open thread – March 19-20, 2021

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

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

{ 1,142 comments… read them below }

  1. New Mom*

    For Americans on here who spend part-time or full-time in another country but work for an American company (either contract or FT), what advice would you give for others wanting to do the same?

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Hi! American here, just switching over to a German company after freelancing for an American one from here in Germany.

      First, be sure of your visa requirements! Some countries like Croatia are super awesome about their visa statuses for remote workers.

      Others like Germany, for example, are more picky. You can’t just come on a tourist visa and keep staying long term working from the U.S. You will need to provide evidence of income for residency and visa. They might have some visa specific to remote workers where you plan to go though. I’m here on a marriage visa so it doesn’t quite apply to me, but as I’m switching to a German company, the government can audit my home office to here per my contract, especially if I’m deducting anything on my German taxes.

      I can’t emphasize enough that you need to figure out tax obligations ahead of time. You could be liable in both countries or just one. Does your company have an office in that country or are you remote working? You may need to notify your company so they don’t get in trouble (Alison has discussed business nexus before, it’s useful to google). When paying your taxes stateside, you’ll need to declare any foreign accounts and income, and all banks abroad will ask for your US social security number as they are obligated to turn over any financial records to the US of it’s citizens if asked.

      I don’t know the dual tax thresholds off the top of my head though, so you might want to check that.

      Which country will you be working from? (I’ve worked from several and am happy to answer any questions!) Happy travels!

      1. Vie En Rose*

        I’m not the OP but have you ever worked in France? Pre-Covid I was wondering what it would take to relocate to Paris (where I have family) while freelancing remotely for what I assume would be US-based jobs (I’m a graphic designer). I couldn’t even figure out where to start with this. Sorry OP I hope this isn’t a derail of your question.

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Steps:
          1. Check out French visa requirements.
          1a. Also, the cost of living in Paris is astronomical compared to most places in the US.
          I imagine for a visa you would have to provide proof of a steady income (unless you live with your family there?), so I don’t know how the freelancing thing would fit in, unless they only require proof of a minimum bank account balance as they do in some countries. Or, unless your family could sponsor you.
          2. Check other visa requirements, many require learning the language so be willing to learn is key. :) Best of luck!

        2. Freeatlast*

          Living in France may sound like a dream, but you should note that in a recent poll, only 36% of the French polled would get the COVID vaccine if it was safe and free.

        1. Anecdatally*

          Are you thinking something more like remote work (and you’re moving primarily because you want to live in country X), or something more like “I work for a US company at their Istanbul office, because that’s where my job is”?

          1. New Mom*

            Remote work, either for a few weeks/months at a time OR remote full-time for an extended period of time.

        2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          The most recent thing I’ve found from the UK government (because I’ve not had to get a visa for the UK since before Brexit) is the RDR3 Statutory Residence Test (just google it and click the link from the gov. uk site) which can help you determine the length of time you can work for an American company just paying American taxes. Hope this helps!

    2. Engineer Woman*

      I would look not solely at “wanting to work in another country” but are you able to? Are you looking to work for an American company in another country as a local employee or as an expat? If the former: can you legally work in that country? Are you already a resident of that country or would you require a work-visa?

      I would also suggest you take a hard look, as others have said, at the tax situation. The first $X (adjusts yearly) of foreign income can be exempt from US taxes but amount over that threshold are subject to US taxes. Is it worth it to work in net pay to work there (taking into account the other costs of living)?

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Yup! This is the business nexus situation. Even as a freelancer, you need to check with an accountant used to working with ex-pats :)

    3. Purple Penguin*

      My biggest advice is triple check that your “right to remain”/visas and taxes are good to go. Ditto with retirement, investments, health insurance and FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act – if you’re a US citizen) obligations.

      Anther bit of advice is to ignore anyone who tells you to “just go” and work it out from there. There’s sometimes a cultural imagination that one can “just” move to another country to work (I’m thinking Emily in Paris or Under the Tuscan Sun as examples) but the reality is often far more complicated, even for those with dual nationality or whose company sponsors them to be in another country. I know of a few Americans and Australians who have been barred from re-entering a country due to overstaying tourist or other visas or who were found to be working when they didn’t have the right to be doing so.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Here to second this advice. Purple Penguin is spot on. Many Americans think moving abroad is like moving states, and you can just move and figure it out. Countries DO keep lists of who abides by visa regulations, and they DO check, from the moment you land. You have to explain why you’re there, and if you get to Charles de Gaulle and say, “Oh I’m here to work remotely”, they will ask for the corresponding visa. Living and working abroad CAN be done, but do all your homework first.

        Schengen zone countries (Germany, for example), are pretty generous with their 90 day tourist visas, but if you’re caught trying to find a job on the German market while on that tourist visa, you can get sent home. Additionally, you have to register with your local city when you start renting an apartment, and un-register when you leave, and you could face steep fines for not doing so (I know from personal experience). You have to show a visa to register, so it does matter.

        Additionally, and I want to throw this out here because I was affected, and I am in no way insinuating anyone here would do this, but just as information: Americans who come and try and don’t follow the rules really hurt the rest of us ex-pats abroad. For example: I can’t get a phone contract with most companies because many Americans have started contracts, gotten expensive phones, and then just took the phone back to America after a few payments, knowing Vodafone wouldn’t hunt them down in their home country.

      2. Semi-Anon for Identifying Details*

        Definitely do not “just go”! That’s a great way to end up deported and banned from country, and yes, I too know people who have had this happen, even without the work part, simply by overstaying a tourist visa.

        Think of it this way – if you’re living/working in a country without the correct visas and permissions, you are an illegal immigrant. Go off and read some news about how illegal immigrants are regarded in the US to get an idea of the potential consequences if you ignore the rules.

        You need permission from your own employer (tax/legal considerations), and you need a visa that permits you to live and work in the target country. Every country has its own rules, and the rules can vary depending on where you are from. If you’re doing this officially through work (posted there by your company, hired by a local company familiar with the process) it’s much easier and they can provide a lot of help, if you’re doing it spontaneously you’re going to need to hire a lawyer and probably an accountant with the relevant expertise, to figure out what you need before you go. This is complicated stuff and it’s not a good idea to wing it.

        Other things to consider – if you’re not an official resident, with a valid visa, you likely can’t rent an apartment, open a local bank account, get a cell phone plan, get utilities in your own name, get a local driver’s license, get car insurance, get health insurance. Places check, and they want a proper ID, not just a passport. I had to wait on all those things until I had my official ID card, moving abroad to work for a foreign institute.

        Both countries I’ve worked in required me to register my address with the government, and inform them if I moved (so couch surfing/AirBnBs are not an option). In the US (J1) I needed proof of medical and repatriation insurance, in Taiwan I am eligible for government health insurance as a local employee. In Taiwan, visas for work are restricted to particular types of jobs, while residency visas without local employment are mostly only for people married to citizens or the primary visa holder (plus student visas, which require registry in a valid program and proof of financial solvency). Being married to a primary visa holder gets you residency, but not a work permit. The only other path I know for non-employed residency visa is specifically for highly skilled people – PhD scientists, entrepreneurs, etc – and is pretty new and limited.

        I don’t know about the US, but if you’re Canadian and you live out of the country for more than half the year, you can lose eligibility for health insurance, as the national insurance has a residency requirement. So you couldn’t fly back to Canada for covered medical work. In that case, if you’re not eligible for insurance in your target country, you’d need to get special expat insurance.

        Oh, and a quick note – many countries stamp your passport on entry and exit, unlike the US. So you might be okay in the country, and then get caught for overstaying as you leave. They probably won’t detain you, but you can easily be denied re-entry. The fact that you have a bunch of possessions and a residence in the country doesn’t matter – there’s not a “go back and get my stuff first” exemption.

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          The ID issue is a good point, Semi-anon! You’ll definitely need a local ID in most places. And the passport stamping as well even in countries where you could potentially enter one, like Germany, and leave by a border one. I had to provide plane tickets and scanned copies of my passport pages of where I left Europe when I wanted to re-enter Germany, because they had thought I overstayed my visa. Fortunately, by always keeping emails that was easy enough. I had to show them my passport was stamped when I left through Spain.

    4. StellaBella*

      Some of the larger firms like Microsoft, Procter and Gamble, Google etc in Europe help employees with the tax stuff, but not sure on the short term work. All the advice here on visas, right to remain, taxes, and living expenses – also finding apartments (AirBNB is being really restricted in a lot of countries) all take time and may require a lot of papers if done legally. For my place, I live in Europe, for an apartment I needed to give 3 months of pay slips, passport, work/residence visa, letter of support from employer, evidence of insurance for apartment (that I had contacted an insurance firm for a quote), and evidence of no criminal records. Ask your HR team if a global transfer is possible and what help they would give to do this. Also if you speak the local language that helps a lot. Taxes in the new country can be a bear to figure out, too so making sure you pay your taxes on time and properly is super important too. Also, when I moved to the UK for a 2 year period I had to get a 400£ visa, to go as a student, and provide evidence of money to live there, etc etc … the visa costs can be high, esp if for a short period of time but a work visa is needed to be legal. A 90 day tourist thing with working and ignoring it all is not a smart move to make. Also 90 days is the visa limit in a lot of Europe and is the total between the Schengen countries, note.

      1. Wandering*

        And as to languages, expectations for learning & competence in new-to-you languages is very different in Europe than n the US. One friend accepted a position in another country. They provided 10 days of intensive language training & then sent her to her office. She was expected to be business competent in the language, & was the new boss in that office.

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Hahahahahaha oh boy, 10 days to be business fluent?! I mean, if she already spoke Spanish and needed to learn Italian, MAYBE functionally that could work. But wow, this is hilarious!

      2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        I’ve been in Europe for years (lol on the right visas) and never even realized the 90 day was a group total between countries! I learned something new! The insurance information is VERY accurate, many places require evidence of existing health insurance before they let you on their country’s plan.

    5. Edamame*

      Oh it me!

      I did it the other way around–I was living abroad as an expat and happened to get hired by an American company at the branch in my current country. Here are my thoughts:

      – yes visa stuff! This stuff is no joke and make sure your visa stuff is squared away. The process will make you more sympathetic to immigrants and green card holders in the US.

      – echoing what everyone else has said about tax stuff. The US is uniquely cruel to its (non-military) expats in this regard. Many people give up their US citizenship over it. You have to file every year regardless and give your SS# to local banks so they can be compliant with the IRS.

      – investing is also very hard. As an American you can’t invest in companies that aren’t on the US stock market, which means you basically can’t use any investment programs for locals. I have found one fiduciary willing to help me, most local financial people won’t work with Americans unless you’re very wealthy because of the extra hassle.

      – voting abroad is relatively easy, basically you follow the same procedures as military. One of the good things about having military presence around the world I guess.

      – if your country of choice does not have English as its official language, LEARN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE. I cannot stress this enough. English speakers are fortunate that we can go anywhere in the world and expect to be catered to. But it is not only disrespectful to make no effort, it will actually impede your success in work and acculturation. Learning about the local language and culture is the most important thing IMO.

      – as a foreigner coming in and getting settled, your coworkers will be doing a lot of above-and-beyond work to help acclimate you. They might help you find furniture, drive you places, help you open a bank account, translate for you at the supermarket, make sure you know what you need to know… Just acknowledge that and show gratitude!

      – everything else really depends on what country you work in and your nationality, honestly. It may be an “American company” but that doesn’t mean you will be primarily working with Americans at your office (I’m the only American at mine). Local working culture may be very different from what you are used to, it might be a diverse mix of people from all over the world, it might be a US enclave. If you are a citizen/descended from locals, then you may be treated like “just another local worker”, if you are not/visibly foreign you may be treated as an “eternal guest”.

      Other countries have the same issues with racism, sexism, xenophobia, overwork, awkward coworker interactions, and so on as the US. So you will need to do the same prep and investigation as anywhere else. Working abroad is a super fun experience and I recommend it to everyone!

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        I love everything about this post, Edamame! Can I ask which country you’re working in? I never considered the investment aspect, but I suppose we could do that through my German husband. And yes, I am so grateful voting is SO easy!

  2. Sunflower*

    What’s a normal level to hate your job/working? How many days do you think ‘wow I hate this’? Is it possible to have a job where you’re not just counting down the minutes until the weekend?

    I’m in a job right now that I know isn’t good for me– it’s not toxic but it’s in a very high stress industry and the actual job is not a right fit for my skills (I feel like the LW a few weeks ago in the project management job who isn’t organized!) and I don’t align with the company’s culture and values (nothing ethical, think ‘they prioritize making pretty PPTs vs executing deliverables’)

    I’m looking but I’m in such BEC with my current job that the littlest nuances set me off. My Sunday Scaries have gotten as bad as to start on Thursday nights sometimes. Social media has made it hard to tell what is normal to feel about work. I see so many memes about hating work and I think ‘is it like this for everyone? Is this just it’.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Ideally you shouldn’t hate your job. You don’t have to love it, and it’s super normal to look forward to the weekend, but it sounds like you don’t like your job and it’s not a good fit – why not look elsewhere? You don’t have to hate your job in order to feel justified in searching for a new one. Give yourself permission to see what else is out there!

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I like my job but even in jobs I like less I didn’t think constantly about how much I hated them. They were boring, or had a lot of stupid rules, or customers were sometimes awful, but it wasn’t paralyzing.

    3. athiker10*

      I don’t hate my job! I was burned out in my last role at my current org, but switched to a new one and am much more engaged. I don’t agree with everything and I think certain people need to have some more people skills coaching. Given the choice between early retirement from magical money and continuing to work for them, I’d probably take early retirement, but might decide to work part time or something. I don’t buy into the idea that we have to love our job. I think striving to be challenged to grow in a job and a place where my values are somewhat aligned is the most I really ask for. (I still dread Mondays, but I probably always will)

    4. ThatGirl*

      I have never truly hated my job, although I’ve certainly had bad/frustrating days. I tend to be a pragmatic optimist, though. I think some of it is just personality, but that if you have more than the very occasional day when you flat out hate your job, it’s beyond time to look for a new one.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      I don’t think that level of hatred is normal. I’ve only had that for a short time at a few jobs, and either it got better quickly or I left the job. Ordinary frustration, day to day annoyances, short periods of intensity and difficulty — all normal, but truly hating everything is a sign (to me) that it’s time to move on.

    6. blink14*

      Yes, it is possible! My prior job had a horrible workplace environment and I would literally count down the hours every day and absolutely dread going to work every morning.

      My current job, while it has its trials and difficulties, is a much better work environment for me, both in the office and working remotely. The benefits and pay are also much better than my prior job (especially the paid time off), and it’s a much larger organization.

      It sounds like maybe both the job and the industry aren’t the right fit for you. It can be better!

    7. Jellyfish*

      It probably varies a lot by person & job.

      I had one job that I hated with everything in me. That was a very miserable few years, and I would not recommend it. My work misery bled into other parts of my life, and it was a bad deal.

      I’ve had several jobs that were okay. I didn’t love them, I preferred my time outside of work, but they weren’t awful either. They paid enough that I could enjoy other parts of my life, and that was sufficient.

      One job, I absolutely loved. I enjoyed the work I did, our mission was important, and I adored my coworkers. That job didn’t pay enough to be sustainable though, and I spent most of my time there worried about money.

      Now, I have a job that isn’t perfect, but I enjoy a lot more about it than I dislike. Of course I still look forward to weekends (or at least I will when I get vaccinated…), but I don’t dread Mondays or hate every minute on the clock.

      You don’t have to hate work. There are jobs and company cultures that aren’t miserable and toxic. Best of luck in finding a place that’s a better fit!

    8. Sled dog mama*

      I love my current job! But I will still occasionally think “X sucks” maybe once a month. I have learned to separate out I hate this part of my job from I hate my job.
      My previous job I hated so many aspects of it that it tipped into hating the job. If it’s just one thing (that isn’t a core part of the job) maybe you can fix it or get permission to pass that to someone else.
      For me I’m doing the exact same job in a smaller business with people who value work life balance more than my old job and respect that I know my job well and do it well.

    9. Emilitron*

      No, it does not have to be like this! The thing that made me start a job search was when I realized I was dreading my old job so much that I would spend my commute fantasizing about driving off the road, that the ER would be preferable to the office. I now have a job I like, and the worst days now are just “ok let’s get this over with” but even that level of dissatisfaction usually doesn’t last a whole week. There are meetings I look forward to, and meetings I know will be dullsville, but no sense of dread that invades my sleep the night before. You can find something better. I’m glad you’re looking. It will be better elsewhere!

      1. Renee Remains the Same*

        I also had ER fantasies… mine were along the lines of breaking my leg and ending up in traction at the hospital. Anything that would give me a break, a rest, and the ability to beg off work for a month or more. To be honest I have always been in the wrong profession, but was competent so continued down the career path. It’s led to sliding scales of acceptance. Some companies I worked for were better than others, which made it easier…. but after 2 decades of a career that never fit my personal or professional aspirations, I have to recommend trying for something different/better. It doesn’t have to be your dream job and you don’t have to love it, but I think if you feel confident in the work you do, you’ll feel better about the crappy parts of the job.

        1. Been There Done That*

          oh my goodness. Me to! I thought I was the only one who thought that way. That is when I knew it was time for me to leave!

    10. Person from the Resume*

      Hard to tell. I think if you have “Sunday Scaries” it’s time for a change and if they’re creeping in ON THURSDAYs you’re past time for a change.

      Is it the difference between “I wish I had another day off” and “I dread going to work tomorrow”? I think dread is a bad sign. IMO “I’d prefer not to have to work” is baseline normal. Almost no one would do their job for free. And “I’d prefer more vacation days” is baseline normal for Americans. I think the 40 hour week is more than we should have to work.

      I’m a Project Manager. I got stuck with a problem project where maybe I contributed to some of the problems but there was a definite problem with the contractors. I was entirely emmeshed and wouldn’t really see the way out except to keep trying. (Probably completely bought into the sunk cost fallacy even though I understand the fallacy.) I burned out, got depressed, got paralyzed by my inability to do certain tasks, got a lot of freedom but little help from my management. I did eventually ask for help and leave the problem project after getting the problem contractor wrapped up. I felt guilty about leaving it unfinished, but I needed to get out and am much happier working for the same organization on an entirely different project where I am not the lone PM so I have more support. And the contractors are great too. We’re having success although there’s always risks and surprises and delays.

      Long story short, it’s hard to know when to leave but you sound like you need to leave. Unlike myself, you need to leave your company for it to get better. But it can get better.

      1. Paris Geller*

        I agree with this. I like my job, but I still count down to the weekend because. . . well, I’d rather not work than work. But I don’t dread going to my job Sunday nights, there are things about my job that inspire and excite me, and even the worst parts of it are tolerable. I have had jobs I hated and that made me anxious, depressed, and sick to my stomach–and once you start feeling that way, it’s time to get out. For you, it sounds like it’s time to get out of this job. Maybe you’ll never have a job you LOVE, but you can definitely have a job you tolerate and that doesn’t give you Sunday blues by Thursday!!

        1. Just Another HR Pro*

          I concur with your comment, but that’s not why I am replying.

          Can I just say that Paris Gellar was the best character on GG? So – awesome screen name!

          1. Paris Geller*

            Agreed! Gilmore Girls is my all-time favorite show and the older I get, the more I love Paris. She’s not someone I would want as a coworker but does she get things done!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        If you are dreading going back to work on Monday and you haven’t even left the work week yet- this job is over.

        I don’t love my current job. But there are many things about it that I am grateful for. Sunday, or any other day, isn’t loaded with dread. I am not excited about getting extra rest and prepping for work, but I think it’s a pretty normal reaction. There are points during the day where I get a feeling of success with my own tasks and every so often I feel a “yippee, NAILED IT” type of thing. I work with good people who I am happy to see every day. But I don’t *love* my job, I am grateful for the job though. I’ve been doing it for 9 years and have no plan on leaving.

    11. Campfire Raccoon*

      When you get to the point you’re asking yourself this question, it’s time to leave.

    12. New Mom*

      If you really hate your job and you don’t see a future for yourself there, then it’s time to start looking. Similar to dating, if you were not really into your current partner and knew it wouldn’t last, would you stay with them when you could find someone better suited?

      Of the jobs that I’ve had there was only one that I really hated, it was a really stressful environment (crying on my lunch break) but I had wanted to keep that job until I went to graduate school. So I knew I wouldn’t be staying or ever trying to return. I was unhappy about 85%-100% of the day and dreaded work and had Sunday Scaries. Then it sort of hit me one day that though I would have less money saved for graduate school if I left a few months before grad school started, I was so unhappy there that it just wasn’t worth it. I was able to make that decision because I was living with my parents before my big move.

      I’ve definitely had frustrating weeks at my current job, but never the day-in-and-day-out dread, stress and feeling of failure I had at that old job. While I don’t think everyone will love their job, the good should outweigh the bad.

      1. t*

        Same here. I love what I do, but there are those days when I don’t like certain things, yet I don’t have anything remotely close to Sunday Scaries.

        OP, is it possible for you to create an exit plan, stick to it, and think of it whenever you feel anxious about your current job? Creating a next horizon has always helped me cope with circumstances I loathed.

    13. Cascadia*

      On the whole I like my job, I might even say I love my job, as much as one can love a job. Sure, there are parts that are a pain, or stressful, or boring, or annoying – but there are other parts that are fulfilling, fun, engaging, and satisfying. On the whole, work is work – would I rather be on vacation? sure, who wouldn’t? But I don’t dread going to work most days, I feel satisfied at the end of most work days, and I have enough time, money, and balance to do my hobbies/life my life when I’m not working. I don’t think it’s normal to vehemently hate your job and I want you to know that it’s possible to like your job.

    14. Lucy McGillicuddy*

      I used to hate my job just like you described – I found a new job (it took awhile!) and have been here for a year and still enjoy it. Some days I have meetings I’m not looking forward to but the worst days here are nowhere near my old job. I don’t even dread Mondays anymore. There’s hope!

    15. pcake*

      I don’t hate my job – usually I like it, as it offers me a great deal of autonomy and plays to my skills. There are times when it’s frustrating, but that’s true of anything.

    16. meyer lemon*

      I think that if you’re spending the weekend dreading the work week, and if you’re spending the majority of the day waiting for it to be over, you could do better. I’ve had a couple of jobs in the past where I found myself counting down the minutes practically as soon as I started every day. Those were both jobs that in retrospect, I wish I had quit long before I did.

    17. MissDisplaced*

      Even jobs you generally like have ups and downs and dreaded tasks, times or activities. And even if you like the work you do, it’s fairly normal to still feel frustrated at times or have days you dread going to work. I mean, work is called work for a reason, right!
      But if those feelings of dread start to happen EVERY day, or if you’ve begun to take no sense of enjoyment or satisfaction from your work at all, I’d say it’s time to move on and start your job search. With some, the disillusionment is with the company or position, and finding a better place (a different company or industry) to do your work solves it. Others may find the work is wrong type of work for them entirely, in which case I’d suggest reevaluating what type of work does make them happy. My one friend left marketing entirely because she got sick and tired of the subjective nature of it.

      Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this. Just know that you don’t have to “love” your work, nor does your work have to be your “passion.” Like, I say if I can be 80% ok with my work situation I can probably live with it. There are other ways to fulfill your creativity and passion in life.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        if you’ve begun to take no sense of enjoyment or satisfaction from your work at all, I’d say it’s time to move on and start your job search. With some, the disillusionment is with the company or position, and finding a better place (a different company or industry) to do your work solves it. Others may find the work is wrong type of work for them entirely, in which case I’d suggest reevaluating what type of work does make them happy.

        And there are some of us who just hate working period. I’ve had to finally face that fact about myself after nearly two years of really enjoying (and almost loving) what I did to no longer wanting to be here and counting down the minutes each day until I can log out and go about my business designing Instagram posts or something.

        I don’t hate my job, I just…don’t care. I’m bored and would rather be doing other creative things instead (my stupid graduate program in Professional Technical Writing and all of the hands-on projects I’ve been required to complete have ruined my desire to do my current job, I swear). I’ve inevitably felt this sense of boredom with pretty much every job I’ve ever had and really truly only hated three jobs/roles over a 10 year career.

        I swear, I didn’t have insane student loan debt to pay off and really expensive rent, I would just quit and do occasional freelance work and call it a day.

    18. Canadian*

      I’m on a second career – but in my first career, I had a lot of what you describe – dreading Monday, etc. I worked in a client management / project management role and I was really good at it and I actually thought I liked the work. Because I worked in a couple of toxic places, I thought it was the work enviroment for the longest time – I worked in three different companies in advertising before leaving the industry. Turns out I might have been good at it but I hated it. It made me miserable.

      I went back to school, became an accountant and some days I love my job some days I like it and the odd day – I don’t like it very much at all. But since changing careers (and I’ve spent this entire career at one company – longest I was ever in one company before this was 2 years and 2 months) I’ve almost never experienced what you are talking about or what I used to feel (the one time I did – I had a change in managers and knew I had to find something else, it wasn’t going well).

      So no, it’s not normal. It’s not all sunshine and roses, but it shouldn’t feel like its sucking the life out of your life or hurting your soul.

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

      There are tasks or particular parts of my job that I hate, but overall I like my job. I think that’s the difference. If I hate PowerPoints, but I only do them once a month, and the rest of the time I’m happy with my work; or I like 60% of the people I work with, 30% I can live without, and 10% I actively rage-hate, that’s pretty normal. When you dread every part of your job, it’s time to go.

      1. allathian*

        I’ll have to disagree with you here. If you actively rage-hate any of your coworkers, that’s bad. Either you’re in a toxic environment that permits bullying and harassment, or you need to adjust your attitude to indifference. I mean, I’ve worked with people before who were awful enough that I wouldn’t have cared if they lived or died, but I didn’t hate them to the point of active rage.

    20. Cat Tree*

      I have definitely been in jobs where I woke up every single day and contemplated taking a sick day. It’s unfortunately very common, but not universal. I’m now in a job that I like and have been with the company for almost 5 years. I’m planning to stay until I retire or they kick me out due to layoffs.

      I know it feels especially hopeless during a bad economy wuthering it’s hard to find something better. I was in a terrible job from 2008 to 2011. I hated that job so much then when I got laid off, my first feeling was relief (then panic about money).

      But hold on to your sanity however you can and keep looking. FWIW, I realized that for me to like a job, it matters less what actual day-to-day work I do (as long as it’s in my general field) and more about support/empowerment from management to actually do my job successfully. I’m no longer chasing down people two levels above me and practically begging them to approve something because someone else needs it from me. I’m no longer missing due dates for things that are assigned to me but I need something from another person who is unreliable. I no longer have bosses that avoid talking to anyone at all costs. It has made such a huge difference, so you might want to ask questions about that kind of thing when you start getting interviews.

      And it can be helpful to reset your expectations. It shouldn’t have to be so bad that bad that you’re counting the minutes until the weekend, but it also doesn’t have to be fun or life-fulfilling. Aim for a job that you can spend a lot of time doing without hating every second of it. You don’t have to love it, just like it enough to not be constantly miserable.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Maybe, but maybe not. I consider myself very good at what I do, and yet, I hate working too.

    21. Courageous cat*

      It’s hard to say but I think you are past normal levels if the Sunday scaries start on Thursday nights. I know when my Sunday scaries start on Saturday nights that I’m pretty much done for at that job.

      I have a job, about every other job I have actually, that comes with zero dread. Highly recommend looking around. Maybe for a startup or something.

    22. Bree*

      There have been a couple times in my career I felt true dread and hatred about a job on a daily basis, and I wondered if it was just me not being tough enough, or not managing my anxiety well. It wasn’t. Both times, when I changed organizations things improved dramatically and immediately.

      Now, I’m in a job that is demanding and often stressful, and yes, I do usually look forward to the weekend. But I don’t hate it – in fact, there are plenty of times when I enjoy it, and those good times help balance out the stressful ones. I’d say trust your instincts here and start looking to make a change.

    23. Dog Coordinator*

      For me, this was when I knew I had to start looking elsewhere. The second I woke up, I dreaded being awake for work. I would try to fall asleep but still be writing emails/to do lists in my head. I would rather stare at a blank wall than do the work I needed to do. Weekends were entirely filled with anxiety, and I was self medicating with (legal in my state) recreational drugs just to be functional and not anxious 24/7. I ended up doing a few months of therapy, realized the true toll this toxic job was taking on me and my relationship, and realized my boss is a narcissist who would never change. I also started setting more boundaries between work and life, which helped too. I’m in the process of interviewing elsewhere, but I think you should also consider starting your search, and/or therapy too. No one has to LOVE everything about their job, and it’s ok to just have a job that pays your bills. But once it starts tanking the rest of your week/mood, it’s time to go. Hope you find something better!

    24. Canadian Girl*

      This quote I found somewhere by someone is what I always try to share to those that ask kind of the same thing.
      “There will be something you hate in every job. The trick is finding a job where you love the good parts enough to make up for the crappy parts.”  

    25. aubrey*

      I have both jobs I hated and jobs that were fine – I’m not sure I could really have a job I love because the things I love don’t pay well and I’d just rather be independently wealthy and spend all my time with my non-monetized hobbies haha. But what I expect from a decent job is “I feel fine about trading doing this for money” with some moments of “okay this part is enjoyable” and some inevitable moments of “ugh this again”. It’s a very different feeling than the “I hate this and want to call in sick or possibly flee the country so I never have to see this building or these people or ever think about this again”, you know? Feeling like you’d prefer to not be working is pretty normal, I think. Constantly hating it and not even being able to enjoy your time off is a different thing and something you should get out of if at all possible.

    26. Donkey Hotey*

      My father-in-law’s rule is 70/30. It’s ok to hate your job 30% of the time, which works out to about three days per fortnight.

    27. Asenath*

      It’s certainly possible to have a job you hate! I had to get out of a job I hated – I left it rather late, and so wouldn’t advise others to delay finding a new job if they’re at the hating every minute and counting down towards the weekend stage of the one they have. What I think is more normal is to like (but not necessarily love) your work more often than not, dismissing the inevitable parts you dislike or are bored by as “Mondays are so tedious because I always have to do X, but I’ll get through it and not think about it again until next week”. There’s lots of jobs which might not be something you adore, but which you like more than you dislike, and which pay the bills.

    28. Quinalla*

      No, that is not normal. I’m not saying folks aren’t right there with you – I’m sure there are a good number especially with the pandemic – but hating your job that much is not normal. I’m very lucky my current job I enjoy. There are parts of it that are annoying, but I mostly look forward to working while also looking forward to free time.

      I’ve had temporary jobs I disliked that much, where if I hadn’t had an end date in sight soon and a need for the $$, I would have quit. These were food service jobs when I was in college and they were extremely boring for me, not something I would want to do day-in-day-out forever. Mad respect for those who can do that type of work and even thrive in it, it was not for me. What helped me get to my end date was knowing it was temporary and making challenges for myself to make things more interesting.

      I hope you find a new job soon, if you aren’t looking yet, start looking!

    29. Corporate Drone Liz*

      Honestly? I’d say what you’re experiencing isn’t a normal level of hatred. I think it’s normal to hate your job during stressful peaks (like a CPA during tax season) but this sounds like both a poor match of your skillset AND not a great fit company-wise (it’s no wonder you’re getting the Sunday Scaries!).

      Are you putting in crazy hours? Could you set aside more time for hobbies or personal time (I don’t know what part of the world you’re in but understand this has gotten more difficult with COVID)? I think having some things to look forward after work hours could help ease that stress a bit. Good luck!

    30. DogMom*

      I’m here.. Again. I’ve been in high stress jobs for over 10 years. My current role is high stress in a normal environment; the pandemic has made things so much worse. My mental and physical health have gone downhill exponentially in the last few years. People are being written up and disciplined for increasingly random things.
      I absolutely dread going to work. Having burned out in previous jobs I know it isn’t normal but despite looking for months finding a new job has been elusive.

      It’s not normal to hate going to work. Hang in there. Something will come up and you will find something that works better for you.

    31. Invisible Fish*

      Oh, wow- you sound like me when I stupidly took a job I knew was bad for me. I can’t offer you much, except to tell you that even though you *feel* trapped, you will make it out of this into a job that isn’t such a terrible fit.

