the best time of day to apply for jobs, working for an unethical industry, and more

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

1. Is my CEO stringing me along in her succession planning?

I work for a small nonprofit (12 employees). Seven years ago, I was wooed to my current position of vice president by the CEO/president, with the explicit plan that I will take over and run the organization once she retires. It appeared to be forward-thinking succession planning on her part, and I took a pay cut from my previous job to make the leap. She was nearing traditional retirement age, and she also hinted at some specific timelines (“this is the last time I’ll be in charge of this project”); I was expecting to lead the organization within five years.

Fast forward to now, and we’re still in the same position. Worse, she refuses to engage in communication about the future of the organization and my role. Over the last year, I’ve tried to broach the subject in a “big picture” way, yet she cuts me off and insists she won’t be forced out. I recognize that she has to make the decision that’s right for her. But I also need information to make the decision that’s right for me.

Everyone at the organization is aware I was brought in as her replacement, and I often get questions (from employees, board members, and community partners) about when I’m taking over. I tempted to subtly share some of my frustration the next time a board member asks, in attempts to spur some conversation about succession planning at the board level, but I fear that might be overstepping. Am I out of line for making the assumption that I would have a clearer picture after seven years at the organization? What should I do?

Seven years?! No, you are not out of line. If she has changed her mind, so be it, but she owes you a direct conversation about what’s going on so you can make the right decisions for yourself.

If you knew that it definitely wasn’t happening in the next several years, what decisions would you make? I’d start assuming it’s not happening for at least the next several years, if at all, and plan accordingly.

But since it sounds like the board assumes you’ll be taking over at some point (and presumably has approved that) and board members are asking you about the timeline, you also should be able to talk with a board member about your concerns. Explain the CEO has refused to discuss any timeline with you and you’re at the point where you’re thinking about whether you need to leave the organization to pursue your own goals. Ask if they have any insight or can initiate a conversation about timeline. (Before doing this, you should factor in what you know of the CEO — if she’ll freak out that you raised this with a board member on your own, be sure to pick the specific board member and your wording carefully … and consider asking the board member to help shield you from that.)

2. Working in an ethically dubious industry

I’m an attorney working at a mid-sized national firm with a big law annual billable hours requirement. My firm primarily focuses on litigation, but after five years here (nine years in practice total), I’m sure this isn’t the right fit for me. I’m a wreck when it comes to public speaking, I’m terrible at generating my own business, and hitting the annual billable hours target is a consistent source of stress. Moreover, the regional office I’m in is small and my role isn’t as defined as other associates, meaning I often find myself low on work while younger, less experienced coworkers are busy with their niche projects or cases. Basically, I’m over it and looking for a way out. Going in-house for a major company is an attractive option because it will gel with my experience, generally pays well, and will get me out of having to bill.

An international tobacco company is hiring for an in-house position doing primarily commercial and transactional work (contracts and such) and I’m thinking about applying. However, I’m concerned about the ethics of working for a tobacco company and the potential ramifications of doing so when I’m ready to move on in the future, particularly if someday I want to transition to public service (my goal in law school before the realities of having to pay back my huge loans set in). Will having worked for a tobacco company, even one that isn’t US-based and so wasn’t embroiled in decades-long litigation regarding lying to the public about the dangers of smoking, be a black mark on my resume to future employers?

It’ll be a black mark to some employers, and others won’t care. To some extent it depends on the kinds of jobs you’ll want afterwards. If you’d want to work for, say, a public health group or a progressive charity, it’s going to be more of an issue than if you want to work for a bank. (Even at a bank, though, you’ll find individual hiring managers who find it distasteful.) You said you’d like to move to public service at some point, and it’s more likely to be an obstacle there — not across the board, it’ll depend on the specific organizations you’re applying for, but I’d weigh that pretty heavily in your decision-making.

And of course, there’s a reason it’ll be a black mark to some people — you’ll have signed on to help support a product that kills people. Are you comfortable with that work? Maybe you are! But I’d think hard about your own comfort level with it, first and foremost.

3. Does time of day matter when sending in a job application?

I’ve come across a couple of articles indicating that applications are more likely to receive a response if sent in early in the morning. I’m somewhat of a night owl and often am working on applications after business hours or on weekends. If a position is reviewing applications on a rolling basis but the deadline is still a few days to a few weeks off, is it better to send in my application ASAP, even if that means sending it at 10 p.m. or on a weekend, or should I hold it until the start of the next business day?

It doesn’t matter. Apply when it’s convenient for you. What matters most is that you have a compelling, personalized cover letter and a resume that shows a track record of achievement in the area they’re hiring for — not the time of day you apply.

In fact, most hiring managers won’t even notice what time of day your application was received. Few people read applications in real time as they come in. Most people read them in batches. Those batches might be organized from oldest to newest, or newest to oldest, or alphabetically, or they might be in no order at all. Apply as soon as you have time to do it well and don’t get hung up on the timing.

The one caveat I would give about timing is not to wait until just before the application deadline. Employers don’t always stick to those deadlines; if they find someone great before then, they may hire that person. Other times the deadline is artificial because the site where the job ad requires one so they just put in a date, but it doesn’t have real meaning. So apply as soon as you can.

4. Can I opt out of using electronic calendar invites and other widgets?

I work as an academic at a university. For years I happily used old-fashioned, text-based email software, but we have all been pushed onto Microsoft Exchange.

Increasingly, I’m getting emails that are not just emails. If I’m being invited to a meeting, these emails will often contain a calendar
widget with an RSVP button, which will add the event to “my calendar.”

I don’t use the university-provided calendar to manage my schedule, and I have no desire to start. You’ve written about Microsoft’s creepy “MyAnalytics” productivity analyzer, and I want no part of that. And moreover, I don’t want to invite assumptions about when I am and am not free. Much of my work takes place outside formal meetings, and I need to protect my time.

All this said, I don’t want to be rude to others. If someone sends me one of these calendar widgets, do good manners oblige me to use the widget to reply? And, more generally, to what extent am I obliged to get on board with whatever communication and time-management systems my employer tries to push?

You’re not obligated to use that kind of widget. Nor are you necessarily obligated to accept calendar invites that automatically add things to your calendar if you don’t use your calendar that way.

That said, if the culture of your workplace is to use shared calendars to see people’s availability and set up meetings, it might not fly to opt out of that system. So I’d look at whether it would inconvenience colleagues or be strongly out of sync with your culture before you make up your mind. That’s partly the answer to your broader question too — the extent to which you’re obligated to get on board with whatever systems your employer is pushing depends on how that system is used, how onerous it’ll be for other people if you don’t use them, and how much autonomy you have to do your own thing. An academic may find it pretty easy to opt out of that stuff; a junior accounts person may not.

5. Organization refuses to credit me for my volunteer work

I volunteer for an organization and I was the one to suggest hosting an online meeting (they’ve never done that before). When it came time to publicize the event, literally everyone else’s name was included but mine! I need to get credit for the work I’ve done in order to maintain the membership I hold, as it is based on a points system.

I’ve spent hours telling the chair of this organization to “click this link” or “do this” in order for it to succeed. It would seem this person barely knows how to turn a computer on. When I confronted them about how I need my name to be published on the event link, they babbled on something about data protection, and how I am just “an admin for this event.” So, they won’t publish my name. For a volunteer event. That I’m doing all the work for.

At the time I barely concealed my disappointment, but is it worth fighting over? Should I quit before the event? Or should I just let it go?

What benefits, if any, are you getting from this volunteer organization? If the answer is few to none and you’re volunteering purely out of a desire to do good in the world, it’s hard to see why you should keep giving this one your time. There are other volunteer organizations that would happily accept your time and work and wouldn’t refuse to credit you in a situation like this, especially when you directly ask.

On the other hand, if there are professional or other benefits to remaining a member, I’d let this go as a very annoying one-off … but if similar things happen and you’re seeing a pattern, it’s hard to imagine continuing to lend your time.

As for whether to push for credit now, it sounds like you’ve tried and been told no. Make sure you still receive the points toward membership that this work should have earned you, though.

{ 751 comments… read them below }

      1. Anonnie*

        Agreed. That link about cover letters provided to LW3 is actually perfectly timed for you. Good luck!

    1. allathian*

      Time to move on. This CEO has just been stringing the OP along, getting cheap labor in exchange for nebulous future promises.

      At least there’s no harm in applying for other jobs.

      1. loosingitall*

        Definitely no harm! And if/when the CEO decides to move on, OP can choose to apply for the soon-to-be-vacant position. She’s a known entity, and knows the business operations. Op – time to spread your wings.

      2. Kes*

        I agree. The CEO is just stringing OP along at this point (perhaps not intentionally… but the effect is the same). If OP wants a CEO role, it’s time to go look for a CEO role (you’ve been training for this kind of role for seven years, after all)

        1. Bee*

          Yeah, it sounds to me like the CEO DID intend to wind down and leave, but now that the time has come she just can’t make the leap. But the only way that matters is if it makes the OP feel better that she wasn’t actively deceived. It doesn’t mean she should just wait around indefinitely.

    2. MJ*

      And beware the CEO who says, upon handling in your resignation, “oh I preparing to leave. Just a couple more months…” It’s a trap.

    3. jenny20*

      I also think it’s important for LW1 to realize that she has a lot of power here. She’s been ‘training’ for the CEO role for SEVEN YEARS. Eventually the CEO is going to have to retire, and that day could come sooner rather than later. If LW resigns at the point the board is in a really tough bind with respect to succession planning.

      1. Casper Lives*

        I don’t think she has any power. Unless the board is willing to force the CEO to resign, the job won’t be open for years. I wouldn’t be willing to force someone to resign unless they were doing a bad job.

        LW should find another non-profit job that meets their career goals. She’s not beholden to being put on ice for any job, even a non-profit with a good mission.

        1. irene adler*

          There might be some leverage here. Depends upon what action the board is willing to do.

          If the board members, who are already asking about when LW will be taking over, are willing to formalize a resignation date for the current CEO, then the LW will become the new CEO.

          1. Amaranth*

            I don’t think the Board can force her to select a resignation date, though they could add incentives for her to do so if they are really committed to changing leadership. LW should also gauge how supportive the Board is about getting her hired specifically, because I’ve seen a lot of companies suddenly say ‘oh, we should do an external search just in case.’

        2. Jill*

          Having to train another person for succession if LW leaves could be a very big problem for the board because eventually that CEO won’t be there anymore, and LW has already told their community partners she’s frustrated with the situation so finding their contact at a new organization could definitely be damaging. It’s probably not enough to force the CEO or wouldn’t be at any non-profit I’ve worked at, but I think there is some leverage there.

          1. Artemesia*

            She has already stayed 4 years too long; who cares if they have problems with succession planning as a result? They have underpaid her and blocked her career progress while waving promises they don’t intend to keep.

            1. Jill*

              I didn’t say she should stay or that it would even work, just that she might have leverage if she wanted.

            2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              You said it, Artemesia. They’ve taken her for granted and undervalued her this long, showing they don’t respect her. If the CEO does leave, there’s no guarantee OP will get the job, and if she does, the undervaluing and disrespect may continue with, for example, low-ball pay or less authority than she deserves.

          2. Kes*

            Maybe, maybe not. If the CEO is well liked the board is unlikely to want to force her out before she’s ready to leave. I think OP can hint at frustration to the board, but I suspect they’re better off looking elsewhere at this point rather than trying to force a change in the organization.

            1. Jill*

              That’s why I was replying I thought she might have some leverage to the commenter who said she wouldn’t have any leverage at all. Maybe, maybe not.

          3. Two Dog Night*

            LW says I[‘m] tempted to subtly share some of my frustration the next time a board member asks, in attempts to spur some conversation about succession planning–not that she’s actually said anything either to the board or to anyone outside the organization. It seems to me that the LW has been thoroughly professional about the whole thing, but I don’t think she has leverage over the board in this way.

            I do think it’s time for a tactful conversation with a board member, but I also think LW needs to be prepared to move on.

            1. Jill*

              Definitely agree. I was referencing the sentence before and I guess I had trouble coming up with answers to a question like that that wouldn’t be considered frustrations this situation. Either way, the only way she’ll get an answer at this point is an honest conversation with the board. I wouldn’t stay and I don’t think she could sway any board I’ve been governed by, especially after going so long without bringing it up, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen at all.

        3. Paulina*

          I agree that LW1 doesn’t have much power here, other than the power to leave. But a CEO who is ruining succession planning is doing a bad job on at least one key aspect. Having a tactful conversation with a suitable member of the board sounds better than either showing frustration or just leaving in silence, however, especially if the LW wants to leave the door open to coming back when the top job is actually vacant.

          LW1, please look at other options. I don’t know how your organization is structured, but in many organizations they might need to (or say they should) do an open search once the position is finally vacant, and having been the loyal second-in-charge may count for nothing if they get an applicant with experience actually running a similar organization. The “it’ll be yours next” promise gets used instead of tangible recompense far too often, to keep assistance in place, but it can be those who don’t wait who have greater experience and thus become “so good we just had to hire them, you understand.” You don’t have the job until they actually hire you for it.

        4. Kevin Sours*

          “I often get questions (from employees, board members, and community partners) about when I’m taking over”

          Suggests that stakeholders are operating under the impression that the original succession plan is still in place and are somewhat perplexed by the delay. They may very well assume that LW in on board with the delay for one reason or another. At the very least I think a number of people are going to be unpleasantly surprised when LW announces her intention to go elsewhere.

          Would they actually force the CEO out? Maybe not, but if they already expected her to retire then there will at least be some earnest discussion over what the continuity plan is going to look like.

      2. In my shell*

        “If LW resigns at the point the board is in a really tough bind with respect to succession planning.”

        Not necessarily. There are often few positions like this and there would likely be competition for the position! There are a lot of VPs waiting in the wings for their CEOs to retire.

    4. Younger than I should be*

      I once worked at a small organization where the director was expected to retire in a year or so. The position was not only heavily client-facing but also collaborative with other orgs statewide. A junior director position opened up and a intelligent and knowledgeable person was hired. As time went on, it became obvious that the director was having second thoughts. Even though JD was doing a great job, director didn’t like their language or dress. JD got tired of waiting and left for a better paying position and director retired a month later.

    5. JSPA*

      By the same token, no harm giving the board a head’s up. Nothing snarky! The timing is tough. In this particular case, I might do it once the search is well underway and offers are imminent, because nonprofit boards often take longer to come to agreements and make offers than normal corporations. Which is to say, it’s not a normal “counter-offer” scenario. Also, a large part of the message is, “I’d love to come back when you’re ready, provided I can do so without screwing over someone who’s recently hired me.”


      “I was brought on for succession planning seven years ago. However, boss is feeling as energized and essential as ever, says she has no plans to retire, and her name is practically synonymous with our organization. If and when she’s ready to retire, I remain ready and enthusiastic as ever to serve as CEO. However, I have applied for other leadership positions, as well as some higher paying niche jobs that will let me further expand my skill set, and am in final round interviews with more than one. If there’s a timeline for succession perking along behind the scenes that you’re willing to formalize as a job offer with a start date, I wanted to give you enough lead time to do so.”

    6. JM60*

      I get the feeling they may be falling prey to the sunk cost fallacy. They’ve spent 7 years being underpaid by this org believing they’d be given the CEO position, so they (understandably) don’t want to lose out on that.

  1. kar bear*

    OP #4 reminds me of my former colleague, whom I adored…we worked together in local government and he absolutely refused to use the calendar function of outlook. Instead, he carried around a daily schedule notebook that he wrote his appointments in. Of course, it was impossible to know where he was (or schedule a meeting with him, since you never knew when he was booked) – which I think was part of the master plan! (Maybe this makes him sound like a slacker but he was more of a rogue and definitely got lots done – in the best way since he wasn’t stuck in endless meetings! :)

    1. Raine*

      Yeah, the “but I have an appointment book!” people used to drive me nuts when I was an executive assistant. Sorry, but I can’t read your Franklin Planner through my computer screen. Your online calendar says you were available, so I scheduled a meeting then, and you didn’t block that time out or decline the invitation.

      1. Juniper*

        Yep. As an exec assistant to the CEO, I generally draw a firm line when it comes to availability. Extenuating circumstances notwithstanding, if your calendar says you are free, the time slot is open for grabs.

      2. OP #4*

        To me it seems totally foreign that others could or would schedule meetings on my behalf. That said, I get that this is common in many workplaces.

        1. Bagpuss*

          But you say you are getting invitations for meetings, so clearly there are meetings at which your presence is necessary. How do you expect to people to know when you are free? this is a serious question. Expecting them to e-mail you to ask if you are available is a very labour intensive way of doing it, and gets more so the larger the number of people who need to be in the meeting. I’m confused about why responding to an invitation which comes to you via e-mail as a calendar invite is any different or more difficult / intrusive than responding to one which comes as a text only e-mail?

          Also, in outlook, if you decline a meeting you can suggest an alternative time, so you can still use that feature without sharing your calendar with others, (although it does make more work for them as they can’t check first whether you are likely to be available, and fo you, as it increases the likelihood of you getting invitations for times you aren’t available, and having to they wait while it is rearranged)

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Yes, I agree with all of this.

            In my company you’d be wildly out of sync with the culture and norms, and be considered behind the times since we all use Outlook for scheduling.

            It’s such a PITA when I have to schedule a meeting with someone (or multiple people) outside of my company, because I have to do the email back-and-forth to find a time that works for everyone. Inside my company, it’s simple–I just check their calendar and I know when is a good time. Someone inside the company not using Outlook (or whatever other calendar system) would be the equivalent of scheduling with an outsider and that would be really annoying.

            If protecting your time is important, all you have to do is block off time on your calendar. People will see it’s blocked off and pick a different time. Although, if it’s something really important–and sometimes it is–they might send the invitation anyway, and you can either accept, decline, or suggest another time.

            1. no parachute*

              Couple years back, I had to schedule a meeting with a bunch of folks in my org, and two (2) people outside of it, who hated responding to my emails.

              It took, no lie, a month to schedule the meeting.

            2. The Other Dawn*

              I meant to add: just because people can see your calendar doesn’t mean they can see details. If you don’t click the button to share it, then all people see is blocked off time. They won’t see that it’s a gyno appointment or a board meeting, just that you’re busy at that time.

              1. kittymommy*

                This. At least with Outlook even if people can see the details (I can see the details of almost every single high level person in my org)you can still make appointments private and no one except you can see them. There is a way to change that but it’s a little involved and can only be done if you are logged in as that person.

                1. Zephy*

                  You can also just…be vague when you set up the appointment in Outlook, no matter what level of access you’ve granted anyone else. Even if someone is able to see the title and details of an appointment, if you just put it in as “unavailable” and provide no further information, they won’t know you’re out from 3:30 to 5 PM on Thursday for a gyno appointment unless you tell them so.

                  You can set different access levels for every individual person with whom you share your calendar – so your boss might need to see all the details of who you’re meeting with and about what, but the receptionist might only need to see the name of the person you’re meeting with, and a peer/external client only needs to know if you’re available or not.

                2. Chinook*

                  I forgot about receptionists who need to view Outlook appointments to verify that the person at the front desk is actually expected. This doubly important during these times and my now include security personnel.

                  Remember, it is not always about you.

              2. Orange You Glad*

                I was going to say this. Our calendars are set up so you just see time blocked off as busy or out of office. I’ve gotten in the habit of blocking off time on my calendar for whenever I know I can’t or don’t want to hold meetings. I don’t add any detail, just a block of time marked busy. It doesn’t matter if it’s due to PTO, appointments, other meetings, etc. I’m only indicating that I’m unavailable to my organization.

                I have a boss that refuses to use the Outlook calendar and it’s infuriating. He’ll wait until an hour before a meeting – that had been scheduled for a week with multiple other groups – to tell us that he has a doctor’s appointment and we need to reschedule. It slows down work and often creates more work for me to wrangle all the parties again. With working from home now, sharing your availability is a necessity to operate IMO.

                1. Zephy*

                  My job basically revolves around client meetings, so my office transitioned to using Microsoft Bookings to schedule our appointments. It’s almost impossible to predict how long a given meeting is likely to run; sometimes it’s 15 minutes, sometimes it’s two hours. I purposefully blocked off every other 90-minute chunk of my day, plus a half hour on either side of my lunch break, to stop people from jam-packing my schedule with 4 or 5 back-to-back meetings. I can still put in appointments during the blocked-off times from my end of the tool (and occasionally I do accidentally book myself into marathon meetings), but someone using my public appointment link will see only 3-4 time slots in a given day.

            3. Chinook*

              What they are saying. I have trained new to Microsoft apps people on how to use Outlook and point out that this is a tool that you use as little or as much as you wnt as long as you read your emails in a timely manner nd show up to meetings when requested (in other words, you don’t get to ictate how others contact you unless you are their boss).

              I then tell them about the headaches and time consumed as an assistant hen people didn’t keep thir calendars updated an I struggled to plan meetings for my boss when everyone was available. Sure, the OP can call me later to tell me they won’t make it (or worse, my boss who will then ask me why I scheduled it when OP was busy, and I have to either take the hit or throw you under the bus), but I still noe have to call you back for your free times (and hope they don’t change) and reschedule the meeting, which means inconveniencing everyone else. All this work, frustration and inconvenience for everon else could so easily have been prevented if you just put in your calendar when you are busy and replied to the widgets.

              Oh, and ignorung the emails just ters them into your calendar as tentative, which is useless when you need a head count for printed handouts and food. And you know who get side eyed when there are not enough agendas on the table? The assistant. And we will remember who made us look bad and remember that when you need something from us (because we have to prioritize work using skme standard).

              I am the most paranoid person when it comes to big brother and tech, but ignoring it just hurts the people with least power. Instead, use it just enough to be useful to others but not enough for any data it grabs about you to be accurate.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            “But you say you are getting invitations for meetings, so clearly there are meetings at which your presence is necessary.”

            This is a huge, gaping non sequitur. We all attend innumerable meetings where our presence is irrelevant to the rest of the meeting, and the meeting is irrelevant to us. Who gets to say when our presence is necessary? Give this power to anyone with access to Outlook and we will all spend the rest of our days in pointless meetings.

            1. WellRed*

              Seriously! Am I also supposed to take the time each day/week/month to indicate on my calendar that I won’t be available? I’m on a reporter. I sometimes don’t even know. If meetings are so important (they rarely are) then it’s on the person insisting on having this meeting to do the work. All that said, I make myself very available as much as possible and fortunately, my meetings are few and at regularly scheduled times.

              1. Green great dragon*

                The key point here is ‘your meetings are few’, and you have lots of other reasons not to be available. Meetings I accept are are all on my calendar (with one click, coz they come as schedulers), my regular ‘not availables’ are on there, the rest of the time I’m available. I decline meetings I don’t want to attend. And I would be much worse at my job if I only attended meetings when someone ‘insisted’ and was prepared to ‘do the work’ to make it possible.

                I’m sure your way is right for you! But I don’t think you’re typical of calendar-using organisations.

                1. Charlotte Lucas*

                  Agreed! The OP sounds like an academic, & they probably have much different expectations about meetings & how their time is used than someone who works at a different kind of organization. I work for a government agency, & if someone pushed back on using their calendar, it would be a huge issue & cause a ton of scheduling problems.

              2. Not a Blossom*

                “If meetings are so important (they rarely are) then it’s on the person insisting on having this meeting to do the work.” That may fly when you’re a reporter, but it wouldn’t work for me. I’m an office worker who semi-regularly has to have meetings with people multiple steps above me. Their schedules are packed, so scheduling starts with their time and works its way down the food chain. I cannot imagine telling their assistant to “do the work” to make sure I’m available. YIKES.

                This is something that absolutely varies by field, and as an academic at a university, the OP would absolutely be expected to make certain meetings work unless they were teaching. Also, TRUST ME, you don’t want to be a pain in the ass for, say, the chair’s or dean’s assistant.

                1. hillia*

                  If you don’t think the meeting is important, don’t attend and don’t get upset if you miss something critical because I scheduled a meeting when you’re not available and I had no way of knowing that. I’m not chasing 15 people trying to manually collect their free/busy times for the next 2 weeks so I can get a 30 minute meeting planned. If you don’t want to be part of meetings, so be it, but you take the good with the bad.

                2. kittymommy*

                  Everything in this. I’m the (only) assistant for the highest ranking people in my org. I keep 9 calendars up at a time for scheduling (yes, it is a freaking nightmare). If I put a director in a meeting, someone who is about 2-3 levels under the people I work for, it is not-optional. I will try to work with the calendar as much as I can, say outside or personal appointments, but I will make you move your weekly staff meeting that is two hours long.

              3. Yorick*

                By using the calendar, they are “doing the work” to make sure the meeting can happen. Yes, you can block off times that you’re unavailable, and that way no one would suggest those times for a meeting.

              4. BRR*

                I think as a reporter you’re probably an exception. But to “Am I also supposed to take the time each day/week/month to indicate on my calendar that I won’t be available?” – I think more or less the answer is yes. If I want to see if someone is available I look at their calendar and I expect it to be mostly up to date.

                1. Observer*

                  But to “Am I also supposed to take the time each day/week/month to indicate on my calendar that I won’t be available?” – I think more or less the answer is yes.

                  Not only that, you are ALSO expected to take the time to learn how to do this efficiently. If someone has regular meetings (eg the first Monday of every month is a standing appointment) it actually takes only a couple of minutes to get that set up. If you have office hours every Thursday from 3:00- 5:00 it takes about 2.5 minutes to get that set up for the rest of the semester. etc.

                2. Anne Elliot*

                  “Am I supposed to take the time each/week/month to indicate on my calendar that I won’t be available?” I laughed out loud at this. It really highlights the differences between professions and circumstances, because in my field and workplace: Of course you are supposed to do that! How else are people expected to know when you’re available? Who is responsible for maintaining your schedule and making sure people know your availability, if not you or your admin (if you have one)?

                  To me the idea that someone should email you or call you before proposing a meeting time, speaks to a workplace with few meetings, and few people expected to be involved in those meetings.

                  Maybe the fundamental difference is between workplaces where a person’s calendar exists for that person’s benefit only (and therefore only needs to reflect what the person wants/needs it to reflect), and workplaces where a person’s calendar exists are an office-wide resource (and thus needs to reflect everything that any person in the office might need it to reflect). If you consider the calendar to be something that needs to be maintained and updated for the benefit and efficiency of the entire org, then maybe it seems less intrusive/outrageous that of course it needs to be kept updated, and it’s every person’s responsibility to do so.

              5. Not playing your game anymore*

                As someone who uses an outlook calendar and a google calendar for different purposes… yes. But setting up availability is as easy or as difficult as you’d like it to be.

                I often work across time zones and my earlier colleagues use to persist in scheduling meetings before I was at work and the later ones scheduled after quitting time. Set my calendar up to show anytime before x local time or after y local time as unavailable! For academics with class time and regular office hours, those can be blocked out a semester at a time and the poor person charged with arranging meetings with Doctors Doe, Roe, Smith and Jones can see that the only two times all 4 are available is from 11:25-12:15 Tuesdays and alternate Thursdays, so she’d better plan a lunch meeting.

                We do have a few “I don’t post my schedule” diehards, but everyone has at least been converted to the “accept or decline the darn meeting and offer an alternate time if you need to be there” pool.

            2. Colette*

              If you get invited to a meeting that is irrelevant to you, you decline. It’s not complicated. A meeting invitation is an invitation, not a demand.

              1. EPLawyer*

                THIS. I use Google. Someone sends me an invite, google asks if I want to put it on my calendar. I ignore that part and just respond to the email — yes or no. I put the meeting on my calendar myself.

                Solo attorney so sharing my calendar with anyone — even my husband — is a huge no no.

              2. OlympiaEpiriot*

                Yup, if you’re not needed, say no. Sometimes people are included in a meeting invite because the organizer doesn’t want to accidentally leave someone involved off. You know if you’re needed or not and you can and may decline.

            3. hbc*

              Sure, there are meetings where someone has invited a list of “maybe they have some input?” or “I have no idea who’s interested in this topic.” But 95% of the time, the person who complains about the “irrelevant” meetings they attend is creating a ton of headaches for someone else, either by opening up the company to a fine (say, for not having minimum OSGA training complete) or legal liability (“you didn’t tell him not to pat women on the butt”), or by being out of the loop on things that affect them.

              I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had someone blow off a meeting and then later complain that a decision was made without their input.

              1. LQ*

                Oh this irritates me to no end. You were scheduled for the meeting, you had access to the documents, we gave you 3 whole months to look at 10 pages. You don’t get to come back later and say “well she didn’t hold my hand enough to make sure I felt like my opinion was perfectly personally valued so I didn’t give it and I’m mad” which has essentially happened a bunch of times recently. You have a chance. You take it or I will do the thing without you and then I will let the bus move when you steadfastly refuse to get out of the way. You want input? Then do it like a professional and don’t wait for someone to drag it out of you after 4-6 chances to do so. This isn’t about you not feeling like we personally asked you, get over it and give feedback or don’t but don’t complain that you didn’t do your job and are mad at me.

            4. Observer*

              Who gets to say when our presence is necessary? Give this power to anyone with access to Outlook and we will all spend the rest of our days in pointless meetings.

              Accepting invitations does not give people the power to schedule you willy nilly.

              Refusal to learn the basics of a collaboration tool such as a shared calendar is NOT about legitimately protecting your time. Because actually learning to use the tool and the USING appropriately actually SAVES time and gives you MORE tools to protect your time.

            5. MassMatt*

              You are acting as though keeping your availability secret means your time is sacrosanct, whereas if someone invites you to a meeting you are obligated to attend. Seriously, “give this power to anyone with access to Outlook”? It’s a meeting invite, not Sauron’s ring. If you get invited to irrelevant meetings, decline them.

              Who gets to say when your presence is necessary? Your boss. This is the case whether you use Outlook (or another scheduling program) or not. All your refusal to use the program accomplishes is make scheduling meetings more cumbersome.

          3. OP #4*

            Basically, so far at least, nobody knows when anyone is free unless they ask them. There are a variety of types of meetings I get asked to have:

            – Department meetings. These are not common; when they do happen they are scheduled for the same day and time, when most people are available. There’s no back and forth about times. You are expected to go if you are available, but it’s understood if you are not.
            – Random one-on-one meetings, often with research collaborators, usually people who work at different universities. Plans get made by email.
            – Bigger meetings, e.g. if the dean or provost wants to announce a new initiative and field questions. These are always optional, and are scheduled for whenever. If you can make it, great; if not, nobody cares.
            – Committee meetings. These are handled by a kludgy series of emails, with everyone asking when everyone else is available. So far, these calendar invites have only been sent once this is done. Reading the responses here, I can see why I’d want to maintain one of these calendars if other people did also. It isn’t the norm yet.
            – Meetings with students. I have office hours where I’m available for drop-in help; otherwise, I ask students to email me to set up an appointment. Sometimes I schedule standing meetings for the same time and day of the week, by email.
            – Random meeting requests. For example, recently a librarian emailed a faculty mailing list and asked to have one-on-one meetings concerning open educational resources. Probably most people deleted the email. Myself, I’m interested in this topic, had something to say about it, and want to see my university do more — so I responded, arranged a meeting by email, and talked with the librarian.

            It’s all a bit kludgy, I acknowledge. Reading through the replies, I can see the advantages of everyone having an online calendar, and I can see why I’d want to do this if many other people were doing it too.

            Thanks for weighing in!

            1. Reba*

              FWIW it sounds like *you*–or actually, whoever is in charge of that committee!–could get some benefit out of using the calendar functions! You can control to an extent what is available to others to see about you. (For ex, my immediate team can see the info in each calendar event, whereas others just see that times blocked off, not details.) I do get her annoyance but for me it has been worth it to shift my planning system into it.

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                Committee meetings are for a *student’s* committee, that decides whether or not they’ve made adequate progress towards their degree. As someone who only recently stopped being one of those students, it’s a huge pain because it’s the student’s responsibility to schedule but obviously there’s a power disparity there. A shared calendar would indeed help a lot, but at most places there is nobody who can force a professor to use a calendar if they don’t want to, and a student doesn’t exactly have the authority to add a meeting to a professor’s schedule anyway so it wouldn’t stop the annoying email chains.

                1. H2*

                  Not necessarily. Professors are on lots of committees that are more traditional in the sense of the term (Biology Department Curriculum Committee, eg)

                2. AES*

                  Dissertation or thesis committees are ONE type of committee meeting that an academic might attend. I am looking at my Outlook calendar right now and I have had or will have 13 separate meetings for various committees and subcommittees this week, not including class meetings and office hours for my students, and none of them are for thesis committees.

                3. wordswords*

                  Maybe, but depending on the person’s role, school and so forth, there are absolutely plenty of committees an academic might be on that have nothing to do with a student’s degree progress. (Working committees, hiring committees, tenure committees, etc. etc.)

                  Now, a shared calendar might still be the best way to schedule things, if everybody got on board! They’re very useful things, imo. I just wanted to push back against this framing where all committees are necessary student thesis committees and involve a student trying desperately to get their profs to commit to a meeting. That absolutely happens and it’s a genuine problem, but sometimes a committee meeting is also three colleagues going “hey, when’s good to check in about this project?”

            2. Observer*

              Basically, so far at least, nobody knows when anyone is free unless they ask them. There are a variety of types of meetings I get asked to have:

              And that is why you and all of your coworkers should start using the calendar!

              The stuff that is part of your regular schedule is stupid simple and extremely fast to set up (especially if you decide to keep minimal information in there). The stuff like meetings that are optional can easily be set up as “tentative” so that you have it in front of you when you need to schedule other stuff so can decide how to prioritize (eg you don’t want to forget about that meeting, but if something is really a priority for you you can easily decide to over-ride.)

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                Yeah, I’m guessing that’s probably why someone at the org thought it would be a good idea to acquire some scheduling software. I get that organizational change can be frustrating and it can be hard to see the point of it when you’ve been getting along just fine without it up to this point, but it sounds like OP and their colleagues could really benefit from this tool if they took the time to get used to it.

                1. Chinook*

                  An the pain point is the change, not the software. Have taught students who have difficulty bolding words in Word and entering formulas like 2×3 in Excel who figure out Oulook calendars with less than 2 hours training. This software is super easy to use at a basic level, so resistance to using it tells me that you eithe hate change in general (which, okay, can understand) or you think that the world should/does revolve around you. One of these things I will work patiently with as an admin assistant, the other not so mucb.

                  Having seen your point form reasons for meetings and why the people prganizing them don’t need to know your availability or why they should call you when you are available or spend time writing and responding to emails rather than use a more efficient and accurate system tells me exactly which category you fall in.

                  Out of curiosity, do you find that office staff aren’t as helpful with you as with some of your coworkers?

            3. Jenn*

              The other nice thing about accepting the calendar invites instead of ignoring them and manually managing your own schedule is that you can get updates if the host makes changes to the appointment. So, for example, say you have a meeting of 15 people and are still trying to find a room on campus that’s available for that size on the date/time you’ve all agreed to in your preliminary back and forth. The host can send out an invite to hold the time while they work on the room reservation, then later edit the calendar with the room location/zoom link, or maybe they’re working on the agenda and can paste it into the comments once it’s finalized, and it will automatically update it on your calendar.

              It’s not for everyone (I actually keep both a paper calendar because it helps me get a bird’s eye view of my month AND block off my time on my electronic work calendar so people can schedule meetings with me) but it can be super helpful for larger meetings when you’re trying to coordinate a lot of people at once.

              1. sofar*

                Yes, I was also going to bring this up. The calendar invites aren’t just about scheduling the meeting, they’re about changing the meeting time and location. If I need to bump a meeting or change the room, I can just change the invite, everyone is informed and the new details end up on their calendars. Likewise, if I make agenda changes/upload new documents, etc. I would go INSANE if I had to track down one person who refuses to interface with the calendar/invites.

