “How neat is your handwriting?”
      Granted, it was for an archives internship where 80% of the work was handwriting folder labels…

    14. irene adler*

      Behavioral questions.
      Hate those.
      Like the ones that ask about to “tell about a time when you dealt with” being rushed, or handling stress from too many projects. Or how you handled difficult people. Or angry people.

      And the “no right answer” questions:
      do you prefer dealing with data or dealing with people ?

      Or the questions asking you to describe your preferred boss, working environment, etc. I dislike these because I don’t have strong preferences and am very flexible. But they want specifics. And then they use those specifics to reject you because you didn’t describe exactly their particular environment/boss. Never win with those.

      1. GreaseMonkey*

        I actually use this kind of question as the beginning of a discussion about our work environment and team. It takes all types to make a fully functioning team (someone I respect once told me never hire 2 people the same unless you’re looking to replace the one you’ve got) so understanding how someone likes to work or be managed gives you an insight into their strengths and how they will interact with others and use their skills/knowledge. There’s no “winning” involved. As Alison always says, you need to be interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.

      2. GreaseMonkey*

        And “I have no strong preferences, and find I’m quite flexible. In X job I worked in this way and accomplished a 150% increase in snozzlepump efficiency. However in Y job I worked in exactly the opposite environment and received glowing reviews on my snozzlepump installation project” is a perfectly good answer.

    15. Sabine the Very Mean*

      “If you were driving down the road on a very cold and rainy night and you passed your best friend, man of your dreams, and grandmother walking and needing a ride, but you only have one seat available, who do you take?”

      What the ever loving Fresh Hell is this? This was for a barista position. My look of, “that was the stupidest thing anyone has ever asked me” ended that interview right then. I would encourage you to do the same.

      1. Zephy*

        The “correct” answer is to let your best friend take your car and drive your grandma home, and you go hang out with the “man of your dreams,” but it’s an awfully reductive (and allo/heteronormative) question that really has no place in an interview anyway.

    16. ferrina*

      As an interviewer, I like to ask “what makes you interested in THIS job?” Feel free to use things that you’ve learned in the interview when answering that questions.
      For a tip, pay attention to the acronyms that your interviewer uses. In biotech/pharma, we use plenty of shorthand. If you are looking at mid-/senior level positions, we’ll expect you to know the shorthand or catch up quickly. It’s best if you can mirror the language back. Make sure you aren’t throwing new acronyms around for the sake of acronyms- we know when people are doing that. If you are looking at junior level positions, ask if you don’t know! We don’t always notice when we use shorthand and asking makes sure you have the info you need.

    17. another worker bee*

      This was from my boss at MY first job out of grad school, who was probably HR’s worst nightmare: “who is the literary/fictional sociopath that you most empathize with and why?”

      Thankfully (maybe why I got the job???) I actually had an answer to that off the cuff – the villain from Dan Brown’s inferno (the book, NOT the movie adaptation)

    18. Indy Dem*

      I’m in the biotech/pharm sector. I’m not sure what positions you are specifically going for, but I’ve noticed that science/lab roles are being asked questions that are usually more patient-facing questions. General questions about what do you know about X,Y,Z disorders that we treat, have you ever encountered someone with a chornic illness such as A,B,C disease. Basically, look at some of the disorders/disease the company works with, and see if there is info on the patients that they treat. More and more, they are not just looking for good skills, they are looking for people who want to help others. (which I think is a good thing, generally!)

    19. Skeeder Jones*

      They asked me to close my eyes and think of my first memory. Then I was asked to describe it and discuss how I felt. My earliest memory was a traumatic experience with a babysitter. Yeah, that didn’t go well.

      1. Annie Bananie*

        Yes, very bad question. The first memory was falling off my bike and bleeding from my head, needing 3 stitches.

  4. Overworked and Underpaid*

    The Administrative Assistant “Sally” works with some coworkers on assignments. There was something work-related that “Fergus” did that upset Sally. Instead of addressing the problem with Fergus, Sally ran to the boss and complained.

    I’m not exactly sure what it was about since I have a different role and don’t do what they do, but shouldn’t Sally have approached Fergus instead of running to the boss?

    This is what I don’t understand about my workplace: People will talk about everything under the sun EXCEPT work. They either run to the boss or don’t address it with the person. I don’t get it. Aren’t you supposed to address issues with others? Maybe it wasn’t a huge deal and Sally just needed to vent (she does it a lot).

    Has anyone else experienced this? What did you do? How/why are people allowed to act like this? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      I think it probably depends a bit on what it was Sally complained about and what her previous relationship with Fergus was like. There are people in my office that would much sooner go to the boss than talk with the offender directly because they’ve tried approaching the issue directly in the past and it either did nothing or backfired. I agree with assuming everyone is reasonable, you’d want to take a work-related issue to the person causing the issue, but unfortunately there are a lot of unreasonable people in the world. And if Sally isn’t in a position of authority to actually direct Fergus to fix the issue, then I get why she’s talking with someone who does have authority.

      1. Sparrow*

        Yeah, there is definitely no blanket answer to this. In most cases, yes, approaching the coworker directly is the best first move, but there are plenty of reasons going directly to the boss would be completely understandable. Unless you know all the details, I would refrain from making any judgements.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Oh yes, this happens all the time, and I know there have been countless letters on this site abut it. It stems from conflict avoidance, I think. It’s easier to complain about someone behind their back than address it head-on. Unless her boss is good at redirecting Sally to address the complaint with the person with whom she has a grievance, she will continue to handle conflict this way. All you can do is be sure you’re handling your work conflicts professionally and directly and hope others will follow by example (unless you’re in a management role and have the opportunity to guide your employees to this approach!).

      1. allathian*

        Yes, but this only works if Sally’s issues with Fergus are directly work-related. If she’s so intimidated by him that she can’t face talking to him when she has issues with him, then she’ll go through the boss.

    3. D3*

      Honestly, it depends on what was done and what kind of a person Fergus is.
      I’m generally a fan of talking to the person who upset you first. I think that works in the vast majority of situations. But I can also see situations/individuals where talking to the person first would either not work, would inflame things, or the fix needs to happen fast and the boss is the one to fix it.
      So, since you don’t know what happened, you probably also don’t know if there’s history/context to the issue.
      So maybe back off on the judgement about how it was handled.
      Because nobody needs a “I don’t know what happened but I’m going to judge the hell out of how you handled it” coworker.

        1. Not a Real Giraffe*

          This is unkind – and it looks like the problem with Sally/Fergus didn’t impact OP personally. S/he is just coming here to get a reality check and inquire about a workplace issue, which is the point of this open thread.

        2. Sue*

          How do you even know about this? Either a gossipy workplace or someone else is complaining around instead of speaking directly to the person involved.
          I would stay in my own lane, avoid the gossip and handle my own issues as professionally as possible. Maybe you’ll rub off if there is truly an issue and staying above the fray is often smart.

    4. Joan Rivers*

      Is this not Sally’s first time being upset w/Fergus? Is it more like “the last straw”?
      It sounds like you know only part of the story.

    5. Mockingjay*

      They are allowed to act like this because managers aren’t managing, or at least promoting an atmosphere of cordial discussion to solve problems.

      This doesn’t mean you have to find another job, if you like what you do and the compensation is satisfactory. Most of this is “not my monkeys, not my circus.” Sally the Whiner is not your job to fix. What you can do is model pleasant, work-focused actions with coworkers, and ensure you have good communications with your own boss.

      It’s taken me many years and this site to learn that I can’t – and shouldn’t – fix every problem at work, especially things that don’t affect my job directly. I’m much happier now.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        It’s unfair to call Sally a whiner when we and OP have no context. It could be anything from sexual harassment to slurs. OP, this isn’t your business. It may be very well that boss wants Sally to come to them first.

        1. Natalie*

          I’m assuming the OP wrote “work related” to make it clear they weren’t talking about something personally offensive, and from their subsequent comments it sounds like that’s correct.

    6. londonedit*

      I think framing it as Sally ‘running to the boss and complaining’ is unhelpful, especially seeing as you’re not sure of the context. It’s like when people talk about ‘tattling’ at work – Alison has explained in the past that the concept of ‘tattling’ or ‘telling tales’ really doesn’t (or at least really shouldn’t) apply in a workplace of adults. Is Sally really ‘running to the boss and complaining’? Or is Sally approaching her boss to let her know about a conflict she’s having with Fergus, or to report behaviour that’s part of an ongoing pattern, or to ask the boss’s advice on how to deal with Fergus? We don’t know, so it’s not helpful to think of it as Sally ‘running off to the boss’. Of course, it might have been better for Sally to have tried to resolve the conflict with Fergus first – but maybe that’s what her boss said, too. Maybe Sally’s tried speaking to Fergus and has been ignored every time.

      1. Anon for this one*

        This, so much. There could be several valid reasons for Sally to bypass Fergus and go higher up. Describing it as “running to the boss and complaining” is very judgey.

      2. Abyssal*

        Or is Sally approaching her boss to let her know about a conflict she’s having with Fergus, or to report behaviour that’s part of an ongoing pattern, or to ask the boss’s advice on how to deal with Fergus?

        This is a really good point.

        A prior boss explicitly asked me to take conflicts to him before I addressed them directly with individuals on other teams. It didn’t mean I wasn’t going to address the matter with those individuals, but he wanted to be aware of the situation before it turned into a big thing, and occasionally made tactful suggestions on how I could approach the matter differently — or, memorably, one time told me that this was something that needed to be a much bigger issue than I could make it, and took it straight to a managerial level.

    7. Dave*

      My dysfunctional work place has a lot of this. Sometimes you skip Fergus because you just can’t deal with Fergus not doing his job one more time, or there have been previous conversations with the manager about problems and you were told to skip Fergus. Venting to co-workers about co-workers can be incredibly dangerous and if she did just need to vent sometimes a manager is actually safer to not create problems with other co-workers picking teams.

    8. Not A Manager*

      But… You don’t know what it was about, you have a completely different role, and yet you *know* that “Sally ran to the boss and complained”? The only way you know this is if someone told you, which leads me to think that your office is a big gossip mill full of passive-aggressive people. If Fergus got his nose out of joint and responded by badmouthing Sally to everyone in the office, that’s not excellent either.

      I think you should mind your own business, honestly.

      1. Overworked and Underpaid*

        In the morning of the incident, Fergus said something to Sally when she was walking in. As she passed by my desk, Sally muttered to herself yet I heard her say, “Yes, but you’re making more work for me.”

        At the end of the day, she went to talk to the boss and in front of me and another coworker, she made the comment about Fergus.

        The other coworker standing there later told me that Sally sometimes takes on the work of others instead of letting them do it.

        When you look online, they always say to try to work out problems amongst yourselves first before going to the boss. I’ve never seen this happen in the places where I work, so I’m just wondering if it just depends on the situation, your workplace, etc. (I work in a very small office, so even if you cough or sneeze, everyone knows- whether they want to or not, people know your business/they gossip/etc.)

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The internet and reality are often split, so just because it’s on the internet that you should try to resolve it in person, it depends drastically on the dynamics involved.

          It’s pretty common place for people to do one or the other or a combination of both.

          I get things brought to me on the HR level that managers get pissed about all the time because “they should have talked to me first” and my general response is “Sure. But they didn’t and it’s about getting things solved even if someone skips a step along the way. We know about it now, we deal with it now. You deal with having them try to stay within a chain of command later if you want to.”

          There’s no one way. And there’s no right way.

        2. Observer*

          You really do not have anywhere near enough information, based on this, to judge whether Sally handled this well or not. Sure, in an ideal world, you talk to each other first. But sometimes it’s just not the best way because of a variety of reasons. Like if Fergus has a habit of doing things that make more work for Sally and she hasn’t managed to effectively push back, I could see her just going straight to the boss.

          As for the coworker’s comment – that’s pure gossip. It may also be playing into the way she’s handling things. Again, I don’t know for sure – and NEITHER DO YOU – but it’s quite possible that in the past someone has made more work for her, she did not feel empowered to push back but then SHE got blamed for “letting it happen”. Better go to the boss, in such a case.

        3. moql*

          This situation is just so office specific and workplace dependent that you can’t rely on the internet as a whole to give you useful advice. Once thing helpful about these open threads is that if you give us more information about how people work around you we can tailor our responses to your particular situation.

    9. Kanga Roo*

      Yes, I’ve had that happen. The person who sat in the cubicle next to me overheard part of my phone conversation, without context, misinterpreted it, and ran to their boss to complain that I made them uncomfortable (I don’t remember exactly what I was talking about since this was years ago, but I was new to this workplace and I was on the phone with one of my former colleagues and I know we were talking about something that happened at my previous job). Their boss went to my boss and also HR. HR actually apologized to me because they thought the complaint was so silly. My reaction was, “is this really how conflict happens around here? Because if so I’m not sure I want to work in this kind of environment.” And Reader, it was!

    10. AndersonDarling*

      I was an admin that supported 5 diff people, so I absolutely understand why Sally would go to her boss first. When I was asked to wash the windows in one of the guys offices, I went to my boss and asked if that was something she expected me to do (no, it wasn’t). When there are too many priorities, or if there is infighting between the people I support, I would go to my boss to get advice and direction.
      The dynamics between an Admin and the team she supports is not the same dynamic as a Director and Assistant Director. Admins aren’t always treated with the same respect that is given other co-workers. If they need back-up, then they need to talk to their manager before making a move.

      1. Donna Noble*

        This. I am a career admin and sometimes people see you as “just the secretary”. Fergus might not hear feedback from the Admin Assistant but will hear it from the Boss. (I notice you also specifically mentioned Sally’s job, but not Fergus’s.)

    11. Lady Heather*

      – Are you certain she didn’t try to address it with Fergus first?
      – Has she unsuccessfully tried to address things with Fergus in the past?
      – Was it something she could reasonably expect the boss to want to know about, like an integrity issue, stunning incompetence, or narrowly avoiding disastrous consequences?

      I’m hesitant to judge on so little information.

      In any case, if your company has a culture of running to the boss, it’s not strange that she does so as well.

      On a sidenote, addressing things with the other person doesn’t always work, especially not when the person being addressed isn’t receptive or very receptive to feedback. Once you start needing to convince the other person or start arguing, one of two persons will win: either the one with the most power, or the one with the best communication skills. (In a verbal discussion this is frequently the same person.) That’s made me shy away from generic ‘just talk it out’ advice/guidelines.
      (Whether or not it is the boss’ job to mediate feelings between coworkers depends on the circumstances. I believe it can be appropriate, for example when it’s impacting their functioning and the boss would rather they get along than that one has to be fired or reassigned, or when one person isn’t quite as appropriate as most and the other person doesn’t have quite as much tolerance for that as most.)

      I’ve certainly seen “tattlers” but I’ve also seen people powerless in a conflict that didn’t ask for help because they didn’t want to come across as a tattler or as being too sensitive.

    12. Asenath*

      I would always address something like that with the offender first. Only if Fergus had made a habit of missing deadlines/providing poor work, whatever it is and ignoring my complaints would I take it up the chain. I would try my best NOT to vent (at least, not at work). I can’t say I managed that 100%, but I have noticed that if you do it at work, next thing everyone is gossiping and exaggerating the problems between you and Kevin, and you look unprofessional, both because the gossip will blame you for the problems and because you haven’t been able to work with Kevin. He’ll suffer too.

      Why do people run to the boss first? Mostly, I think it’s because many people are uneasy with being direct to a co-worker when they have a complaint. It seems too direct, even confrontational to them, even though there are ways to do it politely and professionally. Sometimes, particularly with younger workers, I think it might be a hangover from school, where students are sometimes encouraged to take problems to an authority figure rather than working them out themselves.

    13. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Some people will do anything short of swallowing razor blades to avoid conflict. This explains so so much about what makes organisations dysfunctional.

    14. Pidgeot*

      Also, if the thing that upset Sally was something like, say, Fergus made a sexually harassing comment to her, of course she would go to her boss instead of confronting Fergus. Also, a lot of times you go to your boss to test out what to say to a coworker and how to handle it. Seeking guidance != tattling (which doesn’t exist in a work environment anyway).

    15. Abyssal*

      It depends greatly on things like what Fergus has done in the past, Fergus’ office standing relative to Sally, the sensitivity of the issue, things like that. Sally’s actions may have been appropriate in context. If you don’t know details, I would avoid making judgments about Sally and just remind yourself that it is neither your circus nor your monkeys.

    16. BRR*

      For your specific situation, we don’t know enough. In general, I think not enough people speak directly about things. I don’t even know if I would handle things as directly as I do if I didn’t read AAM.

    17. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It sounds like you have an ongoing situation where people go to management instead of talk to each other. Honestly as funny as it sounds, I would ask your manager not us. It all depends on what your management wants you to do.
      As for the specific situation, about which you’re not very specific, I have had one time where I was having a disagreement with someone just before our regularly scheduled one-on-one. From 3 cubicles away, you might have assumed I had “run off to complain”.

    18. Firecat*

      My experience is that most companies take a “the complainer is always right” approach. I’ve always been the only person willing to speak up to people first, vs going to their boss, on every team I’ve ever been on.

      My general experience is trying to be the mature person in the room means that you are often put on the defensive. It also results in a double standard where you are expected to try and work it out with the person first but that curtesy is never extended to you.

      I also found that the few times I’ve been like – this is not a conversation I can have right now – was also not respected and I was literally followed/trapped in a room until there was a screaming melt down.

      1. CatLadyInTraining*

        I’ve been in situations like that too. That said, I do think there are situations where it is best to go straight to the manager….

    19. PolarVortex*

      I’d like to add to this that there are times where it shouldn’t be a coworker’s job to handle managing a person (by telling them of work related issues). If Fergus is always late with whatever which is causing Sally to work till 9 pm (a real experience from my work) and is making excuses every time Sally asks him to complete his tasks earlier, she has a right to go to the manager asking what the heck is going on here.

      Additionally as it’s pointed out, there are times where it’s the manager’s job to hold a convo. This could include but isn’t limited to: inappropriate workwear (coworker was dressed for a nightclub), racist language (coworker referred to things as Jewish or Gay), treating people like crap (harassment, abusive language/attitudes, etc), sabotaging or manipulating their work or timesheets (more common than you think), etc.

      It’s nice to think that we should all give someone a warning and then go to a manager, but frankly as a manager I’d like to know what’s going on and if I think they should try solving it themselves, coach my employee to try that first. Better than them attempting to self resolve and it not working or them not telling me at all and it continuing to cause friction in their life.

    20. Texan In Exile*

      Co-workers in OldJob went to their boss who went to my boss to complain about – how I identified myself on the phone.

      Why my boss didn’t shut this down right away I don’t know.

      Why co-workers didn’t bring it up with me I don’t know.

      Context: I was new to the subsidiary. The subsidiary had just (like the week before) changed names from “Acme Corporation” to “Bugs & Road Runner, Ltd.”

      I was calling the accounts to which I had been assigned to introduce myself. If I had said, “Hi this is Texan from Bugs & RR,” they would have had no idea who I was. So I was saying, “Hi this is Texan from Acme.”

      I do not miss that job with the petty backstabbing and tattling.

    21. mreasy*

      It absolutely depends on the situation. If I knew that Ferguson was a yeller, for example, I wouldn’t go to him first. Or if the “problem” was around bigoted or hateful speech, I wouldn’t go to him first. So I’m not sure why such a rush to judgment.

    22. RagingADHD*

      Because managing well is hard, and a lot of people are bad at it. Good management involves coaching & empowering people, and lots of managers don’t know that, or don’t know how.

      When someone is complaining about things that should be worked out between coworkers, a good manager coaches the complainer and leaves the responsibility with them to handle it. And most importantly, they keep it private.

      This has the added benefit of discouraging petty complainers, because they aren’t getting the response they wanted.

      OTOH, sometimes it’s not the person “running to the boss,” but the boss mishandling a question.

      In the first job where I was working as a senior with a junior supporting me, I started having a problem with the junior simply refusing to do tasks as assigned, which had been the normal workflow before.

      I asked our mutual manager for advice on how to address it, since I’d never been in that situation before (and I wasn’t sure if the junior’s duties had been changed.) I explicitly asked for advice, because I wanted to keep it low key.

      The manager overruled me and called the junior on the carpet. I felt terrible, she was justifiably resentful, and it created a lot of needless tension between us. It also taught me that the manager wasn’t trustworthy.

      Either way, the answer is poor management.

    23. Chilipepper*

      I think it depends on the way managers handle this; they really set the tone. If Sally goes to the boss and complains and the boss doess not say, what did Fergus say when you talked to him, then Sally is being taught NOT to talk to Fergus first.

      My workplace is like this and if I talk to a coworkers first, I would be the person who is too agressive and pushy.

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

      I’ve worked in a place (and I wonder if Sally has, and that’s why she did it?) where addressing problems directly was frowned on and taken ‘culturally’ as intimidating or haranguing Fergus. In that environment what would happen instead is you’d report it to your own manager (not Fergus’ manager, if it’s a different person), your own manager would talk to Fergus’ manager and then FM would talk to Fergus! Or if Fergus was approached directly, he’d report it to his own manager who would complain to Sally’s manager and so on… The mind boggles!

  5. bubbleon*

    I’m wondering if anyone has advice on how to handle someone who’s struggling working remotely. I have an employee who knows their stuff and is honestly good at the job, but as we come up to 1 year working from home they’ve become a little less reliable. M seems to understand what’s going on and is eager to fix it, so I want to work with them and see if we can get things back on track. In our last meeting they mentioned that being in the office was a form of accountability, since people can see if you’re not at your desk, and sometimes see if you’re at your desk and not doing any work. Losing that accountability + being home so long has turned into a lack of motivation to get things done in the timely manner we need.

    Most of the advice I can find about managing remote employees is about setting policies and expectations, which we already have. I’m looking for any actual strategy you might have tried to help remote employees create that sense of accountability for themselves. Right now we’re doing frequent check ins, which I don’t mind doing, but I want to have a longer term solution in place so I don’t come off like the taskmaster making them review their to do list with me so frequently.

    1. Working mom*

      In my previous job the status light on our instant message/teams application was a good accountability measure. If you were on yellow for long unaccounted for periods you would get questioned.

      1. bubbleon*

        unfortunately I don’t think that would help too much here, if you’re chatting with coworkers or watching youtube instead of answering emails, it’ll still show as online most of the day.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Not all work is done online, though. If I’m reading/editing a hard copy of a report, my status would stay yellow.

    2. JustKnope*

      Can you set more deadlines for them? Having a due-date for something always helps me with accountability, and if you can help them break a project down into smaller parts with more deadlines, that could help. But I do also want to say that this isn’t fully your problem to solve… your employee should be figuring out these systems themselves without you needing to check in on their to do list constantly. That sounds like an unreasonable amount of hand-holding for a supervisor to have to do.

      1. bubbleon*

        If it was an ongoing issue, I might agree that it’s an unreasonable amount of work. I really do believe this is just a slump that M needs a little extra help to push through rather than the new status quo, and I completely get it. I had my own issues getting through a wall late last year, so I’m not inclined to be too harsh on someone else going through it now. I think it also helps that M sees it as an issue and is already taking steps to correct it, so I’m more inclined to brainstorm and try to come up with solutions to help.

      2. Sparrow*

        This is what works best for me. I am always more motivated and more productive if time is shorter. My current role has virtually no structure – very few meetings, very few hard deadlines, and a very hands-off boss – and it can be a struggle to work at capacity even when I am in the office.

        Deadlines make a big difference, and for me, even perceived deadlines are helpful. I don’t expect my boss to set deadlines or go over my to do list with me to keep me accountable, because she has better things to do with her time. So I find ways of setting perceived deadlines, and even that helps a lot. If I suspect my boss may want to discuss X in a particular meeting, for example, or if I say, “I’ll have this done by the end of next week,” in my head there’s now an obligation to have it done on that timeline, even if she hasn’t asked for an ETA and doesn’t feel strongly about when she gets it. Regular check-ins help in the same way – if I want to be able to provide an update on X at our next one-on-one, that operates as a target deadline in my mind.

        1. Liz*

          Are you me? Because that is exactly how my job is structured and how my boss is. A lot of my responsibilities are ongoing; taking information that we get daily or otherwise, and updating certain things with it. While it needs to be current, there are no hard and fast deadlines, and its VERY easy for me to get distracted, get behind, and get overwhelmed with what needs to be done.

          I just had my review too, and this was the one thing I can improve upon. What works for me, is a. setting my OWN deadlines and b. setting a schedule, such as on mon. i work on task a, Tuesday tasks b, c and D, and so on. I’ve also actually thought about asking my boss for a regular check in to help keep me accountable but he’s the type to think it’s “babysitting” and that if someone needs that, then they’re not doing their job properly.

          the other thing I do is i don’t get upset with myself when i don’t finish something i wanted to. working from home has been VERY tough for me, and some days i am just not all there, or motivated. so I let myself “slack off” a bit and find if i can do that every now and again, i can come back more productive.

      3. Natalie*

        You could also try softer deadlines or tracking that you don’t feel like you need to check. That’s been working for me for some tasks I do that are more or less monthly, and have to be kept current, especially by year end, but they don’t have a strict deadline and if one doesn’t get completed one month, it’s not a big deal. Normally my boss would be reviewing them but the position is vacant (again).

        At the beginning of our fiscal year that lack of anyone checking was posing a problem for me since I also work better with deadlines. But recently our director started dropping a huge list of all of those assignments in our shared folder and asked us to sign/date each item when it’s done. I don’t think anyone is checking up on it, but having a public place where I record what I’ve completed has been surprisingly helpful.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      Would agreeing daily targets/task list to be completed help?

      Then if your employee(s) are struggling to complete it, you can have a chat – maybe quick check-ins scheduled during day if needed.

      But if they get it all finished each day, it is ok.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        maybe a kanban-type board where they have tickets for the day’s tasks, and move into in ptogress, blocked or done throughout the day.

        Then you can view in real time where they are.

        1. bubbleon*

          this sounds like a really good idea, then even if I don’t necessarily check it at the same time each day there’s still a sense for M that I have access to check it. If that’s the feeling they need to get through this slump it might work!

        2. Captain Raymond Holt*

          That’s a great suggestion! I like having a checklist of what needs to be done and when. It also helps with accountability for my manager to see that “yup, Captain Raymond Holt is on it and here’s the status.” Honestly, I’m more productive when people are watching.

        3. RecoveringSWO*

          +1 A tracker that you can access whenever lowers your burden of scheduling super frequent check-ins and requiring a weekly (or whatever works for you) submission of that tracker or other form of status update would remind your employee that they are accountable for moving tasks along.

        4. Momma Bear*

          Depending on the security of your work, there are online options such as Trello that could be used for non-SW type tracking. Consider having a very quick stand up with the team to discuss tasks and blockers. If someone becomes a blocker for someone else or you see that no progress was made for 3 days on a task, then you can follow up with that person directly. WFH sometimes means you need to create your own accountability but a task board like that can help people who are struggling. I would also be flexible where possible. Is it really an issue if person A gets work done between 8 and 5 but person B gets it done in chunks but before the start of the next work day? For some tasks 5PM vs 9PM doesn’t matter.

        5. GreaseMonkey*

          I was going to say exactly this. I use Trello with my team. You can get a free account and actually set it up so it emails you when they move tickets into “in progress” and “done”. It also helps them keep a track of what they’ve achieved each each week/month so that when they come for their quarterly performance/development discussion they have a list of great work and we can spend the time reviewing how things went and setting new goals, rather than trying to remember what happened.

        6. Al*

          We use Asana for task management, and I find it really helpful for staying on track. Here’s what I like about it:
          1. Deadlines. Like commenters above, I’m also motivated by clear (and not too distant) deadlines, so the deadline feature is great.
          2. Visibility. The fact that the tasks are/can be visible to team members and collaborators creates a sense of accountability.
          3. Re-assigning tasks once I’m done with them. When my part of a task it done, instead of marking it complete, I assign it back to the person who assigned it to me so they can look it over and mark it complete. I don’t know why I find that more satisfying than just checking it off a list, but I do.

          Anyway, you may not want a new task management system for the team if everyone else is doing fine. But I’ve found that this one really helps me.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And at the same time, daily hurdles-work related of course.

        Where I am working the rules change daily. This morning “Do x” but by this afternoon “Don’t do x”. My boss can’t do anything about it- it comes from way above her. But I lost the entire day, I did x in the morning and then spent the afternoon UNdoing it. I could have done some real work rather than some make-believe stuff.

        And then the technology issues. omg. More of spinning my wheels. So the whole time I am doing and UNdoing x I am also fighting with tech problems a, b and c. I want to run away but instead, I stay and work through it all. And then there is the crappy phone system, which we have no say in but every time some one calls it’s a real strain to understand them.

        I could go on and on. I’d suggest that the two of you discuss one work related hurdle a day. Seriously. Go line item by line item. Get involved in the specifics of what the employee is encountering when they try to do a given task.

    4. Funny Cide*

      I was the one that struggled early on! I found that more frequent check ins helped a lot. It helped remind me not only should I be making and sharing progress, but helped me look ahead more at what we needed done, so I didn’t flounder around thinking “now what” nearly as often.

    5. Velma*

      I had an employee that was really struggling with this as we transitioned to working from home last year, and the thing that helped most agreeing with him that he would send me a two-line email at the end of every workday stating 1) what he accomplished today and 2) what he’s planning to accomplish tomorrow. This was an extreme situation where his productivity had fallen by more than half and so a strong intervention like this was needed — your situation might not be quite so extreme! But it turned out that he liked the system because it helped him create his own accountability (I wasn’t telling him what to do every day — he was in control of that), and at the same time it allowed him to shut down guilt-free when he finished all his work for the day.

    6. Kiwi*

      One thing that helps me is preparing a weekly summary of what I accomplished and what I plan to do next week and sending it in. Even if you’re only spotchecking it, having that extra accountabikity for your employee can be helpful

    7. SomebodyElse*

      Commiseration here. I’ve been lucky, there is really only 1 person on my team who is failing to thrive in a WFH environment. If I had my choice I’d have them back in the office full time for their own benefit (they are 2 days a week in the office due to physical – on site equipment needs). Like yours they admit that they are more productive and accountable while in the office, kids at home is a big reason for this. I get it, but it is frustrating.

      It’s hard when the rest of the team transitioned to WFH without any perceptible loss in productivity past the first few weeks when we were getting used to it and sorting out logistical bits.

      I do think that you will have to err on the side of micro management for this employee. In fact with the accountability comment it sounds like they want and need this. A couple of practical suggestions to help with that.

      1. Using a shared document, OneNote notebook, or other similar interactive tool; have a spot where you and Bob (I’m calling your employee Bob for the this) list out all of the things he is working on, needs to work on, and has completed. You can either set it up as a kanban board or even a simple shared spreadsheet that you can monitor and ask for updates, make comments, give ‘atta boys’ or interact with in other ways. Bob uses it for structure and to know that you are virtually walking past his desk during the day to see progress.

      I like this because it’s less about status reporting and more about you observing and a tool for Bob to keep on track.

      2. Yes with the lights for Teams if you use that. If that’s not an option, I’d have to think about alternatives, nothing is coming to mind right now.

      3. Increase your contact with Bob, maybe it’s a 10 min/top 3 for the day with a status on yesterday’s top 3. (this isn’t my favorite, but can help)

      4. Is anyone working in your office? Is that a possibility to have Bob work at least part time from the office?

      (Directed at potential commentators at large: yes, yes, I know there’s a pandemic on… I know that it may not be allowed in some areas or by some companies… I also get it that Bob may not want to take on the risk… No I haven’t been living under a rock… no I’m not trying to kill Bob… but this is an option that might be available if conditions allow)

    8. Old13oy*

      I vote against doing any kind of intensive individual task tracking, because it’s a lot of work on both your and their side to manage and it encourages having blinders/can feel overwhelming. If you live and die on the day-to-day it might work, but for anything longer term it’s somewhat crap.

      I use an “urgent/important” system, ala 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. There’s tasks that are urgent and important, tasks that are just important, tasks that are just urgent, and tasks that are neither urgent nor important. If you throw these up on a whiteboard or in a shared spreadsheet, something that the employee can see, and ask them to keep you updated on what they’re working on using that system, you can both do the near-term task tracking/workload accountability and the big, important long term stuff.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Is this project or process work? Project: Design a zero-gravity teapot. Process: Attach teapot handles and paint teapots that already have handles.
      The hardest jobs for me to self-motivate in are the ones which mix it up.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I fat fingered and hit send too soon. For your employee, if it’s process let them know how many of each task you need done for the day or the week. If it’s project, you two should work out the milestones and estimates of how long each step will take. After the project is complete, go over the milestones and see how estimates worked. If you have this from a previous year, that’s your opening to discuss how their productivity is going.

    10. Sylvan*

      Oh, I’m that employee. My manager’s doing check-ins. I’m also getting back into the habit of using Focusmate, a site that assigns you a silent work buddy for 50-minute video sessions.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I went and looked it up online, and stumbled across a New York or column that has some reminder is that the pandemic really has changed our perspective on some things. “Focusmate sounds creepy—like… live-streaming a feed of your dingy living room…”
        Which is kind of what we do every time a conference call involves video isn’t it.

    11. Malarkey01*

      I have a lot of tasks to balance-longer term and quick turnarounds as well as easy repeatable things and more complicated creative writing tasks…I’m also prone to procrastinate and work on what’s fun or exciting versus the task I’m dreading. It would be easy for me to slack and no one notice, so I’ve structured my work more when remote. The thing that helps me remotely is to schedule work time on my calendar. So 9-10 x task, 10:15-10:30 fast task 10:30-12 write proposal, etc. When I get the calendar alert that’s what I work on until I finish or the time block expires. If I happen to get done 20 minutes early, I unload the dishwasher or read AAM, but then the next block starts. It’s a good balance and my scheduling the task I’m the one checking that I’m “at my desk”.

    12. Loubelou*

      I am this employee!

      I discovered I had ADHD halfway through last year precisely because I was really struggling working at home and the rest of my team is fine. I was also upfront and honest with my boss and that really helped.

      What works for me:
      -Weekly check ins with my boss and a shared ‘Action Log’ which doesn’t go into the level of detail as a to do list but looks at all the projects/larger tasks on my plate right now. Each one has a deadline and we discuss process on each one each week.
      -As someone else suggested – Focusmate! It creates a sense of accountability because someone is going to ask my about my productivity in 50 mins.
      -Calls rather than emails with other team members where possible. I know a lot of people of this site strongly prefer the opposite, but for me (and thankfully for most of my team) a discussion is more helpful, there is someone present to see whether I am doing what I said I would do, and it’s far more socially engaging. It might take me longer to write an email than to have a quick conversation, these days.

  6. pieces_of_flair*

    My job isn’t bad, but I feel really down and demoralized about it. I don’t have enough work to do and that is not likely to change. At the same time, my mental state is such that when I am asked to do something new or complicated, I go into complete panic mode. For the first time in my life, I absolutely dread going to work every day. However, I’m not sure how much of that is the job itself vs. the stress of the situation (teleworking in a pandemic while supporting two very grumpy elementary-aged kids with distance learning).

    I’ve been in this job for a little over a year. Prior to that, I worked in another department at the same university. I often find myself pining for my former job, where I had enough to do but did not feel overloaded, where the job was much more structured, and where I felt confident and competent instead of out of my depth and anxious.

    Recently a coworker from my former job told me there will soon be an opening in my old department and asked if I’d be interested in applying. It’s not my former position, but probably similar. The job title is the same one I have now, so it would be a lateral move (possibly a bit more money, but I’m not sure). I’m afraid that leaving my current job for a lateral move after only about a year would be a slap in the face to my current department, where they have treated me very well.

    Has anyone been in a similar situation and navigated it successfully? Any advice on whether I should stick it out in my current department and wait for things to improve, or bail on them and go back to where I feel more comfortable? Any advice on how to frame it to my current department without burning bridges if I do decide to leave?

    1. Carol*

      I similarly like structure and really struggle when there’s not enough work to do. That’s a valid thing as an employee. Whether you should wait it out until the pandemic is over…that’s a good question. But if you decide to apply for the old job, I think you could come up with a diplomatic way to say “I miss my old department even though you all are awesome” and apply. If the work level is not likely to change, is that going to feel any better when everything is “normal” again?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The raise may be small, if any, and it could make the OP look flighty to jump ship fairly quickly for a small amount of money.

        You might consider telling your current department that with the pandemic and all its related changes, you’d feel more comfortable in a position you already know inside and out.

        But you also have to ask yourself, why did you leave that job in the first place, and what are the risks of going back?

        1. pieces_of_flair*

          I left that job for “advancement.” My current job is a higher level position (the word “senior” is in my title now) with a higher salary. I was looking forward to new challenges, etc. I wasn’t unhappy in my former job. Going back the main risk is that I would end up in the same situation I’m in now. It would be a newly created position, so possibly there wouldn’t be enough work for me and I’d still feel stressed out and demoralized.