    32. Lyudie*

      I just want to say you are not alone. I’m not sure if it’s the stress of Covid etc. (even though I like working from home!) but I have been feeling the same way. I took an emergency mental health day a few weeks ago because as I was lying awake at 1 am, I had the thought that if I got Covid at least I wouldn’t have to go to work…I decided that was probably a bad sign and took the next day off.

    33. Deborah*

      I tend to discount anyone who says they would do their job if they didn’t get paid unless it’s vocational life calling stuff like charity (working with animals or helping people) and those can be very heavy burdens themselves!

      But my personal barometer is that a) I shouldn’t be worrying about work when I’m not there and b) I shouldn’t be dreading going back to work on Monday. I know that sounds like impossibility right now, but that’s how I judge it. I’ve had jobs that I thought were wonderful and I told other people how great they were for years, and I left and had such great stress relief, and that’s where I developed those two rules. That doesn’t mean I can always attain it, but it’s a measurement I trust.

      1. soshedances1126*

        Lol… Glad you have that caveat. I work with animals and I have to say that yes, if I didn’t have to work for money, I would do my job for free. Perhaps not full time hours, but I would absolutely still be volunteering a significant chunk of time every week to keep doing what I do. But I recognize that’s not normal and that I’m extremely lucky to love going to work every day (and still love my job when I leave every night). It’s a heavy burden sometimes for sure, but it’s worth it 100% of the time.

    34. ten-four*

      Another vote of “it’s not common or expected to hate your job THAT much.” I’m lucky enough to finally be in a spot where I actively enjoy my job, but even in my worst jobs I never felt the way you’re describing (and I had one job that sent me to therapy for heaven’s sake – it was pretty grim).

      After this past year I’m not much interested in any new changes, but it sounds to me like getting out of your current job into something else would make a really significant positive change in your day-to-day life!

    35. Raised by Wolves*

      I like my actual job, but hate my manager to the degree that I get minor panic before every meeting. I was hired in this role by another manager who was amazing but my company hired a management consultant team that hired an executive for our department who fired my manager, and now I have to report to Nosferatu directly.

      I love my coworkers, enjoy the work I am doing, and am ok with the company itself, but because of the critical and micromanaging interactions from my new manager (who was hired in to be the grandboss of my team, not my direct manager) I can’t sleep at night which makes everything worse. I suspect that his bullying is just a way to make our jobs so unpleasant that we will all leave and he will have his own people in place rather than have to work with a team he didn’t hire.

      1. allathian*

        That’s probably true… I’m sorry he’s such a jerk and I do recommend that you start looking for a new job now before you’re too exhausted and depressed to be at your best in an interview.

    36. Nacho*

      Very few people actually like their job (anybody who says they do is lying), but you shouldn’t hate it either. Ideally, you should be able to numb yourself to its influence, and just kind of sleep through it as if in a haze.

    37. TechWorker*

      I like my job a lot, now. I had a period in the same job where I hated it all the time, I literally would tear up walking to work because I didn’t want to face another day and got pretty close to quitting. I was totally burnt out and under a lot of pressure. What changed? Different, more experienced manager.

    38. Robin Ellacott*

      No! This sounds pretty unpleasant for you. Of course people’s individual tolerances vary but in your shoes I would be looking to escape.

      I mostly like my job and find it rewarding. This week has been really rough with both personal stress (my mum is ill) and work interpersonal issues and excessive workload. However I haven’t felt like you describe. I have very stressful days but the only time I am dreading work beforehand is when I have to have a really hard conversation (firing someone or similar) the next day.

      If thoughts of work impact your ability to enjoy non-work times, that seems to me like a sign it’s not a good place for you.

    39. allathian*

      I’ve only hated one job I had as a student at a 24/7 fast food place. At first I hated the night shifts only, but before long I started hating going there at all. After I spent a whole night crying because I had to get up at 5 am to be at work by 6.30, I was done with it. It’s the only job I’ve quit with no notice. They were used to it and there was a lot of staff turnover, mostly students. I didn’t burn my reference either, because that place only confirmed dates of employment.

      I like my current job. I like the job itself, at least most of the time, I like my manager and coworkers well enough to work with, although I don’t necessarily want to spend any of my leisure time with most of them. Sure there are days when I’d rather not go to work, but they’re few and far between. I don’t dread Mondays, although admittedly I do look forward to the weekend and going on vacation. That’s normal, most people do.

    40. Kat Em*

      I don’t hate my job! I wish I had more autonomy and I wish I didn’t have to work weekends, but I like my coworkers and my boss and while the role isn’t using all my skills to the max, it’s a “close enough for another year or two” fit. It really is possible to feel okay at work, and it really is okay to look for a job that you don’t hate and an employer that values at least some of the same things you do.

  3. A Simple Narwhal*

    Someone mentioned in Wednesday’s post (How do I Find a Job When I’m Underqualified for Everything) that an issue with the current job market is that the US hasn’t had a period of sustained full employment since the 90s, which means there’s a whole generation of managers who have only hired in an employer’s market. “They can get away with posting wish lists and half the time get applicants who fulfill all of those qualifications.”

    I think that’s a fascinating thing to consider. I wonder how things would have been different now if covid hadn’t happened – we were just starting to experience a market that more favored applicants, I wonder if we’ll get back there as things recover, and what that switch would have looked like.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I don’t doubt that those exist! But it doesn’t appear to be the majority for most industries, and hasn’t been for a while.

        Out of (genuine) curiosity, which sectors are they?

        1. I'm that guy*

          I work in the regulatory side of Biopharma and we are always looking for good people to the point were you can get a $3000-5000 referral bonus for a Medical Writer.

        2. Kyubey*

          I am in accounting, it’s only been a little less than 5 years since I graduated college, but my experience having been in 3 different jobs since, is that accounting is one of those fields, where there is high demand for applicants even in a pandemic, I am also in a large city however.

        3. Quinalla*

          Construction is still very much an applicant’s market – I work adjacent to it and they are hard pressed to find folks with experience and are happy to take folks who want to learn, but have a hard time getting anyone.

          1. Anon today*

            I’m in radio, but one of our advertisers is an oil field support company. They need drivers and are running about $1,000 worth of ads per month specifically targeting CDL drivers to hire. He says if they have a CDL, he’s hiring them on the spot, but he’s just not getting enough applicants.

            1. Mimi*

              This aligns with what I heard when we were helping students get their Commercial Drivers’ License.

            2. turquoisecow*

              My mom just retired from a school bus company, but it’s similar for truckers – a lot of places will train you, pay you during training, and take you to get your CDL. They’re that desperate for drivers.

        4. Pidgeot*

          Tech industry is very much an applicant’s market for programming and software engineer talent.

          1. TechWorker*

            +1, I get messages on linked in at least once a week asking if I’m interested in a job someone is recruiting for. (I know that’s not remotely the same as ‘an offer’ – but lots of companies are aggressively hiring)

        5. 30 Years in the Biz*

          I’m in biotech too, but people with my degree, certification, and background also work for hospitals and clinics. Clinical Lab Scientists, Cytologists, Histologists, Pathology Assistants are in short supply. Many in these fields are retiring, and given the gap from the 1980s (HIV decreased the numbers of people interested in training in healthcare) there is a need. In biotech, I see a lot of openings for quality assurance personnel including managers and directors.

        6. hellion*

          I’m a court reporter in Canada and everyone who graduates pretty much just has to choose where they want to work and essentially tell the employer they’d like to work there. I did my practicum at my current workplace, loved it, and just said “Hey, I’d love to come work for you.”
          I can’t speak to the US market but I know in Canada if you get through the program (notoriously gruelling and you have to put in a lot of work to succeed but I also saw people who just couldn’t reach their speeds despite trying hard and practicing hard) you can have your pick of places to go. I’m a contractor but just with one firm, so I get the freedom of choosing days off (if they’re particularly busy they may say no, but I know one guy who just takes his laptop with him to work on transcripts and travels for months out of the year) but I also have the support of a workplace behind me. You can choose how much you want to work, and if you want more money that month, you just work more.

          1. TPEL/OE/KROR*

            I’m a court reporter in California! (Also freelance deposition work.) We were insanely busy with more work than we could handle from about 2016-2019. It’s starting to get very busy again now, and when the courts can fully resume doing civil trials, the floodgates will open. It’s a difficult and rigorous path to licensure and not a very well known career, so there will continue to be more than enough work for anyone who does get through the schooling. I love my job for the freedom to set my own schedule and the endless variety!

      2. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

        ooh yes. My husband works in one of those. You could get fired in the morning, call a few people, and have a new job in the afternoon. (If you were a liability, word would get around, your options would dwindle, and you’d only get crappy jobs with lousy companies.)

        However things are getting tighter – bad employees are getting fired quicker. Managers are informally nosing about to check references. People just can’t afford bad hires now.

    1. New Mom*

      Companies also need to set up systems to embrace brand new employees. Many companies, mine included, have everyone spread so thin that new people are often expected to immediately pick up the slack by hitting the ground running and that’s not possible for a super green worker. And many of the veteran staff are not giving slack in their duties to properly train people coming in with a steep learning curve.

      1. TWW*

        I like the idea of hiring a green person and training them (that’s how I got to where I am in my career), but in my experience it’s hit or miss.

        I’m a teapot designer. My duties include painting teapots with existing designs and designing new teapots. My boss wanted to hire someone to take over the bulk of my duties so I could concentrate on developing new beverage service technology.

        Instead of hiring an experienced designer, my boss instead promoted our top-performing teapot handler with the intention to train him as a designer. After two years, it turns out he’s good at painting existing designs, but has no talent for creating new designs.

        That result was not good for anyone: My assistant now finds himself in an entry-level job where he’s unlikely to be promoted. I’m stuck splitting my time between boring teapot design and exiting beverage tech dev. And my employer has two employees who don’t fit into their intended org chart.

        In retrospect I wish we had just posted “wanted, teapot designer, 2+ years experience, submit portfolio”.

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’ve been thinking about that too, and also the point someone brought up (I’m sorry, I lost the original comment) that companies are no longer willing to train on the job. I’m looking to pivot my career and have extremely transferrable skills (fundraising into sales – it’s the same thing!) but because I don’t have specific software experience or know all the business jargon, it’s not going to happen. I’m wondering what the heck one should do if they didn’t happen to start their career in exactly the field they want to end up in, because from my perspective it’s getting extremely challenging to make a change if you don’t fit every box perfectly.

    3. CatMintCat*

      I’m a teacher in rural/outback Australia. Every school in my district is understaffed – our local high school (500 students) is short ten teachers. My tiny school (85 students) is short one teacher. There are no substitute teachers anywhere within hundreds of kilometres.

      Basically, if you have a teaching degree, you will get hired.

    4. Philosophia*

      “They can get away with posting wish lists and half the time get applicants who fulfill all of those qualifications.” During the Great Recession, when (after decades in the job market, and despite assiduous efforts) I was unemployed for three years, barring a half-year project position, I observed that employers could require that an applicant have X, Y, and Z qualifications, N years of experience, AND be a left-handed redhead—and get exactly what they wanted.

  4. Recession trauma*

    I’m in a low-tech version of a tech job, serving an old-fashioned industry. The pay and job title are stagnant, with no room for growth. My skills are atrophying, and I’m just plain bored. But, the company is incredibly stable and has good business practices: privately owned, budgets decades ahead of time, etc.

    I’m still traumatized from the 2008 recession. I was laid off three times in three years, I was barely putting food on the table by juggling multiple waitressing jobs, and my savings were completely drained. My retirement was set back by 8-10 years. I was out of my field for so long that people assumed I gave birth and stayed home with a kid until kindergarten age.

    Keeping my job during the past year has been such a balm for my mental health, it feels insane to go looking for more. I could definitely retire from here if I stayed. But my earning power is so diminished, would going somewhere less stable for significantly more money make sense? As a middle-aged woman in tech, I am probably running out of time to jump jobs.

    I know nobody can make this decision FOR me, but has anyone figured out a similar issue for themselves? How did you make the decision, and what was your result?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      A lot of people get into a mindset that their job has a special benefit that no other job can offer, like pay, flexible schedules, stability, or good benefits. But there are many, many companies that can offer the same thing, it just takes time to investigate and time to wait for a position to open.
      Start looking into potential employers and set up a Linkedin or Indeed search to send you job openings from those companies. You are actually in a pretty good spot where you can take your time to wait for the right job to surface.

      1. Mimi*

        I stayed in my last job as long as I did in part because I didn’t want to go back to only having two weeks of vacation… but when I did wind up looking, pretty much anywhere that I would want to work offered at least as much vacation as I had at that job (four weeks + five sick days).

    2. Emilitron*

      The nice thing about choosing between stability and growth is that you can do a job search for a growth opportunity without ever having to leave your stable job. Right now you’re trying to decide if an unknown less stable good money new employer new tech job would be “worth it” and you don’t have any data. I encourage you to start looking, you don’t have to decide to take it, but you should decide to look.

    3. Katie Porter's Whiteboard*

      I’m in a similar position and I’m terrified to leave. Instead, I’ve focused on increasing my skills and employability. I take advantage of every professional development opportunity and build my network. I take on periphery projects that are exciting for me. I’m officially overqualified for my own job but I’m building the skills I need to be able to really grow either into a new position or relatively easily rise in rank at a different company. When I look at openings, I focus on institutions that have a track record of stability and growth so I can either continue my personal growth with different opportunities or rise in the ranks.

    4. pcake*

      Can you do some side work to help hone your skills or take online classes or download a trial to get skills up to date? That might help with the overall feeling of slipping away, side jobs can bring in some money, and once your skills are in better shape, you’ll be in a better position to job hunt. Also you might end up finding a different job at a stable company through the side work.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I get the appeal of a stable job and steady paycheck.
      But here’s the thing: It costs you nothing to research and look at other job scenarios.
      As for retirement: If you’re >50 I get wanting to stay, and indeed that might be the best move if your employer offers a pension or matching 401k you’re taking advantage of for the next 15-20 years. If that’s the case, consider upward mobility within the company that pays better. Or, could you keep that stable, boring job but start a side hustle to boost your earning power? You have options.

    6. Carol*

      I can identify a lot with what you’ve written here, including recession trauma and my current job situation.

      I think it’s about focusing on recognizing the risk we’re all exposed to in our jobs, but not letting that risk unnecessarily constrain us or see our choices as narrower than they really are. Can you set some kind of financial goal that might help you feel freer? If you save “x” amount as a safety net, you’re allowed to search less stable opportunities, for instance?

      But also–do you know other places would be less stable? Having gone through the previous recession and now the pandemic, I’m seeing more clearly that really there’s no place that’s risk-averse. What if all of society’s rules change in 5 years due to something unexpected? Would your current “very stable” job really survive anything? You need to balance your need for a feeling of stability (a very real human need) with your need for growth and development. What’s the bigger risk to you?

    7. Troutwaxer*

      It sounds like there are some really good advantages to your work situation, so my answer for you is really more technical than employment related, – and keep in mind that I don’t know what kind of tech you do – but have you asked the necessary questions about how much technical debt your organization has accumulated? And what, if anything is your company doing to make sure that they don’t suddenly find that their office/automation isn’t so far behind the curve that catching up has become next to impossible? And what, if anything, can you do to make sure that hasn’t happened? Is the network up to date, with modern (and secure) routers at the Dmarc and (at least) gigabit switches? Are you programming in a language that might be near end-of-life, like Flash? (I knew a guy who was programming an amazing system in Silverlight when MS EOLed it, and he lost years of work.) What about your backup and storage? And so on, over every kind of tech your company uses?

      If you’re working at a company which is technically behind that will have consequences eventually, and maybe sooner than anyone expects. So maybe one way out of your conundrum is to do some work on future-proofing your organization. If your company isn’t interested in improving their systems I think you probably need to work on 1.) Improving your skills in whatever you do, and 2.) Finding a new place.

      But the big thing about finding a new place is that you can afford to be picky. If the job situation is currently stable, look for someplace close to home with a good culture and no red flags, which pays a great salary, etc.

      1. Hunybee*

        I was a flash designer for years! I started moving into UX design right around the time of the 2008 recession because I started hearing the rumblings about how people hated working with Flash and saw the writing on the wall. To be honest, though, I loved working with it and I still wish I could sometimes. But moving into another aspect of my work proved to be a better option long term.

        …..I can relate to everything the OP said in regard to PTSD about the recession. I lost my retirement too, and probably the same age range, and I feel like I will never fully catch up! But I also don’t want to fall behind the curve. It’s deathly to get trapped in arcane processes especially if you work in the tech field.

        Dear OP — would you feel comfortable starting to explore online learning options? I did a lot of Lynda.com and still do, and you may find that you feel a real passion for something else. At the very least, this seems to be a great time to start upgrading your skills to move away from your job. It can be hard to devote time to that, and work, and interviewing and real life all at once, but I think that your instinct is correct in that in tech especially none of us can afford to fall behind if we’re mid-career.

        And so great that your instincts are strong and you recognize this. It may take a while for your comfort level to catch up, but that’s ok too. Change is hard and we’ve had a lot of it in the past 10 years.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I stayed at a job for 11 years that I did not like. And I stayed because of previous employment trauma and my unwillingness to be without a paycheck. These are not truly good reasons for staying. You can end up burned out, bitter/angry or maybe depressed by feeling stuck. My place did not lend itself well toward keeping up with modern technology. Okay the tech was laughable. I fell so far behind that the only way I could beef up my skills was to get out entirely.

      I have a suggestion. Picture yourself on retirement day. What are you telling yourself?
      “At least I remained employed!”
      OR
      “I should have tried to do more with my career.”
      Do you think of the donut, or do you think of the hole in the middle of the donut?

      From your description here, I wonder if your company will even last long enough for you to make it to retirement. It sounds like it’s antiquated already.
      Another thing that popped at me is the idea that any other place would be less stable. I would fall over in surprise if that were actually true. There’s a good number of places that are fairly stable. And i think the actual focus needs to be on can you get a job at these places or has your company held you back too much for too long.

      And this one is near and dear to my heart right now because I am actually doing it. Take a look at social security and when it kicks in for you. Get a rough idea of how much you can earn and still collect social security. It could be that you decide to stay at this place until retirement but once retired, you take a smaller job somewhere else.
      So your answer might be a mix of things. Don’t forget retirement is just one day, then after that you will have a whole bunch of days to fill up with some type of activity. How would you like to fill up your retirement time?

      1. Recession trauma*

        The company will definitely last; I may have been too opaque in my description. It isn’t a tech company, I just do a tech-related job there. The company started prior to WWI, and has multiple major branches that counterbalance with the economy (i.e., one is big in a bear market, another is big in a bull market).

    9. Corporate Drone Liz*

      I used to be a recruiter, and I worked with quite a few candidates in your shoes. Here’s the point I would always remind them: you don’t have any decisions to make until an offer is on the table. So why not apply and see if you get any bites? You have a huge advantage in that you have a stable job and aren’t going to abandon ship for just any role, so you can be afford to be picky about salary, location, etc.

      Also, I always find it way easier to polish my resume when I’m still in a job than after I leave. Plus if I’m not getting a lot of traction with applications it usually means I need to tweak it more. These are all things I’d rather be doing when I’m employed and not looking too aggressively rather than when I’m not working/panicked about landing something ASAP.

    10. Malika*

      Also as a middle-aged worker you still have more options than you think. My most succesful sales guy is in his 60’s. Went away, did some freelancing and then got re-hired. We shouldn’t feel trapped, if we keep our skills and network up to date we have more power than we think.

    11. emmelemm*

      Just wanted to reply in solidarity. I’m also a middle aged woman in a “tech” job that is very old technology at this point. It’s stable but stagnant, both in terms of pay and learning. But I very much feel my middle age when thinking about trying to jump jobs.

    12. Deborah*

      I’m 39 and in tech. I was working for a small, unstable company last year, and they were treating me increasingly badly. I switched in August and I feel great about it. The company I work for now is in the telecommunications industry, and they were stable through the pandemic and even able to give bonuses for 2020. I would suggest looking for similar industries that need tech workers that aren’t on such a boom and bust cycle.

    13. Quinalla*

      I made the move from a similar job (Middle-aged woman mechanical engineer here) – stable, good benefits, low pay to a more challenging job, still just as stable, nearly as good of benefits – I negotiated for more PTO to keep that in line – and way more pay. I made the jump because my kids were out of the baby/toddler “hell” years where you just are running on no sleep so I was ready for a big challenge and I was tired of being underpaid when I was confident I could do well at a challenging job. I didn’t start out underpaid, but classic only got one raise and had been underpaid for (ouch) at least 5 years and probably more.

      The move was 100% worth it to me. I may end up retiring from this job if things keep going well, if they don’t, I have significantly expanding my network so I have places I could likely get a job if needed in the future.

      You are worth the pay and while more pay isn’t worth every sacrifice, for me it was worth some. And I’ve been able to carve out a job that works for me at this new place because I have so much more opportunity to do different things.

      I strongly recommend as others have to at least do a soft search, see what is out there. I do one every couple years myself to see what is available and check if my salary is still competitive. I don’t have any intention of leaving right now, but it is good to know what is out there. I don’t apply to anything in my soft searches, but you may want to!

  5. Threeve*

    This is something many people have been dealing with since the start of the pandemic, but it’s new to me. I started a new job in November, and what I wasn’t prepared for how little I actually communicate with people. My team at Old Job was very friendly and supportive, and I took it for granted. It wasn’t an unhealthy work-is-my-entire-social-life situation, but it was very social and collaborative.

    My new department has only two other people, both senior to me, and both of them are uninterested in talking about anything other than work (and mostly via email and chat, we’re 100% remote right now). I feel so isolated, and it’s taking a toll on my mental health.

    I thought I would have adapted to the dynamic after almost four months, but it just feels worse and worse. It would have been a dealbreaker if I’d known before accepting the job.

    One of them has always been remote, so I doubt a return to in-office work will change much. I know a lot of people have been in this situation, especially this year. Any suggestions?

    1. cbh*

      I don’t know how to solve things work wise, but can you ramp things up in your social life. Join some clubs or volunteer so you get more social interaction.

      I work in a very social friendly company but I am definitely the more quite bookworm. I love it. I’ve managed to change my proceedures (for the job’s efficiency not my timid personality) where I don’t really have much interaction with others outside of water cooler talk. It wasn’t enough for me and I was trying to break out of my shell. I ended up volunteering somewhere. In theory this volunteering is my dream job in another field, but I’m not ready to switch to a whole new career in a different industry. Not only did it give me more to contribute at water cooler talk, but for those not interested in work chit chat, I had a new set of people to speak with who were interested in what I could contribute to my (new volunteer) job. It kind of balanced out for me.

    2. New Mom*

      Will you be going into the office in a few months? And if you do, how many other people will be working there? I ask because if you’ll be in person, and there are other people, it may be worth it to see if you connect with others at the office and there will be camaraderie there. You may have just ended up on a team that you don’t personally connect with which can be really hard during remote work.

      1. Threeve*

        I don’t have much hope for things being very different with the return to in-person work, however that shakes out. It’s one of several offices of a medium-sized nonprofit, mostly older employees, and many of the interactions I’ve had with people in other departments have been terse or mildly condescending. The monthly all-staff Zoom meetings have all been fairly unsmiling affairs, just executives making announcements.

    3. Smithy*

      I had this kind of job years before COVID, and as a fairly extroverted person, the initial shock was truly painful. Even though my previous position was on a team of one, I sat in the middle of a full open office plan around a lot of workplace discussion and my work was highly collaborative across teams. To find myself able to go occasionally go an entire day without speaking to anyone potentially hours on end was really unsettling.

      The best advice I got then was to not try and find ways to make the job more accomodating in that respect, but to more highly cultivate my social life. In part that did mean more built in breaks to text friends during the day, but also to prioritize having more social engagements after work.

      Over time as I began to be happier at my job (because I had more social avenues entirely apart from work), I met more colleagues on other teams where there both became more opportunities for professional collaboration as well as socializing. That being said, finding ways to be happier at work I think helped me significantly on that front.

    4. RecoveringSWO*

      Are there any other pandemic/recent hires in other departments? See if you can track that info down from onboarding emails or asking around and then try to set up a “newbie” virtual meet and greet or lunch.

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      Sounds like this is just the nature of the job, and you should try and work on getting the social interaction you need outside of work. I am one of those people who don’t want to talk about anything but work when I’m at work. File this away as something you’ve learned about yourself and this job, and maybe start job-hunting.

    6. Wordybird*

      I took a job mid-pandemic where I knew I would be the only person in my department but what I didn’t realize is that my day-to-day work doesn’t require any interaction or collaboration with any other departments. My boss is the only person I talk to regularly at my company, and while I can message other people in the company (and they’re all nice enough people), it feels strange to since we’re all working from home & we don’t work together so I don’t know anything about them personally. I’ve never even met any of them!

      I’ve decided that this drawback is worth the other benefits I’m acquiring at this job: a salary, insurance, reliable work that I know how to do well, and the ability to buy my very first home. Once I am post-vaccine, I plan on being very intentional in how I get my “people fix” outside work so that I don’t need to get it from work and can continue to focus on why I took the job in the first place. At some point, my department will either expand so that I do have other people to interact with regularly or I will move on to a different company, and I am happy to wait in this moment to see which happens.

      I hope that was helpful in some way?

    7. TWW*

      I have little interest in socializing with my coworkers, so your job would be a good fit for me. I like my coworkers, but I prefer having friends outside of work.

      Would you be interested in joining a book club, or starting one with non-work friends?

    8. Hillary*

      Try connecting with people outside your team. It’s usually easier to start with people that you tangentially work with. My team is similarly small, we try to to each have a casual catch up conversation with someone outside our team every week. It helps us replicate the connections we miss from the office.

    9. Lovecraft Beauty*

      I have a very similar problem! My old team was very friendly (and in-person), and my current team was standoffish even before the work-from-home directive, so now I can go days without more than brusque interactions. I hate it, and I’m surprised by how much I hate it, because I’m super introverted, but the emotional coolness really gets to me.

      I’ve been trying to form relationships with people on other teams, with middling success, and really leaning on my out-of-work social network, because I’m desperate for positive social interaction. It’s hard, man. Sympathies.

    10. Quinalla*

      Definitely ramp up your non-work social interactions, that will help some anyway. Can you join a professional group/society related to your job? Might give you a more work-related social outlet. Lockdown should easing in a few months as more people get vaccines, maybe start preparing who you could take to lunch – people outside of work is fine – when that happens.

      My work is full of introverts, but we still have to collaborate and I’ve had many a non-work conversation with someone else who was feeling the need to talk to someone. I need a lot of focus time, but I like at least a small amount of friendly chatting, so I hear you!

    11. TPS reporter*

      we have a young professionals group in my organization that comprises people from all departments. Maybe you could try starting something or see if there is something like that going?

  6. Your Weird Uncle*

    Can I ask the commentariat: what, in your opinion, is the main purpose of a teenage job?

    Is it to gain valuable work experience? Learn how to take direction? Ready oneself for a potential career? Have more money, autonomy, responsibility?

    I have a 16 year old stepson at home who is reluctant to get a summer job. He has decided he wants to become a music producer or composer and his plan is to spend the summer making electronica and posting it online for sale. My husband has a friend in the music industry and mentioned they might be looking for a summer intern, which perked my stepson’s ears up and said that he would be interested in that. Problem is, that job hasn’t materialized and isn’t likely to, and now I worry that any other realistic job for a kid his age in the area we live in (mainly, bussing tables or stocking shelves) isn’t going to be ‘good enough’ for my stepson to consider doing.

    He isn’t motivated by material things or autonomy, so it’s hard to explain why (besides all of the reasons which WE think are good enough, like those listed above) he needs to work this summer. My husband and I discussed giving him more responsibility around the house if he isn’t working, but I honestly think he needs to learn how to take direction from someone outside of the house if we’re to set him up to launch an eventual independent career. It just feels like we’re setting him up for failure to launch, and having an unmotivated 16 year old surf You Tube and make music at our house all summer is going to seriously affect our marriage. (And I should note we only have him roughly 1/3 of the time, so unfortunately what we do in our house doesn’t carry much weight.)

    I guess I’m not really asking for reasons to convince him to look for a job (none are really going to appeal to him besides the music job), but really just curious to know what everyone’s thoughts are on those first few jobs. I know in my case, I absolutely hated my first job but it sure motivated me to find a career I didn’t despise!

    1. Watry*

      Definitely experience. I wasn’t able to work as a teenage or in college, and due to the ’08 recession I couldn’t find a job for AGES because I’d never had one.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        Speaking from experience as someone who did have a teenage job, it doesn’t necessarily help from that angle. When I transferred from community college in big city to a four year university in a much smaller town, I was excited because there was a franchise of the same crappy chain diner that I was currently working at in the smaller town. I figured it would be an easy way in because I already knew the menu and all the corporate practices. But that location had a different owner and I guess they decided my experience wasn’t worth much because they never called me in for an interview.

        I do value the actual experience I got at that job – I got to meet and work alongside people who I otherwise wouldn’t have met because we had very different backgrounds, I learned to prioritize when there were multiple high pressure tasks all coming at me at the same time, and I drastically improved my general social and customer service skills.

        1. Xenia*

          It’s not really the experience with a specific company that’s valuable, I think—it’s experience having a job, any job. It’s helpful for you, because then you can get an idea of ‘this is what I like, this is what I don’t like, here’s how to work with other people’ and partly so that you can put something on your resume. Even low end jobs are better than having nothing on the resume when you’re coming out of high school/college.

          1. Ray Gillette*

            Sure, and I also value the actual experience that I got on that job. I’m mostly bemoaning that “you have to have a job to get a job” is only the beginning, even having experience at the same company isn’t enough to land you so much as an interview some of the time. I haven’t even gotten into what happened on the rare occasion that I did get an interview because I don’t want to depress the OP about the stepson’s prospects.

    2. Wellesley*

      If he wants to work in music, he’s going to have to learn to work with (and for!) all kinds of people. A summer job at a grocery store or a restaurant is a safer place to figure that etiquette out than an industry he cares about.

      1. Wellesley*

        When I was trying to land internships I mentioned my summer job ALL THE TIME in interviews. “Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you fixed it.” I worked in a bakery and the first time a customer asked me to write a message on a cake I did so badly I gave them a discount and wiped it off the best I could. And then I practiced writing in frosting whenever I had a free moment. Stuff like that in a real-world environment sounded way better than my “I did badly on a quiz in a class.”

      2. AndersonDarling*

        Yep, and if he wants to work in a creative field, then he should be out meeting people and gaining insight into other people’s lives for inspiration. His music will burn out if he doesn’t expand his circle into real life experiences.

      3. Threeve*

        I can usually tell whether or not someone has ever worked in customer service. It gives folks a baseline level of “always treat other people like they’re people” that those who have never worked customer service don’t always have.

      4. Your Weird Uncle*

        Oh absolutely! We mention all the skills he’s going to need, including soft people skills but also time management, financial skills, etc. Of course he knows better than we do. ;)

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          It’s just good practice for being an adult.

          In my family, there was no question about it. We were expected to get jobs in high school. As we’re most kids I knew. (We needed them anyway for gas money & college.)

      5. Drago Cucina*

        Customer service, customer service, customer service. It applies in all fields. People forget the internal customer service between departments in a company. It’s an invaluable soft skill.

        When I was hiring for the public library I always preferred someone who had worked in fast food and no degree to someone who had an English degree and no “real world” work experience. Handling the person who is upset that “you” don’t know their email passwords is more likely than a deep conversation about *literature*. We encouraged education, including library school, but they brought an essential knowledge.

        1. Robin Ellacott*

          Agreed, and customer service work experience means they can demonstrate that they are ok with someone having expectations of them. I am leery of applicants with no work experience as I have had the bad luck (?) to see a large percentage of these respond poorly to feedback or to normal work expectations.

          I’m sure HE wouldn’t feel he needs that experience for those reasons, and his actual work may be just fine without it, but fairly or not employers in any field he chooses will want to see some evidence of work ethic.