            4. SoundsLikeMinimumWage*

              It sounds like you need to learn how to use When Is Good or Doodle for scheduling committee or student meetings. It’s very easy- everyone involved fills out a little poll about when they’re free and it tells you all the times that everyone’s available.

              1. Flora*

                I recently got a doodle poll with dozens of time options for 20 people. NOT VERY EASY. To fill out or to look at. Plus then someone needs to look for whether everyone answered yet, or whether there’s a dealbreaker that means we need to do a NEW Doodle because neither Clementine nor June are available any of these times. There are lots of things about Outlook that suck, but like, with the Outlook schedule assistant, it suggests times for this group of people, and you can just scroll back and forth looking for times that work. I have found a meeting time for a dozen people in an academic setting during an academic term during a situation when multiple short-timeline projects were underway such that different subsets of the dozen people were involved in one or two or five of them, in less than five minutes. Just freaking use the calendar and limit who can see the details; this is not that onerous.

            5. MtnLaurel*

              OP4, in your case, I’d say it’s fine. Academics usually have much greater latitude in determining their schedule, and as long as it’s working for you, great. Just reply to those messages and decline the invitations.

              My answer would be different for academic support personnel such as administrators or librarians.

            6. ABK*

              OMG, you need a calendar system!!!! No one should be emailing back and forth finding a time that works. #so2010
              There are a lot of options to still maintain control over your time. Like put everything as unavailable except for the 2 hours per day you want to make available for random meetings. I’m totally with you that you don’t want everyone all the time putting stuff on your calendar willy nilly.

            7. Paulina*

              Hi OP4. I’m also an academic at a university. I do use the calendar on the system that our university uses, but many of my colleagues don’t. There’s also been significant pushback any time someone (almost invariably someone from an all-staff unit) thinks that they can schedule meetings just by using the calendar’s functionality and assuming that we’re all free at any time we haven’t explicitly blocked off. We tend to have a lot of different things going on that don’t fit into the calendar or would be onerous to, some of my colleagues use different software, and so on. Our types of meetings are similar to those you describe, and non-regular meetings are scheduled by exchanging email or using online polls (generally doodle). To address your specific initial concern: sometimes once the meeting has been scheduled, the organizer sends a calendar invite. As far as I know that’s just for convenience so people using the software don’t have to enter the info. Sometimes they also update it with location or attachments, though I wish they wouldn’t because it’s easy to overlook. When accepting the invitation there’s an option to not send a response, which I take unless there’s a demonstrated need for confirmation.

              I started using the calendar software when I started an admin role that had an assistant. I’ve gotten used to using it for many things (and I’m a fan of the privacy selection), and we now do a lot of online meetings through Teams so the calendar is part of accessing those. And I do find that some staff are using the availability search before they send a meeting poll out, because I keep finding I’m available for all options. They still send the poll though. Additionally, if they did try to use the Microsoft Analytics to assess our productivity there would be massive pushback so I’m not remotely concerned about that, and it’s understood that academics spend a lot of time working on things that aren’t meetings. (And no, Cortana, I do not wish to “schedule time to focus today.”) So, useful but still not required.

            8. MrsFillmore*

              OP #4, so glad that the replies have been helpful. It sounds like right now, you’re not getting the benefits of shared calendars (eliminating wasted back and forth time scheduling meetings) but are dealing with a drawback, ie feeling that meetings are scheduled at times that are not ideal for you.

              Coming from perspective of someone who works in an organization where shared calendars are the norm (availability only, not meeting details), my perspective is that when everyone does this, it is hugely efficient and benefits everyone. One suggestion to make this work for you would be to use the “tentative” calendar function in Outlook, and to share norms about what that means with people who have to schedule with you often (ie “I’m using tentative to mark time that I’ve blocked for deep, individual work. If you’re not able to find an alternative time for all to meet, I can re-schedule this time but otherwise please try other times first.”) . I do something similar and I think it works for all involved.

              A final reflection on the topic, is a note of caution for anyone who feels strongly that meetings details, and not just availability, need to be shared. I worked with a new executive who mandated this from senior leadership within their first couple weeks on the job, and it was one of many steps taken that led to an environment of misunderstanding and distrust between that executive and their team.

            9. Elle*

              “– Committee meetings. These are handled by a kludgy series of emails, with everyone asking when everyone else is available. So far, these calendar invites have only been sent once this is done. Reading the responses here, I can see why I’d want to maintain one of these calendars if other people did also. It isn’t the norm yet.”

              As a professional services staff member at a university who schedules these meetings, it’s very useful! I check everyone’s availability in their calendars, create a shortlist, then have a very quick email conversation with the PA to the VP who chairs the committee about which of those times is most suitable for him, then I send out the calendar invitations. (I should add the VP does use the calendar, I just don’t have the same access to his calendar as I do to everyone else on the committee) I also have a list of who is essential / nice to have / we don’t care in terms of their attendance, so that I know who to prioritise in terms of their availability.

              Also, from my perspective, folk using the calendar app to say whether or not they are coming saves me the work of having to keep track of a bunch of emails with apologies – I just click into the calendar and can see who is not attending, so can provide the chair with the list of apologies.

              I would add, in most workplaces, a calendar invitation isn’t a command performance – if anyone but my chain of command puts in a meeting, I’m free to decline it, or to suggest a new time. In practice, for long meetings in small groups there is often a quick check back and forwards about best times, but in general I assume someone is inviting me to a meeting when they send a calendar invitation, not instructing me to appear.

        2. triplehiccup*

          You can still decline even if your calendar says you’re available. It just helps the scheduler pick a time you’re more likely to be free. You can also create appointments to block off your work time and deter invites during those periods. Ultimately I find that it minimizes disruption to be able to see colleague’s free and busy periods – we don’t have to go back and forth finding a time that works. I’m always struck by the relative inconvenience when I have to schedule with someone outside our system.

          1. Washi*

            Right! I think the OP is interpreting these invites as a summons, but especially if they’re just with a peer, they’re serving the *exact same function* as an email saying “could we meet on tuesday at 2 to discuss the caribou caribiner project?” If you can’t or don’t want to attend, just decline the invite and send an email with whatever you would have said to an email asking to meet.

            In every organization I’ve worked for, it would have been incredibly weird to refuse to use the calendar function like this.

            1. meyer lemon*

              I’ve worked for an organization that used Outlook calendars like this, and (as the person who set up lots of meetings in my department) it was a really efficient system for organizing a lot of people who all had many meetings and other obligations on their schedule. In that setting, refusing to use the calendar would have made you really difficult.

              But most of my jobs have been in small organizations where few people have Outlook and there are very few meetings. In that setting, if one rogue person tried to use the calendar function all the time, it would be kind of irritating because I would have to remember to go in and check my calendar for this one person’s meetings. It sounds like currently the OP’s organization is more of this type. The calendar system would likely be more efficient for meeting schedulers, but until everyone uses them, they’re less helpful.

            2. lemon*

              If you can’t attend at the specific time they’re suggesting, you can also use the “propose” feature to suggest a new time that works for you.

              It drives me nuts every time I send a meeting invite that includes a note that says “feel free to propose a new time if this doesn’t work for you.” But instead of that person using the “propose” feature, they email me to tell me “hey, Friday doesn’t work for me, can we do Monday?” Because then I have to go back into the calendar and find a time we’re both free on Monday, when that person could do that themselves if they learned how to use the tool.

          2. Ashley*

            Actually for trying to pick committee meeting times the LW talks about Doodle Pools are awesome. Usually the leader or the person with the worst schedule that has to be there suggests options and then you see who is most available. It can really save your inbox sanity.

        3. The answer is (probably) 42*

          It’s not so much about others scheduling meetings on your behalf, it’s more that someone might be trying to schedule a meeting with multiple participants, and they are using the tools they have at hand to check everyone’s availability before sending out invites. From your perspective I can understand the reticence to share your availability like that, but think of it this way- if someone is coordinating a meeting with eight people, it’s significantly easier if there is a central way to see who is available when rather than trying to call everyone individually and try and juggle all of those time frames manually.

          I’m not an admin, and I’m not in the kind of job where I’d have my own admin who’s primary job it is to do that kind of scheduling work. But I often find myself needing to meet with 5-6 key stakeholders across multiple departments, people who verbally all agreed that the meeting should take place and they would like to attend. It wouldn’t be viable for me to spend hours verbally confirming availability based on everyone’s offline calendars, I have a lot of other things on my plate. The fact of the meeting has already been agreed upon, so all I’m trying to do here is find a window where we can all be in the same room (or zoom).

          It could be that your job doesn’t entail this kind of meeting! I wouldn’t know, but I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from when I say if I had a colleague who refused to cooperate with a shared calendar system it would add a significant extra burden on my time that I can’t afford.

          1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

            And if those people aren’t in the same time zone? That scheduling assistant function becomes a LIFESAVER.

            (I’m an admin for a 400 person global team. Can you tell this is something that chaps my rear??)

            1. Urt*

              Indeed, if half your prospective invitees half absolutely nothing in their calendar showing up in the all participants overview consider that you may be trying to schedule a meeting in the middle of their night. (My boss accidentally did this to his own team – am and pm are hard if you are used to 24 hours.)

            2. B.*

              I used to get so many people sending me meetings for the one time in the week that I’m not free…… this is what the scheduling assistant is for!

              Also…. for the OP – you are paid to do a job. Part of that job is to let people know when you’re available to attend meetings that are part of your job. This is not about personal privacy.

              1. iambriandammit*

                I don’t even understand the privacy issue. It’s work equipment, the meetings will be on somebody else’s computer in the org, negating the privacy of those. Block off other times using an acronym or code word just for you that means, “not available.” Create an interesting enough acronym and maybe you’ll give Microsoft’s AI servers a headache. Otherwise, keep detailed notes on you personal diary and use the Outlook calendar for only work stuff.

                1. Still No Beans About It*

                  Most academics buy and use their own personal computer, even if the university provides them with one.

                2. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

                  I can understand if you’re maintaining a schedule for a high-level executive, there are absolutely privacy concerns there. But based on OP4’s comments, they are not a high-level exec.

                3. lemon*

                  Yup. Whenever I put something private on my work calendar, I just enter it on the calendar as “appointment.” That’s just to block off the time so others don’t schedule me at that time. I keep the details elsewhere.

              2. anon here*

                Hmmmm, as a former academic, I’d push back on that. You’re paid to do a job that involves pulling in grant money that gives the university overhead. Meetings as part of the job? Depends.

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If there’s no info in any invites, that’s not the tool’s fault.
          The widget in the invitation doesn’t just assign you a meeting–it invites you to one and lets you decide. Treat it as an emailed request and give an answer –just put it in your paper calendar if you accept.
          There are yes no tentative and propose new time options. It also lets you answer with a typed response.
          No idea why I’m invited? Decline with text reply asking for my role because I’m overbooked/grooming lamas then/whatever.
          Put your own schedule in — lecture schedule, office hours, grading time, research commitments, blocks of writing time near paper deadlines, etc. Things that repeat can be set up forever.
          I include usual work hours too…I still get meeting requests for 4am and 8pm but fewer.

        5. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

          …there is an entire profession whose job is to do just that (among MANY other things). I promise, you have heard of admins and assistants before.

          1. Chinook*

            Yup, and we love the calendar function of Outlook because it not only makes our jobs easier, but we can also give feedback to our bosses very quickly about who is attending and who is not giving us a response, complete with timestamps.

        6. Richard Hershberger*

          Serious answer to your original question: Do you have tenure? I am guessing you do, given that you have been there for years. If so, you are free! At least until someone in the hierarchy with real power over you tells you to come to Jesus.

          1. Paulina*

            Though this is also a reason not to worry about their schedule being analyzed for “productivity”. But yes, it’s usually understood that some established academics aren’t going to change until explicitly told to, and sometimes not even then. So if LW4’s university or unit required use of the calendar, they should have said so.

        7. (No Longer) Some Sort of Management consultant*

          I understand your reasoning but you are aware that you’re inconveniencing your colleagues a lot, right?

          1. hiptobesquare*

            I work in IT and can assure you that Outlook/Exchange provides wonderful tools to help with productivity – the calendar function being one of them!

            If I were you, I’d start blocking of time. Put all your classes in your calendar (repeat feature!), your office hours, etc. that way you are still protecting your time but providing info to coworkers on when you’re free.

            Often, these meeting invites include links to Skype or Teams meetings – and if you add them to your calendar, it likely syncs with the meeting software too!

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Even better — I was going to suggest blocking the entire calendar as “busy” if you don’t want to schedule that way. Then people will be forced to ask you for your availability if they actually want you at the meeting. It makes life harder for the person doing the scheduling, but that is what you want, right?

          2. Sylvan*

            Yeah. In former assistant roles, I would not have been happy to deal with this. People have other things to do.

          3. anon here*

            I’d push back on this too. It may be inconveniencing a few colleagues, but at some institutions *most* academics haven’t caught on to the calendar function on the computer, so it might really not yet inconvenience anyone! Moreover, if most of your collaborators are at other institutions and can’t see your calendar, the calendar hasn’t solved anything. Honestly, at one academic position I had all my actual research work was with people outside the institution, department meetings and seminars were set at the same time for all of eternity, classes and office hours were set at the beginning of the semester — so what else was there other than emailing to set up times to talk with the colleagues who couldn’t see my calendar anyway because they were not in the org?

            1. Chinook*

              Because not everyone has the same times set for office hours and classes and I would rather fill my head with academic information than the schedules of my collegues which could be written down in a handy place fo me to consult when neccesary.

              1. anon here*

                But the colleagues I worked with, as I mentioned, were all at other institutions and so I couldn’t check their calendars anyway. I often appreciate what you contribute here, Chinook, but in this case you just don’t know the realities of the situation. One colleague in Germany on sabbatical at an institute that didn’t have calendaring software, another at a major US tech firm whose Outlook I couldn’t access, another a grad student on the coast who used something GSuite maybe, etc etc. There was simply no handy place to consult this magical calendaring info. As for my internal colleagues? We never talked! I mean really! They’re in different research areas; other than admissions what’s there to talk about?

          4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            TBH this is why most non-faculty university staff grumble continuously about working with faculty. Academia trains one to believe one’s own work is the most important thing in the universe (to be fair, a lot of higher ed “publish or perish” culture is probably behind that) and faculty have no responsibility or incentive to act as good colleagues to anyone outside their department. As a staff person who just wants to do their best work it is….supremely frustrating to say the least.

        8. H2*

          OP, you’re getting a lot of responses about how you absolutely must use the shared calendar. I’m an academic also and I wanted to commiserate a bit. We just moved to exchange also, and have started to get the same kinds of invites. Maybe our universities are dinosaurs but what people aren’t getting is that it’s not a part of the current culture for us. Maybe a culture shift is happening, but it makes my blood run cold to think of everyone having the ability to make last minute meetings. I wrote a big long thing to explain why, but it was boring and the upshot is that it’s just not the way our schedules are set up.

          Part of what people don’t understand I think is that professors basically run meetings for 3 hours every day (at least right now, with weird covid scheduling). I think part of my gut response to this is that our schedules are so unusually packed right now that there’s no extra room. Students are struggling and asking to zoom at all hours of the day and night, and I really, really want to help them, but I’m sending emails that are like “well, I’m available from 1:45-2:30 today” because my schedule is packed, and that’s not normal (and I’m not getting any non-essential grading done). If this change was happening during a normal semester I think it would be different.

          1. hbc*

            “…everyone having the ability to make last minute meetings.”

            Everyone has always had the ability to *try*–I’ve certainly had people poking heads in doors and saying “Can we get together to talk about the new project in ten minutes?” Pressure to *attend* last minute meetings is either an organizational issue or an internal/personal issue, and I’ve honestly seen more of the latter than the former. I’ve had no problem saying, “Nope, too much to do today, Friday is usually more open.”

            Even in the worst places where an open calendar slot is fair game, the tactic of blocking time to get stuff done (within reason) is respected.

            1. H2*

              Again, I think this has a lot to do with culture. I think a lot of academics aren’t used to a lot of formal meetings, so that when we get an invite, it’s a date. Remember that we are working with students who very typically are working last minute, and who absolutely would see that a prof is shown as available and be very upset if they declined a meeting invite. But as a culture, we are very used to having a lot of uninterrupted free work time.

              And yes, we can block off the calendar the same way we might close an office door when we’re in the thick of grading, but again, that’s just a culture shift. I see that you really find this offensive, and I understand why, but it’s just not the same situation that you experience.

              1. H2*

                Let’s put it this way: the OP is saying, I’m starting to see this pop up and my question is whether or not I really have to participate in it, at potentially huge inconvenience to myself. And it’s totally fine to reply to that with, yes, it will make other peoples lives so much easier so that in the end it’s worth it. But some of the responses come down pretty hard and I think are missing that it means a big change, especially at first.

                1. Name Required*

                  It’s exactly the same as if a colleague emailed to ask about a meeting time, just formatted in a way that is much more convieient to the person managing the meeting. Are academics only calling each other and handwriting letters now to schedule meetings? Otherwise, I don’t see how it is an inconvenience at all, much less a “potentially huge inconvenience”. That’s what’s so frustrating. It looks like an objection to change because OP doesn’t like change, not an evaluation of the merits of the change.

                2. anon here*

                  Name required, I really disagree that it’s the same as a colleague emailing with a time. When colleagues emailed with times, they’d say, “Hey does 4 pm work? If not we can try Thursday at 3, or push it to next week.” There are 3 options. When I’m invited for a meeting at my corporate job now, in my culture it’s not done to suggest another time unless you’ve got a really compelling reason. It’s not at all the same as giving three options and having a conversation. (Former academic, now corporate, had to get used to meeting & invite culture.)

                3. Name Required*

                  Anon here, sounds like an issue with your culture, not the tool. I commonly include a message with my invite to say, “I’ve proposed 9am here, but next Tuesday at 3pm would also work or we can look into next week. Just let me know what you’d prefer and I can update the invite.”

              2. lemon*

                I don’t think most students would be using the calendar function to set up meetings with professors. Mostly, because I think most students (undergrads at least) haven’t had professional jobs yet, so they’re not familiar with how to use the tool either. Also because I think there’s a tacit understanding of the power dynamics– it’s okay for a colleague to send a meeting invite, but not a student. And also, depending on how IT set things up, students may not even have the technical ability to do this.

                1. Cascadia*

                  Yes to this! I work at a middle/high school and we use outlook extensively. All of the staff and teachers are expected to have their calendars up to date and we use them to schedule meetings. All of the students are on our system too, but VERY few students use the outlook calendar function to set up meetings with us. It’s not that they don’t know how to – they totally do! They just don’t use the calendar the same way. Students still email to set up a meeting with a teacher, or just pop by their desk/office.

                2. Elle*

                  Yeah, my university has undergrad and postgrad taught students on one server, and staff and postgrad research students on another, so the taught students can’t see staff calendars, any more than an external person could, although they can, of course, send a calendar invitation if they need to, but culturally, that just isn’t the done thing, and I think our academics would push back pretty hard if students just started sticking in calendar invitations!

          2. Nye*

            Also effectively an academic, and I agree that there seems to be a huge cultural divide here. A while ago my employer polled everyone about what they wanted in a new email system. Everyone on the science side said, “Email. And the ability to archive it forever.” and had zero interest in calendaring. Everyone on the admin side was wild about calendaring.

            Personally, I manage my own calendar and will not use the Microsoft version. (Among other things, it’s not compatible with my OS.) I don’t think it’ll actually be much of an issue, since I don’t know any colleagues who would even consider trying to schedule a meeting based on calendars only. Basically I assume this feature will be used exclusively by folks on the admin side to meet with each other, and we on the science side can continue to manage our schedules as we see fit.

            If I’m wrong about this, I’ll just have to figure out how to block out all of my time in Outlook (or whatever) with an event named “Email me”.

            1. Beany*

              I’m also effectively an academic (working in a governmental institution, but still). We’ve had Microsoft O365 imposed from on high, and it’s not popular with the scientists at all. But many of us use the web version anyway, so OS compatibility isn’t an issue (we’re mostly Mac users, but not everyone has the standalone Office applications).

              I don’t love the Office calendaring — and how I cannot get it to share info with G-Suite — but I can see how it would be pretty useful for internal purposes. However, I’m not in management, and don’t have meetings imposed on me (or even suggested) like that. The real pain is that half of my collaborators are *outside* the organization, and they can’t see my calendar, so it’s Slack discussions and Doodle polls for a lot of things anyway.

              1. Nye*

                Yes! This is another key point – this kind of calendaring is really not very useful when nearly all your meetings involve people who aren’t at your institution.

                I think the people who are concerned that this is disrespectful to academic admins don’t understand that, for most of us in academia/adjacent, these admins are not scheduling our meetings and are almost never meeting with us directly. How I schedule my time has almost no bearing on our adminstrators.

            2. Chinook*

              It speaks volumes that the needs of the people on the admin side are cast aside, but that seems typical from hat peopl on this side says about academics.

              Tip – if the admins are “wild about calendaring,” it speaks volumes about the headaches the academic side is causing them logistically.

                1. Nye*

                  Exactly this! I have very few scheduled meetings with our admin folks, so I don’t see why it’s efficient for me to effectively maintain an entire separate calendar for maybe one meeting every couple months.

              1. anon here*

                But I have to say that in my 20 years in academia, I had essentially no admin help or contact ever. I worked regularly with one admin, who wrangled student enrollment for masters’ programs and managed seminars; she did not set up non-seminar meetings for us regularly. There were no other admins who did anything involving setting up meetings. This was a department of 70 people. If administrative support is essentially absent from every aspect of work, why should I worry about these nonexistent admins?

                And yes, I did know & care about the admins who were there — but they did payroll and processed admissions. Again, no meeting scheduling.

              2. Paulina*

                Many of my meetings have no admin support, and we’re essentially our own admin for a lot of our day-to-day work. Most of which doesn’t involve scheduled meetings at all, and nobody should be assuming that I can be interrupted at any time that isn’t marked as a meeting. It’s simply not that kind of job, and demanding that it should be feels extremely intrusive. I use the calendar, but attempts to schedule my time (which I need available and somewhat cohesive to do the bulk of my work) need to be prioritized by me. And it would cause a problem for my work if people did schedule me simply through the calendar.

                Now what I’d like to see in calendaring software is functionality more appropriate to my needs: automatically blocking off the rest of a selected day or week when there’s more than x hours of meetings or significant schedule fragmentation, being able to mark off time as only being available if one of a specific set of users asks, and so forth.

          3. Mynona*

            Agree: these responses are from well-meaning people who don’t understand that many (not all) academic departments are different from corporate offices–at least where faculty are concerned. You can keep doing what you’re doing if it works for you. But know that your colleagues use these systems because they make it so much easier to schedule meetings, esp. in pandemic times with the scheduling difficulties H2 descrbes.

            Since you wrote in, you might be open to adapting your system. When I first began to receive electronic meeting requests, I too religiously used a paper planner. What worked for me was to respond to the meeting request as if it were a normal scheduling e-mail. I consulted my paper planner and “accepted” the meeting request if I was available. If I wasn’t, I “declined” the request with some availability windows. But my electronic calendar didn’t reflect my availability, and I made that clear to set organizers’ expectations. These calendaring systems do provide a lot of options. You might consult with a knowledgeable admin who knows what Exchange can do and ask for advice on what you can do to help that minimizes your presence on it.

            1. Chinook*

              Does that mean faculty shouldn’t care about making a small change (and it is small if you are already using Outlook) in a way that will make the admin staff more efficient? Because that is exactly what it sounds like the academics hee sound like – it doesn’t directly benefit them, so why bother at all? Would you also prefer a typing pool to send work to?

              1. H2*

                Admins aren’t scheduling my meetings. We have an admin for out department but she doesn’t schedule our meetings. Literally ever. I totally see where you’re coming from and I can see how it would be helpful if we all used it, but I hope that you might also be willing to be open to the idea that it’s not a cultural norm for everyone and saying that isn’t being dismissive of our admin.

              2. lemon*

                I work in higher ed, and yeah… that is kinda the attitude. Faculty do what they want and non-faculty staff just have to adapt.

                But, to H2’s point, there’s not a whole lot of staff/faculty interaction in a lot of places.

          4. B.*

            I think there’s two different things here though. Scheduling meetings last minute is a cultural thing, not the fault of the software. You can schedule a meeting last minute just using email, or even a paper notepad. I work in higher education too and I know how hard it can be to find time with academics, and that’s why scheduling software is helpful, because it lets me see when people are available so I don’t end up going back and forth with emails.

            But ultimately, if you get invited to a meeting that you don’t really have to be at and at a time you’re not avaialble, that’s what the decline button is for.

          5. Rachel in NYC*

            I’m from academia but the admin side. If I send an calendar request, I don’t care if someone uses that request or not- it’s mostly for me or my colleagues. (As long as everyone agreed on a day and time.)

            But since we use Zoom for our conferencing (and did so pre-pandemic cuz $$$), it’s on the recipient to have that information when the time comes.

            1. Chinook*

              Good fo you. And you are correct about Zoom/Teams. If the recipient just deletes the invite with the login information, that is completely on them.

          6. Awkward Interviewee*

            I agree it’s different in academia. I am student affairs staff, but I work with faculty. In my experience (we use G Suite, if it matters) it would be a little rude / out of touch to completely ignore calendar invites if it’s a meeting where it matters whether or not you attend. At minimum you should click the accept or decline function, or let the host know if you’re attending some other way such as email. However, you’re completely fine hiding your calendar. At both universities where I’ve worked, we’ve used doodle polls to actually schedule meetings. There isn’t an expectation that your calendar is up to date with your availability. So my advice to OP is to use the accept/decline feature, but you can make your calendar private (if you can do that with Microsoft – I think you can with G Suite).

            1. OP #4*

              Thanks, I appreciate it. It’s especially helpful for me to hear from people who work in academia in roles different from mine.

              I got curious and checked: Outlook won’t show me much of anything about anyone else’s calendar. I’d imagined that there would be at least a few people with public calendars, but it seems that none of the people I know have done this. (Or maybe I’m just using the software wrong.) The one thing it will show me is if someone was invited to a meeting that I was also invited to.

              Judging from the comments, for now I should start at least clicking the accept/decline thing, and it sounds like I should be open to further change if it comes. Thanks!

          7. Kona*

            I think one reason for the academic-calendar cultural divide is that academics generally “own” their time (for lack of a better term) whereas in many offices it is implicitly assumed that your time from 9-5 (or whatever) is the company’s. Academics would bristle at someone saying – you seem to be free at 11am (maybe I was up til 4am on a grant proposal) whereas it is just common in other settings.

        9. BRR*

          I wouldn’t frame it as they’re scheduling meetings on your behalf. It sounds more like someone is seeing when you, and others, are free and scheduling a meeting. You can always decline or propose a new time. As others suggested, you can book blocks of time on your calendar when you’re working on other things and aren’t free.

          And I disagree somewhat with Alison on your original question. It will still depend on your workplace but I will make an educated guess that you should be using Exchange more. People will need to be able to easily schedule meetings with you and also get your RSVPs. Even if you don’t use exchange’s calendar, I would guess a lot of your colleagues do and it will help them if you accept or decline in Exchange.

        10. Yorick*

          It’s a meeting REQUEST. It’s a more streamlined version of emailing and saying, “Can we meet to talk about X? When are you free? I’m thinking about Monday afternoon, will that work for you?”

          “Oh no, I’m busy on Monday, but Tuesday at 9, Wednesday at 11:30, or Friday at 2:15 would work.”

          The person can see when you’re free and ask for a meeting at that time, and you can suggest a different time if you have things to do then that aren’t scheduled meetings.

        11. Rock Prof*

          I have to say, as I’ve started to lead faculty committees and direct a center, I get so annoyed when I find a meeting time that works for 5/6 people except the one who doesn’t share their availability. On the Microsoft calendar, you can put in availability without actually sharing what you’re doing. Like I put in my courses and meetings then just use ‘appointment’ or something generic for personal things or for when I want chunks off time for grading/writing.

        12. Shhhh*

          I’m an academic, too, and scheduling meetings this way is totally the norm for us. The expectation is that: 1) you keep your Outlook calendar up-to-date; 2) you block out time you need to work on projects (right now my calendar has multiple “Hold for X project” events on it so that no one schedules time with me then); and 3) because of 1 and 2, looking up someone’s availability in Outlook and proposing a meeting is the most efficient way to find a time to meet.

          I guess it is kinda weird, but if one of my colleagues wanted to opt out of this way of scheduling meetings, it would be wildly out of sync with organization norms and expectations.

        13. bleh*

          OP #4 I tried to fight Outlook and I lost. You are me two years ago. I kept arguing that my calendar was on the wall, not in someone else’s computer (although in truth, I used iCal too). I gave in but I still don’t use haven’t submitted to yellow dig or slack.

        14. Observer*

          To me it seems totally foreign that others could or would schedule meetings on my behalf.

          You are missing the point. This is not just about people scheduling things for you. It’s about making it reasonably straightforward to arrange a meeting. When you are dealing with two or three people you can make some calls or send out an email or two with some times and arrange things pretty easily. Once you get past two people, though it gets really complicated really quickly.

          If the person setting up the meeting can see people’s schedules they can then suggest something that SHOULD work for all of the people that need to attend. And if everyone then has the courtesy to either accept or decline the invitation, the organizer actually knows who is supposed to be there and if they need to re-schedule the meeting because someone important actually can’t make it.

        15. Sparrow*

          OP, for what it’s worth, I work on the administration side of higher ed and meet with faculty fairly often, and I never assume they use a calendar attached to their institutional account because so many of them don’t or at least don’t make them available for anyone to view. Other folks in administrative roles, yes, and academics higher up in administration often use them so a staff member can help keep up their calendar, but faculty have always been hit or miss. I don’t pay attention to whether people accept Outlook invites, either – as long as they’ve said they’re free and I know they’ve received the meeting details, I trust they’re keeping track of the info in whatever way they prefer.

          Your specific institution might vary from the ones I’ve worked at, but I assume they would tell you if this was expected rather than just a tool for your use. That said, if a time comes when everyone else seems to be using it and you’re the outlier, I would reconsider, even if it’s not technically required. Lots of departments have that one prof who refuses to adapt to technology, and you probably don’t want to risk being that person that everyone else has to work around!

          1. Sparrow*

            It’s really interesting, by the way, to see comments on this from people in other university settings. Administrative culture and expectations can vary so widely between institutions!

            1. MCL*

              It is interesting! I work at a huge R1 state university, and my small department has wholeheartedly adopted Outlook for scheduling things because we have lots of team projects and committee work and it would take forever to schedule our meetings. Fewer doodle polls, thank goodness. Scheduling times with people in other departments is hit or miss. I always tell people I need to meet with outside my department that my Outlook calendar is up to date so they know that’s an option, and most people seem to appreciate it.

              1. Clarendon 339*

                Yeah, seconding this. Work at an R1 that hardline requires EVERYONE uses the Outlook calendar system. Luckily, the shared calendar thing got implemented not long after we all were required to start using our university emails (oh, 2002!), so at this point people who don’t use the shared calendar are given a STRONG conversation with their manager, then department head, then the dean. Even tenured faculty are trained/spoken to if they try and opt out.

                It’s just the culture.

          2. Sparrow*

            And it’s funny that this discussion happened yesterday because I just got a meeting request from a faculty member who actually specified (unprompted!) that their calendar was visible for scheduling purposes. I can’t remember the last time that happened!

        16. Quill*

          I’m guessing you don’t work with a large group then, because every few months we have a go-around about scheduling multi-time-zone meetings at least 24 hours in advance because otherwise people might not KNOW they have a meeting before it occurs, given that sometimes the middle east will think scheduling something for monday their first thing on a sunday is sufficient notice for those of us for whom work does not exist until 8 AM local time on monday.

        17. Wanda*

          At my university, I get the feeling that staff use the Outlook calendars and faculty don’t. I’m faculty, and most of my appointments are with people outside the Outlook calendar system, most notably students. So it doesn’t make sense for me to use a whole separate system for the handful of staff that I do interact with. But when those folks do send me an invite, I click yes so that they know I plan to attend their meeting.

        18. JSPA*

          Calendars are no longer recording devices; they are planning devices.

          If you want to use a large chunk of your time and your awareness for planning, that’s fine for you; but it’s not OK to assume that everyone else will put forth the effort to do same, on your behalf.

          If you don’t want to use the online calendar as a moment-by-moment tool, you can still use it in a limited way. Block off a large chunk of most days as, “class, office hours, uninterrupted research time and personally-arranged one-on-one meetings.” Look at the calendars of others, and see if there are (broadly) “good times.” Leave a couple of those hours free, at least three days a week, for people to schedule you into meetings.

          That way, people and corporations are not “in your business,” but you can still “add meeting” as a way to acknowledge.

      3. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

        I’m an admin too, and I’m the same way. Part of your job requires you to be available for meetings, buddy!

        1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

          (also, Allison: two different IPs showing up on my comments because I moved from phone to laptop. Thx!)

      4. Asenath*

        This sort of thing varies from place to place. When I was scheduling meetings, I did it by phone/email/surveys and didn’t find it a big deal. Certainly, it wasn’t as big a deal as scheduling someone in without checking with them first – and if I had to check with them first through Outlook, I might as well do it my own way which worked better for me. In this case, many of the attendees – and all of the more senior ones – also had important work for another employer on changing schedules and had at least three email systems – personal, ours and the other employer’s only one of which the used regularly. Some always booked through secretaries or assistants, some didn’t. But one thing that would invariably get me pushback was me putting a meeting (or sending a meeting invite) on what looked like available time but really wasn’t because much of the schedule was private because personal or regarding another employer’s time.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Had a boss like that. I work in IT and he absolutely refused any kind of electronic calendar software. Google, Microsoft, you name it, he just didn’t want his information shared. He had a pocket diary he kept updated instead.

      He got away with it because he’d been at the firm nearly 30 years, was near retirement, and in all other aspects was a great manager. Definitely a case of ‘know your audience’ as if he’d been newer I doubt he’d have got away with it.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, and if he was the only rogue in the company, it was probably a fairly minor nuisance to check with him before scheduling a meeting that he was expected to attend, but if that sort of thing spreads in an organization, I pity those who have to schedule meetings…

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          A former employer got so hacked off with people not using their calendar at all that they got IT (yep, us) to agree that unless people started to shape up we’d remove their ability to access non work websites during the day. Because it had got to the point where the meeting rooms themselves were linked into the calendar system and there was more of them than people using it.

          1. Urt*

            Oh, booking rooms by calendar invite is so great. I love it. In our previous system you had to peck your way through the shoddy room booking system to find something empty and then had to cross-check with people’s calendars in outlook and then had to run through the cumbersome room reservation form. And then the meeting was cancelled and nobody would go through the hassle of cancelling the room.

            Doing it via outlook is so much easier. Let outlook suggest which room is free and what alternative times are available, and if the meeting is cancelled, just cancel it via Outlook and the room frees up. And nowadays of course you also hit Virtual Meeting button, so the setup for that is also added and the people in home office are automatically shuffled to their meetings instead of the previous dialing in and setting up the screen share program dance.

            As for the person who is so proud that they managed to redirect all their invites to a private calendar so they don’t show up on their public calendar, well, sucks for you if your private calendar says busy, your public one says available and your boss and his boss already accepted the meeting, they are much more difficult to schedule around, so not shifting the meeting.

            1. Volunteer Enforcer*

              I can relate to your pain, from a previous job of mine. Each conference room had a public calendar, in a separate section of Outlook to the typical calendar part. Best I could do was have peoples’ calendars in one window and the room’s in another. Plus the headache of rescheduling…

    3. Not sure of what to call myself*

      I worked with two people like this. They would use technology if they had to but they went out of their way to avoid it if possible. Both were old fashioned (very) in other things too. When people were referencing them it was usually “Well, Joe is great at his job” followed by some combination of deep sigh/wince/long exhalation/eye roll and then “but you need to know that…”. They were respected for their work output but their ways of working made everyone else’s lives much harder. And people did resent that. And they did miss out on opportunities because people couldn’t be bothered to deal with their anachronistic ways. One had a boss who let him coast along whst the other was humoured as he was near retiral age.