          1. Esmeralda*

            1. Have you spoken with your supervisor about what you need? Especially the needing more to do. Needing more structure: I’d be careful about that, as your boss may be expecting you to be independent and structure your own time.
            2. Can you propose things=to=do to your boss? Substantial things, not just helping out. For instance, if you thought you were going to be spending 20 hours/week doing training, but the actual needs are 3 hours/ week, and you really like training, could you propose reviewing the training schedule, creating new online training modules, piloting a training for another department. Things that are interesting to do, that have real value to your boss/department/institution, that allow you to learn and grow.
            3. Is there anyone in your department who could be a mentor for you? Even if only informally?
            4. Structure: can you create some of the structure you need for yourself? When you say you need structure, do you mean — someone telling you what to do when? or work that has actual deadlines (lol, I work in academia, half the time it’s you don’t get a deadline and the other half is ohmygawdthedeanjustsaidwehavetohavethatseminarplanbyfridaycrapcrapcrap). Or something else? Figuring that out will help you see ways to solve the problem, at least a bit, or to know that it’s not ever going to change and maybe you do need to go back to your old dept.
            5. The past year has been so terrible, and you have been helping your kids, who have been having a pretty rough year themselves. Possibly this job will be better in the After Times?

            Be kind to yourself, OP. It’s not you. It’s….2020, 2021.

            1. pieces_of_flair*

              1. I have spoken to my supervisor about needing more to do. Her response is basically that we should stay in a holding pattern for now because 1) I am currently covering for a team mate on maternity leave (and I STILL don’t have enough to do!) and 2) I am dealing with my kids distance learning. Which is understandable, but I just want to feel useful.
              2. This is good advice, thanks!
              3. My boss could serve as a mentor, I suppose. I’m not sure exactly what that would entail.
              4. I think what I mean by structure is really an overarching sense of “this is what I do in my job,” if that makes any sense. Maybe structure is the wrong word for that.
              5. I hope so! My kids will at least be going back to school 2 days a week next month, so I’ll see what effect that has.

    2. Weekend Please*

      How is your relationship with your current boss? Can you talk to her about your desire to apply for a transfer back because you really need more structure? She may support your desire to transfer (and you probably need to get her onboard anyway for an internal transfer) or she may tell you that thee job will become more structured once you are back in person. I think talking to her before applying can help you not burn bridges. Don’t think about it as bailing on them. You have decided this job is a bad fit. You have the opportunity to move back to a job that you did enjoy and that means they can find someone to fill your position who will thrive instead of flounder.

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        I have a good relationship with my current boss. I agree I need to talk to her before applying. I just struggle with how to frame the conversation. I’ve told her I would like more work, but I hesitate to tell her how unhappy I am because she’s been so understanding (and I also don’t know how much of the unhappiness is based on the job itself vs. my mental state).

        1. Weekend Please*

          I think you should tell her the extent of how unhappy you are and how much you think going back to more familiar work would help you. You can even tell her that it is due in part to having to go remote right away and everything in your life being so stressful right now. Going back to work you are familiar with can be helpful even if the current job isn’t the source of your stress. Also, with internal transfers there is often more flexibility in timing so I would think that your current department could get the amount of lead time they need to find someone to fill your position.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Don’t get too detailed about your mental state and how much is the job itself.
          I would just focus on that there’s not enough work to do. Worse, there does not appear that there ever will be enough work to do. So you can’t con yourself by saying, “This will get better in a bit.” There’s nothing to look forward to.

          We just had a whole bunch of running comments with the post about the bank teller. People were chiming in to say that having low or no work is a deal breaker. I really think that this stands alone quite well as a reason to give your boss. You can add in that you really like her and the other folks but the low work levels are just not something that is going to work out for you.

          In support, I’d like to point out that it is a basic human need to make a contribution. In the larger picture you look at people lost in crime/drugs/etc and you can find plenty of stories where people will say that they don’t have any skills or expertise to offer society. Some of the most broken people among us are broken because they cannot make a contribution, they do not feel needed. The need to make a contribution to society/work/community is so basic that it is on a par with food and water. Part of our own sense of self-worth comes from being needed and feeling of value.

        3. Hillary*

          (apologies if I’m off base here – this is how my work life usually goes) This may be the time to be candid with your boss – you need more work, especially simple repetitious tasks. My boss knows I sometimes miss having filing because it was a great project when I needed something that took no brain. Now I use data cleanup for the same thing, it’s easy to look at the summary and say, huh, we didn’t pay any invoices in this system in 1944. If you’re explicit that you want more work and it doesn’t have to be interesting she may be able to find stuff or know who needs help with. She might not understand how little of your day the random tasks fill.

          Please try to give yourself grace. New jobs are hard, the pandemic is hard, and remote school for elementary students is really hard.

    3. Project Manager here*

      A couple things jumped out at me, that you might want to think about more deeply.

      You mention that you don’t have enough work to do, but at the same time you go into panic mode when you’re asked to do something new or complicated. Why is this the case?

      You mention that your previous job had more structure. What are the differences in structure between your previous job and your current job? In that structure, what did you find helpful? What kinds of things can you do to add more helpful structure to your current job?

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        I think I go into panic mode because my anxiety is through the roof right now. I’m convinced I don’t know what I’m doing and I will mess it up. Also I can’t concentrate as well as I really need to because of my kids doing distance learning in the same room and needing frequent help. It just feels overwhelming.

        My old job had more structure because I had specific things I was responsible for and a lot of ongoing, repetitive tasks that I was confident in my ability to do well. At my current job, the main project I was responsible for was recently moved to a different department (nothing to do with my performance, just university politics). Now my tasks are mostly random and piecemeal, as things come up. Unfortunately, I don’t know that there’s a way to change that without rethinking our entire department’s structure and taking on large parts of other teams’ jobs (not something I’m comfortable suggesting!).

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I think I go into panic mode because my anxiety is through the roof right now. I’m convinced I don’t know what I’m doing and I will mess it up. Also I can’t concentrate as well as I really need to because of my kids doing distance learning in the same room and needing frequent help. It just feels overwhelming.

          Maybe this is actually a bad time for you to make a big change, even if it seems you’re moving into more familiar territory.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Please consider getting some drinks with electrolytes in it. Nervousness/worry causes us to burn up vitamins and minerals like wild fire. Inability to concentrate can sometimes be a mineral shortage. A glass or two a day of something with electrolytes might actually help with brain function- organizing some thoughts and figuring out your next steps.

        3. ten-four*

          Hey friend, anxiety is up for a lot of us and it is the WORST. In addition to thinking about the structural stuff like your job I strongly encourage you to get some support for anxiety management in specific. I’m familiar with the panic response you wrote about, and cognitive behavioral therapy can be really helpful with that. Medication might help, and so might meditation. It really depends on the person!

          I’ve gotten stuck before thinking “of COURSE I’m anxious everything is terrible!” but my therapist talked me through how to address the symptoms. Even when the situation is objectively bad there are still ways to not FEEL so bad, and it’s worth putting in some time/effort/money to help manage the day to day anxiety attacks.

          Your day to day sounds objectively really difficult, and I wish you the best of luck in navigating to a better place!

          1. pieces_of_flair*

            Thanks so much for the supportive comment! I am working with a therapist and taking medication.

        4. ronda*

          It sound like this job has substantially changed with your main project moving moving away.
          That is a great reason to leave this particular job, the work has changed / disappeared.

          Talk to the boss about the future work of this job and the possibility of the job in the old department. She might even also think there is no longer enough work for this position and it might be best to try for the new position.

          The stress component might be best explored in therapy vs with your boss. If you have adjustments you would like to your job, yes explore it with your boss, but if better control of your stress/ feelings, try therapy.

          You can also talk to your boss about how best to approach tasks that are new to you. For example, I will come up with a rough draft plan, run it by you to make sure it is on target, start executing. Maybe that will help with the stress of new tasks.

        5. Awkward Interviewee*

          If I’m reading this right, it sounds to me like the job changed after you accepted it. That seems like a good, non-bridge-burning reason to leave. I work in higher ed, and at the two universities I’ve worked, it seems fairly common for people to go back to former beloved departments when opportunities presented themselves. I do think you’ll need to stay at the new position for awhile since you’ve only been in this one for a year, so make sure that the new position will truly be better!

    4. Sleepy*

      As for what job you should take–go where you’ll be happiest!

      If you do stay in your current position, are there some online courses you could take to improve your skills in your time? You could make it a structured professional growth plan with your manager’s approval. I find that helps when I feel at loose ends or bored with my workload.

    5. vaccination consternation*

      “However, I’m not sure how much of that is the job itself vs. the stress of the situation (teleworking in a pandemic while supporting two very grumpy elementary-aged kids with distance learning).”

      I think this sentence says a lot. It’s natural you’re not feeling great about work while also trying to simultaneously be a caregiver. That’s hard! Lateral moves are super normal within organizations, and I don’t think you’ll burn a bridge with your current supervisor unless they have a pattern of being petty and vindictive. But it sounds like you only started your current job shortly before the pandemic, and never worked for your old job under pandemic conditions. I’d encourage you to think hard about whether this new job would actually fix any of the stress you’re facing in your current environment before you apply, or whether you’d continue to feel the way you feel now with a slightly different job. (And who knows, maybe the structure of the old dept is what you need right now). Either way, good luck with whatever you choose, and I hope things get easier soon!

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        “I’d encourage you to think hard about whether this new job would actually fix any of the stress you’re facing in your current environment before you apply, or whether you’d continue to feel the way you feel now with a slightly different job.”

        This is exactly what I’m worried about! Thanks for putting it so well.

    6. PolarVortex*

      A big question: How often do other people in your company shift roles? In my company it is very common at certain levels to switch every year or two until you’re in a higher up position, so it wouldn’t be a huge deal here. If there’s an HR recruiter for the position listed, perhaps talk to HR as well might help understand if that’d be common for your company (assuming competent HR).

      Also FWIW, stress in the outside life can make work life extremely terrible. While I love remote working, some of my coworkers do not, and many are struggling with it and balancing a child being home. It might be worth taking some time to focus on you as well, it could be a mild anti-depressant prescribed by your doctor or some therapy could help alleviate some of the stress and panic you’re feeling which can help you get over this hump whether you choose to stay in this position or not. I speak from experience on that.

    7. Esmeralda*

      Oh, and I also want to say, your current department will not take it as a slap in the face, unless they are terrible people. They’ll likely be disappointed, but they aren’t going to take it as “OP hates us and we should never ever have anything to do with OP ever again”

      I’ve had friends / colleagues who’ve come back to our deparment and some who’ve left, within short time periods like this. Everyone understands that you’re looking for a good fit. Just because this place doesn’t fit, doesn’t mean bridges are burned.

    8. Phlox*

      Definitely some great comments and conversation about structure, stability, confidence in the job. I’m not sure if this is playing into your thinking but I wonder if part of the reticence going to the old department is how much that moves could feel like a solution to the current “temporary” world and challenges. Which an absolutely valid reason to change jobs is because of right now job-in-a-pandemic terribleness! Not sure how to frame this without DOOM! and the exact timeframe is dependent on where you are in the world, but the pandemic reality is probably going to keep going for at least a good chunk of months, if not more. I know most of my pandemic strategies have been today-centric, make do. I guess what I’m trying to say is, what works best for you this month might be what is best for next-year you and giving grace to yourself by changing to what works for right-now you might be a longer term win than perhaps any of us really want to admit to ourselves.

  7. Postdoc*

    I have a zoom interview on Monday for an adjunct faculty job and I have no idea what to expect. Anyone have advice? I have a lot of research experience but no teaching experience. If I got the job, it would be in addition to my current postdoc position.

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      Just curious, why do you want to be an adjunct faculty? Are you interested in teaching or do you see it as more of a stepping stone to non-adjunct positions? I’d say be prepared to have some evidence for why you’d be an effective teacher, even if not formal teaching experience. Have you ever mentored someone in research? Lectured for the public or a non-niche audience? Writing articles for the public would also work. You want to be able to show you can translate complex material into a digestible form for non-experts. Those experiences would be good to keep in your back pocket I think.

      1. kt*

        This is useful — you need to look at it from your interviewers’ point of view and answer the “why does s/he want to do this?” question.

        When I was at a small college that was teaching-focused, there was suspicion of research-focused applicants because maybe 1) they were Pollyanna-ish and didn’t know the effort and skills required to teach well, or 2) they were simply desperate and applying anywhere, or 3) they thought that being an adjunct would be an easy and low-time-commitment way to make some side money, all of which were seen as red flags. Successful applicants were those who could make a case for why they actually wanted that particular job and why they’d be good at that particular job. A lot was about understanding the mission and values of the institution and how the applicant would actually serve students. Without that understanding coming through, we wouldn’t hire.

        1. Postdoc*

          Thanks! I am applying for adjunct positions because I am deciding my career track (liberal arts college vs research institution) and all of my experience so far has been at research instructions. I love teaching students in the lab and I think I may want to work at a liberal arts college so that I can have more student interaction but it’s really hard to say that I would be happy long term when I have no first hand experience in that environment. This school is a liberal arts college with a heavy science focus.

          1. Chilipepper*

            I love teaching students in the lab

            Thats what you should talk about in the interview! What you love about it and how you think it translates.

          2. kt*

            Agree! And I think it’s actually fine to make clear that you’ve got a long-term plan that involves testing the waters and gaining teaching experience at a liberal arts college. You can make it clear that you’re interested in the career path that the profs there have, you value the experience and perspective that would be coming from getting to know the students, environment, and faculty, and that you might want to end up at a similar place. I think that’s a compelling story, and you don’t have to make any promises about the future.

            Noting any career development activities you’ve taken part in that are teaching-focused or outreach-focused would be useful. Emphasizing that you want it to be a formative experience would be useful.

            (I was in STEM at both a small liberal arts college and at a big half-Ivy school, for reference, and interviewed for TT jobs at small liberal arts colleges but ended up at an R1 in a non-traditional position.)

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      If you can, research the demographics of the student body. Does this institution serve underrepresented students – first-gen, Indigenous, Latinx, Black, rural, transfer? They might ask you questions about working with diverse students. Look at the university’s strategic plan, student support departments (writing center, tutoring, library), and faculty support (instructional design, Center for Teaching Excellence). Will you be asked to do some sort of presentation or teaching demonstration?

      1. Postdoc*

        At least for the first interview they aren’t asking for a teaching demo. It is a 30 minute zoom interview with only one person so I expect it to be more of a screening interview.

    3. Medievalist*

      This may or may not be relevant to your field (I’m humanities)—but I’m an academic who has been involved in hiring adjuncts. With a candidate who has less experience with teaching, we ask versions of the following:

      (1) about your plans and ideas for the courses you’d be doing. If you get to design your own syllabus, what ideas for assignments or coverage do you have? If the school requires a set syllabus that predetermines the books or assignments, then what ideas do you have for the class-session elements to get students excited about the material or to break down complicated ideas effectively? We want to know that the candidate has thought concretely about teaching—and to judge their potential based on those concrete ideas—even if they don’t have a track record of teaching already.

      (2) how you see your current skills translating into the role. Can you explain how you’d be an effective adjunct even without the prior teaching experience? Show us you understand the transferability of different skills and make a case for the value of how elements of your research experience can translate into competent teaching.

      (3) how your subject expertise fits with the needs and priorities of the department.

      1. Pippa K*

        Social scientist chiming in here to endorse all of this, esp. item 1. If you’ve never taught before, we’d want to know how you plan to do it well. Have you designed your own syllabus for this or a similar course (even a sample syllabus you’ve never actually used would be helpful)? Were you ever a TA during grad school, and if so did you ever lead discussion sections or do grading? Can you articulate your priorities for what students should get out of the course and how you’ve chosen the materials and assignments for that purpose? And if your research is relevant to the course, be explicit about how. At least in our context, you probably wouldn’t need or be able to address item 3, because you have no way of knowing our departmental priorities – we’re hiring for a specific course that needs teaching, not for someone to propose a course to add to our curriculum. We only care if you can teach this course, this semester, well.

      2. Postdoc*

        I do know that I won’t be designing my own course. They have a very specific list of courses that they offer and asked in the application which ones I felt I could teach. Luckily, they are also very clear about their priorities. I don’t know which classes they need adjuncts for but it is a very specific, niche program and my research is a perfect fit (unusually so).

        1. kt*

          Yeah, if you’re doing a science or math course, it is often true that you will be handed a syllabus and a textbook and expected to teach in a way that provides continuity with the class as taught other semesters and fulfills prerequisites in the program. Instead of talking about how you design a syllabus, you could instead talk about how you will incorporate active learning, inquiry-based learning, technological aids, potentially coding, potentially short research projects, depending on what you’re doing.

          1. Chamomile*

            but if you don’t know how to actually put these buzzwords into practice, be very careful! It is really obvious even in an initial screening interview when candidates are just repeating things they’ve read about, but don’t understand the practicalities of implementing them.

    4. Been there*

      They’re going to want to hear about how you envision the course set up, what topics you would want to cover, etc. No teaching experience is going to be a liability here but it’s not that unusual. If you know what class(es) they’re going to want you teach, you can do a little prep work just by looking over your old textbooks (and syllabi if you have them). Most of what I was asked in adjunct faculty interviews boiled down to “please tell us how you would teach this class”. One even asked me to send them a rough draft of a syllabus for the course.

      Ask them about mentoring opportunities; are there faculty members who you could get advice from? Also ask about class size and if there will be TAs assigned for the course.

      Another thing: if this is a lecture course with no labs, consider how you might incorporate demonstrations or some lab time into the course. Your research experience is valuable there. In fact, think about how you might incorporate some of your research work into “special topic” lectures that would connect the fundamental concepts to active research areas, etc. You bring valuable assets to them that someone with teaching experience but no research would not have. Highlight how much you have to give.

    5. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      If you are doing a teaching demo, really pretend your interviewers are students and do your best to calibrate to the course level. For the pretend part: incorporate short engagement activities and pause to ask your ‘students’ if they have questions. Also, pace yourself and breath. Most of us talk to fast normally and being on Zoom makes it worse…

      For the calibration: Our prompt tells candidates that they are teaching a lecture to 100 level non-majors science class. While we don’t expect it to be exactly at the level of our students in an interview, we do want to make sure the person isn’t several levels too high (or if we did an upper level prompt – too low). The last ones I sat in on, we had somehow who went way too fast, didn’t try to engage us at all, and was explaining things at closer to a 400 level class and we passed on them. They clearly new their stuff but we were worried they couldn’t explain it at a 100 level.

      Since you don’t have any teaching experience – this is a good time to reflect on what type of teacher you want to be, what strategies you will use in the classroom, and, most importantly, what you will do when you encounter issues or things don’t work.

      Good luck!

    6. Anonymath*

      In addition to the great advice posted above, do a little research and find out if the university has a faculty development center, or some other resource for teaching professors how to be better teachers. Many of these centers have options for adjunct teaching development as well, so saying that you’d be interested in development opportunities through their center could show that you did your homework and you’re interested in growing your teaching skills.

    7. Currently hiring A&P adjuncts*

      I have taught as an adjunct as several schools and the advice will be a bit different depending on what courses you will be teaching. If it’s an introductory A&P or biology for example, you don’t need to have an idea about what you want to teach and prepare a syllabus or outline of topics. These classes have so many sections that there is a standard syllabus, schedule, learning outcomes, etc. so it’s low pressure for people new to teaching. Most importantly is being able to explain topics at the level for the students and to be organized and keep up with grading.

    8. Esmeralda*

      Be ready to talk about:
      1. your teaching experience. If you don’t have any formal classroom experience, then comparable experiences (teaching students in the lab, planning and running workshops or trainings, etc)
      2. why you want to teach. Trying out teaching before shifting your career focus is good, but frankly I’d keep that one to myself. They are looking for people who are interested in teaching already. So think more about why is it you want to make this career shift and why to teaching — what’s the PULL more than the push. Something personal in here, if there is such, is
      3. what’s your approach to teaching. Often called, your teaching philosophy, so don’t be thrown if you’re asked that. This can be both what you do and what you’ve seen excellent teachers do.
      4. express enthusiasm for and commitment to working with students/college age students. Why do you like working with them?

      For 2, 3, 4 — personal stuff is fine as one or two points. EG the college professor who inspired you AND WHY, your experience as a first gen student or student of color or student with a disability etc AND HOW that’s connected to teaching/your desire to teach, the real pleasure you get teaching students in your lab and HOW/WHY you enjoy it. Have some good examples with specifics

      Spend some time on their website and see what they value. If they’ve already told you what classes they are hiring for, get as much info as you can about those classes — not just the catalog description, but see if you can unearth some syllabi, stuff other instructors of that course have said about it/about teaching. Think about *interesting activities* you could have students do as part of a class, that would help them learn X or Y concept, and ALSO in addition to the course specific material, that would help them learn other kinds of skills. Look up inquiry-guided learning, it will give you some good ideas.

      The other commenters have given great suggestions!

      Good luck!! I hope it works out for you.
      (Haha, the first time I decided I needed to actually get a teaching job to see if I wanted to do it for a career, I called my dad –he’s in the biz — for help with my resume and letter. Then I called him again for help prepping for the interview. And then I called him to say, help help I got the job, NOW WHAT? lol)

    9. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I haven’t looked at her blog for a while since i gave up on academia, but you might check out The Professor is In for some more academia specific job hunt advice.

  8. Anongineer*

    I recently took a new job in project management and I’m struggling to figure out how to succeed. They don’t really have a SOP so I pretty much am just running these projects and making decisions on the fly. Does anyone have any advice on how to run projects? If it helps, it’s in design/construction sector.

    1. JanetM*

      I think the book Head First PMP, which is designed to help people pass the Project Management Professional exam, is a good resource in general.

      Good luck — I was in your shoes four years ago, moving into a PM position in information technology.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Seconding this.

        Also, my local contractor’s association offers classes in “Introduction to Project Management” and the like…it may be worth looking into what your local association provides as far as training. My experience has been that a not-insignificant percentage of PM’s in my sub-field of construction come from the field, not the classroom, so training opportunities are geared as such. (I’m an outlier in that I’ve spent no time in the trades)

    2. JanetM*

      To be fair, though, I was brought into an existing Project Management Office, so I had more support than you do.

    3. Dave*

      Make sure you understand the project, your scope of work, and the chain of command on the project for changes. For example the owner’s rep you see at job meetings isn’t always the person that can actually change the scope of work. There is a lot of making decisions on the fly in construction, but the more you know the project on the front end the better. I would also setup internal tracking for things like submittals, project milestones, equipment arrival on site, major coordination points, invoicing requirements, closeout requirements, etc. The biggest problem I have found with project managers is they don’t actually know what their company is contractually obligated to do. Also if this is more construction then design, talk to the people doing the work for your company and ask them if there is anything they need / info they are waiting on periodically.

      1. Quinalla*

        Agreed, figure out what you are contractually obligated to do and by when – those are the most important things to keep track of. If your company doesn’t have a SOP, do they at least have tools to track things like submittals, RFIs, etc.? Or at least templates? If not, make sure you are something to track things – excel is good for quick and dirty tracking – it might not look pretty, but you can capture the information. Have an organized way to store your files too, again hopefully your company has some kind of file structure set up, if not then get going on that too!

        After that, make sure you are promptly responsive to everyone. You don’t have to have answers immediately, but you at least need to respond so people know you are on top of it. Then keeping track of requests, who you are waiting on a response to send a response back, etc. is also key.

        I too recommend taking a class with your local org or reading a book or two to help fill in the details. If there are other PMs at your company, talk to them about strategies, etc. If not, maybe reach out to some PMs in the local org and share tips and tricks.

    4. Captain Raymond Holt*

      For a new project manager, I recommend “Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager.” It’s less technical than the PMP style books, but still gives you a good overview to get you started. It’s taught me a lot and I’ve highlighted a lot of useful things in it! I’ve also said “ah, that’s why X project didn’t go well!” while reading it.

    5. Elizabeth I*

      I had a parallel experience, jumping into project management for the first time on a huge, high visibility IT project that was already behind schedule. It was like jumping in the deep end and learning to swim – so, stressful but GREAT for learning a ton quickly.

      Here are some things I found helpful:
      – Make sure to establish good project “infrastructure”: what are the workstreams/areas of the project? Who is the point person/leader for each area who you can go to for updates/decisions, and who are the team members for that work stream/area? Have regular meetings set up with teams and/or point people to get and give updates, make sure their work is progressing, troubleshoot/escalate blockers getting in their way, etc. Establish a regular reporting structure/meetings to let those above you know how it’s going, escalate issues so they are aware and can help resolve blockers, etc. Have the right tools to help you share and communicate project related documents in a central way with anyone who needs them (e.g. MS Teams, Sharepoint, your company’s intranet site, etc. – DO NOT USE EMAIL FOR THIS. Needs to be a central place people can go to find the info or it will get lost. In meeting invites, you can link to the central copy of the document so everyone is looking at and editing the same version – avoids version control issues!).
      – One of the things I learned quickly as a PM was the importance of raising/escalating issues promptly. Don’t wait for it to become a disaster. Escalate issues early on and let people know there is a problem, then keep raising the issue with increasing urgency and frequency, going higher in the chain of command as it develops if it isn’t solved. As you do so, make sure to point out the problem, the cause as far as you know, the BUSINESS/PROJECT IMPACT (very important, so they will take it seriously!), and the possible solutions outlined so far – and tell them what you need them to do about it, even if what you need is just guidance. It also helps to use stoplight colors (green, yellow, red) for status of the different workstreams/areas of the project as well as the overall project status to let people know in a simple way what they need to worry about.

      Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

    6. Hillary*

      I like the book Fast Forward MBA in Project Management. In spite of the title it’s a good overview of waterfall methodology (most common in design/construction) along with how to use MS Project. Are there other PMs at your company that you can bounce ideas off of?

      The most important thing for me as a program manager (I’m the business rep and product owner but won’t actually be the project manager for most of it) is really knowing my stakeholders and what their priorities are. Who has decision making authority? Who does the work (and what other projects are also taking their time)? Who cares about the work? Who are we forgetting because they need the work product but don’t touch it up front? Focus on developing a good relationship with your finance/accounting/budget contact. They can make or break almost any project.

    7. Texan In Exile*

      My friend Leigh is a PMP and a software project manager at a really big company. She has a great blog called projectbliss dot net. There might be useful information for you there.

      Also – attend the meetings your local PMI runs. I’m not a PMP or a project manager but I used to go to their meetings because I always learned something useful.

      1. Barking Mad in the US*

        I used to be a PMP and Project Management Institute has an excellent “Book of Knowledge” (at least that’s what it was called when I sat for the exam). I echo Texan’s comment about PMI meetings. If you can, join PMI. You’ll get access to a lot of really good information and support. I think it’s worth the money and maybe your employer will pay.

    8. not that Leia*

      Not surprised you are in the design/construction sector. Me too and in my experience, it is NOTORIOUS for assuming that management is something people can just pick up through osmosis. (See lots and lots of firm principals as examples 1 through one million.) General PM guides are helpful, though unfortunately I think successful strategies are very workplace dependent, so you may need to try out some ideas to find one that stick. If you haven’t already, check out LEAN construction principles and techniques (lots online as well as official classes and training). Some good industry-specific approaches.

    9. Ranon*

      Definitely read the contract- if you’re using industry standard contracts they’ll have a lot of the structure of a project built in, particularly if you’re running a design/bid/build structure. Design and construction have a bunch more industry norms around project structure than other fields which is useful but folks will assume you’re following norms you may not be aware of. In terms of tracking software excel works but getting folks bought into a design/ construction industry specific products like submittal exchange or procore does make life easier particularly in the construction phase. AIA has some project management resources too if a design perspective is more useful.

      1. Melon*

        If you’re in arch or construction, look up the Schiff Harden AIA contract lectures. They’re audio downloads of a live class and super helpful in breaking down the major contracts you’re likely to encounter.

    10. Otter Dance*

      This is late, so I don’t know whether you’ll see it…
      If you do nothing else “by the book”, be sure to have a solid project charter.
      – What is the goal? What does the client want accomplished? How is success defined?
      – Who are the stakeholders? Who has to buy in to the project? Who has the final authority to settle questions? Who is your day to day contact?
      – What are the resources available? Monetary budget, obviously, but also people: how much of their time is really available for the project? Who is responsible for what? (Frequently called “roles and responsibilities”)
      – What is the timeline? What are the intermediate checkpoints and final deadline?

  9. Age of the Geek, Baby*

    I’m in a stressful job that I love with a small staff, and my boss hinted he wanted to “succession plan” this year. I haven’t pressed him on it, but I would love to be trained for the next steps. But a recruiter for a national company reached out to me and wants to talk about “opportunities” and I said sure (no shame in the conversation).

    Obviously, I’m not telling my boss about it. But should I press him more on his plans? (I really would like a title bump, even if a raise isn’t possible in COVID). Also, what questions should I ask the recruiter?

        1. ThatGirl*

          Just send an email if you’re too skittish to bring it up in real time — say hey boss, you mentioned succession planning, and I’m definitely interested. Can we work out a game plan to get started on that?

        2. kt*

          Rehearse it here! What would you like to say to your boss? Write it out. Or if that’s hard, imagine the badass you’d be if you were played by a particularly good actor in the superhero version of your life. What would that person say? Write it out right here.

          1. Age of the Geek, Baby*

            What I would like to say is: You know I always wanted to be [title bump here] based on previous conversations. What do I have to do to make it happen? I would love to [plan x and y], but I am not sure I have the skills.

            Not sure that’s what I would love to say, but my gut/imposter syndrome is like “you don’t have those skills.”

            1. kt*

              Love it.

              “Based on previous conversations, you know I’m interested in being [title bump here]. I have skills [z and w] — what else would I need in order to be able to, for instance, [plan x and y]?”

              Tell your gut/imposter “thanks for trying to protect me — I respect that — but it’ll be more efficient if I just ask about the skills I need to develop :) ”

              Approach your boss like, of course I’m interested in [title bump]. Given this totally natural and obvious next step, what do I need to do to get there?

    1. PolarVortex*

      You can be super casual with your boss if you feel weird pressing it, like “You mentioned succession planning and it made me realize I have been neglecting pushing myself forward for next steps in my career. Can we talk about x and y that I’d like to learn about and do you think there’s anything I could do to better prepare myself moving forward” etc etc etc.

      (Love your username)

      1. Age of the Geek, Baby*

        I think this may be the best bet because we have a good relationship and we’re a good team. Very casual setting, and we’d worked for years before at a different company before he recruited me to this position.

        (Thank you, I rue the day they took Leverage off Netflix. Been craving a re-watch.)

        1. PolarVortex*

          It’s on Imdb right now, which I think I got free somehow with Amazon Prime, and I only realized it when it popped up as an option. (Because I too needed to binge it all recently).

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

      What kind and size of company is it – startup, small, corporate? ‘Family’-like or more formal and hierarchical, etc.

      I think it could mean one of two things. Either there’s a genuine requirement and intent for succession planning / moving up and so on, or it’s a corporate goal-setting type of thing where companies, especially large ones, periodically go on a project of ‘succession planning’ where all bosses have to identify potential ‘mover-uppers’ who report to them, and typically nothing ever really happens about it or not for a long time. You will probably have a feel for yourself of which one it is.

      I would press the boss more about his plans once you’ve got some info out of the recruiter.

      1. Age of the Geek, Baby*

        The company I’m in is very small. It legit was started by a family, has multiple departments, so a little more corporate than I have been into before. But my department is young, founded about 5 years ago with a product expansion. My boss has been brought on to take us out of “awkward start up” phase.
        I don’t think this is a corporate goal “succession planning,” because this came in a internal meeting where we talked about what we wanted to achieve in the next year (as we try and get out of awkward start up phase), and no higher ups were involved. I’ve worked with my boss for three years before we both arrived here – and even then, he talked about “succession” being important.

  10. Alli*

    I am a government contractor. I have since March been allowed to work from home. However, one of our contracts in recent years has required us to be in person for a month. They delayed the work until May, presumably until the pandemic is less dangerous. I’m worried they are going to require us to be in person, which I don’t feel safe doing. If it’s my job or being fired, I will go but otherwise I would like to push back. Advice?

    1. Dave*

      If you are in the US I am really hoping they allow employees to quit and get unemployment if you feel unsafe for continuing to do your job with the new administration has proposed.

      I would consider asking if this can get pushed again given the slow pace of the vaccine roll out or if your job would qualify for you for a vaccine sooner.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Most Federal departments and agencies (including mine) are planning for a gradual reopening onsite, but can and have pushed back dates. Most plans are phased openings, in which they bring a small group back, see how things go, then a few weeks later allow another group to return.

      Find out what the plan is for your particular agency and request to be brought back toward the end of the reopening period.

    3. CTT*

      Seconding to ask what the plan is. They could be super lax about it, or they could have controls in place to keep the number of people onsite low and limiting it to just people who need to be there to complete the work. I don’t think you can push back without knowing what you are pushing back against.

    4. RecoveringSWO*

      President Biden just released an Executive Order directing Agencies to take certain measures regarding covid safety. If I recall correctly, it does discuss contractors. Obviously, there’s room for interpretation on the Agency side. But perhaps reading it will give you better insight as to how likely coming in may be.

    5. Mirelle*

      FWIW I wouldn’t be surprised if the date gets pushed back again, depending on the location is. I’m a state government contractor who was originally scheduled to go back on-site in January, pushed out to March in fall, pushed out to May just last week, for example. Obviously this will depend on the agency/location but it may be worthwhile to ask around to see how likely people think it might be to push it out again.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m not sure what your role is, but you may be able to get your employer to add you to a list of essential employees. At least in Connecticut, vaccination category 1B includes people who work in manufacturing and inspectors who are required to go into the manufacturing area. The state wants employers to register their employees to get put on priority lists. Good luck!

  11. ssn question*

    I applied for a position within a gigantic corporation and got a response saying that my application would be forwarded to leadership, but they first need me to input my social security number into their secure system. Is this normal?

    1. vaccination consternation*

      No, this is not normal and very shady. They’ll need your SSN and copy of your social security card if they hire you for all the normal tax and immigration reasons, but there’s no reason a company should be collecting SSNs from every applicant. I’d politely tell them you’ll provide your SSN if and when you accept an offer.

      I once applied to a large healthcare org that had a reputation of being a bit disorganized. Their online ATS required me to put in my SSN to submit the application, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. I didn’t want to share it unless I was being hired. I tried entering all 0s and that didn’t work, so I entered all 1s. Never heard back, but I’ve also never heard back from a million jobs that didn’t ask for my SSN, so not reading into it too much.

        1. vaccination consternation*

          True! But in that case, I’d still wait to share that information when I got to that stage. There’s no reason a company should have your SSN when you’re just first applying.

    2. Rachel in NYC*

      They may be looking- before reviewing your application- to run you through E-verify.

      That would be my first thought- especially if they are really large, they likely have government contracts and are required to use it so it’s simpler to simply require it of everyone and use it as a bottom floor.

      1. Old school*

        E-Verify is only supposed to be used after someone is hired, not to screen candidates. Probably the only “legal” way to screen would be to ask if the job applicant whether or not thy are a U.S. citizen or green card holder.

        Asking for a social up front seems to be a scam to run a credit check or look into the applicant’s background. An applicant must consent in writing for a credit check.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I got a sketchy recruitment email from a big corp that asked me to click on a link with a strange address. I dug up a corporate compliance/fraud reporting email address on the company’s website and forwarded the email. They got back to me in an hour and said they were investigating. Turns out, it was just a really poorly written email with a bunch of misspellings and red flags, but it was actually legit!
      Check out the company’s website and see if they have a similar way to check out the legitimacy of the request. And if it is real, it will be a flag that it is sketchy as all get out to ask for a SSN and someone will call them out on it.

    4. ssn question*

      Thanks to everyone for your input so far! To give more context, I’ll name the company. It’s Humana. They say they need it to track candidates, they are not running a background check, and they will not move forward without it.

      I feel like the request is utterly ridiculous! I don’t even know if the salary range is what I’m looking for.

      1. Bear Shark*

        I’m pretty sure that I applied 15+ years ago for a job with Humana at a job fair they held. I tried to push back on providing my SSN until I was farther along in the process than just filling out an application at a job fair they held. They basically told me it should be no big deal to give them my SSN and that I didn’t understand how job applications worked. Either I could fill it out accurately and be allowed to submit my application or I could just leave. I did fill it out but unsurprisingly I never heard anything back from them.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Weird! I worked for a different health insurance company & don’t think I had to give my SSN until I was hired & they needed it for the background check.

      2. one celiac two*

        Just as someone in the health field, I’ve never had a company not ask for my SSN when submitting an application through their portal. This doesn’t sound weird to me at all.

      3. kt*

        That is on the edge of legality. Ugh, if you weren’t an applicant, I’d suggest kicking up a fuss about PII and liability and cybersecurity.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s an outdated practice.

      I’ve seen it asked for on countless applications. It is indeed typically used for their internal tracking systems.

      I removed it from all the applications I’ve had power over throughout the years. “Why do we have this on here?” “IDK, it’s a template.” is the usual answer for places that aren’t actively using it for anything other than requesting secure information *face desk*

    6. Chaordic One*

      No, it is not normal. When I worked in HR, we wouldn’t ask for it until a job offer had been made. The offer was contingent on being legally able to work in the U.S. and passing the E-Verify check, as well as passing a background check which did require the SSN.