          I can imagine this is even more the case in junior positions in a “glamourous” field when many applicants love the field but don’t like the day to day work they start with.

      6. OhGee*

        He’s also almost certainly going to need to hustle ALL THE TIME and to accept that he may need other work. Many of the touring musicians I was friends with in my early 20s worked in a local warehouse together, because the place was flexible about the time off they needed.

      7. ArtsNerd*

        The service industry is inextricably linked to the music industry. The people who manage and book clubs are almost always people who came up through restaurants and bars.

        If he wants to play live shows ever, working at a local restaurant is *great* networking.

    3. should i apply?*

      I know for me as a teenager the job was all about the money. If I wanted to buy gas or do anything fun with my friends I had to pay for it. You can be sure that at 16 I wasn’t thinking about work experience or readying myself for a career. However, once I got to college that was much more my focus.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Same. I wanted a car so my parents paid for it with cash (it was only a couple thousand dollars), but I had a payment plan to them for that “loan.” Then I used that car to get to work to make money to pay for the gas, any clothes I wanted, and fun things like going the movies. Ah…to think of a time when working 15 hours a week paid for so much…even on minimum wage…

        Then I got to college and had to pay for all my own expenses. Scholarship/student loans covered tuition, but my job waiting tables paid for rent, gas, utilities, and all the rest. Part of why I was good at my post-college sales job was because I was a good server!

      2. Smithy*

        For me it was a combination of money and freedom. Having a job meant I had use of the car and essentially ended my curfew. Keeping the job became material proof I was responsible, so I’d get the car and could then afford to do the things I wanted to.

        At the time, there were a lot of relatively low cost things that being able to buy on my own were greatly appealing (concert tickets, clothes, etc). That being said, with my brother – I know it was more effective when my parents told my brother that if he had a summer job, they’d buy him a new computer/game console or higher priced item at the end. Is there equipment, studio time, something that appeals to him in exchange for securing a job/summer internship?

        I get that if part of this is teaching responsibility than providing a bribe on top of the pay from the job may be counter-intuitive. But I can also see the side where if the value add is having the job, then I think it’s worth considering more concrete bribery.

      3. Joielle*

        Same here! Maybe if the selling-electronica-online plan doesn’t make money he’ll be more inclined to get a job.

    4. YTW*

      “Convince” him to get a job? Most of your post is about him needing to learn workplace norms…and you’re not exercising parental authority at all. He’s going to think he can cajole a boss into letting him do whatever he wants.

      TELL him what he’s going to do, because when he lives in your house he abides by your rules. That will prepare him for the working world.

      1. CCSF*

        Yeah. With my 16YO it was a matter of “if you don’t have a job by X date, your phone is turned off/the WiFi password is changed/I’m taking the video card out of your desktop.” He found himself a job.

        He’s not a bad kid, but he isn’t a fan of change and will never ever seek it out. FWIW now that he’s 18 he’s one of the most valuable and reliable employees at his fast food job and actually missed working when we forced him to stay home several months at the height of the pandemic.

          1. Your Weird Uncle*

            Yep, he does, and he agrees with me! We’ve made it clear that getting a job is an expectation this summer, not a choice, and if he doesn’t find a job we will find him volunteer opportunities. But again, the question wasn’t about how to convince him to find a job (we know that he won’t be convinced), it was more because I was curious to know what benefits people find in their summer jobs and whether our approach might be too heavy-handed.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              I’m going to say that these things will always have less weight coming from the parent who has less custody, when it’s not a 50-50 situation. Especially if it’s the case where he’s only around for school breaks? (Unless I’m misinterpreting the ‘whole summer’ comment).

              And you’re very comfortable with saying here that if you can’t get your stepson out of the house over the summer that it will ‘affect your marriage’. If your stepson has picked that vibe up from you, there’s another reason why he might not care about you or your husband’s opinion.

            2. Ramona Q*

              “If he doesn’t find a job we will find him volunteer opportunities”: he can and should find them for himself, no? Especially if your goal is to get him to take on more responsibility.

            3. LKW*

              The biggest benefits I got from my pre-career jobs:
              1. Making some pocket money
              2. Learning about different places to work/businesses
              3. Making friends who didn’t go to my school
              4. Getting a view of people who were not like me; they didn’t live in my neighborhood, had different experiences and different perspectives.

              At a minimum, it will teach him how to think in terms of how many hours of work will it take to buy the things he wants.

            4. TiffIf*

              But what is the consequence if he doesn’t find a job or doesn’t utilize a volunteer opportunity?

              You said he isn’t motivated by material things or autonomy–except EVERYONE is when it comes down to “do I have the resources I need to live” but usually a teen may not see what is being provided to them.

              So, are you providing him a phone? Make it a rule that he has to contribute $X per month to the phone bill. If he doesn’t, no phone service. That is material motivation.

              Are you providing an allowance? Do you buy him what he says he needs that may be more “wants” than “needs”? If there’s something he wants (the right equipment to produce the electronica music he wants to do?) then let him know he needs to save up for it and buy it himself.

              I never had an allowance growing up–not even for chores (you were simply expected to help around the house). If I wanted anything above and beyond basic necessities, I had to save up birthday/Christmas gift money or work. I started working for my mother’s business (she cleans offices and houses) when I was like 12–I would help clean an office that she had contracted with and she would pay me $25 per job (the office was small so about 2-3 hours of cleaning work which breaks down to more than $8 per hour–more than minimum wage isn’t bad for mid-90s teen unskilled labor).

              My parents couldn’t afford to contribute to my college funds either–so my senior year I took an after school part time job and saved up enough to pay my rent the first year of college.

              EVERYONE is motivated by material means you just have to make it clear what you will and won’t provide for him and what he is expected to provide for himself.

              1. TiffIf*

                I do see below where you replied that his mother provides a lot and you don’t

                Yeah it is going to be difficult to get him motivated if he isn’t seeing consequences to not earning his own money/finding volunteer work.

      2. Here we go again*

        Tell him nobody besides the typical fast food retail, lawn mowing jobs are incredibly reluctant to hire someone without any work experience.

        1. Juneybug*

          I agree! For my Master’s program, I was told repeatedly to get a government (state or city agency) internship – otherwise, it will be almost impossible to get a state job, even with my degree. I needed to show “experience in a state job”, not the previous 30 years of job experience I had. It was odd at the numerous interviews where they talked more about my internship experience than any other part of my work history.
          Few suggestions –
          1. Could he have two part time jobs? One as a composer making electronica and the other working outside of the house?
          2. Could he find a mentor in the music business? Often teenagers will listen to anyone other than their parents.
          3. If he doesn’t get experience now, when will he? Does he realize he will be behind his peers with their work experience?
          4. If you and your spouse decide not to push the summer job, have him read books on music, business management, human relations, etc.
          Good luck! Raising teenagers is hard.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I agree with this. I don’t know the dynamics of your co-parenting relationship so you may or may not be able to do so without co-parent support.

        The only reason a teenager might want a job is spending money to spend on whatever he wants. Other than that immaterial dream internship, teen jobs are not going to sound like fun. I suspect teen aren’t thinking long term skills and even the few that are might not envision how a minimum wage jog gets them there.

        OTOH at least your kid is ambitious albeit unrealistic. He’s trying to create something and sell it. That’s a hard life, but it’s probably better than wanting to lay around all day and play video games. A long time ago, I read my summers away. There were worse things I could have been doing, but it didn’t really set me up for future jobs and job interviews. I was painfully shy. The only thing that would have gotten me out working was my parents making me since books from the library were free I wasn’t in need of much money.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I also was a shy introvert. My first job was at a library, & I loved it! My later jobs were in food service & retail, which really helped me learn to interact with a lot of people. (And… Discounts! Free food! There are some benefits to the typical teen jobs.)

        2. Troutwaxer*

          “OTOH at least your kid is ambitious albeit unrealistic. He’s trying to create something and sell it. That’s a hard life, but it’s probably better than wanting to lay around all day and play video games.”

          I’m kind of going two ways on this. On one hand older folks like us are all about a particular life path: get a job in high-school, go to college, get a degree, then do the work your degree entitles you to – and we know that still works! However, the Internet has changed some of that out of recognition, and the most important thing it’s changed is the chance that some kid can start learning very high-level artistic/technical/social skills at a very young age, so I’m going to play devil’s advocate here.

          Maybe the way to go with this is to say “sure, sell your music online, but I want some transparency, so I’m going to keep track of the hours you actually spend working on stuff, and I’ll listen to the music you’ve made, and once a week you’ll show me your online portals and we’ll see how you’re doing. If you’re not making at least minimum wage we’ll reconsider.”

          Also consider that the kid might be learning social-media skills, production skills, online social skills, possibly some HTML/CSS level coding skills, and some skills about selling himself and his product online. Chances are very good that the kid is a digital native and you aren’t, so – and this is where some real parental judgment is required – if the kid is accomplishing stuff and being productive I’d leave him alone. And I’d keep in mind that if he’s working really hard at it and he fails, he’ll still learn some important lessons!

          Lastly, if by chance your stepson does have a good-and-legal Internet hustle going on and you screw it up, you’ll have destroyed your relationship with the kid permanently.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            Oh, and an important P.S. to my devil’s advocacy – don’t give him any money if he wants to go this way. One way or another, let him see very clearly what his current skills are worth.

          2. Student Affairs Sally*

            So much this! I feel like so many of the comments here (including OP) are coming from the perspective that if this kid doesn’t get a job THIS summer he’s doing immense damage to his future and/or is just going to be lazy forever. I didn’t get a job until I was 18 and I turned out okay! I have a semi-decent-paying job where I get to tell 18 year olds what to do now! (Not really, but kinda). There is value in working from an early age, but there’s also a lot of value in letting the kid explore his interests and find out what he’s good at and what could be marketable job skills that are still creative but maybe a little more “useful” or employable than making music. I think setting expectations and holding him accountable, but letting him explore, is a perfect balance for a 16 year old, especially in a complex blended family situation like this where there may be some authority struggles.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              All of this.

              And for the record, I didn’t get my first job until my freshman year in college, and I also turned out okay, lol.

      4. Esmeralda*

        Yup. Anytime my son did not want to do something that I felt was important/necessary, I told him this: “First of all, because I said so. Second…(reasons)” When he was a tween and older, I told him “Because reasons. And also, because I said so.” LOL. Eventually he’d interrupt me and say, “are we at Because I Said So yet?”

      5. LTL*

        “He’s going to think he can cajole a boss into letting him do whatever he wants.”

        I get where you’re coming from but this is quite the jump. He’s a teenager, not a small child, it’s just as likely (if not more so) that he can read where and when he’s able to exert his views.

        I also feel that it’s easy to say that you should just order him as the parent, but the family dynamics have been built up over 16 years. I imagine if it was so simple as “you live under my roof,” Your Weird Uncle would’ve tried that already.

      6. NeverComments*

        Yeah I, like many teenagers, didn’t have a choice of getting a job. I needed to pay for gas, insurance, going out with friends, etc.

      7. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

        Yes. My mom was like “You aren’t going to sit around the house all summer, you have to volunteer somewhere full time or get a job.” It wasn’t negotiable. She had reasons like it would be good experience but those were beside the point.

        For me there was also the appeal of making money. I didn’t get a big allowance and there were a million things I wanted. It’s hard to understand a teen or anyone who doesn’t share this!

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I needed money, but I was already a kid who was good at taking direction and doing things I didn’t necessarily want to do, on somebody else’s time table and by somebody else’s priorities. I know a did a few dumb things in my early jobs but nothing big: No waltzing in late or arguing about uniforms or whatever.

      But, yeah, if he’s thinking that producing music means he can run the show, he’s in for a surprise. Even I know you need a lot of social and negotiating skills to cut it in entertainment.

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        Yes, I totally agree. We mention all the time all of the other relateable skills he’s going to need. He of course doesn’t think that’s true – he thinks he’s going to make all the money he wants just by putting his music online and the masses are going to give him enough to pay the bills. Honestly, I highly suspect he is going to live with his mother for several years after high school.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I just read the Roadies section of SYSK’s book, and if you want a music theme, it’s a really good argument for taking a job as an in for an industry. (Never knew how many musicians started as Roadies.)

          I bet there are other music-related jobs he could look into. For example, local radio (or TV) stations often hire for the summer.

        2. Aly_b*

          In that case it might be eye opening for him to fully dedicate a summer to trying it. If he makes a mint, then hey, great. If he makes very little, it might give him some motivation to make some cash or a sense that it doesn’t come easy.

          But you mention that part of it is needing to get him out of the house for you guys, and I think that’s 100% fair and is something you should straight up tell him – by 16 isn’t he old enough to hear that you all need some space from each other during the days? I would calculate into that the weirdness of this past year and any pandemic worries he (or you) might have about him becoming a front line worker when it’s optional. He may need some grace after the year we’ve all just had.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            As per the OP, they only have the kid around 30% of the time anyway. Plus he seems to be happy whiling away part of his time in his room. How much more space do they need/

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            If my parent only had me 30% of the time and told me they needed space from me just being in my room working on music, I would draw some conclusions from that, and they would not be good for our relationship. (One of those conclusions would be that if I lived with them full-time, being gone 70% of the time would not be “enough” for them.)

            That said, my mom made me and my sister have jobs year-round, not just in the summer, and it was very good for us. I support expecting teenagers to work. Maybe not in a pandemic, but generally. But it’s got to come from the parent, not the stepparent (and if it’s really being pushed by the latter, the kid is going to know and it’s going to affect their relationship with both). When they already only have him a third of the time, I’m not sure these are ideal conditions for succeess.

    6. Kimmybear*

      Purpose: it depends. I’ve known teenagers who worked to help their parents pay rent and others to save for college. Should the purpose drive the job or should whatever job he can get determine what he can learn from it? Reality in your area may be that there are no jobs for teenagers because unemployment is so high. Is he willing to mow lawns, rake leaves, or babysit? Maybe the purpose is to learn how to negotiate, network, and advocate for himself since those are important in any field.

    7. No Tribble At All*

      I was very motivated by cash money, but experience, independence, and customer service are all really useful to learn. I still remember dealing with my first unreasonable customer and the knowledge that you can’t please everyone is very helpful.

    8. anon24*

      Honestly, I learned so much in my teenage job. Not just the usual, responsibility, how to be on time, how work forces work, so on and so on, but how adulthood works, how to talk to many different people, how to be polite to rude people even when I was exhausted and they were the 400th person I’d talked to that day. Working my job made me a much rounder person and I had co-workers with so many different life experiences that opened me up to many different world views. I was also lucky that in my case I had a good boss who saw that while I was shy and didn’t take charge, I had the ability to. He taught me how to have confidence at work and when to step up and take authority of situations instead of letting things slide for someone else to take care of and this is a skill that is still getting mentioned during performance reviews in my current job.

    9. ThatGirl*

      For me, it was money and autonomy, and I think it also gave me valuable life and work experience, and the ability to deal with difficult customers, managers, etc. But I was motivated to do it. I was a waitress at Chuck E Cheese, a clerk at a video store, and in college worked at a furniture/home goods store and did some office work.

      I have a 16-year-old brother in law (yeah, he was a surprise) and I wonder if he’s going to be getting a job at all in the next year or two. He isn’t even motivated to get his driver’s license, and does diddly squat around the house, but he does have extracurricular activities (sports and marching band) that at least give him responsibility and the ability to take direction.

    10. Ash*

      I’m sure you must be giving him money for eating out, gas/transportation, hobbies he wants to pursue, random stuff he wants to buy. Tell him that all that “fun money” he now needs to earn himself, or at least a portion of it. If he doesn’t earn it, he doesn’t get it from you. That should light a fire under him.

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        Actually, we don’t give him money for anything! He’s my stepson and everything else he wants he gets from his mother. She’s…not on board with having him have to work for anything.

        1. Not a Real Giraffe*

          I think this is the crux of your problem, then. Until both parents are on the same page about this, I doubt you will have much success. Your stepson will learn the hard way… or he will not.

          1. Your Weird Uncle*

            Oh yes, you’re right about that. We try our hardest and I’m glad that my husband agrees with me but it is like fighting an uphill battle.

          1. LDF*

            He’s 16! I don’t understand why it’s so crucial to force him to join the ratrace. Let him have summer vacation for another year or two, dang.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Right. My mom didn’t allow me to work while I was in high school because she wanted me to be a kid without responsibilities for as long as possible (plus, I had summer homework for my AP classes that had to be done, and that was a lot – most of my classmates didn’t have jobs either).

              1. Clisby*

                I wasn’t allowed to work except for babysitting, which gave me extra money but didn’t require any sort of fixed-time commitment. (That is, I could work this weekend but not next weekend; I could take 3 jobs one week and none the next – it was up to me.) My brothers didn’t work while in high school except for having a lawn-cutting business, but again, it was entirely up to them how many jobs they took. My parents let them use the family lawn mower, but 1/3 of every job payment went into the replace-the-lawn-mower fund.

        2. Smithy*

          If his mom is going to patch any of your deprivations – I strongly recommend bribery as a tactic instead. Maybe it’s around purchasing something that would motivate him, or maybe it’s about time to travel to visit something.

          I do think that there comes a point where if the “sticks” aren’t working, there are carrots out there that don’t immediately fall into the “we’ll spoil the child!” trap.

        3. Just no*

          My family was pretty poor, and I worked because I just needed money for all of the things teenagers want/need money for. I don’t think I would have felt a need to get a job otherwise. (And, honestly, I don’t think it was necessarily good for me to have a teenage job because I worked 30+ hours a week even during the school year, and I was absolutely exhausted.)

          It sounds like he has no incentive whatsoever to get a job. If his mom isn’t on board with him getting a job and she’s giving him money, it’s really difficult for me to imagine that he is going to listen to arguments about learning soft skills or anything like that.

        4. Malarkey01*

          I know this wasn’t your question and don’t want to seem like piling on, but you don’t give your 16 year old any money? Not for movies, meals with friends, hobbies? I think there’s definite value in working and having to earn fun money, but not to give any money to a teen seems a little much. That coupled with not wanting him around the house all the time (which I get I have a teen and we’ve been in pandemic home for a year but still having kids around in the summer is a fact of life), and already having only 30% custody.
          At 16, actual custody arrangements starts to diminish and the kids become the ones deciding who they spend time with.
          Unlike when we were teens, the majority of teens don’t work now and finding work is hard for this demographic even when really motivated. I think you might want to take a step back and think about what’s possible and practical for your specific parenting arrangement. I really mean this kindly and non-judgy, just as perspective on how the teen job market has changed in 20 years and the complications of teens and custody. Best of luck!

          1. Disco Janet*

            I agree with the comments about not wanting him around the house comments, but not about the teen job market. I’m sure it depends on the area, but I’m a high school teacher in a suburban area, and over half of my students have part time jobs.

        5. Blackcat*

          “She’s…not on board with having him have to work for anything.”
          Well… then your husband needs to have a clear conversation with him and his ex and explain what types of support he will offer after child support is no longer required.

          My parents were “not on board with having [my brother] have to work for anything.” Having that attitude when my brother was 16 lead to having it when he was 20, then 24, and by the time they tried to change, he was SUPER entitled. My mom rolls over on everything, and now my parents have a 38 year old “child” completely dependent on them at home.

    11. Kramerica Industries*

      I remember that my motivator when I was a teenager was that I needed experience to actually do what I wanted to in the future. It was framed to me where I wasn’t just stocking shelves, I was demonstrating that I knew how to prioritize and be organized. I wanted to work in advertising, so the question motivating me was: Who are advertisers at fancy agency going to hire? Someone with absolutely no experience, or someone who has had jobs where they’ve built up some skills?

      I think that it helps if you can relate summer jobs back to the music industry. You’re right that learning to take direction is a good skill to have, particularly if you spin it to relate to collaboration. I’m not in the industry, but I would imagine that music is all about collaboration.

    12. matcha123*

      Hmm…In my case, my “teenage job” started with delivering newspapers in elementary school and moved onto working at a library in high school and through college. The reasons were simple: my family needed money. I also wanted money, and I could use some of my paycheck to buy things for myself. Most of it went to paying bills, however.

      For many of my upper-middle class classmates, getting a job between 10th and 11th grade was just something to jot onto a college application to show that they didn’t just sit at home and study. Oh, no. They worked! (Over the summer, at internships set-up by their wealthy parents.)

      I never got an allowance growing up (poor), but if work is available to him then just don’t give him an allowance. Don’t pay for his stuff. And if he’s fine with that, then so be it. Let him fail at his first job. My assumption is that you guys are comfortable enough that if he’s fired you’re not going to end up homeless or without electricity and he’s not going to end up on the streets. When he graduates high school he either enrolls in college or he gets a job to chip in with paying for electricity, rent, etc.

    13. Here we go again*

      1. To learn how to have a job. To show up on time and ready to work. How to take instruction constructive criticism and work with coworkers and customers. How to act professional.
      2. How to fail or screw up. Without consequences of not being able to pay rent or loose health insurance for your family.
      3. Things they don’t teach you in school or your parents don’t teach you but should like how to use a cash register, or clean a kitchen or a bathroom.
      4. Humility.
      5. How to manage your own money.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        6. How to do your own taxes. (I had to do my own, & it turned out to be a good lesson.)

        1. Here we go again*

          +1 They totally need to make personal finance and accounting mandatory in high school. Not everyone needs trig or calculus, but everyone could use a class in personal finance.

        2. Another JD*

          The first time I did my own taxes in high school and found out I owed money because my parents claimed me as a dependent, I was SO pissed!

          1. TiffIf*

            if you’re in high school you’re usually still a minor so there is no choice except to be claimed as a dependent…right? Unless you are talking about once you were 18 but still in high school?

            The year I turned 18 was the one and only time I filed taxes where my parents claimed me as a dependent.

            1. Natalie*

              You’re correct that it’s not actually a choice whether or not someone is a dependent. There are specific tests but if someone meets them, it’s not supposed to be optional.

              Age is less relevant than people think – if your parents are providing the majority of your support and you live with them (or live with them when you’re not away at college), you’re a dependent no matter how old you are.

    14. Anon-mama*

      I had a nice first job working in a Hallmark in high school and then at a Barnes and Noble in college. I’m a full-time library paraprofessional now. My twin hated his jobs as a grocery bagger and then bookstore barista. He took more time to finish university and was really unmotivated until getting a job in computer information systems (his longtime interest). He did the earlier ones because he had no choice–he (and I) were responsible for half our car insurance cost and were not allowed to drive without paying up. When he returned home to the nest in his twenties, and a lot less authority from my parents, I guess there wasn’t a drive to just take anything.

      So I think those early jobs taught responsibility, accountability, time management, team player, and career interests or dislikes. They gave a work history. And importantly (and I know you’re not looking for reasons), it enabled us to pay for stuff we wanted because within reason, my parents started cutting us off from allowance.

    15. WellRed*

      I had a really hard time landing my first entry level job after high school (put off college for a few years) because I had almost zero work experience.

    16. CatCat*

      I was motivated by money. Worked at some crappy jobs, but it was exciting for me to earn a paycheck.

      Sounds like your stepson may have an entrepreneurial streak if he’s planning to create music and sell it. Any programs or groups in your area that might support budding entrepreneurs? Might be an unconventional teen path, but could be very motivating and help him learn skills.

    17. Ashley*

      In addition to the money factor teenage jobs are also great for helping with time management / schedule priorities. My super professional college internship was definitely helped by my teenage work experience. Plus there is something really satisfying about buying stuff for yourself that your parents wouldn’t. Household rules also required me to pay for my insistence after the first year. To me it is about increasing responsibility in a controlled manner so you may flame out less spectacularly later when you are on your own.

    18. Qwerty*

      Teenage jobs teach a lot about the basics of the working world, being accountable to someone who isn’t a parent/teacher, working on a team(ish), and being exposed to more people/different working styles. If your stepson isn’t interested in a job, could he find an organization to volunteer with where he has to show up regularly, follow a work schedule, be assigned tasks, etc. I know when I was a teen my parents made it a requirement during the summer that I had something else going on – if I wasn’t going to get a job or volunteer, then my “job” was housework. I also needed the money for college – my parents told each of us how much they could contribute and we were responsible for the rest and for coming up with a finance and education plan to get us into a career (with a backup plan if the first career was risky. The advice was we free to get a degree we loved but we should also get a degree that could a job and hopefully those would be the same.)

      I’ve done a lot of hiring/training of interns and college grads and the more successful ones had previously held an unglamorous job or did a lot of volunteer work. Whenever we had someone who had never held a job before, they were generally terrible to manage, because we had to work through basic things like “sometimes you have to do tasks you don’t like” and “you have to show up to work on time”. They were also the ones constantly complaining about pay and work conditions, despite them being pretty great (Interns were salaried but it came out to $25 an hour, had free housing a block from the office, free meals, free bus pass in a city with lots of public transit, free tickets to major festivals/events in the city, plus other perks and worked 30-40hrs a week, most of which was an investment in their skills rather than getting much benefit for us)

      Covid obviously complicates everything! So there might need to be a need to be creative or flexible. Can your friend in the music industry talk to him about how most musicians have other jobs to support their music career? Or limit the hours during which he can play music if it isn’t something that can be contained in headphones?

      1. Pond*

        $25/hr, free housing, and all the other free stuff!?! That’s really REALLY good for an internship. I’m curious where and what type of company/internship this is.

        1. Qwerty*

          Tech / Finance. This was a few years ago in finance when a bunch of firms got into an arms race with recruiting tech interns. The top tier engineers were all entering their senior years with full time offers after graduation, so all the companies invested in junior-level internships, then sophomore-level internships to just try to get people in the pipeline.

          It was in a big city, so the interns would stay in college dorms and eat breakfast/dinner there, while lunch was served at the office. They may have actually made more per hour – I just remember it becoming higher than what we offered for a entry-level developer. And the interns complaining about their wages to our receptionist, who made much less (but above market value)!

    19. LDN Layabout*

      Eh, I got a job at 15 and it was only because I wanted more money. I don’t think it’s a /need/ for a teenager, who hasn’t finished secondary education, to get a job unless they want to.

      Once they’ve finished that stage in life? 100% it’s time for that first job. I wasn’t expected to work through university, but if I hadn’t gone/during the long summer break I was expected to be doing /something/ career related, either a job or an internship.

    20. Picard*

      I got my first job at 16 washing dishes so that I would have my own money and be able to make decisions about how I spent it. Does he get an allowance? If so, maybe reconsider that?

    21. Zephy*

      I think, for a teenager, the purpose of a job is mainly for the experience of having had A Job and been paid to Do Something. I graduated from college having never had a “real job” – I had work-study jobs on campus, which were “real jobs” insofar as I had to be at a place at a time and someone told me what to do and paid me for my time doing those things. But, because they were on-campus jobs and tied to the academic year, my resume looked a bit patchwork, showing multiple apparently-unrelated positions that all lasted 8 months with a 4-month gap between them.

      If he’s really interested in a career in music, though, a summer where he’s free to sequence beats to his heart’s content might actually be better for him than bussing tables or stocking shelves. For any art career, the more time you have to get all of your bad art out of your system, the sooner you can start making good art.

    22. Emilitron*

      It’s his first opportunity to be treated as an adult. Most teens only have a few categories of relationships: teacher/student, parent/child (or similar generational “auntie”/child), peer/peer friendships, sometimes teen/kiddo babysitting type responsibility. But even when it’s a teen summer job and employers do treat teen workers as inexperienced temps, the boss/employee relationship is very different from teacher/student, and the employee/customer relationship is brand new.

    23. Jellyfish*

      I worry that any other realistic job for a kid his age in the area we live in (mainly, bussing tables or stocking shelves) isn’t going to be ‘good enough’ for my stepson to consider doing.

      I had a bit of that attitude as a kid too. I knew I could do cooler or more interesting jobs and felt a bit entitled to them. Fast food was the reality though – that’s the only place I could get hired with no experience.

      I’d never had admitted it at the time, but it did a lot to teach me that food and retail workers have dreams and skills like anyone else. Some people like working those jobs, and they’re good at them. Some people work where they can because bills must be paid. I definitely learned to consider other people’s time and labor a lot more valuable than I likely would have if my early jobs were fancy and “important” by my 16yo standards. It’s good life experience.

    24. Campfire Raccoon*

      I’m trying to steer my 15.5 yo to being a life guard this summer. My main reasons as a parent are: experience, get him out of the house, socialize, exercise, life skills, learning teamwork and how to take instruction, and money.

      When I was 16 I was in an unstable household. So my motivations were: money for college, having somewhere to be outside of the house, fun, and my coworkers. I also had a super duper hard-core crush on a fellow ice-cream slinger which resulted in many overtime hours, lol.

      1. Cascadia*

        I worked as a lifeguard over the summer – it was the best job for a teenager! Outside all day, lots of fun with other teens, earning some money, it was great!

        1. Filosofickle*

          Being a lifeguard was the best! I was a swimmer so it was an obvious summer job. I loved it, and it even paid well, comparatively. It had elements of grunt work (like cleaning bathrooms) and customer service that were good to learn without being all I had to do.

          I don’t know what I would have done otherwise. I definitely did not want to work retail/food, but they may not have taken me anyway because those jobs went to kids that worked all year round. (My family preferred us working only summers.) I guess I would have figured something out, because a summer job wasn’t something I saw as optional.

      2. Hi there*

        My kid is about to be 15.5 also, thanks for leading me to do the math! Mine is going to be a counselor in training at a scout camp.

    25. OyHiOh*

      For me, it was about earning money for my piano lessons so maybe, there’s a course somewhere (even through Coursera) that he’s motivated to take – specific industry/technical skill, perhaps – and the deal is, you’ll pay a piece of the fee, but he needs a job to pay for the rest.

      Check and see if there are any day camps in the theater/arts/culture industry in your area, and if he could work or volunteer as an instructor or councilor. Those might be close enough to “music industry” to catch his attention.

      If he thinks he can make enough selling electronica to cover his personal wants and skills training isn’t enough to motivate him, volunteering might be another reasonable option to get him out of the house and under the direction of a professional. As with “a job,” it’ll put skills, experience, and a supervisor on his resume and he might be able to find something industry specific to do.

    26. Keener*

      I think the value of a teenage job completely depends upon what the young person would be doing if they didn’t have the job. I personally didn’t get a summer job until I’d graduated high school. However, I was heavily involved with Girl Guides (in Canada) and spent my teenage summers planning and executing wilderness expeditions with peers, and volunteering at camps for younger girls. So while I wasn’t “working” I was gaining a lot of life skills and experience I could talk about in a cover letter/job interview.

    27. AllTheBirds*

      Learning how to manage in the adult world. Understanding what is expected of you and trying to live up to it. Developing crucial skills (managing time, courtesy to others, taking responsibility).

      Almost no one gets a first/summer job doing exactly what they love. Maybe he’ll learn that the world won’t hand him just what he wants. He’s competing with his cohort. He may need to learn skills to help him stand out — all of which will help him as he matures.

      1. AllTheBirds*

        Oh, and no reason he can’t have a summer job AND do his music. Which I’m sure you know ;)

    28. Cascadia*

      All of the above! I started working at 16 (legally) and teenage jobs can also be tons of fun! I did lifeguarding, worked at summer camps, taught swim lessons, and worked retail at a shoe store. In most of those jobs, everyone else I was working with was also a teenager and we had a blast. Plus, making money is nice. He’s also FAR more likely to get what I’m guessing will be highly competitive jobs/internships in the music business if he has some work experience. He can get a job at a record shop, or a music store, or teach music lessons to neighborhood kiddos, if he really wants to focus on the music aspect of things. But obviously any job will teach you good solid work skills: scoop ice cream at the local ice cream shop, sell burgers at McDonalds, bag groceries, work as a summer camp counselor, become a starbucks barista – many options available! I just heard a story on NPR this morning that restaurants are gearing up for a big return to normal and outdoor eating this summer and are already struggling to find employees to return to work. They especially need dishwashers, etc.

    29. LDF*

      I don’t see why a teen HAS to get a job if money is not something they want more of. We already have to be part of the capitalist grind for so long, I don’t think we have to go around inflicting it on 16 year olds. Time not spent working is not wasted time. If he has free summers, good, he can bond with friends and work on hobbies! Free time is a precious gift that he may not have again in this amount until retirement. I don’t understand why having a teen around is going to affect his marriage, or why he needs to learn to “take direction”. Let him be a teen.