      If you are ever considering moving into the non-academic world make sure you don’t get viewed as the awkward old dinosaur in the corner who makes other people’s lives harder (and that isn’t a dig about age, one of the people mentioned above was just 50 and he had had that reputation for years).

      It’s very easy to dig your heels in about one thing, keep them dug in for a while and then realise you whilst you were huffing about one thing the world has moved on and you suddenly need to do it all at once.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. This.

        The evolution of technology. It starts out that X is very optional because few people use it. Time goes on and more people are using it, so the non-user can feel out of the loop. More time passes and more uses for X come in to being. Non- user has a lot of catching up to do, but for whatever reason they still opt out. A bit longer, and suddenly it’s mandatory to use X. Most people kind of chuckle at this because they have been using X right along. Meanwhile, non-user is stressed to the max. With way high stress levels and a ton of tech to learn, it’s no longer about the smaller issue of privacy or control like it was at the beginning. It has now morphed into, “Learn this stuff or lose your job!” And it involves lots of upset.

        Yep. I have seen this one play out. Cohorts get together and tell each other, “Screw this! I am not learning X! They aren’t paying me enough! blah, blah, blah.” Sometimes cohorts change track and opt in, and this can leave a person or several persons left standing out like sore thumbs for their refusal to adapt.

        I have a sad, sad story of an individual who opted out of learning new things… such as EMAIL. Yes, this person opted out for decades. This person’s life has progressed to the point that even though it’s a PT job with low pay, they could really use that income. But they are so far behind on the learning curve with various computer tasks that they probably won’t be able to catch up. It’s very obvious that no other place will be able to hire them. Fortunately, for this person their boss is willing to absorb a lot of work so the person can remain employed. I have to assume at some point, the boss will no longer be able to carry this employee.

        This story started benignly with, “I don’t like ABC characteristic of X so I am not going to learn or do X.” Don’t fall into this pit, OP. You might win this round but in the long run you will lose in so many ways.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Evolution of technology: You overlooked a common possibility: this new tech turns out to be a passing fad. I am a late adopter by choice. By the time I make the leap, the early bugginess has been worked out and I pay a lot less than the early adopters did for the privilege of being beta testers. It is not at all uncommon that before I get around to adopting it, the tech has completed the circle of life, from hot new thing to brick. That being said, public calendars are not an example of this.

          1. Observer*

            Sure. But the OP is not talking about a technology that is at the “maybe a fad” phase. Shared calendars are not going away any time soon.

          2. Quill*

            Yeah, if something sticks around longer than a decade across multiple industries? It’s time for people to learn.

        2. OP #4*

          You make an interesting point about technology. I’m sort of ambivalent about learning new tech. I’m very open to new things, but even after trying them I often find I prefer the old. Basically, the stuff that nerds were using before it caught on more widely.

          For example, we use “learning management software” called Blackboard which in my opinion is clunky, slow, and terrible. I’d rather write HTML by hand.

          1. Rebeck*

            But most people wouldn’t. I haven’t used Blackboard, but I’m currently on a massive learning curve with Moodle, having just been made an acting subject librarian four weeks before the start of semester. One of the things my academics are asking me to do is deal with the parts of the LMS that involve HTML coding because they can’t cope with it. Sometimes I even have to set up meetings with those academics to discuss the help they need. I sure hope they’re happy with me sending calendar invitations because I don’t have the time to go back and forth when I’m trying to get an entire School ready for semester to begin.

          2. Mal*

            Blackboard is indeed frustrating and slow, but also rather old; I think that’s less an example of “new tech not performing” and more “poor version of this tool”. There are Blackboard alternatives that do the same thing much better that could probably convince you. It’s not that the old tool is better but that this specific software wasn’t up to it.

      2. Genny*

        100% this. What do you want to be known for at work? The person who’s good at their job and easy to work with or the person who’s good at their job, but a pain to work with because they refuse to use an exceedingly common, easy-to-use tool that everyone else in the office is using? Your industry might be moving slower than others, but I guarantee you that we’re not going back to the days of private, hard-copy calendars. You can choose to adapt now, be forced to adapt later, or gamble that you’ll retire/become utterly indispensable before you have to adapt.

    4. HoHumDrum*

      Can we also add to this conversation that just because something is new or electronic doesn’t make it better for everybody? Because of the way my neuroatypical brain works I find electronic calendars distracting and disruptive, and using them makes me way more likely to miss meetings or appointments. I do much better with a paper system, and I appreciate that make me an outlier but boy do I get tired of folks insisting that the electronic is inherently superior and more efficient. Not for me it isn’t, now I spend double the time on my calendar, trying to get all my obligations copied over to the paper system that works, else I start missing things.

      I don’t have the clout to push back or refuse to use the electronic calendar (I’m still early in my career), so I just submit to the extra work. Of course change is inevitable, but it’s often a lot more difficult for people who are neuroatypical and spend a lot of time honing particular systems or strategies to assist them in getting things done. But what I really would wish is that people acknowledge that the new systems aren’t universally easier or superior. Maybe the person in the office who refuses to use Outlook is just a crank, or maybe they’re someone who would truly struggle with it and it would negatively impact their work. That might not change whether they have to use it in the end, but I am sympathetic to folks who get frustrated when forced into new systems that work for everyone but them.

      The LW may have a lot of valid reasons for preferring paper that are not just stubbornness, whether it’s feasible or reasonable to eschew the ecalendars forever or not. New technology isn’t always better for everyone.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        This is a genuine question: how is it double the work? If there were no electronic calendar, you would have emails or phone calls (or paper memos!) about upcoming meetings, which you would write into your planner. Now you have electronic calendar invites that you write into your planner. Can’t you treat the invites as emails and ignore the electronic calendar?

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Yeah, I can try to elaborate! I’m loathe to get too specific because I find then that people tend to start to litigate it (“Well if you just did ABC then that wouldn’t be a problem anymore, so no this isn’t hard for you” is frustrating).

          It’s probably not double, it’s just something I find very stressful so I definitely magnify it in my mind. One, I struggle with attention to detail, so copying things over takes me a lot more time than it probably would the average person, I have to quadruple check everything and correct a lot of mistakes. Two, every org I’m part of has their own calendar/system, so I’m trying to reconcile like 4 different calendars, which is a recipe for disaster for me (lots of opportunity for mistakes). Also, anything electronic is a portal to distraction for me. Pre-pandemic there was a lot of this type of scheduling/work stuff my coworkers and would just talk out amongst ourselves, now everything is email and it’s rough. Answering emails takes me hours, and I honestly don’t have that many.

          Calendar/scheduling is just something my brain really, really struggles with. In my personal life I am the late/flaky friend. For work I spent a long time developing a system that will have to adapt, but it’s just hard is all. ’m better at retaining info verbally, so before I had a professional job my boss or whoever would just tell me my schedule and I’d jot it down and confirm verbally. OBVIOUSLY this is not something that can be done in a big business and I don’t expect my current boss to do this! It’s very clear to me why my job uses an e-calendar, I’m just saying it’s not easier for me personally. Which is fine! Businesses should do what is best for the majority. My point is only that it’s not universally easier, and some people struggle with new systems, and that might inform how to approach them.

      2. Yorick*

        You could print out your Outlook calendar if you work better with a paper calendar that you can look over at. But your coworkers cannot check your paper calendar before they start trying to schedule a meeting with you and others. That’s why we all think Outlook is superior, not because it’s universally better to rely on an electronic calendar.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Ah that would be great! I use a specific calendar system, so just printing it out wouldn’t work for me, but is a great suggestion for others.

          And I hear you! I’m not saying that people are wrong to feel it’s superior or that it’s not- just that for some people these new systems add in a lot of stress and difficulty that isn’t always considered. That doesn’t mean new systems shouldn’t be used, im just saying that might be a consideration to have in mind when you approach someone about changing what they’ve been doing, that extra compassion. In turn those folks should also be thoughtful and compassionate towards others who need them to change, of course.

      3. Generic Name*

        Just so you know, you can turn off all reminders in email and calendar appointments. I find email notifications annoying and distracting, so I’ve turned them all off. I only know if I get an email if I actually go look at my email program.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Lordy, yes! If I get a new device, part of my set-up process is turning off nearly all the notifications. Texts on my phone are the only notable exception.

      4. Observer*

        I have a lot of sympathy, although I don’t see that there is a good solution.

        If the OP had said something like what you say here, my response would be very different. They probably would still be well advised to figure something out, but I would also see why they might wait to be among the last adopter.

        But the objections they have are not about that. And it also sounds like they have not taken any time to actually learn the toll that they are complaining about. It’s a very different scenario.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        As the parent of two non-neurotypical kids who spends my day steeped in finding the right system for them to better mange their lives, I truly get this. One of the things I tell them is that my system doesn’t have to be their system, but their system has to accomplish what it supposed to. One of my kids does better when they hand-write their school assignments in a planner, the other does better with a sortable, color-coded spreadsheet with columns for class, due date, and level of effort.

        However, electronic calendaring offers a great deal of convenience and efficiency for the vast majority of people, so the outliers have to adjust to that rather than expecting the larger group to go back to doing scheduling a tedious and time-consuming way. There are major advantages to being able to use scheduling assistant (our organization has also integrated conference room availability, so you can schedule people and reserve the room in a few clicks). You are allowed to have your system, but your system can’t inconvenience everyone else. That will make more work for you, if you’re going to copy everything over to paper rather than print out a schedule from Outlook (daily, weekly, monthly templates and more are built in).

        1. Chinook*

          Ditto. When I show adult students Outlook for the first time, I show them mine and tell them point blank that theirs won’t look like mine because it needs to work with their brain AND no one will judge their version as long as they a) reply to emails in a timely manner and b) make it to scheduled meetings. Replying to invites falls into category a.

          As I watch them use Outlook over the following weeks, my brain hurts as I see them use it so differently from how I do (we screen share as they work so I can trounleshhot their questions) but, as long as they meet my two goals, I don’t care.

        2. HoHumDrum*

          Oh I agree- businesses have to do what’s best for the majority. My point is to just suggest that there are always folks that fall out of that majority for various reasons, and approaching them with compassion might be more helpful in getting them to adapt. Or at least, I know I’ve been told a variation of “Everyone else finds this easy so you should too,” throughout my life and it’s not ever been particularly helpful.

          OP4 probably needs to adapt, but that might be a really big project to undertake for them, or even emotionally frought. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have to do it, just saying it might not be as easy an ask as folks realize.

    5. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, I’m sure there are lots of places where this is normal but the part about ” I don’t want to invite assumptions about when I am and am not free” is SO weird to me–I feel like that is the main point of work calendars! And also if the goal is to protect your time, then I think using shared calendars is actually the best way to do that. If you don’t use it, then people have no idea when you are or aren’t free so they will just pick whatever time works for everyone else. If you use the shared calendar, you can block off as much time as you want as being “unavailable!” My company has started actually encouraging people to block off time to take lunch since everyone being remote has led to an increase in meetings.

      1. Paulina*

        I find calendar software very useful to hold and communicate the hard “no” times. But there are a lot of “maybe” times, most of the apparently-free schedule is really “maybe” due to the nature of our primary work, and they change both as they’re used and depending on what the request is for. When I’ve run a standing committee, I’ve scheduled it myself, as do others in my unit in similar situations — not because there isn’t an admin who could do it, but because we’ve found even after significant discussion that our otherwise excellent admins couldn’t do it well enough as we saw it. Meetings got scheduled, people were technically free, but it messed up some people’s work dynamics significantly more than it had to. There’s a lot of understanding and judgement needed, and ultimately some authority as well.

        I like blocking off lunch! I’ll do that if it’s feasible. Lunch is a high-no maybe, most of the time. And some lunchtimes are “free for lunch”.

    6. PT*

      OP4 says they’re a professor at a university, though. People generally don’t care where Professor Fuddyduddy is at any given time, except maybe their students if they’re not where they promised to be (class, office hours, etc.)

    7. MCL*

      In my academic department and overall at my university, it’s pretty normalized to have up-to-date calendars in Outlook so that we can schedule meetings. I work with one professor in a different department who refuses to keep a calendar, and it drives me nuts. I have to email them multiple appointment suggestions, wait for them to reply, and if (fingers crossed) the appointment they selected is still available on my end, we can finally talk. They are not the kind of person who I could just call and talk to, I have to set up a time to talk. I hate it utterly, but I have to accept it’s one of their quirks, I have no standing to change it. I don’t care if they accept the calendar invitation, but I’d be super annoyed if they didn’t show up at the appointed time. It’s really a headache on the scheduling side than the “did they accept the appointment” side.

      1. MCL*

        I’d like to further say that since the OP is a professor, I’d like them to consider that they’re making things harder for admin staff who are trying to get stuff done by organizing meetings. My department’s professors are great folks, but there is an illusion among some of them that hierarchy doesn’t exist in our department and admin staff would totally bring this up if it were a problem, and I 100% know that most of our admin staff would never dream of having that conversation with a faculty member.

        1. OP #4*

          In my department it’s uncommon for admin staff to organize meetings, and when they do I’ve always responded (using whatever method they’ve requested) right away. I recognize that that can be a crappy job.

          1. Salsa Verde*

            OP#4, I appreciate how willing you are to take this feedback – it’s a very divisive issue, as you can see!!

            I myself am supremely annoyed by those who refuse to use the calendaring software, but these comments are showing me that apparently this is not uncommon in academia, so that’s good to know. I have definitely judged those in positions of power who did not use calendaring software, for the reasons that have been outlined in comments above, but you did ask if it’s rude not to use the widget, so it sounds like you care about others, which is great.

            It sounds like you learned to just use the ‘accept’ or ‘decline’ buttons, which is really half the battle.

    8. Elle by the sea*

      Sounds endearing, but would seem out of touch in most modern offices. I think OP can probably get away with it in academia, but I have never worked in an office where opting out of this system ever came up as a possibility. And, to be honest, it makes scheduling meetings and managing time a lot easier.

  2. Raine*

    RE: opting out of calendar invites – it sounds like OP’s organization is moving to a shared calendar system, so not having those invitations on their calendar is going to look…odd, and frustrate those who want to be able to see when OP is free or in a meeting. One compromise is to accept the invitation to add to the OP’s calendar – the one tied to their work’s email account – and then block out the time on that calendar when they aren’t available. They’re in no way obligated to use the widgets to add them to their personal calendar, if that’s a concern.

    I used to work with someone who hated shared calendars with a passion, and would lock theirs down such that sending them meeting invitations became implausible because it would show they had an existing conflict. Turned out they just wanted someone to call and ask them if they were available instead of emailing invitations, which was logistically implausible.

    1. Jo*

      I think this might be the solution, and is a pretty common way of handing this type of thing. OP may not use the calendar for their own scheduling, but it’ll certainly be a big help to colleagues trying to schedule a meeting.

      Of course, it may become a problem if OP regularly blocks out the majority of the day, every day – particularly if anyone else has access to your calendar and can see your appointments. I think the extent this matters will depend on how available your university wants you to be for meeting with colleagues.

    2. Taxachusetts*

      Right it’s perfectly reasonable to say that you want to be asked to attend a meeting not just get a calendar invite, i.e the requestor needs to explain why you need to be in the meeting and what it’s about. It seems like the OP may receive some unsolicited invites which I agree is very irritating.

      But asking you via email to attend the meeting based on what they can see in your calendar is the only way to get things done. It’s maddening the amount of time spent finding time.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        That’s really dependent on the culture of your organization. Needing to be asked every time someone scheduled a meeting would not fly in my office.

        1. lailaaaaah*

          I guess it depends on your level – a junior employee definitely wouldn’t be able to get out of that, but I’ve had senior managers call off meetings within a few minutes of the start time before.

        2. UKDancer*

          It wouldn’t fly in mine either. Meetings are scheduled by calendar invites, especially now as the invite contains the zoom link for the meeting. The only time I’d ask by email is if I’m discussing with someone outside the company and can’t see their calendars. Internal meetings are arranged by checking calendars and sending an invite.

          1. allathian*

            Indeed, that’s the way it works in my organization as well. Granted, there are the inevitable scheduling conflicts and sometimes people who attend a lot of meetings just need to decline an invitation if they’re double-booked, or leave early or join late.

            I feel like my meeting schedule is full if I have more than two or three meetings a week. Some of my coworkers can have five or more meetings a day.

            1. TPS reporter*

              I’m speaking as someone who routinely has 5 meetings a day so you’ve got to check with me first to see if I even need to meet with you. I need time to actually get stuff done and sometimes the call for a meeting is not necessary or I’m not really the one to talk to.

        3. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

          Nor in mine. I work for a high-level, global team. Sending back and forth emails for one attendee for one meeting is a colossal waste of my time.

        4. no parachute*

          In my org, if I’ve never worked with someone and never heard of them, it’s common for me to get an email or an IM saying “hi, I’m Jane from X, can we talk about Y project?” and then I say “sure, put a time on my calendar”. After that initial intro, I just get calendar invites.

          But it’s also fine for someone to just put something on my calendar and assume I can tell from the subject line what this is, and I just don’t know that specific person who is scheduling it.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Yes, in my org it’s a mix. For existing projects and things that are self-explanatory, you just get the invitation. For new projects, people you don’t know, etc., you send the email first. Part of that is that people may not accept the meeting and show up if they don’t really know what it’s for.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Having to schedule project meetings for 12+ people I’d have no idea how to start unless we all had shared calendars so I can see availability.

        If it were a one to one, I could handle the other person not using their outlook calendar I think.

      3. OP #4*

        I get (and send!) lots of unsolicited invitations, usually over email. Many of them come from people outside my employer — for example, I’m chairing a committee for our national professional association.

        I wish I could say yes to all of them; most of them are asking me to do work that is well worth doing and which I find interesting. Unfortunately I’ve learned that saying yes to everything is a great way to get behind and piss people off.

        1. Bagpuss*

          OK, those are simply, you just decline, just as you would if it were an e-mail invitation.
          You can if you want to, add a note, but it isn’t compulsory. If you are the Chair of a committee then your presenc is presumably needed in whic hcase offering a different date based on what you know of your availability makes sense

          For those kind of things I would expect that you won’t be a mandatory attendee, so they won’t be rearranging the meeting because you say no, they just continue with those who can attend. And for external meetings of that kind accepting won’t give them access to your calendar.

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          As the others have said, I suspect a lot of this is due to the prevalence of Zoom/WebEx/etc. meetings – then later the calendar info can be updated with the meeting link/call-in information.

          Please feel free to simply use the decline button for things that are truly optional and you are uninterested in. People are sending these out more freely these days instead of sending an email that discusses their upcoming event and won’t you please go to this website to RSVP/learn more etc.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            The way that a calendar invitation can include links, attachments with the agenda, etc., and then be updated is super helpful. Unless, of course, the organizer wants you to review something before the meeting, but it’s attached and disappears onto your calendar where you don’t see it until a few minutes before the meeting. Send that stuff by separate email so people notice it.

        3. Green great dragon*

          Y’know, I think you’re interpreting these very differently from most of us. Sending a meeting invitation is just that, an invitation, with the addition of a handy little 1-click ‘no thanks’ or ‘yes and it automatically goes in my calendar with no further effort’. It isn’t any more forceful than a gold-edged invitation card or a plain email. It’s generally polite to reply to invitations if requested, whether that’s by mouse click or pigeon post.

          As others have said, refusing to use the calendar is a separate issue. If you don’t want people to see when you’re available, that’s your call. I guess you know whether you’re making others’ lives harder or not, and how much you care about that if so.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This is a great point about meetings not being mandatory.
            One helpful thing I see at work is the message, “If we do not hear from by x date, then you we will assume you are not attending.”

            I like that a lot. It’s very helpful. They assume you opt out and you have to let them know if you opt in.
            And they stick to it, so if you do turn up and you have not opted in, then you cannot attend.

        4. Esmeralda*

          Just because you get an invite doesn’t mean you have to say yes.

          You can respond “no” to the invites you don’t want.

          And block off the time you need for reading, research, writing, planning your classes etc. I spend about 30 minutes at the end of the previous semester blocking out the following semester this way. You can block out for the whole year if you want. Set a repeating appointment.

          Really, this is not The Man bringing you down. This is everyone who legitimately needs to meet with you trying to make it easy for everyone to see when people can and can’t meet. This is the dept admin who has to set up these meetings being able to use their time on more important things than playing phone tag with a dozen people.

          Setting up a work calendar that shows when you are/aren’t available is pretty basic. We used to do this back in the days of paper calendars — the secretary or office manager kept a master calendar of who was in/out and when.

          BTW, I spend a number of years as a professor, and I’m married to one. I understand, you need big chunks of time, you are not usually working M-F 9-5. (I work a lot fewer hours now that I’m on fairly standard business hours.) But you also have other obligations at specific times/days, and more to the point, you’re not 100% completely independent and un-beholden to anyone else — other people need to meet with you, legitimately. Don’t make it harder for them than it needs to be.

        5. Observer*

          The fact that you get a lot of unsolicited emails does not explain your issue. As the others have said, all you need to do is click on decline.

          If you don’t want to / don’t have time to add a nice note, it literally is a single click. That’s it! Just because it’s a calendar invite that would put something in your calendar if you accept does not mean that you actually have to accept.

      4. Yorick*

        But I’ve had calendar invites come with perfectly nice messages asking for the meeting and explaining why and letting me know I can feel free to suggest a different time. I’d much rather get that than a bunch of messages or calls. People need to understand that a meeting invite isn’t a summons, and they shouldn’t take offense to it.

      5. Rock Prof*

        When I schedule meetings (as an academic), meetings are often something that we’ve talked about or I’ll generally send out an email first that says, “I’m scheduling a meeting for X, Y, and Z thing based on your calendar availability.”Sometimes I’ll state the time/date upfront (or give options if possible), but sometimes I haven’t figured it out yet. If it doesn’t work for someone, I feel that I’ve given them warning (the prior discussion plus the calendar invite) to let me know if something doesn’t work. It’s up to people who use a different scheduling system to let me know then.
        But I have colleagues who will do really confusing and complicated things like make multiple Moodle polls to figure out availability. With all the back and forth that often ends up leading to, it just feels like such a waste of time when the good majority of faculty and staff at my school have a reasonably up-to-date shared calendar.

    3. Jenny*

      In my organization, especially post COVID, those calendar invites are often for virtual meetings so the calendar invite sends you a pop up reminder 15 minutes before with the link and password. Super useful.

      1. ThePear8*

        Yes! I found reminders a little annoying at first, but after losing track of time so much I appreciate how helpful and convenient they are.

        1. Orange You Glad*

          With all the additional calls/meetings I have while working from home, those reminders are a lifeline. I’ve only just started getting in the habit of editing the reminder times. Mine defaults to 15 mins before but I’ve found that can be too long ahead of time and I end up going back to what I was working on and blowing through the meeting start time. Now I usually have it remind me 5 mins ahead of time and the snooze until 0 mins button is used a lot.

      2. Flower necklace*

        At my workplace, people don’t use shared calendars. People schedule meetings through old-fashioned coordinating or they schedule it knowing not everyone will be able to attend. But, if invites do get sent out, that’s exactly why. Otherwise, you have to go searching around in your inbox for the email with the Zoom link.

        1. BethDH*

          I also love it because the email content describing the meeting stays attached in my calendar. That’s especially helpful for meetings scheduled far in advance. I can remember what files I might need to have accessible or whether I might need to only attend part of it if I’m overbooked.

    4. ThePear8*

      I do this, since I’m part-time at my organization because I’m a student, I’ve blocked out on my calendar when I’m unavailable for classes. It’s been pretty helpful for my coworkers so they can plan around knowing when I’m going to be available and when I’m in class and can’t be reached.
      I think Allison is right about company culture…at my organization it’s the expected norm that everyone has their availability on their calendar, and if a meeting needs to be scheduled then whoever is scheduling it can go ahead and look at everyone’s availability on their calendars to determine the best time. Maybe at a company where it’s less common or not so ingrained as the norm, you could get away with using a different system.

    5. Cat Tree*

      If I had to IM each person (not calling, sorry not sorry) each person to see when they’re in a meeting, if never get anything else done. “Ok Fergus you’re available at 1 on Tuesday. Wait, Jane just told me she has a conflict then but is available on Friday morning. Oh, that doesn’t work for you but maybe 10 a.m. on Tuesday? Let me go back and ask Jane if she can make that work.” And just imagine how obnoxious that would be if I needed more than two people.

      Technology makes scheduling so much easier. Someone who refused to use it could probably skate by at my workplace but wouldn’t get very far. If someone was that uncooperative and difficult to work with, I would only work with them when strictly necessary. I certainly wouldn’t think to invite them to other projects unless they’re the only person with a specific skill.

      1. Ruby*

        Ditto. I can’t imagine how I’d function if I’d have to check independently with everyone before scheduling a meeting.

    6. Depends on what "obligated" means*

      I don’t think I can wander too far into this without entering rant mode, but “You’re not obligated to use that kind of widget.” is oh so very heavily dependent upon an institution’s policies. Which service does a better job behaving in which ways aside, actively employing experts to be experts for a given field (in this case IT), then flagrantly disregarding what those experts come up with, is easily a source of much frustration.

      We don’t have the relevant information in this letter to know if LW4’s institution has policy on this, but wording it around “workplace culture” feels horrifically gentle here. Academic types (I’m gonna guess someone getting away with plaintext email in 2021 who is frustrated about formatted messages and standard collaboration functionality is likely to be tenured faculty, am I close?) can often get away with defying policy up until the moment it violates a law and someone brings lawyers because academia has some almost hilariously antiquated norms about how it operates, but being gentle about refusal to cooperate with an entire institution strikes me as a bit off.

      Talking through issues with the available support staff and collaborating to identify solutions is fine, but at the end of the day trying to change an institution by refusal to cooperate just makes tension for everyone and changes virtually nothing. I’d love to participate in convincing my institution to pick friendlier, more open tools, but so long as everyone is of the impression that we’re constantly behind in getting adoption for the current platform, I just don’t see us talking about wanting to migrate again soon.

      I would strongly urge LW4 to reach out to whichever support unit helps with adopting technology, and approach with less of that “no part” attitude and more of that tone towards the end of trying to cooperate and not be rude. I’d also just comment that, in my experience, “I don’t use the university-provided calendar to manage my schedule” tend to be words used by someone using a non-institution-provided system to manage all sorts of things. If that’s the case, be very careful about that.

      Setting aside any FERPA implications if anything student related lands on a personal service (you implicitly don’t know until you check if the student opted into a restricted status), are you really prepared to retain all your data on your personal services in compliance with record retention? (So, keeping things for a set length of time and actively cleaning up anything older than that length of time.) And, are you prepared to surrender all of that information and all of your accompanying personal information if anyone ever files a FOIA or subpoenas your workplace?

      I guess if LW4 is tenured then it’s really all moot (until someone files a lawsuit), but at least be aware of the tension that creates for everyone else. Stronger considerations than whether it fits your “workplace culture” might be a good idea when considering whether to comply with basic, standard office collaboration tools that your institution has already paid for and legally approved.

  3. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Re #4 “I don’t want to invite assumptions about when I am and am not free”

    Not using the calendar system is probably part of the reason people are making assumptions that you’re free for these meetings, since you’re showing as available. I’d guess that your expectation/desire is for colleagues to email you first to ask about availability rather than just get an invite out of the blue, but if it *is* your workplace culture that everyone is using Outlook, then having to send a pre-email when everyone’s availability is otherwise visible and the organizer can just cut to the chase can be pretty annoying.

    That said, Outlook does have a feature where it can connect with your personal calendar (e.g. Google calendar) and show you as busy when you’ve got stuff booked there, if that’s how you’re managing your time. This is probably less than ideal since you mention not being thrilled to be part of Microsoft’s ecosystem and its data collection, but I’m mentioning it in case others find this feature useful.

    1. Ariaflame*

      I suspect they’re not using any calendar system, but yes if you have specific times you want to focus and not be disturbed then putting that into the Outlook calendar (you can have them as ongoing things every week) can be useful. If you have some times you can make it but would prefer not to, then marking it as tentative could make people check with you.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I was trying to give the LW the benefit of the doubt that maybe they use a hard copy day planner or something, otherwise I’m very much struggling to figure out how they protect their time.

        I do the blocking my calendar for non-meetings; it’s really helpful and I recommend it to everyone. I block a “settling in” period at the start of every day to prevent people from booking meetings with me before 10am, I block lunch, I block Fridays after 4pm. Reclaim your time!

    2. lailaaaaah*

      Honestly, as someone who used to do a lot of meeting scheduling stuff, people like LW frustrated me no end. If you want to block out time in your day, do that! Otherwise I’m going to assume you’re free and send an invite, because if I’m setting up a meeting for twenty people, I do not have the time or energy to ring every single person up and then sort through the mess of verbal responses I get, and then *still* get people who decline meetings at times they agreed to.

      Just set up events in your calendar that run for the time you know you’ll be busy. You don’t even have to say what you’re doing! Job done.

      1. OP #4*

        Right now, the culture isn’t that you can assume others are free. I don’t think many of my colleagues use this calendar software, you have to email them and ask.

        But the culture seems to be slowly moving in this direction, so my question is about whether I need to get on board if it does. (And the overwhelming response here seems to be yes.)

        1. Still No Beans About It*

          Beware, the overwhelming response here comes from corporate types and cubicle farms, not from academics. You have a particular kind of individualistic freedom of which most people here (and Alison) don’t understand, and a responsibility to lock down as much of your own time as possible, even (especially) when it’s not sucked up by meetings. If you don’t want people to put things on your calendar without asking you first (drives me batty too; is incredibly rude and presumptuous), the best way to eliminate that behavior is to just completely block out all day every day as busy. It’s quick and easy to set up.

          For everyone else, in academia, meeting planners asking around first or using tools like doodle are much more common than just assuming someone is available for a meeting simply because nothing is visible on their calendar.

          1. Richard*

            I’ve worked in higher education for over a decade now, and sending meeting invites has been standard practice in most places I’ve worked. Using the calendar function is more common on the admin side, but I’ve never encountered an academic surprised at receiving a meeting invite through Outlook.
            Also, it’s unfounded and rude to say that the people here (including Alison) don’t understand the freedom that comes with academic positions. Not everyone who thinks you should acquaint yourself with 1990s-level technology is a cubicle drone deadset on sucking up your time with pointless meetings.

          2. Heather*

            …but nobody is putting things on your calendar without asking first. The invitation is the “asking”. That’s what an invitation is.

            If the time doesn’t work for you, you hit “decline” and write “that doesn’t work for me, how about 2pm on Thursday instead” or “I’m too busy for these kinds of meetings these days, sorry”. You can respond the exact same way as if the invitation was in email format. I really don’t see what is so “rude and presumptuous” about this system, which as others have explained saves a whole lot of time and hassle for people coordinating the meetings.

          3. Elle*

            Eh, my dad was head of school at a university over 10 years ago (not sure if that’s the same in the US? Basically, senior person in charge of several grouped departments), and his first action was to make it VERY clear that all academics were expected to use their calendaring software properly to make meeting scheduling less of a burden on admin staff and junior academics in particular. He felt that far too much time was being wasted sending multiple emails asking about availability for every meeting, and that if everyone just used the available tools as they were meant to, they would all have much more time to get on with their research!

            I now work at a university in admin, and the overwhelming assumption is that people are available when their calendar says they are. Culturally, the calendar invitation is considered just that – an invitation – not a command. I view sending you a calendar invitation for a meeting at 10am on Tuesday as being the same as sending an email asking if you can meet at 10am on Tuesday – if that’s not going to work for you, you use the reply function to tell me so, but if it does work, we’ve just reduced the number of emails we both have to deal with!

        2. Washi*

          Genuine question: what are the downsides of using the accept/decline function rather than just ignoring the invite? I’m just confused because I don’t really see a functional difference of sending an email asking to meet vs. a calendar invitation (for internal meetings). I’ve been using calendar invites in various workplaces for 10ish years and am having a hard time seeing them through the eyes of a new user.

        3. Green great dragon*

          If you do, you’ll become the happy person who no longer has to have email back & forths about availability, for you can simply say “just check my calendar”. Or “Let’s meet – please look at my calendar and pick the time that suits you.”

        4. Not So NewReader*

          I recommend jumping in now because it’s waaay too hard to catch up later.
          And avoiding new software is not a habit you want to keep doing. See my sad story above about a person I know of. After digging their heels in for decades they have turned themselves into someone who just cannot learn and absorb the technology. Not only are they inching out of their current job, no employer will consider hiring someone who is so far behind and unable/unwilling to learn.

        5. Generic Name*

          I think the answer depends on whether you care about what others think of you and if you care about potentially inconveniencing other people. It also depends if you think using the system will eventually become mandatory before you retire. I think it’s better to ease yourself into the system while it’s optional because it will be a lot more frustrating for you if at some point you’re told “use this or else” and you gave to learn it quickly.

          If you’re concerned about privacy, there are settings in outlook to show only certain information to others, and you can also set certain appointments as “private” that only you can see.

        6. Esmeralda*

          Yes. Please, use the work calendar for your work hours. You don’t even have to say on the calendar why you are unavailable. I use “no appointment” for a lot of my blocks.

        7. Gone Girl*

          I think being preemptive about blocking off your time now will help with your frustration as well; you can start to feel like you have more autonomy over your time and your schedule rather than waiting for someone to “force” meeting on you. Additionally, if someone *does* try to schedule something when you’re busy (I.e they didn’t bother checking your availability via your work calendar), you have a visible point of reference for them that you can point back to when you need to decline.

        8. learnedthehardway*

          Yes – absolutely DO get on board now. You’ll have it all figured out before anyone else does, and you’ll know all the tricks to keep your schedule booked for when you don’t want meetings.

          Personally, I have several calendars (personal, business, clients, etc. etc) and have most of them updating the others. When I have an off-site meeting, I’ve learn to block time before and after to prevent others from trying to book me. If I have an errand, it gets into my calendar, for the same reason. If I have a project that needs dedicated time, I block that. I can also set hours during which I can be scheduled – eg. nothing before X AM or after Y PM Monday to Friday – that forces people to communicate with me about my schedule before booking meetings after hours or on weekends, and it protects my personal time.

          Instead of having to carry around a schedule with me, it all is accessible on my mobile device. That means tracking the family calendar and the work calendars is pretty seamless, and I don’t forget anything.

          It is VERY handy – I wouldn’t be able to run my work and personal life without the calendars.

        9. Jaydee*

          Yes, it will be much easier to get on board now. You’ll also be better able to influence the culture shift. You’re getting a *ton* of good feedback here about the ways that electronic calendaring is used in other workplaces. You can help set the tone for students and colleagues you work with.

        10. BethDH*

          A big benefit to doing it before most of your colleagues is that you can help set the norms for how your org uses it by how you use it.
          For example, including a rough agenda that makes it clear what will be covered so people can judge whether they need to be there, or regularly scheduling meetings that end at :50 or :55 so that people have time to get ready for the next thing.
          One of my personal preferences is defaulting to a half hour meeting instead of an hour. Electronic calendar invites force people to set a clear end time.

      2. Groove Bat*

        Yeah, it is super inconsiderate to anyone who is trying to organize a large meeting to not follow whatever the organization’s system is for blocking and booking time. If you want to protect your time, mark yourself “unavailable.” But it seems like you’re going out of your way to make life harder for everyone around you just because you resent having to answer to “a widget.”

        Honestly, it comes across as petty and immature. If it were me trying to book meetings and I had a colleague who made it impossible for me to schedule them for anything, I’d just stopped inviting them if I could.