      We had lots of problems with E-Verify rejecting non-U.S. citizens and we’d have to go through a phone interview with the candidate and the DHS. Everyone passed, but it was an enormous time-suck and took anywhere from half an hour to an hour to get through. (I kind of dreaded having to process the on-boarding paperwork of non-U.S. citizens.) They would never tell us why, but I suspect that the the applicant’s visa and passport information from when they entered the U.S. hadn’t caught up to E-Verify and still wasn’t in the system when I entered their info in it, and so it couldn’t be verified.

      Comparatively rarely, something would come up on a background check, usually some minor petty crime that the applicant claimed had been expunged, or that they conveniently forgot about. It never prevented us from hiring someone.

      I’m not sure, but I think that you might have to include your SSN if you apply for a federal job on the USAJobs website, and while you shouldn’t have to, the government is omnipotent, after all.

  12. anon higher ed*

    Job hunters current and former, who do you ask to serve as a reference when you have no previous bosses or supervisors? I work in higher ed, so job applications typically ask for names of references (or even letters from references) up front, rather than toward the end of the hiring process. I’m feeling at a disadvantage because I have no one I can ask who fits the traditional profile of reference-givers. I have a wonderful boss who would almost certainly give me an excellent reference if I asked him, but I don’t want him to know I’m job hunting. I have no prior bosses, as this is my first job in the field. He is also one of the people who mentored me in graduate school and helped me get into the field, so asking for references from graduate school advisors is not an option either. As I see it, the possibilities are:
    1) Colleagues outside of my institution who I know through our professional organization. None of them have supervised me, but we have collaborated on several projects and committees. Some of them are very well known in the field, so it might look good to have references from them.
    2) A colleague in my office who is senior to me, but to whom I do not report.
    3) A colleague in my office who is my peer. The benefit here is that we work super closely together and I have no qualms about her knowing that I’m job hunting. The downside is that she is a peer and I don’t report to her.
    4) Colleagues who work at my institution but in other offices/departments. They know me well and I’m sure would have positive things to say, but they don’t work as closely with me as the people in my own office.

    What would you do/what have you done if you’ve been in a similar situation?

    1. IEanon*

      I’m also in higher ed and have been applying for jobs for a while. I use coworkers from my graduate assistantship: a former supervisor and a former colleague who was technically senior to me, but who was more like a peer in terms of reporting. I also list a former colleague from my current job who has since left her position

      I have a very senior colleague from a different department (she was my supervisor’s supervisor), who will serve as a reference, but I only list her for higher-titled positions that I apply for.

      I know that higher ed is more forgiving in terms of who you can use as a reference, as some of my friends are still using professors who oversaw their theses or teaching assistantships.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      Also in higher ed. When I was trying to leave one institution for another, I simply used coworkers as references. The new institution totally understood that I couldn’t use my manager as a reference because I couldn’t have her know I was job-hunting. I wouldn’t use colleagues outside your institution, but numbers 2 and 3 sound like the people I used as references.

    3. pretzelgirl*

      I am not in higher ed, but I have few managers listed as references. For awhile I had an old manager, who I really liked and she liked me, and my work. I used her. But she moved on from our old company. She doesn’t have Facebook and I don’t have linkedin and we have lost touch. My my boss at my job before my current is gone, and he was fired for a laundry list of reasons. Many of which, lead me to not want him to be a reference.

      The only other job, I could see using a boss as a reference was job I held for a very short time that was FREAKING miserable. It was not a fit for me or the company. I could never use her as a reference.

      So I use old co-workers that know my work and work ethic. I haven’t been in a situation where I absolutely needed to provide an old boss. So far it has worked. Personally I would just colleagues. Or do you have any other professors you can use? When I was just out of college I used a professor whom I was close to. Know I am too far removed (read: OLD af) to use a professor.

    4. OyHiOh*

      I have a weird, patchy job history. For my current job, I gave three references: My most recent boss, the president of a non profit board I served on, who could refer to my committee work and organizational skill, and a professional mentor/friend who has a broader view of my skills and abilities than either of the other two (I was worried about this one because it could have been looked at as a friend/character reference, but it turned out this person gave my boss the best overview of my background and ability to step into the role).

    5. Student Affairs Sally*

      Depending on the type of work you do in higher ed this may not be applicable, but it worked for me. I applied for a job a few years ago (that I got an offer for but ended up not accepting), and was in a somewhat similar situation. I was in my first professional job, the boss I had worked with up that point had just retired (and was also pretty incompetent and I wasn’t confident she’d give me a great reference), and my new boss barely knew me. The three references I provided were: my supervisor from my undergrad work-study position in a Writing Center (the job I was applying for was in a Writing Center so this was very applicable), a peer from the job I was trying to leave that I worked closely with, and a student that I had supervised and built a good relationship with in the job I was trying to leave (student had graduated and gone on to med school; job I was applying for also involved supervising students). The hiring manager mentioned that using a student was unconventional but they appreciated that she could speak to my ability in a key area of the job from first-hand experience. They did ask for an additional reference and I provided one of my writing professors from my undergrad who had been a mentor. I will note that at this time I hadn’t yet gotten my Masters, so references from my undergrad years were a bit more relevant than they might be in your case. Is it possible that one of your other grad profs could be a discreet reference (i.e. not tip off your boss that you’re looking)? And if you work directly with students (and are applying to roles where you’d work directly with students), getting a former student to be a reference could be worth a shot.

    6. LessNosy*

      Not higher ed, but I really only have one good professional job under my belt (my current one), and a good relationship with my current manager, but obviously I didn’t want her to know I was job searching. I used two colleagues who are senior to me and have supervised my work on projects with them, and one colleague who used to be senior to me (we became peers once I got promoted) but trained me.

    7. anon higher ed*

      Thanks for the advice, all! There are a number of suggestions I can use among the comments. I think I will go with current colleagues in my department, and one or more senior colleagues outside of my department.

    8. moql*

      I used a department head who had taught me graduate level courses, a collaborator I had written a paper with, and a professor I had worked with to teach a class. None of these people were a “boss”, but they could speak to my skills and work ethic.

  13. Qwertyuiop*

    “Jane” was telling a story that involved a vulgar word. Jane then looked at me and said, “I hope that I didn’t upset you, Qwerty. You’re so straight-faced, I can’t tell if you’re offended or not.”

    I just told her that I’ve heard worse, so the story didn’t shock me. (I was also confused because she said that the story contained a swear word, but it wasn’t a swear word, just a vulgar word. I digress.) I also was smiling/laughing, so I don’t understand why she said that I didn’t have an expression, because I think I did.

    In general, I try to be “straight-faced” around Jane because when I started in my position, everything I did seemed to upset her. (My job is different from hers and we rarely, if ever, have to work together.) She would complain about me to the boss and thankfully my boss never yelled at me. (Jane accused me of hiding her keys even though I was the one to find them, I took a 10 minute break to get coffee and go to the bathroom and that made her upset, Jane slammed a door on my face, She and another coworker were making fun of me because I’m single/don’t have kids, questioned my sexuality, made fun of my looks, she makes comments about my clothes, etc.)

    She’s also insanely competitive with me. There are other women who work in our office, but for whatever reason, she focuses on me. I brought in something for a coworker, the next week, Jane did the same thing. I was talking to the janitor, Jane has to interrupt us and she starts talking to him!

    I can’t pretend to be friends with someone like this. I chat with her a little so that it isn’t too awkward, but I’m not going out of my way for her. It’s like walking on eggshells because some days she wants to chat/be friendly, other days she’s your enemy.

    Has anyone dealt with something similar? What did you do? Any advice is appreciated.

    1. Carol*

      Be as boring and blandly professional and unflappable with her as possible. Don’t take bait by providing reactions, justifying yourself, responding to her characterizations of you, or over-elaborating on anything. All other responses are going to validate her fixation on you. Don’t give her ANY personal information.

      You can never have a healthy, normal relationship with people like this, EVER. So it’s all pretend neutrality. Just accept that and adjust your behavior to make her attempts less rewarding, and just know you’re not doing anything to cause it. That’s not fair but people like that don’t change and it’s none of your doing.

    2. Lane*

      Ignore her as much as you can while being totally bland to her otherwise. She sounds dreadful, but it seems like you’re just going to be stuck with her.

      If anything she does negatively affects your work? Report it to your manager. Sounds like your manager already knows she’s a pain.

    3. Workerbee*

      I agree with the above. If you have the energy, you might want to document these encounters as well. Though if you already know that won’t help your situation, then don’t.

      I had an eggshells person and did try documenting for awhile. Management still didn’t seem to know what to do with him other than say, “He’ll never get anywhere in this company if he doesn’t change.” In the meantime, the person felt fully justified in their behavior and saw no need to change. Part of my reason for job switching last year was to get away from him. It was a constant drain on my psyche, never knowing which version of him I would get, plus we were in the same dead-end cubical row where I had to pass him when I came in or went out…

    4. LKW*

      Pity her. She may have wanted your job, or wanted a friend in your job, doesn’t matter really – but she’s decided your her target. So give her as little as possible with which to work. Don’t let your guard down around her and just keep it as bland as possible. I was going to recommend some things you can do to psych her out during the day, but really, it’s childish and won’t get you anywhere.

      1. Qwertyuiop*

        “I was going to recommend some things you can do to psych her out during the day, but really, it’s childish and won’t get you anywhere.”

        They can be quite childish sometimes, so I’ll take any ideas and/or suggestion… (Most likely I’d be too scared to used them, but it’s fun to think about!)

        1. RagingADHD*

          Honestly, ignoring her shenanigans is going to mess with her more than anything else you could do.

          Engaging in any sort of retaliatory mind games is just going to escalate and prolong the nonsense.

          Jane is a troll. Don’t feed the trolls.

        2. JobHunter*

          Give them a head tilt, say “What an odd thing to say” lightly, and walk away.

          Repeat as needed.

    5. Renee Remains the Same*

      I would take it as a compliment that your attempts at dialing back the drama are working. Unfortunately for Jane, she seems to thrive on drama and as there was none available for her to feast on, she created a nice, neat little scenario to give you a little jab.

      Providing she hasn’t said or done anything offensive, frightening, or potentially illegal, enjoy the fact that you’re annoying Jane without actually doing anything wrong.

    6. pancakes*

      Her scrutinizing your reaction to her story sounds pretty consistent with the rest of her behavior – it sounds like she tries to needle you every chance she gets. I agree with everyone saying to be blandly professional with her.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Jane is a drama llama / chaos monkey. She’s just looking for anything – anything at all – that she can use to yank your chain.

      Nothing you ever did actually “upset” her. It was just a pretext for the tantrums she had pre-loaded and ready to throw.

      Your poker-face approach is correct, and it sounds like it has been somewhat effective in de-escalating her behavior.

      Keep it up, and keep reminding yourself:

      1) She is wierd and emotionally stunted. This is not the way normal grownups act at work.

      2) None of this has anything to do with you. She is acting out some kind of drama in her head, you are the audience. When she addresses these things to you, she’s breaking the fourth wall to invite audience engagement.

      3) As others said, bland politeness is the path. You probably can’t make her stop entirely, and that isn’t the goal. The goal is to minimize the impact on your workday, and not waste your time & energy.

    8. Esmeralda*

      Jane made that comment to (1) make you feel bad or uncomfortable and (2) to make other people think you’re a stick or a weirdo. And possibly (3) to make herself look good because she was being “thoughtful” about the vulgarity.

      Jane is an A Number One A*Hole. Be completely bland and professional with her. No need to be friends or pretend to be friends. Don’t walk on eggshells because even if you do, she may still be unpleasant. You want everyone else to see that it’s not you, it’s Jane. And you don’t want to waste time, energy, breath, thoughts on someone as obnoxious and unprofessional as Jane.

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

      There’s a mixture of things here (I wasn’t sure if you wanted to know specifically about the vulgar/’swear’ word incident, or more generally if there’s anyone out there dealing with someone like Jane!)

      Some of it is mundane and I suggest you just ignore it. Giving something to a co-worker because you did the same thing the previous week? Talking to another colleague because you did? No idea why she’d do those things but I don’t think they are harmful so leave her to it. Making fun of you… hurtful and potentially bullying if it’s serious enough and a repeated pattern of behaviour, but I’d rather rise above it than ‘report’ it. (I’m aware other people will disagree with me on that point.)
      It doesn’t sound like she is competitive about work especially since you don’t work closely together (?) but rather about social situations etc. Have you seen this competitive streak in her in a work context at all?

      Things that are potentially harmful though:
      – complaining about you to the boss (I wonder if it was a ‘complaint’ that had any potential merit, or if it was obvious to any reasonable person that it was just troublemaking?)
      – accusing you of hiding her keys, that’s a fairly serious accusation (assuming you don’t have a culture of ‘pranks’ in the workplace or things like that — I read it as what actually happened is she misplaced her keys somewhere and then projected on to you as that’s the sort of thing that she would consider doing!)
      – slamming a door on your face, depending on exactly what that was like, could be anything from rudeness to actual assault.

      On the subject of “I hope the swear word didn’t offend you Querty” – I expect she said this in front of a bunch of other people? probably to try and show you up as ‘someone who has delicate ears’, ‘can’t take banter’ or whatever – setting you up as ‘other’ from her and the rest of the listeners who ‘of course’ wouldn’t have a problem with the nasty swear word!

    10. The New Wanderer*

      She’s being an a-hole in the “mean girl” tradition, definitely. She’s othering you by claiming she thinks you might be offended by something that doesn’t offend others (or you), making fun of random stuff about you, and probably making it seem that you are competing with her. You could literally show up tomorrow as a completely different person (married with kids, totally different personal style, etc) and she would find some way to mock you. That’s who she is.

      Lean in to not pretending to be friends with her. Embrace when she claims you’re so straight-faced – it would be clear to others if it’s not already that you are blank to her specifically, not people who treat you professionally and civilly. And I second documenting all the obnoxious things she says about you, to demonstrate that it goes beyond “interpersonal differences” which managers tend to dismiss or tell you to work out for yourselves, to targeted bullying, which it is and should be directly addressed with consequences.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Are you the newest member of your group?
      She sounds like one who targets the new people. This may end if someone else is hired and then you can see it’s just her MO and not personal.
      You can start watching how other people handle what she says. Steal the best ideas that are comfortable for you given your personality and your way of doing things.
      Friend/enemy cycle: When she gets a small or no response from you she may be backing off for a couple days and then after a bit is compelled to try again with you.
      But this could be a Jekyll and Hyde thing where she has an off/on switch and which position is the switch in today? Who knows.

      I think you know you don’t have to be friends with anyone at work. You do have to maintain a working relationship and be civil. But that is the extent of your “obligation” here. That’s in quotes because she has the same obligation. Usually with people like this the worst thing for me is if they withhold information or work that I need. And the solution to that problem is to ask the boss for assistance. Where I landed was as long as a person like this does not mess with my job or my efforts on the job, she can go live life the way she sees fit. If you really think about what she has done so far, you’d probably agree that she is making life unnecessarily hard for herself.

    12. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      I’d add to what everyone has said is don’t even bother making small talk with her, grey rock in any interaction, in a way some people rely on a person’s sense of awkwardness and entirely decent behaviour to keep a bullying type dynamic going. By ignoring her when you can and being professional when you have to be you take your power back.

      I’ve had enough experiences now of people who behave like this to know when to pointedly ignore them, and when to be overly effusive so they know my politeness is sarcastic – playing them at their game in a way pointed enough so they know I know what they’re doing. Not necessarily recommending this and I do stop once they change. Ymmv.

      Best of luck.

    13. The Rat-Catcher*

      Qwerty, this made my blood boil. It’s of course up to you, but I wouldn’t continue to chat with her a little. Even the friendliness is a way to target you so I’d be busy when she comes around to chat. If it’s awkward, that’s her doing.

  14. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I’m having a super crazy time at my job as usual and I’m gonna vent. We have a new Expert at work and she’s…in the words of my boss.. different. For example, two reports were undone and in the meeting, in front of everyone she asked why they weren’t done. I sadly didn’t have a reason. I just had such a strong memory of doing the reports that I thought they were done. I guess I should go on vacation ( like my boss keeps pointing out in the team meetings I haven’t taken any) I haven’t because I’m too disorganized to plan one and everything good is closed due to COVID.

    Also how do you get better at making work friendly reasons for your actions? Now in reality I may have forgotten or procrastinated because the task made me anxious but you can’t say that so I often end up looking stupid.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I think the bigger problem is that you anticipate this being a concern more than once. I would work with your boss to come up with a way to ensure that these reports are done timely and correctly. Make reminders for yourself, start using a kanban board, whatever you need. Then you won’t need to worry about making up a crap answer. If there’s a true blocker, address that.

      Insofar as a break, take a staycation. Just a few days off/long weekend can help people regroup. Watch a bunch of Netflix, do yoga, sleep in, etc. You don’t have to travel.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        The weird thing is that I do them every week on a certain day. I did them that week on my day but then they were blank when I came back to look. And now we’re changing the deadline and I’m worried that I’ll do them again and they’ll be blank. And they take ne forever to do

        1. Annie Moose*

          It might help to write up a daily summary of things you completed/what the status is of projects at the end of the day? Longhand, email yourself, keep a spreadsheet, use Google Calendar, whatever would be most accessible to you. It could even help as a memory trigger–if you’re writing up what you did and you realize you didn’t do X, now you’re aware of it!

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            I used to write a daily email of tasks to my old boss but after she walked off into the sunset I stopped doing that. ( I’m quite sure my new boss doesn’t get/ read my emails so one more probably doesn’t matter)

            1. pancakes*

              You don’t have to send it to anyone higher up if no one has asked you to do so, and I wouldn’t recommend doing so out of the blue – you could just use it for yourself, to keep yourself on track. You don’t need to fill in the “to” field to save it as a draft.

        2. kt*

          Can you download a copy or take screenshots or otherwise confirm they’re done? There may be a tech problem that you could catch.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            That’s true. The system is pretty wonky and they were messing with it last week . Several other people didn’t have their reports either…

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

              Is this the first occurrence (if it even is… based on what you wrote, I’m not so sure that you ‘forgot’ as much as that there was some problem in the system) where you’d forgotten something and felt sure you’d done it, or is it more of a pattern where you’ve done this before?

              If it’s the first time, I’d start from the assumption it was a tech issue since other people’s reports also seem to have gone ‘awol’.

    2. Funny Cide*

      I didn’t take any days off for a long time due to COVID as well. Finally I just took one and literally slept and sat around the entire day, not allowing myself to do any sort of work around the house either, and truly didn’t realize how much I had needed it.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        That’s true. I worry I’ll just sleep all day but I guess I could clean. My house is a wreck

        1. LDF*

          If you really think that you might end up sleeping all day then sounds like you really need a break! Go ahead and get that extra sleep if you need it.

            1. kt*

              Take those days off, then, but also a plan in a few things that bring you joy. Plan a movie you want to watch, or something fancy to cook, or buy yourself cupcakes, or read a trashy novel or great literary work, or get a sheet mask for like $3 and pretend you are at a spa for 15 minutes. (I’ve never been to a spa so it’s easy for me to pretend.) Go to a park you haven’t been to. Something that seems kinda cool that you wouldn’t do otherwise. You mentioned being disorganized & not planning so really think small :) so that something happens! Hot cocoa and some YouTube videos of kittens or hamsters!

      2. Mockingjay*

        I took 2 days off a couple of weeks ago. Helped, although not a perfect “cure.” Like you, I am also having trouble focusing and getting stuff completed. Pre-COVID, I was really sharp at tracking tasks and meeting due dates. Now, I just don’t have the energy. I’ve been late prepping the monthly report twice in a row. My teammates are having similar issues.

        Hubby and I are trying to plan a weekend away if we can find a safe environment, just to get out of house and town. If we can’t, then I am going to take a Friday off at least once a month until the pandemic subsides.

        I looked into the focus issue and it is very real, caused by repetitive stress as this pandemic lingers and spreads. Our brains are truly worn out. Do what you can to stay on track. Enlist a trusted coworker to tag-team each other with reminders. Rearrange or freshen your workspace. Just keep trying.

        1. Liz*

          Same. In the beginning, i felt funny taking days off, since no one was going anywhere! But then I realized that I’m still working, same number of hours a week I was pre-pandemic and WFH. so now I take time off wihtout worrying. i have a ton too, so not a big deal. i’m actually off MOnday, and after i told my boss, realized i am also off (as is everyone) the following Monday for presidents day! hahahaha

        2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Yes and I’ve been having a crazy time. My bf ran out of money and just started job searching after months of not doing anything and is really confused thar he doesn’t have a job after like two weeks of searching ( It takes months!) And my car is messed up and my dad is saying some nonsense about getting a new car- I’m a millennial I don’t have money to replace a car that mostly runs and us only ten years old!

    3. Workerbee*

      For the first part, take the time off! There can be much ease in waking up and knowing you don’t have to face the full work routine. No planning necessary, just have a day or more where you can do anything you want, even if it’s nothing at all. Like, for me, just being able to sit without having to time it because I’ve got to see to 10 other things is a beautiful feeling. I can read, I can play music, I can indulge in a hot chocolate…

      For the second part, I don’t have a reason at my disposal, but I do think having a “That’s a good question! I’ll look into that and get back to you” type of phrase in the moment can buy you some time.

      1. Liz*

        I still remmber the first couple of days i took off over the summer. it was as you said, just SO NICE I didn’t have to worry about getting up, loggin on, etc. i could get up, do stuff at my leisure and if it turned out it was nothing, oh well. i was relaxing.

    4. Ama*

      If you have a lot on your plate and there really isn’t another reason, I think it’s fair to say, “I was really focused on [other task or tasks] and this dropped off my list, I’ll get it done asap.”

      I will say that I have had to completely reinvent my system for tracking my tasks since the pandemic WFH started, partly because anxiety and stress has completely wrecked my short-term memory and partly because some of the systems that worked in office (like getting out a paper file on a particular project to remind me I need to work on it), are no longer possible. So if it dropped off your list because your tracking system isn’t working, you could say something like that “my usual system for tracking this didn’t work this time, I’m pretty sure I know what happened and I’ve made adjustments so it won’t happen again.”

      Also if you don’t feel you can take large chunks of time off (although it does sound like you need it) — I took Fridays off between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and it was really nice to basically not work a full week for almost two months — far more restorative than I would have thought.

    5. Copycat*

      I find that in work the bosses rarely care about why, more that you are sincerely sorry and you will get right on the report and finish it in set time frame.

    6. LKW*

      In the moment you can say something along the lines of “Well that’s unexpected. I’ll investigate and get back to you.”. If anyone gets aggressive in the meeting, they’ll come across as unreasonable. We’ve all had that problem where we see mistakes or issues while presenting. How people roll with it …

      When the meeting was over, were the reports there or corrupted? Do you use any means to track who touched the reports last? Could someone have screwed them up (let’s assume unintentionally)?

      Definitely look to take an afternoon off or a full day – use your PTO/vacation. Just to get a little recharging.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I checked during the meeting and they weren’t there! Now, anyone could look at the reports but nobody would fool with them. It might be the system itself.

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

        Yeah, my mind went to “had someone screwed them up” although I was less sure about the unintentionally part, although depends what you mean by unintentional! It wasn’t clear what the system is, but if it’s something where they store those reports and take backups periodically, is it possible that the system was “reset” to an earlier version (due to changing something else which didn’t work out) and in the process wiping out the reports because they hadn’t been created at the earlier point in time, for example.
        It’s possible of course that someone could have deleted them although I’m not sure what the motive would be other than to cause mayhem!

    7. Hillary*

      for work friendly reasons it’s all about tone. If they hear humor along with enough contrition they know you know you screwed up and they’ll give you grace. I often add smiley faces. Some of my go-tos are:
      -well, it would help if I actually hit the send button on the email when I wrote it
      -wow, sorry about that. I need more coffee.
      -I would have sworn I did it but obviously I didn’t. Sorry about that – I’m putting a recurring task on my calendar (or whatever) to remind me going forward.

      More formal, usually when something that doesn’t have a deadline isn’t done yet:
      -I’ve been dealing with other priorities but I’ve got it down to work on (this afternoon, next week, whatever)
      -It’s on my list and I hope to have bandwidth next week

    8. RagingADHD*

      Listen, sometimes when you get blindsided like that, there isn’t a good answer other than, “I’m as surprised as you are, because I remember doing them!”

      It’s very freaky when your brain plays tricks on you, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it.

      I have never been able to trust my brain, because it often takes “thought about doing the thing” and substitutes “did the thing” in my memory. So I have to double-check everything and create ways to flag the state of everything as done or undone. Sometimes that’s with physical space, like putting things in a folder. Sometimes it’s by changing the filename when it’s finished, or adding color tags. God bless my “sent” email box, because I can see immediately whether I sent the email I composed in my head.

      Perhaps you could email the report to yourself as soon as you finish – that way you’d have a record and a copy (in case there really is a software problem erasing your work).

      If you haven’t always had to deal with this, it’s probably exhaustion. A tired brain acts like an ADHD brain, without the fun parts. Hope you can get rested soon!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        omg, Yes. A tired brain is like trying to juggle balls but there’s no balls. We can’t juggle something we have let go of.
        Take that staycation and sleep. Seriously. This won’t get better on its own and it won’t get better by wishing it better. Invest in some self-care asap.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Yea today I read a book chapter and was ready to answer the questions and…it was like I had never read the chapter. The words just went right through me

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Yea it was the end of the month last week and I was rushing for the deadline. We type the report into the system but I could ask my boss if there’s some sort of way to get a copy to myself so if it’s eaten I’ll have it

  15. Thursdaysgeek*

    My spouse doesn’t carry a cell phone. His company has decided that phones are no longer necessary, all calls can be made using Teams, and phones are being removed.

    I’ve asked about 2 scenarios: he has computer issues and can’t log on – how does he call the help desk? There is an emergency and someone needs to call 911. He agrees those are both cases where having a phone available would be important. But, while his company talks about ‘safety’, apparently once a decision has been made, there’s no point in resisting or raising issues. I guess it’s good everyone else carries a cell. I wonder about the places at that business where cells aren’t allowed, however, and hope they left some phones in those locations.

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      Wow no phones in the office at all?? That does seem somewhat dangerous if there’s an emergency. Maybe your spouse can bring that up with their boss and see if they can keep one main line for this scenario? I’m in a lab so we have phones with various safety numbers on signs nearby and I can’t imagine we’d ever get rid of them for the reasons you’re describing.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        This IS a lab too. I suggested talking to the boss, but management is … special. He doesn’t think it would make any difference.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          And if the system goes down/electricity is off, the phones will still work! (Unless you get VoIP phones, which are awful.)

          We had a major blackout a year & a half ago, & we could still use our phones.

          1. Lucy P*

            Just FYI, even non-VOIP phones can go out in a power outage. We had to get a battery backup for our 20 year old system because the KSU still plugs into an electric outlet.

            1. TiffIf*

              My parents for a long time had a landline phone that reliably worked just fine in a power outage. It had nothing that needed an electrical outlet. I don’t actually know if their current phones work in a power outage–maybe a cordless phone already charged would still work? it just would be able to charge.

              1. PT*

                Telecom companies have been upgrading copper landlines (the kind that work during a power outage) to fiber optic lines (the kind that do not work during a power outage) for a good ten years now. Very few people have copper landlines any more: many people may not even know this since the switch is made at telecom company’s box level, not at the homeowner’s level.

                1. TiffIf*

                  True! and since my parents have Verizon FiOS for internet there is a good chance their copper landline has been transitioned.

          2. Cj*

            My office switched to Vonage in November. It suuuuuuuucks. Clients are always complaining that they can hardly hear us. We all have our personal cells at work, though, in case the power/internet ever goes down none of us would have an issue using them.

        2. TiffIf*

          “He doesn’t think it would make any difference.”

          This makes it sounds like he hasn’t actually tried anything at all. All it takes is “What’s the number for contacting help desk from an external line if we’re having trouble accessing Teams?”

          This avoids the issue of what he thinks about the policy and goes straight to the assumption that of course this is a consideration they made and have a solution for.

    2. Momma Bear*

      Would the company be willing to purchase a phone for him for work?

      Would he be willing to buy a pay as you go phone so he has it for emergencies but isn’t investing in a hefty monthly fee?

    3. Coco*

      I’m not sure I understand. Your spouse had a work cell but does not have a personal one? And he doesn’t want a personal one? And work no longer supports a work phone? Is there a reason he doesn’t want a personal cell?

      I understand not wanting to use personal cell phones for work like the occasional tech support call but that seems like a rare instance. And most people are carrying their personal phones so the 911 example it sounds like other people around him will handle those?

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I think the spouse’s and all coworkers desks had landline phones on them that are being removed. No landline phones in the office anymore.

        1. Thursdaysgeek*

          Right. So if they don’t carry a cell, they have to make calls using Teams. There are no physical phones.

      2. Scarlet Magnolias*

        Hey some of us don’t like phones and don’t use them, I have one that I use for emergencies

        1. ThatGirl*

          But you do have one, for emergencies. I think that’s the difference. Even if you don’t use it, you have it.

    4. LCS*

      We just went through the same thing at work with the MS Teams switch and the same safety concerns. Compromised ended up being that they removed all personal desk phones but kept traditional phones available in conference rooms and at reception. Seemed like a reasonable compromise to me.

      1. Cascadia*

        Yes, I get terrible cell reception in my office because I’m in a basement with very thick cement walls. I use my office phone all the time! I think it would be a great compromise to at least have 1 or 2 phones that anyone can use somewhere – maybe not everyone needs a desk phone, but it would be good to have something on the floor for all of the emergency scenarios you describe.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      Your husband it the outlier. They assume that all employees have a personal cell phone on which to male emergency calls. It’s not an outrageous assumption; cell phones have become ubiquitous. I have trouble picturing this as a safety concern. Is your husband ever all alone there so there’s no one nearby with a cell phone to use to call 911?

      Did your husband even raise his particular issue to his company? You say “apparently once a decision has been made, there’s no point in resisting or raising issues,” but did he try?

      I guess the safety of the place where there are no cell phones allowed depends on the size, but I agree it would make sense to have landline phones there so they can communicate; although, I guess for they may have computers and Teams in those areas so they aren’t out of communication, just not phones.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        He didn’t know about this until they announced it – we’re putting Teams on your computer today, and you’ll use it instead of a phone, which will be removed in the next few days. Did they send an email to announce that? I don’t know.

        My company has VOIP phones (as his did), but we also have some physical phones near the entrances. If there is a power outage, network issues, any issues with the company supplied phones, there are still some landlines for emergencies. The company isn’t requiring us to provide backup emergency communication devices – they consider it part of their own safety plan. I guess that’s the difference between saying that safety is important, and showing it.

    6. Ashley*

      For personal sanity I would probably get a cheap prepaid flip phone for emergencies and give a super small group of people the number.

    7. SomebodyElse*

      Does your husband work alone? I’ve had computer issues that made it so I couldn’t log in, I just asked someone else to log a ticket for me or would call using someone else’s computer.

      As for the 911 calls, again, unless he works solo, there should be enough personal cell phones to cover that need.

      Otherwise, a cheap dumb phone with prepaid minutes is the way to go. Turn it on, plug it in, leave at the office, and probably never use.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        No, he’s never working alone. But it still seems a bit sketchy to me. Yes, it might be time for a prepaid phone, just for work, just in case.

    8. Duckles*

      FWIW, My favorite part of my job is that there are no phones. When I switched from a job where I was getting PTSD from the phone ringing all day to one where I could actually work and if someone needed something they would ping me on slack my life has been infinitely better.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Same here! We do everything via Teams and email. We ping each other and have Teams calls as necessary. But it’s wonderful not to have that “pick-up-the-phewne-and-caaaaaallllll-them” crap as if preferring email were a character flaw.

    9. LKW*

      Well that’s just silly and it will likely get reversed at some point. Teams is fully reliant on internet. No internet, no calls. If your laptop dies, no calls.

      Get a cheapie phone if that makes you feel better, but all it will take is for the internet to be down for half a day. Once Senior Management can’t do what they need to do, the lightbulb should go off.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Honestly, a lot of companies (and private citizens) have mostly converted to VOIP. So even if you have a physical phone, chances are that you are reliant on the internet.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Yeah. Physical phone does not actually mean it’s old-school phone lines! VOIP is often cheaper, especially when bundled with internet, and you often can’t tell just from glancing at a phone if it’s VOIP or a landline setup.

      2. Natalie*

        I haven’t worked in an office where the phones didn’t also rely on internet for 10 years. And none of these were cutting edge places.

    10. TiffIf*

      My company went to this a few years ago–all softphones through Teams now. However, we are allowed to have our personal devices and there are some people (my boss) who have company cell phones.

      Perhaps he should ask his supervisor what the procedure is to contact help desk if you can’t log in to your computer/device to access Teams. There should be a way for any employee to contact help desk from an outside line–you just need the direct number. Now he might have it a little more complicated because he doesn’t carry a cell phone, but in general it is a must for the company to have that number available.

    11. Hillary*

      My employer did the same when we moved a couple years ago – I recently found out by accident that health & safety is included in the planning for these changes. We still have physical phones in every building for calling 911, plus every elevator and lab has a phone for safety. We also have a multitude of both work and personal cell phones plus VOIP lines with dedicated hardware in the conference rooms.

    12. Malarkey01*

      Honestly the safety 911 issue isn’t going to get too far since the vast majority carry cell phones and it’s similar to how would you call 911 you got hurt at the park or on a bike ride or whatever. Needing to keep office lines for the one time in a year someone might need to dial 911 seems like an acceptable risk.

      On the log in, he can borrow a cell phone and call IT or ask a coworker to submit a ticket/send an email/whatever the process is. We went to jabber years ago and haven’t had physical phones at my very large office since then.

    13. Quinalla*

      I think the help desk one is kind of a non-issue, just ask them what the help desk number is to call if he has issues with his computer. In that case he could definitely borrow someone else’s computer for a minute or phone.

      The not have any landline phones is a safety concern, but honestly is he sure they won’t have one? It doesn’t sound like this plan has been communicated well, so they may well have that in the safety plan. I would just ask, that way he knows for sure and can make the call if he wants to get a cheap pre-paid and just leave it at work.

      And I get it, before I had kids I did not get a cell phone for a long time and when I did, I only turned it on if I wanted to call someone. It was off otherwise, I had no need or interest in being reachable all the time. Once I had kids though, I felt I had to get one so I would be reachable at all times and yeah when you open that flood gate, it is open. I’m still “weird” about not giving my cell phone to everyone unlike most people I work with who have their personal cell in their email signature. No thanks, I only give it to people I trust! If my company wants me to be available to anyone by cell, they can pay for my entire cell phone play instead of the small yearly reimbursement I get for it now.

    14. MissDisplaced*

      This is becoming more common. At my work most people only have VoIP “phones” or we use Teams to call. If you travel (sales) you can place a requisition for a mobile phone. But most people are now electing to ‘bring your own phone’ and just add a second line, which the company subsidizes.

      If your husband doesn’t have a mobile phone at all (are there still holdouts?) there are many cheap options out there. I recently did this for my 80 year old mom and got her a talk-text-only pay as you go plan for $5/month.

    15. The Rat-Catcher*

      Ugh. The one summer camp rule I will allow/encourage my children to break. Now if you get it taken away for playing games or being on social media, that’s on you, but emergencies are different and after my own camp experiences as a kid, I don’t totally trust that you’re paying attention/will do anything.
      This is worse because we’re talking about adults. If using phones during work hours is causing a problem then deal with it as it occurs – but don’t do a blanket ban.

  16. Funny Cide*

    Just heard my partner in the other room who’s on a very important Zoom meeting accidentally kick the cat toy that has a motion activated bird chirp

    1. Nicki Name*

      Once upon a Zoom meeting, my boss’s new puppy was playing with a chew toy that made an occasional noise. He was running the meeting, so he couldn’t mute. For some reason, the sound the toy was making conjured up an image of him trapped in a room with a large, grumpy duck. I’m glad I was able to mute myself because it got funnier and funnier with every squawk.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      The other day my boss’s dog starting barking, my dog heard it and started barking back! We had to wait for our dogs to finish their call before we could resume ours, we both had a good laugh about it.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        That happened to me 2 weeks ago. It was a later than usual call so all of the evening dog walkers were out. I was just saying Hi and mine started barking… then someone else’s on the call… then a third. Luckily we were the first few on the call and were able to mute and get settled down before the meeting started.

    3. TiffIf*

      I have heard some very cute baby babbles on calls–there’s like 5 different people in my department who have new babies in the past 2 years. One of my co-workers (team lead of a team I work with) was in the middle of explaining something when his 12 month old started babbling very excitedly-it was adorable.

    4. Forkeater*

      Ha! I was on a fairly casual zoom when someone mentioned a birding app and I went and downloaded it while still on the call. And then I heard chirping. I thought it was a bird outside. And then I thought it was a bird at someone else’s house on the call. And then I realized it was the new app. I was chirping at everyone. Oh well! No one said anything.

    5. Zephy*

      One of my cats likes to pick up one of his toys in his mouth and run back and forth through the apartment, yelling as loud as he possibly can. It’s extra fun to do at 2 AM or while I’m on a call while WFH.