      1. ThatGirl*

        That’s a pretty privileged view, unfortunately. Nearly everyone needs to learn how to get along with others in a workplace, and working service jobs (retail, food service etc) often helps you develop empathy both for customers and for workers themselves. There are a lot of life skills in there along with the work-related ones.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Sure, but it’s not a /need/ to get that at 15/16 years old.

          I would say your late teens/early 20s are time enough to do that, unless there’s a need for the money, either a true need (helping support the household) or a parent created need (basic or no allowance and the kid wants more).

          1. Natalie*

            Yes, there seems to be an assumption in some of these comments that it’s a binary between “get a summer job at 15” and “don’t work until after graduating college” and that’s just not the case. Plenty of people don’t work in high school but get work experience in college – on-campus jobs, co-op education, summer internships, etc.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              That’s some really nasty ones about having the boy’s mother support him or living in her basement, HE’S SIXTEEN YEARS OLD.

        2. Spearmint*

          It is privileged, but if you have the privilege to so, I agree, why work as a teen if you don’t have to? I didn’t work until college but I had plenty of empathy for customers and workers as a teen. I think that can be learned in many ways. As for getting along with others? You can learn that in school and extracurriculars.

          I guess I’m skeptical of this idea that working a McJob as a teen is a super important learning experience. Among my friends from high school and college, I don’t see any correlation between their life success or personal character and whether they worked through school or not. Most high schoolers don’t have summer jobs these days, anyway, and it’s been that way for the past decade or so and they seem to be doing fine.

          1. LDF*

            Especially since OP was like “well I had a teen job and I HATED it” like… how is that a good reason to force the kid to get a bad teen job? My first jobs were in freshman year of college and I didn’t hate them because I had a lot more choice than a high school kid would (one job required midnight availability and the other was a campus job). Hating your job isn’t actually a necessary life experience. Most of this thread is so sad, it’s like well one day you’ll have to be abused by customers or exploited by your boss so better get a head start on that!

      2. LilyP*

        Yeah, I never had a job as a teen (spent my summers on camp, family travel, and friends/reading/relaxing) and I turned out fine. There are a lot of benefits to a first job, but loads of kids don’t work until they’re out of high school and manage somehow. If there’s boundaries or house rules you need to set around space/noise that can be independent of him getting a job or not!

    30. Esmeralda*

      I don’t know if this applies to your situation, but we were expected to contribute to our college expenses — and if we did not plan on attending college, we were expected to contribute to household expenses at the same level as we would have if we’d gone to college. That was a non-negotiable in our family. Colleges expect this as well, there is always a piece of the financial aid pie for the student’s contribution.

    31. Hi there*

      I’ve been thinking about this as we plan out our summer. I agree with the goals around earning money, gaining experience, etc. For my part I wanted kiddo (15) to have something to show for the summer and to be deliberate about the choices he was making.

      1. Coenobita*

        My family had a rule that once you were in high school, you had to do *something* structured and out of the house over the summer. It could be paid work, volunteering, taking classes, whatever, as long as you had to make a commitment and follow through with it. (My brother and I both had jobs because we liked earning money and, at least in my case, there was a lot of social cachet attached to working – and we also lived in a tourist town that was swimming with summer jobs. But our parents were clear that we could choose something other than paid work.) Anyway, I wonder if something like that would work for your family? It could give your 15yo some agency over their plans.

        1. Spearmint*

          I second this! My parents had a similar policy, and it was much motivating for me. Doing nothing all summer is not good for a teen’s well-being, but that doesn’t mean they have to fill their time at a McJob.

        2. Hi there*

          That is pretty much how our conversation went. For a while it was looking like a math class for the summer plus volunteering and fun at the pool but now kiddo is going to be a counselor in training at a scout camp.

    32. furby officianado*

      Experience is, actually, important. Not just so that you can get other, “better” jobs later, but for other formative reasons as well. The type of people who have never worked a day in their life are not the type of people who understand the needs of others. If the other types of local jobs aren’t “good enough”, I’d ask him why. All jobs are valuable. All work is valuable. Someone needs to do the job. We are also still living in a timeframe where college is becoming more expensive. Even if he isn’t motivated by material things, it can only benefit him to begin making money and saving it.

      Aside from working outside of the home, if he doesn’t already have a decent amount of responsibilities inside the home, I’d ramp that up right now. Does he know how to cook decently? Does he see mess and know how and when to clean it up? In two years he will be an adult. Will he be a responsible roommate/romantic partner who carries his own weight?

    33. meyer lemon*

      For me, I was motivated by saving up money for school. I didn’t get a huge amount of meaningful work experience out of cleaning motel rooms or bagging groceries–in fact, I normalized a lot of abusive behaviour from managers, which didn’t serve me too well in my early office jobs.

      If the money part isn’t important to you or your stepson, you could encourage him to pursue volunteer work instead, since he’s more likely to be able to find opportunities that are more meaningful to him, and he can get a feel for what it’s like to do various types of work. There may be a local arts organization that he’d be interested in.

    34. Lindsay v*

      You can’t come out of college/high school and into the working world never having a single job. You’ll be at a huge disadvantage.

    35. Rational Lemming*

      Honestly, I didn’t *need* money when I got my first job – I was 16 and didn’t have bills. But I did get a job because all of my friends couldn’t hang out because they were working! And they had money to do things that they didn’t need to ask their parents for (summer pass to Six Flags is one that I specifically remember!).
      Probably depends on his friend group – but maybe you could ask what his friends are up to and ask what he’s going to do while everyone else is off at work?

    36. Tiger*

      For me, it was having money. I know you said that his mother gives him money, but that was the point of my job. Having my own money for shopping, when I went out with friends, and ultimately, paying for college. Jobs didn’t become about anything other than money until my sophomore year of college.

      1. Just no*

        Same here, Tiger. I didn’t think of a job for any other purpose besides money until, I think, my last summer of college. I come from a poor, working-class background, and a job just equaled money to me for a long time.

    37. the cat's ass*

      Got my first job at 15 to save $ for college-between my two part time jobs and scholarships, it was the only way i was going to get there! So I was REALLY motivated. I worked in a bakery and a small nursing home and both jobs prepared me for the adult world in ways college certainly didn’t-dealing with customers. Dealing with difficult customers. Learning to bake on an industrial scale, which was a trip. Learning patience while walking someone slowly to the bathroom. Feeding someone who can’t feed themselves. Learning from the nurses (yes, i became one, so it was excellent prep for my career). Both jobs were really hard and paid minimum wage, but i enjoyed them both quite a lot and continued to ‘fill in’ when home from school for years.

      I hope he gets the music job or something similar because it’s not enough to just take music and post it on Youtube-you’ve got a lot of other business you need to do in the music industry as well.

    38. Spearmint*

      So, one bit of important context here is that it’s no longer the norm for teens to work summer jobs. Last I looked into it, only 1/3 of teens work in high school. There are also fewer jobs willing to hire teens than in the past, especially in a bad economy like we have now. This is a big change from even the world older millennials grew up in. I’m not going to tell you not to encourage your stepson to get a summer job, but I think it’s unrealistic to require it.

      Speaking personally, I didn’t work until college, and I had mixed experiences with part time college work. One was a tutoring job and I think that was very good for me. It boosted my self esteem and helped me learn about the importance of appearances at work. The other was a food delivery job, and I hated it with a passion (I have social anxiety) and quit after only a month. I can’t say I got anything positive from that second job.

      To be honest the most important things I learned about work in my teens and early-20s came from values my parents instilled in me and internships in my field.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        This is a good point – more and more of those “teen” jobs are now held by adults, so they are in shorter supply than they used to be. And especially now – I know we’re all sick to death (har har) of plague talk, but assuming it’s even safe for a teen to be out working again by this summer, he’s going to be competing against a ton of adults who are out of work because of the pandemic.

      2. Fed Too*

        I was reading down to see if this came up. I started working at 14 and worked several different “teen jobs” for 8 years in different industries and it was really eye opening and I made money and had independence; it was great! However with every single place I worked, if you walked into them now you would not see teen employees. For a lot of different reasons now, employers don’t want summer hires and if they can chose between a 25 or 45 year old and a 16 year old are going with the older employee because they have more skill/demonstrated experience/responsibility/hours available/etc.

        I think OP is going to be surprised at how hard it’s going to be for her stepson to even find a job (during a pandemic that hit food/retail/service especially hard) especially if he’s not motivated to find one. Then who is going to make sure he gets there, especially if the custody is shared.

    39. calonkat*

      OK, so no need for money or security (outside your control), but he has clearly unrealistic expectations of how easy it is to earn compose/produce music and to earn money online. I am NOT a musician or composer, but I do have friends who are (more in the folk or classic realm than pop or rap), and they make relatively little online with dedicated fanbases (albeit in niche areas). Not enough to support themselves. Most of their money comes from in-person gigs, which have not happened the last year.

      I find the produce OR compose to be sort of funny too, as writing music is a bit different than producing, but again, not my field. It just sounds like he has a vague dream of being in the music world because it’s easy, with no real concept of the work that goes into being at all successful. Even the people who seem to slack off as celebrities spend or have spent inordinate amounts of time and effort to get to their level and maintain that level.

      I have NO experience in a world where money isn’t an issue, but could the friend in the music industry do or arrange an interview to help your stepson understand some of the challenges in this field? I’d have had my daughter doing research into possible career paths, what tools/equipment/skills she’d need, and how she’d go about getting them.

      But it honestly sounds like he just wants to goof off, claim to be working on music, and live in his mother’s basement. And if she’s fine with that, there may not be much you can do to change that.

    40. pcake*

      If he wants to be a music producer, does he have the needed skills? At his age, I seriously doubt it. He might want to learn how to do all the things he’ll need to know. Can he get an internship or entry level job at a recording studio, even if it’s taking out the trash and cleaning the rooms? Even if he got a job at a rehearsal studio, he can learn about the gear, what musicians want and make contacts. And he’ll learn how to deal with people who aren’t family, friends or teachers by working anywhere. And that will help him whether he goes into music or decides to try something else.

    41. MissDisplaced*

      I’ve been working since I was 13 years old.
      Teen jobs teach:
      Independence and self-sufficiency
      Taking direction from bosses/managers
      Working with others/Dealing with others
      Customer service
      Seeing the value (or lack thereof) of labor to money
      The importance of a schedule
      Responsibility

      I agree though the money kids get paid now is piddling compared to what you used to be able to accomplish with a part time job though.

    42. Nunya*

      I’m hung up on the phrase of “teenage job.” Aside of maybe babysitting for family/friends, there aren’t really jobs specifically designed for teenagers.

      If you’ll allow me to rephrase your question, I think you’re really getting at “Why should teenagers want/need a STARTER/EARLY CAREER job?” The short answer is: They need to get a job to learn how to be a worker.

      As for WANTING a job, some might want to make money to help their family or earn their own spending money. Some might already have an inkling of what they want to do professionally and start building skills and experience towards that (which can just as viably be done by volunteering if money isn’t a concern).

      As for NEEDING a job–I won’t harp on the financial necessity some households face; I hope that much is obvious–Working outside the home is a complete reversal of their priorities.

      In a household privileged enough where a young person getting a job is optional, said young person’s motivation, choices, schoolwork, etc., have all been focused on helping that young person succeed. The message for most of their life has been “Work hard in school, get good grades, get into a good college so you can get a good job,” where school is the closest analogue to professional work. Everything the student does is about the STUDENT. They study to improve THEIR OWN grades, and their lack of school work doesn’t have significant repercussions on their classmates. (I’m focusing on the big picture here, not instances of group projects.) They don’t study? They get a bad grade and maybe have to make up for it with more schooling.

      On the other hand, in a professional work environment, everything that a young person/first-time worker is expected to do impacts THE WORKPLACE and THEIR COWORKERS. It’s not about the student anymore. They slack off or don’t show up to work? Their boss and co-workers have to work harder to provide quality service and meet the same standards, which can cause further ramifications to the company long-term if the workers aren’t up to par. Maybe the company gets enough bad reviews and loses business. Maybe health codes or OSHA requirements aren’t met and the company is fined or shut down.

      I’m not trying to say that one bad inexperienced worker will destroy a company (if that’s the case, the place was doomed for the start), but that young workers need to realize that at work, their actions have an effect on other people, and that in order to be considered successful, they will be held to other people’s standards.

      That’s a lesson that can be really hard for young workers to learn. They don’t work for themselves, anymore, they work for the whole.

    43. Carol*

      Well, I could always tell a difference between people who had worked during high school, and those who got pretty much through college without a “real” job. I think there’s a much stronger appreciation for money and the cost of things if you’ve worked. People who “don’t worry about material things” often don’t realize how much food and shelter really cost. I think that’s essential learning for a teenager, truly, even if at that level it starts with fun money.

      1. often trapped under a cat*

        I think this depends on how the person is raised rather than whether or not they’ve worked.

        My daughter was aware that there were things we couldn’t do because we couldn’t afford it and that different people made different choices with their money. Paying the bills always came first, and that meant that there were certain things she couldn’t do because there wasn’t room for them in the family budget.

        After that, everyone does different things with their money because everyone has different priorities. Some valued things, some valued experiences, some valued travel, etc. We like art and theater, so spare money went to museums and theater tickets. Some of her friends had all the latest gadgets but had never seen a live performance other than school trips. Some friends took vacations every year; we usually took a vacation every two years. One year we went to DisneyWorld but I saved for three years to afford that trip.

        So kids know, if parents let them know.

    44. Two Dog Night*

      I didn’t have my first real, non-family job until the summer after I graduated high school, and the only reason I started working was to pay for college. And in retrospect, since I worked continuously from then on, it was kind of nice to have one last summer off when I had a driver’s license and was reasonably independent. Sorry, that’s probably not helping. :-)

      I can see how giving your stepson’s summer some structure would be a good idea–if he refuses to get a job, are there community college classes he could take? Maybe volunteer somewhere?–but I don’t think his lack of job is a sign that he’s not going to be independent as an adult.

    45. JB*

      The experience is really invaluable – it’s very important IMO to have a ‘low-stakes’ environment in which to make newbie working mistakes and learn some very basic skills that are applicable in pretty much any job. It also helps the young person identify what they’re good at.

      Some skills that I, personally, was able to identify in myself and work on at my teen job (coffee and donut chain, if you’re wondering) that I’ve carried forward into my actual career:
      -politely communicating with people who are really coming from a different perspective/have expectations far out of line with reality
      -training someone new
      -when and how to push back on an actual opportunity to approve processes vs. when it’s better to just do as I’m told
      -identifying when someone above me is pretending to act in my best interests as part of a long con
      -how to work productively and professionally with coworkers I just really dislike on a personal level

      It also just teaches how paychecks work (like what tax withholdings look like), makes the teen a more appealing candidate for future positions (work history + maybe a reference + they’ll have examples of working experiences to discuss in interviews), and also will almost definitely leave the teen with some wildly funny stories to tell about encounters with the public.

    46. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I’m not sure getting a 8/hr job will really put a dent in today’s college costs, and he’ll be competing against adults for the few jobs available.

      It’s nice to have, but I wouldn’t be too upset at him if he couldn’t find a job.

    47. Lemon Zinger*

      I needed to get a job when I was a teenager. I needed the money– I never got an allowance and my parents didn’t give me spending money, nor were they going to give me money for books, clothes, etc. when I got to college. So for me, it really was about the money. Work experience was great too of course, but money was the deciding factor.

    48. sequined histories*

      Honestly, I feel like the purpose is to teach us that true freedom is not our lot in life! (I’m a hard worker and a good employee, but at the end of the day, I am NOT a fan of the system we got going here.)

    49. often trapped under a cat*

      I’m not sure there is a real “reason” for kids to work in the summer (absent fiscal concerns). Heresy, I know.

      When I was a teen, I had to have a summer job because my father was out of work and my family was basically living on my mother’s wages as a secretary and some money from my paternal grandparents (the psychological toll of that was awful). So if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t have money. But that was back in the 1970s and local businesses frequently hired local kids “for the summer.”

      When my own daughter was a teen, in the 2010s), summer jobs were incredibly difficult to come by. She went in to pretty much every local business and asked and applied and didn’t even get an interview most of the time. Many employers wanted experience (or said they did), even for pretty basic stuff like stocking shelves. At least one man came on to my daughter during her “interview.”

      She had internships during the school year. She did some babysitting. She understood the value of work because I taught her to value it…but I also made it clear that work was work, and life was life, and there was nothing wrong with having a job so that you could have a life, that you didn’t have to have “a career” or devote all our energy, time, and creativity to an employer.

      When she got to college, she got a job within weeks, in the restaurant industry, and she’s worked pretty steadily ever since (except in 2020 because of you know what). I don’t think working a couple of summers in high school would have taught her anything she didn’t already know.

      I mean, I would have liked her to have a larger amount of savings, but she lived pretty much within her allowance, so it wouldn’t have made a huge difference to my wallet.

      I think teens should work if they are interested in working.

      But adulthood, and not having summer vacations, and needing to be employed pretty much full-time, come up on them really fast. It’s not a big deal, in my opinion, for them to have free summers at 16, 17, or 18 if there is no monetary need for them to work.

      Heck, I’ve been working full-time since my late teens and I would love to have two months off in the summer!

    50. Asenath*

      I think of it as a step to independence. I certainly didn’t work in the same areas as my summer jobs, so I didn’t gain specific work skills. I suppose I learned that I had to show up when I said I would and complete what I said I would, but I also learned that from my family. What really made a difference to me personally was having my own money to spend or save as I wished – even though, of course, my pay was very low, and I earmarked every penny for my future education. I have no idea what would motivate someone who didn’t think that starting to contribute towards self-support was really important.

    51. Kiitemso*

      Off the top of my head: the value of earning your own money (feels so much better than a parental handout!), knowing how important it is to stick to a schedule (beyond just school), learning how to function in a team (team work at work is so different to a group exercise in class, but in a good way).

    52. Maria the Medical Librarian*

      My 16-year-old daughter just started working as a grocery store cashier a couple of months ago. It has been really good for her to interact with a variety of people and to take responsibility for managing her time (keep track of her schedule, block days off from being scheduled, etc.). She was also really excited to buy something expensive she wanted with her own money. I think it helps that most of her friends also have jobs.

    53. OhGee*

      I was paid $5 a week by my parents for chores, and when I was old enough to get a job, I went out and got one because it was the only way to get stuff for myself other than the basics and birthday/Christmas presents. If I’d wanted to be a music producer at the time, I would’ve had to get a job to pay for the equipment, and that’s that. I worked in a grocery store and later in the hardware store my father managed (I’m a woman, and took *great* pleasure in proving that I could carry heavy things). It wasn’t hard to make either job fun, and though most of my post-college career has been in office jobs, when I struggled to find work after grad school, I didn’t feel any kind of shame about taking a grocery job again. So for me, those jobs instilled a work ethic and respect for low-wage workers, *and* let me explore music before the Internet made that easy (I’m a lifelong musician and spent most of my high school paychecks on CDs). We were financially comfortable enough that I didn’t *have* to work as a teen, but I definitely wanted to.

    54. Not So NewReader*

      You’ve had over 100 responses. I hope you are still reading.

      I was *that* kid. My father decided I was not going to work if I was in school.

      I understand why he did that. He was a depression kid, sent out the door to work at age 7 and he never stopped working. He had to bring home money to feed the family…. at age 7. sigh. So he decided that his kid (me) would not have to have the life he had.
      Unfortunately, I am a woman (strike one), who grew up in an even more sexist era (strike two) and I got my first job at 19 (strike three). It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized what a huge setback this was for me. I do believe it came from a good place, but it only hurt me. I spent a good number of years playing catch-up. I was pretty angry at my father for clipping my wings like that.
      Unlike your son, I wasn’t allowed to have much money. So clothes, personal needs and what not came out of the $1 a week allowance I had. Yeah. I learned all the wrong things about money because of not having access to money to do things with. BUT here’s the kicker, parents can’t teach what they don’t know. My father never had money as a kid (gave it to his family) and he did not make a decent wage until after WWII when he was well into his 30s. So handling finances was another setback from this one poor decision my father made. I have worried about money all my life. How ironic when my father’s goal was to have a kid who did not worry about money.

      If I could talk to your son, I would tell him this:
      Okay, go without the summer job. That will feel like a win for a while. Until one day you realize you are way behind where other people your age are at. I know people in the music industry. They were working since age 12 or 13. They found the arena very cutthroat. You have to know people to grease the path. Staying employed is tricky as the slightest thing can cause people to dump you off. You might not even know what you did “wrong”. They won’t be nice about it the way your parents and step mom are- they will have no problem saying, “You’re ugly and you dress funny!” or whatever personal, nasty thing they want to say. It’s rough.

      For you, as a step-mom, I suggest tapping the idea he has about building (whatever the gizmos are). I’d go right into it. Okay let’s write a business plan. Okay lets buy raw material and set up a production line. Now we need to make some spreadsheets to track expenditures and income. We have to collect up information for tax reporting. Where do you plan on selling this item? You should get insurance in case someone sues you. Etc, etc. I’d go right into the thick of it with him- but that’s my personality. Eh, it could be the kid is on to something. More than likely it will work into a learning experience. Maybe his mom is willing to pay for all this, so why not just let her?
      My thinking is that if you go in the opposite direction it’s going to be a fight every inch of the way. If you go with the flow, you can just say, “Well you said you were going to build gizmos to earn money this summer, so you need to do that and see how it goes.” This way you are giving him back his own words and showing him how we are accountable for what we say.
      On the one in a million change he does well- then lucky him and lucky you.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Along the same lines, see if SBDC in your area is running the business fundamentals course (it’s usually packaged as either a 12-ish week program, or broken up into individual components in which case I’d say that the business plan, marketing, and finance components are most important) over the summer. Step son can take it, and it should be free or very nearly so. If SBDC is at all competent, the instructors will be able to direct him to model plans written for/by solo artists/creators such as himself.

    55. Anon today*

      It may not work since he’s only in the home 1:3 of the time, and the other parent may have mores say so, but I had to make money to pay for car insurance & gas. My parents made the payment. That was good motivation and taught me that it takes a job to pay the bills.

    56. Higher-Ed Musician*

      My response is going to be a bit different from the others.

      If he wants to be a musician and/or composer as his future job and is considering going to college as a composition major, it is FAR more important that he gains practical experience in his desired field than it is he finds a random job for the sake of having it. I say this as someone who was conservatory-trained for my post-secondary schooling and is now an academic at a prestigious university in my field.

      Professors (because we’re typically the ones who decide which students to take on in our studios) and admissions officers are going to want to see concrete examples of music training and experience as part of his application. The answer isn’t that he should loaf around the house all summer but try to enroll in a summer camp, a music intensive, ramp up the private lessons, find a music-based internship, etc. There are many well-regarded music summer camps for high school students (e.g., Interlochen), and many universities offer their own one-week intensives for high school students.

      When I hire student workers, interns, and research assistants, I would much rather hire someone with practical field knowledge and experience than someone who doesn’t. And frankly, your college jobs and internships are more important than your high school experiences.

      That doesn’t mean he can’t also mow lawns, babysit, etc. if that’s a requirement for your funding or enrolling him in the lessons or programs, but I would strongly urge him to use his summer to try to gain more resume-worthy experience in the field of music if he’s serious about pursuing it professionally (even if those resume-worthy experiences are programs he enrolls in to learn, not paid experiences as jobs).

      Final note, he should Google “music entrepreneurship.” There are a lot of books and resources that may be helpful.

    57. Aqua Arrow*

      Money was a big reason for me, I wanted to feel like I had autonomy over what I wanted to buy. An unexpected consequence of my high school job was that I was able to come back and work over my Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks from college, which worked out really well because that month of basically full-time employment with no expenses paid for all of my sorority dues, “going out” money, and unexpected expenses at school. It also shows a history of a solid work ethic and willingness to work hard, which absolutely helps with getting internships.

    58. TWW*

      In my opinion, 16 yo kids don’t need a job. If he wants one for the money that’s fine. But if he’d rather spend his time working on his music hobby, why discourage that?

      I’m not sure why you think he needs to learn to take direction. Presumably he’s been learning that in school since kindergarten. Maybe he needs to learn to produce something autonomously.

      As for your concern that having your own child in your own home 1/3 of the time will affect your marriage? That sounds like a you problem.

    59. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think you can’t force a person to look for work. In my case, my options were- continue to work on my parents commercial fishing boat (which I deeply disliked) or find another job. Unfortunately, I don’t think your stepson is likely to want to look for work if the alterative is not work. For me, I wanted a job, because I wanted money. I bounced around from daycare to being a tour guide to more fishing to technical theater work to retail to eventually library school. Funny enough, it is the tour guide work that I find I most often need in my day to day life.

    60. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      Why not suggedt a job in a music store (tecords or instruments) or teaching younger people to use tooks to create electronic music? Teaching music isn’t just piano and guitar. Then it’s something he enjoys and he’s proving his love of the music world to future employers. Few studios will want to hire some with zero job history.

    61. Maggie*

      For me it was independence and money. I got to be out in the world making money, driving myself somewhere, and meeting people? Sign me up! Its very interesting that you say he isn’t interested in autonomy, because I also have a family member who is the same age and I was shocked to learn she didn’t care about getting her drivers license and wasn’t seeking that ‘freedom’. If he doesn’t want money or independence, it might be hard to motivate a 16 year old to work for relevant job experience. I definitely didn’t care about that. I just wanted to go drive somewhere and do something adult and make friends.

    62. TWW*

      I’m mind-boggled by the grouchiness of the comments in this thread.

      Speaking as a parent of an artistic 16-yo, and as a musician, I can’t imaging “forcing” my kid to get a job if he didn’t want one, and I’m glad may parents didn’t do that to me.

      I spent my 16th summer playing music with friends. That was the year I discovered my talent for songwriting, taught myself new instruments, learned how to be part of a band, learned how to improvise, and all sorts of other skills. If I didn’t have my parents’ support then, I wouldn’t be the musician I am today. I don’t make much money from music, but music is an incredibly valuable part of my life. And my non-music career is doing well too.

      Not having a job in high school in no way held me back in my career. I had part time jobs in college and a fulltime STEM job lined up when I graduated. (It maybe unrelated, but the person who offered me that job was someone I had been playing music with for years.)

    63. mreasy*

      Music industry internships are usually for college students, or, more likely, grads. He should get a job because if he plans to be a musician, he will need to know how to work foodservice and retail. Trust.

    64. Another JD*

      My summer job as a teenager was to be a counselor at a cooking school’s camp. I got to be with other teenagers, learn how to cook from professionally trained chefs, eat all the things (the chef’s samples – I wasn’t about to eat what the kids made, even though we tried our best to keep their food hygienic), and got paid to boot. My main goal was to do something fun and make money, but I also learned organizational skills from checking kids in and doing inventory, prepping the food, and teaching.

    65. x.y.*

      I echo the others in saying that if he has the privilege of not needing a job for the money and he doesn’t have to contribute to your household or his mom’s household, why does he need a job this summer so badly? Like the others said, he’s going to have his whole life to work all summer. I’m 34 now. At 16, I wanted to be a writer. I spent time with friends and family, read a lot of books, wrote in my journal. I was a good high school student, worked hard to get good grades during the year. My parents didn’t force me to work. They let me be a kid. And I still got a internships during and a good job after college and understood how to take direction from others. Not having a job as a teen doesn’t doom you, in other words
      Also, you call him unmotivated, but if his goal is to make music for his career and he makes music from home, what’s wrong with that? Isn’t that motivation for his passion? Practice? I’m just confused. Also also, I would feel super-hurt if I was your stepson, at your house for 50 hrs/week (that’s a little over 2 days/week) and my presence in my bedroom affects your marriage?

    66. Hillary*

      My high school job was working at my dad’s business because they wanted me out of the house and it was cheap to pay me minimum wage to file things and answer the phone. I wasn’t a great employee but I learned and got better. That high school job got me my first work study job at the on-campus computer store because I already knew the basics of PC peripherals and was comfortable talking to people.

      It doesn’t really matter what that first job is. It signifies that you can show up on time, fulfill responsibilities that you probably don’t like, and work with people well enough to not get fired. It’s a lot easier to go through that learning process in high school when your rent doesn’t depend on it.

      More importantly to your kiddo, I’m happy when our interns have any kind of work or serious volunteer experience because it means I don’t have to teach them about showing up on time in appropriate clothing with a good attitude. If I’m lucky it also means I don’t have to teach them how to talk on the phone, but chances are I’ll cover how to dial long distance. Someone who had a high school job is much more competitive for internships.

      One of my previous employers had a position called “summer helper” in the factory (they had to be 18+). It was a job that seemed designed to motivate employees’ kids to do well in college or trade school even though it paid well, long hours doing physical labor in warm spaces.

    67. Girasol*

      Experience and a successful work history are wonderful reasons to start work as a teen but they won’t impress a teen. I remember my parents shoving me into teen jobs “for the experience” and thinking how wrong that was because I was smarter than stupid grownups anyway. (Of course, years later I was so grateful to have a good grasp of the workplace basics they forced me to learn as I watched coworkers who lacked them failing.) In this case if both his parents can agree, they might consider withholding funds for his next equipment upgrade and helping him figure out how he can earn enough for his gear (or car, or fashion clothes, or whatever.) Kids often have a hazy idea of what it’s like to have to pay one’s own way in life, and that might be a gentle way to ease him into learning what that’s like.

    68. Torrance*

      Can your husband have a nice long sit-down chat with his friend? I’m wondering if perhaps your stepson’s interest in music isn’t being taken quite as seriously as it should be. Teenagers making music in their bedrooms and putting it online isn’t some kind of pipe-dream– it’s the present and the future of the music industry. People get deals based on YouTube & TikTok views; with monetisation and platforms like Patreon, a talented musician can even make a decent go of it on their own.

      And we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. If someone doesn’t have to put their life at risk for minimum wage, they shouldn’t. It’s not just risk of the virus; how many workers have been attacked for asking people to simply wear a mask?! The main purpose of a teenage job is usually to give them a dry run in the rat race– to get used to be abused by customers, mistreated by management, and to become disillusioned by the working world. Gen Z hasn’t had to go to work to be exposed to that.

    69. Mid*

      I mean, I got a job as a teen to help with family expenses, but I know that’s not the most common reason. I’ve been getting paychecks since I was 14, and started doing odd jobs in the neighborhood around 10. I did it because it was needed. Does he pay his own car insurance and gas? Are there other expenses he could be responsible for? What about new production equipment?

      Even the most entry level jobs want to know you have some basic level of work skills—to show up on time, deal with people, follow rules. Getting a part time job as a teen helps with that a lot. If you can make it something revenant to your interests, that’s even better. (Eg tutoring if you want to be a teacher, music lessons if you want to work in music, etc.) But mostly, showing that you know *how* to work is a good thing.

      I’d strongly encourage your stepson to see if he can get involved in *something.* Help the community theater with sets, teach kids an instrument, literally anything will help him in the future. Have him think more broadly about what skills he’ll need to be successful in his desired career. Could he help seniors learn computer skills? Work construction? Those both teach you skills that can help with wanting to be an artist (computer skills and working with people for the former, building sets for the latter.) He could work tables at a restaurant and work on networking. If it’s safe, raves and EDM festivals always need crew to help with set up, advertising, security, etc.

      That said, producing music is a lot of work, and it is a job. If he knows how to market himself, he could certainly make money producing all summer.

    70. AutolycusinExile*

      This year of all years? During COVID? I would NOT push this on him. There’s tons of responses here, so you may not see this, but I was surprised this didn’t come up more in the comments to your question.

      We’re still in a pandemic. Assuming you’re in the US, there are very good odds the vaccine won’t be fully distributed until the end of summer and any job that a 16 year old can get without you finding one for him via networking will involve a lot of interaction with a lot of people. If you’re elsewhere you’ll know the situation better than I will, but it’s still a risk to consider. If there’s no financial need for him to work, I’d be exceptionally hesitant to make him take a summer job, especially given that your households already have a cross vector as he switches from your house to his other parents’. It seems like a sizable risk for almost literally no reward (minimum wage, ‘work experience’ that has little to do with any career he envisions, and it’ll be harder than ever to find a job given that these part-time low-skill jobs took the biggest hit during the COVID recession).