        1. Allypopx*

          Immature and also a little paranoid, going by the wording of this letter. You can block out time you’re not available on the calendars, no one is going to assume that you’re available 100% of the time you’re not in a meeting. Shared calendars aren’t spying on you or encroaching on your privacy unless you work for a very questionable organization – they’re just a tool. And they’re not a tool you need to utilize to manage your time if you don’t want to, at worst they’re just a digital function to flip an open and closed sign on your office. If you still want to manage your own calendar how you’ve been doing it – fine! But you’re going to look stubborn, out of touch, and a little tin-foil-hatty if you die on this hill for simply scheduling meetings.

    3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      “Much of my work takes place outside formal meetings, and I need to protect my time.”

      Me too, and it’s the same for many people.

      Block out chunks of time for specific work, e.g. “Prep for Tulip Breeding workshop” or “Update Tulip Breeding research plan”, or simply block out every day from 9-12 (or whatever time of day you like) to do focused work.

      It’s the norm to use your calendar this way, as long as you don’t make it impossible for people to find time in your diary for meetings, if that is also part of your job.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        This is very much my tactic when I’ve got stuff that needs to be done: slap a great big ‘out of office’ or ‘busy’ chunk in my diary with ‘administrative duty’ or similar.

        1. UKDancer*

          Likewise. I block out time in my diary when I need to have a period without interruptions and that works perfectly well.

          1. Zephy*

            I have an appointment type called “Unavailable.” Nobody actually needs to know *why* I’m unavailable at that time – I use it for things like PTO, holidays, PD days (like this past Monday). My boss knows why the time is blocked off, and she’s the only person who needs to care about how I’m managing my appointments. I also set my business hours in Microsoft Bookings to restrict the available appointment times to something like 10 AM, 2 PM, or 4 PM daily – I can manually add appointments during the times I’m “off,” and my boss knows what my schedule actually is but the general population doesn’t need to.

        2. SAS*

          Yes, a department I work closely with requires almost all employees to schedule a certain amount of “offline” time in their calendar to catch up on case notes/records etc without any pressure to take calls or reply to emails. Some block out half a day a week and others block out an hour a day. I think it’s an excellent idea!

      2. Anon E. Moose*

        Me too, and it’s the same for many people.

        Yeah I think that’s the part that’s grating me a bit on this one. Everyone’s time is important, not only to them but to the organization.

        So it feels a bit precious to assume your time is more important than theirs and declare they need to go out of their way to not use a productivity tool the entire rest of the world made peace with 10 years ago.

        That might not be the signal you are trying to send, but it is definitely the one I’d pick up if I heard this from someone.

        1. Zephy*

          There is a certain type of academic that believes their time is the Most Precious And Valuable Thing On God’s Green Earth, and they’re under no obligation to deign to communicate with anyone else about anything, ever. These people often have tenure, so in practice they can actually just ignore their email/voicemail/people physically tracking them down without consequence, but it really takes a special kind of entitlement to move through the world in this way.

          1. yllis*

            Thank you

            That type also has a large crossover with I’ve Been Teaching This Way Forever and Why Should I Ever Change??

      3. SomebodyElse*

        The outlook “Categorize” function works beautifully for this. I have a category that is “work time-blocked” which I will use when I set an appointment for myself to get something done. I very much like color coding for organization, so it shows as a different color in my calendar.

        I also have the category of “Boss” or something similar, as a rule all emails and invitations from my boss, grand boss, and up are tagged as soon as they hit my inbox, and the calendar shows meetings set by them as a different color. It helps me know at a glance that it’s probably something I should pay attention to.

        I also will keep some meetings as ‘tentative’ mostly so that I stay on the distribution list for updates sent after the meeting, which is all I really need. (They are regular project meetings that I have a tangent interest in, but don’t need to be involved in “making the sausage” Or meetings that I view as truly optional and I go if I’m able, but they are a much lower priority than most other meetings. (I really would love if Outlook would integrate some of these ideas into future releases). I tell everyone to feel free to schedule over anything that shows as tentative if they need to.

        I’m often double and triple booked in my calendar, so doing things like this helps me manage my meetings a little easier.

    4. Not sure of what to call myself*

      You can often create tentative blocking of time. That would show you might be available and might not.

      Also, you can usually choose the level of appointment data you share with others (just busy, titles of meetings, details etc).

  4. fhqwhgads*

    #4, while I don’t disagree with Alison that it could be OK depending on your position and exactly how the rest of your employer’s staff use it, you should know that this method of scheduling work meetings has been so so so so so so so so very normal is a whole boatload of industries and roles and offices for 20 years (possibly longer). It’s not new. It’s not fancy. Now maybe I’m reading something into your wording that you didn’t intend, but if part of your resistance to this in any way suggests it’s new or complex, it’s unlikely to go over well.

    1. ....*

      Yes it would be considered utterly beyond bizarre to not use the calendar system at my work- in fact if someone said they weren’t willing to they would be told it’s a condition of their job to use our calendar and email system as intended. I’m so confused what the “widget” has to do with it. And like what’s the alternative? You want people to email you and you email back and forth to find a time? That takes 20x longer than checking a calendar. I can’t wrap my head around refusing to use an outlook calendar at work

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, same here. We use Outlook and I like it, and if I’m honest, I’m not particularly worried about the “Microsoft ecosystem”, but then my management chain is sensible and doesn’t care about that sort of irrelevant stuff as long as I get my work done.

        The LW’s coming across as odd, to say the least, by making it so hard to schedule meetings.

      2. Lobsterp0t*

        I think “widget” is in there to make it sound extra indignant about something OP doesn’t like.

        Like I guess it’s technically what the calendar function is? So maybe they’re being literal? But I thought it was a stylistic choice to emphasise their feelings about it being a perceived hoop they need to jump through

        1. Disgruntled academic*

          I thought it might have been those mass email invites where you click a link to rsvp attendance and add the event to your calendar. Sometimes there’s an attached survey.

          I’m also an academic and that approach gets used for big things (eg all staff Christmas party) rather than a straight calendar invite.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Yes, i seems an odd thing to resist.
        If you don’t want to share all of your commitments you can set calendar items to ‘private’ which then shows others who can see your calendar that you are not available, but not why, so you can block out times when you don’t wish to be seen as available, whether or not you have other formal meetings at those times.

        You can also chose to use outlook for meetings with third parties and keep your own separate calendar for personal use, if you prefer.

        If your issue is about being invited to meetings which may or may not be relevant to you, then accept with ‘tentative’ nd ask in your response for further information / clarification

      4. lailaaaaah*

        ‘Widget’ probably means ‘something technological that I don’t fully understand’. I work in IT, so I get why people get frustrated with constantly shifting tech, but the calendar system in Outlook has been in place for *years*. Even the oldest old timers at my job- people who’ve been here a good 30, 40 years- use it. I don’t get the pushback, or the way LW is framing this as something totally new and unexpected.

        1. Mongrel*

          ” I don’t get the pushback, or the way LW is framing this as something totally new and unexpected.”
          I’ve known people who seem to take an inordinate amount of pride in how little they interact with ‘modern’ technology, whether it’s resistance to change, nouvea-hipster one-upmanship or a flimsy disguise for tech-ineptness.

          1. anon here*

            It is totally new to many academic departments. I still remember when our university switched to GSuite and everyone got the same email software. Before that many people still used pine or elm. I’m not that old, honestly, either.

            1. KathyW*

              ha! I guarantee you at my university I could find someone still using Pine. I recall when I worked at my university’s general help desk over 10 years ago (when Pine was already quite old), someone called in for help with an issue they were having. They gave me a really hard time because I wasn’t familiar with the software enough to help and had to pass it to my boss :-|

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          It’s been a long time but I think I remember booking meetings in Lotus Notes….

          (For those under 30 years old: think very early version of MS Office. If you could learn keyboard shortcuts you could make it fly)

          1. SomebodyElse*

            Oh good ol’ Lotus Notes… I used that in my first job out of college :) I remember they had built the fancy knowledge base into it. There was always a lot of hate for the program, but I kind of liked it.

        3. Hell in a Handbasket*

          Seriously. I started work in 1994 and we had a calendaring tool then called “Meeting Maker”. (Old timers at my org still sometimes say, “I’ll send you a Meeting Maker” when setting up meetings, despite the fact that it hasn’t been in use for about 20 years.)

      5. SomebodyElse*

        That’s what I was thinking… I’m trying to imagine what would happen if I had an employee that refused to use our calendar system (Outlook). It would be so bizarre that I am having a hard time imagining this scenario.
        The best I could come up with is that they would miss a lot of meetings and would be brought up on a PIP for not actually doing their job.

      6. Allypopx*

        As someone whose organization still does the email back and forth thing – yes, I freaking hate it and you’re correct.

    2. KayEss*

      Yes, I have worked at multiple universities in a staff capacity and they have ALL used Outlook calendars. If the LW’s institution is only now moving to that, they are quite behind.

      It’s definitely possible that a well-placed faculty member could just drop the ball on their end (as the LW is suggesting they desire to do) and not suffer meaningful professional consequences, because academia… but I guarantee the staff and probably at least a few of their colleagues will haaaaate them for it.

      1. Staffer*

        Interesting – at my university I have found that faculty never make their calendar public. We use Outlook and in some departments staff share their calendars, but faculty generally don’t. Doodle or other scheduling tools are used to coordinate meeting times.

        1. Cece*

          Speaking as an academic (who uses Outlook just fine!) my fellow academics are in love with Doodle since most of them don’t realise you can actually look at everyone’s calendar to check availability. It takes just a bit of extra time from the person calling the meeting to use the tools available, rather than making everyone fill in the darn poll, but no.

          1. Language Lover*

            That’s what I was thinking about when I read that question. Can the LW get away with it? Depends. With other faculty members (if the LW is a faculty member)? Probably. So many I work with have no clue how to use that feature. I don’t think they know it even exists.

            But with higher ups who may have an assistant doing their scheduling, it’d be noticed and a pain.

            Heck, their old email system might have even had some sort of calendar sharing system. Ours did. It just became more obvious with Microsoft.

            1. Cece*

              So many academics complain about admin assistants working inefficiently, but so many of us could also do the bare minimum to not make their jobs harder.

              1. Staffer*

                Admin assistants are saints. They’re the reason I much prefer working in science departments vs humanities departments. The former has funding for faculty members to have an admin, and the latter doesn’t! It makes my job so much easier when I can coordinate administrative aspects with an admin.

          2. Lobsterp0t*

            Oh god why!!!! Scheduling assistant exists for a reason. It will even find “required” and “optional” people’s next available time slot. And a room or other resource.

            It sounds exhausting to constantly be using doodle when this function is built into the calendar software. My adhd brain can NOT

            1. Jessica*

              I’m really fascinated by some of the responses about the scheduling thing. One dynamic that’s definitely in play at my university (and I wonder if it might be similar for LW4) is “we probably spent a bunch of money to buy this technology, and everybody on campus has access to it now, but we haven’t spent any resources on widely training people to use it, so it’s widely underutilized.” And part of that is not just teaching people HOW to use the thing, but even publicizing that the thing exists and what it can do, providing people with the motivation to want to figure out how to use it.

              For instance, Doodle polls are also not uncommon in my world, and if what Lobsterpot seems to be talking about–an automated function that will find a common time for a meeting–is an Outlook thing, I didn’t even know it existed.

              Part of the bigger picture here is that we’re so understaffed, and staff are so overstretched, that people don’t always have time to engage even with a concrete “did you know that X can do Y for you” and definitely don’t have time to put into more abstract “I wonder if there are tools I have access to that could improve my life in ways I don’t currently suspect.” As for faculty, they’re already (rightly) suspicious of administrative incursions into their lives.

              1. bluebonnets88*

                There is a downside to Scheduling Assistant vs Doodle. For example, I keep quite a bit of time blocked out on my execs’ calendars, including all day on Friday, as when in the office they work from home and now we’re company-wide attempting to keep Fridays meeting-free.

                If you were to look at Scheduling Assistant to get a meeting in for one of them, you would likely not find a free slot for weeks and weeks. However, with Doodle, I as their EA can look at the calendar and select options that aren’t free but can be free – either because they’re “protected time” that can be sacrificed for that particular meeting or those spots are currently booked with another meeting that I know I can move elsewhere.

                Scheduling Assistant will never be able to give you that. I think it only works if you’re setting up meetings with people who aren’t particularly busy. I do, however, find it useful as a starting point for finding potential options when setting a meeting, using it to then create a Doodle or send an email asking for availability based on the options I’ve sourced using it.

                1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

                  I do this for my exec too– mark that time as tentative rather than busy, then decide for yourself! That’s helped me a lot.

                2. Disgruntled academic*

                  I take the approach of asking the EA/person who knows their calendar to schedule those meetings. That way, busy person owns the meeting and can easily reschedule, plus EA knows what can and can’t be moved around. They either get a chat of can I please have a meeting with blah? Or, can you please schedule x time with blah on y date with a note that busy person has already agreed to the meeting and who needs to be in it.

                  Thankfully I never have to book meetings with multiple busy people who have different EAs.

                3. Guacamole Bob*

                  The other issue is that you can only see availability for your colleagues within the same organization, not anyone external. For some people that rarely comes up, but others spend most of their time collaborating externally and the scheduling assistant isn’t really a useful tool.

                4. Elle*

                  This is why when I’m scheduling meetings for one of our VPs, I use scheduling assistant for gaps in everyone else’s calendars, then email his PA to see when is best for him! I have full visibility of the calendars of everyone else importatnt to the meeting, and if some of the other people I can’t see can’t attend, that’s not a problem.

          3. OP #4*

            Right now, at least my university, I don’t think you *can* look at everyone’s calendar to check availability. If I start using this calendar software, I’d be a somewhat early adopter, relative to my colleagues.

            1. BubbleTea*

              I find Outlook calendars extremely useful, and I’d encourage you to try it – I use mine to plan my own work, and you can set the visibility of the calendar overall, and specific events. So for instance when I have a medical appointment, I put it in my calendar as “private” so I’m the only one who sees the details. Everyone else just sees that I’m not available at that time. You can give some specific people more access than others, colour-code, set different levels of availability, have repeating appointments if you always have X commitment on Tuesdays… it’s useful.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              The good thing about being an early adopter is that you can kind of set the tone of how people tend to use it. If you’re one of the first people to use this software and immediately start by (for example) blocking off chunks of your time for general research, other people will likely respect that more than if you wait until there’s already a culture of only blocking off time for specific meetings/appointments. If you think this is how your university is going to be doing things, better to get in early than late IMO.

            3. SomebodyElse*

              My philosophy is usually that early adoption is best. I get to play around with something, find out how to use it, and find the cool helpful functions before anyone else. It also means that I get to make a lot of mistakes, screw things up, click the wrong buttons, and generally create mayhem somewhat privately.

              The best part is I often get enthusiastic IT help, because I am an early adopter and that makes the transitions easier. Best of all, I can offer suggestions make requests which are acted on because I’m one of the early users.

              Seriously, it can be a very useful tool for you if you take on board some of the suggestions for use here.

            4. MCL*

              I am also in a university. We can see others’ calendars, but no details. For example, I can see that my colleague is busy from 1-2:00 but I’m not sure what she’s doing, it’s just “busy.” I do see a lot of people mistakenly using the wrong tag, like they used “free” for a block of time when they meant “busy,” because they forgot to change the default. There are some parts of shared calendars that are not super intuitive. If you have the inclination, you could push for your IT folks to do some training on this tool. Our department IT did that when we first moved to Office 365 and it was really helpful and I think got a lot of people tuned in to how this would work as an efficiency tool.

            5. Wanda*

              Figure out whether students are included. Nearly all my meetings are with my research team (students), the students I am teaching, or collaborators outside my institution. I have like 1 meeting every 2 weeks with people who use my institution’s calendaring software. I’m not going to give up my own Gmail calendar I’ve had for over a decade that my husband has access to, where my whole life is, because 1 person every 2 weeks wants to not send me an email.

          4. Beany*

            My issue as an academic is that most of my collaborators work at different institutions, so shared calendars aren’t a solution for scheduling the meetings we need to have.

            (I don’t like Doodle much, either.)

        2. KayEss*

          I didn’t work a ton with faculty directly, but my job carried a lot of adjacent angst caused by some faculty members feeling that they could opt out of university-wide community systems… of which email/calendaring is one. Faculty who refused to transition to Exchange /years/ after the university as a whole had officially switched (because change is scary and/or email and calendar management was beneath them) were the bane of my existence for a while because their complaints about things no longer working “right” on their legacy email software after the crumbling private email servers were retired were both endless and extremely petulant. Refusing to participate in a shared institutional standard process is a choice that was not looked on with admiration or respect by any of us who had to keep the gears turning and got extra work laid on because someone with tenure philosophically objected to Microsoft and didn’t care who they inconvenienced.

          Maybe it’s fine! Maybe the LW only has intradepartmemtal meetings and there’s a shared understanding to use a different process or tool. I’m just having flashbacks to the (admittedly small, but high-impact) percentage of people we had to write entire university IT policies around because they couldn’t be bothered to not be a massive pain in the behind out of sheer selfishness and the knowledge that the environment of academia would enable them.

          1. lailaaaaah*

            “It’s not working!” Yes, I know it’s not working. I told you several times it would stop working in December when the server for it went offline. I walked you through how to use the new system. I have sent you three copies of the instructions for it. So glad I work with a manager who’s willing to push back on stuff like this.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I wonder if the whole licensing issue could be behind that. Microsoft licensing is as complex as straightening cooked spaghetti after being buzzed in a blender on high.

          There’s a tendency toward using ‘free’ apps to do things in some industries because they e.g. believe if they personally use a function of Windows they’ll get charged for it.

      2. Birch*

        It might be a role difference or an internal culture difference? I’ve also worked at multiple universities (in multiple countries!) in a teaching and research capacity and I’ve never seen anyone share or refer to their calendar. We all use our own methods and don’t make assumptions about each others’ time. Would it be more useful to have a shared calendar? Sure. But we generally use more direct means to contact people we actually need to meet with–like 3-4 co-authors or a small working group, and keep meetings efficient. The central Faculty meetings like staff meetings and trainings are all sent out as calendar invites, but there’s no way they’re looking at 200 people’s calendars and scheduling them for when they think most people will be available. There’s usually a known thing like most classes are not scheduled for noon, so they’ll make a meeting then. Academia I think, at least at the level of everyday teaching and research, is a lot less about meetings and a lot more about working on your own.

        For OP, if your work culture is such that people use the shared calendars, you need to get on board. But if not, don’t worry about it. It’s that simple.

    3. Buddy George*

      I want to echo this, while remaining respectful to OP. Even calling it a widget I believe is a bit misleading, and counterproductive. People are sending you a meeting invite. It’s not just common, but the way business is done at most organizations.

    4. emmelemm*

      Yeah, way back in 1990, when I was an intern who was giving the job of scheduling meetings between up to about 10 people, they had these printed grid spreadsheet-like forms where you would put all the names of attendees in the left column, and then the days across the top, with 8 spaces for each. Call each person, ask them all the times they were booked up for the week, block them out, and then try to find a column somewhere that was clear for all involved. Of course, by the time you called the tenth person, the first person had blocked out more of their time that you didn’t know about…

      If it sounds like a process, it was!!! Outlook is better.

        1. emmelemm*

          That’s how things worked in the olden days. Now let me tell you about using a typewriter on carbon copy forms.

          1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            Funniest story from old-job in an industry that is by nature a touch behind technologically.
            VP to new Admin “here, type this bid form”
            Admin to VP “Okay, where’s the pdf file?”
            VP to new Admin “no, TYPE it.”
            Admin “Okay but where’s the pdf file so I CAN type it?”
            VP “no, use ::this::”
            Admin (exasperated at this point) “what the hell is this?”
            VP “Its a typewriter”
            Admin: “No. Its 2014. Give me that form.” Scans in form. Shows VP how you can type on a pdf and retain a copy of it electrically (said forms would have been scanned in anyways). Suddenly, the typewriter is in the garbage out back and we all have the appropriate pdf writing software.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              My story goes the other way. Management had to surgically remove a type writer from an employee’s hands by painfully using “The Jaws of Life” on each finger that was embedded into the machine./s
              Oh that was so painful to watch, the arguing, the tears, the endless objections.
              For whatever reason this person did not get fired.

            2. KayDeeAye*

              When our former admin decided to retire (and a glad day that was – a nice woman, but SO bad at her job), she had a couple of weeks to train her replacement. Well, she was only sort of a replacement – we revised the job description quite a bit.

              In those two weeks, the retiring admin spent about 5 minutes “instructing” the replacement in how to use the Very Important Database that, in fact, retiring admin was supposed to have been keeping updated (which no, she had not). She spent hours, however, showing the replacement how to use a typewriter to fill in forms (all of which were of course available electronically). The replacement had literally never touched a typewriter before. Fortunately, she checked with the rest of us, and we told her that once retiring admin was gone, that typewriter was history. And we showed her how to use the Very Important Database, too.

              People. Whatcha gonna do?

              As for the OP, you need to determine if your refusal to use the Outlook calendar makes it more difficult for your coworkers to their jobs, including finding time to meet with you. If it doesn’t, you’re probably OK. If it does, you really need to find a way to make Outlook work for you. You don’t have to put any personal details on your Outlook calendar if you don’t want to, but you probably do need to mark out blocks of time in which you are unavailable.

              I mean, if someone sends you a meeting invite, you are allowed to decline, you know. They are not in charge of your calendar. You are.

          2. SomebodyElse*

            Hah… my last encounter with carbon paper was in 2001-ish. I was getting gas and the credit card processers weren’t working. I had already pumped my gas and didn’t have cash so we were all at a bit of a standstill. The poor young woman working held up the old fashioned carbon form doohickey with a totally lost look on her face.

            Luckily I had used one once or twice in my retail days so was able to walk her through it, along with the “No, you keep one copy and I get the other copy + the carbon paper. She was really defensive until I pointed out that yes, the card number was printed on the carbon as well as the copies.

            I felt kind of proud to be able to pass on my wisdom of antiquated technology. I’m sure somewhere she’s smugly talking about how she had to ‘Katchhhing’ credit cards one day manually!

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I had a similar experience. It was befitting of the purchase. I bought an antique portable Victrola. I had to show the person how to use the little embosser machine and show them how each copy said where it should go. “I get the copy that says customer on it.” lol.

            2. meyer lemon*

              I’ve worked with carbon paper in the last five years! I didn’t think it was that antiquated but maybe my industry is really behind the times.

      1. hermiston*

        This was still true in the early 2000s when I was admin support for about 20 faculty members. Scheduling things like meetings and thesis reviews were awful and took up so much time! The back and forth was terrible. As soon as we got calendar software, I started using it.

    5. Roci*

      Especially nowadays that many meetings are held online (and this has been and will continue to be the case when collaborating overseas), often the calendar invite is how you set up the “place” for the meeting. So you will need to get comfortable with using the calendar features for that purpose if you do any work on Zoom, Teams, Skype…

    6. Jenny*

      I think LW2 is tricky. I think every lawyer understands burnout in a firm and in house counsel work is generally a far better work/life balance. It really depends on the type of public interest work you want to do. I work in a type public interest law and while I personally don’t like tobacco companies, I honestly wouldn’t blink if someone with this on the resume came across my desk. Not if their experience was relevant.

    7. Juniper*

      Exactly! And I would argue that an important part of most jobs is getting on board with whatever systems they use. If using Exchange is a dealbreaker for you, then it’s an odd hill to die on but ok. So if this is intrinsic to the way they work then you honestly need to decide whether the organization is a good fit for you.

      1. Elizabeth*

        This just isn’t true for university faculty in the same way. We have MUCH more freedom than other workers to choose our own systems.

        1. anon here*

          Thanks for your comments, Elizabeth — there is a very clear corporate-academic divide in these comments and I’m sure it’s been illuminating but not 100% relevant for the OP!

          1. Elizabeth*

            Thanks for the thanks. It’s always funny when academics write in here because a LOT of us love to read AAM (for me it’s a fascinating glimpse of an alternate work universe) but the comments are usually super off-base, especially for faculty. It’s a good outside perspective on what a strange beast our job is.

    8. Retired Prof*

      There may be a professional culture conflict here. University staff tend to view themselves as part of an organization, while university faculty tend to act like they are self-employed and just interacting with the larger organization when they have to. To make a gross over-generalization, faculty are more resistant to other people seeing or interacting with their calendar. As a professor I used to hate having people put stuff on my calendar – it felt like an impingement on my autonomy. I have since worked in an organization with shared calendars and it felt perfectly fine there. It’s a different context.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Nailed it.
        I noticed that where I went to college. The profs were all self-employed … together.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        This exactly. Due to the nature of faculty work they usually have neither the incentive nor the responsibility to act as good colleagues or collaborators to anyone outside their department. You don’t get tenure for helping the student affairs staff or the fundraising team.

        1. yllis*

          We have a devil of a time getting our faculty to attend graduation ceremonies. And it’s a small dept where they _know_ these kids.

          Bribery works sometimes. Food helps.

    9. GrooveBat*

      Honestly, I feel like my reliance on Microsoft Outlook makes ME the Luddite, since many of my colleagues have now moved apps like Calendly that integrate with Outlook but do a whole lot more.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, this is quite easy to do, and I know a lot of academics who do it. LW#4 can just set up appointments for “research,” “writing,” whatever and they’ll show as busy on the calendar.

  5. Analog*

    #4 – you need to figure out if you have enough political clout (i.e., tenure; other very stable position) where you work to buck the online scheduling trends. Otherwise this might be one of those Hills to Die On scenarios where you’re penalized and/or forced out if you become so unavailable and hard to schedule that it starts negatively impacting your work performance or the work performances of those who depend on you (i.e, any students you supervise, teach, etc.)

    One idea – do you have access to admin assistant who could help schedule things for you? Maybe they could manage your online calendar after you give them some notes on what times you’re available and the types of appointments you will and won’t accept, and “translate” your appointments into analog by printing out your calendar for you daily/weekly.

    1. OP #4*

      Honestly I could probably get away with prerty much whatever I want, but I want to not be a jerk.

      No access to an admin assistant, I’m used to managing things on my own. For example if I’m travelling for work I make my own travel arrangements and get reimbursed.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I work at a university and just want to thank you for asking this question and for that first sentence!

  6. Staffer*

    Re: #4

    As a staff member at a large university that works with faculty, I don’t care if you formally accept my calendar invite, as long as you acknowledge you’ll be at the meeting. Frankly, the academics of a university tend to be less reliable when it comes to administrative meetings and duties (which is fine, their focus is the research!). As such, I send meeting info as a calendar invite simply to make it extra easy for people to get it on their calendar and to reduce chances of them forgetting the meeting. If it helps you manage your calendar – great! If not – totally fine if you don’t accept the widget!

    1. Llama Wrangler*

      I appreciate this perspective. I came here to say the opposite for my non-academic workplace, so I’m glad to get some alternative perspective.

      OP #4, I have to say I’m a little bit confused by your question. The crux of what you’re asking seems to me to be:
      Increasingly, I’m getting emails that are not just emails. If I’m being invited to a meeting, these emails will often contain a calendar widget with an RSVP button, which will add the event to “my calendar.” … If someone sends me one of these calendar widgets, do good manners oblige me to use the widget to reply?

      Maybe you’ve answered this down-thread and I missed it, but using the RSVP button in microsoft exchange doesn’t give anyone access to your calendar – all it does is tell the person who sent the invite that you’re attending, and add the invite to your exchange calendar (which doesn’t stop you from adding it to your personal calendar). In my workplace, if people were RSVPing to my calendar events by emailing me instead of using the RSVP button, I’d be very annoyed! It would mean I’d have to track responses via a long, unwieldy email chain instead of using the calendar invite at a glance to see who had responded. However, @Staffer seems to propose that the email chain method is maybe more common in academia, and so might not be a problem.

      Using the RSVP button is a very different level of buying into calendar systems than using scheduling widgets or sharing your calendar availability, and based on the comments I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem like people are asking you to share your availability via the calendar function, they’re just asking you to RSVP via calendar invites so they can track your attendance. (And certainly, as people have pointed out, if someone sends you a calendar invite for a time that doesn’t work, you can decline via either the RSVP button and/or via an email letting them know you have a conflict.)

      All this to say, I come down on use the RSVP function for your colleagues’ sake, but you probably don’t need to rush to migrate your calendar to exchange and use the calendar sharing functions unless it seems like people are starting to use exchange calendar availability as a guide for event availability.

      1. sb51*

        Yeah. If I schedule a meeting via Outlook/Exchange, and someone doesn’t use the RSVP button, I assume they’re not attending. Even if they’ve emailed me, to be honest, because I get SO much email, and they may have sent that yes first and then spotted a conflict (maybe they forgot to add vacation/doctors appt/other non-automatic event to their calendar, IDK, but if we need them it’s rescheduling time).

        Plus, at the beginning of the meeting, while waiting for everyone to show up, often we’ll check — who accepted? If they accepted, we’ll keep sipping our coffee and give them a few minutes; if they declined/said maybe/didn’t answer, we’ll start.

  7. Dan*


    I’ll be honest and admit that one of my biggest fears in the workplace is getting so “stuck in my ways” such that I become stale and thus expendable. I’m not terribly worried about that yet, but I do have one eye open for the things that I really should consider picking up vs the next hot trend that will blow over anyway.

    My first litmus test is: Does Thing make it easier or more convenient to do the things that I already do? If yes, let’s talk. If not, then why bother?

    Second litmus test: What is the impact on my team/colleagues? If it’s a real impact, in the short run, I can refuse. However, in the long run, refusing too much makes it hard to be efficient and productive. If I get branded as a pain in the butt to work with, then people can refuse to work with me. If too many people refuse to work with me, then I’m in a bit of a pickle, because um charging overhead because you don’t have work is basically the cardinal sin of employment.

    The kicker is, the more seniority one gets, the more one’s paycheck size usually follows. So if you’ve got a high billing rate *and* people refuse to work with you because you don’t place nice in the sandbox? That puts one on the radar when cost cutting time rolls around.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      OTOH, academic tenure. I’m being glib here, but tenure is a major component of what informs #4’s worldview.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Under Present Circumstances, tenure isn’t the iron-clad protection it used to be. Reading The Chronicle of Higher Education lately has been terrifying.

        *For non-academics: Chronicle of Higher Education is the industry paper for academia.

        1. Tussy*

          It’s the industry paper for the United States. It’s not the industry paper for all of academia, which is a very global community because of the sharing of research and the need for collaborations.

      2. Elizabeth*

        Sure. But so is having our core job function (research) constantly disrupted by other priorities. There are many structural components to LW4’s question.

  8. Going anon for this*

    Regarding LW#2’s question: I’ll throw this out as an anecdote.

    I used to work for a large company that did consulting projects for a huge variety of industries. When we bid on a new consulting project contract, we’d always be asked to provide client references from past projects. Basically, we’d need to provide descriptions of past projects to show that we had relevant experience that we could apply to the new project. And we might have to arrange for the new potential client to talk to a previous client.

    Guess the one-and-only industry we’d never talk about in a client reference? Tobacco. It was no problem to talk about work we’d done for other so-called “sin” industries, such as the alcohol or gambling industry. But we knew that offering a tobacco company as a reference could be taken badly.

    I should say that this was the policy back in the early 2000s, and I don’t know whether the policy has changed since then. But it’s not as if tobacco has become more acceptable in the past 15 years. (No idea about the policy toward the pot industry, which wasn’t legal back when I worked for the company.)

    1. Also anon for this*

      Given the usual audience here, I’m going to presume the LW is in the US or the UK, but the places where I have seen no problems with tobacco firms on the resume is in east Asia – Japan, South Korea, China (including Hong Kong), Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, to be specific. So if that’s relevant to the LW’s decision, that’s my info, from 6-8 years ago.

      1. Roci*

        I agree that there is less stigma around smoking in Asia, so it should be less of a problem professionally.

        However, the reason there is less stigma is because smoking rates are extremely high or even increasing in east Asia. People are less aware of the dangers and health risks, secondhand smoke is very common, indoor smoking is largely permitted, and social stigma towards smokers and depicting smoking in media/advertising is much lower than in many Western countries.

        So while the professional risk might be lower, I would argue the ethical risk is higher because of how successful tobacco companies are in Asia still. They are still “lying to the public about the dangers of smoking”, it’s just a different public.

        1. Hawkes*

          That’s what stood out to me as well. There was the tobacco company – with far more annual revenue than this small country’s GDP – that threatened to sue a small country over their smoking-is-dangerous campaign, in a pretty awful and disingenuous manner. (They said that a domestic lawsuit in a different country – that tobacco firm had LOST – meant that small country was in violation of WTO agreements and would have to pay some significant money, IIRC.)
          John Oliver did a segment on it.

          That kind of thing – marketing smoking, hiding the dangers of smoking, and bullying small goverments into quitting public health education – doesn’t suddenly become ethical just because it happens across the border and to think that it does seems pretty weird to me.

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      For LW #2, when you say “public service” do you actually mean public service (disability rights, legal aid, environmental advocacy, etc) or do you mean public sector? Because if it’s public sector, and as a managing attorney for a state agency, very few public agencies will care you used to work in-house at a tobacco company. The public sector’s main concern will be whether or not you have a conflict of interest because of your past work. But if you really mean public service, they will care a lot.

      1. Ari*

        This is a great point! I was also wondering what the LW meant by that.

        LW, do you know any other lawyers who have eventually transitioned out of the private sector into the public sector? If so, maybe talking to them about their career trajectories will give you a better sense of what kind of positions you should be looking for now.

  9. Maxie*

    #2 what does it mean to get points for volunteer work? I’ve worked in the nonprofit world for two decades, including a position as a Volunteer Director, and I’ve never heard of this. Who gives you the points and what are they used for? It sounds likes like you need whatever these points are as well as public acknowledgement for your contributions. I’ve signed off on hours for court ordered community service and for students fulfilling a class requirement for a certain number of volunteer hours, but that doesn’t sound like what you are tackling about.

    1. Zoe*

      I’d assume it’s like CEUs for her membership or like how for my CVA I have to do certain hours and maybe doing a certain project at a certain level for a certain type of non profit equals points.

    2. doreen*

      Some organizations that use volunteers give the volunteer free or discounted membership, admission or classes based on points. For example, the policy might be ” volunteers earn one point per hour and an renewal membership is 20 points”

    3. WellRed*

      I didn’t understand this either, or why suggesting something as basic as a call was worth points and needed the OPs name on it for credit?

      1. Six Degrees of Separation*

        Some professional organizations offer certifications, so I’m wondering if OP needed it for that reason. If so, maybe someone else at the organization could sign off on it.

    4. twocents*

      One of the organizations I volunteer for requires a certain number of hours each month or else you basically can’t volunteer until you go through training. I could see how another organization would tie that to a points system.

    5. hbc*

      Yeah, I’m confused too. The only volunteer credits I’ve seen focus on hours of work. It would be really weird for an organization to say “I’m sorry, your name isn’t on this document, you obviously didn’t volunteer.” I mean, maybe if I was trying to get an education degree, they would want my hours at the animal shelter to be on the Humane Education side rather than laundry duty or animal caretaking*, but that still wouldn’t come down to whether my name was on a presentation. Sign my form that I came in 20 hours and did work for educational outreach program, we’re good.

      *Cat Comforting is my absolute favorite volunteer “job” of all time.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        wait, that’s a thing? I am there for this. I will shovel 50 lbs of poop for the opportunity of 1hr of Cat (or Dog) Comforting. How do I apply?!

        1. theletter*

          Most small cat and dog shelters will happily accept your poop shovelling capabilites in exchange for hanging out with the fur babies.

        2. Deanna Troi*

          Jules the 3rd, my local humane society has volunteers who are Cat Socializers. They go in and cuddle the cats and play with them so they can get used to human interaction. I have a co-worker who does this and she said it is amazing. Although she wants to adopt them all.

    6. Boof*

      It seems like being listed on the event and getting points in an organization could be separate things?

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I don’t think it is. I think doing the work for the event is what gets them points. By not being listed, it implies they did not do it, which means they don’t get the points.