      1. All Hail Queen Sally*

        I have a very old cat that does this but only at night. He brings me his toys while I am sleeping. I wake up and there are toys scattered all over my bedroom floor. He has woken me up several times, howling at the top of his voice. I worry about the neighbor hearing him as our apartment walls are very thin, but he says he never has.

    6. Warm Weighty Wrists*

      I was advising a coworker over Teams the other day when my dog decided it was play time. He grunted and writhed around on his back for a while, and when that didn’t get my attention he grabbed a toy and dashed around the house while squeaking it. (He’s 10, by the way.) Finally, my coworker said “Go pay attention to that very good boy and we’ll chat about this later!”

    7. comityoferrors*

      I have a very large, very vocal cat (a ragdoll for anyone who’s familiar). I was in a 1:1 with my director and my cat decided he was bored and needed my attention more than she did, so he walked back and forth on my desk yowling in my face. Towards the end of the call, I said something about, “sorry, you can probably hear my cat chiming in” and my director said, “Oh that explains it! I thought you had a baby I didn’t know about!” It was some much-needed hilarity for both of us.

      I’m so glad he didn’t do that during the committee meetings I lead, though; I’ve learned to shut him out of the room now.

      1. Scarlet Magnolias*

        I know about ragdolls. I have a huge black and white one named Django. he has become a Zoom presence on meetings and storytimes. I will be talking and suddenly there is a fluffy black tail in back of me. People will insist that I put him on the screen and make him wave

  17. Job Hunting*

    How long is too long to punt on a job offer?

    I have been interviewing with Company A since the last week of December 2020, and they came with an offer this Tuesday. Based on the interviews and my skill set, they created a new role for me that was slightly different than what was posted (same title but supporting a different group in the organization that better fits my prior experience and generally where I want to take my career).

    However, I have also been interviewing with Company B for 3 weeks. I had previously worked with the grand-boss of this position and had reached out asking for job leads in early January after a seemingly fruitless 6 month active / 12 month passive job search. He connected me with one of his reports who then created a job for me (which would have likely been added anyways due to the workload). I am more comfortable working for this company (larger and mature organization, known chain of command, industry I’m familiar with) and the role sounds very interesting. But… I don’t have an offer in hand and need to get back to Company A today/Monday.

    How much can I punt on Company A to allow time for an offer from Company B to potentially materialize? If I got an offer from Company B, I am 95% likely to accept even if the pay is lower (up to 40% lower). Thoughts?

    Some people have also said I can be “that candidate” that accepts and then reneges on the job offer, but that makes me uncomfortable. Then again, I will likely never need to work for Company A if I end up at Company B due to industry. I’ve also been officially unemployed since August.

    1. Kanga Roo*

      I would let B know that you have another offer but would prefer to work for them. Ask for a timeline.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      A few days is generally as long as you can hold out on giving an answer to a job offer — you can extend the time by negotiating with Company A, but the problem is that if you ask for something from Company A (such as 3% more pay) and they agree, then it would be really crappy to say no after that. I’d say you have until Monday with Company A — that’s almost a week.

    3. Midwest Manager*

      I’d recommend asking Company A for more time, then tell Company B that you have another offer but prefer them.

      Are there things about the offer you can ask Company A for more clarification/information on (benefits, leave policy, telecommuting ability, etc.)? Asking for this information today might result in a day or two before they get back to you, and gives Company B time to come up with an offer if they’re going to do it. Once you have the requested information in hand, then you ask for a few extra days to review/consider it. Before you know it – you’ve given yourself an extra week or more.

  18. vaccination consternation*

    A few weeks ago I wrote in about how certain staff at my org were ambiguously classified in terms of when we’d be eligible for COVID vaccines. My own updates are below, but how are the workplace vaccination efforts going for everyone else? Any exciting/confusing/frustrating stories to share?

    Essential workers in my state are broken into groups 1a, 1b and 1c. Our jobs didn’t fit neatly into any of those categories and could potentially fall into any of those three, and local gov contacts repeatedly equivocated when we asked them what group we were in. So when we found out peers at a similar agency started getting vaccinated during 1a, our CEO encouraged those of us working on site to sign up, and I did. Those who waited a few days when 1b started had trouble getting appointments.

    Well many of the clients we see are homeless, so they are 1b. In meeting with local gov contacts about the plans to get people experiencing homelessness vaccinated in our city, my supervisor mentioned some staff were still having problems getting appointments and asked if we could go to the same sites we bring clients. Local gov finally said, actually, you’re classified as 1c. No one who got vaccinated already will be in trouble, but you weren’t supposed to get it yet. Major facepalm. They could have told us that six weeks ago.

    I still feel good about my decision, very fortunate to have access this early, and decided to let go of my guilt about it since I can’t work from home and some of my coworkers have gotten COVID from work. Anyway, got my second dose last week. Would definitely recommend scheduling the second dose around a day you’re not working or taking a sick day the day after because the side effects were ROUGH, but 48 hours of misery is so worth it in the long run!

    1. Asenath*

      This reminds me about the confusion over a seasonal flu vaccine some years back. I worked for a branch of a university which was located in a large complex that also housed a large hospital. Some of us were actually located in the hospital part of the complex and even those who were in the university part often went back and forth to offices and public areas (like a cafeteria) in the hospital side. Naturally, the hospital management vaccinated their own people first. The university didn’t set up their own clinics until later, and it eventually occurred to someone that they had a lot of unvaccinated people who were not patients or visitors spending time in the hospital – every day, all day. So hospital administration agreed to vaccinate university staff working in the complex along with their own people – but forgot to mention this to the people doing the vaccinations. We turned up, and couldn’t provide hospital ID, and they couldn’t do the shots without that….Nothing surprises me about poor communication in a bureaucracy.

      I’m not going through a workplace for the COVID shot, but waiting my turn with the general public. I figure it will be several months yet.

    2. Weekend Please*

      That seems par for the course. We had something similar happen. I got the vaccine and then they changed the guidelines and technically I would not be eligible now but since I got the first dose I am still supposed to go for the second when it is due. The vaccine rollout is a mess and people who are trying their best to follow the rules are running into all sorts of problems with the rules being too vague, no one willing to clarify and then they change altogether. The best we can do is act in good faith and move forward.

    3. PhysicsTeacher*

      Teachers are in phase 2 here and we’ve been in phase 2 for a couple of weeks, but we’re prioritized later in the phase after police/first responders and people over 65. Finally got an email yesterday that, assuming the local health department gets the vaccine quantities they’re scheduled to get, teachers in my district will get vaccinated Feb. 18th/19th. We work those days but don’t have students, and exactly four weeks later is our sad abbreviated spring break. I get it — they don’t want to have to deal with covering classes from our small sub pool for vaccine side effects, but I’m also bummed about the prospect of feeling sick on my sad little 4 day weekend of a spring break instead of being able to plan for a sick day in advance for once.

      I’ll get the vaccine still. But ugh.

    4. Twisted Lion*

      Just got my first shot and feel beyond grateful. Thanks for the tip on the second dose. Im going to schedule a leave day the following day just to be safe.

    5. Warm Weighty Wrists*

      Yep, my partner experienced about 48 hours of misery with the second dose as well. I’m not looking forward to it, whenever I get the vaccine (I’m for sure in the back of the line, which is totally appropriate).

    6. Pam*

      My county switched from the next group being essential workers first and under 65 second to under-65 only. Plus, they left disabled/chronic health condotion people out of consideration entirely. Sigh.

    7. The Rat-Catcher*

      My agency is classified in a blanket way as one of the earlier vaccine tiers, but my role specifically is definitely not what they had in mind. I struggled with some guilt as I don’t really have any underlying conditions either, but then found out that many people at my agency who do fit that type of frontline role are opting out. So it’s not as if I am taking a vaccine from someone who wants it.

  19. Lazy Cat*

    I’m applying for a job (requires master’s degree, 5+ years of experience) that asks for actual letters of recommendation in the initial application process. I have to email them to the contact at the company, with a cover letter and resume.

    Is this as weird to other people as it is to me? Is it a red flag? I haven’t been asked for actual letters of recommendation since applying to grad school, and it seems like such a higher ask of my usual references (who otherwise wouldn’t get contacted until much later in the process).

    1. Copycat*

      Argh, the letters of recommendation really should be at the very least a second interview thing.

      If you do want the job, I would recommend maybe approaching the person, drafting your own recommendation and asking your referee if he or she is interested in endorsing it. I had a couple of ex-bosses who were cool with recommending me, but didn’t have time to write a letter of recommendation do that before.

    2. Lazy Cat*

      I should have added that I chose a middle ground of asking a few more casual referees, and I’ll include in my email to the company that I will provide contact information for (or request a letter from) my supervisor if I move forward in the process (they know I am looking, due to shaky budget circumstances; the person with real firing control doesn’t know).

      I know of some other red flags in the position (a friend used to work there), so I’m applying in a very cautious way (without spending social capital with the referees who are “better” but harder to get ahold of).

    3. Asenath*

      It’s unusual for most jobs, although I can think of one or two exceptions. If you were in one of those application process, you’d know about the requirement in advance. It’s also odd that they ask for you to email the letters in – generally, they want them directly from the person who wrote the letter. I don’t know if it’s a red flag, but it’s definitely very unusual.

    4. Double A*

      I’m a teacher and standard practice is you submit letters of recommendation with your initial application. It’s annoying, but in some fields it’s standard.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I’ve never been asked for this, but it’s very possible in certain fields like higher-ed or research. That said, having to submit letters BEFORE even a phone screen or interview is a heavy initial ask!

      I think it would be reasonable to apply without, and state you would bring these to the interview. But depending on the company, it might be taking a risk they that you’ll be disqualified over it. So I guess it depends how badly you want this and if it’s worth it?

  20. Kanga Roo*

    I recently applied for a management job with Wallaby Warriors (WW), a large local affiliate of a name-brand national nonprofit. I had done a very similar job for four years at Koala Conservation League (KCL), which is about twice the size of WW (I left KCL two years ago for another opportunity). I met 100% of the qualifications for the job, but I understand that there could be someone with even more relevant experience, an internal promotion, the board chair’s cousin, etc. After two good interviews with the hiring manager at WW–let’s call them Joey–they told me that they would be making a decision in 2 business days. Those two days pass, I hear nothing. After a week, I check in with a brief but polite email to Joey asking for an update on the hiring timeline, as I have another offer. Nothing again. 2 weeks after that, I get a form rejection email from HR.

    I’m especially puzzled at the ghosting as it’s a relatively small industry/city, and the chances are high that I will run into Joey again. Our profession is very heavily focused on networking/relationship building, and Joey has served on the board of the local professional development association. Our causes are related, and the CEO of WW is a mentee of the CEO of KCL (whom I am close to) and when in-person events resume I am sure I will run into the WW CEO too. I even told Joey in the interview–I am really excited about this opportunity and think we would work well together, but no hard feelings if it doesn’t work out. I am a little salty not to get a personal “heads up, we’re going in another direction” email but overall feeling like I may have dodged a bullet!

    1. Pippa K*

      Maybe Joey is just a little immature for his leadership role at Wallaby Warriors? (Ba dum tsshhh). Sorry, I’ll see myself out.

    2. Annie Moose*

      I think you may be taking this a bit personally! It hurts not to get a personal rejection, but it’s pretty normal to get a form rejection letter (or, in an unfortunately high number of cases, no formal rejection at all). If you and Joey previously knew each other or were professionally close I’d expect him to reach out to you personally, but it sounds like you only just met each other for two interviews and that was it.

      I know it’s not fun to get rejected for a job, especially not like that, but I don’t think it was intended to be a personal slight.

    3. Anon for this*

      Where I work I am not allowed to contact candidates once the selection is made – I turn the whole thing over to HR and the rest is up to them.

      We rank candidates so if the #1 candidate turns down the job they offer it to the next on the list. I have no visibility into that part of things.

      It’s possible that Joey is in the same situation. (And while it appears you weren’t the first choice, you might have been rank ordered, so he really didn’t know if you would be offered the job or not.)

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yeah, it sounds like the 3 weeks from decision day to the email you got pretty much covered the offer, negotiation, and finalization of hiring the chosen candidate.

        They may have been holding you as backup, and didn’t want Joey to muddy the waters with a premature rejection.

    4. BRR*

      So I’m not sure what your question exactly is but this isn’t that egregious. I hate that my bar is so low but I find it nice they sent a rejection. It’s very common to only send form rejections. Missing the estimated timeline and not responding are both frustrating, but very far from bullet dodged territory.

    5. Username required*

      He may not be allowed to contact you. My org has strict rules on contacting candidates – everything is done via the Recruitment dept.

  21. Catalyst*

    I received an invitation from a high-ranking executive in a large organization (50,000 people in our divsion!) to participate in a committee on culture. Leadership has taken surveys on the goods and bads and wants to discuss concrete actions that can be taken to improve the company culture.

    Although I have led small teams and have firm ideas of how to build good work cultures in those settings – this is bigger than my expertise!

    Are there any books or resources you can recommend to me on how to improve/promote positive workplace cultures? I would specifically like suggestions /not/ related to diversity/inclusion, as Allison has posted some of those recently. Than kyou!!!

    1. LCS*

      Both of these were good and address workplace culture without getting too far into D&I specifically:
      – The Culture Code: Secrets of Highly Successful Groups (Daniel Coyle)
      – Trust Rules (Bob Lee)

    2. CTT*

      Not knowing how this particular committee is set up, I know that a similar one in my office didn’t pick people based on expertise but because they were trying to get a broad range of people so they could try to get input from every area. Reading up on other resources could be helpful (and I don’t have any to recommend off the top of my head, sorry!), but I think you should also be talking to your peers about their feedback.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Turn This Ship Around! L. David Marquet, about how a captain turned the worst-performing submarine in the Navy into a very good one. Specifically talks about accountability, safety, and empowering people to make good decisions, especially in high pressure/fast-paced environments (operations). I haven’t actually read it, but a good, trustworthy coworker has.

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

      I don’t want to be “that guy” (girl) but I am going to raise the possibility… if you feel so out of place being invited to take part in this committee is there any chance it’s mistaken identity / a mis-click on the invitation…? Do you know who the other attendees are and if so are there other people at your level and/or do you know of a specific reason you’ve been invited?

      (If you can point to a specific reason then it’s all good — e.g. I can also think of a lot of ways to build good work cultures but in my case there’s no particular reason they’d value my input over Joe-off-the-street!)

      1. allathian*

        It’s possible that they simply want to know how employees at every level of the org experience the current culture and what they feel would improve it. It can work, if the environment is safe enough that the employees who are lower on the totem pole feel they can be genuinely honest without getting shot down.

  22. Hotdog not dog*

    I support 5 salespeople who don’t play well together. There is a lot of bickering over whose work should be prioritized. I also get assignments from my manager, who wants her tasks done first. Trying to prioritize based on either the task or the client it’s for has only made it worse, because it has resulted in everyone escalating every single task to crisis level (which it usually isn’t, but because it technically could be I can’t risk alienating a client) which in turn has effectively rendered all of it equally urgent. I spend more time defending myself from Salesperson A because I worked on something for Salesperson B ahead of their task than I do actually working on tasks. My manager is not helpful in this. She just wants everything done and to be left alone. I’ve tried blocking time for each person, but that ended in a huge argument over whose time came first. Any suggestions? I am looking for a new job, but need to try to make this work in the meantime.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      This sounds miserable! When you blocked time for each person, was that on a daily basis or on a weekly basis? If daily, I am wonder if you can rotate who is “first” each day. There are 5 people and 5 work days, so conceivably, everyone should have a chance of being “first” each day of the week. (Though of course, the person who is first on Friday will be mad that they are not prioritized until so much later in the week…)

      It seems like this is a no-win situation for you. Have you tried throwing the problem back on the salespeople and asking them to brainstorm on a solution that works for all of them?

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        I blocked by the hour, and had a rotation so that if A came first today, then B would come first tomorrow. They won’t agree to anything together; they don’t like each other and all feel that they shouldn’t have to share an assistant. I suspect that’s really the issue, they’re like a bunch of toddlers who all want the biggest slice of cake!

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      First in first out? But these people are idiots, and everything would probably get done faster if they would just work together better.

      1. Asenath*

        Yeah, that’s about the only solution, with the caveat that you want evidence before putting anyone to the front of the line because their work is particularly urgent. And figure out a way to cut down on the complaints – “Your work is waiting in order of priority, and any time you spend time arguing about it delays the point at which I will finish with the work that came in earlier and get to yours.” Let them go to your boss if they don’t like it, it doesn’t sound like she’ll get involved.

      2. Hotdog not dog*

        FIFO doesn’t work because there are legitimately times when something is time sensitive. I would prefer to do the work based on the merits of each task, and could probably get more done overall that way, but that would create days where one of them gets less attention than they feel entitled to.

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          Just remember that they’re creating their own problems and you’re already job searching. Yes, applying a system and refusing to argue with the salespeople will probably make things better. But also, don’t be afraid to channel your inner Elsa and Let It Go!

    3. RecoveringSWO*

      I wouldn’t accept any form of escalation from a salesperson–it’s gotta come from their boss or your boss (if they’re different). Bonus, your boss doesn’t want to play thier game either, so you know they won’t be escalating salespeople tasks.

    4. SomebodyElse*

      Visible priority board… Each Sales person ranks their work and you pull the top priority into your “Top 5” at any time the sales person can change the priority of their own work and you will adjust accordingly. They cannot have more than 1 top each.

      Your manager can then prioritize between the top 5 as needed otherwise you will use your judgement.

      You’ll still have to juggle between the top 5 and watch to make sure you are working on all of them and not just Salesperson A’s but it sounds like you feel comfortable doing that.

      The key is to be ruthless about sticking to this. Good luck!

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        I like the idea of a priority board…that might help to resolve the related but less time consuming issue of why didn’t I finish up that other thing they gave me yesterday? What do I mean, I spent all my time mediating and didn’t finish all the things? That way they could see what is or isn’t being worked on at any given time, and if it’s suddenly urgent to mail a client a hard copy of the report we just emailed them then they could just move it to the top of their own list. I strongly suspect that half the things they give me are meant to keep me from working on tasks for the others, as well as to try and justify why they each deserve their own assistant (“but look how much WORK I give Hotdog! Surely I should have my own dedicated support!”)

        1. Quinalla*

          Yeah, I like this idea, they tell you their top priority item (or heck, they can rank their whole list, but you won’t be working on more than top priority unless you are waiting on something). And yeah, if they have something urgent enough that it needs to jump ahead of everything, they escalate through your boss, otherwise they can just move it to #1 on their list. Whatever you can do to stay out of their pissing contest, I would do it. If they come with something super important: “Ah, I’ll move that to #1 for you then, correct?” then move on!

          And I know you know, but your boss sucks :( glad you are looking for another job!

      2. SomebodyElse*

        Sorry that wasn’t clear. Each sales person’s #1 gets pulled into your Top 5. So each sales person has their most important in your most important. Then when you finish SP’s top priority, you grab their next highest.

        So at any given time you each SP will have representation on your Top 5 and you won’t have a situation where all of your priorities are just one sales persons.

        Keep it visible, keep notes on what you are waiting for, give status within the list or whiteboard, or whatever tool you use.

        1. Hotdog not dog*

          I must have read it how you meant it; I imagined it as 5 separate lists with the top item on each list filtering into a single 5 item list for me. I do item 1 for A, and item 2 for A loads onto my list. Meanwhile I do B, C, D, E, and Manager, then loop back around to A again. At any given time I should have 6 tasks of “equal” importance on deck. Each person can decide which of their items is on my list in the top spot.

      3. OneTwoThree*

        Yes! I was coming to say this. I’m a sales person and need to rely on others to help me put my proposals together. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in places where most of the sales people get along. However, I always give my top item(s) and things that can wait. The people who support me have ran with that and now require everyone else to do that as well.

    5. Another JD*

      Stop telling the other salespeople what you’re working on. If it’s not for them, it’s none of their business. Be clear with when you can get each task done, then update if the timeline shifts because something more urgent came up. If your boss doesn’t care, then implement your own system and stick to it. If the salespeople have a problem with it, they can go to your manager.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        I don’t tell them…I just tell them I was busy. They know that if I don’t give any more info than that, it must mean I was working for one of the enemies and then we’re off. They also sometimes needle each other by telling each other what they’ve given me to do. Their manager has told them to knock that off, but it’s pretty obvious when one assigns a project and the others are immediately on the phone telling me to stop whatever I’m doing and do their thing instead. The irony is that they have to know they’re getting in their own way, but they can’t seem to resist.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ohhhh, interesting.

          Can you tell them that all requests must now go through THEIR manager and that manager will tell you where the priorities are?

          Going another way, can you tell them that anyone who tells you to stop what you are doing will have THEIR own request moved to the bottom of your list NO MATTER what the request is?

          Can you tell them that you are not accepting calls any more and they must email in their requests?

          Oooorrr, can you tell them to submit their request list each night at COB and that is the list you will work on the next day?

          Can some of the work be automated in such a way that they can do it themselves rather than call you?

          I think I’d get their manager involved some how. This is childish and it’s out of control.

          Last. Are you a woman? If yes, maybe ask them if they would treat a man this way.

        2. TheAG*

          What a childish group of people. I’m so sorry.
          Would it be helpful to log the time you’re spending dealing with this crap? Then, rather than go to their manager on a case by case basis, at the end of the week present it as “I spent 5 hours dealing with the behavior that you and I have discussed previously. Had I not had to spend those hours, I could have also completed XYZ, but that will have to be put off”

        3. ronda*

          so if their manager has told them to knock it off……
          Stop taking their calls, tell them to send you emails and then ask their manager to prioritize it anytime there is a conflict.

          or if you want to take their calls, start saying … “I am busy right now, I will check with ‘your boss’ about what to prioritize first.” (never give them more info than I am busy and when I can do it)
          If they back down, good. If they don’t………… have their boss decide (or on board that you will decide and he will back you up)

    6. Malarkey01*

      There are a lot of good suggestions here, but I’d caution about setting up a system that has you expending more energy on prioritizing or communicating at the expense of getting the work done. I’d agree you shouldn’t discuss what you’re working on and for who. When someone gives you something you can say “great, I’ll try to have this back by end of day/tomorrow/next week” whatever is appropriate. Don’t engage with a conversation why it will take you until then. If they complain just smile and say “I’m sorry; I really need to get back to this though” and turn back to your work. Your manager doesn’t want to engage so they won’t take their complaints to her, tune out their displeasure and don’t get into a back and forth about which work you’ll take when.

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        Even if your manager doesn’t want to get involved, dump the matter in their lap anyway. Or into the lap(s) of whoever the salespeople’s boss is. If a salesperson argues about the importance of what they gave you, say something like “ I support 5 salespeople. Priorities need to be set by NameOfMyBoss. Go talk to them”.

        Do this in a friendly but deadpan expression and repeat as necessary.

        Rather than attempt to negotiate, or get into arguments, just refuse to take the bait.

        Lather, rinse, repeat. Either your boss, or the sales boss, will get sick of this and do something about it.

        Good luck in your job search!

    7. RagingADHD*

      How free a hand do you have here?

      I’ve admin’ed for some pretty strong /aggressive personalities before, and IME you have to be extremely firm back if you want to shut down the bullshit.

      One option would be to tell them, “Do you want your stuff done, or do you want to waste my time arguing?”

      Another would be to let them know that arguments = automatically getting bumped to the bottom of the list.

      The priority ranking system is a good one, but you also may need to “retrain” them. Right now, the system incentivizes giving you grief. You need to incentivize reasonable behavior instead.

  23. LessNosy*

    I’ve posted in recent open threads a few times about my job search and interview process for a job I’d love at a company I’d love, and I just wanted to share that I received a verbal offer from them this week! Over 10% increase in salary, better and more affordable benefits, working on a larger team with more resources, and a higher title! I’m waiting to have the official offer letter in hand (waiting on my background check to come back – but I should pass because I’m boring) to resign from my current job. It’s going to be a blow to my team, but I’m really excited for the new gig and crossing my fingers that nothing falls through!!

    I also want to give a sincere THANK YOU to all the commenters who have responded with advice, encouragement and all the other good things I’ve found in this community. You all and Alison have changed my work life for the better!

    1. yala*

      Oh wow! That’s incredible! I hope it all goes according to plan, because that sounds like wonderful news!

  24. Half Sour Pickle*

    Has anyone had a breakdown over work? I’m almost a year in at my job and it’s in non-profit/public health. I am realizing that I am not as competent and experienced as my colleagues and it has brought on terrible anxiety. I still have so much to learn in this role, yet still have to lead because my boss wants me to take on more leadership. This morning I woke up nauseous and crying, and this is happening more often recently.

    I know that my colleagues are finding out that I’m not as good as others, yet somehow, my boss wants me to try and take over a HUGE part of our program. She says if I turn it down, it will not look bad to our leadership and that I don’t have passion. She’s also hinting that my position might disappear if I don’t take it. (Which is another thing. I feel like my passion has decreased as my anxiety goes up. My boss often cries to me when she talks about how moved she is by the work we do…and I feel like I’m dead inside by comparison.)

    Thinking about stepping up to take over part of this program is causing me immense stress. I feel like I have no choice. I don’t want to quit because I just feel like this problem will come up again elsewhere, and other jobs in my small field are not paying as well right now. I don’t want to give up, but I want to give up.

    I don’t know what to do. I’m always crying, and if I’m not crying, I feel paralyzed. I’m in therapy (have been for years) and it doesn’t feel like I’m getting better. My therapist recommended that I consider medication, but I’m scared of side effects and not entirely convinced it will help my feelings of work without me magically becoming an expert overnight. Talking to my boss does nothing. All she will say is “I know you’re capable. You can do this.” And I just…can’t. I’m afraid I’m going to have a further breakdown and crash and burn.

    Has this anyone had this level of stress and anxiety at work? Is there anything that helped? Can I work through this without being the “perfect” employee/leader?

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      I’ve had this happen at work, and honestly, the only way to fix it is to leave. If you are at the point the work is making you physically ill, you are way past the point of no return. This doesn’t mean that you are terrible or irredeemable or unemployable – this place is a bad fit for you. And that’s ok! Your boss may give the appearance of being supportive (“you can do it!”), but without actually any support of how to actually do it, she just wants you to magically change without any effort on her part – and that’s an unreasonable expectation.

      I’ve been in the position of having a job that made me constantly anxious and stressed, and it’s a horrible place to be. I was working 14 hour days (but only logging 8) to try and keep up with my boss’s expectations, all while they told me I was capable of doing more. I cried everyday and felt that my colleagues were just magically better and I was failing because I was terrible. I dry-heaved from stress while driving into work. The moment I put in my notice was like a weight being lifted from my shoulders. It felt like I could see color and taste things again, and life wasn’t a constant burden to just suffer through anymore.

      All that being said, I think you should focus on getting out, I don’t think this is something you can fix – work should not make you sick. I’m not sure what your situation is or where you are, would it be possible for you to quit with nothing lined up? I hated the idea of quitting with nothing lined up at the time (I was told it was something you were Not Supposed To Do), but I was very fortunate that I could go on my (now-)husband’s insurance and unemployment was enough to not make him have to carry all the bills. I know this is not an option for everyone, but being able to get away from the place making you sick, focus on recovering for a little bit before throwing yourself into a job search is a great option if it is available to you. I know I was too drained to try and job hunt while at my last job, and I probably would have taken whatever came my way just to get out, rather than being able to be selective and find something that fit.

      Wanted to add one more thing – you say you are in a small industry that doesn’t pay well, are you able to take some of your skills and use them in a bigger industry? I was in an industry known for running people through the wringer for little money, but I was able to get a job in a much bigger but more laid back area, focusing on just one aspect of my old job (and getting paid way better for it). That might be an option if you’re willing/able to branch out.

      I’ll bring my loooong post to end by saying I’m so sorry you’re in this position. I’ve been there before and know first-hand how terrible it is. I hope you’re able to get a new job or at least improve your current one. I’m rooting for you!

      1. Half Sour Pickle*

        Thank you for rooting me on! I really do appreciate it. I am afraid that the answer is to leave, and part of me thinks the answer is to keep on doing it and grit my teeth and maybe at the end I’ll learn a lot and feel better. Or not. I don’t know… Unfortunately, it’s not possible for me to quit without something lined up, I don’t have enough savings and not on my partner’s insurance. It’s probably not the best idea for work life balance, but I’m working on a side business that feels more “happy” than the work I do now. If I can get that going, maybe I can build a back up plan.

        As far as industry…maybe? I have a pretty specific background and degree but there might be some skills that are transferrable. It’s unfortunate that the majority of my field (outside of this smaller one) really pays low unless you’re a director or managing a program or wanting to do data (meh to me) but maybe there’s more possibilities. I know people in my field who open their own private practice often make good money, but that’s it’s own hurdle. I’ll keep thinking about it and looking out for something though. I appreciate your kind words and encouragement!

    2. Mandi*

      Based on what you’ve said, it sounds like there’s a huge disconnect between how you see yourself and how your boss sees you. She’s expressing confidence in you and asking you to take on more responsibility. Those are really good signs. It sounds like you’re being extremely hard on yourself and your anxiety is overwhelming you. The fact that your therapist is recommending medication tells me this is really an anxiety problem and not a skillset problem.

      I can relate to the imposter syndrome. I’m a department manager in a technical role without a college degree. All of my peers have more formal education than I do, and I still feel insecure about that all the time. But I have also discovered that I have a lot of wisdom and experience and sometimes I stop my peers and even superiors from making poor business decisions. I also still have a lot to learn, but I’m in this role for a reason and my input is valuable. It seems like you don’t *feel* qualified to do your job, but I bet you are.

      My advice (and I know this sounds stupid, because I have anxiety too, but bear with me): is to relax. Really relax. Take time off. Turn off your phone. Decide not to care about the things you can’t control. Understand that people aren’t pointing at you every time something goes wrong; that’s just your anxiety lying to you. Do some projects “just good enough” so you can save energy for the really challenging things. Believe compliments when you receive them – really examine and internalize them. Accept that the positive feedback, and lack of poor feedback, mean that you’re doing just fine. At the end of the day, it really is just a job and not a reflection of your worth as a person. If you lose this job, you’ll find another. It’s not life or death. Just breathe. :)

      1. Half Sour Pickle*

        Thank you for that reminder to relax. Phew, it is hard to put in practice but I’m going to try. I have to do some more work on projects this weekend, but I’m promising myself to do one fun thing this weekend without focusing on work. Maybe paint. I appreciate the “just good enough” and it’s so hard for me to do, especially with the very smart people on my time who go above and beyond it seems. Work every weekend because you’re dedicated to the cause. But that whole perfect is the enemy of good fits here. Thank you again <3

        1. Cj*

          Meds work differently for different people, but Lexapro has changed my life when it comes to anxiety, and apparently I had some depression and didn’t realize it until the meds lifted it. I didn’t even freak out (too much) when my husband almost died from septic shock. It just kind of levels my emotions out.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Yeeeeah, not as bad as you’ve had it, but spending all non-work time crying for a few days in a row because I could see how overwhelmingly complex the project was… one of the reasons I’m leaving. I’m sorry :/

      1. Half Sour Pickle*

        I’m sorry to you too :/ I’m both sad and glad I’m not alone, but I’m wishing you the best and that you can find some emotional and physical rest soon <3

    4. Susie*

      I went on anxiety and depression meds in a situation like this. Helped just enough so I could keep it together to work on job applications.

      Things I’ve realized since I left that place:
      1. I was not put in a position to succeed because the org didn’t value the work I was doing. They only had my role because of the compliance aspect. I never had any specific training. (for what it is worth–in my 6 years at this org, I was able to write a pretty stellar manual for my successor…all these were things I figured out on my own)
      2. I did know a lot. But because of #1, I felt like I didn’t because I was being put in situations that were essentially above my pay grade. More specifically, I was being asked to make leadership level decisions when I wasn’t on the leadership team.
      3. Instances I viewed as mistakes or signs of incompetence were often not. At my current org, the person in the role most similar to the role that made me break down has the same difficulties I had. But there are a couple of differences–she has a supportive supervisor who can help her when things get to be too much and when there are issues, there are clear, dispassionate processes to follow. Whenever I had to deal with one of the issues she has, I would end up in a ball crying in my bed–she knows what happens next or can text her supervisor.

      Good luck. It is hard. It can get better.

      1. Half Sour Pickle*

        I’m really glad to hear so many voices where meds worked for them (and especially to make it through work!) I was not expecting to hear that, but I’m not feeling so much fear around my first appointment now. A lot of what you said struck me, especially the lack of specific training and being above your pay grade. And making leadership level decisions when you’re not on that team! It is terrifying and frustrating. My boss frames it as “This happened to me too! But you can figure it out.” without helping me figure it out at times. I understand not hand holding, which I’m not asking for, but just some guidance would be really nice sometimes. Thank you for sharing though, and I don’t know if I’ll find another job, but maybe I’ll make it through this in the meantime.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Your boss is so very NOT impressive. In many instances anxiety can go back to feeling UNsupported. To me it sounds like your boss has thrown you in the swimming pool and said, “Swimming is naturally instinctive. You will figure it out.” Meanwhile, here comes a tornado and you are supposed to figure it out.

          If she wants you to stay on at that job she needs to be more active in her role as a boss with you. Just because she was treated like crap does not give her the right to treat you like crap.

          It’s disgusting how many times I read here that people to go on meds because their employer is pulling down the person’s health so much. Your boss should be ashamed of herself.

    5. PolarVortex*

      Gods I’ve been through this, I have been you. And taking over that big project just caused more troubles.

      1) Talk with your manager, state the reason why you don’t want to take this on right now is due to medical issues and until that’s resolved you’d like to just continue to work on what you’ve got. (Feel free to be vague when you talk medical issues, but generally I find they suddenly become more accommodating once you mention that.)

      2) Please, please, please don’t be afraid of meds. You wouldn’t avoid aspirin (technically has side effects) when you’ve got a terrible headache. Or the side effects of heart medicine (can be absolutely terrible) if you have heart disease. Anxiety and depression are a medical issue and you might have to take meds to get through the worst of this.

      Meds are a game changer when the usual stuff isn’t working. You’re going to feel less anxious, you’re going be able to work through your issues in therapy easier and start taking next steps that you’ve struggled to take easier. When I was in your position, they helped me through the worst of that failure of a project I was forced to take on (and a complete break down in front of my boss) and made me successful enough despite that entire f*ck up that said boss actually was a reference for my application to my current employer several years ago.

      Meds aren’t going to make you an expert, they’re going to *empower* you to take the steps you’ve been paralyzed to take – whether that’s taking on the project, being emphatic in turning it down, or whatever else those steps may be.

      I’m not saying to not be aware of side effects because they can be serious, that’s why your doctor will check in regularly to ensure they’re actually working versus making things worse and why you might try a few different meds to see what works for you. And that’s why like any medicine you should follow directions like your life depends on it, and not stop taking them suddenly. They’re there to help you get over this hump and once things are “normal” again, you’ll be able to go off of them slowly and just do what you’ve been doing in therapy.

      But, truly I am happy to answer any questions about what it’s like going on meds if you have any. I’ve always been rather vocal about mental health and my own struggles with it, so I’ve got nothing to hide.

      1. Half Sour Pickle*

        Hi Polar, thank you so much for kind words and also just knowing that others have gone through this (and ended up OK) is a comfort in all this anxiety. I would actually love to ask you more questions about meds (not sure if it’s appropriate here, but if you need to email me instead, let me know!)

        I have made an appointment with a NP through my therapist’s workplace for medication evaluation. It’ll be about 90 minutes, and I’m not sure what exactly to say. I’m a little afraid that if I tell them the full gamut of my feelings, I’ll get some huge dose, when there are some days I’m ok. But the days I do not seem to be more often recently. What was your appointment like and what all did you tell them? Did you experience any side effects on your meds? The one I’m afraid of the most (which seems silly) is a loss of sex drive and weight gain, because my current anxiety already has effected that and I’m afraid meds will just make it all even worse. Also, I’m not sure if I should be researching types of medications to understand what might be a good fit for me, or if that’s pointless right now?

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          I went on meds in a similar situation. Think of them as training wheels. You still need to do the work of figuring out how to move forward, but the meds help stabilize you. There’s a bit more distance between the situation and your emotional response, such that your higher consciousness has more room to step back and say “nope, you’re catastrophizing / spiraling / etc, that’s not helpful, stop it”.

          Again, you’re still going to need to do something about it. If your situation has worn you down this badly, you’ll have to change something, or it will break you. But if you’re too worn down to figure out what to do and then execute the plan, meds can buy you that time.

          In my case, it was grad school. (Pro tip: do not disprove your advisor’s pet hypothesis!) I was falling apart; Zoloft was the duct tape that kept my soul together long enough for me to graduate. It was a temporary fix, but that’s what I needed.

          For the record, by the time I dragged myself to the doctor, I was so worn down and ashamed that I ugly-cried while trying to explain that I was depressed and wanted to try medication. Could barely get the words out. At least it was clear that I really could use some help?