      He’s 16. Loads of teenagers don’t work in high school. If he plans on college or technical school after graduating, then what matters is getting some work experience during that time – anything from during high school counts for almost nothing in comparison. If he doesn’t plan on any further education, then the only real risk is if either you guys and his other folks plan to kick him out at 18. If so, tell him ASAP. If not, then worst case scenario he works his first job at 18 to start paying you rent, and his career track starts then. He’s still super young, so there wouldn’t be any negative repercussions to starting a year later. Otherwise, I’d say have him start next summer, once we know it’s safe(r) to work at Starbucks or whatever you envision.

      Work experience matters! But it’s not like you can’t get it at 20 if you didn’t get it at 16. And if there are skills or values you wanted him to learn from working, I encourage you to seek out ways you or your husband can teach them to him yourself. Even if he does find a job this summer, the lessons will stick even better if he’s learning them from both avenues.

    71. Lets not name names*

      I’d say having some work experience from HS sets you up to get your foot in the door for something entry level in the field you’re interested in (I’m talking intern, answering phones, etc.) once you get to college, which is really what you need to make it in a competitive field, like music, especially if you don’t have connections (which it sounds like you might, but not something you can bet on). Also, since he’s attempting to be an artist, it would be really wise to cultivate a way to support yourself while you’re trying to build a career and get noticed (unless you’re planning to support him)—working only on your art all day when you’re not yet making money from it also can’t be relied on. Getting a start in say, working is restaurants can get you a steady income, usually without a full time schedule, so you can live in the types of cities you need to for something like the music industry and still work on your art. I know that’s not what a kid wants to hear, but I’m certain the only reason I made it in my competitive field in the arts was because I worked all through HS, was hired PT by a gallery in college to answer phones and also took an internship, which led to being promoted to a full time job after I graduated.

    72. RowanUK*

      The only job I had before the age of 22 (after university) lasted 3 months when I was 17. My mum always had the belief that I should focus on schoolwork during term time and be allowed to relax and do whatever I wanted to during the school holidays. I’m creative too, but my focus was on writing and my hobbies.

      I only got the job at 17 because my dad suddenly died, and we needed the extra money until my university loans came through.

      I can’t say it would be the right approach for everyone, but it was for me. I’ve made a career out of writing and coming up with interesting storylines to train clients – I really think that having the time and freedom to discover and explore these things as a teen helped.

    73. allathian*

      For me, it was definitely the money. Or rather, the fact that my parents would buy clothes for me, but not the expensive Levi’s I wanted. I haven’t cared much if at all about fashions since then, but Levi’s got me working! Other than clothes, I spent my money on movie tickets, concerts, teen magazines, and once I hit 18, on nightlife with my friends.

      I was 17 when I got my first job in a grocery store. I was allowed to sell alcohol and tobacco although I was too young to buy the stuff. In the 30+ years since, the regulations have become much stricter, so that if you’re not yet 18, all you can do is stock shelves and take inventory.

    74. LTJ*

      One of my closest friends has a successful career in an arts related field with especially poor financial remuneration, even for the arts. I’ve seen all of her talented college friends eventually give up and work in unrelated fields. I like to think that my friend was more talented than them anyways, but the difference in outcome probably has more to do with the fact that my friend puts in a ridiculous amount of hard work. Her art is a full time job (or more) that some days is more hard work than fun or artistically rewarding. She networks quite heavily and takes on projects she doesn’t care about artistically in order to make connections or increase her name recognition. And on top of all that, she works side gigs that often add up to another full time job in order to increase her savings, as her arts career doesn’t bring in enough money to allow her to buy into the housing market in the city where she is based.

      Your stepson should definitely work on his music this summer. But if he can’t do that on top of a summer job, he doesn’t yet have the work ethic, in my opinion, necessary for his field of choice. If he is determined to get a music internship, then he should learn to network because he’s not going to get too many opportunities that just fall into his lap. Even at 16 he can do informational interviews and start making contacts. I think a summer job will only help him in terms of work ethic and also in terms of exposing him to the sort of work that he realistically might end up doing quite a bit of if he wants a music career! If he hates his summer job, then he might need to at least develop some ambitions towards a career that will support him while he works on his music.

    75. Army 70C*

      I worked when I was off season from my HS sports. I will say that I wasn’t as motivated during job season as I was in sports season and my grades reflected that. But I echo the people and customer service skills you gain; even at McJob. It’s so valuable to learn how to work with people from different backgrounds than your own. At the very least, he can learn that minimum wage runs out FAST.

  7. cbh*

    This is probably more personal than business, but I don’t know how to handle the business side of things.

    The back story….

    I recently started going to a new family doctor. I have a medical issue that is treated by a specialist. If untreated can be very serious, if treated one lives a normal life. Treatment is literally an oral pill prescription. I think the FDA just approved an alternative treatment that is an injection. I am just saying this so you realize this is something so minor and there are worse things in life that could happen to one medically. My specialist knows I plan to live to 100+ and on my life’s adventure list I plan to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. My medical issue is not hindering me in anyway. It is also isolated and any of life’s medical concerns that ever come will not be affected by the treatment plan.

    My new family doctor (FD) is everything I want in a doctor and he checks off a lot of boxes. It took me a long time and a lot of research to find them. Bonus, they seem to care, great bedside manner.
    I made it very clear that my specialist (S) is treating my medical issue. FD is having a trouble respecting the boundary I placed. FD is going to an extreme. I know this is probably from a liability side trying to make sure everything has been reviewed. But every time I see FD (say for a common winter cold) they treat me like I’m on my deathbed because of medical issue.

    For example, he wanted to send me to specialists that I would only need to see if medical issue was untreated. It freaked me out.. I called my specialist who saw me 2 weeks prior and gave me a clean bill of health. In fact, my test results were better than that of a person who does not have medical issue.

    Last week most recent issue I was able to get a last minute COVID vaccine appointment. Literally 5pm that night I was confirmed for an 8:30am appointment the next morning. I had some bad weather-related allergies and FD prescribed (what I thought was) something a little stronger than over the counter. The pharmacist said to just check if I should wait to take allergy med prior to or after I get vaccine. I thought that was weird but ok one can never be too cautious. I was not able to get a hold of FD due to their answering service’s guidelines. Specialist answered my call. When he heard what I was prescribed for allergy, it was apparently a “high octane” version of allergy medicine. Specialist was able to prescribe something to me that was slightly stronger than an over-the-counter brand and I feel great! FYI Specialist has prescribed this allergy medicine to me before but I was trying to keep general health and medical issue separate. When FD called me back he justified his prescription was because of medical issue.

    I guess I’m just tired of FD not respecting the boundary I placed with what Specialist is treating. Specialist even said in extremely-rare-once-in-a-blue-moon cases somethings FD prescribed could mess with my current treatment plan in the long run. Specialist also said he’s never heard from FD as far as communication. Specialist does not do family medicine (I already asked).

    Because of this I decided to switch to a new FD. Current FD is suddenly realizing that I haven’t been in touch lately. How do I explain that while I respect this person, think they are great (in general) at their job, I just can’t deal with their methods of monitoring my general health. When I tried speaking to their receptionist, she kept making excuses which boiled down to their reputation; unique opportunities for us (FD has some hands on experience with medical issue (which is rare for a family doctor) but I feel like it’s more textbook knowledge); and ended the call with I have a balance due from their recent billing cycle. I feel bad and truly liked this FD in all other professional matters. I just feel like we have different ways of looking at things. In this scenario I feel like I can justifiably say “The Customer Is Always Right”.

    1. Ash*

      Hello, you were absolutely right to switch FDs. This person did not have the experience nor expertise to treat your general health issues in the context of your chronic illness, which was well-managed and stable. Please do not feel bad! Your healthcare is your right, and you have a right to find a provider who meets your needs. There’s also no need to elaborate to a receptionist! She has no direct role in your care. If you really want to communicate your concerns with your provider, I suggest asking the receptionist if there is a feedback form that you can fill out. If you want to go above and beyond, you could ask to schedule a phone call with the FD to explain why you chose to transfer your care. But really–you do not owe this practice your time, and you did nothing wrong! Not every physician is going to click with every patient.

    2. blink14*

      Get a new family doctor/PCP. I am also someone with multiple medical specialists, and everyone has to work as a team. I’m currently stuck with a specialist I really dislike, and it may be a temporary thing, but if it becomes a long term condition I have to treat, I’ll be finding an alternative doctor.

    3. BRR*

      I wouldn’t tell them why again. “I needed to switch primary care doctors. I appreciate the care you’ve provided.”

      1. Reba*

        Yep, that’s it! There is nothing else you need to say. “I have changed practices, thank you for sending along my records, have a great day.”

      2. Malarkey01*

        Even this doesn’t have to happen. I’ve had to switch doctors (and dentists and hair stylist and tutors, etc) a lot due to moves, changing preferences, changing needs, etc and really there doesn’t need to be any conversation. You aren’t required to provide any explanation.
        I think you’re going too far to want to communicate that you respect them appreciate, it’s just too much to me. It seems like the boundaries might be a little blurred on both sides. Unless this person is related to you or in your larger social/business circle, there’s zero need to talk to them again.

    4. AllTheBirds*

      “I don’t feel comfortable with your practice because you haven’t been listening/respecting my boundary.”

      You owe it to yourself to move on. I jsut did this with my PCP last year. They simply did not listen. Like every time I asked a question, they responded by talking over me. I was just DONE.

      1. AllTheBirds*

        I really struggled with my decision, but after trying to discuss a life-changing medical event with them, I was so frustrated that I told them outright it was in my best interest as a patient to move on. We have to be our own advocates; not always easy.

    5. OtterB*

      A primary care doc who doesn’t listen to you (when you say that your medical issue is being handled by the specialist) and doesn’t communicate with the specialist is not the right doc for you, no matter how many other good qualities they have.

      Businesswise, for closure you could write a polite letter to FD saying that you liked x and y about their practice very much, but that they kept trying to take over management of your medical issue without discussing it with you or with the specialist and that wasn’t the relationship you needed with your doctor.

    6. twocents*

      This is a business relationship and you don’t need to be beholden to answering their calls. My FD doesn’t intrude on my life like this.

    7. WFH with Cat*

      Well, all of those sounds frustrating, and I understand why you want to switch providers.

      As I see it, all you really need to do is contact the old FD’s office and ask for your records to be sent to your new FD. (You may have to submit a form or something.) You tried to discuss the problem with them previously, and they tried to argue you into staying, and you do not owe them any further explanation. If pressed, you could say the new doctor’s office is more conveniently located or something you’re comfortable saying — but, honestly, I wouldn’t discuss it with them. (And certainly not with anyone other than the physician since it’s that doctor’s behavior that is a problem and chances are low to nil that the staff can do anything to fix the situation.)

      Or, avoid all of this and have your new FD request your records from the old FD’s office. Again, there’s probably a form or something.

    8. sequined histories*

      It’s always good to be gracious and polite, which it sounds like you have been.You’ve already attempted to give them feedback about this issue. Frankly, if you were ever going to be able to explain the issue well enough for the doctor to understand why the way they’re handling your care is problem, you would have already done so and you’d be sticking with this same practitioner! Why put more effort into this when you’ve already decided to move on?

      It’s not your duty to mold this person into a better physician, and trying to is probably futile anyway. You owe this doctor nothing beyond payment of any outstanding bills.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      This to me is what I have been seeing right along. The GP falls apart over every little thing. “Oh we have to run tests, oh you have to go see this one and that one and ….”. All that’s wrong is a hang nail. But because of a major diagnosis the GP feels that they have to drag in other tests/people/whatever.

      To me this is the system we have now. Everyone is scared crapless of being sued OR in some instances the doc is scared crapless of the patient’s issues. I think the current person you have is scared crapless of your issue. I saw that when my husband was so sick. His GP would not even touch him. Literally. We started laughing out loud because my husband’s illness was not communicable by casual contact. But the GP thought it was and clearly demonstrated that by her actions. We got a new GP.

      I think I’d interview the next doc. “I have issue X. It is treated by Dr. Jones. I just need someone to take care of my general health. Would you be able to collaborate with Dr. Jones with a focus on my general well-being?” Then give examples of the types of help you are looking for. You might try asking your specialist which GP in the area works well with him- kind of a backwards approach to the problem.

      And no, I would not bother explaining to the Old FD what went wrong. It’s a waste of time. You have enough work to do to keep yourself humming along. And he will not feel or see any harm in your leaving. Just my experience probably, but most docs don’t seem to care if people leave.

    10. Deborah*

      As a person with multiple lifelong chronic illnesses, eff that FD. Pay the bill, if you owe it, and never speak to them again. You don’t owe them any explanation or second chances. Any doctor who doesn’t respect what you tell them about your own condition and care is going to keep doing that and it only gets more dangerous and frustrating.

      I would encourage you to write this up as a review online, because this is information people desperately need. It is likely this doctor is treating their fat, disabled, chronic illness, chronic pain, women, LGBTQIA*, and POC patients even worse.

    11. Doctor is In*

      Family doctor here. Your new family doctor may have looked good on paper but did not meet your needs! You do not owe him anything, just change doctors. Best wishes.

      1. cbh*

        Thank you Doctor is in. I tend to find doctor’s I like and stick with them through thick and thin. This is the first time where I’ve worked with someone in a medical profession who didn’t “listen” to what I was saying. I’d even consider staying if the new FD said I don’t have experience but let me confer with specialist. I’m just so frustrated. I appreciate your telling me not ever doctor patient relationship is a good fit.

    12. cbh*

      Thank you everyone for your concern, stories and advice. I took each to heart. It is definitely time to switch and wish FD the best.

  8. this girl is (not literally) on fire*

    Last week at work, I was required to attend a training on how to use a fire extinguisher. Via Zoom. I spend most of my day running around and putting out fires, but they tend to be purely figurative.

    1. Threeve*

      I think the benefit of trainings like that is never really how to use a fire extinguisher (they’re fairly self-explanatory) so much as the reminder of “hey, these things exist, you should find one if you see a fire.”

    2. Ashley*

      I really wish they would have given you one to use to test outside during the training. This isn’t a skill most people have to use but having hands on experience is useful. I am wondering who had a fire that made them think this training would be useful.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        I was in a study about fire extinguisher instructions! First they had you just put out a fire, then they’d give you the directions, and they compared the speed of people who got different types of instructions. I didn’t know that there was a pin or that it was zip-tied in place. I’d always thought you just squeezed the trigger. So I was completely unable to put out the test fire by myself until they took pity on me and told me what to do.

        1. JustaTech*

          When I took fire extinguisher training in college (thanks, chem department!) we all stood around a pan of burning diesel fuel and put it out (diesel is really easy to re-light). Even though almost everyone got to watch at least one person before they went, fully half of us forgot to pull the pin.

          When I did fire extinguisher training for work a year or two ago we did a “virtual” fire, which was a panel of LEDs and a special fire extinguisher that “put out” the LEDs; kind of like laser tag or something. That part was fun and useful. Watching a clip from The Office about fire training was less so (mostly because I really don’t like the humor style of The Office, yes, I’m a weirdo).

        2. Blackcat*

          Yeah, it’s really helpful to actually… use them, and your particular one. I was a science teacher and had a HUGE one. When it needed servicing, they actually had me use it outside. I am a tiny person, and the kickback was more than I was expecting.

      2. OneTwoThree*

        One of my favorite training memories is actually getting to test using a fire extinguisher on a live fire. There were fire fighters onsite to setup the fires and teach us how to properly put fires out.

    3. Campfire Raccoon*

      It’s weird, but great! I learn all sorts of random things via Youtube. Solid waste of time. 5 stars.

      Seriously though, you’d be horrified to know how many people have no idea how to use a fire extinguisher and are completely blind to their presence. It’s like they see them all the time and it’s just part of the scenery.

    4. MissCoco*

      Never hurts to have a reminder that it really does matter where you point them, and to stand back, but yeah zoom is not the ideal mode for that type of knowledge!

      I got to use one “for real” in a training, and I was pretty surprised at how different it was to use, we also got useful advice on stance and stuff like that

    5. anon24*

      I have to take fire extinguisher training every year. In my last job I had to use one for real when a car caught fire (not an office job). Having the training was definitely useful, especially as the extinguisher didn’t immediately work and I was able to calmly take a step back, look at it, and troubleshoot that in my urgency I hadn’t fully pulled the pin. I also remember aiming at the base of the fire thinking “huh, now I know why they always repeat to aim at the base because I totally want to aim at the top to knock it down.” You never know when you’ll need it, and having the training to kick in keeps you calm.

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’ve worked from home for seven years and every year I have to take the “active shooter in the workplace” training. If I have an active shooter in my home office, I have bigger problems.

      1. JustaTech*

        We did an instructor led active shooter training, which was moderately useful (it would be good to do it again in our super open office, sigh), but several of my coworkers commented repeatedly that their first step would be to smother me because I’d make too much noise.
        I had to tell them it wasn’t funny and to let the instructors keep talking like 3 times and they never really got why I didn’t appreciate them planning to incapacitate me, even jokingly.

    7. Helvetica*

      I’ve done this in practice, pre-pandemic and honestly, you think you can intuit how to use a fire extinguisher but you really can’t. Especially since there are different kinds of extinguishers and it can depend how close you have to get or how to direct the nozzle.

    8. lost academic*

      I think it’s useful to at least watch it. Even for the little household ones. I had a lot of hands on practice with different kinds in my first college research lab safety orientation and apparently people forget to pull the pin a LOT in emergencies and can mash it so badly that it CAN’T come out, so, really helps to be aware.

    9. Malarkey01*

      I had to use one in a college dorm once (RA to the rescue) and holy crap I was not expecting the force of the foam…also they make a HUGE mess which there’s a fire so that’s the concern but the foam mess was worse than the fire…until the sprinklers went off.

    10. Smitten By Juneau*

      Hopefully you have recently checked the fire extinguishers in your (home?) office as a result?

  9. JobSearchWoes*

    I got ghosted after 11 (ELEVEN!) interviews with an organization. I didn’t even really want that job after the first 2 interviews but it still stings.

    Tips to maintain optimism and focus in a job search? I know I’m lucky to be employed now and working remotely but I am just so ready to be out of here and things are taking so long…

    1. Gone Girl*

      Wow, 11 interviews seems like overkill on the company’s part – was there any particular reason you felt like you had to stick it out after the first 2?

      In my case, staying positive was a matter of keeping my self-worth in mind, and being deliberate about the kind of job I wanted (I didn’t want to jump from one trash fire to another). So in the face of ghosting, or rejection, I had to reframe it into something like “it wasn’t meant to be” or “I don’t want to work for that kind of company anyway” (depending on how I was treated in the interview process).

      The times where I was rejected from a job I was really excited about, I was lucky to get some positive feedback and/or decent networking connections for my trouble, which seemed to helped shortened the “grieving” period, so to speak.

      All that to say, maybe consider some of the things you can from the process itself – are you better at answering questions than when you first started? Are you more confident? Those improvements will ultimately help in other interviews, and hopefully make your job search that much shorter.

      1. JobSearchWoes*

        The ghosting organization is really, really prestigious in the field, and I wanted to see if they could change my mind. The 11 interviews wouldn’t have seemed so egregious in normal times as they would be all been scheduled in a couple of days on campus but instead were staggered over 2 weeks via Zoom. Maybe ghosting is for the best as I would have found it difficult to turn them down even knowing it wasn’t the right environment for me.

        I think a big issue for me right now is I’m not in the right frame of mind for learning from the interview experience – I’m too far gone for that. I just want to move on with my life and my career. And that probably isn’t helping me in interviews!

        Thanks for sharing your experience.

        1. Gone Girl*

          I really admire your self awareness, though; I believe knowing is half the battle, and even being aware that that’s where your headspace is can be helpful, too.

          I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t stayed in an interview process longer than I should have (mostly out of desperation, personally), and sometimes being rejected can come as a blessing.

          Also, you’re free to feel however you need to, but I also think you should be proud of how far you made it in the interview process – I think it attests to your skills and personality (regardless of how they handled the final decision).

      2. nep*

        These are such great points and insights.
        Hope things will look up for you soon, JobSearch Woes. The right position for you is out there.

    2. Time for Tea*

      I hear you!! I’ve been searching 3 months and I’m starting to feel the stress. I’ve had half a dozen screening interviews, but nothing really further than that.

      Some things I’m using to keep myself sane:
      – Apply, then let it go. If you hear back, it will be a nice surprise.
      – Walk away from bad opportunities. Have you ever withdrawn an application before? It’s empowering! You’ve already got a current employer that you don’t like that wastes your time. You don’t need a prospective employer that you don’t like doing the same.
      – Small goals and tangible rewards. I’ve got a a lot of non-work responsibilities, so my goal is to apply to 2 places per week. Then I take myself out for ice cream :)
      – Nurture other interests. It helps with the “let it go” by distracting yourself with a different hobby that brings you joy.
      – Care less at your current job. That’s helping me get through the day. All that drama? Nope, you’ll be out soon. Management is enforcing a ridiculous policy? Soon that will just be their problem. Boss wants you to do overtime to prove that you may soon be somehow eligible for an imaginary promotion? Nope, you don’t need that OT- you’re making different opportunities happen.

      Good luck, friend!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Just for my own self-preservation, I review a bad situation and promise myself to handle it differently the next time.
      Energy is finite. We only have so much of it. Optimism is a special form of energy. We have a finite amount of optimism and then we can be pretty tapped out. You burned up a lot of energy on these 11 interviews and people pretty much wasted your time. You knew after the second interview you did not want the job. So in the future vow to withdraw from their process once you see it’s not for you. Don’t burn up your finite amount of energy and optimism on stuff like this.

    4. voluptuousfire*

      :virtual 5 five: I am SO FEELING THIS TODAY!

      See my post below. Just gotta remember it’s an employer’s market right now! Then again, I’m seeing a lot of recruiter and other HR roles opening up, the pendulum is starting to swing back to a candidate market ever so slowly.

      Anything that’s meant for you will not pass you by. That’s what I keep reminding myself of when I get frustrated.

  10. Ash*

    When you submit a request for service at your job via e-mail, for example for an IT issue, is it bad form to reply “Thanks!” after it has been resolved? Or does that “Thanks” e-mail look like a new request for service?

    1. Kimmybear*

      Depends on how your system is configured. Our old system treated “thanks” as a new request. Our new system doesn’t. Ask your IT team. They will probably appreciate that you are thinking of how to not create useless tickets.

      1. Coenobita*

        Yeah, in our case if you reply to the original ticket message, it doesn’t create anything new, it just adds the message to the ticket’s record. So it’s not a big deal, though I sometimes do send a thank-you message directly to the individual who handled the request instead (outside of the ticket system entirely). I used to handle support tickets and always appreciated it when someone thanked me, at least!

    2. Just Here for the Cake*

      If they use a ticketing system (i.e. you get an automatic reply back with a number after you first email or you get an automatic email saying the ticket has been closed when everything is resolved), I wouldn’t reply with a thanks. Its not a big deal most of the time, but it does mean that the IT person needs to close the ticket again, which can be a little annoying.

    3. Sled dog mama*

      My job has a ticketing system that sends emails so this may not apply but I always try to have the last message from me be “Thank you for resolving issue X to my satisfaction”. That way there is so documentation that it has been resolved coming from me and not just IT. I do this because I once had a ticket closed out but not resolved and when I escalated the issue they were able to see that I always note that the issue was resolved to my satisfaction except with this one ticket so IT got all over actually fixing the issue.

      TLDR: I do a close the loop specific thank you for things like this

      1. Pilcrow*

        My job’s ticketing system is similar. I tack on the thanks to my closing confirmation. “The issue is resolved now and the ticket can be closed. Thank you!”

    4. Sariel*

      I know for our IT department, it can create extra work if I add a “thanks” to the ticket — and they often close them when they finish, anyway. But, especially if their assistance has been really helpful (beyond a 5-minute fix or something), I do send an email letting them know how much I appreciate their help. And if they come out in person? Definitely. Everyone likes to have some appreciation for what they do, even if it’s their job to help.

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      Generally, I wouldn’t. Many (most?) ticketing systems will either create a new ticket or re-open oldoneif you reply.

    6. Courageous cat*

      If you feel rude not doing it, you could always say “Thanks in advance for your help” or something like that when you submit the request.

    7. t*

      I just add a “Thanks very much!” in my original request and leave it at that. I figure from that, people know I’m grateful for their expertise at repair.

    8. IT manager*

      I manage our IT ticketing system, and for a while, adding “Thanks!” did re-open the ticket. There was one ticket where we literally went three or four rounds of “Your ticket has been resolved” “Thanks” (reclose ticket) “Your ticket has been resolved” “Thanks!”. I eventually convinced our product owner to implement a “re-open ticket” feature rather than having tickets re-open by comment because the vast majority of re-opened tickets were thank yous.

      All of this to say – check with your IT team.

    9. Deborah*

      It really depends. If you reply to the ticket email with thanks, I just get an email that says the requester responded and that you said “thanks”. It doesn’t reopen the ticket and since I don’t work very many tickets, it’s nice (a lot of my work isn’t with end users). I agree with the others who said to ask IT if that’s a possibility. Also if there is a survey option, you could do that instead – many places use survey results in performance evals.

    10. Smitten By Juneau*

      In most systems that will reopen the ticket, which just creates more work for the staff handling it. Hopefully there is an opportunity to submit a satisfaction survey (we send one for every closed ticket) that you can use to express your appreciation.

    11. Choggy*

      Yup, absolutely it all depends on the system. Our system just appends an email to the original ticket if someone replies to the resolved email, the assigned Technician is also cc’ed on any emails sent to the ticket. I had been asked by my manager (a couple of times!) to automatically have the ticket reopen if someone replies back that the issue was not fixed. I had to explain to her it would not work because we get more thank you emails than anything so it would be unnecessary work. When the email reply comes in that something has not been resolved, the technician assigned will see the email and can always reopen the ticket themselves as needed.

  11. Box of Kittens - notice period?*

    I’ve been looking for a new job for a few months, and questions about what kind of notice period I should give have come up. I’m a fairly recent grad (within 5 years), but I’m a one-person marketing department that handles a lot. When I do eventually accept an offer, I’ve been leaning toward a 3 or 4 week notice in order to be able to wrap up projects and finalize documentation. But since I’m still a recent grad, I’m applying for entry-level jobs that expect a two-week notice. As I’m writing this I feel like I should just aim to have as much documented as possible and do a standard two-week notice, even though that will be a blow to my current company. How would you plan for this?

    1. Paris Geller*

      What do you feel most comfortable with? Honesty, sure that entry-level job might expect you to give your current employer a two week notice and start week three, but if you ask for a start time three or even four weeks out, are they really going to balk at that if they’re already decided to hire you? Of course places want people to start ASAP, and I totally get that (when we have openings on my team we’re always super excited for the new person to start), but a week or two extra isn’t going to an outrageous ask.

      That being said, if you can only give your company a two week notice, then. . . well, if it’s a blow to them, it’s a blow to them. It’s mentioned on this site a lot that no one person is ever responsible for a company’s success or failure (unless they’re a one person business!), and if they are, then that’s on the company for not having contingencies in place. Your current company will figure it out.

    2. Zephy*

      I feel like if you get an offer from a company and they balk or pull it because you ask for a start date more than 2 weeks in the future, you probably dodged a bullet. Especially if the new company knows you’re currently a department of one, if anything, I would think asking for a slightly longer notice period would make you come off as conscientious.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      My solution has always been to start the documentation process as soon as I start job hunting. That way, the document is ready to go when I’ve gotten my offer and I’m not scrambling to pull it together in my final two weeks. (In my current role, I am not looking to leave but have already started creating the document just because my job is so vast and it’s easier to create and update as I go along.)

      There’s no harm in asking for a 3 or 4 week notice period, but there are many employers who won’t be able to accommodate this, especially for a more junior role.

    4. Millennial PR Pro*

      If you’re a one person marketing department and are within 5 years of graduating, you don’t sound entry level! I would look for jobs that require 3-5 years of experience. It’s doable and I was in a very similar situation this time last year and was able to land a role that was much higher than entry level. (I work in PR which is pretty similar to marketing!)

      If you want to do 3-4 weeks – just be up front with them when you accept an offer or during your interview that because you’re a one person marketing department, you need a little more time to wrap up projects and documentation. Good luck!

  12. PD*

    Is there any way to clear a specific type of writers block?
    I have many ideas but getting them fleshed out onto (virtual) paper is tricky.
    Making a list of points to be made is no problem but expanding them into paragraphs and making the entire paper flow is the hard part.

    Any wisdom from those with experience with this kind of block?
    This is in regards to technical writing.
    TIA

    1. Wellesley*

      Recently, while doing the dishes or whenever I get a free moment, I’ve put on headphones and started a Voice Memo. I talk through my ideas for whatever I’m writing, and try to assemble it into a cohesive narrative. Honestly I don’t even usually listen to it later unless I’m trying to remember something specific I said, it just helps to say it out loud before I type it out. Basically rubber-ducking myself!

      1. PD*

        The ideas are not the problem, I can make a thorough list of points quite easily, its the turning a few dozen points to into a fleshed out article/white paper that hits a block

        1. Oatmeal*

          I think the point they’re making is that they flesh it out while talking to themselves. Theres no threatening blank screen so you can just kind of figure out a flow without committing to it.

    2. Kimmybear*

      I just start writing whatever pops in my head and don’t expect it to turn into something useful until a few rounds of editing.

    3. Ashley*

      Sometimes I start in the middle and then come back to the beginning. So if I am writing directions one how to assemble something I may start on step 3 or 4 if that one is what is clearest to me and build from there. Basically I skip the parts that are tripping me up (mentally) until the end.

      1. PD*

        I also don’t go from start to finish, if I am working on something and something from an earlier or later part comes to move I move to it then move back when its done.

      2. Enby*

        Yes – I start in the middle, wherever seems easiest. My writing is scientific and involves lots of citations, so sometimes I also just flesh out those bullets with all of the info I want to use from each article. Gradually I combine the bullets and tweak a little, then pretty soon I’m doing full-blown reorganization and making paragraphs. I pretty much always do intro and conclusion last because they’re hardest!

    4. Emilitron*

      For technical stuff, I sometimes make a bullet list of what the “conclusions” are going to be, then for each one start writing the logical explanation of why we’d conclude that. Then you can see what information each one needs to introduce it, and I often end up doing the introductory “why we care” last.

      1. PD*

        Conclusions are not an issue, that starts from the title, think of it as putting together a list of instructions then explaining them in sentence/paragraph form.

    5. Reba*

      For some reason starting super obvious sentences like “The purpose of this document is…” “the reason this bullet point is in the document is that…” helps me to get going. Then before too long you can take them out.

    6. meyer lemon*

      I usually start the way you do, by listing all the points I want to make. Then I organize all of the points into paragraphs so that they flow logically. If I have time, I’ll take a short break and work on something else. When I come back to the document, I rewrite each group of points in sentence form. Usually the first sentence is the tough one, and the rest flows fairly naturally once I build up momentum. If it’s hard to get inspired for the first sentence, it’s okay to just write something a bit crappy and fix it later. I usually go into this with the idea that the first draft will be rough and need a lot of editing, but it usually isn’t as bad as I expect.

      1. OyHiOh*

        I’ve done something kind of like this. Because my brain is weird, my bullet points end up being more or less the direct objects in the paragraph. Once I know those, I can order them and construct a paragraph that flows.

        Sometimes, when I’m really stuck, just rewriting my bullet points by hand, on paper, helps unfreeze my brain.

    7. Bree*

      This is going to seem like a joke, but it isn’t. I listen to energetic music without lyrics and then bribe myself with an M&M or something for every sentence I manage to write, no matter how bad it is. Usually, after about half an hour of this approach I break through the block and get a flow going.