        1. Energy Folk*

          Hi All, I’m the letter writer for question 5 (not getting credit). Apologies I was so unclear, what I was getting at is I have a professional designation I worked hard to achieve. I’m proud of obtaining it because truth be told, I didn’t think I could ever achieve the designation. So I want to make sure I keep the designation.

          I get “points” for how long I stay in organisations – there are plenty out there, this is just one of many. For example I get 1 point per year by staying with this organisation. I get extra points for presenting papers, hosting events, etc. So yes, having my name on the event proves to the re certification board that I held an active role. Active role = +++ points!

          Seeing the comments, it is probably fair that the re certification board won’t hold it against me for not seeing my name – but part of the point of this is that this chair of this organisation refused to give me credit and said that I was “just the admin support”. What bothered me most about that comment is that she implied that admin support shouldn’t get credit…. Is that just me? Seemed pretty harsh.

        2. Energy Folk*

          Yes – letter writer here, that is it! I have concerns the recertification board won’t grant me the points.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            It seems the issue is not that the volunteer organization is refusing to give you credit for the work you did, but rather they are just refusing to put you on the agenda/program guide, and you are worried a separate recertification agency will not give you credit? Can you ask the chair or someone else that knows how involved you were in the event to write a letter for the recertification board explain how much work you did for the points?

            You said you get points for “presenting papers, hosting events,” while you may have done the majority of the admin/support work I would not consider you a host. This is a bit different since it is a paid job but my boss has hosted several events where I have done the bulk of the work, organizing dates/times, sending out invites, setting up, but no one would consider me the host or organizer or expect my name to be on an agenda/brochure/program guide. My boss will usually thank my publicly if I am in the room/meeting.

            But if the requirement for points is to “host” a meeting they might refuse because you were not the “host,” I think head of certain orgs being credited when underlings do all the work is fairly common I would say.

      2. Sharon*

        I agree. If the people “listed” are content developers/presenters, and OP did the behind the scenes admin-type work, it makes sense that she wouldn’t be included. But it doesn’t make sense that administrative-type volunteer work doesn’t count as volunteer work. Maybe they don’t understand that you just want your volunteer points?

    7. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I was a member of a writing association for a while, and in addition to monetary dues, members were required to participate in a certain amount of volunteer work to remain in good standing. You had to earn a certain number of points per year, and each project you volunteered for would earn you a certain number of points. So, if you need 20 points a year, you would need to look at the possible activities and the points they offer to reach that total. I’m guessing that in OP’s case, working on this big project for the event was supposed to be worth a pretty high number of points, so they may be relying on it in order to keep their standing in the association.

      1. Energy Folk*

        Hi Librarian of Shield – this sounds almost exactly like what I’m talking about, you nailed it! I am just looking to score points to keep my standing. There are other ways to do so, but since I’ve put almost 15 hours worth of work into it it seemed quite small. On another note – the chair of the event has done less than I have, is not speaking, and put her name on the event and gave herself credit. So when she says “data protection” – it made no sense and I explained that to her (politely).

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          This is shady of her. I’d look for a different organization to volunteer at, personally. Nothing burns me up quite like not getting credit for work I did, and then being given the runaround about it.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Maybe the way the organization works OP does need to be listed in order to get credit. But based on what they have described it does seem like they did more of the behind the scenes technical and/or admin work, I have done similar things in my job on behalf of my organization/boss and it would be weird for me to be listed as an organizer/sponsor/key person.

        Based on the letter it seems this organization has certain meetings that are conducted monthly/quarterly/yearly, due to the pandemic they could not meet in person so OP suggested to do a virtual meeting. I would not think this is such an innovative idea that OP would get credited if the meeting is not something they would normally get “credit” for. I also think that OP walked the organization chair through the process of setting up a zoom meeting and inviting the necessary people to it. Again being tech and/or admin support is not something that would normally get someone listed as an event organizer. I have done this several times and my boss will usually say a public thank you, but I will not be considered a host/organizer.

  10. Bob*

    LW1: I agree with Alison.
    But also don’t be surprised that if you move on she then retires right away, out of spite (conscious or unconscious) or the fear of training your replacement

    LW2: Other non tobacco jobs will come along. Also if you want to get into public service perhaps you should consider looking into that now.

    LW3: I suspect those article’s authors are grasping at straws.

    1. Hornswoggler*

      If she retires out of spite, it is not the LW’s problem.

      She is about to dump her organisation in it, big time. I bet the Board will be interested to hear about this issue. If I were LW I’d be polishing my resumé and networking like crazy.

      The CEO is an absolute fool to be acting like this. NPOs and charities, especially small to medium sized ones, can easily fold when a long-serving CEO retires without planning a successor.

      1. Bob*

        Its not the LW’s problem but the LW may feel like they should have stayed just a little longer and would have ended up in charge when in fact it was their leaving that caused the retirement.

      2. Office Rat*

        She wouldn’t be the first CEO of a nonprofit to do something like this. I audit them, and for every good one, I see at least five with this kind of behavior. I’ve seen more than one fold because the CEO was a problem with no succession plan, and drove out everyone that was competent enough to keep it going when they left.

  11. ex academic*

    Letter 4 reminded me of my own days in academia and how I first struggled to adapt to a non-academic environment, including sharing calendars!

    I guess as an academic I really viewed my working hours as my own time, as my professional and personal identity were so intertwined (and probably because I was working so many hours that I technically wasn’t paid for), rather than time bing paid for by my employer (particuallry when working on a personal grant- money I had been awarded for my ideas). So time keeping software and shared calendars were much more foreign than in my current job (wich I love btw, I absolutely love working 9-5 now and not working on proposals/papers/grading stuff in my weekend or while traveling to see my family abroad. I currently work for an ngo with about 150 people and this field and sie fit me like a glove).

    So this is not advice, but more a recognition of how academics might view their time very differntly than other employees.

    1. Birch*

      A valid point for OP to consider for the future, but they state they are currently still working in academia. So the academic culture still applies.

      1. Forrest*

        Although not all academic cultures are the same. My partner’s an academic and I work closely with academics in my own job, and a colleague who didn’t use Outlook would be viewed as an outlier, to say the least. I think the big difference with academia (as with medicine) is the lack of direct line management and what that means in terms of your manager being able to *require* you to use it, but at mine and my partner’s institutions it would definitely be out-of-step with your peers and wider culture.

        1. Birch*

          Sure, but that means that if most people at OP’s uni don’t use Outlook calendars to manage their schedules, it doesn’t matter what OP uses. The question was more about whether it’s ever appropriate etiquette not to use someone else’s scheduling tool if it’s an internal structure and someone else sends you an invite that way. It doesn’t sound like OP is stuck in their ways or trying to take advantage of tenure as others have been speculating. Nor did OP say they don’t know how to use the calendar, or say they use nothing, or that everyone else in their uni uses the calendar. Everyone seems to be jumping in to complain about that annoying coworker who refuses to update their tech skills but that’s not at all representative of the original question and really unfair to OP.

          1. Forrest*

            I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with! Just saying that being in an academic culture doesn’t necessarily mean the norm is not to use Outlook. Might be the case in LW’s particular discipline/institution, but it’s not a given. I don’t think there’s enough information in the letter to say whether LW is in sync with her wort institutional culture or not.

            I think the orange flag for me is that that she doesn’t mention either way— she’s focusing on what she prefers and what she *has* to do. So I think it’s very legit for people to point out that she may not *have* to engage with it, from a “you will be disciplined if you don’t” point of view, but it may be the collegiate thing to do.

            1. Forrest*

              Actually, I take that back— I have just gone back and re-read and I see tha good manners and collegiality are very much part of LW’s query! Apology for misrepresenting you.

        2. merp*

          Ha yep, I had the same experience. In fact, maybe it was the institutions I was at, but I think of academia as even worse than other work about having a million meetings. Sorry if it’s annoying, OP, but I think if it’s the direction your workplace is going, it’s best to go along with it. You can still decline meetings but hoping someone will check with you personally before making a meeting is asking a lot.

  12. Maxie*

    On the question from the lawyer, when I started reading your question, I expected your ethical quandry would have something to do with your current firm over-billing clients. I am not clear if you are trying to convince yourself it’s okay to work for a tobacco company whose atrocities are not as well known or if you are asking if you can take this job without any consequences. Lack of publicty of atrocities is a very low bar. In some very quick research, I found this, “The investigation documents more than 100 social media campaigns by multinational tobacco giants Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands. Netnografica conducted interviews with young social media influencers who were paid to promote cigarettes online to millions of followers without disclosing that they were engaged in paid advertising.
    If you are okay with contributing to the sale of a deadly product, I doubt anything I say will convince you otherwise. But to answer your question, I would never consider hiring you. I would never be your friend. I would not engage in acquaintance level conversation with you. Tobacco companies have one goal: to make money by selling a product that kills people and using sleazy methods and lies and deceptions so more people die and they make more money. If you work for this company, you will make money to help them kill more people. I doubt many of the commenters will encourage you to do this. There are consequences for people who do this, and there should be.

    1. Casper Lives*

      Do you have this same moral outrage against working for any business that kills people? Because most businesses use labor practices in other countries that range from blood diamonds to locking people in clothing factories.

      Marijuana and alcohol are also linked to raising the risk of cancer, much like smoking. Yet I rarely see anyone advocate for penalizing people for working for those companies.

      Finally, if people who worked for a tobacco company won’t get hired by anyone else, I guess they better stay in that industry forever! Don’t be 18 and take a job to support yourself, then try to leave!

      “Moral” beliefs like you ame Alison display are so frustrating. LW should know that people will judge them. But pretending tobacco is more evil than other industries is something, all right. (PS no I’ve never worked for tobacco nor been in a position where I had to)

    2. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      Do you feel the same way about people working for oil conpanies, or Amazon, or in factory farming, or at a Sackler company, or in mining? Not saying you shouldn’t, of course. Just that I’d want to look just as askance at someone working for pipelines or to sell more opioids to people who don’t need them as at a cigarette lawyer.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        This. While I think tobacco and tobacco companies are horrid, I’m also working for a natural gas utility and think they are doing good work. My brother doesn’t buy most chocolate because all of the main companies buy from farms that use child and slave labor. I’m not going to get more political, but we often disagree on which issues are the most important. There are likely things all of us do that others would strongly condemn.

      2. Rory*

        I think for me there’s a big difference between working in an Amazon delivery center or as a pipeline worker and working for a company like Amazon or Shell on a corporate level. But yes I would absolute judge someone who works for Amazon if their job is likely to cover up the companies atrocities and give it more power to do harm.

    3. Marie*

      I don’t agree with the premise of your comment. I don’t think it’s realistic or practical. Lots of people work for companies or industries that eventually harms people. Heck, where I live (Detroit MI), that means everyone affiliated with the auto industry is ethically stuck because autos harm people and cause pollution.

      1. FrivYeti*

        I think there’s a reasonable difference between an industry that makes things that can cause harm, and an industry that *only* causes harm. Cars, pharmaceuticals, oil – all of these industries are providing a product that’s necessary, and being part of that industry does not inherently mean that you’re doing shady things. It is very *possible* to be an oil lawyer who is working to hide the negative effects of climate change, but I don’t think that it’s *inherent*. Even things like alcohol and gambling, that’s true. You can work for a winery and encourage people to drink responsibly. You can work for a casino and not design it to appeal primarily to people with addictions.

        I can’t think of a way to work in a tobacco company above the lowest levels that isn’t actively harmful, with no beneficial side effects.

        As a aside, Amazon is also an interesting discussion, because there have been a lot of articles about how having Amazon on your resume for longer than a year gets its shredded by a lot of companies, because the workplace is so toxic and back-stabbing that anyone who thrives there is almost guaranteed to be a problem employee elsewhere.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          This. I was trying to figure out how to word this and I think you nailed it. Lots of industries have downsides, but most of them also have an upside. I don’t see the upside of the tobacco industry. I just don’t.

          1. Reality Biting*

            Of course there is an upside: many people enjoy cigarettes. Just as many people enjoy alcohol or pornography. That may not be to your liking, and it 100% does cause harm, but as adults in a free country we’re allowed to engage in legal activities that we find enjoyable, even if they cause us harm.

  13. Lobsterp0t*

    OP 4 really wound me up! I totally understand having a system that works for you – but this would truly make me dislike working with someone.

    I block work time out in my calendar, and I use the auto accept and auto decline in outlook. If sometime invites me to a meeting during a work block, it declines. If they really need me there, they’ll email me or message on Teams.

    So far in four months of doing this I’ve only had two truly urgent meetings that required me to shift around (not even cancel) a work block.

    This aggrieved sense of infringement is out of proportion – suggests that this person might benefit from spending time learning how to use the calendar system to their advantage.

    Also, this thing some people have about locking their whole calendar – just make private stuff private! Truly I promise you, no one cares if you were in a meeting or having a work block. We just care if you’re out of office, busy or free.

    Of course, my aggrieved sense of infringement in reaction is probably also out of proportion!

    1. Matt*

      As it is configured at my place, private is the default – everyone can view blocks of present/absent/blocked in each other’s calendars (which is sufficient for scheduling meetings in finding “clear” spaces), but not the details of each entry – you have to give other persons further rights to view your calendar in more detail.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. In my org work meetings are public by default. Meetings that I flag as private are truly that, not even my boss can see them. Not that she’d want to, she trusts me and the rest of her reports to do our jobs without keeping track of what we’re doing all the time. I flag things like medical appointments or other non-work things that I need to schedule during the working day as private. All my org cares about is that employees keep the calendar updated to show when they are and aren’t available.

    2. OP #4*

      Right now, it’s not yet the norm for everyone to use these calendars. I agree that if everyone were doing it, then I’d be a jerk not to.

      But the prevailing sentiment here is clearly that I should, if that becomes the trend.

      1. Not sure of what to call myself*

        Something to think about is would everyone adopting it help you? You must spend hours a week trying to arrange meetings with other people, and also with other people arranging meetings with you. It takes seconds to see a meeting request come in and click accept or decline. Would having that extra time be a help to you?

      2. Anonym*

        You could also ask around to get a feel for the current expectations! No need to decide without data. Might set your mind at ease, especially if the environment is like one admin in academia describes above – she sends them more as a helpful FYI.

  14. Jessica (works in US higher ed)*

    LW4, I’m very familiar with what you’re talking about. My university uses Outlook, and at first I wasn’t using the calendar function at all and I was bewildered by the weird widgety emails that disappeared from my inbox once I accepted the invitation. I eventually started using Outlook calendar and find it super useful, but I don’t share my calendar with anyone else. Many of our faculty don’t use it at all.

    Unless there is specific pressure on this from directly above you, I think you can happily continue to not do this. If someone sends you one of those Outlook meeting invitations (to a meeting where your presence actually matters, not a mass thing where you’re invited but nobody will know or care if you attend), and you can make it, accept the widget email (but first record the planned meeting in whatever system you personally use to keep track of your engagements, because the email will disappear!) so they’ll know you have agreed to attend. If you can’t make it, decline, and if you care about the meeting, email back and reply as you would if they’d sent a normal email saying “let’s meet Thursday at 2”—propose another time, tell them when you’re available, or whatever you would normally do.

    Don’t worry about whether anyone is “looking at your calendar” in outlook to see if you’re free. If anyone ever articulates that to you—“I thought you could make it because your calendar was open then”—just say, No, I don’t use that calendar.

    If your institution is anything like mine, this will never be a problem. Especially if you’re just rank-and-file faculty, not in some administrative role.

      1. PX*

        And that’s an option: you can choose not to have them auto delete.

        There is also a “Propose new time” feature within outlook so you don’t have to send a separate email…which opens a pop up so you can compare calendars and find free blocks…so you don’t have to play email ping pong trying to find a time that works…

    1. Just an idea*

      There’s actually a setting in Outlook that lets you define for yourself whether the meeting invites are automatically deleted upon reply or not. I have chosen to keep them as I too found it confusing when they just disappeared. I guess this would probably be useful to LW too?

  15. (No Longer) Some Sort of Management consultant*

    I have so many questions!
    How do you prefer to be invited to meetings? How do you invite others?

    1. OP #4*

      Right now email is the universal norm.

      This goes for both small meetings, where it’s needed to confirm that everyone can be there, as well as larger meetings. With larger meetings it’s typical that they’re informational and optional — e.g. if a senior administrator calls a meeting to describe future plans and field questions, then attendance is never required (but is often a good idea).

      1. Chilipepper*

        My org works this way too. Only senior staff share their calendars so they can see if someone is available for a meeting. They send “invites” that are really announcements of mandatory meetings that we cannot turn down or are optional. For all other meetings, they email us lowly folk with a couole of times and ask when we are free. I did not know you can view other ppls calendars, I dont think you can in my org unless you “share” your calendar with them.

        For my committee work outside my org, we use doodle polls to find a time and outlook to send the mtg announcement.

        I asked my prof spouse about this. He uses doodle polls a lot bc he did not know about some of the Outlook functionality lots of you mentioned here. He has no admin.

        On a side note, most of you would be horrified at how many faculty (in a hard science dept) did not really know how to use a computer. Spouse found that out when helping them figure out how to get classes online at the start of covid.

      2. Hillary*

        It might help you to frame these as invitations just like if they came over email – it sounds like you’re concerned that people will be able to force you to accept meetings on their schedules. It can be a great tool to quickly find a meeting time that works for a group. I haven’t been connected to academia since I finished my MBA in 2008, but I strongly believe that it’s rarely good to be the squeaky wheel. Being an early adopter who makes staff members’ lives easier will only help you.

        I keep three electronic calendars – outlook for work, google for personal, and a shared google calendar for our house. My partner and I can see full details about each others’ appointments on our personal calendar and we both have full access to the house calendar for things like reminders to take out the trash or change the furnace filter. All my colleagues worldwide can see if I’m free or busy and my core hours on my work calendar, but no one can see what my meetings are. If I have a medical appointment my work calendar will be blocked including travel time with just “personal” in the description and I’ll put the actual details in my personal calendar.

      3. Kevin Sours*

        It may help to just mentally map meeting invites to “email request with metadata”. That’s really how they are used in most organizations anyway (and it took me a bit to realize that declining an invite/requesting rescheduling wasn’t a faux pas).

        The advantage to the formal invites is that it automates things. The organizer gets a count of acceptances/declines. It automatically goes on the calendar so you don’t have to manually block out time if you are keeping a calendar. And that will stay out to date as the meeting gets moved due to the sort of schedule negotiation that happens.

        Plus if you want to block out an afternoon to get work done you can do that and people will see it without you having to respond to emails asking you to meet.

        But really a meeting invite for 3pm on Tuesday isn’t materially different from an email asking “Are you available to meet at 3pm on Tuesday?”

  16. PspspspspspsKitty*

    LW2 – it’s time to take look inside of yourself and see where your boundaries are. Could the job work against you? Sure. I’ve seen some crazy stuff that worked against people who were involved in some questionable ethical companies even though they were just trying to work. I’m not even talking about illegal things. I’ve also seen where it doesn’t matter at all. Most don’t understand that there will always be some kind of ethics to work in any production/product type field. These internal conflicts happen a lot more than what people realize.

    An easy way to put it, can you look at a cigarette and be proud that you helped support that?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The one I use is, “In the future, how comfortable will I be explaining this is where I worked and what I did?”
      If it feels like carrying a boat anchor on my back then I know what I should do now.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes, and think about what taking this job would instantly signal to other people socially, about where your ethical boundaries are. There are quite a lot of people who, for example, wouldn’t date you or wouldn’t feel like being as close of friends with you if they found out you’re OK with profiting off an industry notorious for lying and manipulating the public in order to push a toxic product. (And not just Mad Men-era past issues, too. Watch the John Oliver episode about cigarettes in Togo; look at how many Indonesian children smoke. It’s rapacious and exploitative.)

      Maybe you genuinely are OK with this, maybe you smoke, maybe everyone in your social circles and potential future social circles would definitely be fine with this. But just take into account that a) there’s a huge amount of people who wouldn’t be fine with us, and b) you’re making a decision right now as to what kind of person you’re making yourself into. This isn’t just about your reputation, it’s about who you’re deciding you are. Set your boundaries wisely.

    3. yala*

      This is basically where I’m at. I can’t say whether or not it would hurt you professionally if someone saw you’d worked for a company.

      But my personal anecdote is this: my first paid job drawing comics was for an indie comic. I was very excited to be hired, but not particularly comfortable with the actual script, even though I couldn’t articulate why. I tried to power through it, but the quality and speed of my work suffered. A lot.
      At some point I realized, “Oh, it’s because the whole thing is one big date rape joke” (the main character had, among other things, the ability to make any woman want to sleep with him right away) and I just couldn’t get past it. I had to bow out of the project.

      It did not look good. The quality of my work was bad, the time it took made me seem flaky, I looked incredibly unprofessional having to back out, and I just about burned myself out trying to work on something I hated so much. I should have listened to my instinct telling me that I wasn’t comfortable with the work before agreeing to it. It would’ve been better for me in the long run to not have done it.

      All this to say–if you’re partially concerned about taking the job because *you* have misgivings about working for a tobacco company, consider that those misgivings could very well make it difficult for you to do your best work, and start wearing you down in ways you don’t expect. Then you’re going to be burnt out, but also will have less to show for it, because the quality of your work may suffer.

  17. Jessica*

    LW2, while I don’t know your whole financial reality, you’re a lawyer and you have a job now. So you’re definitely not, for example, a single mom with a high school education who needs some kind of job if she wants her kids to keep eating and living indoors, but the only place hiring in her economically depressed small town is the cigarette factory. You have options. And when I judge you in this hypothetical future, I’ll remember that you had choices, and you chose to kill people for a living.

    Bear in mind that social attitudes change over time. Decades from now, what you’re considering may be viewed even more harshly, and much more widely so. But it’s already plenty late enough that when we look back, we’ll know you knew what you were doing.

    Do you by any chance have, or do you contemplate possibly having, kids? Consider how you’ll explain this to them as they grow old enough to know and understand what you did. And maybe don’t be that ancestor that your descendants will be ashamed of.

    1. Asenath*

      Keep in mind that many, many products and activities kill people, and social acceptability is a slippery thing to base a decision on. Sure, right now in some (but not all) parts of the world, the tobacco industry is a pariah. That might worsen in the future; it might switch right back around. We don’t know, any more than we know if the pariah industry of the children’s generation might be oil (including plastics), fossil fuels (including vehicle production) or, for that matter, some other substance that is smoked, and whose effect on the lungs don’t seem to be well understood, like marijuana.

    2. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

      As someone who comes from a family whose money was acquired through evil means, this is a VERY important point to consider.

    3. Anon4This*

      So, first, LW#2 talks about their law school debt in their letter. Unless they have family money (unlikely or they wouldn’t have debt) or got a very-hard-to-get scholarship to law school, they like have six figures in loans to pay off. Second, outside of BigLaw jobs, lawyers make far less than you think they do. It’s either kill yourself for the big money of BigLaw, find a coveted but still lower-paying in-house job, hang your own shingle (LW says they dislike business generation, so this is not a great option), or make little more than an experienced paralegal does while drowning in student debt (that is not dischargeable with bankruptcy). The market for legal jobs sucks, and there are far more lawyers than there are well-paying lawyer gigs. BigLaw weeds out underperforming associates every year, too, so it’s not a guaranteed long-haul job, especially if LW#2 is not getting growth work as described.

      And, having worked in BigLaw for decades, we have all sort of clients that the masses would find morally reprehensible. Over the years, I’ve represented defense contractors (including one so reviled they’ve changed their name twice to try to avoid their own bad press), white collar criminals who make front page news, corporations trying to avoid paying for harm and environmental cleanup, and internet/telecom behemoths trying to avoid regulation (mixed in with far more sterling corporate citizens, of course). But my resume says LawFirmName not EvilWMDProducer, and the specifics don’t come out in resume bullets. The difference here is that, working for a tobacco company, this would be far more obvious. (And there may not be the option of buying your soul back through pro bono representations.) Especially when you aren’t an equity partner, you don’t really get much of a say in who your client is, if you want to keep your job.

      1. Name (Required)*

        I think this is the best place to jump in. Financial needs can make someone have to consider less great roles. It can be a conundrum, and it is one I’ve had to face in recent months.

        In my industry, when things die off, they die off in respectable areas, companies and countries, etc. The places that don’t die off, are usually putting in government money as part of rehabbing an image. Often, one worse than just “smoking kills”.

        COVID is one of those times. So when I was unemployed, I had to consider and take projects that were for people I wouldn’t want to support in the good times.

        But I’d consider it in bad times because I have a family to feed, and the project/industry etc isn’t going away if I don’t take the job. So I don’t want to judge you for considering that type of role if it is an interim step, and you can use it to get somewhere else, or support yourself while looking somewhere else, etc.

        That is one thing (I had to ask those questions of myself). But is it a change just to make a change and stay for a while? Then only you can tell yourself how you can live with the decision long term.

        It is one thing if “big firm I work for took a client and I have no control over our clients”, because that happens to everyone. It is another thing to go work for them directly and potentially have to explain it later.

      2. Public Service Lawyer With Loans*

        People take jobs all the time because they pay well. Lawyers often justify taking jobs for ethically dubious agencies because they “have loans” and “need the money.” But there are also lots of lawyers who have those same loans, don’t have family money, and choose to become public defenders or work for impact litigation orgs, or other non-profits. Going for the big paycheck is not a forced choice. If LW2 wants to do public service, maybe now is the time. If they want to continue getting the big checks, also fine, but that doesn’t mean other lawyers and people have to reassure them that it’s morally blameless.

  18. Good Vibes Steve*

    LW4: The increase in use of shared calendars for these is also linked to the rise of video conferencing this last year. The calendar widgets can automatically create online meeting links, which makes everyone’s life a lot easier. See it also from the POV of the person trying to organise a meeting including you – by not making your availability clear, you are significantly increasing their workload to do some very tedious work. You talk about protecting your time, but what about theirs?
    You might be in a position of power where you could get away with this for a long time, and maybe you could continue, but be aware that the longer you do this, the more out of touch you will sound – and a little bit rude too.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes. In a previous, more junior, job I had to arrange more meetings. We had one colleague who wouldn’t use his calendar and made me ring him up and ask him personally when he was free and then ring him again when I’d booked the meeting so he could write it in his hard copy diary. He was more senior and had enough sway to insist on it.

      I am sure he viewed this as preserving his time but it was very time consuming for me and was, in my view, inconsiderate. I would not do him any favours as a result of this and didn’t go out of my way for him.

      I think accordingly the OP might be able to get away with not using their calendar if they’re sufficiently senior but there may be consequences in terms of how they’re perceived within the organisation.

      1. Sutemi*

        It is much less disruptive to my train of thought to get a calendar invitation and accept/tentative/decline it than to get a series of phone calls or even emails which I have to type a response for. Is the end game here really protecting your time or making others make a special appeal to you?

    2. Cat Tree*

      Ugh, I hate working with people who are just uncooperative. Not exactly the same scenario, but I once had to have a meeting with a person in another department. He started by IMing me and asking if I was available right that second. I wasn’t, because I had a scheduled meeting in 5 minutes. I asked him to schedule a meeting when we’re both available but he refused, claiming he was too busy or something. He told me to contact him when I was free. I IMed him a few hours later when I was done with my meetings and unsurprisingly, he was in the middle of something else and not available. So then he got back to me when he was done, and naturally I was in the middle of something. You can see where this is going. To finally end this drama, I was left with the decision to either stay free for hours and not get much work done, or start something but drop it immediately and lose my flow when he next contacted me. I chose the second option which resulted in some rework but at least we got that meeting over with. I hope I never have to work with this guy again.

      Seriously people, just make things easier on your peers and use the calendar.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think the dainty flowers who want to be personally contacted for meeting planning must never have to set up meetings. I have been in organizations where I didn’t have a secretary to set up my meetings — professionals set up their own. Having to contact people a dozen times for a special meeting, because where Fergus is free, now Wakeen isn’t yadda yadda is a real time drain for the people in charge of projects or committees. The calendar method makes it more efficient and less of a time waste for the person putting it together.

  19. Good Vibes Steve*

    LW2: if you have decided that you don’t want to stay in your current position, the worst thing you could do for yourself is to jump to the first convenient job you find. Take some time to look around. In-house counsel positions are not rare, and you could find something else that rests better with your conscience.

    1. EPLawyer*

      There will be other in house jobs. Take your time and find the one that is right for you. Don’t jump to this one just because its open at the moment you want OUT.

      Also, why are the younger associates working on niche projects and you are not? While you are looking can you find something you like? if yyour duties are ill defined take advantage of that and CREATE something for yourself. Or attach yourself to a project you find interesting.

      1. Ashley*

        And take advantage of any cue classes offered and paid for by your current firm. Not knowing your next setup this might ease the transition just a tiny bit.

    2. Corporate Lawyer*

      This. As an in-house lawyer who left the Big Law Firm years ago, I can tell you there will be other opportunities to apply for in-house lawyer jobs, especially doing contracts work which is one of those areas that comes up a fair bit. Spend some time researching in-house job opportunities to get a sense of what appeals to you and reach out to (or build) your network.

  20. Mary Richards*

    LW #5: I was in this exact position a few years ago, and I wouldn’t even be shocked if it’s the same group. Getting out taught me a lot about what I actually want in a volunteer experience and why I want to serve the community. I would encourage you to step back from your org—although it might make sense to finish out this particular event commitment—and try some other volunteer opportunities.

    1. Burned Volunteer*

      Agreed. Leave now. Or else you at stuck for years of being used and abused at the bottom of the totem pole in the name of similar values. Shared values is how they hook you in, and get you volunteering day, evening and night, holidays and weekends, with nothing to show for. Get out now before you get tangled deeper into the web. I wish you great success, enjoyment, and recognition, with ANOTHER organization.

  21. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    Quite a long time ago I worked for a law firm with an indirect tobacco company client (ie we took instruction from their counsel). It was hugely unpopular work within the firm, so it typically landed on the most junior person’s desk, keeping the higher ups’ hands relatively clean. It was also a very long established relationship and a very lucrative one, perhaps explaining why TPTB hadn’t wound it down.

    Nobody who did that work will ever have mentioned it on a resume or profile, even though objectively they performed their own tasks well and brought in significant revenue by doing so. And that’s at two removes. I simply can’t imagine doing the same work in house, and I’m very glad to be over a decade clear of the less than a week’s work in total I ended up doing on it.

    If LW is in a position to be flexible – and if she’s moving from litigation to contracts then I imagine she’s either very early in her career or ready to be very flexible – then I think she should swerve this opportunity and keep looking. If she’s about to have a nervous breakdown and lose her apartment, her calculus will be different, but I would gently suggest that working directly within the tobacco industry is not likely to be any better for her wellbeing.

    Very best wishes for the job hunt.

  22. el knife*

    LW #4: you get to make a personal decision about whether you have the clout (read: tenure that gives you a protected job for life) to refuse to use basic scheduling software that’s the norm in all professional life, but you should also think that doing that will almost certainly make more junior employees (and non-employees if you’re an academic and we’re talking about grad students and undergrad students) a nightmare

  23. Forrest*

    I’m kind of surprised at the vehemence with which people are anti-tobacco, considering LW2 is currently working in big law and presumably working with all sorts of corporate clients who are busy lobbying for minimal environment protections, tax cuts, deregulation of markets, oil pipelines and drilling licenses, and so on. I find it hard to look at the global financial system and conclude that tobacco companies are uniquely bad.

    1. UKDancer*

      I think it’s instinctive but perhaps also personal. My favourite, beloved uncle died of lung cancer having smoked all his life and I remember him holding a cigarette to the hole in this throat to smoke it. So I would have no tolerance for someone working for a tobacco company if they had other choices because of what it did to Uncle Franz. I don’t have any personal experience of the other things you mention.

      I think also there are pros and cons to things like oil pipelines whereas tobacco has no benefits that I’m aware of and only causes pain and misery.

      It’s just for me there’s something personal and instinctive that would have an ethical objection to tobacco in a way that I wouldn’t to other things. I can’t tell you why I feel it’s so much worse in an entirely logical manner, I just feel that it is.

      1. Mel*

        Yup, it’s pretty personal.

        There is a very high likely hood that smoking will kill my mother. She smoked around me enough that it might kill me too.

        Another commenter mentioned big oil and yeah, they are destroying our environment but smoking is so personal to many people.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Same here. I lost a grandfather to suicide by cigarettes.

        The only project I’ve outright refused in insubordination was an advertising mailer for cigarettes, with discount coupons.

      3. meyer lemon*

        On the other hand, you could say that oil pipelines are directly contributing to making the planet uninhabitable to human beings, so it’s a vaster scale of pain and misery. Perhaps the scale of it makes it feel more remote somehow.

        1. Forrest*

          I mean, that’s where I’d come down, both in the fact that there is ample evidence that oil companies implemented exactly the same tactics as tobacco firms to delegitimise scientific consensus and delay action, and because I don’t really believe you can separate out forms that way. The companies that are investing in tobacco are also investing in fossil fuels and arms and healthcare and food production and textiles and electronics, and the same professional services firms are doing work for the same companies. The idea that you can give off one particular set of employers as beyond the pale and treat the rest as business as usual is bizarre to me.

          1. meyer lemon*

            I totally agree with you, but I think that the fact that the tobacco industry’s power is waning while oil continues to exert a huge amount of political influence is certainly a factor in driving the belief that oil is a “necessary evil” we can’t live without, while tobacco is some nasty relic from the past. (And of course the other morally compromised industries you mention are in a similar position.)

        2. JustaTech*

          Oil pipelines and coal power plants ruin the environment and damage people’s health, but they also provide electricity that keeps oxygen machines running, the heat on, and the refrigerator running.

          They provide an objective good while also being an objective bad.

          There’s no upside to smoking tobacco. There aren’t any benefits. It’s not even a disinfectant or calorie source (like alcohol).

          Maybe a better comparison would be a defense contractor?

          1. Forrest*

            The reason they keep the fridge running and the heat on is because they’ve spent decades investing in media campaigns portraying themselves as a necessary evil and lobbying governments to hinder the development of sustainable energy sources and technologies. The fact that you can make that argument is because it was so successful.

            1. JustaTech*

              Oh, I’m not saying that oil and coal aren’t bad. They’re terrible. And of course we should have more and better renewables (I just got solar last week).

              What I’m saying is that, terrible as a coal plant is, it still provides electricity. I liken tobacco to a coal plant that doesn’t even produce electricity, it *just* pollutes.

              1. Forrest*

                But the reason we don’t have more and better renewables is because fossil fuel companies did exactly the same thing as the tobacco companies: they had a duty to maximise profit for their shareholders, and that duty took precedence over every kind of moral or ethical feeling. It’s honestly kind of meaningless to me to make a big song and dance about how tobacco is different when what they did is the same thing that every corporation with shareholders is constitutionally required to do.

      4. Someone On-Line*

        The thing, all the bad things those other companies are doing? They learned those tricks from the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry was really the pioneer, and continues to be the pioneer, of being a bad-faith actor. So, from a career perspective, working in tobacco could be a boost for a lawyer. All those other companies that want to skirt the law and ethics to make a profit will be interested in that experience.

        OP #2 – Have you ever read Judge Kessler’s opinion on the tobacco industry? It’s a pretty infamous document of why tobacco companies were found legally liable for the harm they caused and why we can say they are adjudicated racketeers. Reading through may help you determine where you would draw the line in the sand.

    2. Maxie*

      I am not the one who coined this but: cigarettes are the only products that if used as intended will kill you.

      1. Forrest*

        Tobacco may be the only one that will kill *you the consumer*, but there are tons of other products which if used correctly will kill, injure or otherwise harm other people or ecosystems. To me the ethical difference between “this product harms you” and “this product harms other people” is extremely minimal!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’ve just thought: there are plenty of people who protest about certain clinics because they believe that the sole purpose of that company is to ‘kill people’. The level of anger is roughly the same as being anti tobacco.