          As for side effects, they’re no joke. I was stone cold asexual from the first dose, and did not have an orgasm for a full two years after stopping the medication. That’s why I stopped taking them as soon as I could – I have a partner, he didn’t sign up for that, and while I gave him my consent to use me as a blow-up doll or chase some tail elsewhere, he’s too polite and wouldn’t do it. I also lost serious weight when I started, because I had zero appetite. But when it was time to wean off, I was utterly ravenous – gained about 20 lbs in under a month before going on a strict diet and just dealing with the hunger. I weaned off very slowly, a quarter pill per week; I’ve heard very bad things from people who stopped cold turkey. I didn’t experience any rebound anxiety or weird neurological stuff, I was just hungry all the time.

          But I have much better career options now, because I kept it together and got my degree. So I don’t regret putting on the training wheels when I needed them.

    6. Thinking of you*

      So sorry you are going through this. And yes, many of us have been there too! I have depression and anxiety and a lot of the anxiety revolves around work, even when things are going okay. I have been on meds for a while and they DO help. They cannot fix your workplace but they help me get perspective, be more flexible, and be more confident in my decisions, and they lower the stress/panic considerably. I went off them for a while and realized I really need to be on them — and that’s ok. I have not had trouble with side effects — at least none that made it worth doing without them. You can always see how it goes (you have to give it time for the side effects to die down a bit) and change your mind if they aren’t for you. And maybe, yes, you might want to change jobs at some point, but it’s hard to make that decision when stuck in these feelings. Whatever you decide, I am sending you encouragement and assurance that you are not alone.

      1. Half Sour Pickle*

        Thank you <3 When you say give it time for side effects to die down a bit, about how long did it take for you? I know it's probably different for everyone, but knowing others experiences is a big help. I don't know anyone personally who is on anxiety or depression meds (or maybe they are–but don't want to share.) I appreciate your encouragement and letting me know I'm not alone, it really means a lot. Thank you.

        1. Thinking of you*

          Hi again,
          The first few weeks I had noticeable (but not terrible) side effects, but they went away. Also as to your question about your appointment with the med doctor, do be very honest with him/her. They won’t start you off on some gigantic dosage, more likely they will start smallish and then increase if you are not feeling better after they kick in (which can take weeks, though for me it was days). These folks (I’ve dealt with several) are generally cautious and also KIND. And you need kindness. And you deserve kindness. There IS a way through this and I applaud you doing therapy and considering other measures. It’s so hard to accomplish anything when feeling so pressured and down! But you are taking steps. Please remember to be proud of yourself. Also — if the first thing you try (if you do try meds) doesn’t work or has side effects you don’t like, you can try something else. That is very common, I’ve done so too. Feeling better includes experimenting to see what works, and that’s okay.

    7. Renee Remains the Same*

      I’ve been through similar situations at work. At least in terms of being extremely fearful of losing my job AND feeling largely paralyzed and unable to take action. I wish I had a pill to give you. The truth is medication will take some time to kick in, so it’s not going to give you the kind of support/boost you need in the immediate future.

      So, I’m going to tell you what might have helped me back in the day — looking back on it with older eyes and hindsight being 20/20. First, you are not terrible at your job. This is obvious by sheer nature of the fact that you’re being given an important assignment. Two (and this is important), you are not alone in doing this assignment. You have a boss, who presumably wants you to succeed. And three, I get the feeling that your fear and concern is not tangible, which makes it feel insurmountable. I think you’ll be better able to consider this path, if you can identify exactly what it is about the project that is making you terrified. Fear of failure is an overarching fear and it can cloud or overshadow the root cause of why you think you’ll fail. Is it because you don’t feel like you have the knowledge/skill? Are you concerned about not having support? Are you worried about doing or saying something that will disappoint others? ETc. You can create strategies to manage these kinds of scenarios (and others), which might help make things a little less frightening.

      1. Half Sour Pickle*

        Hi, this is actually comforting to have your perspective looking back on your own situation. I think on some level, I know I must be somewhat capable, but I don’t feel like I’m being set up for success (or setting my own self up for failure) because my boss is leaving soon and I am too afraid to ask for help again to her. I will try to create some strategies around it (maybe I’ll just have to lose some face and ask some clients to explain these things to me) or see if the higher ups have some resources for leadership training. If none of that works, well… I’m not sure what will happen but I will try. Thank you!

        1. Renee Remains the Same*

          I hear you. You don’t want to bother people and you don’t want folks to know what you don’t know. But here’s what I will say — particularly as I’m wearing my manager hat right now — there is no shame in saying you don’t know something. And as a manager, I would want to know what you don’t know, so that I can make sure you have what you need to do things well. I won’t lie that there are times when I get tired of questions, BUT BUT BUT BUT – I would rather be tired of questions than to get a frantic call or email about something that went wrong because my staffer was too scared to ask me a question. (To that end, if you can’t ask your boss, I would ask a colleague before you start sussing out information from clients…)

          My only other bit of advice is to write it all out for yourself. Break the project into sections, outline what needs to be done so you can see it all rather than feeling it’s an enormous storm cloud of TERROR. But also if your boss is leaving, it might be the perfect avenue to ask for a download/debrief of anything she can share before she goes. (Just prepare the questions you have for her in advance using your handy outline – even if it’s something like how she would handle a particular task or respond to a client or what have you, so it’s not a fruitless meeting)

          It’s hard to fight being overwhelmed. For me, I think it would have helped if I gave myself some clear tasks to support myself. But at the time, I was way too frightened about getting it ALL done, that I wasn’t focusing on getting the job done. I hope this is helpful. (I’m sorry, if I got a little guidance counselery on you – but I totally know where you’re coming from. And if any of this helps, I’m glad… otherwise consider it unsolicited advice from your grandma, I won’t be offended.)

    8. Carol*

      Hi–if your therapist is offering medication as a partial solution, based on your current state you are describing here, I would really encourage you to be open to trying some. I have always been resistant and finally went on anti-anxiety meds during a really rough time and it was an enormous, enormous help that I really really needed. It made a good 1.5 year stretch incredibly easier to get through. I’ve also done a couple of 6 month stints on different medication for other issues, and that really helped, too. As someone who hates to take meds, sometimes they really make a world of difference and help give some perspective.

      1. Half Sour Pickle*

        That is good to know how it helped you! I have been so resistant, yet if anyone came to talk to me about this, I’d be like heck yeah! Try it out. But for me, I’ve been so nervous. It sounds like you eventually stopped the meds? If you don’t mind sharing, how did you know it was time to come off them or go back on?

    9. Recyclops*

      Oh gosh, this is absolutely a thing. I was an administrative assistant and terrible at my job. I knew I wasn’t as fast-paced as the other admins and eventually had reactions that you’re describing, knowing that I was far, far behind in where I needed to be for what the role required. I *was* eventually diagnosed with ADHD and started taking medication which helped immensely, but I was still wholly unsuited to that particular job. I was eventually let go and was extremely relieved. Sometimes we’re just not suited to every job and that’s absolutely O.K. I agree that it’s probably time for you to start looking for something else.

  25. yala*

    I’m used to getting in trouble for things I’ve done wrong, but I HATE getting in trouble for things that I didn’t do.

    So, in my job as a Teapot Painter, I paint the designs on the teapots, then send them to my boss to check over. Once she’s done that, I fire them in the kiln.

    I got to my desk earlier this week to see some teapots for me to work on. Some of them had been painted and were ready to be fired. The others…hadn’t. I checked to make sure, but there wasn’t any paint on them at all. So I fired the painted teapots, then painted the other teapots and left them by my boss’s office to check.

    The next day, I get an email, asking why I’ve put those teapots by her desk to check, when she’d already checked them. I told her those weren’t the ones that had been checked. She that all the ones she’d put on my desk had been checked and were ready for the kiln. I reiterated that those hadn’t had any paint on them. She said that there’s paint on them, she can see it. I say yes, I painted them this week, you can check under the top, where we put the date that we start painting. She says again that all the designs were checked before she put them on my desk. By this point things, were a phone call, and it ended on a very…ominous note.

    So…I’m at sea.

    I have no idea how to prove that these teapots had not been painted when I found them on my desk this week. The date is under the top for this week. A lot of the teapots that WERE painted were the same style as most of the teapots that I painted this week, so it’s possible she just got them mixed up, and thought these were from that same batch. She says they were in the same area. But I don’t know WHAT she checked, because I’m at least 98% certain that I hadn’t painted these teapots before (she has accidentally erased some paint in the past, but I don’t think that happened this time), and I am 100% certain that there was no paint on them when I got the batch this week.

    I also know that I can’t defend myself too vigorously, because the last time something similar happened, even when I found proof, I was still written up for my bad attitude (“I know what I know” was too hostile/insubordinate a thing to say, and as that’s the most polite way I can think of to say “I am absolutely certain of this, and I know you’re saying otherwise, but this is a question of a thing *I* experienced, and I know what happened while I was working on it.”

    So…now I’m dreading our next interaction, and I legit don’t know how to handle this. At all.

    1. yala*

      Also, I guess it kind of extra stings, because I was really proud of how quickly I’d turned around these teapots.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I wish I had advice for you since this happened to me last week, but I don’t.

      I found out that someone complained to the governor of my state that they didn’t receive their documentation. (I should mention that mail is constantly lost in my job. We mail large documents, can’t afford tracking numbers, and things are lost no matter what I do on my own on proofreading addresses and making other special arrangements so that they will not get lost. Makes me crazy.) I don’t know what the heck went on with whoever answered the phone when they called and what this person was told, but I wasn’t informed of any of it until it went to the governor. I was specifically told that the entire thing was my fault even though I literally knew nothing about this, wasn’t told about it, and I wasn’t even the one that mailed it in the first place. I was forced to write a letter of apology, of course I got written up, and lectured at for as long as they could get away with. Like you, there was no evidence of this. I only found evidence that someone else mailed it in the first place, as I have had to delegate physical mailings to others in the pandemic. Neither the person who mailed it nor the phone answerer were asked about this, because it was All My Fault because I’m the one that has to order the documents.

      All you can do is say “yes, it’s my fault,” apologize a lot, and eat shit. If they’ve already decided you’re guilty, and evidence means nothing, you can’t get out of this. You’re going to lose no matter what here. The best you can do is to lose fast and get it over with, rather than dragging it out by trying to defend yourself, which as you have said, gets you labeled with “bad attitude.” Submit, submit, and eat shit. That’s all I got for you.

      Oh yeah, and apparently all the phone answerers tell people that documents get lost, because they do, and I was told that this is also all my fault because I tell everyone they get lost. I will note that I asked one of them the next day if they got this impression only because of me, and she was all “LOL nope, we get complaints all the time.”

    3. CheeryO*

      I would try to let this one go. You’ve already pushed back pretty hard, and she’s either confused or just not willing to admit that she made a mistake. If you keep trying to escalate things, you’re bound to get disciplined again.

      If it happens again, I’d just explain yourself once, fully and in a firm but not aggressive tone. Something like: “Sorry for the confusion. The ones that I put back on your desk actually hadn’t been painted yet, so I painted them and put them back for you to check. They’re the ones with this week’s date on them.”

      If she tries to argue with you, you don’t have to fight back OR accept blame for something you didn’t do. Just say something like, “I’m pretty sure they didn’t already have paint on them, but either way, would you mind giving them a quick check so I can fire them and get them out the door?” If she’s remotely reasonable, she’ll see that as a cue to just check the damn pots to keep things moving.

      1. yala*

        To be clear, I’d love to let this one go. What I’m worried about is that SHE won’t let it go. That she’ll formally reprimand me, and put this on my file. If we have our regular meeting, and absolutely nothing about this is mentioned, I would be thrilled. But I’m anxious about her bringing it up, and saying it an example of me not paying attention/following directions, and possibly even use it as a mark against me on my annual evaluation.

        Which is basically what she did the last time. The whole incident strung out for MONTHS, any time those teapot patterns resurfaced, and was a key reason I didn’t pass my eval.

        1. CheeryO*

          Got it. If she dings you for the perceived mistake rather than your attitude/response to the situation, I think you need to try to go over her head and explain the situation to her boss. She shouldn’t be able to discipline you for a mistake that you didn’t make, especially when it doesn’t seem like it really had any impact on the final product.

        2. PollyQ*

          If this is a recurring issue, then sad to say, I think you need to start looking to leave, either to another position within this company or a different company. Working with a boss who’ll penalize you for mistakes you haven’t made can only do you harm. And I would say that even if you had been wrong in this case, putting it on your evaluation and holding against you is a major overreaction.

    4. pbnj*

      Not much help for this incident, but you might have to be less proactive going forward with this boss. If it happens again, let her know that some of teapots on your desk were unpainted, and then ask her if they want you to paint the teapots. Go with malicious compliance.

      Also is this boss new to the company? Just curious what is your boss’s deal.

      1. Quinalla*

        Agreed, if your boss does try to ding you for this, then if something weird happens, you bring it to boss immediately and ask for direction and reference this incident saying you don’t want any further miscommunication or whatever she calls it.

        For what it is worth, this is utterly ridiculous to have to do, but with a boss that wants to sabotage you or just has a bad memory and won’t take your word for it, you have to protect yourself.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        So agree. Intervene in the problem earlier than you did this time. Take a picture of any more unpainted teapots on your desk and send it to her. OR ask her what she would like with the unpainted teapots you now have on your desk.

        This round is a loss and I’d let it go as such. Typically, the way I would handle it is to work in a collaborative manner with the boss. So here I would say, “Somehow, I ended up with unpainted pots on my desk. The next time this happens I am going to loop you in sooner and we can figure out where the unpainted pots came from.”
        The subtly here is that this side-steps all the arguing over which pots had previously been submitted and which pots had not been submitted. It usually give the boss cause to pause because typically this is NOT what an employee thinks of to say- they usually defend themselves or apologize. They don’t say, “Uh, I think we have a problem here. Something else is going on.” And they def don’t ask the boss to work together to figure out what’s up.

        As it stands now, I would reopen the conversation by saying, “I have thought about this situation a lot since we last spoke. I am concerned that unpainted teapots are getting pushed in with the painted teapots and I would like to find out why. So the next time there are unpainted teapots on my desk, I am going to let you know in the moment and we can try to trace it back to the origin of the problem.”

        I had a boss who I did this with almost every other day. She was not a good boss. Things got messed up all. the. time. I refused to take the blame and I refused to feel blamed when I did not cause the problem. In a very dry, almost analytical approach I would say, “Well I think something went wrong here because for whatever reason unpainted teapots ended up on my desk. I think we need to find out why this is happening.”
        I did use the pronouns “we” and “our” a lot to make it sound inclusive and less threatening.

    5. Jessi*

      This doesn’t help you now, but can you take pictures? Or screenshots?

      Then you could have emailed “here’s the product I received, as you can see half the teapots had no paint but I’ve worked very quickly to get them painted and once they’ve been checked I can fire them”

    6. RagingADHD*

      Are there no records of how many teapots were in the batch she checked, and how many you fired?

      Like, if she left 20 checked, and you fired 20 and painted 10, then obviously these are a new batch.

      If she left 20 that she believed were checked, and you fired 10 and painted 10, then apparently some unpainted ones got through and she made a mistake. I’d suggest you come up with a recordkeeping strategy, like logging total received, total painted, total checked, and total fired.

      Creating a strategy would also work if you just can’t figure out what happened.

      Either way, you could address it head on by saying, “Sorry about the mix-up over that batch of teapots. I looked into what happened…”

      Then if it’s clearly a different batch, you can say, “I think we were just talking at cross purposes. I fired the whole batch you checked, and this was a new batch.”

      If she accidentally passed unpainted ones, or if you don’t know, you don’t have to say that if you think it will antagonize her. Just show your new strategy to help keep track, to avoid it happening again.

      This changes your position from being defensive to being proactive and responsible, which is always an advantage in dealing with annoyed managers. Even if it wasn’t your fault, you LOOK more responsible by preventing misatkes (including other people’s mistakes).

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

      Unlike with actual teapots, do your ‘teapots’ have any kind of history / change tracking associated to them which could show that they were plain until you painted them on X date?

      Are there other people painting and firing teapots alongside you, is it possible that they could have swapped some of their own plain teapots for your painted ones so that they had something to work on, for example?

      “I know what I know” is one of those statements that can have a whole gamut of meanings / ways they get interpreted. It’s not necessarily that “I know what I know” is intrinsically hostile and/or insubordinate but it is possible to say it in that way (or, alternatively, for someone to take it as hostile/insubordinate even if it wasn’t, which I suspect could be what actually happened here, and if that’s the case then your alternate wording would likely also be taken that way, probably with a side of ‘OP tried to disguise the hostile message but failed’..!! For what it’s worth I would generally take “I’m certain of this…” etc as less ‘hostile’ than a blunt “I know what I know”, although I realize they mean the same thing!)

      I’m worried by the way you characterise the situation as being used to getting “in trouble” for things you’d done wrong. We all make mistakes at work of course, sometimes egregious ones and sometimes not really significant any further than “I didn’t agree with the way you handled case X so in future, when you see situation Y please handle it like this” “ok, sorry, noted and I will make sure to review next time situation Y happens” or whatever.

      I wonder if you are ‘used to’ getting in trouble based on patterns set by this boss or whether it is a deeper / more persistent pattern?

      1. yala*

        Nah, the teapots themselves are physical items, tho the painting isn’t. So there’s really only recorded history of when they got painted (but potentially a teapot could have been painted twice, though in this case, I would’ve found that when I sat down to paint it).

        In terms of the “I know what I know” it probably wasn’t the best statement, but I’d tried explaining that I was certain. This was after several months of being repeatedly asking “why did you do this?” [Answer] “Are you sure that’s why?” [yes] “Are you sure that’s why?” [yes] “But that can’t have happened. So why did you do this?”
        Granted, “I know what I know” certainly didn’t solve the problem either. I definitely let my frustration get the better of me, but the whole situation was so hostile to begine with.

        It’s based on patterns set by this boss. We don’t exactly have a great relationship. There were some miscommunications early on that created a bad tone, some cliquishness in the department itself, and my own untreated ADHD (that I have since been treating and improving on). The thing is, I really love painting teapots, and this is basically the only place anywhere near me where I could do it. Every job’s got that One Thing you have to deal with, and this is mine.

  26. JustaTech*

    Question about how to address a coworker’s complaints that I don’t engage with her conversations about her personal life enough.

    Context: Betty and I are the only people left on our team, and we report to Bob. we each have our own projects, but we also *must* work together in the lab for those projects to work. This involves long hours in close proximity, so it’s important that we get along. Normally we do get along fine to great, though Betty is more extroverted and I’m more introverted.

    Problem: Last night Betty and I had a text conversation about why she couldn’t do a thing for me (and I said several times that it was fine, other work had come up that was more important). Then Betty said something about taking part of Friday off. I assumed this was the end of the conversation (it was after work hours) and wished her a good evening. Then she texted something about her apartment move-out. I did not respond to that text (I was in the middle of baking), but I did read it.
    Half an hour later she texts me again that it’s really rude that I just stop responding whenever she texts about her personal life. I said I was cooking and she said I should have replied “busy”, and that I do this at work over IM as well.

    And she’s right. Some times when she starts talking about her personal life, especially her apartment move and her very protracted house hunting, I don’t respond, or mostly respond with “neat” or “cool”, basically the IM equivalent of a verbal “mm hmm”. Sometimes this is because I’m busy, but often it’s because I just don’t want to put the energy into talking about house hunting (I spent a year house hunting back 2018-2019 and I’m still over thinking about it).

    And I will fully admit that I haven’t been clear enough that I don’t want texts on the weekends/evenings (I have said this, and she’s acknowledged it, but they keep coming). And when confronted with texts about, say, a former coworker she was friends with until he said some racist things about her then-boyfriend, I don’t know how to say “I don’t want to talk about Fred, and weren’t *you* the one who cut him off?”, so I just don’t respond.

    I get that she’s lonely in this pandemic, but right now, between the pandemic and the winter gloom, I am just exhausted and I don’t have the energy to pretend to be excited or outraged at the happenings at the farm that fostered her dog, or her wackadoo brother’s tax woes.

    So, do I apologize for not being more responsive? Explain that I’m really just worn out (and hope she doesn’t go telling half the building that I’m severely depressed)? Explain in the moment that I don’t want to hear about Fred, but tell me more about what cute thing her dog did today? Turn off read notifications for my texts with her? Put my foot down (again) that I don’t like to text and I try to keep it for urgent stuff?

    1. Ashley*

      I would just institute a no phone rule after hours and tell her you have been so drained with ‘waves hand at the world’ you are putting away your phone at night and limiting use on the weekends. For the during the day I would resort to the I have X to finish and need to focus. It is probably good to have a big picture discussion about work friendships but she make not take that well so I get not wanting to do that, but if she brings it up again I would give an honest response because she gave the opening.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yeah, the whole “I think of her as a work friend and she thinks of me as a friend-friend” thing is eventually going to come up and I just hope it isn’t while we’re stuck in the lab at 3am.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Since you have to work together well in close proximity, I’d try to take a relational approach. Can you explain to her that you need evenings and weekends to yourself, and so you’re just not available for anything except urgent work matters, BUT that you like to chat sometimes during the work day? Maybe if you follow up occasionally during the times that are best for you, then she won’t feel so shut out.

      She’s wrong, of course, to pester you during your time off, but I can see how a lonely extroverted person could feel a bit rejected if they’re chatting away and then you don’t respond to them. I think being clear upfront might make it easier for her. And then when she does intrude on your off time, you could respond with “this is really interesting, I’d love to hear more on Monday.”

    3. Workerbee*

      You weren’t being rude at all. It’s okay not to respond instantly to someone’s every thought. Your “good evening” was an equivalent of hanging up the phone, and if anything, Betty’s the rude one insisting on ignoring that and continuing to take up your time. Work communication is NOT automatically the same as personal communication.

      You could say, once, that you are no longer available for weekend or evening texts (I don’t actually know how to word it or how much to say—you’re implementing a plan to leave work at work?), and then the real kicker is you follow through. Don’t engage. Even a one-syllable response to a personal text will teach her that you didn’t mean it.

      Work stuff can be communicated via email. And it’s on Betty to manage her feelings and responses to your exceedingly reasonable request.

      1. Asenath*

        I would like to agree (and emphasize) how important it is not to respond at all once you’ve told her that you don’t do personal texts. Even responding “busy” as she seems to think you should is encouraging her to text you about her move, etc.

      1. introverted af*

        +1,000,000 this

        I know people use them, but I can never hardly think of reasons why. If she asks why, you can say it’s part of your growing exasperation with (waving hands at the world right now) and you got rid of them for everyone (which frankly I would also recommend)

    4. Weekend Please*

      Don’t apologize. Then she feels vindicated. Instead agree with her that you don’t respond to personal texts and remind her that you told her not to text you after hours or on weekends unless it is urgent.

    5. Malarkey01*

      I’d do a combination of things

      Turn off the read notice (it’s the devil anyway)
      Tell her your caving out a better balance of time and want to be off screens evenings/weekends and then mute her those times so you aren’t tempted to respond
      On work IMs I have someone I type “well back to the grind” when I need to wrap up and get back. Just so there’s an end to the back and forth (I’m normally like you and just stop replying when done so this helps with a particular person who doesn’t read that sign)
      But, to offset that I think you should carve out a little work time (lunch, coffee break, 10 minutes of downtime) and proactively ask about those topics. That way you’re still warm and friendly, but it’s at more designated times and helps ensure your work relationship can stay positive and functional even though you really don’t care about the house/boyfriend/llama business.

    6. Choggy*

      She told you it was really rude to not respond to her text? Oh, yeah, definitely time to lock this down. You have nothing to apologize for, your time is your own to do with what you want, she can’t control that.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Getting along at work doesn’t mean you have to constantly caretake her emotions.

      You can say nicely, in person, that for you texting and IM as real-time social conversations just don’t work for you. You reserve texting for urgent problems, so she should expect that sometimes there will be long delays between messages, and some will go unanswered.

      Or, as others said, you can shut down the personal stuff altogether.

      You don’t have to be her BFF just because she wants that, but you also have to accept that it will hurt her feelings to a certain extent. You just have to let her not like it. You can’t make her be happy about it.

      But she is a grownup and you should be able to expect that she will cope and get over it.

      There have been some good responses from Alison to questions about clingy coworkers or those who want to be closer than you do.

      1. JustaTech*

        Caretaking her emotions is right.
        When our third coworker was laid off over the summer I was sad to see her go, but I did think “at least now I won’t have to manage Betty and her emotions and inevitable emotional kurfluffels”.

        Except I did when Betty got all upset that LaidOff coworker “was snippy” over text when Betty asked how the job search was going. (I’d have been snippy too!)

        I don’t mind all the personal stuff, although occasionally Betty has shared other people’s very serious traumas with me when I did not ask and would *really* have rather not known. It’s just a case of “please ease off” that’s so hard to say kindly.

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

      Oh dear! As an extrovert surrounded by introverts all my life including my partner I can somewhat identify with Betty’s behaviour, not the feelings so much though and I would not respond with something like “I thought it was really rude that you just stop responding” (even if I might think it from time to time).

      I think there’s 3 possibilities here:
      – (As you identified) Betty is “lonely in this pandemic” and doesn’t have many people to reach out to. (Hypothesis: maybe she has reached out to people, and worn out most of them?!)
      – Betty thinks y’all are ‘closer’ friends than the way you see it, so from her perspective it’s hurtful when she goes into more personal stuff and you just do the ‘mm-hmm’.
      – She’s feeling extra anxiety right now and reaching out increasingly (I can identify with this) due to the uncertainty. You said that you and Betty are “the only people left on your team” so can I take it that there used to be more people but they were laid off, potentially due to the pandemic, and you two are the only ‘survivors’, or at least that something has happened where there used to be other people in the team but they haven’t been replaced.

      I think approaching it from the perspective of you need to “apologize for not being more responsive” isn’t the best way — primarily because you haven’t done anything wrong and don’t have anything to genuinely apologize for. And also, any apology is only meaningful if it has the corollary of “things will change in the future” and if anything that just sets you up for more unmeetable expectations! So (I mean this in a good natured way) I feel like you are asking the wrong question in “how do I apologize”.

      I think what you really need to be asking / acting on is “how do I assert myself more with Betty” (to which other people have given some good answers). You characterise it as “put your foot down” but yes, I think that is the right approach.

      Sorry if this comes off as patronising, it isn’t intended to be. But you said explicitly that you find her draining (and I can quite understand why!) and don’t really want to get into those personal conversations about dogs, ex-boyfriends, moving day or whatever… It isn’t rude to stick to work topics only. (How did she get your number, anyway?) You aren’t obligated to listen to this sort of stuff from someone ‘by default’ and only be able to get out of it for some legit reason like being very busy, worn out, etc. You don’t have to “apologize” in the way that I think you mean it (rather than just a bland, polite apology) for not being available!

      “I don’t want to hear about Fred, but tell me more about what cute thing her dog did today?” For this type of person that won’t work, because whatever they want to talk about (Fred) is ‘the agenda’ for that moment, if you let it.

      I understand that it’s difficult because you are co-workers — I expect you wouldn’t have much problem saying to a friend (who doesn’t work with you) “I don’t want to talk about Fred, and weren’t *you* the one who cut him off?” if you had reached the end of your rope with that.

      If you don’t have a work-related reason to need to exchange texts with her, I would agree with turning off read notifications yes.

      1. JustaTech*

        So, yes to all three at once.
        Weirdly the Fred thing came up this morning, and I said I was surprised they were still friends, and then she said “aren’t you friends?” and I laughed to myself and said, no, we were never friends, we were friendly-at-work and on the social committee together. This seemed to be a revelation to her, that I could be genuinely jovial with someone but not actually friends with them. (Fred’s exactly the kind of person I wouldn’t be friends with in my non-work life, but is fun and entertaining and the ‘life of the party’ so there was no reason not to hang out at work social stuff.)

        So hopefully I’ve planted the seed that I might be friendly with someone without being friends. (This has also come up in the context of our laid-off coworker, that no, I don’t text with her, we were work friends.)

        As to why Betty has my phone number: sometimes lab stuff comes up last minute where I might need to let her know something *this instant*, and visa versa. We’ve also traveled together for work, so we needed to be able to get a hold of each other for coordinating that too.

        Next week I’ll make time to talk about how, with everything going on *waves hands*, I really, really need to disconnect from work and work people at the end of the day/week, and even when she texts me funny things, it still drags me back to work-mode, so I won’t be responding to non-emergency texts until the next workday.

        1. Storm in a teacup*

          Maybe one thing you could chat to her about at work is mention a TED talk on introverts vs extroverts and say you’d like her thoughts on it. It would open the conversation about how you’re both quite different personalities.
          I mention this as we had a similar conversation at work recently and it really made some people who are quite extrovert realise that not everyone is chatty and some really need time alone to recharge. Framing it this way I feel would make it less personal to her if you put down boundaries and maybe also give her some insights too

  27. another pm*

    I’m looking for advice on how to manage, both practically and mentally, a huge project. The project is central to one of my office’s main duties. It’s not literally life or death (which is important to remember), but if it goes poorly it’ll have major, long-term consequences for my office and the area we serve. This isn’t my first time managing a project (though I’m not a professional pm), but it’s my first time doing something of this scope and having a co-project manager.

    I’m looking for:
    1) advice on how the project team (my co-manager and me) can keep track of our ever-changing task list, schedule, notes, decisions, etc. Ideally using the Microsoft suite–I know there’s fancy software for that, but we can’t buy anything and we wouldn’t have time to learn it anyway. Right now I have a bullet journal-style daily list and several Word docs and tables…it works but it’s not very efficient.

    2) advice on how to deal mentally…some days I look at my task list and my brain turns to high-pitched static. (Most of my mental aaaa is due to the pandemic, not this project, but I still need to run the project!) I’m losing productivity and focus. Everyone else is working extra hard so we have time to work on this, and I feel guilty when I don’t use that time well. Our hard deadline is far enough away that I can’t work this hard until then (I’m very tired), but close enough that I can’t really let up.

    1. Captain Raymond Holt*

      Microsoft Teams has a planner in it that I’ve used and it works pretty well if you can’t afford something fancier. It also connects with To Do, so you can put your personal To Do items in To Do and see your project items with your personal To Do items. I personally rely on To Do a lot. I like the “My Day” feature where I can put a few tasks in there to focus on during the day. It makes things feel more realistic and doable. That could help your burnout feeling

      Trello is also free up to a point, and could be worth considering.

      1. Captain Marvel*

        I second the Planner recommendation. I use it all the time because, like you, we need to use Microsoft Suite at our organization.
        It’s fairly intuitive- you can add files, checklists, labels, notes, dues dates. You can even copy the tasks you put on there if you have repetitive ones. I’m not even working on a project, but I use it to assign people stuff I need from them to keep my role running smoothly. It’s worked out great for me.

    2. Ashley*

      Any document that either of you can update and see what the other has done is super helpful in my experience. I am a huge list person and honestly have found a good old fashioned spreadsheet works best for me. Personally i look google drive sheets because of accessibility from anywhere and some tracking features on changes.

    3. Historic Hamlet Dweller*

      In addition to Planner there’s also MS Lists which might be more up your street as you can add notes and status updates and priorities and…. All sorts. We use both, but I prefer Lists for complex stuff

    4. Hillary*

      on 1 – there are a lot of great free excel templates, which I sometimes prefer because I have a data/finance background. I use excel for some things even though I have access to multiple PM software options.

      for 2, it sounds silly, but don’t look at the whole list. Break it down into recurring tasks and other components and schedule them. on Mondays I do status updates in the morning and update the tasks & gantt charts in the afternoon. Tuesday I do this, and so on. Friday afternoon I catch up on email.

      Also please schedule your breaks and take them. You’ll be more productive if you take time to eat lunch away from your computer and (go for a quick walk, do yoga, whatever) every day.

    5. Waffle Cone*

      Asana is web-based, and free (up to a certain number of users) and integrates well with MS Suite. It’s helpful for mapping projects with dependencies, subtasks, etc. It also auto-generates a report that shows the project progress, number of outstanding tasks, etc. If you’re not familiar with traditional PM software, I’d give Asana a try. The UI is very easy to navigate and it’s pretty intuitive. There are also tons of free PM reference documents online to help you map out things like stakeholder registers, communication plans, budgets, scope of work, etc. Good luck!

    6. another pm*

      Thanks for all the suggestions! It turns out we don’t have the Microsoft products suggested (which is too bad, they sound useful), so I’ll check out the spreadsheet templates.

      That’s a good reminder about taking breaks… It’s so easy to think “well I spent fifteen minutes waffling between tasks, that was my break!” Gah. I’ll try to stop that and *actually* disconnect more often.

    7. The New Wanderer*

      Some potential advice on the mental challenge – get comfortable with delegating. I’m managing two teams with similar work statements but different areas of focus. I’ve been doing this for ~4 months and just last night came to the realization that I better start delegating more work or the projects will miss deadlines and I’ll burn out. I realized I had a mindset to retain the things that I personally initiated (as in, I promised to do X and Y) or were mostly administrative and not a mindset that I was “allowed” to assign the work to others even though I am a team lead. Everyone on my teams reports to different managers and have other projects going so it was hard to keep track of all that, and many people really are at max capacity and can’t do more, but I realized I wasn’t even asking. So, I sent a note to one team this morning basically saying I have two items that need doing and asking who had bandwidth. Both were claimed within the hour and already I feel more relaxed.

      Since you have a co-manager, be sure that your areas of responsibility are clearly understood – what are they in charge of, what are you in charge of. Be proactive about parsing work out and having it owned by people who aren’t you. I definitely feel like other people are working way harder than me so I’m reluctant to ask them to do more, but I also cannot do it all.

      Also, some of my projects have come to the realization that our meetings need to be working meetings. Everyone has so many meetings that no one has time to work ahead, and the primary way to get things done is set aside dedicated meeting time and do it in real time. It doesn’t sound very efficient, but it’s better than trading overlapping emails, which half the group either misses or doesn’t have time to read or respond, and most meetings ended up being recaps of what happened last time anyway. If you don’t need to do stuff with a team, set meetings for yourself that are dedicated times to work on X or Y.

      Finally, I know for me, I use my spare time between meetings just trying to recover from each meeting. I actually typed “waste my spare time” first but honestly, it’s not a waste. I cannot focus effectively for 8 straight hours; recovery time is not optional. If you’re losing focus, give yourself permission to take a break with the understanding that when you’re able to resume you’ll do better and feel better.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I’ll take a stab at #2 with the loss of productivity or focus.

      #1. Some days are just better productivity wise than other days. It’s really not possible to have the same level of productivity every single day. If you just accept this, you will find that you can make wiser use of the slower days and use the time to actually get yourself into a good position for the next day.

      #2. Small things become big hurdles. So I am supposed to be sorting files. Looking around me, I see piles of stuff to shred. I have a pile of empty folders so big that it is falling over and the folders are all over the place. Then I have a pile of stuff that needs to go to the garbage can waaaaay over there. Oh yeah, then there are a few files that need special attention but some how they got mixed in with the files that were in the wrong drawer and need to be rehomed. Crap, now the phone is ringing.

      This is a day where I just need to clean up what is in process. I need to get rid of the garbage, put away the stacks of files that are falling over. There are just too many small things left undone and they are actually in my way of doing more. It takes hours to do all this and my so-called productivity plummets. It’s actually a regrouping of sorts and the next day I find I am back to my usual productive self.

      #3.Sometimes we have to redefine what productivity actually is. It’s easy to take entire portions of a task and randomly decide that portion is not relevant. Noooo, that’s not true, it’s part of the actual task. Sorting the file drawers actually means throwing things away and shredding. I have to stop to do that or I will get crushed by the landslide of Paper Mountain.

      #4 Self-care. You know if we were training for a marathon, we’d be all about rest, good food, proper hydration and so on. But we don’t do this for work and work projects, yet, isn’t work a marathon but a different type of marathon? If I am skimping on meals or skipping meals, not resting at night, not hydrating then it’s really not reasonable for me to expect to be highly productive day in and day out. Here’s the tricky part, big projects at work tend to absorb all of our brain space and there’s nothing left for our very own selves. Good use of down time is as important as good use of work time. Don’t do so much at work that there is nothing left of you to use to take care of yourself when you get home. Find a pace that is sustainable over the long haul and aim for that pacing each day or week.

    9. another pm*

      <3 thank you two for the wonderful, thoughtful answers on the mental front. I will try to absorb these over the weekend.

  28. Captain Party*

    How do I politely ask a boss “For how long do I have to keep doing this extra task?”
    During July 2020, as a newbie to the office, I was voluntold to be the office welfare planner. Basically, I am in charge of ALL office parties, office gifts and such. It takes up a lot of time, and I still have to do my normal job on top of it. Not to mention the pandemic situation makes what is otherwise a very simple event SO much more exhausting. Just recently, I had to organise three office wide giveaways back to back to back. Before I can even take a breather from the Christmas and New Year giveaway, my boss is asking me what my plans are for the February and March giveaway. I am exhausted and it’s making my job hell. I am also constantly worried that spending time on these things makes my boss think negatively of my performance, because welfare duties isn’t my “real work”.
    Is there anyway to ask my boss, politely, how long I have to keep doing this work?