      1. PD*

        Thats a pretty awesome approach but doesn’t work in my case.
        I have tried the reward to no effect, and the music doesn’t help, sometimes it actually gets stuck in my head then I can’t work through it! I need to hear it a few more times to clear it.
        In my case the flow doesn’t typically come by pushing, its needs to be there at the beginning of the day.

    8. Autism Dad*

      I wrote professionally for nearly two decades. The best advice about writer’s block I ever heard came from a writer who said, “My father never had truck driver’s block.”

      I’m an overthinker and I’ve had panic attacks in the past, but I stopped worrying about writer’s block after hearing that.

      1. PD*

        I like that!
        However trucking is a learned job, whereas writing is a creative endeavour. It is about creating new ideas from scratch.

        That said I will have to remember that, its extremely apt.

    9. Lyudie*

      Would doing an outline as a sort of intermediate step be helpful? Take that list of points, move them around into different orders (maybe something visual like shapes in Powerpoint would be helpful here) and start seeing where the connections are and how things should fit together. That might help break through the block a bit.

      1. PD*

        I already have this, the ideas themselves are not an issue, its the converting bullet points to sentences and paragraphs and making each point relate to each other so it flows naturally for someone needing to learn from the content.

    10. Cedrus Libani*

      I’m prone to that, and what I do is write the crappiest first draft imaginable. I have to make sure there is ZERO chance of overlap with the final version, otherwise I’ll start trying to edit and things will fall apart. We’re talking a demented screed of wall-to-wall meme-speak and expletives. Usually, as an additional layer of edit-proofing, I’ll write it on paper…in pen, in a scrawling cursive that I can only read if I mostly know what it says.

      Having had that chance to work through both the logic of the paper and my inner demons, I am usually able to treat this draft as a life-sized outline. I can translate from “lunatic” to “business English”, making structural edits as needed, without much difficulty; it’s the blank page, with its infinite possibilities, that gets me every time.

    11. Esmeralda*

      For the various points — what do you need to say about them? I’d put each one on its own piece of paper (or page in an online doc) and then start listing what I need to say about that point. And not worry about how I say it, do I really need to say it, should it go somewhere else, whatever. Just make a list.

      Then go to one of the other points and do the same. Repeat for all the points, put it all away, come back to it later to see if you need to add to it.

      Often in the process of making the list for the first point I tackle, I start writing and the block is broken.

      The other thing is if you have a standard format for the kind of doc it’s going to be, set that all up, putting your points in the appropriate places (or what look like the appropriate places). In other words, it’s work, but kind of mindless. That can also jog you past the block.

      I also have been known to start writing when blocked as follows: this is the first point. I don’t know what to say next. Really really don’t know. maybe i should talk about y? does that make sense? no it doesnt because …. so maybe z? hmm yes because…

      The idea being, I’m writing something and the act of writing loosens up my brain.

    12. tangerineRose*

      My technique is to start writing badly sometimes. If I can’t make the words flow properly, then at least I can write something. Usually if I start writing something, even if it’s awful, then later I can go back and make it better. When it comes to writing, sometimes I have to embrace the bad writing because sometimes it’s easier to write badly and edit it than it is to come up with the right things to say right away.

    13. Girasol*

      I’ve had luck with starting in the middle. I’ve had my work all outlined and everything ready. Then I’d write the first line, reread it, scratch it out, write a paragraph, scratch it out, try again, nope, and just not be able to get going. So once I tried writing the part that was clearest in my mind, a section in the middle. That seemed to give me a sort of mental boost over the hurdle at the start and I wrote the beginning. I felt a bit silly writing that first page and aiming somehow to meet up with an already-written chapter 10, but it worked much better than I thought it might and fit together perfectly.

  13. superhelp*

    How do you deal with a negative workplace environment? My supervisor is overall really good for being kind to his employees in terms of being super understanding of need to be flexible with time, days off, etc, but he definitely has a huge problem where he overreacts to things and it is causing me a lot of stress/anxiety because it has definitely given the rest of my team the impression they can or should do that as well. For example, he has literally screamed over the phone at higher ups in our office (or people who are the same level as him) for making requests of our that he deems unreasonable (and quite frankly, I don’t think they ever are). Or if not, he will do this thing where he just gets super flustered and will call the person, have them on speaker without them knowing, and the rest of the team will jump in “explaining” why they can’t do something. Two of the other men can be yellers too. But then other times, they get a request and jump and say “of course, we are the best most flexible team ever and will do it!”. It’s honestly nonsensical to me what will set people off.

    I was always anxious about this, when I got requests I felt I had to tip toe, think of how to present the request in a way that wouldn’t get the requestor yelled at, etc. Now I’m working on a special project that involves me sometimes making requests of our team and I am SO anxious whenever I have to do it because I don’t know what will set them off! Yesterday I made a request to see if we could possibly introduce a small QA measure to a product we were sending on this morning to make sure it was immediately usable to the recipient and it ended me up on one of those speaker calls where my supervisor and others gathered around explaining why it was unreasonable, plus them jumping to conclusions that it would somehow make us liable for the quality of the item we are sending out? 

    I know the answer might be “quit,” but I’m looking for other suggestions on how to manage this in the meantime because my supervisor is retiring in August and I feel the environment may hopefully improve depending on who replaces him! I also work in a very niche government field so unless I want to totally change fields or move across the country I basically have to just wait for job openings to open up as people retire in my office.

    1. blink14*

      In my former job, I had a horrible boss. What helped me was realizing that her poor actions weren’t about me specifically, but about her own problems. And that helped me work at that job for far longer than I wanted to, due to the last recession. Eventually I hit a point where her disrespect hit a level that I could no longer tolerate, and fortunately I had been looking for a new job pretty aggressively, and was made an offer within a few weeks of the final incident that sent me over the edge.

      Looking back now, I should’ve quit far sooner, taken my chances, and asked my family for support if needed. And if that’s an option, I would consider it.

      1. Dave*

        This and generally try to keep a low profile and limit in person contact as much as possible. I would also consider using some vacation time in blocks to get you to August.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have a friend who can blow up over simple things.

      Try to view these blow ups as “melt downs”, you know, like with a toddler who doesn’t get their way. When that toddler melts down you’d go into calming mode, right? “Okay this is not awful, here’s why [reasons].”

      So my friend got upset because he pulled a fork out of the drawer and the fork had a spot on it. I just chuckled and said, “It’s not the end of the world, there’s more forks in the drawer.” Sometimes a non-reaction can help a person to bring their emotions back into check.
      Even if you can’t really say anything at all, you can still change the way you view these blow ups and start framing them as melt downs. Train your brain to think of a toddler pouting and crying.

      If you have vacation time left, I would strategically plot out how to use it between now and August such that you are always looking forward to some time away.

  14. Former Usher*

    [TW: This post mentions suicide.]
    .
    .
    .
    I started a new job about four months ago. You might recall that when I resigned my then-manager told me that I had just been promoted. My one-over manager was even willing to meet with me to discuss a counter offer, but I declined.

    For a variety of reasons that I’m sure I’ll describe here at a later time, the new job has not been what I had hoped. I heard through a different manager at my old employer that my former one-over manager was willing to hire me back.

    I learned last week that my former one-over manager died by suicide. I already felt some sense of betrayal for not even letting him pitch a counter offer. Now I feel positively awful. I let him down and on top of that I’m now stuck at my new job. In the middle of the night I drove out to our old site and sat in my car and cried. The waves of grief keep hitting me at unpredictable times. Please tell me it will get better.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I cannot emphasize this enough: You had no hand in this. You had no obligation to let him pitch a counter-offer. You obviously can feel badly for him that whatever was going on in his life was so unbearable but you didn’t let him down.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Whatever this was, I guarantee you it was a whole lot bigger than job issues, and certainly bigger than any workplace interaction he had with you.

        It’s only been a week. It’s going to take some time to process. Is there anyone you can talk to?

        1. Lyudie*

          I want to second all of this. This was not you. Not at all. It might not even have been anything specific. As someone with suicidal ideation at times, and depression pretty much all the time, logic does not come into it. Please, please don’t take this burden on yourself. <3

    2. Exhausted Frontline Worker*

      Oh no! This is a really awful, but I can guarantee you leaving your old job was not the reason this happened. Your former over-manager was likely struggling with several things happening in their life and they didn’t get the help they needed, but that’s not because you left. And carrying this guilt with you won’t bring them back.

      Grief does get better with time, but don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need it. Sometimes grief can hit unexpectedly hard, even when it’s not a person you were particularly close to. Give yourself lots of grace right now–you deserve it <3

    3. ThatGirl*

      This is hard, and I’m so sorry that you’re struggling, but it’s not your fault. You were his former report. There is no reason to believe letting him pitch the counter offer would have changed anything — he clearly had some deep-seated problems that had nothing to do with you, and probably nothing to do with work at all. It was not your responsibility; it’s just a terrible tragedy.

      This will get better, but if you find yourself still crying or grieving in the next week or two, you should consider a few sessions with a counselor to work through your feelings.

    4. blink14*

      You didn’t let him down. I’ve also dealt with the aftermath of suicide within my family, but also in a less related way at work with a co-worker. Nothing is your fault, at all. The person made this choice for reasons we can’t understand, and it’s not on you, nor any of his current or former colleagues. There were deep issues already going on, and you could not not have changed that.

      It will get better. Allow yourself time to grieve and process. Something that was hugely helpful to me was to be vocal about my experience as a “suicide survivor” – which I think is really a misnomer, I prefer “survivor of suicide loss”. There is a strange cultural phenomenon in that so much focus is on the person who took their own life, but those left behind are stuck in the taboo of suicide talk, and often feel silenced or that they can’t speak about it.

      I’ve found that being vocal has helped me explain how I felt in the aftermath, and long term, but I also have made it a point to say to anyone who mentions the term that suicide hurts everyone you leave behind. This is a perfect example – this person’s family and close friends are not only devastated, but this is an event that will stay with you, too. With the people in their office, neighbors, perhaps the local mailman, local store employees who might know the person, etc. The after effect is far greater many realize.

    5. anon24*

      I am so sorry for your loss.

      It will get better. Be gentle with yourself. Take time. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people about your grief.

      You didn’t let anyone down, you did what was best for you. I hope you’re able to get out of your job and find something even better.

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      I am so sprry.

      It will get better.

      And it had nothing to do with your leaving. It was bad timing, that’s all – please don’t feel bad about this. Whatever his reasons were, your not listening to a counter offer was not one of them.

    7. calonkat*

      800-273-8255 if you’re in the USA. National Suicide prevention hotline.
      While you are not suicidal, they can help you do some initial talking through the grief and the (misplaced, but real nonetheless) guilt and then refer you to local resources if you wish.

    8. Courageous cat*

      I am so sorry, but please keep in mind his suicide was not about you. You can and should feel all the grief you want to, but – I say this kindly – there’s no reason to believe he centered you in his mind in any regard (related to this). Which is to say: it was about him, it was not about you. Hopefully focusing on that perspective will help.

    9. Ray Gillette*

      I’m a manager who is really struggling with my mental health right now and feeling like the ground is being pulled out from under me every way I turn and I cannot emphasize this enough: this is not your fault. This is not something you did to him.

      As far as encouragement, honestly I am short on that right now, but there is still a way forward. Even if you can’t go back to your old job, there are plenty of other jobs out there that are not this one. You’re not stuck and it can get better.

      1. Twisted Knickers*

        Ray Gillette, if you’re open to taking encouragement from an internet stranger, I would like to offer it to you. As you so wisely stated to Former Usher, there is still a way forward, and it can get better. Sending warm thoughts and best wishes.

    10. t*

      I’m so sorry, Former Usher.

      But as others have said, you have nothing to do with this. That said, I’m not sure this would be the place for this ind of grief, i.e. feeling responsible for someone’s suicide. I think you should talk with a professional as soon as you can.

    11. bunniferous*

      I think I recall your former letter.

      It is ok to grieve over this because it IS terribly sad. Having said that I promise you that this was not your fault and you did not let anybody down. I understand totally why your mind would go that direction-when something unexpected and tragic happens we are all tempted to play the what-if game-but this individual would have done what they did even if you had stayed at that job to start with. I think you are worried that this was a straw that broke the camel’s back…..but there is ALWAYS a straw, and the likelihood of it being your straw is infinitesimally low.

      I think part of this is that you feel an escape from THIS job just closed but I think once you have had time to process what happened-in a couple of weeks-you will most likely realize that the truth is you didn’t really want to go back there anyway. You don’t have to stay at this job, you can look for another one, you do not have to settle. But just give yourself a little time to get over this shock. It’s very appropriate to feel shocked, and not surprising you are dealing with all these complicated emotions. I think once you have had more time you will realize that you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh I so agree here.

        It’s pretty normal for our minds to wander around and select something/anything, “Oh if I had done X then Tragedy Y would not have happened.” This is kind of magical thinking because it can never be proven or disproven, so somehow we decide THIS then of course is the answer. But it’s not. And time will be kind, a bit of time and space will allow you to see more clearly that you had nothing to do with your big boss’ passing.

        I do think that having a good hard cry is a very healthy thing to do. We can’t keep this stuff inside of us, we have to push it out. Did you know that crying causes a chemical reaction in the brain that helps to keep the brain healthy? Yeah, crying is good for us. But I am still sorry that this upsetting event happened and it happened in your life story.
        Yeah, I do mean life story. Some events are so big that we never forget them. I assume it will be a long time, if ever that you will forget what happened here. We can let these sad events shape us in positive ways- we can be a little more sensitive to what others having going on in their lives and we can be a little more aware of how much we all mean to each other.
        My suggestion to you is to take the time you need here. Then when you are ready begin to look for a third place- a totally different place to work. Yes, it will get better. If you respond to the waves of grief with tears when you feel the need to cry, gradually the tears will subside. This does not mean you care less than before. It means you are processing and moving through the raw grief. Grief changes the way it manifests, tears are only one way grief shows. Grief can be little heart pangs, grief can be reviewing old memories or any number of things. The easiest way to keep processing is to just say, “okay for whatever reason, I need to cry now [take quiet time/whatever]” and then do so. Gradually, you will find your new normal. And it is okay to have a new normal.

    12. Mid*

      TW: suicide

      Repeating what everyone else said: This is not your fault. Not at all. Zero percent. Now, I know that doesn’t stop the guilty feelings, but please try to repeat that to yourself.

      I can speak from experience on this. I’ve attempted suicide. Literally nothing would have stopped me once I set my mind on it. I was not in a rational state of mind. I could have won the lottery and had the most perfect life and I still would have been suicidal at that time.

      You did nothing wrong. You did not cause this. And yes, the waves of grief will get better. Right now they’re like a tsunami, and eventually they’ll settle down into something that just tickles your toes. It doesn’t go away fully, but it will get easier. You will make it through this, just one day at a time. You’re in my thoughts.

    13. Massive Dynamic*

      Oh no, I’m so sorry. Please know that it’s not you. I had something similar happen – I left a company and trained a handful of folks on my tasks, specifically calling one high-performer out to be a great fit to move up into my old role officially. He was such a sweet guy. I think you know where this is going; I got a call a week into my new job later that he died by suicide. It’s heartbreaking, it’s very hard to understand, and it’s natural to feel guilt as though you precipitated it. You DIDN’T, and yes the grief does get better.

  15. Flaxseed*

    When you’re working on something for a coworker, should you ask when they need it by/what the deadline is?

    I had to provide some data for a report that my coworker was working on. My boss said that it didn’t have to be done right away, but no one gave a due date. I had to ask someone else about the data, so I couldn’t get the information to my coworker that day.

    Two days later, my coworker was talking to my boss about it and I heard him say, “It’s been two days!” regarding our project. Boss asked if he talked to me about it and coworker said, “No.”

    No one gave a due date. No one said that they needed the information right away.

    I usually try to get the information to them as soon as possible, but sometimes that doesn’t happen if I need to get the information from someone else.

    I let them know that I’m working on it, but I’m not sure what more I can do on my end.

    1. CTT*

      I always ask for a deadline. On the one hand, if someone needs it by a certain time it should be on them to say that, but people can forget when they’re giving you a bunch of information. And it makes me look proactive, which is good.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Yes, either party can and should start the conversation, especially if it’s for someone in a different department. IMO it’s on the asker to say how urgent the request is.

    3. JJ*

      I always ask! “Do you need this by a certain time?” or “Ideally when would you have this by?”. Its unreasonable for anyone to expect you to read their mind about when something is due, and “ASAP” can mean very different things to different people and projects.

    4. Environmental Compliance*

      I generally ask “how important and when do you need it by” when a coworker (or, really, whoever is attempting to assign me work). Otherwise I can’t set up my priority list.

      The only time I tend not to is if it’s a very, very small thing – I can fwd an email or report in 5 minutes, for example.

      This also opens up the discussion if you are pretty swamped at the moment and there will be someone else that could help (or that has that data) that you can point them to.

    5. Fourth and Inches*

      The task was to help out the coworker, not your manager, so that’s probably who you should have checked with about due dates. I don’t know anything about your manager, but if I get an assignment like that from my manager, I ALWAYS check with the person I’m actually doing the work for. Sometimes the details get lost in translation (like due dates) and it never hurts to double check.

    6. AndersonDarling*

      After 20 years of dealing with “you can do it whenever you have a chance,” I’ve learned to always ask for a solid deadline. Even if the deadline is vague like “by the end of the quarter,” it at least quantifies it. There are wildly different interpretations of “whenever” that I ask for clarification. Sometimes people try to be nice by leaving things vague because they feel like they are demanding something if they give a deadline, and the whole time they know it needs to be done by Friday.
      It’s more about communication barriers than it is about deadlines. I ask for a deadline, and I let them know I am documenting the timeline they told me.

    7. Best Practice Betty*

      It’s generally good practice so you can prioritize your own work around the task, or let the coworker know that you’re waiting on input from another team and it will take X days. I always ask when a coworker needs something and how important that task is. It may seem like a low priority to me and within my own world of work, but it could be a high priority item for them. Not setting expectations only leads to frustration all around whereas clear communication with timelines and due dates leads to better working relationships.

    8. Ashley*

      Another option is to say I am working on X but waiting on Y from department Z. I will get this to you by whatever then makes sense based on your calendar and knowledge of department Z’s speed. That way they know why you don’t do it know and can object if they need it faster.

    9. Akcipitrokulo*

      Either ask, or give your timescale for when you’ll get it to them and check if that’s ok. One of you has to!

    10. OyHiOh*

      I always ask if there’s a hard due date. If there’s not a hard due date, I ask about priority level and/or how much time I should spend on the thing. My boss is terrible about due dates, but can usually give me a sense of priority or amount of time. A co worker leading a specific big project is much better about hard due dates and will usually lead with “I need this by X,” but doesn’t have as strong a sense of how much time or priority.

    11. t*

      I ask for time frames so I know how to prioritize, but really, the onus is on the person for who you’re gathering data to provide one in the first place, rather than assume ASAP is the understood deadline.

      If you can do so without rocking the boat too much, I’d ask your co-worker why s/he zoomed right to your boss instead of discussing the situation with you first.

    12. AvonLady Barksdale*

      All requests should involve a discussion of the timeline. Make that your default. It’s a two-pronged conversation: when do they need it and how long does it typically take to get done/when you can fit it in your schedule. And if a roadblock comes up, communicate.

    13. Malarkey01*

      YES, I always have to push back my own internal tendencies with this because people have very different definitions of “no rush” and “when you get time”. I will tell people no rush but when you get a moment (meaning don’t drop what you are doing this second but when you wrap that get -this thinking a few hours), I work with someone who hears (literally no rush, if I have a break this month where I’m looking for work). So I try to specify (or ask if I’m receiving the task) do you need this COB? This week? Right now?

    14. Deborah*

      Personally, I tend to set expectations rather than ask for a deadline. If I can accomplish a request within the same business day, I would usually just acknowledge the request. Anything that will take longer than one day, I will generally acknowledge back with a timeline and, where appropriate, any reasons that they might not be aware of for the length of time required. For complex tasks, I’ll include a high level overview of the steps as well.

      Presenting your timeline sets expectations and allows the other person to let you know if that won’t work. Providing information about any obstacles and the amount of complexity and labor involved in their request tends to reframe your contribution as valuable instead of as an obstacle, while also allowing them to help with any external roadblocks and let you know if your understanding of the task of wrong in some way. It’s also a lot confident way to approach the situation, taking more control and responsibility for your time and not offering it up for others to make what may be arbitrary and capricious demands that are not based on the reality of the request they are making.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      Much of my volunteer work has no deadline. So I ask the person I am working with, “When do we think we’d like to have this done?” This opens a conversation, “Let’s get part 1 done by next Friday and go from there.” OR, “I won’t have time to even start this until Thursday. I will ping you Thursday to let you know I am starting.”

      At my job, it’s a little less loose with the time frames but the overall idea applies. If the person needs something from me, I ask them if they have a deadline. Since I work part time, I can respond to them with, “Okay, I see you have no rush on this. My last day this week is X so I will have it to you by then.”

    16. Esmeralda*

      Always ask — you need to be able to plan. Heck, you need to know if you can even do it! And you don’t have to immediately say yes/no. “Let me check my schedule and I’ll get back to you” is a reasonable response.

      And send an email confirming the details. CYA, my friend, and also it will jog your memory as well.

    17. RAM*

      A good work around is for you to give them a timeline instead based off of your task list. So if it’s a 2-hour request, but you’re working on a few other things all of variable priorities you can say “I’ll have this for you by Friday – let me know if you need sooner though and I can accomodate” and then the onus is on them.

  16. CCSF*

    I have a grad school interview coming up. Will take any and all advice the AAM community is willing to give!

    -degree is a MS in leadership
    -I have 20+ years of professional work experience
    -I’m in a high-level individual contributor role right now, but have held management roles in the past
    -I’m an avid and curious learner, but my grades (BA and another grad certificate program) are pretty average

    1. OtterB*

      Somebody else can probably speak to what that interview might be like, but I would say to have a clear idea of what you expect to get out of the degree program and what you think you will bring to it (e.g. experience relevant to class discussions). About the grades, academia can be weirdly fixated on 20-year-old undergraduate grades, but if the question comes up I think you can say that you weren’t as focused earlier and that you are particularly interested in this subject.

      1. Reba*

        Re: what you want to get out of it, I would ask if you could be put in touch with recent alumni. Ask what graduates do after graduating (if they track it; if they don’t track it that in itself it not disqualifying but might not be great).

        Good luck!

    2. WellRed*

      What is the purpose of a masters in leadership? What do you expect it to do for you that work and life experience haven’t? I mean you’ve got 20 years of experience. I guess I just feel skeptical when I see degree programs for stuff like this. But it sounds like you’ll have plenty to talk about and be a great candidate.

      1. CCSF*

        I like learning. I’m at a point in my life where pursuing something simply because I am passionate about it will not negatively impact my financial stability.

        I value the good leaders I’ve encountered in my life. I’ve been lucky to be mentored by a few of them and it’s my turn to do that. I see the difference they can make both to individuals and in change within an org.

        Also, it’s 500 times better than a generic MBA. I understand accounting enough to do/understand a budget, but I don’t need or want a class in it. Same for stats or [insert other business course here]. This program focuses on developing people and that’s my jam. :)

    3. Nonprofiteer*

      In my experience, this type of academic program is more interested in bringing students in vs. being super selective, and your professional experience will be much more important to them than your undergrad. So I would think about yourself as a potential consumer as well as applicant in the interview.

      1. Cece*

        Agree completely. I’ve worked at universities where we’d hold applicant interviews to appear far more selective than we could afford to be…

        1. CCSF*

          Cece and Nonprofiteer — TY both for your replies. TBH I was thinking this was what was going on, but liked getting the confirmation.

  17. HopingForBetter*

    I’m early in my career and facing some extreme burnout and disillusionment in my work life. I’m hoping someone farther along in their career with a similar personality can offer some advice that might pull me out of what I’m afraid is going to spiral into an existential crisis.

    “The only reward for good work is more work.” I’m currently living this reality right now. I have extremely high standards for myself and a high degree of personal integrity (ISTJ here). I’m good at learning new processes quickly and applying them effectively. I also have a high level of pride (a weakness), so when I feel taken advantage of, my instinct is to be angry and lash out.

    In my current job, due to my work ethic and desire to prove myself and achieve, I’m constantly getting more work. Meanwhile, I have tenured coworkers who do almost nothing and also see no consequences. We all get paid the contractual minimum for our positions. I’m struggling to see what the point is – why am I working so hard? I don’t want to be made a fool of. But on the other hand, I see my integrity and work ethic as strengths of mine that I don’t want to give up. I feel like I’m a square peg trying to force myself into a round hole, and it’s causing serious mental health effects. How do I find a good balance here? I don’t want to become just a disillusioned employee who does the bare minimum and doesn’t invest into their work at all, but I also can’t continue on this path I’m on, feeling like I’m being taken advantage of. Is there anyone who has faced this same problem and come to a solution that works for them?

    1. Super Duper Anon*

      I am not quite at the same level of desire to achieve as you, but for me I have found the balance between overwork and doing the bare minimum. For example, I was working hard on a side project last year that was one of my goals. So I put a ton of effort into it along with my regular work and got it done, and got lots of kudos which I enjoyed. But then the goal was done so I switched back to focusing on regular work.

      I have new goals for this year which I will pick up soon, but I am ahead of schedule with my regular work, so I am slowing down a bit before the deadline so I don’t burn myself out. All my work will be done on time, I won’t let it slip so far that I am late, but I can relax a bit. When I start on my extra goal work for 2021, I will throttle back up the intensity.

      Hopefully you can find a similar balance.

      1. HopingForBetter*

        Thank you for your comment! I think being more conscious of what I take on has the potential to go a long way in helping me feel less taken advantage of.

        1. t*

          Remember also that ultimately, you are creating a professional reputation for yourself, while others aren’t. If nothing else, you’re quietly but doggedly protecting yourself from being the first one on the chopping block, and, in the meantime, making yourself an attractive employee to someone other company should you want to explore other opportunities.

          I know how so very frustrating it is to watch other people get away with slacking. That’s why I am presently fulfilling my own exit plan.

    2. Emilitron*

      One thing I did was to consciously assign value to things other than work. It’s easy to get into the effort/praise/reward cycle with school, and pride yourself on your grades, and on the quality of your work that went into earning those grades. Then you take that school attitude to the office, and you’ve got a boss who’s judging your work, and you get a kudos when you complete something well. And the more tasks you do well at the more gold stars you get, and that feels good. But you’re right to ask – what will you do with those gold stars once you get them? If your boss/workplace is your only source of gold stars, you’re reliant on them to make you feel good about yourself. That’s why work/life balance is important, find opportunities to use your integrity, work ethic, creativity, enthusiasm, and other skills for purposes other than your employer, and you’ll have more sources of reward.

      1. HopingForBetter*

        Thank you, this resonated a lot with me. I do think that, while this has been a long-simmering issue for me, the pandemic has really brought things to a full rolling boil. The truth is that a lot of my outside outlets just aren’t available right now and my work/life balance has gotten really out of whack. I’m sure that’s true for many people. In the past, I have invested my energies into volunteering and other outlets where it does feel more rewarding, so I should probably keep that in mind and pursue those options as soon as they’re available again.

        Your comment also made me remember the problem of “vocational awe.” I’m an academic librarian and so many of us in this field have internalized the idea that we are part of a noble profession and self-sacrifice is also noble. Also that the job is a vocation or calling, which can prompt you to put way too much value on your work life. It’s a harmful idea. I think I thought I was avoiding that issue myself, but I’m beginning to realize I was wrong.

    3. Rational Lemming*

      Another ISTJ here! I know exactly how you are feeling.
      How I’ve dealt with it is:
      1) Care less in general about my job. I know it sounds awful. But I’ve had to train myself to think about work as something that I do, not who I am. When I’m at my desk, I do my best. And then when I’m done for the day, I don’t worry about it. This doesn’t mean you won’t have hard days or long days, but it separates work-self from real-self.
      2) When I’m assigned an additional task/project when I’m already busy, I send an email to my manager with a list of all my projects in my priority order. I ask for feedback on the priority and if she would rearrange anything. If you have one-on-ones, might be a good time to bring this up. I think this helps me because it gives my manager line of sight to all of the things I’m working on in one place. I find that after she sees this, she is more likely to assign the next project to someone else on the team. Even if that doesn’t happen for you – you have feedback on the order of priority.
      3) Lazy coworkers are just part of the deal. DO NOT complain about them to other people on your team. Call your mom, call your friend, complain to your partner, make a slambook (at home). Whatever it takes to vent. But not at work – backfires spectacularly.

      It takes practice. If you have a good reputation and a good work ethic – you have room to not go 100% all the time. If your employer is decent, they want you around and not burned out. Your 80% effort is probably still miles beyond your coworkers!

      1. HopingForBetter*

        Thank you for your insightful comment! I think this has been really eye-opening for me. I’m an academic librarian at a college that primarily serves students who come from tough backgrounds – weaker academics, few economic resources, etc. The mission of the college is extremely student-focused. I’m realizing that, as a result, my instinct is to push myself way too far because “it’s for a good cause” or “I’m helping people.” Realistically, I would probably find it a lot easier to strike a healthy balance at a for-profit company where work would feel a lot more like work.

        And yes, that’s a good reminder not to gripe about others at work. My department in particular is host to a variety of too-familiar relationships and I sometimes have to remind myself not to take on these toxic habits, since I won’t be here forever.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Song lyrics grab me and make me think.

      “It’s the one who won’t be taken who cannot seem to give
      And it’s the soul afraid of dying that has never learned to live”
      -Bette Midler.

      When I start thinking that someone is taking advantage of me, all I can do is change ME. I don’t want to morph into that person who “cannot seem to give” because I am so concerned about being taken advantage of. And I don’t want to go around worrying about being taken advantage of to the point that I cut off my nose to spit my face and I become “less than” I could be.

      Where this puts me is I want to be a person who gives to others, but I don’t want to cause my own demise in the process.

      Things I thought about:
      When I take on a task, I make sure I know how it benefits me to take that task on. I mean real benefit, not just “no one else is willing to learn how to do it”.

      I decided to make more of an effort to hand out fishing poles NOT fish. I am more willing to show people things so they can go on their own. An added advantage here is that once I became known as a person who shows people but does not do it for them- the leeching type workers avoided me.

      I learned new levels of confidence. “Boss, I have Big Project A and Big Project B. If I take on Big Project C, something has to go to the back burner or I need more people helping me.” Let the boss decide. Some bosses wait until we scream “uncle” before they will do anything. Do not wait until you are angry/crying/anxious/etc. You already have a reasonable idea of what you can do. Say so NOW before your health falls apart.

      Which brings me to my next one. NO job, ever, on this planet is worth ruining our health for. If you start thinking, “I don’t feel like me anymore” or “I have no energy to do basic things at home”, it is WELL PASSED time to say something. Do what it takes to get you back.

  18. Actuarial Octagon*

    I need help figuring out how to talk to my boss about the person who supports me. We’re in a highly regulated industry where I am client facing and my support person Bob works to put together documentation and acts as a second set of eyes for reviewing things before they go to clients. He has been here for 2 years and is still just not getting it. I’m not sure if it’s lack of confidence or lack of ability but he refuses to even attempt anything slightly new or different, which is really important for the job. Someone who started in the same role 6 months ago has already surpassed him in ability.

    The hard part is that our company culture is super flat and Bob reports to our main boss and I have no real role in performance management. I do some training, but it’s really only explaining how our processes work. How do I convince my conflict avoidant boss that she needs to deal with this?

    1. t*

      I’d tell your boss explicitly how and the extent to which your work is impacted by Bob’s seeming unfit for the role. That should get the ball rolling.

      1. Dave*

        Yes and keep going back. Bob is still doing X, how should I handle this? Make this your boss’s issue more then yours.

    2. ferrina*

      Show how Bob’s work impacts your own. Say it neutrally

      “Hey Boss, Bob missed a deadline for Project X (or whatever he does). I haven’t been able to get to my part of this project because I’m waiting on Bob. Just so you know!”
      “Hey Boss, Bob hasn’t logged in the documentation for Project Y. I’ve checked in with him, but he says he’s struggling with the software. I don’t have time to help him [don’t offer to teach- this isn’t your problem] but letting you know so you can arrange whatever support he needs.”