          Honestly don’t know if there’s a solution.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Badly worded on my part; I’m trying to suggest that there are other companies that are considered, by some, to be solely in the business of removing life (reproductive health). I do not agree with those views, but thought it might be a useful analogy for ‘if I work for this firm are people going to judge me after?’.

              Basically, yes. People will judge harshly if you work for a place that people associate with extreme things. See much further down for my experience with it!

              1. CheeryO*

                I wouldn’t want to work for someone who judged me for working at a women’s health clinic, though… I really don’t think it’s comparable to legal work for a tobacco company.

              2. Allypopx*

                I get the point you’re making, but I think there’s a key difference. If I worked at a reproductive health clinic and people blacklisted me for that in the future, those are almost certainly organizations I don’t want to work for. I can’t imagine OP has such a strong pro-tobacco stance that it’s a culture signal to the organizations they might to work for in the future. I mean I could be wrong, but generally “other people might not like this in the future because their politics are different than mine” and “other people might not like this in the future because it’s unethical and I know that” are two different things.

        2. Dee*

          Given that you feel there’s little difference, and you feel that tobacco companies are bad how would you suggest people address the LWs question?

          1. Forrest*

            As I’ve said below, I think this is very useful data for LW! I was just expressing my surprise that there is such a difference because I wouldn’t make nearly such a hard distinction.

        3. Works in IT*

          That’s the defining line. Tobacco’s business is in convincing people to partake in a product that will kill them, convincing them not to believe the truth that it will kill them, and preventing them from quitting once they start in an effort to not die. Other industries, such as oil, at least provide some defense in that “we’re trying to figure out ways to pollute the environment less while green technologies are developed because green technologies still don’t work for everything, and trying to avoid lawsuits while we do this because we need money for research”, but tobacco’s desirable, marketable product is intrinsically a carcinogen. Without nicotine, customers would not continue buying.

          1. meyer lemon*

            Maybe I’m more of an oil industry hard-liner than I realized, but I’m pretty sure the industry exists 100 percent to turn a ludicrously massive profit. You can bet that if those companies had to actually pay for the environmental destruction they create, those oil CEOs would be out of there in an instant, money for research notwithstanding. We’re just more susceptible to their massive misinformation campaign than tobacco’s at the moment, because they have the funds to make it so, and they’re deeply enmeshed in our political system.

            1. JustaTech*

              Ambulances and fire trucks and emergency generators run off gas and diesel. Natural gas and oil can provide electricity to heat homes and power life saving medical devices.
              (Yes of course we should move to safe renewables. No debate.)

              Tobacco doesn’t provide any benefit. Given that it’s picked and burned every year I doubt it even does any carbon sequestration. In my mind that’s why it’s worse than oil, because it doesn’t have any use beyond creating an addiction.

              1. meyer lemon*

                On the other hand–aren’t ambulances and emergency generators outweighed by the fact that oil is driving us toward our own extinction? I’m certainly not arguing that the tobacco industry has any merit, but I think we have to recognize how much our own anti-tobacco, pro-oil (or oil-neutral) views are influenced by how much power those industries currently have to influence public perception.

                1. JustaTech*

                  Ambulances and emergency generators keep us alive right this minute, so we have the time and people to figure out how to fix climate change.

                  Again, my point wasn’t at all that these things aren’t bad. No.
                  My point was that at least there is some smidgeon of benefit, unlike tobacco, which has absolutely no upside at all whatsoever.

        1. 1.0*

          Yeah – someone upthread said tobacco on your resume is poison but alcohol isn’t, which strikes me as very strange!

          There was an advertising campaign for an alcohol delivery service here a few years ago that actively promoted drinking to deal with your problems and included some copy about how you should lighten up and drink more if you had an issue with their campaign – I wish I could remember the exact wording, but I was somewhat shocked to see problem drinking being part of a “fun” and “buzzy” campaign on public transit, and I’d think less of anybody involved with it.

          1. pancakes*

            Many people use alcohol in moderation without becoming alcoholics. Nicotine is extremely addictive, and that’s one of the reasons many people view it differently.

            1. Tidewater 4-1009*

              Also, tobacco is poisonous and definitely has bad effects on the user’s health, no matter how much or little they use and whether or not they die of it.
              Alcohol used in moderation can have health benefits.

            2. Courageous cat*

              I know plenty of people (including myself) who use nicotine in moderation or socially.

              The demonization of cigarettes above all other kinds of also harmful drugs is so bizarre to me.

              1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                It’s because the smoke is affecting everyone around. No one wants it and as a person with a debilitating allergy to tobacco smoke, I don’t appreciate it!
                Other drugs like alcohol don’t affect the people around the user. Except marijuana, of course – Many of us don’t want that smoke either.

    3. Dee*

      Oeople can be anti-tobacco and anti other things too. The letter asked about a job related to tobacco, so that’s what people are talking about.

      1. Good Vibes Steve*

        Exactly. I’d have the same feedback for someone wondering if they should go work for Big Oil, to be honest.

        1. Dee*

          Absolutely. I have a family member who used to work in that industry and I hope they never go back. As one example of how I feel about certain industries/occupations. But why would I or anyone then throw my/their hands up at a question of “hey, working in X industry is maybe not a good look?” instead of like, maybe trying to make a difference in a small but meaningful way?

          Yes, lots of things suck all at once. My attitude is let’s not just give up because they do.

          1. pancakes*

            I’m not sure what you mean by “make a difference” in this context. I hope you’re not trying to suggest that the letter writer could reform the tobacco industry by taking a low-level job in it, because that would be silly.

            1. Dee*

              No, that’s not what I mean. More like, if one person doesn’t work in that industry, then that is a small difference that I consider meaningful.

            2. Forrest*

              I think Dee’s point was the other way around— you can’t recluse yourself from working with every single destructive or morally dubious corporation, but you can at least draw the line at working for big tobacco.

              1. Ashley*

                To me it is more of working for a company that may have clients I disagree with as opposed to working directly for someone so many disagree with. If you at a firm where cases are assigned it is easier to make a distinction.

          2. Casper Lives*

            Yet your family member had to get hired to get out of big oil. Some commentators are saying they would never hire anyone who had tobacco on their resume. I’d hope people think more clearly about whether they want to be punitive (not hiring someone who worked in a questionable industry and tries to get out, which means they’ve got to keep working there).

      2. Forrest*

        But the assumption of the comments is that people might well react badly if LW adds tobacco to her CV, but there’s no problem as long as she’s in big law. My assumption would be that working in big law means working with equally ethically compromised corporations, so I wonder why there is such a markedly different reaction to tobacco.

        1. Dee*

          I think there is a difference between, I’m in law and do work x, y, z etc, versus I’m in law and specifically with a tobacco company.

          1. Maylane*

            Alison’s advice is, as usual, bang on. I guess I’m on the older side but am an attorney in Big Law in New York. Some things have become demonized relatively recently and tobacco is one of them. I do not care if you work in tobacco at all and many senior people won’t either but we will all retire and die in the next 20 years or so. Also the chance of moving to a major firm at anything other than the 3-5 year vintage without a book of business (maybe 5-9 too but that’s much less likely) is minimal whatever your provenance. So do you yourself care or do you just want a job that there might be less competition for? Also if you’re primarily a litigator an in house job most likely won’t want you as a corporate attorney.

            Tl:dr I’d look at the resume but younger people might not. Prescreens are done by the firm’s recruitment coordinator anyway, and I and my ilk are not going to be here a whole lot longer. Generally I wouldn’t be prescriptive but I strongly suggest you don’t take this job if it were offered. No harm in applying but I’d think of it as practice anyway.

        2. pancakes*

          I think we absolutely would see more of this reaction if people knew which firm(s) they were talking about. Reputation varies by firm, and we don’t have a name here. If you read recent industry news coverage of Jones Day, for example, you’d see particular concerns come up again and again.

          1. Jenny*

            I have classmates who work for Jones Day and I think it’s a mistake to impute decisions made by senior partners onto associates. Those places pay well but they treat the associates terribly.

            1. pancakes*

              I have a classmate who went to work for them as well, and I do think less of him for it. I understand the temptation some people feel to take any big-money job, but careerism isn’t mandatory.

        3. Anonym*

          But it’s not any old people who will be looking at her CV. It will almost certainly be people within the legal industry (people who hire lawyers), who aren’t likely to look at experience in Big Law categorically as a problem. They’ll be making distinctions (if any) within the field rather than broadly about it.

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yes, big law companies sometimes do represent people and businesses that are ethically sketchy or outright bad. But that is not the *entirety* of the entities represented by big law companies. If I’m looking at a resume that says this candidate worked at BigLaw Inc., I’m not going to think “this person exclusively represented bad people.” Might it have been part of the job? Sure. But it’s not likely that it was the whole job, and it’s not even likely that every associate in a big law company who did work on a case or a contract for a bad client *wanted* to do that work for that client. It’s just the work that was dumped on their desk this month and they have to do it whether they agree with it or not.

          It’s different if you choose to go and work exclusively for one of those bad companies.

          To make the comparison for my field: I print off a list of library books customers have requested for pickup and I see that one of them is a book from the health section endorsing practices I think are dangerous. I have to get that book for that customer because it’s my job, and my bosses don’t care that I don’t approve of this book. In this case, I’m doing what I’m required to do for my job and sometimes that requires me to do things I find ethically sketchy. But it would be very, very different if I decided to go get a job working for the person or the company who wrote the book and the work I did for them made it easier for them to peddle their dangerous practices. Does that make sense?

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s…complex. Personally I wouldn’t hold someone’s previous job against them because people don’t always get to choose where they work – bills gotta be paid and to assume everyone can afford to refuse to work for unethical companies is a fallacy.

      Just like I wouldn’t hold it against someone if they were a smoker.

      I think the difference is there’s no other industry that has been so widely vilified for so long and is still legal. There’s people who are vehemently against pharmaceutical firms and regard them as evil but not the majority for example. Ideally we’d judge the person, not who pays their salary. But it’s not an ideal world.

      1. Casper Lives*

        Thanks for saying this! I’m glad someone understands what I’m thinking. I’ve had several alcoholics in my life and see the potential dangers of alcohol clearly. But I’m not out here saying the “Bacardi girls” at clubs shouldn’t be hired because their entire job was to sell as much alcohol as possible.

        1. MsSolo*

          As someone advice points out, this isn’t a scenario where the cigarette factory is the only employer in town and you need to money to feed your kids. This is in house law for a company that has traditionally used those employees to suppress information and control markets. It’s not your barcardi girl in the club, it’s someone way up the food chain telling those girls that they’re not allowed to cut off clearly drunk people or risk losing their jobs.

          1. Good Vibes Steve*

            To add on that, I mentioned Big Oil as a line in the sand for me above, but I wouldn’t hold it against someone that they worked at a gas station. However, an in-house lawyer’s role for these types of companies is often going to be to defend it against people who have been directly harmed. It’s a very different kind of choice made by someone who has the privilege to opt out.

    5. MissElizaTudor*

      I was thinking basically this same thing. More focused on the contrast in the reaction to tobacco versus work in the defence industry or the military, which more directly kill people and kill people who have absolutely no say in the matter, but it also applies to the industries you mentioned, as well.

      But I think that reaction here is itself useful to LW2, since it shows that a lot of people may have a strong negative reaction to this industry that they might not express about other industries, even ones that can reasonably be considered worse than tobacco.

      1. Forrest*

        yes, I agree the reaction is very useful to LW! I just find it remarkable myself since I don’t think I’d make anywhere near such a strong distinction between tobacco and tons of other corporations which are harmful.

      2. Retail Not Retail*

        Re: the ethics of former military work – someone upthread mentioned the circumstances that would lead to working at an unethical place. Being in house counsel at a tobacco company implies so many choices in life that it feels much more deliberate than an 18 year old signing up.

        Also, say I get hiring abilities or opinions at some point (sure why not? anything can happen!) and I consider my family’s military history the way some have a visceral reaction to tobacco. My misgivings would be shot down so fast because that’s not where we are in the broader culture. Which may also hold true for tobacco on a resume in North Carolina or Virginia! Oil would work in Texas, the Dakotas, parts of the Gulf… just require more research when applying.

        A bigger question I have for the OP is… why are you considering the next step after a next hypothetical step? Is it nervousness about inhouse counsel work? Maybe you’ll hate the industry? I know you should consider your career trajectory, right? Is that it? So it’s not just will hypothetical job after current one satisfy me, it’s will the next one work as well? I mean I took what I could get 2 years ago (and some people find issue with where I work) with some vague consideration of career goals (it’s tourism!) but I was desperate.

        1. Retail Not Retail*

          Wow that’s a lot of questions! I’m sorry, I’m trying to understand rather than interrogating you! My work history is not a career yet. I guess I’m confused by this constant need to be job hunting or have job hunting on your mind. If you love it, who cares what other employers think? You’re not leaving… but I guess you could always be laid off/etc

          1. Forrest*

            I think it’s answered in the letter—long term they want to be doing public service work, but [implied that kind of work isn’t as well-paying] they need to work in the private sector to pay down law school debt first.

            1. Jenny*

              PSLF can be great but you have to be incredibly careful. One of the best things my law school did for me was arrange a meeting with a financial planner who laid out PSLF and the traps to avoid. I get at least one solicitation a week to refinance my loans. Were I to do that, I’d lose eligibility.

              1. Retail Not Retail*

                Ah yes PSLF aka one of the reasons I’m staying at my low paying job (vs like… retail again. I am applying for real jobs that fall under PSLF requirements). I’m in trouble if it goes away!

            2. Retail Not Retail*

              Oh right, I forgot that wrapped up in the comments!

              In that case it seems like this would be pointless to detrimental

      3. Tidewater 4-1009*

        As a person with a debilitating allergy to tobacco smoke, smoking does kill people who have no say in the matter. Thousands of people – millions worldwide – die from passive smoke.

    6. Purt’s Peas*

      I also wish that everyone here were as leery of defense contracting, oil pipelines, creepy lobbying, etc as they are about tobacco. But the tobacco industry at large is pretty special because its villainy is: constantly persuading people that they want to poison themselves. And it’s pretty special because in the US they actually received some censure for it.

      Also, despite the efforts of said tobacco companies, most US readers did end up getting a thorough Smoking Is Bad education; so the consequences of smoking feel more vivid and concrete than even climate change, and certainly more tangible than the consequences of economic policies or the (devastating) effects to far-off communities.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        “I also wish that everyone here were as leery of defense contracting, oil pipelines, creepy lobbying, etc as they are about tobacco.”

        I mean, a lot of us are. But the writer of this letter specifically asked about tobacco companies, so we’re talking about tobacco companies. We can think multiple things are bad. But it doesn’t matter what other things people might have bad impressions of when the OP specifically asked about bad impressions people have of the tobacco industry.

    7. Nia*

      I agree. I’d actually say working for big law is worse morally than working for a tobacco company. I do not understand what makes the tobacco industry special.

        1. Nia*

          Before reading this comment section, I would have told them that anybody who’d knock them for a tobacco company would already be knocking them for big law so don’t worry about it. After reading the comment section, I’d advise them against it because apparently people lose all sense of perspective once tobacco becomes involved.

          1. Dee*

            So because it’s not worse, it’s something to not worry about?

            I mean I guess that does not specifically answer the LW, as they did seem more concerned with optics than ethics (although of course we don’t know if they are concerned about ethics and just didn’t include that part).

            But I just don’t get it. Harm reduction is… a thing.

          2. pancakes*

            My feeling as a lawyer is that anyone who thinks all biglaw firms are the same in terms of clients is, that’s someone who isn’t familiar with them at all, and someone very unlikely to be reviewing the letter writer’s resume in the future.

            1. Forrest*

              Is that true if they go into public service work? Would you expect someone working in law in the public or not-for-profit sectors to have the same kind of understanding of what different law firms’ reputations are?

              (Not a hostile question, genuine interest!)

              1. pancakes*

                Many people who work in public interest law in my city can only afford to do so because they have partners who work in biglaw or worked in biglaw themselves long enough to make a dent in their debt, so yes, I would expect them to be familiar with the reputations of various firms. I’d think that would be less likely in nonprofits where there are only one or two lawyers on staff, but not necessarily.

                Location probably has a lot to do with this, too. I’m in NYC. People outside of big cities probably tend to have a bit more relaxed approach to keeping up with industry news and gossip.

              2. Maxie*

                Many nonprofits would not have that knowledge. I imagine that the type of clients and cases would be discussed in a resume and maybe highligfted in a cover letter.

            2. Nia*

              All big law is Jones Day. Other firms may put on airs about being better but at the end of the day the only thing they care about is that the check clears.
              I do agree though that if it’s other lawyers reviewing LW’s resume they’re unlikely to care that big law morally bankrupt.

                1. Jenny*

                  And extremely unfair to the lawyers who take those jobs. I went to law school to do public interest and I work in public interest. But when you’re being recruited, looking at your debt and looking at the paychecks they are offering for summer compared to the nothing offered by public interest organizations, you definitely hesitate and consider doing a few years to pay off your debt.

              1. EPLawyer*

                BigLaw is just that — Law. A LOT of attorneys work for biglaw for a few years to pay off their ASTRONOMICAL LAW SCHOOL DEBT (and no you can’t just go to a “state school” and work summers to pay for it. Even the state law schools are insanely high priced). Then they go to either smaller firms (which are no more “ethical” or “unethical” than BigLaw) or go work in the nonprofit sector.

                Folks reviewing the resume won’t put a black mark against someone for working in BigLaw because that’s just how it works. But they will put a black mark if you were in house for a tobacco company, or some other company — depending on which non profit you go to work for. If you are working in human rights, they might care if you worked for a defense contractor but they might care if you were in house at a bank. While if you were working with an organization more focused on the homeless or poverty alleviation, it might be the opposite.

                1. Maxie*

                  Not a lawyer here, but maybe some or many law school graduates don’t have the information or don’t ask deeply about what type of clients the firm handles. For people who went straight from undergrad to law school, they’ve been students for close to 20 years and may not have the experience or perspective to inquire about that. As I said, nt ta lawyer, so I could be wrong. My thoughy process comes form working gwith a lot of recent graduates (undergrad) and all of the Ask A Manger letters from people recently out of undergrad or grad school and the lack of experience and knowledge they have about the working world. A lot of that is not yet knowing what to look for and what to ask.

              2. UKDancer*

                Wow I think that’s a bit unfair. Law firms care about many things as well as the check clearing. A lot of them do work pro-bono for people, support non governmental organisations, make life better and represent people who need assistance.

                While there are certainly dodgy and unscrupulous law firms out there, I don’t think you can say money is the only thing all law firms care about.

              3. LimeJello*

                In the sense that Jones Day isn’t really any different than other large firms, I agree with you – and at the risk of putting too much personal information out there, I’m a partner at an international big law firm. I’m also pretty surprised at the number of people here who would judge someone for working for big tobacco, but I don’t have any experience with public interest law firms. Being an in house lawyer for a large corporation is just being a cog in the machine, and I wouldn’t hold my feelings against the company against an individual working there. That would be different if you were GC, of course, but frankly, an associate at a mid-sized law firm would likely be taking on more of a paralegal/contacts associate role.

                1. pancakes*

                  I don’t think that’s correct. There are many big firms that haven’t taken on the work of trying to challenge democratic election results. The majority have not.

            3. Guacamole Bob*


              My spouse spent a couple of years in BigLaw and while she didn’t feel that she was saving the world, she felt fine about the work for her particular clients. Not everything that a big company does is automatically evil, no matter what they show in movies and on TV.

              There are plenty of bad companies out there, and bad actors within companies, and lawyers who don’t really care about the morality of what they’re doing. But you can’t paint entire swathes of the economy with such a broad brush.

              1. Jenny*

                There’s also this group who will go after any lawyer who has defended a criminal client, like the lawyer approves of the conduct. That’s just not accurate and it’s extremely frustrating when people do that.

                1. EPLawyer*

                  Without lawyers defending those accused of crimes, the system doesn’t work.

                  But people see the alleged crime and get all het up.

              2. pancakes*

                And there are people in biglaw whose entire jobs are coordinating pro bono work.

                I suppose people don’t tend to consider plaintiffs’ firms biglaw, either, but there are large and well-known (within the industry) firms that focus on, for example, antitrust litigation. To say that this work is categorically indistinguishable from defense work on the opposite side is wildly over-broad.

    8. WellRed*

      Yes, I’m a total nonsmoker but to tell OP she’s making money for “killing people” and not to be the “ancestor her family is ashamed of” is over the top and unfair.

    9. Lucy McGillicuddy*

      I’m surprised too! Part of my own feelings is that I used to do compliance for a management company 80% of which was for their tobacco business. (It was very small family-owned tobacco.) I always thought of it the same as alcohol or junk food – it’s all bad for you and it’s not a secret anymore that it’s bad for you.

        1. Lucy McGillicuddy*

          You’re right, of course. I just don’t fall as far down the line of “this would be an evil choice” as most of the other commenters seem to.

    10. Jenny*

      The thing is, I should have a strong negative reaction as all four of my grandparents died of tobacco related illnesses. But I don’t. I completely understand OP’s burnout and desire to go in house, which is a much better work/life balance.

    11. BluntBunny*

      I think it is because tobacco is an unnecessary evil, there is no reason to smoke. Even if you say it releases stress there are better ways to do that. There is no benefit that would make it worthwhile even in the short term and also puts others in danger.

      I think the only other industry that is maybe unnecessary is the gambling industry but then most people don’t become addicted and the money from lotteries are donated to charities. Most people have bought a lottery ticket, scratch card, bet on horse races, went to a casino, but are unlikely to know someone who has been negatively effected by gambling.

      I am a scientist and when I was a student there was/is a large amount of placements/internships with unethical companies tobacco included but also biological and atomic and nuclear weapons. I never applied to those companies as the primary focus is harming people however I had looked at applying at Shell, BP as their R&D is largely about greener energy. I applied to Nestlé who in the past had a large scandal with their baby formula, the job was in the confectionery side and the job description addressed this with a statement about breast is best and some other comments. My mum who was a nurse brought it up (hospitals banned their baby formula) but I was aware and we have never boycotted their cereal or chocolate. I was glad I didn’t get the job in the end and I now work for a company who’s primary focus is making products that improve the health and well being of people.

      I think their are lots of industries that can be classed as unethical and then even if the industry isn’t the company itself could be. For example they could be a charity with a positive mission but could be racist, sexist and homophobic. I think the role you play in the company also matters as a Lawyer you would be actively trying to get the company out of being held responsible for the damage they cause. If you want to be certain you could ask about recent cases that have come up in the past that you would expected to work on.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Uh, in my state lottery money is most definitely not donated to charities. It’s not even used to fund education as was stated when legalized state-sponsored gambling became a thing. To me, state-sponsored gambling is immoral and preys upon the most economically vulnerable citizens who can least afford to lose money on some dream.

        OP, if you’re hesitant about working for a tobacco firm for whatever reason, don’t do it. You’ll find something else. Consider government positions, regular hours, nothing to bill.

    12. Sylvan*

      It’s personal for some people who have or had relatives who smoked. Also, tobacco companies where I live in the US have been caught using child labor, so there’s that. It’s a disgusting industry that you don’t want to be connected to.

      1. Casper Lives*

        Most big companies use child labor or violate labor rights. People in the U.S. don’t tend to pay attention because it’s in other countries.

    13. Jenny*

      I should note a professor of mine in law school who did international public interest work, got her start working for a weapons company. So that might affect my perspective.

    14. Svetlana*

      THIS! Fellow lawyer here, and like you, I don’t judge the possibility of working for a tobacco company in-house QUITE as harshly as most of the commenters here (curious what all these commentators do for a living that is so morally spotless). Big firm litigation can be soul-sucking and life-degrading work if you didn’t enjoy it and aren’t cut out for the insane hours and competitiveness, and sometimes you need to jump just to make a jump for your own sanity and to set yourself on a new path. Switching from firm to in-house, especially if that entails switching focus (litigation to transactional) can actually be extremely difficult, especially if you’re a decade in to your career as a lawyer, as the OP indicates here. And that’s not to mention that (as this comment describes) a LOT of firm work requires ethically-dubious representation at times – what about oil companies? Big pharma pushing opiates? Representing white-collar criminals? Insurance companies who blanket contest healthcare claims? Defending employment claims from notoriously-terrible-to-employees mega companies? What about international brands contracting in third-world countries for production facilities? Government lawyers defending abusive cops and prosecuting victimless crimes? Even non-profit and public interest work entails its own ethical quandaries at times – I can’t think of a lawyering job that wouldn’t entail some sort of ethical pause at some point or another.

      I’m NOT saying OP should take the job, and it may indeed be a black mark/shape your career after just given current public perception of the industry at large and depending on your audience. If you have a good explanation (needed in-house experience, this was a large/established company etc…) and transition out quickly, it shouldn’t be a death knell to ever getting any other job ever (as Alison said, a bank manager would likely care less than say… a public health public interest manager would).

      All that being said, and as Alison pointed out, be much more concerned about taking work you aren’t excited about and don’t believe (at all) in, as that’s a severe handicap from the get-go, particularly when taking the leap from big law to in-house, where OP will need to ramp up experience in what amounts to a major career transition, as well as collect references for future opportunities.

      Bottom line, it’s a complex decision and I wouldn’t discount potential repercussions in the future – I just don’t believe it’s nearly as black and white as a lot of commentators make it out to be. One could make a lot of the same “it’s personal and it kills” arguments about alcohol, which is a massive industry. If OP can tough it out for awhile to seek out another way to transition from firm life, they should weigh that against the possible repercussions of taking a position in a near-universally disliked industry.

      1. Casper Lives*

        Yes thank you. Man there’s a lot of outrage here vs. other companies. What industry do they work for that’s so clean? I’m glad the local nonprofits who only buy fair trade products all read this blog.

        1. JustaTech*

          Oh, I work under the Pharma umbrella, so I’ve been called a monster on a pretty regular basis. Even though my company hasn’t been involved in any scandals, every time Bayer or Pfizer or Perdue (gross) messes up, big or small, right or wrong it’s kicking season.

          That said, everyone has to make these choices for themselves, while being aware that other people will bring their own judgement/baggage to any hiring conversation.

          My spouse’s parents work adjacent to the Adult industry and they have observed that since a lot of people choose to not be involved in the industry in any way (either for their own moral reasons or because of the judgement of others) it’s much easier to succeed and be a big fish, because the pond is small. But one of the prices you pay for being a big fish is that some people will count it against you if you leave the industry. Even if you were just IT or warehouse, and not sales or running the place.

          Personally, my advice to the LW would be to make sure they’re walking into this job with eyes open. Talk to other in-house counsel folks who have left similar companies and see what their experience has been. Maybe we’re all wrong, and no one in law or NGOs would care.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. We all bring our own baggage when we hire people. It’s important for the OP to realise that rightly or wrongly (and views on this may differ) people will judge them for working for a tobacco company in a way they may not judge pharmaceutical or other fields. We can argue whether they should and which fields are better or worse than others but that’s the way things are.

            If the OP wants to take this job then none of us can stop them from doing so and it’s their decision. They need to work out if the consequences are something they’re ok with or not.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      I agree with you, Forrest. There are many companies out there that are doing harm. It’s wise to look at what activity one is supporting by providing their own labor to that company. I think we can say that without minimizing Big Tobacco. It is possible to have more than one bad player.

      Just my two cents: OP, once you decide against tobacco companies, keep going. Seriously consider who and what you are supporting/perpetuating with your endeavors.

    16. Joielle*

      Agreed. I certainly wouldn’t advise the LW to take the job if they want to move into the public sector in the future, but realistically, the work itself isn’t substantially more evil than what their firm probably already does. The optics are different if you’re listing a law firm name vs a tobacco company on your resume, but the work isn’t necessarily different. Plenty of distasteful companies don’t have in-house counsel so they hire outside attorneys from law firms.

      LW2, this won’t be the last in-house job that comes along. If you don’t want to be doing that kind of work forever, I’d wait for the next one.

    17. Analyst Editor*

      For one thing, one can look a tobacco and think that it’s a pretty universal bad, and not think that tax cuts, deregulation of markets, oil pipelines, etc. are net negatives.

      1. Alice*

        Hey, tobacco’s not all bad! Didn’t some economist calculate that low-income countries’ health systems saved a lot of money because so many smokers died relatively young and relatively quickly and didn’t require care for chronic diseases later in life?

        1. Someone On-Line*

          Interesting point – that study was commissioned by tobacco companies. You can imagine how well it went over.

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I had a period where I was hanging around American Cancer Society and Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights, and I learned that in the US smoking is a public health issue that costs billions of dollars in caring for the health damage caused by smoking.
          If those other countries had comprehensive public health systems, it would be the same there.

    18. meyer lemon*

      You can certainly draw a direct line between the misinformation campaigns that were pioneered in the tobacco industry and present-day climate change denialism. But it might also feel a bit more directly complicit to work explicitly for a tobacco company as opposed to one-off corporate clients.

      For what it’s worth, I agree with you, but I can see why one would feel more personal than the other. Most of us make ethically dubious choices every day, most often when we’re shielded from direct knowledge of how ethically dubious they are.

    19. Courageous cat*

      Man… me too. Everyone else (and you) made great points, to which I will add from my own POV, we are all victims of capitalism – sometimes we gotta take a job where we can get it. If the choice is eviction or working for a bad company, you’re always going to go for the latter. I think we need to continue to place more of the blame on the corporations doing the harm than the individual employees who are just trying to get by.

    20. Dream Jobbed*

      Cigarettes killed both my parents. Mom at 53 and Dad at 64. It’s personal. 32 years without a mother is personal. Cigarettes serve NO purpose but to addict their user to sell more. There is no benefit. Energy, autos, financial markets all are necessary in modern life. They need to be regulated, watched, and fought to avoid abuses and make their necessary environmental impact as little as possible. And they do have corrupt parts. But ask anyone in Texas right now if they think their heat is a good thing.

  24. One (1) Non*

    LW4: As a former admin assistant at a university…. please just use the calendar app! It was such a nightmare trying to wrangle people much more senior than me who all had their own (very good, I’m sure) reasons for not using the university emails or calendars or other systems that helped me just figure out who was going to come to a meeting quickly and easily. It’s true that as an academic you’ll probably face no consequences for refusing– beyond making some grad student or low-paid admin’s life much harder.

    1. One (1) Non*

      And to the academics above saying they can get away with it– yes, they can! But maybe spare a thought for who is having to actually do the extra work you’re creating (hint: it’s not your fellow well-paid, tenured academic faculty).

      1. Birch*

        Just a thought–many of us who don’t use these calendars are not “well-paid tenured faculty” trying to “get away with it.” We don’t use the calendars because most people in our institutions also don’t use them, and they’re only useful publicly if *everyone* uses them in the same way. Making a personal vendetta out of an institutional culture issue is not helpful. It’s totally possible to just ask people to use the tool if you need them to use it. If they refuse, you have a different problem, which is that they are a jerk in general, and that has nothing to do with complying with your preferred calendar tool. And indeed nothing to do with academia–there are people who try to get away with things and refuse to get with the times in all industries. Your complaints and those of others are totally valid and reasonable. It is indeed annoying, selfish, and creates extra work for other people to refuse to use an institution-standard tool. But that isn’t at all what OP’s situation is.

        1. One (1) Non*

          It clearly isn’t -your- situation, but it seems clear that it may well be OP’s situation since they are getting a lot of calendar invites and feeling some sense of pressure to start using the calendar app.

  25. L6orac6*

    #4 Your electronic online calendar should match your diary/planner, it’s that simple. As a person who organised meetings, the invention of being able to see who was available/unavailable to attend a meeting was a godsend. Before that, before email, you had to ring around and give a number of dates and times to organise a meeting, PIA! Someone has you let you get away with this for a very long time, over 15-20 years to be exact. If it’s a requirement of the job please do it.

    1. Urt*

      And “match it” usually means availability, not exactly what you did or intend to do. Large busy/tentative/out of office/free blocks without any subject or other information are fine, unless you have a micromanager but then you won’t get out of the calendar anyway.
      Not only doesn’t it make scheduling much easier for the other side, not having to haggle over meeting times also makes it faster and easier for you

  26. Dawn R.*

    As a program director, I completely disagree with your advice to the Microsoft leery employee. It is difficult enough to communicate with hundreds of employees . I will not keep a list of who wants separate invites. Microsoft Teams is the platform we use and every employee is expected to use it for work purposes. Having a staff member that thinks they can be an exception is not something I would encourage.
    When I am scheduling meetings or events, wether they are individual or group, staff have a responsibility to respond and attend. Often these invites contain the link to the remote meeting. Having 20 people reach out during a meeting because they don’t “have the link” and I have to stop and send out another invite or have them miss events entirely is disruptive .
    I image the President of a university does not have the time for this either.

    1. BookishMiss*

      Agreed. I wrangle about a baker’s dozen at a time, and that would be a nightmare, never mind hundreds. It’s not difficult to learn to use the Teams or Outlook calendar, and you can still put the events in your paper calendar.

      I would ask the LW to have a thought for the people organizing the meetings, attending them, and looking to schedule time with them. This is an apparently small thing that has a much larger effect than you might imagine. This small courtesy will go a long way.

    2. Allypopx*

      This is direct and to the point – your preferences don’t get to inconvenience others, this is a requirement of your job.

  27. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP4 – how are your colleagues able to see your availability?

    If the answer is “they can’t” or “with difficulty”, then yeah, you probably need to start using the shared one.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, based on the tone of the letter, it’s either selfishness or a passive aggressive attempt to just avoid meetings in general.

        1. Allypopx*

          You’re right, but the tone of the letter is still really off putting and OP should be thinking about whether or not that tone is coming across in person as well.

  28. Roeslein*

    LW#2, I hire people (in the EU, if it matters) and I would absolutely judge someone who had options (it would obviously be a different story if you were a person with no qualifications living in a depressed town where the only employment is the cigarette factory, but you are not) and chose to join that industry. It may not be rational, but I lost my grandmother to lung cancer as a young teenager (after decades of smoking) and I hate cigarettes with a passion. It would also make me question their ethics in general – I went to business school and the only two people in my year who ended working in the the tobacco industry were those who were failed for plagiarism while in school.

  29. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW3: best time of day to apply for jobs is when you’re awake and feel you have the most cognitive ability.

    Do not apply while: asleep, driving, operating heavy machinery, drinking, partaking of any mood altering substances…

    That’s pretty much it. I’ve never been given the details of what time of day a candidate applied for the role at. Although if they tried to follow up with a phone call at 2am I definitely heard about that!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed Keymaster. Application times is something I think a lot of people overthink on. Apply at the time that works best and has the least distractions for you.

      However, yes please take normal business hours into account when attempting to follow up (even in an industry that may be 24/7), as generally the hiring folks are going to work a more traditional business schedule.

  30. Not sure of what to call myself*

    Yep, I need to eat at set times so I block my lunch. I also block off early mornings so my continental colleagues don’t book meetings at early o’clock.

    1. JustaTech*

      Speaking of early mornings: my boss was working on a project with a group from a site 3 hours head of us that really didn’t want our input (even though we were the experts). So they would deliberately schedule meetings absolutely first thing in their morning in the hopes that he wouldn’t get up before 5 to call in.

      They were wrong, and it just made him more irritated about the backwards way they were working on the whole project.

  31. OP #4*

    Wow, a lot of comments! Most people seem to have a negative impression, I appreciate people’s feedback.

    To answer some of the questions, the usual academic culture (at least in my neck of the woods) is that if you want a meeting with someone, you’re supposed to email them. Yeah, it can be a kludgy pain in the butt, especially if there are multiple people in the meeting. Moreover, depending on what the meeting is, it’s generally acceptable to say no. The one exception is that you’re supposed to hold “office hours” when you’re available to your students for drop-in help. (And, if students ask for a meeting, you should say yes.)

    It’s very common for random people on campus, as well as academics at other universities, to email you and ask you to do things. For example, I got an email from a librarian asking if she could meet with me, and ask about whether and how I use free textbooks in my classes. Probably many of my colleagues got the same email, and either said no or deleted without responding, but I took the meeting and talked to our librarian.