    1. Ashley*

      I would phrase as how it is impacting your work on getting X, Y and Z done and how you should prioritize. At some point if you can have a conversation about it a suggested solution would be to alternate months with someone or with the giveaways as a whole as a slow fade maybe.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I wouldn’t ask, per se. I’d tell your boss that this extra work is making it difficult to keep on top of your other duties. And when you’re asked “what are you doing for February and March,” say “I haven’t even thought about them yet – I’ve been concentrating on the TPS reports. Is there anyone else who could lend a hand?” But you also have to consider that maybe they actually meant for this to be part of your job. Do you know who did it before you came along?

      1. Firecat*

        This. Unfortunately.

        I was hired for programming and analytics experience. I now spend 90% of my day filling out forms. The person in this role before me filled out those forms too. It wasn’t on the job description because it isn’t important work to our team but it hands down takes up most of my time.

    3. MissGirl*

      Maybe I’m missing context, but why would it be impolite to say, “Manager, how long do expect me to handle these duties?” Then see what they say. If it’s not a clear timeline then start a conversation about priorities.

    4. TheAG*

      Out of curiosity, are you female (don’t answer if you don’t want to) but if you are and depending on the makeup of the rest of the staff, you could bring it up that women are often asked to do such work and the impacts it can have on them/their careers. Of course whether that will have impact or not depends on the culture you work in.
      Google “women planning parties at work”.

    5. ronda*

      The other way to get out of it is to start doing it really badly.

      Think of how terribly it could go and try that. :)

  29. Copycat*

    Do any of you guys also have problems accurately voicing your work issues to your managers?
    I find I often do this. Like, when I am doing the work itself, I would feel anxiety and stress because of a variety of issues. But when my boss asks me if I have problems (e.g. when he notices I am troubled or during performance review and such), I end up minimising my problems to assure them everything is fine. I think it’s a combination of
    1) not willing to throw my colleagues under the bus
    2) afraid that complaining will get me in trouble
    3)retroactively thinking the stress I suffered isn’t a big deal
    4)past experience telling me that boss will just tell me to suck it up.
    I often end up gritting my teeth and just bearing through with my problems. Would it be good for me if I learn to voice my issues much better? How do you guys usually do it?

    1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      It depends on your manager, of course, but I’d put my issues in a clear format- like, Situation, Blockers, What I’ve Tried, What Help I Need. Make it as impersonal as possible!

    2. yala*

      I wish I knew! For me, it seems like anything I say is always taken in the worst way possible, and while I’m told to ask questions if I need help, asking the wrong question can get me faced with a Bad Mood. So I try to need help as little as possible, but that doesn’t really make anything better.

      If your boss doesn’t actively dislike you tho, maybe it would be helpful to have some regular check-in meetings once a month or so, so you can have some time in advance to put your thoughts together. While you’re stressed over the issues, in the moment and all, try writing down exactly what is stressing you out at that moment so you have it concrete, in black and white. When it’s over (in that spot where you’d be retroactively thinking that it wasn’t a big deal), take a look at your list/write up, and see if there’s anything you could do, or request, in the future that might help minimize similar stressors the next time around.

      Good luck!

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I actually DO get in trouble for complaining, and sometimes suck it up is the only option, so…

      This depends entirely on your manager, I think. Some will be easy to deal with and some won’t. I don’t know how yours is–if he’s legitimately a problem or if you’re just shellshocked from previous bosses, though. If someone’s receptive, obviously it’s safer to speak up. But in some cases, it really just is not safe to.

      In your case, do you think well of your boss? Do you think he really means it when he asks or is it lip service? How does he behave if others speak up?

    4. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Woah! I have this problem a lot. My whole work life is a clusterfuck and I can’t break the problems down into chunks so I end up not talking about them

    5. SansaStark*

      I agree that this is 100% a know-your-manager situation. In the past I worked for people who actively did not want to provide any type of support/help to their staff so asking for help was frowned on. My current manager is so much better about being open to questions and requests for help. It took me a long time to trust that he meant it (long enough for him to basically put ‘ask for help when you need it’ in my performance review bc I just couldn’t shake the old habits). Now that I feel safer, I tend to go to him when I can tell that I’m going to spend an inordinate amount of time solving a problem or when I just have a feeling that there might be a better way to do something that I’m struggling with.

      As for the not throwing someone under the bus – I always try to give the person a heads-up that they’re creating an issue for me (politely/professionally of course) but if I can’t get that resolved on my end, I’ll let me boss know in a really matter-of-fact way. I try to approach it by assuming that my coworker has a ton of other things on their plate that I don’t know about. That makes me feel less jerky about having to tell my boss about it, but also gives him the info he needs.

    6. Lolly and the Adverbs*

      I’m sure I do probably do this because I’m a people-pleasing type of person. I did eventually politely flip out on the boss a couple of weeks ago after holding it in for so long. I’m almost always busy. I’ve got my work, work assigned by the bosses, and then coordination with coworkers. I’m constantly interrupted while working and my bosses have acknowledged this, but have done nothing to change the situation (they’re often the ones interrupting me). When my boss questioned me on something (inconsequential, more of a house-keeping type of project), I explained that I just hadn’t had time to work on it (in three years). They went on to explain to me that I should work on projects like that little bits at a time. I hadn’t had any spare time in over 3 months and previous opportunities of spare time were spent doing other tasks that had been put off. Still, in my flip, I failed to bring up the fact that I’d been constantly busy, and instead complained about how I’ve had do so many of these inconsequential projects which were a result of other people dropping the ball and had just reached my limit.
      I also have a co-worker who does this often. When several vendors, over a period of time, refused to do work with us anymore because of missed or late payments, coworker didn’t want to be blunt enough to relay the complaints to the boss. In another situation, boss had also asked coworker if they would do task x, if it became necessary. Coworker told me repeatedly that they didn’t feel comfortable doing task x. I brought this to the attention of the big bosses. Biggest boss said, “if coworker doesn’t feel comfortable doing it, they shouldn’t have to do it.” But, the minute the task became necessary, boss asked coworker to do it anyway. Coworker immediately agreed to do it. Apparently coworker had been telling boss all along, “I don’t feel comfortable doing it, but will do it if you need me to.”
      So, don’t hold it in, you don’t want to get to the point where you flip out on your boss–that doesn’t usually go nicely. This forum always has some great scripts on how to approach your manager with seemingly difficult discussions.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Sometimes it’s an issue of blanking when you feel put on the spot, or not knowing how to word it. Could you prepare what you want to say, knowing he’s going to ask again, or could you schedule time to talk and then plan what to say, starting with,
      “I glossed over some issues recently because I wasn’t sure how to frame it. But now that I’ve gathered my thoughts, there is a recurring problem with …”

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Start small. Take one of your on-going and smaller concerns and ask the boss for help finding a solution.

      I find that if I routinely ask about this or that, some of the other things on my list just fix themselves in the process of fixing the thing I asked about. I am surprised by how often this happens.
      In response to your list of reasons:
      1) If it’s true that a cohort did something wrong, that is on them not you. You can avoid naming names by choosing how you present a problem. “I am having difficulty with X. I see some people do ABC, I have been doing DEF. Am I doing it incorrectly, or did something change?”

      2) Are you complaining or are you seeking a solution. Nothing wrong with raising an issue in effort to solve it.

      3) It’s actually a good thing to find out that you do not have to stress out over a particular thing so much. Just vow not to get stressed over that thing again. And strengthen your promise to yourself to find more ways of dealing with the different stresses you are facing.

      4) Just as you want a chance to prove you are a good employee, you kind of have to let the boss have a chance at proving they are a good boss. It’s actually a two way street there. That sucks. But it brings me back to go to the boss with a smaller type of problem and see how the boss handles it.

  30. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    I had a lovely bit of video call schadenfreude yesterday, when a colleague of mine returned to work after mat leave; she and I have… different styles (she’s a right negative Nancy who pulls unprofessional stunts all the time, yet management love her so she gets away with murder). So we’re in a late afternoon all hands meeting with the Big Bosses, who were making a point of being engaging and not dragging the call long, but we did have a lot of admin to get through. 10 minutes in and she knocked her camera so it focused on her hands (note: video on isn’t required in our calls). For over five minutes we were treated to a show of her scrolling through Instagram, replying to WhatsApps, and general dicking around. If it had been anyone else I’d have sent her a quick message to adjust her camera, but instead I just enjoyed the show while making sure I had my Listening Hard Facial Expression on.

      1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

        They absolutely would have, there weren’t that many of us with videos on.

        When I first started working with her we did a job interview together and as the candidate presented she got out her phone and scrolled through IG. I was gobsmacked! So this was some karmic retribution, I felt.

  31. buzzbuzzbeepbeep*

    Work Question:
    I have a new boss coming to my company. They have a reputation for being very strict and the rumor going around is that they were even let go from a company for being too mean! This person will be my direct boss and I am a manager of a department, so I will probably be expected to interact heavily with this person. How should I handle their first few weeks here? I have never met them before and will be expected to introduce myself and have introductory meetings. Does anyone have any good tips for starting off on the right foot with someone known to be aggressive? I am a pretty laid back person with a lot of pride in my work. I don’t mind having someone above me telling me what to do but I don’t shy away from making decisions and giving direction when needed. I don’t need any more stress in my life and don’t want to set myself into a situation where this person doesn’t like me right off the bat. Any advice is appreciated!

    1. Msnotmrs*

      One person’s firm and forthright is another person’s mean. I would try to not have any expectations of the new boss at all, and act as if you’d never heard this info/rumor about their supposed meanness.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Remember the teachers who everyone called “mean?” They weren’t mean, they held students accountable, expecting all to pay attention in class, ask questions when they didn’t understand, and complete assignments on time.

        In my experience, each manager who was labeled as “mean,” “difficult,” or “cranky” turned out to be someone with high expectations for themselves as well as staff, who held a genuine interest in the project’s success, and who applied standards to promote consistency and measure progress.

        Do as others have suggested and brief New Boss on how you run things. Listen to their feedback. As a outsider they can bring a fresh perspective to operations and problems. Keep an open mind while you build a relationship with them.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          This. My two favourite and most influential professors I had in college were ones that had reputations for being strict and mean.

        2. Natalie*

          I mean, I had a new boss just get fired for screaming at someone for 20 minutes over nothing. Prior to that screaming incident I definitely would have called them “difficult”, and not because they just had awesome high expectations.

          They might be a good boss that was in a poor fit, or they might be a bad boss. All you can really do is keep your eyes/ears open and trust your gut.

    2. PolarVortex*

      Don’t trust the rumors. I’m not saying to not be aware of them, but often I find the people who provide rumors like this probably had a negative experience for a very deserved reason. (Exception could be if this is coming from someone you trust.)

      I’ve been told I’m caustically blunt by some people. I’ve definitely learned to tailor my communication style as the years have gone on, but some people can take that differently than others. I just am someone who doesn’t really find use for putting fluff around things, and people I work with have also learned to tailor that style to me. (Like I don’t need a century long email about something, tell it to me straight.) It’s also worked with my coworkers who are definitely more the fluffy type, where we divide and conquer according to our strengths. Find out what the new boss is like, tailor your conversations accordingly and it will help your relationship, and you might be pleasantly surprised that they equally appreciate the fact you’re the opposite type person. (You’d be surprised how you can tailor explanations, I once managed to break morale down to statistics for one boss who didn’t understand the importance of a good morale on the team.)

    3. Workerbee*

      One thing I’d do is ask how they prefer to be kept in the loop on things and their priorities and goals. At one point I was under a boss with a reputation of being difficult to work for. But what he wanted was for us to always keep the departmental and company goals in mind, and to TELL HIM if something’s going to happen or is happening that represented a fire that needed to be put out. He wanted to be in the know and work with us to help, and also didn’t want to look like an idiot when his own boss would ask what happened. Now, I wouldn’t say he was the easiest person to work for, but as a peon at the time, I found that what made him happy was just to have his directives done, and that helped me get through the day.

      Now, I wasn’t a manager at the time, so you have the standing to lay out how you’ve been managing your department and the direction you’re going in. Preparing a high level list of stuff for the new boss to absorb before or after the first meeting may help too.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I was that boss.
      My suggestion is to try to figure out who the rumor came from.

      In my case, the rumor came from my very own boss. She told my new group that I was going to make their lives a living h3ll. It was pretty common knowledge that my boss enjoyed our misery.

      It took them 3 weeks to stop jumping out of their respective skins when they saw me approach. In about week number 4 they would actually cracked a joke once in a while- they were beginning to relax.

      Just like you want a fair shot, give the new boss a fair shot.

      IF, notice big IF, the rumor is true and he is indeed mean, then go to HR. They probably know about it anyway and there could even be someone coaching him.

      But overall, the boss is probably a person who prefers things be kept orderly and work gets completed on time. There are a surprising number of employees who cannot handle these two things. You might be just fine here.

    5. Middle Manager*

      I was labelled the “mean” manager for several years in my first job as a supervisor. While I’m obviously biased, the vast majority of people who know me, work with me, and work for me, would not describe me as mean. But I inherited a team from a previous supervisor who had more or less retired on the job and had zero accountability for their staff. A lot of my first two years was introducing performance standards, basic professionalism, and accountability. One of my current employees told me years down the road that one of the poor performers, who was on a PIP and on the way out the door at the time, cornered her on her very first day of work to tell her how mean I was and how careful she should be and as a new employee she was terrified of me because of it. We have a great working relationship now. Seriously though, it’s pretty amazing how successful 1-2 load unhappy people can be in smearing someone.

      Long story short, meet the person and make your own assessment. Maybe they really are mean. But also, maybe not. Do your job, be professional, establish the best working relationship you can, and then make up your own mind.

  32. Lara Zhivago*

    Hello all! I have a smattering of general questions, and then one fairly personal one.
    I am an attorney in DC, and have been here for several years. I had a previous career before law, so I am A Old, relative to the years I’ve been an attorney. I haven’t found that dream job at the National Nonprofit that Saves Animals (and I probably won’t), and I’ve found it almost impossible to not only navigate USAJobs but to even squeeze an interview out of it. Recently though, I have landed a job through a federal contractor.

    All I really know is, it is at a large government department that you would associate with attorneys. It will mainly be document review which is tedious, but Hey girl has to pay the bills. I’m supposed to start this Monday.

    My general questions have to do with being a contractor (note I’ll be WFH until we get on the other side of Covid). Are contractors treated any differently than the ‘real’ employees? Will I be a second-class citizen? How do I list this on my resume – both the contractor and the department? Even if I hate the subject matter (they haven’t told me what it is, only that is Civil Division), would it serve me to stick it out, hoping it will lead to more/different work in the government? Is it bad form to quit contract jobs if something better presents itself, or will I be kind of blackballed? How secure are these jobs? My parents were thrilled because fed jobs are supposedly very secure, but I assured them I don’t work for the feds – but I kind of do? Also, they are doing a security check on me and it’s supposed to take about a year to complete. Is it worth sticking out for a year in order to get that clearance? Is there anything else I should know about this contractor business that I didn’t even think to ask?

    Here’s the personal question. I was honest about the fact that I went to a clinic for help on a personal issue. I don’t want to really reveal more than that, but it wasn’t illegal. Anyway, by being honest about that, I had to have a phone interview about it and it was really hard. I started crying a little. Then I had to agree to let them see my records from the clinic (signed a release) and I regret that because I guess now they can read all my therapist’s notes? (Yes I COULD have said No, but I didn’t really believe that they’d be all cool with a No). I told the interview I was doing okay now, but honestly I’m a little less than okay because of *waves at everything*. The whole thing made me feel ashamed and maybe now they will withdraw the offer if they read something they don’t like in my therapist’s notes. I’m so depressed and nervous and I feel like if I somehow blow this, then I am a terrible useless person.

    Does anyone have thoughts or advice on any of my ramblings? I’d appreciate any help.

    1. Louise*

      On the contract attorney front you can be treated a bit like a second class citizen at least in the private sector. Attorney friend is now a staff member at a firm in a position (with other people) that are normally contract attorneys and firm still hires in contract attorneys for as project loads increase. The logic of the benefit package is mind boggling to someone who have never experienced this. As far as document review goes make sure you stay focused and are able to self motivate. Good luck!

      1. Lara Zhivago*

        Thank you. I’ve done doc review before – for the most part I found it…painful. But sometimes you get a matter that is interesting enough to be engaging.
        I am bummed about the benefits. I can sign up for health insurance but it’s going to be about 4/hour! And of course I’ll be making too much to stay on Medicaid. And I don’t think there’s 401K or anything like that.
        Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

    2. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      I am not familiar with this sector but I can assure you, you’re not a failure of this doesn’t work out; would you say that about a friend in the same position?

      Again, not in your sector, but generally in my experience contractors can switch roles much more, and it’s expected.

      1. Lara Zhivago*

        Thank you for the kindness and the insight. Like most people, I’m much harder on myself than others!

    3. Reba*

      I’m sorry, that sucks. But I don’t think you blew it!

      I have heard from a friend about the mental health thing with federal agencies (I don’t know the details if this was for clearance or suitability or what). They said it was so strange because it’s really invasive but also cold and pro forma, like, the interviewer doesn’t actually care about you and your issues. Anyway, that’s to say, it’s really weird, and no wonder you feel weird about it. Best wishes to you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have heard this also. You bare your soul and they are really not phased in the least.

    4. Kesnit*

      “I’ve found it almost impossible to not only navigate USAJobs but to even squeeze an interview out of it. ”

      That isn’t just you. USAJobs is an annoying Web site. I’ve never been fond of the way you have to search (although the upgrade about 5 years ago made it a little better).

      “All I really know is, it is at a large government department that you would associate with attorneys.”

      I am going to make an assumption and base the rest of my answer on when I was employee at a subordinate agency…

      “Are contractors treated any differently than the ‘real’ employees?”

      It would depend on your unit, sadly. I will say that we had contractors in two of the units where I worked and they were treated the same as employees.

      “How do I list this on my resume – both the contractor and the department?”

      I would say yes. Along the lines of “XYZ Corporation” as the header and in your accomplishments and duties, list the agency.

      “Even if I hate the subject matter (they haven’t told me what it is, only that is Civil Division), would it serve me to stick it out, hoping it will lead to more/different work in the government?”

      Stick it out if you can. It will give you some networking and references. If nothing else, it will tide you over until you find a job you want.

      “Is it bad form to quit contract jobs if something better presents itself, or will I be kind of blackballed?”

      Depends on how the contract is written, but I would imagine that if you worked with your actual employer (the federal contractor), they will work with you to replace you on the contract if you find a new job.

      “How secure are these jobs?”

      Given what you have said, I would say relatively secure. Obviously the company would need to renegotiate the contract at some point and if they lose the bid, your job is gone. However, contracts tend to be multi-year, so I would say you are safe for a while.

      “Also, they are doing a security check on me and it’s supposed to take about a year to complete. Is it worth sticking out for a year in order to get that clearance?”

      YES!!!!! A clearance opens a lot of doors, both in federal employment and federal contracting. There are companies and agencies that will not even consider you without some kind of clearance.

      I got a TS clearance in about 5 months. That may have been fast because I started with a Secret (I was in the military) and was only in my late 20s, so there wasn’t a lot for them to check.

      “I was honest about the fact that I went to a clinic for help on a personal issue. I don’t want to really reveal more than that, but it wasn’t illegal. Anyway, by being honest about that, I had to have a phone interview about it and it was really hard. I started crying a little. Then I had to agree to let them see my records from the clinic (signed a release) and I regret that because I guess now they can read all my therapist’s notes?”

      You did the right thing. They are checking for 2 things – are you going to be honest, and is there something that would make you a security risk. You passed the first one. Once they check the notes, assuming there is nothing there that would make you vulnerable to blackmail, you are fine.

      “maybe now they will withdraw the offer if they read something they don’t like in my therapist’s notes.”

      Very unlikely.

      BTW, I saw an ad yesterday that the public defenders office in DC (Metro, not Federal) is hiring. Don’t know if you are interested, but you can check it out if you want.

      1. Lara Zhivago*

        Thank you SO. MUCH. I’ve been very worried.
        I did think that the security clearance is worth attaining. I assume it is ‘mine’, although the contractor paid for it? I would think I will have access to it, and ‘carry’ it, as it is about me. Because everything is About Me!
        Just kidding.
        Thank you again for all your feedback.

    5. NF123*

      I recommend these forums for questions about clearances:
      https://www.reddit.com/r/SecurityClearance/
      https://discuss.clearancejobsblog.com/

      I don’t know about your personal question, but I think the forums may put you at ease. For the other questions:

      – “Are contractors treated any differently than the ‘real’ employees?” Yes. Some of this, though, comes from the nature of contracting and is part of doing business with the government. The government is paying your contracting office for a service. There are also policies that apply differently to contractor and federal employees.

      “Will I be a second-class citizen?” Maybe. It depends on the individual government employees you work with. If it happens, don’t take it personally.

      “How do I list this on my resume – both the contractor and the department?” – Yes. You get paid by the contractor and you work at the department. You can list the department under the employer, as you would with the location of the employer:
      XYZ Contrator Who Pays Me
      XYZ Federal Department, Washington, DC

      “How secure are these jobs?” Not at all. With that said, it again depends on the contract, government customer, and your contributions as an employee. I’ve worked with contractors who had the same job for 10+ years and others who stayed for less than 10 months. It’s normal to move around a lot – from one contract to another, from one contractor to another, etc.

      1. Lara Zhivago*

        Thank you very much – I appreciate your comment and to such detail. I’ll look into the forums!

    6. Ariadne Oliver*

      I’m a Fed manager who has contractors on her team. On my end, I don’t treat them any differently than I would my Fed team members with some exceptions. I can’t manage them like I can the federal civilians that I supervise. Performance issues have to be addressed differently. Also, they work for another company so there can be some loyalty issues. There are certain boundaries I cannot cross and certain things I might not be able to disclose due to conflict of interest issues if contracts are involved. Also, I have to be careful not to ask them to do things that cross over into performing personal services for me. They are there to support the program not me personally. The clearance process can be intimidating. I felt almost violated when I went through my personal interview but everyone I spike with had the same issue. It can get pretty weird and I actually thought long and hard before applying for a position that required that level of clearance. Ultimately though, it’s a good thing to have. It will make it easier to change jobs if you are looking to switch. You will more than likely earn more money than your federal counterparts but that’s the trade for less job security.

      1. Fed Too*

        I wanted to clarify the use of “personal service” since it causes some confusion for new folks (and people that have been around years too). It doesn’t mean things like picking up dry cleaning or scheduling kids school appointments, it means things that aid me in my job but aren’t spelled out in the contract. Feds have something called “other duties as assigned” which means you could be a llama groomer in the llama division, but if I come to you and say I need you to work on the llama training report I’m preparing as a fed you do it as other duties. I cannot ask a contractor groomer to do that though as their contract only speaks to grooming and not training. I also have to be careful that they aren’t asked to do anything “inherently government” which is something that’s been decided can only be done by feds and not contractors (and that’s pretty strict).

        The other big difference is in personnel stuff- like I can give my staff 59 minutes leave, but can’t give that to a contractor. We also have an agency rule that contractors can’t perform duties in the office alone. So if there’s something like a snow day the contractor can’t come in and has to sort out leave/pay with their contractor. With WFH that’s less of an issue than it was in the past.

        While the contracts may not be stable due to recompetes, what happens most often is that contractor A loses the big, but winner contractor B hires the previous employees over to their company. So you have to switch companies which can stink for benefits and seniority but your work stays steady.

        Don’t worry too much about the clearance- honest to god they’ve heard it all (nonstandard sexual things, messy divorces, drugs). If you are honest that usually is 75% of the issue unless it’s tied to financial problems and as a previous person said it’s almost clinical (like it’s embarrassing to tell your doctor about a weird medical thing but your doctor is like yeah sure we see that, NBD and doesn’t even remember it at the end of the day).

        Best of luck!!

    7. Person from the Resume*

      Are contractors treated any differently than the ‘real’ employees? Will I be a second-class citizen? How do I list this on my resume – both the contractor and the department?

      Yes. You will be treated differently. You’ll just have to be because your employment conditions are different than a federal employee. Whether it’s second-class or you feel a valued team member depends on each work unit and the people in it.

      You’re an employee of commercial company working at Federal Org. You were not employed by the federal government but you did work for them and helped them achieve their goals.

      A federal contractor is not particularly stable like a federal employee is. some of it depends on your company’s philosophy, but your company has a limited-term contact with the federal org. Every few years that contract is recompeted and your company may lose the contract. At that point you may be let go because your company has no work for you do, they may assign you to another federal contract, you can quit and try to get a job with the company that won the contract. This is normal. New companies often like hiring people with experience and come contractors want to continue in the job they’ve been doing. But there’s definitely built in uncertainty when the contract ends.

      1. pancakes*

        There are fewer opportunities to observe being treated differently when everyone is working remotely, though. Pre-pandemic, in my experience, the extent to which that happens varies greatly depending on the culture of the firm.

    8. pancakes*

      I agree with most of what’s been said in the replies, but want to add that whether leaving a project early hurts you or not tends to depend on the expected duration and how long you did stay, in addition to the quality of your work. If the project is anticipated to take 6 months and ends up taking longer, it’s very unlikely the contractor or agency that placed you would hold it against you for leaving in month 7. If the project is anticipated to take 6 months and you want to leave 3 weeks in, that’s probably not going to reflect well on you.

      The security of these jobs is basically non-existent, but does vary to some extent depending on the nature of the project. Litigation can of course be settled at any point. Something like an antitrust review, on the other hand, doesn’t tend to end much sooner than anticipated, and may run longer. It always depends on the details.

    9. 1qtkat*

      How you’re treated as a contractor really depends on the place. In my prior career before law school, I started as a contractor with a govt contractor and after a year they hired me as FT. They treated me well, probably because there were a lot of others on the team who were contractors. Really loved my company and my boss, but the work was kind of droll.

      Depending on the place, doc review can certainly be interesting and it’s a good way to network. I did doc review for a couple of years when I had to move for my husband’s job and I learned a lot about the law landscape in my new town.

      And yes I agree that usajobs sucks. Another good way I find out about govt jobs is through the different bar associations I was and am a part of still (I still get their emails) and through my specialty law program (it’s separate from the law school career center which I think is inept). If you’re looking for a particular lawyer job, I would try the attorneyjobsinusa.com.

  33. Le Corbustier*

    Low stakes question that is becoming increasingly higher stake: What is a good response to your managers when they deny you flexibility or perks because “if we did that for you, we would have to do it for everybody”?

    This is essentially the response I got when (after a very positive review & tough year) I requested 2 more days of PTO in my benefits. The outcome was that they eventually granted everyone more PTO based on seniority, so it was a win in the end, but it really irked me that their justification to initially deny it was that it could cause problems if other people found out I had more PTO than them. More recently, it’s been used to justify to my high performing coworker why she needs to fly out of state twice(!) to the same location within 2.5  weeks instead of letting her miss one scheduled in-office day in the office when her work can all be done remotely at her out of state destination. They are also struggling with letting us work from home which probably feeds into this too.

    In my particular instance the only managers are also the owners of our small company so there’s no one else to appeal to. This is part of a larger pattern of them avoiding confrontation. Historically, the poorest performers have also been the squeakiest wheels so I can see how this would come up, but it is frustrating to see even slight flexibility being offered as an incentive for good performance and not stepping up to bat if & when these decisions need to be justified.

    Is there a strategy or argument you’ve made that helped turn around a similar situation or do I just need to accept that they suck and are not going to change?

    I am anticipating a dumpster fire of a day so sorry if I can’t respond.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      They probably suck and aren’t going to change. But I would at least say “So it looks like you’re not willing to specifically reward hard work…”

    2. CatCat*

      Ugh, that is so annoying. Sounds like they don’t want to deal with the poor performers complaining. What actually tends to result though is that high performers leave.

      No real advice here, just commiseration. I had needed some flexibility when I was severely burning out at an ex-job and asked to do more X and less Y because I needed to travel less. Y was the core focus of our work and more long-term work that involved travel, but X was also important and required immediate work and short turnarounds with no travel involved. Having to do X could be very disruptive to working on Y. For this reason, I knew most of my teammates disliked doing X. But I was denied shifting more to X because somehow me focusing on X would have been “unfair to the team.” I kind of wish I had asked, “Why is that?” But I was so ground down and burned out that I just decided to plug away at finding another job. When I put in my notice, suddenly my boss said focusing on X was on the table. But by then, it was too late for them.

      So if you care to push back on the mentality you’re facing, maybe just ask why. So ” “if we did that for you, we would have to do it for everybody,” question why that is. Why do they *have* to do it that way? Could give some insight into their thought process, if there is one (other than just not wanting to deal with squeaky wheel poor performers.)

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I got this logic for “why can’t anyone get promoted? Because everyone at your level would have to get promoted.”

      Sounds like “your boss sucks” territory.

    4. Le Corbustier*

      Thanks for the insights – I too was leaning towards the “they suck, won’t change” category but hearing others’ experiences was a good gut check. I don’t have any big asks in the foreseeable future but if and when that comes up I might push back on them to explain their logic more per CatCat’s suggestion.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      “Well, a lot of employers are doing these things now because they have found it helps them to remain competitive.”

      OR
      “What a great idea! I am so glad you mentioned that everyone could benefit here. So you will look into it for all of us then? You could really help a lot of people.”

  34. HR Lady*

    Two jobs at the level above me have opened up in my company and my manager has cheerfully encouraged me to go for both of them. (I’d be concerned she was trying to get rid of me except she had ample opportunity during last year’s redundancies…)

    Anyway, I have a proper interview for one next week. I’m very open about the fact that if I don’t get it I won’t mind because if my colleagues at the same level have gone for it then I think we’re all about even – different strengths and weaknesses but could all do a great job at this role. However, just because I won’t get salty if they give the role to someone else I do want to give it my best shot!

    I’ve never been on this side of the table for an internal interview or indeed for a virtual Zoom interview before – any tips? I’m treating it like a proper interview in terms of prep, dress and so on but any other life experience would be great.

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

      Be prepared for “what different direction would you want to take / how would you do things differently compared to the current way” or the more insidious “what deficiencies do you see in the area currently” line of questioning.

  35. Mimmy*

    This may be a long shot, but I’m looking for anyone who teaches or has taught typing, especially to those with developmental disabilities.

    I am a keyboarding instructor for blind and visually impaired adults, some of whom have additional disabilities, often developmental disabilities (e.g., autism, intellectual). Long story short, this job fell into my lap 4 years ago; I have no training in teaching students with disabilities–let alone multiple disabilities–but I’ve been able to make it work and have gotten excellent feedback from students and other instructors. So I must be doing something right! :)

    I teach the touch-type method, a skill that is not really taught anymore. I find that some students have a hard time remembering which hand/fingers to use. Others have difficulty with the physical act of typing, e.g. keeping the fingers bent, staying in the home position, etc. I do try to adapt to the students’ individual needs and may even allow students with some usable vision to look at the keys if they have a large print keyboard.

    Because I want to maintain privacy, I cannot go into specific students, so any general tips or suggestions for teaching keyboarding to students with multiple disabilities would be much appreciated. There are no other keyboarding instructors at my job that I can turn to :(

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I teach the touch-type method, a skill that is not really taught anymore.

      It’s not? What do they teach, then?

      Others have difficulty with the physical act of typing, e.g. keeping the fingers bent, staying in the home position, etc.

      Have you tried different kinds of ergonomic keyboards?

      1. Mimmy*

        I’ve gotten the sense that they don’t have typing classes in the schools anymore since most kids today have mobile devices. Still, some people say they took typing in high school but never stuck with using the methods taught, so when they come to my program, they’ve been using a two-fingered “hunt and peck” method.

        Normally I would try different keyboards, but my program has been running remotely due to COVID.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Oh, okay, I thought you meant keyboarding classes (the few that do exist) weren’t teaching touch typing, and I wondered what the other options were! :-D

    2. Louise*

      I have heard of color coding keys and fingers so all red keys are served by left pinky type of deal. You would almost need to put a finger mitten on them if it isn’t your kid where you could paint their fingernails though so this might be completely unhelpful given sensory issues and that only works for visually impaired not blind.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I kind of taught myself to touch type as a child. My grandfather gave me several of his old typewriters and I was fascinated by them. There was a manual that came with one of them and showed which finger to use for each key, and so I took a Sharpie and wrote the number of which finger to use on each key. I wrote down “L” for the left hand number 1 keys and “R” for the right hand number 1 keys. When I finally took keyboarding in high school I already had the keyboard memorized and was far ahead of everyone else, although I did learn quite a few other things. Of course, if the students are visually impaired, writing down the finger numbers might not be as helpful as using some sort of colored keys as Louise suggests.

    3. OyHiOh*

      As a parent of kids with learning disabilities, I’d simply encourage you to be really flexible with method. Yes, touch type is “best” (method I learned/used) but it’s not going to be best for all, especially for the students you’re teaching. It happens that my kids with learning disabilities are gifted with excellent memory and recall, and one approaches all physical skills like choreography – learn a movement pattern, repeat as needed – so touch type, for these two particular kids, works well.

      But many students, especially in the multiple disabilities area, struggle with memory and recall so expecting them to universally function with touch type method may be an unreachable standard for some. Your methodology needs to be flexible and adaptive. If you poke around in the catalog of approved curriculum for your state, there’s probably materials and methods for keyboarding for a variety of learning needs.

      1. Mimmy*

        I appreciate the feedback. Just wanted to clarify that my students are working age adults in a vocational rehab program, not the school system. Also, I work 1:1 with students; it is not a traditional “class”.

        As I noted in my post, I *do* try to adapt the techniques. It’s much harder for me in this virtual environment because I am not right there next to the student to see exactly what they’re doing. With one student, I’m relying on their family member, who sits in on the session, to tell me what’s going on.

    4. Firecat*

      There are a tone of type to learn games out there that could turn a frustrating experience into a fun challenge. I know type to learn zombies use to be really popular.

    5. PolarVortex*

      Best I can recommend is to make your work interesting no matter what method you use. I couldn’t be bothered to learn to type from any darn program, teacher, or situation until I started to use it to chat people and write stories. Give them a reason to want to learn vs typing “The quick fox jumped over the lazy brown dog” sort of thing. Same thing with my brother who has a few learning disabilities, he couldn’t be bothered until I got him into gaming and started chatting people while he played.

    6. Josephine Beth NotAmy*

      There are several good programs for teaching typing to students who are blind or visually impaired, not sure if perhaps you are already using those? I know they can be geared towards younger kids, but I’ve found them to be fun and useful for even young adults, and the repetition and rewards might be helpful for those with additional disabilities. Ones I would consider would be Talking Typer, Keyboarding Without Tears, and Typio.

      1. Mimmy*

        We’ve used Talking Typer and I’ve heard of Typio. For the remote sessions, I’ve been using a site called Typing Club. It is very comprehensive but it’s not the best for everyone. I’m going to see if they’ll let me use those other programs (there is an online version of Talking Typer). Typio looks really good too.

    7. PollyQ*

      If your visually impaired students read braille, there are braille keyboards & overlays that may make it easier for them to learn the letter placement.

      1. Mimmy*

        Funny you mention that because whenever I tell people I teach keyboarding to blind and visually impaired adults, they all ask if I use Braille keyboards! I say no, that I generally use regular keyboards.

    8. The teapots are on fire*

      Oh, gosh, I wish I remembered the author of the typing pedagogy research I read when I taught typing thirty (!) years ago. One of the key concepts was that typing is reflex and benefits from repetition and frequent visual feedback. Eye tracking research showed that even expert typists (who type < 100 words per minute) look at their hands from time to time, though they think they do not look. Students learn more quickly if they look at their hands A LOT when learning, and it's actually the effort of increasing speed that stops them from looking–they just get too busy to look. Looking at the finger to see, oh, I'm moving my index x finger to touch the T, and sure enough, that's really the T, speeds the establishment of the visual reflex to move the finger to T when you see a T.
      The author conducted multiple studies teaching classes of students, some classes allowed to look at the keys while learning, and some not, and even switched teachers to the other method for a second round of testing to eliminate teachers as a variable. The difference was clear: typists learn better if you let them look at the keys. Every teacher I worked with had learned from nuns who whacked them with a ruler if they looked at the keys and I had to push to be allowed to teach my own students my way.
      I hope this helps!
      Oh, another fun fact–it is normal for accuracy to drop dramatically as students try to increase their speed. Once they get used to the new speed, accuracy naturally returns. Some typing programs penalize this and that's a shame.

      1. Mimmy*

        Very fascinating, thank you for sharing! I work with blind and visually impaired adults. Thus, this may work in some cases as some students have some usable vision, enough that they may be able to see their hands but not the letters, or they can see the letters if they’re using a large print keyboard.

        For those students with little to no vision, this would not work. Some students have typed prior to losing their sight, even if it’s just a visual hunt-and-peck method; this can be very helpful because they may at least have a general idea of where everything is. It’s the students who’ve had little to no exposure to typing or using a computer who present the biggest challenge for me, especially when have no vision. Thankfully I don’t run into this too often.