      Really, you’ve probably got a boss problem. Whenever I see “conflict avoidant’ and “boss” together, it sends chills down my spine. You can try escalating Bob’s issues (your manager will be more motivated to act when she is feeling the pain of Bob’s inability), but at some point you may need to accept that Bob is going to stay.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Going in a different direction, tell your boss that you need someone who does Tasks A, B, C, D, E and F because no one does that for you and you would like your boss to hire a person who can. (Notice my huge list of tasks, make sure that your list of things Bob does not do is a thorough list. Tell your boss what you need to do your job.)

  19. Postdoc*

    I need help on how to deal with one of my coworkers. We work in an academic lab. I am a postdoc and he is a staff scientist but I have been here longer and our boss (the PI) has said we are equal as far as lab hierarchy goes. He has a tendency to completely ignore what I say or agree with me and do the opposite. I am a woman and it really feel like this is coming from sexism. I have no problem with him ignoring me when it comes to his own experiments because that really doesn’t affect me. The problem is when it comes to common use equipment. I read most of the user manuals so that I could do proper maintenance and operation. He didn’t bother. He refuses to do any maintenance until I do it because he doesn’t know how (he actually said this). Then he tells me I am doing it wrong. I recently had to spend over an hour to convince him not to do something that would actually break an expensive piece of equipment. Honestly, I would have let given up and let him deal with it if it wouldn’t put my experiments back to not have it available.

    I’ve talked to my boss about it and she says it is just different communication styles and he is very direct. But if that were true he would be happy to be talked to the way he talks to me and I really do not think that is the case. She has also said that he tends to dig his heels in when corrected in public on something he is wrong about in order to save face. But he wouldn’t have to worry about saving face if he didn’t state things as fact that he actually knows nothing about! How do I disengage to save my sanity while not feeling like a doormat and not putting my own experiments at risk when he decides to “fix” something.

      1. t*

        Yep. Let her pick up the pieces (literally, as in, if he breaks equipment). I didn’t get from your comment that you are in charge of him, so don’t be.

        If, however, you’re blamed for his ways, that’s a whole different sexist ballgame. In that case, I’d have a very long discussion with my boss about why I’m not getting paid to supervise.

      2. Physics Tech*

        Yeah sounds like a double standard here between how postdoc is treated and staff scientist is treated. I hate people who are like “if you just said it a different way they’d understand”. I understand re-phrasing explanations for students trying to learn something, but if he doesn’t understand he asks for clarification not ignore postdoc!!

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      Wow am I familiar with this dynamic…. The other posters are right. Your boss is the issue here. Can you ask your PI to be direct with the staff scientist? Focus on how specific actions affect the work and your lab (e.g., if we don’t maintain the equipment or do X to it, it could cost the lab $$$$), or “I think we need to come up with a lab jobs document to split up the maintenance duties among lab members.” and either do it at lab meeting or suggest a way to split it up yourself. And if you find yourself wasting time on him, I might suggest saying “why don’t we ask PI about this?” (depends on your PI’s knowledge and level of involvement). Sometimes labs rely on a small subset of people going above and beyond to clean up after others and pick up slack, but try not to let that happen because it A) is unfair and wastes your time and B) long-term generates resentment.

      1. Postdoc*

        Unfortunately, I’ve already tried those strategies. My boss is convinced that the problems are due to cultural differences (he is from another country). I don’t think she wants to see that he appears to have very little respect for her either. He can be very nice when not talking about science but once we are talking about science he very clearly doesn’t think women know as much as men. He takes being corrected by the male grad student better. And she is well aware of the money he has wasted.

        I did suggest a chore rotation. She agreed that it is a good idea but it’s been a month and we don’t even have a chore list yet except for the one I made.

        I have also tried saying we should talk to our PI about it when he is insisting on doing something that will be detrimental to the equipment. He agrees and then does it anyway before we can meet with her.

        I am honestly at the end of my rope but I am very close to beginning my faculty job search and can’t afford to burn bridges.

        1. Physics Tech*

          Good luck on your job search! I’d say document, document, document every time you have to fix // maintain equipment so you can show your boss how much of your time it’s taking. Other than that your boss really needs some management training but I don’t think you can suggest that.

        2. JustaTech*

          Oh, I’ve worked with this kind of staff scientist before. I’m very sorry.
          Since you’re starting your job search I think the sanest thing to do is to work around him as much as possible.
          On the “cultural differences”; it’s 100% possible to be from a different culture and *also* be a jerk. And sexist and ageist. (I had a coworker like this who would claim cultural differences when he was really just being stubborn, lazy or a jerk.) (And I bet he’s not like this with your PI, because she’s the boss.)

          On the equipment, honestly I wouldn’t set a chore rotation, or even a “everyone is expected to take care of the crazy-expensive flow cytometer”, because it won’t happen. One person needs to “own” each piece of equipment (and your PI needs to enforce this), or everything will constantly be broken. You take the instrument that you need most for your studies, then assign the rest to other people. The grad students will hopefully take the time and effort to read the manuals, and then your PI can see that the staff scientist breaks his thing and never fixes it.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            I’ve worked with two guys who blame their jerk tendencies on being [other culture]. It’s a particular flavor of jerk and nothing to do with any other culture.

            Also no one should get a pass on being unprofessional, rude, and unqualified to run test equipment because they’re from another culture. What even is that as an excuse? “He’s from another culture, we can’t expect him to treat you with respect/learn how to use stuff without breaking it.” It’s like the online anecdotes about how “the women should take notes/make coffee/print stuff out” because we’re “better at it” than the men; the response is, “Do you think the men are too stupid to learn these things?”

            Your boss is being avoidant in the extreme in not addressing this and it sounds like it’s going to cost the lab time and money keeping this guy employed and with unsupervised access to expensive machines.

        3. Unfettered scientist*

          ugh, I’m sorry. This sucks. It doesn’t matter *why* the staff scientist is acting the way he is. It’s about the *impact* of the action on your ability to get work done. It’s so frustrating when PIs don’t get that. Many are not great managers unfortunately… I also wouldn’t suggest a rotation, but more ‘lab jobs’ where one person consistently takes care of a set of rooms/equipment. Protect what you need, but don’t be afraid to drop the ball on making sure this guy is doing things right. Let him muck it up (again, easier said than done when it affects you) and let the PI see the consequences of not managing. In severe circumstances, I’ve seen some people vow to never collab with a certain problematic person because they’re incompetent (and in these cases it was actually fine and they just avoided each other/separated work). But that isn’t always available. Finally, make sure you aren’t taking on too much responsibility and don’t cover up if this guy causes something to happen. There’s a fine line between throwing someone under the bus and making sure people are accountable, but I’ve usually seen people in labs tip toward “no one is ever accountable” so if you also have that tendency don’t be afraid to say “X equipment broke. It looks like the widget snapped because it wasn’t oiled after Staff Scientist used it. This is a major problem for multiple people in the lab. How do we ensure that this never happens again?” and see what she says?

        4. JessicaTate*

          I’m silently screaming reading all of this because I’ve been there (different area of research, but still). One thing I wanted to address in what you wrote:
          “[Boss] says it is just different communication styles and he is very direct. But if that were true he would be happy to be talked to the way he talks to me…” And “he tends to dig his heels in when corrected in public on something he is wrong about in order to save face.”

          ^^This rationale may be part of what is making you crazy. That statement assumes he follows a “do unto others” or “don’t dish it out if you can’t take it” mindset. He does not. Most men like this do not. They are “direct,” name-calling, condescending, rude to anyone they please; but the minute someone is direct or factual with them, they can’t take it; they “save face” by doubling down … or, maybe, walking off the set in a huff. They have no problem living a Double Standard. And people like your boss enable it, and it continues.

          I call this out because this pattern drives me crazy. So, to your “how do I disengage” question — that’s been part of it for me. Figuring out ways to privately name the BS / Double Standard, and then choose my action based on what outcome I need, even if it is further enabling or placating the man-child. I feel less like a doormat because I’m acknowledging (to myself at least) that this is deeply unfair and this man-child is protected by a screwed up system. When I placate his behavior, it is my choice and I’m doing it for MY ends/benefits — in your case, getting your research done so you can leave.

          And from what you’ve said, I think you need to 1) keep working around him, and 2) when you can’t, you have to strategize how to placate/manipulate him as best you can. It sounds like you are saying “I can’t fix it, Boss won’t fix it, I can’t burn bridges, I need to finish” — so, you have to work around/over/through him. He gets defensive if you’re direct with him and/or correct him, so stop doing that. So, I’d be experimenting with other interventions. Trying less direct communication (i.e., will I make more progress with flattery and other tactics he finds acceptably female? — I threw up a little writing that, but honestly, it’s worked for me). Enlisting the male grad student to intervene with him regularly. And yes, I’d end up doing more than my share of chores so that his incompetence doesn’t delay my work and exit. It’s not a satisfying answer, but that’s what it sounds like you’re left with based on what you’ve shared.

          I’m sorry. I am enraged at this jerk – and your boss – on your behalf. Good luck with the job search. May you one day be a PI who establishes a lab with much better dynamics.

          1. Postdoc*

            That’s pretty helpful. I hadn’t quite formulated “I can’t fix it, my boss won’t fix it, I can’t burn bridges and I need to finish” in my mind, but that really is where I am. I keep feeling like there must be some solution I overlooked but it’s probably better to put my head down, plow through and do what I have to do finish up and get out whether it is fair or not. Thank you for putting it that way!

            1. JessicaTate*

              I hope someone else here gives you a good, overlooked suggestion of a way to try to fix things! That would be way better. But if not, this crap situation is by no means a failing on your part. Hang in there!

        5. tangerineRose*

          Can you get the male grad student to act as an “interpreter”. Since the coworker listens to that grad student, maybe the grad student should do the talking for now. Not a good permanent solution, but it sounds like you need to deal with this until you get a new job, and it might get you past this.

          Or when he insists he’s right, can you get the manual and show him he’s wrong, or does he not believe manuals either?

          Sorry you’re having to deal with this. I don’t understand why in this day and age we females still aren’t always treated like people.

      2. I always wanted to be a ninja*

        Agree with others, make a schedule including a simple document log for such, a short how to for the maintenance, and try to have some piece of assigned equipment that each person is responsible for. It will be more work for you to take on the responsibility of creating all of the above mentioned for a routine maintenance program, but it will be worth it. Stick to simple, and just copy and paste from the manufacturer’s user manual or just use that itself. But do keep a simple record of when you maintenance the equipment.
        Even if this does not resolve the laziness of your coworker, or the possible sexism of your current boss, it will help in the long run and will be something you can add in to description of responsibilities/ accomplishments for your current position.

    2. ferrina*

      What would happen if you just….didn’t? What if you focused on your work and only your work? What if he did break stuff? What if you did tell your PI that you can’t run the experiment because Staff Scientist broke it?
      It sounds like you’re doing a lot of management (emotional and supervisory). You can’t care more about this equipment than your PI does. What if you stopped? Shrug and say “Break it if you want. Manual’s right there if you change your mind.” and go back to your work. Dont’ waste your breath conversing with this guy when he doesn’t want to listen- your brain has far better things to do!

      1. Postdoc*

        I have done that for everything that doesn’t directly affect me. If I don’t use it, it’s not my problem. But if he breaks something I need, I then can’t run my experiments and it pushes back how long it will take me to get out. Short term it would be less stressful but there would be more stress long term because theses are things that would put me weeks behind, not days.

        1. Generic Name*

          Okay, so his behavior affects project schedule, and your boss has made it clear they will not deal with the problem of coworker’s behavior. So now they get to deal with project delays. I would keep track of everything so that if something breaks because of your coworker’s action/inaction. Then when you update your boss about project schedule, you can say something like, “Unfortunately schedule has been pushed back a week because of issues with Special Lab Gizmo.” Then when boss asks why there are issues, you can produce a calibration log or cleaning schedule showing that you did your stuff when you were supposed to but coworker did not do his part, so that must be why Gizmo is broken. Your coworker is counting on you to do the crap he doesn’t want to do in order to keep things running smoothly, and your boss is sitting by and letting it happen. So drop the rope and let coworker become your boss’ problem.

        2. ferrina*

          Ooh, so you can’t get out until the job is done, but if you let the natural consequences of his actions occur, then your job gets longer? This feels like a Sartre play.

          Ignore my first response then. Unfortunately, what you’re currently doing sounds like the best option. It sounds awful, though, and I wish there was another way to solve this!

        3. Blackcat*

          So, I see two approaches:
          1) Accept the hit to your productivity. I suspect that once he breaks stuff work enough money, your PI will change strategies.
          2) Reorganize the lab and don’t tell him where anything is.

          2) Raises the level of pettiness and disfunction in the lab, but your PI is not handling things and if you gotta get your work done, do what you gotta do.
          If you do 1) Make sure to keep a close log of when you work with all equipment so he can’t blame braking it on you.

    3. JobHunter*

      Former lab tech/manager here: Is there another lab that will let you borrow their equipment? Explain why, use it in their space, and don’t tell the staff scientist.

      I agree with the others who say this is your PI’s problem and not yours.

  20. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I had a vacation last week and I’m not feeling refreshed at all. This week’s problem is why do people always schedule stuff at the end of the month when they know we have Hella deadlines? I’ve had Training scheduled at the end of the month last month and this month. And even worse, my boss wants us to do some dumb group outing on a Friday at the end of the month.

    I have 12 extensive reports I have to do starting on the 25th ( I’ve been told stop doing them early) and on the 26th I’m gonna have time to bowl?

    And Im not sure how I’m gonna get these assignments done by noon on Monday when they want a whole ass novel rather than pared down information?

    Also, the idea that there shouldn’t be meetings on Friday. The two hour round trip makes this meeting hard to schedule, so I schedule it on a valid work day, when I am working.

    1. ferrina*

      uuugghhh. This is awful!
      Make it your boss’ problem- “Boss, I’ve got 12 reports that are going to take XX hours. I’ve also have Y training and the group outing. I’m not going to all of this- how would you like me to prioritize?”
      You have to go to the training? Great- who should you give this report to (since you won’t have time to do it). Keep escalating for “guidance on priorities”- your boss should get the message and start blocking off the time for you.
      You can also have a broader conversation with your boss- “I’ve noticed that our work gets really busy near the end of the month and I don’t have time to do both my reports and trainings/other activities. Is there a way going forward that we can schedule the trainings for the beginning of the month?”

      BUT- if your boss insists that you have time for everything and that you need to figure out a way to do it on your own and blah blah blah….run. This is a burnout factory.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        The trainings were scheduled by the company, but I really don’t get why they think the busiest time of the month is a good time to schedule. Like the beginning of the month is a fine time. I have time then.

        The reports have to be done by me. I personally think if I’m not doing well by Friday, I’ll bail on the outing. I give them extra time anyway! ( I consider anything after 6 extra. I’m often working til 8)

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I understand the other teams have been having ” fun ” but even though I try to hide it, I have a bad personality. I’m like don’t wanna meet teammates IRL, I got work!

        1. allathian*

          Yeah. Especially during the pandemic and all. There’s no place in the world, except maybe NZ, in which it wouldn’t be inadvisable to say the least to meet anyone in person unless you absolutely have to do it. Under no circumstances would “work fun” qualify for that.

          If others think you have a “bad personality”, don’t buy into it. You don’t have a bad personality just because you don’t want to spend even more time with your coworkers than you already do working.

  21. NoticeWuss*

    Anxiety over handing in my notice

    I’ve got a new job, the excitement of which has been ruined by the dread of handing in my notice. My company are okay but when it comes to leaving they act like you are dead to them and betrayed them and I think my notice will come as a surprise and I’m so busy and noone else covers my areas so I feel really bad and don’t know if I can do it point blank or how to do it virtually. I’m scared I might turn down this job because I’m scared to hand in my notice.

    1. Neosmom*

      You have a business relationship with your employer. NoticeWuss Corp. has decided to provide services exclusively to BrandSpankingNewEmployer Inc. in two weeks. Betrayed(not) Employer LLC can deal.

      Enjoy looking forward to the new job and prep as much as possible for your replacement. Best of luck to you!!

    2. Threeve*

      This means that they’re not really an okay workplace, they just reserve the intense, unacceptable emotional manipulation for specific circumstances. Please please please don’t let it keep you from leaving.

      “Betrayal” would be burning the building down or blackmailing them or otherwise leaving them in ruins. You’re just moving to a new job.

    3. AllTheBirds*

      You are doing what’s best for YOU. You owe your company 2 weeks and a wrap-up of whatever you can get to. If they cut you dead for quitting, THAT’S THEIR PROBLEM. You haven’t betrayed them, but you could end up betraying yourself! Is that the deal you want to make with yourself?

      Get it over with, suffer (if it happens) through the last weeks and MOVE ON. You deserve it.

    4. Emilitron*

      Your notice period might be the start of a really awkward couple of weeks, but then it will be over. (what are they gonna do about it, fire you?! ;) ) The worse they are to you, the more they’re indicating what a great choice you’re making by leaving. Make an appointment to talk to your boss (audio not email or text chat, but whether it’s phone or video is whatever your local culture). If first-contact is usually text or email, then “I need ten minutes of your time, can I call you now or should we schedule something later today?” and if they don’t seem to follow up, “It should be quick, but I’d like to talk before the weekend”. Then set yourself a deadline that if you can’t get their attention by the end of today, you’ll quit over email – which will likely inspire them to get in touch so send this 30-60 minutes before 5pm. “I wanted to speak with you in person to tell you this, but the logistics aren’t working out today and I think it’s important to let you know ASAP. I’ve decided to leave (company) and take another job; I’d like my last day to be April 2. I have some ideas about ways to wrap up my work with (project X) but I’d really like to discuss that with you, how I can best support transitioning this work before I leave. I’m free now if you’d like to give me a call, otherwise let’s talk on Monday.”

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’m sorry they are like tgis.

      This is not on you. They are rubbish (and probably won’t change).

      It’s like any other unpleasantness – it’s going to be tough, they will be big babies about it – and you will feel such relief and removal of a burden when it is done.

      You can do this. You are going to have a great new job :)

    6. Dust Bunny*

      It’s not your fault and definitely not your problem that they failed to train anyone else to cover what you do and don’t have enough staff. You don’t owe them anything more.

      I left a job in which I was the only one trained to monitor a certain kind of ongoing test (I tried to train others but wasn’t given the time to do it). When I gave notice, I let my bosses know where this material was, what needed to be done, and that I was the only one who had been handling it. I wrote it in big letters on the task board.

      I found out later that nobody did it for months and they had to start all over. Clients were not happy.

      Still not my fault. I did it until the day I left. I notified everyone who could and should have made arrangements to have it covered. It’s not on me that they set it up so that nobody else could do it.

    7. Courageous cat*

      No one else covering your areas is their oversight. Like, what, are you supposed to stay there literally forever?

      I have been there, though, and I will tell you: without any doubt, do not let your fear of this keep you from putting in your two weeks’. You will feel so much better once you do. And if they are pissed, that’s their problem.

    8. Drago Cucina*

      If they had no back-up/cross training that’s not on you. I understand the guilt, but let it go. It will do you no good. I had guilt when I left old job a year ago, even with excellent people to fill in. I realized that crashing and burning wasn’t my fault at all. What ever happens it’s not your fault. Shake the dust from your sandals and move on.

    9. I See Real People*

      Always ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Prepare yourself for half of what you think that will be, and you will always be relieved that it is almost never half as bad as you imagine it to be. Believe me, if your worst fear is that they yell at you for resigning, you want to move on to a better place anyway. You’ll be fine. And it looks good on future references if you’ve given notice. Good luck!

    10. Deborah*

      I did that last August. I sent mine by email. They didn’t respond until the end of the day, and just cut off my remote access to the computer immediately after responding that they no longer needed my services and would pay out the two week’s notice period. I heard from my old boss a month later to pick up the remaining personal items from my desk (I had taken most of it home when we went remote). I have only spoken to one person since. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time! I don’t know what they did with all my projects, and really, not my problem! They were treating me badly, so I don’t need them in my life anymore, so it’s not a problem that I haven’t talked to them.

      Do it! Just tell them and then move on with your life.

    11. PollyQ*

      People leave jobs all the time — it’s entirely normal, and almost every business handles it just fine. Just because they act like it’s a betrayal doesn’t mean it actually is. Further, 2 weeks is more than they’d get if you had some kind of medical emergency and were unavailable immediately. Bite the bullet, give them your notice, and in 2 weeks, whatever drama arises (or maybe doesn’t) will be behind you.

      Also, Alison is always very strongly in favor of resigning in person. But I think if you’re feeling this unsure and they’re likely to think badly of you regardless of what you do, it’s not a terrible thing to send an email and then have a follow-up conversation.

    12. Dramamethis*

      Do not sabotage yourself from taking a great new job because a few crybabies can’t handle a business decision.

      Just think, 2 weeks from now they will be out of your life forever and if they see it as a betrayal, then they are mismanaging and that’s not your problem.

      Enjoy the new job!!

    13. Hunybee*

      But you can’t turn down an offer because you dread turning in your notice. If it’s that bad, you should just make your notice effective immediately if you can and tell your new employer you can start early. There is no need for harassment.

      Liz Ryan actually has some interesting things to say about this on her blog, which I read daily in addition to Ask A Manager.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      So you know what is coming up next. Even though it sucks, I am always glad to know when the light at the end of the tunnel is an on-coming train. I can brace myself for it.

      So when they give you The Treatment you can smile and tell yourself, “And here is yet another reason why I am leaving.”

      Decide to let yourself up for air. You are worried about these people because no one covers what you do? HOGWASH! They are not worried about you AT ALL and the proof is in the pudding when they give you The Treatment. Let them swim in their own misery they created, it’s okay to do that.

      If you want, you could consider going into the boss and saying, “No one is speaking to me anymore because I am leaving. Would everyone prefer if I just left right away? Would that be easier somehow?”
      These people are not worth two minutes of thought. Really.
      I had a toxic job where TPTB ignored me when I gave notice. What happened next was Peace On Earth because their jabbering was a huge part of my problem. Once they stopped speaking to me it was actually a quiet time before I left.

      If you stay because you are so afraid of the fallout, then this is more like a hostage situation than employer-employee situation. Use your fear to remind yourself this is why you MUST leave, you must extract yourself from these abusers/bullies.

      1. NoticeWuss*

        Thank you everyone, I think I needed a pep talk!

        The company is nice – I might have misrepresented them, but they definitely give off the ‘we’re a family vibe’ that makes you feel bound to give your life and soul to them!

    15. Esmeralda*

      Your current employer doesn’t sound Okay at all.
      No one else covers your areas and you’re leaving? Oh well, sucks to be them!

      Look, you can’t care about the job more than they do. And clearly they don’t care about YOU.

      Be professional. Hand in your notice. If you have documentation for your tasks/projects, timelines, whatever, let your boss know.

      If they’re horrible to you about it, well, that’s their choice. They are CHOOSING to be horrible, CHOOSING to not be ready to cover your work. It’s not your choice. It’s theirs.

    16. The teapots are on fire*

      think of it as a test. If you hand in your resignation and they act like jerks, it’s confirmation of your excellent decision to leave. You’re dead to them? Happiest ghost EVER! You won’t be haunting them for long; you have better places to go.

      Practice saying to yourself during whatever ridiculous tantrum you behold, “Well, obviously THIS was the right decision.”

    17. MacGillicuddy*

      If they treat people badly when they give their notice, then the company is NOT okay.

      Get everything together before you give notice. Get copies of work samples you might need, contact info from coworkers, copies of annual reviews, email threads, etc. This in case they tell you to leave on the spot.

      You work for them in exchange for a paycheck. That is all. They don’t own you, and you don’t have to accept ANY bad behaviors from them. They did not hire you “out of the goodness of their heart”. It’s a business arrangement.

      If necessary, think of them as badly behaved little kids.
      Or think of yourself as an anthropologist who’s studying a dysfunctional culture.

      Change your mindset from being afraid of them to being pissed off at them.

      If they try to dump excessive work on you, tell them you can do X amount in the time you have left and they need to prioritize the tasks.
      If they get really nasty, tell them that the way they’re treating you is unacceptable and you’re leaving at the end of the day and will be using your remaining PTO for the rest of your notice period.

  22. JJ*

    I just initiated a meeting with my manager’s manager (the director) because my team has a big culture problem: the higher ups are continually telling us that they value a “collaborative” team and want our thoughts and ideas, but most of the non-managers feel like they’ve 1) not ever been asked their opinion and/or 2) feel as though their ideas just disappear into the ether when they are expressed and/or 3) don’t have any mechanism to express these frustrations. I suggested we have more skip-level meetings and/or formal upward feedback mechanisms, but Im not sure how to follow up or really get the breadth of the problem across.

    The reason I’m bothering is that I’ve worked on our (relatively young) team for five years now (and thus have some capital) and I do actually believe management doesn’t know the problem exists. I’m not sure how to get the message across, however, without betraying the confidence of my coworkers. I know several of them were happy to hear that I was having this meeting, even if they themselves wouldn’t have felt comfortable…

    I guess I’m wondering from others what DOES make them feel valued on a collaborative team, and what other suggestions I could give to management on how to improve employee morale. I can’t make them listen, but I like the work enough here to want to try and improve the culture if I can…

    1. BlueBelle*

      I would go into that meeting with some clear ideas on what can be done and not expect the higher ups to fix it. If your team is feeling disengaged then they need to be engaged with a solution. One of the first things I would do is connect the bigger business unit or company’s goals to the goals of the team and the individual goals of that team. I would identify 3 key areas that the team would like to see improvement in, and pick one to work on with the help of management over the next 90 days. One might be “avenue to offer solutions” then put together an action team to implement the way it can be done and present it to leadership for buy in and acceptance.
      If you are going in there expecting them to fix this problem you and the team are not going to come out looking very good.
      I’ll check back in if you want any additional advice. I work on corporate culture and engagement all day long.

    2. ferrina*

      My team is really collaborative, but that means that we respect each other’s expertise, bounce ideas off each other and volunteer to help each other whenever we can. The thoughts and ideas gets a little trickier, especially with young teams that don’t always have the experience to know what’s a good idea and what’s terrible.

      Two formats I’ve seen work really well-
      1) The Group Brainstorm. The team has a couple hours or half day to just spitball ideas. They can pitch whatever ideas they like (though you can also restrict this to ideas on a certain topic). Every idea is worth being said. After that meeting, the management/senior team talks through which of the ideas has the best ROI/alignment with corporate strategy and are worth pursuing. They then share the next steps back with the team and get the team involved in implementing these ideas.
      2) The Individual Projects. Each year, I sit down with my direct reports and talk about what they want to do during the following year. I try to leave room for one passion project. They pick the topic, I help them shape it in to a workable plan. Then I, as manager, make sure they have the time to execute the plan, get them the resources they need, and guide them when they need it.

    3. Grits McGee*

      If there are specifics you can bring up as examples, that’s always helpful! Some examples-
      -Your team anticipated expensive problem X on the llama project back when it was first proposed, but there was no venue to communicate that to management. Bonus points if your team is now dealing with the fall out of expensive problem X, or expensive problem X is highly visible.
      -Director made a big deal about soliciting feedback about morale, but submitted feedback was never acknowledged or responded to, resulting in negative morale.

      The important thing is to make it clear what the consequences are for not following through with their expressed desire for feedback. I’d also recommend digging into whether management/the director actually want input, or if they just feel like they have to say it.

    4. tangerineRose*

      Sometimes part of the problem is transparency (or lack thereof). For example, if there’s a table/database where you can submit suggestions, and you do, and nothing ever seems to happen with them, most people will stop submitting suggestions.

      But what if nothing happens with the suggestions because some suggestions are too expensive or will take too long or need more definition or something like that? What if some suggestions are used, and no one mentions it so no one knows?

      If there were quarterly e-mails praising suggestions that were used, that could help. Giving direct feedback on suggestions (to the person, not in public) could help “That’s a great idea, but it’s too much for the budget right now.” or “This suggestion is unclear; please clarify.” or “Interesting, but it would cause X problem.”

      Let people know that their ideas are seen and considered.

  23. Katie Porter's White Board*

    As part of my job, I work as an administrator and manage client relations for a teapot designer on staff, ‘Beryl’. While Beryl is one of the top in her field of design and in high demand, she isn’t my supervisors. We both report directly to ‘Marv.’ Beryl has some significant time-management issues and struggles with follow-through, time management, and detail orientation. Her status updates give a rosier impression of her progress on designs and it’s made me distrustful when receiving these updates. Giving status updates to our clients has turned into a repetitive “I know I said x, y, and z last time but now it’s different” and I’m often in a position where I know I’m not giving clients enough information even though I’m giving all I’ve got. Our clients are in positions where they can’t go really anywhere else and I’m concerned that they feel they’ve fallen victim to bait and switch.

    I’ve tried to alter my processes to fill in gaps, including frequent follow-up on requests, cc’ing her to client emails to convey the importance of being involved, clearly communicating about my needs and the impact of not having those needs met, and limiting requests to make sure details aren’t lost in the follow-up. But at this point I feel like I’m pestering for responses and I’m concerned that I’m giving the impression that I’m being condescending. On the other hand, I don’t feel that I can be ‘firm’ with her because there are age and cultural differences that can cause her to withdraw if she feels disrespected. At the end of the day, I’m still struggling to do my job well. 

    Our supervisor is aware of these issues but when I bring them up to him in a private meeting, his response is “You’re doing great, thank you.” He supports any steps I take to try to improve the situation but hasn’t intervened and at this point I don’t see anything more that I, as a coworker, can do to make the situation better. The only thing I can think of doing at this point is having a frank, private discussion with Marv where I once again lay out the situation but this time say “I’m unable to do my job well with the lack of support I get from Beryl and I don’t feel that I have any other tools in my arsenal to make up for that lack of support.” But is this the best approach? What would you do?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Personally, if I were in your shoes, I’d never say “We’re at point X on this project.” I’d say “Beryl informs me we’re at point X on this project.” So that the next time I could say “Unfortunately, Beryl now informs me we’re only at point Q on this project.” Either it’s a problem to Marv and others, or it’s not, but at least make it clear what (and who) the issue is.

    2. WellRed*

      I think you should also point out the lack of support from Marv as well. He’s not supporting you, he’s avoiding the issue and dumping it on you. He’s not managing.

    3. Mockingjay*

      I don’t feel that I can be ‘firm’ with her because there are age and cultural differences that can cause her to withdraw if she feels disrespected.

      Don’t fall into the trap of managing Beryl’s feelings. It is not disrespectful to ask for work status and to clarify deadlines; those are essential business tasks in any industry. Beryl doesn’t feel disrespected, she’s upset because she’s behind schedule AGAIN and is trying to hide it.

      The real problem is Marv. He’s not managing Beryl. Don’t do it for him. Instead, forward the client inquiries to him: “Marv, the customer wants to know why their teapots aren’t ready. They were supposed to be delivered on the 5th. Please let me know what I should tell the client.” For Q&A emails with Beryl, copy Marv and keep the inquiry succinct: “Beryl, the client was scheduled to review the design two weeks ago. Please provide the date that the design will be ready for him.” Whatever wording you use should make it clear that you require this information to proceed or you need Marv to tell you next steps. If (when) the client gets upset after one or two rounds of tap dance, refer them to Marv.

      I get your frustration; I also depend on others who blow through due dates all the time. I can’t fix them, I can’t make the bosses fix them. I can only do my part and document the rest: here’s what I’ve done, here’s what I’m waiting on, please advise next steps if I don’t get X by date.

    4. Malarkey01*

      I agree with others on responding to Marv and Beryl, on the customer communication side I don’t know if this helps but I work on projects where timelines really can be messy (example if A, B,C, and D happen in order and without X, Y, and Z we’ll deliver July 2021, if there are problems with all of those steps (and there could be, it would be outside our control, and not represent us messing something up) but delivery could be July 2023. So one thing I do is provide updates and schedules with qualifiers like “We anticipate Step 8 being completed by April 16th. This will require a and b. If this or this occurs that will push us back and I’ll have an update by this date”. It sounds nuts, but managing the time expectations and laying out potential roadblocks and being transparent when they happen has led us to really happy customers, even when delivering bad news. This may not work for your product, but transparency can help (not blaming Beryl but being clear delays can occur during design).