    It’s *very* common for advice for academics to pick and choose what to say yes to, that if you say yes to everything then you risk losing touch with your long term goals. I’d say that this, rather than the technology, is what I’m nervous about.

    Thanks everybody for weighing in.

    1. Dee*

      Would you welcome people brainstorming with you on how to pick and choose what to say yes to while using the online calendar? I don’t have any ideas here personally but I’m sure others would! Feeling worried about being over committed does not at all sound like fun!

      1. OP #4*

        Thanks for your response! In principle I’d welcome brainstorming with people, although in practice it would probably take a very long digression to describe the sort of requests I get. Academia is a weird place…

    2. Retail Not Retail*

      I saw someone mention doodle polls earlier – I had to use them to schedule my comp exam with 3 professors. Reading this thread, I wonder if part of not using outlook’s calendar is that you have meeting invites from people who wouldn’t have access to your department, like the librarian or a student.

      I also feel like your/academia’s definition of meeting is different from the one most of the commentariat of – meeting isn’t a one-on-one. (I have no experience with scheduling anything in my job – our committee meetings shoot for lunch and I just attend the ones that aren’t on my days off!)

    3. allathian*

      Even if you use the Outlook calendar, you can still decline meetings if you feel that attending wouldn’t be useful. I recommend blocking off the hours you want to use for your research or other work that requires intense concentration.

    4. Allonge*

      Hi, thanks for writing in! For what it’s worth, in a company that uses calendars and invites all the time, the ability to say no is still very much there – a calendar invitation really is just an email asking you if you are available at a specific time for that project.

      I declined countless invites, I just decline them because I don’t want to / have to attend rather than I am not actually available, as that latter part can be checked from my calendar. It does not create any more of an obligation than a regular email.

    5. The answer is (probably) 42*

      I hope you don’t find the volume of responses to your letter to be off-putting! I think many of us replied because we saw that you were trying to ask this in good faith, rather than assuming you’re a jerk for not being on board with shared calendar systems.

      I think we’ve all just had our frustrating experiences with someone who wouldn’t cooperate with using a new system and that ended up generating more work for everyone else. So you hit a bit of a nerve, but it’s very clear that you asked with an open mind, and I hope the numerous replies don’t come across as piling on to you!

      1. OP #4*

        Nope, pile away. :) If I’m going to ask for advice on the internet, I should be prepared to receive it!

        Especially since my question is mostly about the future. It’s definitely not the norm now for people to broadcast their availability, and these calendar invites are a very new thing here. So I don’t feel like I’ve been a jerk — but the prevailing sentiment seems to very clearly be that I should be prepared to get on board.


        1. Sutemi*

          Be the change you want to see in the world!
          If someone internally asks for my availability, I respond that my Outlook is always up to date and to send an invitation. It takes much less effort than responding with a list of days and times.

        2. EPLawyer*

          The fact that you are here and interacting says you are open to change. Embrace it.

          Remember – no is always an option. You can decide based on your own long term goals as you said what you want to do and what you don’t. It’s no different than getting an email saying “can we meet about the textbooks” or a phone call asking for a meeting. You still set your schedule.

        3. Adultiest Adult*

          Since you asked… A serious question is, how much longer do you intend to be working? Because shared calendaring is only going to get more popular, and at some point if you want to continue collaborating with internal colleagues or students, you will need learn to use the tool or risk being “that person.” If you’re planning to work for less than 5 years, maybe you can get away for it. But also process the fact that the longer you delay, the harder it may be if you suddenly need to use the system.

          I am currently going through the rather painful process of getting one of my more senior direct reports up to speed on all things GSuite, as the pandemic has absolutely forced our hand over the last year and it is no longer optional. I know it’s hard for her because she has resisted so long, and it does suck up a lot of time we should be using for higher-level things, but at this point she can’t access most of those higher level things because she doesn’t know how to accept a calendar invite, or contribute to a shared file on a shared drive. Her experience is valuable in other ways, and I appreciate that she tries hard and is willing to learn, but it would definitely be easier if we didn’t have to do it all at once–if she had slowly gotten used to calendar invites before every meeting became virtual and was linked to them, for example.

          Bottom line: please consider getting on board before you are forced to, or before you become known as that person who makes it difficult for other people, with the accompanying social consequences.

    6. No Tribble At All*

      Hi OP#4, thanks for writing in. I think most of the knee-jerk “learn to use the calendar system!” is from people who’ve had to interact with That One Guy who isn’t accessible except through messenger raven. Since it really sounds like there’s no dominant tool at your workplace, you’re probably okay, but this is a good time to check how accessible you are and how well your group communicates, internally and externally.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think this as well (to be honest I only skimmed most of those longer threads). I have one of those people in my office who never uses the Teams system or calendar – and yup, everybody complains how hard it is to get a meeting set up with him. He is tolerated only because it’s known that he will be retiring semi-soon (as in he talks all the time about retiring when he hits the magical number of years in to get his pension, and yes I’m in one of those rare places that still has a pension).

    7. Fieldpoppy*

      I’m a consultant who works primarily in academic healthcare, and my life is meetings. For all the reasons outlined here by so many, calendar software is an absolute requirement in meeting heavy worlds. But it sounds like a lot of your requests are 1:1 things that are truly optional. I would never just schedule a meeting with someone I’m asking a favour of for time. It might be helpful to mentally distinguish between group meetings (eg professional association committees) which need to be done this way for sanity and the odd one offs which are actually far more optional (librarian asking about textbooks). All to say, treat it as a request and decline or propose a new time if you want to. Treat it as communication, not electronic incursion.

      1. Roeslein*

        I’m a management consultant and I schedule unsolicited meetings with clients all the time via calendar invite. They’re free to accept, decline or suggest a different time, and are generally grateful they don’t have to do the email back-and-forth thing, because who has time for that!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I do think that is a strong point, there is a difference between asking someone for a favor and asking someone for a business meeting. If I feel the conversation is going to be an effort- such as I need help doing a particular process, I would rather the person select a time of day when they are up for that long-winded, energy-sucking process. It still feels like the best way to get across, “my questions are a time/energy suck” is to email directly.

        OP, this is not an all or nothing thing. You could use the calendar where it feels right and just block off time for meeting requests that are done in private email/phone call.

    8. Roeslein*

      I’m very confused – what exactly prevents you from selecting the “decline” option when using an online calendar? Just because people send you an invite doesn’t mean you have to accept it.

      1. Peeped EA*

        This is my question, too. Outlook has a built-in feature to allow you to decline and, if you’d like, write a message to say whatever you need to when you decline. I think there is a manners miss here, maybe? It is not considered rude to decline an Outlook invite, and the invite is not a demand. It’s a request. I would find it hard to believe that there are people out there sending Outlook invites with the presumption that, once sent, the participants must accept. That is an unreasonable expectation. Block your time, set your Outlook to only show available/busy, and decline invites you’re not interested in attending. Your time will still be yours.

      2. Elizabeth Proctor*

        I think it just seems more rude than replying no to an email (though one could definitely argue that it’s rude to send the invite without an email). In my workplace culture, we always email first.

        1. Elizabeth*

          I agree with this. I’m an academic who is grateful not to have a public calendar and it’s mostly because I need to preserve my freedom to decline meetings when I am free (for more important things) without seeming or feeling rude.

          1. Elle*

            So, as a person who schedules meetings with academics, I definitely don’t feel offended if they decline a meeting even when they are showing as free! Obviously if I’m putting it in on behalf of someone senior and the academic gets all snotty about ‘how dare you assume I’m free’, that’s one thing, but if they just decline, I just move on with my life! I assume they either aren’t interested, or have too much else going on and need to preserve some time for the bulk of their work.

            I would add, my university has meeting free times, when you aren’t supposed to organise meetings at all (exceptions are things like internal training sessions, or catchups with your line manager) to try and preserve some time to sit and focus.

            1. Elizabeth*

              I love the idea of meeting-free times!

              Do you send calendar invites without emailing first? It’s been interesting to learn from this thread how all over the place those norms are. At my place it would land as rude.

    9. DrSalty*

      Regarding how you are supposed to email people to schedule a meeting – I wonder if your colleagues who are sending you invites are viewing it as this. When you send a calendar invite in outlook, you can add a message at the bottom as you would in an email. And then when you receive it, you’re free to decline and suggest a new time. It is basically emailing to set up a 1:1 meeting, you just then also have the calendar invite automatically added.

    10. PX*

      This blows my mind even more because an Outlook invite is just…another email that shows up in your inbox. All it means is someone has taken the initiative to pre select a time for the meeting. If you accept, it blocks the time in your calendar to say you’re in a meeting. If you decline it doesnt. And if you’re not sure, it keeps it as tentative. And if you want to propose a new time, you just do that as well.

      I genuinely am really struggling to see how this is anything other than useful and a quicker process than what you already do. But as someone commented upthread, it seems to be more about the perception of someone else “invading” your time rather than it just being a scheduling tool…

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It could feel too automated and lacking in personal touch? Maybe the culture places a high value on personal touch?

        1. Name Required*

          Outlook invites include an option for personal messages, proposed agendas, and other information, just like a regular ole email. The only different part is the “widget” bit that allows you to respond more quickly if you are able to provide a simple yes, no, or let’s do a different time. I guess someone might think it “feels” less personal than an email, but it’s just an email PLUS other stuff, and it makes more sense to get people on board with looking at it like that than deciding, “Someone can’t change their way of thinking, so no efficiencies for us!”

      2. Forrest*

        Yes, there are two things here being conflated:

        1. The idea that if someone has checked my calendar and seen that I’m “available”, I have no ability to say, “no, sorry can’t do that.” That’s not at all how it works anywhere I’ve worked, except possibly if you’re a very junior employee and the person sticking a meeting in is your boss or something! I’ve always been able to say, “hi, sorry, Tuesday doesn’t actually work for me. Can I just check what this meeting is about and whether it makes sense for me to attend?”

        2. Pretty much everywhere I’ve worked, the number of people who would simply send a meeting request without a prior agreement that we do need to meet is very small, and limited to my immediate team members, line managers or people who I’m on task groups with, where there’s already an understanding that we do need to meet. Anyone contacting me out of the blue, or even just another member or my team with whom I don’t have a standing 1-1 arrangement, would email or ring first to say, “hi, could do with a chat about that project we mentioned, when would work for you?”

        The same applies the other way around, of course— I would always send an email to suggest the possibility of meeting and giving times when I’m available, and the meeting invite wouldn’t be sent until we’ve established the principle of “yes we would both like to meet”.

        Does that help at all, LW4? I feel like part of your alarm over the use of Outlook is a sense that it means you’ll lose control over your time and meetings will just appear in your calendar that you haven’t consented to. In my experience, that never happens— you don’t send invites until after the principle of a meeting has been agreed.

        (And on the rare occasions that people do send a meeting invite as a first contact, I do feel entitled to regard them as a *little* pushy and out-of-sync, though in most cases it’s just a clash of preference clash. It certainly doesn’t mean I accept a meeting request that I don’t want without pushing back though.)

    11. Guacamole Bob*

      This gives a different flavor of it to me. In my office, the librarian sending a calendar invitation without first emailing to introduce herself, explain what she’s interested in, and ask if I’d be willing to meet would be kind of abrupt and maybe even a little rude? The calendar invitation is generally treated as “is this a good time for that meeting you’re expecting us to schedule? And btw here’s the Teams link”, not “are you willing to meet with me in the first place?” But, that’s definitely not at all the culture in all offices, and the unsolicited calendar invitation is totally normal in many.

      If seems like part of your question is “is it wrong that I find these email invitations kind of presumptuous and annoying?”, to which I would say that no, it’s not wrong, especially if your institution doesn’t do all that much scheduling via people’s Outlook calendars. However, given how much this is a culture thing, it’s likely that some other organizations and departments you work with do treat it as normal and not rude, and that you’re better off just accepting it and going with the flow instead of fighting it.

      1. Anne H*

        Yeah I think this is the real difference between most offices and how academia operates. The majority of meetings faculty participate in are, in many ways, favors; that is, they’re responding to requests they’re under no obligation to entertain. For example, office hours are set times for students to come ask questions, and at most institutions you’re required to hold a substantial number of them per week; it’s expected that students will attend office hours if they need to ask a question, get help with an assignment, etc. Most faculty, however, also make it clear that they’re more than willing to find another time to meet with students if a student can’t make office hours for some reason. If a student had the option to *schedule* a meeting at a time where a faculty member didn’t have anything blocked out on the calendar, it would be seen as rude—there are already *many* hours in the week already set aside in a faculty member’s schedule to meet with students, so if a student needs to request a different time it’s a request, not a requirement. (Also, students consider their professors available at all times, including on weekends, no matter how many times you tell them you won’t read email on Sundays. So you’d also have to block off really random hours in your calendar to prevent meetings being scheduled at, say, 9 pm on Tuesday, or 3 pm on Saturday. TBH, that sometimes goes for other faculty, too.)

        We have a standing department meeting every other week that we’re required to attend, and our department admin does send out a calendar invite for those meetings, because they’re currently happening on Zoom (so having the link is helpful). But academia very much assumes that the *default* is “unless you’re teaching/holding office hours, you’re *not* free,” because you’re doing your own work. I don’t teach on Fridays, for example, so I usually work from home—it’s less loud, I have a better workspace, and I’m less likely to be interrupted. If we used a calendaring system, I’d have to block out Fridays as “busy” to indicate that. But the reality is, I *could* come in for a meeting and *do,* when I need to. I think that’s why academics like doodle so much—its option for “if necessary” is really helpful, because it means you can say “if this is the only time that works for everyone, I can come in, but I’d prefer to keep that time reserved for other work.” One’s own research always gets shunted to the back burner if something more pressing comes up, but it’s also important to try to prioritize research.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Very well said. This is the exact situation that people who are baffled by LW4’s resistance to a public calendar don’t understand.

          1. Forrest*

            I don’t really agree. I work with academics all the time and am completely used to the dynamic where they don’t have to meet me if they don’t want to, but that just means that I email first to ask if they are available to meet, not that they don’t use use a calendar invite once we have established that.

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        This distinction is what I was wondering about- the ‘are you willing to meet with me’ and ‘this is when I propose we meet’ are separate. The first I would expect as just an email, while the second I’d expect to be a meeting invitation- the idea is that I trust you maintain a calendar somewhere so in the event you use Outlook, I’ve done the work of adding the details we discussed for you. By the same token, I’ve done the work of checking your calendar for availability to get the scheduling done.

        The person sending you an invite is doing you two favors, if you let them.

    12. meyer lemon*

      Hmm, I’m wondering if the disconnect between the Outlook system and your current system is that under the current system, it’s considered most polite to just quietly ignore most of the many optional requests that come your way, and Outlook would force you to explicitly reject them. (And maybe it seems like in that case you would feel the need to justify why you couldn’t make it, if the calendar shows that you’re free.)

      If so, I suspect it will just get more normalized over time as everyone adopts this system, and may be of help to the requesters as well. When you just receive radio silence, it’s always hard to know if someone read and ignored your email, or if they never received it, or it got buried under a flood of other emails.

      1. Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon*

        You can actually quietly ignore invites on Outlook while ridding yourself of the invite on your calendar: Open the appointment, click “delete”, and then click no when it asks if you’d like to respond to the meeting organizer.

    13. Alice*

      Why does getting invited to the meeting via a calendar invitation mean that you can no longer pick and choose when to say yes?

    14. acakidlib*

      I am an academic librarian–my library heavily uses Google Calendar (though my colleagues across the university do not, necessarily), but I would still e-mail you ahead of scheduling a meeting out of nowhere on a topic you hadn’t yet agreed to meet about! I also decline a lot of meetings, whether because I’m not actually available or I just don’t need to attend.

      If your institution is like mine, I don’t really care whether you’re using the calendar, but I will continue to send you invites because they help me keep track of who’s been formally notified about the meeting, and they give me a single place to put the Zoom link (during pandemic limitations) and other information.

      However, I think you can enforce limitations on your own availability even while using the calendar. I don’t always block out time to do my own work, but I do sometimes. Other times, I decline meetings even though I’m “available” on my calendar, and that’s normal at my institution–I might also e-mail the person to say “let’s do this in April” or “can I catch up with you later?” if it’s a small group or a project that’s personally relevant, or I might offer to reschedule. If it’s a big meeting or something I didn’t actually commit to, I just say no.

      I would put your energy into making sure you are maintaining this institutional culture of time protection with or without the online calendar, and I’d treat calendar invites (emotionally) like an e-mail saying “do you want to meet about this thing at this time?” If the answer is yes/yes, accept; yes/no–email back and offer to reschedule or catch up outside the meeting; no/no–decline and move on unless it’s someone you would also reply to an e-mail from. No one is thinking or caring about your personal scheduling preferences when they send out, e.g., a calendar invite to the annual all-faculty meeting (in a good way).

      1. Observer*

        However, I think you can enforce limitations on your own availability even while using the calendar. I don’t always block out time to do my own work, but I do sometimes. Other times, I decline meetings even though I’m “available” on my calendar,

        This. It’s a very reasonable approach. Just because you don’t have a meeting on your calendar does not mean that you have to accept a meeting request (unless it’s coming from your boss or something like that).

    15. Observer*

      It’s *very* common for advice for academics to pick and choose what to say yes to, that if you say yes to everything then you risk losing touch with your long term goals. I’d say that this, rather than the technology, is what I’m nervous about.

      I think that that’s part of why people are reacting so strongly. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter WHAT tool you use. If you need / want to turn down meetings, then turn them down. Using an outlook calendar does not change that. And not using the tool over this is just… weird, I guess. Because Outlook is just not relevant to this issue.

  32. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW2: I’ve worked for a firm that ended up getting sued into oblivion for exceptionally unethical behaviour. While I did great work there (in IT) and at first liked it it’s now removed from my CV, resulting in a 2 year employment gap. Complicated by the fact I turned in evidence for the prosecution in the end so I’m never getting a reference from that place either.

    But the pay kept the bills paid, I got a lot of experience in things I didn’t intend to (like how to deal with the press), gained a lot of confidence in the end (giving evidence in the high court)…there were *some* upsides to it. Sort of.

    If I’d known that it was this shady going in and that I’d likely have to leave it off my CV, I’d have probably turned it down.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Sounds more like a baptism by fire where your new attributes include: not easily rattled by what others consider major negative events; used to people doing off the wall things; and used to sleeping with one eye open.

      I am very sorry all this happened to you. I hope the rest of your work-life is uneventful comparatively.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Yeah, I’d advise LW to consider the possible mental health implications of working for an unethical company too. I know my experience is rare and extreme but I could have done without the chaos and stress that was that particular year. In a way I’m still paying for it, lost a lot of my ability to trust people.

  33. Hogsmeade Airbnb*

    #4- as an admin, it makes me want to tear my hair out when someone won’t just play by the rules and use the same booking/communication methods as everyone else. Those kind of systems exist for a reason, scheduling assistant exists for a reason, and throwing off someone’s efficiency game is a fast track to the shit list. DO NOT be the squeaky wheel.

  34. Foxgloves*

    OP4, please consider the other people you’re working with when you do this. My role is made an awful lot more difficult by not being able to tell at all whether people might be free at certain times. I never just unilaterally schedule a meeting, but it makes my life a hell of a lot easier if I can see “ah, looks like Tuesday at 3, Wednesday at 11 or 4, or Thursday at 10 might work” from looking at people’s calendars, and then pitch these options to everyone to come to a mutually convenient time. If I have to email everyone individually to even get to that point, I literally would never get any other work done.

  35. Disgruntled academic*

    LW3 please, for the sanity of your coworkers, learn how to use an electronic shared calendar system.

    One of the most common rants from my group of friends who have moved from industry to academia is the frustration at the seeming incompetence of so many of our colleagues when it comes to calendars and scheduling meetings.

    Learn how to show your availability. Learn how to propose a new time when sent a meeting invite. Learn how to accept and decline meetings. Your calendar isn’t telling anyone that you agree to meet with them, but it does helpfully let them know when you cannot meet. It is still up to you to accept or decline meetings (or propose an alternative, when you know they aren’t definitely unavailable).

    Your colleagues actually do need that information so they can function. You actually can’t just opt out if your department is calendar based. You may also find that when you start using these properly, they are useful tools. I always loved that I could easily see if a colleague was unavailable, so I wouldn’t interrupt them. I didn’t have to do multiple email exchanges to arrange a meeting. I didn’t have to manually track room changes, or find which email has the latest update for something – because it would all be there in my calendar.

    I am annoyed when I get sent calendar invites when my calendar already tells colleagues I am unavailable. There’s a tool that tells you my availability – they should use it! I hate getting meetings by email that I then have to turn into a calendar entry.

    I really disagree with AAM on this one. You don’t have to use the calendar, and you probably won’t be fired for not. But if you are asked to RSVP through your work’s system – you should. Likewise if you do have a role where you need to meet with others, it is discourteous to refuse to use the shared system to arrange things.

    And yes – Microsoft sucks.

    1. WellRed*

      Your last line made me laugh. Microsoft does suck and yet look at all the comments about “you have to use it!”

      1. Cat Tree*

        It sucks, but less so than the alternative of everyone having their own system that is invisible to everyone else.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Painful memories of people asking IT ‘why can’t we just install and use whatever software we like?’ not realising that 90% of our job was keeping the current systems all talking to each other.

    2. Name Required*

      This letter really, really, REALLY rubbed me the wrong way, but it’s because I’m projecting all of my feelings from working on the staff side at a college for a period of time. If this LW is in the US … Americans spend more on college than almost any other country. The idea that professors would consider continued inefficiencies an option because they *prefer* what they perceive to be a different way (because in actuality, this isn’t terribly different based on LW’s description of how they schedule their time now) makes my blood BOIL. The refusal to start operating in the 21st century is up there in things that Really Tick Me Off, alongside refusal to fire incompetent staff/faculty and intrenched sexism, racism, and ageism.

      Ironically, I know that one professor refusing to use Outlook isn’t to blame for the cost and lack of access to higher education and my feelings are as irrational as the objection to technology … but in my defense, it’s never one professor. It’s all of the professors, who each have their own different set of operational rules that have to be continually documented and updated, and the older staff members who aren’t required to update any of their skills or sometimes even routinely work. And the GROUSING. Oh my goodness, I have never heard so much complaining. Some days I wanted to scream, “Can you just shut up?! If we’d spent this same amount of time doing the work that you’re complaining about, we’d be done already!” Ultimately, stuff like this is why I was meant for the private sector and not academia. Obviously not the culture for me.

      1. OyHiOh*


        I work in a corner of the US that has *terrible* broadband internet access. My organization’s board is afflicted with the sort of people who largely want to pretend that the internet does not exist and email is not a Thing.

        And yet.

        Over the course of the past year they’ve all (well, two-thirds anyway learned to use Outlook to schedule board meetings and receive their quarterly board packets, and they’ve also mostly learned to use Zoom for the board meetings. Arguably, we have better attendance and more participation now than when some members had to block out an entire day (2 hours of driving, 2 hour meeting plus lunch, 2 hours home . . . ) to get to a meeting.

        For the love of all the small gods, just please learn to use your institution’s chosen calendar program! You can block out unavailable work sessions and decline meeting invites at will to protect the time you need to get actual work done.

  36. Tussy*

    There are tons of in-house lawyer jobs that aren’t in the tobacco industry. In-house lawyers are in universities, pharmaceutical companies, telecommunication companies, entertainment companies, government, tech companies… it goes on. There are also people in these companies who aren’t in-house lawyers but work directly with them on contracts like business development managers, contract managers, partnership managers and more who often have legal backgrounds or law degrees.

    Your options aren’t just “tobacco or nothing”. Why not use this job as showing you a route you didn’t know existed and look for in-house lawyer positions in places you won’t feel so conflicted about?

  37. Alexis Rose*

    LW4: OMG please use your digital calendar. As a former EA to a Dean it was the absolute bane of my existence when academics refused to use their calendars. They would ask for a meeting with the dean, and I would go to schedule it and their calendar was a wide open oasis of free time. I was skeptical that their availability was truly so open, but I picked a time that worked for my Dean. Only to get a snarky email that “I’M TEACHING” during that time. Okay, why isn’t that in your calendar then? Or why didn’t you include details about your availability when you requested this meeting?

    These folks were the exception, not the rule. 99% of the university used outlook calendars at least passably well. It worked. If you are going to be an outlier and refuse workplace norms (academia is weird with what academics just unilaterally decide they will/won’t do), that’s fine, but don’t be miserable/snarky/mean/dismissive to people who are trying to do their jobs within those workplace norms.

    I digress on the rant a little bit, but I like Alison’s advice that if it will be exceptionally onerous (it is) for your colleagues (it really really is) to not use the software provided to you by your employer, then you need to use the software. Now having said that, sometimes people use other softwares (like google calendar invites being sent to outlook users) or what have you, and it can look a little funny. But really, if you’re in the habit of using your digital calendar and accepting digital meeting requests, it should not at all matter. The key is that your calendar reflects your schedule, especially for academics that have such varied calendars (committees, teaching, office hours, guest lectures, conference travel, an exam for a class, its not at all intuitive).

  38. Camellia*

    Regarding cover letters: I find out today if I still have a job or not, and in the mean time I’ve been looking at a few job apps. It appears there is one place to upload your resume but nothing where you can upload a separate cover letter. What do you do in this situation? Forget the cover letter? Make it the first page of your resume document? Something else I don’t know about?

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      I think the consensus is forget it unless they ask for it – they have their reasons. If there’s a comment box or something, you could put in the highlights of the cover letter. If you have to e-mail the hiring office your resume because that’s what they ask for, you could make the body of your email a shortened version.

      I think you just have to follow instructions!

      1. Managing In*

        If they say “no cover letters” then yes, you should follow their instructions. If they don’t say “no cover letters,” I don’t see anything wrong with making it the first page of your resume. I did that and they hired me! Sometimes “they have their reasons” but their “reasons” are a clunky application system they don’t have full control over.

    2. username required*

      I have my resume as a word document and when I apply for a job I add my cover letter as the first page and then convert it to a pdf and upload it.

  39. I'm just here for the cats*

    #4 I am also in a university and we use microsoft outlook. I guess I’m confused by what widget you are referring to. Are you talking about how it. The email invite says yes no or maybe and your response is put on your calendar
    How is this any different than someone emailing you asking if you are available and then you responding? And with the advent of more online meetings it’s actually very helpful because the link is right in the calendar. No need to hunt through emails looking for a zoom link!
    I can understand wanting a paper calendar and to be honest that’s what I use for some of my stuff. But I also use the outlook calendar.
    What I would recommend is just blocking time off on the calendar for when you are not available. That way admins (like myself) can easily see when everyone is available.
    Please ask yourself why you are so against a very simple system that has been around for years. This is not new

  40. KayZee*

    Okay, one of these has really got me going.
    #4, you really don’t have to use the calendar to accept the invitation. Just write down the info on your calendar. By accepting the invitation, the person organizing the meeting will know you’re coming. I am the person, in my large academic department, who sends those invitations and it annoys me to no end that there are folks who are so stubborn the can’t just click on the yes in the email and the system will do the rest. Seriously.

    That being said, you should be open to using the calendar. If you’re smart enough to send a post to Alison here, you’re smart enough to at least look at the calendar now and then, even if it’s just to copy the information on that old scroll of papyrus you use to keep track of things.

    Now I’m not saying I love the pandemic, but I am grateful for some changes it’s brought about, including the fact that our institution has stopped printing the academic calendar. Now, if certain faculty would just let me share my screen in a zoom and show them how to pull up the same information on their Google calendar, life would be grand.

    1. londonedit*

      I agree. I don’t work in academia, so I can’t speak to the culture, but accepting/declining meetings in Outlook really is quite simple and useful. I don’t use the Outlook calendar for my own schedule, because I don’t have many meetings, but for the meetings I do have it’s really useful to be able to click over into the Outlook calendar and check what’s coming up that week. Since we’ve all been working from home, my company has put on various online talks and events for staff, and the invitations for those come in the form of calendar invites – you simply accept the invite, it goes into your calendar, and on the day all the info is right there along with the link to tune in to the talk. For smaller meetings within our team, we still do a quick check by email beforehand – ‘Hey, could we set up a time to talk about this new project? Would Wednesday or Thursday next week be better for everyone?’ but then once the date and time is agreed, a calendar invite goes out so that everyone has the info, and a reminder will pop up 15 minutes before the meeting. Also useful.

      I understand that OP4 is getting ‘unsolicited’ meeting invites from people, but if these would previously have happened anyway over email, I’d encourage them to just see the invites as ’emails’ too. If you need to decline a meeting, you can simply click on ‘decline’ and add a note to explain if you want to. For mass events there’s no obligation to send a response, or you can just click ‘accept’ or ‘decline’ without adding any notes.

  41. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    OP 2- So, you’ve gotten a lot of emotive feedback that should highlight the risks of working in an ethically questionable industry. A few others have given ethical and/or practical concerns about doing so. So, I’m going to approach this from a different angle, and it’s going to sound a bit harsh, but… you (almost certainly) aren’t cut out for working in that industry as a stepping stone.

    I say this because there are arguments for how it could be valid, and make you a stronger candidate down the road (the very fact that the industry is so reviled means that your contracts would have to be iron clad, that you’d get a lot of experience, etc). But they’re arguments that can only be made convincingly by people with a really strong ego, and frankly, I think you would struggle to make them convincingly, to a hiring manager.

    The issues you are having at big law (not being comfortable public speaking, having a hard time building a client base, not being able to get on specialized cases) immediately made me think of you as someone who is, at best, uncomfortable with advocating for oneself. And the reasons you say you are thinking about going into in-house work, and this position in particular… they sound like they are about desperation to be out of the Big Law world (I get that – Have an extended family where a lot of folks have burnt out of Big Law), and not really about enthusiasm for this position, or what you might learn here.

    All of which makes me think that, when you need to explain why having worked in that industry makes you a stronger candidate for a different position down the road… You will struggle with doing so, or at least with doing so convincingly (and will consequently struggle with finding a position outside that industry, when you want to move on).

    It honestly sounds like what is attractive to you about this position is predominately that it’s immediately available, but even then, you have second thoughts. I’d suggest taking some time to look, and finding something that will let you get out, but be comfortable with discussing the choice in the future.

    Because saying “I knew I would learn valuable skills X, Y, and Z (and did), and here’s how I can apply them to this position,” is what someone who is using a position like this as a stepping stone needs to be able to say and convince a hiring manager of – not “it seemed like a good idea at the time” or “It let me get out of big law.” A hiring manager might sympathize with the latter reasons, but those sympathies aren’t going to make you a stronger candidate.

  42. Neon*

    Ethically I don’t see how tobacco companies are any different than alcohol companies. They both sell addictive poison that causes vast harm to both the user and other nearby people.

    I suggest that OP#2 re-contextualize this as “Would I be OK doing work for Guinness, or Grey Goose, or some vineyard?” If the answer to that question is “yes” then the personal moral quandary isn’t an issue.

    As far as it being a black mark for future employment, I think that’s likely to be on a person-by-person basis rather than something dictated by specific organizations. Are there many employers out there with actual policies saying “we won’t hire people who previously worked in the tobacco industry”? I doubt it.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I think the bigger ethical issue is the tobacco companies’ history of lying about the risks of smoking and/or hiding data showing the dangers. It’s one thing to sell something dangerous, but quite another thing to falsify data to make it seem safe. That’s why it has a bigger stigma, even though those things were done decades ago.

      1. UKDancer*

        I think Cat Tree is quite right about the history of lying about the risks of smoking / hiding the data. I mean people have been aware for a long time that drinking carries risks both in terms of the impact on social behaviour and the health issues. You look at Hogarth’s etchings like “Gin Alley” and you can see a pretty clear indictment of the concerns on what alcohol can do. Recognition of the health impacts dates a long way back. I don’t know any alcohol company has ever tried to deny it.

        In contrast cigarette companies tried to deny the risks and issues and for a long time sold smoking as a healthy and beneficial thing. The Marlboro man is one of the most successful advertising campaigns ever even when they knew what the risks were.

        There’s also a lot more of a risk to people around you from smoking than from drinking. Passive smoking kills in a way that someone standing near you with a drink doesn’t.

        I think that’s why people condemn those working for cigarette companies more vocally.

    2. Todd*

      I was looking for a comment like this.
      Why is tobacco treated so differently than being in-house for a company like Apple or Amazon who use their lawyers to bust unions and maintain terrible labor standards.
      Even Allison’s example of working at a bank. You could be working for the people who destroyed the housing market. Is that really much better?

      1. pancakes*

        There are people within and outside of the industry who do look askance at union-busting firms. It’s just that not many people are as familiar with their work and their names as they are with tobacco companies.

      2. UKDancer*

        I think that’s a really difficult question. I don’t approve of the labour relations approach Amazon use so I don’t buy from them and have signed petitions on the issue. But I don’t have the same visceral sense of repulsion about them that I do about tobacco companies. When I look at a tobacco company all I can see and smell is my uncle dying of lung cancer, the way he coughed so hard. Tobacco always smells like death to me.

        The OP is asking whether people would perceive it negatively if they worked for a tobacco company. I think the answer is that many people would. You can argue whether it’s right or wrong or whether other companies should be perceived in the same way. But the brutal truth is that many people would perceive someone who chose to work for a tobacco company negatively in a way they may not with someone in other fields.

      3. Big law*

        I think there are no ethically pure companies, so you have to weigh them each out to your own standards. Banks are a necessary part of our economy, Apple creates useful and enjoyable products, so working for either of them would not be only about enabling their worst abuses. Tobacco, on the other hand, just kills people. It’s not an unreasonable line in the sand. Everyone will have a different line. But a lot of people are going to agree on tobacco companies.

      4. twocents*

        Eh but banks also serve a community need. Smoking tobacco isn’t necessary for anyone and is actively harmful.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        I so agree. Anti-tobacco is currently the focus, but once we get that out of the way, then we (society) will tend to look at other things.
        I think it’s wise for a person to consider NOW what those other things might be in the future. We see how the anti-tobacco campaign is going- it’s fierce. And so it will be with the next anti-something campaign, that too will be fierce. OP, a big social topic now is the subject of hate. So it would be wise to stay away from companies who are the poster children for hatred. This is just one example, there are many.

      6. Qwerty*

        So what is the solution that you are suggesting for the OP? If you find Alison’s advice to be wrong, what can you offer the OP in its place?

      7. JustaTech*

        Because it is?
        That’s not a flippant response; it’s a 2 part response.
        I think it’s good and useful to have conversations around why working for a tobacco company is more likely to be a black mark on one’s record than working for Amazon or InBev.

        But for the LW it’s also really important to recognize that the stigma exists and they should take it into consideration when planning their next career move. And maybe it would be useful for the LW to consider regionality in that response as well. In parts of the US where tobacco is still a major crop then the response might be different from areas with no ties to the production end of the tobacco industry. Same with parts of the world where smoking tobacco is very acceptable.

    3. Elliot*

      After earning a Public Health degree, I disagree with the sentiment that alcohol and tobacco are similarly morally bankrupt industries.

      First, almost every single health professional will note that drinking in moderation is not detrimental to long-term health and lifespan. However, almost no health professional would support smoking in moderation – which also leads to the argument of “moderation.” Alcohol is considerably less addictive than nicotine – nicotine’s addictive properties are only topped by those of cocaine and heroin. Nicotine also is one of the hardest drugs to stop using without help.

      And actual medical facts aside, this slippery slope argument that alcohol and tobacco companies are not different ignores social stigmas. If we’re talking about all things that can be addictive and bad for health being the same, does sugar make the list? What about reality TV? The bottom line is that in the United States at least, moderate drinking is far more socially acceptable than smoking. It’s far more likely an interviewer or hiring manager occasionally has a drink, than is a smoker.