    9. Diatryma*

      I have had success in myself with printing out a color-coded keyboard map and putting that closer to where the text is– on top of the monitor, propped next to the book I’m typing from, things like that. It means I can look for a key without looking down, which helps. You may also want to contact… your local blind-people-resource? I can’t remember the words right now, but the disability folks can help you know what resources are out there, like high-contrast keyboards, screen readers, whatever the current technology is, so you can recommend them to students. (You may also *be* the disability folks, I realize, but everyone can use some backup from other agencies.)

      You might also see about a chat room or something for students so they have a reason to type. Games are great too.

  36. MMMMmmmmmmmMMM*

    Some good news! Maybe!

    I interviewed for a job two weeks ago and while the posting said 40 hours, it came out that it was only 32. A week after, they offered me the position, but I had to turn it down, stating that while I would like to accept, I just can’t accept a 20% pay cut.

    Cut to this week! They called me and said, if they were able to make the position 40 hours, would I take it? and I said yes. According to them, its a possibility, but they have to talk to the board and stuff. So, I’m at least glad that I interviewed well enough to impress them and have them try to go to bat for me. Even if I dont get the position, I’m glad I did well enough.

    1. LessNosy*

      Fingers crossed that they can make it the full 40 hours for you!! Sounds like you have a great outlook either way though :)

  37. Cat Tree*

    I think I just need to vent and get commiseration, but I’m open to advice too. I’m not a manager, but I’m an SME in a certain system and I answer questions and mentor junior employees. For two years this had generally gone well, but lately I find myself very frustrated. We mostly have a high performing culture, but there’s an occasional mediocre employee. What I can’t stand is someone who is unwilling to try. So recently, one guy asked me for guidance, I told him what he needed to do, and he actually said, “Uh, that’s gonna be hard to do”, and in a way that meant he didn’t want to do it. I think I’m in the BEC phase with him because of previous sloppy work, so this really got under my skin. In my head, I really wanted to say “yes, sometimes work is hard and that’s why it’s called work” but I just told him to ask his manager if he needed help.

    There are two others who are at least trying, but just demonstrate poor judgment and a lack of understanding of the process on a big picture level. One of them had been doing this particular job for 5 years and still doesn’t seem to get it. Here’s an example of poor judgment. Some lab tasks require two people, which is a challenge during the plague when we need social distancing. They have access to two labs, a tiny main one and a much larger one that is used less often. Naturally, I assumed they would automatically do these specific tasks in the large lab where they can stay 6 feet apart except when absolutely necessary. Instead, I find out that they’re using the tiny lab and have come up with convoluted work-arounds that they are not allowed to do. Ok, so nobody is perfect and they made a poor choice. So I specifically told them to use the larger lab instead. But, they’re still using the smaller one even after I explicitly told them not to. One guy is really pushy and adamantly insisting that we change the rules to allow the convoluted thing so he can keep using the tiny lab. I keep reiterating that he needs to use the larger lab without the convoluted process. He. Does. Not. Get. It. I don’t know what his problem is.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Oh, just for context. This concerns me because the next logical step in my career path is to be a people manager in several years. I have never been able to decide if I want that or not. But if I’m feeling this frustrated maybe it isn’t the right move for me. On the other hand, I really like the mentoring part for the other 10 people, just not those three.

      1. JustaTech*

        I doubt that there’s anyone who *enjoys* the “dealing with difficult people” part of managing, so I would consider if the mentoring outweighs the “doofus” part. (Also, the paperwork. My boss is periodically sad that he has to do all the people-managing paperwork and doesn’t get to be in the lab much.)

        As for tiny-lab guy, have you asked him to explain, in detail, why he thinks he should work in the tiny lab? (My favorite balance! The only chair that fits me!) If it’s something like that, can you just tell him to move (whatever it is) to the bigger lab? If he doesn’t have a reason beyond “I like the tiny lab” then I would bring out the lab safety hard stop and make sure to tell whoever else is in the tiny lab that this is a Safety Thing.

        And if they keep doing it, treat it like someone who doesn’t wear gloves or eats in the lab. Total non-starter with full remedial lab safety training.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        If nothing else the 3 people that frustrate you are often the ones that give you the best “I can’t believe they did that” stories :)

        As a manager you don’t run into more people who frustrate you, and often times your own team is the only bright spot you have when dealing with others. Oh sure they will make you crazy sometimes, but in that ‘little brother’ kind of crazy. If you have patience now for the teaching and mentoring, you will have it as a manager. If you have frustrations around crappy work and other things, you will have that as well. The best part of being a manager is setting your expectations (assuming they aren’t crazy ones) and helping your team meet them.

        As for lab guy, tell him small lab is no go and task needs to be done per procedure in large lab or it becomes a bigger issue (safety, regulation, policy, whatever).

      3. GreaseMonkey*

        The other piece to this is what authority you have over tiny lab guy and Mr. It’s Hard? The difference between mentoring and managing is that you can implement actual consequences once you’re a manager for idiocy or blatantly disregarding a direction. It reduces the frustration. Doesn’t eliminate it, but does get it down to managable levels.

        1. TheAG*

          This, totally this. Plus you get the pleasure of telling Mr. It’s Hard “saying things like that could be career-limiting”, having them take it to heart and do a *complete* 180 and turn into a hugely valuable employee (to the point where you get kudos from outside your department for “how did you fix that little snit”) can be immensely rewarding.
          Rare, but super gratifying.

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

      Have you asked why they don’t want to (or perceive that they can’t) use the larger lab?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Report them for failure to obey safety rules. Period. Over. done. There’s nothing here to discuss, really.
      You have little/no authority to make them go to the larger lab. Get someone involved who does.

      These are two people known for poor judgement and lack of understanding? Yet they are routinely allowed back in a lab.
      What could possibly go wrong.
      I’d say they should have been reported to someone who can do something long before now. These are the very type of people that cause others to question our systems entirely.

  38. Goose*

    Any independent school admins want to connect? I’d love to get my new school on a management/registration system (currently using paper applications and the database is an excel sheet) but we have zero budget for anything top level. Anyone have hacks to make this old school system more manageable, or software recommendations that won’t break the bank?

    1. Firecat*

      If you do switch I think it is important that you accommodate paper applications. You would be surprised how many students don’t have internet access.

      My nephew has tablets etc. But no internet. They get used tablets download a game or two at a public WiFi and that’s it. In short looks cam be deceiving and I am always concerned how I internet access is often a requirement to apply to schools. It’s one more barrier to getting an education.

      1. Goose*

        Absolutely. Form what I can tell, all of the applications are returned electronically…filled in by hand. It’s an odd set up.

    2. I Don't Know What I Do*

      I don’t know the cost, but the school my child attends recently switched to Alma. It seems to cover more than just applications, so one system might help if it can also cover grades and financial aid, for example.
      I think paper applications are still available online if there are internet access concerns.

  39. Temporarily Anon*

    This situation has come and gone, so my question to the commentariat is more “what would you have done?”

    V. Long Story:
    Org A has been selling croissants for a long time. There’s no person who oversees the croissant-making or the place where recipes are recorded. Everyone else knows a LOT about croissants, but doesn’t know how to centralize their recipes. As Org A expands their menu to include all laminated pastries, they realize they are too big for their ad-hoc system. They post a job for recipe overseer, whose job it is to ensure that there’s an accessible spot for all recipes to be added, and that the public gets to see the recipes for free. The overseer job is one pay grade above entry level. There’s lots of room for training, but you need to know best practices for recipe recording and the fundamentals of laminated dough, since nobody on staff has the right knowledge. Bill, a young college student with no background in laminated dough OR recipe recording, applies for the job. He has friends in the hamburger business and he’s charismatic, which impresses the folks at Org A and they give him the job. Poor Bill is quickly over his head, though it’s not clear that he is aware. Rather than seeking guidance from the network of other pastry makers, Bill talks to his burger-making friends. Their advice is bad, Bill’s instincts are wrong, and he makes several large business decisions that put Org A in a bad spot. Again, nobody is able to guide poor Bill, and they take it on trust that he’s doing the right thing. On top of that, Bill’s great interview and strong references were a facade; he’s lazy, arrogant, and difficult to work with. After a couple of years, a hamburger company recruits Bill. Over the next decade, Org A tries to disentangle themselves from the problems Bill created, while Bill job-hops between meat processing plants and flour mills, but is never there long.

    Fast-forward to last spring: Org A has a job opening. It’s very similar to Bill’s old job, but at a more senior level with a competitive salary. Bill applies and campaigns hard for the job, even moving pre-emptively to make himself more attractive. However, the ghost of Bill lingers. The hiring manager (my friend) dismisses his resume and refuses to even interview him. While some staff are happy with that decision (they really, REALLY didn’t like working with him), others say that Bill should’ve been given at least a chance to interview and prove his personal and professional growth. From my perspective, there were better candidates out there anyways and the job requires specific competencies that Bill doesn’t possess, so it’s all moot.

    So- I am curious to see if anyone would have interviewed Bill.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      I probably wouldn’t have re-interviewed Bill, but I’d be far more inclined to blame the company for whatever it was that happened than Bill. They let a college student with no real experience loose enough to do a decade’s worth of damage? Sorry that’s on them

      1. Temporarily Anon*

        Oh yeah. I have no idea what the hell they were thinking. Actually… maybe I do. Bill was cheaper than someone with the appropriate skills. F

        WIW, the people who put Bill in charge have since left. Between their messes and Bill’s, it’s apparently like trying to raise the Titanic with a handful of party balloons.

      2. GreaseMonkey*

        The problems caused by Bill weren’t just a product of inexperience. He chose poor work practices, didn’t ask for advice from the right people when he was in over his head and then hasn’t held down a steady job since. Thankyou, no.

    2. JustaTech*

      Heck no!
      I am all for giving people second chances, but sometimes you mess up badly enough that you don’t get a second chance *at that place*.
      Bill didn’t just mess up. He messed up in major ways, was difficult to work with and it sounds like he didn’t own up to his mistakes, that he was in over his head, or the damage his mistakes caused.

      For me, even if he’d met all the requirements, that’s enough to put him on the “do not hire” list, and why would you interview someone you know for a fact you aren’t going to hire?

      (At my job there is a very specific skill set that’s basically impossible to hire for; you have to be trained here. And there are some, few, people who exhibited such ongoing bad behavior when they worked here that no matter what the need, they would never, ever be hired back. Not by HR rules, but by common consent. If you’re known as “the guy who put another guy in the hospital the night before a *super* important thing that forced other people to work 30 hour shifts”, yeah, you’re not coming back.)

    3. Aggretsuko*

      Nah, I’d have skipped interviewing Bill if people already can’t stand him. That’s no good for anyone. If Bill’s not obviously the top candidate after years of experience and there’s better out there, I don’t see the point.

    4. Grapey*

      I would not have interviewed Bill.

      Agreed with Hiring Mgr that the bigger problem was hiring Bill for the wrong, big job the first time around, but that has nothing to do with having an arrogant and difficult personality. Tanking team morale to bring back someone that was unpleasant to work with is not worth it IMO. If Bill had really changed personally and professionally, the “others” that campaigned for a second chance should have produced hard evidence of change like I’ve seen through industry connections and other word of mouth references.

        1. Temporarily Anon*

          For sure. When my friend initially asked my opinion, I came down on “no, because he sounded miserable, but also you have some other great candidates.” The reasoning I heard on why to at least interview him varied from “he’s had a lot of time to grow up” and “he already knows some of our systems.” I have a feeling there would be a mini revolt.

          I haven’t heard or seen any evidence that he’s changed; I actually crossed paths with him myself a few years back when he worked at the “flour mill” and didn’t enjoy my interaction at all. And from what I can tell, he’d approached the overtures to be hired back with the attitude that it was already in the bag. Which- it is such a disservice that nobody *actually gave him that feedback while he was there.* Yeah, he sucked when I interacted with him and it sounds like he was miserable to work with, but I wonder if he’d have been less miserable if someone had actually taken moves to shape him professionally.

          1. TheAG*

            Just from reading the OP I would assume he didn’t grow either.
            Why I think this…he put in for a job that he didn’t have the specific listed competencies for, and still assumed it was in the bag. Arrogant.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yup, agreed completely. Some of this is definitely on the company, but with Bill also being a PITA to work with, no need to give a second chance.

    5. Abyssal*

      Heck no!

      So, the Debacle Of Bill sounds like it is not 100% Bill’s fault, and the parts of it that have to do with him not having the needed expertise to put together the system they need lie more at the company’s feet than at Bill’s. (Sure, you could argue, he should have flagged his own struggles to whoever he reported to when it became clear he was struggling, but I still put that more on the company than him.) The part where he was a general pain to work with is his own reputation.

      At the end of the day, he does not have the competencies the job requires. That is the fundamental problem with him applying, and the reason he should not be interviewed. Sure, personal growth is great and all, but if he doesn’t have the skills the job needs, then personal growth as a human being is not enough to get him in the door. And you know that upfront, so an interview would waste his and everyone else’s time.

    6. LadyByTheLake*

      Nope — I absolutely would not interview Bill. Look, this wasn’t just a person who was a mismatch for the job. This was a person who misrepresented himself, who is “lazy, arrogant and difficult to work with,” who didn’t go to the right people when he needed help, who created serious problems that are still having to be fixed, and who doesn’t appear to have gotten better since he’s been job hopping (which, given what we already know about Bill) indicates he hasn’t learned from his mistakes. Why on Earth would anyone give him a moment’s consideration?

      Look, I’m all for second chances when the initial issues were due to a mismatch or lack of experience. But Bill’s issues are fundamental character flaws, and those generally don’t change.

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

        job hopping

        As a corollary, if there’s anywhere Bill has been at subsequently for a longer-term stay I’d really dig deep into a reference from that company…!

    7. PollyQ*

      Bill was bad at the specifics of his job, caused major business problems and hard feelings with other employees, and was a poor employee on the basic character level. If he’d been known to have all these issues with another employer, would anybody have though that he should be brought in for an interview? I doubt it, so why is it any different just because he used to work there?

      I do agree that upper management at Org A bears a lot of the responsibility for this, though. Also, now I really want a croissant.

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

      Org A: have problems and “don’t know what they don’t know” (sorry for the cliche!) and think it can be fixed by hiring someone as a “recipe overseer”, get blindsided by Bill who probably knows he will be found out eventually but is taking the experience while he can and bullshitting everyone.

      Org A should have hired a reputable consultant-type (instead of creating a position for a permanent “recipe overseer”) to help them set up systems so that “best practices for recipe recording and the fundamentals of laminated dough” can be incorporated into everyone else’s work.

      The only thing that surprises me somewhat is that he was there a decade rather than just 2-3 years to be found out — seems like it’s incompetence all the way up.

      No, I would not have interviewed Bill. (The devil on my shoulder would have liked to call him in for an interview (knowing that unless something had hugely changed I would not be offering him the job) but I am more mature than that now :) )

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Nopety, nopety, nope.

      The fact that he had the brass to apply again after all that went on almost proves to me that nothing has changed.
      He’s as clueless as he ever was.

    10. AcademiaNut*

      I guess the question to ask is “What could Bill do to convince you to hire him”.

      I wouldn’t consider it without very strong evidence that he had learned from his mistakes, and had acquired competence, self-awareness and interpersonal skills in the meantime. Given that he’s spent ten years bouncing around different jobs, appears to be reprising his arrogant schmoozer tactics (pushing really hard, MOVING to make himself more appealing!), and he’s a charming bluffer type, I can’t think of any way I’d be convinced to hire him, so I wouldn’t interview him. That’s even before the part about existing employees hating the mere thought of having to work with him.

    11. Tenebrae*

      I wouldn’t interview Bill. Why should he get a second opportunity to be bad and unpleasant at something when I’m sure there are plenty of nicer people out there with better qualifications. Second chances are important but sometimes that means “Bill doesn’t deserve to be unemployed forever,” not “Bill deserves a clean slate at this company.”

  40. RealtorLewks*

    Realtors: dress codes?

    I am curious about the dress codes for realtors, specifically why they seem so formal. Please note – I’m not knocking their appearances, I’m genuinely curious. It seems like realtors start at “business formal” and then kick it up to eleven. I have seen ads for realtors wearing formal dresses with full-on capes, expensive 3 piece suits, and wedding-type hair/makeup. Do they dress like that on the job, or is it just for ads? Does the outfit change depending on what kind of real estate they’re selling? My own experience with realtors is limited – the only realtor I’ve worked with is a long-time friend, so he wore jeans/tees while showing us houses.

    Thank you for indulging my curiosity!

    1. Workerbee*

      I’ve wondered that too! I’ve often thought, “You could have picked different shoes,” when one of our realtors was showing us around properties where her super high heels were sinking into the yard and getting all muddy and stuff. Your footwear isn’t going to impress me, I’m looking at a potential huge investment here! It’s your brains that I want working for me, not your clothes.

      But maybe enough people still do have a preconceived notion of “proper attire” so it’s still down to impractical vs ease.

      1. RealtorLewks*

        I’m also curious if geographical area plays a factor (probably). I live in Dallas,TX area so there’s definitely a vibe. Most of the realtors I’ve seen look like they’re trying to fit into the “Dallas” tv show.

        1. PollyQ*

          I do think it’s regional. I live in Silicon Valley, and realtors here don’t tend to dress formally. It’s more of a business casual vibe, but with higher-end garments. Eg, neatly pressed jeans and $250-ish driver mocassins, not Old Navy chinos & sneakers.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I guess part of it might be that, since they’re paid on commission, they want to look as successful as possible. “I obviously sell a lot of houses, for a lot of money, so you should hire me to sell your house!”

    3. JustaTech*

      I noticed when I was house hunting in the PNW that the showing agents were more dressed up than the buyers, but only a few were all the way up at “business formal”. One was a very young man in a suit who was clearly covering a house for someone else, and one was the pushiest man I have ever met (actually cornered my spouse and I in a bedroom and wanted to know what he needed to do to get us the buy the house that day. “Add two bedrooms. Please get out of our way.”)

      But even when the showing agents were more dressed up, they still weren’t *that* fancy. Several agents commented on having the same Costco socks as me.

      Sales people tend to be more appearance/presentation focused, and the more expensive the thing they’re selling, the higher the expectation of appearance. There’s not much more expensive than a house, so people dress up. (Now if only they would lay off the perfume/aftershave. I want to smell if the house is damp, not you!)

    4. sell houses!*

      Realtor here. I am 40 and male for perspective.

      I never go super formal. Dark pants or khakis and a golf shirt.

      Also depends on the property. I have also worn jeans and boots for showing a large property with land.

      But usually it is pants and a golf shirt. Once I know a client and it is a weekend I might do jeans and a golf shirt.

      I just started this year as a realtor. Some of the women dress up a bit more, but many don’t.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I was disconcerted by a woman with a head of grey hair whose headshots showed her with red hair. It was a strange disconnect for me.

      I believe this is the same realtor who when asked why I didn’t select her, I told her it was because (in 2008 right before the entire housing market collapsed) I thought her recommend sales price was too high and I went with the guy who recommended a lower one. She responded that we could have talked about it. I think I it dropped it there, but I was paying my realtor for expertise and not to tell me what she thought I wanted to hear (a high sales price that would have had to be dropped to finally get a sale).

    6. Chaordic One*

      This is one of those things that varies so much. I would suspect that most of them would dress more formally if they were selling high-end properties and business real estate, and more casually if they were selling, say commercial, industrial or warehouse like things. In my area for middle-class housing, most of them seem to dress in suits, or else in appropriate business casual, but there are some notable exceptions.

      The realtor (whom my sister bought her last two houses from) dresses like she’s going to a cocktail party when she holds open houses. She wears ridiculously high high-heeled open-toed sandals and what could only be described as a full-length evening gown (backless, with slits up both sides). OTOH, I see many male realtors dressing in polo shirts and dockers.

  41. Sleepy*

    Anyone have some thoughts on reasonable requirements / expectations for part-time hourly workers being required to do one-off, one-hour tasks not on their regular schedule?

    I supervise a group of hourly part-time workers. They each work for us about 10 hours / week on a regular schedule. They do professional-level work–they are hard to hire and train–and the hourly rate is decent. They are also, in my opinion, really hard-working and underappreciated.

    My boss has been pushing for them to join more extraneous meetings, like a meeting in the middle of the day on a day they wouldn’t normally be working. I don’t think it’s fair to push people too hard to be available for these meetings, because we’re only paying them for the hour they attend, we’re not buying their all-day availability like we would with a full-time employee. These folks frequently say they have time conflicts with these meetings and I believe them, but my boss (and other full-time staff) is frustrated thinks they are not showing enough commitment to the job.

    Thoughts on how to approach this?

    1. Paris Geller*

      They’re showing the appropriate amount of commitment if they’re doing their work for those 10 hours they’re scheduled to work.

      I don’t know how much advice I have, but I will have to say I’ve been on the other side of this, and I am firmly 100% behind your position. When I was in grad school, I had a 19 hour a week job that was mostly on a consistent schedule (about twice a semester there would be a special event outside my normal time). My manager did require us part-timers to come in to meetings on our days off, and it was really a hassle for me and the other two part-timers. All three of us lived at least 20+ minutes away (I lived 30 minutes away, another coworker 40 minutes), and our meetings were never more than two hours. It was hardly worth the price of gas to get there, and it definitely affected morale and how we felt about our boss. There was no reason that those meetings couldn’t have been emails.

      1. Sleepy*

        Thanks, it’s nice to hear from someone who has been in that position. To me, these workers are so valuable that I want to be really mindful of protecting their morale as long as their work is good (they already go above and beyond, in my opinion).

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      You’re right, your boss is being pretty thoughtless. I’d ask him to start planning these meetings at noon on his day off. :-/

      But seriously, is it possible to rotate the extra meetings so they happen on different days? Or let people join remotely?

      1. Sleepy*

        They’re joining remotely right now–but many of them either have other jobs or prefer part-time work to be available for their families, and having something right in the middle of the day can make it hard to plan for their other commitments. Several of them are open that they’ll choose their families over their job when it comes to these kinds of conflicts, and I can’t say I blame them.

    3. Ashley*

      As a part timer I would probably be firm on the days and times of availability. If Monday is my normal work day but you wanted a standard meeting T-F I would want input to the day and time. Non standard meetings would really need to be uncommon events. And my accommodating odd meetings, I would expect flexibility on changing my Monday hours as needed to another day during the week. If you want employees to be flexible, I believe you are most successful when you are flexible with them.

      1. Sleepy*

        I totally agree. The tricky thing is that some of their part-time work is coverage based, so we usually can’t be very flexible with their core schedules. I personally try to accommodate that by being more flexible and forgiving about meeting attendance as long as they are doing good work on their core tasks, but others think meeting attendance is more important than I do I guess.

    4. CatCat*

      I am with you. If attendance at the meeting is so important, it should be scheduled for a day they’re actually working. It’s a bit much to expect employees to make room in their schedules for a one hour meeting in an off day. It would be like scheduling a meeting from 9-10 a.m. every Sunday morning for those working a regular full-time schedule during the workweek. How annoying and disruptive would that be?

      1. Elenna*

        Exactly! I can’t imagine Sleepy’s boss would be very happy if anyone scheduled regular meetings for Sunday noon and said they were “not showing enough commitment” if they didn’t want to show up.

    5. Massive Dynamic*

      This has a similar vibe to something that I think was posted here recently, someone needing a PT nanny for her children and it was about 10-15 hours total. And she was having trouble finding someone great who would commit and then stay in the job long-term… her great hires kept leaving for better things. Apologies I searched but can’t find it….

      Anyhoo, the point is that 10 or 15 hours a week is LESS than a regular part-time job, way less than a FT job, and will be prioritized accordingly within a person’s overall life. If your boss wants more commitment, your boss needs to negotiate buying more of their hours for their labor – not just to attend a random meeting, but a significant jump in hours to justify them raising the priority of the overall job/relationship with the company to at least a real part-time (~20hrs or so a week?) level. I’m not sure how to explain this to your boss, but perhaps without naming names, mention that you know others have full-time commitments to _____ (work, childcare, other care, school) and that’s why they are part-time with your company and that arrangement needs to be respected if there’s no room to change it. Approach it as a generalized conversation about these meetings and that way if your boss whines about specific meeting attendance down the road, you can remind him that per your earlier discussion, this is what your take on the situation is and it can’t be changed without a change in employment structure.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      This is a long shot- but perhaps call-in pay? I am not current on what NY says anymore- it used to be the employee had to be paid for at least 4 hours no matter how short a time they stayed at work. Now this maybe in certain arenas, not others. There may not be such a law in your state. Or there maybe other exceptions because laws are good at having exceptions.

  42. Cheerios and Bagels*

    I’m considering applying to an executive director position in my field which is quasi governmental. Despite the title, I’d be the only person in the organization and would report directly to a large board of directors (this is fairly typical and I mention it as I wouldn’t have any staff or co-workers). I’m an excellent candidate with many years’ experience and am more qualified than the position requires. A google of my name would bring up articles that reference my work from nearby communities.

    My concern is that the posting requires me to submit five references with my resume and cover letter. While that is a large number of references, my main issue is with being asked to provide them before I know whether I want the job. Things are honestly weird with the pandemic and I know that many of my contacts are struggling with personal issues related to the disruption- I don’t want to lean too heavily on them and too soon, particularly when I may have to apply for many more jobs before I find a good fit.

    My question is whether this is normal, if I should just submit my references, or if it is acceptable for me to politely say something to the effect of “I will provide references following an interview”. Would this be a red flag for you when applying to the job?

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I think your approach is fine. I also wouldn’t want to submit names before even interviewing in this situation.

    2. Sleepy*

      Yeah, that’s way too early to ask for so many references.

      However–how much do you want this job? A lot of employers think that any candidate not following the application procedure exactly, no matter how unreasonable, is a red flag. Depending on how many applicants they get, you’re definitely taking a risk by pushing back.

      For myself, I’ve refused to disclose my current salary on job applications because I believe it’s wrong. I’m also pretty sure I’ve lost out on opportunities because of that, but it was a risk I was willing to take because I only felt so-so about those positions and wasn’t desperate for a job.

  43. Poppin' in for This*

    Grant writing: what is the field like? I realize this is quite general!
    Background – I have a long background in editing and writing, mostly for small magazines and newspapers. I have an MA in the field as well (though that’s far in the past). I also have years of adjunct teaching (writing/lit etc.) behind me. Because, obviously, I can WRITE, I volunteered to write a few grants for some volunteer orgs I am involved in. I managed to get several thousand for these groups! I would like to break into this field. How realistic is this? I will be taking a seminar in a few months through a community college on grant writing – the workshop is encouraging participants to bring actual projects that they would like to work on to the class. I am very excited – but what paths do grant writers take? If not freelancing, where, mostly, do they work? Any thoughts are appreciated.

    1. Sherm*

      Some not-for-profits, including academic institutions, hire grant writers, and they can be very appreciative. Busy people who already have a lot on their plate will be grateful that, on top of all their other work, they don’t have to create a grant themselves from scratch. It is very important, though, to assess whether your prospective employer’s work practices align with your own. How are you with deadlines? Are you a bit of a “stress junkie” and like the rush of making it all happen at the last minute? Because there are places that will procrastinate right up until the deadline before they review your work — and then they obsess over every punctuation mark and will not submit the darn thing until it’s long past comfortable. I know a woman who thrived under those conditions. But if that’s not you, make sure to find a place with a more measured approach to grant writing and likes to finish well before the deadline.

    2. Middle Manager*

      I’ve done lots of grant writing/management in state government, mostly federal grants. Depending on the size of local government (County, City) they also have grant writers/managers, although in some small counties we work with that tends to fall more on the subject matter experts to write them on their own. Outside of government, I’ve seen lots of postings from larger non-profits, academic institutions, and a few consulting type firms over the years.

      While one grant writing course is okay (it always feel hard to assess the quality of those as a manager), the thing that would most impress me as a hiring manager for a grant writer position would be the track record of successful grants (like the ones you’ve done with the volunteer orgs). I would say any opportunity you have to do that would be the best shot to break in.

  44. anon for this*

    I’m miserable at work – my fellow team member got laid off in the early summer. It was slow for a couple months in spring but once the industry adjusted it became more busy than pre-pandemic. My supervisor has been learning some of my tasks to try to provide support but it’s not enough. I’m not able to turn things around as quickly and I’m making small mistakes that are very unlike me. Everyone says they ‘understand’ that we’re short staffed and that I’m doing my best. Whenever a delay impacts the top bosses, my supervisors tell me that we have to ‘fix’ things right away. But there isn’t anything I can do except work more and be more stressed. I just did a big push over the past two days and cleared a bunch of stuff. I hoped this would allow me to deal with some of the thornier issues that I hadn’t been able to address but when I logged on this morning there was a new pile of stuff to be dealt with. The submissions are crappier and crappier, with less of the required info filled in, which means I have to take more care and it increases the questions I have to ask that no one has time for.
    I feel like I’m supposed to just keep going and going and I can’t. I can’t take more than a day of vacation at a time, and it’s always worse when I come back. They’re going to give me existing staff to train (to absorb some of the tasks) but they want them trained on the more complex stuff first and I can tell from their other work they’re not up for it. It won’t help how they think it will, and I’ve said this. Nothing I say seems to matter. There’s the occasional, ‘you’re so important’, ‘we don’t want you to burn out’ comment, but I don’t know how to say ‘this is making me burn out’. I’ve started thinking longingly about being fired. I know 2020 was not a good year for the company but with all this work I’d think that we could bring some one in-with real qualifications- but I’m told that’s not going to happen (there’s a lot of past issues with hiring people that I’m not getting into).
    Any ideas? I’m thinking of requesting a call w/my boss who’s part of management and saying point blank that this is not sustainable but I’m afraid that this will be taken as some sort of ultimatum rather than a description of the situation.

    1. Nonny*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this.

      What worked for me was breaking down crying saying that I couldn’t do it all and I needed help. But that’s probably not professional! I also had a person who I knew we could bring in to help me who was familiar with the work.

      I think you can meet with your boss and really lay out what you can accomplish in a reasonable amount of time and then highlight the work you can’t do and ask them to help you prioritize. I would also be really frank with them about how long training people will take and your assessment of the people they suggest to bring in to help you.

      1. anon for this*

        Yeah, it’s pretty nearly there. I’ve just been doing all my crying sans audience thus far. My big problem is that legitimately due to the nature of the job there’s minimal flex in deadlines and prioritization is just ‘what are people panicking about today’. I’ve been pretty frank on the assessments already, steering a bit shy of outright calling them incompetent. One of them can’t fill in the forms that I process correctly after almost 2 years of doing them and access to copious resources on how to do so. How is this person going to do part of the review on those forms if they can’t fill them out? From experience, if things are not caught/addressed at that earlier stage, then I will end up having to cover that ground in a later review, so how is this helpful?

    2. Midwest Manager*

      It’s OK to be blunt! You sound like you’re at the end of your proverbial rope, which is never a good place to be. As a manager, I would love to have an employee come to me and clearly share their struggles and suggestions for improvement. It’s helpful to preface any comments with “I am going to be very candid in my comments about this. Here is what’s not working …. Here is how I think it can be fixed…. I am experiencing the burnout you are so afraid of. The current state of things is not sustainable.”

      Could you ask for less stringent deadlines, or different tools to be more efficient? This may help with the issues you are experiencing.

      1. anon for this*

        There’s little flex on deadlines – it’s gatekeeping for the company – reviewing incoming ‘requests’ or ‘orders’ to make sure they have all the info needed and that they are from valid sources. So I have to do my job quickly so everyone else can do theirs. They’ve trimmed a bunch of stuff from the requirements but at the ‘normal’ level of work there was 2 full time (competent) employee’s worth of work and 1.75 people to do it and now there’s 1.25 people doing it and with the trimmed down stuff and the more work than before, there’s *still* 2 people’s worth of work. I really can’t think of a better long term solution than bringing in a full or 1/2 time person who’s reasonably skilled/competent (not entry level), which is the one thing that they won’t do.
        Thank you for the ideas and food for thought.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I suspect the crying meltdowns and nervous breakdowns I was trying to hide somewhat poorly is what influenced finally getting to hire more people at my job. I know it’s not “professional” and would have been bad if I straight up cried, but sometimes losing it is the only way people understand how badly you are doing. (Also, the only way I can get anything fixed by the landlord.)

      1. anon for this*

        Yeah, irritatingly one of my coping mechanisms is making jokes so in meetings about workload and everything, I’m seriously saying that there’s too much and that I have concerns but then I’ll also laugh and joke because it’s that or cry, which may be camouflaging things a bit.

    4. Massive Dynamic*

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this! My advice – do LESS. Drop balls. Make sure you have a clear working list of everything on your plate, bonus points if you can put in a time estimate to complete each task. And overcommunicate with your boss about what’s on your plate and what you are prioritizing, in case she wants to start actually weighing in on what she and her higher-ups ACTUALLY think is the more important thing for you to do. Do not work OT. Do not let your supervisors communicate to you in vague “we need to fix things” statements without you then pulling up your full to-do list and making them pick what the highest priority is and then looping your boss back in.

      Best of luck to you.

      1. anon for this*

        Thanks. It’s good advice but I have the hardest time not doing something I’m supposed to do. It kind of hurts my brain to not be able to get things done — and then the frustration makes it harder to focus.
        Anyway, I do have a list that’s sent to the bosses daily. They will also tell me what’s urgent at the moment, it’s just that those priorities change constantly – often over the course of the day, which I can and have been able to handle, as long as I can *finish* any of them first (or move some of the work to a less-skilled but competent associate who’s work does not require constant review/supervision).
        So basically, for example: doing steps 1 and 2 are most important but it’s not like steps 3 and 4 don’t also need to be done, but if the influx is great enough, then it’s only steps 1 and 2 that get done for a week or more until someone has a problem and then it’s steps 3 & 4 all of a sudden for a few days. If they let me do 1-4 on everything before moving to the next thing (or in tandem if it’s only a couple things at once), it would be more manageable.
        Phew. This is actually really helpful in laying out where some of my key problems are. Even if a specific piece of advice is not actionable in the situation, going over why not is good help in clarifying what I see as the real issue.

        1. MacGillicuddy*

          I second what Massive Dynamic said. As long as you keep doing (or try to do) everything that gets put on your list, nothing will change. They will continue to expect you to do more and more.

          You need to be blunt with your boss. Can you be (slightly) vulgar? One of my favorites is “You can’t fit 25 pounds of cowsh!t into a 10 pound bag”. (Use “manure” if you need to be more refined).

          It’s useful if you can spell out how long things take to get done. Especially the time it takes to train people and then the time to answer their questions afterwards. Be specific. Ask your boss if you are expected to work 10 hours a day? 12 hours a day? More than that?

          There’s also the “Fast, Cheap, Good – pick two” saying. There’s only so fast someone can work before accuracy suffers.

          At some point you’re going to really burn out and just quit – and then what will your boss do? Note that I wouldn’t play the “fix this or I’ll quit” card unless you’re actually willing to quit.

          1. TheAG*

            Third.
            My boss cut headcount in the department for no good reason (we’re making money hand over fist despite covid) and I had to tell one of my reports “don’t even think twice about saying yeah you got what you paid for, I’m doing the job of 2.5 people, expect mistakes” because she’s such a people pleaser.

            We’ve basically been in “fire me, I dare you” mode for a while.

    5. Cat Tree*

      Honestly, is looking for a different job an option? It sounds like your direct manager is good, but the management structure overall isn’t great. I’m less concerned about the amount of work and much more concerned that they’re something at it that won’t actually help AND considering your feedback about. I don’t know anything else about your job, but that alone seems like a red flag to me.

      1. anon for this*

        The not listening/not hiring is definitely a red flag. There are a bunch of good things too though – the pay is good (i think), benefits are good (though I haven’t been able to take much vacation lately), there are good bonuses, and I’m able to be 100% remote until things are better in my area. They are appreciative of my work ethic and skills. I’m not un-fireable, as no one really is, but I’m very nearly so, due to my expertise in this important area.
        I don’t have lots of other options or a good network to explore possibilities since I kind of fell into this job/field from a drastically different (and currently pandemically unworkable) initial career.
        It’s a business of less than 100 people so there’s definitely a feeling of having to play to the whims of the top 1 to 3 people who don’t really ‘get’ your job. I’ve had this sort of thing come up elsewhere as most of my work experience is at similarly sized companies- just big enough for ‘us versus them’ but not big enough that one person in or out is no big deal.
        It would be nice to be a cog in the machine (which has a number of other similar cogs) for at least a little while, rather than being th

        1. Midwest Manager*

          Have you considered requesting a longer vacation and just letting the work go? You mentioned that after 1 day off the problem is worse – but in my experiences, people tend to gloss over a single day off with “well, they’ll be back tomorrow and can handle this when they get back”. If you plan for an extended time away, say a week or two, people will be more inclined to defer to whoever is covering your work while away and the backlog of work tends to be LESS than it would have been with only 1 day off.

          It’s extremely easy to get stuck in the loop of “I’m too busy to take time, but I’m desperate for time away”. Do not undervalue your own sense of sanity and self. You are entitled to that vacation time, use it! If your company has a use-it or lose-it policy, you have every right to make sure you don’t lose it. This could be the way that you illustrate to your superiors exactly how bad the problem is – by not being there to take care of it.