    5. PX*

      I can relate to this a little bit from a previous job. If Beryl is meant to deliver the work and she doesnt, there isnt anything you can do about that if you’re not her manager. The only thing you can try to do is demonstrate to Marv the impact this has. As others have already pointed out, until there is actual incentive for him to do anything, he wont. And if your clients cant go anywhere else – what’s his incentive to actually manage Beryl? What does it matter if she’s late with deliverables or the customers are kept waiting? Will you lose future business? Get a bad reputation? Can you quantify or verify any of these things?

      If not, all you can do is accept this is how its going to be, nothing will change – are you okay with that?

    6. Not So NewReader*

      You need to point blank ask your boss to step in.

      “Boss, I need you to step in here. I have done x and y and z and nothing has changed. My work is being impacted for a, b and c reasons. I need you to help with these problems.”

      When he says you are doing great, blah, blah, blah, then you say, “I’d like to set up a meeting now to check progress on these problems. What kind of time frame do you think we should give this discussion? When can we
      expect to start to see improvements in this area?

  24. Watry*

    Largely venting: I applied for an internal promotion into a first-level management position. I didn’t make it past the HR screen (for…somewhat stupid reasons) so I didn’t get an interview. Because HR doesn’t send out rejections until the position is filled, even for internal positions, I found out I didn’t get an interview when GrandBoss came to tell us the first interviewee would arrive in about ten minutes.

    GrandBoss found out I had applied and was extremely apologetic about blindsiding me, but it was a perfect storm of crap and now I’m going to spend all weekend trying to deal with my disappointment and anxiety and frustration.

    1. Weekend Please*

      I’m sorry. Your company needs a better way to communicate with internal candidates. At the very least they should let you know you won’t be interviewed before the first interviews happen.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I’m sorry that happened to you. I know from experience how much it sucks. Last year my primary senior manager put me in for consideration for a promotion but found out after other candidates were tapped for interviews that my name wasn’t even submitted after all (per a different senior manager’s decision, which we didn’t know overrode my own SM). No reasons were given, which means I can’t even work on specific stuff to improve my chances this year.

      FWIW at the time I revenge-applied to a few external jobs to feel proactive about my career but I ended up staying here once the bad feelings passed. It’s now been a year and I’m still low-key angry about it. I’m trying to use that to motivate myself so that I have a killer resume if I can’t progress this year.

  25. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    This week I found out one of my coworkers got ghosted by HR when he ask about a referral bonus he earned two months ago. Not only that, but the sum is significantly less than advertised and paid not in cash (because taxes), but in gift cards. And then they complain they can’t find the people they need…

    1. WellRed*

      I sincerely hope this nugget of info about your company and HR spreads like wildfire among the rank and file. It’s wrong on so many levels.

    2. Msnotmrs*

      My work has weird rules like that too. The amount is paid out in installments, it’s only for certain job classess, and only on certain shifts, and only on certain campuses. I have no clear picture on how much they ACTUALLY give out.

  26. Goose*

    This just hasn’t been my week. I made rookie mistake after rookie mistake, and while my coworkers have been helpful and supportive, I can tell it’s gotten on some of their nerves. I’m barely two months into this job so some of it is still new job nerves, but I dreaded coming into work today because my anxiety has been out of control. I need to get organized in order to not make some of these mistakes again., but I’m going to playing this week on repeat for a while. Not sure if I’m asking more for advice or for commiseration. Or reassurance that my coworkers won’t hate me for having to pick up my slack?

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      They don’t hate you. They understand. Seriously.

      My new guy dropped a $4K piece of equipment out of his truck this morning on the way to installing it. Launched it right into morning traffic. And you know what? It’s ok. Crap happens. People make mistakes and learn from them. It sucks and he’s probably embarrassed, but all inconveniences aside -we’ve all been new, we’ve all made mistakes, we’ve all said the wrong thing or missed an important detail.

      It may help you to develop your own little checks and balances to help prevent you from making the same rookie mistakes over and over. I don’t know what that means for your position. For me it looks like lists and my own little training manuals. For my techs it is little laminated cards in the trucks. Maybe spend a few minutes typing up your own little process manual? Whatever works for you and solidifies things in your brain.

    2. Emilitron*

      They will not hate you. Especially if you neither get defensive nor grovelingly apologetic when they continue to check up on you. If you screwed something up, the best possible outcome is that you’ve learned and it won’t happen again; but from their perspective maybe they screwed something up too by not giving you oversight/support to keep it from happening… so to keep it from happening again, they’re going to be doublechecking things with you. Ideal scenario is that you can appreciate that they’re checking up on you and confirm that you’ve already thought about and handled the questions they ask. (“Are you ready for the X report on Tuesday?” “Yes, I’m on it, I think I’ve allowed enough time for the printers this time, I’m planning to send that by noon on Monday. Did you want to see it before I print? I could send it Monday at 11, but if there were edits we wouldn’t make the printers till 2.”)

    3. twocents*

      Someone having a bad week when they’re still new to the role is expected. Even if they’re visibly annoyed, it’s more likely due to the sum of everything they’re dealing with (of which your stuff is just one piece) rather than them thinking a newbie should be an expert already.

    4. Bree*

      Your co-workers won’t hate you. One day they’ll make mistakes and you’ll be there to support them.

      If you find yourself replaying mistakes in your head a lot, one tool that might help is called a “thought record” (used in CBT). Basically, it’s just a worksheet you fill out to help you replace anxious, worst-case-scenario thoughts with more balanced ones. I’ve found them really helpful for bringing down the intensity of my guilt/regret for minor work mistakes.

    5. PollyQ*

      Unless your coworkers are sucky human beings, they are not going to hate you. Many, many jobs cannot be mastered in 2 months, so the mistakes you’re making are probably entirely normal. It might be helpful to do a little analysis on the kinds of mistakes you’re making. Are you not getting full instructions from people? Would it be helpful to ask more questions while you’re being trained, or while you’re in the middle of the process? Are you making the same mistakes repeatedly? In that case, better notes, and perhaps creating some checklists might be helpful.

      But really, I think you’re probably fine. You’re just in the awkward (and normal) phase of learning to do a new job.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Vow not to make the same mistake twice. Line up a plan to prevent that particular mistake from happening again.

      Tell your coworkers thank you and let them know that you look forward to developing into a coworker who can pay them back in some manner.

      BE SEEN writing things down. It’s a small detail but it gets noticed. I kept a note book. I dated each entry and put the topic in the margin. I had one cohort say, “Of course you will learn this job. I see you writing things down all the time.”

      If you are thinking about this in a manner fair to your own self, you will probably realize that there are small things you know you can already do for your cohorts. Stacy prefers names in alphabetical order- so you flip the order of the names before you email the list. Brian always worries about nailing down the number of broken teapots. So you make it a point to have that number handy for him. Just noticing these small things is powerful stuff and it’s already within your reach to start making sure you are hitting these targets.

      They don’t hate you. They are just tired like the rest of us. Give a nod to that. Maybe they prefer to handle questions first thing in the morning or whatever. Go with their flow as often as you can.

  27. clover*

    Thank you to everyone who helped with my sunscreen question in the weekend thread! Today I am on the hunt for some nice warm cardigans I can wear at work!

    Would love to hear some recommendations or suggestions on buying cardigans/sweaters that can keep me warm in office air-conditioning. I have a fleece jacket if I can’t take the chill anymore, but its bulky and not very professional looking.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I find layers work best for me – silk or similar base-layer that I can wear under my blouse/ shirt – then my normal shirt, blouse or dress, and with that I’m usually warm enough even in just a thin cardigan.

      I’ve found that it’s really hard to find women’s cardigans which are designed for warmth – so many have no fastening or are very thin. However, I’ve a couple I like from Brakeburn (I’m not sure if they have any US outlets) and FatFace.

      Depending on your size and shape, it may also be worth checking menswear – it’s much easier to find warmer / heavier options and those which actually button or zip up, than in ladieswear, in my experience.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      I have a nice chunky knitted cardigan from Old Navy. It doesn’t clasp in the front, if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s very warm.

    3. A Cataloger*

      I know they tend to be more expensive and sometimes harder to find, but animal fibers (wool, alpaca, vicuna, cashmere, etc.) will be warmer and alpaca, vicuna, and cashmere can all be soft, thin and warm. If your worried about itchiness you can hand wash with a bit of shampoo and lay flat to dry.

      I have knitter friends who shop thrift stores for sweaters made out of these materials, so they can unravel and knit a new sweater, because they are expensive yarns, but usually priced pretty reasonably at thrift stores.

    4. JustaTech*

      I really like my sweatshirt-material blazer from Halogen (Nordstrom’s in-house brand) – it’s soft and warm like a sweatshirt, but has lapels and pockets like a blazer. It’s not the warmest thing ever (for those days it’s a straight-up wool sweater), but it’s a good option for spring/fall.

      (I once had a coworker who was always cold. Like really, really cold. She wore a down coat under her lab coat in the lab.)

    5. Drago Cucina*

      If you catch the Talbots sales you can get some very nice, heavier, cardigans and sweater jackets. We won’t talk about my horde. There’s a reason cardigans are referred to as the lab coats of library science. What do you wear with a summer cardigan? Another cardigan.

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

      My advice is to look for cotton or wool fabrics in a very tight knit that looks woven, rather than chunky knits that have lots of “holes” — I’m probably describing that incorrectly. Ann Taylor usually has lots of professional-looking cardigans in a myriad of colors and they are thin enough to layer over a top without making you look like you’ve instantly gained 10 pounds. You might even put a chunky cardi, light jacket, or pashmina over a thin cardi while you are sitting at your desk and take it off for video calls or when you get up. I also have a nice wool blazer that looks like a casual jacket rather than suit-like.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Years ago I found some silk long johns at JC Penney. They are not bulky and don’t really show at all under most things. I prefer something warmer for severe cold but otherwise in cooler temps they helped a lot.

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      I like the ones from Coldwater Creek! Some are more “decorative” (open weave/lightweight) but others are sturdier

    9. Wandering*

      My collection of cashmere cardigans is all from thrift shops. Most I’ve paid for one is six (US) dollars. I love them.

  28. Fed Here*

    My boss says EVERY DAY: Don’t think I can’t demote [supervisor]! You can be fired! I will write you UP!

    In 13 years he has never, to my knowledge, written anyone up, and all the gov’t people who were dismissed were due to…legit reasons that had nothing to do with productivity or lack thereof.

    Still, the constant: I will start writing you up! is really starting to alarm and worry me. He says this to everyone, even those who have stellar job evaluations.

    Just in case this doesn’t blow over, how do I position myself to move on, esp. if he starts inventing things on the job evals?

    1. Rational Lemming*

      Can you save a copy of your past positive reviews somewhere outside of the system? Mine are saved in a folder on my desktop.
      I also have a folder on my desktop that I add to throughout the year with positive feedback. Emails that say – hey thanks for getting that done so quickly.” or “I appreciate the effort” or “this product/project looks great!” or whatever. If you are challenged on your worth or work ethic, you have a quick resource to refute that.

      I don’t know that this is going to position you to “move on” really, but it can be support for what you feel are threats to your reputation. And if he does this to everyone… everyone knows it’s a him thing. It’s not about you and I doubt anyone would see those threats as a demerit against you.

      But also… he sounds like a jerk. Doesn’t hurt to look around – just to see what your options are!

      1. ferrina*

        ^ This. Have a clear, documented track record of your performance and praise.

        Also foster relationships with senior colleagues. Have people that can speak to your work product that aren’t this boss. That can be a team lead, project lead, or internal clients. These people generally understand how ridiculous your boss is and can step in and be a reference when you are ready to move on.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Yes, and keep all your documentation in a file that’s NOT on your local server. (I like Dropbox, but there are others out there.)

          You should also be networking within your own organization and any other professional groups available to you. The more allies you have, the easier it will be to line up references.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This is a person who just does not know how to lead people. He feels his only power is in his threats. There are oh-so-many different ways to lead people that are very effective. But he has NO clue.

      Definitely talk to your coworkers and find out how they are managing.

  29. Expat returner*

    Does the AAM community have any sense of how work experience abroad would be perceived in the US? My partner and I are both Americans who moved to central Europe right after university, so our entire CVs (erm, resumes) consist of work abroad. We work in tech. I’ve been working at an international firm that also has offices in the US for the past few years. My partner works for a European company that has offices in Europe and the Middle East. I assume that our work experience will count just fine, but he’s not so sure. It’s true that breaking into the industry was easier here due to a limited amount of native English speakers. (I broke into copywriting fairly easily without a marketing background and went from Copywriter to Senior Copywriter and am now Principal Copywriter). He is also in content and currently a Senior Content Specialist. He’s also been learning programming and might want to switch into that field. We love our adopted country but it’s just too far from family. We’re considering relocating to the North East, which I know is a competitive and expensive area. So what do you guys think, are we screwed?
    Also if anyone has guesses for when we should plan a move (considering the current Covid situation), I’m all ears. Our country is extremely behind on vaccination so that complicates things. Thanks in advance for any tips!

    1. Qwerty*

      For programmers, my questions are the same regardless of what country someone’s experience is in. Code feels pretty universal. If anything, I might ask him more questions around data privacy if he was involved with implementing any of that, since Europe has more rules around that and we’re anticipating the US getting stricter.

      My recommendation would be to start out by looking at more global companies for whom your international experience is a plus.

      Also, indicate somewhere on your resume that you are authorized to work in the US! I’m not sure how the best way to do this is, but if your whole work history is in Europe then they might assume that you’ll need visa sponsorship.

    2. BlueBelle*

      I lived abroad for 17 years before returning to the US, my entire career was outside of the US. I had no problems, and it has actually been a huge asset in my career. Most companies are Global and understanding the different cultures of the different regions you make work with is huge.

      Good luck!

    3. should i apply?*

      My opinion might be biased, because I work in the US for a European company, but I would expect that job experience would transfer and would be looked at as an advantage for larger multinational companies who value experience working with people in other countries / cultures.

  30. BoredatHome*

    I’d really like to hear from anyone who has come back from slacking on their work. 

    My motivation has really taken a hit since I’ve been working from home due to Covid. I was already not really enjoying my role, and finding myself struggling to fill my time due to the nature of the role (much slower paced than I was used to). In particular over the winter I have been working less and less; which I feel bad about but hasn’t really been noticed by my manager so it’s been hard to pull myself out of the rut. I’ve started looking for a new role, but I am concerned that I will find it difficult to adjust to working harder/ normal full time hours again, especially because I would likely be working from home at least at the beginning. 

    I think if I found a job I was more interested in I would likely be able to use that enthusiasm to change this pattern; but I’d love to hear from anyone who has been in a similar position and been able to turn this around – either in a new job or within their current role. 

    1. Nessun*

      Early on in my career I was in a similar place with lack of motivation and just generally phoning it in. I’d started my first office job (I’d been in the workforce in some form or other for over 5 years) and at first I was gung-ho to learn it, excited to have a salary (even a tiny one), and I thought it would be great. But after our busy season when things got calm, I realized I didn’t have much to do, and I started to be really complacent and unmotivated. I worked shut off from everyone else, in my own space, and I’d find myself surfing the net or reading the paper. I did all my duties, but I was clearly just a bum in a chair, not a fully engaged contributing staff member. I didn’t think it mattered much, as long as my work got done – and it kinda didn’t, though I did get told clearly by my boss that if they saw me reading I’d be out. So I stopped that, and then was completely bored.

      Eventually I realized that this was getting me nowhere, and that I could either keep phoning it on, being bored, and getting paid my little salary, or I could figure out what I wanted next. I decided I wanted to stay, partly to prove I was better than my boss’s now opinion of me, and partly because I didn’t have faith I could find similar work elsewhere, with only 1 year of office experience in an entry level position. So the next time I heard someone one level above me say they were super busy, I just butted into her conversation and asked if there was something I could do to help. It wasnt smooth, and I don’t necessarily recommend that specific approach, but she was so busy any pair of hands would do and she taught me something simple and repetitive that wasn’t “my job” just to get it off her plate (with permission). I used that task to prove I could learn new things and perform well and help others, and then I started putting up my hand for *anything* I could possibly help with. I filled my days, showed my boss I’d improved, got more responsibilities, and eventually leveraged that into moving into my coworker’s job when she retired. 20 years later, I’ve got a great career with the same company and I’ve had a TON of opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed quiet and unmotivated. I 100% believe I could have kept that entry level job for as long as I wanted, even with myself as i was, as long as I kept my head down – but this reality suits me much better. Good luck finding your groove again!

      1. BoredatHome*

        Thanks Nessun! So good to hear that you were able to turn it around within your current company :)

    2. Courageous cat*

      Yeah, I always have to get a new job to get out of that. It’s always due to like, unhappiness with my position or my company, so either way something has to give. Once I get into that mindset, it is REAL hard to find motivation again.

      Signed,
      Someone in this exact position who just accepted a job offer somewhere else.

    3. burnedout*

      I’m not sure if you just don’t have enough work or you are also putting off doing things you could be doing. Lately I’ve had issues with burnout and some procrastination for projects and tasks that don’t have hard deadlines. What I started doing is assign myself just a couple of manageable tasks each day. It doesn’t have to fill the day, just a couple of things that make you feel like you accomplished something. I also like to write down what I accomplished each week, what I learned, and if I improved or initiated anything. I get satisfaction with learning and improving things, so it helps me to reflect on that. Bonus – it also helps me think of things to list during performance reviews or job interviews.

      If you do move on to a new job, I do think you will naturally have more motivation.

    4. Malarkey01*

      This year is just not normal, all of us are suffering some form of low (or high) grade anxiety, disruption, trauma, depression, and/or burnout. So, I think you can give yourself a little grace there.
      That said, I’ve gone through cycles in my job where things ebb and flow and it’s hard to stay motivated when not busy. If that’s what happens, try building in a schedule where you spread your work throughout the day (maybe you go on a 30 minute run between tasks or prep for dinner or organize a closet). That keeps you busy and also has you completing work tasks throughout the day. As work picks up (or you get a different job) you’ll just cut out the in between personal things.
      If you’re actually procrastinating work, I’d schedule it like meetings. I do his with tasks I don’t want to do, break them up, and then put them on my calendar like meetings so that from this time to this one I work on this task. It doesn’t help how I feel about the task but does get me moving on it.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      For me my work flows slowed waaaay down. I know that I respond to pacing very well, so when the work speeds up then so will I.
      Meanwhile I created artificial goals for myself. “I need to reorganize all X’s by this Friday.” Where X’s were a mess and needed the clean up, but no one cared if it was done Friday this year or Friday next year. I invented the deadline for myself and peace of mind.

  31. Katie Porter's Whiteboard*

    You’re well within your rights to get a new FD and I would if I were you. I developed a couple of medical issues while dealing with anxiety disorders and it took me so long to find a doctor actually treated the symptoms instead of pointing me to therapy (which I was already doing) or telling me that it was ‘in my head’ and something not to be concerned about. As it turns out, my medical concerns weren’t related to my mental health and finding a doctor who listened and acted on what I was saying has significantly improved my quality of life.

    You don’t owe any loyalty to a doctor who doesn’t seem to listen to you or serve your best interest.

  32. JustaTech*

    Does anyone from a highly regulated industry have any experience with electronic signatures and how your company/industry transitioned from paper and ink to e-sig?

    I work in biopharma, which (in normal times) means lots and lots of paper and ink signatures. External reports, internal reports, training records, material requests, software requests, the whole kit and caboodle. We’ve started moving some things away from paper (for cleanliness sake, which is important to our regulators), but before the pandemic it was still “print this out, sign it, scan it and email it back”.

    At the beginning of WFH someone realized that this wasn’t really going to be possible, as most people don’t own a scanner or printer (and even if you did, getting your work laptop to hook up to your home printer was a security risk), so we started using some kind of e-sig. My group, which does mostly internal stuff, used the digital signature in Adobe.

    Just a couple of weeks ago someone high up (and far away) decided that this was not acceptable (no longer acceptable) and we had to all go back to physical signatures. Which is a huge pain because it means coming into the office (which we’re generally supposed to avoid doing unless we have a good business reason) to print and sign a thing.
    I also feel like this is a bit over the top, given that I signed a contract for a house with digital signatures (but not the mortgage).

    So, in a rightly regulated industry, is it possible to move to e-sigs? Was it just that we were using a “weak” software? Or is there still really magic about the ink from a ballpoint pen?

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Hi, I’m a lawyer in the mortgage industry and we use E-Signatures for everything — have for years (and we even use them for mortgages now in some states that have electronic notary laws). It sounds like the problem was bad software/poor legal involvement. I like DocuSign, but there are plenty of good vendors.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, I used to work for a law firm that handled foreclosures and bankruptcies, and all of our client signatures were done via DocuSign. I believe that was the case when I worked in insurance as well.

        JustaTech, your company’s just being weird and overly cautious. E-signatures are a thing now and many companies in regulated industries use them.

    2. CTT*

      I think there’s a culture issue and an actual industry issue. On the culture side, a lot of it just depends on comfort level. I’m an attorney, and I work with clients and opposing parties who love e-signatures and don’t want to see any paper if they can help it, and some who don’t trust it at all (some of that is down to age/comfort with the technology, but not all of it).

      On the industry side, you mentioned that you signed all your real estate closing documents electronically except the mortgage, and that’s the sticking point in my industry. We won’t be rid of original hard copies until every single county-level jurisdiction in the US moves to e-recording real estate documents.

    3. OyHiOh*

      My industry/sector (economic development, quasi gov/non profit) isn’t as heavily regulated as yours but does have some oversight issues, what with federal grant reporting requirements and similar. Mostly, we just have very old school board governance and a *very* old fashioned auditor. Weirdly, our auditor is my age or perhaps younger, but when she presented her audit findings to the board a couple months ago, she struggled with the Zoom software and admitted it was the first time (FIRST, in almost a year of virtual work life!!!!!) that she’d used a virtual platform for an audit presentation. Anyway, we have a couple board members who want to move our check signing procedures to facsimilia sigs rather than ballpoint pen to paper. Both our bookkeeper and auditor are resisting, along with some board members, because they don’t understand how authentication and verification work in the e process.

      My understanding is that Adobe is pretty robust, I’d be surprised if Adobe e-sigs are the issue. I’d probably poke around in the regulations for your industry. Odds are, e-sigs are addressed somewhere in the regs. Even the federal government has adjusted to virtual work over the past year so even if e-sigs were not at all a thing twelve months ago, there’s probably some kind of policy now. What you’re running into with company leadership is probably more a function of liking things the way they used to be and/or not understanding how security and authentication work in Adobe and similar programs. There might be a program your industry prefers over Adobe but a look around the regulations should help figure that out.

    4. CatCat*

      It’s definitely possible. Sounds like there’s an issue at a high level with trusting them though the reality is they can be more secure than an ink signature.

    5. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Yes! I’m also in pharma, and both my current company and former company use Docusign. It’s possible to do e-signatures that comply with FDA part 11 (the reg we worry about the most). Sorry I don’t have any other details to share because I’m not involved in the details.

    6. Waffle Cone*

      Hi! I work in medical device research/development and we have to adhere to 21 CFR 11 regulations. We recently validated Adobe Acrobat Pro to use for e-signatures because it takes a snapshot of a date/time stamp as well as the IP address of the computer used to sign the document. We were using DocuSign previously for documents outside our eQMS but it doesn’t handle IP address capturing so we switched to Adobe. It’s a slow process, but we’re also using Adobe to convert all our forms and checklists to e-forms. Let me know if you have other questions. :)

      1. JustaTech*

        That’s super helpful! Maybe the issue for us is that we didn’t go through a full validation process with Adobe before starting to use it (hello pandemic), but the sudden rollback is what felt weird to me.
        Since it’s not a 21CRF11 thing then hopefully there can be more gentle nudging to get *something*.

    7. The Rural Juror*

      I used Acrobat DC for a lot of purposes, but the signature feature has been a life-saver. I signed a piece of white paper and scanned it in (or you could snap a photo with your phone). I sign everything, even Docusign or other esignature items that are sent to me by vendors, with my own signature in “blue ink.” Part of my job is purchasing, so I like that I can sign P.O.s in a less generic way, such as when Docusign let’s you pick from a list.

    8. should i apply?*

      I work in Medical device development and all of our approvals are done via electronic signature, though not docusign. You have to login with your unique ID and password to approve things. I will say that it is important that your QMS process documentation allows for this. That is usually what gets you in trouble is when you do something that isn’t per your released process.

    9. bunniferous*

      The real estate industry has all kind of ways to use secure signatures. I don’t know exactly what your limitations and boundaries are but I would check with someone in that industry -I would be surprised if you couldn’t find something that would work just fine.

      I work with VA foreclosures and it’s been within the last few years that they finally came on board with e-sigs even though the rest of the industry was using them for quite some time. So if VA does it now I am sure you will find something. As mentioned elsewhere Docusign is a main one but there are others.

    10. pbnj*

      You may want to point out the E-Sign Act was enacted through Congress many years ago for electronic signatures.

      “The E-Sign Act allows the use of electronic records to satisfy any statute, regulation, or rule of law requiring that such information be provided in writing, if the consumer has affirmatively consented to such use and has not withdrawn such consent.”

    11. Environmental Compliance*

      My entire job is regulatory.

      The vast majority of what I can submit is done online now. I have to promise away my first-born in every. single. interaction. with EPA’s stupid database, but it’s fully online. The certification and verification process is somewhat ridiculous, but at least it’s consistent.

      However, the state agency still is 50/50 with wet ink vs. electronic, which is both confusing and irritating with the inconsistency. They are working on putting everything electronic, though. Probably because of industry complaints with COVID, tbh, as I don’t think they’d switch over otherwise. It’s not a very well funded program as compared to some other state agencies.

      I’m not as familiar with Adobe, though. Most of my non-work-related esigs have all been through DocuSign.

    12. MissDisplaced*

      My company provides services like this that help “paper-based” companies digitize.

      Yes you can move to secure digital signatures!
      Docusign, Docuware and even Adobe are some common platforms for this

    13. TPS reporter*

      I work in a highly regulated industry as well. We use Adobe and DocuSign. With your standard version of Adobe, EU entities are sticklers and want more secure signatures. They always insist on paper/mail copies unless you use Adobe Sign. From my rudimentary research, Adobe Sign is very legit and secure and is valid in most jurisdictions.

      Definitely push the envelope here because it’s a HUGE timesaver.

  33. MMM*

    Post-pandemic (whenever that really is), do people think masks will stick around in the workplace? Like during cold and flu season in a large office, or commuting on public transportation? Personally, I would be all for it, and definitely think I’ll keep it up at least some of the time, but I’m curious if it will come off as overly fearful. Obviously parts of the US never accepted masks, and they will never be as commonplace as they already were in many Asian countries. I feel like a lot of people in the future will see someone wearing a mask and just have a visceral reaction that brings them back to Covid times. Curious what other people think!

    1. ThatGirl*

      I have anecdotally seen a fair amount of people say they’re going to keep using masks during cold and flu season, in public, though I’m not sure if that applies to work specifically or not. I could definitely see it for myself if either I’m feeling a little under the weather or I’m going to be in close quarters with folks during flu season.

      I saw a rather astonishing statistic yesterday – the fall/winter of 2019-2020 there were about 13,000 flu admissions to our local hospital system; this past fall/winter there were zero.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      I will be. But I’ve always wondered why we weren’t doing that already. My teenager says the HS kids plan on continuing to wear them as well.

    3. Weekend Please*

      Considering how poor compliance has been some places even at the height of the pandemic, I doubt it. Maybe wearing a mask if you have an active cough will be more accepted, but I don’t think you will see many people wearing them just because it is flu season. Unfortunately, for many masks have developed political undertones. My in laws are offended if I wear a mask near them even though I do it to protect them (I’m vaccinated).

        1. Weekend Please*

          I don’t disagree that there is a strong reason to wear them. I just know that there is a very large number of people who will absolutely not wear them voluntarily. Will more people wear masks than before? Probably. Will it be the majority? Probably not where I live.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I think that there will be some people who will continue to wear them, especially on public transport and in crowded spaces. I suspect that inside offices it will be less common since most people find wearing a mask for long periods uncomfortable or annoying.
      I can definitely see myself wearing one on the tube, for instance.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. I’m definitely not going back to the office until the masking mandate is removed. I guess I’m lucky in that my employer doesn’t expect us to, and I don’t have any tasks that need to be done at the office. I work better at home anyway, although I must admit that I’m starting to miss some of the unplanned interactions with people I don’t work with regularly. So when it’s reasonably safe and I’ve been vaccinated and there’s no mask mandate anymore, I’m definitely planning to go back at least some days. For me, the ideal would probably be 1 or 2 days a week at the office and the rest at home.

        I just hope that in future it will be more acceptable for employees to WFH if they have a slight cold and would prefer not to spread it to others.

    5. BRR*

      I think it will be more common than before (in the US) but that’s not saying much. I feel like a big goal for a lot of peope in beating covid is to not wear masks anymore.

      1. death by papercuts*

        Yes. It is. Anything on my face is my one sensory issue. I mask up like an adult to get groceries and in the common areas at work (luckily have my own office) and otherwise am not going anywhere until it’s over. I feel like there might have been more compliance if the tone was more “yup this effing SUCKS but it’s not forever so let’s get it over with” rather than “wear a mask and like it :)” but that may be a function of my own social media…if one more person posts “my bra is more uncomfortable than my mask” I’m going to be like GET. FITTED. ugh.

        1. Maggie*

          No I totally feel you. For me a mask is tool. A tool I use to stop the spread of the current respiratory pandemic. When that pandemic is no longer occurring, I will retire that tool. If someone wants to wear a mask forever, that is their right and we live in a free country. I respect that. What I reject is that attitude that I must personally enjoy and savor wearing a mask, that it is “nothing but a piece of cloth on your face” (come on-never seeing a smile or a facial expression, thats not healthy), or that anything but overwhelming joy about masks is somehow being an anti-masker. We must be seeing the same social media bc that’s totally the message being put out.

        2. Disco Janet*

          Try to be less harsh with the FB posts. Someone can be fitted and still find a bra uncomfortable for sensory reasons, just as you dislike masks for sensory reasons.

          1. pancakes*

            Or just unfollow people with views you think are silly. I’ve never had a FB account but I do use Twitter and Instagram, and I haven’t seen anyone say wearing a mask should be likable.

    6. Kathenus*

      I think the best way to help change this culture is to wear masks yourself as desired/needed, and not worry about whether some might see you as overly fearful, or others could have a negative reaction. Culture changes slowly but can change, and if there’s a culture change you want to see (like mask use for cold/flu season), modeling the behavior in spite of potential consequences can be one step towards that.

    7. OyHiOh*

      I am not giving up my masks! I’ve not had a cough, cold, or stomach bug in twelve months and I’m curious how long I can keep that going. Have had allergy sniffles but even those symptoms are down – environmental allergies and probably getting some filtering through the masks. If anyone questions me in After Times, I’ll simply point out that I was healthier during the pandemic than at any other point I can recall in my life and I’d like to keep it that way.

      While I’ve been careful over this year, I’ve not 100% isolated either. I go in to work (private office), do most of the grocery shopping, and have occasionally (roughly once a month) eaten at restaurants throughout the year – defined as eating outside or in a building seating at less than 50% capacity.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’m not giving up masks, either, especially since I’m not planning to get vaccinated anytime soon and I just don’t always feel like doing my makeup, lol.

    8. pancakes*

      I’ll be wearing one if I have a cold or whatnot. I haven’t given a moment’s thought to how it will come off to others because I’m in NYC and I’ve seen much stranger things than face masks on the subway. The sort of people who get very emotional or busybody-ish about what strangers are wearing, or who are ignorant enough to think fear has something to do with contagion, are not the sort of people I care about appealing to.

    9. meyer lemon*