      And to add on to the pleas of letter writer 2, please do not take a job working for a company that kills people. Almost everyone I know, myself included, has lost people to smoking. I would never want to associate, socially or professionally, with someone who could sleep at night knowing they make money killing people during the day.

      1. Casper Lives*

        Actually the health professionals would not say that. I’ll link below but light to moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to higher cancer risk.

        I understand that people don’t have the same visceral reaction about alcohol. Smoke can set off an asthma attack for me so I’m hardly in favor of smoking. Alcoholism has killed more of my family than smoking – all the smokers lived to ripe old ages with a pack a day. But the stigma seems ridiculous to me when other things are just as murderous.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I’m guessing alcohol also gets a bit of different treatment from smoking because of the failed Prohibition.

      2. Spicy Tuna*

        I agree re: the addictive nature of nicotine. My uncle was a heroin addict in the ’70’s. He survived and got clean, fortunately. He quit smoking in the ’90’s and said it was significantly harder to give up smoking than heroin.

    4. Lalala*

      I totally agree. I’m really confused at Allison’s advice and the majority of the comments. Yes, the tobacco industry is bad and results in human death. So does Big Tech, fast fashion, the oil & gas industry…I could go on. Seems like a huge moral inconsistency. (Then again, a lot of neurotypical behavior seems really inconsistent to me.)

      1. meyer lemon*

        It is a really interesting question. A lot of what drives moral impulses like this is emotion, and emotion isn’t usually rational or consistent. It also depends quite a lot on the social environment we’re in, and what our trusted sources of information are.

        Tobacco is an easy target for moral indignation these days, because we’re at a point where the anti-tobacco movement has been successful, people tend to be more aware of the industry’s misinformation campaigns, many people know someone who has died from smoking-related causes, but most North Americans (particularly in middle or upper class) don’t smoke anymore. I think for a wide consensus to be reached that something is bad, it helps if we are emotionally somewhat remote from it. Most of us don’t have any compelling reason to defend the tobacco industry.

        1. Lalala*

          As I implied, I often struggle to understand the emotion and behavior of others, so this explanation was really helpful! Thanks!

          1. meyer lemon*

            Oh, you’re welcome! I didn’t really intend it to be an explanation, but this is a topic that I find interesting because I also struggle to comprehend other people’s way of thinking on this kind of issue and it helps me to try to see it from a broader lens. I’m glad it was helpful!

      2. TiffIf*

        The point I see most people making is that–yes you can call out bad/immoral behavior in just about any industry but most industries have both pros and cons for society as a whole. But the tobacco industry is one where I see absolutely no pro for society and all cons.

        Most people will make a justification based on “necessary evil” (rightly or wrongly) and a lot of the other industries you mention fall into that justification (there are people who don’t excuse that, and you may be one of them–but it is not yet a major proportion of society) but there is no “necessary” to tobacco’s “evil.” That is what people are reacting so viscerally to.

        Personally, I have many of the same feelings about tobacco that a lot of people here do too–but I also feel the same way about the fossil fuel industry. Not as much some of the others you mention.

  43. Cat Lover*

    LW #4

    PLEASE don’t make everyone’s life harder- especially because the people who’s life will be harder is some poor admin/grad student/intern etc.

    If it does “become the norm” please follow suit! If you don’t, worse case is you get left out of meetings and gain a reputation of being unreachable or hard to work with. You don’t have to reveal your personal life- just block off times you are not free!

  44. mlem*

    LW2: I’m stuck on the “justification” of “even one that isn’t US-based and so wasn’t embroiled in decades-long litigation regarding lying to the public about the dangers of smoking”. LW2 should be aware that tobacco companies were not only bad actors in the US and are not only *known* to be bad actors in the US. Views on the industry do vary globally, to be sure, but this comes across as “this one company wasn’t famous for hurting Americans so it’s fine”, which I hope wasn’t the intent.

    1. pancakes*

      Yes, it’s a pretty blinkered view. China is a huge market and there is litigation happening around the sale of purported “low tar” cigarettes. And from the “tobacco politics” Wikipedia page: “ Litigation also continues in several countries outside the United States. Citing third party reimbursement, several countries, such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, have filed lawsuits both in the United States and in their own courts against tobacco industries. Individual suits have also been filed in a multitude of countries, including Argentina, Finland, France, Japan, Ireland, Israel, Norway, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Turkey.”

  45. agnes*

    Here’s an old dog who gave up her Franklin Planner and made the leap into Outlook–and has been happy ever since. I had to realize that this wasn’t just about me, it was making it difficult for other people to work with me. Our company culture is to share calendars and set up meetings by sending calendar invites. I was the person gumming up a system that was working fine for everyone else.

    I asked the IT people to help me learn the software and they did. I love having my calendar on my smart phone (and my email too) and that I can sync the two–if I make a doctors appointment, I plug it into my phone calendar and it automatically goes to my work calendar and blocks the time off. I can mark it private so others can’t see what I am doing at that time, they just know I am not available. I don’t use all the Outlook functions, (tasks lists and such) but I do use the functions that interface with other and make our common work easier for all.

    Don’t be “that guy. ” It detracts from your ability to work with your colleagues and it creates extra work for yourself and other people.

  46. CJ*

    A question for the commentariat, regarding shared calendars and in the spirit of #4. Both of the schools I teach at, N and V, are trying to transition to the Exchange scheduler. The issue I have is that while I can happily and easily import N’s calendar into V, the server permissions for V forbid importing it to N – the sharing options aren’t even there! And V generates many more appointments, so manually copying them is…annoying. (Never mind that my daily personal driver calendar is Google, which doesn’t play nice with either Exchange server’s permissions.) Any advice for telling admins “look, I want to help, but take it up with tech support” short of saying that and annoying the admins?

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      My spouse and I attempted to share our work Outlook calendars with each other at the start of the work from home period as we balanced the remote schooling support for our kids. We ultimately gave up – we got recommendations about periodically exporting our calendars, but there was really no way to automatically sync them both to, say, the same shared google calendar. A very frustrating aspect of the system!

      1. Super Anon For This One*

        You need….a third calendar!

        Yeah I know, but hear me out.

        We have a Google “family calendar” that I link with our kids’ sports calendars and school calendars, add dental/medical appointments, to, weddings, etc. For example, we can link to their teams’ calendars, so games/practices show on there, including any changes, without me having to manually change anything.

        We share *that* calendar with our work calendars – so I can quickly see at a glance what days one of us will need to go in late to get a kid to an appointment or leave early to make a game. It just layers over my work one, and I can see appointments for both.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          That works well for ordinary times, but during the pandemic we’ve had the specific issue of needing to see what’s on each other’s work calendars. We were trading off who was on-call for the kids and juggling those shifts against our work calendars and it was a big mess with a lot of back and forth. For a while we were each blocking out a couple hours a day to spend with the kids in structured chunks, so they’d have an hour of playtime or quiet time or TV alternating with an hour with one of us, so there were a lot of emails to each other that said things like “I just had a 10 a.m. dropped on my calendar for tomorrow, can you cover that slot? Do you need me to take the 3 p.m. shift with the kids instead? I have a 3:30 but maybe we can have them start their TV time a little earlier? Or do you have a lunch thing tomorrow?” And me having to tell my coworkers that I might be available but I wasn’t sure and I had to check, which kind of defeats the purpose of having an Outlook calendar for scheduling.

          It was worse in the spring – the kids had much less remote school, needed more help with it, and hadn’t gotten used to amusing themselves without interrupting our work. Plus they’re a year older now, which makes a difference (twin first graders). We’ve found a rhythm now and it’s fine, but it was kind of hairy for a while there.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        Have you considered taking a cheap computer, installing Outlook, and connecting it to both your work email and your spouse’s work email? Y0u could then display the calendars together.

  47. James*

    OP #4: I do a hybrid. I have my Outlook calendar for meetings where other people are involved, but I also keep a hard-copy planner. I’ve found that I think better on paper. Plus, Outlook is horrible at things that aren’t discreet. What I mean is, I often have to travel to jobsites, which affects my ability to attend certain meetings. Outlook doesn’t have an easy way to indicate that, though. I can also plan six months ahead on paper where I can’t on Outlook. Finally, since my paper planner is MY paper planner, I have no fear about putting personal things on there–birthdays, holidays, family events, books I want to read, events related to hobbies, that sort of thing, stuff you really don’t want to have on an official schedule. My boss doesn’t need to know that I’m going to a Medieval re-enactment event in April, but I sort of want to plan around that, for example. For me, the advantages outweigh the slight disadvantage of being picked on every once in a while by my more technologically-inclined coworkers.

    One other thing to note: Outlook’s calendar will DESTROY your storage space if you aren’t rigorous about maintaining it. A few of us in the office were struggling with Outlook being over capacity until we figured this out. Having a paper planner prevents that.

    1. PX*

      You can set meetings as private in outlook so no one can see what they are about, the time is just blocked. You can also mark time as out of office. Loads of people I’ve worked with mark travel time as out of office, it’s a very standard thing. Just create the appointment for the time you need and mark it appropriately. ..

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I mark things like medical appointments, manicures and other personal stuff as “private” so I can see what they are about but everyone else just sees “private appointment”. I don’t need them to know what I’m doing, I just need them to know whether the time is free or not.

      2. James*

        That doesn’t really help my situation, though. Given the nature of my job, where I am isn’t a huge factor in my availability. Remote attendance to meetings was commonplace before the pandemic. It does affect some, however, and it’s something that we need to track. But posting it as a meeting on my Outlook calendar makes people think I’m unavailable, which isn’t the case.

        Basically, whether I’m available or not is not a binary thing. Or at least, changes so much and so unpredictably that if I were to update my Outlook calendar with all the shifts I would do little else in my day.

        Or, another example: I need to keep track of multiple contractors on multiple projects. I need to track who’s where when, to make sure we have enough staff. This shifts pretty frequently. You CAN do that in Outlook, but it’s not built for it. There are Excel templates that work much better, and honestly paper and pencil work best half the time, at least to rough it out.

        As for private things, I suppose it depends on how much you want the company to be aware of. How comfortable are you letting your company know about your kid’s karate tournament? Or your wife’s spa day? How about child care? Given how people reacted to the person asking about a live-in maid I’d NEVER put something like that on Outlook, even privately, but it’s going to affect when I can do certain things. (No, I don’t have a maid; it’s just an example.) Putting the sabbats on Outlook is basically an invitation to a pink slip in many parts of the country (I know there are laws against it, I also know that managers can work around those laws). Sure, the average person can’t see them, but just like email they CAN be seen.

        My point is, there’s a lot that a paper–or at least a personal–planner isn’t a bad thing. All these things affect business plans, but not all of them are amenable to the way Outlook wants your schedule to be built, nor are they things you want on a work calendar. Outlook has a very specific way of looking at schedules. If that works for you that’s fantastic. But it was built by office people and computer people, and it shows. You CAN do work-arounds, but often the time and effort of doing some, compared to the time and effort it takes to get a $5 planner, make the latter the better option.

        Also note that I’m not saying “Outlook is evil!!!” I use it. But I use it for specific things. I use other tools–tools that work better for it–for other things. And this is just my process, one that works for me and that I’ve seen work for others.

    2. OyHiOh*

      I have multiple systems also.

      Outlook Calendar – meetings, “private” unavailable time
      Old school paper month-at-a-glance desk calendar – things I need to see in context that occur over the lifespan of a month or three months at a time (board meetings, when packets go out, when meeting reminders go out, etc)
      Bullet journal type daily entry book – the “gravel” as a poster described it last week – who did I talk with about X, on which day; which day was it that Y and I discussed that issue; etc.

  48. CheeryO*

    For #2, I don’t necessarily agree that it would be harder to transition to public sector work from the tobacco company. In my experience, hiring for public sector positions is very rigid – your degree and experience get you an interview, and interviews are very formulaic. Hiring managers have to defend their choice for hire, so there’s (at least theoretically) not as much room for bias in the hiring process. OP even has a built-in story line: “I put in a couple years to pay off my loans, but it doesn’t sit well with me. My goal is to work in the public sector, and this organization appeals to me because [x, y, and z].”

    Clearly it’s an emotional topic, so I’m sure some hiring teams would find a way not to hire the OP, but I don’t see why the public sector would automatically be more of a challenge.

    1. Jenny*

      This is very true. I work in public interest, our hiring process is very rigid. We would likely get in trouble if we excluded a candidate based on something like this, if their credentials were good.

    2. Joielle*

      Huh. I’m an attorney in the public sector and although we’d probably interview someone with the LW’s resume based on their credentials, I really don’t think we’d hire them (if they take the tobacco job) unless they could speak really convincingly about the reasons they took the tobacco job, what they learned there, why they stayed for the amount of time they did, and why they’re moving on. And “I did it for the money” isn’t going to be a good reason. We all have law school loans but most people who are interested in public service don’t take a morally dubious job to deal with them.

      I think the difference in the public sector – at least in all the hiring I’ve been a part of – is that people do the work because they care about it. It’s not for the money or perks, we don’t have fancy offices or admins or travel budgets. I love my job but it can be pretty thankless. We don’t want to hire someone who’s used to different working conditions and will just leave in a couple of years. If your resume doesn’t show significant public service work after you’ve been practicing for almost a decade, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll be happy making the transition. And “working for a tobacco company” isn’t a protected class, so from my experience, we could certainly decide not to hire someone on the basis that they haven’t demonstrated any interest in public service (and I’ve definitely put people on the “no” pile for that reason before!)

      If you just work at some random law firm, you can probably make up that resume gap with substantial pro bono work… but if you’re working in-house at a tobacco company, it’s going to be almost impossible to do enough charity work to make up for that. You can’t do the opposite of public service and then try to convince a hiring manager that, no, you actually do want to serve the public.

      1. Jenny*

        Ah, I work in public service but it’s very common to leave Biglaw and come to my field because we’re particularly well known for work/life balance and flexibility. So we take people escaping Biglaw all the time.

        1. Joielle*

          Interesting! I think we might do it if it was like, a new associate who got the Biglaw job, spent a year there, and hated it. But probably not someone like the LW who was already a decade in to their career, (theoretically) worked in-house for a tobacco company for a few years, and then was trying to get into public service. But we’ve been burned by that kind of thing a couple times, so maybe my agency is particularly strict about it.

          1. Jenny*

            It’s actually way more likely for the people we hire straight out of law school to jump ship to firms after a few years. It’s not uncommon that they come back. One of my bosses left to go to a firm and then came back. But if people make it through training, they generally stay.

  49. Bookworm*

    #1: Agree. Some people have trouble letting go. Maybe there are reasons why the CEO doesn’t want to move on. But the fact that you’re getting questions (and presumably, so is the CEO!) should be a sign for you to make a move. Either openly contest by talking to the board, or openly job searching (hey, maybe they’ll push out the CEO to keep you) or you’ll find something better.

    #3: Thanks for asking. A good reminder for me. To get moving on some of my applications. XD.

  50. not neurotypical*

    OP 5: Could this be an innocent confusion of intentions rather than a refusal to give you credit at all? You say that your name was not included when publicizing the event, but the names of persons doing back-end work typically are not included in publicity for an event, since this is not relevant information for potential attendees. Ditto for publicity about past events. So, as long as they are willing to do whatever they need to do to verify that you did put in the relevant hours, whether or not your name appears on publicity would seem to be irrelevant. Of course, generous event chairs do make sure to give thanks to the back-end team when introducing or concluding an event, but again, in most cases, it would be odd if they DID list the names of people doing tech support in the advertising for an event.

  51. twocents*

    LW5: A few years ago, my employer recognized people who volunteered for 200+ hours in a year. So for funsies, I used that as motivation to volunteer A LOT. And in doing so, I’ve found that there’s a wide mix of non-profits. There are ones that basically look at you as an unpaid employee, whose time and effort is less valuable precisely because you’re giving it away for free. I quit volunteering for those places. I guarantee you, if you enjoy the work you’ve done, there’s another non-profit out there that can use those skills and won’t treat you like crap in the process.

    And in case anyone cares, I volunteered for places that either have a full day during working hours so I can use my Volunteer Time Off benefit or that ask for no more than 4 hours, preferably closer to 2, during non-work time so that if the organization or activity sucks, it wasn’t that big of a time waster for me. I’m taking this approach, I’ve found 2-3 organizations I still volunteer for on a semi-regular basis. And even one of those, I cut back on significantly after they had a huge reduction in volunteers due to COVID, so they decided to change my role to cover activities I don’t enjoy.

    You can like an organization and feel passionate about a cause, but you shouldn’t use your valuable non-work time to be treated poorly.

    1. Energy Folk*

      Hi Twocents – letter writer here. That is a good point, thanks for bringing that up. I do value my non-work time so it does make sense to respect that time and do what I like. Thanks for the insight :)

    2. OyHiOh*

      Just as an interesting point of reference, the US IRS values volunteer hours as being worth about $21/per hour. Volunteers, and the hours they put in to an organization, are an asset with a calculatable cost per hour. If an organization does not treat you, and your time, as the asset that it is, find somewhere else to put your time.

  52. Boof*

    LW1 definitely sounds like you’re a few years overdue to dust off the resume and see if there are better positions out there. I’m not up on the hierarchy or politics of your particular organization enough to know if the board can force the current CEO out or what the consequences of that are; assuming they can’t, and by the information that the current CEO specifically recruited you to replace them, maybe it’s worth one up-front talk that 1) you came on 7 years ago with a pay cut under the implicit understanding that you would take over within the next few years and 2) if there is no concrete timeline for that transition now you will be looking around for other positions that may have higher pay or more opportunities. Yes it sounds like an ultimatum but try to phrase it and think of it more as mutual planning than trying to force the CEO – either you have a clear plan to take over in a timeline that works for you or your goals are different and you need that information so you can make the right decision for you and the company doesn’t lose you right before they actually transition.
    To be clear if that feels like it will make your life worse, not better, or if you are met with vague statements and no actual timeline, just dust off your resume and leave once you have greener pastures.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Many NPOs have a five year or ten year plan. Have you check to see if yours has one and if yes, what it says?

      I can see keeping the Intended Replacement in place for few years to learn the ropes and watch how things are done, without the pressure of being the CEO. I think that part is good.
      Not nailing down a time line is Not Good.

      As a board member I’d want to have some idea about time frames. I should think the board is paying you with the idea in mind that you will take over at some point- this could mean extra compensation for the efforts on your part. As a board member I would be concerned that money is being shelled out endlessly for something that is not coming to fruition.

      I think that a good board member could shoulder your question- by that I mean make it sound like the board member themselves is asking, not you. My in-road would be, “We have put extra money into [OP] to get them trained to take over for Sally. But Sally is still here, do we have a timeline for Sally’s departure?”
      This would probably trigger a board member agreeing to sit down with Sally and find out what her definite plans are.
      There may be options the board feels they could offer Sally, such as working part time for a while. Or running just a particular project for another year. The board might see different things that we are not even thinking of here.
      What Alison says is key, find a board member you can trust to protect you while you ask.

      Some boards are really bad and there is non-stop bickering. Sometimes these boards are pretty ineffective. If this sounds like yours then your best bet might be just to move on.

  53. tobaccocontrol*

    LW2: I work in the tobacco control field (public health) and am familiar with the tobacco industry’s legal strategy which (even today) is used to try to block passage of beneficial tobacco control measures at local, state, and national levels. Check out the work compiled by independent researchers who research the tobacco industry ( to understand more about what you would be signing up for. I understand the needs for stability and a well-paid job but their are other ways to do that other than selling a deadly product that brings suffering to millions.

  54. MissDisplaced*

    # 2 There is a concern working for such an industry. But I also think it depends on WHAT you do there. It’s a big difference doing legal commercial and transactional work (contracts and such) versus litigation or defense (which are probably outsourced anyway). It depends on your goals afterwards, but I don’t think too many large corporations would care.

  55. Big law*

    LW2 – a couple practical questions. 1) what type of public service are you interested in doing? Would transactional experience be an asset in gettingwhere you want to go? 2) Is a transactional role a good fit for your experience as a litigator?

    Unless I’m misunderstanding your background, you’re not going to be particularly likely to get a purely transactional job with a history as a litigator. So I’m not really sure why you’re considering this role at all. If your question is more general than this one role, then I’ll say that I’m looking at in-house positions and have ruled out applying for positions at employers I don’t approve of or think are a shitshow (including Facebook). Everyone needs to figure out what their limits are. I wish you luck.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It sounds like the LW just wants out of their current situation, and this opportunity… came up? And maybe any in-house corporate life sounds less stressful and better right now?
      We’ve all been there.

  56. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Sounds like the time to move on has more than come around. It may be inconvenient to the organization, but that doesn’t seem like it should be the concern at this point. The other part is – was OP 1 actually guaranteed the CEO job when the current one leaves? Or would they open a search for a new CEO? that also seems possible.

    #2 – I worked very briefly for a tobacco company that was part of a larger conglomerate. I learned the company in question was a) a major food producer; b) a major farming entity; and c) a major researcher in farming techniques and conservation. It wasn’t at all what I expected to learn, and I felt better about my choice. That said, there are probably plenty of other in-house-type jobs out there, and if you’re hesitant about the tobacco job, don’t apply.

    #4 – I worked at an org that had a shared calendar. Everyone was expected to use it. But the big boss(es) didn’t, which led to a) scheduling things for/with them when they weren’t available (and getting yelled at for not being clairvoyant enough to know they weren’t available); b) not knowing where they were. One of them periodically took whole days off and when people would say “It’s not on your calendar” he’d point to his temple and say, “It’s up here.” Don’t be that guy. Share your calendar.

    1. pancakes*

      The things you list as pluses for #2 are all the same things multinationals point to when charged with child labor violations. The fact that they have other product lines that don’t rely on child labor doesn’t improve those children’s lives, and isn’t a defense to using child labor at all.

  57. Academic librarian*

    LW4 – you’re the faculty member everyone is hoping retires soon. I’ve worked in academia for 15 years. We’ve always used calendar invites. Plus meetings get re-scheduled, cancelled, conference room changes. How do you know when that happens?

    1. Managing In*

      That’s really unnecessarily harsh. Based on OP #4’s comments, they’re not an outlier or a major-problem-causer in their department. They’ve also been gracious in the comments. “I’ve worked in academia for 15 years. We’ve always used calendar invites.” =/= “I’ve worked in every academic setting and institution that exists. My experience can be universally applied to everyone. I know everything about OP #4’s situation.”

      1. RoseBud*

        It may seem harsh, but based on my experience in academia, that is what literally every administrative person who has to deal with this type of thing has said.

        1. Elizabeth*

          I have no doubt that this is true. But, of course—and this is not a great thing about academia—whether the admin people find LW4 frustrating is likely very, very low on the list of metrics his university cares about regarding how well he’s doing his job.

          1. Forrest*

            That’s almost certainly true, but in my experience the venn diagram of “academics who use Outlook” and “academics who care about the metrics their institution uses to judge how well they are doing their job” is *extremely* slim!

        2. Managing In*

          You don’t have to tell someone who wrote into an advice column and is engaging with comments in good faith & un-defensively (as far as I have seen) that everyone wishes they would retire. You can be direct and constructive without being unkind.

  58. LGC*

    LW5: I’ll be honest – I’m less concerned about your direct situation than the way you presented it – that you need to be publicly credited to get points to remain in the organization. That just seems…like a really high bar to me.

    But also…I’m just curious, does your name need to be published for this event for you to get credit? Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely hate the fact that she called you “just an admin for this event,” but…it does sound like you’re in a support role. So, it might not be that the event itself has to publicly acknowledge you as a host – your role might just need to be acknowledged within the organization. (Or in short: She’s a jerk, but you might not need to go through her.)

    On the other hand, if I’m wrong about this (which I very well might be), and you need to be publicly credited to get points, then – woof. That just sounds fairly dysfunctional (and yes, I know, academia for example), and I’d lean towards leaving this organization unless it’s that important to you. In that, I mean – this is a professional organization, and even then I feel a bit icky making that rec.

    1. Joielle*

      Yeah, I was also a little confused by the emphasis on having the LW’s name published as part of the event. I’ve organized plenty of events (like continuing education sessions with panels or speakers) and the only people “credited” on the advertising for the event are the moderator, panelists, keynote speaker, etc. Not the person setting up the meeting, ordering lunches, sending out Zoom invites, or whatever. It is a lot of work but it’s behind the scenes.

      If public credit is needed for the “points” then that’s a pretty messed up system. I’ve never heard of anything like that.

      1. LGC*

        To be honest (and yes, to get into Advice Column Fanfic territory), my hunch was that LW5 might have misunderstood the requirements precisely because the way they presented it sounds so unusual! And I suspect that’s why the chairperson doesn’t think they need to give LW5 public credit – although the way they expressed that dismissed LW5’s role. So even in that case, it’s a bit of a mess, although it’s less “leave this dumpster fire of an organization” and more “do you want to work with this chairperson”.

  59. Observer*

    #4- Perhaps you should learn a bit about the tools before making a decision.

    You are neither the first nor the only one who does a lot of their work outside of formal meetings, and who needs to protect their time. That probably includes a lot of the people who send you those invites.

    Which is to say that if your issue really is the pragmatics of not letting your schedule be swamped with unnecessary or intrusive meetings, you can easily use your calendar to make that happen. And you have absolutely no need to share private information in the process.

    As for the MS analytics piece, that’s largely been rolled back. In any case, that’s really a matter of how your organization deploys the ENTIRE office suite. Just putting your schedule on the calendar actually does not really feed into that analytics. If you have reason to believe that your company might be using this, have a talk with your administration – and if they ARE actually trying to do this, I would absolutely push back and encourage you to talk to others to push back with you. But the calendar is not the the problem here.

  60. theletter*

    I’m more than a little concerned about a volunteer organization that makes you earn points. Some organizations can create toxic environments for their volunteers. You might gain more happiness/karma points volunteering for an org that just lets you shine rather than having volunteers run around competing for points.

    1. Metadata minion*

      It sounds like you need the points for membership, and while I don’t think I’ve seen it framed specifically as “points” before, doing volunteer work in exchange for membership is pretty common.

  61. Database Developer Dude*

    #1 and #5 are both needing to bounce. They’re being used, not utilized. Both employers suck, and #5’s sucks more, because it’s a volunteer position.

    #1 needs to give adequate notice, but #5 needs to just stop coming. Leave those bammas hanging, because they don’t deserve it.

  62. LGC*

    LW4: I’ll be honest, your concerns are valid…but the messaging might need work? Depending on how senior you are, you might want to point out that you have those concerns.

    But honestly, like…it really depends on how senior you are and how often you push back on decisions. (And how independent you generally are – if you don’t work closely with others, it might be easier to opt out.)

    That said – I honestly wish my job would use Outlook calendars a bit more! It’d make my job that much easier. Right now, the office I’m in uses a spreadsheet on a shared drive that’s formatted like a calendar. In my previous office, coworkers would take days off and I wouldn’t know they were out until I called them and found they’d taken the week off or my boss told me. My boss sends emails every time she moves to a different office. It’s…a bit overwhelming for me.

  63. Spicy Tuna*

    LW#1 – move on. You don’t owe them anything. You were brought on as a successor and the role hasn’t opened up. If the board isn’t happy with the pace of succession, they need to address it. It’s not your problem.

    LW#2 – a good yardstick in deciding to work for a company or in a particular industry is whether or not you would utilize that company’s product or service. Years ago, I was looking for a new job. The HQ for an international fast food chain is located in my city, and they had several interesting and appropriate jobs for my skill set. However, I ultimately decided that as a vegetarian, I couldn’t in good faith work for them. As a side note, my boss at the company I eventually joined had previously worked at the fast food HQ and he said a big perk (for him) was the opportunity to taste test new menu offerings at their food lab. UGH, no thanks!

  64. RoseBud*

    LW4: I work for an administrative department at a large university, and one of my previous duties in my first role here involved lots and lots of scheduling. Unfortunately, many academics tend to have Thoughts and Concerns about using the university calendar, and academia culture is such that this is not often challenged.

    It is the most frustrating and inefficient thing in the world to have to hunt some rogue person down to schedule a meeting, particularly since there is a large overlap in those who won’t use their calendars and those who rarely check email. There are often 10+ people on a meeting, and virtual calendaring is a godsend. Just… do it. You don’t have to add things to your personal calendar and you can easily mark large blocks of time as “busy” to protect your time, as you say. You’re making everyone else’s job harder who has to cater to your unwillingness to adapt to the way things are now done.

  65. Probably not tobacco*

    OP2, I think tobacco specifically will harm you because of the broad negative perception (well earned!). If your main concern is a job that won’t hold you back from public service aspirations, not ethically dubious behavior, then you could go in-house a lot of other places. I don’t even think alcohol or manufacturers of highly processed foods (which also cause negative health outcomes and use similar marketing and lobbying tactics as tobacco) will even hold you back or get your application the side-eye like tobacco will. Still ethically dubious, but without the same public perception baggage.

  66. cosmicgorilla*

    I’m not sure I understand the resistance to using the calendar widget. What is the alternative, sending a separate email or making a phone call to accept or decline the meeting?

    Use the widget to accept the meeting if you’re free and if it’s a meeting you should attend. Yes, it will add it to the Microsoft calendar. You are then responsible for adding it manually to whatever calendar system you use on a daily basis.

    Use the widget to decline the meeting if you’re not free or if it’s a meeting you don’t think you should attend.

    Not using the widget seems like more work to me.

  67. Elizabeth*

    All the people responding to #4 who aren’t academics should know that our workplaces really are VERY different. At research-focused universities in most disciplines, there is no expectation that we will be generally available without plenty of advanced notice. We control our own schedules to an extraordinary degree relative to most workers.

    1. cosmicgorilla*

      How precisely does using the calendar widget not allow you to control your own calendar? It doesn’t obligate you to accept the meeting. Receiving an invitation does not mean you have to go to the meeting. I decline meetings all the time.

      1. Elizabeth*

        Many meeting requests I get are not for large meetings but one or two people wanting a favor from me. I triage those requests. I do not wish to create any presumption of availability for the ones I want to decline (it’s good to be able to beg off that, sorry, I can’t fit it in), nor do I want to indicate complete lack of availability to the meetings I wish to take. Listen to the faculty in the thread about how our jobs are different from yours.

        1. Elizabeth*

          A thought experiment for those who find LW4’s feelings incomprehensible: if they were a freelancer, would you feel the same way?

          1. Casper Lives*

            Yes I would. It’s probably my field (law), where we schedule court appearances, client meetings, office meetings, corporate meetings (I’m in-house), and also have to set aside general time to work cases (research, writing, reviewing documents from other parties, etc), AND sometimes have to block off my calendar for an urgent matter.

            I use freelance mediators. They have calendars open for scheduling mediations and see what appointments are available. If I had to email the mediator every time to see if they could take my case at such time, I’d never use them. They can still decline to take my case for any reason once I select the appointment slot and request it.

            I’ll be honest. I’ve got 3 academics in my family that I love and regularly talk to. The two that had jobs outside academia first are more open to embracing tools like calendars. One has tenure and one is on track. The 3rd who’s only worked in academia has tenure and complains about things like calendars as an affront to his job or whatever. It’s all precious to me from the outside.

          2. Caramel & Cheddar*

            No, but that’s because we have much different workplace norms for people who work within our organizations vs those who don’t.

            1. Elizabeth*

              That’s what I’m finding fascinating in this discussion. I’m faculty at a research university and in many ways I FEEL like a freelancer, though in plenty of other ways I do not. This thread has helped me to articulate that, and I think it’s actually a key part of the disconnect here.

          3. Kevin Sours*

            Absolutely. Emailing a request for a meeting and then issuing the invite once the meeting is agreed to is just extra busy work. You can follow the same “hash it out via email” process using meeting requests (which are basically an email anyway).

            And being able to block out time you are busy cuts down on meeting requests you’ll need to peremptorily decline. Once you get the hang of it it reduce the time you spend figuring out meetings.

            Note that public calendar doesn’t typically mean that people can see what you are doing. Just if you are busy/available at a given time.

        2. Observer*

          You are spending waaaay too much time in your own head. Or you are seriously underestimating the intelligence of the people who are emailing you.

          Declining a meeting that someone sent you for a time that was not blocked on your schedule. True, some people will follow up with another suggested time. In which case you can simply either keep declining or you can respond with a note in the response saying “Sorry, I’m not going to have time for this” (or the equivalent), or you can email them back with a similar comment.

          Having a relatively public calendar does not obligate you to anything, nor does it create presumptions. All it does it let people who have reason to invite you to meetings know which times are more likely to be appropriate than others. I’m not sure what is supposed to be so special about academia that this is supposed to be a bad thing.

          1. Elizabeth*

            Just as an example, I’m teaching 200 college students right now. Teaching is less than half of my job. A huge complication of my job is how to simultaneously not be overly available to students I can’t be overly available to, while also signaling lots of availability to students who really need attention and may be loath to ask for it. Imagining the people asking me for meetings as versions of yourself might not really capture the dynamic.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Sure but I think at least part of the puzzlement is, #4 mentioned they usually schedule via email. Functionally someone sending an email that says “would you come to this thing on DATE?” and LW emailing back “yes I will attend” or “no, I must decline” plus or minus more detail in the email, is not particularly different than clicking the “accept” or “decline” or “tentative” button plus or minus adding an extra note as desired. The letter as written sounds like the objection is to the use of the “invite” rather than just plain text. The former is objectively less effort for the person responding, and gets the response to the sender in a way that’s more useful for them. You can still decline absolutely everything if desired, and you get to by pushing a single button instead of having to write anything out. It’s win-win.
      I admit I’m not an academic, and I’m also puzzled by the resistance because when I attended university 20 years ago, calendar invites were a thing. It wasn’t Outlook, but it existed in the email system the school used. Student to student. Prof to students. I get that it’s “new” or out of the norm at the university in the letter, but it has existed for so long, and does not change one’s ability to manage one’s own schedule. It creates a shorter route to doing so.

      1. Elizabeth*

        It truly does feel different to many of us, including me, to get an out of the blue calendar invite without first being asked if we’re available at all for the task at hand. It feels presumptuous! I use calendar invites too, but only after emails establishing that we do all want to have the meeting, and my calendar is private.

    3. Observer*

      At research-focused universities in most disciplines, there is no expectation that we will be generally available without plenty of advanced notice. We control our own schedules to an extraordinary degree relative to most workers.

      Which has nothing to do with the primary point. The issue is not whether the OP needs to be available. The issue is whether it’s reasonable to keep your schedule a secret so that people do not know if you are available. Very different thing.

      If the OP said something like “I get annoyed at people who try to schedule meetings for the next day even though I tend to be scheduled out for months at a time” I would just say that if their role allows them to decline those meetings then go ahead and decline. And if their role is such that it’s normal for them to have their schedule booked up weeks or months in advance, then I’d hope that Alison would provide on of her great scripts for pushing back on the people who try to schedule those last minute schedules.

      But that’s not the issue here. The issue is that the OP doesn’t want to let anyone know what their schedule is.

      1. yllis*


        And if someone is _purely_ academic and a researcher with no other interaction with their dept or university then maybe I can see that. But all the faculty where I work are on committees for things like accreditation, curriculum, college council, search for faculty, student disciplinary, review boards, and just many other places that need to schedule meetings with them. And it usually falls to an admin assistant or office manager to find the times they all can meet.

        So it feels like a high level, high paid faculty member is telling the lowly office peon that they don’t care to do a minimum of work (blocking off the times in the calendar) to save lots of back and forth work. And pretty much reinforces the belief among the office peons that faculty really doesnt care about us.

      2. Elizabeth*

        But *my* point is that part of the unusual freedom faculty exercise is a great deal of autonomy to decide which meetings to be available for or not. I don’t have a binary status of available or unavailable for most time slots—it depends on who’s asking for what. That’s why it’s hard to advertise a public status. (My colleagues who can do that more easily are senior men who get much less pushback or judgment for saying no to things.)

        The point yllis and others are making about the impact on staff is