          1. anon for this*

            I’m not allowed to take more than 2 days off together. I’d also be responsible for cleaning up whatever mess was left if I did. I’ve lost some still unclear quantity of days (maybe a week?) from 2020. They say that I ‘should be able to take a week off’ but that’s something we’re working towards, but I think we’re working towards it in in a half assed way that won’t actually work.

            1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

              And what would they do if you won the lottery and told them Bye, Bye? Someone would do the work. You are not personally responsible for keeping the business going correctly.

              1. anon for this*

                Yes, I could leave or be incapacitated at any moment and they’d have to deal, but if I am not ready to quit, then I have to keep working as I’m told to, to at least a ‘decent’ level, and my stupid brain interprets not being nearly perfect as a failure, which makes any work to rule kind of approach not good for my mental health either.
                If I could just quit and not need a different job or if I had a different job that I thought would be better, then yes, I’d not feel (too) guilty about leaving (with a reasonable notice period). And I’ve thought about it. I’ve got some savings but not enough to just quit without drastically changing some other things too (high COL area).

          2. anon for this*

            To clarify, the way they handle things when I’m out is a combo of waiting for me to get back and just doing the bare minimum. But the rest of the stuff that’s not the bare minimum has to happen eventually, so I get to do it when I get back, along with fixing any problems caused by having done the bare minimum initially. Like, you can set up something in the ‘order’ system by just putting TBD in a bunch of places but then someone’s got to fix the form properly and drag the correct info out of the submitter and go back and clear out the TBD entries and replace them with the correct stuff before the ‘order’ is ready to send, since *eventually* you have to put in an address and so forth. And since part of the job is verifying that info’s valid, someone could end up risking the company (financial and repetitional risk) on an unverified ‘customer’ because you half assed the set series of checks involved in the process.

    6. The New Wanderer*

      I think you should make that call to your boss and it’s okay if it is both a description of the situation AND an ultimatum. It’s not sustainable, but they clearly won’t change your circumstances unless you force them to. You need to be able to clearly state “This is burning me out and I cannot continue without support or serious modification of the workload.” And it has to be a solution that works. Adding staff that you also have to train isn’t helping your workload unless everything else pauses except the training (which doesn’t seem likely if everything doesn’t pause when you’re not in the office), and it sounds like these aren’t people who are particularly qualified for this extra duty. But would refusing to process poorly filled out submissions until they are revised by the submitter be acceptable? That might be a drop in the bucket, but it would take away the added responsibility of fixing other people’s crappy work and put that burden where it belongs.

      You’re limited on vacation days but what about sick leave? Like, take several sick days and rest. Then come back and work 40 hours and whatever doesn’t get done in that time is tomorrow’s job. If they won’t listen that this isn’t sustainable, show them why. Show them it would take a second fully competent, full time person to manage the workload in the time you’re being given.

      1. Midwest Manager*

        +1 to this. And if your employer pushes back on use of sick days (requires a dr’s note to return) talk to your doc about getting exactly that. Lots of primary care physicians will do this for stress-related things.

        Your employer is taking advantage of you. At this point in my own career, I’d have table-flipped and told them where to stick it by now. But I also realize not everyone has that luxury. Push however much you can reasonably push, but don’t let them take you for a ride.

        1. anon for this*

          Vacation and sick time are the same bucket – I can call in sick (comes out of general PTO time) but it’s a hard sell for more than a day or so since we’re working from home. And it’s always worse when I go back (built up stuff other people don’t consider due to lack of familiarity w/the job).
          I guess the best thing is to have a meeting. If I request it specially, that might also help indicate that I’m serious.
          Oh, having people redo crappy submissions is in most cases a non starter. Without being too specific, it’s a stratified work environment – think professors vs staff or doctors vs staff. Asking a non staff person to do more work instead of me doing it is a no go. I get enough pushback when I ask for just the info (which I can’t find out on my own) to update the submissions myself. It wasn’t always that bad, when I first started this part of the job we weren’t supposed to do revisions and were encouraged to kick things back. That’s changed over the past 3 or 4 years and it really has been a slippery slope. I wish I had any support in pushing back. The general line is that the [higher ups] are going to do what they’re going to do and I have to deal with it.
          I will set up a meeting next week. I will write up some of my thoughts over the weekend (of which a lot has come out of reading and considering everyone’s thoughtful comments).

  45. Nonny*

    Has anyone here had their job restructured from full-time employee to contractor? My employer is doing this legally (I’ll be given concrete projects and allowed to work at my discretion), but I don’t know if I should be presenting them with a business contract, or if they should be drafting it on their end? I’m trying to figure out essentially how I secure my ongoing work with them.

    1. Ashley*

      A business is most likely to write a contract that will favor them. If they are doing this with several people I would imagine they would have a standard fill in the blank contract so it may not be possible for you to crate you own contract, but make sure there is something in place before you start.

    2. Can Can Cannot*

      You and your former employer need to work out the financial details of moving to a contractor. Obviously you will lose benefits, vacation, sick days, and will soon be responsible for self-employment taxes. As a result, your hourly rate will go up significantly. I’d suggest tripling your current rate; don’t go below 2x.

      You should get in front of this and not let them set the parameters of the relationship. Talk to friends who are contractors, find out what they are doing and who they use for legal and accounting help.

    3. PollyQ*

      Given that it’s their idea, I would expect they’ll be drafting a contract themselves, or they may already have a standard contract they use. But rather than guess or wonder, just ask them how they’re planning on handling this.

      Regardless, I’d definitely try to get an employment lawyer to look it over for you before you sign or to help you draw up the contract if it’ll be your responsibility. Yeah, it’ll cost some money, but I think this is one of those “penny wise, pound foolish” situations.

  46. Middle-manager*

    I need some help phrasing some disappointing news. I manage a part-time employee who’s been hoping to become a full-time salaried employee. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen, because the job they do is basically grunt work, and I guess not considered worth full-time pay? (On a positive note, we may be able to provide health benefits, although that is still under discussion.) I don’t know how to deliver this information gracefully. I could blame the instability of the pandemic, but it’s not the truth and I don’t want to make the same excuse every time their contract comes up for renewal. I don’t expect my own manager to help me with any scripts. Also possible that I am being too sensitive/coddling because this *is* kind of the nature of the job.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I think this is an instance where you need to prioritize being kind over being nice. It would be a kindness to this employee to be straightforward and give them all the information. Make it clear that the job will have to remain part-time, as well as any other info you have (benefits would be great, if you could secure them, but don’t promise them before you know).

      1. Anono-me*

        I really like how you said this and I am going to steal the first 1 1/2 sentences for similar future conversations.

    2. Midwest Manager*

      The best way is to rip off the band-aid and just tell them. Something like “I spoke with the higher ups about the position and they made it clear that there are no plans to make your role full-time.”

      There’s no way to sugar-coat this if the chances of it happening are actually next to zero. Just be honest and kind. They’ll understand.

      1. Weekend Please*

        Yep. Be blunt. It is a part time job and that will not change anytime soon. Blaming COVID or really blaming anything other than the nature of the job for the decision would do them a disservice because they will hope that once the pandemic is over or once something else changes, the job could become full time. This is a part time job and that is all that the higher ups want it to be.

      2. Chilipepper*

        And it is not about the quality of work they are doing, it is about how management sees the role.

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

      Do you get a sense that they are mostly hoping to be made full-time because of the benefits, rather than the salary as such? (Or can you ask them the question directly?)

      If so… I’d suggest getting a concrete answer about that first, before having the conversation, if possible.

      Assuming the role won’t become full time — don’t string them along, be straightforward but compassionate. (Can you provide any flexibility (if you aren’t already) around working hours and stuff like that, so that they could take on additional work somewhere?)

    4. Middle-manager*

      Thank you everyone for your responses and help with how to approach the situation. I do do my best to be honest and share information whenever possible. I don’t want to pass the blame but my manager did make it sound like full-time could be a possibility, so I did end up providing that (false) sense of hope on in previous discussions. I think that’s why I felt a bit trapped in how to frame this final piece of news.

  47. stuckadmin*

    Does anyone feel “stuck” in their position and in the work force in general. I graduated from college with a pretty basic degree. It was hard for me to obtain, mostly to me being young and dumb. But I did it. I am now in my mid 30s. I graduated in the recession and have been laid off a few times. I also fell into jobs that weren’t right for me. Thus I feel like I have been stuck in entry level work, my whole adult life.
    Right now I am a administrative assistant for a social services (non-profit) agency. I actually kind of like the work, my boss and colleagues are great, my benefits are great. But (there’s always a but) the pay is not great. I have gone my whole working life and never have had a job over $40k a year. Right now the only jobs available at the agency are social service type jobs. I am not qualified for these, nor do they appeal to me. I am scared to leave, the comfort of a good boss, and benefits. I have had horrid bosses in the past. Toxic work environments etc. I literally have never had a job I enjoyed, until this. But my family is growing and we need a bigger house, and being more financially comfortable would be great. I just don’t know what to do. I also don’t even know what to apply for. What does administrative assistant step up to?

    I am sorry if this is rambling. I just feel stuck and like I am on treadmill. Happily running but going nowhere.

    1. kitryan*

      Yup. I have a masters in theater and spent 1/2 my working life or more in that area. Nearly 10 years ago I left theater and took an entry level receptionist gig at a law firm. I got promoted twice and now am the staff person in charge of compliance. I can’t go back to theater because pandemic, out of date contacts and possibly also skills, and I don’t know how to job search in the law firm arena or the general business world, nor do I have any contacts there other than current and former people at my current workplace. So I’m stuck. There’s probably a lot of things I’d be good at because I’m quick to pick up stuff and am generally competent but you can’t just tell people that if they give you a month to learn you’ll probably do great even though there’s no related experience at all on your resume.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Not to sidetrack this thread, but I work with someone in charge of compliance whose background is as diverse as yours. I don’t know why you couldn’t just search for compliance jobs?

        1. kitryan*

          When I search for ‘compliance’ I get either finance jobs, which are (far as I can tell) a different thing – different systems, checks, and so forth. Or I get the compliance jobs in law where you have to be a lawyer. I don’t seem to know the right terms to get non lawyer but law field compliance jobs. It’s possible a lot of places give that stuff to billing dept people or to paralegals, so they’re looking for those people who will also do some compliance stuff as part of the job.
          I could probably do the finance work, with a bit of a ramp up for the different terminology/systems- that’s how I ended up in my current position- I got some compliance tasks to do in my ‘down time’ at reception and was good enough that they made it my job – but it’d take a fairly flexible workplace to hire someone with no/minimal obviously transferable experiences. If anyone has any tips on how law – compliance non lawyer stuff might be listed or job boards for that sort of thing, I’m all ears. I’d love to know what else is actually out there.

    2. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Is there anyone in your org or in your friend circle who are in a role you think is interesting? Ask around, you might find a training opportunity, even doing a couple of free online courses in different areas to see what sparks interest in you. And good luck, and don’t underestimate yourself!

    3. Aggretsuko*

      Administrative assistant doesn’t really step up to anything, unless you become an executive assistant. The people I know who have gotten out switched jobs entirely (dare I say it, to social service-y stuff). So you probably need to figure out how to qualify in something else in order to get out.

      I admit I’m not super motivated to go back to school or something/rack up debt to switch fields at this point myself, though. I work to have money and health insurance and I wouldn’t have those things if I did something I loved, since my interests are expendable. I just want an 8-5 and then get to leave it all behind at the end of the day.

    4. Lizy*

      I’m in a similar type of position… admin, but not really sure there’s much “up” to go to but… I think I’m ok with that. I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I may not ever be a Big Whig and what’s more – I don’t think I want to be!

      So – I think it depends on how happily running you are, really. I mean, yeah it would always be great to have more money, but is that really worth it for you? Or would you be happier staying where you are if it means you have peace of mind? Also, you don’t say if your family already has littles or not… but, would you be willing to stay in your current job if it meant an extra day or two of PTO? I know for me, the flexibility I had with my OldJob was really helpful when dealing with kids’ doctor appointments (heck, my own doctor appointments) or days off from school or whatever. “Financially comfortable” may take on a different meaning if it means flex-time or extra PTO.

      1. stuckadmin*

        Yes, you have basically described my other dilemma that I left out. We do have small kids. The flexibility is great. My boss is understanding of time off needed for kid stuff. So yeah thats another big factor that keeps me here. Part of me wants to stay for a few more years just to see what happens. My youngest will be 5 in 2024. Which would help matters alot in terms of childcare.

    5. MissGirl*

      I worked in publishing and felt super stuck with low pay and not a lot of room for advancement. I talked to several different people in other fields to see what’s out there. I ended up going back for an MBA to pivot into a new career entirely. It really worked out for me but it took two years to do that.

      I would start asking people what they do, what they like and don’t like, what pay is. See what’s out in the world and figure out some paths.

    6. Started as an Admin too*

      I’m similar to MissGirl! stuckadmin, I started out as an Administrative Assistant in publishing, then became Executive Assistant, and now am about to move into a hybrid EA/project role. I just started a part-time MBA to eventually move into corporate strategy/biz ops. Admin work has TONS of transferrable skills, so spend some time thinking about parts you like and parts you don’t and go from there! If you like coordinating meetings and travel, maybe event planning is for you. If you like tracking tasks and being organized, maybe project management. If you like facilities and people management, maybe HR or Office Manager type work. There are SO many possibilities! Happy to answer any other questions you have, too.

    7. OceanDiva*

      I’ve been where you are and can relate. You could look into operations roles or project/ program management, which moves you up from admin assistant and gets you better work (or higher level at least) and more pay. Plus those are transferable skills to any industry.

    8. The Rat-Catcher*

      Are you me??
      I did admin support at a social services government agency and ended up transitioning into training. I’m good at remembering and researching policy and law, explaining things clearly, and have jumped into designing e-learnings because I’m also a decent fit with the tech (I’m no savant, but in social services you don’t really have to be – just have to be willing to put in the work and learn it.) Don’t know if that’s a path for you in your circumstances but it made me some more money while I pursued a Master’s (and even now because the hiring in the field I got the Master’s in has been obliterated by COVID.)

  48. bad at following*

    I don’t respect my team lead. The way he communicates drives me absolutely crazy. He rambles, speaking in opaque metaphors and buzzwords. When he speaks up in a meeting, it’s often off-topic and/or unnecessary, and he talks for way too long. When people say things to him, he seems to misunderstand a lot of the time, to the point where I can’t trust him as an intermediary between our manager and the team. I know there’s some meaning and intelligence buried in his rambling, but it’s so hard to uncover. And at this point, I have a knee-jerk reaction where I assume he’s going to say nonsense, rather than listening like I should.

    I’m not the only one who finds him frustrating. Unfortunately, I’m not good at hiding it. I disagree with him a lot, and I try to correct him where I think he’s misunderstanding. I’m trying to dial it back, but I’m sure I come across as argumentative and generally disrespectful. I worry that it’s going to bite me in the butt.

    Any tips for how *not* to want to strangle him every time he speaks? Or at least how not to let it come through?

    1. Ashley*

      Practice your blank face as much as possible. These people suck but trying to mask my emotions in the moment as been my best defense.

    2. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      I focus on two things: how finding someone frustrating is an opportunity for me to develop patience and empathy while challenging myself. And I think about the money.

    3. CheeryO*

      Ha, are you my coworker?! I can only commiserate. What I do is (1) try to remind myself that his job is harder than it looks, and I would also have rambling and dopey moments if I were him, and (2) just pay attention and listen for the nuggets of useful information. I generally keep my opinions to myself, unless he’s way off-base in a way that will actually have a negative impact on our work.

      It helps that my work is pretty independent, so I can mostly do my own thing and let my work speak for itself. I also have a good relationship with my peer-level coworkers, so we can discuss things amongst ourselves and make sure we’re all on the same page.

    4. Cat Tree*

      I’ve had a lot of bad bosses in my career, although never in that specific way. What helps me get through it is reminding myself that everything is temporary. In most cases, the boss will move on to a different company or a different role within your company. Even someone who has been in the department 15 years will surprise me and move on. Sometimes, bosses get laid off or even fired. Sometimes companies restructure and everything gets moved around. Sometimes a department gets too big so they hire a second manager. Sometimes you will be the one to move on if something better comes along.

      Some day this person will no longer be your boss. It can be so much easier to tolerate when you view it as temporary rather than a permanent situation that you’re stuck in.

    5. Workerbee*

      I am sorry you have this person. He would fit in with the people at my org (shudder) down to the idiotic metaphors they take such pride in.

      I put on a Pleasantly Agreeable face and don’t bother correcting these folks unless they say something that pertains to me that is incorrect (as in, a job function I don’t do, or an allegation that I did something that I most certainly did not). Otherwise, I just let them hang and do other work during those interminable and pointless meetings.

      Just a thought here—
      It does get trickier given whatever misinformation he’s communicating to the manager, because higher-ups tend to have less perspective into what’s really going on. There’s a risk of the team lead being believed and listened to. Documenting things that overlap with your job function could help here, in a coldly factual way. Say for example you’re the lead on conferences, but your team lead keeps overriding and negating your decisions and causing more work. When the inevitable big boss comes asking why things didn’t go well, there’s a risk that the lead will throw you under the bus. Ask me how I know! Instead, you’ll have your documentation, to wit:

      — We chose presentation topics for our conference months in advance. One month prior to launch, Eustace made the decision that we’d have a panel of experts on an additional topic. Experts were gathered and began work on their topic. A week before the conference, Eustace decided we didn’t need a panel. The people involved reallocated their time. Two days before the conference, Eustace decided we should have the panel after all. The live panel felt rushed and the participants weren’t as prepared as they should have been.

    6. Chilipepper*

      For years I read Alison’s advice to get out the popcorn and enjoy the ridiculous show – but it took years to sink in. Now that it has, I’m much happier.

      I dont have great advice about how to let it sink in, time helped me.

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

      Is he my old (long time ago now) boss?!

      I have had to deal with this type of person multiple times, but one specific person (let’s call him Mick) stands out in my memory, this was a long time ago in my experience and I am older and wiser now!

      Well, Mick had been a reasonably competent individual contributor, all the time things went to plan. It was a technical job and Mick’s role was to, let’s say, implement requirements by updating code (whilst not actually being a developer per se). Mick always had a tendency to be very blinkered by how things ‘should’ be forcing out any other possibilities of the state-of-the-world though, persisted doggedly on a given path even when it didn’t make sense any more because that was the plan, etc.
      There were several times I (junior to Mick at the time) asked him what to do about situation X (e.g. the llamas we need to groom have got knots in their coats that go clockwise instead of counter-clockwise and our tools can only handle clockwise knots!) and got a response like “that can’t be possible, the knots are always clockwise”. I’d say yes I know that and conventionally that is the case, but I have in front of me a llama with counter-clockwise knots and our tools aren’t equipped for that so what should I do?
      (I didn’t suggest any solution as Mick had made it quite clear that he was the ‘senior’ and would come up with the solution!).. cue a loop of “but that isn’t possible” “but that is the case, so what do you want me to do” “but that isn’t possible so it can’t be the case” and so on and so on.

      Inevitably Mick was eventually promoted to management, after having emitted the acceptable quota of buzzword phrases like “it is what it is”, “synergy”, “implementing issues” etc etc. In his capacity as official management Mick used all $0.02 of his authority over me repeatedly about things like being 3 minutes late when it wasn’t a bums-in-seats job and we often ended up doing at least 1.5 hours of extra unpaid work at the end of the day off the books (while Mick had commitments he couldn’t shirk, of course).

      Mick and I eventually came head-to-head in a layoff-off and I was the ‘victorious’ one although with some guilt (but I genuinely was the more adaptable person to keep on in uncertain times).

      Tl;DR: re-think his knowledge: there’s a good chance he is rambling and using buzzwords for one of two reasons: feeling out of his depth, or feeling like buzzwords etc are what’s needed to be promoted to the next level. Neither of them are something that would inspire respect in someone tasked with being my team lead.

      Tips: work on your own leadership opportunities as much as possible, gather resume bolster and then get out.

  49. Ari*

    Hi everyone!

    I am a newly admitted labor and employment attorney who’s relocating to a new state that’s not the one I went to law school in. I actually graduated 2 years ago, but have not worked because of the bar exam. A week after I took the test the second time is when the pandemic hit and then I spent the better part of last year wrangling all the necessary documentation for my application to the new state’s bar.

    So, I feel very disconnected for having been away from school (and all its proprietary research databases), but also not being able to work for so long. I had previously done a concentration in my particular field, as well as a fantastic externship in my last semester. I know I probably have a lot of subject matter knowledge that may make me a more attractive candidate to some employers, but I’m really stumped on how to assess my experience levels when looking at job ads.

    If anyone in the field has any advice or stories to share, I would really appreciate it. It’s been quite difficult connecting with other professionals during the pandemic.

  50. My boss called me a failure in my review*

    I just had the worst review of my life.

    The issue is that there are items which are factually incorrect which I can support with documentation, allegations that I said XXX which are harder, but possible to refute. I have a response in which I am keeping to facts, neutral in tone, but defending myself. The monthly 1:1 docs do not support the review statements.

    Two questions: 1- if I get a different manager or apply for another position in the future, do people actually read the docs or just the ranking? And 2- Has anyone responded and suffered retaliation for it?

    My manager is a former peer who what’s been a frenemy since peer times. The jist of the review is that I ask too many questions. Which I think may be a female seen as aggressive where a male is assertive as the questions are how do I…? type and were when we were doing a process which was new to us. This came up in an August 1:1 and since then, I mute myself in all meetings, and have stopped talking to people unless absolutely necessary.

    I had previously indicated to leadership I did not want to be a people manager. It’s not that I want her job or want her to do it different, I just want the tools I need to do my job, keep my head down and do my work.

    Thoughts?

    1. Grapey*

      In our workplace reviews, bosses have to send the report to someone a level higher. I’d figure out who that is and send them the factual corrections. I don’t actually know if people “actually read the docs”, but your evidence should be there with it in case they do.

    2. Midwest Manager*

      My gut is suggesting that this manager is setting you up for the termination process – warranted or not. Many companies require internally (even in at will states) that a process is followed and documented, including 1:1 docs, performance reviews, and other steps related to PIP. My spouse went through something very similar over a 6-8 month period, and 3 days after he told me he was going to start job searching, he got fired.

      If your manager is heading down this path, no amount of head-down-production is going to solve this. I’d recommend brushing off your resume and putting yourself out there. If you can avoid it, don’t use this manager as a reference – there’s no telling what they might say. If they’re happy you’re moving on and they don’t need to do all the work to fire you, you might get a good one; or they may echo things stated in the review you just had.

      Good Luck!

    3. Midwest Manager*

      I realized my previous comments didn’t address your actual questions:
      1) Do people read the docs/ratings for internal transfers: It depends on the organization, and sometimes the hiring manager. Some orgs just hold that stuff at HR for posterity and it never again sees the light of day (unless needed for legal action). Others make a point to show it to the new manager – after the hire is made. It’s worth asking your company HR this question.
      2) Retaliation should never be a thing, in an ideal world. If you do suffer retaliation after submitting a response to your review, that’s a matter for HR. KEEP DOCUMENTATION of everything. When you provided your response, what backup documents you have for your position, and then any subsequent actions by the frenemy manager afterward.

      1. My boss called me a failure in my review*

        Thanks for the feedback. I was hoping you would say I was just being paranoid. LOL. I’ve been sitting on this for a week to give a calm and measured response and have copies of the emails, docs, etc., but also plan on applying elsewhere. I had hoped to retire from here someday as I really do love my job and get great client and other internal feedback.
        Again, thank you happy weekend!

      2. RC Rascal*

        Midwest Manager has a lot of good analysis here & I agree with it.

        I have been in the position. Do write a rebuttal and include documentation refuting the claims. Yes, your manager is likely to retaliate. It’s more important you document that you don’t agree.

        When this happened to me I wrote the rebuttal. Jerk Boss threatened to fire me for rebutting. HR was useless because she was sleeping with Jerk Boss. 90 days after the review they attempted to lay a bogus PIP on me and I responded by hiring an attorney and charging both with discrimination. Legal wouldn’t allow them to fire me and I never signed the PIP. I ended up working there another 15 months after that.

    4. Working mom*

      This happened to me in my last position. I did end up leaving the org that I had spent 14 years building a great reputation with because not only had she told me I was failing at my job (she had held back necessary training) but sabotaged any efforts for me to move internally. Jealousy is a green eyed monster and I do not wish her well.
      You need to brush up your resume, start looking in earnest and hold your ground on the truth. Document what you can on the sly to prove your case.

  51. Academics please*

    A colleague (administrator) whose work benefits me and my position has been MIA in terms of deadlines and productivity for the past year and half (pre and post covid)
    I have not been concerned because the work is ancillary to my own and with the pandemic, I have committed my time and focus on my core responsibilities- teaching/service/publication.
    The Dean has suddenly prioritized this colleague’s special project (that benefits me and my work- think like a huge grant) and now I am sucked into multiple zoom meetings with timelines for deliverables from me (I have been pushing back- no I cannot create a statistical report for you by next wed.)
    Reflecting it seems I may have been sucked into someones’ PIP.
    I DO not have the capacity to take over this project nor do I want to.
    I have communicated this in a very clear way but this is steamrolling on (because this is committing resources to my work, politically I cannot just say no. If it does work- HUGE win.
    I do not supervise this colleague
    I did blind copy my director and her director the last deliverable that was asked of me so that they know that any delays or missed deadlines are not me, but I felt kind of icky about that. It would be weird to cc them as that is not our corporate culture.

    Recap- She succeeds I win. She doesn’t succeed, I lose and may have to take responsibility for her failure.
    Any recommendations on how to navigate this situation? I do have tenure if that informs the advice.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      Document everything. Make sure you have access to those document under any conceivable circumstance.

  52. Director and liking it*

    I’d love to hear any stories of success in pushing back in my current situation (if there are any!).

    I’m in a director-level position at a midsize company. Recently, one of my peers won an industry-specific award, which my boss was super excited about, and now boss is not-so-subtly suggesting all of us directors strive for awards/public recognition. Lately this has been taking the form of boss taking small projects that we get assigned, and turning them into huge, complicated, and VERY PUBLIC projects, where the reward for all that extra work is prestige. Boss has also been creating extra projects, though so far not for my team.

    My issue is that at this point, I care more about work/life balance (with the emphasis on LIFE) than about prestige, winning awards, or being top in my field. I actually like the job I was hired to do a lot, and I think my boss is coming from a well-meaning place, but I’m not particularly inspired to devote extra hours to “extra-curricular” projects. I know the director who won the award regularly works late into the night and on weekends, and I have no desire to do that. I also don’t really care about moving up in the organization, or at all, I like where I’m at and don’t aspire to more responsibility.

    I’m single and in my late 30s, and I have a ton of hobbies outside of work. Though I do like my job and care about doing it well, at the end of the day it’s just a job, and it’s not more important to me than spending time with my loved ones, pursuing my hobbies, or enjoying my life in general. But I don’t know if there’s a way to communicate any of this or push back on the extra work. The only stories I’ve heard on this front have ended in someone getting pushed out/demoted/fired, and I don’t want that. I just want to stay where I’m at and do the job I was hired to do. Has anyone successfully pushed back against this kind of thing?

    1. James*

      I’ve seen pushback against it. It’s not easy, as you’re bucking the direction the executives want to go in, but it can be done.

      One thing to look at is quality control and safety. These are two sides of the same thing; as minor quality issues increase, you can bet safety incidents will as well. (I’m in a construction-adjacent field, and this is something we think about constantly.) If someone likes working long hours they may be fine with it, but most people can’t produce good work past the 50 or 60 hour mark. Quality drops considerably after even the 40 hour mark in many fields (50 hrs/week is standard in my industry).

      Everyone works differently. I like 50-60 hour weeks; it feels like I actually accomplished something. And the people I work with are similar. But we also acknowledge that we’re weird, and that our jobs are weird for allowing us to do so. Two of the best project managers I work with have strict policies of pencils down at 4:30. If youc all them at 4:31 they are unavailable.

      Another problem is that you may not be in a position to compete for awards in your field. Not everyone is. If you’re positioned to provide routine services to your clients, that’s what you need to be doing. Losing clients to pursue awards and public attention is risky; having a few areas where you perform routine work and get a predictable profit allows for such risk-taking. (I say that as someone who’s very much in the “routine work for regular profit” category!)

      I would avoid discussing work/life balance. It’s too easy to dismiss as “James is lazy, he just doesn’t want to work”. If you can make an argument that it’ll hurt the bottom line it’s harder to argue against.

      Unfortunately, at the end of the day you’re likely to lose. The idea of work/life balance isn’t well thought-of in the USA.

    2. RecoveringSWO*

      I agree with James. Is there a way to play the game strategically? Not all awards are created equal…If boss cares about awards/public recognition and hasn’t assigned extra work to your team yet, can you proactively, but efficiently, work towards your bosses goal before your team gets assigned more work? Maybe delegate (or take on) an assignment of looking up awards/recognition events in your industry and seeing if you previous/current work would be eligible for nomination? Then you can present that to boss and be seen as taking initiative while really just protecting your team (and yourself) from excess work.

    3. PollyQ*

      Using the issues of profitability & cost may be effective. If you can (gently) argue that spending extra time & effort on something that doesn’t help the bottom line isn’t the most effective use of resources, you may get boss to come around.

  53. Kiki*

    Does anyone have any tips for convincing company leadership to implement a logical pay structure/ payscale? Right now, the company really just relies on people to negotiate when they are hired then gives 2-4% raises each year. Even when someone is promoted, they use a percentage-based system to determine new salaries, so if you came into the company at a lower level or didn’t negotiate well once, you’re bound to that salary for your duration at the company. This definitely creates equity issues and is truthfully just shitty for morale, so there’s quite a bit of turnover. It’s especially stupid in my department because our industry is one that is generally well-compensated, so folks know for a fact they can leave the company and get $20-40k more very easily.
    I understand that it should be clear to leadership that this is a problem and perhaps I’m engaging in a fool’s errand by trying to rectify this issue, but if anyone has ever changed things at their company, I’m all ears.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Well, if you’re in the US, hire both men and women and I understand Alison right, there may be some legal issues there. People doing similar work need to be paid similarly regardless of their negotiation skills.

      Usually pointing out that things are illegal is a good way to start getting attention to issues so maybe do some research there?

    2. The New Wanderer*

      A company I worked for about 25 years ago did a huge market correction on salaries about six months after I started because they were losing candidates and not retaining new employees based on low salaries compared to competitors. I (being young and naive) hadn’t negotiated when I started and ended up getting a 16% increase to put me in line with other people in comparable roles. In hindsight, that’s an embarrassing disconnect between what I was earning vs my colleagues, most of whom said they did not get adjustments. If competitors are paying that much more (all other things being equal), your company has to either step it up or resign themselves to losing anyone with the option to go elsewhere.

      My current company lost a class action suit about 20 years ago due to gender-based pay inequities, which led to an overhaul of how salaries are determined (before my time). We’re given percentage based raises but I believe we have stricter pay bands now that are more closely tied to market rates, and the percentages have some flexibility to proportionately benefit people in the bottom half of the pay band – bringing them closer to market rate faster – vs top half, who are typically above market rate already. There may be other monitoring based on demographics to ensure equity, but I don’t have any visibility of that.

  54. Stephen!*

    I applied for a job about 6 months ago that had been advertised as the person needed to work from the location. I was in a neighboring state and applied, mentioning I would be willing to relocate. They still have that job up, but also another position, exactly the same, for remote workers. Should I apply to that, or is it too soon/redundant?

    1. Midwest Manager*

      Apply for the remote position! Some orgs (mine, for one) won’t allow a candidate who applied for one job to be considered for any other posting unless they explicitly applied for the second one as well. You cant’ hurt your chances!

    2. Stephen!*

      Thanks for the replies. I always wonder where the line is between showing interest and relentlessly showering a prospective employers with resumes!

      1. Lyudie*

        No and yes, IMO. I think it would be better to write a new letter (maybe reusing pieces of the first, though others might have a different opinion on that–as a former tech writer I tend to view stealing from yourself differently than others sometimes) and I think mentioning that you are reapplying and why would be helpful. If they remember you, they might think it’s odd if you don’t mention it at all (or think you don’t remember you already applied for the other position). Might as well address the elephant in the room.

        And FWIW I think six months is a long enough time that you won’t seem like “relentlessly showering” them :)

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

      It isn’t too soon but I would wonder about the possibility of a bait and switch of a job being advertised as remote (because they didn’t get enough interest in the original state) but then being asked to travel in more than you would like, so you’d need to ask about that.

  55. Duckles*

    Appreciate any thoughts on career trajectory:

    Started my career in a prestigious firm in city A and left after six years for a job with an over-50% paycut but excellent hours, benefits, and interesting work.
    I’ve been there for two years now and still enjoy it, but don’t really feel like I’m gaining new skills or have great job security so it’s time to move on. I also moved from City A to City B but kept the job remotely.
    I found a posting online in City B that looks great– what I’d like to be doing for the type of org I’d like to be doing it for, my experience level is right, I’ll be able to continue to grow my skills again, etc– but the top of the listed salary range is a 20% paycut from my current salary. Based on a COL calculator, that’s exactly the difference between the purchasing power difference in City A and City B, so it theoretically should be doable– but given that I’m already living in City B on a higher salary, it’s still a very real loss.

    I’m just curious if anyone else has experienced this– constantly moving backwards in salary? It feels kind of dispiriting about a job I’m otherwise very interested in.

    1. Colette*

      I’m making less now than I was 20 years ago. I was a software developer in high tech during the boom; when I got laid off, I took a pay cut. And then every time I changed companies after that, I slipped backwards in pay, then gradually crept upwards again.

      I’d like to make more, don’t get me wrong, but I can live on what I make now.

      So are the benefits you get from moving (i.e. new skills, job security) worth the pay cut? Can you live on the lower pay?

  56. Titi*

    This is a really low stakes question but it bothers me none the less. I started a new job about a month ago and it definitely has problems but the one that I struggle with is I eat lunch. I noticed nobody else in the office eats lunch and I’m worried that they think it is weird and for the lady that is going through weight loss treatments and we sit in the same area I’m worried I am making her life harder. So really low stakes but still curious, I’m obviously going to keep packing lunch because my health is important but would you start packing cold lunch instead of a lunch that has to be microwaved to seem more in line with the way they are running?

    1. Asenath*

      I wouldn’t change. They might not eat lunch, but you get to do so, and if there’s a microwave there, presumably you are permitted to heat it up – unless it’s fish, I suppose. And I once got a complaint about heating spicy food, and really, if they thought that was spicy…. but I didn’t buy that frozen meal again. It’s kind of like the way a lot of people in one job I had never took coffee breaks. That didn’t mean no one was permitted to take a coffee break, or anyone complained about those who did! As for the lady with the weight loss treatments, I’m sure she sees people eating meals, and as long as you don’t involve her – that is, persistently offer her your desert – she should be fine with you eating your own lunch.

      1. Titi*

        No fish in the office! Blech! No I guess this stemmed from not feeling like I belong in the group/office and it just feels like one more thing that sets me apart. But thanks for pointing out that just because nobody else does it doesn’t mean it is frowned on.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I always packed cold lunch, but mostly because there’s always such petty work drama about the microwave. Not worth it to me to have a warm lunch.

      Not sure what to tell you when the office culture is not to eat all day (maybe in COVID times?), but shoot, people are supposed to get hungry. How are they not eating all day?

      1. Titi*

        They snack and work has provided snacks like chips and granola bars but I like to eat an actual lunch and not snack. And I’ve never dealt with work drama about the microwave, now I am imagining what drama over the microwave looks like. I have always packed my lunch and used the microwave but it never felt weird to me until I started here.

        I also don’t think it is about Covid that they aren’t eating lunch. Nobody in the office is really taking it seriously and if I thought I could ask for it I would ask if I could work from home.

        Like I said this might just be that I don’t feel like I belong here and it isn’t a culture fit and they might not even notice but I have made it this thing in my head.

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

      Is there anywhere out of the immediate area you can go to take your lunch?

      I would be inclined to bring a lunch (that could also be eaten cold) microwave it and eat it for a couple of days, and see if anyone else says anything to you. You could easily play it off as “oh sorry, I used to do this at my old place so it’s a habit” (but then continue with it!)

      I presume you have a microwave in your environment (since you talked about a lunch that needs to be microwaved) so does anyone use it?

      Do you get the sense that no-one else eats lunch due to the workload (or similar) or is it more of a weight-conscious/deference to your colleague thing?

    4. Not So NewReader*

      After reading all. the. complaints on here about microwaving, I don’t bother to bring food that needs heating.
      This isn’t super hard as there is usually something left over from dinner that is fine even though it is cold.

  57. LargeHippo*

    Does anyone have any experience changing from the hospitality industry to another field? I was a sales manager for events in a restaurant and have lost my job due to Covid. I’m not seeing any light at the end of this tunnel and I really need a job. I’ve gotten nowhere with my my job applications (I’ve been applying to the very few positions that are posted for hotels and corporate event planning) but maybe there are other positions I could be looking at where my skills are transferrable. Any advice on how to market myself to a new industry?

    1. OyHiOh*

      To long/won’t read: work out how to write your skills and achievements in general, rather than industry specific ways, and write really good cover letters for jobs you’re applying to.